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

The pursuit of happiness

CREDIT: Mitchell Joyce, via Flickr.

It is hard to claim that pyramid-shaped tea-bags have added much to the sum of human happiness.

They’re just another part of our society’s never ending quest for better and more luxurious things. The continual rise of technology has made products, once considered only for the elite, now available to everyone – the pyramid tea bag one such example! I’m not sure anyone expected that particular product to create a wave of new found happiness. But what of more sought after technologies? With the ability for more people to gain access to these goods we might have expected a steady rise in our society’s general happiness.

However as levels of wealth and technology have risen, levels of happiness have gone down. Technology was meant to bring a higher standard of living with less work. However all we have found is that the goal posts have moved. We don’t just want a higher standard of living, we want a higher standard of living than others. In other words we take for granted luxuries that were only dreamed of a generation ago, and we want more. We are now working more and are dissatisfied with what we have.

This should come as no surprise to Christians (although we too find ourselves caught up in this cycle). However what may come as a surprise is that any pursuit of happiness as an end goal, seems to lead to a decrease in happiness. The more we chase happiness, the more elusive it is. We often wish this goal for others with sentiments like ‘whatever makes you happy’, or  ‘I’m happy if you’re happy.’ However this goal in the end is simply counter-productive.

That’s because God has made us for a greater goal than happiness.

We are created to love and serve him, and to love and serve others. And a wonderful truth emerges here – the more we forget about focusing on ourselves and our own happiness, the happier we become.


Praying for the PM

In the midst of a very messy few weeks in Federal Politics, our nation has ended up with a Prime Minister who trusts in Jesus as his Lord and Saviour.

In his maiden speech, Scott Morrison spoke of his “personal faith in Jesus”, noting his commitment to his faith at an early age.

We can be thankful to God that he has given us a man to lead our nation who himself follows Jesus as his own leader.

Nonetheless, it is a challenge for any Christian in public office to faithfully follow his own beliefs whilst serving a nation full of diverse faith positions.

Whilst he must not divorce his own heartfelt commitment to the teachings of Jesus, he must also lead politicians who represent a wide range of constituents.

Morrison has said “My personal faith in Jesus Christ is not a political agenda.”

Furthermore, he said that for him, “faith is personal, but the implications are social—as personal and social responsibility are at the heart of the Christian message.”

This will be a real challenge for our new Prime Minister.

We must pray for him that he will have great wisdom as he seeks to be a faithful Christian man in a very public office.

For, as he observed a decade ago, “it has become fashionable to negatively stereotype those who profess their Christian faith in public life as ‘extreme’ and to suggest that such faith has no place in the political debate of this country.”

We must pray that Mr Morrison would continue to profess his Christian faith in public life, and that he would have many opportunities to commend the truth of Jesus to those he speaks to privately and also in the public sphere.


Contentment in all seasons

CREDIT: Photo 30miller, via Flickr.

We are a people who are not used to contentment. August is too cold & windy. February is too hot & not breezy enough. Our family members are too pushy. Our friends don’t support us enough. The HSC is too hard. There isn’t enough homework in primary school. It’s about time the National Energy Guarantee is coming! Who cares about emissions, everything is meaningless!

We can all complain on any given day. And sometimes it’s deserved. Some seasons are really hard and difficult. Declines in health, death, relationship issues, stress from work or study, division in our churches. But, there are also great seasons in life where there is great joy, fulfilment, and one feels carefree.

But no matter the season, we are called to be content. Paul has amazing wisdom here saying:

I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:11-13

I am reminded of Horatio Spafford who was able to write the beloved hymn It is Well with My Soul in the face of great tragedy, losing his four daughters at sea. Though I hope no one in our congregations will face such tragedy, it is my prayer that in the face of all hardship we will be a people who will rely on the Lord to give us strength and we will reach for contentment.

We are blessed. For “whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father” (James 1:17). Let’s be a church that lives in thankfulness to the Good Lord and contentment.


Romans Eight Twenty-eight

CREDIT: Photo Chad Burnett, via Flickr.

Once there was a man who went to prison, and as he lay in bed on his first night, he heard someone call out, “49”, which was then followed by laughter from all the other prisoners.

Then another prisoner called out, “26”, which was followed by even more laughs.

When the new prisoner asked what was happening, he was told that the inmates have heard every joke so many times that they’ve given each joke a number to make things simpler.

