Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Why Not Me?

Have you heard of Job?  He was a rich dude in the Bible who lost all his children and all his wealth in the course of a single day... And then just to top it off he got covered in boils from head to toe.  At first, Job took all this very well - until his three best friends started haranguing him and telling him all the stuff he must be doing wrong to suffer that way. After that he started to feel pretty sorry for himself and asking that universal question: "why me?"

Ever asked that when life got tough?  It's worth reading the book of Job.  In the end he learned some important lessons, but it took a while for God's message to get through, because Job was so busy feeling sorry for himself.

Don't get me wrong, Job was going through a huge trial, and those three best friends of his were insensitive to infinity and beyond.  But.  The book of Job is there for us to learn from.  To learn, in part, what not to do in a trial.  One of the things not to do is to wallow in the "why me?" question.  It's something I've had to learn personally... a number of times.  Really, why not me?  What have I done to earn a life of ease and comfort?  I didn't create myself or my children or husband - so exactly what gives me the right to good health or anything else that I might want or think I need?  Nothing.

The apostle Peter wrote in a letter:
Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you... (1Peter 4:12

Those fiery trials are necessary for us to truly grow into children of God (what an incredible opportunity - to become a child of God!)

And in book of Hebrews God told His people:
And have you forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.  If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? (Hebrews 12:5-7)

The bad things that happen to us are not because God stopped paying attention to what was going on in our lives.  Nor are they the arbitrary punishment of an ill-tempered God.  Every challenge, difficulty, crisis, or even tragedy that comes your way and my way is an opportunity to learn something important.  Too often we (speaking for myself, anyway) waste that opportunity by asking God to make the bad stuff go away... and then either waiting or wallowing.

Now please understand, I'm not suggesting that God expects or even wants us to just supress the grief of a tragedy and get straight to pulling our socks up and learning the lessons He has for us.  Ours is an ever-merciful and patient Creator who understands what it is to be human - He doesn't ask us to just shut off grief and pretend it's not there at all.  Nor does God ask us to pretend that pain doesn't hurt and put on a happy face (otherwise a big chunk of the book of Psalms wouldn't exist!).  Jesus Himself felt and expressed anguish in His lifetime as the only perfect human being ever to live.  But - when we get to the point of just wallowing and feeling sorry for ourselves, or when we pause life (and personal growth) to wait for God to fix things so life is just as we think it should be - that is the time to start asking what God has for us to learn. God has promised:

No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful , who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

Did you really read that?  Go on, read it again.  God is faithful.  Did you get that?  He will make the way of escape so that you may be able to bear it.  Have you really got that?  Do you really believe it - right to the core of your being?  Whatever you are suffering right now, however unbearable it feels - there is a way through.  Whatever God is throwing at you (or letting others throw at you), there is a message in it for you - a personal message, written in love, just for you from your great Creator.

Don't (as I have often made the mistake of doing) get so busy wallowing or waiting that you miss the priceless gift of the lessons that God is teaching you.  Is God's message getting through?  Why not you? Why not me?  God has so many things to teach each of us.  Are we listening?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Is This The World We Want?

I had a dream the other night.  I was searching for something or someone in a hospital - I don't remember what.  As I rushed through rooms, I passed through a lab.  On a stainless steel topped bench lay a newborn baby - alone, clearly in pain, gasping for breath, lying in a little pool of blood.  On a nearby bench top lay the severed heads of other newborns.  Even as I rushed past, I comprehended the scene, but I still rushed past, leaving that living, dying baby alone on the bench in the hurry of my unknown errand.

I woke up horrified.  Would I really do that in my waking life?  Would I really think it was none of my business that someone else's baby had been left alone to die in that sterile room?  And this morning, lying awake in bed, I realised that God was telling me that it is time to stop doing just that.  It is time to stop rushing past the grim reality that is so awful I don't even want to talk about it.  I have written about it once before - quietly, where just one or two people would read it, but now I think it's time to go as public as I can.  So I'm asking you what I never ask - wherever you are, whoever you are, please share this with everyone you know, because we all need to ask ourselves if we're really accepting our world the way it is right now.  Go check the facts for yourself to make sure I'm not just being hysterical.  We need to ask if this is really OK with us.

