Sunday, December 11, 2011

An Amazing Miracle - The Backpack

Recently I purchased a fold out poster for Street Chaplains. The final design chosen was a backpacker helping another climb a mountain. Its caption read - the path of life leads upward for the wise. The illustration wasn't exactly what I wanted, however, the Chaplain leader pointed out how Street Chaplains often come in contact with backpackers and thus it was appropriate. Neither of us could possibly have known how fitting these words would be.
10 th Dec, Saturday night, three Chaplains headed out to face Northbridge. It was a full moon, and tonight was also an eclipse. Superstition can play havoc with people's minds; I disregarded any such thoughts entering my own head. It is a large spinning rock that reflects the sun's rays - nothing more. That day, however, had been an intense one for spiritual disciplines. I literally prayed for hours. In blocks of 30 to 45 minutes. In between prayer I read Ephesians, Colossians, Hebrews, 1 Peter and half of Matthew. Arriving at the briefing there was a heightened sense of God's Spirit. Either it was to be quiet night or a very busy one. The Street Chaplain leader opted for the latter.
We prayed specifically. One prayer asked for people to be guided to us by God's Spirit. Another prayer asked that our faith may be increased and at its increase that our renewed faith may be used more powerfully. We headed off in eager anticipation. There was a surreal feeling of joy and peace God was making His presence felt. We stopped at Drug Arm. Immediately all three of us were in conversations with people. The discussions instantly involved God. The conversations moved naturally with no animosity or aggression. God's Spirit was clearly bringing people to us.

We headed off exchanging warm farewells. Our next incident was a man being sick. Vomit is an integral part of being a Street Chaplain. After awhile you just get used to it. In fact it is often a welcoming sign. Soon the person will be a little more sober. This particular man was no exception.

We gave him water and a hand towel. Hundreds of people were watching including the bouncers. Rosy O'Gradys is a good old Irish pub were British backpackers really do their country proud by proving they are masters of mixing drinks. Then projectile vomit them onto the street. The young man came back to the land of the living. He thanked us.

The bouncer gave us the thumbs up and the nod. Gaining respect from bouncers is no easy task. Helping those who are vomiting is the fastest way to impress them. No one likes handling vomit. It is not sulphuric acid though and actually doesn't burn if you come in contact with it. More importantly however, is that some poor soul is retching his or her stomach up; a bit of compassion goes a long way.
Mission accomplished. Again we walked off smiling. Our little team was bonding warmly - fast. After walking a lap of the city we sat down near the cultural centre on the main stairs of a piazza. Two gay men approached us. One was called - Luke. We had just been discussing the recent announcement of the Labour party's approval of gay marriage. Amazingly straight after this discussion the men approached and asked our opinion of this very topic. We gently told them we didn't agree with it. Luke proceeded to tell us neither did he and that he was once an Anglican Christian. We chatted with him and he introduced his partner. They thanked us for our time and moved on. We had stood our ground but under a Spirit of humility, dignity and gentleness. Without yielding our beliefs and no aggression surfaced. God's Spirit was present. We were started to truly sense Him.
An interesting Bicycle Christmas tree had been erected in the area as modern art. We all agreed it was creative. One drunken man didn't. He decided one of the bike components was his own Bicycle. He then proceeded to vandalise the structure. We walked over. I placed my hand on him gently and asked him to leave it alone. He yelled abuse at me, then feigned falling on the ground yelling a Street Chaplain touched me.

Thankfully he was no longer destroying the artwork. He hurriedly left abusing us. Onlookers were happy we had stepped in and saved the art work. Walking off I left the backpack behind. In the excitement I completely forgot it. On return it was gone. So to was my car keys that I had placed in the pack.

We prayed. Then started to search. Nothing. I was trying in vain to trust God had reason for this. Including my car spending the night in Northbridge and all the hassles of getting new keys. I wanted to believe it would turn up. We then called the Police operation room and asked the camera department to check footage and see if they could see who stole it.
The police were sincerely sympathetic and very helpful. Within seconds over forty Police Officers were notified that the Chaplain's pack had been stolen. Police everywhere were asking if we had found it. One Officer stated I wouldn't want to be the person to have taken it - bad Karma ( I refrained from telling him that is Hinduism). I probably wouldn't want to be that person either however. Forty Police were now after him.

Christ often placed himself in vulnerable positions to allow others to help him. It empowered them. Over the years the Chaplains have done literally hundreds of good deeds in helping the Police. Tonight it was the Police's turn to return the favour. It was touching to see the entire shift's concern. Almost protective of us. To us, however, we could sense God was on the move behind the scenes. We started to be less anxious. 
Whilst searching for the backpack we were led into dark nooks and crannies. In each dark corner we encountered Aboriginal groups of men. Everyone of them was helpful and concerned for our pack. One man asked us to pray for his injured finger! We quickly sensed God was using the lost pack to guide us like chess pieces around His chess board. Leading us to where He needed us. It was surreal keeping up with the Spirit's activity. On entering one of these gangs they had looked aggressive, that is until we talked to them. Immediately respect and sincerity was their response. God was removing all fear.
Walking down the street still keeping an eye out (this now an hour later) two police asked did you get your keys back? We didn't know what they meant. They then told us "Oh the pack has been found we just heard it on the radio". Praise God. We were ecstatic in thankfulness and so to were the police - beaming smiles all round.
We hurriedly headed to the central station. On arriving another Officer with a Smile as wide as a Cheshire Cat handed us our recovered pack. The police had found it thrown in a bush. Every Officer on that shift knew that the Street Chaplain backpack was recovered. And everyone knew God had something to do with finding the stolen item so quickly. I opened the pack. The medical kit had been rummaged but nothing was taken. And...the sixty five dollars of Street Chaplain money was also completely intact in the side pocket. God blinds the eyes of who he chooses! Even the money was there including my keys. We were literally aglow with joy. We could also see God's plan in the whole series of events. Challenging our faith, involving the Police, leading us into dark little corners, and then praying for people within those corners! This however was just the beginning. God was simply warming up!
Not long afterwards we approached two Police helping a man on the concrete. He was bleeding from injuries to his face and head. The ambulance arrived but couldn't find us. The other Chaplain ran off to alert the Ambulance. By the time he arrived it was 400 metres away in the wrong direction. Amazingly the officers invited the Chaplain into the Ambulance to guide them to the scene. On route He was able to explain the injuries and incident. A trainee Officer was at the wheel and so the mature mentor was thankful to the Street Chaplain. Another solid connection made, this time with the Ambulance Service.
Our phone rang. The Police were calling us to the Central Station. Four backpackers had just had their car stolen and the Police asked if we could help them! On the phone I stated at the least we can give them some sympathy. The Police were thankful for the support. Leaving the injured man we headed off - the Police and Ambulance Officer thanking us. Rather than praying we suggested we would wait and pray for the car in front of the backpackers. Then if the car was found - God would get the glory - not coincidence.
Now our faith was really being tested. You could almost hear God say "If you can believe I can find a little backpack, do you believe I can find a backpacker's car?". Backpack Poster - Backpack - Backpacker's car. Surreal enough?
On arriving at the station four young European Backpackers greeted us. Their car with all their belongings - including their backpacks was stolen. We decided the first thing to do was to give them the money we had. We were amazed we even had it after our own backpack had been stolen thus it was the least we could do to help them. We then told them of how God had helped us find our own stolen Backpack. We told them that if even just one of them can believe then we also believe God can help find your car. They were reassured as we reiterated the story of our own Backpack being retrieved after prayer.
There in front of Perth Western Australia's central Police Headquarters the most amazing miracle occurred. Three Chaplains and four young European Backpackers bowed their heads and prayed to God in the name of His son Jesus Christ. We prayed the car would be found and all said Amen.
Then the miraculous happened.
No sooner had we said amen than a Senior Officer walked out of the Station and said "We have found your Car". Literally ten seconds had transpired.
The young female backpacker screamed and placed her hands on her mouth. The three men teared up immediately. Of course the Chaplains were also amazed, we tried to keep our composure at such a powerful sign of God's interaction. They nearly kissed our hands. We continually told them thank God, you now know God is very real. They tried to give us the money back but we told them God wanted you to have it, He loves you very much.
They were in shock. Joyous Shock. As we turned to leave one of them said "You are real angels". A Police woman across the street witnessed the whole event. Including the prayer and immediate response then adulation afterwards.
I prayed in tears the next morning. That people's eyes would be open. That they could see how no earthly coincidence could orchestrate such an amazing series of events. We three Chaplains pray that the eyes of those that hear this story may also be opened. That your faith increases as much as ours did.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Persecution

Jesus said "blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness for theirs is the kingdom of heaven".

