Six men and the outsider

In this Jesus story five are unnamed men, one is named, Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). Initially, five an insiders in society, one a reject, a no-body, an exile, an unwanted intruder, an outsider. At the end of the story, five are exiles and only one an insider in God's kingdom!

The public face of the Jesus story begins with his first sermon, "The kingdom of God is at hand, repent, believe the good news" (Mark 1:15). Closely followed by "Come. Follow me." The summons is universal. It is a call to those who have ears to hear, eyes to see. "Who-so-ever may come."

But on this recruitment campaign Jesus is not head hunting the 'brightest and the best.' In contrast to today's "widespread and virtually unchallenged strategy to target influential and accomplished men and women for kingdom work - men and women, as we say, with 'proven leadership qualities' or at least 'leadership potential'" (Eugene Peterson).

No, Jesus names the unnamed, taking those nobody is aware of, gives voice to the voiceless, as they respond to his call to enter God's kingdom. Paul gives unflattering descriptions of Jesus' kingdom saints, "God deliberately chose men and women that culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose nobodies . . ." (1 Corinthians 1:28 The Message).

With Jesus a new age dawned and those who want to belong have to repent. Repentance is much more than private remorse, being sorry for sins, being ready to make amends. The Jesus call to "repent" is a call to return to God, to the ways of God, to the people of God. Repentance has to do with entering a new way of life, new life-style, a new focus, a taking up of membership in the eternal kingdom of God. A submission to God, unwavering obedience to the will of God, a Jesus follower.

Sadly, few enter the kingdom of God. Most, like the five unnamed brothers, turn a deaf ear, mingle with the crowd, stay in the kingdom of darkness even though one rose from the dead.

Two prayer stories Jesus told

Jesus tells a story about two people going to church (Temple), both pray, both are sinners, God hears both prayers, one prayer is answered (Luke 18:9-14). Genuine prayer is the refusal to live as an outsider to my God and my own soul.

The prayer stories of Jesus teach a lot about prayer. The story of the persistence of a widow (Luke 18:1-8) gives insight into so called "unanswered" prayer. The seeming silence of God to our prayers is not calloused indifference. God is the opposite in every detail to the evil judge in the story.

Prayer is not begging God to do something for us he doesn't know about, or begging God to do something he hasn't time for, or begging God to do something he is reluctant to do! No, in prayer we persistently, faithfully, trustingly come before God, submitting to his sovereign will, confident he is acting, right now, on our behalf.

God is working out his will in our lives and circumstances. So keep praying. Don't quit.

The Snake's success

"Given the extensive coverage in our Scriptures to the Snake's success in diverting God's people from the living God, the naivete that assumes that if we just make Jesus more attractive men and women will then flock in great numbers to following him is astonishing. The widespread assumption that if we just get the gospel message out loud and clear men and women will sign up on the spot is an illusion of the Snake

It is an assumption that uses the vocabulary of God's truth disconnected from the truth of God. It is spiritually divorced from the Holy Spirit. It is information about Jesus without participation in the life of Jesus" Eugene Perterson

Pre-marital Sex does not constitute marriage in God’s eyes

Act of sex between a couple intending to marry does not

constitute marriage in God’s eyes

The Bible quite clearly states that having sex prior to being married as sin. In certain cases in the Old Testament pre-marital sex required the death penalty.  So called “safe sex” outside of marriage violates God’s law and is sin.

