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Saturday, 28 July 2012

Close to God

When do you feel close to God? What experiences do you have where you think to yourself - this is pleasing my heavenly Father? When do you feel His Holy Spirit flowing through you?
One of the pastors in my church is a wonderful piano player. It’s a joy to listen to him. In the course of one of his sermons, he recently mentioned that although he gains great joy from playing the piano, he appreciates far more the times when he joins with a congregation of people singing praise to God. That’s when the Holy Spirit is evident in his life.
This comment caused me to ponder upon the times when I feel closest to God. I too love to praise God amongst a choir of earthly voices singing praises in church. At times it seems that other, heavenly voices join the chorus, and for a while the divide between the two realms is almost breached. The same applies for a time when I am praying with others. I sometimes have the experience of almost entering another dimension closer to Jesus and it’s like returning down a tunnel to open one’s eyes and reenter the physical world.
Yet the times when I feel closest to God are, for me, not found in church or in the company of other like-minded Christians, lovely as these times are.
In my work in health I meet an assortment of people from various walks of life. Sometimes I work with the most vulnerable of folk – people who have had a tough life in various ways. Some have chronic illnesses. Some are disabled. Some have mental health issues, or addictions. Some live in poverty or struggle with managing their physical environments. Sometimes they live with carers, who may have been caring for their loved ones for decades.
It is truly an honour to know such people. They epitomise what the beatitudes are all about. Where the world turns its face away, God’s presence is very real. Jesus in His earthly ministry cared for the sick, disabled, abused and unwanted, the poor and despised. When I commit my day and each person that I visit to Him, His presence touches them. I know that when I literally wash feet, or speak an encouraging word or give a gentle touch on the arm, the only touch which that person may receive all day, God’s love is there. He answers and meets needs.  That is when I feel God’s presence, when I simply become a conduit for his love to flow to those who need it.  It’s by no means a one-sided exchange. The people I encounter bless and encourage me so much. To God be the glory.
The other most frequent time when I feel close to God, when He delights me and recharges my batteries, is when I am close to nature.  I love being in my garden, with my dogs and cats and wild creatures and plants; or visiting some of the scenic places that we are blessed with. It's truly recreational (re-creational) to walk on the beach or enjoy a hike in a forest with my loved ones, as I did at the Bunya Mountains recently. We have both a glimpse of what was lost at Eden and a tiny foretaste of the unimaginable beauty of heaven to come.
It’s so wonderful to have time to relax and contemplate not only the beauty of a seashore or forest or desert or night sky; but even more so the beauty and inestimable kindness of the One who created all these things to reflect His glory and to delight us. May we never forget that the One who created the wonders of nature and the universe, the King of all kings, made Himself human and poor and lonely and abused, in order to obey and glorify His Father God and to give His life for our salvation.
Praise Him.




Self -portrait II

Self-portrait II

A college art assignment
was my first
self-portrait.
Then the teenage-girl studied
herself long hours in the mirror, catching
a glimpse of some resemblance on her paper-
two-dimensional collection
of fact, brown eyes, black hair
and static pose, she did not breathe
theatrics then or understand
the mystery of love or beauty of a soul.
Thrown out, self-portrait one
with discarded semester's end dreams.

Self-portrait two- a woman worldly- worn
Forester of dawn's leaf-laden paths,
treading her course, rescuer, guide
and comforter, a sleek black kelpie
ever with her, alongside, dark companion,
Wild hair and heart, boots worn
to the tread with walking, lover,
stargazer, faithful friend.
Paint her alone, grasping solitude.
Colour her in greens and azure blue
of the ocean and sky
and indigo night for her wanderings.
Emblazon her life with thoughts
and words of her own making,
books and poetry,
But note this well-
In the end picture her
Waiting with expectation
for her Saviour.


Copyright 2012 Josephine Collett
 
 

Thursday, 19 July 2012

The Gospel / How do I become a Christian?


