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Give to Caesar’ and give to God what is theirs.

I was watching the Bible Stories on television tonight. Well, really I was playing a online game, whilst having an ear open for what was being shown. The story was told where Jesus was asked if they should pay taxes to the Romans. Jesus in turn asked them to bring him a coin, and asked them, whose inscription was engraved on the coin. They said “Ceasar, is engraved on it.!” And So Jesus replied (My paraphrase), give to Ceasar what is owed him – and give to God what is owed him. 

It struck me like a ton of bricks falling down on my head, that under the Roman rule and tradition of Paxa Rome… where peace was established by force, Ceasar was considered to be God. Now the Jews knew, that he wasn’t God, and never worshipped him as such. They were the only conquered nation who didn’t have to pay tribute to Ceasar as such. 

What Jesus was saying in this passage was… Give to Ceasar his due..pay him his taxes, come under his rule. – But, give to God, your hearts. And just as Ceasar imprinted his head on the coin – God promises to engrave his name on your hearts. To renew your hearts.  

So not matter what circumstance of life you find yourself.. how about reflecting this season, on giving God your heart, and giving to the world, what it deserves. 

 

 

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Jesus as a pot stirrer

I found the above headline used as a search engine term which directed the inquirer to my blog. I’m not sure if it says something about me (It’s true, I am well known for being a pot stirrer.) Or if it says something about my theology of Jesus being a pot stirrer. (Which is also true.)

Anyways, it is one of the more unique search terms used to discover my blog. I’m kinda chuffed that it led to me. 

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I am kinda musing out loud here.

Micah is my favorite minor prophet book. Micah 6:8 is my favorite OT verse and its my belief that this is the verse on which the frame work of the OT law hangs together, and is the context for us to understand it.

He has told you, O man, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
    and to walk humbly with your God?

I was reading it this morning and I thought about Paul’s encouragement from 1 Corinthians 13″13 that these three things remain, faith, hope and love. That the greatest of these is love.

And hence the title of my little musing. I am thinking out loud if Paul has drawn his 3 points of faith, hope and love from the essence of Micah? Faith is walking humbly with God. Hope springs from justice and love is the very act of kindness. Anyway, here ends my musing for the day.

P.S. I want to shout out to Brother Dave. Keep writing. Keep sharing my friend. Your an awesome testimony of how someone can continue to encourage others in the midst of deep personal pain.

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Message of encouragement

I received an email from a friend, in which he shared some wonderful answers to prayer. In his concluding paragraph he said.

Thanks for praying so faithfully. Sometimes I get discouraged, lose faith, find myself fighting a losing battle. You too? We must always remember that as followers of Jesus Christ, we live in a world whose prince is still Satan. We’re like Green Berets who have been dropped into enemy territory. Let’s never forget that the One who gave us the Great Commission also promised, “And remember: I am with you, day after day after day, until the very end of the age.” We are never alone. And we are never powerless. We are promised supernatural strength to fight this battle. Praise Jesus!

I was truly encouraged by his words this morning. They spoke life into this tired frame. And with his permission I have re-posted it here so that perhaps if your tired and in need of some life giving nourishment, you too may be encouraged.

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What is wrong with the world?

Craig Benno:

Mark says it well.

Originally posted on The Parson's Patch:

Dan gets it right (as usual). The pastor’s job is not to join in the yelling and screaming but to shepherd and discern. Dan does this eloquently and with much wisdom.

Every day I have someone screaming at me via Facebook or twitter. Pastors yelling in anger. Sometimes it’s against World Vision and other times its directed at political leaders and the decisions they make. I find it troubling. Where is the grace, where is the love we accuse those we oppose of not having? I have long said that too many of us want to be Jesus. We want to change the world, we want to turn the tables in the temple when in fact the pastor is called to more like John the Baptist. It is our job to point people to Jesus (As Gruenwald’s picture reminds us).

Dan quotes Chesterton’s response to…

View original 40 more words

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Getting Past A Headline.

