Mother's Day. Celebrate? Acknowledge? Honour? Mourn?

Photo by Marjan_Apostolovic/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by Marjan_Apostolovic/iStock / Getty Images

Being a pastor and an emergency service chaplain means I see a lot of people cry.  A lot. It may be at the scene of the death of a loved one, or maybe from the significant trauma they witness or that they are feeling the acute pain of failure or rejection.  In the midst of their tears, no matter how serious the situation, almost all people say one thing, “Sorry for crying.”  They feel shame that they are expressing their grief and loss with someone else present.  It is because Australians come together to “celebrate”, but we expect people to cry alone.  We love success and stigmatise grief. It is a huge cultural blind spot.

Mother’s Day brings these unspoken cultural assumptions about grief to the fore.  The assumption we should cry alone comes out in very caring garb however.  People lovingly worry about how churches might mark Mother’s Day, because it is a time of sadness for some (or many?).  Therefore, they urge we boycott the day.  While we do need to protect people and be careful what we say or do, perhaps this reticence to mark Mother’s Day relies on and then reinforces that Aussies should cry alone. 

I recently asked a group of Clergy what they do in their churches on Mother’s Day.  One story stood out.  The story was told of one lady in a congregation who would not come to church on Mother’s Day as she would cry and that would “distract others.”  She felt she needed to protect herself and others from the public expression of grief.  She felt she had to cry alone. Perhaps instead she needed her church to understand her grief, acknowledge it and walk alongside her rather than feel “distracted” by it.  Many Christians fall into the cultural assumption that people cannot cry when they come to church, or if they do cry they need to hide behind dark sunglasses and sitting up the back.  As a result churches neither celebrate nor mourn anything together anymore. 

...many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy. No one could distinguish the sound of the shouts for joy from the sounds of weeping, because the people made so much noise.
— Ezra 3:12-13

What if ignoring Mother’s Day and the grief it arouses from the soul does more harm than good? What if instead our churches valued expressing that grief with us all around so we can walk with people in their dark valleys and pray for and with them?

In the days of Ezra they came together to “celebrate” the rebuilding of their beloved temple, but amongst the celebration some people came and wailed out loud.  The congregation marked the same occasion with different emotions, some with joy and some with grief.  But they did it together.  There was no condemnation of the joyful for being insensitive, or of the grieving for being too sensitive.  I fear becoming a church of emotional monochromatic people to fearful to cry out loud or to laugh out loud.

Churches have the opportunity redefine Mother’s Day from the token “celebration” of mum with breakfast in bed to a community acknowledgement of joy, grief and every other emotion. We have the ability to do this in fellowship and not in isolation.  This will mean that Christians will need to change a little to allow themselves to feel the discomfort sharing grief.  Not only could we, we should.  It is very Christlike to come along side the sad, the hurting and those who mourn.  Jesus said “blessed are those who mourn” but sadly our practice of crying alone shows we don’t actually believe it.

This redefinition will need more than a change in practice, but a change in culture to one where we accept and empathise with sad people every day, not just on Mother’s Day, (or Father’s Day, or Christmas, or ANZAC day, or any other special day) when people are sad, but every day!  Because, in the end Mother’s Day does not make people sad, the sadness is already there inside, Mother’s Day crystalises those feelings.  This change in culture will require joyful people to understand, accept and love those who mourn while they celebrate, and for those who mourn to understand, accept and love those who celebrate while they grieve.  This kind of mutual acceptance is fundamental to Christianity.

My prayer is St Matts will be a place on Mother’s Day, and every day, that allows people to feel loved and understood wherever they are on the emotional roller-coaster.  Please come and share in fellowship with us.  We will try not to rub your face in it, we will try to walk with you, cry with you and pray together for that day when Jesus will return and wipe every tear from every eye.

Easter 2018

The Easter Long weekend is a “holiday”, which is a word that comes from the old saying “Holy Day”.  Holy days were special days that were set apart from the regularity of everyday life to celebrate our relationship with God and each other.  Easter was the most “holy” for what it celebrated; the death and rising to life of God’s Son, Jesus.   

