When Reading the Bible isn’t Working

Close up of a Bible connected with earphones

How is your Bible Reading going? Tara Sing has a thought….

“There are hundreds of Bible reading plans to choose from. I know because I have searched them, I have tried them, and I have failed them.

I start off so well, even reading ahead (just in case there’s a day I skip)… and then the days go by, and then the weeks go by… Before I know it, it has been months since I’ve stuck to my plan and I’m staring at multiple little empty checkboxes, feeling like I should just give up now and start again next year. Do you know that feeling?

But lately I have been trying something a little different, and I think it might be working.

I usually make a quick breakfast and pack my lunch every morning. I’m always in a rush so I multitask like mad. The egg is frying away, the bread is toasting, and simultaneously lunch is getting put in my bag. I just don’t know how I could have the time to sit down and physically turn through the pages of my Bible and read—that sounds like a luxury reserved for the holidays. So instead, I now listen.

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‘The Bells Cried Freedom’


Reflecting this Week
‘The Bells Cried Freedom’

On the 11th hour on the 11th Day of the 11th month of 2018 expect to hear the bell of All Saints Anglican Nowra ring out (even if we have to use a hammer!). In fact, expect to hear the bells of Anglican churches all over Sydney ring out to mark 100 years since the guns of WW1 fell silent. Our Archbishop Glenn has invited the churches of Sydney to re-enact this joyful moment of world history. This first modern world conflict had brought about the mobilisation of over 70 million people and left between 9 and 13 million dead, perhaps as many as one-third of them with no known grave. What a high price humanity paid for freedom over those four years! I don’t suppose there is anyone at All Saints who was alive on that first Armistice Day but there are plenty who grew up without a loved one in the aftermath that followed.

Armistice Day became synonomous with the poppies of Flanders and sadly, it would be just twenty-one years before lessons were forgotten, crimes renewed, and families would again pay the price for freedom, in WW2. Armistice Day became Remembrance Day to remember the combined and ongoing cost of freedom in war. We will continue to ring the bells to remember this glimpse of peace and the cost of freedom they cry out for.

In 1977 musician Keith Green wrote

Easter Song,

“Hear the bells ringing

They’re singing that you can be born again

Hear the bells ringing

They’re singing Christ is risen from the dead

The angel up on the tombstone

Said He has risen, just as He said

Quickly now, go tell his disciples

That Jesus Christ is no longer dead

Joy to the word, He has risen, hallelujah

He’s risen, hallelujah

He’s risen, hallelujah”.

Our bells toll for this bitter-sweet day in history, 1918. Yet the answer to all evil throughout all human history rings out on Easter Sunday.

Faith Hope  |  Love

Geoff Thompson

‘Revitalise Quiet Times with Psalm 119’

Reflecting this Week
‘Revitalise Quiet Times with Psalm 119’

Cassie Watson writes: “If you’ve ever read through the whole book of Psalms, you may have been overwhelmed when you came to Psalm 119. It’s the longest chapter in the whole Bible, with 176 verses. You might be tempted to read through it as fast as possible, or skip it. However, there are inexhaustible riches of wisdom in its verses.

At first glance it’s a bit tricky. It seems like the psalmist is claiming to be sinless. But the whole psalm is written to the tune of grace. Make time to soak in the words themselves.

You won’t walk away with a handy ten tips to improve your Bible reading. Instead, Psalm 119 will help you to see why daily time in Scripture is so important. The psalm opens with these verses:

‘Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord! Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart, who do no wrong, but walk in his ways!’ (Ps 119:1-3)

If you scroll through your social media feeds, you’ll get a glimpse of what the world thinks the blessed life is all about: beaches, good food, relationships. Yet this psalm tells us the blessed person is the one who lives in obedience to God, following his commands. We can only know these commands when God reveals them to us, through his Bible. We will cultivate our joy in Scripture—and our desire to follow it more obediently—when we know this is the true source of blessing.

A thirst to know my Bible better

The writer is always desperate to know more of God’s testimonies: ‘My soul is consumed with longing for your rules at all times’ (v. 20). He begs God to help him comprehend and keep the joy of his Scripture: ‘Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain! Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.’ (vv. 34-37)

Strength in suffering

I often turn to the Bible in times of suffering, as I’m sure you do too. But this psalm adds another dimension to how we should think about suffering:

‘It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.’ (v. 71)

The psalmist not only looks beyond his suffering, but rejoices in it. He sees the good in this. One of the problems of affluent societies is that we don’t feel a sense of desperate need for God. But suffering strips away all self-sufficiency. His affliction has brought the psalmist back to God.

