So this is Christmas?

That’s the question asked in an old song written by John Lennon and Yoko Ono.

Here are a couple of contrasting stories about how people see Christmas. The first is a sad but all too familiar story in a parody of the words of Luke’s Christmas narrative, the real version of which we will be looking at over the next few weeks at Islington. Read more…



Where are we going as a Church?

In Our Sunday Services we’ve been working through Paul’s Letter to the Philippians. Here are a few thoughts to consider as we come to the end this month.

It’s important that we ask ourselves the question, ‘Where are we going as a Church? I believe the fundamental answer is ‘to be conformed to the likeness of Christ’ (Romans 8:29). But what does it mean for us to be like Christ? The answer to that, I believe, can be found in the verses following Philippians 2:5.

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus”

Read more…



Chance Encounters

Here is a story that you may identify with from Ariel Leve, a New York Columnist for the Times of London. It’s called:

“CHANCE ENCOUNTERS ARE DRAINING.”

“There are hazards to going out. One of them is the unexpected run-in. Even worse, the unexpected run-in where someone tells you something that is emotionally significant.

The other day I was leaving my apartment in New York when, in the lobby, I ran into an elderly woman who lives in the building. Over the years, whenever I’ve seen her and her husband, I’ve stopped and had a casual, amiable chat. The sort of conversation you have with neighbors you don’t know very well. Friendly but without any noteworthy investment. Above all: brief. I hadn’t seen her for about six months, and even though I was stressed because I was already late for a work-related appointment, I had to stop to say hello. “How’s your husband?” I asked.

That’s when she said: He died.

Read more…



When the going gets tough – GOD!

As a Pastor I often come into contact with people with great challenges in their lives, for in life stuff happens doesn’t it? Tough times come and we know that things are not how we’d like or planned them to be. What follows is a personal story. It is also a story of God’s people and how He deals with them. So before you continue, I would ask you to read Malachi 1:1-5. 

Several years ago I sat in Pacific Coffee, a café in a large Hong Kong Shopping Centre, waiting for the ambulance to arrive. I felt the sting of tears on my face. I felt helpless. Around me were, my wife Ruth and four other local ladies. As the tears flowed, I heard the voice of one of the ladies saying quietly, over and over,

“It’s OK you’re going to be alright.”

I knew there was something wrong, something that I couldn’t make right, and oh, how I like to be able to fix things, somehow make things right. I may not have completely believed her right at that moment, but she knew that what I needed were those words of comfort and affirmation. Looking back I’m so  grateful to God for her because, at that moment, my confidence had begun to waver.


‘RESIST’ the pressure to ‘CHANGE’ the MESSAGE

Someone once asked me,

“Do you ever feel like giving up?” “Yes,” I said, “sometimes I do feel like giving up because it at times it gets too difficult and to carry on seems impossible.” Then I said, “But then, it’s really not about giving up, but about ‘giving it over to God’.”  It would seem easier to ‘compromise’ over certain things. It would seem easier to ‘conform’ to what conventional wisdom calls reasonable for 21st century ‘Christians’. It would seem easier to ‘change’ like the wind every time some ‘new teaching’ becomes ‘popular’. But then we’d be ‘giving up’ when we should be ‘giving it over to God’, to test it against His revealed Word in the Bible.” [Read Galatians 2: 1-10]. Read more…



It’s all about asking the right question

As I scanned the titles of the books on my book shelves and one title asked a question:

“What do YOU want Lord?” Then, as I typed the date at the top of this page, I realised that this was a significant date in my life. It was this month, on the 17th

of June 1992 I resigned from my job after fifteen and a half years. So what was so significant, after all people resign from jobs every day, even after a long time?
 
It was significant because my resignation came as a result of God answering this same question;

“What do YOU want Lord?” Read more…



Buckle up and “Fight the good fight with all your might”

[Hymn: Words by John Samuel Bewley Monsell 1811-75. Music by William Boyd 1847-1928].

Easter is over for another year, but as always, it was a reminder of what it cost our Lord Jesus to accomplish our salvation; the reconciliation of our relationship with God, fractured by your sin and mine. Last month, on April 27th, was the 48th anniversary of that reconciliation in my own life. Lately I have been increasingly aware of the battle we are in as Christians, against a world determined to undermine the faith which we profess. I would like to encourage you, and myself, to keep on fighting, and not be tempted to give ground in that battle. Here’s something I found in my “STUFF” from 2009:

“Michael Nazir-Ali, Bishop of Rochester is hard to ignore. He announced recently that he is to retire early; the Church of England will be the poorer for it. Born in Karachi to parents who converted to Christianity from Islam, he was the first non-white diocesan bishop in Britain and…he knew about fighting for your faith…

He has lamented “the long withdrawing roar of the sea of faith . . . nurses cannot pray, the creed cannot be recited at Christian services for fear of offending non-believers”. Bishop Nazir-Ali spoke out against the soggy, “anything goes”, political correctness that characterises the modern Church of England. Sometimes his conservative views got him into trouble… Other times they chimed with the attitudes of many conservatives in the church. People will have different views on some issues but there is no doubt that conservatives in the Church of England have lost their most outspoken champion.

Now Bishop Nazir-Ali intends to take up the cause of persecuted Christian minorities in the Middle East, Pakistan and places like Orissa in India. It is a worthwhile mission.

