Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Seek God when God can be found

a verse or two

“Therefore let everyone who is godly offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found”
Ps 34: 6

Spiritual Walk and Musings: Seek God when God can be found. 

When is it we pray? The writer of Ecclesiastes says there is a time for everything...yet I wonder if at times we get a tad impatient with God, or a tad too cocky or even down right rude. What I mean is we decide we will make the effort to seek God or to pray to God when it suits our time frame, our addenda and not when God is knocking, not when God is wooing, not when God available to be found.

The above verse in Psalm 34 seems to be in a context of a all things going crazy and that one is able to meet with God, bring things before God and the “rising floods” will not reach, will not hurt. The Message translation puts it like this.

Ps 32: 5 “Then I let it all out; I said, “I’ll make a clean breast of my failures to God.” Suddenly the pressure was gone—my guilt dissolved, my sin disappeared. 6 These things add up. Every one of us needs to pray; when all hell breaks loose and the dam bursts we’ll be on high ground, untouched. 7 God’s my island hideaway, keeps danger far from the shore, throws garlands of hosannas around my neck.

So some Bible translations seem to indicate “just get on your knees and pray...and the flood will not hit”. But when reading verse 6 from the ESV or NIV translation—there seems to be a hint of “seek God when God may be found”. Meaning God is not a toy or someone or being we can manipulate. Instead all of us in St. David’s need to seek God while God may be found—which implies there are times when God may not be found. Think of Christ on the cross, “My God, my God, why did you abandon me?” Matt 27: 45. In Christ’s deepest hour of need, his cry was “God, where the hang are you”. A cry we all cry at times. Verse 6 of Psalm 32 seems to confirm what human experience would indicate. That God is not always there, not always available at our whim or at the drop of a hat. God is not a form of a Santa Clause or kind of cosmic best buddy.

Instead God is God and we ought to meet with God when God may be found.

So when is God to be found. Who is that knocking on your heart? What is the small still voice speaking to your mind? What is God saying to you in your daily reading of the Bible? A Godly person seeks God. Please be encouraged to meet God regularly because we don’t know when the desert times will hit, desert times where it feels like God is sound asleep.

God bless

To Ponder and Pray: A prayer by Augustine of Hippo (modern-day Tunisia, 354 - 430)

O God, you have made us for yourself,
and our hearts are restless
until they find their rest in you.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Just a Thought - November 2012

The following is an article I wrote for the Waimea Weeky Newspaper "Just a thought" column. It was printed during November.
God Bless,

Just a Thought

One news item today sadly tells us a boy only 13 years old may be NZ's youngest murderer. Could it be that our acceptance of violence has increased and its time we pushed back hard against accepting violence as a necessary evil? In Richmond a high percentage of youth report involvement in peer related violence, saying it’s normal, natural and a morally acceptable part of their world including its use in defence. Violence seen as a necessary evil.

So what is God’s view on violence? A scary question for Christianity because looking at Church history there have been times when political power plays became more important than following Christ, resulting in terrible violence committed in the name of God (even though the violence was really in the name of power plays).

So what is God’s view on violence? Read the Bible and notice that God is not violent. King David was not permitted to build the new temple – his life had been too violent – his son Solomon would build it. The Bible makes it clear that Jesus Christ is God become human. His life showed us what God is like. Was Jesus violent? No.

Author Brian McLaren reminds us that “Jesus Christ didn’t kill anybody - something that can't be said about Abraham, Moses, David, Paul, or Mohammed (no disrespect intended to any of them) ... Jesus didn't hit anybody. He didn't hate anybody. He practiced as he preached: Reconciliation, not retaliation. Kindness, not cruelty. A willingness to be violated, not violation. Creative conflict transformation through love, not decisive conflict termination through superior weapons. Courageous and compassionate resistance, not violence. Outstretched arms on a cross, not stockpiles of arms, nuclear or otherwise...”

God is not violent and Jesus’ response to violence when he died on the cross is an example of this. Think to the Crucifixion of Christ. A violent action yes, but it was God who was being crucified – not doing the crucifying. God the Son, the all-powerful one, God who could call down legions of angels did not fight back, did not resort to violence, showed no aggressive self-defence.

When Jesus was bullied, he didn’t bully back. Jesus’ message is that to win is to lose and to lose is to win. It is to hand over the shirt as well as the jacket. It is to not retaliate. It is to hunger for and purse ways of peace. It is to teach our children creative, non violent ways of self defence. It is to teach self control of anger and the ability to walk way. Jesus’ message is there are creative alternatives to violence, and that violence is evil and repulsive to God.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Just a Thought - August 2012

The following is an article I wrote for the Waimea Weeky Newspaper "Just a thought" column. It was printed during the last week of August.
God Bless,

Just a Thought

Wanganui does not want Stuart Murray Wilson living in their town; most of New Zealand doesn’t want him! So, what about God – does God love him?

