Why Men Have Stopped Singing in Church

Article by David Murrow.  Original found here

Years ago, worship leaders used to prepare their flocks when introducing a new song. “We’re going to do a new song for you now. We’ll go through it twice, and then we invite you to join in.” That kind of coaching is rare today. Songs get switched out so frequently today that it’s impossible to learn them. People can’t sing songs they’ve never heard. And with no musical notes to follow, how is a person supposed to pick up the tune? And so the church has returned to the 14th century. Worshippers stand mute as professional-caliber musicians play complex instruments, and sing in an obscure language. Martin Luther is turning over in his grave.

It happened again yesterday. I attended one of those hip, contemporary churches — and almost no one sang. Worshippers stood obediently as the band rocked out, the smoke machine belched and lights flashed. Lyrics were projected on the screen, but almost no one sang them. A few women were trying, but I saw only one male (other than the worship leader) making the attempt.

Last month I blogged, “Have Christians Stopped Singing?” I did some research, and learned that congregational singing has ebbed and flowed over the centuries. It reached a high tide when I was a young man – but that tide may be going out again. And that could be bad news for men.

First, a very quick history of congregational singing.

Before the Reformation, laypersons were not allowed to sing in church. Sacred music was performed by professionals (priests and cantors), played on complex instruments (pipe organs), and sung in an obscure language (Latin).

Reformers gave worship back to the people, in the form of congregational singing. They composed simple tunes with lyrics that people could easily memorize. Some of the tunes came out of local taverns.

A technological advance – the printing press – led to an explosion of congregational singing. The first hymnal was printed in 1532, and soon a few dozen hymns became standards across Christendom. Hymnals slowly grew over the next four centuries. By the mid 20th century every Protestant church had a hymnal of about 1000 songs, 250 of which were regularly sung. In the church of my youth, everyone picked up a hymnal and sang every verse of every song.

About a decade ago, a new technological advance – the computer controlled projection screen – entered America’s sanctuaries. Suddenly churches could project song lyrics for all to see. Hymnals became obsolete. No longer were Christians limited to 1,000 songs handed down by our elders.

At first, churches simply projected the songs everyone knew – hymns and a few simple praise songs that had come out of the Jesus Movement. People sang robustly.

But that began to change about three years ago. Worship leaders brought in new songs each week. They drew from the radio, the Internet, and Worship conferences. Some began composing their own songs, performing them during worship, and selling them on CD after church.

Years ago, worship leaders used to prepare their flocks when introducing a new song. “We’re going to do a new song for you now. We’ll go through it twice, and then we invite you to join in.”

That kind of coaching is rare today. Songs get switched out so frequently today that it’s impossible to learn them. People can’t sing songs they’ve never heard. And with no musical notes to follow, how is a person supposed to pick up the tune?

And so the church has returned to the 14th century. Worshippers stand mute as professional-caliber musicians play complex instruments, and sing in an obscure language. Martin Luther is turning over in his grave.

What does this mean for men? On the positive side, men no longer feel pressure to sing in church. Men who are poor readers or poor singers no longer have to fumble through hymnals, sing archaic lyrics or read a musical staff.

But the negatives are huge. Men are doers, and singing was one of the things we used to do together in church. It was a chance to participate. Now, with congregational singing going away, and communion no longer a weekly ordinance, there’s only one avenue left for men to participate in the service – the offering. Is this really the message we want to send to men? Sit there, be quiet, and enjoy the show. And don’t forget to give us money.

There’s nothing wrong with professionalism and quality in church music. The problem isn’t the rock band, or the lights, or the smoke machine. The key here is familiarity. When that super-hip band performed a hymn, the crowd responded. People sang. Even the men.

 

It is better that one man die than that the whole nation perish

That you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God

Scripture Readings

  • Isaiah 49:1-7
  • John 11:45-57

Introduction

We continue our series of sermons following the Gospel of John. In the next few weeks we will look at the theme of life and death, as we follow our Saviour, from closely before He was arrested, to the end of his ministry.

