Life is Short. Have An Affair

Ashley. Madison. 

Two words. Millions of men and women in a state of panic. Computer hackers are in the news. People are being blackmailed. Spouses and children of married couples are about to have their lives ruined.

Why?

Because almost 39 million people are anonymous members of the “Ashley Madison” website that allows affairs to be “easy” and “risk-free”. And that website was hacked, which has left millions exposed. As one article says:

THE slogan of Ashley Madison, a website that arranges extramarital liaisons, is “Life is short. Have an affair.” Its home page shows a woman holding a finger to her lips. So much for promising to keep secrets. Last month a group of hackers called Impact Team stole the site’s user database and transaction history going back to 2007, and this week they released it online: more than 30million users’ names, addresses and personal details, along with GPS co-ordinates and sexual preferences.

But what if it were me, and my secrets were hacked?

I hope I’m not alone in acknowledging that if the very worst of my thoughts were captured, catalogued, and released online, that I would be scared WITLESS. Most of our relationships – at least the ones built on the assumption of honesty rather than love, grace, mercy and forgiveness – would be destroyed if that ever happened.

Now, I don’t want to give the people on that website a free pass. Signing up for a terrible website offering a terrible product is a terrible thing to do. I don’t want to excuse them, but I don’t want to excuse myself either. Not because I have an Ashley Madison account, but because the account that I do have, in terms of my desires and thoughts, is not clean.

Jesus has something to say about adultery that should put all of us on notice, and remind us to not be too quick to judge. Jesus says the life of the inner person counts. The things that we think are private, and secret, aren’t. And they will be exposed.

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. — Matthew 5:27-28

In another passage, Jesus warns against hypocrisy because nothing “hidden” stays hidden.

There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs. — Luke 12:2-3

When it comes to God, I don’t have secrecy. But I do have grace, love and forgiveness.

I might try to keep the worst of my thoughts and desires from the people around me (this desire for secrecy and darkness to get away with stuff is fundamental to our humanity – it’s exactly what Adam and Eve do when they hide from God in the garden, and its what people do over an over again in the Bible) but I should be able to trust the people who love me, and trust their ability to love and forgive me, just like God does. Often its a desire not to hurt others that rightly prevents us from oversharing the depths of our brokenness, but ultimately, I know and have a promise from the one who intimately and completely knows the “inner me” that the disgusting stuff has been seen, but the record, the account, is clean – because Jesus took on the cost of my disgust, the shame, the humiliation, and the punishment, for himself. He wore it. He owned it. He took it.

That’s good news for me, and it might be good news for the millions of Ashley Madison account holders, facing an uncertain future this week. Your account can be wiped. You can start again. The invitation you’re extended, by Jesus, is to step out of darkness and secrecy, and to come into the light. You have nothing to fear when it comes to being exposed if you’re absolutely prepared to come to Jesus, the one who wears, owns and takes our sins…

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God. John 3:19-20

Dream Big!

It’s October 2028. The world’s greatest sporting event is upon us. It’s the NRL Grand Final. The St. George Dragons and the South Sydney Rabbitohs are playing to win the Provan-Summons trophy. The two best teams of 2028 are locked at 12 all with time fast running out.
https://gallery.mailchimp.com/cb82d362bbfcf2eacac4f7a96/images/be6e3ae1-6f78-45cf-b7df-e1f7bf3b9a31.jpg
With thirty seconds left Souths have the ball, and with the referee eyeing the clock they desperately make one last attempt to break the dead-lock and avoid “Golden Point Extra Time”. After some terrific lead up play the speedy South Sydney winger receives the ball and makes an incisive run into the Dragons half. He’s scored several great “trys” already this finals series. This run is just as good as the rest and he looks every bit like scoring in the corner. But just as he attempts to ground the ball Dragons full back Ernie Fell, with a Superman-like dive, punches the ball loose …but he doesn’t just punch it away, he miraculously catches it and holds on. With only seconds left he quickly shifts the ball infield to his teammate, Wendell Fell, who runs back down the the field, puts up an incredibly precise chip right to the middle of the in-goal area where he shoulders away three defenders and grounds the ball for the win.

