COVID19 Update

Dear Grace City,

In light of the current spread of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the climate of fear surrounding it, I am writing to update you about Grace City’s response to the virus, the precautions we are taking and how we plan to communicate internally about the situation as it unfolds.

PERSPECTIVE

Let me begin with a bit of perspective. The world has a virus far worse than COVID-19. It’s called sin. It infects 100% of humanity and it leaves no survivors. Therefore, humanity’s greatest need is not a vaccine for COVID-19 (as important as that is), but salvation from sin. Without a Saviour, there is no hope.

Thank God for Jesus Christ!

In Christ, there is salvation. In Christ we have hope and the confidence that no matter what happens, God is working for our good and his glory. With that in mind, can I encourage you to use this situation as an opportunity to show the world the difference that Christ makes in your life? Don’t give in to fear. God is good and in control. Therefore, let’s ask him for opportunities to love others and speak of the solid hope we have in Christ.

CHURCH SERVICES

Until further notice, our Sunday services and Community Groups will continue to meet as usual. If the advice from the Sydney Anglican Diocese ever suggests that we stop this, we will do so immediately. They, and we, will also be monitoring updates from the Australian Federal Government and NSW Department of Health to help inform our decisions in this area. As for now, no such advice has been given. With that in mind, I want to encourage you to keep gathering with our church family on Sundays and during the week, while taking sensible precautions to minimise the risks of the virus spreading.

PRECAUTIONS

Personal Hygiene

Part of loving others will involve sensible precautions, particularly with regards to personal hygiene. Good hygiene includes:

  • washing your hands often with soap and water – this is better than hand sanitiser
  • using a tissue and covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze
  • avoiding close contact with others, such as shaking hands or kissing on the cheek


From next Sunday (or when stock is next available), hand sanitiser will be available at both front and back entrances to the building as well as at the entrance to the Freedom Hub. Hand soap has also been restocked in the bathrooms. There’s also plenty of toilet paper! 

Cafe Food

At Grace City, we love good food and coffee because it helps to create an environment in which we can grow together in Christian community. With that in mind, we’re going to continue serving food and coffee, but the type of food and the manner in which we serve it may need to change over the coming months. At this stage, these changes will primarily involve our café teams wearing gloves as they prepare and serve food, but further changes may become necessary in the weeks and months to come.

Self-Quarantine

As of yet, there is no evidence of the virus being present within the Grace City community. To ensure that it remains that way, the key aspects to consider remain (1) flu-like symptoms (these include having a fever or respiratory symptoms such as a cough, shortness of breath, runny nose or sneezing) and (2) the contact you have had with people who have been traveling from countries affected.

For the sake of loving others in our community, I would request that you self-quarantine and do not attend our Sunday services or your Community Group in the event that:

  1. You have been to mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Iran, Italy and South Korea within the last 14 days
  2. You have been in close contact with someone who has recently returned overseas from the above countries in the last 14 days. (‘Close contact’ is defined as living in the same household, 15 minutes face-to-face contact in any setting, or sharing a closed space with a person for more than two hours.)
  3. You or your children are or have been unwell with flu-like symptoms in the last 14 days and you have not been specifically cleared of Coronavirus by a doctor.


In the event that you develop flu like symptoms, 
or have been in contact with someone travelling from affected countries, please visit your doctor and get tested. However, your doctor may decide not to have you tested. You should operate on the basis of your doctor’s recommendation, as your doctor is the best and most qualified person to make a determination in your case. So, if your doctor clears you, or doesn’t think you need to get tested, please gather with us on Sundays and in Community Groups!

For those who are unable to attend Sunday services, I would love to encourage you to make use of the Live Stream. For some time, we have been streaming our Sunday services through Grace City’s YouTube channel (you can access this under the Resources tab on the website). That being said, we are currently exploring options to improve this service as a way of caring for those unable to join us in person due to sickness or geography.

For Parents

Here’s a quick note to parents from Brie Pattison, our City Kids Coordinator:

“While children appear to be less vulnerable to the impact of the virus, we always want to ensure that City Kids is a safe place and that we follow good hygiene practises to minimise transmission as much as possible. Many of these practices are already things that we do at City Kids! As always, if children arrive at City Kids with a fever, cough or cold symptoms, you will be asked to keep them in your care. Hand sanitiser is available in each room and is used by leaders as they arrive. Our teams sanitise all toys and equipment after use on Sunday with antibacterial wipes. Children’s hands are wiped before eating, and food is served by one leader into individual children’s bowls to ensure that children don’t touch other’s food. Please make sure that the water bottle you send with your child is clearly labelled with their name. To minimise touching shared surfaces, leaders will now also offer to sign your child in for you on the tablets.”

