Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Beware the Power of Prayer


30 May 2007

Hi Guys

Another Cross Purposes from someone else’s experience and knowledge. This one’s by Tony Perdriau and is challenging because it invites us to be vulnerable to the different ways God heals.

A couple of years ago I attended a school at Ellel, Gilbulla near Campbelltown, which dealt with all sorts of topics, one of which was anger. Towards the end of that particular teaching session the students were given the opportunity to ask God to bring to mind anything that was causing them deep seated anger.

At the end of that prayer all the class members enthusiastically went of to the various activities on offer to deal with their anger – except me. I sat there for a few minutes thinking I had no anger in me at all, I was the calmest guy I knew.

As the conference hall was needed for some of the activities, I had to move so I decided to dump my books in my room and go for a long walk.

This turned out to be the shortest “long walk” I have ever taken. I had taken maybe a dozen steps outside the conference hall when a loving Father God lifted the lid on a whole lot of suppressed anger that I had no idea was there. All of a sudden the calm (read control) was no longer there and I was furious.

I had known about a particular incident in my life for some years and had joked about it, albeit somewhat uncomfortably. It was in its own way reasonably trivial. If the words and actions had been addressed to an adult or even a teenager they would have been laughed off. But to a three year old, who had not developed the same ability to reason the impact was devastating and I realised it had coloured my whole life (hence the need to be calm and not make waves).

What followed was one of the most liberating experiences of my life.

Among the anger activities on offer to the class were a couple of barrels which were to be hit with something. Being a guy I needed to do something physical as a release. I turned up at the first barrel with steam blowing out of both ears. The person in charge took one look at me, looked at the plastic pipe he had in his hand and told me to see the next guy over as he had an axe handle.

It sounds ridiculous, a grown man trying to demolish a barrel with an axe handle but boy it felt good – not at the time necessarily, because all this anger was exploding out of me, I could let it go at last.

Even through the red haze of all this anger I was conscious that it was directed at the incident itself, not at the person involved. The term “controlled explosion” comes to mind and the whole episode was under control. Fortunately it was Jesus Christ’s control and not mine, after all, my method of control was to bury it, while Father God knew it had to come out.

Looking back on that childhood incident now there is a sense of sadness that it ever happened. I no longer joke about it, however uncomfortably, and the sense of pain and loss covered by that “joking” has been taken away. I just thank God that He took me at my word and answered my prayer in such a way that the power of the incident was broken while the personal relationship involved was strengthened.

So beware of the power of prayer, you may get what you ask for and you may feel that you have been put through the wringer. But one thing’s for sure, as Father God chooses to answer it you will be all the better for it.

Tony Perdriau

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The laterite rock basin beneath.

Some years ago brother Leon and his wife Jo, and yours truly and Rose went for a long drive. West of Ceduna we turned north up to Maralinga, then headed due west until we got into WA. When we reached the first town (Laverton, I think), we headed north up into the Pilbara and then the Kimberly.

There’s lots to tell about that trip but I want to tell you about one small episode. (If you’ve heard this before forgive me – I’m never really sure when I’m picking up an item a second time). Driving up on the Gibb River Road – rough as guts, and washed away in many places – we arrived one afternoon at the King Edward River which was in flood. We wanted to cross over because that was the way to the Mitchell Plateau and Mitchell Falls. However, the just visible aerial of a 4WD that got washed off the crossing was fair warning.

Not long after we set up tents a couple of Rangers rocked up in their 4WD – contemplated for a while – tested water depth by walking across – cleared the biggest rocks off the causeway – and drove across in just under 3 feet of water. Next morning we did too.

The Rangers had camped in a clearing across the other side and when we arrived we got into a long talk about lots of stuff. One of them whose name I remember as “Brownie” was talking about river heights and flowing water. At one point he said something that struck me as really profound.

“People think that all this water is because of this year’s rain. Actually most of this water is from last year’s rain. The rocks around here are laterites. They have iron in them. Over the years the iron rusts out and the rock is like a giant porous sponge. In really wet years it’s a giant water storage and it’s still flowing strongly years later”.

It was something like that. And I thought: “Fred, there’s a Pentecost sermon right there. We think we’re going to flow with the Spirit right now because the Spirit’s been rained on us right now. Actually the ‘flow” we have today – that capacity to give ourselves, and to give from ourselves, freely, joyously, generously, sacrificially, - comes from the Words of Jesus, his Kingdom and his Gospel, which have been placed in us and found a place in us in the years before this day”.

That’s what I thought then. I still think it. Jesus used a different idea, making the identical point, when he said that the oil in our lamps today is oil we put in there yesterday, and had in reserve even before that. We give from the fullness of the Spirit’s rain because the Spirit’s had an opportunity to fill us. We share and love from the storehouse our Lord created in us and which we allow him to fill. It’s the only way to survive those long, lean, desolate and dry periods which inevitably come.

So how to be like laterite rocks and soils? Only one way! Live humbly before our Lord, deliberately saying no to human self serving, self protective ways of building ourselves up. Placing ourselves, emptying ourselves, before him so that the gospel word gets to fill up a hungry and thirsty heart.

Bless You


Friday, May 04, 2007

When they’re empty you can’t keep them together!


04 May 2007

When they’re empty you can’t keep them together!

Walking out of the Prince of Wales Hospital the other day I encountered a young man with a 4 wheel trolley who was ferrying a stack of those empty 15 litre plastic bottles back to his truck. His problem was that the footpath was bumpy in the extreme and, in any case it sloped off bumpy to the left. The bottles kept falling off, both sides, and rolling away. He was not happy.

As I passed by I muttered some words of comfort – something about a “tough job”. He looked at me and said, with venom, “When they’re empty you can’t keep them together”.

I went on my way full of wonder at that young man’s footpath theology. He spoke a truth Jesus would own about his followers. Isn’t it just true of the strength of the community of Christians that, “when they are empty you can’t keep them together”.

We long to be strong in community, effective, united, having a sense of committed togetherness, friendship and common purpose. For that to happen, to be our normal way of living, we need to be filled. It’s only as we are filled properly that we get well-bonded together and anchored in any storm.

Jesus made it clear that we must guard our hearts so that they are filled with the good oil of the gospel.

It’s not as though it’s beyond as. Paul prayed for the people he was looking after that they would be “filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph 3: 19). And he summoned that Ephesian church to the ongoing challenge of “being filled with the Spirit” (Eph 5: 18). He knew this to be important because the Spirit, the creator of our trust in Jesus Christ, the source of our freedom to give thanks and praise, is also the faith community’s source of unity.

He wrote, “Do your best to preserve the unity which the Spirit gives by means of the peace that binds you together” (Eph 4: 3).

As I wrote above, the Spirit is he who creates, builds, and maintains our trust in Jesus Christ. And of Jesus Christ Paul writes;… “for the full content of divine nature lives in Christ, in his humanity, and you have been give full life in union with him” (Col 2: 9-10). Not for nothing does John say, “…from his fullness we have all received” (John 1: 16).

So there it is. To keep coming, day by day, week by week for refilling. Of course it requires our emptying ourselves through repentance - turning away from what we know in Christ is wrong, sinful, even evil and wicked. As our “turning away” becomes a turning towards Christ – well, the filling to fullness continues.

Pastor Fred

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