Recently Easter has departed from that and means many different things to different people. For some it is the last time to go camping before winter hits, or a time to go to The Easter Show, while for others it is a good time to get some jobs done in the house and garden.  These are fun things to do but often serve to distract us from the solemnity of what the holiday is supposed to draw us to, the reality of life and death.  

This weekend our home will attempt to practically display the holiness of Easter through one of our jobs in the of garden.  We will plant seemingly dead sweet pea seeds, in the hope they will rise to a new and beautiful life in their time.  

Amongst your jobs and leisure this 4 day weekend, take some time to reflect on your mortality through something you do.  Please don’t lose the chance to be reminded of the death and resurrection of Jesus and what it means for you.

Church Shopping?

At the start of the year many people start looking for a new place to call their own church.  Perhaps you are one of them.  You may have moved home, changed circumstances, need a change of scenery from your current church or coming back to church for the first time in a long time. A phrase “church shopping.” has arisen over the last few years to describe the process.  It is not a great phrase, but it is accurate to the way many people view the process.  They feel finding a church is a little like finding a new barber or café.  “I’ll look for one that meets all my needs” is what we say.  This is not a bad thing to look for, but there is more to consider because starting at a new church is more like making friends with new people than finding something to buy.

Here are a few thoughts that might help, both to the shopper and the shoppees (the people at the church being “shopped”). 

First, for the “shoppees”; those who welcome at the front door of church or engage a stranger in friendly conversation or lead the singing or even preach.  It is important to see the positives here.  If people visit us at church, we get the great joy of meeting and engaging with people who actually want to go to a church regularly.  Visitors may not be picky, but curious, or even hurt by another church.  As a shoppee it could be easy to be wary of people who are “checking me out” to see if me and my church are friendly, funky or faithful enough.  You might feel that wary of putting effort in to be friendly simply for the shoppers go somewhere else.  But the best advice is to imagine what it would be like for you to go to a new church.  It is nerve racking to visit somewhere new.  There are new systems, new in-jokes and different songs and prayers.  To help people, you simply need to love the people that God sends your way.  Give them the kind of welcome you would want if you went somewhere new.  If they go to another church at the end of their shopping, that is okay, at least they are going to church. 

Second, what if you are shopping?  Give the people you meet, and who meet you the benefit of the doubt if things aren’t perfect.  A lot of people get pretty nervous welcoming new people.  It will also help the whole experience if you don’t come with a list of needs to be met. For example you might want lots of people in your age or social demographic. That is perfectly understandable, but if you don’t go to a particular church because no one else is “just like you” no one like you will ever go there!  Maybe you are being called to be the first in that demographic.  You may need to alter your attitude from a shopping list mentality (that is consumer driven), to instead think; “could I serve God and the very people who are trying their hardest to serve me right now?”  In the end you are not looking for a gym or a café, you are looking for a friends, and even family where you become as valued as a brother or sister.  Don’t expect perfection, and seek to serve as well as be served, and you might find God blesses you in unexpected ways.

Mid Year Review

Want to see something amazing? Over the last 9 years St Matts has changed and increased its staffing, income and attendance as shown in this table.  Praise God!


                                                                    2008                                2016
Attendance (children + Adults)                 78                                         155
Services                                                       1                                           2
Bible study groups                                     4                                           11
Mid week ministries                                     1                                           5
Staff                                           Senior Minister                        Senior and Assistant ministers (full time)                                                                                  2 x student ministers                          Admin 13 hours p.w.                                                                                                                                                                       Community, Women’s and Children’s Minister 3 days per wk

Thanks be to God for His faithfulness and thanks to everyone for their love, faith and hope that have prompted your hard work and dedication.  To keep moving forward in this manner we are establishing a fund for 2018 ministry.  Today we launch a Mid year appeal and 2 fundraising events that we would like you all to consider and support.  These events will allow us to reach our broader community and support our community work that Annemarie is leading so well.  Please pray, and can I encourage you to consider how you can support these three initiatives. 

