9.6.19 – A Man Full Of God’s Grace And Power – Peter Cheyne

Today we celebrate the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the disciples, 3,000 people converted and the church was born. That story is in Acts 2. From then on the book of Acts is saturated with the Holy Spirit. Many have suggested that it should not be called the Acts of the Apostles but the Acts of the Holy Spirit.

We are not going to look at the day of Pentecost but an example of the life of the church from very soon after Pentecost.

Maybe 3 or 4 years after Jesus’ ascension and Pentecost a dispute broke out. The church was distributing food to widows but the Greek-speaking Jews complained that their widows were being overlooked. The apostles knew that their calling was to the ministry of the word and prayer, not to distributing food. It would be wrong for them to try to do this as well. Far better to delegate it. Involve more people. Recognise the diversity of gifts and ministries. So the apostles said to the church, “Choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”

So, the church chose seven men, including someone called Stephen.

The apostles had been very clear about the type of person who should be chosen. They were to be men (and we are not going to go into that just now) who were to be known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom.

Why? All they were going to do was distribute food! This is a pastoral care role. Why was it crucial that they be filled with the Holy Spirit and wisdom? And what does it mean anyway? And they were to be known as people full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom. Apparently, this was something that people could readily recognise. What makes it apparent that a person is full of the Holy Spirit?

And, what does this say to us? Should we require exactly the same thing? Before we put anyone into a ministry role in the church, should it be apparent that he/she is full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom?

I hope we can answer those questions as we look at the story.

Acts 6:7               So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.

The ‘so’ at the beginning of that verse tells us that the growth was a result of the appointment of these seven men. That could be because they defused a developing division and maintained unity in the church. I think there was great wisdom in addressing the complaint and finding a solution that involved delegating ministry to others.  But I think there was far more to it than that, as we shall see.

The story then focuses on Stephen. Who was he? Who knows? But look at how he is described in 6:8: Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power… performed great wonders and signs among the people.

We know that he had to be a man full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom. Now we get a picture of what that means. He was full of God’s grace and power.

God’s grace is His goodness, His generosity, His provision, His willingness to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. We are saved by the grace of God. It is pure gift. We cannot earn it ourselves, God gives it generously. We are protected and guided by God’s grace. We are equipped by God’s grace for His service. So was Stephen receiving God’s grace in an abundant way or was he modelling God’s grace and conveying God’s grace to others in an abundant way? Was God blessing him or was he blessing others?

Undoubtedly both. Those who receive God’s grace are expected to pass it on. Jesus said, “You have received freely, therefore give freely.”

He was performing great wonders and signs among the people. Clearly, he was receiving God’s grace. He could not perform miracles by himself. God was doing great things. God was graciously working through him. But Stephen was not just receiving. He was extending God’s grace to others. People were experiencing God’s grace through Stephen. Presumably people were being healed and delivered of demons; prayers were being answered. Probably it mirrored Jesus’ ministry.

Even in talking about God’s grace, we have started talking about God’s power. Stephen was full of God’s power. Jesus had said, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth.” Clearly that was happening exactly as Jesus had said. Stephen was simply a meals-on-wheels deliverer but he had the power to perform great wonders and signs because of the Holy Spirit in his life.

Let’s revisit the questions we asked earlier. Why was it so important for these men to be full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom? When they delivered food, they obviously ran across all manner of other needs. People were sick. People had demons. Marriages were strained. People needed jobs. Whatever. They could not just drop the food and run. There were opportunities here to minister to hurting people and for people to witness the power of God. Stephen could not identify those needs and respond to them without the help of the Holy Spirit. Dealing with these things requires God-given wisdom. Stephen needed to be receiving the grace of God if he was to minister the grace of God.

It actually says that he performed great wonders and signs “among the people”. That could just be the widows in the church but it sounds to me as if he was out in the community doing these things. Perhaps the widow who needed food told him of her neighbour who was dying.

If people are going to minister in the name of the church, they should not be non-Christians or even powerless Christians. Even pastoral care, or social service, roles require people filled with the Spirit.

How would they identify who was filled with the Spirit? Maybe it required only a simple question: Can you see God at work? If someone is healing the sick, it is pretty apparent. If someone speaks with an unusual authority such that people sense God speaking, that is pretty apparent. If someone’s character is being transformed – they are increasingly demonstrating the love, or the patience, or the compassion of Christ, it shows. The apostles said, “Choose people in whom, and through whom, you see God at work.

Stephen’s story continues. People got angry. They did not want people being healed or set free by Jesus. They opposed Stephen, arguing against him. But, v.10 says that they could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke. His words had Holy Spirit authority and logic.

They brought him before the Jewish Sanhedrin and made accusations against him. When they looked at his face they saw that he had the face of an angel. This again is the presence of God and the grace of God.

Stephen then made along speech. Most of chapter 7 is a recitation of the history of Israel from the calling of Abraham to the captivity in Egypt, to the exodus under Moses, to the giving of the Law at Mt Sinai, to the conquest of the Promised Land to Solomon’s building of the Temple. But that is a story of regular disobedience and Stephen finished by accusing the Jewish leaders of being stiff-necked and resisting the Holy Spirit, just like their ancestors. They had even killed all of the prophets. And now these people had betrayed and murdered the Righteous One, God’s Messiah. What incredible courage to speak so boldly! That was a Holy Spirit thing as well. This is not natural.

Not surprisingly, they were furious. Then Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. Is that not, again, the grace of God? The Holy Spirit was powerfully at work, although when he said what he could see, it made them even more angry! They dragged him out of the city and began stoning him.  Being battered to death, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” and then, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” Then he died.

How do you pray prayers like that – a prayer of peaceful trust in God and a prayer of forgiveness for those killing you? They echo Jesus’ prayers on the Cross. Stephen had a Christ-like character. The Holy Spirit had been moulding his character and, at the time of death, gave him peace and compassion.

Today is the celebration of the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Stephen’s story illustrates what Pentecost meant. The early church was a Holy Spirit-filled church. This is what it looked like.

What do you think this was like for Stephen? Would it have been exciting being part of the life of the church, ministering to people, seeing miracles happening and lives changed? Do you think he went home at night and lay in his bed and gave thanks to God for all that he was seeing and was able to be part of? Do you think the Spirit-filled life was a source of constant joy? Even dying didn’t seem to terrify him. He was faithful to Jesus and courageous and, at the end, had a God-given peace. God was good. Stephen knew the grace of God in multiple ways.

There is even a particular blessing in suffering for Jesus. Just a couple of verse before chapter 6, we read, “The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.”

This has to be an invitation to us. This is the church as God designed it. I guess that most of us would say that we are not seeing God at work today in the same way that Stephen’s story illustrates and we ask why not. And yet I am sure He wants to fill us with His Spirit in just the same way. What do we need to do?

How did Stephen get to be a man full of God’s grace and power? I am guessing but I suspect.

1. He wanted it

Maybe he had seen this in Jesus and in the apostles and he wanted it. Who wants it? Who hungers for it?

2. Pray.

Again, we do not have information about Stephen specifically but prior to Pentecost, we read that the Christians all joined together constantly in prayer (Acts 1:14).

We should be on our faces, crying out to God to know more of His grace and to be able to extend more of His grace to others.

Truthfully, if we want to see our church be anything like the New Testament church, we should have many, many people at our prayer meetings, praying passionately. Could we? Could that be the catalyst for us experiencing far more of the grace of God?

3. Act

Be faithful in little things. Stephen was willing to do a fairly menial job but discovered that God was opening more and more doors for him. He went through those doors and God used him in a far greater way.

