Friday, June 15, 2018

God Regrets



Then Samuel left for Ramah, but Saul went up to his home in Gibeah of Saul. Until the day Samuel died, he did not go to see Saul again, though Samuel mourned for him. And the Lord regretted that he had made Saul king over Israel. (1 Samuel 15:35 NIV)

What does it mean to regret?

From a human perspective, this means to think back on an action or decision and judge it as poor, wrong, unwise, wrongly judged. Wishing the decision has been otherwise. Wishing the words had been otherwise. Wishing the action had been otherwise.

Regret implies there are limitations to our knowledge or understanding at a given point in time, or that there are forces at play that are outside our control.
Yet God is sovereign and in control of every situation.

I work as a country doctor, which means I carry a good weight of responsibility.
Not only do I treat many in our community, but I also train younger doctors.

In teaching doctors, I am given the task of helping to mould their abilities and judgements in the hope of benefitting the wider community which they will serve in the future. This is both a privilege, and a serious responsibility.

Teaching doctors invariably involves patients, my patients. I am, of course, responsible to provide good care to my patients, and allowing a younger doctor, or student, to be part of a consultation or procedure involves trust and consent.

At some point, the young doctor must be allowed to perform a procedure themselves, under supervision, in order to truly gain the skills necessary to work unsupervised in the future.

If, as a student, all you ever do is watch, then training is deficient. “Hands on” is a vital step in training.

Personally, my best learning experiences as a student (and scariest) have come from being allowed to take control.

As a supervisor, allowing a student to take control is risky, but necessary.
It means that I deliberately choose to step back and allow actions to play out.

At what point do I as a supervisor, intervene? What if a procedure is going horribly wrong? What of my responsibility to my patient?

The bottom line is, if something does go horribly wrong, the loss or damage comes back onto me.

Yes, I have regretted allowing trainees to perform procedures that they failed at. I hope those events have been big learning experiences for them, they certainly have for me.

At some point, I may have to make a judgement that a particular trainee is really not suitable for a particular type of doctoring, or maybe should not be a doctor at all. Thankfully this is rare.


When God chose Saul, he took a risk. He later regretted this choice. It feels awkward to talk about God in this way. Does God make mistakes? I believe not.
Yet it seems that he is prepared to take a risk on Saul, then stand back, so to speak, and allow things to play out.

Sadly, Saul never seems to learn from his mistakes, and the final outcome is that God chooses a new King. David.

There are two points I wish to make.

Firstly, when things go horribly wrong, they are, ultimately, the teacher’s responsibility. In Sauls case it was Samuel's, but beyond this, it was God’s. And he does take responsibility, sending his very own Son, to bear the sin of the world.

Secondly, God’s risk in choosing Saul, is no different to his risk in choosing Samuel, Eli, and even David, who, in spite of his being full of the Holy Spirit, failed miserably with Uriah the Hittite and his wife. In fact, it is no different in his risk in choosing people like you and I. Love takes risks.

 1 Corinthians 13:7 Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.




Saturday, June 2, 2018

Psalm 7:17

I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness; I will sing the praises of the name of the Lord Most High. (Psalm 7:17 NIV)

What is it that the author of Psalm 7 is celebrating in verse 17?

Not God’s mercy, not his grace, not his love or faithfulness, but his righteousness.

What is righteousness?

Surely it includes moral impeccability, being utterly sinless, having unquestionable motives, as well as upholding perfect justice and truth.

Why would anyone thank God for this. Isn’t this exactly what every man is not? And even more, isn’t this what rightfully condemns us as unworthy in God’s sight?

Surely holiness and righteousness are closely linked in the vision of Isaiah, when he cries out; “Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”

But, amazingly, we are a redeemed people, saved by grace and not only saved but sanctified and justified. In other words, made to be what we could never be, and this includes being made righteous.

But this righteousness is fully a gift, which could only be given by a saviour. A saviour who came from heaven and became one of us, but resisted all temptation, and maintained true and robust righteousness in its fullest sense. This genuine and hard kept righteousness enabled the saviour to rescue us by the offering of his unblemished personhood as a perfect sacrifice and propitiation for sinful humanity. Without righteousness, this was impossible. And this godly righteousness, both motivated, sustained and achieved a righteousness for all who believe.
God’s righteousness is not an icy cold, insurmountable (higher than the himalayas) wall that separates and judges us. It is loving, gracious righteousness that propitiates in order to maintain it’s glorious majesty, yet rescues the unreachable.
It is right to give thanks to God because of his righteousness. It is our righteous God who sent His righteous Son to make righteous those who could never be.
Thanks be to God.

Monday, May 7, 2018

False Teaching


Jude 1:19 These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.

