‘A Culture of Peace’


Reflecting this Week
‘A Culture of Peace’

Whenever human beings band together we create cultures. A culture is simply ‘how we do things’. Banks have them, bank-robbers have them, gamers have them, bowls clubs have them, even churches have them. What should a church culture look like?

Before launching into everything Christians should be, let’s go to the core idea. A church should be about peace—“Since we are justified by faith we have peace with God” (Rom 5:1) and “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace” (Col 3:15).

We’ve been talking a lot about encouragement lately, so peace is the natural direction for our conversation. So far so good—we’d all sign off on people of peace as a mission statement for church. However, culture is often what happens while organisations are busy making ‘mission statements’. In other words, although they might have the mission statement right, how they actually do things, their culture might be different! So how does a church cultivate a culture of peace? The blueprint is there in Scripture, but how do we move from ‘page to practise’?

PeaceWise talk about “becoming a culture of peace”. PeaceWise? Some of you are thinking, “Oh that course. Done that!” Others will be asking, “Isn’t that the conflict resolution course?”

PeaceWise is more than conflict resolution and it is more than a course. PeaceWise is about Biblical tools to not only resolve conflict but to help God’s people navigate relationships. (And let’s face it, as people coming from all kinds of experiences and with all kinds of baggage, we are a very interesting bunch that Jesus has put together). Some of us are ‘peace-fakers’ (we pretend everything is fine even if we’re hurting) some of us are ‘peace-breakers’ (we lash out in anger).

What we must become, is a people who deal in godly ways with the little prickles and the deep wounds in the household of peace we call ‘church’. A culture of peace isn’t just about resolving conflict when it flares up, but about preventing it. A culture of peace is about gracious speech, a willingness to overlook the small things and courage to face the big things with truth and love. A culture of peace is where Christians confront gently, apologise humbly and repent genuinely. A culture of peace always looks for the opportunity to restore.

The starting place of PeaceWise is ‘Glorify God’. Every conflict is an opportunity to glorify God. Think about it. Everyone in the world has conflict, but when God’s people have conflict and see it as an opportunity to practise peace-making, we are living out our God-given identity, and all heaven cheers. When we live with unresolved conflict we are just living like the world. Sure, resolving conflict can be challenging, but the freedom is worth it! Is there a conflict you need with help with?

Let’s work at becoming a culture of peace.
More to say next week…

Faith | Hope | Love

Geoff Thompson

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‘Golden Apples’


Reflecting this Week
‘Golden Apples’

It started off like a normal evening. I got home, dropped my bag and went through to the kitchen. Without even thinking, I went through my usual routines. “How was your day kids?”, I asked. The usual chorus: “It was good” followed. “Try again!”, I said. My kids know that saying ‘it was good’ is usually not enough! My son Nathan pipes up. “My teacher encouraged me today”.

Oh yeah, I said, tell me more, what happened? “Well, one of my friends was frustrated at school today. He wasn’t his normal self, but I cheered him up”.

“How did you do that?”

“I don’t know, I just tried to distract him I guess”. “Nicely done, Nathan!”

A little pause followed, then Nathan chimed in again. “But it was good because my teacher encouraged me about it.”

“He did? What did he say?”

“He said to me at the end of the lesson when everyone had gone out that it was nice of me to look after my friend”

“It sure was!”Perhaps it was just a small comment from an observant teacher, but it certainly caught my attention. The thing that I noticed about it was that this small word of encouragement had a big influence over my son’s day at school. It was what he came home remembering. It was what he wanted to share with me.

The words we use every day can be very significant. Take critical words for example. They can hurt! We feel our heart rate rising, our stomach tightening when people criticise us. Even after years we can remember them. Words can fall from our lips too easily and discouragement quickly follows. No wonder David writes in Psalm 141:3: “Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips”. When we remember the power of our words we are wise to ask God to keep watch over my words!

