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Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Sitting next to Jesus


In Matthew’s gospel, chapter 20, verses 17-19, Jesus describes the events that are to take place shortly in Jerusalem – His betrayal, arrest, crucifixion and death, followed by His glorious resurrection on the third day. It seems a little incongruous then, that these verses are then followed by the account of an unusual request.
In verses 20-24 the mother of James and John kneels at the feet of Jesus and asks that her two sons be given the positions of honour, at the right and left sides of Jesus, in His heavenly kingdom.
“You don’t know what you are asking” Jesus said to them. v.22. The fact that this was addressed to James and John implies that they had a hand in their mother’s request. “Can you drink from the cup I am going to drink?”
“We can.” They answered.
Jesus goes on to explain that it is His Father’s prerogative to allocate the places of honour next to Jesus in heaven, not His own.


I wonder who our Father has determined will sit next to Jesus?
Perhaps someone of great faith and influence.
Perhaps someone who has suffered much and been martyred.
Perhaps someone who has toiled unceasingly for the kingdom.
Maybe, just maybe, it might be a little child, or someone with a severe disability, whom the world has rejected as unwanted or useless.
We don’t know.

We do know from the many accounts in the Bible that Jesus loved and used any that would come to Him in faith. He ministered to the educated elite in the synagogues and revealed Himself to the wise scholars such as Nicodemus, but equally He was drawn to the poor and needy. He presented His teachings in parables able to be understood by uneducated folk. He sought out the outcasts – the lepers, demon-possessed, criminals and prostitutes and others, and gave them hope for a changed life in Christ.

James and John had been with Jesus throughout His earthly ministry and had witnessed many miracles, but their minds were still on earthy values of position and power. It was not until Jesus’ resurrection and ascension and the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost that the true nature of Jesus’ kingdom would become apparent to them. Because the greatest gift we can ever hope to receive is that which Jesus enabled by His death and resurrection – the gift of eternal relationship with God – the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

I think any of us when we get to heaven will no doubt realise how little we deserve to be there, and what a debt of gratitude we owe our Saviour. If we can fall at His feet and wash them with our tears before joining in the praises of our heavenly brothers and sisters in Christ, that will be enough.






Lonely at Christmas


From the very beginnings of His earthly life, Jesus demonstrated His solidarity with the outcasts, the poor and needy and afflicted.

He was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the body of a young woman betrothed to a young man. No doubt Mary and Joseph had to endure much speculation, gossip and slander regarding her pregnancy and Jesus’ paternity.

Jesus was born in a stable, a lowly shack or cave. His first visitors were shepherds, regarded as one of the most menial jobs of the time.

Jesus was a refugee in Egypt.

He ministered to everyone, including those that society despised.

Throughout His earthly life, Jesus was beloved and believed in by many, but was also rejected, especially by the religious leaders of the day, the ones who should have been most able to recognise their anticipated Messiah.

Jesus was betrayed by one who should have been a close friend.

He was abandoned by many others who should have stood by Him and acknowledged Him.

He endured lies, mocking, slander, mental anguish and physical torture.

“God madeHim who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

On the cross, Jesus even felt abandoned by His Father God.

Yet He rose again, triumphantly, claiming the keys of death and hell and dominion over every evil force of darkness that can plague this world. He reigns in Heaven with His Father God and will return again to cleanse this world from its ever increasing ugliness of sin and will reign forever in His kingdom. Praise God.

If you are alone and feeling lonely this Christmas, remember that Christ has experienced all that you are feeling, and much more. He understands. He has said in His word, the Bible
“whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” (John 6:37)
and “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)
and “"I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”(Jeremiah 31:3)
and “I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)


Dear Heavenly Father, at Christmas time I come to You giving thanks for the wonderful and precious gift of Your Son, Jesus Christ, who was born in a lowly stable and lived in poor and simple conditions before dying on the cross to honour You and to make a way for us to be in right relationship with You, through repentance and faith in Jesus. Thank You Father that Jesus rose again and reigns in heaven.  Thank You for the gift of Your Holy Spirit, who remains in this world and indwells our hearts to comfort and counsel us. Father I pray that all who feel lonely this Christmas will know Your presence in their lives in a new and real way and will turn to You in repentance and faith. I pray for Christian witnesses and friends to encourage and support them. Be with the sick and grieving and lost we pray. We ask these things in the precious name of Jesus. Amen

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Christmas Poem - author unknown

This was a poem taught to me by Mrs Fox, my grade six teacher. I've been unable to trace the author so cannot give credit, but still remember it, possibly with a few mental changes over the years to the original. It was such a lovely, meaningful poem that I'd like to share it. If anyone is able to authenticate the author or original text, I'd be grateful for feedback at my hotmail address.