"Natural instincts" is Strongs number 5591.
psuchikos: natural, of the soul or mind
Original Word: ψυχικός, ή, όν
Part of Speech: Adjective
Transliteration: psuchikos
Phonetic Spelling: (psoo-khee-kos')
Short Definition: animal, natural, sensuous
Definition: animal, natural, sensuous.
5591 psyxikós (an adjective, derived from 5590 /psyxḗ, "soul, natural identity") – properly, soulish, i.e. what is natural, as it relates to physical (tangible) life alone (i.e. apart from God's inworking of faith).
5591 /psyxikós ("natural") typically describes the natural ("lower") aspect of humanity, i.e. behavior that is "more of earth (carnality) than heaven." 5591 (psyxikós) then sometimes stands in contrast to 4152 /pneumatikós ("spiritual") – the higher, spiritual aspect of humanity that develops through faith (4102 /pístis).


I am writing this out of a heavy heart. Knowing that in the near future, the Uniting Church General Assembly will meet and vote on the issue of ministers being free to perform a marriage ceremony for non-heterosexual couples.
The context is that Australia has recently voted as a population that same sex marriage should occur in our society, and this has been made into law by our government.
No church has yet taken this government initiative and made it part of their practice, but I am convinced that, at this next meeting, the Uniting Church will likely vote in favour of this change.

It was interesting to see the strong general support our society portrayed toward same sex marriage. People were strongly in favour, and made their views known clearly on social media. But not only individuals; companies, corporations, and even the Australiana College of GPs, was strongly supportive, making a public statement of their support, and implying that those GPs like me, who did not support the change, were somehow unloving, uncaring, judgmental and bigoted. (There were no words to that effect, but I was accused of this when I suggested that the college remain neutral on the issue, in view of some members, such as myself, disagreeing.)

The debate took on a strong moral flavor. Those in favour being the more loving and compassionate, those against being the Pharisees, so to speak.

The Uniting Church is also having their own vote. We (I am a member) will use “science”, and social justice to argue the case for homosexual couples who, until now, have been denied a church wedding.
The science used in support will suggest that homosexuality is a genetic condition, and therefore, God would be unjust to deny such people the happiness that comes from marriage.
And as God in Christ was merciful and loving towards the marginalized, eg prostitutes and tax collectors, so we, as Christians, and witnesses of the love of Christ ought to likewise show love and compassion to homosexual people by allowing full access to a marriage under God.

The paper discussing this makes mention of the Holy Spirit guiding the church into these considerations.

But what if marriage is more than the lifelong support, love and companionship that two people share. What if marriage is also a sign, an image, a physical reminder of who God is and what he is about in all history.

What if, when God created woman out of man, because it was not good for man to be alone, he was already foretelling the birth of the true bride out of the suffering of the true man. Christ and the church, the bride and the Lamb. What if every wedding is in fact a foretelling of the truth of a man leaving his mother and father and being united to his wife, of a Son being sent by the Father, in the power of the Spirit, to give up everything, and become human, in order to save humanity, to make a bride out of the unfaithful, and for the full salvation to be revealed in a great wedding feast at the end of history?

Surely then, as Christians, we would want to preserve the truth and significance of marriage in a fallen world?

Surely then we would encourage chastity as a worshipful gift and sacrifice of the believer, trusting God for the provision of a husband or wife, in God’s time and wisdom, and then the blessing of children?

Do all marry? Do all have children? Clearly the answer is no. Do we exclude people because they are not married? We ought not to. Do we/should we push every person towards marriage? The Apostle Paul accepted his non-married state, and advised believers to stay single if possible, explaining it was better for God’s work. Jesus never married during his earthly ministry, no doubt satisfied to wait for the true marriage that all believers will participate in with Him.

To allow homosexual marriage in the terms described by those presenting the case, would be to deny the great mystery that earthly marriage represents. It would take away the spiritual significance of marriage, and go against the order set up by God himself in creation.

Jesus, in speaking on marriage and divorce said “Whatever God joins, no man should put asunder.” (Matthew 19:6)

But are we now saying “What modern man joins, no evangelical, or even God himself, should put asunder.”???

I am sad that the words of this letter of Jude may well apply here, as the effect of a vote on same sex marriage will divide congregations, is based on natural ideas (ie scientific opinion, not fully proven) and ignores the Spirits teaching in the Word of God, (rightly divided), on the truth and significance of marriage.

My prayer is that this issue be abandoned.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Our King Will Come

Don't be afraid, we are all precious to Him.
Come to the throne, Jesus has made the way in.
Though we may stumble, he helps us go on.
He lifts the fallen, the weak are made strong.

Do not despair, in every trial we face
He is at work, able to fill us with peace.
The dawn is breaking when he will appear
Our great salvation, our bright morning star.   

Our King will come and will call us home
The Bride and Lamb will be one.
There’ll be no more pain,
Every tear wiped away
By our God who reigns evermore.


