Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Where does joy come from?

17 Though the fig tree should not blossom, 
nor fruit be on the vines, 
the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, 
the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, 
18 yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.  - Habakkuk 3:17-18

Rejoice in the Lord no matter what your circumstances are, our joy is in Him, not in what we have. 
Our joy is in the Lord and in what he has done for us in Christ Jesus!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The resurrection of Jesus

God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. Acts 2:24

Hallelujah for the resurrection of Jesus, it was impossible for death to keep Jesus in the grave, to keep him in its grip!
God the Father did the impossible, he raised Jesus to life again, thereby vindicating the perfect righteousness and sinlessness of Jesus life. Jesus who never sinned could not be killed either, he gave up his life! He took our sin upon himself and suffered death in our place, so that we by God's grace could be forgiven!
The resurrection of Jesus forever silences his all his critics, whatever anyone ever says about Jesus that contradicts what Jesus says about himself, must be submitted to the acid test, surely the one resurrected is the one God the Father has accepted as true and faithful. Jesus is the way the truth and the life!

May we all continue to rejoice in the resurrection everyday of the year!

Pastor Gary Morrison

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The death of Christ.

Luke 23:44 
It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, 45 while the sun's light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last. 47 Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent!”48 And all the crowds that had assembled for this spectacle, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts. 49 And all his acquaintances and the women who had followed him from Galilee stood at a distance watching these things.

Its Easter time again, its that time of year we celebrate the Supreme Sacrifice of God the Son for the forgiveness of our sins. 
This season is actually more important, more holy to us than Christmas is! Yes the world has much more emphasis on Christmas, and the true meaning of Christ's coming to earth gets lost behind a flurry of gift giving and receiving.
At Easter there is no hiding, not even the chocolate eggs can obscure the terrible price God Himself paid for our sin, this was the great day of reckoning, a supreme demonstration of the self-sacrificial love of our God, Father Son and Holy Spirit, as the Lord Jesus stepped into the breach. 
Yes not only the supreme demonstration of love, but also God's supreme demonstration of His Holy wrath against sin! He did not spare His Son the torment of taking sin upon himself and paying the price for our redemption in His death. God's Holy hatred of sin was punished to the full extent that His infallible law and His righteousness demanded. 
What the Roman Centurion said what was absolutely true about Jesus, he had seen many people die in all kinds of ways as a soldier of the Empire. In Jesus however he saw someone die as he had never seen before, the manner of Jesus' death made  huge impression on him, yes Jesus was innocent, he even died the death of an innocent.
What impression, what impact will the death of Jesus have on you over this period of time, if it is not life changing, then pray to God that he will still have mercy!
He is a merciful God, not willing that any should perish in their sin!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Lord is my Shepherd

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.  
Psalms 23:1
A passage we all know very well, and it is a text that is very comforting to us when we hear it.
The Lord God, Creator of the Universe and everything in it, God All-powerful, Omni-potent, and he desires us to see His as a Shepherd, as our shepherd.
Being a Shepherd is and was never was a very glamorous job, in fact it cannot even be described as a desirable job by any stretch of the imagination. Sheep have a predisposition to scatter, to wander off on their own and get into trouble or danger, to get separated from the rest of the flock, to get tangled up in overhanging branches or bushes. Sheep need constant watching, it is a 24 hour job, and thankless task, and dangerous job, and one with little reward for the shepherd. A shepherd is not a harsh dictator, a merciless tyrant, and unfeeling master. A shepherd gives names to all his sheep and knows each one and calls each one by name, a shepherd speaks gently and softly to the sheep under his care, a shepherd does not hesitate to place himself in danger in order to protect his flock from any harm. A shepherd leads from the front, waking out ahead of and guiding his sheep to pleasant pastures and a good supply of fresh water. A shepherd takes care of the needs of his sheep.
Jesus is our good Shepherd, he knows us each by name, he calls us to himself, he has gone on ahead of us, and He has laid down his life for us. He saved us from our sin, and from the consequences of that sin, which is death and eternal separation from God. Jesus has provided full and final salvation for us. 

