Leave the comfort zone
After decades of non-use there was still evidence of habitation such as a broken-down goat yard, the lid off a can, glass bottle stoppers.
Curiosity prompted me to lift the lid of a milk can lying amongst the salt bushes. A tiny lizard reared its head in defiance at me. Several others came to look at this tiny, courageous critter. I could have snuffed out its life with my fingers, yet it stared into my face, it’s mouth open wide, daring me to attack. I lowered the lid and left the little creature alone to live another day. It was the personification of courage.
Very few people would think of themselves as a David pitted against a Goliath, yet when their back is to the wall, they turn into a David, rescuing people from certain death, sometimes at the expense of their own. Speaking-up boldly for a cause they believe in when everyone else is silent.
Several years ago, my husband Bruce was called to visit a home at 2 am to deal with a drunken man. The guy was brandishing a gun and threatening to shoot anyone, including himself, who dared to try to take it from him.
Did Bruce feel like a David? No! Inside, fear made him feel like a jelly bag. But someone had to face the man and try to save him and his loved one’s lives.
Wondering how the man would react, Bruce took slow steps, one at a time, toward the man seated on a bed in a bedroom. Finally sitting down beside him, putting his arm around his shoulders, he took possession of the gun. What Bruce was doing, was it madness? an emotion that pushes him into acting without thinking? An adrenalin rush? Is courage an inbuilt trait … a response of self-preservation?
Some people are trained to face danger as in warfare, firefighting and ambulance attendants. We expect these people to be brave. Yet when questioned they deny being courageous. They claim to have saved their mate because he was just that – their mate, and that they were scared stiff.
Training certainly holds a person steady in a time of crisis but even ordinary, untrained people become courageous in a time of emergency.
What about Bruce, what was his motivation? Firstly, his response was governed by his acceptance of his call by God to serve his fellow man, and secondly, by his desire to prevent tragedy. Bruce went fuelled by the hope in Christ that this unhappy man could be delivered from his bondage.
Having met Christ in his teens, Bruce was now, after years of experiencing God’s faithfulness in all walks of life, completely sure that God was well able to do anything he promised. Even though he was scared stiff, he responded to the 2 am call because he believed that God was able to keep him. The roots of courage are sown in our past experiences and the history we have with God.
When Bruce arrived at the home of the drunk, he couldn’t just barge in and demand the gun be dropped. No, it was soothing words, then a slow step by a step march across the room to sit beside the man
Courage is like a muscle, the more we dare to use it by taking risks not just in the ‘big’ moments to save lives, but also in the ‘small’ ones like speaking to the neighbor, inviting someone to church or home to a meal - it can be doing something that we have never done before.
If we dare to take a risk, we are flexing the muscle of courage. By so doing, we grow as a Believer and as a person. If our fear is not challenged then we remain weeping violets. Should we continue to be afraid to say boo to a goose, we will not achieve very much. Without daring we are not living.
Take one step at a time and flex your muscle of gallantry, move forward as people who have faced their fears and overcome them.
Through the Biblical writings of Joshua, God urges us to, ‘Be strong! Be courageous! Do not be afraid … For the Lord your God will be with you. He will neither fail you nor forsake you.” (Joshua 1: 6 – 9. LB)
Leigh Allison, Raceview, Qld
A compelling story that can rescue you and change your life
A TRUE MAKE OVER
No matter whether my life is easy or difficult, no matter whether I can see meaning or not, I celebrate the Lord for rescuing me in 1987 - my spirit's birth.
Joseph in the Old Testament said, ‘what the enemy meant for evil, God turned for good’ (Genesis 50:19), and that certainly is true in my life.
My testimony of seeing the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living (Psalms 27:13), centres on my recovery from the debilitating effects of thirty years of suffering mental anguish. I like to share how my life has been transformed by the love of Jesus Christ, to engender hope that the Lord will help others as He has helped me.
Jesus took away what was important to take away: my spiritual emptiness, my broken heart, and the dysfunctional patterns of my thoughts and emotions. He unlocked the chains that had held my mind in paralysing negativity. However, the Lord saw fit to leave me with a thorn in the flesh.
Therefore, my healing is progressive. Chronic illness doesn't fit squarely into my Christian doctrine. Nor will it fit into yours. Of course, I wanted my return to health to be neatly wrapped up into a miracle. Not to be! Nevertheless, Jesus assured me He would always be with me, and I began to make real progress. God is good!
During these years, I also attained a General Nursing Certificate, a Bachelor of Arts Degree, and later, a Certificate in Christian Studies. I have worked in Nursing, Police, and the Public Service. Most of my employment was arduous and colourless. Interestingly, this experience gave me character traits that helped me later: discipline, perseverance, and attention to detail. I wonder if instant healing would have dealt with my character flaws as effectively.
Now, I believe my heart is softer and my mind stronger in God, through the way He chose for me. I have the personal evidence of the Lord's grace, power to restore, protection of my mind from attack, and provision. As Solomon wrote, Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him; And He shall direct your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6).
During these twenty-two years of walking with the Lord, combined with healing my wounds, He has shifted my focus to having a confident expectation of the future. ‘Wait!’ has been a frequent command. ‘Listen!’ is there too.
