Archive for June, 2009

Is Jesus like a dentist?

Posted in Church with tags , , on June 24, 2009 by stephengardner


I’m preaching on John 3.16-21 this Sunday at CCIW Five Dock. The passage has some profound insights into the human heart. John records that what stops people from coming to Jesus is not a question of his relevance or doubt of his historicity. But what really stops people from coming to Jesus is the darkness of their heart.

And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.  For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. (John 3.19-20 NRSV)

During the sermon I’m going to do an interactive skit involving someone from the congregation. Without giving too much away, I try to convince the particular person that going to the dentist is a good thing.

Many people are afraid of going to the dentist for what will be exposed, will he/she find something wrong with me that is going to cause pain, cost money or take up valuable time? So, many of us take the wise option of burying our heads in the sand. Surely that will fix the toothache.

Coming to Jesus is to come and have him expose you–for his judgment to penetrate deep into your own heart. Sure, that can be painful and costly, and you can bet Jesus will demand your time. But isn’t it worth it!

What do you think stops us from having the Light of World expose us? I’d love to hear your thoughts…


Pilgrim’s Podcast Episode 6

Posted in The Pilgrim's Podcast with tags , , , , , , on June 23, 2009 by stephengardner


I have been a bit slack with the blogging of late, we’ve had exam nightmares here at MTC, but I’m back…well at least the podcast is!

Today Mark and I interviewed Justin Moffatt and we had a blast. It was great to hear Justin’s thoughts on whole heap of things. If you’ve got an interest in inner city ministry, give it a listen. Or if you just want to hear a bit about whats going on in NYC then give it a listen…


You can find it over on the podcast page.

And remember, we’d love to hear from you. What things would you like to hear about?

Pilgrim’s Podcast Episode 5

Posted in The Pilgrim's Podcast with tags , , , on June 15, 2009 by stephengardner

G’day all,

The next installment in the Pilgrim’s saga is now up on the podcast page. Check it out to hear from a good friend, Matt Moffitt.

Matt standing in front of the Golden Wall

Matt standing in front of the Golden Wall

Listen to Matt’s work at CMS, his thoughts about blogging and some rambling about cars and how to get a brand new prize!


Pilgrim’s Podcast Episode 4

Posted in The Pilgrim's Podcast with tags , , , on June 10, 2009 by stephengardner

This is a little late sorry…But episode 4 is now up on the podcast page.


Episode 4 features Ruth Lee, chatting about the RICE explosion, her work with Equip and Chatswood Presbyterian Church. Its worth listening to, to get a feel for what God is doing through RICE. Great stuff!

Also in this feature is a brief history of…dentistry, as well as some more prizes and announcements! Have a listen and stay tuned for next Monday when we interview Justin Moffatt on inner city ministry and his experience in New York…

Vertical or horizontal?

Posted in Church with tags , , on June 5, 2009 by stephengardner

I was involved in a discussion recently concerning the structure of church services and the community’s involvement in the service… One of the values everyone agreed upon was the need for the church community to feel responsibility for one another and to express that as part of their duty to teach and admonish one another.

Initially the conversation revolved around ways in which that responsibility can be expressed in a church service. Including: prayer request moments, sharing/testimony spots, interviews and teaching each other in song – the basic value in each of these was that a variety of lay people should be involved in the service.

Soon after the conversation moved towards getting the balance right between the horizontal and the vertical. What I mean by that is, emphasising the gathering to teach and encourage one another (horizontal) and emphasising the gathering to worship together (vertical).


This provoked a thought; by emphasising the vertical in the church service don’t you manage to hit both anyway? By gathering together for corporate worship (lets not forget that’s what Church is) we, in a sense, enact what it is that gives us fellowship with one another. We come together in awe of Christ at Church, because we come together in Christ as he breaks down the wall that divided us. It is our union with him that has made us one.

I plan to post some more thoughts as to what doing ‘the vertical’ might look like a bit later…But in the meantime, I would be interesting to know how ‘vertical churches’ go at generating strong, healthy communities where people teach and admonish one another.

I’d be fascinated to hear where your church lands on this scale, and how your Church is going at generating a community that has responsibility for one another.

So, tell me…

All things new II: the end of exile

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on June 4, 2009 by stephengardner

Its not often that the hopes of one nation impact the entire world. But this is precisely what Isaiah 40-55 promises will happen through the hopes of Israel. Israel, in exile is far from being the ‘light of the world’ it was made to be.
And so the words of Isaiah bring hope of a new thing:



Comfort, O comfort my people,
says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and cry to her
that she has served her term,
that her penalty is paid,
that she has received from the LORD’S hand
double for all her sins.

A voice cries out:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together,
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
A voice says, “Cry out!”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All people are grass,
their constancy is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
when the breath of the LORD blows upon it;
surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades;
but the word of our God will stand forever.
Get you up to a high mountain,
O Zion, herald of good tidings;
lift up your voice with strength,
O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings,
lift it up, do not fear;
say to the cities of Judah,
“Here is your God!”
See, the Lord GOD comes with might,
and his arm rules for him;
his reward is with him,
and his recompense before him.
He will feed his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms,
and carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead the mother sheep.(Isaiah 40.1-11 NRSV)

Its just not the case that once Israel had returned to the land that their exile was over. They were still slaves in the land (Ezra 9.9), and God had most certainly not returned to rule for them as he had promised he would. Implication – Israel is still in exile.

Israel needed to redefine their idea of how God would bring them out of exile, that seems to be what John the Baptist was trying to do. How do the gospel writers introduce him?
As one who went ‘into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah,
“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.’

Its only when God himself returns to his people, to rule for them, In Jesus Christ, that Israel’s oppression,  hardship and  exile is over. But these are words of hope not only to Israel, but to the entire world. God is doing a new thing in Jesus, taking his people out of exile, comforting them and bringing the true light into the world, for the world.

All things new I: redefining hope

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on June 2, 2009 by stephengardner


Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. (Luke 2.25 NRSV)

Simeon is an interesting figure. He gives us a snapshot of the hopes and aspirations of first century Israel. They are back in their land, they have their temple but they are far from experiencing the promises of God that parts of Scripture reminded them of. They are longing for consolation, for the redemption of Jerusalem from the pagan rulers and for God to come dwell with them again and rule for them.

What I hope to do in this series is explore Isaiah 40-55 and the promises made to Israel. I don’t suppose to be on top of these chapters, but I love them dearly and hope to grasp them better through this series.
One of the things I hope to do is to see how these hopes are not just for Israel but for the entire world, as Jesus the true light of the world brings a new hope.

Looking at Jesus afresh often brings surprises. Sometimes we find that the answers he gives us are not the ones we were looking for. Looking at Jesus  requires we shift our thinking about how God has worked, is working and will work in the world.

Simeon himself was forced to do this, as he held the new born Jesus in his arms, he made a massive shift in his thinking as to how God would satisfy the hope of Israel

Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel. (Luke 2.29-32 NRSV)