The Gospel

In the beginning, God, (God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit), created the heavens and the earth and everything in it, including the first man, Adam and the first woman, Eve. God created humans to live in relationship with Him, but gave them free will to either obey Him or be disobedient. Satan, the devil, whom the Bible identifies as a fallen angel, tempted Eve to sin by disobeying God and she in turn tempted Adam to also disobey God. For their disobedience Adam and Eve were cast away from God’s presence and the wonderful life God had created for them and through them all their descendents were destined to be born sinful.

Yet throughout history there have been men and women who sought after God. Humanity became so depraved that God destroyed the earth with a global flood, but saved Noah and his family. Through Abraham God established the nation of Israel, who would be God’s favoured people. Moses, Abraham’s descendent, led the Israelites out of captivity in Egypt and received the Ten Commandments and many laws of conduct. Because of the sinful nature of man, these laws were not kept, and a system of animal sacrifices was instituted to make atonement for the sins of the people. However, the people both individually and as a nation continued in a cycle of falling away from God and returning to Him.

During the history of the nation of Israel there were prophets who foretold that a Saviour would be born, to save humanity from its sinfulness. Their prophecies were fulfilled when Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem. Jesus is the only Son of God. He was sent to this earth and lived amongst us as a human, without losing His divine nature. In all things Jesus honoured and obeyed His Father, God. During His ministry on earth, Jesus performed many miracles and taught us regarding God’s nature and way of living. He was tempted by Satan but was without sin. He travelled with a group of disciples who were the foundation of the church – God’s people on earth.

In the same way that animals had been sacrificed to make atonement for man’s sin, it was the purpose of God to send Jesus to earth to become a total sacrifice, once and for all time, for fallen humanity. As was His destiny, Jesus was arrested, tried for heresy and crucified on a hill outside Jerusalem called Calvary. At the time of Christ’s death the curtain in the Jewish temple was torn apart, symbolising that the old system of God only being able to be approached by certain people and in certain places, was finished.

Now all could come into right relationship with God through the shed blood of Jesus, by committing their lives to Him in repentance and faith.

The Bible tells us that Jesus descended into hell and has total dominion over Satan and evil. On the third day Christ rose from the dead and appeared to his disciples and many others on earth. He gave his disciples the “great commission” to go into all nations and preach the gospel. Forty days after his resurrection, Jesus ascended into heaven.

After Jesus ascended to heaven, God sent the Holy Spirit to the earth at Pentecost (ten days after Jesus’ ascension). The Holy Spirit is not only alive in the world, but indwells in those who have committed themselves wholly to God and gives such attributes as comfort, counsel, power and discernment. God's temple is now not a building, but the people in whom His spirit dwells. In the same way the church is not a building but the body of Christian believers on earth.

The Bible tells of spiritual battles between good and evil in both earthly and heavenly realms. It includes indications of great tribulation yet to come. We are told that Christ will return to this earth, the second coming, when He will defeat the evil forces raging in the world and will judge the living and the dead.

We who have committed our lives to Christ still struggle in our humanity with temptation to sin, and must choose daily to live in obedience to His will. We grow in our faith through prayer, study and reflection of God’s word, the Bible; and by meeting regularly in fellowship with other Christians.


How do I become a Christian?

The Bible tells us that there is only one way to relationship with God and that is through Jesus Christ:


"Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12)
“Thomas said to him, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”. (John 14:5-6)

To become a Christian, you need to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that He died on the cross to honour God and for the forgiveness of sin and that He rose again and ascended to His Father God.

You also need to admit or confess that you are a sinner in need of God’s forgiveness through Christ.