Let me be clear - this is *not* about people power.  There's only one government I would vote for, and that's God's, so I'm not telling you who to vote for or not. I'm just asking YOU - are you OK with this?  Do you accept this?  God wants to know. Now I'll tell you where I stand.

While we want to know which politicians will put the most money in our pockets, and while abattoirs where pigs are mistreated are hastily shut down - while foreign policy walks on a knife edge over the live cattle trade, something much bigger is happening right here in the state of Victoria.

Right now, it is legal to rip a living baby of any age into pieces, provided he or she is a least partly in the womb. The word for this practise is so sanitised, we don't comprehend what it really means anymore.  We call this abortion.  We call it abortion when an unwanted baby is thrown in the bin (sometimes still alive) after being burned inside and out with a salt solution.  We call it abortion when a living baby is vacuumed out of the uterus.

You can read the bill passed in 2008 here.  You will see that, while anaesthetic must be administered to experimental animals (see here), there is no legal requirement for any pain relief for a baby that is being annihilated.  Importantly, in all that "Abortion reform" bill, there is no restriction on how a baby is killed or removed from the mother's womb, except that it must be by a "registered practitioner".  There is no mention of how the baby is disposed of after it leaves the mother's body, whether living or dead.


I wonder, when our children and children's children grow up - knowing that they were "chosen" to live, while many other babies died because they were sacrificed to the idols of money and convenience - will they make it legal to dispose of elderly people (who are an economic drain on society) by dismemberment? Or perhaps they will be "humanely" disposed of in a purpose-built gas chamber?  Will they make it legal to cut the living heart out of a disabled person (perhaps you or I after a stroke or serious car accident) to replace their own dying heart?  Why not - if we have taught them that a broken baby should be thrown away, just like a broken toy?  Why should a broken adult be any different?

How can we so vocal about animal rights and protecting the environment (for our children, supposedly) when the most vulnerable members of our society can be legally vacuumed out of existence??  Let me make this clear - an abortion (the killing, with no regard for pain or suffering) may be performed on a baby after 24 weeks, right up to the moment of birth if the medical practitioner:
reasonably believes that the abortion is appropriate in all the circumstances; and has consulted at least one other registered medical practitioner who also reasonably believes that the abortion is appropriate in all the circumstances.

Are you OK with this? All it takes (in the Australian state of Victoria) is two registered medical practitioners to decide that it is "appropriate" to kill an unborn baby right up to the point of birth. While there are pages of laws on the treatment of animals, I can't find any information about the protection of unborn children in Australia except statements such as this one on the Queensland government website:
If the unborn child is assessed as being in need of protection after birth, we will offer ongoing help and support to the pregnant women [sic] (emphasis mine).
In other words, unborn children are considered to be of less value than animals (including unborn animals) in Australia. I'm not OK with this, and I will never be OK with this. It is time to stop tiptoeing around abortion as though it's just about choice. Abortion is about the choice to (often brutally) murder the most helpless and innocent of all human beings. If you are reading this and are considering abortion, please write a comment. I will do everything I can to help you not have an abortion. Or contact someone who can help you. Please.
Right now unborn children in Victoria have no legal protection that I know of. This is not the world I want. Is this the world you want? If we continue to ignore, and even mock, the most basic of moral laws, we will pay the price. Are you prepared for what this will cost?

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Question Is...

... What are you going to do?

The world's getting to be a nasty place.  That's a fact.  I know many people don't believe it, but that can only be because of the cosy little bubble they're living in.  There is a serious lack of loving care in this world we live in.

A friend told me about her little girl wandering off in a crowd...  not one person "rescued" the toddler clearly separated from her Mum.  She nearly made it out the door alone.  I've lost a child myself in a shopping centre and not one person even tried to help me find her.

I've heard about teachers eating nut bars in front of a little boy who keeps constant company with an epi-pen because of his severe allergies.

An early childhood teacher shared how other staff members at her centre ignored the regulations meant to protect children with serious allergies under their care.

These are matters of life and death, and we are living in a world so callous that many people don't care if their actions endanger the lives of innocent children.

In one instance that I know of personally (not just something I heard on the news), the lack of care in a person in authority did lead to a death.

