Thursday, April 28, 2011

Love your neighbour

For the last week and a half I have been writing an assignment as part of my Masters Degree. The topic I had chosen to study was Love of Neighbor, Love of God and the parable of the Good Samaritan. I had grappled with some of the world's leading theologians - Karl Barth, Karl Rahner, John Stott and George Ladd. Sometimes it actually hurts your brain. You can feel it fighting against you, its lazy and wants to not think. The firing of the neuron net means work and thus it would rather watch a movie and simply switch off. Watching movies though doesn't develop deep thinkers.

I needed my movie fix. I needed to give my brain a break. So what did I just happen to watch? Every movie I knew of that pertained to the Holocaust. I sat and watched the "The Pianist", "Uprising", "A Courageous Heart" and "Defiance". Each one an amazing true story all revolving around the same area - the Warsaw ghetto where the Nazis enclosed over 400,000 Jewish people. Then systematically exterminated them. I watched these movies in between studying love neighbor/love enemy. Can you imagine that? I didn't pre plan it. I didn't sit down and think "I am going to study love of enemy, so maybe as part of the research I should watch some movies about human atrocities" - and yet here I was watching them - as a break from study!

I got angry, I wept, at one stage I read of a horrific man in Treblinka (a Nazi death camp) that posed as a Doctor, they called him 'Doctor Death'. As tears streamed down my face after reading of what he had done to children, I said to him - "may you burn in Hell!" . God sat back and listened intently to my heart. I would then return to reading about 'Love even your enemy'. I said to God - How? How can what I am seeing here be forgiven?

As I watched the Jewish uprising and saw a small band fight to the death against the Nazis I again said to God "I would have fought alongside them God.... I am sorry". As an ex soldier (which I am) the option to take up arms in such a situation is certainly a consideration, even now as a Pastor.

And yet God was trying to show me another way...

I read Martin Luther King's novel Strength to Love. I admire Christians that live the faith. They are few and testify to Christ's words  Himself... "Few find the narrow path". When you read of  David Livingston, William Carey, Francis of Assisi, Hudson Taylor, Mother Teresa, or Martin Luther King, something is different about the caliber of these people.

Not only did they read and write about the faith - they lived it. They actually lived and experienced it. My admiration for such people far surpasses the learned theologian that experiences their faith only through study. Without the practice, theology is mere philosophy. And has nothing to qualify its findings other than the fallible human brain confined in a seminary.

King's words spoke powerfully to me, the man that would be martyred in peaceful protest against violent rebuke encapsulated Christ's message -

"Jesus eloquently affirmed from the cross a higher law. He knew that the old eye-for-an-eye philosophy would leave everyone blind. He did not seek to overcome evil with evil. He overcame evil with good. Although crucified by hate, he responded with aggressive love". (Martin Luther King).

Friday, April 22, 2011

I Love you

More often than not we look for God in large miraculous events, rather than seeing Him in the smaller details of life. We live in a galaxy that is part of a universe  so vast our instruments of measurement continually need adjustment to cope with its scale. NASA releases new images periodically that show us how immense the universe actually is. And subsequently how small we are. Consider one atom, its intricacies and its scale. Consider the detail of one strand of human DNA containing over 500,000 characters of information. Enough information to fill 10,000 books with 500 words. Amazingly people point to the ink and paper and yet disregard the option that an author was involved. Intelligent design is seen in our microscopic DNA as well as in the breathtaking beauty of galaxies.

God as a Masterful Designer pays attention to detail.

The other day I had decided to fast. I do not fast maybe as much as I should, there certainly is no rules to fasting, its a personal thing between you and God and when you feel called to it. Through the Bible this is always in times of need. I had a need and thus I went without food for the day. A friend had invited me over for dinner that night. And so I had resolved to break the fast at dinner. By six pm (after not eating since the night before) I was hungry. Mild discomfort, yet I also noticed my senses heightened spiritually and a serene feeling of joy. Nothing to complain about that's for sure.

When I arrived at my friends I didn't tell them I was fasting of course. We are told in the Bible not to make a big deal of it. Again its personal between you and God. As I sat down for dinner, a delicious plate of lamb chops were given to me. Lamb chops rate as one of my favourite meals. But I won't buy them, at $30 a kilo they are outside of my budget and thus I pass them by and think I don't need that. In fact, just that week I had walked past them at the supermarket and thought "too expensive". I often look out to see if they are on special, though that seems to be a rarity. Lamb chops are everyone's favourite and so the price matches the demand.

So when you have fasted all day and night, and sit down to a surprise plate of lamb chops, you know it is God. You are shocked, even dismayed. How could a being that creates Galaxies, designs DNA and overlooks 6 Billion lives, care so much that He orchestrates your favourite food at the end of a fast, simply to say.......I Love you.

"But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen, and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you" (Matthew 6:17-18)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Providence not 'Coincidence'

"Just as Gehazi was telling the king how Elisha had restored the dead to life, the woman whose son Elisha had brought back to life came to beg the king for her house and land" (1 Kings 8:5).

