Old and Young for Jesus

Bible Readings: Is 61.10-62.3; Ps 148; Gal 4.4-7; Luke 2.22-40 

INTRODUCTION

2017 has been a painful year for God in Australia.

The Royal Commission into sex abuse provided countless examples of how so-called “Christians” had misused their privileged positions. In mid year the media was saturated with claims of heightened rates of domestic violence in Evangelical Churches. And towards year’s end 2/3  of the country made it plain that it didn’t accept the traditional biblical teaching on marriage.

With the legislating of assisted suicide in Victoria the devaluing of the end of human life is taking hold just as it already has for the start of life. Things are definitely not right in our country but most Christians live in a denial of just how bad things are.

This state of denial is manifest in our failure to fast, pray and prophesy, the spiritual realities which dominate our Gospel reading today. If we are ever to see a shift in our nation back to the Lord we need an encounter with the presence of Christ (Luke 2:25) communicated by the Spirit bringing consolation, hope and liberation from the fears that hold us back from confronting the growing wickedness surrounding us.

We need the prophetic assurance that the aged Simeon and Anna possessed that God has acted fully and finally in Christ to put things right. These holy people were familiar with Isaiah’s overwhelmingly positive word of a coming deliverance.

ISAIAH’S PROPHECY

Today’s reading about God’s coming righteous reign begins with, “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God,” (Isa 61:10 cf. Isa 60:18; Isa 62:1, 10-11).

Isaiah is excited because “righteousness” means “putting things right”.

We used to pride ourselves as a nation our nation as a place where everyone could be given a “fair go”.

In an age of big banks, a refugee crisis, scandals over the treatment of women and children and the seeming insoluble problems surrounding Indigenous peoples such optimism has been replaced by cynicism at everything institutional, including the Church. If the message about God coming in Christ to put things right is to be hearable once more we must shake off the image of the Church as a teacher of morality and rediscover that Jesus himself is our righteousness (Acts 3:14; Acts 7:52; 1 Cor 1:30).

In God’s eyes to “do the right thing” is to trust in Jesus in a way that will mean entering into the dynamic of the power of the Spirit expressed in prayer, fasting and prophecy in our Gospel reading.

BEYOND THE LAW

A phrase like “according to the Law of the Lord” appears 5 times in our passage from Luke (Luke 2:22, 23, 24, 27, 39). And when Simeon is described as “righteous and devout” it means he was someone who had fulfilled the expectations of the Law of Moses (Luke 2:25).

Anna is likewise presented as a blameless person.

But the passage doesn’t dwell on morality but on a common expectation. Simeon is “looking forward to the consolation of Israel” whilst Anna is “looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.” (Luke 2:25, 38 cf. Isa 52:9; Isa 61:2).

These seniors were visionary and expectant about a cause to which they had dedicated their lives to in prayer.

We should never underestimate the power of the prayers of old people.

Through my involvement in a weekly prayer and testimony meeting in the city I have heard hundreds of stories over the years and plenty of them mention how even when they were living far from God but he/she knew they had a praying grandmother pleading for their salvation. (Interestingly, never a grandfather – why is that?).

Of course their grandmother wanted them off drink or drugs and in a job happily married and so on. But wise grandmas/grandpas understand that having a happy settled life isn’t the main thing. Coming to Jesus is the main thing. Knowing the Lord as Saviour is the main thing, this was what Simeon and Anna were praying for.

They understood that the righteousness God required through his Law somehow depended on the coming of “the Lord’s Christ” (Luke 2:27); but they could not have understand how the Messiah would accomplish this.

But this side of the cross we see a prophetic truth in Simenon’s words to Mary, “vs.34Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed vs.35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also” (Luke 2:34-35).

Only through opposition to Jesus’ ministry could our need to keep God’s law be taken away. The Law’s purpose to reveal to us the extent of our sin and our need for a Saviour (Rom 5:20) reached its goal in Christ’s substitutionary death as a lawbreaker in our place (Gal 3:13).

God has put things right between him and us not through law but through Christ, as Paul testifies in our Galatians reading for today, vs.4But when the right time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, vs.5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” (Gal 4:4-5).

Anna and Simeon were in the temple at the right time not because they were directed to be there by some law or through coincidence, but because they were praying people led by God’s Spirit.

THE SPIRIT COMES

Simeon was led by the Spirit (Luke 2:25, 26, 27) so that he might see “the Lord’s Christ” before his death. Moved by the Spirit his words that Jesus would be “a light of revelation to the nations” are as God-breathed as the message of the angels on Christmas night, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Luke 2:10). In the coming of Christ salvation was opened up to all.

Once he had seen the salvation that is in Jesus (Luke 2:30; cf. Acts 4:12) Simeon could express perfect calm in a way that renounces the ancient proverb that no one cheerfully welcomes death. ““Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word” (Luke 2:29). He looks forward to dying in indestructible peace knowing that life and immortality have been brought to light through the gospel (Phil 4:7; 2 Tim 1:10). Sometimes theologians don’t understand the things revealed to old saints.

When I was in theological college the future successor of the famous Francis Schaeffer was being interviewed by one of our lecturers, who commented that they both agreed that death could never be a good thing.

When I approached the lecturer and queried, “What about the Song of Simeon?” he had nothing to say. Simeon was not fearless about death because he thought he was good enough to get to heaven, but because in seeing Jesus through the Spirit he knew to whom he was going.

With a Spirit-filled heart he was already experiencing the inheritance of every Christian; vs.6because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!vs.7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” (Gal 4:5-7).

Who remembers the words of this song; “I’m No longer a slave to fear I am a child of God”. These are wonderful words but why is it that so many of us are afraid to speak to other people about Jesus. This is a problem Anna didn’t have.

The text isn’t 100% clear about Anna; she was either 84 or had lived as a widow for 84 years, making her about 105.

