Thanksgiving 2018

A lot of people ask, “What is God’s will is for my life?” At out Thanksgiving Day service on Norfolk Island we read 1 Thessalonians! “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

What is God’s will for your life?

In everything give thanks!

Click here for the Chaplain’s sermon.

Praying For Norfolk Island

 

  • Sunday – That the Gospel would be boldly and unashamedly proclaimed in our churches today. That our churches would be places for the broken, unwanted and hurting. That Jesus will be offered as the only solution for the very thing we can’t do on our own –  make our selves better or save ourselves.
  • Monday – Pray that Romans 8:35-39 would become a reality. Pray for yourself, for your family, and for our church. Pray that our hope would be found in Christ alone.
  • Tuesday – Pray Matthew 6:10 over our island. Spend today replacing the word “earth” with Norfolk Island (“on Norfolk Island as it is in heaven”).
  • Wednesday – Pray that the Spirit would weed out the sin in your life that has kept you from living a life on mission. Ask that He would open up opportunities for you to be share your hope with your family and friends. Pray for them by name.
  • Thursday – Pray boldly Psalm 33:8 over Norfolk Island. The people would stand in awe before Him.
  • Friday – Pray Habakkuk 3:2 over Norfolk Island. That the Lord’s love, wrath, justice and mercy would be made known.
  • Saturday: Pray that the Lord would increase our love for Norfolk. That our love and growth in Jesus would produce a desire to see others saved, and grow in their love and understanding of who God is, what He has done and what He is doing.

New Sermon Series: Daniel

Every kingdom crumbles… except the kingdom of God.

The book of Daniel opens with King Nebuchadnezzar laying siege to Jerusalem and overpowering Israel. God’s people are defeated, humiliated, and taken away into exile. But the big message of Daniel is that how things seem is not how things are. God is still in control. God reigns over all cultures, all kingdoms, all peoples. Across all of history God has been working to set up his everlasting kingdom – the kingdom where King Jesus reigns forever. All kingdoms crumble, except the Kingdom of God.

I’m looking forward to working through the book of Daniel and learning more about the Most High God and His kingdom that lasts forever.

…for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart.

John Steinbeck – East of Eden

“I remember clearly the deaths of three men. One was the richest man of the century, who, having clawed his way to wealth through the souls and bodies of men, spent many years trying to buy back the love he had forfeited and by that process performed great service to the world and, perhaps, had much more than balanced the evils of his rise. I was on a ship when he died. The news was posted on the bulletin board, and nearly everyone recieved the news with pleasure. Several said, “Thank God that son of a bitch is dead.”

Then there was a man, smart as Satan, who, lacking some perception of human dignity and knowing all too well every aspect of human weakness and wickedness, used his special knowledge to warp men, to buy men, to bribe and threaten and seduce until he found himself in a position of great power. He clothed his motives in the names of virtue, and I have wondered whether he ever knew that no gift will ever buy back a man’s love when you have removed his self-love. A bribed man can only hate his briber. When this man died the nation rang with praise…

There was a third man, who perhaps made many errors in performance but whose effective life was devoted to making men brave and dignified and good in a time when they were poor and frightened and when ugly forces were loose in the world to utilize their fears. This man was hated by few. When he died the people burst into tears in the streets and their minds wailed, “What can we do now?” How can we go on without him?”

In uncertainty I am certain that underneath their topmost layers of frailty men want to be good and want to be loved. Indeed, most of their vices are attempted short cuts to love. When a man comes to die, mo matter what his talents and influence and genius, if he dies unloved his life must be a failure to him and his dying a cold horror….we should remember our dying and try so to live that our death brings no pleasure to the world.”

“It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart”. Ecclesiastes 7:2

More Than Conquerors?

What does it mean in Romans 8:37 when Paul says that followers of Christ are “more than conquerors” (ESV)?

D. A. Carson gives some good answers to this question based on the context of Romans 8:

First, the “us” to whom the apostle refers includes all Christians. AllChristians are the ones whom God has foreknown, “predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son,” called, justified, glorified (8:29–30). The people referred to are not the elite of the elect; they are ordinary Christians, all genuine Christians.

Second, the actual evidence that they are “more than conquerors” is that they persevere regardless of all opposition. That opposition may take the form of horrible persecution, of the kind that Scripture describes (8:35–38). It may be some other hardship, all the way to famine. The glories of life will not finally seduce them; the terrors of death will not finally sway them; neither the pressures of the present nor the frustrations of the future will destroy them (8:38). Neither human powers nor anything else in all creation, not even all the powers of hell unleashed, can “separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (8:39).