I seem to be facing a fair amount of it lately, however, we learn not to complain but soldier on. Recently I had ventured out to help a young man addicted to drugs (in this case it was crack). I shared my testimony with him and the testimony of others that I had stored on my laptop. The meeting went well. I felt a connection with him. He wanted to go to a rehab centre and thus that is always a great outcome. The willingness to give up drugs or alcohol and turn your life around. Its hard to help people who do not want help.

As I left the young man's home I felt elated. I truly felt God's Spirit near (or in me, whichever it may be), I saw many signs of God even thanking me for my efforts. Yes God can thank His servants. Especially when we are so insecure that we need such encouragement (I fall into that category).

I was so much in joy I went to a local national park. I wanted to be in the wilderness to pray. Just as Jesus used to do when seeking God. I parked the car and ventured off enjoying the peace and tranquility of nature. I walked up a large hill and found a quiet spot. I must have prayed for about thirty minutes, read a little of the bible and then decided to go back home.

When I came back down the hill I found every window of my car smashed and glass everywhere. Drivers side , passenger, front/back, even the rear window was broken. Of course the laptop was gone. I immediately started giving thanks. Yes thanks. We are taught to give thanks in all circumstances. Not just when the going is good (its easy to give thanks then!) but also when the going is bad. God is good ALL THE TIME. That means he is good when your father dies, He is good when your child dies, he is good when your car is broken into. He hasn't turned bad at these times. Life comes with many blows, those that learn to roll with them are less effected by them. This was one of those moments to roll.

Obviously I knew this wasn't from God. God wasn't wishing me well for my work with the addict (two hours earlier) by kicking in all my car windows and stealing my laptop. No someone else was...In fact as a Pastor and missionary the attack was so blatantly obvious of being from the enemy (yes sorry the devil exists for those that didn't know - as CS Lewis once wrote "The devils greatest victory over man was making man believe he didnt exist"). For me having an answer to the break in actually softened the blow. Rather than cursing or feeling self pity I gave thanks to God for his comfort. The comfort of his words - "Blessed are the persecuted because of righteousness".

I had been doing God's work and we had a victory. A soul had believed the good news. In retaliation I had things of little consequence (compared to a human being) attacked. Things that rust and rot (as cars do) and therefore my heart isnt with them. Earthly things that Jesus tells us not to store up on earth. Yes I can use them to do God's will, but I certainly don't love my car or laptop. Why would I? Its a car. It will never love me back. It doesn't even know I exist.

When we put life into perspective we can see God always. Even in the bad times. When we praise him during such times, its then we understand how wonderful He is. Christ never promised an easy road. But he did promise to be with us till the end of it.

By the way the car got fixed and a new laptop was purchased. The lesson was learnt. Dont store up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves things in heaven where moth and rust do not destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal. My treasure was in heaven, a young man had been saved. Isn't that far more valuable (and fulfilling) than a car?? I promise you - he is to God.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Good Deeds

I haven't made many entries lately in my blog. Does that mean that God is not working in my life? Far from it. God never stops working in our lives. Often our eyes close to His presence though. At such times we simply need to refocus to see God at work again. Street Chaplains is one of those ministries where you can always see God at work. The need is great and so God can use those who are willing to do good.

Sadly I often come across zealous and legalistic advocates who proudly proclaim"YOU ARE SAVED BY FAITH NOT BY WORKS". They quote such as if it is the only  sentence in the entire Bible. Yet such zeal seems to accompany the disease of lethargy when it comes to lending a hand to someone in need. The thinking being 'well if that's the case I don't need to do any good deeds then'.  That style of thinking never sits well with me. Often the word 'good' is slipped in before the word 'works'. However you wont find that expression anywhere in the Bible. Why? Because God actually likes us to do good to others. And the more good we do, the merrier.

It is better to give than receive; I experience the closeness and blessing of God when I do good to others. Such work doesn't save my soul, agreed, however; it certainly warms my soul to do such.

Imagine Mother Teresa without good deeds or Florence Nightingale repeatedly announcing that good work done for others does not save you. Both women didn't have anytime for such academic rhetoric. They were far too busy helping the people who needed them and thankfully so is Jesus Christ. I really enjoy helping other people. I thank God I am enabled to do such (Eph 2:10).

The other night we helped a slightly inebriated man from England find his misplaced car. He had parked it at a backpackers. In Perth city there must be 50 backpackers. The man didn't have a clue which one. We guided him towards one particular backpacker my fellow Chaplain had chosen out of the 50. As we walked, the man opened up to me and shared about his father who had died of liver disease (Alcohol induced). I responded with my own father's similar fate. I then gently tried to tell him my testimony of being freed from alcohol by God. The seed was planted and so I smiled inwardly.

When we arrived at the backpackers his lost car was sitting in the car park. He was AMAZED and so were we. All three knew it was God. How else could we have been guided to the exact backpackers out of so many? I asked the man if he would allow us to pray for him. He agreed. SO there we were, three grown men, one a bricklayer from Leeds, tattooed and powerfully built with two Street Chaplains praying in a semi hug at 2am in the morning. After the prayer he was elated and thanked us excitedly. His eyes were all aglow and he had sobered up considerebly. The walk and prayer had helped.

You wont hear such stories on the 6 o'clock news. Nor even read about them in the morning paper. Bad news sells papers. Good news and Good deeds don't seem to be so important. Thankfully God is still very interested in those willing to do good . When you do them spontaneously for others, God is intimately involved.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Blanket

We began at a Christian Cafe, a new Chaplain shared her recent experience of mission in Cambodia after which we prayed God would increase our faith and enable us to serve Him. We wanted God to act and help us see Him. As we said ‘Amen’ the Chaplain phone literally rang 35 seconds later. I realised as it rang that the ring tone was exactly the same as an old computer game I played years before (prior to being saved). In it a Special Forces soldier was given specific missions via mobile phone calls. When I heard the tone, my mind immediately recalled the game. However, now, years later, it was God doing the calling, and the mission and the ‘game’ ...was real.

The police officer asked for our assistance. A highly inebriated girl needed help. We were close to the area and thus stepped out of the Cafe with a sense of excitement and anticipation. Our minds were keeping up with God’s miraculous answer to prayer. When we arrived at the scene two officers, three young partiers and one very drugged girl greeted us. The girl would scream, often squirm around and then fall comatose into the arms of a friend. This cycle would repeat about every 20 seconds. We knelt down, placed hands on her and prayed internally for peace.

When you see prayer answered, your unspiritual mind (its flesh not spirit – thus its unspiritual) struggles to comprehend that yes your prayer is being answered it isn’t a coincidence she is more peaceful now. Prayer works. We stayed for about half an hour till the ambulance arrived. The girl had old razor cuts on her wrists. ‘Self harm’ is the psychological catch word for it. Often the story of Legion in Matthew chapter eight comes to mind. Here a man demon possessed was hitting himself with rocks – self harm. I prayed and rebuked what was troubling her, whilst the African Chaplain placed her hand on the girl’s back. We also discovered she had taken anti depressants and half a bottle of vodka . Self control gone; something else was taking over. God wanted Christians there. Only Christians were addressing the spiritual condition of the girl. The third Chaplain reassured the bystanders.

The ambulance finally arrived. An extremely handsome Ambulance Driver emerged. Six foot with chiselled good looks. I sensed God’s incredible wisdom. When the girl saw him she actually smiled at him and did her best to ‘straighten up’. You can choose to think everything happens as coincidence in life, or you can choose to think that God has it under control and is intimately involved. I generally go for the latter. It was time to leave, mission accomplished. We said our goodbyes to the police; even the Hollywood Ambulance officer recognised our efforts and the Police thanked us sincerely. We all left aglow. Expectantly we awaited the next call (from God).

Walking along one of the many streets of Northbridge we came across what appeared to be an orange tartan picnic blanket. It was Just lying in the middle of the footpath with no one around. We stopped and stared at it. I asked the girls Is God giving us this blanket for some poor soul later in the night? We decided He was and put it into the Chaplain back pack. It wasn’t even dirty! Ten minutes later we saw a homeless guy. Offering him the blanket he refused aggressively. Ok, the blanket wasn’t for him.

After more walking we sat to rest. I had to return to my car and as I did so I came across a girl lying in the gutter. Sadly that is what you see in Northbridge. Pretty girls (someone’s daughter) lay vomiting in gutters, skirts half way up their backsides and predators looking on lustfully.

A girl sat beside her. She was a worker from the nightclub. I told her we will be back with help.. Mission Two had arrived. Returning to the scene the nightclub worker handed the situation to us and quickly disappeared. We took out the blanket and put it under her head – thanking God the whole time. She could talk, barely. She kept trying to vomit. Drunk men kept coming up and ogling her. A pretty girl with long legs and a short skirt sprawled in the gutter attracts all the wrong types. The men’s concern is far from sincere. Sometimes it’s actually sickening. As we patted her hair and reassured her, I felt a quiet voice say put the blanket over her body. I had not even thought of it till God prompted the idea.

