Our most recent family pic with only Andrew missing

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas: The Kingdom of God is Within You

Around about 700 years before Jesus was born, the prophet Isaiah picked up his prophetic binoculars, and throughout his book he fiddles with the focus, sometimes seeing a few years ahead, sometimes focussing on 200 years ahead where he sees the people going into Exile in Babylon, 270 years ahead where he sees them coming back to Israel, and so on...

Monday, December 22, 2014

Readings for Christmas Day: Christmas isn’t about celebrating the Birth of Jesus

Yes, I know that's quite a provocative title and I did toy with Christmas isn't primarily about celebrating the Birth of Jesus, but you can see which one I settled for.

Readings for Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve means: the Evening of Christmas
In the first of a series of posts on what I called Scriptural Timing, I wrote about how I have been blessed as I have explored Scriptural concepts of time and applied them in my own life and that I wanted to share that blessing with others. Scripture (both Old and New Testaments), but dare I also say God, has a different clock and calendar to the ones we have inherited from the Greeks and the Romans.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Advent 4: I am the Lord’s servant

This week's lectionary readings, instead of a Psalm, include what I like to call Mary's Song of Great Reversal. Caught up in the Spirit, she seems to understand the conception of the Messiah in her womb as the first act of God to establish justice through her son — he would scatter the proud and bring down rulers and send the rich away empty and he would also lift the humble and fill the hungry with good things.
O, for such a Christmas...and for such a Christmas people.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Christingle Service: You are the light of the world

Our Christingle Service was held at our Coffee Service in the evening of the first Sunday in Advent. A wonderful time of all age worship accompanied by coffee, cool-drink and mince pies was had by all. The orange symbolises the world, the tinfoil base Jesus,the one and only foundation, the red ribbon the love and blood of Christ, the four toothpicks the pain and suffering of Christ, the 9 fruit/sweets on the toothpicks the fruit of the Spirit, the candle symbolises Jesus, the Light of the world. My message was Jesus words: You are the light of the world (Mt5:14)
A quick reminder how to make one in preparation for our Carols by Candlelight this Sunday, 21 Dec 18:30
1 Orange, symbolising the world; a red ribbon around the orange, Christ's love for the world; 4 toothpicks to secure the ribbon, Christ's pain and your pain, which he carried; 9 "fruit" on the toothpicks, the fruit of the Spirit; a tinfoil base, Christ, our foundation; a hole gouged into the orange, the tomb of our Lord; a candle placed into the hole, Christ, the Light of the world.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Advent 3: Good News...for those who are being saved

Wow, this week's lectionary readings are an exciting and hope inspiring assortment. Good news after good news after good news...for those who are being saved!

Last week I asked the important question: Are you baptised in the Holy Spirit? Not, Have you been baptised in the Holy Spirit, but are you baptised in the Holy Spirit...because we leak, and yesterday's daily bread, yesterday', anointing, was for yesterday, not for today of for next week. God's economy

Friday, December 5, 2014

Advent 2: Prepare the Way for the Lord

Comfort, comfort my people,
    says your God.
 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
    and proclaim to her
that her hard service has been completed,
    that her sin has been paid for,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
    double for all her sins.

Israel had been through a terrible time. These words are spoken to the nation in Exile in Babylon, after a dreadful siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, which in fact the LORD had

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Sermon on the Mount Series

If you are looking for small group material for 2015, please have a look at my Sermon on the Mount series,
15 talks (recorded in HDTV by Emmy Award winning Digistream), Daily Devotions, Bible Study material and a special Children's Presentation for each talk with activities for Family and Children's Church use. More Info and Orders

Prayers for 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children

Image sourced here
The global 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children Campaign, which runs from 25 November, International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, through to International Human Rights Day on 10 December.

Here are some prayers (sourced variously from The Daily Office and the Mission Unit of MCSA) I have found useful for personal and corporate use:

Monday, December 1, 2014

John Wesley's Christmas Gift to those seeking that "holiness without which no one will see the Lord"

On the First Sunday in Advent 2014, as I have distributed my Pastoral Letter, Advent 2014: A Call to Discipleship, to my local and worldwide congregation, it is apt to post the following "rules" that John Wesley published in 1738. One doesn't have to be Wesleyan or Methodist (these two are very different in the 21st Century) to see the value in such meetings.