Third, as the last sentence already makes clear, that from which Christians cannot be finally separated is the “love of Christ” (8:35) or the love of God in Christ (8:39). At one level, of course, that is simply saying that no power can stop Christians from being Christians. That is why we are “more than conquerors.” But that point could have been made a lot of different ways. To make it this way, with an emphasis on the love of Christ as that from which we cannot be separated, reminds us of the sheer glory and pleasure that is ours, both now and in eternity, to be in such a relationship. We are not simply acquitted; we are loved. We are loved not simply by a peer, but by God himself. Nor is this a reference to the general love that God has for his entire creation. What is at stake here is that special love that attaches to “all who have been called according to his purpose” (8:28).

Fourth, the guarantee that we shall prevail and persevere, and prove to be “more than conquerors” in this sense, is nothing other than the sovereign purposes of God (8:29–30), manifest in the death of his Son on our behalf (8:31–35). “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (8:32). No greater security is imaginable.

D. A. Carson, For the Love of God: A Daily Companion for Discovering the Riches of God’s Word., vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1998).

Every church is dying…

Every Church is Dying

Every church is a dying church in some sense:

• Some churches are literally dying. They are slowly losing people and will likely shut down.

• Some churches are glitzy and successful. They look vibrant and alive, but they’re really only alive to themselves and their institution. They look alive, but they’re dying and they don’t know it.

• Then there’s the church that could be big or small, glitzy or drab, that dies to itself daily – that has taken up the cross and is more concerned with following Christ, no matter what it costs, than its survival.

All churches are dying. Only one type of church will experience a resurrection.

The Kingdom of Nobodies

“The Kingdom of Nobodies” was a sermon on Mark 10:13-16 preached by Jono Thomas (the Combined Churches Children’s and Youth Minister) on Norfolk Island in January 2018.

Mark 10:13-16 (NIV)

The Little Children and Jesus

13 People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 16 And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.

A Beautiful Mess

On Sunday February 11th we launch our new series, ‘A Beautiful Mess’, looking at 1 Corinthians.

Paul launched the Corinthian church and stayed there for about 18 months. A few years later, while Paul was in Ephesus, people reported to him that there were serious problems in the church. He also received a letter from the church that showed there was a great deal of theological confusion on a number of issues. Paul wrote this letter to a church that was in a mess; they were struggling with division, unresolved conflicts, sexual immorality and many other questions and problems that needed resolving.

Even though all this was going on, Paul was still able to write, ‘I give thanks to my God always for you’ and ‘you are not lacking in spiritual gift’. He didn’t just see the mess; he saw beauty amidst it all. Looking through the lens of the gospel he could see the beauty of what God was doing! Paul learned to focus on what God was doing amongst the mess, not the mess itself – a beautiful mess.

If God can use the Corinthian church, with all the challenges they were facing – then surely he can use us as well as we seek to love Jesus, love each other and love Norfolk Island!

Reformation Heroes In 200 words: John Knox (1513-1572)

Did you know it’s been 500 years since the Protestant Reformation? For the last month or so I’ve been sharing some short biographies of key reformers.

Today: John Knox (1513-1572)

John Knox is the Father of the Scottish Reformation. While working as a priest, Knox was introduced to the gospel through a man named George Wishart, who was eventually killed for his faith. Seeing his mentor martyred ignited a passion in Knox to devote his life to gospel preaching. Fleeing persecution, Knox went to Geneva and sat under the preaching of John Calvin. His time in Switzerland enabled Knox to produce theological works which inflamed not only the hearts of his fellow believers, but the hatred of those ruling Scotland. While he was pastoring an English-speaking congregation in Geneva, Knox’s goal was to return to Scotland and spark revival. His motto: “Give me Scotland, or I die!”

Finally able to return to Scotland, Knox’s gospel preaching was received by the burgeoning revolutionaries who were preparing to revolt against their Catholic Queen, Mary Queen of Scots. As the hostilities ended, Knox established the Reformed Church of Scotland – which became Presbyterianism. Knox’s fiery determination to stand with the gospel against human authority inspired his countrymen and left a lasting legacy of faithfulness. His ability to unite reason and passion in the pulpit has influenced centuries of preachers. Today, John Knox is buried, ignominiously, underneath a parking lot behind St. Giles Cathedral. You can visit him in space #23.

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For as long as anyone can remember, Norfolk Island has celebrated Thanksgiving…

Thanksgiving is undeniably American, but in the late nineteenth century, Norfolk Island was to have a great deal of contact with the American church culture through the visits of American whalers and their wives, who often stayed on the island for extended periods of time.