Significantly, I realized that in Christ, limiting barriers break. What I once thought I couldn't do, I was subsequently able to achieve. Like Jabez, I often prayed, ‘Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!’ (1 Chronicles 4:10) The Lord certainly has blessed me. For example, from being extremely shy and stigmatised, I can speak confidently to congregations and groups. Other keys of Scripture, the Lord has given me, have combined to unlock the chains around my mind. The Bible fascinates me, and meditation on its verses is a delight.
I sought to understand the ways in which the Lord helped me. I wanted to be able to pass on His principles and to portray His trustworthiness. Even when I couldn't handle the routine pressures of life, the Lord did not forsake me. I was always cared for by friends and others.
A testimony is not only dealing with the past, but also what is happening now. Outward actions manifest the inner change. The Lord is working on my belief in Him. There's no question, He is faithful, just, and true, and it makes sense to jump into His everlasting arms.
However, trust is much more than mental assent. I am only now embarking on this phase in relationship with Him: to break the barriers of past disappointment, reason and fear of the unknown. It was easier for me to trust the Lord when I couldn't help myself: the no-one-else-to-goto syndrome. It was a sort of childlike trust. When circumstances improved, I found it more difficult to trust God: to hand over my possessions and bank balance, my goals and decisions in general. But now, there is the hope of a precious trust that is like breaking the sound barrier: breaking an outer limit to come into a different level of faith in the supreme power of God: a place of holding nothing back. Yes! I'm a work in progress.
Trusting God means trusting people too, and from my somewhat interior life, the Lord has given me a delight in looking outwards to the variety of people I meet, as I share my thoughts in writing, I imagine my readers: what they might need or want. Are there things I can include for those who have pain, who can't or don't want to speak about it? By the grace of God, writing helps me define what is important to me, what blockages there may be, and how this can affect my readers.
Even in the Church, certain facades can be expected of the 'I'm all right' type, but if this leaves the person locked-up inside, it is sad. What a privilege it is when any of us can be the Lord's instrument here.
I thank the Lord for giving me His joy and revealing my purpose in life. From my most fundamental Christian experience of knowing how my sins, shame, guilt, and inferiority had been washed away, to my exhilaration of having a quality of peace of mind I hadn't thought possible. Constantly, I revere God and revel in His presence. No experience is wasted in the Lord when we surrender to Him. All things work together for good to them that love God and are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28
The Death of Pam
Dad wouldn’t even talk about the cow.
It was apparent she was ill.
Pam was a skeleton covered by a thick hide. Her bones creaked when she hobbled along. Pam suffered from diarrhea badly. My parents were dirt poor, so there was no cash to call in the Vet.
For some reason, Pam gave a large quantity of milk each day, and Dad was reluctant to get rid of her. We needed her milk input every day. I milked Pam and thought how cruel it was to let her suffer. But Dad did nothing and said nothing.
Dad was a rugged little man with the courage of a lion. Yet he was a softie when it came to putting an unwanted or suffering animal down.
One day he announced at breakfast that he had to go into the nearest town and do business. He would be away all day. As we ate our breakfast and thought about what we would do while Dad was away, I thought, “What would Dad say if I put Pam down?
I considered the situation and decided to dare my father’s wrath and put the animal out of its misery.
Dad was well away when I took my rifle and went to find Pam. I found her near the road out to the main gate of our property. Not an ideal place to dig a grave and bury a large animal. She was trying to feed but was unable to.
I lined Pam up in the site of the gun and fired. The animal dropped. My aim was absolutely correct.
I now faced the task of burying the animal. Unable to drag the body away or dispose of it another way, I took up the spade and began to dig. I spent most of the day excavating a hole deep and wide enough to push Pam in.
When Dad arrived home in time for milking, Pam was nowhere to be found. She had disappeared. But a freshly dug mound of dirt had arisen beside the road. I feared the worst. What would Dad say and do? He had to drive past the pile of freshly dug earth.
Milking began; Dad was silent; the milking finished, but still no comment from Dad.
He related his day’s adventures but made no mention of Pam.
Dad passed away without Pam’s name ever crossing his lips again. I entertained the thought that Dad invented a business trip to the town, hoping that I would dispatch the animal. I did what he wished I would do. Maybe there was no reason to bring up Pam’s demise. Anyway, he never spoke of her again.
Farm animals are used but hopefully not abused.
TRUTH AND LIES
Humans are used up and abused. It is not God who harms us. We have turned on ourselves. We can euthanize ourselves and call it mercy, just as Bruce felt over Pam.
God is a total softie. God doesn’t kill us off if we do not behave or perform or return his affection. He loves us regardless, waiting for the day when we come to our senses and choose through Jesus Christ to become his children and build a relationship with him.
Evolution wants us to believe that we have evolved from animals. We are looked upon as part of the animal family. Many of us think when we die, we will go into the ground, like an animal, and that will be the last of us. With this attitude, it is easy to accept the idea of euthanasia.
When we can no longer be valuable and ill health overtakes us as Pam, the cow, it is time to get rid of us. But we are not animals; we are humans, the creative genius of God. Because we are the perfect creation, God loves us totally.
