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Is it time to walk away from Jesus?

Giving birth is really difficult and very painful. This is second-hand information, to be sure; but I have it on good authority that this statement is undeniably and universally true. Enough said on birth, let me extrapolate the point: things that are difficult and painful can be very good things indeed. For is it not life and new humanity that is the result of those difficulties and that pain?

But our culture is pain-averse and is largely therapeutic. That is, we spend much time and many millions trying to minimise and avoid pain, and though much of this is well-intentioned the truth remains that some good things, even great things, only come to us through pain and through difficulties.

Imagine for a moment the silly scenario of an expectant mother avoiding for years, if she were able, the birth of her child. She waddled around free of the pain and difficulties of child-birth, but no life ever came forth! In this imaginary scenario she avoided much pain, but she also missed out on much life. How tragic!

Or what about the young man who had a passion and a calling to become a medical doctor, and yet he was averse to the pain of study and the hours of research and training needed? Sure, when he came to his exams he had experienced little pain and discomfort over the year in his studies, but then he failed. By now you are thinking of the commonly used phrase “No Pain No Gain”, and so you should be. For reasons known mostly to Himself, God has woven pain and struggle into our humanity in a way that we are fools to always try and avoid pain.

True, some pain must be avoided and fought: the pain inflicted by violence or evil words, the pain inflicted by poverty, the pain inflicted by betrayal and rejection, and the pain experienced through loneliness. But not all pain is to be avoided.

In John 6 we read of a time when, due to the heat and pressure rising in following Jesus, many, yes many, disciples turned away. “It’s too difficult”, they grumbled. “It costs too much” lamented others. The result was that “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.” Think about that breathtaking statement for just a minute: here they were with the Son of God speaking words of life and bringing in the kingdom of God on earth, and they walked away!  And then with the few friends he has left, Jesus turns to them and says “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Only Simon Peter spoke up and said “no”, which wasn’t really very encouraging for Jesus, was it?

Maybe in our culture and society at the moment we wonder if it is too difficult and too painful to follow Jesus. But remember that principle of pain leading to life? Those who walked away from Jesus missed the resurrection, missed the joy of the early church and maybe even missed the kingdom of God. It might be Friday in our part of the world, but don’t forget that with Jesus, Sunday is always on its way.

Nicholas Tuohy

Let God’s Kingdom Come!

Dear friends, our church is making a difference for God’s kingdom in this world.

Every time you pray, every time you gather with other disciples to pray, worship and serve, every time you choose to go Christ’s way, every time you give of yourself and finances to Christ’s mission, you are part of an unstoppable tsunami of believers in Jesus across the globe, advancing God’s kingdom.

Here’s why we need to persist, be faithful and not give up:

1. We’ve won. We are on the winning team: God’s team. This is not arrogance or hubris; think about it: Christ has conquered sin, death and the powers of evil. The battle is over and we are in the mopping up stage. God in His mercy and grace is allowing time for more people to respond to His invitation of love and forgiveness. And we get to hand out the invites! The world won’t end in climate catastrophe, nuclear holocaust, the sun falling from the sky or a meteor plummeting to earth. This age will end when God steps back into view and brings the fullness of His reign of righteousness, peace and joy. There will be a renewed earth and heavens, without sin, darkness or death. Hallelujah!

2. Some haven’t won yet. There are people without hope, without the light of Christ, lost, afraid and burdened by shame and guilt. God wants them too! This is why great Christian fellowship and churches that are great communities can be such a problem: we can forget about the people around us who God longs to welcome home. We have a mission given by Christ and we must take it seriously and to heart. God does.

3. Purpose and meaning. Nothing could be more worthwhile than partnering with God to see lives transformed and healed by the good news of Jesus, peace and harmony in our world, generosity and kindness abounding, and unity and friendship among all peoples. Make sure you work and energy is spent on God’s kingdom purposes and you will be most fulfilled and most satisfied.

As I look around our church I see people serving others through Love Abbotsford, visiting Carrical rooming houses, visiting the sick and shut in, being present at Highbury Common to connect with neighbours, generously giving financially to the mission and ministry of our church, sharing life and love in small groups, serving in worship teams on Sundays, kindly serving others through morning tea and supper, reaching out to new people to include them and make them welcome, opening homes for hospitality, committing regularly to gather in worship, praying for one another, putting people and God before money and status, caring for justice and the needs of the poor, and so much more! We may be one church, but we are part of an unstoppable tsunami of grace, love and justice that is God’s kingdom. As Jesus prayed, so it will come to pass: “Let your kingdom come!”

Nicholas Tuohy

Jesus: The Final King

This term at both 10am and NightChurch, we’ve been enjoying hearing from God through the Old Testament; in Joshua at 10am, and journeying with King David at NightChurch. One understandable question is; why do we read about King David, whereas Joshua is just, well, Joshua?

In Joshua’s day, God ruled his people, with Joshua as his spokesperson, leader and servant. Following Joshua’s death, other Joshua-like figures, the “judges”, represented God’s rule to his people. While these warrior-prophet-leaders were a mixed bag, the final leader, Samuel was faithful to God. The turning point comes during Samuel’s time, when the people of Israel, frustrated at the (mostly) bad judges they’ve had to put up with demand a king, “such as all the other nations have” (1 Sam 8). Despite Samuel’s and God’s best efforts to warn them how much worse this will be, eventually God grants their request and Samuel is instructed to get them a king. Saul, the first king, starts well, but soon becomes unfaithful. David is the second king, and is described by God as a “man after my own heart” (Acts 13:22). However, even David’s reign is not without disappointment, and following David, a succession of mostly unfaithful kings shows the worst in human nature. Clearly God kept his promise and gave his people kings “such as the other nations have”.

