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

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!


Free to be me?

CREDIT: Diego Albero Román via Flickr.

The freedom to be yourself is one of the fundamental rights that modern society seeks to protect.

At first glance there are parts of this that the Christian can agree with. God has made us who we are and we don’t need to change ourselves just to please others. There is freedom to express who we are as unique parts of God’s creation.

As Christians the goal then is to glorify God with who we are. This means that our individual expressions are always tempered by serving God within the bounds he has created.

This will especially mean a willingness to forgo some of our individuality in order to love and serve others.

However once God is removed from the picture any boundaries of expressions are also removed.

Each person has the right to think and believe whatever they want about themselves. You are then free to express yourself however you choose. In fact, you must express yourself.

Forget about what everyone else thinks or the impact you have on them. Without God there is no limit to this, no morality that will constrain you. Life is about you and your fulfilment, finding out who you are then expressing the desires you have found.

So in the 70’s it was sexual freedom; material freedom (ie greed) in the 80’s; then came freedom of sexual orientation and now it is even freedom from gender.

It is a sad irony that this relentless push for freedom is actually an expression of the slavery that sin has brought into the world. (Romans 6). But all that sin offers us is death (6:23).

Freedom is found not in being who we want to be, but in whom God wants us to be.

In Jesus we are set free from sin (6:18). We now have the freedom to really live, for this is the gift that God gives (6:23).


Unity beyond the World Cup

The Soccer World Cup started last week and it has been amazing to see unity in Australia as we support our country in Russia.

There are people watching who love soccer, some who maybe only watch the World Cup and some who maybe only watch when Australia is playing. Either way, it is so much fun to see people in the shops, at work, or at church mutter away about how it has been going.

It is a truly beautiful unity. Yet as Christians this kind of unity should feel familiar. We are to be unified far beyond the feelings of unity Australia feels watching the Socceroos.

Jesus prays for “those who will believe in him…that they may be one as [He & the Father] are one…so that we may be brought to complete unity.” (John 17:20-23)

This unity shows the world that Jesus was sent by God and that God loves humanity. 

This is the unity that we should strive for.

We need to be committed to each other because as the Apostle Paul says we all “form one body, and each member belongs to all the others” (Romans 12:5).

We belong to each other, so we need to act like it. Love your neighbour, pray for unity with those who you see at church, in your Bible Studies and throughout the week. And who knows, maybe you could even watch a Socceroos game together.

This radical unity will show the world that Jesus is God and that God loves us. 

And perhaps one day the world will recognise and feel Christian unity in the same way Aussies are currently feeling it in the World Cup.


How are you growing?

Christian maturity is a high priority for our church, and with good reason – it was a priority for the apostle Paul too. He says:

“Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ” (Colossians 1:28).

Paul gives us a clue as to what that maturity would look like when he prays:

“that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” (1:9-10)

Maturity is comprised of two things: our knowledge and our life. And they are connected in a cycle. As we increase in our knowledge of our Lord, this leads us to bear fruit – and part of bearing fruit is increasing our knowledge – and so on.

Knowledge is essential to maturity, but knowledge for Paul is no mere intellectual activity. It is at the heart of our relationship with our heavenly Father and so to that end Paul ‘toiled’ (1:29).

Growing in our knowledge is going to take a little effort. But the reward is certainly worth it – a closer walk with our God.

And there isn’t some bar you are being asked to jump over here. We are all at different stages in our journey together, but Paul says that what he longs to see is ‘progress’ in each believer.

There are many things we can do to help us grow – listening closely to the the Word at church, or reading the Bible ourselves or discussing christian things with a friend. For me one of the key ways has always been to be committed to a weekly small group ministry where we can stir each other on in this way.

What’s the one thing you could do this week to grow as a Christian?


Have you achieved true contentment?

How often have you heard someone say “I just want to be happy?”

Or, when you let someone know about a major decision in life, people respond by saying, “that sounds great, as long as you’re happy”.

Happiness seems to be the state of mind that we all crave, and yet there’s something that is even better: contentment.

Contentment is the feeling you have when you know that no possession or experience can increase your positive feelings.

However, contentment is something that usually comes as a byproduct.

Some people will spend great amounts of money seeking the possessions and wealth so that they might gain contentment.

Others will dedicate their life to getting more and more experiences, ticking off their bucket list until their time on earth comes to a close.

Yet, contentment is something that cannot come by the abundance of possessions, or a range of special experiences.

God tells us that contentment comes from an unusual source: godliness.

We read in 1 Timothy chapter 6 verse 6 that “Godliness with contentment is great gain.”

The great gain of contentment comes with godliness, which comes from believing the truth about Jesus and trusting him as loving ruler.

Pursuing Jesus will lead us to true contentment.

In fact, a few verses later we’re told not to put our hope in wealth, but instead to put our hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment (1 Timothy 6:17).

As we do so, we will then be generous and willing to share ( verse 18), which will mean that followers of Jesus “will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life” (verse 19)

This is the pathway to true contentment. Are you truly content?


What makes conflict so uncomfortable?

CREDIT: gracewell533 via Flickr.

Why does conflict make us so uncomfortable? Often it’s because I feel that others can’t see just how right I am.

It would be so much easier if they could just recognise my superior arguments, apologise and we could all move forward!

At a conference this week I was challenged by a series of seminars on how to deal with general disagreement, or conflict, as a Christian.

I won’t pretend to be an expert, but I would like to quote a general principle that was shared at the conference: “Conflict is part of your God journey”.

In a conflict situation you don’t have power over what the other parties will do. Yet, we do have power over ourselves and our own reactions.

Conflict is a moment which we can use to bring God glory, yet this seems so unlikely, doesn’t it?

In a conflict we are often so consumed by the other person and what they have done or said. But if instead of starting with the other person we start with God, then we can reframe the whole situation.

And we start with the understanding that we are in the position that God has put us in.

Instead of blaming God, we can ask how in this situation we can seek to glorify him.

I don’t think that this means the next steps are easy or obvious.

It doesn’t even mean that conflict can be solved: you are only one part of the equation. But you can change the equation: you can make the impossible a possibility.

By starting with God, not only can you grow in your relationship with him, you can ask how he wants you to bring love to others.

Simon Chaplin

Better news for the royal couple

It’s rare for a church sermon to make the front page of a newspaper, but the message from Bishop Curry made world news, as his royal wedding message got people talking.

Unlike the typecast, pompous wedding preacher, he enthusiastically addressed the billions of people who tuned in for the occasion.

It was refreshing to hear a royal wedding sermon speak about Jesus and his death on the cross with such gusto.

Sadly, many wedding sermons seem to forget they’re in a church, and they end up rolling out the kind of worldly wisdom you’d expect to hear from Oprah or Dr. Phil.

But Bishop Curry brought the focus of the event to the love of God shown at the cross of Christ.

I’m delighted that people are talking about Jesus and his death, but, sadly, Bishop Curry missed the most important point about the cross of Christ.

Whilst it is true that Jesus showed his love for dying for us on the cross, it was not so that he could be an example of true love.

If all we’ve got from the cross of Christ is an example we can try to follow, then Jesus has done nothing to help us with our sin and guilt for disobeying God’s rule.

No, the most important thing about the cross is that Jesus died as a sacrifice, taking the punishment we deserve, in our place, so that we might be forgiven by God.

As we read in 1 John chapter 4: “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

It was good for the royal couple to hear that Jesus died on the cross: but it’s much better news for them to know that Jesus died as an atoning sacrifice for sin.