Theology

The Christian God exists eternally in a Trinity of loving relationships – Father, Son, and Spirit. God created us as the object of his love and invites us to participate in a community of loving friendships. As we fully understand how much God loves us, we are able to love others from a strong foundation of acceptance, significance, security, and purpose. A Community Characterised by Forgiveness Because of sin, loving others is not always easy. In fact, sometimes it is awkward. This is especially so when people act in ways that offend or cause hurt to us. Situations such as these provide an opportunity for us to obey God’s command for us to forgive others. When teaching his disciples to... Read more →


The foundation of our love for others is a revelation of God’s love for us. The most important question in your life is not how much you love others or even how much you love God. It is how much do you think God loves you. Everything flows from this. Once we grasp and fully understand how much God loves us and allow that love to transform our lives, we are in a much better place to reach out in love to those around about us. In contrast, when we are unaware of God’s love for us, we can tend to relate to others from a point of need, seeking to get them to fill the emptiness in our own... Read more →


Relationships in Turmoil Despite the fact that there are many good things happening in our world today, it doesn’t take a lot of insight to realize that we are a time of turmoil – especially in our relationships. At our very core, human beings are relational creatures. We have this tendency to ‘herd’ - to want to be together with other people. Deep inside, we have longings for belonging, for acceptance, for love, for intimacy and for meaning – all of which are found in a relationship with others. Yet despite our obvious need and our best efforts, there is evidence of fractured, broken and dysfunctional relationships everywhere: between and within nations, in the marketplace, in families, and even in... Read more →


The fairly new church in the bustling seaport city of Corinth back in AD 65 was booming. It was a dynamic charismatic and Pentecostal community attracting pagans and religious people alike. The meetings were pumping - inspiring worship times, sensational preaching, insightful teaching, as well as regular healings and miracles. It was the place to encounter God. The Holy Spirit was at work in powerful ways. But something was wrong. In the midst of all the growth and hype about this church, a kind of spiritual cancer had subtly set in. Yes, it was good at pretty much everything ... except LOVE. The apostle Paul, who founded this church, was annoyed, and rightly so. After all, LOVE was to be... Read more →


Today, we conclude our reflections on the book of Job. What the book of Job CAN do for us: 1. It teaches us to be careful and compassionate in how we respond to people who are suffering. When people are suffering, they don’t need theological debates (“maybe this is an attack from the devil”), personal accusations (“maybe God is punishing you for sin in your life”) or advice for a ‘quick fix’ to their calamity (“if only you had more faith in God …”). They need our empathy, our support, and our friendship. In the end, Job’s friends became his enemies and ‘worthless physicians’ who crushed him with their words. Can we do better than Job’s friends? 2. It shows... Read more →


Today, we continue our reflections on the book of Job. What the book of Job does NOT do for us: 1. It does not answer the question as to 'why' there is suffering in the world today. Theodicy (the search for the origin and nature of suffering and evil) remains an unsolved mystery. Suffering is not merely a theological or philosophical problem, it is a human problem that no one is immune to, though some people suffer more than others. Yes, God does intend our good (Romans 8:28) but that doesn't mean that we will always figure out how our experiences benefit us (Ecclesiastes 6:12) and our "good" cannot be always defined by our comfort or our success. C.S. Lewis... Read more →


Over the last few months, I have been slowly reading through the book of Job in The Message Bible translation, reflecting on it, and also reading John Walton's excellent commentary on Job in the NIV Application Commentary series, as well as Tremper Longman III's book on Job in the Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms. The book of Job is a 'classic' in ancient literature and one of the most intriguing books in the Bible. It outlines the story of a man named Job who was one of the wealthiest people in the ancient Near East. Suddenly, a series of tragedies flood into his life, resulting in the loss of his herds and flocks, the death of... Read more →


Hopefully, you’ve had a chance to read through the Song of Songs - an extraordinary love poem. How can we apply the insights from this love poem to our own lives today? What efforts are you making to keep the romance of your love relationship alive? What things can you do to cultivate a greater desire for the one who you love? In what ways can you further affirm the value and dignity of the opposite sex/gender? Wisdom calls us to loving and exclusive commitment, not to a rampant promiscuity which turns sex into a mere commodity. Read Proverbs 5:15-19 and reflect on the impact of more readily available pornography on genuine love. In the beginning, men and women were... Read more →


