Posts Tagged ‘Jesus’

rubikI have to admit, I’ve never been successful in solving Rubik’s Cube. I tried for a while, but 40 years on, I have to admit failure.

The clever little invention, just celebrated its 40th anniversary. For those who may have missed it, Rubik’s Cube is a three-dimensional combination puzzle with six different colours. The idea is to twist the cube until you have just one colour on each of the six sides.

As simple as it may seem, the cube became the world’s top selling puzzle game.

In 2009 Britain’s Daily Mail reported that 45 year old Graham Parker had solved the puzzle after 26 years of trying, that involved more than 27,400 hours of work.

He thought it was worth it.

There are lots of puzzles that we come across in life – philosophical questions, like where does life come from? Why do good people suffer? How can we achieve peace in the world? Sometimes, like my approach to Rubik’s Cube , we’ll put those questions to one side and agree that they’re puzzles we don’t need to pursue.

Sometimes like Graham Parker who worked at Rubik’s Cube for 26 years until he solved the puzzle, there are people who will doggedly pursue these deep philosophical questions, until they feel satisfied that they have come up with some kind of solution.

One day Jesus disciples asked him how they should pray, and after suggesting some of the principles of prayer, he told a story. He said, suppose you had a friend, and you went to him at midnight and said, an old friend has turned up after a long journey, and I haven’t got any food for him. Now your friend says, go away, it’s midnight; we’re all in bed. But you’re really desperate, and you don’t want to let down your other friend who has come to visit, so you keep on knocking on the door and asking for help. Finally, out of desperation your friend gives you some bread, just to keep you quiet.

Jesus used that story to explain one of the aspects of prayer. He said, ask and it will be given you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.

How desperate are you to get to the bottom of some of the problems in your life? Not just philosophical questions, but issues that really disturb you: How can I find peace? What happens to me after I die? What’s the purpose of life?

We look in all sorts of places for answers to these puzzling questions? Sometimes we find ourselves caught up in addictive behaviours simply because we want solutions and we can’t find them. I want to say that the answers to many of the deep puzzles of life can be found in Jesus.

And like the man who knocked at his friend’s door at midnight and kept on knocking and calling out until his friend heard him, we need to be persistent in asking Jesus for help.

When you pray for solutions, don’t stop at a simple request. Jesus effectively said, keep on asking and it will be given to you; keep on seeking and you will find; keep on knocking and the door will be opened to you.

Jesus knows about your puzzles and he’s waiting to hear from you.

logoI’ve been watching with interest a wall being built alongside Roe Highway near my office.   It’s a noise wall, and it’s being built to provide a barrier that will protect people from the noise of traffic on the highway.

Highways are noisy, and if you live near them, you either get used to the noise, or it drives you insane. Cars, trucks and motorbikes are going back and forth 24 hours a day. The sirens of police, ambulances and fire engines come and go, then someone decides to test the quality of their muffler, by accelerating rather quickly. Building a wall to provide a barrier between the highway and the residential area is not a bad idea.

But walls aren’t always a good thing. In this instance, the wall, when it’s built, will mark a clear separation between the highway and the houses, and provide some protection from the noise of the highway.

Throughout history we are familiar with walls being built and walls being removed. In 221 BC sections of the Great Wall of China were removed, and other sections rebuilt to manage the reunification of China.

In 70AD the siege of Jerusalem by the Roman empire saw many of the walls around that city destroyed.

In Britain, in the year 367 the Picts, Gaels, Irish and Saxons attacked Hadrian’s Wall in northern England. They called it the ‘barbarian conspiracy’.

In 1989 there were euphoric scenes in Germany as the Berlin wall was breached – the wall that had separated east and West Berlin.

Walls can separate and divide. But walls can also be used as a way to mark boundaries and provide protection.

Setting boundaries is a really important part of bringing up children. They need to know what is acceptable according to the standards set by society, and what is acceptable and not acceptable in the light of your own family’s standards.

And children also need to know the consequences of going beyond those boundaries.

Understanding the boundaries of life is important. The Bible gives us some boundaries and tells us how disappointed God is when we cross the lines he has set for us. Our conscience helps us to be aware that there’s a line in the sand that we really shouldn’t step over.

But there’s another part of us, that is constantly tempted to step over that line, to go beyond what our conscience says is OK: To go beyond what we believe is acceptable to God.

When Jesus came, he reinforced the boundaries that had been set in the past, but he also showed that living by rules was not as beneficial as living according to the law of love.

If following God’s way is simply about rules, then the temptation to break those rules becomes stronger, and the battle becomes more and more difficult.

