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Weekly SNAC, 8 April 2018 - Book Review: Side by Side by Edward T. Welch

“God is pleased to use ordinary people, ordinary conversations, and extraordinary and wise love to do most of the heavy lifting in his kingdom."

God’s plan and methods may not seem to us to be the wisest and most effective - but he is in charge and it pleases him, so we should equip ourselves in the best way to carry out his work! I read this book recently with a few other women in our parish. We all found it encouraging, challenging and useful and I highly recommend it to everyone as we try to help bear each other’s burdens.

The book is divided into two parts:

Part 1 reminds us that we are needy and shows us how to become transparent and humble people, seeing our own hardships and sin, speaking openly to our Lord about them, and being willing and comfortable with asking others to pray for us and help us when needed. The chapters are clearly laid out and written efficiently so it is easy to read. Many topics are addressed, including: acknowledgement of our fragile and uncertain lives; the importance of understanding our own hearts and emotions; the recognition that the greatest need of our heart, and the only path to true joy, is to know God accurately and follow him; the connection between suffering and sin; the blessings experienced from confessing our sin and how to ask for help well from others.

Part 2 helps us to learn how to bear the burdens of others, accepting that we are needed by others and commanded by Jesus to follow his example of service and love. Various aspects of helping others are covered: understanding the power of God’s Spirit as we help others; the importance of (and guidelines for) greeting everyone in our church with familial warmth as our brothers and sisters; learning how to have thoughtful conversations even with limited time; how to appreciate others as God’s image-bearers; how to demonstrate true compassion; how to be alert to Satan’s devices in suffering; how to help each other confront sin as of utmost importance (with humility and patience) and how to become so familiar with God’s story so that it shapes us and others and can bring comfort during hard times.

I particularly found useful the teaching on prayer which appears in several chapters throughout the book. We were taught how to pray during times of trouble, how to use the Psalms to cry out to God from our hearts, how to make the Psalms our own, even growing able to write our own psalms where we can pour our complaints out to the Lord, reviewing God’s promises and his faithfulness, finding our rest and comfort in Jesus and then being able to let others know how they can also find rest and comfort. It was also interesting to reflect upon how to ask for prayer from other people - to say what we are finding hard, to attach Scripture to prayer requests to ensure we are holding on to God’s purposes and promises and also so that the other person might know best how to pray for us. I was reminded that it is a real privilege to pray for others, and a great joy and encouragement to be thankful together later for how God has answered prayer.I particularly found useful the teaching on prayer which appears in several chapters throughout the book. We were taught how to pray during times of trouble, how to use the Psalms to cry out to God from our hearts, how to make the Psalms our own, even growing able to write our own psalms where we can pour our complaints out to the Lord, reviewing God’s promises and his faithfulness, finding our rest and comfort in Jesus and then being able to let others know how they can also find rest and comfort. It was also interesting to reflect upon how to ask for prayer from other people - to say what we are finding hard, to attach Scripture to prayer requests to ensure we are holding on to God’s purposes and promises and also so that the other person might know best how to pray for us. I was reminded that it is a real privilege to pray for others, and a great joy and encouragement to be thankful together later for how God has answered prayer.

Unfortunately, I can’t lend you my copy as it is on Kindle (currently only $8!) but it is readily available from the Book Depository or Reformers Bookshop etc. Please read it so that you will know how to help me with godly love and wisdom when I ask you!

Heather Veitch

Weekly SNAC, 1 April 2018 - Cricket, cheating and Easter

You might be forgiven for thinking this week that there had been a national tragedy of unprecedented proportions. On the basis of the media saturation and reports you would believe that some Australians in South Africa had murdered hundreds of people. Even those with no interest in cricket have felt the need to express their outrage at the Australian cricket team.You might be forgiven for thinking this week that there had been a national tragedy of unprecedented proportions. On the basis of the media saturation and reports you would believe that some Australians in South Africa had murdered hundreds of people. Even those with no interest in cricket have felt the need to express their outrage at the Australian cricket team.

As someone who loves cricket I found the actions of our team sad, but I must admit I have found the reactions of many people more interesting to observe, because they show us yet again how human beings don’t know how to react to human sin. On the one hand there is the condemnation with no forgiveness side. There have been calls (from the Prime Minister down) for harsh penalties. “They should never play for their country ever again.” “Don’t let them resign – sack them”. This seems to have been the majority of the headlines and commentary. However, for a smaller number, there has been the opposite response. “Does it really matter?” “They’ve admitted it, surely we can just forgive and move on?” In those two stark responses we see the sad reality of how we human beings tend to respond to all sin. When we see moral failure in others we love to judge and condemn. We feel that justice must be done and there is no room for grace. Yet, when we see it in ourselves (or those we love) we justify it and argue that forgiveness is the best way.

However, Jesus came and showed a better way. On the one hand he pointed out hypocrisy. He showed us that we should be very careful before we judge other people when we ourselves are far from blameless. Famously, Jesus called on us to remove the log from our own eye before we dare point out the speck in others. Jesus might say to some this week, “Whoever is without sin throw the first cricket ball.”

Yet, on the other hand, Jesus pointed out the seriousness of our sin and failure. Often people point out Jesus’ call to the judgmental Pharisees of his day that “he who is without sin should throw the first stone”. However, they fail to read on and see that Jesus then turned to the sinner and told them to “go and sin no more”. Human beings struggle to hold that tension; we either want forgiveness with no justice or justice with no forgiveness. Jesus offered a better way. He took sin and wrongdoing seriously, justice needs to be done. However, he also offered grace and forgiveness.