What is clear is that when she had been widowed Anna made a choice to remain single and dedicate herself to a lifestyle where by prayer and fasting she could intercede for the salvation of God’s people (Luke 2:38).

She was constantly looking to God to set things right.

Paul lifts up this vision of widowhood in 1 Timothy 5:5; “She who is truly a widow, left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day”. 

This is spiritually potent stuff; but why is such a simple lifestyle of godliness so rare today?

Why is it that so many Christian women are too busy watching TV, going on cruises, going out to coffee, eating with friends.

No wonder our country is in a mess.

Many are concerned about the future of their grandchildren, but unless there’s a revival in prayer the future of your great-grandchildren will be hellish (I can’t’ think of a better word).

I think the most remarkable thing about Anna wasn’t her wonderful prayer life but that once she saw Jesus no one could keep her quiet about him, “And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.” (Luke 2:38).

This ancient lady was the first public preacher of the gospel and her message was that in Christ God puts all things right.

AMAZING

Simeon and Anna are the main actors in our story, but the pictures put on the screen today help us reflect on the impact of these old prophets on the teenage Mary and Jesus. Although they both already had angelic visitations and experienced spiritual inspiration about Jesus’ identity, “his father and his mother were amazed at what was said about him.” (Luke 2:33). Any revelation about Jesus is always amazing.

The astonishing impact of the ancient Simeon and Anna on the youthful Mary and Joseph is radically counter-cultural to our time. That young people are impacted by the prophetic testimony of Jesus through old people goes against our natural expectations. We all “know” that young people today suffer from the usual arrogance of youth as well as a sense of superiority fuelled by technology.

Our natural wisdom tells us that, but the Spirit of Jesus tells me that he still can operate through senior saints in the prophetic realm in revealing Christ with a heavenly wisdom that will amaze the young.

CONCLUSION

Sadly, the lifestyle of Simeon and Anna: prayer, fasting, the leading of the Spirit, prophecy, are alien to most Christians today, old or young.

This is because our minds are enslaved to powers that bind our thinking to everyday things day after day (cf. Col 2:8, 20).

Jesus came to redeem us from such powers but this can only happen if we make a decision to walk in his way of sacrifice.

If we would be people of prayer, fasting, prophecy and the Spirit’s power we must re-evaluate what we look forward to; without a serious lifestyle change in the Australian Church 2018 will witness an intensification of pain for God and for our nation.

If you are an older person it’s not right that the things you most look forward to are a comfortable retirement, peace and prosperity, time with grandchildren, holidays etc.

If you are young person it’s not right that you live as if your first call is family or career; your first call is to seek Jesus, whatever it takes.

Old or young, God is calling for mature men and women who will make the difficult choice for a lifestyle of simplicity and prayer dedicated to knowing more about Jesus and making him known to others.

In a few weeks we will commission our new ministry teams, upon which, I believe, the whole future of St Mark’s depends (cf. Acts 13:1-3). If we embrace a mindset which looks forward above all things to seeing the saving power of Christ to set things right our future assured.

MESSAGE DELIVERED:  30th December 2017 | St Mark’s

Author: Dr. John Yates


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Forget the Lunch: a prophetic recipe for revival

INTRODUCTION

On the 20th of December after a scintillating session of carols at Perth Prayer  the floor was opened for anyone to take the microphone.  Few seemed hesitant, and the prayers of several zealous young men reminded me of my focus on revival when I first arrived here 30 years ago. Revival however must come in God’s way and his grace is always surprising. I had anticipated that the meeting would present an opportunity for prophetic praying, and after waiting on the Lord I sensed some things to speak out, which were seriously painful. But prophecy is meant to be a revelation of the heart of the Lord, and sometimes his “heart is filled with pain” (Gen 6:6). The below teaching is an expansion of what I prayed and observed on the 20th.

A VERY BAD YEAR FOR GOD

It’s hard to remember a year when Australia has given God so much anguish. The Spirit has been sorely grieved, the reputation of the name of Jesus dishonoured and the heart of the Father wounded (Eph 4:30; Eph 5:3). The Royal Commission into Institutionalised Child Sexual Abuse has headlined the abominable behaviour of many pastors, priests, bishops and other Christian leaders.

It’s difficult to articulate the moral and spiritual impact of such abominations, but the old word “defilement”, meaning to “make filthy”, comes closest.

There is something in the human psyche which instinctively recognises that perversion on the part of those who represent God is especially wicked. This pall will hang over the Church for generations. As if this scandal was not enough there was a huge amount of bad press mid-year about domestic violence in Bible believing churches. Whilst some of this was unjustified, the recent public apology to victims of abuse by the Anglican Diocese of Sydney keeps this scar on the Church alive in the public conscience. Worse was to come.

There is an ancient saying, Vox Populi, Vox Dei, “The voice of the people is the voice of God.”

In 2017 2/3rds of Australians showed we believe this saying to be true by voting for same-sex marriage.

Understood spiritually, the mass of easy going Aussies have decided that they do not believe in a Heavenly Bridegroom.

Recognising it or not, they have categorically rejected the intimate Lordship of Jesus in an unprecedented manner (cf. 1 Sam 8:7). If we were at all sensitive to the anguished heart of God we would already be broken people, crying out to the Lord with a deep sense of inner emptiness. Hunger for the glory of God would already be moving us to pray and pray. What happened at Perth Prayer after I spoke clearly indicated the direction the Spirit is leading Christ’s Church.

FORGET THE LUNCH

One of the brothers rose to his feet and read aloud the Song of Mary, accenting the sections he saw as most compatible with the spirit of my praying; “vs.51He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; vs.52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; vs.53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.”” (Luke 1:51-53).

The lowliness and humility characteristic of those favoured by God is certainly in opposition to the prevalent independent spirit in nation and Church today. As the meeting proceeded things became even more prophetic.

