Australia is becoming increasingly seculars a Nation; ANZAC Day too has become increasingly secular through the years, some would go so far as to call ANZAC Day the secular religion of the land. The war itself is becoming a far distant memory, the make up and priorities of the community have shifted; yet the commemoration of the ANZACs has, in recent years, increased in community significance. The question posed: Is there still a place for the Christian faith in ANZAC Day celebrations?
I have had the great privilege of leading ANZAC Day services in different States over many years. I always count it a great privilege to stand with our Veterans, to thank them for their service, and to remember the fallen. There is a spirit, a mood, at an ANZAC Day dawn service that you find at very few non faith centric community events; a palpable search for meaning, and purpose and belonging, a desire to know that there is a purpose beyond, that sacrifice is not in vain: And our community turns to the ANZAC Day service in droves with a permissive and open attitude towards prayer, almost seeking the divine, waiting for that moment when life gains meaning. In many ways our community, our neighbours, use this national day of remembrance as a vehicle for their own spiritual quest. As the disciples, as the Church, I see ANZAC Day as an opportunity to stand boldly beside our neighbours, in amongst our community and answer their longing question, silently saying, yes there is purpose, meaning and value beyond today.
Jesus said "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Is it possible that God, in his unfailing all consuming love could be using ANZAC Day to draw all people back to himself? Could He be using the stories of heroism, mateship, leadership and sacrifice to prepare hearts and minds to receive the gospel? Could we as his disciples use the shared memory of sacrifice, the flickering of the flame, the sounding of the last post or the lowering of the flag as the sun rises to touch the heart of the person standing beside us? This ANZAC Day could we sacrifice our own comfort zones, our own prejudices and hangups to take part in great plan of redemption?
So is there still a place for the Christian faith in ANZAC Day celebrations? I believe the answer is yes! The bigger question is are we prepared to take part?
Grace & Peace
Our overarching theme at St Luke’s in 2021 is ‘Body Building’, that is building up the body of Christ - “the Church”. So, what does this mean in Lent?
Ash Wednesday this year falls on 17th February. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent which is a period of self-examination and reflection for 40 days (not counting Sunday’s) before Easter. It is a time marks by humility, repentance, reflection, and renewal. The 40 day period represents two episodes of spiritual testing in the Bible: the 40 years of wilderness wanderings by the Israelites after the exodus from Egypt (Numbers 33:38 and Deuteronomy 1:3) and the temptation of Jesus after he spent 40 days fasting in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13). The goal of Lent is to honestly examine your life in light of God's Word and to make a commitment to change in any areas you have not submitted to the Lord. It is a time of putting off the old self and putting on the new (Ephesians 4:22-24), of discovering that our faith is not just a feel-good, self-help religion but one that answers the deepest questions of life and eternity, and of rebuilding our identity in Christ. Done well, Lent is a time that offers us an opportunity to come to terms with the human condition we may spend the rest of the year running from, and it brings our need for a Savior to the forefront; It strengthens our faith, deepens our commitment, and helps us to focus on what unites us the body of Christ rather than what divides.
Join me in taking the Lenten Journey this year. A Lenten reflection book will be available at the back of the church or on our website to guide us through this year’s journey. A prayer and reflection group will be available Monday night 7pm on-line and Saturday morning 8:30am in the hall. Please contact Jen to sign up for either of these groups.
Lenten prayer: Heavenly Father, Thank you for the gift of this season. Thank you for knowing our hearts and our need for rhythms in our lives, and for drawing us into a deeper communion with you throughout the coming 40 days.
Isaiah 58:6-7 - “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Grace & Peace,
Our overarching theme at St Luke’s in 2021 is ‘Body Building’, that is building up the body of Christ - “the Church”. As we all know, healthy bodies are important. This is one reason why the church-as-body metaphor is so helpful because it helps us to focus on the things that matter and it strengthens our witness in the world.
In order for us to live, thrive and survive, we need healthy bodies. When our body isn’t healthy we are limited in what we can do, if one part of the body is not functioning properly it puts additional strain on all other parts, as disease takes over our body breaks down and if left untreated will eventually will die.
For a body to be healthy it requires proper nutrition, exercise, rest, and purpose.
Nutrition: A diet of junk food, or high fats and sugars will quickly lead to a deterioration in our physical health. We become sluggish and risk obesity and heart issues. Our Spiritual diet is no different what we put into our mind matters. What are you reading, what are you watching, what are you talking about? Is it fill-in your mind and heart with the things of God or the things of the world?
Exercise: The more we are involved the more we want to be involved. This is true of all exercise physical and faith. So, get involved! Exercise your faith. Volunteer, pray, participate in events and groups. The more we exercise, the fitter we become and the more resilience we have to problems that we face. When we become lazy, when we are not challenged and stretched, we lose the will to want to be involved.
Purpose: when life has lost direction and meaning the mind suffers and the body loses energy. Parts of the body may even start working against itself, going in opposite directions. As the body of Christ we must remain focussed on the mission and purpose given to us by Christ for His body on earth. (Matt 22:36-40 & Matt 28:18-20)
Rest: Our bodies need rest; when we are overworked, over-stressed, over tired our body does not function well. Our mind is clouded and our body breaks down. Jesus said “Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest”. Anything of meaning and substance can only be achieved in the strength of God, and (exercise) trust that He is indeed sovereign and in control.
