About AshmoreUC

Ashmore Uniting Church (Kath Hilber)

A Heavenly Reward Program

A heavenly reward program

How many rewards programs do you belong to? Coles, Woollies, frequent flyers…coffee cards. Sandra has so many coffee cards from different shops that she almost needs a whole wallet just to put the cards in. The question is do we really get the rewards that we are expecting through these loyalty programs or are they just another ploy to get you to spend more? But then, when you get money off your bill or a free coffee there is a sense of satisfaction that your commitment has finally paid off.

As a Christian I am also looking at a rewards program. In our modern western society, we have been encouraged to look for an instant gratification and deal with the consequences later. Very few of us save up for a house, or a car or a holiday – instead we put it on credit or borrow money. The consequences of this instant lifestyle are the pains of making repayments with interest. I am not criticising you for borrowing money, I am just saying that is human nature to look for rewards in the present rather than saving them up for a later time.

Luke 6:17-26 talks about blessings and woes. It’s the gospel of Luke’s version of the beatitudes in what is called ‘the sermon on the plain’. There are several similarities between this sermon and the one recorded in Matthew chapters 5-7 and reflects that this message was at the core of what Jesus taught and probably was spoken out on several occasions. One key difference is that in Matthews version, when Jesus says blessed are the poor and the hungry – he goes much deeper than material poverty and physical hunger. In Matthews version Jesus speaks of poverty ‘in spirit’ (Matthew 5:3) and a hunger ‘for righteousness’ (Matthew 5:6).

The message of the gospel is good news for the poor; the hungry; the distressed and the persecuted. Why? Because it starts in the heart of God who is loving, merciful, compassionate and forgiving. God’s love is not measured out according to social standing, wealth, reputation or physical attributes. God’s love is the same for everyone, whether we are young or old; sinner or saint; rich or poor. It’s just that not everyone acknowledges their need for God and because of their level of wealth, comfort or education may never recognise what God has to offer.

That’s not to say that we don’t want more than we already have. Most people would say that if they had more money, they would be more comfortable. By world standards our church community is wealthy. And the wealthy always have trouble making room for God. If you are comfortable with your life and your purpose then there is no room, need or desire for what Jesus is offering. The poor and the rejected, on the other hand, have nowhere else to look but up and in looking up, discover that God’s rewards program is better and more enduring than anything the world can offer.

So, it’s good news for the poor (in spirit), and when we accept this as good news it is hard not to tell others about it. When we discover the grace of God it becomes the motivation for how we live each day. The problem is, the world has always rejected the gospel because it shines light on people’s sinfulness. Christ’s goodness shining through your life makes other’s badness obvious and that makes them uncomfortable, so they push back, reject and ridicule, so that they can go on turning a blind eye to cycle of sin that they have perpetuated in my life. It’s easy to take such rejection personally, but in reality, it’s God they are rejecting. So, Jesus says, you’re blessed if people reject and persecute for his name sake (Luke 6:22) and that you will not only have great rewards in heaven (Luke 6:23), but you will know the presence and the comfort of God each day.

God bless,

Tim Winslade

Who Am I

Who am I?

Who am I? It is a universal question of identity. We all struggle with this question – to figure out our identity – our value and what we consider to be valuable. If we start with who am I, and why am I here, then knowing the end (where am I going?) helps us to move forward with purpose. For deep down we all strive for purpose and significance in the life that we live. There are 4 philosophical questions that lay at the foundation of any worldview. Who am I? Where do I come from? Where am I going? How do I know the truth? But many people don’t know how to answer the questions, or if they do, it’s their best guess.

Most people use some form of GPS to navigate to where we want to go. Even then. But no matter what device we use or even if we are ‘old school’ and use a map, knowing the destination is only half of the problem. If we don’t know our starting point, then we are lost and have know way of navigating towards the end goal.

So, where do we start? The Bible starts in Genesis with an interesting statement, “in the beginning God”. Similarly, John’s gospel starts with, “In the beginning was the word”. So, for the Christian the starting point and the destination is God. I come from God, by the grace of God – I get to be with God and along way I get to know God through the work of the Holy Spirit. This is all very deep I know, but as we reflect on 1 Corinthians 15:1-11, we find Paul declaring the earliest recorded version of the gospel message (written before the 4 gospel accounts).

Paul reminds the church that Christ’s mission (his death and resurrection) was for a purpose; and that more than 500 people saw the Jesus in resurrected form, including Paul. Although Paul’s experience happened sometime after Jesus ascension into heaven and his addition to the list of Apostles was unusual, especially for someone who had done so much in his early life to persecute the Christians. But then Paul says an interesting thing. “By the grace of God, I am what I am?”

So much of the New Testament revolved around God’s work in Paul’s life. Once Paul discovered his identity – who he really was – his whole life changed. He knew the power of God’s forgiveness and grace that set him free from his past and gave him access to a future in the presence of God. And because his life had such a dramatic turnaround, he gave all his energy to convince others of their value to God and purpose in life. Along the way he suffered opposition and ridicule…but his conviction that Jesus was the truth and that knowledge of God’s grace empowered him and carried him through.

