As we begin 2020 large areas of our land are still in the grip of drought. Fires have been ravaging our land and destroying the homes and livelihood of people and animals. We might like to ask is 2020 going to be a year of destruction and death or a year of goodness and grace?
Some will say that because it’s begun so badly it can only improve but others might say this is just a foretaste of much worse to come. What about us?
What is our vision for the year of the Lord 2020 and can we claim to have 2020 vision to explain the current circumstances?
If we want to throw Bible verses around to prove our prediction or our version of the truth we’ll easily find them. But that’s not what the Bible is for and not a very helpful way to proceed. It’s much more important and helpful to have a holistic view of the Bible and the nature of God and to allow that to inform our thinking.
We know that
· God is love and nothing can separate us from his love.
· Our lives are in God’s hands.
· God will never leave us or forsake us.
· No matter what happens God’s always doing his best for us.
· We live in a broken and sin-filled world.
Therefore if you say 2020 will be a year of destruction and death, I’d say, you could be right. And if you say 2020 will be a year of goodness and grace, I say, you’re absolutely right because we’re children of God. Our hands are prayerful and we’re holding hands with our loving God.
In 2020 - Lord, teach us to pray.
Whatever 2020 brings - Lord, teach us to pray.
At the end of 2020 - Lord, let us look back and thank you for the privilege of prayer.
Prayer is conversation with God and therefore all prayer is by its nature relational. Some prayers are more relational than others and sometimes we’re more aware of the relational aspect than
When Jesus’ disciples asked him to teach them to pray he gave them an example and model for prayer which we call the Lord’s Prayer.
This amazing prayer is relational from beginning to end
but we can rattle it off rather than relate to our God
Not only is it addressed to our heavenly relative, our Father (Dad) but Jesus taught us to pray ‘our’ Father rather than ‘my’ Father.
As God’s children we’re related to God and to all God’s people. We’re all brothers and sisters. The Lord’s Prayer focusses on both of those relationships.
We pray for God’s name, kingdom, and will. We’re at the same time asking for and committing ourselves to a good relationship with God. We praying to the God of the universe and therefore the prayer has a universal focus.
There’s no ‘I’ in the Lord’s Prayer.
It protects us from selfishness
We pray for the daily needs of the world-wide family even though we might be thinking about what’s in our own pantry.
We pray for good and lasting relationships. Because we often muck them up we ask God to forgive us so we can keep on
We pray we’ll neither lead our neighbour into sin or be led into sin by our neighbour.
Our prayer for God to deliver us from evil applies equally to ourselves and our neighbour. We desire as much good for our
neighbour as we do for ourselves.
Lord, teach us to Pray!
How much more do we need?
How much more do we want?
How much is enough? Sometimes we might feel we haven’t got nearly enough and at other times we’ve got more than enough.
Have you ever wondered whether God is enough?
Jesus says lots about how much God loves us, cares for us and provides for our needs. He makes it clear that our God has more than enough for all of us. Our heavenly Father has more than enough love for everyone. God has than enough grace to save us all. God is more than enough.
Jesus says, “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matt 11:7)
Jesus also says, “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11:13
This is wonderful good news. Regardless of our situation and how we feel about what’s happening in our lives God is more than enough for us. No matter how much we need his love, his gifts, and the Holy Spirit, God is much more willing to help us than we are able to imagine.
God’s love and grace are so amazing and so consistent that it’s hard to comprehend. Our minds are too small to appreciate how much more our God is both doing and willing to do for us.
I pray we’ll live contented and thankful lives in the blessed assurance of God’s “how much more!”
Way back in the beginning, when the Adam and Eve mucked up by disobeying the one and only command God had given them, they hid themselves in shame. But God searched for them and called out for them.
Where are you?
Despite them damaging their relationship with God, he still wanted relationship. They’d lost their way and felt utterly lost to God and to each other but God came looking like a shepherd looking for lost sheep.
God called out in love to his image bearers because he couldn’t bear to have part of his image separated from its loving source.
God seeks and God speaks
God continues to seek for his lost ones and continues to speak. The whole of creation ‘speaks’ of his wonder. God speaks to us through his Word, through the words of his people, and directly to our hearts and minds through the Holy Spirit.
