This Sunday Jenny Olver is preaching at the Cafe service about the value of encouragement in a Christian community by first looking at the story of Barnabas whose encouragement of Paul led to him being one of the greatest church planters and writers in history. Rev Charissa Suli will be speaking in 9am and classic service from the lectionary and also about the importance of mentoring the younger generation.
The book of Acts is like a bloggers journal of the birth and spread of the early church from Jerusalem to the capital of the Roman Empire. By chapter 9:30-31 we have these beautiful verses that say the early church experiences a period of peace and grew in numbers thanks to the encouragement of the Holy Spirit. As we seek to grow and raise children of God at BCUC let’s draw on that same spirit of encouragement.
Last Thursday I had the privilege of preaching at the induction service of Rev. Tim and Rev. Sil Hein at Malvern UCA. As I was about to get to the pulpit many memories of my involvement in Malvern came flooding back from my first sermons, kids talks, choir singing, weddings, dramas, nearly burning down the church in a creative worship service using way too many candles and more… I was grateful for the encouragement and the risk that the congregation and leaders had taken to raise me up as a child of God, equipping me for mission and ministry. I imagine that without their encouragement I might still be spreading bacteria in a lab somewhere wondering if there is another calling for my life. Have you been a “Barnabas” to someone or had a “Barnabas” encourage you?
Jenny asks a number of very valuable questions:
- what would BCUC be like if it was not just a welcoming church but rather an encouraging church?
- Are you open to responding to the Spirit’s leading?
- Are you prepared to step up and approach someone?
- Are you ready, like Barnabas, to relinquish a role, its praise, its past and maybe even the historical memory of your contribution following successful encouragement of others?
We can all exercise the gift of encouragement. Take a risk, look beyond yourself and your own ministry areas, who is God leading you to encourage today?
We are living in extreme times. People have been turning their back on God’s way in droves, and doing whatever seems good to them. Many children today don’t even know who Jesus is, don’t know even the most basic stories about him. Christians all over the world are being persecuted. Here in Australia, while we are not yet dying for our faith, we are being persecuted in other ways and our freedoms are being steadily eroded.
And yet there is a great hunger in the world, a spiritual hunger, for peace, meaning, and purpose. We, who belong to the King of Kings, know what it is, and who it is, they are looking for. But we hold this treasure in clay pots, always mindful of our human frailty, our inconsistencies, and what we consider our inability to be effective witnesses for Jesus.
Having just completed the Alpha Course where the last topic was on sharing our faith, several things emerged:
- While people are becoming suspicious of Christians, they usually don’t have anything against Jesus.
- People will be happy to listen to you if they sense you are motivated by love.
- Most people are happy to be prayed for.
- No-one can argue with your personal story of what God has done in your life.
- The gospel is the power of God for salvation.
Romans 10:17 tells us, “…faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.”
We need to write God’s word on our hearts and experience it fully, so that we can, with real conviction, share it with others.
“…my word… will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11)
Over the next three weeks we will focus on mission, with the privilege of hearing from three guest preachers who have seen first-hand stories of 2019 missionaries from very different contexts.
Sunday 29th Sept: Rev Sue Ellis, Moderator of the Uniting Church in SA will speak about her vision for the church over the last three years as Grow, Nurture, Flourish with a special emphasis on the work of Frontier Services in SA. This is mission in the regions of SA.
Sunday 6th Oct: Luke Telfer, the president of Gideons Association (also a young farmer from the Eyre Peninsula) will share the amazing impact of giving out bibles to people in schools, hotels, on the streets and personally to friends and family. This is personal, local mission.
Sunday 13th Oct: Rev. Charissa Suli a second generation Tongan Minister working as a consultant for the Assembly with a special interest in mentoring young people and inter-generational, inter-cultural ministry. This is mission with an international flavour.
What is mission? Jesus said “Go into the world and make disciples of all nations.” Wesley said “The world is my parish.”
From the 16-1800’s many western churches from Europe sent missionaries to the new world to spread the gospel. Their fortitude and perseverance was astounding as they found themselves in villages and cities that they could not have prepared for, with languages and cultures that would’ve been to them completely alien. There was no way of googling it before hand. Although today’s historians look back with mixed perspectives, I know personally the ongoing local churches in places such as India, China, Africa and the pacific who still hold these missionaries in very high regard.
