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Reflections

‘But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever! Amen.’

(2 Peter 3:18 NIV)

Welcome to St Clement’s.

I like to get out and do a bit of gardening now and again. Well actually it’s more that I like to use garden tools to keep the garden neat and tidy. My most recent project was a bamboo hedge that was growing too much. A ladder and hedge trimmer soon got it back to a manageable size. But it’s growing again! And it will keep on growing, because it’s designed to grow.

It’s the same for you too, if you’re a Christian, you’re designed to grow. The apostle Peter tells us that in the verse above as he finishes off his second letter. We’re designed to grow as Christians, as we feed on the grace and knowledge of Lord and Saviour Jesus. It’s important to see this growth is not about growing in knowledge about Jesus, or growing in some skill or gift, but growing in our relationship with Jesus, growing to love Jesus more.

As I’ve been thinking about this, I remembered a new short book I’d not read yet called ‘You can really grow’ by John Hindley. He writes this: ‘Growing as a Christian means something very simple. It means growing into the person you want to be. It means growing into the person you were created to be. It means growing into a person who is like Jesus.’ Romans 8:18-30 tells us that God has called us to be his children, and is working in us by his Spirit that we will be ‘conformed to the image of his Son’. Isn’t God amazing!

Will you pray with me that God would complete the work he has begun in us, and grow us, his family here at St Clement’s, to see Jesus, that we would love him more, and so be more like him?

Andy

Reflections

Welcome to church today. A particular welcome to the mothers among us it being Mother’s Day (a quick reminder if you had forgotten) Psalm 128 says that sons are a blessing from the Lord. This, I think presumes, the blessing of motherhood before that. We will of course give thanks for our mothers in our prayers and pray for those who, for all sorts of reasons, find today hard.

 

Here is an old but good poem that I have shared with you before. It was first brought to my attention by Corrie Ten Boom in her book Tramp for the Lord. Corrie Ten Boom was a Christian who was imprisoned during the Second World War and went on to a world wide ministry preaching on the love of Christ. It is very appropriate for the Ecclesiastes passage for today.

 

My life is but a weaving

Between my God and me

I do not choose the colours

He weaveth steadily

Oft times He weaveth sorrow

And I in foolish pride

Forget He sees the upper

And I the underside

Not till the loom is silent

And the shuttles cease to fly

Will God unroll the canvas

And reveal the reason why

The dark threads are as needful

In the weaver’s skilful hand

As the threads of gold and sliver

In the pattern He has planned

 

Anon

Stuart

Reflections

 

By faith

Welcome to St Clement’s.

Each Wednesday morning, I join with others from St Clement’s to teach Scripture classes at Mosman Public School. I teach year 2 and 4, and this term we’re looking at key people in the Old Testament and seeing how they had faith or trust in God.

As an introduction, a couple of weeks ago my year 4 class looked at Hebrews chapter 11. If you know the chapter it lists lots of people from the Old Testament, and goes like this, ‘By faith Abel… By faith Noah… By faith Abraham… By faith Moses… By faith the people…’. It was so exciting to see the kids get the point the writer is making! That all these people had faith in God, the God who can be trusted to keep his promises.

The writer of Hebrews explains in chapter 11:13 that, ‘All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. (NIV)’. The writer goes on to explain that God had promised them a better country, a heavenly one, that we, if we share their faith in God, will be a part of too.

As we look at Ecclesiastes this term, we’ll be challenged in many ways to see ourselves as foreigners and strangers on earth. For the Teacher shows us that finding ultimate meaning in the things of this world is ‘chasing after the wind’. And yet many around us try to ‘chase the wind’ and we join in as well. Instead we need to see that true meaning is only found in God’s promise of a better country, a perfect kingdom, that has broken in to His world through His Son Jesus Christ. Will you, along with those before us, hold on to this promise? Or will you chase the wind?

Andy

Ps. If you’d like to be a helper in my Scripture classes do let me know!

Reflections

It can be a terrifying thing to take note of how you actually spend your time. How much of it is really ‘productive’, and how much is wasted?

This week an 8 year old told me (without any prompting or prelude) that an average person spends a total of three years of their life on the toilet. I could have done without knowing that. I’m sorry that you now share this unwanted information. As I said- terrifying!

 

The writer of Ecclesiastes (whose book is the subject of our preaching this term) took a remarkably bleak view of all human endeavours. “I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” Ecclesiastes 1:14 (NIV)

 

We’ll look closely at this sentiment throughout the term and see if it holds water, but my suspicion is that it does (up to a point). And if true, such a judgment can lead us to question not only our frivolities and pleasures, but our labours, our goals, the very meaning of our existence. What is it worth, this time we spend ‘under the sun’?

 

But the thing we must always remember is that what is ‘under the sun’ is not all there is for those who put their trust in Jesus. We have a sure and perfect hope for eternity with God in the highest heavens where Christ our redeemer sits this day!

