Who are your spiritual heroes?

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, Who are your spiritual heroes, was given at Waverley Temple Salvation Army on Sunday 18 August, 2013. The Bible reading was Hebrews 11:29-12:2.

Who are your faith heroes? In the bible reading today, we’ve heard a few of the faith heroes that were of importance to the faith community that this epistle was addressed to. We’ve heard of Moses and of Joshua and Rahab. We’ve heard of Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah – Judges of the early Hebrew tribes, and of David, the king, and Samuel, the prophet. We’ve heard all their actions attributed to their faith – by Faith, these great people did these things. These are people that they hold in high esteem in their faith, because of the things that they have done. Continue reading

Is any life more important than another?

It’s tough to write on such a subject a as the Boston bombings so soon afterwards the event. I want to extend my sympathies to the victims and their families. However, I’ve seen a slightly worrying tend starting to appear on Facebook. Is the images contrasting the Boston bombings with a bombing somewhere in the Middle East, generally passing the question why the Boston bombings received blanket media coverage, while the bombings in the Middle East didn’t receive any.
Is this a legitimate question to ask? Yes. Is the right time to ask it on the very same day? I don’t think so.
By saying that one bombing should have received coverage over another is saying, in effect, that some peoples lives are more important than others. Whether that’s American lives over those of the Middle Eastern lives, or the other way around, either is not right. As a Christian, I believe that we are all made in God’s image, therefore we are all equally important to God.
So as Christians, how should we respond? Firstly, with prayer – for those affected by violence all over the world. Secondly, no matter who is responsible for these acts of terrorism, we need to remember that we cannot respond to violence with violence if we hope to achieve peace. You cannot achieve peace by fighting for it. As such, we need to be promoting a strong nonviolent response. How that will look like will depend on who is found to be responsible for the bombings. However, any response should be one that embraces nonviolent principles.

Turn from evil and do good;
    seek peace and pursue it.

Psalm 34:14
At any time such as this, we need to strengthen our resolve to turn from evil and instead to do good. We need to seek peace and to pursue it in our world. We need to be the voice shouting in the wilderness of the new way, the way of peace, of nonviolence in ways that provide real solutions to the issues at hand.

Do not doubt, but believe

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, Do Not Doubt, but believe, was given at Rosebud Salvation Army on Sunday 7 April, 2013. The Bible reading was John 20:19-31.

This past week has been a bit of a shock to the system. We came down on Maundy Thursday, got straight into things with the Haagidah dinner, Good Friday, Dawn Service and Easter Sunday. Then that afternoon, we headed back up to Melbourne for lunch with Liesl’s family, then we stayed in Melbourne to do some study on Monday, before heading down that night to be back here for the 8am prayer meeting, and starting our ministry here with Janette and Geoff. And already, I must say, that they’ve been great, and have shown us a lot already in this short time, but I do have to say that my head doesn’t really know where it is right now.

In the Church’s calendar, today is the first Sunday after Easter, and while through Easter, we focus in on the Death and Resurrection, it is this period that the church can really look forward to. We are in the time of remembering Christ’s days on earth post resurrection, and everything that means to us. Christ may have risen last Sunday, but he lives on in the hearts and the lives of those who worship him in his church. There are, however, so many who live just for the Big holidays. “CoE Christians” they’re sometimes called – Christmas and Easter. The two biggest days in the Church’s calendar, where we also get the largest congregations. Now I’m new to the Salvos, but I’m sure the same principle applies. In the Anglican Church, the Sunday after Christmas and after Easter were always known as Low Sunday. After the massive high of Christmas and Easter, the Sunday after was traditionally when we would get our smallest attendances of the year. Christmas, I can understand that. But Easter – the story isn’t over yet. Jesus is Risen! But that’s not the end of it. Christ rose from the Grave, but he hadn’t finished here on earth, and even though he had to ascend into Heaven, he left behind the Holy Spirit to continue the work here on earth.

Today we’re looking at a reading that takes part firstly still on that Easter Sunday, then on the following week. Jesus has risen – but he still has work to do. But just like my week this week, the Disciples are not quite sure where their heads are at right at the moment.