Empowered obedience

The psalmist clearly treasures the word of God greatly in his heart—but it doesn’t end there. His devotion moves from his heart to his hands.

‘I hold back my feet from every evil way, in order to keep your word. I do not turn aside from your rules, for you have taught me.’ (v. 101-102)

The goal of our Bible reading should be worship. We encounter the words of the living God! As I read through Psalm 119, I’m reminded that my worship does not end when I’ve closed my Bible. I must also live out what God has taught me. I was confronted by my own inadequacy as I meditated on this psalm, and had to ask God for his forgiveness. Pray that you will love his commands ‘above gold, above fine gold’. (v. 127)”*

Faith Hope  |  Love

Geoff Thompson

*Cassie Watson serves at Merrylands Anglican Church

Stay Calm and read the Psalms


Reflecting this Week
‘Stay Calm and read the Psalms’

Ruth Baker writes, “Frankly, there are days when I just feel out of control. On the days I nail the work and grocery shopping and the doctor’s appointments, I am overwhelmed with the housework. On the days when I’m winning at housework and laundry and Bible study, I am completely behind with the cooking and lawn mowing.

“It’s too much. It’s out of control. I’m not enough. I can’t do it all. Why am I not doing it all?” It’s like a drum beat in your brain, making it impossible to find peace. One of the million reasons I love God is that he knows this about us so well. It is a very simple part of his amazing character, but it is profoundly significant for us.

Psalm 94:18 says, “When I thought, ‘My foot slips,’ your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up”. Don’t get me wrong, the psalm is not about a middle-aged mum feeling overwhelmed on a bad day. The psalmist is crying out to God about the jubilant wicked. This distresses him, and when he asks who will stand up for him he is laying the foundation for his explanation as to why God is the ultimate support and refuge. But what resonates for us here is the state of highly charged emotion the psalmist is in, the sense that nobody and nothing on earth can make his situation better. Have you ever felt like that?”

What is beautiful in this psalm is its language. It helps us dig into the psalmist’s feelings. The ‘slipping’ that he talks about gives the impression of that panic just before a fall. You feel it in your stomach. The psalmist is describing a time when he called to God—a sick fear and anxiety churning his insides. And what steadies him? God’s unfailing love. The Hebrew, ‘chesed’ (unfailing love) encompasses goodness, kindness, faithful deeds and mercy. When the psalmist felt sick with worry, it was God himself that held him up—his love and kindness. It was God’s presence.

How does this help?

First, I find it helpful that the psalmist felt what we feel. The psalms recognize every negative, horrible emotion we have. And this means that God knows the full range of emotions we have.

Secondly, we don’t have to jump straight to a fix. If it’s in Psalms we can digest and sit in our emotions for a minute. The psalms lead to God’s light, but they also allow us to acknowledge these feelings. It helps in giving your emotions a name.

This leads us to the third thing: move it from inside to outside by giving it a voice. If we have yet to define what’s happening, that’s okay, because we can cry out to God, “My foot is slipping, Lord; please help me!”. That’s all we need to pray—and sometimes it’s all we can manage. God gave us these words so we could say them back to him.

If you have given your feelings a name, you can add to the one-line prayer by telling God how you feel. It doesn’t make it go away, but it helps. It takes our emotions from the darkness inside us, where they can fester and grow, and brings them into the light”.*

Faith Hope  |  Love

Geoff Thompson

PS. Buy a chair if you can!

 

Daring Ideas

Today we pick up the 1 Samuel story again, as Israel grapples with how they understood the daring idea of living with God as their king.
I guess this sums up my life too. You?

Last week we undertook a daring new idea — Chinese Church. As English for Life has grown, Margaret and her team have been conducting Bible studies for interested Chinese students. Word of this spread to the Anglican Chinese Pastor’s Fellowship in Sydney and they have offered to come down each Saturday for the rest of the year to conduct a service in Mandarin. Last week was our first service and two people decided to make the next step in the journey with Jesus! Yesterday we met again. We give thanks and pray for God’s Spirit to move in the Chinese community.

Another daring idea for All Saints is lowering the church floor. This will give us greater flexibility for seating for our sunday services. The lowering went according to plan… until we found evidence of some old white ant activity, which meant extra work. The construction part will be finished next week. Then, painting, carpeting and air conditioning!