COMMUNICATION

As mentioned, the staff team will continue to monitor the information and updates from the Australian Federal Government and the NSW Department of Health and regularly reassess the action we take. We will email you with any updates, and if there is urgent information, you will also receive a text message to the number we have stored on Elvanto indicating that you have received an email requiring urgent attention. Please ensure that we have your correct mobile number here.

___

I trust and pray you will understand why we as a church are taking these measures. While we don’t want to foster panic and are confident that the risk is currently low, it’s also important that we do our part to ensure that our church community stays safe, and that we care for the most vulnerable within and outside of Grace City. That’s important to remember. We are doing this not for our own benefit or to protect ourselves, but to love and care for others around us.

Therefore, let me finish with a final appeal not to waste this opportunity. As the world around us increasingly succumbs to fear and panic, we have an opportunity to be different. Sickness and disease are a tangible reminder that we live in a broken world and that we are desperately dependent on God. As a people who know the eternal hope of the gospel this is an opportunity for us to show Christ-like love, service and concern for others, and to share of the hope we have in Christ.

Tim Clemens,

Lead Pastor

What Is The Image Of God?

God said: “Let us make mankind in our image.” (Gen 1:26)

Many of us will know what the image of God does. The image of God gives us dignity as humans. It marks us out as different from animals. The image of God means that humans have a special place in God’s creation.

That’s what the image of God does. But what is the image of God? How would you finish this sentence: the image of God is _______.

A number of Christian thinkers throughout the centuries have answered that question differently. Let’s look at two possible answers and see if they stack up with what the Bible says.

 

The image of God and our minds

Augustine was a theologian who lived and wrote during the fourth-century AD. He proposed that the image of God is humanity’s capacity for reason and rationality—being able to think. Here’s what he said: “Surely not in the body, but in that same mind, was man made after the image of God.”

There’s something really helpful about what Augustine says. As humans, we have a unique ability to think and use our minds to make sense of the world. We write books, explore space and analyse economies. Enlightenment thinkers of the eighteenth-century emphasised the importance of the mind. René Descartes famously said: “I think, therefore I am.” If you’re someone who values thinking and the mind, you might resonate with what Augustine says about the image of God being humanity’s capacity for reason.

But there are some problems with what Augustine says. Firstly, the Bible teaches that the body matters, not just the mind. Jesus was raised from the dead with a real, physical body (e.g. John 20–21). Our bodies matter, not just our minds. Secondly, what about people who are intellectually handicapped? Do they have less of the image of God? The Bible teaches that all people are made in the image of God, regardless of their intellectual ability (Gen 9:6; 1 Cor 11:7).

 

The image of God and our work

More recently, some thinkers have suggested that the image of God is humanity’s ability to work, create and have dominion over the rest of creation. They want to say that the image of God is something functional—it’s something we do. They get this from the connection between “image” and “dominion” in Genesis 1:26 where God says, “Let us make man in our image… let them have dominion over all the earth.”

Defining the image of God as humanity’s ability to work and create is helpful in some ways. As humans, we are unique in our ability to build cities, create energy and grow corporations. This is true now more than ever. In the 1970’s, Paul Crutzen suggested that the current geological epoch be called the “Anthropocene” due to our ever-increasing impact upon the Earth.

But there are also some problems with this way of thinking about the image of God as something functional. Do we lose the image of God if we stop working and creating? What if someone isn’t able to work? Do they have less of the image of God? The message of Genesis 1–2 is that the high point of creation is not work, but rest (Gen 2:1–3).

 

The image of God and …?

What is the image of God? Augustine said that it’s our capacity to think. Others have said it’s our ability to work and create. There’s something to learn from each of these answers, but neither of them seems to properly stack up with what the Bible teaches about the image of God.

This coming Sunday at Grace City Church, we will be thinking into the image of God together and we’ll discover that the image of God is the way in which humanity is like God in a way that nothing else is. Put simply, the image of God is being like God.

