Jun 182017
 

The kingdom coming near, heaven touching earth, a falling of the Holy Spirit, the presence of Jesus, an over-realised eschatology – whatever you want to call it, we are experiencing it!

Here are some examples:

Alpha – Five people have made commitments to follow Jesus.

Healings: One of the members admitted that during the healing night at Alpha she was afraid to ask for healing prayer for her knee.  She confessed this week that she felt that a heaviness was lifted from her knee after that night six weeks ago and she can now straighten her knee with no pain for the first time in years.

Another participant has read the whole New Testament through one and half times.  When she came to faith she said “F**k it!  There is hope!” Not the normal response I usually witness when people come to faith but I tell you there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents (Luke 15:10).

We have started a fortnightly discipleship group with the Alpha participants. 

School – Jared (co-pastor of the Common, who works at Palmyra Primary in the community garden) noticed that the principal of Palmyra School looked tired.  He was able to pray for the principal in his office.  I spoke with the principal this morning on my way out of school and I told him I would be praying for him.  He began to tell me how much he and the P&C appreciate what Jared brings to the school.  Just as he said this, Jared appeared.  As well as the principal encouraging Jared, Jared and I were able to let the principal know how much we appreciate him and that we pray for him.

Tuesdays @ The Common – We have been able to rent The Millers Bakehouse as a meeting place fortnightly.  We have 20-40 people attend with new people each week and some non-Christians attending.  We have a meal together, honour people, talk about our outreach to the flats and share life.  This week I shared that Matthew 5:16 is the Bible verse I believe God had placed on my heart for a long time.  Lainee, who has just given her life to Jesus, said excitedly that that particular verse was the verse of the day on her phone Bible and shared it with us:

Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

The Flats – The Common is now going to a block of flats twice a month.  Recently, a woman there, who is a real person of peace for us, has been trying to get a community garden up and running.  Last week, the father of a teenager who lives there was found dead in his flat from a drug overdose.  The lady who is making the community garden is very close to the teenager and has been looking after her.  Last Sunday, about five of us from the Common helped empty a trailer of soil into some garden beds she has made.  During this time, some police arrived at the flats and commented how great it is to see some goodness and hope there.  I was able to encourage the lady with what the police had said – that she is bringing goodness and hope through her garden and I was then able to pray for her.  This week, one of the Common members shared that she had met that woman  in a park about 6 weeks previously and had prayed for her.  It seems God is on the move!

I have many more stories about God’s kingdom coming near through the ministry of the Common; just ask me.  I’m delighted to share.  Thanks for partnering with us.

James

 

Jun 042017
 

I have just finished a fascinating chat with Malcolm around ministering and working from our wounds, compared to working out of a healthy identity in God.  I am far from an expert in this field but I thought I would share some of my thoughts.  I know of many theologians, psychologists and philosophers who are far more insightful on this subject but here we go.

As I reflect back on why I stepped into ministry, I can clearly see it was partly because I wanted approval.  Growing up, like all of us I yearned for approval from my parents and others.  I never felt I received enough.  From a distance, full time ministry seemed a great place to heal my approval wound, although I was not conscious of this need at the time.  Standing in front of people, encouraging them and reminding them of God’s love, bringing new people into a church setting and having them come out feeling good, continue to encompass my yearning for approval.  There are many problems with this unhealthy reason for ministry.  Let me share some; you may be able to think of more.

We all yearn at one level for approval from man but this is an insatiable desire.  If this is the ultimate reason for ministry, our jobs or even our lives, we will always be thirsty for more.  The desire for approval of man will end up controlling us.  We can fall for the thought that a Utopian existence is just around the corner – that we will reach it if we just receive more approval.  The promise of Utopia is false, a lie which doesn’t bring life but a desert where nothing good can grow or be used. 

The yearning for approval of humans can easily become an idol.  All idols are phonies, counterfeit gods who promise freedom but are actually legalists.  If we don’t feed them to gain their affection, they attempt to make us feel worthless.  It is also an unpredictable idol.  If we do good, the idol approves of us; if we do bad, the approval idol hates us.  This is the exact opposite of the gospel of Jesus.  The essence of the gospel is that we are made good, not by gaining God’s approval by good works but by receiving the free gift of forgiveness from a loving Father who sent his Son (Eph. 2:8-10).