Healthy bodies grow, they replicate and they work as one. The health of the church works in parallel with the health of the faith of each of its members. To ensure a healthy body we must encourage and equip each other to remain strong and healthy in our faith.
Grace & Peace
Our overarching theme at St Luke’s in 2021 is ‘Body Building’, that is building up the body of Christ - “the Church”
For the last couple of years we have been talking about being disciples of Jesus, and making disciples of Jesus following the command from Jesus himself in Matthew 28 to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
With the roadblocks and difficulties of life, making disciples can seem a lofty and impossible goal. However Jesus didn’t set this gaol then abandon us to our own imagination to figure out how to achieve it. He established the Church as the body in which individual Christians would be integrated with fellow believers in interdependent relationships designed for their mutual growth and maturity and as a launching pad for ministry to others.
When we follow his design the body of Christ (the church) matures and grows stronger and functions beautifully. But it doesn’t happen on it’s own! So what does help the body of Christ to be stronger and more mature?
Grace & Peace
The turn of a new year is always a time for us to once again reflect on the year that has been and to look forward to the year to come.
Every year (including 2020) has within it triumphs and successes; every year also contains its share of unfulfilled plans, unrealised dreams and bumps in the road. Every new year offers endless possibilities and an almost palpable excitement for the adventure that awaits. The turn of a new year gives us the opportunity for resolutions, for changes which will take us forward, and to choose the path that we will follow. As 2021 dawns upon us ... what path will we choose?
I pray that this year we will keep our focus where it needs to be; that we will choose to walk in the light of Christ; that we will choose to be fully devoted in our discipleship of Jesus; that we will be intentional about growing disciples of Jesus in our homes, workplaces and churches; and that we will stand firm in our faith in the face of the pressure to come.
May this new year draw each of us into the abundant richness of Jesus more than we ever thought possible.
And a final prayer from Ephesians 3:14-20
For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family[a] in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Happy New Year
Advent is an important season in the life fo the church. This season speaks of our joyous anticipation and preparation for the coming of Christ. Our reflections should not simply recall the events leading up to the first Christmas; but should equally see us deeply preparing our hearts for the second coming of Christ.
Through the prophet Jeremiah the Lord counselled ‘You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart’. The formula for finding Jesus has always been the same, the earnest and sincere prayer of a humble and pure heart. This years theme of ‘A New Hope’ calls us to recall just who the baby in the manger truly was and what he achieved. It calls us as disciples to see who this baby in the manager truly is, to grow in our understanding of, and trust in God’s promises, to truly hold onto the sure and certain hope that we have in Christ, and to trust in his faithfulness.
I pray that as undertake our advent preparations this year that each of us may grow in our awareness of God's love for us; and draw closer to him, rendering our hearts to his service and our lives to expectant and purposeful preparation. Great is his faithfulness!
Grace & peace
In today’s world people do not always want to hear what God has to say on any given topic. It takes courage to speak God’s word to a society that has it’s own ideas, worldview and values, yet this is what God’s people have been called to do for thousands of years, and it is what we, as disciples of Christ, are still called to do today. Many people tell me that they struggle to share their faith because either they are not good with words or they don’t know what to say. We are certainly not the first generation of believers who have struggled in this way; the Bible gives us stories of people like Moses, Jonah and even Paul to remind us that God Himself will equip us and strengthen us when we speak God’s word, but first we must follow His direction.
But can’t we just lead good lives? Living a “good life” is not what the Bible calls us to do, we are called to live a godly life - and this is a powerful witness in a world far from God; mainly because one common response to the Christian message is that Christians as hypocritical because we say one thing but do another. So living a Godly life is one part of sharing our faith with a sceptical world - we may not be able to answer all of their questions, but they can’t deny the reality of what Christ has done in our life. But At the same time, we must do more than simply live Godly lives. People need to hear the Gospel—to hear that God loves them, that Christ died for them and that they can have eternal life. Romans 10:13-14 says, “‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?”
Here are 5 simple steps to sharing the Gospel:
1. Tell them about God’s Plan - peace & life. (John 3:16)
2. Share out problem - separation from God (Romans 2:23 & Romans 6:23)
3. Talk about the remedy - the cross (1 Peter 2:24)
4. Explain the response - receive Christ (John 1:12)
5. Give assurance - Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved (Romans 10:13)
Remember You can’t open someone’s heart to the truth of the Gospel—but God can, by His Spirit. We see time and again in the Bible how God does not call the equipped; He equips the called—and as Christians, we are all called to share what Christ has done. Some of Christ’s last words on earth were, “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). Sharing our faith isn’t just a suggestion, it’s a command. And God is with us when we obey Him.
So let’s all Go and make disciples!
Grace & peace
Last fortnight we spoke of the importance of belonging and being active in our church; but how do we, as the people of God help each other, and especially help new comers to belong?
