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While it’s not overly long, I know my nose has long been the butt of jokes (perhaps a mixed metaphor…) among some of my friends and family.

You see, I gained a chickenpox scar on the end of it at around the age of four, took a fine slice off the tip at 15 when I fell through a glass door, began sporting a crooked septum after a run-in with a flyball during a softball game in my 20s and, more recently, was left with a dent at the end from shingles.

I’ve tried at times over the years to disguise these flaws – none of which wiped out the others, unfortunately – with make-up. But I’ve since given up worrying about them. Scars are meant to add character after all. And there are my crooked teeth, weak chin and many more things to add to my list of imperfections, in any case.

What about you? When you look in the mirror, do you focus on the wrinkles or age blotches on your face? If you’re still on the younger side, perhaps it’s difficult to see past the pimples or acne pocks.

Do you examine the stretchmarks on your body, or try to extend your neck to eradicate your double chin? Do you curse the grey or unwanted hairs, or despair at a receding hairline?

Perhaps rather than focusing on all of your so-called imperfections – like my nose – you instead smile at the visage reflected back at you, knowing that those attributes are just part of the physical you, the body God gave you (and fearfully and wonderfully made – Psalm 139) to house your mind, soul and spirit. A body and face he adores so much that he gave up his Son for each of us, as we’ll reflect on especially in the upcoming seasons of Lent and Easter.

Most of us are taught when we’re young that looks aren’t everything. That having a beautiful heart is more important than a beautiful face. That being kind is better than being good-looking or fashionable.

But do we really believe those things? Or do we fall for the ‘beauty myth’ and the pressure that advertising, social media and our peers can put on us? Do we waste time, energy and money on trying to look the way models, actors, sportspeople or ‘influencers’ do?

In this edition, members of our Lutheran family address some of these questions, as well as Christian views on self-worth and how we see ourselves as beloved children of the Creator. We also introduce you to our newest General Ministry Pastors, as they begin parish ministry and update you on the LCANZ’s Way Forward project.

As usual, too, we bring you the latest news from across the church, a range of resources to support home and congregational faith life and our popular regular columns.

God bless your reading,


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Most people want their church to look good! We want to apply the same rigorous routines we apply to our bodies and wardrobes to our church! We do this both to the building but also to congregations.

Of course, we must listen to the wisdom of the people in the field of church planting. People from outside a church need to know that the place is cared for. There is an intuitive awareness that goes on in the mind of a visitor to the church – ‘If these people care for their church building, then maybe they will also care for me’. Up-to-date websites, ease of parking, clear signage and friendly welcomes at the church door are vital for congregational vitality.

But deep down we know that church is not about looking good. It is about the goodness of God for us in Christ Jesus our Lord.

As I write this to you, the season of Epiphany is upon us. In our culture, Christmas seemed to come to an abrupt end with the Boxing Day sales. Hot cross buns went up for sale along with ‘back to school’ resources. Businesses in New Zealand and Australia target us with so much marketing that it is very easy to drift into a mindset that we are simply ‘consumers’ needing to consume more!

In the Epiphany gospel reading from Matthew chapter two, we hear of the wise men who follow the star until they meet with King Herod in Jerusalem. They are then directed to Bethlehem where we are told, ‘they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy’ (Matthew 2:9,10).

Travelling through life, walking by faith in this story of the manger and the cross, is about joy. Joy was proclaimed by the angel to the shepherds at Bethlehem, ‘I bring you good tidings of great joy’. Joy was the experience of the disciples when the Lord Jesus appeared to them behind closed doors after his crucifixion and resurrection, ‘The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord’.

The scriptures speak of this joy as the joy of salvation. God has come into our midst to break down the dividing wall so that we would have peace with God. On the cross, our Lord brings the great exchange: our sin for his righteousness. We are baptised into his death that we would walk in newness of life. We bring nothing, he gives everything. Because of this great exchange, we come to God with complete confidence, as children to a loving Father.

