Sunday, February 26, 2017

To Be Healed We Must First Accept We’re Sick

Having spent the first thirteen years of my Christian journey living as if I was already healed, having no idea I was further from healing than ever, because of my legalistic faith, I then began my trek to Christ, finally.
Sure, I’d attended church, Bible studies, done service, prayed and read the Bible a whole lot. Yet I’d grown not one bit. In fact, I had backslidden in the faith, even if I did spasmodically act Christianly. I had a grasp on the Scriptures but no idea about faith or grace. I had missed the point. And my life reflected that.
I was, in my own eyes, righteous. I really had no business with Jesus. And I really didn’t know how far from His Kingdom I was. Jesus could have no business with me until I finally woke up — I was (and am) a sinner.
My world had fallen apart. Jesus was all I had left. I’d so neglected my relationship with Jesus. I never even realised that faith in Jesus was a relationship and not rules. That Jesus didn’t require me to be perfect, and I no longer had to pretend I was. He was my perfection.
Only when I had nothing left, when I was desperate enough to reach out, not as a ‘righteous’ person, but as a sinner, did I begin to appreciate and experience the grace that saves. The grace that is the easy yoke of Christ, lightening the burden life had become.
That day, and those months of days, when I implored God for His help, I found He had called me from long ago. I was now welcome in His church. And finally, the church could help me heal.
I spoke with a lady at a church function, who, having recovered from heroin addiction, still struggling from mental illness and much brokenness because of copious rejection, had a pastor’s wife say to her once, “you’re different to us…” as if to say “you don’t belong here.”
We’re surprised to hear such things, but we shouldn’t be. We’re all sinners.
The truth is she, if anyone, belonged. And we all belong if we can answer this question in the affirmative: “Are you someone who hasn’t got their life all together?” Anyone who can say ‘yes’ to that question belongs in the church within the Kingdom of God.
Jesus calls those who realise they’re incomplete without Him; who recognise their need of God’s help.
Jesus’ help is free and priceless, but we must see our need of Him, to accept we’re sick to submit to His healing.
The greatest encouragement we could ever contemplate is we’re in constant need of healing — all of us. Only Jesus can help.

Monday, February 20, 2017

When I Least Expect It, Then HE Will Come

Sitting up at 2.15 in the morning, all of life seeming not quite right, just feeling a little stuck, I wait, and He just doesn’t come. Not yet. I search His Word. I ponder. I wait. Patiently, it seems. And still God does not come.
It’s not the first time. I’ve got a long history of reaching out to God. I’m pretty good at it now. He normally comes. But times like these, with a sore body, a troubled mind that just won’t sleep, a heart trying its best to hope, and a finesse that evades conscious awareness, the test is to wait.
Concern for tiredness could consume me, but I need to trust that what sleep I lose I will gain somewhere, somehow. Or, that I’ll make it through somehow.
I know the Spirit of God and He knows me. He’s there as much as He is real, even if I cannot feel Him right now. He is more often than not palpably present. I’m thankful for that. I can sense a quiet resolve within me, which in and of itself is a great encouragement. Yet, still, I am not right. I don’t feel right. But that’s okay. God has shown me it’s okay to not feel right. That it’s good to feel weak.
I have learned that when God seems missing, He has gone missing for a reason. He requires of me a search, for I cannot live contentedly without Him. He is my peace, my solace, my comfort, my friend. From Him I came, and to Him I will go. He who has released me into this world has never let go of me, and soon enough I will return to Him.
But, in the meantime, He has given me a purpose in this world: to find Him, to journey with Him, to walk with Him and not ahead of Him.
So, I wait, and when I least expect Him, then He will come.
Usually, in the morning after I have slept.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

God won’t Allow what won’t Ultimately be Good for Us (Yep, Needs a Better Title)

Like many people, I hate clichés. When people simplify what can only ever be inordinately complex it does nothing to help the situations of suffering people find themselves in — whether it’s completely their own fault or totally out of their control, or myriad nuances of combination between.
But I hold to this crucial exception.
I’ve heard God speak into my life the words of the title of this article. Hearing these words from another person, amid my own suffering, would not have been helpful. Yet there is a difference when God convicts us by His Holy Spirit.
Another part to this exception is this biblical truth. When we have no hope left, nothing visible, only a hope vested in faith, the only hope we have left is God’s goodness — that what we’ve been asked to endure will ultimately work out as good for us.
“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for
 and assurance about what we do not see.”
— Hebrews 11:1 (NIV)
Having experienced this personally, we no longer reduce it, in our personal circumstances, to the banal even harmful effect of a cliché. The cliché becomes significant. It gives us life and purpose.
There have been times in my life when all I had to hope in was that what God had allowed in His sovereignty He could turn to my ultimate good; through character growth. (And besides, of course, there is the ‘ultimate good’, in a believer’s conception, in being eternally with God when we’re ultimately gone.)
The difference between our positive and negative reception of the truth in Romans 8:28[1] is who says it. If God says it, all should be well. If someone else says it, and it depends on many variables, including our perception of whether they care or not, we can be either offended as if it were a plastic platitude cast nonchalantly our way, or we can be encouraged to press on. That this is a character growth opportunity.
Sometimes we simply have to believe that God can make something good for us out of something bad. And believing this helps us endure, because it gives us hope when we have none.