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2.6.19 – God Wants Your Body – Peter Cheyne

Before we read today’s passage, give me some thoughts. As Jesus approached the Cross, what was His attitude? Think about Him journeying towards Jerusalem, knowing what was ahead. Think about Him telling the disciples that He must die. Think about Him at the Last Supper, in the Garden of Gethsemane, on trial, knowing the Cross was only hours away. What was His attitude?

Read 1 Peter 4:1-6

Look at the words like “therefore”, “because” and “so that” in this passage. It follows a logical sequence. That and therefore this and therefore this and therefore this. This because of that. This with the result that.

It starts with “Christ suffered in His body”. Therefore, “arm yourselves with the same attitude”.

We have listed some of the words that we believe describe Jesus’ attitude. His attitude is to be our attitude. When it says “arm yourselves” it is a military term reminding us that we are in a constant battle against temptation and sinful desires. It means “take up your weapons” for this fight.

The weapons are these attitudes: obedience, servanthood, willingness to die (even though not wanting to), laying down our lives, love for others, putting others before ourselves.

Basically, it is about dying. It refers back to at the end of chapter 3. 3:18 says that Jesus was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. V.21 talks about His resurrection. Peter is saying that is what we need to do too. We need to die and rise to a new life.

What does dying mean?

1. When a person comes to faith in Jesus, he/she dies.

2 Cor 5:17           Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; the old has passed away. The new has come.

Romans 6 talks about dying in terms of baptism. In baptism, we die with Christ and rise to a new life. The old person has gone. God creates a whole new person.

Paul said:

Galatians 2:20-21       I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

2. We lay down our lives

The Bible talks about dying to ourselves. That is a huge concept. It means it is no longer about me. My preferences, my wants, my comfort, my life is no longer important. Who can say that? Who can say that I am no longer primarily focused on myself?

It is true that, if we have come to faith in Jesus, we have died and been raised to a new life but it is also an attitude. We need to live that out. The best-known passage is probably…

Romans 12:1       Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. This is true worship.

Matthew 16:24    ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.’

‘Deny self’, ‘take up cross’ and ‘follow me’ are all about laying down our lives (and our bodies).

3. Dying might mean actually dying

Dying to ourselves is an attitude. It will affect our lives profoundly but it might not mean actual physical suffering. On the other hand, it might. Taking up our crosses?

Clearly, an attitude that says, “I am willing to forego my rights and my desires for the sake of Christ” might mean being willing to actually die for Him. Tradition says that all of the apostles, except John, were martyred for their faith. Dying can mean actually dying. God wants your body.

In this passage, the emphasis is on Christ suffering in His body. It is real, physical suffering. He died. And we are to have the same attitude.

Romans 12 says, “offer your bodies”. It is an attitude that is not just theory but includes the realism of maybe actually suffering – maybe actually dying.

How do you feel about that? Would you die for Jesus?

In the Columbine High School shooting in the United States, the shooter asked students “Are you a Christian?”. If they said “Yes”, he then shot them. It would be tempting to say “No”, wouldn’t it?

Remember that Peter was writing to Christians facing persecution. It was not theory for them. It was not an interesting topic to be discussed in their Life Groups. They faced death and Peter commanded them to have the same attitude as Jesus, that is, be ready to suffer in the body.

God wants your body. He wants people who have come to faith in Jesus, have chosen to live for Jesus rather than themselves, even to the point of suffering and maybe dying. This is not weird Christianity. This is the real thing. There are so many scriptures about dying to ourselves and so many examples of people willing to die. Think of David going out to fight Goliath, all of the prophets (many of whom were martyred), Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, Stephen, Paul, the apostles, including Peter himself. This was not just theory for him either.

Jesus said, “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” This is a major biblical theme. And it is not just for the high-profile heroes. Peter addresses it to ordinary, everyday believers. Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple”.

The result of dying-to-self is victory over sin. Peter says that those who have suffered in their bodies have done with sin. But, surely that is not true. Sometimes suffering causes people to sin even more. Many of our criminals have suffered as children. Suffering does not automatically mean we have done with sin.

But, Peter isn’t talking about suffering per se. He is talking about those who have put their faith in Jesus, who have died and been reborn as new people. He is talking about this attitude of “It is no longer about me. It is now all about Jesus”. Those who are willing to suffer demonstrate that they have died to themselves and are therefore no longer trapped by sin because sin is all about me.

We might never be completely free of sin but we can go a long way towards it. Those who are willing to suffer are willing to forego selfish pleasures and, instead, live for Jesus. As Peter says in v.2, “They do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.”

Another reason Peter gives for dying to ourselves is that we have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans (unbelievers) chose to do and he list drunkenness, sexual sin and idolatry. People of faith have turned away from that life. It leads nowhere. They should not return to it.

Actually, it does lead somewhere. We will come to that in a moment.

A consequence of choosing to live for God’s will is that people will not understand that. Why? Why would you not carry on living for yourself? Why would you not join them in their reckless and wild living? Christians are very strange! Why not live for yourself?

They will heap abuse on the Christian – for at least two reasons. We fear what we do not understand. And people living dedicated lives make people living sinful lives feel guilty. They feel better if they mock.

But… Look at v.5. But, they will have to give account to God, who judges the living and the dead.

This is exactly what Jesus said. There are two paths. One is wide and easy and it leads to destruction. The other is narrow but it leads to life. Many take the wide path; only a few take the narrow path.

Again, He said that those who find life, will lose it, while those who lose their lives will find life. God wants our bodies. He wants total dedication. But those who die to themselves, find life.

Peter does not mention heaven here but it is implied. If unbelievers who choose not to deny themselves face judgement, the implication is that those who do trust Jesus and live for him, find salvation.

The last thing Peter says in this section is that this is why the gospel is preached. God wants people to be saved. God wants people to make the right choices. God wants us to spend eternity with Him. That is why Noah preached to his generation. That is why God sent the prophets and John the Baptist and Jesus Himself and all of the apostles and commissioned the church to make disciples.

The reality of judgement is why God is anxious that the gospel be preached. Most Christians in New Zealand are not sharing the gospel. Why not? Is it because we do not believe in judgement? Or, do we believe in judgement but we do not care about people’s salvation? Contrast that with Jesus’ attitude of love and God’s desire to see people saved. Or, have we not died to ourselves. Do we not evangelise because we find it uncomfortable and our comfort is more important than people’s eternal salvation?

What do you think?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German pastor at the beginning of the Second World War. He wrote a book called The Cost Of Discipleship in which he said, “When Christ calls a man [or a woman], He bids him come and die.” That is true. That is exactly what the Bible says. The call to follow Christ is a call to die. Have you answered that call?

Bonhoeffer stood up against the spread of Nazism. He was actually associated with a plot to kill Hitler but was captured and executed by hanging. A doctor who witnessed Bonhoeffer’s death later said, “Through the half-open door in one room of the huts, I saw Pastor Bonhoeffer, before taking off his prison garb, kneeling on the floor praying fervently to his God. I was most deeply moved by the way this lovable man prayed, so devout and so certain that God heard his prayer. At the place of execution, he again said a prayer and then climbed the steps to the gallows, brave and composed. His death ensued in a few seconds. In the almost 50 years that I have worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God.”

Jim Elliot was a missionary to the Auca people in the Amazon jungles of Ecuador. In 1956, he and four others were speared to death in the jungle by the people they were trying to reach with the gospel. They knew the danger but they were willing to lose their lives for the sake of these people. Jim Elliot had said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” He could have had a comfortable life in America but he armed himself with the attitude of Jesus Christ, willing to suffer.

At the centre of all of this is dying to ourselves. God wants your body. There are reasons for dying. And there are consequences of dying. What about us? Have you given your life – your body – to Jesus? Since Christ suffered in His body, arm yourselves with the same attitude. Have you done that?

