Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

A Prayer for Christmas and Epiphany

Blessed are you, Lord our God,
our eternal Father and David’s king:
You have made our gladness greater and increased our joy
by sending to dwell among us
the Wonderful Counsellor, the Prince of Peace.
Born of Mary,
proclaimed to the shepherds,
and acknowledged to the ends of the earth,
Your unconquered Sun of righteousness
destroys our darkness and establishes us in freedom.
All glory in the highest be to you:
through Christ, the Son of your favour,
in the anointing love of his Spirit,
now and for ever and ever.
Amen

From the Prayer Book for Australia (p.436)

Prayer Changes Things

‘If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land’ (2 Chronicles 7:14)

The thing that struck me the most about St Nic’s when I first started attending almost 2 years ago, was their heart of prayer. Prayer that supports, prayer that heals, prayer that changes. It changes circumstances, it changes hearts, it changes relationships and it changes lives! All we need to do is call upon the Lord, pray to Him and He will listen to us (Jeremiah 29:12). There are so many promises throughout the Bible of God promising His people (that’s us!) that if we engage in a relationship with Him through prayer, He hears us and responds. Although that response may not always be in the way that we imagine or hope for, we can trust that ‘as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are [His] ways higher than your ways and [His] thoughts your thoughts’ (Isaiah 55:9).

Recently I have been wonderfully blessed by two separate events at St. Nic’s: The Australian Prayer Network (APN) Foundational Level prayer course, and the Churches Together united prayer evening. I just wanted to share some of my experiences, some of what I’ve learnt and how I have been encouraged me in my own prayer life in the next two blog posts…

Prayer Changes Things

The APN has several ‘levels’ of different prayer courses and this was the first one which focuses on the beginnings of really learning about how prayer works and how we can put into practice some Biblical truths. I want to focus on HOW prayer works. The main thing that I took away from this session was that prayer only changes things if we do what God tells us to do in response to our prayers to Him. There is no point in us praying and hearing a response from God then completely ignoring what God is telling us to do! Prayer requires action.

Prayer requires action

Prayer is an activity of God and it requires our cooperation: to be ‘totally available and radically obedient’! He wants to work through people – through you and me – to change the world. There’s a thinking that prayer requires God’s cooperation; that when we pray we want God to do exactly what we want and exactly how we want it. But that’s where we’ve got it completely wrong! God is far bigger, far greater than our circumstances, and if we focus on trying to simply find the right words to say, or believing that we have the answers then we’re losing sight of WHY we pray. Prayer is praying into God’s plans and purposes which are already known; ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).

You know that feeling of when you’re praying for somebody or something, and you just can’t find the right words to say? That you don’t really know what to pray for? That the circumstance feels too big or too out of your own depth that you are lost for words? I want to encourage you and reassure you that THIS IS OK. It is not our words in our prayers that change the world. We need the power of God to change the circumstances. All we need to do, in every aspect of our lives INCLUDING our prayer lives, is to ‘trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding…’ (Proverbs 3:5-6) And prayer is one beautiful way that we can reach out and touch the power of God, and allow it to flow through us in our lives! While I am aware not all of us pray in tongues, I have found this I have found that using this gift can really help me personally when I don’t know what to pray for – but that’s for another day!

Prayer and your passions

One of the big questions that many people have is ‘what do I pray for? There’s so much to pray for: my own family, friends, my community, my nation, the world… Where do I begin?’ Don’t worry. God has it covered. Start by understanding the passions of your heart; those individual talents and passions, remembering that He created you in His image (Genesis 1:27) and that He knit you together in your mother’s womb and that you are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:13-14). This is where to begin. God wants to use these things that He has given you to make changes in your life and others’.

I spent some time in prayer after this challenge and I wanted to share one of my biggest passions – people. For people who are hurting, people who are in need or who are suffering. And also just to love people, to connect and encourage people as they are, where they are. For those of you who know me, this may not surprise you (ha!) but I’ve been really following God’s passion and trying to take every opportunity that presents itself in action and in prayer whenever I can, on a whole new level. It’s something that comes very naturally to me and I just love meeting and connecting with others wherever I go. But this is what God wants to use! He wants to use what we already love and are already passionate about to increase His kingdom here on earth!!