If I had lived long years ago
And seen on Christmas Day
A strange star in the sky aglow,
I would have followed close the wise men three
The little holy child to see.

They brought Him presents, rich and rare,
I would have brought one too,
And laid it in the manger there,
Perhaps a ball of blue
Or woolly lamb, so soft and small
For Him to cuddle in the stall.

I was not there, and so you see
I could not bring Him joy
He had no birthday gift from me
Or any little toy
And so at Christmas time I take
A gift to others, for His sake. 

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

A Love Letter From Your Heavenly Father

My Child,

You may not know me,
but I know everything about you.

Psalm 139:1
I know when you sit down and when you rise up.
Psalm 139:2
I am familiar with all your ways.
Psalm 139:3
Even the very hairs on your head are numbered.
Matthew 10:29-31
For you were made in my image.
Genesis 1:27
In me you live and move and have your being.
Acts 17:28
For you are my offspring.
Acts 17:28
I knew you even before you were conceived.
Jeremiah 1:4-5
I chose you when I planned creation.
Ephesians 1:11-12
You were not a mistake,
for all your days are written in my book.

Psalm 139:15-16
I determined the exact time of your birth
and where you would live.

Acts 17:26
You are fearfully and wonderfully made.
Psalm 139:14
I knit you together in your mother's womb.
Psalm 139:13
And brought you forth on the day you were born.
Psalm 71:6
I have been misrepresented
by those who don't know me.

John 8:41-44
I am not distant and angry,
but am the complete expression of love.

1 John 4:16
And it is my desire to lavish my love on you.
1 John 3:1
Simply because you are my child
and I am your Father.

1 John 3:1
I offer you more than your earthly father ever could.
Matthew 7:11
For I am the perfect father.
Matthew 5:48
Every good gift that you receive comes from my hand.
James 1:17
For I am your provider and I meet all your needs.
Matthew 6:31-33
My plan for your future has always been filled with hope.
Jeremiah 29:11
Because I love you with an everlasting love.
Jeremiah 31:3
My thoughts toward you are countless
as the sand on the seashore.

Psalm 139:17-18
And I rejoice over you with singing.
Zephaniah 3:17
I will never stop doing good to you.
Jeremiah 32:40
For you are my treasured possession.
Exodus 19:5
I desire to establish you
with all my heart and all my soul.

Jeremiah 32:41
And I want to show you great and marvelous things.
Jeremiah 33:3
If you seek me with all your heart,
you will find me.

Deuteronomy 4:29
Delight in me and I will give you
the desires of your heart.

Psalm 37:4
For it is I who gave you those desires.
Philippians 2:13
I am able to do more for you
than you could possibly imagine.

Ephesians 3:20
For I am your greatest encourager.
2 Thessalonians 2:16-17
I am also the Father who comforts you
in all your troubles.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4
When you are brokenhearted,
I am close to you.

Psalm 34:18
As a shepherd carries a lamb,
I have carried you close to my heart.

Isaiah 40:11
One day I will wipe away
every tear from your eyes.

Revelation 21:3-4
And I'll take away all the pain
you have suffered on this earth.

Revelation 21:3-4
I am your Father, and I love you
even as I love my son, Jesus.

John 17:23
For in Jesus, my love for you is revealed.
John 17:26
He is the exact representation of my being.
Hebrews 1:3
He came to demonstrate that I am for you,
not against you.

Romans 8:31
And to tell you that I am not counting your sins.
2 Corinthians 5:18-19
Jesus died so that you and I could be reconciled.
2 Corinthians 5:18-19
His death was the ultimate expression
of my love for you.

1 John 4:10
I gave up everything I loved
that I might gain your love.

Romans 8:31-32
If you receive the gift of my son Jesus,
you receive me.

1 John 2:23
And nothing will ever separate you
from my love again.

Romans 8:38-39
Come home and I'll throw the biggest party
heaven has ever seen.

Luke 15:7
I have always been Father,
and will always be Father.

Ephesians 3:14-15
My question is…
Will you be my child?

