Search This Blog

Friday, 3 February 2017

God's will - our sexual purity.

  As I look at the tree in the picture, set apart from the rest of the bush, clearly growing in a hard rocky place it reminds me that as believers we too have been set apart to follow Christ and stand out as different from the society in which we live.

The Thessalonian Christians were also living in a society whose values were in conflict with the gospel. According to Leon Morris (Morris, 121, NIV Commentary) the society at the time expected men to 'seek the satisfaction of their sexual desires outside the marriage bond.' But Paul urges the Thessalonians to not give into the pressure of society but instead, seek to please God
 (1 Thessalonians 4: 1-8). He continues, saying that if we truly want to please God and do his will we will want to be sanctified and set apart for God's purposes which includes being sexually pure.

This led me to think: what are the sexual pressures or the gradual numbing process that we face from our contemporary society where we are tempted to fall into complacency and accept the world's standards, perhaps without even realising we have done so. As we know being sexually pure means abstaining from adultery and fornication which I'm sure we all acknowledge but I believe it also includes what we watch. We need look no further than our TV's to discover the standard of our world in these areas. In Australia at the moment, there are ads for '50 shades darker,' an SBS show called 'undressed' 'where getting naked is the latest dating trend' and of course the many TV series where nakedness and having sex on screen or joking about sex are on offer, for our voyeuristic appetites.

Do we fall in with contemporary society and watch these shows because after all the story is so good?
The story line may be good but I challenge anyone, including myself, to watch nakedness and sexual activity and also fulfill the Bibles exhortation to think about 'whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, .... or praiseworthy' (Philippians 4:8). It is not possible.

As Christians we must not accept societies standards regarding sexual purity if they are out of whack with the what the Bible says. Instead we must seek the will of God which is to be set apart for God as those with holy standards as we seek to please Him. For pleasing God includes our sexual purity which includes what we watch. May we together, be strengthened by the Holy Spirit to obey God and grow strong in Christ just as the tree in the picture has stood out against the surrounding bush and has grown strong and sturdy in a hard place.

Prayer: "Dear Lord Jesus, forgive us when we have strayed and made excuses and watched shows or read books that have been sexually impure. Please strengthen us to not conform to society's standards but to please and love you in our thought life, and in our actions, that you may be honoured. Amen"











Sunday, 8 May 2016

COLOURS: For mothers across the world. You colour our lives!!

1 Corinthians 13:13 'And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Colours drift across our world,
reminding us of our mothers.
They float and weave through the mind,
Skipping behind and dancing ahead,
Tingeing our days with mercy.

There's bright red ribbon on an old hat,
Blood scarlet bands of self-sacrifice,
Always embracing, never resentful.
A mother's love bleeds, to reveal
Yellow daffodils, perched on a wooden chair,
Peaceful, sunny, faithful,
witnessing potential, amidst reality.
The flowers fade as the light glimpses,

The royal purple of a lollipop, bold and brave.
Solitary bauble on a thin stick,
Mothers stand beside us and are not ashamed.

A young man walks by, 
His blue jumper swirls ever brighter.
Just like the hope that swells in the heart,
Because there is always hope,
Brilliant hope, vivid hope in the eyes of all mothers.

Muted rays of a tangerine sun,
Flicker and wink in the twilight.
Laughter, delighted smiles and freedom,
Before the safety of slumber in a mother's arms.

Colours mingle in our world,
Subtle and strong, vibrant and real.
With soft caress they nurture our soul,
The extraordinary kaleidoscope, gift of God, a MOTHER.

By Jennifer O'Neill
In honour of all mothers. 

Monday, 29 February 2016

The Reluctant Church Goer (me).

Heb 10:25 Let us ' not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another..' 


Today, I'm talking about church. Not any particular church but more how God has changed me, a fairly reluctant, even bored church goer into someone who wants to be there.

