We are a Pilgrim People

We worshipped sat our home congregation at Wembley Uniting Church this morning. We are frequently visiting other congregations on a Sunday but it is always good to get back to “our” people. Its a small congregation of mostly elderly people but they love and serve the Lord. Our minister was late this morning – the car battery was flat – so we sang hymns until she arrived.

Today is the Sunday after the 40th anniversary of the Uniting Church in Australia (June 22nd). The service didn’t particularly focus on that (I was glad – too many anniversary events this week) but we did use the Statement of Faith from the Uniting in Worship book which is based on the Basis of Union (the founding document of the Uniting Church 40 years ago).

We believe in God,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

We proclaim Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen One, confessing him as Lord
to the glory of God the Father.

In the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
we acclaim Jesus as the Lord of the church, the Head over all things,
the beginning of a new creation.

We acknowledge that we live and work between the time of Christ’s death and resurrection and the final consummation of all things which he will bring.
We are a pilgrim people,
always on the way towards a promised goal;
on the way Christ feeds us with words and sacraments, and we have the gift of the spirit
in order that we may not lose the way.

We will live and work within the faith and unity of the one holy catholic and apostolic church, bearing witness to that unity
which is both Christ’s gift and his will.

We affirm that every member of the church
is engaged to confess the faith of Christ crucified.

Together with all the people of God,
we will serve the world for which Christ died and we await with hope the day of the Lord Jesus.

 

 


A Confession for the UCA

Gathered in Melbourne for a 40 hour prayer meeting with the Moderators and General Secretaries of the Uniting Church In Australia to launch the 40th Anniversary of the UCA.

The UCA was officially launched as the uniting of three denominations in Australia (Methodist, Presbyterian and Congregational) on June 22, 1977

I read this as I began to pray. It was a lament, a confession of where we had gone wrong.

Another 20 years on … reflections by Davis McCaughey 20 years ago ..
1. what we may have inadequately appreciated was that the governance by inter-related councils was not intended to be an ecclesiastical expression of populist democracy.
2. We made a mistake in assuming that Minister of the Word, would be recognised as Minister of Word AND Sacrament.
3. We have neglected to recognise that ministers have the leadership responsibility to hold the congregation together in the healthy and obedient ways of the gospel
4. We have not encouraged candidates for ministry to offer when young. We must and should expect great things from them.
5. We must give our ministers time to pray and there needs to be a praying group supporting the minister.
Perhaps prayer alone will be enough, he says.


Sermon: No Love for things

Exodus 20:1-17

We come tonight to the close of our series on the Ten Commandments. This may be the hardest for us to submit to, especially when one lives in a culture and time where “things” are so readily available and have become so important.

But this desire for things is not new at all. Jesus spoke more parables about our attitude to money and things than He did about anything else.

Paul writes to Timothy and says “For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. (I Timothy 6: 6-10)

God will hold each one of us accountable – not only for the deeds and the actions that are committed by the body, but also for the thoughts and the desires and the wants and the lusts and the attitudes that are working, brewing and churning on the inside of us.

This 10th Commandment is a reminder for us to continuously keep a check into “what” means the most to us. What do we value the most in our life?
Matthew 6:21 “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

A missionary from a poor poverty stricken country was visiting the churches which were contributing to his ministry on a regular basis. During the services he would give reports of the work there and he would show slides and pictures of the conditions that he and his people were forced to endure. Both the minister and the congregation were stirred and wept because of the faithfulness of the people, living for Jesus despite such horrible living conditions of poverty.
At the end of one of these services, the minister walked up to the missionary and said, “My dear Brother, we will be praying for you and your people. It must be so difficult for you and your people to be faithful in living for Jesus when there is such poverty and need all around you. Satan must be working so hard that your people have had to give up so much. Our church will certainly be praying for you.”

However the poor missionary replied, “We do appreciate your prayers but it is you and your people that my dear people pray for a daily basis. when we look at the great abundance of things all about you, we realize just how hard it must be for you to stay faithful in living for Jesus Christ. My church will be praying that you do not yield to the temptation of things.”

This 10th Commandment is different from each of the nine Commandments. When each of these is transgressed or disobeyed, it is done so by the body. The sin and the rebellion can be witnessed by people who may be standing close by. When you see someone disobeying the first nine Commandments then you know they have transgressed.

The transgression of the 10th Commandment is not committed by the body and seen outwardly by others. This transgression happens in the mind, the heart, the soul and only God has the power and ability to look within us and see what is actually taking place.

I Samuel 16:7 “The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

Disobeying this 10th Commandment is not so much an act as it is a spirit, a processing and developing of thoughts and attitudes about “things”
“Things” can be very dangerous! Before any transgression against the Law of God is committed, it is first committed in the heart, the mind, and the soul. Satan worked this way with Eve in the garden of Eden before she partook of the forbidden fruit. The Scriptures tell us that Eve desired the fruit. The decision was made mentally before she stretched her arm out and grabbed the fruit.

