Posted By Nan

Genesis 1-4

The focus of this blog is the circumstances that led to Adam and Eve being expelled from the Garden of Eden.

In this garden Adam and Eve walked with God on His daily visits to the garden.

They had not knowledge of good and evil. They were innocent. They had no shame. Instead they lived lives of pure worship with God.

It was only after they ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that they felt shame at their nakedness.

It was then that they were cast out of God’s presence. And it hurt.

Their lives of hard work to produce food and clothing. Their lives of the difficulties of giving birth and raising children. Their lives of contact with God only in the Spirit and never with that easy familiarity with which they walked with Him in the past.

Now there was evil in the world.

There was frustration and hurt.

There was murder and there was grief.

There was joy, trust and faith.

There was deceit, brokenness and difficult relationships.

There were distractions and temptations.

People may have started calling on the name of God, but many started seeking other gods.

Others rejected all belief in a divine power and moved forward under their own strength. 

Life was difficult.

Life was painful.

Life was full of the longing, often unrecognised, for God.

The knowledge of God, and who He was, was corrupted.

People forgot how to hear God. How to walk with Him.

We live in a world where we walk without God.

He comes to us in the spirit. But we tell ourselves we aren’t sure if it is Him.

He tells us things, asks us to do things. And if we agree with doing them or believing them we do. If we don’t want to, we tell ourselves we didn’t hear God at all.

All the time, there is this terrible emptiness. An emptiness that has existed since Adam and Eve lost the right to walk with God in the Garden of Eden.

Be careful that the god you listen to is God.

Be careful not to allow the ways of the world, the prejudices, faulty beliefs, hatreds and rebellion to block you from hearing God.

Fill that emptiness with God. 

Fill that emptiness by spending time with God and listening to Him.

Get to know God.

Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to guide us to contact with God.

He tells us that knowledge of God is the only way to know God.

Take the time today to deepen your knowledge of and walk with God.

 
Posted By Nan

Psalm 130
A song of ascents.
Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord;
Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
to my cry for mercy.

If you, Lord, kept a record of sins,
Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
so that we can, with reverence, serve you.

I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.

Israel, put your hope in the Lord,
for with the Lord is unfailing love
and with him is full redemption.
He himself will redeem Israel
from all their sins.

I Will Wait by Maggi Dawn 
 
I will wait for Your peace to come to me.
I will wait for Your peace to come to me,
And I'll sing in the darkness,
And I'll wait without fear,
And I'll sing in the darkness,
And I'll wait without fear.

stop striving for what you think God wants from you, be patient, be open to God's Spirit, wait for His peace first, and then follow that

 
Posted By Nan

Last week I spoke about my experience of cringing at the church when I was younger.

I find myself in the position again of cringing. It disturbs me. I never want to reject God but it is hard to profess my faith when people see it as something negative, harsh, judgemental and uncaring.

I spent a lot of time in prayer asking God about this. What I came to understand from Him is that I was not rejecting Him at all. I was rejecting what some refer to as the “harlot” church. I was rejecting the legalistic, harsh, uncaring and unGodly within the churches.

I wasn’t rejecting God or those who truly love and follow Him.

In trying to understand this God sent many things across my path to inform me. On was an article detailing the rise of the “religious right” in America.

This rise came about because of the political ambitions in the 1970s of one man. He wanted to build a powerful voting bloc to pull the Republican Party to the right.

WHAT IS RELIGIOUS?

By religious I don’t mean people who have a belief in a higher power, I mean people who profess to be Christian. Belief in God is not a prerequisite for being labelled religious. For many in the religious right subscribing to the harsh legalistic culture is what they actually believe in.

You think that is harsh? 

Read Jesus’ words to the Jewish leaders of His time. 

Read Jesus’ words on their adherence to legalism. 

Read Jesus’ words on where the law stands since He came. 

Read Jesus’ words on how the law can be summed up with the words of Mark 12:30-31 to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’.”

Take the time to read all the gospels. Pay attention to what Jesus said. His Sermon on the Mount is a great starting point. Note Mark 12:30-31. Then ask yourself if the harshness, judgmentalism, negativity and lack of love of the religious right is compatible with what you have read.

TO CONTINUE

This man needed an issue to pull those on the religious right together. He wanted something that could be populous and sold to people as important. Something that could be portrayed as a family value and morally superior.

The easy target to choose was abortion.

