Wednesday 19 September 2012

Love God


We live in a "What's in it for me?"-world. Our decision making is based on "how does it make me feel?" We look to satisfy our needs, and as long as we are ok, well that's a good start.

As Christians, it seems our faith is often manipulated the same way. Our prayers are based on what we think is best for us and our situation, and our assessment of answered prayer on how it has benefited us. I'm not sure that this is correct thinking.


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The Greatest Commandment

When Jesus was challenged by the Pharisees with the question: "Which is the greatest commandment?" in Matthew 22: 37 Jesus replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind."

He added to this that second most important commandment was (vs39) :"love your neighbour as yourself". 

The response Jesus gave was not at all what the Pharisees expected, and it left their arguments dead in their tracks. 

See, I like to think that the Pharisees were looking at a legal-if you don’t do it you will go to hell- kind of greatest commandment, whereas Jesus was talking about the most awesome, lose out if you miss it- greatest benefit to those who live it-kind of commandment.

God-thinking turns World-thinking totally on its head. Sometimes embarrassingly so. God-thinking is so at odds with what society teaches and yet it works. Society says: "Look out for number one; if it feels good do it; you deserve this; pamper yourself; you will feel great if..." God wants us to be Christ-centred, others-focussed, totally selfless. He wants us to focus our love on Him.  Love God. 


What's in it for me?

This is one of the most selfish, self centred statements ever to pass the lips of men. The conditional premise of doing anything in the community of Christ is often perceived as "if I do this thing, I will get return". 

Giving is the perfect example. Jesus said in Luke 6:38; "Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”

Most people I know (including me) have used this as the secret formula for wealth. I guess in a way it is, but not in the context that we would like it to be. Investing into the Kingdom of God is important. The question is: am I giving to get or am I giving to give?

We need to turn our thinking around and focus on our total motivation for anything we do in life:

I work and in return I get paid. I give to God of my time, talent and finances because I love Him. I know that He is not only able, but also true to His word in looking after me. My attitude to God is relational, one of faith and trust, not a business deal. We cannot out-give God, so don't try. Give out of relational response, because you love Him.

When I think of my relationship with God, I often compare it to my relationship with my own children. I am motivated by my love for them and respond to their relationship with me. When one of them comes to me with open arms and hugs me and tells me they love me, I just want to bless them. (What can I do for you, how can I bless you?) Their love for me invokes an even greater response of love back. I think in a way that this is how it is with God; we obey his commandments because we honour, love and respect our Heavenly Father and He in return blesses us with answered prayer, provision, peace and His presence. 

God’s love for us is manifest all around us. His promises of supply, protection, care, guidance and companionship, are littered generously throughout scripture.

Matthew 6:27-33

Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?

28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat? ’ or ‘What shall we drink? ’ or ‘What shall we wear? ’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you."


Surrender & Submission

Loving God is about surrender and submission. I like to think of it this way: When 2 armies are at war, and one surrenders to the other (white flag and all that stuff), normally it is the capturing victorious army that dictates the terms of the surrender. Funny thing about Christianity is we want to do all the surrendering on our own terms: “Well, God, I will give you these parts of my life, but I am going to hang on to this one...” That doesn’t work. Never has, never will. God wants total surrender, not a partial one. Why? Well, for starters, Jesus was willing to give everything He had and everything He was up for you and me. He set the standard of total surrender when He went to the cross. I really think in His own flesh He had some serious reservations about the whole suffering and dying thing. In the garden of Gethsemane He prayed: ... “Let this cup of suffering be taken away from me.”(Matt 26:39) But He was driven to total Surrender to God’s will by His total love for you and me! The other reason I believe God wants all of us in Surrender to Him is because only He knows the plans He has for us, “plans for good and not for evil, to give you a hope and a future” (Jer 29:11), and He can’t bring that to pass if He doesn’t have our total, confident, submitted trust.

2 Chronicles 15:2

“And he went out to meet Asa, and said to him: “Hear me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin. The Lord is with you while you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you.”

When we walk away from God, we leave Him virtually powerless to work in our lives.  

I am realising more and more that relationship is the key to life. When I have great relationship with my wife, things go really well for us. When I focus on doing my own thing, and put her second, our relationship suffers. It is no different in Christianity. God longs for relationship with us. He is looking for ways to bless us. When we stop loving God to pursue other things, we stop His ability to bless. It is like cutting off the line of supply. We are not wired like that. God made us for relationship with Him. Love Him. Today!

Have a great week!


