Tag Archives: prayer

Are You Ready For Easter?

Easter is less than 2 weeks away. Are you ready to celebrate?

As far as the wider community is concerned, Easter means chocolate and a 4-day weekend. The roads are full of cars, but they’re heading out of town, not to church.

And yet it is the high point of our calendar. We remember the death of the Son of God, his Resurrection and the ushering in of the New Age… events of truly cosmic significance.

So in the busyness of life, let us not be surprised by Easter, as if it has snuck up on us! Let us pray now that God would ready our hearts for a time of humble reflection and joyful celebration. Let us dwell on Jesus in our Gospel readings: so perfect in strength, so gentle in disposition, and so powerful in love.

In today’s reading, Jesus is on trial before the Roman Governor. It’s do or die, and yet he doesn’t say much. But the immensity of his character and his determination of purpose shine a light on the other characters in the story. There’s the weak judge, the jealous leaders, the rebellious prisoner, and the violent soldiers. Up against Jesus, the flaws of humanity are exposed.

I think this is partly how Easter works as a festival: Jesus shines light into our lives too. That light shines in 2 ways;

  1. His extraordinary character reveals our weaknesses and failures. Many of us don’t need to be reminded of these. But regardless of our state of mind, Jesus is the wonderful example of humanity at its best. And if we’re honest we acknowledge that in contrast, we fall short. We too have been weak, jealous, rebellious, and even violent.
  2. Jesus’ inaction in the face of all the torment does not come from fear or confusion (as our inaction often does). In his case, it comes from determined love and purpose. His intention is to bring the light of salvation to the world. So his light shining also cleanses and revives. The light of his love is like a warm sunrise over a dark and cold terrain.

Are you ready to celebrate? Let’s spend these remaining 2 weeks in prayer and reflection on the Easter story. Hallelujah, what a Saviour!

 

Keeping The Phone Off The Hook With God

I was recently listening to a sermon by an American Pastor on the topic of prayer. 2 things struck me particularly.

First, prayer for the Christian should be a bit like leaving your phone off the hook.

The Apostle Paul encourages us to “pray continually”. I don’t think he means that you never do anything else, that you never talk to others, or never have silent reflection! I think he means that we have a constantly open channel of communication. I believe God wants us to face everything in life knowing that he is walking right beside us.

When something worries you, don’t just mutter to yourself… speak (under your breath if you have to) to your heavenly Father, who knows exactly what you’re facing, and exactly what you’re thinking about!

When you hear of someone’s challenges, bring it to God immediately; don’t wait until you have time to get on your knees!

Second, prayer enables us to carry to God the contemplations of our whole heart, not just the “proper and right” things. This includes our yearnings, frustrations, distresses, guilt, even our anger.

Do not think that God’s ears are too sensitive to hear what your really think! He knows it anyway, and if he wants you to tone it down he can prompt you. But truly, he wants you to pour out your heart to him.

So what are your deepest desires? The things that you long for in your quiet moments? Share them with him.

What are your deepest fears? The things that you would count as the worst outcomes imaginable? Share them with him.

I guess the punch line is: prayer is the place we do business with God. No prayer, no relationship. Stilted prayer, stilted relationship. Open and honest prayer, deepening reality of relationship.

Of course in his sovereignty and through his word he prompts us, encourages us and leads us. And yet so much of what he is seeking from us is a heartfelt, humble response to him. And this is why he wants us to pray. Continually and comprehensively.

Why don’t you try leaving the phone off the hook with God this week? And let him listen to what you really think!

The Curious Connection Between Blessing And Struggle

Welcome to St Augustine’s! It is terrific to be able to get together under the word of God each week. My prayer is that God will give us each strength and wisdom, as well as challenge us gently, conforming us to the likeness of his Son Jesus.

What will 2018 bring for you and your family? Are you praying for God’s blessing?

Each year brings its share of ups and downs, and as John Warner taught 2 weeks ago from Ecclesiastes 3, this is because of the sovereignty of God over all our “times”, our comings and goings. And so as we face 2018, are we asking him to help us?

We use the term “bless” or “blessing” quite a bit in the church, and it is a wonderful term that describes the goodness God shares with his creation in the circumstances of life. I’m prompted yet again to ask God to bless us this year.

However, blessing does not mean easy. I was reminded this week that when God is busy at work in his church, it usually involves pruning. When we apply ourselves to the plants in our gardens, both the hose and the secateurs are required! And so perhaps there are pains we must experience if we are to allow God to be at work in us…

Perhaps there will be personal struggles, health struggles, relational struggles, belief struggles or integrity struggles. Far from being indicators of the absence of God from our lives, they will remind us that for God to work good out of the complex circumstances of our lives, sometimes he needs to get our attention.

The humdrum of day-to-day survival tends to blinker us, even blind us. But pain and struggle actually drive us to our knees in humble prayer. They challenge us to let go of things in our lives that we hold to more dearly than we hold to God. And they challenge us to believe in the infinite power and goodness of the One who created us and has redeemed us, including us in his Kingdom.

So once again I say let’s pray. Let’s ask God for his blessing, knowing that this will probably mean we need to pray our way through the circumstance of the year ahead. We will have things we need to repent of… Lord, show us! We will have things we need to rethink… Lord, show us! Let’s invite God to oversee the agendas, plans and aspirations of our lives in 2018!

