Thursday, 19 December 2013

Internal dialogue


I’m cross, I feel hot and I think there may actually be steam coming out of my ears.  I’m an odd dragon, fire not from my mouth, but from my brain.

Fuming mad, cross.

Who cares what it is about?  They don’t. My fuming is not worth anything to them. I’m steaming mad and they just talk over me in their adult way.

I grit my teeth when they talk over me.  Quickly getting madder still. I want to calm down, I know that is right. They don’t hear me when they talk over me. I try breath. They think I’m huffing and get louder.

As they get louder, I move inside myself.  I am safe inside, they can’t touch me with their loud voices, and I grit my teeth and flick goes the switch, I turn off like my remote control car. No amount of control will move me.

I am off.  I was mad.  Now I am off.

Time may turn me on again, but still part of me will always be off, or ready to turn off. 

Listen to me and gently love me.  Don’t lecture me.

A Parent

Frustration pent up.  Why must they niggle, push, tease and enjoy it so much. It seems evil, the look of utter delight at another’s misery.

Fuming mad, cross.

Do they care about anyone but themselves?  It seems not. I’m livered, and they appear to be enjoying it. It cuts me deep, I’ve failed as a parent.

I grit my teeth and take a deep breath as I begin to reason with them.  I’m angry, I’ve given this speech so many times, the same script, as I speak it again. They begin with the selfish excuses, “he made me, if he didn’t - then I wouldn’t, it’s his fault.” He huffs, I get madder and louder.

I can see his eyes glazing over, he’s not even listening.  How do I get through to this child of mine.  What have I done wrong as a parent. He doesn’t listen to me.

I might as well be talking to myself. I hear the fight leave my voice, as it fades. I’m not beaten, I’m totally and deeply sad.

I just want to love him, not lecture him.



Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Injustice Reconciled

Ninja son read aloud to me a prayer from a book he was reading for home school. 

"God of Justice... We deplore man's inhumanity to man and beast. Without justice and fairness we are hopelessly lost. Help us, we pray, to deal justly in all things. In His name, Amen."

This hit a cord with me this week as on Sunday we heard the testimony of a family who is fighting, truly fighting for justice for a number of men, unable to fight for themselves.  Their testimony of following their conviction against injustice so fervently was a powerful one. 

God has given us all an abhorrence for injustice, we know this by watching young children who prioritise fairness. Maybe over the course of our 'maturing', we inadvertently become desensitised to injustice because it is all around, or all over the news.

To hear this families story and battle, was a powerful testimony of following Jesus.

There is so much injustice in the world.

How do we reconcile this?

Jesus, gift giver extraordinaire, our only Hope for reconciliation.
His birthday is coming up, well, the day we celebrate His birth. I wonder if for a moment we can quiet our hearts and fold up our 'to do' lists, and breath in the Hope of the gift.

Justice
Hope
Reconcile
Peace
Found

At a cost? Not to us. They say there are no free lunches, someone has to pay. Jesus didn't pay the bill for my lunch, he paid the bill for my life.

Sinful
Try-hard
Self-indulgent
Proud
Selfish
Hurtful
Ugly 

Even my efforts for goodness or righteousness are repulsive, filthy, staining discharge on rags, and honest representation of a heart and life.(Isa 64:6) 

The cost was high. Because the cause was high. Putrid life for Perfect life.

Christmas, the plan from the beginning is set in motion. Heavenly glory to earthly manger.  Amazing.
From heaven you came helpless babe.

December 25th is a celebration of hope, justice, reconciliation, peace. Lets put the tinsel aside and be found in Him this Christmas.

Follow Jesus.



Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Impressive Statistics

I am a total ignoramus as far as the Internet and technology goes. But in this case, I am pretty sure I can smell something phishy.  

I've had over 5000 page hits since I began this blog 2 years ago.  Impressive?  Not at all.  At a rough guess I would say well over half of those are phishing.

Google definition:
phishing
ˈfɪʃɪŋ/
noun
  1. 1.
    the fraudulent practice of sending emails purporting to be from reputable companies in order to induce individuals to reveal personal information, such as passwords and credit card numbers, online.


Phishing is also used to describe those who troll blogs, attempting to comment on posts with advertising material or links.  Hence why many people have comment moderation.  

Yesterdays Stats:


Pageviews today
71
Pageviews yesterday
2
Pageviews last month
292
Pageviews all time history
5,225

REALLY?

The stats say I had 71 page views yesterday, I assume, because I have posted twice. Some techy people will be able to explain this, I wonder if maybe my activity gives the 'phisher'men something to hook.  They can't comment when you moderate, but it doesn't stop them trolling, and inflating your stats.

This annoys me, this blog is my creative outlet and in a awkward kind of way, it's my ministry. I don't use stats to feel heard or to feel important, but I did get a huge shock when it all started to kick off, because I use stats to pray for all those folks who stopped by my blog ... the truth is, the phishing has put me off. 

I really don't want to pray for people whose referring URL's are advertising sites, online dating sites or worse. But ... just because what they do annoys me, doesn't mean I shouldn't pray for them. Matt 5:44.

We all need prayer.
We all need to pray.






Monday, 2 December 2013

Meeting the needs of the needy



Not so long ago I had quite a challenging conversation which I'm still processing at this point in time. I'm hoping that by writing it down I can start to solidify the fluidity in my thinking. I reckon that’s how we work things out in life. We explore, we process and then we conclude only to be challenged again before too long.
Then we explore, process and conclude again. I have come to so many “conclusions” that with the passage of time have had to be processed again. I guess this is how we wrestle with the big questions and issues of life.

Each week as we brave the grocery store, I give my boys a challenge. They have $5 to spend on non-perishable food to go into the Food Bin at the Grocery Store. I started this not from some righteous act, but in reaction to the animal food bin that always seemed to have so much more than the 'human' food bin when I went there. It really peeved me, so I decided to teach my boys about giving, but with a bit of maths in there too. Once we have our family groceries, they take $5 and go back into the store together and shop and go through the checkout by themselves. Typical home school mother - take one pet peeve and turn it into a lesson on life skills, maths and giving.

