Friday, October 27, 2006

The Contrary God

Hello people, Fred here. Hope things have been going well for you all.
Cross Purposes #63

Accepting the ‘Contrary’
Somewhere in Proverbs there’s a mischievous bit of wisdom from wise old Solomon about it being better to live in the far corner of the desert than in the same house as a ‘contrary’ woman. He’d know, I suppose that it can be difficult if your wife (in his case 400! Plus 300 concubines!) should second guess everything you say. Blokes do it as well to their wives!

Anyway, this is not about marriage – it’s about our ‘contrary’ God. What do I mean? Well, every time we think we’ve got it settled about how it is between him and us, us and him, well, he shows us it’s not quite what we thought. Mostly this is about movement or direction. We’re slow learners. Let me give you some brief examples;
1. Emptying / filling. We have it in our heads and hearts that we’ll obtain life by filling up with good deeds and activities. Yeh, we know we’re not perfect but if we get up more credit points for the good than debit points for the bad, it will all be okay at the final judgement.

God on the other hand tells us to empty ourselves of our sins – so he can fill the inside of us with his life. He wants to fill us with the credit points of Jesus.
He runs by his ways, not ours.

2. Saving life / losing life. We think we are creating “life” for ourselves by accumulating – things, wealth, achievements, qualifications.

Jesus comes along and says that’s not his way. You can get life only by losing it! In the Kingdom you inherit only what you give away.
He runs by his ways, not ours.

3. Closer to God / further from God. We humans think that drawing near to God is being more spiritual. We feel closer to God when we do good churchy religious things.

He says that the only way to be close to him is by being “in Christ”, (eg baptised into Christ, living in Christ). Once we are in Christ – trusting him – we’re always close to God. So when you and I walk through dark and deathly valleys, or deep waters, or through fire, even if we feel disconnected, every moment is in fact lived, suffered, experienced, enjoyed, in his presence.
He runs by his ways, not ours.

4. The ups and downs. We humans have an instinct from birth, from the nature inherited from Adam and Eve, which has us aspiring to greatness, to rise up, to go for power and control. That’s our route to greatness.

Jesus’ way sends us downwards. The first will be last, the last – first. Want to be great? – become a servant of all! Be like a child. Have the mind and attitude of Jesus Christ. Sure is a topsy, turvey world.
He runs by his ways, not ours.

5. Whose journey will it be? We humans have an arrogance about us when we talk about inviting Jesus into our hearts – to come with us on our journey – to align his future with ours.

Jesus doesn’t talk about invitations. It’s about calling, about summoning. It’s about hearing his voice – follow me – and dropping everything on our agenda and following him! Cross and all.
He runs by his ways, not ours.

Ah, to grow up.
With his intervention we grow. There’s a freedom in knowing what he’s like and what he asks. As old Stan said to me not long before he died, “When I was young I thought ‘Why should I bloody well bother with God’ Now that I’m old I keep wondering why God should bloody well bother about me”.

Why? Because our Lord has cross purposes for each one of us.

May your week be blessed.

Pastor Fred

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Choose Grace

Hello friends, another little offering from the big smoke.

On the front wall of your church

Back in the early 90s, a bunch of members from our Canberra church found themselves in the Anglican Church at Braidwood. It’s a beautiful building and well looked after. There was one feature of that building that left its mark on me, and sharpened a conviction which has grown in clarity and strength ever since.

The wall behind the altar was made of marble. And carved into that marble were two statements. On one side was the Apostle’s Creed. On the other, listed down the front wall, were the Ten Commandments. The Creed I could figure out. The Ten Commandments? It jarred then. It jars worse now. The Creed reveals the faith. The Commandments reveal God’s law.

My question then, and now, is this. Do you, will you, do you want to, or think you should, live under law or under grace?

Let’s assume that you are a Disciple of Jesus Christ. You have put all your eggs in the basket labelled “Jesus Christ – my Lord and my Saviour”. The big question now needs to be settled in your heart. Will you and I live under law or under grace? Consider the two statements below. I’ve deliberately placed them side by side.

There’s no doubt that the law reveals God’s will to us. Just as certainly, Jesus Christ fine tunes it, cuts off loopholes, tightens its requirements, lives it on our behalf, and goes to Calvary as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world – all done in love. His life is given to us as our righteousness before God. And then he summons us “Come follow Me”, or “Do as I have done”, or “Love as I have loved”, or “I have given you an example”, or as Paul has it, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ”.

So we know what God wants according to rule and regulation. We also know what he wants as those who are receivers of grace and love and forgiveness to live lives as bringers of grace and love and forgiveness

May you always choose to follow Christ and to live from the fountain he truly is.

Love you

Pastor Fred

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Case of the deceased Kangaroo

11 October 2006

Hi guys, Fred here again.

The Case of the deceased Kangaroo
Some years ago we were driving on a gravel road up in the northwest of West Australia. Out in the sticks. At one point we saw an object on the road in the distance. Closer to it we saw it was a dead kangaroo and it was in the middle of the road. A snap decision was made that the best and safest way to go was straight over the top of it, rather than around the side on the loose gravel.

Thunk, Thunk, Whack, Bang, Thunk. That was the sound as the bottom of the car tumbled that dead roo underneath it. Hadn’t realised that a dead roo, left in the sun, begins to bloat, to expand and swell. Don’t know if you’ve ever been in such a situation. Motor okay, brakes okay, all systems go – didn’t stop. Needed to get somewhere in a hurry.

