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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Whose slave are you?

This is an outline of the message I gave at the Parkrose Nursing Home Service today.

Are you a slave of Sin or of Righteousness?


Dead to Sin, Alive in Christ

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with,[a] that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.
Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.
11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. 14 For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.
12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. 13 And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. 14 For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.
From Slaves of Sin to Slaves of God
15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! 16 Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? 17 But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. 18 And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. 19 I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness.
20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Whose Slave are You?

Romans 6 is in my opinion, and that of many others ,one of the most important passages that Christians need to take hold of and understand.

Many of us, if we are of the Evangelical Christian tradition, are quite happy to accept Jesus as our Saviour at the start of our Christian life.

In Church of Christ experience that is usually followed not long after in being baptized by full immersion.

Other denominations do things a bit differently regarding baptism.

When we are born again we are said to be new creations in Christ, the old has been done way with and we enter into newness of life.

Sadly many Christians might have a burst of enthusiasm in their early Christian years and at least give the appearance of living a new life but that often falls away. By falling away I mean falling into sinful habits.

You might wonder at the title of this talk.

Whose slave are you?
That idea conjures up all sorts of things .

Many of us have such pride that we might declare, especially in marriage, something like this.

“do it yourself then, I am not your slave.”

Ray Stedman in his sermon on this passage tells this story:
Rs  “Some years ago in Los Angeles I saw a man walking down the street with a sign on his shoulders. The front of it said, "I'M A SLAVE FOR CHRIST." On the back of it, as he passed, you read, "WHOSE SLAVE ARE YOU?" It is a good question because all of us are slaves to one or the other of these two masters -- sin or righteousness. We have no other choices. By the very nature of our humanity, we are made to serve and to be controlled by forces beyond our power.”
By virtue of living in a place like Parkrose you might say to your self well how can I be a slave to sin in this place?

I can’t get up to much mischief here!

My life is pretty much set  for me and I am under the authority of those looking after me.
The truth is we can still be very much a slave to sin if we still have our tongues working.

Think of this from James chapter 3.

When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

This passage,Romans 6, talks about our members being slave to sin.

“12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. 13 And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.”

Our tongue, whether we are out in the wide world or living in care or a residential facility such as this, is the member that is most in need of being curbed and made  obedient to Christ, a slave to Christ.

Here are some thoughts from Ray Stedman on this.

A small but telling poem.
“I said a very naughty word only the other day.
   It was a truly naughty word I had not meant to say.
But then, it was not really lost, when from my lips it flew;
   My little brother picked it up, and now he says it, too.

That is the way sin begins to spread. And part of the slavery is that when you yield yourself to something, and do it two or three times before you wake up to what is going on -- it is getting out of control and going beyond what you wanted -- it becomes difficult to begin to change. Something resists every opportunity you take to try to change. It is hard to go back. A habit has begun that is hard to change.”

Have you seen those cups or tea shirts and a variety of tings that have written on them “What would Jesus say?”

We should learn to make that thought automatic before we say anything.

I am very conscious of when I stand before you that I need to be very careful what I say and teach.

This is also from James 3
“Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.”

You know when I was a fairly new Christian, very enthusiastic, and a reasonably new husband I used to sometimes abuse even this passage when in conversation with my wife.

When Lesley would occasionally give me a lecture and tell me off about some failings of mine I thought as a Christian I could quickly fix that by saying

“James 3”

I can tell you that doesn’t work!

I now more graciously accept her reprimands.

I am actually grateful for them as she is usually 100 percent right.

Getting back to Romans 6 Ray Stedman say this.
  • “RS  In this chapter we are dealing with a very practical problem, one that every Christian must wrestle with. The problem is stated by the apostle very plainly in the first verse of this chapter: "What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?" This whole sixth chapter deals with what happens when a believer sins. We do not like to think that believers do sin; but, unfortunately, we do.”
The apostle Paul says “god forbid!” No absolutely not!
The truth is that even though as new Christians we have entered into a new life by the grace of God, we will not be changed unless we make Jesus Lord.
We are told in our Baptism we have been crucified with Jesus and we rise up out of the water into a new life.
We have entered into His burial and resurrection by way of our Baptism which is both a symbol of the reality of what we have entered into with Jesus but is also the means or the vehicle which seals this transaction.
We hear the phrase “entering the waters of baptism in “obedience to Christ”
As we are told in Acts 2:38 we receive the forgiveness of our sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit at our Baptism..
38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
We ,because of this, can say with the Apostle Paul “It is no longer I that live but Christ that lives in me!”

