Sunday, July 27, 2014

Is there Joy in the Morning?

When the darkness of the night comes the sounds outside our house seem magnified. The wind is more threatening, the creaking of the house more disturbing and the phantoms of the mind more fearful. How we can long for the morning. Our fears and tears seem to burden us and flow more freely in the night for we feel so alone.

There are times when we sense we are in the night time of the soul even though it is daytime. Our heart and mind feels that the night has no end and how we long for the coming of a new morning. Our own imprisonment in the power of the night might have come from any number of sources. Whether personal choices of external events we suffer and the tears flow and despair increases. We may face the collapse of our dreams, failures in business and finance, betrayal or broken health and the unfairness of up-bringing or any number of other reasons.

How do we handle these experiences when combined with a sense of hopelessness and powerlessness? It can drive people to various forms of addiction or even suicide. Others might become stoic or harbour revenge of those who have brought on the night time of the soul. What such responses achieve is a deepening of the night and the ultimate destruction of the self. What a person needs is the promise of a new day dawning.

To read the Psalms from the Judeo-Christian Bible is to realise there is a promise of a new morning for any of us. In Psalm 42 (and others) we read of the writer’s crawling from out of the chains of his soul’s night. It wasn’t an instantaneous deliverance but he knew the sunshine of hope and grace was appearing on his horizon. It began when he realised the Lord God was with him, unseen in the dark, but there. ‘Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.’ (Ps. 42:11

To read the news and watch it on the television reveals this world is not only in a moral, spiritual and racial night-time, it is an actual nightmare. Consider the Iraqi Christians being so violated by the Islamic State, will their night end? The Bible promises them a new morning when the Lord Jesus Himself will wipe away their tears in the realm we call glory. A place where there is no night. A place where the scum who are the creatures of the night will be excluded.

Does the nation of Israel have the promise of a new morning dawning? Though it is hard to see it in the midst of the horrors of the Arab world and public opinion, yes it does. After two thousand years of their ‘night’ by what authority can this be said? The same authority which promised us the coming of Jesus, the authority that predicted the crucifixion of this same Jesus, the authority which offers light to those in darkness and hope for those weeping. The Bible! The book by Zephaniah puts the promised morning so well: ‘The Lord has taken away the judgements against you, he has turned away your enemies. The king of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall fear disaster no more.’ (3:15)

We will all experience the sorrow and tears in the night. Only those with a confidence in the faithfulness of the Lord to His word have the hope of the new morning coming. As the psalmist put it ‘Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.’ (Ps 30:5b). Can we count on it? That depends, not on God but upon your believing in Him with His offer and grace to you. How can you be certain of His mercy to you to give you the joy of the morning? Because of His rising from the dead, His triumph over the powers of the ‘night’ and authority to forgive and to make you a new person. Do as psalmist says: ‘Let me hear of your steadfast love in the morning, for in you I trust. Teach me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.’ (Psalm 143:8).

We will still face tough times. There may well be different ‘nights’ which seek to roll over our person but now we have a light in our darkness. The light of God’s grace and His word will comfort us and help us endure the night and know that the morning will come and with it, the power of joy.

In my night of sorrow and despair
With its doubts and fears so unfair
Give me a song of the morning to sing
I’m your wounded, fearful child who clings
To your faithfulness in your written word
And this I know, my prayers will be heard
My night, however long it will last
Morning joy comes, the night is past.

Copyright Ray Hawkins July 2014.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Lifestyle and health.

In Melbourne, Australia there is an International HIV-AIDS conference. A number of delegates, including a leading researcher and speaker were tragically killed in the MK17 airline which was shot down over Ukraine.

In Australia it is reported that HIV-AIDS particularly among homosexual men is one the increase once again. This is sad and reveals a careless attitude towards sexual behaviour. Around the world this devastating condition has infected millions. The importance therefore of this International conference in finding cures and helps for these people cannot be overestimated!

Unfortunately, it is doubtful is the one issue which would prevent most, if not all, of this disease from spreading will not be discussed. For people want a cure so as to allow them to continue with their preferred sexual orientation. What would decimate this plague and its sexually transmitted diseases ‘cousins’? The Biblical principle of holiness which calls upon people to abstain from sexual activity until marriage and maintain it only in marriage.

Of course this goes against the moral (immoral) atmosphere promoted in all societies around the world. The very nature of the human heart resists attempts, whether by God or government or whoever, to restrict it from doing what it wants too. However the cause and effect principle, the sow and reap consequences then comes into play. These are what so many want to beat for they desire to indulge without shame, pain or self-destruction.

