We Christians can sometimes be a little too preoccupied with sin, especially other people’s sin. We tend to give ourselves a lot of grace. When I sin, it’s because I’m human. When others sin, well, God needs to sort them out, and they need to repent. We want mercy for ourselves and judgement for everyone else!

We also have favourite sins and others that we ignore. For example, the sin of gluttony is repeatedly mentioned in the Bible but rarely mentioned in church. I’ve been in countless green rooms at Christian’s conferences over the years, where lots of XXL evangelists fill their huge frames before preaching about the sins of others.

But one sin we rarely hear about is the sin of discrimination. It’s something I’ve studied as we’ve formed Bayside Church’s Inclusion Statement. I confess I was surprised at the multitude of Bible verses that address this sin.

First-Century Discrimination

First-century Jews considered non-Jews (gentiles) as unclean. A Jew would not enter a gentile’s home or eat with them as either act would lead to ceremonial uncleanness. Imagine Peter’s horror when he was praying on the roof of the house one day and experienced a vision from God. In the dream, he saw a sheet suspended by the corners and crammed with all kinds of unclean animals that a Jew would never eat. A voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.” Peter’s response dripped with spiritual pride, “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”

What’s fascinating in this story is that Peter was staying in the home of Simon, the tanner. Simon was in the business of treating animal hides to produce leather, a trade that was considered unclean by the Jews. Through this vision, God dealt with Peter’s hypocrisy and discrimination, two things that made Peter’s heart impure.

The Divine Reply

God’s response is stunning, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean” (Acts 10:15). The Spirit was moving, and the newly-formed church would need to welcome “unclean” gentiles into their communities. It took decades for the Jewish church to wrap its heart around this truth. Much of Paul’s letter-writing ministry was aimed at the pushback by Jewish Christian leaders against the acceptance of gentiles in the church.

Over the centuries, the Holy Spirit has placed a finger on various other aspects of “Christian” discrimination. Jesus’ people have been guilty of racial bias in supporting slavery and treating people of colour as second-class citizens. We have shown prejudice towards women, single parents, illegitimate children, mixed-race couples, the separated, divorced, and remarried. For decades the church has discriminated against LGBTIQ+ people.

Sin of Discrimination

All this discrimination has been justified by quoting Bible verses, but rarely has the sin of discrimination been called out. And yet, the Bible has so much to say about it. James names it bluntly, as he does so well, “My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favouritism(James 2:1).

Favouritism is “the fault of one who when called on to requite or to give judgment has respect to the outward circumstances of men and not to their intrinsic merits.” It’s forming an opinion of someone based on externals like skin colour, clothing, mannerisms, wealth or lack thereof, and either accepting or rejecting that person. Note what James says, “believers in … Jesus Christ must not show favouritism.” A few verses later, he asks, “have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?” And then verse nine, “But if you show favouritism, you sin ….” (James 2:4).  The sin of discrimination!

Be Like God!

God doesn’t discriminate, and neither should his people (Romans 2:11, 10:12). “To show partiality in judging is not good” (Proverbs 24:23). Christians are required to follow God’s Word “without partiality, and to do nothing out of favouritism.” (1 Tim 5:21). We should treat everyone the same because “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28).

The apostle Paul said that the Royal Law, “Love your neighbour as yourself”, is the fulfilment of the law because “Love does not harm a neighbour.” Jesus taught what is now referred to as the golden rule, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Notice that the Royal Law AND the Golden Rule both fulfil AND summarise the entire Bible. That’s how Christians should live, behave, and interact with others. There is no room for discrimination.

Ready to Change?

The church has not always treated others in the way we would like to be treated. I have not always got this right either. I apologise for my missteps. I aim to do better. So does our church.

With that in mind, we have crafted an Inclusion Statement as a public declaration that all people will be treated equally by our church community:

At Bayside Church, we believe that every person is created in God’s image. All are equally worthy of respect, dignity, and love, regardless of gender, sexuality, age, ability, race, or ethnicity.

Everyone is invited, welcomed, and supported to grow in their relationship with God and each other. Everyone is encouraged to use their gifts and abilities to serve God and others.

At Bayside Church, we are committed to creating a safe space for all – we do this through clear policies and pathways so that everyone can feel safe and nurtured.

At Bayside Church, we courageously love and empower people to become like Jesus.

Of course, it’s easy to write and read this. The challenge comes as together we seek to live it out as a reality and no longer commit the sin of discrimination.


I received an email a short while ago from a member of Bayside Church in which he expressed his concerns about comments made by “so-called Christian friends” about matters of theology that were fundamental to his Christian faith.

He told me the following story:

“A very good friend of mine told me that she does not believe in the virgin birth of Jesus and that translation errors in the Bible have resulted in us all believing something that isn’t true.

“This friend has a Theology degree and is quite dogmatic in her beliefs (or lack thereof). She claims that the original Hebrew text of Isaiah 7:14 refers to a “young woman”, not a “virgin”. Apparently, an early translation of the Hebrew into Greek took the Hebrew word ‘almah,’ meaning young woman, and rendered it ‘Parthenos’ in the Greek, which means virgin.