He could have chosen adultery, there is a commandment about that. But then people would oppose that because so many are adulterers. Easier to choose something that was about women and the poor because they don’t matter in right wing dominated politics.

You think I am being harsh? No I am just making an observation that has been made by countless commentators and social historians.

WHAT LED PEOPLE TO FALL FOR THIS LEGALISM?

When this man set out to mobilise the religious right he had no success. What eventually led to him being able to engage with these churches was racism and greed. Churches that excluded racial minorities had their tax exempt status challenged. This would cost money. This was threatening to a lifestyle these groups enjoyed living. No matter that this lifestyle was not one that Jesus approved of. This was not about God but about living a nice comfortable existence. 

I have said before that following Jesus is not safe or comfortable. But people prefer comfort. And if you don’t read your Bible and study it yourself. If all you hear is someone in a pulpit interpreting God for you. And you don’t have that personal relationship with God yourself how will you know that God is not safe, but He is good?

As I mentioned in my last blog, many of the things we believe about faith in Jesus, about race, even about abortion are values that were added to our culture very recently. It only takes a generation to insert a new value and have people believe it has always been there. Most of us don’t understand how these beliefs were inserted into our society unless we study it.

There are so many layers of human created beliefs that have been inserted into our walk with Jesus that are not aligned to what Jesus taught us. 

The religious right is currently creating havoc around the world. A havoc that threatens the very foundations of our society, democracy and walk with Jesus. A havoc that locks those stumbling in darkness in the darkness. A havoc that is more about satan than Jesus.

THE IMAGE OF GOD IN THE WAKE OF THE RELIGIOUS RIGHT

Sadly, for those in society who are stumbling in darkness, the image that is currently portrayed of God around the world is of a harsh, punitive, uncaring God.

What a wonderful tool satan has found to pull people away from God! He must have delighted to see this man and his greedy ambition gaining so much influence. Anything to turn people away from God is fine by satan.

BEING IN THE MINORITY IS GOOD FOR US

I mentioned in my blog two weeks ago that Christians in Australia now number less than 50% of the population. I mentioned that it was good for us to be in the minority. It is so easy to profess to follow Jesus when we are the majority and there is no danger in having that faith. Much harder when we face ridicule, being outsiders, even being persecuted.

I think being in the minority is good for us and our faith. I think it is the challenge we need to be more faithful to God, to seek Him more, to seek to follow Jesus more closely.

MY CALL TO YOU

Challenge what you believe. Find out the history of these beliefs. Ask God YOURSELF.

Don’t ask another Christian. Seek God yourself.

Despite what you may have been taught. You can get answers from God and they are not you inserting thoughts into your head. 

Certainly it is helpful to seek the opinions of many trusted people and the Bible AS WELL AS asking God. But don’t seek other’s opinions and reject what God has told you. He is more likely to be right than them!

 
Posted By Nan

Part 1.

For much of my adult life I have felt a cringe towards the church. I have often wondered about that. I love God and am so aware of the price Jesus paid for me and seek to follow Him. I read my Bible every day and often look up verses that come to mind. My personal Bible (as opposed to my reference Bibles) has no place on a bookshelf because it lives on my bedside table. It never needs dusting because constant holding, opening and closing never allows dust to settle.

WHO READS THEIR BIBLE DAILY?

I know a lot of adults who frequent church services whose Bible’s gather dust on the shelf. If I mention a Bible story or a Bible verse they often look at me blankly. I expect that from people who have no faith in God, but if you love God and follow Jesus how can you not read your Bible?

DOES THE BIBLE ACTUALLY SAY THAT?

I have heard people misquote the Bible to suit themselves and their personal beliefs. 

I have heard people claim Jesus forbade certain practices during His time on earth. But I know the gospels and the rest of the New Testament and there are no references to Him ever doing that.

When I ask people if they can show me the Bible passage supporting their view they hedge and hum and are often belligerent. But they never find that passage because it doesn’t exist.

THE HYPOCRISY OF THE CHURCH

I think this hypocrisy that I saw growing up has had a major influence on this attitude. The way the churches and the lifestyle they peddled was used to suppress me and others based on gender, “race” and which denomination they belonged to has always been abhorrent to me.

SOCIAL JUSTICE

Social justice, the social justice spoken of in the Old Testament and again by Jesus in the New Testament, means a lot to me.

My God who commanded social justice, love and acceptance is not the God I have found in the churches. Some come close, but then the other shoe falls and the very human and secular suppression of others considered not “one of them” comes into force.

