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Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas 2012


Christmas 2012

I have chosen as my text for this Christmas, 2 Corinthians 4:6

The God who said, “Out of darkness the light shall shine!” is the same God who made his light shine in our hearts, to bring us the knowledge of God's glory shining in the face of Christ.

In this verse we see God, ourselves and Jesus all brought together, connected, made one...... and that is Gods ultimate plan for you and for me and for all humankind......
He wants to be with you, with me, in the garden, as it was in the beginning, when He could walk with Adam, talk with Eve, and be one with them in the creation He had made for them, for us, for you, for me.
That’s where He wants to take us to, even now.

Yes, His plan is to forgive us,.....to save us, .....to strengthen us,.........to bless us, ........to comfort us,.................. but these are all secondary to His primary plan which is to be with us, to be one with us. To be Immanuel, God with us.

Do you want to be with Him….............?

I think one of the reasons God has given us Christmas is so that He knows He has a yearly date with each one of us… and I think He looks forward to it, and longs for it, because He is desperately in love with you and even with me.
And I think each year in His heart is the longing that after this date, the relationship will move to the next level, to a renewed commitment, yes… but more, I think He longs for a deeper commitment, a deeper relationship with Him.

And so:
 The God who said, “Out of darkness the light shall shine!” is the same God who made his light shine in our hearts, to bring us the knowledge of God's glory shining in the face of Christ.

In this verse we are taken right back to the very beginning, and the very first spoken words of God that we have recorded for us in Scripture [in Gen 1:3]: 

And God said “Let there be light”.

This reminds us both of the darkness in creation and in human hearts before God speaks.
There is not a heart here this morning, from the preacher to the organist to everyone one us,............ there is not a heart here that does not have some darkness in it.

Will we let God shine on that darkness today?.............… That’s what He is hoping for on this date.
How does He do this? 

The God who said, “Out of darkness the light shall shine!” is the same God who made his light shine in our hearts, to bring us the knowledge of God's glory shining in the face of Christ.

The God who wants us to fall in love with Him… to be one with Him,..... this God… wants us to know Him and what He’s like.

When someone tries to set up a date for us with someone else, what is our first question ...................... ‘what is she like?’ ‘what is he like?’.
God know this, and so our verse tells us that we see God’s glory, God’s beauty, we see what God is like................ in Christ.

The Christmas story is not primarily about Jesus, it is about God, God who wants to be Immanuel, with us… in us… and the God who desperately hopes that we want to be with Him and in Him, in some new and deeper way from now into the future.

Do you?

Do you this Christmas, want to give God a deeper commitment from yourself to Him?

The answer to that is either yes or no.

What God wants to give to you and to me is the light of His love and His gloryin us ..................... isn't that amazing?

So He says to us this Christmas: ‘Look at the Jesus who was given to the world. Look at His humble birth today, look at His unselfish service to others in His life, in a few months, at Easter, look at His shameful death…................ look at Him, says God, and you see Me,.................... and then decide if you want to ‘go out’ with a God like me… decide if you want to have a relationship with a God like me… decide if you want to take your commitment to me to a deeper level this Christmas and coming year.

You see, the truth of the gospel story is that, through the humble life and shameful death of Jesus, God did His revealing and redeeming work. The divine life we long for and the power of God we long for, are released precisely in the life of unselfish service and of suffering for others. This is what God is like; this is what we are called to be like.

Well… do you want to be like this? 

Once again, the answer is really only yes or no, isn't it?

And then comes the good bad news, or the bad good news:

Yet we who have this spiritual treasure are like common earthly vessels, in order to show that the supreme power belongs to God, not to us. We are often troubled, but not crushed; sometimes in doubt, but never in despair; there are many enemies, but we are never without a friend; and though badly hurt at times, we are not destroyed.

Here we are reminded that we are earthly vessels - which reminds us of Genesis once again, where we learn that we were created from earth ..............and as earthly vessels, clay vessels, we are very vulnerable. (At this point I will drop clay pot, and hopefully it will shatter).
..........we are very vulnerable..........aren't we

And so it is that we have good news and bad news when we decide to enter into a relationship with the God who is revealed to us in Christ.
There is good news and bad news if you decide to take your relationship with Him to a deeper level today.
What do you want first......... the bad news or the good news? 

Bad news first:
                         with God in you and yourself in God, verses 8 & 9 tell us.... 

You will often be troubled, you will sometimes doubt, you will have many enemies and at times you will be badly hurt.

How often do we think in our lives that when these things happen to us, God has left us… as you can see, it is exactly the opposite,...................... these things happen because God is with us, they are signs of His Immanuel presence.

That’s why I called it the good bad news or bad good news.

Don’t commit yourself to God, or make a deeper commitment to Him this Christmas if all you’re looking for is and easy ride in life. 
He doesn't offer you or me an easy ride in life;....... as we see in the life of Christ as it unfolds after His birth. No easy ride or life for the Son of God on earth.

That’s the bad news.

Now for the good news: listen again to verses 8&9. 