“She has told me that the matter of the virgin birth is a non-issue to her as she says that Jesus’ divinity is evidenced in His humanity. In my view, if we deny the virgin birth, we diminish who Jesus is. If He is not born of a virgin (and therefore by a divine miracle of God), he cannot be fully man and fully God, but just fully man.

“As so much in the Christian Church is being watered down nowadays, I am finding it increasingly difficult to respond to questions such as these. I’d be very keen to know your views on the virgin birth and whether or not this has ‘changed’ in 21st-century theology.”

I love questions like this as they cause me to search the Scriptures for answers. Here’s my reply:

Your friend is partly right, but I don’t agree with her conclusions.

Understanding Context

It’s important to remember that the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) had meaning to their original recipients. Something that is invariably overlooked today, sadly.

I encourage you to read Isaiah 7:1-17 and note its context. Isaiah the prophet is sent to reassure King Ahaz that the attack on Jerusalem (by Aram and Ephraim) won’t succeed. Ahaz is encouraged to ask for a sign from God to confirm this, but Ahaz is reluctant to do so. So, Isaiah gives him a sign anyway, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” This child would be born and, “before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste” (verse 16). This would have been a very encouraging message for Ahaz.

Now, the word translated virgin (almah) can mean “young woman or virgin”. In Isaiah’s prophecy, “young woman” is probably correct. It’s likely that Ahaz knows who this young pregnant woman is (it’s possibly Isaiah’s wife, Cf. Isaiah 8:3). So, basically, Isaiah is saying to Ahaz, “as you know, my wife is pregnant and before our baby knows the difference between right and wrong, the lands of those who threatened you will be utterly destroyed. Be encouraged!”

Thus, the baby is a sign that “God is with us” (Immanuel) and will save us from our enemies.

Understanding Greek

Now, in the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures known as the Septuagint (LXX), because it was translated by seventy scholars (between the 3rd Century and 132 BC when it was completed), they rendered the Hebrew word almah as parthenos (Greek) which refers to a young woman (or man) who has never had sexual intercourse (a virgin). I don’t know why they chose this word, but they did, and the New Testament writers picked it up and applied it to Jesus, the Messiah, who was born of a virgin (Matthew 1:18-25; Galatians 4:4-5).

Unlike Isaiah’s sign for Ahaz, this sign from God was to be for the whole world, and not just Jerusalem. And this time the sign was not about a country being delivered from an aggressor but rather people being rescued from their sins. It’s a powerful analogy which lays at the very heart of the Christian faith.

Understanding Sin

I totally agree with you about the importance of the virgin birth. I believe we need to be careful about fiddling with God’s truth, especially the truths that affect a person’s salvation. If Jesus isn’t 100% divine and 100% human, he could not be our Saviour because he wouldn’t be sinless. If that were the case, he would have had to die for his own sins and not ours.

And so, I believe we should boldly proclaim:

I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,

      who was conceived by the Holy Spirit

      and born of the Virgin Mary.

      He suffered under Pontius Pilate,

      was crucified, died, and was buried;

      he descended to hell.

      The third day he rose again from the dead.

      He ascended to heaven

      and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.

      From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.


There’s no doubt that there are some quite troubling sections in the Bible, especially in the Hebrew Scriptures. [i]We can either just skip “those” bits or we can dig a little deeper, research history and culture, and discover the truth.

One such problem is the warning that God punishes children for their parents’ sins, something that is repeated several times in the context of the Ten Commandments. [ii]

“The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion, and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation ” (Exodus 34:6-7 ).


At first glance, these verses seem totally unfair and vindictive.  Why should innocent children be punished for the sins of their parents?  To interpret these verses in this way also contradicts other parts of the Bible. Consider Deuteronomy 24:16, “Parents are not to be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their parents; each will die for their own sin.”

So, what are we to make of these words in Exodus 34? The Hebrew word translated, “punishes” is paqad (phonetically paw-kad), and has various meanings depending on context. [iv]  Until recently, most translations rendered this verse as, “visiting the iniquity of the fathers…” (not parents as in the modern translations). In the ancient world the father was the head of the household, the ruler or chief, and thus his character and behaviour, either good or bad, would have a significant impact on the rest of the family.

The verses in Exodus 34 focus on the iniquity (sin, perversity, moral evil and faults) of fathers, and the effect this behaviour had on their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Families in the ancient east often included three or four generations living together under one roof. Thus, what the patriarch of the family did would literally affect “the children and their children … to the third and fourth generation.”

Bad Parenting?

Alan Nichols, a former Anglican Minister, wrote, “One of the worst features of the Yugoslavian civil war was the way grandfathers had taught their sons and grandsons how to continue to keep ethnic hatred between Serbs and Croats alive since the 1940s. I saw young soldiers say proudly, ‘My grandfather showed me why I should hate them.’” [v]

We still see the distress that bad parental behaviour has on children when they grow up to repeat their parents’ sins. The abused become the abuser, the child of an alcoholic parent sometimes grows up with a drinking problem and so on. On one of her programs many years ago, Oprah Winfrey interviewed a woman who traced child abuse back through five generations of her family. History kept repeating itself until someone made the decision that harmful behaviour would stop with them.