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26.5.19 – Life Half-hearted Won’t Do – Annie-Kate Williams

Read 1 Peter 4:7-11

Part of me doesn’t want to preach this sermon from this passage this morning. It is a list of should do’s. We should do this, we should do that, therefore do, without grumbling. Do this, you should do this. I don’t like things I should do. I try and do things or not do things rather than saying I should. I don’t like should but here it is with things we as believers, we as followers of Jesus should do. So blame God for this sermon rather than me, as we look at what it means for us and our lives.

The end of all things is near. When Peter wrote this 2000 years ago, they were probably expecting Jesus to arrive any day. And now, well, I guess I don’t expect Jesus to come any day – but he could! Time does matter, we don’t have forever on this earth, our time in limited. Jesus may arrive at any moment. Are you ready? With the end in sight, therefore…

Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray.

Who struggles with prayer? I think struggling with prayer is more common than we think. We just keep it a secret so we don’t seem like terrible Christians. For some of us, praying with others is easier than alone. For others, praying alone is much easier than praying with someone.

Be alert and of sober mind. I’m reminded of when Jesus was praying before he died and the disciples all fell asleep; they couldn’t keep awake. Be alert, Don’t fall asleep.

Be alert to the Holy Spirit’s leading. Alert so that you can pray.

Of sober mind. I’m sure Peter is meaning more than just ‘don’t be drunk’.

What causes our minds to be fuzzy, distracted, unreliable? What are we drunk on that stops us praying? Maybe we are drunk on busyness? Our lives are so full of stuff that we are drunk on busyness. Have you seen someone so busy that they seem like they are eventually just going to crash? Maybe we aren’t at the crashing level but our busyness doesn’t allow us to pray. Or are our minds drunk on western individualism, drunk on self centeredness, drunk on religiousness, drunk on the love of money, drunk on legalism, drunk on traditions, drunk on pointing the finger at wrong doings in society.

It’s hard to point out these sorts of things in ourselves. It’s much easier to point these out in others! It’s about changing something so that you can pray.

I struggle to just pray silently in my head. Before I’m through one sentence to God my mind has gone to ten different places. I find writing things down helps me sort my thoughts to pray. What is it for you? Be alert and sober mind so that you can pray. For a moment have a think about what stops you from praying?

  • Or what might help you be alert and have a sober mind- clarity to pray.

8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

Love deeply!

Love each other deeply. I feel like this is my theme song or my band wagon. We need to love each other deeply. Love your neighbour. Treat others the way you want to be treated. Love each other as I have loved you. The verses go on.

Love deeply, not half-heartedly. It can be hard to love others. Some we choose to love, like our spouse or friends. Family we are given and that can be hard, People that are not related, like people we go to church with, may be harder to love again. Love requires giving of ourselves to the other. Giving our time, our lives, to be with another. Loving is not easy, it’s self-giving and costly although we do receive also. It involves our heart. We cannot love deeply, half way. We cannot do this half-heartedly and yet we try so often. I think we try and do what we ‘need to’, enough to settle our conscience, enough to settle our christian duty quota. We often try and do enough but is that loving deeply?

‘How much is enough’ is often the question? Have I done enough?

Our son is 2 ½  now and the other morning my husband asked him ‘how many cornflakes do you want.’ And he replied “Enough”. He wanted enough. What is enough? It’s not loving half-heartedly. And we can’t magic love out of nowhere. How do we start to love others deeply?

  • Get to know people, and pray for them, would be my two bits of advice.

Love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

Love covers sins? To what extent? To cover wrong doings? The church as a whole across the world has covered up lots of sexual abuse over the years. Did they quote love covers a multitude of sins? Did they use this verse to justify not dealing properly with abusers? I think this verse has been read the wrong way and used out of context, which has hurt many.

What does this verse mean?

‘Love covers sin’ does not mean love sweeps everything under the carpet.

‘Love covers sin’ does not mean we give everyone who is acting out of line, grace alone.

‘Love covers’ does not mean we ignore sin.

‘Love covers sin’ does not mean we don’t address wrong doings.

Our individualistic culture often tells us that faith is a private matter. I am not to point out what you are doing wrong in life just as you are not to point out what I am doing wrong in life (although we might gosip about it). That’s between you and God. And while that’s partly true it’s also not true. God made us to live in community and calls us to love each other deeply. If we love we do not ignore what is hurting others. If we love deeply we are already involved.

Love deals with sin, which covers it with forgiveness. Some say ‘forgive and forget’ but I disagree. Forgiveness covers sin. In the context of loving each other deeply, we are going to hurt each other from time to time but love covers the issues as love reconciles, forgives. Love does not sweep things under the carpet, or ignore. Like a wound is created and love covers it, heals it. It is not avoided, hidden from the other. Example: Sally says something silly to Bob. She sees in his reaction that it wasn’t the wisest thing to say but carries on. If they both just ignore it…? Or if one of them addresses it they can move through it and love can cover it and be the final word. To address sin is the harder option as we don’t like hard conversations. We want to keep things ok on the surface. To the detriment of deeper relationships.

  • Good relationships can work through wrong doings and then cover sin.

9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.

Half hearted hospitality shows, doesn’t it? We were at a BBQ once and the people hosting were cooking food and busy in the kitchen. As soon as they had finished and eaten they disappeared. They were gone. And we were left in their lounge awkwardly. We wondered if they were not just half-hearted in their hospitality but actually grumpy we were in their house!

In contrast I have a friend who would invite me over for a cup of hot chocolate. I wasn’t really a tea or coffee drinker at the time so it was always hot chocolate. But she wouldn’t just make a hot chocolate, she would make a hot CHOCOLATE! There was melted chocolate and cinnamon and it was lovely. She went that little bit extra and it made me feel so welcome. It made me feel loved, that she would go to the trouble for me! And she did it as if it was no bother.

I’m sure we have all experienced good hospitality and bad hospitality.

And it really isn’t the drink offered or the food. But the heart and attitude behind it. You don’t need to offer the best cup of coffee to offer good hospitality. You don’t have to offer anything at all to welcome someone. I would have felt welcomed regardless of the really nice hot chocolate.

Offer hospitality to each other. Peter is talking to Christians and saying offer hospitality and do so without grumbling, don’t be half-hearted, your attitude matters. How can we offer hospitality to each other?

I have heard that people in this church were proud that they weren’t a church that went into each others homes. Whether that is true or not, this small book in the Bible would suggest we are called as followers of Jesus to offer hospitality to each other, without grumbling, for the purpose of loving each other deeply. And I think homes are important to that.

I know it’s not easy for a lot of you to get to and from places. But offering hospitality is more than just going into homes. We can call each others homes unlike in Peters time. They didn’t have phones! We can connect with others without being face-to-face with a cup of tea.

So far we have:
– pray well
– Love well
– Do hospitality well
Now we have:
– use your gifts well
– serve well
– Speak well

Not half-hearted

10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

Use your gifts. Don’t hide them away. Often we don’t know if we have a gift or not until we try, until we give it a go. A talented person, who has never played rugby, will not think one day, “Ohh I have a gift in rugby so I better go play it for the first time.” They play and give it a go and only then do we discover that there is a gifting. Don’t limit yourself with gifts. Try different things. Don’t expect you will be amazing at things right away. Gifts can take time. Use your gifts to serve others. We all know this. Use our gifts because we are stewards of God’s grace in different ways. When you use your gifts to serve others you are a steward of God’s grace. That cup of tea you served in love can be showing the grace of God. When my friend made the special hot chocolates for me she was being a steward of God’s grace. It was more to me than a hot drink.

  • Use your gifts as we are stewards of God’s grace.

11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God.

Woah! Hold up! That seems a bit intense! Our words really matter. If this was our standard we would say a lot less rubbish to each other and about each other.

