Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Full Nests and Empty Nests

Today my son and his fiancĂ©e had a telephone call from the real estate agent.   Last week they inspected and applied for a flat and today they were notified that their application has been successful.   The news is very exciting and I really am happy for them, but at the same time, its has finally hit me that my last baby bird is about to fly the nest.  I knew this was going to happen soon because he is marrying his sweetheart in less than two months time but reality has hit home.

Today I was walking and I noticed all the magpies around.  It wont be long until these black and white birds are nesting and then as they do their best to protect their nests, they swoop at animals and people passing by.  When they swoop, they start of flapping their wings but the worst part is when the wings fall silent and you hear them clacking their beaks as they get closer to you.  Can you tell I have a fear of being attacked  by a magpie?  Hehehehe

The swooping season for magpies isn't really long...only a couple of months and they are only doing it to protect their nests, eggs and young.  Before long, the baby magpies will leave their nests and the mother birds prepare for the next season of their lives.  I wonder if they get a bit sad about their babies leaving or its just part of nature?    

The writer of Ecclesiastes 3:1 says there is a time for every purpose under heaven.   When  baby birds grow up enough to fly the nest, its always the right time.  I really do believe that my baby bird flying the nest is at the right time too.   God has also made some promises and one is in Jeremiah 39:11 where He says "for I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."  So in the midst of my mother bird sadness, I realise this is merely the stepping stone next stage in my life as well.   I know God has more for my life than looking at my empty nest and I know he will show me his plans when the time is right and when my mind is in the right place to receive them.

It seems Mother Magpie and I have more in common than at first glance.  However, I hope that I don't swoop and clack at any passers by.  However, if I do, please forgive me as I am just in transition from a full nest to an empty one.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Gay Debate

I recently came across this video by a fellow named Matthew Vines.   In his message, he debunks every Biblical argument against being gay.  It's kinda long at just over an hour but its well worth watching. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Tenets of Unfundamentalist Christians

I came across a "What We Believe" post by Unfundamentalist Christians  on Facebook. There is a teen version which follows the original version.  Both were written by John Shore.  I post them here because they sum up, more eloquently than I, my beliefs.

  1. Jesus Christ was God incarnate. He performed miracles; as a means of providing for the irrevocable reconciliation of humankind to God he sacrificed himself on the cross; he rose from the dead; he left behind for the benefit of all people the totality of himself in the form of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
  2. Christ and Christianity are meant to be understood, appreciated, and experienced as galvanizing inspirations for living a life of love, compassion, fairness, peace, and humility. Period.
  3. The Bible is a collection of a great many separate documents written by different people in different languages over thousands of years. Properly understanding both the letter and spirit of the Bible necessarily entails taking into account the historical and cultural contexts that so greatly inform so much of its text. The size, density, history and complexity of the Bible render unfeasible the idea that not one of its words reflects more man’s will than God’s. The spirit of God is inerrant; people—even those impassioned by the conviction that God is speaking directly to or through them—are not.
  4. Anyone seeking to mix church and state has failed to understand the nature and proper role of either. Belief that all people are created equal and are deserving of equal protection under the law is foundational to all modern democratic nations. To incorporate the inherently exclusionary imperatives of a particular religion into the determinedly inclusive system of democracy would be to undermine the very spirit of democracy by pushing it toward a theocracy.
  5. It’s not possible to read Paul’s New Testament writings and remain unmoved by his open heart, intellectual prowess, and staggering bravery. And yet Paul (who, after all, spent years zealously persecuting and having executed untold numbers of Christians) must remain to us a mortal man. More than reasonable, it is incumbent upon those who claim to seek the deepest knowledge of Christ to subject the words of Paul to the same kinds of objective analysis we would the words of any man daring to describe the qualities, purposes, and desires of God.
  6. With regards to the written identity of God, the pronoun “he” is a necessity of the English language, not an actual anatomical designation. God is neither male nor female; God contains all of both.
  7. The Biblical scholarship supporting the idea that Paul never wrote a word proscribing natural homosexuality is at least as credible and persuasive as the scholarship (if not typical Bible translations) claiming that he did. Any person who uses the words of Paul in the New Testament to “prove” that homosexuality is a sin against God has either never themselves researched the matter, or has simply chosen to believe one set of proofs over another. Though laziness is easily enough understood, we remain mystified as to why anyone who purports to follow Jesus would choose to condemn an entire population over choosing to obey Jesus’ self-proclaimed Greatest Commandment to love one’s neighbor as one loves oneself.
  8. It is much more reasonable—and certainly more compassionate—to hold that throughout history God chose to introduce himself in different ways into different cultural streams than it is to believe that there is only one correct way to understand and worship God, and that the punishment for anyone who chooses any but that way is to spend all of eternity having the living flesh seared off of his or her bones.
  9. “No one comes to the Father except through me” does not mean that in the afterlife only Christians can get into heaven. It means that Jesus/God decides who does and doesn’t make it in.
  10. The question of whether or not hell is real is properly subsumed by the truth that a moment spent worrying if you’ll be with God in the afterlife is an opportunity missed to be with God in this life.
  11. God’s will and intention is to forgive and teach us, not to judge and punish us.
  12. The only person who should be actively endeavoring to convert non-Christians into Christians is God. Jesus does not need our help drawing people towards him. He does need, or could certainly use, our help in making sure that people know that they are, just as they are, loved.
  13. Getting a divorce is painful, and if at all possible should certainly be avoided. But ultimately the act in and of itself is not immoral.
  14. God does not want any woman “submitting” to anyone.
  15. There were no dinosaurs on Noah’s ark; Jesus didn’t have a pet stegosaurus. An all-powerful God and the theory of evolution are not incompatible.
  16. The single most telling indicator of a person’s moral character has nothing to do with how they define or worship God, and everything to do with how they treat others.
© John Shore, 2010
And here (by request), is a teen version of this document:
Here’s what we Unfundamentalist Christians think:
  1. Jesus Christ was, and is, absolutely real. He performed miracles (duh: he was God); he sacrificed himself on the cross so that everyone could be forever reconciled with God; he rose from the dead; he left behind, for everyone, the Holy Spirit.
  2. Christianity is supposed to be all about living a life of love, compassion, fairness, peace, and humility. That’s it.
  3. The Bible isn’t just one thing. It’s a bunch of writings done by a ton of different people over about a zillion years. It’s poems, songs, history, allegories … the whole thing is just crazy dense. To really get whatever you’re reading in the Bible, you have to know something about whatever time and culture that part of it was written in. Also, the people who wrote the stuff that eventually made it into the Bible were just people. Through the Holy Spirit, God was definitely working through them as they wrote. But it only stands to reason that not every single word that made it into the Bible is exactly what God would have texted, or whatever. People who make the actual words of whatever translation of the Bible they’re looking at more important than the message of the Bible are totally missing the point.
  4. Church and state should be separate. Fair is fair.
  5. Paul rocks, no doubt. He’s the best. But it’s Christianity, not Paulianity.
  6. God’s not male or female. He’s both. He’s all. People who have to have God be a “he” need to let it go.
  7. The only way to think being gay is a sin is to never actually know any gay people.
  8. No one religion contains all of God.
  9. Where in “No one comes to the Father except through me,” does it say you have to be a Christian in order to get into heaven?
  10. If you’re worried too much about the afterlife, you’re not worried enough about this life. Living a life of love means not having to worry about hell.
  11. God wants to forgive and teach us, not judge and punish us.
  12. God can handle converting people. Our job is to love people.
  13. Divorce completely sucks. But the idea that God wants anyone to continue suffering in a hopeless, damaging marriage is ridiculous.
  14. God doesn’t want women “submitting” to anyone.
  15. Evolution being true doesn’t mean there’s no God. The two aren’t incompatible.
  16. What really matters most about a person isn’t how they define God. It’s how well they treat others.
© John Shore, 2010