Sin Affects

And so, when Scripture states that God “[visits] the iniquity of the fathers on the children and their children … to the third and fourth generation,” it is not making a vindictive, unjust threat, but is rather stating the reality that no parent can sin without their children, and others in the household, being affected. “Parenthood brings with it a solemn responsibility to live in such a way that our children benefit, not suffer. Our behaviour should bless them not curse them.” [vi]

Sadly, the people in Bible days often believed that God literally visited judgement on subsequent generations for the sins of their forbears. The people of Israel even developed a proverb about this, “The parents eat sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge” (Ezekiel 18:2).

Hundreds of years later, the prophet Ezekiel questioned why this proverb was still being used considering that it was not true. He followed the question with a statement attributed to God, “As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, you will no longer quote this proverb in Israel. For everyone belongs to me, the parent, as well as the child—both alike, belong to me. The one who sins is the one who will die” (Ezekiel 18:2).

Pointing Fingers

But old habits (and false doctrines) die hard. One day Jesus’ followers saw a blind man and asked, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2).  Jesus responded that sin was not the cause of his blindness, once again correcting the same age-old error. I still hear Christian people bring condemnation on others by suggesting their suffering is a result of sin. Maybe it is (although it usually isn’t), but we should be careful not to be like Job’s miserable comforters who heaped more sorrow on an already distressed person.

Changing the Course

Finally, it’s worth noting the emphasis on the goodness of God in these Bible verses: “the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion, and sin.” “I, the Lord your God … showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments” (Exodus 20:6).

Parents have an enormous responsibility to maintain and model their faith in God before their children and to live authentic lives that reflect compassion, justice, love, and grace to others. But, if this has not been your experience with your parent(s) or family, be encouraged that old patterns of behaviour can be broken. There is no reason for you to be limited by the trauma and troubles of the past. Seek help and accountability, “confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed” (James 5:16)book in with a qualified counsellor or psychologist to help you relearn healthy habits and, most importantly, rely on the grace and power of God to redeem your past and give you hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).


[i] Old Testament

[ii] Deuteronomy 5:8-10; 7:9-11; Exodus 34:6-7

[iii] Exodus 34:6-7

[iv] https://biblehub.com/hebrew/6485.htm

[v] Barry Chant, Breaking the power of the past. New Day Magazine, March 1992

[vi] Ibid

[viii] Ezekiel 18:3. I encourage you to read the rest of the chapter as all of Ezekiel 18 deals with this topic. It finishes with, “I will judge each of you according to your own ways, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent! Turn away from all your offences; then sin will not be your downfall. Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit.”


It’s no secret that I like to write and speak about current issues – be they ethical, moral, political or whatever.  It’s important to me to connect my Christian faith with the things people are talking about and experiencing in life, and not to be automatically AGAINST everything, which sadly is the message some Christians send.

If you read my blogs and social media posts you’ll realise that not everyone appreciates or agrees with my opinions and statements on these issues – and that’s fine!  But one comment I see time and again from well-meaning Christian people is that “they” (“they” being whoever I’m writing about) need to REPENT.

I spent the first few years of my Christian journey in a small Pentecostal church.  What they lacked in size they made up for in legalism and, every Sunday morning and evening, we’d get a healthy dose of it in the sermon as well as in “prophetic” words shouted from the platform.  God seemed to be permanently angry with us, and we simply weren’t good enough – ever!  We all knew what “REPENT” meant – God was ticked and we needed to change.  I get a similar impression from the comments I receive on blogs and Facebook posts that, “They need to repent.”

Now I’m not downplaying the importance of repentance to the Christian Gospel.  The word is found almost 80 times in the Bible, so it’s obviously a significant thing to God.  But exactly what does it mean to repent? Is God angry and shouting like my first pastor or does repentance indicate something kinder and gentler?

In the Hebrew tradition, in which the Bible has captured, the word translated as repentance is Teshuvah and means, “to return home.”  In Judaism and Christianity, this returning home is, “coming back into intimacy with the Father.”  Jesus beautifully illustrated the concept of Teshuvah in the parable of the lost (prodigal) son (Luke 15:11-32).  Notice that in the story the prodigal is motivated to return home because he’d run out of money and was starving.  He rehearsed a speech that he never got to finish because all he needed to do was return home to his Father who was looking out for his son.  The Father ran to him, embraced him, gave him a ring and a robe and threw a party.  The Father wasn’t angry with him; didn’t ask for an account of where he spent his inheritance or how many women he had sex with, and he didn’t ask his son to grovel and beg for forgiveness. I repeat, all the son had to do was return home (Teshuvah) and relax in the intimacy, grace and unconditional love of his Father.

Great joy and celebration should accompany Teshuvah – just as it was in Jesus’ parable. The Father told his grumpy oldest son, (who reminds me of some of those who comment on my blogs and posts), “we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”  When we’ve sinned and gone astray, it’s so easy for us to fall into regret, depression, helplessness, hopelessness and extreme sadness.  I saw people do that in the church I mentioned earlier and I’ve seen children do that when it seems they can never please a parent: “If I can never be good enough then why bother trying?”  Some people bring that attitude to their relationship with God and certain “Christian” teaching only reinforces this. I’ve seen people walk away from God because they see Him as unappeasable, angry and relentlessly demanding.