This is not a bad thing. In fact it's just the opposite. I trust the organisation that distributes the food from the food bin. The point of challenge for me is this; it is a very easy, sanitized way of 'helping' the poor. I don't have any relationship with the person or people I am helping. This is exactly the challenge presented to me. Is this the way Jesus helped the poor?

This challenge followed closely on an article - a sex trade survivor story I read the week before. These topics sound polls apart don’t they? What has the sex trade got to do with the hungry? The quote in the first paragraph of this four-part article hit me in the herbs. 

"For too long, too many have allowed or expected the government to do the work of the church. Others, doggedly chasing partisan positions, have ignored the poor, the hungry, the orphan, and the abused. Like the Pharisees we tithed from our herbs but left weightier matters undone: justice, mercy and faith (Matthew 23:23). (Marty Duren)"

The point I'm finally getting to is this. Giving the odd can of beans or soup is great and let’s keep doing that, but let’s not stop at that. We have been called to meet needs through means as diverse as counselling, budgeting, babysitting, phone calls, painting, paying of bills, fence building, furniture moving, baking, the list is endless. The big question is 'What are the needs?" and we can only answer this questions when we take the time to talk to those who have needs. It's a little more tricky today than it was in Jesus' day. Those with needs sat and begged at the temple gate. In western culture, having perfected the art of mask-wearing, we don't have many beggars in public view, so we can struggle to know the needs. We have to be a little more creative in how we ascertain what the needs are. 

Before having children I worked as a social worker in another city. I was working with those who were immersed in poverty and pain. It was not an easy job to say the least.  Now that I am a mother I have wanted to protect myself and my family from knowing this side of society in my local community. I have been very hesitant to get my hands dirty. Recently I have realise how wrong this thinking is. Self-protection of this kind isn't loving and it's not following Christ. 

Our family tithes because we have always been very committed to giving what we can. Tithing is a tricky issue, one that people aren't too keen to discuss. We all know it's impolite to discuss religion, politics or money so I'm clearly high on the Richter scale of rudeness here, although you’ll be pleased to know I'm not too interested in chatting about politics of any sort!!! Tithing of course is an Old Testament instruction where a person were to give a mandatory 10% whereas in the New Testament the emphasis is on giving from the heart, to meet needs in response to God’s great gift to us.

 "Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have." 2 Cor 8:11-12

 If you are not convinced, then I implore you to study it for yourself. Luke 21:1-4 is a good one for perspective. Are tithes and donations enough or should we be donning an apron and serving as well as giving. Money can do great things to support communities, but they don't build individual relationships. What builds relationships however is time. I wonder if the expending of time is the one thing that we are not very willing to be so generous about!!

I'm just thinking out loud here.  Do you ever wonder why Jesus didn't just speak the word and give the blind man his sight? Instead He spit in the dirt and made a muddy paste that got all over his hands and under his fingernails ... Jesus got his hands dirty, willingly.  You know, I don't ever recall reading a story in the Bible of Jesus giving anyone money. He did however feed many people by blessing the meal and breaking the bread as He served the people through His disciples. He was never a disinterested bystander but one so very willing to get involved in meeting the needs of the needy.

We are going to keep up our $5 challenge and the tithe in our family. I guess I'm just thinking 'what more can I do?' and 'why is it so hard to comprehend the real need?'




Friday 4 - way late

This needs no intro ...

Propaganda


Monday, 25 November 2013

When did the sacred become silly season?

What does Christmas mean to us?  Some love it, in all it's festive spirit. Some feel tired thinking about it. Some feel stressed by the debt it creates. Some are exhausted by the time the day begins. Some work their longest hours leading up to it. Some see gifts as tick off a long scrawled list.

Tinsel was up early November this year, the local Mall was looking very festive. Honestly I'm a little over Christmas before December has arrived. Maybe the hectic pace of Christmas is more a problem for the southern hemisphere. December means the end of the school and university year, work functions, sports do's, group break-ups ... and then ... Christmas.

What has become of Christmas?  Is this crazy pace and pressure anything remotely to do with the celebration of a sacred birth?

I sense a desire to slow down, breath, rest and regain the sacred. There are murmurings, our Christmas theology has been drowned out by blaring, tacky Christmas songs. It's hard to hear the Christ in Christmas when worldly wants and desires scream so loud we think, self. I want Christmas back. I want the celebration of Christ's birth, the grace gift, the best gift, the only gift.

Advent, the marking off the days, the tiny doors to chocolate countdown or the story?

The story of Christmas is the story of all time. Way back when time began, the angels were warming up for the song sung to Shepherds under the stars.  This is one event that was planned down to the very last detail. As God wished it, the birth of Jesus was.  The stable, the trough, the very young Mother and the long journey.

Planned, detailed, invited guests, and gifts... sounds a little like our kind of Christmas. Yet the vital difference was, worship. The stars invited the rich Magi, the Angels sang an invitation to the lowly shepherds, all worshipped Jesus. Jesus, baby once, King now.

Have we taken the time to think about what we do at Christmas and what it means?  Stockings, Santa, presents, cake, I don't necessarily think any of these are 'wrong', I just wonder if we do them because we always have, without thinking what they have to do with the birth of all time.

Do we base Christmas on traditions or thankfulness?
Is that what we want Christmas to be?
Does our Christmas reflect our theology, or have we been tempted into the worlds view of Christmas.

Maybe it is time to wipe the design clean and start from scratch...

Christmas according to what we believe.



Friday, 22 November 2013

Friday 3

I'll be very brief this Friday.

