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

What are you praying for?


(CREDIT: t-bet via Flickr)

Our church has recently started testing a new, online prayer diary called ‘PrayerMate.’

It enables people to subscribe to prayer points from many, terrific organisations and missionaries.

It also helps us connect with the regular prayer points of our own church.

One benefits is that it gives me a list of people from within our church that I can specifically pray for each week.

But what should I actually pray for each person?

Well, according to Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, I could start by thanking God for each person, and particularly, for their faith and their love, as he writes:

“…ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers” (Ephesians 1:15-16)

It’s great to start our prayers by thanking God for how he is working in each person, leading them to grow in their trust in him, and in the outworking of that through the love they have for other Christians.

But after that, Paul prays that they would know God better:

“I keep asking that the God  of our Lord Jesus Christ, the  glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better” (Ephesians 1:17)

The reason we pray that people would know God better is so that they can enjoy the riches of their relationship with him.

It’s a bit like getting to “know” a friend or a spouse: it’s not so we can pass a knowledge test about them, but it’s so we can grow deeper in our friendship.

So, let’s keep thanking God for each other’s faith and love, and keep asking him to help us know God better.


When it’s safer to defend a lion


(CREDIT: Mathias Appel via Flickr)

Recently I read someone attack a Christian about the Bible, saying, “that’s fine if you want to believe a bunch of goat herders living in tents from 4000 years ago!”

As Christians, our trust in the Bible as the divinely-inspired word of God is increasingly seen as antiquated at best, and dangerously misguided at worst.

As people say, “what could such an ancient text say to us today?”

The question for us is this: how do we defend our belief that it’s God’s word to us today in our modern society, when it was written in a such different time and place?

There is no doubt that our society has changed, but its worth remembering some things haven’t.

Firstly, God hasn’t changed.

God is eternal, and whatever our society thinks of him or his Word, cannot change him.

One of the fundamental characteristics of God is that he is a God who speaks: from speaking creation into being, to revealing who he by sending his Son, the WORD.

God is a God who speaks, and the Bible is where God’s living words are recorded for us.

Secondly, human nature hasn’t changed.

For all our sophistication it’s hard to see how our society has overcome some of its fundamental problems.

The Bible offers an explanation for that: while God is a God who speaks, we are people who do not listen to him.

The Bible is able to penetrate beyond modern appearances to diagnose our real current problems, and prescribe a lasting solution.

We shouldn’t be surprised at the world’s rejection of his word.

But where do we go to convince our friends that it is true, or even ourselves when we are feeling a little shaky about this? We go to the source, the Bible.

Since it really is God’s word to us today, he has the power to speak to us, overcome our doubts and convince us of the truth of his Son.

As the great preacher Charles Spurgeon once said, “Defend the Bible? I would as soon defend a lion!”

Simon Chaplin.

Your true face on Facebook

Young kids love to dress up and pretend to be somebody else.

Whether it’s Elsa or Buzz Lightyear, they love to play another character.

Adults also enjoy pretending to be someone else, often at a costume party or a masquerade ball.

Sometimes we pretend to be someone else on social media.

Even though Facebook requires the use of real names, people don’t always act in a way that matches their real-life persona.

Sometimes this can be a form of social ‘makeup’, where we try to appear our very best when we’re sharing our photos or making comments.

At other times we keep silent about our beliefs and opinions, especially when discussion rages about controversial matters like same-sex marriage.

We can also appear different to the real world when our comments, likes, and shares clash with the person we claim to be at church or in our daily communities.

There’s a constant temptation to have a different ‘face’ when we’re on Facebook.

In his first letter, the Apostle Peter warns Christians to “rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.” (1 Peter 2:1.)

This means that when we’re online we need to avoid hypocrisy by making sure we don’t have a different ‘face’ to our real-life persona.

The person we are when we’re engaging with Facebook needs to be the same person we are when we’re chatting in the real world with friends, family and colleagues.

And the motivation is simple and powerful: we “have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.” (1 Peter 1:23)

God’s word has given us a radical new life, and we are called to live this life online as well as offline, to God’s glory.

Jodie McNeill

This is an excerpt of Jodie’s upcoming seminar at this year’s MTS Mission Minded Conference called, “Can I be a Christian and on social media at the same time?”

The prodigal son

This week I was teaching Scripture at our local primary school. The lesson was the prodigal son, and I was once again surprised by how big and radical God’s love is for us. And it wasn’t just me – the students seem to get it too!

The parable you may recall is of a son who treats his father in the most shameful manner, taking off with all his money and then losing it all in equally shameful ways. He is forced to head home with nothing.

He is met by his father who is waiting for him. His father welcomes him home with open arms. He forgives his wayward son, and then does something amazing – instead of exacting a punishment from him, he throws his son a party.

“For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found”. Luke 15:24

My scripture kids were trying to work this out – “so he could do whatever he wants and get away with it?” 

It didn’t seem fair. But that is what grace is – our Father’s big “yes” to us! 

However, I asked my class a followup question: When the son came home, and received that forgiveness, and was thrown a party, do you think he would go out and do what he did again? “NO!” they all shouted.

God’s grace comes to us whatever we have done, whoever we are. But God’s grace never leaves us as we are.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Eph 2:4-5,10

Simon Chaplin.

What matters more than marriage

CREDIT: Wendy Longo via

Our Federal Government has asked us to say what we think about changing the legal definition of marriage to include same-sex unions.

As I have engaged with the hundreds of Facebook comments on our post from last week, it is clear that most of us wish this discussion would go away.

Some people want the Government to just make the changes without holding a plebiscite so that this painful discussion can stop.

Many Christians would rather we didn’t have to be distracted from sharing the news of the real hope that comes from knowing the real Jesus.

Yet, either way, it’s an important discussion to have, and we need to keep talking in a respectful way about this major change to this core unit of our society.

But in the end, there is something that matters more than marriage… and that is eternity.

Life is short, and there will be a time when everyone of us will stand before God to give an account for our life.

On that day, many people will say to God that they deserve his acceptance because they’ve done good things in life, and have tried hard to be nice.

But the problem is that no human is able to do enough good things to pass this test. Nobody.

And we all deserve eternal punishment from God, which the Bible calls ‘Hell.’

Yet, the best news of all is that if we ask God, then he will transfer our personal judgment from us to Jesus.

And because Jesus was punished on the cross in our place, it means any one of us can now have a certainty for eternity if we trust in Jesus as our loving ruler.

We need to talk about marriage, but eternity is far, far more important.

Do you have certainty for eternity?


It’s loving to vote ‘no’

(CREDIT: Evan Forester via Flickr)

One of the most powerful arguments used by those who wish to change the definition of marriage is that it is morally wrong to deny someone the opportunity to marry the person they love.

And yet, changing the definition of marriage is not the most loving thing to do for the children of our society.

The ‘What has God joined together?’ booklet by our Anglican Diocese makes the important point that “man-woman marriage is actually at the heart of United Nations documents about the family.”

It goes on to quote Article 23 of the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which declares that “The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.”

It is most loving to the children of Australia to maintain the definition of marriage that says that the normal group unit of our society consists of the biological father and mother of the child.

Even though there are some exceptions such as adoption, foster care, and donor-assisted reproduction, it is still best to have children living in a stable, recognised, relationship with their own biological mother and father.

God created marriage for the benefit of all people, and the move to distort this is unloving to all children of Australia.

For, we should embrace the gift that God has given us all, as we read about in the first chapter of the Bible:

“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it’” (Genesis 1:27-28).

I encourage you to join with me in voting ‘no’ in the upcoming marriage plebiscite, as an act of love.


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.