Posted By Nan

Isaiah 41:8-10

“But you, Israel, are my servant.
    You’re Jacob, my first choice,
    descendants of my good friend Abraham.
I pulled you in from all over the world,
    called you in from every dark corner of the earth,
Telling you, ‘You’re my servant, serving on my side.
    I’ve picked you. I haven’t dropped you.’
Don’t panic. I’m with you.
    There’s no need to fear for I’m your God.
I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you.
    I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.”

Many years ago I moved with my husband and baby to a new area. I did not know anyone then. I had been told all my life that no one wanted me, not even my own family. I had been told that I had no friends and no one would every like me. 

In this new area I set about making friends. I tried everything I could think of and nothing seemed to work. I cried and begged God for friends. I believed I was defective.

The truth was I was getting to know people and in time would make good friends. I wasn’t seeing the truth about all the friends I had known in my life and the friends I was making. 

Early on I went to a Bible Study group. One of the people running it lived down the road. Wonderful, a neighbour I could share my faith with. Her closest friend seemed to be the only other person at that Bible Study. Occasionally other people would come to the study but it was mostly just the three of us.

I clung to this study and my new friends. I brushed aside the disquieting things that were happening. I had little concept of my rights as a child of God. I had been abused all my life. Other people could do what they wanted to me and I had no right to complain. All the bad things that happened to me were signs of my defectiveness, not of anyone else’s guilt as the perpetrator. I didn’t believe I deserved better and my new friends were very quick to tell me I was getting better than I deserved.

At this time we had many deep prayer times. Strange things started happening during those times. I was getting visions, some wonderful and some disturbing. The other women were getting nothing.

One vision I had was of my grandfather in Heaven. I had been praying for a long time to God to know if he was there and God answered my prayer.

Another vision I had was of satan walking around our praying group. That was disturbing. It was followed up by visions of satan standing over the house of my new Christian neighbour. Another time he was clinging to her back.

These were all brushed off by the other women. They actually told me at that time that God’s plan for me was to be someone in the background praying for others. It would never be God’s plan for me to have a voice and share any knowledge of God. That couldn’t have been more wrong!

At one stage my Christian neighbour asked for prayer but wouldn’t say what it was she needed prayer for. This was the time when I had a vision of satan on her back. She asked for prayer but what God was asking her to do she was not prepared to do. I learned later she was doing and saying terrible things about me. But more on that later.

At that time I was also dreaming some strange dreams. The one God reminded me of a few weeks ago was one where there was a terrible evil attacking our house. It was threatening me and my family (we had grown in numbers by then). In my dream Jesus took the evil and threw it in the coals of our slow combustion stove. It kept trying to escape and jump out of the fire but Jesus held it in the flames and told me He would never let it out.

It was only later that I learned that this supposed Christian neighbour was spreading malicious lies about me and the other supposed Christian women I knew were believing spreading them. I can still feel the betrayal at what she did to me. This is something that God is calling me to heal. Maybe I will write another blog on that topic another time.

It is almost 30 years since this incident with Jesus holding the evil in the fire and I wondered why I had remembered it. 

I was putting together a vision board of my journey for this coming year and laminated the pictures together. One section, which was thicker, did not laminate well and the sheets were gaping. I had to staple the open section shut. As I looked at that section, Jesus told me the staples were like Him holding the evil in the fire. Some things we put in place and they stay. Other things we have to actively hold in place. And when that is necessary He is always there to do that. He told me that He had been doing this all my life. Holding the evil in the fire. The staples in the sheet were my visual reminder of that.

I had been praying for some time about the fact that God never seemed to help me and protect me from the abuse I suffered as a child. This was brought to the front of my mind by some work I have been doing addressing the trauma from the sexual abuse I suffered as a child. 

It never ceases to amaze me how God answers my prayers at the most extraordinary times. I had given us hope of ever getting an answer for that question. I had been asking it for years and never received an answer. 

But here was the answer. Jesus holding the evil in the fire and reminding me that He had been doing that since I was conceived. Jesus telling me He would always hold the evil in the fire.

When Jesus promised to hold me steady and keep a firm grip on me (Isaiah 41 v 10) this included holding the evil in the fire.

