Saturday, 25 August 2012

Book Review: "Do Yourself a Favor...Forgive" by Joyce Meyer

Forgiveness is something I struggle with, so when I saw the title of Joyce Meyer’s recently published book, I knew it was a “must have”. It was well worth the investment.
Joyce Meyer is not without her critics. If you are a televangelist as well as a woman in ministry, that would be a given. However, she has a firm conviction as to her calling which I find most admirable. Her work reveals her strong focus on God and biblical precepts and teaching.
In clear, easy to understand format, Joyce approaches the subject of forgiveness from a biblical perspective, without denying the very human emotions which make it such a challenge. She provides case studies of situations requiring forgiveness to which many of the readers can relate, ranging from minor irritations to serious abuse.
Joyce provides a process of steps to follow in relation to forgiveness. Her approach is found in the desire to forgive, followed by a conscious decision, dependency on the Holy Spirit to bring this to fruition, and prayer for those who have wronged you.  
Part of Joyce’s testimony is found in the final chapter of the book. With searing honesty she describes her childhood abuse within her birth family and the effects of her Christian witness of forgiveness toward her abuser.
I believe that God’s love and grace is demonstrated through Joyce’s writing and I personally found this book to be of great encouragement to me in dealing with situations that require forgiveness. It also clearly reminded me of my need for forgiveness on an ongoing basis while I reside this side of eternity, and the goodness and grace of God who forgives me through the work and advocacy of His Son, Jesus Christ. I thoroughly recommend this work for those struggling or interested in the subject.

"Do Yourself a Favor...Forgive" by Joyce Meyer FaithWords (Hachette Book Group) New York 2012

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

What's God doing?

Do you feel insignificant as far as God’s purposes for this world go? Do you wish to be used mightily for the kingdom of heaven? Do you get frustrated over the lack of discernable fruit being borne for all your prayers and efforts?
Two nights ago our Pastor asked the question “What’s God doing in your life?” during a church service, encouraging the congregation to share ways that God was working in their lives or the lives of others that they know. I must say, most of the time I find it hard to think of anything very significant that’s happened in my week, let alone think fast enough on my feet to be able to articulate it in verbal words as some folk can. Yet I do believe that God is indeed working in my life.  I hope and pray that God’s love is displayed to others through my witness. He knows and to Him be all the glory.
That same night our congregation had communion and I sat in my seat, holding a small piece of bread between my fingers. This piece of bread was the result of a long chain of production, from the agricultural workers who tilled a piece of land and planted the grain, to those who harvested it, transported it, transformed it into bread, marketed it, purchased it and cut it into pieces and served it. Many other ancillary people assisted the process by designing equipment to help with production, building roads and vehicles for transportation, making wrappers, washing the dishes it was served on, etc. etc.
And what was my process, my production, which caused me to be sitting in church, taking communion?  My presence, too, was the result of a chain of ministry by many people who impacted my life for God. My parents took my to church as a child and they and others laid the foundation of my faith. In my teenage years I went right away from God, though here and there someone planted a seed. In my early twenties, already married, I began attending a Pentecostal church, committed my life to Christ and was baptised. It was through a friend at the time that I learned the difference between a head knowledge of the gospel and a deeply personal relationship with Jesus. Many others in the years since have continued to impact me and strengthen my faith and no doubt throughout my entire life there have been people praying for me. 
So it is with all of us. God alone knows the whole story. When we commit ourselves each day to His purposes, He will use us. We may have the wonderful opportunity to lead someone to commitment of their lives to Christ. If not, we are still part of the process. We can pray for others, with or without them knowing it, from the friend who pours her heart out over the phone to the unknown stranger in the car in front stopped at a red light. I pray for others over the internet, and often pray that God will bring Christians into that person's daily life, at the same time realising that I am a Christian person who is in the daily life of many others that I interact with in reality every day. We can talk about Jesus to others. We try to model Christ’s love and right way of living, though we fall far short. We can demonstrate Christ’s love in many practical ways.
“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,”(1 Peter 3:15). By both our words and our attitudes towards others, we can help those who are spiritually seeking. Christ in us needs no hard-sell. He is so compelling that He draws the spiritually dry and thirsty to Himself. We are just the poor earthenware vessels that hold His glory.
“What’s God doing?” In my life this week, He brought two unexpected encounters at work in two days. The first was a lady whom I have been praying for, who is experiencing considerable personal conflict. We met unexpectedly and spent time together and she shared that the situation is improving significantly. Praise God. The second encounter was with a Christian tradesman friend, whom I had not seen for several years, who “happened” to be working at a client’s home. Because we “happened” to be working there at the same time together, I was able to share with him a need of a third person whom he will be able to help. Praise God for the circumstances He provides for His own purposes.
God may use just one person to bring the unsaved to Himself, or He may use many. He is expert at networking. As He says in His word (1 Corinthians 3:5-9) :
“What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each.  I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.  So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.  He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor.  For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.”

