europe and australia

We visited Europe where human history goes back to forever.

A place of castles, cathedrals, museums, art galleries, iconic structures and statues, cobblestone roads, crumbling facades, Roman ruins, different languages, different currencies, labyrinths of metros and lots and lots of people. And did I mention castles and cathedrals?

There’s the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, Tower of London, Grand Canal, Colosseum, Sagrada Familia, Stonehenge, Buckingham Palace, Arc de Triomphe, Schönbrunn Palace… The list is endless.

Europe is a place where humans have made their mark.

I am from Australia where human history goes back around 40,000 years with the Aborigines, so it is said, and 228 years of European settlement. Apart from the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge, iconic structures made by human hands are few and far between.

kakaduNatural icons, on the other hand, abound: the Great Barrier Reef, Ningaloo Reef, Uluru, Kakadu, Karijini, the Bungle Bungles, the Twelve Apostles, the Snowy Mountains, Mount Augustus, Lake Eyre, the Great Australian Bight, Daintree Rainforest, Eighty Mile Beach, the Nullarbor Plain… The list goes on.

There are jarrah, karri and huon pine dales-gorge-karijiniforests, deserts and vast spaces devoid of people. We also have kangaroos, koalas, wombats and numerous other animals indigenous to Australia.

One national language is spoken. One currency is used. No metro. A few museums and art galleries. And you can’t see all the sights in a day or two. You can’t hop on the metro or tram to see one or another. You have to travel months in order to see all the sights Australia has to offer.

I think I can sum up my thoughts thus:

Man made Europe.

God made Australia🙂

for my dad

my dadHe’s gone now
An old farmer
Who loved his sheep
Who loved his wheat
Who loved his land

My dad the gentleman
A gentle man
Who never raised his hand
Who never raised his voice
Who never raised a harsh word

Except when he lost his dignity
The indignity of old age
The indignity of loss
Loss of continence
Loss of independence

Ninety seven and counting
Only we are counting no longer
The years have stopped
Ceased to roll
Ceased

When dad was alive
Death was not an option
Life would continue
Life would roll on
Life would not be swallowed by death

For my dad
Now in death
Life is the only option
Life in Christ
Life eternal

My dad loved quietly
My dad was quietly loved
For my dad love lasted a lifetime
My dad was faithful in his love
And God has been faithful in his love

For my dad

signed, sealed and delivered

Why should I not sign a covenant to become a member of a local church?

Just this:

God instigated and wrote the new covenant because Israel of old was unable to adhere to the terms of the old covenant. In this new covenant, God promised to do all that his people were unable to under the old covenant.

signed sealed deliveredWhile God wrote the new covenant, his son, Jesus Christ, signed, sealed and delivered it on my behalf. He did not sign with pen and ink, but with nails dripping with the blood draining from his body as he died on the cross for the sins of his people.

What other covenant do I need to affirm my standing before God and his church community? What other covenant is needed to keep me on the right side of a man-made church polity. And what oath could I take that can make me any more right with God and his church?

Jesus said: Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil. (Matthew 5:33-37)

And James reiterates: But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your ‘yes’ be yes and your ‘no’ be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation. (5:12)

Far be it from me to do what is evil, thereby coming under condemnation. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

So no, I will not sign a covenant in order to become a local church member. If my ‘yes’ and ‘no’ are good enough for God, then it should be good enough for his gathered people.

come let us worship the king

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:9-11

John the Baptist leapt for joy in his mother’s womb.
The shepherds glorified and praised God.
The wise men fell down and worshipped him.
Simeon praised God for his salvation.
Anna gave thanks to God for the redemption of Jerusalem.
The disciples worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’
The man with the unclean spirit worshipped him.
The man healed of blindness said, ‘Lord, I believe,’ and he worshipped him.
After his resurrection, the two Marys came, took hold of his feet and worshipped him.
And the eleven disciples worshipped him.
All of God’s angels worship him.
And the inhabitants of heaven fell down and worshipped him.

Come, let us worship the King: the babe born in Bethlehem—the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world—the risen and glorified Christ.

O come all ye faithful Celtic Woman

Luke 1
Luke 2
Matthew 2
Luke 2
Luke 2
Matthew 14
Mark 5
John 9
Matthew 28
Matthew 28
Hebrews 1
Revelation 4-5

advent 2015 — 1

And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshipped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. Matthew 2:9-11

Finally, here we are at the pointy end of Advent. And when we get right down to it, Christmas is not really all about the tree, the tinsel, the food and the family. It is not really about baby Jesus either for that matter. It is all about the presents.

Well, that’s the way it seems when you watch the telly and visit the shops.

