Saturday, 20 September 2014

Obstacles, Dangers, Courage and Bears

Just been reading the tragic news of Lorna Weafer, who was fatally killed by a black bear in May this year.

The 36 year old was employed by Suncor and was an Instrument Technician working on an isolated job site near Fort McMurray, Alta, a town in Salt Lake, Utah, USA.

The horrible tragedy happened as she was making her way back from the wash room to the worksite. The attack was predatory and wasn't provoked at all - the bear dragged her off indifferent to the other workers trying to help.

My heart aches for this poor young woman and her family. Lorna's courage in the face of such ferocity was amazing as bravely she struggled for her life, but to no avail.

You know, life is so fragile - so tender.

Dangers seem to lurk everywhere, even some so unexpected that  they almost seem to be unbelievable and hard for us to get our minds around - like what happened to Lorna - tragedy out of no where with no explanation - just sadness and heart ache.

It seems our world has turned up side down of late - ISIL attacking Christians, public beheadings, the torture of children and women the list seems to go on forever.

Every news item just seems to get worse and the persecution of Christians seems to be taken for granted in the world at large. - the world we live and work in. The world we are part of and yet we aren't - our real home is with our Lord and Saviour.

My real heartfelt message to everyone, all of us, is to be ready - our lives seem to hang in the balance now more than ever before. None of us can know for sure how each day will pan out. Suddenly our lives could change forever, suddenly and without knowing.

We need to ensure that we all know where our heart and real love lies - we need to believe on Him - Acts 16:31 says in part ..."Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved..."

So what does it mean to "believe on Him?" - To believe on Jesus means to believe that He is the Son of God and that he is worthy to be loved, worshipped and obeyed.

The Bible not only stresses faith to believe but it also stresses love. We must give our heart to the Lord - our very being. Loving Jesus is not just having certain feelings; it is a definite choice of our will.

The heart of man can be cold and selfish and can so easily ignore the love that Jesus is offering, they choose not only to ignore but to reject it and soon forget it.

God does not take it lightly when we ignore His word, His invitation to come to Him or hinder others by putting obstacles in their way. This is serious business, I can't stress enough just how serious this is!

As believers we must also expect obstacles along our paths; the more we move out with God, the more attacks and more 'obstacles' we can expect.

As Paul stated in in 2 Timothy 3:12 "....In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted"

We need to be ready, looking to Jesus every day. We need to stand fast and leave the results to Him.

We need to move forward in our differing ministries and God-given gifts, while trusting God to make a way and remove obstacles.

Are you ready?

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Mercy, Grace and Truth

John 1: 16-17 tells us "...and of His fullness we have all received" and again that "Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ"

Pretty astounding when  you think about it that WE HAVE RECEIVED HIS (JESUS') FULLNESS.

The very completeness of Jesus has been transplanted to us when we become born again in Him.

The very fact we have now become and have received the full nature of Jesus often makes me stand amazed at this almost incomprehensible gift!

Jesus Christ is in us and we are in Him - we have the VERY 'fullness' of Christ - WOW! if we can just grasp that truth - we no longer have to live defeated and guilt-ridden lives.

Many Christians go through life thinking "when we get to heaven we will THEN be like Jesus but right now we live in this world - struggling with sin forgiven by God". They feel they can't possibly be like Jesus but in actual fact - we have Jesus living in us - amazing as it sounds!

In lots of ways 'waiting to get to heaven to be like Jesus' can often lead us to defeat and open to guilt and failure.

No! we will never be perfect while we are here on earth BUT with Jesus living in us and us living in Him we have unbridled power to overcome sin at its very root in our lives - we certainly can't do that on our own.

Jesus has not only forgiven us but has also made us His sons and daughters - giving us freely His VERY nature and His DIVINE nature at that - NOW that is truly EXTRAORDINARY!!!

Yes we are forgiven sinners - right now here on earth. We are going to spend eternity with Jesus - BUT amazingly Jesus is living in us right now and has been the very moment we became one with Him and we were born anew.

