Biblical friendship (part 1): What is a friend?

“Over the past few years several studies have shown that social isolation and loneliness poses a bigger risk to our health than smoking or obesity. Loneliness has the same effects on your body as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. It increases your chances of heart disease by 29% and stroke by 32%.

Loneliness is on the rise and churches are not immune. I’ve had numerous conversations with people about how they have no friends at church and as a consequence are thinking about going elsewhere. They are craving friendship. …

Our world is a bit confused about the idea of friendship. But what is friendship according to the Bible?”

– At The Australian Church Record, Caitlin Orr shares the first in a series on biblical friendship.

Considering Christ with your children at Christmas: An advent Top 5

“It’s not like Christmas sneaks up on you. I think my first mince pie sighting this year was in early October. By November I find I can’t resist the urge to buy more gift tags at every single check out display, in case we are gripped by a nation-wide shortage come December.

There are so many things to plan and prepare, and so many reminders of them every time I enter the shops, that the logistics of Christmas celebrations can consume my thoughts for months. But how do I go at filling my thoughts with the one whose birth we are celebrating? And as a parent, how do I go at helping fix the thoughts of our children on the wonder of the incarnation?…”

– At The Australian Church Record, Jocelyn Loane has some helpful advice.

Related: Videos for Your Christmas Services (2018 Edition)Communicate Jesus.

Christmas gift ideas from Anglican Aid

The Archbishop of Sydney’s Anglican Aid has some terrific ways you can give hope to others this Christmas.

Check them out here.

Review: They Shall See His Face

“You may never have heard of Amy Oxley Wilkinson (1868–1949), although it’s possible you know of her great grandfather, Rowland Hassall – one of the first missionaries to come to Australia after fleeing trouble in Tahiti – or his son Thomas, who started the first Sunday School in Australia at Parramatta in 1813, and went on to be an Anglican minister in the rural south of Sydney, who earned himself the moniker ‘the galloping parson’ for visiting his far-flung flock on horseback.

If not them, you will surely know of the Rev. Samuel Marsden, chaplain, missionary and farmer, whose eldest daughter Anne married Thomas. Amy was their granddaughter, the eighth child of John Norton Oxley and Harriet Jane Hassall…”

– At The Gospel Coalition Australia, Dr. Claire Smith reviews They Shall See His Face, by Linda and Robert Banks. It’s about the most widely known female Australian missionary in China and the West in the early 20th century.

The book is available from a number of retailers, including from The Wandering Bookseller.

Reformed Preaching by Joel Beeke

Reformers Bookshop in Stanmore has Reformed Preaching: Proclaiming God’s Word from the Heart of the Preacher to the Heart of His People by Joel Beeke on special until November 17th.

Review of ‘American Gospel’

“The haunting question left with me after watching this documentary was: why is it so easy for Christians to overlook Jesus? …

The first phase of the documentary highlights the dangers of an approach to life which assumes we are good enough for God. …

But we discover that this is not the final destination of the documentary, but merely the opening gambit. After this sweeping introduction to the less culturally specific sins of moralism, or perhaps nominalism, which focus on self-righteousness, the real agenda of the film is unveiled: how Americans have come to believe in and preach the prosperity Gospel. The editing is genius …

The documentary is great viewing and would be useful as an event at a church or in small group.”

– At The Gospel Coalition Australia, Ridley College’s Rhys Bezzant reviews “American Gospel”.

A Greater Peace

“Sergeant Philip Ball is an Australian soldier buried in Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery in France.

He was 21 years old when he was killed in action on 28 March 1918. He was a brave soldier, who was awarded the Military Medal in July 1917.

After the war his parents chose an unusual epitaph for his headstone in Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery:

I FOUGHT AND DIED IN THE GREAT WAR
THE WAR TO END ALL WARS,
HAVE I DIED IN VAIN?

I have not found a similar inscription in the thousands of epitaphs I have collected from Australian war graves of the First World War. But it is a question that challenges any reader …”

Moore College Historian Dr. Colin Bale writes at The Gospel Coalition Australia.

Related: Bells to ring for Armistice Centenary – SydneyAnglicans.net.

GAFCON Fuel for Prayer — 8th November 2018 update

Here are the latest praise and prayer points from GAFCON.

How to Pray about Your Life

“Our lives and ministries are often combinations: encouragements and discouragements, joys and frustrations, pleasures and pains, successes and failures, sanctification and sin, health and sickness, abundance and want, joys and suffering, support and opposition.

This may be the case in our personal or family life; in our own ministry; in the immediate context of our ministry; or in the broader context of our ministry.

Negotiating all this complexity requires wisdom, patience, and hope. It requires godly contentment and godly discontentment. I often think of Reinhold Niebuhr’s prayer …”

Encouragement from Peter Adam, at the Gospel Coalition Australia.

Real Faith

“The simple goal of evangelism is for people to believe in Jesus and be saved. This is our mission.

Whether it is through our personal relationships, large-scale events, evangelistic courses or the regular preaching of the word on Sunday—we want to see people come to faith in Christ and remain in Him.

But if we want people to come to faith, we must first be clear on what real faith is. We may have gathered a crowd or filled a church, but have we made real disciples with real faith? Real evangelism must seek real faith. …”

– Tom Habib writes in the most recent issue of The Australian Church Record’s Journal.

Planning a Remembrance Day service for next Sunday?

Next Sunday, 11th November 2018, is the Centenary of the end of The Great War.

Archbishop Davies has encouraged all churches which have church bells to ring them at 11:00am.

If you are planning a special service for the day, or intend to include something appropriate in your normal Sunday gathering, these resources from Defence Anglicans may be a help.

Is religion good for children?

“Religion in Ireland is currently under strong and persistent criticism from liberal commentators.

One frequently heard criticism is that it is seriously wrong to “indoctrinate” young children in religious dogma …”

The Irish Times carries this article on the results of a secular study.

Related: When your child sins, Good News! Reformation 21.

“Too often, parents respond to their child’s sin by focusing on how our child is letting them down. They make it clear that the child is failing to live up to the family standard of righteousness. Such an approach fails to clarify God’s standard of righteousness and fails to pave the way for clarity about the good news of salvation. …”

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