Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Something about Pain

Hi guys, Fred here. Hope you are well and thanks for the feedback over some of the earlier Cross Purposes.

Something about pain
I came across the little snippet below in the Spring 05 issue of “Leadership” which is put out 4 times a year by “Christianity Today” in the States. It’s well worth a read.

Girl feels no pain
Ashlyn Blocker’s parents and kindergarten teachers all describe her the same way: fearless. She is fearless because she can feel no pain.
In the school cafeteria, teachers put ice in 5-year-old Ashlyn’s chilli, because even though her lunch is scalding hot, she’ll gulp it down anyway. Ashlyn has chewed through her tongue while eating, and once tore the flesh off her finger after putting the finger into her mouth.
Ashlyn is among a tiny number of people in the world known to have congenital insensitivity to pain. She suffers from anhidrosis, or CIPA – a rare genetic disorder that makes her unable to feel pain.
Family photos reveal a series of these self-inflicted injuries. One picture shows Ashlyn in her Christmas dress, hair neatly coifed, with a swollen lip, missing teeth, puffy eye, and athletic tape wrapped around her hands to protect them. She smiles like a little boxer who won a prize bout.
Tara Blocker, Ashlyn’s mother, says, “Pain’s there for a reason. It lets your body know something’s wrong and it needs to be fixed. I’d give anything for her to feel pain”.
Source: “Girl with Rare Disease Doesn’t Know Pain”, (11/1/04)

That last comment by the mother touched something deep in me.

“I’d give anything for her to feel pain”.

It’s sort of countercultural, isn’t it? Here we are in a society that spends millions on taking pain out of our lives and here’s a mum who’s praying for her daughter to know what pain is.

All of that got me thinking about God and our pain! When it comes to God and His things we’re not much different from Ashlyn Blocker. Her problem is physical. Ours is spiritual. We are often “dead” in our responses to our own selfishness, and “dead” to the injustices around us. We are “immunised in conscience” or “deformed in conscience” so that we are unaware how we are destroying our own lives with our distorted thinking and unhealthy / unholy behaviours.

And our heavenly Father grieves the deadness! And sends his Son into that deadness, that nothingness, that place away from him, where there is no response to God – into death itself.

His gift is life – including the “sensing of pain” restored to our hearts – the gift of knowing when something is wrong / when something is destroying us. It’s with that new sensitivity that we are finally reachable and teachable.

I guess the truth is that without Jesus Christ our consciences must be our guide, but they are not reliable in the things of God. When our consciences are no longer de-formed by our fallenness, but re-formed because they are informed by the Word, especially Jesus Christ – well then we reveal the glory of God in our sensitivity!

Be Blessed guys.

I’ve got to run

- Pastor Fred

Aboriginal Preference
The first female aboriginal bishop in the Anglican Church was apparently quoted as saying the following not long ago;
“It’s a shame the Garden of Eden wasn’t in Australia as a lot of trouble could have been avoided – the Aboriginal Adam and Eve would have eaten the snake in preference to the Apple!”

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Beacon of a Real Love

I guess all of us were drawn into the waiting and hoping of the Beaconsfield story last week. Two miners trapped and the job of getting them out safely proving so difficult that the time line was always being extended.

Those two guys had hope. For two reasons. First they had fresh air and water. Second, they knew as per the unwritten miner’s code, that their mates would come for them. And backed by the best resources of personnel and technology they did! Todd and Brant walked out. A great feel good story for the Aussie community. We’d, all of us, go to help if we were needed, able to, been asked!

For the entire two weeks of this drama I’d been mentally comparing it with the story of ‘redeeming’ a la the bible. Lots of similarities. The trappedness. The helplessness. The hope (as in God’s promises). The planning, resourcefulness and determination of the rescuers. And, of course, the outcome.

All the while something niggled away at me and it didn’t crystallise until the weekend after the great outcome.

