The Meek shall Bite the Dust
Really! Really! Is that true?
It’s not what the Bible says
Or is it?
Surely meekness overcomes
Surely that quiet strength
Confidence beyond measure
In the Lord above
So those having themselves as meek
Having got themselves as meek
May not know where to turn
When the servant King
I am your support really
Such incredible incredible support
Never never withdrawn
But in appearance withdrawn
For a moment, can for me mean
Poor wretched sinner Stuart
Immediately bites the dust
A few years back I went to see the (then) pastor of our church at his house. He didn’t answer the front door, so I went ‘round the back to find him tending an elaborate hydroponics setup, in which he was growing tomatoes. I asked him why he was growing his tomatoes this way instead of the traditional, plant-them-in-the-ground-and-leave-them-to-it method.
He replied it was because the soil was no good. He lived on the slopes of Mt Albert, one of Auckland’s many volcanoes, where the soil is full of volcanic rocks, and therefore doesn’t have enough nutrients to grow tomatoes effectively.
A few years later I was involved in building a fence on the very same spot, and found out how right he was when I ended up on the end of a motorized post-hole borer with an enthusiastic Brazilian friend!
It struck me that our churches can often be like that Mt Albert soil. We lack the ingredients that should naturally occur for spiritual growth, and instead of cultivating them we fall back on artificial means and methods to give the impression that we are developing spiritually.
Another analogy might be paint by numbers. Creating an artwork by filling in the numbered areas with specific colours as per the instructions may well result in an aesthetically pleasing product, but it isn’t original, and would be considered fraudulent to be passed off as such.
Likewise, genuine spiritual growth can’t really achieved by merely following a step-by-step program. All of us need to take personal ownership of our spiritual development.
We can’t rely on pastors and preachers to tell us what to believe, and how to respond to the challenges of life. We must be able to own it ourselves.
Pastors and preachers have a valid role as coaches or instructors in the same way that an artist might study under another artist, or a tomato grower might have horticultural training, but it would be poor mentoring that didn’t result in the student standing on their own feet as a practitioner in their own right.
“Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand”. Ephesians 6:13
In what ways do we fall back on artificial means and methods to supposedly develop spiritually? Leave a comment below.
Image: luvjnx creative commons flickr
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God of Choice
He has given us the choice
To follow Him or not
He gives us the choice to listen
He gives us the choice to grow
He gives us the choice on the way we walk
He has given us the eyes to see
The choice is up to you and me
So when he calls
He gives us the choice to do what he says
But are we willing to do what he says?
When it came to Jesus’ death
God had to make a choice
Though it was hard
He did what he said
But if we don’t listen the first time
He comes to us again
Are you ready to listen?
The world is full of choices
Some good and some not so good
I am so glad that God gave me choice
So when He calls again
Put his choice into action
Then you will see
That the choice you made was right
Image: FotoRita Creative Commons Flickr
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Behind the Clouds
It’s elusive sometimes
That light behind the clouds.
Elusive, but ever present.
Sometimes pale and shimmering like moonlight,
Or hard and bright like pin-prick stars
And sometimes with the eye shading brightness
Of a January sun.
Some days it’s hard to remember
When the rain falls on and the clouds wrap around
Heavy and dank,
Dark and foreboding.
There’s no umbrella for those winter days;
No hiding place to block the darkness.
But there are warm fires
And warm friends
And even some bright moments of madness
Mid winter dipping
On wild winter days.
Yes, it’s always there somewhere
Maybe just out of reach
But waiting and faithful –
The light behind the clouds.
Image: kevin dooley Creative Commons Flickr
You can read more from Ruth at the website her family oversee. Sadly, Ruth passed away in 2008, I was privileged to know her.
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I was sexually abused right throughout my childhood from when I was a toddler. I also grew up in a violent home. It was a lot like the movie ‘Once were Warriors’ at times.
I first made a commitment to Jesus when I was in my early teens and my relationship with Jesus has been very ‘off’ and ‘on’ my whole life.
There are things I have gradually learnt that I hope will help anyone reading this who ever went through any kind of sexual or other abuse in their lives.
Firstly what they preach in churches is not geared at all for us. Even the verses in the bible are not geared for us. It’s like there is this big presumption that everyone is at the same place when they come to Jesus and sadly we are far from it.
For a start being a Christian is all about having a relationship with God, but how on earth does someone who has been abused by others understand what having a relationship is like.
It’s about trusting God, but how can you even know what trust is, let alone how to trust anybody when you have been abused.
Christianity is all about love, but like with trust how can you ever really understand love at all when you have been so violated by people who said they loved you.
When you have been sexually abused it’s like someone else took your body away from you and then you aren’t really totally connected to your body anymore. So when we come to God and we are told to give him our bodies (see below) how do we do this when we feel that we don’t even own our bodies to give away to him.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.Romans 12:1
So right from the start you are disadvantaged when you come to God and I wish someone had told me this stuff right from the beginning.
When you have been abused it affects how you think about yourself and other people. It makes you think you are dirty, not good enough, and not as good as other people. It makes you powerless in relationships. It makes you vulnerable. It makes you a target for other people to abuse you.
So when we come to God, we carry all this baggage with us.
It totally affects how we relate to God, but God does not see us as we see ourselves.
I have been to a lot of churches that were totally focused on the power of God. Like he was this zapping machine or something. They weren’t focused on the love of God, which is where the power comes from. When you have been abused you have experienced a lot of power that wasn’t good, and really you don’t need to be focused on power at all.
I remember a very long time ago I felt God wanting me back and I went to see a Christian counsellor just to have a talk. I went in there all staunch and tough and told him my story without shedding a tear.
At the end of telling him all this and priding myself that I was so together I said I don’t want to come back to God because I never ever want to give my power away again. He then said that God never wants you to be powerless again. I just melted and cried my eyes out.
