Encouragement

Rejecting Same Sex Marriage Isn’t Bigotry

Here in the country where I was born and raised (Australia) every citizen who is eligible to vote (who is on the electoral role) will be asked, via a voluntary postal vote, whether the definition of marriage should be changed.

Amongst other things the Marriage Act currently:

  • sets the marriageable age and allows the marriage of minors in certain circumstances
  • establishes the framework for marriage ceremonies. Parties can marry in public or private, provided there is an official celebrant and two witnesses to the declarations between the parties. Particular words are prescribed for marriages solemnised by civil celebrants which reflect the understanding of marriage in Australian law. Religions which have been recognised as requiring monogamy and permanency as promises of marriage are permitted to use their own ceremony.
  • establishes the framework of the regulation of authorised marriage celebrants (both religious and non-religious)
  • deals with issues of consent, void marriages and legitimacy of children
  • creates offences relating to bigamy, under-age marriages, and marriages not performed according to the required notice periods etc
  • defines marriage to mean ‘the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life

The change proposed is due to the last point and if it does occur then two persons of the same gender can be married and their marriage will be legally recognised.

From what I have observed from much of the writing and articles of those who are advocates of this change, there appears to be a prevailing paradigm that is being put forward, a paradigm that states:

Those who will vote ‘yes’ – who desire a change to the definition of marriage, will do so because:
1. They are tolerant.
2. They are loving.
3. They are accepting (of Gays & Lesbians).
4. They are informed

Those who will vote ‘no’ – who want the definition of marriage to remain unchanged, will do so because:
1. They are bigoted.
2. They are haters.
3. They are homophobic.
4. They are stuck in the past

The problem with this paradigm is that it does not even allow for the possibility that there are those who believe and uphold to the traditional view of marriage, who will vote ‘no’ who are
1. Not bigoted;
2. Not haters (of the LBGTI community);
3. Not homophobic.
4. Who are informed and not stuck in the past.

My encouragement to all Christians as they prayerfully vote is to remember that our Lord Jesus Christ is our model, and the Lord is very clear about what marriage is and what marriage is not. In the Gospel of St Matthew chapter 19:1-6, the Lord Jesus reinforces to his disciples that marriage originates with God, that the essence of marriage is in the union of a man and a woman. (See Mark 10:1-9 also).

Now when Jesus had finished these sayings, he went away from Galilee and entered the region of Judea beyond the Jordan. And large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (ESV)

It is also equally clear from the Gospels that our Lord Jesus Christ was not bigoted, loved all people, was not homophobic, nor stuck in the past.

Thus the affirmation of marriage being between a man and woman and the subsequent rejection of same sex marriage is not due to hatred, bigotry, ignorance or homophobia, but is consistent with the Holy Scriptures, with the Lord Jesus Christ and also includes acknowledgment that marriage as God defines it, is the best structure for society and for the procreation and raising of children in the secure nurturing wedlock of a mother and a father.

In the vote I will be voting “No” to Same Sex marriage for the above reasons and my humble counsel and encouragement to all Christians is to do the same, remembering that the Lord Jesus Christ is our model in both what we believe and how we conduct ourselves.

Praying For the Lost

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When I was in year 11, a lot of my mates at school used to try to get into pubs under-age. Many of them could do it. Yet I saw no point, not only because I did not drink; but also when I was 17 I looked like I was about 12 and found pubs to be very intimidating and scary places at the bet of times. But on my 18th birthday, I went around to see my older brother and he took me to his local pub in Rozelle, a suburb of Sydney, called The Three Weeds. I particularly remember excusing myself to go to the men’s room and whilst there, unbeknownst to me, my brother had told the entire front bar that his little brother had just turned 18. When I came out, all the patrons sang happy birthday to me and I was given my first drink, a complimentary shot of something called Tequila. (They may as well have given me a shot of Detol!)

The reason I tell this story is that I recall afterwards thinking about the sort of people who were at this pub, they were very different to the sort of people whom I normally mixed with, and not the sort whom I mixed with at the Anglican Church I attended. To my shame I remember despairing and thinking to myself, “as if anyone in that pub would ever become a Christian”. Yet the reason for my despair was due to my thinking evangelism and bringing people to faith in Christ is a merely human endeavour.

