Ever tried watching TV without the power switched on? Chances are it’s going to be boring and lifeless. In some ways that’s like us without the Holy Spirit.
After Jesus died, he rose again and appeared to his disciples, teaching, feeding, and eating with them. He blessed them and gave them instructions to go into the world to make disciples, baptising them, and teaching them. He also said to wait for the Holy Spirit to give them the power they needed to do the job.
The Greek word used for power is ‘dynamos’ which is not an oppressive, authoritarian kind of power. Instead it is the word used for ‘dynamic’ and ‘dynamite’. It is an energy that is explosive, creative, and exciting. That kind of tingling, electrifying power energised a small band of scared, uneducated misfits to start a church movement that has now spread to all parts of the world. This same power is at work in us today for the exact same purposes. It’s a power that increases the size of our hearts (just like the Grinch).
“God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” Romans 5:5.
By increasing our power to love, the Holy Spirit helps us see everyone around us as people God deeply loves and people who need the abundant, eternal life God offers through Jesus.
Will you let God break your heart for what breaks God’s? Will you allow yourselves to be used by the dynamic power of the Holy Spirit to bring healing and purpose to others?
Your Brother in Christ
Today is the last week of the ‘Surprise the World’ series. We look at defining our identity as the SENT ones of God. We are a people on mission. Mission doesn’t need to refer to only people who are sent from a church overseas to evangelise the far-flung nations of the Earth. This work is inspiring and continuing, however we are also missionaries in our everyday lives. We need to live the way Paul describes to the Corinthian church “So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, ‘Come back to God!’” 2 Corinthians 5:20 (NLT).
Rev. Dr. Phil Carr, would often say in church council meetings that it was a requirement in Methodist Leaders meetings to have as a constant agenda item: “What more can we do to promote the gospel?”. This is good question for ourselves also.
The practical homework suggested by Mike Frost this week is to ‘journal the times we have proclaimed the reign of God in the world’. That is, to reflect back on the week and recognise times we have demonstrated the peace of God, the justice, the healing, the joy, the hope or the beauty of God in our everyday lives to others.
This journaling is different to bible journaling or prayer journaling, rather it is writing down those moments where the kingdom of God was glimpsed through us.
One helpful tool maybe to use the Daily Prayer of Examen (google it for more information). It is a basic 5 step process developed by St Ignatius to review the day. One helpful summary I found uses a 5-Rs mnemonic which I have combined with 2 of the 5 habits (listen and send)
- Request the Spirit to lead me through my review of the day. (Silence and listening, “Speak Lord your servant is listening”).
- Relish the moments that went well and all of the gifts I have today. (List moments when you were involved in ‘declaring the reign of God’)
- Review the day. Examining the conversations you had, the people you met, the feelings you experienced.
- Repent of any mistakes or failures.
- Resolve, in concrete ways, to live tomorrow well.
The Jesuits practice a similar prayer twice daily. I’m suggesting to try this once a week.
I look forward to celebrating Pentecost next week at BCUC.
A young man once came to my office knowing he had broken the law and needed to turn himself in to the police, but was scared of prison.
We talked a bit about that, then I was prompted to tell him a story from the bible – something I had been studying recently. I gave him a very abridged version of Joseph’s experience in prison from Genesis – about how it had been hard but Joseph knew God was with him.
My young friend had never heard the story before and wanted to know more.
In the end I spend about an hour telling the story of Joseph. He was fascinated and could relate to parts of it. It gave great comfort. I then had the privilege of being his support person when he went to the police station.
The stories of the bible and the teachings of Jesus are amazing, relevant, encouraging and actually unfamiliar Good News.
Many people might have a reasonable knowledge of what Mike Frost calls “Jesus’ greatest hits – his birth, his death, his resurrection, a few miracles, and a couple of parables.” I suspect many un-churched people under the age of forty barely know that much. This week we are being encouraged to deepen our understanding and knowledge of Jesus. To “marinate” in them. I want to include the whole of scripture as seen through the lens of Christ.
How well do we know about Jesus compared to say… all the marvel superhero characters and their backstories (or other things you may be interested in)?
Today it is very easy to engage more in Jesus. There are bible reading plans and apps online, movies, many books written about Jesus and multiple versions of the bible. We have a library that will help. Can we practice the spiritual discipline of study so that next time someone comes asking about their fear of jail or any other issue in life we are instantly reminded of Jesus?
Your brother in Christ,
By the time you read this we may (or may not) know who the future Prime Minister of Australia is. You may or may not be excited. Maybe you’re not too fussed. Whatever your views are, we can all be united in prayer for the government.
The apostle Paul wanted to give advice to the young pastor Timothy, who was leading a church in the first century Roman world, about how to deal with politics and governments. He wrote:
“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior”
1 Timothy 2:1-3 (NIV)
In other words, pray for the government, but particularly that Christians can live peacefully and continue to strive to live godly lives with freedom. The prayers were focussed firstly on the government but not for any particular issues or that they will change or even that they may be converted, rather that they will give us peace and quiet to run our own Christian race with perseverance. It goes on to say God wants everyone saved, however the key seems to be Christians living with peace, godliness and holiness. The ‘Message’ version of verse 2 says
“so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation. This is the way our Savior God wants us to live.”