Towards the end of his Gospel, John explains the purpose of his Gospel in these words:

Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30–31, NIV)

As we hear the Word of God speak to us from John’s Gospel chapter 11:45 onwards, this stated purpose of John will be our guide.  So, we pray that God will enlighten our minds as we read and hear the Word preached, that we will believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing we will receive life in his Name.

Our theme for this sermon is: It is better that one man die than that the whole nation perish.
We will open the Word of God under these headings:

  • Jesus Christ: inaction to his life-giving Gospel impossible
  • Jesus Christ, the last Passover Lamb appointed by the last High Priest
  • Jesus Christ, no authority stronger than his
  • Jesus Christ, arresting those desiring to arrest Him

Jesus Christ: inaction to his life-giving Gospel impossible

The last miracle our Lord performed, as recorded by John, was to raise Lazarus from the dead.  John does not record the fact that Jesus healed the ear of Malchus, a soldier, after Peter had cut it off with his sword; only Luke, who was a doctor by profession, records that fact.  John, however, wants us to understand the thrust of the Gospel as Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who came to restore life, and that in abundance, by giving his life to die for our sin, to pay the price of righteousness before God, to destroy death, and to prepare eternal life for us.

So, immediately after recording the raising of Lazarus, John tells us about the plot to kill Jesus.  In this plot, Caiaphas, the last High Priest, made this remark:

You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.” (John 11:50, NIV)

It is almost beyond comprehension to understand the reaction of the crowd who witnessed the miracle of Lazarus.  This man had been dead for four days, and yet, death had to yield its power to Christ when He spoke and called the dead man to life.

We indeed have to turn to Chapter 12 to understand something of the events better.  It was at this dinner in honour of Jesus that we find Lazarus among those reclining at the table with Jesus.  We also understand from verse 12, that:

Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. (John 12:9, NIV)

So, it seems that between verse 9 and 12 of this chapter, and verse 45 of the previous chapter two things happened:

Many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in Him.

Some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. (John 11:45–46, NIV)

These two reactions spells out the theme of life and death very clearly:  those believed in Jesus as the son of God, received life;  those who did not receive Him by faith, did not receive eternal life, but they, being children of death and darkness, could not stand seeing Jesus perform any miracle or teach anything about the life-giving message of the Kingdom of heaven in their midst anymore.  In their sight, there was only one possible path for Him:  He had to die; He could not be allowed to be part of their world; they would not be told how they should conduct their lives by one Man who claims to be the Son of God.
Earlier in John’s Gospel our Lord confronts the Jews who did not believe in Him, although they boasted about the fact that they were children of Abraham.  Jesus said:

I know that you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word. I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you are doing what you have heard from your father.” (John 8:37–38, NIV)

Further on our Lord explains to them why they were planning to kill Him:

Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! (John 8:43–45, NIV)

We have witnessed unheard of hatred and contempt of a national leader last week with the burial of Baroness Margaret Thatcher. One can only wonder if such and outburst of hostility could only be attributed to her policies as leader of Great Britain.  It struck me that Mrs Thatcher chose the Scripture readings for her funeral herself.  They came from Ephesians 6:10 and onwards where it speaks about the armour of battle against the evil spirits in the air; the other reading was from John 14 where the words of our Lord is recorded, “I am going to prepare a place for you.”

Were these readings just by accident or ceremonial?  I don’t think so.  In a speech before the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Mrs Thatcher made this remark:

“…we must not profess the Christian faith and go to Church simply because we want social reforms and benefits or a better standard of behaviour; but because we accept the sanctity of life, the responsibility that comes with freedom and the supreme sacrifice of Christ expressed so well in the hymn: “When I survey the wondrous Cross, On which the Prince of glory died, My richest gain I count but loss, And pour contempt on all my pride.”

I think the hatred poured out against this brave woman was aimed at her stance for Christ.

