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

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.


What’s wrong with extremism?

CREDIT: Abdulsalam Haykal via Flickr.

This week Ramadan began for the followers of Islam, a month of fasting and prayer.

For those who keep this practise it shows a level of extreme devotion to their religion.

Millions of people across the globe will spend their daylight hours without any food or water in order to serve their god.

An interview with an Islamic academic from the University of Wollongong put a different spin on it.

Five sessions of prayer were explained as 5 sessions of mindfulness, a way to centre one’s life during the day.

Fasting was explained as a process of discipline and exercising self control.

In our anxious, busy and often unrestrained society this practise seemed like a good idea.

I found my self nodding along until I realised what was going on here.

Any idea of extreme devotion to a god was downplayed.

It was a clever interview, because it took ideas that were foreign to Australians (like set prayers and fasting) and explained them in terms that are now readily acceptable.

This is exactly what our society wants from adherents to religion: moderate ideas that can be explained in social terms.

This is why liberal Christianity has flourished in western society, where the Bible has been interpreted though the lens of our world.

This kind of God leads to a nice and moderate religion that rocks no boats, and one our society is happy with, because they created it.

The pressure to fit in is intense but we must remember that there is nothing wrong with being extreme itself. The question is for what cause it is, and how do you implement it.

Christians are called to give up our lives for our God.

We do so for he is the the one who gave his life for us, And so the way we do this is in love and service of others.

Simon Chaplin

Are you good enough to be forgiven?

Are you the kind of person who would be acceptable to Jesus?

In Luke chapter 7, we read about a dinner that Jesus attended at the house of some very religious people.

While they’re having dinner, a woman comes into the room, and starts washing Jesus’ feet with her tears, kissing his feet, and pouring perfume over his feet.

But there was something even stranger about it, and that was the kind of woman this woman was.

One religious man said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”

This woman was a public sinner, maybe a prostitute, and this religious guy thought that Jesus must have been clueless to have anything to do with him.

Because if Jesus was really a prophet of God, then he wouldn’t have had anything to do with such a godless woman, and what’s more, he’d have the supernatural powers to know that she’s the kind of woman who religious people stay right away from.

But Jesus is more than a prophet: he is God, himself, and he knows everything, including how sinful she really was.

And yet, she came to Jesus, showed her love and adoration to him, and he totally forgave her.

And so Jesus said to the religious man:

“I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”
Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven… Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Jesus didn’t just know that her sins were forgiven, he did the forgiving himself.

All she did was come to Jesus and seek his forgiveness.

And so, if Jesus will forgive this sinful woman, he offers to forgive anyone like you and me.

Jodie McNeill

Youth keeps KYCKing on

Last weekend the youth groups of Oak Flats and Jamberoo went away together for an encouraging and exciting weekend.

On Friday we travelled up to Katoomba to KYCK – a youth conference run by Katoomba Christian Convention (KCC).

The conference has around 2000 youth and leaders attending and it is always encouraging to see so many people gathering together to hear God’s word.

It definitely caters well for youth, with everything from Mario-cart, to co-ordinated dance moves, but overall the conference works hard to keep God’s word at its centre.

The three speakers gave excellent expositions from the book of 1 Peter. They spoke of the privilege it is to be chosen by God to be his special people, and so we are called to be different from the world around us, especially in the school environment.

God has worked in us to make us different so we are now “a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession” (1 Peter 2:9).

Our new identity is found in what Jesus has done for us – his atoning sacrifice.

The Saturday night talk was the climax focusing on 1 Peter 3:18, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.”

One speaker described it like this:

“Who we are is not what you have done, or what others have done to you, it is what God has made you to be.”

This is what enables us to endure in a world where we are different and experience suffering.

What a wonderful hope for these youth and leaders to hear!

When we weren’t up at the conference centre, we were staying at a small cottage in Katoomba, sitting round a log fire, playing games and enjoying all the food Magda and Andy Peters cooked for us.

There was a great expression of unity shown amongst all the youth and the leaders in the way we shared together and lived out life as God’s special people.

Simon Chaplin

What is your worth?

CREDIT: Untitled, Nicki Mannix via Flickr.

How would you calculate what you’re worth?

It’s not something that we normally need to work out, except if we’re organising insurance or preparing a will, or maybe answering questions from Centrelink.

But assuming you calculated a dollar figure for all your assets, then would this provide the real answer to the question, “what is your worth?”

Our materialistic world naturally looks to the things we own as a measure of our worth.

Yet these possessions have no, ultimate, eternal value.

But even in this life, our possessions don’t really contribute to our value, nor our pleasure.

In the Bible, in the book of Ecclesiastes, we read this wisdom about life and wealth:

“Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income… And what benefit are they to the owners except to feast their eyes on them?” (Ecclesiastes 5:10-11)

If we find our value in our possessions, then we’re never going to be truly happy.

The words of a modern hymn summarise this perfectly:

My worth is not in what I own
Not in the strength of flesh and bone
But in the costly wounds of love at the cross
My worth is not in skill or name
In win or lose in pride or shame
But in the blood of Christ that flowed at the cross

Our true value in life can only be measured by how God views us.

This is all that ultimately matters.

And so, if you trust in Jesus, not in your possessions, you can join us as we sing the chorus of his song:

I rejoice in my Redeemer
Greatest treasure
Wellspring of my soul
I will trust in Him no other
My soul is satisfied in Him alone
(‘My worth is not in what I own’, Kendrick & Getty)

Jodie McNeill