Humble contemplation means developing a habit of listening to God. This is our third habit in our series “Surprise the World”.
For introverts, the idea of taking a few hours alone, quietly listening to God might seem like a beautiful dream start to the day. For the extroverts amongst us this will seem like really hard work. Try just two minutes of quiet and I reckon you will get itchy and restless. I find it helps to focus on the words of Samuel that we will hear about today “Speak Lord, your servant is listening”. However the joy of knowing God’s presence is worth the effort.
This week is the second of our series surprise the world, the title of the sermon is “Changing the World One Meal at a Time”.
“English pastor and author Tim Chester once posed the question, “How would you finish the following sentence: ’The Son of Man came…’?” There are three ways the New Testament completes that sentence; while the first two are well known, the third is surprising:
- “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45)
- “The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10)
- “The Son of Man came eating and drinking” (Luke 7:34)”
– From Surprise the world by Mike Frost
Eating with people is a great normaliser and wonderful conversations – funny, serious and faith filled conversation full of grace and seasoned with salt, just naturally happen. Jesus did a lot of discipleship training over a meal. The challenge for this week is to EAT with at least three people (at least one who is not in the church). Chances are you are going to anyway – it is mothers day. At BCUC we have many opportunities to help with the task: the Thursday friendship lunch, the Saturday Friendship Club supper and BBQ on election day as well weekly Sunday fellowship lunches at homes throughout our congregation.
Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal people you might not think to invite to a meal straight away. The next challenge is to see these meals as holy moments, sharing life and hospitality while recognising the face of Jesus in each other. I look forward to hearing stories of what happened next.
Yours in Christ,
If I said “over the next five weeks we are doing a series on ‘evangelism’“, does your stomach churn? In your head you may think “yes I know that’s important”, yet you may get nervous thinking about it, maybe even offended.
“Does this mean Benji is going to tell us to talk to our neighbours and friends about Jesus in every conversation and be one of those ‘uber’ Christians – passionate but kind of annoying?”
Some people are gifted evangelists which means they can bring Jesus into any conversation. They pray before boarding a plane that they can sit next to someone and help bring them into a relationship with Jesus. Many of us want to run from that idea. We are all called to be witnesses to our faith, to always be able to give an account of the hope that we have. This series called “Surprise the World” is about living a Christian life that is different to the rest of the world’s – a life that is attractive and Gospel focussed. It’s about sharing Jesus love in words and actions. Each week there will be homework! Fun, easy to apply homework. I’d love to hear stories of how it goes. The five weeks are based on the anagram B.E.L.L.S. Bless, Eat, Listen, Learn and Send.
This week the homework is to be a blessing to people. Ask the Holy Spirit to bring to mind ways you can bless someone. Ideally, be a blessing to someone within the church and outside the church. It may be as simple as bringing them a coffee or helping them with a lift to the airport. Being people who follow Jesus means we are salt and light to the world. We aim to be the type of citizens everyone wants in their street. We are generous and a blessing to many. May God give you insight and overflowing love in this week’s challenge.
Good morning Easter People!
Today we move on into that joyous season of new life and new hope for everyone made possible through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead – the Easter season. Gone is the tension of the night of Jesus’ betrayal and arrest. The pain and horror of Good Friday is behind us. We are the Easter People following a Risen Saviour whose presence strengthens us daily.
Living on our side of the Resurrection makes it hard to completely enter the fearful ‘hideout’ of the disciples following the events of Good Friday. John 20:19 tells us that the disciples were together on the Day of Resurrection – but they were locked away and fearful. Their fear turned to joy as Jesus came and stood among them, showing them the wounds from his crucifixion and bringing them peace.
Into their discouragement, uncertainty, confusion and fear, Jesus miraculously came. Their closed doors couldn’t keep him out. He knew their needs and came to them to bring them hope for discouragement, confidence for uncertainty, understanding in their confusion and assurance for their fear.
It’s easy for us to become locked away from Jesus and others in times of discouragement, uncertainty, confusion and fear. These experiences strain and sometimes break our relationships with others and with Jesus. We need to remind ourselves and be reminded by others that Jesus’ love and renewing power reach out to us in our ‘hideout’ times. As our Risen Saviour, Jesus has promised to be with us always to strengthen us and help us through every day of our lives. He wants to bring us peace, purpose and power in times when we’d rather just ‘hideout’ – ‘peace’ to be able to step back and consider our situation in the light of his love, ‘purpose’ by opening up new possibilities for our daily living and ‘power’ to get on with life.
Blessings, Easter People – our Risen Saviour is with us and for us!
Welcome to BCUC.
