Monday, January 25, 2021

Visitor's Welcome


This past Sabbath, I preached at my home church* and had the pleasure of inviting some friends along. I was pleased when they accepted the invitation and surprised when they both showed up! The day that unfolded was more than I could have imagined. 

A few weeks ago, a friend popped up on messenger. Her son had asked a tricky question for which she had no answer. They are a post-Muslim family who immigrated from Iran a few years ago. One day, as they drove past a church, her 7-year-old son asked, “What’s that building?” His teenage sister replied, “That’s a church. Christians go in there.” The boy asked, “Are people who go into religious buildings here in Australia as mean as people who go into them in Iran?” His mum was dumbstruck. 

“What do I say?” she asked me.

“Why not show him?" I said, "I go to a really friendly church in Lilydale with lots of kids his age. If you are open to it, you could all come in a couple of weeks when I am telling stories.” 

“That would be wonderful!” she said.

“The kids his age all play cricket on the lawn after the church service." I said,  "Would your son like to join in?”

“I’m sure he would love that!” she said. 


The day came. They came. And cricket evangelism did the trick of keeping them around long enough to make new friends.

After the kids went into Sabbath School (we do church first at Lilydale) the boy joined his mum, sister and I sitting in the shade where we were chatting. He hadn’t been there for more than a few minutes before he got to his question.

“Why do people go to church?” he asked.

“Because we have friends here! Friends who love us and want to know how we are.” I said, “So, we come here to talk to each other and find out how things are going. We all love God, too. So, we worship Him here. That’s what everyone was doing when they sang songs this morning.”

“Oh,” he said.

“We’ve never been inside of a church before,” the older sister said. 

“Yeah, your mum told me.” I said, “What did you think?”

“It was ok,” she said. 

His weeks-old question answered, a new question was brewing inside little man’s heart. 

“Why did Jesus die?” he asked. 

I had been sure to give a clear Gospel message in the sermon and here it was bubbling to the surface. He was processing a lot of new material! I looked over and made eye contact with his mum. She nodded, giving me permission to tell her son what I believe about Jesus.

“He died for two reasons.” I said, “The religious people who were in charge of the big buildings in his day told everyone what to do. They told people God only cared about them if they came into their big buildings and obeyed their rules. Jesus told people God loved them. Jesus talked to them under trees, by lakes and on grassy fields like this one." I pointed to the field where they'd just been playing cricket. "Jesus talked to them outside of the religious buildings. He told them God loved them right now. He said they could talk to God right now and they didn’t need to obey the religious leaders to be loved by God. What do you think the religious leaders thought?” I asked.

“They probably hated it!” he said.

“They sure did.” I said, “They hated it so much they wanted Jesus dead. But they were religious people and couldn’t kill people and still look good. So, they told the leaders of the country that Jesus wanted to be king. Those leaders were the Romans and they killed anyone who threatened their power. So, they killed Jesus. On a cross, like I explained in the story today.”

“Oh, ok.” He said, “So the religious people lied about Jesus to get him killed.”

“Yup.” I said, “And the second reason Jesus died is because He wanted to. I know that sounds weird, but this is what Christians believe. God knows that selfishness kills us. We call selfishness ‘sin’. When we do selfish things - when we sin - other people get hurt. The more we hurt people, the more alone we become. And then we die. God knew that sin always causes death. That’s where selfishness leads. So, God and His Son Jesus made a plan. Jesus came to earth and became a person like us. But He was never selfish. He never sinned. And even though he was human like us, He was also still God. So, when He died, because He was God, He could take our place. He died for our selfishness - our sin. And then He came back to life and promised we can live forever with Him when He returns.”

“Wow.” he said. 

I looked up at his mum and she said, “Let’s go now, kids. Thank Dave for inviting us today."

They both thanked me and I thanked them for coming. 


The other person I invited was a young teacher I’ve known and chatted with for a few years. She has tried Christianity before and is open and interested. I didn’t even know she was in the service until she came outside afterwards.

We exchanged greetings and then she jumped right in with a question. “You said, in there (she pointed at the church) that bad things still happen to good people - even though Jesus did what He did. I know you explained why but I’m still not getting it. I’ve had a lot of stuff happen that really hurt and really wasn’t fair or loving. So, I was caught up putting myself in the story and missed the point, or something.”

