Who am I?

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And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; 10 for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.

Luke 19 NKJV

When I was a teenager, I thought very deeply about who I was and where I fit in.  Yet I was born into a family who could not offer me a place of belonging.  I remember going to my mother and father one day in desperation crying out ‘I don’t know who I am’.  My father looked down with no words of comfort or help, wouldn’t even look me in the eye, and my mother flailed her hands around and cried ‘I can’t stand it when you are like this’. This was the first time I had ever voiced this despair, so my mother’s response was about her own lack.   I remember realising with a sinking heart that I was alone, that my parents could not help me.  The feeling passed, as feelings tend to do when you are a teenager, but I have never forgotten that incident.  It inscribed on my soul the understanding that I was lost, that my family was lost and that nobody was able to point to the way home.  Part of the reason I became a Christian was because a part of me recognised home in the Christians who preached salvation to me. However, I needed to travel a great deal further to understand that salvation is not in the church, but in Christ himself, and to recognise my lost condition I was going to need to have a much greater revelation of myself and of Jesus.

We are apt to think, especially in the church, that we, as Christians, are the blessed, the prospering, the glorious, the favourites of God. We do this readily, but without much thought or even bible reading; certainly without much spiritual understanding. We tend to believe without much nuance and in all encompassing generalities leaving ourselves open to misunderstandings and excusing a general lack of desire to search the scriptures for truth. We leave the bible study to the experts like the pastor or authors and teachers.

We have been told over and over again, especially if we have been part of certain church traditions, that we are special, better than those other poor sods over there who don’t have what we have.  The language may not be that specific but the message is conveyed just the same. Christians are just as exclusive as any other group of humans and therein lies the problem.  Are we looking to a group of human beings for our identity or to the one who created us?  Is our primal connection to humans or to Jesus Christ? Because if we are looking to people, we will overlook the delicate issues, the differences of theological opinion, even the possibility that our definition of salvation is wrong.  We will overlook these things in order to focus on belonging.  If this is the case, then when somebody leaves because they denounce our beliefs as wrong, or our group as not meeting their needs, we shun, we reject, we close ranks because our identities as humans have been attacked.

If we are centered in God’s definition of us, we will not fall into this very carnal trap.

This is something we seek as human beings.  We want to be part of something larger than ourselves. Something greater than we are. We want to connect ourselves to a group, a family, who will declare us to be acceptable not just to others but to God. Our most fundamental, yet least realised, yearning is to know who we are.  We cover our unmet desires by rushing to grasp hold of anything which will reassure us of our identity.  Yet too many of us rush to embrace identities which are not ours and were never meant to be ours.

If we come from families which have rejected us, if we have been bullied as children or hurt by significant others in our lives the pain of isolation and brokenness causes us to be even more desperate to know where we will be safe.  We think if we know who we are, if we can identify with a group of others we will be stronger because we will stand together, we will be able to say as one, this is who I am, this is who we are, and the longing for the deepest unmet need will be met.  Yet it doesn’t happen.

How many Christians are  dissatisfied, confused and constantly seeking the truth of their identity, moving from church to church, often because of false teaching or practice, but also because they are fundamentally troubled and don’t even recognise it.

Every human seeks identity amongst those who are like us, and it is a natural orientation; ‘Birds of a Feather’ and so on.  But we are looking for reassurance in the wrong place. We go to the natural to find solace, to the material, to the seen, rather than the unseen.  We don’t go immediately to God, we go to God’s people.  We think we know who God is because we know who God’s people are.  But today, God’s people are not who we think they are.  We look for theological orthodoxy, we look for biblical understanding, we look for traditional praxis and outward recognition of what is ‘Christian’ and settle on these things.  But there always remains a seed of doubt, a germ of unrest which is never quite satisfied.

Paul said that there was a reason that there were not many wise nor noble nor rich who were saved. He was trying to explain why the gospel was not acceptable in any culture, whether Greek or Hebrew, worldly or religious. 1 Corinthians chapter 1 gives us a comprehensive understanding of why we don’t find what we are looking for in the modern church.

18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written:“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.”20 Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22 For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks[b] foolishness, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

26 For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. 27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, 29 that no flesh should glory in His presence. 30 But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption— 31 that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.”

The genuine believers, those who are called and chosen of God were destined before the foundation of the world to be the lost.  It is the weak, the orphaned, the broken, the imprisoned and the failure who is the favourite of God.  Look throughout scripture and you will see the pattern everywhere.  Adam and Eve tried 3 times to beget an heir, the precedent to the seed who would crush Satan’s head.  And over and over since then, it is the younger or youngest son who has been the favoured of God.  The least of these is the greatest.  David, Joseph, Isaac, Jacob, and so on.  Jesus himself said that he came to seek the lost sheep of the house of Israel.  It is the lost who will be found, God himself said it. If you are lost, if you are broken, if you are foundered, then you are a prime candidate for the salvation of God.  Jesus said that the physician came to heal the sick not the healthy.