A lady who had never been in our gathering before came to the front. She had been walking past the church, which is on one of the busiest intersections of the C.B.D, and was attracted to the singing inside. Putting her curiosity aside she initially decided to press on to get food, until the Spirit spoke to her to come and join us and she resolved to “FORGET THE LUNCH”. After sharing that part of her story she went on to encourage those who come weekly to worship and pray for the city to keep going because this is so important (Col 4:2).

The testimony “FORGET THE LUNCH” is a prophetic call.

If every believer resolved at least once a week to fast a midday meal and dedicate that time to call upon the Lord for the welfare and salvation of our city the spiritual atmosphere of our nation could be transformed (Jer 29:7). A mass movement of such simple obedience would release the power of the Spirit. Why then hasn’t it already happened? An answer came as we broke up into small groups to pray.

Attuned to the “FORGET THE LUNCH” message a city worker in our group began to intercede against the fear that stops so many from leaving their desk at lunchtime to come and pray.

Can you trust God that if you leave your desk (or equivalent) to pray he will provide for your job security.  

This is a simple recipe for revival but a crucial ingredient is missing.

STARVING

As I prayed I could sense the Spirit encouraging us to ask for an enlargement of the Word of God. We need to be interceding for a visitation of the Word as the Bridegroom of the Church (Rev 19:1-13).

Australian society rejects the tender approach of the Spirit not because they think Jesus is a bad person but because they see Christianity as polluted by perverts and people who don’t get the message that “love is love” whatever a person’s gender may be.

Image is not reality, but loving spiritual intimacy with a heavenly Bridegroom will not be reflected in the Church until we are truly hungry for his Word in a way that vastly exceeds all other desires.

The Feeding of the 4,000 has a prophetic message for us. Jesus had “compassion” on the crowd because they had been without bread for “three days” and were in danger of fainting (Mark 8:1-2). Because the bread of Christ’s presence was more important than any number of lunches this mob saw the miraculous hand of God! He will reward us too with his powerful presence if our prayer for intimacy with his Spirit-Word exceeds our longing for the delicacies of this world.

CONCLUSION

There are plenty of worthwhile prayer initiatives across Australia but they seem to lack a crucial commitment to a prerequisite for a major move of God.

Mainstream networks are always committed to stability in the Church and the restoration of Christianity to a place of social honour.  

But heaven sent revival always begins with a new work of God being rejected by existing church powers and mocked by secular culture.

For example, even though it wasn’t even a revival, I remember just how disruptive the Charismatic Movement was to the churches a generation ago. And how tongues speakers were viewed by the newspapers as a sort of lunatic cult.  

The ultimate crucial element in the recipe for revival, in enacting:

“FORGET THE LUNCH and “LEAVE THE DESK” is the way of the cross i.e. count the cost (Luke 14:28).

Stuffed with physical blessings it’s time for fair dinkum Aussie Christians to realise that our heavenly Father has been starving us of the Word (Luke 11:11-13).

Not to penalise us but to provoke us to the sort of actions I have outlined.

For the obedient 2018 will be a far more spiritually satisfying year in the Lord; ““Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.”” (Rev 3:20).

MESSAGE DELIVERED: 20th December, 2017 | session of carols at Perth Prayer

Author: Dr. John Yates


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Baptism vs ‘Christmas’

Baptisms 17.12.17 Isa 7:10-16; Ps 72:1-8; Rom 1:1-7; Matt 1:18-25

INTRODUCTION

EVERYONE IS BAPTISED INTO SOMETHING.

I will never forget the experience of being in Cairo during the call to prayer when countless loudspeakers saturated the atmosphere with the Islamic declaration of faith; or recently standing on a street corner in Myanmar with the morning air filled with the broadcasted chants of Buddhist monks. These are powerful methods of indoctrination, but they have not stopped the spread of the message of Jesus. The Australian experience however seems to teach that total immersion into materialism is more powerful than everything. This is at its worse at Christmas when traditional carols and nativity scenes are commandeered to intensify a happy mood amongst shoppers that will maximise…buying. Even if mixed with the fun, or pain, of being with family at Christmas, consumerism reigns almighty. And the minds of many church goers are moved more by the demands of getting Christmas “right” than by amazement at the coming of the Son.

As a follower of Jesus I have always felt this way but my early protests against corrupting consumerism were naive. 40 years ago I was part of a group so sickened by the festive materialism of Christmas that we organised a protest march down the main street of Adelaide headed by a large banner saying, “Jesus Was Born To Die”. The crowds of shoppers no doubt thought we were religious nuts (not far wrong), and in hindsight our banner should have read something like, “Jesus Was Born To Die So We Could Live With Him Forever”. Today I know that you can’t free people from their addictions to material things without something better to offer them. The immediacy of pleasurable sensuous experiences will always exercise more power than any other reality (1 John 2:16-17) unless the message of baptism is true, it is possible to have a direct encountering “God with us” in Christ.

WHO IS GOD WITH US?

The prophetic promise in today’s readings from Isaiah and Matthew, “the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel (God with us)” (Isa 7:14; Matt 1:23), is nothing like the temporary earthly appearances of a god familiar to the ancient world and the great Eastern religions. It is a promise that God has been united to humanity in Jesus in such a way that he is one of us forever, eternal life is being with Jesus forever (cf. John 1:14; Phil 2:6-7). To my knowledge only the religion with Jesus as the centre teaches a true union between the purity of the eternal sphere and existence drawn from this perishing world. The consequences of such rejecting the relevance or possibility of such a unity are immense.

Our Buddhist tour guide in Myanmar had been educated in a Christian orphanage. He agreed that the Buddhist belief that salvation is “all up to us” is totally incompatible with the belief that salvation comes through what Jesus has done for us in death and resurrection. Back home, if you think there’s no “God with us” you will have many worries (Matt 6:25-34).

A friend who is an aged care chaplain friend went to a seminar recently where they shared that fear, anxiety and chronic stress are causal factors in dementia. There an epidemic of mental illness in Australia and no one has a solution. In any year 20% of Australians suffer from a mental illness and rates amongst young people are even higher.