I learned this week, when we use our words to encourage others we can have a building effect in the lives of others. When Nathan comes home remembering the encouraging words of an influential teacher, then I learn something too. Encouraging words can settle our hearts and bring a smile to our faces.

As the Proverb goes: “A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver. (Pro 25:11)

Let’s aim to do well with the words we use.

Let us aim to encourage. 

How do we do that at church together?

Perhaps we can be as observant as a teacher – noticing the little things that people do around us:

Who is looking for new people to sit with?

Who is cleaning up without anyone noticing? Who is folding the prayer notes?

Tell them they have done well! Be specific.

You might make someone’s day. It may be what they remember when they get home.

I’m thankful for teachers that encourage my kids at school, and I’m thankful for the encouraging words I hear from others in our church.

Our words matter, so let’s use them well.

Faith | Hope | Love

Geoff Thompson

Water Regularly


Reflecting this Week
‘Water Regularly’

Last week we raised the issue of encouragement. Gordon Cheng from Matthias media has also done some thinking on this. “God has given every Christian an enormous privilege and gift: the power to speak his life-changing word into the lives of other people. There’s no reason at all for there to be ‘passengers’ in a church: every Christian can change the lives of those around them through knowing and telling the message of God’s grace, whether in front of a group, in a handwritten note, in a one-to-one conversation over morning tea, or in a thousand other ways. Every Christian can be a channel of encouragement.

Paul says much the same thing in Ephesians 4, where his vision of the church working as it should is one where every single member “speaks the truth in love”.

However, our words to other Christians in many instances don’t seem to progress much beyond the weather, the TV, and the weekend trivia. Sometimes when we do get beyond trivialities, we struggle to know what to say that will genuinely encourage others in their lives and their Christian walk”.

At our place, we have a rare and precious plant given to us by David Woodbridge. It sits happily in the garden, in its pot.  It seems satisfied with the natural run-off from the rain. However, lately, it hasn’t rained. I can tell when this elephant-eared succulent is thirsty, because its ears go down. Time to water. Soon its ears are pinned back, it’s bright and ready to flourish again. You should see the frond it casts when it’s healthy.

How similar, people to plants! Just a little watering can make all the difference. Next time you are at supper or morning tea, remember this is a God given moment to be his divine watering-can! Be intentional in allowing conversation to really encourage—ask how the other person is doing… how their devotions are going… whether they are experiencing closeness to God. And remind them of God’s faithfulness from Scripture. In fact, why not make a date to catch up and read the Bible together one to one—in your home, or even better, in a cafe (then others can see you are Jesus-followers).

Remember too, after church, don’t simply draw a closed circle around your friends. Look for the visitor, or even the regular who is hovering on the outer. (Yes they are among us!). A little watering is a great antidote for wilting in God’s greenhouse.

“Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near”.

(Heb 10:24-25)

Faith | Hope | Love

Geoff Thompson

The power of honeycomb

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We all know the power of words. Two words like “I do” seal a marriage promise. A parent’s words can shape a child into an emotional healthy adult or, trap them in self-doubt. Good workplaces are fuelled by praise and encouragement. But what kind of words should we expect in church? It’s a rhetorical question really. We know the answer is that a church should be a community that builds up and encourages…right? But does it always work out that way in the life of a busy church? Are we thankful for the people, their serving, and the resources God has blessed us with? We probably are in our hearts, yet, we may not always get around to expressing it with words. In a full program of ministry, it’s very easy to forget to say thank you, or worse, nit-pick! Many are working hard for Jesus at All Saints — from mowing to music, wardens to washer-uppers, leaders to weeders…and we all thrive on appreciation and encouragement.  Proverbs says, “Reckless words pierce like a sword,   but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Prov 12:18) and, “Pleasant words are honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones” (Prov 16:24).  The truth about honeycomb is that it’s not only sweet, it attracts, and it’s sticky. Ask any ant in the pantry!              

