Our Scars Tell A Story

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Wounds tell a tale

And scars tell a story

Like Jesus on the cross

Opening the gates of glory

With His wounds we’re healed

By His stripes we’re made whole

They are emblems of promise

Like to Thomas revealed

When we suffer and are hurting

It is not that we’ve failed

It is our perseverance

That will be beheld

Job, he was righteous

And suffered all the same

But he was a living example

And remember,

God restored him again


Padre

Thank you Pastor Vince for a great message and reminder

Reflections of Glory

Candle, Meditation, Hand, Keep, Heat, Confidence, Rest

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One of the most moving memorials I have ever witnessed is the Children’s Memorial at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.  I have written about it in the past, but I refer to it now as an example of a spiritual point that I would like to examine today.  In that memorial space in Israel, a mere five candles are reflected by a series of mirrors to produce an infinite number of points of light.  Those relatively tiny light sources produce a solemn but glorious spectacle.

Glory is often manifested in light, and light in turn is a wonderful metaphor for glory.  One of the definitions of glory in fact is “splendour, brightness, or majesty.”  God is by definition glorious, as He is the ultimate expression of splendour, and majesty.”

The glory of God is referenced throughout scripture.  Isaiah 40:5 tells us that the revelation of that glory will be seen by all: “And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”  And that glory shouldn’t be missed or overlooked, for as Psalm 19:1 says: “How clearly the sky reveals God’s glory!  How plainly it shows what he has done!”  We are told in Acts 7:2 that Abraham beheld God’s glory, and in the Exodus account God’s glory took the form of pillars of fire and of cloud.  But this was no mere allegory to link God and nature.  God’s glory was ultimately manifested in his Son.  We see this in John 1:14 – “ The Word became a human being and, full of grace and truth, lived among us. We saw his glory, the glory which he received as the Father’s only Son.”

But here is the thing – just like those reflected beams of light at Yad Vashem, God’s glory can shine through us.  We are reflections of His glory.  Jesus said in Matthew 5:14-16 that “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl/bushel. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”  And this attestation of God’s people should not be a surprise.  Paul wrote in Romans 2:10, “But God will give glory, honor, and peace to all who do what is good, to the Jews first and also to the Gentiles.”  God-servers, those who do good (a godly good) will shine with his glory.

Are we being the glorious examples of the One who shines within in us today?  Let’s get rid of those bushels.

 

Padre

 

Video of Children’s Memorial

Atmosphere

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It has been an inspirational couple of weeks with powerful messages being presented to challenge and encourage us.

The first of these was presented by Brother Larry in which he drew upon 1 Corinthians 16:15.  The passage in the KJV reads, “I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints).”  The translation was purposely chosen to bring the emphasis upon the word “addicted,” rather than “dedicated.”  It is the overwhelming degree that is captured by the word “addiction” that makes the passage so powerful.

While Isaac Airfreight did a sketch decades go about being a “Bible Junkie,” it pales to the message of our brother, Larry.  His was not a comedy which used satire to make an emphasis, but rather an “in your face” challenge to let God’s call to service be over-riding in our lives.   He noted that addicts “live” for their “fix” and we should do no less in our relation to God and His people.

This is a kind of transformation.  Pastor Vince picked up on this theme when he noted that we by our presence (one transformed by our conforming to the image of Christ, and His presence within us) should change the atmosphere of our surroundings.  He drew upon Habakkuk 2 to note that though the world seems dominated by evil, God has an appointed time in which righteousness will prevail.  We should not bemoan the woes of an evil world, but trust in God’s ultimate victory, and be “watchmen” for the day when it will come, holding firm (being transformed – addicted even) to righteousness ourselves.

In Joel 2 we see this advanced, that despite calamity – if we “rend your [our] heart, and not your [our] garments, and turn unto the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness (v.13);” then “it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered (vs 32).”  It isn’t a sad countenance and a sense of defeat, but a trust that changes ourselves and the surrounding atmosphere.

Matthew 5 says we are “a light in the world.”  Not that “our” light shines, but God’s light shines through us.  We as we “go into all the world” should be like a city on the hill, a watchmen upon the walls.  We are through our conforming to Christ within us atmosphere changers.  We addicts to holiness are instruments of change.

In Acts 2 we see a handful of Jesus’ follows lighting up the world, when they are filled by God’s Spirit.  They spoke tongues of many lands, and later healed the sick and gave hope to a dying world.   If so few can “turn the world upside down,” should not we – their spiritual descendants be as addicted, as conformed, and become a new breath of fresh air in our world.   Let’s change the atmosphere.