We see it happening all over again every day in our own land.  It disturbs us when people make a mockery of our Lord and his church, when they blaspheme his holy Name on every possible way, but actually we should not be surprised, this world who has rejected life, rejects the One who gives life; the only option is to now love death.  And we see it in the ways death is celebrated in same-sex marriages (no new life is possible out of such a union); euthanasia (everyone has the right to choose how he/she wants to die); and abortion (mothers should have the right to have their unborn children killed).

Jesus Christ, the last Passover Lamb appointed by the last High Priest

So, those who saw what Jesus did and yet did not believe in Him as the Son of God, went ahead and reported to the Pharisees, who then went to report it to the Sadducees, who as a group made up the Sanhedrin, the Jewish Council.  It will help us to understand the make-up of this council.

The Pharisees, strictly speaking, were not a political party at all, though they had political power because they were so highly regarded. Actually, they were a religious party or denomination. They were concerned chiefly with observing each minute requirement of the law and with encouraging others to do so.  They saw in Jesus the enemy:  He laboured on the Sabbath day by healing the sick, and even allowing his disciples to pick some grain for food on the Sabbath day.  Jesus confronted them and called them hypocrites, white-washed graves full of dead bones.  Our Lord uttered other things against the Pharisees who thought and taught that their strict way of observing the Law would secure them a place in heaven.  They found that offensive and decided that Jesus should be removed from the scene because He made their teachings of the Bible look and sound ridiculous.

The Sadducees were not religious leaders as such, but they were a political party.  They were wealthy and aristocratic, and they collaborated with the Romans to preserve their privileged position. These men had much to lose, particularly if there should be a civil disorder; for that would bring swift intervention by the Romans.  As far as their religious beliefs are concerned, they did not believe in the resurrection of the dead.  Here they are faced with the reality of Lazarus who is alive, being brought back to life through our Lord.  What now?  Easy, kill the One who raise from the dead, and the resurrection of the dead is impossible.  Also, kill Lazarus who had been raised from the dead and the stories about the resurrection and the One who makes it possible will go away.  They had a problem on their hands:

“What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. If we let Him go on like this, everyone will believe in Him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.” (John 11:47–48, NIV)

The concerns of both the Pharisees and the Sadducees are mentioned in this one sentence:  If we let Him go on like this, everyone will believe in Him [the religious argument], and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation  [the political argument].

Jesus Christ, no authority stronger than his

This statement is an acknowledgement that things were out of hand for them. The message of the Pharisees are rejected as the people saw and experienced the freedom of the Gospel of our Lord;  that the resurrection from the dead is true and that people believe as a result of it, flew in the face of the teachings of the Sadducees.  They could not, both groups, do anything against the power of Christ – even if they would decided to have Him killed: death would not hold Him, and by his death He would rescue the dying.  No matter what they did, they would loose the battle.  The very fact that we still preach this message is a testimony of the power of the life, love and Gospel of Christ over the powers of darkness.

Montgomery-Boice tells this story.

A number of years ago a lady was invited by a friend to go to a gospel meeting. “I am afraid to go for fear I will get converted,” she answered. Imagine! She was afraid that she might get straightened out with God. On another occasion a minister said to a certain woman in his congregation, “I have not seen your husband lately. Has he lost interest in the gospel?” She answered, “Well, he is afraid to come; for when he comes and hears the Word, it takes him nearly two weeks to get over it.”So, as someone else said, “Being convinced of sin and the conviction they we stand guilty before God, should not make us run away from Him, but should drive us to run to Him!”

Caiaphas, the High Priest, got up.  He was also a Sadducee and in effect the political leader dressed in a purple clerical robe of the Jewish people.  “Let’s think of the good of the people. Isn’t it better that one man die and the nation lives?  If everyone believes in this man, the Romans will come and take away our place [the Temple] and our nation.  So, it is our duty as leaders of the God’s elected people to have this Jesus Christ killed, and so save the nation [which is actually a speech to save his own position].