Others believe and hope that there is an afterlife, and it will treat us well, so we strive to live as good a life as we can in the hope of buying eternity. Some people refuse to think about the future life and eat, drink and be merry because it is the only life they can contemplate.
If we read the Bible, we would find a very different story. We are an outright creation. We were formed from the earth, but God breathed his life into us. We are created in the image of God. There is no semblance of the animal kingdom in us.
We are spirit, soul and body.
Animals are only soul and body.
THE TRUTH IS:
If we read the Bible, we would find that every human on earth was planned before the universe was created. We may have been the last specie created, but we were in God’s heart before the worlds were made.
We are not random add-ons. It is written in Psalms 139: 13 – 18; “You (God) made all the delicate, inner parts of my body, and knit them together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! It is amazing to think about. Your creativity is marvellous – and how well I know it. You were there when I was being formed in utter seclusion! You saw me before I was born and scheduled each day of my life before I began to breathe. Every day was recorded in your book! How precious it is, Lord, to realize that you are thinking about me constantly.”
WE ARE UNIQUE HUMAN BEINGS
One of a kind, so to speak. God does not use and abuse us; he made us in his likeness and equal with him and to fellowship with him one to one. What does the Bible say? Ephesians 1: “Long ago, even before he (God) made the world, God chose us to be his very own, through what Christ would do for us; he (God) decided then to make us holy in his eyes, without a single fault – we who stand before him covered in his love. His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his family by sending Jesus Christ to die for us. He did this because he wanted to.”
FACE TO FACE
Our relationship with God had been established before the world began through the death of Jesus. That relationship becomes a reality when we accept Jesus and believe that he saves us from death and for eternity. Establishing a relationship with God is the most beautiful thing we will ever do.
Fortunately, my family likes Banana Bread!
Bananas are a favorite fruit in our house, but when there's an extended period of steamy days and nights it's pretty hard to keep a banana overnight, let alone for a few days, without its becoming black and squishy. I'm glad I learned that when this happens, you can throw them into the freezer 'as is' and retrieve and thaw them later. It always amazes me that something so visually unappealing and sometimes (depending on the extent of degeneration) almost physically revolting, can be turned into something we find so yummy and enjoy so much. At the sight of yet another bar of Banana Bread in the kitchen today I was reminded of how the bananas were like relationships in a way. A relationship goes through stages - first "green", perhaps a bit hard and not as enjoyable as it may become later if left to develop; then maturing to a sweet ripeness as time and warmth have an effect. Sadly some relationships then "go bad", due to being left aside for a long time, or because of a period of extreme conditions. I am encouraged to think this may be a retrievable situation, as the "rotten bananas" are attended to and treated to make something good and satisfying. I also like to think that this may apply not only to our relationships with each other, but also with regard to our relationship with God; that we never need feel we have let things slip too far, that we can be taken out of the freezer and remade into something useful and appreciated. Even now I have a backlog of bananas taking up space in my freezer, and I know I must deal with them soon. I hope I am not as neglectful of the relationships in my life and that after periods of "heat" we can work things out to produce something good. And I am thankful that God, our Heavenly Father, has been able to rescue me from my rotten state, through Jesus Christ our Saviour. Praise Him!
Our Favorite Banana Bread Recipe
Banana Bread Recipe: 3 small to medium bananas, mashed (good cup or so) 1½ cups self-raising flour ½ teaspoon salt 60g shortening (butter or cooking margarine) 1 large egg 1 level tablespoons golden syrup 3 tablespoons milk A greased and lined loaf tin for baking Beat the butter or margarine; add the sugar and cream them together. Add the bananas with the egg and syrup and mix well. Lastly add the sifted flour and salt alternately with the milk. Bake on the centre shelf of a moderate oven (around 180 degrees C) for up to an hour, depending on your oven.
(P.S. To save time and hassle, I have found it is possible to throw all the ingredients into the bowl of the electric mixer and beat until well combined - seems to taste the same!)
Walkathons are a popular way to lose weight, have fun and raise money for a good cause, a favorite charity.
If we are passionate about some cause, we will walk across Australia or we will walk from one city to another to raise awareness about that issue.
It is a brave and noble thing to do. Sometimes it might be foolhardy but that is lost in the nobility of the action.
The persistence needed to undertake the walkathon, going out of the comfort zone, and the sacrifice to creature comforts is a challenge and takes us beyond ourselves. We are often the better people for daring to challenge ourselves.
Facing mental challenges, physical dares, and overcoming weaknesses to do something for someone else or a cause makes us bigger people.
FOUR MARATHON WALKERS
The Bible talks about walking. Walking with God means a manner of lifestyles, and how we conduct ourselves. The great New Testament writer Paul, wrote, “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that you walk worthy of the vocation wherewith you are called.” Ephesians 4: 1. This scripture is really saying, let our way of life match up with what we say. Does our behavior match our confession?
The Bible relates the stories of four men who walked with God:
Enoch – walked with God. His name means dedicated. Enoch lived up to his name, he was dedicated to God and walked with Him.
After Enoch’s son Methuselah was born Enoch lived 365 years. Enoch walked with God and then God took him. Enoch was translated so he would not see death. His remains were never found. Enoch’s testimony is that he was pleasing to God. He had a strong, dedicated faith in his Creator and through 300 years he never wavered in his walk with God. God was delighted by such commitment and translated Enoch, by-passing death. God rewards faith. If we seek God with all our heart, he will reward us with His presence. We will walk or live habitually in the presence of God.
Noah was another man who walked with God. His name means rest and comfort.
The Bible says Noah was a just man and he found favor in the eyes of the Lord. Noah walked with God and God gave him the task of building the ark and ultimately saved the human race.
Noah was a just man in a corrupt world. Noah’s life stood the test, his actions proved his faith by building the ark exactly as God directed him. Noah did not conform to the popular trends of the time. He loved God more than popular opinion. Popular opinion thought Noah mad to build a boat where there was no water. What was the point of a boat? T would never be used. God honored Noah’s faith. God honors our faith, too. Ephesians 4: 17; Ephesians 5: 21; Rom 13: 13; 1 John 2: 15 – 17.
Abraham walked with God.
The meaning of his name is: exalted, father of a multitude.
When Abraham was 90 years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “Walk before me and be perfect.” God’s expectation of Abraham was huge. Abraham must leave his home, family and country and walk with God to a place unknown but which God would show him.
The Bible says, “By faith Abraham, when he was called obeyed; he went out not knowing the place or how to get there. He journeyed forth depending on God to show him.”
To walk with God, we are expected to put our faith in God and move trustingly by his leading. Can we trust a person we can’t see? How can we know what a person, we can’t see, says to us? This is where faith steps in. Faith says take that step into the unknown and God will open up the way, faith says, trust that inner voice and take the step-in faith as Abraham did. God loves faith, he rewards faith abundantly. Walking with God into our future we are assured of peace, joy and security. If joy and peace are lacking within us, it could be we are not walking with God. We are trying to work out our life by our own understanding of life, which is a narrow view at best, because we can’t see the big picture. God can see the big picture and he has the plan for our life.
Zacharias means: remembered of God.
Zacharias and his wife Elizabeth walked in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord, blameless.
Zacharias practiced what he preached. He kept faith in God no matter what the circumstances around him. Zacharias did not look to popularity contests, or tic-toc, or Instagram or Face Book to guide him. Having decided to commit to God with all of his heart, he never deserted the life in God he chose.
If we have made a similar decision to walk with God with all of our heart it will be a walk by faith not conforming to popular opinion but by every word from God. This faith walk calls for two things, a daily reading of the Bible. The Bible is God’s word and we need to know it and live by it, listen to it. Talking with God is the second thing. Our walk with God will develop into an intimacy with God, we will experience God, and we will have a relationship with God. Our way of life will be directed by God if we talk and walk with him.
But Hey! There is nothing to lose and everything to gain. God loves us and we are the apple of his eyes. We can enjoy his favour and never lack anything. So why not commit to walking with God as these four guys did.
THE MARATHON RUNNER
The marathon runner trained day after day running many kilometers for fitness and strength. On weekends extra kilometers are added for additional toughness. No matter how his muscles hurt, his lungs protested, he ran on over sand dunes, down streets, up hills and down. He would not give up, jogging always jogging.
For the Marathon man winning wasn’t the issue, it was finishing the race, proving to himself he could do it. The hours and days of training, sacrificing, discipline paid off when he ran a personal best in the event. The accolades of the family as they clustered around him added to the sense of satisfaction and achievement.
THE RACE TO THE CROSS
Jesus Christ was a marathon man, he may never have run an organized race, but he ran the race to win the world and save it from itself. Jesus race ended on the cross, his family stood around him not offering accolades of praise but sobs of sorrow, bewilderment and wondering why he had to die. His disciples had no praise for him; some distanced themselves from him.
The marathon of the crucifixion over, death, hell, and wickedness conquered, Jesus sat down at the right hand of his Father. The Father accepted what he had done and gave him all the accolades of Heaven. Jesus saw his marathon achieved all his Father decreed, and humankind saved.
Jesus entered the throne room and sat down at his Father’s right hand. When Jesus entered the throne room, he threw the door wide open for us all to come and live in the presence of the Father forever; the door would never close again to us. We, the children of God were made good enough by Christ to live in the throne room forever.
For you and I, life is a marathon race. We strive each day to live as a Christian, but at the end of the day, our striving has brought us nothing but emptiness. Gritting our teeth and saying we’ll be true at whatever the cost, to the bitter end, doesn’t do any good. If our Christian life is just going through the motions, we’ll soon become disillusioned. If we feel God hasn’t kept his promises; he hasn’t answered our prayers; he hasn’t made us a success like we hoped he would. Our marathon becomes an amble. We search for the perfect church, but can’t find it. We cease to go to church, we drop out, cease to believe. We move into the secular world because it seems a happier place. It shows we are running by the rules without a relationship with the Father. Without a personal relationship, with the Father, the rules of the Christian life are meaningless.
