Beautiful Women of the Bible – Ruth

Ruth 1 – 4


When do we want God’s help? When do we come to God for his care? Is it true that we come when we can’t handle things, when life’s not going the way we want it to?

When things are great, what do we do? Do we continue to turn to God? Do we continue to seek his will and his purposes?

The fact is that when things are going well we find it easy to forget about God. Sometimes it’s just too easy to put God to one side and get on with just enjoying life.

The Jews were no different. Before they had kings to rule them, Israel was lead by judges – men and women raised up by God when they were needed. When they needed a great leader for war God would raise up and appoint the judge and they would deal with the situation. While the judge lived the Jews would be obedient to God. They would ‘remember.’ But when the judge and his generation died out, the next generation would forget what God had done, forgetting their special relationship with God and would start worshipping the fertility gods of Canaan. You can see the cycle in Judges 2 and it goes on for generations. When things were tough Israel cried out to God – and when things were great – they forgot about God.

True Faith

This is when/where Ruth’s story is set – the period of Israel’s history when the judges were raised up as needed, and it’s a story that contrasts to the faithlessness of Israel. Ruth was a young Moabite woman. The Jews despised the Moabites as cursed by God (Deut 22:3) and Israel was forbidden from associating with them. Ruth’s Jewish husband moves to Moab with his parents during a famine in Israel and ends up marrying Ruth. He, his father and brother get themselves killed – leaving three widows. Ruth’s sister-in-law returns to her Moabite family, but Ruth travels with her mother-in-law Naomi, back to Israel.

Ruth and Naomi have a pretty raw deal. Their husbands are dead, they have no possessions, no money, no food, no children, no family or friends – this is a society where your social security came from your family. There are no government services and Ruth and Naomi are in deep trouble. They return to Israel on the slimmest of hopes – especially Ruth. She is a woman considered as nothing. Even Naomi sees her as simply a burden – Naomi left Israel with a husband and sons. She was secure and safe. She comes home not only empty, bereaved and injured but burdened by a daughter-in-law who has no home, family, friends, husband, children, no money, no property – no hope, no future, and no prospects – she is a desperate woman. They are both desperate.

But there is a lot more to Ruth. From the world’s point of view she’s had it – even her family doesn’t value her. She has little hope of finding a husband, no hope of producing an heir. She is going to a country she doesn’t know, without support. She leaves any family she has back in Moab. But Ruth has something that others don’t have. She has something that the Jews keep losing. Ruth trusts in God for her future. She places herself in God’s hands – under the covenant and promises of God. She says in 1:16 – “…your people shall be my people, and your God shall be my God.” These are covenant words – taken from the most important state,ent of Israel’s identity. Ruth has faith in God.

A Quick Detour

What skeletons are hidden in your family tree? Way back in ours we appear to have a convict. His crime?

He’d stolen women’s underwear off a clothesline. Somewhat embarrassing really. Not the sort of thing you bring up at dinner parties. We hide skeletons – we don’t expose them for all to see.

But when you have a look at Jesus’ family tree what skeletons do we find. Have a look at Matthew chapter 1 which gives us a genealogy of Jesus. It’s not a complete family tree – Matthew picks and chooses which is probably what we would do – choose the VIPs and ignore the underwear stealing convicts. Not Matthew. Rather than choosing all the really good ones – which to Jews would simply mean all the best men – Matthew picks 4 women as vital ancestors of Jesus. Not only are they women, they are Gentile women. Not only are they Gentile women, they are women who would normally be despised by any self respecting Jew and probably most Gentiles.

Rahab was a prostitute.

Tamar had sex with her father-in-law to produce a son.

Bathsheba committed adultery with King David and then said nothing when he arranged her husband’s murder.

And Ruth was the worst of all of them according to the Jews – a Moabite – she was the lowest – a woman cursed by God (dead husband, no social standing), from a nation cursed by God, the lowest most despised enemy of Israel.

If you were designing the family tree of the King of the Jews would you include these four women. If you were a good Jew (as Matthew was) you surely would include only good, faithful, Jewish, males in Jesus family tree, Matthew includes 4 women who normally would be hidden. But they share a common trait – faith in God. When all the ‘good’ Jewish blokes are showing zero faith, these Gentilewomen are placing their trust in God. Ruth sees one glimmer of hope in an otherwise desperate situation. She puts everything she’s got on God – she puts her life in God’s hands – whatever happens to Israel happens to her. Ruth has real faith in God even though she has no real reason to have faith. She sees her only chance of rescue from her disastrous situation in aligning herself with God.

What does God say to those who place all their trust and hope in him, who act with faith towards him. God says that’s what it takes. You might be the nicest, most perfect person on the planet – or you might be a Gentile woman, despised by the people of God, down and out, down trodden, in pain and despair. Whoever you are, faith in God is all that is required. We get exactly the same message in the NT.

John 3:36 “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure God’s wrath.”

It doesn’t come any clearer than that. God required faith – which for us means faith in his Son, Jesus Christ.


What does Ruth’s faith lead to? Strangely enough it leads to marriage.

Why do we have the story of Ruth? It’s cute, sort of nice – in fact almost too nice. It’s like a tame romance story. If it had some sex and violence and some swearing then Hollywood would probably make it into a movie. It’s a boy meets girl story! In the end the bloke the girl, the son and the mother-in-law live happily ever after – perfect for Hollywood, complete with happy ending.

But Ruth is a ‘cute’ little story about redemption or rescue – something people living this side of the cross of Jesus need to understand. It’s a story about people in disastrous situations with no hope of pulling themselves out of their problems, being rescued. Boaz rescues Ruth – and Ruth rescues/redeems Boaz. Redemption… to redeem something is to buy it back, to rescue it. The kid redeems Naomi. Ruth redeems Naomi and God redeems Israel. Everyone is in on the act, except Naomi who seemingly doesn’t redeem anyone.

Take a step back. The picture is much bigger.

Ruth is the great grandmother of King David – the great nation-builder of Israel. All Jews see King David as the great redeemer. Even today Jerusalem is the City of David. They long for the days of King David.

Take another step back.

Move to Matthew chapter 1 and what do we see? Ruth is the great, great… grandmother of Jesus. Jesus doesn’t redeem a person. He doesn’t redeem a family. He doesn’t redeem a clan or a tribe or a nation – he is the one who offers redemption to all people.


Modern example – pawnshop – you take in your goods, get your money, go back a few weeks later, pay back the money plus interest – you have redeemed or bought back your goods.

Another example. Redemption is about helplessness, love and another person. During the East Timor crisis (2004?) Australians were caught in Jakarta, in a situation they could do nothing about. Literally helpless. No commercial flights available. However one of the advantages of living in Australia is that as a nation we take some responsibility for our citizens when they are in trouble. So the Australian government sent military transports to rescue, to redeem our people, to bring them out of that hopeless situation and return them to safety.

There was nothing Ruth could do to save herself. Boaz warns her not to go to other fields because the men there might rape her – Jewish society said she could be treated as worthless – that Jewish men could rape her or treat her as a prostitute or a sex slave with impunity. Bizarre – it’s always a little sobering to consider how the Jews have treated other nations – not just to consider how they have been treated.

Ruth lays down at Boaz’ feet – doing what a prostitute would do. She is desperate. She is willing to sell something so valuable so cheaply. We (men/people) tend to despise sex workers as we call them today, never considering how society has failed women to such an extent that they see this as their only viable option. Ruth’s basic need/desperate hope was that someone would rescue her and redeem her – as jarring as it is she couldn’t buy her own way out of her circumstances – she needed someone to do it for her, and maybe worse she had no hope that someone would.

Without blowing Boaz’s trumpet too much…simply put, he saves Ruth. He pays the price for Ruth’s redemption.There is no legal or moral (in Israel) reason for him to do so – he’s under no obligation, in fact society says he can do whatever he likes with this enemy of Israel. Clearly Boaz was an unusual Israelite. He was faithful. He trusted God and saw that this woman, this relative needed help. And for him part of faithfulness to God meant helping Ruth. So he does – he redeems her. Not out of duty but out of love – probably not love of Ruth but love of God. Every indicator would have screamed at Boaz to stay out of it. He goes beyond all the requirements of the law. Even Ruth doesn’t understand it. “Why have I found favour in your sight, that you should take notice of me, when I am a foreigner.” (2:10) But Boaz loves God and maybe Ruth – he shows us what it means to be truly faithful to God.

