Welcome to the new and updated Mt Barker Presbyterian Church website. Writing here is a way of communicating to many. I hope it is at least once per week. It does gives opportunity to consider some matters that the church and the pastor of a growing church face today. Christian or unbeliever, member or outsider as you seek the truth I pray these words will be helpful to you.
Every day I don't stop thinking about God and His purposes being working out in me and others. The Bible has many examples. Take a young lady who for a reason we don't know except that God had closed her womb so she could not fall pregnant. Being persecuted she cries her heart out to God and in doing so she promises that should He grant her desire- she would dedicate the child to serve at the temple - become a pastor - or prophet or both. The story has a happy ending because she not has her prayer answered but her life is dramatically changed as shown in the prayer is recorded in 1 Samuel 2. She goes on to have more children - sons and daughters from 1 Samuel 2:21 and then we hear of her no more. My thoughts and hopes have been focused on the church that needs revitalizing and this story shows us that when we have to faith and perseverance to come to God with our requests - He will answer. The many who just see the outside of a building don't really understand the church is actually the people. The building is used to help people worship God - not the people come to worship the building. Revitalizing for Christians is really just doing what God wants us to do - point out who Jesus is to others. The building may need revitalizing too - but it cannot be the main focus for a change that needs to go on in the local church. It comes down to seeing that the obstacles are not so insurmountable or the situation impossible that God cannot turn it around. It comes to people seeking to understand who God is and what he is doing right now. As people see it - both from the inside and from the outside I think the church becomes revitalised. May God go with you this week.
Defining the Church requires an understanding of three misconceptions and therefore applying three corrections.
The first misconception regards a place. Today many just see a building called 'Church' and thinking that is the Church then smile and never go beyond thinking of the building. The second prevalent misconception comes with denominational distinctions. This view gets in the way of many truly understanding the Church. Many would be a 'Presbyterian' or 'Baptist' or 'Anglican' since someone of their family had a past association. Even though today denomination distinctions are blurred in some ways that understanding seems prevalent. I was talking to a man recently who knew various people that called themselves 'Presbyterian' yet had not been members in the last few years and were not going to worship with God's people anywhere. He though they were part of the church. The third misconception is that some believe that some churches are not truly the Church despite all the outward signs and the adherence to essential doctrines. It seems these are the exclusive set of believers or even non-believers who would not join another church claiming they are not right or pure enough for them.
The first correction is to say the Church is not a building or place but the people. In the Greek the word 'ecclesia' means 'people gathered'. The church building whether the property belongs to a group of believers, a home or a public building is helpful to keep the rain off and provide some comfort for a meeting of a gathering of believers. The second correction is found in understanding biblical pictures or analogies. Jesus talked about the weeds and the wheat, and that fact that both grow together. There are many other analogies I could add but the truth is we only see with a limited 'human' view. The various denominational groups are made up of all kinds of people with some saved and some lost. The church from a human view is far from perfect and is often divided. Many will fall away from it (Matthew 13:28-30, 38, 41). The correction is to say that we see the visible church as not perfect and that any denominational group holding to the essential truths will be the same in this respect - some saved and some not saved people. While there should be a unity with believers across denominations who hold to those essential doctrines it is sad to state some 'Christians' act as if they are superior to others. It is sad to that many don't strive for unity that comes from being 'in Christ' and adherence to the inspired word of God. God's view of the Church of course is different. He sees the church we cannot see. He sees all the perfect and righteous group of people who are 'in Christ'. They strive to be obedient to His call and to follow Him. As God sees the Church He see those who are His and with an unseen unity that will only be clear to them when Jesus returns. The third correction is necessary to apply to all those exclusive sort of denominations and people who stay away from all churches. They keep separating from others claiming the church is too corrupt and impure. Sad that it is one of the essentials for every believer - being part of a church and gathering regularly with other believers. A big correction is needed. Perhaps many are hurt through words or actions and yet there seems no reconcilation or peace. We all should learn to forgive and vice-versa. There is an interesting situation in Luke 9 is when someone outside the circle of the disciples and was doing what the disciples liked to do - casting out demons in the name of Jesus. They though 'he is not with us as 'the disciples' therefore he should be forbidden from acting. Jesus had to correct them on that too: "Do not forbid Him, he is on our side". I hope the Lord will be a present help to all who stay dis-connected and lead them back to the fold. Pastor Robert.
