Don’t strain the gnats and lose your joy.

I remember reading a story about the infamous evangelist / teacher R.A Torry who was well known  for his sound Bible teaching. R.A was on holidays with his son, and they had spent a number of  weeks in a rural area, spending time together, walking, climbing, bird watching and in general enjoying a break.

His son, recounts the story where they visited a rural church and during what his son considered  a very poor sermon, and borderline suspicious in matters of doctrine – he watched his father scribble a number of notes in his pocket book. Thinking his father was going to take the minister to task as he greeted them out the door – he was instead surprised to see his father thank the minister for his sermon.

As they walked home, he spoke to his father about it. R.A Torry said, “It’s easy to be critical of  others. It’s easy to critique and find fault with what others are preaching.” He continued, But, its my experience that doing so, robs me of my own joy of walking with the Lord. I have made it a habit to dig deep for nuggets of gold in every sermon I hear – even when it appears some sermons are harder than others.”

It’s my personal experience there is much truth in this. It’s easy to develop a critical spirit. It’s easy to judge others through our own doctrinal lens. But in doing so do we lose our own intimacy with the Lord. Perhaps another way is for us to pray for those we disagree with, and ask the Lord to reveal his ways, and empower them to preach Christ as God would have them do…and in doing so, retain our  own intimacy with the Lord.

 

 

 

 

 

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Some rambling thoughts.

I should know better. I have a self appointed rule, where I don’t have coffee after 4pm in the afternoon. I broke that rule and had one around 8pm last night, and have been tossing and turning in bed ever since I got home from a church function. After losing the fight to get to sleep, I decided to get up and do some reflections.

There have been a couple of things that have been bubbling away in my heart the last few months. Things that started from a small inkling of an idea, to something that hasn’t quite been formulated and worked through but are bubbling away inside.

One of the things that has been bouncing around is the way that we can get caught up in the pressure of conformity and believe the rhetoric of the network where we have found some solace. There is a pressure to adhere and conform to its worldview. One example is within the arena of domestic abuse. I know of a few ladies who have been badly abused in the past. Horrible abuse. Terrible abuse. At least one become homeless because of her experience. They get taken in and cared for by a group, They are listened to. They are cared for. They are told indeed they are victims. (Which, often they are, and this needs to be validated.) But, then they are fed the lie that their is an epidemic of abuse, and its a one way streak. Those involved in helping in this arena, likewise believe the rhetoric, because they live and breathe day in and day out, people who have experienced abuse. Their experiential worldview becomes their normality of what is happening within society.

Another issue that has been bubbling away is how Christians or perhaps so called Christians can be taken in by a political belief system in the name of love and tolerance. For what ever reason, they talk about love, talk about tolerance, talk about oppression… and yet, somehow believe that killing a life is somehow holy. Something that we should not speak against.

I get it how a non Christian can think abortion is ok, I get it how someone who has no concept of sin, can believe abortion is ok. But, I cannot see how anyone who has tasted the goodness of God, can believe the lie that is promulgated that we don’t speak against abortion as true love will allow a woman to do with her body as she wishes. The problem is, a life that is now growing in the womb, is not the mothers body. Its a life, a life made in the image of God. A life carried in the womb of another person who is likewise made in the image of God.

How can anyone think that killing an unborn child, is an act of love. An act that is so high, so sacred, that society has no right to speak out against it. How can christians believe the lie of the devil, that that life isn’t scared?

Other thoughts have been bubbling within. Over the years I have had a lot to do with people who suffer mental illness in various forms. very rarely have I met a woman who has had an abortion who doesn’t have a mental health issue. Years ago, I was ministering at a healing service, and a lady came forward to be prayed for with breast cancer. We prayed with her, and it came to pass that she had had an abortion when she was 17. Fast forward to her mid 40s and she admitted, she had never forgiven herself for it. The inner had been eating away at her. She mentioned how she too had believed the lie that as a woman, she had the right to do with her body as she pleased. She tried to reason with herself that it wasn’t really a life, that it was the right thing to do at the time. – But in her own words, she admitted, she had to come face to face with the reality of her sin. That killing an unborn child was in fact a very selfish act. Through confession, and absolution (Christianity is about forgiveness of sin… to be forgiven, you do have to confess it first.) she found peace, and release for the first time in the 26 years since she had it.

Christians cannot call something holy when it isn’t. We cannot call any act godly, when its not. When we do, confusion sets in. A form of spiritual nuttiness takes root. But, its only when we align our thoughts, and our actions along side that of the Lord’s ways, we can truly experience the peace of God, the joy of God, the belonging to God, that is promised to us.

Anyways, these are some of my thoughts that have been bubbling away within for a bit of time now…

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A thought about unconditional love.

