Saturday, 19 April 2014

How a 20 year old slip of paper saved my life

I was always a 'good' boy!

Loved my mum and dad and always stuck by the rules - never really got into trouble (well maybe just a little) and nearly always did what I was told.

When my parents said to do something I would snap to and do it - from music practise to washing up  -  I was your boy.

School was always a drag but then I guess I didn't have that on my own. All of my efforts were put into pleasing my parents and basking in the security that they offered.

I was very fortunate in having a Mum and Dad who loved Jesus and believed strongly in His leadership. As a family we were hauled off to church each week and I knew all the Bible stories and heaps of verses.

Mum prayed with us often and encouraged us to give our lives to Jesus and I guess at an early stage in my life I did just that. Not that it meant any sort of change in my life and in some ways I took Jesus and His amazing work totally for granted.

So here I was growing up on a type of merry-go-round of church, school and youth group and all the while never really thinking that Jesus' message really meant me.

I was the 'good' boy, never really changing, life travelling along OK, meeting kids my own age and generally enjoying life as it was. Getting a job and meeting the girl of dreams just added to my idyllic lifestyle. Just another day in Paradise you could say.

I guess it may have been the Vietnam War and Australia's decision to conscript 20 year old males into the army that I first had a real change in my life - During my 19th year I had heaps of time to think about what life would be like in the army or even warfare in Vietnam.

It was during this time I had my first real confrontation with God (if I could put it that way). I was concerned about being drafted into the army and I suppose during that time I tried praying - really praying for possibly the very first time in my life. Did it make a change in my life? I doubt it. But I was quietly pleased when the conscription ballot finally fell and I had missed out.

Did I think of God after that - unfortunately No. It wasn't until we had a couple of children and we were attending an old historic church, cold, drafty and full of 'old' people that God worked an amazing miracle in my life.

I was on a roster of welcoming people to church and this particular rota fell on a night service. Grumbling about driving into town on a cold winters night, I felt a fraction better leaving the family at home all warm and cosy. I remember thinking that no-one will be in church on such a cold, wet and windy night - I should stay at home.

And cold, wet and windy it was - the church was pretty much vacant - You could hear the wind whistling through the big old doors as I walked up the steps to do my duty.

As I walked in the wind picked up and blew a piece of old yellowing paper onto the floor at my feet. I picked it up and not thinking anything about it got onto welcoming the very few church members.

As I stood there and the service started - I glanced down at the paper - it was an old Christian tract written 20 years before. As I turned it over in my hand these words leaped out at me - "I will never leave you or forsake you".

That's all....That amazing verse in Hebrews had the most awesome effect on me. GOD MEANS ME!!! ME - HE MEANS ME! HE REALLY REALLY MEANS ME.

I couldn't believe it - The God I had 'talked' to for years was actually talking back to me - He was never going to leave me.

Right there and then I asked Him into life - As I stood in that old windy porch clutching onto an old yellow piece of torn paper. GOD MEANS ME!

My life has changed so much since then  - God has seen me though some horrible and nasty times - times when I doubt I would have made it except for his great love and patience.

I still sin, I always will until I finally get to glory and I have a new mind and body - but Jesus died to renew my relationship with Him not to condemn me for the past and future sins.

Have you been convicted of your need to have Jesus take control of your life?

We all have our different stories of how we feel about Jesus or what we have done with Him. We all need to make a decision one way or another - either accept Jesus as Lord or reject Him ... but hey He will never turn you away.

All you need to do is to pray a prayer just like this:-

Dear God,

I know I have sinned against you and I have fallen short of your standards.
Thank you for not leaving me in this state and I believe that You sent Jesus to 
die as a payment for my sins.
Please forgive me for all of the sins I have done.
I want to live for you and not for myself - please come and take 100% control of my life. Amen.


If you prayed that prayer, please contact us or another Christian person so that we can pray and encourage you in your Christian walk.