 Facts and stats about mental illness in Australia.
 
 Mental Illness Is Still On The Rise In Australian Youth, Study Shows.

The minds of Australians are stuffed with the message that life is all about consuming, but deep in their hearts human beings made in God’s image need something eternal.

The message of an eternally satisfying world is rarely heard because our culture is deeply cynical about anything that can’t be experienced in a sensory way. Baptism speaks to our cynicism by a realism that testifies that even delightful little children need a Saviour.

BAPTISM AND THE GOSPEL

The adorable simplicity and innocence of childhood is short-lived.  After spending some time with Boe (4) and Shay (1) the other day Donna said “It’s a pity that they can’t stay at that stage.” Ever serious I answered, “Everyone needs to grow up because the truth of the state of their hearts needs to be exposed.” We all know there are parts of our character that no one would want to be around forever. Only Jesus breaks this rule (John 8:46).  Baptism is not about something we do but about identifying with the power of Jesus’ death and Jesus’ resurrection which alone are worthy of eternal life. What do I mean by that?

If Jesus is “God with us” his crucifixion is the sure evidence that God loves us enough to enter into the depths of our suffering (Rom 5:8).

More important than the physical agony of the cross was the pain Christ endured through unjust conviction and social rejection (John 13:18).

This came home to me recently when I saw an old friend who was jailed in China for something he didn’t do.  (If you have ever been blamed for something you never did you will understand what I’m saying.) But it is the spiritual desolation of the cross that is the most profound reality of “Immanuel” God with us.

In his cry from the cross, “My God…why have you forsaken me?”” (Mark 15:34) we see Jesus taking into himself all the ultimate emptiness of a humanity that tries to gorge itself on the perishing things of this world (Eph 4:17-18). Jesus carries for us the frustrations of life’s impermanence – the griefs of what could have been, what never was, the mourning of every lost hope, all those things that are driving affluent Australians into mental disturbance.  But death was not the end for Jesus.

As we read from the New Testament the resurrection reversed all Christ’s afflictions, he is “declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead,” (Rom 1:4).

His resurrection testifies that Jesus is Son of God forever. Everything has been gained for those who accept the call of Jesus to follow him.

In baptism a person marked out as belonging exclusively to Jesus so that as he stood with us in the injustice and agony of the cross we might stand with him in a world that denies who he is. If we endure with Jesus he will never abandon us but raise us from the dead. vs.11 “If we have died with him, we will also live with him; vs.12 if we endure, we will also reign with him” (2 Tim 2:11-12).

Baptism means identifying with and trusting in Christ’s death and resurrection as the most basic commitment you can make, deeper even to a commitment to your own life in this world. Baptism symbolises a death to this world’s priorities and putting the call of Christ first. When Elsie and Maddy come of age they will have to decide for themselves whether their foundational identification is with Jesus or with this passing world (cf. 1 Cor 7:29-31). Without a powerful personal encounter with the life of Christ they will naturally choose the ways of this world.

SENSING THE SPIRITUAL

The sort of encounter Donna and I heard from an ex Muslim missionary in a church in Istanbul who testified Christ appeared to him in a dream coming out of his tomb, or the ex-Buddhist monk I know in Yangon whose doctor declared to be dead but when he heard the voice of Jesus he came back to life. Why is this way of encountering Christ so rare in a consumer culture like our own?

In New Testament times and today in the Third World being baptised commonly means rejection by family, culture and worse; so in the mercy of God those being baptised are granted a supernatural sensitivity to the power of the Spirit of God who took Jesus to the cross and raised him from the dead (Rom 8:11; Tit 3:5-6; Heb 9:14).

Baptism for them is no quaint ritual; it is a doorway out of the darkness of this world into the eternal light of Christ.

The risks associated with baptism are very clear to those emerging from immersion in another religion, but the most insidious and powerful religion of all is materialism.

We are commonly deceived into keeping Jesus trapped in the pleasant melodies of carols and as a harmless infant in the shopping mall surrounded by the consumer items which are our real treasures.

We don’t really want “God with us” if that means we can’t have a whole lot of other things with us. Christmas tests the heart of us all and generally our hearts are found wanting.

The thought life of most baptised believers is usually focussed on health, peace and prosperity, at this time of the year things simply become more intensely preoccupied with the temporary things that crowd out the tangible presence of “God with us”.

Most baptised people in Australia are just as addicted to the things of this passing world as those who claim no identification with Jesus. The greatest challenge for Nathanael, Clarissa and the godparents of Elsie and Madeleine will be to model a set of priorities that reveals that the things of this world are temporary and that Jesus alone is eternal (2 Cor 4:18).

Only the embodiment of such a counter-cultural way of life can make the astonishing love of “God with us” in Christ seem real. This way of living is a challenge that Christmas sharply sets before us all.

CONCLUSION

Christmas in Australia is typically an experience of being baptised into a cultural medium that blatantly denies the power of Immanuel, “God with us”.

True believers however know that the heavenly angels still singing about Christ (Rev 5), wise people still seek him, and millions across the world are discovering that the revelation of God-with-us in the death and resurrection of Jesus is worth leaving everything behind for.

The materialism of  Christmas presents a crisis for a Church that spiritually needs to be re-baptised, to hear and obey once more Christ’s uncompromising word; vs.35For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. vs.36 For what does it profit someone to gain the whole world and forfeit their soul? vs.37 For what can anyone give in return for their soul?” (Mark 8:35-37). Witnessing a baptism recalls us to an encounter with the death and resurrection of Jesus which alone has the power to break the spiritual chains that tie our minds to this passing world (Rom 12:1).

Cynical Aussies already know that the superficial merriment of the season only lasts until the next hangover.