About 100 kms further along we pulled up for fuel at an isolated Roadhouse. The guy coming to handle the fuel got hit by the foulest ever smell at exactly the same time as I opened the door. “Run over a roo, did you?” he asked. “The first month is the worst”. It transpired that there were bits of that Kangaroo all over the bottom of our car, wherever there were gaps, sharp edges, blunt steel, nuts and bolts, nooks and crannies. And every piece of decaying roo flesh stunk to high heaven, and no way could your nose get used to it.

Pleasant huh! We got to our camp ground for that night and realised we had a problem. We simply couldn’t be within 50 metres of the car. So we unloaded our stuff and parked it a good distance away, down wind. (It wasn’t our fault that someone arrived late that night and set up tent next to it!).

Next morning was no better so yours truly did his best by getting under the car with a screw driver and brush to try and remove it. Got most of it and the rest faded over the next four weeks.

Why mention this? Most of us have, at some point in our lives, encountered our own dead kangaroo. We have accidentally, deliberately, or carelessly, got caught up in something that is so shameful, so out of character, so horrible, so bad, that we just can’t live with it. And we do what we must do to survive – we find a way to ‘park it’ away from us – try to expunge it from our memories, refuse ourselves permission to think of it ever again, must never mention it, etc etc.

Now there’s two things we must note here.
1. The only way we know to ‘park the shameful’ in our lives is to stuff it away, deep inside. We bury it within our own hearts! It’s not like us and the car which we could physically separate. No, the stinking mess is hidden internally, sometimes so deeply we lose memory of it, sometimes so painfully that we almost create a separate personality within ourselves to safely store that burden.
2. The business of burying within ourselves what we can’t live with consciously doesn’t mean the problem goes away. It doesn’t. It simply sits inside and festers away, affecting almost every single thing we do or say, reducing the colour and flairs of our lives. And all the while we get progressively more exhausted because a lot of energy goes into keeping it all in storage rather than out in the open.

A Remedy
Now listen to what David, King David, discovered about situations like this from his own shameful excursion into adultery, cover-up, arranging an assassination, and the like.

Psalm 32: 3-5
“When I refused to confess my sin,
I was weak and miserable,
and I groaned all day long.
Day and night your hand of discipline was
heavy on me.
My strength evaporated like water in
the summer heat.

Finally, I confessed all my sins to you
and stopped trying to hide them.
I said to myself, “I will confess my
Rebellion to the Lord”.
And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.

A smashed man finds hope in the action of God. It is God who so weighs him down that the rotting truth oozes out of the cracks. It is God who hears his confession and forgives the guilt, and cleans David’s record!

Psalm 32: 1-2
“Oh, what joy for those
whose rebellion is forgiven,
whose sin is put out of sight!
Yes, what joy for those
whose record the Lord has cleared of sin,
whose lives are lived in complete honesty!

So we’re not stuck. We know God’s mercy because we know Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. So lets unload the decaying kangaroos of the heart and trust that the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

Have a good week

Pastor Fred

Just a reminder, that you are free to use this material, send it on to anyone else.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The puppet of a bitch?

Recently I had cause to visit a friend in hospital. She’s in a bad way physically because of broken bones – and cannot get out of bed until the bones have begun to knit properly. She finds most of the staff are wonderfully helpful. If she needs to buzz for assistance they arrive as soon as possible and attend quickly and gently to whatever is required. Except for one.

On arrival at my last visit my friend was fuming about the “attitude” of the night sister. Any time she buzzed for help the said carer would enter the room aggressively and demand “What do you want?” or, “What do you want now?” In the little ward it got so that no one wanted to ask for help. When, on one occasion, the bedpan did finally arrive, she had an accident and the urine went onto the sheets.

I’m not sure whether there was a refusal to help or if it was reluctance to ask for help on the part of my friend. Whichever it was, she lay in her own urine for hours and got variously distressed, depressed and angry.

(Her anger reminded me of a day when I went to pick up my dad from his gardening job at the local convent. When I got there he had steam coming out of his ears. He’d caught some girls from the boarding school in his garden – and they’d set alight his compost heap!)

When my friend told me her story with the night nurse I was reminded of a story Pastor Larry Christenson told when he and a fellow Pastor went to buy a newspaper in New York. His colleague went to the same newsstand every day. And each day the man selling papers would abuse him, bucket him, call him names, curse him and so on. All apparently brought on by the dog-collar!

Larry was with him one day and witnessed the whole thing. His friend listened to the tirade, handed over his money with a smile, said thank you, and went on his way. Larry was astounded. “How can you let that man do that to you and say nothing?” He was even more astounded by his friends reply; “You do not lose your peace over someone else’s sin, you only lose it over your own!”

I heard that years ago and it’s slowly working its way into by conscious responses. I told my bed-ridden friend this story and added a line of my own. “You do not lose your peace over someone else’s bitchy behaviour. You only lose it over your own. If you do lose your peace to her then you become a puppet of the bitch!”

We shared a little smile over the truth which challenged both of us. We’d heard Jesus’ voice! Our responses are our choice! So let’s not surrender to the tyranny (or the tantrums) of the weak!

“Blessed are the peacemakers…”

“Father forgive them, they know not what they do…”

“Love your enemies… do good to those who hate you…”

Have a good week

Pastor Fred

Just a reminder, that you are free to use this material, send it on to anyone else.