This week, Cathy Vonk introduced a daring new ministry for All Saints called Junior Jivers! This lively program is for mums, bubs and pre-schoolers, based around music. Cathy has a ‘soft launch’ going now for church mums, to iron out the bugs, and will open it wider in 2019. Junior Jivers will be another way we help families discover the joy of living with Jesus as king.

You may know that Lyn Miles (as your rep) and myself have been at Synod this week. Synod is an assembly for five days (spread over two weeks) to commit resources to mission, and shape responses to social issues. Some of those issues this year include reporting on domestic violence and ensuring we have guidelines to care for victims. Another issue is the pastoral care of those undergoing gender dysphoria (the conflict between a person’s physical sex and how they perceive their gender).

One daring Synod decision has been to offer the Diocese of Bathurst $150,000 each year for the next six years to help with their financial problems. You may know that due to poor financial choices, hardship of drought and shrinking churches, Bathurst diocese is essentially bankrupt. Yet, there is a great gospel opportunity before us. Our gift will enable them to employ a registrar and a bishop to steer the Bathurst Diocese. The only requirement is that the candidates must be mission-minded and committed to gospel renewal in the region. This may also open the way for Sydney ministers to be welcomed into Bathurst parishes (Bathurst and Sydney have not always shared the same view of the gospel and doctrine). Bathurst enthusiastically accepted our offer, and your Synod endorsed the motion to set aside the funds—to see the Bathurst Diocese recover a focus on growing gospel churches.

Living with Jesus as King will move us to be good givers, servants and proclaimers.

Faith Hope  |  Love

Geoff Thompson

PS. Buy a chair if you can!

‘Navigating Disappointment’


Reflecting this Week
‘Navigating Disappointment’

This week has had its moments. For instance, we’ve started meeting in the hall and school. Thank you for the grace and encouraging way you’ve set out on this journey. Let’s continue as we’ve begun, even when fatigue and annoyances set in.

Then there was the move this week by the govt to use the sails of the Opera House as a billboard to promote a gambling event. Clearly the premier didn’t listen to Josh’s sermon.

Then on a sad note, this week our CMS friends Dave and Liz barely arrived back in Asia when they got news that Dave’s mother had passed away. So now they are on their way back to Australia. Pray for them.

And, it rained. Thankful farmers across NSW. Timely too, given our Pray for Rain gathering at Nerriga.

Your week may have brought unexpected difficulty, change and anxiety. Remember, God is in control, He is good, and He can be trusted. Continue to be found in His word, pray and cast your burdens on Him.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” Phil 4:6.

If you’ve been following our series on Peacemaking recently, here is a reflection from Steve Wickham.

“We may find ourselves in situations where we would prefer not to stir up a hornet’s nest. But in leaving issues alone, they may never get resolved, and worse, simmering resentments may continue to boil”.

The third G in the Peacewise model, (as we reviewed a few weeks ago) is about going to the other person we are in conflict with.

Jesus said in Matt 18:15, “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you.” Just between the two of you. No gossip. Keep it private.

PAUSE Principle

If there are issues that we need to negotiate, we PAUSE. We prepare, and, in affirming how much the relationship means to us, we help make them feel safe. We then seek to understand the interests that undergird their position, the ‘why’ behind their ‘what’. Only once we understand what their interests are will be motivated to search for creative solutions and evaluate options objectively and reasonably.

By confronting issues with the motive of gently restoring other people we are in conflict with, can we hope to glorify God, serve other people, and grow to be more like Christ. Only as we courageously engage with the people we are in conflict with are we able to resist being peace-fakers and peace-breakers and go on to emulate Jesus, our Great Peacemaker”
Faith Hope  |  Love

Geoff Thompson

PS. Buy a chair if you can!

‘Encouraging Words’

Reflecting this Week
‘Encouraging Words’

This Sunday is our first meeting outside of the church during the renovations. Many people are working hard to make us comfortable and to ensure the transition goes as smooth as possible. Will you be an encourager? How will you choose your words when things don’t go your way? Proverbs ch10 has good advice for our lips and tongues. For instance, 19 “When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise” 20 “The tongue of the righteous is choice silver, but the heart of the wicked is of little value” 21 “The lips of the righteous nourish many, but fools die for lack of judgment” 31 “The mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom, but a perverse tongue will be cut out” 32 “The lips of the righteous know what is fitting, but the mouth of the wicked only what is perverse”.