Despite the knowledge, there’s still doubt

The disciples had a really crazy day. It started with their teacher, that they had devoted three years of their lives to, being dead. The one who had taught the revolutionary message of a new way, of a new kingdom, the one they believed to take this new kingdom to fruition, was dead. The seed of doubt had been planted. Then one of the women, Mary, had come saying the body had been stolen. Peter and the beloved disciple confirmed that the body was gone. The seed of doubt grew – had someone stolen the body? Had something miraculous happened? Even when Mary returned saying that she had seen Jesus, they still weren’t certain.

They met that night, ten of the apostles, and a number of disciples, to discuss the events, and to worship. They locked the door, because they were still fearful as to whether the Jewish leaders still had it in for them or not.  They knew Jesus’ teachings, they knew the events of that day so far, yet when Jesus appeared, he still deemed it necessary to show his wrists and his side to show where he had been pierced. They then realised what had happened and they celebrated.

Thomas had even more information than the disciples who were there that night. Thomas wasn’t at the meeting that night, and despite being told by the disciples that Jesus appeared in the room with them, he still couldn’t bring himself to believe. This was a big thing for Thomas. Earlier – on the way to see Lazarus’ dead body, Thomas had exclaimed “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” This was a statement of blind devotion to Jesus – he was willing to follow him even to death. Yet when doubt had crept in, unless he saw with his own eyes, he couldn’t be brought back to that faith.

When there is doubt, faith flourishes

It’s so easy for us to have doubts these days. There is so much pressure from the world to have us doubt our faith, or for us to have to prove it beyond doubt. Even last Sunday, Easter Sunday, I was watching on Sunrise a creationist who was willing to put up $10,000 for an evolutionist to disprove the bible in a court – even if this guy wasn’t the most convincing of creationists himself. People want us to prove, beyond all doubt, that Christ is saviour. The problem comes is that Jesus himself said that there would always be a need for some doubt, because where there is doubt – that is when faith can flourish.

Jesus says, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” We have not seen with our own eyes. We can read the stories, we can study the biblical accounts, we can know our own accounts of God in our lives, but there will always be people who try to explain away those experiences. This is where faith comes in. In Hebrews 11:1, Paul writes that “faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Though we did not see Christ crucified and risen, we have faith that this embodies our hope – that on the cross Christ paid for our sins, and in the resurrection God accepted that payment.

When we embrace this doubt, that is when our faith can grow. The doubts that we may have actually provide the space for our faith to grow, and when that happens Jesus provides us with a rich reward.

With faith and belief, comes life

At the end of this passage comes a little epilogue from the writer of the fourth gospel. Verse 30-31: “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.” The signs that are written in the Gospel of John are written so that we may come to believe that Jesus IS the Messiah. When we have faith in that, when we come to believe, the result is that we are given life in Jesus’ name.

Because of what Jesus did on the cross, we have a guarantee that tells us that we are free. We have a new life, where we can live in the hope that Christ has paid for our sins, and we no longer need to live in them. The guarantee that we have in Christ’s resurrection tells us that we are free – so let’s live that life! Let’s give up the sins that we hold on to, because we’re holding onto a bit of doubt. Jesus commissioned his disciples with the words “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” God sent Jesus to bring people into a relationship with him, to know him, and to know the life that he gives. As his disciples, we are commissioned with those same words – we are sent, and the Father sent Jesus. We are sent to spread his message, and to tell others about what Jesus has done in our lives, whether that’s through words, or through actions, or just through our lives.

Live the life that Jesus gave, and share your faith

Some of you may know that I have just recently come back from Manus Island, working in the Refugee Processing Centre there. In our role there, The Salvation Army is not allowed to proselytise, however despite this I had many opportunities to share my faith. This was just through living life with the community members, and when they asked why I did the things that I did, it all basically comes back to one answer – Because of Christ, who lives in me. As an Anglican, evangelism was a difficult thing for me – we weren’t very good at it, and I never saw myself as gifted in it. How surprising it was in my first college review for one of the staff to say that they saw in me a strong gift of evangelism. See for me, evangelism isn’t just telling people about Christ, and seeking converts. It is living the life that Christ has asked of us, and being open for the opportunities when they arise.