My current project for my spare time, now that I have submitted my Masters thesis to Wits for an MScMed (Ethics and Health Law), is the development of a Discipleship Course based on John Wesley's Sermon on the Mount, Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Discipleship (which is his major exposition on the Sermon on the Mount) and Scot McKnight's Sermon on the Mount. This will be a sequel to my Sermon on the Mount Series on Basic Christian living

Looking for a Pastor


2015 is a Sabbatical year for me and I would love to spend some of it visiting some of the churches that have found the Sermon on the Mount material useful, both here in South Africa and abroad. Chris (my wife) and I are also waiting on our Lord to hear His plans for our life and ministry as we enter into a new season in life. 

Friday, November 28, 2014

Advent 1: When, O Lord...How much longer?

    In Isaiah, the prophet calls for God to appear decisively, to "tear open the heavens" so the nations would tremble and he also confesses the need for such decisive intervention -- the utter sinfulness of humanity, even of those who are part of God's covenant. Finally, he changes metaphors -- from earthly catastrophe to remaking , begging God to be merciful when God comes. We also call out to God...often...and ask Him to act decisively, don't we?

    The Psalmist records the people crying out for restoration from the midst of exile.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Advent Pastoral Letter: A Call to Discipleship

Dear Alberton Methodist and worldwide Family,

Happy New Year!

Happy Christian New Year, that is.

The first Sunday of Advent in 2014 is November 30, and we move into Year B of the lectionary. During this year of the three-year lectionary cycle, we will read through Mark's gospel, engage the stories of David's family, and spend considerable time in the epistles of Ephesians, Hebrews and James. In all this, my underlying focus is going to be DISCIPLESHIP. I have two reasons for this: firstly, discipleship is central to the Vision that

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Harvest Thanksgiving Service

Our Harvest and Thanksgiving Service for 2014 was celebrated on Sunday 26 October and is one of the highlights of my term here at Alberton Methodist Church.
My texts were:
 I preached on the different seasons of life, and the truth that in every season our LORD is extravagantly sowing His grace into our lives and into our situations, and that from every season (however dreadful or wonderful it may be), a good harvest is possible.
The children each sowed seed into seed trays which will grow into some of our Advent celebration, but more importantly, the progress of the growth will form the basis of my teaching and preaching on Discipleship, which I sense our LORD has called me to focus on as my season here at AMC begins to

Thanksgiving Day Prayer

Almighty and gracious Father, we give you thanks for the fruits of the earth in their season and for the labors of those who harvest them. Make us, we pray, faithful stewards of your great bounty, for the provision of our necessities and the relief of all who are in need, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

In preparation for our Harvest and Thanksgiving Service on 26 October here in Alberton, South

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Christ the King: The Jesus who says "Enter in" or "Go to Hell"

On Christ the King Sunday we remember that as well as having a Saviour, we have a King, and a king has a kingdom, a king has subjects, a king rules over those subjects and a king demands loyalty and obedience from those subjects. Jesus the King is no different. Sociologist and researcher Amy Sherman has said that Christians tend to have three models for interacting with society: fortification, accommodation, and domination. To put that in layman’s terms: We hunker down amongst ourselves,

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

John Wesley's Sermon on Judgement Day

This sermon sourced from here and 

slightly edited to make for easier reading

The Great Assize

By John Wesley

"We shall all stand before the judgement-seat of Christ." Romans 14:10

1. How many circumstances concur to raise the awfulness of the present solemnity! -- The general concourse of people of every age, sex, rank, and condition of life, willingly or unwillingly gathered together, not only from the neighboring, but from distant, parts; criminals, speedily to be brought forth and having no way to escape; officers, waiting in their various posts, to execute the orders which shall be given; and the representative of our gracious Sovereign, whom we so highly reverence and honor. The occasion likewise of this assembly adds not a little to the solemnity of it: to hear and determine causes of every kind, some of which are of the most important nature; on which depends no less than life or death, death that uncovers the face of eternity! It was, doubtless, in order to increase the serious sense of these things, and not in the minds of the vulgar only that the wisdom of our forefathers did not disdain to appoint even several minute circumstances of this solemnity. For these also, by means of the eye or ear, may more deeply affect the heart: and when viewed in this light, trumpets, staves, apparel, are no longer trifling or insignificant, but subservient, in their kind and degree, to the most valuable ends of society.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Last Sunday of Pentecost: Christ the King Sunday

Here are the Lectionary Readings for this Sunday, the last Sunday of the year, with a new year starting with Advent on 30 November.