YBIC Mark Layson (Layso)

Somewhere between naïve and judgemental

The last few weeks has seen a number of “terror” attacks occurring in western
countries, including Australia. We mourn with those who have lost love ones
and we pray for those injured in body and mind by what has been done. It
is a sad reality of our world that people will attack civilians going about their
business. As Christians it is important that we also respond to these events,
not with cold indifference or sentimental naïvety, not with more violence or
hatred, but with love, grace and truth. Our position as Christians on these
things is to be far more nuanced, proactive and realistic than the commercially
interested way the mass media often portrays the events, and reactive ways
governments respond.

Firstly, we should be drawn to our knees in prayer and seek that there will
be peace and healing. We should comfort those in grief with kind words,
our presence, support and good deeds. Those things have always marked
Christians out since the 1st century. We should also be aware of the deep
underlying causes of these attacks, and attempt to understand them before
jumping to judgement. Many events are caused by a mix of factors. Firstly
is human sinfulness and hatred. This is something each of us is susceptible
to and under different circumstances might lead us to express this sin with
similar violence. We must first understand that those circumstances can be
a mix of entrenched poverty, social dislocation, trauma from being in a war,
mental illness and of course violent ideologies that both generate and play
on those circumstances. This is not to excuse the violence but understand it
so we can respond in the best way.

Once we understand it we can respond in a godly way. We can and should
actively help the poor of the world and our community through a multitude of
agencies. We can and should urge peaceful resolutions to conflict.

And we should be willing to

YBIC Mark Layson (Layso)

Missionary Month

We live in an increasingly connected world, but still an incredibly diverse one.  At St Matts we support 3 different Missionary families around the World.  

The Walker family are serving in Liberia with SIM, the Sholl family serve in Mexico and Latin America with CMS, and the Charles family in Chile with CMS.  

As a church we prayerfully and financially support these missionaries, but also encourage all our partners to join those mission agencies with the aim of prayerfully and financially supporting them yourselves.  

This month we are going to talk to each of our missionary families so we can be reminded of their great work and encouraged to keep or start supporting them.  We will watch a video from the Walkers, and then Skype call The Charles and Sholl families in the following weeks during the service.  

During these times we will get the chance to see them in person as well as hear in person their up to date news.  It is great to be able to hear about their work and life so we can share with them in their experiences.  Their work is so valuable and it is a privilege to partner with them.

Please keep praying for them all consider exactly what level of support you are able to give them in their important work.

YBIC Mark Layson (Layso)

Thanksgiving

Today is about giving thanks. This week I stumbled over an article in
Psychology Today. It is really interesting.
7 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude - Apr 03, 2015

“Stop feeling sorry for yourself,” we are often told. And while it can be hard to
avoid self-pity entirely, mentally strong people choose to exchange self-pity
for gratitude. Whether you choose to write a few sentences in a gratitude
journal, or simply take a moment to silently acknowledge all that you have,
giving thanks can transform your life.

Here are 7 scientifically proven benefits:
Gratitude opens the door to more relationships.
Gratitude improves physical health.
Gratitude improves psychological health.
Gratitude enhances empathy and reduces aggression.
Grateful people sleep better.
Gratitude improves self-esteem.
Gratitude increases mental strength.

For years, research has shown gratitude not only reduces stress, but it may also
play a major role in overcoming trauma. A 2006 study published in Behavior
Research and Therapy found that Vietnam War veterans with higher levels of
gratitude experienced lower rates of post-traumatic stress disorder. A 2003
study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found
that gratitude was a major contributor to resilience following the terrorist
attacks on September 11. Recognizing all that you have to be thankful for —
even during the worst times—fosters resilience.

We all have the ability and opportunity to cultivate gratitude. Rather than
complain about the things you think you deserve, take a few moments to
focus on all that you have. Developing an “attitude of gratitude” is one of the
simplest ways to improve your satisfaction with life.