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Marriage Equality Rally

This weekend  I attended my first ever marriage equality rally.   The rally was held on the 8th anniversary of the Australian Federal Government, (with lots of happy backing from the opposition party) adding a definition of Marriage within the Marriage Act 1961 (Australia) which reads  “Marriage, means the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life."

The definition was added to the Marriage Act to safeguard against Australia adopting same sex marriage because it was being debated in other western countries.  Back in 2004, same sex marriage wasn't high on the public conscience and wasn't really thought of as a civil or human right as only a very small minority of Australian citizens were identified as GBLTI.

I've stated several times that I would love to see the definition changed to read "Marriage, means the union of two consenting adults, to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life"  

I wanted to walk my talk and was a bit nervous as I knew no one at the rally.  About 300 were in attendance which was great as the weather was atrocious. (It was cold, wet and the wind was blowing a gale)  We are also in a regional city whereas the major cities had thousands in attendance.

I stood at the back of the room while were were inside and held my little sign. I was bit nervous and asked one of the fellows is that was the place for sign holders as I was feeling self conscious sitting in the row with my little poster.

 He warmly welcomed me and said "Jesus would be proud of me"  I replied, "If this rally was held in Jerusalem in Jesus' time, he would be there".  No one said a negative word about any other person at the rally.  It as a really uplifting and encouraging meeting and I was glad to be part of it.

After lots of speeches we went outside for the group march.  We marched up the main road to the sounds of cheers and car horns beeping in support.  On the walk we chanted "Gay, Straight, Left, Right, Marriage is a civil right", "Two Four Six Eight, don't assume your kids are straight","Hey Ho, Hey Ho, Homophobia's got to go!"  and of course "What do we want?  Marriage Equality!  When do we want it? Now!"  We stopped in front of Customs House, a local landmark, for more rallying cheers and photographs.   People happily chatted and caught up with their friends after the official part of the rally was over.  Everyone was smiling and the camaraderie was palpable.

I had so many positive comments about my sign and I felt warmly welcomed by all at the rally.  I wondered if the shoe was on the other foot...if an openly gay person came to my church would they be as welcomed?  Maybe but then would they be accepted for themselves or expected to conform?.  No one tried to tell me my faith was wrong but would an openly gay person in church get the same respect?  A good question.

I posted the photos of the rally to Facebook and My gay friends made a fuss about me being there but very few Christians commented or even clicked 'like' on any of the photographs.   I can understand that some may be afraid what their friends would think if they 'liked' my pictures but for the mature Christians I can't accept that reason.  I am guessing their stony silence speaks volumes for them.

I am really glad I went to the rally.  I made my stand and my presence there may have softened some hearts.  I have sent messages on the Rally's Facebook Page thanking everyone for welcoming me and I also thanked the organisers.  Amongst all the photos was a picture of me with my sign with a positive comment posted underneath and lots of 'likes'.

Jesus said that we should treat others as we would like them to treat us.  If positions were reversed and my marriage was made invalid because I am a Christian, then I would hope that others would stand up for me.  

I am humbled and honoured to have been a part of God's plan to show love to all people.   I read a quote the other day "I'd rather go over the line and be too radical in showing God's grace and love to others than not radical enough." by Jon Klinepeter.

That quote sums it up.