We have also heard people say “This is the word of the Lord….” and they seem to lack the humility that maybe they heard wrong. Maybe their discernment was a little off. I’m much more comfortable with people saying “I think the Lord is saying this…”

Our words matter, Prov 18:21 “The tongue has the power of life and death”. A good family I know has this as a bit of a motto with their 4 children: Are you speaking life or death – to your sister?

  • Our words matter, always speak life not death.

So

  • pray well
  • Love well
  • Do hospitality well
  • use your gifts well
  • serve well
  • speak well

After all these…

If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.

To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

God provides the strength. Often I’m like, “God, I don’t feel like I have the strength to do all these ‘should do’s.’” Writing this sermon, I didn’t feel like I had the strength and didn’t feel like God was dropping any strength on me. We cannot wait for the feeling to fall upon us to feel ready, to feel strong enough. God does provide but God also calls us to be strong and courageous. Courageous means “the ability to do something that frightens, strength in the face of pain or grief” (dictionary.com). Be strong and courageous and God says he will provide strength.

  • Be strong and courageous and ask for God’s strength.
  • Pray well, love well, do hospitality well, use your gifts well, serve well, speak well

So that God may be praised. There is purpose to all of this; there is reason. When we do these things it gives glory to God. Praying well gives glory to God, loving well gives glory to God, doing hospitality well gives glory to God, using your gifts gives glory to God, serving well gives glory to God, speaking life gives glory to God. Worship is much more than our Sunday service. So that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. This is worship. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Our whole lives are spiritual, our whole lives are an act of worship. From speaking to others, to offering hospitality, to doing what you do best, we can give God glory. According to this passage I would say morning tea, all of our fellowship on a Sunday and the other 6 days of the week are all places that can give God glory. They are not secondary to the worship service. So that in all things… God is given glory. Love each other deeply, this covers a multitude of sins. May we be alert and of sober mind – a clear mind to pray. Use your gifts, offer each other hospitality.

In all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

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12.5.19 – No Matter What, Do Good, Because… – Peter Cheyne

Read 1 Peter 3:8-22

Last week’s passage was difficult not because it was difficult to understand but because it is difficult to live out.

Today’s passage is difficult to understand. It is amongst the most difficult in the New Testament. Jesus preached to the imprisoned spirits of those from Noah’s day. What? Baptism saves us. Really?

We will come to those things but Peter reiterates and reinforces what he has been saying throughout this letter.  You will remember that he was writing to Christians who were experiencing persecution and, essentially, he tells them not to pull back out of fear but to be even more Christian, even if that means suffering. Do the right thing; do the faithful, Christ-following, Kingdom of God thing.

Peter gives at least 9 reasons for doing the right thing even if it means suffering. See if you can identify them. We will come back to it at the end. 9 reasons for doing the right thing even if it means suffering.

In v.8, he lists five actions and specifically says “all of you” do these things. Every Christian is called to these things. Be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate, be humble.

How would you describe those words or that type of person?

This should be a preoccupation for us, as a church. We want a culture of like-mindedness, sympathy, love, compassion and humility. We want people to look at our church and see those things.

However, immediately, Peter goes even deeper. If v.8 is about normal, everyday Christian living, vv.9-10 are about how we respond under provocation. If someone hurts you, what are you going to do? Peter says, “Do not repay evil with evil. Instead, bless the evil person.”

Have you not been stunned by the graciousness of many of the Christchurch Muslim following the shootings? When 51 of your friends have been killed, what do you do? Forgive the killer. Recognise that he must have had a troubled past. Say that you have no hate. Refuse to retaliate. Show hospitality. Express your gratitude for all of the people who have helped.

Has it not been amazing? Conversely, there is a general perception that Christians are haters. If there was a massacre in our church, how would we respond? Would we show the same graciousness?

They received evil but replied with grace. That has been a great witness. Many New Zealanders are now super-impressed with Muslims. I know some have converted to Islam since March 15. That is what Jesus calls Christians to – to be shockingly, unbelievably good.

We don’t need a massacre for that. I firmly believe we need to develop one ministry that meets a real need in this community. We need our community to say, “These people are unbelievably good.”

But Peter gives another reason for being very Christ-like even under provocation. Bless so that you might inherit a blessing (v.9). Vv.10-12 are a quote from Psalm 34: God sees and God rewards. Do the right thing because, ultimately, God will reward you. It might be unbelievably tough being faithful to Jesus when that only brings persecution but God honours those who honour Him.

Suffering for what is right is a blessing. On Thursday, Annie-Kate and I went to a pro-life meeting. The speaker said that she had not wanted to get involved in the pro-life movement because it is messy and controversial. You get a lot of opposition and criticism. Why put yourself through that? But then she said that she has discovered that the more hated you are, the better it is. It draws you so close to God.

Do you hear the words of Jesus running through all of this teaching? Jesus certainly taught unity, humility, love etc. Jesus taught us to not repay evil with evil but to bless instead. “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them.” (Luke 6:27-29)

Matt 5:10-12       Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Then Peter says, “Do not be afraid of those who persecute you. Instead, revere Christ as Lord.” That echoes Jesus’ words: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Mt 10:28). Peter’s teaching is saturated with the teaching of Jesus, and the example of Jesus. In every situation, our thinking should also be “What did Jesus teach? What did Jesus do?” As followers of Jesus, look to His lead.

If we face opposition from other people, we can fear those people and not do what is right or we can serve Jesus and do what is right. Peter is clearly saying, “Do not fear those who seek to harm you; fear God”

v.15: in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Be followers of Jesus.

Another reason for accepting suffering now is our expectation that one day, we will be with Jesus and there will be no more suffering or crying or pain or death. It is worth being a faithful follower now and choosing to do the right thing now so as to receive that ultimate reward from Jesus then. That is our hope.

People will see that. Sacrificing becomes a powerful witness. It will puzzle people. It will raise questions in their minds. Why would people die for Jesus? Why do you choose to give up your Sunday mornings? Why do you give your money and your time to Christian things? Why do you not do cash jobs? Why do you choose to not have sex outside of marriage? Why sacrifice when you could eat, drink and be merry? It is in that context that Peter says, “In your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope you have.”

And what is the answer? What would you say? Peter says we should be ready to say why.

Because Jesus died for me, taking my sins on Himself, giving me forgiveness and making me a child of God. I believe I will one day be with Him and I am willing to honour Him with all I have and am.

Again, Peter commands the language and attitude of love, humility, cooperation. “Do this with gentleness and respect.” It is not a competition. It is not a wrestling match. These people are not the enemy.

And, what is more, keep your own conscience clear. Just do it because it is the right thing. Even those who want to malign you will be ashamed of their nasty attitude if, in fact, all you have done is be gentle and respectful. You might have to suffer but it is far better to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.

Peter again comes back to Jesus’ example. And it is again an expression of the gospel. Jesus suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. Here is Peter’s response to the reason for our hope: Jesus suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.

And then the passage gets super-tricky. What is this business about Jesus preaching to the imprisoned spirits – those who were disobedient in the days of Noah. 4:6 says, “This is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead.” Does that mean they heard the gospel after death or before they died?

A basic rule of understanding the Bible is: if you don’t understand one passage, look at other related passages. But there are no other passages that talk about this. Does it mean that on Easter Saturday, between the crucifixion and the resurrection, Jesus spent time in hell, preaching to those who had been disobedient in the time of Noah? Or, does it mean that, at the time of Noah, Jesus was present in some way appealing to those who were rebelling – perhaps appealing to them through the words of Noah? I read that there are at least 314 different interpretations of this passage!

The Bible contains no suggestions that people get a second chance after they die.