Is Jesus your Shepherd?

May he lead and guide you from this day forward as your ever loving Shepherd 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Growing up in Africa: My early Theological Education.

I was born and raised in Africa, South Africa to be precise.
My parents were both fairly ordinary people, my father was a Policeman at the time, and my mother had worked as a nurse's assistant, but was now a full-time stay at home mother of four children. We were raised in a very traditional and religious environment, our religious education was taken very seriously in the form of weekly attendance at Sunday-School/Catechism.
Being a Pastor here in the USA, and having been a Pastor in the UK for 11 years and 5 Years in Africa, quite often people will ask me where I was educated, its important to establish ones "credentials", yes education is very important but one may ask the question "What do you mean by education?" I think mine stared many years before I really realized that God has His sovereign hand on us, even while we are in our mother's womb.
 For me it began in early 1969, I had just started School in January that year, and was still only five years old. As a family we also attended the local Roman Catholic Church. 
It was during the Church service, or "mass" that the phrase “Thanks Be to God”, jumped out in my mind, and would be the basis my first great theological question. I must remind the readers that this happened in the days before I could read or even before I enjoyed reading.
Part of what was read or recited involved the above mentioned phrase, but this was not what it sounded to me, it in fact sounded like, “Thanks Peter God”. Now even a five year old in those days knew enough about basic Christianity to know that a vital element of our faith is the most sacred and orthodox doctrine of the Trinity, God is one, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God is Father; God is Son; and God is Holy Spirit, and God is and was not and will never be Peter, Peter was one of Jesus’ twelve disciples, the spokesman of the twelve, and of course a good Roman Catholic also believes that Peter eventually became the first Pope.
Do you see the problem yet? We were all reciting something that was totally unacceptable during the service, “thanks Peter God”, I can tell you that when I was sufficiently literate enough to  following the order of service in the booklet everyone read from, my theological conundrum was resolved once, and for all. It actually read “thanks be to God” it was simply the hurried way the congregation was reading through the order of service; I had misheard the statement what a relief to my then tiny and impressionable mind.
I can truly thank God, for the ability and privilege of being able to read and write, literacy is taken for granted by some many, but what a difference it makes in our lives, and even in the life of a presumptuous young five year old boy.
My next spiritual and religious encounter was to be checkmated by a bishop.
No not in a chess game I assure you, We were living in a small little village not more than about a mile from the Indian Ocean. Our town had this tiny little church, the village of Mtunzini (a Zulu name, that means Place-in-the-shade) actually fell within the boundary of a large magisterial district, as well as being part of a large diocese, and our local priest was in fact no ordinary priest but was in fact the Bishop, Bishop Bulgari.
So as far as the church faithful are concerned we were in a very privileged position, but as far as we  children were concerned, I think I was about six years old at the time. As children we did not fully appreciate the privilege as we should have.
In fact our catechism lessons seemed very long and worse still, terribly boring. Summer weather was unbearably stifling in a day an age when almost no one had air-conditioning. To be blunt, the bishop was as dry as dust and incredibly difficult to understand, the Bishop had a very strong foreign accent.
Incidentally the whole situation concerning having to attend these catechism lessons were my mother’s fault, she was horrified when we moved into town from the Forrest Inn Motel few miles outside town and to find that there were no regular catechism lessons for the local catholic kids. So she did what she did best and made it happen after severely rebuking the Bishop for neglecting our education.
Well one day after school we kids got together and decided that we did not feel like a lesson that afternoon, the collective decision was we would go down to the Church property's small Banana Plantation, to be truthful it was so small the term "banana patch" best describes it.
So we went to this veritable place of refuge, genuinely believing we would not be discovered during the next hour, it was a good idea at the time and the best we could come up with at short notice. Convinced that it was foolproof, O, the disillusionment, it was not to be so, we heard the bishop calling for us, and alas he found us rather quickly in our hideout.
Now was his moment to deal with these troublesome kids and after an absolutely caustic and very verbal attack, he really put the fear of God into us. The Bishop went on about the seriousness of children wasting a bishops time, the sacrilege involved in our neglecting our souls, the damnation that awaited us, if we kept this kind of behavior up, and then the one threat all of us were most afraid of was, he threatened to inform our parents and this he assured us would result in very severe discipline. He did not know my parents as well as I did, what he called discipline was what I understood to be a real hiding, My Father had a belt specially reserved for discipline. We were well and truly check-mated by the Bishop, not only did we never forgot his threat, but we also never misbehaved in his classes again. Learning begins when we respect our teachers, so yes banana's and bishops both have a place in Theological education.
True theology can never be reserved to book learning only, Yes the Bible is our sole source, our unique and inerrant light, it is for us the Word of God. I believe that we must also look back at our lives and appreciate some of those lessons God was lovingly teaching us even before we really knew Him.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Understanding the times.