I'm big on, eating, sharing life and opening our home to others. So when I heard this quote, I wanted to share it. It's definitely my favourite quote this week, if not year!
"Our actual theology is best expressed in hospitality." Ann Voskamp

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Friday 2 (except it's actually Saturday)

Because it is Friday ... this is something I stumbled across this week, an intimacy experiment through art. Actually it probably wasn't really, but it was a jolly good idea that affected the few who were involved and maybe if we allow ourselves to think about it. I am not hugely touchy even with my friends, so my heart felt enjoyment of this concept really surprised me - it's called   Richard Renaldi's Touching Strangers you can enjoy more of Richards work here

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Revival


Have you ever prayed for revival?   When was the last time you heard revival prayed for in our bible studies, Sunday services, or our prayer gatherings? Maybe it’s only the Welsh with their delightfully lilting accents that God in His sovereignty has blessed with revival but somehow I don’t think so.

Thinking on this whole topic of revival got me searching for the truth in my own life.  Do I pray for revival? Not really. So why not? After a long time deliberating, I’m humbled to admit that I don't pray for revival because I don't know what it would look like and I like things how they are thank you very much.  There I said it!  I know it's selfish and I have confessed to my heavenly Father who initially gave me the revelation about the possibility of revival.

I wonder what revival would look like in our faith family. This is an exciting thought don't you think? Revival is about regeneration not discomfort or displacement, as I may have once feared in my mediocre religiosity. A while back I may have been concerned that I may not get to sit on the row of chairs I normally sit on! If revival happens, I may even have to arrive early to get a seat.  How terrible that would be!  

Tears fill my eyes at the many opportunities we have. The potential for loving our community is only a drop in the bucket compared to the opportunities we would have in a revival.  Bruce Milne in “Know the Truth” says “It is doubtful whether there has been any genuine revival in the church over the centuries which has not been preceded and accompanied by fervent personal and corporate prayer.” So I’ll say it again, have you ever prayed for revival?

I have been guilty of complacency and wallowing in the comfortable status quo. I fear I'm not alone in suffering from this debilitating dysfunction?  What got me starting to think about revival was thinking of how glorious heaven will be.  I’m excited about heaven, about what heaven may be like, what opportunities there will be to worship and praise our Father, adore our Saviour Jesus, and immerse ourselves in the Spirit.  We think earth is beautiful and it is, but this is only a fraction of what is to come. We are duped if we think our creative God has created this vibrant earth, but then created a dull and boring heaven! I’ll tell you something for nothing. Heaven will blow your mind, not for its splendour, even though it will be spectacular. It will blow our minds because Jesus will be there, Father God will be there, the Holy Spirit will be there and we will be there. All God’s children together in this beautiful place of perfection constantly praising our Almighty God.  Will my friends, family and community be there?  That question really bothers me.  

Imagine with me for a moment, rush hour traffic in the morning. Cars lined up bumper to bumper, everyone heading in one direction. People getting out of their cars and walking the closer you get to the destination everyone is heading for. A whole host of different modes of transport, just to get to … not to a rugby game. Not this time. … to get to church. Wouldn't that be a sight!?! We all have opinions as to what the problems with our communities are. I’ll let you in on a secret. It’s not the pubs, nightclubs, brothels, TAB or even legislation that is the main problem.  The problem seems to be our apathy toward those who don't know Jesus yet in our community.  If we prayed for revival and it came, would we even have cause for concern about the state of our community?

Join me on our knees (creaking as we get down and creaking more as we get back up again) as we together pray for revival.  Do we want our usual warm pews week after week or do we want to share eternity with those around us?  Let’s pray for the latter.


Friday, 18 October 2013

Friday 1

Because it's Friday ... here is my favourite thing this week.

Sermon: Grace: The Gifts of the Spirit

Scripture:1 Corinthians 12:1-11 


Speaker:Daryl Bay


Date: 13 October 2013.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Laundry Life Lessons


We all know inspiration comes in many forms.  Laundry, the ordinary old washing, has reduced me to tears, and made me laugh at myself. Taking time to be moved by the ordinary is a gift.

I wear hoodies, I know, I'm nearly 40 and it's probably a little sad. I'm not trying to appear younger than I am, I've tired to move over to the more age appropriate cardy's. I do wear cardy's every now and then, but 99% of the time I wear hoodies, I just like them.  In years passed I have proven they are somewhat dangerous to wear when your very young children leave you sleep deprived and absent minded. Over the course of 2007 I washed 3 mobile phones in my hoody pouch pockets, a lesson in checking pockets.

The other day I spent the day busy with life, jobs and things, taking myself ever so seriously. As the temperature rose, I pealed off the hoody layer; hold t-shirt down, get arms out, all off except over the head, which I have to work my way over my glasses because I'm too lazy to take them off, even though that would be way easier. Pull it off, only to find a sock balled up in the hood. I'd been wearing it all day, in public, even to the shops and visiting friends.  I could only laugh at myself.  That sneaky little sock stowed away in my hood, waiting to teach me to laugh at myself when I get too serious about life. A lesson I need often.

This other lesson, you will have all experienced, unless you are at the utmost quadrant of particular with your washing, I am not, I'm in the utmost quadrant of lazy with my washing. Having said that there is always one top you never wish to end up in a dodgy wash cycle.  You take great care that this top never goes in with a towel, a rogue rag or even a sneaky face cloth.  Yet it is always the top that ends up in the wash with the dreaded tissue.

We line dry where I live, the dryer is only for extreme weather conditions, so out I go this particular morning to hang out the load, which I have already noticed has succumbed to a dreaded tissue, I hang New Zealand merino's (small plug for NZ wool), little jeans, medium jeans and tall jeans, socks and shirts shaking as I go. There it is, the special black, anything and everything clings to top.  I shake, and shake and shake, and resign myself to hours of picking off bits of tissue when it is dry.  Then I notice the ground, the grass is covered in tiny white shreds, the contrast of white tissue on green is the closest I'll get to snow covering the ground in my back yard. It really is quite beautiful.

The beauty in the annoying, it's not devastating, it really is just annoying, but even in this, there is beauty. I'm not going to over work this, I'm sure you get the idea. Time to pull out my Gratitude Journal and record my thankfulness to the gifts of beauty.

Learning to laugh at your serious self. Finding beauty in the annoying.

That old saying the 'Lord works in mysterious ways', well if he works through laundry, then I'd say they nailed it with that saying.

