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Monday, October 28, 2013

Indoor and Outdoor Church

This weekend I have had the privilege of being guest speaker at 2 Church Services in Renmark,South Australia.
The churches were the Renmark West Uniting Church and Renmark(Town) Uniting Church.
This has come about becuase when visiting my wife's Renmark family reasonably frequently we have attended Renmark West Church with her mother.
The Uniting Church has long had lay people preach in their services.
WEhen it became known hat I occasionally spoke at services in Adelaide I was asked if I could help out from time to time in Renmark.
This weekend was the second time I have spoken in Renmark.
It has been a really wonderful privilege to share with people in both of these churches.
Church is a great place and institution for many reasons.
Worshipping God,fellowship,christian instruction, and much more.
These are indoor Church experiences.
I am equally in awe of God and His creation when in the great outdoors of Australia.
Some say, like my late father in law, that the outback was their Cathedral.
The music of the birds, the wind and colour and wildlife bring me closer to God.
Indoor Church was Sunday.
Outdoor Church was on the Saturday before when I went with my mother in law to the Sunset National Park  for a picnic and drive.
God's majesty was on display there and also closer to home.
Below are some pics and also an outline of the sermon I presented on Sunday.

Sermon  for Renmark 27/10/13

Scripture.   Luke 16:19-31

The Rich Man and Lazarus
19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’
25 “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’
27 “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’
29 “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’
30 “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
31 “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”
Over the years when I have tried to talk to people about their need for salvation , the gaining of heaven and the avoidance of hell, this is a common retort I have been given.

“No one has ever come back to tell us what happens after death.”

But in actual fact Jesus has done just that.

Jesus Himself rose from the dead after His crucifixion and also then appeared to the disciples and others  in His resurrected body.

He had meals with them and talked with them.

Thomas of “Doubting Thomas” fame is reported to have claimed He would not believe  until He saw Jesus himself.

When he did meet Jesus and saw His nail pierced hands , he believed.

The evidence to him must have been overwhelming.

But Jesus blessed Thomas and told him how blessed he was to have seen and believed but even more blessed were those who were not to see but still believed.

That means us of course who have not seen in person the living resurrected Lord Jesus.

A friend of mine has told me over recent months that he can’t believe until he has seen for himself in effect, Jesus standing in front of Him.

I have argued with him that even a blind person can believe in Jesus but can never physically see anyone.

My friend has also argued how can you believe anything is there if you can’t see it.

I have then said well you watch TV and listen to the Radio but you can’t see those electricity waves or tv signals in the air but they are there.

Our radios and TVs or computers of course translate the signal for us to visibly see or hear the result.

Think of the marvel of the internet where we can now be instantly in touch with anyone any where in the world and also actually see them on a screen and talk to them.

All those waves of communication as they travel through the air and even outer space cannot be seen until they are received in a device of some sort specifically designed for the job.

It is of interest in the book of Job that  God foretold these means of communication centuries before they became possible.

He was reminding Job of His sovereignty and absolute power over the whole of creation.

The marvels of His creation.

Job 38: 1. Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said:
“Who is this that obscures my plans
    with words without knowledge?
Brace yourself like a man;
    I will question you,
    and you shall answer me.
Reading furher down;

Job 38:35       Do you send the lightning bolts on their way?
                          Do they report to you, ‘Here we are’?

Or as another translation puts it

“Who among you can send lightnings and say I am here or there?”

This is communication as we know it today.

The Bible tells us that faith comes by hearing,hearing the Word of God.
By hearing the word of God for a period of 3 years, hiding in the back corner of the Church,I became convinced this must be really God speaking and He has a plan for me and anyone else who will listen.

I was hearing the Bible regularly read out and the minister expanding on the passages.

I heard enough to take a calculated leap of faith.

It was not blind faith as some like to describe Christians and their faith.

But faith does not come by seeing the Bible says.

“faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”

In my own l conversion to Christianity I came to faith as I had committed as part of my marriage, to attend Church with my Bible believing Christian wife and my eyes were opened.

Even someone rising from the dead today will not convince anyone of their need to respond to Jesus.

Human nature will always find and excuse or argument to get around even something like that.


