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

What are you giving up?

When people mention the season of Lent, they usually think of giving up things like chocolate, alcohol, or even social media.

But at the heart of this forty-day journey to Good Friday is giving up sin… thinking about specific areas of our life where we know that we give in easily to temptation.

This will vary from person to person, although the heart of the problem is the same: we all, by nature, disobey God, and do not naturally pursue holiness.

So, as we count down the days to Easter, it’s a good time to ask God to speak through his Spirit as we read his word so that he might identify to us any areas of sin we should give special attention to flee.

I’m reminded of the words by the writer to the Hebrews who spoke so sharply when he addressed the real struggle of the Christian life:

Heb. 12:1    Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honour beside God’s throne. 3 Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. 4 After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.

As we take this Lenten journey, let’s take encouragement from the cheering on of the faithful Christians who went before us, and let us focus on Jesus, who endured the cross for us.


(Photo credit: countrygirl0 via Flickr)

Doing Lent Right

The church calendar didn’t feature much in my upbringing, but more recently, I’ve started to see that it’s good to synchronise my calendar with Christian brothers and sisters from all tribes, tongues and nations.

Because everyone needs to choose a calendar to follow each year.

It might be a school, college or university calendar… or you might shape your year by holidays, or sport, or even the financial year.

But as we live as foreigners and exiles, it seems a good thing for Christians to celebrate together the rhythm of our church calendar.

One of the most important seasons is Lent, when we focus on the temptation and suffering and death of our Lord.

When we think of those forty days and forty nights… the man of sorrows on the old rugged cross on the green hill, far away.

In some Christian traditions, people give up something for Lent, like chocolate, or alcohol, or even social media!

Whilst there is something powerful about doing a thing that reminds us of this important season, it’s unfortunately been hijacked as a way to display good works that some people think will win favour from God.

But the better way to think of Lent is to use this time in the annual Church calendar to count down the days to the high point of our year, the day we remember the crucifixion of Christ, then his resurrection from the dead.

And so starting with Ash Wednesday next week, we begin the countdown to the cross, as we follow an annual rhythm that brings us to the death and resurrection of Jesus.

For this is the greatest event in our Christian calendar, and a weekend that deserves our attention more than any as a moment of great and glorious thanksgiving to God.

How will you count down to Easter?


The Ultimate Wreath

What’s round and goes on people’s front doors at Christmas? A Christmas wreath.

It’s a circle of flowers, leaves and twigs that form a ring.

Christmas wreaths are normally made of evergreen plants to represent everlasting life.

We also use wreaths when we remember people who have died, like when we lay a wreath on Anzac Day at a war memorial.

In the ancient world, wreaths were often used as a crown.

Back at the original Olympic Games, the wreath was used instead of medal to symbolise victory.

Did you know that Jesus wore a wreath as a crown? 

He had a crown that showed victory.

But his crown wasn’t made of evergreen plants, like a Christmas wreath.

And his crown wasn’t made of laurel like an Olympic wreath.

His crown was made of thorns.

As he died on the cross, people mocked him by placing a thorny crown on his head.

This is the ultimate wreath.

Because the way that we get the everlasting life of the evergreen Christmas wreath is from the death of the thorny Easter wreath… the crown of Christ Jesus.

God showed his love to us by sending his Son, Jesus, to be born at Christmas, and to die at Easter.

The father sent his Son to be the Saviour of the world.

And he sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.

God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. (1 John 4:9-10)

Is 2020 the year for you to put your trust in Jesus, and find certainty for eternity?

Is this the Christmas to trust in Christ Jesus as your personal saviour?


The Weary World Rejoices

I’m surprised how many people tell me that 2020 has made them tired.

After all, weren’t we supposed to have had lots of time off in ‘lockdown’?

But the truth is that with all of the uncertainty and stress of this year, it’s made it difficult to have good rest.

The good news is that even though we might be weary, we are invited to find rest in Jesus.

This Thursday night at our Christmas Eve carols our theme is ‘The Weary World Rejoices’… a line from the wonderful hymn, ‘O Holy Night’ that we plan to sing, together.

It is a wonderful phrase that captures the sense of relief that we can experience as we come to Jesus, who at the first Christmas, came to us.

But the relief from our weariness comes more than just rest: it comes from forgiveness and hope, as the original lyrics capture:

Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appear’d and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

As our world struggles through this pandemic, the light of the hope of the coming of the Lord shines even brighter.

In our weariness, we have the hope of the life that is to come, but more than that… we can have the certainty of our forgiveness and our right relationship with our creator, who loves us and gave himself for us.

