There is no shame in Christ.

Joanne and I were discussing the other day an issue that we have seen in family members, friends, and others we know who have a aboriginal background. In particular we were thinking of and praying for those who are christian. And the issue is that of pain and more deeply, that of shame.

Our discussion centered around the cross. The work that Jesus did in reconciling all who believe to him. But, not only to him; but also reconciling to each other. In his letter to the Galatians, Paul bluntly says, there is no Nationality, Gender, or Social Class distinction in Christ Jesus. Everyone is equal. Everyone is welcomed. Everyone is loved. Every one is accepted. Everyone is gifted. Everyone is forgiven. All of you are ONE body in me.

This morning I was reading through the book of Ephesians. My intention was to look at the prayers in there. But, as I read long, my mind kept going back to our conversation of the other day. And I thought about deleting the words “Jews” and “Gentiles”and replacing them with “Aboriginees” and “Whites,” or if your from the U.S, or other country insert “Negro” and “White” or “Black”and “White.”

Without wanting to stretch the comparison too far, the letter to the Ephesians has a similar racial background to that which is common in our modern era. Back then, the Jews thought they were superior because they, and they only worshiped the only true God. They were God’s people. They, and only they were acceptable to God. And every one else was excluded.

However, the book of Ephesians addresses this kind of racial prejudice and pride – and knocks it completely on its head. Imagine the shock on the Jewish readers when Paul says to the Gentiles: ” 2:14 For Christ himself, had brought “peace” to us. He united “Blacks” and “Whites” into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of HOSTILITY that separated us….He made peace between “Black and White” by creating in himself one new people from the two groups. Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God, by means of his death on the cross – and our hostility towards one another was put to death.

While the whites got a slap down; the blacks were elevated from  their “apparent”shame – AND now, we all have a glorious position of equality.

This morning I pray the same prayer that Paul wrote to the Ephesians. “May God truly give us all, a measure of wisdom, revelation, and understanding, so that we may walk in peace with God and each other, and that together, we will truly know the depths, the heights, the width, and the riches of God’s grace and love for us all – Praise you mighty God, who is able to accomplish more than we might ask, or think. Amen. “

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Reflection on the past – pastoral caring for the community. Part 2

Last week I wrote an article of reflection on pastoral care of the community. I shared with a friend who was inspired by it, that I would write a series of posts on that ministry, and how it touched peoples lives. Though this story is true, I am deliberately changing the names of the people concerned and the work setting of some of the people in this story.

I have a friend who is a natural evangelist. He is able to strike up conversations about God with friends and strangers with ease. He has the gift to be able to communicate the need for Jesus in a few conversations; a gift that I have been in awe of. However, he had a mutual friend, who when ever he would mention God, Jesus, etc, would fire up, and say, “Stop talking about it to me; if you don’t, I am going to walk out!”

I had made some flyers and posters up about the suicide awareness and prevention network we were setting up, and was approaching businesses for permission to put the posters on their notice board. The friend of my mate worked at one of these businesses and not only gave me permission to post them up; but, quietly confided in me that they needed to get involved in this, as her own partner had taken his life, while she was pregnant.

I was stunned at the revelation. It was dark secret of false guilt and shame that she had been carrying for many years. And I told her that we would be glad to help her out, any way we could. During the course of events, we worked alongside some key people from Life Line; who ran a support group for those bereaved by suicide. And she joined that group.

Fast forward to the end of 2007, I had been in hospital for a few months from a debilitating sickness. And I attended a local community event. She was there, she came over to me, and gave me a huge bear hug, and said to me:

“Craig, thank you for what you did. I have done the Alpha Course, I have become a                     Christian, and I am getting baptized next week. I can’t tell you the lightness that                     is in my heart, and how much of the burden and the darkness of those horrible                         days have gone.”

Our communities are full of people carrying hurt, shame, pain, anger, and confusion. Jesus sent his disciples out to heal the sick. He is calling us to do likewise today – to go into our communities, scratch the itch where they are itching. To bring healing to the areas of life that need healing – so like the leper who was healed, and came back to worship Jesus, our communities can do the same.

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Reflection on the past. Pastoral caring for our community.

Around late 2006 – early 2007 I was involved in setting up a suicide awareness and prevention network with local churches across the Wollondilly Shire.

We held a series of public sessions about suicide prevention and awareness, as well as holding two memorial services to remember the lives of those lost to suicide. We held one service at Warragamba Anglican Church and the other was at Picton Community hall.

At the end of the service at Picton, I was talking to a lady and asked her how she found the service, and if it was too much for her. She looked at me, took my coffee from my hands. Placed hers and mine on the bench, and then tightly gripped my wrists with her hands, looked me in the eyes and said;

“Craig, 12 years ago our son took his life. Our family had been heavily involved with a church since our kids were born. The Sunday after our son took his life, the preacher stood up and spoke about how all who take their lives are going to hell. My husband stood up, took my and our daughter by the hand and walked out of the church. The church blackbanned us for being back slidden, and no one pastorally cared for us. Craig…I have always believed in Jesus, and that Jesus loves us, has forgiven us. My husband and I have often spoken about going back to church…but the pain, of being rejected has been too much.