Excuse me while I climb up onto a soapbox. Ummph. Arghhh. Humppph! Gee its high up here. :) 

One of my pet peeves about the media, and within that framework, I include all forms of social media is how we accept lying so readily. Even within Christian circles, those for whom ‘Truthfulness’ is supposed to be a virtue; we are readily to speak, listen to or support a lie; while at the same time, arguing against the lies of those we are engaging against. 

In this context, I refer to the “Headline” in which prefaces our article, report, photo, status etc. It’s well known that a great headline or title can contribute towards the making or breaking of a post. Simply put, sensationalism sells. However, within a modern era where the Christian ethic is battling against the idea that truth is all relative – as people of the truth, I believe its time that we stand up for the truth and refuse to settle for anything else. 

Personally I find it hard to get past an articles headline; whether it be a blog post or a newspaper article. I don’t care if the article or report speaks of an important issue. I don’t care if it makes pertinent points that you wish me to engage with, or has information you want we to read – if the headline that is used, is an actual lie, or its premise is based on a lie. I rarely bother reading any further.

Granted perhaps some of my issue is a generational one. I was born in the mid 60;s. So I can fall into the generation of being a late Baby Boomer or a early Gen X. One of the distinctive markers between those two generations and Gen Y is that Baby Boomers like to discuss “Truth” and Gen X are not so concerned about discussing “Truth” but instead are more interested in getting on with the business of changing the world. Perhaps its this distinction which drives much of the media we feed on today. Sensationalism sells. It doesn’t matter what form of sensationalism we use, if it furthers our cause, then lets use it to our advantage. 

But, I find it interesting, that though we are happy to use a sensational headline to promote our cause – often the intention of the article is to inform or refute that which is purported by others. In other-words, we are the ones telling the truth and it is they who are lying. But I ask the questions, “Why are we so loose with the truth?” “Why is it, that we use, bend or distort the truth for our own purposes, while at the same time, willing to accuse another of lying?”

Lets call it what it is, “If its a lie, it is a lie! It’s dishonest! And if we tell a lie, then that makes us liars. In our battle to stand against a dishonest world, let us ensure that we don’t use the worlds methods to change it – instead, lets begin with our own inward and outward ethic of being rigorously honest. 

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Activism, civil disobedience and prayer.

The refugee issue in Australia is a bit of a hot potato at the moment. For many, it’s an emotionally charged issue; one that has much anger, innuendo, misinformation that is propagated from the many facets of this complex problem. Currently our nation has a little lower than 5000 detainees in a variety of detention centres onshore and offshore. The current government ran a successful  stop the boats campaign prior to the last election amidst a number of other policies and won the right to govern in an overwhelming way. Since then the government has implemented a ‘successful’ turn back the boats policy where very few boat arrivals have made it to our shores.

 

The intent of my post is not to examine the pro’s and con’s, the rights and wrongs of this policy and action. Rather my aim is to look at the issues of the people we have in detention. From a Christian perspective I believe that we need to treat all with dignity and respect. The Orthodox church has a great theology that is built upon the foundation that all are made in the image of God, and therefore, because all are the image bearers of God, all deserve to be treated with dignity and respect; not because the person in question deserves it – instead, it’s because we are made in the image of HIM who is worthy of all dignity and respect. The question of what constitutes treating someone with dignity and respect is a huge topic on its own in this discussion. There are millions of displaced people all around the world., most of them living in less than desirable circumstances; simply because  they are victims and in many cases perpetuators of not treating all with dignity and respect.

Our country is a signatory to the U.N Convention in which it agrees to care for those who seek its protection under international asylum law. Under this law we have a mandate to treat all who come to us for protection with dignity and respect. There is much circumstantial evidence that our governments may not be doing so to those they have placed under detention. My heart breaks for them. My soul yearns deeply towards God, and I pray that our government will treat them with dignity and respect and that they will have the wisdom of the Lord in making governmental policy.

