Remember: Satan’s Power Is Limited

Whatever happens today, remember that as strong and as ugly as the evil one appears to be, he has limited strength and ability. Jesus Christ, ruler of our universe, has all power and authority. He is on the throne and rules all nations. You can trust this powerful Saviour to be near you and to give you all you need today to follow him.

Rev 12:1-9 “A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads. Its tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that it might devour her child the moment he was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who “will rule all the nations with an iron sceptre.”  And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. The woman fled into the wilderness to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days.

Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. “

Prayer: High King of Heaven, this strange visit fits our this world. Every news story of misery and corruption is an echo of the dragon waiting like a thief to devour all that is good and to vandalise your shalom. Thank you for the good news that evil has met its match in Jesus, and give me the patience in this day as I wait for its complete end. Amen
(Philip F. Reinders, Seeking God’s Face, p.537 – using material from Belgic Confession, Article 12)

Time Heals All Wounds …right?

You’ve probably heard it, and maybe you’ve even said it: “time heals all wounds”. Plenty of people have said it to me over the last couple of years. I guess they are saying that if you just leave something, the pain will eventually subside. Soldier on. Life goes on. People move on. Or whatever.

Maybe Lennon and McCartney were right. Sometimes, the best way to deal with a tough situation is to just let it be. Sometimes some of the hurts we carry just need to be left. It’s best for us. It’s best for others. In reality, there are some things that come our way that are not worth responding to. Laugh them off. Let ’em go through to the keeper. Forget about it.

I heard once about a conference speaker who had people throw balls to them while they were speaking. That was interesting enough. But what really caught my attention was that the speaker did nothing to catch the balls. They just bounced off, and rolled along the stage, out of sight. From from time to time, though, the speaker did catch one of the balls, and then used that occasion to speak specifically about a situation that had troubled them or hurt them. Meanwhile, other balls were thrown, and they continued to bounce off, and roll across the floor.

when things are thrown at you sometimes the best thing to do is to let it go

The speaker was making the point that she did not have to respond to everything that was thrown at her, and that she was quite intentional about what she would respond to, and when. Great lesson. And a reminder that when things are thrown at you sometimes the best thing to do is to let it go.

But there’s a part of “time heals all wounds” that bothers me, and which ultimately works against what God would have us do with our pain. While there are occasions where it’s best to let it go, there are other occasions where we should never let it go. A serious disagreement between two people? You should not let it go. A heated argument between a husband and wife? You should not just let it go. Growing resentment in a relationship? You should not just let that go.

Over the years there have been too many times when I have heard people say ‘time heals all wounds’ as an excuse not to do the very thing they needed to do. Then, ‘time heals all wounds’ was just a convenient and sometimes cowardly way to live in denial.

In a moment of anger a stressed husband makes a cutting remark to his wife, and she is hurt. The husband might think, “Well, I’ll just let it go. She’ll be OK in the morning, and she doesn’t understand the pressure I am under anyway.” The night passes, and in the morning he’s just pushing through but she’s still hurt. The wound is there, but time probably won’t heal it. If it’s left untreated, the natural reaction is resentment. To cover the hurt by not discussing work stress again. And so the dysfunction is multiplied. The wife is still hurt. The husband’s work stress remains a ‘no go’ area. In the end, it’s an area of the relationship which becomes closed. Have a few of them from time to time, and the relationship not only loses wonderful opportunities for growth, but it will start to wither in key areas.

Truth is, time only heals small wounds. Just leaving things alone, especially if they are big things, only increases the capacity for pain and dysfunction in the future. And it makes it easy to repeat the same mistakes down the track.

So, how can we tell the difference between an issue we can leave, and one which needs to be addressed? Is it possible to know which wounds time will not heal? That’s for next time…

Q: Does this resonate with you? Has the maxim ‘Time heals all wounds’ worked for you? Leave a comment to share your experience.

