Apr 14, 2019
Come and See – 2 Simon Peter
Series: Come and See

It only takes a couple of bars of the song ‘Borderline’ playing on the radio to take me back almost 3 decades to my 15 year-old self. For me, the song brings to mind fond memories of summer holidays; driving from the city to the beach in my friends new (very old) car, windows down, sun streaming in, not a care in the world. My recently acquired cassette containing ‘The Immaculate Collection’, of Madonna’s greatest hits playing from the car stereo. I smile upon hearing the familiar tune, close my eyes, and in a sense, I am there again.

There is something about a song that stirs up emotions and causes people to remember significant moments in time. Songs can bring back cherished memories. Songs can create a feeling so strong they seems to transport you to another time and place. Songs are powerful reminders of important snapshots and seasons in our life.

We can only imagine how Peter was impacted by the song the crowd sang on the day he and the other disciples escorted Jesus into Jerusalem with a Triumphal Entry on Palm Sunday. Thousands of people were making their way from the surrounding countryside into Jerusalem to celebrate the feast of Passover. That day, they sang a song that stirred deep emotions, a song that their ancestors had sang for centuries. They sang a song that reminded them of how God had rescued them from their enemies. A song that helped them to recall how the great original Passover led to an Exodus out of slavery in Egypt thousands of years ago. Peter, likely, was singing this song too, as he walked with Jesus and the other disciples into Jerusalem. He knew this song by heart. All the disciples did for this, ‘Hosanna song’, was a tune that every Jew knew well and sang with gusto, “Save us, we pray, O Lord! O Lord, we pray, give us success! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Psalm 118:25-26)

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  • Apr 14, 2019Come and See – 2 Simon Peter
    Apr 14, 2019
    Come and See – 2 Simon Peter
    Series: Come and See

    It only takes a couple of bars of the song ‘Borderline’ playing on the radio to take me back almost 3 decades to my 15 year-old self. For me, the song brings to mind fond memories of summer holidays; driving from the city to the beach in my friends new (very old) car, windows down, sun streaming in, not a care in the world. My recently acquired cassette containing ‘The Immaculate Collection’, of Madonna’s greatest hits playing from the car stereo. I smile upon hearing the familiar tune, close my eyes, and in a sense, I am there again.

    There is something about a song that stirs up emotions and causes people to remember significant moments in time. Songs can bring back cherished memories. Songs can create a feeling so strong they seems to transport you to another time and place. Songs are powerful reminders of important snapshots and seasons in our life.

    We can only imagine how Peter was impacted by the song the crowd sang on the day he and the other disciples escorted Jesus into Jerusalem with a Triumphal Entry on Palm Sunday. Thousands of people were making their way from the surrounding countryside into Jerusalem to celebrate the feast of Passover. That day, they sang a song that stirred deep emotions, a song that their ancestors had sang for centuries. They sang a song that reminded them of how God had rescued them from their enemies. A song that helped them to recall how the great original Passover led to an Exodus out of slavery in Egypt thousands of years ago. Peter, likely, was singing this song too, as he walked with Jesus and the other disciples into Jerusalem. He knew this song by heart. All the disciples did for this, ‘Hosanna song’, was a tune that every Jew knew well and sang with gusto, “Save us, we pray, O Lord! O Lord, we pray, give us success! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Psalm 118:25-26)

  • Mar 24, 2019Philippians 3 – Hope
    Mar 24, 2019
    Philippians 3 – Hope
    Series: Philippians

    We live in a credential-conscious society. Those with the right credentials can get into certain places, and do certain things, and those without credentials can not. Try to enter Vietnam without the appropriate travel credentials and you will very quickly discover that these particular credentials matter. Try to gain entrance into the Pentagon without the proper military credentials and see how quickly you are escorted from the premises. Try to get onto the sidelines of your favourite professional sporting match without the proper team or media credentials, and security will re-direct you very quickly. We might not like the hassle, or the barriers credentials create, but we accept the fact that they serve a purpose. Credentials keep the wrong people out and allow the right people in.

    No one would want to go to a doctor’s office and notice that they didn’t have any credentials posted on the wall. What if you asked your doctor, “May I see your credentials?” Only to hear the response, “Well, honestly, I never went to medical school. I didn’t want to waste my time or money. I don’t actually have a license to practice medicine.” What if they said, “Well I may not be an accredited doctor, but here’s my mechanical engineering degree?” Either way, I’m not sure you would let this person stand over you with a scalpel. Like it or not, credentials are essential, but they must be the right credentials.