It’s also important to note, that stopping refugee’s coming by boat has a complex set of reasons – a major one being that every arrival here by boat has been a victim or target of smugglers. Thousands of desperate people have been conned and lied to by these smugglers. There have been many cases, perhaps in the thousands, where smugglers have taken their monies beforehand, and told them to turn up to a non-existent boat, never to hear from the con artist again. Thousands of others have died in attempting to sail to Australia in unseaworthy vessels which have sunk. While the rest who do make it to our shores, or at least into the hands of our navy and customs personnel, discover that the smugglers had absolutely conned them with a pack of lies about the reception they would get here. The ABC 4 Corners Program, did an expose on the smugglers who are active in targeting people from their country of origin. Once again we are faced with an issue of treating people with dignity and respect. Part of this mandate is to protect the vulnerable; and therefore its right and proper to stamp out those who profit in a major way from the lies they tell to the vulnerable they prey on.

As such, I strongly believe that we need to keep our government accountable in the way it looks after those who come to us for protection. We need to ensure as a nation that indeed we do look after and treat well, all who come under our care. This belief stems out of my own personal faith as a Christian that indeed we are to treat all with dignity and respect. At the same time – as a Christian, I also believe in the mighty power of a living God. A God who revealed himself to us through Jesus Christ. A God who came to take away the sin of the world. A God who came to reconcile all to himself, A God who wants all to be in relationship with him, and personally know his mighty power to save and to transform lives and nations from the power of sin. This very God, has given us the encouragement, that our weapons of warfare are not based on the worlds way of fighting – instead, they have divine power to pull down strongholds. And the main two weapons he has given us are twofold. One is God himself, we access God to work on our behalf through prayer, intercession and petition. The other is ourselves – with the guidelines given to us through Scripture to allow the power of God to flow through our prayers.

It’s my firm belief that God answers prayer. I have seen God answer prayer in what can only be considered miraculous on many occasions. He gives us a great promise regarding prayer, that if we pray in secret and not make a public fuss about it for all to see, he will answer our prayers. Yet on the other hand, if we stand on the street corner for all to see us pray, we have already received our reward. God also calls us to honour all in authority, to obey the laws of the land. And so we see the twofold weapons of God coming together as one divine action as together – we partner with God.

Recently a group of passionate young men and women, some whom I personally know. And I make a note here to say that I admire them for their passion, their love, their zeal, and their care for the poor and displaced throughout the world. The work they do, the organisations they represent do tremendous work, faithful work and they do Godly work. It’s strongly evident that the power of God is working through them, over them and within them. However, passion, love, zeal, care and faith, needs wisdom to go with it.

Through their passion, zeal, love and faith, they planned and executed an activist action, which involved them arriving at the minister for immigrations office, sitting on the corner of the foyer and holding a prayer meeting. They politely told the staff what they were doing, and invited them to join in, which the staff declined. During the two hours they were there, they sang songs of worship, had a time of confession and lament, and then prayed for the refugees, staff and our government officials. I believe this went on for two hours, before they were asked to leave the premises – both by staff and then the police. Upon refusing to leave, the police arrested a number of them for trespassing. One of them was elected to be a spokesperson, who went outside to talk to the media.

I believe in activism. I have been involved in a lot of it myself. I believe in advocacy work, and likewise, have been involved in a fair bit of it myself. I have had the privilege of being on committees and working with local councils, state and federal politicians on a number of issues. In fact, I was in year 8 high school when I first got involved with activist work, which involved going around our neighbourhood, getting a petition signed to get another bus on the bus run, to pick up and drop students off – and I must say, a successful campaign it was also. Other successes involved  in getting the state government to provide our local country town with an extra police car and the establishment of a suicide prevention and awareness campaign across our shire and a number of other more significant ones which I won’t go into here for now.

However, as a Christian, I strongly believe that prayer is what undergirds the success of all activism. It’s the dynamo power of walking in intimate relationship with the creator of all that is seen and unseen. What is done in private, achieves much of what is seen in public. The act of praying itself is nothing. The words and activity of prayer is nothing on its own. But, when prayer is the intimate dialogue with the creator, then it becomes precious, and through our intimacy with the Lord, our activism becomes empowered and God’s favour works through us, over us, in us and goes before us. Many heroes of the faith learnt this important lesson. One such man, George Muller  fed and cared for tens of thousands of orphans over many years, through the power of prayer. Not once did he ask the government or any other person for a handout.

