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Category Archives: worship

What are you really gambling on?

Australians ‘Stop’ each year on the first Tuesday in November at around 3:00pm AEDST to watch the Melbourne Cup horse race. Workers are given time off to gather in front of the television. Students, if still in school, pause to do the same. In some parts of the country the entire day is a public holiday. All, so we, in unison, can watch the outcome of this race.

The beauty of the horses racing is a vivid testimony to strength, endurance, discipline and precision (on the part of the breeders, trainers and jockeys). I have attended corporate banquets put on in celebration of the race, others will spend a small fortune to don formal wear and play the ‘toff’ for a day at the racetrack. It is in many respects as much a public institution as some of the national religious and public holidays. Throughout workplaces and schools, sweeps are run, where, usually, by way of random allocation, entrants are given a horse for a small fee of maybe $2-$5. If your employer is particularly fortunate with their winnings, it is not unusual to be given the rest of the day off… to celebrate!

Sadly, or amusingly, if you’re so inclined, the condition of patrons at the race courses throughout the country later in the afternoon, differs considerably from earlier in the morning. What was at 11:00am, a beautifully adorned lady in a formal dress with accompanying hat or fascinator assembly, is at 5:00pm, a disheveled, crumpled, stained, torn, staggering embarrassment frequently accompanied by an equally uncouth, stupefied, lecherous lout. This, from either over indulging whilst celebrating their win or while commiserating their loss. Considerable stakes are paid in what is, usually, friendly one-up-man-ship, with punters trying to out-do each other in their betting on the horse racing. Hopes, quite literally, are “dashed” when another horse crosses the finish line ahead of the one they had ‘invested’ in. The Sydney Morning Herald estimated that the takings from punters in 2009 exceeded $143 million in Victoria and New South Wales. The only clear winners are the State Government departments that profit from gaming and gambling. Everyone else comes out worse off.

The premise of gambling is trying to get something large for a disproportionately small price. The idea is that you make a bet, and not have to work to earn the same amount. What might take several days, weeks or months to otherwise earn or cultivate, can be gained in a matter of seconds, simply by placing a well timed bet on the right horse (in the case of the Melbourne Cup). It doesn’t take much to argue yourself from there into the place that by increasing the bet, you could increase your winnings, and if you win enough, you might never have to work again. Obviously, not everyone is consumed with, or tempted by, an addiction to gambling. However, for those that are, even a sweepstake entry can prove to be a deadly distraction. In wisdom, we must be careful how we represent and take part in the good fun of our nation’s (arguably) favourite past-time. If, by entering a sweep, you communicate that your sustenance and hope for provision is elsewhere than in what God has provided, you may find it difficult to convincingly discuss your faith in Jesus and why he is exclusively sufficient for spiritual salvation.

What would you truly prefer? That God dealt with us randomly by way of spinning a wheel, drawing lots? That He let the roll of a dice determine our eternal fate? Or that God has deliberately set his love upon us and reveals his grace to us via Jesus Christ’s life, death and resurrection? Gambling is emotionally charged controversy that provokes passionate advocates both for abolition and enjoyment in moderation. I hope you consider carefully how you will “profit” from a little flutter compared to finding your passion in Christ.

Sustain me according to your promise, and I will live; do not let my hopes be dashed. Psalm 119:116 NIV

Deal with your servant according to your love and teach me your decrees. Psalm 119:24 NIV

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This post is a re-post from Nov 4 2009 and was part of a series on Psalm 119.

 

 
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Posted by on 05/11/2013 in Culture, worship

 

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Video

Just you WAIT!

Waiting for Christmas? How do you spend the time between now and then?

 
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Posted by on 19/12/2012 in worship

 

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In what way is God pleased with us?

What a support to our faith is this, that God the Father, the party offended by our sins, is so well pleased with the work of redemption! And what a comfort is this, that, seeing God’s love rests on Christ, as well pleased in him, we may gather that he is as well please with us, if we be in Christ! 

Richard Sibbes, The Bruised Reed, p2.

 
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Posted by on 03/09/2012 in Books, Gospel, worship

 

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What you praise defines you

During a recent funeral service I spoke from Psalm 145. It is titled, “A Psalm of Praise”.
Spurgeon suggested it was a favorite of King David’s and summarises his entire view of God, the world and himself. Yet the Psalm has no personal requests or cries for help. It is purely singing God’s praises. In so doing, it presents a liberating worldview.

This Psalm invites us to see is the profound hope and peace that is generated when we rightly praise God and treasure him as the most important, crucial, valued, sacred person and thing above everything else in life.

Slightly modifying Spurgeon’s suggested outline there are four things David praises God for.

1. His Greatness and Power
Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
his greatness no one can fathom.” v3
One generation will commend your works to another;
they will tell of your mighty acts. They will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty” vv4-5

Greatness without goodness could make God a selfish powerful tyrant and goodness without greatness could make him willing to help us and show us kindness, but be unable to.

So David also praises God for

2. His Goodness
celebrate your abundant goodness” v7
The Lord is gracious and compassionate” v8
The Lord is good to all;” v9

God displays his goodness indiscriminately, to all – not because we deserve it but because of his compassion.

David also praises God for

3. His Government – how God rules as King
“Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom” v13
“The Lord is faithful to all his promises”

Because he is sovereign we have the assurance that he is in control and that his promises will prevail.

Where we stand today, we can see that in Jesus, God has fulfilled his promise to restore us and our broken world. Jesus death has paid the just penalty for our sin and his resurrection is the first validation that death is a defeated foe and life everlasting is his to give to all who cling to him in faith.