Remorse for our sin is important, as is an awareness of how we’ve hurt God, others and ourselves, but all of this should only drive us to return home and, when we do, our gracious Father is waiting with open arms.

I’ve just concluded a six-week teaching series on The Lord’s Prayer at Bayside Church.  I’ve loved studying the world’s most well known prayer as well as teaching others its timeless truth.  The prayer ends, “… and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (or simply “from evil”)

It’s strange that Jesus would teach His people to ask God not to lead them into temptation when the Bible clearly teaches that He doesn’t tempt people?  Consider James 1:13-15, When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”  In these verses the Bible plainly states that temptation occurs because of our own evil desires that are to be resisted rather than indulged.  God does not lead people into temptation so why should we pray for him not to?

The answer is found in what I consider to be a better paraphrase of this verse: “do not permit us to go into temptation” or “let us not sin when we are tempted.”

These renditions recognise five facts:

  1. The fact that God does not tempt anyone
  2. The fact that Jesus was tempted in every way like we are
  3. The fact that we all have a natural predisposition to go astray
  4. The fact that we need to pray about this tendency every day!
  5. The fact that prayerlessness will lead us into temptation

These truths are well illustrated in the events surrounding Jesus’ arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane.  He had already told his disciples that they would all fall away.  Peter was adamant that, even if the others did, he wouldn’t.  To that Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, today—yes, tonight—before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times” (Matt 26:34 NIV). Peter emphatically insisted that Jesus was wrong and so did the other disciples.

In the next scene Jesus and his followers go to Gethsemane.  He takes Peter, James and John with him to another part of the garden and confides in them that he is deeply distressed, troubled and overwhelmed with sorrow to such an extent that he feels it will kill him.  Jesus asks the three men to stay awake and be vigilant.  Jesus then goes a short distance away, falls on the ground and prays that the upcoming torture and crucifixion would be taken away from him.  He then returns to his disciples and finds them sleeping.  He quizzes Peter asking him if he couldn’t even stay awake, be vigilant and prayerful for an hour, after which he speaks these immortal words, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt 26:41 NIV).  This whole scene is repeated twice more until Judas betrays Jesus and the disciples flee.  Peter denies Jesus three times just as He predicted.

In this story Jesus teaches that attentive prayer is the best way to resist temptation.  That’s why he teaches, “do not permit us to go into temptation” or “let us not sin when we are tempted.”  Temptation is not sin, in fact Jesus faced all of the same temptations we do, yet he did not sin.  Our prayer in times of temptation should be for “Our Father” to give us the strength not to give into it and sin: “deliver us from evil” and also “deliver us from the evil one.” 

Luke’s account of this story gives insight into Satan’s part in temptation when Jesus warns Peter that Satan had asked to sift all of the disciples like wheat.  “But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:32 NIV).

The evil one and evil often work together.  The answer is our alert and attentive prayer as well as Jesus’ constant prays for us.  Consider these two powerful verses from the Letter to the Hebrews:

Jesus is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf. (Hebrews 7:25)

Let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. (Hebrews 4:16)

Part of the Christmas story tells us the reason why Jesus came: “you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

To us this seems like a pretty awesome message and yet, to the original hearers, it would have been like rubbing salt into their wounds.

Consider the nature of the society and times into which Jesus was born.  The nation of Israel had been conquered and oppressed by a succession of foreign powers for almost 600 years, starting with the Babylonian Empire in 586 BC.  This was followed by the Persians in 536 BC; the Greeks, led by Alexander the Great, in 332 BC; and the Romans in 63 BC. Israel continued to be dominated and oppressed by Rome until 313 AD.  It was into this tyranny that Jesus was born.

Kenneth Bailey in his book, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, states, “At the time of Jesus much of the land was owned by foreigners who controlled huge estates. Local farmers were obliged to rent land and were often treated unfairly” (P. 48).

Jesus was born into an economically and politically oppressed people who were looking for a Saviour to deliver them and to rejoice in the pain and destruction of their tormentors.  The last thing you want when you’re oppressed is for someone to point out “your” sins, faults and failures.  Sin is what “those” people are doing to “us”. “Our” sins are not worth noting compared to “their” sins against us.  Salvation is what “we”need – to be set free from “them”.

But Jesus didn’t speak about the oppressors or the political life of Israel and Rome, and so His message and ministry disappointed many because He hadn’t come to set people free from Roman oppression, He came to set them free from their own sins. 

Jesus faced opposition and was ultimately crucified because He challenged the sins of His own people, rather than the sins of the oppressors.  On one occasion some people came to Jesus to inform Him of the Galileans Pontius Pilate had slaughtered while they were worshipping God and making sacrifices to Him (Luke 13:1-3).  No doubt the people were expecting Jesus’ response to be one of outrage, but once again His message was disappointing: “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”  In other words, don’t worry about the sins of others, what about your sins?  Instead of outrage, Jesus gave this message: “You are all sinners; you all need to repent and receive God’s forgiveness and grace. You need salvation from your own sins and I am here to provide it for you.”  That is the Christmas story and that is why Jesus was born!

