A few years back I read a great little book called ‘Zeal Without Burnout‘ by Christopher Ash. It encouraged me to serve and sacrifice for Christ, since Jesus calls us to take up our cross and follow him (Luke 9:23-24). But it also encouraged me to recognise that I’m not God, and to reflect on the limitations and needs of my humanity. Key topics were sleep, rest, friends, inward renewal, and more – but essential to getting it right is to realise that God is in control and that the success or otherwise of God’s kingdom and his Church rests not on me, but on him.
As a Church, we have important work to do together – offering new life in Christ to those who don’t know him yet, growing up together in our faith and godly living in him, and showing love to each other and the community around us. There is a lot to do, but the most important thing is not to do – but to be. In order to be Christ’s disciples we need to depend and rely on him and not on our own efforts. We need to cry out to him in prayer, we need to rest and find renewal and encouragement from him.
Christopher Ash concludes his book by encouraging us to make the following resolution. Why don’t you read through it now, and then if you like, say it out loud as a resolution for your life. What areas might you need to work on particularly?
“I am – and will never, this side of the resurrection, be more than – a creature of dust. I will rest content in my creaturely weakness; I will use the means God has given me to keep going in this life while I can; I will allow myself time to sleep; I will trust him enough to take a day off each week; I will invest in friendships and not be a proud loner; I will take with gladness the inward refreshment he offers me. I will serve the Lord Jesus with a glad and restful zeal, with all the energy that he works within me; but not with anxious toil, selfish ambition, the desire for the praise of people, and all the other ugly motivations that will destroy my soul. So help me God.”
There will be a memorial service for Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II at 9:30am on September 22 (the national day of mourning) at St Mark’s Anglican Church, Picton for all those that would like to attend. Devonshire Tea will be served afterwards.
The Queen has finally met her King. The whole world seems captivated at the passing of this woman of dignity, grace and service. Perhaps the primary reason is that she did not live for herself and did not prize her own reputation and fame as most of us do. Amidst the pomp and ceremony of her station we met a woman of humility and deep faith in Jesus Christ. The Queen herself prepared us for a time like this in her Easter Message during the first wave of COVID19 in 2020. Her Majesty said at that time: “The discovery of the risen Christ on the first Easter Day gave his followers new hope and fresh purpose, and we can all take heart from this… As dark as death can be – particularly for those suffering with grief – light and life are greater.” So, in light of her passing, I must ask you the question: are you ready to meet your King? And I certainly don’t mean King Charles III, I mean the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, before whom every knee will bow and every tongue confess – our King Jesus Christ! Yours in Him, Ben
There is something different and unique about the 5th commandment. While each of the ten commandments offer wisdom for how to live as God’s people – Paul points out in Ephesians 6:2 that the fifth is the first commandment with a promise.
If you ‘honour your father and your mother’, it follows that ‘it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth’.
There is clearly something important and life-preserving about the roles of Father and Mother. And the research bares this out. Check out this extract from ‘The Fathering Project’ website (https://thefatheringproject.org/):
“Research from Australia and overseas demonstrates that children with disengaged fathers experience poorer educational outcomes and higher rates of mental illness, illicit drug use and incarceration. Conversely, children with engaged and effective fathers have improved cognitive and academic outcomes, higher levels of empathy, self control and self esteem and better social and emotional skills.”
So, let’s honour and celebrate Fathers this Father’s Day, and lets be encouraging and challenging Fathers to be engaged and involved in their children’s lives. Let’s encourage them to take responsibility for the spiritual discipleship of their children too! Of course, not everyone has a positive Father-figure in their life, so lets pray for healing and lets give thanks for our heavenly Father, who will never let us down!
Sometimes I feel down about the lack of progress or impact we make as a Church. We believe the gospel of Jesus Christ is the most important news our world needs to hear – but so often people don’t want to listen. We believe our lives should be transformed in every aspect by the gospel, and yet sometimes we struggle to make reading our Bibles a priority.
Remember Ezekiel. He toiled for years and years preaching to a people who wouldn’t listen. He sacrificed much in service to his Lord and yet was warned before-hand that he wouldn’t see any fruit in his lifetime. But Ezekiel had truth and the power of the Lord on his side and so he persevered. He was vindicated (33:33). He brought hope and promise that the LORD would come and rescue (34:11). He promised a new heart and the Spirit of the LORD (36:26)!
So be encouraged. In a world of loneliness and uncertainty let us shine forth the gospel of the glory of Christ! In a world void of hope – let us live and speak the story of Jesus Christ, which brings us purpose and meaning and hope. Let us speak of resurrection power as God’s Spirit brings life to dry bones – fills our lives with purpose and meaning and unites us with himself into the true and living family of God for eternity!
