Saturday, 31 December 2016

The power of forgiveness

On Christmas evening 2016, a nine year old boy,  Josiah Sisson, was outside on a suburban footpath, looking at Christmas lights in Springwood, south of Brisbane. Tragically, Josiah was hit by an out-of-control vehicle, whose driver registered over three times the legal limit of alcohol permissible in the body when driving. Josiah died in hospital on Boxing Day.
In selfless and amazing acts of Christian love, Josiah's family issued statements about their desire to forgive the driver for taking their son's life. They attended a church service which was also attended by the driver and some of his family and friends, and nationwide news reports showed Karl Sisson, Josiah's father, publicly embracing the 24year old driver.
The family's grace in the face of this avoidable tragedy and particularly the actions of Karl Sisson to me exemplify the transforming power of God's love. When they had every reason for anger and hatred and bitterness, they chose the path of love and forgiveness and personal reconciliation.
Justice still needs to be done and the person responsible will still face the penalties for their actions. In a way though, through their response, Karl and his family have demonstrated the bigger picture. The person concerned needs to face repentance and get right with God, as well as face the human consequences.
The path of forgiveness is still a lonely and difficult road. I pray that the Sisson family will know God's loving hand upon them, and that the support of extended family and friends and their church family, both familiar and strangers, will bring them comfort.
There is a message of forgiveness here for us all. Many of us hang on to past hurts and grievances far less serious that the one described above. Can we look upon the passing of the old year as a time to wipe the slate clean? Doing so allows room to change and grow and enjoy new pursuits and relationships. Doing so is a gift to give yourself.

Friday, 30 December 2016

Goodbye to the old, embrace what is to come.

As 2016 draws to its final hours, it's good to reflect on what has been and look forward to the year ahead. For me personally there have been many times of enjoyment, being blessed in my faith and Christian walk with my Lord; enjoying the love and company of my husband, my family and friends. In my work I've found much fulfillment as I work with severely disabled people who never cease to give love and create a community of diversity and inclusion. I've enjoyed a wonderful trip to Central Australia where I appreciated the beauty of the landscapes around Uluru and Kata Tjuta and learned more of indigenous culture.
A brush with cancer again, resulting in surgery to remove a melanoma and lymph gland, with a very positive outcome has reminded me to be thankful for all the blessings that I enjoy and to be mindful of my health.
I've grown deeper in my knowledge of the word of God, through reading many of the books of the Bible in conjunction with listening to Chuck Smith's excellent series as I study each book. The late Rev. Smith has a teaching series of all 66 books of the Bible available on Youtube. I've enjoyed being part of the congregation at Bridgeman Downs Baptist Church and love it when we as a large congregation sing together.
In my spare time I've read many good books this year and a couple of dreadfuls. I've completed lots of puzzles and coloured pictures and knitted woolen clothing for Vietnam and nearly finished a blanket. My garden in partly weeded and partly wild.
Through the internet I've shared Facebook posts, poetry, six word memoirs and articles on this blog. Through my words I hope to share the love of Jesus Christ to those who do not yet know Him, and to encourage those who do to deepen their faith, in good times and not so good. He is the sure hope of peace and joy, starting in this life and continuing unto the heaven to come.
I especially acknowledge those Christians living in circumstances where it's difficult to practice their faith. Be assured that we are remembering you in our prayers and other forms of assistance. You are not forgotten. Whenever we sing, we sing for those who cannot sing aloud.
May God bless those who have visited this blog throughout the coming year.

"Forgetting the things that are behind and reaching out for the things that are ahead, with this goal in mind, I strive toward the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:13-15)

Shedding the old makes way for new growth- a living metaphor from the Aussie eucalypts. Photo taken this week hiking in the Conondale ranges.