At his command those that are sleeping will rise,
Woken by love, wonder and joy in their eyes.
In that great moment, the trumpet will sound,
Then we, still living, will rise from the ground.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Hero



Even deeper than the bottomless oceans, there’s darkness in me.
There are creatures living down there that no one imagined could be,
haunting me

those ugly things I kept hidden away,
I was so ashamed

like a hero diving deep into my soul
you came to rescue me
all the trauma that I used to feel is gone
and only love remains
you’re my hero
oo-oo-ooh
my hero.

no one else could face the monsters inside me and love me the same
no one else could know the struggle within me and take it away,
only you.

like a hero diving deep into my soul
you came to rescue me
all the trauma that I used to feel is gone
and only love remains
like a hero diving deep into my soul
you came to rescue me
all the trauma that I used to feel is gone

you entered the arena of death willingly,
you fought until your very last breath all for me
the sacrifice of love that you made set me free
Forever I’m in awe of your great victory

like a hero diving deep into my soul
you came to rescue me
all the trauma that I used to feel is gone
and only love remains
like a hero diving deep into my soul
you came to rescue me
all the trauma that I used to feel is gone
and only love remains

you’re my hero
oo-oo-ooh
my hero.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Elijah and the widow of Zarephath


God’s commands aren’t always instantly carried out, nor perpetual.
 
In this 17th Chapter of 1 Kings there is a God ordained famine and drought.
God instructs Elijah to live by the brook at Cherith, where he is able to drink, and God commands the Ravens to feed him, and each morning and evening he is given bread and meat.
But after sometime the creek runs dry.

Does this mean God’s word has failed?
Has God departed?
Has God found a better prophet for the job and forgotten about Elijah?

I’m not sure how long between the drying up of the brook and God’s speaking to Elijah, but whatever the period of time, in someone like me, doubts would have arisen, doubts and fears.

But then God’s Word comes to Elijah to go to Zarepath in Sidon.

“Behold I have commanded a widow to feed you”.

Firstly Ravens, then a widow.

God uses unexpected means to fulfill his purposes.

But whereas the Ravens seemed to have clearly heard God’s command and were performing their task without need for Elijah’s prompting, the widow seemed to know nothing of God’s command when Elijah met her.

In fact, if you read the passage from verse 10, ignoring verses 8 and 9, it seems that it is Elijah who commands the widow, not God.

This is very interesting to me, and I could gather some implications.

Firstly, in the case of the widow, God uses Elijah to be both the spokesperson of God’s will and also the co-benefactor of the outcome of this command.

Furthermore, the widow requires a little coercion to do what God has commanded, if not coercion, at least some explanation, so God's command sometimes requires further action by us. We don't simply sit back and watch.

Finally, though it seems that Elijah’s word is prophetically powerful, Elijah is simply following God's orders, the instigator, initiator, and provider are all God.

When amazing things happen, which involve people using their abilities, God is still the source, the reason and the person to thank.

This widow and her son are on the brink of death, but because God commands it, they are able to feed both themselves and Elijah from a miraculous jar of flour and another of oil.

It would seem that this event was a big enough miracle to convince anyone that Elijah was a man of God, yet the story becomes even more dramatic.

The son of the widow becomes sick and then dies.

The widow approaches Elijah in her distress saying

“What have you against me, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance and to cause the death of my son!”

These are very interesting words.

Up until this point, no one has mentioned anything about the widow regarding sinfulness.

From the passage, we see a woman, though somewhat doubting, willing to offer a perfect stranger part of her last meal. This is extreme generosity.

We see a woman chosen by God to sustain his prophet.

Nothing about sin.

Yet when disaster strikes, she does not plead innocence.

She attributes the death to an act of God and an act of justice or punishment for sin.

We have no idea what sin she is speaking of, but does it matter?

The truth is we are all sinners, and all deserve God’s just judgement on our sin.

Elijah is clearly distressed.

He takes the son upstairs to the upper chamber, and then he cries out to God:

“O Lord, have you brought calamity even upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by killing her son?”

Again, this prayer is extremely interesting.

Firstly Elijah is caught by surprise, even confused.. Being a man of God and a prophet of God did not help him predict this event. Even Godly people don’t have all the edge on God and his actions.

Secondly, Elijah also gives God the blame for this death. He is acknowledging that God is sovereign and nothing happens outside his will.
Logic would say that if God has ordained this death, then that’s the end of the matter, yet Elijah thinks otherwise. Faith does not need logic.
So Elijah begs for this life to return, for death to be sucked up and for breath, life and health to return.
He doesn’t simply pray, he physically lies on top of the corpse, three times.

Why he does this is inexplicable.

