Our Hope in Christ

Photo credit: Trevor Hampel

Photo credit: Trevor Hampel

Our Hope in Christ

Reading: Colossians 1: 1 – 12.

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you,  because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people—  the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven…”

In the opening lines of Paul’s letter to the believers in Colossae, he mentions their hope – the ‘hope stored up for you in heaven.’

Our hope in Christ is not a wishy-washy kind of hope. It’s not the kind of hope that says: “I hope my team wins” or “I hope it will be a fine day for the picnic.”

Our hope in Christ is a certain hope. It is a hope which knows that our destiny is safe, secure, and certain with no doubt as to our true home. It is a hope with its foundation in our true destination in the journey of life: eternity with Christ in heaven.

The writer to the Hebrews says: “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 6: 19 – 20)

Our hope in Christ is the anchor of our soul, saving us from crashing into the rocks of destruction in this world. With such a strong and safe anchor like our hope in Christ Jesus, we can ride out the storms of life, knowing that our hope in Christ – who is our anchor – is both sure and steadfast in every situation.

˄TH

 

You need Jesus

GOD LOVES YOU.

God desires to have a living relationship with you and give you salvation, purpose and eternal life. It is an important decision that only you can make, but you need to make it.

1. You have a past: Scripture – the Bible – states clearly that everyone in the world is guilty of sin – and that includes you and me. The Bible says “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

2. Sin has its price: The Bible also tells us that “the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23) The wages of work is money, but the wages of sin is death. Death in this context means separation from God forever. But there is good news.

3. Christ paid for your sin: Even though we are sinners, Jesus Christ loves us so much that he died in our place to pay for our sin. He took the punishment in our place. “But God demonstrated his own love for us in this while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

4. Believe in Jesus: To become a Christian and have the assurance of eternal life is a personal decision only you can make.

The Bible says: “If you confess with you mouth, Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9) The word “believe” here means to entrust your life completely over to Jesus Christ. That’s what real faith is – asking Jesus Christ to be Lord of your life.

The next step

If you’d like to begin a personal relationship with Jesus today, we encourage you to pray this prayer:

“Dear Lord Jesus, I admit that I am a sinner. I believe that you died for me and that your blood paid for my sins. I ask for your forgiveness. I want you to be my Lord and saviour. Thank you for dying for me, and for forgiving my sin and for giving me eternal life. Help me to turn away from my sin and follow you as my Lord and saviour. Lead me and guide me from this day on. Amen.”

You have made an important and life-changing decision.

We encourage you to contact us (click here). We will promise to pray for you. If you live within easy travel of our church in Murray Bridge, South Australia, we would welcome you into our church and help you on your journey.

Adapted from “The Word for today” written by Bob and Debby Gass (Nov-Jan 2013 edition). UCB Australia.

Used with permission.

Esther – for such a time as this

Image result for pictures of queen esther

Esther serves as the title of this book of the Bible. Along with the book of Ruth, they are the only Old Testament books named after women.

‘Hadassah’ meaning myrtle was the Hebrew name of Esther. The more commonly used name of Esther came either from the Persian word for star, or possibly from the name of the Babylonian love goddess, Ishtar.

As the orphaned daughter of her father Abihail, Esther grew up in Persia with her older cousin Mordecai, who raised her as if she were his own daughter.  The Bible story found in the book of Esther is fascinating, a tale with all the mystery of a modern day drama, complete with deception, palace intrigue and a murderous plot.

Even more compelling is Esther herself. This mysterious beauty appears from obscurity and captures the heart of the most powerful man on earth, the pagan King of Persia.

Her attributes of grace and godliness eclipse even her outer beauty and gain her king’s respect. Their subsequent marriage positions her strategically to fulfil her destiny – to step into her place on the world stage, and to end a horrible scheme to annihilate her people, the Jews. Esther was chosen… ‘for such a time as this.’

After Esther became queen, her safety and well-being were ensured. Wrong. As queen, Esther faced a double-edged threat to her life. She still held secret the fact that she was a Jewess. As events unfolded she was forced to choose between revealing her secret or watching the destruction of all her people and living out her days in fear of being exposed and killed.