My prayer for you is that you may know that Jesus is holding the evil in the fire for you too.

 
Posted By Nan

I have had a break for a few weeks over Christmas and New Year as I focused on the gift of Jesus that God has given us.

For much of my life I have been uncomfortable with the Western Churches and their doctrine around Jesus. This was no doubt encouraged by the union of the Methodist, Congregational and (some) Presbyterian churches to form the Uniting Church of Australia during my childhood. 

It was definitely not helped in the days before this by my father being asked to be an Elder in our Church. He told the Minister that he didn’t believe in God and the Minister said that was fine. It horrifies me that this was considered okay. 

Additionally, I heard the conversations of my parents, the griping about various Ministers and the politicking. And I saw the sexual offenders, heard the mutterings about their activities and saw them continue unsanctioned in their roles.

Yet there were also wonderful moments of faith. As an elder my father was asked to collect a retired Minister and His wife and bring them to the church to run a service. I sat in the church, a small child, with this wonderful man sharing his faith in God. I felt so filled with and surrounded by the Holy Spirit. This was long before I accepted Jesus as my saviour. I guess my wise Father in Heaven was teaching me back then, so I was ready to hear His call and follow later in my teens.

Mostly I remember the frightened child with nowhere safe to go to get away from the abuse at home and the bullying at school. The frightened child who felt she was so defective and tried so hard to be her parents’ definition of good. The child who felt nothing ever went right for her. This child found safety in the water, in the bush, walking barefoot on the ground, hugging a tree, being at one with God’s creation. This child felt the energy of evil and good, of those who could offer comfort and those who were only going to harm. She felt the energy of her dead grandmother and feared retribution because her efforts to resuscitate her grandmother failed and she thought she had killed her. There was no adult caring enough to reassure her she had done everything she could.

I remember the young adult who could enter a building or an area and feel the energy of that area and be frightened when she felt evil. If she asked others about this awareness they looked at her as though she was defective. So she learned to suppress this and deny such awareness existed.

Now I am 60 and I guess I am grown up now. At the end of my 30s God sent our little family of 6 to Europe, away from the succession of Churches we had joined and that had caused us great harm, away from the safety of Bible Study and Prayer Groups. We went into the wilderness. We worshipped at 3 different international churches over the next 8 years. The first had lovely services but no fellowship. I went to a Bible Study run by the Minister’s wife and she spent the entire time gossiping. There was no mention of God, no prayers, no Bible reading. 

Then we moved to a new area and went to an international church at the local international school. We quickly discovered this was a church that was run for expediency. It was a true Sunday Social Club and Networking event. Those who wanted to be someone went there. There were some Bible Studies and Prayer Groups, but they quickly descended into gossip and jostling for power. The Minister showed little faith or interest in God. He was about rising through the ranks of his church hierarchy back in the UK. Disillusioned, we left that church and found another one. It was worse. This was in The Hague and was full of diplomats and high flyers and plenty of wannabes. 

I felt so starved of fellowship. The only thing that kept me going was the theology subjects I was studying at the time. There I found God. And there I felt able to be held and supported by God’s great love.

Moving back to Australia we moved to a new state and set about finding a church. We tried 2 different churches. One was full of retirees with little interest in meeting the needs of our 4 children. Instead the new Minister was busy trying to establish a Sunday School for the children younger than our youngest. When I suggested they should try to meet the needs of our children and those of the student Minister he looked at me as though I was speaking a foreign language. 

So we left and went to the second church. This had a large youth congregation. But it was extremely cliquey. Try a small community on the outskirts of a small city with limited numbers of newcomers. Everyone grew up together and no one was interested in us or our children. We gave up going to coffee after the service. It was hard to talk to backs and trying to get involved in activities was equally disheartening. Our children persevered with Sunday School and Youth Group and were dispirited at the lack of interest from the other children who excluded them. 

We watched with horror as our children drew away from faith in God. Their only examples of faith, other than us, were these unchristian people who stood in the service and raised their hands in pious faith and excluded everyone else outside the service.

