Bible vs the World: Part 4

Dear friends,

This is the fourth piece in a series in which I want to explain why some Christian people are abandoning the authority of the Bible and why you shouldn’t.

What is the Bible? You can actually answer that question in a myriad of ways can’t you! It’s a book. It’s a religious book. It’s a collection of books. It’s the books of the church. It’s a book about God. It’s a book about Jesus. It’s a fairy story. It’s a lie.

It’s an age old question and one that has become more and more central to the life of the church in the 20th and 21st century. What I mean is that there are a variety of different versions of Christianity doing the rounds today that have departed from the mainstream and you can distinguish them based on their view of the Bible.

Mormons say the Bible is good but there is another book that’s better. The Roman Catholic Church says the Bible is good but not enough. Modern Liberal Christianity says the Bible was a good starting point for understanding but we must also listen to everything else.

The list could go on and we ought to note that the battle for the Bible has been going on for centuries but has become clearer in the last 50 years with the implications playing out in the church. As an example, I think it is fair to say that as a Christian your view on homosexuality and whether you support gay marriage will be defined by your view of the Bible and you can tell what someone’s view of the Bible is by their view on such things.

Ultimately, I am leading us to this question: who thought the Bible up, breathed it out and wrote it down and why?

For Christians through the ages, and certainly since the reformation, the evidence of the Bible itself gives ample reason to claim that the Bible came from, was spoken, by God. Indeed, the teaching of the church has been that the Bible was given, not sought and not invented. God was not at the mercy of human whims, but rather in and through the personalities of human authors, God spoke and God still speaks. So when we talk about the authority of the Bible, what is being asserted is that it has divine and human authorship so that we trust it as the Word of God in human speech.

Where does this idea come from? The clearest articulation is 2 Timothy 3:16-17:
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
‭‭But it also comes from the mouth of Jesus for whenever he quoted the Old Testament it is clear that he understood that he was speaking the very Word of God.

More next week!

In Christ
Nigel

Bible vs the World: Part 3

Dear friends,

This is the third piece in a series in which I want to explain why some Christian people are abandoning the authority of the Bible and why you shouldn’t.

How do you make decisions? Last week we looked at the way tradition, reason, experience and feelings impact the way the think and behave. We all make decisions based on a combination of those things with one of them usually dominating. But is that the best way? How should Christians make decisions? What authority should we lean on and submit to?

Were we to rely on tradition, reason, experience and feelings even in combination to make all the decisions we need to make, the chance we would get it right more often than not is pretty slim.

But with the Word of God, with the Bible, we have something better than all four when it comes down to deciding what to do and how to think. We have a revelation from God, who made the world and knows how it works at its best. We have a Word from God about how he has designed us and how we should respond to him and each other. So, for everyone, the Bible ought to be the first place we should go when it comes to working out stuff about God and life. In there God speaks!!

We should let the Bible have the final say on what we do and what we think even if that is different from what we’ve always done (tradition), even if it is different to what seems right to us (reason and logic); even if it is different to what I have seen work (experience) or doesn’t feel right (feelings).

What you will find is that the Bible corrects traditions, informs reason, and interprets experiences and feelings.

So when you need to work something out or know something, as Christian people today, we do as Christian people have always done and we turn to the Bible first to see what is the right thing to believe and do and we allow the Bible to have the final say about what to believe and how to behave even if tradition, reason, experience and our feelings would suggest otherwise.

As you read the Bible, you may not always be comfortable with what you find. But the problem is not with the Bible. The problem is with you (&me)!

Now you will note that I have made some pretty mighty assertions in this article and we’re going to move on to evaluate them. Can we really say the Bible is the authoritative Word of God and is it really still true? More on that next week!

In Christ,
Nigel

Bible vs the World: Part 2

Dear friends,

Have you been sucked into the philosophy of the day that the only real and good authority is in the individual? This is the second piece in a series in which I want to explain why some Christian people are abandoning the authority of the Bible and why you shouldn’t.