Matthew and the Great Assize (read John Wesley's sermon on Judgement Day here), will be my focus as we look at the seldom preached truth that on Judgement Day, we will all be judged by our works,

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Pentecost 23: Oil in my Lamp

Now before you comment "Oil in my Lamp" was last week's lectionary Gospel focus, this week is the "Parable of the Talents" are quite right. However, I preached on The Parable of the Talents earlier this year in commemoration of the death of Nelson Mandela and last week I was still on sabbatical, so you can read "Parable of the Talents" here, and below is my sermon for this Sunday, but based on last week's Gospel reading.

Friday, October 3, 2014

On Sabbatical

Cedric Poole, the DentalMethodist and Holey, Wholly, Holy is on sabbatical. I am completing a Master's degree at the University of Witwatersrand Medical Faculty in Johannesburg, South Africa. I have completed my course work in Medical Ethics and South African Health Law and now have to work on my thesis. I will return to these pages once my thesis is complete. I covet your prayers during this period. Until we meet again, pursue holiness, grow in holiness and be holy, just as our God is holy.
Great Hall at Wits (my alma mater) imposed on Nelson Mandela Bridge

Harvest and Thanksgiving Pastoral Letter

Harvest & Thanksgiving Season

Dear AMC and family,

At our first meeting this year, one of the Society Stewards brought up the need for us to have a Thanksgiving Service at AMC. I then mentioned that Biblically, Thanksgiving is always linked to Harvest celebrations and that our Methodist Harvest Festival has always been a Thanksgiving service which thanked God for the harvest, but also thanked God for “all good things around us, sent from Heaven above” (the words of our famous Thanksgiving/Harvest hymn). We then realised that AMC hasn't had a Harvest Festival for many years either and committed ourselves to planning a Thanksgiving/Harvest Festival this year. Later we realised that it is the 100th Anniversary of AMC's Sunday School, so that became an integral part of our celebration plans as well.

I am really very excited that we are having a Harvest/Thanksgiving service at AMC this year and I encourage us all to get involved, firstly at the Combined Worship Service at 9am on Sunday 26 October and then at the Family Fun and Braai which will follow the service. Please note that we are going to be ordering braai packs, so we need to know how many folk will attend the celebration and Fun day, but payment for the braai packs will be voluntary, there will be a box somewhere for folk to make donations to help cover our costs. The idea is that no one will be excluded from this day of Thanksgiving, which will include fun for everyone, games, waterslides etc.

You may not be aware that the 3 most important feasts in Judaism at the time of Jesus, were all festivities relating to thanksgiving at the various stages of harvesting.

  "All the men of your nation are to come to worship the LORD three times a year at the one place of worship: at Passover, Pentecost, and the Festival of Shelters." Deuteronomy 16:16
In this reading God gives to the people three festivals, three celebrations, three feasts that they are to celebrate every year in Jerusalem at the Temple. Now each of these festivals was an agricultural festival celebrating some stage in the harvest process, but, and far more importantly,each festival also had a religious significance as well.

Passover (April 14-22 2014): Passover (which for us now is the Easter celebration of the Lamb of God who was slain and raised to life in order to set us free from bondage to sin) was a reminder and celebration of the redemption from bondage in Egypt, but it also had an agricultural element. Passover ends with the Festival of First Fruits, where the people bought the first part of their harvest as an offering to God in anticipation of a good harvest to come. Jesus was raised from the dead on the day of this festival which is why Paul says in 1Corinthians15:20 "Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep so that in Christ all will be made alive."

Pentecost (June 8, 2014): The next festival mentioned is the Harvest Festival or the Festival of Weeks, as it took place seven weeks after Passover and First Fruits. At the time of Jesus this festival was known as Pentecost which is a Greek word which means "seven weeks".The Jews celebrated the wheat harvest and that God had given them everything they had hoped for when they brought their first fruits. They also remembered on this day the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai. Pentecost became of course the time when God poured out His Spirit and put His Law into our hearts.