Given this rough history of human kings, an easy assumption would be that God would seek to return the people to the Joshua-model of leadership; a warrior-prophet hearing from God, with God the Father as the ultimate ruler. The surprise is that God is committed to a human king ruling his people; a human king that will get it right this time, as David almost did. A human king who will guide his people unlike the kings of the nations, but justly, faithfully and mercifully. For example, in Daniel, we read of this promised future human king: “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. … His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.” (Daniel 7:13-14)

Less surprising is that this promised king is Jesus, the final king of God’s kingdom. Jesus is the one who finally gets it right. And because of that, Jesus is the one that we ultimately should follow.

In Joshua and David, we are given two great portraits of leaders of God’s people; one in the warrior-prophet era, and one a coronated king. Both are wise, faithful, courageous, and even humble in confessing their short-fallings (Joshua 7:6-9, 2 Samuel 12:13-17). We can look to both as models for faithful living. But ultimately, our model is Jesus, the only completely obedient king.

Paul Pallot

King David: The Worshipping Warrior

King David is a towering figure in Jewish and Christian history. A young shepherd boy who rose to be a great king, a songwriter and poet, a military strategist and warrior, a passionate worshipper of God, and a person who made big mistakes.

This week at NightChurch we begin a teaching series on David’s life and seek to discover how to live a life of worship that is deeply spiritual, but also fully integrated into our daily lives and lived experience. If you want to get a head start, read through 1 & 2 Samuel. Here’s a summary of David’s life from one commentator:

“As he is presented in the Bible, David was ideally suited to the tasks of kingship that came to him. His popular following, his victories over the Philistines and others, and his establishment of a powerful kingdom show him to have been a shrewd military strategist and motivator. His successful courting of the factions in Israel and Judah, and his forging of a united Israel that retained its identity for close to 80 years, showed his political skills; and his descendants were able to retain their position on the throne in Jerusalem for centuries afterward. Administratively, his establishment of the military, civil, and religious bureaucracies displayed yet another dimension of his talents.

David’s skills as a poet, musician, and sponsor of music were renowned as well. His compositions in 2 Samuel and the Davidic psalms demonstrate a poetic genius. His sponsorship of, and involvement in, religious celebrations in connection with the ark show his musical talents and interests. We even read of “instruments of David” that he created or that were associated with him (2 Chr 29:26; Neh 12:36; cf. Amos 6:5).

David displayed a fine religious sensitivity [and] the Davidic psalms demonstrate this…[and] David’s relationship with his God, his concern for others’ welfare, his ready repentance when confronted with his sin, and his concerns for the religious matters pertaining to the temple and the cult all evidence this as well.

Ultimately, however, David’s lasting significance lay in his position as the LORD’s chosen king for Israel and as the father of the royal dynasty that the LORD chose to bless. He occupied a midpoint between his great ancestor Abraham and his great descendant Jesus. The promises made to David stood in continuity with those to Abraham, and they pointed to a messianic ideal of great promise for the world, an ideal that, so Christians have affirmed, found its expression in Jesus, the Christ.”

David M. Howard Jr., “David (Person),” The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1992).

Christians and Same-Sex Marriage

The issue of redefining marriage has proved such a thorny and contentious one, and there is much heat around it with people from all sides feeling passionate about different issues. Since the Government has decided to fulfil its election promise to hold a plebiscite on redefining marriage, what follows are my thoughts about how we prayerfully and intentionally live as followers of Jesus as we discuss and debate the issues. If you would like to discuss your thoughts on these issues, please do!

Ten Commandments for Christians regarding the public discussion on redefining marriage in the upcoming Plebiscite (and pretty much discussing everything else)

  1. At every chance, promote peace, compassion, civility and cohesion (remember Jesus: “Blessed are the peacemakers”) 
  2. Listen more than you speak (remember James, the brother of Jesus: “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak”) 
  3. In a democracy everyone is free to share their views, but do so with respect and love (remember the Apostle Paul: “Speak the truth in love”)
  4. Do not demonise or inhumanly objectify other Christians who have a different view to your own (remember Jesus: “Love one another”)
  5. Never vilify, hate, belittle, abuse, scorn or condemn other people (remember Jesus: “Do not judge…Do not condemn”)
  6. Speak and act as though EVERY person – regardless of sexuality, politics or ideology – is of infinite worth, is intrinsically precious and made in the image of God (remember Psalm 8: “God has made humans a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honour”)
  7. Do not retaliate if you are vilified, hated, belittled, abused, scorned or condemned (remember Jesus: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you”)
  8. God is the ultimate wise and good judge, not you (remember the Apostle Paul: “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church?”)
  9. Scrutinise the goodness and love of your own life before you try to sort others out (remember Jesus: “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye”)
  10. Whatever the result of the Plebiscite, we are called to continue God’s work of loving our neighbour, helping the poor, the disabled, the elderly, refugees and the sick, eradicating disease and hunger, caring for our environment, serving others, working for world peace, creating beautiful art, showing gracious hospitality and sharing the life-transforming gospel message of God’s love in Jesus Christ (remember Jesus: “take up your cross and follow me”)

Nicholas Tuohy

(I posted this on my Facebook profile last week and it has currently had around 750 likes and shares, which shows it struck a chord with people.)