I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Phil 1:3-6). When Paul penned those words to the Philippians, ten years had passed since he’d worked with them. Over that time his care, concern and love for them had not diminished. He would always think of them as his precious partners in the gospel who brought him great joy.
This week has presented many opportunities for me to think about our partnership in the gospel. I met with a colleague today to talk about a combined Church Christmas event hopefully next year, and possibly a breakfast club in a local high school. On Monday I met with my Deanery colleagues, and we encouraged one another. I am invited to lunch this Sunday at my previous Church, Christ Church Dingley, to celebrate their 150th anniversary. And the Vicar of what used to be my home church, St Johns in Diamond Creek, has just celebrated 10 years of wonderful ministry there.
My Area Dean met with me last week and recommended I stay at Mount Eliza 10 years. He shared some wisdom with me, saying that “we overestimate what we can do in 3 years, and underestimate what we can do in 10”. Whether I’m here 3 years or 10 (my desire is for the latter), my heart is to see the gospel take root in all our lives, transforming us more into the image of Christ, and see each of us taking the gospel into the world, for God’s purposes and glory. We exist to glorify Him. We do that when we live for Him, work together to advance his gospel message, and hold on to the sure hope we have in Him, even in the hard times.
Therefore, I pray the same prayer that Paul prayed, over our Church today: “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” As I pray this, I reflect on the fact that there is a special bond among us as believers that the world doesn’t understand and therefore cannot appreciate. The world’s clubs and organizations know little of and, quite frankly, cannot equal the deep bond of fellowship among believers.
Last Sunday I had the best time having drinks with friends at a local social club, followed by fellowship over a meal with some sisters in Christ to celebrate the final “OPEN SPACE” service for our Church. This simple meal exhibited a sense of partnership and close union as well as of a brotherly/sisterly love held together by the most powerful common thread; Jesus! This fellowship is much more than simply getting together for drinks or a dinner party. It involves a union and bond in our desires, goals and thoughts as well a focus on God’s will and His way. It is being one together in Christ - His interests our interests, His ways our ways. As Charles H. Spurgeon said: “Hold Christian company, and you will be kept wakeful by it, and refreshed and encouraged to make quicker progress in the road to heaven.”
For all these reasons, in addition to this Sunday being the day we celebrate and give thanks to God for all his kindness and generosity to us, and return our pledges of what we want to offer him back financially through tithing and thanksgiving gifts at Mount Eliza Anglican Church, I want to truly say:
Thank you for your partnership in the Gospel.
Thank you for giving.
Thank you for serving.
Thank you for loving.
Thank you for praying.
Thank you for speaking words of encouragement.
Thank you for spreading the good news of Jesus Christ.
Thank you for your continued partnership in the gospel.
I give thanks to God for you!
Rev Tanya Cummings
The biography of Jacob, the third and final Patriarch, both enthrals and troubles us. He acted in ways that honoured neither himself nor his descendants. He bargained for his brother’s birthright and later stole Esau’s blessing from their father (Genesis 27:1-45). Jacob blatantly lied to his father and tricked him into thinking he was Esau. The character of this Patriarch is most questionable, yet God used him anyway.
After he stole the blessing, Jacob is forced to leave his father’s house and he goes to work as a servant for twenty years for his father-in-law (see esp. Gen 31:5-6, 38-42). In an interesting twist, we see Jacob’s father-in-law deceive Jacob and give him Leah as his wife instead of Rachel whom he had agreed to work for.
Later in Jacob's life story, we read that his own sons tricked and deceived him by selling one of his sons (Joseph) into slavery and telling Jacob he had been killed by a wild animal (37:3-32). Despite all the deceit in this family, God continued to uphold his promise to bless all the nations of the world through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob whom the covenantal blessing was passed on to, and Jacob became the father of 12 sons who became the 12 tribes of Israel.
This story is the wonderful history of the Jewish people and Christians alike, since salvation came through the Jews. But what fascinates me most is the way Jacob grew in relationship with the Lord over the course of his life. Towards the start of his story he is deceitful and didn’t know the Lord personally, but through several revelations of the Lord he came to know God and experience him personally. God was no longer just the God of his fathers, but God of Jacob himself.
Over time, as Jacob got to know God he was humbled and learned to cling to God and give a tenth of his income to God. This week as we look closer at his story, I hope we will experience more of God too. It is not enough just to know about God, we need to know him personally and let him change our character to be more honouring and Christ-like. May we all put away any deceit that is in us and seek the Lord’s face and experience Him in a life changing way this week.