The very events they dreaded happened. They eliminated Jesus—in one sense at least. But in the aftermath of the crucifixion and the gradual scattering of the Christians from Jerusalem, the revolutionary spirit began to grow with intensity in Palestine, a war broke out, and the Romans intervened to crush the rebellion. In that great war all the strongholds of Israel were overthrown, Jerusalem was besieged and destroyed, and the temple was left in ruins. In fact, as Josephus tells us, a plow was even drawn across the temple area to stress the desolation. How different events might have been if these men had received their Messiah! But they did not. They resisted him, and the sin of resistance had consequences.

No one can frustrate God; no one can oppose Him.  If anyone would try to oppose Him, he will pay the consequences, as did these men. You may oppose him, but Christianity will spread. The Bible says, “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will be established”. If only the enemy of the Gospel of our Lord will understand this.  If only those who are hard of heart understand this.

Jesus Christ, arresting those desiring to arrest Him

It seems there are times when those who mostly oppose the coming of the Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ could become the wisest preachers of the kingdom.  Caiaphas was one in point.  The Bible helps us to understand:

He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. (John 11:51–52, NIV)

God would have the High Priest preach the Gospel, even if he did not understand it himself.  His words sound like they were concocted in hell, but actually they were formulated by the Father. So also,  Pilate had a plaque made for his soldiers to nail to the cross of Jesus.  The intention was to deride the Son of Man: He is the King of the Jews.  He could not be more on the mark; He was the King, not only of the Jews but of the world.  He proved it on the third day when He conquered death.

Those gathered in the council room of the Jews had a few choices, but the choices were not choices of freewill; it was forced upon them.  It is of course the same choices we face as we have to deal with Jesus; it is the same choices the world has to deal with in regards to our Lord.

They had to answer this question: Christ is either Christ or anti-Christ, He cannot be both.  He raised Lazarus in the Name of the Father for the glory of the Father. Did the people who flocked to Him and believed in Him did so because He is from the Father or against the Father?”  Does He give life because all life was through Him in the beginning, or does He give life acting in the name of Belial? But fact of the matter is this, one cannot ignore Him!  You fall at his feet and worship Him, or you take the hammer and nail Him to the cross.  By doing so the choice is between life and death.

If one cannot ignore Him, another possibility is to oppose Him.  There is a warning here; not only do the Jewish Council serve as a warning that one cannot stand against the Son of God, the Bible also warns:

Kiss his Son, or He will be angry and your way will lead to your destruction, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in Him. (Psalm 2:12, NIV)

Can you oppose him? If you do, do you really believe that you will be successful? Will you not rather be in the deplorable company of those rulers who “take counsel together against the Lord and against his Anointed, ‘Let us break their chains,’ they say, ‘and throw off their fetters,’ ” of whom we are told, “The one enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them” (Ps. 2:2–4)?

You can believe on Jesus and follow him. His way is the way of the cross. But the cross is the way to victory, for it is only by losing life that a man can save it. It is only by following Jesus that the victory is won. But there is a price:  we have to take up our cross and follow Him.  That’s life.

Conclusion

The Gospel is preached – even today it has been preached.  It is the Word of God.  It was God’s eternal plan for us to hear it.  Why?

But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30–31, NIV)

Did we hear his voice? Sure we have.  But we cannot remain without reaction.  We can try to ignore Him, or oppose Him, of worship Him.  The right choice is a choice between life and death.

Amen.

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on 21st April 2013

 

 

 

The glory of the Son revealed through death

That you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God

Scripture Reading:

  • John 11:1-44

Introduction

We continue our new series of sermons following the Gospel of John. In the next few weeks we will look at the theme of life and death, as we follow our Saviour, from closely before He was arrested, to the end of his ministry.

Towards the end of his Gospel, John explains the purpose of his Gospel in these words:

Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30–31, NIV)

As we hear the Word of God speak to us from John’s Gospel chapter 11 and what follows, this stated purpose of John will be our guide.  So, we pray that God will enlighten our minds as we read and hear the Word preached, that we will believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing we will receive life in his Name.

Our theme for this sermon is: The glory of the Son revealed through death.