But the word ‘mission’ today has a much broader meaning than planting churches and making disciples in far-flung places. Its local, regional and international. Its both social justice and evangelism, two sides of the same coin. David Bosch described the mission of the church as “A community of people who, in the face of tribulations they encounter, keep their eyes steadfastly on the reign of God by praying for its coming, by being its disciples, by proclaiming its presence, by working for peace and justice in the midst of hatred and oppression, and by looking and working toward God’s liberating future.”
I am drawn to the “incarnational” approach to mission. Jesus was sent to earth, he took on the form of the locals (flesh, a human body, the baby Jesus- God incarnate) lived and breathed with the locals, loved them, taught them and showed them who God was, and what God’s purpose and desire was for them, then gave his life for them only to be resurrected. If we use the same approach, then we are sent (to our families, neighbours, work places, shops), we get to learn and love the people and culture, we show them who God is and God’s purpose for them with a love that is sacrificial.
Enjoy these learning and being challenged these next 3 weeks. I will.
This Thursday something happened that got people’s imaginations running wild in offices and bus stops around the country- a $150,000,000 Powerball lottery. What would you do if you won the lottery? Sounds like all your dreams come true?
While for some people winning the lottery may have been an amazing experience, there are so many other stories where winning such a large sum of money has changed people’s lives irreversibly for the worse; for some it’s led to drug addiction, loneliness, divorce, anxiety, estrangement and even prison. A study in the UK found that while there was an initial spike in happiness levels for people, this quickly dissipated back to them being about as happy as they were before with some being more anxious. Physical health generally took a backward step as they tended to socialise more, eat more and drink more. These are the statistics.
Knowing Jesus and being filled with the Holy Spirit will lead to so much more than winning the lottery. It is better in every way. While it may not help you pay off the home loan immediately, the joys of being a child of God are fantastic. Jesus said “the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it” Matthew 13:45-46. I know many stories where this is true.
Think about it, even on the very worst day for a Christian:
- We have our eternal identity as children of God
- We are part of a much bigger family that reaches across all cultures, back into millennia of history and into the future
- We are loved by God with an ‘agape‘ love that is great, overflowing and lavished upon us
- We can live in freedom due to the salvation and forgiveness of our sins thanks to Christ’s work on the cross
- We have a purpose in life, a meaning for our existence: “To love God with everything we have and to love others as ourselves”
- We are filled and empowered by the Holy Spirit to help us in that mission and give us power, creativity, healing, peace, self-control, guidance, motivation, humility, joy and more.
And this is on a bad day for a Christian! So much better than winning the lottery, don’t you think?
Today Rob will focus on being a Spirit-filled child of God which finishes our three-part series. As children of God we are:
- Loved by God
- Loving to others
Keep a mental note about what we have learnt about being a child of God. Imagine if BCUC was full of people who took this seriously and lived it out in word and deed. Imagine if BCUC was used by God to be a place to raise many more children of God from amongst those in our community who don’t yet know their identity can be found in Christ. What difference would that make for them and for the world? We will keep hearing about this in the future as we imagine what it would be like to be part of a church whose primary purpose is to raise children of God.
I am a LOVING Child of God
This week we start to unpack some of the “so what?” of the message that our primary identity is as the loved children of God. The first letter of John is pretty clear : “Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7). If we are adopted or born again into the family of God thanks to Jesus then, over time, this new life we live begins to have a family resemblance. We reflect to others the same love that God lavishes on us. Recent surveys of the attitudes of everyday Australian’s are showing that some people are highly suspicious of church. Many would rate having a dog park in the community as more important than a church, and 3 in 10 would agree that Christianity is not good for society. However, if you asked the same people to describe Christian people they know, the words are very positive: kind, generous, loving…
Over the past 2 weeks I have had the joy of attending services that David and Kath Truran have been helping run for many years on behalf of the church at both Regis and Wesley Church nursing homes, Tuesday mornings monthly. This is an expression of the love towards others, love for both the people within church and those outside the church. For those who are served by this ministry there is such an obvious joy and encouragement given to them. The relationships, the singing of songs, the prayers and messages are deeply appreciated. In short, they feel loved by the children of God. I have also found this to be the case while in Port Lincoln where I had the privilege of running monthly services at the local prison and the two local nursing homes. David and Kath are now needing to pass on this ministry of loving others to someone else. If your interested please see Benji ASAP.
This is one great example of children of God loving others. If I was to go through the church directory I could spend many pages detailing how people are being loved in practical and genuine ways thanks to the children of God reflecting their new family characteristics.