Isn’t that, after all, what Jesus did? He lived the life that God had sent him to. He engaged in the community, and lived according to God’s will. Because of the way he lived, people were attracted to him. That’s what he meant when he says “As the Father sent me, so I send you.” So start living the life that Jesus has called you to, and living out the faith in your everyday life. Jesus died that we may have new life. Let’s spread that new life to everyone that we meet.

The gifts that we bring to offer our King

Annabelle in Wrapping Paper

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, The gifts that we bring to offer our king, was given at the Church of Christ Wembley Downs on Sunday 6 January, 2013. The Bible reading was Matthew 2:1-12.

Annabelle in Wrapping PaperToday is the last day of our Christmas season. I hope it’s been a good season for you. It’s been a very special season for me, as it has been Annabelle’s first Christmas, and it was very special to be able to spend it here at home. But that presented itself with some other challenges. Everyone wanted to give Annabelle lots of presents, but we had to remember that everything that we received, we had to make sure that we could fit it all in our suitcases to take back to Melbourne. Thankfully we didn’t receive many large presents, but we’re still hoping that we’ll come in under our baggage allowance. Continue reading

Release the shackles of sin, and praise God!

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, Release the shackles of sin and praise God!, was given at The Salvation Army Broadford corps on Sunday 18 November, 2012. The Bible reading was Acts 3:1-16.

Ex-leper or lame beggar?

When I think of the miraculous healings in the bible, my mind always gets drawn to the scene from Monty Python’s Life of Brian, where Brian meets an ex-leper, begging for alms. “Spare a talent for an old ex-leper” Through the scene, we find that this ex-leper spent 16 years behind the bell, before Jesus walked up to him and said “You’re cured” without so much as a “by your leave.” As such, he’s now healed, but doesn’t have anything to do, as all he knew how to do was to beg for alms. So despite being healed, he stays in his old life, begging, and wishing that he was just a bit of a cripple during the week – enough to beg, but not as annoying as full on leprosy.

But, today, we hear of a man whose response is quite different to that of the ex-leper. I wonder what life story he would tell to Brian, if he were to run into him. Continue reading

Steve – Chief Steward to Zaphenath-paneah

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon was given at The Salvation Army Moonee Valley corps on Sunday 7 October, 2012. This was my first attempt at a narrative sermon, based on the story of Joseph.

Have you ever wondered what you’re supposed to be doing with your life? You’ve probably heard at some point that your entire life is in God’s hands, and that he has a path paved out for you. He has a plan for your life. But that’s kind of hard to see when things are going bad. Today, I’m going to do something a little different, and tell you a story that you’re probably familiar with, but from a different perspective. Through it all, I want you to hear how God has a magnificent plan for your life. Continue reading

When the Lord became zealous for his land

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon was given at The Salvation Army Moonee Valley on Sunday 9 September, 2012.

January 2010 started off what was going to be a great year. I was getting married, I was working doing what I loved – teaching violin – and I started off the year with a holiday down to Mandurah – about an hour south of Perth. It was great to get away from everything, and just escape. However, my whole year was about to take a dramatic shift. I received an e-mail from one of the schools that I taught at, saying that they didn’t have any students for me, and I wouldn’t be required at the school any longer. This was one week before the school term commenced. By that time, all of the school teaching positions would have been filled, and it meant that I was now living off effectively one days income. With a wedding to pay for, a house to find (as I was still living at my parent’s house), I really needed to find a job, and preferably quickly. Continue reading

Schrödinger’s Faith

This is a sermon I gave at Mooney Valley Salvation Army on Sunday 5 August, 2012, on the text from Colossians 3:4. 

