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Sunday, 16 December 2012

An Angel's Christmas Letter

 Philippians 2:7 "{Jesus Christ}...made Himself nothing taking the very nature of a servant being made in human likeness." NIV



  To my dear humans, beloved of the Most High God, {Creator and Sustainer of the universe},

 Grace and Peace to you, as I wing my way across the heavens eager to do the bidding of the God of Love, thrilled to relay His messages and to magnify His name in song.

 My dear humans, on one such flight I drew close to the earth and could not help but be caught up in your Christmas preparations. The beautiful carols that you sing, the colourful Christmas lights strung across your gardens and the thoughtful presents given as tokens of love and instantly it was as though I was back at that very first Christmas.

 There was singing as angels are known to be particularly blessed with the heavenliest of voices. On that first Christmas it was our job to alert the shepherds and to praise God. Oh what a wonderful night as our anthem rang out across the earth. A tad terrifying for the shepherds but they soon recovered and sought the baby in the manger so they could worship Him.

 There were lights on that first Christmas when the sky was illuminated by the intense brightness of God's pure glory and then the shining star from the East guided the wise men  to the manger, all, so they too, could worship Him.

 There was a present, the most beautiful and world changing present one had ever seen or will ever see again. The greatest gift of God to you, dear humans and His name is Jesus.

 That night was full of splendour but it was the gift that we angels found the most spectacular. For Jesus had existed before the earth was born, He was present and active in creating the world and yet He had been sent by God to become human as the only rescue plan for you, dear people. To save you humans from sin and it's punishment. It was astounding that He was willing to set aside His glory and lay wrapped in rags in a stable. Jesus, fully God yet fully man, without sin.

 As angels who worshipped Jesus we longed to understand, Jesus the most precious gift, given out of the unfathomable love of God.

 Now dear humans, this Christmas, look with me at God's gift, Jesus, no longer clothed in squalor, no longer hung on a cross but risen and exalted by God to the highest place and at the name of Jesus Christ every knee on heaven and earth will bow and every tongue will confess Jesus is Lord. Like the shepherds, the wise men and the angels may you seek Him and find Him that you may worship Him too!!!! Philippians 2; 8 -11.

  In awe of God's awesome love, The Very little Angel, {TVLA}


 "GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST, AND ON EARTH  
    PEACE TO MEN ON WHOM HIS FAVOUR RESTS"

 Luke 2:14 {NIV}




Saturday, 17 November 2012

The Chocolate Cake Chief


               "And Jesus answered and said to him, "It is written, ' You shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only"
                                                               Luke 4:8 {NASV}
In our very first weeks of arriving in Africa, it was recommended to us to visit the Chief of the local area, just to introduce ourselves, give our thanks for letting us live amongst his people and to bring a gift to show respect befitting a man of his position.

To be honest I was pretty excited to meet a real Chief  for the first time and had dutifully baked a chocolate cake and wrapped it in foil, because naiively I thought all people groups would be just as enamoured by chocolate cake as most Aussies were.

On one of those hot afternoons where every intake of breath seems to just make ones temperature rise a little higher, my husband and I walked off into the crowded market place, teeming with people, livestock, grains, meat, clothes and yes, more heat. We had to cross the market place to get to the Chief's palace.

After only a few steps we met a man who was an employee at a local school. He very excitedly pointed out the dignified, tall, handsome older man to his left, neither man spoke or understood English and we were no help as we knew very little of their language. I did note the man wore elaborately embroidered clothes, a square hat and curly toed shoes.

And this is where my excitedness and did I mention the heat comes into it. I'm staring at this man and I have one of my light bulb moments and make the only possible connection THIS MAN IS THE CHIEF. I break into the converstion of the men and say with great clarity to my husband, "This man is the chief !!!"
My husband, not at all convinced and throwing me one of those, are you insane? looks, that I know so well, murmurs "Are you sure?"
Utterly convinced "Yes, he is saying he is the chief, look at his clothes, look how regal he is, quick, smile and give him the chocolate cake."
"Jenny, I  don't think so", he protested in vain.
Exasperated now, I grab the cake and foist it upon this man insisting all the while, "It's really the chief".
 The stranger is surprised, smiles and much laughter follows and they turn and leave the market.
I'm happy because the chief got the cake, job well done but my husband still looks confused and possibly a little annoyed.

A while later we meet other men that my husband knows and they tell him the Chief is in a big meeting with all the Chiefs in the area, he cannot be disturbed and he has not stepped foot in the market.

We thank the men and head for home. My husband kindly restrains himself from saying "I told you so."

With head down I mumble quietly, "well I really thought it was the Chief."