The signs of Easter are all around us - cooler weather, school holidays, an upcoming long weekend, hot cross buns and extra church services to cater to people's faith which comes in all shapes and sizes. For many people, it is also a time to reflect on some important events that took place over 2,000 years ago - the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. No doubt, this is the foundation of the Christian faith. If Christ did not die and rise again, then our faith is useless (1 Corinthians 15:13-14). The Gospels all tell us WHAT happened during this Passion Week. Tragically, Jesus was betrayed, denied, falsely accused and eventually killed by the cruel death of crucifixion at... Read more →


A few years ago, when I was on a week-long prayer and silent retreat, I had just finished dinner and I walked out to the retreat centre's garden area. A lot of it was over-grown and unkept but there were some beautiful spots. Great places to sit, meditate, reflect and pray. I had this image of being invited into fellowship with the Trinity. I put 3 chairs in a semi-circle in front of where I was sitting - one for the Father, one for the Son, and one for the Spirit. It was quite impacting. I could feel their warmth and love. [See the photo below which I took] I had a few reflections at the time: This is the... Read more →


'End Times' Fever One of the last questions Jesus’ disciples asked him was about the end of the world (see Matthew 24:1-3). After the resurrection and at the end of Jesus’ ministry on earth, he ascended up to heaven. As he did, two angels appeared and boldly proclaimed, “Why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven (Acts 1:10-11).” The last recorded words of the ascended Jesus are in the book of Revelation. They were to the church and he said, “Yes, I am coming soon (Rev.22:7, 12, 20)!” Ever since that time people have... Read more →


The topic of the ‘end of the world’ has been one of interest to humans since time began but it has intensified in recent years. Church History Here is a quick overview of what has taken place from the end of New Testament times up until today: 1. Many people have speculated about the time of the second coming and the end of the world as we know it. Even in 100 AD there were believers who thought it was immanent. In the early 200s, Hippolytus of Rome predicted that Christ would come in 496 AD, working out this date from studying the book of Daniel. Another Syrian church leader led his people out into the desert to await the... Read more →


A Church United

John 17 is the longest recorded prayer of Jesus and it reveals what was important to him. After praying for himself (vs.1-5) and his disciples (vs.6-19), he prayed for all who would believe in him – for the church yet to born (vs.20-26). Nearest to Jesus’ heart was his concern for the unity of his followers. So how are we doing at being “united”, as Jesus prayed? The Centre for the Study of Global Christianity estimates that there were 34,000 denominations in the year 2000 rising to 43,000 in 2012. These are all “Christian” denominations, not those of other faiths or beliefs systems. All declare Jesus as Lord yet each has a distinct approach to areas such as leadership, structure,... Read more →


John 14:1-7. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the... Read more →


God will create a better future. The future will be different than the past. Our ultimate hope lies in the future return of Christ and the promise that, “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more mourning, crying and pain will be no more” (Revelation 21:4). Good will triumph over evil. Until then, like Job, we must persevere in the face of suffering, placing our hope in the goodness of God that promises us that, “our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us (Romans 8:18).” Jesus said he would return and that he would wipe all tears from our eyes. God will create a new heaven... Read more →


God can bring good out of our pain. God can use it for a positive purpose. Adversity can bring out untapped depths of character and faith. Beethoven was at his zenith, a well-known, respected, loved composer in Vienna. Then, tragedy of tragedies, his hearing began to go. A degenerative disease destroyed his hearing until he was totally deaf. He could not hear a sound. Unfair? Of course! Of all people to be denied hearing, Beethoven should have been the last. It was a loss for humanity. He left the music world of Vienna and it seemed as if he would never again be able to produce or create glorious music. He retreated to a monastery where he could be alone... Read more →