Ruth brings redemption not only to herself and those around her, but it is through her that David and eventually Jesus come. Ruth’s story is the salvation story of God bringing his plans to completion – she is a direct link in God’s plans.

You go right back in history – back to the beginning of Israel – God speaks to Abraham the father of Israel.

(Gen 12:2-3) “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

How does God use Abraham’s descendants to bless all the nations of the earth? Ultimately – by sending Jesus, to die for the people of the earth, to die for the sin of all mankind – a Son born of the line of David. His family tree includes a gentile prostitute (Rahab), an incestuous gentile daughter-in-law (Tamar) and a Moabitess, despised and hated (Ruth). God sends his Son to be born not of pure, upper class Jewish stock, but to be born of a line of notorious gentile sinners. The nations are to be blessed by Jesus because when all’s said and done, he’s as much a gentile as he is a Jew. God is the God of the whole earth. Jesus came not to give life to the Jews, but to give life to anyone – anyone – who would believe in him; have faith in him.

Ruth ultimately points us to what Jesus has done for us. Each of those women in Jesus genealogy sheds a little more light on salvation. At key moments in Israel’s history these gentiles – foreigners, despised by Israel – but received as God’s people, blessed and honoured in ways few Israelites ever see. God’s blessing is not handed out on the basis of race, sex, colour, beauty, language, intelligence or ability. When the world says “this person is important and this one is expendable,” God says “so what” – means nothing to God. The values of this world are foolishness against God’s values. The only thing God considers is faith – trust in Jesus. That is the criteria of salvation – the people God redeems are those who are willing to trust God, who respond to God’s offer, who willingly place everything in God’s hands and live on that basis. God’s people considered Ruth as nothing. God considered Ruth according to her faith – and he redeemed her.

Wisdom for Living – Proverbs

Wise Living
Prov 1:1–7 “The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: for attaining wisdom and discipline; for understanding words of insight; for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the young—let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance—for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.”
We always want to know why and how…? Why are we here and how are we to live? The big questions of life – that’s the area of expertise of the Book of Proverbs. It is the collected wise sayings of the great King Solomon and a few others. Of course – Solomon ended up foolish and too well endowed with wives – he forgot to listen to himself which is a shame really.
Proverbs isn’t like other books in the Bible – it starts so well, clear, concise, and enticing. Read this and it will all make sense. But fact is – it’s a collection of sayings and it is all over the shop – it covers a wide range of stuff.
It’s about making mature choices. That’s what happens as you mature – you become aware that you can make choices – and that in any given situation you can choose. Proverbs covers a great raft of things, from how to treat your farm animals to how to choose a wife – sounds like fun – we’re just going to look at a few topics – friendship, the mouth and marriage – we’re going to look at the foolish steps we can take, the way of wisdom and the impact that living this side of the cross of Jesus makes.

Let me tell you a story
Sue and Helen were friends since childhood. They understood each other, sounded like each other, wore the same clothes and so on. When they left school Sue went to work and Helen to Uni. Sue’s job meant money, a car, a place to live and time. Helen was a student.
Sue often popped in to Helen’s – would browse the fridge, borrow clothes and stay late at night. If only she’d listened to Proverbs.
Proverbs 25:17 “Don’t go to your friends’ house all the time—too much of you, and she’ll hate you.”
Helen didn’t realize how annoyed she was getting until one night she had an uncontrollable urge to hide Sue’s wallet. She knew Sue well enough to know that even though it was a little thing it would really get up her nose. As Sue searched Helen scored points – until the tears came. Helen had to admit that it was a practical joke.
Prov 26:18-19 “Like a maniac who shoots deadly firebrands and arrows, is one who deceives a neighbor and says, “I am only joking!”
Playing practical jokes on friends is like playing with a deadly weapon. Things quickly deteriorated – Sue lost her job and had her car stolen and went to Helen for friendship. Instead she found self righteous anger. Helen … “now you know how it feels to struggle without money and a car, catching trains and coping”. (OHP9)
Proverbs 25:20 “Like vinegar on a wound is one who sings songs to a heavy heart. Like a moth in clothing or a worm in wood, sorrow gnaws at the human heart.”
Words and actions can become almost insurmountable barriers – even between the closest of friends – they eat away at us, especially when they come from “a friend”.
A few days later the gossip started – Helen’s such a slack friend – Sue’s such a cow – and their friends made sure that Helen and Sue knew what was being said. (OHP10)
Proverbs 16:28 “A perverse person spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends.”
After that their lives never connected – until a friends wedding where they found themselves next to each other. Still they couldn’t talk – Helen’s wallet on the table made her think of Sue’s cruelty, and every time Helen talked to someone else Sue thought she was gossiping about her. What a mess – based on a refusal to forgive.
Proverbs 17:9 “One who forgives an affront fosters friendship, but one who dwells on disputes will alienate a friend.”
A friendship that could have lasted 50 years ruined by foolish steps – I wonder how many of us could tell a story like that one – a story of foolish choices. But it’s not that all friendships are like that or have to be – there is a way of wisdom in friendship.
Steve remembered the first day at training – he expected to be treated like a no-body. But his team members all knew that he was tipped to have a great future in Rugby – his playing career in Schoolboys was well known. From day one everyone wanted to be Steve’s mate.
Proverbs 19:6 “Many seek the favor of the generous, and everyone is a friend to a giver of gifts.”
Steve remembered that proverb – and he wanted a real friend. So he chose carefully and refused to take all offers of friendship. At first Tim seemed to be the right bloke. He was confident and handled the ball well – Steve thought he could learn from him. What he didn’t know was that when things went wrong Tim was not the best bloke to be around. He would spit at referees, break rules – he was a poor choice.
Proverbs 22:24-25 “Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn his ways and get yourself ensnared.”
Steve noticed he had most in common with Michael in the reserve grade – they were both Christians. As their friendship grew so did Steve’s injury count – the knee, the shoulder, he was slowing down and missing tackles – and he was picked less and less. But his popularity was irrelevant to Michael – he was in for the good and bad.
Proverbs 18:24 “Some friends play at friendship but a true friend sticks closer than one’s nearest kin.”
Years later that friendship showed its strength. Steve’s wife walked out and Steve decided his life was one big mistake. His footy mates made jokes about other fish in the sea – only Michael stood by him and listened. People at church avoided Steve – he felt awkward and embarrassed – but Michael met with him every week and they prayed and talked about how God might fit into it all. Steve often felt anger and bitterness towards God – Michael just listened to that anger and talked about the kindness and mercy of Jesus – and when he had to he was honest with Steve about the mistakes he was making.
Proverbs 27:6 Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.”
Proverbs 27:9 “Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, but the sweetness of a friend is better that one’s own counsel.”

Proverbs 27:17 “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”
Proverbs is big on choices – so what are we going to do?
Are we going to make foolish steps in friendship or are we going to walk the path with them?
Are we looking for friends like Sue and Helen – or Michael?
If we want to take the book of proverbs for what it is – wisdom for life – then we’ll follow the wisdom and find out how good friendship can be.
This side of Jesus’ Cross
The thing is – unlike Solomon and the other writers we know the extent of good friendship – Jesus has bent over backwards – or rather – stretched out his arms – to show us what incredible friendship is. All the stuff we say we want in friendship – commitment, honesty, truth, dependability, steadfastness, true love – this is Jesus to us.
If we’re looking for the ideal friend – husband, wife, a life long confidant – we must look no further than Jesus and the friendship he gives. That will be wisest thing of all – to stop looking for the ideal friend and with Christ’s strength to start being the ideal friend.

