Pastor's Word

Moral Values

In an age of moral relativism and confusion about so many issues from abortion to gender identity, the debate is raging particularly in light of the Israel Folau case. Inevitably, the issue has to be reduced to who determines what is morally right and wrong and where is that source to be obtained from.

Most people would acknowledge that objective moral values exist, and this must give rise to a moral law giver. The Bible makes a very strong claim that God is that moral law giver and that the scriptures are themselves God’s word and law. Most unbelievers would dispute that fact and would argue that for the Bible to make claims of its own veracity is circular reasoning and therefore illegitimate. So, can we trust the Bible and is it really the final authority, particularly on the issues of morality?

The truth is there is insurmountable evidence for the reliability of the Bible, including physical evidence of thousands of manuscript copies of the original writings of the New Testament for example, that are astoundingly accurate. There is archeological and extra Biblical, historical artefacts and documents that proves that the Bible corresponds with historical reality. There is the internal consistency and coherence of the cannon of scripture though written over a millennium and by many different writers.

Although there are other lines of reasoning to support the claim that the Bible is true, one of the most powerful is found in Jesus. If it can be shown that the four Gospels; Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, present an accurate record of the life and ministry of Jesus, then Jesus Himself becomes an argument in support of the truth of the Bible. He claimed that the holy scriptures cannot be broken. Furthermore, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is one of the most verifiable facts in history. In this sense, making a case for the truth of the resurrection also makes a case for the truth claims of Jesus and, in turn, the reliability and truth of the Bible.

Whilst the Bible is still used in our judicial courts for people to put their hand on it, swearing to speak the truth. Yet, today people only pick and choose what they want to believe from it. We have no right to do that, but we must take the Word of God as it is and ensure that we adhere to its commands and teaching. God’s Word is the final authority and when we line up our lives to it, we can also expect to be recipients of the promises and blessings that God has proclaimed in this Holy Book.

Mind of Christ

As we continue to reiterate and meditate upon our Church theme for the year, on walking ‘In His Steps’, I am reminded of the command in scripture to adopt the same ‘mind’ or thinking as our Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul tells us in Philippians 2:5, to ‘Let this mind be in you as it was also in Christ Jesus’. We are to think in the same way that Jesus thought. This is of utmost importance because the discipline of our thoughts and attitudes not only determine the quality of our lives but can ultimately lead to either the fulfilment of God’s purpose in us or at worst to moving away from God.

As it has often been said the ‘mind’ is the battleground for our souls and not only is defeat and victory usually established there but Proverbs 23:7 states that, ‘As he thinks in his heart, so is he’. Our very identity is influenced by our own self-concept.

With so much bombarding our minds from what we see and hear from mainstream media as well as social media, the messages and philosophies that our culture and society conveys to us, it is very easy to succumb to ungodly thoughts and sinful pursuits that lead to destruction. In fact, I believe that this is one of the greatest struggles for the Child of God today, the unending distractions of devices, entertainment, media and recreational pursuits that can diminish our singular focus of faith and relationship with God, and the preaching of the Gospel.

We must learn to have our minds influenced and shape by the Word of God and the Spirit of God. We must know His Word, meditating on Scripture and living it out in our daily experience. 1 Corinthians 2:16 reveals to us that ‘We have been given the mind of Christ’. When we walk in that mindset, it has the power to change our lives and to see us through every circumstance. Let our prayer be; “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.” Psalms 19:14

He is Risen!

He is risen! This is the proclamation of the disciples and the early Church. Whilst this may seem like a peripheral issue to some, where they may argue that even if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead he still taught many good lessons when he was alive. Thus his life still held value even if he wasn’t resurrected. Yet the great Apostle emphatically claims that; “And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.” 1 Cor 15:17-19

Our faith is futile, according to Paul, if Jesus did not rise from the dead simply because if he did not rise, then his words and teachings could not be trusted as truth, since he prophesied and proclaimed his own resurrection. And if his words are not true, then we have no hope of life with Christ after death, thereby making life futile and meaningless.