Padre

 

Your Light Before Men: Nine Quotes to Remember

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I have known several godly people in my life.  Their gentle natures and God focused lives are even now an example to me.   Brother Dominic, a Benedictine monk and my wife Dianne shared this virtue of being lights to the world even in their overwhelming humility.

Here are several inspirational quotes on this theme, and I hope we can learn to live them.

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house (Matthew 5: 14-15).”

Letting our light shine, or more exactly letting God’s light shine through us is not a matter of purposeful religiosity.  The Scribes and Pharisees had that.  It is more living in relationship with God, and the Spirit will shine through you.  It isn’t pretense, it is surrender.

‘If God is the centre of your life, no words are necessary. Your mere presence will touch hearts’ Vincent de Paul.  De Paul captured the idea of Matthew 5 well.  Our very actions speak to others.  “Godly is and Godly does.”

And our actions are not meant to be for the purpose of the thanks or praise of men.  Paul wrote, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters (Colossians 3:23).”  Remember it’s about our relationship with God.

But again, this isn’t about religious showiness.  It was phrased well my Martin Luther,  “The Christian shoemaker does his duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes, because God is interested in good craftsmanship.”   Just as it said in Colossians, not for man, not for ritual, but truly for God.

Our walking the walk, will nevertheless impact others.  In fact, our lives may well be the only introduction to God some people ever receive.  Where one man reads the Bible, a hundred read you and me,” D.L. Moody said.   We are read, and scrutinised.  Billy graham worded it this way,  We are the Bibles the world is reading; We are the creeds the world is needing; We are the sermons the world is heeding.”

This principle is biblical.  Paul reminded the Corinthians that,  “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. . . . (2 Corn 5:20).”

So, More depends on my walk than talk” –  D.L. Moody.

But again, this is not artificial, it is about relationship and dedication to the Lord.

As Shannon Adler put it, “Hide yourself in God, so when a man wants to find you he will have to go there first.”  Drawing others to God, now that’s letting your light shine indeed!

Padre

Complicated Contradictions

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“Sorry I’m late,” Susan said.

“Love is never having to say you are sorry.  Well that’s what they say,” Joe said.

“But what does that really mean?” Susan asked.

“I guess it is about unconditional love.  If someone does something, even a terrible thing, those who love them will love them despite it.   It’s like they are forgiven before they ask, so it’s not necessary,” Joe explained.

“But just because someone is willing the bear hurt silently, and let it pass, doesn’t mean that the other person, if they are truly loving them back, doesn’t want to mend their feelings.”

“It’s like in the Bible,” Joe said. “The Prodigal Son.  He rips off his dad, then wastes everything, then he goes back to say he was unworthy to be a son.  But before he even gets a chance to give his prepared speech, his dad has come and hugged him and put clean robes and an a ring on him.  His dad loved him so much that he didn’t need to hear the apology.”

“Okay,” Susan retorted, “But he still went there with the expressed purpose to say he had failed.  So maybe you’re right, ‘Love means you don’t need to say sorry,’ but that’s not the same to say a person who loves should never feel sorry, or acknowledge regret.  Otherwise they will never grow.  Or worse still they might cause the hurt all over again.”

“You know,” Joe said.  “I think you are right, its about attitude not words.  I’m sorry I disagreed with you.”

Padre

Tale Weaver – #241 – Sorry

Push Back, Push In

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image: People

Sister Amba gave a great message this week on our responses to the challenges and confrontations with the world.  She illustrated her theme with references to Matthew 4, and Jesus’ time in the wilderness.

She noted that Jesus had just had a tremendous spiritual experience at His baptism, and then was led by the Spirit into the desert.  Here Amba reflected on her own experiences of spiritual highs (such as retreats and conferences) and how she faced “attacks” which sought to take her down from upon the mountain.

Jesus too, faced the same thing in Matthew 4.  Satan confronted him after He had been hungry, and the “mountain” experience of the baptism was forty days old.  Satan attacked on several fronts, including provision, protection, and honour.  In each case Jesus responded with Scripture!

Jesus was not only the Word made flesh, but he also abided in the revealed word.  What an example.  Amba then drew a parallel to Eve in the Garden.  She had not received the direct revelation from God to not eat from the tree, but only the word as given to her by Adam.  She had been told, but not personally witnessed.  Was this the cause of her fall?  Jesus however had the word on His lips.  He was ready “in season and out” to make a reply.   We need to be Jesus-like.  When the world pushes, we need not push back, but rather we need to push in on the Word at our core.