We will open the Word of God under these headings:

  • Jesus Christ, in control or circumstances for the glory of God
  • Jesus Christ, acting for the benefit of his disciples: so that they may believe
  • Jesus Christ, the resurrection and the life
  • Jesus Christ, Lord over death as the Son of God

Jesus Christ, in control of circumstances for the glory of God

During his earthly ministry, our Lord, who was also hundred present human being, made friends.  He made a point to visit friends.  And, of course, there were those who befriended Him.  They loved having Him in their home, and even invited and prepared meals for Him and in his honour.

There was this family of two sisters and one brother.  John 12 actually tells us what happened before John 11 and the resurrection of Lazarus took place.  There is even another chapter in the Bible telling us about these two sisters and their brother.  Luke 10:38-42 introduces us to this family:

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38–42, NIV)

It is almost as if in this family we see the typical family:

  1. There was the sister, Martha, who was preoccupied with daily life.  She was not happy with her sister who did not help her with the daily chores.  She complained to Jesus:  “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!
  2. There was the other sister who couldn’t care less about the household chores.  She was the spiritual one, sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening to his teaching. Later she would take a very expensive and exquisite perfume, worth about a year’s wage, and anointed the feet of Jesus with it, while she wiped it with her hair.
  3. There was Lazarus, the brother.  He never said a word, at least nothing of which was recorded in the Bible.  He was the quiet one.  And yet, what followed in the rest of chapter 11 is about what happened to him.
    It was what happened to him, but it was not about him.

Anyway, of this family we read the Jesus loved them (John 11:5).  The point of this sermon is not to focus on this family, but to focus on what Jesus did in the lives of this family.  I find it however encouraging to think that Jesus is loved this family, just as much as He would love any other family.  Where the door is opened to Him to come in and dine with them, He will enter – and there He will do his marvellous work to reveal himself to them as the Son of God.

All along, our Lord knew what would happen in the near future to this family.  He knew there would be heartache and pain as death would knock on their door.  He knew about the bewilderment and doubt only death can bring to us.  He knew they would understand that death would be final.  He knew these things, because when He saw them again He wept with them.

In the meantime however, He would not be close to them.  Lazarus fell ill, a sickness which would lead to his death.  They sent for Jesus, because they though He would want to know about it and be there for Him.  He did not go, but stayed where He was two more days.  To his disciples He said:

“This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” (John 11:4, NIV)

Lazarus died.  But Jesus did not go, yet

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. (John 11:5)

What do we make of this?  From Martha, Mary and maybe even Lazarus’ point of view Jesus did not care.  But all along, Jesus was in control of circumstances.  Although He loved them, He loved his Father more.

There might have been anguish in the heart of our Lord to know that He forsook his friends, but the peace of knowing that He was doing the will of the Father would overcome it.  After all, what would unfold on the next day, would be to the glory of God, to the benefit of all who saw and heard Him in Bethany as He revealed Himself as the Son of God.

So He took his disciples and went back to Judea.  They were not so happy with the announcement of Jesus:

“But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?” (John 11:8, NIV)

Yes, that’s true, but the Name of the Father had to be glorified in his Son by destroying death in what was going to happen in the next six days.  First, He had to stop in Bethany at a house of friends in mourning because death entered their home – his friend was in the clutches of death, and He had to set him free.  Then He would continue on the road to Calvary where He would destroy death. This explains the expression of Jesus when He said, “Let us go to Judea.”  He did not tell them that He was going to Lazarus or to Bethany.  His focus was Judea, Jerusalem, and Calvary.

But Jesus also tested his disciples, if they would put their trust in God to protect them, and to see the glory of God.  They had to learn whatever the danger, it is better to be with Jesus; whatever the outcome, it is comforting to know that our times are controlled by God.

Then verse 9 and 10 follow:

Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.” (John 11:9–10, NIV)

Why are these verses included here?  I wondered and pondered, and found these in the Commentary on John by James Montgomery-Boice:

“First, God gives each of us a certain amount of time, and nothing can shorten it. The day of our life will not finish before it ends. This applied to Jesus.  Jesus’ life was not going to be cut short by his enemies one minute before the time appointed by the Father. And neither is ours. I am not going to die too soon. You are not going to die too soon. If we are God’s children, he has given us a certain number of days, and we shall have them.

