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

Back to ‘Normal’?

I remember our AGM in 2020, which was only days before things changed forever in the life of our world and our church as the pandemic started to spread across the globe.

Within weeks we were watching church through livestream, and learning how to do ‘social distancing,’ wear a mask without fogging up glasses, and to scan in ‘QR’ codes… and suddenly toilet paper became worth its weight in gold!

Now it’s almost two years, and as the NSW Premier declares a change to an ‘endemic’, we’re finally allowed to come together with no, actual ‘restrictions’ on our gatherings.

This weekend, we can welcome an unlimited number of people into our church building, without masks, singing with joy and gusto.

As we reflect on the past two years, some will say that the hardest thing has been the prohibition of singing, or the capacity limits, or even the requirement of wearing masks.

But the hardest thing of all has been missing the physical attendance of our dear brothers and sisters who have continued to attend each week online, but not in person.

I know you have been with us week by week, but it will be so lovely when I, as your preacher and pastor, can see your face as you sit under the wonderful word of God.

Now that the booster shot has had time to do its work, I would love to see all our members return in person to church as soon as possible, when you can.

Nonetheless, we’re going to keep our livestream ministry going, and we look forward to welcoming people through screens into the future.

In fact, it’s turned out to be a great way of reaching out to our village, valley, region… and even to the world!

But as they say of footy, “it’s never the same unless you’re there at the game”… and that’s certainly true of the joyful times spent eating dinner or brunch together after church.

So, if you can make it along this weekend in person, then it would be such a great blessing to me and to us all.

JODIE McNEILL

(Photo credit: Prachatai via Flickr.com)

Do you love the Bible?

I have recently been listening to the Bible talks given at CMS Summer School by Andrew Shead, and his talk on Psalm 1 got me thinking… 

Psalm 1:1 Oh, the joys of those who do not
    follow the advice of the wicked,
    or stand around with sinners,
    or join in with mockers.

2 But they delight in the law of the Lord,
    meditating on it day and night.

As someone turns away from a life of wickedness and godlessness, they instead, head down the path of joy. This other way of life is different, and it is filled with a delight in the law of the Lord, which, for us is the Bible.

But this part right here, “delight in the law of the Lord” got me thinking: do I ‘delight’ in God’s law, his instruction, his word?

Do I love to spend time with God in his word?

“Yes, yes, yes!” is how I know I should answer the question, but sometimes my mornings sound like a bit more of a :“no, no, no, you are too busy!”

If I had two extra hours in my day, would I even consider spending them in God’s word or would I fill it with my other delights like sleep and YouTube?

I don’t know about you, but I have been through different seasons when it comes to delighting in God’s word. 

Sometimes it the favourite part of my day! But other times it can remain forgotten about, like an old zucchini in the fridge.

My point here is not to condemn us, but to help us realise that as sinful people we need help!

The path of joy is a path paved by God’s own word, because it is the means by which we can know him.

And, nobody wants us to delight in God’s word more than God himself!

So if you are reading this, and would love to delight in God’s word, spend more time the Bible, and know God more, then why don’t you ask him for help right now?

There is nobody else who can help you delight in the scriptures more than God himself! 

Thanks be to our self-revealing, heart-changing, joy-bringing God!

(Photo Credit: Aaron Burden via Unsplash)

Stay Dangerous

I wonder if you’ve noticed how often we encourage others to “stay safe?”

In a way, it’s an obvious and nice thing to say, especially as we endure this once-in-a-generation global pandemic.

Yet, the idea of personal safety for believers in Jesus is barely mentioned throughout the New Testament.

Three times that it seems to speak of personal safety are more related to spiritual protection, namely John 17:12 and 1 John 5:18.

And whilst the Apostle Paul does pray in Romans 15:31 for physical protection, his concern is not his own safety, but that he might not be prevented from his mission to serve others.

This is such a contrast to our preoccupation in modern society with safety and minimising risk.

Indeed, to be a follower of Jesus is a dangerous pursuit, for we are promised that it will result in persecution and trials of all kinds.

As we read in 2 Timothy, “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” (2 Timothy 3:12)

What’s more, as Paul suffers in chains because of his dangerous work in proclaiming Christ, his prayer is not for freedom and safety, but rather for boldness:

Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should. (Ephesians 6:19-20)

So, as we seek for each person in our village, valley and region to know how to follow Jesus and why it matters, may we be bold in declaring this dangerous message, so that many more might know the eternal, spiritual safety that is found in Jesus alone.

JODIE McNEILL

(Photo Credit: Bernard Laguerre via Flickr)

A Vision for our Valley

If you could sum up with one sentence your prayers and hopes for our church ministry, then what would you write?

