The Merry Go Round

The Merry Go Round

In this modern world with its problems there are some people who have lost hope, other people people doubting and some who hope regardless. And their concerns? For some it’s climate change. For many threats from disaffected immigrants, ebola in Africa, starvation in too many countries, and, yes, even slavery. Refugees in many numbers in camps wait seemingly forever to move on, while political feuds, fanatics in Iraq, power strugglers in Syria and other issues unmentioned worries are concerns day by day of others So are we being targeted specially in our time? Are we really meant to be getting it by the bucketful? Well, read this written by Bishop George Berkeley, Bishop of Cloyne and a famously brilliant British philosopher. He wrote it in 1721.

“I know it is an old folly to make peevish complaints of the times, and charge the common failures of human nature on a particular age. One may nevertheless venture to affirm that the present has brought forth new and portentous villainies, not to be paralleled in our own or any other history. We have been long preparing for some great catastrophe. Vice and villainy have by degrees grown reputable among us; our infidels have passed for fine gentleman, and our venal traitors for men of sense who knew the world. We have made a jest of public spirit, and cancelled all respect for whatever our laws and religion repute sacred. The old English modesty is quite worn off, and instead of blushing for our crimes we are ashamed only of piety and virtue. Our symptoms are so bad that, notwithstanding all the care and vigilance of the legislature, it is to be feared the final period of our State approaches”.

So it’s not new. Interestingly enough Wesley followed some years later and brought about a great revival and re-interest in Christianity.People flocked to Church. That was the end of that period of woe. But what to do when we are in the middle of trouble with little light? Let’s see what happened even earlier and how people coped. The Bible writer, Ecclesiastes has to say about life some thousands of years before Berkeley. He may not be famous but he does know a thing or two. There is a wryness, at times, about his observations which ring true. Consider these-

“Wisdom is better than weapons of war, often a single error spoils good strategy. A poisonous fly makes perfume putrid”:

““ Man knows not what is to be: who can tell him what happens when he is gone?”

“ Take shares in several ventures; you never know what will go wrong in this world.”

“ Remember your Creator when you are young, before evil days come…(and before)… the day when the silver cord is snapped, and the golden lamp drops broken,… when your dust returns to Earth once more, and your spirit to God who gave it.”

He argues that all human effort ultimately is negated by death,; to labour for great riches to leave after death to others is ridiculous; that few are remembered after death by their good works and, in a way, all human effort is temporary, unremembered and therefore vain. His final words might even be confirmed by the lack of detailed knowledge in our own families about the daily lives of those who preceded us – their sufferings and their joys. Read him for yourself – it’s easy reading. So what gives meaning to lour lives? Simply that Christ came from the Beyond, from God, and promised that where He was going when he left the Earth was where he he would take all those who believed in Him to be with him after they died. He even said to the thief on the cross beside him that the thief that day would be in Paradise with him. Jesus was acknowledging that the thief knew goodness which did not deserve punishment .and He was merciful.

Can any of this help you to cope? Berkeley with his measuring the world against his faith and making an assessment? Ecclesiastes with his acceptance of mortality and his always remembrance of God? Or the hope that Christ gives us all if we believe? If you would understand more discuss this with your minister, pastor or priest (SM)

Thanksgiving to God

Thanksgiving to God

John Wesley was about 21 years of age when he went to Oxford University. He came from a Christian, home, and he was gifted with a keen mind and good looks. Yet in those days he was a bit snobbish and sarcastic.

One night, however, something happened that set in motion a change in Wesley’s heart. While speaking with a porter, he discovered that the poor fellow had only one coat and lived in such impoverished conditions that he didn’t’ even have a bed. Yet he was an unusually happy person, filled with gratitude to God. Wesley, being immature, thoughtlessly joked about the man’s misfortunes. “And what else do you thank God for?” he said with a touch of sarcasm.

The porter smiled, and in the spirit of meekness replied with joy: “I thank Him that He has given me my life and being, a heart to love Him, and above all a constant desire to serve Him!” Deeply moved, Wesley recognised that this man knew the meaning of true thankfulness.

Many years later, in 1791, John Wesley lay on his deathbed at the age of 88. Those who gathered around him realised how well he had learned the lesson of praising God in every circumstance. Despite Wesley’s extreme weakness, he began singing the hymn, “I’ll praise My Maker While I’ve Breath.”