But if following God’s way is an act of love, and a desire to live according to the principles established by Jesus, then we see things from a different perspective. The walls that were once seen as a barrier, we’ll recognise as walls that are there for our protection.

 

starMay the Fourth Be With You.  Yep, it’s International Star Wars Day and all over the world people are walking around saying “may the force be with you” – with a lisp. It’s an appropriate day to ask why themes of religion and philosophy and the battle between good and evil, prove to be such a winner in movies. From Star Wars to Matrix, the Lion King and Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life, we seem to have an interest in exploring deeper issues vicariously on the silver screen.

The “Force” in Star Wars is an energy that can be harnessed by those who have the ability to do so. It is an energy field that surrounds us, penetrates us and binds the galaxy together. While the Jedi use the Force for good, the Sith use the dark side for evil in an attempt to take over the galaxy.

I suspect that our fascination with the battle between good and evil is because there is a reality about it that we bump into at various levels. Every day in the newspaper and on the TV news we hear about hoons, bashings, robberies and unsociable behaviour. We don’t like it and argue loudly that the government should do something about it. But deep down we know that we are only a step away from behaving badly ourselves.

There’s a sign of that struggle in the words of Jesus, when he said: I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” The struggle between good and evil is evident at the deepest level of our beings and very often we find the drag towards the dark side stronger than the desire to do good. Even the Apostle Paul felt this struggle when he said, “what a wretched man I am” after making the comment: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.

Fortunately, he finished off his rant by saying: Thanks be to God who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord. There is an answer to the ultimate battle between good and evil and it’s not in some nebulous “force”, but in the reality of Jesus who took the battle to the place of death on the cross where he became the ultimate overcomer, not through force but through love.

John put it this way: This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

 

 

 

 

 

We Remember

Posted: April 27, 2014 in Uncategorized
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anzacThis last week has been a time of remembering.

On Friday, Anzac Day, we remembered those who went to war and sacrificed their lives for their country. There were moving services all over the country as crowds gathered for dawn services, street marches and memorial services to remember the fallen and those who have served for their country at various places and various times in the last 100 years.

A week before that we celebrated Easter. This was a special week recognised by the church as Holy Week, a special time of remembering Jesus and the great sacrifice he made in offering his life for all of humanity. We spent time reflecting on the unjust trial he went through, the cruelty of his crucifixion, then the joy and hope of his resurrection.

Two weekends of sombre memories. Yet both were tinged with hope. Anzac Day services shared thoughts of renewed hope that we would learn from wars in the past and seek peace rather than conflict in the future. Yet somehow that hope still seems hard to achieve. As I write there are 10 armed conflicts occurring which are leading to at least 1000 violent deaths each year including Afghanistan, Somali, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Mexican drug war that saw more than 11,000 fatalities last year, the Syrian crisis, the Iraqi insurgency and conflicts in the Central African Republic and south Sudan.

It seems that no matter how much we march or remember, we still fall into our old ways. Despite all our best intentions to do better in future, we find ourselves in conflict with nations, our neighbours and even our friends and loved ones.

The hope that lingers with Easter is more than one that says, “I hope I can do better in future”. It is a hope that rests in Jesus whose sacrifice was beyond all others. I know that I’ll mess up again, but by trusting him in Him, I know that the debt of the past has been paid, and I have Someone who will help me through each day to discover a better way for the future.

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

On Palm Sunday at church I invited people to write on a graffiti wall that was set up with the words, “What’s So Good About Good Friday?”

It’s an interesting question because on the surface there’s not much good about the idea of an innocent man dying a violent death on a Roman cross. In fact, you could argue that there’s nothing good about Good Friday at all.

But Good Friday isn’t just about a bad event that occurred a couple of thousand years ago. In fact it was an event that changed history completely. In his death, Jesus paid the debt that was owed by all of humanity for our rebellion against God. It was an extraordinary event that made it possible for individuals to receive forgiveness for sin and to live at peace with God.

Of course, the outcome of what Jesus did only makes a difference if we are willing to accept what he has done for us.

Check out the video which shows our graffiti wall and if you live in the High Wycombe area (in Western Australia) why not drop into Maida Vale Baptist Church, 24 Edney Road, High Wycombe at 9.30am on either Good Friday or Easter Sunday. We’d love to see you.

Who is Jesus #3

Posted: April 8, 2014 in Uncategorized
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Here’s the third in the series, Who is Jesus? Some important questions here.

He was born like most people …

As we head towards Easter it’s a question we need to ask. Here’s what U2 frontman Bono has to say. What do you think?

screenI went to a public office one day, no names mentioned, and when I walked in the door I was confronted by a touch screen kiosk where I could indicate the reason for my visit. After making my choice, a ticket came out of the machine and I realised that I was now identified as person number A235.