Who brought about these events? The evil Haman, a member of the court whom King Ahasuerus had made Grand Vizier, second in command, over all Persia. The king ordered all the people in the kingdom to bow and do homage to Haman whenever he passed, and Haman delighted in his importance. He had the pleasure of seeing everyone in the empire bow to him wherever he went. Everyone, that is, except one: Mordecai. He refused to bow to Haman and this was brought to Haman’s attention.

He decided that he would not only have Mordecai’s life – he would wipe out all the Jews in the Persian Empire.  Haman went to the king and let him know that ‘a certain people’ were disobeying the laws of the kingdom. He never named the Jews. He asked for permission to destroy them and the king gave him permission.

In the King’s name, he wrote a decree ordering that the Jews of all the provinces – including women and children of any age – were to be killed, and annihilated on the day that was chosen. He cast lots, or ‘pur’, to determine the day they were to be destroyed. (The Jewish celebration of Haman’s defeat is called the Festival of Purim for this reason.)

Now Esther, residing safely in the palace, was unaware of these events until she heard that her cousin Mordecai was wailing in front of the King’s Gate. Mordecai sent her a copy of Haman’s decree. He urged her to go to the king and plead for the lives of the Jewish people. Esther, our portrait of courage, lived every day at the king’s pleasure and she was aware daily of the risk to herself if she displeased the king. Everyone knew there was a law that if anyone went into the inner court without being summoned, that person was to be immediately killed.

‘I might never even get a chance to plead our cause,’ she said.

Mordecai’s reply was the challenge of Esther’s lifetime. ‘You are facing death, too, if you remain silent now.’ Then he spoke of his faith. ‘Deliverance will come from somewhere else, but you will have missed your opportunity. Who knows – maybe you have come to this place just for such a time as this.’

One thing that we can learn from Esther is her ability to wait upon God to bring about the perfect timing for her to go before the king. In her case, it meant life or death. After the third day of fasting, Esther ‘rolled the dice’. Scripture says that she found favour in his sight (ch 5:2). He was so pleased to see her that he promised to give her anything she wanted, even half his kingdom.

She must have felt relief and then she invited him to a dinner party that night – and invited Haman as well. After dinner, the king again asked Esther what she wanted. She replied that if she had found favour in his sight her only request was that he attend another dinner party the next night, along with Haman.

After that dinner, she would tell him what she wanted. The king agreed. After the second dinner, the king again asked for Esther’s request. Now if you can just imagine how she must have felt as she spoke. ‘If I have found favour in your sight… and if it pleases the king, let my life be given me at my petition, and my people at my request. For we have been sold, my people and I, to be destroyed, to be killed, and to be annihilated.’

The astonished king asked, ‘Who would do such a thing?’ Esther then delivered the death blow by simply naming him – the adversary and enemy, the wicked Haman. Wow – what a dramatic end to a dinner party. The king was outraged and ordered Haman to be hanged on the same gallows he had built for Mordecai.

Esther’s legacy remains today. The fruit of her sacrificial life lives on in Israel and through all who read about her in this book. She stands in God’s Hall of Fame as a bold woman of faith. In future years, a festival was instituted commemorating Esther’s bold act and the deliverance of the Jews from the plot of Haman. It is known to this day as the Festival of Purim.

˄BB

Valentine’s Day

Although Saint Valentine’s Day has its origins in the early Christian Church, we don’t celebrate the day in our church.

The original Saint Valentine was an interesting priest in the early church. He was imprisoned and later executed by Roman authorities for secretly marrying Roman soldiers, something forbidden in his day in early Rome. He also ministered to early Christians who were severely persecuted in the first few decades after the death of Jesus Christ.

According to legend, during his imprisonment, he healed the daughter of his jailer, Asterius. An embellishment to this story states that before his execution he wrote her a letter signed “Your Valentine” as a farewell. This started the modern craze to send a card or gift to the one you love.

Through giving his son Jesus as our saviour, God demonstrated his love to us who follow him. His Word – the Bible – is his love letter to each one of us. Through the words of the Bible, we can begin to understand the depth of God’s amazing love for us. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

What amazing love: He died for me.