What they need to see is a Church that lives with priorities for another world; that can pass on the saving message authentically,

“Jesus Was Born To Die So We Could Live With Him Forever”.

MESSAGE DELIVERED: 18th December, 2017 | St Mark’s

Author: Dr. John Yates


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Seeing Jesus’ Glory in All Things

Bible Readings: Heb 1:1-4 with Rom 8:28-30, then 2 Cor 5:14-17

INTRODUCTION 

SEE JESUS

While teaching in Hong Kong last weekend I came into much greater clarity on what it means to be able to “see Jesus” in the everyday circumstances of life. As a Christ-centred experience this “seeing” has nothing to do with intuition or imagination but conforms to Paul’s description in Ephesians, “having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know….” (Eph 1:18).

Since in scripture “the heart” is the deepest part of a person (Prov 4:23) and the dimension of our humanity God’s Word speaks to, this heart seeing is much more profound than merely receiving mental information ( Heb 4:12).

Today we need a revival of such Spirit-inspired heart seeing (1 Cor 2:13) that we might be inwardly “compelled” to follow what we see in the Lord (2 Cor 5:14).

Christian service in all its forms is about helping others “see” things in their hearts so that they are moved to grow in sharing the ministry of Christ (Eph 4:11-12).

Speaking personally, the overarching goal of the type of ministry I usually exercise is to multiply “the testimony of Jesus” through the Church (Rev 19:10).

Whilst it’s not hard to find prophetic ministries in some parts of the Church today there is a great lack of understanding of what ministry with a biblically informed prophetic edge is all about.

A revival of God’s presence in our nation will not come from Church-centred prophecies but depends on the people of God beginning to “see Jesus” in everything so they can obey and follow him in every part of life.

JESUS IS EVERYWHERE

THE GOOD” God is working on our behalf

The New Testament teaches that “all things were made through and for” Jesus and he is the reason, goal and purpose of creation (cf. John 1:3; Col 1:16).

The writer of Hebrews describes Jesus’ active presence in everything; vs.1Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, vs.2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. vs.3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.” (Heb 1:1-3).

Whatever we may or may not see with our natural sight Christ is radiating the glory of God into every situation of life in grace or judgement (cf. Isa 6:3; John 12:41). However most Christians I know are deeply confused about God’s sovereign presence in the world.

They love to quote Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”, but usually think of “the good” in terms of some ordinary everyday improvement in their circumstances e.g. better health, financial advancement, improved relationships etc.

And they don’t go on to read how Paul defines “the good” God is working on our behalf; vs.29For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. vs.30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” (Rom 8:28-29).

Everything that God has ever planned for you from one end eternity to another is to make you like Jesus (Eph 1:4; 1 John 3:2).

Christ-likeness is the good God is working towards in every circumstance of life and he is working it in exactly the same manner in which he justified and glorified Jesus (Luke 24:26; 1 Tim 3:16).

And we know Jesus reached the goal that the Father had set for his life only through suffering (Phil 2:5-10).

This means that whatever is happening in your life, if you ask the Lord to show you in what way he is working to conform you to the character of Christ, the eyes of your hearts will be spiritually enlightened and spiritual confusion will be taken away.

There is a little difficulty here however, remember how Hebrews described Jesus as “heir of all things”, as Jesus became the inheritor of the universe we are assured, vs.16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, vs.17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” (Rom 8:16-17). The vision of inheriting the world with Christ is only experienced if we have a willingness to suffer for Jesus in every circumstance (1 Cor 3:21-23).

This is tough stuff but it is never complicated, for in his famous conversation with Nicodemus Jesus promised born again believers would be able to, ““see the kingdom of God”” (John 3:3). 

If the promises are so plain why are so many believers short sighted about God’s ways in their own lives (2 Pet 1:9)?

The answer is that the only way to see things as God has always seen them is through the lens of the cross (1 Pet 1:20; Rev 13:8).

AN EXCEPTION

Jesus’ clarity in teaching and the miraculous flowed from his spiritual insight into the heart of the Father; ““Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.” (John 5:19).

This is where the Lord wants to take us, so that we speak and act from seeing what he is doing. Sometimes however what Jesus saw the Father doing was extremely painful; he said to his band of closest friends, ““Did I not choose you, the twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.”” (John 6:70).

On the road of suffering chosen for him by his Father 11 friends would desert him and he had been given a “devil” to betray him. He was able to accept the will of God in such painful things because he knew that they would all lead to the cross as the one way to restore sight to dull-eyed sinners like us

Isaiah spoke prophetically of the experience of the crucified Christ; “Who is blind as my dedicated one, or blind as the servant of the LORD?” (Isa 42:19).

Bearing our sin on the cross Jesus must be plunged into the bottomless pit where the will of the Father is completely darkened (Rom 8:3; 2 Cor 5:21; Rev 9:11). “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?”” is a genuine cry of total despair when Christ no longer can see the Father and know his will (Mark 15:34).

Such is the cost to God of bearing the blinded eyes of our fallen hearts (Rom 1:22; Eph 4:18).

If the cross meant darkness for Jesus the resurrection brought absolute illumination. He “abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim 1:10).

The message that Jesus has translated humanity “from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God” is the message of the gospel (Acts 26:18).

We are so spiritually dull eyed because we have lost faith in the power of the gospel to open our eyes and to keep them open to what God is doing in all the circumstances of life (Rom 1:16; 2 Cor 4:3-6)!  And as a gospel deprived people other powers are ruling us.

WHAT AREN’T YOU SEEING?

THE GOOD ” God is working on our behalf

Rom 8:28-29

Made for God who made everything very good every human being has a vision for what the “good life” means. When I was an adolescent this meant imagining a high paying job and a sports car that would attract girls (Lotus Elan). 

The vision of most Australians is a variation on this fun loving theme.

From Eden on people have made decisions based on what they “see”/envision as good for their future. Adam and Eve started this when they “saw” eating of the tree of knowledge would bring them the good of immortality without the need for God (Gen 3:6).