Because it is not in our nature to put ourselves under the Lordship of the Lord Jesus Christ.

We want to be “captains of our souls and masters of our fate”

A very smart and eloquent turn of  phrase but if followed it leaves us bankrupt when we depart this earth and often in his life.

We do want to demand our right to our selves.

To be captain and master.

Our Creator is the only one who can set us free from the law of sin and death.

If you have never said yes to  Jesus in your life it is not too late.

If you have said yes to Him have you really turned your life over to

The apostle Paul tells us that the unspiritual man is blinded and cannot see or experience the miracle of new birth and faith until he or she makes that step of faith.

We were all in that state ie. Blinded, if we are Christians ,until we said yes to Jesus.

We see a very sad story in our scripture brought to us today.

There is a rich man, we are not told his name, and a poor man named Lazarus.

(There is another story in the NT of a rich young ruler asking Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life and also another story of another Lazarus being raised from the dead)

Back to these two.

They had both died and “passed on”  as we describe death today.

The rich man is dismayed when he can see the poor man Lazarus enjoying the company of Abraham in Heaven.

The rich man is in torment in Hades or if you like Hell.

Theologians of course argue about Hades and Hell.

We won’t explore that argument today.

It seems to me on reading this passage that the rich man is stuck for eternity.
Abraham tells him there is no hope of crossing over to where he is.

He,the rich man, apparently can converse with Abraham and begs him to send Lazarus back to earth to tell his family in the hope that they will be spared from where he is.

Abraham points out that if the rich man’s family had listened to the prophets  and Moses and acted on the message  they would have been able to avoid the rich man’s predicament.

He goes on to say if they will not listen to Moses and the prophets,they will not be convinced even if someone were to rise from the dead.

The rich man had obviously not heeded God’s commandments through Moses and the Prophets.

And this is true of all mankind today.

Ie. As we now have the word of God as explained in the New Testament.

It has been revealed that we now live in the age of grace,not the age of the Law that these two lived under.

As I listened in Church   to the Word of God faithfully expanded on ,and explained, and the actual words of God  read out, I grew into a believer.
Those words of God were touching my soul,my heart, they were reaching in and ministering at a deeper level than I had known before.

And I did have some deep needs that had seen me floundering in life as a 20 year old.

After 3 years of listening I made a conscious decision to let Jesus into my life.

I was 28 at the time.

I have never been disappointed in that decision made nearly 40 years ago.

I have experienced nothing that can assure me there is a better answer for all our fears and frailties than the living, resurrected Lord Jesus.

I have experienced much that convinces me even further. 

That doesn’t mean life has been a bed of roses.

There is a huge chasm separating us from God unless we accept the living way Jesus has prepared for us.

He is “the bridge over troubled water”

Some of us can remember the Simon and Garfunkel song of that name.

The way of salvation that was open to the rich man and Lazarus is different to  what is available to anyone who has been born since the day of penetcost.

We are living under a new covenant.

The message of today’s reading is very relevant to us in that we need to respond to Jesus and the message of the New Testament.

I realise that in a place like this I may be preaching to  the converted.

But I am one of those converted people and  I too need to make room for Jesus in the busyness and sometimes sillyness and laziness of my life.

Have you any room for Jesus in your life?

We need to give Jesus His rightful claim to our lives for our immediate and future well being now, not before it is too late.

My wife Lesley and I were married in the Cong Church here in Renmark in 1971.

One of our guests was my late Grandmother who apart from my mother was a hugely influential and much loved person in my life.

She was very frail and unwell at our wedding.

We went to live in Darwin straight after our marriage and we had only been their a short while when my Dad rang one night and said my Grandma had died.

I wasn’t a Christian at he time although coi- incidently we had a  room full of Christians in our house on that night.

I never had talked to her about God that I know, not much any way.

She had given me a Bible for a Christmas present on one occasion.

Years later I found in her Bible,(hold up) some important verses underlined.

One was John 1:12

“As many as received Him, to them He gave the power to become the sons of God,even to them that believe on His name.

There is a big gulf between my grandma and I at the moment but Jesus has provided the bridge to walk over.

He has also provided the bridge between us and God.

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