Tag Archives: Thankfulness

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.

 

The Powerful Ideas Of Christmas

Well, Christmas … yes, here we are. What has this year meant for you?

I imagine that for most of us it has been a combination of things wonderful and things difficult.

For some of us the balance is more towards one or the other of these.

Whatever your circumstances, we confidently maintain that Christmas is a time of peace, hope, joy and love. Yes it really is! These words may seem unrepresentative if your year has been terribly difficult; to others they may seem trite and “nice”.

But they are powerful words, made real by the presence of God in our world in the person of Jesus.

  • He really did bring peace: first and foremost peace in our relationship with our maker.
  • He really does offer hope: we are able to look forward (even beyond death) with courage because of what Jesus has done for us.
  • He really does bring joy: an ability to stare down the difficulties of life knowing that God actually feels our pain, carries us through it, and promises one day to remove it entirely.
  • And he really does bring love: he loves us, more than we will ever know, and his love for us inspires and enables us to love one another.

At Christmas we celebrate Emmanuel: God with us. When we consider the sheer immensity of the universe he created, and the tiny, insignificant dots that we are on a comparatively invisible planet, it blows my mind that he took on human flesh.

What is it about us that he wanted to redeem? I’m not sure I have the answer to that. He simply loves us. He made us and he’s glad of it, even after the corruption of the world.

Let’s take time this Christmas to thank him. It’s not just a time for locking ourselves away with family. It’s also a time for remembering that God remembers us, and that he offers us membership of his own wonderful, eternal family.

May God bless you richly, Mark.

Painting for proclamation

Welcome to St Augustine’s. So glad you can join us today!

Last Sunday afternoon, I got a delightful surprise. I turned up to church at about 4:30pm in preparation for our Sunday evening Growth Group at 5pm, and I saw that the Church Hall door was open. I knew that Samuel Chan and a few others had started work on painting the hall a few hours earlier, so I thought I’d drop in and see how things were going.

The staff had made a decision a few weeks earlier, in consultation with the finance people at Diocesan Office, to paint the hall to help spruce up the interior after we moved the Op shop to the Old School. Samuel got quotes from professional painters, but both were more than we could justify under the current financial pressures. But we were able to source paint for a discounted price. So Samuel bought the paint and other equipment, and started prepping the walls!

We want to use the hall to expand the ministries of the church, and to hire out to the wider community. We want to think of ways to serve the local community. And it seems to me pretty important to make this space as inviting as we can, with the modest resources we have at our disposal.

As I walked through the door, I saw a group of people standing in a circle and I suddenly recognised Mee Ping’s voice… he was leading in prayer. I quietly walked over to the group, closed my eyes and joined in the prayer. He was praying in a very upbeat manner, confidently asking God to bless our use of the hall and asking that Christ’s name would be proclaimed there. As I prayed, I could smell fresh paint, and wondered how much work they’d done, but thought I really should wait until he’d finished praying before I opened my eyes and looked around…

Well sure enough, the prayer finished, we opened our eyes and I saw every single wall painted! A little bit of touching up was needed the following day, but otherwise, it was done.

So THANK YOU to the huge group of over a dozen volunteers who painted all afternoon last Sunday, and ESPECIALLY to Samuel for amazing hard work, initiative and leadership. Come and check out the hall as soon as you have a chance!

Good motherhood

Welcome to St Augustines, and happy Mothers Day! It is great to have you with us today, whether you are a visitor, a guest or a regular.

Our Western society is pretty skilled at commercialising a good thing, and Mother Day is no exception. It seems we can’t have a good celebration without buying things, and we can’t buy anything without a whole lot of advertising.

But I guess if anyone deserves a gift of appreciation, it’s a mother. Having seen the immense commitment and hard work of my wife in the bringing up of our three children, I now have an additional perspective on mothering.

It’s not just the hard work providing for a whole range of needs for the kids, and being willing to sacrifice in a whole range of ways. It’s also the fact that mothers seem to be deeply wired in their application to the best interests of their children. That deep wiring never seems to get disconnected, although it can so easily be neglected or forgotten by the beneficiaries and life companions!