You then need to receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour. Just as a wedding ceremony begins a marriage, so a prayer of confession and faith can begin, but is just the beginning, of a relationship with God. An ongoing relationship includes learning about God through Bible study; conversations with God through prayer, and encouragement through Christian fellowship in a caring church.
The following is a prayer which could be used to begin this relationship. You may wish to pray it alone, personally, or you may wish to discuss your decision with a Christian friend or pastor first to fully understand:

Dear Heavenly Father God,
I come before You acknowledging You as the only one God- Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Thank You for revealing Yourself to me. Thank You, Father God, for sending Your only Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross, honouring You and making a way for sinful people to come back into relationship with You. I acknowledge that I am a sinner. Please forgive my sin and cleanse me I pray. I receive Jesus Christ into my life to be my Lord and Saviour for the rest of my days. May You give me strength through the power of the Holy Spirit to live my life as a Christian. I ask this in the name of Jesus Christ my Lord and Saviour. Amen

May God bless you with an ever-increasing knowledge of His wonderful presence and endless love as you continue to seek and serve Him.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Christian Haiku



three shadows lengthen
cry shattering the silent air
unexpected night



in the darkest niche
light reflecting a glimmer
her missing coin found



rooster crows again
something beyond the sunrise
suddenly dawning

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

2 Chronicles 7:14

If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and forgive their sin and heal their land.
(New International Version of the Bible)

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Friends

I thank God for my friends, particularly my gal pals, who encourage me. There are so many people in this world who, for whatever reason, are perfectly comfortable with bringing someone else down. Thank God for those with a listening ear, a word of encouragement and a willingness to help.

But even the best friend or the most loving spouse or other family member can not compare to the friendship and understanding that is given to us by God the Father, Jesus Christ His Son and the Holy Spirit, three-in-One, blessed Trinity. Proverbs 18:24 tells us that "there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother."Nobody knows us or can care for us like God does. No one can counsel us or change our whole perspective on life in the way that He can. He is always with us, ever true and faithful. He has said in his word "I will never leave you nor forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5). He is always just a prayer away.

"What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!"  Joseph M. Scriven 1855



Monday, 9 July 2012

When


When I feel the Holy Spirit
filling my heart with such peace and joy

When I know the love given
by the special people in my life

When nature thrills me with its wonders
                        great and small

When I receive the unselfish love
of a child or an animal

All the times I have known when coincidences
   must be God incidences

And times when my soul has risen
with the music of many voices

When a silent prayer
has taken me away to secret places

When words have eased and comforted
and challenged and created

Then I know, with surety beyond compare
That God is in the midst of all
This life is just a preface
to the wonder of forever
loving Him.




Thursday, 5 July 2012

Courageous


I recently viewed the movie “Courageous” and felt rather ambivalent about it. It’s good that Christian filmmakers are producing work which embodies Christian principles. It is certainly a movie that provides a jumping-off point for discussion and study about what it means to be a Christian man.

This movie did demonstrate that Christian men come in all shapes and sizes and occupations, and can be heroic, athletic, funny, thoughtful, noble, determined and even wrong and sinful. They aren’t perfect, just ordinary guys whose lives are transformed by a relationship with Jesus Christ. It also showed that even Christian lives are not immune to tragedy but that God’s comfort and presence is there in the midst of grief.

One element I didn’t like was the storyline about the worker whose bosses put him to the test, lying to him about wanting him to do something underhand to test his honesty. In real life that’s called entrapment – the Christian worker passed with flying colours, but if I was him I’d be looking for a more professional outfit to work for.

Culturally, there are lots of ways to practice Christianity too. For some, expressing their faith/manhood by publicly engaging in a ceremony with a minister and making pledges, backed up with a plaque hammered into the living room wall may be the way to go. For others this might not be needed. I would suggest that in both cases, faith/manhood requires an ongoing process of reflection and expression.