We are often troubled, but not crushed; sometimes in doubt, but never in despair; there are many enemies, but we are never without a friend; and though badly hurt at times, we are not destroyed.

Isn’t that all.................... good news?

Isn’t that news that will get us through 2013 and whatever it holds?

And how I wish I could say to you all that the very worst news you are going to get in 2013 is the news that your national soccer team didn’t with the African Cup of Nations on home ground!!!
If only that was the worst news we could expect in 2013.

But that is not the worst that is going to happen, especially to those of us who choose today to walk a closer walk with the God who is revealed to us in Christ.

We are vulnerable clay jars going into 2013, aren’t we?

But the good news is we are vulnerable clay jars who remain unbroken even under adverse conditions, even by death, because of the one who we choose to be in.

You or I might die in 2013..... BUT .....even if we die, we will not be destroyed?

Why?... because the one who came into the world invites us to come into Him.

Do you want to come into Him?

So this Christmas, vulnerable clay pots, I urge you to come into Him and I plead with you, as I have with myself, find some way to explore an even deeper commitment in the coming year to the God who in Christ comes and dwells among us.


A Few Christmas Days from Wesley's Journal


25 Dec 1742: The physician told me he could do no more: Mr. Meyrick could not live over the night. I went up and found them all crying about him, his legs being cold and (as it seemed) dead already. We all kneeled down and called upon God with strong cries and tears. He opened his eyes, and called for me. And from that hour he continued to recover his strength, till he was restored to perfect health. I wait to hear who will either disprove this fact or philosophically account for it.

25 Dec 1784: We met as usual, in the New Chapel at four; at ten and in the afternoon I preached in West Street, and afterwards spent a comfortable hour in meeting the society.

25 Dec 1779: We began the service at the New Chapel, as usual, at four in the morning. Afterwards I read prayers and preached and administered the Lord’s Supper at West Street; in the afternoon, I preached at the New Chapel again, then met the society, and afterwards the married men and women; but after this I was no more tired than when I rose in the morning.

25 Dec 1773: Today and on the following days, we had many happy opportunities of celebrating the solemn Feast-days, according to the design of their institution. We concluded the year with a Fast-day, closed with a solemn watch-night.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Advent 4: Mary and Salvation by Faith Alone


Blessed like Mary


Text 
‘Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished.’

Mary is an amazing young woman.
God’s announcement of a child to be born was met with various responses throughout Scripture: Sarah, Abraham’s wife, laughed (Genesis 18:9-15). Zechariah doubted (1:18). By contrast, Mary submitted, knowing that she was merely the Lord’s servant.
She believed the angel’s words and agreed to bear the child, even under humanly impossible circumstances, even with difficult social consequences. A young unmarried girl who became pregnant risked disaster. She risked losing Joseph, her family, and her reputation.
And her story about being made pregnant by the Holy Spirit risked her being considered crazy as well.
Still Mary said, despite the risks, “May everything you have said come true.” She took the risk of faith, for she knew that God was asking her to serve Him.

She is an amazing young woman and an example to us of faith in action.
Mary is the type of woman who puts her faith into action. She not only says “Lord, your will be done” (see 1:38), but she also ‘hurries’ to see God at work in the life of her relative Elizabeth. The journey to Judea that Mary undertook was not a simple drive to the next town; it was a difficult journey that would have taken at least three days at that time, abo 70km on foot. Mary did not let that stop her from going to Elizabeth, rejoicing with her, and praising the Lord for fulfilling His promises.

And so she arrives at Elizabeth.
The visit from Mary no doubt came as a surprise ...... no cellphones, sms's ‘guess what happened while I was sleeping’........... but when she arrives the Holy Spirit made Elizabeth suddenly aware of both Mary’s pregnancy and the identity of Mary’s baby. The beautiful interweaving of the lives of Elizabeth and Mary before their children were born is  a touching picture of God’s grace upon His servants. Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months (1:56). How they must have talked, wondering at what God was doing in their lives and what He was planning for their very special children.

And Elizabeth says to Mary:
Mary, you are blessed because you have believed that the Lord will do what He said.
And what Elizabeth says here is echoed in  a larger way all through the rest of the New Testament.
Blessed is belief.
If one will only trust, only believe, there are no limits to what God may bring to pass in your life and mine. Just believe.

From beginning to end, the Christian walk is by faith, it is trusting God, it is believing that what God has said, can happen in my life. Just like Mary did.......... she believed and was blessed.
Blessed is belief.
God wants to do some amazing things in your life and mine, but they only come to pass if we believe they can come to pass.
Paul in 2 Cor 5:7 puts it like this; Our life is a matter of faith, not of sight”.

I want to look at this in 3 areas of our lives.

1. Salvation
According to God, ALL of us are bad (all have sinned), but according to the world, some of us are really bad – worse than others. I often hear this: “Cedric, you don’t understand, I’m not like all those other people, I am really bad – I have done ........” Well, if you feel that way, the Good News is that, just like everyone else, you only have to believe, you only have to have faith that Jesus dealt with even your sin, for the doorway to salvation, to freedom, to new birth and new life,.....to open before you.
He came… for you.
He died… for you.
He wants to save...... even you, just as He has saved even a wretch like me.

