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.