    In Philippians 3 the Apostle Paul confesses that for too long he was using the wrong credentials. Paul was trusting in his impressive heritage, unsurpassed religious zeal, and uncompromising morality. These were the things that had given Paul a false sense of security for many years. And, when we look closely, we realise that these are often the very things that give people a false sense of security today. However, Paul discovered that the Gospel changed everything in his life. As Paul looked at his background, he said, “Everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung.” (Philippians 3:8 MSG) Paul realised that his prior credentials were insignificant; Jesus was the only credential he needed. When Paul gave up everything he had for Jesus, he discovered that he had actually given up nothing, to gain everything.

  • Mar 10, 2019Philippians 1 – Relationships
    Mar 10, 2019
    Philippians 1 – Relationships
    Series: Philippians

    The philosopher Aristotle said, “In poverty and other misfortunes of life, true friends are a sure refuge. They keep the young out of mischief; they comfort and aid the old in their weakness, and they incite those in the prime of life to noble deeds.”

    One of the most overlooked benefits of friendship is that it helps keep our bodies and minds strong. In fact, it’s as important to our physical health as eating well and keeping fit. A recent Harvard study concluded that having solid friendships in our lives helps us deal with stress, make better lifestyle choices that keep us strong, and allow us to rebound from health issues and disease more quickly. Friendship is equally important to our mental health. One study even suggested spending time with positive friends actually changes our outlook for the better. That means we’re happier when we choose to spend time with happy people. Modern research suggests that friendship may even hold the key to alleviating social problems such as divorce, homelessness and obesity, because our friends aid in the way we deal with stress or unhappiness.

    The apostle Paul knew the importance of friendship. In the book of Philippians, often referred to as a letter of friendship, we witness a very personal and warm Paul expressing affection for his friends. His friends were a safe refuge for him when the circumstances he faced seemed relentlessly dire and they gave him much needed strength to persevere. His partnership with them, in sharing the gospel, was life changing - it had changed everything. The letter to the Philippians was unlike other letters which Paul had written to respond to crises. Paul's love of and dependance on his friends in Philippi is evident from the very beginning, expressing, "I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now.”

    Paul, while in prison, has reflected on the value of friendship and in the book of Philippians we get an insight into the importance of sharing life with people who will partner with us and pray with and for us.

  • Jan 20, 2019SATISFIED 4 – Approval
    Jan 20, 2019
    SATISFIED 4 – Approval
    Series: Satisfied

    I am most definitely, most unequivocally, a people pleaser. I want people to like me. Not just people I know and like, but everyone. I want people to think and speak well of me. I have fallen into the trap way too many times, of doing or not doing something, saying or not saying something, wearing something or looking a certain way, in order to win the approval of others. This label doesn’t define me as accurately in the last decade of my life as it did for the first three decades. I am, perhaps, what could be called a ‘recovering people pleaser’. Experience has shown me that being a people pleaser isn’t beneficial to my life or ministry. It means I base my value on other people’s perceptions of me. Sometimes I say, “Yes,” when I should yell, “No!” and I don’t always make the best decisions.

    In fact, I think it’s pretty rare to meet a person who hasn’t struggled with people pleasing at some point. It’s a survival tactic. It’s how many of us have learned to thrive in a world that is highly relational and inter-connected. At the same time, you’d be hard pressed to find a people pleaser who hasn’t suffered the consequences of the tendency.

    Focusing too much on what other people think, feel or need, without considering our own thoughts or feelings, can lead to helplessness, depression, frustration and insecurity. The most unfortunate outcome of my desire to please others has been when it reroutes my day from the ultimate goal of pleasing God and obeying him.

    Pleasing those we love is rewarding, and this may not be wrong in and of itself. But pleasing God is a higher calling and much more fulfilling. We are headed for trouble when our desire to please people and gain their approval becomes as important as pleasing God and sensing His approval.

    Solomon warns us in Ecclesiastes 7:21, “Do not pay attention to every word people say.” The phenomenon of seeking approval from the voices of people is clearly not a new thing. Even thousands of years ago, Solomon knew what it was like to live for the opinions of others and he knew that it was as meaningless as chasing after the wind, because it didn’t last.