Because He lives in us and we in Him - His nature is imparted to us. We no longer live for ourselves He, Jesus, actually lives through us!

Do you wrestle with feelings of guilt or unworthiness? Have you made mistakes that you can't seem to recover from? Are there blemishes on your record that won't go away, no matter how hard you try to erase them? Have you done things that people won't forgive?

Think, just for a moment, what Jesus did for you on that cross. He took your guilt, your shame. your mistakes and your blemishes on Himself and destroyed them forever! WOW!!!

Then.... He promised you His divine Nature to live in you while you are here on earth! - Don't know about you but that blows my mind.

If you have given your life to Jesus, in God's eyes you are perfect, spotless - WHY? Because He looks at you and sees Jesus because Jesus is living in you right here, right now.

Don't lead a defeated life here, thinking that you can't be like Jesus until you get to Heaven. Jesus has imparted to His own an extraordinary gift. The gift of Himself. Once we have realised that we can live extraordinary lives while we live on earth, nothing is beyond us.

No sin is too big for us to overcome because it has already been defeated by He who resides in us - JESUS!

Rest on His promise and the purity and forgiveness that He has given you.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Revealed: letting the cat out of the bag

Just reading a book by John Bevere called EXTRAORDINARY. It has certainly been a journey and an eye-opening one at that.

In His book John maintains that we as humans have three images our "projected' image, our "perceived" image and of course our "actual" image.

Must admit I took a bit of a gulp when I read that because his words hit their mark with me straight away. - I would just like to share some of the things he wrote and my own thoughts on this vital message of how God really 'sees' us.

John goes on further to say that your 'perceived' image is how others see you - your 'projected' image is how you desire others to see and your 'actual' image is who you really are.

This really got me thinking - how often do we live in a world of 'projected' images - living to please others - going to and behaving in a manner that suits the occasion - like going to church and putting on your 'spiritual' face, talking in the 'spiritual' way with all the 'spiritual' cliche's.

If you were raised in Sunday School like I was - you know all the 'right' things to say to rise to almost any situation you are put into when it comes to holding your own in a 'religious' sort of way. You can carry on a discussion in a Bible study or lead a group, pray in church and do copious amounts of Bible reading with the best of them. BUT...

Where does that actually leave you in the "actual image' department?

Take Jesus for example (and you couldn't get a better one) - His 'perceived' image was atrocious - He was slandered, mocked, abused, labelled as a blasphemer and even accused of being demon possessed. He had hardly any friends and those who were, abandoned him quick enough. BUT His 'actual' image was altogether different.

In Hebrews we are told that He is the express image of the Father. So while humans saw their 'perceived' image of Jesus  - God saw His "actual" image. And the "actual" image of us - it what God sees too!

Our "perceived" image does not mean a thing to God - we can look as good as we can and go to all the right places. We can meet all the right people and say all the right things but God sees who we really are.

Jesus was the same with the people He met on a daily basis as He was the Father - can we say that??? Would God be welcome to share every thought we have and every conversation?

Maybe you can see now why I took that BIG gulp after reading just a few pages of John's book.

Jesus didn't try to boost his reputation - he didn't try to get the accolades and win applause by the crowds - he actually hid himself away on many occasions. He wasn't interested in the approval of mankind.

Jesus only cared about what was important to the Father God - and we should imitate Jesus in that way.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Treasure, Triumph and Tragedy

He was a man possessed!

He was more than possessed, he was also obsessed - obsessed about a certain treasure - he knew existed and he knew he would have to find!!

He had read about it, dreamt about it, researched it endlessly - he knew the story inside out - buried deep in the steep mountainside of a raging river embankment near the Guaira falls smack bang on the Brazil- Paraguay border.

It was gold and precious stones - hidden originally by the Chaco Indians, the first inhabitants of Paraguay. The Chacos had hidden their treasures when they had been overtaken by the Spanish Conquistadors early in the 16th Century.

