When there’s so much to do…

So, what do you do when you’re looking at your To Do List, and it just seems to be getting longer every day? Who isn’t frustrated by that?
Then, this morning, I turned to Ps 131, which speaks of contentment in the presence of God.

My heart is not proud, Lord, my eyes are not haughty;

I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me.

But I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content.

Israel, put your trust in the Lord both now and for evermore.

The child is not content because her mother satisfies her thirst – this is a weaned child. The child is simply content to be in her mother’s presence.

I need to speak that child’s truth into my To Do List today.

God is with me, I can be content. His presence can be my comfort and joy. I am reminded that he is at work, certainly through what I do, but – happily – way beyond that as well. More: he is at work irrespective of what I do. He’s at work whether I do anything or not. His work and its effectiveness does not depend on anything I do. But he works through me, anyway.

That’s his glorious promise: that this new life he has given me will continue to overflow, revealing his Kingdom even through my failing and faltering efforts.

We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life (Rom 6:4, NIV)

When there’s still so much to do, it’s a powerful comfort that God is at work well beyond my capabilities and capacity.

You may get your To Do List done today. Then again, you may not. But God is working through you anyway!

I am content with that.

The Nail Man

Which one was it 
that held the nails
and then hammered them
into place?

Did he hit them
out of anger,
or a simple
sense of duty?

Was it a job
that had to be done,
or a good day’s work
in the open air?

And when they
clawed past bone
and bit into wood,
was it like all the others,
or did history
shudder a little
beneath the head
of that hammer?

Was he still there,
packing away his tools,
when ‘It is finished’
was uttered to the throng,
or was he at home
washing his hands
and getting ready 
for the night?

Will he be
among the forgiven
on that Day of Days,
his sin having been slain
by his own savage spike? 

This amazing poem returns to my consciousness every Good Friday. Thank you Steve Turner for your profound and poignant reminder of the mystery of the atonement.

Proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes

Matthew 26:14-35

Coming Friday, many Christians churches will celebrate communion / Lord’s Supper / Eucharist.

Reading Tom Wright’s Lent reflections on Matt 26, I was struck by his statement that one of the purposes of the Lord’s Supper is to point us to the coming of the Kingdom (Matt 26:28-29).

I wondered how that understanding might influence our celebrations this Good Friday.

Certainly, communion is celebrating the Lord’s death until he comes (1 Coe 11:26), and our focus is often on ‘the Lord’s death’. But it’s also true that we do this ‘until he comes’. In the one act we look back and we look forward.

Here’s my thought: maybe it’s not just the duration of the celebration (until he comes), but the fact that he is coming has a bearing on how we celebrate, and what the supper really means.

In my church circles, the Lord’s Supper was, and still is, celebrated with great reverence and gravitas. But this got me thinking there should also be a celebration of the truth that Jesus died and rose again. This his death is the end of our death and his resurrection is the beginning of our life. That his living in us, him, being part of us, inside us – we have just eaten the bread and wine – is an assurance of his power to live his life in our world?

The message of the Lord’s Supper / Communion / Eucharist is not only that we have been forgiven through the blood of Christ, that out sins have been atoned, that our guilt is removed, that our death is conquered.

It is also that through his death we are truly alive, more alive than we ever dreamed (see John 10:10 MSG)! Alive to do his will. Alive to bring his life into this world. Alive to live his justice and righteousness. Alive to put things right; the way our gracious God would want them to be.

So, as we share the supper, is there a belief that Christ is, even now, through his risen people, making things right? And that this life, this new life, is the very life we are being nourished for in the Supper?

That would really be proclaiming the reality of the Lord’s death until he comes.

COVID19 Can’t stop us praying, right?

 

So we’re all coming to terms with things we cannot do…

  • Many cannot go to work, or have lost jobs
  • We can’t go to church
  • We can’t eat at a restaurant
  • We can’t have a drink with mates at the pub
  • We can’t go interstate (or even intrastate, really)

Social distancing is catching up with us all.

But we can still pray, right?

And we don’t need to be in a church to worship God, right?

So, if you’re looking around for a great way to experience community, why not sign up for Liberate LIVE?

www.IJM.org.au/Liberate

This is a single International Justice Mission (IJM) event here in Australia, where Christians gather to hear stories of rescue, sing to the God who brings freedom, and to unite in praying for the end of slavery.

We have done this previously on location Sydney, but now it’s a fully online event, and the best thing is you can access Liberate from anywhere in the world.

Our guest on the night will be Ms Anita Budu, Director of Casework at IJM Ghana.