Of course if the writer knew email and social media were coming he would of included these deadly weapons along with ‘lips and tongues’. The psalmist has an answer to the destruction and self-destruction from dangerous words. I’ve needed to pray this myself this week, “Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips”.

At this point in our transition I’d like thank everyone across our congregations and generations who are working hard. The list is considerable, from lifters and movers, planners and team leaders, building committee, musicians, children’s team, cabinet makers, lighting and sound advisers,  finance folk, and especially those who are serving by graciously setting aside their own preferences.
I say cautiously, “There’s nothing like upheaval and change to test us, refine us and grow us to be like Jesus!”
Another new thing to All Saints is Chinese Church. As interest has grown at English For Life to study the Bible, some Chinese pastors in our Diocese have offered to partner with us in planting a Chinese congregation. The first service will be Oct 13. Pray that God’s Spirit will move in this community to find a saviour in Jesus.
Finally, Summerfest is not far away. Can you serve on this family mission in Jan? This Summerfest we are starting on Wed 16, and running to Fri 18. This means three days of intentional program and connecting, followed by an Invitation Sunday. If you served on team last year please talk to Katelyn about Summerfest 19. Our team meeting will be 21 Oct, 2.30pm in the hall.

‘It’s all a bit overwhelming’ I hear you say?
Press on church as we persevere through change and inconvenience, to make the name of Jesus known in Nowra.
Faith  |  Hope  |  Love

Geoff Thompson
PS. Buy a chair if you can!

Reflecting this Week: ‘The Challenge of Change & Messy’

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Reflecting this Week
The Challenge of Change & Messy

What a great church weekend away. Thanks to everyone who worked hard to draw it all together, and to those able to join in, especially our day-trippers. The message from 2 Peter, was “Growing in Grace & Knowledge”.We were challenged to live in light of the end—that Jesus will return!
Folks, we are about to embark on a challenge to grow in grace over the next two months. It is about to get messy around here! This Sunday will be our last service in the church building during October and November, as the renovations take place. This will test us. Some will be tempted to stay away until the works are completed. Some will be upset by the changes. Some may discourage others and criticise. I invite you, however, to remember that around the world God’s people meet in unimaginable circumstances, discomfort and even danger. They continue to meet not because their church building is a particular shape, but because they are a particular shape—shaped by grace and bought with the blood of Jesus! God’s people understand that their lives are not their own. They belong to Christ and belong to those in their church family.  Our challenge is to be encouragers over these next two months. The arrangements will be as follows:

8am will experience the least disruption. They will meet in All Saints hall.

10am & 5pm will meet at their usual time, in the Nowra Primary School hall (enter by Berry Street gate opposite the cottage). Rock and Rocklets will have their program in various spaces within the school grounds.

During this time teams will work hard to set up and pack up each Sunday. Be patient as we work this out together, and offer to serve.

The first challenge is to relocate the pews into the shipping container in the church car park. This very physical work will take place on Sat October 6. Please sign up to share the load. Let Katelyn in the office know you will be there.

The second challenge is for the chairs that will replace the pews. We are asking every member to buy a chair for $80. We’ve ordered them in faith but now it’s time to pay for them. As you sit in your pew this week take the blue sip and fill out your pledge to pay for one of our new chairs. In fact, why not buy one for yourself and one for a new person who hasn’t started attending yet!

The challenge over the weeks that follow is to patience and love.

Why put ourselves through this? Because we want to rise to the challenge of being a place for future generations in Nowra to hear the gospel, meet Jesus and be ready for his return.

Faith Hope  |  Love

Geoff Thompson

Reflecting this Week: A Culture of Peace part 6: ‘Go and be Reconciled’


Reflecting this Week
A Culture of Peace part 6:
‘Go and be Reconciled’

More of our ongoing piece about peace! Ken Sande, The Peace Maker, offers four peacemaking principles. 1. Glorify God—every conflict is an opportunity to glorify God. 2. Get the Log out of your Own Eye—own your contribution to the problem. 3. Gently Restore—go to the person who has offended us. His final principle is 4. Go and be Reconciled.

Ken tells a story about empty forgiveness… “What do you mean, ‘empty’?” Rick asked.