Most disconcerting of all for me was the scene of a father taking his daughter to the restaurant and giving her a ring to wear, until such time as a fiancĂ©e replaced it. Not everyone supports this idea, even within church circles. By giving this ring, did the father also give the girl the impression that her identity is forever defined by a father or husband? What of those who are called to a single life?  If the ring giving was done in the context of a loving relationship, underpinned by years of good parenting, backed up with lots of conversation and a compliant daughter, it might possibly work as a symbol. If you had an overly- controlling father, whose word was law and who was determined to dictate his daughter’s life, friends and husband, coupled with a lack of trust development and a rebellious teenager – I don’t think a ring is going to help. And where was the mother in all this? I have known of teenagers, male and female, being given commitment rings, but in my experience it is both parents who have done so, in the context of talking about celibacy.

Despite some of these concerns, I was glad that my sons (and husband) had the opportunity to watch “Courageous” for there were many positive attributes displayed by the men portrayed. I particularly admired the young man who faced up to his responsibilities regarding the child he had fathered. As well as responsibility, the movie demonstrated the need for mateship, honesty, hard work and yes, physical and mental courage in dangerous situations.There was a car chase and shoot-out worked into the plotline of course, because this was a movie designed to appeal to men.


I’d like to add a few of my own ideas about what I, as a woman, think it means for a man (or a woman) to have courage:

It takes courage to not go along with the crowd when they laugh and talk about things which are inappropriate to Christian values.

It takes courage to walk into a pub with your workmates because you want to get alongside them socially to witness to them, to always drink lemonade and to openly talk about Christianity. (My husband)

It takes courage to sell everything, pack up your family and move across the world to give your children a better life, especially when you are in your early fifties and don’t have relatives, a job or a home to go to. ( My Dad and Mother.)

It takes courage to face every day with a severe disability in a world which often doesn’t understand or care and in which life is just constantly more difficult than it should be. (My autistic son and every other person with a disability)

It takes courage to stand up for others who are unable to do so themselves; to be a Christian in a secular school and to live a different lifestyle to the other young adults who are not Christians in your extended family. (My younger son)

It takes courage to care for a severely intellectually-disabled daughter for over forty years and then care for her mother too as dementia afflicted her, whilst at the same time dealing with your own cancer diagnosis, and still face life with a smile. (A friend, one of the most courageous men I know)

It takes courage to face the world with an “I’m alright” when you are grieving inside for the loss of a loved one.

It takes courage to endure a serious illness or chronic pain.

It takes courage to be a Christian in countries where your faith may lead to discrimination, imprisonment or murder.

It takes courage to cross the world to minister the gospel, especially in dangerous places.

It takes courage to cross a room to minister the gospel.

It takes courage to face an enemy of Christ, who is opposing you and all you stand for, to be forgiving and loving to that person.

It takes courage to face a Christian brother or sister when you are concerned that by their actions or words they demonstrate that they are veering onto a path that will take them away from God. It takes even more courage if that person is a friend.

It takes courage to question the practices in your church when everybody else seems to be happy with the status quo.

It takes courage to turn off the computer when you are tempted to click onto the provocative story or website link that appears when you are browsing.

It takes courage to walk away from that person who knows that your marriage is under stress or in trouble and who offers such an attractive way out of it all.

It takes courage to drive at the speed limit when all your friends in the car are urging you to put your foot down.

It takes courage to walk away from a fight when you want to punch the other person's lights out and they are egging you on to do so. 

It takes courage to get up day after day, year after year, to go to work in a job that is by the world’s standards low status, and to not complain because it is providing for your family. (My father again)

It takes courage to admit you are wrong and to ask for forgiveness.

For me personally, it will take much courage, as someone who is afraid of heights, to accompany my husband on a helicopter flight. For him, it is getting up on a dance floor to dance with me.

I’m sure there are many, many other ways that people are courageous.

