Joyfully Praying for You…

How do you pray? Do you pray out of a sense of grudging duty? Do you pray out of a sense of need. Do you pray out of a sense of seriousness and sternness. Or do you perhaps pray, as the Apostle Paul told the Philippians he prays out of a attitude of joy?

How can we not joyfully pray, when we know, we are talking to the God who listens? How can we not joyfully pray, when we are talking to the lover of our souls. How can we not joyfully pray, when we know….

There have been times in my life, when I have not joyfully prayed. There have been times in my life when I have prayed out of a deep, bottomless, dark pressure chamber of joylessness and hopelessness. My prayers had not one micro ounce of joy – and instead were filled with desperation, a desperation stemming out of of tremendous heartache and pain.

There was a time when I was in this dark, bottomless pressure chamber of joylessness. I stood in the doorway of my room and beat my chest. I asked the Lord to restore my joy. I asked him to fill me with the joy of the Lord once again. I have only realized this morning, that yesterday was the 7th year celebration or commemoration of the day I collapsed on the farm – an event which was to begin the journey of darkness and the isolating sense of abandonment.

And this is the rub. Joylessness comes about when we feel God has abandoned us. When we feel he has forsaken us. Grief, pain and heart ache can be so personally intense – that no matter who is around us – we can feel utterly devastated and abandoned.  And Jesus knew this feeling of abandonment – during his own trial and tribulation on the cross – in the midst of his pain, heartache and grief – he cried out, “Why, Why, have you abandoned me?”

On the 16th of October 2007, I was in my bedroom reading one of the passages in Peter, which said, for now you go through various trials and tribulations for the refining of and proving the genuineness of your faith. At that time, it felt like the tangible presence of God filled my room and I was crying on my bed – having a deep sense that something was about to happen. The next day at work, as I lay on the ground, high fever and paralyzed on the right side – that passage of Scripture echoed in my mind.

What a stark difference of experience I had the other night on the 16th of October 2014. I was kneeling at the couch. Praying to my Lord and savior. And one of our dogs came up and gave me a sniff and a cuddle. It looked like he was praying as he came beside me, and put his paws on the couch. I told him to sit, and get down. Which he did – only for him to come and lay across the back of my legs as I continued trying to pray. And I lost it. I started to laugh. Laughter came out of the deep recesses of my inner being. Every fiber of my body started to laugh. And I ended up sitting on the floor, laughing, while holding my dog for a few short minutes.

In reflecting on my experiences I know without a doubt, that Jesus took onto himself the abandonment, grief, heartache and pain that I had suffered, and that his cries were the intercessory cries for myself and not just for myself, for all of humanity. And I can’t help but reflect – in the same way, that God was looking down on my dog and I the other night and was laughing with us.

One major difference between God and myself.

I receive a regular email from a minister who ministers in the city, where many of the residents suffer from mental illness.  In the email he shared how someone came up to him and shared the following joke.

“Hey” rev, he was asked. “Whats the difference between God and me?” “God never imagines he is me!” he continued with the answer.

At first I laughed about this joke. Thinking of the times I had placed myself above God through my own actions, thoughts and words. While it wasn’t deliberate, in a subconscious way I had elevated myself above God and imagined I was God. Then I started to reflect more on the answer. And I came to the conclusion that God has indeed imagined himself to be me. And he has imagined himself to be you. And our families. And our neighbors. And he imagined himself to be everyone in the world.

He imagined the fullness of the destructiveness of our sinfulness. And he did this way before the creation of the world. And imagination that knew, the world needed Christ. An imagination so intense – one that was saturated in perfect love. One that was so left or right field – no one in their right mind (human that is) would have dared to imagine this for themselves. He planned from the beginning his son to be the answer. He planned Jesus to be God made flesh. The same flesh and blood that you, I and all of humanity share in.

God didn’t have to imagine what it was like to be you and me. He knew what it was like to be you and me. He experienced what it was like to be you and me. And so he knows what it is like to be you and me. And humanity did the unimaginable- they took God’s word made flesh, whipped him, tortured him and executed him on a cross. And towards the end of his life; he took a deep breathe and said, “Father, forgive them for what they have done, they have no idea what they are doing!”

The good news is, that God knew exactly what he was doing. He already knew what humanity was going to do to Jesus. And so he planned for his son to take the full brunt of our sin, onto himself. But, he didn’t finish there. His plans were to raise Jesus from the dead three days later. Because, death could not hold him.

