Wednesday, 30 December 2015


Want to really grow in your Christian walk? Then may I encourage you to really get into the Bible. These sixty-six books of scripture are a treasure trove, a compass, a life map, an awesome adventure, a storehouse of promises, a guidebook for the most amazing life you can ever live. Too often the Bible is seen as a collection of antiquated writings that have little relevance for modern life. Wrong. The Bible is scripture inspired by God, written with human hands but imbibed by the Holy Spirit. Jesus is known as Logos, the word made flesh. The words of God are the most powerful and effective tool that we can use to change our lives and our world. They bring hope, comfort, peace and protection.

If you want to read the Bible, don't settle for some namby-pamby little resource that looks at an odd verse, shares a pretty story and that's your task done for the day. Don't fall into the "Bible reading plan" mode where you read two Old Testament Chapters and one New Testament chapter each day and again, task finished. Would you read a novel like that? No, you'd delight in spending hours reading chapter after chapter. God didn't design the Bible to be a dutiful regime to follow, nor an onerous obligation to fulfill daily "No Bible, no breakfast".

I love it when I see Bibles sitting around in people's homes, as though they've been picked up and put down regularly as a part of that person's life. When I see a Bible next to a person's bed, I suspect that the owner has a close relationship with God. (I notice these things because I work in community health and often see people in their bedrooms). A Bible sitting untouched in a bookcase is a sad thing. An even sadder one is a home without a Bible at all. Of course, today with the advent of technology, there is a plethora of Biblical resources available, including audio Bibles.

So get into the Bible! Choose a book or series of books within its pages and read as much or as little at one sitting as you're comfortable with. You can get a broad picture of events by reading a lot, or you can reflect on meanings and personal impact by reading just a few lines. I would suggest it's helpful to have some basic references as you tackle each book. There are lots of commentaries available online which will give an outline of the book - who wrote it, the history surrounding it, particular reasons why it was written, and elaboration of some of the elements contained in the book. There are plenty of online Bible which contain explanations as you read of some of the elements. has footnotes which explain some of the terms used.

If you're a new Christian, sometimes a children's Bible or book of Bible stories can provide basic background information before reading. New Christians should perhaps start with one or all of the gospel accounts of Jesus' life - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and then have a look at Genesis to see how it all began. The first five books of the Bible describe how God gave the law to His people. This is followed later in the Old Testament by the books of the prophets who foretold the coming of their Messiah, Jesus Christ. The New Testament contains the four gospel accounts of Jesus' life and death and resurrection. This is followed by the book of Acts, which describes the establishment of the early Christian churches; and by the epistles- letters written by Jesus' disciples to the churches for their encouragement and teaching about how to live a Christian life. The final book of the Bible, Revelation, describes visions given to the apostle John regarding times of great trial which will be a precursor to Christ's return to earth to claim those people who are Christians and defeat the evil which will be very prominent at the time. In this sense, the Bible is a history book of the world, past, present and future.

For the past few weeks I've been enjoying reading through the Bible in conjunction with a series of teaching sermons available on Youtube. The late pastor Chuck Smith founder of the Calvary Chapel association of churches has made a series of sermons on the entire Bible, book by book, going through each book thoroughly. Each sermon is devoted to a specified number of chapters in the particular book, so one can read these chapters and then listen. I've found it a really good way to learn. So far I've covered the first five books of the Bible, as well as a couple of New Testament Epistles. Fifty nine more books to go! I hope by this time next year, I'll be able to say I've listened to the whole series.

I've certainly read through the entire Bible before, but one thing is for sure - I will never tire of it. It's God's "living word" containing His truths which are constantly being revealed to us. I really delight to discover fresh insights, both from his word and from reading what others have discovered about it.

I pray that God will bless your endeavours to discover more about Him in this coming year.

Friday, 25 December 2015


God speaks to me in words – sometimes a single word, sometimes a phrase that impacts on my mind. Yesterday it was a clear word – details. This might seem a strange word to be impressed with on Christmas Day but when you consider how many details need to be attended to before the day dawns, it’s probably an appropriate one for the season.
I heard this word in church yesterday morning, at Bridgeman Downs Baptist church here in Brisbane, where I am one of the congregation. Pastor Billy Williams gave a short and powerful message about the birth of Christ and how the Biblical accounts go into detail about how Christ’s birth, which we celebrate on Christmas Day. This momentous event was brought about step by step, according to God’s will and many different people had a part in it, a role to fulfil, in great ways and small.
I think about all the details of my life. I have some worries that never seem to abate. There are concerns about people that I care for deeply that are beyond my capacity to solve. Fears for the future or even planning for the future can prevent me from thinking about all that I should be thankful for and enjoying in the present.
Yet God reminded me, through one word, that all of the details are in His loving care. There is nothing in this world that is too big or too complex for Him. He created the entire universe, so the squabbles and troubles of one tiny planet are well within His redemptive concern. He’s already given us the gift of salvation through the wonderful present that we celebrate at Christmas – the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ.
Similarly, there is nothing in my life that is too insignificant for God to be unconcerned. He knows the details of my hopes and fears. He brings people into my life to minister to me and help me, and enables me to assist others in ways large or small. He had plans for me before I was born. His Holy Spirit is my Counsellor and guide throughout this earthly life. My loving Heavenly Father will attend to all I leave in this world when I no longer live here.
He’s the God of wonderful detail, able to be trusted with all the details of our lives.
Thank You, Father.



Pastor Billy Williams is an indigenous minister who is not only part of the pastoral staff of Bridgeman Downs Baptist, leading the separate indigenous congregation which meets together but who also is well known and respected throughout Australia for his missional outreach to indigenous people and his networking of indigenous churches and ministries and their partners. He is a thoroughly personable and enjoyable preacher and we are very blessed at Bridgeman to hear his sermons, some of which are available through the Bridgeman Downs Baptist website (link this page) or Youtube.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Merry Christmas

The people walking in darkness
    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
    a light has dawned.
You have enlarged the nation
    and increased their joy;

 For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever.

(Verses2-3 and 6-7  from from the Bible book of  Isaiah, chapter 9. )

The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.”’

(Verses from the Bible book of Numbers, chapter 6, verses 24-26.)

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Take Courage

In righteousness you will be established.
Tyranny will be far from you;
you will have nothing to fear.
Terror will be far removed;
it will not come near you.
If anyone does attack you, it will not be my doing.
Whoever attacks you will surrender to you.

Isaiah 54: 14-15

Friday, 18 December 2015

Christmas - the word means "Christ worship"

Christmas - Old English Crīstes mæsses – the worship of Christ.

Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ.

It’s not about the need for gimmicky churches to dress their nativity scenes in Star Wars figures in order to boost interest in their messages.

It’s not about being politically correct and cancelling out any reference to the gospel in children’s pantomines.

It’s not “Happy Holidays”

It’s not Frosty and Rudolph.

It was and always is, Christmas.

Emmanuel, Christ with us.

For God so loved this world, that He sent His only Son, that whoever would believe in Him would have eternal life with God.

The most wonderful message.

The most precious gift.

The best Giver of good things.

The real reason to celebrate.

Merry Christmas. May God bless You with His wonderful presence this Christmas.

Friday, 4 December 2015

What about Santa?

What do we tell our kids about Santa? When my children were little, my husband and I had to decide what to do about Santa. In western culture Christmas is inescapably tied to the image of a rotund man in red and white.

Sadly, in mainstream western culture, children are bombarded with images of Santa everywhere you go. It’s difficult to find a nativity set displayed anywhere. Christian cards are almost non-existent in the stores, replaced by images of cute teddy bears or holly leaves and, of course, Santa. Instead of singing praises to God for the wonderful gift He gave this world, His Son, Jesus Christ, we sing “Frosty the Snowman” and “All I want for Christmas is you.” In the end, when all the pretty trappings are taken away, there is an empty box inside.

As a Christian, I always wanted to be truthful with my children about the real meaning of Christmas – that we were celebrating the birth of Christ. In a subtle way, the focus on Santa is another avenue for discrediting Christianity, for if children are told an enormous fabrication from an early age and at some stage get to the point where they realise it is not true (with great trauma in some cases) then if they have been told the truth of the gospel, why should they believe that?

So, I chose to tell my children the truth about Santa, the truth of which is quite enjoyable in itself. The truth is, when Jesus was young, wise men came from the East, carrying gifts to honour Him. That is why we give gifts at Christmas, because we honour Christ by giving (rather than getting).

Throughout the ages there have been men who have sought to honour Jesus by their kind deeds, especially by blessing the poor.  Saint Nicholas was the Christian bishop of Myra in the Byzantine Empire in the fourth century. A derivation of his name may have become part of Belgian folklore in the form of Sinterklaas, from which name, carried across the seas to America, became Santa Claus. Good King Wenceslas, immortalised in the carol, was a Duke of Bohemia in the tenth century, who was known for his Christian acts of charity to the poor.

Santa Claus then is based on a long heritage of Christian men, who did good things to bless others. When we saw Santa in the stores, I had no problem with telling my children that Santa is a man dressed up, but he is based on real men, like Saint Nicholas and Good King Wenceslas. When we see him it reminds us that there are good men everywhere who want to be kind to others in many ways. We too can celebrate the birth of Christ by being kind to others – little children, the poor and needy, animals, refugees, those in other countries who have so little, the elderly and disabled, and many others.

“In his master's steps he trod, where the snow lay dinted;
Heat was in the very sod which the saint had printed.
Therefore, Christian men, be sure, wealth or rank possessing,
Ye who now will bless the poor, shall yourselves find blessing.”

“Good King Wenceslas” lyrics by John Mason Neale 1853

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Principles of Leviticus

I’ve always approached the study of the book of Leviticus with a certain amount of trepidation. All those sacrifices, and I’m a vegetarian! It’s not the first book of the Bible I turn to for inspiration. However, my studies have been greatly enhanced of late by watching some Youtube presentations by the late Pastor Chuck Smith, who has a study series on every book of the Bible online. I don’t agree with all his views, particularly in the area of capital punishment, but the series has provided some solid theological background and is a useful resource.
The following are some of my own insights from reading and studying Leviticus from a Christian perspective.

God is magnificent in His holiness. He alone, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is worthy of honour and praise for who He is.

The ultimate purpose of our lives should be to bring honour and glory to Him because He is worthy of it. We do this by offering our lives to Him. The whole principle of offerings should be because we want to honour God. So often the Christian life and wishy-washy preaching centres around what God can do for us, when the reverse should be the case.

God created mankind for fellowship and relationship with Him. He created the first humans, Adam and Eve, to live in close fellowship with Him, but created them with free choice, to be obedient to Him or to disobey Him. They were tempted by Satan and chose to disobey, invoking God’s punishment which would be to all mankind- separation from God, sin and death.

By the time we reach the book of Leviticus in Biblical history, Adam and Eve’s descendents are still struggling with this separation from God. They are aware of their sinfulness and want to get right with Him. This awareness of sinfulness and sorrow and regret for it  is called repentance.

