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Archive for July, 2015

John McLean’s Life Together

July 24th, 2015
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PNG Pastoral Visit

 Rod Dean and Mark Latham leave tomorrow for a pastoral visit with our members in Papua New Guinea. As Rod is preparing to leave, he wrote the following:

“We leave Saturday morning July25th and return Sunday evening August 9th.

Mark will be focussing on the toilet, showers and building projects while Rod will be holding meetings with pastors, youth leaders, women’s ministry, and the men of the church covering a wide range of theological, pastoral and social issues.

The PNG pastors said on the last trip that they liked the Bible Studies written by Michael Morrison. Margaret McGregor loves to publish and she was the obvious fit to provide a new resource for PNG. She has made books containing a full collection of these. Thank you Margaret.

One of the major social problems, which is also true in Australia, is violence toward women. Churches can be a major influence in changing attitudes. Material on this problem will be shared with the pastors and leaders.  Quite a lot of printed material to supplement discussions will be taken up, as well as being downloaded on a USB. For example edited materials on pastoring from You’re Included interviews with David Torrance and Andrew Purves, on youth work by Jeff McSwain and Andrew Root, as well as suitable material used at US camps have been put together. Camp games and ideas are being selected for possible future camps in PNG. The church is already involved with worship and scripture programs at the local high school and also a number of orphans meet with the church. Recently we heard that our young adults in Mt Wilhelm are contributing more and more to the life of the church and to the weekly service. That is encouraging news.

We will be taking up a coffee grinder and plungers, plus food warmers for the coffee shop and other needed items to finish our projects. We will be presenting gifts of blankets for the men’s haus. We will be checking what is happening with the orphanage, the cobble stone road project and the hydro system at the Catholic vocational school. Mark will be showing how to build vents in their homes to reduce the amount of smoke that is getting into their lungs and affecting long term health.

Please pray for safety, peace in the valley and wisdom for us to support their growth in a sound way.”

 This is wonderful servant ministry to our people in PNG. As you can see, a full program is planned, and already significant progress and positive growth has come about through this ongoing ministry. Our heartfelt thanks to Rod and Mark, and those who have gone before them, for their sacrificial service and for maintaining and building this relational connection in our fellowship.

 PNG remains a difficult and potentially dangerous place to visit. Your prayers for Rod and Mark, and for God’s blessing on their trip, and for all our people there are much appreciated.

 From Al Kurzawa:

Connect Camp 2015

put on by the National Youth Ministry Team (Carissa Sianidis, Phil Gobbe, Drew Garratt, Zane Garratt, Jon Richardson, Al Kurzawa) and supported by the Home Office.

 We had up to 47 people attending at different points throughout Connect Camp 2015 this year at Belgrave Heights, Victoria.  We had young adults from Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia, Victoria, and even some come from New Zealand and the U.S.A. to attend the camp where we disconnect from technology so we can connect with each other in “real”ationships.  The camp started Thursday night, 2 July with most participants arriving between dinner and bed time.  We had a few “get to know you” activities Thursday night and then officially started camp with worship on Friday morning. 

 Throughout the weekend we had sessions which engaged the young adults to think deeply about their Christian journey within an atmosphere of learning, fun, team work, and sharing meal times together.  It was a wonderful window into how we experience our Christian journey in community and fellowship with one another.  We had a session on the difference of bible translations, an interactive session discussing the question “Where is God?”, a small groups session that encouraged everyone to think about why they believe what they do, and then how to feel more comfortable sharing their faith with others.  In amongst the sessions we also had a fun team activity that challenged the young adults in teams of three with physical, mental, and teamwork activities.  There was lots of laughing and lots of stories after the team challenge.  Nights were filled writing on each other’s “words of encouragement” card, playing of games, and lots and lots of conversations.

Connect Camp

 One of the highlights of the camp was the work, involvement, and ownership of the camp by the National Youth Ministry team.  Phil Gobbe organised the camp and took care of all the administrative needs.  His wife Kate, along with her parents took care of all the catering throughout the weekend by preparing and cooking over 300 meals.  Zane Garratt organised the team challenge and presented one of the sessions with Gab De Leon.  Drew Garrett presented a session and Carissa Sianidis gave the sermon on Saturday.  Jon Richardson took care of organising all the songs for worship as well as playing the guitar.  Pastors Matt Gudze and Al Kurzawa were also able to contribute through presenting sessions, participating in a Q and A session, and just getting to hang out with all the young adults throughout the weekend.  It was great seeing the whole team along with others contribute and making the camp such a wonderful success. 

