Sunday 24th May 2020
Tell me, who of us have never gotten angry at someone for what they’ve done? Answer… none of us! So, before we sit in judgment on anyone else, remember that we all have that same potential to get angry, the only difference is in the way we control it.
One of the things I love about the bible is the way it never tries to sugar coat the truth. The picture we get of biblical heroes is warts and all, not one of them was perfect… and neither are we. Even the great Moses was a man prone to losing his cool. In fact, it’s clear that he never did get his anger completely under control. And that should give us hope. If a man like Moses struggled with frustration and anger, then we don’t need to feel so bad if we struggle with it too.
On the other hand, when we see the consequences of Moses’ uncontrolled anger, it ought to warn us to keep working on controlling our issues. You see, although our acts of disobedience can be forgiven, there may still be a price to pay, just as God forgave Moses for his sin but didn’t remove its earthly consequences. In that single moment of anger at the rock of Meribah, Moses forfeited his right to lead Israel into the Promised Land. The sad fact is, we cannot go back and undo what we’ve done. None of us can. We cannot undo sinful deeds or unsay sinful words. We cannot reclaim those moments when we were in a fit rage, or lust, or indifference, or pride. Like Moses, we can be forgiven for those sins, but we may still have to live with their earthly consequences. Despite all that, consequences and all, I am still so grateful that my sins are indeed forgiven. It inspires me to desire to walk much closer with God, to keep short accounts with Him as I lean on the Holy Spirit to guard my heart. Aren’t you?
Sunday 17th May 2020
There’s a saying that we seem to love, it’s ‘Majority rules’. Whilst we love the fact that everyone can have their say, we also hold to the notion, even if just tacitly, that the majority must be right. That’s kind of how western democracies seem to work as well; we have an election, we cast our vote, and the one with the most vote wins, unless you have MMP as your form of government, in which case Winston Peters wins.
It’s a bit like that in the church too; we have AGM’s to elect parish councils or vestries, and synods reps, all of which in turn make decisions by voting. The majority rules, that’s how democracy works. But what happens the majority are wrong? Some people, despite all the evidence that says otherwise, think they know best just because the majority agrees with them.
Talking of people who think they know best, the Israelites never really seemed to learn from their mistakes did they. They survived enforced slavery and desert wanderings only to reject new opportunities in the Promised Land… because they listened to the voice of the majority.
When they heard the report of the twelve spies sent by Moses to go and explore the Promised Land, they wept, sulked and complained… again. But the majority were wrong. Only two of the twelve spies – Caleb and Joshua – stood firm on God’s promises and lived to enter the Promised Land.
Sometimes the right thing to do is to go against the grain and take the minority position, to withstand unhealthy and negative peer pressure, public opinion and powerful people. You see, in God’s economy, majority doesn’t rule, God does. What we need to do, just as the Israelites needed to do, but didn’t, is to trust God.
Sunday 10th May 2020
It’s easy to be an armchair critic isn’t it, especially of the government, and especially at times like these. But, to be fair, these are unprecedented times, and we’re not the ones having our every decision scrutinised in the media are we. So, it’s kind of predictable that they’ll make mistakes. It’s equally predictable that the keyboard warriors on social media will hammer them for it. Because you can’t please everybody can you.
The fact is, if you don’t want any criticism in life, all you’ve got to do is ‘say nothing, do nothing, and be nothing’. But you can’t do that if you want to serve God, can you. You see, there’s a consequence, a price to pay if you like, of stepping out in faith… and that is that you paint a big fat target on your back for Satan and his minions to take pot-shots at you, and he will use all and every means to discourage you, even those closest to you.
The apostle Paul actually warns us about this in one of his letters to Timothy,
he wrote: …everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted… (2 Timothy 3:12). The apostle Peter also warned us that: …the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.’ And he urges us to: Resist him and, stand firm in the faith. (1 Peter 5:8-9)
But, we don’t have to fight that battle on our own. If we remain faithful to God and his word, and not respond to our detractors in kind, then, in the end, we will be vindicated. The God of heaven will always come to our aid. Remember what Jesus said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.” (Luke 9:23-24)
So as you step out in faith remember this; no one ever said the godly life is easy, but it is eventful, and worth all the trouble and effort in the end!
Sunday 3rd May 2020
‘May you live in interesting times.’ Seems like it’s supposed to be a blessing doesn’t it, but it’s actually meant as a curse. It’s an ironic phrase. You see, life is supposed to be better in ‘uninteresting times’, because they’re the times of peace and prosperity. The ‘interesting times’ are those where trouble, fear, and pain seem to find us.