Monday, 14 April 2014

God and the bully

Ever been bullied?

Not nice is it - been there done that I hear you say - and when It comes right down to it I guess we have  all felt it to some degree or at least known about it - Heaven forbid we have even been a bully!

Bullying is not something new - been around for generations and had disastrous effects.

Bullying was certainly around at the time of Jesus - the Pharisees were the "Kings of bullying" in his time - they bullied everyone and certainly didn't like it when someone like Jesus came along - someone different with a message different to theirs - a message of love, hope and forgiveness instead of laws, rules and damnation.

So here we are in the 21st century and bullying has reached an all time peak or so it seems - we read about it constantly - we see it on Youtube and you just have to look at the net for countless ways of coping with and dealing with bullying.

So what are the hallmarks of a bully?

A bully is someone who in some ways I guess resembles a predator. a person who is on the lookout for someone who is weaker or someone who can be 'taken down'.

Look at the big cats of prey - what do they do - they are on the lookout for the weak or the vulnerable of the herds - they watch and wait for just the right moment - then they separate them from the crowd, wear them down with constant chasing and then when the moment is right attack.

It is like that with bullies - they love to separate their victims. Turning others against their victim is probably one the basic rules of being a bully - if they can get the victim to feel isolated, alone and vulnerable then they are ripe for the picking.

The aggression caused by a bully can be physical - like fisty-cuffs, pushing biting etc or verbal - name calling, ridicule, insults, intimidation, nasty glances etc or today through cyber space - quietly undermining the victims confidence.

Bullying like all sorts of abuse is perpetrated a lot of the time by predators who in fact are cowardly. They bully to get noticed and to 'win' certain friends. they bully to put others down and to isolate them from friends and relatives.

I personally have been bullied; unfortunately mine was with a sibling - being the youngest I was always more sensitive, cautious and far more quieter than my siblings. I also had a negative view of violence, I was non-aggressive and withdrew from confrontations, I cried often if attacked and had an anxious vulnerability, often gripped with fear and so was certainly a prime subject for the bigger more aggressive sibling predator/bully.

In so doing the bully/sibling took great delight in putting me down - making me feel unworthy and incapable of achieving. These negative feelings of a bully's victim can follow all through life and can affect the victim constantly.

No one likes a bully but no one really likes a continual victim either! - we need at some stage to stick up for ourselves and put those times behind us - or else we can become what I like to call an 'eternal victim' - forever the one picked on and having negative views of themselves and their abilities.

So what is the answer and where do we go to from here?

"Turning the other cheek" is great - and Jesus Himself said so but it is interesting to note that when He was facing his accusers before His vile crucifixtion he was slapped in the face by one of the brutish soldiers. What did he do? He didn't turn the other cheek so that the coward could slap him again but rather responded by asking the bully what it was that he had done so wrong  (John 18:19-23)

Jesus, here, actually defended himself verbally. He confronted a bully and demanded an answer.

Jesus never contradicted Himself so why here? C.S. Lewis, explains it quite well "Jesus does not want his followers to be neither motivated nor consumed by revenge - He doesn't want His followers to return insult for insult."

I feel when a christian is confronted with something like bullying, self-defence is not the same as revenge. Lewis' essay "Why I am Not a Pacifist" hits the nail on the head when he says that "one can defend themselves while at the same time not abuse or demean another person."

Being the victim of bullying certainly doesn't mean that you have to remain a victim - God is our hope and strength in times of trouble that's for sure. With Him we are never alone and there is no need to  'throw in the towel', curl up into a foetal position and become a 'forever victim'.

Jesus Himself, after everything He went through, was NOT a victim. The cowards, predators and bully's however paid the price - just like they will today.

It is not up to us to seek revenge - If we love the Lord, He has got us covered in every situation. We need, however,  to take control of the bullying situation, we need to take appropriate steps to defend ourselves and our loved ones.

Look to Jesus, He is the perfect example of how to cope with bullies.






Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Don't worry - just pray

For years and years I have had a policy of worrying!!

I worry about just about everything - you name it - I will worry about it.

It drives my family bonkers to say the least. I would worry about the slightest things - the things that most people wouldn't even think about.

When I was a child - and exams at school came around - I was almost prostrate with worry and anxiousness - with the result exam marks went down and school work suffered.

I worried about my job, my family even my health and even sleeping habits - can you believe it???

I tried everything from relaxing music to naturopathy to hypnotherapy - all to no avail - a lost cause a total write off.

But hey!! a little worry and anxiety can be good for you - it can prepare you for important issues like a job interview - it can keep the adrenaline pumping through to your heart and keep you alive and awake - ready to take on the world.

BUT.... excessive worriers like me react differently to the norm -we see things from different parallel to most and all it takes is a trigger to set us off.

Even thinking about a situation can cause chronic distress and disability. Excessive worrying or ongoing fear can cause some to become irrational so that people like me can't focus on reality.They can think of nothing else but the anxiousness that they are feeling and have HUGE difficulties on shaking off their worries.

So how do we cope in situations like this? - I must admit it takes it out of you when the Constancy of on-going worry makes you unable to cope with the slightest problem and hiccup along life's way.

Joyce Meyer once said - "Worry is like a rocking chair  - it's always in motion but it never takes you anywhere" - How true that is - but when you are in the midst of your cycle of never-ending worry - how do you get out??

It wasn't until I had an amazing turn of event that changed my life completely  - It made me see things from a different angle and made me aware of the awesomeness and righteousness of God - GOD IS ALIVE and willing to help us out of all our troubles - even this one - believe it or not!!!

When we worry - we actually do Satan's job for him - we take the trust out the relationship with God and instead of 'casting our cares upon Jesus' we take the the burden of our worries upon ourselves and forget the trust angle all together.

We play straight into the hands of the Accuser whose main aim is to get us to to STOP trusting God and rely on ourselves. We need to trust God and to humble ourselves to His will - forget about ourselves and believe what he says and look to the example of Jesus in everything we do.

If we don't humble ourselves and trust God then He can't really help us - Our need of Him and total trust in Him must come from a humble and contrite heart. We still need to do what we can do and trust God for those things that we can't do.

God has given us the amazing gift of life - don't throw it in the curb because of worry and anxiousness. If you are stuck in the middle of the never-ending cycle of worry and there seemingly is no way out - why not give God's way a chance.

We so need to stop putting ourselves in the drivers seat - stop snatching the wheel away from God and let Him take control. And what would make us do this? Only our desire to please Him and not ourselves. That's what it means to 'humble' ourselves before God.

So where do you sit in the 'worry' scale? Are you like I was, burdened with anxiousness and worry - having just enough faith to have asked for forgiveness and received salvation in the first place but not walking daily with God - every hour - every moment?

God is amazingly and spectacularly faithful - what he says He will do - He said "I will never leave you" and he means it! All we need to do is to trust Him completely to do what he says.

Try it - I know His ways are best and true and in so doing you will be prepared for just about anything that comes along.

Of course we will continue to be concerned when life throws us a wobbly but with God on our side anxiousness, stress and constant worry have no real power in our lives.

Here is a link to good old song by Evie Tonquist - just about to sums it up I feel. Enjoy

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6k5DKcmKAwI














Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Whispers

 On your walk with Jesus have you ever felt the "guilts" - I certainly have  and can assure you they are not nice!!

Feeling guilty and not good enough for God and the "am I truly saved?" feeling can be devastatingly horrible.

Heaps of us Believers hear these condemning thoughts and we often sadly think that God is the author of these. - so wrong!!

God never tells you that you are worthless - he never tells you that you are loser - He never tells you that you are not good enough - He never tells you that you have overstepped the mark.