Hebrews 9:27      People are destined to die once and after that to face judgement.

But, is it possible that that one generation did get a second chance? We would need to be careful about coming to definite conclusions on the basis of one difficult passage.

Whatever it means, what is Peter’s point? Jesus suffered for doing good. He died and rose for our sins. To talk of Noah and the flood is to talk of the judgement that awaits those who do not receive God’s gift of salvation. But Peter is also talking about the mercy of God. Jesus’ dying for us is the ultimate act of mercy. The suggestion that He went and gave Noah’s generation a second chance is further, unmerited, exceptional mercy. Peter talks about God waiting patiently in the days of Noah. I tend to think of the flood as a graphic example of the anger of God and I forget that God waited and waited and waited, giving people the chance to repent. And some were saved by the grace of God. God provided a way. It emphasises that it was only eight. What a terrible tragedy. It could have been more. God gave people 120 years to change their ways. 2 Peter 2:5 refers to Noah as a “preacher of righteousness”. We can assume that Noah called people to repent. The fact that eight were saved is a sign of God’s mercy. The fact that it was only eight is a sign of the hardness of human hearts.

Then Peter links the water of the flood with the water of baptism and reminds us of the salvation available now, by the grace of God. Baptism saves us (v.21). Baptism does not save. If somebody decided to be baptised would that save him/her. Absolutely not! It would be no more than a cold bath. There would be nothing spiritual about it. Baptism, by itself, will not save. But, Peter uses the word “baptism” as representative of much more. Baptism is an expression of faith in Jesus. Baptism is a commitment to live a new life as a follower of Jesus. When baptism is assumed to include faith and repentance, then, yes, that combination certainly does save. Yes, real baptism does save.

Peter has talked about the dying and rising of Jesus. He finishes by talking about Jesus being exalted to the right hand of God, with angels, authorities and powers in submission to Him.

So, what was this all about? Do not fear people. Make Jesus your Lord and always do the good and Christ-like thing, even if it means having to suffer.  Be compassionate and humble. Be gentle and respectful. Talk about the hope you have in Jesus Christ. Talk about Jesus’ suffering and the mercy of God. Do the right thing and God will bless you and, in the end, take you to be with Him.

So, what are the reasons for doing the right thing even if it means suffering?

  1. This is what we are called to (v.9)
  2. We will be blessed ((v.9)
  3. There is less chance of being harmed (v.13)
  4. But if you suffer, you will be blessed (v.14)
  5. Fear God, not people (v.15)
  6. Ultimately, we will be with Jesus. That is our hope (v.15 and all the talk about salvation)
  7. You will keep a clear conscience (v.16)
  8. It will be a powerful witness. People will be ashamed (v.16)
  9. It is what Jesus taught and did (lots of verses but especially 18-22)
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5.5.19 – Wives Submit To Your Husbands. Really? – Peter Cheyne

Read 1 Peter 3:1-7.

What could possibly go wrong? A man preaching on a passage that tells wives to submit.

If a wrestler is being held in a position from which he cannot escape, he can slap his hand on the canvas indicating that he submits. He is defeated. The fight stops. He is released.

Submission means “I am defeated”. Life is a contest for supremacy and the person who submits is the loser. A victor in battle might force his enemy to submit – maybe parading him through the streets in chains. Or, submission is linked with sexual domination. Think 50 Shades of Grey and similar.

And then the Bible says “wives submit to your husbands”! Really? On the one hand, we have in mind those images and we cannot fathom how the Bible can say that. On the other hand, these sorts of passages have sometimes been used to justify exactly that sort of attitude – male domination. And it is no wonder that women can feel threatened by the whole concept. Is that what God is teaching?

Chapter 2 talked about people submitting to the governing authorities and slave submitting to their masters. Submission is a principle and wives submitting to husbands is another example. It is not unique to wives. In Chapter 2, I suggested that submission is the opposite of resistance. If resisting means pushing in the opposite direction, submitting means pulling in the same direction. If resisting means obstructing, submitting means cooperating. In my understanding, submission is largely about teamwork.

So, did God design marriage to be a wrestling match – a fight for supremacy – or teamwork? Marriage is not meant to be a contest or a competition or a conflict. It is meant to be cooperation. God created Eve to be a helper suitable for Adam – a good match – not an opponent, not someone to battle with but a companion, a helper.

But, in practice, we might see marriage as a wrestling match. We want to assert ourselves, be seen to be better, be seen to be right, be seen to be superior, and it becomes a battle. And then submission gets distorted into something God never intended. Submission becomes male dominance. It becomes abusive. It becomes selfish. It is all about me and you have to submit. It actually becomes resistance – me fighting you or competing with you. It becomes the exact opposite of what God intended.

God intended that a husband and wife so respect each other and love each other that serving each other is natural. Serving! Are we really meant to be servants? Yes. Like Jesus. We willingly serve the person we love because we are not competing, and we have nothing to prove except the depth of our love. We want the very best for our spouse and we will give up some of our own desires and preferences so that he, or she, can be blessed. Submission is simply about putting you ahead of me. That is love.

I said “simply” but it is not simple. We all tend towards selfishness. But as citizens of the Kingdom of God, we are called to be different: to put others first. Submission is a Kingdom thing.

V.1 says, “wives, in the same way, submit to your husbands.” In the same way as what? Well, it could be in the same way that we are all to submit to the authorities and slaves are to submit to their masters – just another example. But actually, what has come immediately prior (if you look at 2:21-25) is Jesus’ example. Jesus is the ultimate model of submission. When insulted, He did not retaliate. When He suffered, He did not threaten others with suffering. He was sinless yet He submitted to the shame of taking our sins in His body and submitted to death on a cross for our sins. Why? Because He loves us. It was so that we might be free from sin and live for righteousness. It was so that we might be healed. It was so that we who were like straying sheep, could return to the Shepherd. He submitted for our salvation.

Wives, be like Jesus. He suffered, leaving us an example that we might follow in His steps. Be like Jesus.

In 3:1 Peter tells us what should motivate wives: your husband’s salvation. Submit so that those who do not believe in Jesus might be won, not by your words but by your behaviour.

Presumably many women in these churches had unbelieving husbands. I know it sounds idealistic to think that they will become Christians because of the wife’s behaviour. I know that there is no guarantee of that. We cannot control how the husband will respond. That is his choice. But what is going help?

It might not be words. Some Christian wives nag their husbands to come to church or try to make every conversation spiritual or insist that they watch only Shine TV or keep putting the Hope Project booklet in a prominent place on the kitchen bench. And sometimes it simply makes the husband more frustrated, less appreciated and less interested.

What is more likely to make a difference? Love him. Jesus said people would know we are Christians by our love. Love will include sacrificing our own desires, sacrificing our time to serve, etc. Being loved and supported is far more likely to cause the husband to be curious about his wife’s faith and open to talking about it than being pressured. It might take a very long time. It might never happen. I am not saying that a husband’s lack of interest shows that his wife doesn’t love him enough. Again, we can only do what we can do. His response is his responsibility. But the teaching here is: wives submit to your husbands so that they might be won by your behaviour. Let them see purity and reverence.

True beauty is internal, not external. This passage is not saying that women should not have their hair down (is that the right word?) nicely and should not wear any jewellery. It is not saying that Christian women should look dowdy and forty years out of date. It is simply saying that it is not those externals that really make a woman beautiful. In God’s sight, real beauty consists of a quiet and gentle spirit.

I hate to admit it but we watched some episodes of Married At First Sight Australia. It is a thoroughly disgusting programme. The whole concept is disgusting. We watched it simply because it is a study in human behaviour. Our interest was entirely academic. One of the things that our research revealed was how glamorous these women were. They wore the most chic and most revealing clothing. They wore massive amounts of makeup. They flirted. But they could be incredibly nasty and foul and, frankly, immature. They looked pretty darned good on the outside but were horrible on the inside. Actually, even the externals were not always that great. Often it was just too much, too gaudy, too ostentatious.