  • Example 1  ““If a man seduces a virgin who is not engaged to anyone and sleeps with her, he must pay the customary dowry and accept her as his wife.  But if her father refuses to let her marry him, the man must still pay the money for her dowry.  Exodus 22:16-17 NLT
  • Example 2  “Suppose a man marries a woman and, after sleeping with her, changes his mind about her and falsely accuses her of having slept with another man.  He might say, ‘I discovered she was not a virgin when I married her.’  If the man does this, the woman’s father and mother must bring the proof of her virginity to the leaders of the town.  Her father must tell them, ‘I gave my daughter to this man to be his wife, and now he has turned against her.  He has accused her of shameful things, claiming that she was not a virgin when he married her. But here is the proof of my daughter’s virginity.’  Then they must spread the cloth before the judges.  The judges must then punish the man.  They will fine him one hundred pieces of silver, for he falsely accused a virgin of Israel. The payment will be made to the woman’s father. The woman will then remain the man’s wife, and he may never divorce her.  Deuteronomy 22:13-19 NLT
  • Example 3  “But suppose the man’s accusations are true, and her virginity could not be proved.  In such cases, the judges must take the girl to the door of her father’s home, and the men of the town will stone her to death. She has committed a disgraceful crime in Israel by being promiscuous while living in her parents’ home.  Such evil must be cleansed from among you.  Deuteronomy 22:21 NLT
  • Example 4  “If a man is discovered committing adultery, both he and the other man’s wife must be killed. In this way, the evil will be cleansed from Israel.  Deuteronomy 22:22  NLT
  • Example 5  “Suppose a man meets a young woman, a virgin who is engaged to be married, and he has sexual intercourse with her. If this happens within a town, Deuteronomy 22:24 you must take both of them to the gates of the town and stone them to death. The woman is guilty because she did not scream for help. The man must die because he violated another man’s wife. In this way, you will cleanse the land of evil.  Deuteronomy 22:23-24  NLT
  • Example 6  “But if the man meets the engaged woman out in the country, and he rapes her, then only the man should die.  Do nothing to the young woman; she has committed no crime worthy of death. This case is similar to that of someone who attacks and murders a neighbour.  Since the man raped her out in the country, it must be assumed that she screamed, but there was no one to rescue her.  Deuteronomy 22:25-27  NLT
  • Example 7  “If a man is caught in the act of raping a young woman who is not engaged,  he must pay fifty pieces of silver to her father. Then he must marry the young woman because he violated her, and he will never be allowed to divorce her.” Deuteronomy 22:28-29  NLT

Lets Make Music

One cannot think of Christmas without thinking of music. Christ's birth is announced to the shepherds accompanied by a heavenly host praising God [Luke 2:13-14]. Singing is to be an eternal part of praise to God [Revelation 4-5].

Music is a universal language. It is something that all people and all ages can relate to. Because of this there is no occasion when music is inappropriate. There is no "out of season" for music. Whatever the function or occasion music can be a part of it.

Music held a unique place in the life of Israel. In the Old Testament more than ten Hebrew words are translated by the words "sing" or "song." Known as "Humanity's Hymn Book" the Psalms contain the antitheses of joy and sorrow, fear and hope, faith and doubt, together with every other shade and quality of sentiment. The "Songs of Degrees" are sacred marches sung by pilgrims as they went up to and returned from festivals at Jerusalem. The music of saints in the Old Testament reflects both diversity and colour.

Music making in the New Testament is part of the merriment that followed the prodigal's return [Luke 15:25], is associated with the mourning of the death of a young girl [Matthew 9:23], and Paul and Silas sing when in prison [Acts 16:25]. At the conclusion of the Lord's Supper Christ and His disciples sing a hymn [Mark 14:26].

During this time of celebrating Christ's first advent many of us will enjoy listening to or participating in a presentation of Handel's "Messiah." As we thrill at the trumpet blast, shout our hallelujahs, and rejoice in the fact that our Lord is: Jesus, Emmanuel, Christ, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, let us recall the words of Scripture and ensure that our worship is inspired and enriched through music.

"To you this day is born a Saviour who is Christ the Lord" Luke 2:10.

Dr Keith Graham


Why not do some futurology? Imagine yourself still doing or pursuing your present career/job/ambition, assume in 10 years you have achieved everything you hoped for, and then ask this question: "Is that really where you want to be in the light of eternity?"

Life Choices

"If I had to choose between being a cabinet minister, a millionaire or an evangelist I would choose to be an evangelist. It is the evangelist who has the greatest capacity for doing good." Lord Beaverbrook

Grumpy Christians or Grateful Christians

"Ingratitude is not just a psychological issue . . . It is a sin. It is the hallmark of a life opposed to God." John Ortberg

Ungratefulness has become characteristic of much of society. We are losing the ability to say thankyou. When living in Italy it was normal to say "grazia" (thankyou), or "tante grazia" (many thanks), when someone did you a favour, served you a meal, brought you a glass of water. But interestingly, the person who was being thanked would then respond by saying "prego" (you are welcome). I like that.

In the late 1940s to the 1970s there was a huge migration of people from Europe to  Australia. Over three million adults plus children! Migrants from one particular country were notorious for complaining. They became know as  "Belly aching XXXX." Though their fare only personally cost them $10.00AUD, the balance being funded by the Government, they never, ever seemed to express any sense of gratitude. They were always winging about something. Yet they were far better off in Australia than if they had remained in their country of origin. Sad.