The Risk of Giving

John 3:16-21
The Risks in Giving

Every year we faced the problem – what do I get people for Christmas? You’d think it would be easy – all you have to do is get the right presents for the right people – every year. That’s the rub of course – regardless of what you spend – getting the right thing for the right person – that’s the difficult part. When my son was little it was easy – there are all sorts of really cool toys for boys – all sorts of things that I can happily play with on Christmas D… sorry… I mean that he can play with of course! Girls on the other hand – well you can only have so many Barbie’s and dolls houses. These days the presents are smaller and more expensive.
And then there’s the family – the brother’s in law – what can you buy under $15 that will not simply go in the bin. So you pore over the junk mail and catalogues in the letterbox. You watch the ads on TV trying to find the perfect gift for those hard-to-buy-for family members. It’s not easy – and it’s risky. Cause if you make a mistake…!
We all know the feeling of opening the present at the Christmas family lunch… the paper’s off, the gift’s in full view and you’re thinking “what is this?” But it’s not what you say. “Oh! This is wonderful – I’ve always wanted one of these – I have the perfect spot for it” or “wow! What an unusual gift.”
Which is not what you want to hear them say about the gift you’ve just given! Or worse maybe – you don’t want to offend people by the gift you give – if you give your wife a cookbook will she think you’re trying to say something about her cooking. Will your husband be offended by the jumbo sized antiperspirant novelty gift pack with pillow protectors? What are you trying to say about his personal hygiene? If you buy clothing that’s too big are you trying to say they look big… or too small that they need to lose some weight!
Christmas is a time for peace, love, friendship, giving… and total abject paranoia. Present buying is rife with potential for disaster.
God’s gift
Today in most homes we will be focussed on gifts – and if you have enough people around then paper and mess – and maybe it will be fun. But in the midst of all that how do we focus also on that very first Christmas – when God gave us a gift.
When God chose this gift for us there was no question about him making a mistake. He knew exactly what we needed.
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
Interesting gift – a son! God’s son! At first it should strike us as odd – why give us a person – why not faith or salvation or riches and glory? Wouldn’t it have been easier just to make all people believers and get rid of sin, give everyone faith and then not have Jesus die?

God knew that Jesus was exactly what each of us needed. The perfect gift.

God knew we had a problem – he knew what we lacked and what we had too much of. We were in trouble – in serious trouble. God knew that sending his son Jesus would be the only thing to get us out of that trouble.
That’s what the angel announces to Joseph. Mary’s going to have a baby – nothing like surprising the husband to be…
Matthew 1:21 “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
Our problem was and is sin – not just moral failure, but we ignore God and we shut God out – sin is not simply doing bad things – it’s us telling the God who created us and who keeps us alive, telling him to buzz off – telling him that we don’t need him or want him around and really we’d be much happier sorting out our own life. Imagine your children telling you that? Imagine something you’ve created – a car you’ve rebuilt, a picture you’ve painted, a house you’ve built, the cows you care for and milk, the dog or cat you care for, the things you create and look after – imagine them telling you to go away. It makes it easier to understand that our most pressing need is to be forgiven by God.
Maybe we’re not convinced that’s the gift we need. People often find it hard to see themselves as sinful. And out there in the big wide world most people think the opposite is true – if there is anything wrong with this world it’s other people – not me. In fact these days lots of the world believes that the real problem with the world is the religious people!!!! In any case the problem is other people – and “I don’t need forgiveness – sure – I could improve in a few areas but the whole forgiveness deal – that’s unnecessary!”
God says we need forgiveness not simply to deal with sin or to make us better people, but we need forgiveness if we want to be friends with him. Not just mates on speaking terms at the pub – “how ya going God, yeh not bad mate – what about those Dragons/Wallabies/Blues – I think it’s your shout God…!” Not mates, not buddies, not work pals. God offers us friendship. Even though we tell God to get lost he still wants us to be his friends.
And he openly offers us the forgiveness we need to become his friends–that’s why He sent his Son into the world. That’s what Christmas is about – God‘s gift of his Son. Jesus came into the world to live among us and to die on the cross so that we could be forgiven and become God’s friends.
Accepting the gift
Some people on Christmas morning have two questions as they open their presents… like a rating system.
1. How expensive is it?
2. How much do I need it/want it?
It’s an interesting response to a gift … what happens if you apply those questions to the gift God has given us in Jesus? Based on that rating system – on need and expense, Jesus is the best gift you’ll ever receive.
You want expensive…? God gave us his one and only Son. You can’t get a more expensive gift than that. He sacrificed his son so that we might live. Imagine the cost of giving up a child to save other people – and maybe then we can get an inkling of the enormous cost that God was prepared to bear so that we humans might be safe…
And the second question – how much do I need it? This is THE gift you need more than you can imagine.
If you want to know God as his friend…
If you want to be forgiven by God…
If you want to share eternity with God in heaven…
…then this is a gift you need.
Do you know the biggest danger churches face? Never asking the right questions. I have friends who go to a church and the minister preaches a great sermon with great application and then proceeds to let everyone off the hook. He never asks the right question! So this Christmas – you’re ready for the presents, and the food, and maybe the heat, and you’re ready for the family – but are you ready for God? Are you ready to face God and for him to ask why he should let you into heaven?
Have you accepted the gift for yourself? Our tree has been up for a month, the house is clean, the food and drinks are ready – the presents have all been wrapped and are sitting under the tree – there are name tags on all the presents showing who they’re for. In our family presents happen after church. Right now those presents don’t belong to whoever’s name is on them. They are sitting under the tree – the gifts are ready to be given – but one thing remains. The giving and the receiving!
God has given the gift of Jesus – but for it to mean anything we have to accept the gift for ourselves.
The right question to ask at Christmas is… have you accepted the gift God offers of forgiveness? Have you prepared for meeting God by entrusting your life into Jesus hands? If you haven’t – then can I say this is the Christmas to do so. This is the time – the perfect time to celebrate Christmas by trusting in the one born this day to save the world.
This Christmas can you honestly say thankyou to God for the gift he has given us.

Stewardship – The Priority of the Cross – 3

The Cross

cross necjlaceDo you wear a cross?

One of the things that strikes me about crosses – earrings, necklaces and so on – the vast majority of people wearing crosses appear to be non-Christians! The world sees it as a talisman, something to magically ward off evil – a good luck charm. Which is a little offensive! This is THE symbol of Christianity – but for many it has been reduced to the level of myth and fantasy.

It has endured for 2000 years as the mark of the church.  Most church buildings have one – though why is a bit of question mark. Have a look around and you will see everything from little timber versions through to giant glowing fluorescent ones mounted high on steeples. There is a church in Prague that is decorated with 27,000 bones, including crosses made of bones. There are churches in the US with glass crosses – which seems like an open invitation to my mind – I wonder how long a glass cross would last in Sydney. Most Catholic churches have crucifixes – an appalling image because it suggests that Jesus has not been raised. Many church logos have at least a passing reference to the scene of Calvary. More and more churches have names that reflect the cross – “Calvary Chapel”, “The Church of the Crucified Christ” and so on.transformed

Though having an image on a building, or in fact around your neck, means absolutely zero – it does pick up the importance of that one event for us – the crucifixion. Unfortunately it’s a sanitised event – with so many crosses around us, some beautiful in appearance – polished, shiny, glowing,  expensive – it’s lost the confrontation – it’s lost the jarring note, the thing out of place, the event that shouldn’t happen. To have the Son of God die on a cross should be an abomination – instead it’s just something that happened a long time ago.

But for us – Christians – the cross is the priority of life.

The Work of the Cross?

Ephesians 2:12-13 “…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 once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.”

It’s great being an Australian citizen We have a great country – war is relatively unknown, we’re prosperous, our politicians are accountable, our laws aim to favour all, and we have access to a wealth of opportunities and benefits. We complain about health care and everything else, but the reality is in more than half the world’s countries we’d be worse off.

But as a foreigner in our country your rights are limited and as an illegal alien you have almost none. The people in our detention centres have some access to food, medical attention, education, housing, and other benefits – but they aren’t free. They are refugees until their status is confirmed – otherwise they are “illegal aliens”. They can demand their rights all they like – but they’re here at the governments’ pleasure – that’s how it works.

That’s a great description of life on earth – we’re here at God’s pleasure – we may not like that idea – but as God’s enemies we have no rights – illegal aliens. Without God we have no hope – and as Gentiles we don’t even have the benefits the Jews had – citizenship of God’s earthly people, access to the word of God, and rights under the covenant. But here’s where the work of the Cross is so incredible. By the blood of Jesus, shed on the cross, we are suddenly – inexplicably – brought into God’s presence. No longer aliens without rights not even citizens under the covenant relationship but in the very presence of God. Christ’s blood works a miracle – we were separated by our sinfulness – no longer.

The Result of the Cross?

Paul says the result of that work of Christ on the cross is this…

Ephesians 2:18-22 “For through him [Jews and Gentiles] both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”

open-doorThere are two results of the death of Jesus on the cross – apart from forgiveness.