Isaac Robinson was a trader who had settled on the island in the early 1860’s (he married Hannah Quintal). Perhaps because his home was so close to the pier where the whalers came ashore, Robinson eventually became a great friend to the Americans, eventually holding the title of “American Consul” (although no one is sure that this was an official position). No doubt some of the whalers and their wives, feeling a little homesick, shared stories of their Thanksgiving celebrations back home, and Robinson decided to try the idea here. Back in the states, Thanksgiving coincided with Autumn harvests, but in Norfolk’s milder climate, it was still possible to hold a sort of Harvest Festival in November, which was the island’s late Spring. The first record of Thanksgiving on Norfolk Island is in an entry in John Buffett’s diary in 1896. A service was held in All Saints. Three of Robinson’s friends helped him decorate All Saints Church in the capital, Kingston, using only palm leaves and lemons, and though he died and was buried at sea the next year, his notion caught on. For Norfolk’s second Thanksgiving service, the parishioners brought down all sorts of produce to decorate the church.

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It is probable that Thanksgiving services were also held in the other churches on the island from those early years, because both the Methodists and the Seventh Day Adventist churches were founded under American influences. On Norfolk Island, Thanksgiving Day is celebrated on the last Wednesday in November, while the United States observes it on the fourth Thursday. Thanksgiving was to become firmly embedded in the island’s calendar and culture as an important tradition. And so it is to this very day.

This year All Saints was transformed with cornstalks, laden with fully formed cobs, tied alongside each pew. Along with the corn, there are stalks of sugar cane, magnificent urns of flowers, and the aisles and foyer are filled with piles of fruit, vegetables and baked goods. The setting up is carried out by a loyal band of helpers the day before. It is an activity that is almost as traditional as the Thanksgiving itself. During the afternoon, people arrive with contributions – bunches of bananas, boxes of fruit, sacks of potatoes, the best that Norfolk gardens and farms can produce.

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The day itself is very much a family occasion, and many folk really make the effort to get there and enjoy the celebration of our island, its people and its produce. This year, we not only had a visit from Bishop Michael Stead, who is the Bishop for Norfolk Island, but we were also delighted to meet “Petal the puppet”, who came along especially to teach the kids about Thanksgiving!

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Before the service, the Nobbs brothers (with young Arki Nobbs on piano) entertained the slowly building congregation with some island favourites. As the Bishop and Chaplain Rev. David Fell entered the body of the church, they were led in by Liam Christian-Bailey carrying the processional cross. The congregation struck up the Doxology, and everyone was in fine voice. The Lord’s prayer was said in the Norf’k langwij (Norfolk Island language) by Mr. Albert Buffett, President of the Norfolk Island Council of Elders, and later in the service, the scripture for the day, Psalm 103, was read by Mr. Albert Buffett, and US Chargé d’Affaires Mr. James Carouso.

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In his message, Bishop Michael stressed the importance of thanking God for all his benefits, reminding us from Psalm 103 that in Christ Jesus, God has been gracious and compassionate toward us, and abounding in steadfast love. “This Thanksgiving Day, God doesn’t want us to only say thank you for the beauty and bounty of the earth, good though that is. This is a day to forget not all his benefits”.  The Bishop noted that we need a day like Thanksgiving to remind us to do this, because by default we don’t give God the thanks that he rightly deserves. We take for granted all the good things we have, without pausing to acknowledge their source. He said that this was like a teenager who ignored their parents, but still expected to have their food and WiFi laid on!

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A special treat during the service was when “some Quentl gairls” sang Gustav Quintal’s beautiful hymn “Oakleigh” (wonderfully sung by Gaye, Joy, Rosalie and Chelsea). This too was greeted with an enthusiastic applause. Peter Randall and Phil McDowell played the organ. At the end of the service, Don Reynold led us in the singing of the Pitcairn Anthem. The Bishop and Chaplain were led out, and the congregation remained seated while helpers carried the goods and produce to the tables outside, where over the next busy half hour most of it was sold to both visitors and locals. The fat fresh corncobs were especially popular, and the children had fun with the stalks of sugar cane.

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The other churches had successful days too and because the Adventists have their service in the afternoon, many folk took the opportunity of attending two services over the day. Others had celebratory lunches with friends and family, and made the most of the beautiful weather with picnics and barbecues. Now that our Food Festival occurs in Thanksgiving week, we are doubly grateful for what our island provides, and for the people who share their skills and talents to bring it to our plates.

 

Happy Thanksgiving Day!