Thursday, March 29, 2007

Space, place and face = grace


29 March 2007

Space, place and face = grace

Hi Guys, a short Cross Purposes for Holy Week.

1. Jesus Christ came and shared our space

“The Word became flesh and lived (pitched his tent) among us”. John 1: 14

2. Jesus Christ came and entered himself into our place.

“God made him to be sin, who knew no sin…” 2 Cor 5: 21

“Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”. John 1: 29

3. Jesus Christ, through Cross and Resurrection, has made it possible (and free) for us to behold God’s face.

“… through him (Christ) we have access in one Spirit to the Father”. Eph 2: 18

And this my friends, is the meaning of grace.

Or as my friendly post office person Anne says: ‘Grace is what you get when you don’t get what you deserve to get’.

May your repenting be joyful, even if painful, and welcomed, even if humbling!

Jesus is Lord. Grace abounds!

Pastor Fred

If you are in Sydney over this Easter period, the following are our Service times at St Pauls (3 Stanley St, East Sydney – opp Hyde Park).

Good Friday 10.30am HC
Easter Sunday 10.30am HC

Parking is available at Sydney Grammar opposite the church.

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Saturday, March 24, 2007

A Bridge too far? No, a bridge from one side!


23 March 2007

A Bridge too far? No, a bridge from one side!

There’s been lots of talk about ‘bridges’ around Sydney these last few weeks. Well, really about one bridge – the Sydney Harbour Bridge – which was officially opened 75 years ago, on March 19, 1932. Sydneysiders have ‘The Bridge’ in the psyches. It has become something in ’the spirit of the place’ that marks this city.

I reckon we’d be hard put to find an Australian who wouldn’t instantly recognize it, alongside the Sydney Opera House. After all, we put it on display for the Sydney Olympics, and every Australia Day celebration too. Most surveys conclude that it is one of the most instantly recognised structures in the world.

(However I did once have an occasion when I took a visiting South African clergyman – black, and from the townships – to see some of the sights. From South Head we looked back along the Harbour to the Bridge and Opera House and he had no idea what it was. He’d never ever seen it before and it meant nothing to him. He wasn’t at all impressed with any of the lovely homes I was showing him either!)

All the photos of the Harbour Bridge while it was under construction show the development of the arch coming equally from both sides, like giant fingers reaching out, that must meet each other perfectly at the peak in the middle. And of course they did, I think to within half a centimeter.

It’s all had me thinking about that ‘other’ bridge which was needed to span the apparently unbridgeable gap between the Holy God and the children of Adam and Eve. Those of you who are still biblically literate might remember such phrases as:

“…all have sinned and come short of the glory of God”. (Romans 3: 23)

“Your sins have made a separation between you and your God”.

“…you were separate for Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel, foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world”. (Eph 2: 12)

“… you were dead…” (Eph 2: 1) – and dead people build no bridges!

What is really telling is that Eph 2: 6 talks about us sitting with Christ at the Fathers right hand in heaven! On the ‘God-side’ of the divide! How did we / do we get there? Because God, in his mercy, built a bridge to us which enabled us to come to him. It begins with that first Christmas where God comes to live among us, (Immanuel = God with us). It continues to Good Friday, where that person called Jesus Christ enters into death, into that separation, in our place, having absorbed into himself all human sin and evil as he went! That lays the foundation for the ‘bridge way’ back to the Holy God. The Easter Sunday risen Jesus Christ draws us with him, forgiven, into the Father’s presence! This bridge is built on the blood, sweat and tears, and death, of the eternal Son of the eternal Father.

It’s our bridge to life. And we are set free to walk on that bridge as we acknowledge and confess two things:

That who and what I am, as far as holiness is concerned, doesn’t cut it with God – and never will.
That who and what Jesus Christ is does cut it with God. Indeed it’s the only thing / he’s the only One who does cut it with God – and he alone is Saviour and Lord.

Acknowledge and confess that and, well, the bridge is yours!

Happy Good Friday and Easter celebrations

Pastor Fred

Friday, March 16, 2007

Giving Jesus the boot!


16 March 2007

Giving Jesus the boot!

I was at a conference not long ago where a bunch of capable ‘interns’ produced a skit about a young lass who gets a car of her own. Hops in the drivers’ seat and takes it for a spin. Sees her friend Jesus along the way and invites him to drive! All’s well. Sees another friend walking by and invites him to sit in the front seat while she drives. Jesus gets asked to take a back seat!

