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Sunday, 4 April 2021

How do I become a Christian? and the Good News (reprinted periodically)

 The Gospel


In the beginning, God, (God the Father, Jesus Christ his only Son and the Holy Spirit), created the heavens and the earth and everything in it, including the first man, Adam and the first woman, Eve. God created humans to live in relationship with Him, but gave them free will to either obey Him or be disobedient. Satan, the devil, whom the Bible identifies as a fallen angel, tempted Eve to sin by disobeying God and she in turn tempted Adam to also disobey God. For their disobedience Adam and Eve were cast away from God’s presence and the wonderful life God had created for them and through them all their descendents were destined to be born sinful.

Yet throughout history there have been men and women who sought after God. Humanity became so depraved that God destroyed the earth with a global flood, but saved Noah and his family. Through Abraham God established the nation of Israel, who would be God’s favoured people. Moses, Abraham’s descendent, led the Israelites out of captivity in Egypt and received the Ten Commandments and many laws of conduct. Because of the sinful nature of man, these laws were not kept, and a system of animal sacrifices was instituted to make atonement for the sins of the people. However, the people both individually and as a nation continued in a cycle of falling away from God and returning to Him.

During the history of the nation of Israel there were prophets who foretold that a Saviour would be born, to save humanity from its sinfulness. Their prophecies were fulfilled when Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem. Jesus is the only Son of God. He was sent to this earth and lived amongst us as a human, without losing His divine nature. In all things Jesus honoured and obeyed His Father, God. During His ministry on earth, Jesus performed many miracles and taught us regarding God’s nature and way of living. He was tempted by Satan but was without sin. He travelled with a group of disciples who were the foundation of the church – God’s people on earth.

In the same way that animals had been sacrificed to make atonement for man’s sin, it was the purpose of God to send Jesus to earth to become a total sacrifice, once and for all time, for fallen humanity. As was His destiny, Jesus was arrested, tried for heresy and crucified on a hill outside Jerusalem called Calvary. At the time of Christ’s death the curtain in the Jewish temple was torn apart, symbolising that the old system of God only being able to be approached by certain people and in certain places, was finished.

Now all could come into right relationship with God through the shed blood of Jesus, by committing their lives to Him in repentance and faith.

The Bible tells us that Jesus descended into hell and has total dominion over Satan and evil. On the third day Christ rose from the dead and appeared to his disciples and many others on earth. He gave his disciples the “great commission” to go into all nations and preach the gospel. Forty days after his resurrection, Jesus ascended into heaven.

After Jesus ascended to heaven, God sent the Holy Spirit to the earth at Pentecost (ten days after Jesus’ ascension). The Holy Spirit is not only alive in the world, but indwells in those who have committed themselves wholly to God and gives such attributes as comfort, counsel, power and discernment. God's temple is now not a building, but the people in whom His spirit dwells. In the same way the church is not a building but the body of Christian believers on earth.

The Bible tells of spiritual battles between good and evil in both earthly and heavenly realms. It includes indications of great tribulation yet to come. We are told that Christ will return to this earth, the second coming, when He will defeat the evil forces raging in the world and will judge the living and the dead.

We who have committed our lives to Christ still struggle in our humanity with temptation to sin, and must choose daily to live in obedience to His will. We grow in our faith through prayer, study and reflection of God’s word, the Bible; and by meeting regularly in fellowship with other Christians.

All this is a fairly factual summary of some of the content of the Bible. But most of all, our lives as Christians are lives that are transformed. We know a love that surpasses anything. We know a deep joy within our spirits springing from God's Holy Spirit within us. We know a power beyond ourselves which touches others and transforms them too. We have a confidence that even when life is difficult and deeply sad and broken and disappointing, we have a relationship which sustains and comforts and gives us hope. God is faithful and He has the best in store. Christianity is not a killjoy set of rules which will spoil your fun. It's the most fantastic life you could ever hope to imagine....and then some more.


How do I become a Christian?

The Bible tells us that there is only one way to relationship with God and that is through Jesus Christ:


"Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12)
“Thomas said to him, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”. (John 14:5-6)

To become a Christian, you need to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that He died on the cross to honour God and for the forgiveness of sin and that He rose again and ascended to His Father God.