God is also just. Belief in God’s sovereignty alone is not enough to get Job through his terrible suffering. Job also believes that God is just. God rewards the righteous and punishes the wicked. This is the belief of double retribution, which according to Harley, declares that “the righteous are always blessed and the wicked experience untold hardship, leading to premature death”. However, daily experience is often not in harmony with this belief. The wicked may seem to prosper and the righteous may seem to be cursed. Job’s current situation is definitely a vivid example of this kind of contradiction. This is the cause of his lament. Job struggles with the unfairness of his situation and the seeming lack of... Read more →


God did not create the world “bad”. God did not create the world the way it is today. When the world was created it was “good” (Gen.1-2). There was no pain or suffering. It was a paradise. But man rebelled against God’s commands and sin came into the world. We now live in a damaged, fallen and sinful world where things are not as they should be. Evil, injustice and wickedness are very much alive. This is a fact of life and not to be confused with the acts of God. Can we blame God for all the evil in the world? Did He create it? Is He the cause of it? And if not, why does He allow it... Read more →


There are many examples of suffering and pain: Moral evil relates to choices that people make that end up hurting others. This includes things such as violence, abuse and war – all which cause much pain – and the slaughter of innocent people, such as occurred in the Holocaust. At the office, it could be that you've been working hard but your friend gets a promotion and you get laid off. In the family, it could be a divorce, abuse, conflict or a painful argument. Natural evil are catastrophes and includes things such as injury and suffering caused by disease, accidents, earthquakes, fires and floods. Also, famine, tornadoes, tidal waves, natural disasters or freaks of nature (referred to as “acts... Read more →


The question of pain and suffering is one of the most difficult issues to address of any area of human life. At some point in our life journey, we ask, “If God is good, then why does he allow such terrible suffering and pain to exist?” Despite many attempts throughout the centuries, there are no adequate answers to this question. Evil continues to exist in our world and “all our reflections on providence and evil remain broken and incomplete (Migliore).” There is also a real danger of merely giving trite or simplistic answers, but the truth is that there are no simple answers. However, we can find some light to guide us in our journey. Life is not fair! This... Read more →


The Mystery of Healing

Let's reflect on the mystery of healing today. There is a close connection between love, forgiveness, healing and peace. God revives the humble and contrite … leading them to comfort. Only five of Jesus' healing events in the Gospels involve people dying. The main stories are for the blind, deaf, dumb, paralysed and possessed. In many ways, these can be metaphors for common experiences of life - spiritual blindness, deafness, dumbness, paralysis, and deadness. Blind > can't see; darkness; no vision. Deaf > can't hear; silence; no revelation. Dumb > can't speak; muted; muzzled; no voice. Paralysed > can't move; frozen; stuck in a moment. Do you need God's healing today? God doesn't change past events but he can heal... Read more →


Most followers of Christ understand the need to pursue truth and avoid error. Some take it upon themselves to find error and point it out to others. Most churches I know have a statement of faith and their teaching teams speak from this foundation. They believe that the Bible is inspired by God and is authoritative in matters of belief and practice. From time to time, I noticed that one of our teaching team may quote someone in a message and it raises questions from a listener or congregation member. This can lead to some interesting conversations. In one such recent dialogue, I raised three questions: 1. "If a person quotes someone else, does that mean that they endorse everything... Read more →


Matthew tells us the story like this: Early on Sunday morning, as the new day was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went out to visit the tomb. Suddenly there was a great earthquake! For an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled aside the stone, and sat on it. His face shone like lightning, and his clothing was as white as snow. The guards shook with fear when they saw him, and they fell into a dead faint. Then the angel spoke to the women. Dont be afraid! he said. I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isnt here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come,... Read more →


Christmas is barely over and now it’s time to talk about Easter. No wonder little children get confused. Did you hear about the little boy who said to his mother, “Jesus has just been born and now you’re telling me He’s died!" Over this Easter weekend, millions of Christians will reflect on what Jesus Christ accomplished through his death and resurrection over 2,000 years ago. These are believed to be 3 days that changed the world. Good Friday – a day reflecting on the cruel death Jesus went through. Resurrection Sunday – a day of joy and hope because Jesus is alive. Saturday – a day between the suffering and the joy … waiting. Different Christian traditions and individual Christians... Read more →