To God be the glory. 

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Animal Farm

George Orwell's "Animal Farm" first published in 1945, is an excellent allegorical novella, designed in its time to depict the rise of Stalin's regime in Russia, yet applicable to many other social and political situations.
The story depicts a group of farm animals who, in the absence of their human masters, decide to take control and work the farm according to their own philosophies. Gradually over time, their ideals disintegrate and the pigs establish a control which in the final scene is barely distinguishable from that which was formerly practised by the humans.
What does this have to teach us in the church?
In the past week I was shocked and saddened to watch a video of a church service in which a group of young people presented an item to the very large congregation. Dressed as zombies, they staggered on stage and proceeded to sing and dance to Michael Jackson's "Thriller". In terms of a high school rock eisteddfod, they may have been judged to have done a great job. In terms of a church service, I would have to ask - What on earth were you thinking folks?
This is written with the greatest love for the young people involved. Yes, the church needs to address the culture of its time. Yes, it needs to harness the exuberance and talents of its young people. No - it does not need to copy the Godless and hedonistic society in which we live.  It needs to display the real alternative, the only hope, that a Christ-centred church offers. Where was the direction and guidance that should have been offered to these young people?
The church is a place for God to be honoured first and foremost. It's a place for worship, both reverently and joyfully. A church filled with the Holy Spirit will sing and dance and clap and laugh and smile and hug ( appropriately). But we need to be aware that there are other spiritual forces which attach themselves to churches and they are evil. It's easy for things to be done for human pride and to entertain ourselves, rather than for the worship and honour which is God's due, and this applies to a whole range of aspects of church culture including worship.
The bible tells us we are created in God's image.( Genesis 1:27) As far as I'm concerned there is nothing God- honouring about dancing zombies, or people on all fours barking like dogs or shrieking and gyrating with maniacal laughter and I would question what kind of spirits are attaching themselves to such behaviour.
Biblically, people are drawn to God because we honour Him and love one another.  Jesus said "but I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself." (John 12:32) When we honour Christ's death and resurrection, we are a witness to the unsaved. Jesus also said "By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:35). When we display love and unity within the church, love not found in the world, we will reach out to a thirsty and dry world. We do not need, and in fact there is nothing so false, as a church which copies the ideals and standards of the society in which we live.
And we all fall short. It's only by the obedience of Christ displayed to us that we also learn to be obedient to our Heavenly Father. It's only by the grace of God that we can know and show His love and grace. It's only through the power of the Holy Spirit that we can forgive and reach out to others in the way that He desires.
The litmus test for anything proclaiming to be Christian is this- does it proclaim the gospel, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who came to this earth to die on the cross, honouring His Father's will and making a way for sinful humanity to be in right relationship with God?
We live in rapidly changing and serious times. Be right with God. Enjoy the genuine. Know your Bible. Be discerning. And be part of a church that strives to be an alternative to this world.
May God bless you.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Great Southern Land

Migrant, castaway, itinerant,
Tramp of fortune, traversing
the latitudes of hope, they came
South, to that far-flung strip of empire -
Terra Australis, came with fear and aspirations
Slaking the heart‑longing of the dispossessed ‑
To reach a destination.

I look through the window of the corner store
And meet the troubled eyes of Mr Han

Finding it, they travelled on
Crossed hazy plateaux, desert wild
Split ironbarks, built homes with wide verandas
Sang the songs and told the stories.
Walked along the shoreline, searching, always seeking
Far horizons and the deep waters
of their passing.

