Ewoks and the Strength of the Small

Dear friends,

I don’t see a lot of movies and I don’t really have a favourite movie but I do have a movie character I would like to play. I would love to play an EWOK. If you have never heard of Ewok’s they appeared in Star Wars VI: Return of the Jedi and they are teddy bear looking creatures that live on the forest moon of Endor. They sling stones, live in tree houses, are slightly uncoordinated and generally dance around having a great time.

And they are small. About the size of a five-year-old with the same weak strength. So when they fight the mighty metallic ferocious Imperial Forces you get the feeling it is going to end badly.

But their size and behaviour belies reality. For when they work together, they are powerful and strong and bring down the Imperial Force allowing the Rebels to… well I won’t give the storyline away but a small army of teddy bears with a few other oddbods defeat a platoon of bad guys and then hold a massive party.

When you look at an Ewok, you cannot see how powerful it is.

Similarly, when you look at the church, you cannot see how powerful it is. And that is because the church (and I am talking about us) has at its core the God of the universe, the one who holds the universe in his hands. Our power does not come from us, our power comes from God who has all authority both in the world, in the church and over you. The church, the gathered people of God, looks very odd, and at times very weak, but it is very powerful.

I have often pondered the reality that God chooses to work in the world through a weak, careless, thoughtless, disorganised and ramshackle group of people just like you and me.  And yet the story of the church is a story of triumph, because Jesus sits at the centre of the church.

We are living in a time when it appears that the “church” is under threat. We must hear these words correctly. The institutions that support churches and some people who run churches are under threat for the way they have done evil, dealt with people badly and not put the call of God as their first priority. The freedom of the church is under threat because of the way society wants to limit the rights of voices who disagree with the liberal progressive agenda. But the church is not under threat.

The church is God’s people who listen to Christ, trust Christ, live for Christ, speak of Christ and call others to follow Christ. And we can never be defeated for Christ is our King and he reigns from heaven awaiting the moment he will be called to come again and judge the world. There is no power who can defeat him and therefore there is no power that can defeat us as his people.

The only real threat to the church is us. Will we, as those who are the church, continue to listen to Christ, trust Christ, live for Christ, speak of Christ and call others to follow Christ.

I pray we will.

In Christ
Nigel

Work – Worth Complaining About? 2

Dear friends,

In this second examination of our Work, we build on the reality that God has been at the work from the beginning. Incredibly, one of work efforts was to create workers – us!

“God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’” Genesis 1:28
“The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” Genesis 2:15

What we see here is that despite our daily predisposition to complain and moan about it, work is not something to be despised or avoided. Not only are God’s creative deeds called “work” (Genesis 2:2), but human labour is instituted before the fall as something that is “good”. As those who are made in the image of God, and therefore share God’s task of ruling the world, man, male and female, is told to get to work! Sometimes this is called a “creation ordinance”, just meaning that we were designed from the beginning to be workers.

As you can see from the command “to work the ground”, human labour is originally thought of in very basic terms. There are no computers to turn on, projects to manage, employees to pay or work reviews to complete. The earth and its animals must be cared for, food, clothing, shelter and other necessities must be provided, and we must reproduce. But the Bible provides no criticism for the specialisation of work that soon appears. Human gifts and skills find legitimate and creative expression in an extraordinary variety of occupations. Throughout the Bible all manner of our heroes appear to have all manner of jobs as society changes.

There are limitations and conditions to all this though.

(a)  The very young and the very old do not “work”, and their needs are provided for by others. One of the motives for work is that our surplus may provide for the needs of others, especially those in our own families (Ephesians 4:28; 1 Timothy 5:8).

(b)  Life in this world is utterly dependent upon work, but it may not be our own work which makes the direct provision. Work flows from our joint responsibility for the creation, and may be paid or unpaid, and directly or indirectly productive of basic necessities. We may not all, “work” but none of us can survive without work.