There are all the usual reasons as to why church can be more of a pain than a pleasure and I'm sure you know the list, here's a few common ones: people are unfriendly, your kids are left out of the social group, the sermon is pretty awful, you feel like you don't fit in, your disappointed by others behaviours (including the minister, or those who lead up front), your disappointed and distressed by your own behaviours as well, church is the day that your kids are the worst behaved EVER and make you want to not bother, its hard as a single because everyone seems to be married, its hard as a married with little kids because you don't get to hear the sermon, you get to sit in the creche every week and if your going to feel absolutely exhausted its got to be Sunday (well that's what happens to me).

(Of course, if its not working for your kids, absolutely find a church that does. If the truth is not being preached, find a church that preaches the truth. If your sick or exhausted or burnt out, then absolutely you will have to miss church until you are better. God knows and understands our circumstances, He is gracious and kind, NOT legalistic.)

Really good things happen in church as well but when you are having a downer about church its so easy to focus on the negatives. Churches are not perfect, how can they be when they are filled with imperfect people like me and you.

Anyway my attitude change, all started when doing a unit at SMBC on church . A slow feeling of guilt crept over me. We studied the passages that said how God builds us up as Christians, together, in community, not just on our own. You know, the passages on how as believers, we are all  'one body' in Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-13). I could feel my individualistic self crying out 'NO' I love being individualistic and as an introvert and writer I doubly love it. I love to be alone. But God was saying you need to be together with other followers of Jesus that's a big part of spiritual growth (Ephesians 4:15-16). I secretly wondered whether God was favouring extroverts with this whole set up of church.

And then He really brought it home to me; You and I need to be in church because:

1.God says He will use me to encourage others and if I'm not there its you guys at my church who miss out. As Australians I think our culture resists that, we do put ourselves down in jokes we are always self deprecating because that's our culture. But the truths of the Bible outrank our cultures. God is saying He intends me to be a blessing for others and He will use me as I am, so I'm thinking I'd better be there with all my faults, misgivings, doubts, sins, basically my imperfectness because if God has said it, He's going to do it and I'm going to trust that He will. You can see where I'm going with this, I really need you to turn up to church, with all your imperfections and difficult situations because God is going to use you to encourage me and I  don't want to miss what God is going to do through you at church and how He will use you to bless us. Pretty much church is a community of believers, and we're waiting and wanting everyone to turn up so God can use us to be a blessing to each other, so we can grow up to be like Christ (Ephesians 4:12-13).

Even Paul when he writes to the Christians in Rome says he seeks to be an encouragement to them and also to be encouraged by them, he writes 'I long to see you that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong - that is that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith.' Romans 1: 11, 12.
                               
                                                                  PLUS

2. I need to worship God. God has done so much for me and my family, he has never left me or forsaken me, I need to be in church, worshipping Him. I know all our lives, all we do and say should be about worshipping Him but God gives us this special community in which he desires us to worship Him together. After all isn't that what heaven is about extolling the virtues of God with all His peoples, with all the heavenly hosts, throughout eternity, Church is where we can get started now.

This all comes with a warning;
 God warns us to NOT 'give up' or the Greek means to 'abandon'  seeing each other (Hebrews 10:25) because we can't then encourage each other and we may fall away. No-one is immune from that.

So if you are finding church hard, remember, the people of God need you and me to be a mutual encouragement to each other and to heap praise on our most deserving and beautiful God until this life ends or He comes again.

"You are a chosen people...that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light." 1 Peter 2:9

   

                                                              THE END







Saturday, 30 January 2016

When Life gives you "Rock Cakes" and NOT "Pavlovas".

Aussie Pavlova


As I enter 2016 and lay aside 2015, I do so with some trepidation. 2015 was a hard year, with chronic illness and family issues pushing it way into the struggle zone. I'm sure you too, can relate to a year or years that as an Aussie I would describe them as serving up rock cakes instead of pavlovas (see definitions below).

At the beginning of every year, I ask God for a verse or thought that is His message to me for that time. I do this because I know I need His encouragement in my life, more than anything. In 2015 God was definitely saying,"You need to persevere, Jenny" and He was right and He has graciously brought me to the end of 2015.

For 2016, I feel God has said, "This year you need to work on Trusting and Obeying." It reminds me of the old Sunday school song "Trust and Obey for there is no other way, to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey," by John H. Sammis.