That is the miracle of Christmas: that our judge would be our saviour… and that it came through his condescension into our world as a man who would die for his creatures.

Which means that the right response is genuine worship:

Fall on your knees! O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born;

Because of the first Christmas, the weary in our world who trust in Christ can finally rejoice because of the life he gives us through his death for us.


(Photo credit: Varvara via Flickr)

We can sing!

One of the things I’ll tell my grandchildren about 2020 will be that we were not allowed to sing in church!

From so many aspects of the management of this pandemic, we have grown in our appreciation for the activities that have been restricted for the sake of the health of others.

The reason that it’s been so hard and weird not to sing is that God’s people are singing people… we’ve done it since the start of time, and it’s something we find it almost impossible to stop.

One time in the Bible when God’s people found it too hard to sing was when they’d been dragged out of Jerusalem into Babylon:

Beside the rivers of Babylon, we sat and wept as we thought of Jerusalem. We put away our harps, hanging them on the branches of poplar trees. For our captors demanded a song from us. Our tormentors insisted on a joyful hymn: “Sing us one of those songs of Jerusalem!” But how can we sing the songs of the LORD while in a pagan land? (Psalm 137:1-4)

Yet the next Psalm expressed what it was like when singing was a natural part of church life for God’s people:

I give you thanks, O LORD, with all my heart; I will sing your praises before the gods. I bow before your holy Temple as I worship. I praise your name for your unfailing love and faithfulness; for your promises are backed by all the honour of your name. (Psalm 138:1-2)

We are truly blessed to be now allowed to gather in good number for church, and we are doubly blessed to now be able to sing.

May we never take for granted the joy and blessing of singing together, as we put to music what our hearts long to express about the greatness of our Lord.


(Photo Credit: Tony Stewart via Flickr)

Doing Church Together

Over the past few months we’ve changed the way we do our church services to allow everyone, of all ages, to stay together for the first half of church.

We have done this deliberately and strategically because we believe that church is best when old and young people grow together.

For our church, it means that everyone of all ages will be together for three of our four songs, for all our Bible readings, for our public prayer, for question time, for our creed and confession, for the Lord’s Supper, for updates and interviews, and for our church news (which include birthday shoutouts!)

During this time, our younger members will truly experience church with the rest of our congregation, and they will grow up richly experiencing church as a normal part of their Christian life.

At the same time, since our children learn in a way that’s different to teens and adults, we provide a special program for the final 45 minutes of both church services, where we teach and nurture them in a way that is best for their learning and growth.

We also know that there are benefits in drawing together similar people from time to time to focus on their special opportunities and needs, such as our youth group each Saturday after dinner, and various men’s and women’s ministries in our parish.

And we know that doing church intergenerationally is good and natural because when Paul wanted to get a message to the kids in the church at Ephesus, he directly addressed them in his letter, knowing they’d be in church when his letter was read (Ephesians 6:1).

That’s why our church loves being together as much as possible, as our children and adults learn and grow from each other, united in Christ.


(Credit: via Flickr)

Our New Mother’s Minister!

The ministry of a mother to her children is not only a valuable role, it is a strategic opportunity to share the wonderful news of Jesus to a world that is lost without him.

For this reason, we applied to the Mothers Union Sydney for a special grant to fund an all-new position of ‘Mother’s Minister’, and here’s how we described our vision:

We wish to employ a mature and experienced Christian mother to help strengthen and support new and younger mothers in our church to be godly wives who serve their husbands as they bring up their children in the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord. 

They will teach how to develop Christian homes as a place for nurturing children, which will then be a natural environment to invite unbelievers in their networks to witness the outworking of the Word of God in the lives of their families and homes.

This will involve one-to-one discipleship of mothers in our church; the opportunity to train, resource and empower other experienced Christian mothers and grandmothers to share this ministry; and to prayerfully gather all members of our parish to seek to make disciples of all nations, one mother and family at a time. 

We also long to be a parish that learns and then shares from its ministry experience, in order to equip other, similar churches in rural and regional churches with this important, specialised ministry. 

And guess what? We got the grant!

For the next two years we’ve received funding for an all-new, ten-hour-per-week position at our church to equip mums for ministry.

I am delighted to announce that Mrs Gemma Bartlett has accepted our invitation to fill this all-new role, and that from February next year she will be working with us to minister to our mums!

Gemma is married to Matt, who is an Anglican minister serving as the Youthworks Youth Ministry & High School SRE Advisor in the Wollongong Region, and they are the parents of Georgia (9), Thomas (6) and Hugo (2).