My point is, thankful environments attract. People are drawn to serve with glad hearts when appreciation is expressed. 1 Sam 14 records that when Jonathan had not eaten on the battle field for some days, seeing honey oozing from a tree, “He reached out his staff and dipped it into the honeycomb. He raised it to his mouth, and his eyes brightened”. Do eyes brighten for the person who has served us? Do we brighten their eyes with appreciative words? Of course, we are serving the Lord Jesus, but as we do, we should always build each other up.

The times we discourage others are usually when we’re disappointed with an outcome, or take each other’s work for granted. At other times it’s when our preferences and priorities aren’t being met the way we’d like. It can also happen when we feel threatened by change. What does it look like? Nit-picking and criticism. And nothing tears down and discourages like criticism.

Critiquing ministry and behaviour carefully is important. And recognising that, Paul says, “Speak the truth in love” (Eph 4:15). Yet often critique can be laced with criticism. Sometimes churches are so busy repairing the damage of criticism, that mission is set back years. Before we speak, we should ask whether we are about to brighten or dull the eyes of the other person.

So, like honeycomb, words brighten the eyes and attract…but sticky? In a book called Sticky Church, the author reminds us that it’s one thing for people to be attracted to church, it’s another for them to stick. Sticky churches are thankful places where people are built up in their faith, and encouraged.

Faith | Hope | Love

Geoff Thompson

 

‘What I Did in the Holidays’

Reflecting this Week
‘What I Did in the Holidays’

I recall after every school holiday our teacher required a ‘composition’ on how we spent our holidays. So here’s mine. A couple of weeks back, Anne and I visited Melbourne for a break. Of course we pilgrimaged the MCG for footy, saw a show, drank good coffee and ate too much. But the highlight was visiting ‘Rosebud’. Rosebud is a town on the Mornington Peninsular with dire social problems. Ray and Sue Beckman also came to see what was going on down there. Rosebud Baptist church is behind COACH Mentoring (which we are rolling out here at All Saints). The surprise was meeting the folk who had been mentored, had come to Christ, and were being discipled… until ultimately they outgrew their LifeGroup! What happened next was, these humble Jesus-followers were soon running their own version of our Open House. Rosebud has a unique model of discipleship and Ray and I were humbled to learn new ideas.

COACH Mentoring is something that many members of All Saints could easily do. I invite and challenge you to catch this vision. Pray whether this is where you could serve.

Here’s a snippet of one COACH story…

Pandora became a mentor after being inspired by a story she heard in church. Yasmin, had her hands full raising three children under the age of three. Yasmin was struggling with isolation and sleep deprivation. Yasmin’s husband was working long shifts which resulted in her being housebound and alone for long periods. Yasmin had been diagnosed with depression after the birth of her first child and was hospitalised. After moving away from their support network to find suitable housing, and after the birth of her twins, Yasmin once spiralled into depression.  Seven months into their COACH relationship Yasmin shared that she’d begun to journal her experience with post natal depression.

With Pandora’s support to make small steps, Yasmin grew in confidence, and she discussed the prospect of telling her story to help other families struggling with mental illness. This became a new goal in their COACH relationship. Yasmin’s blog now has an audience across ten nations.  Of her mentor Yasmin says, “Pandora is an incredible woman, her warmth and friendship easily spreads into the rich conversations that she shared with me. I learnt so much from her and with her support have been able to overcome some of my biggest  hurdles. It’s easy for me to say I wouldn’t have got this far if it wasn’t for my mentor’s support and friendship, she’s been a huge life line for me”

I know our All Saints is full of people like Pandora who have something to share with someone like Yasmin.