We’ll be interviewing Anita, who will

  • Share her eyewitness accounts of child slavery on Lake Volta, where children are brutally enslaved on fishing boats
  • Tell stories of how God is bringing rescue
  • Show how the church is mobilising behind this effort

This will be a terrific opportunity for you to have some Christian community, right at this time when we actually can’t gather anywhere – how good is that?

It’s a great occasion for Christians to unite in prayer, calling to God for the end of slavery.

Details:

International Justice Mission Australia – Liberate LIVE

Free Registration here

Saturday, March 28

Time: 7:30pm, AEDT – we’ll send you the link when you register – easy!

Remember, you can access this wherever you are – and I’d just love to see you there!

Let me know if you have any questions!

Dave

Seeking Justice and Loving Mercy … and COVID-19

How does the rise of COVID-19, with all its disruption, make a difference to how we react?

What does it mean to be a follower of Christ in days of fear and heightened anxiety?

I wrote this for International Justice Mission Australia, and thought I’d share it with you.

It’s a call to

  • Lament
  • Hope
  • Pursue Justice
  • Respond generously

You can read it here

…and be sure to let me know your thoughts!

Jesus, what on earth are you doing?

While he was saying this, a synagogue leader came and knelt before him and said, “My daughter has just died. But come and put your hand on her, and she will live.” Jesus got up and went with him, and so did his disciples. Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.” Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed at that moment. When Jesus entered the synagogue leader’s house and saw the noisy crowd and people playing pipes,” (Matthew 9:18–23, NIV)

Ask yourself: Where am I in this story?

Me? I find myself in the crowd, watching intently, excited about what might happen, looking on as Jesus indicates he’s about to do something special for Jairus and his daughter. I follow with the crowd as Jesus heads toward the official’s home.

Then: what?! Jesus is looking through the crowd – seems to be looking for someone, and he can’t find them. What has happened? What’s going on? Who’s he looking for? And why?

And Jairus is a walking machine! He hasn’t even realised Jesus has stopped – he’s striding ahead by some 20 or 30 metres, before he even realises Jesus isn’t following him anymore. What the…??

Doesn’t he know how sick my daughter is? Did he miss my exasperation? Doesn’t he get it? Didn’t he say he would follow me? Doesn’t he realise she’s dying? What on earth is he doing now, stuffing around in the crowd?

There it is. Confusion. Anger. Frustration.

How often have I felt this? That Jesus is somehow missing in (my) action? That I doubt he’s with me, or not fully cognizant of what’s actually going on in my life? Why isn’t he do it what, just a moment ago, he seemed so clearly to say that he would do?

There’s nothing happening to me – or you – today that Jesus is anxoius about.

Amidst all of my anger, confusion and possible questioning of God, I see Jesus in this story – and he is not flustered at all. Not. At. All. He is sovereign, and he has me perfectly and mysteriously in his hand.

I might think he’s making poor decisions (actually, phrasing that sounds as ridiculous and faithless as it actually is) I may not understand, and I may not accept what’s going on. But Jesus has it – me – everything – in hand. I may be bothered. I may be confused. I may be worried or afraid.

But not Jesus. There’s nothing happening to me – or you – today that Jesus is anxious about.

He has me in his hand, and what he does will bring brother grace and healing and restoration to those who maybe frustrating me. And he will bring that same grace and healing to those around me who are in such great need.

How do we party while the bush burns?

It was just a little uncomfortable watching fireworks over Sydney Harbour while people were facing a bushfire apocalypse.  The fireworks were sensational – I can understand why people travel halfway around the globe just to see them. But a few hundred kilometres to the south people were sheltering on beaches and in boats while a firestorm consumed their towns, their homes, tens of thousands of hectares of forest, and – at this stage – eight human lives. So, while millions people were in awe on the harbour many others were in fear while the bush exploded around them.

Some called for the fireworks to be scrapped altogether. While I understand that call I also understand why the Sydney Harbour celebrations were allowed to continue. Cancelling may have saved several million dollars, which some say could have been used for fire relief. In truth the money was spent months ago when the contract was signed. Cancelling the display in the event of catastrophic conditions would have resulted in an insurance claim, not a net saving. Cancelling the event would also have cost the NSW economy $150m in lost revenue, and perhaps put some people out of business.

So cancelling would not have helped much. Even so, there are a few things which could have been done differently.

Some $2m was raised on the night to aid those who have been impacted by the fire. Great result. But imagine how different it may have been if the civic leaders had specifically suggested that all adult attenders give at least $20 to the appeal? Some people might have found that hard – fair enough – it would not have been compulsory. Others could have given more. But a specific “ask” is always helpful. Who knows, doing it that way maybe $20m could have been raised on the night.

