During December a number of things caught me by surprise. A family issue saw me dropping things to take my son on a mini road trip through our Snowy Mountain regions. Lack of cash over the Christmas period got me thinking and praying about paid employment and the need to provide more for my family; and a opportunity came up to apply for the position of a paid community chaplain in a more affluent area – a position which kinda got me extremely excited about.
However, a few weeks later and 2 days into the new year, I have come to the understanding that under God, I am in the right area where he wants me to minister. I love this area and I love the people I have come to call friends in this area. Certainly it can be a rough area. My peaceful time of relaxation in my lounge room on New Years eve afternoon was shattered through the sounds of angry voices reverberating from the bus stop across the road. A couple were fighting and yelling at each other. She louder then he. It didn’t take long to see that alcohol was the culprit, and most likely compounded by a cocktail of drugs. So my wife and I quietly stood on our porch praying for God to reveal his love to them and cover them with a blanket of peace.
That afternoon I read a friends status on Face Book saying he was a bit low, so I went and visited him. His youngest daughter came out to us as we were chatting and placed a young puppy in my arms. I continued to pat this little bundle of joy, pulling on his little ears, playing with his chin as I listened to my mate share not only about his struggles of life; but also his plans for the new year to put his family first. Today I visited another friend, whom I gave a lift into town. He is a rough man. Some would call him violent; though he has shown me nothing but respect. I would hate to walk in his shoes. Many of his experiences stem from life choices. But many of them stem from many life experiences which he had no control over either.
What is remarkable about both these men is that they are men of faith. Granted their faith is showing forth like a small seedling emerging from the compost heap of life. There is need for much healing. There is need for much growth. And indeed they have grown heaps. 18 months ago when I first met them, they wouldn’t say anything at our men’s meetings. They wouldn’t share about the scriptures we were reading. They wouldn’t join in with prayer. But for what ever reason it was – mostly to do with unconditional love and acceptance of them, they continued to come. Now, they are men who are less reticent to talk about faith. They are more willing to pray with us and for us as a group. They are more willing to read the word of God in private.And one can see a change of hope and purpose in their lives.
These guys are but a representation of the people in this area I have come to love. And so the other night I shared with my other friend about God putting on my heart to up the ante a little bit more and start meeting more regularly as a church. This is something he is interested in also. I keep reminding myself that the people Jesus gathered around him to become his first church planters were a odd and rough bunch of people. They were not the elite of society. They were not that respected within society. And so, if that was good enough for Jesus to send this bunch of people he loved into the world to tell them about him… I am more than happy to rub shoulders with those the Holy Spirit has brought my way to make his name known in this area also.
As for the need for finances…God knows all we need and promises to provide all we need as we go about doing what he has called us to do. And so once again, instead of thinking of lack – my faith abounds and peace and hope is the result that indeed, God has it all under control. And indeed, when ever I look back over my life, he has never let me down – even if I didn’t recognize it at the time.
Becky Black is dying. There is no easy or polite way of saying this. I truly wish there was. She has been battling cancer for a number of years now and the Lord has shown he has heard the prayers of the faithful who have been praying for her in many tangible ways – but unless the Lord does a absolute miracle she will die. But, death for her is only a stepping stone in the journey of eternal life.
She has been writing her memoirs, and her husband Dave Black has been editing them and posting them on his blog that is not a blog. He recently posted up chapter 5 which like all the chapters have been a great read. Can I urge you my readers to pray that Becky will have the strength, wisdom and insight to continue and finish her memoirs before the Lord takes her home. Pray for Dave, their children, grand children and many adopted children in the lord. And if you feel led and have the gift of faith to do so, ask the Lord to do a miracle in extending Becky’s life here with health, strength and vitality.
Go and have a read here and be blessed and encouraged in doing so. I know I have been.
There has been a lot of talk within Christian circles and the blogosphere recently about depression and the many issues surrounding it. This morning I found a blog post I made in regards to Depression and the Fruit of the Spirit in July 2010 had a number of hits on it, so I thought I would re-post it here.
A few years ago it seemed that my life was going great. Then it suddenly imploded. I was struck down with sudden illness which required hospitalisation for 52 days and resulted in loss of mobility and memory. I required ongoing rehabilitation and care, and recovery was slow. I was also faced with an increasingly hostile and abusive family situation which ended with separation and divorce.
My sense of identity was shattered. My sense of manhood, worth as a human and my salvation was questioned. My church black banned me and I became deeply isolated, finding myself in a situation where I trusted few people, even myself.
I remember praying a prayer. “God, I have no Joy, can you restore my joy” And for a long time afterwards I lived a life of numbness. I was told by a few well intentioned souls that all I needed was faith and I would snap out of it. A few more offered other platitudes which offered no hope what so ever.