Marathon man/woman, if we are running by the rules of our religion, no wonder we are disillusioned and want to quit the Christian life. The staying power of the Christian marathon is the relationship of a powerful love that sustains through the ups and downs, highs and lows of life’s marathon.
FROM GLORY TO GLORY
We can run the race well; disillusionment doesn’t have to set in. What if the church isn’t perfect? There is no perfect church. If the revelation of the powerful love God has for us lights our heart, perfect church or not; we’ll not be thinking about dropping out but moving forward from glory to glory.
Yes, we are people made over by God. Not made over by our effort to keep the rules but made over by Jesus Christ who comes to live within our spirit when we commit to him by faith. Let us accept the complete make-over of our spiritual self Jesus offers by inviting him into our heart. The Father sees our make-over by Jesus’ as perfect. Let’s run the marathon of life in Christ and he in us.
‘Surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, running with perseverance the race marked out for us.’ Heb 12: 1
THE LAST LEAF
The leaf hung on to its twig, determined not to let go. It watched as the other leaves fell to the ground, or blew into piles along fences and around tree trunks. It thought, ‘I will not follow them, I will not fall and die and rot in the ground, I will live on.’
The wind blew, but the leaf hung on, the frost settled over everything, the leaf shivered but hung on. It would not let go. Its determination was supernatural.
What the leaf didn’t know was that when it fell, when it rotted into the ground, it fed next year’s next year’s young shoots, next year’s fruit. I t would live again in another form or body. It would rise to a new life. It would not die.
Like the leaf we hang onto life, we don’t want to die. We make the Doctors affluent in our search for life. The chemist is wealthy as he searches for the elixir of youth or the skin cream that dissolves the wrinkles.
Jesus said, ‘I am the resurrection and life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.’ John 11: 25. Jesus had to die, to overcome death and rise again and when we believe and accept Jesus as our saviour, he raises us with him and we overcome death and live forever. Jesus rose to a new life, a new life in us. Jesus lives in us and through us. ‘I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.’ Gal. 2: 20
In following Jesus, like the leaf, we have to let go of our twig and drop off and accept the fact that in dying to our old life we will be living a new life through Jesus. We will serve others, our community, our families, our children. We will not die but multiply in the lives we touch, and we will leave a deposit in whatever we touch.
The leaf is determined to save its life; it will shrivel and disintegrate and be good for nothing if it stays on the tree. The same principle applies to our lives, live for our self alone and our life will disintegrate. Lose our life in and for Jesus, and we will live a rich and abundant life and live for eternity.
Jesus said, ‘Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and the gospel will save it.’ Mark 8: 35.
THE MAGIC OF LOVE
WHAT IS LOVE?
Our first love is magical and wondrous, goose-bump material.
My first love was an exploration of romance. We were both fourteen. He was short and tubby, I was tall, slim and gawky. He was not a prince on a white charger, I was no Barby doll, but we were attracted to each other.
Our first kiss was heart-stopping, a stolen moment at the primary school break-up. Not the practised film-star passion but a wet fumbling. Our relationship never grew, my parents moved to another district and we never met again.
MY SECOND LOVE
My second love was my prince on an iron horse or bicycle. He was too poor to own a car, the car would come later. Dark, handsome, average height. The chemistry was there from the start. Cupid’s arrow found its target and we married. Seventy years later we still fizz with the magic, though age has taken its toll.
MY THIRD LOVE
My third love is Christ, Son of God. This is not an Eros or romantic love but an agape love. The love of God for man and of man for God, a self-less, sacrificial love.
God’s love for us is beyond magical, it is jealous, possessive, transforming, redeeming, healing and liberating. There is no end to his love for us, no bottom, no height or width. God’s love is radical, it doesn’t matter who we are, famous or non-famous, murderous or sweet, rich or poor, successful or a dismal failure, God love us, his creation. We are the apple of his eye. D L Moody once said, ‘If you ask me why God should love us, I cannot tell. I suppose it is because he is a true Father.’
Such unconditional love is known as the grace of God, the unearned favour of God given to us not for what we have done or haven’t done, not for who we are or aren’t. Philip Yancey wrote, ‘Grace means there is nothing I can add to make God love me more, and nothing I can do to make him love me less.’ Such love is the sacrificial love of agape. ‘For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son so that anyone who believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life… There is no eternal doom awaiting those who trust him (Jesus) to save them.’ I have no concept of such love, it is beyond my understanding that anyone could love me so much.
MY LOVE GAVE TO ME
When this wonderful truth of God’s unearned favour dawned on me the colours became brighter and prettier, I felt clean and new, I had a purpose to live. I felt I wanted to dance for a million years. I had been floundering, searching for what? Suddenly I was found and I had found Jesus, my third love, a self-sacrificing, agape love. This Agape love, this unmerited favour of God, does wonders for the self-esteem.
I want to close with this thought expressed by Paul Ellis, ‘he who has Christ lacks no good thing. In him we are fully, completely, and totally sanctified.’ A quote from an ancient letter by an early believer, ‘So you have everything when you have Christ, and you are filled with God through your union with Christ.’ (Colossians 2: 10)
SMOKE AND SHADOWS
Worldwide there is continuing trouble with wars and rumours of wars. Governments seek peace and financial stability. Promises are made and promises are broken.