If you are truly lost and you know it, you will look upon a saviour with the eyes of the worshipper and marvel.  You will never forget that you were lost and that He found you. A genuinely lost person will never ever forget what it was like to be in that condition.  It will not leave you. That experience, that awakening – for it is an awakening out of the sleep of the shame and blindness of sin – will do a marvelous work in  your soul. You will never forget the utter piercing of the heart and mind that lostness brings.  A truly lost soul has the torment of the outer darkness etched into their hearts.  And when the light of salvation comes, the joy and recognition that this is true and wholesome and holy and completely outside the realm of human knowledge and experience, likewise pierces your soul. A genuinely converted soul will never forget what it was like to be lost.  Yet, we should know that it was our destiny to be the lost.  We were ever meant to be the lost so that we could be found by Him.  And to those who think they stand in their own brilliance because they believe themselves to be children of God from before the foundation of the world take heed.  Yes, we become saved, we have the Spirit of Adoption, but who adopts somebody who is already taken?  God adopts those without parents, those who have nobody to call family, those who have no home, and no inheritance.

It is terrifying to come to a realisation of our true condition without Jesus. A child lost in a supermarket knows the infinite coldness of having your parent ripped away from you in an instant. Believing you will be like that forever with nobody to help you is a terrible place to be in.  Even though we only usually experience this for a brief moment and are restored to our parent, usually pretty soon, we never forget that feeling. Yet, as we come to a place spiritually where we realise that we are truly lost with no hope from another human being we can embrace the salvation of God, of His Son. Because it is at this point that the scales fall from our eyes and we will be ripe for the harvest of the Lord himself. 

This is why no priest, no pastor, no Christian, no religious person of any persuasion is ever going to be able to save you.  The place of salvation is the place of desertion of all hope.  We have to come to that recognition of our own lostness in the vastness of the universe with no help from anyone.  Then the God of the Lost will come to the one who cries out for the Great Shepherd and finds that His presence is immediate and help and salvation will come to those who seek it.

We are the lost.  We are truly the ones who are saved by Jesus alone, by faith alone. This is our identity.  We are the rejected of the world, the despised, the mocked, the misunderstood, the vile, the shunned.  Rejoice that we are ever thus, because when we are saved, we will still likewise be rejected by the world.  It was ever meant to be thus, and will continue to be thus until we receive our heavenly reward.  To be on the earth is to be lost, to be found out of our lostness, yet to be found in Him, in an invisible embrace which is complete, utterly safe, sound and totally protected.  There is no obvious difference in us to the rest of the world, yet again there is, if others have eyes to see it.

We are blessed and loved by God, accepted in the beloved, and cared for with compassion and tenderness.  It is this very compassion which compels God to save those who are lost, the lamb in the wilderness who is at the end of her strength.  We have no strength, no rightness, no intellect, no power, no nobility, no comeliness, no ability to be able to stand before God in our own self.  We have no identity in ourselves.  Our identity is that of a lost sheep, not that of the kings of the world.  Yet we give honour and glory to those who are the best, the brightest, the most popular, the most powerful and the greatest.  God is not moved by these ones. He is not impressed by human achievement.

If the God who made us, who gave us form, who watches over us and who seeks after us cannot define us, then who can?  Really…..who?  Ourselves?  That is a lie from the pit.

But don’t even look for your identity in a church or any group of Christians.  We are not saved by people and we are not sustained by people, we are comforted, clothed with righteousness and healed and sustained by the Holy Spirit and by Jesus Christ.  He is the God of the Lost, the God of the Found and we can say that with a full heart and a deep spiritual discernment of that truth. This is our glory.

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Plan ‘B’

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Living in chaos from earliest memory, it has been important to have a Plan B in place for all contingencies.  Some people have called this Defensive Pessimism, or more recently a Pre-mortem.  It involves examining all possibilities, usually negative ones and then working out what you will do if those possibilities become realities.  Like a postmortem you need to carefully look at what could happen – rather than what did happen – and work backwards.

The trouble with Plan B’s is that you are not living in reality you are living in possibility and worse, you are living in negative possibilities.  So if all you are seeing is the negative, you are not seeing the good stuff.  Moreover, you are not interpreting what happens from a godly perspective.