I found reading my Bible hard, and when I did I felt condemned, filled with guilt and shame for having failed as a husband, father, individual and Christian. Yet One day I found myself sitting on a chair near my bros garage. The sun was shining and I read about the fruit of the Spirit. I had a revelation that the fruit of the Spirit is Gods nature towards us and towards me. God is love to me. He is patient towards me. He is kind, gentle, joyful, merciful, peaceful, towards me, because He is those things.
The prayer I prayed was.
God, I receive your love, so that I can love myself.
God I receive your joy so that I can be joyful with myself.
God i receive your kindness so that I can be kind to myself
God I receive your gentleness so that I can be gentle with myself.
God I receive your mercy so that I can be merciful towards myself.
God I receive your patience so that I can be patient with myself …. I also added to the end of each sentence, that I could also be that with others.
What I learnt through this was to be kind to myself. To be merciful to myself. To be patient with myself. I learnt that it was ok for me to be who I was, where I was, at that moment in time. Through this process and the professional help of others I was able to move through this debilitative depressive stage.
Life has now moved on. I have married again. I am still suffering a disability to some extent. There are times when I still get depressed, though those times are fewer and the episodes are shorter.
But this I know, God loves me as I am, no matter what I’m going through or feeling. So I can love myself and others also. I also want to say to you the reader if you are going through a depressive time… that its ok. That you are ok. That its ok to be kind to yourself. To be patient with yourself. To be joyful with yourself. To be gentle and merciful to yourself. ….you get the drift and you can draw on the source of these gifts from our God who is the source of all comfort.
Any prophecy that misses the mark of Christ’s grace within the framework of the earth’s demise is bogus. Mind you, there are many bogus prophecies within a so called Christian context that still miss the grace of Christ within the framework of the earth’s demise.
Simply put Christianity is not about fearing and speculating about the worlds end. It’s all about the gift of forgiveness of sins. The gift of eternal life. The gift of new heavens and earth. And its all about being part of God’s recreation processes here in the now: for the earth and all of God’s creation.
I among most of the world have been heartbroken with the recent tragedy in America. For a family and community to lose one precious child is heartbreaking enough; but here in one fell swoop, we hear of a murderous rampage which took the lives of so many. Here in Australia our newspapers, radio and television have been full of the stories. The internet also is full of stories of the tragedy of this event. A horrendous tragedy that brought out the heroic best in many who would no normally consider themselves nor would we consider them to be heroes.
It was only a few days earlier that our Australian media carried the story of a young student who died of anaphylaxis at school. And once again our eyes and minds were filled with the tragedy of a young life lost. What I have found sad in our media is that no one has been reporting that someone went on a rampage on the 14th of December in a Chinese School with a knife. An activity that caused the badly wounding of 22 students and 1 adult. According to the CBC news this has been the latest of a series of periodic rampages in preschools and kindergartens in which people have been hurt.
I have a online friend who lives in Syria. There is a so called freedom fighters tank out the front of his house. He has to walk past it and the freedom fighters to go to school. He is in a catch 22. He is told by the rebels that he must fight for them, or they will kill him. The other side of the coin is the government troops who are fighting against these rebels, and if he joins them, he will likely be killed by them. I hadn’t heard from him for about 6 weeks, and I had thought the worst, and was pleasantly relieved when he made contact with me only a few days ago.
We have Australian troops in Afghanistan. It’s likely that some will be killed, or be injured over this Christmas period. The same could be said for our US and other allies who are fighting there and elsewhere also. But, its not only our troops who have the possibility of being injured and killed. Those they are fighting are also someone else’s child. And the stupid thing is that publically they state they are fighting for peace. I have ministered to homeless men who have fought in wars. Men haunted by what they saw and did in the Sudan. Kill or be killed by boy soldiers.
But the reality is that our peace cannot be brought about through death and destruction. I am 45 years of age. A man in my own right. But, my mother still believes that I am her son. And no matter how old I grow, I will always be her son. And around the world, sons and daughters. Grandsons and granddaughters. Brothers and sisters. Nephews and nieces. Cousins, uncles, aunties, parents, grandparents will face death and destruction in the name of peace. And the reality is that this peace is no kind of peace at all. For it just causes unbelievable heartache.
But, there was a child born. A child who was born just the same as many others today. And his name is Jesus. While he was born 2000 years ago, he is and was the most important baby born in the world. For he was and still is, Immanuel which means God is with us. The prince of peace. For God so loved the world, he loved his creation so much that he was heartbroken to see his creation stained by sin. His creation hopeless in the grip of sin. For the result of sin in the world was death. And there could be no greater sin then those who are made in the image of God going about killing others who also are made in the image of God.
