Moderator's Comments - Posted 18 March 2015

Every pastor has been asked “will I know my loved ones on the other side?”

The intermediate state is the time between our death and the day when Jesus Christ returns and we receive our new body. In that time we are disembodied souls, will we be able to recognise loved ones?

We cannot be absolutely sure but the Bible gives us every indication of recognition.

We are made in the image of the relational God, the primary relationship which we will enjoy is with the Lord himself, and we will also enjoy relationships with others who are also in Christ.

Jesus pictures heaven as a banquet (Luke 14:15 – 24) and feasting at a table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Matthew 8:11). At the transfiguration, Peter, James and John recognise Moses and Elijah talking with Jesus (Mark 9:23).

Jacob spoke of his death as resting with his fathers (Genesis 47:30), God told Moses that he would rest with his fathers (Deuteronomy 31:16), God tells David that he will rest with his fathers (2 Samuel 7:12). God could have said Moses and David would simply die or join the dead but he uses a family term, a term, father, implying relational reunion.

Moderator's Comments - Posted 2 March 2015

That there is an element of fear as we face imminent death is natural, after all, none of us are experienced at dying, we only die once. It seems so permanent and separating from all that we love.

Fear can only be quelled by love. John says that as we face judgement, “there is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear and fear has to do with punishment (1 John 4:18).”

Human love usually displaces fear, a parent’s minor fears are easily set aside by love for their child who is in imminent danger.

Knowing and trusting God’s love will always displace our fear, but fear is also fed by ignorance.

The Christian facing death has two common questions, I will deal with the first in this column, the second question in the next column.

The first question is, at the point of death, when I leave all that is familiar, what will be my conscious experience? The secularist believes there will be no consciousness beyond death. The believer knows that the factual resurrection of Jesus is the proof that there is life beyond the grave. Since I am “in Christ”, by faith, his experience of death will be mine.

Moderator's Comments - Posted 17 February 2015

This is the third column in a series on truths which have been neglected and need careful and clear treatment.

Many writers have referred to the Holy Spirit as the shy member of the Trinity.  Every believer has the Holy Spirit living within.

The Holy Spirit is divine, He is God the Spirit, the third person of the Holy Trinity (Acts 2:33, Acts 5:4, 2 Corinthians 13:14, John 14:16, 26).  The Holy Spirit, though unseen, is real. Though a Spirit, He is a person rather than a force. He can be grieved (Ephesians 4:30) and He can be quenched (1 Thessalonians 5:19 – 20).  

The Holy Spirit’s ministry is to apply the work of God the Son to the individual; in this way, He acts without our co-operation.  Jesus said He is as sovereign as the wind; he brings new birth to us, without our help (John 3:3, 6, 8; John 1:13).

Moderator's Comments - Posted 4 November 2014

Occasionally I watch Parliamentary Question Time and the truth of the above quote from Mark Twain impresses me again. Both sides of politics can use the same statistic and reach precisely opposite conclusions.

Having been a College Principal for 26 years, I know the power of statistics:

  • How many applicants do we have this year compared to this time last year?
  • How many graduates are going to serve overseas?
  • How much has been given compared to donations for the last five years, can we have a spreadsheet?

Every year may bring a new record number, but it is sobering to remember this year’s record is next year’s bigger challenge.

Moderator's Comments - Posted 27 October 2014

I have now completed the first year of my three year term and have visited each State Assembly, except Queensland.

It has been a privilege to see what is happening throughout Australia and to be able to draw some conclusions about the health of the church.

In Victoria I spoke at the Ministers’ Family Camp and then gave the Expositions at the Assembly, it was good to get beyond the courts of the church to hear what is happening in the congregations.

Observation 1: Each State Assembly has a united focus on the gospel. The single mind of the church in Australia is to glorify God by seeing the gospel reach into every corner of our nation. It is a privilege to be part of such an harmonious, evangelical and evangelistic denomination.

Observation 2: The theological emphases of the Sixteenth Century Reformation are the emphases of the Bible and they are the emphases of the Presbyterian Church of Australia. However, I see a widespread determination to present a contemporary face to our culture and not transmit a distant, censorious and unwelcoming tone, which sometimes flavours the reformed tradition.

This balance between Biblical faithfulness and cultural relevance, often difficult to maintain, is largely being maintained.

Observation 3: Our Presbyterian structure serves us well. Congregations are cared for as part of a wider denominational family and at the same time are given the freedom to reach their own communities in their own way.

Nowhere is this more apparent than the new church plants springing up in Victoria, such completely different approaches being adopted at parishes like Bendigo, Daylesford and Doreen and yet all thriving within the denomination.

Observation 4: I have found not only unity but mutual affection for one another at State level. It has been very encouraging to attend Assemblies. There is no way that these are a drudgery, one would have to be a stone not to be moved to hear of the work of God being carried out by the church throughout Australia.

However there are three areas I think we need to work on:

First, at more than one Assembly, a good deal of time was spent dealing with the problem of institutional leadership devoid of Christian commitment. Why leaders who are not Christians are appointed to hospitals or aged care facilities or schools or campsites, who do not share our ethos, I will never know.

This is a source of anguish and frustration to us and cannot be a pleasurable experience for those thus appointed.

Our institutions must be led by well qualified people and such qualifications must include the vital recognition of Christ’s lordship in all of life, otherwise why are we involved in such institutions?

Second, the health of the APWM and PIM is wonderfully apparent.

Are we giving equal vigour and support to evangelistic outreach at the local level? New churches are being planted, but are the vast number of settled congregations reaching out in missions to children, youth and adults, where the gospel is presented and people invited to respond.

Where is the APWM equivalent to encourage creative and persistent and persuasive local outreach?

Third, our spiritual health is highly dependent on the ability of our theological colleges to attract quality people and to train them well.

This involves a financial commitment which will see our growing number of candidates well taught and cared for by faculties who are united in the truth and have close contact with the local church, the arena where candidates will work.

Our colleges must model and duplicate the local church so the faculty members, preach and disciple students as well as lecture them, set exams and mark essays. Our colleges are more than academic institutions, they are places where pastoral ministry is practised and modelled.

Pray for our colleges and their leaders and promote their interests at State Assemblies, so that they do not lack resources to fulfil the demanding ministry required of them.

I was recently at a conference in Geelong and two fine young men told me they were about to go to College to train for ordination. Where, I asked? PTC Victoria was their response. PTC along with QTC and Christ College must have enough quality staff to cope with the influx.

Brethren, sometimes in the middle of the battlefield of parish work, we can lose sight of the big picture. Be encouraged and rejoice because I believe the big picture of our church is healthy.

From the remote PIM outback patrols, to major regional centres like Launceston, Mt Gambier, Fremantle, Tamworth, Warrnambool; to growing outer city areas and inner suburbs of major cities the name of Jesus Christ is being proclaimed in church buildings, school halls and community centres.

Chaplains are visiting hospitals, hostels, gaols, schools, SRE teachers are delivering the message, Sunday School classes are being taught, Bible studies are being led, chapel services being conducted.

How grateful we can be that our testimony duplicates that of the apostles, “they reported all that God had done through them ….” Acts 14:27, 15:4, 21:19

David Cook