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

Who is the greatest?

The Andromeda Galaxy. (CREDIT: Joel Tonyan, via Flickr)

We Aussies love our sport, and we love to see one person or team compete against another to try and work out who is the greatest.

And yet beyond any comparison, the Lord, our God, is truly the greatest of us all.

I was reminded this as I read Psalm 104 this week, and experienced a catalogue of God’s greatness.

He created the universe, and shows his beauty in the stars and all the objects that fill the sky.

He controls his creation, providing water and greenery for plants and animals.

He cares for his world, sustaining every part of this living planet.

It is beautifully summarised in these verses:

All creatures look to you to give them their food at the proper time. When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things. (Psalm 104:27-28)

And this is why the writer of this Psalm begins with these words:

Praise the LORD, my soul. LORD my God, you are very great; you are clothed with splendor and majesty. (Psalm 104:1)

God is, indeed, very great, and because of this, he is worthy of our praises to him:

May the glory of the LORD endure forever; may the LORD rejoice in his works— he who looks at the earth, and it trembles, who touches the mountains, and they smoke. I will sing to the LORD all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. May my meditation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the LORD. (Psalm 104:31-34)

When we feel that our world is spinning out of control, it is important to stop and mediate on the greatness of God, and to rejoice in him for all he has done.

Praise the Lord… he is very great!


We need to talk about tough topics

CREDIT: Ray Wewerka via Flickr

Let’s be honest: the debate about same-sex marriage is very personal.

This discussion directly impacts people in same-sex relationships, and it will ultimately determine whether their union should be recognised as a ‘marriage.’

That is why this debate feels personal, even when people try and only address the issues.

Every ethical discussion will directly affect some people, yet we must not walk away from these important conversations.

For example, a discussion about euthanasia or abortion may cause some people to be upset, especially if they are caring for someone who is terminally ill or carrying an unborn child with a serious illness.

Yet, for the sake of good order it is vital that we have a mature discussion about these issues that affect the very fabric of our society.

But remember that people will often pay more attention to how we’re speaking instead of what we’re saying.

That is why we need to do all we can to show love to those we disagree with, even when they might prefer we didn’t speak at all.

When Jesus encountered people with a different viewpoint, he spoke his mind, even though it caused some people to be upset with him.

And the Apostle Paul felt obliged to defend his viewpoint, even though he knew it would cause people to be unhappy.

As Paul says in Galatians:

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:10)

This is the difficult challenge we face: speaking the truth in love.

And above all, we want to keep pointing people to Jesus, who “loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood…” (Revelation 1:5)

Jodie McNeill

No need to doubt about the future

CREDIT: Maurits Verbiest via Flickr

What are the three most important characteristics of being a Christian?

There are three that are highlighted in the New Testament as they occur together time and time again. What would you put in your top three?

The Apostle Paul says, “and now faith, hope, and love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love“. (1 Corinthians 13:13)

Faith looks back to the past looking to what Jesus has done; love has eyes on the present, our response everyday for what Jesus has done; hope looks forward.

While love may be the greatest, I wonder if it is hope that we are most in need of being reminded of?

Hope is often used today to mean something along the lines of wishful thinking, the kind of characteristic you would find among optimistic people.

But hope is a characteristic for all Christians. Our hope is not in some vague picture of the future, but in the solid truth of the resurrection.

Jesus’ resurrection is the first fruit of that day when he will return and raise us up to the new creation, our glorious inheritance.

So Paul prays: “that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance.”  (Ephesians 1:18.)

Why is it that our hope grows dim?

Perhaps our love for this world is too big? We don’t long for the new creation because we are so captivated by this one?

Perhaps our longing for justice is not big enough? We can become skeptical that nothing will ever change, forgetting that Jesus’ resurrection assures justice for all.

Perhaps our imaginations are too weak? We can’t imagine what it will be like because these promises are extraordinary and completely beyond our experience, and so doubt creeps in.

Our world wants us to doubt, but hope is the antidote.

Don’t let it grow dim, for in Jesus the resurrection has already begun, and so your hope is secure.

Simon Chaplin.

We say ‘no’ to domestic violence

CREDIT: x1klima via

The Bible is very clear about domestic violence: it is completely wrong.