Paul said, I am what I am, by God’s grace. He was not a self-made man – he gave that up to follow Jesus’ call on his life. He knew who he was, where he had come from and where he was going. How clear are you on your identity and purpose in life? How do you know that you are in the right place, right now? Before Paul encountered Jesus, he knew a lot about God, but his experience of God’s grace and forgiveness changed him forever. Really knowing Jesus is experiential. Jesus wants to walk with you through all the chapters of your life – so that, like Paul, we can declare “I know who I am” by the grace of God.

God bless, Tim Winslade

Garage Sale

We are having our Garage Sale this March (date to be conifrmed) at our church, starting at 7.00am until approximately 1.00pm.  We have had two garage sales a year. They have all proven to be wonderful days.  We have plants, bric-a-brac, furniture, and books as well as fun activities and stalls for the children.  The Blue Wave Korean church cook some lovely traditional Korean food as well our Aussie sausage sizzle.  We also have a ‘real coffee van’ for those who need a coffee in the mornings!.  Hope to see you here!

My Way or the Highway

I have talked a lot about the impact of the tragic death of Phil Hughes on Australian society this week. A young country boy with a dream to represent his country…who knew about success, disappointments and hard work; but had a resilience of character and uncomplicated and humble approach to life that has resonated deeply with so many people all over the world. I
I was deeply touched to watch the telecast of the funeral and procession – that walked from my old school, along the road I walked to school each day and went right past my house – before finishing at the Pacific Highway. What started as funeral procession – became a throng of friends and mourners, walking Phil home for the last time. It was a journey of relationships.
If you don’t know Macksville – it is one of the last true bottle necks on the Highway – with its old bridge and traffic lights being the bane of many a traveller stuck in traffic in holiday time going north and south, especially around Christmas. But one of the last enduring images were the cars banked up on the bridge – stopped by Police – and I thought of the hundreds of people inconvenienced by what was going on. Their plans thwarted by the community closing down to celebrate one life. Why? Because a community values relationships above other things.
The highway, that was normally busy with cars rushing to their destination became a place for people to walk, to go slowly, to talk and reflect; to reconnect. As we edge closer to another Christmas… are also reminded that we stop to pause and reflect; to reconnect with the one life that changed eternity: Jesus the Messiah. His is the one life that gives us hope beyond this life – the one life whose sole purpose was to provide the platform for repentance and forgiveness of sins.
So often we get so self-focused – so concerned with what is important to us – that we forget what life is really about. John the Baptist purpose in life was to call people out – to challenge them about what was important – to point them to God. But he knew his place, he knew that ultimately Jesus was coming – and when he did come he said, “He must become greater and I must become less.” (John3:30) He knew that the only way to become the person that God has intended you to be was to give over control of the wheel to God…so that he could become greater and that you would become less. This can only come through relationship. Whose way are you going this Christmas? Is it going to be your way or God’s high way? It’s your choice.

God bless,

Tim Winslade

Words

Some people are really sensitive to words. Sticks and stones can break my bones but words…they can be devastating!
A number of years ago I came a book by Gary Chapman, a relationship counsellor from the US. In his books he outlines 5 ways that most of us give and receive love. These were gifts; acts of service; physical touch; quality time and words of affirmation.
Some people are more sensitive to words than others – they like to affirm others – and need affirmation, but if you use words to cut them down – the damage can take a long time to repair. Proverbs 18:21 says that the tongue has power over life and death; James 3 talks about the importance of taming the tongue and Luke records Jesus as saying ‘a tree is recognised by it’s fruit’ and ‘out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks’ (Luke 6:43-45).
What we store up inside becomes the focus for our lives. Several years ago I came across the concept of ‘heliotropism’ – which states that plants bend towards the source of light. In the same way our lives bend towards the energy – as groups and as individuals. If we focus on the positive and the good, then that becomes the source of the overflow. But if we are always focussed on the negative or if our lives do not have a positive centre, then you cannot expect the fruit of our lives to be healthy and wholesome.
Jesus is described in John 1:14 as the word that became flesh (incarnate) and lived amongst us. Jesus said his ‘words’ endure forever. He’s consistent; reliable and a promise keeper. He promised his disciples that he would return…but in the mean time we must not get complacent, but live with the anticipation that it could be anytime. So for two thousand years the church has waited…living in the tension between the first coming of Christ and his return; planning long term, while living with the urgency that challenges us to share the good news with others daily.
This is what advent is all about. It’s a reminder of what Christ has already done – but it’s an anticipation of what he has promised he will do. We focus on the word who became flesh; on Jesus (saviour) our Emmanuel (God with us). We are reminded that Jesus is the light for all of creation across all of time and we celebrate the greatest gift of all.
So, this advent, let’s think about our words and actions (and what sort of fruit they show) and let us affirm again the good news, that is the essence of Christmas. Jesus, the word, became one of us so that he could give us the greatest gift ever, so that ‘all who receive him…who believe in his name…have the right to become children of God!’ (John 1:12).

God bless,

Tim Winslade