This is the latest blurb that is published on the front of our weekly bulletin
When we first were locked down in March 2020, it seemed right for our church to spend some time in sermons that looked at the comforting word of God in the book of Revelation.
Now in the current era in the Covid-19 pandemic, there are new fears amongst us, as we consider what life will be like when restrictions begin to be released within our community, and what it will mean for life together.
Yet, the message for our church today is the same message that Jesus gave to his seven churches in the first century, as is written in Revelation chapters two and three.
To one of those churches, in Philadelphia, Jesus said, “you have little strength, yet you obeyed my word and did not deny me.” (Revelation 3:8)
And because of their great perseverance at that time, Jesus said, “I will protect you from the great time of testing that will come upon the whole world to test those who belong to this world.” (3:10)
Jesus told them that he would be with them and all Christians during that time of great testing in the first century, and his message to them was simple and powerful: “I am coming soon” (3:11).
The church in Philadelphia endured that great time of tribulation experienced by Christians in the first century, and they did so knowing that Jesus would sustain them as they confidently awaited his return.
The difficulties that we face today are different to theirs, for our hardship is shared with all citizens of NSW, not just Christians, and our enemy is a virus, not a political tyrant.
Yet, as people who know the Lord Jesus and who take comfort in his love, we can endure these hardships as we eagerly await his return on the final day when all who trust him will enjoy the new creation with him.
(Image credit: Dave Shea via Flickr)
As our Premier unveils the roadmap to freedom from lockdown, we now live in hope that it won’t be long before we can gather again in-person for church and other aspects of life.
As we race towards 70% and 80% double-vaccination targets, it’s tempting to wish away these troubling times, treating these days as if we are just waiting in a supermarket checkout queue.
Yet, as hard as they can be, the Lord has given us special opportunities during lockdown to grow in our own dependence on God, and to also make the most of sharing our hope with those around us who are living in fear and uncertainty.
Thanks to the wonder of modern technology we can now invite people to join us for church, without them even needing to leave home!
By sharing the Facebook Live event with your friends, and deliberately inviting them to watch it with you in real time, it lets them dip their toe into our church life, and to also have an opportunity to see and hear the preached word for themselves.
This is only one of the many ways in which we can bring outsiders inside, even though it’s not quite the same as being there, together, in-person.
But other benefits exist for us, like the special opportunity to use our unusual schedules and lack of travel to come together for Morning Prayer to read the Bible and pray with others of all ages and stages at zoom.jamberooanglican.com each morning at 7:30am.
Yet, the greatest gift of this time is a fresh reminder to every person that they are not in control, and that if we fail to depend on our creator God, then we will face an eternity without redemption or purpose.
Covid-19 is a wake-up call, and, we pray, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to shake up the world so that all would stop and consider eternity.
Let’s not wish this time away… let’s pray that Covid would lead many people to Christ!
(CREDIT: Filip Patock via Flickr.com)
It’s always a courageous move to review a book that you haven’t yet finished, but with that caveat, I’d love to encourage you to read with me the latest book of the month, ‘Gentle and Lowly’, by Dane Ortlund.
I’ve been reading a chapter most mornings before I get out of bed, and I’ve been thankful for the insights I’ve been given into the heart of Jesus.
Yet, this book is not merely a textbook on theology, as valuable as that is: it’s a book that seeks to show from the Scriptures what has been revealed about Jesus’ emotions and attitudes to us, and how he acts upon them for us.
The introduction puts it this way: “This is a book about the heart of Christ. Who is he? Who is he really?”
The reason the author asks this question for us is deeply practical, for he says that:
“this book is written for the discouraged, the frustrated, the weary, the disenchanted, the cynical, the empty. […] It is written, in other words, for normal Christians… for sinners and sufferers. How does Jesus feel about them?”Page 15
Then, chapter by chapter, the author takes a bit of the Bible or a particular aspect of teaching about Jesus, and then looks at what this says about the heart of Jesus.
The reason Ortlund takes us on this journey is that he wants us to be aware of not only Jesus’ atoning work for our sinfulness, “but also of his longing heart amid your sinfulness.”
It is a deeply pastoral book for us as we stop and think about who Jesus really is, and what he thinks of us, and how he’s acted for us and continues to show his wonderful love for us.
So, grab a copy, and maybe read a chapter a day, and come with us on this journey to better know the true heart of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.
PS – grab a copy by visiting our friends at The Wandering Bookseller
The terrorist attack in Afghanistan at Kabul Airport were a brazen show of aggression by ISIS that has claimed many lives, including at least 12 soldiers from the United States.
After the attack, President Biden said, “To those who carried out this attack, as well as anyone who wishes America harm, know this: we will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay.”
Contrast this with the words of Jesus, who said, “love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!” (Matthew 5:44), and “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14-15)
This is what makes the Sermon on the Mount so counter-cultural, so radically different to the ways of the world.
There is no doubt that the actions of those associated with the Taliban are evil, and that it is right to use force to defend those under attack and abuse.
Yet, if we are to follow the lead of the ultimate king of kings, the one who rules over presidents, then we should be praying that members of the Taliban repent of their sins and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Then, the great miracle is that Jesus will forgive them for whatever atrocities they may have performed, and will love them and adopt them into his family.
It’s not that this forgiveness is without cost: Jesus gave his very life so that enemies like you, me, and repentant members of the Taliban, might be saved from the anger that God rightly had for us.
As we are broken-hearted at the hideous actions of the Taliban, let us pray that the Holy Spirit might lead them to come to Jesus and ask for forgiveness… which we know he will graciously give.
