Observations on life; particularly spiritual

Gospel

Freedom from lockdown

Milo, the dogAfter 106 days in lockdown, COVID-19 restrictions have eased today in Sydney, Australia, for those who are fully vaccinated. Cafes, restaurants, clubs, pubs, retail businesses and churches can reopen, 10 people are allowed to visit a home and the caps on numbers at weddings and funerals have increased dramatically. Stay at home rules and 5-kilometer travel restrictions have ended. The state now has 90.3 per cent of people aged over 16 who have received a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, and 73.5 per cent are fully vaccinated. (more…)


Forgiveness – Easier said than done

Forgiveness – Easier said than doneForgiveness is hard. It is painful. It can be slow and gruelling. Yet there are no relationships in which forgiveness is not necessary.

The forgiveness the Bible speaks of is not turning a blind eye to the wrong committed against you, it is not pretending you are OK, it is not convincing yourself you deserved it or that the wrong doing wasn’t that big a deal. On the contrary, biblical forgiveness looks the offense in the eye, names it for what it is, acknowledges all its painful consequences, weeps over what has been done and lost, and in so doing says, “I love you still”. (more…)


The gospel in one Bible verse

Joe lives alone and has been socially isolated during the 3-month COVID pandemic lockdownJoe lives alone and has little contact with his family. He has no carer and needs help to look after his home, garden, health and safety. And he has been socially isolated during the 3-month lockdown in Sydney during the COVID pandemic. Like all of us, his days on earth are numbered. But being over 90 years of age, his number of days is less than most of us.

Joe is a nominal Roman Catholic who needs to hear the good news about Jesus – the Bible says that Jesus took our place before God by dying on the cross for us so that we can be forgiven and have a new relationship with God. Here’s an easy way to share the gospel with someone like Joe. (more…)


Is it time to start trusting God?

Is it time to start trusting God?He’s known you the longest!

Something bizarre was happening inside me. While I ate and slept and talked and went about life as usual, a tiny human was forming in my womb. A minuscule heart, tiny fingers, spec sized toenails, teeny lips were taking shape. I wasn’t directing what was happening. I didn’t make any conscious effort — “OK today we’re going to separate the left and right chambers of the heart … today we’re going to form eyelids.” The only way I knew what was happening inside me was by reading about it. I felt wonder at this most ordinary miracle taking place within my body. I felt humbled at how little control I had over this most significant life event. (more…)


At life’s crossroads? Let Jesus give you directions

Life’s road is rarely straight. We often find ourselves in places we didn’t expect or want. How are you going with the uncertainty of life at the moment? Do you feel like you’re standing at a crossroads and not sure which direction to take? There are so many unknowns and what ifs. However, we don’t have to step into the uncertainty alone.

When Jesus was facing His violent crucifixion, He took the time to explain to His followers that although they couldn’t go with Him immediately they would one day be reunited with Him in His eternal kingdom. One candid follower verbalized his concern,

“Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’ Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life’” (John 14:5-6). (more…)


Jesus: a 4-letter word or the name above all names?

Jesus: a 4-letter word or the name above all names?What do you do in that flash of anger, shock or pain? When you’re driving and another car dangerously pulls out in front of you; when you kick your toe; when you hear bad news; it seems universally human to call out in exasperation. Jesus Christ is commonly used as an expletive in these times. However the Bible tells us, Jesus Christ, an empty swear word to so many, is actually the most honorable, worthy and precious name. Why? (more…)


Sanitize more than hands

Sanitize more than handsHow clean do you keep your hands? Hand hygiene has certainly gotten a lot of attention lately. It reminds me of one of my favorite Shakespearean scenes — Lady Macbeth is sleepwalking after she has orchestrated the murder of her king. In her sleep she sees spots of blood on her hands and no amount of washing can remove them. She smells blood on her hands and “all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten” them. Of course it is her conscience and not her hands that is really unclean. (more…)


Imagine someone knowing everything about you!

Imagine someone knowing everything about you, and still loving you (God does)Do you know you’re not the only one? We all have parts of ourselves we’d rather no one else knew about. Parts we may try to hide from even ourselves, to distract ourselves from with busyness or entertainment, to overcompensate for with gifts or acts of service. But they are there. Whether it’s memories of what we’ve done or what has been done to us, ugly thoughts and feelings we can’t bear to look in the face, the way we treat our family when no one else is around, secret addictions we believe render us unlovable… Oh they are there and they want to remain hidden in the dark where no one can see and judge them. (more…)


Still social distancing from God?

Still social distancing from God? Get close today.It’s something you took for granted isn’t it? To hug someone hello. To shake a congratulatory hand. To hold that fresh new baby at that birthday barbecue or slap a mate on the back. It feels wrong to sidestep strangers, least of all a relative.

Since COVID-19, there are people who have left this earth in solitude and babies who have been born into the arms of parents, yet haven’t seen another face. They left the doors of the hospital and have never been passed around their village of friends and family. (more…)


The themes in the book of Acts

The overall theme of the book of Acts in the Bible is the growth of the early church. And the key verse is “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (1:8NIV). That’s the mission of the church. Believers are to be God’s witnesses.