Tuesday 4 September 2012

Thirty Years On. Life, Marriage, Children

It's been a while since I posted a blog page. I've been busy. I've had a lot on my plate. At my age, you just get busier. I now have grand children in my life. 5 years ago I would not have imagined that I would be sitting here today talking about a grandchild, much less two! But here I am. They are beautiful. A girl and a boy. Mayana and Reuben. We drive up to see them, and then they come to see us.
And so I  keep busy. Last weekend, we drove up to see them.
My Eldest two daughters, both married, both live in the same town. Zoey and Peter are the proud parents of our grandchildren. Bethanie and Lachlan live about 5 minutes from them by car. Zoey and Bethanie are both teachers at the same school (although Zoey is on maternity leave). Peter
Is a teacher at a pre-school and Lachlan is finishing his teaching degree. Having them all living in the same town has definite advantages, both for them and for me. Zoey and Bethanie have become very   close and both couples get together socially regularly.
Tambrey and I miss out on this so we have to travel up to make up the short fall in access place. This is one of the important reasons I run out of time. I love having time with all of my Maryborough mob; family is very important to me, and the fact that they live in the same town means we can visit everyone in one trip.

Our youngest two, Alexie and Jordan, both live at home with us. Alexie is studying Nursing and Jordan is doing a music degree. Both lead interesting and full lives. They are both heavily involved in our church and youth ministry, and volunteer regularly of their time to it each week. Alexie is the unofficial assistant and right-hand to our Youth Pastor, Michelle and the two have become inseparable best friends. She spends two days a week unpaid with Michelle working organising youth programmes and church administration and the like. Alexie and Michelle have become involved in a local High School where they run a mentoring programme for troubled and at-risk teenage girls. This programme has become so successful that the school has asked them to extend the programme to 2 days a week, and open it up to more girls.
Jordan is in classes 5 days a week in an intensive Music degree, the first year of which gives him a dual diploma in music performance and music law. This term his week has been reduced to 4 days and so he too volunteers his time at the church office, helping out wherever they can.

What's with the 30 years?

I titled this blog 30 years on because recently Tambrey and I celebrated the 30th anniversary of our first date.  It was 30 years ago that I took an innocent country girl into the big city, showed her how the other half lived and went to the movies. We saw Chariots of Fire and walked around the city square. I'll never forget seeing those beautiful big blue eyes getting bigger and bigger as we experienced one religious group after another trying to convert us to their way of faith. We had young Christian zealots over in one corner who despised everything the mainstream church stood for saying all was based on pagan philosophy and ritual, Christianised by the early church and nothing to do with true faith. In another corner there was a local youth group doing street witnessing, praying together and singing Choruses accompanied by guitars. And last and most colourful were the Hare Krishna's in full get up complete with tambourines singing and offering peace cookies to all passers by.

For a young country girl whose regular Friday nights only exposed her to the locals pouring out of the pub in various stages of drunk, this was quite a sight, and she was tightly wrapped around my arm as we made our way around. I can say what we have been tightly wrapped around each others arms ever since!

30 years on, we have done much, lived in places where there was no tv and no telephones. We have experienced poverty and homelessness and seen God prove Himself faithful time and again. We have seen our children grow into incredible strong young people of God; independent,  capable, motivated and passionate.  We have never gone without a meal. We have had all our needs met at the times when we needed them met. We have had the privilege of meeting and having fellowship with some of the most amazing people that God ever put on this Earth. We have had the privilege of being an answer to prayer many times and in some of the most surreal situations.
We have walked where no white man has walked (literally). We have been to places that we might only have dreamed of. I have made music to crowds of thousands, and ministered to young people going through difficult times. Tambrey has blessed scores of people that God has put across her path; speaking into their lives, taking them to achieving things they never thought possible.
30 years on as we look back we can see the path that God has taken us on.
It reminds me of that scripture in Jeremiah 29:11.

I know the thoughts I have towards you says the Lord; thoughts of good and not of evil to give you a hope and a future...

And in Proverbs 16:9

A man's heart plans his way,
But the Lord directs his steps.

God had and still has great plans for us and if I had known then what I have experienced since, I may not have been so keen to pursue this path. But looking back I have no regrets. We have had no shortage of tough times and situations, but God has brought us through every one. And not just barely but triumphantly. What I can honestly say is that these times, times of trial and triumph have defined us and our family, shaping us into what and who we have become.  And through it all, as the song says, I've learnt to depend upon my God.

The one thing I keep on seeing is the closer we draw to God, the closer He draws to us. He blesses us beyond what we have ever dreamed. And as I look forward to the next 30 years, sharing them with the loves of my life and being introduced to new ones, I pray that together we will continue to grow closer and more dependant on Him. Because that is where the blessing comes from!
Have a great week.