You also need to admit or confess that you are a sinner in need of God’s forgiveness through Christ. This is known as repentance. Repentance involves confessing that we have done wrong, saying sorry to God and committing to living a life in obedience to God's ways. Becoming a Christian does not make you suddenly perfect. We all still struggle with temptations and failures in this earthly life and continually need God's grace and forgiveness. Repentance does mean that we look to God for wisdom and guidance to resist temptation.

You then need to receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour. Just as a wedding ceremony begins a marriage, so a prayer of confession and faith can begin, but is just the beginning, of a relationship with God. An ongoing relationship includes learning about God through Bible study; baptism, conversations with God through prayer, and encouragement through Christian fellowship in a caring church.
The following is a prayer which could be used to begin this relationship. You may wish to pray it alone, personally, or you may wish to discuss your decision with a Christian friend or pastor first to fully understand:

Dear Heavenly Father God,
I come before You acknowledging You as the only one God- Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Thank You for revealing Yourself to me. Thank You, Father God, for sending Your only Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross, honouring You and making a way for sinful people to come back into relationship with You. I acknowledge that I am a sinner. Please forgive my sin and cleanse me I pray. I receive Jesus Christ into my life to be my Lord and Saviour for the rest of my days. May You give me strength through the power of the Holy Spirit to live my life as a Christian. I ask this in the name of Jesus Christ my Lord and Saviour. Amen

May God bless you with an ever-increasing knowledge of His wonderful presence and endless love as you continue to seek and serve Him.

Ephesians 3:14-20 :

"For this reason I kneel before the Father,  from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.  I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,  and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Ame

The best day of the year

 

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.

 There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified.  He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.” (Matthew 28:1-6)

 

It’s told that in a little village in Russia, after the communist revolution, the townsfolk were gathering together to celebrate Easter Sunday. They were stopped from meeting by a party official who harangued them at length for what he termed foolishness. Religion, the opiate of the people, was henceforth banned. When he had finished speaking, the crowd fell silent. Then one lone voice cried aloud “Christ is risen!

In reply the entire town called together “He is risen indeed!”

Jesus Christ was, and is, and is to come. He is unstoppable, almighty, victorious, triumphant over sin and death. Death could not hold Him. The gates of Hell could not prevail against Him.

We see the sin and troubles of the world and grieve. Then we know the power and majesty of Jesus and rejoice:

“Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth” 1 Corinthians 13:6

 

There is no greater gift than that of salvation through Jesus Christ, no better life than one lived for God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.



Saturday, 3 April 2021

Good Friday 2021

 

So this is Good Friday, the day that we remember with solemn awe and deep sorrow Christ’s passion and death. We who know the presence of God in our lives and have committed ourselves to Him grieve with the faithful ones who remained with Him at the cross.

They were not perfect people. They were as human as the ones who mocked and scourged him. But they knew Jesus. He died for all. He knew every sin humankind had ever committed as He hung there. Then, as now, His followers loved Him, even as others hated Him.

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.

On the cross Jesus died for all sins, from the Garden of Eden to the present day.

Jesus knew every pain, every sin, every hurt, every shame, individual, corporate, national, world -wide, for all history and yet to come. Can we imagine horror of such magnitude?

Beyond this, the intimate communion of Father, Son and Holy Spirit was removed.

“And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)

 

Death. Judgement. Hell. What evil deserves. What the world and each one of us should be facing – if not for the cross.

Good Friday was not the end of the story. Thankfully, we have so much to celebrate on Easter Sunday.

But that is for another day.

Many of the cultures of our world were built upon the principles of Christianity, yet we see a forgetfulness of where our societies have come from, to our peril.

“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

“They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.” (Romans 1: 21 and 25).

This Good Friday, as we contemplate the cross, we mourn with Jesus – for our own sins and failings and for the evils we see in the world around us. It is a call, not for despair, but for repentance, faith and prayer.

 



Saturday, 20 March 2021

The Ultimate Narcissist

 

Ever met/ been involved with a narcissist? Statistically most of us will meet one at some time in our lives. Narcissists are the self-obsessed people who draw others into their lives only to feed their enormous egos and to provide them with what they need most- attention, prestige, money, material goods and a range of other services. They are always there for you – when they need you.