People have been misinformed about what holiness means. They imagine it to be some type of miserable, negative and self-righteous behaviour that ruins fun in the sun. Actually it is the very basis for happiness and self-esteem and meaningful relationships. It is this quality of life promoted by Jesus Christ and His word which offers health to body, soul and spirit. Holiness is the very principal for peace of mind and enjoyment without regret or fear of exposure.

This quality of life doesn’t come in pill form. It is not like an overcoat to put on as needed. Rather holiness is a way of life that takes hold of a person’s inner being and transforms, colours, motivates and protects. This isn’t natural to the human heart therefore it must be given. How? From the one who not only wrote the book outlining the lifestyle, but who gives power to live it. His name is Jesus. His book is the bible.

However what can Jesus offer to any of us who have been corrupted, crushed or dehumanised by life choices or outside forces? His promise is that He can make all things new. He offers men and women everywhere a new beginning by making them new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17). More than that, He doesn’t leave them to struggle on alone. He has provided resources so that a person will grow in the wonder of this newness and enjoy the journey to His promised destination. What are those resources? The Christian bible is the instruction manual, prayer is the language of the heart offered to him, worship is the opportunity for expressing gratitude and meeting with others to share fellowship and teaching.

God asked a question in the scriptures when He said “Why will you die?” For God had set before the people the opportunity for life, happiness and peace. They thought His way was too restrictive to their self-indulgent desires and refused His offer. Their story makes sad reading with its useless, wasted and unfulfilled existence. Jesus said He had come to give life and that life would be abundant, fulfilling, healthy and purposeful. That’s what holiness is all about. It cannot be beaten. It will not be broken. With it, by God’s grace to us in Jesus Christ, it will accompany us into eternity.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

There's a Moral Whirlwind Forming

Cyclones, typhoons and whirlwinds are not chance events. They require a combination of weather patterns for them to form. When such conditions exist it is only a matter of time before their destructive fury is felt.

In the moral and spiritual realm of society there is a similar principle. Things do not change overnight for good or ill. Rather, there are seemingly small steps taken which either lead a society into the pit or up to the mountain top. If a person took the time to seriously consider the World scene surely they must sense a moral whirlwind forming. Living, as I do, in a Western Christianised Democracy the ‘weather’ conditions for our country experiencing a moral ‘cyclone’ is on red alert.

Hosea saw the moral and spiritual whirlwind forming in his time. It struck the Northern Kingdom called Israel. The nation had forsaken the covenant with God, were prosperous and idolatrous and immoral. They also neglected the poor. ‘They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind.’ (Hosea 8:7) What Hosea wrote has implications for societies today. As in his day so it will be in ours, the innocent suffer, God is cursed for allowing what was sowed to be reaped and a society collapses.

Our country is envied around the world for its prosperity and safety. Its history isn’t perfect but through it all the principles of the Christian Faith gave it a strong foundation for moral and spiritual strength. Over recent decades this foundation has been chipped away by various hostile forces and ideologies. How has this created conditions for whirlwinds of chaos, destruction and sorrow? Simply by degrading or denying moral and spiritual absolutes on which a stable and secure society can face life and experience certainty with enjoyment.

Over the past century or so children were fed the theory of evolution as the basis for understanding who they were, how the world came into being. Ultimately they were fed the lie that they were mere offspring of chance or ‘space junk.’ At the same time the Christian view of creation, life and morality was lampooned, undermined and discarded by so many of these impressionable young people. They are now part of the ‘weather conditions’ for the approaching moral whirlwind and they haven’t a place of refuge.

What then are the ‘climate’ indicators pointing to onrushing destructive forces? What are their intentions? Simple, destroy our Christian heritage. By believing people are basically offspring of nothing, according to evolution, that means they are worthless. Therefore, murder through abortion or euthanasia cannot be a crime. There isn’t any higher authority before whom we are accountable. A judge recently declared that incest could one day be viewed in the same manner as same-sex marriage which people are now beginning to accept accepting (unfortunately). He has been stood down, at least temporarily. But his comments ring true. Why? Because there isn’t any absolute foundation on which to reject such disgusting actions. A Christian Defence Force person was dismissed from the Army because he challenged the Army’s involvement in the immoral and political Mardi-Gras parade. The Army’s involvement in such political activity goes against their own charter. It was because of his Christian belief on which he would not back down he was dismissed. It is alright to defame Jesus but woe-be-tide anyone who does it to Mohammed or any other religious leader.

