Tuesday, June 25, 2013

CP 213 To kill a cat...

CP 213 To kill a cat…
Cats and kittens were a problem in North Wagga during my childhood. Being ‘over the bridge’, the low-lying flood-prone public reserves surrounding us on three sides were an obvious place to dump unwanted cats and their litters of kittens. They came to homes like ours and were ‘disposed of’. Dad’s way was a brick in a sealed sack tossed into the river. Often I did the job myself. By today’s standards what we did was criminal. Nobody gave it a second’s thought in the 1950s and 60s. Years later we had a family cat which had ringworms. It was duly ‘dealt with’. More years later, in 1999, we had a surplus cat. It was put down by a vet. Laws change…
Those memories were first stirred by an ABC News item back in November 2009. Two people were charged with a vicious attack on a puppy in western NSW. Apparently a border-collie puppy was diagnosed by a vet as being gravely ill with parvovirus. The vet offered to euthanase the animal at no cost. The offer was refused. The puppy was taken outside of town and dealt with … Criminal charges were laid. The laws had changed…
Dad sometimes gave us a hiding. I spanked my kids. These days spanking is seen as child abuse, a criminal matter. Laws change…
As kids we used rifles in the public reserves. Among other things, troublesome magpies were taken out of play. Normal then, criminal now. Laws change…
Indonesian abattoirs handled slaughter of animals a certain way. These days? Laws change…
Time was when prostitution, abortion and homosexual acts were criminal actions. Now most western countries have made decisions removing criminality and legislating legitimacy. Laws change…
It was once legal to use asbestos in building and mechanical products. It is now illegal to do so, and is rightly regarded as a danger to human health. Laws change…
There are many other examples. Smoking, seatbelts, drink-driving, whaling and fishing-licences are some that come to mind. Laws change…

The Law of the Lord God Almighty does not change…
Here is what Jesus Christ said about the Lord God's Law during his first public sermon:
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.” Matt 5:17-18 NRSV
Tough, tough talk, but it had a purpose. Here is what Paul the Apostle wrote after deep reflection:
“Now we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.” Romans 3:19 NRSV
Again, tough, tough, tough.  Under the law we are accountable. Put yourself under the law and trust in ‘your best effort’? You won’t live by the law… you’ll die by the law! Perhaps one of the strongest (harshest?) statements of Paul is that “…all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse…” Galatians 3:10 NRSV

For goodness sake, Fred, how can there be hope? Is there hope? Yes, yes, yes, and a thousand times, YES! The divine law never changes but there is a way and a time when it no longer applies.
Truly? Yep! Here is Paul again:
“…the law was in charge of us until Christ came, in order that we might be put right with God through faith. Now that the time for faith is here, the law is no longer in charge of us.” Galatians 3:24-25 TEV
Can you believe that? The law remains the same and it curses us because there’s nothing in us to escape its relentless accusation. Then, lo, a miracle! Out of the blue (though the Lord planned it in eternity) we come to know and believe that Christ ‘became the curse’ on our behalf. We are ‘in Christ’ by faith and therefore dead to law and therefore dead to its demands, and its accusations and condemnations.
For all the world it is as if we have shifted galaxies when we hear the Word of the Cross and believe. As Paul has it, ‘… you are not under law but under grace’. Romans 6:14 NRSV We came to faith by the Holy  Spirit. We continue to believe and trust, daily, by that Spirit. We love, can love, are free to love, as Jesus Christ first loved us, by the power of that same Holy Spirit.
Bless the God of Grace. Worship and adore him. Praise his name. Celebrate forgiveness and life. Honour Jesus the Christ in all things. Rejoice in the fact that you are loved by the Heavenly Father, that you are covered by an unbreakable promise and belong to an unshakeable kingdom. And then…
“Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh… if you are led by the Spirit you are not subject to the law… If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.” Galatians 5:16,18,25 NRSV

Thursday, June 20, 2013

CP 212 So, true or false, right or wrong?

CP 212 So, true or false, right or wrong?

Sometimes we mean one thing but say another, or write another. A couple of months ago there was a misspelling in the note I sent you. Instead of ‘Dear friends’ I addressed you as ‘Dear fiends’. One simple ‘r’ left out and I’ve turned you from friends of Jesus Christ into friends of the devil. Truly, truly I say to you I did not mean it. Only found out I’d done it when a number of you sent back snide little notes! I made a mental note to be careful in future. Would you believe that the next week I almost hit ‘send’ when it occurred to me that I’d better check the spelling. The Lord has a sense of humour.