God sees our hearts but others see our actions. When our actions line up with our hearts, the world will see who we really are. When our actions and our hearts line up with Gods heart, then the world will see God. May all of us have hearts that line up so closely with Gods heart, so much so, that the world may see Him, and in seeing Him, know their true worth in his sight.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

I love old movies

I love old movies.  I especially love old musicals.  When my boys were little, they would scour television guides and find films they thought I would love.  Their criteria was if the movie was so old that it was in black and white, mum would really enjoy it.  One day, my eldest came to me and said "Mum, you would love this movie.  Its so old all the actors are dead now!" 

The other day I was watching "Singing In The Rain" on television.  I have seen this film so many times I could almost quote the lines.  I knew all the songs off by heart and was singing along.  About two thirds the way through the film, there was a scene where Gene Kelly sang "Gotta Dance" and he tapped danced until Cyd Charisse came along and they dance together in grace filled ballet where she was supposed to be a bride with a long train.  I was mesmerised, not just because of the beauty of the dance but because I had forgotten all about this scene.  

How could I forget about a scene in a film I had watched more than a dozen times?  I was a little shocked about it and wondered why.  The ballet was at odds with the rest of the film with singing and tap dancing, so it should have stood out in my memory.  

I spent some time thinking about it and I came to this conclusion: Sometimes, we get so caught up in things that we are used to and when a situation arises which is at odds with what we expect or know, we can dismiss it or reject it outright.

In particular, Christians like and accept things that sit well with us but if we hear teachings that challenge us, we reject them as wrong and maybe even heresy.  

I spoke with my minister about this as I was struggling with a message I had heard.  He simply said sermons or homilies as he called them, are not meant to make us comfortable but to make us think.  I didn't go away happy because I wanted him to tell me I was right in my opinions. 

He didn't say as much but meant when we hear a message we should think about it, research, read the bible, pray, talk to each other and see whether our thinking should be challenged or confirmed.

You wouldn't go to a cafeteria and expect everything to be pre-chewed by the chef, so why should we expect the same from our ministers and pastors?  As church goers, do we spend that time in prayer and listening to the spirit within us or do we want everything spelt out for us and told how to think?   Does that mean we shouldn't trust our teachers?  No!  God has placed those teachers before us  to lead us and feed us.  However, we shouldn't rely on them to  pre-chew our food.

This week, if someone says something that we feel is wrong doesn't sit right with us, we should take what they say and really decide whether we agree or disagree instead of parroting words we have heard from the pulpit.  There is nothing wrong in saying,"I'm not sure if I agree with you on this.  You've challenged me and I'd like to think about it and then come back and talk to you about it."  Yes, its scary but we are allowed to think for ourselves.  We should never give up the right to think for ourselves.

The dance we perform might not be as graceful as Cyd Charisse and Gene Kelly with long flowing trains, and we may wobble and fall over but it will be memorable and authentic and our dance, the one God has choreographed for us.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Who is qualified in Gods sight?

In my Anglican Church each week, we have four Bible readings.  I write down whatever jumps out at me from each reading, usually a strong sentence or two from the sermon and then see what happens from there... I will start by giving you the reading and then in italics the passage, verse or message that jumps out at me.

The readings for today:-

2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10
 And he (David) became more and more powerful, because the Lord God Almighty was with him. Vs 10

Psalm 148
Let them praise the name of the Lord,  for his name alone is exalted  Vs 13

2 Corinthians 12:2-10
  “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness Vs 9
Mark 6:1-13 
They(the disciples) preached with joyful urgency that life can be radically different; right and left they sent the demons packing; they brought wellness to the sick, anointing their bodies, healing their spirits. Vs 13

The Pharisees & the people disqualified Jesus as a teacher but God qualified him.
The church loves to disqualify people but God qualifies them because of Jesus' qualification.

He who is set free is free indeed. (So if the Son sets you free, you are free through and through) John 8:36
Jesus shed his blood, he took our transgressions, our sins, our misdeeds and our failings onto himself of the cross.  He gave it all up for us.  He took our yuckiness and in turn gave us his righteousness and qualification.

Who is qualified? Those who are righteous and forgiven and those who are loved. 

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.  
John 3:16,17

God qualifies those who He loves and brings those to His heart.

And the most amazing thing: Even when people don't want to know Him, God still blesses them.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Jesus' Unexpected Presence

In my Anglican Church each week, we have four Bible readings.  I write down whatever jumps out at me from each reading, usually a strong sentence or two from the sermon and then see what happens from there... I will start by giving you the reading and then in italics the passage, verse or message that jumps out at me.

The readings for today:-
Vs 3:  With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all  (NIV)

Vs 3:  It's like the dew on Mount Hermon flowing down the slopes of Zion.
   Yes, that's where God commands the blessing, ordains eternal life.(TM)

Vs4: We want you to enjoy this, too. Your joy will double our joy! (TM)

Vs 3 & 4: I write this, dear children, to guide you out of sin. But if anyone does sin, we have a Priest-Friend in the presence of the Father: Jesus Christ, righteous Jesus. When he served as a sacrifice for our sins, he solved the sin problem for good—not only ours, but the whole world's.  (TM)

Vs 31: But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (NIV) 

Jesus Christ Superstar, Are you who you say you are?
Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ, Who are you what have you sacrificed?

The disciples were scared.  They locked themselves away with each other.  It wasn't until Jesus appeared amongst them that they were joyful again.

Its easy and normal and natural to doubt unless you see something first hand or have an experience of Jesus and His Lordship and believe God does love us enough to come and meet with us. 

The disciples were sitting - comforting each other and probably planning on going back to their old lives until Jesus came in to see them.  Jesus came into their presence!! These fellows were so worried about their lives, they locked themselves in.  Jesus broke through to them!!

No matter what we are locked into, Jesus can come into our lives. He can still breathe on us, no matter what we do or where we are.  We don't need to bend over backwards, pray a certain way or even for hours on end. We just have to be us.