  1. We have access to the Father – to the God of the universe – and not as slaves, though we are, and not simply as servants, though we are that too – but through the blood of Christ – we are made children not strangers – citizens. I was born in Australia – as were my parents, grandparents and most of my great grandparents. I am a full blooded Australian – I don’t have to earn my citizenship, or pay for it – I don’t have to take an oath that I will protect my country and serve her – I have the rights of an Australian by birth. That’s what we get as God’s children – by the blood of Christ shed on the cross we become full family members of God’s eternal family – we gain rights that we never had – the right of a son and heir. Senator Bob Brown found out last week what happens when you insult and abuse the President of the United Stated of America – he was barred from meeting him. But George Bush’s kids would still get a hug from dad even if they insulted him. The first result of Christ’s death on the cross is access into the King’s presence here and now by his Holy Spirit.crowd hands 5
  2. We become lifetime members of the living body of Christ “The Church” vs 19-20 “…God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.” Vs 22 “…you … are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” We so often misunderstand the church – this is bricks and mortar and cement and steel and glass and timber – if it burnt down tomorrow we might be a little sad but the church remains. [P] I hate signs that state that a certain church building is the temple of the Holy God – or a house of prayer or some other garbage. Utter rot – we’ll come back to it in few weeks – you and I are the Father’s house of prayer – we are being built as the living building that grows and changes and moulds around Jesus. We stand on the work of the Apostles and prophets – an old building – together we stand on the foundation of Christ – a foundation that is set at the cross – a foundation that is so important that to remove Christ on the cross is to remove everything that holds the building up.

The Foolishness of the Cross

rugged-crossThe problem of the cross of Christ – especially as the pivot point around which the whole of our life revolves – is that it is foolishness. Paul to the Corinthians…

1 Corinthians 1:18 “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

We have ample evidence of the truth of this verse – even within the church. This past month in Synod we had people in one of the largest and strongest evangelical diocese’ in the western world – clergy included – stand and seriously try to undermine the truth of Jesus on the cross. We have Anglican Bishops and Archbishops in our country – who deny the death and resurrection of Jesus – exactly what they do believe is a bit of a mystery – take the cross out of Christianity and you’re left with nothing.

We can try to argue the sense of the cross – we can argue its merits with worldly wisdom. Or like so many we can deny its truth and take away its power. We can be like those who claim Christ was simply a radical who died a sad death – he fought against oppression – he was on the side of the poor – his life is just an example of love for us to follow. God says that it is the foolishness of the cross that is everything.

1 Corinthians 1:20b-24 “…Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”

Our world demands the same stuff – a sign, wisdom that makes sense to us humans – the sign is the cross – the wisdom is what we preach – the jarring note of a crucified king. He will be a stumbling block to people – even those who claim to be Christian but refuse to accept his death and resurrection as payment for their sins. That’s what it is – it’s pride – I can’t accept that it would be necessary for God to allow his son to die for my sins – there must be some other meaning. But there’s not.

The Priority of the Cross

1 Corinthians 1:27-31 “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”

As Christians we have a lot to share with people – love, kindness, grace, mercy, hope, joy – value based on God’s love, the wonder of God’s kingdom and eternity in his care –  I love the description in Psalm 23…

Psalm 23:2-3 “He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”626

But it’s God’s plan that we boast in one thing only – that we value one thing so highly that it surpasses everything else – and that is the death of Jesus. It is a strange thing to value – but if we loose the priority of the cross of Christ – then we loose everything. If we share with people all the wonderful things of a relationship with God and fail to show them the fact of their situation before God and the drastic nature of God plan to save us through Christ then we our wisdom has taken the place of God’s.  Paul again to the Corinthians…

1 Corinthians 2:4-5 “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.”

Stand by a deathbed – in those situations there are a whole pile of emotions and even temptations going on – especially with grieving family. There is a temptation for a minister that it’s not really worth telling them about the cross and salvation. They won’t listen, they won’t hear, they won’t respond – they’re too far gone in their grief. It can feel foolish to tell a grieving family that the death of one man can take away the pain of the death of another. How can Jesus’ death be any different to this man, or this woman? Wouldn’t it be better to just comfort them – pray an innocuous generic prayer, try not to offend them and keep the door open, give them some faint wisp of hope, tell them he’s going to a better place and hope that it’s true? Give them comfort, a shoulder to cry on, answer their question?  The truth is – as foolish as it is – the one priority before us is the cross – this is our priority in all of life.

1 Corinthians 2:1-2 “When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”

The work of the cross is to bring us into a relationship with God through Christ’s blood. The result is eternity in God’s presence and as an active member of the living body of Christ that is called the Church. It is foolish to trust in the death of a man – it is jarring to see the Son of God dead – and then rising – but for us – Christians – the cross is the priority of life that informs and directs everything about us. What will that look like – in my life – in yours?

Personal and practical question – how do I maintain the priority of the cross in my life?

Stewardship – the Priority of Church – 2


courtA number of years ago a South American priest was sued – not for what you might think. At a funeral for a man who had apparently been a drunkard and who’d allegedly abused his family for years, who had rarely attended church and in particular had made no profession of faith in Christ – the priest stated that at best this man had had a lukewarm faith. Now – to my ears that doesn’t even sound close to lukewarm – yet the family sued. Surely you have to wonder what’s the priest is meant to say in those circumstances? Funerals are a tough time for everyone and maybe he might have been a little more diplomatic – but he can hardly say the bloke’s gone to heaven after a life of ignoring God. You can understand the family too – they wanted – like we would – the comfort of knowing that he was safe.

At the other end of life – near the beginning – that’s what baptisms are often about – people want safety for their children. Baptisms are usually a nice event in the life of a child – one of those highlight days for parents. Everyone gathers, there’re lots of cute pressies that never get used – how many egg cups; napkin holders and ‘Bunnykins’ mugs can one kid use? It’s a big day because it’s meant to be important – we pray to God – protect this child.baptism

Things have changed with baptisms – not that many decades ago every child got baptized – it wasn’t a matter of right or wrong – if you were Catholic you got christened (baptized) by day 8 – if you were CofE (Church of England), within 3 months. It was simply ‘the done thing’ – it’s a Christian country so you baptize your kids – it’s traditional.

Why do people do it these days? Security is still a big part – it’s a frightening world and it makes sense, though it sounds a bit superstitious. Maybe there is still that idea of it being ‘the right thing to do’ – maybe a little pressure from grandparents. Maybe it’s like circumcision – yes I know the connection’s not obvious. But for lots of Aussie blokes circumcision is done because; “if it was good enough for me, it’ll be good enough for him” – we don’t want boys being different from the rest of the family.

The Sign of…?

church at nightActually in the Bible there is a real connection between circumcision and baptism.

Genesis 17:10-14 “This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner … Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”

For the ancient people of Israel circumcision was the physical sign of their relationship with God – they were dedicated into his service – they belonged to God and to his people. It stops with Jesus – the sign of membership of God’s people is not circumcision though the church taught that for a long time. The sign is baptism – with the Holy Spirit and with water.

In the book of Acts we read about Paul the Apostle in jail – he’d been falsely arrested and during the night there’s an earthquake and the doors of the prison fall open and chains fall off. The jailer arrives, ready to fall on his sword, but finds the prisoners still there – singing – of course. He falls on his knees, recognizing a huge opportunity and asks “what must I do to be saved”. He knows… saved from what? From our sin – from our foolishness, from our rebellion – saved from ignoring and rejecting God. Paul answers the jailer…L

Acts 16:31-34 “…Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him, and to all the others in his house. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized. The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole family.”

They were baptized as a sign that they had joined God’s people on earth – believers. Not in the sense that many Australians say they believe in god – that a god exists! The jailer and his family repent of their sins – they recognize that Jesus Christ is the Lord and deserves to be known as their Lord and they turn their lives over to him. Water baptism is the sign they have changed – they’ve entered a new life, a new way of seeing the world where Jesus is the king.

1 Peter 3:21-22 “…and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.”

The Results of the Cross

directionBaptism points to two things – it’s a signpost – to the inner truth of real faith and membership of the church. Over the past few years we have seen Anglican bishops refusing to believe the truth of Jesus’ death and resurrection – how they can remain bishops without being hypocrites…? Without the cross and resurrection we Christians have nothing – there is no other faith in Christ. The crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus are foundational to Christianity – take it away and you have nothing to build on. The result of the cross is that…

 Ephesians 2:18 “… through Jesus we have access to the Father by one Spirit.”

Remove the crucifixion and baptism means nothing – a sign can only point to a reality – to the fact of faith – I am baptized because I believe that Jesus died for my sins and rose again to conquer both sin and death – and right now he is sitting at God’s right hand awaiting the day of judgement when all people will face his judgement seat and be judged.