Yours in Him,
PS: Have a read of Ezekiel 37 (this Sundays passage) and then listen to Lauren Daigle’s song, letting the life giving power of God fill you with hope:
This week your Church leaders have taken time out to pray and read and plan together about our Church and its future. We’re incredibly thankful to Nick and Sharon for allowing us to use their place up on Razorback for our retreat. Ben, Kate, Scott and Britt spent 3 days together there, and groups of leaders joined us for a day of Picton planning on Monday and of Wilton planning on Tuesday. It’s so exciting to dream about how God might work among us and to pray for each one of you by name. We consider it a privilege to serve among you and strive to lead the precious people of God! There were many great discussions and a few key outcomes that I look forward to sharing with you soon. One key outcome was to try to shift the culture of our Church to be reflecting more regularly on how we can improve. Towards that end we hope to ask a few key questions regularly about all of our ministries:
How are you going? (general care for every person)
How are you growing? (deliberate reflection on spiritual direction)
What went well? (give thanks to God and reinforcing the positives)
What can we work on? (regularly identifying how we can improve)
Don’t be surprised if you hear me asking you these questions soon. It’s not because you’ve done something wrong – but because we want to be always deliberately caring for each other and seeking to improve what we do for the glory of Christ! Yours in Him, Ben
We live in an age where nobody wants to take responsibility: ‘My devious tendencies are the result of my troubled childhood’; ‘I was under the influence of alcohol’; ‘My friends made me do it’; and; ‘I was simply following orders’. The Israelites had a similar problem from a different perspective – they took God’s acceptance of them for granted on account of their family of origin and Jewish heritage as God’s chosen people.
But in chapter 18 of Ezekiel (part of this Sunday’s focus at Church), God is clear – each person will be held to account for their own sins. On the one hand this is terrible news, because we can’t weasel our way out from what we’ve done – we will be held to account no more how great our family heritage or what other excuses we can come up with. But it’s also wonderful news – because it means we are never trapped by the circumstances in which we’ve found ourselves. Whether those circumstances be of our own making or not. In verse 21 we read beautiful words of hope, that ‘if a wicked person turns away from [their] sins … that person will surely live’.
Although each one of us falls into sin – God is longing for us to turn from our wicked ways and live! We are never too far gone. We can always turn to God in faith and be saved.
How is this so? How can we be saved? – Only by faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for forgiveness of our sins.
Listen to the wonderful final paragraph of Ezekiel 18:
“Therefore, you Israelites, I will judge each of you according to your ways, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent! Turn away from all your offences; then sin will not be your downfall. Rid yourselves of all the offences you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit;. Why will you die, people of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!”
Ezekiel is written to a people of shattered hopes who have been taken into exile to Babylon away from their beloved homeland. They are living as refugees, and yet they continue to take God for granted. Ezekiel brings a word of judgement from God against them.
In chapter 33 the book changes from judgement to hope and promise with the news of the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem.
Ezekiel brings the good news that they shouldn’t be trusting in ‘religion’ or the temple, but in God himself. The good news is that God himself will breath new life into dead Israel – he will give them a new heart and he will be with them as their God. God doesn’t dwell in the temple, God isn’t limited to a place and a ritual, God is everywhere and he is to be worshipped and glorified in all of life.
The promises of Ezekiel are fulfilled in Jesus Christ’s incarnation, life, death and resurrection. Jesus is the new temple and place to meet and to know God.
Yesterday the 2021 census data revealed that for the first time less than 50% of Australians identify as Christians. Christendom (a Christian society) is long dead – but there is no need to fear or lose hope. Christendom was never (or should never have been) the aim. The aim is Christ – the aim is to preach the word of the gospel so that people come to saving faith in Jesus Christ. God is with us!
Last week we finished off our four week series on Prayer. What have you learned? Have you benefitted from the ‘Growing in Prayer’ Devotionals? I’d love to hear from you. Please share a brief encouragement or the thing that has helped / stood out to you most as we’ve reflected and hopefully been encouraged and challenged in our prayer lives over the past month.
I’ve already heard from a few people that they’ve really appreciated the devotional booklets, someone else told me that the suggestion for ‘prayer trigger points’ in your day was really helpful last week. Others still were encouraged to be praying for each other to have a ‘well-informed’ love for God in Christ.
What has helped or encouraged you? What have you learned? What have you been able to put into practice in your own prayer life?
Here are two other great resources you might like to look at:
Prayermate is an app you can get on your phone to help you pray.
‘A Praying Life‘ by Paul Miller is a wonderful and very readable book for developing your prayer life.
And of course, keep up reading along the ‘Growing in Prayer‘ Devotional Booklet – or grab a copy from Church if you haven’t started yet!
This Sunday Scott will be back finishing off our 2 Timothy sermon series – I can’t wait to see you there!
There are three great pillars at the heart of Christian ministry: Teaching the Word, Loving the People and Prayer. On Mondays this year Scott, Britt, Kate and I have been meeting together and (among other things) praying for you all. Last Monday we finally made it to the end of the list. There are 278 of you and we’ve prayed for each of you by name. If there are specific things, we pray specifically. If not, we pray generally that you might grow more in your knowledge and love for our God and Saviour Jesus Christ and serve him faithfully through the ups and downs of your life. There is nothing more powerful or important that we can do than to bring you before our heavenly Father. We are weak, but he is strong. Do you know what we’re doing this coming Monday*? – Starting over again from the beginning. Let’s be a people of prayer, depending on and delighting in on our awesome God! Yours in Christ, Ben
2Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. 3And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. 4Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. 5Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. – Col 4:2–6
*I actually just realised that this Monday is a public holiday, so we’ll be starting again the following Monday :).