There is, therefore, no doubt about the value and importance of our work in this world, because it arises from the original work of God and hence from the purposes of God for man and the creation. The human race carries out its work because he has commanded us to do so as the ones who bear his image.

All this doesn’t mean you have to enjoy your job no matter what. But it ought to change the way you think about the nature and purpose of work and perhaps change your attitude towards the necessity of work. Is work not a moment of obedience to God in which we ought to seek to glorify Christ?

In Christ
Nigel

Work – Worth complaining about?

Dear friends, 

Work consumes an enormous amount of your time, thought and energy every year. If you are working full-time, you will spend about 1/3 of the year asleep and 1/3 of the year working, leaving only 1/3 for family, rest, holidays, transport, shopping, household cleaning, life admin and waiting in queues.

The reality for most people is that from age 5 to retirement you will spend more of your time with school and work colleagues than you will with your family. The other reality is that many people complain about having to work, the type of work they are doing, their workplace and their work colleagues. So goes the saying, “Here’s to another day of outward smiles and inward screams!” 

So why do we do it? Is work good? Should we work more or less? How should we think about work? Is it just a means to an end? 

Over the next few weeks I want to explore with you a theology of work. The Bible has lots to say about our work and what our attitude to it should be. The Proverbs are littered with advice… 

Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! Proverbs 6:6

 A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest – and poverty will come on you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man. Proverbs 6:10-11 

But the story actually starts in Genesis and work is given a wonderfully high dignity because we find God at work. God is busy creating and calling into being all that is and all that will be, through Jesus Christ. He works consistently and creatively for 6 days, bringing into being everything that is required that we might live and breathe and have our being on his earth. God works generously and provides for his creation everything that it needs.

Then he rests. Genesis 2:2 says “By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.” 

There are several conclusions we can make from this. First, work is not inherently bad or evil – God does it! Second, work is not the substance of life. You don’t have to always be at work. There is a balance to it, called rest. Perhaps we can say that as the program of the Bible plays out, we see in God’s pattern of 6-1 that we ought to be working more than we are resting. But more of that later. 

For now, we can see from the beginning that work itself is good, has inherent dignity and yet not be all consuming. 

We will continue our journey into work next week, but if you have specific questions you want to ask, feel free to send them through! 

In Christ,
Nigel

Timely Thinking

For many people, holidays are about to begin for 2 weeks and there will be a bit more spare time. As I have thought about time, I wanted to float an idea that could be little more than a lead balloon.

Time. We never have enough. We grumble when we use too much, when it passes to quickly or when we have wasted it. It is a precious commodity.

So when someone does something for us, we will often say, “Thanks for giving up your time”. Now I think such a statement is nonsense.

I understand the sentiment. People have literally “given their time for us” and we want to thank people for doing so. But what exactly are we saying through the words “giving up your time”? What I hear is, “I know this has been an inconvenience because you have a 1000 things you could be doing to benefit you in whatever way you want rather than helping us”.

But is our time really ours? Can we choose to do whatever we desire? As a Christian, we must answer NO to this. God has given us time, but it is not entirely up to us to choose how to use it.

God tells us in Romans 13:11 that we must understand the present time. “The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed”. In our passage this week in Ephesians we hear that we must “Make the most of every opportunity”. Time is short and must be used profitably.

Paul also instructs us to put aside the deeds of darkness and clothe ourselves with Christ. I take it that means, live like Christ has called us to and therefore use every moment of your time to show others how great Jesus is and to serve his people.

So your time is not yours to give away, it is yours to use in God’s service. You will live for the number of days God has predetermined for you and the question is, will you use each one of those days for his benefit and glory.

So next time someone comes and helps you out, don’t thank them for “giving up their time” because their time is not theirs to give up. Thank and encourage them for “using their time well by serving you and glorifying God”.

What do you think?

In Christ,
Nigel

Evangelism, Anglicare and Food

Dear friends, 

Keeping track of everything that happens in and around our church is a challenge. Our core business is to be a growing Christian community devoted to maturing in Jesus to the glory of God. But the way that works out day by day are multiplying all the time!