The other result of the cross is this!

Ephesians 2:19-22 “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”

 The Church is the result of the cross – fellow citizens, God’s people, member’s of God’s household, built on the foundation, Jesus the cornerstone, a holy temple being built together – and home to God’s Spirit. In the Bible the Church holds pride of place in the life of Christians. It has a priority that we may never have realised.

Jamberoo Anglican Church

What God offers is offered through Jesus by his church. I don’t mean the institution “The Church” – but the people. We have to get away from the idea that the buildings are the church. The Church is the gathered people of God – gathered around Jesus, around the word of God seeking to live as God’s people.

Matthew 18:20 “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”

There was a time, only a few decades ago, when belonging to the church was the done thing – like baptism. We have lost that – and it’s a good thing – because it’s hard to be sincere when you don’t believe. But Christians need to come to terms with the priority of the church in the life of this world – and in particular as Christians participating in the life of the church. I don’t mean working bees and church fetes – whatever value they may have. What we’re talking about is Christians making gathering around God’s word a priority.

The Winner’s Circle

hopeThe passage from Hebrews shows us God view of his church – the priority he places on it.

Hebrews 10:19-25 “Therefore, … since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

When we come to Jesus as Lord and Saviour – as living members of his body – we’ve gone through the door Jesus has opened to us – and we find ourselves unexpectedly in the winner’s circle with the cup in our hands. Christ has won the trophy for us and God says draw near with confidence. Confidence – first time I went to Homebush stadium– big place with 85,000 seats. But there’s lots of blokes so you have to look like you’ve been there a 100 times and know where you’re going – confidence? God says come with real confidence. Come with a sincere heart, being fully assured that the promise of faith and salvation is 100% guaranteed – as Christ’s people our hearts are clean, we’ve been washed clean permanently.

We are to come holding on – unswerving – to the hope. God listens. We are to hold to that hope because it’s based not on our faithlessness but on God’s proven faithfulness. We are to spur each other on – focus not on ourselves but on each other. It doesn’t mean pick up their faults – that we’re good at – but guide and encourage each other to live as Christ’s people.

The Priority of the Church


And we are to meet together – more and more the closer we get to the return of Christ. There is a priority of church that modern Christians fail to see. As Christians none of us would probably disagree with the first few statements – approaching God, holding unswervingly, spurring each other on – but when it comes to gathering together we seem reluctant at times. Some Christians will fit anything else in but not church or Christian activities. Regularity at church and Bible Study has come to mean for some Christians fortnightly or monthly or less often. We are seeing some Christians making idols of sport, family, work, entertainment, relaxation, shopping – whatever – things that take priority over all other things – including church and Christian service.

Is it a crime for Christians to play sport on Sundays?

If it’s putting something before Christ in priority – then yes! If it’s putting something before relationships – yes! If we miss church we’re missing not just singing and the sermon – why would you want to miss those – we’re missing the opportunity to grow in faith, to spur others on, to minister to and be ministered to, to encourage and build. And surely we’re disobeying, where something else regularly takes the place of meeting together.

See the command is there – “don’t stop meeting as some have already begun to”. There was in the OT a priority for Israel of the Sabbath day – a day set aside for God and for family devotion, for praise and teaching. In Christ we are not subject to the Sabbath – if you shop on Sunday God will not strike you down – but we’ve taken that freedom and abused it – putting other things before Christ and his people. We have to work out how we make church a priority – and not just for our own sake – our kids are watching and in many cases our lowest standard will become their highest.

If meeting and serving together was such a high priority for God’s people that God set aside a whole day for it – in what way has that priority changed? Whether it’s Sunday church or Tuesday Bible Study – wherever Christians gather around God’s word – we must make it a priority once more. Paul’s words…

cross rugged1 Corinthians 2:1-2 “When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”

With the cross of Jesus as the priority of life, where does the priority of the church fit in? The great result of the cross is membership of the eternal church – as the cross informs and directs everything about us – what will that look like – in my life – in the church?

Stewardship – The Priority of the Cross – 1


fitness trainingHow does your life reflect your priorities?

Whatever answer you feel you want to give, the fact is – that your life already does! Your life reflects your priorities – whatever we say they are, our life tells the truth! Your life will be an active reflection of the things that truly are close to your heart.

James 2:18-20 “…someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?”

Our actions show us up! They reveal our commitments and priorities. It may be that we have good intentions, that we are in the midst of change and growth – and they will change over a lifetime – the priorities we have at 19-20 are different from when we’re 40 or 60. But our actions, our lifestyle will be the proof of what we value.cross rugged

As Christians my guess is we want to have the same priorities as God through Jesus. We talk about this in different ways – seeing the world through God’s eyes – having his perspective, doing God’s will, sovereignty of God etc.

Paul says to the Corinthians church… 2 Corinthians 5:16-17 “So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”

When we become Christians we take on a new outlook, a new plan of life – the old has gone, the new has come. The new improved “ME” – interesting concept! Over here, the old me – lifestyle, activity, thoughts, plans, purposes, goals, choices and priorities – over here, the new me – lifestyle, activity, thoughts, plans, purposes, goals, choices and priorities – I am a new creation! It’s like New Year resolutions except permanent and life changing rather than thrown away at the first sign of opposition.

What is that going to mean in the big things of life? What am I going to look like?

Because – let me say – it’s easy becoming a Christian. It may not seem so at first because it’s a tough choice in some regards giving up control – but it is a simple choice. The hard part comes day one – when the choices and the decisions need to be made according to God’s principles and plans. My priorities as God’s man have to be different from what I was before – for example with sin!

false teacher smallRomans 6:1-4 “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”

Dead to sin, alive to Christ – everything – all my attitudes and hopes and dreams – all my priorities are new! What’s it going to mean in day-to-day life? How will I regard the world and it’s inhabitants with my new eyes? What will be my new priorities?

2 Corinthians 5:16-17 “So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”

Over the next few posts I want to explore the theme – the Priorities of Christian Life – the Cross, the family, the Church, and finally money! I would love to encourage you to learn the verse immediately above, 2 Corinthians 5:16-17, off by heart. Memorizing scripture is one of the most valuable things we can do – if it’s in our hearts and minds then it can guide us and the HS will use it to change us.

The Welcoming Church!

So – thinking about churches being welcoming places, rather than what so many people describe – how do we do it well? Or go a step further – do we want to do it well, or at all?

How many churches only welcome those who look like the people already attending? In how many churches is it really only the ministry team and maybe – maybe – a couple of hard-core members who do the welcoming?

And how many Christians in our churches simply aren’t looking beyond themselves and their group of friends, to look around on a Sunday morning and think beyond their own needs and desires and to go out of their way to welcome new people into the community – and not just a quick hello and my name is Bill, but a real welcome, a genuine opening of the arms to gather in those Christ has called to his body, opening our homes and lives to new people, sharing what we have received for the kingdom of God? Not just Sunday – but for weeks and months and years even welcoming those who come to the churches we attend.

Is that the problem with welcoming? We think of it as a job – but really it’s a lifestyle, a choice to respond to those Jesus has called!?

Casting Crowns – “If we are the body…”

What should you do this Sunday? Monday? Tuesday?… etc!

Why do we exist?

The Stupid Things People Do!

Two men tried to steal some cash by pulling the front off an ATM machine in Adelaide. They ran a chain from the ATM to the bumper of their 4WD – but instead of pulling the front panel off, they pulled their bumper off. Frightened and with people looking on, they drove off – the chain attached to the ATM, bumper attached to the chain – license plate attached to the bumper. And no – they didn’t use a stolen car.

Another guy in need of a beer decided to throw a brick through a liquor store window. He heaved the brick at the window with all his might – it bounced back and hit him in the head, knocking him unconscious. The windows were made of Plexi-Glass. Even better – the whole thing was caught on videotape, and the storeowner sold it to the TV stations.

Why tell these stories?

Simply to ask the question – why do such people exist?

There are so many people who seem to lack purpose – or pick the wrong purpose to run with. It’s said that we all have a purpose… but when you look around in our world you would have to ask – really? Everyone in this world has a purpose – really? Is that what we see in the world? In your community? People living out their purpose? What about the church – do we see people living out a purpose?

