How to vote christianly

Posted: 21 March 2011 / 1 Timothy 2:1-3

This Saturday is the NSW State election. As we think about how we use our vote, it would be worth reading a short paper written a couple of years ago by John Dickson (founding director of Centre for Public Christianity), called “How to Vote Christianly!(pdf).
In short he encourages us to:

Not get into an unthinking voting pattern
Not vote for someone just because they are a Christian, and
Not make economic prosperity the central issue

But to:
Vote for others
Vote for the moral health of the community
Vote for the poor and weak
Vote for the gospel, and
Vote prayerfully

I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—2...

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Author: Toby Neal / Categories: News

Woman here is your son… Here is your mother

Posted: 18 March 2011 / John 19:26-27

Our Gravitas series for Lent continues this week as we look at Jesus’ last words on the Cross. In particular, when he speaks to his mother, and to John:

Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother… When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home. (John 19:25–27 TNIV)

William Barclay says of this:

“There is something infinitely moving in the fact that Jesus in the agony of the cross, in the moment when the salvation of the world hung in the balance, thought of the loneliness of his mother in...

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Author: Toby Neal / Categories: Sermon Series

6 Ways to react to the earthquake tsunami

Posted: 16 March 2011

As the carnage from the Japanese earthquake and tsunami moves toward 10,000 dead and beyond, there is a way to pray and act:

1. Be softened to the pain nearby.
The Good Samaritan knew nothing of the calamities in first century Japan, but was commended by the Lord for mercies at hand (Luke 10:25-37).

2. Pray for the followers of Christ in Japan:
That they would be still and know that God is God (Psalm 46:10; 100:3).
- That they would be awakened from the illusion that this life is long or sure or the main point of eternal existence (James 4:14).
- That they would be given a new vision of the supreme value of Christ who promises his followers that famine, nakedness, and death...

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Author: Toby Neal / Categories: News

Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise

Posted: 13 March 2011 / Luke 23:43

On his cross, Jesus responds to a request of a dying rebel: “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43). Writer Max Lucado says: “The only thing more outlandish than the request was that it was granted.” Just try to picture that scene: a political terrorist getting his just reward asking God’s son for eternal life. But as absurd as it may appear, that’s exactly what happened. He who deserved hell got heaven, and we are left with a puzzling riddle. What was Jesus trying to teach us? What was he trying to prove in pardoning this man who had done nothing to deserve it? This is what we are thinking about at Vine Church this afternoon.

Author: Toby Neal / Categories: Sermon Series

Gravitas (Lent Series)

Posted: 09 March 2011

Last Sunday we began a new series for Lent (Ash Wednesday (today!) – Easter) titled Gravitas, in which we will look at the seven words Jesus spoke from the cross. Though very few in this city follow what you might call a religious calendar, and that’s OK. But we figure that many follow Christmas and Easter, so why not Lent, which is meant to reflect on our sin and frailty? Lent is a season that is supposed to make us hungry for Easter – hungry for Christ’s death – as forgiveness and cleansing for my sin, and thirsty for Christ’s resurrection as victory over sin and decay. By looking at Jesus seven words from the cross we come to understand what exactly he thought was...

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Author: Toby Neal / Categories: Sermon Series

The feast of the Father

Posted: 24 February 2011 / Luke 15:20-24, Luke 15:31-32

This Sunday at Vine Church we come to the last of six sermons on Jesus parable of the two lost sons. In Jesus’ parable the younger brother goes off into a distant country expecting a better life but is disappointed. He begins to long for home, remembering the food in his father’s house. So do we all. The philosopher Heidegger described this experience with the german word unheimlichkeit. The word translates as “eeriness” or “uncanniness” but literally it means “away from home.” Heidegger is referring to the anxiety and spiritual nausea that comes from never feeling at home in the world. An English word which captures the longing element of this, but not so much the...

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The cost of free grace

Posted: 20 February 2011 / Luke 15

The March, 1965 edition of Life Magazine tells the true story of a young man who was a U.S. soldier missing in action during the Vietnam War. When his family could get no word of him through any official channels, his older brother flew to Vietnam and, risking his life, searched the jungles and the battlefields for his lost brother. It’s said that despite the danger, he was never hurt, because those on both sides had heard of his dedication and respected his quest. Some of them called him, simply, “the brother.” I don’t know what your older brother was like growing up, but this Sunday we get to learn about our true older brother who risked his life to come and find his lost...

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Author: Toby Neal / Categories: Sermon Series

The two ways to find happiness

Posted: 11 February 2011 / Luke 15:25-32

Blase Pascal, the French Mathematician and philosopher said,

All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end… This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves.

This Sunday we come to the topic: “The Two Ways to Find Happiness”. We are are looking at how younger-brother types seek to find happiness with drugs sex and booze, while older-brother types seek to find happiness in religion, law, and prayer. In the parable of The Two Lost Sons (Luke 15) Jesus explains that both these ways are dead end streets to happiness. Pray with me that as we meditate on Luke 15 this Sunday our...

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Author: Toby Neal / Categories: Sermon Series

All of life is repentance

Posted: 06 February 2011 / Luke 15:14-20

This Sunday we continued our series on Luke 15 by looking at ‘All of Life is Repentance’.

In his novel Popcorn, Ben Elton, through the voice of Bruce, comments sarcastically on our inability to own our faults. He says,

Nothing is anybody’s fault. We don’t do wrong, we have problems. We’re victims, alcoholics, sexaholics . . . Victims! People don’t fail any more. They experience negative success. We are building a culture of gutless, spineless, self-righteous, whining cry-babies who have an excuse for everything and take responsibility for nothing.

As far as I can see, there are only two groups in Australia, who, when they get together, the first thing they do is own...

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Author: Toby Neal / Categories: Sermon Series

The lure of distance

Posted: 28 January 2011 / Luke 15:11-13

This Sunday we continue our series on Luke 15 by looking at what my friend Justin Moffatt calls, ‘The Lure of Distance’. The story of the two brothers is about a search; a desire for a better life in a distant country; an experience; a thrill; a fantasy. It is about the lure of distance. I wonder whether you have had the experience sometime in the last week, where you have daydreamed about leaving, of getting away, of searching to find a better reality than you currently have, of getting away from responsibility. Why this lure of distance? Come on Sunday and let’s have a genuine conversation about why we do this. Don’t just come to hear what I think, but bring your own...

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Author: Toby Neal / Categories: Sermon Series
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