No doubt Jesus’ message is still disappointing to some people today.  Awful things still happen in the world and we want to be outraged and blame others for all the pain and suffering.  Some people even use this as an excuse to blame God, get angry with Him or choose not to believe at all.  After all, “If there is a loving God why is there so much suffering in the world?”  You might find Jesus’ message to be as disappointing as those in first century Israel, but the message hasn’t changed in 2,000 years.  God asks us to look within and deal with the sin in our own life.  Imagine if everyone did that.  We’d have heaven on earth and experience another aspect of the Christmas story, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

The winter and spring we’ve just had in Melbourne and Victoria has been wetter than usual, and the recent floods and heavy rain have provided the perfect breeding grounds for pests, especially mosquitos.  As a result, public health authorities have predicted a bumper season for mozzies and concerns for the risk of Victorians contracting mosquito-borne diseases.  So this week I stocked up on citronella candles and invested in a solar-powered mozzie zapper so we can enjoy being outside without being bitten.

The real problem though is the one or two mozzies that find their way into your bedroom at night.  I’m sure we’ve all had the experience of starting to fall asleep only to be roused back to consciousness by the infuriating buzzing of a mosquito.  It’s bizarre how such a small creature can be so annoying and keep you awake.  And if the buzzing stops it’s probably because the bug is biting you!

I’ve had many experiences like this over the years and have eventually turned the light on and reached for the bug spray.  At this point the mosquito is nowhere to be found.  It’s like they know you’re trying to destroy them and take cover somewhere in the room.  Switch the light off; get back into bed and a few minutes later, buzzzzzzzzzzz.  Agh*#****#

In my church and pastoral experience over the years I’ve found a lot in common between mozzies and gossips.  Just a couple of them can multiply quickly (one female mosquito can lay anywhere between 100 to 300 eggs at one time, and in her lifetime she can lay between 1,000 and 3,000 eggs).

Just one or two gossips can bite many people over and over again (a female mosquito will continue to bite and draw blood until her abdomen is full. If she is interrupted before she is full, she will fly to the next person. After feeding, the mosquito rests for two or three days before laying her eggs, then is ready to bite again).  The gossip’s words cause people to itch and scratch (2 Timothy 4:3), bite and devour (Galatians 5:15).

Quotes in brackets are from this link http://www.mosquitoworld.net/mosquito-faqs/

One or two gossips can keep you awake all night.  I can’t count the nights of sleep I’ve missed over the years because of people saying unkind and untrue things and spreading criticism and dissension amongst God’s people.

When you turn the light on the gossips are nowhere to be found or, when confronted, they deny they’ve said anything wrong.  I’ve had gossipy people lie straight to my face about gossiping even though there are many witnesses to what they’ve said.  They look at me as if butter wouldn’t melt in their mouths: “oh no pastor Rob, I’d never say something like that.”  And yet when the light and attention goes off them they go straight back to their irritating buzzing again.

Gossip causes more damage in churches, families and workplaces, and amongst friends, than any other sin.  And yes it is sinful.  The Bible has much to say about gossip and those who spread it.  A simple Google search will bring up dozens of Bible verses (especially in Proverbs) that are very much worth meditating on especially if you find yourself tempted to gossip.

To protect yourself from mozzie bites this summer make sure you cover up with loose-fitting clothing; use insect repellants, limit outdoor activity if lots of mosquitoes are about, and make sure there is no water around where mosquitoes can breed.

The same things work well to protect from gossips.  Cover yourself with the Christian qualities outlined by the apostle Paul in Colossians 3:12b-14 clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Put up with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love …” (NIV).

The best gossip repellant is to counter their negative words by saying something like: “what you’re telling me is something I don’t need to hear” or “the Bible says that love always believes the best of another person.  I choose to believe the best and will not listen to the gossip you are trying to spread.”  These words also work wonders in getting rid of breeding grounds for gossip.

Even though the gossips will try and hide when you turn the light on don’t let them get away with it.  Call it for what it is until they either get offended, leave or repent.  It takes two people to spread gossip, choose not to be one of them!


The New Testament Gospels don’t record everything Jesus did or said. The Apostle John made that clear when he wrote, “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” We know little of Jesus’ life from the time he was a toddler to when he started his ministry about the age of 30.

We know that Jesus had an education because he could both read and write, but just like the Bible only tells us once that Jesus wept, it also states only once that Jesus wrote – but what he wrote was incredibly significant.

The story is found in John chapter 8 and revolves around a woman who had been caught by some religious leaders in the very act of adultery. It was an obvious set up to trap Jesus in order to have a basis for accusing him.

These religious leaders “made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.”

Many have hypothesized about what Jesus wrote in the dirt – one suggested he was writing Sanskrit (Sand-skrit). I appreciate the attempt at humour! John doesn’t tell us what Jesus wrote because he knew his audience 2,000 years ago wouldn’t need an explanation.

Whenever someone was caught in adultery, both the man AND the woman would be brought to the Nicanor Gate and accused. This gate was the entrance to the Women’s Court of the temple. At least two witnesses must be present to confirm that adultery had indeed been committed, and then there was a certain ceremony conducted in order to bring judgment. However, in this instance the Pharisees only brought the woman, and there is no mention of any witnesses. The Teachers and Pharisees just say she was caught in the act but they don’t say by whom. Both of these things were a violation of the Law of God.

