Tuesday, March 27, 2012

CP 169 Failed to Launch


Hi People. May your lives be nudged by the Holy Spirit as you get closer to Good Friday (and Easter!).

Someone in my circles - I can’t remember who - used the very hip phrase, “Failed to launch,” a little while ago. It might have been a 14 year old. Was it from the romantic movie called ‘Failure to Launch’? The term is around big-time in cyberspace. It’s the sort of idiom which flourishes on the net. My young friend was describing a project that had looked really good but fizzled. Much promised, little delivered. Target the world? Live in a dump! Aim for the stars, crash in the ocean! Fly like an eagle? Scrub like a turkey. Talk the talk but not walk the walk.

Many people attached themselves to the Jesus Christ bandwagon. His birth was marked by the appearance of the Bethlehem star. He certainly was a rising star in the religious firmament. Crowds flocked to him. Everyone wanted a piece of him. He barely had space to move. So much in demand. He seemed to deliver the goods. High praise from all the common people. Some decided he should be King!

Then the demands of loyalty to him began to kick in. “This is too hard.” And as his caravan turned and zeroed in on Jerusalem, the drop-offs continued. Still he received a rapturous welcome. (But not from the leaders!) The children certainly loved him. Yet by late Thursday evening, less than a week after getting to Jerusalem, he had only one of his disciples nearby. The rest had succumbed to fear or kept their distance for shame.

He’d promised so much. Almost all his teaching was about an imminent, coming kingdom. The Son of man would come in glory with his angels… “You will not only know light, you will be light for the world”. “I have come that you may have life and have it abundantly!” Yet by late Friday afternoon the star (apparently) was extinguished. He was dead, as in ‘dead as a doornail’. And was soon laid out, cold, stiff, lifeless in a borrowed tomb. Failed to launch.

Or so it seemed. Amazingly, though, it was the dying and death which destroyed Satan’s kingdom and power. Satan did not anticipate this when he agitated for the leaders/crowd/Romans to kill Jesus. Rather than being a missile which “failed to launch,” the Jesus Christ missile struck its target absolute bullseye! Look and listen to these two ‘words’ from the New Testament:

Hebrews 2:14
Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil.

Acts 2:24
But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.

See! This was the victory of the Lamb. As a divine/human sinless sacrifice, he destroyed Satan’s power of accusation and thereby also the spiritual dominion the deceiver held over humanity. It’s by his death that he conquered. Satan acquiesced in his own downfall! Hah! The resurrection was inevitable. Hallelujah.

Satan hates the celebration! He hates to be reminded of his defeat. He is gutted by the resurrection. So if you do nothing else this Easter, at least praise the Father, Son and Holy Spirit for the holy, redeeming love we experience in the Cross.

Bless you people.


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

CP 168 "...the suspicion that God is not good."

CP 168 “…the suspicion that God is not good.”

“After everything I have seen, I tell you, God cannot exist.” (Headline – Sydney Morning Herald, March 10-11 2012.) These are the words of Ibrahim Ahmad Aloglah, a 38 year old family man from Syria who was horribly tortured by Syrian security forces during seven episodes of detention. He went on to say, “How can God allow a man like Assad (Syria’s President) to walk on this earth?” His despairing remark reminded me of a statement I once heard from the lips of Selwyn Hughes. In full it went like this; “The beginning of sin is the suspicion that God is not good.” I sat up and took notice. Hughes’s remark grabbed my attention? Let me explain why.

Have you ever heard anybody say that they can’t believe in a God who… let’s innocent kids die… allows 10,000 people to be killed in an earthquake… made my sister suffer so much before she died… didn’t answer my prayer…

Another version of it has people demanding to know what sort of a God would… have representatives who abuse children… are money hungry… would allow this or that injustice… turn a blind eye to the killing of innocent civilians… let a drought happen (or a flood) which destroyed the farm finances…?

When life seems to turn to crap the blame is often sheeted home to God, for either his actions, or for his inactions. Powerlessness in the face of adversity does focus our attention on the One who has all power. It is understandable and often necessary, in a time of crisis and distress, to cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” It is only a short further step to blame God for our troubles, to accuse him of being behind our misfortune, to conclude that ‘God doesn’t care about me’.

Are you surprised that we humans so quickly point the finger at the Almighty. Think of Selwyn Hughes’ comment while you absorb the tempter’s words to Adam and Eve. Go back to Genesis 3. Adam and Eve were blessed to live in a garden world of the Lord God’s own creating. The Lord stepped back, beheld at it all, and declared that ‘it was very good. The tempter comes and puts doubt in the minds of that first couple. “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1) It wasn’t what God had said, and Eve told him so, including the warning that to eat from that one tree would lead to death! What happened next was the sowing of suspicion…

“You will not surely die, for God knows that you eyes will be opened, and you will be like God…” (3:4-5) The message is clear. ‘Adam and Eve, the truth is you can be like God and he is withholding that knowledge from you.’ The tempter sows suspicion that God is not good. He sows doubt about God’s goodness and good intentions. Adam and Eve act on this doubt and suspicion. The rest is history. Ever since, humanity has had in its heart a leaning, under pressure, to think that God is not good.