New Year’s Thankfulness

Welcome to St Augustines! Ok, it’s New Year’s Eve. Time to talk about resolutions? Do you have any? Better daily habits? Less of the bad stuff?

Instead I want to talk about thankfulness. Beware of glazing over at this point on the assumption that thankfulness is merely politeness or good manners.

In the letter to the Colossians, which we studied for 6 weeks in the leadup to Advent, we encountered thankfulness numerous times, although I didn’t make much of it in the sermons. Consider these verses:

  • “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you” Col 1:3
  • “ [Give] joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.” Col 1:12
  • “Continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” Col 2:7
  • “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” Col 3:15
  • “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Col 3:17
  • “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” Col 4:2

All of these urge us to thank God. How might we apply these as we transition from 2017 to 2018?

First, let us be thankful for what God has done in 2017. Thankful for each other, for God’s gift of our inheritance, and for all the ways he has worked things together for good through the details of our lives during the past 12 months.

Secondly, let’s commit to thankfulness in 2018. Maybe it is a kind of resolution. If God is at work each day, then let us thank him each day. For his marvellous creation. For our daily provisions. For our Saviour Jesus, and for growing us in knowledge of Jesus. These really are important!

Finally, why is this more than good manners? Thankfulness is at the heart of what it is to be Christian. And a lack of thankfulness is at the heart of what it is to be in rebellion with God, in need of forgiveness. Imagine receiving all that we have from God and not thanking him for it? How tragic to ignore God’s grace and to think he owes us our existence… Instead, thankfulness keeps us humble before him, clinging to him for our needs.

So in 2018, let us thank him constantly. And may this grow our awareness of his immense power and grace.

 

Growth groups (and why we need them)

Good morning and welcome to St Augustine’s! We are always glad to have visitors amongst us, and those who may be considering joining us regularly. Please let me know if I can be helpful in any way or provide you with any information.

Growth groups. What are they? What do they have to do with church? And should I join one?

What are they? Well, even though our congregation is small, it is also enormous. Far too big to be a place of deep, open and honest conversation. Of course, our goal is that the content of our services will be deep, open and honest! And yet to grow in our dependence on Jesus, and to deepen our knowledge and love of God, we need each other in a more intimate setting than a public worship service. Growth groups are there to help us to grow, as we build relationships of trust and openness with one another.

What do they have to do with church? Well put simply, our church (like any church) needs to grow. Of course, we want to grow numerically: all of us would love to see vibrant Sunday gatherings, full of new people exploring the things of God. But just as the growth of a garden requires attention to each and every plant, so too does the growth of a church.

I don’t think our faith should be an add-on to our lives, like a membership of an association or a hobby. Our faith is a core aspect of who we are as persons. Faith in God is only one of many “faiths” that we have in life. And I’m not talking about other religions! We put faith in the brakes and steering systems of our car when we are on the road. If we didn’t trust them, we wouldn’t get behind the wheel. We put faith in builders who put 20 tonne rooves over our heads, in doctors who prescribe chemicals for us to ingest or inject, even in chairs we slump our weight into. We put faith into more things each day than we care to consider.

The big question is: what does it look like for us to put our faith in God? Do I trust in the things or people he has created more than I trust in the One who created them? Well yes, often I do. And this usually doesn’t become apparent unless I have open, focused conversations about these very things.

Should I join a growth group? Another way of putting the question is, do I need to grow? Growth is intrinsic to life. No growth and we shrivel. Are you open to the idea of building relationships, studying God’s word, and reflecting with each other on what it means for our lives? And to committing the details of your life to him in prayer with others?

I’d love to encourage everyone to think carefully about whether you might join one. Would you consider it? No matter what our stage in life, I know that God will bless us if we humbly seek to grow in our knowledge and love of him.

The challenge of forgiveness

Welcome to St Augustine’s: it is our pleasure to have you with us today. Please let me know if there is any way I can help you out.

This week in our Lent Bible Studies we looked at chapters 11 and 12 of Mark’s Gospel. It’s a long section, with various accounts of Jesus words and actions, some of which seem confusing. Why did he curse the fig tree? Why is that story intermingled with him visiting the Temple and overturning the tables? And isn’t it odd that in the parable of the tenants in the vineyard, Jesus says that the owner “will come and kill” the tenants… how is that consistent with the message of love and forgiveness? Many great conversations about these questions.

But the hardest question wasn’t difficult because of its oddness. It was difficult because of how hard it is to do. Mark 11:25 says “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”

Perhaps you know someone who is hard to forgive? Someone who has hurt you or a loved one, and you just cannot imagine releasing them from that… We regularly pray “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us”, but for many of us there are some situations that are seemingly unforgivable.

It is interesting though to see the links that the Bible makes between our own forgiving of one another and God’s forgiveness of us. The reality is: God forgave us “while we were enemies”. God forgave a debt far greater than the debt others have to us. And yet it says we can’t really claim God’s forgiveness if we’re not willing to forgive others.

This is a challenge indeed. And yet we must not put our own salvation in jeopardy, nor hold ourselves in bondage, by clinging on to other people’s sins in our hearts.

If ever there was a subject for prayer, this is it. If you’re not sure who you need to forgive, ask God to tell you. He may bring to mind a long list, or just one name. And if you feel that forgiveness is beyond you, then ask him for help!

“And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”. Philippians 4:7.