The prevailing atheistic perspective seems to be that when our life is over, we simply cease to exist. What a miserable prospect indeed. That all we have to look forward to is non-existence. What’s the point of living if that were the case? It is little wonder that people are stricken with depression and hopelessness to the point where they take their own lives because they perceive a bleak future of nothingness.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ does not only offer hope of a glorious future for his faithful followers but he affirmed, and verified, this promise of eternal life by rising from the tomb of death after three days. “Did the resurrection really happen?” is the cynical question voiced by unbelievers. I don’t have time to unpack all of the evidences but for further research, explore these basic tenets of the veracity of the resurrection of Jesus: living eye witness accounts such as the New Testament writers who were never refuted, the empty tomb where Jesus was buried and lastly, the most logical explanation for the willingness of Jesus’ disciples to lay down their own lives in martyrdom and the spread of Christianity in the face of extreme persecution.

There are many more but those three tenets are sufficiently compelling to speak to the truth of the resurrection of Jesus. We can find joy and hope knowing that what awaits us, when our life on earth is through, is the glory of his Holy presence forever! Hallelujah!

But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 1 Cor 15:20

March of Miracles

One of the first questions that a new Christian sometimes asks is; ‘Do miracles still happen today?’ This question is often borne out of a prevailing perspective in our world that anything that is not scientifically explainable, or part of the natural process of the material world, does not exist or can not happen, such as miracles.

That in itself is a misnomer because by very definition, miracles are occurrences that supersede the natural order of the physical world. That’s why they are called miracles. Let me add that there are many things that can not be explained by scientific means, including; morality, aesthetics, affection, the belief and evidence that humans have an immaterial component to them called the soul or spirit and other phenomena such as healings of the sick extraneous of medical treatment.

We are surrounded by miracles all the time. What about the miracle of a person becoming born again, having their sins washed away at baptism in Jesus name and the infilling of the Holy Spirit speaking in tongues? These things cannot be accounted for on a naturalist worldview and as such may be classified as a miracle.

The question then for the Believer is not whether miracles still happen today but rather ‘Why don’t more miracles happen today?’ The former question has already been addressed but the later question I believe can be answered by the Church. Jesus said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father,” (John 14:12) and that miraculous signs shall follow the Believers (Mark 16:17-18). James tells us that we have not because we ask not... (James 4:3)

We can expect signs and wonders to take place more and more. This month as we continue to walk ‘In His Steps’, let us pursue after what God has promised us through Christ Jesus our Lord, to see more miracles by praying, believing, working and doing what God has called us to do for his glory and Kingdom!

In His Steps... 2019

1 Peter 2:21 For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps.

The theme of POS this year is ‘In His Steps’, with the emphasis on following closely in the steps, or example, of Christ Jesus our Lord. Whilst we are not moving away from the purpose of the Church in making disciples of all nations, this year we are focusing on connecting with the lost, emulating the way that Jesus did and in the principles, attitude and methods by which he made disciples.

It is imperative that we focus on our relationship with Jesus, particularly when we can become so distracted with the busy-ness of life and even in ministry we can become so preoccupied with our ‘doing’ that we forsake our ‘being’ in Christ. As we walk in His steps, we walk with him in a relationship of faith and it is that grounding by which our identity, our attitudes and behaviours flow out from.

Jesus was called a friend of sinners, yet he himself never sinned. In like manner, we shall pursue a life of sanctification and spiritual growth while at same time making friendships with those who don’t know him. Jesus spoke the truth in love at the same time showed mercy to the penitent. We too must demonstrate love to this world but not be afraid to speak the truth with all grace. Jesus made disciples as he opened up his life to involve others, similarly our goal should be to open up our lives in order to disciple others to the ways of God.

As we engage in daily disciplines of meditation of God’s Word, prayer and fellowship with the Holy Spirit, fellowship with his Church and reaching the lost, the more Jesus Christ is formed in us or as Paul puts it that we mature to “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph 4:13).

Let’s make every effort and set up our lives so that we are walking In His Steps!

A New Year

What an incredible year it has been as we celebrated God’s goodness, provisions and blessings over these last twelve months and now we look forward again to walking ever closer with Jesus in the blessedness of another new year.