These are not isolated incidents.  Elections are won and lost over the economy.  That's how much money I have to look after me. Meanwhile, abused children die in and out of state custody.  It is legal to brutally murder a baby while the mother is in labour. I kid you not.  Why do we care about money when children are dyingBecause we are a nation that doesn't care about children.  That is the stark and horrible truth.

I could go on and on about the lack of care and compassion in the world, evident by everything from the way people drive (ignoring road rules) to (lack of) customer service.  But that's not the point.  I could complain all day... And I would achieve... what?

The question is: what am I going to do?  What are you going to do?  Are we going to be like everyone else (while complaining about everyone else)?  Or are we going to be different?

Sorry, we can't change the world.  That's up to Jesus and God the Father - when they decide that it's time.

But we can choose not to be part of the world.  We can choose to be the person that grabs the runaway toddler (at the risk of being accused of child molestation).  We can choose to be the person who obeys the annoying rules (for the safety of others) that everyone else ignores.  We can stop complaining about the price of milk when there are children chained to carpet looms, paying off their parents "debts".

We can choose to be the people that care about children, and the elderly... and everyone else in between (whether they deserve it or not).  We can choose to be the people that see the people everywhere we go, not the dollar signs.  We can be the weirdos that actually stay home when we're sick - instead of "sharing" our germs because someone else "shared" their germs with us.  We can choose to be good.

There is just one way to be truly "good", and that is through God.

God is Love.

Not the "love" that gets advertised on Valentine's Day as being all about roses and warm and fuzzy feelings.  God is the Love that shows when no one is watching.  He is the Love that comes out in little actions, not just big ones.

It's in our tone of voice when we answer the phone for the 10th time in an hour and it's another survey.  It's in the expression on our face when we get stuck between two elderly ladies taking up the whole aisle while we're trying to zip through the supermarket.  It's in all the little ways we treat our husbands and children and parents and friends day after day, week after week, year after year.

You've seen the world for what it is - ugly and awful.  Now what are you going to do?

Saturday, July 28, 2012

No More Excuses!

Are you a Christian?  Can people tell?  Do you ever say "it's impossible to keep God's laws"?

There is a half truth in that.  The other half of the sentence is: "with God all things are possible."  Why couldn't Israel keep God's laws?  What was missing?

There was nothing missing from God's laws - because they were (and are still!) God's laws - He doesn't make mistakes.  There was something missing from the people.  The Holy Spirit. 

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."  Including honour God by keeping His commandments.  The whole lot of them.

Jesus said: "if you love me, keep My commandments."  Try looking up the word "commandments".  Jesus had a lot to say about them, and it was all about keeping them.

The idea that God's commandments are restrictive?  Utterly ridiculous.  What would you rather?  Live by ten simple, easy-to-understand rules that always benefit everyoneOr live by books and books of increasingly obscure laws, many of which still have loopholes that hurt the helpless?

Did Jesus die so that you could lie to your children, mess around with your neighbours wife, and cheat on your taxes?  Hardly.  Let's start living a transformed life instead of talking about it.

No more excuses.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Rights or Responsibilities?

As a parent, I sometimes hear other parents say things like: "It's my right to raise my children whatever way I see fit." Or "no one has the right to tell me how to raise my kids."

Hmmm.  If I put myself in the children's shoes, I find these statements disturbing.  Really?  Do I have the right to fill "my" children up with several litres of coke per day?  Do I have the right to drag "my" sick children through the shopping centres with me because I need to do things for myself?  Do I have the right to farm "my" children out to the maximum possible of extracurricular activities until they are ready to keel over from exhaustion?  Do I have the right to scream at "my" children or refuse to talk to them because I am overwhelmed by life?

Legally, probably yes.  I've never heard of children being removed from their parents for any of the above reasons.

But what makes them "my" children anyway?  Do I own them as I do my car?  Did I earn the right to them as I did my driver's license?  Are they really "mine" to do with as I will?  Short of physical or emotional abuse, by law I guess I could say they are "my" children... But what can we expect for the future of our country and our world if we see children as objects that we own?

Isn't being a parent more about our responsibility than our rights?  God certainly says so.

