Posts Tagged ‘God’

Probably about 10% of Australia’s population has dry eyes. Since I’m one of them, I’ve taken a particular interest in the condition called Meibomian Gland Dysfunction or Meibomian Bletharitis and learnt that there’s more to our tears than we realise.

In fact our eyes have been so delicately and intricately crafted that it only takes a tiny malfunction in our Meibonian glands to give the idea that there’s a beach party in full swing with sand being the key ingredient. Understanding the make-up of tears has certainly helped me to appreciate the incredible planning and craftsmanship that went into this small part of our body. Let me explain as best I can.

There are three important layers in our tears.  They all need be present in balanced quantities for our tears to effectively moisturise the eyes.  The innermost layer that sits against the cornea is the mucin layer (it produces mucus).  Next is the aqueous layer.  This is made of water and is secreted by the lacrimal gland. The outer layer is made of oil, which is secreted by the meibomian glands which are located in the upper and lower eyelids.

In my case, and most instances of dry eyes, it is the failure of the meibomian glands to produce sufficient oil, that creates the sensation of dry eyes. I’m hoping for some relief from a new treatment called IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) that was featured on Channel 9’s “A Current Affair” about a month ago. In this treatment, intense light stimulates the glands.

I concur with the writer of the Psalms who said of God, I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. For most of us three minute layers of mucus, water and oil in equal measure on the surface of the eye keep us comfortable day in, day out all our lives.

As if that weren’t complex enough, try adding the intangible elements of emotion. Add a little sadness, grief, joy or loss and see what happens. 

Then there’s one more element, the spiritual: Early 19th century author, Washington Irving said:

There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.

… That’s tears made in heaven.

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Keep Looking Up

Posted: March 8, 2015 in Europe
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It’s much like travelling through a fjord, but the journey by cruise ship from the Adriatic Sea to the fortified town of Kotor in Montenegro, involves travelling through a ria, or submerged river canyon.

Kotor was one of the most fascinating places we visited last year on our trip to Europe. The old town, surrounded by its high walls and moat, dates back to the middle ages and the history is almost overwhelming as you walk along the cobbled streets and see buildings from the days when the Venetians ruled the town, still being used.

DSC01798It is one of those places where you can become so engrossed in what surrounds you that you can almost forget that there’s still much more to see.

Almost. Every now and then your eye catches sight of something between buildings that makes you realise there’s something above you need to discover.

It’s not just the massive mountain that looms high over the town that beckons, but your eyes are drawn to the ancient city wall that climbs a distance of 4.5km up almost vertical cliff face. You also catch a glimpse of a tiny building halfway up the mountainside and you can’t help but wonder what lies beyond this ancient town.

DSC01815The path upwards is long and winding and half-way up you come across the building you saw from below. It’s the Church of Our Lady of Health and from the steps at the front of the church you can look back at the incredible scenery that surrounds Kotor. The picture at the top of this post is my evidence that I made it to the church.

However, I was still only halfway up. Look up from the church and you can see the mountain path stretching further upwards to St John’s Fortress.

Often my eyes are focussed on what is happening around me. The day to day world of business that crowds in and takes all my attention. Then I get a glimpse of something higher. It’s the realisation that the world is bigger than the day to day, and that God has greater plans for my life.

It’s in those momDSC01834ents that I realise that I can climb higher, and as I meditate on the goodness of God I am overwhelmed by his love and grace and the matters that seem so pressing fall into perspective. I am only part of the bigger picture, but despite my insignificance I am assured that God loves me with a love that is so much deeper, so much greater than anything I can imagine.

The great mountain that surrounds Kotor is a reminder to me of the need to keep looking up. The sights that surround me at ground level are tempting and enjoyable, but their real beauty and worth comes into perspective as I look upward to God and experience afresh his mercy and grace.

The Apostle Paul put it well in the good book: And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,  may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Keep Looking Up!

DSC01091Lake Melissani is situated in a cave on the island of Kefalonia in the Ionian Sea. We had the privilege of visiting this amazing lake during our trip to Europe last year and I took this photograph in the spot where sunlight shines through the collapsed roof of the cave.