She continued…looking me in my eyes, tightly gripping my wrists, her nails biting into them. “Craig, you have brought me tremendous hope, a measure of joy, and a whole lot of peace – in knowing that the church does care…that God’s people do care. And that now, my husband and I can truly find a church that cares. Thank you!”

I walked out of that hall that afternoon, reflecting on that encounter, looked up to the heavens and prayed “Lord, even if this whole thing was just for that one person; it was worth it!”

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To date night, or not to date night…finding what works best for you.

Tim Challis has written an article for married couples stating that you don’t need a date night.

I agree with him that its good, its proper, and healthy to enjoy each others company in the ordinary of every day life. My wife and I enjoy our company, sitting watching a movie at home, washing up, gardening etc.

But, its worth noting I am the king of dag. I am a bit of a homebody. I am happy to stay at home. Trust me, I still wear jeans around the house that are 10 years old. I have tee shirts that are the same age. While I wouldn’t go as far as saying I am unkempt; I rarely get a hair cut…I had a hair cut last week; and was remarking to the barber that it got away from me a little, as I had planned to get it cut in Sept. I have a beard, a goatee. It suits my face much better than a full beard, or no beard. But, again, I don’t shave every day…sometimes I can go a week without shaving. And I can go months without trimming my beard. In fact, a couple of months ago my wife asked me to come for a pedicure with her… and I loved it, sitting in the massage chair for an hour, having the dry skin peeled off my feet, my legs massaged, my ingrown nails finally dealt with, and the dry flaky fungal nails buffed up to a point where I could say my feet looked good. We went for another one last week, and being Christmas time, when the staff joked about painting my nails, I called their bluff and had them paint my big toe nails dark green. ( And before the neo nazis start up…its only a bit of paint, it washes off, and it was a lot of fun, and I am very happy with my masculinity, and I have to say, it looks heaps better than fungal yellow.)

There is something inherently romantic  about having a date night or day.
And my wife and I  make time for a date night, or day. We discard the grungy every day clothes. I will have a shave and trim the beard…my wife will put on a little makeup – and we will dress up a little sharper then we would normally around the house. And I have to say, that when my wife dresses up, she looks hot. ( Don’t misread what I am saying here, I love my wife dearly, and she looks pretty no matter what she is wearing) When we walk out together we stand a little taller. We hold each others hand or arm, and my body language says to the world, back off, this is my woman. 

For us, going on a date night or lunch, means we don’t have to prepare a meal, nor do we have to wash up. It’s a break from the normal routine of life. I deliberately leave my phone at home…I don’t want to be distracted by emails, calls and face book. It’s a deliberate time and a deliberate action to make time with my wife – time where the routine needs of home can often interfere. And so to Tim, I say, “Yes, we do need a date night!”

I think for Tim Challis, its more of a personality, and love language issue about them being happy to stay at home…and it works for them. But for us… going out on a date night, going away on a holiday and exploring our world is all part of having fun together and exploring life together…and it works for us. In fact, I know it enhances our marriage, and together we appreciate each other more in the ordinary routine of life.


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Questions or Doubt?

There is a difference between questioning and doubting. My God why, is a question that Jesus eventually asked. From this article I read, it seems the AB was more asking questions…even if rhetorical about where were you God.

In the midst of his questioning, he rose up to the occasion in the same way the author of psalm 103 did in reminding himself of the things of God. Jesus in asking why of God, was no doubt referring to psalm 22 of which he also reminded himself that God didn’t abandon him, and that God was for him.

1/3 of the Scriptures is lamenting. Venting. Grieving. Questioning. God is not against that. For out of those ashes, we find true faith raising.

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Hitch hikers and sharing faith.

I picked up a Bangladesh hitch hiker on the Northern Road yesterday. He had been standing there for a few hours, and admitted to me, he had been praying for someone to pick him up. He was making his way to Rockdale, which is near Sydney, and some distance away, and I dropped him off at St Mary’s train station. He had been doing security work for a film shoot on a large farm, and hadn’t realized that it was in the middle of no where.

Turns out he was Moslem, and we had a great chat about faith. He was visibly shaken and impacted when I told him that Christians don’t worship 3 Gods; but instead, believe that all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory, and that God himself, came in the flesh as a human and took upon himself, the sacrifice for our sins.

But, being God, death could not hold him, and he was resurrected on the third day. And like him, we believe that a time will come, where we will all face God for judgement. But, unlike him, we know that none of our good works counteracts our sin…but, God accepts us – not because of what we have done…but, accepts us because of what he has done…

And I believe that is good news indeed. Don’t you?

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God’s Squad

This is a worthwhile read. 
God’s Squad

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