 We had the privilege of an extra treat this year with the presence of song writer and performer Vanessa Kersting.  She accompanied the worship band on piano for Saturday afternoon service and then treated the entire camp to a beautiful concert Saturday night.  Several of the songs she encouraged all of us to sing with her creating a beautiful atmosphere for the audience to participate in.  We even had one of the small kids who was there with her parents up and dancing to the music to everyone’s delight.

 Plans are already under way for next year’s camp which will be held in the same venue again.  Thank you to all those that prayed for the weekend.  It was a very positive opportunity where we were able to prepare, encourage, and equip the young adults in our congregations thanks to the grace of God.  Thanks for remembering our young adults and the NYMT in your prayers.

 A Flourishing Life Conference video and audio

 As those of you familiar with our web site may already know, the video and audio from the recent conference are now available. You can watch the videos or listen to of all the sessions online, and/or download the videos and audios (in MP3 form).

 You can use the direct link: click here

 When you do, you will need to log on to the site. If you haven’t already done so, this will enable you to have access to other information and resources to be found there. If you have any trouble logging on, please contact the office or email David Jordison at david.jordison@gci.org.au.

 ACCM Christian Leadership Class for Young Adults

 On the first weekend in August, Melbourne is hosting an ACCM Learning Weekend for our young adults. Our Mooroolbark congregation has kindly offered to provide billeting if needed. I will be teaching the Christian Leadership class with Al Kurzawa and Matt Gudze. This weekend will be an occasion for deepening understanding about the nature of God, and hence the nature of leadership, as well as a wonderful opportunity for our young adults to catch up with and connect with others from around the nation. Your prayers for this weekend, and all our next generation, would be much appreciated. 

 So, as usual, there is much to pray about. Thank you all for your faithful prayers, as we pray for you, together in fellowship with the Father through the Son by the Spirit. What a privilege we share, living each and every day in the grace and love of God.

 May you find comfort and encouragement in that love.

 In Christ,

John

News

OT(2) Judges

July 21st, 2015
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First Message

We are going to be moving on to Judges in this first message.The Bible describes the early Israelite socio-political unit as the tribe. A tribe is attached to a territory. Within the tribe you have clan elders, and the clan elders are the ones who dispense justice. They make decisions regarding the general welfare of the tribe.

Superimposed upon the authority of the elders is the authority of certain inspired individuals. And these are known as judges, and it is the exploits of these individuals that are recorded in the Book of Judges.

Judges to one who exercises many different powers or functions, not merely judicial. The Israelite judge was actually primarily a military leader, commissioned with a specific task, and only in times of national crisis. The judge had a charismatic quality, which in several cases is expressed by the phrase, “the spirit of the Lord came upon him.” God would raise up the judge to deliver the people from a specific crisis.

The judge might muster troops from two tribes, or three tribes, sometimes only a clan or two, which suggests that there was no real national entity at this particular time. We never see more than one or two tribes acting together or some clans of a tribe. The Ark is said to have circulated among the different tribal territories, it did not rest permanently in the territory of one tribe until somewhat late in the period — it comes to rest at a place called Shiloh.

Judges is set between the conquests of Joshua and the Monarchical system around Samuel, Saul and David.

Chapter 1 gives a detailed summary of the situation at the end of Joshua’s conquest, we get a list of all the places they failed to take from the Canaanites, starting in Judah and moving northward. Their failure contrasts to their promise to be faithful.

The list starts in the southern area, in Judah, and then list things in a northward direction. Then in Judges 2:1-5

1 The angel of the Lord went up from Gilgal to Bokim and said, “I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land I swore to give to your ancestors. I said, ‘I will never break my covenant with you, 2 and you shall not make a covenant with the people of this land, but you shall break down their altars.’ Yet you have disobeyed me. Why have you done this? 3 And I have also said, ‘I will not drive them out before you; they will become traps for you, and their gods will become snares to you.’”

4 When the angel of the Lord had spoken these things to all the Israelites, the people wept aloud, 5 and they called that place Bokim. There they offered sacrifices to the Lord.

God will be faithful to his covenant, in other words. But it is a two-way street. And if Israel does not do her part, she will be punished. The writer is setting us up with that expectation before we even begin to read an account of what happens. The angel then relates that Israel has already not been obedient, so God has resolved that he will no longer drive the Canaanites out before the Israelites. He will leave them as a snare and a trap to test their resolve and their loyalty.