As I considered this myself, I recently came up with this vision: 

“That every person in our village, valley and region would know how to follow Jesus and why it matters.”

As I’ve been planning and praying for 2022, this statement has been really valuable in focusing my attention on what I think we should be doing as a church.

The first thing about this vision is that it defines who we are ministering to, namely each, individual person who lives within reach of our church, for our focus and as our responsibility.

The second thing about this vision is that it is about helping those people, “know how to follow Jesus,” regardless of whether they end up attending our church or not.

Our job is to speak the good news of Jesus in such a way that those who hear us will have no doubt about how to join us in following Jesus as Lord and saviour.

It helps sharpen our message, and it clarifies that we want believers and unbelievers alike to know how to follow Jesus, either for the first time or to continue as life-long disciples of Christ.

The third thing about this vision is that it ends by helping us make sure we tell people that following Jesus really matters.

Most importantly, we want every person to follow Jesus so that God will receive the glory as a person comes to follow Christ.

Plus, we want to make it clear to every person that the day of Judgement is coming soon, and it is only by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ that they will be spared God’s anger through the death of Jesus.

Will you pray this vision statement with me as our church seeks to serve the Lord this year?

JODIE McNEILL 

Alive With Christ

Did you know that our tagline, ‘Alive with Christ’ came from the official name for our parish, ‘The Church of the Resurrection?’

Most churches are ‘Saint Something’, but our church is the only one in the Diocese of Sydney that has ‘Resurrection’ in its official title.

We are a church that exists because Jesus is alive!

What’s more, because Jesus is alive, it means that when we are united with him, then we, too, are alive.

Here is the verse from the Bible upon which our church tagline is based:

“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” (Ephesians 2:2-5, NIV11).

The thing about being made alive is that it is something that happens to dead people.

Jesus’ resurrection was truly amazing and wonderful because we are certain that he was fully dead, only to be fully raised to life.

In the same way, we who have believed in Jesus as Lord have been brought from spiritual death to life, as we have experienced our own, spiritual resurrection through his mercy.

Following Jesus is not about improving our life, nor getting more out of life.

It’s about a radical, dramatic transformation from death to life… from being a cold-hard spiritual corpse into a warm and living body, raised to serve and love.

And it all comes from grace… it’s all an extraordinary gift from God because of his mercy, even through we were dead in our transgressions and sins.

It is wonderful to be in the church of the resurrection, because we know that our place in this church is only because of the remarkable gift of Jesus.

That’s why it’s wonderful beyond words to be alive with Christ!

JODIE McNEILL 

(Credit: upyernoz via Flickr)

Doubting the Devil

Has it ever struck you as odd that Christians often speak about doubting God and his word, but very rarely think about doubting the Devil?

I think this is even more evidence of the deception that the Devil seeks to lead us in, especially when we’re feeling weak.

After all, there has never, ever been a time when our Lord God has failed to deliver on a promise.

Yet the Devil has a proven track record of lying, deceiving, and generally leading God’s people away.

I noticed this again recently when I read the third chapter of the Bible, in Genesis 3.

The Lord God has given his people a glorious place to live, and they have experienced the blessings of living an obedient life under God’s rule.

As a sign of their acceptance of his loving rule, they were told not to eat the fruit of just one tree in the entire Garden of Eden.

Yet, Satan deceived the woman, asking her “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?” (Genesis 3:1).

Even with this first deception, Eve had to correct the error of the serpent, telling him that it was only one, special tree that they were to avoid.

Satan was already proven to be wrong, and yet he bowled another delivery to the woman, telling her that if they eat from that tree then they would not die.

We then read in verse six that the woman was convinced by the devil, so she ate some fruit and shared it with her husband, who went along with her sin.

The tragic results of that sin proved the utter evil and lies of the devil… and yet we are still tempted day after day to reject God’s good rule.

It should seem obvious, but remember that the devil can never be trusted.

We should faithfully doubt the devil… and faithfully obey the good and gracious word of our Lord.

JODIE McNEILL

(Credit: Aphrodite via Flickr)

2022… Let’s Go!

As we start the new year together, we stand at the edge of a new era of opportunities for Christian growth amongst the members of our church, as well as those who live in our village, valley and region.

As numbers of Covid-19 cases rapidly rise, we are in the midst of another moment of slowdown, especially for those of us who have tested positively or who are in isolation.

It is a time for us to take advantage of this moment to mediate on God’s word and to pray to him in this season of our nation.

This week a number of people from our church have been participating in the annual ‘CMS Summer School’ conference, which has been streamed online.

If you’ve missed it, there’s still time to go to www.nswsummerschool.org.au to register to view the sessions and the other missionary online content.