Unfortunately, the only bit about parenting that some people read in the Bible is: "children, obey your parents" or "honour your father and mother".  But there are a lot of instructions to parents.  And a lot of instructions about life and love that apply as much to parents as to anyone else.  Unfortunately, instructions like:
He who spares his rod hates his son,
But he who loves him disciplines him promptly.
are sometimes read as a license to beat our children, but notice the mention of love.  The point is that if we love our children, we will take responsibility to teach them what is right.  That may involve inflicting temporary pain, but true love (see 1 Corinthians 13 for an explanation of love) would never, ever allow us to injure our children.  If we love our children, we will be concerned about our responsibilties, not our rights.  Nowhere does the Bible tell us that we own our children to do with them as we will - including before birth.  

The Bible speaks of God's fury when children were passed through fire. (2 Kings 16:3; 2 Kings 17:31; 2 Chronicles 28:3; Ezekiel 16:21)  Such a practice seems barbaric today... and yet how many children are "passed through the fire" when they are sent out into a hostile world ill-equipped and unprepared for coping where they are not welcomed, but seen as a burden?  How many unborn children are "passed through the fire" because their existence is seen as being in some way "inconvenient" due to financial strain or career pressures, or disability.

Find me a  place where the Bible speaks about our rights as parents.  I haven't found one.

However, I have found this after a summary of God's commandments in Deuteronomy 6:6-7:
And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.

God's way - the only way to true happiness and fullfilment - is a way of give.  As parents, our mission is to give to our children in a way that will prepare and equip them for that hostile world we will eventually throw them out into.  That's a tough love to give - it doesn't mean giving what they want, but what they need.  There is no easy way - you need try it only for a few days to know that with all of your being.

None of us are perfect - we will all make mistakes and let our children down.  I know that I do, and it's been really hard for me to swallow my pride and say "sorry" to my kids on those many occasions when I've been overcome by my own humanity.  But that's no excuse to give up and stop trying.

As parents, we have no "rights", only the responsibility to nurture our children and teach them what is Right - God's way.

If you are interested in what God has to say about parenting and marriage, you may be interested in the free booklet, Marriage and Family: The Missing Dimension.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

A Carbon Tax Solution?

Very soon, we'll be taxed for carbon dioxide in Australia.  Let's call it what it really is - a selfish tax.  The government has decided that the way to stop Australians from producing too much carbon dioxide and thus destroying the planet, is to make everyone pay for it.

Perhaps, amidst moans and groans, we will start being a little more "environmentally friendly", but history has shown over and over that making people pay for selfishness doesn't stop them from being selfish.

There are laws against drug dealing, and hefty penalties for anyone who gets caught selling drugs - but dealers keep on dealing.  Most countries have laws against selling or mistreating children, and those who get caught can pay a very high price... but children are still bought and sold and abused the world over.

There are many other examples, but the point is, no law or tax will truly change anyone at heart.  As long as our hearts and minds are directed towards self-gratification, humanity will continue to destroy the planet and it's people.

I'm not interested in the politics of a carbon tax or arguing about one party being better than the other.  Recent sessions of parliament question time have shown that all politicians are driven by self interest, not the national interest.  And that's true because the majority of Australians voted out of self interest, not the national interest.

The carbon tax cannot be a real solution for any of the nation's - or the world's - problems because it misses the core of every problem we have.  Every problem we have comes from the belief that we don't need God.  The belief that humanity alone can create a world that works.

The truth is, the way that seems right to us ends in death.  No law or tax or treaty or plan or resolution or government can replace God.  The world will eventually learn that the hard way, but thankfully that won't be the end of the story.

To learn about how God plans to ultimately give all humanity the chance to turn to Him, trying watching the weekly Beyond Today program, now showing in Australia, on Sunday mornings on Channel 4ME - Digital 74 Metro, Digital 64 Regional at the following times: 6:30 AM (NSW, VIC, ACT); 6:00 AM (SA); 6:30 AM (QLD); 4:30 AM (WA). Or you can watch past episodes or Beyond Today Daily online at Beyond Today TV.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

He Wasn't Speaking For Me

I just watched a recording of Q&A on the ABC with the Catholic cardinal George Pell and well-known atheist Richard Dawkins. I had read the comment that George Pell would be speaking for all Christians, not just catholics.