Here's one of my Favorite songs to listen and pray as you reflect on Jacob’s story. (HERE)
READINGS FOR THIS SUNDAY:
Genesis 28:10-22 and Genesis 32:22-32
Several of us went to the movies this week to see "Sound of Freedom". It was based on a true story which was very confronting and sad, yet it inspired hope. It inspired us to hope that child sex slaves can be found and freed, and human traffickers can be caught, and that we can all be part of the solution; whether its raising awareness of the terrible crimes against humanity, encouraging others to see the movie, or even going a step further. Human trafficking and crimes against children are things I am deeply passionate about taking action against. I pray we can raise awareness and help those affected in a meaningful way in the future.
Meanwhile this coming Sunday, we will hear about the second Patriarch, Isaac. Compared to Abraham, and Jacob (the third Patriarch), Isaac seems a bit laid back and 'less' interesting. Most of his story is hidden in the background of more prominent characters. We remember the time when his father Abraham bound him and laid him on the alter as a sacrifice, in obedience to God's command. When Abraham was about to slay Isaac, God intervened and provided a ram to sacrifice instead. God said to Abraham; "Don't harm the boy, now I know that you love me with all your heart, as you have not even withheld your promised son from me'.
Earlier God had promised Abraham that he would make a great nation of him through Isaac. In this experience Abraham was forced to either trust God with what mattered most to him or to distrust God. Abraham chose to trust. Isaac also had to trust in God and his father to willingly become the sacrifice. The young man had been watching and learning about faith in God from his father Abraham, one of the most faithful figures in Scripture. God was teaching Abraham and Isaac that covenant blessings He had promised them require total commitment and obedience to the Lord.
This incident also foreshadows God's sacrifice of his only son, Jesus Christ, on the cross at Calvary, for the sins of the world. When God commanded Abraham to offer Isaac as a sacrifice, the Lord provided a substitute for Isaac in the same way He provided Christ as our substitute through his sacrificial death. Christ Jesus, God's only son, willingly sacrificed himself on the cross so we could be set free. Through faith in him we are freed from slavery to sin, shame and death. This is the good news we ought to be sharing with others so they can know this freedom too. Christ came to redeem all people. As his representatives on earth, we ought to be continuing his work; his gospel mission, and setting the captives free (spiritually and physically). So, let's ask God to break our hearts for what breaks his. I'm sure his heart breaks for victims of human trafficking and modern-day slavery. Do you agree?
Here's a song for you to listen to as you reflect (Click HERE)
Blessings on your week.
First of all I would like wish all the dads a Happy Fathers’ Day for this Sunday. We have a special service planned and begin a new sermon series on the Patriarchs. This Sunday John Shanasy will bring us a message on Abraham, the father of many nations. Abraham’s life story is a great encouragement to us all whether we are fathers or not. It encourages us to have faith in God when things seem impossible. Even when all the odds are stacked against us, we can be assured that God will come through for us and will always do what he says He will do. So, whenever you doubt, remember Abraham who failed many times, yet God kept His promises to him, giving him as many descendants as the stars in the sky, even in his old age.
Scripture says: There was no hope that Abraham would have children, but Abraham believed God and continued to hope. And that is why he became the father of many nations. As God told him, “You will have many descendants.” Abraham was almost a hundred years old, so he was past the age for having children. Also, Sarah could not have children. Abraham was well aware of this, but his faith in God never became weak. He never doubted that God would do what he promised. He never stopped believing. In fact, he grew stronger in his faith and just praised God. Abraham felt sure that God was able to do what he promised. So that’s why “he was accepted as one who is right with God.” (Romans 4:18-22).
Like Abraham, we are all made right with God through faith. When we put our faith in Jesus Christ, who died for us, we can be forgiven for all the times that we’ve failed God. He never gives up on us and He will fulfill all His good promises to us. So, be encouraged to continue to believe in God’s loving kindness, and rejoice in Him as our Heavenly Father, like Abraham did.
May we be encouraged to offer ourselves afresh to God and trust him in every area of our lives... Including with our money.
This Sunday, the stewardship envelopes will be available, and we ask you to prayerfully complete them. This helps with budgeting and planning and enables God’s work to continue in and through this Parish. We truly appreciate, and are always greatly encouraged, by your faithful giving/tithing. Thank you in advance!
God bless you today and always,
READINGS FOR THIS SUNDAY:
Hebrews 11: 8-19; Romans 4: 13-25