Seasons, days and times are given to mankind by God to serve a purpose. According to Genesis 1:14, the different times are to be signs or signals to us. Signs, among other things that point us towards God. The changing of the calendar year is no exception but it can serve as a signal for reevaluation and refocussing our spiritual lives.

The start of a fresh year should trigger the discipline of looking back at the previous twelve months to not only rejoice in God’s goodness that He saw us through and in many instances enabled us to walk in His favour, but to also see where we may have failed or need improvement. Evaluations don’t apply only to professional development in career and education but also to our walk with God, including our spiritual disciplines, our faith and our involvement in God’s Kingdom.

It may be in our prayer lives and devotions, our church attendance, our giving or involvement that we recognise a need for improvement. Let's look at why and how we failed in those areas. In understanding this, we can make the necessary corrections and commitment that this year we will be better and more mature than last year.

The new year means we can start again with a clean slate, leaving 2018 right where it is. This may sound cliche but it is actually more powerful than what one may initially consider. When you leave the failures, disappointments, hurts, guilt and shame of last year under the blood of Jesus, then none of these things can any longer hold any power as a burden and blight upon your conscience or spirit. Instead, with courage and optimism you can realign and refocus your life according to God’s Word and believe God for a year of unprecedented growth and success in God’s amazing grace.

That’s not to say we don’t draw wisdom from the lessons of our mistakes, that would indeed be foolish. But it means that we are energised and look with faith towards this new year, as we look to Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our Faith. I am believing God for growth and revival not only for myself personally but also for our Church. But I’ve got to do my part and make the necessary re-alignments for God to pour out his Grace. I invite you to do the same, so together, we can make a difference in this world for the Kingdom of God!

The Search of the Wise

As the world enters a period of festivities and holidays, for many it is a busy time of shopping, travelling, hosting and celebrating. And for the most part, that is all it is. They get together with family and friends because that’s what they’ve always done, it’s part of the tradition that’s been passed down from previous generations. Nothing more, nothing less.

While as Christians we know that there is more to the celebration of the birth of Christ than turkey dinners and exchanging of gifts, we too can fall into the trap of merely going thru our Christian tradition. Where our spiritual walk simply becomes religious custom. Now there is nothing wrong with having routine, and in fact discipline and consistency is commendable, but we must be cautious to not substitute relationship with religion.

I am reminded of the wise men from the East in Matthew 2 who came to see the King who was born, that they may worship him. These men were wealthy, powerful and, more importantly, they were wise. In all of their prestige, they were pressed to search for the great King even at the cost of their lives being threatened by Herod. What motivated them was their desire to see face to face the one who was promised and as such begin a relationship with him.

During this period, let me encourage you, that while you search for the best bargains, food and fellowship (and that’s great) don’t stop seeking that which is most important; God Almighty. Hunger and thirst after him again, even if you’ve been a Christian for a very long time, or especially if you’ve been one for a long time and perhaps your journey of faith has dwindled down to religious observance. Ask Him to restore the passion and appetite for Him. This is the search of the wise.

“Seek the Lord, and his strength: seek his face evermore. Remember his marvellous works that he hath done; his wonders, and the judgments of his mouth” Psalms 105:4-5

Friendship

For most of this year, we have looked in to the book of Acts and what has been quite inspiring to me in studying the account of the early Church is the fact that although it’s inception and development were powerful, dynamic and supernatural, yet much growth also came on the back of intense hardship, problems and brutal persecution.

What is also evident however is the organic, or very natural, way in which individuals come into the Kingdom of God; through relationships and personal connections that led to discipleship. We do see the ‘cold sale’ evangelism of street ministry leading many to salvation but there is no denying that established connections are instrumental in many hearing the Gospel and also being discipled in the Way.

We read of Lydia and her household, Barnabas with Paul and John Mark, the household of the Philippian Jailer, Paul with Priscilla and Aquila who in turn convert Apollos. This is not at all dissimilar to the way Jesus recruited his twelve disciples. John 1 details how Andrew brought his brother Simon (Peter) to Jesus and Philip doing the same with Nathanael. God uses us to reach our own social circle first even before reaching strangers. And yet the most effective way to introduce unbelievers to Jesus is by befriending them first.