“Yeah, that happens to me too,” I smiled. “It’s like our heart is wanting answers but our mind is stuck in a loop.”

She nodded. “So, why did these horrible things happen to me, if God is Love?”

“Your question is one of the main reasons Jesus died a painful death rather than a gentle one.” I said, “Jesus suffered, too. He suffered being misunderstood by everyone. He suffered the rejection of his friends and family. He suffered abuse for things He didn’t do. He suffered a horrible whipping just to please a crowd. And then, He died the most painful death the people of that day knew how to put a person through. Ultimately, Jesus suffered a death that wasn’t His to die.” 

“It was ours,” she said.

“Yeah,” I said, “The truth is, if Jesus shows us anything, it is that God suffers with us. He suffers for us. He feels our pain because He loves us so very much. God loves you. And, although you may have felt alone, you have never been alone in your suffering. Jesus was with you. In your suffering. In your joys. And even right now He’s with us!”

“Thanks Dave,” she said. 

“Thank you for coming to hear my stories today!” I smiled. 

“You’re welcome!” She said, “I’ve gotta go. I’m headed out camping with friends.”


Over the days and hours since, I’ve reflected on what made this day possible. And, I think it boils down to three things.

1. I knew my church was a safe, friendly place to invite new people.

2. I had authentic friendships with non-Christians and knew their spiritual journey.

3. I was going to be doing something I love and wanted these people to share it.

The invitation beforehand and conversation afterwards followed naturally! 


There was so much more that happened behind the scenes to prepare for this day. In the weeks before, I told the pastor, worship coordinator and children’s Sabbath School leaders we had complete newbies coming. 

I checked with the cricket-loving kids to make sure they brought their gear and understood while every cricket game is friendship evangelism, this was the big game! Their previous impromptu games had prepared them for such a time as this! 

The teen girls came out and specially invited the new teenage girl to Sabbath School. She chose to remain with me but she felt welcomed and wanted. We had an amazing chat of our own about God and belief.

One of the Sabbath School leaders, mum of the cricket captain, arranged an extra 15 minutes between church and Sabbath School so the cricket friendships could set. 

My wife ‘randomly’ met both new ladies early in the day and had further conversations with them as they walked to their cars. 

My entire Sabbath School class prayed for these people beforehand and continue to do so! 

There is a reason followers of Jesus are called the ‘body of Christ’ when they gather. It takes all of us to create a place filled with God’s love where each of us can bring new friends and they can receive the visitor’s welcome only the Kingdom of God can provide.


----

* Here's the Sermon I preached! 



Monday, January 11, 2021

The crazy man is sane and your pigs are all dead

A story is told in which a man possessed by demons meets Jesus.* 

The disciples have just pulled the boat onto the shore and Jesus is a few steps ahead of them. As they look past him they see a man, clearly out of his mind, flailing and jerking as he fights to make his way to Jesus. It is as if some force is pulling his body backward while his heart, mind and soul are leaning forward - desperate to get to Jesus.

When the man gets close enough, he falls to his knees at Jesus' feet and cries out, begging Jesus not to torture him. It becomes clear that the man does not speak for himself but as a puppet controlled by a legion of demons living within. The demons recognise Jesus and are terrified of Him. In their fear, they reveal their knowledge of things to come, asking Jesus not to send them into the abyss because the time has not yet come for their judgment. They know Jesus has the power and authority to control them. 

Seeing a huge herd of pigs on a hillside nearby, they use the man's voice again to beg for permission to enter the pigs rather than be left unhoused. Jesus gives them permission and they rush out of the man and into the pigs. 

There is no knowing what the mind of a pig does as it whiles away the day grunting and grazing but the arrival of the demons certainly did not go unnoticed. The legion's arrival caused such confusion that the herd's mood changed instantly from peaceful to panic. As one, the pigs ran down a steep embankment into the sea and died in the water. 

Clear-headed and free-spirited, the man surfaces from the deep fog in which he has been living. He looks up at Jesus and sees his Saviour as if for the first time. The disciples, who have been standing stunned nearby, join them and the man is clothed and fed. 