 

The question we need to ask then, this term and every dawn God gives us to see, is what are we going to do with this knowledge? If all that is under the sun will slip from our grasp like a vapour, yet what lasts is found in our eternal Lord, how will we spend our time?

 

He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” – Jim Elliot, Missionary and Martyr.                                                -Mark

Reflections

Welcome to church today.  It is great to have you with us.  I seem to have been changing my mind a lot lately and today is no different.  While I intended to preach on The Songs of Heaven as was advertised.   I am not.  What I am going  to do is preach on the 2 disciples on the road to Emmaus who met the risen Jesus.  Let me tell you why.

 

The first reason for preaching on the road to Emmaus is an obvious one.  It is the final story in the gospel of Luke and one we didn’t get time to consider. Luke who started the gospel in the temple finishes it in the Temple, showing its fulfilment in Christ.   The second reason is a pictorial one.  This is because the window above the holy table at St Clements depicts this scene.  Commonly mistaken for the Lord’s Supper (including me I might add), the window in fact shows Jesus breaking the bread in the house of Cleopas.  So I don’t really need a picture today – I just need to lift the screen.

 

The third reason is validity.  You see this passage has caused a lot of people confusion over the years.  People who have been keen to deny the physical resurrection of Christ have looked at this passage  for justification for that view.  They have said it wasn’t a physically resurrected Jesus they met on the road (even though the passage says that), what happened was a spiritual resurrection.  This spiritual interpretation says because their hearts were strangly warmed when they met Jesus, this was a remembrance of Jesus not an actual physical sighting.  (I am always amazed at how people know better than the people who were there).  This remembrance of him, reminding themselves of what he had said and done, was for these interpreters; the resurrection.  This view is not so strongly around today but I did find quite a few people who still think this.  The truth he did appear and his speaking showed how the Scriptures point to Him.  God has fulfilled his promises in Christ.  It is this we need to concentrate on and hear.

 

Today then we are going to look at the meeting of the risen Jesus on the road to Emmaus.   I do hope you hearts are warmed by this truth but even more I hope you rejoice that Christ is risen, he is risen indeed.

Stuart

Reflections

The Case for Christ

Welcome to St Clement’s, and Happy Easter as we gather today to celebrate that Jesus is alive!

The apostle Paul wrote quite a bit to the church in Corinth about Jesus’ resurrection. Some of the Christians there were sceptical about the idea of resurrection. Paul logically concluded that ‘if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.’ (1 Corinthians 15:17 NRSV). But Paul knows that Jesus Christ has been raised. Jesus appeared after his resurrection and was seen by eyewitnesses including Paul. Many of these eyewitnesses were still alive at the time Paul wrote to the Corinthians.

Scepticism over Jesus’ life, death and resurrection is nothing new. Maybe you’re unsure or sceptical about Jesus too? We’ve been looking at Jesus’ life from Luke’s gospel this term. Luke wrote his gospel, including the account of Jesus’ resurrection in chapter 24, so that his original reader Theophilus, and all other readers, might have certainty about the things we have been taught about Jesus (Luke 1:4). We can have certainty about Jesus’ resurrection because of the eye witness evidence that has been recorded for us in the New Testament.

One man who investigated this evidence in detail is Lee Strobel. He was a journalist for the Chicago Tribune. Strobel dismissed Jesus and his resurrection as ‘the fanciful invention of superstitious people’. But then his dismissal of Jesus was turned upside down when his wife Leslie become a Christian. Strobel found himself drawn to examine the evidence for Christianity again so he could get to the bottom of the changes in his wife! As he looked, he realised his assumptions of the Jesus story as fairy tale were not true. He eventually accepted the evidence before him, and trusted in what Jesus had done for him in his death and resurrection.

Strobel wrote a book about his investigations into Christianity, called ‘The Case for Christ’. It would be a great book to read if you’re not sure about Jesus – I’ve got a copy you could borrow if you like, just ask me. It’s also just been made into a film which will be released on 4th May. What do you make of The Christ?               Andy

Reflection

Sympathising with Pilate

I have to admit that I’ve always had a soft spot for Pontius Pilate. He just comes across as being so very close to the truth about Jesus, so eager, almost desperate, to release Jesus.

But that’s just it: Pontius Pilate does everything he can to release Jesus of Nazareth short of actually releasing him!

It is a monstrous miscarriage of justice that Pilate perpetrates in sentencing Jesus to death. Three times he declares Christ innocent of blame in Luke’s gospel, yet he forsakes his own judgment and succumbs to the will of the mob.

Just before Easter last year I was told by the chaplaincy department of an Anglican school how they make the year 12 students write a paper for Christian studies on who they identify with most in the Crucifixion story. The vast majority say they relate to Pontius Pilate. In their own words they say they can see there’s something about this Jesus, and they think it’s probably all true, but in the end they’d rather just go along with the crowd.

I can only think that they, like most of us, fall into the trap of thinking that because we have to make a decision about Jesus somehow we stand in judgment over him. The truth of course is quite the opposite- He will return to judge us.