Mary, you are blessed because you have believed that the Lord will do what He said.

In the area of salvation, you and I are blessed with salvation when we believe that the Lord saves us, when we believe that what He did on the cross, He did for us and our salvation.
Believe that Jesus died and was raised to life so that YOU can be saved and you will be blessed with salvation.
If you do believe this… allelulia!
If you can’t believe this, or don’t believe this, can I ask that you try to… consider believing this.

Mary, you are blessed because you have believed that the Lord will do what He said.

2. Peace
This is called the season of peace..... we celebrate the Prince of Peace,........... and yet so many of us have no peace.
In John 14:27 Jesus says
“Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you” 
Do you believe that? 
Do you have this peace?

If you are PEACELESS, in the season of peace as we celebrate birth of the Prince of Peace… believe that the Lord will do what He has said He will do, believe that you can have His peace and your belief will open the way for God’s blessing of peace on you. It’s His desire for you to be at and have....His peace.
Just believe.

Mary, you are blessed because you have believed that the Lord will do what He said.

3. Strengh
Phil 4:13 teaches us this truth: 
“I can do all things in Jesus, who strengthens me”.

Are you feeling weak in some area of your life, not sure how are you going to manage or survive something? Christmas can be a tough time. You might be facing Christmas without someone you’ve loved .... they’ve died, or moved away..... and you just can’t believe that you’ll make it, you’re not sure you’ll find the strength for Christmas without them.
You might be facing this Christmas with some dreadful thing hanging over your head – the HIV test has just come back positive,..........or the results of the biopsy are not good,......... perhaps your December pay packet came with a retrenchment letter.
Perhaps you’re an alcoholic and Christmas is a time of such temptation, you’re not sure you’re going to make it through dry.
Perhaps there is some area of temptation that is looming large right now.

Whatever is hanging over you, remember this:  
“I can do all things in Him who strengthens me.”
Do you believe this? Believe this and the door will be opened for God to bless you with the strength you need.

Mary, you are blessed because you have believed that the Lord will do what He said.

The way to blessing is belief – you and I can put our names in this verse:

[Your name], you are blessed because you have believed that the Lord will do what He said.

Mary believed in God and His promises..... I want to invite you to believe in God and His promises given to us through the Christ whom Mary gave birth to.
Believe in Jesus, the Saviour.

Mary had peace in her difficult circumstances because of her belief.
May you have peace in your difficult circumstances because of your belief.

Mary was strengthened by God for the difficult road He called her to walk ..... may you find strength in Him, the God who strengthens you, for the road He calls you to continue walking.

Mary, you are blessed because you have believed that the Lord will do what He said.

Believe that God will do what He has said,...... and be blessed.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Christmas Pastoral Letter


Christmas Pastoral Letter

A child is born to us!
    A son is given to us!
    And he will be our ruler.
He will be called, “Wonderful Counselor,”
    “Mighty God,” “Eternal Father,”
    “Prince of Peace.”

From Cedric:

These words from the prophet Isaiah sum up my wish for you for Christmas 2012 and the new year that awaits us all in 2013:

May the Christ child who was born in Bethlehem, the Christ man who lived in Galilee, and the Christ King who sits at the right hand of our Father in Heaven, be born in us afresh, even now. 

He is born in us when, by faith, we simply believe that He actually can be and desires to be, born in us. He grows in us, when, by decision we let Him and His way be our ruler.....the one who rules, who reigns, over our lives. He becomes our wonderful counselor, when we let His Word, by His Spirit, counsel us. When, by faith we make this decision, we can experience Him as mighty God, eternal Father and Prince of Peace. And if I know nothing else about 2013 I know this.....we need a mighty God, an eternal Father, and a Prince of Peace if we are going to make any Kingdom progress into the new year.

I pray that we at Alberton Methodist Church may all have such faith and make such decisions as we journey together.

For Ryan, Lindrique, Dandre and Zehan:

A warm, warm welcome to AMC. Isaiah's words A child is born to us have a very special meaning for the Killian family and for the AMC family, because, to us (the Killian's and AMC) a child is going to be born. Lindrique, we wish you well over your pregnancy and look forward to having a baby in the manse again. I'm not sure when last a child was born into one of our manses, but we look forward to her or his arrival in our midst. The season of Advent has once again reminded us of the important role that waiting plays in our Kingdom life.

From Advent to Christmas to Epiphany, the seasons continue:

In my Advent pastoral letter I reminded us that Advent is the season of waiting. Now, it is the season of Christmas, which is a season of peace. During this season of peace we welcome God into our hearts, not as some distant king or moral watchdog, but as an intimate companion from heaven, ready to join us on our journey, ready to be Immanuel, God with us. Christmas is followed by the season of Epiphany, when we marvel at the revelation of God to the world in Jesus Christ. During this season, which lasts until Lent (Ash Wednesday is 13 February in 2013. In my Lent Pastoral Letter I will explain how Easter is determined each year), we are reminded that the man born to be king will rule not by force but by love, reigning not from a throne but from a cross. Gold for a king, frankincense for a priest and myrrh for the one who was to die: the gifts of the wise men foretell that he will be the true king, perfect high priest and supreme savior. Epiphany is the season of revelation. I hope that in your waiting, you may experience peace and revelation, for I have learnt that it is peace and revelation that help us to wait.