Narcissists will prey on the kind, compassionate, responsible and loyal people who value relationships. It may take these people a long time to see the underlying lack of genuine reciprocation with which their feelings are treated. But even very giving people eventually become aware of the inequality of a relationship with a narcissist, whose need to feel superior often manifests itself in criticism leading to contempt.

Narcissists, of course, are human, with human failings and deserving of compassion and hopefully, constructive counselling. As I study the characteristics of narcissism, I see much of the attributes of the ultimate narcissist, Satan, from whom the evils of this world originate.

Satan was originally created by God as a powerful angel of light, whose name was Lucifer, meaning “morning star”. He is described in the Bible as beautiful and wise. (Ezekiel chapter 28). Instead of giving glory to God, however, he became obsessed with himself to the point where he considered himself greater than God (Isaiah chapter 14). As a result, God cast him from his position in heaven. Lucifer the morning star became Satan, meaning “adversary” – one who hates both God and all of God’s creation.

Satan is the prime example of narcissism at work. He is in love with himself and seeks to gain power over and attention from others. Satan always uses something personally attractive to the individual to gain their attention. It may be money, or sexual behaviour, or prestige. It may be simply being part of the crowd. The human heart, of course, is inherently drawn to sin (Jeremiah 17:9). Satan will attract, then take. Little by little he will draw you into a web of deceit, sinful behaviour, addictions and loss of self-control. He will take your attention, time, money, family, marriage, self-esteem and anything else he can. Ultimately, he will take your life if he is able to.

What a contrast is the personhood of Jesus. Jesus is love personified. He needs nothing. He gives everything, even down to giving His own life for us. Jesus was there at the time of creation, Lord of all the universe, yet He chose to take human form and live a humble life. On the cross He could have called upon legions of angels to defend Him against those who beat and mocked Him, yet He chose horrendous suffering and death. In obedience to His Father’s will, Jesus honoured His Father and made a way for us to be reconciled to God.

Jesus wants relationship with each of us, but, unlike Satan, Jesus is always interested in our good. A life devoted to God, through Jesus Christ and the indwelling Holy Spirit is the best life that one could possibly live. Better than the best earthly father, Father God desires only to see each of His created human children growing in wisdom and goodness. He is always with us, always faithful to His word, always loving.

Jesus tells us that He saw Satan fall like lightening from Heaven (Luke 10:18). Satan is a defeated foe. He has no claim on those who have given their lives to Christ. The ultimate narcissist has no attraction for those who have known true relationship with God and His Son Jesus.

 

 


Friday, 18 December 2020

Lessons from “Hansie”

 


I recently watched the 2008 movie “Hansie” based on part of the life of international cricketing star Hansie Cronje. Hansie had a stellar career as South African cricket team captain, only to fall from grace and face a lifetime ban from cricket due to his involvement in match-fixing scandals.

Hansie Cronje was a phenomenally talented cricketer and inspirational captain. As such he also gained lucrative sponsorship deals. He came from a loving family and was happily married. Why then would he risk his career and reputation?

I watched this movie twice within a period of a few weeks- once with my husband, and again with our church connect group when we were having a movie night. During the second viewing I scribbled a few notes in an attempt to understand the answer to the above question. Of course, the movie probably took some liberties with reality, but some of the temptations portrayed have implications for most of us.

 

A Gift 

In the movie Hansie is approached by a go between for bookmakers who offer him a large sum of money to throw the next match. Stunned, Hansie refuses. That’s okay, says the insider. Here’s a present for you anyway. He leaves Hansie with an envelope full of cash. Later the bookmakers are seen laughing, saying words to the effect of “they always refuse at first but still they keep the money.”

Some gifts are truly free. The grace of God and new life in Jesus Christ is free for anyone who asks.

Other gifts come with very long strings attached. They can imply an obligation to the giver. Attractive gifts can blind a person to the motives behind them. They can be the source of addiction and dependency.

 

Isolation

As Hansie’s career grows, we see a man living an intensely busy life, spending long periods of time away from his family, wife and, although not stated in the movie, probably his local church as well.  Cults often use separation from these things to ensure adherence to themselves. Connection to one’s spouse, true friends and church community help to keep a person grounded. Ironically it can be the desire to provide one’s spouse with material wealth that can drive a person to work long hours or work away from home, when the relationship would be better served with more time together and fewer material comforts.