 One of the ministries that has at its heart the desire to connect with new people (to help us be growing) is our food ministry that runs out of our St Andrew’s building.

Every second Wednesday Anglicare send their Mobile Community Pantry (think big van full of non-perishable food items) to the church. Local people can then come and purchase a bag full of items for a few dollars. At the same time that is happening, there is a team of Church people who provide some perishable items that have been collected from local bakeries and supermarkets. And at the same time that is happening, there is a chance for people to sit and chat about what really matters in life.

 I caught up with Jason Moss about this opportunity this week and he said that every time he has been there he has about 5-6 really great spiritual conversations with people about what matters in life and he is able to share the forgiveness Jesus offers from the cross. There is a real opportunity here to be sharing the Gospel with our local community so they might hear for Jesus and be saved and join our Christian community.

One of the current problems is that there are just not enough people to have those conversations.

So here is the opportunity.

Would you like to join the team every second Wednesday to sit with locals and share the good news of Jesus with them? 

Or, some of the team who are currently working on logistics would be happy to join the conversation tables. Could you come and be involved in logistics? 

You would need to be available from 11am-2pm every second Wednesday but I can’t think of a better way to spend a few hours than to be taking the opportunity to share the faith with others. 

The next time the van will be around is Wednesday 26th September. If you are interested in being involved, contact a member of staff and we will arrange for a “taster” opportunity for you. 

There are also opportunities to assist on a Friday when food parcels are delivered to various homes throughout Airds. Leftover food is put into parcels and dropped to connected locals around the neighbourhood. Another great chance to make connections and issue invitations.

So please be in contact and we would love to unleash you into this great opportunity.

In Christ,
Nigel

The Importance of Safe Ministry

Dear Friends, 

In 1 Thessalonians 2 Paul describes his ministry as being like a mother and father to the Thessalonians. He cared for them like a mother cares for her children, loving them and sharing his life with them. He dealt with them like a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging them to live lives worthy of God. It is a remarkable and challenging image – not just for the way it describes a parents’ task but for the way it describes the ministry task. 

As parents (and aunties and uncles and grandparents) there are moments of joy and celebration and moments of instruction and discipline. The ministry task is the same and equally important, exciting and draining. 

This speaks of course to the expectations you might have as a church member.

The Anglican Church takes ministry seriously and works hard to ensure its staff and all church members who are involved in ministry to young people and the vulnerable are trained and held accountable for doing their work safely.

We share this commitment and eagerly encourage all our church members to do the Safe Ministry Course – it is simple, cheap, online and engaging. You can sit at home in your PJ’s and complete the most important course you will do this year! If you have never been trained or it is three years since your last training, please do the course. Find it at www.safeministry.training.

All our staff, parish council, ministry leaders and growth group leaders are bound by the Anglican Church’s protocol for behavior in ministry called Faithfulness in Service. You can find copies of it on the Safe Ministry Page of the church website. But safe ministry stretches beyond people to property and programs too.

Parish Council have responsibility for all our church sites including St Andrew’s, St Peter’s and other locations where ministry takes place and seek to ensure that the risks associated with using those spaces are managed well. They are currently working on upgrading all our policies in this area.

As a member of church, you are responsible to ensure you are trained in appropriate ways for the ministry you are doing – particularly with children where you must undertake safe ministry training and also obtain a Working With Children Check clearance. 

Additionally, we would love you to speak to the Wardens or ministry staff when you see things that are not quite right; that is, people acting strangely, buildings looking unsafe, or programs of concern. As a community we want to work together to have increasingly safe ministry through which we can honour and speak of Jesus to see the world won for Christ. 

In Christ
Nigel

Fathers! Be fathers!