Thank you Jesus, that you come to me when I least expect it. You breathe on me when I am at my weakest & you are real.  Please, Jesus come to me, breathe on me and fill me with the Holy Spirit once again.  AMEN

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Are Christians self satisfied?

Are Christians self satisfied?  A while ago I would have said no but now I think maybe we are.  And I wonder if that is how people see me?  Or maybe, that is the truth about me. 

Today it is Easter Sunday also known at Resurrection Sunday.  Its the day Christians around the world celebrate Jesus resurrection from death. 

This day means different things to different people.  I had a look on Yahoo Answers and some said it means chocolate, a day off work, extra work at their restaurant, annoyance at the loud church across the road and a couple said annoying self satisfied Christians.

You would think it was the opposite. You'd like to think it as the opposite.  The very people who are called to care for the poor, to love and treat everyone equally and to walk humbly with God are seen as self satisfied.

To he honest, I'm pretty sure some of the Christians in the western world might very well find themselves self satisfied, as we  have a tendency to think that we have it all together because we have Jesus. We puff our chests out and hold our heads high because we made 'the decision' to follow Jesus and if we can quote the Bible back to front, why shouldn't we pat ourselves on the back?  Have we  forgotten the only reason we can do any of it is because God loved us first?  He is the one who opened our eyes about Jesus.  He is the one who helps us each day to follow Jesus.  He is the one who brings to mind which verses of the Bible relate to each particular moment.  We commemorate the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross and we have forgotten the truth that it is only through the blood of Christ we can do anything.

Recently a Christian friend on Facebook (whom I will call 'S') posted a link The Best Case For the Bible NOT Condemning Homosexuality by John Shore, which I thought was very interesting.  

“Compassion for others is the cornerstone of Christian ethics. The Bible is the bedrock of the Christian faith. God would never ask or expect Christians to choose between the two.”

God does not ask us to choose between compassion and faith in the Bible.

Christians are increasingly divided over the issue of the acceptance and inclusion of gay persons into the church. The debate itself is usually framed as essentially pittingthe Bible, on one hand, against compassion and social justice on the other. Our Christian hearts, runs the (usually impassioned) argument, compel us to grantfull moral and legal equality to gay and lesbian people; our Christian faith, comes the (usually impassioned) rebuttal, compels us to cleave, above all,
to the word of God.

I read through the article and then I shared it on my Facebook wall. Several hours later, when I went back to Facebook,  I found one positive comment by a non church goer and a comment by someone who said that I should read the comments he made on the Facebook wall of 'S'.  I went to his wall and under the article was a whole list of negative comments and a smattering of positive comments, mostly from non Christians, non church goers and the mother of 'S'   Of course, the negative comments were couched in 'christianese' and loving  statements.

To say I was shocked is an understatement. 

After reading the comments, I would understand why we are seen as annoying and self seeking.  

For hundreds of years churchgoers have been repeating the same things the church has taught without really thinking about it any further or even deciding whether or not they believe it for themselves.  A few men have taken a handful of verses and gave them an 'iffy' translation and meaning to support their own viewpoints. To be truthful, anyone can take a couple of verses out of the Bible to support any of their viewpoints. For instance, if you were a mass murderer, you could use the verses about Samson taking a jawbone of an ass and killing a thousand men. 

Jesus would have walked and known people who are same sex attracted and yet not one condemning word against them is recorded in any of the gospels. In fact, the only people Jesus condemned where the Pharisees who heaped rules and condemnation upon the common people. Jesus said these Pharisees were 'white washed tombs'...clean and pretty on the outside but full of dead and rotting flesh inside. 

At Easter,  shouldn't we be focussing on what Jesus did for each of us on the cross instead of ripping into someone else because they live differently to us?   

How can we forget that with every stripe of the cruel whip that removed flesh from Jesus' back, God's condemnation was removed (Romans 8:1) ; with every thorn that was pressed into the flesh on Jesus' head  the weight of God's rejection has been removed (Zechariah 10:6)and with each strike of cruel nails into Jesus' hands, our names were forever tattooed into the palms of God (Isaiah 49:16).   How can He ever hate the ones for whom God sent His Son? 

I really did appreciate this article that 'S' has shared on Facebook. Whether you agree or not, that is not my problem. However, in the words of Jesus himself when, in John 21 when Peter asked about John's future said “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” In other words, stop sticky beaking into others business because that is between me and him, our business is between you and me.

Quite a few years ago I read an article and I can't remember who wrote it but he said that Christians are seen as people who get together and have meetings and complain about everything.  I guess its true in the most part but sometimes I am ashamed to be called a Christian when this is the way people see us..

To finish up, I would like to add the last word by 'S's mum which she posted at the end of all of the comments. I couldn't have put it better myself. 

To those who have been hurt by those who call themselves Christians, I apologise. I implore you to seek God and find out who HE is and not settle for the tarnished  reflection people sometimes give of him. God isn't like those people. If you have been treated badly by people , please don't attribute that to God, God is not like that. He loves you with an everlasting love. There is nothing you could do to make him love you more and there is nothing you can do to make him love you less. 
He offers you love, love and more love.

Friday, March 30, 2012

In Christ Alone

I had never heard of this song until a few months ago.  I was driving to work listening to Rhema, my local Christian radio station, when this song came on the radio.  It just about bought me to tears.  I would say it sums up my Christian walk.  I've heard a few versions of this song but this is by far the version that still moves me the most.

The lyrics follow the video clip.

In Christ Alone
written by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend.