Well. George Pell wasn't speaking for me. I don't believe in a "christianity" that regards Greek philosophy above the Bible. I don't believe in a "christianity" that struggles to come to grips with the most basic truths about God such as why He allows suffering. And I certainly don't believe in a "christianity" that depends more on human reason to explain itself than it does on what the Bible actually says.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

What's in a Name?

It's that time of year. My kids are offered easter eggs wherever we go. I have to ask - what do chocolate and eggs and buns and bunnies have to do with Jesus? What do they have to do with death or resurrection?

I grew up with the conviction that Easter has pagan origins. Recently, I have read an argument that suggests the word "Easter" actually had Christian origins. Maybe...

BUT, even someone with no knowledge of history can ask the question - what do chocolate and eggs and buns and bunnies have to do with Jesus? And, in fact, what do Friday and Sunday have to do with Jesus? Friday night to Sunday morning isn't three days and three nights however you carve it up. Seriously, just try it. If you read the Biblical account of Jesus death and resurrection you will find He died just before a Sabbath, yes, but not a weekly Sabbath - he died just before the High Sabbath at the beginning of the Days of Unleavened Bread (see Leviticus 23 for more about these days).

Jesus told His disciples to observe the Passover evening (what many refer to as the Last Supper) as a memorial (a memorial is to be observed once a year, not once a week) to Him (see Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22 and John 13). So why Easter? The symbols that Jesus instituted were the (unleavened) bread and wine and foot washing, not eggs, bunnies and buns.

How does the self-indulgence of eating chocolate and cakes represent Jesus Christ's spirit of self-sacrifice? How does telling children (untrue) stories about Easter bunnies represent the Jesus who said: "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life" (John 14:6)? Can these symbols possibly honour Jesus' sacrifice and resurrection?

I have often heard it said that anything can be used to God's glory. Really? Would any of us be happy to see a church decorated in swastikas (that had somehow been converted to a "Christian" symbol)?

The Bible does not command, or even suggest many of the symbols and traditions that have come to be associated with Easter. Why would we want to substitute human traditions for what Jesus did command ("...do this in remembrance of me...")?

For a more complete discussion on Easter and the festivals that God commanded, try watching The Easter Charade, Which Passover Should You Observe? and God's Holy Day Plan: Blueprint for Salvation on Beyond Today TV.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Whose Will Be Done?

"Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven..." (Matthew 6:10)
This was part of Jesus' instructions to His disciples about how to pray. Many of us say it, one way or another. (The model prayer was just that, a model to help us construct our own prayers - Jesus said "in this manner pray", not "repeat this word-for-word every time you pray" and He also warned against "vain repetition" in prayer.) ...But do we really mean it?

Do we really want God's will to be done, no matter what? ...Or do we assume that what we really, really want must be God's will, because we really, really want it? Are we willing to completely give up the things we think are important because God has something better in mind - even if that something better involves pain, suffering and tragedy throughout our human existence?

Many atheists and agnostics point to the horrible suffering and tragedy in the world as proof that there is no God. We call God our father - yet what loving father would allow his children to die of hunger when he had the power to prevent it?

The difference between God and mere human parents is that He has our Eternal interests at heart. Let me give an example. Yesterday morning, my oldest daughter went outside to find her treasured chicken lying dead with its head bitten off. If I had forseen that this would happen, I would have done everything I could to prevent it. God could have prevented it, but He didn't - not because He doesn't care about small things, but because He knows that there can be an eternal benefit from this small "tragedy" for my daughters or myself. Would I have had the courage to let the chicken have it's head bitten off if I could have prevented it, even knowing it would have some eternal benefit? I think perhaps not. God's will is that all should be saved and He will allow whatever suffering is necessary now to achieve that ultimate end - for all to share in the unimaginable joy of eternal life.

Sometimes I let my children suffer in small ways to help them learn important lessons. But could I bring myself to let one of them make a mistake that would leave them paralysed for the rest of their lives - even if I knew it would make the difference between them choosing Eternal Life and Eternal Death? As incomprehensible as it is to our human minds, the suffering that God allows in the world is proof of His incredible and boundless love for every single one of us. He knows that only tragedy and suffering - the results of us doing things our way - will prove that our way doesn't work... Only then will many finally choose Life.