Courage, according to my trusty Oxford dictionary, is bravery or boldness. We can discourage someone, deprive them of courage, confidence or energy. Alternatively we can encourage –urge, advise, stimulate, help, promote or assist.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6







Servanthood


We all serve someone. For some, it is themselves. They are slaves to their own ambitions, lusts, intellect, work, addictions, pleasures, egos, pride and many other self-serving attributes. For some it is a false religion or god. Others may worship another person, denying themselves but living for a family member or partner. Others serve God, our Father, Jesus Christ His only Son and the Holy Spirit.
The word servant appears throughout the Bible in many forms. It’s apparent that servanthood is a characteristic and necessary part of the Christian life. Here is just a small sample of references which illustrate this concept (all NIV version of the Bible, bold highlighting mine)

“Paul,a servant of Christ Jesus,...." Romans 1:1
"Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus..." Philippians 1:1
"Paul, a servant of God...." Titus 1:1
"Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus..." Philemon 1:1
"James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ" James 1:1
"Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ..." 2 Peter 1:1
"Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ...." Jude 1:1
"...his servant John" Revelation 1:1

"Moses was faithful as a servant in all God's house," Hebrews 3:5
"If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself" Galatians 6:3
"serve one another in love." Galatians 5:13
"if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons" 1 Timothy 3:10
"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves." Philippians 2:3

Moses, David, Nehemiah, Job, Isaiah, Abraham, Jacob, Samuel, Nathan, Mary the mother of Jesus, Daniel, Hannah and Simeon, amongst many others, all referred to themselves as servants.

There are numerous references throughout the Bible and particularly in the Old Testament, where there is a comparison made between the people serving God, which resulted in His favour, or turning away and serving other Gods, which resulted in God’s wrath and judgement:
e.g. “commit yourselves to the Lord and serve Him only and He will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines” (Samuel speaking to the Israelites, 1 Samuel 7:3);
“If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, he will turn and bring disaster on you and make an end of you, after he has been good to you. But the people said to Joshua “No we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:20,21)

God refers to Jesus as His servant:  "Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight" (the prophesy of Isaiah regarding Jesus recorded in Matthew 12:18, referring to Isaiah 42:1)
God Himself generally refers to His people as His servants eg. "Have you considered my servant Job?" Job 1:8
"Do not fear O Jacob, my servant, do not be dismayed O Israel." (In this case the people of God as a whole were referred to as a servant. Jeremiah 46:27, echoing Jeremiah 30:10)

Jesus referred to servanthood and stresses the value of service throughout His ministry on earth. The parables contain numerous illustrations of servants, including the parable of the talents, which contains the master’s words which we all aspire to hearing from our Saviour, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:21).

Jesus not only spoke about servanthood, but demonstrated it by washing the feet of his disciples, a task usually undertaken by a servant: “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.” (John 13:14)

Jesus addressed His disciples, when they were indignant with James and John for requesting a position of honour alongside Jesus:
“Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave- just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  Matthew 20: 25-28
What amazingly humble words these were from the Creator of the universe, the King of all Kings.

Jesus, raised his disciples above the status of a servant:
“I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:15)
Yet shortly after speaking the above cited verse, Jesus reiterated His words of John chapter 13: “No servant is greater than his master” (John 15:20).

What a privilege it is to be known as a friend of Jesus. It is like a loving family which has a servant and adopts that servant to become their own son or daughter. Within this comparison, though, we would note that an adoptee would still be required to perform tasks to assist the family – relationship would come with responsibility. It is therefore not inappropriate that Christians, although friends of Christ, or children of God, may still call themselves servants, as the disciples did. We are always required to serve God and the world in which we live.

Whom do you serve? May we say, with Joshua, that well-known verse depicted on many a household plaque: "As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord."  (Joshua 24:15)

Thank You Father God for the precious gift You gave us, Your Son Jesus Christ, given in love, that whosoever would believe in Him and turn to Him in repentance and faith would not perish but would receive a precious life of eternal relationship with You. Thank You Father for the servant heart displayed by Your Son, who honoured You and served this fallen world even while we were yet sinners. Thank You for the example of those men and women throughout the Bible who called themselves your servants. May we, Your church seek to serve You, each other and a world that does not yet know You throughout our lives, we pray. We ask this in the precious name of Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen