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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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Weekly SNAC, 18 February 2018 - Swimming in the deep pool of John’s gospel

The other week Phil mentioned this quote in his first sermon on John:

“The Gospel of John is like a swimming pool: shallow enough that a child may wade and deep enough that an elephant can swim.” – Leon Morris.

I have to say that as I’ve been preparing to teach it, I’ve found this to be true of John’s gospel! There are great depths of truth to explore in each passage – far too much for a single sermon to get through. And so I thought I’d share a few things that I didn’t get to say from the passage I spoke on last Sunday (1:19-51). My hope is that by noticing a few of these interesting things, we can begin to see just how much great stuff there is in each chapter of John.

When did Jesus first meet his disciples?

This actually came as a feedback slip question: How do we match up Andrew and Peter’s meeting Jesus with Mark’s gospel, which is a bit different?

The other gospels do recount Jesus calling those first disciples at a later point, and he does so in Galilee, not beyond the Jordan where John the Baptist was. The difference between the two occasions is one of purpose. It seems Andrew and Simon Peter first met Jesus beyond the Jordan and this was simply becoming acquainted. Perhaps Jesus did share some of his life and teaching with them at this time.

Then it seems that later Jesus specifically sought out Andrew and Peter (and James and John) when they were back home in Galilee in order to officially kick off his ministry. We see this most clearly in Mark’s gospel - Jesus began his ministry “after John was arrested” (1:14), and he called them to the specific ministry of “fishing for men” (1:17) which they then went on to do. This also makes sense of why they dropped their nets immediately and followed him – they already knew who he was and that they should do whatever he says! Perhaps he’d even already briefed them and invited them to go with him when he kicked off his ministry in the near future.

So it seems there was some short passage of time between Jesus’ time at the Jordan and his official start to his ministry around Galilee. The wedding at Cana, and it seems all the events of John 2-4, happened at this time before John’s imprisonment (see 3:24). It seems John was imprisoned and possibly already executed by the time we get to John 5 (see 5:35).

Who is Nathanael?

Nathanael, one of Jesus’ first disciples in John is actually never named anywhere else in the Bible, which is a bit strange when he’s connected with a few of the other apostles so early on, and (even more surprising), he sees Jesus raised from the dead (John 21:2). It seems he qualifies to be an apostle, but he’s not mentioned in the apostle lists in the other gospels.

This has led many to say that Nathanael and the apostle Bartholomew are one and the same person. This is because the name Bartholomew simply means “son of Tholomew”, so it’s possible that he had another given name – Nathanael (“gift of God”). Also, Bartholomew is always mentioned with Philip in the other gospels, just as Nathanael is mentioned with Philip in John. This seems to make sense and I think this is the best explanation for who Nathanael is.

Who really “knows” Jesus?

One of the themes that keeps coming up in John’s gospel is what it means to truly “know” Jesus, and that many do not really “know” him, as 1:10 says: He was in the world, and the world was created through Him, yet the world did not recognize (know) Him.

Then we see John the Baptist say, “Someone stands among you, but you don’t know Him.” (1:26) And, “I didn’t know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water told me…” (1:33)

So early on in the gospel, we see that people don’t really know or understand Jesus, but that God the Father is revealing Jesus to some, so that they can know him and follow him (see John 6:37-40, 44-46). What’s the lesson for us? We need God to remove our spiritual blindness for us to see Jesus clearly and know him.

This is just a sample of some of the other things we can see in just one passage! Let’s keep swimming in the deep pool of John’s gospel and finding its treasures!

Troy Munns

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