Friday, 17 October 2014

Carers need care too

In my work in community health, I encounter a lot of carers- people caring for the needs of someone who is frail elderly, or disabled or chronically ill. These carers perform an incredible service to not only the person in their care, but also to the community, providing care which would otherwise have to be met by the taxpayer. Many carers sacrifice careers, income and social relationships in order to perform their caring role. Some are young carers who juggle their own educational needs with caring for a parent, sibling, grandparent or other family member. Often their efforts are unnoticed and unacknowledged in our society. Yet most carers would say that their role is one which they approach with a deep sense of commitment and love.
Often people who care for others are the least likely to ask for care for themselves but carers need care too. If you know someone who is a carer, remember when you are asking them about their loved one, don't forget to sometimes add "and how are you doing?" An offer to stay with their loved one, or a note or other gesture of encouragement to let them know that they are doing a good job and are not forgotten by the rest of society can mean so much.

12th -18th October is Carer's week in Australia. May God bless the many carers in our society and their loved ones.


Thursday, 16 October 2014

Warnings in Hebrews 4

Don’t be lazy

“We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been possessed.” Hebrews 6:12

In chapter 6 of Hebrews, the author reminds us that as Christians, our lives are not static, but are in a process of continual growth in Christ. We must play our part in this, by studying God’s word, the Bible, by prayer and quiet times of meditation and reflection, and by fellowship with other Christians. Small group attendance can be very beneficial to our faith, providing fellowship and developing our knowledge and ability to express it, as well as appreciating the knowledge of our fellow believers. Reading commentaries and books pertinent to our areas of interest build our faith, as does accessing the vast array of resources available online. I’ve recently been watching a number of David Wilkerson’s sermons available on Youtube.
At the end of chapter 5, and elsewhere in the Bible (see 1 Corinthians 3:2), the comparison is made between a newborn baby who needs milk for nourishment, and a mature person who requires solid food. We begin as baby Christians, learning the basics, but we are not to remain there- we are to hunger for greater knowledge and understanding of the things of God, in order that we might know and appreciate Him more fully, be discerning of the times we live in, teach others and fulfil the commissions that God has for us.
Finally, we are not to be lazy in our works for kingdom purposes. We are not saved by works, but our works are an outpouring of our love for God and the love that He gives us to share with others. We cannot say that we love Christ and do nothing to help the poor and needy.As Christians we are called to ministry, every one of us. That doesn't mean that we all become clergy, but we are all to minister to others, both within the body of Christ and to those in the world who do not know Him, using the gifts and talents that He has bestowed upon us.

“God is not unjust: He will not forget your work and the love you have shown Him as you have helped His people and continue to help them.” (Hebrews 6:10).

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Warnings in Hebrews

Be careful not to fall short of entering into God’s rest.  Hebrews chapter 4.

“Therefore, since the promise of entering His rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it.”

What is the promise of God’s rest all about? The concept of rest had been established at creation, when God rested on the seventh day, setting a pattern of work and rest.
When Moses led the Israelites toward the Promised Land, they were disobedient to God, rebellious and hard-hearted. God declared that they would never enter His rest. (Deuteronomy 1:34-37, further described in Psalm 95).  For the Israelites, this rest was a state of living in the bountiful land that God had planned for his people, in a state of relationship with him.
What is often physical in the Old Testament is recreated in the spiritual realm in the New Testament. Jesus has made a new covenant with believers. God’s rest referred to now, I believe, is a state of relationship with Him, through Jesus, in which we can rest, assured of our salvation through Christ. We have no need to try to gain right standing with God through any of our own efforts. It is only when our strivings cease and we depend upon the filling of God’s Holy Spirit to establish a relationship with Him based on repentance and faith, that we really enter His rest.
Being in God’s rest does not mean that we lie on the couch all day! Physical rest is needed for our wellbeing but I think that resting in God means more likely that we have an assurance of God’s presence and can live and do all that He has us to do without anxiety, strain and fear.  
We’ve already been reminded in Hebrews not to drift away and not to harden your heart so that it becomes unbelieving. The writer now points out that we cannot enter God’s rest if we are rebellious or disobedient. Keep the faith, keep God’s commandments and grow in fellowship with Him. May you know the blessing of God’s rest.


