Mars Hill - Seeing what God is already doing

Preacher: Lincon Hardouin

Verses: Acts 17:16-33

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Paul, the mightiest of all the apostles. Patient, courageous, forgiving, humble, passionate, loving, kind, gentle, uncompromising, faithful, strong, amongst other things… All of these characteristics were used by different scholars over centuries to describe the Apostle Paul, and for many of us here today, it is easy for us to see why. He is certainly one of the most influential Biblical characters in the New Testament, and he is certainly one of the most quintessential examples of what true Christian living looks like. Throughout the scriptures we are told, and we read, about his encouragement to the early church, his firm but fairness towards sinners, his faithfulness in the gospel, his passion for serving ALL people, his courage in serving Jesus. But this is only one side of Paul’s incredible story, and it is the one side that most people choose only to remember.

I want you to understand though, the other side of this story. The side that many people have probably heard, the side that many have probably forgotten, the side that many people have probably chosen to forget. But this morning, I want you to hear these words as quoted from Paul, I want you to understand what his dedication cost him.

UPCSA Month of Mission: All People Need God's Love

Preacher: Alan Cameron

Verses: Acts 16:11-34

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How does God guide his church to the right place and time for mission?  The passage before us provides important principles for our consideration.  There will be sanctified common sense and planning (Acts 15:36).  There will be “closed” as well as “open doors” (Acts 16:7,8).  There will be guidance by way of circumstances, sometimes extraordinary (Acts 16:9,10), given to individuals as well as the whole team.  Discernment and receptivity are the keys.  Specific guidance comes to these already on the road as it were, living out the Great Command and Great Commission.  Being able to say God sent us with the wind of the Spirit at our backs and his indwelling presence empowering us is a great incentive to mission.

UPCSA Month of Mission: Seeing God’s Heart for the World

Preacher: Alan Cameron

Verses:

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The New Testament scholar Stephen Neill once quipped “If everything is mission, then nothing is mission”, to which the Old Testament scholar Christopher Wright responded “If everything is mission, then everything is mission”.  Little wonder that the missiologist David Bosch retorted, “Ultimately mission remains undefinable”. Since the 1950’s there has been a remarkable broadening of the term.  Caring for the environment is mission.  Community renewal is mission.  Blessing our neighbours is mission.

Strength Through Weakness : Paradox and Power

Preacher: Alan Cameron

Verses: 2 Corinthians 6:1-13

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The Apostle Paul counters his Corinthian opponents’ love of power with the power of love.  He contrasts their preoccupation with style and personality with gospel and character.  Having pleaded for reconciliation he urges the Corinthians “not to receive God’s grace in vain” (v12).  His plea is not to take God’s goodness for granted.  As C.K. Barret put it, “The Corinthians had indeed been reconciled to God, but it was for them to receive the reconciliation more effectively”. 

As a missionary Paul saw hardships and conflict as part of the territory.   He took it squarely on the chin without flinching or complaint.  He was no masochist.  He did not see suffering itself as a mark of spirituality.  However, linked to mission and the cause of Christ it is redemptive.  He had no romantic notions about suffering.  He had suffered too much for that!

Strength Through Weakness: Ambassadors of Christ

Preacher: Alan Cameron

Verses: 2 Corinthians 5:10-6:2

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Preaching has rightly been described as ‘letting texts talk’.  The text in this instance is both surprising and challenging.  It reminds us that not all fear is bad.  There is healthy fear (v11a), a timely reminder that all of us will render an account to God on that great day (v10).  Accordingly, Paul is motivated to “persuade others” by appealing “to [their] conscience” (v11).  Unlike his opponents in Corinth he does not resort to manipulation or rhetorical excess.  He simply states gospel facts: all face judgement (v10), equally, Christ died for all (v14).  There is paradox and mystery here, responsive to ‘faith seeking understanding’ as opposed to philosophical speculation about God’s character and human merit.

Strength Through Weakness: New Creation

Preacher: Alan Cameron

Verses: 2 Corinthians 5:16,17

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Alistair Sparks depicted our transition to democracy and beyond in two books: ‘Tomorrow is Another Country’ and ‘Beyond the Miracle’.  Hindsight has taught us that we did not miraculously change overnight and ‘another country’ has morphed into something very different than that envisaged by our founding fathers who drafted our constitution.  So how do we address the creeping cynicism in our hearts fueled by factionalism and populist rhetoric?  I would suggest that the answer lies in an ancient letter written by Paul to the church at Corinth.

E ultreia e suseia, Deus adjuva nos

Preacher: Gordon Hay

Verses: 2 Peter 1:1-11

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2 Peter was the last book in the New Testament to be written, probably between 65 and 68 AD. It was also the last book to gain entry into the New Testament.  And it gained entry with the greatest difficulty.[1] A scholar described 2 Peter as: “… far inferior in every respect to 1 Peter … it is the least valuable of the New Testament writings.”[2] Although referred to in the 1st and second centuries it was apparently not until the fourth century that 2 Peter came to be accepted in the New Testament.