Doing so she disappeared under a nondescript picnic blanket. It was perfect. The female Chaplain placed a scarf beneath her head and prayed she would rest. If we ceased praying she went back into convulsions. You could literally see the prayer being answered. The police arrived and called her parents on the mobile. They were on the way. The Officer was extremely helpful and supportive and allowed us to handle the situation whilst his presence kept the men away. Again thank you Lord. At one point an annoying drunken lad kept tapping me on the shoulder and telling me what to do (and thus continually disrupted my prayers). I eventually turned to him and said see that Police Officer over there, well if you don’t leave I’m going to have him lock you up. He left – thankfully. Amazingly three minutes later he came back and apologised!

God was astounding me to be honest. His direction, support, authority all were flowing very powerfully.
I leant over and told the girl your parents are coming to pick you up, thinking to reassure her. She started screaming. Loudly SCREAMING. The police even moved away. We tried telling her the police had rung them but it didn’t help. She continued to scream hysterically. I had to do something. Using a similar technique I learnt three minute prior I whispered if you don’t settle down the Police are going to lock you up for the night. She fell silent immediately! Breathing a sigh of relief as my heart raced thanking God. By now we were really hoping the parents would arrive. The other Chaplain was searching the nightclub for supposed friend of the girl. All of this, by the way, was occurring beside two hundred drunken onlookers outside of the area’s busiest nightclub. The words Street Chaplain are on your back and you are Christ’s ambassador. Your REALLY don’t want to blow it at these times!

The parents arrived. We ushered them over reassuring them their daughter was ok. After bundling her into the car, the mother went in to the nightclub with one of the Chaplains. On return she told us – we are Christians, we are not used to all this. I think all three Chaplains were floored at this point. The girl was a Christian; she had snuck out without  telling her parents (the screaming made sense now). They actually thought she was still asleep in bed when the police called! We all could see God’s amazing protection and concern for his children. As they left they offered to return the blanket, we said it’s ok keep it. We didn’t bother telling them God gave us it. Some things are best left unsaid.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Bird

The other night, as I ventured out of my home, I bumped into the Bible College Cat. He is a formidable force in the area. A large tabby cat, fat and fluffy, the entire College Campus belongs to him. As I walked past I gave him a pat and said God Bless you. He does his role, keeps vermin away and aggressively defends the entire region from other stray cats. Unfortunately, as is the case with most felines, he also likes birds.

About 30 minutes later I returned home to a strange sight. A little fake bird was sitting near the cat. I did a double take to discover it wasn’t fake at all - it was actually a real baby bird. Sitting terrified, as it stared at the world’s largest lion (namely the tabby cat). I walked over and picked him up, shooing the cat away. He was petrified, obviously the cat had found him, beat him up and was simply tormenting him before the kill. I suppose for a cat catching a bird is a blessing!

He was a baby Kookaburra, a fairly rare native Australian bird. A very special bird indeed. Thankfully he was not badly hurt, though he was frightened and pecked my hand as hard as he could. I brought him inside and got a box, filled it with some soft rags and put him into his new home. I then thought what do I do now? I prayed He would get better then looked up on the internet what to feed baby Kookaburras. Isn’t that always what silly humans do to terrified creatures? Offer them food!

He wasn’t hungry. He continually eyed me with suspicion the whole night. If I got up his eyes were on me like a hawk (no joke intended). I was something completely foreign to him and thus he would peck at me whenever I came near him. His little beak latching onto my hand -hard. I would laugh and tell him I’m not going to hurt you, however, he was intent on really giving my hand a good going over.

I sat down and wondered what God was trying to teach me from this little bird. I closed my eyes, bowed my head and prayed. As I did so a tear came to my eye and the following profound wisdom flowed from heaven.

You are like the little bird. The cat was Satan. I come along and pull you away from his torment. You fear me though for you do not understand me. In fear you turn to anger and even bite the hand that feeds you. But I am bigger than your bite. It doesn’t effect me, my love for you is much greater than that. I understand your inability to understand me. I am beyond your understanding, I am so vast, so powerful and so loving, in my presence you can only tremble if I draw near. But, as you learn my ways I protect you. I cage you to keep you away from sin and all that harms you. When you try to fly you are not ready yet. Thus I surround you with my care until you heal. When you are ready I let you go – and then... you fly. Free as a bird.

Eventually you too will be like me for I will be in you. Other people will fear you for you have become my child. They too will latch onto to you and hurt you. But just as you were with the bird, you must rise above their pain and continue loving them. Do not let the pecking of their beak effect your heart. Forgive them for just like the little bird – they do not know what they do. For they do not understand – yet.

If anyone thinks that the wisdom above came from a mere human they are kidding themselves. I am simply not that smart I promise you. I knew in my heart God had spoken to me through this little bird. And His message matched perfectly with scripture – turning the cheek, forgiving - rising above, freedom from sin, Christ’s work in pulling us away from Satan, it was all in the story of this little bird.

I sat amazed. The following day I sought out an animal shelter.  You won’t believe this – the name of the shelter was 'Native Ark' and it was on Hope rd! As I entered the place I showed them my baby Kookaburra.

They preceded to tell me “oh no it’s not a Kookaburra, it is part of the Kookaburra family; however, this one - is a King FISHER

The King of Fishers - The Christ – The fisher of men.
God Bless

Friday, August 12, 2011

Where does strength come from?

Recently I wrote a devotion about "Where does the Horse gain its strength?" from the book of Job 39:19-20

I wanted to share with you an amazing and wonderful story. Specifically of how God used that devotion - powerfully.

Today was an incredibly exciting day for me. I just shared my testimony at a large Christian school, to the entire assembly! Some six hundred students and teachers. It was the largest gathering of people I have preached to so far. Prior to that I had given my testimony to a Malaysian church of five hundred or so. However, this was greater still. The young adults were year 8 (13 yr olds) to year 12 (17 yr olds). Thus maturing adolescents. Many were already succumbing to the temptations of alcohol and drugs whilst others were on the edge of such. I knew God wanted me to deliver a strong message of where the road, the wrong road, can lead us. The one without God inside us.

I prayed earnestly for harvest and seeds to be planted. Brothers in the Philippines were also partnering with me in prayer. Again I knew this was a very serious engagement and one that was close to God's heart. These 'kids' meant a lot to God. The night before I had feelings of  anxiety, prayer thankfully took them away. I was just getting over a fairly serious cold and an upset stomach. On top of that I had been to a funeral and visited a friend in hospital and another friend's wife was going in for surgery. All of this was bearing down on me. I needed encouragement, and I needed it from God - direct.

I decided to get a movie. Perhaps God would talk to me through it? I also felt the urge to cry, there seemed to be a lot of pain in me and it needed to come out. The Lord had long taught me that just as He cried so to can we. If we don't, the pain stays inside. It is far from being 'tough' to hold it in. In fact it's the complete opposite. I went to the video store not expecting too much. I don't watch mindless violence, frat party college flicks, vampires, witchcraft or flesh eating zombies. After filtering out all that there tends to be little left. On this night a new movie had just arrived. Its title..was Secretariat. It was a true story about a race horse. Its cover said it was filled with hope, courage and heart. I thought - this will be good.

I went home and got comfortable on the sofa. Putting the movie on I was utterly speechless at the opening verse. "3000 years ago a man named Job questioned God, and God answered with 'Do you give the horse his strength?'" I burst into tears immediately. I felt God's Spirit come upon me powerfully as the movie continued to recite God's entire speech to Job about the horse! The movie was incredibly inspiring; as it told of this courageous, fearless horse, you could sense that GOD was with him. Thus the horse (and its supporters) persevered against all odds and conquered!

By the end of the movie tears were streaming down my face and all the pain inside was gone. I also felt like I could take the roof off the house with my bare hands! I was that encouraged. I was on fire. Tomorrow we tell over six hundred people about CHRIST our Lord! Fear Nothing!

This morning I arose at 6:30. Dressed in my best trousers and shirt and headed off to share my testimony about Our God. How He had saved me from a life of drugs, foolish materialism and selfish exploit. When I arrived at the school the teachers were incredibly warm and welcoming. Everyone seemed to be shining. As I entered the auditorium I had to choke back tears. It was ENORMOUS. IT could seat over 1200 people and I was to be centre stage, with my life projected on two large cinema screens. The sheer privilege of it started to overwhelm me and I quickly prayed asking God to calm me down. He answered immediately.

