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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

Reflections

Welcome to St Clement’s!

As we look at Luke’s gospel this term, I’m really enjoying learning and being challenged by many things from our Heavenly Father. We’ve seen who God is, who His Son Jesus is, what He sent Jesus to do, and what it means to follow Jesus. We’ll keep on seeing these themes and more as we continue. But I just want to think about one of these themes i.e. what God sent Jesus to do. Luke 19:10 is a great summary it says:

Jesus said: “the Son of Man came to seek and

to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10 NIV)

Now the problem is, I’m often too proud to recognise I’m lost! Whether it’s when driving, or trying to find something in the supermarket, I think that I can do it myself without help. It seems to me this kind of ‘I can do it myself’ attitude is something ingrained into our hearts. That’s why our culture says you just need to try hard and you can achieve your dreams. You can do it! Now it’s right to try hard, and it might work out that we can achieve many things in life, but when it comes to being right with God, trying hard doesn’t work!

Here’s the hard truth that we’ve seen in Luke’s good news about Jesus: that without faith in Jesus we are lost before God. It doesn’t matter how hard we try to be good, or excuse the wrong we do, we can’t be right with God without Jesus finding us. What a wonderfully liberating truth it is that God has sent Jesus to find us!

Now there are many implications of this. Here are two, firstly, we should rejoice and praise God for what He has done for us (let’s do that today as we gather together, but also every day). Secondly, we should tell others that God wants them to be found too, and sent Jesus to find them. I know this is hard, especially when people don’t see they are lost, but we’ve got a great opportunity before us with Easter coming. Let’s use the opportunity to invite others to our Easter services and hear the good news that Jesus came to seek and save the lost.

Andy

Reflections

“The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures and they do not mature” Luke 8:14

 

I was interested to hear the other day about a condition called ‘illness anxiety disorder’.   This is the new name for a condition previously known as hypochondria. As you might expect, I was bit skeptical about      the change but on reflection it sounds correct.

The doctor being interviewed explained that, in many ways, illness anxiety is a spectrum.   She said we all worry about getting sick at some point in time the problem is when that worry becomes excessive and/or debilitating. ‘Good on you’ I told the radio. Finally someone was admitting, what the Bible tells us, that life is anxious, that there are things to worry about and that this is a worrying world.

Frequently the world in which we live seems to want to deny the existence of anxiety. This I think is a false trail. Jesus himself says that each day has worries of its own. The question is what are we going to do about it.

In Luke 8, Jesus tells the parable of the sower. You know the story, a farmer sows seeds all over the place. Some seed sprouts and produces fruit, an awful lot doesn’t. His point is that we need to be people who hear his word and retain it. I do wonder whether the lack of hearing God’s word weekly is part of the problem for anxiety. Now I am not saying that it solves everything and particularly not so when anxiety becomes a problem. But it seems to me that the world has always been anxious but what has changed is our deafness to God.

Maybe if we took Jesus at his word, trusted in an all powerful and loving God, knew that we were reconciled to him by Christ and have received the gift of the Holy Spirit we just might worry less.

Stuart

Reflections

21 [Job] said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there; the LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”     (Job 1:21)

Welcome to St Clement’s!

Two weeks ago, I encouraged us to join in with the hymn, ‘To God be the glory great things he has done’. I think most would agree it’s easier to do that when life is ‘going well’. But what about when life is not ‘going well’?

That was Job’s experience hundreds of years ago, as Satan ripped away Job’s family, wealth and health. Satan did this because he thought Job was just a fair weather believer, only blessing God because all was ‘going well’. Satan wanted Job to curse God and sing ‘To God be cursing bad things he has done’ (Job 1:11). Even Job’s wife said he should curse God and die (Job 2:9)! But instead Job responded with the verse above. After all the suffering and pain he had experienced, how does Job bless God and not curse?

It’s because Job had a right view of God, and a right view of himself. Job understood and lived out Psalm 100:3, ‘Know that the LORD is God. It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.’ (Ps. 100:3). In pain and suffering we might, like Job, question God, and wonder why me, but we must continue to know that the Lord is God. He is the Creator, and ruler over all, and we are not because we are God’s creatures. We may never know why we, or others suffer, but we do know that as believers, even in suffering, we rest in the arms of our Creator, who is good and loving (Ps. 100:5).

We also have something or rather someone that Job did not have, Jesus. Jesus was not at arm’s length from suffering. He knows suffering first hand because he suffered and died on the cross taking the penalty for the sins of the world, that Satan and his power might be defeated.

Whether now or in the future if ‘life’s not all as it should be’, let’s say with Job, ‘blessed be the name of the Lord’. Not stoically, or with a sigh and shrug of the shoulders, but honestly because we know that even in suffering, God is still loving and God is still good.

Andy

Reflections

For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh” Genesis 2:24

I am not sure whether it is because my son is getting married or because I seem to have arrived at the age where I am doing weddings for family, friends, nieces & nephews; but I have been thinking about family lately, its purpose, value, and meaning

Traditionally of course someone will get up at a reception and say to the new ‘in law’ “welcome to the family’’. It is a lovely gesture, kindly meant and generous no doubt but is it correct? Are we asking them to join our family or are they setting off on a family of their own?

The prayer book Marriage service says, “in marriage a new family is established in accordance with God’s purpose ……. for the good order of society, to the glory of God.’ Now of course the prayer book is not the Bible but I take it that the roots for this statement lie in the above passage from Genesis. So maybe it is a new family, a family all on its own. A family with new independence, new unity and a new job to do.

