Author: Benalla Presbyterian

Monday to Saturday Church

Monday to Saturday Church

“Let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)

Early Christians floated and bobbed about in a hostile sea of turbulent pagans and indignant Jews, who saw the new Christian Way as an unwelcome challenge. Yet full of joy and conviction, the new church flourished, as we read in the wonderful Book of Acts. When believers came together, their meeting stirred them up to win precious souls in their surrounding community – stirring one another to love and good works.

Modern Australia is growing more like that multi-faith first century world in the Book of Acts. How may we also flourish? Only by God’s blessing with His Spirit breathing into us confidence in Him to show and tell the world. By the Spirit let us stir one another up to love and to good works.

As a church we need to take an interest not only in our members’ activities on Sunday, but also on the work-a-day week. I do not mean the church should be spying on its members, so as to control them. But as far as each person allows, we members should pray for one another for our daily work, our family life and our involvement in the local community.

In our Sunday gathering we notice that Fred and Sharon are regular in attendance, that Fred sings the hymns with gusto and that Sharon is a good conversationalist, that Fred served on the Board of Management, and that Sharon serves the PWMU, and that both help with working bees.

But we have no idea that Fred in under attack at work, or that Sharon is desperate to drug-proof their grand-daughter, that Fred is stressed by a difficult neighbour, or that Sharon is being shunned by former friends. Privacy must be respected, and confidences held with high integrity, but if our only interest is in what people do for our church on Sundays, and we all become accustomed to that, we must have much less impact in stirring one another up to love and to good works – when we know nothing of our members’ struggles outside of church..

Whether churches are small or large, most people are at least comfortable to share something of their personal challenges and goals in small groups – regular devotional meetings. Very large congregations often have a large number of these weekly small groups which help members to connect with friends in an intimate way; otherwise they would feel lost. In addition, the Sunday worship service can occasionally highlight the work and witness in the community which is being attempted by one or more of our members.

Let us this year take a keener interest in one another in the battles we face through the week, and thus “stir up love and good works”.

With love in Christ, Ken Martin, Minister

Trick or treat

Trick or Treat?

 

Our Prime Minister aptly described the ISIS army in Iraq and Syria as “a cult of death”. While decent people all over the world are horrified by their murders, many young men have been recruited  to their ranks from supposedly civilised countries like ours.

 

There is a Jekyll and Hyde side to modern western society: while we detest the cruelty of real-life killers dressed in balaclavas and waving black flags, too many of us like watching appalling savagery on the screen. We say hate and cruelty are wrong, but many watch it with fascination.

 

We have laws which (rightly) punish people for racist rants, but profitable movies, games and shows go unpunished which glorify viciousness. We have laws which (rightly) punish violent behaviour – though the penalties often fall short of matching the crime. Yet we have no law to stop entertainments which feed the love of violence.

 

While Biblical Christians seem to have less influence today, we can at least make right decisions for ourselves and for our families. We might not be able to persuade supermarkets to refrain from selling things for Halloween, but we can make up our minds we will have nothing to do with Halloween, a cult of death.

 

Halloween presents witchcraft as fun. Although made popular by business in America, it owes its strange practices to British pagans in the murky past. The end of October was marked by a night of fear in which druids killed people and offered them to their demonic “gods”. The druids carved turnips to hold an oil lamp as  the leering face of a spirit. Later on in America, pumpkins were found to be larger and easier to carve. The doorknock, the demand for food, the trick (curse), the bonfire (bonefire), are all remainders of a ghastly tradition of human sacrifice.

 

Much effort is made to lure children into Halloween. While a fierce effort has been made to push the Christian faith out of state schools, many teachers lead their classes to “celebrate” this dismal event, making creepy costumes and masks. God’s judgment is looming on those who lead children to worship darkness.

 

We shudder to see a thug from Sydney teaching his son, eight years old, to behead a captive in Iraq; but in the western world we allow twisted profiteers to woo children to the love of violence.

 

“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light . . . have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them . . . for it is light that makes everything visible.” (Ephesians 5:8-14)

 

With love in Christ,

 

Ken Martin, Minister

 

Death before betrayal

Death before Betrayal

The Word says, “Remember the prisoners as if chained with them – those who are mistreated – since you yourselves are in the body also.” (Hebrews chapter 13:3).

Believing Christians belong to the family of Christ, and are so close-knit, that we are His body.

This means that He feels our sorrows, as when He met angry, raving Saul on the Damascus road and challenged him, “Why are you persecuting Me?” (Acts 9:4). It also means that we feel one another’s sorrows, as we belong to the same body.