Jesus Himself said "I didn't come to condemn the world, but to save it" (John12:47)

So I hear you asking - "what about conviction by the Holy Spirit? doesn't feeling sorry cause us to feel regret for the wrongs in our lives"?

Yes it certainly does - convicting us of sin is one of, if not THE main jobs of the Holy Spirit - but there is a world of difference in the convictions of sin and the condemnation of being in sin.

Being convicted of sin makes us 'feel' just a little bit of the Spirits grief over what we have done to ourselves or others. God's Spirit makes us (if I can put it like that) feel sorrowful to the point of repentance.

The whole point of this sorrow is to enforce to us or to ensure that this area where we have fallen now can be avoided in the future. It is more about GUIDANCE  then JUDGEMENT.

God loves to lead us out of Sin and His Spirit whispers to our hearts - "Come follow me - I love you - this is the way to go"

The Accuser on the other hand wants us left wallowing in our sin and whispers in our ears "You are to
blame for this mess you are in - you have done it now - Can't you see God is saying you are far too bad to repent"

So how can we distinguish between the pangs of conscience caused by God's Spirit motivated by His great love and the 'blaming condemnation' of the Accuser?

Godly sorrow and our need to repent motivates us to change or alter our future behaviour - we can put aside our 'guilt' feelings and move forward with Jesus - knowing that our sins are forgiven.

On the other hand the Spirit of the Accuser 'stuns' us into immobility constantly waving our shame and guilt like a big black wet blanket - always referring to the past - accusing and shaming us.

God's whispers point us forward - Satan's whispers  points us backward.

Gods Holy Spirit's intention is not to make constant re-runs of past wrongs- accusing us over an over again and reminding us of the consequences - If that is your problem you can be assured that the message you are getting is definitely not from God but from the evil spirited - the Accuser trying hard to get your focus off God and onto yourself.

God's way is to end sins' power over us not to protract the agony of unforgiveness!!

So the upshot is - Spiritual conviction brings us to repentance without regrets. So should we feel sorry for what we did - Of course we do but when that sorry turns into self-reproach and shame you can almost guarantee that your repentance has been hijacked by the accuser.

Don't listen to Satan's whispers - God's intention of repentance isn't to put us on probation  - His holy spirit convicts us, we repent and He forgives and forgets.








Sunday, 23 February 2014

Deadly Secrets

Ever had the past thrown up in your face? Just when you think you past is over and forgotten, some secret comes screaming back at you  - that secret is no longer secret!

A lot of Christians can relate horror stories about past sins that have "caught up" with them.

In my past blogs (The Hauntings & Blood Stained Pages) I have attempted to answer the question of past sins and how we as Christians can have those feelings of guilt and self-condemnation forgiven AND forgotten.

All sin is a stark reality we must all deal with sooner or later in our lives - not one of us escapes! - We all have rebelled against God and His standards. Only through Jesus' death can we be forgiven.

In Jesus, even the most heinous of sins can be blotted out by His Sacrifice  - if you turn to 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 there are heaps of sins mentioned there that are totally covered by His death on Calvary.

Salvation is by grace and grace forgives.

But what about those 'secret sins'? - What secret sins? I hear you ask.

Our 'secret sins' can be our jealousy, slander, innocent enough sounding gossip, conceit, pride, greed, money worshiping, drunkenness, fraud, stealing, idolatry, bad motives, lust, pornography, adultery and the list goes on and on - some seemingly quite innocent and happen day to day before we even notice.

Even our very thoughts can lead us to sin - so we are seemingly trapped in this never ending and ever widening cycle of our 'deadly secrets'.

Satan is king of strategies! - He is a master of using our secret sins, those no-one knows about, he whispers in our ears to keep them in hiding, maybe justifying them or blaming others so that God will shift that blame somehow onto them and see you as the innocent party. Either way our 'secrets' can remain just that - secrets - our own little realm - out of sight but not really out of mind.