But we know that the story of the wise men takes an ugly turn. This is an event that is often skipped over in the romantic portrayals of the Christmas nativity. The wise men are warned in a dream, not to tell King Herod of the baby. When Herod finds out he rages, and he orders all the little ones around Bethlehem to be murdered. This is a horrific story, showing the human heart that is in all of us. Herod is set against the way of God and provides an alternative to God’s way. Even in the Garden of Eden, Adam declared to the Lord God, ‘It was the woman that YOU gave me’.

Scripture tells us that the wise men left ‘by another road’. They did not go the way of Herod. Herod’s way was to seek to thwart the good and gracious will of God. Herod’s way was human scheming and the destruction of human lives.

Christian faith is this ‘other road’. Our gracious God sends us along the way of the gospel of Jesus Christ to stand against the ‘way of Herod’. On this ‘other road’ the people of the church work together to keep our focus on the Christ and the work of his cross as the fulfilment of God’s plan of salvation. On this ‘other road’ the people of the church speak out against the use of power to destroy others.

As the church travels this ‘other road’ sometimes it might not look so good to others. But, in the name of the Lord, it will bring God’s peace and joy, that is the forgiveness of sin.

See hymn 804 LHS.

In Christ,


Lord Jesus, we belong to you,
you live in us, we live in you;
we live and work for you –
because we bear your name.

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Many of us have heard the saying ‘beauty is only skin deep’ or the notion that having a good personality is more important than being good-looking. But do we really believe that? Do we spend an unhealthy amount of time, energy and money on our physical appearance, or is wanting to look our best simply an extension of the biblical concept that our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit? We asked Nick Schwarz, the LCANZ’s Assistant to the Bishop for Public Theology, for his thoughts.

How do you feel about your looks? How do you feel when you look at yourself in a mirror? Is there something about your face or body that you wish was more attractive?

Is your level of concern with your looks about right, or are you overly concerned or not concerned enough? Would others agree with your self-assessment?

Most of us do care about our looks. Here are five reasons why:

  • We care about our looks because others judge us by our looks, and we judge them by theirs. We believe that our acceptability, lovableness, and self-worth are determined by how physically attractive we are to others.
  • We are social and relational beings that reproduce sexually. Our sex hormones intensify our desire to be attractive, especially during our teenage and young adult years when our body chemistry is readying us to look for a mate.
  • Some parents and teachers, believing that children need frequent affirmation to build and maintain their self-esteem, condition them to expect praise, to be frequently told how special, wonderful and extraordinary they are.
  • Being good-looking has benefits. Good-looking people are judged more favourably and treated better than others because virtually everyone assumes – without evidence – that good looks go with positive traits such as friendliness, honesty and competency.
  • Contemporary popular culture idolises physical attractiveness and youthfulness. Advertisers, celebrities, social media influencers, and the beauty, fashion, fitness, and wellness industries set impossibly high beauty standards. They convince us that the better looking we are, the happier and more successful we will be! Most of us respond to the pressure to measure up because our peers are trying to measure up too.


The dark side of our social/relational nature and concern for our looks is our instinctive urge to compare ourselves with others, and the types of feelings such comparisons produce in us, such as pride, superiority, jealousy, anxiety, despondency and inferiority.

And the dark side of beauty-worshipping culture is that people who will never look like movie stars, models or sporting heroes – no matter how hard they try and how much they spend – can feel like ‘nobodies’, unworthy of others’ attention and affection.

Because of extreme concern with looks, body negativity and body anxiety are at epidemic levels, especially among young people, and girls in particular. Individuals with particularly negative or distorted self-perception may be diagnosed with serious – even life-threatening – mental health conditions, such as eating disorders, body-image disorders and obsessive desire for cosmetic surgery, and require specialist mental health assistance. Having loved ones affected by these conditions can be extremely distressing for families.

The following behaviours have been found to be very harmful to the mental health of teens and young adults:

  • using smartphones to take photographs of themselves (‘selfies’) in which they present themselves as attractively as possible and their lives as happy and successful;
  • using photo-editing software or ‘beauty apps’ to enhance their appearance in their selfies;
  • posting their enhanced selfies to their social media accounts for others to view and ‘like’; and
  • monitoring their social media accounts and the accounts of peers with whom they are competing in the hope that their carefully crafted images compare favourably.