I commend my friends passion and zeal for wanting to get the plight of the refugees in detention back into the public eyesight. I agree in petitioning governments and even to picket an office or organisation if need be. In the past, I have been involved in some myself. But, I have some serious concerns about the use of prayer being seen to be the actual activism. I have some concerns that there was an aim for the group to be arrested, that they had the intention of being arrested for civil disobedience – within the framework of it being a prayer meeting. I have concerns that the act of being seen to pray was a political action and in doing so, the power that comes from praying in intimate and private relationship with the living creator was lost. I have concerns when the people in question, use the headlines that “Group arrested after praying” giving the implication that they were arrested for praying – when instead, they didn’t have to be arrested – they could have quietly left when asked to, trusting that the Lord of Lord, the creator of all that is seen and unseen, had heard their prayers, and trustingly left them in his capable hands.

The world is broken through the effects of sin. The world is torn apart from the effects of sin. Sin affects us all. None of us are immune to its insidiousness. Even Christians, despite our passions and zeal, can likewise sin in our passions and zeal. I certainly know I have. Wisdom and grace is the key.

Despite my deep concerns that God was used for political purposes, that the ‘activity’ of prayer was meant to be seen as a political weapon – instead of the trusting reassurance, stemming from relationship that God would answer their prayers and that the honouring of the law within a reasonable requested context, meant that arrests were made – I do once again admire them for their passions and concern for the vulnerable in our society and in this case the plight of refugees in detention.

So to my praying friends I urge us, let us pray.

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God is not dead – nor is hope for the world.

God is not dead. Indeed far from it. The resurrection of Christ is the power of God incarnate. In and through Christ, we have the source of hope and love. In him and through him, we have relationship to the creator of all that is seen and unseen. 

Yet, the relationship is not one way, for, Christ sends us the gift of the father, which is the Holy Spirit who transforms and inspires us, renewing us and granting us new hope, fresh hope and powerful hope. 

And its this hope which transforms our relationships with each other. It’s this hope which free’s us from the grip of poverty of relationship with each other. Free’s us from the poverty of addiction. Frees us into the liberty to be all Christ has us to be.

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God is a God who hears and answers our prayers.

I believe in prayer. Prayer is the means in which we communicate with God. As a Christian, I believe that God answers our prayers and indeed, my experience of being a Christian since 1997 is that indeed, God answers our prayers. I was the proverbial wild child. Wine, women and song was my catch cry. My life was somewhat out of control at the age of 17 and this lifestyle continued till I was 30, where at that time, I was to meet the Lord in very real and powerful circumstances. My mother was and still is a woman of prayer. When I was 17, she was sharing with a group at a Catholic Charismatic retreat about her wild son, and a man called Bill said to her, “Pat, every time I have a shower for your son, I am going to pray for him.” Mum would see this man once or twice a year at a conference or retreat, where he would always make a point of asking her how I was doing, and reassuring her that he was praying for me. Sometime after my conversion and I heard this story, I knocked on that mans door, thanked him and gave him a hug. 

In my early years of Christianity, I devoured every book I could get my hands on. I was encouraged by the faithfulness of George Muller, who fed and looked after thousands of orphans, without once asking anyone except God to fund and provide for their care. I was amazed at the faithfulness of God working through Reece Howell Intercessor, a man who was among many who was powerfully used in the Welsh Revival. His work among the poor, homeless etc in his era was commendable. Another man called Praying Hyde, who was a intercessor / missionary in India, also saw countless answers in prayer in many miraculous ways. There are just a few of many who spurred my imagination and faith on in regards to prayer. 

