Christmas Carol Service, December 24th

Christmas-CarolsCome and join in our Christmas Carol service on Sunday, December 24th at 10am.

We will be singing and reading our way through the joy-filled story of Jesus’ birth, and celebrating what it means for us and all people, yesterday, tomorrow and forever.

 

Location: Warrane Seniors Centre, 10 Binnalong Road, Mornington.

 

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Breaking Religious Patterns

Matthew 9:9-17

 “On hearing this, Jesus said, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners’” (Matthew 9:12-13).

 

Jesus calling Matthew
The call of Matthew
illustration by Alexandre Bida

Jesus’ purpose and mission is centered on his redemptive work of bringing salvation to sinners. This upsets the status quo and often calls for a radical break from traditional religious norms.

The passage before us (Matthew 9:9-13) describes Jesus’ call to Matthew, a despised tax collector. Matthew worked in Capernaum, where Jesus lived (4:13; 9:1). He would have undoubtedly seen Jesus or at least heard of him before their encounter.

Matthew was probably a customs officer working on Capernaum’s trade route. He was hated and despised by his own people for being a collaborator with imperial Rome. Jewish tax collectors were not allowed in the synagogues. They were an unscrupulous class that had bought or bribed to get their appointments to become very wealthy. They burdened their own people with excess tax, while bribing the wealthy and declaring less tax for them.

It is easy to see why the Pharisees were furious with Jesus’ apparent lax attitude in sharing a meal with Matthew and his kind (sinners). After all, Scripture says that righteous people should not sit with deceitful people or with the wicked (e.g. Psalm 26:4-5). Jesus responds in the opposite of traditional norms. What the self-righteous Pharisees did not understand, and what many churched people today do not grasp, is that Jesus’ redemptive activity must be thrust into center stage. The Pharisees have no reason to accuse. It is like telling a doctor not to get close to the patient because he might get contaminated with the same condition as the patient or get blood on his hands!

The next passage is linked to the previous controversy, but this time it deals with the disciples of John the Baptist (Matthew 9:14-17). It seems that not all of John’s disciples were fully convinced that Jesus was the Christ. Yet they were sincere, and this is probably why Jesus takes time to explain to them new changes already on the horizon of his redemptive mission. The disciples of John and the disciples of Moses (Pharisees) fasted on a regular basis. The Pharisees fasted on Mondays and Thursdays, and the disciples of John apparently did, too. The Pharisees were religious fundamentalists who sought to separate themselves from everything they deemed “worldly.” John’s disciples were probably gloom and doom last-days prophets.

But Jesus’ disciples were radically different, because they were filled with the presence of their Master’s joy! Who can fast when sinners are being saved? Who can separate themselves from the world when salvation is laid at its front door? Who can preach gloom and doom when the message of salvation is good news? The old religious patterns of yesterday will not hold the new wine of today’s new covenant gospel of Jesus.

In both the above passages, Jesus is not concerned with maintaining past shadows for ritual’s sake alone as much as he is concerned with the reality of showing mercy by sharing the good news of God’s saving grace (9:35-38).

Questions to Ponder:

1. As committed followers of Christ, what can we learn from Jesus’ availability and approach in sharing the good news to Matthew and Zacchaeus?

2. What kind of negative response can we expect from some within our own church community? Can you give a discrete example?

3. How did Jesus follow up his call in each of the above cases? What can we learn from this in integrating new believers into the community?

4. Is Jesus’ message to sinners one of condemnation, or one of acceptance? Why can’t old traditions hold the new wine of the gospel? Give examples.

5. What is Jesus’ motive for seeking the lost, and what challenge does he lay at his disciples’ front door and to every generation? See Matthew 9:35-38.

Conclusion

Jesus’ purpose and mission is the salvation of the lost. His encounters with despised sinners and society’s outcasts are centered on sharing the joy of his presence. He wants to live with us; he does not want to exclude us.   We are disciples of this good news!