So, the new inmate called out, “23”, but nobody laughed.

When he asked why his joke didn’t get a laugh, they said, “it’s the way you told it.”

Some verses in the Bible are so well known that we just need to say the reference in order to bring to mind the word of comfort and assurance.

The reference “Romans 8:28” is one of them:

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

When it feels like life is spinning out of control, we must remember, “Romans 8:28”.

When we are uncertain about the future, we can tell each other, “Romans 8:28”.

When things happen that are hard to accept, we can assure each other by saying, “Romans 8:28”.

We need to remember that God works in all things for the good of those who love him, and we are right to find great comfort in this assurance.

We never know what is in store for us, but we must always remember that nothing takes God by surprise.

And you can be sure that “Romans 8:28” will be a great source of comfort and assurance, no matter how you tell it.


Blessings from hard things

Throughout life I’ve realised that it’s often when I’m doing the hardest things that it’s the time that I’m growing the most.

It might be carrying a 23kg pack on a five-day, 50km walk around the exposed wilderness of Wilsons Promentory.

Or, it might be learning to stand up on my mid-life-crisis longboard, without causing further damage to my middle-aged joints and muscles.

But one time in my life that was very hard but very rewarding was my four-year stint at Moore Theological College.

This is the place I was pushed harder than I could imagine to know as much about God, his world, and myself through the studying of the Bible and the writings of the great ones who have so-helpfully grappled with the queen of the sciences.

Yet, it wasn’t just the study that was hard. The four years of learning and living in community forged friendships through the trials we faced, together.

I praise God that the time in College was one where we were all supported by godly and caring faculty and staff, who always sought to help us grow in every way, in preparation for our future opportunities in word ministry.

It was tough, but it was good tough.

Moore College is one of the finest places on the planet to study theology in a community that cherishes God’s word as his true and reliable revelation, and we need to keep praying and supporting this important ministry.

Our church benefits from this every day as our trained ministers stand on the foundations learnt from the study at Moore, and as we seek to then teach others what we, ourselves, have learnt.

As we celebrate Moore College Sunday, let’s keep praying that Moore College keeps equipping men and women for mission and ministry.


Anglicans Aid Drought Victims

The Archbishop of Sydney’s Anglican Aid has launched an appeal to help communities hit by the crippling drought in Western New South Wales.

The public appeal will raise funds to provide resources to churches in North and Western New South Wales, which are already dealing with requests for practical support for families impacted by what, in many places, is the worst drought since 1900.

99 percent of the state is now officially in drought and although the New South Wales government has launched an assistance package for farmers, the Vicar-General of the Armidale Diocese, the Rev Brian Kirk says “the suddenness of this drought has caught many by surprise.”

Mr Kirk says any help will be much appreciated by rural families.

He particularly has asked Christians to pray for rain, for farming families and businesses in rural communities, for farmers to make wise decisions and that Christians will not lose their faith in God.

Mr Kirk says clergy and church members are proactively offering assistance to farming families by providing food and clothing vouchers and visiting to provide practical and pastoral support.

Among the practical assistance is free labour to assist with the feeding of stock, maintenance and everyday chores as well as providing free drought dinners.

Funds donated through the Anglican Aid appeal will be disbursed through the Anglican Dioceses of Armidale and Bathurst which cover much of the most heavily drought-affected areas.

For more information about how to give to this appeal, visit phone 9284 1406.

Who rules really?

This weekend will see many Aussies head to the ballot box, with five by-elections to be held around Australia.

Depending on what happens, it will increase or decrease the stability of the federal government… and may influence the decision of when the next federal election is called by the Prime Minister.

Regardless, it is important to remember that God rules the world, and every political leader on the Earth would be well-advised to recognise this as they go about their acts of civic service.

For the Bible reminds us that “there is no authority except that which God has established”, and that “the authorities that exist have been established by God.” (Romans 13:1)

As a result, we should recognise the authority of our leaders and be subject to them, even if we don’t like them or their policies, remembering that “the one in authority is God’s servant for your good”, and that we should submit to them, “not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.” (Romans 13:4, 5).