If God made you and put you here, and He did, then what happens to you is His concern, not yours.  Your concern is to respond to God, your creator.  If your response is gratitude, love and worship, coming from a heart which has been changed and cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ, then you are going to know God’s love to you in a much deeper way.  You are going to experience the peace and joy that comes from knowing and SEEING God work in your life.

This is actually the trouble that a lot of unsaved, or unbelievers, experience.  They say ‘If God loves me then why did he let this terrible thing happen to me’.  They don’t, and I hesitate to use this phrase, ‘feel the love’.  They don’t feel it, because they don’t know it.  Scripture tells us that God’s love abides in us and we know that because we have ‘love for the brethren’.  In other words, if you love God’s people, then the love of God is present in you.  If you don’t love God’s people, and that covers most unbelievers, then God’s love is not in you.  If God’s love is not in you, then you are not going to either see God the way He is, nor are you going to understand why God allows things to happen to you. Nor are you going to recognise that a lot of what happens to unbelievers is because they are walking in disobedience to and rebellion against God.  God does love unbelievers in the same way He always has.  But if you are not interested in God’s love and work actively against God and His people, then you had better watch out.  No.  God is not going to ‘get’ you.  But the principle or law of sowing and reaping is always active in the world.  God won’t get you, but the results of your own actions will. Also, God’s word tells us that vengeance belongs to Him.  If you attack him, and attacking His people is the same thing, then He will take vengeance. (Psalm 34:21)

It is interesting that many Christians will also ask this question or express the concern that they are not ‘feeling’ the love of God.  God helped me see the reason for this some time ago.  I had been getting more and more agitated that I didn’t feel loved by God. I wanted God to somehow show me that He loved me and was really looking for some kind of overwhelming tsunami of emotion to hit me to prove that I was being supernaturally loved.  What God showed me was that this is not love.  Human beings think love acts a certain way and they tend most of the time to think that it has something to do with feeling emotionally excited the same way they would if they had just ‘fallen in love’ with somebody.  In fact, this ‘falling in love’ thing is not love at all, it is a mixture of a lot of emotions, and a lot of the emotion is lust not love.  Genuine love is not an overwhelming feeling, or at least not most of the time, it is a steady, strong sense of an open heart full of affection, adoration (in the right sense), the desire to bless and edify, belonging and loyalty as well as a host of others.  It is almost impossible to describe genuine love in anything other than a very long complex description because it is an incredibly rich sense, and I would not call it an emotion, but a way of seeing somebody.

In God’s kingdom, His love is encapsulated in the fact that He gives His people the Spirit of Adoption which cries ‘Abba’, Father. This is the term Jesus himself used when addressing the Father just before His crucifixion.

36 And He said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.

Mark 14 NKJV

Paul also encouraged both the Galatians and the Romans by exhorting us to cry out to God the same way, to our Father in heaven, not just a name, but an actual, in fact the very first ever, creator and progenitor of children.

15 For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.”

Romans 8 NKJV

And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!”

Galatians 4 NKJV

He has made us His own.  That is a very special feeling.  It is the epitome of His love, the sense not just of belonging to God’s family but of being cared for.  If your father was a good man who loved you affectionately and openly, you can thank God for that.  You have a good inheritance to pass on to your children. If not, you can still thank God.  Psalm 27:10 tells us that when our mother and father forsake us, the Lord will take us up.  David, the writer of the psalm, knew what that meant.  His family forsook him, yet God anointed him as king of Israel when he was just a boy, and the youngest boy in the family at that.  The others saw him as just a shepherd boy, the least important and least vital member of the family.  But God made him king because he had a ‘heart after God’.

God showed me that I did indeed know the love of God. He asked me whether I loved Him.  When I examined my heart, I realised I did indeed love Him.  That, He said, was His love.  We can’t love God unless He has put a love for Him in our hearts first. And that genuinely is love, it has all the attributes of the love we have for the human beings we care deeply for and it also has a supernatural quality, but it’s not something I can describe, you have to experience it for yourself.