Finding your identity is a core human trait. Think of the number of movies or the volume of literature that has self-discovery as the main thread of its theme. It’s about finding the answer to one of life’s biggest questions: “who am I?”
Genealogy web sites are some of the most visited sites on the internet. According to time magazine it’s the second biggest hobby in the US after gardening. A very popular Australian TV show called “Who do you think you are?” traces the family trees of famous Australians. These are all part of our fascination in discovering the puzzle pieces of our identity.
Our identity can be gained from many things outside our genetic tree: our experiences that shape us, our hurts and pains that leave scars, our family upbringing, our postcode, our citizenship, our current relationships, our responsibilities, our authority, our careers, our personalities, our IQ, our EQ. Our identity can be defined by external and internal things. For the next three weeks I would like us to explore the life-changing truth that our primary identity can be found in Christ alone. If you have never given yourself a memory verse then I encourage you to make it this: “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” 1 John 3:1. In this sweet verse the endless search for identity is over. We are children of God, thanks to the great love that God has lavished on us! It’s not so much about who I am but whose I am.
This identity is eternal. It can not be changed, no matter what external labels people want to put on you or what labels you might place on yourself. It does not depend on genetics or postcode or education or social status or being successful or how pretty you are or aren’t or how many likes you get on Instagram. It is dependent on the deep love God lavishes upon us. John’s gospel says right at the start what the whole point of Jesus coming to earth is: “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” John 1:12. So believe and receive Jesus and find your unshakeable identity as a child of God!
Last Sunday afternoon we had a beautiful ministry time at the Psalm writing workshop. There was both a great sense of Joy and deep gratitude in the nature of God’s love and faithfulness as people reflected on their life and the difference the presence of God has made. People stepped out in courage, some writing for the first tentative time to pen down rich songs that reveal very personally the love, care, compassion and hope of Christ.
Over next couple of months, we have the great privilege and blessing of a number of guest preachers.
Moderator Sue Ellis will share her experience as Moderator, the work of frontier services in rural SA and her encouraging vision for the Uniting Church in SA over the last 3 years to ‘Grow, Nurture and Flourish’.
Luke Telfer is a friend from the Eyre Peninsula who is a young farmer and also the president of Gideons. Luke is in Adelaide for the annual Gideons convention (an organisation that loves to give away bibles to people who need the transforming power of the living word). He has a passion for sharing the Good News found in the bible with all people.
Charissa Suli is a multi-talented, humble and passionate UCA minister from NSW. She is a second generation Pacific Islander who has a role with the Assembly and a particular interest in mentoring and disciplining young people. She is in Adelaide to speak at a worship conference and also the Surrender conference.
This week we hear from Craig Schultz who will tell us of God’s work throughout the Middle East via a satellite TV and radio station – Miracle Connect. It’s a great encouragement that God is doing some amazing things in places that have not seen people finding hope in Jesus for many centuries. The days of western Christendom are over and the global centre of Christianity is moving. Over the last decade while Australia has struggled to see new Christians, there have been millions of conversion in Asia and the Middle East. For example in 2018, China had 31 million Christians, far more than the total population of Australia. Everyone of those is an amazing personal story of someone finding hope, salvation, forgiveness, grace freedom and abundant life in Christ causing all of heaven to celebrate.
This week I have been at the Propel Conference, a new national network of Uniting churches and pastors interested in discipleship, evangelism, raising new leaders and church planting. The strong theme throughout the worship and prayer times has been:
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:18-19
This Sunday is the last of our series on the Psalms: Gods Broad Shoulders. Today we’re looking at the many praise psalms which have themes of joy, God’s reign, and confidence in God’s presence and action. It may seem strange but the cross is where we see this play out most. As the scripture from Hebrews reminds us. Jesus is the pioneer and perfector of our faith and it was his endurance on the cross that was for our ultimate joy. That joy is knowing God is with us and will never give up. The stain-glass window of the crucifixion found in the hall was brought to my attention this week at Trix Bills funeral. Her family donated it many years ago in memory of Trix’s parents.
I hope that through this series you now have a greater appreciation of the deep value in wrestling with God over your hardest and your best times. Just as the psalmist did. If you missed any sermons and would like to listen to them, they can be found on the BCUC website.
