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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Fred Phelps is dead – two ways to respond.

I heard tonight that Fred Phelps is dead. For those whom it hasn’t registered, Fred Phelps is the founder and pastor of Westboro Baptist Church. An organisation that I am rather loath to call church. It’s known for its rather legalistic and hatred ways towards others in its distortion of the Gospel message. However, despite my feelings to the contrary, I felt the Lord reminding me tonight that there were two examples of praying men given in a story by Jesus.

One man was a tax collector, the scourge of society. The other was a religious leader. The first man hung his head in shame, and said, “Lord, forgive me a sinner.” The second man, looked up to heaven and said, “I am glad I am not like this scum bag beside me, I am a man of good works, I am known to be a man of the law, yada yada yada…”  Jesus said the first guy was justified by God, where the second guy was self justified.

Oh the irony. It would be so easy to compare these two prayers with Fred Phelps. It doesn’t take much imagination to quickly point out which man in the scriptures he is represented by…but wait, is it so easy? In our finger pointing, which man are we now represented by? Lets not add evil to evil. Lets not be self righteous in our responses to his death. Rather, lets be saddened by his death, in the same we death should sadden us all. God didn’t originally create us to die – rather death became the result of sin. But, the gift of God is eternal life and the forgiveness of sin. May our response to his death be one of Christian love and charity.

It’s my prayer that his family and friends will know the comfort of the Lord in this time of grief. That the Lord will heal their wounds. Fill them with the knowledge of his love. And outwork through them with the power of love, transforming their hearts, bodies and minds.

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Unpacking – Surrender Conference.

This is the 2nd article about our recent road trip. Part 1 can be found here  I am calling the series “Unpacking” as unpacking refers to the time involved in unpacking the trailer and car, as well as the unpacking, or if you prefer, the debriefing experience of the trip. There were a number of purposes behind our going on the trip. My wife had organised holiday leave 6 months ago for this time, as we were planning to go to my bro’s wedding in the Philippines. Sadly we couldn’t go because of budgetary restraints, and we decided to go to the “Surrender Conference” instead. This year was my 2nd time in going, my wife’s 1st and was the 14th consecutive year the conference was run.

We left our friends place at Clarkefield and headed towards Melbourne which was 40 minutes away. Because we were running on a tight budget, we decided not to pay the $15 day pass for the tollways and instead take the freeways and normal roads instead. We came across a sign on the freeway saying the tollway was ahead and so we took a exit road which led us to a suburb just before Melbourne. It was an interesting experience dragging the camper trailer behind us, intermingling with the traffic and trams at the same time. Eventually we made it to Belgrave Heights 3 hours later, with the help of the navigation app on our phones. I’m sure the tollways would have made the trip much quicker; the reality was though, we were content to meander our way there, breathing deeply as we restrained ourselves in a slower rhythm of life.

Upon arrival, we set our trailer tent up, had a bite to eat, and then went and paid our registration. We had a pleasant surprise, as because we lobbed in on Friday afternoon, and not Thursday, our conference fees were much lower, and our combined cost was what we had planned to pay for one of us. The theme of the conference was “Ministering to our Indigenous People and those on the margins of our society.” I have to admit, I was tired. I didn’t have much energy to begin with and so my own plan for the conference was to again breathe deep, not get overly excited and think I have to take every talk, and participate in every session. The conference was set up with a communal tent village around a village square, where talks / workshops were held, and food and drink could be bought. Also, the conference had a main auditorium, with a number of stalls from a variety of Christian orgs promoting themselves, and their variety of services out in the lobby area, and inside they held a number of main rallies and speakers.

The workshops I was mainly interested in was to sit in the “Yarning Tent.” The “Yarning Tent” was a place where we could sit, and listen to our indigenous family share their life, faith, past, current experience and hope for the future. Some of the speakers were from New Zealand, and also shared their experience of life as a indigenous person. Stories of racism abounded. Some of our speakers came from a mixture of indigenous and Anglo Saxon cultures. They shared their pain of not fitting in. White culture often ostracized them for being black and indigenous culture shunned them because they looked white. I had to smile when I heard the term often repeated, “White man thought they brought God to this country (Australia) the reality is, God had already been part of this country for the past 40,000 years.”   It’s important to note that we are talking about “God the Creator” here and not the distinctive message of salvation through Christ Jesus. The indigenous story of creation has many ideas and similarities of thought in regards to creation and the existence of God, as does the Hebraic accounts in Genesis. Sadly, our aboriginal people in Australia were not considered to be proper peoples until the late 60′s, early 70′s in this nation – where every new born child was registered with a birth certificate under our “Flora and Fauna” act.