I walk beside a city park
Dark figures sit like statues in the shadows

And we were there, the migrant children
Adrift on the Indian Ocean
Woken in the night to scan a far horizon’s
tiny line of light that was
Fremantle beckoning
Woken again on a sunny dawn, beholding
Giant spans of steel above, the Bridge embracing us
As we sailed into Circular Quay.

I hold a faded photograph
Our family disembarks

Still we endlessly pursue
what we know not, drive the continent’s circle,
hike in national parks and scale its mountains,
Swarm and scatter on the golden dunes
Sit in kerbside cafes, read the news
in foreign print, yet call this "home"
Summon memories of far away and dream
of places yet to be.

Still searching billabong, river, window, ocean
for images of my own reflection

Poem for Charles

What is your purpose now –
a spirit and soul, life-defeating sadness
the brain exposed in medical terms, sinus,
carcinoma, bccs,
blue eyes shining, a face without pain, serene
uttering half collected words,
what is your purpose now -
the profound sadness of your situation
falling like a caress upon the beholder
the innocence of your tears stinging the eyes
of others
to hold a hand and demonstrate how to live
because you are a spirit, a soul
and a man
That is your purpose now.

The sight of a dressing undone, revealing a sinus which had eaten through a person’s head as far as his brain was sobering and extremely moving. I had not seen such a wound before, yet did not feel revulsion or disgust. To have done so would have been to belittle the person inside that frail body. The sight filled me with intense pity.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Some stats

Google search "Christian leadership" approx. 52,500,000 results.
Google search " Christian servanthood" approx 1,530,000 results.

Local Christian bookstore catalogue search "leadership" 332 items.
Local Christian bookstore catalogue search "servanthood" 2 items.

NIV online bible concordance search "leader" 236 references.
NIV online bible concordance search "servant" 767 references.

“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

When did the church of God cease to be servants, serving God and each other, following other servants who have gone before along the narrow path into the kingdom?

Standing firm

 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ (Matthew 7:21-23)

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge and if I have a faith that can move mountains but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)

At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 24:10-13)

“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35)

(New International Version of the Bible, bold highlights mine.)

These are sobering verses. As I read through the verses in Matthew 24 in my private devotional time recently, the word “most” jumped out at me. It’s strange how you can be familiar with a certain passage and yet find new and challenging aspects upon rereading it. God’s word is forever unfolding to the reader.

“Most will grow cold.” Not a few, not even many, as some versions state, but according to the NIV, most will stop loving God. I wonder how many of the “good Christians” that I know will fall away if challenged. And I wonder, if my world became chaotic and ruled by those who hated Christ, if my family was threatened or my life, would I have the strength to remain true to God?

A few years ago I experienced what I believe to have been a prophetic dream. In the dream it was night, and I was with a large group of people outside somewhere, in a car park, and we were singing praises to God. The dream continued for a long time with us singing praises, but as the night wore on, many people went away. In the end there was only a small group of us still singing praises. God often reveals Himself in my mind through a single word, and the word that formed in my mind as I dreamed was “remnant”. In the dream the few people who were left had been singing all the night until the new day dawned. I awoke thinking to myself “Lord, may I be one of the remnant.”

We live in a rapidly changing world, one experiencing wars, natural disasters, famine, poverty and diseases. There are economic and environmental problems. In the western world our hedonistic culture promotes selfishness and greed and results in the breakdown of marriages and families and the rise of addictions and crime. The religious systems are rocked by scandal and false doctrine and church hurt, resulting in cynicism and falling away.

Yet Christ has said He will build His church, and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18). He is still very much involved in building His church, for it’s the only hope for this world. Christ’s power within us is often underestimated, for His love has the power to dispel the darkness and draw a world hungering for truth and love to Himself. There is no force on earth like the church in action. I am talking about the body of Christ on earth, the people devoted to God, not a denomination or system.

Praise God for the church that will rise up and declare He is Lord. Praise God for the Christians that will get on their knees in prayer to intercede for their unsaved neighbours. Praise God for those who will seek His will and ways by studying His word. Praise God for those who are committed to building Christian communities of servanthood, honesty, love and peace. And praise God for the ones who not only know His loving touch in their lives but have a burden to demonstrate His love to others.

I want to be a woman who will not grow cold in love for God or other people. I want to be someone who will stand firm and not fall away. And I want God to say to me, “I know you.”