It's NOT a blind trust and obedience, that I have but a trust in the One who showed His love through going to the cross. I can't get past that love of Jesus, I know who I am trusting in and seeking to obey, I know the depths of His character and I've known His faithfulness, despite my ongoing difficulties, I'm sure you can say that too.
" This is love: not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent His son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." 1 John 4:10

I trust He has a plan for my life and yours because He promises that He does, even though sometimes it feels like it makes no sense. He promises He has good things for me and you to do. This gives me and you hope.
"For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." Ephesians 2:10

And I want to obey Him and not turn away in the difficulties, which I find can be the underlying temptation when hardships are upon me. Besides, He promises to bring good out of the troubles, when we follow Him, we can trust Him that He will.
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him.." Romans 8:28

I don't know how your 2015 has been but may I encourage you in 2016 to together with me, to "Trust and Obey" God, for as the song continues "In fellowship sweet we will sit at His feet, Or we'll walk by His side in the way; What He says we will do, Where He sends we will go; Never fear only trust and obey." the song is describing here and now because Jesus is here for us now, He walks with us now to encourage and help us. He has promised, that He will never leave us or forsake us. Hebrews 13:5

So maybe it will be a year full of rock cakes or there may be a few pavlova's thrown in, whichever it is, may you and I, as followers of Jesus, be found to be trusting and obeying Him, because He is worth it.


p.s. rock cakes, are very unpalatable palm sized cakes, with raisins, which usually end up really hard in consistency, hence the name, I assume. Whereas pavlova as shown in the picture is a delightful combination of meringue and cream and rasberries (traditionally strawberries). No doubt there will be some who like rock cakes, so my apologies if that's the case, maybe I have just never had a tasty one, yet.

Friday, 2 January 2015

Calling all Christians to make 2015 - the year of Prayer.





As 2014 closes and 2015 begins, we may find that coupled with the excitement of a new year there may also be a level of anxiety and uncertainty.

On a personal level there may be ongoing financial pressures,unfixed relationships, grieving for loved ones that have passed away, work dissatisfaction, health issues or loneliness, etc.

On the national level, many are concerned about developing an efficient and just way to approach our refugee situation, many are worried about climate change, the rise of pornography and its detrimental effect on personal relationships, binge drinking and the associated crime, the terrible crime of child abuse and domestic violence, are deeply concerning.

On the world stage, the ongoing fight against extremism in countries like Syria, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Kenya and then the attacks that have occurred in Canada, Pakistan (school) and even Australia (Lindt cafe) is alarming. Then to think of the human rights abuses that are occurring against religious (particularly Christian) and ethnic (e.g.Yazidi) groups, brings us to rightly ask the question, "What can we, as Christians, do in response?"

I believe God wants us to pray, pray as we have perhaps never prayed before. As Christians, we care so much about the injustice and suffering of all people, including all nationalities and religious groups, wherever it occurs.
 So let's make 2015 the year of Prayer.

Why? Because our God hears our prayers, answers our prayers and acts according to His will. (1John 5: 14,15). He loves and cares for us, lets talk to Him.


Of course, you can pray any prayer that you want to but I think the very prayer that Jesus taught His own disciples is so instructive and helpful for us at this time as it tells us to seek God's will in everything and to live holy and godly lives.