MINISTER’S REFLECTION ON WORSHIP

Why does the church usually gather on Sunday mornings and evenings? The Westminster Confession of Faith teaches that we assemble in order to conduct religious worship. (WCF 21).

It is usual in Presbyterian circles to refer to what we do as the public worship of the church. Worship is an interesting word. It comes from an Old english word, weorth, meaning ‘worth’ In its earliest form, weorthscipe (worth-ship) meant showing honour and respect to something or someone of worth. It is a very good translation for biblicall worship. According to the scriptures we worship God because He is worth to be praised and served. Th Lord Jesus, in His discourse with the Samaritan woman, stated that God is seeking those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth. (John 4:23).

At the very heart of true worship is the right attitude toward God. In one of the first uses of the Hebrew word worship (shachah) found in the O.T. Abraham’s servant bow3ed before the LORD God of Israel and worshipped Him for answering his prayer. Abraham’s servant had prayer for God’s guidance in seeking a wife for Isaac (Gen. 24).  His worship was a spontaneous act obeisance to the Almighty God.

True worship requires a saving relationship with God and necessitates a heart that is truly grateful to Him for all His mercies. Why do Christians assembly on the Lord’s Day and on other religious occasions? They do so to worship and glorify God and also to be encouraged and built up in their Christian faith. According to the Apostle Paul one of the main purposes of regularly meeting in the church assembly is so that one might be edified. See 1Cor.14).

When we come to worship we should worship the triune God and give Him all the praise and glory. The singing of Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs is among the important elements of worship, along with prayer, Bible Reading, preaching and the sacraments. I am pleased that we now have a new hymnal that will provide a wider range of Christian hymns for the worship of God and by which we may be encouraged and built up in our faith. Rev. Paul Seiler

Psalm 23 in Action

Psalm 23 in Action

The Scottish Covenanters were committed Presbyterians who played an important part in the history of Scotland during the 17th Century.

They were deeply concerned about the moves of the English Kings to impose Anglican forms of worship on the scots.

They took the view that Christ alone is to be obeyed when it came to worship. Many Covenanters gave their lives in their utter commitment to worship God as God’s word commands. In the time of the Scottish Covenanters a group of children was ordered to be shot.

 A little girl of eight looked up into the  face of one of the soldier., and said: “Sodger man, will ye let me take my wee brither by the hand and die that way?” “Bonny Whigs ye are,” cried Westerha, “to die without a prayer.” “If it please ye, sir,” said the little girl, “me and Alec canna pray, but we can sing ‘The Lord’s my shepherd.’ My mother learned it us afore she haed awa.”

Then all the bairns stood up, and from their lips rose the quavering strains: “The Lord’s my shepherd I’ll not want.” As they sang, trooper after trooper turned away, man after man fell out, and the tears rained down their cheeks.

At last even Westerha turned and rode away, for the victory was to the bairns through the singing of the twenty-third Psalm.

When Adam fell

When Adam fell

Adam’s first estate was a state of perfect knowledge, wisdom and understanding. It was a perfect state of holiness, righteousness and happiness. There was nothing within him, but what was desirable and delectable; there was nothing without him, but what was amiable and commendable; nor was there anything around him, but what was serviceable and comfortable.
Adam, in his innocent estate, was . . .
the epitome of wisdom and knowledge,
the image of God,
the delight of heaven,
the glory of the creation,
the world’s great master,
the Lord’s great darling.

But when Adam fell—we fell.
When he lost all—we lost all.
There are five things we lost in our fall:
1. Our holy image—and so became vile;
2. Our divine sonship—and so became children of Satan;
3. Our friendship with God—and so became His enemies;
4. Our communion with God—and so became strangers;
5. Our happiness—and so became miserable.

Sin and death came into the world by Adam’s fall.

“For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:17

O sirs! what a wonder is this—that the great God, who was so transcendently dishonoured, despised, provoked, incensed, and injured by poor base sinners; should so freely, so readily, so graciously, condescend to vile forlorn sinners—as to own them, as to love them, and as to enter into a covenant of grace and mercy with them! This may well be the wonder of angels, and the astonishment of men!
From Paradise Opened. By Thomas Brooks, 1675.