Death could not hold him because he was and is the author of life. And in him, we have the promise of life. Abundant life. A life that we could never imagine. And we can receive this life – because God, dared to imagine, what it would be like, to be one of us.

Did the Bear Grylls thing tonight.

We have had a real cold snap. which took place after a few weeks of warm to hot weather.  Actually it was more of a hurricane that whacked Sydney last night. So I had to cut some wood and light the fire tonight. I couldn’t find the matches and so I raided my camping kit for my flint, knife and cotton wool. Cotton wool makes the best tinder to catch the spark. Some people use a bit of Vaseline on theirs to make it burn longer- but, I have never bothered with it.

What To Make of End Times, Apocalyptic Doom, Doomsday Prepping.

I have been watching a few television series lately called Doomsday Preppers, The Colony and some other apocalyptic type shows. They all have a theme of preparing for and or surviving an apocalyptic disaster of some kind. Those disasters could be anything from a national disaster such as hurricane, viral outbreak, nuclear disaster, civil war, solar flare causing the electricity grid to go down, major fuel shortages and many others.

For the most part, I think these guys are nuts. Most of the shows are American based – and most of the prepping activity has been based around the storage of large numbers of guns, ammunition and preparing for self defense when society breaks down. As well as long term storage of food and water.

But, they do make some sense also – for instance, if a solar flare was to take place and shut down the electricity grid, chaos could easily reign. Generally speaking, we wouldn’t be able to access any banking facilities to get our cash. We wouldn’t be able to purchase fuel, water and grocery supplies and chaos could easily take place. The recent outbreak of Ebola in Africa, and the fear that it can easily sweep through our own nations is a very real possibility. During the medieval era, the Black Plague decimated between 30% – 60% of the population in Europe.

In Australia, recently the government issued a high alert for terrorism. My wife and I were amazed when we went to the supermarket that evening and found they were out of a lot of stock. The check out staff told us it had been nuts all day. Researchers say that if something happened to the supply chain, most supermarkets would be out of stock within three days.

So I did some digging around on the internet and researched government sites. I looked at FEMA which is a U.S.A government site, and our own Federal and State governments for Australia. though it took some looking, I was surprised to find that indeed those governments, encourage civilians to store as a bare minimum, 3 days supply of food, water, medications and the equipment to cook and prepare in case of an emergency situation. In Australia some of the government sites encouraged people to have a minimum of a 14 day supply.

In many ways, it would appear that some form of prepping isn’t the nutty idea that I initially thought it was. From a Christian perspective, I have no qualms about the philosophy of being prepared for an emergency / national disaster. The Bible has many stories of people and nations preparing for national disaster. Indeed here in Australia, an old Estonian Christian told me the story of their church receiving a prophetic word about a long term drought coming; and a large number of them, who owned chicken farms, stocked up on large supplies of bagged wheat and barley to feed his chickens. They took the word so seriously, that the old farmer I was talking too, filled his spare bedrooms, and back room with bagged wheat. And he told me that the big drought did hit, and they had bird seed to get them through the drought for the few years it lasted.

However, the issue of national emergency / national disaster has raised some deeper ethical questions about the Christian ethic and lifestyle. While we may prepare – what are we to do about those who don’t? Three days. Fourteen days. Three months of supplies for each member of the family will quickly be diminished for every person you help who isn’t prepared.

From my own research- it appears that there is very little Christian thought gone into the subject. As a bare minimum, I would suggest that you prepare to be hospitable towards others.

My Heart Breaks about Racism?

T.C Robinson calls for our preachers to preach against racism, in his latest post called, In Your Pulpits, Where are all the Sermons against Racism?.

One of my favorite themes in Scripture is “In Christ, there is no racial, social, gender or age distinction” – all are equally sinful, all are equally forgiven – are adopted as sons through his blood. There is no hierarchy of believers based on nationality, social class, gender or age.  It’s my belief that if any believer practices and or preaches a form of segregation or racism within the church – they drink judgement on themselves whenever they take communion. When the early church partook in communion, slaves would sit down at the table and eat with their masters as equals. The poor would sit down with the rich and eat together as equals. Women, children and men, would sit and eat together as equals, celebrating the goodness of Christ.

I meet regularly with a group of diverse men where we sit around a fire, have a meal together and discuss life and faith together. We have a mix of guys who have a Indigenous, Indian, Fijian, Middle East and European background, all of us come from different social class experiences. But together as fellowship around the fire – deeper friendships are made and we make time for each other during the week. The church we fellowship with, likewise is a multicultural church, which practices communion on a weekly basis. (note – the men’s group and the church we fellowship with, are two distinct ministries and not related to each other.) 