He knew the gold existed, many others had tried and failed - the very place where the gold was hidden was precarious to say the least - the Spanish knew about it and had tried various times over the centuries but had failed - the treasure moved in the myths and legends of times BUT he KNEW it existed - he had to get that treasure.

The treasure (if it existed) would be worth and veritable fortune on today's market BUT it was more than money that drove him on - his obsession was unquenchable - HE would go.

He expertly planned his trip. His equipment, was slowly starting to take shape. The maps of the area where he figured would most likely be the hiding place were read and read again until he practically knew each and every crevice, cave and hiding place on the walls of the treacherous falls.

The time had finally come! flying over Brazil and then Paraguay he could hardly contain his excitement, then the falls - he could see them - he could actually see them - but getting there?

He had pre-hired a scout and a guide to take him to the very spot he knew would hold the treasure.

Years in the planning and preparation were finally coming to fruition. The time had finally come to prove to himself and the world that the Chaco treasure was real.

Years in the planning and only a six month visa to find the treasure and get out - getting the visa was hard enough and it would be impossible to extend it so six months was it - that was all he had.

Arriving in Paraguay he wasted no time, contacted the guide, climbing experts and the porters, found the transportation, secured his special licence and he was off - He was so close he could practically 'taste' success.

The falls were breathtaking, magnificent, heart-stopping and at the same time alarming, intimidating and ever so scary!

All the walls were scraggy and slippery wet, hiding 100 of caves, nooks and crannies - seemingly impossible to descend at all. The noise of the falls was a crescendo of crashing water, shattering anything that came in its way. The boiling water at the foot of the drop was just a mass of turbulence - no-one and nothing could survive falling in there.

His rappelling skills were going to be put to the test here but again he wasted no time - the climbing experts set the ropes and pulleys, the porters and guides set up camp as he climbed into his safety gear and the first expedition was off.

The noise was deafening - his body was already at breaking point as he tentatively dropped over the edge - and so his exploration began.

One day melded into another - His search seem endless - he was physically and mentally exhausted. His porters left - His guide abandoned him and yet he continued - the climbing experts stayed with him, their techniques pushed to their limits as he kept going on his seemingly impossible quest.

Week after week, then month after month, he methodically explored every crevice, every cave. His money and the visa were quickly running out and so it was that almost at the end of his time he once more dragged himself to the edge of the crevasse and dropped over the edge - "Just one more time" he said to himself.

Ahead of him was a huge bolder sticking out of the wall of the canyon and he had to dodge around it struggling with the ropes as he did so. He was almost past the rock when he noticed a small, almost insignificant crevice - he stared, he backtracked with the tangled rope and swung himself into this hidden little nook far above the raging water.

The hidden little nook behind this huge bolder that had tangled his rope in the first place turned out to be a small, dank, dark cave - his flashlight on he started to explore, his hands searched the walls, pulling back chunks of loose rock. He had almost given up when his eyes caught sight of a small yet obvious alter - could it be??

Above the alter was what looked like a smooth rock - slimy and dank like the rest but somehow different. He quickly tugged at the stone and the slimy surface gave way to shiny gold - he was trembling in unbelief could it be? Could it be?

The rock gave way in his hands and he found himself holding  the image of a god around two ft long and quite heavy - it was obviously gold from what he could make out in the fading light. The sounds from outside came to his attention - the crashing water - the dank smell of the cave - the spray - light was fading fast he had to make a move - what else lay in this cave?

Two days to go before he had to leave Paraguay - two days?? - He made a decision - he wouldn't let go of this - he had to have it - he would come back tomorrow before he left.

Quickly he made his way out of the cave to the ropes and pulley - he signalled to the rappelling crew who were getting anxious due to the failing light. But one rope was hopelessly tangled around the bolder at the mouth of the cave. His Transmitter/Receiver on his helmet crackled and the voice said "We can do this with one rope but you will have to use both hands."

That would mean dropping the idol or leaving it in the cave - He couldn't!! "NOOOO" he screamed I can't leave this now! I can do this he said and holding the idol under one arm and holding the untangled rope with one hand he told the rappelling crew to pull him up.

