Tuesday, February 16, 2016

CP 269 The wallaby series... Ranking those OT greats...

CP 269 The wallaby series... Ranking those OT greats…
This week we’ve been through Bermagui, Bega, Bemboka and Bombala. Right now we’re in Mallacoota which is in Victoria, so keep praying for us. During my inner cogitations I’ve found myself reflecting on lots of messages we have heard in recent times which have used Old Testament stories as their starting point.
Have you ever thought of ranking the great characters of the Old Testament on the basis of their holiness? I wonder if the candidates who come to mind for me are the same for you? So I think of names, in no particular order. Isaiah the temple priest and prophet, Abraham the believing patriarch, Jacob his sly and unsavoury grandson, Moses of exodus from Egypt fame, or maybe the kings David and Solomon. Others might be Joseph or Daniel, neither of whom ever seem to have put a foot wrong, (and for that very reason I struggle to connect with either of them.) I’m happily adding Joshua to the list, and maybe Ezekiel, the holiness prophet mostly based in Babylon. Not sure about Jeremiah though… he comes across as a bit of a grouchy grumbler. I suppose I shouldn’t include Samson. However I will include Elijah and Samuel.
No doubt you might put forward another one or two. Of those I have, who would you nominate? More than a few have ‘public’ black marks against them and that only underlines the need for grace. My personal ‘favourite’ would be Moses from the time the Lord called him. I understand both his unwillingness and his anger. He’s ‘real’, and astonishingly faithful to both the Lord his God and the ungodly, ungrateful and ungracious people he leads.
What might surprise you is that Jesus put forward a name not on my list and declared without reservation that his nominee was the greatest up to his time. Who is this mighty hero with a righteousness above others?
“Among those born of woman there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist…” (Matthew 11:11)
Get that? In Jesus’ judgement, John was greater than any of his OT predecessors, any previous patriarch, priest, prophet, wise man or king! Greater than any other human being who had ever lived. What is amazing is John’s own assessment of how his ‘greatness’ compares with that of Jesus the Christ:
“The one who comes after me is more powerful than I am, and I am not worthy to even carry his sandals!” (Matthew 3:11) Translation: I might be the greatest but I’m not even the Messiah’s bootlace!
What was John’s message? ‘Behold the Lamb of God!’ ‘He must increase, I must decrease.’ ‘Look to Him. Listen to Him. There is no one else. There is nowhere else. He and he alone is the answer to the consequences of Adam’s failure… He is the Lamb and in Him and Him alone will you find the kingdom of heaven! Trust Him. Trust in Him. Only his heart, life and Spirit within you will enable you to live in a way that pleases Father in heaven.’
Am I right? I know I am, and that’s why I get totally crapped off by sermons which start in the Old Testament, in which characters are held up as the best of the best examples, and never refer to Jesus the Christ whose life was so holy that his sacrifice could bring forgiveness for all our failures in trying to emulate those OT heroes whose ‘best efforts’ fell just as far short of the glory of God as ours!
Pray for Kingdom preachers.


Monday, February 08, 2016

CP 268 Wallaby series... Into the rockpool we go

CP 268 Wallaby series... Into the rockpool we go!
Hi people, this week I’m itching to tell you about Belinda. She is a friend of one of my daughters and boy, O boy, has she been on a journey. In the last two weeks I’ve walked a little of the way with her.

Before I get into it let me give you a bit of background. Over the last dozen years I’ve come to resent having to take a lot of the baptisms that came with my call. Not all baptisms. Many were a joy to be involved with but so often I felt compromised, a participant in a charade, as I confronted the nauseating reality that neither parents nor god-parents had a faith in Christ and, regardless of what I tried to say, were giving lip-service right answers just to get it over with. Not long before I retired I told some of my fellow pastors that one freedom I was looking forward to was not having to take any more baptisms! I often thought of a comment by a visiting seminary professor from Norway who maintained that the Scandinavian countries were full of baptised pagans! Which brings me to Belinda.

Belinda grew up in one of those Scandinavian countries. Her family was, and still is, without faith. She completed confirmation, at age 13 or so, apparently by turning up at church on ten Sundays, in her pyjamas, so the Pastor could put his signature in her book to indicate that she had fulfilled ‘the requirements’. It was all meaningless except for the presents. Her upbringing was devoid of any sense of the God of the gospel of Christ.

