Monday, 29 April 2013

Sharing a chuckle at day's end

Birds are sociable creatures. Every afternoon around 5pm a group of kookaburras congregates in or around my garden. I think they are probably the adult offspring of the same parent birds. They fly in singly from different directions and sit close together on a TV antennae or tree branch and cackle away for a few minutes. There's up to seven of them together at the one time.

After a busy and demanding work schedule, it's relaxing to step into the garden and listen to the birds. They remind us to laugh with them.

I like to think of my house and garden as a place of solace and care for both people and animals, domestic and wild (animals, not people!). I've tried to create an environment that encourages native animals. We have native trees and shrubs and water features and lots of low growing plants, rocks and logs for habitat. We also have a veggie garden and fruit trees for human food ( if the possums don't get there first!). I seldom use pesticides.

I love to photograph the wonders of God's creation. With the exception of the photo of the cross and the ballet slippers, both of which were from a free-shareware site; and a church photo taken by my son Tom, all the photographs on this blog are my own. I love the beauty and grace of birds, their power and wonderful colours. God created such amazing creatures. One needs great patience to photograph birds. What's the old saying - don't work with children or animals? You can't tell a bird to sit still and pose! For every adequate photo, there's usually a bevy of blurry bird shots or ones with their tails up and heads disappeared.

Around the time the kookaburras call in the afternoon, there's usually a line up for dive practice at the local swimming pool....

Unfailing Love

Psalm 33:18  “the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love”

Psalm 52:8 “I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God's unfailing love for ever and ever.”

Psalm 147:11 “the LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.”

“Unfailing love.” “Unfailing love”. Throughout the Biblical book of Psalms, these two words resonate again and again. They occur more than 25 times in this one book. These two words incorporate such an awesome promise that at times we can hardly grasp the depths of its meaning.

The Apostle Paul tells us many aspects of love in verses 4-7 of 1 Corinthians 12 – love is patient and kind, does not envy etc. This is followed in the simple statement in verse 8: “Love never fails”.

From the time of the fall, when Adam and Eve chose to disobey God, we have lived as sinful humanity in a fallen world. “We know that the whole creation has been groaning, as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” (Romans 8:22). There are no perfect relationships in this world. Family members can be abusive. Marriages break down. Business associates can betray and cheat one another. Friendships can end in strife and bitterness. Church communities can be prime targets for hurt and division. All of us fail the ones we love at some point or another.

Yet we are loved unfailingly. We don’t even have to be Christians for God to love us: “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Christ did not fail when He was tested by Satan in the wilderness. He did not fail in his earthly ministry. He did not fail in obedience to His Father, but glorified God through His death on the cross for sinful humanity. And He will not fail each person who comes to Him in repentance and prayers of faith.

God loved each person He created and had a plan for each life long before we were physically created in our mother’s womb. He loves and longs for relationship with each person from birth to our earthly life’s end.

A life committed to God is amazing. He loves me. He leads, guides, teaches, comforts, provides, blesses, encourages and much, much more. I’ve experienced some extremely difficult challenges in my life. God didn’t promise a life of ease for His followers. But I’ve known more peace and joy with Him in times of trouble than I would ever know in a different life without Him.

God’s love never fails. And with His guiding Holy Spirit ever present with us, He will help us to love others more closely to the way that we really should.

Saturday, 20 April 2013


When we look at the lives of people in the Bible, often there was a time period that required a good deal of patience. They didn't receive what they desired instantly. They didn't achieve the tasks that we remember them for without prior suffering or delay.
Some, like Daniel and Joseph, spent time in prison. Moses and Jacob, also David, spent many years performing the lowly task of tending sheep. Sarah and Hannah experienced the prolonged anguish of waiting for a much-desired pregnancy. The woman with the issue of blood had been suffering for twelve years before Jesus healed her.
 A few years ago I knew a lovely Christian couple who experienced a strong missionary calling to South America. They completed their missionary training which included learning another language, raised the necessary finances and had their plane flights booked to leave when the husband was  suddenly and unexpectedly diagnosed with cancer. Only after several years were they able to undertake their proposed mission. Praise God for both the man's healing and renewed ability to minister on the mission field.
I don't presume to always understand why God allows events to unfold the way they do, however I believe that God provides the examples of Biblical people who persevered for our encouragement. Praise God, we know the end of their stories.We know how they were used, or delivered, or received the promises they believed in.
God is looking for people who are whole-heartedly devoted to Him. They are following Jesus even when suffering, or disappointed or delayed or confused.When their ministry aspirations are in tatters or the world has cheated them or the church has hurt them and burnt them out, they are still clinging to His word.
I love watching demonstrations of blacksmithing. The toughest metal has been forged in fire. Then it's taken out and hammered on an anvil. Only then is it strong enough and shaped correctly to protect the horse's feet when galloping over stoney ground.
Have you been working for many years in a job which seems monotonous, but you do it faithfully and well to support your family? Have you been praying for many years for someone you love to come to Christ? Have you patiently endured a family or marriage relationship which is causing you sorrow? Spent many years as a helpless child experiencing the effects of  family conflict or divorce or abuse?  Been unjustly accused? Some of these things change over time, others will not cease until we enter eternity with Christ, but one thing is sure:
“....he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” (Hebrews 13:5).

God is with us. He knows the desires of our hearts. He is not unconcerned when we suffer, far from it. Sometimes we can look back on a period of trial and say- that grew me, that enabled me to minister to others in a way I would not be able to unless I had experienced that thing. It deepened my dependency on God. It made me grow closer in relationship with Him. 
Joseph, when referring to his trials, tells us in Genesis 50:20:

 "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives."

