Wednesday, July 26, 2006

How's your house?

Hi guys, Fred here.

A story
Our family has a little rental place in Canberra where mostly we’ve had great tenants – no damage ever, rent paid on time – win, win situation. We once had tenants from an embassy – a husband, wife and two children – who seemed to come up trumps. He turned up faithfully every month with the rent, no questions asked. We felt it was a good three years.

His posting ended and the return of the rental bond had to be negotiated, so an inspection was necessary. We went to check out the place (Yes, yes I know – pretty slack! three years!). The interior was a mess, dirty, dirty indeed. Walked in the front door and it smelt wrong. The 3 years old carpet was grotty, the windows were smudgy, the curtains unwashed. The kitchen lino was slippery, greasy in fact.

It was the stove that broke our hearts. Totally covered in greasy fat. Apparently in the family’s cultural background one didn’t clean fat away. If it built up anywhere one simply pushed it off the sides (which looked like a dripping candle had deposited it’s wax down there over a long time). Some of that fat and grease had got onto the floor and it was simply walked through the house.

There were a couple of other things. The lease said two kids, but while in Australia they’d had a third. Also, water had leaded down a wall in one bedroom and we’d never been told. And in the loo they had self-installed an adaption to the toilet plumbing which had leaked water for three years and which had got into walls and carpet as well.

The stove took two professional cleaners we employed about four hours to get back into shape! All in all it wasn’t very pretty. Not one bit. But it was largely our fault because we hadn’t done inspections. Instead we’d made assumptions and simply didn’t check. Our ‘house’ needed an overhaul.

Close to home
I thought of this on Saturday while reflecting on a sermon our former Bishop, Dr Les Grope, once preached to Pastors. His text was “What did they see in your house?” taken from 2 Kings 20: 15. Dr Grope admitted he was misusing this text, as I am here, but the question is good to consider. Imagine a prophet coming to you and asking about the visitors: “What did they see in your house?”

All of us are good at creating impressions – either deliberately covering up what is unsavoury in the house of our hearts or deluding ourselves about the infection and corruption eating away at our interior life.

I reckon all of us know that there is shameful stuff – and often it nags away at the edge of our consciousness or perhaps even in the sub-conscious. Something, maybe many things, we have said and done that we stuff inside and bury. A frequent tape in our head is “I never look back at the past – I look to the future – that’s my philosophy”.

The truth is, shameful things don’t just “go away”. They sit inside and fester. Such things distort the shape of our spiritual heart. They cause us to misread or misunderstand situations, to over-react or under react, to deaden ourselves or to rage at anyone who unwittingly threatens to expose us.

Oh, to be clean!
We are not locked into our shame or any consequent denial or despair. Listen! Listen! Listen! Yes, you! Have you got a moment? What God is on about, (and what I’m on about), is that he does his Jesus thing – the Good Friday thing and the Easter thing – not because he wants to condemn. No, No, No! He sets it up so he can have mercy and clean us up – clean to be with him, in his presence!

That sharp old Isaiah had it right 600 years or so before Jesus came. He ‘saw’ what would be happening – he ‘saw’ Good Friday. And mused in his heart, and from his pen, “Surely he has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows – he was wounded for our sin - …for his sake, the Lord says, I will forgive them” (Isaiah 53).

Simple you know! He takes the guilt and shame and gives us the clean life, the holy and blameless life of Jesus. Now that’s freedom!

Come to Jesus! That’s life.

- Pastor Fred

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Permission to speak, permission to discriminate

Hi guys, Fred here. Again. So soon.

I usually write these things when something inspires me. And something did a week ago that had humorous overtones and yet the Spirit of Jesus used it to address something deep inside me.

I had a late afternoon appointment so chose to get my regular exercise walk in earlier, just after lunch. I have a regular route – past the Sydney domain, through the Botanic Gardens, and around the Opera House. Yes, yes. I know I’m privileged!