So we prayed and held a family discussion and prayed some more. And we made the decision to leave the established church and teach our children ourselves. They have a tentative faith now, but they hate churches and the way supposed “Christian” people behave. 

I have deep faith in God and also hate the way supposed “Christian” people behave. 

Since leaving the established church God has opened my awareness to the spiritual awareness I had as a child. The awareness I rejected as a young woman. He has challenged me on so much of what I was taught in the doctrine of the Western Church. He has sent across my path people of different faith. I have met and listened to Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, Moslems, Bahai, Messianic Jews, my own Celtic spirituality and a diverse number of Indigenous Australians with their spiritual understanding. I have been challenged to read the writing of many early Christians, of many more recent writers who have studied the world’s religions and returned to the early roots of Christian faith. In these writers I have found the God I have known since childhood. The God that so many people are seeking. But they cannot find Him because the Western Churches do not know that God. For those of us who know God that way there is nowhere to worship Him with others. There is only our personal relationship with God.

I had in mind another blog to write today. But God directed me here first. I will be writing the other blog and many others as well. Much of what I write will have as its foundation Isaiah 41. 

This year, God is directing me to find Him in the ways the ancestors knew Him. In the way Abraham, Moses, Isaiah, John the Baptist even a human Jesus found God. It is so much the human way to try to put God in an easy to manage box. The Jews of Jesus’ time did it. The Western Churches have done it. It is time to step outside that box and get to know the God like Aslan in “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe”. He is good but He is not safe. 

True faith in God is not safe. It is about uncertainty, trust, faith and the courage to step out into nothingness no matter the consequences. I look forward to you joining me on this journey of getting to know God.

 
Posted By Nan

Luke 1:26-56

In our family, the 5th candle, to be lit Christmas Day, was always called the Jesus candle.

Growing up I was always hearing Noel sung, spoken or even written. I just assumed it was one of those words a child didn’t understand.

When I was preparing for this Christmas I decided to look it up. It is from French meaning to be born. Beautiful. And what a celebration of a birth it is. A birth that is the most important and world changing birth ever.

Christmas is so much more than a holiday. It is easy to forget that. Here in Australia we usually take time off between Christmas and New Year and even into early January. Even if there is no time off, there are plenty of public holidays to extend Christmas. I know I look forward to the time in December when I see my last client for the year and close the door to my room with the promise I will return in a few weeks. It is easy to see Christmas as being about holidays and soaking up the sun.

Christmas is more than buying presents, wrapping presents, buying food, cooking food. It is more than Christmas wishes shared around. It is more than Santa or Elf on the Shelf. It is more even than being with family.

Christmas may include those things, but more importantly it is the time for us to reflect on God’s promises for our salvation to come from one who sits on the throne of the line of David. It is time for us to reflect on what it cost Jesus, who was God, to humble himself to become a human and live a life that would end in a horrifying death. 

Christmas is also about preparing to honour that baby, born into poverty, destined for a difficult life, yet willing to do it for us. 

Christmas is also about renewal. Coming away fresh from a day honouring Jesus and renewing our memory of what He has done for us, renewing our faith and commitment to the path following Jesus.

What we must not neglect in this time is the reading of our Bibles.

It isn’t too late to get that Bible out now and read it. 

It is never so busy that you cannot spend even 5 minutes remembering what Jesus did for us when he was born as a tiny baby, grew, ministered and died for us.

We must never forget Christmas is about the birth of Jesus, the Christ.

It is about the arrival of the light of Jesus into the world. About the light that lights our path so we may follow Him in the light, so we may have the true light of life.

I was reading an article this morning that talked about how important it is for children to believe in Santa and be allowed to grow out of that belief. The writer likened Santa to mercy, compassion and justice. It was sad to read that. To read how those stumbling in darkness have invented a character that has the characteristics of Jesus, but in an imperfect, secular way. 

This week I have spoken to so many people who cannot get home to see family this Christmas. I have spoken to those who have their family there but only see the point of Christmas because they have young children who will be present. 

All these people fail to see how Christmas means anything or is even enjoyable. Once the magic of Christmas was dispelled at the realisation Santa was not real, the magic was gone from Christmas. Without God, without Jesus, Christmas is just empty consumerism. That consumerism is contagious. It infects us too.

