|Posted on January 26, 2016 at 6:40 PM|
We say it every year, don’t we? “How did the year slip by so quickly?” And, indeed, it has done so, or has it? In actual terms the same amount of time has elapsed – the same amount of time elapses every year – so is it really about time, or really about us? I think we all know it is really about us, and the sheer pace of our lives that we now think is normal. But, compared to just a few years ago, it seems to me that life is much more hectic because of the choices we make and the priorities we set – we’re busier than ever, going faster than ever and time seems to have sped up. Before we know it another year has passed us by!
The critical question become more urgent every year – what have you achieved in all that rush and busyness?
The late John Lennon wrote in his song “So this is Christmas” back on December 1st, 1971 …
"So this is Christmas
And what have you done
Another year over
And a new one just begun"
So, what have you done this year that counts in eternity? Really counts, that is? I realise that there is much we do that has nothing to do with eternity, like mowing lawns, having a career and playing sport and so on – and there is nothing wrong with any of those things, of course, but if our lives are crammed so much with that kind of stuff such that any eternity perspective can never get a look in … that’s kind of dangerous, I reckon! The apostle Paul once wrote,
"So we fix our eyes not on what is seen,
but on what is unseen, since what is seen
is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."
2 Corinthians 4:18 (NIV)
And that’s the critical issue of living as believers, isn’t it? How much focus, time and energy is invested in what is temporary to the detriment of what is eternal? Recently I said in the sermon series that one of God’s priorities is the eternal. He will never sacrifice the smallest drop of eternity for all the human time there is. I believe that is absolutely true. All believers should be keenly aware of that priority and reference their lives off it – because this temporary life is so fleeting. It is but a mist and then it’s gone, says James in the New Testament.
Each Christmas we are given a very focused opportunity to slow right down and consider eternity afresh as we gaze upon the advent story in the Scriptures. We, in Australia, remain blessed that there are some holidays embedded in our calendar that give time to that – but we have to choose to use that time in some eternity reflecting.
The events of that first Christmas were cosmic in scope and they still reverberate today backwards and forwards in eternity. We should take the Christmas worship and reflection opportunity and at least once a year ask the searching question, “What have I done that will live on with me, or as part of me, in eternity?” If we have no answer at all to that question we need to rethink our priorities and make some serious decisions concerning how we will live in the New Year that is coming. If eternity is one of God’s major priorities, it should be one of ours, too.
Have a great Christmas. Enjoy the worship. Embrace the fellowship. Receive fresh revelation and fresh witness in your spirit … but recalibrate your eternity perspective, too.
|Posted on June 3, 2015 at 7:50 PM|
I have become aware that there is a new game-craze sweeping across the schools of Australia. It is called Charlie-Charlie – and it is very, very dangerous. It’s demonic. There is nothing new under the sun according to Ecclesiastes. Indeed, Charlie-Charlie is nothing new – it is a revision of the ancient séance ‘game’ that keeps coming and going. But Charlie-Charlie requires no Ouija Board – just two pencils and a sheet of paper. It is every bit as dangerous as using a full on séance kit. Charlie-Charlie is a Mexican demon and the so-called ‘game’ of Charlie-Charlie summons that demon. Any mature Christian knows that when summoned no demon hesitates to respond and seek an opportunity to gain a foothold. When demons are invited they always accept the invitation – and they are, thereafter, very difficult to get rid of without specific prayer ministry. Opening yourself up to demonic activity opens a window of possibilities which is not easily closed again. Parents, please, be warned! This social media ‘game’ is proliferating in Melbourne with almost every school reporting that students are engaging in it. It is rife in Broadmeadows, Craigieburn, Wallan and Seymour. Impressionable young people are encouraged to engage in summoning demons. There is nothing harmless or innocent about this. No one ‘plays’ with demons unscathed. Tell your children NOT to participate and encourage others to avoid participation as well. Furthermore, go and see your local school’s principal and request that this game be banned. Ensure that your kids erase any references to Charlie-Charlie on all social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter etc.) in order to avoid being tempted to play the game or even listen to accounts of it being described. The current Charlie-Charlie craze highlights the pervasive nature of witchcraft and occult practices that are often re-cloaked or repackaged and presented as something new, fun and harmless. Many ancient witchcraft and occult practices have been re-invented and represented in the last 30 years. Parents need to be ever vigilant concerning the intrusion of occult ‘games’ and practices into the home. This can happen in various ways, of course, through certain television and video games as well as crazes that target young children such as, My Little Pony and other things. The advent of the internet has seen the very swift proliferation of all kinds of dangerous pursuits in recent years. However, there has arisen lately in the Wallan-Kilmore area are new concern of which parents need to be very concerned and, as I have said above, ever vigilant. Let me cite two examples from the last month: recently at a Primary School in our area a teacher showed her students a pendulum and how it worked saying, “It is really cool” and so on. For those of you who do not know, a pendulum is used for divining purposes to predict the future or the outcome of a pregnancy and a range of other things. It is witchcraft – and a teacher was demonstrating this to her students in class time. Fortunately, a parent complained to the principal and the teacher concerned was censured. Another example of this mixture of education and inappropriate and dangerous spiritual practices concerns students at a private religious school in the area where they are taught chakra ‘praying’ or ‘chanting’. To briefly explain, the Sanskrit word Chakra literally translates to wheel or disk. In yoga, meditation, and Ayurveda, this term refers to wheels of energy throughout the body. There are said to be seven main chakras, which align the spine, starting from the base of the spine through to the crown of the head. Chakra is the chanting and meditating to properly align these energies, however, it too, is witchcraft. In fact, any kind of chanting, praying or meditation that seeks to tap into the “energies of the universe” (or anything else) is actually tapping