One of our core values at St Paul’s is Devotion to Prayer. It reads:
Prayer is an expression of our relationship with God our Father. It is one of the great privileges of the Christian to be able to talk to the sovereign, all powerful, Creator of the universe about the big and small issues of life. As our heavenly Father, our deepest delight is to be in him and we need to acknowledge at every level that we can do nothing apart from him.
As a church we are committed to: * consistently bringing to God in prayer all things; * intentionally building prayer into the centre of our life together; * developing a culture of natural and unstructured prayerfulness when interacting with each other; * encouraging and equipping for prayer on a personal and family level; * incorporating prayer into every church activity.
(Colossians 4:2-4; Philippians 4:4-6; Ephesians 6:18)
St Paul’s will begin this ministry year with a week of prayer. I want to see us all stirred up to pray earnestly for me as your pastor, for the staff, for the Parish Council and leadership teams, and for the whole ministry of the gospel as we all strive, with the strength of God, to enlarge and purify the body of Christ in this place.
I hope that a week of prayer will go some way in reminding us of our dependency upon God. We have a big vision of what we want to see God do amongst us. But know this: we can work our heads off in pursuit of our objective to see 500 in church each week and 150 core members by the end of 2014; we can have countless meetings, and go through the motions of worship, but if God isn't in it, it will be hollow and merely human with no divine spiritual life. Psalm 127:1 is a great reminder: Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain.
Nothing troubles me more as a Christian than prayerless-ness. Nothing makes me feel more hypocritical as a pastor as ministry activity without prayer. There are few things more fearful to me than running a church on the momentum of tradition and habit when the power has been severed. Didn't Jesus say, I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:5)? But how easily a church can become deceived into thinking that its activities are something, when in fact Jesus says they are nothing without him.
History proves beyond doubt that the way God effects revival, spiritual power, joy in worship, the healing of animosities, and zeal for outreach is by putting a burden for prayer upon a congregation and then pouring out blessing in response to their pleas. God give us such a burden!
So I begin this year with a plea to you for myself. You must help me by prayer, or I will not make it. You should include staff and leaders here, too. The weight of the responsibility of the spiritual welfare of this church is immense. In 2 Corinthians 11 Paul lists his hardships as an apostle, and then he adds with tremendous feeling these words in verse 28: Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.Would you all please resolve to help me/us by prayer in 2012? Pray that I might learn to rely only on God, that I might be delivered from evil, that I might hear the Word of God daily and deliver it to you with life-changing power, that I might do the work of an evangelist and see many won to Christ, and that I might have vision for our future and the wisdom to equip you, the saints, for the work of the ministry. And I promise to pray for you.
Let this week of prayer be a launching pad for your new life with God in 2012. I invite you to join me in praying for a fresh outpouring of Godʼs Spirit to intensify our love to Christ, deepen our grasp of truth, strengthen our trust in Godʼs promises, endear to us the word of God, free us from personal vices, enliven family love and faithfulness, embolden our witness to unbelievers, make our personal involvement in worship authentic, move us out in acts of justice as responsible citizens, increase our compassion for the needy, convert the lost in our midst, and make oaks of righteousness out of new saplings.
Seeking for prayerful support in 2012,
Steve Jeffrey Senior Minister
Thank you so much for your prayers in the lead up to and during Summer Camp, it was a significant time of encouragement and challenge from God’s word and for the deepening of relationships within our youth ministry.
We spent the five days looking at Chapters 9 and 10 of Luke’s gospel wrestling with the call to deny ourselves. It was so exciting to see God’s Spirit challenging both the leaders and the kids with specific areas in their life that they needed to surrender control to God.
We had fantastic weather for the whole week and only one injury involving a shell from the rock pool. It was very apparent that God was protecting us and removing anything that might have distracted from our main focus.
Each day on camp consisted of personal time in Gods word, singing and praying together, a message from the bible and small group time to dig deeper into the passages. It was a particular answer to prayer to see the kids taking the initiative to get fed from God’s word by themselves during hang time each morning.
There were opportunities for our senior kids to step up and lead as they planned our hoedown night, it is exciting to imagine what these 15 and 16 year old young people will accomplish for God as they continue to treasure him and seek his glory with their whole lives.
Saturday night was particularly important as we looked at counting the cost of discipleship, choosing to hand over our whole lives to Jesus no matter what the cost. For both leaders and kids it was a confronting message and an exciting one as God lifted our eyes to his sufficiency and the joy that is only found in him. Please continue to pray for those who were challenged on this night, that the Holy Spirit would continue to convict and empower them to count the cost and treasure Jesus every day for the rest of their lives.