Suppose, just suppose, that the mine was near a prison, and the two men who were trapped were a serial killer and a serial paedophile. Let’s say they were called Ivan and Bilal.

My Question: Would I have put my name down to go to their aid, especially if there were serious risks involved?

Second Question: What would I have said in my heart if in fact both Bilal and Ivan were in fact killed by the rock fall?

Re the second question, I’d probably have said ‘good riddance, that’s no loss, they got what they deserved’. That’s the instinctive reaction. But what would Jesus Christ do?

Re the first question, I’d gladly go to the aid of a good mate and a good bloke. I’d feel compelled to! But I’d find excuses if it came to those the community likes to name as ‘scum’. What would Jesus do?
Romans 5:10
God shows his love for us in that while we were enemies, Christ died for us.

Jesus Christ died, not for the good and righteous, but for the wicked and enemies. And note – he died!

Also disturbing of my feel-good Christianity:
This same Jesus – who redeemed me, wicked, sinful enemy of God, then commands me to “Love as I have loved you!”

That’s a tough challenge – and the reason we need the Spirit of Love to answer that high calling.

- Fred

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Offer of Life

I guess all of you, like all of us, shed a tear or two over the rescue of Todd Russell and Brant Webb.

One thing that stood out for me in that story was the patience of the rescue effort. Your heart says it will be quick and you expect it to be fast and furious. But no. One of those explosive guys was blowing something only 7cm in diameter and about 1.5cm deep each time!

All of that reminds me of the Lord’s patience with us. I’ll include here a story about “Inconsolable Jack” which I’ve got the family’s permission to share. Trust you will enjoy and be challenged by it.

Old Jack was a bit different. Macho bloke. Man’s man. Tough. Feisty. Incorrigible. Bull at a gate, knew his own mind, and, as a friend of mine would say, had a mouth to go with it. True friend to his friends, but look out if you crossed him. A real character if ever there was one. The first time I met him was at the bedside of his beloved Lily who was dying of cancer. They’d been married 62 years. When she finally lost her battle for life he was devastated because he’d worshipped the ground she walked on. Truth be told, he idolised her, so her death left a gaping hole.

Now Lily was a heart-and-soul believer in Jesus. No doubt in her mind. She trusted him as Saviour and Lord. But Jack was something else. He’d drive her to church in their younger days but he’d sit in the car and read the newspaper. Jack classified himself as “not religious”. After Lily was called home he was, to all intents and purposes, inconsolable. I promised his sons and their families that I’d keep in touch with him which I was able to do every month or so. Our conversations certainly weren’t religious. He’d hardly allow it. But he poured out his heart. Told me that at his lowest time he didn’t want to live, and that he had gone looking for a revolver he’d scored during the War. Was thwarted when he remembered he’d turfed the weapon over the cliffs somewhere between Bondi and Vaucluse.

Ever so slowly we got to talking about Lily’s faith and what it meant for her. One day I slipped in the thought that he could join her but he ruled that out quick smart. Not because he didn’t want to. More because he was convinced he’d disqualified himself over the years. My line was to talk to him about that “bloody prodigal son” who stuffed up his life and who was then amazed by the welcome when he finally did come home. That touched something in him and I saw hope get born in his crusty old eyes.

This continued for a few months – little two or three minute segments in a one hour conversation. His own health was declining although he stubbornly resisted most efforts to help him physically. One day I revisited the prodigal son story and told him that God in heaven would welcome him home because Jesus had straightened everything out. He became silent. Then he looked me in the eye and said, “If that’s what the Good Book says it must be true!” I went home singing. Saw him a couple more times and prayed with him a few hours before he died. Dying well.

So finally a question. Why would you not start that new life now? Is there any reason, apart from self-defence mechanisms or sheer selfishness, why you would not accept the offer of life? Could you imagine in your wildest dreams that Todd Russell and Brant Webb would say Not now! Come back later!

Worth thinking about.