However, on saying that, it is possible through the work of God's Spirit inside of us that we can take up the 'armor of God' He has provided and ready ourselves for battle. Or, on the other hand, we can give in to whatever our particular 'secret sin' is that plagues our lives.

The battle can often be overwhelming and we can be defeated but due to our amazing forgiving Lord we need not be demoralised.

When we sin God's Holy Spirit convicts us  and helps us recognise what we have done and encourages us to ask for forgiveness.

May I add here, that God in His infinite mercy wants desperately to have a relationship with us - He is not a Pharisee, always picking fault, and throwing past sins in our faces. His mercy and forgiveness is boundless and free.

So, when confronted by your 'secret sins' admit to them, fess up, name them out loud if you have to and ask God's forgiveness and His help in nailing them to Jesus cross. I heard someone say once that "it is not the sound of a gavel pounding out justice to our guilt but the sound of a hammer hammering our sins to the cross of Christ."

Once those sins are hammered there, no-one can ever pry them off.

So right in the early stages, admit your 'secret sins' and walk away, then we don't have to worry about them coming back to haunt us.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

"Closer than a Brother" or "Sibling Rivalry?"

Proverbs 18:24 refers to a "Friend who sticks closer than a brother".

Brothers!!! WOW! Wouldn't it be great if all brothers would stick together like the Proverbs verse!

The writer here seems to assume that all brothers (and I guess I can throw in here siblings) are naturally close and it would have to be a one-in-a-million type of friend who would or could be ever closer.

Reading the account of Joseph in the old testament I re-read the incident of when the brothers had again come to Egypt to beg/buy food off the "Governor", little realising that the "Governor" in question was their very own brother Joseph whom they had sold into slavery.

Joseph had narrowly missed out on being murdered by his siblings and was only rescued at the last minute by the opportune arrival of merchants/slave traders on their way to Egypt.

Anyway back to story:-  Here is Judah, one of the elder brothers so willing to expedite his murderous plan to annihilate Joseph years before, jumping to the rescue of Benjamin, the kid brother, who was accused of stealing and faced certain death.

Throwing himself on the mercy of the Governor (Joseph) and begging to save Benjamin's life and trading it for his own.

WHOA! what a turn around - Obviously Judah had learnt a HUGE lesson that brothers are indeed family and as such worthy to be loved and respected.

In the case of Judah and Benjamin, the Bible's idea of a brother is someone who refuses to walk away, even when everyone else has split!

So how are you shaping up? How does your relationship with your siblings stack up to the Biblical ideal? How close do you stick to your brothers and sisters?

Can they get comfort from you when things go pear-shaped? Can they count on you to confront them when you see warning signs in their lives?

Would you go into bat for your siblings like Judah did for Benjamin?

Heaps of questions that made me think! Sibling love and respect is a fine and a beautiful thing but what about when brothers fall out?

I can hear you saying what if my brother/sister won't forgive? What if you have tried to reconcile on several occasions and he/she has refused all of your attempts?

Forgiveness is not an "if we like, airy fairy , luvvie duvvy" feeling we get that will make things all cosy and rosy again in the family. TRUE forgiveness comes from the heart and the very soul of a person and prompted by the Holy Spirit.

Forgiveness is mandatory, compulsory and obligatory if we want to have any sort of relationship with God - and forgiveness is not just lip service either. Forgiveness needs to come from a heart changed by God and a life lived and ruled by the Holy Spirit.

What if you just can't reconcile the situation and he/she won't have anything to do with you? What if you are a Christian, will the non-reconciliation of a brother or sister spoil your relationship with God? Could that possibly happen even if you have been faithful and true to the Lord?

Romans 12:18 says we are to do everything possible to live at peace with one another, as far as it depends on us. But we are not responsible for the actions of anyone else including our siblings and parents.  Their behaviour as far as their refusal to forgive cannot penalise our future with God.

Matthew 18 also talks about this subject.