It is important we don’t forget that Christmas is about Jesus. That the magic and attraction of Christmas is remembering and acknowledging Jesus birth in a stable.

While we come to be obsessed with Christmas being about family, it is easy to forget that Joseph and Mary had no family around them. They were in a dirty, drafty stable with the animals. They did not even have a cradle to put Jesus into or lovely clothes to cover Him with.

At the time of Jesus’ birth, the Jewish people were unsure of their identity. They no longer had a homeland. It was under Roman occupation with a non Jew as their nominal king. The promises of God ruling the world with justice and peace seemed so far away. Mary was one of that nation who remembered the past and what they had lost in the present.

There was the promise of a Messiah who was to come. The people endowed Him with all their longing to return to the days of nationhood. The Messiah seemed to be an impossible promise. In this time, we see Mary, a young teenager, visited by an angel who tells her the impossible. The Holy Spirit was to place in her uterus a baby, who was the Messiah, God. This young girl did not deny the visit from the angel, or the fact that she was pregnant when she had never lain with a man. 

When Mary visited her cousin, pregnant in a point in life way past when women usually fell pregnant. The baby in her cousin’s uterus leapt for joy. She wondered what was happening. She knew something amazing and mighty was coming. Something that, although it promises a better way, was frightening in the radical changes it would bring about. 

For hundreds of years people had waited despairingly for the promised Messiah. Now Mary and Elizabeth realised He was coming. But people had been waiting so long many had lost hope He would actually come.

For people today, the promise of Jesus return was made two thousand years ago. It seems to so many that it will never happen, and they have fallen away. The symbolism of the Messiah appearing as a tiny baby. Symbolising the newness of what was happening, of the need to be reborn. The day when Jesus returns comes closer all the time. We don’t know how long we will have to wait. It may not even be in our life times. But it will come. 

Mary had faith in God, despite the danger of her being an unwed, pregnant woman. She had faith in what God had told her. She was one of the few who was full of faith and hope in the promises God had made. We need to be like that too. We need to let go of the cynicism that has seeped in as Christmas is made into a secular holiday with all the commercial bells and whistles, as people rob the day of its true meaning. We need to declare as Mary did that we are God’s servants. We need to ask that His promises are fulfilled as He decrees. 

May we be blessings to others, witnesses of the baby’s birth.

May our souls glorify God and our spirits rejoice in God our Saviour. 

May we never forget that God delights in the humble and blesses them. 

That His idea of the worthy is not the world’s idea. 

That God fulfilled His promise to Abraham in sending Jesus into the world and He will fulfil His promise to us in Jesus return.

In the meantime, we need to use Christmas as the time to remember the baby’s birth. God’s promises. We need to remember each year to spend the time of Advent reflecting, preparing and being open to renewal at the celebration of Jesus’ birth.

 
Posted By Nan

John 3:16-21 and Luke 11:37-54.

Today we are still on the theme of Love. 

John 3 speaks of God’s love being so great that He was willing to give up His own Son. He was willing to send Him into the world to leave His light here for those of us who see it. He came to save the world, so that when we saw His light, loved it, and followed it, we would be saved. That is the greatest expression of the Love of God. Nothing compares to that. Here is the fulfilment of God’s command to Abraham to sacrifice his son. God supplied the sacrifice and at Christmas we remember that God supplied the once for all sacrifice of His son and Jesus obeyed His father’s commands to fulfil what God had planned since the beginning as our salvation.

Luke 11 continues the theme of my last blog. It speaks again of the Pharisees whose focus is on being outwardly clean while full of sin. Of being excessively legalistic to the point of neglecting God’s command to love. Pharisees who love the outward show of people holding them in awe and taking the best seats in the synagogue. Of being harsh and judgemental, loading people up with impossible rules and commands and filling them with shame when they cannot live as perfectly as the Pharisees tell them to live. Shame that does not belong to God and does not come from God. And when the people cannot live as perfectly as they are commanded the Pharisees condemn them and do nothing to help or show compassion. It was the Pharisees whose ancestors persecuted and sometimes killed the prophets and apostles sent by God. The Pharisees were also judged for taking away the key to knowledge of God. This was because they had not entered into faith in God, and they hindered anyone else who may enter there. 