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Singing songs of Joy and Hope

Singing with the cadences of heavenly choirs in worship
Songs of peace and love
Singing the world into the presence of our Father
Singing for those with no voice
Unable to even whisper His name
Behind the veils of oppression and injustice
Singing for those imprisoned for their faith
And those wandering the paths of darkness
In the soul-destroying dungeons of despair
Singing for those with voices stilled by grieving
Sing it out, hope has come
Holy night, away in a manger, joy to the world,
Gloria in excelsis, Mary’s boy child
Jesus Christ
Is come.
The star still shines
Hope reigns
And heaven and earth still sing.
©Jo Collett 2016

Wishing everyone a very happy Christmas as we celebrate the reason for the season, God's gift of joy, hope and peace sent to earth in the form of His Son, Jesus Christ.
Merry Christmas.

For the pets in Heaven

I once lost two beloved pets on the same day just before Christmas. My pet cockatiel  Lenny was found on the floor of his cage one December morning. We knew that our elderly terrier dog Pete, who spent much time at the cage watching Lenny sing to him, had little earthly time left. We attended a carols service that evening at church and came home to find Pete's body at the front gate where he had been waiting for us. I like to think that Lenny returned and told him "come on Pete, it's time to go." Christmas Eve is traditionally a special day to celebrate the love of animals, so here is a little poem to remember all the beloved pets that have been part of our lives. Theologians may argue regarding the presence of particular pets in Heaven, but anyone who has loved and been loved by an animal knows they go there.

For the Pets in Heaven
Adam, the first man
Was placed in a garden
Animals all around him
He wandered God’s wonderful creation
With marvellous beasts to surround him

Jesus came from God to Earth
Born in a stable bare
The Baby heard the cattle low
The donkeys stirred
And little lambs visited there.

They share our lives, loyal and true
Pets of every kind
And creatures wild that bring delight
Their gentle beauty shyly shared
An unexpected sight

So Jesus, for those ones in Heaven
Please hear my prayer,
All the poor, mistreated ones, hunted ones
And all those dearly loved and missed
Because we can’t be there

Send your group of special angels
Those with gentle laps and hearts
Loving hands and kindly words
Hold them in your tender care
As long as we’re apart

Whistle and toss a ball for me
Show them love
And let them know they’re not forgotten
Wish the animals merry Christmas
In Heaven above.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Singing for those with no voice.

"Away in a manger, no crib for a bed
The little Lord Jesus lay down His sweet head"

These words first published in 1885 and written by an unknown author will be sung throughout the world this month, as carol services are held to celebrate Christmas. However, in some countries to sing these words could result in imprisonment or death. In some countries Christians must meet secretly, huddled together in closed rooms, the gospel shared in whispers. They cannot sing for fear of their neighbours alerting the authorities.
At present I'm reading "The Insanity of God" by Nik Ripken, who visited our church last weekend. Nik and his wife Ruth are experts on the suffering of persecuted Christians in countries where their religion is either illegal or discouraged. The magnitude of suffering and oppression directed towards Christians in such nations is appalling.
Nik reminded us that there is one church in this world- the body of Christ, the brothers and sisters who love and serve Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. When one member of the body hurts, we all hurt. When one member of the body rejoices, we all rejoice. So when we come together to sing and rejoice in the freedom to worship that we have in countries like Australia, we do so remembering our brothers and sisters who are suffering elsewhere. We do not forget them. We pray for their safety, empowering strength and comfort in all their difficulties. We try to support them in many ways.
When a missionary returns to an oppressed people, he or she will tell them this :
Because they have no voice, we will sing for them. 

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Book Review: The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis

Whenever I hear Oxford don Richard Dawkins scoffing at Christians and advising others to mock Christianity, I find myself asking - " Did you ever consider the mind of and contributions made by fellow Oxford scholar Clive Staples Lewis?" C.S. Lewis was not only a great writer, worthy of being honoured in Poet's Corner in Westminster Abbey, but additionally a noted scholar, broadcaster, theologian, lecturer and Christian apologist.
"The Great Divorce"is a little gem of a book, and one I recently unearthed in a second-hand shop- a hard bound, first edition, no less. A mere 118 pages in length, this little novella and allegory contains more theological insight and wisdom than tomes many times its length. I know of no better writer of allegorical fiction than Lewis who can express a religious theme in a way which is thought provoking and insightful but never preachy.
Drawing on such predecessors as Dante's "Divine Comedy", Lewis introduces us to a particular traveller and a cast of characters either visiting or residing in what might be termed "the foothills of heaven". As our unnamed narrator takes his first tentative steps into this land he thinks back to where he has come from and considers where he might be going, as apparently there exists the option of either returning or continuing. We meet personalities who exhibit a range of human emotions and consider some of the circumstances which have affected their lives and dispositions.
Although a celebrated intellectual and academic, Lewis displays throughout this work his interest in the human condition. There is always a sense of compassion as he depicts fallen humanity, never superciliousness or smug judgement so often attributed to Christians. The concept that humans are tempted and changed subtly and slowly is one that develops more fully in Lewis' masterpiece, "The Screwtape Letters", whilst his deep love of others could not be depicted more obviously than his autobiographical "Surprised by Joy".
This little book can easily be read in one or two sittings and is easily readable and thought provoking. For a refreshing interlude in another land,  I thoroughly recommend it.

"The Great Divorce" C.S.Lewis, Geoffrey Bles: Centenary Press 1945  (Also available in reprints)

Saturday, 26 November 2016


Over the past few weeks I've experienced having a melanoma diagnosed. It had developed from a mole on my back, and may or may not have been sun related. It would be decades since I had that area of my torso in direct sunlight, but melanomas can occur from sun exposure, or a single case of sunburn years before. Moles too can spontaneously change. As a result, I had a biopsy, surgical excision of an area of tissue on my upper back and removal of a lymph node in my armpit. Thankfully the results were excellent- the surrounding tissue and lymph node were cancer free. I can proceed with life as usual.
This is the second time in my life that I've experienced cancer. The first was endometrial cancer in 2000, which required more radical surgery- removal of my uterus, ovaries, appendix and associated lymph nodes. Again, the cancer had not spread to the nodes and the prognosis was good. My children were much younger then and I was so thankful to be given the opportunity to see them grow.
As I look back on some of the major challenges that I've faced in my adult life, which incidentally coincides with most of my Christian life, having been born again at 22, I give thanks to God that He has been with me all the way through them. I also think that in my case, God has allowed some of these experiences to be not as severe as they might have been.
I've had two episodes of cancer, neither of which required chemotherapy and both of which have had an excellent outlook following surgery. I've had two other acute illnesses requiring hospital treatment and both times bounced back to good health in a short time. My husband and I have faced the challenges of parenting a son with a significant disability and seen him succeed in many areas. We are so proud of both our boys. Our marriage has been through some very testing times, yet we have by the grace of God come through them to have a happy and loving relationship.
 I realise now more than ever that being a Christian does not guarantee an easy walk through life, far from it. We still live in a fallen, sinful world with Satan attacking and tempting wherever he can. What belonging to Christ does guarantee is that even in the hard times God is leading and guiding us through, allowing us to move through them in order that our relationship with Him becomes deeper, our dependency upon Him stronger. What Satan means for harm, God uses for good. He uses bad experiences to grow us and to witness to others.
Prayer is our lifeline. The Bible is our map. The Holy Spirit is our guide. God- Father, Son and Spirit is our beginning, our journey and our destination. One day we will be with Him in Heaven, praising Him eternally, with no more tears or sorrow or pain.
I have so much to be thankful for. Thank You, Jesus.

Don't you know? Haven't you heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God;
    he created all the world.
He never grows tired or weary.
    No one understands his thoughts.
 He strengthens those who are weak and tired.
Even those who are young grow weak;
    young people can fall exhausted.
 But those who trust in the Lord for help
    will find their strength renewed.
They will rise on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not get weary;
    they will walk and not grow weak.  (Isaiah 40:28-31)

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Atheists leading churches? Please God, NO!