The conference was opened with a indigenous welcome to country ceremony. An elder from the tribal lands where the conference was held, welcomed us to his land. A number of dances were held, and then representations from other tribes thanked them for welcoming them. It was an interesting experience to understand the culture of honor and respect which was the foundation of this ceremony – and again, though different in format; it was no different to the ways our own councils, state and federal governments, and other groups which involve formal speeches to thank, and honor visitors in their midst. A common example that comes to mind is the wedding / funeral speeches, where visitors, friends and family are formally acknowledged and given a chance to respond.

Highlights.

The highlights of the conference in no particular order for myself were,

  • Spending time in worship and fellowship with my wife.
  • Spending Saturday afternoon chatting with a friend who came down from our area with others for the conference.
  • Having a young Kookaburra take food from my hand, which came to investigate us as we ate dinner Sat night.
  • Hearing the testimony / word of God by Miliwanga Sandy who shared how a pastor / missionary came to their tribal lands and shared with them about Jesus. Miliwanga was part of a translation team which translated the Bible into Creole, which is the general language which all aboriginals could speak. It took over 30 years for this translation work to be done. She was crying when she shared what it felt like to hold and read a copy of God’s word in her own language.
  • Touching base with people I had met from the last conference.
  • Meeting up with the team of people who came down for the conference from our own area here in Western Sydney. (Note, one of our team leaders, Jon Owen, was also a speaker at the conference.)
  • Meeting new people, finding out about different ministries, different orgs, different experiences.
  • Coming away with a refreshed sense of connection to God, connection with my wife, fresh renewed sense of calling and ministry purpose.
  • Heard many great and valuable testimonies on how to accept and to walk alongside others.
  • Heard a great sermon on how sections of the church can be represented as as the prodigal son and the older brother.

 

Low lights

Again, in no particular order

  • While we were in the auditorium a huge storm blew up, causing some of our tent awning frame to buckle and break.
  • Rain water got into and 1/2 filled our esky, spoiling a lot of fresh food.
  • Heard some fairly wishy washy theology and practices. One particular story which saddened me was about a minister who was asked to visit someone who had had a serious accident which paralyzed him. He befriended him and visited him often in an 18 month period. Not once during that time was faith and prayer explored. Forgive me as I climb onto my soap box here – I strongly believe that if we are invited into someones life to walk alongside them, then we need to explore how we bring / invite God into the experience. It is only God who can heal trauma, change lives. 
  • There was incidence which saddened me greatly. Not because of their involvement there, and nor the issue of their testimony of treatment by the church, in which they have been caused pain. The organisation in question is the LBGT org. What saddens me is that one of their spokespersons was continuing his message of wanting the church to totally accept his lifestyle, allow him to be part of the church, without the church speaking into his life. I ears dropped a little on his talk, and walked away from it saddened. It was no different to what I heard last year when I sat in on his discussion. Then I shared about if I was a church pastor, I could accept a GLT into the congregation if they professed Christ. But, as a pastor, I would want them to be subjected to the Scriptures teaching on fidelity in a committed relationship – in the same way it speaks to heterosexual relationships. He fired up at me then, saying that I was judging him on his promiscuous lifestyle, that he had a right to have sex with whom he wanted, when ever he wanted. And then said, I had no right to preach Christ crucified to him as he believed Christianity was all about making it what you wanted to make it. :(

    I have written extensively in the past about my beliefs about homosexuality and the church. Indeed the church needs to hang its head in shame how it has treated many who have same sex attraction. I have no problems with people who have same sex attraction. I also have no problems with those same people sitting beside me in church, worshiping the risen lord. But, I do have issues with anyone who wants to make Christianity into a free for all, for any beliefs and actions – for Christ, has not given us that option.

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Unpacking.

We have been away on a bit of a short road trip down through Victoria and back. Over all we traveled some 2300 kms, and at times experienced the 4 seasons in the one day. Late Wednesday afternoon saw my bride and I headed out of Sydney towards Goulburn, a 3 hour trip, which allowed us to get well and truly out of the urban environment where we stopped for the night. Leaving that morning, we headed towards a friends property in Clarkefield Victoria. a 700 kms or so trip away. I was actually excited to meet them, for we had become friends through Facebook some years before; and this was the first time we were to meet over a meal and chat face to face.