English Standard Version

In the book of Job we read that man is born to trouble as sparks fly upward (Job 5:7) If we have lived in this world for any length of time we will know from personal experience just how true these words are to life in this fallen world.

We need to understand that every problem and troubling situation confronting believers in this life is allowed by God for some wise and good purpose. God uses all our trials and troubles to increase our faith and to make us more like Jesus.

If you feel that your troubles are more than you can bear remember that God tells us in his word that He will never subject us to any trial without also giving us the ability to overcome it (1 Cor. 10:13)

God has placed us on a path of victory and He has promised us that there is nothing in heaven or earth that can separate us from His love (Rom. 8:35-39)

When the storms of darkness surround us He is not asleep, He is able to still the storm and bring us through safely. We are reminded in God’s word that our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against spiritual forces of evil (Eph. 6:12).

Our spiritual eyes need to be open to see the spiritual battle that is raging around us. Let us recognise that greater is He who is in us, than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4).

You may be feeling weary and completely overwhelmed but the Bible tells us that God is close to the broken-hearted and he is near to us in all our trials. He does not abandon us to the storms of life, but is with us in all our trials and will bring us safely home to glory.

Peter 5:10 (ESV) And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

Reflections on Western Society

Reflections on Western Society 

[contributed by SM]

During a speech, former Minister for Defence, Kevin Andrews, referred to Pitirim Sorokin, 1889-1968, a Russian-American. Sorokin noted of the Russian Revolution: “During the first stages of the [Russian] Revolution, its leaders deliberately attempted to destroy marriage and the family. 

 Free love was glorified by the official ‘glass of water’ theory: if a person is thirsty, so went the Party line, it is immaterial what glass he uses when satisfying his thirst; it is equally unimportant how he satisfies his sex hunger. The legal distinction between marriage and casual sexual intercourse was abolished. The communist law spoke only of ‘contracts’ between males and females for the satisfaction of their desires either for an indefinite or a definite period – a year, a month, a week, or even a single night. In short, a variation on that musical play, “Anything Goes.”  Really? Does this ring a bell?

 The social chaos, which followed the policy, caused its abandonment later in the 1920s. It doesn’t take a university degree to see what this could do to the social values of Western civilization with respect to personal relationships and individual attitudes. Could it happen here? Is it happening here?

 Furthermore, one could be brave and state that in the West courtesy still exists. Certainly it exists but so does, increasingly, masculine aggressiveness (machismo) an example of which is the single, sometimes fatal, punch reported from time to time. Sledging in cricket is now accepted as a norm and the behaviour by some players of football needs no comment.

 In short, the death of courtesy in Western civilization is noticeable. So what is courtesy? Simply the social oil which facilitates good relationships between people and peoples. It is not the only catalyst but it is a necessary one. It is what Christianity calls “Love in action” – courtesy – respectful kindliness in behaviour…

 Without its presence relationships are endangered; bullying can potentially exist in workplace dealings; in the twilight world of crime enforcing extreme violence becomes the norm. It is useless to go on as you already know where the bully boys operate. The practice of courtesy – EVEN A SMILE — as a habit — would make a real contribution to harmony and safety in the community.  So?  Simple ….. GET WITH IT — TRY IT. You could be really surprised at its effect. Better still find out what being Christian really means!

 Been to worship in a Church recently? No? Try it – you might find the peace you seek. [Speak to a minister or priest if the above has interested you. – SM]

Justification By Faith Alone

Justification by Faith Alone

Is justification a process or is it instantaneous? The Apostle Paul answers that question plainly and clearly. He wrote “Therefore having been justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:1).

Paul could never have written this if justification is a process. The moment we believe in Jesus Christ we are declared by God to be in a right relationship with Himself in view of our connection to His son. Someone may ask: if I am justified by God on the basis of what Jesus has done for me, is it possible to lose this justification by falling into some sin?

The Biblical answer is plain and clear – Paul says that there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1) Let us then consider a good illustration of this wonderful truth – that no condemnation can ever come upon those justified by the work of Christ.

There was a man in England who put his Rolls-Royce on a boat and went across to the continent to go on a holiday. While he was driving around Europe, something went wrong with the motor in his car. He cabled the Rolls-Royce people back in England and asked, “I’m having trouble with my car; what do you suggest I do?”