For this reason, our Anglican Prayer Book invites us to pray for all who hold office in our land:

“Grant that all things may be so ordered and settled by their endeavours on the best and surest foundations, that peace and happiness, truth and justice, faithfulness and true religion, may be firmly established among us, and make us a blessing to other nations.” (AAPB, p.34)

As is our custom, we should continue to pray for our politicians and give thanks for the political stability of our land, as God rules through them for the good of our nation.


Have you passed on the baton?

Given that one of our family’s favourite childhood movies was Pixar’s ‘Cars’, I was looking forward to watching the third movie in this series.

Even though it’s targeted at younger kids, the Pixar special sauce produced some terrific entertainment for older kids like me.

As the movie progressed, it was clear that it was a story designed to resonate strongly with older parents and grandparents.

Without spoiling the plot, the underlying message is about passing on the baton from the oldies to the next generation.

Lightning McQueen is no longer able to compete against the rookies, with their new technology and bulletproof confidence.

So, as his midlife crisis unfolds, he is given an insight into the often-hidden pleasure of those who are forced to deal with the realities of losing the ‘competitive edge’.

This is the pleasure of investing in the next generation, and experiencing their ‘wins’ as our own.

McQueen sees this as he discovers the delight that he himself brought to his mentor, Doc Hudson, who vicariously experienced the triumphs of his younger subject.

This is a timely reminder about the importance and pleasure of intergenerational ministry.

Those who are older can delight in mentoring and discipling the younger people in our church.

Furthermore, our elders can be enriched as we identify, recruit, train and encourage the next generation of leaders within our ministries.

Passing on the baton may involve some initial grief, but it will transform to a lifetime of joyful partnership with the next generation of leaders.

And then we will be able to follow the example that the Apostle Paul gave to Timothy:

“And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.” (2 Timothy 2:2)


Living in the light of life

The cave rescue of the Thai soccer team has had us glued to our screens.

It is no surprise that Hollywood film executives are already jockeying to bring this remarkable message of salvation to the big screen.

It was a great answer to the prayers of so many people that these trapped boys were brought to safety, despite almost insurmountable physical challenges, and enormous risks by the rescuers.

If you’ve ever been deep inside a cave, you will have experienced a sense of darkness that is hard to describe.

Even when your light has been turned off for minutes, it’s so dark that you still can’t even see your hand in front of your face.

Then, when you leave the cave, you are overwhelmed with the brightness of the daylight.

That’s why the cave survivors have been seen wearing sunglasses as they recover from their ordeal.

Light and darkness are often used in the Bible to contrast the differences between following Jesus and disobeying him… and there’s no middle ground.

And so, the Bible says of followers of Jesus that:

“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:9-11)

As people who have been saved by God from the darkness of eternal death, let us love living in his light, enjoying the privilege of pleasing him by our good, right, and truthful living.

For to anyone who has been freed from the darkness of death, light represents life to the full.

And that’s why followers of Jesus have the privilege of living in a way that pleases the Lord.

It’s wonderful to leave the darkness and live in the light of Jesus.


Taking things for granted

As Mandy and I spent two weeks in the Middle East, we understood how easy it is to take things for granted.

For example, even though I loved the Israeli Breakfast, with hummus, olives, falafel, fish, cheese, and pita bread, it made me crave Vegemite and bacon!

But our time at the GAFCON (Global Anglican Futures CONference) Jerusalem 2018 showed how easily we can take Sydney Anglicans for granted.

Our bishops and church leaders share our same love for Jesus, as he is revealed in the Bible.

They love it when we preach Christ faithfully through the gospel, and they support us when we defend the truth and seek to correct and rebuke people to restore them to godliness.

Yet, in other parts of the world, the hierarchy actively seeks to persecute Anglicans who are simply doing what Anglicans have done and believed for centuries.

Furthermore, these church leaders have evicted godly congregations from their buildings, and continue to pursue legal action against their ministers.

This, then, is why GAFCON exists: to provide a church family for Anglicans who have been thrown out of their church by leaders who no longer follow the teachings of the Bible.

GAFCON also exists to reform and renew the worldwide Anglican Church, and to call upon ungodly leaders to repent of their sins.

By sending Mandy and me to GAFCON as part of the 216 Australian delegates, our local church has given genuine support to worldwide Anglicans who have been persecuted and abandoned by their church leaders.

In doing so, Mandy and I have been reminded afresh that we should never take for granted the blessings of our precious local church and the godly, biblical leadership in our diocese.

We are very blessed!