The wise men brought presents to the baby Jesus, so Jesus received gifts too – and very expensive ones at that. But it appears that as soon as the wise men entered the house they immediately fell down and worshipped him.

This reminds me of time when Judas brought the soldiers to the garden where Jesus was. When the soldiers said they were looking for Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus responded with: ‘I am he,’ and ‘they drew back and fell to the ground’ John 18:6. And in Revelation chapters four and five, the elders and living creatures fell down and worshipped the Lamb on the throne.

It seems then that even as a baby, Jesus had the majesty, the command and the authority he had as a hunted man and later after his death and resurrection, as the glorified Christ, the Lamb of God.

So, the wise men worshipped Christ, then gifts were offered.

What gift could we buy for our Lord Jesus this Christmas? What could we possibly give to our God who created all things and owns the cattle on a thousand hills? What could we possibly give to the King of kings and the Lord of lords?

Perhaps we should come as the wise men, the soldiers, the inhabitants of heaven, and the humble little drummer boy, with nothing to give but our worship and adoration and praise.

Little drummer boy Boney M

advent 2015 — 2

Out of them shall come songs of thanksgiving, and the voices of those who celebrate. I will multiply them, and they shall not be few; I will make them honoured, and they shall not be small. Their children shall be as they were of old, and their congregation shall be established before me, and I will punish all who oppress them. Their prince shall be one of themselves; their ruler shall come out from their midst; will make him draw near, and he shall approach me, for who would dare of himself to approach me? declares the LORD. And you shall be my people, and I will be your God. Jeremiah 30:19-21

Two more sleeps!

But while we are waiting, here is yet another question to consider: Why do we celebrate the birth of Jesus?

Much is made of family get-togethers and feasting at Christmas time, but in the light of the biblical narrative of Jesus’ birth, there is nothing about family gatherings or partying.

So should we remember this momentous event in the way we have become accustomed?

The concept of feasting and gathering together is not foreign to God’s people. The Old Testament features various feast days and Jesus himself participated in a banquet held in his honour (Luke 5:29). The biblical feasts were a means by which the Israelites could not only acknowledge God’s deliverance, but also express their thankfulness for his provision and the favour shown towards them.

While the feast days were often solemn occasions and sometimes incorporated a sacrifice of atonement for sins, they were also times of gladness and rejoicing.

We celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ on 25 December, or on 26 December in my family’s case. The day and date is of no consequence, but the purpose of the celebration is.

How can we not celebrate and be glad and rejoice in the good news the angels brought to the shepherds: that in the babe of Bethlehem, the Saviour, God has made all the provision necessary to bring us into his family – to fit us for heaven to live with him there.

Away in a manger Casting Crowns

advent 2015 — 3

This is how God showed his love among us: he sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 1 John 4:9-10

On Sunday night, we spent the evening singing carols with our family and friends and others from the local community. Although the wind was a tad cool, it was delightful to hear children play their musical instruments, recite the nativity story and sing ‘Away in a manger’.

A couple of days ago, I asked the question about the point of Christmas trees. My question today is: what is the point of singing Christmas carols?

I’m not talking about ‘Rudolf the red-nosed reindeer’, ‘Jingle bells’ or ‘Have yourself a very merry Christmas’. These songs and others like them have not been motivated by the Christmas story.

Several years at another carols night, the MC explained that the carols did not appear in a vacuum. Godly people were inspired to write the carols in response to the wonderful thing God has done for his people: carols such as ‘Hark the herald angels sing’, ‘Angels we have heard on high’, ‘O come all ye faithful’, ‘Joy to the world’ …

While some of the songs embellish the Christmas story – the night may not have been ‘silent’, there could have been a howling storm – these songs contain so much of God’s Christmas truth.

Son of God, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace

Then let us all with one accord
Sing praises to our heavenly Lord
Who hath made heaven and earth of naught
And with his blood mankind hath bought

God rest you merry gentlemen let nothing you dismay
Remember Christ our Saviour was born on Christmas day
To save us all from Satan’s pow’r when we were gone astray
O tidings of comfort and joy

Hark the herald angels sing
Glory to the new-born King
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled

Even ‘The holly and the ivy’ uses something of nature to remind us of the purity of Christ, his blood shed for us and the crown of thorns placed upon his head – the coronation of the King of the Jews.

At this time every year, so many people sing the words to these wonderful songs of joy, but how many of us actually listen to the words and understand and believe what we are singing?

The point then of singing Christmas carols? Yes, this time there is a point.

We reiterate the Christmas story each year in song. By singing carols, we remind ourselves and others of God’s demonstration of gracious love for sinners.

O holy night Celtic Woman/Chloe Agnew