Some unbelievers at this point might say well if God is the one who puts the love in your heart then what’s the point?  It’s up to God isn’t it?  God tells us that He knows His own, and also that His people know His voice.  But in order to come to God, you still have a choice.  If you truly want to know God and want to know His love in your heart, all you have to do is come to Jesus.  Talk to Him!  Tell Him what is in the depths of your heart.  There is no sinner on the face of the earth that will be turned away by God if they truly come with an open heart and wish to do business with Him.  Only God can show you what is in your heart, and only God can cleanse you from what is in there.  If you know that your heart is filled with dirt and filth, and if you are honest you will know what kinds of dirt and filth you have been playing with all your life, then the blood of Jesus Christ can cleanse us from that filth so that we can come before God with clean hands and a pure heart.  Every true believer wants to have a pure heart.  Even David when he committed adultery with Bathsheba came before God with a repentant heart and cried out “Cast me not away from your presence O God, take not your Holy Spirit from me!”.  He had known the presence of God and His blessings.  But he also knew that, in the time before Christ, he had to come to God and make confession so that he could be made clean and the proper sacrifices made to cleanse him.  In the Old Testament, men laid their hands on the animal to be sacrificed to transfer their sin to the animal and the animal was then killed and its blood sprinkled on the altar.  God cleanses us today through the final sacrifice of His Son upon the altar of Gethsemane, and if we come to Him and recognise that He bore our sins that day on the cross, we will be cleansed, made whole, made clean and made acceptable to God.

God sent Jesus because He so loved the world that He was willing to die for us.

We don’t need any more proof of God’s love than this, and it is this single most important event in the history of Humankind that will determine whether we will know God’s love within our own heart.  We Christians can tell you that God loves you til we are blue in the face, but you won’t know that love in your heart until you are first made clean by God himself and then filled with His love and His Spirit.

If you want to make that choice, all you need to do is understand and accept the final sacrifice of Jesus, the Lamb of God and ask Him to cleanse you from your unworthiness.

We are all unworthy before God.  There is none good, not one.  We have all sinned and fallen from the perfection God meant every human being to have.  There is no need for me to be making Plan B’s.  God doesn’t need a Plan B.  His Plan A, Jesus Christ, is the only provision I need.  It is only my flesh, my old nature, the nature I was born with that pushes me to anxiously analyse and plan.  It is not peace and joy, it is torment and agitation. This is not God’s plan for me or for anyone.

 

 

 

 

Lining Up Your Ducks

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We have spent a great deal of time examining our past and dealing with what we found there.

But what we have discovered in doing so is that it ‘distracts from the now’ to quote Edna Mode.

 

I  have always wondered what that even meant.

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This is New Year’s Day.  Hooray.  Where we live there wasn’t a great deal of celebration last night, it was unusually quiet.  I mean, its quiet around here anyway, its why we live here, but it was eerily quiet.  People were probably out ‘living in the moment’ somewhere else, getting drunk and enjoying the holidays.  Not that those two are necessarily synonymous.

We like to get our ducks lined up regarding, well – everything actually.  We are inveterate duck herders.  If we have all the facts straight and all the lines organised we can proceed.  But what are we proceeding with and to?

I was thinking that, since we are now into a new year that I should say something profound. Ironically, the same thought occurred to me exactly ten years ago.  Here is an excerpt from a blog post I wrote back then. The blog was entitled ‘The Introvert Myth’ and was a foray into pop psychology which appealed to me back then.  Interestingly, whilst looking back ‘detracts from the now’ , it also highlights how far you have come.  I present exhibit ‘A’….

 

I have been trying to think of something profound to say to start off The New Year.

Nothing…….zip……..a blank.

I fear my normally reliable level of profundity has been affected by the packing frenzy we are currently in the middle of. We will be moving house shortly.

Actually, its more a sort of a packing hiatus at the moment. Its only a frenzy when my husband is home. He is a Packer extraordinaire. No relation to Packer the media magnate I hasten to add. No, I refer to his preternatural ability to fit small irregular shapes into large regular ones. Examples of this are….groceries into a trolley, or groceries into kitchen cupboards, builder’s paraphernalia into a builder’s Ute, household articles into packing cases. He can wrap pack and load more boxes in an hour than I can in a week. After roughly twenty years of marriage and nearly as many moves I have learned to leave him to his own excellent devices. I go and clean things while he packs. It seems an uneven workload but trying to help him or even match his pace would be like trying to make a bed in the middle of a tornado; not only completely redundant but possible lethal. I focus instead on working alongside him, the paramedic to his Jaws of Life.

What is profound anyway?

To be labelled ‘Profound’ to my mind, something should articulate the mysteries of our existence in ways which had previously not been thought of. Profound is supposed to be the opposite of trite, yet surprisingly, profound statements are often so stunningly simple we marvel that we didn’t think of them ourselves. Surprisingly too, Great Men or Professional Thinkers do not often produce profundities. Often they come from the mouths of the temporarily enlightened, or even very small children. Four year olds are the great observers of human nature and could teach a few psychologists of my acquaintance a thing or two about the bleeding obvious. “The Emperor is naked” is a very profound statement. Not because it is a sign of genius, but because it is the sign of somebody whose moral compass is not aligned to the ‘moral majority’. Not that a four year old is necessarily conscious of a majority of anything except his bad self. It explains the moxie they perpetually exhibit. But I am shooting myself in the foot here. The child who spoke those immortal words was purely verbalising what all around him thought. “A word spoken in season is like apples of gold in settings of silver” says the book of Proverbs. Profundity is like that. Profundity is truth plus timing.

Here is some divine profundity.

14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

1 Corinthians 2:14 NKJV

We proceed forward with Christ and towards Christ.  Though the things of the past have stayed with us in one form or another, but we press on towards the high calling, and to the finish line which is up ahead. When we left lawlessness we were ourselves lawless yet had no real understanding of it.  Now, we look back, see the rebellion and the self clinging to what comforted us despite the difficult circumstances.  God had mercy on us and did not save us from the battle and the tribulation but saved us from ourselves and the wounds of evil.

This world is slowly moving towards its close.  Many will think that I am crazy for saying this, but it is.  Most discerning Christians, and this includes those from all walks of life and ethnicity, are aware that we are in ‘the last days’.  Not all who identify as Christian believe this and many preachers actively promote the opposite.  Regardless of who says what,  soon we will be facing a unified world with a leader who will appeal to every form of religious and ethnic background and who will be powerful both in natural and supernatural ways.  He will be the messiah that Christians look to, the Maitreya that the Theosophists seek, the Muslim Mahdi, the Buddha, the deliverer and wise sage of every age and religion and belief. But he will not be Christ, he will be the antichrist.  Nobody will believe that of course because they will have departed from the truth and will be given over to a strong delusion.

More profundity.

7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. 8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. 9 The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders,10 and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

2 Thessalonians 2:10-13 NKJV

The difference for Christians is that the Bible gives specific and explicit instructions, not just in the book of Revelation, but the book of Daniel and Ezekiel and in places where Jesus, Paul and others spoke.  Jesus will return, but it will not be to save the world, He has already done that.  He will return in judgement. He also said that many will say ‘look, here is Jesus’ but not to believe them.  Some years back a hippie wanna-be messiah turned up in Queensland.  A.J. Miller, a former Jehovah’s Witness elder and computer programmer  claims to be Jesus reincarnated, and many of his followers totally believe it to be true.  He now has a Youtube channel and website ‘Divine Truth’ in which he offers his opinion regarding just about everything and offers counseling in the form of ‘assistance groups’. He also has a large donation page.  It is truly amazing what people will believe.  Remember though, Jesus fakes like this are not just nutters with the ability to manipulate, they are truly demon possessed.

The difficulties in the world are already proof.  The bible calls them ‘birth pangs’. (Romans 8).  The world is experiencing horrors the like of which they have not seen before.  The horrors of the Tribulation period, the seven year period which will occur after the Rapture of the Believers, will make the current circumstances look like a Sunday School picnic. Once the Holy Spirit is removed from the world, the real end begins.

We have an opportunity to make this New Year truly new.  Right now, the sufferings for westerners living in sufficiency are nominal.  We have what has been sarcastically called ‘first world problems’.  This will not stay like that for long.

Knowledge has increased.  The bible predicted that in the book of Daniel (12:4).  The internet is a great source of information.  It is also a great source of surveillance by the forces that run the world, and I am not talking about the governments, although they are of course making the most of it.  Our Iphones are being used against us in all sorts of ways.  And while this may seem more than a little paranoic, rest assured that the information is all there, all you have to do is look.  Google it. Yes, it is ironic. Look up Google Deep Mind. Or… what about Google’s involvement with Ancestry.com.  All the information you give about your family now belongs to somebody else to use as they want for whatever nefarious reason.

We are being brainwashed by the media, by the internet, by everything we read and hear and by those who repeat the mantras they are fed.  “You are just a conspiracy theorist”.  That phrase was coined by none other than the CIA with regard to those who wouldn’t accept the official explanation of the Kennedy assassination.  50 or so years later, there are more people than ever before who don’t buy the official explanation of anything, let alone the murder of a president.  911 was an inside job.  Sounds crazy, but NONE of the official story makes any sense and there is a massive groundswell of expert analysis to prove it.  We have been so brainwashed into accepting the official story that we dare not, in fact don’t want to, question it.  When the world is going mad, it pays to have somebody in charge who knows what’s going on and can keep you safe.  The problem is that the people in charge know what’s going on because they are in charge of what’s going on.  They are lying to us because they will benefit from lying to us and keeping us asleep.  The ‘Matrix’ wasn’t just a movie, it was a playbook.

I am not saying anything profound here.  Nor is this anything new.  The corrupt powerful oppressing the impoverished (both mind and body) masses has been the way of the world since the world began.  Nobody has any issue with  Roman emperors acting like nincompoops, but they won’t buy that an American President would, or even an Australian Prime Minister.  We say we don’t trust our politicians and laugh it off. But if you try and tell them that they really are working against us, people don’t want to hear it.  It’s too scary, its too real, its too much like forcing us out of our comfort zones.

So, not good news for the New Year.  But then, the gospel isn’t called the good news for nothing.  We won’t hear good news from the world but we will hear it from God.

It is ironic enough that New Year is one week after Christmas.  That the celebration of Christ’s birth (so called) is just before the old New Year’s resolution tradition, the idea of making the new year, a clean break from the old ugliness we have lived with that we know is not good for us.  Christ came to set us free from the ugliness of our flesh, of the natural human condition.  But we ignore that.  It’s too much like having to actually change, and that is far too difficult to cope with.

My brother-in-law committed suicide 29 years ago today.  Steve came home about two weeks earlier because God had told him to go home to Christchurch.  He had been with his brother Kieran and told him about Jesus.  Kieran said ‘Well, its great that you found what you are looking for’.  Clearly it didn’t have an impact on him.  His mind was already made up at that point.  Then he waited until everyone had gone to Nelson to celebrate the New Year and fixed his car exhaust to fill the car, turned on the engine and died.

What I hate the most about this time of year is that churches go on hiatus at a time when they should be keeping their doors open to people like Kieran.  He might not have gone through the doors, but he might have.  At the very least there needs to be the recognition that Christmas and New Year are NOT the happy happy joy joy times that we have been brainwashed (there’s that word again) into believing they are.  We no longer celebrate Christmas.  It is in fact traditionally the time of the birth of the god Tammuz in Babylonian culture.  In fact the Bible talks about this guy as well.  He was worshiped by the Israelites when they were captive in Babylon, and his worship is an abomination to God.  Yet Tammuz’ birthday was slated as the 25th December.  His mother was called ‘the Queen of Heaven’, the very name that the Catholics give to Mary.  I could go on, but we just don’t do the whole Christmas thing anymore and not just for that reason.  Its funny though, we have had a lot of conversations with strangers at supermarket checkouts when asked ‘what we are doing for Christmas’.  We sometimes say ‘we don’t do Christmas’, and it is amazing how many people say with real energy ‘yeah, I wish we didn’t have to do Christmas’.  People are becoming more and more aware how much of a drag it is, and how little it actually has to do with genuine joy, love and peace on earth and goodwill to men.  Those words were spoken about Jesus. Not Santa.

He is our joy, our peace and our salvation.  God’s mercy towards men was the goodwill that the angel talked about.   He continually offers it to us, and along with it, the new life, the eternal life and the peace with God that is ours not just for the New Year but for all of our existence, which is eternal.

It is deeply and truly profound.  God is our very present help in trouble, and this year will be no exception.  Life is going to get more difficult and troubling, but God has offered a light in the darkness.  It is up to us whether we take it.  I don’t know whether Kieran did or not.  He was offered the opportunity and given the good news.  I pray that everyone reading this will likewise not miss the opportunity to find peace and salvation through the blood and name of Jesus Christ.

If, like us, you get a real kick out of having all your ducks lined up, this post will help you get a good headstart for the new year.

 

 

Wake In Fright

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Thank God for Nightmares.

We have all had them. They come in different forms, with different subjects, but the common experience with nightmares is the shock, horror and fear that propels us to wake in fright, heart pounding. It usually takes us a few minutes to realise it was all a dream, a nightmare, and sometimes you need to actually get out of bed, walk around, make yourself a drink, sit and wake up properly before your brain gets a clue.

I don’t know how people without Jesus handle nightmares. All my children used to do is call out and either Steve and myself would run to them, pray over them and comfort them and they would go back to sleep. Sometimes it would take some time, but they would go back to sleep. If either Steve or myself woke up after a nightmare, we would pray for each other and the fear would go and peace would take over.

One night last year I was half asleep and suddenly woke up properly and the whole room was dark, as though there had been a blackout. But it wasn’t just dark, it was black, there was a presence in the room. The house we were in had had all kinds of weird anomalies and we were convinced that people who had rented the place previously were either witches or satanists. Doorways had appeared and disappeared, objects disappeared and reappeared practically before our eyes, we had plagues of fleas and ants and spiders, we had dog attacks, our cat died, people suddenly becoming loud and aggressive just as they walked past our house and then going back to normal once they were past, neighbours becoming hostile and aggressive and so many other things. We were convinced our neighbour was a witch, she was a deeply disturbed woman and her little boy used to laugh and cry hysterically when he went out to play. There were all sorts of strange things going on and we spent most of our time praying in tongues and just trying to get through the day. Of course we didn’t stay there, but it was the worst house we had ever been in.