God’s advice to husbands is simple: “Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.” (Colossians 3:19), which is written right after God’s advice to wives: “Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.” (Colossians 3:18.)

Tragically, there are some men who believe that this word from God means that their wives must endure whatever treatment the husband might give, even though it is plainly clear that harshness in any form is prohibited.

In another part of the New Testament, God has given us a stunning picture of how a husband is supposed to lovingly treat his wife:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. (Ephesians 5:25)

God’s word to husbands could not be clearer: any physical, sexual, or emotional abuse towards their wives is wrong and disobedient.

Sadly, some churchgoing men have disobeyed God by being violent towards their wives, perhaps even justifying their behaviour from a warped reading of the Bible.

In our church, we will do all we can to protect the vulnerable, and seek to bring justice to those who disobey God by mistreating members of their family.

If you would like to chat about your own situation, or the situation of someone you know and love, then please come and talk to me or a trusted Christian so that we can provide loving care and protection.


Changed lives in Fiji

Leaving the comfort of Australia, I arrived in the unfamiliar, foreign land of Fiji… a different place, climate, and people, but the same God.

Along with the 75 other students in the Youthworks Year 13 Gap Year program, we were given opportunities to learn how the Fijians live, eat, work and function as a society. We then learnt to apply this to our teaching, ministry, and relationships. 

From organised ministry at youth groups, churches and schools, to unplanned opportunities with workers, and shopkeepers, we shared the gospel with many people.

I quickly learnt that the mission was God’s, not ours, which meant that things often did not go as planned. Sometimes we were disappointed or confused, like when our homestay visit with a family was suddenly cancelled.

Other times we were overjoyed with surprise opportunities, like when we turned up to a local primary school in Suva, prepared for a single 15-minute assembly, only to leave having done 17, simultaneous classes.

My highlight was the ten days spent in the small village of Nakavu, where I was welcomed into the home of a beautiful family from the Methodist Church. We were totally immersed into the village life, living with the people and learning from them.

So much of the mission was unstructured, playing with the children at the stunning Navua River, forming friendships which provided many amazing chats. This has made me realise the importance of investing in children outside set hours of ministry events.

Most of all, I was challenged to be totally reliant on prayer, not only when things go wrong, or as a backup, but as the most important thing for effective ministry. 

I am so thankful for each and every one of you, for your generosity in prayer and financial support. Lives were changed in Fiji, and my life was certainly one of them.

Jemimah McNeill – Year 13 student

Our problem with David and Goliath

David and Goliath is one of the most famous and well-loved stories in the Bible.

It’s the classic tale of the underdog winning a battle against an unbeatable enemy.

It’s a story we love, because we all have our own challenges in life that seem impossible, and yet this story shows God achieve something that seemed impossible.

The temptation is for us to imagine ourselves in the shoes of David.

Then we assume that this story means that if we trust in God then he will help us achieve the impossible.

Yet, this is the biggest mistake that we make with this historical account of the battle between David and Goliath.

Because in this story, we should see ourselves in the shoes of the people of God, not of David.

For, in David we see one man, chosen by God to represent his people, who then fights an impossible battle, and whose victory gives salvation to all of his people.

But the story comes to life even more when we realise that the battle of King David against his archenemy is a foretaste of the battle of King Jesus against the greatest enemy of all: the devil.

As we read in the Bible in the letter to the Hebrews:

Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. (Hebrews 2:14-15)

So, if we choose to have Jesus as our king, then his victory over the devil will become ours, just like how God’s people enjoyed King David’s victory over Goliath.

And this makes the story of David and Goliath even better news for everyone on God’s side.


The biggest problem our children face

Whilst it is true and powerful that children are our future, the problem is that society doesn’t quite know what to do.

We look at the current problems of our world and then look to the next generation to solve them… problems like violence, alcohol, crime, poverty and the environment.

The cause of each of these problems, so the reasoning goes, is a lack of information about the impacts that each of these problems may result in.

So to help our children overcome the issues we introduce educational programs at the earliest appropriate age to arm the next generation with the knowledge and skills to overcome them.

Now all this is well intentioned and not without benefit, but this strategy has always and will aways ultimately fail.

This is obvious when you realise that some of these programs have been going on for generations.

Issues to do with alcohol are a tragic example: we are now trying to teach our kids the very same things that we were taught but have ignored.