This sort of thinking I believe can and will lead us to one of two equal and opposite errors, the first of which I fell into:

  1. Despair – due to thinking that a person’s salvation is all up to us. So when people don’t come to faith we therefore deem our evangelistic efforts to be futile and that we are useless in regards to the extension of God’s Kingdom.
  1. Pride – due to thinking that a person’s salvation is up to us. So when people do come to faith we therefore deem our evangelistic efforts to be successful and that we are rather amazing in regards to the extension of God’s Kingdom.

Yet from the Scriptures we see very clearly that God is the One, and the Only One who brings people to faith in Christ. Have a look at 1 Corinthians 3:5-7:

            [5] What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. [6] I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. [7] So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.

From this passage we see that:

  • God gives the gives the growth – It is God who changes people’s hearts;God is the one who brings people to him, God is the one who saves.
  • The Apostles were obedient in proclaiming the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ (i.e. planting and watering), but they also know that they could not raise the spiritually dead and could not give sight to the spiritually blind. Only the Great Evangelist, God the Holy Spirit can do this.

This is why prayer for the lost is so important. Firstly: it serves to protect us and rescue us from falling into one of these two errors. Secondly: when we pray for the lost, we are asking God to do what we cannot. Just like the Apostles, we cannot raise the spiritually dead nor can we give sight to the spiritually blind. Only God can do this.

So here are some things I hope in the Lord Jesus may be of some service to you when it comes to praying for the lost:

  1. Pray for love – that God will give you a real heart felt love for the lost
  1. Pray for intentionality – that God will enable you to go out and meet the lost (whether it be at the Golf club, in the shed, in the field, at the school gate, at the shopping queue), and befriend the lost
  1. Pray for conviction – that God will convict you of the plight and final destiny of the lost
  1. Pray for opportunities to give a reason for the hope you profess – and take them when they inevitably come.
  1. Pray for boldness & courage – in making opportunities to proclaim the lost.
  1. Pray for wisdom – to say the right thing at the right time and in the right way. 
  1. Pray for unbelievers – the Saul’s that you know, the doubters, the curious, the indifferent. Pray that God will do only what He can do.
  1. Commit 2 Cor.4:7 to memory –

[7] But we have this treasure in jars of clay,

to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

What a great reminder this is for us when it comes to praying for the lost and when it comes to evangelism! The Treasure is the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, it is a treasure of infinite worth.We have this treasure! You have this treasure

We are the jars of clay. Not exactly, the most flattering of descriptions, of you and me, not very complimentary is it? It indicates that we are frail and easily broken, and fragile. We are all jars of clay. Yet God uses us Jars of clay and the reason God uses broken vessels is to show that the power to save is God’s and not us. You don’t have to ‘be a Chappo’ – God will use you as you are – you jar of clay you! This is always God’s Way.

I once heard the former Archbishop of Sydney Harry Goodhew tell me that Gospel ministry in Australia is like “trying to plough concrete”. And as true is that is, and as often as sharing of our faith can feel like that, God can crack the concrete surrounding the unbelieving heart. He cracked Saul’s. He cracked my heart. He can crack anyone’s! So keep praying my fellow jars!

Your Spiritual Barometer

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There are many things that we use in life to measure other things. A barometer measures atmospheric pressure; a speedometer measures speed, a pedometer that tells you how many steps you have walked, a thermometer measures tempertature. But is there a device that measures one’s spiritual temperature? Is there such think as a spiritual barometer? Sadly there is no such device, however there is such a practice that measures one’s spiritual temperature.

Now before I go further, you may be thinking, “What do you mean by spiritual temperature? I just made the term up, it means the quality of your relationship with God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It means your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no device that measures this, but there is a practice that measures your spiritual temperature, your faith and that practice is prayer.

