Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Why I will be a Christian until the day I die

We live in a society where people think that Christians are gullible and even stupid for what they believe. Such people allege: ‘Miracles don’t happen. Jesus didn’t rise from the dead. The Bible is a fairytale. Christians are either brainwashed into believing since childhood, or they are pathetic people who need a crutch to get them through life.’


I don’t consider myself to be na├»ve or uneducated. I don’t think I’m that pathetic to need a crutch, and I certainly wasn’t brainwashed into Christianity. I am a man of science- I worked in a former life as a research scientist in the field of protein chemistry. I’ve lectured in human physiology. I don’t mention this to blow my own trumpet- but simply to say that I’m someone who likes to know how things work. I need solid evidence to back up my beliefs. I crave not only to believe, but I crave to know why I should believe.


I know you are the same- you need reasons, evidence and proof. So that’s why I want to offer some reasons that explain why I am a Christian and continue to be one. I hope it will make you seriously consider the evidence for Christianity, and if you are already a believer, I trust this will strengthen your own faith.


1. The Wonder of Us


If you were to be walking down Pitt Town Rd, and noticed the letters of your name scratched into the cement, what would you conclude? You’d think that it was put there by someone. Now consider our human bodies. I find it amazing that our entire genome is made up of only 4 different genetic codes, but that they are amazingly arranged to make up our human bodies. If we conclude that someone had pulled some letters of the alphabet to write our name in the cement, why do you conclude that we are accidents? Someone with a Mind has arranged the genetic code in our bodies. Such wonder points to a God who has wonderfully made us.


2. Making Sense of the world

Another reason I’m a Christian is because Christianity makes sense of the world that I live in. The Bible teaches that God wants to give me joy and satisfaction through knowing Him. But in reality I have a wrecked relationship with God and others. We look for pleasure in the wrong places- in food, alcohol, and sex. The result is anorexia, addiction and adultery. These things never satisfy.

Why can’t I love people the way that I should? Why do I lock my door at night? Why is the newspaper full of bad news? These things tell me that there is something drastically wrong with my world, which the Bible calls sin. This all stems from the tendency I have to find my ultimate happiness outside of God.



3. The Proof of History

The information we have about Jesus comes mainly from ancient documents written by Christians shortly after Christ. Even non Christian scholars speak about Jesus (for example, Josephus and Tacitus). In fact, I have never come across an ancient scholar who has denied the existence of Jesus.

The books of the New Testament are reliable historical documents. Not only do we have over 24,000 early copies of portions of the New Testament today, but many of them are quite close in time to the original.

What they wrote is reliable and trustworthy. You see, the writers of the New Testament considered themselves as ‘eyewitnesses’. They claimed to be able to eyeball, to touch, to hear God in the flesh of a man- a person called Jesus. They recorded these things so that we can know with certainty that they actually happened.

The most unique event these eyewitnesses recorded for us was the resurrection of Jesus from the grave. They were completely convinced that Jesus Christ became a corpse, and literally rose from the dead. They weren’t exaggerating- they saw it! And not just them, but many others as well. The historical proof that comes from these eyewitness accounts must be taken seriously.



4. Christianity says what no other religion does.

You might read this and think ‘OK, so I believe in a God who created, I know there’s something wrong with the world, and I know Jesus existed…but why should I believe in Christianity? Why not any old religion, or just my own personal belief in a Supreme Being?

The answer is that Christianity offers something which is vastly different to all other religions. How do the religions tell us to seek salvation? The major religions have founders who claimed to show the way to salvation. This is usually by some form of moral exertion or religious observance. Major religions teach ‘DO this and you’ll live’.

Not Christianity. Jesus didn’t come to show the way to salvation. He came to BE the salvation. Christianity doesn’t teach that the way to salvation is by being good, or practicing religion. The apostles of Jesus taught that salvation has been DONE for us by Jesus. When he died on the cross, he acted as your substitute. All we need to do is accept this!

This puts Christianity into a league of its own when it comes to religion. I’m not saved by what I DO. I’m saved by what Christ has DONE.


What person could invent a religion that a Jewish man dying on a Roman cross, and coming back to life, could win eternal life? Eternal life, simply by believing! Who would think of such a thing? The answer is simple- no person could! It’s only because God offers something that is so different to everything else that is on offer.

5. The Person of Jesus



The more I get to know Jesus, the more convinced I am that no human could invent him. He is different to any other person that I have met. No one has all the power of the universe at his disposal, and yet uses it to give himself as a sacrifice. He’s magnificent, glorious and confident. Yet he’s meek, humble and lowly. No one else that I’ve met has such a perfect balance of these characteristics. This is a person who claimed to be God, yet condescended himself to be exposed to being spat upon. No one could imagine that these characteristics could be so amazingly combined in one person. This is a God who is also a man, who is worthy of my worship! He is truly unique!

I have given 5 reasons why I am a Christian and continue to be one. I hope you’ll consider them. God didn’t create us as dummies. He made us with brains, and we should use our intelligence and our God given reasoning to examine the evidence for Christian faith. St John summed it up when he said ‘These things are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name’. (John chapter 20, verse 31 NIV). Are you open minded enough to thoughtfully consider the evidence?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Tired?



Are you tired? You might have had a late night. Perhaps the kids kept you awake and then woke you up early in the morning. Perhaps your tiredness is self-inflicted. Maybe you’ve been working too hard. Perhaps you’re tired of pretending and tired of letting people down. Perhaps you’re tired of crying. Maybe you’re tired of trying, tired of pretending, and tired of failing. Maybe you’re just tired! What we may not realize is that rest is a life and death issue!

Why We Need Rest.
Our problem is we don’t rest. Within us there is a great restlessness. We get worried and anxious and can’t sleep at night because we don’t have a deep, deep calm that we really need.

Jesus recognized the need we have for rest. He said, ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’ (Matthew chapter 11, verses 28-30)

Our great problem is that we cannot rest. We know we should be more loving and more patient. We realize we should try harder at being a better Dad, or a more understanding spouse. Perhaps we feel we should give more money to sponsor starving children , or put in longer hours in our job. We get tired just thinking about it!