Incidentally, body negativity in girls can also be attributed to the effects of pornography. Boys and men exposed to porn are more likely to treat girls in ways that make them feel frightened and unhappy about their emerging womanhood.

Porn also can influence girls to think they should look and behave like porn stars, which makes it more likely that men and boys will demean them and hurt them by treating them like sex objects. Porn harms everyone!

Whether we use artificial means to enhance our appearance, such as make-up, photo-editing software, anabolic steroids and cosmetic surgery, or more natural means, such as a healthy diet and regular exercise, we will be prone to anxiety if we believe that we will only be accepted and loved if we are good-looking and stay that way.


Advocates of ‘body positivity’ are pushing back against the culture of unattainable bodily perfection and body shaming. They encourage us to ‘love, embrace and celebrate’ our bodies regardless of shape or size.

Among the most extreme members of the body positivity movement are advocates of ‘fat pride’, who claim fatness is central to their identity and say fatness should be celebrated. Unsurprisingly, many overweight people are sceptical; the downsides of being overweight are all too apparent. Fat pride sounds to them like a futile exercise in self-deception.

By contrast, advocates of ‘body acceptance’ say we should spend less time worrying about the way our bodies look and more time being grateful for what they can do.

Another form of pushback is rebellion. When teens and young adults aren’t part of a good-looking ‘in-group’, they often seek friendship and acceptance in groups that rebel against society’s ideals of masculine and feminine beauty, such as Emos, Goths and punks. The trend in recent years of identifying as ‘trans’ or ‘non-binary’ can also be seen in part as a rejection of contemporary feminine and masculine ideals.


Perhaps you’ve tried to console or encourage someone who was anxious or depressed about their looks in ways like these:

  • Appealing to reason by pointing to the disciplines of probability and statistics to show them that under an attractiveness bell curve, only a very small percentage of the population can be beautiful or very beautiful; most of us will be average-looking. Better to come to terms with being ordinary than wasting our lives stressing because we aren’t extraordinary!
  • Pointing to genetics and saying that because genes largely determine outward appearance, the small proportion of people who are ‘naturally beautiful’ should rightly feel lucky – not proud – and give credit to their parents!
  • Warning that beauty has downsides, e.g. the risk of being viewed by lustful admirers as a challenge to conquer or a trophy (to be discarded when the novelty wears off); the risk of being resented by peers of one’s age and sex; and the personal disaster that occurs when one values one’s beauty too highly and loses it with age or through disfiguring illness or accident.
  • Distinguishing between outer and inner beauty and quoting popular wisdom like ‘All that glitters is not gold’ and ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover!’ to remind friends and other loved ones not to place too much importance on outward appearance, and adding that outer beauty fades with time, but inner loveliness can increase.
  • Saying that beauty is subjective rather than objective: ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’.
  • Drawing attention to their other gifts or talents.

So much for common worldly responses to people who are anxious about their looks.

What wisdom do Christians have to offer?


The key question for us is, where does our self-esteem – our sense of self-worth – come from?

Christians’ self-image and sense of self-worth are based on something much more substantial than our looks. It is based on our knowledge that God knows us (see for example Psalm 139:1,2) and loves us. He loves us so much that, in his human form, he gave his life for us so that we might live in eternity with him (John 3:16).

How our outward appearance measures up against the beauty ideals of people in our cultural moment is of little consequence to our loving Father and Jesus our brother and Saviour. For our God, the state of our hearts is much more important than our outward appearance (1 Samuel 16:7).

Yet God also made our bodies and wants us to care well for them and to treat them with respect and modesty (1 Corinthians 6:19,20). But we aren’t to value them too highly or to flaunt our looks to tease, arouse or use others in self-serving ways. If we do these things, our looks become a distraction, a stumbling block, an idol that leads us and others into sin (Matthew 6:21;25–34).

God’s word speaks to us not just about our own looks but about our attitudes to others’ looks as well. We aren’t to covet others’ looks (Exodus 20:17), put others down because of their looks, or make rash or unfair assumptions about others based on their looks (James 4:11,12; 1 Peter 2:1).