They pleaded with him to drop whatever he was holding as his rescue depended on him holding the rope with two hands to avoid the 'swing effect'. He couldn't do it - he had waited too long, worked too hard to lose it now.

The rope tightened - he felt the tug as he was lifted - the extra weight of the idol and the swing effect due to the imbalance sent him wide over the canyon - he felt his hand slip slightly - "let go of whatever you are holding and use both hands" came the directive. NO came the reply as he slipped and screaming fell to his death in the rapids below.

His utter determination to hang on to that idol is absolutely nothing compared to the vice-like grip we put on life.

If you think that was a pretty tough - why didn't he just let go? Or put the idol away until it was safer? Then re-think your own life - I know I did.

Try prying your own fingers away from YOUR earthly treasures. Try taking a superannuation package away from a retiree or a wardrobe full of the latest fashion from your teenage daughter.

The way we clutch at our possessions and our bank accounts we would think that we couldn't possibly survive without all of these material things.

Paul spells it out pretty plainly in 1 Timothy 6: 9-12 "That the root of all kinds of evil is love of money and many who have desired it have wandered from the faith and opened themselves up to many griefs."

But it is more than money - we hang on to all sorts of 'toys' in our lives - anything that comes between us and God is our 'idol'. When you think about it our idols come in all sorts of various forms - pride, sex, self-centredness, greed, putting others in God's place - even gluttony, the love of food can become our idol.

Our forthright and obvious love of possessions stand out in the 'idol' category, and we can so cleverly make them so important in our own eyes. Ultimately all 'idols' whatever shape or form they come in is rebellion against God. Is it any wonder that God hates them?

We can hang on to our 'toys' but we will alienate ourselves from our Lord and God and alienation eventually spells eternal separation.

So.... How are you at clinging to your earthly possessions? or... HOW am I??? OUCH!!

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Little Miss Giggles

Luke 18:27

Jesus replied, "What is impossible with man is possible with God."

Can the impossible happen?  Short answer Yes - I know for a fact it can - I would have thought it was impossible for me to change - In fact I reckon I got to the stage where I didn't want to change I was happy, or so I thought, with my life until BAM! God changed me - I can't believe how I used to be.

Was I really like that and loving it?

When you read the Bible there are heaps of impossibilities happening - most of them mind blowing.

Although the biggest impossibilities happen in the lives of ordinary human beings I'd reckon - lives changed dramatically and permanently by the Spirit of God. Things that cannot be explained and quite frankly a bit hard to explain to the world at large out there.

Consider the case of Sarai who was to have her named changed to Sarah - an amazing lady of exceptional beauty, wealth, poise, self-assurance and grace.

Married to her half brother Abram (wouldn't happen today) Sarai was wealthy in the eyes of the world - beauty and wealth couldn't hide the fact that she was sad because she couldn't have children.

She would have been well into her sixties by the time Abram was called by God to 'go to the land flowing with milk and honey' the promised land that was later to become the home of the 'chosen' people of God - Abram and Sarai's descendants.

She was in her 'golden years' you could say and God had promised her a son - she is excited - she plans - she waits and waits and waits - still no son.

Decades pass so Sarai decides to take things into her own hands - after all it's impossible now for her to conceive - she is well into her eighties! She convinces Abram that time has run out!  it's impossible now. So she gives her maid Hagar to Abram and Hagar bears Ishmael and the rest is history.

We leap ahead fourteen long years, Ishmael has grown and he and his Mum are pretty entrenched into the family - Ishmael is Abram's heir, Ishmael MUST be the promised child of God BUT.... God had other ideas.

The amazing and impossible happens - God pays them a visit and tells them to get ready for a baby bundle, start choosing boy's names because this time next year you and Sarai will be bouncing a baby boy on your bony old knees! IMPOSSIBLE!

Sarai was 99 years old and Abram 100 -  impossible! - what do they do? - they laugh at the lunacy of it all. They laugh because it is just too good to be true and I guess they laugh because it JUST MIGHT happen!