[1] And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Daily Contemplation Prayers for Power and Direction

Father in heaven, Lord of my life in Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Spirit’s power,
YOUR PRESENCE – inhale fresh air, breathe the words out slowly
In this, my daily prayer, as I sit/stand/kneel before You, I hope to know You, today, by Your Presence and Power in my life. This is my first prayer. As a Christ follower, I need You. I need You close to me, giving me Your protection and provision, and inviting me into You even as I experience same.
Teach me by Your Spirit, a correct worship, a holy way for living my life for Your glory. Place within me Your Sabbath Rest as I still myself and allow You to be God over my entire life — the fullest sense of worship — over my present moment, now.
I AM STILL – inhale fresh air, breathe the words out slowly
YOUR GRACE – inhale fresh air, breathe the words out slowly
My second prayer, Lord, is help me know how unworthy I am in and of myself, today, apart from Jesus, whose grace has saved me, and who makes me wholly worthy. Convince me so that I know I’m not as good as I think I am, and help me understand I’m not the victim my double-mindedness wants me to believe and propagate. Help me see Satan’s wiles and snares, so in that moment I can call on You, Lord. Make me also to see my pocket entitlement; that rather than thinking I deserve this or that, that in truth I deserve nothing, but are given everything already in Christ.
I AM CHRIST’S – inhale fresh air, breathe the words out slowly
YOUR AWARENESS – inhale fresh air, breathe the words out slowly
My third prayer is that You would help me not hurt anyone, today, for I have such a dangerous tongue, and, that if I do, You’ll give me the awareness and the courage to be able to make quick amends. Save others from me, Lord — the me without You. I am a person of unclean lips so susceptible to feeling hurt. God, make me more mature. But also, make me gentler on myself. May there be integrity between Your Word as I meditate on it, and the words my lips utter.
I AM AWARE – inhale fresh air, breathe the words out slowly
YOUR PRAISE – inhale fresh air, breathe the words out slowly
Give me the cognisance of Your grace that created the heavens and the earth, Lord. Bring before me the awareness of Your awesomeness, and bring forth instinctive praise from my lips. Cause gratitude to well up like a bubbling spring from deep within my soul. Sustain me in that joy. This, my fourth prayer, I can pray, today, having gotten some truths off my chest. Help me turn negatives into positives, Father. Enable me to replace anxieties and uncertainties with stillness and security, in You, for You who created all creation can create anything by the law of love.
I AM IN AWE – inhale fresh air, breathe the words out slowly
YOUR TRUTH – inhale fresh air, breathe the words out slowly
Oh Lord, help me to carry the awareness of my sin ever before me, not so I may be condemned — because I know I’m not — but that through knowing the truth, that the truth would set me free. You have taught me, Lord, that it’s only when I see the log in my own eye that I do not notice the speck in the others’ eye that otherwise proves unhelpful. Thank You for the glorious gift of this wisdom. This, today, my fifth prayer.
I AM HONEST – inhale fresh air, breathe the words out slowly
YOUR WISDOM – inhale fresh air, breathe the words out slowly
And, today, more wisdom. My sixth prayer is for wisdom, Lord. I lack it so much. The errors of my sinful nature have revealed this truth to me, God. You put people into my life, and You put me into life situations, that I would depend on You by drawing on them to discern Your way for my life. Show me how to keep proper perspective in when and how to draw upon others without living a life dependent on others making my decisions for me. In the moment, help me reconcile the wisdom I so clearly lack.
I AM DEPENDENT – inhale fresh air, breathe the words out slowly
YOUR PROTECTION – inhale fresh air, breathe the words out slowly
My seventh and final prayer, Lord, is for safety and health, today, for everyone in my world; my wife, my children, my family, my friends, my work colleagues, to the extent of everyone I know. Direct our paths to safety, God. Bless us and keep us, Lord.
I AM SAFE – inhale fresh air, breathe the words out slowly
In Jesus’ mighty name, I pray these prayers,

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Encouragement from a Biblical Character’s Discouragement