So what can we do to open up the doors to peace and revelation:

The answer to this, as to many questions, lies in our Scriptures. Therefore the first thing I want to encourage us all to do is to have a renewed commitment to reading our Bibles. To encourage us in this, Vernon is including a Bible reading schedule in his Daily Devotional Calendar which will guide us through the Bible in a year. This plan has an Old Testament reading, a New Testament reading, a Psalm and one Proverb each day. It takes about 15 minutes to read and in one year, you read through the Bible. Imagine how we will grow, as individuals and as a community, if 10, or 20, or 50, or 100, or 1000 of us at AMC commit ourselves to more Bible reading.......the doors to peace and revelation will certainly open in new ways for us.

But you might feel you need more:

All our Cell groups, Bible study groups, Fellowship groups and special courses (Griefshare, Step-parenting Course, Marriage courses, Divorce Care etc) will resume in 2013. Please contact the church office for more info. Despite all our groups, the question that you may still be asking is this: "Do you have a practical plan that will help me grow in faithfulness and holiness? I have heard you say that I need to grow in spirituality, but do you have practical help for me? I really do want to be like Christ but can you tell me precisely how to go about it? Don't be vague with me - give me something that is concrete!"

Depending on your particular journey with Christ we are offering 3 such "plans" for you to choose from in 2012.

The first is Disciple:

Disciple has transformed the lives of individuals in this congregation and across the world. It has drawn people closer to God, deepened their discipleship and opens their eyes into the way that God is leading them. In 2013 we are running Disciple 1. Disciple moves through the biblical story from creation in Genesis to the New Jerusalem in Revelation. There are theme words and verses, key characters, events and topics which fix the sequence of the biblical story in the minds of the participants. Disciple is studied in a group of up to ten, with two group leaders. It meets weekly over a year (with space for holidays etc). Each group meeting begins with a time of devotion and a short DVD presentation, before questions and activities applying the Bible reading to the context of the participants' daily lives. Disciple will run on Monday evenings, repeated on Tuesday mornings, and starts on 14 January 2013.

Our second offering in terms of a "practical plan to grow spiritually" is the Alpha Course, an excellent course for people new to the Christian faith, or who you want to introduce to the Christian faith.
 If you have a friend, family member, fellow office worker who you would like to introduce to the faith, this course is for you and for them. Please see the attached leaflet for more info, click on it to enlarge.

 This course will run in the second school term for 10 weeks. I am really excited that we will actually be running 3 Alpha courses, a Youth Alpha and Adult Alpha simultaneously (so families can attend together), as well as a School Alpha which our Youth Pastor has been given permission to run at Alberton High School.


Our third offering is the Renovare Course:

Renovare comes from the Latin which means "To make new Spiritually". Following Jesus is what Renovare is all about. Each one of us will follow him in different ways but each one of us must have a practical plan for following Him. If you do not have a plan you will not stop sinning. If you do not have a plan you will not do good. If you do not have a plan you will continue to stay as you are for the rest of your life. Renovare seeks to answer the Question: "Do you have an effective practical plan which will help me to live a transformed life?" This course will run from 17 January for 8 weeks.

So, in conclusion:
A child is born to us!
    A son is given to us!
    And he will be our ruler.
He will be called, “Wonderful Counselor,”
    “Mighty God,” “Eternal Father,”
    “Prince of Peace.”

These words from the prophet Isaiah sum up my wish for you for Christmas 2012 and the new year that awaits us all in 2013:

May the Christ child who was born in Bethlehem, the Christ man who lived in Galilee, and the Christ King who sits at the right hand of our Father in Heaven, be born in us afresh, even now. 

Much love,

Cedric.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Advent 3: The Forerunner


The Forerunner


Last week we looked at John as a prophet sent by God after 400 years of prophetic silence. This week we pick up from verse 7:

‘Crowds up people came out to John to be baptized by him. “You snakes!” he said to them, “Who told you that you could escape the punishment God is about to send?”’

Not from a manual of popular preaching technique !!!
Other translations have brood of vipers. Why snakes? It seems John see’s right through many in his congregation. They’ve heard that a prophet has been commissioned by God,.... that might mean that God is about to do something again ......and the one thing He does is.... judge,....... so, to escape judgement let’s do what everyone else is doing......Let’s be seen to be doing the right thing – let’s go to John the baptiser

John the Baptist says:

“Do those things that will show that you have turned from your sins. And don’t start staying among yourselves that Abraham is your ancestor. I tell you that God can take these stones and make descendants for Abraham!”