The secret of the Christian life and saying no to sin and sin’s champion, the devil, is appropriating our position in Christ.
We are to give up our right to ourselves.
Always trying to justify our actions.
The only way we can be justified is through the death burial and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We are to put on Christ as our clothing of righteousnous.
We exchange our life for His . We become His slave or you might like to use the softer word, servant.
We make sure we maintain that position by walking in the light.
That would be aother whole sermon, what that means.
Simply the light, or revelation of God, in the bible is our guide.
If we do sin remember we are able to confess our sin and repent of it and maintain our relationship with our Lord.
If we let our sin build up sin upon sin we are never going to know the freedom that only Jesus can bring.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Having Conflict in your Marriage?

Over the years I have seen far too many Christian Marriages and other marriages  come to a sad end.
In some my wife and I have counselled with couples and some have got things together and their marriage has endured and grown.

Others sadly not.

Here are some things to consider for anyone contemplating ending their Christian marriage.

1. It is never God's will that a Christian marriage fails. If it is not His will you can expect He will provide the necessary tools to strengthen and grow your marriage.
He does.

2. You will see a link attached  here to a short video clip by Dr. Charles Solomon of Grace Fellowship International. He points out that the marriage is not the problem but the people in it.
That first the people need to know who they are in Christ and then to know and experience the freedom that being crucified with Christ brings. Dying to self.
Jesus living in you.
Do not be put off by Dr. Solomon's dead pan  delivery. He is an old man in his 90's but this is the wisdom of Solomon in more ways than one.

3. Another thing that people don't understand is that they are not "wrestling with flesh and blood".
   The devil wants to destroy their Christian home and marriage. He is very happy when they fight with each other and are blinded to what he is doing.
He often uses Christian people to give ungodly advice that is not centered in the Cross of Jesus and all that is available through the Cross.
The wisdom of man that is called "common sense" often prevails.
Common sense is often just that Common!
There are two persons wanting to control our lives.
One is God ,The Holy Spirit, one is the devil.
We have the choice as to who we let take control.
Sadly some Christians don't even realise there  is a devil.

4. It is not too late to save your marriage, sometimes even after separation and divorce.
    Seek Godly counsel and read Christian Literature that is about saving your marriage.
Talk to people who want to help you work it out not those who have already failed in their own marriages or given up.
Many of those if they were honest would tell you that plan B or C or D is not all that it is cracked up to be.
Go to Jesus the Counsellor.
It can be better than it ever was even after years of bickering and fighting.

5. Learn how to Walk in the Spirit, Abide in Christ . Learn and then practice your faith.
No one is a fully mature, fully developed Christian at their new birth. It is a lifetime growth experience.

You don't have to be perfect to know your freedom in Christ.

6. Do not listen to the lies we have come into our heads such as

"I cannot change how I am, I was born like this."

" I would never give up my beliefs  about  how things should be."

"I can't see that person ever changing and I'm not going to"

"That's not how I was brought up."

7. Realise, if we are Carnal Christians, that we are always trying to justify our sin and poor behaviour by blaming someone else and not looking at ourselves.

We won't let go of our pride.

Lastly listen to this sermon on the link below about the Cross of Christ.

If you listen to it you will see that you will desperately want to forgive all those you have wronged you including the one you are divorcing or separating from.
I qualify that statement by saying to you let the Holy Spirit speak to you through it and you should never be the same again.
Listen to at at least once a week until you get the message of the Cross.

If you are not moved by it then you are being blinded by the enemy.

Read the transcript as you listen to the audio.

your Christian Servant

Geoff Thompson

Ps I am not making light of the struggles and hurt people experience in their marriages.
Where violence is being experienced and ongoing then there is a case for separation.
Personal safety of yourself and loved ones is paramount.

Whether you stay married or not Jesus is the only one who can give you the desires of your heart, not another person, another mate who you might think is compatible. That person also has all the same human failings as your current partner and yourself.

From The Wayside Chapel by Graham Long

 Please note Graham is a family friend and a relative through marriage.

Dear Inner Circle,

All was pretty quiet in the nursing home on my last visit with my Mum. She was sleeping in the lounge area and I woke her up with a kiss. We held hands and she told me how blessed she was to be receiving the best of care. She pointed out various staff members and told me how much she loved them. At one stage I told her that I was thinking about writing another book. She looked me in the eye and gave me her best advice. She told me to centre myself in God rather than myself and “something of the power of prayer and the power of right living will come through your words.” She was so warm and generous with me and it took me ages to realise that she didn’t know who I was. She told my sister later that she’d been visited by the most lovely man.