The evil one is at work in our culture trying to shape us and use us in ways that turn us against God and his way for us (Ephesians 6:10–12) and which pit us against each other. Let us be alert to the presence of the evil one and wary of his influence, especially when he tells us that we aren’t good-looking enough or that others aren’t good-looking enough to be loved.

Lord, fill us with the assurance of your unconditional love. Help us remember that other people are made in your image and loved by you too.

Nick Schwarz is the LCANZ’s Assistant to the Bishop for Public Theology.

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by Bethanie Mann

When I think of the concept of ‘body image’, I think of the questions, ‘How do I look?’ and ‘What do others see when they look at me?’

I find the biggest influences on our understanding of body image come from various streams of media and the people around us. I’m working as a sales assistant in a clothing retail store, and daily engaging with both men and women about their bodies and their criticisms of their own image. This deeply upsets me, yet how much more would God’s heart ache to hear these things?

This has led me to fear that in today’s society, there is an underlying expectation to impress each other with a certain body shape, owning the trendiest brands, or layering ourselves with expensive items. This is driven by the idea that by complying with these expectations, you can increase your level of beauty and add to your value. However, I have found that these expectations do the opposite.

I didn’t realise how much I cared about other people’s opinions, until one day at school I overheard someone ask, ‘Who’s that fat girl?’ And the response came, ‘That’s Bethanie’. ‘Is that all I am?’, I thought to myself.

I had never previously cared about how I looked and was comfortable with being called weird, even taking it as a compliment. But fat? ‘Is that all my worth comes down to?’, I asked myself.

This stewed inside me until I ended up losing 20 kilograms in 20 weeks. The method I chose though was by no means a healthy way to lose weight. Yet, I still did not value myself or like the way I looked – even though I seemed to have more friends and got the boys’ attention.

I also soon discovered that a friendship or relationship built on seeking other people’s approval is built on sand. When the storms hit, my so-called friends disappeared.

This led me to engage in comfort eating, and I found myself back at square one with no friends and loathing myself even more than I first did. When I looked in the mirror, all I could hear was a little voice that echoed, ‘Who’s that fat girl?’

I have since matured in my faith, grown from experiences and learnt to find my worth in Christ. But I would not, however, suggest that appearances do not matter. Rather, how we present ourselves is a reflection of what is on the inside.

Paul writes in his first letter to the Corinthians chapter six, ‘Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own, you were bought at a price’.

While we may stare at the mirror, highlighting the things we do not like about ourselves and how impossible it is to attain society’s expectations in the realm of body image, we should ask ourselves instead, ‘How does God see me?’ After all, is his opinion not the only one that matters? God created us and he does not make mistakes! We are made in God’s image, we are his ‘very good’ creation, his ‘handiwork, created in Christ Jesus’ (Ephesians 2:10).

However, what about the items we wear on the outside? The style and brand of clothes, hair, make-up, jewellery, tattoos. Do we use these things to ensure we are honouring God? Peter does warn against wearing lots of expensive clothing and jewellery, as beauty comes from within (1 Peter 3:3,4).

Yet this doesn’t mean we can’t have these things. Rather, we must examine whether they honour God. A wedding ring, for example, though it may be expensive, brings glory to God through his gift of marriage and the vow made between a husband and wife.

I have two tattoos, which give me an opportunity to share the gospel when I’m asked about them. One depicts a cross, and the other is a sunrise/sunset as a representation of Lamentations 3:22,23 – ‘Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.’

So, do looks really matter? Firstly, God is more concerned with what is on the inside rather than outward appearance (1 Samuel 16:7). And I think the more important question is, ‘Do we reflect Christ?’ We can also ask ourselves, ‘Are our bodies reflecting God’s image for others to see?’ As we live in a world of sin, this image will always be distorted yet, with the help of the Holy Spirit, perhaps we can treat our bodies as God would like us to.

My encouragement is to consider the fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22,23) as a way we can honour our bodies and give glory to God. We can show love and joy towards ourselves and others no matter what our or their outward appearance. We can be at peace with the body God has given us and show kindness towards our body in how we care for it.