Next, the priest was required to stoop down and write the law that had been broken, along with the names of the accused, in the dust of the floor of the Temple. In fact, the priest could write the law and the names anywhere, as long as the marks were not permanent. The dust on the floor of the Temple was the most common place for this to be done. And so by doing this Jesus showed the woman’s accusers that even though THEY were not keeping the law, He would anyway.

The Scribes and Pharisees ignored the law but then continued with their accusations. And so Jesus stood up (after plainly demonstrating they were violating the law themselves) and said, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”   After saying this Jesus again stooped down and wrote on the ground. What did he write this time?

It’s important to note that this event occurs around Yom Kippur and the Feast of Tabernacles. Every year on Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement) the High Priest would baptise himself about 11 times in order to be ceremonially cleansed between each separate portion of the day’s sacrifices. At the end of the day there was a celebration at his home where the people would rejoice that their sins had been forgiven. To end the festivities the High Priest would quote Jeremiah 17:13, “Oh Yahweh, the Immerser (Baptizer) of Israel, all those who leave your way shall be put to shame (publicly embarrassed), those who turn aside from my ways will have their names written in the dust and blotted out, for they have departed from Yahweh, the fountain of the waters of life” (Literal Hebrew Translation).

Religious Jewish men would hear this verse quoted every year – the older they were the more times they’d heard it. Thus when Jesus wrote this verse in the dust the Teachers of the Law and the Pharisees were “convicted by their own conscience” (KJV), put to shame, and departed from Jesus from the eldest to the youngest, the older having heard the verse quoted more often. It’s likely Jesus also wrote the men’s names in the dust in fulfillment of Jeremiah 17:13.

There are some stunning lessons to be learned from this story but the most mind-blowing is the wonderful insight it gives into the grace of God. Women had few if any rights in the first century world and yet Jesus treated this woman (and all women) with great dignity. This woman had broken the law and the law demanded capital punishment and yet Jesus responded with compassion and forgiveness. He believed in her – despite others rejecting her – and gave her the opportunity to be redeemed: Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

Jesus wrote in the dust because what he wrote wouldn’t be permanent – it could be rubbed out. That’s what he did to this woman’s sins – that is what he has done to your sins too.

Social media was buzzing earlier this week over Mark Driscoll and his impending appearance at this year’s Hillsong Conference.  This was on the back of some protests, a petition with 3000 signatures and media reports about a controversial blog in which Mark refers to women as “penis houses.”

There is no shortage of material that outlines in detail the sins of Mark Driscoll.  In his books and sermons he appears to just go too far in trying to be funky and relevant to a new generation in order to reach them for Jesus.  He swears, uses crude humour and he encourages the people he trains to brew their own beer at home.

In one of his books, The Radical Reformission, he has a chapter titled ‘The Sin of Light Beer’ in where he makes the case that light beer came about to please feminists, and that good Christians should oppose feminism by drinking ‘good beer’.  On another occasion he taught women who had unbelieving husbands, “You need to go home and tell your husband that you’ve met Jesus and you’ve been studying the Bible, and that you’re convicted of a terrible sin in your life. And then you need to drop his trousers, and you need to serve your husband.” 

Things started to go wrong back in 2007 when Mars Hill Church changed its bylaws that shifted leadership from 24 male elders to a much smaller group.  Mars Hill’s former Women’s ministry leader, Wendy Allsup says, “Mark gave power to a few men that he hand-picked rather than trusting the full council of elders that he felt was slowing him down.  Mark wanted to grow Mars Hill into a big tree, but in the process he chopped away the root system by dismissing those qualified leaders who were actually shepherding the church — because they raised legitimate questions.”

In 2008 the church cancelled everyone’s membership, saying one could only renew their membership if they said they had no problems with the elders.  At that point many people left the church.

Later it came to light that Mars Hill Church had paid a California-based marketing company at least $210,000 in 2011 and 2012 to ensure that Real Marriage, a book written by Mark Driscoll and his wife Grace, made the New York Times best-seller list.  In March 2014 Mark wrote the following apology to Mars Hill Church:

In August 2014, it was discovered that he wrote a blog-post patronising women in 2001 under a pseudonym.  His beliefs, written under the name William Wallace II, included the statements that have been highlighted by the media recently:

“The first thing to know about your penis is, that despite the way it may see, it is not your penis.  Ultimately, God created you and it is his penis. You are simply borrowing it for a while.  While His penis is on loan you must admit that it is sort of just hanging out there very lonely as if it needed a home, sort of like a man wondering (sic) the streets looking for a house to live in.  Knowing that His penis would need a home, God created a woman to be your wife and when you marry her and look down you will notice that your wife is shaped differently than you and makes a very nice home.”

Driscoll apologised and took a six-week leave of absence while the leadership of Mars Hill Church investigated the allegations being made against him.  The investigation revealed “patterns of persistent sin” by Senior Pastor Mark Driscoll, who was accused of bullying and intimidating behaviour in a complaint by 21 former church elders.  They accused him of creating a climate of fear through his verbally abusive language, lack of self-control and arrogant domineering attitude.  The church’s leadership tried to put a restoration process in place but Driscoll resigned in October 2014.