God has already given Moses the Ten Commandments, the ten great principles of godly living. Now through Moses, the Israelites are given further instructions on living in a way pleasing to God. They are to make distinctions between what is clean and unclean, or acceptable or unacceptable. God’s instructions cover a range of areas including what to eat and drink, hygiene practices, sexual relations, not consulting mediums or spiritualists, and hospitality to strangers. The treatment of the poor is covered, including the institution of the principle of Jubilee, the forgiving of debts. The principle of tithing is instituted.

Sacrificing animals or foodstuffs was, therefore a way of honouring God by giving Him a gift and a way of making atonement to God for sin – paying a price. It was a way of saying, “I deserve to die for my sins, but instead, You, God, will accept the death of an animal in my stead as payment.  Leviticus contains instructions for a number of different sacrifices, some to atone for personal sins and some for sins of the whole community. As well as personal offerings, at specific times throughout the year the Israelites were to observe festivals where sacrifices were made, God honoured and celebrated and the need for atonement reflected upon.

What was given to God? The first. The best. The result of hard work and effort.

We already see obvious parallels to what was to come. Throughout the ensuing books of the Old Testament, the Israelites were unable to stop sinning and keep God’s laws. Despite the call back to faith and holiness by God’s prophets, the people of God disobeyed and neglected Him, bringing destruction upon themselves.

Finally, God’s love and mercy was so great that he sent Jesus, who honoured and obeyed His Father as none of us ever could. Jesus became the offering to atone for the sins of mankind once and for all time. There can be no other.

Today we still struggle with the awareness of sin and the need for a Saviour. Whether acknowledged or not, each person is sinful,  mortal and needs hope for a future beyond this life, a relationship with God who created them. Without God individuals and communities face breakdown and despair, death and God's judgement.

In the book of Leviticus the priest was to be the intermediary between man and God. Now Jesus completely fills that role. We can come to God directly through Christ. There is still a role for a priest/pastor/ vicar or similar personage to teach and minister to the body of Christ, but we have a high priest in Jesus Christ and can “come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most” (Hebrews 4:16). A prayer of repentance and faith in God sets one’s feet on a completely different journey through life.

In Christ we receive God’s forgiveness, love and grace. We are to honour God by acknowledging his Holiness and His love in sending Jesus to be our redeeming Saviour.  We are to live lives worthy of His calling, by reflecting His holiness, by living as best we are able in accordance with his principles. In Christ this is not an onerous burden or an arduous ritual, but a life-enhancing joy.

As Christmas approaches, the reading of the book of Leviticus reminds us of why God sent His Son into this world. During this Christmas season, maybe we can honour God by adopting some of the principles. Can we :
 Honour God and serve Him this Christmas?
Take time out for prayer and worship?
Offer something to the poor?
Extend hospitality to a stranger?
Cancel a debt?
Create something with our hands for someone?

Reading the book may provide other ideas.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Grace and Peace

All of New Testament epistles of Paul begin with greetings to the particular church being addressed and the bestowing of “grace and peace” to the reader. In the case of his letters to Timothy, Paul sends “grace, mercy and peace”.

These two blessings are coupled together for a reason. We can’t know the real peace of God without knowing His grace- the favour that He gives to the undeserving. The Bible tells us we’re born sinners, unable to save ourselves. The only way to God is through His Son, Jesus Christ. We receive the mercy of God because Christ has already paid the price. Without Christ, the human heart is restlessly searching for what will bring peace of mind, comfort and love.

Only through Christ’s atoning death and resurrection do we have hope and the “peace of God that surpasses all understanding.” (Philippians 4:7)


“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”
So wrote the author William Faulkner. The past can steal your peace like nothing else. Memories can keep you reliving situations and events that can destroy today and all of your tomorrows.
But then there’s grace.
The unwarranted bestowing of forgiveness, whether sought for or not, can set the hurting heart free. When we decide to forgive, we kill the past. We free ourselves to live in the present without pain. In essence, we give what we cannot reclaim, control or fix to God, for Him to handle for us. By bestowing grace, we receive abundant grace from God.
Grace and peace.

Grace and peace to you.

View from the Bluff, Victor Harbour, South Australia.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015


Somewhere the prettiness left
And a pool of dark grey-brown determined sludge
Enveloped my mind
Contaminating all with its heaviness
Strangling my feet
Marooned, I foundered
Before my hands were drowned, I reached
For seeds of hope
That in the depths of mud and slime
Seeds grow
Struggling to reach the sun but still
Determined seeds
Nurtured with tenderness
Tenacious shoots
Clinging to life
They formed a mat of verdant green
For me to set my feet upon.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Sexual Purity

“Some Pharisees came to him to test him [Jesus]. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”
 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’ ? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
 “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”
Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”
The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.”
Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”
(Matthew 19:3-12)

From these words of Jesus we gain an understanding God created man and woman to be in partnership and that sex is to be between a man and his wife, therefore following marriage. In addition, it allows for divorce only in the case of sexual immorality, which we take to be adultery – engaging in sexual relations with another person outside of the marriage.

For Christians sexual relations outside of marriage are therefore forbidden, according to the words of Jesus. The word “fornication” is one which is not in common use these days, but basically it refers to sexual relations outside of marriage. In the Bible we are told to

"Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's. Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband." (1 Corinthians 6:18-20).

Those who honour God’s precepts will be blessed.
We live in a time where many different kinds of relationships are sanctioned, even by people who attend churches, yet those who ignore God’s rules can’t expect to be in right relationship with Him.

Sadly, I’ve seen Christian friends who know God’s principles turn away from them for the sake of human relationships. There’s often a falling away from church life that follows because we cannot walk with God and follow popular culture at the same time when it encourages us to shift from His principles. We’re here to serve and obey Him and we’re fooling ourselves if we think He sanctions sin.