The whole presentation finished exactly on time. I wasn't nervous at all really. The Lord had me deliver the FULL GOSPEL. Hell, Sin, Satan, Drugs, Suicide, Death, and New Life - the lot. It was a strong message from what I remember. The students took every single brochure I had brought (about 50) and took all my business cards (another 50). I was asked to send more. They were told if they ever needed help to contact me. Also how I hoped NOT to see them on the cold cement in Northbridge. Many came up afterwards and I could tell God was working powerfully in their hearts.

One wonderful young lady approached me in tears. God was moving in her heart and she didn't understand it. She said to me "It Hurts". God was renewing Her heart there and then..... All of heaven and I mean ALL of heaven was rejoicing for her. I explained about what was happening as best I could, telling her of all the tears I had shed myself. The School Chaplain was beside me, a young strapping lad of twenty something. He also joined in reassuring her that he crys too. I suppose for this angelic little lady, two men telling her such gave her understanding and the support she needed. She was afraid because her soul was literally standing in the presence of the Holy One. And she could feel it as a spiritual heart transplant occurred. She spent the next 30 mins in the Chaplain's office. I thanked God this man was there to protect her.

All of the teachers encouraged me greatly. For fifteen minutes I stood with students one after another. They asked questions and took the blog address. I was elated to say the least. Many had been saved. One had been given a new heart instantaneously and over 600 seeds were planted. One teacher told me that she overheard one young boy say "Wow He really gave it to us - that was awesome!". No....God is awesome. Who gives the horse and man his Strength? God does, that's who. To God be all the glory.

God Bless

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Increase Our Faith


Street Chaplain Duty Saturday 30th July. A cold, wet and windy night in Northbridge. I imagined everyone going home by 3am (including me). Surely the downpours would dampen the punter’s enthusiasm. One could only hope and pray. Three brave men ventured out. After the initial Police briefing we prayed for protection and the opportunity to witness the Gospel. I was encouraged to find our two Bibles had been handed out the night before by the previous shift. It brought a beaming smile to my face.

Walking around the cold, wet streets the atmosphere did seem quenched. Perhaps the rain had suppressed the usual numbers or indeed had extinguished their burning desire to drink themselves to oblivion. Whatever the reason, I was thankful to God. After returning two days prior from mission to the Philippines I was still coming down from jetlag and missionary re-entry syndrome (that is where you condemn the entire western world for its affluence and feel like you have just returned to Babylon). It is actually quite common amongst missionaries, thus I get used to the emotional rollercoaster. I was sure a night out as Street Chaplain would help me readjust to ‘sin city’.

By 2am we had not really done much. A lot of walking and ducking for cover from the rain. We sat in a coffee shop and after a hot chocolate I decided to pray. The three of us bowed our heads unashamedly at our table and asked God to use us and to give us a sign that would increase our faith. That was the exact prayer. Use us to help someone and in doing so may we have a sign that will increase our faith.

As I stepped out of the coffee shop I was literally looking in every direction for either the sign or the person to help. To be honest my own faith was ignited by the prayer and thus I was highly expectant. Within four minutes the Street Chaplain phone rang. I answered it excitedly, smiling like a child opening a Christmas present. When you are completely aware of answered prayer you are almost tempted to answer “Hello God, How can we help?” Obviously you resist as the Police Officer asks for your assistance with a young unaccompanied woman a few blocks away.

The Street Chaplains were now in Holy motion. All three of us knew this was the answer to the prayer. We were about to be used to help someone. Arriving at the scene we found a young blonde girl, mascara running and in an emotional state. The three Police Officers were trying to comfort her. She was alone and they were not about to leave her. It was time for her to head home; rather than wander around herself. Predators exist in Northbridge –yet again we would discover this later in the night.

The Police handed her to us, they were thankful for our assistance. We managed to talk her into going home – to Mandurah (about 50klms away)!  The last train was in 15 mins and so we hurriedly ‘escorted’ her to the train. As we did so, she opened up to one of the Chaplains. Her boyfriend was currently in a Christian Rehab centre!  I had just returned from working in one two days before. I GOT THE SIGN CLEAR ENOUGH.
As we passed her on to the transit guards we sensed God’s presence all around her. She had been handed from one protective service to another. All ensuring she came to no harm. As she left us, one of the Chaplains gave her the Gospel of John, telling her she had time to read this on the way home. She accepted it without any protest at all.

Elated we walked back to Northbridge. By 3am it was time to go. It was incredibly wet and people were taking cover under awnings or bundling themselves into cabs. I thanked God for the rain. I knew it was sending everyone home – including me – I thought...

As we walked to our cars a young man approached us. He showed us a photograph of a girl and asked if we had seen her? He explained how she and two friends were staying with him but someone had spiked their drinks in a club. He had carried two of them home but had lost the third one. He was genuinely concerned – obviously. He was fairly sure of who had spiked their drinks. A stranger had bought the girls a round and he had refused the offer. After that they all became incapacitated - except him!

We agreed to search for her. When he left (continuing his own search) we quickly formed a huddle and prayed for the girl and the young man. We then headed off for another lap of town. The rain became one of the heaviest downpours I think I have ever experienced. I was wet to my socks and underpants. I tried to laugh and not complain. I kept saying to my fellow Chaplain, it’s not acid. We looked like two drowned rats. More importantly though – we didn’t find the girl. After an hour it was 4am. We decided to go. We trusted God would look after her.

The next morning the other Chaplain called the young man. We had swapped numbers the night before. He said that after leaving us (post prayer) he was walking along and saw the girl. She was unconscious and being carried by the man who had spiked the drinks! He yelled at him at which two Police Officers arrived almost instantaneously. The man was handcuffed and the girl given to her friend. As he related this to us we could hardly believe our ears. What would have happened to her if not for the prayer and God’s intervention? At the least she was to be raped. At the worst – murdered?

Later that same day the young man texted again. He asked the Chaplain – ‘what Church do you go to?’ He was considering going himself now. He knew there was a God. Everyone’s faith had increased.

Cebu Philippines - Not Ashamed of the Gospel

Mission Accomplished. Many new men have come to the Lord, at least over twenty I sense completely reborn. The light is on behind their smiles and sparkling eyes. Such a privilege to witness such. For the others much of the seed has gone in. Including powerful testimonies, and 15 sermons in ten days! The discipleship program at House of Hope is impressive, there is no other words to describe it. This morning during my breakfast I watched all the little tots (3-5 year olds) that come here daily to be taught English and the Bible by a bunch of ex addicts. They run around in joy. Each year a complete graduation ceremony is held completewith gowns and certificates. The following year a new batch of preschoolers are herded from surrounding villages. Where else on earth but in a Godly Rehab centre would this occur? The men know it is God. The children dont see ex drug addicts. They dont judge. God is wise, God is good. I read once that children and gardening are good for depressed people. Both of these are part of the ministry here. Out the back is a vegetable garden called the Garden of Hope. I have learned a lot in my second trip to House of Hope. This time from the perspective of being the Pastor and Director. For the last ten days I suppose I have taken this role. The Director taking a backseat. It is by no means an easy task to look after fifty men. Without God it would be a mess. As many secular rehabs tend to be.

Many wonderful things have happened including a challenging confrontation on Saturday night. One resident was ready to quit and leave. He was sure his wife was being unfaithful. He was shouting at her angrily and visibly upset, as to was she. Prayer and counselling (4 hours worth) kept him here. We knew Satan was attacking his mind. Amazingly that day I gave a sermon. I displayed a picture on the screen of the Spartans from the 300 movie. Their shields interlocked awaiting their foe. I explained how Satan comes over and attacks the left flank, singles out one and then puts in his mind something like "Someone is sleeping with my wife". And thus rips off the soldier's shield and pulls him from the platoon. Three hours later that is EXACTY what occurred! It was surreal to be honest. My mind was whizzing. He is ok now - thank God. However, you realise in this ministry your guard can never be let down. If you do then their fate may well be the same as Amy Whitehouse. They all knew the song  - "They want me to go to rehab but I say, no, no, no". Today I told them she is dead. At 27. A sombre warning for leaving the program before you are strong enough to face the real enemy. A sombre warning to the entire earth.

To conclude on an uplifting note... One of the resident's family visited. All Catholic (as he once was also). He remembered my message of Romans "I Am not Ashamed of the Gospel for it is the power of salvation etc". He asked his whole family - wife, brother, sister and mother and father. "How do you get saved?" He told us in church the response was stereotypical of many Catholics. A wide range of 'works' to be carried out including church attendance. With a beaming smile he explained to them Grace, God's gift, God's righteousness, God's work on the cross and our belief (faith) in such to then produce the good works born of a new heart full of the Spirit. He literally nailed it! They all thanked him for telling them the  - "TRUTH". As he told the brothers his smile was so infectious. "I am not ashamed of the Gospel" And now His whole family knew the Gospel, - Thanks to House of Hope and God's hand. I thank the Lord for Romans. Not  only had it yielded fruit, but already the seed was spreading!