Well, the Rolls-Royce people flew a mechanic over! The mechanic repaired the car and flew back to England and left the man to continue his holiday. As you can imagine, the fellow was wondering, “How much is this going to cost me?” So when he got back to England, he wrote the company a letter and asked how much he owed them. He received a letter from the office that read: “Dear sir: There is no record anywhere in our files that anything ever went wrong with a Rolls-Royce.”

Justification is like that! God keeps no record of the sins of those who are in Christ. All our sins are washed away in His precious blood.

A Praying Mother

One outstanding example of a praying person is Monica, who was the mother of Augustine of Hippo. Hippo was a city in North Africa. Today North Africa is predominantly lslamic, but in Augustine’s day, (13 November 354 AD -28 August430 AD) it was an important centre of Christianity.

Augustine is considered as one of the greatest leaders of the early church. By secular writers he is considered as one of the pillars of Western civilization. His writings on Christian doctrine have had a profound impact on the shape of the theology of the church. He was an exceedingly clever person, whose insights into biblical interpretation were nothing short of astounding. He is still considered one of the most influential and most important early theologians of the church. You might see him often referred to if you read anything about Christianity in magazines and books. You will usually see his name credited. Among his many writings is a book called, “Confessions,” which was the testimony of his conversion. His book “Confessions” makes interesting reading! He was the young man who prayed “Lord, make me chaste {sexually pure} – but not yet!”

ln his younger days he lived an immoral and godless life. His great intellectual abilities provided him with a good income as a professor of Rhetoric in the city of Milan. He lived in relative luxury and enjoyed a life of sin. However, he was blessed with a praying mother. His mother, Monica, was a committed Christian who never stopped praying for the salvation of her son. God saw the many tears she shed out of concern over the wicked life her son was living and He heard her many earnest prayers on behalf of her wayward son. One afternoon while Augustine aged 32 years, was sitting in a garden he overheard some children singing ‘Take up and read! Take up and read!’ He became inwardly convinced by the Spirit that he should take up the scroll of the New Testament that he had with him. He began reading the 13th chapter of Paul’s letter to the Romans. He was deeply convicted of his sin and came to faith in Jesus Christ. He turned away from his life of sin and became deeply devoted to God. He became a most zealous exponent of grace and stood firmly for orthodox Christianity against many errors circulating in his day. He finally settled in the North Africa city of Hippo, where he became bishop. His conversion highlights the importance of praying for the conversion of our family members and for others. Let us follow in the footsteps of Monica in earnest prayer for the salvation of our loved ones, who are unconverted.

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A Charming Failure?

 “There is something innately charming about the ordinary folk who came in droves to see the charismatic preacher (Billy Graham): men in their dark suits and hats, women wearing frocks, hats and gloves, girls with their plaits and bobbysocks, clean-cut lads with short-back-and-sides haircuts, all in a conscious effort to look their best.”

The words “innately charming” appeared in a recent article (extract above) on Billy Graham by a TV presenter. They could be judgmental as well as descriptive but can one judge the standards of another time? The clothing mentioned in the above paragraph, for example, was as normal in those days as is the “dress down” aspect of today’s custom of no ties, non-ironed trousers, rumpled clothes, torn and faded jeans and so on. Do we judge the dress of the Elizabethan era? As well, remember that most of those “well dressed” people were the war generation who grew up in the Depression. They conserved clothes and wore their “best clothes” – as expected – in those days, to such events. Those with a knowledge of that time would agree. Not to know that is to misread the scene.  “What’s acceptable and worn at the time“ applies to both eras.

More importantly, what were the results of Graham’s charisma? “Passing” seems the judgment by that writer – a non-continuance into the next generation. Was the transience of his message due to a failure in preaching done by a “slick preacher with movie-star looks and a sonorous voice”? That seems too easy an explanation – Graham could not achieve everything, surely, in one sermon to a massed audience. Follow up education was needed.  It was provided. Did the many, though, follow through or was the rally the beginning and the end – which I suggest it was. If the many didn’t attend what was their reason? Lack of time or inclination are possibilities. So many attendees would never have gone past the “God exists and Jesus calls you to know that” step.