Second, Christ’s question to the disciples suggests that if God gives us each a certain amount of time and if nothing can shorten it, then there is time enough for everything that needs to be done.

The third truth suggested by Christ’s question—“Are there not twelve hours of daylight?”—is that, even though we have sufficient time to do all that God has given us to do, nevertheless, we have only that time, and the time should not be wasted. Are there twelve hours to the day? Yes! But there are not thirteen. So we cannot afford to waste even sixty minutes.” [Boice, J. M. (2005). The Gospel of John: An expositional commentary (834). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.]

In control of time and circumstances, Jesus then set out to go to Judea – but via Bethany, via the house of his mourning friends, and via the grave of his good friend Lazarus. 

Jesus Christ, acting for the benefit of his disciples: so that they may believe

Now Jesus, who knew everything, told his disciples:

“Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.” (John 11:11, NIV)

Maybe they were still fearful of what might happen to them if they followed Jesus into Jerusalem as they countered what our Lord said, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.”  If we are going to be there or not, he will get better.  At least, we will be out of harm’s way!

Our Lord then told them bluntly the reason why He is on his way to Judea.  This is the reason why He has come into this world:

Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” (John 11:14–15, NIV)

They could only see death; Thomas said, “Let’s go and die with Him.”  To this our Lord said nothing, but what He would do, would give them a complete new perspective on the ministry of Christ and their ministry after He had gone to be with his Father. No, the point here is not death; it is life!

God’s perfect timing is at display in what follows now. 

Lazarus had been dead for four days, he was buried, and according to Jewish thought his spirit had left his body after three days – any possible resurrection was impossible.

There were many Jews visited the house of Martha and Mary to comfort them.  The perfect crowd for the perfect plan of God to unfold.

Jesus Christ, the resurrection and the life

It was Martha who met Jesus even before He entered the home.  Now it was she who left the business of the home to be with Jesus, while Mary seemed not bothered.   “Martha troubling herself with questions of “How?” and “Why?” and “What if?” and so missed the blessing that could have been hers if she would only believe more simply. Such faith always attempts to limit God or, which is the same thing, to scale down his promises. Notice that Martha limited the Lord’s working both to time and place, for she said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (v. 21). She felt that Jesus could have done something four days earlier but that he could not do what was obviously necessary now.” [Boice]  Martha’s faith was both faith and unbelief, something we can understand very well.

Jesus revealed who He was:  in the midst of half developed faith and obedience of his disciples, the unbelief of Martha, the disbelieve of the Jews, facing death, at the graveside of a beloved friend, we hear the words of the Gospel: Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25–26, NIV)

What happens now?  Remember, all that Jesus said, all He did, all He was willingly giving Himself to do in the Name of the Father is summarised in that verse we took as the banner for this series:

But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:31, NIV)

What happened then with Martha?

“Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” (John 11:27, NIV)

Oh, that wonderful moment when the light of God’s grace shines upon the heart of a sinner to believe!  What a testimony!  When Peter used about the same words to testify about Jesus, our Lord told Him:

“Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. (Matthew 16:17, NIV)

In a way then, what was about to happen to Lazarus in his body, happened to Martha in her soul.  Yes, indeed she lived and believed in Him and therefore she would never die, even though she would die; Lazarus believed in Christ, and even though he had died, He would live.

So Martha became a witness of Christ as she ran back into the house to call her sister.  She came out to Jesus, followed by the Jews who gathered with the sisters in their house, and said the same as her sister had said.Her faith, although always sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening to his teachings, was still not complete.  She had to witness the power of Christ over the power death.

Jesus Christ, Lord over death as the Son of God

Then there, at the revelation of the Christ to complete the faith of his followers; there where our Lord faced his earthly enemy, the Jews who would only six days later nail Him to the cross; there where had to deal with the enemy of enemies, death – there, we see two things in our Lord: deeply moved, He wept; deeply moved his soul was troubled.