The Covid-19 virus has caused a great deal of fear and pain around the world hasn’t it. Our own government has introduced severe restrictions on our freedom of movement. Consequently, the economy has tanked and will likely take years to recover. Worse than that, people are beginning to lose their jobs and businesses. It might be well said then that we do indeed live in interesting times.
Of course, the government can do what they’ve done because they have the authority to do it. And most people will obey because they recognise the government’s authority to make the rules. They have both a respect for the rule of law, and fear the punishment that the government can impose on them. A healthy fear and respect for authority is especially true when it comes to God. While it’s common for us to emphasise God’s love and grace, how often do we talk about God’s holiness, justice and wrath? There’s a balance that needs to be struck between the two isn’t there. After all, God’s word says: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs – 1:7a). The trouble is, we can be far too casual in our approach to God.
Many contemporary ideas about who God is and what he’s like are too shallow. God is not some who merely loves us and comes running, ready to do our bidding when we need Him. Our God is holy, and is exalted above all things. He is the only wise God, the Creator, the sovereign Lord and Master. He tells us what to do, and we have no safe option but to obey. There is no alternative god, one made in our own image. We have but one directive, and that is to do His will. To be God’s people, then, means having a healthy dose of fear and respect for God and His Word, such that when we come to meet with God we do so with the right attitude and respect for the authority he holds over our lives.
Sunday 26th April 2020
How good are you when it comes to listening to advice or accepting help from others? Perhaps you’re a bit like me… I’m old enough to admit that sometimes I find it a bit of struggle. Of course, it works the other way too, some of us find it hard to ask for help in the first place.
Well I’ve been giving that a bit of thought this week, and I wonder if maybe it’s our pride that stops us, because no one wants to look like they don’t know what they’re are doing do they. Or is it that we don’t really trust the person offering to help us? That can be the case sometimes. Or maybe it’s that we don’t like the advice we’re being offered because we didn’t think of it ourselves… some people are like that.
The reality is that life can, and often is, complicated. And complicated lives need all the help they can get. For all of us, whatever we’re involved in, when someone we trust suggests that it is time to make a change we need to listen, and take it to God for confirmation. Solomon, the wise man of the Old Testament wrote: Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise. (Proverbs 19:20). Regardless of our life or job situation, all of us can benefit from learning how to accept advice and share the load. May God bless us and help us as we try to learn these lessons and apply them to our lives.
Sunday 19th April 2020
“You know what… You’ve done nothing but complain ever since you got here?” If you’ve ever had that said about you then you’ll know how much a statement like that stings, nobody wants to be known as a complainer do they. Of course, there are always those who believe that their grumbling and complaining is completely justified, convinced as they are of their own moral or intellectual superiority. It’s human nature, isn’t it, to pass judgment on the actions of others. We’ve all done it, maybe you’re doing it right now, because we all think we know what’s best, well, best for ourselves anyway. After all, it’s not like any of us have made mistakes is it. Oh no, wait a minute, we have haven’t we.
So why do we do it? Why do we want to pull others down, or as we think, ‘put them in their place’? I think it all starts when we see a problem that either we think isn’t being dealt with quick enough, or it’s not being done the way we would do it, or its simply that we don’t trust the one making the decisions. Whatever our reasoning, we seem to manage to convince ourselves that any decision they make is bound to be the wrong one.
So, this week, let’s check our own attitude before we open our mouths about others – and ask ourselves; are we naturally inclined to grumble, or are we able to exercise a bit of humility? You see, the keys to facing our trials without grumbling and complaining lay in our being humble enough to admit that we don’t know all the answers, put our trust in God that He knows what He’s doing, and show our gratitude through our praise and thanksgiving when we come through it.
Sunday 12th April – Easter Sunday
Easter Sunday… What’s it all about? I ask that because, from my observation at least, Easter seems to have become just another public holiday to enjoy, a 4-day weekend of fun and no work, all chocolate bunnies and Easter eggs. As for the real meaning of Easter… well it’s just another story we don’t believe in or understand, if that is, we’ve even heard the story in the first place. It seems to me the world, at least the western world, has collective amnesia. In turning from an empty tomb to an Easter egg as our symbol of hope we have forgotten what a marvellous thing God has done for us. The symbol of the Cross and the empty tomb? That’s just been replaced by the Easter bunny. The real meaning of Easter seems to have escaped us.
I wonder, though, if it were possible to recapture it, to retell the story to a world which doesn’t seem to want to hear it, what would we say? How would you explain the meaning of Easter, the death of one man for the sins of the whole world, the resurrection of the dead, to a world where those are completely alien concepts. Might I suggest that that the first step is to understand Easter for ourselves.