Faith | Hope | Love

Geoff Thompson

A DARING RESCUE


Reflecting this Week
A DARING RESCUE

Over the last week many of us joined the global audience watching and praying as the saga of the trapped Thai soccer team unfolded. After a week of desperate planning to beat the monsoon, a daring scheme was hatched. Expert divers would enter the darkness to sit with the boys. But could they train a bunch of 14 year-olds in a few days to do what professional divers had trained a lifetime for? In the end, the divers would have to take the boys individually against the muddy current, through narrow crevices. The only way to get them out, was if the boys remained ‘rag doll like’. They had to trust their rescuer to do the work, and not try to contribute to the effort. Then suddenly, by Tuesday all boys were out! The little town near Chiang Rai was jubilant as were the millions in front of television sets around the world. The boys were set free from their dark prison and moved from death to life. As you read this, I guess you can hear a metaphor for salvation. For instance,  “He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves” Col 1:13

Also, consider the impossibility to save ourselves.  “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless…” Rom 5:6, and “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” Eph 2:8-9.

The rescue of the boys brought cheers around the world. Yet, one detail seems largely under reported—a rescuer died. A navy SEAL gave his life in this daring rescue. I wonder why he is given so little recognition? Perhaps no-one wants to spoil a good news story?

Yet importantly, the story of the cave rescue has this in common with our salvation—sacrifice of a life for another. Rom 5:6 goes on to say, You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us”.

How costly is our salvation. Perhaps every Sunday service should hold at least as much celebration and thankfulness as the world expressed last Tuesday as the boys emerged from darkness into the light. And we should live each day remembering, that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ”

Faith | Hope | Love

Geoff Thompson

Growing & Pruning


Reflecting this Week
Growing & Pruning

Today we worship as one! We also wrap up our Colossians series under its challenge of growing. As we fulfil our calling as life-long growers, we will also need to think of the importance of ‘pruning’! Nathan Dempsey, Matthias Media, offers some helpful insights…

“When studying the parable of the sower, we Christians understandably want to identify ourselves as the good soil. After all, so far as we can tell, we’re bearing fruit, we’re being as faithful to God as we know how to be, and we aren’t pursuing happiness the way the world tells us to. Doesn’t this make us the good soil?

Not necessarily. My own experience leads me to suspect we all have at least a little thorny soil somewhere in our lives. Though we may not be chasing what the world urges us to, we’re still very wealthy compared to people in developing countries.

Please don’t misunderstand me: I’m not saying that having any wealth automatically means we have thorny soil. I am, however, saying it can distract us from living as Jesus did—thereby allowing thorns to grow in our lives. To prevent this, we need a concrete picture of how Jesus would have lived.

Eph 5:15-16 tells us we need to recognize time isn’t on our side when it comes to fulfilling the Great Commission, and we therefore need to be careful about how we live to ensure we make the best possible use of the time we have.  2 Pt 1:3-11, meanwhile, shows us what this looks like: continually adding to our faith increasing amounts of goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection, and love.

That the Bible urges us to make the best use of our time is why I believe we need to constantly evaluate how we’re spending whatever time and money we have. Can we honestly say we’re “making every effort” to continually add the qualities from 2 Peter 1 to our lives… or are we more prone to spend our time on our own entertainment? We need to be honest with ourselves about this; the Bible warns that the last days will be filled with people “having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power” as they love pleasure more than God (2 Tim 3:1-5). But what does this look like?

I think it looks like the life I once lived, in which I tithed, attended church, Sunday School, and midweek Bible study—and then counted the rest of my time and money as my own to do with as I pleased. Once I realized this could be the very lifestyle Paul had in mind when he penned his warning to Timothy, I got serious about finding and pruning the thorns out of my life.

Being in the world isn’t easy. We’re continually exposed to its lies about what will bring us happiness, and sometimes we listen. Fortunately, however, if we’re willing to constantly evaluate our lives, with God’s assistance, we’ll be able to keep uprooting the thorns and replace them with the only thing that can truly bring us joy and happiness: more of God himself. Then, when we meet Jesus face to face, we’ll be able to truly rejoice as he reveals how he used our lives to bear 60 or even 100 times what was originally sown”.