This inner reliance on the “power within” will aid us in fulfilling God’s plan for us.  Our example and witness will be enhanced.  Striking or pushing back against the world will never accomplish that (no matter how personally satisfying the temptation might seem to be).

First Thessalonians 5: 14 – 15 reminds us,

And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone.  Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.”

We need to remember that the prophets, and saints of the scriptures were harassed, and attacked.  But God was with them.  He is with us too.   His strength is in control, and we are in His hand.  Our striking out, is not necessary.  Isaiah 43  reminds us,

” . . . you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you (v 4)  . . . . Yes, and from ancient days I am he. No one can deliver out of my hand.  When I act, who can reverse it? (v 13)”

We are loved by Him, no one can take us from Him.  Better still let Him act.  We need not push back, we are in His hand.  We need to push into his grip!

Padre

 

 

 

 

Bible Ladies (Part 8): Abigail

 

David Meeting Abigail by Rubens (Getty Museum)

 

It has been some time now since I made a posting in the Bible Ladies Series.  I will try to rectify that here.

Proverbs 31 reads in part,

“A wife of noble character who can find?  She is worth far more than rubies.  Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life (verses 10 -12).”

There are few biblical examples which illustrate this than the story of Abigail in the 1 Samuel 25.  She is introduced as the wife of Nabal a wealthy man in the region of Carmel. Nabal is not just wealthy, but “very wealthy” according to verse 2.  Despite this wealth he is depicted as greedy, and disrespectful.  This is shown when David sends men to Nabal and asks for what he might spare for the up keep of David and his men. Nabal responds, “Why should I take my bread and water, and the meat I have slaughtered for my shearers, and give it to men coming from who knows where? (verse 11).”  This was in spite of the fact that David and his men had previously protected Nabal’s servants.

The snub towards the future king does not go unnoticed.  David mobilises 400 men to address the insult.  Here we see Abigail’s character revealed.  Verse 3 had already reveled that “She was an intelligent and beautiful woman.” But she is loyal and virtuous as well.  She,  the account continues,  of her own accord,  . . .  “took two hundred loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five dressed sheep, five seah of roasted grain, a hundred cakes of raisins and two hundred cakes of pressed figs, and loaded them on donkeys (verse 18),” and went out to meet David and his advancing men.

She bows herself before David and offers the food to him.  She then essentially entreats David to spare her husband and household.  She notes that “needless bloodshed,” need not be on the future king’s conscience.  She goes on to make reference that David’s line will be a lasting one.

David said to Abigail, ‘Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, who has sent you today to meet me. May you be blessed for your good judgment and for keeping me from bloodshed this day and from avenging myself with my own hands (verse 32)’  . . . . “Go home in peace. I have heard your words and granted your request’ (verse 35).”

Later Naban dies (possibly from his own excesses). And, When David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, “Praise be to the Lord, who has upheld my cause against Nabal for treating me with contempt. He has kept his servant from doing wrong and has brought Nabal’s wrongdoing down on his own head.” Then David sent word to Abigail, asking her to become his wife. His servants went to Carmel and said to Abigail, “David has sent us to you to take you to become his wife.” She bowed down with her face to the ground and said, “I am your servant and am ready to serve you and wash the feet of my lord’s servants (verse 39 -41).”

Abigail, therefore became David’s third wife, and would go on to bear his second son.

She is in brilliant contrast to David’s other wife Bathsheba.  In her case the king is drawn to a woman willing to cheat on her noble husband, which in time leads to her husband’s  death; while Abigail shows virtue and gains a reprieve for her corrupt and disrespectful spouse.  Yes, both become wives of a great man, but it is Abigail who exemplifies Proverbs 31, even for a husband unworthy of her grace.

Padre

 

 

 

The Gift Within

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Pastor Vince gave a many faceted message this week, drawing upon the nativity accounts. He noted that the coming gift of the Messiah was Tardis-like as “the gift within you is bigger than you.”  How true! John has written that if he recorded all that the Logos had done, the world could not hold all that would be written.  So too, is the power and grandeur of Christ so much more than we are able to individually contain.

While I will not attempt to touch on all that the pastor spoke of, I will pick on some important points. The first of these is that the nativity story is both a sign and a fulfillment. The prophets had told the world of the coming, but when Jesus arrived He brought us a life changing gift, and then additionally gives an example or “sign” of how to live that life.

