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

That’s Retailtainment

If you’ve ever chosen to ‘go to the shops’ in order to occupy your time, then you will have experienced some ‘retailtainment.’

George Ritzer defines this as the “use of ambience, emotion, sound and activity to get customers interested in the merchandise and in a mood to buy.”

Retail has been mashed up with entertainment, and now it’s hard to separate the two activities.

In our hunger for more retailtainment, our shops are open for longer hours, which means that it’s harder than ever to synchronise the leisure time for our families and friends.

Yet, this has been a reality for many people involved in the ‘shift work’ that keeps our country running.

Whether it’s enforcing the law, nursing patients, or baking bread, many people work when the rest of us are sleeping.

This makes going to church as a family even harder.

The good news is that God never sleeps, and we can meet with him any time of the day.

That’s why it’s great to get into a rhythm of daily Bible reading and prayer, even if it’s just a short verse and a quick prayer.

Taking advantage of technological advancements like livestreaming church (like www.oakflats.tv) means those who work unusual hours can also still maintain some normality, even when they’re at work on weekends.

Yet, there’s no substitute for face-to-face ministry to each other, which is why it’s good for all of us to meet up one-to-one or in small groups to pray and read the Bible with each other.

But no matter if or when you work, let’s find our satisfaction in the joy of knowing God, rather than worshipping at the altar of retail.

“For he is the living God and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end.” (Daniel 6:26b)

Great growth through Year 13

Life changing. Boldness. Deep joy.

These are some of the concluding words that come into mind about my journey with Year 13.

This year has been the best year of my life. Who would have thought that in only nine months, I would have grown so much.

I am so thankful to God for his growth in me through Year 13: theological growth, relational growth of life-long friendships and personal growth of my own faith. He is so good.

It has been a real joy to serve in our Oak Flats and Jamberoo church family.

Watching my high school Scripture kids explore Christianity, asking deep questions and regularly attending youth group has been a real encouragement.

I have also loved mentoring my youth girls and delving into controversial topics such as same-sex attraction, dating and abortion.

Thank you for the ongoing support you have shown financially and in prayer, and your partnership in our weekly ministries.

Our mission to Fiji brought deep growth. Witnessing the local people’s contentment and unwavering trust in Jesus exposed my own selfishness and need to live for him at the cost of popularity, money and comfort.

However, my greatest highlight has been my growth in boldness and theological knowledge. 

Being equipped to defend the gospel through our apologetics studies, it has given me more confidence to answer my workmates’ questions about the Bible.

As I graduated three weeks ago, I felt both joy and grief, yet I am excited for God’s plans in the future.

Please pray that I will speak boldly about Jesus at university next year, seeking to evangelise at every opportunity.

Also, that for all graduates, that God would remain at the centre of our lives.

Ultimately, may all glory be to Christ!

Are you scared of death?

 

Last resting place.

It is quite unnerving to see a grown-man sobbing uncontrollably.

This is what I saw as I went to visit a gentleman in hospital who had been told that he had only days to live. He was in constant tears because he was scared about what would happen to him when he died.

Facing death without any assurance in salvation is dangerous and terrifying.

And yet so many people are in this very situation, numb to the reality of their coming judgement by Jesus as they will meet him at their death.

When I met with this man in hospital, I asked him if he believed that Jesus was the Lord of the universe, and if he had asked Jesus to forgive him. The man nodded his head and said, “yes.”

But he was crying because he didn’t think that believing this was enough to gain salvation from Jesus.

I then turned to one of my favourite parts of the Bible, where the two criminals being crucified with Jesus were in conversation with him, in Luke 23.

One of the criminals rejected Jesus, but the other simply asked Jesus to “remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus’ response was “truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

There was nothing that the criminal who followed Jesus could do except tell Jesus that he trusted in him as his Lord, and to simply surrender himself to Jesus’ rule.

And it brought an immediate and significant result: forgiveness, forever.

And with this, I told my friend on his deathbed that if he also had said these things to Jesus, then the assurance Jesus gave to that criminal was already his to enjoy.

And then the man stopped crying, and he never sobbed again. He enjoyed certainty for eternity.

What about you? Are you scared of dying? Why don’t you come to Jesus right now and enjoy true peace and comfort?