 

Diminishing the seriousness

Satan is the father of lies, half-truths and harmful assurances. Here are some of his favourites:

“You’re not doing anything wrong.”

“Everyone else is doing it, so why not you?”

“Nobody will ever know.”

“You’re not hurting anyone.”

 

The same sort of lies was told to Adam and Eve, and have been told to all generations since the fall. Satan has only one purpose, which Jesus describes in the Biblical book of John 10:10

 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

Sin ultimately destroys the sinner, as this movie demonstrates, sometimes privately, sometimes in a very public way.

 

Wanting out

God has placed within us a conscience. He tells us:

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13

For those who’ve been drawn into sin, there is often a deep underlying shame about what they are doing and a desire to get free from the situation. Sin has a way of making one feel trapped, unable to break free. If it involves others they can coerce or use threats to keep one involved.

Yet there is hope. It may come from the point of despair, but it is there.

 

Repentance

If we confess our sinshe [God] is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

When we cry out to God, the devil is defeated. God is sovereign. He is faithful to His word. Repentance requires that we confess our sins to God and turn from them. It also may require us to apologise to anyone that we have wronged in the process and make amends if applicable.

Repentance may also involve getting help in the form of counselling. Other helps include connecting with Christian friends and church community and becoming serious about connecting with God through quiet times, Bible study and prayer.

 

Hansie Cronje died in a plane crash at the age of 32. At the time of his death, he had seemingly turned his life around and enjoyed a close relationship with God. Perhaps that is the last and best lesson we can learn from his story.

 

 

Saturday, 31 October 2020

Halloween

 

So here we are on the 31st October 2020. Most importantly it’s my nephew Adrian’s little boy’s birthday, so we are celebrating all the joy and love that Sean has brought into our lives. As well, it’s Halloween. While most Australians don’t celebrate this occasion, there’s been a concerted effort in recent years to promote festivities, especially encouraging children to dress up and collect lollies.

What many people don’t understand that anything involving witchcraft is a form of the occult. This is a realm of Satan and his demons which is very real. We are warned throughout the bible to have nothing to do with occult practices- astrology, fortune telling, Ouija boards, summoning up spirits casting spells and any other practices which invoke spirits other than those of Christ.

When men tell you to consult the spirits of the dead and the spiritists who whisper and mutter, shouldn’t a people consult their God instead? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living? To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn” (Isaiah 8: 19,20)

“You must not turn to mediums or spiritists; do not seek them out, or you will be defiled by them. I am the LORD your God.” (Leviticus 19:31)

“He sacrificed his own son in the fire, practiced sorcery and divination, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did great evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking Him to anger.” (2 Kings 21:6)
 

The reason for this is God’s first commandment- to have no other Gods than Himself. When we trust in God alone, we have no reason to fear that He loves us and wants the best for us. A Christian obedient to God’s word will not take part in occult practices. We depend on God to lead and guide us through His Holy Spirit. We practise prayer, reading and meditation upon His word, the Bible, and Christian teaching and fellowship in a church community. It’s people who do not know Christ or His word that involve themselves in seemingly “harmless” occult practices. They do not know that to do so may expose themselves to satanic influences and spirits which can be the source of addictions and troubles. The Bible tells us that Satan and his demons are liars, ones who seek to kill, steal and destroy.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I [Jesus] have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10

If you have unwittingly taken part in such practices, it’s important to repent and ask God’s forgiveness for your actions. He is faithful and will forgive. If you feel exposed to satanic influences, remember that at the name of Jesus, satan and his demons must back down. Call upon the name of Jesus and you will be safe in His care. Pray continually to Him. Above all, be on the winning team- repent and believe in Jesus, the One who died that we might be redeemed from sin and able to enter into fellowship again with our Heavenly Father God.

Friday, 30 October 2020

A prayer

 Heavenly Father God

We lift Your name high tonight above all earthy things

You alone are worthy of honour and praise

the very breath the non believers use to deride Your name

comes from You.

You are more powerful than the mighty

Greater is Your Spirit than any spirit of darkness and deceit

May the name of Jesus vanquish every foe

Calm every fear

Defend the oppressed

and comfort the sorrowful.

Be with each of those who love You Lord

and may those who do not know You

Yet come to the knowledge of who You are.

Amen.