Just confessing is never enough, it’s important of course to name your sins, but it’s never enough – changed behavior is essential. Then he says – don’t think that because you are a Jew, God’s chosen race – that this doesn’t apply to you. In the modern Church we would say – don’t think that because you are a Christian that you don’t have to change - God is looking for the fruit of a changed life – otherwise He’ll chop you down and throw you into the fire. As I said earlier, this is not from the manual of popular preaching technique

A changed life is important.

Verse 10 is pivotal to the section of Scripture before us today and is central to the process of growing in holiness in this life.
When confronted by prophetic “judgmental” preaching....by this I mean preaching which says: "that kind of behavior is wrong and will bring Gods judgement on you unless you change".......when confronted with this kind of preaching we can do one of two things – we can choose to ignore it and say "everyone does.. it" OR.... we can choose to change. 

 ‘The people asked him, “What are we to do then?”’

They cannot ignore the conviction which God the Holy Spirit is bringing upon them as the word is preached – and then from being general – you snakes, don’t think you can escape, do things that show you’ve turned from your sins, don’t think you have special status.......From general John moves to specifics – because our sin is always specific.

John now addresses specific people with specific sins.
 ‘He answered, “Whoever has two shirts must give one to the man who has none, and whoever has food must share it.”


John here repeats a message that Scripture is full of, The Haves must share with The Have-Nots. That is a message for us today.

 ‘Some tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what are we to do?” “Don’t collect more than is legal” he told them.”

Another universal message of Scripture – be honest.
That too is a message for us today.

‘Some soldiers also asked him, “What about us? What are we to do?” He said to them, "Don't take money from anyone by force or accuse anyone falsely. Be content with your pay." 

Another universal message of Scripture – don’t abuse your position of authority – in the home, workplace, school, church (and also be content with the salary you agreed to work for).

The next verse is amazing:
 ‘People’s hopes began to rise, and they began to wonder whether John perhaps might be the Messiah. So John said to all of them, “I baptize you with water, but someone is coming who is much greater than I am. I am not good enough even to untie His sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. He has his winnowing shovel with Him, to thresh out all the grain and gather the wheat into His barn; but He will burn the chaff in a fire that never goes out.”
Why does a locust eating preacher who lives and preaches in the wilderness and makes people travel long distances and then tells them that unless they change they are going to hell ...... Why… does… He… cause… peoples… hopes… to rise and wonder whether he was the long awaited Messiah. 
Why?

I suggest the following as possibilities:

They experienced the joy of sins forgiven – have you experienced the joy of sins forgiven? The lifting of the load/the burden of guilt which ongoing sin causes in our lives – have you?

They experienced something new in their relationship with God because the barrier of un-confessed sin was removed by their sincere repentant confession and now their prayers could flow into God and His answers into them, ......the Scriptures now came alive for them, their fasting opened flood gates of blessing and their fellowship took on new meaning............. you see all these things happen when sin is cleaned up in our lives. They experienced something new in their relationship with God .......have youHave you experienced the joy which flows from the forgiveness of sins?

And they ask – is he the Messiah, because this is what we expect the Messiah to do for us when He comes; and John says: No, but let me point you to Him. He’s coming. I’m not worthy to untie his sandals. I baptise with water, He will baptise with fire and the Holy Spirit.

And friends, I want to do the same as John did (not call you a viper, but yes, if that’s what you are)..... I want to point you to Jesus, the forgiver of sins, who has come, is with us right now, and who will come again.

Confess your sins.

Do things that show you have turned from your sins.

And look to the one who came that you and I might have life, abundant, Holy Spirit inspired and empowered life.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus – as individuals, as families, as a Church, oh LORD, please let us do this as a nation.

There’s a gift for you and I to give this Christmas.

Your face turned… towards Jesus.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Advent 2: Prepare the Way for the LORD


ADVENT 2
PREPARE THE WAY

“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,  make straight paths for him.
 Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low.
The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth.
 And all people will see God’s salvation.’”

Here is a wonderful promise to all of us who find ourselves in valleys, or facing mountains, or on a walk which has us facing twists and turns which are too much for us, or, in the words of the prophet, for those of us for whom the way is just… rough.
Notice what Luke says in our reading:

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar 


He places his message very firmly in history:


In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, not the 14th or 16th… no, the 15th year. God’s message is always very time specific. When God has a message for us, isn't it nice to know that is for now.

So, this Advent, in the 4th year of the reign of Jacob Zuma, in the 18th year of the reign of the ANC and in the 51st year of our republic, God has a message for us.

Timing is very important to God, ‘to everything there is a time and a season’ and God's timing is always perfect.
Maybe that’s all you need to hear this morning: “God’s timing is always right, always perfect (and is seldom the same as our timing)”

In Advent, we remember that Jesus will come again… ....but when?
Why didn’t He return in AD 100, or 1153, or 2011?… I don’t know… I’m kind of glad He didn’t, because it’s good to be here, now.

Why did God wait until the time of Caesar Augustus when Quirinius was governor of Syria for Jesus to be born in Bethlehem?
Why wasn’t Adam and Eve’s first child Jesus the Messiah, why did the world have to 1000’s of years before the sin of the world was dealt with by Jesus in 33AD.