In Jesus’ day, there was a religious sect called the Pharisees who put heavy burdens upon people, telling them that they had to perform. They were expected to do things like forgive, tithe, help the poor, keep the Sabbath, and show compassion. But no one could make the grade!

The real weariness, is the need to impress others so you impress yourself, because you aren’t satisfied with who you are. So we are work to convince ourselves that we are good people. Living up to the expectation of society, family, your boss, and yourself is a heavy burden that we all bear. But most of all, we look for ways to prove ourselves to God. Such under-achievement weighs us down with guilt, so we get weary.

We need rest from our burdens, guilt, and performance. Jesus says he wants to lift that heavy burden from us.

How we get rest
Jesus says ‘Come to me’. We are invited to come to a person. The real rest happens when we stop trying to perform like a trained seal, and come to Jesus. He asks us to lay down our burdens, our actions, our performances at his feet and simply to come to him. There is no need to try and impress him, or prove ourselves to him. All we need to do is come.

He also says ‘take my yoke upon you’. A yoke is a farming instrument that is put over 2 bulls so that they can plough out the field. He’s actually saying ‘you’ve already got a burden. You’re weighed down by your own yoke of guilt and performance. Let me take that one off you and give you mine because it’s light and freeing.’

How can Jesus do this? How does he take away our burdens? The answer is that he became the burden himself. When he went to the cross, a glorious emancipation took place: he shouldered the weight of our burdens. On that cross, he took upon himself all our wrong motives and the things that we live for. He became the under-performer in our place and he offers us his perfect life which perfectly lived up to God's expectation. Because of what he did, the burden of performance and the pressure of guilt and anxiety and the pain of proving yourself can now be lifted!


What he did was so complete that you no longer have to perform! The pressure is off!

What happens when you take Jesus’ rest?
When we believe that Jesus did this for us, what we get is ‘rest for our souls’. Because the job that Jesus did was so good and satisfying, we are now able to say ‘all the work I need to do is finished because my Saviour has completed it for me.’

In life, there are 2 kinds of jobs. Firstly, there are jobs which never seem to end, no matter how hard you work at them. A dishwasher will always have dishes to wash, every day, no matter how hard they work. A nurse will always have sick people to care for. A mother’s job is never done. But there is another type of job where, once it is complete, it is over. The organizers of the Sydney Olympics had to find employment elsewhere once the Olympics were over. There is a sense of finality once the last brick is laid, or the project is complete. I’m sure the actors in Harry Potter are now looking for employment elsewhere now that the last movie has been made. (Although, now that J.K. Rowling has penned the very last chapter of Harry Potter, I don’t think she’ll be in need of work anytime soon! Her job is complete!)

The things we work for are like that first kind of job. We’ll always feel the need to perform, no matter how much we’ve done. There is always someone to impress, and it's never enough. But the work that Jesus did for us on the cross is more like this second type of job. It was complete! Right before he died, Jesus said from the cross ‘It is finished!’ In other words, the work has been done.


This means we can rest from having to carry the weight of all our under-performance. We can rest from the fear of death. We can rest because Jesus brings us into an intimate relationship with God where God is our Father and Jesus is our brother. We can rest in what he has done.

The real reason our souls are restless is because we live for the burdens. We live for the deadline, the pressure, and the expectations of others. We feel the need to prove ourselves. But because Jesus said ‘it is finished’, you too can say ‘it is finished’ and walk away, resting in the knowledge that your sins are paid for. Your life can be complete. There’s no need to feel wearied anymore. Do you know this rest deep within your soul? It's a relief when you do!

Sunday, May 08, 2011

The World is going to end… with a Royal Wedding!



Everyone loves a good wedding. The recent marriage of Prince William to Catherine is proof of that. Millions of people tuned into extravagant event and thousands lined the streets in London to witness this elaborate spectacle. Those who couldn’t attend in person celebrated with royal parties. Souvenir newspapers and magazines were sought after.

This event is a wonderful picture of what will happen at the end of time. The Bible describes that the world will one day end. But it won’t be by a deadly virus, a nuclear fallout, or an asteroid plummeting into the earth. The world will end with a wedding!!

Here’s how the Bible describes it in the book of Revelation:
“Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear." (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) Then the angel said to me, "Write: 'Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!' " And he added, "These are the true words of God." (Revelation 19:7-9 NIV)

At the end of time, there will be a Royal Wedding. The Bridegroom on that Day is none other than Jesus. The Bride will walk down the aisle and take her place beside Jesus. As Jesus lifts the veil, he will be looking at his own people. The Bride is everyone who has ever loved Jesus, gone to him for forgiveness, and worshipped him as King. This will be the wedding of all weddings!

Why a wedding?
Why will the world end with a wedding? Because it perfectly represents the relationship God wants with us. God doesn’t want to relate to us simply as a shepherd would relate to sheep, or as a King would relate to his Subjects, or even as a Father to a child. He wants to relate to you as a Bridegroom relates to a Bride. He wants to know you intimately, love you deeply and know you personally. He wants to have a honeymoon love for you. And he’ll pursue you passionately to get it.

Can you imagine being in a relationship where you are perfectly loved, despite your flaws and mistakes? The more you get to know your lover, the more you love them? And all your lover wants to do for you is all for your joy and benefit. Your lover gives you the kind of joy that makes you want to explode!!! This kind of relationship is unbelievable! But this is exactly the kind of relationship that God offers you when you come to him through Christ.

One of the things about being a Christian is that you enter into a relationship with God. In this relationship, it’s as though you develop a 6th sense- a spiritual sense that no one else has, and you begin to experience the love of God all for yourself. You start to think that it’s a wonder and a marvel that God should love you. The Bible says ‘Taste and see that the Lord is good’ (Psalm 34:8). Why does it say that? It’s an invitation to experience God. It’s one thing to know that he is good, it’s another thing to taste it for yourself. God wants us to know for ourselves just how good he is! This can only happen when we come to God, ready to receive His love.

A Costly Love
But this ‘Honeymoon Love’ that God is offering to each of us does not come cheaply. It comes at great cost to himself. You see, we actually deserve divorce from God rather than marriage. We deserve separation rather than intimacy. The reason is because we find our love in other things- gold, glory, grog, girls… you name it, we substitute it for God. We find love in the arms of ‘other gods’ and chase after them. The result is that we deserve to be cut off from God.

The amazing thing is that despite our rejection of God, he still wants us. This is why he sent Jesus into the world, to die the death we deserve for chasing other lovers. He died in our place and took our ‘divorce’- the result for our rejection of God. Jesus dies in the place of his Bride so that his people can be cleansed from all their guilt and shame that holds God at a distance. With his blood, Jesus has won back his Bride. The fact that he gave his Son for us is proof of his deep love for us.

Saying 'Yes' to the Proposal
Can you imagine God on one knee, holding out his love, saying “will you be mine”? God is offering each of us a marriage proposal. The way to accept this proposal is by:-
1. Admitting you have loved other ‘gods’. You have put other lovers ahead of God. You are far from God and have strayed from him.
2. Giving him the credit for what he’s done. He died to make us his bride.

Remember the minister who did the cartwheels once Kate and William were married? This is how God feels when people accept his wedding proposal. What he promises to do is to fill you with the joy and gladness that comes through having him in your life. Do you know this joy? There is no greater joy than knowing God.


This is why the world will end with a royal wedding. It’s the perfect finish for what God has in mind for us. Are you ready for this wedding?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Which is more important: Christmas or Easter?


Which do you think is more important, Easter or Christmas?

From a purely celebratory point of view, it looks like Christmas is more important than Easter. Christmas is the time of family get-togethers. It’s the day where you have to split your time between your side of the family and the ‘other’ side of the family. At Christmas, we stuff ourselves silly and then recover when the New Year starts. These things aren’t as important at Easter time.

From the way we treat each other, it looks like Christmas is more important than Easter. Christmas is the time for the unavoidable giving of gifts. At Easter time, you just might get away with not presenting Aunty Gertrude with a colourful, foil-wrapped chocolate egg. But woe betide you if at Christmas time, you don’t have your obligatory wrapped contribution ready! Gift giving is compulsory!

Christmas is also the time when people talk of love, joy and peace. We long for the downing of weapons and the halting of artillery fire. For many, Christmas can be a painful time because we remember relationships that have been lost through bereavement or separation. There is something about Christmas that makes us think about the people we have been close to. Easter doesn’t evoke such feelings as strongly as Christmas does.

The shops also reflect the importance of Christmas over Easter. In December, there’s more bling, more kitsch, more lights, more decorations, more music, more tinsel, more shopping hours! But in April, what do you find greeting you at the supermarket door? There’s simply the colourful rows of wrapped eggs and the waft of hot cross buns.

As you can see, when we consider the way we behave at Christmas, it seems as though this is the most significant celebration on the Christian calendar.

However, from a Christian perspective, the reverse is true. The significance of Easter outweighs the importance of Christmas. Easter is by far the more important celebration.

You see, the extravagant gift that God gave on that very first Christmas was unwrapped on the very first Easter. Only at Easter do we realize the significance of the gift God gave.

On Good Friday, the gift was that Jesus died instead of us. When he died, he did so to take the rap for our own offences against God. The innocent Jesus, who was perfectly God-pleasing, died in the place of guilty, God-offensive people. If we have accepted this gift, God is able to look at us and smile, because our offences against him have been dealt with in Jesus. The reason God sent Jesus on that first Christmas was to be a perfect sacrifice for us on that first Good Friday.

But that’s not all. As we continue to unwrap the extravagant gift that God gave, we discover something more. On Easter Day, Jesus burst out of the grave, back from the dead, never to die again. Because he rose, we have proof that dead men do rise. Because of this, those that have aligned themselves with Jesus will also be raised with him. Because he lives forever, the Christian will live forever. Death doesn’t have to be the end! Without a resurrection, there is no Christianity and no fresh start with God.

Indeed, the whole reason we celebrate Christmas is because of Easter. Jesus was born in order to die, and to be raised again. His death and resurrection is what gives us hope, meaning and purpose. Without these things, we would have nothing of the love, joy and peace that we crave for at Christmas time.

Easter is more important than Christmas! So let the shops know. Tell your family and the in-laws you’ll be over. And come and celebrate Easter this year at a local church near you.

Monday, January 17, 2011

We Are Not in Control


Cars swept away by the sheer momentum of racing torrents. Rooftops peering out of towns now swallowed by water. Streets turned into creeks. The sight of tears on the face of Australians. Many people dead. More people missing. The Queensland Flood Crisis has been called the most widespread natural disaster in Australian History.

As I watched the Flood Crisis unfold, I was horrified by the images I witnessed. I watched with disbelief when I saw cars being swept away by the sheer force of water. My heart broke when I witnessed heroic acts of sacrifice. My heart sank when the death toll rose, and people went missing. I felt devastated when I saw the ruin to homes and livelihoods. The emotional, physical and economic scars that this crisis has left on communities will be deep for some time.

But what spiritual impact should these events have upon us? I want to suggest that this crisis should teach us this one ancient truth: We are not in control.

One reason I felt shocked as I watched my television was because this crisis was taking place in my backyard, in my beloved Australia. We, after all, live in The Lucky Country. Our freedom, our natural beauty, our mateship, and our way of life are unparalleled anywhere else in the world. We think of our nation as ‘the world’s best kept secret’. I was shaken that such devastation could take place in the sunburnt land that I love.

In fact, after I wrote that last line, I went back to read that famous poem ‘I Love a Sunburnt Country’, which was penned by Dorothy MacKellar. There was a line that particularly struck me: ‘Her beauty and her terror’. We don’t think of our country as a place of terror. But the events of recent weeks have reminded us of this truth: Whilst Australia is a place of unmatched beauty, it is also a place of untamable terror. And we cannot control it.