His departure will leave a gap, both in public debate and the church. It takes a brave person to stand up against the tide of fashionable opinion and he was prepared to do so repeatedly. At this time of great flux many are reconsidering their values. It could be that the church rediscovers a more courageous defence of its own beliefs. If that were to happen, Bishop Nazir-Ali’s own brave stand will not have been in vain.”

[Adapted from an unattributed article: “A troublesome priest in a timid church”; in The Sunday Times of March 29th 2009].

I want us to think about the following statements in this article and consider what the Bible says about these things:

  • “He knew about fighting for your faith.” – 1Timothy 6:11-16; 2Timothy 1:5-7.
  • “He has lamented “the long withdrawing roar of the sea of faith . . . nurses cannot pray, the creed cannot be recited at Christian services for fear of offending non-believers”. – 1Peter 3:13-18.
  • “Bishop Nazir-Ali spoke out against the soggy “anything goes” political correctness that characterises the modern Church of England. Sometimes his conservative views got him into trouble…” – 2Timothy 4:1-5.
  • “It takes a brave person to stand up against the tide of fashionable opinion and he was prepared to do so repeatedly.” – Hebrews 10:32-39.

Brothers and Sisters, let’s be willing to “Buckle Up” and take the ‘good fight of the faith’ into the world and not wither under its attack, nor timidly give ground to accommodate its ever-changing opinions, however ‘fashionable’? [See 2Corinthians 10:1-5].  

So let’s you and I be ‘hard to ignore’ in that fight and, may our God strengthen us all in it.

Pastor Frank.



Easter – Have you made the connection?

I first shared this a few years ago at our 128th Church Anniversary and I’d like to share it with you all on our website as we join together this month to celebrate Easter.
 
There is a theory that there are a maximum of six degrees of separation between us and any other person in the world. The theory is that a chain can be made in six or less steps to connect any two people.

Read more…



Aliens and Strangers

I have sometimes thought, somewhat longingly I confess, of some of the places I have been privileged to visit in my life. I thought about the great cities I’d visited, like Paris, London, Rome, San Francisco, Copenhagen, Singapore, Hong Kong and many others. In every place I visited, even in the cities with which I felt a greater affinity, such as London and Hong Kong, I was a stranger.  

 To see something of what I mean, please allow me to share with you something from Andrew Bonar’s memoirs of his friend and fellow-minister, Robert Murray McCheyne. They are about to sail from Genoa to the Holy Land via Egypt and McCheyne writes home before they depart:

“A foreign land draws us nearer to God. He is the only one whom we know here. We go to him as one we know; all else is strange. Every step I take, and every new country I see, makes me feel more that there is nothing real, nothing true, but what is everlasting.… One thing I know, that I am in the hands of my Father in heaven, who is all love to me—not for what I am in myself, but for the beauty he sees in Immanuel” [Slightly adapted from Bonar, Andrew. “Robert Murray McCheyne”, p. 107. First published 1844. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust. Italics mine].   

Friends, in this world where we are, as Peter reminds us, we are “aliens and strangers”, [1 Peter 2:11, NIV]. So, more and more you and I must draw nearer to God. We must go to Him whom we know, for as the world in rebellion against God becomes more and more of an alien environment, it becomes increasingly strange. It does not fit with the reality of the everlasting kingdom of God and we do not fit with it. But though that is the case now, it wasn’t always so and I was reminded of Paul’s words in Ephesians 2: 11-13: “Therefore, remember you who are Gentiles by birth… remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who were once far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ” [NIV].  

As I read this, despite being a stranger to that world now, I feel a certain affinity with those who are “separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship of God’s kingdom, the ones who are foreigners to God’s covenant of love, without hope and without God in the world.” It’s not that I long to be back there, but that I long that they were where I am; not “far away but brought near through the blood of Christ”.

McCheyne feels that too, as he sits resting under a palm tree at Balteen, a small village in Egypt. Andrew Bonar recalls that: “he was excited to deep emotion… at the sight of a row of poor wretched Egyptians, who gathered round us. “O that I could speak their language and tell them of salvation!”  [Ibid, p. 109].

As Christians we know that we are in the hands of our Father in heaven – not for what we are in ourselves, but for the beauty he sees in Jesus, Immanuel, God with us.  We look at our friends, family, neighbours, work colleagues and we see on the outside people just like us. We may need to look with new eyes and see them as ‘poor, and wretched’ just like we were. ‘We can speak their language! We can tell them of salvation!’ This is why we’re here after all.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

‘This world is not our home – TRUE!’ We are just passing through – TRUE!’ But on our way home we cannot pass by those without hope and without God along the way. Remember we were once like them.’

Reaching out together,

Pastor Frank.



Sharing our Faith

As I thought about what our focus for 2017 and beyond ought to be [I like that better than ‘theme’, but then again that’s just me], I was reminded of an incident that happened some years ago while we were living in Hong Kong.

It was getting toward Christmas and on our day off Ruth and I spent part of it buying Christmas gifts at Stanley Market for family and friends back in Australia. As we came out from the train station, there was a bus just about to leave for Stanley and so we hurried to catch it. When we boarded there were only a few seats left, so we couldn’t sit together. As I settled in my seat I noticed that the lady next to me was busy looking around as we drove along and was obviously interested in all she could see. I guessed correctly that she wasn’t a HK resident but someone on her first visit. As we talked, I found that she was from Sydney and was here with her husband who was attending a Conference. Read more…