Faith is not about believing that God will shield us from pain and make things better. Faith is trusting that even the pit of despair has a purpose. Faith is not the belief that God will give us our hearts desire, but that He will teach us to desire what is truly valuable.

Genuinely meaning it when we say "Your will be done" is an enormous step of faith. We are saying to God "I trust Your plans for my life, even if it means realising my worst fears." If we really mean it, "Your will be done" doesn't necessarily mean that the right job will turn up at the right time - it may mean that we are unemployed for life. "Your will be done" doesn't necessarily mean that our pain will stop or our sickness be healed in time - it may mean that we learn to live with increasing pain and incapacity.

God has promised that He will proved our basic physical needs. Jesus said
"But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added to you." (Matthew 6:33)
All the way back in the book of Dueteronomy in the Old Testament, we read that Moses urged the Israelites to "choose life" (Dueteronomy 30:19). God's will is always for the best in the end - are we ready to choose life? Are we ready to take a step of faith into the great and terrifying unknown and say with conviction "Your will be done"?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Are You A Person?

In an article published in the Journal of Medical Ethics last month two Melbourne Scientists argued that "the newborn and the fetus are morally equivalent". They are right - a baby doesn't suddenly become a person at the moment of birth. However, they proposed that a newborn is not yet a person, but merely a "potential person".

The title of the article: "After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?" And so the false boundaries that humanity creates keep getting blurred. After all, if a baby can be legally killed moments before birth, why not moments after? And if it is acceptable to kill a child moments after birth, why not days, or weeks or months after? And if it is ethical to kill a baby, why not a child with an acquired brain injury, or an adult no longer able to care for themselves?

If we accept the idea of evolution, then we accept the idea that the value of a human being comes from their physical composition. If that physical composition is flawed and the person "broken", then why should they not be disposed of (if that's what you believe)?

I don't accept evolution and I don't believe that any human being has the right to determine when another human being should die, regardless of suffering. The wonderful thing about the boundaries that God sets is that they are clear and unchanging. There are no fuzzy lines. Any confusion comes from human beings trying to reason away the ten simple rules that God has given us to live by.

So what do you believe in? A world where a baby is not an "actual person" (but an animal may be considered an "actual person")? A world where the most vulnerable of all human beings have "no moral right to life"? A world where scientists philosophize away the basic value of a human being (unless they are "capable of making any aims" according to the scientists' judgement)?

Or do you believe that a person is something beyond the mere physical? Do you believe that we have a purpose?

Unless we accept God as our Creator, the definition of an "actual person" is sure to get more and more fuzzy. Each step we take away from God is another step into a morality minefield. Few of us are likely to come out the other end alive.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

When God Says No

Our family have experienced disappointment in the last few days. A church family camp was cancelled due to bad weather. Our girls were anticipating seeing their friends and camping on a farm for weeks. Has God let our kids down?

We can make the mistake of believing that what we want is God's will. Jesus told His disciples to pray: "Your will be done", but do we really mean it? It's easy to treat God like a sideshow magician and expect Him to pull a rabbit out of His hat on request. We can forget that God sees around corners and knows that what we want is not always for the best.

Why did God say "no" to the camp this weekend? I don't know - but that doesn't mean He doesn't have a good reason. Sometimes when God says "no" we are left devastated. A father we knew in our church died several years ago in his mid-forties, leaving behind a wife and teenage children. Not for want of prayers.

When I was just four or five, a little girl in our church who was just a little older than me died of cancer. Again, not for want of prayers on her behalf. Why? Again, I don't know, but God sees around every bend in the road ahead and He knew and knows that He allowed these tragedies for the best.... in the end.

An atheist or agnostic might use these situations as proof that life is not planned or designed, but simply a huge cosmic mistake. However, we have also seen incredible personal examples of God saying "yes". My husband was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor when he was nine. He lives. When the wife of that father I mentioned was pregnant, the baby was diagnosed in the womb with a terminal condition. There was no mistaking on the ultrasound that her brain was the wrong shape. She lives.

What we want does not necessarily equal God's will. Sometimes, in fact, when we get what we want, it's not God's will. The huge wad of cash that your father's best friend's cousin prayed to Mary for and won at the races - that's not from God. Revenge on an ex-husband in the guise of the ex being denied all visitation rights for the children (despite being a caring father) - that's not from God.

