Hallelujah! What a Saviour

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Today I visited a church in Melbourne as I had been invited to preach. I must say it was so nice to be at church today. Not just because I got to preach. And not just because we heard great things from God’s Word about his grace in Christ Jesus. And not only because I got to meet some great and godly new brothers and sisters. And not simply because I got to see some old friends I haven’t seen for a while.

Today I was really struck as we sang together. I often find myself reflecting on the songs we sing. They have a way of getting in my head… and staying there… sometimes all week. Just ask my kids as I hum and sing badly for the week ahead. Songs have a way of staying with us.

Today we sang a song that I don’t remember singing before. I almost can’t believe that to be true. Because it’s an old song [google tells me from 1875 by Philip B. Bliss]. And it’s a good song. I’m sure I’ve come across it before but today its words really impacted me at the time and have remained with me. They struck me as deeply and profoundly good words to sing.

Here are the lyrics. Accompanied only by an acoustic guitar and 2 clear [and beautiful] voices we sang,

  1. “Man of Sorrows!” what a name
    For the Son of God, who came
    Ruined sinners to reclaim.
    Hallelujah! What a Savior!
  2. Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
    In my place condemned He stood;
    Sealed my pardon with His blood.
    Hallelujah! What a Savior!
  3. Guilty, vile, and helpless we;
    Spotless Lamb of God was He;
    “Full atonement!” can it be?
    Hallelujah! What a Savior!
  4. Lifted up was He to die;
    “It is finished!” was His cry;
    Now in Heav’n exalted high.
    Hallelujah! What a Savior!
  5. When He comes, our glorious King,
    All His ransomed home to bring,
    Then anew His song we’ll sing:
    Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Hallelujah what a Saviour indeed!!

— Chris

It’s all in the story

IMG_1924.JPGWe’ve been thinking about how to share the good news about Jesus with people via story telling. When I say story telling you probably immediately think fiction, or make believe or fairy-tales or something like that.

But what we’ve been working on is how to share the true stories of the Bible about God and his great plan of salvation in Jesus Christ in a way that engages with people from cultures more given to learning via oral methods. We might find that strange to hear, because generally we may be given to learning more via printed text and analysis [at least I know I am].

I’m currently working on preparing the stories of Luke 7:11-17 and Luke 24:1-35. These two stories are about Jesus and his power over death. The first is about Jesus and his power to speak to a dead boy in a funeral procession and to raise the boy to life again. The second is all about the account of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Both these stories are great snapshots of Jesus’ power and promise to those who would trust in him.

I’ve really enjoyed practicing the stories on my kids as we walk to and from daycare. The other day we were stopped at a light and I was telling the story of Thomas and his disbelief from John 20 and a cyclist pulled up besides us and listened in too. Lots of people don’t actually know any true stories about Jesus and we’re hoping that as they hear about Jesus in these stories from the Bible they’d be keen to think more about him and their response to him.

After we tell the story we might ask a few questions to get people thinking like…

  1. What did you like about the story?
  2. What do we learn about people?
  3. What do we learn about God?
  4. Did you have any questions about the story?
  5. What’s something you’d like to think more about?
  6. Who could you tell this story to this week?

Later this month we’ll actually head down to St Paul’s Cathedral (pictured above) in Melbourne city to share these stories and others (all captured in the stained-glass windows of the cathedral) with tourists, passers-by and any one who is willing to listen to us for a minute or two. Why not pray for us right now?

— Chris

Animism: Angels and Demons

FullSizeRender.jpgI can’t remember experiencing a demonic attack. I’ve heard stories, but have always responded with a degree of skepticism. I’m certain of the Bible’s teaching that there are evil forces at work in the world. The forces of Satan are opposed to the kingship and authority of the Lord Jesus Christ. But spirits and demons have not been at the forefront of my Christian thinking or experience.