There is always the temptation to whittle the authority of the Bible down and it is not just because of the philosophy of the day of course. It could just be that our sinful hearts are not that keen on what the Bible says, or not that keen on being different to the crowd or not that keen on doing life differently to what our families have always done.

You can tell where you stand on the authority of the Bible by thinking about the way you make decisions. Analysing your decision making will tell you what is really in authority over your life. There a variety of influences on our decision making, but they can be grouped into 4:

Traditions – You decide to think or behave in a certain way because people you know and trust have always done it that way or believed that thing. (E.

g. You put the Vegemite in the fridge because your parents did!)

Logic/Reason – You decide to think or behave in a certain way because you have used the brain God gave you to work it out by gathering information making a choice. You might consult someone but in the end, you will decide using the brain and evidence you have. (E.g. you look at Vegemite and you note it is a yeast extract and because your yeast is kept in the fridge Vegemite goes in the fridge!)

Experience – You decide to think or behave in a certain way because of the experiences you have had in life. The pathway to truth is through lived experiences and you do what works. (E.g. you went to a friends house and they pulled the Vegemite out of the fridge and you thought it tasted awesome and therefore it goes in the fridge!)

Feelings – You decide to think or behave in a certain way because it feels right and thinking or doing things in that way made you feel happy or at peace. (E.g. the cylindrical shape of Vegemite just felt right in the cupboard so it goes in the cupboard!)

Now I hope you can see that no one really operates in one way to the exclusion of all others – but for most people, one pathway tends to dominate all the others. Which is it for you?

I hope you can see that there are problems with relying on any one of those as ultimate authority.
Tradition tends to pass down mistakes of the past.
Reason relies on our finite and damaged minds.
Experiences are open to interpretation and changeable from person to person.
Feelings change all the time based on health, weather, sleep, relationships and even the consumption of cheese on pizza!

Is there a better way? Let’s see next week!

In Christ
Nigel

Bible vs the World: Part 1

Dear friends,

Theologians and philosophers alike have noted that our liberal western education system (that has dominated educational thinking since WW2) aims to produce independence in young people so they will define themselves independently of others, autonomously deal with themselves and assume authority over themselves. In short, the education we have built, supported and put our children into is intrinsically encouraging them not to sit under authority, but to assume authority.

The 19th Century philosopher John Stuart Mill is often labelled as the father of this thinking. He believed that power is only rightly exercised over someone to prevent harm to others and the individual is sovereign over their own body and mind.

The fruit of all this is two things:
1.  the moral progressive chant that “if it’s not hurting anyone it’s OK”; and
2.  the death of God.

It ought not be surprising to us that the authority of the Bible is so severely challenged and even dismissed out of hand in this age. We have taught our world that the individual is authority and no other authority is necessary or warranted. In the world, God is dead.

So, when the Bible speaks of homosexuality as a distortion of human sexuality, people will say
“You Christians should stop messing with other people’s lives. Their behaviour is not hurting you so don’t make a fuss!

And, when the Bible speaks of life as sacred and therefore abortion as a tragic mistake, people will say and chant, “Get your rosaries off my ovaries” and “No woman can call herself free if she does not control her own body”.

Real people, with real feelings and real emotions and real problems and real families make these statements so we ought not demonise or dismiss them. What we ought to do is speak to them gently and kindly of the good life that flows from the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

For to me, the resurrection is the proclamation that Jesus exists and we matter. If there is a God then of course there is a higher authority and it goes without saying that we ought to conform to his mind for he has made us and our world. he is the author of life and nature and we ought to conform to his will as he knows what is best, being the source of our life, and our creator.

And this brings us to the start of this newsletter series. For centuries, Christians have believed there is an authority over us and that this authority reveals himself and his love for us in the Bible – the inerrant, inspired Word of God. Christians have believed that what the Bible teaches, God teaches and that naturally this ought to have absolute authority over all of God’s creation…. including…. us.

But these beliefs are being challenged. The authority of the Bible is at the heart of fractures in the Anglican Church and at the heart of your eternal destiny. If we don’t get this right, we lose everything.