We live in a culture which has turned sex into an idol of enormous proportions, and the internet has made pornography available on an unprecedented scale. Sexual “freedom” has resulted in a rocketing divorce rate, broken lives and scarred children.  It’s also a great stumbling block in witnessing to non-Christians if conversion to Christianity is going to challenge their living arrangements with partners outside of marriage.

Chastity and celibacy are two more words which are seldom used these days, but maybe it’s time to remind our young people, and older singles too, that they are viable options. Jesus affirms this in the above passage from Matthew. Whenever we make a choice of sacrifice for the sake of obedience to His word, we are blessed in our walk with Him and often blessed in the area of our lives that we have been willing to give up.

May God bless those to whom these words have given a new direction in thought.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Life: A Precious Gift, part II

I've already looked at the abortion issue in August, under the heading of Life a Precious Gift and Serious Responsibility, however, I thought it was worth further comment after viewing an article about a group of "clergy" ( I use the term in its loosest sense) "blessing" (loosest sense again) an abortion clinic.
“Why a group of clergy are blessing an abortion clinic” by Alex Zielinski Think Progress 8th October 2015

It takes a lot to shock me. If you involve yourself in Christianity over a period of decades, you’ll be aware of the charlatans, false teachers and manipulators who use Christianity to further their own ends. Never have I been so shocked and appalled, however, as when I read of a group of “ministers” blessing an abortion clinic and its activities in Cleveland Ohio. As seems to be the current trend, Christians who were protesting against abortion, who have the guts to stand up and declare the truths of the Bible, are attacked and maligned as “the radical religious right.”

Hang your heads in shame, you false “ministers”.
Read your Bible.

Psalm 139 proclaims “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”

The sanctity of human life is protected in the sixth commandment “You shall not murder.” Exodus 20:6. The Hebrew word used refers to the deliberate taking of human life. When God specifically states “Thou shall not murder” in the Ten Commandments, he means just that. This applies as much to the unborn, or the elderly, or the disabled child as it does to any other person.

Therefore the Bible clearly condemns abortion. To those who like to throw up the smoke screen and say “the Bible doesn’t say anything about abortion” I would ask, what is abortion other than the taking of life in the womb? Some aborted babies are actually alive following the abortion. Jesus Himself, when sent by God to earth in human form began His earthly ministry as a baby in the womb, identifying as being fully human from conception to birth and beyond.

In addition throughout the Old Testament there are references to the condemnation God has for the practice of child sacrifice, as was practised in pagan rituals eg. worship of Molech by the Ammonites. Jeremiah 32:35 states clearly God’s attitude to the killing of children “ They built the high places of Baal in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to offer up their sons and daughters to Molech, though I did not command them, nor did it enter into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.” We no longer have altars to Molech, instead we sacrifice babies in the womb to idols of materialism, ego, selfishness and the oxymoron of “women’s health”.

As Christians we are also told to defend the most defenceless in our society: “Open your mouth, judge righteously, and defend the rights of the afflicted and needy.” (Proverbs 31:9)

And now we have a “minister” saying “There is a reverence for life that happens in this clinic”. This ludicrous, ironic statement would be laughable, if it wasn’t so tragic.

We are warned in the Bible that those who are called to preach and teach the gospel will be called to account for what they teach and that those who are ordained to be shepherds will be accountable to God for the way in which they shepherd their flock. (See James 3, Ezekiel 34 as just two examples).  I pray and hope that when I am called to stand before God at the end of my life and give an account of what I have attempted to teach or tell others about Him and His word, the Bible, that I will be able to say that I have always tried to teach according to the given word and the spirit of all that He has given, to the best of my understanding, with His leading, gifting and the guidance of His Holy Spirit, to His honour and glory.

To those people who sanctioned the activities of the abortion clinic, I would say, If you want to support abortion, do so, but don’t do it in God’s name, wearing His cross. You are deliberately misrepresenting Him and all the values and commandments that He has given in the Bible. Your actions may make you popular in some circles and politically correct in others, but Jesus never promised that, far from it.  

How small these misguided people have made God. They've reduced Him to someone who's there to sanction their actions and fulfill their need for love and acceptance. The God of the Bible is huge, omnipotent, One who is to be served in word and deed, worthy of all honour. He is God of justice and power and wrath. We should fear His righteous anger as well as honour His love and mercy. We are to serve Him, not the reverse. We are told throughout the Bible that if we love God, we are to keep His commandments. 

Beware of anyone who talks about being able to do things without shame or regret. Shame and regret are useful emotions because they indicate conscience and moral values. They can bring us to repentance, a close walk with God and a much better life. 

I reiterate what I wrote a few weeks ago: Whilst we rail against the practice of abortion, Christians believe that like every other sin, God can and does forgive. Jesus Christ died on the cross, paying the penalty for every human sin. Those who are suffering from the regret of abortion or any other sin need only to turn to God in repentance and faith, pray a prayer asking for forgiveness and asking Christ to become Lord of their lives, and they will be forgiven and will start their lives on a new path of healing and restoration. Connecting with Bible believing Christian counsellors can assist women to heal from the trauma and pain of abortion. Studying the Bible, prayer and fellowship in a Bible believing, mainstream church is also part of growing in relationship with God.

Those who are involved at all levels in providing abortions and promoting them need our prayers that God will open their eyes to the truth regarding what they are doing and will bring them to a place where they will completely reverse their opinion of it.

Isaiah 5:20

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!

