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Kids Club 2018 Registrations are now open!!

Exciting times - regos are now open for kids club 2018 "Lost and Found"! 

Click here to register your child(ren) today

Remember, Kids Club is one of our key opportunities in the year to invite along kids and families who don't normally come to church to hear the good news of God's love for them in Jesus. Feel free to forward the link: www.chatswoodbaptist.com.au/kidsclub 

Wonderfully Made Parenting Course starting on May 20th - come along and invite a friend!

Nicole Starling will be running a 'low key' parenting course during Morning Church creche starting on May 20th. This is a great opportunity to be encouraged yourself if you're a new (or newish) parent, as well as a fantastic opportunity to bring along a friend in the same situation. Our hope is to see a number of Playtime mums (and/or dads) come along and be encouraged, equipped and introduced to some of our church family.

Register today!

 

The Coming Kingdom

Getting through the morning routine for another day - cajoling the kids through their list of ‘getting ready for school’, placating a cranky toddler, trying to organise ourselves – the thought pops into my mind, “It is so easy to get caught up in the everyday ‘stuff’ of living that we forget there is a bigger reality - Jesus is coming back.” Luke 17:20-37 doesn’t hold back. It’s like Jesus is grabbing us by the shoulders and giving us a little shake before looking us in the eyes and asking… ‘Are you ready? Or are you wandering down the path of distraction?’ And having pondered this passage at length last week, written on it, then preached about these urgent realities… it’s still easy to move on and simply ‘get on with life’.
 
I know that being ready and waiting for Jesus to return and usher in God’s Kingdom doesn’t mean NOT getting the kids ready for preschool. It doesn’t mean not engaging my heart and mind in work, family, home and social activities. This is the life that God has created us for. But of course, he’s created us to engage in it conscious of him - his authority, his wisdom, his grace. And as Jesus labours in this passage, conscious that this form of life - this world - is transitory and fading before a coming eternity. And that’s really the challenge isn’t it - not to withdraw, which is the mistake of the ascetics and monks, but neither to live as if this is all there is. 
 
I personally find it hard to tread the middle road faithfully. Enjoying this world and this life as the good world God has made and given to us, and yet recognising that it is under judgment - judgement that could come at any moment. I guess the key is that next passage, the parable of the persistent widow. We tread this faithful middle path by lifting our eyes and hearts to God day after day, in the midst of all the striving, the pain, the pleasures and joys of this life, and praying, “Come Lord Jesus, and bring your Kingdom.” I know I could be praying this much more than I currently am, and I’m guessing you could too...
 

Listening to Jesus' teaching (even when it's difficult!)

My intentions came unstuck in week 4. No reflection on the sermon last week. I blame having to oversee the air-conditioning installation… and myself. However, I think I will reflect on both the last two Sunday’s passages today, because I don’t want to overlook ‘Lazarus the poor man’.
 
Whilst I didn’t get around to writing anything last week, I did reflect. And I couldn’t help but be struck by the fact that Jesus just keeps talking about wealth! You can’t read through the travel narrative of Luke’s gospel (Chapters 9-19) and not be challenged about your attitudes and practices regarding money. Nothing is said in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus about the faith or godliness of either man, except for one thing - the rich man lived in luxury every day. This was his crime, and for it he is spending eternity in agony, cut off from God’s blessing. Jesus seems almost to be saying, “If you’re rich in this life, you’ll suffering in the next; and if you’re poor in this life, you’ll be blessed in the next.”
Now of course, there’s more to it than that. The rich man and his brothers are finally presented as having ignored the word of God through Moses and the Prophets. Their life of luxury is not incidental to their morality - it is an outworking of disbelief in God’s word and proud exaltation of themselves. In the context of Luke’s gospel, the rich man is presented as one of those out of step with the values of God’s kingdom. He has clearly been ignoring the plight of poor Lazarus, begging at his gate.
But although the core issues are pride, lack of faith in God’s word and lack of love, the expression of sin - the sin that sees him condemned to ‘Hades’ – is living in luxury every day whilst others around him go hungry. This should make every one of us sit up and pay attention! The rich man is me! Surely at least to some extent. Or perhaps it’s more accurate to say I am, and you are, one of the five brothers. Those still alive, in danger of living in luxury while we cut our hearts off from the plight of others around us. Those in danger of failing to heed the word of God, and live by faith in his coming kingdom. Those in danger of investing in and exploiting this life as if it was all there is.
 
This is not ‘justification by works’, as if giving to the poor is a righteous act that can earn our place in heaven. It’s about faith in God’s word. Jesus himself makes that very clear - the rich man and the brothers have failed to listen to Moses and the prophets. Again and again, Jesus makes it clear that genuine faith in him - genuine discipleship of him - will involve a different set of attitudes and practices regarding wealth than the ‘normal’ attitude of those around us. Turning away from ‘living in luxury every day’ is part of biblical repentance. Turning our eyes and hearts towards those in need is part of biblical faith. It’s a life of repentance and faith that we are seeking to spur each other on in, not necessarily something we are all living out perfectly. But it’s a calling we must surely take seriously.
 