The response of the Mars Hill leaders was as follows: “Our intention was to do this while providing for his eventual restoration to leadership.  The Board of Elders in agreement with the Board of Overseers are grieved, deeply grieved, that any process like that was lost to us when Mark Driscoll resigned and left the church.”

So where to from here?

Firstly, the Christian church needs to take some responsibility for allowing the culture of churches like Mars Hill to flourish.  Over my 30 years as a pastor I’ve seen the fads come and go and I’ve watched some of God’s people come and go with them!  Wendy Allsup, put it this way, “Mars Hill was projected on to us as this new and exciting thing that God was doing, but God has been building his church for centuries.”  While I celebrate the things that the Spirit of God is doing through the church all around the world, we need to exercise discernment and we need to stop putting people on pedestals.  The only man that should ever be exalted is the Lord Jesus Christ. The rest of us would do well to live humbly.

Secondly, we need to be wary of any church that is a boys club and that doesn’t recognise the valuable contribution and gifts of women – including preaching, teaching and pastoral care.  For more on this subject please refer to my blog, “Women should be silent in the church?”

Thirdly, there is obviously a world of hurt still being experienced by many people as a result of Mark Driscoll’s leadership.  I’m am not privy to what has or has not been done or said to this point but I do know there are former Mars Hill Church elders and leaders who are open and willing to be reconciled with Mark.  No doubt there will need to be some honest conversations, lots of listening, empathy, compassion and forgiveness.  Much of the New Testament was written to respond to conflict of varying kinds.  There are some wonderful principles therein to help with the reconciliation process – and it is a process!

Finally, let’s not write Mark Driscoll off as a lost cause.  Yes he has made some very public and very serious mistakes but that doesn’t mean that the Christian church should alienate him for all time.  A casual reading of the Bible reveals how much God is interested in using faulty people – Moses was a murderer, David an adulterer, Peter was a hypocrite and Timothy was, for a season, timid and ashamed of the gospel and Paul.  Some in the Christian church may want to put Mark Driscoll on the scrap heap, but God doesn’t have one.

Consider these words that Paul wrote to the Galatian Church, “Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important.”

The Bible teaches, God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”  Jesus will continue to build His church, the unstoppable Kingdom of God will continue to grow, and all the people who’ve been hurt – including Mark Driscoll – have a place in it!

From time to time I hear Christian people being critical of some explanations of the grace of God.  The terms they use to describe these teachings of God’s grace include “extreme, hyper, and cheap.”  The term “cheap grace” was originally used by German theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his book, The Cost of Discipleship.  Bonhoeffer defined “cheap grace” as “the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ.”

Others use the terms extreme grace or hyper-grace “to describe a new wave of teaching that emphasises the grace of God to the exclusion of other vital teachings such as repentance and confession of sin. Hyper-grace teachers maintain that all sin, past, present, and future, has already been forgiven, so there is no need for a believer to ever confess it” (Elmer Towns).

Grace by its very nature is not cheap – it’s free!  Grace is the radical, undeserved kindness of God towards us as expressed in Jesus Christ.  Grace is extreme but certainly not cheap.  To describe the grace of God with either of these terms is theologically incorrect.  While I agree with Bonheoffer – and greatly admire his work – putting the words “cheap” and “grace” together is an oxymoron.  In saying that, I totally understand the concern of people who express opinions about a perverted view of God’s grace.

The danger with any truth is that if you push it too far it slips into error.  This includes the truth that Martin Luther reinforced through the Reformation – that faith in the grace of God alone, apart from the law, was necessary for salvation.  Even during Luther’s time there were those who taught all one had to do was believe in Jesus.  The way a person lived didn’t matter; it was unnecessary, they said, to hold to any moral law.  In response to this, Luther coined the term Antinomianism (taken from the Greek words meaning “against law”).

For more on this read my blog on The Purpose of the Law at this link: https://baysidechurch.com.au/blog/the-purpose-of-the-law/

The apostle Paul gives some excellent teaching on God’s grace in his letter to Titus, the pastor of the churches on the Island of Crete:

“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.  It (i.e. God’s grace) teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good” (Titus 2:11-14).

The context here in Titus 2 is about living our lives “so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive” (verse 10).  God’s grace teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions.  In other words, the grace of God is NOT an excuse to live an impure life.  Ungodliness refers to those who believe in God while behaving in a way that seems to contradict that belief.  It’s commonly called hypocrisy and is one of the main barriers to people coming to Jesus and joining a church.  People who are guilty of ungodliness will have thoughts such as “I know this is wrong but … God will forgive me.”

Worldly passions refer to the tendency to follow the crowd even when the crowd is going the wrong way and doing the wrong thing.  This perverted view of God grace was alive and well in the Roman church in the first century: “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means!” (Romans 6:1) – and the Galatian church: You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love” (Galatians 5:13).

Author Paul Ellis puts it this way, “Grace is no more a license to sin than electricity is a license to electrocute yourself.”