We’ll look at three pieces of evidence:

  1. The connection between “image” and “likeness” in Genesis 1:26.
  2. The fact that Seth is born after the “image” and “likeness” of his father, Adam (Gen 5:1–3).
  3. The fact that Jesus Christ is the true and perfect image of God because he is perfectly like God—and not just like God, he is God (e.g. Col 1:15–20).

 

Explore sermon recordings

 

Watch a past service

 

Read another blog article

Is Church An Event? A Bus? Rowboat?

Taken from Tim’s sermon on 1 Corinthians 12 on 23 June 2019.

__________________________________________________

Depending on how long you’ve been around church for, you’ll probably have a slightly different perspective on what church is. So for example, I can think of at least four different paradigms we might have to think about the church.

1. Church Is An Event

In this paradigm, church is the place we come to sit in the audience and watch a show. With few exceptions, the paid ministry professionals are the stars of the show, and everyone else is just a spectator. In this way of thinking, church is a static event that happens once a week but that’s about it.

2. Church Is A Bus

The strength of this paradigm is that it recognizes that the church has an identity and a purpose outside of the static event. That being said, the church leaders continue to be the ones who do all the work in this paradigm. Cause they say to people, ‘Welcome aboard, grab your tickets at the door and then take a seat’. So church is basically a spiritual sight seeing tour, where knowledgeable tour guides show you around.

3. Church Is A Rowboat

The strength of this paradigm is that it not only recognizes that church is going somewhere, it also recognizes that in order to get there we need lots of people to work together. So when people get on board they dutifully grab an oar and start rowing. Now, they may not have any idea where they’re going, and they may not be rowing in time with anyone else, but in general, they’re happy to jump on an oar whenever the roster tells them.

4. Church Is A Body

This is the paradigm of church that Paul introduces in 1 Corinthians 12, because it’s the primary paradigm we’re supposed to have when it comes to thinking about the church. Now we’ll get into some of the details of it in a moment, but one of the things I love about this paradigm is the way it highlights the unity and diversity of the different members within the one church, and the way that we each work together in various ways to help the church move forward.

So let’s come to our passage and start by reading verse 12:

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.

So Paul begins by introducing us to the metaphor of the church as a body, which he’s going to continue to use throughout the rest of the passage. He says in the same way that one human body is made up of many different parts (like arms, legs, hands, feet, head and torso), so too is the one church made up of many different parts (or members). Now you may notice that at the end of verse 12 he doesn’t say, ‘So it is with the church’ but ‘so it is with Christ.’ That being said, the context makes it clear that he’s talking about the ‘body of Christ’, which is one of his favourite metaphors for the church.

So he goes on in verse 13 to explain the source of our unity in the church.

For we were all baptised by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

The word baptism simply means to be engulfed by something. So in the context of water baptism, it obviously means to be dunked or engulfed in water. But Paul here is talking about a Spirit baptism. We touched on this last week, so I won’t major on it for now. For today just note that baptism with the Spirit is simply a reference to what happens when somebody becomes a Christian, because that’s when God pours out his Spirit upon them. But according to Paul, the fact that Paul has done that to each and every Christian in this room, means that we’re not only united to Christ but we’re also united to one another.

Notice the emphasis on the one Spirit. We’ve each been baptised by one Spirit. We’ve each been given one Spirit to drink from. Because there’s one Spirit, we each form one body. Nevertheless, as Paul affirms in verse 14,

Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

And so our unity doesn’t destroy our diversity. I think this is the major difference between viewing church as a rowboat and church as body. In a rowboat, aside from the person steering the boat everyone pretty much has the same job. You grab an oar and you pull it. If you want to be useful, that’s pretty much the only thing you can do. Anything else and you’re just dead weight. But with the human body, there’s all sorts of different roles that need to be performed. For example the eyes see, the ears hear, the nose smells and the hands touch. They each play a different part, but they all work together to help the human body function at its best. It’s exactly the same with the church! Church is a body with many gifted parts.

___________________________________________________

Taken from Tim’s sermon on 1 Corinthians 12 on 23 June 2019.

Celebrating The Mums

Mothers Day

As we approach Mothers Day, meet Shell Varcoe, who has been part of church for 4 years. Her little boy’s name is George and she’s married to Matt. We asked Shell a few questions about her personal experience of being a mum. If you are mother, you are especially invited to Mothers Day at Grace City this Sunday at 9am or 11am.