In Christ alone, my hope is found

He is my light, my strength, my song

This cornerstone, this solid ground

Firm through the fiercest drought and storm

What heights of love, what depths of peace

When fears are stilled, when strivings cease

My comforter, my all-in-all

Here in the love of Christ I stand

There in the ground His body lay

Light of the world by darkness slain

Then bursting forth in glorious day

Up from the grave He rose again!

And as He stands in victory

Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me

For I am His and He is mine

Bought with the precious blood of Christ

No guilt in life, no fear in death

This is the power of Christ in me

From life’s first cry to final breath

Jesus commands my destiny

No power of hell, no scheme of man

Can ever pluck me from His hand

Till He returns or calls me home

Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Love the Sinner; Hate the Sin.

How many times have I heard the phrase "Love the sinner, hate the sin"?  It sounds so biblical, holy, righteous, Christian and rolls off the tongue easily. 

According to Reverend Dr Cheri DiNovo, Love the sinner, hate the sin' is not Christian.

Did you know that the saying, "Love the sinner, hate the sin" has absolutely nothing to do with our faith? It is not to be found anywhere in the Bible. It was said by Mahatma Gandhi on one of his not so good days and it has been used to beat people up. It has been used to do violence to people ever since. Something Gandhi would never ever have wished.

What is sin exactly?  Is it stealing the stationery supplies from work?  Is it getting so drunk you throw up?  Is it not going to church on Sundays?  Is it swearing?  Is it looking at a man or woman with lust? 

What does ‘sin’ mean biblically? It doesn’t mean ‘bad’. It doesn’t mean ‘bad things’. Sin means, and there are two main words for it, a Hebraic word for it, ‘chatta’t’ and there’s a Greek word, ‘hamartia’. Hamartia and chatta’t mean, approximately, separation from God. Hamartia is an archery word. It means that you let the arrow go and you miss the mark. The arrow goes astray. Somehow all of us have taken a wrong turn, a wrong path. We’ve taken a wrong road. We’ve turned our gaze from the divine, the source of all love and become embroiled in all sorts of other ‘stuff’. That’s sin.

The opposite of sin is not purity or goodness. The opposite of sin is faithfulness. When we turn toward the divine we are saved.

That alone is a radical thought.   How about an even more radical thought?  Loving the sinner and forgiving the sin.

Candace Chellew writes in Whosover Magazine... Time after time we see Jesus forgiving the people around him -- even those who finally persecuted and killed him. How much clearer could Jesus make his call to us to exercise our God-given power to forgive? Nowhere in the gospels do we find Jesus hating anyone for anything -- instead, we find him forgiving everyone, even his executioners. This is not a model of "loving the sinner and hating the sin." Indeed, this is a model of "loving the sinner and forgiving the sin."

In the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples forgiveness is key. In the Lord's Prayer we ask God to "forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors" (Matthew 6:12). If the phrase isn't clear enough, Jesus expounds upon the directive in verses 14-15: "For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Parent will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Parent forgive your trespasses." 

How could Jesus be clearer on our purpose? Our goal is to forgive, not once but "seventy times seven," (Matthew 18:22) if necessary. 

Can we do that?  In my experience it can be easy to forgive and love someone who is your friend or who does things the same way as you do but its much harder to forgive or love some one who behaves different to you.

You're familiar with the old written law, 'Love your friend,' and its unwritten companion, 'Hate your enemy.' I'm challenging that. I'm telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.
In a word, what I'm saying is, Grow up. You're kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you." Matthew 5: 43-48 TM

We are called to live generously and graciously towards other, because that is how God lives towards us.  I don't know if we can live that way without the daily help of our loving Father and the power of the Holy Spirit living in us. 

If we hold onto the 'Love the sinner and hate the sin' philosophy, we haven't truly heard Jesus' call to love your enemies and His call to forgive.

And another Gandhi quote comes to mind right now.."The weak can never forgive because forgiveness is the attribute of the strong".

May the strength of the Lord be with us.  And may we all walk in love and forgiveness.  Amen

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Does God Love or Hate Gays??

This is a very controversial blog post and you may or may not agree with me.  If you want to post comments, you are welcome but I ask for you to be respectful to me and I will be respectful to you.  I have never said I was a theologian but I am speaking from my heart.

I used to be very homophobic.  I would agree with anti gay sermons, books and news letter articles.  Then one day I had a revelation.  God loves all people, even if they don't know it yet.  And if God loves all people, He also loves gay people.  And if God wants to change someone's sexual orientation, then that's up to Him.  Its not up to me.  I needed to stop judging people and I needed to stop rejecting people.  It was my choice to love people or not to love people, to judge people or not to judge people, to reject people or not to reject people.  

In light of the revelation from God about gay people, I realised that I had to change my mind about gay people.   God didn't stop part way in His lesson so took me on a bit more of a journey.  He didn't want my lesson to stop at theory but gave me a practical one as well be putting me in direct contact with homosexual people whom I feared and judged.

I was in my 40's at the time and after being a stay at home mum I decided to go to TAFE to get a  Certificate in office administration in an attempt to get back into the workforce. It was at TAFE that I met a gay man and a gay woman who happened to be in my class.   I probably had met lots of gay people over the years but that was in passing. The man was 20 years old and was lots of fun.  I became very fond of this young man as we shared coffee at morning tea and lunch time each week.  The woman was closer to my age and sat next to me in class.  We also had lunch together every school day.  This woman had been in an abusive heterosexual marriage and when she could take no more of the violence, she left.  She had never been happy in her marriage, even before the violence started but when she married him, she did what was expected of her.  She is now in a relationship with a woman, her adult children love her partner and she couldn't be happier.