We pray that you will experience the hope, love and power of the resurrected Jesus this Easter.
Jesus is alive and active!
This week like me, you may have been saddened to see the flames at the grand Notre Dame Cathedral devour its roof and spire. Some people’s reactions and commentaries I have found to be an interesting reflection on some of western societies’ feelings towards Christianity as being a relic of the past, a beautiful yet outdated museum of our society that is still being preserved in some corners but which we have mostly grown out of. I have heard the comment “It’s sad for the building and Paris, but people don’t really go to church any more do they?”
I wonder how much Christianity will play a part in the Federal election? Where it was once a tag of trustworthiness, it now seems to be almost an embarrassment and something that needs to be defended… “I know they’re Christian but they’re actually OK”.
Today on Resurrection Sunday we boldly proclaim that Jesus is not dead or a relic of the past. Jesus is alive and well. Jesus is still moving powerfully, transforming lives, bringing peace and reconciliation, saving souls, being our good shepherd. Just ask anyone here at BCUC. The Holy Spirit is alive and active, particularly across the globe in Middle Eastern countries, Asia and Africa. There are thousands of new Christians each day in countries that have not seen a heart turn to Jesus for over a millennia.
Jesus is alive! This Good News will never be a fad that comes and goes; it is the light to all humankind for all time. Let’s celebrate together.
If you’re new to BCUC and you want to know more about Jesus and being part of this friendly, worshipping, community, we usually have three great, yet different services on Sundays (except when we occasionally combine at 9:30am such as on May 5)
9:00am Contemporary Service including very welcoming kids programs
(with groups catering for ages 0-15)
10:30am Classic Service (sing those inspiring hymns along with the choir)
10:30am Café Service (in the hall for a more intimate, interactive style)
Today we remember Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, an event we now mark as Palm Sunday. It begins Holy Week on the church calendar. Each day of Holy Week has set readings based on the lectionary that can help us place ourselves in the emotional and spiritual roller coaster of Jesus’ last days before his crucifixion (see details in this newsletter).
One way to think about the entry into Jerusalem through Luke’s gospel is POSITION, PRAISE and PEACE.
POSITION– Jesus enters as a king. Much of the layered symbolism, reaffirms this from the use of a donkey (a fulfilment of an Old Testament prophecy), the laying down of coats, and the words joyfully chanted by the crowds “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”. I wonder, do we consider Jesus to be our ‘King’. What position is he in our lives? Are Jesus’ love and instruction more important than the coats on our backs?
PRAISE– As Jesus entered the Holy City “the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles (or works of power) they had seen”. What ‘works of power’ or miracles do you know Jesus has done in your life or the lives of other people? At the very least, think about his redeeming work on the Cross that we have focussed on over the last few weeks. When is the last time you talked out loud about it?
PEACE– Remember what the angels sang at the birth of Jesus? It’s in that well known Christmas carol, Hark the Herald Angels: Peace on earth and mercy mild God and sinners reconciled. Luke 19v38 has the crowd ushering in peace, thanks to Jesus. Jesus then weeps because the peace he brings won’t be recognised (v41). He’s referring to the wonderful work of reconciliation that will happen on the Cross, bringing God and humanity close and at peace. So, as we come to the Cross this Easter, let us make peace with God and each other.
See you next weekend for a great celebration of what the Cross means to us and the world!
The classic tale the Wizard of OZ is about Dorothy and her friends wanting to meet the great, powerful, wise “Wizard of OZ” who they hope with certainty will solve all their problems. The problem is they need to get to him by travelling a long treacherous journey following “the yellow brick road” to the emerald city and even then it takes quite some ritual to be able to eventually have an audience with the wizard who sadly turns out to be a fake anyway.
The LORD God is nothing like the fake wizard, however for the average Jew before Jesus it may have seemed like a long journey to get an audience with the Lord. To be cleansed of your sins, access to God before Jesus required ritual washing, sacrifices, burnt offerings and finally only a high priest from the family of Levi could finally enter the ‘Holy of Holies’ on behalf of all people and then only on one particular day of the year (read more in Leviticus 16).
Jesus changed all that by his sacrifice on the cross.
The New Testament book “Hebrews’ has perplexed some biblical interpreters as no-one knows who the author is or who they were writing too. Yet to ignore it is to deny us of a message that has been critical for the churches fuller understanding of the meaning of the cross (particularly the sacrifice of Jesus), the nature of Jesus and in helping us to more fully understand why many Christians have claimed throughout history that “Jesus saves you from your sins”. Today’s sermon will hopefully help us understand this more. I encourage you to read Hebrews chapters 4-10 yourself, maybe in the New Living Translation or with a good study bible.
This may seem a bit theoretical and ’teachy’ but the application is life changing and one we should never take for granted. Jesus is our high priest, our access to God, because of his sacrifice made once and for all, we can now boldly approach the throne of God. So “run the race of the Christian life with perseverance keeping your eyes fixed on Jesus, the pioneer and the perfecter of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:1-2).