A third friend joins the joy ride and then a fourth, at which time Jesus is given the boot! (US = trunk) Literally!

I was reminded of this while reading in a book on Prayer by Phillip Yancey. He quotes one of my all time favourite Bible verses (which I’ll freely admit I’ve been hard pressed to ever manage to achieve). It’s this:

“Be still and know that I am God”

I’m not a very good “be still” person. Not ever. Not anywhere.

Anyway, Yancey points out that the Latin version for ‘be still’ is vacate! It’s as though God says to us “Go take a holiday!”, or “Go play truant for a while!”. Go away! Vamoose! Scat! Get out of my hair!

Is that an easy thing for us to absorb? Just give him the field for a while – or in the car story – let him drive. It’s all about control isn’t it? If it’s my car (my life) I want to be the director of operations, I want to determine the journey, decide the goal. Inevitably you and I finish up at dead ends, or trapped in the flooded creek beds of life, or get caught in the blizzards from hell. We are such slow learners.

I wonder if we can learn to ‘vacate’. Could we learn that the business of life is not that we invite Jesus in as passenger? That genuine wholeness, health and purpose comes when he’s the driver. We are summoned into his journey rather than he being invited into our journey. For me it’s a trust issue. Having spent much of my life learning that I don’t give way my trust easily, if at all, I’m now called to hand it over. Scary! But Alive! Risky! But full of hope!

So there it is. Vacate!

Be blessed whatever you do this week.

Reminder that the book – ‘Shit Happens, Grace Surprises’ is available by order through

Friday, March 09, 2007

The ATO as an ATM


9 March 2007

The ATO as an ATM

I’m married to Rosemarie who brings many blessings into my life, not least of which is the fact that she’s a pretty expert specialist tax-preparer. There’s not much she doesn’t know about helping people with income tax returns. I marvel at her efficiency, her knowledge, and her people skills. Above all, I marvel at her honesty and courage in holding clients to the line of what is, and what is not, acceptable according to the Tax Law in the eyes of the Tax Office.

I don’t ever have to worry about getting my tax return done on time – it’s done for me! Wasn’t always like that. For probably the first fifteen or so years of our marriage I completed the tax returns. (There had to be some pay-off for a Bachelor of Commerce I never used!).

I often fudged the figures. Claimed expenses I had no business claiming, didn’t show income that should have been included. It was normal. As far as I knew, everybody did it. You got away with whatever you could. Bothered the conscience for a while each year but it passed. Always breathed a sigh of relief when the assessment was returned, with cheque, without being contested. Needless to say, economical with the truth.

Over the years the Lord above had to use a baseball bat on me a few times to drive me toward integrity. In the end, clarity with him became so important that un-clarity elsewhere – compromises in honesty – had to go. I’m free and I’m grateful.

You can understand then that I was taken by a comment I heard at Men’s Breakfast recently: “Some of my friends treat the ATO as an ATM!” Really struck a chord. And instantly had me thinking again of our journeys toward integrity. And I mean journeys. I’m sure some will say that they’ve always been honest as the day is long. Never been like that for me, nor for most (honest) people I know. Decisions are made day by day, week by week, year by year, and not always on the side of truth.

But things change. It’s not only about “complying with the Law”, or about “living with yourself”, or “preserving your reputation”. Lasting change came to me, and for me, as “I looked into the eyes of Jesus and saw the person I was meant to be!” (Zaccheus in The Robe). When that happened to me, the drive to get it right came from the inside. The drive to get it right was matched by a longing to get it right. Love begets love which begets truth. A clean heart (ie forgiven!) drives a clean life. When that happens the ATO is where I make legitimately required deposits and claims, and the heavenly Boss provides the ATM.

What about Reparation?
Yes, what about reparation? What about making good what one did, (equals obtained dishonestly), in the past? I’ve worked out my own ways to respond to that need, essentially by the way I handle giving away things / money when that’s required.

I’ve never rung the Tax Office and asked how I could repay what is owed. I know someone who did and he was told there was no protocol for it. He did his own calculation and sent off his cheque! He also had a rethink about all the sickies he took before his moment of truth and asked his earthly boss about setting that right. Again there was no mechanism for it, so he did a calculation and worked extra overtime for a couple of years to clean the slate!

There is a joy in being honest. And a freedom. There’s a greater joy and a great freedom in being able to be honest.

Take care