Domestic or Family Violence is hidden behind many closed doors, in places that should be a sanctuary. The statistics are frightening, it's impact devastating. A survey of domestic violence in Australia shows that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men have experienced at least one incident of violence from a current or former partner since the age of 15. IOne woman is killed every week as a result of violence in the home. Police respond to a domestic violence incident every 2 minutes. It's not a problem that we can ignore, be ignorant of, or silent about especially in the Church. God created the church to continue his work on earth and to be the vehicle for bringing his love and life to the world. He gave his Word, not be used as a weapon against those who suffer or as a means to control, but so it could be a shield for everyone in need of refuge and strength. Join us as we continue to look at how we can be a place of grace where healing can begin.
#2 in series: Shhh we don't talk about that
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 4:6-8a
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God cares about what has happened to you and is happening to you now. If you are being abused, we believe you. Jesus invites you to find comfort in his arms. If you are the abuser, know that this behaviour is unacceptable. Always. No asterisks. Jesus invites you to find forgiveness in him through repentance. For the home is a reflection of God's image, designed to be a sanctuary and safe place, characterized by tender strength, courageous protection, self-giving devotion, compassionate mercy, gentle nurture and unfailing love. May it be so in your home.
1. What do you understand by the term 'Domestic Violence.
2. Why do you think the Church has been silent for so long on the issue of domestic violence?
The Church's failures’. We don't have to look far to find them. We’ve seen them. We've experienced them. The media have highlighted them for all the world to see. There's abuse from those in power, both physical and spiritual. There's the cover-ups and secrecy that have ensued. There's the failure to respond to people's needs, or minister effectively. The failure to speak the truth or show compassion when called for. How do we view the failures of the Church? Or when the people of God fail to live up to the standards they proclaim? How do you respond when the Church fails you, disappoints you, lets you down? What happens when people come to Church to find Jesus and sometimes all they find is us. Today, we are not going to be quiet but open up and talk honestly about 'The Church's failures.'
#1 in series: Shhh...we don't talk about that
I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord. I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice. Ezekiel 34:15-16
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When the Church fails, Christ does not.
When the Church hurts, Christ does not.
When the Church s unmoved, Christ is not.
When the Church is absent, Christ is not.
Scandal may rock the Church, bring the good news into disrepute, or even close the doors for Gospel work
but it will never frustrate Christ's unchanging purpose or his mighty power to build a people through whom he is at work to bring justice, love, mercy and healing to the world.
1. When you hear of the Church’s failure, how does it affect you as a Christian?
2. How does it affect the way you relate to God?
Slavery.” The very word causes a gut level revulsion for most of us. It's a dark part of our history; the forced slavery of Aborigines, and the "blackbirds" or "sugar slaves" that came on boats from Melanesia. It's a dark part of our present with an estimated 40.3 million people caught up in modern day slavery. In a world that values independence, freedom and autonomy, the whole notion of being a slave and having a master is abhorrent. But our early Christian ancestors gladly, willingly and boldly named themselves “slaves of Christ.” They lived and died, completely bought and sold into Christ’s life, death and resurrection. They held no other allegiance, offered no other devotion, and answered to no other master than Christ. In being “slaves of Christ” they found a freedom like nowhere else on earth, a power no earthly ruler could match, and a fullness of life and joy that no-one else could offer. So as we celebrate the Reformation today, we discover the radical freedom that comes in being a slave to the master, Jesus Christ.
#5 and final in series: 'I can relate to that.'
But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. Romans 6:22
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Confessing Jesus Christ as your Lord and Master means you belong totally to him - absolute ownership, absolute control, absolute subjection, absolute obedience, absolute loyalty, absolute dependence. That changes everything for it means that you need nothing other than what he commands and gives in his grace and mercy. That's when true freedom is found.