Why you should keep serving, even though you want to quit


I want to thank Frank and Sasha for their comments on my post “The Good You Do is Never Wasted”. I thought it best to respond with a follow up post, so here it is.

Frank, to spend your life and energy caring for someone who does not appreciate your care is an incredible act of selflessness. Or think of Sasha, who continues to provide care and guidance even though her efforts are often met with defiance? What will keep us going in these situations?

I do not want to be simplistic about any of this. None of this is easy. And you might not want to hear it, but the truth is sometimes the situation stays bad. Sometimes it gets worse. We have to be realistic about this.

sometimes the situation stays bad

So: why persist?

First up: when we keep serving in a hard situation, we are like God and we show his character. God’s core business is to make life thrive, and to bring order out of chaos. And we are created as his image. When we keep on serving we are his workmates. And his promise is that he will strengthen us and help us. He promises to be with us, even when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death.

Second: take a step back and ask ‘What am I learning? What is God teaching me in this?’ How is he using this challenge to shape me? Will his experience prepare me for some other challenge that may still lie ahead? I know it can sound a bit cliched, but sometimes even cliches are true.

Third: think of the person or people you are serving – Is it a waste for them? They may be defiant. They may not appreciate your care, or communicate their thanks. But some time later they may be able to look back and remember that someone like you cared for them. Or they may enjoy the comfort you provide, and for one more day their life may be more bearable. That fact that it remains unacknowledged does not change the reality that you are doing a good thing.

Or consider this: What do others see in what you are doing? Might they see God, or his attitudes, or the character of Jesus? I can think of a couple of people who just keep giving, and who just keep serving, and I see God’s grace and presence so clearly in what they do. But I bet sometimes they are sick of it.

Fourth: remember why you signed up. Sasha’s concept of remembering her calling is great. But let’s take it just a bit further: I think it’s better to remember the promises of the God who gave the call. Jeremiah. David. Other Psalmists, they all wrestled with their call, but you always hear their rock solid confidence in God, even in the midst of their deepest challenge. Check out Ps 73. God is faithful, and his lovingkindness is everlasting (Ps 136). He will never leave you or forsake you. And Jesus’ death and rising in victory is our absolute guarantee that God can be trusted.

When you are tired and drawn the easiest thing to do is to lose perspective. Here’s a few things to do to stay focused in doing good, even when your experience is bad:

Read the Gospels. Jesus was always under appreciated. He suffered rejection and rebellion from people on a daily basis. His support team ended up forsaking him. But he kept serving. He loved rebels. He died for sinners. He prayed for the people who persecuted him. He just keep loving and giving. Not only will his story inspire you, he will give you what you need to keep announcing and anticipating his kingdom through your selfless service. He lives in you through his spirit, and he knows what you’re up against. You are not alone.

Get enough rest. It’s not always possible, but try to get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation will lower your patience, your capacity to show mercy, and your ability to function. It will get you thinking about yourself and resentful toward the ones you are serving. More sleep will increase your capacity to cope.

Exercise well. Walk. Ride. Whatever. Choose activities that are highly flexible, which you can do anywhere and pretty much any time. And because Leonie reads this blog, I also have to make a confession: I have to lift my own game here. Over the last year I have dropped my rhythm and let my bike riding go. Stupid. So I have to get my own act in order. I am going to hate it, but I know when I exercise it’s not only good for me physically, it helps me spiritually and emotionally. I always cope better when I exercise.

Engage in some “Spill your guts” therapy. Find a friend and pour your heart out to them regularly. They won’t often know what to do. That’s OK. The best thing they can do is listen to you and pray with you. Such friends stick closer than a brother. They become an embodiment of God’s grace.

To cap it off, just a few weeks ago I heard three people tell their story of how God has worked his grace into their lives. One was embittered against God with grief. Another was an agnostic. Yet another was a rationalistic atheist. But God used the words of people in their lives to draw them back to himself. In those stories we were given a glimpse of how God works though people all the time. It’s probably only rarely that we see the outcome, even so God works through our words and actions all the time. It’s only rarely that we see the outcome. So, keep serving, believing God will keep doing his work through you.