It should come as no surprise that churches with a heart for overseas mission are often the churches with a passion for outreach to the people in their own suburb.

For, the same drive that leads us to pray, give and go, is the same drive that motivates us to tell those who live nearby about the life-changing message of the good news of Jesus.

This year we’re looking forward to an extra mission boost in the months leading up to Easter, and I’m praying that the Holy Spirit will lead us to prayerfully proclaim the powerful gospel of Jesus to everyone from Jamberoo to the ends of the earth.

So, when it comes to mission in 2022… let’s go!

JODIE McNEILL

Change Happens

It’s pretty common for people to say that this-and-that or so-and-so could never change. 

But when I hear people speak like that, I tell them that I’m in the change business!

I know that people and things do change, even though it often seems humanly impossible.

We see it most clearly when we witness a person’s conversion to Christ, when they go from being enemies with God to being friends with Jesus… and their life is turned upside down.

As they say, it doesn’t always happen overnight, but it will happen!

Some of the most dramatic life-changing experiences were seen when Jesus walked on earth, and when people came to him, they had their lives turned upside down.

One of the most famous stories was when Jesus met Zacchaeus, as recorded in Luke chapter 19.

He was the chief tax collector and had become rich through his corrupt work.

When Jesus saw him, he called him by name and said, “I must be a guest in your home today.” (Luke 19:5).

After Jesus called him by name, Zacchaeus, “took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy” (verse 6), and he told Jesus, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!” (verse 8).

When Zacchaeus met Jesus, his life was changed completely.

Jesus explained what happened, saying, “Salvation has come to this home today” (verse 9).

When it comes to dramatic life changes, never say never!

As we start a new year, it’s time for us to pray that 2022 sees many people have a dramatic change in their life as they come to know Jesus and understand how good it is to be forgiven and to have hope.

May this change be seen in the lives of many in our village, valley and region!

JODIE McNEILL

Powerful Forgiveness

How can a person forgive someone who has abused them?

Well, this is a very serious question, and it’s important to know that if you’ve been abused by someone, then it is sad, painful and wrong.

If you’re still being abused by someone, then you should act to stop it happening anymore.

Please visit the knowdomesticabuse.church website to find out more, or speak to a trusted church leader or Christian friend.

But how can you possibly forgive someone who has abused you?

Well, if someone has abused you and they ask for your forgiveness, then Jesus tells you that you should forgive them, as hard as that may seem.

When Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”, Jesus said, “No, not seven times, but seventy times seven!” (Matthew 18:21-22).

Even though it might seem impossibly difficult for you, we need to remember that the cost for God to forgive us was even greater.

It cost him his son, dying on the cross, for you and for me.

That’s not to say it won’t be hard, but we must trust in God to strengthen us to forgive others, and to give us the ability to do this difficult thing.

Now, if the person who has abused you has not asked for forgiveness, then we are still called to love them, as we are told to love our enemies.

It does not seem possible to truly forgive them if they don’t request it, but we still need to love them and be ready to forgive them in the event that they might, one day, say sorry.

It will be hard, but that’s the power of the Holy Spirit in us, who will lead us to love and forgive like Jesus loves and forgive us, even when we have done nothing to deserve his love for us that is so rich and mercy.

Healthy Conflict

It might be a bit strange to think that conflict could be good, but healthy relationships will include good conflict, whether it’s two people in a marriage, a team of people, or even an entire church or larger organisation.

The reason is that conflict is simply any disagreement between two people or parties, which, when handled well, is a normal part of life together.

This is something I learnt in a book called ‘Five Dysfunctions of a Team’ by Patrick Lencioni, in which Fear of Conflict’ is listed as a significant problem in teams that don’t work well.

As Christians, we rightfully “make every effort to keep [ourselves] united in the Spirit, binding [ourselves] together with peace.” (Ephesians 4:3)

And, at the same time, we know that it is right for us to “speak the truth in love, (Ephesians 4:15), knowing that truth will bring conflict amongst us.

Indeed, Jesus made it clear that his message will “set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother,” (Matthew 10:35) as the call to follow him will bring conflict amongst even the closest families.

Another form of conflict comes when we tell someone to stop sinning, as we read in this week’s chapter from Matthew 18.

It’s sometimes hard to pluck up the courage to lead someone to be convicted of their sins, but “wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy. (Proverbs 27:6).

For if they listen to our rebuke, then we will be serving them in love as we seek to help them see their error and to lovingly serve them as they move towards repentance and reconciliation, as needed.

This kind of conflict is often the hardest, but it is always the most important for us to pursue, out of deep love for each other and for the church of Christ.

JODIE McNEILL