Cebu Philippines - A New Heart

The worship songs have just started next door. I love hearing the men sing. Every morning 40 men singing to God together. Not a bad work environment for writing emails to home? Yesterday the Lord blessed all of us greatly. We went to the beach here in Cebu. A rare treat for fifty men (residents and staff). I wanted to bless them, and more importantly, give the glory and praise for such to the Lord. So for about a $150 we took along rice, barbecued chicken, fresh fish and lemonade. We used a portable oven, complete with charcoal, allowing us to cook the food at the beach. It was a feast for all. How wonderful it is when men live in harmony and appreciate the little things. How does that occur? By taking less and appreciating simple blessings when we receive them. That is what it is like here. Thus some barbecue chicken and rice and one soft drink brings 50 men great happiness. We played volleyball and other games and swam together as brothers.

When we first arrived we all stood together under the palm trees and infront of everyone sang three Christian songs as one body of soldiers. We then prayed. Claiming the ground for God. No fear, no shame. The Christians have arrived and we sing to our Lord. You could see people looking at us wondering "who and what are they, what is it they all have that makes them so different?" Some people even drew closer during the day as the joy of the Spirit flowed powerfully through the brethren. We had taken a big guitar speaker and a laptop. Christian songs proclaiming Jesus Christ as Lord, Saviour and lover of our soul unashamedly filled the air - all Day.

Later I asked the men to give their testimonies. One by one, to the whole group, each had 3 mins to tell their past; why they were thankful to House of Hope and the Lord, aswell as their dreams for the future. Not one man did not thank God and mean it. I choked back tears, by the fifth or sixth one I said 'ok that is enough for now". Stories of men facing the suffering of sin, broken relationships, incarceration, violence and rejection. Human beings, just like you and me. All were thankful for House of Hope and to God. One man spoke of how he had fought his older brother and had seriously hurt him by fracturing his brother's head in the fight. How his father had told him how he had once been a beautiful little boy and now look what you have become (at 40). As he shared his shame he pointed to his brother (the one he had done this too) and how both of them were now here in House of hope together, 'by the grace of God' being his very words. He had been in the program eigth months. To me he looks angelic.



Many of them talked of secular rehabs they had tried in the past. One man was a qualified nurse with a Masters Degree. He told how he had been in and out of rehab centres and how they were like living hells. God wasn't in them. Foolish 'man made' psychology and mind altering "Medicines" combined with no Love at all. He told of how he had been with two hundred men in a previous rehabilitation centre. He told how after a year he had not witnessed even one man freed from drugs. NOT ONE. They all returned to the old patter of life after leaving the program. The smile on his face is incredibly contagious, after two weeks here he is saved and just praises God for house of hope all the time, thanking God for all the brothers. His eyes look like they have two flash lights at the back of them. This educated man had learnt only God can truly cure us. Not man made philosophy (Col 2:8). As my good friend Charles Slack states; he was literally "Shining from the inside out".

Last night I preached Romans Chapter 2. It concludes with Apostle Paul's strong message on the need for the circumcision of the heart. Prior to the lesson I showed a powerful video of Billy Graham in 1957 talking about the need for a new heart. False faith verses true faith. Outward change, outward church attendance and respectability, yet no inner change. Thus saved in the mind but not in the heart (where it counts). At the end Billy did an alter call to the thousands in the stadium. At which time, I went and stood by the projector screen with Mr Graham. I pointed in front of me at the ground, and invited the men to come down the front as part of the alter call. Every man came forward and bowed their head to the Lord. This time, most of them, where crying. Heart Change.

To those that have faithfully prayed and continue to do so, and so many of you that send me encouraging emails back, I thank you. Your own prayers are helping make all this occur. To our God in Christ be the glory - Amen.

You can see Billy's 1957 sermon here - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7i95RXDyY70

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Cebu Philippines - Harvest

For the last couple of days I have started to get to know the thirty new residents. Each one a unique individual, with their own histories, pains, sins and sufferings. You realise People that enter rehab centres (willingly) are very brave. They have made the decision to face their problems and no longer run from them. As far as soil goes, it is fertile and 'good'. I see more and more why Christ wants me to open Harvest of Hope.

The mentoring here and amount of Bible study is amazing. It is God's Word, fed through the Holy Spirit in Love, that is healing people. For 14 years now hundreds of men have been set free, who then go on often to be Pastors, Nurses, Judges, Missionaries or work within the ministry. No medicines, no psychology, rather; the living God and His people. Trying to explain that to the west is difficult. You really have to experience it to realise how real it is and how far away in the 'wealthy west' we can fall from the real Grace and Peace that His Spirit provides.

The first three hours of every morning is spent focusing on God. Yes three hours. Group Bible study and discussion, then a full service (daily). Each morning a different resident leads the worship - EVERYONE does this. Each day four people pray, which rotates daily. Thus within weeks men have gained confidence praying (in public) singing (in public) reading from the Bible etc. Then a different Pastor comes from a number of churches to preach. The Spirit brings the message and miracles happen..of which I am about to write...

Two nights ago I gave my testimony. I know many of you were praying and I thank you sincerely. I originally had thought to do this near the end of my stay, thinking 'get to know the men, soften up hearts first etc', however, in hindsight, this was insecurity - the worry of what if they didn't respond? I spoke to the Pastor and He said do it tonight (which was my third day here). We both saw logic in this, get a few saved and infilled with the Holy Spirit prior to teaching Romans, rather than afterwards. The thinking being; they wont understand much of it unsaved. Very true.

All day I prayed and by night time found myself  weeping in prayer. I knew the Holy Spirit was moving, I could literally feel Him! All the staff prayed for harvest. Thus people at home, people all over the world and people here were praying for harvest.
I showed a presentation on the Gospel, a contemporary kind of rap message a good friend gave me (thank you again Manuel!). In four minutes it provides an overview of the whole Gospel and our combined plight. Then I put up the 'happy' snaps of my past life. By the time I finished preaching nearly an hour had passed. I remember bits and pieces, but it was a bit of a blur to be honest.  Then the moment of truth. I asked them to stand if they wanted to give their life to Christ (As in TRULY give Him your WHOLE life). I told them don't if you are not ready, don't if its not from your heart, don't just to be a sheep, you have free will.

Thirty men stood up. A Platoon.
Since then a change has come already. The Spirit is moving and all can see it. As individual Pastors preach, the messages are combining (including my own) without any consultation or collaboration. And thus God's directing. More importantly the men can see it! They know God is showing Himself. I have began Romans and presented them with powerful testimonies of Hells Angel Bikers being forgiven, right through to the 'everything' drama. Last night was Romans Chapter 1 and the somber news of God's Wrath.

They were given both barrels. Heaven, Hell, God's Wrath or God's Love - you CHOOSE! Bad boys know devils exist, we played with them as they played with us for long enough. Thirty men right down to a 16 year old, that looks terrified half the time, (I am laughing, this morning he had a tshirt on saying 'Jesus loves you'  with a big love heart) all thirty understood Romans chapter one better than many Bible Scholars I have read. They understood the drugs were idols. I didnt need to theologically defend the position or take a stance against secular medical "theories". They knew they had worshipped the creation instead of the Creator. They got it! They understood only a Spiritual cure (Christ) can fix a spiritual problem. Psychology cannot destroy an idol by itself, neither can a 'wonder' drug. Often, the last thing ex drug addicts want (this coming from one) is more drugs. Whatever colour they are!

I promise you, the singing outside this office is now worshipping the Creator . And to Him, Jesus Christ, be all the praise.
Thank you all for your prayers. Please pray now for their protection (VERY Important) they are babies and yesterday Satan tried to make one quit and leave. Thank God with loving support from brothers and staff He stayed. Thus pray for the men's protection and growth as the Word comes flowing in. Pray the Holy Spirit speaks to their hearts. A Platoon of Christ's soldiers are born. They are worth more than all the earth's combined gold. God will reward you for praying for such men.

God Bless

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Cebu Philippines - Bearing Fruit

That much seems to be happening I am compelled to write. The 6am wakeup call sounded on the megaphone – the normal mode of reveille here at House of Hope. Yet it doesn’t bring feelings of discord, you look forward to getting up here. God is honored and sought everyday in community and thus His presence is seen, heard and felt (Acts 2:42-47). Today was no exception. After showering, the Pastor offered me a dress shirt to preach in (which he proceeded to iron for me). One of the brothers, Neil a co-Director of Harvest of Hope, also invited me to talk to his Sunday school children. By 1030 am I had preached twice!