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due to us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”  (2 Corinthians 5:10)

In light of this coming judgment, we would do better to identify with the sinner Barabbas who is freed to live as Jesus dies in his place. It is only by the death and resurrection of Jesus that we will be able to withstand the coming judgment, receiving instead of justice the grace of his mercy and love, for “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”(2 Corinthians 5:21)        

Mark

Reflections

Why Don’t People Believe?

If I look back at the last fifteen years, the questions teens (and the occasional parent!) ask have changed a lot in that time. But their inquiries have always been on two levels: the presenting question, and the underlying one. Kids used to ask about the historical reliability of the Bible (“Is God real? How can we know?”) and the personal nature of our Creator (“Does God care about me?”).

For a while in the middle there it was all about truth (“How can we know anything anyway?”) and their personal experience of pain (“Where is God when it hurts?”).

These days I get strange questions about the theory of evolution (“Do you REALLY believe what the Bible says?”) and about homosexuality (“Does God hate people?”).

I’ve come to realise that youth want to know essentially two things: that it’s real and that it makes a difference.

These are expressions of the only two real reasons people don’t believe: they feel they don’t need to (i.e. He’s not real), or they decide God is to blame for the evil/sadness/suffering of the world, or at least for not ending it (i.e. He doesn’t make a positive difference).

Happily (as I always point out), God’s word actually has quite a bit to say on both subjects! One example being:

“For God loved the world in this way, He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

God is relevant because we are perishing. God has acted with finality to end human suffering. God is real, because he has come down to us, to suffer, die, and on the third day rise, which is also our evidence that he cares. 

There really are no good reasons not to believe in God, but plenty of good reason to put your faith in his Son Jesus Christ.

Mark

Reflections

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick;
who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9 ESV)

Welcome to St Clement’s! Our hearts are amazing organs that literally mean we are alive. With every heart-beat they pump our blood around our bodies so that we stay alive. But as we painfully know, our hearts get sick, stop functioning as they should, and eventually stop working all together. Doctors and modern medicine can wonderfully help, but they cannot keep us alive forever.

Just as our hearts physically get sick, the prophet Jeremiah writes in the verse above that spiritually the heart is desperately sick and the greatest source of deceit. My heart, as a kind of spiritual central processing unit, deceives me with lies so often. It says I’ll get joy or satisfaction or delight in things other than God. It even says I’ll get joy or satisfaction or delight in sin! So often I follow my heart, rather than follow my Saviour, as we’ve been learning to do in Luke’s gospel. Our hearts are indeed deceitful and desperately sick, so what can we do?

Rather than follow our heart, we need to ‘direct our heart’ as Jon Bloom helpfully puts it in a recent book he’s written called ‘Don’t Follow Your Heart’. He says this:

‘Your biggest problems in life are heart problems. And they often occur because you begin to follow your heart’s direction rather than direct your heart. So this book is to help you “be wise, and direct your heart in the way” (Prov. 23:19).’

Over thirty-one short and easy to read chapters this book is like a spiritual doctor’s appointment or a spiritual car service. Your heart will be tuned and directed by God as you meditate and apply God’s word to your heart, so that more and more you might take up your cross daily and follow Jesus, rather than follow your heart.

I heartily recommend it, pun intended!

Andy

p.s. You can download ‘Don’t follow your heart’ for free on the Desiring God website.

http://www.desiringgod.org/books/don-t-follow-your-heart

and then select ‘Download’. To buy the actual book it seems you’ll need to get it from an internet bookseller.

Reflections

In this week’s reading, we are reminded of the cost of being a disciple: …and anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:27

Making sacrifice a priority is hard work, especially with important pressing schedules and busy lives building up and up and up. It’s very easy for these important commitments to take a back seat. You may feel like it just never ends!

Of course Jesus showed us the ultimate sacrifice – taking the punishment for our sins and being nailed to a cross. We are called to take up our cross in following Jesus, and with that comes sacrifice.

Don’t we long and yearn for our children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and what have you to be committed and serving Christians in the church? What is crucial is for this to be modelled to the kids, for it has been said, “It is not taught, it’s caught”.

When I was meeting with fellow recent clergy people in my region, our Bishop made this statement, “What we sacrifice and give up shows others what we deem is important and therefore we set to others what is priority”.

Children, and even others around us, are not going to understand that church is a priority if they see that we easily do not attend or serve for the sake of events and activities that pop up (this is exclusive of holidays and sickness). We live in a country where we have the absolute privilege of meeting together each week as brothers and sisters in Christ – as God’s family, one body in Christ Jesus.

How can we therefore model church priority to the children and others around us? Perhaps this may mean a change of schedule or excusing yourself for being late to or missing events. We can also encourage children in our families that church is a family day and this is when we gather – much like family dinner that is not to be missed.

What will we sacrifice, and what will we prioritise?

Bec

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