Maybe I upset people with my last blog. If that was you, maybe you needed your tree to be shaken. I write what God directs me to and I gave up worrying about how it would be received a long time ago.

A POWERFUL QUOTE TO FOLLOW

Some months ago, I found this quote by Chip Brogden:

“To overcome the fear of man, we must not only be willing to be misunderstood and unappreciated, we should expect it. Then we will be free to speak what God has given us and will not be troubled should others fail to grasp the significance of it.”

I have set that as a calendar reminder to pop up first thing every morning to remind me to go about my day speaking as God commands. Not as man commands.

STEPHEN’S COMMENTS ON THE TREATMENT OF THE PROPHETS

I am currently reading the story of the last part of Stephen’s life (found in Acts). Last night I read his message to the religious leaders about the way God sent prophets and they were rejected and often killed. Then how God had sent His own Son and they killed Him too.

If people won’t listen to God and they won’t listen to Jesus, why should I expect them to listen to me? Maybe one person will. Maybe no one will. That is not important. What is important is that I am faithful to God and delivering His message.

CONTROVERSIAL TOPICS

In the wake of the American Supreme Court overturning the decision that made abortion legal in America there has been much commentary on that subject. I usually avoid controversial subjects because I think it is like using a sledgehammer when a feather will suffice.

However God has had other ideas. Last week’s blog was one of them. He wanted that message to be given. The one challenging us to consider what a life following Jesus should look like and not to mistake politics for God.

Now this week He has given me the challenging message about abortion.

I have never had an abortion, nor would I ever want one. I feel so sad when I hear about someone having an abortion. As a nurse I saw abortions that were essential to the health of the mother and I believe were justified. But no matter what reason a woman has for seeking an abortion it isn’t my right to judge. I believe there will always be women who, for whatever reason, cannot or do not wish to continue a pregnancy. 

REALITY AND SOCIAL JUSTICE

The reality is women will always try. 

The reality is wealthy women will always find a way to do that “legally” because they have to money for private doctors who can give them what they want and portray it as a legal procedure. 

The reality is it is the poor who suffer when they don’t have access to legal abortions. They are the ones who can’t afford the safe private doctor. They have to resort to backyard abortions or trying to do it to themselves.

That is wrong. That is not social justice.

THE HISTORY OF THIS TOPIC

I read an article this morning about abortion in the 1800s in America. Even the Catholic church then had no objection to abortion. That came much later. Women regularly terminated pregnancies. It was their form of birth control. Generations of women passed the information down to the next generation. Many women died as a result of these abortions, but the death toll from abortions was less than the death toll from childbirth. 

It was only in the latter part of the 19th century that doctors started to form their own association to represent them. And they worked to remove the competition. The homeopaths and midwives who treated people and kept them alive were competition for the doctors. It happens all the time. If you want your profession to be the preferred one you do what you can to make your competitors look bad. 

WOMEN ARE EASY TARGETS WHEN POWER GRABS ARE OCCURRING

There were many avenues to attack homeopaths and midwives but the one that was easiest and less controversial was the one that involved women. Much easier to pick on women. As society stood then and to a lesser extent now, women were marginalised. Back then they had no voice.  

RACE IS ANOTHER EASY TARGET

Racism was another reason attacks on abortion were desirable. The birth rate amongst the descendants of the early settlers was falling. Massive immigration was putting pressure on the established society. And these immigrants were having a lot of babies. Those well established men didn’t want their lifestyle eroded by the changes immigration brought and forcing women to have more babies was desirable to offset the immigrant influence. 

So abortion became the avenue the medical profession of the time used to attack their competitors.

MUCH OF WHAT WE BELIEVE IS RECENT AND NOT OF GOD

So much of what we have been taught to believe growing up in Christian communities is a recent invention of political origin. 

THE CONCEPT OF RACE IN A NUTSHELL

Even the concept of race has only been part of Western thinking for about 400 years. It came about because of the use of slave labour in the Caribbean. Slave owners treated their servants they brought from England with them extremely badly. As a consequence they had trouble engaging servants. To combat this, legislation was enacted that enshrined certain rights on these English servants. To make a distinction between them and the slaves the legislation gave rights to Christian servants. This was fine until missionaries converted slaves to Christianity. This led to the distinction between white and black the concept of race was born. To justify this distinction mention of Noah’s youngest son in the Old Testament was used to treat a section of God’s created people as second class citizens, even calling them less than human. 