But back to the ‘nightmare’, in the half-dream, half-waking experience I had, I could not move, but I could turn my head to see if Steve was awake, and I called out his name. Then I woke up properly and realised the presence had gone and the light in the bedroom was normal. It was horrible, and I will never forget it. Nightmares are the kinds of things we remember vividly, and some people are plagued with them frequently. To those ones I would counsel, call out to Jesus Christ, ask Him to save you, He is our Saviour and our protector against the darkness and our mortal enemy, Satan. You need to be born again and Jesus came to earth as a human being, indwelt by God, ‘The Word’ (see the gospel of John first chapter) in order to bear our sin, to become our sin, so that he may be sacrificed on our behalf so that we don’t have to bear the punishment of our sin. If you have not asked Jesus to save you and asked him to forgive you of your sin that sent him to the cross, you will not be received by God the father in heaven when you die. And it is this subject that I want to discuss.

Nightmares, no matter how bad they are, are simply a means that God uses to tell us that we have hope. Waking up from a nightmare has to be among one of life’s worst moments. If you have really really bad nightmares you know the horror and trauma that assails you while you are in them. But you have the blessed moment when you wake and realise it was not real, it was a dream. Fair enough, some people are still affected by the emotional torment of those nightmares, and some people simply can’t sleep because of them. But those people, in their waking moments still have hope. They can still go to Jesus and ask Him to heal them, to give them peace, to deliver them from the demons of their past and their inner minds. And He does, and He will.

We have hope.

Until we are on our deathbeds.

I am going to upload a video of the testimony of a woman who used to be a close friend of the satanist Anton Le Vey, the architect of America’s first Church of Satan. You can read about his life and career online, he was a pretty ugly character. He kept company with people like L. Ron Hubbard, also a satanist. Le Vey is reported to have ‘seen the light’ whilst on his deathbed. According to the woman in this video, satanists apparently revere death and consider it a great victory. What happened to Anton Le Vey apparently was not what he was expecting. He realised, to his great horror, that the nightmare was only just beginning and that he was not going to ever wake up from it. This is what hell is. Imagine your worst nightmare, and never being able to wake up from it. The horror, the pain and the trauma never ends, and there is no escape. Ever. For eternity.

It would take too long to list all the scriptural passages that refer to hell. I will include a fairly comprehensive article which will do that instead. To read more on what the bible says about hell go here.

The one verse which has always struck me as the most instructive is from Matthew 10:28.

27 “Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops. 28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. 30 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Matthew 10 NKJV

Even when Jesus is telling us about hell and God’s judgement, he is immediately afterwards giving us reassurance that we are valuable to him. He is giving us comfort in the midst of our fear, although it is fear of man that he is warning us against. It is better to fear God Jesus says, because God’s judgement is final and the wages of sin is eternal death.

This is why nightmares are such a vivid illustration of what awaits the unrepentant sinner, the one who ignores God’s grace. Today is the day of salvation.

Next time you have a nightmare, remember that. Remember that Jesus has given us today, the morning, the light, in which we can know the truth, and repent and be saved from eternal nightmares without end and with no escape.

Any unsaved person reading this will immediately try and dismiss this. Many so called Christians will also say that a loving God would not condemn anyone to hell, but Scripture is very clear on this subject. Just because you don’t like it doesn’t make it false. But God IS loving. He IS merciful, which is why He has provided a way of escape. His escape is now, while you are alive. We sometimes wonder why the very worst sinners, the mass murderers or the genocidal maniacs end up living such long lives. It is because their judgement awaits them at the end of their lives, and God is merciful to all. The rain falls on the just and the unjust, his mercy is fair and equitable to all, everyone, no matter how terrible their sin is able to be forgiven and will find a place in heaven with God. But make no mistake, a person who does not accept the salvation found in Christ will not find a place in heaven.

Our repentance needs to be true. Jesus said many will come to Him in that day, the day of the Lord (judgement day) and say ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we do this in your name, didn’t we do that in your name’, and God will say ‘depart from me I never knew you’. (Matthew 7:3) We can’t kid God. You can’t say “well, I believe” and then go on with your life as though your life is still your own. God requires not just faith, but our whole life.

25 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.