T.C says, , I continue to hear from the pulpit sermons against this sin and that sin, in our society.  But you do not preach against racial discrimination and racial injustice toward blacks and other minorities.

Personally I don’t like preaching against sin. I don’t think its productive. I don’t think its Godly. Instead, I prefer to preach about Christ, who is the forgiver of our sins. I prefer to preach about what it means to be Kingdom people. What does it mean when all become equal and accepted in Christ. And while preaching about Christ – I expect the Holy Spirit who is extremely effective in his work of convincing and comforting – will do his work of pointing us to Christ, convincing us of our sin, and comforting us through changing our hearts and minds with the truth of what the Gospel means for us. Lets celebrate the communion of Christ. Let all nations, gender, social class and ages break bread and drink the cup together, proclaiming Christ – for this is what communion celebrates. Lets proclaim Christ, not only in mere words – lets proclaim him through truth and love in action – because if we don’t – it very well could be that we drink and eat judgement on ourselves.

Dave wants to know our thoughts!

Dave Black asks for our thoughts on gay marriage. 

  • Traditionally the church has never been involved in the marrying business. It amazes me that so many who are anti Popish rules from Rome – don’t know that it was in the 15th century when the pope decreed for a marriage to be valid, the priest had to perform the ceremony. Till then, if people wanted to be blessed by a priest, they stood at the bottom of the church steps and the priest would bless the couple. Luther, during the reformation, forbade his priests from marrying anyone, saying it was a personal decision between the couple, state and God..insisting it had nothing to do with the church. Fast forward to the 17th century in London. There was mass corruption in the docks, where prisoners had conjugal rights. and prostitution was rampant. The authorities decreed that for a marriage to be valid, a priest had to witness it.
  • I cant find any record of any priest in the OT performing a marriage ceremony.
  • I can’t find any record of any apostle or church leader in the NT performing a marriage ceremony.
  • It appears to me through reading Scripture and early church history, that marriage was very similar to what we call a defacto relationship in our modern era.
  • I can’t find any precedent in the NT where the early church tried to change state laws and make rules for society – instead, its my own understanding that the church was to teach its people how to live within the framework of societal rule.
  • You cannot legislate salvation and Kingdom living.
  • You cannot legislate morality.
  • Seems to me that the church in all its protesting and trying to make societal rules and laws – have lost the power of what it means to be Kingdom people.
  • Polygamy was reasonable common and legal in the NT era. Yet the Apostle Paul, said he would only ordain elders if they had one wife. He never told the church to kick out those who had multiple wives from the church.
  • I would treat any homosexual couple who wanted to learn more about Jesus and give their lives to him, in the same way I would any other person doing so.
  • I would be happy to have them come to my church – but, I would not ordain them to eldership.
  • I once took a gay man through grief counselling when his partner of 28 years had died. – His pain was real. His loss was real. His tears and heart ache was real. We need to remember we are talking about real people, with real feelings, real emotions and real heartache.
  • It seems to me that when the NT lists a heap of sins, its normally to ensure that we all know we have no right to judge another for their sin, as we have our own to deal with.
  • I have learnt that sexuality is not black and white – for instance, I know of people who were born with both genitals or boys who had micro penis’s Often the medical establishment would snip the little penis off, and make the boy into a girl. Sometimes they got it right – often they got it wrong. Here is the rub – the church would be happy to see that boy made a girl (legally) be married to another boy…. when in fact they are endorsing same sex marriage.
  • Do I believe practicing homosexuality is a sin – yes I do. But, then again, I also believe that God isn’t into a whole heap of other relationships when heterosexual people get married. Just because someone utters some words and some vows are made – doesn’t mean God is blessing that relationship.. Don’t believe me.. read the book of Ezra chapters 9 and 10.

I think the church would be more fruitful and effective if it went out and ate with sinners. Seems to me those Jesus spoke the most harsh about, were those who criticized him the most for eating, drinking and doing life with sinners. And its within those ongoing relationships – just perhaps the Spirit of God may move powerfully bringing many to repentance – because, they saw the love of Christ in action.

Thought for the day.

If the  Devil is  liar, thief, murderer and outright nassicist psychotic lunatic – why do we continue to believe the world is under his control; just because he says it is?


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