The Lord works in the ordinary too, if only we pause long enough to see and hear.  Take time today, check your schedule and work in some time to ponder the mysteries God is teaching you through the ordinary.


Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Friendships Worth Gold

Our first holiday in a very long time happened this past weekend.  We piled into the car and drove with excitement and expectation and we were not disappointed. What an utter privilege it was to hang out with some of our dearest friends who live a winding road, 5 hours drive away.

Over the 4 nights we got to stay with 3 different families, it was a little whirlwind, but it was really nice.  The first friends we stayed with are so special to us. Growing up I was really close friends with the husband, James. I moved away, got married and when I moved back, we had our first wee baby boy and James was getting married to a girl we didn't really know at all. After another move for a few years, we returned and  I got to know his wife, and as much as I love James, his wife, Amanda, quickly became one of my closest friends.  For purely selfish reasons, I am so glad they got married.  They were our first stop this holiday, together we shared, coffee, stories, knowing looks, jokes, wine, the kitchen, coffee, shopping, conversations, sickness, more coffee and lots of love.  

I was doing the Beth Moore David study last term, one days homework was on the study on David and Jonathan's friendship. David nutted off at Jonathan at one point, questioning his loyalty, David was scared and pretty much took it out on Jonathan. Do you have someone in your life that can ask you the hard questions in love and you listen and respond without offence?  This got me thinking, David and Jonathan's relationship was spiritual, they were both devoted to God, and their friendship was based on a promise.  I remember one incident when I was freaking out spiritually, I called my dear friend Amanda and told her what was on my heart, and the challenging and confusing conversations I had with another friend. I ended up crying, Amanda got righteously angry, she challenged me, in love.  Some people understand you, really understand you, those kind of friends are priceless. I have had the pleasure of a deep spiritual friendship with Amanda for 7 years.

The next stop was with a long time friendship.  Tania and I have been friends for about 25 years.  Arh, we are old.  She is one of those friends you love, but you certainly keep alert.  She is very bright and has a memory like an elephant. Our history consist of her doing and saying the funniest, stupidist things, yet I can never remember them.  She on the other hand remembers ever single stupid thing I have ever said or done. Over more than 20 years, it's safe to say we have understood the pain of each others lives. We have seen each other change by our circumstances, in good ways and sad ways. The wonderful thing is our husbands love each other, they may not admit it, but they do, they would probably word it a little differently, but it boils down to man love. Tania and I pick up where we left off, we don't need to phone each other, our husbands have stop freaking about that, they call each other, we don't need to, we know that we will pick up exactly where we left off, just like last time.

Sadly for this get together, we arrived in time for sickness to projectile from our youngest, so it wasn't entirely a beautiful experience.  But after the men cooked dinner, and we put the kids to bed, we convinced them to go out on a date, they don't get the opportunity to get babysitters much.  What a blessing, giving a couple some time.

While there I read this on their fridge and had to share.



Our plan was to head home, to avoid being a giver with germs.  But we couldn't help ourselves, we had one 'quick stop' at another dear friend of mine of 15 years. We became friends after praying together after a youth service, only lifting our heads when we heard the vacuum cleaner at our feet.  Greer and I have shared a house, as well as those intensely important, coming of age moments; getting engaged, getting married, announcing a pregnancy, having first babies, moving countries, having last babies, hard roads, long roads. They know things about us that others don't know, we know things about them that others don't know. This friendship has stood the test of hardships, time, so many laughs and way too many treats. 

Once we arrived we struggled to leave, despite our wee boy initially being unwell, he perked up, and we all watched the clock tick by enjoying every moment, holding my breath until my husband would stand and say we were leaving.  The time ticked by, after much umming and arhing, we all celebrated when he said, we might as well stay the night.  So we settled in and hoped the germs didn't spread. Still hoping.

It was a time of sweet communion; sharing life, sharing histories, and sharing love. What a treasure we have in friendships.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Refuse to settle


There will have been times in your life when sin has had a strong grip on you, through some desire, compulsion or even some addiction that has got hold of you.  I know this because you have to be alive to be reading this and if you are alive, you will be having ongoing struggles with sin! In my own life I can think of one such stronghold that I still struggle with at times, as well as one stronghold that I have only recently started facing up to. Sin is a dirty, rotten, foul smelling tyrant! Sin has a pungent stink to it. Before we admit to its lurking presence and face up to it, we often try to spray air freshener to disguise the smell, but let’s be honest, it doesn't really mask it, but only adds to the stench and makes it smell even fruitier.

Sin feels like the never ending plague, a flood of selfishness that spoils all that is good. One day there will be no more sin.  I am really looking forward to that day, aren’t you? That hugely exciting time is possible only because one day someone dealt with sin, once and for all. God in human form took our punishment for sin. Jesus did the unthinkable for all people. He came down to our level to save us from the punishment for our sins. He took what we deserved. How amazing is that? None of the other so called gods claim to have done that. No other god loves like Jesus loves. No other god has mercy like the Father God has mercy. No other god dwells within a repentant believer like the Holy Spirit does. Sin has lost its sting, thanks to Jesus only. He has taken the punishment you deserved for the things you have done. Jesus only requires one thing from us. Repent and believe!! Don't forget, not just believe. REPENT and believe.  Repentance is where we say, I am sorry for ... I really am.

At this point you need to ask yourself the question “Do I really want to follow Jesus and die to self?” If you really do, then you must refuse to settle for the bondage of sin. Jesus died to set you free from that bondage, beginning here and now in this life.