Jesus is ALIVE! (Easter 2014)

Easter is here again and with it a holiday weekend, chocolate eggs and enough shopping sales to tempt any credit-card carrying buyer. What’s it really all about? All around the world, around two billion Christians will take time this weekend to reflect on and give thanks for the work that Jesus Christ accomplished through his death, burial and resurrection. That’s the real meaning of Easter. Followers of Christ believe that Jesus is ALIVE! The Living Jesus In his excellent book The Living Jesus, New Testament scholar Luke Timothy Johnson notes that whether a person is dead or alive really matters – not only to the person but also to other people relating to that person. If someone is dead, you... Read more →


Yesterday was Remembrance Day here in Australia and we took time to remember those who have given their lives at war for our freedom. Ultimately, Jesus is the greatest hero as he gave his life willingly not only for our freedom but also for our salvation. That's why we take time regularly in church communities all over the world to remember his death and his sacrifice. The Lord's Supper, or "communion" is one of the sacraments given by Jesus to his followers (another being water baptism). A "sacrament", in the Christian Church, is a ceremony regarded as imparting spiritual grace. A rite believed to be the means of, or visible form of, grace. It's more than just an empty form... Read more →


The Genesis Creation Story Genesis 1 is a simple and majestic opening to the Bible. It introduces the two main subjects of Scripture, God the Creator and humans as his creatures, and sets the scene for their long relationship. Clearly the interests of the author are focused primarily on the patriarchs, given the amount of material allocated to their story (Gen.12-50), but the background is that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is no mere localised or tribal deity, but is the sovereign Lord of the whole earth (Gen.1-11). There were a number of creation and flood myths in existence in ancient Mesopotamia that the author would have most likely have been aware of. One of the major goals... Read more →


Creation Models

The book of Genesis opens simply ... "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." The author boldly presents God as Creator then as Redeemer of humanity. Life is not an accident. God has a purpose and he is working to fulfill it throughout history. Men and women are made in the image of God. As partners together, their God-given mandate is to fill the earth with loving community and to give responsible leadership to the planet. All Christians believe in creation but there are a variety of opinions as to exactly how God created the earth and over what period of time. We have a lot of questions today that the Bible doesn't directly answer (for instance... Read more →


Jesus ministry had three major components (Luke 4:14-5:26): Teaching, healing and setting people free from spiritual bondage. Jesus confronted demonic powers and freed people from their influence (Luke 4:31-37, 41). The early church carried on the ministry of Jesus as the apostles focused on these same three areas of ministry (Acts 5:12-16). We should do the same – go about doing good, teaching, healing, and helping people find freedom from the work of the enemy. The result will be many people being set free and added to the kingdom of God. Christians cannot be “demon possessed”, as God owns us. However, demons can influence Christians both in the form of various attacks (oppression, affliction, torment, etc) and if we give... Read more →


Your Friend, the Holy Spirit

The Gospel of John records many of Jesus’ last words spoken not long before his and crucifixion and subsequent resurrection. During this time, Jesus spoke frequently about the fact that he would be leaving his disciples but that another One just like him, the Holy Spirit, would come in his place (see John 14:15-17, 26; 15:26; 16:7). Instead of simply being with them, the Holy Spirit would live within them, filling them and empowering them to live as disciples of Jesus. The Holy Spirit is a person, not just a force, power or influence. God has revealed himself as one God existing in three persons - the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit - equal as persons yet different... Read more →


This weekend at CityLife, we spoke on the subject of healing and then took time to pray for people. We were encouraged by the many testimonies of healing that took place in each of our church gatherings and we pray for God to continue to work in the lives of everyone needing healing. When it comes to healing, we must begin with an accurate understanding of God’s character and nature. The Bible teaches us that, when it comes to our need, God knows (Prov.15:11. Ps.139:1-10), God cares (Ex.34:6-7. 1 Pet.5:7), God is able to help (Jer.32:17, 27. Mt.19:26) and God is willing to help (Mt.8:2). In response to this, there are three different camps in the Christian community: (1) “God... Read more →