That one we can answer to some extent. We know that the way had to be prepared for the Messiah and that way needed Enoch, .......Noah, .......Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,..................... it needed Egypt and Moses,....................... the prophets,........................ John the Baptist.

Maybe we need to hear today that while God’s timing is seldom our timing, God’s timing is always right, is always perfect.

Luke goes on…

.......when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene......

God’s message is always place specific; Judea, Galilee, Iturea, Traconitis, Abilene – they are all geographic places. 
So, in the 4th year of Jacob Zuma’s reign, when Nomvula Mokonyane is premier of Gauteng, Sekgobelo Magashule is premier of Free State, Zweli Mkhize is premier of KZN and Helen Zille is premier of Western Cape…
God has a message for us at this time and in this place.

Luke goes on…

.........during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas,...........

During the priesthood of Stack, Van Wyk and Poole (and soon… Killian)................ can you see how specific the message of God can be?

Luke goes on…

.........the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness............

The word of God came to (say your name) son/daughter of (say their names) in Alberton, perhaps in the wilderness in which you find yourself in Alberton…
Or............. the word of God came to Alberton Methodist Church in its wilderness during the priest hood of Poole, Van Wyk and Killian… or............ the word of God came to our nation in its wilderness during the reign of Jacob Zuma.
Whoever we hear the word of God coming to today, know this, God’s word is for you and for me, in this place and at this time.

And what is that word?....back to Luke:

Prepare the way for the Lord

We saw earlier that Cain and Abel, Enoch, Noah etc, etc, prepared the way for the Lord, right up to John the Baptist, until God’s perfect timing for the Messiah to come. And then Jesus came, and was that the end?
No, ................as we saw last week, that was the beginning of the end, we are now living in the end times, awaiting the Second coming, awaiting the End.
And so, after the death, resurrection and Ascension of Jesus, Peter and Paul and the disciples continued to…
Prepare the way for the LORD (as must you and I) ......
and so did Augustine… Luther… Calvin and Wesley… they continued to: Prepare the way for the LORD (and you and I must too).............
And so did Baker… Robinson… Rogers… Stack… they and the people with them at their time and their place, Prepared the way for the LORD (and you and I must too)

What is the word of God for you, for me, for AMC, for Gauteng, for SA, for the world, this second Sunday in Advent… Prepare the way for the LORD.

That work which was begun by Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, continued by Abraham, John the Baptist, Peter, Paul, Wesley, Rogers, Stack… that work we must continue.


Now, what exactly it means to Prepare the way for the LORD– I think will be different for each one of us.
God’s specific focus for you at this moment in time might be:

Your personal spiritual development
Your marriage
Your family life
God might be saying Prepare the way for the LORD right now in your office, school, community

As we’ve made plans here at AMC for 2013, we have a number of our ‘usuals’ to keep our help our people Prepare the way for the LORD – Disciple, Marriage Course, Griefshare, Divorce Care, Kairos…

For those of us who might feel stalled in our spiritual walk we are running Richard Foster's Renovare course for deeper spiritual growth in the New year.

For our searching and our unchurched surrounding community we are running the Alpha Course, an outstanding evangelism outreach tool.

God is calling us to continue building on the work of those who've gone before us.......He's asking us to continue to 
Prepare the way for the LORD .

Let us pray.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Nicholas of Myra (Fourth Century)


The original “Old St. Nick” who inspired the tradition of Santa Claus, Nicholas was bishop of Myra in fourth-century Turkey. Little is known about his life except that he entrusted himself to -Jesus at an early age and, when his parents died, gave all of their possessions to the poor. While serving as bishop, Nicholas learned of three girls who were going to be sold into slavery by their father. Moved to use the church’s wealth to ransom the lives of these little ones, he tossed three bags of gold through the family’s window. We recall this ancient Christmas gift, even as we remember that 1.2 million children are trafficked each year in the global sex trade today.
Sourced from Common Prayer

Friday, November 30, 2012

OUR ADVENT HOPE


OUR ADVENT HOPE

Jeremiah 33:14-16 and Luke 21:25-36

Happy New Year !!!!!?????

That’s right, .....................happy new year!

Advent marks the beginning of a new year in the Christian calendar. The liturgical year starts with the first Sunday in Advent, which is today, and then moves into Christmas season, which includes Christmas Day, Epiphany and the Baptism of Jesus. Then it moves into Lent which ends with Holy Week, followed by Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Then it is the Season of Easter (Paschaltide) which includes Ascension Day ends on Pentecost Sunday. This is followed by the Season of Pentecost which begins with Trinity Sunday and ends the fifth Sunday before Christmas. The new liturgical year then begins four Sundays before Christmas, with Advent One.

So… it’s Advent… happy new year.

During this season we remember that the Christ who came, will come again at His Second Coming


Since time immemorial people have wondered about the end of the world. You've probably all heard that according to the Mayan Calendar, the world will end in 2 weeks time.