This time the ‘r’ was where it should be but there was no ‘n’. So I was in the process of addressing you as ‘frieds’. No, I hadn’t been to a food outlet bearing the name of Colonel Sanders, late of Kentucky. Nor had I been reading the Old Testament book of Malachi:
“Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace.
All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble,
and that day that is coming will set them on fire,
says the Lord Almighty.” Malachi 4

Well, I wasn’t thinking wickedness of you but I might well have been chewing the thought in Malachi 3 that the Lord promises to refine us like silver or gold. In that case ‘frieds’ could be true. Makes me wonder what you might say if I accidently address you as ‘freds’!

Those of you who have read my book might recall the episode involving a 8-9 year-old named Daniel at the Immanuel Church in Canberra during a Confirmation Service. During the childrens’ talk, this insightful young fellow declared that the group of 13-14 year-olds at the front of the church were going to be… crucified! Of course he was wrong… but then again he could not have got it more right! Everyone who lines up with Jesus the Christ is lining up for their own personal ‘kingdom cross’. In the same way, when a little 3 year-old tells the pastor that the reason Jesus comes to live in us is, ‘to push the poo out of us’, she’s got it right too.

All of this came to mind when a mum sent me a note to say that her newly-confirmed son had written to his NZ godmother that he "missed her at his conformation..." His mum added the following:
“It did cross my mind that it was a slip and he was doing what was expected of him rather than a deep drive to be responsible for his walk with Jesus.  Then again, I believe his faith is something that needs to sit in his DNA - to call upon and look to when he is ready, so conforming or confirming may have a similar result in the end.”

Confirm, conform, conform, confirm… Inevitably I went to the NT to check out the word ‘conform’. It turns up 3 times. Two of the references are warnings about the need for being careful on the journey in the footsteps of Lord Jesus.
·        “Prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.”
     1 Peter 1:13-14 NIV
·        Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Romans 12:2 NIV

The third usage comes from that most magnificent passage in all of Paul’s letters, Romans Ch 8.
·        “Those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son so that he might be the firstborn among many children.” Romans 8:29

Some brief comments:
First, it’s perfectly obvious that anyone who has freely confirmed his/her trust in Jesus the Messiah for forgiveness and life will inevitably find themselves being conformed to the likeness of the beloved Son.
Secondly, whatever the Holy Spirit is doing / will do in your life will be pretty special. He’s making you be like Jesus in your ordinary, everyday life!
Thirdly, the Lord has a special love for living, pliable clay.
Fourthly, special thanks to the young bloke who gave me the idea to write this in the first place.

Thanks guys… be blessed in the blessed one.


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

CP 211 What agitated Fred...

CP 211 What agitated Fred…

Every now and then I come across something about the way Christians think which agitates my spirit in much the same way as a pebble in my shoe agitates me while I’m walking. So consider me agitated. Why? I’m reading a book at the moment called Undefiled. (Harry Schaumberg, Moody Press 2009) Each chapter of this book commences with an excerpt from The Valley of Vision: A collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions.

Here’s one of those quotes:

O my crucified but never wholly mortified sinfulness!
O my life-long damage and daily shame!
O my indwelling and besetting sins!
O the tormenting slavery of a sinful heart!
Destroy, O God, the dark guest within
Whose hidden presence makes my life a hell. Page 43

I wonder, I wonder, I wonder. Those of you who trust Jesus Christ’s promises of word and deed, do you see yourself in the same sad and negative way of the poet? Do you seriously live with a sense of ‘life-long damage’ and ‘daily shame’? I sure hope not. Is your daily walk with the Lord ‘a life of hell’, marked by ‘tormenting slavery of a sinful heart’? Well, if it’s like that then the gospel hasn’t got hold of you yet!

That poem / prayer is depressing, doubly so because the man is clearly misreading the scripture. What does Paul say? “If anyone is in Christ he/she is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor 5:17) Get that? New creation… new heart… new spirit… Jesus’ own peace… Jesus’ own joy… Christ’s own Calvary love poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit… no condemnation now for those in Christ Jesus… not an orphan… reconciled to the Father… I will remember their sins no more… abiding in Christ… transferred from the dominion of darkness into the kingdom of his beloved son… seated ‘in Christ’ at the right hand of the Father… inseparable from the Father’s love… Jesus advocating for us, and the Holy Spirit interceding for us… baptised in the Spirit, led by the Spirit, fellowship with the Spirit… faith by the same Spirit… Jesus is Lord… He has the keys… the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin… We have the mind of Christ… Christ in you… How many more do you want? That lot tumbled out of my head as fast as I could write!

Hey Fred, what about the darkness I know is in there? How do I get around the truth that sin / rebellion / selfishness are always with me?

Yes of course. Here’s a clue. The Apostle Paul calls us to ‘put on the new self’ as we are being ‘created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness’. (Eph 4:24) He says that because what he calls ‘the old self’ is still there too. The bad news is that the ‘old self’ will be in us like that until we cark it. The good news is that, by grace through faith in Christ, Father God only recognises the lovely holy purity of Christ in us. Our trust is that our Father can only ‘see us’ as clean because all the sin, yes all of it, from the womb to the tomb, is forgiven!