One of our parish - prayers shared this quote with me;
“God speaks to those who take time to listen and
God listens to those who take time to pray.”
Are we listening? Do we have time to hear? We can’t make time but we can take time. We can set aside particular times for communication with God. It’s good for us to develop good prayer habits or we can slowly slip into a place where we neither listen or speak to God.
There’s no right time or wrong time to listen to God and to speak to him.
Maybe it’s better to say that all the time is the best time. I pray that we’ll have our ears, eyes, and minds open to hear God speak to us and that we’ll have confidence to speak.
God our Father, longs for a close and open relationship with each of us. What a privilege to have an ‘open door’ to our Father in heaven.
Let’s use it so we don’t lose it!
We’ve just had an amazing holiday. Four of the highlights of our holiday involved water. In each case the area immediately around the water was really dry. The water had either travelled long distances in creeks and rivers or had come from deep underground. The results were amazing.
The life and beauty generated by the water attracts people from all over our country to these places. The vegetation, birds, and fish that are part of the spectacle are all dependent on the water but, no doubt, don’t give it a thought, just take it for granted.
We’re also dependent on water and can’t live without it. We might also take that for granted but we shouldn’t.
Water is one of God’s good gifts. All the water we saw on our holiday fell as rain at some stage even if it was no where near where we saw it or many years before. Without continuing rain all these places would eventually go dry. Thank God for his life-giving rains.
God declares his commitment to supply the needy with water through the prophet Isaiah. He says,
When the poor and needy are dying of thirst and cannot find water, I, the Lord God of Israel, will come to their rescue. I won’t forget them. I will make rivers flow on mountain peaks. I will send streams to fill the valleys.
Dry and barren land will flow with springs and become a lake. Isaiah 41:17f
We saw some examples of this prophecy fulfilled at Innamincka, Lawn Hill National Park (pictured), Dalhousie Springs, and Lake Eyre. Amazing!
Even more amazing is the living water that wells up within us, the Holy Spirit, to satisfy our spiritual thirst. John records these words for our encouragement,
On the last and most important day of the festival, Jesus stood up and shouted, “If you are thirsty, come to me and drink! Have faith in me, and you will have life-giving water flowing from deep inside you, just as the Scriptures say.” Jesus was talking about the Holy Spirit, who would be given to everyone that had faith in him. John 7:37-39a
God supply your needs and quench your thirsts, today and always!
A student survey conducted at one of our local schools determined that young people see the church as being full of old people and pews. And they think that the pews have to go. There’s some good news in that survey, they didn’t say the old people should go, only the pews.
Think for a moment: How does their perception match reality?
We might immediately begin to defend the pews. They've been good enough for generations. They keep us awake. They haven’t killed anyone.
Or we might be offended that they’ve labelled us as old. We might argue that we’re not nearly as old as our grandparents were at the same age.
We might want to join James and John to ask Jesus whether we should call down fire from heaven and destroy them.
But before we get too defensive, these young people are crying out for the church to recognise and value them. They don’t think the church cares about them, they don’t think we care. They think the church is only interested in the people who’re already involved, which to them means old people.
I wonder whether they’re any different to those of any age who aren’t connected to our churches. Would the whole ‘unchurched’ and 'previously-churched’ community agree that we don’t care. Would they contend that we’re only interested in ourselves.
If we’re so busy polishing and defending our pews then they have to go. If there’s anything in our church that uses up our time at the expense of living our lives for Jesus then it has to go.
Even more urgently we have to go. Not leave the church, the community of God’s people, but go with the good news that because God loves and cares for every single person in this world so do we.
“As you go”, Jesus says, “make disciples of all nations.” Jesus cares about this because he has ‘skin-in-the-game’. He died for each and every one we encounter as we go about our lives.
How do we, as individuals and a church, need to change so that no one in our community will feel that we don’t care about them?
We’re celebrating 25 years of ministry together. I was installed in this parish on Mothers Day 1994 and we’ve been privileged to serve the community together for all those years.
We’re not the same as we were in 1994. In the Lord of the Rings trilogy Gandalf goes from being ‘Gandalf the grey’ to ‘Gandalf the white’ and something like that has happened to me over this period of time.