Why do we struggle to let go of some sins?  Is it because we enjoy them or do they make us feel important?  There are a whole host of reasons as to why we choose to cultivate our natural bias towards sin. So then, how do we deal with the pull of sin in our daily lives? Once we have repented, how do we stop repeating that sin which can so easily entangle us? David Platt suggests we approach it in one of two ways. Firstly "the more common yet most unsuccessful answer is to try to conquer sin by working hard to change our actions. Much like superficial religion, we often seek to tame our desires with a list of dos and don'ts."  I've gone down the “just try harder” track, but no matter how determined I am, I eventually fail. God doesn't need another “try hard”.  So what's the other option, "we can conquer sin by trusting Christ to change our affections...by letting Christ overcome us with the power of his satisfaction." What I would like to know is what does the “roll your sleeves up and get your hands dirty” version of that look like for me personally. David Platt sums it up by saying "We know, believe and trust that Jesus is better and we refuse to give in to that sin because we have found greater gratification in our Saviour."

When the Holy Spirit works in your heart in this area of your life, you are standing on the verge of a choice to sin or not. Try this. Place both hands in front of you (metaphorically or physically, whatever works for you) and ask yourself the question; What do I want the most? On the one hand to follow Christ Jesus, or on the other hand to give in to my sinful desires? If we face sin this way, then we have a dependence on the Holy Spirit to convict, to strengthen and to give us a way out. Trying harder just doesn't work.

The fruit of our life will be a genuine testimony to those around us who have not started to follow Christ yet. In one sense sin is the fruit of our humanity, because “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23. There is however another wonderful option. Our fruit can be the fruit of the Spirit; love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23.

Dirk Paterson said "Most of us settle for aspiring to, rather than living in the fruit of the gospel." Don't settle for a life bound by sin. Instead continually choose to follow Jesus through the power of the Spirit. Not just say the sinner’s prayer and aspire or try to do better, but to pray for the strength to actually follow Jesus with your whole life. Don't settle for less. Respond to the Holy Spirit’s conviction. Hold out your hands. Make a choice between following Jesus or following your own desires. 


Saturday, 21 September 2013

Why Pray?


There are many reasons to pray, heaps of them, praise, petition, worship, confession, help, peace, healing, protection, revelation ... I could go on.  I needed to state that before I begin here, I know there are many 'why's'.  I don't want to ruffle feathers, that is not my purpose in this post. I just have to be honest. Since I was a child I wondered about the logic of praying to a God who knows all.

A few weeks ago, I was talking about this with my niece, me rugged up in my merino top, warm hoodie and ugg boots because it was night time and we've only just come into spring, her in a singlet, thin cardie and jandals, as teenagers don't feel the cold. That is irrelevant to prayer, I know. Anyway, we meet under the guise of a 'mentoring' program we are part of, we learn from each other, and I'm not going to get into the in's and out's of mentoring now.  This particular night we were chatting about prayer, the 'why do we tell God anything, when He knows everything?' point came up.  It was good to chew the fat with a 15 year old on this subject. Enlightening. Not sure we came to any great conclusions that night.  I only hope she has been thinking on it as much as I have since.

This goes back a long way for me. It dawned on me one day that my prayer life was dismal, utterly dismal, because I finally admitted to myself that I didn't believe in prayer. I had told people I will pray for them, numerous times, and wondered what my prayers will do. I have attended prayer meetings where people and situations have been petitioned for, and I think, God knows that, why are we telling him!?!

Last year a dear, dear friend of mine was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Prayerfully that put me in a awkward situation - how was I going to pray for her?  I told God about it, like He didn't have a clue. I begged God to heal her, I pleaded for God to comfort her and her lovely family, I asked God to draw her and her husband close to Him in this time. And I did this from the very depths of my heart.  Yet all the while, I had in the back of my mind, 'He knows what is going to happen, and it will happen as He knows it.  So what are my desperate prayers going to accomplish?'

The Bible speaks of occasions where God changed his mind, I'm not heading that direction today. I'm just wanting to put out there the formal in 'stating the obvious' of our prayers sometimes.  

Example:  Fictional Samuel lost his job.
Do I pray; "Lord, I want to lift Samuel up to you, he just lost his job and things are really tuff for him right now, please comfort him and bring another job along very soon."

This is where my 15 year old niece succinctly put it, "That's like me telling you, who woke up this morning and dressed yourself, 'You are wearing jeans, a blue hoodie and glasses.'". It's stating the obvious.

If I was to tell a friend about fictional Samuel, wouldn't I say something more like; "My heart goes out to Samuel, I don't know what to say to him, or what to do to help, I wish I did."  

So why do we treat God like he's oblivious of circumstances and more importantly, is it a way we become formal when we pray? The whole point of relationship is to draw nearer, yet we distance ourselves by making it about circumstances and not about how holy, glorious or merciful God is, and us, mere yet beloved, mortal. It can become religious and formal because we don't talk about how we feel, or how we can be moved, used and changed through the Holy Spirit.

I don't think there is any point in praying if we are going to tell God circumstances, He knows all, what's to tell. 

What you would tell your best friend, that is what God wants to hear from us.  Imagine with me for a moment that you go around to your best friends house for a cuppa tea and you sit down and immediately turn into a news anchor, giving updates of your week - they would look at you  like you had 'lost the plot'. Yet don't we do that with God?  

Breaking news Lord, Samuel has lost his job! And I am wearing the same blue hoodie today as I was the other day.

He wants our hearts, not our articulate review of situations.  He wants our obedience and time, our company, thoughts, wants, desires, and fears.  Yes petition, but from your heart.  If you don't care about a situation, don't pray about it, then think 'tick' done. Ask God for the power of the Holy Spirit who doesn't just give compassion, He is compassion.  

I challenge myself, and you if you're up for it: Let's get real with God. 

Friday, 20 September 2013

Psalm 32

"Blessed is he
whose transgressions are forgiven,
whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the man
whose sin the LORD does not count against him
and in whose spirit is no deceit."

Blessed in these verses is Hebrew asherey, it means 'happy'.

We all know the joy of the LORD is our strength, but do we know He wants us to be happy too?

What is happy?
Is it attaining all we want?  Or is it fulfilling our purpose?

What is our purpose?
Is it to be all we can be?  Is it all we were designed to be?

"Our purpose is to make God conspicuous in us." Beth Moore

Making God conspicuous brings happiness.