I’d love to finish with these stirring and powerful words that finished Rev. Rob Williams sermon last week,
“God is a God who is with us in our dark places and wants to lead us into the light of his joy and love, giving us a new start at the life God intended in our creation as Children of God! God never gives up on his plans and purposes for the people whom he loves as we see again and again in the Bible.
When Moses said ‘Here I am, send Aaron’ – God did not give up.
When Aaron was making a Golden Calf at the very moment Moses received “you shall have no other god’ – God did not give up.
When only 2 of the 10 Israelite spies thought that their Creator was more powerful than giants they saw in the Promised Land – God did not give up.
When God became human and had an assassination attempt on his life before he was 2 – God did not give up.
When people from his own town tried to push him over a cliff – God did not give up.
When his own brothers ridiculed him – God did not give up.
When he was accused of blaspheming God by people who didn’t fear God – God did not give up.
When Peter worshiped him at the supper and cursed him at the courtyard fire – God did not give up.
When people spat in his face and a whip split his back – God did not give up.
When human hands nailed divine hands and feet to a cross – God did not give up.
So why should God give up on you – even when you are in your ‘dark place’?”
So let everything that has breath praise the Lord!
Psalms 42 & 43 are songs written by someone who is clearly downcast, disturbed and depressed.
God wants us to pour out all our emotions to him, including our sadness and depression. The answer from God is not simply ‘pull yourself together and get over it’. The process of lament, of crying out, of admitting to God that your soul is downcast and bringing that into the loving presence of the living God is important enough that it is recorded time and time again in God’s Word, from some of the bible’s greatest prophets (e.g. Jeremiah and Elijah), poets (Job) and hymn makers (‘lament’ psalms). There is even a whole book of the bible dedicated to expressing deep sadness to God, Lamentations.
Psalms 42 & 43 gives us hope though. As the psalmist cries out to God and asks himself why his soul is so downcast, the answer seems to ring out throughout the psalm. It lies in the need to be closer to God, to be in God’s presence with a deep longing (“deep calls to deep”). God is the ultimate source of hope and light in our darkness.
This reminds me of another psalm 139 (one of my favourites) that has the line “even darkness is as light to you”. The Hubble space telescope is a satellite above the earth’s atmosphere focussing its specialised lens into the far reaches of the galaxy. One picture it has taken is called “deep field” which is of one of the darkest points of the night sky, where it would seem no light penetrates. But true to the psalm, when focussing the telescope’s extremely sensitive lens into that dark sky, it exposed hundreds of tiny galaxies, far far away barely giving out any light. Even the darkness is as light to God. It’s true that the heavens really do declare the glory of God. So in your darkest moments remember God is with you.
Looking through the psalms at BCUC, I hope you have been seeing the range of human emotions expressed to God in poetry and prayer. This week we look at Psalm 73 which tells a story of a person who had feelings of jealousy and envy as they looked at how much more fun it seemed the people who don’t follow God have. He nearly slipped and lost his faith. Yet, he remembered the goodness of God, and came to a solid understanding that a relationship with God is better than anything else.
Have you thought about writing your own psalm? In BCUC Chats I gave a brief outline on how to write a psalm based on Psalm 10. Many Psalms follow a pattern which can be replicated. We believe there is some amazing talent in BCUC and would love to give the opportunity for the congregation to contribute their own Psalms to a booklet we will publish as a Christmas gift to all. We would love to see your contributions. Send them to email@example.com.
If you need a kick start we will host a Psalm writing workshop Sunday 25th August, 2-5 pm at BCUC. Below is an example of a psalm from a workshop that was run in in Illinois.
A Coffee Psalm
O God, You are like coffee!
You percolate . . . and the mere sound of you stirs me from sleep. I thirst
for you, O God, in the morning when I wake up. Your aroma permeates
my soul when I come into your presence. You pour yourself out and
shower me with blessings. You fill my cup with good things. Your
heat and steam rise as incense and fill my nostrils. I lift you up
with my hands and drink you into my being. Your warmth
penetrates my mouth. O taste and see that the Lord is good!
Your warmth continues to travel through me, warming my
gut. You dwell ever within me. You energize me, O God.
After a time, you give me energy to set about the tasks
you lay before me. I return to you, O God, throughout
the day, and get renewed and refreshed every time
I drink you in. O taste and see that the Lord is
good! You restore my soul and fill my senses.
You help me get through the day when
my sleepiness tries to keep me
from doing your will. O taste and see that the Lord is good.
O God, you are like coffee to me!
© 2012 by C. Christian Dederer