Bear with me as I try to explain the Sunday school. About twenty incredibly cute girls and boys aged from four to eight. Neil had literally scooped them up from the surrounding poor villages and now taught them about God each week under a tree (within the compound of a Christian Rehabilitation Centre). As we sat there you could hear the men of God singing hymns from within the worship hall. It’s another planet here – and by God’s power, it’s a good one. Proudly the children each took a turn singing a particular hymn or song. I was to judge (I had to hold back bursting into tears, these kids stood, incredibly brave, and happily sang for me, one was three and sang alone!). I honestly sometimes want to just cry my lungs out to God. Why a wretch like me should be called by the most High? Then I am to judge the talent contest of kids that have very virtually nothing but happily sing to God for you. Choking back tears I enthusiastically clapped each group.

I then gave them a message from the Bible, being as animated as I wanted to be. They got to see John the Baptist preaching in the Desert! Humble kids are great, they don’t judge or give you mean looks, rather, their eyes are dish plates as you exhort God’s Word for all its worth. The Holy Spirit does the rest! Afterwards we decided who won the singing, and I also witnessed a little boy (6 or 7) recite all of the Beatitudes and the whole of Psalm 23 - perfectly. I remember thinking; most western Christian adults I know can’t even do that. Feeling guilty? More enthusiastic clapping. I prayed for them all then ran over to preach to the adult congregation, sweat pouring out of me as the excitement built. Anyone that knows me knows I Love preaching, so I can’t keep the smile off my face.
God gave me a powerful message – Christ’s temptation in Matthew Chapter 4 and the importance of reading God’s Word. The Pastor is a serious man with a deadly serious job. Addiction kills and when looking after 50 grown men it isn’t a task for those who are not 100% committed. When he thanks you, he means it. He sincerely thanked me for the message. We then headed into town for eggs. Why eggs you ask? Well you see, the men only get one egg two times a week for breakfast. The remainder of the time its coffee and bread and butter for breakfast. Yes you read correctly. So it is now a tradition that when Jack is here part of the blessing I ask the Lord for is to allow me to provide a simple egg every day. It’s appreciated by all. God doesn’t spoil people here. This in turn makes them good!

I bought chocolate for the kids – the promised reward. I decided everyone won, so everyone received a prize. On returning the children told me you look like Mel Gibson. I hoped they didn’t mean the graying drunk He seems to be currently? They had made me something. One little girl had written out in colorful letters a thank you and blessing. It’s going on my wall when I get back home. They asked me to pray again in parting and asked Neil if I was here next week also? Children asking you to pray? As I said, another planet.
Afterwards Neil (a spiritually discerning man) pointed to the tree above us. I had been telling the children this is a church and church is not a building but people. They understood the concept of a spiritual family. Neil said “Jack’s Fruit”. I smiled humbled. But he pointed above a second time. Whilst preaching I was standing under a JackFruit Tree! It was bearing huge JackFruit nearly ripe. Can you imagine such a sign from God? Here is this fairly rare exotic fruit and you are preaching right under it all about God, hoping what you are doing will bear fruit and at the last moment God says “your preaching under my tree that has your name on it and its producing fruit”. That morning, Peter, good friend from Ireland, sent me Scripture to encourage me that God’s Word won’t return empty while I am here, it will bear fruit!

I need to rest I am overwhelmed. Tomorrow morning I am to share my whole testimony including the PowerPoint presentation, and then preach the beginning of Romans that night. ‘Jack fruit’ – I get it. To God be ALL the glory. 

Cebu Philippines - No Obstacle too hard for God

It is 1030am, warm and sunny here in Cebu, Philippines. I left Thursday night, it is Saturday now. I arrived four hours ago and have preached for thirty minutes to forty men already. The journey was long. Over thirty hours in total. Perth-Singapore-Manila-Cebu. I always travel the cheapest possible route and airline; it allows me to bless with the funds I save. It does, however, mean long waits in airports. Yet God always makes the journey an adventure. Arriving at Singapore 3am I hoped to go right into the transit terminal for the next flight; 14 hours later. However, you can only really check in two hours before, and then go through customs. Outside the transit terminal is like living on the outskirts of wonderland. Inside boasts free internet lounges, TV stations, transit hotels with showers that can be purchased in six hour blocks, even free foot massages. Changi Airport isn’t voted the best airport in the world year in and year out for nothing. Peering through the glass wall of the transit terminal I felt like a child at the gate of Disneyland denied entry. I prayed over and over to God "Please Father get me in".

I approached the check in desks of Philippine Airlines. Eventually I was told sorry sir you will have to come back at 9pm (it was now 8am, so only a 13 hour wait). She suggested I go to town and do some shopping. As a missionary you feel like saying "I don't 'shop'", but you refrain and politely nod. I prayed more. Dear God make this woman go away and we can try again with someone else. She didn’t go away. I literally stood there waiting for her to leave. After 15 minutes I gave up and headed back to MacDonald’s (it had become my personal transit lounge). Trying hard not to complain I accepted the situation I was in. I grabbed my second egg and sausage mcmuffin and reminded myself why I never eat McDonalds. I had prayed and asked for Internet access and God lead me straight to the Golden Arches, where my internet access was granted. I smiled and thanked the Lord. I realised I need to persevere with getting in to the transit terminal! I decided my best option was to wait until the negative lady left (I had decided she was in cahoots with the Devil and thus my only option was trying again, but not with her- I also reminded myself to love everyone).
I grabbed an hour or so sleep on the MacDonald’s bench - thanking God and stating this wasn’t really suffering, especially compared to David Livingston walking across Africa with river fever! After a quick prayer I headed off again. Time now 10 am. The woman was gone and so was everyone else. Someone was at the excess baggage section of Philippine airlines, she looked friendly - this was my chance. The response was better, she directed me to a Philippine Airline office – I didn’t know one existed, this had to be God’s direction! Soon I would be relaxing in the transit hotel, surfing the net for free and sipping Frappachino at Starbucks! My wishes were short lived. The lady at the office gave me the green light, however, I had to wait till 2pm for the next boarding shift and they inturn could give me a boarding pass for my midnight flight. She told me it wasn’t allowed but an exception could be made for me (God intervention).

I walked out, thanked the Lord for teaching me humility and patience and headed back to McDonalds. Nodding off I slept another hour. After reading Philippians, at 2pm I headed back to the counter. Hoping the previous lady wasn’t back on shift. She wasn’t, I started getting hopeful. Twenty minutes later and after some phone calls (this was obviously some sort of security breach letting people in so early) I was given entry to the coveted Transit Terminal! Still about nine hours to go thus plenty of time for rest and to buy a six hour block of time . As I walked to the Hotel (I was beaming ear to ear being in the Transit Terminal now), I said to the Lord, if it is more than $70 dollars I will go without. It was $69! I nearly started laughing as she told me. Again I thanked the Lord.

Two showers later, 5 hours sleep, 20 mins prayer and 5 chapters of Matthew I was on fire. I got on the plane to Manila at midnight feeling like it was morning! God is good – ALL THE TIME. On arriving at Cebu, at 6am, the plane came to a stop with an advert outside the far window saying “You’re in Safe Hands”. I knew it was God talking and I smiled as Joy flowed all over me. On meeting the Pastor he asked If I would like to preach at 8:30am today. Over thirty new brothers had entered the program. I understood now why God wanted me to teach Romans during my stay. This large influx of brand new residents would benefit from a summary of the Bible’s message – Romans being perfect. I shared my testimony and preached about Joshua 1:9, the men in a fight for their souls rather than returning to drugs. They were encouraged and sang heartily afterwards.

Already I have been in town to the markets; saw all the exciting sights of open fish and meat mongers, the smiling faces of Filipinos and a lot of interested looks. You don’t see many white people in Cebu. Thus you feel like a novelty as people ask my guests who I am. At which they reply He is my brother, a missionary and Pastor from Australia. The response is warm, God is respected here, such a change to back home. I returned to the centre in a motorbike concoction with seats built all over it for a capacity of 7 I think! In an hour I head back out with the Pastor to see a small shop the centre runs for extra income. I really like the Philippines. In many ways it reminds me of Cambodia yet the Filipinos are entirely different. They have their own unique spirit and English is the second language. Tomorrow I am to give the message at the Church service. It is such a privilege to be asked to teach thirty young men (20-40 yrs old) about God for ten days. It is also encouraging to see they are all hungry and willing listeners. Thank you all for your prayers.
God Bless

Monday, July 4, 2011

Seek and You Will Find

What really captures your heart? Is it sport, money, travel, sex, career or music? None of these exploits ultimately fulfils. Eventually they all dim. Often it takes a lifetime to discover this. Michael Jackson, for all his musical talents, was obviously a troubled soul. Sigmund Freud was not exactly Mr Contentment.  Bill Gates worth hundreds of billions dedicates his life now to giving it away. When we reach pinnacles, either physical ones such as Mount Everest or intellectual ones like designing software systems, the journey back down is often the hardest.

