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

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

Much more than groceries

The Mobile Community Pantry (MCP) began at Oak Flats Anglican in February this year. It is a collaboration with Anglicare to provide low-cost groceries to those who need it most. And judging by the response it is a service that is being well received by the community.

Every fortnight, on a Thursday, a van from the MCP arrives at the church loaded with top quality groceries, that for some reason the major supermarket chains want off their shelves. This food can be sold to those who come to the church. Each individual is able to choose how to fill up a bag or two from the van. The cost is $10 a bag but the value is well in excess of $60. This represents a massive saving for those who come, but also offers them the opportunity to pay for the goods – and people really seem to like the way this works.

An encouraging side to this is that local businesses have started to donate items that can be taken for free too. Also one of the church members is also cooking home-made meals to take away!

As a church which has experienced the love of Jesus for us, we are really interested in showing love to our community who need an extra hand to purchase food essentials. However we want to do much more than that. The strength of this program is not just the low cost groceries but the community that people are invited into on a Thursday morning. People are warmly invited in by a whole team of volunteers who offer tea, coffee, home made food, and best of all, a warm and friendly conversation.

The MCP is an easy way for our church to show the love of Jesus, in the same way Jesus did to those who were in need when he walked on Earth. And yet Jesus never left his actions of love alone.

They were always accompanied with an explanation of the thing that people needed most: it is the spiritual needs of Oak Flats we really want to help people with, and we pray that as we get to know those who come along, we will be able to hold out the Eternal food that God offers us in Jesus.

Simon Chaplin

What’s missing from the Opening Ceremony?

The opening ceremony of the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games was a spectacular piece of stadium art, filled with all the light, colour, sound and dance that you would expect.

Opening ceremonies have definitely carved out for themselves their own genre – it is a chance to tell the narrative of a nation and the distinctives of their city.

The opening scene was the dawn of time, where our world was united as one land. A traditional dance showed that from the birth of our continent, our land has been looked after by the indigenous people.

The shift was then made to the distinctives of the Gold Coast – the stadium was turned into a spectacular scene of our fun-filled beach culture.

It certainly captured aspects of out past and current culture. However, was it a true narrative of Australia?

Imagine if we put God in the picture, how would that change things? It’s hard to imagine that in secular Australia.

Romans 1:18-19 says “what can be known about God is plain to us” but “we suppress the truth.”

When we deny the truth of our maker for long enough we can then no longer even remember him at all.

Imagine an opening ceremony where God was on display – where it was his hand that formed our world, our continent, our beaches – where we remembered that God created us all in his own image, so that all people should be treated with care and dignity.

Indeed, it was these very Christian beliefs that helped form the social and justice systems of Australia that have allowed us the freedom to enjoy our beautiful country.

At the end of the opening ceremony, without God in the picture there’s not much response to make. But with God in the picture, as the creator of all those wonderful things the response is one of thankfulness to Him.

Why don’t you take a moment this week, to notice what God has given us and give thanks to him.

Simon Chaplin.

Jesus is not a cheat

CREDIT: Photo NAPARAZZI, via Flickr.

It must be very hard to be a professional sportsperson, with the constant pressure to perform for supporters and sponsors.

No doubt this contributed to the decision this week by disgraced Australian male cricketers to undertake a premeditated and coordinated act of ball tampering.

The level of public outcry has been extraordinary, and the call for punishment and justice has been deafening.

Yet no matter how tempted the players were to cheat, their temptation dwarfs that felt by Jesus in his life.

We read in the Bible in Luke chapter 4:1-13 that Jesus was tempted by the Devil after he spent forty days without food in the desert.

Jesus was tempted by the Devil to bow down to him, instead of trusting and worshiping his heavenly Father.

But Jesus knew that it was vital that he obey God’s word, and resist temptation.

For, if Jesus had cheated in his mission, he would have failed to have dealt with our sin on the first Good Friday.

For, it was only because Jesus was truly sinless that he could take our sin upon himself, and be punished for those sins in our place.

But more than that, by resisting the temptation to cheat in his mission to redeem his people, he also showed that he knows what it is like for us to be tempted, too.