Health issues, including mental balance, cancer, the destructiveness of smoking, excessive drinking by youths and obesity problems hit the news lines. General approval of same sex marriages is pushed and gambling problems are causing governments huge amounts of money. Sadly, what seemed happy marriages, even Christian ones, are suddenly broken and some churches have problems
;Solomon, who studied what was going on around him in his kingdom, came to this conclusion: ‘No one can predict misfortune...men and women are caught by accidents evil and sudden’ (Ecclesiastes 9:12)’. In fact he concluded that so much in life is like ‘smoke and shadows.’ Regarding the future, he said, ‘It's true that no one knows what's going to happen, or when.’ (8:7).
But, in the midst of continuing world and national uncertainties today, Christians who deeply trust their God can work through even the bleakest of situations and come through every dark tunnel full of light , joy, peace. No magic formula; just a simple trust in a great loving God and his word.
Winston Churchill, in the dark days of World War 2, delivered many strong positive comments to encourage a little island under threat of defeat on several military fronts and probable invasion. Such as the following abridged collection of insights: ‘It is a wicked thing to take away man’s hope. Doubt cramps energy. Belief is power. To believe is to be strong.’
Christians have hope, great power in Jesus Christ. But unfortunately many, who are supposed to be positive in every situation, seem to foolishly delight in living in the past! Yet we are meant to be people of the present creating - with the Holy Spirit's help.
Grabbing hold of the biblical promise of Jeremiah 29:11 and living life to the full. Getting on with life. But all too often we allow the mistakes and the bad-case scenarios of yesteryear to bind us today from enjoying life and ‘moving on.' We must refuse to live there and move on!
The truth is that we've all made errors of judgment both in speech and action – including some things we're ashamed of, but one of the precious things about being a Christian is that when we ask forgiveness we're totally forgiven and can ‘get a life.'
When did Father Christmas make his debut?
Christmas is a celebration that is steeped in both Christian and pagan traditions.
Time has fused them together until there is no line of demarcation. Should a Christian try to draw battle lines, they are heavily laden with guilt. They are told that Christianity is only a kill-joy, depriving children of the wonder and fantasy of Christmas.
So, the question arises, why try to separate the Christian and the pagan? What is wrong with this marriage of convenience? Then there is the question of culture? To what extent does a Christian adopt national culture as opposed to the culture of the Kingdom? But then, what is national culture when Christmas is deeply rooted in European culture? Who then can be eulogised as the Christmas Man? Santa Claus, saint Nicholas, Father Christmas or Jesus Christ.
In the fourth century, Saint Nicholas was Bishop of Myra, Asia Minor. It is believed that many of his long voyages across the sea, he calmed and stilled several storms, earning the title of Patron Saint of Sailors. Legend says he saved three maidens from prostitution by providing them with a dowry, so they were able to marry well. He then became Patron Saint of Maidens. Another legend concerning Saint Nicholas is told of how he raised three boys from the dead. He is best known for his kindness to poor children of the time.
Todays Father Christmas has become the alto-ego of Saint Nicholas, and champions the poor and distributes gifts and largess. While much good is done in the name of Father Christmas, his power is vicarious. Parents are prepared to borrow large sums of money to buy their children miracles in the name of Father Christmas. Nearly everyone during the Christmas period gives gifts in the name of an alto-ego. Why not give gifts openly in the name of Jesus Christ?
Truth is always stranger than fiction. The strange truth is that God sent a Christmas Man. A man who would put Christmas into the heart of man forever. So, the Christmas could be experienced every day by everyone. The poor would have a champion; miracles would happen, women would have a provider, and the dead could be raised.
This Man began life as a babe in a dirty manger, wrapped in bandages or perhaps even rags. This Man draws no crowd, no tinsel is erected to welcome him. Just a few shepherds called at the stable and several magi surreptitiously brought three gifts. Only the heavens burst open to reveal choirs of angels singing undreamt of melodies of praise. Brilliant pure light streamed from the sky.
THE CHRISTMAS MAN
This Christmas Man became a death trap for a generation of baby boys, as a power-hungry Roman Emperor sought to destroy him. The nation of Israel was in mourning rather than rejoicing. Where was the spirit of love, joy, peace and good will, that was to follow this child? No Christmas Pageant here, only a pageant of death as hundreds of funeral biers wound their way to the cemetery.
This poverty-stricken child bore the names of Emmanuel, God with us and Jesus, He shall save his people. Incredible names, hinting at his origins and calling; his responsibilities and power.
This God with us; this Saver of his people, Jesus Christ, is God’s gift to humanity. God presented his precious Son to humanity stripped of fame, $200.00-dollar Italian suits, and Hilton Hotels, so mankind could see the reality of Jesus. There could be no pretence. People cannot bear the plain unadulterated truth. We must always seek the fantasy, adorning truth and reality with pretence, so missing the freedom that truth brings.
Jesus is truth, yet he has been made a fantasy man. Father Christmas, the fantasy man is given the position of truth. There is a small cathedral outside of Bethlehem that marks the birth place of Jesus. Behind the alter in the church is a cave lit with silver lamps. You can enter and admire the ancient building. The cave can be entered and a star embedded into the floor to mark the birth place of Jesus. This reverence to the place of birth rather than the Man just bears out the importance we place on fantasy rather than truth.
