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

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 It has largely been dropped from school curriculums as an outdated method of teaching.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?

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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

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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

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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.

Is the Bible telling the truth?

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I’ve been reading a number of detective books recently. So when someone handed me a book about Jesus written by a detective I was curious. The book is called ‘Cold Case Christianity‘ by J. Wallace. He’s a seasoned homicide detective and he applies what he has learnt to the witness accounts of Jesus, especially from ‘cold cases’.

At first I was quite captivated by all the real life stories he threw in, but as I read on he introduced more and more sophisticated analysis.

He made some very persuasive arguments in favour of the reliability of the witness accounts about Jesus.

We’ve probably all heard the argument that witness accounts often tell things from different perspectives. But he gave a much more detailed explanation of this point, using forensic analysis. Specifically he wrote about the phenomenon of ‘inadvertent support.’

No eyewitness ever gives a full account of a scene. So often their description raises a particular question. When Jesus calls Peter and Andrew in Matthew, the account at first seems odd. These men drop everything and immediately follow Jesus on their first meeting. Why would they do that?

If Matthew was the only account of Jesus this would remain unanswered. But Luke ‘inadvertently’ answers this question.

In his account we get a prior story of the fisherman encountering Jesus. Jesus used their boats to teach the crowds by the lake. He then instructed them to take him out and fish. They’d had an unsuccessful night of fishing but now they take an exceedingly impressive catch. This certainly gave them something to think about when he later asked them to follow him.

There are many of these incidental questions & answers in the Gospels.

Now these things by themselves don’t prove Christianity, but it’s exactly the kind of thing you’d expect if the witnesses are real and telling the truth.

Simon Chaplin

Is #loveislove enough?

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As the closing date for the marriage postal survey approaches, it’s worth reflecting on some of the slogans we’ve heard throughout the campaign.

One well-known ‘hashtag’ is #loveislove.

It’s a catchy phrase, but what does it really mean?

Maybe it’s saying that if a person feels love, then that love is enough to allow them to marry that person, even if they are of the opposite sex.

But in the end, when people say “love is love”, it doesn’t really say a lot about love.

That’s why it’s good that God tells us in the Bible what love really is.

We see this in 1 John chapter 4 sentence 9: “This is how God shows his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.”

But Jesus was sent for a specific reason, which we read in the next sentence: “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

In other words, God’s love was shown by a costly sacrifice, by sending Jesus to us, to die for us.

He did that so that we might have our sins forgiven.

So if we ask Jesus for forgiveness and follow him as our loving ruler, then we can now fully enjoy the greatest love of all.

What’s more, we’ll also understand that the heart of love is sacrifice.

As we then know this sacrificial love of God deeper and deeper, and follow his loving rule more and more, then he will also empower us to supernaturally love like he first loved us.

Which means that #godsloveislove is probably a better hashtag!

Jodie McNeill

A better way to deal with domestic abuse

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After many years of hard work, our Anglican Diocese has developed a policy to help our churches provide the best possible care to people suffering from domestic abuse.

The policy was launched this week at the Anglican Diocese of Sydney Synod, our annual combined meeting of churches and organisations.

In launching the policy, Sandy Grant acknowledged that “clergy and church members have often been under-educated and naive; and on the other hand, sometimes over-confident in their insight or ability.”

He also recognised that “abuse can be hard to distinguish from regular conflict or dysfunction” and that “abusers can be very manipulative”, and so “extra detail and reinforcement of good practice is needed.”

After every member of the Synod united to accept this policy, we also supported this statement of grief, thanksgiving, prayer, regret, and apology:

“We grieve with victims and survivors of domestic abuse, and pray for their healing and recovery. We give thanks to God for those women and men, clergy and lay people, who have faithfully supported, cared for and protected such victims in our churches and communities.

We grieve that God’s good gift of marriage can be distorted and dishonoured through the sin of perpetrators. We pray for their repentance and restoration to faithful living under Christ.

We also deeply regret that domestic abuse has occurred among those who attend our churches, and even among some in leadership. We apologise for those times our teaching and pastoral care have failed adequately to support victims and call perpetrators to account.”

If you or someone you know or love is experiencing domestic abuse, please speak to one of our ministers, or contact ‘1800 Respect’ by visiting or calling 1800 737 732.

Jodie McNeill

The Sin of Vegas

When I once visited Las Vegas, I was stunned to hear the slogan,‘If Las Vegas is Sin City, then MGM Grand is the Capitol Building.’

This hotel we were visiting for for a family meal took pride in the sin of sexual immorality, drugs, alcohol, and of course, gambling.

Yet, this week, Las Vegas experienced the effects of another form of sin that showed itself in the largest mass gun killing in US history.

This was a sin in which the people of Las Vegas did not boast.

Rather, the horrific actions that saw 58 deaths and hundreds of injuries has led people to ask the question, “why?”

But no matter how many clues we get into the depraved mind of shooter Stephen Paddock, his actions will not make sense to us unless we understand the reality of sin and human nature.

The Bible tells us that our world is marred by sin.

We live in a ‘fallen’ world, which will always experience pain, suffering, and death.

This means that the sin of Vegas is tragic, yet expected, as we await the final return of Jesus when he will bring an end to the effects of sin.

In the meantime, this shocking display of sin should naturally lead us to stop and reflect upon the reality beyond our normal, everyday life.

Any one of us could have been in the crowd at the Vegas concert, and any one of us could have had our lives ended without any warning.

As we see this extreme display of the effects of sin, we must all make sure that we are ready to face the coming judgement that faces every human, and the one and only solution to that sin and judgement is through the death of Christ Jesus.

For, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans chapter 8 verse 8)