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“DRY SOILS AND THE CRISIS IN OUR REGIONS BRINGS A CALL TO PRAYER”
On July 19th (10 to 11am) there is a call for state wide community prayer in our regions.
It is plain to see the lack of green plants growing along the roads and the distinct patches of bare ground in paddocks. Every farmer knows that without rain even the best farmers are brought to their knees.
Businesses in our towns are intertwined with the rain. In the USA the government believes that a dollar spent on the farmer generates up to six dollars in turnover in the community.
The crisis we feel comes from; the lack of rain; a lack of genuine God fearing leadership at local, State and National levels and our own determination to do everything ‘our way’.
Every day there is a crisis somewhere in the world shown on our TV’s. One thing is always in common – there isn’t a lasting solution. To assume people can fix or heal or generate lasting peace by changing hearts has been clearly unsuccessful despite decades of trying to rewrite what has been known for centuries.
Isn’t it time we sought God for His help?
“The Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10).
Turning to God who created life and asking Him to help change our lives will make a difference if we choose to believe and to do.
On July 19th (10 – 11am) there is planned a state wide call to pray for the communities we live in. Local towns are asked to meet together at this time in a co-ordinated prayer time to ask God to change our hearts, to change our lives and to change our circumstances. If you or your community group or town would be willing to meet together and also pray at this time we believe the Lord will come to our help.
It is through the complete surrender of pride and selfishness that hearts are changed and blessings flow again.
This regional and community wide prayer is for; ourselves, others, leadership, relationships, healing, softening of hearts, clarity between right and wrong, generosity, kindness, solutions to violence/ despair/ hopelessness … and for rain.
More information can be found on 90413127 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Leprosy Mission – Lent event
I would like to thank the church from the bottom of my heart for the incredible opportunity you gave me last year when you sponsored me to go to India with the Leprosy Mission of Australia. A huge thank you to everyone for making a dream of mine become a reality.
This was a life changing experience as I saw and took part in things I would never have imagined. From being able to go into operating theatres to observe life changing surgery, to seeing the hope in the research scientists who every day go to work thinking ‘today may be the day we find a cure for leprosy’, to the humility and joy in those we may class as the ‘underprivileged’, but who taught me first hand joy comes from within.
It is not about what you have or what you can achieve, it is about trusting in God, being grateful for the little you have, being content and happy, and most importantly about relationships with each other and with God. I saw that the Indian people focused on what they had to do, then set about doing it with all their heart and the best that they could do.
This mission trip was a humbling experience and I just felt incredibly privileged to be able to have been a part of it. When I think of the people we met I think of humility and smiling faces no matter what. When I think of the doctors, teachers and staff of the various facilities we went to I think of servant hood, hope and joy. When I think of our team I think of laughter, singing, tears and being deeply touched and blessed. What a mighty God we serve.
Thank you for helping me to fundraise the $2000 that was expected which I finalised shortly after my return. This money will pay for one student to complete a 12 month course at the Bankura Training Centre where I saw first-hand the life changing experience this was. Young people were so deeply grateful for this amazing opportunity. Feel proud and thank God that each one of you has been a part of this. I know I shall be eternally grateful. Thank you.
I strongly encourage anyone who may be in the slightest way interested, to take up the challenge and apply to be a part of this year’s mission trip. You will be glad you did.
The Storm of Faith
Matthew 8: 23-27
Life in the Kingdom of God is an exciting adventure.
It presents us with a whole new approach to life. A new attitude of expectation, an invitation to faith and a calling to service.
But there are also challenges: We have to move out of the crowd and into the boat with Jesus, to cross over to the other side. This will require sacrifice; we must be prepared to pay the price – the full fare of the journey. And we must not hesitate to set out with the absolute intention of going for the long haul – a long obedience in the same direction.
When we rise to the challenge to live as God intended us to live we will regret everyday that we hesitated. To live fully as a citizen of the Kingdom of God is to find yourself complete, balanced in your life and intentions, unwavered by the storms of life, content in the fullness of the Holy Spirit.
This call to the Kingdom is not an easy adventure because we are often dealing with issues and situations in life which distract us. We don’t see the whole picture, we are limited by our sight in a world in which we need to live by faith.