I was reading through Scripture a while back when a phrase jumped out at me, and a day or two later it jumped again, 1Chronicles 12:32 "Men of Israel who understood the times & knew what Israel should do. In "Esther 1:13 "he spoke with the wise men who understood the times."

In the book of Esther, King Xerxes has a mini-crises on his hand, his wife Queen Vashti, and refused his summons. To be fair to her it could have beeb no fun to have to parade for your husband's guests so that they too could admire her physical beauty. The mini-crises was no minor crises, it threatened to spread rebellion into all the households of the Persian Empire, the women of the Empire could all refuse to obey their husbands, something had to be done. No Empire could or would tolerate any kind of rebellion from its conquered subjects, much less rebellion within the houses and homes of the citizens of that empire.
The wisest advice, from the most trusted sources within the king's circles came from "men who understood the times" men who knew what the right course of action should be. Men who would ensure the King acted to preserve the dignity of his own reign, preserve the authority of his own home, and maintain the status quo of the era. Men whose advice would be in short, essential to best interests of the country they lived in.
This advice led to Queen Vashti's permanent exclusion from her husband's presences, and in addition she also lost her Royal Position. Another was chosen to replace her.

In 1 Chronicles, David is on the run from Saul, he has been anointed King by Samuel, but was notyet recognized   as such by the existing King and people of Israel. To cut a long story short, there were many disaffected people within the Kingdom, who had joined up with David, many I am sure for all the wrong reasons, but people rallied to him. From the Tribe of Issachar, there were men who "understood the times" they were sensitive to the way the Lord was directing the nation, they were savvy to the political situation, they were astute men who could "read the writing on the wall".
They also knew what the Nation of Israel should be doing, unhitching themselves from Saul, and hitching themselves to the future King.

Brother and sisters, our King has granted us permanent and guaranteed access to his presence at anytime, we need have no fear of losing our position, or our privilege, the Holy Spirit within us leads us all to become a people who understand the times, we can see the writing on the wall,because we have the Word of God given to us, and we have understanding of the Word, through His Holy Spirit, and through the preaching and teaching of His Word.
We recognize despite living in a country with with political system that is obsolete, obsolete not because   democracy will fail as surely as any other political system will fail, yes democracy is and was superior to communism, totalitarianism, dictatorship etc etc.
If we understand the times we understand that we have citizenship in a heavenly kingdom, we have the King of Kings who can and will never fail us in any way. This year we need to look to Jesus more than ever before, it is better for us to hide in the caves with Jesus, to wander in the deserts with Jesus, its better for us to be persecuted, to be rejected by the majority of the world around us, its better for not to ally ourselves with the fickleness of of changing "value" systems, which is as bad idea as Vashti's attempt at rebellion.