Why did He weep?  Did He not see the sorrow of sin in the death of his friend?  Did He not experience the pain of loved ones left behind?  Did He not look back on the broken lives of millions through the ages who were in the clutches of death, all because of sin?  Yes, He saw and experience all of it.  That is what makes Him our perfect Mediator.  Listen,

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:15–16, NIV)

His soul was troubled.  Why?  He had to pay the price with his own life, taking the sin of the world upon Him, to be rejected by the Father in order to bring them to the Father.  There at the tomb of Lazarus, He would face the reality of his own grave ahead of Him only six days.  There He would face the anguish of dealing with sin and death – finally.  He soul was troubled, because God’s punishment of our sin would be on Him in its extreme measure, to give us forgiveness in extreme measure.

Jesus looked at Mary and Martha:

Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” (John 11:40, NIV)

Then He prayed to his Father:

“Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” (John 11:41–42, NIV)

With a loud voice He then called, “Lazarus, come out!”  The dead man came out and Jesus commanded, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.
Jesus is Lord over death, hell, sin and satan.  Why?  He is the Son of God – God Himself with the Father!  That’s why.

Conclusion

The Gospel is preached – even today it has been preached.  It is the Word of God.  It was God’s eternal plan for us to hear it.  Why?

But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30–31, NIV)

Did we hear his voice?  Do we believe He is the resurrection and the life?  The reason why we heard this message today is to hear his voice – and believe unto eternal life.  It’s either death or life; it’s either Christ or death. 

Let’s thank God for his Son, our Lord.

Amen.

Sermon preached by Rev D Rudi Schwartz on 14 April 2013

 

Australian Relationship with China

Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and her entourage just returned from China after Australia assured a special deal with China.

One commentator says he has “never seen the relationship between Australia and China as positive as it is today.” (Read)

The Australian newspaper points out that “the trading relationship has been bolstered by a currency deal enabling the Australian dollar to be converted directly into Chinese yuan, slashing costs for thousands of businesses. Australia is the third country, after the US and Japan, to secure such an arrangement from our leading trading partner.” (Read)

All of this distracted the attention from the domestic chaos the Australian Labor Party finds itself in at the moment, not to talk about the amassed national debt this government has plunged our nation into.

Just a few remarks:

  • China President Xi Jinping said that China would likely invest $500 billion in coming years in foreign markets.  Something of that will certainly flow to Australia.  Keep in mind, China is still officially a communist country.  It is looking to expand its influence (broaden its boundaries?).  Trade and investment is a peaceful way to do so.  But what will the end look like?  Australia’s total population is just just less the population of one of China’s cities, Beijing. (Someone plays the tune, and someone dances.)
  • Many Chinese labourers are working for substandard wages – the reason why western economies can buy things so cheaply from China.  They work under appalling circumstances, with hardly anyone knowing of luxuries like maximum hours per week, long service leave, etc.  Bluntly, people are exploited.  Nothing raised about this by our government in our dealings with China.
  • Because China is under communist government the authorities assume the right to prescribe the one-child policy.  The official policy is to abort consecutive children. It is therefore not uncommon for a second pregnancy to end in a state controlled abortion clinic.  “Since 1971, doctors have performed 336m abortions and 196m sterilisations, the data reveal. They have also inserted 403m intrauterine devices, a normal birth control procedure in the west but one that local officials often force on women in China.” (Read)  Nothing about this sinful, unethical and murderous practice  was discussed during the last round of talks between our governments.  Not surprising if our own Prime Minister’s view on abortion is taken into account (Read).  On the other hand, the cattle trade in Australia was almost brought on its knees after some animals were “inhumanly butchered” in some abattoirs in Asia; live cattle exports were suspended for some time.

It is just amazing to observe how selective governments can be when it comes to financial gain and economic prosperity.

But, if we want to maintain our living standard, we will probably just turn a blind eye, sacrifice all that is dear to us in terms of our values, not think about others who enjoy very little of their country’s growing economy, – and in the end, we will most probably think nothing of it if we have to sacrifice our sovereignty as a people.