The cave is 36metres high, 40metres wide and 3.5 metres long and the lake itself is 20-30 metres deep. Excavations carried out in 1951 and later in 1962 unearthed many artifacts dating back to the 3rd and 4th century BC including evidence that worship of the God Pan was carried out in the vicinity of the lake.
In addition to the interesting historical and mythical links, the lake also has significant hydrogeological significance. It consists of a mixture of brackish groundwater and sea water that is sucked in on the western side of the island and is ultimately expelled into the ocean 50 metres away on the eastern side of the island.
As you sit in a small rowboat, the oarsman sings the myths of Melissani in a strong baritone voice, pausing from time to time to explain the history and structure of the cave and the lake. Floating atop the deep blue water it’s hard to imagine the depth of the water below, and the stream that intersects with the lake as it traces its way under the island.
I’d like to think my life is one that runs deep, connected to the stream of the Holy Spirit and drawing on the power and vitality of Creator God. I’d like to think that the people who come in contact with me could be buoyed up by the knowledge that the deep springs I draw on give confidence and hope to their lives.
More than anything my desire is to help others connect with the deep waters that come from a full and satisfying relationship with Jesus Christ.
The promise in God’s Word is  … Observe the commands of the Lord your God, walking in obedience to him and revering him. For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land—a land with brooks, streams, and deep springs gushing out into the valleys and hills …

roadkillThose who have driven on roads in the north west of Western Australia are familiar with Wedge-tailed Eagles sitting on the roadside eating roadkill. It’s not a pretty picture for a bird that looks so regal when it is high up in the sky, it’s great wings spread out majestically.

This morning I shared at church the verse in Isaiah 40 that reads: Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

I can relate to the idea of God lifting me above the troubles of the world and delighting in Him through prayer, meditation and worship, but I can also relate to sitting on the ground eating roadkill. It seems that while I want to soar like an eagle, I spend more time grovelling in my own worries and fears.

EagleswingsSo how do we get to soar like eagles? Well, eagles don’t just sit back hoping. They actively chase the thermals – updrafts of warm air – and as they follow the various air currents they are able to fly long distances using little energy.

Isaiah says that those who hope in the Lord (or, wait with anticipation) will renew their strength and soar on wings like eagles. It takes an act of the will to actively seek God and to delight in him through prayer, worship and meditation. When we’re not doing that, we just may be on the side of the road, eating roadkill and dodging passing cars.

I know where I’d prefer to be.

(You can hear this morning’s message online. Click here)

hensWe had our grandchildren staying with us over the holidays. One day we were out the front of our house and our neighbours drove up, stopped and wound down the window.

They acknowledged our three year old grandson and, as you’d expect, he was a little wary of this stranger stopping to talk to him. Instinctively he put out one arm, protecting his little sister who was just behind him.

I was amazed at this response of protection from a three year old. But I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. Because we’ve all been made in the image of God, and it’s in God’s nature to be protective of those he loves.

The apostle Paul has a great description on love in one of his letters, and it says in part: Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts,  always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

Some people struggle with the idea of God as father because experiences with their own father hasn’t been good. If that’s the case you may find some comfort from verses like these that show the protective nature of God.

The prophet Isaiah quoted God as saying: “I will extend peace to her like a river, and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream; you will nurse and be carried on her arm and dandled on her knees. As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.”

Isaiah also quoted God in this way: Shout for joy, you heavens; rejoice, you earth; burst into song, you mountains! For the Lord comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones. But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me. Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!”

Here’s one that draws on the image of a mother eagle (Deuteronomy 32): In a desert land he found him, in a barren and howling waste. He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye, like an eagle that stirs up its nest and hovers over its young, that spreads its wings to catch them and carries them aloft. The Lord alone led him.

Jesus himself said: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.

What a great picture this is of a God who cares so much about those he loves. You can see the mother hen trying to get all her chickens together but some of them are running off in the opposite direction. How frustrating it is to try and keep them altogether.

And that’s just what Jesus is saying. His goal is to protect and draw people to himself, but more often than not, our independent nature comes into play and we resist God’s love.

If a three year old can protect his little sister, how much more will almighty God protect those he loves. And how crazy it is when we don’t accept that love and allow God to protect us.

fireworks

The first week in June is Western Australia Week. We used to use this week to focus on our past, to remember the time the first European settlers arrived to found the Swan River Colony in 1829. These days, we spend less time reflecting on our past and focus more on Western Australia as a great place to live, to celebrate our achievements, to acknowledge the people who make up our state, and to recognise those who have contributed to the state in the past.

It’s kind of a big birthday party.

Have you noticed that a child will tell you for months that they’re “nearly five” but we’re not so keen to mention our age as we start to approach 50. So a five year old’s birthday is very different from a 50 year old’s birthday party.

Indigenous West Australians may celebrate WA Week differently from a person who has migrated to the state from Europe or the United Kingdom. We celebrate for different reasons and in different ways, depending on the event, our age, where we live, and our family or national traditions.