IN SUMMARY

I have more to write on what I have learned that helps explain my cringe about the churches. I will post this next week.

The point I am making today is to be careful of what you believe. Much of what we are told is “Biblical” is not. It is imposed by human beings with their own agendas and it is a recent invention.

Be careful to align yourself with God and His agenda.

 
Posted By Nan

Recently some Australian Census Data for 2021 was released. This included the religious faith people admitted to having. For the first time in the history of the Australian Census the number of people admitted to having a Christian faith fell below 50% of the population. In 2016 52% declared they were Christian and in 2011 61% said they were Christian.

“No religion” jumped from 30 percent of the population to 39%. At the same time Christianity contracted from 52% to 44 %. This is compared to 2016 when 30% said they had no religion and 2011 when 22% said they had no religion.

Newspapers and media commentators had a lot to say about this. 

In the main they were crowing with delight at this finding. 

I have spent the past two weeks prayerfully considering what is behind this increase in those without any faith and a decrease in those who are Christian. And why there is widespread hatred of faith in God.

The answers?

Has there really been a reduction in people who believe in God and accept Jesus as their saviour? So many who attend church services admit to having no faith, but going for various reasons including the belief it is the right thing to do, they have always done it, going to church must get them into heaven, the social life is good, they are lonely, they wish to be seen as attending church.

Is this a problem? Maybe it is good for us to not be such a dominant group. Maybe our faith will be stronger and we will be a better witness when the complacency of being in such a large group is shaken.

It is interesting that those who don’t attend church and admit to believing in Jesus as their saviour all believe. I am meeting an increasing number of people who have given up attending church because they find too many non believers there and believe the church has lost contact with God.

I don’t believe all churches are like that. But I do see that many who attend churches do not live life outside church as a disciple of Jesus.

They attend their Sunday social club and then go about there lives as though they were different to anyone else.

We have just completed a period in Australia where the Prime Minister happily was filmed during an election campaign in the previous election attending an Easter Church Service. He did as the Pharisee in Luke 18:9-14 did. He stood up for all to see how “godly” he was. He didn’t go as the tax collector would go and humbly stand before God as a sinner. Nor did he act so that his left hand did not know what his right hand was doing (Matthew 6:2-4)

Then this man, having used his supposed faith as part of his election campaign, acted in every way like someone who was not a follower of Jesus. He lied, he hid things, he allowed corrupt practices, he treated refugees and those living in poverty with indifference and contempt. 

His government, that identified with the religious right, was harsh and punitive. It took rather than gave. It showed indifference rather than love. It never uttered any faith in God, except for when electioneering. It showed hatred to those who were different. 

In the last election campaign this government used a very vulnerable and small group of people in our society, those who are transgender, as a pawn in their election campaign. This group of people who are already terrified of showing themselves and are extremely vulnerable were subjected to ignorance and vilification. 

This behaviour is not acceptable. This is now how Jesus would treat any of God’s precious children.

How many of the people who turned their backs on God and any faith were influenced by this behaviour of these politicians?

By contrast the opposition parties showed love. It is galling that those who profess to not believe in Jesus are the ones who live life more like Jesus than those who profess to follow Him.

Jesus is love. When He was on earth He acted with love. When He called Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10), Jesus did not judge him because he was a much hated tax collector. When Jesus sat at the well with the Samaritan woman (John 4) He did not judge her because she was a Samaritan and an “immoral” woman who had lived with many men. He even called Matthew, a tax collector, as one of His disciples (Matthew 9:9).

If we are to live our lives as Jesus lived, then we are to live with love. Not judgement. Not harshness. Not indifference. 

We are also to live as though we are following Jesus every single day. Not just for a few hours in a building on a Sunday. Every. Single. Day.

We are to live with love. Consider these verses from Matthew 5:43-48. I have two translations below. Each shows a different aspect of these verses. Both are a challenge for us to live our lives with love.

MATTHEW 5:43-48

THE MESSAGE

“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the supple moves of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.

“In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”

NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

So, if the reduction in those who profess to follow Jesus has challenged you, may you respond by living your life, every moment of that life, following Jesus. May you live your life in love. May you be the best person you can be, with Jesus’ help. And may you be willing to admit your mistakes and apologise for them. That simple act goes a long way to showing the depth of your character as a follower of Jesus.

In short, may you love your enemies.

 

 

 
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