Faith is accepting that sometimes God will say "no" and we may never know why. Faith is trusting in the midst of disaster and disappointment that the God who allowed the raging floodwaters to sweep through our home still loves us.

This can be an incredibly hard truth to come to terms with. We can be so sure that what we want should be God's will. How could the loss of a baby, a friend, a home, a business... be God's will for our lives? We don't have to know. God has made an astounding promise that can provide comfort in even the darkest of times (and comfort doesn't mean that the pain and grief just go away - it means that God holds our hand through and within the tempest and never lets go unless we tell Him to):
And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. (Revelation 21:4)

Now that is a promise we can hang our hats on.

You may be interested in reading What Happens After Death? or listening to the sermon Learning to Trust God.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A House Divided

Australian media has been drowned in discussion of the Labor leadership lately. Who will win the leadership struggle? I don't know. Does it matter?

There has been a lot of talk about trust. Who do you trust? Does Julia Gillard's track record inspire trust? What about Kevin Rudd's? Have either shown themselves to be people of principle and integrity?

Mr Rudd said he thinks it doesn't matter what kind of person the Prime Minister is, as long as they're going to do stuff that's good for everyone. "In the national interest" are the words he used. Ms Gillard has talked about all that she has achieved so far as Prime Minister.

I don't know who will win, but I do know that the future for our country is bleak as long as we care most about who will do the most for us. Our future is bleak as long as we think character doesn't matter, as long as we see results. Our future is bleak as long as we are a house divided against itself. Our future is bleak as long as we care more about the economy than the actual people in the economy.

Back when it was "Kevin in '07" there was a lot of talk about the need for a change. Well, we got the change, but children are still dying in state care. We got the change, but are you happier for it? I'm not suggesting that the alternative would have been any better, but that the government is part of something much bigger - the direction of our nation as a whole.

Are we going in a positive direction? Towards peace and unity? Towards equity and opportunity for all? Towards God?

As long as this house is divided, it doesn't matter whether Kevin Rudd or Julia Gillard or Tony Abbott or Barney the Dinosaur leads our country, the results will ultimately be the same. And it won't be good. The only way towards unity is towards God - is that a step you're willing to take?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Confidence in What?

It seems to be the catch-phrase of the moment - "consumer confidence". I hardly hear a news report without some mention of consumer confidence thrown in. According to the experts, it seems that consumer confidence is the glue that holds our world together. A fall in consumer confidence is apparently a dire emergency worthy of all our attention.

But confidence in what? What is it so desperately important that we have confidence in? The value of our dollar? The stuff we buy with our dollars? Our ability to earn lots of dollars?

Has our world truly become so extraordinarily narrow that the value of our lives and our selves is measured purely in dollars? If the nightly news is anything to go by, it seems that it has.

Confidence in money and stuff is sure to lead to disaster and disappointment in the end. As the Bible reminds us: "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal." (Matthew 6:19) No currency or thing has any truly lasting value.

We can have confidence in God alone. That's it. Nothing else is worthy of our confidence, because nothing else is solid, sure and Eternal.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Kingdom of God Seminars

A few kingdom of God seminars have already taken place, but you may not have missed out - check out the details for Australian Kingdom of God seminars here. If you aren't in Australia or New Zealand, you can search for a seminar in your area here.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

They Were People Just Like Us

How does one start writing about the Holocaust?

In fact, how can I write about it at all? I wasn't there. I can't even begin to know what it was like. I can only know that it had to be horrible beyond my imagination.

There is something I do know about it, though. It can happen again.

Nazi Germany wasn't a freak accident of nature. Those who participated in the torture of millions of people were often "good" people, by all accounts. In the famous Milgram Experiment in the 1960s it was found that the majority of subjects - ordinary people - would shock a person to death (they thought) in the name of Science. A repeat of this experiment forty years on led to similar findings.

Ordinary people are capable of being extraordinarily cruel under the "right" circumstances.

That means ordinary like you and I. Make no mistake, "good" people like you and I have the potential to plunge to the absolute depths of depravity unless we have the right kind of "goodness". They (the Nazis, the Milgram experiment volunteers) were people just like us. Not raving psychopaths accidently released from maximum security prison - just people... just like us.