THE UNSPEAKABLE GIFT
The miracles that Jesus does far outweighs anything that Saint Nicholas or his alto-ego can do. As for maidens in distress, Jesus offers not a dowry for marriage but a new heart, a new life, a new protector. During a mission many years ago, a fallen woman was touched by God. As she heard of how much God loved her, her hardness of heart was broken up and she wept buckets of tears. She discovered the purity of virginity again. Jesus had cleansed, forgiven, given her a new heart, and made her a new woman. Jesus had given this woman something far more precious than a dowry. This woman enjoyed Christmas every day.
Jesus was the unspeakable gift of God. He came carrying the unsearchable riches of God. These gifts are not material, but relational, pertaining to character and the heart. To receive, one must believe in Jesus and the Saver of his people. There are no conditions other than faith. The greatest of the gifts Jesus gives to the believer is eternal life. That is why when we choose Jesus, the gift of God, we have Christmas in our hearts forever.
When Bad Things happen to Good People.
How do we, as Christians who believe in a loving, just, and good God, cope when tragic things happen to us? I found myself in this situation when the doctor told me that our 15 week old unborn baby was going to die. It was like a nightmare and certainly something that happens to other families. But it happened to my husband and me. The baby had developed major chromosomal abnormalities when, soon after conception, the chromosomes didn’t divide correctly. I was told that he (we later discovered he was a boy) would have major intellectual and physical disabilities and would most likely die before my due date. How does one walk that journey? I found comfort in Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God...” I looked to other Christian material to find guidance but mostly found stories about healing. There was no guide to navigate this tragedy. But we know that healing doesn’t happen to everyone. Faithful Christians have died in car and plane crashes and from cancer. I studied tragedy and suffering in the bible and found that there was plenty of it. As Christians we aren’t wrapped in cotton wool and made immune to it. God showed me a picture of a T-junction and seemed to be asking me to choose either His way of getting through this or the opposite, the world’s way. His way was to trust Him to strengthen and sustain me. I chose His way and, to my delight, found that my faith went from strength to strength. I learnt to cling to God in a way I’d never needed to before. Ten days after the first diagnosis the baby was born. He was about 20 cm long and red all over. Half of his stomach was in his umbilical chord and had a large fluid-filled sac on his neck. He was wrapped up in a little blanket and Johannes and I held him and thought of all the potential that would never be. We named him Peter. I took comfort in the fact that Peter’s abnormalities were so bad he was better off not to have lived. We said goodbye and left him at the hospital the next day. We already had two young sons so I had to focus on the day-to-day realities of looking after them, which probably helped. We held a memorial service at our Church soon after. Friends were wonderfully supportive with kind words, hugs, cards, and flowers. One lady gave me a piece of great advice; to grieve fully and not try to suppress it. I read lots about grief and the various stages one goes through. Three years later we had another son who was completely healthy. Now they are all growing up fast, with two at high school and one at primary school. Kaye Palmer , Adelaid
Seek treasure. Christopher and Robert, two blonde-haired boys of six and eight years of age, sons of my best friend, were an imaginative pair.
They were rich and in possession of a treasure chest of gold and jewels beyond rich. The treasure chest was theirs because they had fought the pirates and won the treasure. They had it all.
Two pairs of blue eyes glowed with the fire of adventure as they dug a hole on a sandy beach under a palm tree on an island in the Ocean of Nowhere. They marked the spot X on a map they had made of crocodile skin.
A battle with the enemy ensued. Chris and Rob had hidden in the jungle but alas the angry pirates discovered them. The two boys fought to the last breath. They were left battered, bleeding and bruised, but the enemy were all dead to a man.
The dream faded. The treasure vanished. All that was left were pieces of broken tile, bits of timber, a plastic runnel and scraps of rubber. The tropical island faded to become a suburban backyard, filled with the paraphernalia of a family. The ordinary took over.
There is a treasure that doesn’t vanish, that doesn’t tarnish, that never loses its value. A wealth that lights up our life with joy, love, peace. In today’s world of mental illness, homelessness and poverty, these are treasures that glow white-hot in the darkness.
Where do we find this treasure? The map is the Bible. It will tell us all we need to know about how to find the treasure. The treasure I’m talking about is Jesus, God’s Son. When we have Jesus, we have everything, untapped treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
Thought for the Day: For where your heart is, there will be your treasure.
During the first two-three years of being in charge of the Aboriginal Children’s Home in Oodnadatta, South Australia, Ruth Bulpitt had a tough time.
Because Ruth worked amongst the Aboriginal people, the white folk of the town wouldn’t have anything to do with her. ‘What’s the use of looking after the niggers?’ they’d say.
Here is an extract from her biography, A Very fortunate Life. “I’d go down to the Australian Inland Mission and introductions to different white people who visited would happen. There were no barriers; we were all friendly. Everyone talked to me while I was at the hostel but once out on the street; it was another matter. I would walk along the street doing the shopping and say; ‘Hello,’ to this one or that one who I met at the Mission and they would have nothing to do with me. They would cross the street to avoid me, wouldn’t even answer me. Being shunned was the way of life as House Mother to a group of Aboriginal children without parents or Home or anyone to care for them. Until the Education Department agreed that the children could attend the Primary School.