Confessing our sin and repenting, means our sins are cover by God himself in Jesus Christ. When we receive that forgiveness we make God conspicuous and know happiness.  When we refuse to forgive ourselves we continue to draw attention to ourselves. That is not our purpose. Our purpose is not to make ourselves conspicuous. All attention on the One who deserves all attention.  In giving God glory we are blessed.


Monday, 16 September 2013

What is Rich?

According to the Forbes Rich list, the richest man is a guy from Mexico, he is 73 years old and has a net worth of 73 billion dollars.  What level of income or net worth do you class people as rich?  I have met some wealthy people and by comparison I do not classed myself as rich. Our family has to work, we have a mortgage, we can't buy anything we like, and sometimes we even need to save for what we need.  So, no, I don't think I am rich.

Perspective

A popular quote says, "If you have food in your fridge, clothes on your back, a roof over your head and a place to sleep you are richer than 75% of the world. If you have money in the bank, your wallet, and some spare change you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy."

Clarity

Mark 10:17  "And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.
You know the commandments: 'Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.'"
And he said to him, "Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth."
And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, "You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me."
Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!"

I often look at the country I live and the middle-class people that surround me, and I ask myself the question, 'how can I share Jesus with people who don't think they need anything like him?'.  They may think they need a new boat, new house, new spouse, but they don't need a saviour.  "How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the Kingdom of God."  It is only recently that I even saw myself or those around me as rich or wealthy, I thought we were middle class, that's not rich! Hmmmm, Perspective.

Apart from the fact that we are never content, which I will get to soon, why does our wealth blind us to our true need?  Are we searching constantly for some existence where we will feel secure?  Do we really think a new boat will be the transport to that contented, secure existence, or will it be a new relationship or a new hair-do? I'm not so sure of myself that I can find any answers to these age old questions.  I'm just wondering out loud,  'Why does wealth blind us to our true need?'

Our disconnectedness to our soul and insatiable appetite for more, even when we get more, is an indication of our hearts, longing, searching for peace. We are not content, when we get more we believe we will be happy, then we get more and we think we need just a little bit more, like there is some utopian level of attainment, some nirvana we are striving for.  

Here is an example, somewhat over simplified  but still it works.  We had a toddler and a brand new baby when we decided my husband would go back to studying. We were fortunate enough to live in a house on the farm our family owned, rent free. Our food budget for the week was $100 NZ.  That was a struggle, we didn't eat a whole lot of meat, but we lived well. Once my husband finished studying and we had a regular income, the food budget went up to $120. Initially I thought it was Christmas, and it was great to be able to buy a few little extras.  Then it became a struggle again.  As each pay rise happened, the food budget increased, sometimes by $10, other times $20.  Each time the same thing happened, initially it was a treat, then I would say to myself, 'if only we had a little more'.  

Some, many, Billions even, live on less than $2 a day, and I have  budget of $170 to spend on food for our family of four each week.  I AM RICH. 

"It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." Mark 10:25 NIV.

Epiphany: Stop looking to the extremely wealthy as the rich Jesus identified in this passage, I am that rich young man.

Jesus was not pointing out those on the Forbes Rich List.  He was pointing our you and me.  We are the rich. We live surrounded by the rich. We live in a culture of the rich young man. And most of us have bought into the culture of discontentment, and love of stuff, more.

I have to ask the question, how do I share the wonderful news of Jesus Christ in my community?  How do I share what I know and have and more, with those who have so much, and also with those who don't have enough?

This passage of the Bible raises many questions; 

Am I willing to sell everything I have and give the money to those in need, to follow Jesus? Is the way I live now, truly following Jesus? 

Do I follow the truth of the Bible, all of it, or just the parts that fit into my life? 

Have I fit my faith into a cultural setting, following a westernised Jesus, or do I follow the real Jesus of the Bible? Do I even know there is a difference?

"Why not begin operating under the idea that God has given us excess, not so we could have more, but so we could give more?" (David Platt, Radical, pg 127)

I'm just wondering if reaching our middle class for Jesus, involves giving up our middle class lifestyle and living counter-culturally ... If they, with discontentment and piles of stuff saw us, giving away what we have because Jesus told us to and loving it, wouldn't that be a testimony of faith?  

How do we reach the rich, middle class, who want for nothing yet seek after things to fill that empty void? 

Maybe the answer is us, giving up all they are seeking, and finding our contentment in Jesus. 

Let's rebel against the culture that says we 'have to have' a better house, better car, nicer clothes, a boat, and a holiday home. Not that these things are bad in themselves, it's the 'have to have', the 'need', the void we all attempt to fill with these things that change them from blessing to curse. 

Father, Open our eyes to your truth. Spirit of truth, change our hearts, convict us, move us, that we may impact our middle class culture for you. Thank you Jesus, Amen.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

The Cross and The Cup

Is the modern church ignoring the work of salvation through Christ Jesus on the cross?  I'm wondering if we have missed the point of the cross ... salvation, rather do we focus on the wood, blood and pain.  


"Since that day (Jesus' death)  countless men and women in the history of Christianity have died for their faith.  Some of them were not just hung on crosses; they were burned there.  Many of them went to their crosses singing."  David Platt, Radical pg 35.

People have died gruesome deaths, because of what Christ Jesus did for them. However the death of Christ Jesus wasn't their salvation and it isn't ours.  These others who have died for their faith could not save us. Jesus' death on the cross wasn't just death, it was so much more. It was taking on the cup of holy wrath, divine judgement, hatred toward sin, your sin, my sin. A cup pour out, emptied, to the last drop upon Jesus' own soul, that is our salvation.  Jesus took the holy justice of our punishment.  

We ponder on the death of Jesus, the bloodied face from the crown of thorns, the raw, torn flesh of the whipped back and sides, the severed tendons of the nailed wrists and feet. We remember, communion, the bread, the wine, we remember his death.

We tend to focus on this excruciating physical pain, I propose, for two reasons: firstly we understand physical pain, we have hurt before.  We can relate, on a very small scale - if you have had a thorn in your finger you can at least try to imagine have thorns pushed into your head.  If you have stood on a nail, you can at least try to imagine having nails driven into your feet.  We can understand, and somewhat relate, so we focus on that physical pain.