 

YBIC Mark Layson (Layso)

We are all individuals

Kids have an uncanny knack of knowing what everyone else has and then wanting one themselves.  More than loving being part of the crowd, they seem to need to be like everyone else.  

There is of course safety in numbers, but there is also a loss from being like everyone else.  Firstly we lose our individuality. In an old Monty Python movie a whole crowd of people yell in unison “we’re all individuals!” While one lone voice murmurs “I’m not.”  

There is something sad and ironic that in the age of the individual we all want to be the same as everyone else.  It is not just kids either, adults feel the pull of the crowd and follow trends in fashion, music, and even more important things like belief and morality.  

Standing out is risky, but worth it.  You see, worse than losing our individuality we can lose any genuine or true faith in God.  Israel wanted a king so they could “be like all the other nations.” It was a sad relinquishment of of their status as God’s chosen people.  

We can often forget our special status as God’s dearly loved children by “being like other nations (or people)”.

True Christians stand out from the crowd.  They are joyful, thankful, hopeful and loving against all odds and against the flow.  May God grant you the courage and the certainty of standing out from the crowd.

YBIC Mark Layson (Layso)

A token effort?

People often make a token effort at showing commitment or friendship.
These people are canny and can work out what the bear minimum they can
do to be acceptable. It might be studying to just pass an exam, or working
out exactly how little you can spend on flowers and still have them accepted.

Sometimes the events in our calendar can become token efforts and excuses
not to be really interested or committed. Things like ANZAC day, Father’s Day
or Mother’s Day or birthdays can simply be tokenism.

These days can be really important and special, but sometimes they are the only day of the year
we make special effort and consideration for our war veterans or our parents.
We think that putting a piece of burnt toast and cold tea in front of mum
makes up for never making breakfast any other day of the year. If we are not
careful we can make a lifestyle of token efforts.

Birthdays, Anniversaries and graduations or sporting finals are the only time we put in time or effort to
those we say we love. We can get away with it, but it leaves our lives and our relationships empty.


People also do this with God. They can turn up at Christmas or Easter alone, or “give up something for lent” so that they don’t have to think about God for the rest of the year.

Even regular church attenders can make Sunday the“token” morning or evening of the week in which they actually consider God or other Christians, leaving them free the rest of the week to cut God out. In then end our mums, dads, spouses, friends and God are not fooled.


Today is Mother’s Day and some of us love it, some tolerate it, some hate it.
For some it is happy, for some it is sad. Regardless, it could be a good day
to think about all our relationships. Are we really committed, or are we token
friends, or token Christians.

Pray today that our efforts in relationships and faith will not be the bare minimum, but result in a life that is genuinely loving
and committed to those God has put in our lives, and to The God who has put these people in our lives.

YBIC Mark Layson (Layso)

Just One

When people find something good they tend to share it with friends and family. A great restaurant or recipe, a nice park or exciting TV show are  all  the  kind  of  things  we  like  to  tell  people  about.  

 What  about  a  great  church?      St  Matts  is  a  great  church,  but  do  you  tell  people  about,  or  even  invite  them  along?    For  different  reasons  we  can  get  shy  about  doing  this.    Telling  someone  about  a  café  is  one  thing,  but  church  is  another  thing  altogether.  Maybe  people  will  think  we  are  “religious”  nutbags,  or  we  might  risk  a  friendship  (is  it  really  a  friendship if it is over for inviting them to church?).  

On May 28 we are having an invitation service, and we want everyone at St Matts to give an invitation for the day to someone they know.  Just one!  It could be to a  friend, relative, a soccer mum, team mate, colleague or whatever.  We have printed invitations before, but many of them get left behind and never used.  Would you do it, would you give a lonely flyer about a great church to someone who could do with hearing about Jesus.  

The theme  of  the  day  is  “What  are  you  thankful  for”    We  will  encourage  people to give thanks and live a life of thanks for those things.  Simple!  Just you, just one flyer, just one person.

YBIC Mark Layson (Layso)

God will have His King, but will we have His?