In Christ
Nigel

GOD CAME DOWN

Dear friends, 

One of the great joys in my week is meeting with some of our church members who are studying at Bible College. Some are getting further equipped for work and others are training in preparation for a lifetime of ministry. Spending time studying the Bible is a great joy and highly recommended – watch out for our next God’s Big Picture Course so you can get a taste. 

I met with one of our young guys this week who is studying OT1 at Youthworks College and we came to one of my favourite parts of the whole Bible. Genesis 11:4-5: 

“Then they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.’ But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower the people were building.” 

Don’t you love the picture being painted here? Human people, desperate to make a name for themselves, urgently build a tall tower that will wend its way to heaven. It’s hard to imagine what they thought might happen when they got there; moreover, it appears from the text that they were going to somehow overthrow God and stop his judgement of them. 

So what did God do. Well, their tower was so small, their efforts at reaching him so mediocre, their efforts at exalting themselves over God so pathetic that God has to come down to see their tower. They are trying to reach God, defeat God, compete with God but their efforts at replacing God and his authority over them are absolutely useless. They prove to be ridiculous in the extreme. 

There is something in this for us. We can think that we know better than God, or think we can arrange our lives better than God can or even exert power over our lives in a way that beats God’s power. But all our efforts are pathetic and useless. It is ridiculous to think that you can compete with God for power or authority or love or kindness in this world. You think you can replace God and his authority over you with yourself and run your own life? Think again. You’ll mess it up and make things worse. 

Thankfully, this descent from heaven prefigures another great descent. The moment when the Lord Jesus Christ humbles himself to become man. Paul speaks of it in this way in Philippians 2:6-7: 

“Jesus Christ, who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” 

That amazes me every time. God came down to serve us. He came in Genesis to judge. He came in Jesus to serve and bring life eternal. He will come down again to do both. 

Are you ready for that moment? Or are you too busy building your own tower to realise that God is in charge around here? Don’t miss God’s gracious descent to earth. He’s called out to you to come and follow him. Are you? 

In Christ
Nigel

Triumphing at Life

Dear friends, 

What does it look like to triumph at life?

I walked past a three storey house on Sydney Harbour last Friday with a view to the harbour bridge and a Lamborghini in the garage. Are they triumphing at life?
I walked past a family a four swimming at the beach, enjoying the sun, laughing together and munching on some healthy sandwiches. Are they triumphing at life?
I walked past an old man, smiling as the sun rose over Bondi, enjoying his coffee, sitting alone. Is he triumphing at life?

What would triumphing in life look like for you?

Paul explains in Colossians 2 that Jesus triumphed at the cross!

“When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”

For Jesus, triumph in life came through his submission to the will of God, his subsequent suffering on the cross for us and work of defeating the enemy of his friends through that same death.

Triumph came not through gaining what life has to offer but by providing life to the full to those who would trust in him. True triumph comes by knowing Jesus in this life and receiving from him life to the full.

Easter is a celebration of this triumph. That at the cross, Jesus bore our sins in his body that we might die to sin and live for righteousness; that we might give away the pursuit of earthly things in this life and look ahead to the things of the next life.

There is so much that can disappoint in this life. There is nothing that will disappoint about the next if you trust in Jesus. Moreover, triumphing without Jesus in this life excludes you from triumphing with Jesus in the next.

Easter is the best time of the year to invite friends to hear this message. Who are you praying might come to know Jesus and join our church? Would that person be ready for an invite?

There are three opportunities for you over the next two weeks.

1. “Jesus is not who you think he is…” – Tuesday 9th, 7.30pm at St Peter’s Church Hall
2. Mark Drama – Saturday 13th (7.30pm) and Sunday 14th (6.30pm) at St Peter’s Anglican Primary School
3. Easter Church Services – See Flyer on the back!

I will be praying for you to have courage to invite. Please pray for me.

Prayerfully,
Nigel

Finding Hope

Dear Friends,

We have a new/old government in NSW! Hip, hip….!?