The second reason is that, I think we would prefer to think upon Christ Jesus' physical pain, as it draws us away from the punishment of our sins.  Who, given the option would dwell on their sins, and the cost of those being thrust upon another person? That person, who in no way, deserved to take our punishment?  I wonder if we avoid thinking about the holy wrath of God toward sin, because it was our sin. 

Growing up in a middle class, Christian home, I was a good kid, I told the odd lie, partied a little as a teenager, did some silly things, but really, nothing too bad.  I've never done drugs. I wasn't sexually promiscuous. I went to church most weeks.  I didn't often get drunk.  I never was too bad.  ... Carry that mindset over to my adult status, when I was meant to actually have a clue about life, and what do you get?  A deluded Christian.  

About 2 years ago, I began asking God to highlight my sin, as I was totally ignorant of it, I asked him to go gently, I was well aware that my spiritual maturity was infantile.  He did, He pulled out a bright yellow highlighter and started slowly.  Fear. Anger. Jealously. Bitterness. Hatred. Pride. Selfishness. Filth, filth, filth.

Now, I think about Jesus taking my punishment for my sins, my filth, my disgusting attitude and heart, and I can see why Jesus dying wasn't the deal breaker, or my salvation.  Jesus took what I should have taken for all I have done, and he took it, willingly, lovingly, passionately. He took it - my sin upon his soul.  He did that, on the day he died, he did that, for me and you.  And although the cross was gruesome, it wasn't what freed us. Don't misunderstand me, I know Jesus chose die and through his death and resurrection, he won the battle against sin and death. I'm pushing the point of the cup of wrath he had to bear, because often, we don't, we chose to miss it, and focus on his death.    


"In that holy moment, all the righteous wrath and justice of God due us came rushing down like a torrent on Christ himself. Some say, "God looked down and could not bear to see the suffering that the soldiers were inflicting on Jesus, so he turned away." But this is not true. God turned away because he could not bear to see your sin and my sin on his Son."  David Platt, Radical, pg 36.

We can not get to God through our own efforts, goodness, trying hard, ticking boxes, attending church or even pastoring a church.  We all get to God through Jesus, and through the cup he chose to bear for us.  The cup that had our name on it, yet, he took it from us, for love, for obedience, for his Father, for his glory.

Jesus is my salvation. Praise his name. 

Friday, 6 September 2013

Watered down version of Christians


I'm not a connoisseur of wines, my repertoire consists of red or white! Within my understanding of red wine, I can not tell you the difference between merlot and pinot noir. Port on the other hand is distinctive even to the untrained and uneducated. Port was the communion wine at my home church 20 years ago, and I still remember it.  Port is a rich, sweet, heavy, smooth fortified wine.   Compare that with the watered down version of juice now used in communion, and the comparison is undefinable.

Does my life reflect anything remotely similar to the Christians of the early church?

Have I accepted Christ via a watered down version of what was offer by Christ Jesus himself?

What part of my life is 'taking up my cross' and following Him?

Is it possible to attend church, say the sinners prayer, to think I know Christ without actually knowing Him?

Jesus said, "Not everyone who says to me, "Lord, Lord," will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  Many will say to me on that day, "Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?"  Then I will tell them plainly, "I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!" 2 Timothy 2:4 ESV

Harsh?  Not at all, not when we read the promises of a life following Christ Jesus.  Jesus doesn't want us to have a pass into heaven, he wants us to have abundant life, both now and for eternity.  Sadly our version of abundant life here on earth is cluttered with stuff, useless, pointless stuff, stuff that gratifies for a second and then leaves us wanting.

Abundant life does not mean money, leadership, fame, approval. How do we know?
Well ... Jesus.

He never promoted money, Mark 10:21, "And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, "You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me."

He never promoted leadership, Mark 10:45, Jesus said "For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

He never promoted fame, Matthew 19:30,"But many who are first will be last, and the last first."

He never promoted approval, Mark 10:34, Jesus said "And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise."
Galatians 1:10, Paul said "For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ."

Is it really as easy as believe, confess and say the sinners prayer?  Where does the sinners prayer appear in the Bible?

Did I go into the bottle store to buy Port and come out with watered down juice? I wonder if we have been sold a dud, such a dud that when we get to heaven, we may be frantically recalling all the good we did;
"Lord, did I not place food in the food bank in your name?  Did I not serve as usher in church in your name? Did I not attend homegroup in your name?  Did I not go to church every Sunday in your name? Did I not pray for others in your name?  Did I not go on short term missions in your name?"

If you are wondering what authentic faith, a rich, sweet, heavy, smooth faith looks like, then dive into Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Acts to see what the early Christians and early church looked like. I don't think you will find watered down faith, you will see hardship, persecution, community, sacrificing, tears, joy and dependence on the Holy Spirit. Serving Jesus will not get you the "Well done good and faithful servant... enter into the joy of your Master" Matthew 25:21. Jesus doesn't want servants, he wants children, workers, lovers, brothers, sisters, freedom fighters, prayers, givers.

I wonder if it's about time we asked that question, 'What does Jesus mean by,
Luke 14:27 "Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple."





Wednesday, 4 September 2013

A Call to Die, A Call to Live

I am reading David Platts book, Follow Me. The by line says "A Call to Die. A Call to Live."  I have a sneaky suspicion I am moving into a place of gathering and weaving of all I've been learning over the past year, and making and moulding it into something more formed and distinctive rather than a tangle of yarn. 

The tangle began with a lack of peace, a desire for more, I started by stating, honestly and aloud "There has to be more to this faith walk than what I am living!".  I wasn't alone, strangely as I began talking with some friends, I realised there were a number on this same walk. I began my search with the Holy Spirit, as His existence in my heart was smothered by my understanding or lack of it. This developed into a quest for more of God's presence, more experience, greater understanding.  Then water doused the fire, controversy, questions of theology, unsettling attitudes, they over shadowed.  The slide into the valley was so subtle, the fire spluttering and the light fading. Many friends on the same walk found themselves with company in the valley. When the lines of 'them and us' are drawn, no one wins, not even those who are right. 