Belinda has recently become a Christian, and how it came about is both remarkable and encouraging. Her story, actually her testimony, gave me joy, much joy. The 'wow' sort of joy. How did this come about? 

Belinda's favourite music for all her life has been metal, as in heavy metal. There was one band with which she had a special relationship, a band called KORN. As I understand it they’re into real head-banging stuff. Their lyrics were about alienation, grief and lostness. Their music, especially their music, was her music. Deep inside, where Linda was Linda, their style of music resonated in a way that nothing else did. When they played she was alive. KORN was her band.

Belinda came to Australia Pastor via South Africa and England. Along the way she acquired a husband and a daughter. The marriage lasted 10 years and during her 10 married years, to all intents and purposes, KORN disappeared from her life. When the break-up happened she went ‘wild’, became a party girl and constantly over-indulged with alcohol.

One day, massively hungover and on her way by train to a KORN concert in Sydney, she said to a friend, ‘Something’s got to change!’ She told me that at that moment she knew she was in trouble and on the precipice of becoming an alcoholic.

Well, she attended the concert. When she got home she thought she might google KORN. There she read that Brian Welch, lead guitarist for KORN, had become a Christian, and had in fact left the band for 8 years. She wondered what that could be about and went on to find and read his testimony. As she read it she had, in her own words, an epiphany experience. She was flooded with the conviction that what she was reading in his testimony about Jesus Christ was the truth, and that what he had found in Jesus Christ was what she needed for herself. She became a Jesus Christ person at that moment. Her life has never been the same.

She knows that Jesus the Christ found her. She was looking for something but he found her. She bubbles with grace like a lively stream. The dependence on alcohol finished that night. She hasn’t had a drop since. She began to worship and read a Bible. She asked her Lord to help her drop the smoking. She no longer smokes. There is an irrepressible joy about her and she delights to share her story of freedom.

How did I come to be in this story? Simple. Belinda wanted to be baptised. Knew she needed to be baptised. Needed it to be full immersion. Needed to have that awareness of being washed clean. The only problem was that the church in which she worshipped insisted on baptising in front of the whole congregation and she couldn’t cope with that. She was sharing that with my daughter one day who promptly said, ‘My dad might do it.’ I was ‘around’ because one of my doctors couldn’t fit me in before February 9.

I met Belinda less than 2 weeks ago. Her story of her encounter with Jesus moved me as much as anything has moved me in years. What pure joy to have a pastoral conversation about Jesus the Christ, grace, faith and baptism, and all within months of my declaration that I no longer wished to conduct baptisms!

So on Saturday February 6, 2016, at 2.00pm, there was worship of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, in the Woonona Beach rockpool. ‘I baptise you in the name of Jesus… Father pour out your Holy Spirit…’

Three things:

First, how appropriate that she was baptised in a rockpool!

Second, an elderly gentleman swimming in the pool observed proceedings, and as he passed by he said, ‘You’ve been baptised! That’s good. You’ve become a Christian. Congratulations!’

Third, a second member of KORN has also become a Christian. That’s Fieldy, their drummer. I saw a DVD some time ago where Fieldy and Brian Welch walked up and down the line of people waiting to go into their concert, offering to speak to anyone about the Lord Jesus Christ. I think that DVD is called Holy Ghost and it’s available through Koorong.

Be blessed friends. I was. Our Father is good, our Lord is supreme, and his Spirit fills us…