So God humbled himself and came to earth as a mere child. And within his short time on earth he came to reconcile all of humanity to himself. And this child grew up to be a young man. A man who showed us the way God wanted us to live with each other. A man who showed us the way to walk humbly with God. But, while he lived with us as a man, he was God himself incarnate. And eventually he faced a brutal torturous death himself – where he faced execution on the cross. But death could no hold him, and 3 days later he raised to life. And from that moment on, forgiveness of sin, reconciliation with God and the gift of life, eternal life was proclaimed in his name.
In 9 days time, we celebrate Christmas. The origins of this celebration came about because of the Godchild. Jesus, Immanuel. The prince of peace was born. While for some there may be a dispute whether or not the 25th of December is the actual birthdate.. the issue is not about the date we celebrate – but just how are we going to respond to the message of life. The offer of forgiveness and reconciliation of all of humanity with the creator of the universe. And its this offer that can truly only bring about real lasting, eternal peace on earth, just as it is in heaven.
This morning I woke up with the praise of the lord in my heart and on my lips. Filled with Holy Spirit expectant hope and joy, I know today is a day of triumph, for my God has triumphed over all things and because he is for me, nothing else that is against me can compare to his glory and might…
In saying this, there are times when we go through awful trials and tribulations. We can be the recipients of bad news. It can seem that our lives are falling apart and that there is nothing we can do to prevent it. At times depression, sickness, fatigue, worry and anxiety can wear us down in the journey of life. At times it seems that God is far from us.
We often read in the Psalms, my God why have you forsaken me, hear me, listen to my prayers, come near to me. Often we cry out, or our hearts cry out, God, Why? Or God where are you in this? Within this pain wracked cry for mercy and hope, God does answer us.
He says to us: I will never leave you or forsake you. Because I am for you, there is nothing in comparison to my eternal goodness that can come against you. And as we meditate on this love – hope builds up in our hearts, a cry of hope comes forth from our lips. And out of the peace this brings – we can despite our circumstances, praise our Lord for all he is and has done for us.
Brian Fulthorp who writes an excellent blog at http://sunestauromai.wordpress.com/, has posted on the sacrament of pain. It’s well worth your time to wander over and have a read of it. I thought it worthwhile also repeating the comment I made here as well.
There are many levels of pain within the framework of human existence. There is the pain of failure, death, injury, sickness, rejection, loss and even life itself.
Much of society is geared to escaping, ignoring or sedating that pain.On a personal level: I don’t believe that God wants to keep us bound in that pain, rather wants to use that experience to show us more of his grace and mercy in moving through that pain.
And I speak as one who has experienced great pain.
Ultimately the sacrament of pain was completed on the cross. For he who endured the pain of the cross was set free from the pain of sin and death. And this too is our very great and precious promise.
The question about the resurrection of Christ has to be one of the most significant and important questions one can ever ask. Within the framework of intellectual honesty; it cannot be dismissed with glib answers.
The Apostle Paul said that ‘Christians should be the most pitied people in the world if the resurrection never took place. ‘ They got stoned. Burnt at the stake. Fed to lions. Beheaded. Torn apart. What was the point of it all if the resurrection never happened…why would you go through such things for a lie.
Such was the life of those who saw Christ crucified, dead, buried and 3 days later raised to life again. Many have tried to discount the resurrection. Many will dismiss it with rhetorical glibness. But – those who honestly look into the matter will find, that its not such an easy historical fact to dismiss and have to conclude… Something happened here which is beyond all reasoning.
The question I ask you today…what consequences does the resurrection have for you.
I recently preached on the subject of being an “Agent of hope in a pain filled world!” Be encouraged!
Have you encountered any Christian Grinches this year? You know the type who will try and say celebrating Christmas is the same as spitting in God’s eyes for celebrating a pagan festival or some other poor attempt at Biblical exegesis.
I have no problem in celebrating the birth of Christ on the 25th of December. No one I knows say he was actually born on this day. It is the day we celebrate “Emanuel” God is with us. What concerns me is that there is no recognition of the ways that church has redeemed culture / society through the changing of what once was celebrated to another emphasis.
Christmas is a time to celebrate. God sent his angels to tell some shepherds the good news. Some wise men travelled far distances to honour and celebrate the birth of Christ. And so Christmas is a great time for the church to engage with society; to engage with culture and tell the time honoured message… God has come to dwell with his people. God is for you and not against you.
Christmas is a season where we can refocus on God’s purpose for his people in coming to give all of humanity the offer of hope, joy, love, peace, patience, mercy in a time where there is little hope, joy, love, peace, patience, mercy and so to the Grinches of Christmas I say Bahhhh Humbug!