What an amazing gift: eternal life.

You can read more about Saint Valentine’s Day here.

˄TH

Image result for pictures of god's love for us

Do You Want Happiness or Joy?

Happiness or Joy?

Which would you rather have?

No happiness or joy

I guess it would be a fair statement to say that there is not much happiness or joy in the world today. It has almost reached the point where I feel like giving up watching the television news. I gave up watching current events programmes ages ago; they just make me angry and I don’t like that.

In your face

It didn’t seem so bad when I was growing up. That was a different world then. The news was not ‘in your face’ 24/7 like it is today on television, on our radios, in our newspapers and on our computers via social media networks and on our phones. It is increasingly hard to escape from all the evil in the world. It is hard to have true happiness or joy in such an evil climate.

Evil is rampant

The evil rampant in the world is not a new phenomenon. In recent weeks I have been reading through the first few books of the Old Testament. It was a shocking world in those days, too. Several years ago I read an account of the Gallipoli campaign, as well as a personal account of experiences on the Western Front in WWI. Later I read a novel based on the experiences of the POWs on the Death Railway in Thailand. They were very unhappy, joyless times too.

We can have happiness

Despite the doom and gloom in the world today, despite the feelings of oppression all around, despite the expressions of anger and despair, we all can experience periods of happiness each day. I have great periods of happiness and laughter when I spend time chatting with my grandchildren, for example. Just go out into your gardens and see God’s hand of creation and that should bring you happiness, too.

A distinction

Let’s draw a distinction between joy and happiness. Happiness is often a fleeting emotion, something experienced in the moment. Happiness can often last for only a moment – and like a mist in the night, it can be whisked away by the storms of life.

Deep joy

Joy, on the other hand, is long-lasting, deep, satisfying and cannot easily be shaken from us. Joy is that condition we find ourselves in when we know, deep down, without any feelings of doubt, that we are content and secure in Christ.

Paul often encourages us to Rejoice, and again I say, rejoice.” 

Nehemiah states that “The joy of the Lord is your strength.”

When we take deep, satisfying joy in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, we are strengthened, we are encouraged, and we are renewed. Even in our darkest moments, when the storms of life assail us on all sides, we take comfort in our salvation through what Jesus Christ has done for us on the Cross of Calvary.

Without Him

Without Him, our lives would be nothing.

Without Him, we would be lost.

Without Him, we would be without hope.

This is why we remember Him, and we remember Him on a weekly basis when we celebrate the Lord’s Supper (Communion).

Jesus said, Do this in remembrance of Me.”

Without remembering Him weekly, our lives will be lived weakly.

˄TH

Australian King Parrot

Australian King Parrot (Photo: Trevor Hampel)

You need Jesus

GOD LOVES YOU.

God desires to have a living relationship with you and give you salvation, purpose and eternal life. It is an important decision that only you can make, but you need to make it.

1. You have a past: Scripture – the Bible – states clearly that everyone in the world is guilty of sin – and that includes you and me. The Bible says “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

2. Sin has its price: The Bible also tells us that “the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23) The wages of work is money, but the wages of sin is death. Death in this context means separation from God forever. But there is good news.

3. Christ paid for your sin: Even though we are sinners, Jesus Christ loves us so much that he died in our place to pay for our sin. He took the punishment in our place. “But God demonstrated his own love for us in this while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

4. Believe in Jesus: To become a Christian and have the assurance of eternal life is a personal decision only you can make.

The Bible says: “If you confess with you mouth, Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9) The word “believe” here means to entrust your life completely over to Jesus Christ. That’s what real faith is – asking Jesus Christ to be Lord of your life.

The next step

If you’d like to begin a personal relationship with Jesus today, we encourage you to pray this prayer:

“Dear Lord Jesus, I admit that I am a sinner. I believe that you died for me and that your blood paid for my sins. I ask for your forgiveness. I want you to be my Lord and saviour. Thank you for dying for me, and for forgiving my sin and for giving me eternal life. Help me to turn away from my sin and follow you as my Lord and saviour. Lead me and guide me from this day on. Amen.”