Today there are 3 aspects of this on which I find myself reflecting: First, I am deeply thankful not only to my own mother as well as to the mother of my children for their deep commitment, hard work and dedication, but also to other mothers around me. I’ve often reflected on the fact that our community needs great leadership… well there’s no better leadership than to give yourself wholly and sacrificially to the best interests of your children, a leadership that is not only intense, but also long-lasting. The impact of mothers on our future as a society must never be underestimated. Let us be a community of thankfulness and appreciation.

Second, I am aware that for many there is a level of pain associated with the notion of motherhood. Whether it be the loss of a mother, breakdown of relationship with a mother, or the unfulfilled desire to be a mother, we must not underestimate this. Given the enormous potential of motherhood for good, and the seeming natural preparedness of women for motherhood, it should not surprise us if there is a great deal of soul-searching when expectations are dashed. Let us be a community of compassion, seeking each other’s comfort and support.

And third, I reflect on our heavenly Father, the one who made us male and female, wiring us as we are. The one who demonstrated in an ultimate sense the notion of sacrificial parenthood. Our Father has shown his love to the whole human race in giving us life, sustaining our lives, and then in redeeming us through his Son, Jesus, whose life was laid down for our restoration. Through being joined to God’s Son, we may call God Father. Let us be a community of praise and thanks to God, drawing our inspiration from the source.

Invisible baptism

Welcome to St Augustine’s! We hope you enjoy your time with us.

Today is a very special day: an opportunity to baptise Stella Mak. In the service, we will find out more about Stella’s background and longstanding desire to be baptised. It is an honour for us to share in this significant day for her.

Like Holy Communion, baptism is a physical sign of a spiritual reality. The water just comes from the tap, and it doesn’t make a great deal of difference whether it is sprinkled over someone or whether they are submerged.

When a person becomes a Christian, he or she puts trust in the promises of God and appropriates them personally. It is the difference between knowing that Jesus brings salvation and calling out to him to be my saviour. It’s the difference between facts about Jesus and relationship with Jesus.

When you ask Jesus to save you, an extraordinary thing happens. The Holy Spirit connects you with Jesus. It is an invisible connection – you may or may not feel it – but one that immediately changes the entire trajectory of your life. Instantly, Jesus becomes your representative. His death on the cross becomes a death that pays for your sin. His burial in the tomb enables you to be counted as having been buried for your sins. And, wonderfully, his resurrection becomes the guarantee that one day you too will be resurrected… raised from the dead to be with him for ever. And yes, this connection with Jesus is called … your baptism. In Romans 6, Paul puts it like this:

Don’t you know that all of us who were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.

What a joy this is! It calls for a visible symbol to help us celebrate. And Jesus chose water baptism to represent visibly this hidden spiritual baptism: an outward sign of our inward cleansing and preparation for eternal life with God. Thanks be to him!

Greatness apart from achievements

It is our great pleasure to have you with us at St Augustine’s today… welcome, and please let us know if we can be helpful to you at all. Our intention is to demonstrate the grace and kindness of God to each other and to those who are new among us, as He has demonstrated it to us.

As many of you are aware, I was in Sydney this past week, and it turns out that while I was there I was able to attend a memorial service for an old friend of mine, Mike Ovey. Mike passed away suddenly and unexpectedly in January in London, and a funeral was held back then. But on Monday this week at All Soul’s Langham Place in London, a memorial service was held for about 2000 people. A video recording of this service was sent to Sydney so that a smaller group of us could also participate from this side of the world.

Why the multiple events? Who was Mike? He was the principal of Oak Hill Theological College in North London, and one of the sharpest minds in church leadership in the world today. But for me, Mike’s loss is not about his status or his achievements; it’s about who he was and the contribution he made to my life.

Mike was gentle and kind, and always had time for people, especially those in difficulty. He was a great conversationalist, and always interested in what the other person had to say.

I had the privilege of spending a semester in one of his classes in 2004 on the Doctrine of God. And I can truly say that this course turned my whole understanding upside down. I believe that the information and learning we gather about God ought to turn us to praise and wonder – this was what I took from Mike.

Mike was also my youth group leader when I was in Cambridge as a high-schooler back in 1989. Mike was a funny guy who didn’t take himself too seriously, and we warmed to him straight away. But the whole time, his great desire for us was to see us grow in our knowledge of our maker and redeemer.

There are certain people in life who leave a lasting and deep impression on us for all the right reasons. I am deeply thankful to God for Mike and the person he was and the impact he had, despite his shortened years.