The referee blows his whistle! Game over! St. George wins the Grand Final, to the sheer joy of their father sitting in the front row.
https://gallery.mailchimp.com/cb82d362bbfcf2eacac4f7a96/images/a8bfd7ed-5385-4b97-8ffd-637a44e3744c.jpg
What is your greatest desire for your loved ones?

If you talk to many parents their answer will be ‘I just want my kids to be happy ’ but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that what they are actually saying is that they want their kids to make them happy.

Maybe you want them to be a doctor, an engineer, or a stockbroker. Perhaps to experience earthly happiness derived from physical security or family not plagued by problems or divorce. A big family of their own full of healthy children; a long life exited by peaceful old age.

What do you want more than anything for your loved ones?

That they live a happy healthy long life? That they change the course of human history somehow? That they invent a new technology or even cure cancer?

Earlier this year we learnt from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians that we should dream bigger. Much bigger.

In the first chapter of Ephesians, verses 3-14 are devoted by the apostle Paul, to describe all of the immeasurable blessings that are given by God to his children. He talks about election; predestination, adoption, redemption, forgiveness and ultimately, He gave the Holy Spirit as a sign of the inheritance that will be coming our way for eternity.

Twelve of the most glorious verses we have in all of scripture.

In verses 15-17 Paul tells us what kind of response is produced by a heart that has grasped the meaning of the previous twelve verses. Paul says, “For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him.”

In Acts chapter 20 we find out that Paul went house to house in Ephesus preaching the Gospel to people with many tears. Here we have the greatest evangelist begging people to salvation and yet people remained stone faced in their love for their sin and hate for the Lord. Fast forward a few years and Paul in a Roman jail receives word that many of those whom he had spent time with for three years pleading with them to forsake their sin and believe in the Lord, have finally given their lives to the Lord, and have a great love for their fellow believers. Men and women, who hated the Gospel, now sit in the front row on Sunday mornings, in love with God’s word and God’s people.

And Paul says that this news is bringing him unspeakable joy and that he hasn’t stopped giving thanks to God for their salvation.

Why so happy? Very simple, you cannot read verses 3-14 and walk away bored about such promises. Not only would a sensible person crave these blessings for themselves, but they would dream, that any loved would be able to experience these blessings as well. And Paul’s greatest concern in life was that as many people as possible would join Him in worshiping Christ forever. When he heard that people he had invested time into and even shed tears over, had believed the Gospel, his joy (despite being in a Roman cell to face Caesar) was unending.

I need to ask you a question I’ve been asking myself lately; What is your deepest concern for the people God has surrounded you with?

Is it their health? That they live a trial free life? That they win a meaningless footy game?
What we are called to is to take Paul’s example and desire above all else for our loved ones that they would be saved, and would join us in giving our Savior the praise he deserves.

We all dream about things for our loved ones. Let’s dream big!

A year of Protest on Norfolk Island

It has been a year of protest on Norfolk Island. This has raised for me a challenging and pressing question: as Christians, should we protest and picket the government? 

After all, human government is deeply biblical. Look back to Genesis 1:28, where God commanded Adam and Eve, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.” Authority, by nature, reflects God’s authority. Romans 13 echoes this foundational biblical theology, “for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God” (Rom. 13:1).
 

Traditionally, although there have been protests organised by Christians (think Martin Luther King), Christians have been mostly negative about protesting. The recommended response to injustice has been to go to God in prayer and leave the matter with Him. In 2 Timothy 2:1-2, Paul urges that ‘petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness’. One of the effective means by which Christians live out their godliness is through prayer for the king to the King of Kings.

Despite this, we still need to remember how our modern governments work. Ancient governments did not claim to represent individuals in the way our modern Western democracies do, so protests made little impact (and publicly protesting against the policies of Rome or Assyria was fairly pointless unless you wanted an immediate, public and brief encounter with the lions in the amphitheatre).

I think there is probably a case for Christian protesting today. More importantly, I think today’s governments actually expect some measure of protest. Increasingly it seems they create and announce policies with little thought and even less consultation and then – fingers crossed – impose them on the public. If they are met with strong objections, then the policies or laws are hastily withdrawn, redrafted and resubmitted. In a culture where only those who shout are heard, any failure to protest may be presumed consent or approval.