As well there were the loosely connected people who did not know or could not teach/explain the essence of Faith, “Love one another” to their children.  Among them, were the many parents who stayed at home but sent children to Sunday school – a childminding facility on Sunday morning. Did the parents come later to worship with their offspring? Well, see the result to-day – empty pews.

So, if any hard-line view is taken of the Billy Graham campaigns then “parent-failure” has to be seen as a factor. As the parent so the child. Further, Christian educators of those days tried to “make it easy” to learn and discarded learning by heart/rote from the Bible and a little book called the Catechism with its question-and-answer method fell into disuse. That contributed to ignorance and the fall away in worshippers.

In Queensland’s Presbyterian Church the reverend gentlemen of the 1960s were told annually at their State Assembly that youth numbers were falling – that there was a real need to act. Did it happen? The words fell on deaf ears. That wasn’t Billy Graham’s fault.

Indeed, one can ask if theological colleges even now realise the need for high communication skills in students.

The “after Billy Graham generation” consequently – largely uninstructed and uninformed – went into a world of beguiling influences and of wonderful singers – the Beatles and suchlike – and welcomed the advent of the Pill in the 1960s. So the Pill was there, the Bible said, “Not before marriage”. Was “why” ever explained? Who won?  The Church?  No way, so the old Greek god Eros, with the help of the Pill, won by many lengths. Who was Eros?  Sex. You’ll no doubt see some aspects in the Mardi Gras which, this year, celebrates its start up 50 years ago – about the time we are referring to above. It is now described as “Australia’s greatest pageant”. It may well be.

The real question, though, has to be, did Graham fail or was it lack of skilled Church involvement/education/illumination as well as indifference by send-them to Sunday School parents and other non helping adults as well? By the clergy’s lack of communication skills? Billy Graham’s so called “pretty faith” lit the glimmer of belief in a lot of people but lack of extra fuel caused it to fail. 

There’s hope, though, tune into Jordan Peterson by clicking here – you won’t sleep!

[SM]

The Good News of Jesus, The Saviour of Mankind

THE GOOD NEWS OF JESUS, THE SAVIOUR OF MANKIND

Most of you would probably be familiar with the usual explanation of the meaning of the word gospel. It is commonly asserted that the Greek word translated gospel in English (euangelion) can be translated as good news. That is certainly a reasonably translation but it is not entirely adequate. The Greek word gospel, which is used 76 times in the New Testament, is not exclusively a biblical word but was in use in the Greek language in the first century A.D. ln classical Greek this word was commonly used to denote a message of victory or some other message of great importance. The most famous pre-Christian use of the word is found in the Priene lnscription. This is a calendar (presently kept in the Berlin Museum) that has an inscription regarding the birthday of Augustus Caesar. It reads as follows:

The Priene lnscription (9 B.C.) lt seemed good to the Greeks of Asia, in the opinion of the high priest Apollonius of Menophilus Azanitus: ‘Since Providence, which has ordered all things and is deeply interested in our life, has set in most perfect order by giving us Augustus, whom she filled with virtue that he might benefit humankind, sending him as a saviour both for us and for our descendants, that he might end war and arrange all things, and since he, Caesar, by his appearance…. surpassing all previous benefactors, and not even leaving to posterity any hope of surpassing what he has done, and since the birthday of the god Augustus was the beginning of the good tidings (euangelion) for the world that came by reason of him..’

It will be observed that the good news about Caesar Augustus is that he was considered to be a saviour and a god, whose coming to power in Rome was ordered by providence and the benefit of humankind. He was seen as someone whose rise to power in Rome was good tidings for all people since through him would come hope and peace. By all accounts Caesar Augustus was a very great leader, but he certainly was not a god and did not save Rome from its final destruction in the fifth century A.D. However, in his day a genuine Saviour of humankind was born, whose kingdom lasts forever. There is a far better message than the Priene lnscription, delivered to certain shepherds minding sheep in the hills of Bethlehem of Judea in the 14n year of Caesar Augustus. They were told of the birth of a Saviour, who is the promised Messiah of O.T revelation. He is a true Saviour and truly God, who came to bring forgiveness to all who believe in Him and the hope of a better kingdom in which there is perfect peace free from sin and death, and endless joy in the presence of God.