(Photo credit: Matt Johnson via Flickr)
It is difficult to appreciate how hard it must be to have served in the defence forces in Afghanistan, or to be in their family, only to see the tragic fall to the Taliban this week.
Our soldiers sought to protect and defend a nation from a group of people who claim inspiration from the Koran to drive them to abuse women and use violence to persecute people of a different faith.
It is a sad reminder that life on earth will never deliver true joy and peace whilst sin continues to impact every part of life.
We must set our eyes on things above, focusing ourselves on the life that is to come as we await the return of Jesus.
Yet, in the meantime, it is right for us to defend those who suffer abuse at evil hands, and to take comfort that justice and judgement is coming one day.
For the members of our allied forces, is may feel that the last twenty years have been in vain, and yet in the process of seeking justice and protecting the innocent, there has been a demonstration of God’s just character.
However, we must be reminded afresh that life on earth will never be like heaven, and so we should continue to love and serve as we point people to the hope that is found only in Christ in his kingdom.
Earthly kingdoms will rise and fall, but the kingdom of God will not pass away.
The victory of King Jesus on the cross, shown with his powerful resurrection from the dead, is both the means of and the evidence for the power of God and our confidence in the life that is to come.
Let us pray for Afghanistan, and let us pray for the speedy return of Jesus, who will come to judge the living and the dead.
(Photo credit: Silvia Alessi via Flickr)
People tend to have a love-hate relationship with change. Change can be marvellous, like taking a weekend away, trying different and exciting foods, or starting a new hobby!
But not being able to see family, having plans cancelled, and increasing screen time by over 400% can be really difficult changes, to say the least.
For sudden, uncomfortable changes we can often be left feeling dizzy, scared, and uncertain.
Changes like these can often reveal what we really value dearly in life, especially when the things you care for are turned upside down.
Psalm 102 shows us where to look when we are feeling like our life has been turned upside down.
The Psalmist begins by lamenting that their life is in ruin. They are distressed, withering, and lonely. But after their lament, there is a shift. The Psalmist turns their focus from the perilous situation at hand and onto the attributes of God.
One of those attributes is God’s unchanging nature:
“But you are always the same; you will live forever.” Psalm 102:27
Our God is unchanging in his personality, purposes, and promises.
What a great comfort that is for us all! When our life is in a storm of change, we can rely on our steadfast, unchanging rock.
In our changing world, there is nothing more secure than our unchanging God.
I would encourage us all, as I continue to remind myself, that we should focus on this precious attribute of God and plant our feet firmly on solid ground.
Day by day, moment by moment, turn your eyes to our marvellous saviour.
There is no place sweeter or more secure.
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Hebrews 13:8
I don’t know about you, but I find it really easy to sit on my phone during lockdown.
Everything can just seem to be down and out. Social media, Netflix, and YouTube are easily entertaining comforts that take me away from the stress and worry we all feel.
However, my temptation is that these comforts will creep in and consume all my time! They not only entertain me, but can also mislead me.
They can turn my focus away from God and the needs of others and twist it onto myself.
In Jude’s letter to the saints, he appeals for the believers to “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered” to them. (Jude 3)
For at that time there were false teachers creeping in and perverting the marvellous grace of God. (Jude 4)
Our temptation in the grief and disconnection of lockdown can be that our comforts, like that of the false teachers, can creep in and mislead us.
They too can act as a concealed danger, a misleading guide, and a false hope.
Whilst these comforts can be amazing blessings, we need to be cautious, especially during the weariness of lockdown, when we let anything else other than the word of God permeate and resound as the consuming voice in our minds.
Jude’s antidote to the false teachers was that the believers would guard themselves in the love of God by building themselves up in the faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, and waiting for the mercy of Jesus which leads to eternal life. (Jude 20-21)
My prayer is that during this weary time we would all keep ourselves in the love of God, guarding ourselves by reading God’s word, praying in the Holy Spirit, and patiently waiting on our Lord.
Our greatest comfort is knowing that it is ultimately God who loves us so dearly that he will “keep you from stumbling and present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Saviour,… be glory, dominion, and authority, now and forever. Amen.” (Jude 24-25)
Praise be to our God who keeps us in his great love!
Last Friday night’s Olympic opening ceremony was quite unlike any other in history, which is no surprise given that it was performed in front of a stadium crowd of less than a thousand people, all of whom were wearing masks.
It felt more like a funeral than a festival, with a greater focus on death and isolation than on life and community.
At the heart of the night was the singing of the atheist anthem, ‘Imagine’, where the ‘congregation’ was encouraged to conceive of a world without possessions, war, and religion.
Instead of enjoying a moment of unified and triumphant humanity, there was sober reflection upon the disappointment that Covid-19 has brought to the Olympic festival.
The world normally rejoices in the ‘higher, faster, stronger’ mantra of the Olympic spirit, but this year humanity was frail and weak in the face of the coronavirus.
If Satan’s aim in life is to distract people from the realities of life and death, then Covid-19 is the last thing in the world he’d want.
For as C. S. Lewis once noted, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
The global suffering of SARS-COV-2 is a much-needed wakeup call to a world that has been numb from prosperity and triumphalism.
The pain of Covid has rained on the parade of atheistic humanism and it has created fertile ground for speaking of Christ Jesus and the one-and-only way to find certainty for eternity.
As we pray for relief from Covid, let us also pray that this crisis might lead many people to know Christ Jesus, who is the greatest human of all time, whose victory over sin and death brought us peace with God.
(Credit: France Olympique via Flickr)