Issue 117 August 2019 – October 2019
Our quarterly newsletter edited by Venessa Crane.
Contributions are welcome.
Click here to email a contribution to Venessa.
God is ok, and Jesus is pretty cool, but Christians and the Church? …..…..
I’m sure you have either felt this way about the Church and people who claim to be Christians, or know someone who has had this reaction. In fact, this is a very common obstacle to the Gospel for many people who are not Christians. They may have nothing against God or Jesus, but find Christians or the Church really hard to deal with. And to be honest, sometimes we Christians are our own worst enemy when it comes to sharing the Gospel – at times our actions or attitudes don’t always match our words; or our words don’t always reflect the gracious nature of God
But before we throw our hands up in despair and give up, let’s be reminded that an authentic, real and honest Christian Church will never be perfect. The Church is made up of fallible, sinful, imperfect people like you and me. If we are going to be real with God, with ourselves and with one another, then the reality of our brokenness will always be evident. But wait there’s more ….
The other reality of course is the grace of God! I am always amazed at the fact that even though God knows me through and through, and I cannot hide anything from God’s penetrating and holy gaze, God still loves and beckons me to come in repentance and faith. I love the saying:
God welcomes me as I am, but loves me too much to leave me that way!
What grace, what love, what hope!
Our brokenness is no excuse for our imperfect witness in words and actions, but it does remind us that we need God’s grace. God has not finished with us yet, we are a work in progress. In the meantime we are urged to deal graciously and kindly with one another; being light and salt in the world (Matt 5) and speaking the truth in love (Eph 4).
I think what the world wants to see are very real broken people living out an authentic faith in humility and love as we are transformed by the grace and mercy of God. That’s my prayer for myself and for my Church. I hope it will be your prayer as well.
NUA – A fresh perspective on faith!
If you have ever asked the following questions:
- How did we get here?
- Jesus: Fact or fiction?
- What about the resurrection?
- What was Jesus really like?
- Why do I like Jesus, but struggle with Christians?
- How can you say that God is good?
- Has the Church caused more harm than good?
- What’s Jesus got to do with me?
Then the NUA series is for you! NUA – asking the hard questions, making room for doubts!
The Two of Us
Hazel is studying Early Childhood (BEd) teaching at Macquarie Uni and Sam is almost at the end of his IT/International Studies degree at UTS. They are planning to marry in 2020.
Sam is a born and bred Belrose kid – attending Belrose Public School and then Northern Beaches Christian School. Hazel grew up in Hornsby and St Ives, where her parents still live. They sat down for a Hard Chat with Ian Weeks.
Ian: Sam, tell me a bit about your faith journey, how did you come to be involved in BUC?
Sam: I grew up in a nominally Christian home, and I had some understanding of the Christian faith through the NBCS Christian Studies classes. But it was only after a friend invited me to BUC High School Youth Group in Year 7 (thank you JP!! – Ian) that the Gospel started to become clearer and make sense. At YG we were looking at the historical evidence for the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, which interested me greatly. It was then that I made a commitment.
Ian: What excites you about the future?
Sam: I am really looking forward to finishing Uni this year and the job prospects after that. I love travelling and looking forward to exploring new places with Hazel. I really enjoy being a part of the KidzChurch Ministry Team at BUC on Sunday mornings, as well as being part of the music and service leading team for the Sunday night services.
Ian: Hazel, when did you decide to follow Jesus?
Hazel: I grew up in a Christian family and I can’t really remember a time when Jesus wasn’t an important part of my life. I was exposed to challenging Christian discipleship at high school (PLC) and my confirmation in Year 7 was a decisive moment in my spiritual life when I made a commitment.
Ian: How did you come to be at BUC?
Hazel: I was attending a youth group at another church but had basically out grown it and was looking for another church with young adults. I asked my dad for advice and he recommended BUC (Hazel’s dad is currently a part-time Lay Pastor at Cherrybrook UC – thank you Richie! – Ian)
So I came to BUC one Sunday night in 2016 and here I am!
Ian: What excites you about the future?
Hazel: I love working with kids and I am excited about the future prospects of working full-time with children in some capacity. (Hazel is currently a part time Children’s Worker at a Church in St Ives while completing her uni degree) I am a bit of an extrovert (Understatement!!) and I am enjoying the opportunities to serve on Sunday nights through music and service leading.
I also love travelling and am looking forward to travelling with Sam.
Ian: Sam and Hazel, we really appreciate your participation and ministry at BUC. We are blessed to have you in our midst and we pray God’s richest blessings on you both as you prepare for your wedding in 2020. Thank you for chatting – Hard!
Introducing: Allan Leslie – Celebrating God’s Gifts
God led me to Belrose Uniting Church because I had been praying about my inability to stand up for my faith in a world where Christianity is under growing attack and increasingly seen as irrelevant. There are so many other belief systems around us today, many of them focussed on self. We need greater knowledge of the Word of God, so we are equipped to answer challenges when they are presented to us.
On my first Sunday, Ian was conducting a series on “Being Confident Christians”. It was an answer to prayer, as I did not know this would be the topic. Since I have been here, the teaching has been wonderful. It is easy to take good instruction for granted. I always walk out of services feeling uplifted and with something to follow up.
I started taking sermon notes and it is very helpful to have an outline on the projected screen.
The message is always helpful and practical, both at morning and evening services. The word is preached faithfully, and Ian is not frightened to take a stand. I respect and value that. I find it encouraging and strengthening when we face so much opposition – even inside the church.
Certainly, the Holy Spirit has become more active in my life since coming here. I feel so much more enriched. Other people close to me have noticed a difference.
I have also gained a lot of happiness by playing the organ for the morning service – although I feel very nervous and my style may not be to everybody’s taste. I have no musical training, so I offer the gift God has given me to His use. I started to play the piano around the age of four. I cannot read music; I can only play by ear. I was always shy about playing because I cannot meet the standards of a trained musician. It took many years for me to realise that I should not make such a comparison. God’s has a purpose in my gift, and I should use it to glorify Him and bless others. When I play, it is an outpouring. It comes from whatever is within me and whatever God is sending out.
When I was younger, God called me to use my gift to minister to children. I played the piano for Sunday School and “Kids Club”. It suited my basic musical ability and style of playing. It didn’t need to be technically perfect, and I could vary the rhythms to suit the occasion. I loved – and still love – the simple messages in those songs. I wish we could introduce them again in a world where sophisticated phone apps rule.
I have always loved the organ as an instrument and decided to teach myself. Now, I much prefer it to the piano. I love to change the effects on the organ and explore different sounds. So much is possible! I think it is such a beautiful instrument. Most of the music I have learnt to play is scriptural. I love hymns and choruses, although I have a limited repertoire.
Allan, thank you for your encouraging words and for sharing your love of music with us – Ed.
The Gospel and Religious Freedom
The current debate on religious freedom is a significant issue in the life of our nation and our Churches, and we need to think carefully about it and its implications. But as a speaker at a recent ministry conference said: ‘If we are not sharing the Gospel when we have religious freedom, we won’t share it if we lose it. Yet, in those places lacking religious freedom, it hasn’t stopped God’s people sharing the Gospel and suffering for it. We need to reflect on what we are currently feeling more strongly about, religious freedom or the infinitely more important sharing of the Gospel. They may or may not be the same thing.” (Reach Australia Conference 2019 – as reported in New Life)
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