Everyone loves a good wedding. The moment the bride walks down the aisle. The face of the groom as he sees his bride. The joy is infectious. But beyond the pageantry or the spectacle, is the enormous promise that they make to each other - "as long as we both shall live. This is my solemn vow." These vows are huge. They are also hard. For anything we set our lives on “until death parts us” is just going to test us, stretch us and expose the strengths and especially the weaknesses of our hearts. Today we hear God's vow to us - a vow he is faithful to day after day and a promise that not even death can separate us from. So come, as the Holy God invites us to relate to him as a Bride to a Groom. Hear him renew his vow of love for you; to forgive, to protect, to preserve and to be intimately with us forever. There is no more beautiful moment
#4 in series: I can relate to that
I will make you my wife forever, showing you righteousness and justice, unfailing love and compassion.
I will be faithful to you and make you mine, and you will finally know me as the Lord. Hosea 2:19-20 (NLT)
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God is emotionally, mightily, passionately and whole heartedly into you. He woos you tenderly for all he desires is to have the most intimate and pleasure-filled relationship with you eternally. Today, he renews his vow and gives you again his Son, saying 'Receive my Son as proof of my promise of love and faithfulness.'
1. Other than your own if you are married, 'What the best wedding you’ve ever been to? Why was that one “the best”?"
2. When is the last time you simply delighted in God? Describe it. If you can't remember, why do you think that is?
3. How would your relationship with God change if you loved him warmly as a husband rather than just served him dutifully as your Lord?
Remember how easy it was to make friends as a kid? Just show up at the playground, bond over your shared love of football, cricket or chasey and bam! Instant connection. But today it seems you need an App for that. From Facebook to Instagram, WeChat to WhatsApp, LinkedIn to Bizzabo, there are hundreds of Apps designed to connect us with others all over the world. But what does it mean to be connected? Social media may have given us the promise of a connected world but it seems that everyone is feeling a little more isolated. Robin Dunbar, a British anthropologist developed a hypothesis, known as "Dunbar's number", that says human brains can’t healthily maintain more than 150 genuine relationships at a time. Not every connection is equal so what connections are you investing in? Jesus said there is one pivotal connection that can help our lives grow and flourish and the community thrive – the connection of a branch to the vine. We hope you can relate to that!
#3 in series: "I can relate to that"
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5
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There is only one connection that is life-giving in every season. One connection that will not fail you in any circumstance. A connection with Jesus. He is with you, holding onto you, loving you and will not let you go. Even when it feels like you are cut down by life, hang in there, for growth is ahead, and new life will come. That's his promise.
BIBLE READING: John 15:1-8
1. How many close friends do you have that you could go and share the deepest parts of your life with?
2 Other than a family member, who is the person in this Church community that you feel most connected to and why?
3 Is your connection with Jesus in a season of fruit bearing, growth, dormancy or pruning at this present time. Explain
Dumb, Defenceless, Directionless, Dirty. Sheep often get a bad rap. Sheep are vulnerable. They’re helpless. They have no depth perception. They’re fearful and panic easily. They tend to flock together. They are prone to wander and their reactions to situations are predictable. Who would want to be compared to a sheep? Who wants to be seen as useless? Stupid? Vulnerable? But maybe that's the point. For inside, we often feel worthless, stupid, and directionless. At times we are full of self-loathing and hate; we go along with the crowd when we know it is not the best way. We cry out (bleat) but no-one seems to hear or care. To anyone who has felt that way, Jesus today wants to tell you that sheep to a shepherd is the most beautiful, comforting, secure, life-affirming relationship that you can receive. So today we explore sheep to the Shepherd.
#2 in series: I can relate to that
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. John 10:27-28
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Dumb, Defenceless, Directionless, Dirty? Not in the presence of Jesus, your Good Shepherd. You are gifted, valuable, cherished, protected, led and clean! In his presence there is a place of welcome, community, security and rest where you are intimately known, loved and cared for all the days of your life.
1. If you were to rate animals on their level of intelligence (1 = lowest level of intelligence and 10 = highest level of intelligence), where would you rate sheep? Why?