Reading Job there’s encouragement, maybe never more so when we feel like Job. In chapter 3, for instance, Job is given to lament his existence, hating the fact of his birth.
Consider this sample:
“Why is light given to one burdened with grief,
and life to those whose existence is bitter?”
(v. 20)
This whole chapter Job appears practically suicidal. He reveals just how we all feel when we’re encamped in grief. Everyone in grief has surely experienced something of what Job 3:20 is talking about having woken from their sleep and wanting desperately to return to unconsciousness.
As we read His Word, especially in that Joban position, God ministers to us through His Spirit. We’re encouraged by someone else’s lament. Their discouragement is a source of our encouragement, and this is the way God heals us in community — through shared experience.
When we feel less isolated
we’re able to cope better with suffering.
When we read of another’s plight
we don’t feel so alone.
As we’re coupled to an empathic community, God’s mercy is felt as His comfort flows.
The Bible in our world is that community of God where many biblical characters are mentors. Some, and some stories, are there for our wisdom. To not go there. Not making the same mistakes.
The accounts we read in the Bible are so lifelike that nothing we could share of the life we live here and now could make it blush. Those who think the Bible is for happy-clappy Christians obviously haven’t read the Old Testament. And the truth of Jesus’ Passion is the stuff of a Restricted-rated movie. Many times Paul despaired.
When we open our Bibles to 2 Corinthians it helps us most when we’re undergoing a trial.
God’s Word ministers truth into our souls through the vestibule of grace. The truth we need at the time is acquired through a search, and it meets us through His grace.
This is why the Bible is so important, especially in a world where post-truth and post-fact are real concepts. The Bible is a book of truth.
God’s Word can encourage us most when we read of a biblical character’s discouragement.
When we find ourselves in the narrative, we’re instantly touched and heartened.

Friday, February 10, 2017

From the Worst Moment to the Moment of Clarity’s Hope

Driven long into a momentary despair for any reason at all, our lonely souls crave connection. We would fall into temptation if we didn’t bear the moment’s pain. That’s plain tough!
The moment of pain is the worst of moments. Irreconcilable. Crushing. Bewildering. Yet, staying such a moment is in the stillness of being at rest in the palm of God’s hand. Possibility.
From the commitment to live reality faithfully comes a truth that’s harsh. We cannot run away from loneliness when it strikes us; when relational connection is impossible.
And still the truth will do something to us to compel us forward, for God is in the truth.
When life stagnates, and the moment sucks, and there seems no way out, anxiety turning to despair, there really is but one way — forward. To keep moving forward. To step away, farther from the past, still beyond the present, as we strain toward what is ahead.
When nothing holds us in the past’s insanity, we’re free to head into the sanity of what is ahead. The distinctness of hope anew. Not that we’re sane or insane, just the past takes us into the unproductive churns, flurries of chaos, yet as we look ahead we stride in the faith that will rectify a strewn spirit and set us free to pace a straight path.
As we embark on the inbound hope, outbound of a treacherous present, we look outward and upward, away from turmoil, higher upon the possibilities, and we sign ourselves up to the pledge of courage.
Bearing ever forward, the tenacity of spirit to step in one direction, the past remains, but does not harass us.
Moving forward, we look back, not focusing on a past of regret, but seeing a present exuding progress.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Just a Little Thing About Wording

Screen dump from the video clip from YouTube.

As I watched a short clip of the Archbishop of Brisbane, Mark Coleridge, addressing Catholics on the subject of preparing adherents for the Royal Commission’s[1] findings I winced.
This little piece is limited to one issue — the wording in the Archbishop’s video specifically about the survivors of sexual abuse. I was surprised that he said, “That justice and healing may be done to them.”
“That justice and healing may be done to them.”
Anything in that resonate within you? Anything in that sentence trouble you?
Here’s the thing for me.
“That justice and healing may be done to them.”
Firstly, as a general comment about sex abuse done to children, reprehensible is not a strong enough word regarding the systematic abuse of young people within the church’s care. This is where words do fail. Nothing I could say here justifies comment.
I also wonder about those who did not survive the abuse — those who years later died through suicide or misadventure — those who left families behind, so the families, themselves, are the survivors. There are also myriad levels and manifestations of ‘surviving’ abuse.
Wording for many may not seem that important, but it is infinitely important.
A simple improvement could be made to that sentence, to make it read like the Catholic Church actually understands what happened and what needs to happen. (And the Catholic Church has this sympathy of mine. As if any of us know, or could know, the extent to which what needs to happen, because how do you possibly ‘fix’ something so broken. And there are undoubtedly details for many survivors which will never come to light, as is the nature of the depth of the topic.)
Here’s my one point:
Whenever we do something to someone, we do something, perhaps with the best of intention, but possibly without their express will and interests in our hearts. But, whenever we do something for someone, on the other hand, we do it with their will and interests in our hearts. A huge difference in meaning.
“That justice and healing may be done for them.”
That sentence demonstrates more clearly that justice and healing for the survivors ought to take place at any cost, which is the only appropriate response.

[1] The full name: Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.