This is the latest blurb that is published on the front of our weekly bulletin

A resolution worth keeping

I’m not much one for new year’s resolutions. If I happen to find the bit of paper at the end of the year it reads more like a catalogue of things I haven’t done than a list of achievements with ticks next to it.

A chirpy radio announcer was broadcasting what a wonderful time it is to not just make a plan for 2018, but to get out those 10 year plans and visions we have and tweak and adjust them for the year ahead. I must have lost that bit of paper too!

Although ever an optimist, even I have learnt from the experience of un-met expectations that perhaps it’s better simply not to set yourself up for failure. Deep down we all know that come the 1st of January we don’t magically become new people – this year we will be pretty much the same people as last year.

But I have an exception. There is one goal it’s always good to have on a list somewhere. No matter how many times we might have failed. It’s good to keep plugging away at it. So here it is:

News Years Resolution 2018
# Read the Bible more

There are lots of reasons why this is a good goal, but one compelling reason is simply the thought of not having it as a goal. What happens if we just gave up on this one, if we gave in to those fears of failure, those “it’s better not to try” thoughts? We might say, “Well I tried that last year and my devotions with God didn’t get any better.” But here is the thing: imagine if we hadn’t tried at all. We might not have gotten any better, but if we don’t care anymore, we will definitely get a lot worse!

But I am sure you do care. So why don’t you ask God to help you this year get to know him better through the reading of his Word. And that’s a prayer God couldn’t be happier to answer for you!

Simon Chaplin

Good news from twitter

(CREDIT: Takashi Hososhima via

Twitter now seems to be the preferred method of communication for at least one of our world leaders.

With a limit of 280 characters – it is difficult to say much – let alone explain anything complex. Who knows what might happen if the leader of another country takes something the wrong way?

God’s communication with us – the Bible – stretches to more than three and a half million characters.

But what would that be if we tweeted it? Let me try:

God creates the world We rebel God sends his Son Jesus into our world to be born in a stable + grow up to die on a cross but that’s not the end He defeats death + is raised to life offering every1 freedom from death. In short – a baby born in a shed saves the world #canyoubelieveit

That’s the sweetest tweet you’ll ever hear – but this Christmas, why not get the full picture by reading the Gospel of Luke in a modern version of the Bible. It won’t take you long.

Happy Christmas!

Dr Glenn N Davies
Archbishop of Sydney

A time to ask who Jesus is___?

“Jesus is _____.”  What goes in the blank?

This is a really good question for any time of the year, but especially at Christmas.

Christmas is a time when Jesus is spoken of more than normal in our society, but the answers people give are often far from the truth.

That’s one of the reasons we’re running a special campaign next March when we’re teaming up with Anglican churches from Ulladulla up to Sutherland, and from the Southern Highlands and Campbelltown across to the Illawarra.

We’ll be helping people consider the most important question facing the world: who is Jesus?

The churches of our wider region will be joined by all the students of Moore College, as well as receiving support from Anglicare.

Jesus himself once asked those around, “Who do you say I am?” (Mark 8:29), and so we want to help people with their answers to Jesus’ identity.

In our own, immediate area, we’re going to be running three days’ of public meetings at the new Shellharbour Civic Centre, at both 11am and 7pm on the 20th, 21st and 22nd of March 2018.

Our special speaker will be Ben Pfahlert, and over those three days he will be challenging the people from Dapto down to Gerringong and out to Albion Park and Jamberoo about who Jesus really is.

We’re also going to have three special training and prayer nights in the lead up, on Tuesday nights at 7pm in the Civic Centre, on the 30th January, the 13th of February and the 13th March, and we’d really love you be there to join with Anglicans from our region to pray that we’d be fired up to talk about Jesus.

So, put the dates in your diary, and start praying for great conversations with people who need to know Jesus.

And as we join together for this campaign, we pray that we’ll help many people know how to finish the sentence, “Jesus is _____.”

Jodie McNeill

Does Christmas bring you joy?

Joy to the World is what Christmas is about – delightful, overflowing joy. Trying to write about this kind of joy is like trying to empty a swimming pool with a teaspoon. Joy is hard to write about because it keeps bubbling up and over and can’t be contained by a few words on a page. It needs to be shared, or shouted, or best of all SUNG!

Singing carols is the bubbling over of the most joyous event history has ever seen. Carols can take us into that silent night; to the wisemen and a star of wonder; to the shepherds while they watched their flocks, while the heavens exploded with the first noel; then to Royal David’s city, where the most amazing thing happened:

He came down to earth from heaven,

Who is God and Lord of all,

And his shelter was a stable,

And his cradle was a stall.