Perhaps you’ve heard of “Just War Theory”? It’s one of the ways Christians have responded to armed conflict. I think there are some similar principles, which can probably be proposed for a political protest – a “Just Protest Theory” if you will. After all, both war and protest are powerful forces that can easily tempt us to do wrong things – anger and hatred; grumbling and complaining; gossip and slander; insubordination and rebellion; anxiety and worry – these are just some of the wrong responses that can arise whenever the conversation takes a political turn. It’s even easier to get carried away when you are surrounded by the sound of marching feet, waving banners and the shouts of solidarity.
 
LET ME CAUTIOUSLY SUGGEST FIVE PRINCIPLES FOR PROTEST:

  1. We should protest on behalf of others rather than ourselves. Our duty to love our neighbour may involve us in protesting for them.
  2. All other means of influencing the governing powers should have been exhausted. Protest should always be a last resort.
  3. We must be assured that our protest will do more good than harm.
  4. There must be a clearly defined and widely understood aim for our protest (it’s all too easy for things to degenerate into anger and dislike).
  5. The limits of any protest must be set beforehand. Christians can have nothing to do with words of hatred or – even worse – acts of violence.

Moreover, in all that we do, we should try to bring Jesus into our protest. There is a widespread suspicion that the Christian church is no different from all those other community groups that exist only for their own benefit. Protests are an opportunity to show that actually we do care for others. Perhaps you can already think of ways our protesting can be pro-testimony and pro-Jesus?

Finally, Christians should pray for the salvation of our leaders. Paul writes, “This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people…Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing.” (1 Tim. 2:3–6).

Praying for the salvation of our leaders is good in the sight of God. The salvation of souls is in keeping with God’s gracious nature and His sovereign purposes; it is the reason Christ died on the cross. When we pray for our island, we must not limit our prayers to the latest policy decisions and other temporal issues. We must also pray for the souls of those in government and civil service, that by God’s grace they might be saved through faith in Christ!

Questions for reflection…

Here are some terrific questions for reflection / your time with the Lord this week.

How real has God been to your heart this week?

How clear and vivid is your assurance and certainty of God’s forgiveness and fatherly love? To what degree is that real to you right now?

Are you having any particular seasons of delight in God? Do you really sense his presence in your life, sense him giving you his love?

Have you been finding Scripture to be alive and active? Instead of just being a book, do you feel like Scripture is coming after you?

Are you finding certain biblical promises extremely precious and encouraging? Which ones?

Good Days and Bad Days

Mother’s Day is one of the most celebrated days of the year for the simple reason that no one got here without a mother. Nevertheless, it’s a difficult day for many. There was a time in our own life when it represented a very painful day.  Before we fell pregnant with Wendell, we lived through miscarriage, infertility and IVF. At church, it sometimes seemed as if it was the “real” women who were honoured, while the infertile women (and their husbands) grieved in the shadows. Not only is it a hard day on those who are infertile, but also for those who have lost a child, or are alienated from one. When we are experiencing a prodigal child, it’s extremely painful to sit in a service and hear the virtues of motherhood extolled when we may feel like we have failed God in our parenting.   The key to all of this is grace. Through God’s church, we minister to each other during the good days and the hard days, and so whether you’re celebrating or suffering this year, I pray God’s grace for you. I pray you will be strengthened in the grace that strengthens and is strengthening all of us: “And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10).

Here’s a beautiful prayer I read on the internet this week:   

To those who lost a child this year – we mourn with you  

To those who are in the trenches with little ones every day and wear the badge of food stains – we appreciate you  

To those who experienced loss through miscarriage, failed adoptions, or running away – we mourn with you  

To those who walk the hard path of infertility, fraught with tears and disappointment – we walk with you. Forgive us when we say thoughtless things. We don’t mean to make this harder than it is.  