In this last week I have again been told by a new acquaintance that the Old Testament is not relevant. Can that be true? Those who tell me this do have a view that the New Testament is authoritative in some way and that the Old Testament can be abandoned. Now while I would respect and love these people I cannot agree to their view and if given the opportunity would challenge them to go back and read the Bible - both Old and New Testament. I can only believe they were well taught some truths about Jesus via Sunday School and preachers from time to time. But at some point this view that the Old Testament is irrelevant became to them the truth. I would also notice that many who have revealed that that hold this view of the Old Testament that they are often more focused on God's love and grace and less on God's justice and wrath. Now in saying these things I am imagine many go unchallenged and perhaps don't reveal this view unless someone focuses on some Old Testament teaching. It seems a a battle to understand more. The more open a person is to learn - the more they can possibly learn. But the difficulty I find as a Pastor is their reluctance to even examine the alternate view. So often it seems many have had a good time in their earlier days of connecting with others but they stay spiritually babies. So what makes the Old Testament relevant? When the New Testament in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 states:- 'all scripture is profitable for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness so the person of God may be complete, equipped for every good work' it seems very clear. Scripture for the Apostle was the Old Testament! There is no place to separate any part of it and regard it as irrelevant. The whole Bible is regarded as the inspired word of God necessary for salvation. We read in Matthew 22:29-30 that Jesus made it clear to those who had a skewed view of both God and the Scriptures. 'But Jesus answered them,
"You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven."
I hope you take some time to read it as I do. Otherwise we are not going to even 'draw near' and understand or find out the great and marvellous teaching contained in 'all scripture' which is the word of God.
Does it not seem obvious to you? Both the war on terror by various nations and people and the evil desires of ISIS supporters cannot win or overcome the other!
No-one is really going to get the upper hand and we all should weep over the bloodshed, killing of innocent people and the deep scars it will leave on people who are raped, persecuted, dispossessed, and made refugees. The hatred along with the defensive behaviour by governments and communities against this hatred leads to a fight with billions of dollars wasted and a war that will be difficult for either side to ever disengage from and bring about a change of heart in people. If we thought that the evil of people smoking and causing themselves harm was difficult to combat then the evil of hatred that goes back to Abraham and Sarah and Hagar seems far worse. So is there any solution? Of course there is one. The ideology and world view of the Muslim is centred on a false view of God. If they would gain a true understanding of God and His plans then truly - hate would turn to love and war would turn to peace.
Last Sunday we were looking at the beginning of John's Gospel and in particular verse 14. I encouraged the congregation to help others improve their view of Christmas that is simply a time of getting together with family, a break from work and for doing nice things like giving presents to family and friends. All good things to do but many don't accept there is a God or they don't know about Him from the Scriptures - both Old and New Testament. Yet most, who are not committed to follow Jesus, recognize what Christmas is essentially about - celebrating the coming of Christ - or God's annointed - the Son of God, co-equal with the Father who created and sustains the world. The incredible truth that infinite became finite, eternity entered time, the invisible God became visible as one of us is a fact. No credible historian will deny the fact of Jesus being a real person in the history of the world. Yet many walk and talk at Christmas time as if He was a made up story. God revealed Himself in a way - not just through the prophets or the fact of an amazing creation - a world of complexity and order. God revealed himself in a person named Jesus. He is the perfect teacher - to teach us about God, the perfect example as a human being - to show us how to live and also the perfect sacrifice to make a person free from guilt and wrongs against God and others. He is the answer to wars and hatred. He is the the one and only answer to what is an alternative world view of life for Muslims and humanists and evolutionists.
In verse 5 of John 1, the statement is made that the light (God and His truth) shines and the darkness (evil and lies concerning God) cannot overcome it. I hope you can see this. The darkness is not going to overcome light. If you cannot then I suggest that you please read John's Gospel. And today more than ever I am hoping that Christians everywhere will challenge people when they say 'Happy Christmas' to respond with 'Yes and may you also celebrate Christ'.