Added also to this strange action is his pleading to God “O Lord my God, let this child’s life come into him again."

Maybe, by this action, Elijah is directing the life force of God, the Holy Spirit, to go through him into the child, like an antenna drawing in and focusing the power of God through his person into the child.

Then the wonderful power of God is revealed, as God listens to Elijah, and the child revives.

Elijah then delivers the child to his mother. In a real sense the child is reborn.
Only then the widow exclaims that now she truly knows that Elijah is a man of God

It took calamity upon calamity then miracle upon miracle to convince this widow of Gods favour upon Elijah and therefore also upon her.

Are we any different?

Do we also need calamity upon calamity, and miracle upon miracle, to understand that God’s grace is greater than our sin?

Romans 5:20-21
But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
















Sunday, September 10, 2017

They Will Be Satisfied


Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (Matthew Chapter 5)

I have experienced both hunger and thirst, but not to extremes.
If you cannot satisfy either sensation, it is possible to endure and even get over the initial feeling.
 In some situations, there is no choice.  But the drive to satisfy that hunger with food, and that thirst with water, is powerful.

Starvation sadly does exist in our world. Even in our western society, people sometimes die as a result of starvation. Diseases sometimes rob us of our appetite. It is also an observation of mine that people that use heavier drugs often lose weight and become gaunt. The appetite for drugs over-riding that for food.

I will never forget a young mother once telling me that the desire for drugs overtakes everything, even care for your own child. In tears she described doing nothing for her daughter's birthday as she turned 5, instead spending what she had on a hit.
Certainly the hunger for drugs must be powerful.

But what of this hunger and thirst for righteousness?

What is it? How powerful is it?

Having discussed it in bible study recently, one of my brothers mistook this as the hunger for justice.

Yes, this too is a hunger. A strong driving force that can keep us awake at night, in prayer to God, in anxiety, in plotting for revenge, but this is not a hunger for righteousness, in my opinion.

The hunger for righteousness, in my opinion, is the sense that one is overwhelmed with conviction of their own sin and unrighteousness. A sense that they now can see an inkling of how we were meant to be, created to be, and how far we have fallen from that state.

It includes a sense of God’s utter holiness, and our utter unworthiness. A sense of how deserving we are of punishment or abandonment for our sin.

This sense can drive us in certain directions.

I believe it was the hunger for righteousness that led Nicodemus to seek Jesus at night in John Chapter 3.

This same hunger drove the rich young ruler to run and at fall at Jesus feet, asking Jesus how a man can find eternal life in Mark 10:17. The interesting point here is that although he had been trying to follow the 10 commandments all his life, his hunger had not truly been satisfied.

I also believe it was this same realization of unholiness that led Peter to tell Jesus to go away from him in Luke 5:8.

I think that without a hunger for righteousness, we can’t actually come to faith and salvation.

I came to faith relatively painlessly as a university student, but soon after, in those early days I came across some false teaching regarding salvation. A very strict view of the "how to" of salvation which added full immersion baptism to faith and repentance. There were other points. I struggled with this. I couldn’t theologically argue my way out of these propositions, and for a time I felt totally lost. IE going to hell for my sins.

I still know clearly that I remain totally unworthy of God’s presence and love in my life. Still every day, I struggle with sin.

Before I finish this personal point, I want to re-tell a story from a great teacher.

He described being at a series of meetings where he was teaching from the bible in his usual manner.

He was finishing off one talk, which would lead into a break, and then he would continue on with the topic.

He finished on a difficult point. He clearly stated that God, in His holiness and righteousness, could not, would not, ever forgive sin.

I agree this was an awkward spot to finish that talk.

During the break (probably coffee and chat for 15 minutes) a lady who had been listening, pushed through the crowd to speak personally to him.

She said to him.
 You just said that God could not, and would not forgive sin.
He replied “Yes, that’s what I said”.

I imagine with a cold sweat and in desperation she cried to him; “Well then, what hope is there for me?”

“None whatsoever” was his reply.

“Apart from the cross.”

I’m sure that he went on to complete a rich series of meetings proclaiming the power of the cross of Jesus, and I have no doubt that this lady, from that day on, was secure in the love of Christ, and his great work for us all on the cross.

Back to my story.
A good friend (Greg) many years ago, saw how troubled I was regarding baptism and being right with God. He gave a cassette tape, which I played in my car. I can still remember where I was, in Sydney, at dusk, parking before I met a friend.

On this tape I heard that same teacher powerfully proclaiming the message of grace and the cross.
In quiet tears my hunger and thirst were finally satisfied. 

I've made a point of keeping my infant baptism since then, as my only baptism experience. But I also espouse adult baptism as a great way to express what God has already done.

So, as I ponder the need for revival in our land, I think that, were God to bring revival, one sign would be a great hunger and thirst for righteousness.