Lorenzo Arroyo

Permanent link to this article: https://hobart.gci.org.au/?p=620

Join us in November (6-12) for our Retreat at Camp Clayton

The Bible: Written Word, Living Word

Isaiah 55:11 NIV

         so is my word that goes out from my mouth:

         It will not return to me empty,

         but will accomplish what I desire

         and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

We invite you to join us on the relaxing and beautiful North-west coast of Tasmania for a week of fellowship, rejuvenation and inspiration from Monday November 6th, to Sunday 12th, 2017.  Our retreat is being held again at Parkdown, Camp Clayton (between Ulverstone and Devonport), a comfortable and well equipped lodge with accommodation, meeting room and full catering.

Photo sourced from <http://www.campclayton.org.au/index.html with permission.This year we are going to take a fresh and revealing look at the way we read, understand and live with the Bible.  We will consider its nature and purpose–the underlying “script” of the scriptures. How is it inspired, and what it is inspired for?  Is it a manual for life? Is it an encyclopaedic source of truth on all matters of life and fact?  How do we read and interpret books like Genesis, Proverbs, Jonah and Revelation?  How did Jesus interpret the Scriptures?  What is it that God really wants us to see and hear in his Word?

Come and explore these exciting and important questions with us, and learn together how we can read, appreciate and live God’s word more authentically and effectively.

We plan an excursion later in the week with a lunch along the way.  We spend our mornings in study and worship, and the rest of the day relaxing or enjoying the surrounding area, including the beach just near our back door.

There are often cheap flights to Launceston.  Good deals on car rentals are often available. Alternatively you can fly to Devonport or come over on the Spirit of Tasmania ferry.  The average daily cost for room and all meals, including morning and afternoon teas is $90.

To book or make enquiries, contact Geoff Miller, 31 Charles St, Devonport, Tas 7310.  Phone: 03 6424 7109, Email: millergd1@bigpond.com

Whether you are a local, or from another state or country, we warmly invite you to join us!

Permanent link to this article: https://hobart.gci.org.au/?p=487

New Sermons added

Hello,

Thanks to our regular followers for your patience.  I have finally uploaded more sermons to our site.

Here is a list.  You can find them under Sermons.

We hope you find them helpful and encouraging.

 

ID Title Date   Series
100 Who Shall Free Me from Sin? 09 Apr 17   Lent
99 Following Jesus 05 Feb 17   Mission
98 The Source of our Beliefs 22 Jan 17   The Bible
97 Out of Egypt I Called My Son 08 Jan 17   Christmas
96 Namibia Church Visit, September 2016 13 Nov 16   Mission
87 God’s Foolishness 31 Jul 16   Misc.
95 Leadership Challenges in the African Church 24 Jul 16   Mission
94 Life in Perspective 10 Jul 16   Life with God
84 Freeing the Oppressed 26 Jun 16   Misc.
93 Until at Last the Spirit is Poured Out 15 May 16   Pentecost
92 Living Stones 08 May 16   Life with God
91 Atonement in Christ’s Death and Life 17 Apr 16   Easter
90 Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God – The Wrath and Love of the Cross 20 Mar 16   Lent
89 Jesus: Rejection at Home 07 Feb 16   Lent
88 The Good News of the Incarnation 06 Dec 15   Advent
82 Saved to Serve 22 Nov 15   Life with God
86 That You May Live Pure Blameless Lives 27 Sep 15   Misc.
83 Sexual Identity Issues: Towards Graciousness and Inclusion 23 Aug 15   Social Issues

Permanent link to this article: https://hobart.gci.org.au/?p=465

Pentecost Service – June 4, 2017

We are gathering in Campbell Town to celebrate Pentecost again this year.  We hope you can join us in worship and fellowship on this special day.

Time: 11am, Sunday May 15th, 2016

Lunch: We will be having lunch in the meeting room.  Please pre-order your meal if possible.

Campbell Town Hotel

Location: Meeting Room, upstairs, Campbell Town Hotel, 117 Midland Highway, Campbell Town.

Permanent link to this article: https://hobart.gci.org.au/?p=459

Retreat, Ulverstone, 31st October – November 6th

Ulverstone Retreat – Tasmania

 

The Tassie Retreat at Camp Clayton Ulverstone continued to be the spiritually rewarding experience that it has been for many years. Camp Clayton is comfortable and private with most members living onsite. The word “retreat” is given its full value in this delightful location.