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

CP 267 Worship on the wallaby: You can say that again... and again

CP 267 Worship on the wallaby: You can say that again… and again
Hello fellow travellers. We are marking time just south of the big smoke because I still have a specialist appointment in Sydney next week. I have a heavenly story to tell you in next week’s blog about a young mum, whom I’ll call Belinda, who heard the voice of Jesus in a completely left field way. It changed her life and turned it upside down. Better said, turned her life right way up. But that’s next week.
This week my spirit urges me to repeat a couple of truths I’ve been on about for a few years. The first was triggered by a question Belinda asked me about prayer. The second was triggered by what I heard 'between the words' about what a Christian ‘must’ do.
First, Belinda’s question: To whom should I pray?  She said she was confused. Should it be God or Jesus? I hate that choice because it makes it sound as though there is God and there is Jesus and the two are mutually exclusive. I’ll keep saying it, again and again, the whole point of the scripture, and especially the coming of Jesus the Christ, is that we are brought into the embrace of our heavenly Father. And here’s the mystery… The one we know as the ‘Lord your God’ in the Old Testament is revealed as God our Father and Jesus our Lord through the New Covenant. He came so we might know the Father and know him as our Father. Jesus taught the disciples to pray like this, ‘Our Father…’ Again and again Jesus teaches things like, “Whatever you ask the Father in my name…’ or ‘No one comes to the Father but by me…’ Pray to the Father! Pray to your Father. Speak with your Father!
I’m 100% OK with praising Jesus and thanking him. I also ask the Spirit of Jesus, the Holy Spirit to be involved in my doings, my comings and goings every day. I’m grateful to God always but I’m addressing him as Father. I’d love to be in a church service sometime where no one said or prayed, ‘God this’ or ‘God that’ or ‘God whatever’, during an entire worship time. We know there is God but we know this God as our heavenly Father, and this human we know as Jesus we also know as King of kings and Lord of all other lord pretenders, and there are plenty of them. But in my heart I’m always coming to God my Father through Jesus Christ my Lord.
(If you need convincing about this do yourself a favour and read the opening verses of each and every epistle in the NT and see for yourself what it says about God and Jesus. Go on. Don’t be lazy.)
The second thing on my heart is about the ‘musts’ which are continually thrust into our ears by well-meaning preachers. My spirit rebels against many of those musts. How to explain? Do you remember Jesus’ last words as he hung between heaven and earth on that Calvary cross? Simple, ‘It is finished.’ But do you remember the first words Jesus is recorded as speaking as an adult? Thought so. They come as he joins the queue of repentance and walks into the Jordan to be baptized by John. As it comes to Jesus’ turn, everything in John is screaming, ‘This is wrong, this is wrong, is wrong!’ This was one baptism he didn’t believe he should even be happening. But hear what Jesus says…
“Let it be so now. It is proper for us to do this to fulfil all righteousness.” (Matthew 3:15) It is proper… to fulfil all righteousness… To fulfil all righteousness… Fulfil… All righteousness!
Between his baptism and that last breath, in his thinking and doing, his teaching and praying, his care and compassion, his confronting and his constancy, all his words and actions, in what he allows to happen to himself, in his obedience and faithfulness, even into death, all the requirements of godly righteousness have been fulfilled. All. Yes, all. So? Here’s the law-smashing truth…
At 3.00pm on Good Friday afternoon, God our Father in heaven had to acknowledge something. “Everything I have ever wanted or desired or required from the human race has been completed to perfection. It is finished.”
To believe in Jesus as Lord and Christ is to be in Him and is to be righteous as he is righteous. To be baptized in Jesus name is to be baptized into him, is to be baptised into his righteousness. From the moment the Holy Spirit works that convicting faith in us His righteousness is ours. His story, by the gracious action of God, becomes my story, our story. When he gives me faith in Jesus Christ all the musts of salvation are dispensed with. Jesus has lived them to perfection before me and for me.
Therefore, a struggling prostitute who believes is in a far better place than a scheming Pharisee who does not. Equally a believing bastard is right with his heavenly Father and an unbelieving Bishop is not. Those losers in life who have all their eggs in one basket labelled Jesus Christ are established on rock, whereas life’s perennial winners who are ‘above’ Jesus and have no need of him are building on sand. Anyone, absolutely anyone ‘in Him’ is right with the Father and anyone who scorns Him is in danger.
And this means? Two things…
First, something I hope we all know: Our sins have been paid for. The cross = forgiveness.
Second, from Good Friday the only ‘track record’ the Father considers worthy is that of his Son. There is only one ‘must’ for salvation and that is to be ‘in Him’ which means we are replicas of Him with identical track records. That, my friends, is the Gospel. Nothing less and not a single thing more. Let no one add to this.
And this means? Two things…
First, salvation, life within Father’s embrace is pure, unadulterated gift =grace.
Second, in the power of the Spirit of Jesus I must reveal his life in me through my life. In the power of the spirit of Jesus we must reveal his life in us through our lives. All by grace.

Have a good week. Fred