“Rick, imagine if you confessed a serious sin to God and he said, ‘I forgive you but I can’t ever be close to you again.’ How would you feel?”

“I guess I’d feel God hadn’t really forgiven me.”

“But isn’t that the way you’ve been forgiving Pam? Imagine instead that God said ‘Rick, I forgive you and promise never to think about your sin again, or to dwell on it or brood over it. I promise never to bring it up or use it against you. I promise never to let this sin stand between us or hinder our relationship.’”

Tears began to fill Rick’s eyes. “I’d know I was completely forgiven… but I don’t deserve that kind of forgiveness after the way I’ve treated Pam.”

“Would you ever deserve it?” I asked.

God’s forgiveness is the free gift purchased by Jesus’ death. He doesn’t forgive you because you earned it. He forgives you because he loves you.” 

“When you truly understand how precious and undeserved his forgiveness is, you will want to forgive pam the same way he has forgiven you.”

“I know I should but how? I can’t imagine forgetting what Pam did! I just don’t feel like I could ever be close to her again.”*

“Hold on, Rick. Where in the Bible say that forgiveness is about forgetting or feelings? Forgiveness is a choice, a decision you make by God’s grace in spite of your feelings. Of course it’s especially hard in a case like this. But if you ask for God’s help as you make those promises to Pam, he will give you the grace to follow through with them.”

What happened next between Rick and Pam is a story of transformation by grace. “As Rick offered Pam an apology for his bitterness, coldness, and holding back real forgiveness. Pam sobbed her own apology, feelings of guilt and shame, and fear that Rick could never forgive her. They cried together. By offering her the redeeming forgiveness modelled by Jesus, Rick brought hope and life back into their marriage. Although they would spend many hours in counselling to address the root causes of their problems, forgiveness had cleared a path through the rubble of the past. By God’s grace they could now deal with those problems in a way that could result in a completely restored marriage and a powerful testimony to the reconciling power of Jesus Christ.”

If you’re practising empty forgiveness in your relationships and need to find strong forgiveness and grace, please talk to one of our pastoral care team: Geoff, Robin, Josh, Jan Tillott, Gilbert Page or Barry Hatter.

Faith Hope  |  Love

Geoff Thompson

*Sadly, returning to ‘closeness’ through forgiveness may not be simple or safe where there has been abuse. Pastoral wisdom is advisable.

Gently Restore


Reflecting this Week
A Culture of Peace part 5:
‘Gently Restore’

Continuing this piece on conflict, Ken Sande, in The Peace Maker, explains four principles. 1. Glorify God—every conflict is an opportunity to glorify God in the way we respond. 2. Get the Log out of your Own Eye—owning our contribution to the problem. And now, 3. Gently Restore—going to the person who has offended us. Matt 18:15 “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over”. The idea here is restoration not rebuke. Often we should overlook small offenses. However, if the situation continues to cause alienation or encourages them to act in a hurtful manner, then we should go and talk with the other person with grace*.

The best way to begin such a conversation is best with an apology for our contribution to the problem. This reduces defensiveness and can open up a conversation that helps the other person understand their part. Consider how a conversation might unfold…

“Mary, there’s no question my careless words contributed to this problem, and I am really sorry for aggravating you. At the same time, I wonder if you’ve considered how you may have contributed to this problem. As much as it would be easier for us to just drop the matter, we may have problems again unless we talk about it. May I explain how I see your part in this matter?”

Ok, so those words may not precisely fit your situation, but can you see the gentleness of beginning with a humble apology? If possible in the same conversation, the next step would be to help the other person see their sin. Ken Sande writes, “With God’s grace and the right words (including your own confession) such a conversation will often lead to restored peace and a stronger relationship”.

According to Matt 18, the Bible commends face-to-face meetings as an important step in reconciling people. However, it also recognises that sometimes it might take the help of others to  help us to get to this point. Ken calls these people conflict coaches who may meet with the other person on your behalf initially. Conflict coaches can help both parties identify heart issues and even idols for one or both parties.

At All Saints we’d be kidding ourselves if said we have an idyllic culture of peace. We know who we are in Christ but we also know we need to become more like Jesus in our relationships. Perhaps you would like to talk to me about a conflict that is bothering you, and even the possibilities of conflict coaching?

Faith Hope  |  Love

Geoff Thompson

*There are times when it is not safe to meet face to face, i.e. where there has been intimidation or abuse. Why not talk through a tricky issue with a pastoral care member first.