One of my friends is a pastor in the Presbyterian Church in Rockhampton. Pastor Mike said about the floods: ‘all we could do is sit and wait for the water to come’. I can only imagine his helplessness, knowing that destruction was looming, but being unable to avert it. For other Queenslanders who experienced flash flooding, there was no waiting or warning. There was only immediate, unstoppable, untamable terror.

The events of the past few weeks have forced us to admit our helplessness. We have experienced the unpredictable and capricious forces of nature and have been powerless to do anything. This challenges our snug human notions of order, control and comfort through science, research and technology. The floods have shown us that whilst we like to think we are in control of our world, we simply are not.

However, there is a radiance of hope which shines through the devastation of the past few weeks. There is God, and His character is compassionate. He wants the very best for us. He is powerful. In our time of need, we must look to Him for help.

This requires an attitude which self-sufficient Australians can find very difficult: humility. It is humbling to admit that you are not in control. But God responds to those who admit that they need Him and are humble, rather than the proud who think they don’t need Him. In the end, humility is not a sign of weakness, but a necessary attitude that we must embrace if we are to have a life-changing relationship with God. Indeed, the very reason that God sent His Son to die in our place is because we were helpless to do anything to save ourselves. We needed help. We needed a Saviour.

The floods have forced us to humbly admit that we are not in control. Having been humbled by the powerful floods, will we see past these events to an even more powerful God? It is time that we allow this crisis to drive us humility before God and to realize that we must depend upon Him for everything.

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, 3 though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. (Psalm 46:1-3 NIV)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Something Better than Happiness


Or:
Happiness: Not all it's cracked up to be

Jumping out of a plane. Buying a hot new car. Dating a hot girl. Marrying a handsome man. Wearing the newest fashion. Jogging along the beach. Eating crispy hot chips. Buying the latest iPhone. Why do we do these things? Answer: Happiness. But is happiness all it is cracked up to be?

The word ‘happiness’ comes from the same English word as the word ‘perhaps’. Happiness carries the idea of chance and circumstance. Friday afternoons always bring more happiness than Monday mornings. People smile more at weddings than they do at funerals. Retail therapy might lift my mood, but in a few hours it will wear off. Happiness is based upon the ever-shifting situations that I am in. Perhaps I am happy, perhaps I am not.

This means that happiness is not constant. Happiness is like a sandcastle that is washed away by the waves of circumstance. I might be happy one year because I am fulfilled in my career. But the next year I might feel a deep sense of grief because I lost my job. For all of us, happiness is a roller coaster ride of highs and lows.

Something better than happiness

But there is something which is better than the euphoric rush of happiness. This is something which gives you a greater sense of fulfillment than any ecstatic wave of gladness. What I am talking about is joy. Joy is very different to happiness. Let me explain.

Joy and happiness seem very similar. But in reality, they are quite different. We might feel happy after that first morning coffee, but joy is something we feel when a baby is born. Happiness may gladden our heart, but joy makes our heart want to explode.

In the Bible, joy is tied to relationships. A wise son brings joy to his father, says the Proverbs. You can find joy in a spouse, a new baby or a good friend. We find joy in the relationships God has given us. Anyone can experience this.

Joy comes from the Ultimate Relationship

But true and lasting joy comes from having a relationship with God. When God comes into your life, He brings His joy with Him. He turns people’s lives into a festival of joy. This is because God is good, and when He comes into your life He drags all His goodness with Him.

Joy is always anchored to all the good things that God gives. The good things God has on offer are purpose, value, and meaning in life, the forgiveness of sins, eternal life, a home in heaven, being with God forever, ruling the world with Christ, being known by God personally, and having God Himself as your inheritance! It doesn’t get any better than that.

Because these things are unchanging, this means that joy is unchanging. No one can steal joy away from you. You can be happy and have joy. You can have the deepest sadness and still have joy. Joy is not tied to circumstances. No wonder the apostle Paul, while in the wretched state of being chained up in prison cell can say ‘rejoice in the Lord always!’ (Philippians 4:4). He is looking at his relationship with the Lord.

Experiencing this joy

Have you experienced this joy yourself? The Bible says ‘Taste and see that the Lord is good’. (Psalm 34:8). Why does it say that? It’s an invitation to experience God. It’s one thing to know that he is good, it’s another thing to taste it. You can know in your head that ice-cream is creamy and cold, but to actually taste the yummy, cold, creaminess of ice-cream is quite another thing! To know that God is good and to taste that God is good are quite different things.

When someone becomes a Christian, it’s as though they develop a 6th sense- a spiritual sense that no one else has, and they begin to taste the goodness of God all for themselves. This is the experience of true and lasting joy.

I don’t know if you have ever had the experience of being so full of joy that you feel as though you could explode. Or feeling your inner core well up with fire? Do you even know what I am talking about?

How to get this joy

Perhaps this idea of joy is foreign to you. But this is exactly what Jesus came to bring. He came so that ‘your joy might be full’ (John 15:11). This is permanent joy because ‘no one will take your joy from you’ (John 16:22).

The irony is that Jesus came to fill our lives with joy by going through the most joyless of experiences: Death on a cross. In that death, he wiped away the curse of my sin. He rose again so he could enter my life and bring me joy. Do you want this joy yourself? You must do 2 things.

Firstly you must admit that you are empty. Confess to God that you don’t have meaning or purpose without Him. Ask him to forgive you for ignoring Him. Secondly, you must give Him the credit for true and lasting joy. Thank Him for sending Jesus to die in your place so that God may enter your life and bring you true joy.

All that the world can offer you is happiness based on circumstances. But true and lasting joy is anchored in God, which the world cannot take from you. Joy is always better than happiness!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Disappointment with God

This is a post I wrote that appeared in our local rag. Some may be wrestling with this issue right now, so I thought I would post here if you wanted to read.