Pastor Phillip Hopwood walked the congregation through the Parables of Jesus.  He presented the “Upside down Kingdom” that the parables reveal. How God’s Kingdom opposes everything that human kingdoms claim to be important. Revealing a King that gets down and dirty to solve all adversities that humanity labours under.

Members contributed their own observations and perspective on a parable that had touched them individually.  The presentations came in many styles. Personal, allegorical, rime and rhythm and historical.  All were insightful and encouraging, reflecting our Father’s love for diversity within unity.

Thursday was a free day and members joined in a drive through beautiful farmland to Gunn’s Plains. A light lunch at Kaydale Lodge, Nietta, was followed by walk to the rugged Leven Canyon.  This wonderful day of fellowship has become a memory maker through the years.

We are grateful and joyful toward the visitors that came from interstate, and thank them for contributing so much to this inspirational retreat.  The dates for next year are October 23rd to 20th.

Geoff Miller

A day out.

A day out.

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Leven Canyon

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What is Love?

What is love?

Quite naturally, people search for love. In 2012, What is love? was the most searched-for phrase on Rembrandt_Harmensz._van_Rijn_-_The_Return_of_the_Prodigal_Son_-_Detail_Father_SonGoogle. People define love in different ways: an emotion, action, state of mind, or a combination of these. Though some define it as nothing more than our biochemistry at work, most say love is much more than that, yet they struggle to find an adequate definition. Only God can accurately define what love is. Thankfully he has done so through the apostle John, who wrote, “God is love” (1 John 4:8). It’s important to note here that John is not saying “love is God”—we don’t worship love and we don’t define what love is then apply those definitions to God. In writing that God is love, John is indicating that God’s nature and character—his very being—is loving. All God does is loving, and his will is loving. God’s agape love—his holy love—is what true love is all about. In knowing that, false views of love are exposed and ruled out.

There is a strong note of truth in the song, Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places. People look for love in family, friends and in romantic relationships, but as important as these relationship are, true love (holy, agape love) is found only when a person knows its true source—our triune God. God, who is love, created us for loving relationships, including the male-female relationship that is unique to marriage. Sadly, the deeper nature of God’s agape love often is forgotten when people, searching for romantic relationships, turn love into a search for merely satisfying their erotic desires. But when we ground our thinking on the sure foundation that love is the revelation of God, everything else we think about love, and the way we go about seeking after it, will align with reality and lead to our true fulfilment.

Who is God?

Much in our secular western society reflects the sad reality that, as a people, we have not retained God in our thinking. As a result, many struggle with the question, “Who is God?” As noted above, we know that God is love as a triune communion of holy, agape love—Father, Son and Spirit. Were he not triune, God would need creation or something other than himself in order to be love, because authentic love does not exist in isolation. The stunning truth is that God, who exists eternally in a tri-personal, loving relationship, has called us to share in both his love and life through his Son Jesus, by his Spirit. In that relationship, because we understand that God is love, we trust him to be loving—we trust his plan to bring us into relationship with himself and thus to fulfill his purpose for creating us. We also trust him to be faithful, and we trust the fact that even though we don’t understand everything he does (or allows) we know that his purposes are always good, flowing from who he is and expressing his love for us.

God’s revelation

We see that God is love most clearly, powerfully and directly in the incarnation, life and self-giving of the whole God through the Son of God on the cross. Jesus is God’s love in flesh and blood, in time and space, in Person. To know God that way is far more than “head knowledge”—it’s about a relationship with God, through Jesus, by the Spirit. In and through that relationship we experience God’s love “up close and personal”—much like we do in a truly loving friendship with another human. As C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity,“ God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.” Because he loves us, God has given us himself.

Scripture tells us that the revelation of who God is involves the work of the Father, Son and Spirit. The apostle Paul tells us that as God’s adopted children we are heirs with Jesus. He tells us that the Holy Spirit both leads us into this understanding and into a loving relationship with our Father in heaven. As a fruit of that relationship, we are enabled to have loving relationships with other people, loving our enemies as Jesus did, and seeking reconciliation and right relationship whenever we encounter alienation. The apostle Peter tells us God loves us so completely and profoundly that he includes us in his life:

[God’s] divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire (2 Peter 1:3-4 ESV).