Happy Father’s Day.
Being a Father is an immense privilege.
When you first hold a floppy little bundle of warm child in your hands you are overwhelmed with emotion but you don’t really have a clue what to expect. It’s usually not long before you find out and the first few weeks involve crying, pooing, feeding, holding, sleeping (repeat). And somewhere in the midst of all that noise and all those smells it dawns on you that this little bundle of smelly noise has been given to you by God. And therein lies the privilege.

God has entrusted a life to you. God has said here – have this – it’s yours to care for and love and grow. It’s a gift. And each one is a privilege. Just ask those without children or who have lost children and they will underline this reality all the more.

But we adults often act in such ways as to ignore the privilege. It is a sad and tragic symptom of our society today that so many children never get to experience Fatherhood. So many children grow up outside the ideal family. I know almost every single mum tries their darndest to grow their children and help them along in life and nurture them, but almost every one I know, in their most honest moments, wishes not only that they could have someone else to help and support them but that their children could have an involved and engaged dad.

A SMH article said: The National Fatherhood Forum manifesto claims that “fatherlessness and family breakdown are the major social problems of our society”. Steve Biddulph, in his best-selling book Raising Boys, writes that boys with absent fathers are more likely to be violent, do poorly in schools, and join gangs.

And this does not apply just to broken families but to families where Dad is disengaged or uninvolved. Some time ago Brodie came into our bedroom and I was sitting on the bed texting and Nicky was on the bed about to read her Bible with her computer open and he said, “Hello anti-social people”. Funny but a great warning. Dads can be present and absent all at the same time. Be careful with your phone time – don’t give your kids the impression that people outside the room are more important than those inside it.

John Piper writes helpfully, lifting the vision of fathers to our Heavenly Father:
We ought not be cowering or dumbfounded or paralyzed in the presence of our merciful Father; nor should we be flippant or careless or trifling or presumptuous in the presence of our majestic Father. But rather discover in the power of the Holy Spirit a bold brokenness, a reverential relaxation, a fearing familiarity, a trembling tenderness, an affectionate awe. Oh that our kids might find something similar in us dads.

In Christ
Nigel

Baptism Sunday – 18th November

Dear Friends,

At the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry, after his resurrection, he said to his disciples: 

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’” Matthew 28:19-20

One of the things that disciples of Jesus do is get baptised as a public and visible sign of the grace of God that is towards them in Jesus. Simply, people who are Christian get baptised.

For many people, we were baptised (christened) when we were children as we gathered with the church to hear the Word of God. And this is a good and right thing! As a child of Christian parents you are introduced to Jesus in the same way you are introduced to your grandparents. Jesus is not an optional extra, he is real and he is your King and you are his child who will get to know him more and more each day.

I was baptised as an infant and I thank God that all the time and effort I put into that special day serves as a memory of all the time and effort I put into being saved by Jesus. Perhaps you have the same memory! Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, Solis Christus!! Of course, baptism doesn’t save you but it is a moment to look back on and give thanks for as it reminds us of the grace of God. Somewhere I have a silver baptism mug. I was also baptised in a dress! The dress was used for our three girls as they too were baptised as infants. We spared our last born from wearing the dress!

For many others, you were not baptised as an infant and having become a Christian as an adult, perhaps you would like to be baptised. We would love to give you that chance.

On Sunday 18th November, we are holding a Baptism Sunday. This is an opportunity for anyone who has never been baptised to declare their faith publicly before their church and family and friends.

If you are keen to be baptised, please contact a member of staff or speak to your Growth Group leader. We would love to rejoice in the work of God in your life with you in November.

Some people wonder if they can get baptised a second time or wish they had the opportunity to be baptised as an adult. I respond to these enquiries by asking, “How many times did Jesus die for you?” I do understand the appeal of being able to declare your faith publicly and going through Confirmation is one option for people baptised as children.

I look forward to a great Sunday rejoicing in the grace of God.