So that opening announcement listing all of the ways in which they had failed to take the land, and the visit by the angel who tells them: you have already failed in so many ways, and so God is not even going to help you to rout the Canaanites any longer — that is followed then in a section from

Judges 2:11 -3:6

11 Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals. 12 They forsook the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They aroused the Lord’s anger 13 because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths. 14 In his anger against Israel the Lord gave them into the hands of raiders who plundered them. He sold them into the hands of their enemies all around, whom they were no longer able to resist. 15 Whenever Israel went out to fight, the hand of the Lord was against them to defeat them, just as he had sworn to them. They were in great distress.

16 Then the Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of these raiders. 17 Yet they would not listen to their judges but prostituted themselves to other gods and worshiped them. They quickly turned from the ways of their ancestors, who had been obedient to the Lord’s commands. 18 Whenever the Lord raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the Lord relented because of their groaning under those who oppressed and afflicted them. 19 But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their ancestors, following other gods and serving and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways.

Israel’s crises are caused by her infidelity to Yahweh, through the worship of Canaanite gods, and for this sin, God sells the Israelites to their enemies and then, moved to pity when they cry out under the oppression, He raises leaders to deliver Israel. This pattern of sin, punishment, repentance and deliverance through leaders is the recurring pattern throughout the book.

20 Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel and said, “Because this nation has violated the covenant I ordained for their ancestors and has not listened to me, 21 I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations Joshua left when he died. 22 I will use them to test Israel and see whether they will keep the way of the Lord and walk in it as their ancestors did.” 23 The Lord had allowed those nations to remain; he did not drive them out at once by giving them into the hands of Joshua.

3:1 These are the nations the Lord left to test all those Israelites who had not experienced any of the wars in Canaan 2 (he did this only to teach warfare to the descendants of the Israelites who had not had previous battle experience): 3 the five rulers of the Philistines, all the Canaanites, the Sidonians, and the Hivites living in the Lebanon mountains from Mount Baal Hermon to Lebo Hamath. 4 They were left to test the Israelites to see whether they would obey the Lord’s commands, which he had given their ancestors through Moses.

5 The Israelites lived among the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 6 They took their daughters in marriage and gave their own daughters to their sons, and served their gods.

And this is a kind of prospective summary of the book.

So if you were to list the stories of the various judges, the major judges — we have six major and six minor judges.

The minor judge is just simply a reference to the fact that they judged for a certain short period of time. and there are six major judges for each of whom there is a lengthy story, beginning with Ehud in chapter 3. Ehud leads the Israelites against the Moabites; a sort of bathroom humor in that one. In chapters 4 and 5, you have Deborah, who helps the Israelites in battle against certain Canaanite groups. You have four chapters, chapters 6-9, recording the adventures of Gideon. Gideon fights against the Midianites.

 Then in 11 and into a little bit of chapter 12, you have the story of Jephthah, who fights against the Ammonites — very tragic story of his daughter,

You also have in chapters 13-16, Samson who, of course, fights against the Philistines.

Then towards the end: you have some interesting chapters at the end. 17 and 18 tell the story of Micah or Micah, and his idolatrous shrine. And then finally, the quite horrifying and gruesome tale, beginning in chapter 19, going on through 20 and 21 — the story of the Levite’s concubine and the civil war.

A couple of observations:

1. The judges are not chosen necessarily for their virtue. These are pretty scrappy characters. You’ve got very interesting, colourful people. You’ve got the illegitimate son of a prostitute. Some of them are crafty, tricky types, a bit like Jacob.

Gideon is also known as Jerubbaal. It is a name that is made with Baal, meaning Baal will strive, or Baal will contend. He erects an idol. The people of Shechem, where he is — after his death they continue to worship Baal Berit, the Baal of the covenant, which is a sort of merger of Baalism and covenantal religion.

Jepthah is an outlaw.

Samson is hardly a moral example.

He can lift up the gates of the city. He can tie the tails of 300 foxes with torches and so on. But this great strong man is undone by his one weakness, which is a weakness for foreign women, particularly Philistine women. And that proves to be his downfall. The foreign gods often accessed through marriage to foreign women, exercised a fatal attraction for Israel. And it was the inability to resist the snare of idolatry that would ultimately lead to ruin.

So these are not meant to be idealized heroes, but very human heroes. We don’t study them to understand what it means to be a Christian.

2.The institution of judges never created fixed political forms. And each judge differed from the last in background, in class, and even gender. We do have one female judge, Deborah, who did exercise judicial functions. But there is a deep concern in this book which creates a major tension in Israel’s history. It is a question of government. A question that has been part of our own church history.

 Sermon Transitional Samuel

 There is a very interesting tension in the Book of Judges that will continue beyond into the Book of Samuel, as well. It is a a tension regarding kingship. The individual stories seem to suggest a very deep-seated distrust of kingship.