God’s love extends to all people – there is not one person whom God does not love. In fact, God is in the business of reconciliation and restoration, of reconciling people back to Himself and back to each other. This reconciliation is a tremendous gift of love and forgiveness resulting from the actions of Jesus Christ’s life, death and resurrection. And therefore no one – including someone who has perpetrated despicable acts – is outside of the reach of God's love, and that includes Wilson. God's gift of love, forgiveness, reconciliation and restoration are extended to him as to all people.

But love can’t be forced, it can’t be coerced. God offers the gift of love but if one does not accept that gift it is not actualised. For the gift of love to be complete the receiver of the gift needs to receive it, open it, use it. If I was to give a gift to someone, say a $20,000 pearl necklace (or for a bloke a powerful German made chainsaw), if the receiver never wore the necklace, never used the saw, it is a sign the gift is rejected, never truly received.

God offers love to all people and some decide to reject that love resulting in failed reconciliation with God and society. If a perpetrator has committed despicable acts and does not show remorse and genuine penitence, if they do not ask for forgiveness and admit they were wrong and ask for help so as to not commit the crime again – it is not that God does not love them but that they reject God’s love and forgiveness. And in turn they miss out on the benefits of God’s love and risk grieving the Holy Spirit while hardening their heart.

In the Bible there are stories of people who commit despicable acts. God hates those despicable actions. At one stage king David broke over half of the Ten Commandments in quick succession, including murder. Saint Paul in his younger days did his best to wipe out as many Christians as he could. When these two were confronted with the truth of their wrong actions, both of them were remorseful, they were penitent, they let their hearts become soft and teachable before God and society and they changed. They displayed signs of rehabilitation and eventually were reconciled to society and God.

God’s love extends to all people. The question for us is do we receive God’s gift of love, or do we reject it? I pray and hope we all have hearts that are soft and receptive to God’s reconciling and life giving love.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

the importance of nothing

a verse or two

“Dead flies can make a whole bottle of perfume stink, and a little stupidity can cancel out the greatest wisdom.” Ecclesiastes 10: 1 ”

Spiritual Walk and Musings: The importance of nothing. 

In the video clip we see in church today – the couple grieving find some form of healing in finding a purpose as to why their child died. Finding a sense of purpose is a very strong western worldview – of needing to find purpose in whatever we do or in the events that happen. An example of this is the book by Rick Warren, 40 Days of Purpose – it is hugely popular. But I want to challenge this kind of thinking. In some cultures a person can sit all day, perhaps three days in the shade by the road and watch the world go by and that is not considered a waste of time. In the west we need to learn to have times of no purpose – not even relational purpose. We need to be able to have times of achieving nothing, to learn to just be, and to do nothing......and in that to not even try to hear God – but to just be quiet.........and do nothing.

And in that doing nothing God might speak because finally we are silent and so therefore we can hear. But God might or might not speak and that does not matter; what matters is we do nothing. What matters is we be still to do nothing, not for any reason or sense of achievement. In fact we be still to not even be still – instead we just are still and do nothing.

In that time of doing nothing we might see the pink of a flower that we could have missed by being busy. We might notice the tear in the eye of our neighbour and from that we can offer love – but not right then because right then we need to do nothing. We might smell the air and smile because we are alive and that smell takes us back to a happy memory.........or we might cry because that memory hurts and we miss the person whom we shared that smell with. We might sense nothing and get frustrated at wasting time – why? What is wrong with wasting time? Who made up the rule we should not waste time – could it be they were wrong?

Can I encourage folk of St. David’s to be good at doing nothing? If we cannot be still for a prolonged time and do nothing at all except feel our heart beat and hear our breathing – we probably have emotional health issues and we need to learn to do nothing. What is it you are scared of if you do nothing?

Something to do: Do Nothing.

Just breath and smile with your eyes closed or open.

To Ponder and Pray: Pray a prayer of silence.

Don’t not be Presbyterian and don’t be Presbyterian. Just pray silent.........let your silence pray.........

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Charmed or challenged

a verse or two
“[Jesus] sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, 'Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” Mark 12:41-44

Spiritual Walk and Musings: a familiar Bible story from a different viewpoint.

We used the following blurb last year—it is some thoughts by Peter Graystone in his book 365 Ways to Make a Difference on the story of the Widows Mite. It offers a good alternative way to ponder this morning’s Bible reading and sermon.

“Have a look at this incident through the eyes of a well-off community. It is about a widow who loved God. She had nothing in worldly terms. And yet everything she had, she was prepared to give to him. Through these eyes it is an inspiring story of deep inner devotion. We should have a love for God and a generosity toward him as profound as that.

Now have a look at the same story through the eyes of a poor community. It is about a religious institution that had no qualms about how much suffering it caused. It increased its own wealth by charging the temple tax regardless of people's ability to pay.

So heartless was it that a destitute woman was made to pay an entire penny - everything she owned. Through these eyes it is a crushing indictment of a church that no longer protected the poor, but exploited them. We should examine ourselves and the running of our churches rigorously.

It is unsettling when you see a familiar Bible story from a new viewpoint, isn't it! To whom do these stories belong - rich communities or poor communities? Depending on how you answer, Jesus words will leave you either charmed or challenged.”