  • Jan 13, 2019SATISFIED 3 – Envy
    Jan 13, 2019
    SATISFIED 3 – Envy
    Series: Satisfied

    I have long admired my neighbour’s lawn. It is completely free of weeds, it’s lush and it’s very green. I really wanted my lawn to be just as lush and green. One day, a couple of weeks ago, he had connected up his hose to a brand new bottle of liquid lawn food and left it out as he went to get something from Bunnings. Now, our neighbours lawn is just across the driveway from mine, just a couple of metres. It was so tempting to quickly grab his hose and water my not-so-green lawn with his ‘Weed & Feed’. I wouldn’t even have to cross the driveway, I could cover my whole lawn from where he left it. I didn’t steal his lawn food, but reflecting on that moment showed me how subtle and powerful the feeling of envy can be.

    Ever since Shakespeare coined the phrase “green with jealousy,” people have associated the colour green with the feeling of envy. Envy is the desire to acquire what other people have. From ancient times the colour green also indicated sickness. This is why Shakespeare used it to describe the state of jealousy or envy. When we are caught in a storm of envy or jealousy it is as though we are sick. Different parts of our minds and bodies cease to function, other parts over-function and life becomes very, very difficult. Our minds become preoccupied with that thing that we are afraid of losing, or that thing that we desperately want.

    Not surprisingly The Teacher in Ecclesiastes points out that all of this is meaningless. Pointless. Grabbing smoke. Instead, he teaches us a better way.

  • Jan 6, 2019SATISFIED 2 – A Season For Everything
    Jan 6, 2019
    SATISFIED 2 – A Season For Everything
    Series: Satisfied
     I’m not really a fan of winter. I don’t like to be cold. I can’t do so many things I love to do when it’s winter. The beach isn’t as fun in winter, and it’s often dark and rainy and cold. I struggle to feel as happy in winter as I do in summer. I can be a bit sulky as winter approaches because I feel like the best part of the year is over, and I grieve the loss of the warmth. This time last year I left the comforts of lazy days reading my book on the beach to fly to New York. I arrived just before they closed JFK airport for 2 days due to a ‘bomb cyclone’ (a fancy name for an intense winter snow storm) and -17℃ temperatures. I knew New York would be cold, but this was ridiculous. I wanted to be back at the beach, swimming in the ocean and walking along rock pools at sunset. This was so far from my current reality. However, it actually didn’t take me too long to embrace the conditions. I rugged up in so many clothes that it was hard to move. I made my first snow man, my first snow angel, threw snowballs at my friend, went ice-skating in Central Park. I even had fun shovelling snow from the driveway. There was no way I was going to place myself in this type of weather again, so I decided to make the most of the uniqueness of that season.

    Weather patterns generally take the form of four seasons. But in our lives, there are dozens of different seasons, each involving good and bad. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “God has made everything beautiful for its own time.” God can take even the bad things and, in the proper season, turn them around and use them for good in the way He intends. We may be going through a season that is not beautiful. Our finances may look ugly. Our health may look ugly. Our marriage or a friendship look ugly. Our future might even look ugly.

    Just as God determines the weather, He also controls the seasons in our lives. Do we resist those seasons and complain about the ‘snowy’ conditions on the horizon? Or do we trust God and thank Him for whatever He has planned for us? Ecclesiastes reminds us that if we’re following God’s will, if we’re trying to live life the way God wants us to live, we’ll eventually see that these experiences can have purpose and value. There’s a time and season for everything.

  • Nov 18, 2018Honour Everyone, Always
    Nov 18, 2018
    Honour Everyone, Always
    When my brother and sister-in-law were married in the Philippines a few years ago, we travelled there for the wedding and to meet our new extended family. The first time I met my brother’s Filipino nieces, I was overwhelmed with their love and affection as they took my hand placed it on their forehead whispering, “Mano po”. The word ‘mano’ is Spanish for ‘hand’, and the word ‘po’ is often used in Filipino culture at the end of each sentence as a sign of respect when addressing an older person. This is a beautiful, physical gesture of honour that children are expected to perform towards adult relatives and adult family friends. Failure to do this in Filipino culture would be considered dishonouring, so experiencing this gesture made me wonder what we do in Australia to honour people. I couldn’t think of much. Actually, I think it’s fair to say that we've become a culture that is primarily without honour.

    Even in cultures where honouring is valued, generally those who are showed honour are elders, family, people in authority, and those we decide, due to position or performance, are deserving of honour. If someone is the right person, believes the right things or behaves the right way, we consider them worthy of honour. Conversely, if one does not believe the right things or behave the right way, they may be shamed, rather than honoured.

