There are many moments, memories, experiences and embraces in life that are bittersweet. Happiness often comes wrapped in a sheet of sadness, longing or even regret. Whether it is watching children spread their wings, farewelling a loved one, achieving a milestone or success, we know the contrasting dichotomies of emotions that are simultaneously sweet and sour. As Christians, we are also fully aware that many aspects of our faith are filled with bitter and sweet. The cross is a reminder of a painful and torturous death, but the empty cross reminds us of the sweet and beautiful gift of resurrection and grace that gives us eternal life. We experience the deepest joy in life in relationship with Jesus and are simultaneously know that life in the world is deeply fractured, broken and full of suffering. We live in that bittersweet reality every day of our lives. God goes one step further today by calling John and us from standing on the sidelines as a spectator to being actively and intimately involved in God's judging and saving activity in this world. It's an incredible privilege that is bittersweet as God calls us to internalise, live and share boldly his Word in this world. We'll explore and experience 'Sharing boldly' today.
#5 in series: 'In Christ's Hands'
It's the stuff of fairy tales, blockbuster movies and novels galore. A knight in shining armour rides in town, defeats the bad guys and saves the day. Deep down we are all holding out for a 'hero' to save us from the suffering of life. We long for someone who will deliver us from distress. We will go to extraordinary lengths to maximise pleasure and minimise pain and hurt in our lives, at whatever cost or compromise. But God opens our eyes to reality: in life, pain is a given, suffering is to be expected and hurt will be experienced. Wherever there is sin, there will be struggle and suffering. That's the unavoidable reality we face and no knight in shining armour can deliver you from that, no matter what they promise. But wherever there is faith there is hope. The one who was slain, raised & opens the seals on eternity is the one who leads you through suffering with hope to victory with more joy than you can ever imagine. In Christ risen and ruling over all, the Father is Redeeming Suffering for his purposes in this world & for his glory to be seen in us. We'll explore and experience that together!
#4 in series: In Christ's Hands
The recent rains throughout NSW filled the dams across all the catchment areas and unleashed a torrent of water that overflowed with a power and force that could not be stopped. The resurrection of the Lamb-who-was-slain unleashes an unstoppable force that powerfully moves through this world sweeping up all before it, bringing hope and life, strength and healing. It’s God’s people at worship, singing a new song and revealing a new reality – out of darkness, light spills forth. Out of despair, hope arises. Out of discouragement, inspiration awakens. Out of death, life flows. The Lion roars and the Lamb-who-was-slain bleeds to open the scroll, redeem his people and release them for lives of unceasing worship. We’ll explore this unleashing worship today.
#3 in series: In Christ's Hands
Access cards…Key cards…Security cards. They are part and parcel of everyday modern life. They enable the holder to gain access to their money, a building or property, a hotel room, an event or even a photocopier to print. They give the holder certain privileges or rights and deny others from receiving them. They allow some to enter and refuse entry to others. How different is the reality of what God has done in his Son Jesus Christ. Through the cross and empty tomb, God has opened the door of heaven to give all people unlimited and open access to his mercy, his grace, his love, his protection and a future that can never be taken away. There is no security checks you need to go through, no standard reached to merit access. Just respond to his Word of invitation to come and enter through the door and receive full and open access to everything God is, everything God has done, and everything God will do. We'll explore what that Open Access means today.
#2 in series "In Christ's Hands'
Deconstruction is a popular term used these days. It is used in relation to literature, movies, philosophy, and even theology to dismantle opinions, legitimacy, values or beliefs of groups or individiuals. Deconstruction is about pulling things apart to uncover the key motives or underlying principles that lie at the very core. So when chefs deconstruct a dish, they present all of the key components of that dish at the same time, but not necessarily mixed together. God, through the book of Revelation, deconstructs the presuppositions, assumptions and baggage that we often build our lives on to show us in vivid, visual form, the realities of how things really are. Things may look one way on the surface, but things are not always as they appear. That's the reality that the resurrection reveals. Death could not hold Jesus. The grave could not swallow him. Hell has met its match in him. Christ is alive and present with his people and this reality gives us the right lens through which we can make sense of events, experiences, and moments that we encounter on a global, national and individual basis day after day. So let God deconstruct what is amiss in your life and reconstruct a foundation that will enable you to stand, endure and remain faithful whatever hardships or difficulties you confront.