For Christians, Easter Sunday announces the very real possibility of unimaginable joy of being right with God. The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, alone in all the acts of God, holds the promise of life after death for those that put their faith in him! It brings the hope of a better life, the possibility of being able to know and enjoy a deep relationship with the creator of the universe. And who wouldn’t want that?
Today, millions of people around the world will be celebrating the fact that some 2000 years ago, on a cool Sunday morning in a small, politically turbulent country in the eastern Mediterranean, one man, Jesus of Nazareth, was raised from the dead. So, if Easter means anything, it means Jesus Christ really is Lord, he really is the Saviour of the world. He alone has authority over life, over death, and over salvation. And because of that, the word was changed forever.
Friday 10th April 2020 – Good Friday
Why on earth do we call Good Friday, ‘good’? It seems a bit daft to call something ‘good’ when to all apparent evidence it seems dreadfully bad. This was the day that saw Jesus betrayed and nailed to a cross, after all. What do you see when think of Good Friday, do you see a man, the Son of God, the Saviour simply dying on a cross for the sins of the world? Or do you see Jesus Christ dying on the cross for you — specifically for you – because he loves you? Dying for your sins, for your forgiveness, for your life.
The apostle Paul wrote: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8). ‘While we were still sinners…’ Even without obeying him, without us loving him, Jesus still gave up his life for us… because he cared about us; he valued us and showed us his love… while – we – were – still – sinners.
Good Friday is not supposed to be a day of celebration, but of mourning, not just over the death of Jesus, but for the sins of the world that his death represents. Yet, although it’s is a solemn time, it is not without its own joy. Because, while it is important to place the Resurrection against the darkness of Good Friday, the sombreness of Good Friday should always be seen with the hope of Resurrection on Easter Sunday. What we know as Good Friday was not a good day for Jesus, in purely human terms it was a manifestly bad one. It was a day of betrayal, beatings, violence, rejection, pain, loneliness, and death. Make no mistake, it was a bad day.
We all experience bad days and times of trouble at some point in life, and being a follower of Christ does not exempt us from those trials. We are called to take up our cross, meaning that we too will suffer. But on the cross, Jesus left us an example to follow that will help us deal with the bad days, because we too need to realise that we also need to be able to say: “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.” (Luke 23:34)
Sunday 5th April 2020 – Palm Sunday
Easter is fast approaching. Everyone knows what Easter is all about, well most do… ok some do… those who go to church perhaps. Less people know about Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter. It tells the story of Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey for the Jewish Passover festival the week before he was crucified. The crowds who followed Jesus into the city were fed up with being oppressed by the Romans, they desperately wanted something to happen. They even looked for God to help them. Then along comes Jesus, their Messiah. Only he wasn’t what they were expecting, he didn’t do what they expected him to do, and they didn’t get the answer they wanted.
Given our current circumstances coping with a worldwide pandemic, I suspect that we too would like Jesus to ride into our world and sort things out. But usually it’s the more ordinary things in life that trouble us, like paying our bills, healing for our sick families and friends, or help with our physical or emotional pain. We want God to help us, and we usually want it all sorted by tomorrow!
The irony is that God does answer those prayers, just as He answered the prayers of the crowd when he provided them with a messiah. The people wanted a Messiah and a Messiah came, but they didn’t recognise Him. The people wanted to be rescued from evil powers that oppressed them, and Jesus did just that. But He didn’t do it in the way they expected.
This story of Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey wonderfully illustrates the mismatch between our human expectations and prayers… and God’s answers. The crowd were actually disappointed in Jesus, He wasn’t what they wanted, a fact proved so publicly on Good Friday when they all called for him to be crucified. But as the reality of Christ’s mission unfolded over the next few days, weeks, months and years, they would realise that their prayers had been answered, and that their praise on that first Palm Sunday was indeed justified, but not for the reasons they expected.
Sunday 29th March 2020
We really are living through some very strange times aren’t we. Maybe you’re feeling a bit cornered, up against the wall, caught between a rock and a hard place. Maybe your anxiety levels are rising and you’re feeling it’s all a bit too much. If that’s you, then do not despair, know that you are under God’s guidance and protection through this time. God has much to teach us; About community, about connecting to each other, and about what it means for us to surrender our lives into His care, as He leads us through our enforced isolation from one another.
Remember during the Exodus, when the Israelites found themselves boxed in and facing being run down by the Egyptian army? Well their journey to the Red Sea was just as much a part of God’s plan as crossing it. We must do what Moses commanded the Israelites: “Don’t be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today” (Ex. 14:13). And we must remember that God is bigger than the most desperate of situations. He can make a way where there seems to be no way. God is able, in fact more than able, to redeem us from any situation. Our job is to trust God – to keep our eyes on the Lord. So ‘Don’t be afraid. Stand still. Keep quiet. Watch the Lord work!’ To God be the glory!