John 1:12-13
I am waiting for you.
Luke 15:11-32


Love, Your Dad
Almighty God
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Saturday, 7 December 2013

Anger Management


"In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry” (Ephesians 4:26)

“Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end.”
(Proverbs 29:11)

One of the first accounts of Jesus’ earthly ministry told by the gospel writer John describes Jesus going into the temple courts, where the merchants and moneylenders were conducting their business. Jesus makes a whip and drives them out, declaring “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!” (John 2:13-17).
Jesus was obviously angry. Why? The honour and respect due to His Father was being usurped by the dealings of selfish men.
This passage demonstrates two things about anger:
First, in some cases, it’s a legitimate emotion. When we observe cruelty, or injustice, or behaviour which flies in the face of God’s principles, or when our Heavenly Father is treated disrespectfully, we rightfully feel grieved and sometimes angry. God has given us a moral code and the ability to discern right from wrong.
However, the Bible warns us that this feeling of anger is dangerous. God is judge, not us. We may need to intervene in a situation and need to do so in a way that does not retaliate or escalate the behaviour. We need prayer and a sense of handing the other over to God. Jesus was without sin. He had every right to intervene in the temple situation. His Holy Spirit needs to be our Counsellor and Guide in every conflict.
Secondly, Jesus tempered his anger. The son of God could have destroyed those concerned in a glance, however, he merely moved them on, with the possibility perhaps that they lost some of their goods or money in the hubbub. He left them with the opportunity to regather themselves and start afresh elsewhere.

What does this imply for us?

There are many in our society today, including Christians, who struggle with the problem of anger. Not righteous anger in the face of injustice to others, but sinful anger used to vent our own frustrations, or fuel our own pride and self-centredness. This anger is a tool used and inspired by Satan to wound others and destroy relationships, ministries and lives.

Sometimes anger is the result of much pain and many years of struggling with unforgiveness over past injustice which remains unresolved.
Anger may have been found to be an effective means of controlling others who have learned to diffuse the potential rage by compliance.The angry person gets what they want - but at a terrible cost.

Anger hurts those around the angry person.

The most hurt, however, is within the angry person themselves – they are trapped in an endless cycle from which it seems there is almost no escape.

But there is hope.

One of the greatest blessings of God is that of a changed life. He knows the desires of our hearts. Where there is a desire to change, He will provide the wisdom, resources and most of all the ability to do so. He has promised in His word, and His promises are true:
“If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer." (Matthew 21:22).

If anger is a significant problem in your life, affecting relationships with loved ones, work colleagues, other drivers on the road or anyone else in your life, I would suggest seeking counselling. There are many low-cost counsellors available, often through a local church. Community phone helplines or community health centres are other useful sources of information. There are community courses to help people manage anger effectively.

Remember, it’s not a sign of weakness to admit you have a problem. To seek help to change is actually a sign of commitment and strength. It’s the first step of change.

The following little strategy may be of assistance. It greatly assisted me at a time in my life when I was learning to deal with angry feelings which affected the loved ones around me.
Write down on a little card these three things and carry the card in your purse or wallet:

1. Admit to God that You are feeling angry.
2. Ask God to take away the habit pattern of anger.
3. Thank God for His love and grace.

Whenever you find you are starting to feel angry, stop, take yourself apart from the situation and read the little card.

In the joyful letter to the Philippians, the apostle Paul reminds us that what we think about will affect our moods, our words and our actions. Perhaps it is no coincidence that after addressing an issue of personal disputes and church conflict Paul exhorts us:

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things.” (Philippians 4:4-8)

Dear Heavenly Father God, I come to You in prayer and praise of who You are, sovereign Lord of all, our Maker, Redeemer and friend. You alone are holy and worthy of the highest honour and praise. Father, I pray for anyone reading here who is struggling with the issue of anger and pray that You will impart to them that there is hope for release and change. May You guide them with wisdom to seek help where it is needed, Father. We pray for healing for individuals and for relationships that have been broken because of anger. Give us clean hearts we pray, that we might be faithful witnesses for Your kingdom and reflect Your glory. We come to You acknowledging that we can only do so through Jesus and all that He accomplished for us on the cross. We ask these things in Jesus’ precious name. Amen


Friday, 6 December 2013

Forgiveness/ Book Review


As I was writing this, the news was broadcast of Nelson Mandela’s passing. His was one of  the great human examples of forgiveness and grace in the face of injustice. The nation of South Africa and the world has learned much from him and others of like mind , who strove to combine justice with forgiveness, to forge a way forward for a nation in peace and reconciliation without denying evil.
(For an interesting account of how some of South Africa’s recent history of discord was addressed in this spirit, I recommend Desmond Tutu’s work “No Future without Forgiveness”Image books, 1999)