Our focus has a lot to do with our equilibrium. Piaget reasoned that if a person experienced too much agitation their equilibrium became chaotic and in this state all growth, learning and development is stifled. Yet without some agitation in life, a person is in a state of stagnation. Research shows that while a person is passive, their minds not activity engaged, their motivation nil, their emotions unmoved, no real growth, change, transformation, development, or learning takes place.

Our ability to cope well with new challenges is closely linked to our foundational learning. The research of Piaget shows that our cognitive development has two main aspects: Assimilation and Accommodation. He found that a person is born with an active mind. Intelligence, although limited by its genetic propensity, grows and develops through interaction with the environment.

Assimilation refers to taking into itself material, facts, information, internalizing the data. Accommodation refers to how the mind accommodates new data. 

Piaget shows there is no accommodation/assimilation without experience.  Through experiences we receive new data.  This new data creates tension, or a state of disequilibrium, as the mind has to now readjust to new information, process it, assimilate it, and if it is to use it, relate it to previous knowledge or concepts.  This process then creates a state of equilibrium.

Piaget found that unless new data can be conceptually related to previous information, the person really does not learn anything.  There is no real assimilation, the material is not accommodated. Then depending on the experience, leaves the person confused, unable to make sense of the event. The importance of using Piaget's work for Christian Education is that it is better to teach/preach conceptually than through mass information.

Notice how God prepares in advance a church that is living in a city that will be destroyed by an earthquake in about 3-4 years. God prepares them by having a letter sent to the church at Colossae. They don't know, the writers of the letter doesn't know, what is just over the horizon. But the content of the letter will assist them immensely in coming to terms with this devastating earthquake that will ruin their city and turn their lives upside down.

Key to surviving and maintaining their equilibrium in the face of such huge losses is their focus on Christ. Being anchored in who God genuinely is. What it means to be transferred from one kingdom, the kingdom of darkness, into the kingdom of light, the kingdom where Jesus Christ rules.

The letter written to the church at Colossae, preserved for us in the Christian Bible, is saturated with Christian concepts. It is understanding these concepts, absorbing them so that they become part and parcel of the person, that will anchor them and sustain them in the face of overwhelming odds. It's not just that they will emotionally survive and mentally come to terms with what has happened, but they will be able to develop a spirit of realistic thankfulness!

Too often we get mired in the bog of self-pity, despondency, confusion, left wondering what have we done to deserve such loss? Why us? Why me? The disciples of Jesus, faced with what seemed like certain drowning, grab Jesus, roughly wake him, shouting: "Don't you care that we perish?" Can't you imagine the Christians in Colossae, standing on the rubble of their now dead city crying out: "God, don't you care about us?"

Notice the concepts being underlined in this letter. Absorb into yourself what the Bible is saying to us today. “we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honour and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better. 

We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light. For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins.” (Colossians 1:9–14 NLT-SE)

Again: "May you be encouraged, and find out more and more how strong are the bonds of Christian love.  May you grow more certain in your knowledge and more sure in your grasp of God himself.  May your spiritual experience become richer as you see more fully God's great secret, Christ himself!  For it is in him, and in him alone, that we will find all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge."  Colossians 2:2-3  J. B. Phillips

Get your focus, mindset and desires in line with living in the kingdom of light. Focus your hearts, minds, desire on Christ."If you are then "risen" with Christ, reach out for the highest gifts of Heaven, where Christ reigns in power. Give your heart to the heavenly things, not to the passing things of earth.

"For, as far as this world is concerned, you are already dead, and your true life is a hidden in God, through Christ. One day, Christ, real centre of our lives, will show himself openly, and you will all share in that magnificent denouement.

"In so far, then, as you have to live upon this earth, consider yourselves dead to worldly priorities: have nothing to do with sexual immorality, dirty-mindedness, uncontrolled passion, evil desire, and the lust for other people's goods, remember greed is the serious sin of idolatry. It is because of these very things that the holy anger of God falls upon those who refuse to obey him. And never forget that you had your part in those dreadful things when you lived in that futile, empty way of life.

"But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge, in the image of its Creator

In this new man of God's design there is no distinction between Greek and Hebrew, Jew or gentile, foreigner or savage, slave or free man. Christ is all that matters for Christ lives in every Christian.

"As, therefore, God's picked representatives of the new humanity, purified and deeply love by God himself, be merciful in action, kindly in heart, humble in mind. Accept life, and be most patient and tolerant with one another, always be ready to forgive if you have a difference with anyone. Forgive as freely as the Lord has forgiven you.