As we read in Hebrews 2:18, “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”

As Smith, Warner and Bancroft make the long and lonely flight back to Australia, it is worth remembering that Jesus’ death brings forgiveness to everyone who asks him, no matter what the crime.

It is only by Jesus’ strong resolve not to cheat in his mission that sinners like you, me, and the Aussie cricketers can be saved from the punishment we deserve from God.

Jodie McNeill.



Jesus is the great exchange

There has been a lot happening this week as our church and the churches in our region have partnered with Moore College students to run many Jesus is___. events.

Hundreds of people have attended the public sessions at the Civic Centre, over 1000 students have been at special SRE assemblies, and 2000 high-schoolers were at the Free To Be event.

At the heart of all this flurry of activity is one simple message: Jesus is the great exchange.

There were lots of events this week, but there is only one event that really matters: it is the moment where this great exchange takes place in your life.

No-one else will see this moment, for it takes place in your heart, and yet at the same time it is a cosmic event.

1 Peter 3:18 says “For Christ suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God”.

The great exchange is this: Jesus stands in our place; he swaps his life for ours and he does it so that he might brings us back home to God.

Ben Pfahlert, the speaker at the public sessions, put it like this: He took our place that we might reconnect with our spiritual old man.

This is the great exchange of love divine, as a recent song puts it:

Oh great exchange
Of love divine
My greatest gain
I leave behind

So turn my heart
And calm my fears
For you will bring
Me home again*

In this great exchange we are solely the receivers. We offer nothing as part of of the deal.

God himself, out of only love, offers us it all. Nothing can rival this offer, so we can leave all gain behind.

And nothing can take it away, so our heart is assured and our fears are calmed. His life for ours, that he might give take us home.

Simon Chaplin.

* Love Returns : Luke Woodhouse and Gav Perkins.

Jesus is Emotional

CREDIT: Photo Waiting for the Word, via Flickr.

Depending on the situation, it can be good or bad for a person to be emotional.

It’s obviously good and normal to cry when you meet your newborn child for the first time, or farewell a loved one for the last time.

But, we’d find it unsettling if a police officer, or a judge, or a surgeon was to cry or laugh out loud in the course of their solemn duties.

Interestingly, the Bible shows us several times when Jesus is emotional.

One time he was clearly upset at how he was rejected by his own, Israelite people, whom he came to save.

He was angry at those religious rulers in Jerusalem, and he expressed a heart-felt sadness about them:

Matt. 23:37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.”

Another time he was famously upset was when he uttered the words that make up the shortest verse in the Bible: “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35).

Jesus saw how Mary was upset at the death of their mutual friend, Lazarus, and Jesus himself was caught up in tears.

Because Jesus continues to live in human form as he rules with his heavenly father, we can be confident that Jesus continues to have emotions like this as he engages with those he loves and leads.

This doesn’t mean that Jesus’ judgement is somehow impaired by his emotions: he doesn’t stop being fair and wise.

Instead, it is a comforting reminder that Jesus’ love for his children is genuine and caring.

And it gives us a fresh reason that it’s so good to follow Jesus as our loving ruler and rescuer.

Jodie McNeill.

Jesus Is Rest

CREDIT: Photo anieto2k, via Flickr.

There are so many things that make us weary and burdened.

Maybe you’re weighed down by poor health, difficult relationships, or financial stress.

Maybe your biggest burden is spiritual?

Perhaps you’re worried that when God judges you after you die that you might not have done enough to please him.

The great news is that Jesus offers relief from that burden because Jesus is rest.

Before Jesus came, God promised his people rest from all their enemies so that they would live in safety.

Then, after Jesus came, God’s people realised that this ‘rest’ was actually talking about Heaven.

But many people thought it was only possible to gain this heavenly rest through hard work.

They were told that they needed to do all sorts of religious acts and good works in order to get into heaven and enjoy a hard-earned rest.

But Jesus turned that upside down when he told them that he is the only one who can give someone that rest.

He told them, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

Then he told them how to take hold of that rest: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:29-30)

Jesus offers to swap his light and easy load for our heavy burden, and in turn, give us true rest.

It all is possible because when Jesus died, he swapped our sin for his perfection, and he became guilty so that we might become innocent in God’s sight.

Wouldn’t you love to have rest for your soul, now and in eternity?

Jodie McNeill.