This week we start a new sermon series in 1 Samuel, and we will end the middle of 2 Samuel in the middle of winter.  These books are part of the historical section of the Old Testament that tells the ongoing story of Israel, but more importantly the ongoing story of God saving his people.  It is part of what we sometimes call “Salvation History.”  In the book of 1 and 2 Samuel the central motif is on leadership of the nation; “Who will lead? Who will be king?”  The story is often bloody and chaotic and it does not end with the hope and promise we might want, as is much of the history of mankind.  

At the start of 1 Samuel the Israelites are coming out of the darkest time in their history; the time of the Judges.  It was marked by cycles of sin, repentance and salvation.  It spirals down and down to a violent and tragic end that is summed up by the phrase “everyone did what was best in their own eyes.”  This was no way for a people to be united, but ironically is not far from our modern desire for moral autonomy where we each do what makes us happy in our own eyes.

The people of Israel think the answer to their problems is to have a king “like other nations.”  However, this only makes explicit what had already happened in their hearts, they had rejected God as king in their hearts.  However, God grants their request and initially provides a king just like all the other nations have, and it is a total disaster.  God then goes on to produce a king who would “be after His own heart”, King David. David was the imperfect forerunner for Christ. David, nor any person, can be a perfect King.  Our longing of a good king is only realised in Jesus who is the eternal king, not of a nation or many nations, but king of the hearts of people, God’s king, for God’s people.  

This section of the bible is rich with hope for a godly king.  Humans still search for that today through violent revolution or party politics.  However, the true king of everything has already been crowned.  Jesus was crowned as the servant king, and he knocks at the heart of each of us in order to be our king.  Will he be king of your heart no matter who is ruler of our nation?  

YBIC Mark Layson (Layso)

Gaps in the Ranks

Another ANZAC Day is here,
Another milestone passed;
A few more gaps in the ranks -
A few more than the last.
Time’s thinning down the old boys -
Time that keeps marching on;
It seems but yesterday, when, as lads,
They battled on the Somme.
But there’s a gleam in those old eyes -
And still their step is proud;
The old Dig’s on parade again -
While passing through the crowd.
But the march is over,
And the service has begun;
The man of God sends up a prayer
For every fallen son.
They sing Onward Christian Soldiers,
And Nearer My God to Thee;
And we realise the sacrifice
They made for you and me.
It is striking that Easter & ANZAC Day are so close together as they
both speak of sacrifice & freedom. It is fitting that we remember the
sacrifice made by those in the armed services to secure our national
freedom.
It was only last week we remembered the sacrifice Jesus made to
secure freedom for all. May we not forget the sacrifice of our fallen
soldiers & may that remind us of Jesus’ sacrificial death for us.


YBIC Mark Layson (Layso)

The Resurrection

It is very necessary to get the story clear. I heard a man say, “The importance of the Resurrection is that it gives evidence of survival, evidence that the human personality survives death.”

On that view what happened to Christ would be what had always happened to all men, the difference being that in Christ’s case we were privileged to see it happening.

This is certainly not what the earliest Christian writers thought. Something perfectly new in the history of the Universe had happened. Christ had defeated death. The door which had always been locked had for the very first time been forced open.

This is something quite distinct from mere ghost-survival. I don’t mean that they disbelieved in ghost- survival. On the contrary, they believed in it so firmly that, on more than one occasion, Christ had had to assure them that He was not a ghost.

The point is that while believing in survival they yet regarded the Resurrection as something totally different and new. The Resurrection narratives are not a picture of survival after death; they record how a totally new mode of being has arisen in the universe.

Something new had appeared in the universe: as new as the first coming of organic life. This Man, after death, does not get divided into “ghost” and “corpse”. A new mode of being has arisen. That is the story.

What are we going to make of it? C.S. Lewis, “What are we to make of Jesus Christ?”

A Sunday for tree branches

This Sunday is Palm Sunday, when we remember Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem just a few short days before he would be killed by many of the same crowd that shouted his praises on that day.  


It is the day we remember Palm branches ripped from trees as makeshift banners and ancient red carpet for a king.  