Tabernacles (October 10-15, 2014): The final festival mentioned is the Festival of Tabernacles, and is celebrated at the end of the harvest season, when the grapes and olives have been gathered in. Passover is in early spring, Pentecost is in late spring and the Festival of Shelters or Tabernacles or Booths is in autumn. The Jews at this time remember that during the 40 years in the wilderness they lived in shelters or tabernacles, hence its name. The prophet Zechariah says: "Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, the Lord Almighty,and to celebrate the feast of Tabernacles." (14:16) This feast seems to look forward to the time when the Kingdom of God will be established on earth in all its fullness at Christ's return. So while we as Christians can  look back and see how God has used two of these festivals for His redemptive purposes and they have in a sense been 'fulfilled', this last one, the feast of Tabernacles,is one which we still look forward to being fulfilled.

So, as you can see, the major festivals of Judaism which Jesus also remembered and celebrated, all included elements of Thanksgiving and Harvest, hence our Methodist practise of combining Thanksgiving and Harvest. Living in the city as we do here in Alberton it is very easy to forget what fields of wheat, maize, sunflower, sugar cane, etc., look like and just how dependant all of these are on the good gift of rain “from above”, so the service also includes an element of praying for rain where it is needed. Folk also bring “items of harvest” and we encourage you to be extra generous in your giving of non-perishables to our Amcare trolley on the 26th .

The main element, however, is Thanksgiving for what God has graciously given, homes, health, friends, family, work, children, eyesight, taste, etc., etc., etc. Please fill in the slip below, or e-mail the office, with your specific thanksgiving, be it for a new addition to the family, or perhaps that you've managed to stay away from drugs for a week, month, year or years. I am hoping that a spirit of thanksgiving will overpower and consume us as we realise how very much our Lord blesses us day by day. Depending on the response, we will either project the thanksgivings during the service and probably derive our preaching from them, or we will print them up in booklet form for distribution. Please feel free to place anonymous thanksgivings if you wish.

On a more personal note, I will be on sabbatical for the next few weeks (my 3 month sabbatical is due, but I am not taking it all at once). I will be completing my Masters degree at Wits Medical School which I had to put on hold when I was asked to come to AMC a year earlier and then made senior minister earlier than I had expected as well. All my course work was completed in 2011 but I now have to write my thesis. I once again covet your prayers.

Much love,

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Pentecost 17: Beware Who/What You Reject

 “Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit.
“The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. Last of all, he sent his son to them. ‘They will respect my son,’ he said.
“But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.’ So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.
“Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?”
“He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,” they replied, “and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.”
Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:
“‘The stone the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone;
the Lord has done this,
    and it is marvelous in our eyes’?
“Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.”
When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables, they knew he was talking about them. They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet.

As soon as Jesus started telling this parable, His listeners,"the chief priests and the elders of the people", would have recognised that He was talking about them and the nation of Israel.
He says: Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. 34 When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit."

They would also immediately have been reminded of  Is 5:1-7

Listen while I sing you this song,
    a song of my friend and his vineyard:
My friend had a vineyard
    on a very fertile hill.
 He dug the soil and cleared it of stones;
    he planted the finest vines.
He built a tower to guard them,
    dug a pit for treading the grapes.
He waited for the grapes to ripen,
    but every grape was sour.
So now my friend says, “You people who live in Jerusalem and Judah, judge between my vineyard and me. Is there anything I failed to do for it? Then why did it produce sour grapes and not the good grapes I expected?
“Here is what I am going to do to my vineyard: I will take away the hedge around it, break down the wall that protects it, and let wild animals eat it and trample it down. I will let it be overgrown with weeds. I will not trim the vines or hoe the ground; instead, I will let briers and thorns cover it. I will even forbid the clouds to let rain fall on it.”
Israel is the vineyard of the Lord Almighty;
    the people of Judah are the vines he planted.
He expected them to do what was good,
    but instead they committed murder.
He expected them to do what was right,
    but their victims cried out for justice.

The people listening would have realised that Jesus, in His parable, was speaking a word of warning and judgement to them which God had spoken to them before through the prophet Isaiah.  Which is why by the end of the parable they wanted to arrest Jesus.
They realised He was speaking of a stubborn and rebellious people.....which was fine, until it dawned on them He was not speaking of a stubborn and rebellious people but to a stubborn and rebellious people.

And before we point fingers at these “terrible people”, let us remember that everything God spoke to the nation Israel, He now speaks to the Church, to you and to me, who are now descendents of Abraham.

