Joy Unspeakable and Full of Glory

by the Rev Paul Seiler

Donald Cargill was one of the bright stars among the Covenanters in Scotland.

This man was among many Scots who refused to compromise the gospel and the doctrine of worship. Consequently he was condemned by the church authorities in Scotland at the time. He was condemned by the government and sentenced to the gallows.

When he came to the scaffold, Cargill said these moving words, although it was said that the drums were beaten in an attempt to drown out his voice: “Now I am near to getting to my crown, which shall be sure; for I bless the Lord, and desire all of you to bless Him that He hath brought me here, and makes me triumph over devils, and men, and sin – they shall wound me no more. I forgive all men the wrongs they have done to me, and pray the Lord may forgive all the wrongs that any of the elect have done against Him. I pray that sufferers may be kept from sin, and helped to know their duty — farewell reading and preaching, praying and believing, wanderings, reproaches, and sufferings. Welcome joy unspeakable and full of glory.”

Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing. (2 Tim. 4:8)

Same Sex Marriage and the Eternal Wrestle with Words

Same Sex Marriage and The Eternal Wrestle with Words

The offerings in this section are never political. The Christian life is open to those who seek it.

Something is projected shortly, though, which could change the organisation of society as we know it and which organisation derives from the Judaeo-Christian ethic. As a result you might want to think about what follows.

The pro-homosexual “marriage” lobby is about to start its media campaign to redefine the meaning of the word “marriage”. But by being redefined so will our perception of marriage and what it means  be changed and, if you like, destroyed. Let me explain.

Necessarily a word does not exist by itself. It has connotations. Take the words “Test” match. We know immediately without saying it that we mean a cricket match for the Ashes between England and Australia and all that goes with it. And so with the word “marriage”.

To change the meaning of a word is to change the word’s connotations and, apart from anything else, any values implied. The end result of doing this cannot be foreseen. Hitler did it with his words the soft sounding “final solution” and thus redefined the murdering of Jewish people. And what a change that was. Hence, if you set a precedent by changing word meaning or usage, things change and the way is opened for other words to be redefined with more change. But why? Our language is flexible and can always find new words to use instead of changing the meaning of current words. Look at “sputnik” and “networking” and “e-mail”.

The word “marriage” as we know it, if redefined, could be changed forever.  And redefining will change the social organising of people implied in the word “marriage”. The arrangement of couples – what is called “marriage” as such – arose to ensure stability and order in the way people lived and brought offspring into being. It also ensured responsibility in those undertaking it. Some variations developed such as extended families but the basic unit remained the same – the permanent joining of a man plus a woman – wherein lay the potential beginning of a child’s birth  by a couple necessarily of different sexes. This arrangement was called “marriage.” It’s an old word; a word understood by all; a word embracing and foreshadowing new lives. A word with many connotations.

And “marriage” is the beginning point of another word used for centuries – “families”. A family has been the accepted pattern constituting the social organising of a nation – its founding arrangement if you like. Hence the consequences of changing Marriage laws in Australia means more than changing a description of a state existing between two people. Those consequences also have the effect of changing social organisation and, with its connotations, the word “marriage”. Changed to what? And what replaces the existing connotations?

Hence, if the present connotations of the word “marriage” – implied from time immemorial – are changed there has to be an effect on society – including children. And so will any redefinition arising from so-called “discrimination'” if that is given as the reason for effecting a change of meaning.

If homosexual couples want legal recognition for unisex coupling that’s fine, – that’s their choice. But why not find a word to describe that union other than by “marriage”?  They can be legally “coupled”, “joined”, “yoked”, “locked”, “paired”, “linked”, or “connected”.

Whatever word chosen would  be soon used as easily as the word “gay” which once meant, in common usage, bright and happy, light hearted and carefree. And the word chosen would have the connotation of a same sex couple. Or don’t the gays want their sameness implied in their coupling word as heterosexuals do at present in the word “marriage”? Marriage presently means different sexes so is change wanted in present connotations and perceptions? And if so why? Interestingly “gay” seems to have been revived, knowingly or unknowingly, from a word used about 1637 when it had, as described in the Oxford English Dictionary, a meaning with overtones of  “immoral”.

It may well be that changing the accepted connotations of “marriage” could well produce confused perceptions in society at large and among children in particular. And, in the forthcoming debate, if that is not considered the debate will really have proceeded from an unrecognised premise by ignoring the connotations which society at large sees and accepts when attached to the word “marriage”. And there are too many to be discarded to suit the desires of a section of the whole society.

Think about this and, if inclined, speak to your local federal member of Parliament and make your concerns known by interview, e-mail or letter. I suggest it matters.

Over to you.