But celebration is important because it is an acknowledgement that something special has occurred.

In the Bible, King David noticed how people would celebrate the goodness of God.

This is what he had to say in Psalm 145:

I will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise your name forever and ever.Every day I will praise you and extol your name forever and ever.Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom. One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts. They speak of the glorious splendour of your majesty— and I will meditate on your wonderful works. They tell of the power of your awesome works— and I will proclaim your great deeds. They celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness. The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.

The fact that God is good isn’t just something that we brush over or even ignore. David thought it was worth celebrating.

From the days when Aztecs would throw people into volcanoes in an effort to appease an angry god, people’s view of God hasn’t always been of a god who is good. Yet, we are told in the Bible of a God who loved us so much that he sent his son Jesus to die for us.

That sort of love is amazing. Such goodness is beyond our comprehension. And in fact, we don’t even deserve it. But that’s the beauty of a God who knew that we couldn’t live up to his standards ourselves, so he reached out to us, and offered us eternal life, peace with God and hope for the future.

If your view of God is of an abusive god, an angry God, someone who is disappointed in you, or someone who wants to punish you, I’d encourage you to think again about the concept of God being good.

Because in Jesus we discover that God does recognise our shortfalls, but is prepared to give up everything so that we can live at peace with him. Jesus confirms to us that he is a good God. A God who is trustworthy, is patient, and, as David said, is rich in love.

That’s worth celebrating.

… Many come into Christian faith with great expectations. They have heard stories of jubilation and salvation, of the power to overcome this world and experience the divine in expressible ways. But once inside the ancient halls of Christianity many are disappointed. Where is the light, where is the illumination? Our hearts seek God and the goodness, beauty, justice and peace we’ve been told he provides, but he often remains hidden behind the shadow cast by an evil world …”

With these words, Skye Jethani launches a brilliant discussion about what has hindered real communion with God, making use of the prepositions, under, over, from, for and with. My holiday reading has included “With – Reimagining the Way You Relate to God”.

ImageJethani talks about four forms of religion that he describes as variations of fear and control, life under God, life over God, life from God and life for God, then introduces a different vision: Life with God. In each of the first four areas, we seek to use God to achieve some other goal.

Life over God uses God as the source of rational principles or laws and ultimately breeds atheism, but Jethani says many Christians practice a faith that has little room or need for God. Life over God seeks control by discovering how the world works and then directly implementing the right principles.

Life under God views God as a capricious deity who must be appeased to gain blessings and avoid punishment. Life Under God tries to manipulate God through obedience to secure blessings and avoid calamity. This requires a list of rules and rituals which, if we follow, will result in God’s approval. Jethani describes this as potent mix of pagan superstition and biblical morality.

Life from God allows us to have our desires granted and is evidenced in the way we try to make God like us, assigning him our personalities, our values, and our biases. Those who follow the Life from God approach are primarily focussed on achieving their own happiness. This is evident in our current consumer thinking and the way consumerism has entered the church environment.  Jethani talks about this type of God as a divine butler, a comic therapist, a holy vending machine.

Life for God uses him and his mission to gain a sense of direction and purpose. For many people the mission of the church has become the most important thing in life, so their whole purpose in life is working for God and doing things for him. This often leads to spiritual burn-out as people come to a place where they find all their work is not achieving any deep sense of satisfaction.

So Jethani comes to his proposal that we should be looking towards a Life With God. For many people, Life With God is difficult to find because people who have tried to live over, under, from and for God, have no reference point from which to start. They cannot imagine what Life With God looks like.  Life With God is so far beyond our imagination that it must be revealed to us.

Jethani goes on to say that Jesus Christ came to shine a light onto a truth about the cosmos previously hidden from our sight. The Life With God posture is predicated on the view that relationship is at the core of the cosmos: God the Father with God the Son with God the Holy Spirit. And so we should not be surprised to discover that when God desired to restore his broken relationship with people, he sent his Son to dwell with us.

This was an excellent read for the start of the new year. I heartily recommend it.

ImageSaturday morning was the time I remember as a child, going on errands for my mother. I would have some money in one pocket, a carefully detailed list in another pocket and I would hop on my bike and ride to the shop to buy whatever mum required.

I was proud to be have been sent on this errand, not only because I had been asked to do something useful, but because it gave me a sense of independence and achievement.

“Being sent” can be a very powerful experience not just because of what we are doing for the person who is sending us, but in the way it empowers us as we meet the needs and requirements of the sender.