  He waited for the grapes to ripen, but every grape was sour......

How do you feel as you hear that? Is God's Kingdom ripening in the fruit of the Spirit, which is very beautiful in taste, growing in you? On this confirmation Sunday as we, who were confirmed (long ago, or a year ago), welcome the one's to be confirmed this day, have we grown, ripened, matured into the likeness of Jesus...perhaps I should rather ask: Are we " " " "....because it is a lifelong process, isn't it? (Hydrangeas)

Back to Isaiah's poem, which Jesus is playing on:

 He expected them to do what was good,....  He expected them to do what was right.  

How do you feel as you hear those words… … is God speaking to someone else or to you?  These are God’s expectations of a Christian nation, of a Christian Church, by most important of all, its His expectation of Christian people, of you and of me.

Isaiah's poem speaks to us today, as much as it did to the people who first heard it and it conveys some important truths about God and the way He deals with His people:

Firstly:  It tells of God’s generosity and trust. The vineyard is well-equipped with everything the tenants need.  The owner went away and left the vineyard in the hands of the tenants.  God likewise equips us and trusts us enough to give us freedom to run our lives as we choose……
Do you hear that: God equips you for that to which He calls you. He calls us to righteousness and He equips us for righteousness; and
                             God trusts the world we have to earn trust, but in the Kingdom we are entrusted with the treasures of the Kingdom (fruit of Spirit) when we say Yes to Jesus.

I thought I should end the sermon there, because that’s such incredibly good news.  God equips you, God trusts you.  He’s given you things, talents, abilities, possessions, family……and He trusts you, in the words of Isaiah, to do what is right.  And He gives us the freedom to choose what we will do with what He has entrusted to us.....that's grace, isn't it.

He hopes and longs for a sweet return, but in Israel’s case, the fruit was sour.  In their freedom they chose to do what was sour....and I would suggest, they still do. But, what about you and me?
What are you doing with your freedom?

So, firstly, Isaiah's poem speaks to us of God's generosity and trust.

Secondly: this parable tells us of God’s patience and this is Good News as well.  Not once, but many times He forgives the tenants their debts, their trespasses, but they continue to take advantage of His patience – and He forgives…and He sends new messengers…and they take advantage....and He forgives,...and He sends new messengers..... and they take advantage of them and of God's grace....and He forgives....

I don’t know if that sounds familiar.

Praise God for His patience, but don’t use your freedom to stretch His patience even further.  We dare not do this as individuals, as churches, as nations……history is full of individuals, churches and nations who have eventually had to come under the wrath of our gracious, loving, long-suffering this life. Beware of who and what you reject because sometimes you may well be rejecting Christ, His way and His Kingdom.....and you or I don't want to be guilty of that, because...

You see, this parable teaches us thirdly: God and His judgement and His justice will prevail. His will,will be done on earth as in Heaven....ask American slaves, ask communist Russia, ask apartheid South Africa...and ask countless millions who have cried out for justice in this life....but now we come full circle back to where we were earlier, pray for and bare the fruit of peace, patience, love etc., while you wait for the Lord to act.
Proud and arrogant Israel was brought down by the agent of God’s judgement, the wicked Nebuchadnezzar that God raised up for that purpose, when His patience ran out.

The proud and arrogant religious establishment of Jesus’ day was brought down and their Temple destroyed by God’s agent of judgement, the wicked Roman Empire.  And through the ages, God has continued to bring His judgement, often using wicked agents from the east, to destroy pride and arrogance and disobedience to the way of Christ.  He expects good fruit from people and nations that claim to be Christian.  He expects good fruit in you and me who have confirmed before others, our faith in God.  

The Lord blesses His people today with the gift of His Kingdom and He promises we will bear much fruit if we abide in Him (John 15:1-11.)  He entrusts His gifts and grace to each of us and He gives us work to do in His vineyard – the body of Christ.  He promises that our labour will not be in vain if we persevere with faith to the end (Chantelle focused on this beautifully last week when she looked at 1 Corinthians 15:58.)  

We can expect trials and even persecution.  But in the end, we will see triumph.  Go out into the vineyard, your home, workplace, school, nation and using your God-given freedom, labour for the Lord with joyful hope and with confidence in His victory.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Pentecost 16: Does the Word and His word have authority in my life?