The next revelation I had was that most of the gay people in this world think that God hates them.  This actually made me sad to the point of tears but I totally understood their feelings.  The reason they believe this is because for the last 50 yrs or so, Christians have been very vocal about being anti gay.  There are churches in the US that picket funerals and protest gay marches with signs that read "God Hates Fags" and create websites dedicated to how much God hates gay people and their enablers.    

Jesus in the New Testament only spoke against the Pharisees, that is the religious teachers of the day...the ones who life work was telling people how to live, burdening them with rules and regulations and pretty basically they lorded it over the common folk. Jesus told them they were "white washed tombs"  Pretty on the outside but nothing but full of darkness, rotten flesh and death inside.  Not a pretty description at all!  Jesus never said one single word against homosexuality but surely gay people were around when He walked the earth. 

Now, I really really really really doubt God hates gays. In fact, I really believe He loves them and I also believe His heart breaks when we tear into each other.  When we make it our goal in life to beat the homosexuality out of people are we any better than one of the Pharisees that Jesus rebuked?

When you take time to think about it, how will gay people ever know that God loves them and Jesus went to the cross for them if all they hear from us is hate?
People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish,  but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God.  And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water?  Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring.   James 3:7-12 NLT

Since I finished TAFE, I have met many many gay people in many walks of life.  Gay people are not always funny or friendly like the characters on television or in films, because that's just the stereotype.  Gay people don't all march half naked in street parades because that is also the stereotype.  I have met gay people who happen to be lawyers, nurses, accountants, bookkeepers, bar men, salesmen, truck drivers, dentists, writers, factory workers, radio announcers, PR people, Uni students, baristas, cooks and a couple of singers, dancers and only one or two actors.   I may not have close friendships with all of these people and quite honestly, there are some I have little or no communication with but that is how it goes with people everywhere. 

I never make a secret of my Christianity.  Because of the history and bad publicity church folk have generated, gay people are naturally wary of me.  You can almost hear them waiting for me to give them a lecture and when that doesn't happen the surprise can be palpable.   I think its a sad situation but we Christians have no one to blame but ourselves.   

I wont pray for God to change someone's sexuality but I will pray that the veil will be removed from their eyes and they will know God loves them with so much passion that he went to the cross for them.

God loves each of us so much that used an rough hewn iron nail to tattoo their name each of our names on the hand of Jesus. 

See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands.  Isaiah 49:15

As I said, its Gods job to change people, not mine, so its pointless and painful for me to try to change someone myself.   However, we can ask God to change us and our hearts and mind.  Repentance means to change your mind and we are told to do that.

 The word in the New Testament usually translated “repent” is the Greek word “metanoeo,” and the word translated “repentance” is “metanoia.” Both of these Greek words have the same basic meaning: “to change your mind; reconsider; or, to think differently.”  

I think we should be actively out there embracing people of all walks of life, whether they are gay, straight, bisexual, transgender, transsexual or anywhere in between.  How will anyone ever know that God loves and accepts them if we keep rejecting them?

If someone is having a problem, I tell them that I will pray for them and then I do it.  

But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?  Romans 10:14

The next time you meet a gay person, show them how much you love them by not judging them and then they will want to know why you as a Christian can love them when all they have been taught by media is that Christians hate them with a passion.  It makes sense, doesn't it?   You may even have the opportunity to speak into their lives and to pray for them.
To love people is a way of life for me.  I don't make friends with anyone whilst having an ulterior motive or preaching to them.  I just want to love people because that is who I am and what I have been called to do. However, I believe God has given me a job description for my life and that description is found in Micah 6:8...

O people, the LORD has told you what is good,
      and this is what he requires of you:
   to do what is right, to love mercy,
      and to walk humbly with your God. 

I may never have the chance to verbally share the Gospel with one of my gay friends but I do have an opportunity everyday to share the Gospel through my actions.  And if I get the opportunity to pray for someone, I seize it with both hands.  

At the moment, I'm praying for a guy who is hoping for a co-worker who will swap a shift so he can go see Kylie Minogue in Sydney.   He thinks its impossible but we all know that nothing is impossible for God.   So please, if you see this before March 20. please join me in prayer for my friend and that someone will give him a ticket as the show is only in two days.  

To sum it up, we each have to answer this question of ourselves "What are you choosing?"  And we need to take this question seriously and think for ourselves.  We need to examine our hearts and minds.  The Bible is called food, so we need to feast on it and learn the truth. Read a few different translations of that Bible, listen to different points of views and be prepared to find out that everything we have believed for our Christian lives could be wrong or that there is a real basis for everything you believe.  Its a scary and somewhat painful journey but the reason you want to walk in the light is you can see clearly what is ahead.  By letting others tell you what to think, then you may as well be walking in the light but wearing a blind fold over your eyes.   

As I said at the beginning, this post can be somewhat controversial.  God has given us brains and minds and the ability to reason, to think and to actually know what we believe. Each of us should know what we stand for if  asked, what we would hang on to if our life or death depended upon it and what we can let go because it gets in the way of our focus of God.  

EDIT: My friend who thought he was going to work when he wanted to see Kylie Minogue has just informed me he has the shift off and is going to the concert I just want to praise God and give the glory all to Him!!!  Nothing is impossible for our God!  My friend knew I was praying and this will speak volumes to him.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Quote on Faith & prayer

I've read a few quotes lately that speak to me.  <--- see what I did there?  It was a funny punny.

"Faith is to the soul what life is to the body. Prayer is to faith what breath is to the body." J. C. Ryle

What is prayer?  Is it simply talking to God? Is it also a form of worship? 

Some people think of prayer as ask a way to ask God for things.  But shouldn't we do more than treat God as a Heavenly Vending Machine?  By saying the right words, you get what you want...