Schematic diagram: Themes of Acts (more…)


Life saving blood

The work of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was to save the life and dignity of everyone, everywhereThroughout history, there has been a growing understanding of the remarkable properties of blood. In 1628, a physician named William Harvey published his theory on the circulation of blood – it was amazingly accurate. Soon after, the first blood transfusion was attempted. It was discovered that blood could save lives!

About 200 years later, the ‘International Committee of the Red Cross’ was founded by Henri Dunant in Switzerland. Henri had witnessed wounded and dying soldiers left to suffer without medical care on a battlefield in Italy. He started a campaign to reduce the suffering and casualties of war regardless of which side they belonged to. (more…)


Sooner or later?

Woman kneeling: "at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth"Procrastination is delaying or postponing something. It’s saying, “I’ve got too much else to do right now”; “Something came up”; “It’s not really that important”; “It’s not the right time”; “I’m not ready yet”; “I’ll do it after…”. This is a post about something we all need to do, sooner or later.

Philippians 2 is about the humility and exaltation of Jesus Christ. It says that He went from the highest place (equality with God the Father), to the lowest place (death as a criminal) and back to the highest place (the right hand of God the Father). After describing Christ’s incarnation and death, Paul writes, (more…)


King sized bed

King size bed - Manger with strawBeing a celebrity definitely comes with its perks, one of which is the capacity to make outrageous demands. If Jennifer Lopez travels, she reportedly asks for her hotel rooms to be completely white; everything from the walls, to the furniture, to the white candles. In order to ensure she’s properly rested, the sheets must be of minimum two hundred and fifty ‘thread count’ Egyptian cotton and the room temperature a precise and constant 25.5 Degrees C. (more…)


Faith in the family

Brown family reunion - October 2001Family reunions bring relatives together to celebrate and share memories. I gave this message at a church service during the reunion of the Brown family at Bedgerabong, near Forbes in New South Wales, Australia, in October 2001.

When reading through the Brown family history, I noticed the following instances of Christian faith amongst our forebears. (more…)


Two ways to live

Raod sign - Our way or God's new wayThe choice we all face

The message at the heart of Christianity can be outlined in a few pages. It’s a message from the Bible about God and His Son Jesus that’s about life and death, and the choice we all face. In “Two ways to live” the message is summarized in contemporary language in six points (Appendix A).

This post is based on a blogpost by Tony Payne that proposed updating the “Two ways to live” booklet (Jensen and Payne, 2007; Payne 2020). (more…)


There is no racism in heaven

Bookworm Claudette Colvin had two dreams when she was young. The first was to marry a baseball player. The second was to become President of the United States. Lofty dreams indeed for a teenager from the poor side of town, but she was an A-grade student and determined to make something of her life.

The thwack of a curveball rocketing over a baseball diamond or the patriotic stirrings of a big brass band on the lawns of the White House must have seemed impossible that one Friday in March, when the smart and pretty 15-year-old was hauled into a courthouse. She’d been yelled at by students, kicked three times by police and then taken across town crying and humiliated in a patrol car by the same officers, who made lewd comments about her appearance. (more…)


There is hope

The COVID-19 pandemic is an extreme situation facing the whole world at the same timeThe headline didn’t shout. It didn’t need to. This wasn’t a slow news day. It read, ‘In one week 10% of Australia’s workforce have lost their jobs’. In India, a nation of 1.3 billion people were given four hours notice to lock down inside their homes for 21 days. People found outside afterwards were subsequently beaten.

Always, in the world somewhere, there’s an extreme situation – a flood, a famine, a war. Less frequent, though, are situations involving the whole world. The COVID-19 pandemic is such a time. (more…)


Essential Christmas!

Racing car drivers and procrastinators want the same drug. It comes from that contradictory cocktail of excitement and terror. Whilst drivers push the physics envelope, procrastinators push the limits of time. As fear of the impending deadline looms, finally adrenaline seeps sweetly into the system.

Let me illustrate. The greatest rush in the world is not the French 24 Hours of Le Mans Endurance Race… it’s the Westfield Christmas Pressie Dash: 27 presents in 8 shopping hours. Every year, on Christmas Eve, men who should never have been licensed as fathers, take part. And I’m here to tell you it can be done because I’ve done it more than once. But there’s absolutely no room for failure. (more…)


Start life again

So keen was Nicodemus to meet Jesus that he was willing to risk being seen. But he had reason to be afraid. The religious sect known as Pharisees that he belonged to were committed to killing Jesus. Such was their intense jealousy over Jesus’s popularity. It was almost certainly for this reason that Nicodemus came at night (John 3:1-16).

He began by addressing Jesus with respect.

“Master” he said, “We know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him”.