Of course, it is at Easter and especially on Good Friday that we see that better way most clearly. On the one hand, in his death on the cross Jesus was ensuring that justice was done. God had promised that human rejection of him must be punished. However, the wonder of Good Friday is that instead of making us pay for our sin, Jesus paid the price on our behalf. It is then because of that, that we can be forgiven.Of course, it is at Easter and especially on Good Friday that we see that better way most clearly. On the one hand, in his death on the cross Jesus was ensuring that justice was done. God had promised that human rejection of him must be punished. However, the wonder of Good Friday is that instead of making us pay for our sin, Jesus paid the price on our behalf. It is then because of that, that we can be forgiven.

Jesus’ forgiveness is not a cheap platitude, it is a real and deep forgiveness that cost him dearly. That is why we say that at the cross “justice and mercy meet”. This Easter I pray that you will know that costly forgiveness yourself and that then you will show it the way you treat others.

                 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

Phil Colgan

 

Weekly SNAC, 25 March 2018 - Praying for our church

Among the things that I find striking in each of Paul’s letters recorded in the New Testament are his written prayers. For example, we find these words in the opening chapter of Philippians:

 I give thanks to my God for every remembrance of you, always praying with
joy for all of you in my every prayer, because of your partnership in the gospel
from the first day until now. (Philippians 1:3-5)

As you read these words, you get the impression that the apostle Paul spent a lot of time praying for his fellow Christians. However, when we consider the convictions that Paul held about God and the world, this practise makes total sense. Paul knew that God is powerful and sovereign and yet, as a Christian, he had the incredible privilege of addressing this same God as Father. The same is true for Christians today. As we remember who God is, and all that he has done, it makes sense that we too should be committed to praying for God’s people, especially those in our own church family.

While we might know the importance of prayer in theory, the challenge is always putting this into practise – and persevering! One reality of the Christian life is that we often find prayer a struggle. For this reason, I wanted to let you know about three resources that I hope will encourage you as you seek to pray for our church:

1) Praying with Paul: a call to spiritual reformation - This book reflects on each of Paul’s prayers recorded for us in the New Testament. Not only will this book encourage you to pray, it will shape the content of your prayers according to the pattern of the apostle Paul.

2) 5 Things to Pray for your Church - Each chapter in this little book is only two pages long and contains a list of 5 things you could pray for your church based on a short Bible passage. One way you could use this book is to read one chapter every time you pray. With 21 chapters in the book, it will give you plenty of encouragement to pray for our church.

3) Prayermate App: If you use prayermate, you could subscribe to the SNAC prayer feed. Each day, you’ll be encouraged to pray for one aspect of our church. You can find out more info at www.snac.org.au/prayermate. Alternatively, you could create your own prayer list for church and include different topics to pray through regularly.
However you choose to pray for our church, let’s commit together to praying that God would grow his church for the praise of his glory!

Kevin Stepniewski

 Weekly SNAC Issue 711

Weekly SNAC, 25 February 2018 - “My name is …. and I am an alcoholic”

Whether it is from being personally impacted, from knowing someone personally walk through alcoholism, or simply seeing it acted out in TV shows by alcoholic characters - most of us are familiar with that phrase: My name is………and I am an alcoholic. It is a phrase many have spoken in AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) meetings over many years.

Last week in John 2:1-12 at church we rejoiced in Jesus’ sign of turning water into wine. We were reminded that he is the Messiah and the powerful Son of God. The overflowing abundance of Jesus’ sign also reminded us of the abundant blessings found in the new covenant with God. Through faith in Jesus we look forward to the great banquet when Jesus returns and we enjoy life to the full with Him forever more.

With all these great things in mind it was a stark contrast to reflect briefly upon what God gave as a good gift (wine in Ps 104:15; abundant wine as a sign in John 2) being often so abused in society - sometimes even by Christians. Most of us are aware of the dangers of abusing alcohol. Indeed the sinful human capacity to misuse and abuse all sorts of things is one of the very reasons we need a saviour in the first place. However, being a Christian does not automatically make Christians immune from abusing alcohol. That’s why the Apostle Paul reminded us in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 that drunkards will not inherit the Kingdom of God – so that we will not take that path, or if we are on that path we repent of it.

Overcomers Outreach is a ministry in Sydney that seeks to help Christians (amongst others) bring their lives back under the Lordship of Jesus in all areas, but particularly in the area of addiction. The lady that established this ministry in Sydney has published her story on the website www.overcomersoutreach.net and she says:

My name is Penny and I am an alcoholic. Alcohol controlled my life for a long time and I didn’t know it and once I did know it, I practiced denying it for as long as I could. I didn’t have the tools to overcome.

Penny’s problems began when she turned to alcohol to help cope with increasing feelings of being out of control in life. For Penny it took years before she acknowledged there was a problem. In the end the gap between her external successful public life and her private life of drunkenness became too great to ignore. She found moments of sober solace and held on to the simple truths she’d always known – Jesus loves her; he wants her to trust him. In time, she realised she needed help, she started with AA and she turned back to Jesus and took the first steps to recovery (read the full story at the link above).

Do you have a problem with alcohol? Do you have another addiction that is pulling you away from the Lord Jesus? Sometimes Christians feel they are alone, or cannot speak up about these things or that there is no place for help to be found. If that is you or someone you love there is help available if you are willing to take the first step.

Penny’s is one powerful story amongst many. If you don’t feel you can speak to those closest to you at church or home, why not try Overcomers Outreach (www.overcomersoutreach.net)? There are discrete meetings around the city and many people to connect with who have found recovery and new freedom as they’ve turned back to Jesus in their particular area of temptation.

Jason Veitch

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