Sunday 22nd March 2020
This week we received the news that due to the CoVid-19 virus Bishop Jay and the Standing committee of the diocese of CCA have had to make the decision to cease all public worship from Monday 23rd March, and to cease Holy Communion with immediate effect. This it something that all the denominations in NZ have agreed to do.
This decision obviously makes today the last time we can gather together until we are informed otherwise by the Diocese. But that doesn’t mean we stop meeting altogether. Parish council will work to ensure that some form of small gatherings can take place on Sundays, and an audio recording of the sermon will continue to be available on our website www.allsaintschch.org for those who want it. Homegroups will also continue as normal until we are instructed otherwise by the diocese. That’s a lot to take in isn’t it? I realise also that not everyone will agree with this decision, but that is out of our control. Some may also be anxious about the medical impact of the virus, or concerned about the financial impact of all this, that is very understandable… So in this time of anxiety and uncertainty, let’s not forget one another, especially those who live alone. Keep in contact, pray with and for each other, in person or over the phone. And let’s not forget to whom we belong, God will be with us through this difficult time.
Sunday 15th March 2020
God has told us that He is a jealous God, and as such, will not tolerate us putting other gods before Him. We are called to serve the LORD, first and foremost, and to not allow anyone or anything to become a rival in our lives. Looking back at the history of God’s people and it’s easy to see that God didn’t tolerate the idolatry of Egypt or any of the other nations surrounding Israel indefinitely, nor did He tolerate the idolatry of Israel, and He definitely won’t tolerate it in us either. So, ask yourself this question: ‘Do I have an idol in my life right now? Is there anything that I place on a pedestal that I give higher priority to than Jesus Christ? Is there anything more important to me than my service to him?’
The thing is, if we are not careful, we can be serving the god of recreation and entertainment, or the god of family, putting the wishes of parents, mates, or children ahead of God. If we are not careful, we can be serving the god of finances and worldly possessions, or the god of pleasure… If we’re not careful.
We live in a very tempting and seductive world, one where there are many gods we can be serving, but only one God we should be serving. So know this… God does not take pleasure in correcting his children any more than you or I do when we have to discipline our own children. But God loves us too much to allow us to remain in sin and He will bring judgment whenever necessary to bring us back into obedience to His will… while there is still time to repent.
Sunday 8th March 2020
Have you ever had one of those days that went from bad to worse? I’m sure we all have at some time or other. They’re the sort of day when nothing seems to go right. You wake up late for work one morning, rush to the bathroom, have a shave and cut yourself. You put on your shoes and the shoelace snaps. You miss breakfast, rush out to the car and it won’t start, so you make a dash for the bus just in time to see it go sailing past you stop.
You know the kind of day I’m talking about don’t you. We all have days like that, maybe not all those things at once, but days when nothing goes our way. It’s how we deal with them that shows whether we’ve learnt from our past experiences.
But we’re not alone in having bad days. In one sense, Jesus last day was a bad day, the apostle Paul had them, Jonah, certainly had them, and so did Moses. So, when our days go from bad to worse, as they sometimes do, we must turn to God and trust Him. Our dependence on God in the midst of our ‘bad day’ will lead to patience, which will lead to wisdom and maturity. We all want to grow up, but we want to do so without experiencing any growing pains, but that is not possible. So, fasten your seat belts, the ride is often turbulent, but the destination is worth it.
Sunday 1st March 2020
When someone asks you to do something, what’s your first reaction? Is it, ‘Oh yes, I’d love to help’, or does your mind immediately default to the many excuses why you can’t help? Some of them may even be valid, but sometimes doing the right thing is being prepared to be inconvenienced.
Let’s be honest, we’re all quite good at making excuses, we have excuses for just about everything; why we missed school or work, why we’re late, why we didn’t pay our bills on time, why we went off our diet or new exercise plan, and for why we haven’t been in touch with friends. We also have excuses regarding spiritual matters too. We have excuses for why we’ve been missing church, we don’t give more of our time or money to the work of the gospel, or why don’t pray or read our bibles at home. Most of our excuses though aren’t very good ones.
The thing is, God doesn’t want to hear excuses, He’d rather hear our confessions and resolutions. God wants to see genuine repentance and faithfulness in our lives, a willingness to serve Him and His purposes. He’s not without compassion though, he doesn’t write us off at our first failure, in fact he gives us time to come around to his point of view. The reality is that all of us are called by God; into a saving relationship with him, to become godly servants. What he calls us to do will be different for each one of us, based upon our different experiences. But we are all called to serve in one way or another. So let’s allow God to help us overcome our reluctance and our excuses so that we can become God’s faithful followers and servants in the church.