I vividly remember the day I was ordained – it was December 9th 1973. That night I was to stand before the Presbytery of Transvaal East and they were to pray for me, to lay hands on me and I was to be ordained into the Ministry of Word and Sacrament. For 16 years I had believed that God was calling me to this moment. I had spent many nights studying into the small hours after a hard days work, I had focused my life, I had turned my back on my career, I was certain of God’s call. Now, there lay just a few hours before me – a fraction of time out of the 16 years – and suddenly I wasn’t so sure anymore.
Did I want to go on with this adventure? Was it even possible for me to turn back?
I drove out to a dam near Benoni that morning and I cried out to God for certainty. I sat there for several hours, wrestling with God and myself. Then God said, “Be still!”
Suddenly the storm ceased ….
My mind had been in a turmoil, there had been too much to deal with in too short a time. My thoughts had spun out of control. But now everything was still ….
I looked up and a saw a tree ahead of me. I don’t know if it was the tears or whether my eyes were just out of focus because they had been closed in prayer for so long but for a moment I saw two trees – one was real and one was like an out-of-focus image.
And I suddenly realized what this was all about – there is the real and there is the reality. The one tree was real, it existed on this earth, it was subject to buffeting by the wind, to lack of water, to young boys carving their names on it and so on. And there was another tree which was not of this world but it was the reality – it existed in another dimension which was past my seeing. It was the tree that existed in the faith dimension and to see it I had to step outside of the limitations of this world to catch a glimpse of the reality which really mattered.
I realized that the Kingdom of God could not be understood in this real world, it was of another dimension. It was to be found by faith in a world that was real enough in terms of its demands and disappointments but which could never ever limit the promise of God’s reality.
And I believe that I needed to go through that storm of faith in order to understand that. A storm of tears, unanswered questions, and wrestling with what I wanted and what I felt comfortable with compared to where I seemed to be headed. A turmoil of doubt and self-questioning of my motives and my reality.
It may not be necessary for everyone to go through this “dark night of the soul” but as I read the Scriptures it seems to me that there are few who do not go through this struggle. Abraham, doubting God’s promise about offspring, Jacob, Jeremiah, Job, Peter in his denial, Thomas in his doubt, even Jesus in wilderness and again in the Garden in the Garden of Gethsemane. It is, as St John of the Cross explains, a wrestling between our pride, our greed, our desire for luxury, our easily roused anger, our gluttony, our envy and our sloth; and the call of God on our life. Our real humanness versus our God-ordained reality.
Look at this well known story of Jesus stilling the storm on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus had just told His disciples to prepare the boat to go to the other side. I said last week that this was the first step of discipleship – we need to leave the crowd and get into the boat with Jesus. A couple of prospective disciples had a discussion with Jesus about this – the first was challenged by Jesus about whether he was really prepared to make the sacrifice, the second was confronted about his hesitation, his human desire to first make sure that it was safe to proceed.
Jesus gets into the boat. He’s tired and He lies down to sleep – in a sense He is putting His trust in the group of seasoned fishermen who He has called to follow Him – He trusts His followers.
But suddenly a furious storm hits them out there on the lake. They wake Jesus up to help them – a carpenter who has put his trust in the sailors is now being asked to help the sailors in the storm.
And listen to His words of response again, “Oh you of little faith, why are you so afraid?”
That’s the crux. In the storm it’s about faith.
Our fears about the Kingdom of God have to do with our lack of faith and those fears and that lack of faith will be tested in the storm.
If you want to get into the boat with Jesus, to cross over with Him to the other side where the reality is real and what seems real is actually an illusion, there are three things you need to be aware of – first, it is a step of faith. You can never see the things of the Kingdom and know the near presence of God without faith – you need to be sure of the things you hope for (that they are in the plan of God), and you need to be certain of what you do not see (knowing that that which God has promised is secure, even if you do not see it, or can’t even figure out how it could happen).
Second, there are things which you are going to have to sacrifice – pride, greed, desire for luxury, easily roused anger, gluttony, envy, sloth and probably much more. This is sometimes called repentance. Each of these things are the consequence of intense personal desire, they are driven by selfishness – my satisfaction at any cost – pride, greed, desire for luxury, gluttony. And when my demanding selfishness is not satisfied, I am easily driven to anger, envy and sloth (also bitterness and hatred, even).
Third, when you face the storm, you will need to trust God who is trusting you. He is in the boat with you, but He is depending on you to follow the instruction to cross over. He has faith in you, you are an essential part of His plan. And He does not want you to be afraid in the storm.
Though the wind is violent and the waves are breaking over the bows, He wants you to remain confident and certain of His intention. After all, this is His Kingdom now. You have left the shore behind, you are setting out on an adventure with Him.