Ministering out of a yearning for approval also means that I risk never lovingly challenging people.  I can fall into the trap that having people come into a group and feel loved is the ultimate aim.  This can result in approval from the person feeling loved as well as  others who see it happening.  Don’t get me wrong, people feeling loved and safe is crucial.  When I read the Bible, however, it doesn’t seem to be all that that makes us disciples making disciples of Jesus.  Although we are saved purely by grace, the life of a Christian is fundamentally built on repenting and believing, changing and doing.  I read this week, that along with being accountable in our Christian walk, the best question we can asks ourselves in a small group or Bible study is, “Since we believe that the Bible is God’s word, how are we going to change this week?”  The Christian journey is one of obedience and change through and in the love of God, not man.

Malcolm and I also discussed how we often like to save people from their suffering – to want to take people off their cross because it is uncomfortable for them and uncomfortable for us watching them.  It’s easy to get approval when you take people off their cross.  It can be easy for me, out of a desire for approval, to find myself trying to be people’s saviour.  Instead, I should let God do his work of making people more like Jesus.

Well there we are.  Far from an exhaustive paper on unhealthy approval; more like a musing.  I hope you still like me!

Blessings,

James

 

May 212017
 

Mums are truly special.  Last Sunday in Australia we celebrated Mothers Day, an opportunity to give thanks for our mums and mother figures.  This week Malcolm and I have had our own mums on our mind.  It is great to have Malcolm back from Geelong.  It wasn’t the easiest trip for him as it involved moving his mum (Joan) from her home and into an assisted living facility.  I’m sure he will share more of his experience with us in [continue reading…]

May 142017
 

http://media.blubrry.com/stpips/p/stphilips.net.au/main/media/SR-20170514-James-Duff.mp3Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 26:51 — 9.2MB)Subscribe: iTunes | Android | RSS | Why not subscribe?Readings: Proverbs 11:16-31 Matthew 5:13-16

May 142017
 

We live in a world of suffering.  By the time you have finished reading this musing at least one child in the world will have died from abuse or violence.  Tens of thousands of people die every day due to unexpected tragedies.  Shakespeare seemed to understand this when he wrote: Each new morn New widows howl, new orphans cry, New sorrows strike heaven on the face. We all experience suffering in this life.  For those who are currently not, but [continue reading…]

Apr 302017
 

Let me preface this musing by saying it is just that, a musing.  I hold much of what I have written lightly but I have never been so serious in my short life about hoping it gives you a laugh or at least a smile. I often relax by listening to different Christian apologists and theologians.  I even listen to them before I go to sleep.  I recommend you give it a go if counting sheep is failing.  Ravi Zacharias [continue reading…]

Apr 232017
 

http://media.blubrry.com/stpips/p/stphilips.net.au/main/media/SR-20170423-James-Duff.mp3Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 29:17 — 10.1MB)Subscribe: iTunes | Android | RSS | Why not subscribe?Readings: Proverbs 1:1-7 Mark 10:13-16

Apr 092017
 

http://media.blubrry.com/stpips/p/stphilips.net.au/main/media/SR-20170409-James-Duff.mp3Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 24:41 — 8.5MB)Subscribe: iTunes | Android | RSS | Why not subscribe?Readings: Mark 11:1-11  John 17:20-26

Apr 022017
 

http://media.blubrry.com/stpips/p/stphilips.net.au/main/media/SR-20170402-James-Duff.mp3Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 29:13 — 10.0MB)Subscribe: iTunes | Android | RSS | Why not subscribe?Readings: 1 Corinthians 1:18-25 John 16:31 – 17:5

Mar 122017
 

http://media.blubrry.com/stpips/p/stphilips.net.au/main/media/SR-20170312-James-Duff.mp3Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 21:31 — 7.4MB)Subscribe: iTunes | Android | RSS | Why not subscribe?Readings: John 12:36b-43 John 12:44-50