We can show goodness and gentleness as we consider the planet and the clothes we wear; show self-control through the types of food and drink we consume, or the amount of clothes we own.

No matter what shape we may be, or what we wear on our bodies, Paul encourages us in his letter to the Romans, ‘I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship’ (12:1). Therefore, let us worship God with our bodies, giving all the glory to him.

Bethanie Mann serves as Child, Youth and Family Worker at The Ark Salisbury Lutheran Church in Adelaide’s north-east. A former trainee at Tandara Lutheran Camp at Halls Gap in Victoria, she graduated from Australian Lutheran College with a Bachelor of Ministry in 2023. Along with working jobs in retail and hospitality, she is also a director of the Lower Murray South East Christian Life Week in South Australia.

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by Anne Hansen

We usually define God’s grace as ‘undeserved favour’. Grace cannot be earned, bought or attained by our actions. It is purely and simply a free gift God gives us through the sacrificial suffering and death of his beloved Son Jesus on the cross.

But it doesn’t end with our Saviour on the cross. He rose again from death and ascended to glory, also bringing that same glory and the joy of the assurance of heaven to us. We can be assured of God’s grace and the relationship he built with us through it.


To help individuals, congregations, and school and aged-care communities share God’s gift of grace, a free downloadable and printable Lenten devotional entitled ‘Understanding Grace – God’s riches at Christ’s expense’ has been prepared by Lutheran Tract Mission.

The Lenten season begins with Ash Wednesday on 14 February and goes to Easter Sunday on 31 March. There are 40 days in the season – not counting the seven Sundays that are excluded – but the devotional covers them all with 47 short devotions, Bible readings and prayers. Each day there is a different quote about grace. The Bible readings speak of the undeserved love God has for each of us. We are led through Jesus’ life and ultimately to the cross where we can then celebrate his resurrection and God’s ultimate gift.

Download the Understanding Grace devotional at


Lutheran Tract Mission has many resources for you to strengthen and encourage you to see yourself as God does. Browse through our website and find what you need for your personal growth and ministry:

Please share stories with me of how tracts have spoken and reached you and others in your community! Give others new ideas as to how to use tracts in sharing God’s love!

Anne Hansen is Lutheran Tract Mission Development Officer.

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Since 2017, LCA International Mission has produced an annual prayer guide and devotional resource for the season of Lent.

By using this guide, we hope members of the LCANZ will join our church’s mission partners, as together we meditate on God’s word and pray for his global mission.

The ‘40 Days – a Lent Devotional and Prayer guide’ for 2024 carries the theme of ‘40 days with the Storyteller’.

We pray that readers will deepen their understanding of Jesus’ words by meditating on devotions written by LCA International Mission partners.

Each devotion is written by LCA International Mission partners from Australia, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Madagascar, Myanmar, Philippines, Germany, the US, Japan and Burundi.

Readers are also invited to pray for the extension of God’s kingdom, with the help of prayer prompts.

You can download and print the ‘40 Days – a Lent Devotional and Prayer guide’ from the LCA International Mission website at 

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Since 1886, more than 1000 people have been called and served as missionaries of the Lutheran church in Australia in other parts of the world.

Most of these overseas missionaries served in Papua New Guinea in the 1950s, 60s and 70s. In the years since many of the returned missionaries have met for annual reunions.

In February and March, there will be reunions for people based in South Australia and Queensland who have served in this way. The reunions are opportunities to renew friendships and relive experiences with people who shared them and understand the impact they had on their lives.

The 2024 reunion in South Australia will be held at Tanunda Lutheran Home in the Barossa Valley on Sunday 10 March, while the Queensland gathering will be held at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church at Toowoomba, on Saturday 24 February.

LCANZ’s International Mission Department has begun recognising, collecting and preserving the fascinating stories of those people who have served as our missionaries. You can find their stories presented in a timeline format at

If you would like more information or if you are one of these missionaries, or one of their children or friends, and would like to add to the story collection, please contact Erin Kerber at LCA International Mission by email at or phone 0447 354 122.

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