 [SM]

The Bird that Flew Away

The Bird that Flew Away

by SM

A young man visiting a church heard the priest talking about the entry of sin into human life – that is, when Adam disobeyed God. The priest then said that every human being was a sinner, not only by inheritance from Adam, but also by his/her own personal will and, thus, every human has disobeyed God. At the end of the sermon, the young man went to him saying, “I do not need the redemption of Christ on the cross in order to please God, because I’m not a sinner. I haven’t disobeyed God as Adam did!”

After Church, by invitation, he went to the priest’s house and waited as the priest laid the dining table with delicious foods. Then, the priest put a big dish covered with a large silver lid in the centre of the table and said to the young man: “I need to go out for ten minutes, but start eating. Just don’t touch the dish in the centre of the table; leave that for me!”  For a few minutes the young man enjoyed some of the dishes then curiosity took hold of him. All he could think about was the dish in the centre of the table. What could be so good that the priest doesn’t even want me to touch it, he thought.

Cautiously he lifted the lid and to his surprise a beautiful bird flew out and perched on the chandelier above the table. The startled young man immediately jumped up on the table, trying to catch the bird, but as it flew out an open window he slipped, fell on the plates, broke them, and spilled food all over the chairs and on to the floor. Suddenly the door opened and in walked the priest.

Shamefacedly the young man immediately said: “I am not better than Adam. I disobeyed as he did, but more so, because I did not pay attention!” The priest replied: “The bird is a symbol of peace with God. I was going to give you that bird as a present if you actually proved that you are better than Adam. But now, there is a greater gift to come, the greatest gift; not from me, but from God. Christ has already paid with His life for your sins and all that you have destroyed in your life and around you. He is ready to grant you His Holy Spirit to renew your life and please Him by the gift of God’s strength and grace. All you have to do is accept Him and ask for it. What do you think of that?”

Yes, the young man did confess how he needed God’s forgiveness, and, having accepted Jesus into his life went from the priest’s house a “New Person” with his soul renewed. May this story help you to read and understand the Bible and God’s Love. (Edited to fit the page and reprinted from St Paul’s Antiochian Orthodox Church, Brisbane, with appreciation). Discuss this further with your minister, pastor or priest if you wish. [SM].

Restoration Project Update

The gothic splendour of the front of St Paul’s Church is once again visible to the public eye after being masked for the last three years by scaffolding.

With the first two stages of the Bell Tower Restoration project now completed, the scaffolding has gone and the entry area to the front door of the church is cleared of the temporary structures.

At a future time when funds become available, Stage Three can be undertaken to complete this enormous project.

The Restoration Trust are to be congratulated on their tireless endeavours with this project – as are the Stone Masons for their expert craftsmanship.

 

The Precious Gift of the Lord’s Prayer

The Precious Gift of the Lord’s Prayer

by the Rev. Professor Emeritus Norm Barker

The Church through the ages has used Matthew 6 as a form of prayer. Another form is found in Luke 11, in answer to the disciples’ request, “Lord, teach us to pray”.  Referring to Luke 11, he said, “Someone has said, `Don’t turn to books about prayer – just pray!”

There is a tendency in parts of the modern church to avoid its use as a form, possibly to avoid `vain repetition’ (Matt 6:7) which it may become.  I like the balance in the Directory of Public Worship which accompanied the Westminster Confessions: “And because the Prayer which Christ taught His disciples is not only a Pattern of Prayer, but a most comprehensive prayer, we recommend it also to be used in the prayers of the Church.”

A very early Christian writing titled The Dicache, or Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, perhaps dated early in the second century, says,  “And do not pray like the hypocrites, but rather as the Lord commanded in the gospel: Our Father in heaven, holy be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us enough bread day-by-day. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one.”

Catholic devotion made regular use of the Pater Noster. The Emperor Charlemayne (8th century) laid down that Christians should know the Lord’s Prayer and the Creed.  With the Ten Commandments, these provide a structure for our faith.

In regard to these, the Reformers did not depart from catholic practice.  Regularly the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer and the Creed formed the basis of Christian instruction in theologies and catechisms.  The Lord’s Prayer was expounded as a pattern for Christian prayer.  At the same time, the Reformation churches did not depart from the form in the worship of the Church.

The famous Shorter Catechism seems to restrict its use as a guide to prayer, but the Larger Catechism at least allows its use in public worship, at the same time stressing that it is to be “used with understanding” – “The Lord’s Prayer is not only for direction, as a pattern, according to which we are to make other prayers, but may also be used as a prayer to be used with understanding, faith, reverence, and other graces necessary to the right performance of the duty of prayer” (Q and A, 187).

Scots-born Andrew Murray, 1828-1917, South African Dutch Reformed leader, wrote, “In condescension to our weakness, our Heavenly Father has given us the very words we are to take with us as we draw near to our Father.”  He refers to the freshness, the fullness, the comprehensiveness of the Lord’s Prayer.  The prayer is saved from vain repetition if we give thought to its meaning.  I personally use it in private prayer, which allows one to pause and meditate on the impact of each phrase.  Outstanding Congregational preacher, G. Campbell Morgan, said, “He knows whether when our lips recite the prayer he taught his disciples, we are indulging in the talk of parrots, or praying”.