2 Peter 2:1

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

The Book of James in a Nutshell

  • Rejoice that God is with you throughout the trials which will come in this life. Persevere in suffering, knowing the hope we have in Christ.
  • Be satisfied with your life and be humble, whether you are wealthy or poor. Don't take pleasure in riches or gain them by oppressing others.
  • Don't show favouritism  to the rich at the expense of the poor.
  • Live a life free of corruption.
  • Be slow to get angry.
  • Keep a tight rein on your tongue. Don't grumble or swear. Don't slander anyone. Don't boast about the things you are planning.
  • Obey the word of God. Do what it says. 
  • Accompany your faith with good works that demonstrate your faith. Minister to others through deeds as well as words.
  • Draw near to God in prayer and praise. Be honest about your own failures and shortcomings..
  • Intercede for those who are sick 
  • Assist those who are struggling in their faith and falling away. Help them to return to a strong relationship with God.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

To Save the Lost

In the gospel account of Luke, chapter 15, we are given three stories which Jesus told. Each involves a loss.

Someone- a shepherd or farmer, owns one hundred sheep, and one of them goes missing. Does the owner leave the creature to its own fate? No, he leaves the flock in safety and searches until he finds it, joyfully carrying it home again.

A woman has ten silver coins and loses one. She searches her house, using a lamp to peer into dark nooks, sweeping out every possible crevice where it may have rolled. When she finds it, she happily tells all her friends.

A wealthy landowner has two sons. The youngest requests his inheritance ahead of time, leaves home and squanders all he possesses. Destitute and ashamed, he returns home to the father he abandoned, with the hope of living as one of his father’s hired hands. His father runs to him, rejoicing, and celebrates his son’s return with a lavish feast.

Our lives too, are filled with losses, great and small. I once owned a terrier dog who panicked every time we experienced a thunderstorm, and would break through the fence and run away. I remember how anxious I would be to locate him, and how happy I was each time he was found. We can lose objects, and relationships, and jobs. The death of loved ones is a grievous loss. I’ve lost both of my parents, and whilst I rejoice in the knowledge that they are in Heaven, I still feel the pain of separation, knowing I will spend the rest of my earthly life without them being here.

So it is with God. He is not unaware of the unsaved people in this world, far from it. Like the father in the parable of the prodigal son, God loves all of the people that He created, and grieves that they choose to follow a life without Him, rejecting Him, not understanding the wonderful life that God wants for them. God has given each of us free will, to reject or follow Him. Sometimes in our rejection we are led through suffering and disillusionment until we find our way to Him. 

“He [Jesus] is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)

The triune God- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, wants relationship with you. He created mankind to be in relationship with Himself. When Satan, the rebellious angel, tempted Adam and Eve into sin and doomed mankind to a sinful nature, God still made a way for us to be reconciled to Him. He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to earth, to pay the debt of sin. The Son of God died, taking upon Himself the penalty for sin - death. Yet He defeated death. He rose again. We who accept Christ have the promise of eternal life with Him. 

On the night when Jesus was betrayed and taken to be tried and crucified, He ate a meal, the “last supper” with His disciples. He prayed for them. He also prayed for those people who would believe in Him through their message. In effect, this means that Jesus, when He was alive on this earth, prayed for me, and for you too, if you become a believer through the message of Christ’s followers. What an amazing thought! Jesus is a God whose love stretched through the centuries to our present age, knowing us then as He knows and cares for us now.

Like the shepherd in the parable of the lost sheep, Jesus, our Good Shepherd, is seeking the lost souls of this world. He rejoices with thousands upon thousands of angels in Heaven when a person commits their life, in repentance and faith, to Him.

I wonder if the shepherd had some helpers to locate the sheep? Did the woman have friends looking for her coin? Each calls friends and neighbours to celebrate when the lost is found. The father of the lost son, however, finds opposition when he organises his celebration. The prodigal son’s older brother is resentful of the celebrations.

As the family of God, our earthly task is to be a witness for Christ. It was the great commission given to Christ’s followers prior to Christ’s ascent to Heaven. Following His return to Heaven, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to this earth, to empower God’s people, so that they could “be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). We are to be used of God to witness His love and care, to minister to the needs of the unsaved and draw them to faith in Jesus Christ. If not, we become like the prodigal’s older brother, enjoying the benefits of his father’s household without caring for his lost brother, leaving his father to wait and grieve alone.

 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbours, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” (Luke 15:4-7)

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Community Revisited

For the past few weeks I’ve been settling into a new position. I still work in community health one day per week, and for my other three days of paid employment I now work as a therapy assistant at a public health residential facility. The residents where I work in this position are severely impaired, both physically and intellectually. It’s been a very interesting few weeks, a time in which I’ve rediscovered the uniqueness of every human, each with a personality and differing preferences and behaviours. As is the case in every sphere of social activity, some people are easy to like and work with, whilst others are more challenging.

So the concept of community in my working life now embraces taking community into various homes where people are isolated and alone; and going to a particular community and hopefully showing God’s love and enhancing its life and culture in positive ways.

Community, as Jean Vanier, the founder of the L’Arche residential facilities for the handicapped espoused, is not just a place or a system. It’s something we carry with us.

As Christians, we belong to the community of God’s people throughout this world. We are a spiritual family. This can and should have deep significance. We love those in our own churches, but we should still be able to travel elsewhere and feel a sense of belonging when we meet with Christians that we don’t know. We should be praying for and supporting our brothers and sisters in Christ, particularly those who are subject to persecution.

In a time of darkness, we should be praying that the light of Christ will shine throughout this world, through the community of believers. How comforting it is to know that there are faithful prayer warriors who uphold us even when we feel alone and perhaps are alone physically.