Others only ever talk to God when they are in dire straits.  Its a verbal or psychological form of tying a knot when you are at the end of your rope and you hang onto it. 

Do I look at God as a vending machine or my rope?  Or do I want to just talk to Him about my life?  Or is my prayer life a bit of everything?  

Zeal for your house consumes Him

The Ten Commandments

vs7 The revelation of God is whole and pulls our lives together. 
vs9 The decisions of God are accurate down to the nth degree. 
vs13  Keep me from stupid sins, from thinking I can take over your work.

vs23 Jews treat this like an anti-miracle—and Greeks pass it off as absurd. But to us who are personally called by God himself—both Jews and Greeks—Christ is God's ultimate miracle and wisdom all wrapped up in one.

vs17 "Zeal for your house consumes me." 

Jesus put the cleaners through the temple.  Our bodies are the temple (1Corinthians 6:19) so we all need Jesus to put the cleaners through our bodies, our hearts and our minds

Jesus said "In my Father's house..." Does that mean my body is my Father's House? This is an interesting thought.

The guys selling stuff in the temple were just following tradition - Bob Royal (paraphrased by me)

Do we get caught up in traditions that clutter up our minds and our bodies?

Should we go out of our way to break traditions because Jesus is sick of traditions?  Are we stuck in traditions?  If so, what are our traditions?  And what do we do because it is a tradition and what do we do because we truly want to honour and love our Lord Jesus?  

"Zeal for your house consumes me"  If  I am the temple, the house of God, does that mean his zeal for me consumes Him?

If Jesus is zealous for me, then I should be zealous for Him, not zealous for the things for Him, not zealous for things that are about Him, not zealous for traditions or things that make me comfortable but zealous for Jesus.

Do we seek comfort in our traditions because not doing things in a certain was can be uncomfortable?   Does Jesus want me to be  comfortable or does He want me to be so uncomfortable that it drives me to Him for my comfort?

He wants to be my comforter.  It is something we say all the time but do we mean it? He is our comforter.  Jesus alone should be our comfort. Not songs.  Not traditions. Not certain prayers. Not knowing when to stand and when to sit.  Not the right style of music.  Not a certain way of praying.  Not gifts.  Just Jesus is our comforter.

Friday, February 3, 2012

What is love?

What is love?  And more importantly, is it a valid question in this day and age?

Back in the '80's, Howard Jones released a song called "What is love?"

He sang
'I love you whether or not you love me
I love you even when you think that I don't
Sometimes I find you doubt my love for you but I don't mind.
Why should I mind?
Why should I mind?'

According to Dictionary.com love is both a noun (a thing) and a verb (an action)

1.a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person.
2.a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a parent, child, or friend.
3.sexual passion or desire.
4.a person toward whom love is felt; beloved person; sweetheart.

5. to have love or affection for.
6. to have a profoundly tender, passionate affection for (another person).
7. to have a strong liking for; take great pleasure in.
8. to need or require; benefit greatly from.
9. to embrace and kiss (someone)
"The one thing everybody's looking for is unconditional love.  We all need somebody to love us just the way we are."  Joyce Meyer
Unconditional love. Does it exist?  I guess the closest we come to it is when we are parents.  We love our children, whether or not  they clean up their rooms; whether they get an 'A' or an 'F' on their maths tests; whether or not they obey us and whether or not they love us back.  Sometimes its painful to look at what your kids are doing but it doesn't make you love them any the less.

But that is our kids...what about other people in our family?  Or people we work?  Or even God when it comes down to it.  Everyone knows the saying "God is love" but is that love all encompassing or does it mean that we are in Gods bad books automatically and we have to strive to be mini versions of The Pope or Mother Theresa to get anywhere close to His good books?

We humans like to qualify or disqualify ourselves and others when it comes to believing and accepting God's love.  To think that sometimes God is happy with me and at other times he is angry at me is nothing short of schizophrenic Christianity.  Yet its almost impossible to believe that God could have as strong like for me...to take great pleasure in me. 

Maybe society has taught us that if God really exists, He couldn't possibly be interested in each persons life.  If He is real, then he must be watching us from so far away that we are nothing more than a blur to Him. 

Years ago, Bette Midler had a huge hit with a song called 'From a Distance'.  This is the chorus:
God is watching us
God is watching us
God is watching us
From a distance

If this is true, then how can God take any sort of pleasure in me if he is watching me from 'a distance'?  To say He is watching us from a great distance, makes it sound like God is watching from the nose bleed section of the theatre...you know, the cheapest seats available.

If God is real then why did He go to all the trouble to get our attention?   For instance, I'm not interested in football so I wouldn't voluntarily go to a game.  I might look at a couple of minutes of it on the news if the local team does good but that is about it.  I wouldn't put myself out to try to find any more about it because I can think of more worthwhile things I'd rather do with my time.

And if God is real and as close as to have a deep affection for me, then what happens when I make a mistake...when I stuff up?  Will He stop loving me then?  Will I be in the naughty corner or sent to my room...out of sight, out of mind?  Will I have to cry and beg for His attention again?
"This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn't go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again."     John 3:16,17 (The Message)
According to that verse in John,  the God of the Bible wants to put things right, to help out, to have a whole and lasting life.  He wants to be on our side and all we have to do is let him be on our side.  Can it really be that simple?  Just to believe in Him?   
It's impossible to please God apart from faith. And why? Because anyone who wants to approach God must believe both that he exists and that he cares enough to respond to those who seek him.  Hebrews 11:6  (The Message)
Okay then, if I believe God exists then what do I have to do? Do I have to learn Latin or Greek or learn special prayers and stop doing fun things? If God is God, and he is as all powerful and all knowing as the Bible says, then surely He knows what we are like and yet He still accepts us anyway.  None of us are perfect.  If we were, then we wouldn't need God, because we would be god.