I  watch Foxtel TV Channel 182 telecasts from The People’s Church, Toronto, Canada (Living Truth program).  Recently the pastor, Charles Price, directed us to what he called the best known prayer in the world.  Charles concentrated on the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:6-13 as a guide to prayer, “This is how you should pray.  Charles first concentrated on “aspects of our relationship with God revealed in the Lord’s Prayer.”

  1. Our Father in heaven – the relationship of a child with a Father.
  2. Your kingdom come – the relationship of subjects to our Sovereign.
  3. Your will be done – the relationship of a servant to a Master.Lord Teach Us to Pray
  4. Give us this day our daily bread – the relationship of the needy to a Provider, beginning with the most basic of needs.
  5. And forgive us our trespasses (debts, sins) – the relationship of a sinner to a Saviour.
  6. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil – the relationship of weakness to strength.

All are part of the tapestry of our relationship with God.  Not one without the others.  We come to him as a Father – with all the tenderness and intimacy that his name conveys to us.  But at the same time we come to him as a King. We come to him as our Master, our Provider, our Saviour, our Deliverer.

He Gave Himself

He Gave Himself

by the Rev. Paul Seiler

The land of Persia was once ruled by a wise and beloved Shah who cared greatly for his people and desired only what was best for them. One day he disguised himself as a poor man and went to visit the public baths. The water for the baths was heated by a furnace in the cellar, so the Shah made his way to the dark place to sit with the man who tended the fire. The two men shared the coarse food, and the Shah befriended him in his loneliness. Day after day the ruler went t0 visit the man. The worker became attached to this stranger because he “came where he was”.

One day the Shah revealed his true identity, and he expected the man to ask him for a gift. lnstead, he looked long into his leader’s face and with love and wonder in his voice said, “You left your palace and your glory to sit with me in this dark place, to eat my coarse food, and to care about what happens to me. On others you may bestow rich gifts, but to me you have given yourself!”

As we think of what our Lord has done for us, we can echo that fire tender’s sentiments. Oh, what a step our Lord took – from heaven to earth, from the worship of angels to the mocking of cruel men, from glory to humiliation!

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking on the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. (Phil. 2:5-7)

True Faith

True Faith

by the Rev. Paul Seiler

Faith in Christ is more than mere intellectual assent; it is believing with all the mind, with the will, and with action. Years ago a party of visitors at the national mint were told by a workman in the smelting works that if you first dipped your hand in water, a ladle of molten metal might be poured over the palm of the hand without burning it. A husband and wife were part of this party of visitors. “Perhaps you would like to try it”, the workman said to the husband. The husband drew back sharply, “No thanks,” he said, “I’ll take your word for it.”

The workman turned to the wife, “Perhaps you would like to try it.” She replied, “Certainly.” She pulled up the sleeve of her blouse and thrust her hand into a bucket of water. Calmly she held her hand out while the metal was poured over it.

The husband believed at one level – but he wasn’t willing to put his belief to the acid test. The wife, on the other hand, was willing to put her faith into action. True saving faith has the character of the wife’s faith – it acts upon the word of God.

But someone may well say, You have faith, and I have works; show me your faith without works, and I will show you my faith by my works. (James 2:18)

Why celebrate the Lord’s Supper?

Why celebrate the Lord’s Supper?

by the Rev. Paul Seiler

On the evening before the Lord Jesus died on the cross He met with His disciples in the upper room. There the Lord Jesus celebrated the Passover with His disciples.

It is no mere circumstance that God chose to offer up His only begotten son as a sacrifice for our sins at the time of the Passover. The Passover was a time when the Jews remembered with  thanksgiving how God had miraculously delivered them from bondage in Egypt. The Passover was a memorial feast to remind the people of Israel of the great and mighty works of the LORD and also a time to give thanks to God for His many mercies. Just as the Passover was a memorial and thanksgiving for God’s great salvation from the bondage in Egypt, so the Lord’s Supper is a memorial and a thanksgiving for God’s great salvation from the bondage of sin.

In the upper room on the night before His death Jesus broke bread and gave it to His disciples and said, ” This is My body, which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me;” (Lk. 22:19) He then took the cup and gave them to drink and said “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood’ (Luke 22:14-22).

Why do we celebrate the Lord’s Supper? Because Jesus gave us this command, and in doing so we give thanks to God for our great salvation from sin and the gift of eternal life. The Lord’s Supper is commonly referred to as the Eucharist, which is the Greek term for giving thanks. We have much reason to give thanks to God for His great salvation.

The-Merry-Go-Round

The Merry-Go-Round 

by SM

In this modern world with its problems there are some people who have lost hope, other 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 and 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 for our own way? Let’s see what happened even earlier and how people coped.

The Bible writer, Ecclesiastes has this 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 our 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 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 recognised a 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.