Faith
  |  Hope  |  Love

Geoff Thompson
June 24, ONE SERVICE! 9.30am

Front pews will be reserved for less mobile members.

A Tale of Two Services


Reflecting this Week
A Tale of Two Services

Pastor Bob sat across from the elderly man and the young woman. Bob was used to members coming to discuss matters… but from different congregations, together? The elderly man spoke first. “Pastor, there’s a problem with the teaching”. The pastor raised an eyebrow. “oh?” (after thirty years of ministry he’d not mastered the poker face). The young woman quickly corrected, “Not with the teaching as much as with the practise.

“You see Bob” the man began, “you taught us that 1 Corinthians celebrates unity in diversity in the church—differences coming together in Christ”. The young woman chimed, “that Christ’s goal is to create one new humanity Eph 2:15”.

Pastor Bob silently congratulated himself on being such a great teacher.

“It’s simple” said the man, “Eph 3:4! ‘One body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called— one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all’. The problem is, a gap between preaching and practise”.

Pastor Bob grimaced “how’s that?”

“Well, we have different Sunday services for different age groups—one for older people and another for young people. The young woman added, “How can I learn from the older women (Titus 2) if they are at a different service. We barely know each other exists!”

Pastor Bob smiled. He could tell where this was heading. It was an exciting discussion. “Well, how about the young people come to the morning service? Cup of tea?” With that, pastor Bob disappeared into the kitchen and left the two generations stranded with that thought.

The young woman shifted in her seat. “er… that wouldn’t work for me,  I’m a night person, Sunday morning is my rest time. Besides, my genertion doesn’t like written liturgy. We want to celebrate worship in vibrant, new ways. How about we meet in the evening around a more contemporary format?”

Now it was the older man’s turn to feel uneasy. “We grew up with that liturgy. It’s meaningful and has a very intentional shape. The hymns we sing are rich in theology and direct our hearts reverently toward God’s majesty. To be honest, we can’t sing those new tunes of yours”.

Both sat in stoney silence, now less comfortable and further apart on the sofa. Pastor Bob came back with the tea. “You’re right. Ideally, our worship practise should reflect our theology, and we do believe in our ‘oneness in Christ’. We should worship, as you say, old and young together. Sadly over the years, our denominational heritage has left us with two different styles of worship—traditional and contemporary. Both are equally valid. One values reverence and carefully crafted prayers, the other values vibrancy and simpler format. However, If the truth be known, we all really default to our own musical tastes—the tunes we are more familiar and comfortable with.”

The tension in the room began to ease a little. “You know,” pastor Bob congratulated, “You’ve  identified a real issue! Therefore we should take as many opportunities as possible to come together, to remind ourselves we are actually ‘ONE’ story… opportunities to celebrate our oneness. Any suggestions?”

The elderly man and young woman smiled,

“we think we might just have an idea…”   End.

Faith  |  Hope  |  Love

Geoff Thompson
June 24, ONE SERVICE! 9.30am

Front pews will be reserved for less mobile members.

The above story is fictional in nature and any resemblance of the characters to persons living or dead is coincidental 😉

We really should apologise for some apologetics!

Reflecting this Week
We really should apologise for some apologetics!

Grace is as much an apologetic as logic. Yet, as we’ve witnessed on facebook, there’s more to it than a knock-down argument with emojis!

Benjamin Swift explains… “In Christian circles, the art of apologetics—providing a reasonable defence for the Christian faith—is becoming increasingly prominent, particularly as social media simplifies the process of conversation on a global scale. How then can we become more effective apologists? A good starting point can oddly enough be found in the words of Forest Gump: “Stupid is as stupid does”. Now stay with me here. Forest makes a good point: stupidity is not defined by one’s intellect but by one’s actions. We need to keep in mind and display through our actions that we are called to reflect Jesus—and he was gentle and humble in heart. So how do we avoid stupidity and promote humility when arguing that God’s way is the best way to live?