The Gospel text before us today is about authority and it includes a parable about changing your mind. Jesus is confronted in the Temple by "the chief priests and the elders of the people" and their question/challenge/accusation to Jesus is "What authority do you have to speak to us the way you do?"
With their words they challenge, question, accuse.....the Word made flesh as He stands before them...the irony is dreadful...and sad. Ultimately of course, they reject the Word and His word, because they refuse to come under His authority and the authority of His word...but the question I place before us today is this: Are we any different to them, but to make it personal, because our faith is personal and our relationship with our Saviour is personal, the question on your lips and mine has to be this: Am I any different to them...does the Word and His word have authority in my life?  

Regarding the word of God, the texts that Judaism cherished, the Scriptures: Jesus lived the text, preached the text, taught the text, prayed the text, died the text.....He was passionate about the Scriptures and the mark of His disciples was, and still is, a deep passion for the word of God, a passion that plays out in us because we see this word as The Authoritative Word in our lives, the word before which every other word in our lives must submit.

Perhaps today, you have to change your mind regarding who or what is ultimately The Authoritative Word in your life. And so, Jesus, when His authority is questioned, doesn't answer (He will not cast his pearls before swine, to use His own words), but He does tell a parable, in the context of authority, about changing your mind. This is a parable about people who say one thing, but do another....who pretend obedience, but live disobedience, who sing praise but live lives that curse the one they other words it's a parable about you and me and the need for us to change the way we think about things.

This is a parable about changing your mind.  The one son says, “I won’t go and work in the vineyard.”  But later – he changes his mind and does go work in the vineyard.
The other son says “I will go and work in the vineyard”  but changes his mind and doesn’t go.

Then Jesus says to the chief priests and elders in the Temple – John the Baptist came and showed you the right path towards God, but you would not believe him and at the end of verse 32 Jesus says, “You would not change your minds.”  You see they had their own ideas about the way to God.  So this parable is all about “changing your mind.”

The idea of changing your mind is central to the New Testament.  The New Testament was written in Greek and the Greek word for changing your mind is metanoia.  When they translate it into English they often use the word repent (for a very good article on how this word has been mistranslated in our Bibles, read here)

Essentially, repent’s meaning is to change your mind.....i.e.  "I used to think this was acceptable, but I’ve changed  my mind and I realise now that it is unacceptable.....perhaps it’s even a sin" That is repentance.
One of the reasons that you and I often struggle with ongoing sin in our lives is because we haven’t changed our minds, changed our way of thinking about that particular behaviour.

So metanoia, repentance, changing your mind, changing your way of thinking, is central to our belief. 
Do you need to change your mind?  I want to ask you that question in three specific areas of your life.

First:  Do you need to change the way you think about God and His Son, King Jesus and the salvation and kingdom He invites you to be a part of?  If Jesus is anything other to you than Lord (King), Saviour and inaugurator  of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth now, then I want to plead with you, please change the way you think, change your mind about Jesus and His kingdom.

Secondly:  Do you need to change your mind, the way you think, about others?  The truth is that when we change the way we think about Jesus and make up our minds that He is King (Lord) and Saviour, He then wants us to change the way we think about others:
– the way we think about the poor
- the  way we think about the outcast 
- the way we think about our boss or our workers
- the way we think about our enemy

Do you need to repent, to change the way you think about others?

Finally, thirdly:  Do you need to change the way you think in some area of your life?  I’m not talking about calling a spade a spade so much as I'm talking about calling a sin a sin.  What the world sees as acceptable, God often sees as unacceptable. What the world might see as a sharp business practice, or as a bad habit, or as a weakness, maybe it’s time to change your mind and call it a sin, seeing it as God sees it, and dealing with it as God deals with sin.

Is it time to change your way of thinking, bringing it into line with God’s way of thinking, to change your mind and start calling sin, sin.

So this Sunday we’ve looked at authority and at a parable about changing your mind, particularly about changing your mind regarding who and what has ultimate authority in your life.

May the Word and His word be the authority in our lives and may the Word and His word be our strength as we seek to do what we say and serve Him who we claim to serve.

May God give us grace and strength to be honest with ourselves.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Pentecost 16:The Scandal of the Gospel

Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority?”
Jesus replied, “I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. John’s baptism—where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or of human origin?”
They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’  But if we say, ‘Of human origin’—we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet.”
So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”
Then he said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.
“What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’
“‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.
“Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.
“Which of the two did what his father wanted?”
“The first,” they answered.
Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.
 For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.