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Perhaps you are reading this and you feel like God has treated you unfairly right now. When you pray it feels like you are talking to a wall. Your most urgent prayers get no answer. God seems silent. You’ve asked him for something and He just won’t give it to you. Your career, maybe your marriage, maybe your body is in trouble. Or maybe it’s just the mundane that bothers you: your work is boring; your marriage isn’t what it could be; the bills keep stacking higher and you just seem to be working longer.

You may conclude that God seems to be unfair when He has the power to do what you want, but He doesn’t. Or perhaps you have concluded that there is no God, because life is just too hard. Or maybe you’ve concluded that God is an impersonal force because you don’t think your prayers get beyond the ceiling.

What should we do when we feel disappointed with God?

Disappointment with God in the Bible

The Bible is full of examples of people who were disappointed in God. In fact, throughout the Old Testament, the people of God continually express their disappointment with God. The song-lyrics book of the Bible, Psalms, sums up the despair of the person who trusts in God:

Psalm 13:1 How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?

Some of the Old Testament prophets felt as though they were wrestling with the silence of God:

Isaiah 45:15 Truly you are a God who hides himself, O God and Savior of Israel.

Habakkuk 1:2 How long, O LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, "Violence!" but you do not save?

If you are disappointed with God then you are in good company.

Types of Questions we ask when Disappointed with God

There are 2 types of questions we ask when we are disappointed with God.

The first question is the "why" question: "Why did this happen?"

There is a bloke in the Bible called Job. He lost his kids, his house, his health. The only thing he didn’t lose was his wife, and she told him to curse God and die! He said to God:

Job 7:20b Why have you made me your target? Have I become a burden to you?

These may be your questions:
· Why did the Victorian bushfires happen?
· Why did my marriage fail?
· Why did my child die?
· Why did ....... ? (I'm sure you can fill in the blank)

But there's another question which is even more chilling than the "why" question. It is the “where” question. "Where is God" when all this terrible stuff is happening? Consider Job:

Job 23:2-4 Today also my complaint is bitter; my hand is heavy on account of my groaning. 3 Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his seat! 4 I would lay my case before him and fill my mouth with arguments.

Job wanted to know where God was. Our questions might be:
· Where was God when my wife’s body was full of cancer?
· Where is God now that my Dad has died?
· Where was God on 9-11?

All you are left with is the whisper of the devil who says: “God is not there! You are all alone, and God doesn't care!” Have you ever felt like that?

How to Handle Disappointment with God

We can handle disappointment with God in wrong ways and right ways.

Wrong Ways
We can:
-Ignore God: Silence becomes our weapon of defence against God. We avoid church and avoid the people of God like a rash.
-Focus on Self: Pain has a tendency to make us introspective and distort our vision.
-Perform: We may think that if I pray more, attend church or do good things, God will look kindly on me and owe me one.
-Take shortcuts: We do this to avoid pain. We turn to alcohol or porn or the workshed to avoid the pain.
-Make demands on God: As though God is our butler to do our bidding, we demand that God proves Himself to us.

Right Way
When disappointed, there is only one way to respond. It’s simply to trust in God. Disappointment doesn’t have to be the last word. The important battle is: will you trust God? When faith is the hardest, that’s when faith is needed most. Again, consider Job. During his terrible suffering, Job had trust in God:


Job 13:15 Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him; I will surely defend my ways to his face.

Trust which is the result of having been shaken is strong trust.

Am I asking for blind trust? NO! It’s a trust in God that isn’t based on circumstances.

God uses circumstances to develop our trust in him. Circumstances are not our enemy, they are our friend. God knows what it takes to make us more like Jesus. There are no perfect circumstances to follow Christ except the ones you are in today. These are the ones God has given you to develop you.

Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

God is good no matter what the circumstance. That’s why you can agree with the writer of Psalm 42.

Psalm 42:5 Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

Some Things to Remember

a) Don’t Trust in a Perfect Earth
Sometimes we think that God is not fair because life is not fair. We think physical reality equals spiritual reality.

But that’s a wrong conclusion. God’s love for you does not depend on your good wealth and health. That’s staking your faith on a perfect earth. If you do that, your faith will always let you down.

God’s love for us depends on what he has done through Jesus.

Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

God loves you beyond your wildest dreams. So learn to develop a relationship with God apart from your circumstances. (Read Hebrews chapter 11- it’s full of men of faith who hung onto God despite their circumstances).

b) Count Your Blessings
The heart that is thankful is the heart that isn’t disappointed. Are we to give thanks in some circumstances?

1 Thessalonians 5:18 Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

So count your blessings, name them one by one.

c) Focus on the Big Picture
When you get disappointed with God, you get trapped in the present. We need to see the big picture and fix our gaze ahead to the future.

If you think God has been unfair to you, you haven’t seen the big picture. For one day, God will conquer evil and restore this world to its original perfection. In the end, suffering won’t win.

Do you know what the last word is? Heaven.

In the new heavens and new earth God won’t be hidden any more. You will see him face to face. Heaven and earth will finally work the way God wanted it to.

So when you are trapped in pain there is one word you need to remember- temporary.

d) God Knows Pain Too
We want a God who knows what it’s like to be human, to feel our pain. The cross settles the issue of is God unfair. Our God is unwilling to put his children through any test which he Himself has not endured. God understands what you feel. He too is acquainted with grief.

Isaiah 53:3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.

God is not hidden. He is there. He loves you. He has given the best proof of this love by sending His Son.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Beam me up Scotty!!!!!!!!!!





This post is dedicated to my one reader who still visits this cob-web strewn region of the internet *waves to Tim*.

I got to see an advanced screening of Star Trek, for free!  For sure!  And to demonstrate my thankfulness to the producer of this movie, I should share some of my thoughts on the movie so that you will boldly go where doubtless many more others will go and shell out some dosh to see Star Trek!

First- the title of the movie.  Star Trek.  The first Star Trek movie in 1979 had this name so personally, I would have been more content if it had been titled Star Trek Year One, or Star Trek Origins, or Star Trek: Beginnings, or something like that.  After all, that’s what the movie was about.  It chronicles the early years when the crew of the SS Enterprise meet each other for the very first time and start their whole star trekin’ escapades across the universe.  On the Star Ship Enterprise, under Captain Kirk!