No matter how I reasoned out my actions, I had given my gift and payed my respects to the wrong Chief {actually he wasn't a Chief} and this made me think of who or what do we give respect to or follow, who is the Chief of our lives? Have we chosen the right one? Or have we been fooled or side tracked and are we worshiping someone or something other than Jesus?

Periodically even as Christians we need to stop and check that God is still first in our lives and that we have not allowed other things like career goals, holidays, spouses, worries, desire for recognition, successful service, romantic love, intellectual learning  etc, to take the place of God.

The devil even tried to tempt Jesus with this one and wanted Jesus to worship himself (the devil}. Jesus response was that He would only worship and serve God for God alone is worthy. The God of the bible is the one true God, there is no other. None of the things or people we may place before God can save us or bring us to heaven. (John 3;16 - 18}

The happenings of that day spread like wildfire through the village to the merriment of all who heard it and that innocent bystander became forever known as the Chocolate Cake Chief. Perhaps a week after the incident, I was in the kitchen when I saw through the window a very impressive car driving to the front door. Men in red and green uniforms with guns jumped out and opened the back door for an older man to alight. He was well dressed and in regal robes. He knocked on my door and I answered, he smiled at me and introduced himself as the real Chief and then said he still expected me to bake a chocolate cake for him as well. He had a great sense of humour.

We left Africa eight years later and at our farewell we were presented with the chocolate cake that you see in the picture because that story is part of how we are remembered. Through the help of the Holy Spirit may we all be remembered as serving the real God and following Him all the days of our lives and may we not become  distracted by the numerous chocolate cake gods.




Thursday, 1 November 2012

LOVE REMAINS


1Corinthians 13:8,10,13
Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever.(8)

But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless.(10)

Three things will last forever, faith, hope and love and the greatest of these is love.(13) 
                                                  The New Living Translation
 
  I anticipated greatly the sermon series on I Corinthians that was delivered at our church because of course we would discuss all the different spiritual gifts given to believers and lets face it that's pretty exciting that God would even consider giving us spiritual gifts.

As I listened to the preaching, I think what hit me the most was the following:

* PERSPECTIVE - whatever my spiritual gift, here on earth it will always be delivered imperfectly, everything on this earth is not perfect only in heaven will things be found to be perfect. For me this is an immense relief, as I unfortunately suffer from perfectionist syndrome and I am sure there are others of you out there like me who somehow feel we should do everything without any mistakes. Of course we know in our head that will never happen but we place undue pressure on ourselves to deliver the impossible. I feel encouraged to not hold back because of insecurities but to offer my imperfectness to God for His use.

*  URGENCY - these spiritual gifts will pass away (8) and finish. It would seem spiritual gifts have been given for our time on earth, in order to encourage each other to grow in our faith and bring glory to God. (1 Cor 14:12) We cannot use them to benefit others if we are in the grave. Gods intended use of the spiritual gifts he has given is for now, may we be wise in using these opportunities.

*  LOVE - as the NIV study bible says," love supersedes the spiritual gifts because it outlasts them all". If we don't have God's love, we have nothing and our spiritual gifts if not used in love, amount to nothing. Am I using my gift to display the love of God? May the answer always be, YES
"because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. "( Romans 5:5) Praise God, even in our weakness, He enables us to please Him.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

ARMED ROBBERS AND PRAYER


"Pray at all times. Ask God for anything in line with the Holy Spirit's wishes. Plead with him, reminding him of your needs and keep praying earnestly for all Christians everywhere."
                                            Ephesians 6:18, The Living Bible translation

In 2004 when our family lived in Africa we had the terrifying experience of having armed robbers invade the guest house where we were trying to rest from a previous armed robber attack that had only happened a week earlier. (Some rest !!!!)

The twilight had faded into night and our two primary aged kids, my husband and I were playing pictionary, ( a game none of us play anymore) on the first floor room of the guesthouse. Suddenly there was loud banging and screaming from downstairs and the sound of a door being smashed. We could hear the voices of a large group of men swearing and demanding money from the guests below.

From our previous experience we knew these men would carry guns and other weapons, (and they did), they were also known to shoot those who had no money, and those who showed any resistance. Particularly, it increasingly became their modus operandi to rape women during their crime sprees.

Stunned, my husband and I stared at each other and then we locked the door. Our first thought was to remove our children from danger. There was a man hole in the ceiling and my husband hoisted them into the roof space and they balanced precariously on the wooden beams, clinging on for dear life, acutely aware of the gravity of the situation.

Our instructions to them were this, "Do not make a sound, do not look down, no matter what you hear in this room, do not speak unless we call your name or one of our American friends calls for you." They were silent.

My husband then busied himself  with dismembering every piece of furniture in the room and piling it against the door and then bracing himself against it with his feet, waiting for the inevitable.