Let us think carefully about these things so that all we think and do (including our evangelism) is grounded fully in the revelation of who God is: love.

Sharing the revelation of God with others,
Joseph Tkach

Permanent link to this article: https://hobart.gci.org.au/?p=355

New Sermons added

Sermons on Colossians, the role of religious observances in our Christian identity, baptism, and the kingdom of God, among others, have been added.  Just go to the Sermons section to read them.  We are planning to add audio and at some stage, video sermons as well.

We hope you find them helpful!

 

Permanent link to this article: https://hobart.gci.org.au/?p=342

Jesus: Double Agent

Christmas, the traditional day for celebrating the birth of Jesus, provides the church its focal point for gratefully acknowledging the Incarnation of the Son of God. In response to this historic event, the angels joyfully praised God (Luke 2:13) as they watched God’s master plan unfold. I believe this is significant to notice. The angels rejoiced because they knew it was God’s desire to be reconciled to his children, and that in Jesus, the children would be reconciled to their Father. The Incarnation is not only for humanity and our reconciliation to God; it is also for the Father whose purpose has always been to be reconciled to his children.

 

Angels Announcing Christ's Bith to the Shepherds by Govert Flinck

 Angels Announcing Christ’s Birth to the Shepherds by Govert Flinck

As fully God, Jesus acts in the role of the reconciler, and as fully human, he acts in the role of the one reconciled. Because he worked for both God and humanity, I fondly refer to Jesus as a “double agent.” But unlike other double agents, Jesus was loyal to both parties. One of my favourite secret agents, James Bond, temporarily saved the UK and the world from terror and ruin as he awaited his next assignment. But Jesus, through his one assignment, redeems and saves the whole world for eternity.

Whether or not the birth of Jesus occurred on December 25 is not important; what is important is that it did occur and is a real event to be celebrated. In Christmas celebrations, Christians honour the reality of the one plan of redemption throughout history—a plan brought about by Jesus Christ, who fulfils the promise to Abraham: “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” (Galatians 3:27-29 ESV). As the one true son of Israel, Jesus is the answer to and fulfilment of all of God’s promises. “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory” (2 Corinthians 1:20 ESV).

As you know, God made a covenant with Israel: “If you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:5-6). Unfortunately, Israel as a nation was not faithful to the covenant as the prophets repeatedly warned: “They have turned back to the iniquities of their forefathers, who refused to hear my words. They have gone after other gods to serve them. The house of Israel and the house of Judah have broken my covenant that I made with their fathers” (Jeremiah 11:10 ESV).

It is only in Jesus’ total obedience as a human son of Israel that the covenant is fulfilled. He is the true Israel of God. He inherits the Abrahamic promises on behalf of of all Israel. And that’s good news for all people because the eternal Son of God, through his Incarnation, became the second Adam—the representative for all humanity. Therefore we rest on his perfect obedience. As our great High Priest Jesus acts in our place and on our behalf. In this way, all who “belong to him” are included in God’s “Yes.” “Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘In you shall all the nations be blessed’” (Galatians 3:7-8 ESV).

In his book, Incarnation, T. F. Torrance makes the point that Jesus is the fulfillment of the prophecies:

If it is the historical factuality of Jesus that is of controlling importance, then that Jesus must be presented as really embedded in history, embedded therefore in the hard stubborn history of Israel. That is precisely the case with Jesus (p. 16).

Jesus is God in the flesh. He is Israel in his humanity so that in him God and humanity are brought together in flesh and blood, in time and space, in person.