God’s grace teaches us to “say no.”  It also teaches us about saying “Yes.”  God’s grace teaches us … to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.  That is, our lives will be decent, honest, respectable and consistent with our belief in God.  We will exercise self-restraint and not engage in excess.  Self-control is doing what I need to do when I don’t feel like doing it.  And it is not doing what I should not do when I do feel like doing it!

“Jesus gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.”  I encourage you to appreciate afresh the amazing grace of God. There is nothing you could ever do to put yourself outside of His grace but that is not an excuse to live a sloppy life!

I love the perspective that children have on things.  Check out these comments from some kids when they were asked what happened on Good Friday?  And why did Jesus have to die?

“Jesus had to die because the Prime Minister didn’t like him. He didn’t like him because everybody liked Jesus and nobody liked the Prime Minister. At Easter, we have eggs because chickens are born at Easter time” (Bella, 7).

“We have chocolate eggs to celebrate Easter because the tomb was empty and most eggs are hollow, except when they have chocolate buttons in them” (Piers, 8).

“Jesus died because of God’s love and at Easter time we have eggs because they are a sign of new life. They’re made of chocolate because chocolate is really nice and Jesus was a really kind person” (Molly, 8).

What did happen on Good Friday?  And why did Jesus have to die? If Jesus died on this day then why is it called GOOD?

It’s important to know that it was, in fact, religion that killed Jesus.  The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were jealous of the support and following that Jesus had and so they plotted a way to get rid of him – and they succeeded (for three days!)  Not much has changed; religion is still trying to kill Jesus today.  In fact, some religious institutions kill Jesus every week – some kill him every year.

This is highlighted in a response to a blog I wrote over a year ago.  Speaking of Good Friday the person wrote:“This is the day of the year that I wish would end quickly for it is a day of mourning and grief. Every minute of this day I am constantly thinking about His suffering. We call this day good only because of ourselves. We are to die with Him on this day … on this day of remembrance, mourning, and grief, are we not going to remember, mourn, and grieve? Sadly, for most people they will not remember, they will not mourn, and they will not grieve … on this day of sadness, I hope the Lord keeps me a little more subdued and a little more humble. For Christ died on this day of darkness and I am grieving a bit now…”

But what does the Bible say about Jesus sacrifice?
Hebrews 7:27, “Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.”

Hebrews 9:26, “Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.”

Hebrews 9:28, “so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.”

Hebrews 10:10, “And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”

Get the message?

Jesus doesn’t need to die again every week or every year.  His death on the cross two thousand years ago was enough.  On the cross, Jesus took the punishment that belonged to us.  We are the ones who have broken God’s Law.  We deserved to be punished.  But in his love and mercy, Jesus bore our punishment for us. The sacrifice he made was enough and to prove that is was, three days later God raised Jesus from the dead – and he didn’t die again.  That’s why Good Friday is GOOD!

My prayer for you this Easter is that you will come to know, appreciate and experience the power and value of the sacrifice Jesus has made for you on the cross.

Some years ago, a 14-foot bronze crucifix was stolen from Calvary Cemetery in Little Rock, Arkansas. It had stood at the entrance to that cemetery for more than 50 years. The cross was put there in 1930 by a Catholic bishop and had been valued at the time at $10,000. The thieves apparently cut it off at its base and hauled it off in a pick-up. Police speculate that they cut it into small pieces and sold it for scrap for about $450.  They obviously didn’t realize the value of that cross.  May we not be so blind!


One of these is gluttony and it’s rampant amongst Christians.  A few years ago, Christie and I were in Queensland working on some evangelistic meetings.  In the Green Room one evening there were three evangelists chatting with each other.  Their combined weight must have been close to 500kg.  “Bless God, we don’t drink, smoke or swear” – but you should see them eat!  They reminded me of Friar Tuck in the old Robin Hood series.  They tuck in a bit too much.

The word “gluttony” is derived from the Latin gluttire meaning to gulp down or swallow. It means over-indulgence and over-consumption of food, drink, or wealth to the point of extravagance or waste. In some Christian denominations, it is considered one of the seven deadly sins—a misplaced desire of food or withholding food from the needy.  The Bible describes this as one of the sins that led to the destruction of Sodom (Ezekiel 16:49).

This week some Australian researchers have linked religion to obesity.  They found Christians had a higher body mass index (BMI) – or were fatter – than non-Christians. Doctor Michael Kortt, of the Southern Cross University on the Gold Coast, and Professor Brian Dollery, of the University of New England, found the connection when analysing data from the federally-funded Household Income Labour Dynamics (HILDA) survey.

Their findings, published in the Journal of Religion and Health showed Christian women had a one unit higher BMI than non-Christian women.  Baptist and Catholic men also had a higher BMI than men with no religious affiliation.  Further studies will be done to see if religious organisations could play a greater role in fighting Australia's obesity epidemic.

I find it strange – and hypocritical – that we can pronounce judgment on some people in society while committing acts that are equally wrong in the sight of God.  I guess that’s what the apostle Paul was addressing to the Roman Christians when he said, “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things” (Romans 2:1). 
That’s why Jesus commands us not to judge and to leave judgment up to him, because He is the only one who can make a judgment based on truth.