And the apostle Paul encourages us in Romans 8:28:

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose."
 Simeon and Anna had been expectantly and faithfully serving God for many decades when the birth of the Messiah was revealed to them. It was their joy to serve Him and their faithfulness was rewarded with even greater joy. Despite any external circumstances, it is still our joy today to honour and serve Jesus, knowing that we have the most wonderful relationship we could ever hope to have in this world, and the promise of a joyful eternity with Him.
I pray that the love and encouragement of God our Father, Jesus Christ His Son and His Holy Spirit will be very present in your life today.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Hope Prayer

Heavenly Father, we pray for Your indwelling Spirit,
Only in You do we find the safety we seek,
Prevail over all the strife and hardship we pray,
Every fear will vanish in Your presence.

Polarized, the peoples descend into bitterness,
Earthly solutions fail, we blindly wander,
After shock and anger, regret and sorrow, still
Countless questions emerge and remain unanswered,
Each heart crying for its unfulfilled solace

Light in the darkness, reveal Yourself, we pray
Only You are our hope and eternal song,
Vast eons of time pass, yet You are unchanging
Ever waiting for those who call upon Your name.

For every voice that cries Your name
All are welcomed into Your kingdom
In repentance and faith we look to you
To all who believe in Jesus Christ
He will never turn away.

Have mercy upon this sinful world we pray,
Open your arms to the grieving and the fearful,
Presence of God, promise of joy unceasing,
Eternal God, we place our hope in You.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Servants, Leaders and Companions

When we become a Christian, our lives are forever changed. We gain so much in the way of new life and blessing. With this comes the responsibility to adopt new roles. I would suggest that each person newly birthed in Christ has a threefold responsibility in their calling.

We are called first and foremost to be followers, or servants. It’s not always easy to have a servant heart when one has been used to a culture that glorifies personal development and selfish ambitions and desires. The Christian life involves sacrifice. Our Saviour gave His all for us. The Bible tells us to “deny yourself” and “take up your cross daily.” (Luke 9).

Serving Christ means looking to Him as an example. Ephesians 5 tells us to “be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God]as a fragrant aroma.” We read the Bible to understand more of God’s ways and attributes and how we should live. We fellowship with other Christians for teaching and to support and encourage one another. We pray for guidance. As we grow in Christ we hope to become more like Him – “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)                                           

Serving others is very much a part of the Christian life and is one of our chief witnesses to the world that we are His. We are told to “serve one another with love” (Galatians 5:13). I once read of a church where anyone who wanted to be part of any kind of ministry had to first be listed on the cleaning roster. If you weren’t willing to clean the toilets, there was no place for you in the more popular ministries such as the music teams. This was a simple but effective method of encouraging a servant heart in the congregation.

It has been said that the church is the only organisation which exists for the benefit of its non-members. Not exactly true, because the church certainly has tremendous benefits for its members, but by the same token, our great commission given to the church at the time of Christ’s ascension was to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19, 20). We all have a mission field, whether it lies in our local neighbourhood or overseas. As such we are to serve those around us, ministering to their needs, so that they might sense and see the Holy Spirit at work in our and their lives.

Leadership is a topic which has come under discussion in the western church in recent years, in some cases to such an extent that it’s in danger of becoming a false idol, however, in its truest sense, leadership is a powerful gifting to the church body. We need godly leaders and God does indeed set aside certain individuals whom he calls to spearhead the church. This is biblical. For some it is a given calling to lead throughout their lives, as with a pastoral calling. I would suggest though that as Christians develop in their personal walk with God, He places many, and even most of His followers in less formal situations requiring leadership skills.
"You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ … But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light" (1 Peter 2:5-9)
These verses proclaim what is known as the priesthood of believers. In Old Testament times, people could only approach God through the priests. Now, because of the atoning sacrifice of Christ on the cross, each Christian believer can do what only a priest was formerly able to do- pray directly to God, intercede for others, teach about the Bible and lead others to Christ. I think that there can be no greater privilege of leadership on this earth than that of leading another in the prayer of repentance and faith in Jesus.
The privilege of leadership is also granted to those who lead ministries, who lead families, who supervise others in work situations and who are called upon to take the initiative in crisis situations. For some, leadership is a life long calling, for others it may be for a limited season.

Beyond serving or following and leading, as Christians we are all called to be people who will come alongside others. One of my favourite names for the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, is the Parakletos, a Greek word meaning “one who comes alongside.” Ephesians 5 exhorts believers to “be filled with the spirit.” Being filled with the Holy Spirit of God means that we inherit His attributes of great love and compassion for others and desire to care for them. The word "companion" is derived from the Roman term "com" meaning together and the Latin word "panis" meaning bread, so a companion is one who shares your bread. As Christians we often share food and other practical necessities. We also share Christ, the bread of life.

 Other names for the Holy Spirit are Counsellor and Comforter, Advocate and Intercessor. It is these attributes of the Holy Spirit in us which enable Christians to care for others in a way which witnesses for the kingdom of God. The Holy Spirit may provide us with insight into a situation which will allow intervention for its resolution, or may prompt us to contact a person in need of care. He provides the right words to minister. This world is a place of increasing personal suffering- pain, anguish, loneliness, depression, sickness and grief. It is only the love of Christ which can break through the darkness and offer real hope to those hurting.

Not only do Christians walk alongside others in times of hurting, but also come alongside in times of joy. We demonstrate genuine Christian love and laughter as we celebrate the deep and good things which Christ has blessed us with. 

We follow Christ. We both lead and are led by others. We come alongside others to share the love of Jesus. None of these things are exclusive, mostly Christians practise all three together in their spiritual walk. We live, no longer for just our own benefit, but for the love of others and particularly for the loving service of our Heavenly Father. To God be the glory.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17)