It has been fascinating to watch the wash up of the NSW State election. Many people are breathing a sign of relief and others, like my friend over lunch today, were shaking their head in disbelief; “how did Gladys do that?” Either way, it appeared to me throughout the week that although we carry a very healthy level of cynicism about government in this country, we also expect much of them. We place a lot of Hope in government. I want to declare that this hope is misplaced. If you think government is going to solve all the world’s issues you either misunderstand the world’s issues or are slightly crazy.

I read in Proverbs 11:7 this week:

Hopes placed in mortals die with them;
    all the promise of their power comes to nothing.

Daniel Migliore in his book “Faith Seeking Understanding”, writes that the Christian faith is an expectant or hope-filled faith. It eagerly awaits the completion of the creative and redemptive activity of God. In the language of Scripture and Apostles’ Creed, Christians hope and pray for the coming of God’s Kingdom (Matt 6:10), for the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting, for a new heaven and a new earth (Rev 21:1) and for the final triumph of God over death and mourning, crying and pain and all the forces of evil (Rev 21:1-4).

Can you see the difference between earthly hopes and heavenly ones? Christian hope is not limited to the fulfillment of the individual life. Christian hope is not limited to fulfillment in this life. Christian hope is not limited by suffering.

Christian hope insists that personal and communal fulfillment are inseparable and that life now prepares us for life eternal. Christians thus work and hope for the transformation of life in community. When by grace we rise above our own egocentricity, we realise that there can be no real life outside of relationships with others and that following Jesus must transform those relationships as much as it transforms ourselves.

From the cross flows love, forgiveness, reconciliation and partnership. These things do not terminate in the Christian person’s mind or heart. They must flow forth like a transforming stream that will impact everyone and everything around us. They must flow in such a way as to create an eternal impact as Jesus is shared with all those around us.

Additionally, as we live in this hope, there is no guarantee of quick or easy success. Christian hope remembers that Christ was crucified, that he suffered and that he did so willingly. It is in this sense that Christian hope takes a truly cruciform shape.

So who or what do you hope in? Are your hopes small, temporal and individual? Are they big, eternal and communal? Are they earthly or are they enduring forever?

In Partnership for God’s Glory

Nigel

Children or Youth Minister? or both?

Dear Friends,

We want to be a Growing Christian Community Devoted to Maturing in Jesus for the Glory of God. This vision guides our decision making as we continually shape our ministry. We have expanded our Growth Group program to provide more opportunities for spiritual growth and more effective pastoral care. We have started new ministries to reach parts of our community we have neglected. We are being creative in the area of mission with the Mark Drama coming up. But as I said on Vision Sunday, we need to provide some fresh focus in the area of children. Or should it be youth? Or should it be children and youth?

Mark Schroder became the Broughton Anglican College Chaplain at the end of 2015 and we have an exceptional team of people who lead our Youth and Children’s ministries – many of whom are home grown and have done or are doing some theological study! It is great to see. But even the best of volunteers need oversight and support to ensure that the ministry they are involved in continues to be effective and grow.

Over the last ten years there has been a lot of research around how churches keep growing. The four key strategy areas identified have been:

  1. Recapture focus on growing transformed disciple making disciples
  2. Strategic integration of newcomers into the church community
  3. Addressing the transition, retention and relocation of Christians
  4. Building effective children and youth ministries

As we analyse our church, we see that we have an effective integrated ministry for children and youth focussed on reaching and growing them in their faith and transitioning them to adult life. But we could be doing more to grow disciples.

For further insight into the way we think about Children’s and Youth Ministry you may wish to have a read of this paper that captures much of my thinking helpfully.

The youth minister who had the greatest influence on my ministry thinking often said, if you get your Creche and Kids Ministry right, you will have an awesome youth group and if you get youth group right you will have a growing church. The research and evidence indicate that he was right.

But what do you think?

We would love to hear feedback from church members about where you perceive our focus should be for our next staff member. Children? Youth? Children and youth? Something else. I’d love to hear your thoughts; please pass them on by clicking here.