The characters were true to form.  Captain James T. Kirk has always been a difficult character for me to pin down.  He seems heroic, and noble, but then he comes across as a flirtatious womaniser.  But I guess he is no different to the character of James Bond in that sense.  And he really plays up his womanising-ness in this movie.  This is not the aspect of the character that I enjoy, but it was true to form.

I loved seeing the introduction of Scotty.  I can’t remember if the original Star Trek discussed scientific theories all that much, but I was delighted that we got to hear Scotty’s thoughts on whether he could teleport (that’s beam me down to the unversed) people onto a movie object.  It was cool seeing him work it out.

The sheer delight for me was seeing Zachary Quinto’s portrayal of a young Spock.  Yes, I do watch Heroes, and am familiar with his portrayal of Silar, which was very chilling.  The thing that really got me thinking was the way Spock wrestles with his human nature and his Vulcan nature.  (He has always reminded me of a certain Namor, but that’s another story). 

 

The character of Mr Spock is calculated and reasoned.  But being half human, he wrestles with his emotions which sometimes get the better of his Vulcan logic.  This seems to depict the struggle that our world wrestles with: ‘I feel, therefore I am’ is the catch cry of our world.  We desire experiences which make us feel.  Facts and truth mean little to us in the face of feeling and experiences- a concept which has seemed to have influenced the way Christians do church (but that, dear reader, is for another post.  Suffice it to say for now that truth should influence feeling, not the other way around…)

And it wasn’t until later that I realised that Eric Bana was portraying that rascally Romulan Nero.  Well done Bana for all your craziness.  I still miss you playing Ray Martin on Full Frontal.

SPOILER ALERT

The movie also deals with the concept of time travel.  I absolutely love anything to do with the concept of time travel.  My imagination has been captured by this concept since the Back to the Future movies.  In this movie, (and here’s where you want to tune out if you dislike spoilers), older Spock travels back in time and meets younger Spock.

The movie was done by JJ Abrams, the creator of Lost.  Being a Lost fan, I saw definitive parallels between this movie and Lost.  There was the introduction of the older Mr Spock.  I found myself clapping when I saw Leonard Nimoy on the big screen.  It was such a pleasant surprise.  Die-hard fans will love the continuity with the original.  The concept of meeting your future self, and of what has happened in the past will happen in the future was such a Lost concept.  I loved it.

I’d see it again.  Defo.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Raindrops before the storm

Zephaniah 1:18 Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them on the day of the wrath of the LORD (ESV)







Thursday, December 18, 2008

OK...


OK, so apparently people still read this blog....

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Can he save the world?

It seems as though America has a new religion- Obamania.

The thing that has intrigued me has been the role of "rescuer" that has been attributed to the dude. The expectations that have been placed upon the guy are enormous! The guy must feel the weight of the world upon his shoulders.


I find it fascinating that we look for heroes like Obama to save and rescue us. At our great time of need we look for heroes to give us hope.

This is one reason why I find superheroes so fascinating. Did you know that Superman was first published in 1938- that's on the end of the Great Depression. After a time of hopelessness, the Man of Steel gave us hope. He inspired us in our time of need.

Given the current financial crisis, which has been likened to the Great Depression, what heroes will we turn to? Who will inspire us and give us hope? Who will protect us?

We recognise that deep within us we cannot save ourselves. We need someone to pull us out of the slim we have fallen into. Who will save our world?



In my hour of desperation, I want someone to say "not if I can help it" to me!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Future of Futures


The following is an article about to be published in the local paper.

Money, money, money!

ABBA was wrong. Money, money, money is NOT very funny in the rich man’s world. Times are tough. We are experiencing a significant economic down turn.

One political leader has called current economic situation the ‘worst economic crisis since the Great Depression’. Economists have referred to this as a ‘Financial Tsunami’.

Wall Street has crashed, and then gone back up again. The stock-market has been acting like a roll-coaster. Billions of dollars were wiped out in one day, but recovered the next. As the Dow Jones Industrial Average has dipped, so have our emotions.

Whilst we in Australia may not feel the full effects for some time, we do notice some things. It is getting harder to save and harder to retire. People are talking about not taking an early retirement in order to ‘top up’ failing superannuation levels.

Worry About the Future

We worry about the future. We are worried about our superannuation. We are worried about dropping share prices and investment funds.

What will happen to the value of my home? Will I be able to afford my mortgage payments? Can I live off the aged pension?

These are real worries that we face. They cause us stress and anxiety.

Our political leaders say they have the situation under control. They assure us that they are working together to fix the situation. They assure us that our money is safe in the bank.


But although our political leaders are working hard to reassure us, it’s easy for us to fear the worst.

Perhaps we paint a worst case scenario of living in a cardboard box in a public park somewhere, relying upon food from soup kitchens. At best we might be able to crash in a friend’s garage.
Things like this can cause us to think of deeper things than money.


The Uncertainty of Wall Street

God warns us not to put our hope in riches.

The Bible cautions us not to put our hope in wealth, which is uncertain, but to put our hope in God. (I Timothy chapter 6, verse 17).

We have seen firsthand how unstable wealth can be. The Stock market crash, inflation, a burglary or the current financial crisis are painful reminders of the shakiness of wealth.


It is a foolish thing to stake all our hopes on money. Confidence in securities and futures will lead to an insecure future!!! When we put our hope in money, we get ripped off because of its uncertainty.

The Certainty of Hope in God

Instead of relying upon money, the Bible says to put our hope in God, ‘who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment’ (again, from I Timothy chapter 6, verse 17).

Put your hope in God. He is unchangeable and certain. The promises that He makes to us are unshakable. God sent His Son Jesus so we can have a secure future.

Jesus doesn’t offer to pay off my home loan, top up my failing superannuation, or restore the economy. Jesus offers us something far, far greater than what money can buy.