To put this in a slightly different way, what a person “sees” most intensely and desires most deeply is their “glory”. Desiring something else more than God the first humans lost the glory of God and we have been struggling to see God as he is ever since (Rom 1:22-23; Rom 3:23). Whatever attracts us more than the Lord is an idol.

There is nothing like the power of idolatry to blind and deafen us to spiritual realities.

I fear the dread warning of the psalmists description of idols  has come upon many of the people of God, vs.16they have eyes, but do not see; vs.17 they have ears, but do not hear… vs.18 Those who make them become like them, so do all who trust in them” (Ps 135:16-18 cf. 1 John 5:21).  

Anything which grips our hearts more than Jesus does dulls the eyes of our hearts to the vision of Christ; whether the idol is marriage, family, ministry, church, money, sex, comfort, acceptance or whatever .

These popular idols are relatively easy to pick and speak to, but here is a deeper idolatry far more difficult to deal with; in our arrogance we think we are the experts on our own character and conduct.

Our hearts are commonly deceived into believing that we know what sort of people we are, we think we can see our hearts accurately (cf. 1 John 3:20). Confidence in our own self-understanding, whether we reckon ourselves to be wretches or saints, means we become like the deceived in Isaiah, “Walking by the light of our own fire, and by the torches that we have kindled!” (Isa 50:11 cf. Matt 6:23).

Praise the Lord for Jesus our complete deliverer from this dreadful situation, “Wretched man that I am!” says Paul, vs.24Who will deliver me from this body of death? vs.25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Rom 7:24-25).

By faith we see that our sinful flesh  has been “crucified with Christ” and is on the way to being glorified (Rom 8:3; Gal 2:20; Phil 3:20-21).

Paul puts this revolution in “seeing” things in Christ in a dramatic and exciting manner; vs.16From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. vs.17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Cor 5:16-17) Cf. email from a friend seeking counsel about ministry in another country involving a man who had lost count of the number of people he had killed,; all that is past, he has a completely new identity.

The way of the cross is a stumbling block to our ordinary ways of seeing things but it is the only way to see things. Never be ruled by how others see you or how you see yourself. For decades I accepted the label that I was a “shy person”; until the Lord told me that he had never said that about me.

Our sanctified “common sense” understanding of who we are and how we should live must be put to death many times so that we can see the Lord’s presence in all that has ever happened and will ever happen to us. (1 Cor 1:23).

Accepting the seemingly weak and foolish ways of the humble Son of God is the key to seeing Jesus in your life again and again. This will involve losing every ambition you have, however seemingly good, so that only one ambition remains.

NO AMBITION

I have desired to be various things since I met Jesus; a scientist, a resident theologian, a revival preacher, but my own wisdom and vision has always proved destructive.

Many Christians have very fine ambitions, like to marry and have a family, but this might not be God’s means to reveal Jesus to them.

Paul puts all this concisely; vs.7But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. vs.8 Indeed, I count all things as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ….I make it my ambition to preach the gospel” (Phil 3:7-8; Rom 15:20).

The more you see Jesus in all his beauty and glory the more you learn to die to personal ambition so you increasingly “live no longer for yourself but for him who for your sake died and was raised.” (2 Cor 5:15).

THE VISION

I said to someone recently about his struggles to settle into a church that generally speaking the vision of Christian leaders is too small.

The New Testament has vision of the universe as possessing a single unified purpose, to be filled with Christ through the Church (Eph 1: 1:10, 22-23; 4:10ff). The Father’s glorious eternal plan has always been to share with us everything he has shared with his Son in the power of the Spirit (1 Cor 2:7).

Which is why Jesus said things like; “Peace I leave with you; my Peace I give to you…..These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 14:27; 15:11). The love, joy, peace and so on of Jesus are wonderful things to share in, but they are not our most wonderful communion with Christ, this is what Peter and Paul call “sharing in Christ’s sufferings” (2 Cor 1:5; Phil 3:10; 1 Pet 4:13).

Anyone who shares in Christ’s afflictions will surely see what the Lord is doing in their life.

CONCLUSION

THE CROSS.

THE CROSS.
 

THE CROSS.

From the liberal progressives through to the suave presentations of Pentecostal megachurches contemporary Australian Christianity generally lives as though it has outgrown the cross.

Having just returned from 3 weeks overseas perhaps I should accept Jesus’ words are true, ““A prophet is not without honour except in his hometown and in his own household.”” (Matt 13:37).

I long to see the people of God equipped to discern the Lord’s working in their daily lives and empowered to bear testimony to his wisdom and grace in all things (Eph 4:10-12; Rev 19:10).

A Church living in this way would already be walking in a quiet revival.

But as things are we desperately need a revelation of Jesus as the centre of everything and to see that whatever has ever happened to us and whatever will ever to us has one great goal, to make us like Christ.

God’s great vision for life, the universe and everything shines out of the most unspectacular event imaginable, that the Creator could be crucified as one of his creatures.

May the Lord open our hearts to see him clearly. Let us pray.

MESSAGE DELIVERED: 15th December, 2017 |

Author: Dr. John Yates


MESSAGE YouTube or PODCAST: 15th December. 2017 |      |


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We really have lots to celebrate 2017

ONE might say I’m big on Christmas celebrations, well there maybe some truth in it!

It is such a significant date or time in our annual calendar.

It marks a significant and critical event in the history of humanity.

A time of remembering an event of major importance which has impacted our lives; Kind of like a Birthday, The reason why one is alive on earth. So it is with “Christmas” it holds incredible meaning and importance to mankind; as it remembers the Birth of God’s Son JESUS born in the (flesh ‘human’ 100%) and remembering the incredible impact it had for mankind. Mankind who were slaves too and under the domination to the Law of Sin and Death because of Adams Fall.