Thanks for your partnership in Christ

Nigel

How to Vote

Dear friends,

The first election I ever voted in was for a Parish Council in an Anglican Church about a month after I turned 18 and it was super exciting. A friend who had just turned 22 was elected. Since then I have voted in all sorts of elections and I believe it is an important part of having my say on the use of our common resources and the direction of our organisations and country. I know some people take a contrary view and yet the beauty of Christian fellowship is that we can hold and discuss opposing views without assuming we hate each other. This is not often the case in the world! We need to model something different and knowing when to open your mouth and when to keep it closed is often the biggest challenge.

More than anything, the Scriptures urge us to pray regularly for those in power over us (1 Timothy 2:1-4). They need our prayers but we should also pray for ourselves and our responsibility for electing them. No one should ever tell you how you must vote, but I want to urge you to think carefully about how to vote.

We must recognise that each party has various standpoints on different issues and some proposed policies may make it more difficult to be Christian in the future or to hold to and teach a Christian worldview. Some policies may also adversely affect the vulnerable among us. So think carefully. Don’t assume that voting for a Christian party is best and don’t assume that voting for the party or person who will most advantage you is best. Don’t assume that voting for the party you voted for last time is best!

With this in mind, here are some issues to consider from a Christian perspective as you go to vote.

  1. Freedom of Religion – what are the party’s policies on what we can say, do, teach and uphold as Christians? This is particularly important when it comes to SRE in schools and choosing teachers in Christian schools. It’s worth asking your local members what they think.
  2. Life, Death and Medicine – what are the party’s policies on euthanasia and abortion? Will medical professionals be able to conscientiously object to the state policy or will they be compelled to toe the line? What philosophy does each party uphold when thinking about freedom and life? It’s worth asking your local members what they think.
  3. Environmental Theology – what are the party’s policies on the environment and what impact will their decisions have on us? It’s worth asking your local members what they think.
  4. Vulnerable People – what are the party’s policies on caring for the weak and vulnerable in our community? Are they concerned about indigenous welfare and people with disabilities? It’s worth asking your local members what they think.

These are just four of the issues worth considering both in March and May this year. No doubt there will be others close to your heart. I encourage you to think, ask, pray and decide – not voting the way you feel you should or the way you’ve been told to, but in order to pursue what is good for our society.

In Christ
Nigel

Annual General Meetings

Dear Friends,

The Annual General Meetings for our Church will be held this month.

St Andrew’s AGM – at 11.15am on Sunday 17th March at St Andrew’s.
St Peter’s AGM – at 12.30pm on Sunday 31st March at St Peter’s.
Combined AGM – no earlier than 1.30pm on Sunday 31st March at St Peter’s.

At the AGM we will elect people for the office of Parish Council (St Peter’s AGM), Warden (St Andrew’s & St Peter’s) and Nominators (Combined AGM).

Wardens are actively involved in ensuring the proper management of property and finances on at least a weekly basis. They also assist in managing ministry and staff. We will elect two wardens for St Peter’s and two for St Andrew’s. Nominations are open now and should be in writing via letter or email to me.

Parish Council make decisions on how money and property should be spent and used in light of the church strategic plan. They also assist the minister and staff in directing the ministry.  We will elect a Parish Council of 3, 6 or 9 people. Nominations are open now and should be in writing via letter or email to me.

Parish Nominators are the people who select a new Senior Minister for the Parish if the current one leaves. We will elect 5 Parish Nominators. Nominations are open now and should be in writing via letter or email to me.

I ask you to pray that God will continue to raise up Gospel hearted people to serve us.
But the most important thing we will do at this year’s AGM’s will be to continue our significant conversations about vision, finances and strategy.

This is more than a meeting; it is a shared opportunity to think, talk and pray. It is an opportunity for you to ask questions and become more involved in the decision making at church. Often, younger people skip these meetings thinking they are not relevant or not for them. I urge all of us to see that this is a meeting for us all.

I’m excited about all God is doing among us and hope you are too.

In Christ
Nigel