And equally serious is the call to forgiveness. Just as genuine repentance and faith directly affects our wallet (or purse!), so it affects our relationships. There’s no room in faithful discipleship of Jesus for holding grudges - for withholding forgiveness - when those who have wronged us come in repentance, seeking our forgiveness. As Philip pointed out on Sunday, to deny someone our forgiveness is to imply that they are not worthy of God’s forgiveness. Of course, it doesn’t mean pretending there is no offense, or even that the relationship can return to ‘the way things were’. It means simply what Jesus says: ‘if they repent, forgive them.’ 
 
And if proactively stepping out of our cultures attitudes towards luxury or forgiving a brother or sister for the 77th time seems too difficult, it is good to know that God is ready and waiting to act according to his purposes with even a tiny seed of faith. As Philip explained, the promise of Luke 17:6 is not so much about flying mulberry trees as it is about an encouragement to embrace Jesus’ challenging teaching with the tiny seed of faith we have, rather than sigh in despair at our inability to change. I’ll pray for myself and for anyone who might read this that rather than letting Jesus' words bounce off us, we can listen carefully to the challenging teaching of Jesus, and respond in faith - that is, in faithful, grateful service in his strength.
 
 
 

Not grasping too tightly (Reflections on Luke 16:1-15)

I almost didn’t write this reflection as I’m away on a youth training conference all week, and have heard 6 more sermons since Sunday! But I’m not quite ready to give up on my plan to write a reflection on the sermon each week. Although it didn’t help I was looking after children during both morning and evening church last week - hats off to those of you trying to look after kids every week and focus on the sermon at the same time!
 
Anyway, enough excuses. Despite all that I was really struck in Philip’s talk on Luke 16: 1-15 by the account of Charles Wesley (or was it his brother??) and his 'personal awakening’. After starting a job that finally gave him some disposable income, he had been spending it on things that gave him pleasure and comfort - as we all tend to do. Then came a moment where he saw a poor woman, shivering in clothing far too thin for the weather. He went to get some money to give her to buy better clothing only to discover that he didn’t have enough - he had spent it all on himself, on things he didn’t really need. From that day began a mindset of seeking to save more of his income, not to store it up for himself, but so that he could give it to those really in need. And what really struck me from this story was what he managed to do in the years following. As his income doubled and tripled, instead of his personal spending doubling or tripling, he essentially lived off the same amount and had more and more to give away. 
 
This is so alien to our own thinking and practice isn’t it? We look forward to a new job, or a pay rise, because of what we hope to spend it on. As our income increases, so does our expectations of the size of our house, the kind of car we drive, the kind of holidays we go on. Who of us would dream of disconnecting our income from our own living standards? But of course, that’s at the heart of Luke 16:1-15. Don’t think of what we have in this world as ‘ours’. No, the money flowing into our bank accounts, the buildings we rent, buy and renovate, the stuff we accumulate… it’s not ours. It’s God’s. It’s put into our hands so that we might be good stewards of it, to use it for good - particularly the eternal good of those around us. 
 
Now as I pondered the inspirational example of Wesley, I could see that there is certainly a legitimate aspect of increasing our personal spending as our income increases. We go through stages of life not quite earning enough to provide for ourselves, or a family, or what our family might become. We live in a time and place where housing prices are simply ridiculous. Some of us may well feel like there is basically no limit to how much our income needs to go to paying off a crippling mortgage, no matter how many promotions we might get. It’s important to appreciate the reality of our situation. 
But as we appreciate the reality of our situation, we will almost certainly see that we go way beyond responsible spending on our basic needs. We view our wealth as ours, for our security, comfort and happiness. We save it and spend it for our security, comfort and happiness. I know I need to (re)consider our budget. I need to reconsider the nature of this money and what it’s for, as well as the detail of where it’s going.
 
As Philip pointed out, the parable of the unrighteous manager is confusing. It’s hard to see how such a dishonest man can be held up as a good example. But it’s not his ethics that are held up, it’s his clarity of vision - his perspective. He knows what’s important, and he takes necessary action. And Jesus makes it clear that the real pinch for us is whether we will ultimately set our eyes, our hearts, on money and our material possessions, or on God himself. We cannot serve both God and money. Will we see ourselves as faithful stewards of the resources God has placed in our care? Will we appreciate their limited value here and now, using them to bless others as we set our hearts and minds on heaven? Or will we make the sad mistake of thinking that life consists of this stuff? Will we make the mistake of thinking it is ours, meant for our pleasure, comfort and security?