His statement – or was it a question – seemed to be something like, “I think you’re from God … but who are you?” But, instead of credentials, Jesus offered Nicodemus a challenge. He said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God”. Clearly Nicodemus wanted to move closer to God. But how does one get ‘Born again’? (more…)


What does Romans 9 teach?

Are we robots or free agents?

I have received this comment: “As for free will, your Bible states repeatedly that there is none. Paul does so directly in Romans 9, and this God’s repeated interference, controlling people’s minds, etc, abrogate free will”. So in this post we will look at what the Bible says in Romans 9. Because of the structure of this letter, Romans 10-11 are also considered.

Context

Romans was written by Paul to believers in Rome in about AD 56. The theme of this letter is the gospel – the good news about Jesus Christ. According to MacDonald, in Romans Paul answers these main questions:
– What is the subject of the letter? (1:1, 9, 15- 16)
– What is the gospel? (1:1-17)
– Why do people need the gospel? (1:18-3:20)
– According to the gospel, how can ungodly sinners be justified by a holy God? (3:21-31)
– Does the gospel agree with the Old Testament Scripture? (4:1-25)
– What are the benefits of justification in the believer’s life? (5:1-21)
– Does the teaching of salvation by grace through faith permit or even encourage sinful living? (6:1-23)
– What is the relationship of the Christian to the Old Testament law? (7:1-25)
– How is the Christian enabled to live a holy life? (8:1-39)
– Does the gospel, by promising salvation to both Jews and Gentiles, mean that God has broken His promises to His earthly people, the Jews? (9:1-11:36)
– How should those who have been justified by grace respond in their everyday lives? (12:1-16:27) (more…)


What I like about Christianity

Here’s what I like about Christianity. It deals with the most important issues and questions of life. The past, the present and the future. Origins and destinies. How to live and how to die. Our most important problem. Our purpose. Love, freedom, security, hope, joy and peace. Eternity with God. It’s good news that changes everything. And it’s based on the most important person who ever lived. The best hero.

One of the beautiful things about Christianity is that Jesus has done everything for us. This means we don’t have to strive to do anything to please God. Salvation depends on acknowledging and confessing one’s sin. It’s a gift from God (Eph. 2:8). And it’s not difficult to understand or accept.

Christians are part of a world-wide spiritual family with whom they share a spiritual life, union and inheritance that never ends. It’s a relationship that surpasses all other human relationships. It crosses racial, cultural, social, age, and gender distinctions (Gal. 3:28). As Christians are all children of God, they are all equal before God. Every believer has the same spiritual status before God. And they have spiritual fathers and mothers to encourage and help them. Spiritual brothers and sisters to share life with. And spiritual children to nurture. So Christians shouldn’t be lonely. They have a ready-made spiritual family. (more…)


What stops you being with God forever?

Here’s a challenge from Outreach Media.

I used to smoke a lot of marijuana. But the first time I got stoned after becoming a Christian I felt embarrassed in God’s presence. I discovered that dope made it hard for me to control silly thoughts and treat God with reverence. It was awkward and I felt ashamed. So I stopped smoking marijuana and haven’t touched it since. That was thirty-five years ago.

When I stopped smoking dope I gave up something from this world so I could be sure of having life in the age to come. You might think it was no loss. And besides, Christians should obey the law anyway. Well, to that I say, ‘Yes, we should obey the law’ (and I would have acted on that I’m sure), but as for ‘no loss’? Well, that’s simplistic. People smoke dope because they have interesting experiences. I certainly felt a sense of loss in giving it up. (more…)


Jesus gives life to the full

There are so many wonderful things in life. The joy of love, family, satisfaction in hard work, the thrill of the race, or the game, admiring the astonishing beauty of nature, the prospect of a new adventure. It is truly a remarkable world.

Yet in all of these things, there’s always a blemish. And the blemish lies in us and in each thing we experience. For example our own cynicism and doubts prevent us properly enjoying goodness in love and work and family. And, as for the objects of our joy and desire – they always let us down in some measure. So, families fracture and fall out. Children forget their parents and live selfish lives. We chase a project with all our energy only to find it wasn’t worth the chasing. (more…)


A major problem

Last week I climbed Uluru (Ayers Rock) in central Australia. On the way down there was a man who became very unwell around 3/4 of the way up the climb chain. He was being assisted by two off-duty police officers and two off-duty paramedics. This turned into a major problem when he suffered a heart attack. They performed CPR and used a defibrillator to shock his heart back into a survivable rhythm, saving his life. A few hours later the man was carefully moved down the steep face of the rock on a stretcher using ropes and pulleys. He was treated at Yulara Health Centre before being flown to Alice Springs Hospital by the Royal Flying Doctor Service, and then to Adelaide for specialist heart surgery.

This post looks at a major problem faced by a commander in the Syrian army, which is described in the Bible. We will see from this that God can deliver us from our major problem.

Text

Naaman’s problem is described in 2 Kings 5:1-15 (NIV):

1 Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram [Syria]. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the Lord had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy. (more…)