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)

Seeing as though you’re looking at the screen, you better watch this…

This is a timely reminder that social media might be media, but often it’s not very social.

Is it a case of ‘smart phones and dumb people’? Check it out:

I know it’s ironic that I am posting this on a blog, but I couldn’t resist the wisdom and heart of this short clip.


Grace and peace


Upon a Hill

Three men shared death upon a hill,
But only one man dies;
The other two—
A thief and God himself—
Made rendezvous.

Three crosses still
Are borne up Calvary’s Hill,
Where Sin still lifts them high:
Upon the one, sag broken men
Who, cursing, die;
Another upholds the praying thief,
Or those who penitent as he,
Shall find the Christ
Beside them on the tree

“Upon A Hill”, Miriam LeFevre Crouse

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

Ministry to the unknown

A few years ago we visited Saddleback Church in Los Angeles. A lot of things impressed me. I remember the army of 60 volunteers who gave a few hours of their time every week to assemble thousands of newsletters for the next day. I was impressed with Saddleback’s commitment to see their vision, mission and values applied right across the board. I know some people find some of Rick Warren’s canned and contrived, but their alignment to their vision has really worked to make this huge church an effective community of mission and ministry.

One memory is particularly inspirational. As we walked from the car park to the worship centre we were met by one person after another whose ministry was to make us feel welcome. It was as if their passion was to minister to the unknown. We were unknown to them, but they greeted us like family. Like we were old friends. I remember one particular greeter, a young girl of about 11 or 12 years old. Newsletters in one hand, the other outstretched in a gesture of welcome, smiling warmly toward us, “so nice that you’re here today, welcome to Saddleback!” It was beautiful. I thought I might have seen something of heaven in that moment.

People who welcome others to worship or other gatherings of Jesus’ community have such a critical role. Theirs is a ministry of first impressions. This is always important. But the stakes are way higher when people who might be far from God are entering a place of worship for the first time.

So the people in these roles should be the warmest and most relational people available. People who delight to minister to the unknown, and who will love people they do not know. Not only will these people give others a powerful reason to return and a positive first experience, they will also be revealing the character of a seeking God to those who may be seeking him.

Q: how can you draw those involved in greeting ministry at your church into a more Christlike expression of ‘ministry to the unknown’?

Grace and peace: Dave

Location:Sturgeon St,Ormiston,Australia

We all want relationship

The Dog ‘n’ Bull hotel has been in Bonalbo for ages. Sometime in the last 15 years or so the pub has had a bit of a refurbishment. I’ve never seen the old pub, but my guess is that while the renovations have given more room inside and some added functionality, this has come at the expense of old world charm.

There were a few chairs and tables outside, occupied by a number of the locals. We offered a ‘G’day’ with the characteristic wink, which was acknowledged with a nod and a wary smile. One man, whom we later learned was Old Errol [not his real name], had a Staffy [is his real breed] which appeared to be Old Errol’s equal in years. The Staffy had less hair than Old Errol, bald over most of its lower back and down its tail. An ugly dog. Uglier than most Staffies, in fact. Even so, he and Errol appeared to be great mates, and I felt good about that.

Behind the bar was a tall man wearing a handlebar moustache, a shirt with a Rabbito’s emblem, and the best ‘mullet’ I had seen in years. Sporting photographs, other memorabilia, framed football jerseys and historic team photos held pride of place around the bar. It was pretty obvious: Bonalbo locals loved their Rugby League. We thought it prudent not to let on that we were from Queensland: the day we visited was the week before the final State of Origin challenge, and Queensland had already won two of the three game series. Few things bring out the rivalry between Queensland and New South Wales better than the State of Origin series. It’s all good fun, and for a moment I imagined what it would be like to be at the Dog ‘n’ Bull the evening the game would be played, with Old Errol, his Staffy, and everyone else piling it on the visiting Queenslanders.

One of the mounted football jerseys was from Saint Clair Junior Rugby League Club, and dedicated to “Hornie”. We were not sure who Hornie was, but we guessed he was the proprietor of the Dog ‘n’ Bull. It also occurred to me that Hornie might have been the man behind the bar. He appeared to have any amount of time to talk to people like Old Errol and others who came to the bar. I wondered why people would come and sit in a pub for hours on end. Did Old Errol and others have nothing better to do? Did they have families? Jobs? I thought it was easy to make judgements about how much money someone might spend at the bar, and what better things they could do with it. But Bonalbo is a small place, and some people are just lonely. In those contexts, places like the Dog ‘n’ Bull provide a context for mateship and community. You can have a beer, tell Hornie your thoughts on pretty well anything, and he’ll listen, like a non-judgemental father-confessor. Others at the bar listen too, and offer the occasional banter in reply. This is why people come to the Dog ‘n’ Bull. People want to be with people. They want relationship and friendship. None of us were made to be alone. The Dog ‘n’ Bull might be one of the most consistent expressions of community some people will find. And I think this is why people enjoy places like the Dog ‘n’ Bull so much.

We rattled another 40 odd kilometres down the track to Paddys Flat, where the road crosses the Clarence River. Here we found the WWII tank traps (see pic, with Erin giving the size perspective), supposedly set up along ‘The Brisbane Line’. These were sizable pyramids of concrete. I tried to imagine how they would fare against a tank advance, and I think I could clearly imagine a tank blasting the concrete barriers out of the way. What was unclear was why the Japanese would want to advance along Paddys Flat Road in the first place! I can’t say for sure, but I think there would be areas of greater military significance.

So we had set out to see the tank traps, and in the end they were not the big deal of the day. I found myself thinking about Old Errol and his ugly Staffy, and wondering what it’s like for him when the weather is cold, the night is dark, and the Dog ‘n’ Bull is closed.

(Pic: Crossing the Clarence River at Paddys Flat, near the tanks traps on the ‘Brisbane Line’)