It’s no secret to those who know me, that I am a huge fan of social media. Some of my best friends became that way through face book and other online formats. And I get a huge buzz from meeting up with all who I interact with online. 

Along the way we stopped at Gundagai for a stretch, some pics of the Dog on the Tucker BoxIMG_4596 and a snack. Our next stop saw us at Holbrook, where we stopped for lunch and a stroll through the museum. Holbrook is an interesting town, its around 400kms as far as the crow flies from the ocean; but, it has a affiliation with submariners, and it has a real submarine in the middle of its town park. The museum was well worth the small cost to enter and walk through, with a small interactive display where you could peer through the periscope and zoom in the country side at a distance.

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We then settled into a hypnotic groove where we were soon over the border into Victoria and continued on our way with a couple of toilet and fuel stops along the way. We were running a little behind schedule, having said we would arrive at 6pm, and eventually arrived at 7:30 pm. We had become so used to communicating via Face Book, we hadn’t even swapped phone numbers, and so we stopped to check our bearings. send a quick message with our phone number, to receive a prompt call back a few seconds later. I was amazed that the bush / country side in Victoria is so close to Melbourne. Our friends farm was directly under the flight path for Melbourne airport ( a mere 25 mins drive away) and at one time it seemed the A380 Airbus was going to land on the driveway. What a huge beast that is. Upon arrival we quickly organised a BBQ, set up our camper trailer, was shown around and we drank numerous cups of tea.

One of my highlights of the trip, was to wander around the property with a rifle in the pursuit of a rabbit or two. I was raised in a hunting / farming family. My father and grandfather taught us to camp, fish and hunt at an early age. Dad was given his first rifle at the age of 7, where he was expected to bring home a rabbit for the pot. Eventually when I turned 7, my dad said to mum, “How blinken stupid was his old man for giving him a rifle at that age…” I had to wait till I was 14 to be given my first rifle, which was a air rifle.  However, the truth is that my dads experience was very common for people of his generation who lived a farming lifestyle. Unknown to me, my wife snapped a pic of me walking back to the homestead, keeping an hopeful eye out for a rabbit or two, which proved to be a lucky morning for the rabbits, and unlucky for me.  While I never took a shot, it was a soul soothing experience walking through the hills, watching the sun come up, and reconnecting with the land. IMG_4647 (2)Sadly though, our visit came to an end, we packed up our camper trailer and gear, and started to make our way from there towards Belgrave Heights where we were going to stop for a few nights for a conference which was all about walking alongside those on the margins of society, which I will blog about in my next post.

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A different perspective.

We all have a variety of methods of reading the Scriptures. Often we read the Scriptures and concentrate on the heroes of the faith. But, have you ever read the Scriptures through the eyes and ears of the unseen heroes? In fact, have you really noticed the unseen heroes in the Bible? The unseen heroes I speak of are those who were among the 5000 who were fed by Jesus. The family and friends of those Jesus healed. What about those in the crowd who laid palm branches in front of the colt Jesus rode, singing “Hosanna”? 

I wonder how often we reflect on the message that they were hearing? Do you think it would make a difference if we did? I wonder…….

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Is prayer your thing?

Scott from Storied Community has written a brief review on “A guide book to prayer, 24 ways to walk with God.” He writes, 

In this learning process, I’ve come to realize how my apathy towards prayer has lead to my antipathy regarding prayer. I have an aversion to prayer. It’s so boring and seemingly non-consequential. My mind wonders as time is wasted. In the end, all the talk about prayer was compounding my distaste for it.

 

 

He then says, 

And this in a world where I’d been taught the central place of prayer for life itself. Like many facets of the Christian life, prayer is a given in many discussions albeit an arduous road less traveled. Yet, my conversion to a life of prayer was borne out of life of actually praying. It wasn’t until I actually began praying in regular ways that I began to question how to pray, the efficacy of prayer, and the true central role it has for all of life. As I continue to learn and press through this antipathy – for it has never gone away completely – I find myself yearning for more of the God I encounter.

 

 

 

He makes a great point, are we a people who like to talk about prayer more then we like to pray? Are we honest about our prayer life? Is it stale and boring. I can honestly say that there are times when I have to say yes, my prayer life is. I think this book, will contribute to ones prayer life becoming inherently satisfying. 

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