As I write, we hear almost daily reports of cruel killing of Shiites, Christians and Zoroastrians by a Sunni (Koranic) Muslim army calling itself the Islamic State. Harmless people without provocation have been killed – according to the dictate of the Koran – because of their refusal to accept Islam. Some have been crucified, some slowly beheaded, some buried alive, others burned. Women have been abducted, small children beheaded. The killers advertise their vile deeds on Youtube.

Where was God in this anarchy? He was with His people, strengthening them to be faithful even to their death. He may move some of the killers to repent as they see the reality of Christian faith, and He may harden the hearts of others for eternal punishment. Those who despise a powerless victim are ripe for it.

This wanton slaughter has been made possible as western leaders have bent over backwards to appease Sunni Muslims; only a year ago the American President and the British Prime Minister were proposing military aid to this same side waging war in neighbouring Syria.

President Obama also criticised the Iraqi government for failure to involve Sunnis in power sharing, when Iraq has suffered thousands of deaths through bombing by Sunni separatists. Mr Obama never mentioned the systematic genocide of Christians by the same Sunni separatists.The take-over of Iraq by the Islamic State is now being resisted, but delay has cost the lives of many thousands of people and has led to the displacement of 500,000 refugees, chiefly Christians.

Plainly in the minds of western leaders, Christians in northern Iraq count for very little compared with oil supplies, but let us not forget the most compelling reason why northern Iraq’s Christians are now either dead or refugees: their loyalty to Christ. They could certainly have escaped their cruel deaths by simply reciting the “confession” which would admit them as Muslims. They have lived their whole lives aware that this “confession” would relieve them of the bullying and harrassment of daily life as Christians in Islamic society.

Yet rather than be identified with their oppressor, they have chosen to die as true Christians; they are now in the presence of their Good Shepherd, who says: “whoever confesses me before men, him the Son of Man will also confess before the angels of God.” (Luke 12:8).

We honour the noble army of martyrs. If you want an example of God’s power today strengthening His people to faithfully represent Him and His glorious gospel, it is here on your television screen on the dry plains of Iraq. By God’s grace in Jesus, may He find us also faithful.

With love in Christ,

Ken Martin, Minister

Link Hands

  •                                                        Link Hands
  • “Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually” (1st Corinthians 12:27).Keen Christians are thin on the ground, and thank God for the ones He sends us to help each other!By linking hands we are stronger: this is Christ’s plan, for we are members of His body.Our small congregation at Wodonga has been facing a financial challenge, as they seek to grow in a large growing city. It is good to report that Numurkah’s Federal Board has joined Benalla’s Federal Board in supporting Wodonga with a solid contribution. There was a real sense of joy in both meetings. Who knows, maybe Wodonga will one day help us – perhaps in some other way. As we help others, the blessings go around.

    Likewise, youth fellowships need to link hands. As I write, there is, to my knowledge, among the various churches in the district of Benalla and Euroa only two youth fellowship, ours being one. Within the Presbyterian denomination, across northern Victoria, there are but three youth fellowships: ours, Broadford and Rochester. Just over the border we have Finley youth fellowship.

    Please pray that God will bless and strengthen these four to work together. All of us can reach Shepparton within an hour’s drive, and my earnest hope is that these four, in working together, may in time serve for the emergence of more fellowships, under God’s blessing.

    Likewise, individual followers of Jesus need to link hands. God creates Christian fellowship so that we all may grow to be happier, more useful, more aware, more loving. Flowers grow better when planted together. When Gippsland’s pioneers began to cut down the giant blue gum trees, the greatest trees on earth, the remaining lonely giants were prey to winds and storms, and sadly toppled. They had only reached their magnificent height growing together.

    People say the church is just a man-made institution, and we all know the church is hurt by man-made fights and man-made campaigns; and yet, we can miss the point that the church as the fellowship of true believers is the gift of God, and everyone who believes truly that Jesus Christ is Lord, Judge and Saviour is a walking miracle, plucked from the floods of dark despair. The fellowship and unity of Christians is a work of God.

    Satan wants us divided, self-centred, looking only inwards. Link hands in partnership for the gospel!

    Yours in the fellowship and service of our Lord,

    Ken Martin, Minister

Is the Bible out of Date? No!

Is the Bible out of date?

In the September election campaign, a pastor asked Kevin Rudd how he could support ‘gay’ marriage and call himself a Christian: “I just believe in what the Bible says and I’m curious for you, Kevin, if you call yourself a Christian, why don’t you believe the words of Jesus in the Bible?”