Jesus Christ is the ‘Rescue Mission’ mounted by the Lord God. He is the fulfilment of all of the merciful promises of God. In him, especially in the Cross, we measure how deep is the Father’s love for us. In his confrontation with the tempter he does not surrender to suspicion and doubt. He trusts, and unfailingly continues to trust, in the goodness of his Father. His faithfulness, even into death, allows our forgiveness. And we then have a challenge.

We are called to trust. We who honour the name of Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord are called to be unflinching in our loyalty. We are called to champion the gracious and merciful, holy and loving heart of ‘God for us’. Yes, there will be dark times during which there will be much we cannot understand. And yes, there may be times when we fail. And yes, our failures will be covered by his unfailing forgiveness. His Spirit, working through the Word sown in our hearts will strengthen us. So let us not surrender.

Let’s not surrender to the strong voices which declare that God is not good. Let’s not capitulate to those voices for our sake AND their sake! Let’s keep the faith. Let’s not agree with Satan. Let’s keep declaring the praises of him who called us out of darkness into eternal life. Let’s keep upholding the truth that the heart of God the Father is revealed on Calvary. Let’s be a people with Spirit-drive who draw even more people to the Saviour. And let’s be among those who will receive the crown of life.

And let that be enough for today…Sorry I got carried away!


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

CP 167 The bright side of death.

CP 167 The bright side of death

Today I want to put before you something that Billy Graham, in one of his devotional snippets, wrote about an episode from the life of D L Moody, the highly esteemed US evangelist of the 19th century.

[‘When he was aware that death was at hand, he said, “Earth recedes, heaven opens before me.” It appeared as though he was dreaming. Then he said, “No, this is no dream… it is beautiful, it is like a trance. If this is death, it is sweet. There is no valley here. God is calling me and I must go.”

After having been given up for dead, Moody revived to indicate that God had permitted him to see beyond that thin veil separating the seen from the unseen world. He had been “within the gates, and beyond the portals,” and had caught a glimpse of familiar faces whom he had “loved long since and lost awhile.”

Then he could remember what he had proclaimed so vociferously earlier in his ministry, “Some day you will read in the papers that D L Moody of East Northfield is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. At that moment I shall be more alive than I am now. I shall have gone up higher, that is all – out of this cold clay tenement into a house that is immortal; a body that death cannot touch, that sin cannot taint, a body fashioned like unto His glorious body… That which is born of the flesh may die. That which is born of the Spirit will live forever.” (From The life of Dwight L Moody by W R Moody).

If Moody were to witness to us now, he would surely tell us of the glowing experience that became his as the angelic hosts ushered him into the presence of the Lord.’] (Unto the Hills, Billy Graham 2010)

Billy Graham goes on to ask if we can face death with such confidence? It’s a good question is it not, especially as we reflect on the meaning of Good Friday in the lead-up to Easter? When you try to answer it, focus not on yourself but on your Lord, Jesus the Christ!

Have a blessed ‘in Him’ week.


Tuesday, March 06, 2012

CP 166 A handy friend to have...

CP 166 A handy friend to have…

Just this morning I found myself looking at my childhood home in floodwater up to its windows. The ABC helicopter was flying over the suburb of North Wagga Wagga where rising water had gone way over the top of the levee. Just across the road, in the river flats, the water would have been at least 5 metres deep. As I reflected about this I recalled an incident when I was about 8 years old which frightened me greatly.

The short-cut home from school was through those river flats. We always used it except when it rained. One sunny day on my way home a very unkempt / unwashed swaggie, swaying, beer bottle in hand, suddenly appeared from behind a big gum (eucalypt) beside the track. He was a forbidding sight but I nearly cacked myself when he ran towards me and said, “I’m going to get you.” I raced off to the side and around him and fled home. For at least a week after that I wasn’t game to go anywhere near that place.

The following Saturday evening Dad wanted to go into town for a Saturday evening church service… through the river flats. I went with him, not without a fast-beating heart. My thoughts were about that tree where the swaggie had appeared. I stuck my hand in his hand for security, and got a surprise. The moment my hand was within his hand all the fear disappeared!

Just over a year ago a young person of my acquaintance sent me an email with the piece below. It captures the same thought beautifully.

“A little girl and her father were crossing a bridge over a fast flowing stream. The father was conscious of the danger so he asked his little daughter: 'Sweetheart, please hold onto my hand so that you don't fall into the river.' The little girl said: 'No Dad, you hold MY hand.' What's the difference?' asked the puzzled father. 'There's a big difference,' replied the little girl. 'If I hold your hand and something happens to me, chances are that I may let your hand go. But if you hold my hand, I know for sure that no matter what happens, you will never let my hand go.'”

Do you remember the song, “Put your hand in the hand of the man who stilled the water…”?
Then there is that Word of the Lord, “Don’t you know that I’ve engraved you in the palm of my hand…?”
Or another, “I am convinced that nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God which is ours through Christ Jesus our Lord.”

There you are! Onward, ever onward, with assurance based on the resurrection! Jesus is the Father’s hand, holding on to you with strength and affection.

Have a ‘blessed in Christ’ week.