 

1. What’s been a joy in motherhood? 

It’s been an absolute joy watching George grow and develop and learn new things for the first time. It’s amazing to see how many things that are second nature to us take so much thought and trial and error at the beginning. Take eating as an example. To know something is good, be able to pick it up, bring your hand to your mouth without dropping it, but then let go of the food when it is in your mouth, chew it and swallow it is surprisingly difficult! It so lovely watching his personality develop. It’s exciting to think about how that will continue to develop into his own uniqueness. He is fearfully and wonderfully created by God!

The other biggest joy has been watching Matt become a father. He has absolutely loved George and I with a love that is selfless, patient and joyful. It’s been beautiful watching him bond with George.

In case of no effect levels in organism it causes estrogen operating machinery which requires clomid site cannot be used for next intake by your schedule.

 

2. What’s been hard about motherhood? 

I have found the uncertainty or little fears/anxieties really hard – why isn’t he sleeping? Is he getting enough milk? What if he gets sick? What if he dies?

Motherhood also brings a strange form of loneliness where you’re almost always with your child, but needing to feed/settle/care for them means you can’t always be with your friends having meaningful conversations.

At times I’ve also found it hard that George is completely dependent on me, and so I can’t just do what I want when I want anymore!

 

3. What’s one funny thing George has done recently? 

George has recently started to learn to crawl, and it’s been super fun, but also funny, watching him figure out how his body works to get him somewhere. Most of the time at the moment his best intentions to move forward have only resulted in moving backwards further away from what he wants.

 

Meet Shell’s husband (Matt) on the staff page

 

4. Are there are words in the Bible about motherhood that have helped you?

For me, motherhood has been an amazing insight into our relationship with God, and a reminder of what Jesus has done.

At different times in George’s short life so far, he has often not understood what is best for him and fights what he really needs – whether that’s refusing sleep when he is tired or breastfeed when he is actually hungry. I can get so frustrated at this, but then I’m reminded that we do the same thing with God! Jesus says “I have come that they may have life and have it to the full” (John 10:10), and yet we search for life everywhere but through Jesus! This doesn’t necessarily give me the answers in how to help George to do what he needs to, but has helped me to have empathy and patience for him, and helps me to turn to God to repent from rejecting his good gifts, and ask for the strength to accept how He has designed us to live.

The Bible also helps me to recognise that being a “good mum” is actually unattainable in my own strength. I fail every day – at loving Matt, George and others more than myself. I fail to be patient, organised, wise, kind… the list goes on! But the Gospel reminds us that in all things we are not good enough. We can never be perfect in our own right. But Jesus came so that we could have His goodness. His death and resurrection secures our forgiveness for all of our failures. This frees me up to not focus on and stress out about how I fail to be the “best” parent. Rather I can focus on God and His grace and the fact that He is making me more like Jesus. He is helping me to be a better parent.

 

Listen to a sermon by this church

 

5. What’s one misconception about motherhood? 

I think the biggest misconception about motherhood that both mothers (including myself) and others fall into is making “the mother” into the first and foremost (and sometimes only) identity a woman has. In reality, I’m a child of God first and foremost. I’m a wife, a friend, a daughter, a woman with interests and passions outside of motherhood. I think I forget this – and allow a season of life which is rightly filled up with lots of “motherhood” things to absorb my entire identity to the point where I can believe that some tasks are more important than 5 minutes reading God’s word. Others can forget this (and I do the same thing) by only asking how George is going, and forgetting to ask about how I am, how my walk with God is going or how my marriage is going.

 

Join us on mothers day at Grace City Church at 9am or 11am.

 

Environmentally Conscious Faith

Meet Paul and Soph, two members of church, who have been thinking deeply about how faith affects our approach to the environment.

We got married in December 2016, and moved into a tiny space which meant we had to drastically reduce our possessions to fit in. At the time, neither of us had given much thought to environmentalism, but as we realised how much stuff we had accumulated that we just did not need, we began to think about the impact we were having on the world.

