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)