So in Judges 8, the people ask one of the judges, Gideon at that time, to become king.

Judges 8:22-27

22 The Israelites said to Gideon, “Rule over us—you, your son and your grandson—because you have saved us from the hand of Midian.”

23 But Gideon told them, “I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you. The Lord will rule over you.”

24 And he said, “I do have one request, that each of you give me an earring from your share of the plunder.” (It was the custom of the Ishmaelites to wear gold earrings.)

25 They answered, “We’ll be glad to give them.” So they spread out a garment, and each of them threw a ring from his plunder onto it. 26 The weight of the gold rings he asked for came to seventeen hundred shekels,[a] not counting the ornaments, the pendants and the purple garments worn by the kings of Midian or the chains that were on their camels’ necks. 27 Gideon made the gold into an ephod, which he placed in Ophrah, his town. All Israel prostituted themselves by worshiping it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and his family.

And indeed, the short reign of Gideon’s ruthless son Abimelekh, which means “my father is king” ironically, is a complete disaster.

The position of judge is temporary. God was viewed as the permanent king in Israel. The temporary authority of the judge derived from the kingship of God. So the judge’s position could not become absolute or permanent or a dynasty. That would be a rejection of God’s leadership. The Book of Judges seems to be against the notion of kingship in Israel. But the book as a whole seems to suggest a certain progression towards kingship.

The final chapters of Judges document Israel’s slow slide into disorder and ultimately into civil war. And many scholars have observed that it is ironic and tragic that the one time the tribes do all act in concert is against one of their own. This is the only time all the other 11 tribes, come out against a common enemy and it is the tribe of Benjamin. At a certain point, however, they realize with some regret that the tribe of Benjamin is near extinction. This is not a good thing, so the other tribes then arrange to kidnap women from Shiloh as mates for the remaining Benjaminites.

At the end of the book of Judges we read:

 Judges 17:6 In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.

 Judges 18:1 In those days Israel had no king.

 Judges 19:2 In those days Israel had no king.

 Judges 21:25 In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.

 The writer seems to be saying something. And of course we could immediately jump on the bandwagon and say “Look at all that chaos and evil.” And then draw the conclusion that God’s way is to have a king: a dynastic order from the top down. Is the conclusion as simple as that?

 And do we study the OT to discover how God’s government works?

 Are we meant to go back to a very ancient people and say that is how the church is to operate if we understand the kingdom of God?

 Is the lesson that God works through one man from the top down to be drawn from these accounts?

 What we have seen in the book of Judge is that a community in which God is the king and led by inspired judges in times of crisis — that institutional structure -failed to establish stability, a stable continuous government. It failed to provide leadership against Israel’s enemies within and without. You have Ammon and Moab to the east. You have the Philistines to the west, and they soon manage to subjugate the entire land. So the tribes seem to be conscious of the need for a strong central authority; and the demand for a king arises. This a reaction to their failure.

In their search for a new political order, the people turn to the prophet Samuel. Samuel is the last in a line of prophet judges, and they ask him to anoint a king for them. The Book of Samuel deals with the transition from the period of the judges to the period of the monarchy.

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Message for the Day

From the Inside Out

July 21st, 2015
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These are notes from the Flourishing Life Conference handed out by Keith Farmer. All scripture are from The Message.

FROM THE INSIDE OUT

John the Baptist

“I’m baptizing you here in the river, turning your old life in for a kingdom life. The real action comes next: The main character in this drama—compared to him I’m a mere stagehand—will ignite the kingdom life within you, a fire within you, the Holy Spirit within you, changing you from the inside out. He’s going to clean house—make a clean sweep of your lives. He’ll place everything true in its proper place before God; everything false he’ll put out with the trash to be burned.”

Matthew 3:11-12

Jesus

“You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

Matthew 5:8

“Don’t think you have to put on a fund-raising campaign before you start. You don’t need a lot of equipment. You are the equipment, and all you need to keep that going is three meals a day. Travel light.

Matthew 10:9-10

“You don’t get wormy apples off a healthy tree, nor good apples off a diseased tree. The health of the apple tells the health of the tree. You must begin with your own life-giving lives. It’s who you are, not what you say and do, that counts. Your true being brims over into true words and deeds.

Luke 6:43-45

They started arguing over which of them would be most famous. When Jesus realized how much this mattered to them, he brought a child to his side. “Whoever accepts this child as if the child were me, accepts me,” he said. “And whoever accepts me, accepts the One who sent me. You become great by accepting, not asserting. Your spirit, not your size, makes the difference.”

Luke 9:46-48

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Message for the Day