Something to do: Charmed or challenged:

“Cut a piece of paper to the size of a credit card. On it write 'charmed' or 'challenged' or both words, or some other phrase that describes your personal response to this powerful story. Put it in your wallet so that you are reminded of what you feel now from time to time when you are about to spend money.”

To Ponder and Pray: Words of praise from the Asian Women's Resource Centre for Culture and Theology

In the midst of hunger and war
  we celebrate the promise of plenty and peace.
In the midst of doubt and despair
  we celebrate the promise of faith and hope.
In the midst of sin and decay
  we celebrate the promise of salvation and renewal.
In the midst of death on every side
  we celebrate the promise of the living Christ.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

closer than your next breath

a verse or two

"For I am certain that nothing can separate us from his love: neither death nor life, neither angels nor other heavenly rulers or powers, neither the present nor the future, neither the world above nor the world below—there is nothing in all creation that will ever be able to separate us from the love of God which is ours through Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8: 38—39

A Prayer of Confidence—Psalm 16.

1 Protect me, O God;
   I trust in you for safety.
2 I say to the Lord, You are my Lord;
   all the good things I have come from you.
3 How excellent are the Lord's faithful people!
   My greatest pleasure is to be with them.
4 Those who rush to other gods
   bring many troubles on themselves.
   I will not take part in their sacrifices;
   I will not worship their gods.
5 You, Lord, are all I have,
   and you give me all I need;
   my future is in your hands.
6 How wonderful are your gifts to me;
   how good they are!
7 I praise the Lord, because he guides me,
   and in the night my conscience warns me.
8 I am always aware of the Lord's presence;
   he is near, and nothing can shake me.
9 And so I am thankful and glad,
   and I feel completely secure,
10 because you protect me from the power of death.
   I have served you faithfully,
   and you will not abandon me to the world of the dead.
11 You will show me the path that leads to life;
   your presence fills me with joy
   and brings me pleasure forever. 

Spiritual Walk and Musings: No fear of Sheol. 

At the time of David when Psalm 16 was written the common thought was that at death people went down to Sheol, to the world of the dead. A half-life kind of shadowy existence, like being in a swamp, never again able to fully enjoy the good of this life. A place where they were "removed from the light of God".

Today some scholars think Psalm 16 was written by a sick person who recovered and was glad they didn’t do down to Sheol—this tends to be the thinking of scholars who are biased against belief in the resurrection. As part of their argument they say belief in resurrection was not Jewish thinking until around 200 years before Christ. Other scholars disagree saying the idea of resurrection was common much earlier—they point to various Psalms as proof. For example Ps16 was written by someone dying—who because of their own deep relationship with God, they knew even in death they would not be separated from God and hence they had no fear of Sheol—God would save them and be with them and they with God.

This is a truth for us—in the now be encouraged to walk close with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  

                Be they not strangers to you;
                          but may you know them 

                                    closer than your next breath. 

Something to do: God is good.

This spring, when looking at the flower which come from the dead looking branch, the new plant or flower that comes from the dead looking seed or bulb – see the new life, in a different form – and know that God is good.

To Ponder and Pray: a prayer from Palm 73.

23 Yet I am always with you;
   you hold me by my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
   and afterward you will take me into glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
   And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
   but God is the strength of my heart
   and my portion forever.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

we work together

a verse or two:

"Saint Paul said “the one who plants and the one who waters work as a team with the same purpose...We work together as partners who belong to God”. 1Cor 3:8–9

A POEM: Our Fair

Our Fair date’s getting closer so we are on the prowl.
We hope you will give willingly with a smile and not a growl.
We all can do our little bit, with time or things to sell.
And if we all co-operate we know it will turn out well.
With plants or sweets and baking, a book pre-read with joy
Something for a while elephant, for craft or a pre-loved toy.
Some can donate ingredients. Others will set up or clean,
Making the tea, pikelets or “snags”.
Join forces and see what we mean.

Written by Annette Waters

Spiritual Walk and Musings: As per the poem.

One of the things I like about our fair is the way we all work together on the one thing. Normally during the year, week by week we all do so many different things...and they all add up to a big whole...but many of these things are in done isolation. You’d be amazed at the coming and goings at St. David's, cars parked there with people doing this or that—sometimes there is cross over but think of all the various groups and ministries within the church. There are a lot of people doing a lot of different this and that.

Of course weekly, on a Sunday, we come together to worship but many of the other things are not so corporate. I know the fair is hard work but I sense a good feeling of satisfaction among those involved. And it seems to me, even though it is hard work—people really do enjoy the being together, working together. So everyone, be encouraged and I hope you enjoy the church fair.
Something to do: As per the poem.

Find that stuff, bake those goodies, tell your neighbours.

To Ponder and Pray: As per the poem.

With a lot of folk coming through the hall, pray they see not just the stuff for sale but us. And pray that in seeing us they see Jesus Christ.

Pray our smiles are real and our eyes shine an acceptance and Godliness that is contagious. Pray that the little things we do to let people know who we are, where we worship, and what we do, pray they result in a harvest for the kingdom of God.

Most of pray that love is who we are, what we do and what is sensed.
God Bless