I sat down in the waiting area and watched the numbers on the large screen on the wall changing from time to time to the sound of an electronic voice announcing that number B146 could move to counter five.

I wasn’t there for anything complex, but I had the distinct impression that I was no longer a real person with the capacity to manage my own affairs, to plan, to think, to dream, to hope. I was now  a cog that looked like every other cog in the great bureaucratic wheel of misfortune.

I’m sure the process was established to facilitate a smooth customer service experience, but it actually had the effect of disempowering and disengaging the people who use the service.

It made me wonder if, as we interact with people each day at work, at school or university, in the shops or on the street, do we just see the people around us as a number, or is there something more?

 As we walk alongside people, it’s important that we are aware of their strengths and not just focus on the obvious weaknesses they may exhibit. Rather than seeing their disability, their failings and their disadvantage, we recognise their strengths, their capabilities, their achievements and their contributions.

That’s not always easy to do, because we are often conditioned to see people from our own perspective and whether we intend to or not, judge people according to our own experiences, standards and ideals.  When people don’t meet them they are often diminished in our thinking.

It takes work to train ourselves to see the face of Jesus in the face of another, to recognise the image of God in a person who is different from us in the way they’re dressed, the colour of their skin, and even the way they behave.

I have to say I’m glad that when God looks at me he doesn’t just see my faults, but has the capacity to see my potential. I’m also glad that I’m not just a number to God, but that I am individually loved and valued.

I’m glad that when God looks at me he sees the face of Jesus – a face that is scarred. A face that bears the tears of love. A face that has eyes of compassion and a smile of acknowledgement.

I’m not just number A235, but because of what Jesus did for me when he gave his life at Calvary, I’ve been accepted by God and adopted into his family.

If you’re feeling as if nobody cares, that you’re not good enough, that you’re only a number and there’s no purpose in life, I invite you to look into the face of Jesus, and as he gazes into your eyes, hear him saying to you:  I love you and you are precious to me … and I’ve given everything , including my life for you.

I was at the museum one day with my grandson, and while he was more interested in the dinosaur, I found an interesting display about diamonds.

Everyone loves diamonds. According to the song by Carol Channing back in 1949, diamonds are a girl’s best friend and James Bond in 1971 said diamonds are forever. They’re pretty popular and most people are attracted to a piece of jewellery that contains a diamond.

And it’s interesting that we are often attracted to colourful diamonds, but that was the bit of information I particularly noticed at the museum display.  You see the purest diamonds are clear, but the colour in diamonds is created by chemical impurities or structural defects.

hopediamond

The Hope Diamond

The Hope Diamond is often described as the most valuable diamond in the world. It is deep blue in colour and is worth up to 250million dollars US. So the colour certainly doesn’t reduce its value, but what makes the difference is the way it is cut and prepared for display.

Now that got me thinking because we often see impurities as being something ugly and unattractive. And of course they are, and when I think about myself I know that any impurities or defects in my life contribute to me being unlikeable.

When the Bible tells us that all the good things we do are like filthy rags, it’s pointing out that the defects in our life – the Bible calls that sin – have the effect of separating us from God.

So how do we fix this problem?

When someone sits down to produce a high quality piece of jewellery they will spend a long time cutting and polishing the diamond and preparing it, so that when you finally get to wear it, it looks perfect.

People come up and notice the diamond and comment on its beauty, to the point that although the colour was caused by impurities, now the diamond is presented as something very beautiful.

When we give all our impurities to Jesus he can take us and cut off all the sharp edges, and design something absolutely beautiful.

The funny thing is that even when we come to Jesus and give him all our impurities and we are assured of being forgiven through what he has done for us when he died on the cross, the defects are still there.

We still seem to make a mess of our life and often get frustrated because things don’t work out the way we would like them.  You see, the beautiful colours in the diamond are always there as a reminder of the impurities and defects that were in the original stone.  They haven’t been removed but the jeweller has created something beautiful out of that rough stone.

The effect of our sin often stays with us as a reminder, not of what we have done wrong, but how creative the master jeweller has been in dealing with our sin and creating an opportunity for us to grow.

It’s a reminder that no matter how hard we tried, we were never able to solve the sin problem, but through the grace of God we are no longer condemned by it.

Diamonds are a girl’s best friend.  I’m glad that Jesus is my best friend and that he’s making changes in my life.  Jesus can be your best friend too.

This post was the transcript of a message you can hear on Sonshine fm 98.5 on Sunday mornings.