Every time I went downstairs yesterday I saw Kate, one of our community workers, sitting alongside someone on our front deck. Sometimes it looked like she was sorting out minor matters for people and sometimes it looked like she was being alongside someone in their darkest moment. It was Wayside at its best and Kate is a gem. After dark I went downstairs and observed our Twilight Team in action. John (our very own saint and another of our community workers) was dressed in a Chinese style hat that had a pony tail attached and he was calling bingo numbers. This probably sounds unremarkable but the early hours of dark are often the toughest for people who have not been able to find a bed for the night. For those who have had a rough day and have nowhere to go, twilight is more than just the time when the light of day fades. John’s work was not about “legs 11” or “two fat ladies 88”, it was a stunning, breathtaking, hopeful act of love and engagement. The cafe was busy and Mitzi, who leads the Twilight Team, was overseeing everything in her unique, gentle way. As I walked away, I was never more proud to be a part of such a team. A man and a woman joined me as I walked up the street. They are clearly in love and many times in the day I had seen them in a deep embrace. Part of me wanted to say, “Get a room” but under the circumstances, such an expression could not have been more cruel. They carried with them some warm clothes that we’d found and several blankets. I guess they were headed to a nearby park for the night. As I climbed into my own warm bed last night, I couldn’t help but think of these two and hope that their love made the cold bearable.

The other day I read that in London people are erecting “homeless spikes”. Just like pigeons are kept off window sills, homeless people are being kept off public places by spikes. The older I get the more I think I’m an alien in this world. I understand and support the notion that we as families and as a society should not live beyond our means but this can be done without making victims of the poor. We can be humane and careful if we choose to do so. Pain can be shared without looking for someone to blame. For the foreseeable future I can't see how Australia could have the cheek to talk to any other country about human rights. We are in a moment where good people must stand up and speak up. We need to assert again the dignity of the human person and insist our leaders turn a “fair go” from an empty cliche to real, living policies. I urge every member of the inner circle not just to be upset about the current trends but to act. Do something lovely for someone. Let your words be more than noise in the air. Donate to ease the burden of someone who is sleeping rough or who has hit hard times. Let your vote of confidence in humanity move from your head to your heart and to your wallet. For those who are long term members of this inner circle, you’ll know I only ask for money twice a year; at Christmas and at the end of financial year, so if you’re in a position to do so, please give to our winter appeal here before June 30.

We will gather tomorrow morning at Wayside to lay to rest a woman whose personality animated this place for more than 30 years. I’ll miss her laugh and sense of fun. Our friend died at age 47 and every one of those years was a battle. This lady has proved that the highest and most noble is revealed in difficult circumstances rather than when the way is easy. I predict a large funeral and a mighty outpouring of love for a woman whose presence added grace to our days.

Thanks for being part of our inner circle,

PS. If you're around next Monday, I'd love to see you at a special 'Wayside Voices' event we're having in our Community Hall from 6pm to 8pm. People from our community will be sharing their own personal experiences of 'love over hate' and what it means to them. There is nothing more powerful than stories about love triumphing over hate. More details here.

Rev Graham Long
Pastor and CEO
The Wayside Chapel
Kings Cross

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Friday, June 13, 2014

Sporting Memories Therapy

I was listening to the BBC radio last evening and heard a report about the use of a Sporting memories therapy approach being used with people with early onset alzheimer's disease.
It struck a responsive cord with me.
Over the last 12 months I have been meeting regulraly for coffee with a group of mainly retired guys of my own age.
We do a lot of reminiscing.
A lot about how wonderful we were in our youth, school days,sporting exploits and sporting memories.
We also analyse the performance of current teams, mainly football and cricket as if we were all experts.
Most of us did play sport at a reasonably competent level.

I have also on an impromptu basis shared viewing of a friday night footy match  or a cricket telecast from England with a mate of mine.
In that time we also do our share of reminiscing and analysis of past and present teams and sportsmen.
As both of us in the past have had bouts of depression it is I think a significant therapy for us.

Elsewhere on this blog I have posted about many Christian approaches to inner peace etc.
The ones I have posted in depth material about are close to my heart and very valid as far as I am concerned.
However the way to human wholeness is much dependent on human interaction and social contact.

We don't have to have a psycho analytical or super spiritual approach to everything.

The best things in life are free it has been often said.

I think this type of therapy and similar things like men's sheds groups are very valuable.
Below is a link to a recent article I found about such therapy in Leeds.

I have also done some reminiscing on this theme on my blog in the past.