John’s Gospel, in the Bible, says a whole lot about God as a “Sending God”. Throughout the Gospel there are 26 references to God the Father, the Son or the Holy Spirit as one who sends, and Jesus constantly referred to himself as having been sent.  What that says to me is that it is part of God’s nature to be a “sending God”.

And the sending of nature of God was evident in Jesus when he said … “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.

As I reflect on what it means for me to be a follower of Jesus, I am reminded of proudly riding my bike to the corner store on Saturday morning, the list in one pocket and the money jingling in the other. Doing what Jesus wants in my life is something I can do with a knowledge that I have been sent by the creator of the universe on an amazing errand.

What’s more, he’s given me the resources for the job in one pocket (the Holy Spirit), the list in the other (the Scriptures), and the independence and authority to fulfil his requests.

Exploring God

Posted: October 23, 2013 in Uncategorized
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ImageThere are often questions we have about God, and at times the answers seem hard to find.

I have come across a website that includes a range of videos, some of which only go for a couple of minutes, but cover subjects such as how can we know God?, how can we know if Jesus is God?, can we question God?, how can we hear God?, along with a range of longer articles on subjects like how big is God?, and how can I find God?

If you have questions about God, Jesus or faith, this is a site that is worth exploring.  I haven’t looked at all of the articles or videos, but what I have seen look really helpful.

As a starter take a look at “How Can We Know God?”, then continue exploring from there.

Probably, my favourite genre of literature is biography. My bookshelf (and more recently, my Kindle-shelf) contains a wide range of biographies on politicians, musicians, missionaries, business people, and even sportspeople.

My current read is Bono On Bono: Conversations With Michka Assayas, a book that has been around a few years, but provides a very honest and revealing insight into the life of Bono, the lead singer of U2, described as one of the most influential musicians at work today. For those who are unaware, Bono’s band, U2, have sold a staggering 130 million albums and collected 14 Grammys in the last 25 years.

ImageHere’s some thoughts from Bono that are in line with some of the things I was saying in church yesterday:

Michka: The Son of God who takes away the sins of the world. I wish I could believe in that.

Bono: But I love the idea of the Sacrificial Lamb. I love the idea that God says: Look, you cretins, there are certain results to the way we are, to selfishness, and there’s a mortality as part of your very sinful nature, and, let’s face it, you’re not living a very good life, are you? There are consequences to actions. The point of the death of Christ is that Christ took on the sins of the world, so that what we put out did not come back to us, and that our sinful nature does not reap the obvious death. That’s the point. It should keep us humbled . It’s not our own good works that get us through the gates of heaven.

Michka: That’s a great idea, no denying it. Such great hope is wonderful, even though it’s close to lunacy, in my view. Christ has his rank among the world’s great thinkers. But Son of God, isn’t that farfetched?

Bono: No, it’s not farfetched to me. Look, the secular response to the Christ story always goes like this: he was a great prophet, obviously a very interesting guy, had a lot to say along the lines of other great prophets, be they Elijah, Muhammad, Buddha, or Confucius. But actually Christ doesn’t allow you that. He doesn’t let you off that hook. Christ says: No. I’m not saying I’m a teacher, don’t call me teacher. I’m not saying I’m a prophet. I’m saying: “I’m the Messiah.” I’m saying: “I am God incarnate.” And people say: No, no, please, just be a prophet. A prophet, we can take. You’re a bit eccentric. We’ve had John the Baptist eating locusts and wild honey, we can handle that. But don’t mention the “M” word! Because, you know, we’re gonna have to crucify you.

And he goes: No, no. I know you’re expecting me to come back with an army, and set you free from these creeps, but actually I am the Messiah. At this point, everyone starts staring at their shoes, and says: Oh, my God, he’s gonna keep saying this. So what you’re left with is: either Christ was who He said He was the Messiah or a complete nutcase. I mean, we’re talking nutcase on the level of Charles Manson. This man was like some of the people we’ve been talking about earlier. This man was strapping himself to a bomb, and had “King of the Jews” on his head, and, as they were putting him up on the Cross, was going: OK, martyrdom, here we go. Bring on the pain! I can take it. I’m not joking here. The idea that the entire course of civilization for over half of the globe could have its fate changed and turned upside-down by a nutcase, for me, that’s farfetched

If only we could be a bit more like Him, the world would be transformed. When I look at the Cross of Christ, what I see up there is all my s— and everybody else’s. So I ask myself a question a lot of people have asked: Who is this man? And was He who He said He was, or was He just a religious nut? And there it is, and that’s the question. And no one can talk you into it or out of it.