Two thousand years ago, Jesus spoke to his Disciples and said:

“There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

So even Jesus spoke about the end of the world .

Interestingly, He said:
 “Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

In Mark's gospel last week we heard Jesus saying that something else that will happen at this time is that the Temple in Jerusalem will be destroyed. He said not one stone will remain standing on that terrible day.



And that prophecy was fulfilled in A.D. 70, just 37 years after Jesus spoke it. The Romans absolutely destroyed the Temple and all the things Jesus prophesied, wars, revolutions, earthquakes, famines, strange and terrifying things in the sky….. all these came about in A.D. 69 and 70. You can Google ' fall of Jerusalem and Jesus prophecies ' and you will see Roman historians and Jewish historians recording all these things.

Of course for the disciples hearing these words, it sounded like the end of the world. They could not imagine a world without a Temple – where would God live.

Jesus goes on in our reading:
 He told them this parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees. When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.


 And that is the good news we celebrate in Advent. In the midst of destruction, there is new life. In the midst of chaos, God speaks a new creation word. In Advent we remember that God came in Christ, is with us now… and will come again.

The Kingdom of God came in Christ, is among us by the Spirit, will come in all it’s fullness with Christ's glorious return and .......Jesus says, ........it’s happening now, look for the green shoots.

In your life now, look for the green shoots.

Yesterday was World Aids Day.


In 1996, Cotlands (based in Turffontein, Johannesburg) offered the country’s first AIDS hospice aimed at 
helping children to die with dignity.

They have helped thousands of children die with dignity. Earlier this year, they had to shut the doors of the AIDS hospice for children… do you know why?......................................Because they haven’t had an AIDS related death since 2009. A Cotlands' spokesperson was quoted in The Johannesburg Star as saying ‘Anti retro-viral treatment increases life expectancy. These children are now going to live until they are adults.’ Isn't that good news?

One of the prophet Isaiah’s prophecies regarding the End Times is that people will not die young.

Look for the green shoots, says Jesus.




We've walked through another year, hopefully discovering that God is here with us, as He has always been with His people. And I hope we've been amazed at how He shows up unexpectedly, in a service, in a funeral, a small group, in your illness, in your celebration, in your hospice.

This year has been hard for many/most of us, hasn't it?
We feel…................ barren.
My prayer is that this Advent season, this new year, will provide you with.......... a new hope… a renewed hope, so that as we go into the future with it’s struggles that God leads us through, or that sin in our world brings us into, or maybe even that you and I have fallen into because of our own sin… that in our struggles we will be able to look at the fig tree…
and amid the ruins, the mess, the confusion, the worry....see the leaves.
Perhaps even thinking or saying I’m so dry,.... I’m so hungry,...... I’m so lonely,..... it’s so hard, how am I going to make it,........ but at the same time looking for the green leaf, remembering that God who was a baby, is a powerful presence, is in our lives,............ He is with us.

In Advent we remember the note of hope that runs through all the pages of the Bible. I love that song that the saints sing in Revelation 7… it actually comes from the book of Isaiah…

They sing together as they experience the fullness of their relationship with God.
Never again will they hunger. Never again will they thirst. Never again will the sun beat upon them, nor the scorching heat.
The Lamb from the centre of the throne will become their Shepherd. He will lead them to springs of living water, and He will wipe away every tear. 
That’s our hope. Sometimes, praise God, some of that even happens in our life here. We go through painful, trying times. We come out on the other side, as many of you have this year, and many of you will in the coming year.
God has (or will) quenched your thirst. He has (and will) wiped away your tears.
And as we continue our journey into Advent, through Christmas and into a new calendar year, we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the day will come, Jesus will return, His Kingdom will come in all its fulness and God's people will know fullness of relationship with Him.

That’s our Advent hope, and the shoots are all around us.

Who may be saved?


From John Wesley's Journal for this day in 1767:
30 Nov 1767: I took coach for Norwich, and in the evening came to Newmarket.On Tuesday, being alone in the coach, I was considering several points of importance. And thus much appeared clear as the day:
That a man may be saved who cannot express himself properly concerning imputed righteousness. Therefore to do this is not necessary to salvation;
That a man may be saved who has not clear conceptions of it (yea, that never heard the phrase). Therefore clear conceptions of it are not necessary to salvation; yea, it is not necessary to salvation to use the phrase at all;
That a pious churchman who has not clear conceptions even of justification by faith may be saved; therefore clear conceptions even of this are not necessary to salvation;
That a mystic who denies justification by faith (Mr. Law, for instance) may be saved. But if so, what becomes of articulus stantis vel cadentis ecclesiae?[The article of doctrine by which the church stands or falls] If so, is it not high time for us Projicere ampullas et sesquipedalia verba,[To lay aside big words that have no determinate meaning] and to return to the plain word, ‘He that feareth God, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.’
Every evening this week, I preached at Norwich to a quiet, well-behaved congregation. Our friends, the mob, seem to have taken their leave. And so have triflers; all that remain seem to be deeply serious. But how easily are even these turned out of the way! One of our old members, about a year ago, left the society and never heard the preaching since, ‘because Mr. Lincoln said Mr. Wesley and all his followers would go to hell together!’ However, on Tuesday night, he ventured to the house once more. And God met him there and revealed his Son in his heart.