To those who are foster mums, mentor mums, and spiritual mums – we need you   To those who have warm and close relationships with your children – we celebrate with you  

To those who have disappointment, heartache, and distance with your children – we sit with you  

To those who lost their mothers this year – we grieve with you  

To those who experienced abuse at the hands of your own mother – we acknowledge your experience  

To those who lived through driving tests, medical tests, and the overall testing of motherhood – we are better for having you in our midst  

To those who are single and long to be married and mothering your own children – we mourn that life has not turned out the way you longed for it to be  

To those who step-parent – we walk with you on these complex paths  

To those who envisioned lavishing love on grandchildren – yet that dream is not to be, we grieve with you  

To those who will have emptier nests in the upcoming year – we grieve and rejoice with you  

This Mother’s Day, we walk with you.  

We pray these things to you as our Father, who loved us before the world began, and will love us forevermore.  

In Jesus’ name,   Amen.

Lest I forget Gethsemane

we nawa gwen forget dem 

ANZAC Day 2015 marked 100 years since the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War. Norfolk Island’s own contribution to both world wars was, per capita, the largest in the Commonwealth, which is proudly remembered by all islanders. This year the dawn service was held, not at the Cenotaph, but at the location of the first service in 1917, Emily Bay.

The fact that we remember the Gallipoli campaign as a great national day must be odd to people of other countries. The Americans have Independence Day, the French have Bastille, the British have Waterloo and Trafalgar, but ANZAC Day centres on an ignominious defeat in a side show theatre of the Great War. It sounds like foolishness, but of course we understand that this defeat symbolised something far greater.

The Bible speaks of a far greater defeat that stands at the epicentre of human history. A defeat which seems like foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved is the very power of God (1 Cor 1:18). The foolishness is of course the death of Jesus the Christ, which is still a stumbling block to so many in all their ‘wisdom’.

Last Saturday we will rightly say ‘lest we forget’, as we remembered the great sacrifice of others for out mortal bodies, but last Sunday we remembered the immeasurably greater sacrifice of Jesus for our immortal souls.

Lest I forget Gethsemane,
Lest I forget Thine agony;
Lest I forget Thy love for me,
Lead me to Calvary.

David Fell is the Chaplain of the Church of England on Norfolk Island, an Anglican Church that loves Jesus, loves each other and loves Norfolk Island.

Friends

In the 1990’s pub trivia was changed forever when ‘buddy sitcoms’ hit TV. Millions of people would tune in each week to see if Ross and Rachael would ‘finally’ get together, or for their weekly fix of Kramer-isms. In the 2000’s the trend continued with shows like How I Met Your Mother, New Girl, Scrubs and Community.

All these shows enjoy massive ratings. Each one starts with an eclectic bunch of young people with something in common – either their apartment block, New York City or their workplace. What they share draws them into a tight community, when otherwise they would have remained complete strangers.

What interests me is why these shows are so popular.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to notice that the one thing that links them is community. We are drawn to community. We resonate strongly with the bonds of friendship. We laugh at the hilarity of the dysfunction, and cry when their love for each other overcomes any obstacles that threaten the group. We inwardly long to feel that sense of belonging that comes with community.

Of course as Christians this comes as no surprise. God himself is Trinity, a community – 3 persons in 1 God. So love, friendship and community are intrinsic to God’s character. People are drawn to community because humanity was designed by God to reflect his own nature. God created us in his image and so naturally we will also share his desire for intimate fellowship.

In Acts 2:42–47, we are given a glimpse into the life of the very first Christians. They were living life together, caring for and loving each other, meeting each other’s needs, eating together and hanging out every chance they could get. To emphasise this, the writer of Hebrews has this to say: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)

The community of God is a place that we can truly call home. Let’s take responsibility for each other as brothers and sisters in Christ, continuing to live lives together for our good and God’s glory.

David Fell is the Chaplain of the Church of England on Norfolk Island, an Anglican Church that loves Jesus, loves each other and loves Norfolk Island.

UNIT Youth is almost here!

Next Friday night at the Parish Centre, the combined churches of Norfolk Island launch a new High School youth ministry called UNIT Youth.

UNIT Youth is a new initiative designed to provide excellent and intentional ministry to our young people – it’s an exciting program specifically designed for teenagers, where they can gather with other kids for fun, friendship, and Christian teaching. The first night of UNIT gets off to a fiery start with what we are calling Pyromaniac Craze Night. Why not join us for a relaxed BBQ dinner at 6.30pm before the night kicks off at 7.00pm.