#1 in series: In Christ's Hands
There's an old saying - "The winners get to write the history" When two cultures clash, the loser is obliterated, and the winner writes the history to glorify their cause and disparage the conquered foe. As Napoleon once said, 'What is history, but a fable agreed upon?”
Maybe...but today we celebrate a victory that first and foremost rewrites the future for you, me and all creation. Christ is risen! Rewriting history is easy - we all do it, but Christ is risen to rewrite you - past...present...future...to transform you - today, tomorrow and every day after. Your heart was the hill he was prepared to die on. For from the beginning of time, the Father's only desire has been to share the fullness of his life with you. His eternal plan from beginning to end is for you "to dwell in his house forever." Promised from forever, Jesus Christ crucified, risen and ruling over all things by God’s grace & love confirms it is true. victory has been won, death has been defeated, despair gives rise to hope. For the empty tomb puts the superscript of the cross against all these things, declaring that your history has been redeemed, your present transformed, and your destiny glorious. We'll explore that paln of victory today.\
#4 in Holy Week series: Unconventional Warfare'
The language of war has been a consistently used metaphor over the last two years by politicians and media to highlight the urgency of the global battle we are facing. It's been employed to grant "wartime powers" to governments, justify drastic policy decisions like closing schools and businesses, impose travel bans to curtail movement, and appeal to our sense of duty and obligation to sacrifice some freedom and isolate for the greater fight against the unseen enemy (Covid-19). Strategy in a complex war always evolves and we have lived that reality in our own lives...what works on one front is ineffective on another. But in the greatest war ever waged, the battle over our heart, God's strategy has never changed. His plan always involved a cross. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him, will not perish but have eternal life. It's this strategy for the salvation of our lives that we come face to face with again today. A plan of sacrifice formulated, enacted and executed in love for you and all humanity.
Tonight is part of history's great 3 days (Maundy Thursday Good Friday, Easter) where the axis of the universe shifts away from bondage to freedom, from despair to hope and from death to life. That shift is a war that is fought on many fronts, for many reasons and with varying degrees of intensity. Many of us fight that war in our lives. We engage in that battle every day - emotionally, mentally, We have been worn down, wounded and even overcome by it. Maybe you are in the midst of a battle right now - Jesus comes to intenionally wage unconventional warfare against the enemy of the heart - sin, death and the devil - for you. He's not surprised by the battle. He embraces the battle and this night gives you a promise to sustain you and strengthen you for every battle you will face.
Tonight, he unveils the battle plan again, an unconventional plan of self-giving love for the whole world, for you, that guarantees and secures your victory eternally.
“There is no neutral ground in the universe. All of it is claimed by God & counter-claimed by Satan.” CS Lewis rightly understood our very existence in under persistent threat…not from food shortages, inflation, nuclear WW3, climate change or the latest COVID-scare…but from our ancient relentless pervasive enemies: death, the devil, sin & the intrusion of the world around us that insists its way is better than the Father’s. It's against these enemies that Jesus comes to wage Unconventional Warfare. It's a battle plan that has been a long time in the making. An intentional plan that fights, not with the weapons of the world that leave behind collateral damage & multiply misery, but with a humility that sees, weeps and suffers for the brokenness of this world to secure all people a victory over every enemy that seek to destroy our life, joy and freedom. We'll walk with Jesus today as he enacts God's intentional but Unconventional Warfare plan - a plan of humility.
#1 in Holy Week Series: "Unconventional Warfare'
Sermon written by Pastor Mark Schultz