New Law, Old Principle
9 When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”
13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.”
15 The angel of the LORD called to Abraham from heaven a second time 16 and said, “I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, 18 and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”
19 Then Abraham returned to his servants, and they set off together for Beersheba. And Abraham stayed in Beersheba.
8 By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. 9 By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
11 By faith Abraham, even though he was past age—and Sarah herself was barren—was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise.
17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.
Christmas, Good Friday, Easter are all holy days because they mark the major moments of the coming of the Kingdom of God amongst us –
God’s coming to us as a baby in a manger;
Christ’s death on the cross to redeem us from the consequence of our sin;
His resurrection from the dead on Easter Sunday morning to proclaim the victory over death.
These are amazing, mind-boggling events which proclaim God’s deep concern for those who are made in His image.
On the other hand, Ascension and Pentecost are not even public holidays anymore, though they used to be. They were removed from the holiday calendar because Christians no longer seemed to be too interested in what they represented – the ascension of Jesus to heaven to take His place on the throne, – the outpouring of the Holy Spirit to empower the followers of Jesus to become citizens of God’s Kingdom.
In a sense, the loss of Ascension Day and Pentecost as holy days is symptomatic of our life as followers of Christ. Someone recently said to me that the Church lost the plot when we decided to be “worshippers of Christ” rather than “followers of Christ” – focused on sacrifice rather than obedience. Whether that is true or not, we HAVE tended to make our faith something which we add on to an already busy life, rather than allowing it to be the life we live.
To follow Christ is to embark on an adventure. It is to journey into the realm of infinite possibility. It allows us to find ourselves in that place – the Kingdom of God – which we have always known about and always longed for. We know what it is, but we can’t always adequately define it.
We know that we need to take that leap of faith into it, but we are hesitant to do that because it all seems so unbelievable. And we are a little scared as well. And so we shuffle along in the queue hoping that when we get to the front, we will find what we are expecting.
Oh, that we would rather be like Abraham, who “when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going…….. – For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.”
My journey with Jesus began 35 years ago in a course for new Christians called “The Edge of Adventure” and these past three and a half decades have really been the experience of that adventure.
I have journeyed with God to that place of infinite possibility – it’s not a geographic destination, but a spiritual journey.
I have come to understand that God can “do immeasurably more than we can ever ask of imagine”,
I have realized that His concern and love for me and my situation is far deeper than I can ever know, and
I have found myself being subtlety changed from who I am to who God wants me to be.
This is the experience of the Kingdom of God; and I am not alone in discovering this … many of you have also found yourselves on the “edge of adventure”.
Perhaps some of you are only discovering now that you have, in fact, been on this adventure for some time, even though you thought that your were merely shuffling along in the queue. And perhaps some of you will realize today, and over the next few weeks that this is what you have always longed for.
Jesus came to give meaning to our world and to our life. Dealing with sin was a necessary and essential part of it – without the redemption of the Cross, without the righteousness of Christ our lives are caught up in darkness.
Without Christ our life has no meaning which really matters, we just trudge on from day to day, hoping that the little achievements will somehow translate into something significant.
The truth is that when this life ends, those achievements are nothing. What we have gained will go to others, what we have achieved will mostly just be remembered in the tranquil cemeteries where our tombstones lie. Our families might keep the photographs and memories for a generation or two, and then it’s all over.
The point that really matters is whether when we open our eyes in death (or resurrection to be more precise!) will we find ourselves in the place where we always knew ourselves to be headed.
Or will it be a great surprise, when we suddenly find ourselves at the front of the queue, to discover that being in the queue could have been so much more than just shuffling along.
This is a long introduction to a series which I want to share with you over the next five weeks, before we move on to God’s new call to the church in Geraldton. It’s about knowing the Kingdom of God and how to live in it.
Jesus said that He had come to proclaim that Kingdom, He said that it was right at hand, He said that it was in our heart.
Now I am not sure that we fully understand this Kingdom of God. I am pretty certain that most followers of Jesus do not really know how to live their lives as citizens of this Kingdom. You see, it is very difficult for us, to translate the life which we live in this world with all its demands, temptations, false directions and so on, into the Kingdom life.
As I was pondering this over the past couple of weeks and I decided to go to Matthew’s gospel.
Matthew presents Jesus as the Messiah, the King of the Jews. Much of the way in which he tells us the story of the life of Jesus is Kingdom oriented. The Sermon on the Mount is, in a sense, the Law of the Kingdom; the parables focus on telling us what the Kingdom of God is like – it is the Gospel of the Kingdom.