I’ve studied a lot on the subject of forgiveness, because I’m really bad at practising it. Actually, I’m both bad and very good at forgiving. If somebody says that they are sorry for a wrong that has affected me, I find it easy to move on. But if there is no remorse, not even a hint that they’ve been in the wrong, no apology or sign that they will change their hurtful behaviour from this point on, I relive the hurt and hang on to bitterness and grudges that can last a long time. I understand how some elderly people are locked into their cages of hurt that have lasted for decades, even after the offenders are dead.
That’s why I’m so grateful for Lewis B. Smedes’ classic book, “The Art of Forgiving: When You Need to Forgive and Don’t Know How.”  Smedes has become widely known for his attention to this subject and the efficacy of what he teaches, and quotations by him are often used and found on various internet sites offering inspirational sayings.
Smedes sums up the heart of the matter in his introduction:
“It would give us some comfort if we could only forget a past that we cannot change. But the ability to remember becomes an inability to forget when our memory is clogged with pain inflicted by people who did us wrong. If we could only choose to forget the cruellest moments, we could, as time goes on, free ourselves from their pain. But the wrong sticks like a nettle in our memory.”
Sometimes as Christians the whole issue of forgiveness hits us like a conundrum. God is just. He is forgiving. He requires repentance before he forgives us of our sins. He forgives us and says “sin no more.” Yet He tells us to forgive in the face of injustice. We are to forgive the unrepentant. We are to forgive even when we know the unrepentant sinner will keep on doing the same hurtful things. Where’s the justice in that? And yet we are also constantly aware of the magnitude of our own wrongdoing, our own propensity to offend, and the grace of a just God who gave everything for our forgiveness. We are so little and petty in the face of His grace.
So, in a way, I’m glad to be able to grapple with forgiveness, because it makes me think through the whole issue, to lean more heavily in the end upon God’s grace to enable me to do what I can’t possibly do, or sometimes even want to do, in my own strength.
In succinct and easily readable prose, Smedes defines what forgiveness encompasses and what it is not. He identifies the need to acknowledge our pain and apportion blame where it is due. There’s a chapter on how to deal with the person who will not say “sorry”. And there is good advice regarding the issue of restoring relationships with another, including the fact that hurt changes relationships, and forgiveness does not necessarily mean that they are restored to their former state.
Smedes suggests a three stage process of forgiveness. Firstly, we rediscover the humanity of the person who wronged us. They are sinful humans, as we all are. We may not ever know the circumstances which led them to be hurtful, but wisdom teaches that hurt people hurt others. There may be generations of difficult family circumstances that have produced their behaviour. There may be hurts in their own past that they have yet to deal with. They may be far from a right relationship with God, and therefore unable to be in right relationship with others.
Secondly Smedes advocates the step of surrendering our right to get even. The Bible tells us to “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”(Luke 6:27). One of the first steps in healing from hurt is to pray to God for the willingness to forgive, even to admit our own lack of inclination to do this if that be the case. There’s no fooling God, he knows our hearts, and struggles. It’s never wrong to pray for another person, and a good starting point is that the person concerned will have a deeper understanding of God and His ways, that they will be blessed with wisdom so as not to have the same thing happen again. Smedes rightly points out that in this unbalanced world, retaliation does not set the scales right, but tips them the other way. We hit back harder than we were hit, and invite further conflict, and so the sorry saga continues.
The final stage in forgiveness is to wish the other well. We may not ever have the relationship we once had, probably not, but may be able to feel that we have moved beyond the situation, perhaps learned from it, and be freed from it. After all, as is pointed out throughout the whole book, forgiveness is a gift for ourselves. We owe ourselves, who have been hurt, freedom and peace of mind.
To return to Smede’s introductory paragraphs:
“The only way to remove the nettle is with a surgical procedure called forgiveness. It is not as though forgiving were the remedy of choice among other options, less effective but still useful. It is the only remedy.”
Smedes writes from a Christian viewpoint, but his style is never preachy and is equally applicable to a broader audience as his advice reflects his background in pschology as well as theology. I thoroughly recommend it as a solid foundation for anyone interested in the topic. 

“The Art of Forgiving: When You Need to Forgive and Don’t Know How” by Lewis B. Smedes Summit Publishing Ltd. 1996

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Love whispered softly into the darkness


Its presence may seem far away when we are shaken by yet another loved one’s diagnosis; or try to resolve crippling debts on a meagre income; or listen to the news reports of escalating brutality and inhumanity which humans can inflict on one another. But it is there. It whispers in gentle words and gestures, in kindness between strangers, in the care of family and friends.