Should you be worried about things?

One of the outcomes of industrialisation and globalisation is that we tend to be sheltered from the impact of success and failure on the land.

Whether it’s a time of peak or trough, we don’t feel the full impact of the success and failure of our primary industries, because we buy most things through supermarkets with global supply chains.

Yet when we lived off the produce of the land on which we lived, we sharply felt the impact of times of abundance and of scarcity.

And this intimate connection with the land meant that we were forced to connect with nature, and behind nature, to God himself.

We were reminded of this in Elihu’s final speech to Job when he pointed to the powerful impact of the weather upon those who work the land.

For, through displays of extreme weather, God “stops all people from their labour”, “so that everyone he has made may know his work.” (Job 37:7)

Yet, even through drought and flooding rain, we know that God sustains the land. For as we read in Psalm 145:

The Lord upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time. You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing. (Psalm 145:14-15)

The Lord provides! He is reliable and he delivers as he’s promised.

So, whether we get our produce from the land or from the supermarket, we can be sure that God will provide our needs. For as Jesus said:

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? (Matthew 6:25-27)

What do you get out of church?

jogging

Have you ever stopped to think about what you get out of church?

After all, we encourage people to carefully evaluate whether their investment of time or money or emotions is returning a good dividend.

So, if you had a membership with an organisation that didn’t give you sufficient benefits, then you might decide to leave and join elsewhere.

But church is very, very different.

That’s because the Christian church is the ultimate service organisation.

At its heart is Jesus, who is the ultimate example of the greatest servant of all, giving his life for those of us in his church.

And our response must be to serve, too.

Sometimes, when you’ve been coming along to a church for a while, it’s easy to start to feel less connected with what’s happening around the place.

My experience with joining a new church many years ago as a parishioner (not as the minister) was that it was only when I got myself ‘on the roster’ that I really felt that this new church was now my church.

If you’re new and you’re not yet ‘on the roster’ then we’d love you to be part of the action.

And if you’re a regular who has fallen off the roster for some reason, then you’re invited to jump back on, if you’re willing and able.

After all, as we read in 1 Corinthians 12, we are all members of the one body, and that one body has many different parts.

And as we look to the inspiration of Jesus as we seek to serve each other, we may well find that as we give to others we then get a whole lot more out of church than we did before!

For, we all have a part to play, and as we play that part, we all feel more a part of the place!

What does your future hold?

If I knew with certainty what would happen to you in the next week, then this would put me in a position of great power and authority over your life.

The ability to tell the future is something that many people claim to possess, but clearly are unable to reliably demonstrate.

If they could, then they’d be banned from owning shares, placing bets, or from any other activity that relied on speculation.

And yet, God knows the future, and he is prepared to let us know some details about what will happen.

These words of prophecy can be found in the Bible, and they tell us the promises that God has for his people and for his creation.

He promises that he will be sending Jesus back soon to judge everyone for whether they’ve followed him as their loving ruler or not.

He promises that if we ask for forgiveness and if we trust in God, then because of the death of Jesus, he will not treat us like our sins deserve.

He promises that if we are his friends that this coming day of judgement is not something we should fear.

And he promises that in the meantime, he will continue to hear our every prayer, and to be with us through our times of personal trials and sufferings.

If you rely on Jesus as your loving ruler then you can know that he holds your future safely in his hands.

Which means that no matter what fears you might have for your own life or for the world, you can be sure that he is trustworthy and full of compassion.

And that’s the best fortune telling you’ll ever experience.

Who will lead the free world?

Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump (CREDIT: DonkeyHotey via Flickr)

Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump (CREDIT: DonkeyHotey via Flickr)

Ever since the Cold War, people have described the President of the United States of America as the ‘leader of the Free World.’

It’s quite an awesome title to print on your business card.

And unless you’ve been blissfully enjoying a prolonged media blackout, you would know that this position has become vacant, and the successful candidate will learn of their fate this week.

Both candidates are somewhat controversial, to say the very least, and this has led some people to frustration and despair.

Yet, the good news is that no matter who wins the election, God continues to be the ultimate ruler of the free world.

In the Bible in the book of Daniel, God’s people were ruled by kings that were far from desirable.

They had sought to smash down the faith of God’s people by dragging them to Babylon.