We are really excited by the year ahead as we continue to support our kids in their ministry to their friends, as we encourage them in their relationship with Jesus and as we seek to equip them for lives given completely to God’s purpose and call. Please pray for the youth leaders this year as they disciple our teenagers, pray for wisdom, for energy and for their own godliness that they might be an example not only to our young people but to all of us.
My project for January is to build a deck. The first thing is to sit down and make a list of all the materials I think I will need. Next I go and buy what I need, and unload it close to where I need it but where it won’t be in the way of the work. If I put the materials right where I need to dig a hole then I would call that a failure to plan.
Without some basic planning you probably won't have anything to eat when you get up in the morning. Without some detailed planning no one can build a house, let alone a skyscraper or shopping mall or city.
Nothing but the simplest impulses gets accomplished without some forethought which we call a plan. All of us know it and practice it in relation to the basic physical necessities of life. But do we take our spiritual needs that seriously?
What I would like to do here is to try to persuade you to set aside time each week in the coming year to plan—and specifically to plan your life of prayer and devotion and ministry. The way I hope to motivate you to do this is to give three examples of planning in the Bible.
The first, and ultimate, reason for planning is that God is a God who plans. I don't think it is even possible to conceive of God as having knee jerk responses rather than deliberate actions that fit into a wise purpose.
And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ. (Ephesians 1:9-10)
Since God is a God who does all things according to plan it befits us to approach the most important things of life with forethought and plan, not haphazardly.
Secondly, Jesus had a mission to accomplish, and he finished it with forethought and planning.
When his mother urged him to do a miracle at the wedding in Cana, he said, My time is not yet come (John 2:4). There was a planned and appointed hour for the revelation of his power. He would stay with the plan. Luke 9:51 says, As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. He knew that the plan meant death in Jerusalem and he didn't shrink back from the plan.
Thirdly, we will take just one example of Paul's planning from the many that we could take from Acts and from his letters.
Romans 15:20-28 is a typical example of how the apostle Paul carried out his mission. I think we should learn from him that planning is essential to a productive ministry (personal ministry as well as the more complex organism of church ministries). Paul accomplished more in his life for the spread of the reign of Christ than any other person, so I think we would do well to take seriously his method. Part of his method was his planning.
He had a general guideline: he wanted to preach where no one had preached before. Then he developed a specific plan from this guideline: he would take the gift to Jerusalem; then he would go to Rome to establish a western base, from which he would then go to Spain.
What makes this especially significant is that as far as we know the plan fell through. He was arrested in Jerusalem. He went to Rome as a prisoner and probably never got to Spain. It's just like we saw in the Proverbs. God is the one who finally makes the future. But we plan nevertheless. God uses our planning even if he aborts it.
Very specifically my plea to you this new year is that you take time to plan the most important things in your life. Plan how you are going to spend time with your spouse to deepen and strengthen the relationship. Plan how you are going to spend time playing with and teaching the children. Plan how you are going to get the amount of exercise you need to stay healthy. Plan how you are going to get enough sleep. Plan how much you should eat and how you are going to limit yourself. Plan your vacation so that it really gives rest and spiritual renewal.
Most important, plan how prayer and meditation on the Word are going to be significant parts of your life. Without a plan these most important things always get pushed aside by urgent pressures.
But it won't work just to plan something tonight or tomorrow. Planning must be a regular part of your life. I expect the pastoral staff at St Paul’s to take a full day each month away from the church office just to pray and plan their ministry. This is in addition to the time I expect we are all taking each week to plan our week's work.
My plea to you is that you set aside time each week to plan, especially to plan your life of prayer and Bible study. Since Sunday is the first day of the week (not the last day of the weekend!), take ten or fifteen minutes each Sunday and think through when you will pray and what you will study that week. Give some thought how God might want to use you that week in a special way. Plan the letters you need to write, the Bible verses you want to teach your children, the visit you want to make, the book you want to read, the neighbour you want to talk to, etc.
Planning for God’s glory in 2012,
Steve Jeffrey, Senior Minister
I believe I speak for all the staff when I pray that during this Christmas season, and at all times, God would enable you to treasure his incarnate and risen Son above all else. Here are twelve short reasons for why Christ came, may they help you to treasure him this Christmas season:
1. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. (John 18:37)
2. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. (1 John 3:8)
3. It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners. (Mark 2:17)
4. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost. (Luke 19:10)
5. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45)
6. God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. (Galatians 4:5)
7. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
8. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. (1 John 4:9)
9. Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15)
10. This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. (Luke 2:34f)
11. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed (Luke 4:18)
12. Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, to confirm the promises made to the patriarchs so that the Gentiles may glorify God for his mercy (Romans 15:8-9)
So much was achieved from one birth! Have you ever asked yourself what would be different if Jesus had never been born? If Jesus had not come in the fullness of time and been born of a woman and fulfilled the law.