The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, traveling from place to place as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. So they quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.”
Moses replied, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the Lord to the test?”
But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?”
Then Moses cried out to the Lord, “What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.”
The Lord answered Moses, “Go out in front of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.” So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. And he called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the Lord saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.
 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Pentecost 15: Gracious or Grumbleguts

In this parable, we see two tendencies:
God’s tendency towards grace.........and people’s tendency towards grumbling.
Grace or grumbling – which describes you better?

Those close to us in our families and here in the Church and in the workplace – what have they seen this week in you and me – grace or grumbling?
Those who don’t know us, what have they seen in us – the shop worker, the beggar, the taxi that has squashed in front of us, what do all these see in us, in we who have the Spirit of the Living God within us, in we who are born again, in we who have come to salvation in Christ, what do they see in us: grace or grumbling? are the only Bible that many have studied this week.

The owner of the vineyard hired workers at the start of the day and said I will pay you the normal wage, one silver coin/denarius.....R150 is the going rate for the guys who stand on our street corners here in Alberton.  And through the day, he goes out and hires more people, even at 5 pm he got workers who work for 1 hour.  Then he pays them.  The Biblical principle is that workers are paid daily...Leviticus 19:13 Do not hold back the wages of a hired worker overnight and Deuteronomy 24:14-15 Do not take advantage of a hired worker who is poor and needy, whether that worker is a fellow Israelite or a foreigner residing in one of your towns. Pay them their wages each day before sunset, because they are poor and are counting on it. Otherwise they may cry to the Lord against you, and you will be guilty of sin.  That’s not the company code today, but it remains God’s code – it is unethical and against the teaching of Scripture to withhold money owing to a worker if he/she wants it.

So the owner pays the chaps who came for 1 hour R150.....................and he pays the chaps who’ve worked all day, R150, the amount they agreed to work for.

And, When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner ..... they grumble

The owner is showing great kindness, mercy, grace and they grumble – they think it’s unfair.  

They are angry because he has been kind, merciful, gracious
 But they grumble

How about you?  We always need to find ourselves in a parable. So, how do you feel?........
Is this unfair or is this just wonderful?
Our answer is a measure of whether we tend towards grumbling or towards grace.

Our answer is a measure of the place that is really home to us, is this world and its ways our home...... or is God’s Kingdom and His Ways the place we feel more at home?  And it is so easy to live and be comfortable in the world and its ways and to pay lip service to the Kingdom of God and His ways......but that’s a dangerous game to play and it has dreadful consequences in this life and the next. 

This parable helps to show us which world it is that we prefer because we often manage to fool even ourselves regarding where our allegiance really lies. In Romans 12:2, Paul exhorts us: Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world.  Do you hear that …… Do you really hear that?  
Whenever Jesus begins a parable with the words, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like....” we need to be warned that some cherished worldly principles (in this parable it’s the principle that governs fairness and perhaps also the issue of economic justice)......a cherished worldly principle is about to be turned on its head and the choice we are given and the challenge we are left with is to live Kingdom lives rather than worldly lives.

Jesus began His Ministry with the words:
The Kingdom of Heaven is near.
Then He taught us to pray:
Your Kingdom come on Earth as it is in Heaven. 
Then, in a number of parables and in His life of good works, He shows us what the Kingdom is like and who is in it – all different kinds of people. In this parable, another principle established is that the people who have just come in, have exactly the same status and standing as those who've been in it for years.  There’s no coming in at the ground level and working your way up the corporate ladder in the Kingdom of God.
The deathbed conversion gets the same wage as the lifelong ministry which will have included many hardships and sufferings and blessings – the wage being Eternal life.
Ultimately Jesus says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock and if you say come in I will come in, bringing with Me my kingdom and my friends, so that through you and all my friends, my Kingdom will come on earth and in Alberton, and my will will be done on earth and in Alberton by my real friends, even as it is done in Heaven.”

I think the challenge before us today is to see the inherent beauty of grace, the absolute ugliness of grumbling and to make a conscious choice, towards grace, away from grumbling other words, to repent, which means to change direction, from the way of the world to the way of the Kingdom, the way of Jesus.