Sometime later, the whole town shows up. The men hired to look after the pigs had run home and told everyone what had happened. The crazy man is sane and your pigs are all dead. The townspeople were not happy. That herd of pigs was very valuable. 

After listening, in amazement, to the healed man tell his story the entire town agrees that Jesus needs to leave. His power is too great. Who knows what other damage he will do?  

As Jesus and the disciples enter their boat, the healed man asks to go with them. Instead, Jesus sends him home with a mission: to tell everyone what has happened to him. He is to be a missionary to his own people, preparing them for the next time Jesus arrives on their shore.

It is a sad but common truth that Jesus is often sent away. If we are not seeking a better life we will protect what we have and believe the way things are is the best way. 

The town that sent Jesus away could have had a miracle-worker walk home with them that day. Each of their lives could have been changed. Their shackles could have been loosened and their demons cast out. But they valued their pigs more than their own man, healed and returned to them. They asked Jesus to leave because they were afraid of His miracle-working power.

Are you so committed to your pigs and profit that the power of Jesus to change your life scares you? What are the 'pigs' in your life? What do you value more than people? If Jesus cast the demons out of a broken family member and sent them home, would you welcome them? What if that person's healing cost you all your precious pigs? Would you ask Jesus to leave, as well?

Imagine Jesus coming to visit you. All the things holding you back - all your demons - are not strong enough to slow you down. Running to Jesus, you fall at his feet and he heals you! He casts your demons out. Then, he sends you home to tell your story. Who will you tell first? What will your story of freedom sound like?  


* See Matt 8:28–34; Mark 5:1–20; Luke 8:26–39.


Saturday, December 19, 2020

A Sabbath Education

 What does the Sabbath mean to you? Why is it special?

How did Lockdown change your interpretation or application of the Sabbath?
Are you glad for what you learned?

What does Jesus being “Lord of the Sabbath” mean to you?
How did Jesus challenge the interpretation or application of the Sabbath?
Matthew 12:1-13 – Grainfields
Luke 13:10-17 – Healing
If Jesus were here today, how would He challenge our Sabbath-keeping today?

How was this ‘challenging the way things are’ useful in the early church for Jesus’ followers?

How has the Lord of the Sabbath challenged you to be more outward focused on Sabbath?

What is Jesus-centred Sabbath-keeping?

Monday’s lesson says: “The Sabbath is a pivotal learning experience in Israel’s journey of rediscovery.” How does Sabbath aid us in a journey of rediscovery of our New-Normal? Manna fell daily to remind them that God was their provider. What was your Manna during Lockdown?

Read Isaiah 58:1-14 – What can we learn from this today?
What priorities are important here?
What is the difference between: 
the Sabbath as a feast with a blessing (Isaiah 58:13-14) 
The Sabbath as a fast without a blessing (Isaiah 58:2-5)

What does Isaiah 58:12 look like in 2020?
"Some of you will rebuild the ancient ruins;
you will restore the foundations laid long ago;
you will be called the repairer of broken walls,
the restorer of streets where people live." (Isaiah 58:12 CSB)

Consider the following questions on each line of Isaiah 58:12:
What is this today?
What would success look like?
Who would be impacted? How?

Consider prayerfully: Are we some of this 'some'?

How do Sabbath and community go together?
Read Isaiah 56:3-8 – What is Sabbath meant to do to community?
Read Deuteronomy 5:12-14 – How deep and wide does the Sabbath blessing reach?

Who is the Sabbath truly for? (All of Creation!)

I want to be called “the repairer of broken walls and the restorer of streets where people live.” 
I’m sure you do too!

Monday, December 14, 2020

The Least in the Kingdom of God

 As revealed in Jesus, God's Love is God's Law. 

God said to the Israelites in Deuteronomy 6: If you love me you will keep my commandments. Jesus said it again in Matthew 5:18-20. In both Deuteronomy 6 and Matthew 5 it is the same. Love lived = Law lived. The end-all-be-all of the Law is "love God and love mankind." When considering this Law,  Ellen White wrote: "To love God with all the heart is the first great law of the universe. When the love of God fills the heart, love to our fellow men will flow forth in words and deeds as the fruit of that love." (RH May 3, 1898: God’s Standard of Character)

The "least in the Kingdom of God" (Matthew 5:19) is someone who, having knowledge of God's love in Jesus, does not teach God's love but teaches the opposite. This is why legalism is so devastating! 

