Saturday, 24 November 2018

Angels and other strangers

"Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it." Hebrews 13:2

When my children were quite young, I suffered from terrible depression at times. Performing everyday tasks could be challenging. Sometimes concentration was impaired and things that would normally be only small stresses would become overwhelming.
 On one occasion I took my children to the local shopping centre and did some shopping. I remember coming out of the main doors of the centre and looking at all the cars in the car park, realising that I had not made a mental note of where I had parked my car. I had no idea where my car was. It was a single level car park and under normal circumstances, I quick walk around would probably have located my car eventually. With two small children in the shopping trolley and feeling so tired and alone and stupid, however, I felt overwhelmed and could have burst into tears.
As I stood there, a rather shabby looking van with a rather rough looking man in it drove up and pulled up alongside me. He had long, wildly tousled hair. He looked directly at me and then raised his arm and pointed through the windows of his car. I followed the line of his arm and pointing finger directly to the sight of my blue Commodore wagon. He then drove away. He wasn't an apparition. I saw him driving into a parking spot at the far end of the car park.
How did he know me? How did he know the source of my distress? I truly believe that he was an angel sent by God to encourage and strengthen me. I've never forgotten that incident. Not all angels have wings. Some drive beat up old vans.

The Bible is full of stories of angelic visitations, including those often celebrated at this time of year, in which the birth of Christ was announced and instructions were given to Mary and Joseph. Yet we don't often expect to be ministered to by angels, nor do we expect that those we minister to may be angels undercover. Angels are powerfully protective beings and should not be diminished to the cutsie Christmas card cherubs or disassociated from their Biblical role of beings created by God to honour and serve Him and do His bidding.

Funnily enough, I was once mistaken for an angel. I went to visit a friend from church who was seriously ill in hospital. As I walked through the hospital grounds I passed a lady sitting on a bench who was weeping profusely. I felt moved to go to her, touch her lightly and ask if she was all right. She just nodded, face in her hands and said she was okay, so I said no more and moved on.
My friend recovered, and many weeks later she told me that her sister, whom I do not know, had visited her in hospital. The sister had been outside, sitting alone on a bench, weeping with despair, thinking she was about to lose her sister, when a lady had come to her, touched her and asked her if she was all right. She thought afterwards that perhaps God had sent an angel to comfort her when she most needed it. I don't know for sure, but think it likely that she was the same person I spoke to. I will state here and now that I am no angel, just a fallen human loved by God. I tell this story to illustrate that God may use angels to minister to others but also uses each of us to share His love in many different ways.

Friday, 9 November 2018

Asides in the narrative

“David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife” Matthew 1:6
The genealogy of Jesus, found in the first chapter of Matthew’s gospel, contains some interesting points to ponder. There are many wonderful Bible stories associated with the names on the list. When I come to this line, however, I think about who is named and who is left out of the record.
There are several women named in the genealogy of Jesus, but here a prominent woman is not named, rather her former husband is. Uriah has his place in history.
What we know of Uriah is found in the second book of Samuel, chapter 11, in the Bible. Uriah the Hittite is a soldier in the Israelite army of King David, under the command of Joab, waging war against the Ammonites. Uriah is invited home from the campaign by King David and invited to spend a night at home with his wife, Bathsheba.
Unbeknownst to Uriah, this invitation is a conspiracy to cover up a sexual liaison between King David and Bathsheba and her subsequent pregnancy.
“The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents, and my commander Joab and my lord’s men are camped in the open country. How could I go to my house to eat and drink and make love to my wife?”
“The character of Uriah is demonstrated in these words. He mentions first the ark- the ark of the covenant. He is thinking of God’s honour. He mentions Israel and Judah- he is thinking of the honour of his nation. Finally, he is thinking of his commander Joab and his fellow soldiers, remembering the tough conditions that they are living under. He is joined with them in spirit, if not physically, and cannot enjoy the comforts of home whilst they are waging a war.
Unfortunately for Uriah, his strength of character was to lead to his death. King David, being unable to cover up his affair with Bathsheba, then contrived to have Uriah placed without support in the front line of battle. Uriah’s death enabled David to take Bathsheba as his wife, but there were serious consequences to the king’s actions.
There are many cases where a godly man or woman has been ill-used due to their strength of character. They are the ones who won’t cut corners or lie to customers or cheat on their spouses or laugh at the dirty jokes. They can be passed up for promotion or omitted from the guest list or ridiculed or imprisoned or murdered, as Uriah was. They can be seen by others as just a pawn in their schemes, or an annoying prickle in their conscience, a hindrance to be disposed of. They are not the main players in the world’s eyes, but God has His eyes on them.
God sees. He vindicates. He honours those who honour Him.

Sunday, 4 November 2018

Shocking case of domestic violence

A young girl has been killed following months of being confined in a small room, unable to contact the outside world, completely dependent for her every need. She was confronted by a man who stabbed her repeatedly with a sharp instrument, finally dismembering her body and disposing of it. Apparently this man was known to the girl’s mother.
No charges have been laid.
Nor will any further investigation be forthcoming.

This fictional scenario is now a very real fact in the state in which I live, following the amendment of Queensland’s abortion laws in our state parliament. Despite widespread opposition, it is now legal to abort a child in utero up to full term for nebulous reasons, with the signing off of two practitioners. Some Queensland politicians were filmed cheering and hugging one another as the legislation was passed and some of our capital city’s bridges were illuminated in purple to “celebrate”.
To others of us, this is a tragedy.
There is no protection for the rights of the unborn child.
There is no protection for the rights of a father who would wish to parent his child.
There is no protection for the women who are coerced by others into aborting a wanted child.
There is only the “right” to be able to dehumanize the process by which we all gained life and entered this world.

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
    and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget,
    I will not forget you!
16 See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;

    your walls are ever before me.”
Isaiah 49:15-16

God knows and cares for every child. God knows the grief surrounding the abortion issue and has love and compassion for those living with regret.