Specifically, we were looking into some of the impacts of the first world’s consumption habits and I stumbled across a group of people who were trying to live without waste (“zero waste”). The OG in this world is probably Bea Johnson, whose book Zero Waste Home I borrowed from the library (and later bought), and whose talk we both attended in July last year. I hadn’t realised what was possible, and I also hadn’t realised what a terrible state our planet is in. For example:

The Stats

  • According to the Global Footprint Network (click here or here), earth’s population used up all of last year’s renewable resources by August 1, 2018. Ie. Humanity used up 12 months of resources in just 8 months!
  • Right now hundreds of coastal cities face flooding and according to the World Bank, 143 million people may soon become “climate migrants” (see here, here or here).
  • The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation have reported that the decomposition of food waste – particularly in landfill – contributes 8 percent of total global greenhouse gas emissions. If food waste were a country (a strange thought, I know), it would come in third after the United States and China in terms of its impact on global warming (see here or here).
  • Studies estimate that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. And research suggests microplastics in the oceans are entering our food-chain and even impacting our nutrition.
  • And the list goes on and on.

In short, when you start to look at the impact humans are having on the world, it’s very easy to get overwhelmed.

Does your faith as a Christian change this at all?

Definitely! On the one hand, it keeps me grounded in a much bigger hope. Because if I’m honest, my first, gut reaction was anger and frustration rather than motivation. I was so angry that more people weren’t doing something, I was frustrated at myself every time I purchased packaged food and I was angry with the government and big industries for changing too slowly, and focusing more on profit and comfort than sustainability. That all changed because a Christian friend pulled me up and suggested my environmentalism may actually be overwhelming my faith. Then I began to seriously consider it from a Christian perspective. As Christians, we know that our hope does not lie in the condition of the planet. It does not lie in our ability to live sustainably or reverse the effects of climate change. In fact, if hope lay on our shoulders we’d all be stuffed. Jesus is our hope. He has redeemed us. He will claim us as his own, and we will live eternally in the perfect, sin-free (and waste free?) New Creation.

 

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time”. (1 Pet 1:3-5)

 

Taking the Environment Seriously

On the other hand, my faith inspires me to take this seriously! Environmentalism is a growing worldwide movement, and I think Christians should be at the forefront. Jesus said that the whole law can be summed up in love of God, and love of others (Matt 22:37-39) and for me, caring about the environment is one way of doing both of those things. God made the earth and he placed us in it as caretakers (Gen 2:15). So one way of showing our love for God by treating his creation with respect. And at the same time, fighting pollution and climate change is a way of loving other people, especially future generations. We don’t know when Jesus is coming back. We don’t know how long we need this earth to sustain people. Maybe he’ll come back tomorrow someone will say to me “ha-ha I told you so” and I’ll go “Awesome! Hallelujah!” But we don’t know. And so we should care and preserve.

Reducing food waste and eating less meat means lowering greenhouse gas emissions, reducing global temperatures, and loving those who are already being impacted by such temperatures. Caring about who made our clothes means loving the people who made them – from farm to factory. Caring about deforestation and ocean pollution means responsibly ruling over the creatures on the land and in the sea. So as Christians we can show our love for God and our love for others by caring about the environment.

 

Read another Grace City blog

Watch a Grace City sermon

Visit Grace City church

Incorporating 5 Rules

Generally living low waste means following five “rules”:

I’ve tried to incorporate these rules in different ways.

Firstly, I compost (rot) right down to compostable brain-winders (this is hard being in small spaces with no backyard – so I recommend finding a community garden or looking into a small worm farm or apartment composting system).

Secondly, I recycle, including taking my soft plastics to the Redcycle bins outside Woollies (though I find this harder to remember to take with me than my reusable grocery bags!!).

I reuse beeswax wraps instead of clingwrap, and cut up rags instead of paper towel. I take my own reusable containers to Naked Foods or The Source to buy nuts, rice, protein powder, etc.

To reduce what I’m buying, I avoid browsing in shopping centres, try to shop second-hand, buy quality rather than quantity, and find ethical stores for new clothes (chat to me if you want recommendations). Even just wearing the same outfit a few more times (apart from saving you money and time) can make a real impact (check it out here or here).

I intentionally refuse to buy fruit and vegetables that have unnecessary plastic packaging.

What Does That Mean For Your Life?