Interestingly, Jesus does not write off "the least in the Kingdom of God" but says they are greater than John The Baptist (Matt 11:11)! Which means, because of when they live, they have the knowledge of what Christ did on the cross and the knowledge of the Holy Spirit poured out on Pentecost. John was full of doubt because he didn't know the glory of God's love as shown on the cross or the powerful comfort of the Holy Spirit. 

These people who teach other than God's law of Love still have great potential for the Kingdom of God because they know of Christ's death and the Spirit's power and presence. Jesus is making it clear that His mercy is available even for the Pharisee, the legalist and the self-righteous. Why? Because while we were yet sinners, He died for each of us! 

What amazing grace!

In Matthew 5, Jesus is leading the hearer away from a doing (hand) oriented interpretation of righteousness and toward a being (heart) interpretation. You've heard it said, do not (hand/act) but I say if you (heart/feel) ...

He's drawing us toward recognising love as the decision-maker. What would love do? This reaches its apex in the final 6 verses of chapter 5 and then falls into more examples in chapter 6.

Firstly, note that the "Least in the Kingdom of Heaven" are still in heaven! They are there because they have accepted the call of God on their life and have submitted themselves to obedience. Jesus describes them as "least in the Kingdom of heaven" because they are still relying on their own effort. This is passage is a good example of Salvation being an 'opt out' reality gifted by the second Adam rather than an 'opt in' reward for a select few. 

This category of "Least in the Kingdom of Heaven" is Jesus's description of the Pharisee who is a faithful lawman. "The Greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven" recognise that Heaven is a gift given (heart) to the humble, not a reward earned (hand) through obedience. Legalists are least because they have accepted God's law but not His love. They know God but do not know Christ. 

Legalists have every opportunity to grasp God's Love as they spend a lifetime grappling with his Law. They will recognise God's love as the foundation of His law when they humble themselves at the foot of the cross and choose to view God through the broken body of Christ. In the Master Teacher's differentiation between the "Least" and "Greatest" in the Kingdom, we see that some recognise Christ for the gift of love that He is only when they reach the Kingdom. It is then that they will begin the alteration from Law to Love - from Least to Greatest. In the Kingdom of Heaven.

Thursday, November 05, 2020

Just Believe - Children's Book

Just Believe
A children's book
for families to read together.

Talitha has been sick for a long time. She hears about the miracles Jesus is doing, but her Papa, Jairus, is not sure that they should ask him for help. After all, Jesus seems to be a Sabbath-breaker! Will Papa learn to trust Jesus in time to save Talitha’s life?

With engaging illustrations by Maryellen Fairfax, David Edgren’s retelling of the resurrection of Jairus’ daughter is sure to capture the imagination. Written especially for early independent readers, this book explores themes such as faith in Jesus and the purpose of the Sabbath in a way that appeals to the heart.

It is also perfect for family worship, with discussion questions at the end of the book.

Available now! Contact Dave.

or download the Ebook here!

Thursday, October 08, 2020

Pastor Peter Miller Loves Like Jesus

 

Nearly 250 years ago, a war was raging in America. The new Americans were fighting against the British – they wanted to live in their new land free and clear of their old lives and leaders. This war for independence was called the Revolutionary war. 

During war people do unkind things. Later they look back and wish they had been kinder to others – even to the enemy. But during war, most people treat their enemy very bad. The stress of war upsets people so much, sometimes, they even treat their neighbours poorly. 

During the time of the Revolutionary war, there was a pastor named Peter Miller. Pastor Peter looked after a church in a small town in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. He visited people in their homes, read from the Bible to them and prayed with them that their sons would come home from the war alive. He also preached sermons every weekend in his little church. 

