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Category Archives: Gospel

After the Sydney siege, please be a messenger of peace

In the wake of the Sydney siege in Martin Place and continuing to be prayerfully sensitive about how to respond and move forward, I have noticed some comments by “christians” protesting the presence of Muslims and refugees in our community. These comments, often, come from a reaction of fear and confusion. But some are nothing more than racist rants and are not in any way representative of Jesus Christ, Christianity or the grace and compassion that ought to characterise Christian people. This is not an occasion to slander refugees or target Muslims in our society as though they are all terrorists. Such behaviour is beyond ridiculous and infantile. Please stop it.

In the first few hours of the siege yesterday I was concerned about the association of the gunman with Islam and why Islamic leaders had not been given an opportunity to decry his actions as outrageous evil. However, they did do exactly that later in the day. Why it didn’t happen earlier, I cannot say. However, were I in their place I would have been extremely tenuous about how to respond in a sensitive and compassionate way. No reasonable person of any faith or ideology could support or condone what was happening.

I am appalled by the tragedy. I am so sorry for the hostages and their families particularly those who were killed. I say that as an Australian man and yes, also as a Christian. However disgusted and angry I may be that this occurred in my home city, I cannot respond to terror, horror and inhumanity with words, threats or actions of violence and abuse. Peace engenders peace. If I want to pursue and develop peace in my community among my neighbours there is no place for vile hatred that perpetuates racism and discrimination. That means extending peace, friendship and hospitality to all regardless of their religion, irreligion or come what may.

The gospel of Jesus is a message of peace. We celebrate that great message every Christmas when we rehearse the announcement of the angels at his birth:

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:14 NIV

Peace comes to all recipients of God’s good will or favour. The followers of Jesus are ambassadors of peace; not strife, not hatred, not bigotry, not disdain, not animosity; but peace.

You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. Acts 10:36

That offer of peace extends to everyone, believer, unbeliever, anywhere in-between.

He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. Ephesians 2:17

We are to model peace and offer peace to all, without exception.

“When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you. Luke 10:5-6

To offer peace does not mean you agree with or endorse the views, opinions, or beliefs of the other person. An offer of peace does not mean that you agree with their religions, philosophies or ideals, or that you accept their position as equal alternatives to Jesus as the only way to the Father.

It does mean that you will seek to serve, love and support any and all: Christian, Non-christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Atheist, or otherwise.

You can do that and repudiate the evils perpetuated in the name of various ideologies and religions. You can do that and be friendly and hospitable to Muslim neighbours and repudiate stupid racist jokes, name calling and other abuse or mistreatment (particularly of Muslim women wearing head coverings). You can do that and welcome and support refugees without maligning or misjudging their motives on account of one who happened to have an evil agenda.

To that end, I join with many others throughout Sydney who have offered to ride with or stand with Muslim friends, neighbours and coworkers and oppose any mistreatment or hatred. Some of you may not be comfortable entering a Christian Church building, but I extend an invitation to you to join us this Sunday for a Christmas lunch in Marsfield.

I’ll ride with you.

I’ll pray with (and for) you.

I’ll welcome you.

In the name of Jesus, the Prince of Peace.

Photo on 16-12-2014 at 10.10 am #2

 
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Posted by on 16/12/2014 in Culture, Gospel, Jesus, ministry, Prayer

 

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Multiplying Gospel Workers with MTS and KCC Oxygen

imageThe Ministry Training Strategy (MTS) group is a platinum sponsor of the Oxygen14 Conference.

During Wednesday lunch MTS launched their vision for preparing and training 500 ministry apprentices in 2016. This is double the number of apprentices trained in 2013. In order to reach this goal, training partners are needed.

Who can be a training partner? Typically it’s someone already in vocational ministry. So ministers, pastors, youth workers, those in children’s ministry etc. It is also Christian workers in University campus based roles and a variety of other Christian networks and organisations. If you’re in ministry now, in almost any context, you were trained, so God can use you to train someone else. Why not consider taking on an apprentice for 2015 or 2016?

The reason most will stall at this point is the prohibitive cost of paying for an apprentice and fulfilling legal compliance. The good news is that recent changes in the structure of the MTS program mean that Churches and ministry organisations only to raise $4,000 per year to fund and train an apprentice. A variety of support has been made available including compliance, curriculum, payroll, and recruiting conferences greatly reducing the cost and overhead burden faced when taking on a trainee or apprentice.

Is your Church or ministry ready to invest in the multiplication of gospel workers in Australia? Why not check out MTS?

 
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Posted by on 06/08/2014 in Gospel, leadership, ministry

 

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Christmas or Xmas

English: Christmas postcard picture with Santa...

English: Christmas postcard picture with Santa Claus and holly, with message, “I bring you a Merry Xmas from” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

courtesy of “Theological Word of The Day

 

The annual holiday celebrated by Christians on December 25 celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ was born somewhere between 7 and 2 BC. Dec. 25 is probably not the date when Christ was born, but was designated as such in the 4th century in order to substitute for pagan celebrations of the winter solstice. The designation Christmas comes from a combination of “Christ” with “Mass.” Often the Greek X (Chi) is substituted for “Christ” making Xmas (as was the custom in the early church when abbreviated Christ’s name). Although there is no command in Scripture to celebrate this day as a holiday, Christians believe the incarnation is the foundation to salvation and, according to many, the greatest miracle in the history of man.