One of the oft repeated memes I see and hear, especially from the gals is they want to be loved unconditionally for who they are.

I don’t have a problem with this yearning. In fact I totally agree as its an integral part of our humanity.And indeed God does show his unconditional love towards us, by laying his life down for us.

Why is it we don’t apply this yearning to unborn children. Why is it we don’t want to unconditionally love them for who they are…and instead think of them as parasites to be fumigated from the human body.

Some thoughts to think about.

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Adventures in Prayer.

I become a Christian in 1997. Prior to that I was a drunkard and a gambler. (Among other things.) The truth behind my drinking was that I was very shy. And I was dreadfully afraid of girls – though I liked them heaps. Having a belly full of grog loosened my lips, threw of my shyness and I could become the life of a party… though falling into a vomiting mess at the end of the night. God in his sense of humor had prepared me some what, by having me take on roles that required public speaking and greeting people through a service club called ROTARACT… though I still used alcohol as the courage starter.

When I became a Christian I knew I wasn’t called to be a singer for my shower turns its self off. I hated the thought of public speaking. So I decided to throw myself into helping where ever I could, and to pray for whoever I could. The thought of preaching scared me so much, that when my pastor asked me to preach, I told him I couldn’t, and he said to me, to tell him when I was ready.

On the way to Bible College the next day, I felt the Lord question me as to why I was going to college. I said because you had called me to. In his gentleness he asked me again, and what had I called you to college for… to become a minister he said… So with cap in hand, I went to my pastor and told him of my encounter and said yes I will preach. God took away my fear to do so, and the very first sermon was at a Baptism service and the church was packed with heaps of visitors. But I ramble a bit, as I want to more so focus on prayer.

The church I went to had a practice where a time came for the congregation to pray in the service. The first time I prayed out loud, I had said to the Lord. God I have no idea of what to pray, but I sense you want me to, what do you want me to pray?

Suddenly I was filled with boldness and blurted out – “Father God, I ask that you restrain the hand of the person in this church who is suicidal, and fill them with the knowledge of your love and care for them!” Just as quickly as the boldness came to speak, it left me, and I left it at that. Some nine years later I was at a Bible Study where we were talking about a suicide awareness and prevention network I had set up in the local area, and someone mentioned that experience in the church. They told me, they had come to say goodbye to friends, and go home and take their life. They had just prayed Lord, show me how you love me, and I burst in on her prayers and prayed what I did. Needless to say that person was in a very much better place.

Since that experience in 1997 I have made it a practice to say Lord, I don’t know how to pray for this situation, or how to pray for this person, will you pray through me, and I often start to pray in a boldness and a way not of my own. Another prayer I prayed was that I would become an encourager. And I prayed this prayer daily for many years.

I can’t count the number of times the Lord has placed someone on my heart to pray for. And I often begin my prayers with “Lord, you know what they need, how should I pray for them.” And I pray for them as I feel led to pray.

I noticed that the Apostle Paul in his letters, not only told people that he was praying for them, he also wrote to them, telling them what he was praying for them. And I started with the practice of not only praying for people, but also writing my prayers down and giving them to them.

I have lost count the number of times people have said to me, “Craig, your email, your letter, your note came at the right time to encourage me, to lift me up, and to speak life into me. How did you know?”

The reality is its the Spirit of God praying through me. It’s 20 years since I became born again. I have come to recognize the Spirit of God prompts to pray for someone. His call to pray for the person in need. While I know this could be super spiro for some – the reality is it shouldn’t be. God is real. We are in a real relationship with the real God. And so its right and proper we recognise his promptings and directions in how we are to pray.

Perhaps your new to prayer. Perhaps your curious about prayer – but are unsure of how to pray. If so, I would like to encourage you to say to the Lord, “Help me to pray, show me how to pray for this person, or this situation.” And while I know you will be, because I always am – don’t be surprised at just how God answers that prayer.

Father God, I ask that you teach us to pray. Teach us to be a praying people. Praying in relationship with you. Bless those who are reading this devotional with a sense of calling and deeper longing to pray. In Jesus name I ask.

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When sloganeering doesn’t work.

I was involved in a discussion recently when someone jumped in and said: “Anyone who votes and supports Trump isn’t a Christian – end of discussion!”

I replied – “And you cannot be a Christian and support Abortion. Simple as that. Now what?”

He replied, “No but I can show love by not telling a woman what she can and can’t do with her body.”

And I replied, “I think I prefer to show love in how to treat everybody, including an unborn body… Now what!”

And he didn’t come back with an answer.