John 13:4,5 “He [Jesus] got up from the meal, took off His outer clothing , and wrapped a towel around His waist. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped round Him.

v. 12-14 When He had finished washing their feet, He put on His clothes and returned to His place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” He asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord’, and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”

Many times in our Christian walk, our attention is drawn to some aspect of the things of God by His reinforcing it a couple of times within a short time frame. This week I had a number of occasions to ponder on the Biblical principle of washing the feet of others.
A few days ago I was listening to an online sermon by Pastor Robert Morris of Gateway Church Texas, USA. In it he discussed the deep unresolved hurts that some people carry. Pastor Robert reminded his listeners that He who tied a towel around His waist and knelt at the feet of His disciples, attending to their most basic needs, can and does minister to pain and heal it.
Jesus, the Son of God became a man, and in obedience to His Father, to glorify God, became a servant. The act of foot-washing was a precursor to what would shortly follow- the Son of Man was again stripped, that we might be saved and cleansed, not by mere earthly water this time, but by His blood, shed on the cross.
Jesus reminded His followers that He had set an example for us. We are to wash each others feet. Yesterday I attended a wedding where the newly married couple, as one of their first demonstrable acts of love for each other, washed each others feet. It was beautifully symbolic of their desire to follow Christ’s leading and as a couple, serve one another.
In my employment in community health I literally wash feet. There are many people who are alone and isolated to whom touch, in a non-threatening manner, such as on an arm or shoulder or foot, can be a source of comfort. Many of us who use touch to express love – hugs, kisses, handshakes – don’t often realise what a loss it is to those who are isolated when they don’t have tactile contact with others.
We need not necessarily literally wash feet. In “Christianese” we often speak about “washing the feet of others” in the way that Jesus meant- we are to serve others as He did – willingly, freely and lovingly.
 Jesus, to His disciples, was shocking in His humility –  by washing the dusty feet of travelers, He performed the work that a lowly servant would normally have done. Whenever I see someone who in worldly terms is important, doing a task that in worldly terms is considered menial, I am reminded of the grace of Jesus. None of us should be too proud to clean toilets or wash dishes or put out the rubbish. Sometimes foot-washing might not be a physical act but rather encouragement through listening or sending a note, or ministering to the emotional pain of others to bring hope and healing.
There are so many ways that we can minister to the physical, spiritual and emotional needs of others, and God has provided each of us with unique gifts and resources to do so. May He bless you richly as you bless others.
To God be the glory and increase.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Warnings in Hebrews

“Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts” (Hebrews 3:7)

“See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” (Hebrews 3:12, 13)

The Bible tells us that when we commit our lives to Christ, our hearts are transformed:
"Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26)
“I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart. (Jeremiah 24:7)”
Relationship with Christ is very much a heart relationship, a love affair between God and His people, as well as an understanding of the intellect. Our hearts know the love that our Creator has for us, and this results in our love for Him, as well as an increased empathy for others. We see other people as God sees them – both saved brothers and sisters in the Lord, or lost ones that God longs to see come into His kingdom. We begin to fulfil the two greatest commandments that Jesus taught (Matthew 22:37-39)
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’      
It costs to love. There’s investment of many kinds – emotional, time, effort, resources. Love can end in hurt. We’re protective of what we love. We grieve when it changes. We love imperfectly in an imperfect world. The world can mock what it terms "bleeding hearts". Satan continually tempts us, as the above verses of Hebrews remind us, to harden our hearts to God and others, by concentrating on our own fleshly desires- to have a heart for ourselves first and foremost. Only God loves with what many Psalms describe as an “unfailing love”.
The apostle Paul wrote what is often termed the great love chapter of the Bible- 1 Corinthians 13- in which he reminds us that as Christians, whatever we do must be done out of love, not pride or duty or competition, otherwise all our good deeds and knowledge are useless.
This world sees some with hearts that, for whatever reason, have become hardened, cynical, bitter and far less loving than they could be or should be. Their owners may be free from compassion fatigue and insulated from the hurts of others, but they are cauterized and lacking in what makes us truly human. God wants us to love, and when we love Him, His Holy Spirit indwells our hearts, refreshing and energising us, giving us the daily strength to walk in obedience and faith. We love because He loves us. We love those that we would normally find difficult to love.
Keep a soft heart. Wishing you God’s peace, joy and blessings.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Warnings in the book of Hebrews (no 1 in a series)

Pay attention, lest you drift away

“We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. For if the message spoken by angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?”  Hebrews 2:1-3

Once when I was a teenager, I was swimming at Bribie Island, floating around on my air mattress in fairly shallow water. Suddenly I realised that the mattress was drifting out into the deeper water. Jumping off the mattress, I could just stand up, but as I tried to pull the mattress back to shore with me, the current pulled it out of my grasp. I had the choice of trying to follow it into deeper water, or let it drift away. I let it go and headed for the shallows. Fortunately some people in a boat nearby observed the situation and motored over to rescue the mattress and tow it back to shore for me.