There are other factors also in play as the whirlwind forms. The Christian Bible shows them up for
what they are and what they end up creating and destroying. Occult and pagan practices, drugs, slavery and sexual deviant behaviour to name just a few. Perhaps the term Lawlessness gives them a blanket covering. The word isn’t about criminals. It is about a society rejecting the moral and spiritual framework for a safe, secure and happy life. Lawlessness is a conscious rejection of such teaching as the Ten Commandments, personal accountability before God the heavenly judge, Creation and sin, Heaven and Hell, forgiveness, grace, holiness and mercy.

Does the Bible offer any place of Refuge from the onrushing fury of an uncontrollable whirlwind? Yes! It is a moral and spiritual place of safety constructed by Christ Jesus and made plain in His Word, the Bible. It says each of us are made in the image of God although we have spoilt it by our ignorance, indifference or rebellion to His word. Because of His love God set in motion a plan to offer each of us a safe haven from future judgement and the whirlwinds caused by Human lawlessness. That is the message of the death on the cross by Jesus. His resurrection from the tomb is our guarantee of His success. Now He can offer you forgiveness, a new beginning and safety from eternal destruction. Faith in Christ doesn’t guarantee a trouble free time. It does assure you of His presence, over-ruling and of one day sharing in His glory. In time, keeping His commands and teachings saves you from a lot of sorrow, shame and even sickness. He gives you a fulfilled life even under harsh conditions with a hope no one can crush.

The whirlwind is forming. Don't be caught up in its moral and spiritual degradation, destruction and ultimate futility.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Haunted by Lifeless Eyes

Peter Shurley is an Australian singer, songwriter and violinist. He presented a great concert at our church recently and sang a song called: Indian Girl. This came about through a visit to India on behalf of Compassion International, a Child Sponsorship Christian ministry. This young girl had just started school and was sitting in the front row when Peter began singing to the class. Her big eyes and apparent need stole his heart. He sponsored her. That was many years ago. Peter showed a photo of her at her University graduation. Wonderful

That song brought back vivid pictures to my mind of a visit to an African slum. We were on a short term mission trip and went to this slum area. There, sitting in a narrow lane, was this small child of indeterminate age. I know not her name. She said not a word. Beneath unwashed grime and dishevelled hair was a stained prettiness. It was however the eyes that captured me. They were lifeless. No sparkle, no tears or interest in who the strangers were, simply blankness. They shattered my heart and mind with sorrow and began to haunt me. These years since, they still haunt me.

Did she ever find someone to sponsor her and give her hope and dignity? Did this un-named slum girl simply waste away to be received by Christ Jesus in His Heavenly home?

The Christian Church has been rocked by revelations of child abuse by certain perverted persons in responsible positions. The bible is very clear about their condemnation and punishment by the Judge of the universe. The Scriptures are filled with warnings about violating the vulnerable and the young. It has an eternal sentence written in God’s statutes.

Fortunately there is another aspect to the Christian Church’s involvement with Children. It reveals the faithful care, protection, support and equipping of young lives through to adulthood. The difference is seen in many and varied ways. Perhaps most vividly for me is the contrast between the Indian girl who was sponsored and the African girl. I’ve also seen the difference it makes through the support given to such children in distant countries by my adult children (and others). One of the privileges in showing the heart of Christ within us to
children or adults is to see or hear they also put their trust in Him.

The eyes of the slum girl haunted me and still do. They also motivated me and others to reach out to care and share what we could to those similar to her. The following poem was stirred in me by the combination of Peter Shurley’s song and those eyes which haunt me still

I Cried Then and I Cry Still
We met in a Kenyan slum
In a lane with little sun
How old
I couldn’t tell.
My language she knew not
Hers, was unuttered
Yet I was shattered
By this African girl
Without a hope of happiness.
My heart ached for her sadness
I cried then
I cry still

Oh to have hugged her there
Told her someone cared
But all I felt
In my helplessness
A strange numbness
Yet prayed,
“Lord embrace her today.”
I cried then
I cry still.

Time have passed by since then
And still I remember when
We met in the Kenyan slum
In shadows cast by the sun.
But her face still appears
Unchanged by the years
Silent, sad and unmoving.
I cried then
And I cry still.

For children such as her
Deliver from despair
Through servants who share
Your tears of compassion
Your heart for redemption.
Then will we know
Tears cried then
Not in vain.

Ray Hawkins July 5 2014