Jesus offers us the security of riches that will last forever. These riches are to be enjoyed in the Kingdom of Heaven. By dying for us and paying the price for our ignorance of God, Jesus has secured a home for us in Heaven.

The current economic crisis is a wake-up call for us. It alerts us to the fact that riches will ultimately fail. Trusting in money is uncertain. That is why the Bible urges us to hope in God, not in money. Only God can give us the certain future that we need. Only He can offer us the life that is truly life.

This is a time to speak to God in our hour of need and to ask Him to help us trust Him. For when we put our hope in God, the future is secure. Hope in anything else will fail!

Friday, August 29, 2008

A Way out of This...


I’ve been preaching through Genesis lately, and the tragedy of human sin has been striking. Adam and Eve were able to enjoy a rich relationship with God. And then BOOM! Sin entered the world. In the Garden, sin was an external enemy. It had not entered our world. It was waiting like a stranger on the outside, wanting to come inside and take possession.

Now, suddenly sin becomes an internal enemy. It becomes a crouching tiger, waiting to possess and control us. Sin wants to master and possess us. But we must master sin.

Because sin possesses us, death rules us. For when we open the door to sin, death enters in as well. This is what happens when we shut God out- our punishment is the natural outworking of our crime. We say we want to be independent of God, the giver of life, and as a result we get death.

And death always gets in the way of life. We might seek a way out of the mess we are in, but death means that there is no way out. There is no way out of the maze from the inside. We need someone from the outside to come and free us from the tyranny we have created for ourselves.

Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through the Lord Jesus Christ!

Friday, August 01, 2008

On Tonight's Menu...

In the Chinese restaurant tonight I noticed that there was something unsual on the menu, and I just had to take a photo and show you.

Pigeon... really?

Have you ever eaten one? Or wanted to? And don't tell me it tastes like chicken!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Dark Knight. Welcome to a World Without Rules...


Seeing as how I blogged some Iron Man thoughts down, I thought I would follow suit with the new Batman movie. If you haven't seen the movie yet, we probably don't have as much in common as I thought, and you may not want to read on, since there are some spoilers. Here goes.
Back in the early 90’s, I remember reading a novel about the Joker. It consisted of a series of short stories. They read more like horror stories, and they had a sick morbidity about them. To be honest, I found the whole thing quite disturbing but very fascinating. It definitely didn’t read like a comic book character. It could have been anyone in the real world. And so began my realization that comic books don’t need to be comic books. They could be as dark as the real world.

That’s why Batman the Dark Knight is not a comic book movie. Unlike the Spider-man or Superman movies, it hasn’t been set in the make believe world of comic books. It is set in the dark world of reality. I’d go as far as to say that the movie is not dark. It’s black. The villain is a psychopathic murderer, and the hero…. well perhaps he is a psycho path too.

This is what I liked about the new Batman movie. It is set in a world where the rules about truth keep getting changed. This is a world without rules. Whilst Superman stands for truth, justice and the American way, in the world of Gotham, the lines are blurred about who is the hero and what is the truth. A repeated line in the movie reflects this: ‘You either die the hero or live long enough to become the villain’. By the end of the movie, the White Knight (Harvey Dent) has become the villain. And Batman has descended into… what? The hero? The anti-hero? We are left to wonder if the people of Gotham want him. He is alone and isolated, with his loyal butler as his only ally. He is an outcast.

This black realism is paralleled by the use of lighting throughout the film. Visually, most of the movie is rather dark. In fact, the visually brightest scene in the movie is probably when Batman knocks the stuffing out of the Joker in an interrogation room. And as he was doing so, it was in full view of the police, with a chair blocking the only door inside. Ironic that such a brightly lit scene had the effect of showing the dark side of the Batman.

Batman’s costume also reflects this blackness. OK- here is a little bit of a Batman history trivia (feel free to skip to the next paragraph whilst I show off my knowledge of Batmania). Previous movies (and indeed, earlier comic books) made use of the yellow oval behind the bat symbol on Batman’s chest. But originally, Bob Kane, creator of the Batman, didn’t use this design. His Batman was far more brooding. In a reaction to this, the character Robin was invented to make Batman allow Batman to be less serious and lighten up a little. Eventually however the effect was that Batman got a little bit silly, and was far removed from the original concept that Bob Kane had in mind. The silliness portrayed in the Batman TV show in the late 60's starring Adam West is a great example of this. It wasn’t until Frank Miller wrote a comic book mini-series called The Dark Knight Returns that the character was considered by many to be returned to his original roots. More recently, the comics have chosen to eliminate this ‘yellow shield’ on the Batman’s chest emblem to reflect the true nature of the character.

End of history lesson.

For me, the film called into question the nature of who we are. What is your identity? Has Bruce Wayne lost himself in the person of the Batman? Batman seems to have taken over Bruce’s life. Then there is Two-Face. Originally he is the white knight of the story- somewhat of a literary foil to Batman. But by the end he has transformed into Two-Face, a nickname that he can’t seem to live down.

And of course, there is the psycho-maniac Joker. Ironically, the Joker seems to be the only one in the movie who knows who he is. He repeatedly says, ‘do you know how I got these scars?’ as though the scars have made him the person that he is. Not only that, he seems to understand others too. ‘You really get to know someone well the moment before they die’.

I must say I really really really enjoyed Heath Ledger’s portrayal as the Joker. He reminded me of that Joker I read as a teenager in that novel I mentioned. (I wonder if Heath had read this in preparation for the role?) I found myself enjoying his delivery and the energy he brought to the character. This Joker licked his lips between sentences as though he thought that what he was saying was soooo delicious. The way he walked was awkward, and the way he stroked his hair was chilling. His lines were delivered with expressive eyes and mouth movements, but it wasn’t overdone or gushing in tone. It was chilling. I, like many Australians, watched these scenes solemnly, but with great enjoyment and pride.

