Pray for Peaceful Proclamation

“On Monday 15th April, a teenager stabbed two Eastern Orthodox priests during a church service in western Sydney, in what seems to be a religiously-motivated attack. The chief target, Bishop Emmanuel, has become simultaneously popular and controversial by being outspokenly conservative in all manner of social issues, from sex to Islam to pandemic lockdowns. This, and the angry response of the crowd that gathered after the attack, have made the NSW Police and Government understandably concerned about the possibilities of an escalating spiral of retaliatory violence.

In this environment, we have an opportunity to pray for and work towards communal, inter-religious peace. Not just for the common good – for love of neighbour, but because that kind of secular peace is good for gospel proclamation. …”

Kamal Weerakoon has this Bible-based encouragement for you at The Gospel Coalition Australia.

What about all those other Secret or Lost Gospels?

“The Bible has four Gospels included as part of the Canon or official collection of scripture. Those are Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. These four canonical accounts record the good news—that’s what “gospel” means—about Jesus from eyewitness testimonies. Their aim is clear: they’re written so we can hear about Jesus, trust in him, and continue to do so (John 20:31).

I recently read Bart D. Ehrman’s collection of over a dozen of the earliest non-canonical gospels, including several from the Nag Hammadi discovery in Egypt. …”

– At The Gospel Coalition Africa edition, Ryan Van Der Avoort provides some simple tools for thinking about these other “Gospels”.

Image: A 3rd Century fragment from Egypt, of Revelation chapter 1, in the Chester Beatty collection, Dublin. Photo with thanks to Kevin Murray.

Hope Beyond Cure

“Friends in Christ, cancer – if all types are grouped together – is the leading cause of death in Australia. (If you take them separately, such as lung, breast, prostate, pancreatic, etc., then heart disease tops them on their own.)

But everyone knows someone who is impacted by cancer. And – to state the obvious – not everyone gets better from a cancer diagnosis.

In that space, Dave McDonald’s book Hope Beyond Cure has become the Christian book I give away more than any other, even ten years after publication. At just 90 pages, his book is clear and gripping. …”

– In the latest Cathedral newsletter, Dean of Sydney Sandy Grant explains why he gives away copies of this book (and he shares where you can get your copy).

Preaching in tragic times — what will you say on Sunday?

“It is hard to describe the sense of loss pervading London in 1997 following the death of Princess Diana, however, I had been invited to preach at a London church the following Sunday and it was clear that in the midst of such loss and confusion, people were looking for a clear word from God.

It was the same for every preacher, following the Strathfield massacre in 1991 or the September 11 World Trade Centre tragedy in 2001 or the Lindt coffee massacre in Sydney in 2014.

And now the Bondi Junction stabbings. Perhaps it was too late to change the text to be preached the Sunday immediately following those Saturday afternoon murders, but next Sunday people will be coming to church and expecting a clear word from God. …”

– At The Expository Preaching Trust, David Cook has some very helpful words for preachers in these days.

Image: David Cook at St. Helen’s Bishopsgate in 2022.

We cannot help but speak — ACR Easter 2024

If you haven’t yet seen the latest issue of The Australian Church Record (Easter 2024), do yourself a favour and download your copy. (PDF file.)

The overall theme is “We cannot help but speak”, and Mike Leite’s Editorial has just been published on the website as a standalone post – but do download the entire issue for your encouragement.

We have a problem with Truth

From The Pastor’s Heart:

“We are moving into a post – post-modern world  But what does that look like and mean for truth – and us as pastors – as we attempt to communicate with our churches?

Our church members have unconsciously adopted some of the presuppositions of our society in the way we process texts and information.

We are living in a fake news world on social media with a parallel loss of confidence in institutions and authorities. …”

Dominic Steele speaks with Moore College Lecturer (and ACL Council member) Lionel Windsor.

Lionel has recently published Truth be Told to help us ‘in the task of sharing the truth of the gospel with confidence and conviction’.

Religious Freedom and the NSW Conversion Practices Ban Act 2024

Associate Professor Neil Foster writes at Law and Religion Australia:

“I have prepared a paper exploring the operation of the NSW Conversion Practices Ban Act 2024 in relation to the freedom of churches and other religious groups to continue to provide teaching and guidance based on the tenets of their faith. The Act has received assent but will not commence operation until 3 April 2025.

Overall, the Act contains much better protections for religious freedom and the welfare of vulnerable children and young people than similar legislation elsewhere. But there are some areas where it is not clear, and it will require careful consideration by religious groups, as well those interested in so-called ‘gender transition’ issues even from a non-religious background.”

Download his paper here.

New book from David Mansfield — About Love

“If you want to learn from Jesus’ most sustained and intimate teaching to his disciples, read this book.

Dave Mansfield wrote About Life (2001) on the first half of John’s Gospel (1-12).

The long-awaited sequel covers the second half of this magnificent book (13-21). …”

– At SydneyAnglicans.net, Andrew Barry commends About Love by Dave Mansfield .

Copies are available from The Wandering Bookseller.