Pastor Peter had a horrible neighbour. He may not have been a horrible person before the war, but he was now. Every time Pastor Peter walked past the neighbour’s house he would shout mean things to him. When his neighbour saw Pastor Peter in town, he would laugh and call him names. He would make fun of Pastor Peter’s prayers and kindness to people. “He’s just coming to visit you for the free cakes and tea!” Sometimes his neighbour would even come to town when church was meeting just to make fun of people as they came out of the church. “Following that fool, Pastor Peter, are ya? What a bunch of sheep!” Pastor Peter tried not to let it bother him and told his church members to ignore the man. Pastor Peter knew his neighbour was suffering. 

During the war, Pastor Peter’s neighbour was having a hard time. He was losing money as his business failed. The more he failed, the meaner he got. One day, so soldiers came to the neighbour’s farm and arrested him. They took him to the local jail and locked him up. In a very quick trial, Pastor Peter’s neighbour was accused and convicted of treason. Treason is when you do something to help the enemy. 

Pastor Peter couldn’t sleep the night after the conviction. He knew his neighbour was mean and that nobody liked him because of his angry words. but he didn’t believe it. Pastor Peter didn’t believe his neighbour was helped the enemy. He couldn’t sleep, so he prayed. He prayed for wisdom. He prayed for his neighbour who was now in jail and would be hanged in a week. 

In the morning, Pastor Peter got dressed, put on his walking boots and began walking. He walked 70 miles to where he knew General George Washington was leading the troops. It took the better part of 3 days to walk the 70 miles. He stopped only to sleep in kind people’s homes when it was dark and began walking again at first light. When he arrived at the military camp he found General Washington and told him about his neighbour. He asked General Washington to write a pardon which would set his neighbour free.

“I respect your Pastor’s heart,” General Washington said. “But, I cannot set a man free just because it hurts your Christian sensibilities that he be hanged. If he has been found to be guilty, he is guilty.”

“I walked these 70 miles because I believe him to be innocent,” Pastor Peter said. “I beg you for my neighbour’s life!”

“I’m sorry,” General Washington said. “70 Miles is a long ways! Your neighbour is lucky to have a friend like you!”

“FRIEND!?!?” Pastor Peter laughed. “He only speaks wicked words about me and my church people. If anything, he’s my worst enemy.”

This caused General Washington to jump out of his chair. “WHAT!” he cried out, “You’ve walked 70 miles to save the life of an enemy? That, in my judgment, puts the matter in a different light. I’ll grant your pardon.” 

Pastor Peter walked home as quickly as he could. He arrived the morning his neighbour was to be hanged and entered the town as his neighbour was being walked to the gallows. 

“HA!” the neighbour shouted, “Pastor Peter! Come for your revenge, hey? Come to watch your old, wicked neighbour hang!”

Pastor Peter said “not at all” and handed the pardon to the jailer. His neighbour was set free and allowed to go home. 


How do you think this affected the neighbour? What about the townspeople? How do you think it made Pastor Peter feel to know that during wartime he’d saved a life? – even if it was the life of an enemy!

We are living in the middle of a war against germs! COVID is making some people sick. But, it’s making even more people angry and upset. It’s even causing some people to be horrible neighbours. 

We can choose how we talk and how we act. We can be like that neighbour or we can be like Pastor Peter. Do you know what made Pastor Peter different? He loved Jesus. He talked to Jesus. And he wanted to be like Jesus. He had read in Matthew where Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbour and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:43-45


Monday, September 28, 2020

Rise and Respond Church!

 There is no greater time than now, amid the chaos of COVID, to carry the Gospel to the world. We, the church, are the appointed agency for the salvation of all. We do this carrying – this lifting and laying on – of the Kingdom of God through our word and action. As we do, our embodied hope stands boldly juxtaposed against the words and actions of the broken fallen saddened angry world. Our own ancient story speaks to us through godly men who lived in evil empires of the past.

Babylon, used in Revelation as a synonym for the end-time empire that will reign over the fall of mankind into debauchery, was blessed to have decades of Divine guidance. A believer in the one true God named Daniel stood for what was right against all odds. A boy when Jerusalem fell, he came to Babylon as a captive. When Babylon fell some 70 years later, Daniel chose to stay when he could have gone home. He stayed to make Babylon a better place – bringing God’s light and love into darkened self-centred chaos.