We live in community for a reason.  Friends who shared this experience came for dinner not so long ago, we talked honestly, from the heart, shared our pain, our questions, then we prayed. I am so thankful for wise friends who allow the Holy Spirit to work through them to minister.  Truth sparked the coals that had lost so much of their warmth. Words of encouragement, revelation, love through honest conversations. The light is returning, the questions are still there, but the valley doesn't look like a dead-end now there is light growing.

Beth Moore says Time + Conflict = Change. True. Experience teaches. Yet all I have been learning doesn't seem to follow a logical course, and some days doesn't make a whole lot of sense.  There seems to me to be quite random revelations that seem important yet don't tie into what I have been learning. For example; I'm coming to an understanding that one way to be filled with the Holy Spirit, is to be out of our comfort zone relying on the Holy Spirit, through telling others about Jesus Christ. Another is prayer, I've been asking myself the question, why pray to a God who knows all? Is petitioning a list really how I should pray?  Am I building relationship with God through my prayers? How did Jesus pray?

I have no idea what I am to be learning, I guess one day I may understand what it all means.  Maybe, maybe not, but either way I know God is weaving, delicate and intricate. My greatest revelation and the foundation for my searching is that I want more of God. I want, in fact, I need for there to be more to life, an abundant life, what I was living can't be all there is to faith.  
"The Life God has for us is one of abundance. It is meant to be full, not repetitive. He wants us doing things that have eternal impact. He wants us busy expanding his Kingdom in one way or another, today and everyday.  This doesn't mean that every Christian should quit his or her job and move to a foreign country. But it does mean that we need to figure out how to make each day count for his purpose.
Paul Said it like this: "No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him."
Don't most of us do the opposite? We busy ourselves with "civilian pursuits" and occasionally jump into the battle when we feel compelled. Kingdom service is something we visit on a mission trip, day of service, or prayer meeting. Being entangled in the civilian lifestyle has become the accepted norm. It is even applauded so long as we can point to some occasional Kingdom activity. But doesn't Scripture tell us to live differently? And wouldn't your life be more "abundant" if you could figure out a way to be on the battlefield every day?
You may be looking at your life and assuming you have no options. Isn't a person with bills, family and responsibilities destined to be "entangled in civilian pursuits"?
Absolutely not. You and I were made for more."
(Francis Chan)




Monday, 2 September 2013

A City Without a Wall


I've had walls on my mind quite a lot recently. It seems rather an odd thing to think about doesn’t it?  There’s been a story of a wall and city, with another about a war in which a city was conquered. These have formed a theme that has continued for a few months now through story after story.  It started with the story of the destruction of the walls of Jericho when God gave this fortified city to the people of Israel. Later I read about the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon, then the rebuilding of the wall by Nehemiah, then much later, the decimation of the city and wall of Jerusalem by conquering Rome in AD 70. 

One of our family Bible memory verses I am teaching my children is "Losing self-control leaves you as helpless as a city without a wall." Prov 25:28 (CEV). While this verse is on our wall for my boys to learn, it’s also written out in bold marker in our kitchen to remind me that I frequently loose my self-control, whether it's through anger, chocolates, distractions or saying yes to too many things. At that point I become a city without a wall. I expose my vulnerability, making myself an easy target.

Self-control is not a swear word!  It's not easy, but it is a blessing rather than a curse (I really need to keep telling myself that). I'm sure we can all think of personal examples. Talking to parents of 2 year olds, familiar words ring out, not just from them I suspect, but from all over parent-dom, "I never had an anger problem until I had children".  It's true, the little treasures know how to press your buttons at an early age, that’s for sure.  When buttons get pushed, faces flush with anger, voices rise.  Self-control wanes then vanishes.  

"Love suffers long and is kind...is not provoked ... bears all things ... endures all things." 1 Cor 13:4-7(NKJV) These verses speak very wisely and powerfully to any parent of a 2 year old! Children are a huge blessing from God. They bring joy and laughter, yet they also make us suffer long sleepless nights. I could have sworn I heard an amen somewhere in the distance!! Children provoke. They do know how to get to us, so contributing towards our lack of self control. It's amazing what we endure as a result of our children. We sometimes feel like life is endurance of the frustrating kind.  But that is interpreting these verses without Love. Some days we can wallow in the suffering, provocation, frustration and endurance of parenting, but it is only when we chose obedience to the Spirit of God that we chose love.  Our children's provocation means we don't have to respond inappropriately. We can choose to bear all things and endure all things, because we choose to be obedient to Him and His call to love.
 "Every moment, God gives us opportunities to live for Him.  What happens when we get upset and lose our patience? We lose the blessing of staying in a place of love." Heidi Baker.
 Self-control is not limited to parenting. We need it in our relationships, at our work place, while eating, in our conversations and thought life, even how much time we give to Facebook/Twitter.  We need self-control for many things, if not all things.

Self-control is a part of our defence that keeps us safe.  We are powerless unless we use God’s power. This power is not just restricted to self-control. There are many other areas where our defences may be down including such areas as pride, comparing, hate, addictions, sexual immorality, bitterness, doubt, judging, anything and everything that has a hold on us. When we give into temptation and allow ourselves to be defeated in those areas, we leave our city gates wide open and ripe for invasion. It's easy to want to try to fight temptation, to try to do better, to want to do better, but without the power of the Holy Spirit it's all effort and no break-through.

When we invite Jesus to be our Saviour, He gives us the Holy Spirit to dwell in us. We are His temple, He is our security and protection.  He is our wall.  If we would only give him jurisdiction and power to defend us, instead of thinking we can protect ourselves, we would live in victory with a capital V.

Romans 8:37-39 gives us our battle cry "No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loves us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the presence nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." He who loves that much and that permanently, is our solid defence. God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are our wall, our protection, our defence in all things.