How not to get flustered in evangelistic conversations

“My first job in Christian ministry was in the chaplaincy department of a private school in suburban Sydney. After the best part of a decade as an infantry officer in the Army my hope was that, in comparison, talking to teenagers about Jesus would be pretty easy.

It took me about 15 minutes to work out that, rather than this being a walk in the park, it was closer to a limp through the valley of the shadow of death. …”

— Encouragement from Dave Jensen – at SydneyAnglicans.net.

Things that hinder and sins that entangle – with Dominic Steele

From The Pastor’s Heart:

“Dominic Steele speaks to our hearts today as we engage in the battle of the Christian life. We get a call today to perseverance and resilience.

Dominic addresses, not just pastors, but young and old; healthy and unfit; wealthy and poor; busy and quiet; husbands, singles, divorcees and widowers; fertile and infertile, straight or experiencing same sex attraction; or struggling in addictions. …”

Watch or listen here.

Food, glorious food for the soul

“We live in a busy age where the temptation is more and more to be disconnected as we live our lives. Look around eating establishments outside the home and it is very common to see headphones cutting off conversation, and to see eyes glued to screens even among people seated at the same table.

The same kind of thing can creep into the family mealtime. What’s more, with the kind of schedules many of us have, the mealtime can be inconvenient, rushed and detached. Many spend their meal times around screens (common or individual) with very little opportunity for the kind of fellowship that sharing a meal can and should provide. …”

The latest Ministry Matters newsletter from CCAANZ (the Church of Confessing Anglicans Aotearoa/New Zealand) is all about food.

Bishop Jay Behan (pictured) writes on “Breaking bread together – The power of the family table”.

There’s also an article on how CCAANZ churches are using food to share the gospel.

Preaching Paul’s Letters

“As a Spurgeon fan I can recall many of his quotes at will, and one of them is, ‘No Christ in your sermon, sir? Then go home, and never preach again until you have something worth preaching…’

This would be most relevant in preaching from the Old Testament, where we (should) use our Biblical theology skills, and preach Jesus as the fulfillment of the Old testament text. …

Far too often, nearly always, I hear sermons on the epistles, where the main application, is ‘Be like Paul.’ where Paul is the hero of the passage.

I’m suggesting, that this isn’t handling any passage from Paul’s epistles well…”

Jim Mobbs writes to encourage preachers – at The Expository Preaching Trust.

If you want to know how and why sex is dividing the church, read this book

“If you want to know how and why sex is dividing the church, read this book.

It begins by showing how sexual identity has become the beating heart of how most Westerners understand themselves and their place in our world. This helps explain why our culture has clashed with the traditional teaching of the church on sex.

Yet, not all Christians agree on how to respond to this strange new world …”

– At SydneyAnglicans.net, Jodie McNeill highlights a new book by Mark Durie in Melbourne.

Read more – and see where you can get the book – at Mark Durie’s blog on Substack –

“The focus is on Australian churches, but the principles are the same all over. This book is about several things. It’s about what it means to be human. It’s about how churches are structured and how they can divide. It about combatting religious illiteracy. It’s about the law and freedom of religion. It’s about the future of Christianity.”

“The Areopagite” by Bruce Smith

The Areopagite

I’m restless
and have been ever since
that itinerant preacher
spoke his lines
on Mars Hill.
He campaigned on God
and righteousness
and capped it all
with talk of resurrection.
At the time
we mostly laughed
and dismissed him
as a fool,
but his words had power
and I’ve not been able
to forget them.

Dionysius says he’s glad
the preacher came;
it’s changed his life, he says.
I can believe it,
it’s changed mine, too.
Resurrection from the dead,
like he spoke of,
in Jerusalem or Athens or anywhere,
must change everything.
I can certainly vouch for Dionysius
and Damaris, too, for that matter
(and there are others);
they are different
since the preacher came,
markedly different.

We’ve never been able
to make sense of dying.
It’s the one experience
we don’t handle well
and everything else
is affected by it.
We philosophise and protest
and try our religions,
but we make no progress.
We have nothing to go on,
nothing or no one we can point to
and say “There, beyond all doubt,
is the answer –
that’s what life’s about.”
But that’s exactly what the preacher offered –
he gave us an event, a happening,
something we could put our hands on,
and we just laughed at him.

Yet they call us
Neophiliacs – lovers of novelty!
It’s not true.
We only love what’s new
if it doesn’t threaten
too much change,
at least that’s my problem.
Dionysius says we are the fools,
not the preacher.
He’s probably right.

The Areopagite, by the Rev. Bruce Smith. © 1984, from his collection of poems “I’ll Not Pretend”. Used with the kind permission of Bruce’s family.
Photo: Ramon Williams, Worldwide Photos.

A refection, of course, on Acts 17:16-34.

A Philosophically ‘Enlightened’ Easter

“The Scottish philosopher David Hume (1711-1776) famously declared that the resurrection of Jesus did not happen.

His logic was simple: the resurrection is a miracle, and miracles cannot happen, and therefore miracles do not happen, and the resurrection did not happen.

However, his logic was simply flawed. …”

David Burke, Moderator-General of the Presbyterian Church of Australia, shares this Easter message.

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