Years before, Egypt was also blessed to have the leadership of a believer in the one true God. Joseph could interpret dreams. And through the power of God, he did so to save the kingdom of Egypt from famine. Like Daniel, Joseph stayed until his dying day. He also could have returned home. Instead, he invited his family to join him in the life he had built in Egypt. A life where he used Godly insight to bless an unbelieving kingdom.

We too live in trying times with death and chaos on every side. As the church, Christ’s body in the world, we have one job. We cannot choose to join the throng of unremarkable men moaning of the dust and doom. Our job is to glorify God’s name by using our spiritual connection with God on behalf of the dying world. Shine where we stand. Burn in the darkness and darkness cannot remain.

Dare to be a Daniel. Risking his own life, he stopped the deaths of Babylon’s unbelieving ‘wisemen’ by using his Godly giftedness. He asked and God answered – giving him the king’s dream and interpretation - and all were saved.

Journey like Joseph. His putting others first, repeatedly, led to God saving millions of lives – believers and unbelievers alike. To the ancient Egyptian nation God made Joseph a fountain of life. The nation of Egypt was preserved because of this one Godly man choosing to use his gifts for God’s glory in the court of Pharaoh rather than hide under a bushel and bemoan his lot in life as a slave.

Use your energy to reach out to those suffering around you. Find your happiness through helping and blessing others.

Use your words to create a refuge in this reign of chaos. Build the fortress that is God’s church which holds fast even in this old bitter revolted world.

Over millennia God has shaped His church for service. Shaped for such a time as this. You’ve been called out of darkness.

Church, you have been set alight with the marvellous light of God’s glory. Now shine!

 

Monday, August 17, 2020

God's Unveiled Glory

God is on a journey with his children. He designed us to be empowered by living in His presence. Unfortunately, sin and selfishness so marred the relationship that His Glory, which is meant to give us our light and life, can traumatise us.

As refugees in the desert, God’s children asked Moses to put a veil over his face. He’d been with God. He was radiant. Just looking at him hurt their eyes. So, he did. And he would only lift the veil when he went into God’s presence for council and when he spoke on God’s behalf to the people.

As residents in Israel, God’s children kept God behind a veil. The holy of holies was behind a layered curtain said to be as thick as a man’s hand. God’s presence radiated there, behind the curtain above the Ark of the Covenant. The High Priest alone passed beyond that curtain just once a year.

When Jesus died, that veil tore from top to bottom. No longer would Moses walk out, veil lifted, with new Glory to reveal. No longer would the High Priest make the yearly journey into God’s presence. Jesus, in his life and death, revealed God’s glory. And, as it was finished on the cross, the veil was lifted and God’s Glory filled the Earth.

Now, the apostle Paul says, the only spiritual veils, after the cross, are worn by people who do not want to see God’s Glory. Today, God’s children worship, pray, serve and sing, in His presence, soaking it up. Then they walk into the world with unveiled faces and radiate His love to everyone. 

I love road trips. I’ve driven from Melbourne to Yowah many times. Yowah is an outback mining town in south-west Queensland. It takes 15 hours of non-stop driving to get there from here. My Dad likes to mine for opal and I like to visit him. The journey is always richer with one of the kids tagging along.

Factoring in a few stops for meals, stretching and petrol, it’s good to leave home mid-afternoon.

At the start of the road trip the kids are always busy. They look out the windows and play games with licence plate numbers and road signs. Can you get from A to Z first? Then you play “I spy with my little eye.” 

As day turns into evening the screens come on. As they watch or play something, you listen to an audiobook. When their headphones come off, you turn off the stereo and chat. The little one has relaxed into the journey. The conversation wanders through whatever topics come up.

Then darkness comes. And they fall asleep. You relax into a chat with God. Thanks for the good road. Thanks for my family. Thanks for safety. Thanks for loving us. The conversation ebbs and flows through the night. It moves from tonight’s 1400km journey to the lifetime journey He is leading you on. Thanks for this life. Thanks for the future. What’s next, Lord?

As morning comes in outback Australia, you’re driving through a deep mist that hugs the red dirt and low scrub. Every new photon of white light refracts in one of the billions of droplets of dissipated water. Slowly the sun peaks over the horizon and the white foggy fields turn radiant gold.