I reckon one of the most common purposes people lay claim to is “to simply make a difference”. We’re here to serve, help others, make the world a better place – not hurt anyone. And maybe for many people purpose has something to do with money and houses – they might claim something else but surely their purpose is linked to how they spend all their time and energy in the pursuit of?

Why do we exist?

Psalm 63 O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you. On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me. They who seek my life will be destroyed; they will go down to the depths of the earth. They will be given over to the sword and become food for jackals. But the king will rejoice in God; all who swear by God’s name will praise him, while the mouths of liars will be silenced.”

God’s Love

David’s got it? You’d have to say David had a profound understanding of God – a very deep relationship with his Heavenly Father. From everything we can understand about David we know that he wasn’t afraid of venting his feelings and saying what he thought. He was a king who really did love his people and love God’s people. His words are not just words – they reflect what’s going on inside.

Psalm 63:1 “O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.”

David was probably writing as he hid in the desert from his son – Absalom wanted to kill him and take the throne. That’s gotta hurt!

“The kingdom’s mine dad”.

“Over my dead body son.”

“Ok dad!”

This is written in the cut and thrust of a painful life. As he reeled at the thought that Absalom wanted him dead… he also clearly saw the inner workings of the world.

Psalm 63:2 “I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory.”

David had seen God’s power and might over his lifetime. He had seen it in the life and history of Israel – as had Israel. He had seen it in the building of Israel, in the riches and might of the kingdom and the prosperity of the nation. He had seen it in the promises of God coming true – land, freedom and peace, nationhood and a vast population. He’d seen it in his own personal life as well – a dead infant son, rejection and pain, a family war. This is not ‘out there’ stuff that David is talking about – when he says, “I have seen…” he means “he” has seen. And – taken notice! Through personal, often painful experience he’d found God’s love was worth everything!

Psalm 93:3-5 “Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you.”

Why does David glorify God?

David says that his soul will be so satisfied that it’ll be like 3 o’clock Christmas Day after the family feast.

Why does he declare himself satisfied?

Psalm 63:6-7 “On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.”


Because God’s love is better than life!

Tease that out – God’s love (friendship, protection, riches, faithfulness, kindness, support, care – and more) is better than holding onto riches, family, health, food, prosperity, friendship – even love. He says it again…

Psalm 63:8 “My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.”

Better Than Life

Back in 1984 – Boxing Day – we watched the TV in horror as the Tsunami swept everything before it. But for me one of the saddest things in the aftermath was seeing Christian ministers and priests unsure of what to say or do. I recall one guy standing in the midst of devastation as he was interviewed for TV saying “how do I tell people God loves them in the face of this.”

Whilst I can see why he was frustrated and distressed – he missed the point.

As King David writes Psalm 63, telling us about his anger and pain, about his foolishness and sin, his highs and lows – always in the midst of that reality is the truth about how the world works – the truth about God and God’s character, might, God’s gentleness, mercy, kindness, strength, wonder, beauty, power, presence – love! The truth is – hard to see though it can be and often is in this world – God’s love is better than life.

David learnt that giving glory to God is the purpose of life. He dedicated himself to God – and lived most of the time in God’s service. He had some major lapses – hopefully far bigger, from our point of view at least, than we will ever have – yet he comes at the last to the truth – he will give God glory by his lips, his actions, by his praise and willingness to be obedient, by his trust – he will cling to God and bring God the glory because that is the central truth of life.

Psalm 86:9-10 “All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, O Lord; they will bring glory to your name. For you are great and do marvellous deeds; you alone are God.”

The Mission – Our Purpose

The very purpose of our lives fits hand in glove with God’s plan – that is to glorify himself – for the world to glorify him – for every living creature to declare the wonders of God’s majesty might and power – to have the very earth and universe itself declare the wonders of God. The reason Jesus came to die and rise again was to bring God glory. He says to his disciples – as he faces his impending death…

John 12:27-28 “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!”

People says Jesus came for a huge variety of reasons – but Jesus says his purpose – was to come to the point of his own death on the cross – the pain, physical and spiritual agony that the cross would bring – that is the reason for his existence – obedience even unto death – and to bring God the glory of a Son who obeys, a son who by his obedience declares his Father’s Lordship and power. “Father, glorify your name!”

John 12:28 “Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.”

God the Father speaks and declares that what Jesus is doing is precisely what God has planned – God is bringing glory to himself and we are part of that plan – not that we can thwart God’s plans – he will be glorified no matter what. But we are called and commanded by God to be like his Son – even if it means obedience to the point of death – that will bring God glory. In the face of the Tsunami being able to declare God’s love and mercy may be hard – that’s why we keep going back to the cross. In David’s words…

Psalm 93:3-5 “Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.”

David knew nothing of the cross – but his words certainly fit. In the face of a disaster and destruction we are to bring God glory. We are to declare his love and goodness by pointing people to Jesus on the cross. Instead of doubting God’s goodness we are called to look to the cross and be reminded that God is good and loving and powerful. That doesn’t mean the world will listen – or agree. Most will think we’ve slipped a cog – that our faith is the worst kind of foolish escapism.

1 Corinthians 1:22-24 “Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”

This is one of the great things about the mission we have from Jesus – we are commanded by God as his creation to live in obedience to Jesus and declare the wonders of God’s love as demonstrated in the cross – and in doing so to glorify God. Even if no one listens we can be obedient and bring God glory.

Psalm 93:3-5 “Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you.”

Meeting Jesus – Just a Man?

Passion and Pain

Do you think you understand what Jesus went through on the cross?

I think that’s one of the things Mel Gibson’s “The Passion” did for many people – give them a new perspective on Jesus’ death – a much more violent ending to Jesus’ life than they were used to.

It takes a lot to shock me. I have this tendency to dissect what’s happening rather than be affected by it – I just want to know how they do it. But “The Passion” really got me. It didn’t surprise me – I’ve known for a long time what was involved in the cross – maybe more than most people – but the movie leaves no real room for the imagination. There are so many movies about Jesus – in many Jesus is white with long beautiful flowing hair, clean white clothes – purity. Movies tend to over spiritualise the truth – the white robes, clean sandals, lack of blood, pain, tears, grief – Jesus becomes a super-human – mythical, easily consigned to the pages of history.

Was Jesus superhuman more than human? There was something special about him – a man like all others and yet unique! The church spent the first 500 years arguing about how Jesus could be just like everyone else and yet be something completely different. It’s hard to see how Jesus could be a man. It’s much easier to see Jesus as altogether different.


Every time you write the date you acknowledge that Jesus was unique – all history is divided by Jesus’ birth. In 1969 Richard Nixon declared the American landing on the moon was “the greatest day since creation”. The evangelist Billy Graham said he was right – except for Christmas and Easter. Which has to be true! Jesus spoke to less people in his ministry than Billy Graham spoke to at just one stadium – and Graham spoke at thousands of stadiums. Yet Jesus changed the face of the earth in ways we would never suggest that Billy Graham might have. For 2000 years the world has revolved around Jesus. More than 2 billion people, 1/3 of the world’s population swear allegiance to Jesus. For the rest Jesus is the enemy, a swear word, or maybe real but irrelevant. Even other religions feel the need to acknowledge Jesus.


As unique as he was, he was also normal – lived a human life, died a human death. Not superhuman, not alien, not especially endowed in any sense – a Jew from theGalilee, with a name and a family. When you read in the newspapers or hear in the news about Palestine, the West Bank, Jordan and Jerusalem, that is where Jesus lived and breathed and ate and slept and walked and did all the things humans do, including dying – right there. Until he was 30 he could walk down the street basically unnoticed – Joey’s son, the carpenter’s apprentice.

Nobody on the ground would have thought anything other than that Jesus was a man.

  • They were amazed at his teaching.
  • They were stunned at his authority.
  • They were angry at his claims.
  • They followed him around because he was incredible.
  • No one talked like him.
  • No one did the things he could do.
  • No one made the claims he did – outrageous claims for any human and yet strangely compelling for Jesus.
  • No one gathered such a following.
  • No one talked to storms with the expectation that they would obey him.
  • No one else cast out demons simply by telling them to leave.
  • No one healed the blind by spitting on the ground and using the mud on the blind eyes.
  • No one expressed rage at the use of the temple, as though it were a personal affront.

But not one person assumed that Jesus was anything other than a man.