Sarai laughed into her bony wrinkled hands her shoulders shaking with laughter at the very thought of bearing a child at her age. Hilarious on one hand, fear on the other, hilarity doubling her over turns to nervous giggles of apprehension at the very might and in the very presence of Creator God.

God works at accomplishing the absurd, the impossible, the unbelievable and sure enough by the time the year is ended, Sarai and Abram are changed forever - God even changed their names to Sarah (Mother) and Abraham (The Father of a multitude).

Their names aren't the only things God changed in that miraculous year, He changed their minds, their faith and how they looked at the impossible. He also changed Sarah's definition of trust in God - She trusted Him from then on - In His time not hers.

We so easily jump ahead of God - we tire of waiting on Him - how many times have we taken things into our own hands just like Sarai did those thousands of years ago, often with disastrous consequences.

Yes our God is a God of miracles - a God of the impossible. We can read about them all scattered throughout the Bible - from Sarai to Paul's amazing and impossible conversion.

What is impossible for man is possible only through God - He needs our complete surrender. All around us in this world is sin, sorrow, war and problems all of which are Satan's domain - BUT God is the God of the impossible - He is still on His throne, doing the impossible, changing people's lives and changing them for good.

If we surrender to God completely then like Abraham and Sarah we will become strong in faith, giving glory to God, because we trust in His amazing and often impossible ways.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Princesses, Princes and Paupers

Hypocrisy! Even the word sends chills down our spines.

Don't you just hate hypocrisy?

I have heard many many times when talking about my Christianity these words (and I guess we have all been on the receiving end of them at some stage) "I don't go to church - it is full of hypocrites"

You know - I have come to realise that they absolutely correct - Basically we are all hypocrites - none of us truly are what we say we are - we are sinful and disobedient to God - we have all fallen short of His standards and it is only through his grace that we are saved in the first place.

Cliff Knechtle wrote and I quote "We are all either trying to hide our bad sides or we try to make them look good. But deep inside we all know that we fall short of living the way we should. No one can escape the charge of 'hypocrite'. No one except Jesus who is the only one able to live to God's standards"

So, to the "I wouldn't darken the doors of the church because of so many hypocrites there" I say "We'd gladly make room for you there is plenty of room for us all." We don't offer "Christians' to our friends and neighbours we are offering the CHRIST.

Jesus is the only one who can really see the condition of our hearts  - what's really lurking there under the masks we love to put on.

Twice now I have seen churches ask people to leave because they didn't come up to some standard - I have heard sermons on how we should love everyone including the un-lovely, the left-out ones, the prostitutes and homeless, the drunkards and drug affected, which is wonderful and sounds just like Jesus until it actually happens!

What about the convicted murderer, or the paedophile, those who are addicted to pornography on a grand scale especially child pornography - what about those?

It's time's like these that our true colours are exposed and our hypocrisy can be seen by the world.

Being a grandfather of five I can certainly understand reticence on the church in admitting these seekers, heaps of things to consider, especially the safety and well-being of children which I am sure God would want us to consider very carefully.

On saying that, the question I am left pondering is this "How would Jesus have reacted to this type of situation?" Honesty on the part of these people can lead to exclusion from the church and ostracism from the membership. I am sure that we could come up with what is acceptable to God and to the church without having to resort to expulsion.

With God there are no 'grades' of sin - he hates sin especially hypocrisy - Jesus died to do away with sin - our sins are cleansed once we through faith claim the gift God offers us through his awesome yet amazing grace. ALL sin is cleansed through Christ's sacrifice regardless of what that sin is. NO sin is TOO GROSS to be forgiven.

Yes of course we have to be careful but at the end of the day, Jesus saves and satisfies. He and He alone took on the burden of our sin be it hypocrisy or Paedophilia, murder or offence, He and He alone was the only one worthy enough to pay that price. What right have we got to define who is admitted to His church.