There is, however, one summit that never diminishes. It cannot be fully attained and thus striving to reach its peak is a continuous adventure. The ultimate journey, life’s principal rush and the real never ending story, is in seeking GOD. If you truly know that God exists, why would anything else matter? Say to yourself in capital letters - THERE IS A GOD, and then finish it off with an exclamation mark. When that sinks in life is never the same.

When I venture out as a Street Chaplain I am seeking God. There is no other reason I walk Perth’s entertainment district from 9pm to 4am as a volunteer than to see God at work. Oh I could boast and say “I do it because I love people” or “I just want to help the people out there” or even “I like being the Good Samaritan”. However, I would be lying through my teeth. I go out there to see God. Just as God tells me to – Seek and you will find (God).

 

Last Saturday God was at work as usual. As I put my thoughts down on imaginary paper created by Mr Gates I realise I have something I would not swap his billions for. I write about someone I love and know, not about philosophical speculation, or a character from ancient antiquity or even theological conjecture. Rather, I write about someone I know. He is God and He is alive and well. One does need to repent though (yes He still calls for that one), destroy the idols in the heart like Josiah did (which render us spiritually blind) and then turn to Him. He then gives you eyes to see and ears to hear. You no longer ponder “does God really exist?” you know He does, because you see Him everywhere.

 When I arrived at the Police Station it was discovered the Chaplain backpacks had not been handed in. We therefore resorted to the backup backpack. I was impressed such existed. We also had to utilise the second set of Chaplain Mobiles. As an ex soldier, I admire strategic plans, especially those that pay attention to detail. As the saying goes ‘the devil is in the detail’, when you forget the details - the Devil doesn’t!
I thought we better ring the Operations Room and give them the alternate numbers (they had the original mobile numbers). Something made me think ‘I bet we will be called tonight and if they have the wrong number we will miss the opportunity of helping the police’. After ringing we headed out. It was a dark wet night. I really liked it. Rain doesn’t bother me – it isn’t acid, its water. I doubt Jesus would have decided not to go to the Cross if it was raining. Rain, hail or shine the Street Chaplains should be on the streets. Just as the Police are.

An hour later I heard the mobile in my pocket ringing. The police do not call every week. In fact, it is only just starting to occur after three years of relationship building. So when the phone did ring (and with - ‘I bet they will call’ - still fresh in my mind) I felt like Batman answering the Bat phone. I also knew straight away that God was at work. God knew they would ring later. Yes GOD .The Sergeant at the other end told us that a young drunken woman needed help. She was with two officers; however, our help would be appreciated. I said no problem and he told me the street address. We then headed off in a hurry in the completely wrong direction. Five minutes later the bat phone rang again. “Where are you?” This time I decided to get directions and managed to swallow my pride. What happened next stunned me.

As we turned back I saw a familiar hat amongst the crowd. This hat was so unique that you could not miss it. I knew it because only a few days earlier the owner of the hat had come to a mid week dinner at one of the churches I go to. It was his first time at church. And here he was standing in Northbridge. I walked up to him and his two friends who also had been at the dinner. Rough lads in their mid twenties, but amazingly they had come to this suburban church for a meal! Everyone had commented on his hat! I shook their hands, they were sincerely happy to see me.

I walked off and realised that God’s perfect timing was at work. A minute later and they would have been inside the club. We were almost running now to where the police were, I could literally sense God’s Spirit at work.

When we arrived a young girl stood weeping uncontrollably. Two officers were trying to console her. One of the officers told me she had lost her friends and he had called her father who was on the way. They wanted us to stay with her until he arrived. She was far too emotional to be left alone in Northbridge. As the police introduced us I came forward and spoke reassuringly to her. One of the officers then quietly said to me, “that is a nice necklace she is wearing”. Around her neck was a brown chord. At the end of it was a large wooden crucifix.

I stood in awe for a brief moment, I realised the officer was alerting me to God’s sign hanging around the young girl’s neck. The officers departed, they were thankful for our intervention. We stayed with her, we prayed internally and she calmed somewhat. Her dad arrived after another ten minutes and she rushed into his arms. She turned and looked back at us. I thought for a moment she was going to give me a kiss. Her glance said it all. Her tear soaked eyes voiced the words, “thank you”. She was no more than seventeen, a pretty drunk girl, alone and afraid. An easy target for predators.

God orchestrated all of it - from beginning to end. The prompting of the initial call to the Operations room to provide the new mobile number. The telephone call at just the right moment. Even the wrong turn to ‘bump’ into the church lads.  The pinnacle being the spiritually aware police officer noticing the cross around the girl’s neck.  

Seek and you will find. The more you seek the more you see.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Philippines here we come!

Another Semester is over. Twenty two thousand words were written, many grey cells imploded and my skin toughened a little. I only have two Semesters left to complete a Masters of Theology. I would never have imagined such and can only sit in wonderment of God and where God leads us. My marks were blessed throughout and I thank God for His guidance in helping me persevere, even when I continually whined like a child and at times felt like quitting.
I am off to the Philippines during the break. Tickets are booked; I depart in two weeks to spend ten days with some brothers in a Christian Rehabilitation Centre. Going on mission is an integral part of a Christian’s life. Christ sent His disciples on short term missions. Part of the training before the Great Commission (Mt 24).

Seeing other parts of the world expands our horizons. Christianity is diverse and often differs greatly in the third world to our own westernized religion. Christian mission should incorporate helping others. Coming alongside people, bearing burdens and offering compassion. What good are words without action?. These techniques were utilised by the first disciples over and over.  

The blessing is also felt in just being on mission. People's spirit in the third world seems stronger than that in the west. They smile so much more, they have fewer idols in their hearts. I encourage anyone reading this to seek Christ in mission. But do not expect Him to be in squeaky clean environments. He gets His hands dirty and He works hard at helping the people who need Him. He is love in action.

This trip will help in my research of addictions and allow me to continue in practical discipleship. Christians should seek to grow, seek and you will find. God’s will is for continual change. Sanctification is never dormant. Living water flows, it does not stagnate.
I will write each day while on mission. God will be moving powerfully whilst in the Philippines. It has been nearly six months since my last trip (which was to Cambodia) therefore,  I am eager to get out on mission. Have daypack will travel. A few shirts, a few socks, one toothbrush and one Bible. What else do we really need, if God is truly in our heart?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Sowing Seeds

Whilst serving on the missionary ship, the Dolous, the Lord introduced me to Isaiah 55:11.

So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it”

Thanks to God, after sharing my testimony (Rev 12:11), I have experienced many people coming to faith and giving their life to Jesus. This has happened in Australia, Cambodia, Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand. Literally hundreds of people being saved; it soon becomes very addictive. Heaven shares the joy of the sinner repenting and thus your heart races in excitement when it occurs. However, when I experienced it not happening - I started worrying.

What did I do wrong? Did I say the testimony incorrectly? Did I not talk enough about Jesus Christ? Was I too forceful? Was I too timid? God listened intently to my questions. It was then I was handed Isaiah 55:11. For me it was a revelation.

My word will not return void’. I instantly realised what God was saying. His word is so powerful it created the universe. It will achieve its purpose, though sometimes like a seed it takes time to grow. As humans we cannot even contemplate the authority of God’s word. Yet even our own words can command authority. A policeman can tell you what to do and you are obligated to oblige – or else. A Judge can sentence you with his words and your own position will not affect the finality of his sentence. A Doctor’s words (the diagnosis of a terminal illness) can have devastating effect. Human words have power. Imagine the words of God.

This week I shared my testimony at Summerville Baptist School. I had been invited to speak to the whole grade seven students. I was excited as usual. The night before I had prayed to the Lord and asked Him to sow seeds. These young people were all around twelve. Within two or three years the temptations of alcohol and drugs will inevitably emerge. I wanted seeds planted that would bring them closer to God and further from the foolishness of the world.

I arrived and found sixty wonderful children and their teachers. Projector was all set up including speakers. God had paved the way. I introduced myself and showed the presentation. I then talked about moving from soldier of the world to soldier of God. The children listened attentively. At the end many asked questions and I was encouraged by what they asked. Many were seeking advice in regard to someone they knew; a mother struggling with alcohol, an older brother that had been attacked in Northbridge. For twelve year olds it was startling.

The head master stood up and thanked me sincerely. Amazingly, he then said the following words... “I am sure many seeds have been sown after your talk”. The precise words I had asked for in prayer were repeated back to me. I smiled and choked back a tear. When God speaks through someone (and you are aware of it) you are always overwhelmed.