Many have challenged whether it was written by Peter because of the different style in the original writings. But whatever the debate we turn to 2 Peter 1 this morning.

The letter was written to counter the beliefs and activities of a group of people who were a threat to the Church.[3][4] They were using God’s grace as a justification for sinning. The first 11 verses reminded believers that through God’s grace they had been forgiven their sins and instructed them how, grounded in faith, they were to journey onwards and upwards without falling. Listen to these verses.

 

[1] The Letters of Peter and James by William Barclay. My Kindle location 5628

[2] EF Scott quoted by William Barclay

[3] William Barclay location 5635

[4] Barclay (location 5645) says that “It is clear that Peter is describing antinomians, those who used God’s grace as a justification for sinning. In all probability they were Gnostics, who said that only spirit was good and that matter was essentially evil and that, therefore, what we did with the body was not important and that we could follow physical appetites to excess and it made no difference.

Strength Through Weakness: Life After Death

Preacher: Alan Cameron

Verses: 2 Corinthians 4:18-5:10

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A contemporary writer has described death as a “conspiracy of silence... the universal repression of our day muffled up in illusion”.  Part of the problem is confusion.  People are not sure what happens when we die, so in the words of Shakespeare’s Hamlet “death doth make cowards of us all.”

 

In stark contrast to this, Paul moves life after death from the realm of conjecture and confusion to established fact.  Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of our resurrection to follow in time.  For Paul this is no pious myth, escapist superstition, but historical fact attested to by hundreds of eye-witnesses including Paul himself.  Granted the passage before us is a difficult one, its interpretation disputed: is Paul dealing with the ‘intermediate state’ of believers upon death or the “Parousia’, the great day when Christ returns?  However, the difference is a matter of degree about which we can afford to be agnostic.

Strength Through Weakness: Style or Substance

Preacher: Alan Cameron

Verses: 2 Corinthians 4:1-18

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The novelist John Updike’s critique of organized religion being “like Coca-Cola billboards: they promote thirst without quenching it” is apposite with regards to Paul’s opponents at Corinth.  They were strong on style, weak on substance.  They dismissed Paul as wishy-washy and weak in comparison.  Little wonder then that Paul twice in this chapter, once at the beginning, the other at the end, reiterates “Therefore we do not lose heart” (vv1,16).

 

The Price of Holiness

Preacher:Lincon Hardouin

Verses: 1 Peter 1:13-21

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I want you to imagine with me for just a second, what the last few hours of Christ’s life must have been like. Being beaten and flogged to within an inch of His own life, skin being torn away from His own body, being forced to walk the road towards Golgotha, with the weight of the world’s sin bearing down upon His own body. Imagine for a second standing in the crowd as Jesus walks by. Imagine listening to the people standing next to you as the shout at Christ, as they cheer for Him to be crucified. Imagine the shouts of pain as Christ is lying there on His back on the cross, nails being driven through hands and feet, the sound of steel crashing against steel, wails of grief rising up as His family stands there and watch as He’s about to be crucified. Imagine being on the cross, feeling absolutely helpless at that point in time, looking down and seeing your loved ones standing at your feet, being in such immense pain, hanging, unable to breathe, being separated from the Father. Can you imagine that, can you picture that? Can you picture in your minds how horrific that moment in history must have been?

Strength Through Weakness: Captive and Competent

Preacher: Alan Cameron

Verses: 2 Corinthians 2:12-3:18

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Several years ago the comedy “Twins” starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny De Vito depicted two polar opposites: the one super-sized marvel of humanity, the other short and dumpy, something of a misfit.  In comparison to the ‘super-apostles’ of Corinth.  Paul was similarly written off as a wimp and ineffective.  Moreover, in their eyes he was unreliable.  He changed his travel plans at the drop of a hat.  Whilst his letters were bold and brash, his person was wishy-washy and non-descript.

 

Strength Through Weakness: Love Hurts

Preacher: Alan Cameron

Verses: 2 Corithians 1:12-2:11

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“This will hurt me more than it hurts you” said Mom reaching for the wooden spoon.  Sounds familiar?  Now that corporal punishment has been banished from schools, and increasingly questioned whether appropriate in the home, these words may well become a distant memory.  Be that as it may, love by its very nature hurts.  There are times when authentic love needs to inflict pain for love’s sake.  The boomerang effect impacts both parties.

The unkindest cut of all is the accusation that one simply does not care, that one is indifferent to the plight of others.  This was the accusation levelled against Paul.  He didn’t really like the Corinthians.  He isn’t bothered about them, if he were, he would have visited them as he promised.  His nasty letter and cancelled visit simply underscored his disdain for them.  They would be better off without him.  After all he is wishy-washy, not a proper Apostle you know.  He doesn’t have the right papers.  His gifts don’t measure up.  He’s just a charlatan, a fake.  This was the accusation Paul faced from his opponents who had negatively influenced a substantial number of house churches in and around Corinth.