                                 The Lord's Prayer (Matt 6:9-15)
 "Our Father in heaven,"  God hears our prayers because, Christ, God the Son has died on the cross and risen from the cross, for us, redeeming us from sin. By faith, we believe this and are forgiven. When we pray we, as His children are ushered before the Creator of the universe, whose throne room spans both heaven and earth (Isaiah 66:1). This is our Heavenly Father. He made all things and defeated death, there is no God more powerful to pray to but the God of the bible. God promises to hear the prayers of His children and to answer (1 John 5:14-15). 
Fellow believers, we have the very ear of God, should we not pray? Should we not make a concerted effort to come before Him every day? Perhaps we need to get up an hour earlier each day, or change our daily routine in order to spend time in God's presence? Let's do it.
"Hallowed be Your Name." We are to seek the glorifying of God's name and character, that He would continue to be revealed to mankind, his justice and compassion and love and holiness and goodness and wisdom. The fulfillment of the revelation of God's Holy name will come, when Jesus returns as King (Rev 4:11) as certainly as I'm writing this blog and you are reading it. We therefore endeavour to live in a way that proclaims His beauty and holiness, whatever our circumstances, in the strength of the Holy Spirit. Living a holy life starts with our thinking. We must be careful of what our minds dwell on. The bible calls us to think on things that are "right, lovely, admirable..." (Phil 4:8).
" Your Kingdom Come, Your will be Done, On Earth as it is in Heaven."  Our desire in all circumstances is to see the will of God achieved in our lives as perfectly as it is achieved in heaven. For His will is perfect and good (Romans 12:1). The main thrust of Gods' will is His righteous judgement and salvation. We wait for the perfect completion of this, when Christ returns but it is our responsibility to work towards these purposes in our own lives and in the world and to pray for the end of suffering and for justice to be done. Do we strive to totally surrender our will to Gods', to release our hopes and dreams into His hands? His will is never easy but in  love he chooses the best path for us, one that shows forth His glory. May God help us to show compassion in practical ways to those around us, to give justice and seek justice for others and to share the gospel.
" Give us Today our Daily Bread." Our entire lives depend on Gods will, we don't know what tomorrow will bring. It is actually God who decides whether we live or die. But God wants us to ask Him for help with all our needs, whether they be physical, relational, emotional or spiritual. Why? so we can live to glorify Him. In 2015 lets trust God by letting go of anxiety. He cares for us and loves us (Phil 4:19). What concerns should we take out of the "worry cupboard" and bring before our Heavenly Father today?
"Forgive us our debts as we have also forgiven our debtors," The word debtors really means sins. Jesus teaches and empowers us to forgive others, just as God has forgiven us. R. C Sproul in his book "Effective Prayer; Making prayer all that it is meant to be." p37, states that "It is an insult to God for us to withhold forgiveness and grace from those who ask us, while claiming to be forgiven and saved by grace ourselves." Jesus teaches us to forgive others whether they are sorry or not, and we must, so that our fellowship with God may always be free from the strain of sin that would cause distance between ourselves and our Heavenly Father. Are we ready to allow the motives of our actions, thoughts and words to be scrutinised by God, and to be the one who appologizes, if need be?
"Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one." The bible teaches us that our temptations come in 2 ways. Firstly our own lusts can lead us into sin if we allow them to continue unchecked (James 1:13-15). Secondly, Satan attacks us like a "roaring lion" (1 Peter 5: 8,9). God protects us in that he establishes us and guards us against Satan (2 Thessalonians 3:3), and he never allows a temptation that is too strong for us (1 Cor 10:13). Praise God, we must resist the devil, and be strong in Jesus because Satan was defeated on the cross some 2000 years ago.  When we suffer for being Christians we can take heart with our fellow brothers and sisters who suffer, for the suffering will end and God will restore, confirm, strengthen and establish us (1 Peter 5:8-11).

When we pray to God He responds not just with the specific answers that we seek but He has ordained that through prayer He will bring about His will in this world. (Ex 32:11-14, James 5:17)

Let us Not give up but bring ourselves, our families, our nation, our world before Him so that His perfect will may overcome the present evil and prevail and many may turn to serve the Living God. 

                     God is listening, let us pray.


Revelation 8:4 " The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God from the angel's hand." 
 




 

 

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

My Christmas Poem: At Christmas Time

At Christmas Time
                                                           

String the lights upon the tree,
Place a candy cane for you and me.
Fix the stockings to the wall,
Hang the tinsel up the hall.

Sing a carol by the beach,
Make pavlova in the heat.
Cook the turkey or the prawns,
Wrap the presents, mow the lawns.

Kiss and hug the family,
Give what we can to the needy.
Pray for strength for the sick,
Remember loved ones that we miss.

For our God has sent His Son,
Jesus Christ the Peaceful One.
He who knows our joys and pain,
Gave His life, our life to gain.