The truth is sloganeering and rhetorical insults don’t work. Working out your salvation in faith is fraught in danger when we make it all about a political alliance. Christians can align themselves to any political party their conscience allows and we should allow all to do so without throwing labels at each other. It’s not works that saves us. It’s always trusting in Jesus as to what he has done that does.

Certainly there is an expectation of good works to outwork from the lives of the believer. And if you look closely at the lives of most Christians, despite their political, and Biblical convictions – all do outwork a good ethic of behavior – within the framework of their convictions.

The Apostle Paul said to a bunch of hardheaded, dimwitted, Christians (who by the way were very similar to us bunch) that hey, if you have a disagreement of belief – if some of you eat meat, and some of you don’t, that hey, allow those who eat meat to do so to the glory of God, and those who don’t do so to the glory of God, and if anyone has a different point of view… keep seeking God who will give you wisdom and he is the one who will change your hearts and minds… in the meanwhile praise God.

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Understanding The Shack.

In 2007 a book called the “Shack” hit the bookshelves and virtually overnight it became a best seller. Amazingly no publisher would touch it, and so the authors self published and its a remarkable success story. The book become controversial throughout Christian circles. There were those who loved it. And then there were those who hated it.

I am one who actually liked the book. I liked the story. “What!” I can hear some of you gasp. “Don’t you know all the heresies that book contains?”

My answer to this is… “Hey dude, relax. The book is a novel. It’s not a theological treatise. It needs to be read in the same way the C.S Lewis Narnia series are read.”

When we read the Bible, its important to note the various genres of the Scriptures we are reading. For example, we don’t listen to a song on the radio and understand it literally. We allow the story its telling to impact our emotions – whether to cry or laugh. In the same way, we don’t read a parable as history. Or a lie as truth – (Though we rightly claim the Scripture is truth – we don’t insist the lies that various people told within its stories are truth. )

If we take the book of Job out of context of the greater faith and read it literally as the basis for our faith we find we are confronted with many heresies. The same can be said of the Psalms – if we read the Psalms literally – and not understand their metaphorical story and meaning we will become heretics. And of course the same can happen if we read the Parables of Jesus out of their contextual meaning.

When it comes to the Shack – we need to understand it within the context of the story that its telling… Which is all about a man who is suffering great emotional pain over the gruesome death of his daughter who finds himself confronted by God who comforts him in his pain.

The story of Job concludes with a man who has lost his children and finds comfort in God. Many friends have lost children. Have lost parents. Have lost a spouse. And have lost friends to death. None of us are immune. Yet for the Christian we gain great comfort, in the midst of heartache and pain knowing that there is a God who is for us, and not against us, and who somehow, does comfort us in the darkest bunker of pain – and within this context – the Shack continues to tell a great story.

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Not only the power to forgive; its the power to restore.

There is a tendency among Christians to think we have blown it: It could be we get into an argument. It may be that we don’t do what we said we would do. It could be that we fail our own, or others expectations and disillusionment sets in. It could be that we really sinned, or for some reason, we are condemned for an imaginary sin.

Often we take communion wondering if we really are forgiven and restored. There are two great stories of someone failing big time in the New Testament. They had been at the table during what is known as the last supper. He partook in the bread and the wine, which Jesus shared among them this is my body, this is my blood given for you.

One said he would never betray Jesus. But he did. The other had already planned to betray Jesus and he did. And Jesus knew that both Peter and Judas would betray him. He told Judas to go and do what he had to do. And he told Peter, before the night is over, you will betray me not just once… but three times.

Both men after they realized the ramifications of their betrayal grieved deeply. They were both racked by guilt and shame. One went back to his old ways and old trade and went fishing. The other, went and hung himself.

Jesus came to the shoreline after his resurrection and spoke to Peter and the others as they fished. He told them to throw the nets on the other side, which they did and caught a boat load of fish. They recognized it was Jesus.

Jesus spoke with Peter, Peter, and asked him three times, do you really love me. In many ways, this is a really bizarre question to ask someone who betrayed you. Look buster, you betrayed me three times in a row – do you really love me.

Each time Peter replied, yes, I do love you. And each time, Jesus told him to go and feed his sheep. To look after his flock. To go and care for his people.

I believe that if Judas hadn’t have hung himself, Jesus would have also reconciled Judas back to himself. Such is the power of his dealing and forgiveness of sin. BUT Judas allowed guilt and shame to destroy him from any chance of such reconciliation.

While the last supper points to the crucifixion, forgiveness, and the resurrection. This story of reconciliation of restoration of ministry and purpose of Peter is one that puts wheels on the story of forgiveness and calling in ministry. It shows the reality of the centrality of the Gospel message – in that Jesus came, lived, died and rose to life again, to forgive-and restore sinners.

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