Within these few words the most precious truths of all are contained – it’s hard not to want to sing them! God himself, in the person of JESUS came down to save us and was found in the most humble of places.

But perhaps you come to this Christmas time burdened, weary and fearful and this joy seems to have passed you by – and you wouldn’t be the first. Maybe life is a little dark and you are wondering where light can be found? Perhaps the writer of O little town of Bethlehem was thinking of you:

Yet in thy dark streets shineth

The everlasting light;

The hopes and fears of all the years

Are met in thee tonight.

There was certainly one person thinking of you on that Christmas night. God himself sent Jesus to you so all our hopes and fears might be met in him and that you might know something of this great joy to the world.

Simon Chaplin

Thanks a lot!

Do you take the time to say “thank you” to God?

At times of relief from danger, we thank God a lot.

But what about at the normal times of life when things can be fairly mundane?

If we are not thankful to God for what he has done, then perhaps it is because we don’t fully appreciate how much he has done for us?

In the letter to the Colossians, Paul outlines what the life ‘worthy of the Lord’ looks like.

He uses four phrases, which say that Christians should be bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power, and giving joyful thanks (Colossians 1:10-12)

Thankfulness is at the heart of being a Christian.

But what should our thankfulness be like?

Verse 12 says that it should be “joyful”.

Show me a person who lives a life worthy of the Lord, and I’ll show you a person who joyfully gives thanks to the Father.

Do you say thanks to God at dinner time?

Well, the well-known poet G. K. Chesterton thinks we shouldn’t stop there.

You say grace before meals.

All right.

But I say grace before the play and the opera,

And grace before the concert and pantomime,

And grace before I open a book,

And grace before sketching, painting,

Swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing;

And grace before I dip the pen in the ink.

How will you thank God, this week?

Jodie McNeill

Remembering the Bible

Learning things by rote is not very popular anymore. It has largely been dropped from school curriculums as an outdated method of teaching.

Learning things deeply is far better than simple parroting off the facts. By nature it is also repetitious and hardly the funnest form of education.

However this has impacted the Christian’s practise of learning memory verses by rote.

Perhaps we are wary of a false piety, being like the Pharisees. More likely we are simply wary of the hard work!

But our kids ministries have worked to hang on to this practise and with good reasons.

If the motivation to learn something off by heart is simply to get good marks, its benefits will always be limited. But the Christian has the motivation to know God, so this discipline can be a wonderful aid to this. The mental effort to remember a verse will mean that you are forced to reflect on these words for a lot longer than if you just read them… you will have to think about each word multiple times.

Once memorised, these words stay with you… at work, on a bus, driving to friends… the verse pops into your mind and you can reflect on them again.

Knowing some key verses from the Bible is really helpful in integrating your knowledge together.

There is a real delight when reading one part of the Bible and realising that the same words are used in another.  It can help you get a bigger picture of who God is and what he has done.

John Piper often speaks of how important scripture memorisation is in maintaining joy in Christ, particularly in times of doubt or trouble. It’s at these times God can use the scriptures we know to speak directly to our heart.

So next time a verse encourages you, why not have a go at remembering the verse, and that encouragement will stay with you, and perhaps you can use it to encourage someone else too?

Simon Chaplin

Slavery that brings freedom

If I asked you to create a picture of freedom, then what would you draw?

Maybe you might paint a prison door opening, or the shackles of a slave being released?

Or perhaps you might draw a picture of a person running down an endless beach, or someone standing at the edge of a giant canyon with arms raised high?

Some businesses try to use the idea of freedom to convince us to book a holiday, or apply for a loan, or purchase a car, or gamble in a lottery… even though these things often end up enslaving us.

The Bible tells us how we can become truly free… and the method is surprising.

It’s summed up beautifully in the words of our Anglican Prayer Book, which say to God that his “service is perfect freedom.”

It’s really quite odd to say that we can gain freedom from becoming servants, and yet, the New Testament writers kept telling us that they were servants (or more literally ‘slaves’) of Christ.

In fact, we read this phrase from the hand of Paul, James, Peter and Jude, who regarded this concept as being at the very core of the Christian identity.

But this should come as no surprise to us: Jesus said of himself in Mark 10:45 that “even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

So as we serve each other, let us enjoy the freedom that comes from being a slave of Christ.