The birth of JESUS and its importance was not understood by men as they were living in darkness serving a master who cared not for them; (Lucifer) and this dominance kept them from knowing God personally. Also mankind was continually in debt to God because of their sins and sin nature, never able to offer anything that would satisfy the demands and just payment that the sin debt demanded.

Basically mankind was lost and without any hope , the goodnews was God had a solution and He (God) because of His love for us was willing to fulfill ‘the solution’

That solution required God’s Son to be born of human flesh in our world of debt to sin, he would be born without the sin nature of Adam; so his life was without debt. This was going to allow a payment acceptable for the sin debt owed by man as by one man Adam the sin debt came and was passed on by birth, so to God was about to by one man JESUS pay the sin debt and redeem man from the debt he owed and JESUS would pass it on by New Birth.

12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.

15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. 16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Romans 5:12-21 ESV

This debt cancellation happens when we lay our lives down at the cross of CALVARY in our heart and die to sin and ask God to make us alive to him. “Being Born Again”

That’s the big picture of Christmas and of course like all things in the natural it has a beginning and the Birth of JESUS is it for mankind, hence remembrance of God’s sons birth during a Christmas season has incredible importance, particularly to those who have accepted God’s solution for their sin debt it has huge meaning.

Santa Claus, tinsel and Christmas trees are all nice and fine but they aren’t the reason for the season. Gift giving has more significance particularly if it’s done in the right spirit (heart motive) “unselfishly Like God’s was” as it reflects the heart of God and what he did for us by sending His son to be the solution for our sin debt; this gift  was was given even though we hadn’t earned it or obtained any Merit to warrant receiving it.

That’s why we say Christmas is a message of Good News and Peace to all mankind, the solution for our sin debt was at hand and the conflict between us and God due to our sin debt was being dealt with. The enmity between us and God was going to be removed.

The Christian world is born from the birth of JESUS God’s son, JESUS the Christ. So we really have lots to celebrate!

Rev. Gary Green

Politics or Jesus

INTRODUCTION

This teaching was provoked by recently reading “To Change the World” by sociologist James Davison Hunter. 

His persuasive thesis is that in engaging the powers of the political realm American Christians have been ensnared in the world’s ways of doing things. In the wake of the failure of a fairly unified Christian front to stop same-sex marriage (SSM) I believe Australian Christians are increasingly committing the same sort of errors as our American brethren.

Lacking the power of the Lordship of Christ many frustrated believers feel like they must do something to be useful to God in the midst of a dramatic decline of national righteousness.

The power of the political sphere is the obvious avenue to bring change, even if Jesus’ Lordship operates in an exactly opposite way to the coercive power of legislation.

I foresee the Australian Church losing one political battle after another, all the while being distracted away from her chief concern, the abiding life of Christ.

POLITICAL CHRISTIANITY

To start with patterns from the U.S., that 80% of white Evangelicals voted for Donald Trump signals the enmeshment between this part of the American Church and the Republican Party.

Less well known is the alignment between Evangelical progressives, mainstream liberal Christianity and the Democrats.

Whilst traditional Evangelicals look for a return to traditional Christian values progressives seek for Christ’s justice to come to the powerless through political means.

A third much smaller bloc, the neo-Anabaptists, considers participation in official political action a form of compromise and idolatry.

The issue of politics and the Church encompasses many issues e.g. the Israel-Palestine debate, Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers, global warming, euthanasia etc.

What disturbs me about “political Christians” is that their zeal for a cause often comes across as more intense than their passion for the Person of Jesus.

Why is this?

POLITICISATION OF EVERYTHING

We live in a day when everything is being politicised, and in the popular imagination politics stands for power.

A recent example of this is when government registry offices were opened to gay people last week the agencies were all flying the rainbow flag of the LGBT movement. 

So powerful has been the political success of this lobby that its core values have now become part of the identity of Australia as a nation. As with the earlier feminist-libertarian victory over abortion, we are now subject to “institutionalised lawlessness” (Matt 24:12).

But surely this is a reason for believers to become involved in political action?

Possibly, but not as it is commonly practiced for the political understanding of most Christians is deeply confused.

To think that politics shapes culture, rather than the reverse, is back to front.

The DE-Christianising of the West happened because densely networked anti-Christians took possession of the culture-making institutions of society, particularly higher education and the arts.

Despite every good intention the average believer has no access to the more elite “clubs” from which social change is initiated.

Unlike, for example, the wealthy, educated, aristocratic group that William Wilberforce drew together, few believers have influence in institutions that re-invent how people see reality.

If there is no remedy for moral decline through the political process should we take more radical action?

Perhaps exercise the “Benedict Option” (Rod Dreher) and withdraw like the monks of the Dark Ages into creative communities whose enlightened moral and spiritual values will eventually lead our nations out of the abyss of secularism?

There is another way forward for the re-discipling of our nations but it will require unprecedented humility (Matt 28:18-20).

CAN GOD LISTEN? 2 Chron ch: 7 vs.14

Recently, 14 of Australia’s most senior Church leaders publicly appealed to the PM and Opposition leader to make good on their undertakings to uphold religious freedoms.

This political act is as completely unsurprising as it is hypocritical.

How often and how loudly have our spiritual leaders been speaking up, inside and outside the Church, for the cause of our persecuted brothers and sisters in other nations?  

Why should a national Church which has so blatantly sinned against the Lord by failing to pray and advocate for our afflicted brothers and sisters (1 Sam 12:23) expect God to hear appeals for our rights?

Do we secretly believe our long Christian history entitle us to some sort of preferential treatment?

Perhaps in God’s good purposes we need to be oppressed in order to be revived (Hab 3:2)?

Songs sometimes speak of a “near revival”, but is this actually imaginable?

The answer is “Yes”, but not in the mode of power many selfish Christians are seeking.

THE REVIVAL OF CHRIST’S PRESENCE

When Hillsong and Sydney Anglicanism put their resources into the “No” campaign against SSM this signalled that political causes have the power to unite polarised Christian traditions.