Community is always inclusive. It always has room for another. It affirms each person as created in the image of God, of such great worth that He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross, that whoever would believe in Jesus and commit their life to Him in repentance of sin and faith in Jesus Christ, would not perish and die, but have everlasting life, abundant life beginning here on Earth and continuing after death in Heaven for eternity with Him.  (John 3:16, John 10:10).

We all have the opportunity to create or impact communities for God and many of us connect with a number of different communities – family, friends, interest groups, neighbourhoods, workplaces, churches, and sporting teams are a few examples. Why not pray that God will give you direction and lead you to those that he wants to minister to? May each one see the love and fellowship of Jesus and His community of followers. 

Friday, 21 August 2015

Life: a precious gift and serious responsibility.

Over the past few weeks there has been publicity in the media regarding the activities of Planned Parenthood, especially in regard to its heinous practice of selling the body parts of aborted babies for profit.
If ever there was an indicator of the increasing sin which is enveloping this world it is the murder, and now murder for profit, of the unborn.

When does life begin? When does a “collection of cells” become a human being? Are we beings with a soul and a spirit, as well as a body and a mind?
As Christians, we believe that all human life is sacred, that people are created “in the image of God.” (Genesis 1:27).  We have an earthly body, but we also have a soul which will inhabit a new body after death. “If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. (1 Corinthians 15:44) “The perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable and the mortal with immortality.” (1 Corinthians 15:53).

Those who stridently claim that it’s a woman’s body and therefore a woman’s right to have an abortion must somehow decide when, if ever the soul enters the life of the unborn. If they decide people don’t have souls, they must then face their own mortality with no hope for eternity.

When does that collection of cells cease to be a “blob” and become a person? Because from the moment of conception, the amazing process of life is occurring – cells are growing and multiplying in stages of development that will result in a living, breathing human being. This is not a non-person one week and a person the next. The Bible tells us:
For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother's womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:13,14)
Does the child in the womb have the right to his or her life? Pro-abortionists would say no. Not only is the child denied life, they are murdered using appalling methods. Even their remains are not treated with any respect or dignity.

It’s ironic that abortion activists couch the procedure in terms of “women’s health.” They fail to address the problems that women face following abortion. These can be physical, such as infections and future infertility. Emotional issues include grief, post traumatic stress and regret which can last a lifetime.

God has placed a spirit inside each of us which we can either choose to embrace or deny. Satan, the father of lies is clearly identified for what he is:
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10.

God watches over all that is done in this world. He is not unaware. He has given life to every human child that he’s created, and sees them. He hears their silent cries. Each and every precious child that is aborted is welcomed into God’s presence in Heaven. He has a name for each one (Revelation 2:17).

Whilst we rail against the practice of abortion, Christians believe that like every other sin, God can and does forgive. Jesus Christ died on the cross, paying the penalty for every human sin. Those who are suffering from the regret of abortion or any other sin need only to turn to God in repentance and faith, pray a prayer asking for forgiveness and asking Christ to become Lord of their lives, and they will be forgiven and will start their lives on a new path of healing and restoration. Likewise those who are involved at all levels in providing abortions and promoting them need our prayers that God will open their eyes to the truth regarding what they are doing and will bring them to a place where they will completely reverse their opinion of it.

If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.” (1 John 1:8-10).

I thank God for those people who have had the courage to expose the inhuman practices of the abortion industry. We all have a part to play in creating a world where abortions are not performed. We have much to answer for in creating a society which teaches adults to behave like spoilt children – if you want it, have it. If you get sick of it, throw it away. Why is casual sex promoted as attractive? Why do we bellow about our rights and whisper (or totally ignore) the responsibilities which accompany those rights? Why should health funding be used to promote abortions and not be used for education to prevent abortions?

A couple of links

Children born of rape and incest documentary

A quick search on Google and Youtube will give links to many accounts of abortion experiences and can provide information regarding how abortions are performed. These are to be used at the viewer’s discretion as they are often confronting and distressing.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Supernatural Encounters

In the course of my work in community health I sometimes hear stories of extraordinary spiritual experiences. I was talking recently with a woman of advanced age who had been a Christian for over fifty years. In her early twenties she had a tenuous belief in God but had struggled with her faith. She prayed earnestly for God to reveal Himself to her and one night she experienced seeing a person in brilliant white, whose face was hidden. She felt herself being lifted from her bed and held in the light of this person, whom she believes was Jesus. She had a feeling of great joy and peace surrounding her. This experience greatly enhanced her faith, and encouraged her to follow Jesus throughout her life.
An internet search will reveal many accounts of supernatural encounters and these testimonies can encourage us to believe in God in His three forms- Father, Son Jesus Christ and His Holy Spirit. However, we must exercise caution when dealing with the supernatural. Experiences should never assume such predominance that we overemphasise them at the expense of prayer, Bible study and Christian fellowship in a mainstream Christian community.
Throughout the Bible, there are accounts of supernatural encounters and strange phenomenon. Moses sees a burning bush and hears the voice of God (Exodus 3).  Ezekiel sees the heavens opened and lightning flashes are accompanied by visions of burnished chariots with strange creatures speeding across the sky (Ezekiel 1). Peter is visited by an angel whilst imprisoned, and his chains fall away (Acts 12). God speaks to His people through signs and wonders, prophetic messages and visions. Miracles of rescue and healing occur. We should not then be surprised that some of these things are still happening in our own time.
Should we desire to experience supernatural phenomenon?
From the earliest beginnings of the Christian church, we are warned in scripture to be aware of those preaching another gospel, or false doctrine – see the book of Jude,  Matthew 7:15, 2 Timothy 3, the book of Titus. There are many warnings throughout the New Testament epistles to be discerning in what we adhere to and believe.
In our culture there are churches where supernatural phenomena are very much in evidence. We see footage of people being “slain in the spirit” gyrating around, falling over, laughing hysterically and speaking in other tongues (Paul does write of the gift of tongues, and gives parameters for its use). Strange phenomenon these may be, but whether they are God-honouring or God-inspired is debateable. I would urge anyone to pray for discernment and direction before committing to a church where the focus is on supernatural manifestations.
The Bible warns us that Satan can masquerade as an “angel of light” His demons may well masquerade as angels. In addition, ungodly humans can preach a different gospel for their own purposes. This is summed up in 2 Corinthians 11:13-15. We are to test the spirits, as is outlined in 1 John 4:1-3:

“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.”