“Oh Wow!” You whisper. Your voice interrupts the sleepy silence.

Little one wakes up in the backseat and sits up. She stretches and yawns, “What, Dad?”

“Just look,” you say.

She looks - into the sunrise. Big red kangaroos bound through the golden fog filled fields. Leaping toward the sun.

“Wow.” She says, mesmerised. “That is so beautiful!”

“It really is,” you say.

You both stare into the sunrise as the sun silently changes from a blip to a bubble to a ball. Darkness is gone. The world is lit.

Then she asks her favourite question, “But why, Dad?”

You look into the mirror and see her little face, bathed in the sun’s light. She’s radiant. “What dear?”

“Why?” She repeats. “WHY is it so beautiful?”

“Because, little one,” you say pausing to look at her in the mirror, “Because God LOVES US all, so very much.”

She takes the answer silently, sits back into her seat and looks out the side window. The veil of mist has lifted and a mob of kangaroos stand like sentinels. They each stretch tall, facing the sun – their faces aglow.

“He really does, doesn’t He?” she whispers.

“He loves US ALL, so very much.” 

Friday, August 14, 2020

The Servant Heart of God

A oneliner in an online Bible-study lecture just made me laugh. And then, it got me thinking.

The lecture was about how the God of the Old Testament seems so angry and violent and scary. And yet in the New Testament, when Jesus comes, he is none of those things. Jesus claimed to be God. And yet, Jesus was gentle and kind and served people with love. The lecturer said, "What happened to the God of the Old Testament between Malachi and Matthew? Did he give his heart to Jesus or something?"

Well, yes. Yes, Jesus does have God’s heart.
But he had it long long before Malachi. Like forever long.
Jesus has always been at the heart of God.

Jesus came to Earth to completely reveal the character of God. In fact, he said, “If you have seen me, you've seen the Father.” So what is God like? Well, Jesus cared for the poor, fed the hungry and healed the broken.

God was not updated in Jesus. Our understanding of God was updated.

Before Jesus visited, It was like the God Channel had really poor reception on Planet Earth. No matter where you stood in the room or how you adjusted things, the picture was mostly snow with a shadowy image way off in the background. The picture was poor and the sound was either way too loud or non-existent. The problem wasn’t with God, it was with us. Our spiritual aerial was mucked up with sin. The only way to fix the situation was for God to do something – in person.

So God came down and dwelt among us. He lived next door. He wore our clothes, spoke our language and showed us what he looks like. In his life and his death, Jesus cleared up the misconceptions of God. In his life, he modelled the servant heart of God. And in his death, he installed a permanent pole-top signal booster for the God Channel. Now, God comes through picture perfect – in Jesus.

Jesus lived a cross shaped life and died a cross shaped death. He expected his presence to tune us in –perfectly – to God. When the disciples asked Jesus to show God to them, He said, “How long have I been with you and you still ask me to show you the Father?” Every word. Every deed. Everything he was – was God.

Jesus’ death on a cross was the ultimate act of service that God could do for his lost children on planet Earth. The cross installed on Earth a clear image of the Father in Heaven. We get God now – loud and clear – anytime we come to the cross. The cross reveals the God who serves and calls us to be a people who serve.

Service saves people. Service shapes people.

I just came home from the hospital last night. I had a cancerous tumour removed from my right kidney. One night, the nurse asked me what the book I was reading was about. I told her it was about Christians in the Early Church and how they changed the world. She said, “Wow! So how did they do it?”

“By being like you!” I smiled and continued, “The first Christians were focused on service – they cared for the sick, they looked after the unlovely, they fed people who needed food.” I paused and smiled at her, “True followers of Jesus are like nurses.”

“I didn’t know that,” She said quietly.

“Most people don’t.” I said, “Thank you for changing my world!”

She smiled and said, “You’re welcome!”

Serving other people, day in and day out, changes you. I call nurses “God’s undercover angels” because they really are.

Now, it’s your turn. Look to the cross. Fix your eyes on Jesus. Rediscover the servant heart of God.

Then go change the world!


Sunday, July 19, 2020