It laughs and weeps tears of joy as we welcome a new baby into the world. It stands boldly, a lone figure holding out a flower in the face of a tank, proclaiming that love will triumph in the end.

Love reminds us to be foolish, to hope, to trust, to dare to love again. It is the voice we carry within our hearts whenever, wherever, forever.

Love found itself in a stable a long time ago and far away. It was there on a bare hillside tortured by those who would destroy it. Love returned to us, proving forevermore that it was greater than sin and death. Love reigns supreme on His throne in heaven.

Love is our gift.



Saturday, 23 November 2013

Thankful

5 areas to be thankful in this year. What's yours?

1. Relationship with God -
this year i have known His loving presence in so many ways. My dependency upon Him has grown. I increasingly learn that as much as I love other people in my life, they cannot and should not be depended upon to be to me all that God is. I've learned more about God through personal Bible study, church sermons and some teaching series that I've attended, as well as a weekly Bible study group. I've drawn close to Him through prayer. I enjoy reading books on Christian topics, especially counselling, and watch Christian DVDs and internet teaching resources. I love to connect with other Christians through church and in other areas. His Holy Spirit ministers to me, often through the written word and through nature, music and worship.

2. The people in my life who bless me in so many ways:
My husband
My children
Special friends
My church family
My connect group


3. My employment
and a special group of people - the clients that I work with in my job in community health and connect with on a daily basis. Working now in acute care, I visit each for a period of two weeks and sometimes a further two weeks if they return to hospital, so generally my time with each is short. I hear so much oral history and learn much about people.

4. Times of relaxation and renewal
- this year the highlight was an unexpected trip to Adelaide for my son to participate in "True Colours" Asia-Pacific Autism Conference.
I thank God for the beauty of nature that refreshes the soul and the plants and animals that He provides for our delight. My two dogs and two cats and fishpond in the garden are great blessings.

5. God's presence in difficult times
 - when loved ones are touched by illness, or uncertainty and for me personally this year when my former work ceased due to a massive restructuring of the public community health programs. Praise God, He provided opportunities for me to remain in community health, which I love, and to remain in the public health system, which I feel a strong commitment to.






Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Overcomers


Overcome. What does the word mean? It can be an adjective or a verb.

I’m overcome (or sad, or overwhelmed, or swamped or blue) with my circumstances – triggers of which may include grief, disappointment, anxiety, frustration, uncertainty, or a host of other feelings.

Or

I have overcome (or triumphed or beaten or dealt with) some difficult experiences in the past- health problems, changing employment, family concerns; and there is no reason to think that future problems cannot be overcome also.

Jesus told us:

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33”

One of Satan’s tactics is to encourage us to focus on self- our troubles and inability to escape from them, and the inadequacy at times of our own solutions to overcome them. We are tempted to forget the amazing power of the indwelling Holy Spirit to take control of our lives.
When we belong to Christ, His Holy Spirit is at work, both within us and within the spheres of life that we inhabit. He’s at work in the world around us, leading, guiding, counselling and orchestrating circumstances. Despite what is happening in our lives at any given time, we need to frequently remind ourselves that God loves us and wants to encourage us.
It’s a well-known scripture, but it helps to remember the words of God in the book of Jeremiah:

" For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." (Jeremiah 29:11-13)


When we pray, God hears. He knows we are seeking His will. Sometimes we get the very answer we have been praying for. At other times the circumstances of our lives can still be extremely unsure and difficult. Yet they are never unchanged when we bring God into the picture. We have the assurance that

He will go before us and make a way, even if there seems to be no way.

He will walk beside us every step of the way.

He will attend to all that we leave behind us.


God tells us that He will never leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:8, Hebrews 13:5). We have the assurance that He is with us in good times and bad, and that we can overcome trials and temptations through trusting in His loving care.

“Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21) (New International Version)

“'He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.” (Revelation 3:21) (New American Standard Version)



Wednesday, 13 November 2013

A Couple of Old Sayings

"When you drink the water, don't forget who dug the well."

Be thankful for those who've gone before. Appreciate the sacrifices and toil of those who contributed to the lifestyles we enjoy today. This week we especially remember with grateful thanks the ones who fought in armed conflicts in the past and more recently, to protect the freedom we should never take for granted, including a free press, the right to assemble, democratic elections, freedom of speech, equal opportunities and freedom to worship in safety.


"Before you tear down a fence, ask why it was put there."

Boundaries, both physical and metaphysical exist for a reason. A mature society is one in which its members can challenge the status quo. Physical fences provide protection and privacy and direction. Laws, traditions and practices need not always be static things, but they were the product of our forebear's wisdom and we should change with care.






Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Words



 
Only words
Moth words
Wheeling, fluttering in the air between us
Filling the silences
With their own music
Words dancing, alighting on your hair
To touch when hands are stilled
Across the distances they fly
Sombre and small, night seekers
Messengers
Alone in the darkness
Finding their own direction
From the scent of distant breezes
The light of faithful stars
Only words
To grasp a thought in time
Moth words
No longer
Pinned to a page
But rising
Floating free.

©Jo Collett 2013


Sunday, 10 November 2013

Faced with temptation


As humans we inherit a fallen nature and live in a fallen world. When we commit our lives in repentance and faith in Jesus Christ and become Christians, the Bible states that Christ is “faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9). Christ forgives our sins and indwells in us, imparting His Holy Spirit, but we are by no means now immune from sinning.
Whilst we live in this earthly, human existence we will always be tempted to sin and have to battle between our corrupt nature and our Christ-like nature. As we mature in Christ, we gain wisdom and experience in fighting these battles, but temptation is something we will always face.
A former pastor of mine used to talk about temptations falling into three categories: “the gals, the gold and the glory.” I recently viewed a video of well-known Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias, who echoed these sentiments, describing three areas of temptation which commonly cause the Christian to move away from God: sensuality, power, and materialism.
Sensuality tells us “If it feels good, do it. Everyone else is doing it, so why not?
Materialism tells us “If you really want it, have it.”
Power tells us “You get to call the shots. You’re number one. You beat everyone else.”

The commonality with all these things is focus on self. We indulge ourselves with pride, food, sex, accolades, status symbols and so much more. Even something negative like self-pity or hypochondria can take on a life of its own and become a little god in the life of a person. And without Christ as the focus of our lives, any other fulfilment will be only temporary.

It’s not a sin to be tempted. The Bible tells us;
“No temptation has seized you that isn't common for people. But God is faithful. He won't allow you to be tempted beyond your abilities. Instead, with the temptation, God will also supply a way out so that you will be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Sin lies not in being tempted but in giving in to temptation and acting upon it. A common sequence of occurrence is thought becoming word becoming action. Therefore I have a few suggestions to consider in relation to temptation:

A) Think about what you are thinking about. You can walk the walk and talk the talk, but do you thought the thought? Is your mind right with God? Do you smile outwardly but criticize and nag inwardly? What is your internal voice saying?

Try to think of your thoughts as a constant prayer to God. Is He hearing you praise Him inwardly? Are you counting your blessings? Think too about the conversations you have. Do they tend to become negative? Get into the habit of “pulling yourself up.” Think about Paul’s directive to the church in Philippi:
 “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. (Philippians 4:8).”

B) Work out for yourself the areas in which you struggle with temptation. Be honest with yourself. Then decide beforehand ahead of time that you are going to do the right thing by God. When you are tempted, remember your resolve and stick to it.

C) Remove yourself if necessary from the situation which is offering temptation. If you are recovering from alcoholism, it wouldn’t be a very good idea to walk past a hotel on your way to work every day. In the same way, if you know you have a difficult time avoiding getting onto certain internet sites, put filters on your computer and leave them on. If you have a legitimate need to use a computer, have a bookmark menu with the necessary sites and stick to them. If necessary, turn off the computer and walk away. 
If you are married and find that you are strongly attracted to someone else, keep contact to a minimum. Don’t be alone together. If necessary move completely away. Far better to change jobs or churches or neighbourhoods than to destroy lives through an affair.

D) Every choice has consequences. Consider the long and short-term effects of your decisions and what the consequences will be. Remember that God’s goal is to bless you and give you hope and purpose for your life. Satan’s goal is the reverse- to destroy and enslave you. Many sins have a flow-on effect to others, and often it’s our beloved children and even their children who suffer as a consequence.
Not only are relationships destroyed but our witness as Christians suffers when a Christian sins. Ministry opportunities are destroyed and Christ’s church is held up to ridicule.
However, when a Christian resists temptation, this can be a powerful testimony for Christ. The Christian who is honest in his business dealings in the face of bribery and corruption; or the Christian who refuses to join in the office gossip may well be sowing seeds of the gospel into the lives of his or her associates.

E) Get help if you need it. Acknowledging a problem and seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness. There are many associations which specialise in treating particular disorders and addictions, or behaviours such as aggression and anger. Help and support can be sought online, or your pastor may be able to advise of Christian counselling in your area which could be beneficial.