You have made an important and life-changing decision.

We encourage you to contact us (click here). We will promise to pray for you. If you live within easy travel of our church in Murray Bridge, South Australia, we would welcome you into our church and help you on your journey.

Adapted from “The Word for today” written by Bob and Debby Gass (Nov-Jan 2013 edition). UCB Australia.

Used with permission.

Pray without ceasing

Pray without ceasing

It is my experience that many Christians would agree that prayer is an important part of any believer’s life, but do not follow through with a vital, active prayer life themselves. That is like someone agreeing that breathing is important to life, but it’s not a part of their every-day activities. “Yes, breathing is important,” they say, “but it’s just not one of my spiritual gifts. I’m not much good at it.” Yes, we can laugh at such an attitude, but that’s the way some people view prayer.

Pray without ceasing.

Look back through the letters Paul wrote to the early churches. Observe how many times he encourages them to pray; unceasing, vital, life-changing prayers. It is one of the Christian life principles Paul repeats over and over. Surely he is telling us something very important if he repeats it so often.

Jesus and prayer

But what about Jesus? Surely the Son of God wouldn’t need to pray. Surely he was so in tune with his heavenly Father that prayer was superfluous. Wrong. A few years ago, our home Bible study group worked through Mark’s gospel. In the midst of discovering many things through this intensive study, one thing stands out: Jesus prayed – and he prayed often.

Time out with God

Even in the busiest times of ministering to others, Jesus took out time to be alone with his Father and to pray. It appears from Mark’s account that the busier Jesus became, and the more the crowds pressed in on him for healing and teaching, the more he needed to spend time in prayer. Mark records that Jesus would leave them and go up into the hills to pray, often before dawn. If Jesus, who was in constant touch with his Father, found it vital to have an active prayer life, how much more should we pray.

Pray without ceasing.

We are all facing another new year.  Waiting patiently on God’s leading is not easy for those who only want action, or who want things to happen yesterday. I believe that a season of focussed prayer and patient waiting is important to determine future directions, not just individually, but also as a fellowship of believers.

Pray without ceasing.

˄TH

PASTORAL CARE:

For urgent Pastoral Care matters, prayer requests, and other urgent concerns, please contact one of the following:

  • Pastor Grant Spangenberg: 8532 2883 or 0419 848 336
  • Elder Trevor Hampel: 8532 3701 or 0408 839 381 (or use the Contact form above)
  • Elder Ted Smith: 0438 850 270
Photo: Trevor Hampel

Photo: Trevor Hampel

Prayer is Foundational to the Christian

Prayer is absolutely foundational to anything we wish to do as a church.

Our sermon yesterday took the title: “Your prayer life – a Force or Farce?” (You can hear this sermon later this week on our church app.)

In thinking about the discipline of prayer, Donald Bloesch in his book The Struggle of Prayer writes: “The Bible does not prescribe the time or length of prayer, but it does offer guidelines. In Psalm 88 prayer is offered in the early morning (v.13), and in Psalm 55 prayers are said evening, morning and at noon (v.17).

Daniel knelt for devotions three times a day (Daniel 6:10). Jesus prayed before sunrise, (Mark 1:35), and in the evening when the day’s work was over (Mark 6:46). Peter prayed at the third, sixth and ninth hours.

Just as the Christian is not bound to ritual laws that regulate the preparation for prayer, so we are not absolutely bound to set times of prayer. Yet, there are times that are more appropriate for prayer than others: the gathering together for worship, the hours before work and bedtime, the time right before meals, when we need to remind ourselves of the goodness of God. But a Christian should feel free to pray anywhere, anytime, in the midst of daily work and play as well as in the solitude of their room in the early morning or late in the evening.”

Benediction:

May the Almighty and ever-present God Guide, direct and enable your life and witness in this new week before us. Amen.

˄GS

Reminder: all sermons are uploaded to our church app around the middle of each week. The app is completely free.

PASTORAL CARE:

For urgent Pastoral Care matters, prayer requests, and other urgent concerns, please contact one of the following:

  • Pastor Grant Spangenberg: 8532 2883 or 0419 848 336
  • Elder Trevor Hampel: 8532 3701 or 0408 839 381 (or use the Contact form above)
  • Elder Ted Smith: 0438 850 270

    Pray Morning, Noon and in the Evening. (Photo T. Hampel)

    Pray Morning, Noon and in the Evening.                                    (Photo T. Hampel)

The vital importance of prayer

Pray without ceasing

It is my experience that many Christians would agree that prayer is an important part of any believer’s life, but do not follow through with a vital, active prayer life themselves. That is like someone agreeing that breathing is important to life, but it’s not a part of their every-day activities. “Yes, breathing is important,” they say, “but it’s just not one of my spiritual gifts. I’m not much good at it.” Yes, we can laugh at such an attitude, but that’s the way some people view prayer.

Pray without ceasing.

Look back through the letters Paul wrote to the early churches. Observe how many times he encourages them to pray; unceasing, vital, life-changing prayers. It is one of the Christian life principles Paul repeats over and over. Surely he is telling us something very important if he repeats it so often.

Jesus and prayer

But what about Jesus? Surely the Son of God wouldn’t need to pray. Surely he was so in tune with his heavenly Father that prayer was superfluous. Wrong. A few years ago, our home Bible study group worked through Mark’s gospel. In the midst of discovering many things through this intensive study, one thing stands out: Jesus prayed – and he prayed often.

Time out with God

Even in the busiest times of ministering to others, Jesus took out time to be alone with his Father and to pray. It appears from Mark’s account that the busier Jesus became, and the more the crowds pressed in on him for healing and teaching, the more he needed to spend time in prayer. Mark records that Jesus would leave them and go up into the hills to pray, often before dawn. If Jesus, who was in constant touch with his Father, found it vital to have an active prayer life, how much more should we pray.

Pray without ceasing.

We are all facing another new year.  Waiting patiently on God’s leading is not easy for those who only want action, or who want things to happen yesterday. I believe that a season of focussed prayer and patient waiting is important to determine future directions, not just individually, but also as a fellowship of believers.

Pray without ceasing.

˄TH

Photo credit: Trevor Hampel

Photo credit: Trevor Hampel

God with us

Last week, as we moved towards that special time of year once again, one word has been foremost in my mind: Immanuel. This word does not appear many times in the Bible, but perhaps the most significant occurrence is in the first chapter of Matthew’s gospel: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).

Imagine that: God with us. The God who created the amazing universe came as a little babe in those humble circumstances in the little town of Bethlehem. How amazing, and how wonderful that He humbled himself and dwelt amongst us. This, truly, is the wonder of Christmas.

However, we all know that the narrative does not end there. The baby Jesus and his parents were under threat from Herod, so they fled to Egypt, becoming refugees. Later they return to their homeland where Jesus grows and becomes the teacher that we know so well as it is recorded for us in the word of God.

The wonder of Christmas week cannot be divorced from the events of Easter week. The triumphant entry into Jerusalem, the cries of “Hosanna, Hosanna in the highest”, the poignancy of the last supper in that upper room, the agony of the garden of Gethsemane, the betrayal and arrest in the dark of night, the sham of a trial, and the shame of the cross of Calvary. This is all part of the story which has drawn millions of believers in Jesus Christ to acknowledge him as Lord and Saviour.

Furthermore, the narrative does not end there. The multitude of witnesses who saw our risen Lord, the doubters who would not – could not – believe unless they saw the nail prints in his hands and the countless believers down through the ages who take comfort in the resurrection from the dead, and His victory over sin and death.

This is what we celebrate.

Not just a babe in a manger.

Not just the heavenly host singing hallelujahs.

Not just the adoring shepherds or the worshipping magi.

We worship a living Saviour. We remember his death in our place and his resurrection. We remember his sinless body sacrificed in our place. We remember his precious blood poured out so that we might have forgiveness of sin, and cleansing from all unrighteousness.

We remember him.

Until he comes again, we remember that God is with us.

˄TH


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