And the reason why these educational reforms have failed is that the problem is misdiagnosed.

The problem is not lack of information: the problem is sin, and so our children carry within them the problem itself.

Our children need saving.

While this is profoundly politically incorrect to say unless we understand the problem we will never be able to offer children the answer.

Jesus said “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them,  or the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”  And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them. Mark 10:14,16

Jesus is the answer because Jesus came to save us from our sins: he came to save children from their sins.

Simon Chaplin

A benefit of less reported religion

Australia Day Crowd

It was no surprise to read that this week’s Census 2016 results showed a drop in the number of people claiming to be religious in Australia.

Notably, we read that only half our population (52.1%) say they are Christian, which is a drop from 61% in 2011, and 88% in 1966 (read more about this in Eternity News).

Given the low attendance at churches on weekends, and even ‘holy’ days like Christmas and Easter, it seems there are many people who identify as a follower of Jesus, but don’t really act like they mean it.

So, we need to get people to own up to what they say they believe, and to help them know what it really means to be a follower of Jesus.

Maybe you might ask your friend, colleague or family member to share what they think about this drop in religious interest in Australia.

You could ask them whether it seems to match what they believe about religion.

And then, best of all, you might get them to tell you what they think about Jesus.

And if someone is a little vague about Jesus, then why don’t you ask them, “would you like to read the Bible with me?”

And if they say “yes” then just grab a Bible, open it to Mark’s gospel, and read a few verses. If you want to read online right now, then read the Bible right here right now.

Start chatting about who Jesus is, and best of all, don’t feel you have to be the ‘expert.’

And then, as you and your friend come face to face with the ‘real’ Jesus, then it just may be that the Holy Spirit might lead them to have a real hope in the real Jesus.


Vital support for missionaries

When we think of support for missionaries, we most naturally think about finances.

After all, when we and our partner missionary organisation send someone to a distant location to preach Christ, we know that there are many costs that need to be met.

Our church loves to financially support missionaries, and we do so by allocating a proportion of your regular financial gifts. Yet, we must never forget that our support for missionaries extends also to our prayers.

When I sit down for my morning prayers, I use an app called ‘PrayerMate’, which helps me remember to pray for CMS, the Church Missionary Society. Alternatively, you might just like the paper version, which works just as well!

But the main point is that we need to keep remembering that God uses our prayers to do his will to share the saving message of Jesus to all the nations.

When we pray for our missionaries on our own each day, or together each weekend in church, we are providing critical support for those who work with us to share the great news of Jesus with the world.

This weekend, as we celebrate CMS Sunday, let’s make a commitment to personally pray for our mission partners, and for CMS as well, who encourage us to use these words:

God of love, whose will it is that everyone should be saved, bless the Church Missionary Society and all who have gone out in its fellowship to preach, to teach and to heal. Guard, guide and use them; raise up more people in your world wide church to pray and to work, to care and to understand, to give to you and to go for you, that your church may grow, you will be done, your kingdom come and your glory be revealed through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Identifying our identity

One of the best ways to understand our Australian identity is to travel to another country.

During my recent trip to Canada, I discovered many ways in which Aussies differ.

Canadians love eating poutine (a fancy version of chips and gravy), but we love meat pies, and of course, Vegemite.

Canadians love ice hockey and curling, but Aussies follow rugby and AFL.

But beyond food and sport, there are other ways in which our identities different, even though we share so much with our Commonwealth cousins.

When it comes to our Christian identity, it’s sometimes difficult to see a difference between us and those in the world.

After all, we still battle with the same temptations that all humans face.

Yet, as those who have been given freedom by Jesus, we now have the Spirit of God in us, leading us to bear his fruit.

And that will lead us to show love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians chapter 5 verses 22 and 23.)

This is our new identity, as we live the new life that God has given us.

And the result of this is a new community that enjoys this fruit through the special relationships that stand on the foundation of the love and mercy shown us in Christ.

Which means that the benefits of following Jesus don’t stop at our personal forgiveness and hope: they extend to the richness of life together, as we enjoy a taste of the perfect life in Heaven.

So, Christians, let’s pray that God would continue to bring forth in us the fruit of his Spirit.

And if you’re not yet a follower of Jesus, then there’s no better time to find forgiveness and hope in him, so that you might also feel the love of true community.