2. If someone were to refer to you as sheepish or sheep-like, would you view that as a compliment or an insult? Why?
3. In what ways have you experienced the care, compassion or leading of the Good Shepherd?
What makes us who we are? Is it our genes, the traits and characteristics we inherit from our parents? Or is it the environment around us and the everyday experiences we have that form and shape us? Science calls this the question of 'nature versus nurture'. Children are often like their parents, a fact that can be embarrassing or encouraging depending on the circumstances. But what about adopted children - who do they resemble? God's answer is clear - as adopted children of the Heavenly Father, created in his image, you are a full heir of his and called to resemble him completely. He wants you to fully live in the intimacy, freedom, spontaneity and affection of the relationship he has given you and to relate to him that way. So today we explore the beauty and love of living as a son and daughter to the Father.
And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” Galatians 4:6
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Nothing of the relationship Jesus had with the Father has been withheld from you. Nothing! You are an heir of his power, his authority, his character, his rule. You are a full heir of his affection and intimacy. God is your loving, caring, all-embracing Father who delights in you and feels enormous pride whe he sees his character reflected in you.
- What is one thing, characteristic, or trait, you inherited from your father?
- How does your experience of your father influence the way you see God as a Father?
- "All I have is yours?" That's what the Father says to you. To what degree do you live believing that this is true?
Some words can change your life forever: I do. You’ve got the job. We’re pregnant. Blow into the little tube until I say “stop.” Those test results don’t look good.
The last words of the Lord’s Prayer…while not part of the original prayer in the Bible...are just as life changing. For the kingdom, the power, & the glory are yours now & forever. Amen. This final shout of praise and acclamation takes us back to where it began, the Father in heaven who inspires us for living on this earth. Here we surrender our lives to the God who is in control, who has the power to do what he wants and whose power we need for our living. Here we recognise that we are inheirtors of the highest gifts of heaven and there is only one whose name is worthy of all the applause and glory we can muster. Here we celebrate the Father’s worthiness and make the prayer our own as we say “Amen” – let it all be so.
#7 and final in series: Prayer - From his Fullness
Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power
and the glory and the majesty and the splendor,
for everything in heaven and earth is yours.
Yours, Lord, is the kingdom;
you are exalted as head over all. 1 Chronicles 29:11
REMEMBER THIS WEEK
God’s worthiness doesn’t change. It’s eternal. Perfect love, perfect forgiveness, perfect life. All the power of these priceless, ‘one of a kind’ gifts from your Heavenly Father are yours when you yield your life to his calling and plan. All the glory and honour is his, when the fullness of his life is revealed in and through you.
1 When you want to praise God what is your favourite 'go to' song that declares who God is?
2. What does "Yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory" mean to you?
3. What is one insight/truth that sticks with you from this series that is worth sharing? (ie - what's one thought that has really impacted you or changed the way that you pray the Lord's prayer?)
It's the question that Star Wars and the Superhero films deal with every time. Who will win the cosmic battle? Will good or evil prevail? Will darkness or light prove stronger in the end? Who will rescue and protect people from the forces of evil? It’s no movie blockbuster but the Bible affirms that there is a cosmic battle that spans both the heavenly and earthly realms, the effects of which are still present today as God’s Kingdom advances in the world and our lives. In the last petition of the Lord's Prayer, we recognise the presence of evil in the world and we find strength in the one who alone has definitively won the battle over evil to give us a victory and future that no-one can snatch away. So today we pray for and find comfort in the Father’s Protection.
#6 in series: Prayer- From his Fullness
Our Father…devil us from the evil one. Matthew 6:13b
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It’s true. The devil is a powerful enemy. Every time we live in our identity as God’s children and seek to live out his purpose for our lives – to advance God’s kingdom of grace and forgiveness in this world - we will be involved in a dangerous battle. But in the midst of that battle know this truth: The devil is a defeated enemy. Christ has overcome and given you the final victory.
1 When you pray, “Deliver us from evil,” what do you have in mind?
2. What's the most 'evil' thing you have witnessed in your life or where do you see the evil one at work today?
3. In what ways has life been a battle against the evil one for you?