So, hold hands with our neighbour,
Unite and seek the Risen Saviour.
Open our hearts to the One above,
 Celebrate Christ, God's gift of Love,
At Christmas time.

by Jennifer Ann 

"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given...He shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, 
Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:6 

 Glossary: Pavlova is a meringue dessert.
   Prawns are shrimps. 






Saturday, 9 August 2014

The Tale of Sally and Sue and the Tree with Lights


There was once a woman called Sally who lived in a place called "the lucky country", where the standard of living was high, there were no wars and eduction was free. Sally had a partner who was as successful as he was nice. she also had three wonderful children and a job that she enjoyed. Her mortgage was payed off and not only that her garden looked totally awesome (the best garden in the street, for sure). Sally worked hard to make her life the best that it could be.

                                                    SALLY FELT CONTENT & HAPPY

Until.......... she noticed her work colleague who also appeared CONTENT & HAPPY in fact sometimes she looked more content & happy than even Sally herself. Not that Sally minded others being content & happy but this woman Sue had in Sally's opinion a "crap life". Sues' marriage had not worked, her kids struggled at school and financially things were tight and Sally had heard that her garden was even full of weeds. Sally knew that there was no way that Sue should look anywhere near content & happy.

As Sally watched Sue, month after month her puzzlement and dissatisfaction grew. So one day in the tea room Sally finally blurted out the question.

"Hey Sue, I know things aren't going great for you, but you look really okay about it all. I don't understand because if it was me I'd be angry and unhappy with my life. Is there a love interest we don't know about or have you won lotto?"

"No, none of those, I'm okay even though things are quite difficult for me because I don't belong here." 

 "In the tea room?"

"No, on earth. I belong to the Kingdom of Light. You see there are two kingdoms and I belong to the one that lasts forever, where I am eternally loved, where there won't be health or financial issues or crying because of kids misbehaving. And the King who rules this Kingdom is love, He's good, He's just, He's truth and the King helps me every day to thank Him for all He has given me, its because of Him that I'm okay on the inside no matter whats happening around me."

Sally taken aback decided to just humour her, so very casually she asked.

"I'm not seeing it, but lets say there are two kingdoms, so whats the other one like?"

"Gosh, oh the other kingdom is terrible its like darkness, the king there has already been defeated by my King but he pretends that he rules all the earth. But he just wants to trick people and destroy their lives, he hates everybody, there is only pain and suffering and darkness and eternal death, and he loves war and hate."

"Okay this is my problem though" said Sally, feeling more unhappy and discontent than ever "If you belong to the Lovey dovey King and I'm guessing I'm in the darkness hatred zone with the bad king, how come my life looks pretty cruisy and great and yours, well doesn't?"

"Well, that's called a false sense of security because the king of the dark kingdom lulls you into thinking that this earth is so good that there is no life after death and you don't feel that you need the King of Light."

Sue went on as Sally just watched her not sure if all this was believable or not whatever the case, Sue had definitely missed the evolution class where there was no fantasy king stuff.

" Even though things aren't always great for me here, I do have the King who walks beside me and encourages me every day. My life is secure in His love. I do believe that He died so I could live. He has rescued me from the kingdom of darkness into His own Kingdom of Light. He makes me content and happy"

Sue finished and ended by saying "you should think about it."


"Yeah maybe." Sally replied, not sure what to make of it all.

Sally and Sue went home and unknown to each other, they both drove past the same tree, all sparkling with white fairy lights, shining against the jet blackness of the night.

Sally did see the tree, it did make her think of the two kingdoms, after all she like everyone worried about death and the after life and bad things happening but at the moment she had things under control perhaps later she'd think about it seriously I mean it would be nice to be loved by the Awesome King,but who has the time, what would her partner say? Life was working out. It's a pretty tree though, nice lights. She zoomed off toward the darkness determined to be content & happy.

Sue also saw the tree, wow what a beautiful tree it reminds me of how safe and good it is to belong to the Kingdom of Light and Love and even though the darkness is so big it can never put out the Light, Thank you so much my King and please help Sally to want to know You. She too drove off into the darkness, content & happy.

"Giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share the inheritance of his Holy people in the kingdom of light. He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." Colossians 1:13,14