And as I read this Gospel again, I saw a pattern emerging. Jesus goes up a mountain (like Moses on Sinai) and presents the New Law of the Kingdom in the Sermon on the Mount. He shows us how this new Law is to work in this world.
He defines a New People who are called forth to follow Him.
He sends them out on a New Mission with a new purpose.
He reveals Himself as the King.
And He shares seven parables which unlock the secrets of this Kingdom.
As we begin this series I trust that you will journey with me over the next five Sundays as we explore this Kingdom which Jesus came to proclaim and to which He calls us to enter as full citizens, fully blessed by His righteousness which He has so graciously imputed to us as we follow Him in faith.
I want to make two significant points this morning – the first is that this Kingdom can only be found by faith. Without faith you will find yourself stumbling over many things in this world and you will end up compromising your vision – you will not see this Kingdom clearly.
That is why I chose these two reading about Abraham. It was implicit faith and trust in God which took Abraham from his home on a journey to a new city. He, in fact, never found this city in this world – he remained a wanderer living in tents throughout his life, as did his son and grandson.
But faith did take him to that city in a spiritual sense, for it was by faith that he was able to become a father when he was past age and his wife was barren.
By faith he held on to the promise of God.
By faith he trusted God’s promise that his offspring would be as numerous as the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore; even though God has asked him to kill the only son through whom this could happen.
His faith took Abraham to the point where he would not even withhold his son from death because he trusted God’s promise. His trust in God was implicit and complete. He believed that all things were in God’s hands and he was prepared to follow Him, no matter the cost.
This faith enabled Abraham to see and know the Kingdom of God. And it is faith like this which will enable you to see and know that Kingdom as well.
I am challenging you today to put your whole trust into God’s hands – not in your abilities, your skills, your bank balance or anything else which you have relied upon thus far. Do this and you will see and know the Kingdom of God.
Second, you need to know something about the etiquette of this Kingdom. I say “etiquette” rather than rules or laws because living in the Kingdom vision takes us to the place where our behaviour and attitudes are not determined by rules but by the expectations of our host. We live to please the King.
When Jesus introduced the New Law of the Kingdom in the Sermon on the Mount He began by saying that He had not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets but to fulfill them.
When we talk of the etiquette of the Kingdom we are speaking about the natural application of the Law rather than blind steps to follow. We apply the law to our life because that law makes so much sense to us that it simply becomes our normal behaviour.
The Law itself is just so right and so perfect that Jesus says that not even the tiniest piece of it will ever disappear. But what is this Law – just another set of rules?
No, the Sermon on the Mount calls us, not so much to a New Law but to the application of the eternal principles of the Law.
The eternal principle of the Law is that in all things we must seek God’s will and that our whole life should be dedicated to obeying it. The Law is not simply a set of rules and regulations – it is the heart and etiquette of God.
The basic principle of the Law is a call to have respect and reverence for God – reverence for God and for His Name, reverence for God’s Day, respect for parents, life, property, personality, truth, the other person’s reputation and respect for oneself so that we are not simply mastered by our desires.
Jesus calls us to this place of reverence and respect and it cannot be achieved by merely obeying a multitude of petty rules and regulations – no, it is the principle which matters.
The Law says, “Do not murder” – the principle says, “Do not even be angry.” The Law says, “Do not commit adultery” –the principle says, “Do not look with lust at another”.
Do you see the difference?
To see and know the Kingdom of God is not an easy endeavour – something which we can just decide upon. No, it is a matter of faith and of behaviour.
Faith – Putting our full trust and hope in the King of kings – full trust, wholly, completely, without compromise or doubt. Knowing that in all things God desires good for those who follow Him with all, their heart and mind and spirit.
And then Behaviour.
Modeling the living of our life on the eternal principles of the Kingdom – love and respect for God and for one another.
It is to do away with the obvious acts of the sinful nature – “sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.” The Bible makes it clear that people involved in such acts do not inherit – do not know – the Kingdom of God.
Instead we should live lives which are filled with “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Again the Bible says that against such things there is no law.
Knowing the Kingdom of God begins with two simple steps – putting your whole trust in God; and letting your behaviour and attitudes be wholly influenced by the expectations of the King of kings and Lord of lords.
“Whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not (even) enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Your practice is your behaviour – your righteousness comes by faith in believing.