My Collins Mini Thesaurus states Providence as " destiny, divine intervention, fate, fortune, God' s will, predestination". Its an old word that seems to slip further and further from modern secular vocabulary. Sadly it is replaced with coincidence. Yet coincidence says nothing of God's involvement. Rather, it points to chance and our thinking merges with secular society and the atheist paradigm. We become blind to God's involvement in our lives, even when He is acting!

In this passage it shows that what appears to be coincidence is in actuality providence. God ensures that as the witness is given about Elisha working a miracle, that the actual person the miracle was performed for walks into the King's court at that exact time! She had been out of the country for seven years until that moment. What are the odds that when she would return to her country and visit the king's court that her life would be the topic of discussion at that exact moment? The odds are impossible. And thus the God to whom all things are possible then acts. To show HIS hand.

Not long ago I had given a message at a church, generally about providence and God acting in our lives. Afterwards a young lady enthusiastically wanted to join Street Chaplains, a ministry I am involved in. I gave her the Director's number for her to contact. On returning home I emailed the Street Chaplain Director and informed him of the young lady and left it at that.

A week later I was in a shopping centre. I had decided to go to the shops to buy a pair of jeans. I am not a big shopper  (especially for clothes) so being there for this purpose was a rarity. As I left the store I noticed the Street Chaplain Director standing near a coffee shop. As I walked  near I also noticed the young lady that had wanted to be a Street Chaplain. The two were standing apart and my mind quickly deducted they were actualy waiting to meet each other and hadn't recognised one another (they had never met before). I  walked into the middle of both of them and pointed at each of them and smiled. The Director was on his mobile about to call her!

I shook their hands and walked off amazed at God's timing! What are the odds? That the same person that would be the mediator for these two people meeting a week prior (on the other side of the city) would be walking past them as they waited to meet each other a week later (now at the opposite end of the city)! The odds are impossible.

Providence - not Coincidence. Look for it and you will be amazed at how often God is acting in your life.

Friday, April 1, 2011


Last night was my monthly roster as Street Chaplain. I always get excited, sometimes apprehensive, sometimes even feelings of negativity come on me before an all night ministry on Perth's entertainment district. The day before the night is prayerful and reflective. Tentatively you pray to God, after three years of seeing prayers powerfully answered (often not the way you expected) you are wary about what to pray for. You learn to pray specific rather than vague.

I had asked for souls. The opportunity to help people and show love. And maybe get to witness of Christ's love and work on the cross. Of Christ's forgiveness.

As three Chaplains ventured out the small group made a good team. Each had true faith, one from Kenya, one from Scotland and one from Australia. the Body, the church. Before long we were talking to a group of young Aboriginal men. No doubt many would judge them (harshly) and in turn receive back what they were giving out. Thanks to Christ, none of that was in our little church. We stopped and chatted with the boys, they were friendly, even respectful of us being Chaplains. One was in trouble with the police for street drinking. The police doing their job and giving a move on notice and warning. The work of the police in Northbridge is demanding and thankless. They do an amazing job.

The young man was Daniel. Something clicked between us. I chatted with him shook his hand, He was a stocky powerfully built young man, yet I could see his heart and I think he saw mine. He warmly introduced himself to all three of us and encouraged us for what we were doing.

We moved on.

Not long after whilst walking towards the Court Hotel, a young man came up to us and asked what Street Chaplains were? I sensed he was either homosexual or bi sexual and therefore I sought to be as warm and as kindly as I could be toward him. He asked a few questions about our religion. I told him I didn't have one, I told him I have a relationship not a religion. I follow Jesus. He liked that, most people are not negative towards Jesus, rather they are negative towards Religions that have judged them. He then admitted to me he was bi-sexual and said no doubt you will curse me now. I smiled and said why would I do that? I am no less guilty of sin than you are.

We kept talking and I saw my opportunity to tell him I had been abused as a child, that forgiveness had played a key role in releasing me from pain and sin. Many homosexual or bi -sexual people have had a similar experience in their infancy. You throw it out there like fly fishing never knowing what you will get. He was enthralled by my concept of forgiveness freeing us from bitterness. That my forgiveness does not condone the guilty member but frees us from their continual entrapment. He liked it, he liked it a lot. We shook hands and off he went.

Immediately three Chaplains prayed in unison under a tree for this man, that God would take the seed and help it grow. We were all blessed to feel Joy at that moment, Heaven was pleased.

Druing the night we found ourselves often at the right place at just the right time, a helping hand, a kind word, a prayer. Not coincidence but God incidence. The most powerful  God Incidence, however, was yet to occur. Later in the night we bumped into Daniel again. He was now crashing his powerful shoulder into people he passed by, his own inner anger surfacing towards others. We stopped and chatted, he calmed and opened up to us. He even told me he used to go to church with his mother all the time, and that he missed it now. He asked for my number, I pray he calls.

As the curtain drew to a close on God's stage, we arrived at the police station to hand in our little backpack. I had offered to take the wonderful Kenyan Chaplain home as she lived north of the river. As we handed our gear into the station a young African man was asking the police to give him a lift home (not part of the Police's responsibility). He lived in the same area as the Kenyan Chaplain. I knew God was saying "give him a lift home" I walked up to him and said we are headed that way we can take you home, we are Street Chaplains. He was thankful, so to was the on duty police officer.

As we left the station I asked the young man what His name was? He responded..."Daniel"