There were some disappointing things about the movie. I found the story a little convoluted and lengthy. Just when you thought it should end, the movie goes for another hour. And it’s intensity does not help it’s length. Plus I was disappointed I didn’t anything of the Batcave. This could have been used with greater effect to show Batman’s isolation.

There was a nice touch in the movie when a tribute was paid to a famous comic book cover, which I thought was nice. It’s a typical Batman scene- he is on the top of a building, alone and isolated, but contemplative. This is the Batman we know.

The world of the Batman is our world. In our world, the lines are blurred between who is the hero and who is the villain. The rules of life are whatever you make them to be. Ironically, this rule is the only rule that people seem to believe in.

However, as a Christian, I believe that there are rules. I’m totally glad that there is a God who has told us the truth about our world. He hasn’t blurred the lines about what the truth really is. He has told us the rules of life, and the truth about who we are. Our world was made according to truth, and works according to the rules God has set for it. In the end, our world is not the world of the Batman.

4 stars out of 5.

Coming Soon- a film review on The Dark Knight

I saw this movie last night. In 2 words- chillingly fabulous! Stay tuned.




Monday, July 21, 2008

Hymn Spot


I grew up with a rich Baptist heritage. Part of this heritage involved singing hymns in church each Sunday. This was my experience right up until I was 21 years old. God has used these hymns to minister to me lately. Here is one such hymn which I have been thinking about of late. I trust these words speak to your soul as they have to mine recently. Read these words and ponder over them often.


O Christ, in Thee my soul hath found,
And found in Thee alone,
The peace, the joy I sought so long,
The bliss till now unknown.

Refrain:
Now none but Christ can satisfy,
None other name for me;
There's love, and life, and lasting joy,
Lord Jesus, found in Thee.

I sighed for rest and happiness,
I yearned for them, not Thee;
But while I passed my Saviour by,
His love laid hold on me.

I tried the broken cisterns, Lord,
But ah! the waters failed!
E'en as I stooped to drink they'd fled,
And mocked me as I wailed.

The pleasures lost I sadly mourned,
But never wept for Thee,
Till grace the sightless eyes received,
Thy loveliness to see.

B. E., Arr. 19th Century

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

July Holiday Kids Club

The last 3 days has been quite busy with our Holiday Kids Club at church. The programme focused on 3 of the ‘I am’ sayings of Jesus- I am the Light of the world, I am the Good Shepherd, and I am the Life.

We focused on a theme each day- our crafts, activities, puppet shows and games all taught these themes. The day ended in small groups, which is where we shared the gospel with the kids based on what they had been learning during the day.

I quite felt proud of the leaders for all their hard work and efforts in wanting to explain the gospel to the kids that came along. Thanks so much to Alice, Anna, Bec, Holly, Jacquie, Meg, Phil, Rachel and Sarah - you guys are awesome!

Praise God- one of the parents wants to bring her 2 kids along to our Sunday Kids Club. If you are the praying type, please pray for this! These 2 kids made cards for us with messages inside saying ‘Thankyou for teaching us about Jesus is the light and the Lord is my shepherd! Thankyou very much I hope to see you next time!’ and ‘Thankyou for having us and the craft and the fun stuff’!

I'll leave you with some Quotes from the kids:
‘Why can’t we have this every day of the school holidays?’

Me: 'How does Jesus prove He is God?'
Kid: 'He has medals to show it.'

‘Can we play soccer??’

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Iron Man Movie


I saw Iron Man last Saturday night at the new Reading cinemas in Rouse Hill. I loved seeing it here because the screens are HUGE and it's Sydney’s newest movie cinema, and it’s practically on my doorstep!!!

I liked this movie for many reasons.

It had something for everyone. There was romance, there was technology, there was action, there was good acting. (People told me the same thing about Transformers- but I was bored in that movie. Not so with Iron Man).

It was plot driven. I felt as though the action in the movie was well paced, and it wasn’t mindless. It made the 2 hours fly by (I’m the kind of person who stops watching movies on DVD half way through if I get bored…I didn’t feel this at all with Iron Man). The storyline drove the movie- not the action. But when there was action, it was not gushing, or overly done with cheap CGI effects. (The scenes flying above the earth made you feel as though it was you!) Simply brilliant.

Comic book fans would have loved it. There were some tributes to die hard Iron Man fans. While I don’t profess to be a die hard Iron Man fan, I will admit to being a comic book geek. Iron Man fans would have been happy with the armour that Tony Stark rigged up while being captured in an Afghani cave. It was a nod to the golden age of Iron Man. (i.e. the way the original comic book artists conceived of the Iron Man costume). At one point, the ring tone of Tony Stark’s mobile phone sounded like the music to the original 1966 Iron Man cartoon. And of course, who could go past a guest appearance by co-creator Stan Lee?

I heard somewhere that since Marvel was heavily involved in the production of this movie, there is a plan to create an overlapping world of Marvel movies where the same characters can cross over into other movies. This means that the Marvel universe will be represented up on the big screen. This is another plus to comic book fans. Imagine if you saw a movie where Toby Maguire (Spider-Man) and Robert Downey Jr (Iron Man) were fighting side by side in a Civil War against Captain America? Or Iron Man and the Mr Fantastic were trying to deal with a rampaging Hulk? (OK, I’m showing off my knowledge of current Marvel storylines, but oooh, the possibilities!)

A word of advice- stay for the ending after the credits. Comic book fans especially. I won’t spoil it for you, but you’ll enjoy.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

A Blog Archive Meme.

I have been tagged in an Archive Meme by Ali.

This meme involves resurrecting old posts from the dark recesses of my blog archives for you to read again, dear reader!

Here are the topics of this meme:
family, friends, me, something I love, and anything I like.

So, at the risk of redundancy, here goes!

Family: Who has better parents than mine?

Friends: My times with Chris are always memorable.

Me: This post really was dug up from the dark dungeons of blogsville! But the content is appropriate given that the word 'meme' was coined by Richard Dawkins to describe the selfish gene.

Something I love: When people become Christians.

Anything I like: Drawing.


I tag Chelsea, Mandy, Kate, Tim and Matt.