So here’s the challenge. Will you see yourself before the Father ‘in Christ’, or will you let the devil get away with making you think you stand before the Father ‘in Adam’, ie in utter sin?

That’s it you know. We easily speak of what happens ‘in the heart’. The truth is that every single believer in Jesus Christ has two hearts. By our natural birth we have the heart we inherit from Adam and Eve. By the ‘new birth of water and the Spirit’, we have the heart of the second Adam… none other than that of Jesus Christ. My constant challenge and choice is which heart will I bring to bear on all I do. And that’s why I need the Holy Spirit’s clarity and charity with his nudges and prompts all the time. Come Holy Spirit!

Jesus said: “If you hold to my teaching you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” NIV John 8:31-32

Be blessed in HIM.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

CP 210 Learning from Tamsin...

CP 210 Learning from Tamsin…

Tamsin died. I spoke at her funeral service. What to say? Tamsin was just 31 years old and had lived in care facilities for all those years. She was severely disabled from birth. Never walked, never spoke. She could hear sounds, distressed or contented. She could make sounds, distressed or contented. Mum and dad brought her to worship on dad’s arm when they could. Apart from the family, the carers, the family doctor, and others in the medical profession, few people ever saw her. To all intents and purposes she was soundless and invisible in the wider community. But not forgotten. No, not forgotten. Not once in 31 years.

Tamsin had round-the-clock carers… for 31 years. She had parents, family and doctor who advocated on her behalf, always with fierce love. Her medical concerns were numerous. Not least, her lungs were weak and she was frequently stricken with pneumonia. So Tamsin had many trips to hospital with specialists and nurses in attendance. Nothing was ever too much. For 31 years.

Tamsin lived in care facilities provided by the Government. She had a roof over her head, a warm bed to sleep in, food, drink and medication, with music and loving voices to listen to. She lived away from mum and dad’s home but where she lived was her own home. Her living conditions were monitored by government authorities. No one ever tried to attack or destroy the place where she lived. No one ever attacked her. She was never off anybody’s caring radar, for 31 years.

Her family was blessed with good friends and neighbours. The family was able to live in stability with regular work and income. Tamsin’s siblings received a first-class education and never missed out on school opportunities and activities. During all this time no government was overthrown, the nation was never in tumult, and there was never disorder in the community.

Tamsin’s family was blessed with an aware and supportive church community. It’s people wept with them and rejoiced with them. There were people who provided encouragement and shoulders to lean on. For all those 31 years the family was prayed for and held before the Lord.

Why tell you this? Because in Tamsin and her family, through their journey, and in preparation for her funeral, I learned to look at ‘Daily Bread’ in a fresh and deeper way. Those ever-so-familiar words, ‘Give us this day our daily bread’, roll off the tongue rather easily and they are just as easily distilled into a pious plaque on the kitchen wall. Tamsin’s life - and death - teaches a deeper truth! Hear what the catechism tells us:

Daily bread
includes everything needed for this life,
such as food and clothing, home and property,
work and income, a devoted family,
an orderly community, good government,
favourable weather, peace and health,
a good name, and true friends and neighbours.

Tamsin had daily bread… all those 31 years, all her life. In the light of her life, what abundance have you and I received 24/7 year by year? We don’t even think about the half of it, do we? An image which works for me comes from Disney Comics where Old Uncle Scrooge dives into his money-bin so that he can wallow in his $Dollar bills.

So a little exercise for us all. The next time you or I are tempted to moan and groan about the ‘shortcomings’ of our systems…
of education, or transport,
or financial services, or communication,
or production, or industrial relations,
or health, or welfare,
or foreign aid, or border protection,
or “The Government”, or whatever,
remember, remember, remember… we are blessed with daily bread way beyond the comprehension of just about anybody who lived before the 20th century, and of probably 90% of those who share this planet with us today. I may be wrong but I believe that what motivates so much of what we westerners say and do is driven by the desire to ‘protect’ our grossly bloated share of this world’s mammon. And as you and I think about that, amid all our self-indulgent griping and sniping, let’s not be so bloody-minded, and instead, be thankful to the Lord who has blessed the socks off us.

And one other thing, more important than all the rest! Mum and dad brought Tamsin to be baptised into Christ Jesus very early in her life. I doubt she was ever off the Lord’s radar, but from that day the family lived with the assurance that nothing could ever separate Tamsin from the love of God the Father in Jesus Christ the Lord. Nothing. Ever. Not just for 31 years. Forever! And ever. And ever. Amen.

Be blessed and know you are blessed in HIM.