into the spiritual dimension and is, therefore, very dangerous. The same goes for the use of crystals that are claimed to “align” energies and a whole raft of other things. As a pastor, I regard these as contact items for occult practices, or accursed objects as the Bible calls them. There are other accounts that have come to me recently where people undergoing massage therapy have experienced profound spiritual disturbance. One woman told me of this and then demanded of the masseuse what she was really doing. The masseuse replied that she was conducting a reiki session. The woman, a devout believer, expressed her outrage that this could be done without her consent and the masseuse was simply dumbfounded saying that she was only trying to do good. The good thing was that the woman’s spiritual discernment quickly picked up on this. How many other Christians would have even noticed? The New Age and the occult is now so pervasive that in many ways it is considered normal and, because of this, it has seeped into many areas of life – even classrooms in Primary Schools and HR departments in large corporations. May I encourage parents, especially, to be ever vigilant and to know what is going on in the lives of their children; and for everyone to become more and more sensitive to the Holy Spirit and what he is saying? Our ever-growing sensitivity to him and our dwelling in the Word of God helps us to discern spiritual realities quickly and with accuracy. Friends, this is a crucial time in our community where Satan’s forces are on the march to gain strategic footholds in our society. I am not an alarmist – not at all and never have been. But I have seen firsthand what demonic affliction does to people and how dangerously bound people can become by dabbling (even just once) in what is portrayed as harmless fun. It isn’t. Ps Milton Oliver
|Posted on July 2, 2014 at 9:10 PM|
The seventh reason I believe on the resurrection of Jesus is because the New Testament witnesses do not bear the stamp of fraudsters or deceivers. How do you credit a witness? How do you decide whether to believe a person’s testimony? The decision to give credence to a person’s testimony is not the same as completing a mathematical equation. The certainty is of a different kind, yet can be just as firm (I trust my wife’s testimony that she is faithful). When a witness is dead, we can base our judgment of him/her only on the content of his/her writings and the testimonies of others about him/her. How do Peter and John and Matthew and Paul stack up?
In my judgment (and at this point we can live authentically only by our own judgment—Luke 12:57), these men’s writings do not read like the works of gullible, easily deceived or deceiving men even to the most critical mind. Their insights into human nature are profound. Their personal commitment is sober and carefully stated. Their teachings are coherent and do not look like the concoctions of unstable men. The moral and spiritual standard is very high, indeed. And the lives of these men are totally devoted to the truth and to the honour of God.
Eighth, there is a self-authenticating glory in the Gospel of Christ’s death and resurrection as narrated by the biblical witnesses. The New Testament teaches that God sent the Holy Spirit to glorify Jesus as the Son of God. Jesus said, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth. … He will glorify me” (John 16:13). The Holy Spirit does not do this by telling us that Jesus rose from the dead. He does it by opening our eyes to see the self-authenticating glory of Christ in the narrative of his life and death and resurrection. He enables us to see Jesus as he really was, so that he is irresistibly true and beautiful. The apostle stated the problem of our blindness and the solution like this: “The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. … For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:4, 6).
A saving knowledge of Christ crucified and risen is not the mere result of right reasoning about historical facts. Yet, it has its own sublime rationality. It is the result of spiritual illumination to see those facts for what they really are: a revelation of the truth and glory of God in the face of Christ—who is the same yesterday today and forever.
|Posted on June 16, 2014 at 1:45 AM|
Fifth, the sheer existence of a thriving, empire-conquering early Christian church supports the truth of the resurrection claim. The church spread on the power of the testimony that Jesus was raised from the dead and that God had thus made him both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36). The Lordship of Christ over all nations is based on his victory over death. This is the message that spread all over the world – it was the one chief characteristic of the message of the early church; and its power to cross cultures and create one new people of God was a strong testimony of its truth.
Sixth, the apostle Paul’s conversion supports the truth of the resurrection. He argues to a partially unsympathetic audience in Galatians 1:11-17 that his gospel comes from the risen Jesus Christ, not from men. His argument is that before his Damascus Road experience when he saw the risen Jesus, he was violently opposed to the Christian faith (Acts 9:1). But now, to everyone’s astonishment, he is risking his life for the gospel (Acts 9:24-25). His explanation: The risen Jesus appeared to him and authorised him to spearhead the Gentile mission (Acts 26:15-18). Can we credit such a testimony? This leads to the next argument. More next fortnight …
|Posted on June 2, 2014 at 1:25 AM|
The third reason I believe in the resurrection of Jesus is because the disciples were almost immediately transformed from men who were hopeless and fearful after the crucifixion (Luke 24:21, John 20:19) into men who were confident and bold witnesses of the resurrection (Acts 2:24, 3:15, 4:2).
Their explanation of this change was that they had seen the risen Christ and had been authorised to be his witnesses (Acts 2:32). The most popular competing explanation is that their confidence was owing to hallucinations. There are numerous problems with such conjecture. The disciples were not gullible, but level-headed skeptics both before and after the resurrection. (Mark 9:32, Luke 24:11, John 20:8-9, 25). In addition to that, is the deep and noble teaching of those who witnessed the risen Christ the stuff of which hallucinations are made? What about Paul’s great letter to the Romans? I personally find it hard to think of this giant intellect and deeply transparent soul as deluded or deceptive, and he claimed to have seen the risen Christ.
Fourth, the apostle Paul claimed that not only had he seen the risen Christ, but that 500 others had seen him also, and many were still alive when he made this public claim. He said, “Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:6). What makes this so relevant is that this was written to Greeks who were skeptical of such claims when many of these witnesses were still alive. So it was a very risky claim if it could be disproved by a little firsthand research. It wasn’t.
More next fortnight ….