    This week, we consider what the Bible teaches about honouring everybody, always. Honour is a declaration of the inherent value others have as image-bearers of God. We honour one another because we have been honoured. Honour is central to who God is and what he does, therefore it should be central to the life of every Christian.

  • Oct 28, 2018Love Everyone Always
    Oct 28, 2018
    Love Everyone Always
    The world can be so negative and ugly. At times, people are straight out unkind. This should disturb us, because regardless of the colour of their skin, the origin of their birth, their political affiliation, social status or lifestyle choices, each and every human being has been created in the image of God and is someone for whom Jesus died. As followers of Jesus we have to keep asking ourselves, “What does it mean to live out the teachings of Jesus?” When we do, we cannot go past the commandment where Jesus tells us to, ‘love our neighbour’. This has been God’s simple yet brilliant plan from the beginning. He made a whole world of neighbours. We call it earth, but God just calls it a really big neighbourhood, and tells us to go and love our neighbours - to go and love everyone, always.

    We are part of a Salvation Army that sees salvation as boundless. God’s ocean of love is deep - it is for the whosever, for everyone, always. The Salvation Army here in Australia has a vision to, ‘live, love and fight alongside others to transform Australia one life at a time with the love of Jesus.’

    This Sunday, five new soldiers are signing up to live, love and fight, because they desire to see lives changed by the love of Jesus. They make their covenant, not with The Salvation Army, but with God, who is love and teaches us both what love is and how to love. This call to love is not soppy, commercialised or superficial. It’s an all-in commitment to a radically different way of treating everyone we come into contact with. There’s no school to learn how to love everyone and we are not expected to love people flawlessly, but we can love them fearlessly, furiously, and unreasonably. People will figure out what we believe by how we love.

  • Jun 24, 2018Different- Perspective in Persecution
    Jun 24, 2018
    Different- Perspective in Persecution
    Series: Different
    I find so many things in our world surprising. For example, cockroaches can live for weeks without their heads before they die of hunger. People spend more time sitting on the toilet each week than they do exercising. Apparently, we end up spending 1.4 years on the toilet during a lifetime? It’s pretty surprising to me that vending machines kill more people than sharks, and that the total weight of all the ants on earth is comparable to the total weight of all the humans on the planet.

    More seriously, it surprises me that in our world today, even though there is enough food produced worldwide to provide everyone with an adequate diet, nearly 854 million people, or 1 in 7, still go hungry. It is shocking that today 165 million people are suffering from childhood malnutrition. It’s almost unfathomable that more people have access to a mobile phone than a toilet. These facts should surprise and shock us.

    What should not surprise those who are Jesus followers, is that we suffer and are persecuted for our faith. Christians are called to be different, to be holy, to stand out, and so Peter tells early Christians, “Don’t be surprised or shocked that you are going through testing that is like walking through fire.” (1 Peter 4:12) Earlier, Jesus explained to his disciples that they too should expect opposition and persecution from the world. “If the world hates you, keep in mind that they hated me first… if they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” (John 15:18,20)

  • Jun 10, 2018Different- Values in an Unholy Culture
    Jun 10, 2018
    Different- Values in an Unholy Culture
    Series: Different

    When my three children were young, we travelled as a family for a month throughout Southeast Asia. Everywhere we went, people would stare at Bradley, Chloe and Emily, and some would even try to touch them. People were fascinated by them and they became the centre of attention so often because they were so different; they stood out. People would “Ooo” and “Ahhh” at them, in awe of their baby blonde hair and gorgeous blue eyes, which screamed that they were foreigners. It was obvious they were not Asian, they did not belong there and they certainly did not fit in.

    When the Apostle Peter was writing to a group of people that were severely persecuted in the First Century, he told them to live out their time on earth as ‘foreigners’ in reverent fear (1 Peter 1:17). Other translations say ‘temporary residents’ or ‘strangers.’ Peter, inspiring hope, reminds his readers again and again that this world was not their home; they were just passing through, they were sojourners.

    This world is not our home either. Peter reminds us that as citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven we are foreigners here on earth and therefore we will stand out. If you're a follower of Jesus, you're called to be different. You'll have different values, different passions, different uses of your time and different uses of your resources. You'll be different as a parent, you'll be different as a spouse, you'll be different in the way that you work. The result of a different life driven by faith should be that people are fascinated by you.