So on a good month, we produce one 20x15x15cm bin’s worth of landfill. But I’m still terrible at taking short showers and I love the air-conditioner in Summer. I introduced these changes gradually. It’s all about taking small steps and next steps. Work out what is next for you and do that. Not what is best, just what is possible. We spoke about how to make these decisions cost-efficient too, as we are living on a budget.

Finally, I try not to let it overwhelm me. I have learnt to put Jesus, relationships and hospitality first. Sometimes that means buying single-use-packaged goods (shock! horror!) to feed guests when I’m time or energy-poor. Sometimes it means just trusting that God is good and has a plan. I think it’s important to establish your ethical priorities because we cannot fight every battle. The good news that I rest on is that Jesus has fought the ultimate battle for us, and we’re on the winning side.

Easter Is Laughable

To the modern mind, Easter is laughable. At Christmas time, Christians claim that Jesus came through a virgin’s womb. Equally as laughable is the Easter claim – Jesus was medically dead and then returned to life. It’s laughable because it’s unscientific – we simply cannot repeat or observe this phenomenon. Further than that, it’s naive – we are putting ourselves in the same boat as those uneducated primitive people 2000 years ago. It’s laughable because it flies in the face of the regular rules of biology. Life-savers at Australian beaches regularly successfully perform CPR, but the Easter claim presents Jesus as rising after not 3 minutes but 3 days. If we are to believe Roman historical records, then the crucifixion process Jesus endured is enough to send the body into a state of trauma. If we are to believe the Biblical record of John 19:34, the guards checked Jesus was really dead by piercing his side with a spear and producing a flow of separate blood and water. Then they laid him in a cold tomb, embalmed for 2 nights. Ultimately, it is 100% laughable that he rose. Haven’t we progressed beyond such outdated myths?

ONE WAY AROUND

One way around the medical ignorant claim about a man rising again from the dead is simply to label it a metaphor. Maybe Jesus didn’t actually begin breathing again, but his memory lives on. Perhaps his ‘resurrection’ just means that his inspirational teachings still impact people 2000 years later. It’s possible that the Jesus-narrative of ‘overcoming’ is true locus of power.
Yes, that’s one option.
If we proposed that option to an early Christian called Paul (who wrote about half of the New Testament in the Bible), however, he would respond something like this: ‘if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins’. We can even go one step further: It seems clear that the people who composed the New Testament didn’t simply believe in an inspiring idea of resurrection, they believed in a historical occurrence. We know that because of how they called eye-witnesses of Jesus walking, talking and even eating (see Luke 24:42). It would be convenient if Easter was simply a metaphor, but that option requires a bit too much mental creativity for most of us.

CHRONOLOGICAL SNOBBERY

C.S. Lewis, who wrote the Narnia books, warned against chronological snobbery. He explains that chronological snobbery is the

 ‘uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate common to our own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that account discredited. You must find why it went out of date. Was it ever refuted (and if so by whom, where, and how conclusively) or did it merely die away as fashions do? If the latter, this tells us nothing about its truth or falsehood. From seeing this, one passes to the realization that our own age is also “a period,” and certainly has, like all periods, its own characteristic illusions.’

OPTIONS

As rational thinkers, we have only a few reasonable options:
1. His early followers faked the whole event,
2. His early followers deluded themselves and genuinely believed he was alive again,
3. Perhaps at one brief moment in time the regular rules of physics were upended and Jesus really did come alive again.

 

What Are 3D Affections?

Charles is our band leader (pictured with wife Ash and daughter Poppy and +1 child on the way). We asked him a few questions about music at church.

Q: What if I’m not a ‘singing’ kind of person?

A: It may surprise you to know that outside God’s gathered people, I’m possibly the least sing-y person ever. Karaoke is my worst nightmare. So when I got to a concert or a gig – we went to see Ed Sheeran for my birthday – I sit there with my arms crossed, sit back and enjoy. People think that I am HATING it – I don’t sing, don’t dance – I’m LOVING it on the inside. But I’m not a particularly sing-y person. So that’s me.
 

Q: You’ve recently been talking about ‘3D affections’. What is that?

A: Yep, I’ve been thinking hard about music and trying to view it in a fresh way. 3D affections is a framework that’s been really helpful to me. What if re-conceptualised our affections, which are connected to our emotions but are something deeper, in these 3 dimensions:

Depth

There is a depth to our affections. Do you know the song ‘Fix You’ by Coldplay? When that song comes on, everyone cries. It moves you. How much more reason do we have to be deeply moved by the gospel! The love of God, Christ’s death for us, the hope of the resurrection – that has such potential to move us so much more than Coldplay.