We’re going to continue looking at Colossians, and today we’re looking at chapter 3:4 which says, “When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.” We’ll get onto this in a bit, but first, let me share with you a bit of my story. I’ve been a Christian my whole life. While some may have fantastic stories of their conversion, of a miraculous about-face from the depths of despair to the heights of glory, my story seems bland in comparison. My parents were Church of Christ ministers, I went to Church every Sunday, went to Sunday School, for all intents and purposes, I was a good Christian boy. When my parents switched to the Anglican Church, I went along as well, and continued to grow up in the Church. I made decisions along the way, but to be honest, I’m not certain it made that much effect on my life. As hard as it is to say, sometimes, I was a Sunday Christian – I would be there on a Sunday, but the rest of the week, my life didn’t exactly reflect what I was being taught. There was something missing. Continue reading

S.F.

 

Yesterday, I experienced something that I haven’t experienced for a long time. Teasing. It came out of the blue. Or actually… the black commodore.

I had arrived back from a buck’s event, and no-one was home and I didn’t have a key. As I was in my sports gear, I decided that I might as well use the time to go for a run. I’m running along Walter Road East, and that’s when it happened. A guy in a black commodore drove past from behind me and yelled out these two words.

“Still Fat!”

My first reaction was that of anger and being offended. I was thinking to myself, “How sad is that guy’s life that he feels the need to tease, to demoralise, someone who he doesn’t even know?” I couldn’t believe it.

As I went along, I quickly moved to prayer. I asked God to bless this guy with the gift of encouragement. So that instead of yelling out obscenities to random people, he would encourage them as he drives past.

Finally, I used it as a piece of encouragement for myself. In stead of focusing on the bad, I chose to focus on the letters, and put my words to them. While yes, I may be “still fat” I am making changes. I can currently run for 5km straight, and by the end of the year I plan to be running 10km. I will reach my goal weight, and no longer be “still fat.” Instead, I will be “still faithful.” Through it all, it is my God who empowers me to do all things. It is God who enables me to fight the good fight, to finish the race and to keep the faith (2 Timothy 4:7).

Who knows, maybe when I reach my goal weight, I might get “S.F” as a tattoo somewhere to remind me that I am still faithful. But probably not. I’ve never really wanted a tattoo. But the idea is good.

 

Nothing in this world

The other day, I received what I’ve entitled “an inspired thought.” I believe it to have come from God, however, I am not so brash as to make that claim. A thought, inspired by God, sits much more comfortably. Over the course of the rest of the day, I unpacked this thought, which ended up in a sort of letter format. The original thought was “Don’t you know that there is nothing in this world that I can’t be found in?” I post what I wrote below, in the hope that it will give you some food for thought, perhaps spark some discussion, or maybe even some inspiration or encouragement for your own journey.

Don’t you know that there is nothing in this world that I can’t be found in? This world is my world, and I cover it in my love. Have you not read, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son.” My love for this world goes deeper than you can ever imagine. Through every success and every failure I am there. Through every joy and every hurt. Through every righteous act, and every injustice.

Not that I condone or agree with all these acts, but still I am there. When a child is beaten, I am there – softening the blows, comforting them afterwards. Through every war zone, I am there, sowing the seeds of peace.

My ways are not your ways. Through your claiming to know my will, you close me out of the possibility of working in it. My will is that all may know me, that all may love me. Who are you to say that I don’t want a particular group? My love is not exclusive.

You try to keep me in a box, I am much larger than any box. I am the God who created the universe. I am the God who parted the Sea and made water come out of a rock for Moses. I kept Jonah alive for three days in the belly of a whale. I turned water into wine, fed many people from not much, healed the sick, the lame, the blind, and was killed – yet raised from the dead. I hung out with those society despised – the lepers, the tax collectors, the prostitutes, the destitute. Anyone who didn’t know the love that I had for them – they soon found out. And so it is today.

How big do you think I am, if you believe that I can’t act in particular situations? How big do you think I am if you think that there is anything that will prevent me from bringing my love into people’s hearts? I love the whole world – each person is made in my image. I want to shower them in love, and I want you to do the same. Have you not read, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

So go, shower love on all you see. Love the rich, the poor, the sinner, the holy man, the biggest, the least, the young and the old. It is not for you to judge them – that is for me alone, for it is far to large a task for any of you. All I ask of you is to love – love Supremely, love sacrificially, love sincerely, love unconditionally. Love!

With love, from the one who loved you before you were created.