I was handed an envelope as a thank you. In the car I opened it. It was a thirty dollar hardware voucher. I choked back another tear. God was reassuring me that the Rehab farm will come (in His time). “Here is a voucher to buy some nails or a hammer when the right time comes. Or perhaps a spade to sow some seeds? “

I drove home in Joy. The children had even approached me after the talk and took brochures about Harvest of Hope. Again you could sense their concern for their loved ones. Along the highway I contemplated all that had happened. As I reviewed the talk word by word, I glanced sideways at a car passing by. On it was written “Bravo”. God was actually thanking me. And whilst the little ones were not asked to give their lives to Jesus (the timing and setting not right) His word never returns empty. Seeds were sown and that is what matters.

The Bar

As I study idolatry and addictions, I often come across interesting testimonies and insightful sayings. Idolatry is the root sin that starts it all (the downward spiral of sin), you can find that startling conclusion in Romans 1:17-28. Yet once we turn to other 'gods',  we then become ensnared by them. For myself, for seventeen years, it was alcohol. Thanks be to Jesus Christ I am free now. Yet the memory of the often tragic exploits of a drunkard linger on. I found this poem in one of the books I am reviewing. For any that have struggled with drinking, the words will ring true. For those that still struggle, may these words help untangle you -

The Bar
The Saloon is called a bar...
It is more than that by far!
It's a bar to heaven, a door to hell,
Whoever named it, named it well.
A bar to manliness and wealth;
A door to want and broken health.
A bar to honor, pride and fame;
A door to grief, and sin and shame.
A bar to hope, a bar to prayer;
A door to darkness and despair.
A bar to an honored, useful life;
A door to brawling, senseless strife.
A bar to all that's true and brave;
A door to every drunkard's grave.
A bar to joys that home imparts;
A door to tears and aching hearts.
A bar to heaven, a door to hell;
whoever named it, named it well.
Anonymous

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Icing on the Cake

At the moment I seem to be under a fair amount of duress. Between a fulltime (four units a semester) Masters Degree in Theology (thus a spiritual journey as much as academic) and trying to establish a Christian Rehabilitation Centre, a volunteer Street Chaplain, helping within two local churches and an international one (Cambodia), the odd public speaking engagement and leading a men's Bible study, I often get a bit strung out. I don't know why. Oh I forgot, I am also working on a large scale Christian networking website (that's on the side in my free time). A Pastor the other day said to me "Super Jack" you should get a big J on your chest. And yet  I often feel I am not doing enough and find myself on my knees in tears to God.

The land for the rehab centre has had significant problems and I sense a trial, test or persecution (not sure which one to be honest) in the ongoing dealings with it. Thus the pressure often builds to a crescendo where you want to run away to the third world or something. During all of the above God is always there, a loving confidant, encourager and comforter. I couldn't do any of this without God. I would simply be on drugs as I was in the past, unable to face stress unless 'out of it'.

I lost my temper in a theological lecture and stormed out. I didn't agree with what was being said and rather than exploding I left. Much to the lecturer's dismay I might add. Ironically that very morning I had prayed to God and asked Him to help me be gentle. I felt the whole world is against me. I felt alone, persecuted and unable to trust anyone - except God. Thus i wanted the Creator of the universe to drop whatever He is doing (cant be that important ) and attend to ME! I surely try God's patience and praise Him with all my heart that He is the God that He is. A God of long suffering, long suffering in putting up with us.

Did God punish me? Did He chastise me? Did He send a message letting me know I was being so unreasonable and demanding and deserve condemnation for losing my temper? No... He anointed me...

By Sunday I had calmed down somewhat. A lot of prayer (hours of it) and plenty of Bible reading. I went to a night Church I love very much, an outreach to the needy and downcast. A meal is provided and a full service. Often God uses me there helping people, however, last Sunday I needed help. I felt like a wounded soldier or a blindfolded boxer in the ring with three opponents. The Pastor came up to me out of the blue and said 'I need to speak to you about what is happening'. I said 'ok', I was humbled enough to accept any help I could get and needed to trust someone!

I explained to him about the Rehab land (metaphorically that was the right hook, the other happenings more like well timed left jabs). At the end he said do you mind if I anoint you with oil? Five intense years in fulltime ministry and nobody has ever offered such a thing. This particular Pastor is a nice man he faces some very real spiritual forces (working with convicts, drug addicts and homeless you always do), thus he is no fool. His request and offer caught me off guard. I accepted sheepishly. He placed a fragrant oil on my forehead and prayed asking for blessing  and rebuked (in Christ's name) any schemes of the Devil coming against me.

I left the Church in wonderment. Thinking 'I've been anointed?'. That doesn't happen everyday. That week I was forgiven for my outburst in class. Thankfully. I then received a high distinction for my Research Proposal on idolatry and addiction. A mature brother came up to me, someone I respect, and said "never give up jack" - I sensed the Holy Spirit speaking through him. Lastly we were invited for a coffee for our final lecture by our Doctorate. When he suggested it I remember thinking maybe I should buy a cake and bring it along?, I then thought No, I will just leave it.
When I walked into the class later that night a Miss Maud's Chocolate Cake was sitting on the table. I stared at it in disbelief. Another student had purchased it. I knew straight away it was God's hand. I had decided I can't be bothered buying one, so God had prompted someone else to. It was literally the icing on the cake for Him comforting me.

I pray someone reads this and may see how real God truly is; so real He became a man, died on a cross for our sin and then sent His Spirit to comfort us. Why did He do that? God is Love, that's why.

God Bless

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Joy

The second fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22) is Joy. Elsewhere in the Bible it states "The Joy of the Lord is my strength". It's true. The Lord's Joy is very different to happiness though. Happiness is fleeting, like an ice cream. Nice enough whilst you are eating it, however, when it's finished so to is the sensation. Happiness can't give us strength when the world deals us a blow.

Tonight at the Community Cafe (our Church's dinner outreach) I felt the Lord's Joy and blessing. I enjoy serving, you get to know the people there, none of us are perfect, yet I fall in love with all of them. We become family as we serve one another. It is a lovely experience. It's God working in community (Theologian Stanley Grentz would agree enthusiastically). Tonight I gave a brief talk, I spoke of Christ, and our Lord's suffering in exchange for our joy. Afterwards I was overwhelmed by the people who thanked me. Many of them were new comers to the Church (some for the first time) yet they responded sincerely with warmth. It was so encouraging; the Joy continued to grow in me.

As I departed a new friend, I will call her Kat (I know she is reading this!), did one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me. Ever. She gave me a box of Bibles. Brand new beautiful Bibles. Each one a pathway to heaven for someone's soul. More precious than gold. More valuable than any treasure, the gift of eternity. I had to contain my tears.  Receiving Bibles from someone is also a gift directly from God. In this case through His daughter Kat. Nobody has ever given me Bibles before. I have bought over a thousand and given them all away. Tonight someone gave me some Bibles. I thank God for her. The exciting part is now waiting to see who will receive them. Stay tuned and be patient - God will get us there!

As I left, overwhelmed, I found my laptop had been stolen. At first I couldn't believe it. I ransacked the car and searched the church. Sure enough it was gone. Everyone was sympathetic. I thought during it, "Ok God, If you want the laptop gone that's ok, I know you will bring a good from this". I even thought God was doing such so i could get an extension on some assignments! One thing I didn't want to do was complain, or whinge too much. It was gone. The Lord Jesus states do not store up your treasure on earth. I don't, however, my theological assignments were stored up in the laptop. A full four  years worth. A friend made us pray in a huddle. We even started to accuse who may have done it. Thankfully the general consensus was not to. I remember saying everyone is innocent till proven guilty. I tried to hold onto the Lord's Joy; rather than let external circumstances effect the internal. If you do that you become a thermometer: up and down with the weather.

I decided to go home, I said "oh well I will get a new one tomorrow". My friends were all genuinely concerned. One wonderful man, Trevor, said with his innocent faith, "God will bring a good from it". I looked at him and thanked him. I knew The Holy Spirit was talking through him. As I turned and walked out the Church, another friend's wife called me back. The laptop had been found. Someone had placed it in the office for safe keeping. Relief flooded over everyone. And I did the dance (see Evan Almighty). The genuine relief in my friends was incredibly touching. Everyone was in Joy.

I see lessons in all of it. God wanted us to remain in joy laptop or not. It doesn't effect our salvation . The  salvation that Christ paid dearly for us on the cross. Under intense suffering He cried, "My God, My God why have you forsaken me?" however, if you use what is theologically called canonical contextual criticism (reading across the Bible horizontally - Scripture interpreting Scripture) you then get a deeper understanding of what Christ goes on to think. It is all there in Psalm 22. It begins with the aforementioned sentence, yet near conclusion states "may your hearts live forever!" (Psalm 22:26). Later we know Christ calls out in a loud powerful voice "IT IS FINISHED!". What was happening? He was exchanging the most intense suffering humanity will never know;  for your salvation, joy and eternal life. It is worth more than the entire earth. For even if we gained the whole earth but forfeited our soul, what good is that?

The Lord's Joy - may it become our strength.

God Bless