It’s important that anything connected with a supernatural experience respectfully gives honour and glory to God and supports the gospel message. We should know what the Bible says and what the gospel message is. Throughout the Bible, supernatural experiences are to honour God, display His sovereignty and serve His purposes. They are not a bag of special effects tricks to be trotted out in a stageshow.

When Jesus was resurrected following His crucifixion, Thomas wanted to touch Him, to ensure that Jesus was really there. This Jesus permitted, but He told Thomas, and us that
Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)

We live in a world where we are physically separated from God. We who love Him long for His presence, to see Him, to hear His voice. We will one day know that joy in Heaven. Until that time, I believe that God blesses those who by faith undertake a patient, lifelong commitment to following after Him. We grow closer by prayer, studying His word, the Bible, worship and fellowship in Christian community, and living out our lives for Him.

Monday, 3 August 2015

Seen around the church signs

" Faithbook : Jesus is sending you a friend request."

Stafford Heights Uniting Church

" He who kneels before God can stand before any man."

St Ambrose Anglican Church Newmarket

A major falling out

In the fifteenth chapter of the Biblical book of Acts, there is a brief account of a disagreement that arose between two prominent apostles who had conducted missionary journeys together for many years – Paul and Barnabas. The dispute arose over the inclusion in the mission of the young man, John Mark. Barnabas, who was John Mark’s cousin, was in favour of his coming with them. Paul opposed the move, as John Mark had deserted them on a previous journey. Luke, the writer of Acts, notes that such a sharp disagreement arose that they separated, Barnabas taking John Mark with him to Cyprus, and Paul teaming up with Silas to continue on their mission of strengthening the churches that they had previously founded.
Very little information is given in regards to the facts surrounding this dispute or the reasons for John Mark’s sudden departure on the previous journey. It’s not always a good idea to speculate about things that are left unsaid in the Bible, but on the other hand, every detail that is included in scripture, I believe, is useful for some purpose. I wonder why Luke chose to include the reason for the separation in his account. What can we glean from this disagreement that might be useful to us today?
One thing that I think we can learn from this is that relationships are not static things. The dynamics of relationships can change over time. Paul and Barnabas had evidently been able to work in close association as they travelled throughout the region, establishing congregations. The introduction of John Mark to their company had possibly impacted on the relationship. John Mark was Barnabas’ cousin, so they may well have felt the ties of kinship and mentoring. Two oxen can be evenly yoked; introduce a third and two may plough in one direction and one in another.
I think this argument and subsequent separation might also point to some differences in temperament between these dynamic men of God. Barnabas, from what we know of him in the scriptures, seems to be a genial fellow, whose very moniker was “son of encouragement.” He seems very much to be a people person, who empathized with others. He was the person who interceded with the disciples to welcome Paul into their midst. Now he is eager to offer John Mark understanding and a second chance.  
In Galatians, chapter 2, verse 13, however, we see that perhaps this desire to please others and go with popular opinion had the effect of temporarily leading Barnabas away from sound doctrine.
Paul, from the outset of his appearance in scripture is a man of action, deeply versed in theological knowledge and willing to endure great hardship in his passionate proclamation of the gospel. He is a man of perseverance and a skilled debater. He is zealous for Christ. I wonder if Paul is as sensitive of the feelings of others and as forgiving of their faults as Barnabas?
Interestingly, following this disagreement and his subsequent departure with Silas, Paul meets and includes a young disciple named Timothy into his team (Acts 16:1-4). So begins a long and fruitful mentoring and partnership with the young man whom Paul called “my dear son” (2 Timothy 1:2). 
Also, eventually Paul was reconciled with John Mark, who is mentioned briefly in the letters to the Colossians and to Philemon as being with Paul. Towards the end of his life Paul sends for John Mark “because he is helpful to me in my ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:11).
And here we have some lessons for us in church today. New people come and old relationships change. Partnerships may work well for a season, and then give way to new ministry connections. Some people may be very people -oriented in their focus of church life, whilst others may be more concerned with accomplishing the task at hand. Conflicts can and do occur, but always God is at work, using every situation, even disagreements, to accomplish His will.

Monday, 13 July 2015

After the Funeral

We sit ensconced in patterned chairs and memories. My brother
decants port into the Waterford crystal
“Prost” he utters sadly, wearily, raising the glass aloft, we drink
a silent toast to life, wordless the others, wandering eyes too strained
for tears, each valiantly glances, turns away

She must be here, somewhere among her pretty things, the china cups
tipped just so, the books still scattered here and there, she’ll walk again
in through the double doors, trailing confidence and garden clippings
laughing with fearless smile under the scant bandana

My sister replaces her glass on the tray, dispassionately,
greedy eyes calculate its worth, manicured talons poised
on what they would claim, no sentiment here, just valuation
the hard-core worth of things, remind myself again
let it rest unspoken, this is not our day but hers, not
the time for fuss and recrimination

Hours enough for the sorting out, the packing and sharing
division of her life into string bags and plastic boxes
What to take away, what to leave behind, symbols
evaluation, compromise
Her spirit could never be contained, her love
unconquered, undivided, all she really leaves
and what we carry forth

The glass is cold in my palm, wine rolls like a last kiss
on my tongue, my mind, my body, body of her body, blood of her blood
a bittersweet swallowing, a sacrament, a final gesture.

