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)

It’s tough, but…

Read: Acts 18:5-11

Paul encounters great opposition as he preaches the Gospel in Corinth (18:5-6). In the context of this abuse, the Lord spoke to Paul and said “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city” (18:9-10).

It is such an encouragement to know that despite opposition, God still has work for us to do. This is good reason to keep our eyes firmly fixed on God’s mission and his priorities. I need to remember this, because it is too easy to become distracted, restricted and constricted by my circumstances. It is just too easy to engage in self pity, to brood on my problems, lick the sores of my discontent, and continue to feed my pain. You know what? Jesus is worth more than that. And His Kingdom and mission are worth more than that. I must make a commitment to focus on His grace, and to carry my gripes lightly.

despite opposition, God still has work for us to do

Lord Jesus, let my vision be defined by your calling and your mission. May your grace and power define my circumstances and how I respond to the challenges around me.

I love Psalm 121, and how The Message communicates the shalom that comes to those whom the Lord surrounds…

I look to the mountains Does my strength come from mountains?

No, my strength comes comes form God, who made heaven and earth, and mountains.

He won’t let your foot slip, he won’t let you stumble,

Your Guardian God won’t fall asleep. Not on your life! Israel’s Guardian will never doze or sleep.

Q: What makes it so hard for us to really trust God when the going is so tough?

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

The good you do is never wasted – do you know that?

I was sitting next to Mum this afternoon, and she was sound asleep. Not just dozing, but sleeping deeply, so deeply I could not rouse her.

You know how sometimes your thoughts run away from you, and you start to think the worst? That’s what happened to me. When Mum was in this deep sleep, I started wondering whether there was something wrong, and whether Mum was unravelling quicker than we thought, and whether this was how it was going to be, and how would Dad manage it all. And just for a moment I was lost in one disturbing thought: “has it all just come to this? Isn’t it all a bit of a waste?”

It was only a moment, but I had used the word. Or thought it. And it was the word “waste” that bothered me. I have to say, I’m not proud about the fact that this word entered my head. But just for a moment it was my reality.

It shouldn’t be. Because even though Mum is not well, and she’s going through some enormous changes, ‘waste’ is a word that should never enter the picture.

Shirley Anne Groenenboom is a great mother and a faithful wife. Along with husband Cor she raised four healthy and exceptionally well adjusted children. This she did in circumstances that were far from ideal.

Mum and daughter Jenny, on the step of the family home in Portland, NSW

There were plenty of people doing it way tougher than our family, there always are, and always will be. That does not invalidate any of the challenges Mum and Dad faced in the 50s and 60s. Mum was a teacher, and worked incredibly long hours. She was always up early marking work, and always up late preparing for the next day. I don’t know how she sustained that.

If you know a full time teacher who has a great social life, and watches TV or engages in leisure pursuits every night, you need to know they are not pulling their weight

For this reason I have never been able to understand people who think teachers have it easy. I am the son of a teacher, my sister is a teacher, and I am married to a teacher. And I can tell you: they work incredibly hard. They are worth every cent they are paid, and they fully deserve every day of leave they receive. Probably more. If you know a full time teacher who has a great social life, and watches TV or engages in leisure pursuits every night, you need to know they are not pulling their weight. Just saying.

Mum, graduating from Bathurst High School

Over the years, Mum has taught people who are now fine builders in Brisbane. She has taught people who are now great pastors in good churches. She has worked and served in church communities. She has written stories for children in a church magazine. She has been a great friend for people going through tough times. She has built a legacy of warm friendship, passionate following of Jesus, and high standards of education. With husband Cor she has raised four children to follow Jesus and who seek to make a real difference in his world. The good you do is never wasted. Not ever.

One day, assuming we do not meet with accident or illness, we will all grow old. The events of the last few days tell me that process can be debilitating and confronting. I don’t think it’s overstating things to say it that way. But the things you do to make a difference in the lives of others are never wasted. They can be normal, everyday things. Just doing your job. Just teaching the class. Just trying to connect with someone who does not want to cooperate. And guess what? You can be frustrated, irritated, angered, and feel like knocking some heads together. But the good you do is never wasted, no matter how hard it gets.

And why? Because it matters to God and he works through it all. Check out Isaiah 55:8-11.

Q: have you ever felt like giving up? Ever thought what you were doing was a waste? How did you deal with that Leave a comment and let us know…

Grace and peace: Dave

Location:Boundary Rd,Cobden,Australia

Of the World, But Not In It?

I am writing a new sermon series (with Clinton) on the Sermon on the Mount. My first message is coming Sunday (Feb 07), and it comprises the whole Beatitudes passage – Matthew 5:1-12. “Blessed are the poor in spirit…”

I was reflecting about how Jesus calls his followers, broken as they are, to respond to the brokenness around them. One of the thoughts I had was that only a broken church can respond with blessing to the broken world they are in. This is how we reveal the kingdom of heaven, and show what it is really like.

Then I wondered about how does a church of reasonably comfortable suburban Christians start to enter into the brokenness in their community?

I was thinking we could email local MPs and local government people and ask them for guidance in where the greatest areas of need are. Then an uncomfortable realisation lodged itself in my mind, ‘why do I even need to do that? Why don’t I already know about brokenness in my own community? Why do we find it so hard to know what the greatest areas of need are? Why do we find it hard to see this?’

I think it’s because we get involved in our own lives, busy in our work, busy loving our families. We feel wronged when we don’t have any time to relax with our friends. Our churches are great, but there are so many things to do, so many programs, so many areas of ministry and service, that it’s just too easy to lose touch with the world around us. So we lose our connection with real people and their brokenness. We striving to get ahead financially, we want to make ends meet, become financially independent. We buy into the view that financial independence, comfortable living, owning the latest and greatest, brand-names-on-the-outside wardrobe, are the things that really matter. And as it turns out, we end up being of the world, but no longer in it.

Has the lifestyle of western suburban Christianity become a the new monasticism? Where Jesus’ people withdraw into their own virtual enclave and remove themselves form the world and its suffering? Is this why we do not perceive the brokenness around us?