It is a day that, on one level, speaks of the fickle hypocritical crowd and environmental vandalism. Yet is also speaks of the rugged determination of God to save His fickle and hypocritical creation in the shape of humans.

 
It reminds us of the awesomeness of God that Palm trees seem to understand more than humans do.  Isaiah wrote “For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.”  

On that Palm Sunday, had the people not taken the palm branches from the trees, they would have detached themselves and laid themselves at the service of their creator.  Had the people not shouted for Jesus the stones themselves would have risen and shouted praises to Him.

May we follow the urge of the created order and praise and worship our Lord and Saviour. May we join the created choir, and lay aside our fickle hypocrisy that longs to please the crowd around us.  May we take our part in creation and, “Let all creation rejoice before the Lord, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth.”  

YBIC Mark Layson (Layso)
 

Welcoming

Each week regular members of church and newcomers walk through the church gate and are greeted by a team of welcomers.  This team welcomes us with a smile, a bulletin and conversation.  They are the first impression for newcomers, as well as a “welcome back” to the regulars.  

Over the last 8 years this has been organised through our small group network.  And it has been done really well.  New people have often commented “This is one of the most welcoming churches I have ever been to.”  That is great praise.  

Last year we got feedback about making our church experience an excellent one.  A few people have suggested we try to reorganise how we do welcoming.  This is not because it has been done badly, but because it will lessen the load on small group leaders, and hopefully engage people in the role who God has gifted this way, as well as helping avoid roster double ups like being on Kid’s church and welcoming.  

In April we are trialling a volunteer roster to see if we can actually fill the welcoming roster with people.  If you would like to volunteer for 1 (or more, if you like!) weeks in April we would love for you to contact us and let us know your interest.  

We do really appreciate the wonderful work of our small group leaders and members in this ministry and hope that this new trial will lead to even more effective and sustainable ministry for us all. 

YBIC Mark Layson (Layso)
 

Reading the word one to one

On the weekend away we were reminded of a great resource to help us read the bible with interested friends.  Many of us don’t feel like evangelists, but this resource will help everyone read God’s word in an easy way.  We will be ordering a number of them for people to buy for the after Easter Season.  I encourage you all to have a look, buy the resource and start reading.  

HOW TO USE IT
The Word One to One is designed in such a way that anybody can use it! You don’t need a theology degree, or to be a seasoned church leader do it.

ASK - First, ask your friend if they want to read the Bible with you! While it might sound scary, many people want to find out what the Bible really says, they just need some help.

BIBLE - Then everything you need to read the Bible with your friend is contained in the resource.On the left hand page is John’s Gospel in plain clear English. It’s broken up into manageable chunks, so that it isn’t overwhelming.

CHAT - In the middle section are questions and comments. These can be used however you like – perhaps interactively with your friend, or rhetorically.

Either way, all the answers are on the right hand side, meaning your friend isn’t embarrassed if they don’t know the answer – and so you can have confidence in explaining what the bible passage means.

The questions are clear and easy to understand without being too simple.

In places there’s even extra information given, to help you and your friend understand the historical context or the tricky bits.

Using The Word One to One is so simple anyone can do it, but so important that everyone must try it – and as you do, you present Jesus to your friends through his word!

For more info go to www.theword121.com

 YBIC Mark Layson (Layso)
 

Thinking about the AGM

1 Corinthians 12:28 says; "And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues."

It is a list full of wonderfully impressive spiritual gifts that God gives for the building up of His church. Two of them seem not to fit; helping and administrating. They seem, well... boring when compared to prophecy etc. However God Himself equips people to administer his church and to help.

Today we elect people for parish council and other roles, which are helping and administering roles.  These functions serve our church life behind the scenes but bring glory to God and help to each other.  

I encourage those who are gifted and willing to serve the church in this way to stand for election in these roles. And I encourage all of us to help them in what they do to serve us. The best way to do this by the description of what church life should be like that Paul writes in the next chapter of 1 Corinthians.