Mr Rudd replied, “Well, mate, if I was going to have that view, the Bible also says that slavery is a natural condition – because St Paul said in the New Testament, ‘slaves, be obedient to your masters’. And, therefore, we should have all fought for the Confederacy in the US war. I mean, for goodness’ sake, the human condition and social conditions change.”

Mr Rudd’s argument is that at least two parts of the Bible – teaching on homosexuality and slavery – no longer apply because human society has moved on, and most of us no longer recognise Biblical authority in these sections. This means that the Bible as a whole can only be accepted, section by section, according to modern social standards.

The Presbyterian Church’s Westminster Confession of Faith declares: “The authority of the Holy Scriptures . . . dependeth not upon the testimony of any man, or Church, but wholly upon God (who is truth itself) the author thereof.” So what does the Bible say about slavery? Why should slaves obey their masters?

Paul says, “Were you called while a slave? Do not be concerned about it; but if you can be made free, rather use it.” [1st Corinthians 7:21]. That is, don’t fret if you are a slave – you are the Lord’s freedman, eternally free in Christ [verse 22]. But if you get an opportunity to be free, take it.

The Bible recognises that wicked human nature causes all kinds of injustices in this life, which Christians have to put up with: for example, many Christians today have to live under oppressive rulers and religious majorities.

Most slavery in the Roman era was due to wars which ordinary people had no power to stop. God has allowed wars and rumours of war since Cain and Abel; yet the Bible condemns aggressive acts such as enslaving captive populations [Amos 1:9-10]. Aggressive invaders are under God’s sovereign hand and serve His hidden purposes to bring people to repentance, but the invaders themselves are reserved for God’s punishment [Isaiah 10:12-15].

Christians living in the time of the apostles were authorised by the Lord to make the gospel known, not to lead a revolution as Spartacus did in 70 BC. By graciously serving their master without resentment they were witnesses that all men should be brothers: the Law of love for one’s neighbour declares the wrongness of slavery.

In the American Civil War, there were sadly Christians on both sides of the question of slavery, which simply shows that money and human influence can corrupt us. Slavery in nineteenth century America was indefensible, being based on the blatant sale of African captives who were kidnapped. The Bible condemns all kidnappers (men-stealers), including them with “murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers” as the vilest of men [1st Timothy 1:9-10].

So the view that the Bible approves slavery, and as such is no longer authoritative, is untrue. As the Apostle Paul said in the above passage, such a view is “contrary to sound doctrine, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust.”

With love in Christ,

Ken Martin, Minister

Marriage – still under threat

Marriage : still under threat from social engineers

Dear Friends,

Human beings, like all living things, have been wonderfully created by our God. God gave marriage to our first parents: “a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”

One man, one woman for life makes good sense: in Bible times, there was polygamy, which was not declared illegal, but it so often led to bitter family division. One man, one woman in permanent union has been the foundation of western society ever since the Christian gospel was first honoured.

Homosexuality has only been allowed in western society within the last half-century. In many societies it has been unknown. In Venda, a district in northern South Africa, homosexuality was unheard of until the new ANC government made it a constitutional right. It remains deeply unpopular there.

Homosexuality is clearly learned, not inherited, though some people are born with a mix of characteristics. It can be learned very early in life, and it also has been unlearned: in some cases, a person has found faith in the Lord Jesus, and He has healed them of this gender confusion.

While our state education system affirms the homosexual lifestyle as a valid choice for young people, young Australians need to know that it is a lifestyle fraught with medical and psychological problems: the average Australian ‘gay’ man dies at 51 years of age. It is often a lonely, dangerous and isolated life which will never be liked and favoured by the majority.

People in this lifestyle need love and encouragement from the Christian church to find deliverance and freedom in Christ. He befriended those on the fringe of society without encouraging their sin [Luke 15:1-2]. I believe our Saviour wants us to befriend those with whom we strongly disagree, but without moral compromise.

If Christians stand firm on the definition of marriage, it will help the young people who are growing up now to know of God’s standards, which never change. I think we should be aware that another attempt will be made in next year’s federal Parliament to amend the Marriage Act so as to include same-sex couples. While our Parliament late last year affirmed the Biblical model of marriage, since then Britain, France and New Zealand legalised same-sex marriage; President Obama agrees with them.

Therefore may I recommend that Christians contact their federal Member of Parliament, other candidates, and Senators to ask them –

“In the new Parliament will you support the traditional, Biblical model of marriage as the lifelong union of one man and one woman?”

Let’s challenge our leaders before the election, rather than give them a free pass.

With love in Christ,
Ken Martin, Minister