"And, above everything else, be truly loving, for love is the golden chain of all the virtues. Love binds everything together.

"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, remembering that as members of the one body you are called to live in harmony, and never forget to be thankful for what God has done for you.

"Let the word of Christ live richly among you as you teach and counsel each other with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude/thankfulness in your hearts to God.

"And whatever work you may have to do, what ever you have to say, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, thanking God the Father through him." Colossians 3:1-17.

Any Christian who absorbs these concepts so that they mould their whole outlook on life, their value system, controls their thinking and behaviour, will be a joyful, grateful Christian

Keith Graham

Evidences that Jesus Christ rose physically from the dead

Jesus was miraculously raised from the dead nearly 2,000 years ago.

It is interesting to note that while many Christians talk frequently about the Cross, and yet they only seem to  speak about the Resurrection at Easter! Why? Many sermons  today tend to assume the Resurrection while emphasizing the Cross. The sermons in the book of Acts do the exact opposite. The sermons in Acts speak far more about the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead and how it we can be forgiven our sin by God they they do about the cross.

The Resurrection of Jesus verifies the fact that his death was more than that of a martyr. The death of Jesus on the cross was both a spiritual and physical when he died as a sacrifice for sin, a sin offering.  The Resurrection of Jesus declares that to be a fact and it is on the basis of the death of Jesus, God commands all people everywhere to repent 

he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed, Jesus Christ. He has given proof of this to all men by raising Jesus from the dead. Acts 17:30-31

Charles Spurgeon argued that if  preaching better matched the book of Acts, we would see more people become Christians! The apostle Paul cut to the core of Christianity with his statement on the Resurrection: "But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain" 1 Corinthians 15:13-14

Evidences That Jesus Rose Physically From The Dead

1       Security precautions taken to ensure no-one stole the body of Jesus from the tomb

  • there were six trials - 3 Jewish and 3 Roman. Pilate, the Roman Governor in Jerusalem condemned Jesus to death
  • crucifixion of Jesus is a historical fact attested by non-biblical historians
  • the body of Jesus was removed from the cross and buried - Matthew 27:57-60
  • the body of Jesus was entombment in a new tomb - Matthew 27:57-60
  • The tomb where Jesus' body was place was seal with a Roman Seal - Matthew 27:66
  • Roman soldiers guarded to tomb to prevent anyone breaking in - Matthew 27:65-66

2       Signs that Jesus actually died

  • his cry - “it is finished”
  • the earthquake
  • the resurrection of saints from the grave
  • the curtain in temple is torn from the top to the bottom

3          Confirmation that Jesus actually died

  • Bible says that the death of Jesus was all that was required by God to make possible eternal salvation
  • it is a finished work
  • the results are eternal
  • Disciples go back into city and proclaim Christ is risen!

Fact #1  -  broken Roman seal  Matthew 27:66

Fact #2  -  empty tomb - no one  ever found or produced the body of Jesus

Fact #3  -  large stone was moved from the entrance to the tomb  Matthew 28:1-3

Fact #4  -  the Roman solders guarding the tomb desert their post  Matthew 28:4-15

Fact #5  -  the way the grave clothes lay indicate Jesus came back to life Luke 24:12 “like an empty chrysalis”

Fact #6 Jesus’ multiple appearances after resurrection to so many different people in different geographic locations

  • 11 different appearances to the disciples & others
  • four appearances to Paul 
  • one appearances to John  - Revelation 1
  • to Mary Magdalene
  • to other women
  • to Peter
  • to the disciples walking along the road to Emmaus
  • to the ten disciples in a room
  • to the eleven disciples in a room
  • to the seven disciples by the Sea of Galilee
  • to 500 people at once
  • to James the Lord's brother
  • to the eleven on a mountain in Galilee
  • to the disciples on the Mount of Olives
  • to Stephen Acts 7:55-56
  • to Paul on Damascus road  Acts 9:3-6; 22:6-11; 26:13-18
  • to Paul in Arabia? Galatians 1:10-12
  • to Paul in the temple Acts 22:17-21
  • to Paul in prison in Caesarea Acts 23:11
  • to the Apostle John on Patmos             Revelation 1:12-20