So who are you when  it comes to hypocrisy the Princess or the Prince? - Looking really good on the inside, able to preach a WOW of a sermon that has the people out of their seats and all gung-ho ready to go?

Or are you a Pauper, which in fact we all are! We are all Paupers in the eye of God - all needing change and deliverance from our sins to make us into Princesses and Princes in the 'real' sense of the word. Royalty living as Jesus lived, loving EVERYONE as Jesus did, accepting and showing His grace, mercy and love to all.

Hypocrisy is an evil, sneaky and deadly little sin and one that won't ever be tolerated by a just God.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Jumping in muddy puddles

Peppa Pig just LOVES jumping in muddy puddles! - Makes me wonder just how many of us like doing the same?

Muddy puddles come in all shapes and sizes and sometimes we don't just love jumping in them but we wallow in them as well.

The muddy puddles of taking offence and hanging onto that offence is probably one of the biggest muddy puddles we will have to encounter in our lives.

Taking a guess, I would suggest everybody - every single one of us has at some point taken offence at some stage in their lives, some HUGE and some slight, regardless - offence is offence.

Some of us get so offended with others that we carry that offence or resentment for the rest of our lives. In other people the offence is hardly noticeable, they seem to able to brush it off like water on a ducks back.

Other people can put up with the most pointed offences, even personal attacks, bullying etc and can, even though they may get hurt in the process, recover quite quickly and seem to overlook it all and carry no spite at all to the offender.

So why do we get offended and what does God say about the 'wallowing in offence' that some us are prone to do?

Offence usual happens when someone says something to us, about us or about our family that we interpret or perceive to be insulting, wrong or just plain nasty! We could be blamed for something we didn't do or something we failed to do and so we take offence.

We could interpret someones actions to be negative to us, to be inconsiderate or even plain thoughtless towards us. Anything can make us offended.

So offence can be pretty dangerous - it can isolate us from people and friends but more importantly it can isolate us from God and have a real impact on our very salvation, depending on how we cope with the offence and what we decide to do with it.

Some of us even become offended with God; blaming Him for not taking into consideration all of the 'things' we have done for Him, or "I gave my heart to God and look what happened' syndrome.

We can see that offence is so wrong - in Matthew 18, Jesus tells us just how solemnly He looks at the sin of offence "It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of sea" Jesus said of those who committed offence.

So what do we do when we are offended - should we reach for the millstone or do something about it?

Whether your offence is towards God or towards other people, the way you handle it can either make you  bitter and twisted or make you stronger and strange as it sounds the stronger you get the more humble you become.

Humility is the key to getting over offence! The proud find it so difficult and prefer to wallow in the mud of offence and unlike Peppa they don't just like 'jumping' into muddy puddles, but rather wallow in the mud of offence until it gets into the very pause of their inner beings.

Such people live in bitterness and anger, preferring confrontation with others and being the 'victim' in all situations. God can't work with people like this; there is no room for God to grow this person; there is no room for such people to reach out to God either.

Where there is bitterness and offence, there you will find, frustration, unforgiveness and all sorts of envy and strife.

Alternatively with God working in your life there are the gifts of love, humility, patience, kindness and self control as mentioned in the Galatians 12.

Maybe as you have read this, you, like me have been reminded of your past relationships and some of the offences that may have occurred with them. Are there any that need to be 'put right'?

If you have been 'convicted' of some offence in the past or present, make sure before you do anything to ask the Holy Spirit to guide you through and to make your thoughts and your tongue pure before Him.

Ask God to give you the wonderful gift of humility; a humility that will see you accept what the other says even though inside of you it may feel offensive. Ask God to give you patience and endurance and to offer that person the wonderful gift of your real love.

It's definitely time to step out of the muddy puddle, clean yourself off, and like the prodigal son, come back to the Father. your relationship with him will be amazingly fulfilling; your relationship with others will never be the same - you will start to see them through the eyes of Jesus.

Stay quiet before God and allow Him to show you what you should do. Big blessings to you as you continue to grow in humility, forgiveness and in the handling of offence.