Anyway, as I came round the Opera House at the point where the pathway is at its narrowest there were four adults walking in the same direction as me, completely blocking my (faster) progress. I registered that frustrated annoyance that often is there when someone is blocking my way. I began to think uncharitable thoughts – “people just don’t think!” – etc etc and wondered about which sarcastic tone I could use as I come up to them. “Excuse me please”, or “Excuse me please”, or “Excuse me, please”. Or perhaps I should rudely charge through.

Just as I prepared for verbal action, the foursome dissolved and through the abundant space I went. I wasn’t prepared for what happened next.

When I was about 15 metres ahead I heard a very un Australian voice call “FRED!” It registered but I ignored it and kept going. Went further ahead and again that foreign voice called “FRED!” I still ignored it, and then thought, from 40 metres away that it couldn’t have been a coincidence. Stopped, looked around, and to my amazement the four were people I knew, and had met, at a Wedding in Southern Brazil 16 months ago!

Joyful reunion. Celebration! Handshakes and Hugs in a traditional Brazilian manner. Eight others, most of whom I knew, were around the corner sitting on the Opera House steps.

Beyond that celebration?

1. Relief that I hadn’t made a right royal ugly goose of myself before these gracious joyful people
2. More importantly, I was suddenly very aware that I was possessed of an ugly double standard. Do I know you? When I know you I will go out of my way to be gracious and polite, careful and considerate. Should I not know you? I give myself permission to be aggressive and demanding, sarcastic and impatient.

The discovery of this, or rather the revelation of this, has caused a repentance in me. A sadness for what I have been doing – and a sadness that I carry the name of Jesus so poorly. Imagine, for a moment, that I’d behaved as I’d decided to do, and they my friends, who knew I was a Christian (yes, even a Pastor) would wonder what sort of a Lord I represent and serve.

Sharing this with you

I’m sharing this because I wonder if others of you know the same internal double standard and misbehaviour. It certainly is me – maybe its all of us. We know how to perform, to be who we want to be perceived to be, - but sin remains!

It takes the Spirit of Christ, working through Jesus’ life, words and example to convict us.

It often takes a specific situation like the one I was involved in to make us aware. It takes the Word to speak forgiveness to us.

It takes the fullness of God’s Holy Spirit to enable us to walk and live in Jesus' steps.

And remember

Repentance also includes renouncing the permissions! Always.

May your week be grace filled.

We have a Lord!

- Pastor Fred

A big PS – I give you permission to use any of these “Cross Purposes” for any sharing of the gospel you are doing!

Saturday, July 15, 2006

The law of downward nobility

Hi guys – a short “thought starter to go!” I’m still in the process of settling and sorting post holiday. What I’ve got below helps me see where I’m coming from, where God is coming from, and where the voices that tempt us come from.

It is interesting to reflect on the Isaiah account of Satan’s fall in heaven before Adam and Eve. Isaiah 14: 13-14

You said in your heart, “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit on the mount of assembly on the heights of Zaphon, I will ascend to the tops of the clouds, I will make myself like the Most High”.

Just as interesting to see the “hooker” that the Fallen One used to get through the defenses of Adam and Eve. Genesis 3:5

“…you will be like God…”

Ever after, as water flowing from the same polluted spring, the children of Adam and Eve have been placing self at the centre of their lives. There is an inevitability about it. That’s what pride is – and even feeling sorry for yourself is putting self at the centre.

So it’s interesting to think about, and digest, God’s own solution to this utter distortion of his purposes (and of human hearts too!). Philippians 2: 5-11
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

The sin of all sins comes from reaching upwards – which is rebellion, untrust, unbelief. It is wanting to be powerful!

The salvation which is the only salvation that works begins with the eternal Son reaching down – even unto death – our death. It has authority by remaining under authority.

So what’s life? Above all Christ Jesus is our Life!

And then? We reach downwards too – “Have this mind among yourselves” – And nothing disempowers the powers of evil as powerfully as lives that take up the Cross and follow Jesus! That’s the Law of downward nobility.

Bless you till I get functional again.

- Pastor Fred