Article from this weekend's ABC news website: 


  "Why a Christian minister turned on God but wants to remain in the Church

As a progressive Christian minister, Gretta Vosper has always tried to lead her congregation with reverence for how people live, rather than what they believe.
She's written two best-sellers on relegating belief in a traditional or supernatural God and prioritising the importance of living justly with compassion.
It's a progressive position, and could be considered edgy in the context of religious orthodoxy.
But even more controversially, Ms Vosper has come out as an atheist."
Article by Nathan Coates
You can read this article in its entirety on the ABC news website :


If this article had not made it to the front page of the news section of our national broadcaster, I wouldn't have rated it worthy of even a mention. However, the Australian Broadcasting Commission obviously thinks that this Canadian woman rates publicity. Controversy makes headlines more interesting than stories about the millions of unknown Christians working positively in the world for altruistic purposes.
So, what are we to make of a self-professed atheist who wants to run a church? What is she going to teach? Who will prayers (if any) be directed to? Who gets the credit and the glory?

The Bible itself addresses those who seek to change the gospel. God gave His word to mankind through the writers of the Bible, writing under the divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit. It's a book like no other, God's living word, with great power to change lives and transform situations. It also has the power to cause conviction and discomfort, which is why some people seek to only use the parts of it that they like and ignore others.
Biblical doctrine is meant to be studied and discussed deeply and seriously. The apostle Paul tells us to “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” (1 Timothy 4:16) Some of the final verses of the last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation state:
"I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book." Revelation 22:18-19
In addition, the office of minister is one that is specified in the Bible as being an office of great responsibility. The Bible compares the office to that of a shepherd, a role which in Biblical times bore great responsibility for protecting the master’s wealth of livestock. Shepherds were to tend the needs of the flocks, leading them into good pastures, watering them and protecting them from thieves and wild animals.
In the 34th chapter of Ezekiel, God sends a word of prophecy regarding the shepherds who do not care for those placed under their care. The prophet Jeremiah also warned that God would deal with those shepherds who led their people astray:
“Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture” declares the Lord. Therefore thus says the LORD God of Israel concerning the shepherds who are tending My people: "You have scattered My flock and driven them away, and have not attended to them; behold, I am about to attend to you for the evil of your deeds," declares the LORD.… (Jeremiah 23:1,2)
In New Testament times the apostle Paul warned against those who began preaching different gospels in order to please people and rightly warned that once people began preaching a gospel to suit themselves, it soon became no gospel at all. (Galatians chapter 1).  He warns:
“But if we or even an angel from Heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned.” Galatians 1: 8.
“For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” (2 Timothy 4:3)
As Christians, we should be saddened, but not surprised when such reports surface. After all we've had the duplicity of the prosperity gospel and the sometime extreme antics of the Pentecostal manifestations. We have the soft- soaping "all you need is love" attitude - don't mention sin or conviction or repentance or sacrifice or any of those nasties. In fact don't preach the reality of Satan or his demons. Satan does his most active work in churches. He already has the non-Christians on side. Those in ministry leadership need our prayers and support, lest they be waylaid by the status and public prominence which can sometimes accompany the role.
Full marks to the United Church of Canada who are in the process of declaring Ms Vosper unfit to minister. Christ had the most anger, criticism and admonition for those who used the church for their own ungodly purposes. In all things Christ honoured and glorified His Father God, and  the role of the Christian church is to also glorify God and fulfill the great commission of taking the gospel to all nations. I think of the two godly, Christian lady pastors on the pastoral team at my own church- their love of God, their Biblical preaching and teaching, their mentoring of young women, their community outreach. They are faithfully drawing people to God, without any need for "progressive" rhetoric.
In the Biblical book of Acts, the apostle Luke commends the church in Berea. We are told that the Bereans “received the message with great eagerness and examined the scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”  (Acts 17:11). This reveals a great truth. We should examine what we see and hear, even from those in ministry, in relation to the Bible. If a minister is truly following God and seeking to lead God’s people, they will be a person who knows and studies God’s word and preaches and teaches in relation to scripture. They will be a person of relationship with God, giving Him the glory and honour that is His alone.
May God grant us discernment when confronted with ministry and doctrine which is not Biblical.

“Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. (Acts 20:28-30)