Law and Freedom

Why would anyone say God’s law brings freedom? Isn’t true that most of us see laws as restrictive and burdensome?

Yesterday, my reading took me to the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20: the primary call to obedience for all humanity, but especially those who know and love God. Perhaps the most striking aspect of the Commands is the prologue:

And God spoke all these words: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.” (Exodus 20:1–2, NIV)

Before God breathes a single word of law, he wants us to know who he really is and what he really wants for us. “I am a rescuing God. I love you. I want you to thrive in freedom that honours me … and this is how you can do that.”

This is the frame God gives us for understanding his law. Perhaps even any law. God wants life to thrive in every context, for every person, no exceptions. Even foreigners, who may not know God, or care about him. Even itinerant, nomads, refugees, people who are different to “me” and “us” – God still wants them to rest and to thrive and to find fullness of life in him. Read through the commands, especially those about Sabbath, and you see that God even wants animals (and so, creation itself) to thrive and to rest.

The best life is found where people follow these commands, right? When there’s no murder, no deception in marriage, no thieving or corruption, no abuse of children, or women, or men. Who doesn’t want that?

God gave these laws to his people, sure, so that by living them they would find freedom. But also, so the nations around them would look at his people, and see how life might abound should they live his way. Even an imperfect, but largely compliant communal or national response to these commands would be evidence aplenty that God is loving, keen to rescue and save, one who brings redemption – even to us.

Where is God in all this?

Are you asking why? I am. I do regularly when things happen that that hurt and leave me a mangled.

My problem is that I don’t ever get too far past that question.

And I’m guessing that there are many people in Australia and the world over for whom the question ‘why’ is a regular and relentless visitor.

As a follower of Jesus I am not immune to pain and grief and doubt. The questions come

  • What have I done to deserve this?
  • Why did this happen?
  • Is this how God works?
  • Where is God in all of this?

Those questions were driven home with even more intensity this morning as I learned of a Melbourne Pastor who has announced his view that the fires in Victoria are a result of that state’s abortion laws. I am no supporter of abortion, but these words are ugly.

Reading them made me sick. Right in the gut. Angry. And very, very sad.

That voice sounds so arrogant, insensitive, and judgemental. It is devoid of all hope and grace. It reminds me of fingernails running down the blackboard: just stop it. It is callous and heartless. It perpetuates the pain of this tragedy.

And then I got thinking about the big question: ‘where is God in all of this?’

While I’m wary of platitudes, I think there’s something in the Bible’s picture of a seeking God, who risks his own comfort and safety to go after the lost and the broken.

So here is my portrait, for what it’s worth…

 

 

I saw Jesus this morning. You may disagree, and others may doubt. But I saw Jesus. I did.

He’s the fellow in the orange suit, the red goggles, the gloves, and the big hard hat.

He was standing there, leaning forward against the pressure of the water.

Beating back the flames.

Now, his face is blistered and burned from the heat.

He’s feeling spent.

But he’s there to save people, to fight fire. To turn back hell on itself.

He’s the bloke wiping the sweat from his brow. Staring. Cuppa in his hand, it’s tipping a little, like he has no strength left.

And you can see the tracks of his tears down the blackened, dirty cheeks.

 

See the pilot of the Ericson Aircrane dousing the flames with water?

Did you see the woman, weeping on the shoulder of another, because her husband had died?

Or the policewoman, with the mask to her face, looking into the shell of the burnt out car. What is she holding back?

Or the ambo, holding the mask to the guy with the badly burned arm.

Or in every one of the $15m currently pledged from one man to his mate.

This is where God is. At the rescue’s front line. Bringing hope. And a new beginning out of hell’s inferno. He’s been in this business a long time. And we shouldn’t be surprised to see him show up the way he does.

 

 

Shalom

Let’s unite to bring relief in flood & fire tragedy

Hear the cry… Help the grieving… Lift up the broken… Bear the burdens… Share with those in need…

Today I have been struggling to grasp the size of the natural disasters in Victoria (Bushfires) and northern Queensland (Floods).

I was watching the Channel Nine news last night, when I heard that well known Melbourne newscaster Brian Naylor and his wife, Moiree, had perished in the fire. I choked up a bit about that. I did not know the Naylor family personally, but he seemed a likeable man, someone who genuinely cared for other human beings. It then occurred to me that there are many other families affected by the fires, either by death of friends and loved ones, significant loss of property and homes. Or simply the terror of being threatened by fires, or in the case of northern Queensland (the town of Ingham in particular), rising floodwaters.

It’s Monday afternoon here in Brisbane, 2:45pm, and the death and damage toll is rising every hour. Everyone says the numbers will get worse in the next few days.

Here are a few stats as they stand at present

Queensland

Cyclones and heavy rains have brought severe flooding to northern Queensland

  • Ingham residents isolated for the eighth successive day
  • Townsville residents sandbagging in expectation of a king tide
  • Millions of dollars of fruit produce have been lost, the cane harvest in worst affected areas has been ruined http://tinyurl.com/aeagcm
  • Many towns are isolated, many people are homeless
  • Damage bill could exceed A$190million

Victoria

  • 128 confirmed dead in Victorian Bushfires
  • The towns of Kinglake and Marysville have been almost wiped off the map
  • Over 30 fires still raging
  • Over 5000 people homeless as a result of the fires

Excellent news coverage for both Queensland and Victoria on the ABC News web portal: http://www.abc.net.au/news/

Give Generously

Now is not the time to argue about which agency should receive the funds, whether they go through churches, or community or denominational groups. People have died, thousands are homeless. Grief, trauma, and severe hardship has invaded the lives of too many people.

Now is the time to act. Act now. Be compassionate. Help your brother. Hear the cry of your sister. Care for the children. Read Matthew 25:31-40

And God would just want us to come to their aid, so here’s how you do it:

Bushfire Appeal: channel funds through the Australian Red Cross. Red Cross have stated that 100% of the funds donated will go to victims and their families. You can go straight to the donations page at https://www.redcross.org.au/Donations/onlineDonations.asp

Queensland Premier’s Flood Relief Appeal: Anna Bligh, Premier of Queensland, has launched a special fund to help alleviate the effects of flooding in northern Queensland. People can donate to the Premier’s Flood Relief Appeal by:

• Phone: 1800 173 349. The Smart Services Qld Call Centre will be open 24 hours a day.

• Mail: Premiers Disaster Relief Appeal, PO Box 15185, City East, Qld 4002.

• In person: Visit CBA, NAB, Westpac, ANZ, Bank of Qld or Suncorp.

• Internet banking: Premier’s Disaster Relief Appeal, BSB: 064 013, Account number: 1000 6800

These agencies have a proven track record, capacity to deliver, forces on the ground, and public transparency.

God loves cheerful, generous and courageous givers.

Now is the time to act. Go for it!

Shalom,

Dave Groenenboom