Strength Through Weakness : Testing Times for Troubled People

Preacher: Alan Cameron

Verses: 2 Corinthians 1:1-11

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Paul had an ambivalent relationship with the church at Corinth.  Having established the church on his second missionary journey in the early 50’s AD, he had written both 1st Corinthians as well as a ‘painful’ letter prior to writing what is known as 2 Corinthians.  The church had all but turned its back on Paul.  False teachers, so-called ‘super-apostles’, had infiltrated the church.  Carrying letters of authority from dubious sources they had won the allegiance of most of the house churches in and around Corinth.  Trained orators, they dismissed Paul as ineffective and ‘wishy washy’ who failed to deliver on his promises.  He said one thing and did another.  His travel plans were suspect and his authority questionable.  So Paul responds.  His motive is not so much to vindicate himself rather to defend the gospel which had been compromised through false teaching which promoted legalism that led ironically to license, loose living and sexual immorality.

Gounded in the Gospel: Have salt among yourselves

Preacher: Gordon Hay

Verses: Joshua 14:14-24; Mark 9:49-50

“But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord!”

This passage in Joshua 24 has always been one that has struck me.

Joshua has led the Israelites into the Promised Land. He has done all that he was called to do. Undertaking much of this at an advanced age.[1] As he is nearing the end of his life he gathers the tribes at Shechem and he addresses them. He does two things: he first recounts what God has done for them, and then challenges them.

And the challenge is one that I go back to time and again, and that I want us to examine.

Joshua describes the history of what God has done, and this is detailed from the time of the flood, escaping from Egypt right up to where they are at that point in time.

They have crossed into the Promised Land, have conquered many nations and taken cities.

Joshua 24:13 : “So I gave you a land on which you did not toil and cities you did not build; and you live in them and eat from vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant.”

 

[1] See Joshua 13:1

Grounded in the Gospel: Faith Challenged - The Transfiguration of Christ

Preacher: Jones Liwewe

Verses: Mark 9:2-13

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The transfiguration of Christ marks a major turning point in the gospel narrative, for Jesus was now getting closer and closer to His suffering and death on the cross. Already, there was rising opposition against Him, but despite all this, he had set His mind on Jerusalem, where shame, humiliation and death was waiting.  Jesus was ready and willing to face His death head on because He knew the impact His suffering and death would have on the nation of Israel and the entire world.

The disciple’s faith was challenged by Christ’s suffering and death

Unlike Jesus, the disciples were struggling to grapple with the idea of a suffering Messiah. They did not yet understand why Jesus had to suffer and die. The message of Jesus’s suffering and death caused unsettling, confusion and discouragement to them, to a point where Peter even tried to talk Jesus out of it, but was rebuked by Him.

 

Grounded in the Gospel: The Heart of the Matter

Preacher: Alan Cameron

Verses: Mark 7:1-23

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Jesus was known as the Prince of Peace, full of grace and truth.  Why then did controversy pursue him and conflict dog his steps.  From the moment of his birth King Herod tried to eliminate him.  Throughout his public ministry the religious leaders pursued him relentlessly, culminating in his death by crucifixion.

 

The conflict wasn’t political.  Last week we noted that Jesus resisted the call of the crowd, after he fed the five thousand, to become a populist liberator from Rome.  Nor did Jesus directly confront the social structures of the day.  “My kingdom is not of this world”, he said and “those who live by the sword shall perish by the sword”.

Grounded in the Gospel: Amazing Compassion

Preacher: Alan Cameron

Verses: Mark 6:30-56

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Mark describes two banquets in chapter six.  One was held in a fortress-palace, the other in the rolling hills of Galilee.  One led to the death of John the Baptist, the other to the feeding of five thousand.  The hosts were poles apart.  Herod was prompted by self-serving power, Jesus by compassion and care.

 

The feeding of the five thousand is recorded in all four gospels, indicative of its importance. 

Grounded in the Gospel: Mounting Opposition

Preacher: Jones Liwewe

Verses: Mark 6:1-13

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Mark 6: 1-13 shows us how Jesus carried His mission in His hometown and how people responded to His ministry. Christ has commissioned us to carry His mission into our hometown, our families, and the rest of the world. This passage therefore, helps us to understand the purpose, the offensiveness, and the nature of Christ mission.

Our Trinitarian Faith Part 2 - The Trinity and the Christian Life

Preacher: Alan Cameron

Verses: Luke 3:21-22, Luke 9:28-36, Luke 10:1-24

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Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States, dismissed the doctrine of the Trinity with the scathing words, “These metaphysical insanities hindered the growth of humanity and represented relapses into polytheism differing from paganism only by being more unintelligible.  How can we talk about a triune God or the three in one without talking mathematical and metaphysical nonsense.”