What you need to pray for every day

So I want to encourage you to seek God’s face and to ask Him what He wants you to pray for. Consider what are your passions? What gets you out of bed in the morning? What encourages you to keep going? These are the things that are God’s call on your life – and what you need to pray for every day.

Lift these things up to the Lord. Place them before Him and then ask Him want He wants you to do – then act on it! Remembering that faith moves the hand of God. Passion moves the hand of God. God searches for our hearts and uses those passions. So keep praying – passionately praying. We can’t NOT pray if we carry God’s heart for something. And we can stand secure in the faith that God will hear us, and He wants to work in us and through us to change the world. All we need to be, is ‘totally available and radically obedient’. That’s my challenge to you today.

Blessings, Zoë x

1 minute prayer

This week I thought I would share with you a quick and easy 1 minute prayer based on our vision framework for our community life here at St Nic’s.

Lord,
Clothe me with the power of Your Holy Spirit so that today I may
Bless abundantly in Your Name,
Belong wholeheartedly to the Body of Christ,
Believe increasingly in Your Word,
Behave with integrity for Your sake, and
Become Good News for Your glory.
In Jesus’ name,
Amen.

St Nic’s Snapshot: Alpha

This week’s St Nic’s Snapshot is from our Alpha Holy Spirit Day that we hosted on Saturday July 23rd. It was a time to learn and experience more of the Holy Spirit.

I feel so refreshed!

Our participants and hosts were blessed by the wonderful hospitality of all the volunteers who helped make this day possible. Thank you.

Today has meant a lot to me.

To know more about Alpha or the Holy Spirit please visit our Alpha page or contact our minister Jamie.

 

The Good Gift of Power at Pentecost

You can move a car by pushing it or you can turn the ignition key and harness the power of the engine. It will travel for longer and with a great deal less personal effort from A to B if there is sufficient fuel. Using fuel and the car’s engine, is using the car as it was designed to be. It’s the same with being a Christian called to be Jesus’ witnesses. We can attempt to live out the Christian life in our own limited power (this will result in failure) or we can welcome God’s design for the Christian and the necessity of being clothed with power by the Holy Spirit.

In Luke 24:49 Jesus asks the disciples to wait in Jerusalem in order to receive what the Father has promised, clothing in power. This power is in Greek the same root word from which we get dynamite! It is the same word that describes Jesus in Luke 4 as he returns from his trials in the wilderness and begins His public ministry: Luke 4:14 ‘Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit.’ Furthermore, it is something promised by the Father through the prophets as Peter later points out in his address to the cords on Pentecost in Jerusalem. Here, he begins to literally fulfil the call to witness to Jesus (Acts 2:16ff).

Not just an encounter, but on-going…

This is not just a one off. The scriptures testify that the Holy Spirit’s work and presence in us makes all the difference. As we trust in Jesus it is the Holy Spirit who helps us know and experience the love of God assuring us that we are his children (Romans 8:16). We often see this is the main thing that happens on the Holy Spirit day in our Alpha course. Likewise, it is the spirit who enables good fruit to grow in our lives reflecting the character of Jesus: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). It is the Holy Spirit who enables us to be effective witnesses through transforming our own lives; equipping us to witness in our actions and words to Jesus- risen from the dead, saviour of the world.

We recognise this is an ongoing need. Paul reminds us in Ephesians 5:18 to be filled and continue to be filled with the Spirit. Consequently, in each Eucharist we pray ‘Renew us by your Holy Spirit,’ and conclude with a heartfelt prayer ‘send us out in the power of your Spirit to live and work to your praise and glory.’

Clothe us in power…

On Saturday, as part of the prayer movement ‘Thy Kingdom come’ encouraged by Archbishop Justin Welby, we waited upon the Lord for 8 hours, looking to pray in His kingdom in differing areas and across a number of issues . However, we were waiting especially for the Lord to clothe us as a church with His power to be effective witnesses here to the South West of Australia.
This past week in Alpha it was a delight for us to see someone come to that place of trust in Jesus and commit themselves to follow Him. That wonderful moment happened in part through the ongoing witness of Christians in her family and the witness of this church to her. Alpha has helped her think it through further and come to a decision. How beautiful is that? It is a literal fulfilment of what Jesus asks of us and enables us to do through the Holy Spirit (Luke 24:45-49).