In writing an article on prayer, I was challenged in thinking “Where does one start when writing about prayer?” and I think a great way to start is to look at Jesus ‘teaching on prayer, and so I think it is helpful to look at Luke 11:1-13 and these verses make up something that Anglican Christians pray weekly which is known as the Lord’s prayer. Though it needs to be said that this prayer should be called, The Disciples Prayer. There is no record any where in the NT of Jesus ever praying this prayer or anyone else in the NT praying this prayer. I must confess that for many years I believed and taught that this prayer is model for prayer and while I think it still is, I had resisted the notion that this is a prayer that we are to pray. But I think differently because if you look with me at v.1 and 2 a disciple asks Jesus to teach them to pray just as John the Baptist taught his disciples. Jesus responds by saying to him, “When you pray, say.” In Matthew’s Gospel Matthew records Jesus saying “Pray then like this”- which I think makes this prayer of model of prayer. My point is that this prayer is both a prayer to pray and a model of what to pray.

And it is my prayer that the Holy Spirit will open your eyes to this beautiful Christian prayer so that you can see things about what the Lord Jesus is teaching us, and perhaps you may discover something about the Lord’s Prayer, that you have been praying for a very long time that you did not realise.

In this section of God’s Word, the passage can be broken into three sections, the first is vv.1-4 where Jesus teaches a prayer to his disciples. Then vv.5-8 Jesus tells a parable on prayer, and then from vv.9-13 Jesus gives a wonderful encouragement and promice to his disciples so that they will pray.

First we are going to look at vv.1-4

1 One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” 2 He said to them, “When you pray, say: ” ‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. 3 Give us each day our daily bread. 4 Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation. 

Let’s look at this prayer, section by section: First of all:

“Our Father”

Now in case you are wondering how this prayer is a Christian prayer and only the Christian can pray this prayer. Only those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ has the right to call God ‘Father’. Turn with me to John 1:12

12 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—

It is only through faith in Christ alone, by grace that we become adopted as the children of God. Only when that happens to do we have the right to be become children of God and therefore have the right to call God Father. And this is not because we have earned the right, it is all by grace, through faith. We did not earn the right, God gave us the right. What a privilege we have, to call God, Father. To be his children. My children call me Dad, I call my Dad, “Dad”. What a privilege to call my Dad Dad, my brother can. But no one else. Even greater is the privilege to call God Father. So it is no wonder that as we are now the adopted children of God, his sons and daughters, that we are to pray that God’s name, our Father’s name will be hallowed.

Hallowed Be Your Name…

Now I must confess that apart from this prayer, I never use the word “hallowed”. In fact the only time I have heard this word was in the form of a noun rather than a verb and that was in the Harry Potter Movies. Hallowed is a word that we don’t use very much . To ask God that his name be hallowed is asking God that his names will be honoured and revered, by his people, by us, and by you and by me. God is holy and he has revealed his holiness to us in his creation, in his Word and in his Son. We are called to be Holy, but often we are not holy. Sadly if you like me, we often don’t reflect God’s holiness and character in our lives. By praying to God, Hallowed be your name –we are asking that God’s name and character will be revered and that his people will reflect God’s name and character in thought, word and deed. And that God will do this in his people.

Your Kingdom Come

Part and parcel of what I do as a Anglican Minister is ministry to the bereaved. At funerals I speak about how the Lord Jesus is God’s rescue package. As it is through the Lord Jesus that people are saved from sin, death and eternal death (which the Bible calls Hell). Some people have said to me funerals must be hard to do. But I see funerals as a wonderful opportunity to tell people about the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. And this is how God is building his kingdom – through the proclaiming of the good news of the Lord Jesus Christ and him crucified. So it is a very timely that the Lord Jesus when teaching us to pray tells us to say to God your kingdom come. When we are praying this, we are asking God that more people will become Christians.

Give us each day our daily bread. 

Two years ago at the church in which I serve we did a four week series on Stewardship and one of the things I have been reminded of powerful is that we are stewards of what God has given us, not owners of what we have provided for ourselves. God provides our needs, and when we pray “Give us this day our daily bread”, this is what we are acknowledging to God in prayer. In asking God to give us our daily bread – we are acknowledging our daily dependence on God to provide for our needs. And we need God just as much today as we did yesterday, and we will God just as much tomorrow as we do today. God is the creator, we are the creatures. God is the sustainer of life, and we are dependent on him

Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against u

Did you notice the relationship between being forgiven by God and forgiving others? They both go hand in hand. We confess our sins to God daily because we sin daily and we forgive others when they sin against us. For the person who loves Jesus and has been forgiven by him and confesses their sins daily, if that person withholds forgiveness, holds a grudge is to be a hypocrite. Jesus people are required to forgive others. I have been alive for 42 years one thing I have learnt is this…the longer you live, the more you will have been hurt – that is part and parcel of living life outside the Garden of Eden. I have also learnt in that time that there are many people who are hurt, who refuse to forgive – Christians included. Sometimes the hurt is serious, but sometimes it is due to pride and/or having a thin skin. In either case, we are to forgive. Now perhaps you are reading this and right now Now I am not trying to dig up the past or stir up old wounds, but unforgiveness is like a poison. Perhaps someone of you need to spend time with God and perhaps some of you need to forgive those who have hurt you. I say this because the Lord Jesus Christ assumes that you will forgive and have forgiven others as you pray this prayer.

Now you may be thinking,

“But why would Jesus tell us to pray this? If the Lord Jesus has dealt with your sin and my sin once for all by his death and resurrection, why should we pray for ongoing forgiveness?”

The reason that Christians are to pray for ongoing forgiveness is because we still sin. We sin daily, intentionally and sometimes unintentionally. We sin in ways we don’t always recognise, and sometimes we forget the sins that we have committed.

By asking God for his forgiveness we are applying Jesus death daily…we are not re-justifying ourselves. As Christians we don’t stop being a Christian when we sin, we don’t ask God to forgive us in order that we re-convert. When we ask God to forgive us we are acknowledging to God our sin, our reliance on his grace shown to us in Christ and this makes us more like Christ. It is all part of the process of God changing us to become more like Jesus Chris and that term is called Sanctifcation.

Isn’t it wonderful that God not only in his Son, has saved us, but he is actually doing a continuous work in us, making us more like His Son! This is why the things we used to love doing before we came to faith, we no longer like doing. That is what happens to people when we become Christians. We see sin for what it is. We see sin in all its raw ugliness. But… we still live here! The battle against sin, the world, the flesh and the devil is a battle we all face. We all face temptation and in ourselves we are weak and without God’s power we will easily and naturally yield. And the Lord Jesus which is why he tells us to pray

And lead us not into temptation. ‘

The word in the Original temptation but it also means testing or trial. So what are we praying to God when we pray, ‘Lead us not into temptation’? Well, we are not saying to God, please don’t tempt us. Because does not tempt us. We are told this by the Apostle James, in James 1:13 which says:

13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone;

So what do is mean to pray “Lead us not into temptation”?

It means we are acknowledging our sinful weakness, and just how easy it is for us because we are so week to give way to the temptations of the world, the flesh and the devil. Temptation is not a sin, imagine you are in a social setting and your friends start gossiping about someone behind their back and you know a juicy piece of gossip that your friends to love, and the thought of saying it is so sweet, that you can taste it, and you feel the temptation to say it. You have not sinned at this point. But temptation does make obedience difficult. That is because we are weak. This is why asking God not to lead us into temptation is such an appropriate thing to pray. We are asking God, please keep me away from anything that will lead me to sin. And friends that is the Lord’s Prayer!

Prayer – A Wonderful Gift from God.

What a wonderful gift we have been given by the Lord Jesus Christ. We don’t know how to pray. It is not in our nature to pray. This prayer is a gift, it is prayer to pray and it is model for prayer. So when we pray this prayer, never say it. Never just say it. Pray it! And remember that the only reason we can pray to God, the only reason he hears us and the only reason we can call him Father is because the Lord Jesus death on the cross gives us access to God. And because of the cross, Jesus death in our place, we can approach God in prayer confidently. As the parable that Jesus gives us in vv.5-8 shows. If a friend gives his mate what he need due to his boldness, or more accurately because of his impudence, how much will God respond to our prayer, God who is much more caring than any friend or neighbour.

So can I encourage you, make prayer a daily habit. As the Lord says to us, when it comes to pray in vv.9-10:

 9″So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

Ask, seek, knock. And that is what we are doing everytime we come into God’s presence in prayer.

So pray boldly! Pray daily! Pray habitually! Remember, because of the cross, God is now your Father. So pray! Pray the Lord’s prayer, model your praying from the Lord’s Prayer.

Ask, seek, Knock!