Tuesday, March 15, 2016

CP 271 Wallaby series... I said 'No', she said 'Yes. And then...

CP 271 Wallaby series… I said ‘No’, she said, ‘Yes’. And then…
This is not a tale of strife tween husband and wife. So we were in Portland, Victoria, last week. We wanted to catch up with pastoral friends and check out the LC in Portland because we knew some good things were happening. On the Thursday night my friend conveyed a request that I might share a testimony on Sunday. My initial response was ‘Don’t want to.’ Having forsworn any preaching during this year I wanted to stick to my guns. Give me anonymity! Besides, I’m not necessarily in the right frame of mind. I’m sorting through some heart stuff. In the end, with considerable reluctance, I agreed.
In my ‘10 minutes after the Lord’s Prayer,’ I shared how my conviction about having two spiritual hearts, (an irredeemable one inherited from Adam and the other crystal pure from being ‘in Christ’) had freed me to not fear knowing anything and everything about my dark side because my heavenly Father only ever deals with me on the basis of my Son’s-heart. Being certain that with Christ’s heart in me I am utterly secure, I have no need to deny my darkness or pretend anything. The light of the gospel ensures there is always more that I can acknowledge and confess. But I never come under condemnation again. At least not from my heavenly Father. As far as I could determine it seemed to be well received. Duty done I was looking forward to jumping in the car and skedattling over the border into South Oz. My Lord had another idea.
During the next song the song leader (a former Warrambui intern) came around behind me and asked if I would make myself available to pray for people at the end of worship. My answer was a straightforward, ‘No!’ She checked my answer and I shook my head again. Now I don’t know if I’m losing it but I was truly flabbergasted a minute later when she announced to the congregation, with delight in her voice, that ‘Pastor Fred has kindly agreed to be available to pray with anyone who would like to come forward for prayer after worship.’
I spent the next few minutes before the end of service grumbling to my beloved in the pew next to me. Then I spent the next 45 to 50 minutes or so praying with the dozen or so worshippers who stayed behind… some elderly and unwell, some no older than nine or ten, all with deep longings and needs. At some point in there I got over my resentment and realized this had to be a God thing. I have no idea of the impact of my prayers last Sunday, only that I expect amazing stuff because none of it was my idea. Not a cracker. And then there was an interesting event soon after on the road.
We were heading toward the SA border. Coming toward us on a sweeping bend was a ute towing a boat. He was ‘moving’ as they say, and he was well over on my side of the road. He saw me late and wrenched his wheel back to his side. His boat trailer, however, slung out a bit further… I told Rose later that in that instant I’d accepted that we were going to collide.
In the event we missed each other, as Maxwell Smart would say, ‘by that much!’ Kept safe. Why am I telling you this story? To thank you for your prayers for our safety is one answer. To record our thanks and praise to our Father for his protection is another. But there’s something else, and it’s been sitting there for a couple of days. There is a connection between the testimony and prayer at worship and the avoidance of the accident an hour later. I don’t have a clue how that works but I believe that it is true.
Be blessed this week.


Thursday, March 10, 2016

CP 270 The Wallaby series... Caravanic revealings...

CP 270 The Wallaby series… Caravanic revealings…
Two days ago I heard a comment which instantly grabbed my attention. On the telly I was watching an interview with the lawyer who represented Martin Bryant, the young man responsible for the Port Arthur massacre in which more than 30 people lost their lives. The lawyer spoke of how he prepared himself to meet a highly intelligent monster and was instead surprised to find he was meeting a not-very-bright young man who was utterly ordinary. The lawyer added that telling comment. ‘Without the gun he was nothing!’
That touched something I’ve been reflecting on in recent years. Insecure and powerless people - that’s us - are driven to find ways to empower themselves. Some do it by having the meanest, ugliest and most aggressive dog they can find as a ‘pet’. A certain group of young men empower themselves by acquiring particular powerful cars. Others might use the gym to develop a marvellous physique and extraordinary muscles. It’s not only about physical things.
I remember one man who developed a remarkable word knowledge and vocabulary, who then used it, often as not, to hector, bully and batter others into submission. Another used an amazing knowledge of ancient and modern history to pontificate, always be right, and always have the last ‘winning’ word. Another person used to use personal knowledge about people to ‘control’ them. Others I know live out their dream of ‘being someone’ through computer games. I suspect we all do it in some form. Who wants to be a nobody, a nothing?  So we set out to make ourselves ‘bigger’, more imposing, noteworthy and formidable than we are. I do it all the time. It arises out of my / our littleness and insecurity and fear.
It usually starts young. Which little boys don’t want to wear Spiderman costumes, or Batman, Superman or one of the Ninja Turtles. Or little girls who long to be a Princess, or Barbie. (Or a Kardashian?) In particular I don’t want to forget the old folks, all those old fogey grey nomads, with their sagging, wrinkled bodies and forgetful, addling minds, their wise ways, and their grandad (ma) humour. Just have a squiz at the names emblazoned on the ever-growing number of caravans the mostly old-farts are towing around Australia at the moment. Let me run a few past you. They gather in themes…
·         Imperial, Kingdom, Royal, Royal Flair, Royale, Regent, Coronet and Viscount. Also Majestic, Sterling and Jubilee. My suspicion is that Windsor should be in here as in the Royal House… Do the caravan makers somehow think (or guess or know or believe) that all of us ‘has-beens’ on the road once dreamt of being kings and queens, princes and princesses? Do all these vans come out of the same factory?
·         Then there’s Statesman, Commander, Crusader, Leader, Mighty, Supreme, Conquest, Eagle, Apollo and Phoenix. Oh, to fulfil the longing to be top-dog significant and important.
·         There is another group around Galaxy and Starcraft, Lunagazer and Sungazer. Also names like (our) Olympic Javelin. Take me away from this mediocre world.
·         The Manhattan would claim, of course, to be top of the pile, and Elite would like to be there as well. So would Paramount. No doubt Grande too. And Palazzo!
·         Tornado is in a class of its own, but then there is also Grenade. Not to forget Patriot, (as in the missile?) Oh, to recapture that youthful dynamic for which I once…
·         I’ll lump the rest… Opal is nice, Freedom is fantastic, Eureka offers hope, and so does Evernew. Safari offers adventure and Retreat suggests rest. Dreamseeker and New Age are for dreams in old age.
Clever, aren’t they, these van manufacturers? Using the names and what they mean as a way of marketing to the olds especially. They are tapping in to the deep unmet and unfulfilled longing, and need, for security, or self-worth or significance. The names promise hope. But they can’t deliver. Proxy power never delivers.
So? Let me mention Jesus the Christ. All those words in the first group about royalty and majesty apply supremely to Him. He is Lord, Master, Statesman, Mighty Conqueror! He is Lord of all things in the universe, in things and powers above or below. He is the unassailable patriot. His Father’s house is truly top of the pile, palatial. He’s the deliverer of freedom, rest, and eternal life. In Him our dreams are fulfilled. And the dynamic we need and crave is his gift to us in the Spirit.
All of that comes from him, through him, to us because of a sacrificial life climaxed by a sacrificial death, acknowledged in a resurrected life! When we find ourselves having been clothed in Jesus Christ, the Father’s forgiveness is declared over us, and furthermore, in the Son’s righteousness he becomes our security, self-worth and significance. He promises, and he delivers!
Maybe that makes sense. I hope so.

PS, Some of you will find this hard to believe, but two weeks ago an African American Canadian we met at a waterfall, took a good long look at me and declared, “You remind me of Billy Graham!” Love it.