Lord, may your kingdom continue to come in us and through us. Holy Spirit, clothe us with power that we might be your witnesses to the ends of the earth, even the South West of Australia.

Amen.

Encountering Jesus now?

Last week, Paul wrote about the truth of God’s presence in our suffering. Jesus drank the cup of betrayal, rejection, physical torture, abandonment, tasting for a moment a profound separation with His Father. He did so for the joy set before him (Hebrews 12:2).

One of the hardest things for the disciples at the time of Jesus Passion was losing him. His promises of being with them seemed to die on the cross. Where was he now? Many people ask that question in the face of suffering and understandably so. The Psalms articulate the same question many times.

After rising from death Jesus appeared to a number of witnesses in the time between the Passover and Pentecost. See Paul’s account in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8; He appeared to Simon, James, the apostles and then a crowd of 500 people at one time.

Jesus said he would not leave us or forsake us. He fulfils that promise through the Holy Spirit, the one who walks alongside us, comforts advises, guides (John 14-16 references this).

In returning to the heavens Jesus opened the way for the Holy Spirit to come and to make His presence, Immanuel, known to them and us. Learning to welcome the Holy Spirit of Jesus is welcoming His presence into our lives. We can live, literally, inspired lives!

As we now celebrate the resurrection, and look forward to the celebration of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, we are running another Alpha course beginning May 2nd. Alpha allows us to explore honestly the basics of the Christian faith and enables opportunities for encounters with the Holy Spirit. We share a meal from 5:45 pm and the course will start around 6:45 pm.

Will you be joining us?

Shalom,
Jamie

Being Blessed. Our confirmation candidates and farewell to Bishop Allan

This Sunday we welcome friends and family of our confirmation candidates. We pray you will be blessed. It is also our last opportunity as a community to welcome Bishop Allan and Tricia. We have been encouraged and enabled in our shared ministry here through his prayerful oversight. We are going to miss you both and will continue to pray for you over an intense time.  Simple words of thanks are inadequate.

To our candidates. Thank you for encouraging us through your public affirmation and trust in our Lord Jesus. We are so glad to share life with you here in Australind. It is a beautiful thing to receive prayer for a fresh filling of the Holy Spirit. I am confident you will be blessed!

Blessed, belonging, believing, living differently and becoming increasingly whole is all part of the reconciliation and new life we find in Jesus. It  is the Holy Spirit who breathes life into us as the body of Christ. So as always we pray….

Come Holy Spirit….today fill the hearts of your people renew in us the fire, the fire of your love.

Shalom Jamie

Parish Council Planning and Progress – Seeking God's Face

Last Saturday the Parish Council met to review our planning and progress over the past year and to consider next steps in our ministry together. Suzanne Saunders and I prepared an action plan review based on our planning from last year which addressed  all elements of our life together . It was an encouraging process  as we noted positive progress in so many areas.

We considered our context for mission and noted that we were perfectly aligned to the diocesan vision for mission which is

To see each of our Parishes and Anglican Communities transformed into ministering communities in Mission, where every member is valued and recognises that by virtue of their baptism, they have an important ministry to perform as a part of the Body of Christ, the Church.

To see each of our Parishes and Anglican Communities develop strategies that will enable the Holy Spirit to empower them to engage more effectively in the mission and ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ: and so aid the growth of His Church and people throughout the Diocese.

The overall framework for our discussion was Mission. The areas we reviewed were Seeking God’s Face in prayer, leadership development, our current church community and pastoral care and nurture, preparing our church to welcome new members, small multiplying groups, youth ministry, children’s ministry, Sunday services, Safe church, ministry beyond our home base, communication within and without the parish, pathways in faith including baptism, dedication and confirmation, worship team development. Over the past year we have worked steadily on developing our admin including establishing a personnel committee, a site management team and clear job descriptions for both paid and volunteer positions and an annual review process.  With recent developments in our diocese we have also identified a need to inform and educate our church members so that we have a good understanding of our Anglican structures and wider governance such as synod, statutes and the roles of bishop, clergy and parish councils.