Later, when the children from the camps were allowed to participate at the public school. Some of them, I remember, used to come to me to see if they were adequately dressed and acceptable to go to school. They would bathe and change clothes at the Home before going to school; then, after school, they would return to the Home, change clothes and return to camp leaving their school clothes at the Home until tomorrow. This arrangement worked very well.
Sometimes a child would be missing because he or she had to go bush with the parents. But it did mean that camp children were able to get quite a decent education.
There was no antagonism between the black and white children once they went to the school together.
This anecdote is a picture of God and the way of the world. God is shunned; people walk on the other side of the road to avoid him. The people he created, whom he loved extravagantly and desired that no barrier would exist despise him and do their best to ignore him. The ultimate purpose of Jesus was to break down the walls and reconcile us to God in a close, personal, intimate relationship.
Thought for the Day: Sin was the barrier that stood between mankind and God. Jesus tore that barrier down by taking our sin on himself.
Fiona Costello, guest writer
I have always felt that there is nothing on this earth that can beat the soul restoring properties which come when we let go of the constraints of modern society and join with nature. As the last few years have been full of full-time study, working, renovating, being a mum, having students, nearly losing my son and so on, I have often neglected taking time out for myself. As I sat thinking about this I remembered a time (a while ago) when I was out with my kayak enjoying the freedom of the Gulf. The craft was cutting smoothly through the crisp clean water and I took a moment to raise my face up to the sky, enjoying the contrast of the warm sunlight and cooling breeze on my face. The rhythmic strokes of the paddle kept the craft skimming along at a fair pace when to my delight I caught a glimpse of a dolphin out of the corner of my eye heading swiftly towards me. I smiled as he came up and matched his pace to mine and for about five minutes we slid as one through the water in quiet companionship. Till with a flip of his nose, as if to say goodbye, he turned and sped off. It was like he said 'I've had my break and now I have to go catch my dinner'! I smiled as I watched him slowly disappear into the horizon. Why is it that animals have this perfect balance of work and play that we humans often forget? Why is it that when we get 'off the grind stone’, even if only for a brief moment and spend time with God's creation, we feel refreshed and invigorated? More often than not though we find ourselves working at a furious pace, running around like ants that have been disturbed; taking the kids to sport, activities, coffee with friends, working, cleaning, cooking, making money to pay for our wants, getting frazzled, endlessly grinding away...We seem to be trying to get to the end of the journey when God said that it is the journey itself that is important - 'I came to give you life and life more abundantly'. We need to learn to enjoy the journey we are on. As I work in a high stress industry I know full well how easy it is to get caught up running frantically from crisis to crisis, constantly feeling stressed and using food – or for some people alcohol, cigarettes and or drugs, as a way of coping with our stress, but in reality these things actually add more stress to our mind, body and spirit, instead of helping us enjoy life. The question is: are we living an abundant life, savouring the journey, or trying to get to the end as fast as we can? The thing is, too much prolonged stress can kill or seriously disrupt your health. But on the other hand taking time out to relax and unwind can increase your health, happiness, and prospect of a long fulfilling life, my question to myself is why don't I take time out more often, to stop and enjoy life? That is the question I have been asking myself and one I intend to change, to take time out each week for myself and my family, I know I'm worth it, so are you and the benefits are truly amazing!
Luxury Apartments where people stay for a taste of the good life. Or maybe they live there on a permanent basis.
What’s in a name?
Biblically speaking, there is plenty in the meaning of a name.
Out of curiosity, I decided to look up the meaning of the name Gweneth. I discovered that Gweneth was a Welsh name. It means blessed. People with the name are supposed to have a deep inner desire to use their abilities in leadership. It’s called ‘soul urge’.
I don’t believe the meaning of my name has anything to do with my character. But I have longed to feel blessed, and be fair and good-looking. I have a deep desire or soul urge to use my abilities in the service of God. So perhaps I have lived up to my name.
What’s in a name you ask?
What’s in the name of Jesus?
The name of Jesus means ‘deliverer’, ‘rescuer’. It is a Hebrew name. From the moment Jesus was conceived, his name was to be Jesus, he would save his people. From his birth, his mission was to save we humans from our bondage to sin. He was to rescue us from our separation from the Father. Jesus bore many names referring to his royalty, such as ‘Wonderful’, ‘Counsellor,’ ‘The Mighty God,’ ‘Prince of Peace.’ He fulfilled all these names. His soul urge was to save the world. Not all the worls wants to be saved. The world wants to do its own thing, its own way. The worls uses its soul urge on its self and rejects Jesus and his saving work.
There is no other name we can call upon to rescue us, to deliver us, to restore us and make us new people. Remember the name of Jesus. Jesus saves any and everyone who calls on his name.
Thought for the Day: Experience is the name we give our mistakes.’ Oscar Wilde.
Author: "You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page" - Jodi Picoult