Also, the Prime Minister received some criticism for having some friends at Kirribilli House for a box seat fireworks viewing opportunity. He’s the Prime Minister, of course, and he’ll be criticised for anything. But what if he’d asked some cameras in, and just before the fireworks display, encouraged all Australians them to give the the Appeal? What if his guests had all dug deep on the night and raised their own sum for the appeal?

That would have been a great display of leadership and empathy. I think something like that would have pulled our country together even more, and the millions of people not affected by the extreme fire events would have been drawn closer to the thousands that are facing unimaginable terror. Australia would have been left with an enduring message of solidarity in a time of massive destruction and fear.

So, yes, we cheered in the New Year. And we prayed. And we held the joy and hope of new beginning at the same time as holding fear and concern for others as the fires bear down on them.

God Says “It’s OK To Not Be OK”

This morning I read Psalm 88 again. When I say ‘again’, I mean it comes around regularly in my daily readings.

This Psalm always unnerves me. Sure, I t starts with a voice of praise, acknowledging God as the true rescuer, but that’s about the only positive thing we read. Heman, the writer, then takes us downstairs through trouble and difficulty into the lowest pit and the darkest depths (v.6). Heman reckons those dark times are no chance occurrence, or a string of bad luck. It’s confronting to hear him say all those terrible things are the work of God (v.6-8). I am not sure whether he’s got that right. Maybe he’s just trying to rationalise all the pain in his life and this is his best shot. Whatever the reason I can tell you it takes guts to say it the way he does.

Thankfully, I haven’t been through depression. I’ve seen some pretty torrid times, though. I don’t think anyone can do thirty something years in congregational ministry and not encounter some rejection, betrayal, and most certainly some tears. Don’t get me wrong: I love pastoral ministry, and generally it loved me. But there are valleys and sometimes they are very dark and very deep. And at those times it could be hard to get motivated, or to see the good things around me. I could get irritable and negative, too true. But I never felt depressed.

For plenty of people the Black Dog is a reality. From the little I understand, it can be ever present, very dark, and hard to shake. That’s where my mind goes when I read Psalm 88. The writer may well be depressed, and the comfort of God seems absent. He blames God for everything he’s experiencing. He calls out to God, but he doesn’t get any answer.

I wonder how God felt, hearing this cry in Ps 88? My best guess is that it wasn’t anger. Maybe more like heartbreak, or compassion, or He may have just sat with Heman in his black hole and wept with him.

God wanted us to know it’s OK to not be OK. That when we’re the un-ok-est of all, that he’s still with us. That we can weep, and rail against him, and shake our fist, turn our back, throw the kitchen sink at him, and he’s still there. Faithful and caring and loving as always.

If we believe what we say about the Scriptures, God also treasured these hard words of Heman, and preserved them for us to read. Perhaps God wanted us to know it’s OK to not be OK. That when we’re the un-ok-est of all, that he’s still with us. That we can weep, and rail against him, and shake our fist, turn our back, throw the kitchen sink at him, and he’s still there. Faithful and caring and embracing as always.

This is our God, right? He is with us through the the darkest valleys. He knows, the deepest valley of all is to be utterly forsaken and bereft of his nearness. He knows that because Jesus entered that darkness, and conquered it, we never have to go there. Not ever.

Heman, it may feel like he’s not there, that he doesn’t love you, that he’s throwing all hell at you. But really, he’s still with you, even when you can see him, or hear him, or feel him. It may seem like the darkness is your closest friend, but really, it’s God. He’s there, right there, in the darkness with you. He’s never going to let you go.

[I have to apologise for not hitting the blog that much. It’s been a time of adjustment. Hopefully I’ll be a little more regular now – Dave]

Marketing is broken. Can we fix it?

Marketing is broken. Can we fix it?

How does a Christian mission manage the challenge of marketing? Is it possible for Christian non-for-profits to avoid the pitfalls of presenting just another marketing ploy?

@Suansita shows great realism and sensitivity: we all need to present the need well and pray that generous people will respond, but we can bring some needed transformation to how we do that.

Read on…

⎯ suansita ⎯

Me and Marketing

To be honest, I would never have guessed that I’d end up with the word ‘Marketing’ in my job title. It reeks of big business.

Chances are, I’m not the only one who feels this way. See how many of the following statements you agree with:

Marketing is persuading you to buy things you don’t need.

Marketing is about getting you to open your purse strings.

Marketing is about generating hype out of nothing.

Marketing is about pretty packaging, style over substance.

Marketing is about stupid algorithms.

Marketing is annoying emails in your inbox that you never signed up for.

In short, marketing is a dirty word.

Yet as life would have it, here I am: a marketing professional.

justin-lim-757171-unsplash Photo credit: Justin Lim.

Let me nuance this by saying I’m in the marketing department of a nonprofit dedicated to ending modern-day slavery. But I often feel…

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