Now the problem it seems to me is that we often have too tight and too loose a definition of family. Too tight and we create dependence, too loose and we end up with a group of individuals. Of course this can go both ways. I take it when the Bible is addressing leaving father and mother it is addressing both the parents and the ‘no longer’ child. Parents need to let their children become a family, children need to go and do it.

What about the people who are single you say? Well the truth is that Jesus himself was single, so the family can’t be ultimate. In the end, in Christ, we are part of God’s family. This is made possible by the death of the Son. We are brothers, fellow heirs, loved sons. We are the family of God. What a privilege that is. Let us all be part of that new family.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Stuart

Reflections

Welcome to St Clement’s! Can you believe we’re already in February? Holidays are over, schools are back, and you’re probably settling in to the normal routine of 2017. But as we go forward into 2017, what will your priority be? Malcolm Turnbull in his New Year speech said that as we ‘look ahead to 2017, rest assured that national and economic security will again be my priority.’ What’s your priority as you look ahead to 2017?

As we’ve started 2017 at St Clement’s our priority has been to re-orient our lives by looking at five great truths about how we can be right with God. 1) Through Scripture alone; 2) by grace alone; 3) in Christ alone; 4) through faith alone; and today, 5) to the glory of God alone. In many ways ‘to the glory of God alone’ is the culmination of all these truths, and as I’ve been thinking about this, it’s helped to shape my priority for 2017, that I might live my life ‘to the glory of God alone’ and join in with the hymn, ‘To God be the glory, great things He has done’.

But that’s easier said than done! For in life it’s easy to sing, ‘To me be the glory great things I have done!’. Moses warned the Israelites of this as they entered the promised land, that they might forget God and say, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” (Deut. 8:17 NIV). Despite this warning, as time went on they forgot God’s goodness to them, and praised themselves, with terrible consequences! And we do too, with terrible consequences!

That’s why it’s so wonderful that Jesus lived a life perfectly giving glory to God, and gave up his life, so that we might be forgiven, forgiven for when we don’t give glory to God. Jesus “humbled himself and became obedient to death– even death on a cross!” (Phil. 2:8 NIV). Jesus, “did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45 NIV).

What’s your priority this year? Is it shaped by what Jesus alone has done for you, so that in Christ alone, you might sing ‘To God be the glory, great things he has done’?

Andy

Reflections

‘I can do all things through him who gives me strength’

Philippians 4:13

One of the things I think it is right to do when you are on holidays is to go to church.  You will note that I said ‘right’ and not ‘good’ or ‘fun’ but right.  I think it is right because it is right to worship the Lord, it is right to encourage other Christians and it is right to hear a sermon.  We had the opportunity over our recent leave to join with sometimes 8, sometimes 80 and possibly even 800 in singing God’s praises, hearing his word and worshipping the Lord.  It was not easy of course, the songs were different, the words were not our style and the fellowship was not as friendly as home.  But be that as it may, we persevere.

I look forward to the sermon.  I look forward to hearing about God’s grace and being reminded of his goodness.  But sadly so often when I get to holiday church this frequently is what I don’t hear. 

Let me give you an example.  We went to one church, the preacher explained a passage from the gospels (I forget which one, I know you forget mine too) in which Jesus healed or helped people.  I remember now it was the man with the withered hand in the synagogue from Mark 3.  The preacher said that we should do likewise – help the poor, go out of our way for the needy, look out for others.  Absolutely, I am sure that this is what God wants.  The problem with the sermon was not the application, the problem was that it was not accompanied with the gospel.  Too frequently what I hear in sermons is just try harder. The preacher says Jesus did this, you can too, just try harder.  This can be such a burden.

The problem with this sermon is that while I should, I can’t. The Old Testament proves that.  People working as hard as they can, do not destroy the effects of disobedience to God.  You and I working with all our might still fail frequently to do what God tells us we should do.  This is where the gospel comes in. The good news of the gospel is that the penalty for my disobedience is born by the obedience of Christ.  His death substitutes with my Creator for mine.  We now have forgiveness, the gift of the Spirit and access to the Father.  It is in Christ, and through Christ and for Christ that we can do all things.  Today as you come to church I hope you hear the gospel, I will try hard to make sure you do. 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Stuart

Reflections

Welcome to church! Today we are going to continue to learn about The 5 Solas or truths of the Reformation and focus on “By grace alone”. So far we have seen that our salvation is to be based on the Bible alone and is in Christ alone.

Jason Helopoulos said, “The issue in the Reformation was not whether we are saved by grace through faith, in Christ. Everyone agreed with these principles. The issue was whether we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. Alone makes all the difference”. We will be thinking about this as we consider Ephesians 2:1-10.

It is a wonderful thing that salvation is by grace alone. As sinners, which we all are, we are unable to offer anything to God for our salvation. Our salvation is accomplished by the “sovereign unmerited favour of God” (Helopoulos) who saves sinners when they put their trust in Jesus.

I am so grateful to God for enabling me to realise his grace. It was in 2004 when I started coming to services at St Clement’s and going to bible study that God’s grace flooded into my heart and changed my life. It was great to realise that my sins were forgiven and that I had peace with God. It has also been wonderful to be able to share this message of grace with others.

As Brittany and I finish our ministry with you today, we would like to thank you for the ministry that you have had to us and for the privilege of being able to serve you and the Mosman community. We are so grateful for your prayers, support, and fellowship and pray that you may continue to know the amazing grace of God!                                               

                                                                                                                                                                                                                     James

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