Gemma is passionate about helping to strengthen mums in their ministry in their families, and she is excited to serve with us as we develop the intergenerational ministries at our church.

We are really thankful to God for the opportunity to be partnering with Gemma and her family in this all-new ministry, and we pray that the Bartletts would have a smooth move to our church in the coming months.


Minority Marriage Report

On Wednesday, an official opinion was unveiled by a high-ranking group of Australian Anglicans in which they decided that it is OK for an Anglican church to conduct a service to bless a same-sex union.

This group, called the ‘Appellate Tribunal’, has the special role of providing a legal opinion to our national church, although it’s not binding until the formal parliament of the Australian Anglican church (called ‘General Synod’) meets next May to decide whether to adopt the opinion.

In making up its mind, the Appellate Tribunal asked the official opinion of a board of bishops of Australia, as well as another panel of theologians, and both groups came up with the same, united decision that a same-sex blessing was, in fact, contrary to the Bible and the doctrine of our church.

It is possible that some Anglican churches in Australia might decide not to wait till next year’s General Synod, but will ‘jump the gun’ and soon start to conduct blessings of couples that have already had a civil same-sex marriage ceremony.

If these liberal churches do this, then it will place enormous pressure on the unity of the Anglican Church of Australia, and may lead some churches and ministers to seek leadership from a different bishop than the one in their own diocese.

This is the very thing that happened recently in New Zealand, and which could easily happen in Australia.

Thankfully all of the leaders in our own Diocese of Sydney reject this liberal view, as do the majority of Australian Anglicans, as represented by General Synod.

At a time like this we are thankful for the fellowship of Gafcon, which stands alongside orthodox Anglicans as they seek to be faithful to God’s good word about life and salvation.

Let’s pray that those who have departed from God’s word might repent and turn back to him, and that those orthodox Anglicans who stand firm in these liberal dioceses might be able to continue to serve God and their congregations during these tough times of disobedience.


(Photo credit Kumon via Flickr)

We Love Gifts!

One of the greatest joys Christmas is the giving and receiving of gifts.

There’s something wonderful about the sight of mounds of ripped wrapping paper spread out all around the lounge room, alongside the little mounds of bounty that each person has accumulated through the festivities.

We can understand how a Christian might receive a gift, but in Ephesians chapter four we read that Jesus has given gifts to his church.

Naturally we’d think that gifts are like abilities or talents, so that the church might have some people who are ‘gifted’ at music, or teaching, or administration, or pastoral care, or whatever.

But in this part of the Bible, the gifts are actually the people themselves.

If the church was to open up a gift from Jesus, then inside the box would be people!

And not just any kind of people: they are people who speak the word of God.

For Ephesians chapter four verse eleven says: “Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers.”

All of those people who are gifted to the church are speakers of God’s word… and they are really great gifts!

Because we also read that the way that the body of Christ, the church, is built, is through their ministry.

And the impact is very important for the church, for we read that this ministry helps us “come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:13).

The result of these gifts from Jesus are that we will be unified, knowledgable, mature, and Christlike.

And that’s the best gift of all!


(Credit: Alice Harold via Flickr)

We are Heritage

The sixth and final value of our church says that, “we are heritage in our style, as we gather in our historical building in a contemporary context.”

In a sense, this final value is all about aesthetics—the look and feel of our facilities and image.

Since we gather in a building that is over 150 years old, we value the look and feel of the sandstone, the stained glass, and the traditional architecture.

We prefer a vintage and classical styling in our design and development, as we embrace the experience of gathering in a venue that enjoys continuity with many generations of Jamberoo residents.

In these unsettling, unprecedented times, our setting provides some comfort in its connection with the faith and the faithful of the past, who found their anchor in Christ.

At the same time, we recognise that a vibrant and contemporary Christian congregation must engage with the latest in technology and design in order to make the most of innovation within the rapidly-changing patterns of society.

So, whilst we have a vintage ‘vibe’, we choose to utilise modern technology and architecture in the way we connect and gather.

Yet the notion of heritage also acknowledges that our current congregation has inherited our buildings and properties from those who sacrificially provided the place in which we now meet together with Jesus, for the glory of his name.

We continue this legacy as we take our unchanging message to an ever-changing world, developing our heritage facilities for the next generation of believers.

We celebrate the history of faithful, Christian ministry in our buildings by committing above all to the faithful ministry of the word of God that takes priority over all, regardless of the aesthetic.