 

So, Merry Xmas to all :)

 

 
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Posted by on 25/12/2013 in Gospel, history, Jesus

 

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What is Christmas all about Charlie Brown?

Simple really. Isn’t it.

 

 
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Posted by on 25/12/2013 in Gospel, Jesus

 

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It takes a Church to grow a Church

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Simply, the reason many Christian Churches are dying or, at least, not multiplying their congregations, is because they are not ready to make the changes required and endure the struggle and discomfort necessary that comes with growth. Like begets like and everything reproduces after its own kind. So a church will reproduce a church. But if the Church is focused on maintaining the things as they are then the death knell has already sounded.

When a Church forms as a community around the gospel of Jesus, the way that they work out and live out that gospel does 2 things.

1. Their transparent struggle with failure and inconsistency demonstrates their need for Jesus’ gospel.

2. Their mutual care for each other in the midst of that struggle demonstrates how Jesus’ gospel is good news in the first place.

As Tim Chester says, (Total Church, chapter 5, Church Planting) how the Church congregation lives as a community is what makes the gospel plausible (or not). He quotes Lesslie Newbigin as saying: the congregation is the hermeneutic of the gospel. Both of them echoing what Jesus already said in John 13:35, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

To which we can also add, “or not”.

There is a type of individualism that is obsessed with self-protection and self-preservation that it avoids being transparent about personal need and eschews any humility of service that prioritizes others needs ahead of their own. But its a symptom that is seen corporately when Churches do things in a way that is self-serving or so obscure and unintelligible that anyone from outside either can’t get in or sees no reason to want to.

Somewhere along the line, a Church moves from making new disciples of Jesus to simply upgrading the ones they already have. Their interest is focused on keeping existing members happy or comfortable and most of their energy and resources are spent on filling rosters, roles and responsibilities to keep up something from the past. The suggestion or thought of doing evangelism or being mission minded is almost an insult. Don’t they have enough demands on their time already? How can they care for their family. make a living and keep up with all those time hungry rostered responsibilities and then do something new on top? It’s an unreasonable expectation. Maybe they should consider moving Churches before they burn out. And so goes yet another failed Church.

While all that’s happening, they are seen as boring, irrelevant bigots out of touch with reality by those they should be trying to (and actually) reaching.

If instead, a Church decides that the uncertainty of having an unfilled roster or not maintaining a legacy to some (now) empty tradition is worth the price of living with others in a way that makes sense of the gospel then that gospel plausibility can be recovered. What if the Church lived and interacted as a community with their community where mutual discipleship was a priority (serving one another and doing all the other “one another” verbs mentioned in the New Testament)? That would involve some sacrifice, struggle and personal discomfort. But it would not be inconsistent with Jesus’ call for a disciple to take up their cross and follow him. Like will beget like, and something different to before will be reproduced. What if?

 
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Posted by on 29/07/2013 in church, discipleship, Gospel, ministry

 

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Praying for Sydney Mardi Gras

One of the most polarizing events in Sydney’s cultural calendar is the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. What started as a political advocacy and protest march has grown into a major Australian tourism extravaganza. It regularly attracts international celebrity and acclaim. Locally it’s a popularly promoted festival and gives rise to various protests and campaigns in reaction and response from the more conservative, usually Christian, members of the Sydney community (although not exclusively these days), who are concerned about the tone, message and lifestyle mardi gras promotes.

I wonder though, how Jesus, friend of sinners, would react and respond to the occasion. I don’t see any precedents in the New Testament that indicate he would be a red-faced, screaming, placard holding protester. Neither, do I see the Son of God off his face at the after party having popped a few of whatever may be the latest party drug or stimulant. I suspect his action would be one of grace, love, compassion and service.

Local Sydney Pastor, (among other things), John Dickson, penned this prayer. I think Jesus would be the one who would model how this prayer is answered and lived out to the glory of God.

For my friends, who are at Mardi Gras tonight, and, well, if you read this at all, are probably doing so late Sunday afternoon or Monday at the earliest, hear the words of this prayer as my prayer for you AND me.

A PRAYER FOR THE NIGHT OF MARDI GRAS – by John Dickson

Dear Lord,
God of the righteous and the wicked,
Have mercy on your people, the church,
for their wickedness:
for allowing biblical convictions about love and sex
to justify unbiblical words and actions
toward men and women made in your image.

As it rains on tonight’s parade,
may this speak not of your judgment
but of your promise to cleanse and forgive
all who turn to you for grace.

And teach our nation,
especially your church,
to follow Jesus, the Friend of Sinners,
that we would learn how to care deeply
for those with whom we profoundly disagree;
through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
Amen.

 
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Posted by on 02/03/2013 in church, Culture, Gospel, Jesus, Prayer

 

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The first Christmas gift

Merry Christmas to all my readers!

The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
(Numbers 6:24-26)

 
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Posted by on 24/12/2012 in Gospel, Jesus

 

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