They saw him on a daily basis. He ate like they did, slept when he was tired, used the toilet, drank water, bathed daily, walked like everyone else, wore clothing, rode donkeys, built things out of wood with his hands. Jesus wasn’t Harry Potter – he didn’t wave a wand when people’s backs were turned and turn trees into furniture.  Jesus was a man with limitations. When he wanted to go from one end of  Jerusalem to another he walked – just like everyone else. When people were sick or died he was filled with concern and compassion. When his friend Lazarus died he wept. Jesus didn’t wander around in a kind of calm, cool and collected daze like Mr Spock, able to deal with everything unemotionally and logically. People affected him. Obstinacy frustrated him. Self-righteousness infuriated him. Simple faith thrilled him. In fact Jesus seemed more human than most – more emotional, passionate, fiery, compassionate – but still, unmistakably a man.

Understanding Jesus as Human

It’s odd – given all that, that we find it hard to understand Jesus as a man. He is God, Son of God, King, Word, and High priest – any of those titles that remove him from our earthly realm. But the more you read about Jesus the more human he seems. Don’t read through eyes that know how the story ends. Read the story of Jesus through eyes that are wondering where this is leading. Understand the man who walked, talked, lived on earth.

Imagine you’re face to face with him.  Despite everything you’ve heard, he’s a Jew – male, 30 years old – short but strong, big arms and shoulders, long hair, beard, often dirty from long walks on dusty roads – he looks like everyone else. Where’s the 30 foot tall shining king who will crush the Romans, who heals the sick as he rides around on his white horse? How did this man heal anyone? How did this man stop a storm – surely that’s fiction? Come to think of it, why do the religious leaders want to kill him? He’s no one – he’s fromGalilee – who cares what he says – they’re all mad down there anyway.

The more you look at Jesus the harder he is to understand. Everyone  in Jerusalem is talking about the Roman occupation – Jesus says almost nothing about it.  Instead he gets a whip and drives out the thieving religious con men from the temple. He urged obedience to the Law of Moses yet had a reputation as a law-breaker. He could be moved with sympathy for a stranger, yet turns on his best friend with the rebuke “get behind me Satan”. He had uncompromising views on rich men and adulterous women, and yet was a friend to both. Jesus must have been real – no one would invent such a character.

The Final Stupidity

You come to the ultimate stupidity – the cross – the foundation of Christianity.

Jesus who everyone knows has done nothing wrong – great teacher, heals the sick, loves the unlovable, being executed for a crime he never committed. Everyone knew he’d been sold out, that the crimes were fabricated, that men had lied. Yet there he is hanging on that ugly piece of wood – his mother, and brothers and friends a little way off, confused, sick to the stomach, wondering what on earth has gone wrong, in despair – what do we do now?

The one hanging on that cross is a human – “The Passion” gets that right and in gruesome detail. This is a man being subjected to a painful death.  He sweats, he bleeds, he suffers, feels the pain and agony. All the torment of being crucified – and there are less painful and degrading ways to die – Jesus experiences all. And there’s the spiritual agony of knowing God’s wrath was being poured out on himself, that the punishment for every sin was being laid on Jesus shoulders at that very moment of his physical death. Who died on the cross? A man – not a superhero, not someone uniquely able to deal with the pain – a man!

And then a man rises from the dead. The one who walks out of the tomb is Jesus – born of a woman, lived and died and raised from the dead by God his Father as a man. It’s unbelievable isn’t it? No one rises from the dead. In all the funerals I’ve taken not one has ever opened the coffin and walked away. Death is irreversible – like popping a balloon? “Daddy my balloon burst – please fix it?” “Sorry – I can’t.” You can’t reverse the irreversible. You cannot rise from the dead.

Jesus did.

Walking on the Moon?

Our history is full of events that changed the course of history and life – wars, technology, landing on the moon, transport, communication, computers, science, medicine and more! Many great men and women have touched the lives of people – but in the death and resurrection of Jesus we see the greatest single event in history.  Just a man dying – nothing particularly unusual, happens to most people. Except in this death we see sin and death defeated. In the resurrection we see victory over our mortal enemies.

Which would all mean very little if the passion were simply an historical event. We could read it with the same level of disinterest we might read about the building of the Great Wall of China, or the life of Caesar.  But Jesus positioned himself as the dividing point of life. According to Jesus, what I think about him and how I respond will determine my eternity.

Matthew 10:32-33 “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.”

In Jesus we see God stretching himself out on the dissecting table and saying, “Examine me. Test me. Make a decision.”

What is the point of the greatest event ever to happen on this planet? The point is you – your life, your salvation, and your future – your decision. No other event has so affected history and this world than the death and resurrection of Jesus. But what Jesus is interested in is how it affects you. He stands before us as a man who died and rose again so that all who believe in him would have life and salvation for eternity. Jesus says to each of us – “Follow me.”

If you have never taken the opportunity to respond to Jesus then do so today. If you have already but you know that you need to once again turn back and repent and be in step with Jesus.

Real Men in Church

Real Men in Church – Men After God’s Own Heart!

What would you say to men if you had the opportunity – about men being men in the church?

What does it mean to be real men in the church?

I was thinking about who we see as real men – I guess we tend to think adventurers…

  • Edmund Hillary – climbing Mt Everest
  • Chuck Yeager – first man to fly at Mach 1
  • Donald Campbell – land speed record holder
  • Ken Warby – water speed record – inventor of the phrase “that man’s an idiot”
  • Captain Joseph Kittinger – you don’t know this one do you? Jumped from a balloon at 31.3 kilometres and free fell at a terminal velocity of 988kmh (1960).

But does the fact they do daredevil stuff – make them real men? Or are they just idiots putting their lives in danger? One of my mates is right into mountain bikes – proper down-hill-if-you-fall-off-you-might-die mountain bike racing – he fell off recently – broke his kneecap, leg, arm, shoulder, 3 ribs and the little wings off 4 of his vertebrae – he’s a good bloke but I’m not sure I want to say the fact that he’s an idiot who wants to race down mountains on a push bike makes him a real man. He’s also a firey so maybe he is!?

Maybe it’s the warriors – war heroes. If we’re giving out real men awards we might consider pilots in WW2 – the Germans were targeting V1 rockets on London – the pilots would fly alongside and use the Spitfire wing to tip the rocket off course causing it to explode harmlessly in the air. That is impressive manly stuff.

Maybe we think of actors – Charlton Heston, John Wayne, Cary Grant, George Clooney, Harrison Ford, Will Smith, Sam Worthington… Bruce Willis… has nothing to do with them being real men – some of them seem like good blokes, down to earth – some of them are more female heart-throbs than real men – but I guess if I’d said Jim Carrey, Rowan Atkinson or… Adam Sandler – they don’t quite fit the right image?

Maybe real men are the blokes on Top Gear – TV for real men – Richard Hammond – real man? Jeremy Clarkson – real man? James May??? Puts us in a bit of quandary – it would be hard to think of a TV show better suited to real men – yet the presenters are so different? Our own version of the show with Shane Jacobson and two other blokes – well it was a flop even though Shane is pretty much the stereotype of the big Aussie man – burgers and bbqs and beer – a total boofhead.

The Husband Store

So I discovered the other day that there’s a new store in New York – called “The Husband Store!” It’s a store that sells husbands – for women to choose the perfect man. As you enter the store you’re greeted like royalty and escorted to the lift – and handed an instruction sheet.

You may visit the store ONLY ONCE! There are six floors and as the lift ascends each level so do the qualities and attributes of the men. You can choose a bloke from any floor but you can’t go back to a lower floor!

So, this woman goes in one day to find a husband. Into the lift and up to the 1st floor – the doors open and she reads the sign over the doors; 1st Floor – these men have jobs and love the Lord (it’s America).

Sounds great – but what does the next floor contain. So up she goes. The lift opens and the second floor sign reads; 2nd Floor – These men have jobs, love the Lord, and love kids.

Tempting – really who could want for more! But she presses the button. The doors open… 3rd Floor – these men have jobs, love the Lord, love kids, are extremely good looking and guaranteed to remain faithful.

“WOW”. This is sensational – yet she feels compelled – she might miss out… so she pushes the button. The doors open and she reads… 4th Floor – These men have jobs, love the Lord, love kids, are incredibly good looking, guaranteed to remain faithful and help with the housework.

Tempting as it is to simply rush out and grab one off the rack she can hardly stand the suspense, and simply presses the button, fidgeting as the lift ascends. The doors open and she reads… 5th Floor – these men have jobs, love the Lord, love kids, are unbelievably gorgeous, are guaranteed to remain faithful, help with the housework, and have a strong romantic streak.