In Christ
Nigel

 

Expect the Unexpected

Dear friends,

Imagine you are driving down the freeway towards home. It is a wet day but the roads are good and the traffic is light; having driven the road a 1000 times, you feel safe. The expectation of returning into the arms of loved ones wells up in side you and you can begin to feel that welcoming cup of tea in your hands.

Suddenly, as you cross a bridge, the road beneath you collapses and you are no longer driving towards home but plummeting towards death. You will never be held by those arms again. You will never savour a cup of tea again. Your time on earth has quickly come to an end.

This was reality for dozens of Italian citizens this week on the Morandi Highway in Genoa. The bridge they were travelling on collapsed. While some are arguing it was expected, those driving along the road clearly did not expect to meet God in that moment.

But this is what life is like. One minute you have a fully functioning right shoulder, the next, not so much. One minute you are driving home, the next, you are meeting Jesus.

And this is why you need to ensure that you have your relationship with God right.

Psalm 90 confronts our mortality. It starts with a reminder that God is eternal and we are those who will return to the dust. It moves on to acknowledge that every breath we take is in the hands of God and that our years pass like a flash in the pan, often filled with sorrow and trouble. Coupled with this is the reality that our years are (ironically) characterised by secret sins that God knows completely and that his wrath will be poured out on all such sins. The picture if that of hopelessness.

And yet, the Psalmist turns that hopelessness on its head saying, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” The call is to recognise every day as a divine gift and to turn to God, fearing him, and glorifying him, for in such things is wisdom. Wisdom is not found by sucking the marrow out of life or by seizing the day; wisdom is found by knowing the one who controls the days and life itself. By knowing God and knowing his favour.

The Psalm finishes with the assured hope that the favour of the Lord may rest upon us as we number our days.

Expect the unexpected: it’s a good motto for life. But in the midst of that life, cling to and trust in the mighty Saviour, Jesus. Then whatever happens, you’ll be safe and secure for eternity.

In Christ
Nigel

We’re all Searching for Something

Dear friends,

Over the past few weeks I have been listening to some podcast stories while walking the dog or doing exercise. It’s been a delight to delve into the world of creative imagination again but it has also made me sharply aware that the world we live in is lost and confused. Couple this with some recent hospital trips to visit people who are in the last moments of life and I have come to a fresh appreciation that many are searching for something that is clearly available in plain sight.

In Lif-e.af/ter we meet a man who desperately wants to reconnect with his dead wife. He gets through his days only by listening to old voice messages and cannot cope when they are disconnected. Through the story he is offered entirely fictional pathways of hope to find everlasting life and in his grief and pain he is more than willing to risk it all to take them.

In Limetown a whole community just disappears; 327 people, into thin air. An investigative reporter tries to tell the story of what happened and as she does she discovers a web of pain, deceit and lies that flow from a lost utopia. Survivors were promised a life that was to provide meaning and a connection to the afterlife but what they found was vacuous and dissatisfying.

In the hospital, I am reassured by a person I visit that no one can know what lies beyond and all that matters is that you’ll be reunited with loved ones later. Noting the irony that he somehow knows what he claims no one can know, I ask if he would like to meet the man who has been beyond and returned. He’s disappointed when I tell him the man’s name is Jesus.

Our temporary and finite existence as humans appears to me to be increasingly present in our minds at this time. Over time you can track movements in human thought through fictional writing (think George Orwell’s writing) and whether it is coincidence or not, I feel that this is the time when people are searching for something permanent. Searching for life beyond this life. Searching for something that can make sense of the way life is now.

That something is Jesus. And he is clearly available in plain sight. And yet, people ignore him.

Jesus promises permanence.
Jesus promises life after.
Jesus promises meaning in life.

The Jesus you know is the Jesus the searchers around us need to know.
He’s lord of the world even though the citizens of the world appoint their own kings and rulers.
He loves the world even though the citizens of the world ignore him.

If you’re a citizen of heaven, please take the opportunity to point someone to Jesus this week. Your friends are lost and confused without him and he’s available in plain sight.

In Christ
Nigel