Width

We don’t just have one emotion in life. In life we go through different emotions. Part of the role of singing in church is to capture the spectrum of emotions. Joy – we want to be happy! But it’s also natural to lament and say ‘life is hard, and I just feel like crying, but God is still good’. And so you may not be smiling and chipper, but that is an affection that we have been called to be holy in as Christians.

Together

Another dimension that we sometimes miss is that we do this together. It’s not just me feeling and thinking these things. It’s us together.

 

4 Approaches to Meaning in Life: Which is Yours?

“You have your meaning, and I have mine.”
“I’m glad that your faith gives you meaning, but that’s not my meaning.”
“You are free to make your meaning and I’m free to make mine.”

Have you come across these thoughts before, when trying to discuss Jesus with your friends?

How do you respond?

 

The key secular idea here is what Tim Keller calls ‘assigned meaning’: each person needs to self-assign their own purpose in life. Each individual is entitled to her own raison d’être. It is therefore a waste of time to apply one person’s source of purpose to another: just because it works for one person doesn’t mean it will work for someone else.

Assigned meaning is one of at least four common approaches to purpose in life:

1) I’ve just never thought about it.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Many people have simply never considered meaning and purpose in any deep sense. When suffering comes, however, or major life decisions need to be made, humans do tend to at least subconsciously form opinions on meaning.

2) There is no meaning.

This sentiment is captured by this absurd story from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: a super machine is constructed to discover the meaning of life, the universe and everything. After much suspense, the computer-generated answer is revealed: 42. With comedic genius, the author Douglas Adams is expressing the impossibility of finding any kind of real meaning in our lives. Problematically for Douglas Adams, however, humans are meaning-demanding beings. It is simply unliveable to go on without any meaning. So what options are we left with? Rather than abandoning the quest for meaning, many people simply assign their own meanings.

3) I create my own meaning (assigned).

In this framework, my role is to assign or discover it for myself. I define a purpose that works for me. I may discover it by going travelling, doing some soul searching, or perhaps just bumbling along until it falls into my lap. Assigned purpose could most commonly be to cultivate a fulfilling career, create great relationships, align myself with a worthy cause, or perhaps a mixture of multiple purpose-sources. But there is at least one more option.

4) Meaning exists independently of me (inherent).

This is closest to the Christian framework. Since God exists independently from us, we align ourselves with him, who gives us objective purpose. Humans all have one inherent meaning in common – it is fixed and consistent across all people. Specifically, in Isaiah 43:7 we find that it is to glorify God. When John 1 speaks about “the Word”, John is employing a Greek philosophical framework (in the original language, logos) to identify Jesus himself as the meaning of life. Ultimately, this purpose is not a far-off concept but actually a person.

But is inherent meaning actually any better than assigned meaning? After all, assigned meaning allows me choice and also allows my meaning to develop as my life progresses. That being said, there are at least two factors to recommend inherent over assigned meaning, even to someone who doesn’t believe in Jesus.

1) Assigned meaning can become narcissistic

Doesn’t the quest to live out a personally-assigned meaning end up with us gazing at our own belly buttons? Doesn’t the infatuation with subjective purpose have the potential to leave us self-absorbed? One of the great contributions of Western science is the investigation of a universe beyond this world—people are not the centre of the universe and I am not the centre of this planet. But don’t we abandon that wonderful outward-looking focus when we turn inward for meaning?

bleeding disorder, production of cyclic guanosine you way which is indicated on the website this link chest pain or discomfort priapism.

2) Assigned meaning stumbles in the presence of suffering

Imagine you are playing make-believe games with a child; you are playing pirates or princesses or dragons or pretending to cook. You take on identities, knowing fully that you’re not actually a pirate or a princess, but happy to be that identity for the sake of fun. So you’re waving cutlasses and putting on glass high heels and prancing through the house—until someone falls or bangs their toe or accidentally whacks the other one too hard. At that point, the entire assigned meaning falls down. The bubble is broken and it can’t, nor should it, endure when reality kicks in.