Both Mary and Joseph are examples of that life and attitude, and models for us to follow. Mary is greeted by Gabriel and told that she was to give birth to the Son of God. Talk about life changing! First of all let’s look at the consequences. Even in our liberal 21st Century environment there will be those that raise an eyebrow at “unwed mothers.”  In Mary’s day, however, it could be a death sentence. Yet, she does not refuse, but merely questions: “How can this be, as I am a virgin?” When it is explained to her she immediately shows obedience.

This is not to say that she was asked for permission. God, is in control, we are not. But nonetheless, she freely consented anyway, despite all she could potentially lose. Here again possibly even her life, but most definitely her relationship with Joseph. It is obvious that he saw her as an adulteress, as he immediately considers “putting her away (divorce in our modern context).” Yet, he even in this shows us an example of understanding and compassion. He would rather “quietly” deal with it rather than “make it public.” Isn’t that what Matthew 18:15 teaches?

But even in this sense of being the recipient of injustice, Joseph remains open to the guidance of God. He was righteous but still felt hurt, and sought to divorce her, but when the truth is revealed to him by the angel, he freely accepts her as his wife. He is prepared to be step-father, thus legitimising Mary and Jesus. It is even today, not every man who would do so, but in that time a true mark of devotion.

Further scriptures imply that Joseph treated Jesus as his own. He taught Him his trade, and diligently sought Him when He had gone to the Temple at age 12.

We are the recipients of the gift of salvation, but also to the gift of a new teaching. A teaching expressed throughout the Gospels in the words of Jesus, but also in the examples and models of His mother and step-father.  These gifts are bigger than we are individually. How wonderful that the scriptures say that together, we each bearing our own measure, become corporately “the body of Christ.” Together let us share the gift!

Padre

Does our face betray our heart?

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image from: Father Ted

Francis of Assisi said, “It is not fitting, when one is in God’s service, to have a gloomy face or a chilling look.” People of God should be people of joy. Yet, there is a perception of many in the world that people of faith are “kill joys.” Judgmental looks and outward gloomy dispositions only reinforce this perception.

The Psalmist wrote, Through the victories you gave, his glory is great; you have bestowed on him splendor and majesty. Surely you have granted him unending blessings and made him glad with the joy of your presence. For the king trusts in the Lord; through the unfailing love of the Most High he will not be shaken (Psalm 21: 5-7).”   The presence of God in one’s life is a matter of joy!  Why don’t we show it?

Paul gave some practical advice on this in Philippians 4,  Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus (vs 4 – 7).”

Let us be lights to the world, and leave the gloom to others!

Padre

Beyond The Comfort Zone

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Sister Cheryl brought us a challenging message this week on stepping beyond our comfort zones, and expanding our horizons in God’s service. For many of us the temptation is to stay with what is familiar to us, and to play it safe.  There are several scriptures that address this including the parable of the talents (Matthew 25). And while  the diligent servant in Luke 12:42-43, is rewarded for carrying out his master’s business,  there nonetheless remains a call for further growth.

Okay, growth sounds good.  But moving out of the comfort zone isn’t always easy.  We each have our own points of resistance.  It may be shyness.  It may be time constraints. It may be ego. But these require change to overcome.  Luke 22 gives an example of this,

“A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors.  But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.  For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.  You are those who have stood by me in my trials.  And I confer on you a kingdom,just as my Father conferred one on me,  so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel (vs 24-30).”

Here we see ego as a hindrance to growth.  Jesus quickly nips it in the bud by turning the idea of greatness of its head.  He says that if they are to be all they can be, they need to give up even the status they presently have.  They are to become like children, and humble themselves.

Jesus then turns the focus onto the process of change. He notes that it is like a threshing,  as He tells Peter what the future holds, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers (vs 31-32).” This is a loaded statement.  It notes that Peter will fail (expanded on in verses 33-34), but that he will in turn, be returned, and in the process of sifting, become a strength to others.  Threshing and sifting (beating and being tossed about) are not pleasant propositions, but in prevailing through such tests and trials, growth is achieved.

As we grow, we find new comfort zones. Our horizons are expanded.  And do we rest then? No, we grow again! It may not be easy, but it is rewarding. Paul writes,

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us . . . . In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.  And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters (Romans 8: 18-30).

Our testings will lead to growth.  Growth in turn will lead to glory.  And what is the point we seek?  To be conformed to the image of Christ.  Now there is a comfort zone to rest in!

Padre