10003925_624367047633863_414920252068855207_nMitchell Mahaffey has been employed to lead UNIT. Mitch is an experienced Youth Worker from the Sunshine Coast in QLD and holds a Certificate IV in Youth Work as well as a Certificate III in Outdoor Education. A team of adult volunteers including Mark and Jess Scott, Ashley and Grant Newman and even Rev. David Fell will assist Mitch. We are highly confident that your children will be carefully led and supervised by Mitch and his team. We are doubly confidant that they will receive teaching and mentoring that will greatly enhance their growth and development as young adults, es­pecially in the Faith. In fact, we believe that UNIT will become a genuine centre for counter-cultural influence, both protecting kids from negative peer pressure, and helping them to critically evaluate and navigate society.

But here is the thing – we need your support. We value partnering with parents in all of these things and we urge you to support this new venture by encouraging your kids to come!

We can’t wait to see you there! 

Stretching Our Heads Across Eternity

I hope you’ve been enjoying our sermon series on Ephesians. If you’ve missed any of it, let me try and re-cap for you!

Deep breath. Rub my hands together. Here’s my attempt at a short, to-the-point, yet helpful 100-meter dash through the first three chapters of Ephesians. Ready?

Ephesians 1 is our glorious introduction to the church. Church is not just a nice spiritual thing for us to do together. It was eternally purposed by God to be “in” King Jesus. From before the foundation of the world God thought of us, and thought of how to call us and join us together, inside of Jesus, along with all the rest of creation. Jesus is the great Ruler over everything, in this age and the next. Yet this great and glorious King has been given to us as head of the church, so that the church is “the fullness of him that fills all in all.”

We’re supposed to respond to this chapter with, “Woah! Wow! Amazing! We have been called into a glorious, cosmic, Divine purpose, planned by God before the foundation of the earth! Wow whee, my head is spinning.”. It sounds over the top, but I mean every word. That’s how we should respond to Ephesians 1!

Ephesians 2 and 3 brings in some details, but the effect is the same. We’re seated in the heavenlies in Jesus despite the fact that we were once all demonically influenced sinners (really, see 2:1-3). We are now citizens of heaven and part of a glorious mystery, hidden through all the ages, to join Israelites and Gentiles, all people, into a dwelling place for God.

Wow!

Talk about stretching your head across eternity and the universe – can’t wait to see you again this Sunday!

David Fell is the Chaplain of the Church of England on Norfolk Island, an Anglican Church that loves Jesus, loves each other and loves Norfolk Island.

Friendship

The most central image for church goes right to the heart of our identity, it’s that we are family; brothers and sisters in Christ; sharing the one heavenly Father.

In his book The Four Loves, CS Lewis shares a beautiful meditation on his friends [Charles Williams] death in an essay entitled ‘Friendship.’

In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out.  By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets.  Now that Charles is dead, I shall never again see Ronald’s [Tolkien’s] reaction to a specifically Charles joke.  Far from having more of Ronald, having him “to myself” now that Charles is away, I have less of Ronald . . . In this, Friendship exhibits a glorious “nearness by resemblance” to heaven itself where the very multitude of the blessed (which no man can number) increases the fruition which each of us has of God.  For every soul, seeing Him in her own way, doubtless communicates that unique vision to all the rest.  That, says an old author, is why the Seraphim in Isaiah’s vision are crying “Holy, Holy, Holy” to one another (Isaiah 6:3).  The more we thus share the Heavenly Bread between us, the more we shall have.

Lewis is saying that it takes a community to know an individual!

How much more is this true of Jesus Christ? Christians commonly say they want a “relationship with Jesus”, that they want to “get to know Jesus better” but… We will never be able to do that by ourselves! “Only if you are part of a community of believers seeking to resemble, serve, and love Jesus will you ever get to know him and grow into his likeness” (Tim Keller, The Prodigal God, pp. 126-127).

David Fell is the Chaplain of the Church of England on Norfolk Island, an Anglican Church that loves Jesus, loves each other and loves Norfolk Island.