We finished our morning together considering how we might use our site missionally including the future use of the historic church building and the rectory.

Thank you for praying for the day as noted in our July Focus. I believe the fruitful and positive experience together was the fruit of this prayer cover.  We are considering how we might better communicate some of these things to the parish on a more regular basis. If you have any suggestions please speak to Suzanne Saunders or Karen Dennison in the first instance. We already have some ideas! Lastly thank you to the Parish Council for giving up time to meet, to pray and to plan together.

Shalom

Jamie

Knowing Jesus in a new way: Known by the Holy Spirit (Godly Play Version)

Our last Godly Play all age service was the story of Pentecost, we remember this as a transition between Jesus’ earthly ministry and the coming of the Holy Spirit.  After being told to go make Jesus known to everyone the disciples must have had mixed feelings.  Even today we have mixed feelings about making Jesus known to others.  The missing ingredient was yet to come, as promised the Holy  Spirit arrived at Pentecost.

“Suddenly, they heard the sound of a mighty wind.  It filled the whole house.  Bits of fire began to dance around each one.  The Holy Spirit had come.  Even their tongues felt on fire.  In their joy they rushed our into the streets to tell everyone!”

We cannot do this alone.  In knowing Jesus we must know the Holy Spirit.  How will we know the Holy Spirit?  For the disciples it was an overwhelming joy that they had to tell everyone – have you felt this? 

“Peter stepped into this chaos with a confidence and calm that the disciples had never seen before.”

Peter felt confident and calm in the wake of a storm – have you felt this?

“what has happened is what the Prophet Joel wrote about.  He said that God will pour out God’s spirit on us so that our sons and daughters will prophesy, the young will see visions, and the old will dream dreams.”

I wonder if you have experienced this?

Jesus had talked about the Holy Spirit and when he did, he called the Spirit, the Comforter.  Jesus had said that the Holy Spirit …
1. helps people see what they’ve done wrong and points
them to God
2. helps people do what is right
3. helps us understand the Bible
4. prays for us when we can’t find the words

5. helps us find out what our special gifts are so we can use
them to help others

I wonder if this is your experience of the Holy Spirit?

Lord, help us to discern your voice in the midst of so many others.  Guide our desires and aspirations for your Church.  Renewing our courage, by your Holy Spirit.

Karen

Courage in the power of His Spirit

There have been 2 distinct times in my ‘short’ (39 years) life where I have experienced grief.  Why am I going to tell you these very personal things?

  1. Because you are my church family and I want to belong, trust and share my life with you and
  2. I need to testify to the power of God and the Holy Spirit – make known his deeds among the nation

My first real taste of grief came with the loss of a baby.  I had left a very active role in my church to follow my husband on a new adventure – one which didn’t involve church.  We had been trying for 3 years to have a baby so to find I was pregnant was a great joy.

I eventually miscarried.  I was told and I told myself ‘it’s just biology, these things happen’, but the pain was still very real.  I felt lost, despair, anger…I distinctly remember throwing my laptop across a room.  While I had family and friends I had no church and felt so distant from the God I needed comfort from – I was drowning.

Within 2 months I was pregnant again with the beautiful boy you see in church today.  After the birth a real need to return to church weighed heavy on my heart and so I returned.  The Busselton Uniting Church was a wonderful place.  It had a strong christian community where my son learnt to crawl and walk among the pews and people.

Two and a half years later my second taste of grief came in the end of my marriage.  It felt like the world I new and loved had been ripped apart.  While I was devastated, this time I walked through the storm with a sense of calm and peace which I can only attribute to the Holy Spirit.  It was only by God’s grace I could forgive – and no broken laptops this time.  It is because of his strength and power that with in 3 months I had moved towns, bought a house, and found a new church family, but that in itself is another testimony.

I know the difference that God can make in our lives with how we deal with the storms that come.  Without Him I drown, with Him I can rise above it.  The Lord God is my strength and my might, He and He through you has become my salvation.

Most loving God, you send us into the world you love.  Give us Grace to go thankfully and with courage in the power of your Spirit – Amen

Your sister in Christ

Karen