 

The prostitute mother and father

There are millions of children growing up without knowing who their fathers are.  Hundreds of thousands would not know that they might have siblings.

They were born because their mothers took money to have them.

They took money from tax payers, dished out by the government, to pay thousands of dollars for every baby born – no questions asked: no need to be married.  No need to prove some sort of stable relationship to raise a child. Nothing!  Just a birth certificate.

The cost of having the baby in a state hospital is covered by the tax payer.  So are the pre-birth and post-birth medical expenses where the mother is not a member of a medical fund.

The more children the better for the mother:  in Australia $5,000 for the first child and then $3,000 for those consequently born.  Single mothers get more from the state, because their is no father to support.  Home allowance is further quite possible.  Child allowance follow, not to mention legal aid, counselling services, Home Care, unemployment benefits and a host of other services to protect and care for children.  All of this explains why our welfare budget amounts to more that a third of our total domestic budget.

Prostitution is an evil – a really bad evil.  It destroys marriages, morals, families and self-worth. But at least only seldomly children are born to street prostitutes.  The sex is for money.

But mothers receiving money from the state to have sex for children surely is an abomination before the living God.

And to those who fathered these children:  remember, there is no such a thing as a fatherless child.  You remain the father.  Shame on you for being there only for the fun of the moment.  You’re nothing better that the prostitute mother.

No society can sustain this abomination and survive.  It is economic suicide; it’s moral suicide; it spells the end of family, community and society.

It’s invoking the judgement of God.

(The idea with the baby bonus was to boost population numbers, and many couples indeed receive the money to spend against the cost of having a new-born baby.)

 

The Atheist’s Dilemma

Read the story of Jordan Monge.  In her own words:

So I plunged headlong into apologetics, devouring debates and books from many perspectives. I read the Qur’an and Richard Dawkins’s The God Delusion. I went through The Skeptic’s Annotated Bible and looked up Christian rebuttals to apparent contradictions. But nothing compared to the rich tradition of Christian intellect. I’d argued with my peers, but I’d never investigated the works of the masters: Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, Descartes, Kant, Pascal, and Lewis. When I finally did, the only reasonable course of action was to believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Her search for the truth that would set her free, was no walk in the park.  She struggled to believe in the God, who she came to love, but not like.

God was stronger.

God revealed himself through Scripture, prayer, friendships, and the Christian tradition whenever I pursued him faithfully. I cannot say for certain where the journey ends, but I have committed to follow the way of Christ wherever it may lead. When confronted with the overwhelming body of evidence I encountered, when facing down the living God, it was the only rational course of action.

I came to Harvard seeking Veritas. Instead, he found me.

Read her full story.

God is still gathering the lost till the full number of the elect is saved.

 

Coptic Christians under attack in Egypt

EGYPT: As the Arab Spring gives way to a bitter Christian Winter.

The Sharia based constitution passed by the Muslim Brotherhood dominated parliament of Egypt have encouraged a resurgence of Islamic extremism and open hostility towards the large Christian minority in Egypt.

Many historic churches in Egypt have been stormed, stoned, burned and demolished by mobs of Muslims who are frequently being mobilised by Muslim leaders in mosques and through the megaphones on the minarets to throw stones and petrol bombs at Christian churches and to assault Christian worshippers.

Christians at St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Cairo came under attack yesterday. Almost three dozen were injured and one may have been killed, in an attack that took place even as mourners were attending a funeral service for four Copts killed last week in an anti-Christian rampage.  After the funeral service Sunday, April 7, 2013, at St Mark Cathedral in Cairo for the Coptic victims killed by Muslims on April 4 and 5 ended, as coffins and attendants were leaving the cathedral Muslims fired shots at mourners & Molotov cocktails were hurled at the cathedral.

Damaged Cathedral

Damaged Cathedral

One of Coptic mourners at the funeral at St Marks Cathedral in Cairo, Mahrous Hanna Ibrahim, died from gun shots wounds to the head and neck.

Police also did nothing as the attackers scaled the walls of the cathedral compound.

Let us not forget our brothers and sisters under attack.