I drain the wine.
Sunlight, captured in crystal, dances in raindrops
across the carpet, sparkling like mercury scattered
free and unfettered, tiny colours moving
and I see her again in memory through the open window
Among the flowers, breathing the scented air
Barefoot, dancing, her long hair flowing free.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

The End is Near

“The End is Near” sounds like a catchphrase from a B grade movie, or the sort of thing you might see on sandwich boards, paraded in the street by “fanatics”.  Do those doomsdayers have a point?
I became a Christian in the 1970’s, at a time when the end of the world was a popular theme in Christian circles. We went to hear Stan Deyo, of “Cosmic Conspiracy” fame, speak in our city hall. Books such as Hal Lindsay’s “Late Great Planet Earth” were widely circulated amongst Christian youth. End times were a constant theme in preaching in the church which I attended (a large Pentecostal congregation here in Brisbane). I’m sure some people were frightened into committing their lives to Christ.

When considering the possibility of this world as we know it ending, we need to look at what the Bible says.

The Bible is not a work of fiction. The sixty-six books contained therein are written by a number of different authors, and comprise different genres, including poetry and parables, but it cannot be called a mere story book. We are told that scripture is the inspired word of God:

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16,17

In addition, many of the historical events contained in the Bible can be accurately verified by independent sources such as historical records, archaeological digs and discoveries. We know what the Bible says about the past is true.

The Old Testament prophets predicted that a Messiah would come to this earth. They gave many indications about the Messiah – e.g. where He would come from, what would happen to Him. Jesus Christ fulfilled each and every prediction made about Him – over 350 predictions regarding His birth, ministry, death and resurrection, as recorded by the accounts of the apostles in the New Testament.

But what does the Bible say about the future?

Some of the Old Testament prophets including Ezekiel, Daniel and Zechariah not only foretold the coming of the Messiah, but of His triumphant return, the second coming, when He would claim His faithful followers who had not fallen away in times of great trial.

In Matthew’s gospel, chapter 24, Jesus outlines what will happen in this world in the future. There will be a time of great trials, of false prophets, of persecution of Christians, natural disasters and wars. Many Christians will abandon their faith. Finally Jesus will return “on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory” (v.30), to assert His power over the forces of evil and to gather His remaining people to Himself.

In the book of Revelation, the apostle John is given a series of visions regarding these future events. They describe a time known as the tribulation – a seven year period of terrible turmoil before Christ returns to the earth. The four horsemen of the apocalypse will be loosed on the earth – lust for conquest, warfare, famine and death. There will be great earthquakes, such as the earth has never known, and stars will fall in the sky- possibly comets or meteor showers. There will be unprecedented demonic activity and the rise of a person known as the Antichrist who will establish himself as a god on earth. He will control monetary systems and without a mark, nobody will be able to buy or sell. We are warned not to follow him or take this mark. Earthly wars culminate in the battle of Armageddon, accompanied by an earthquake and storm of massive hailstones and the devastating destruction of the seas and earth’s surface. It will be an unimaginably terrible time for those who are left.

Why should all this happen on earth? Because mankind has chosen to do evil and abandon God. When will all this happen? Jesus himself said that He did not know the day or hour, that it was something only known to His Father. The apostles Peter and Paul, in their epistles, made it clear that the church should not forget these warnings of Jesus, but to live as though the time was short, and be prepared for Christ’s return.

So it is twenty centuries later. It’s no coincidence that Jesus followed his warnings in Matthew 24 with the parable of the ten virgins recorded by Matthew in the following chapter. The church, the bride of Christ, should be ready and prepared to meet her bridegroom. The message is to be alert and have our minds on the things of God, not be distracted by the pleasures and day to day living of this life.

When I was a young Christian, I was afraid of the book of Revelation. It’s interesting to note that in his opening chapter, John declares that whoever reads and takes to heart the message of revelation is blessed. We are not blessed by being frightened of what might happen in the future, but rather are blessed by knowing that our Heavenly Father will go before and be beside us throughout our lives and into eternity with Him.

We know that Jesus will claim His believers and take them to be with Him. Paul writes:
For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18)
Some Christian theologians believe that the event when Christians are taken from the earth to be with Christ, known as the rapture, will occur prior to the time of tribulation, others that it will happen only when Christ returns. Some popular Christian movies such as the “Left behind” series take the former view. If millions of Christians suddenly disappear, the people left behind should have a clear message to repent and turn to Christ, and in this scenario, hopefully many will.

As I look out of my window on a clear winter’s day in Brisbane Australia, all these things seem a little fantastic. Yet the world can change quickly, as history has demonstrated. Throughout this world Christians are being persecuted and martyred for their faith. People are dying of starvation and disease. Economic systems are challenged. Violent crime is increasing. Perhaps most tragic of all is the staggering, unseen death of 40-50 million babies each year through abortion. God knows. God sees. He also redeems, forgives and transforms.

Troubled times may be ahead, but God goes before those whose lives are committed to Him, and He leads us along the paths He would have us take. We have a great commission to go into the world and make disciples of all nations, to bring hope, to be light in dark places. As the world becomes darker, so the light of Christ’s hope and love will shine ever more brightly. It’s a light which no darkness can ever put out.  

“the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” Matthew 24:13