Today’s class was about animism: the belief that natural phenomena have souls or spirits. Think the spirit of a mountain or the lingering ghost of a dead relative. This worldview draws no distinction between the physical and the spiritual, because spirits are believed to influence every aspect of life. Whether you want to have a baby or just get to work safely, you need the spirits on your side. This probably sounds a bit strange to you, but it is an overwhelmingly universal worldview, impacting Africa, Asia, Latin America and beyond. It expresses itself in various indigenous religions, and forms of Islam, Buddhism and even Christianity.

Animism is fear based. People fear illness and death, so they try to keep the spirits happy. Life is lived trying to achieve power over the spirits, in order to get the life that I want. A world of witchdoctors, diviners and curses is a life of daily uncertainty and terror.

How will Christians respond to these beliefs? We certainly can’t ignore them! Nor should we fall into a form of Christian animism, believing that powerful people or spirits have authority over us. In our fear we need not seek a special formula for dealing with evil.

What does God say? In his word he reveals himself as the creator and sustainer of all things. So we know that angels and demons are created beings. We know that God is not distant from our daily lives, but works in all things for the good of those who are called according to his purpose…to be conformed to the image of his Son.

And this Son is of course Jesus Christ. The gospels describe Jesus as the one who heals the sick and demon possessed. Colossians describes him as the one who disarms the powers and authorities, publically humiliating them through his death on the cross. Ephesians reveals the risen Christ, seated at the right hand of the Father, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, both present and future.

As we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, there will be times when we are afraid. The devil prowls like a lion, waiting to devour us. Yet we fix our eyes on Jesus, the one who is victorious over every evil spirit, every sinful inclination and even death itself. Let faith in him drive out every fear.

— Stef

Faith not sight

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This week we’ve been hearing a bit from Hebrews 11. I am always amazed at the interpretation the writer offers of what Abraham was thinking as he obeyed God’s word in Genesis 22. God instructed Abraham to offer his son, the one promised to bring about a great people and children as numerous as the stars. God instructs Abraham to,

“Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to  the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” Genesis 22:1-2

Abraham had 2 options…

  1. Disbelief, distrust and disobedience.
  2. Belief, trust and obedience.

Abraham goes the second way — realising that God’s promise is certain enough that even now he’s been given this directive that might seem directly opposite to the promise, God will be able even to raise Isaac from the dead!!

17   By faith  Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, 18 of whom it was said,  “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 19  He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.

Hebrews 11:17-19 [ESV]

Amazing example of what it means to walk by faith and not by sight. You only can trust the trustworthy. And God proves his credentials time and time again.

A new and better city

We’ve been in Melbourne since Monday. This city seems so different and at the same time so familiar. The signs read in English. The people speak my language. And yet we feel a bit like outsiders. Strangers. Tourists.

It may be our NSW number plates but as we navigate our way around the roads, tram tracks, and train crossings we feel like we’re doing it all wrong.

It’s a good feeling to feel out of our comfort zone. It reminds us that we are citizens of another city. The heavenly one. One where because of Christ’s work for us, we shall never feel like an outsider. Never to feel like we’re not at home. Never to feel like we don’t belong.

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After only a week we’re reminded to long for that city. As nice as Melbourne is… and it is! We look forward to the city of God. The heavenly Jerusalem that will come when our Lord and Saviour comes.

1   Then I saw  a new heaven and a new earth, for  the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw  the holy city,  new Jerusalem,  coming down out of heaven from God,  prepared  as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold,  the dwelling place  of God is with man. He will  dwell with them, and they will be his people,  and God himself will be with them as their God.  4  He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and  death shall be no more,  neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

22   And  I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23 And the city  has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for  the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 By its light  will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth  will bring their glory into it, 25 and  its gates will never be shut by day—and  there will be no night there. 26 They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. 27 But  nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s  book of life.

— Chris

We’ve made it to Melbourne…

IMG_0DACE18CA785-1.jpegWe’re giving thanks to God tonight as we settle in for our first nights rest tonight. It’s been a long day of travel but we’ve arrived safe and sound.

Thanks for those who’ve been praying and continue to pray for the Overhall Family as we prepare for cross-cultural mission work with CMS at St Andrew’s Hall in Melbourne.

More to come in the week ahead.

— Chris