I also read a lot of stuff that wasn’t so helpful. The basic premise of this teaching was that prayer is a method of gaining personal advancement. It was a method of twisting God’s arm to do what we want, and not what he wants. In many ways, the name it and claim it brigade became tantamount to witch craft. A number of years ago I counselled and mentored a young man who was caught up in that teaching, who was frustrated in his relationships and walk with the Lord. He wanted a wife, and would see a nice girl, and state in prayer, “Lord I claim her to be my wife…” Not surprisingly, it never worked out well for him. I took him aside and showed him a better way, explaining that his prayers were presumption and not wise and God honoring. God never calls us to bend another’s will to our own. It’s why Scriptures are filled with the principals of praying for wisdom from above. Seeking God for his will and not our own. Showing us to pray for others to be filled with wisdom and that the love of God be made manifest in their hearts. My friend took on board my counsel, and is now happily married, to the right woman. Instead of claiming a wife, he started to pray that he would become the husband that God wanted him to become. Instead of praying and claiming a particular person to be his wife – he started praying for who ever God had in mind for him to be his wife, to be blessed, filled with wisdom and love so they could become the couple God wanted them to be.

Sometimes our zeal for prayer can be distorted through right intentions, with a distorted foundation of self righteousness. There was a time when I was distressed at a local witch, and every time I would drive past her house, I would pray that the Lord would remove her. Never once did I pray that the Lord would deliver her from the powers of darkness. I never prayed that she would be filled with the knowledge of God’s love. Nor did I ever actually build relationship with her to share the good news of the gospel and the hope of Jesus. And after a few years of regular prayer, she died. Her family approached the church I was fellowshiping at to arrange her funeral. At the time I was gripped with a sense of self righteous satisfaction. However the Lord was soon to convict me of my own sin in this matter. He showed me a story of two of his own disciples, who asked him if they should call down fire on a town which rejected them and their message. Simply put, he never told them that they were gooses for doing such a thing…rather he rebuked them saying that they didn’t know which spirit was causing their self righteous indignation – in other words, their prayers were inspired by the evil one and not by the Holy Spirit.  

The church I was involved with celebrated its 150th birthday. We decided to celebrate this 150 years of ministry by going to every business and office in town, telling them who we were, and that as part of this celebration, we wanted to pray for them. Some people told us to get on our bike and go. Others just turned away from us and walked away. Others though, were grateful for our presence and asked us to pray, sharing many personal and pertinent things to pray for. On one occasion the secretary went to her manager, telling him in a mocking way that there were some lunatics at the front desk wanting to pray for him and his business… to her surprise, he asked her to send us in. He looked at us with amazement, repeating a number of times, “You want to pray for me?”
He then told us that he had never really though much about God, but, had just spontaneously out of deep frustration looked up to the sky, thrown his hands in the air, saying, “If you are real, I could do with some help right now” as soon as those words had fallen from his lips, his secretary came to him saying we were there to pray for him…. A number of significant relationships were built up from that week of going trough our town.

Over the years I have had the privilege to pray for many throughout all levels of society. From laying hands on a politician at parliament house or in the middle of a dusty paddock with a grieving farmer, to sitting with a homeless person on the side street or shelter, another person battling with addictions or someone else across the eons of cyberspace having grieved deeply at hearing their story. No matter who we are, I have been impressed with the commonality for us all to be touched and effected by sin, death, and grief – and how our only hope for humanity is the knowledge of the love of God through Christ, the empowerment of the Holy Spirit and allowing his ways to work through, over and through us.

I pray today that our Lord will grant you wisdom for life, that you will be filled with the knowledge of his love for you and all the saints, and that you will know his immeasurable great power of the Holy Spirit working through, over and in us all.

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Unpacking – An Indigenous Call to Forgive.

This is the third post of our recent road trip, you can find the first here and the second one here.  

In my second article I wrote about Miliwanga Sandy who took the main Saturday night session. Another key note speaker during the conference was Billy Williams. Billy  is originally from the Kamilaroi people of North-western NSW. Billy is a pastor for dhiiyaan Northside Church and works with Jisas wantaim, an organisation that seeks to equip, empower and enable the emerging generation of Indigenous Christian leaders.

One of the main themes of their preaching / teaching during the conference was the need for the indigenous community to forgive the past. There is no doubt about it, that there has been a huge travesty of  justice and harsh treatment of the indigenous peoples in the past, treatment which continues even now. I was impressed in how despite their pain filled past – these leaders are calling their communities with the call to forgive.

They showed a short film of a number of aboriginal people saying they forgive. For some, it was an obvious healing and painful experience, watching tears roll down their eyes as they simply said two powerful words, “I forgive!”

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