As I said above, sometimes the outcome is years down the track. Sometimes it’s an outcome is a completely different context. But perhaps the outcome will only be seen on The Big Day, when at last everything will be made right. And we will all honour God for his work through Jesus in people, who kept on doing the hard yards because they knew it was right and they knew God was with them.

So, no Frank it is never wasted. And yes, Sasha, it does make a difference, and especially to that one.

Grace and peace: Dave

Location:Wellington Point,Australia

So hard to watch: coming to terms with your own limitations

Today was not the best day. It turns out that Mum did not sleep too well. To be expected, really. It was her first night in Lovely Banks. The bed will be different. She will wake up to different surroundings. She will wake up tired. And all of that will compound to add to her confusion.


Old man and woman on a bench watching the sunset, watercolour by Erin Groenenboom

Dad and I visited at about 10:00am, and briefly spoke of our plans for the day. We would travel to Warrnambool, organise a phone, and maybe look at a few things Dad needed, and then make our way back to Cobden. Then there was a lamb roast to be cooked, and I was goIng to season and bake the potatoes and pumpkin.

We made the trip to Warrnambool, and finally made it back to see mum at about 3:30pm. By that time, however, it was clear her disrupted night’s sleep was taking it’s toll. She was rambling a little, and confusing her feeling
ill at lunchtime with having to go for a long walk away from home and thinking she was going to ‘croak’.

I made it back a second time to find that Mum was even more confused by that time. We watched as Mum rang the buzzer to go to the toilet. The carers came, lifted Mum to her feet, and took her to the toilet. Jo remarked “up to yesterday, we would have been doing that, or Dad would have been doing that, and I’m so glad we don’t have to anymore.” It’s not that we couldn’t be bothered, or that we felt the task was beneath us. I think Jo captured it when she put it in terms of being broken.

Love always has a cost. And for Dad and Jo, the cost was knowing that they had reached the limit of what they could do. The cost was realising that loving Mum meant they had to provide a level of care that they could no longer deliver. We struggled to accept the limits of our own love.

We struggled to answer Mum when she asked why she could not go with us, why we could not help her up, and why Jo and I were the only ones who were ‘allowed out’. We bit our lip as Mum came to terms with her reality as best she could…

“Can we get out? Can we leave now? Are you and Jo the only ones who can leave? Do I have to stay here by myself, then? On my own?”

“Yes Mum, you need to stay here, and Jo and I have to go. We have to be home by seven. The nurses will come and help you get changed. No, Mum, we cannot do that, they do, that’s what they are here for…”

In that moment, I remembered that as a young father, I occasionally had to leave our second youngest, Melody, at day care. She would be crying, “Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!”, pleading for me not to walk away. But I did. I walked away and left her in day care. It was about the hardest thing I had to do.

…we just have to walk away. We have to go, and now

This afternoon I remembered that experience. When Mum was questioning why we could leave, and why she couldn’t. I made eye contact with Jo and mouthed the words, “we just have to walk away. We have to go, and now.” I knew the longer we stayed, the harder it would be to leave. So we kissed Mum on the forehead, and said we’d we there tomorrow. And then we walked away.

Grace and peace: Dave

The View

There’s a story that at the start of WWII, Australian military strategists were worried about the rapid advance of the Japanese Army. The Clarence River Wilderness Lodge’s Camp Kitchen has a photograph of some concrete tank traps that at one time were arranged across the Clarence River at Paddy’s Flat. The idea was that these concrete structures would halt the advance of the Japanese invaders. The story is that the Australian Forces believed the northern part of the continent was impossible to defend. So the claim was that the ‘Brisbane Line’ had been drawn from north of Brisbane, with the idea that everything above that line could be sacrificed to protect the south eastern population areas. Now I am not sure about the historicity of all that, but we wanted to see the tank traps, and we were told on good authority that they were still there.