There is a psychological phenomena known as the Dunning-Kruger effect: individuals with a small amount of knowledge regard themselves as having higher expertise than they actually do. In other words, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing! To combat this, we need to climb Mount Stupid. When we begin learning we climb towards the peak of Mount Stupid, imagining that we are quickly gaining ground…

… until finally we reach the point of having enough knowledge to see our own ignorance clearly. Then we uncomfortably slide to the bottom of the other side of the mountain, where we can resume a realistic self-assessment and can humbly grow. The Apostle Paul learned this the hard way. It is widely accepted that Paul’s intensive training as a Pharisee and his knowledge placed him in high esteem amongst Hebrew academic circles. However, it wasn’t until his eyes were opened by Christ, and faith altered his mindset, that his education was put to true use. For the Christian apologist, the quicker one can ascend Mount Stupid the better. The advantage the Christian has is that Christ demands humility from us; he asks that we descend the mountain of self-reliance and come to him with a child-like dependence: “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 18:3).

A starting point in the apologist’s journey to humility is to consider if Christianity and its understanding of God stand tall when subjected to questions of reason. Throughout history there have been many well-reasoned arguments for the existence of God. But it is important to keep in mind that logical arguments remain unable to provide proof beyond any doubt. We must as apologists come to terms with the fact that many answers can only be left to faith. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Cor 2:13-14). And so as Christian apologists we must understand that the God-given gift of faith via the Spirit provides us with the only means of truly comprehending God’s truth.

Let us therefore seek to use our intellect in a way that is humble and driven by faith, prayerfully acknowledging that successful apologetics are completely dependent on God. God uses us more effectively on the far side of Mount Stupid”

Faith  |  Hope  |  Love
Geoff Thompson

 

Reconciliation


This week is National Reconciliation week (May 27 – June 3). Is it just politics? Why should Christians be involved? The official website puts it,

National Reconciliation Week is a time for all Australians to learn about our shared histories, cultures, and achievements, and to explore how each of us can contribute to achieving reconciliation in Australia. Reconciliation must live in the hearts, minds and actions of all Australians as we move forward, creating a nation strengthened by respectful relationships between the wider Australian community, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.”  http://www.reconciliation.org.au

Land and ownership has been one of the issues at the centre of misunderstanding each other’s values. Almost all Australians attach a rich sense of place, identity, belonging, and nourishment, to ‘land’, whether it’s a quarter acre in Bexley or hundred thousand acres in the Kimberley. However, to the European mind, land was something to own, while to the aboriginal mind the land owned them. So when white settlement and aboriginal culture met, there was less of a ‘living happily ever after together’. Over the last fifty years there’s been a legal movement to sort out some of the historical problems. We generally refer to this now as ‘Mabo’. Claims over land for white and black communities are complex…

Why raise this in our church context? Put simply, ‘reconciliation’ is our core business because our core problem has been dealt with.
“God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in Jesus, and through him  to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross”
Col 1:19.

Because we know the grace of God in our lives, we have become ‘peace people’ and therefore peace makers. Being peace makers means,
“as far as it depends on you,
live at peace with everyone”

Rom 12:18.
This must be true in our personal relationships, our church and even on a national justice level—it demonstrates that God’s grace is working in us.

So what of reconciliation week? There are many ways we can reflect the character of a reconciling God. However, the real issue is understanding that reconciliation is firstly a spiritual matter. Therefore supporting aboriginal gospel ministry in Nowra is vitally important. Pray for ShACC, and Phil and Lyn Miles as they minister in this congregation and hold out Jesus. There are other simple ways that help us appreciate the perspective of aboriginal people. Why not spend time reading up on local culture and history, and learn more of this unique heritage we now share as Australians.

Thanks to all who have expressed their thoughts about the plaque we hope to erect as

a welcome to aboriginal people. I discussed this with our Archbishop this week, and will offer some more precise wording next week.

Faith  |  Hope  |  Love

Geoff Thompson