It’s enjoyable to play in the shallows, but the depth of reality is unavoidable. And at that point, our assigned meanings, our subjective meanings, our created meanings need to be left to the side so we can put a bandage on the toe or an icepack on the arm. Assigned meanings tend to work best when it’s playtime. But we all need an inherent meaning to deal with the real world. We all need an objective meaning when life hurts.

So…

Understanding assigned and inherent purpose could be helpful next time a friend offers you one of the lines from the beginning of this article. Rather than feeling like you have encountered a roadblock, you could help your friend see that their approach to purpose is only one of at least four. Additionally, you could gently point them to the two problems with assigned purpose.

Although the gospel is the main topic we would love to discuss, pushing through this roadblock is a good first step.

For further reading on this, I recommend that you read chapter 3 of Tim Keller’s Making Sense of God, which I’ve greatly relied on.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

This article was first published on GoThereFor.com, an online resource library for disciples making disciples, and has been republished with permission.

 

5 Things To Do If You’re Lonely

Despite being surrounded we still feel alone. Despite Skype we are still distanced from family. The phones in our pocket allow us to call anyone we want, but it doesn’t feel appropriate to actually press the green button. Every advertisement wants our ear but no one wants to speak with us. We have 1000 friends on Facebook, but no friends in real life. We move apartments and never really establish a connection with our neighbours.

4 Things To Do

In the face of loneliness, standard wisdom tells us to intentionally pursue new relationships. Here are some common suggestions.
1. Join a hobby-group. The local tennis club may have evening competitions, or the local art group may offer evening classes.
2. Take a walk and smile at those who walk past. You may be surprised to get a smile back.
3. Go to the gym and do the group fitness class. Exercising alongside other people is a quick way to eliminate barriers.
4. Check out social groups with websites like ‘Meet Up’. There are groups meeting up every week around common interests like books, rock-climbing or karaoke.

A Fifth Thing To Do

However, while all these things could help, they can feel like a single band-aid on an open wound. In reality there is a deep problem with the way we are living. Here it is: we were never meant to live without community. You were not made for individualism. We were not made to live without others, without shared meaning, without helping hands. It could be the case that your loneliness is alerting you to a bigger problem.

So, what could you do about this problem? A fifth and final suggestion might not have occurred to you before – If you’re feeling lonely, why don’t you connect with a local church? Most churches are very happy to have you attend, even if you are unsure about your own faith. In our church, for example, we have people who come from Buddhist, Taoist and Atheist backgrounds.

 

Anton (pictured right) “I came to Australia by myself. Grace City has definitely allowed me to make new connections. And with such a warm welcome and smiles I think anybody would be able to. Just stand by yourself for 3 seconds and somebody will magically appear offering you some coffee…”

True Devotion. October and November

 

Australian Christianity

A lot of Australian Christianity is comfortable, middle class, ‘don’t impact my life’ kind of stuff. Now there’s nothing wrong with being middle class, but it’s certainly fertile ground for half-hearted faith. The thing is, half-hearted faith isn’t biblical faith. Jesus called his followers to deny themselves, take up their crosses daily, and follow him. Biblical faith is about true devotion.

Malachi

Half-hearted faith isn’t just a modern problem. It’s been a problem for the people of God for centuries. In the Old Testament, God sent the prophet Malachi to his people to address this very issue. Their worship was ritualistic, their lives were full of compromise and they’d lost all sense of wonder at the grace and mercy of God. The glory days were over, life was hard, and they just didn’t see the point of true devotion anymore. That’s why God sent them Malachi. He came with a message of rebuke and promise. Rebuke for their half-hearted faith and promise about what could be. A promise of the blessing, righteousness and hope that comes from true devotion. Malachi’s message is just as relevant today as it was back then. Our constant danger is to grow content with half-hearted faith. But God wants true devotion.

Grace City

At Grace City, our prayer has always been that men, women and children would be so captured by the cause of Christ that they’d pour themselves out in devotion to him. That’s why we’re doing this series. Starting October 14, we’re going to spend 6 weeks in the book of Malachi. Week one will lay the foundation- true devotion is a response to the God who is truly devoted to us. Then over the next five weeks we’ll explore what true devotion actually looks like. It’s about offering worship that’s worthy, having relationships that are faithful, pursuing righteousness that endures, trusting God in our generosity, and living lives of reverent service. Don’t settle for half-hearted faith. Join us for the series and discover the beauty and blessing of true devotion.