Leonie, Erin, James and I hopped into the Subaru, with first stop in Urbenville (50 mins away), where Erin hoped to get some phone reception. By tethering my phone to my Vaio notebook, we would have internet on the road. Alas, Urbenville’s phone reception turned out to be pretty poor. Poorer than we needed it to be. So we thought the best idea was to drive along, while Leonie watched the phone’s reception indicator. The moment we would get three bars, we’d stop, connect the phone to the computer, and Erin could enrol in her Uni classes. We drove into a small place called Mulli Mulli, a small settlement of indigenous people, and all of a sudden we had five bars! We drove into a side street and pulled over. What was really interesting was that my PC found someone’s wireless service, and connected – so there we were thanking the people of Mulli Mulli for their hospitality!

Back in Urbenville, we visited Glad’s shop again to find out about the condition of some local roads. The shop assistant told us how you could get a great view of the surrounding area from a fire tower, about 15km down the road. So we drive the 7 km to North Yabbra Road, and another 7km to the track to the Fire Tower. The walk to the top was a steep and strenuous 20min climb. A steady and persistent pace seemed to be the trick. It occurred to me that the ascent to the fire tower stretched my cardio vascular system better than the stress test I had undertaken a few weeks before. I have never had any heart problems, and have never felt any reason for concern. Even when recently I found out that my heartbeat was a little irregular, I was relaxed about it, and subsequent tests showed there were no issues. As we walked up the mountain, with my heart rate at around 190, I started to wonder what would happen if I started having serious chest pain. There was no anxiety, or fear. Just a thought. It’s funny how in an instant, your thoughts can take you to the deep recesses of your soul. The thought pressed deeper: “Well, what would happen? What would you do?” It caught me off guard a little. So I let it play out. I imagined having to sit down, with Leonie, Erin and James gathering round. Someone would have run to the top of the hill with my phone, and call for an ambulance. The thought dug in deeper, and I reminded myself that whether the phone works or not, or whether the ambulance arrives on time are not the really big questions. I went deeper, and said, simply, “Dave, you are mortal. One day you are going to die.” Whether it was this day or another day, it was OK, because the life God has given me in Jesus is life that cannot be taken away. I was comforted to feel real peace about that. I was just happy to live the life God has given me in the here and now. And with this I pushed on.

How long did it take to think all that through? It is amazing how quickly it can happen. It might have been ten seconds, not much longer. Even so, a deep sense of peace and a more textured life perspective has come out of it. I think it has helped me feel more resolute, more settled, and more confident of God’s assurance of life. It has deepened and renewed my commitment to live heaven’s life in the here and now. To see and seek God’s goodness more in the land of the living.

Arriving at the top was glorious (see pic, with Dome Mountain in the foreground, looking north toward Brisbane Ranges National Park), and all the more for the hard work of the walk. Climbing to the first level of the fire tower, we had a near 360° view across volcanic plugs like Dome Mountain and Edinburgh Castle, beyond Urbenville and Woodenbong, and to the southwest down along the valley toward Upper Tooloom.

Descending down the track to the car, we deflated the tyres to 24psi for a softer ride on the unsealed roads, and headed for Old Bonalbo, and 12km further, Bonalbo. I am not sure why one of these settlements is ‘old’ and one is not, but as you would expect, while Bonalbo was a larger town than its ‘older’ counterpart, it was still very small.

Bonalbo offered the best promise of a counter meal. We found the Dog ‘n’ Bull, and we were keenly aware that they had found us. The locals picked our car as being from out of town – the Qld licence plates a giveaway. It felt like all eyes we on us, and they probably were. This happens in country towns, but perhaps not to the same degree as it did in Bonalbo. We wondered about why this would be so. In the end we put it down to the Kingdom Hall a block away from the pub: perhaps people thought we were new JWs. We were quite sure all concerns evaporated when we entered the Dog ‘n’ Bull. We were pretty sure no Jehovah’s Witnesses would ever do that…

[more next time…]