But contemporary Pentecostals and Evangelicals have lost touch with the source of real power.

They have drifted far from their roots in great revival movements that transformed the character of Western Christianity.

It is idiocy to imagine that the Lord would send revival through the organised Church whilst it has its own elites and clubs who exercise political power inside the churches in a way that does not look like Christ crucified.

Institutionalised Christianity can never defeat institutionalised evil.

Jesus said to the politically savvy Pilate, “my kingdom is not of this world” and went on to show the true  character of the divine rule by death, resurrection and visiting people with the Spirit of uncontrollable repentance, joy and a radical change of lifestyle (John 18:36; Acts 2:37-47).

The mass of comfortable middle class church leaders and their members do not really want to lose control of their life options.

There is a market in peddling worldview programmes as a remedy to the spiritual decline of the West, but Jesus is not a set of mental images you can learn, cultivate and studiously apply.

The power of the presence of the risen Christ cannot be contained in any wine-skin, within or without Christianity.

When we are broken enough to accept this and renounce any hope we have placed in politics perhaps the Lord will visit us with his mercy (Luke 1:78).

CONCLUSION

IF CHRIST IS NOT LORD OF ALL, HE IS NOT LORD AT ALL

When the ACL recently called on the “standing army” that had formed to oppose gay marriage to prepare for bigger battles ahead they reinforced the feeling amongst many Christians that something must be done to save Australia.

Political engagement however is not the kingdom priority our nation needs if there is to be any remedy for lawlessness in the land.

We need the powerful presence of the Jesus in his compassionate wisdom in all the culture making spheres where “Christianity” has been so soundly defeated (Eph 3:10).

This does include politics, as well as education, the arts and many other dimensions of culture.

A Church compromised by political and other powers will never experience the limitless power of God that can change the world.

We need to return to be seeking the Spirit power which took hold of our lawlessness and defeated at the cross and went on to raise Jesus in perfect righteousness (Rom 8:11; Heb 9:14).

Only by abiding in the life of Christ can there be any transformation of our cultures.

This is happened before, and can happen again, but only if we humbly submit to the final reality about divine power; “If Christ is not Lord of all, he is not Lord at all.” May God turn our hearts to Jesus before any other power.

MESSAGE DELIVERED: 12th December, 2017 |

Author: Dr. John Yates


MESSAGE PODCAST: N/A |   


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Jerusalem

 

 

12/10/17 10am Service

FWC Sunday Morning Service… Sonlife Broadcasting Network Sonlife Radio Network

Posted by Jimmy Swaggart on Sunday, 10 December 2017

Rev Lawrence Shave. Open Letter: Same Sex Marriage

Open Letter Sent to Churchinperth

Disclaimer: Please Read


From: Rev Lawrence Shave. Perth. Western Australia.

It seems that the Federal Australian Government Parliamentarians have laid the golden egg and killed the goose in celebration Same sex marriage, but they the parliamentarians have deceived the general public in Australia as they did not tell the general public that the “Yes and No Vote” had more devious demands to silence  the Christian Church from the truths of the gospel in speaking out that in the Bible in 1 Corinthians 6  it says that “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived “Neither the sexually immoral”, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor male prostitutes, nor homosexual offenders, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor slanders, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of god “And that is what some of you were. “But” Praise God” “Some” You were sanctified, you were justified in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by His Spirit you were Saved.

SIN BECOMES ENTERTAINMENT:

Human sinfulness is God’s condemnation of a condition even more damning than the practice itself, supporting and encouraging evil by taking pleasure in the immoral actions of others. This disposition is the ultimate in depravity, vicarious enjoyment of lust and evil as sin becomes “Entertainment” .

Today we know what great harm is produced by the portrayal of immorality that dominates the entertainment media, yet many approve of it and derive pleasure from it. Being entertained by watching other people sin and engage in ungodly actions, even while you yourself abstain, brings you under the same divine condemnation as those engaging in such evil practices, Sin is intensified in any society wherever it meets with inhibition from the disapproval of others.

In the Bible it says that SIN is worthy of death and will be exposed and judged at the final day of judgement, also God says that its an abomination “Detestable, Revolting and He The Lord of Lords Loathes this practice, and I see also that the gay festival started in Sydney Australia some years ago and was not excepted by 99% of Australians and the Rev Fred Nile protested against such practices, but since that time many other have welcomed this fun parade but I would also see that now the fire of sexual perverted sin will kill hundreds of millions people in Australia and overseas as they the sinner have given there souls over to the devil for destruction as the devil comes to Steal, Kill and Destroy, and the parliamentarians had the opportunity to stop this sexual love perversion, but took a blind eye to it, and maybe these same people are  in this sexual lust for themselves as I see that the City of Canberra is the Capital City of Sin.

And I see even the Muslim community are asking now that the “Yes” vote has been passed that male Muslims should be available to have four wives, so I think that Abraham would turn in his grave if knowing of the Muslim people not supporting to No vote and I think Abraham would also turn these people over to the dark side of the devil for destruction because of there double mindedness as it says they unstable in all there ways and are not true to there faith, and I believe that there is only one mighty man in Federal Government in Canberra and that is Mr Tony Abbot, no wonder he got kicked out of being Prime Minister of Australia as “All” the other Ministers on both side of the House ganged up against him because he is a true Christian and stands by his principles laid and given instructions in the Holy Bible, and it seems that Federal Ministers are in the habit of killing innocent people even young children that have not a say for themselves behind closed doors, and the Government of the land ignores them, but aborts them instead killing millions upon millions of unborn Children, and the Federal Ministers celebrate having a marriage between two men or two women, but what next a man and a donkey or a woman and a horse, its not love between to people its lust of the flesh.

I will not be marrying anybody that are gay, only “Born Again Christians,”

In His Service
Rev Lawrence Shave
Perth. Western Australia.