I suspect it says something about the stupidity of men that they will be swept away by the externals when what is within can be pretty ugly. True beauty, Peter says, is a quiet and gentle spirit.

Anyway, let’s move on. Peter is exhorting Christian women to cultivate that inner beauty and to follow the example of the godly women of old who submitted to their husbands. In particular, he points to Sarah who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. Even that language grates. Couples now often do not want the word “obey” in their wedding vows and wives wouldn’t think of calling their husbands “lord” (although I insist on it at home).

Sarah wasn’t perfect by any means. She sometimes obeyed Abraham when perhaps she shouldn’t have. At least twice, Abraham asked her to lie, saying that she was his sister not his wife. She was a very beautiful woman. Abraham knew that some of the kings of the time would want her and might kill him to get her. So, he was willing to give her to these other men, on the basis that she was his sister, rather than lose his own life. Doesn’t that seem wrong to you? Yet she went along with it.

But even so, she wasn’t a doormat. She wore the pants sometimes (which is an interesting expression). She complained about how Abraham treated her. She suggested Abraham take Hagar as a second wife. Abraham agreed. Then, when Hagar got pregnant and began despising Sarah, Sarah blamed Abraham, and let him know. Later, Sarah demanded that Abraham get rid of Hagar. Abraham submitted.

And yet, Sarah was a woman of great faith. She is one of the few women listed in Hebrews 11. Having a child at the age of 90 was an act of faith. She believed that God would be faithful to His promises. She was a godly woman. She was a woman of faith and she did submit to, and honour, her husband. Just as Peter has said to these women, “be like Jesus”, he also says, “be the daughters of Sarah”. Love your husbands and therefore serve them, sacrifice for them, honour them.

What if the husband is abusive? Is the Christian wife still required to submit? I think that is a hard question because I don’t think there is only one answer. There will be times when God calls a wife to stay and serve. The people to whom Peter wrote were being persecuted but he still counselled them to submit. And there can be a powerful witness in submitting.

But other times, the wife should not stay in a situation in which she, or the children, are in danger. The Bible is not teaching that men can abuse their wives with impunity. Abuse, whether it is physical or emotional or verbal or sexual or whatever is contrary to both God’s law and to the law of the land. A wife is not required to be part of such law-breaking. The wise and godly thing might be to leave. While the Bible does say to submit (and there will be times when God calls us to turn the other cheek) it also says, “When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next” (Matt 10:23).

Husbands. Our turn. Now I risk getting myself into even more trouble. “In the same way”. Look at v.7: husbands, in the same way… God wants husbands to do exactly what He wants wives to do. God doesn’t use the word “submit” here although He does in Ephesians 5:21: “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ”. But look at what He does say.

Be considerate. Think about your wife. Think about her needs and her views and her emotions and her ambitions and her fears. Husbands, it is not all about you and your wants. Think about her. Men, we can only think about her needs etc if we have taken the time to know what they are. So this means, give your wife time, listen to her, get to know her.

But it doesn’t stop there, does it? Being considerate means you then act on the basis of what you know about her. Does she need your support in order to pursue her career? Then support her in that? Is it meaningful for her to receive flowers? Then give her flowers. (My record in that area is unparalleled!) Does she need time with you, or time away from the children? Sacrifice what you might you might otherwise have done, to give her that time.

The principles are exactly the same. Marriage is not a wrestling match in which you seek supremacy. It is about you loving your wife. Love her. Willingly sacrifice for her and serve her, just as Jesus modelled.

Then Peter says “respect her”. What does respect mean? Look up to her with admiration. This is not about men looking down on their wives. It is about men looking up to their wives. Respect her for her character, her intelligence, her skills, her faith. Recognise the quality and the preciousness of this woman God has given you. She is worth more than rubies.

It does say to respect her as the weaker partner. Undoubtedly that is referring to physical strength or maybe to a woman’s vulnerability in society. It is not suggesting inferiority in any way. She is weaker physically (generally speaking). The Caster Semenya case has illustrated that this week. And society can be tough on women so you respect her; you be her protector; you show her honour.

She is a joint heir with you of the gracious gift of life. In God’s sight, she is your equal. She too is made in His image with all of the worth that that implies. She too is a child of God. She too is one for whom Jesus died and over whom Jesus rejoices. She too is called to be a disciple of Jesus. She too has spiritual gifts that God has given so that she might minister to others.

Peter does not use the word “submit” but I think husbands are being called to honour their wives no less than their wives are called to honour them – and maybe even more.

So that nothing will hinder your prayers. Does that mean so that there is no barrier to the husband and wife praying together, that is, the relationship is close and open and trusting? Maybe, but it could also mean that when husbands are not honouring their wives in these ways, God does not hear their prayers.

Often marriages are wrestling matches – a fight for supremacy. It can also happen in churches. But God’s way is teamwork – people loving each other and naturally sacrificing for the sake of others.

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28.4.19 – Feeding and Caring For Lambs and Sheep – Annie-Kate Williams

As I read John 21:15-19 imagine you are Peter and Jesus is talking to you!

First let’s set the scene:

Jesus has died and risen. Before this Peter had denied knowing Jesus 3 times just like Jesus said would happen. Jesus has been seen alive by Mary and at the tomb and the disciples in the locked room they were in. What I assume is the following night Peter decided to go fishing. And fish during the night. In the morning they have caught nothing, they see Jesus who tells them to put their net on the other side of the boat, doing so they catch a huge amount of fish. Now they are eating breakfast on the shore with Jesus talking.

Now the scene is set, imagine finishing breakfast sitting on the lake side with Jesus and some disciples.

John 21:15-19 – Jesus Reinstates Peter 15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” 16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” 17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

How did it feel Jesus speaking those words to you?

Questioning your love? Telling you to feed and care for sheep?

Firstly Jesus restores Peter after his denial. Three times Peter denied, three times Jesus asked these questions and said feed my lambs, care for my sheep, feed my sheep. God restores Peter.

What do you need restored? Are you like Peter in some way? Feel like you have missed the mark, maybe years ago, maybe the other day? Does your relationship with God need some restoring? Because good news: Jesus restores us to himself. Although it might take longer than you anticipate to “feel” restored.

Peter denied he knew Jesus three times and I bet Peter felt all sorts of guilt, shame, angry at himself, disappointed he wasn’t more steadfast, confused about it all, like he just wasn’t good enough.

I am part of an online mums group (on Facebook) and there is often people talking about their ‘mum guilt’. Guilt they didn’t eat as many veggies this week, guilt they use disposable nappies rather than reusable, guilt they use the TV to babysit at times, guilt they aren’t the perfect mum they hoped to be. Worried they just aren’t good at being a mum. Mum guilt.

Maybe Peter had ‘disciple guilt’? Of just that known feeling of not being good enough. And Jesus restores Peter not just in relationship with Jesus but goes further to reinstate him in his mission. Feed my lambs, sheep and care for my sheep. Rather than disqualify Peter from the mission Jesus puts him right back there to keep going. You have a purpose, a mission I have given you- follow me.

Often I think we feel disqualified from being called by Jesus to carry out his mission. How could I be an ambassador for Jesus if I denied I knew him three times, when he needed me most? To be an ambassador of God’s mission, loving God and loving people I think we often fall short of caring out that mission. Feel we are not good enough, feel disqualified for some reason.