The Bible - which incidentally recounts many examples of humanity at its very worst - tells us that "there is none that it good, no, not one" (Psalm 14:3) The prophet Jeremiah, who had the unlucky privelege of witnessing a Judah hell-bent on it's own destruction, wrote:
O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself;
It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps. (Jeremiah 10:23)
We each face the choice of either attempting to direct our own steps towards our own idea of goodness or of submitting ourselves to God's guidance. The words that Moses spoke to the Israelites were written down for all people to read:
I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them. (Dueteronomy 30:19-20)

Even now, as men direct their own steps, little girls are sold as sex slaves, small children are chained to machines to make carpets, babies in the womb are cut in pieces at the command of their own mothers, child soldiers are trained to kill other children, third-world farmers are reduced to abject poverty for the sake of first world profits...

Did I say the holocaust could happen again? Look around, it is happening. And the people driving it are people, just like us.
There is a way that seems right to a man,
But its end is the way of death. (Proverbs 14:12)

Friday, January 27, 2012

Kids Are Not Resilient

"Kids are so resilient." This is the line that seems to go with a divorce. Somehow, kids are meant to rise above the mess that their parents have created, and thrive.

Yes, some do. But what makes us think that just because they get on with life, their hearts haven't been ripped wide open? Is it because they don't say it?

Sometimes, I know, there is genuine cause to end a marriage. My heart bleeds for anyone who can truly say that divorce is the best decision.

Let's be honest about divorce, though. So often it isn't the result of devastating betrayal - it's about two people who have grown apart - who have fallen "out of love".

The love that holds a marriage - and, in fact, a world - together, is far more than a warm and fuzzy feeling - it's a determination to hold on. The love that holds a marriage together is not something you fall into, or out of, it's a decision. It's a decision to give when there's nothing to gain. It's a decision build someone else up, even if you've been torn down. It's also impossibly hard without God in the middle.

Kids are not resilient. The rising number of troubled and depressed children teenagers is proof of their fragility. If you think that depression in children isn't increasing, look it up for yourself. Childhood resilience is another lie to justify the idea that divorce isn't really hurting anybody.

The Bible, the ultimate authority on the human condition, says that God hates divorce, and warns that God will eventually punish societies that allow and even promote the breakdown of the family.

My husband and I are about to celebrate our eleventh wedding anniversary. It definitely hasn't been an easy road to get to this point. We have had to work through serious disagreements and disappointments, but it has been worth all the hard work. We don't know what's around the corner, but we do know that God's intent is for us to stick together, for better or for worse, till death us do part... and that's just what we plan to do.

For more of a Bible-based perspective on divorce and marriage, try watching the Beyond Today program, Before You Divorce.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Love Grows Cold

Did you hear in the news about the eight-year-old girl who died after being alone in the desert with a known, convicted pedophile?

I am shocked, horrified, and furious when I think about it. I feel like my heart is being ripped in two. If it would help, I would cry a river for that poor little girl, undefended and alone. But my tears are not enough. This story should - as should every story of another child abused or neglected - bring our entire nation to its knees in grief and remorse. But see, the cricket and the tennis are on right now. Our Australian sporting "heroes" are more "interesting" than unnamed eight-year-old little girls.

How is it that, as a nation, our love has grown so cold for others that we hide behind the wimpy excuse of "cultural differences" in refusing to interfere when children are treated like cattle? Why is it morally acceptable to us to allow "other cultures" to systematically oppress women and children?

Let's be warned as a country that our rejection of all moral absolutes is making us repugnant to God. When we refuse to defend the helpless in our midst from exploitation and annihilation - when we systematically obliterate the basic rights of the unborn, the disabled, the disadvantaged and the elderly, then we become a stench in God's nostrils. Huge sections of the Bible are devoted to warning us of the consequences of such behaviour.

We have already set the timebomb for our own destruction. The only way to stop it is to turn whole-heartedly and humbly to God.

To hear about what the Bible says about calling evil good, try watching the Beyond Today TV program, Calling Evil Good.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Kingdom of God Seminars are Coming!

The United Church of God will be hosting free Kingdom of God Seminars, focused on the hope of God's coming Kingdom in various locations soon.

For information about dates and locations in Australia, click here.

Recordings of past Kingdom of God seminars around the world are available here.