This 10th commandment points to not only the world’s biggest of problems — it also points very directly to the church’s biggest problems today.
Things have become many people’s God. Even many professing Christians are hung up in the curse of the possession and ownership of things. They pay much more attention to things than they do to their souls.

Many churches have faced incredible issues over money and things. What took years and years to build only took just a little while for covetousness to bring down.

Satan knows exactly where each of our personal weakness lies. He cannot read our minds but he has watched the way we behave around certain people and certain things. He patiently follows us and is pretty good at taking notes about our conduct. After he sizes us up, he sends in his army to bombard us, to bring strong temptations our way, wrapped in beautiful alluring packages to tease our vices. That’s why every personal weakness needs to constantly be given over to Jesus.

It is amazing how Satan can place a thought, a desire for things within our mind and our heart. It seems that we think about that thing constantly, all day long we cannot get it out of our head. Our mind is filled with a churning, a gnawing, a burning, until that thing is actually ours. Once we have it we treasure it as a rare diamond but once its disguise is removed we see it for what it really is -a deadly serpent filled with poison. Or, having stood on toes and denied grace all round, we find that it really has no value for us at all and it lies gathering dust and rust.

We live in a gimme, gimme, take, take world. We have more gidgets, gadgets, and whatchamacallits then any people before us. This is the day of the Malls and Supermarkets. Advertising focuses on how we will find happiness and completeness in possessions. Status is the issue of the day and its measured in name brands and company logo’s. Once upon a time a manufacturer’s name was discreetly hidden inside – now its scrawled across your chest, labeled on your wrist because to have something is to be someone.

A.        But coveting destroys relationships:
James 4:1-3 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

That’s what coveting does.
It destroys relationships in the home

Many homes have been destroyed because of the burning desire for more and more things.

There is nothing wrong with desiring things like new cars, new houses, new jobs, better education, new furniture, etc. It is not the thing that is wrong, it is the priority we attach to the things.
Satan wants us to get caught up in things and we spend more time and more effort on the house than we do the home.

Peer Pressure is not limited to teenagers. Adults also want
bigger and more expensive toys.
Competing with people at work
Competing with the neighbors
Competing with family members
Competing with the people at church
Just got to have what they have and even bigger and better.

But there is a problem with having to have things.
1. You devote all your time to those things.
They take you away from your family.
Your family soon become strangers to you.
Children grow up without you knowing them.
There is a lack of communication.
Husband and wife pull in different directions.

You end up paying a price for things which cannot be measured in dollars and cents.

2. Things get you into debt and damage relationships

I tell every couple who come for premarital counseling that the biggest issue in marriage is not your expectations, or your mother-in-law, or your sex life –its money.

Credit Cards give you credit but they get you into debt. Most are geared for repayments at the minimum rate and the banks make a killing. If you work it out you can end up paying 3 or 4 times the cost for every meal you eat out if you are not careful.

But mostly credit cards are geared for you to buy the things you want but can’t really afford. You see your friend has a new gadget, you don’t have the money, so use your credit card.

Most people with credit cards cannot get out of debt –they have to live with what we called kite-flying when I was in the bank. You rob Peter to pay Paul and your debt spiral just gets deeper and deeper.
And all this financial pressure is hard on marriage and the family.

B         Coveting also destroys our relationship with God.
Things have a tendency to demand all our attention and to take us away from God. I’ve known people who were faithful to God, who were regularly in Church but that “thing” demanded their attention –they had to have the 4X4 that a friend has, a speedboat, a motorbike, a beach cottage. They rationalized and rationalized until they got it. They assured me that this was just a leisure thing and that they would still regularly be in church but not long after the acquisition their attendance began to decline until they didn’t come to church at all.

A similar thing happens with children and sport. Each parent wants their child to be the best, to be in the first team –they fetch and carry them around on Sunday to compete against the children of their friends and their spiritual life dies as they pursue this covetous happiness.
But when we get sick, or our children need prayer, the things and the sports awards will not help us. When we need salvation the things of this world are no good at all.

Jesus’ advice was : “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousnes and all these things shall be added unto you.”
God is not against things — He loves to bless His people… But things become sin when we value them more than we value God and His word.
Luke 12:15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.

I Timothy 6:7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.

Verse 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

Someone once said that “Eternal life is one thing you don’t want to leave home without.” One day we will leave everything else behind. Only what has been done for Christ will matter.

Matthew 6:19-24

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

24 “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.

WHAT TREASURES ARE YOU LAYING UP IN HEAVEN?