If Jesus had not been born:
~ This would not be the year of our Lord 2011;
~ We would never hear a single Christmas carol or Handel’s Messiah;
~ No city would be named St. Paul or St. Petersburg or Corpus Christi;
~ We would have never heard of William Tyndale, John Wycliffe, John Knox, Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Wesley, John Hus, John Newton, Billy Graham, Elizabeth Elliot, Amy Carmichael, Corrie Ten Boom, C.S. Lewis, Chuck Swindoll, John Stott, JI Packer, John Piper, or… make a list of your own;
~There would be no organisations such as Wycliffe Bible Translators, Campus Crusade for Christ, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Navigators, Moore College, The Red Cross, Anglicare, The Salvation Army, Christian Book Sellers Association, CMS, OMF, Youthsurge and countless others;
~ We would have no such books as Tale of Two Cities, Dickens’s Christmas Carol, or even The Grinch Who Stole Christmas;
~ We’d have no movies such as Ben Hur, The Cross and the Switchblade, Chariots of Fire, Narnia, and scores of others;
~ We would never ever had heard such songs as “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” “We Treasure You,” “Fairest Lord Jesus,” “Joy to the World”;
~ Idioms would never have been brought into our language such as the Good Samaritan, the prodigal son, lost sheep, or any of Jesus’ other parables;
~ We would not have teachings that have entered our every day speech such as turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, do unto others as you would have them do unto you, and love your enemies;
~ It could be easily argued that the Australian constitution would not be what it is;
~ There would be no St Paul’s Chatswood, and Sydney Diocese;
~ The Wuaorani Indians of Ecuador would still kill white men instead of baptizing their children;
~ The Arawakan Indians of the Caribbean would still be cannibals;
~ Descendents of the Mayans in Chiapas, Mexico, would still sacrifice their children instead of teaching them to praise the true Creator;
~ Prophecies would remain unfulfilled, Satan would not be crushed, we would not be delivered, God would be a liar, and death would not be conquered;
~ The New Testament would never have been written;
~ There would be no mediator between God and man, for the man Christ Jesus would not have been born;
~ We would remain dead in our trespasses and sins!
But Christ was born! May the realization of the sweeping impact of his birth, life, death, and resurrection join with the heartfelt greetings of the staff to bring you a very Merry Christmas!
Steve Jeffrey, Senior Minister
This Christmas I am marvelling at Jesus’ humility and wanting more of it myself. My favourite Christmas text puts humility at the heart of Christmas:
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:6-8).
Those are some of my favourite verses on humility. But there is a problem for us; Jesus wasn’t humble for the same reasons we are (or should be). How then can looking at Jesus’ Christmas humility help us? Our humility, if there is any at all, is based on our finiteness, our fallibility, and our sinfulness. But the eternal Son of God was not finite, he was not fallible, and he was not sinful. Unlike our humility, Jesus’ humility originated some other way.
What defines Jesus’ humility is the fact that it is mainly a conscious act of putting himself in a lowly, servant role for the good to others. His humility is defined by phrases like, made himself nothing...taking the very nature of a servant...he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!
Jesus’ humility was not a heart disposition of being finite or fallible or sinful. It was a heart of infinite perfection and infallible truthfulness and freedom from all sin, which for that very reason did not need to be served. He was free and full to overflow in serving.
Another Christmas text that says this would be Mark 10:45: For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Jesus’ humility was not a sense of defect in himself, but a sense of fullness in himself put at the disposal of others for their good. It was a voluntary lowering of himself to make the height of his glory available for sinners to enjoy.
Jesus makes the connection between his Christmas lowliness and the good news for us: Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30).
His lowliness makes our relief from burdens possible. If he were not lowly, he would not have been obedient to death—even death on a cross. And if he had not been obedient to die for us, we would be crushed under the weight of our sins. He lowers himself to take our condemnation (Romans 8:3).
Now we have more reason to be humble than before. We are finite, fallible, sinful, and therefore have no ground for boasting at all. Now in Jesus we see other humbling things: our salvation is not owing to our work, but his grace, so boasting is excluded (Ephesians 2:8-9). The way he accomplished that gracious salvation was through voluntary, conscious self-lowering in servant-like obedience to the point of death.
In addition to finiteness, fallibility, and sinfulness, we now have two other huge impulses at work to humble us: free and undeserved grace underneath all our blessings, and a model of self-denying, sacrificial, servanthood that willingly takes the form of a servant.
We are called to join Jesus in this conscious self-humbling and servanthood - Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5). All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”(1 Peter 5:5).
This is my Christmas prayer for myself and for St Paul’s.
A humble and merry Christmas to you all.
Steve Jeffrey, Senior Minister