Historically, this is what has happened with the Western Church. For so long it was considered advantageous to be a man of God. Men entered the church for prestige, not out of love for God. These men had no love of God, no knowledge of God and no interest in acquiring that knowledge. Their interest was in secular pursuits such as the acquisition of power. This is not to say that all who served God in the past, or now, are like that. There are many who love God. But they do not tend to be those in positions of power within the church. Even if someone who loves God rises to power, they are easily led astray by the politics of the organisation they serve. In that serving they make their religious institution their god and forget about God. I have seen this happen so often.

I have also seen church hierarchies that favour those in important positions and judge those lesser members of the church. I have sat with a woman who wanted her fiancé to be ambitious for power within the church and was horrified when I asked her what God wanted for her fiancé. 

I have seen a man lead a church even when he was no longer interested in the job. Instead he chose to stay so that the church would continue to pay his son’s school fees. When the son finished school he found a job within the church hierarchy where he didn’t have to stand up in church and mutter platitudes he didn’t believe in.

I have seen too many church leaders afraid to stand up to dominant members of the congregation who were doing things that were against everything God stood for. The leaders allowed this ungodly behaviour to continue. This has particularly happened with child sexual abuse. Abuse where the victim was persecuted by the church to keep those in power happy.

I have seen a woman, who had an affair with a man in the church. A mutually consensual affair. When she became pregnant she chose to keep her baby, rather than abort it, in line with her belief in God. She was condemned and cast out by the church, without support, and the man was not even censured in any way. 

There are so many things I could talk about but I will leave it at that.

There have always been Pharisees. Jesus commanded them to be generous to the poor, to love Justice and the Love of God. But they clung instead to their legalism, favouritism, harsh judgementalism and hatred.

I am sick of people telling me I am not like other Christians they know because I show love and acceptance to all while maintaining my Jesus following principles. Because I don’t judge. Because I believe in justice, social justice in particular. I know there are other Christians like me, but the face of God in the churches that the world sees does not glorify God, instead it brings condemnation to God. 

In these last few days before we celebrate the birth of Jesus, think about how you share God’s love with the world. Ask God if you can show more. Ask Him to show you where you lack Love, where you are failing to bring glory to His name.

We all need love and to show God’s love to those stumbling in darkness. And we all need to accept God’s gift of His love for ourselves as well.

 
Posted By Nan

In my family this is the week of the Love Candle. The Candle that expresses the Love of God for us and the Love Jesus has for us in humbling Himself to come to earth as a baby, born in poverty, who suffered much to achieve the task God had set for Him, and who willingly took on all our sin despite being sinless himself and endured death by crucifixion. 

Chapter 3 of John’s gospel, verses 16 to 17 tell us that God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son to live as a human. God’s intention was that this Son would give eternal life to all who believe in Him. 

Contrary to the way many people observe their Christian religion with harshness and judgement, God’s purpose in sending His son was not to condemn us. Rather Jesus came to earth to save the world through Him.

At Christmas it is important we cast aside all judgement and harshness and embrace this truth. 

So much of what religion teaches us is confusing. One will tell us we just have to believe in order to be saved. Another will tell us we have to take up our cross daily and set impossible conditions on what that means. Others will tell us we are not working hard enough, or giving up enough, or not following properly. All this is just as the pharisees and teachers of the law were like at the time Jesus lived on earth. What Jesus said to them is below:

Matthew 23:24-33
You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Go ahead, then, and complete what your ancestors started! “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?

As you come to celebrate Christmas this year, focus on the innocence and simplicity of that baby, wrapped in rags and placed in the straw of an animal feeding trough. God’s gift to us is that simple. Do not fall for the fear of getting it wrong, as the Pharisees and teachers of the law did. Fall instead into God’s welcoming arms. Rest in Jesus and seek His guidance on how to live your life. Never forget the love and acceptance of His birth, of the calling of the shepherd, the lowest of the low, to worship Him and the arrival of the astrologers from afar to worship the King whose birth was announced in the heavens. 

 

 

 
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