  • Maybe it’s as simple as I’m not good at praying and never have been
  • OR I’m not good at having ‘quiet times’ reading my bible and praying
  • Feeling guilt that God has been coming second in priority as my life is so busy
  • Addicted to porn, haven’t forgiven your mother in years, something you have done or something that has happened to you that makes you feel disqualified for the moment at least.

What things come to mind when you think of reasons you aren’t in a good place right now to follow God fully? Or reasons you aren’t loving God with all your heart, strength, soul & mind and treating others like yourself.

  • I’m not in a good place with God right now
  • For whatever reasons you don’t feel at your best to serve and follow God. I’m sure Peter felt similar, And yet regardless of what it is, Jesus forgives, restores, reminds us of our mission just like he did for Peter.

We need to be restored, Peter needed to be restored, from experience I have felt like God has said here’s the mission again here you go, but gosh I haven’t felt ready, I haven’t felt completely restored but that doesn’t mean we aren’t. We are always a work in progress, and if we wait to be “good enough” we will never get there, or won’t be there long before life throws another curve ball at you and you don’t feel up to it again. Being restored isn’t just about feelings but is does include them.

I wonder if Peter went fishing because he didn’t know how he could carry out God’s mission. He went back to fishing. He went back to life as he knew it before Jesus. And yet Jesus re-orientates him back to the mission, re-orientates him from fish to people. Re-orientates his occupation, shifts his view back to caring for people. Reorientated him from fishing to a shepherd missionary, its a change in the way he would see the world.

Maybe we need some reorienting, maybe our view needs to be put back on what’s important, turned to what Jesus commanded our lives to be about. Loving God and loving others – people, sheep, people.

Maybe as a church we need some reorienting, maybe our view needs to be put back on what’s important, turned to what Jesus commanded our lives to be about. Loving God and loving others- people, sheep, people.

Maybe as a church we need restored. I’m sure like all churches there are parts of our church that need restored. We have failed, we have fallen short in many areas and we need God to restore us.

Us as a church- a body with different parts- we are good at pointing fingers and pointing blame- e.g. they aren’t doing their part very well. But if we all take responsibility for ourselves, are we doing our part well? Are you doing your part well? Are we all functioning as a body well? If you are an eye are you seeing well and telling the brain? Or if you are a hand and yet you keep blaming the arm, when you could be doing everything you can within your reach.

As a church we probably need to be restored- we have failed in many areas and we need Jesus to restore us. We cannot restore ourselves. Just trying harder, or being better never lasts. We want real, lasting change which is always a heart movement. And for that we need Jesus!

We have been given a mission, we have been commanded to follow Jesus, to love God and love people, love each other as Jesus loves, feed lambs, take care of each other, feed each other. The great commission- make disciples.

Jesus said to Peter- feed my lambs, take care of my sheep, feed my sheep. But he also asked three times- do you love me?

Do you love Jesus?

We say it, we sing it, but if Jesus stood in front of us this morning in this room and asked us ‘do you love me?’ What would you say? What would we as a church say. What could we as Mornington Presbyterian Church say?

I think if we are honest, it’s easier to use words like I follow Jesus, I believe in God, we can revere God, know about God and know about his love. But saying I love you Jesus – that’s probably a bigger statement than we give it credit most of the time.

Jesus asks – Do you love me?

Love is a huge and hard concept that cannot be taught alone but must be experienced to really understand it. And even that comes in mixed forms. Relationships we have with people I believe give us glimpses of heaven, glimpses of the kingdom of God. Love between lovers, love between a parent and a child, love between close friends can give us glimpses of what true, pure love is. The self-giving love that God love us with.

Loving God can be simple and yet like any relationship it can be very complex and ever changing. I was angry with God for a while and when I was angry I was like no I don’t love you I’m soo angry, there was probably some reverance there but I wasn’t feeling in love with God. One of my friends knew I was feeling like this and a few months later she asked if God had wooed me back yet? I needed restored, I needed Jesus to help, I needed Jesus to fix, to heal, to teach and to woo me back. If you are in a place where you need wooed by Jesus I pray your heart doesn’t get hard in the meantime. Don’t let your heart get hard or how will you be wooed and then restored.

Do you love me? Do we as a church love God. John 14:15 If you love me, you will keep my commandments. How are we doing church as loving each other? We are sheep in God’s flock, we are each others neighbour, we are to love others. You are forgiven and restored Peter therefore

As Jesus restores Peter he asks if he loves him and then says feed my lambs, look after, care for, shepherd my sheep, feed my sheep. And before you think caring for lambs and sheep is a shepherd’s job and you aren’t a shephard- think again.

Making sure lambs and sheep, young and old and all inbetween are fed and cared for is like a parent, it like loving our neighbour which is the 2nd greatest commandment. Love each other as I have loved you. To love each other included making sure each other is fed and cared for. Not just taking a lasagna when someone gets home from hospital but that would be nice to. We are all called to love each other, care for each other, make sure each other is fed spiritually but also physically, mentally, emotionally! I could pull verse after verse about how we are to treat each other. There is thinking that a pastor should do pastoral care, that’s their job, their area, they are paid to do so, and yet I find in scripture that we are all commissioned as followers of Jesus to care for one another. Yes there are different giftings in this but we are all called to care for each other, feed each other, love each other.

Peter restored in relationship with Jesus meant he was restored to follow Jesus, be like Jesus, do as Jesus commanded. We are personally and as a church commissioned with Jesus mission. Love God and love others, love each other and love people both inside and outside the church.

When you are old- someone will dress you – I know some here may have help with that already- you are at that stage of life. And you are led where you do not want to go. And while this is referring to Peter being martyred for Christ. I see old age as something that is quite harsh and not somewhere we want to go. Not somewhere that is pleasant to go in many ways. And yet Jesus says follow me. As if through it all, feed my lambs and sheep, when your older and its hard and you don’t want to go ‘there’- follow me Jesus says. Through it all follow me. Keep following, don’t stop.

This is predicting Peter’s life would be important until the end and would glorify God.

I have met so many older people who think they are disqualified from the race of life. Think you have done your part and now you’re just waiting. I say no God isn’t finished with you yet. Age does not disqualify you, you’re still here which means God says follow me. You have more to give than you think. I heard a grown women say not long ago that we all still want to be mothered, to be asked honey how are you doing? They want that from you. It can mean a lot. A simple but heartfelt how are you doing? A phone call to say I’m praying for you and mean it. And you might want that from others. And this is where it comes to being a family who cares for each other, knows each other, I think we all want to be known and to know others. Not just the how are you, good thanks, small talk stuff but the really know you, the hard stuff, the really good stuff and lots of in between stuff, the stuff that makes each of us tick.

I was chatting to a friend the other day and she kept asking questions about what I thought and after I thought. I felt really good, affirmed, listened to, like someone else gets me. The simple act of listening well, can do a lot for a person’s soul. And we can do that at any age.

I am sorting with Peter and the elders a new pastoral care system. And while systems are good, systems can not create people to love each other. That must be organic and real. That is up to all of us not just a few. If you want to do more to care for others, please talk to me, phone me, email me. I would love to hear your thoughts about how we can care for and love each other more. And come to the meeting for this next Wednesday night the 8th May. MPC like Peter we need restored, we need re-orientated towards God’s mission for us, reorientated to people, to care and love, and feed each other in real ways.

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21.4.19 – Resurrection: Hope Through Suffering – Annie-Kate Williams

Brought to life again

We have heard it, we know it, still seems crazy each year we hear it

Our faith is built surrounding this

Death is defeated

Whatever that means

We know this all in theory and often we know that it is really important but i feel like it should be a bigger deal to me than I feel. It’s the pivotal part of our faith and yet does it move me? Am I changed by it? Does Jesus’ resurrection direct my life?