As a trained registered nurse and someone who has been a christian for many years I had always imagined I would be cool, calm and collected in this sort of desperate situation. But I was actually a complete mess!

My life certainly didn't flash before me, I just kept lamenting the fact that, if only I had done more excersize and followed a strict diet, then I could have hidden in the roof space too but now I'm too fat to squeeze in!!! 

My thoughts did eventually turn to God as I nervously paced the room and stepped in and out of an empty bath, I can only put that down to sheer panic. Frightened, I  cried out to God and said, please, oh please give me a bible verse for this situation!!!!

But there was no answer, of course if I am totally honest I was expecting God to say you will be protected, no harm will come to you etc, etc. Dictating to God never works even in a crisis, if you have ever tried it.

Finally, desperate and in genuine need I knelt before God on the cold tiled floor of the bathroom and asked please God in this time of great danger, please speak to me and help me to deal with whatever is about to happen.

God then answered, 
 Jenny, there are so many people praying for you and your family right now.
An instant calmness filled me, which I can only describe as the presence of God and I didn't feel so alone because I knew the precious prayers of those who follow Jesus had reached God on our behalf pleading with God for our protection in this dire situation.
I came out of the bathroom and my husband and I prayed and committed our family to God and then had the presence of mind,( thanks to God) to ring a friend and alert her to the problem.

We listened as mens voices yelled "upstairs, upstairs". We switched the light off and heard footsteps creeping towards our door and then watched the door handle, it slowly moved downward and was pushed as they tested the lock but they did not break down the door. We collectively let out our breath and waited quietly, the time moved interminably slowly and from the eventual silence below us we knew the criminals had departed and soon after we heard friends anxiously calling our names to see if we were unharmed. Only then did we remove the kids from their hiding place and unlock the door.

God answered and protected us.

When  I reflect on that night I am always reminded  how important are the prayers of God's people!!! The verse in Ephesians says, as followers of Jesus we must pray at all times and especially for our fellow Christians. My question to myself is, do I, do I pray enough for other believers? as much as God would like? imagine if the people we knew had not been praying for us because they were tired of it, distracted, had better things to do, you name the excuse that we all give to God about our lack of prayer. How incredibly thankful I am that we had faithful churches, friends, family and even people we didn't know earnestly bringing us before the throne of God in our hour of need. Do we pray enough as churches, as bible study groups, as families, as individuals for other believers?

 That fateful night also reminds me that we have the immense privilege of serving a powerful and loving God who desires that we bring our needs before Him and He comes in response to our prayers and answers them in accordance with His will. ( Ephesians 3:20, 1John 5:14,15)
We have a God who answers prayer!!!
 Do we take advantage of such an offer? I believe God wants us to.
Do we pray according to what the Holy spirit would desire for us and our families, for our world?

Let's be faithful and constant in our prayers, remember James 5:16 and I am paraphrasing, "the earnest prayer of one saved by Jesus has great and powerful results". Because our God is mighty.
What sort of prayers could we be offering to our gracious God today?




Wednesday, 3 October 2012

THE SCENT OF SPRING


"But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him."  2 Cor2;14 (NIV)
The wonderful season of Spring is upon us and the warm breezes that swirl around us are infused with the redolent scents from exqusite flowers. I often choose to water the garden in the twilight of dusk just so I can breathe in the sweet fragrances that still hang heavily in the air, undiluted by the day. As Summer approaches these delicate flowers wilt or give way to fruits and their perfume also vanishes.

The fragrance of Spring reminds me of the verse from the bible in 2 Cor2;14 where the apostle Paul writes about a fragrance that has infinitely more value than that of Spring flowers and one that will never fade.

Paul uses the imagery of the Roman generals of old who led their conquered captives in processions through the streets accompanied by the burning of incense and aromatic spices, for all the people to see and marvel at their great victory.

It is God who leads us as captives in His triuphal procession. He has paid the price for us by the death of His son on the cross and rescued us from the camp of the enemy. He has risen from the dead and won the battle against satan and our sin. He has conquered death!!!  For those that believe and trust in His name he leads us as captives of His love for all the world to see.

Whatever country we live in, whatever we do in our daily lives, God has placed us on display to our neighbours, family and friends,etc as those that Christ has redeemed, that we may spread the fragrance of who Jesus is.

Wow!! which of us could possibly hope to do that at all, let alone effectively? Fortunately for us, it is God who leads us, and it is God who spreads the saving fragrance of Christ through us by His Holy Spirit.

I hope as a follower of Christ, you would feel greatly encouraged because not only has God mightily saved us but through His power and grace He uses us, flawed and sinful people to spread the beautiful and everlasting aroma of salvation to those around us.

Let us thank God for His salvation and pray that the fragrance of the love of Christ would permeate our lives and spread to many, that they too may become captives to Jesus love.