1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Corinthians 13:1-7

YBIC Mark Layson (Layso)
 

 

Everyday Battle

Don’t be discouraged at the spiritual war you’re called to fight every day. The Lord almighty is with you and wars on your behalf. Between the “already” and the “not yet,” life is war. It can be exhausting, frustrating, and discouraging.

We all go through moments when we wish life could just be easier. We wonder why parenting has to be such a continual spiritual battle. We all wish our marriages could be free of war. We all would love it if there were no conflicts at our jobs or in our churches. But we all wake up to a war-torn world every day.

It is the sad legacy of a world that has been broken by sin and is constantly under the attack of the enemy. The way the apostle Paul ends his letter to the Ephesian church is interesting and instructive. Having laid out the truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ and having detailed their implications for our street-level living, he ends by talking about spiritual warfare: Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 


For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armour of God Eph. 6:12–13 (Have a read of Eph. 6:10–20)

When you get to this final part of Paul’s letter, it’s tempting to think that he has entirely changed the subject. No longer, it seems, is he talking about everyday Christianity. But that’s exactly what he’s talking about. He is saying to the Ephesian believers, “You know all that I’ve said about marriage, parenting, communication, anger, the church, and so on—it’s all one big spiritual war.” Paul is reminding you that at street level, practical, daily Christianity is war.

There really is moral right and wrong. There really is an enemy. There really is seductive and deceptive temptation. You really are spiritually vulnerable. But he says more. He reminds you that by grace you have been properly armed for the battle. The question is, will you use the implements of battle that the cross of Jesus Christ has provided for you?” 
Paul David Tripp, New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional (April 6)

YBIC
Mark Layson (Layso)
 

Some time away

I have been told the speed that the earth turns around the sun is not speeding up, but I am not sure I believe it.  It seems every year things are getting more and more rapid.  

The year seems shorter because it is filled with more and more stuff.  As a result many of us are getting tired, if not burnt out.  Deeply ironic in this is that the greater our need to take time away, the less we make opportunity to do it.  

To take time off requires proactive planning and the diverting of the many of the things that are speeding our pace of life up.  Time away just seems like all too much of a hassle, and as a result we sink further into stress and tiredness.

The church weekend away is only 2 weeks away and there are still many places left for people to come along.  It is a weekend where we get fed, cleaned up after, so we can have time to spend with the kids, friends and in God’s word.  

For some, instead of being a time refresh and re-focus we see it is just another thing.  If that is you, can I urge you to think again.  Would you proactively plan to come along and find time to be refreshed and recharged by your brothers and sisters in Christ as we share life and The Word together.  

My hope is that our weekend away will be an important part of your deliberate practice to slow down from the temporal rush to consider the eternal and how it impacts our daily life with grace, truth and love. 

YBIC Mark Layson (Layso)

 

Rolling out the welcome mat

Once you have decided to invite someone to your home people make a few decisions and actions to make their guests feel welcome. I know we will have a bit of a tidy up (no dirty socks in the living area!), we will ask what food they like before cooking for them, we think of activities to do and then we wait expectedly to welcome them with affection.

All these actions are important, but they usually spring from a heart that wants your guest to feel welcome. You could of course leave your dirty laundry everywhere, give them left-overs and make them feel uncomfortable. However, the next time you invite them they are very likely to “busy.”

Each week at church we hope for and even invite people to be our guest in our church services and ministries.

If we have a heart for people who will be our guests then we will need to consciously keep
making them welcome. St Matts does a great job of welcoming people at the door and engaging them in conversation. We have a fantastic kid’s ministry for little ones who come, we have a full and yummy morning tea. These are all great things that we do well. But we can always be opening our hearts in other ways as well.

The apostle Paul said “Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.” (1 Thess 2:8)

Our challenge might be to make elements of our church service understandable by newcomers, it might mean being ready to invite people to our house, into our social network, small group and to allow them to become our friends. Doing that makes all our efforts at the door, morning tea and kid’s church meaningful and successful.

Our friends and family need Jesus, let’s welcome them into our church and hearts so they can see Jesus at work in us.

YBIC
Mark Layson (Layso)