- Pastor Fred

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Heart Songs

19 April 2006

Fred here with a post-Easter edition of Cross Purposes. I guess you have all enjoyed the Easter Break. I hope you are all refreshed too.

Something from the Doctor’s…
A couple of weeks back I was over at the Doctors and, as one does, I was flicking through an old ‘Time’ magazine when an article caught my eye. It was entitled “Heart Songs” and it started like this;

Just by listening through a stethoscope to the sounds inside your chest, a well-practiced doctor can tell whether a valve in your heart is leaky, you have a touch of pneumonia in your lungs or your heart isn’t pumping as much blood as your body needs. In many cases, a subtle change in the pattern of bodily noises can alert your physician to problems long before symptoms appear. Unfortunately, the art of auscultation, the technical term for listening to those sounds, is slowly dying. Seasoned physicians complain that their younger colleagues are simply more comfortable ordering high-tech – and more costly – computerised scans to make diagnoses.

The article went on to say that a Dr Michael Barrett, a cardiologist from Temple University, was thinking about this one day while fiddling with his new CD Burner. He promptly had good recordings of all the different heart sounds put on a CD and gave them to his students to listen to. The idea was that by regular listening to a healthy heart, and also the variations that come with heart murmurs, pneumonia, leaky valves or blocked arteries, the students would learn that their stethoscopes could be a very valuable medical aid.

When he checked with his students as to whether they were actually listening to the sounds they told him “Gee Dr Barrett, no one listens to CDs anymore. We’ve uploaded everything onto our ipods”.

The Doctor wasn’t daunted. He got hold of one of his computer savvy nephews and turned his heart recordings into ipod-readable MP3 files. This really clicked with the students who could now see the title of each “song” they played.

What fascinated me was that the students ability to diagnose heart murmurs jumped from 39% to 89% after listening to their ipods for 2-3 hours!

Why did this article (‘Time’ from Jan 30-31, 2006) grab me?
I wondered whether it was possible to think of that stethoscope stuff as a Christian. And one thing was immediately obvious – if you or I want to be able to diagnose what is NOT RIGHT in our hearts we must first learn what a RIGHT heart sounds like. Which means it makes sense to let ourselves be immersed in the rhythm of Jesus’ heart.

Once we know his heart, driven as it is by holy love for the Father, and holy love for the lost, we can properly discern our own hearts. Listed below are some of the heart truths we might hear with his stethoscope…

heart murmurs caused by greed, envy, hypocrisy, lies, dishonesty
heart palpitations caused by fear, worry, anxiety, refusal / inability to trust
racing heart caused by jealousy, revenge, hatred, ambition or lust
hardening of spiritual arteries – unforgiveness, resentment
hardening of heart – bitterness and stubbornness, criticism and judgement
heart muscle breakdown because of laziness and apathy
heart valve failure – from overwhelming selfishness
hole in heart at precisely the place where God is to be enthroned and where we talk to him.

That’s us! Like King David said “Create in me a clean heart O God!” Not renew the old one! Create a new one.

And God does! He creates a new heart for us. And he can do it because the heart which stopped beating on Good Friday, crushed with sin and shame, grief and sorrow, is restored whole on Easter Sunday. The thing is, when we get faith we get the heart as well, full of Spirit given and driven love.

We get a life – a heart transplant – and can live a life!

One other thing:

Someone asked our Dr Barrett how many times the students had to listen before they got it right. His answer – about 500 times! So how many times might we have to listen to Jesus’ spiritual heartbeat before we get it right? It’s worth thinking about!

Have a good week in Jesus!


Friday, May 05, 2006

Intro to Cross Purposes

For more than three years, Fred Veerhuis, Pastor of St Paul's Lutheran congregation in Sydney has been sending out "Cross Purposes" to a list of subscribers.
He has agreed to start sharing his thoughts and messages on the Blogsphere.

With Fred's permission, I will publish the most recent edition. Your comments and feedback are welcome