Someone once said God isn't interested in behaviour modification, He's interested in life transformation!

Its easy to look at ourselves and compare ourselves with someone like Mother Theresa and feel that we are too 'sinful' for God to even want to have anything to do with us.  But the opposite is true.  It is because none of us are perfect, God wants to be part of our lives, to help us along.  If we were perfect, we would be gods ourselves and have no need of help from anyone...to be cared for by anyone...to be loved by anyone.

Have you ever tried to tell your child how much you love them?  Its not easy.  You can do so many things to show your love to your child but sometimes words and a simple demonstration go well together.  So we stand up, stretch our arms as wide as they can go and say "I love you this much!" before reaching down and hugging them.
"Beloved, when you look at your life and find yourself wondering if God really loves you, look to the cross and see God’s outstretched arms. It will remind and reassure you of how much He loves you!"  Joseph Prince

Saturday, January 7, 2012

White on Rice

In my Anglican Church each week, we have four Bible readings.  I write down whatever jumps out at me from each reading, usually a strong sentence or two from the sermon and then see what happens from there... I will start by giving you the reading and then in italics the passage, verse or message that jumps out at me.

The readings for today:-

 God spoke and light appeared

Vs 3 God thunders across the waters,
   Brilliant, his voice and his face, streaming brightness—
   God, across the flood waters. 

Johns Baptism was for repentance.  The Holy Spirit baptises into Jesus Christ.

God said, as the Spirit alighted on  Jesus 'You are my Son, chosen and marked by my love, pride of my life.'

'The Jews hated the water and thought all darkness and evils of the world existed in the water" Rev Ken Youman

When God created the world, He paused and saw it as good.  When Jesus was baptised, God paused and was overcome with love for His Son.

It was when Jesus began his ministry that God's love came to the fore.  Jesus was/is/always will be the only way of salvation.  Its like God pauses before He applauds His Son.  God wants us all saved, all to be with Him eternally.  He wants us in relationship with Him now.  He doesn't want us to pause.


Like white on rice is the Holy Spirit on us who believe Jesus is our salvation.

Jesus took our sins on His body on the cross.  He was punished for the things I have done wrong.  He was a once and for all time past/present/future sacrifice for our sins.  We don't have to strive to be acceptable because we are already acceptable because of Christ. 

Jesus died and rose again sinless!!  Praise you Jesus.  He is now seated at the right hand of the Father.  His work is done. It is finished and now He lives to intercede for me before the Father.  I am forgiven, made clean, filled and enveloped with the Holy Spirit.  And I have done nothing to deserve it except believe in Christ's sacrificial death for me.

The Holy Spirit hugs me like white on rice!

Hmmm...white on rice.  A grain of rice is white inside and out.  If you boil or steam it, it gets whiter and brighter.  If you squish it when cooked, its white inside.  The Holy Spirit permeates and colours every part of the one who believes and accepts Jesus as their saviour. We need to be baptised in the Holy Spirit to be hugged by Him, enveloped by Him and coloured by him.

My Inspiration - Psalm 118

Psalm 118

 1O GIVE thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His mercy and loving-kindness endure forever!
    2Let Israel now say that His mercy and loving-kindness endure forever.
    3Let the house of Aaron [the priesthood] now say that His mercy and loving-kindness endure forever.
    4Let those now who reverently and worshipfully fear the Lord say that His mercy and loving-kindness endure forever.
    5Out of my distress I called upon the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free and in a large place.
    6The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?
    7The Lord is on my side and takes my part, He is among those who help me; therefore shall I see my desire established upon those who hate me.
    8It is better to trust and take refuge in the Lord than to put confidence in man.
    9It is better to trust and take refuge in the Lord than to put confidence in princes.
    10All nations (the surrounding tribes) compassed me about, but in the name of the Lord I will cut them off!
    11They compassed me about, yes, they surrounded me on every side; but in the name of the Lord I will cut them off!
    12They swarmed about me like bees, they blaze up and are extinguished like a fire of thorns; in the name of the Lord I will cut them off!
    13You [my adversary] thrust sorely at me that I might fall, but the Lord helped me.
    14The Lord is my Strength and Song; and He has become my Salvation.
    15The voice of rejoicing and salvation is in the tents and private dwellings of the [uncompromisingly] righteous: the right hand of the Lord does valiantly and achieves strength!
    16The right hand of the Lord is exalted; the right hand of the Lord does valiantly and achieves strength!
    17I shall not die but live, and shall declare the works and recount the illustrious acts of the Lord.
    18The Lord has chastened me sorely, but He has not given me over to death.
    19Open to me the [temple] gates of righteousness; I will enter through them, and I will confess and praise the Lord.
    20This is the gate of the Lord; the [uncompromisingly] righteous shall enter through it.
    21I will confess, praise, and give thanks to You, for You have heard and answered me; and You have become my Salvation and Deliverer.
    22The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.
    23This is from the Lord and is His doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.
    24This is the day which the Lord has brought about; we will rejoice and be glad in it.
    25Save now, we beseech You, O Lord; send now prosperity, O Lord, we beseech You, and give to us success!
    26Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; we bless you from the house of the Lord [you who come into His sanctuary under His guardianship].
    27The Lord is God, Who has shown and given us light [He has illuminated us with grace, freedom, and joy]. Decorate the festival with leafy boughs and bind the sacrifices to be offered with thick cords [all over the priest's court, right up] to the horns of the altar.
    28You are my God, and I will confess, praise, and give thanks to You; You are my God, I will extol You.
    29O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His mercy and loving-kindness endure forever.