She almost pounces on the button, hardly able to contain herself wondering what on earth the 6th floor might hold that could be better. The door opens and she steps out, eagerly scanning the sign, a large electronic display which reads… 6th Floor – You are visitor 4,363,012 to this floor. There are no men on this floor. This floor exists solely to prove that women are impossible to please. Thank you for shopping at the Husband Store. Watch your step as you exit the building, and have a nice day!

Men after Gods Own Heart

So we’ve got men in the world… we’ve got women’s expectations… and we’ve got the church – us!?

How do we be real men in the church?

The Bible has a huge amount to say about being real men.

In Acts 13 Paul is explaining the OT to a group of Jews and Gentile converts to Judaism – on the Sabbath in the Synagogue – he goes through their history so they can see that Jesus truly is the long awaited Messiah. And he speaks about King David – and David had one particular quality, different to the kings of surrounding nations and different even to the rest of the kings of Israel.

Acts 13:21-22 “Then the people asked for a king, and he gave them Saul son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin, who ruled forty years. After removing Saul, he made David their king. He testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’”

Saul was a shallow vain king – just like the kings of surrounding nations – in the end he had no relationship with God. But God’s assessment of David before he was king – a man after God’s own heart. We read the same words in Jeremiah 3 – one of the main OT passages that speaks about the coming Messiah, at a time when Israel is falling apart and are looking for God to save them from themselves – Jeremiah speaks of a time to come…

Jeremiah 3:15 “Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding.”

Jeremiah is ultimately talking about Jesus – the passage goes on to speak about the coming of the Messiah.

What do we know about the Church? I’ll tell you the big one – we know that the church is God’s! We belong to God – in a very real sense we are his possession – Christ is the king.

2 Corinthians 6:16b “For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”

The church is God’s people living God’s way – God has given us the promise he gave Israel – to be our God and that we would belong to him forever and share his glory.

Let’s pull this all together. David as King was not to be a ruler like other rulers who used their position to lord their power over others. He was to be a servant king and particularly to serve Israel as a model – the people of Israel were called to follow David’s example as a man after God’s own heart. Just as we Christians are called to follow Jesus – not simply in his footsteps or doing good works or preaching the gospel or whatever – but to follow Jesus who was a shepherd ‘after God’s own heart’. This is not about leaders and ministers but about ordinary Christian men and women – and I’m just looking at us boys today – as we look around the Bible at what it says about us men – we are to be men after God’s own heart. We are to be men whose life and heart is from the same mould as God’s. Having been made in God’s image, to have a heart that strives after that image. That was the thing about King David – he was not perfect – in fact at times he was an appalling sinner, though I’m sure we can’t throw stones his way. God chose him not because he was beautiful, handsome, tall, politically connected, well liked or from the right family – he was the youngest son of a family of shepherds – a total nobody. God chose him as king because his heart belonged to God.

In our world we value our men if they are strong, wise, shrewd, educated, have nouse and guts, manage people, use time well etc. They might all be important – or not – but when we come to the church we need men who are men “after God’s own heart”.

I like that husband store joke – you’re not sure whether to laugh or just smile knowingly.

Let me tell you another.

A man was walking along a Melbourne beach, deep in prayer for the people of Tasmania – and he calls out to God; “Lord grant me one wish”. The sky clouded and a booming voice said, “Well mate – you have been a faithful servant so I will grant you one wish.” The man said, “Build a bridge to Tasmania so I can drive over anytime I want to take the gospel to those godless men and women.”

The Lord answered, “Whilst your motives are pretty good think of the logistics – the bridge supports into Bass Straight, the storms and danger – the concrete and steel required just makes it a huge job – you know I can do it but it’s pretty hard to justify. Think again – ask for something that would honor me”.

The man thought for a long time and finally said, “Lord, I wish that I could understand women. I want to know what they feel inside, what they are thinking when they give me the silent treatment, why they cry, what they mean when they say ‘nothing’, and how I can make a woman truly happy?”

After a few minutes God said, “How many lanes did you want on that bridge?”

Jokes are fun – but jokes also tell us about our world – and especially about the damage sin has done – about the damage between men and women. We know that God’s judgment against men and women in Genesis has come true – women desire to be in the role of men and men want authority over women. And in lots of churches I reckon that the consequence we are seeing is that men take a back seat in church life and we just keep the ladies happy. That’s a strong statement I know and maybe it’s not true here – but I have to say I’ve seen it enough times – it’s easier to let the women have their say in how churches work.

Yet I would say what we need are churches with men taking the lead – just like David did with Israel – maybe we won’t all be king – but then David’s job was to be an example first.

I don’t just mean that men should be taking on all the different ministry roles in the church. Every minister wants to fill up the program with people and then create more programs requiring more people. What I really mean is that men should be doing David’s job – being men after God’s own heart and taking the lead, being the example in life and love and faithfulness and service.

Titus 1:5-9 “The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you. An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. Since an overseer is entrusted with God’s work, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.”

This is not just about the overseers and leaders but about the men – just as David was to be an example of a God driven character to the people of Israel – so Titus is to be and to appoint men with God’s heart to the leadership of the church that they might be the example to all men in the church.

Jesus says the same thing to his disciples – after they have walked dusty roads in sandals – and Jesus is on the floor washing their feet and says…

John 13:15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you

Jesus is the head – the chief shepherd – he wants us to be faithful, to be men after his own heart – to be servants – and his practical example was that he washed their feet and said – go and do the same thing.

The leaders that Titus is to choose are not good leadership material – they are simply real Christian men – not actors, athletes and adventurers – but rather Christian men whose characters are modelled after Christ and shines through the day-to-day mess of life.

Maybe we need to ask… why do we need men with character in the church – men like David?

We could go to any number of passages to see why. We could look at Ephesians 2 and talk about the fact that we are God’s workmanship created by God to do good works in Christ Jesus. We could look at 1 Corinthians 12 and the Spiritual gifts that we have all received.

But have a look at 1 Timothy.

1 Timothy 1:12-17 “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory forever and ever. Amen.

I reckon the world needs to see that men go to church – men are involved in church life – not because their wives are or their families but because we know – we know deep down inside us that we have been saved from our sins – that despite the fact we in no way deserved God’s grace… he has given it to us anyway. Men need to see men as Christians. Women need to see it – our wives and daughters need to see that men stand for Christ and we should be leading them in the faith. Our sons need to know that we have turned away from sin and to Jesus and that we are taking the opportunities to grow and serve. Why – because we want them to share what we have received – surely? I want my wife to know the fullness of God’s love for her so that she will be safe forever. I want my son and daughters to know what it means to be a Christian and how to live as a Christian in this crazy confusing world – and no-one else is going to do what I can do – no-one else is going to care like I do that they are safe.

I like Paul’s words to Timothy because there is no doubt in Paul’s mind what has happened. He was a thoroughly convinced persecutor of Christians – he would leave Richard Dawkins or any of the modern atheists in the shade – a blasphemer and a violent man – Paul not Dawkins. Paul’s life was turned around by the grace and kindness of God – grace poured out even on a terrible sinner like Paul. And Paul gets it – it drove his life from that moment.

If the church was filled with men who got it – who like Paul were driven by the conversion, driven by the change in their life at the hands of God – what would we see? What difference would it make?

Are you driven by the change that Christ brought to you?

If you’re not a Christian – just investigating maybe – that’s cool – cause if you decide to follow Jesus you need to know what you are up for. Jesus wants you – he designed you for a relationship with him – so now is very defiantly the time to hand over control and ask for forgiveness.

If you’ve been a Christian for a while – what you are doing with it? Are you a man after God’s own heart – are you a man who is progressively looking like Christ? Or are you a man that makes excuses?

Let me tell you a quick story – and finish with a Psalm.

The names have been changed to protect the… Brendan was a big Aussie male – tough, solid, faithful Christian, very well off, very well regarded, the CEO of one of the largest Insurance companies in Australia – and at Church he looked the perfect Christian. I asked him to come and speak to my young adults group about being a Christian in the workplace. He sort of paused for a minute and then said – look I’m not sure I can do that. At work I’m not a Christian – I’m just a ruthless business man – I don’t work as a Christian. So I wouldn’t know what to say to others about being a Christian in the workplace.

I didn’t get him to speak!

Psalm 51:10-17 “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you. Save me from guilt that requires my blood, O God, the God who saves me, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”