I have discovered a God of impossible things, who cares deeply for the broken, who said he came for the sick. He has made it possible for us to be in a close loving relationship with him and be healed of everything we ever went through.
So how do we do this?
Once you give yourself to Jesus, that is all he needs for you to do. He will sort out the rest. He will bring the people into your life to help you. The thing is you can’t really relate to God at all because of what you have been through and he totally gets that and so he puts people in your life that you get to learn though.
He gets you to learn how to trust. He gets you to experience how to have healthy relationships by practising with others. He gets you to experience what love actually feels like by receiving love from others. He gets you to understand what good power is like, how gentle it is.
The learning we have with others will of course be a rocky road and not plain sailing at all. Sometimes you will just be with a person for awhile and then move onto someone else, or have breaks with people and come back to them. And it takes a long time. They need to be incredibly patient and understanding with you. But gradually you learn the things God wants you to know.
Even now I really don’t experience God much at all. I only do when I am with safe people God has brought alongside me. I am too mixed up by what happened to me. I still struggle too much in relationships to relate directly to God. Safe people are gentle and I am not used to relationships like that. They don’t impose their power over me and don’t see me the way I see myself.
I still have so much to learn about love, trust and acceptance.
Try not to push good people away that God sends into your life.
Question: What would it mean for you to be a safe person for others to experience what God is like?
From Barry. Sexual abuse is rife in our community. The damage done is profound and affects the person’s life in many ways. Sexual abuse is mostly hidden away with shame tormenting the soul and hindering a healthy understanding of God. If you would like to read more you might like to read an essay in Free resources called Dehumanisation and Sexual Abuse. The guest blogger has asked to remain anonymous for obvious reasons. Please pray for them. They are on a journey of recovery and are discovering that God is good.
Image: samcaplat Creative commons Flickr
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HeronBeside the creek I walk
Mangroves line the bank
Water flows no more
In creek at high tide
In the shallows transfixed
The heron stands
Almost like a strange branch
Locked in each moment
Of now, and five minutes
Sculptured in grey stone
Slightly pointed down
The beak points
To point where fish
May or may not be
Image:Airflore Creative Commons Flickr
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Maybe I was a leper – deeply depressed and suicidal. Over a period of years, I was hospitalised five times.
It was like being an outcast.
How does the general community cope with people like me?
Who visited me when I was in hospital (prison, if you like)?
I was only ever there under the Voluntary section of the Mental Health Act.
Well, it was my immediate family and close relatives who came. There was one family friend who took me under her wing. She was, and is, very special. One day, one of my classmates from College came with his guitar, and we had a great time. Music and singing really lifts up one’s spirits, I have found.
Out of the blue one day while in hospital, I said, “You know who your [true] friends are”.
There were people who cared from a distance. When I “broke down”, I later learned that people from around the world were praying for me. For positively ages, pre-cooked dinners were left on our doorstep, for which our family is eternally grateful. To this day, we don’t know who they were.
Fellowship was craved more than anything, it was a vital, but sadly a missing ingredient.
I’m not bitter, but hopefully better, from this very dark journey. I am really grateful for the very hard unforgettable lessons that I have learned from this ‘Slough of Despond’, the extreme depression bog that Pilgrim was rescued from by Hope, in John Bunyan’s book “Pilgrim’s Progress”
Did my faith as a Christian prevent me from having depression? No.
Did it help in my recovery? Yes
One day, all of a sudden while visiting my GP, I said, “These pills won’t heal me; only God can”. To which he quickly and wisely replied, “But they give room for God to move”.
Does the Church understand people going through Mental Distress, and know how to support and encourage anyone going through what can be a very long, lonely and deep valley? Some in the Church may.
But I have also heard some very hurtful and rather ignorant comments.
“Depression is highly overrated” (repeated several times, as if that made it right!)
“Christians never get depression” (Yeah, Right!).
Here is a Jesus story that has helped me.
11-13It happened that as he made his way toward Jerusalem, he crossed over the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten men, all lepers, met him. They kept their distance but raised their voices, calling out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”
14-16Taking a good look at them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.”
They went, and while still on their way, became clean. One of them, when he realized that he was healed, turned around and came back, shouting his gratitude, glorifying God. He kneeled at Jesus’ feet, so grateful. He couldn’t thank him enough—and he was a Samaritan.
17-19Jesus said, “Were not ten healed? Where are the nine? Can none be found to come back and give glory to God except this outsider?” Then he said to him, “Get up. On your way. Your faith has healed and saved you.” Luke 17:11-19 (The Message)
I was quite interested to read the words of this story in different versions of the Bible.
YOUR FAITH has …
‘RESTORED you to HEALTH. (AMP)
‘made you WELL.’ (NIV, CEV, GNT, PHILLIPS);
‘SAVED YOU.’ (NASB, NLT);
‘HEALED and SAVED YOU.’ (MSG)
‘made thee WHOLE.’ (KJV).
Jesus is speaking to the only leper of all ten who returned to thank Him, though all ten were healed by Him.
In the leper that returned, Jesus saw that their OWN FAITH, not anyone else’s, had restored him to health, made well, healed, saved and now whole, complete.
How does one’s own faith enable recovery?
Image: By alphadesigner Creative Commons Flickr
A strolling through the park one day
A lively chap I met
He did not seem to care at all
His raiment totally wet
Perching upon a leafy branch
He twittered to the world quite gaily
I’m sure that when I am not here
Still he sojourns here daily
To little children who care to listen
He’ll tell them of his travels
To older folk who know him well
His stories again to unravel
For what would the world be
Sombre grey and quite boring
If not for little birds everywhere
And all their merriment roaring
Image: Feggy Art Creative Commons Flickr
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