Matthew 16:25 NKJV

 

Yet, as we give Him our lives, He gives us – in exchange – His life. Who wouldn’t rather have eternal life, the life of Christ himself than our own miserable and petty lives filled with fear and hatred and anger. We have nothing to offer God, yet He gladly receives what we have. Like the widow with two mites who gave everything she had.  (Mark 12: 41-44). Jesus told his disciples that her gift was greater than a wealthy man’s gift because she gave everything. Always in the Kingdom of God, it is the humble offering of ourselves, as little as we are, that impresses and pleases God. When Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5) tried to pretend they were like the widow and gave ‘everything they had’ after selling some real estate, they were struck dead by God for lying. They could have just given what they wanted to give and kept the rest and not lied about it. Nobody was forcing them to give anything, but they wanted others to believe that they were humble and righteous, and it was this ugly and self-loving deception which caused their deaths.

So next time you wake in fright, and then feel the wave of relief when you realise that it was just a dream, remember that while it is still day you have the opportunity to make that relief an eternal reality. You will never have to face eternal torment and death if you make the decision now to accept the salvation and love that Jesus offers us.

God bless you now and forever more.

 

 

Further reading on this blog:  ‘Hell, Who Goes There‘.

 

My Faith Journey – Anita’s New Beginning

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I was 13 years old and in the second year of High School. A girl I had met in Art class asked me if I would like to go to a holiday camp with her during our Autumn break. I HATED camps. I had no idea why, but I wanted to go on this one. Those two weeks in May literally changed my life.

We had to travel to Christmas Creek in the Lamington Plateau on the Queensland border. On the bus there was a group of girls who were mucking around and having fun. But they didn’t seem like the usual types of girls I had known at school. They were kind and joyful and there was something else. They didn’t do the usual teenage thing with strangers.  They didn’t dismiss you with their self-absorption. There was an unspoken acceptance in their faces, there was a glimpse of something preternatural, yet completely compelling. A doorway to heaven opened that day. Light streamed through that opening and hit my deepest soul and I felt as though I had come home.

There were about 7 or 8 other girls in our cabin. The first day they were all lively and chattering together as well as asking me questions out of genuine interest. I wouldn’t even tell them my name. I just told them I was ‘Shelley’s friend’. They were confused but they didn’t badger me. When I was ill, the camp leaders showed compassion and concern and gave me advice and comfort. I was so unfamiliar with this that I didn’t really know what to do with it. Even Bible studies, which were a mystery to me, were fun with these people. They were not trying to play one person off against another, they weren’t trying to embarrass anybody who didn’t know the answers, there was absolutely no sarcasm.

I was totally engaged. And for a kid who had grown up feeling totally isolated, this was a huge change. Something was going on. I had no time to think about it, all I knew was that the two weeks flew by.

Later, when Shelley asked if I wanted to pray and ask Jesus into my heart, I knew I wanted what these girls had. I needed some time to feel ready to do what I needed to do, but one night in the second week of the camp, Shelley and I had agreed we would pray together and I would ask Jesus to come and be my Saviour and Lord. We had planned to get up in the middle of the night and pray together.  Why then? It made it more exciting I suppose. We were teenagers.  What can I say?  Except Shelley refused to wake up. I didn’t want to wake up the others in the cabin, so I simply prayed my own prayer and tried to remember the words that Shelley had used. I knew what I was praying, even if I didn’t have a full grasp of everything that it involved. Jesus became the central point around which my life revolved.

Those two weeks introduced me to the body of Christ and the joy of living that we were meant to have as God’s own children. When they told me I had to share my faith with my family my heart fell. Nobody talked about religion at home except for my oldest sister who had been immersed in the religious teachings of a cult leader in America. There was constant friction every time the subject of God came up. Nobody wanted another religious convert in the family.  I hardly knew what to say to them.

All I know is that I tried to explain what had happened to me.  I remember crying when my mother made it clear she wanted nothing to do with it.  It was a hard thing for a 13-year-old to face but it didn’t change my faith.  I had signed up for a free mail-out of Scripture Union booklets with a year’s worth of bible readings and commentary.  They were called ‘Daily Bread’.  Many Christians have used those resources over the years, but for me, they were an oasis in the desert.  I think it was what kept me going during that time.  I wasn’t able to get to church except on the odd occasion somebody was willing to drive me there.

Strangely, Shelley fell away.  The last time I talked to her was just after I got married.  I phoned her up, and she wanted nothing to do with me.  No explanation, just angry denunciations and demands that I go and relate to my church friends.  We had spent many years after we left school just going to the movies or having coffee together. I will never know what happened to her, but I get a sense she just got too involved in the world and left her former faith behind as though it was a piece of clothing that no longer fitted. Contacting her probably just reminded her of who she had been and it was too much for her to cope with.  My prayer is that she finds her way back before it’s too late.

I was baptised when I was 19, but not after having faced months of panic attacks and the recognition that I needed more than just bible studies to thrive as a Christian. But that is another story.