God’s power, greatness, goodness and government are not distant abstract concepts. David also praises God for

4. His Grace
The Lord upholds all those who fall” v14
The Lord is near to all who call on him” v18
He fulfills the desires of those who fear him” v19

This is a God who, though he is powerful, is not some far off distant deity worshipped only for fear of punishment or worshipped to bribe for some favour.

Jesus Christ came near to us and experienced all our limitations as well as all of our sorrow, pain and loss to the point of death.

Despite all that, he lived as we ought to, but are not able to, in complete dependence and obedience to God. Because of that the Bible tells us he has made atonement for the sins of the people and because he suffered when he was tempted, he can help those who are being tempted.

In fact, he doesn’t just help us in our frailty and weakness he sympathizes with our weaknesses – yet without sin, so we can approach him with confidence and receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

We will all praise and worship something. There is something that you treasure, value above everything else in your life. It is something you adore and worship.

When you are alone, that’s what your mind will drift to – your most treasured possession. Comfort, food, control, making more money, career, house, holiday, pleasure. They never satisfy – you’re always seeking more.

When we learn, like David, to make the praise of God our greatest treasure. When the praise of God dominates and saturates your life, then everything else is put into it’s proper perspective and you gladly let it go for the sake of treasuring God above everything else.

As Keller notes in ‘Counterfeit Gods‘, praising (treasuring/valuing) God has a way of bringing sweetness and rest to the heart that heals you and frees you to relax your grip on anything else you think you must have and you will come to see he is all you need to have.

That gives you a profound hope and a confident peace.

 
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Posted by on 05/07/2012 in worship

 

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Only 348 days until Christmas

Better start making your lists and checking them twice if you want to get in before the rush starts!

No? Well there’s always Easter – crossed buns are already for sale at most supermarkets and bakeries. And if you can’t wait that long, there’s always Chinese New Year which kicks off a 2 week festival in only 12 days!

These festivals, regardless of your level of excitement about their approach are the way that we mark time. Our calendars, work cycles, school year and family get together’s revolve around key dates in the year when we consider it important to spend time together for whatever reason.

For us, it might simply be a case of a long weekend and a bit of a breather or an excuse to go to the beach or snow for a quick getaway. For others it is a major time to celebrate and instil traditions that will carry over to future generations.

In Israel, life revolved around the harvest year. This is connected back to the promise God made to Noah when he came off the ark:

While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” ~ Genesis 8:22

While Israel was being prepared to enter the promised land, this cycle was expanded to 7 festivals or celebrations that measured time on a weekly and annual basis. The 7 festivals are summarised in Leviticus 23.

The cycle begins with the weekly Sabbath and follows through with the grain harvest feasts of Passover, First Fruits, and Pentecost. These are followed later in the year by the festivals of Trumpets, Atonement and Booths in the later half of the year.

The festivals involved eating and drinking. We are reminded that the Son of Man came eating and drinking (Matt 11:18-19, Luke 7:33-35) and each of these not only point us to Jesus, but call us to celebrate God’s work of redemption. When we observe communion today, with bread and wine (eating and drinking!) we are celebrating Christ and anticipating the feast at the end of history (1 Cor 5:6-8, 11:23-26, Rev 19:9).

This Sunday at Kogarah I will teach on the 7 festivals in more detail, focusing on how God marks time in fulfilling his covenant promise.

 

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Leviticus your neighbour

No, it’s not a naughty word, nor is it the title of a film about the life of Nelson Mandela. It’s the 3rd book of the Bible. You know, the one with all the gory sacrifices and (seemingly!) obsolete laws and rituals.

This time of year, many Christians make plans to read through the Bible in the coming year. It’s a commendable goal and regular bible reading ought to be part of the life of anyone who is serious about knowing, believing in, trusting and living for God. However in an average reading plan, say 3 or 4 chapters a day (8-15min) many people come unstuck somewhere around the end of January.

Why? Well there are many reasons; lack of discipline, lack of encouragement, overwhelmed by the task, or as is often the case… they hit the book of Leviticus and balk. The stories of the patriarchs in Genesis are great, they give the background to all those Sunday School and Children’s Spot lessons we’re so familiar with. The account of the plagues in Egypt and the amazing crossing of the Red Sea in Exodus is an easy read, because, after all, most of us have seen the movie and we know the story. Right?

But, blood, guts, more blood, weird definitions of cleanliness and did I mention blood? What on earth has that got to do with the ‘golden rule’ and loving my neighbour and all that stuff Jesus spoke about? Here’s the rub, the first time that is taught in the Bible is, you guessed of course, Leviticus 19:18, which says,

Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD. (NIV84)

Leviticus tells what it means to be God’s holy people and how that is displayed in day to day life. More specifically though, blood is a divider and separator. It is through sacrifice that we move (or rather are moved by God) into worship. We are taken hold off, separated from what we were and established as something altogether new.

During my preaching at Grace Church in January, I am going to spend 2 Sunday mornings at Kogarah and 1 at Sutherland going through some of the highlights of Leviticus. We’ll have a look at some of those gory details and see how they connect to Jesus and the New Testament. As we do that, you might like to have another go at reading the book of Leviticus. There’s only 27 chapters, 3 a day and you’ll knock it over in 9 days. Give it a shot.

If you’re still thinking or wondering about a plan to read through the rest the of the Bible, here’s a couple of links that might help out.

Bible Reading by Spurgeon

Bible Gateway Reading Plans

 
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Posted by on 05/01/2012 in Bible, Jesus, Reading, worship

 

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