Friday, November 23, 2012

What is Truth?


What is Truth?

‘And what is truth’ Pilate asked. 
John 18:38

That must surely be one of the more ironic lines in Scripture.
Staring at Jesus - one of His names is The Truth and asking ‘What is Truth?’
It’s a question that is appropriate for the times we live in.

I want to say 3 things about Truth today – things that I hope will set us free in some new way…. to live in a new way as a disciple of Jesus.

Truth is: a thing
                a power
                a person   

What do I mean, truth is a thing – well truth is the opposite of lies, of deception, of things that we keep hidden. Truth is a thing which is always in the open and is never scared of, or ashamed of, being revealed.
The world today is full of the opposite of truth – in the business world, the political arena and the sporting world the opposite of truth is called corruption, fraud, nepotism, mismanagement, etc.

And we need look no further than our own country to the scandals in athletics, cricket and in various government departments where rampant fraud has been exposed, to realize that there is, in many areas, an absence of the thing called truth.

And the good thing is that it is being exposed.

On every continent throughout the world, similar exposure is taking place on an unprecedented scale. The current recession is due to TRUTH being exposed.
This exposure of corruption is a new thing taking place in our lifetime and it has considerable prophetic significance. We will misunderstand its significance if we simply conclude that we live in the most evil generation ever to have inhabited the world. This may be true, but no one has evidence to prove it.
There has always been corruption, unrighteousness, cruelty and wickedness ever since Adam and Eve left the Garden of Eden. It was precisely to deal with this that the Father sent Jesus with the good news of God’s saving love.

The new thing we are seeing today is the extent of what is being revealed. Nothing remains hidden.

What is happening today is fully in line with a prophecy given by none other than Jesus himself. He said ‘there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open (Luke 8:17)’.
Jesus was speaking about the effect the gospel would have upon the world. He said it would be like lighting a lamp and putting it on a prominent place in the room so that everyone could see the light which would also expose everything in the room.
This is precisely what is happening today. Nothing remains hidden for long.

God is undoubtedly turning up the power of the light that is exposing evil and corruption, but that same light is also bringing life to millions who are hearing the good news of the Lord Jesus for the first time. These are the contrasts of the age in which we live. But these are also the signs of the times for which we should be watching and noting if we are to understand what God is saying to His people today and what He is requiring us to do.


So truth is a thing, which because of the light of the gospel, will be and is being revealed.

That same gospel of course touches us and changes us and this leads to the second thing I want to say about truth, and that is that truth is a power, it has potential.

John reminds us (8:32) that The truth shall set you free.
Wherever the opposite of truth exists, be it in the form of lies or deception or fraud or corruption, there is un-freedom, there is bondage, there is watching what I do, or say or spend.

You might disagree, but what I’m saying is that, as an example from current news, General Petraeus is a freer man today than he was before the truth was brought out into the open.
King David in the Bible was a freer man after his sin was exposed.

The opposite of truth enslaves and is a constant threat to our physical, emotional, and spiritual well being. This is especially true in the relationships we have with the people we love. Husbands and wives, be truthful with each other about what you like and don’t like. Parents and children (of all ages), brothers and sisters, friends, be truthful with each other.

I counsel too many people who say – ‘I didn’t know he/she felt that way’….. ‘He never said anything’

Friends “the truth sets you free”

Don’t believe Satan’s deception that you cannot be truthful with the people you love…….you can, they (and you) will survive.
The gospel, which is the good news for our salvation, says “the truth will always set you free.

I have counseled many people into the courageous steps of revealing the truth about themselves to the people they love……….. and sometimes it has almost been with great fear (how will he/she respond) but ALWAYS the discovery has been that the truth sets free.

Now this doesn’t mean that on your way home, or even in the pew right now, you turn to the person you love and say:
Actually I’m married to somebody elseOh by the way I have a child in FranceAnd while we’re at it I can’t stand your hair today… And you look terrible in blue….
That might have an unnecessarily unexpected and unpleasant immediate outcome…….. but,do as you sit here or drive home, decide that the time is near for the truth to come out, because the truth will set you free.

And it will set you free because the truth is not just a thing that will be revealed, and it is not just a power that will set you free, it gets even better than these two good things,………….. the truth is also a person.

Jesus said: I am the Truth (that’s why it is so ironic that Pilate should look at Him and say what is truth)
And Jesus is revealed in us, His image is restored in us, His spirit is upon us and in us when the truth is in us and in our relationships. Does that make sense?

When you are truthful, Jesus is revealed in you.

What is truth? Pilate asks.

Jesus in His life and in His gospel reveals that:
1.    Truth is a thing which will be revealed
2.    Truth is a power which always sets free
3.    Truth is a person, Christ, who wants to be revealed in you and me.

Amen