There are two ways in which we (Christians) operate within the church and also welcome newcomers; we either become table people or tower people.
Towers are tall, dominant, imposing, impressive and often quite exclusive. Often when you reach a tower in the city you can’t get in unless you have a code, or unless you already know someone inside. If you do get in towers are often difficult to navigate and there are some floors which are totally off limits without a key or a membership card. From a tower we look down on the world, we look down passers by, and we look down on those who want to access our tower. Towers are made out of uniform materials, they are hard, clean, man made, and they are almost religious in their conformity (and they are very often boring). When God’s people built a tower in Genesis 11 God had to come down to see what His people were doing; and He said “this will never do … My people are not tower people”.
On the other hand tables are flat, low and accessible. Table are usually made out of more natural materials, they are soft and often beautiful. Tables are inviting, they are places of welcome, and feasting, and conversation and learning. The Bible tells us that God has set a great banquet table for His people (imagery of the Kingdom of God), In Luke 14, when God is told that there is still room at the table, He sends ambassadors to bring more people in; in fact he tells His ambassadors to “compel’ people to come, to offer repeatedly, to encourage, to remind, even to beg! God is not satisfied until His table is full. In Luke 14 God’s banquet table is not uniform, but it certainly is interesting! God is a table person … and He calls us to be table people! To go out and compel all people to come to fill His table and His house, and therefore to fill our table with the poor, the cripple, the lame, foreigners, widows, children - those who are the same as us, and those who are different. We help each other, we help new people, we even help ourselves to belong when we become table people.
So a question to ponder this week: Are you a tower person or a table person? Is your church a tower or a table? Are you compelling all people to come and belong?
Grace & peace
People will often tell me how they used to go to church, but they don’t go anymore. The reasons sound different but usually end up the same: They’ve been hurt, the church they went to just didn’t fit, or they couldn’t handle the politics, or they believe they can worship God on their own, or they just didn’t feel welcome. I’m not going to focus on the causes today, but on the power of belonging.
Not being an active member of a church is like what happens to my motorbike when I don’t ride it often enough; when I want to start it - It won’t start! Without regular use, and intentional care and maintenance the battery become weak because it hasn’t been charged, the fuel is stale because it hasn’t been refreshed, and there is dust covering what was once a clean and beautiful thing. The same is true for our spiritual lives, we need to guard against signs of neglect, ensure that we have fresh fuel in the tank and make sure we are plugged into the Source of Life; only then do we have the energy, power and endurance to stand firm in the face of the storms when they come (because the storms always come!).
Of course we can worship alone (I worship alone every morning) BUT something special happens when you are gathered with the Body of Christ. Jesus told us that when two or three are gathered together in His name, He would be in the midst of them. God inhabits the praises of His people, and true worship allows this to happen. Jesus modelled regular church attendance (Luke 4:16), as disciples we are to follow His example. Jesus also demonstrated the importance of fellowship and discipleship; what His time with the disciples shows us is that Christianity is caught and not taught: so if we want to be going deeper in discipleship journey, if we want to be a good example to our children and grandchildren, if we want to be charged, fuelled and ready to stand strong in the storm, or to share in the growth of others and to be disciple makers in obedience to the Great Commission - then, yes we need to attend church - but more than that we need to belong!
So, let go of old hurts, release grudges, get over past issues and re-enage with church. Find a Bible-believing, Bible-teaching, Jesus-loving church, choose to belong and then be the kind of congregation that you would like to encounter as a seeker or new believer.
Grace & peace
With Father’s Day this weekend I have been thinking a lot about families and discipleship. It’s an area which fills most parents with pangs of guilt. There is a sense of obligation in parents for bedtime to resemble a mini Bible College, and for children to be a walking talking concordance by age 3; when our children don’t meet our own lofty ideals parents can often feel like we have failed as parents.
Now, it is true that God calls the family to play a vital role in discipling the next generation - it is the role of the family to equip children to see the world through the world through the lens of the Bible, but it is not supposed to be a burden! The Psalmist describes the role as “commending the works of God to the next generation” (Ps 145:4); the Apostle Paul taught us to declare to them the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27); and Jesus commanded us to “teach(ing)” them to obey all I have commanded” (Matt 28:18-20). Often we consider this to be exclusively the role of the parents, however, based on the context of Deuteronomy 6:1–2 it has a broader application which also includes grandparents. In other words family discipleship is a shared role, and not to be left solely to time poor, over burdened and often sleep deprived parents!
The first thing to understand is that family discipleship isn’t one-size-fits-all; but it doesn’t need to be overwhelming and it doesn’t need to be difficult. The single best was to disciple children is to make it a normal part of the rhythm of life; how this is accomplished varies from family to family and is as unique as the DNA of each home. Here are a few general ideas:
A Christian home is the fundamental discipleship axis for passing the faith along to the next generation. Parents, Grandparents and extended family can all play a role in sharing biblical truth with the next generation. Children who are discipled well at home will continue to grow as disciple makers in their adult lives.
To God be the Glory
Jen is an energetic and passionate disciple of Christ who loves to share Jesus with anyone who will listen!