As we look back over the 25 years or part of that time, what stands out? We might all have different answers but we can be sure of one thing: God has been gracious to us throughout this time.
We’ve shared God’s gracious love as we conducted 526 baptisms, 248 confirmations, 340 weddings, and 250 funerals. If we could've spread those out evenly over the years we would’ve celebrated one or the other of those events every week with some to spare.
If we compiled a list of highlights it might include:
· Triple C, ministry to children
· Christmas and Easter services at Faith Chapel
· Adding a third Sunday service
· Seminars with Geoff Bullock and Tim Hein
· Establishing “Cross Roads family ministry”
· Grow Love Garden
· The visit of Nadia Bolz-Weber
· Having combined services with the Baptists (and HC!)
Your list might be quite different and you might like to take some of those off the list. With the wisdom of hindsight we might’ve done things differently. With God’s help we did our best.
We’re not finished yet, there’s still work to be done. And when I retire at the end of 2020 the ministry of this parish will continue with the blessing of our gracious, loving God. To God alone be the glory!
Did Roman soldiers keep a tally of how many successful crucifixions they’d conducted? Did they add a notch to their mallet handle for each person they nailed to a cross? Did their job become mundane and boring?
Another Easter has come and gone. Has Easter become mundane and boring for us? The same old message year after year. Do we run out of room on our ‘faith shields’ to make another mark? Are our hearts hardened to the wonder of Easter?
This Easter might’ve made a major impact on our understanding of God’s love for us in Jesus the Christ or it might have seemed ho-hum but whichever it was - the ongoing challenge for each of us is to live as Easter people.
The resurrection of Jesus on that Sunday morning so long ago continues to impact our lives eternally. Because Jesus died and rose again we who die will rise again to live with him forever. Sin pays off with death. But God’s free gift is eternal life given by Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 6:23
We are Easter people and that changes everything. Easter doesn’t just change our eternal future but changes how we live. Paul says in Romans 6:13
Give yourselves to God, as people who have been raised from death to life. Make every part of your body a slave that pleases God.
Living as Easter people means knowing we have an eternal future but it also means having a divine purpose right now.
We’re dearly loved children of God and remembering the cross certainly confirms that truth. Jesus rose from death and we’ve been raised to life. This is our present reality. Our everyday lives are different because we’re Easter people.
How did Jesus’ disciples know how to live as Easter people? We have very little record of what Jesus taught after his resurrection. That shouldn’t surprise us because he’d taught his disciples all they needed to know before his death and resurrection. They’d learned how to live as his disciples by living with him. His whole life was instructive.
Above all they’d experienced his love. His amazing unconditional love was a feature of his life before the cross, on the cross, and in his post-Easter appearances. The Holy Spirit comes into us fills us with this same divine love so our lives are empowered with love to be Easter people.
Live it and love it!
Do you get the feeling that God has changed over your lifetime?
In the last book of the Old Testament God says through the prophet Malachi, “I am the Lord, and I do not change.” (Mal 3:6)
James says something similar in 1:17 Every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father who created all the lights in the heavens. He is always the same and never makes dark shadows by changing.
God doesn’t change but our understanding of God does. Paul says when he was a child he thought like a child and so do we. Once we’ve matured we no longer have a childish view of God.
It’s interesting to consider how the Bible gives us a developing view of God. For example the Israelites gradually moved from believing that God was one among many gods to the only God. Now it’s quite clear God hadn’t changed but the people’s understanding of God and the truth about God had.
God doesn’t grow up with our faith but our faith in God grows and develops. It might be interesting for you to take a break from reading this and think about how your view of God has changed over time and how this affects the way you relate to God.
One of the big questions I’ve been puzzling over because of the theme I was given for the Lenten services is did the incarnation change God? When the word was made flesh, as John puts it, when Jesus was born and became one of us, did that change God?
As we continue on our journey to Easter I wonder in particular whether Jesus experience of death on the cross changed God? Does God understand us better now than he did before? I don’t know the answer but I know that Jesus’ death and resurrection makes a world of difference to each of us. Praise God for his amazing love!