In these verses of Hebrews, God warns us how easily the undercurrents of sin and worldly desires can pull us away from Him. We are to remain aware in a spiritual sense of where we are and not become complacent about our faith. We no longer have a set of rules and regulations constituting a religion, but a covenant relationship with God through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. We have a living faith that grows with awareness of all that God is, filled with wonder and learning and blessing. We are anchored in the storms of life, not floating away like my air mattress.

Yet tragically, there is always the temptation waiting there that something will, for a momentary gain, destroy what we possess. We’re all tempted, with money or power or  false idols, something that we think will be wonderful, when deep down we know it’s not what God intends for us.Sometimes disillusionment or bitterness or anger can creep into our lives, steering us onto a treacherous course.

There are some lifeguards that surround us, to prevent us from drifting. One is prayer. The Holy Spirit, the One who comes alongside, is our Counsellor. Another is study of God’s living word, the Bible. Another is fellowship with Christian friends in a caring Christian community. Surround yourselves with the things of God- Christian music, Christian books, Christian DVDs and films which are edifying of Him. Think about Him. It may sound trite, but as the old hymn says, we need to count our blessings and remind ourselves how much God has done for us. All these things help us to stay focused and give God the priority which He deserves in our lives. 

Kilometers of pristine beach and hardly anyone else around - where else but Australia?
 Fingal, NSW

Saturday, 4 October 2014

God bless the little children

Recent events surrounding the apparent abandonment of a Down Syndrome baby in Thailand by his Australian father, who collected the baby boy’s twin sister and left her brother with his surrogate mother have shocked many and thankfully, resulted in a surge of support for the boy and his family. I feel very sorry for the girl twin who will grow up without the joy of living with her twin brother. Thankfully the publicity has also fuelled debate concerning the ethics of surrogacy and exploitation of disadvantaged women in third world countries.
Shortly afterwards we were exposed to Richard Dawkins’ views on the termination of Down Syndrome children, arguing that it was perhaps immoral for parents not to terminate a Down Syndrome pregnancy as they would be subjecting the child to unnecessary suffering:
People with Down Syndrome, like all other people, are created in the image of God, with the capacity for faith, love, joy, and contribution to others. Their disability is the result of living in a fallen world in which “all creation groans” (Romans 8:22). They, and their parents and families face many particular challenges in life, as do all people with a disability. A major challenge to face, however, is to still be born into a world where certain people think they should not exist, that it would have been better if they had not been born.  
For the past twenty-five years, I’ve personally been involved with the families of people with a disability, and organisations and individuals who provide support for their health, education and care. Nobody would wish disability on anyone – it produces much grief, hard work and stress on many families, but then there are many other situations in life which produce these factors. People with Down Syndrome have much to contribute There is a whole realm of camaraderie, love and inspiration associated with people who are disabled, something that enhances, not detracts from the society in which we live.
There are only two forms of reasoning – do we want a world where people are accepted and cared for and included, or do we want a world where certain people groups think they have the right to justify excluding and eliminating others? The “survival of the fittest” mentality and eugenics-based philosophies have historically resulted in appalling genocide. Because when you start playing God and deciding who will live and die, where do you stop?  
Without God in our lives there is no fixed point of reference for morality. The society in which we live makes up its own rules, fuelled by popular media. But what happens when we do that? Are we more enlightened, happier, secure and stable as a society?
It took just one little boy, Gammy, to unite a nation in an outpouring of love, concern and gifting. God doesn’t ever make useless people.


The Unseen, Unspoken Pain

According to the real- time abortion counters at
over 30 million abortions have been carried out in this world this year. Over 61.000 have been carried out today.

If someone who is reading this is living with the pain of having had an abortion in the past, God cares very much for you. He knows the sorrow in your heart. Jesus died on the cross, bearing the sins of all the world, and He experienced all human pain, sin and suffering as He hung there, in order that we could come to God, to be reconciled with Him through Jesus Christ. Jesus said on the cross, just before He died, “It is finished.” We have nothing more to do, nothing we can do, other than come to Him in repentance and faith. The Bible tells us that
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”