F) Get close to God. I’ve left the best till last. Get to know God through prayer and meditation on Godly things, reading His word, the Bible and through connection with other Christians in a church community. The more you know God, the more there is to know, and the more you discover just how wonderful He is. It becomes a joy and blessing to serve Him and do His will.
When we are familiar with the Bible, there may be verses that speak to us in connection with areas of our lives where we are tempted. The psalmist tells “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:11)
When we love God, the love He imparts changes our hearts and gives us a heart for others, as well as ourselves. We serve others and sacrifice for them. We want the best for them.

God is not a harsh dictator who is waiting to punish us if we do wrong. He’s a loving Father, the best of Fathers, who wants to bless us and delight in us. When we sin and come to Jesus in repentance and confession, He will forgive us. But He doesn’t want us to keep repeating that sin. He wants us to progressively grow in maturity and to strive to obey His word. When we seek to do His will, He pours out the joy of relationship with Him.




Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Two Women, Two Wells.

This is a devotional I wrote several years ago in response to time spent with a group of ladies who were  discussing sexuality issues. As it has blessed and encouraged some, I repeat it on this blog periodically, praising God for the words He gives to show His love.

Sex, Wells and Redemption 

 

Two women, two wells

Wells gush forth throughout the pages of the bible. Like many natural features, they are both functional, providing people with water to drink, utilize, claim and fight over; and symbolic. Wells signify God’s provision, life, health, prosperity and cleansing.  In passages dripping with a prophetic signature, Jacob rolls a stone away from a well’s mouth to water the sheep (Genesis chapter 29); and David thirsts for water from the well at Bethlehem (2 Samuel 23). Biblically speaking, wells also have a lot to do with women.
Examine the wells in the bible and there will often be a woman nearby. Women would congregate daily in the cool of early morning or evening at the local well. There they would collect water and  (in the days before Facebook and RSVP) socialise, keeping an eye out for anybody new in town. Wells seemingly provided an acceptable place for young men and women to meet and greet one another.
Consider Rebekah in Genesis 24. An opulent- looking emissary and his entourage arrives in town. Rebekah comes to the well with her water jar, generously volunteering to draw water for him and his ten camels, no slight task. This offer is the specific answer to the prayers of Eliezer, Abraham’s servant, sent to find a wife for Abrahams's son, Isaac. Rebekah is of the correct kin group, pretty, kind, hard-working, adventurous, and a virgin - a desirable wife to be sure.
Rebekah happily received the gifts of jewelry presented to her and eagerly set forth to marry an unknown stranger. God led Eliezer to the place where Rebekah was waiting, and guided Rebekah into His plan for her life, as she was to play an important role in the foundation of the nation of Israel.
Wells can symbolise sexuality in the bible. It’s been suggested that the enclosed spring and sealed fountain (fountains and wells being sometimes used interchangeably) described in Song of Songs chapter 4 refer to the anatomy of a virgin. Married couples are advised to drink water from their own well (Proverbs 5) and for those contemplating adultery, Proverbs 23 reminds us that “a wayward wife is a narrow well,” not likely to be a source of delight for very long.
In John’s gospel, chapter 4, we discover another well, one of only a few references to wells and springs in the New Testament, and another woman, the celebrated “Woman at the Well.” This unnamed Samaritan is a very different lady to Rebekah. She too approaches a compelling stranger. His friends have left and he's alone and tired.
The place may be of significance also, for Jacob’s well, back in Genesis 33, refers to a site where Jacob took an easy option and camped near to the Canaanite city of Shechem, resulting in the subsequent rape of his daughter Dinah by the son of a Shechemite ruler, the first rape mentioned in the bible.
The Samaritan woman at the well is no innocent virgin. She sounds intelligent. She discusses spiritual concepts. She was probably beautiful – she certainly had no trouble attracting men. But she’s been around. She wouldn’t ever be seen as a desirable wife. No social life for her. She’s an outcast, gossiped about, likely as not to seduce a husband. She makes the trek for water alone in the afternoon sun.

There’s a man who wants a drink. What thoughts might have run through her mind? Maybe, like Rebekah, she was looking for a different life. What could he offer her? What could she offer him? He will even drink from her cup, Samaritan pariah that she is. What does he really want?