Again, Jesus employed this natural means of making connections and developing relationship beginning with a simple conversation that serves as an initiation to friendship. Friendships is where discipleship begins and I am convinced that if we are going to reach our world by making disciples of all nations, we must be willing to strike up conversations with a view to making friends. In the process of walking with friends, our hope is that they can see and walk with Christ for themselves.

The Godhead

Perhaps one of the most profound passages of scripture that affirms the indivisibility of God is found in Hebrews 1:3 - Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; KJV

The inspired writer asserts very clearly that Jesus is the express image of His person. Whilst the incarnation of Christ is a mystery in that it is supernatural and miraculous in nature, yet the identity of the mighty God in Christ is clearly proclaimed. 

Obviously, it is impossible to exhaust the knowledge of God or have a complete comprehension of the Infinite Creator through our finite minds. However, the understanding that there is only one God, or being, in the Godhead is fundamental to not only our beliefs but to what the Bible emphatically claims.

It is well documented that the majority of the Church prior to the Council of Nicea in the 4th Century believed that there was only one in the Godhead who was revealed in three roles of Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the New Testament. The Athanasian teaching of a triune God though rejected by many believers at the time was accepted as dogma under the Roman Emperor Constantine along with other fallacious teachings that still endure in the Roman Church today.

Caution must be taken in using human terms or attributes to describe our limitless God, yet the King James translators clearly utilises the terminology in Hebrews 1:3 that the person of God is perceived through the image of Jesus Christ. There is only one person and one image of that person, just as we, as individual beings are one person and have one image. Though our existence may consist of a tripartite component of; spirit, soul and body, yet we don’t say that there are three of us. If someone claims to be more than one person, we would suggest checking them into a mental health service. Neither do we endorse any absurd ideas that though we are married or part of a community that somehow, we consider our combined relationship as one individual self-conscious being together with our spouse or others in our close relationships. At the very core of our existence is the fundamental idea of our indivisibility and oneness as autonomous creatures.

There’s no one else exactly like us. Despite someone who may look so similar to another, like an identical twin who shares strikingly similar features, down to their DNA, yet it would be totally absurd to believe they are one being or person. Genesis 1:27 tells us that man was created in the image of God. I propose that one of our main attributes that is based on God’s image is his uniqueness and absolute oneness as unequivocally stated in God’s Holy Word.

Pastor Stan’s teaching series on ‘The Godhead’

Turning Point 2018...Go, Make Disciples

Spring is upon us and I always enjoy this welcome transition of seasons, not only because we go from cold and frosty mornings to more comfortable warmer weather. Nor is it just that the days are getting longer and the flora begins to bloom but it’s also the month of Turning Point. The irony of the seasonal change and the name of our annual conference is not lost in the significance of this event.

Twenty six years ago Bishop Ted Slack named this conference to commemorate a significant event in the history of POS with our new venue, rapid growth and revival. Truly a profound change had taken place and as scripture says that we go from glory to glory (2 Cor 3:18), we also pursue one turning point after another in our spiritual journey.

The dictionary defines Turning Point as ‘a time at which a decisive change in a situation occurs, especially one with beneficial results.’

There have been countless turning points occurring in our church this year particularly in individual lives but perhaps one of the major changes have been the focus of Discipleship that’s captured in our 2018 theme, ‘Go Make’.

We are attempting to transform our paradigms and church culture by going from a merely 'soul winning concept' to a discipleship one. It is my desire that everything we do and all that we are as God’s people are brought to a complete and transparent scrutiny through the lens of discipleship. This includes our programs, our traditions, our habits, language and culture. We have to ask the brutally honest question; ‘Is what we are doing, in line with the Great Commission (Matt 20:19-20)?' which is the very heart beat of God. If our conclusion leads us to a negative, then we must remove it and begin to adopt practices that would ensure we are doing what we as a Church are supposed to.

The ministry of Br Hernandez and Br Emory at Turning Point 2018 will once again be life changing beyond words but this time, let us not only enjoy their ministries but participate in this event through a discipleship perspective and coupled with the processes of our purpose and calling….of going and making disciples.