Fact #7  -  conversion and work of the Apostle Paul

Fact #8  -  existence of the early church

Fact #9  -  miracle of the Bible

Fact #10  -  attested by all four Gospels, the Acts the Epistles, and Revelation

Fact #11  -  Disciples appealed to the Old Testament, Ps 2:1, 7   cf Acts 2; Ps 16:10; Ps 49:15; Ps 110:1

The resurrection of Christ is crucial to:

  • the promises made to Abraham & David
  • the predictions made by Jesus
  • the identity of Jesus Christ
  • the salvation of the sinner
  • the hope of the believer
  • the establishment of the christian church

Key reason why Jesus rose from the dead

  • because Old Testament prophets predicted Jesus would rise from the dead
  • because Jesus repeatedly said he’d rise
  • as the source of Life and Hope Christ had to be raised
  • because of who He was - the Son of God Acts 2:23-36
  • because of  the covenant made with Abraham
  • because of  the covenant made with David
  • His resurrection  enables him to be head of the new creation, head of the church
  • His resurrection is the supreme display of his power and authority over sin, Satan, death
  • His resurrection validates the Gospel
  • His resurrection makes possible the redemption and justification of those who believe in Him
  • His resurrection guarantees the resurrection of all

Dr Keith Graham

Defining the term "Marriage"

Dear Mr Turnbill

I have read your Michael Kirby lecture given at Southern Cross University in which you explained how you had found the arguments against gay marriage unpersuasive.

I believe you have misunderstood a number of things in relation to this discussion.

First, you characterise those coming from a Judaeo-Christian perspective as being against gay unions. While you acknowledge the Christian Bible condemns such unions both BC and AD (see Romans chapter 1:21-32), but dismiss the Bible's relevance in this discussion on the bases that the Laws given to the Israeli nation required the death penalty for homosexual activity as well as a number of other crimes.

However, you fail to acknowledge that the New Testament, while describing homosexual activity as sinful and therefore condemned by God, does not go on to insist that such people should be sentenced to death. What the New Testament requires is repentance towards God and faith in Jesus Christ.

Using the statement by Lord Penzance in the case of Hyde v. Hyde and Woodmansee surprised me as one of the reasons why you find the arguments against defining gay unions as a marriage unpersuasive. Lord Penzance concluded: “I conceive that marriage, as understood in Christendom, may for this purpose be defined as the voluntary union for life of one man and one woman, to the exclusion of all others.” But for you to go on to assert that because so called Christian Countries can no longer be called Christian, therefore, Lord Penzance's ruling is no longer valid. This a is very weak argument on your part.

So you ask: "So the question for us here in Australia in 2012 is should we recognise same sex unions and describe them as “marriage”?

Clearly my answer to your rhetorical question is "No."

Because as you know, across cultures, languages and religions for at least 5000 years the term "marriage" has always, and continues to be defined, as a heterosexual union. What seems to be lost on your ears is that people from a Christian-Judaeo perspective, those from an Islamic background, and some from other religions object to the redefining of the term "marriage" to include gay unions.

A gay union is not a marriage as traditionally understood universally for over 5 millennium. This you do not even hint at in your lecture.

You do acknowledge that in Australian Law gay couples have the same rights as heterosexual couples.  ". . . federal legislation, especially since the Same Sex Relationships Acts of 2008, recognises same sex couples for the purpose of many entitlements and obligations and, broadly speaking, whatever rights and duties accrue to couples of different sexes accrue to those of the same sex."

So what is at stake is not the legalization of gay unions but how such unions are to be described.

As a wordsmith why don't you come up with a term to describe gay unions? Why destroy the universal, traditional understanding of the word marriage? Your lecture does not even go near these questions.

Marriage, according to the law of Australia

"Marriage, according to the law of Australia, is the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life." Note, no reference is made to Lord Penzance's definition of marriage! In fairness you could have pointed this out.

So why not introduce legislation to define a Gay Union as: Sodomite Partnership/Union, according to the Law of Australia, is the union of a man and another man, or the union of a woman and another woman, to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life? This is how Gay Unions have been defined for at least 2000 years in some contexts. Why change that definition now?

Same sex unions were formerly described in Australian Law in every State as a Sodomite union. Why not revert to that Legal term? It has legal precedence.

Defining Gay Unions as a: Sodomite Partnership/Union, would have the support of the Christian Lobby, those from a Christian-Judaeo an Islamic backgrounds, and no doubt many others. This would remove any ambiguity about what type of relationship is being described.

Thank you for taking the time to consider perhaps a different angle in this debate.

Yours sincerely

Keith Graham