After all, when Jesus is our slave master, we experience a love that came at the very expense of his life.

And so, as we gather to serve each other, let us do so as people who joyfully consider God’s service as perfect freedom.

Jodie McNeill.

What does ‘yes’ mean?

(Photo credit: State Farm via

This week we learnt that over 60% of adults who returned the postal survey indicated that they were in favour of changing the definition of marriage to allow same-sex couples to marry.

Our Archbishop Glenn Davies says he accepts the outcome of the marriage postal plebiscite, but warns that there must be freedom of speech, conscience and belief for Christians and others who disagree:

“Now that the outcome is that the ‘yes’ vote is the majority vote on behalf of the Australian people – as I said to the Prime Minister 18 months ago on behalf of other religious leaders that if that’s what the Australian people want then we live in a democracy and I recognise and acknowledge that outcome.”

“That doesn’t mean I will change my views. I will still continue to teach that marriage is, in God’s plan, between a man and a woman. But I acknowledge that once the parliament passes those laws, that will no longer be the law of the land.

“The consequences then are – what happens to people who want to hold to that truth? It is one thing to say, for example, we don’t have laws against adultery in this country, but I still want to say adultery is wrong – it is immoral. I want to be able to uphold that teaching without the law saying to me – no, it is not illegal, so you can’t say that.

“At the moment that’s not the case, but the way in which we have seen in other Western Democracies, the coercive effect of changing the definition of marriage has been to restrict people’s ability to hold a different point of view. And one of the outstanding points of democracy and human dignity – is the freedom of speech, the freedom of faith and the freedom of conscience.

Therefore what the Parliament needs to do now, in legislating for same-sex marriage, is to do so in a way which protects people’s liberties.”


A new name for small groups

(CREDIT: woodleywonderworks via Flickr)

Healthy small groups have always been an important part of a healthy church.

These groups have typically been called lots of different names: bible study groups, connect groups, life groups, growth groups, and so on.

But now we’re going to introduce a new name for our groups that will help us clarify why they exist.

We’re going to call them ‘serve teams.’

The reason why they’re called ‘teams’ is that they are a group of people who are connected, even when they don’t meet. 

So, in the same way that a person is a part of a cricket team, even when they’re not playing cricket, we will all be part of a serve team, even when the group isn’t meeting.

And the reason we’re calling them ‘serve’ teams is that they are teams that are dedicated to doing what Christians do: serve. 

Jesus said that he came not to be served but to serve, and we, too, follow his lead.

In fact, in Ephesians chapter 4, we read that God has given people to his church in order to speak his word, so that all Christians will be equipped for service.

And, so, the reason these teams exist is to serve: to serve each other in the team, as members love and build each other up.

And they exist to serve our church as we get involved in what happens in the life of our church.

And they exist to serve our community, as together the members think of ways to bring the gospel of Jesus to our world.

What’s more, as we serve, together, as a team, it will bring us closer together, as a team.

And in order to serve, we’ll keep doing what our small groups have always done: prayerfully studying God’s word, so we’re equipped to serve, to God’s glory.

Jodie McNeill.

Faithfulness in failed families

(CREDIT: Heidi via

Can you imagine what it would be like to have a bad reputation before you were even born?

That’s what life was like for the Old Testament character, Jacob.

God told his mother, Rebekah, that the twin sons in her womb would be at war with each other.

After their birth, the tension also grew between the parents, as each favoured a different boy.

In the end, Jacob lived up to his reputation, as he grasped the birthright from his older brother, and deceived his dying father to give him his final blessing.

And this made his brother, Esau, so angry that he wanted to kill him.

It would be hard to find a family that was more dysfunctional!

And yet, it reminds us that God uses imperfect people and imperfect families to achieve his plans.

As Jacob fled from his brother, God reached down to Jacob in a dream.

In this, God repeated the promise he made to Jacob’s father and grandfather.

Jacob had done nothing to deserve this favour and kindness from God.

It was like that back then, but it’s still the same today.

God makes the first move in our own lives when he draws us back to him.

We might boast of our wise decision to follow Jesus, but it’s really all from God.

As we read in the Bible in Romans chapter 5, it was “whilst we were sinners that Christ died for us.”

And two sentences later, we read that “when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him.”

You might feel there’s no way that God could accept you.

You might think your life is too sinful to be saved by God.

Yet, our hope lies in this: While we were still sinners Christ died for us.

Jodie McNeill.