Was this a chance encounter? I believe not. He was waiting for her. She was looking for someone to satisfy the deep, lonely, heartbroken emptiness inside her. Like many of our "chance encounters" with someone we know, in stores, out walking, wherever;  God is waiting to reveal Himself.
Go and get your husband, says Jesus.
 I don’t have one.
 No, you’ve had five.
I see you’re a prophet.
It’s an interesting exchange. Why did she call him a prophet after he stated the number of “husbands” she’d had?  He knew all about her. What’s more, she knew he knew.  He knew how many sexual partners, when, who. Some could have been legitimate husbands. It was easy enough for men to gain a bill of divorcement in that time. Some could have been lovers. Some could have been abusers. In a culture where virginity was prized, what was the future for a woman who had suffered from incest or rape? Who knows what this woman's past history had been? Jesus did.
Jesus proclaims himself the Messiah to this hurting individual, offering her “living water”. She is offered a way to heal from the pain of emotional and sexual abuse. An amazing transformation occurs. For the first time she’s invited to feel clean on the inside, freed from a life of bondage and sin, and in an everlasting relationship with someone who loves her unconditionally, faithfully and respectfully.
The outcast is changed into an evangelist who witnesses to her neighbours. She becomes one of the most well-known characters of the Bible, her story ministering through the centuries.
In any given group of men and women there will be those whose sexual history is uncomplicated and joyful. For others there may be great sadness over a record of wrong choices, or no choice at all. Rebekah and the unnamed Samaritan women may seem worlds apart. Yet they are united in demonstrating that in all circumstances God loves and esteems his created people and is in the business of redeeming their fallen lives.
God has a plan for every person who desires in repentance and faith to be in relationship with Him. As we seek to know Him through reading the Bible, prayer and Christian fellowship in a caring church, He will lead each one into the life that He has planned. He is the true lover of our souls, our Creator, Saviour, Counsellor, and so much more. Praise Him.
"To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life." Rev 21:6

Does the Bible support slavery?


I do not agree that the Bible supports slavery. Slavery existed in the Ancient cultures of the time and still exists today as a result of economic imperialism. In the New Testament writings of the early church the apostle Paul declared that all people were considered of equal value whether they were male or female, of different nationalities or slave or free. (Galatians 3:28) In the book of Philemon Paul sends a runaway slave home with an offer to pay for any loss the owner might have incurred and a request that he now be treated as a family member, not a slave. The system of the time allowed slaves to earn or buy their freedom or be released after a period of seven years.( This was known as the "Jubilee principle", a form of which was advocated by Christian and other humanitarian groups as the twenty-first century dawned, to enable economically enslaved nations to have their debts relieved or cancelled.)

One example of a changed life is that of John Newton, who after a career as a slave-trader converted to Christianity and became an Anglican minister. The shame and regret for his former life and gratitude for his salvation was described in his hymn “Amazing Grace”, beloved of Idol auditionees. He also mentored William Wilberforce, who was instrumental in abolishing the British slave trade. Throughout the world today there are Christian groups involved in advocacy and rescue from various forms of slavery.  

Throughout his earthly ministry, Christ demonstrated a deep compassion for suffering humanity. The first recorded message he preached was to reiterate the words of the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 61):

"The Spirit of the Lord is on me
because he has annointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour."  (Luke 4:18,19, )

Through the Sermon on the Mount, Christ explained principles of living which were radically different to the culture of the day. The gospels record many instances of Him reaching out to those who were marginalised. The values He set to live by are those of love, grace, justice and equality. They are not the principles on which slavery is based.

In a broader sense, without Christ we are all slaves - to sin. We live in a fallen world where the results of human sin are very apparent, both on a global scale and in individual lives.  Christ's message was one of personal transformation of each individual who committed his or her life to Him, and through them, the transformation of the cultures around them.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Breath


When the only form
was potential,
when nothingness prevailed,
in love and creativity
God breathed.

When the dust-laden flesh
moulded from the earth
coursed with its first
life-affirming joy
he breathed.

And she held her lifeless, murdered son
breath forever gone.

On a star-filled, wondrous night
a world held its breath,
a baby cried,
shepherds rejoiced
and angels sang around them.

So He hung in shame and torment
bloodied and alone,
despised and rejected
breathing forgiveness and love
till it was finished.

And they buried their lifeless, murdered One,
breath gone.

In darkness and emptiness
He rises
He lives
He breathes
And heaven and earth praise Him.

Light of the world, risen Lord
Our breath of life.


copyright Jo Collett 2013

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

promise of hope


He is there
before me
beside me
beyond my time
angels in the air
unknowingly protecting
the song of my heart cries
thank you, Lord
for every good
every blessed word
heartbeats saved
restless thoughts enslaved
and the leaf dried broken
crushed underfoot
now green, renewed
the promise of hope.