Yet, even as these rulers ruled, God ruled over those rulers.

He brought them through much personal strife, and for some, it led them to recognise that the Lord is the ultimate ruler of all.

So much so that King Nebuchadnezzar could say this of God that, “his dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation.” (Daniel 4:34)

Yet, as this same King realised the hard way, God is able to make his rule clear to those who have positions of power in the world:

Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble. (Daniel 4:37)

No matter who wins this week, we must remember that God is still on his throne.

And given the choice that faces the citizens of the United States of America, this is a great relief.

The great Australian dream

It’s been said that owning your own home is the great Australian dream.

After all, people say it feels good to know they’ve got the stability and security of having full control of the roof over their head.

Yet it’s increasingly hard to afford a home, and even when a person does, there’s no guarantee that it will deliver the comfort they crave.

Plus, it doesn’t really matter how much a person owns on Earth if they don’t have Heaven sorted out.

That’s why Jesus’ famous words in John chapter 14 cut across the great Aussie dream. He said:

In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. (John 14:2-3)

The way we get a guaranteed booking in God’s house is to receive the key from Jesus, at his expense.

After all, Jesus said that he was going to that house in order to come back and take his followers to be with him.

This is the only sure-thing that we can rely upon, especially as we seek security in an ever-changing world.

In Jesus can we find the only, solid foundation for life in this world and the next.

And this will give us much more than the great Australian dream can ever promise.

For, if we don’t trust in Jesus, we won’t have the security, stability and safety of living in God’s heavenly house.

Where’s your home?

Are you hungry for the Bible?

open_bible

Do you hunger for God’s word like a big plate of bacon and eggs?

It might seem strange to compare the Bible to our breakfast, but this is how Job spoke of his hunger for God’s word:

I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread. (Job 23:12b)

Can you say the same thing?

During the question time and my talk last week I spoke of how I try to read a bit of the Bible every day.

It’s not a ritual that I’ve kept every day of my Christian life, and in fact there have been many, long breaks from this daily habit.

Yet, every day is a new day, and I’m thankful to God that I’ve been able to be pretty regular in this routine this year… and I’m loving it!

I’m using an app on my iPhone called ‘YouVersion’ (also known as ‘Bible’). It enables me to select a daily Bible reading plan, and it helps remind me to read the next bit, each day, which I can read right on that app.

If you’ve never started a regular routine, then why not start tomorrow morning? Just read a few verses, and see how you go. It might turn into a habit really quickly.

Now, the reason I try and read the Bible each day is that it’s great to keep filling my heart and mind with the things of God, especially due to the barrage of information around me that keeps pushing God aside.

It’s a great joy to know God more and more, and to know who it is who loves me so much that he’d send his son to die for me.

And it’s a great way to prime my mind to pray to God, since it helps me know how God thinks and what he thinks of me.

So, what are you waiting for?

Showing love in the marriage debate

Marriage

This week at the Synod meeting of the Sydney Anglican Church there was a lengthy discussion about the present debate on the redefinition of marriage.

During this discussion, we thanked the Archbishop’s Plebiscite Task Force for the work they had done in preparing a booklet to help educate people about the issue.

Whilst this booklet is still in draft format for review, it was reported on by the media, and its contents were quoted and discussed.

I am looking forward to distributing the final version of this booklet to you in the next few months.

But as a taste, here is a helpful section that tells us why that we are acting as good neighbours when we share the good and warn of the bad:

God’s plan for marriage brings positive things for children and society. Even for people who don’t believe marriage is a gift from God, the vast majority of Australians know that marriage brings good.

It’s not surprising that, if we abandon God’s good plan for marriage and define it another way, there will be consequences. And many of them may be negative. Christians have been way too silent on this. We can’t be good neighbours and stay silent on the damage that can be done if we change the meaning of marriage.

Because we’ve been largely silent until now, most Australians are simply unaware of the consequences of redefining marriage – the consequences for families and children, the consequences of removing gender difference from our societal structure and the consequences for freedom of speech.

Let’s look at those consequences and how we can talk about them with our neighbours – whether they’re believing people or not.

Let’s pray that this important discussion can be carried out with respect and love.

Let’s also pray that this discussion will glorify God and lead us to many gospel conversations.