I’ve heard many people say lately they feel like they are in a dry place in their relationship with God. They feel their relationship with God isn’t great. They aren’t in a good space, they feel flat, things are really hard. Some may call it a wilderness or desert time or they are going through a dark night of the soul. There are many words to describe how we are feeling at the moment. From great to awful.

The easter story was brought alive for me in a new way when I was hurt, confused, my relationship with God wasn’t just bad, it was at crisis, my faith had been completely shaken to its core and I was in a mess.

I was talking with a trusted friend, mentor person and they asked if I was in Easter Friday, Easter Saturday or Easter Sunday. And I was like what…. But after some explaining it made sense.

Think of what happened on each of the 3 days. And where does your life fit in parallel? Is what your going through in life right now similar to the events and feelings of Friday, Saturday or Sunday? I was shocked they even made a parallel between my life and Jesu dying on the cross it felt almost I couldn’t compare my suffering to Jesus’ suffering.  But then the verses about living, dying and rising with Christ flooded in.

I know it’s Easter Sunday not Easter Friday but imagine with me for a moment.

Friday-

Friday Jesus was tried, flogged, carried the cross, the injustice, the angry mob, death on the cross. Jesus died, there was chaos, torture, grief, confusion, death.

  • For the disciples their Lord died, the one they followed, based their whole life around was killed.
  • For Jesus- on the cross he cries out to his heavenly Father- my God my God why have you forsaken me?

In your life have you ever been overwhelmed with injustice, life feels like you are in the middle of chaos, you life was spinning out of control, someone died and it changed you and your life, cried my God my God why have you forsaken me? ?

– When I was in crisis, part of who I knew God to be died. I didn’t know how to go forward, there was grief, anger, confusion, it was like a death of relationship and it really hurt.

Have you been in Friday? Maybe multiple times, maybe at the moment you find yourself here.

Friday.

Saturday- the bible is silent about Saturday- nothing is said. There is silence.They are in this nothing place, grief, silence from God, questioning with no answers, the bible is silent, its empty, we often want to fill this place or get out of this place as quickly as possible. We aren’t very good at being in this place. Our culture fills silence with TV, radio, cell phones, devices. There isn’t a lot of time for nothing or silence.

There is a sermon and saying that I heard is well known but I had never heard of it. BUt it says “Friday’s here but Sunday’s coming” Now imagine an African American preacher saying it rather than a white girl. Fridays here but Sunday’s coming. (can anyone do a good impersonation?) And while it’s good to look to hope that Sunday represents. Saturday is often missed. The importance of Saturday the silence, the nothingness, the deadness, the isolation, dreams gone, despair, was Jesus not who he said he was because he’s now dead, we hoped he was the one to redeem Israel. Saturday is grief, and wrestling with God if we are able. Deadness, silence- have you ever felt like you were in a Saturday time in life? It’s sometimes referred to as black Saturday. It’s an awful place to be. Death has happened, and there isn’t any hope yet. Even if you have been told ‘God works all things for his good- wait and see’ Have you ever been told those christian cliches when your hard place and you feel like slapping that person? Or telling them to shut it. It’s like they just don’t get it, things will not be alright again, things will never be normal again, Jesus is dead, there are no silver linings right now, and it’s dark and silent of hope.

Saturday.

Sunday-

John 20:1-18 (NIV) Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 2 So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” 3 So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4 Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.5 He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7 as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. 8 Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9 (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) 10 Then the disciples went back to where they were staying. Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene 11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. 13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. 15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”). 17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.

Sunday- the day started while it was still dark

  • First the stone is moved- Is there hope? No, Jesus is gone
  • But there is an empty tomb- Is there hope? No, Jesus has been taken
  • Strips of linen- suggest they didn’t rob the body away from here- Is there hope? Still no Jesus
  • Angels – who are you looking for?
  • Mary then turned and saw Jesus, even talked to him but didn’t recognise him- in despair it can be hard to see the hope in front of us
  • And then Jesus calls her by name and she see Jesus alive
  • He says her name! (I know you Mary and you know me.)

For the disciples some heard the tomb was empty, some saw the empty tomb- hope was swirling, confusion, despair still present. More reports there is hope, more reports Jesus is alive. Can I believe their claims of hope. SOme can believe at this point but I’d say most don’t until they seem him. For Thomas the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” (John 20:25)

And Jesus came and did this for Thomas.

On Sunday people see Jesus. Maybe you see Jesus in your day, or maybe even hearing others have seen Jesus alive is enough to give you hope after Friday and Saturday. Still grieving, still confused, but hope that resurrection is real, that God is alive and walking, among us. Jesus has risen from the dead and we might not grasp the fullness of that but

  • we recognise it may have happened, still not sure, but people have been saying Jesus is alive- do we believe? There is a glimmer of hope amongst the grief, confusion, silence
  • You have seen the empty tomb and grave clothes. Maybe you have seen God do something amazing, and yet still not sure, but hope is swirling,
  • Or maybe you are like Mary and you have seen Jesus, have heard him say your name. Therefore Sunday is a celebration, there is joy in new life. There is hope in suffering because we know Jesus rose again. As Christians we can have hope through suffering even if we are in Friday or black Saturday where hope seems foreign we wait for God’s resurrection. We have a framework that tells us our God is a God who brings life where there is death, who brings new beginnings where there is darkness.
  • Jesus rose from the dead and we have hope. We know death is not the end of the story.

Hope through suffering

Jesus is risen, we have hope!

There is plenty of awful things happening in the world. Some things are close to home (e.g. health issues) other things seems like they don’t affect us much (e.g. child abuse, climate change) and yet Jesus rose from the dead. There is hope through Jesus’ resurrection! Even through the darkest day, the darkest hour, our God is a God of resurrection. Bringing new life where there was once death.

I hope you are all living in the hope, celebration and joy of Sundays resurrection. But I also know life is full of trials and struggles

John 16:33 “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

Our God is a God of resurrection, but we have to go through Friday, and Saturday first. We have hope.

Jesus rose again, life was never the same for the disciples, they could never go back to the way things were. Jesus was not walking with them inthe same way, it was different. It was a new beginning. My Sunday school faith taught me that things all went back to normal once Jesus rose again, but instead it was a new beginning full of hope but scars of the death. The confusion, grief, injustice didn’t disappear overnight. Jesus was among them but in a new way.

When I was in what I called a faith crisis, there was no going back to what was, the relationship I had with God was gone, I grieved was confused even after hope was swirling there had been a death, the disciples, Mary they saw Jesus killed, the trauma of that didn’t just disappear the moment they saw Jesus. Trauma, deep pain needs healing, it needs the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ resurrection was hope, new life, worth celebrating. At Christmas we celebrate Jesus coming among us and yet at Easter I think we should be celebrating even more that Jesus rose from the dead! But because Friday was not soo long ago it’s like we have too much grief still swirling among this new found life, there are mixed emotions. How can we celebrate well when death and an awful death was only days ago?

So Easter is its fullness is filled with Friday- chaos and death, Saturday- silent and dark, Sunday- resurrection, new life, new beginnings, hope through suffering.

Where do you find yourself living at the moment? Are you in Easter Friday, Saturday or Sunday? There is no right or wrong day to be in. As brothers and sisters in Christ may we sit with each other no matter where we are on our journey and no matter where they are on their journey. Remember some here are in Friday, some in Saturday, some in Sunday. Hold each other tenderly. Pray for each other.

Our God is a God or resurrection, of hope through suffering, new beginnings and joy when our name is called.

This hope needs to be real for us before we can share it with others. On Sunday Mary is told by Jesus ‘Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” After Sunday there is Monday and we are told, even commanded to go and tell others of this hope, the new beginnings, the resurrection we find in life through Jesus.

Today is another year that we remember how good it is that Jesus lived, died and rose again, for us!

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