As I said before, Jesus is a true double agent—always for us, always on our side, the only one who has redeemed and saved all. And also like a double agent, not everything is transparent. Jesus’ mortal humanity concealed his divine identity. In commenting on Paul’s thoughts to the Philippians, Karl Barth says the following:

[Jesus] puts himself in a position where only he himself knows himself in the way that the Father knows him. In the unknowability into which he enters, it is now certainly the Father’s part to reveal him. But the step that brings him into that unrecognizable condition, into the incognito, is grounded entirely in himself alone… He exists in such a way that to any direct, immediate way of regarding him—e.g. to the historical and psychological approach—he does not present the picture of his proper, original, divine Being, but solely the picture of a human being (The Epistle to the Philippians, p. 63).

What becomes revealed in Jesus is that the Triune God cannot be known in a true and saving way by mere mortals. So God the Father in the person of Jesus, reveals the divinity of his Son by the Spirit. And that revelation can only come about by grace which, at the same time, reconciles and redeems us. Knowing God in Jesus the incarnate Son transforms us in every way. That is why Jesus said, “All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Matthew 11:27). The early church put it this way: “Only God knows God and only God reveals God.”

Here’s a related quote I much enjoy from N. K. Gupta:

Christ by becoming a mortal, accepted slavery to those cosmological forces that lord over humanity. But, like a true “double agent” of popular espionage, he never forsook his true allegiance to God or his status as Son of God… Christ is ingeniously able to nullify their own power through the ultimate act of eschatological reversal: his own death and resurrection that is capable of being shared by others” (Horizons in Biblical Theology, 32.1, pp. 1-16).

At Christmas we rejoice along with the angels in this great reversal. We celebrate Jesus’ perfect obedience, which fulfilled the covenant on our behalf. We celebrate that Jesus is the one true son of Israel, and because we are in him, by faith we share with him in the covenant promises. We celebrate that Jesus never forsook his allegiance to God nor his allegiance to humanity. We celebrate the redemption we have in Christ our Savior. We celebrate the Incarnation.

Merry Christmas!
Joseph Tkach

PS: For a parody of the rock anthem “Bohemian Rhapsody” that powerfully recounts the Nativity story, watch the video at http://youtu.be/pW1pbuyGlQ0.

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Feeling Lonely?

Jesus Went With Him

“The world is so empty if one thinks only of mountains, rivers and cities; but to know someone who thinks and feels with us, and who, though distant is close to us in spirit, this makes the earth for us an inhabited garden.” This quotation by Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe captured my imagination during my inward-looking, emotion-laden teen years. I had friends and a loving family but I often felt no one understood me, not deep down inside. I didn’t even understand myself at that point, but most teenagers don’t, and it doesn’t always change as we become adults.

P7093504

The desire to know someone who is close to us in spirit is a universal one. We all want to be known, understood, accepted and loved just as we are, no strings attached. But this world can be a lonely place. Most of us feel alienated at one time or another, either from friends, family or the world in general. Even with lots of loving support, which is vital to our well-being, we have to do many things on our own ‒ job interviews, driving tests, surgery. No one can help or even hold our hands.

I imagine Jairus was feeling quite alone as he faced the pending death of his daughter (Mark 5). The family was no doubt gathered around to share the burden, but ultimately the pain of losing a loved one takes place in each individual mind and heart. Jairus carried that pain with him as he approached Jesus in the midst of the crowd. When he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet and pleaded with him to come and heal his daughter (verse 23). Then something amazing happened – Jesus went with him (verse 24).

Many must have wanted his attention that day, including the sick woman who touched his robe. The crowd was full of people with diseases and problems, some perhaps as severe as Jairus’ daughter’s illness. But Jesus, without any discussion or excuses, simply went with him. That act alone must have given Jairus encouragement and strength to face what he would find at home, especially when messengers came to tell him his daughter had already died. Jesus didn’t desert him at the news, but continued to walk with him to the house.

Jesus has not changed. He still has his Father’s loving heart, which is always turned toward our hearts, thinking and feeling with us, knowing and understanding our suffering. He goes with us into those situations we must face alone and doesn’t turn back when the going gets tough.

During those times when you feel most alone, remember Jesus is with you. He walks with you down the lonely, difficult paths, even the steep, rocky ones with no flowers or trees to brighten the way. He is close to us in the Spirit and he is the one who makes the earth an inhabited garden for us.

Tammy Tkach

Permanent link to this article: https://hobart.gci.org.au/?p=320