We do however need to show our sibling through our behaviour, the same love and understanding that Jesus showed. We need to reflect his humility and goodness whenever we have dealings with them and always be ready to show love and forgiveness at all times.  We should never seek revenge, and always think of them as more important than our feelings of hurt.

Praying always that our siblings will come to a point in their lives where, maybe through your witness of a life changed by God, that they will be able to forgive and reconcile.











Saturday, 8 February 2014

Ordinary or Extraordinary?

Think God can't use a person like you? Think again!

You may be thinking "I can never be of any use to God - I'm too old - what use has my life been" - or you may be thinking "I am just a brand new Christian - way not enough experience to be used by God"  - well I really want you to re-think your position and how God can use you.
BE EXTRAORDINARY NOT ORDINARY

I was astounded just recently when someone shared with me how I had been used by God without even knowing it!

We hadn't seen other for years nor had we communicated in any way but as soon we saw each other his first words were "I will never forget how God used you to help my ministry" - I was dumbfounded.

It all happened way way back when I was in Human Resources for a pretty big company and we were in the process of updating our computer system.  Transferring our computers from one brand to another was taking it's time and costing heaps of money no doubt.

The offer was given that the redundant computers were to be offered to charities or church affiliated bodies - so I had a quick ring around.

The first person I called was this friend who at that time was a young minister just starting out in his first church. I thought in my innocence that maybe, just maybe he could use a computer for his ministry.

Unbeknown to me, he and his Bible study group had just been praying for a computer and no sooner had they finished the prayer when my phone call arrived - I had no idea! - He was so amazed he didn't tell me until just the other day when we happened to meet after many years.

That is just one little experience of how God uses people even in the so-called 'little' things. It is these 'little' things that often astounds us as to the interest God takes in our lives - He loves us so.

When you think about it - God used a murderer to lead his people out of slavery in Egypt. He surrounded his Son with a group of uneducated fisherman and workers. One of the number, Matthew, was a tax collector working for the Romans. Tax Collectors were a despised group of Jews that were looked upon as traitors and treasonists.

He used a man who tortured Christians horribly, stoning them and ripping families apart to watch them die slow and agonising deaths, to spearhead the spread of Christianity throughout the Roman Empire.

He used a one hundred year old man and his ninety nine year old wife to become parents of the chosen race of Israel, a lowly shepherd boy to become the greatest king to lead that race and the most amazing of all a young innocent girl to become the mother of Jesus.

You may also be thinking - "what a mess I have made in my life - I am such a failure - God couldn't possibly use me."

That isn't at all true! God uses our failures, trials, misfortunes and yes even our misery and guilt to glorify is kingdom. you may say you are a failure BUT because of what Jesus did on that cross over two thousand years ago, God sees you as victorious. He can turn the bad things and so-called failures into good to testify to His grace.

The fact is, we need to make ourselves available to God and he will use us.

We need to be humble - God can't use the proud - He never has. The Pharisees of long ago were a proud lot, judging others and always pointing out bad behaviour and attitude.

Paul was one of the most educated people of his day but he was also one of the proudest. God broke him down in the most spectacular way on the road to Damascus and he was never the same again. He became a humble and contrite servant of Jesus. All of his education was then directed only to the glory of God.

God knows about your past. He knows your weaknesses and insecurities. He also knows what you are capable of. God has an amazing record of taking nobodies and making them somebodies all by His grace alone.

There are untold numbers of testimonies on the Internet describing how God uses people. Some down and out, living it rough on the streets,when God reached down and pulled them out of their misery and now praising Him with awesome stories to win others. Some are astonishingly rich living life with everything the world can offer, only to realise they had nothing at all - bound in sin and hopelessness.

No matter who you are, God can make you a vital part of His incredible plan. He used an ordinary tract in an ordinary church on a cold wet and windy night, with hardly anybody there, written by an ordinary person at least two decades before, to bring me to my knees in repentance.

God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things in extraordinary ways and all to advance His kingdom.

So how about you? are you willing to let Him?