Complacency

Reading from the first chapter of Judges today, I came across this comment in my ESV Study Bible notes:

Judg. 1:21 Benjamin did not drive out the Jebusites. A second notice about Israelite failure (see note on v. 19) previews a series of six almost identical notices in vv. 27–36. The Israelites were apparently satisfied with a comfortable home in a productive land and were not zealous to achieve God’s full purpose for their life in the land (see note on vv. 27–33).

What struck me is the bit about being satisfied with a comfortable home in a productive land and not being zealous to achieve God’s full purpose for their life in the land. In many ways this describes me – God has given the Church a task to do, I am a part of that Church but am not wholeheartedly working to achieve that task.

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
(Matthew 28:18-20 ESV)

If I really do think that Jesus Christ is all-sufficient and believe it when He says He has all authority in heaven and on earth, then why am I not making disciples, baptizing them and teaching them to obey all Jesus commanded? Is it because I have become comfortable in not obeying all that Jesus commanded?

I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.
(Revelation :15-3:19 ESV)

I need to repent of my own complacency and become zealous for the Great Commission. I do not know the form(s) it might take on, but it is clear that the depth and seriousness of my discipleship needs to massively change.

I humbly repent of my complacency and ask God to help me live as I profess to believe.

Spring gratitude

As I have written down some of the gifts I am noticing God has given me over the past week, I see that many of them are ‘small pleasures’ that come unexpectedly. I put quote marks around the phrase small pleasures because they are also things which I am powerless to bring about of my own will, the beauty of nature, the laughter of children, benefits of living in this nation, the love of other people, which makes them very large gifts. This is why I view such blessings as gifts from God, not only does He give them but He also opens my eyes to see and enjoy them (Ecclesiastes 2:24 & Ecclesiastes 3:12-13). So, despite the awful weather this past week, there is still plenty to be thankful for.

Gifts I have noticed this week (#30 -# 40):
  • Life and beauty budding forth during a spring storm.
  • A cup of tea and conversation with my wife.
  • Beautiful songs that turn my heart again to Jesus when I am weary and filled with worldly concerns.
  • Children laughing together playing outside.
  • For Your reminder when I wipe the tears from a child’s cheeks that You will wipe away all our tears (Revelation 21:4).
  • Our old house remained weatherproof!
  • That time continues ticking by even when waiting is hard.
  • A mother and daughter eating ice-cream and enjoying a movie together.
  • A warm fire on a cold evening.
  • The unhurried pace of gardening on a sunny day.
  • See my entire list

Signed, sealed, but not yet delivered

Reading Deuteronomy 27:26 reminds me of the reformed theological position that as Christians our obedience confirms our state of salvation (rather than earning our salvation).

“‘Cursed be anyone who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’
(Deuteronomy 27:26 ESV)

The context here in Deuteronomy is of ‘sealing’ or confirming agreement with the terms of the covenant by actually obeying it. So also the seal, or outward sign, of my participation in the New Covenant is my obedience to Christ.

Unfortunately for the people of Israel, the perfect obedience required by the law is impossible for anyone to achieve. Therefore disobedience to the law brings a curse upon those who attempt to live by the law. The only way to be free is to have that curse removed somehow, which of course is exactly what Jesus Christ did by taking the curse upon Himself (Galatians 3:10-14). As a Christian I am enabled to obey Christ by the Holy Spirit who is the seal of my salvation and gives the ability to walk in obedience to Christ (see Ephesians 1:13-14).

Phew!

Hopefully this post will be the only reason that you realise this website has moved across the Pacific Ocean! The Words of Eternal Life blog now physically resides on a server in New Zealand. This has involved transferring the domain name and WordPress database to the new host and my very grateful thanks goes to the fantastic support team at Mothership for doing the technical stuff and ensuring my blog didn’t disappear into the ether!

There are a few minor issues that I still need to update as a result of the transfer, I know a couple of images have broken links and I have not activated all the plugins yet so some behind-the-scenes functionality is not available. However, overall you should not notice too much difference, if you do please leave a comment!

Gratitude

Over the last few months I have been reading the Holy Experience blog, created by Ann Voskamp. There is much in this beautiful blog to be inspired and uplifted by.

Something Ann does on her blog is to list the gifts God gives her on an ongoing basis. She calls this The One Thousand Gifts and seems to me to be a very good idea:

A List of a Thousand Things, beginning with #1. I am daily jotting down items on my Thousand Gifts List, working, one-by-one, up to a thousand gifts. Not of gifts I want. But of gifts I have.

I know that I need to be more mindful of the manifold blessings God pours upon me, it is all too easy to feel the pain points and failings in my life, allowing these to cloud my vision of the riches I have in Christ. Therefore, I am beginning my own list and joining the Gratitude Community in aiming to post something new for my list of the gifts God has given me each Monday. These will include some things that are eternal, some that are essential, some that have changed my life and some that may seem trivial to anyone except me.

Some items from my list so far:
  1. God’s grace to me in Christ Jesus.
  2. My beautiful, faithful wife.
  3. Three wonderful children.
  4. Continual provision of enough as our family has grown.
  5. The grace that keeps making me grow as a father and husband.
  6. Daily chores that leave my mind free to think about God stuff.
  7. The ventolin (salbutamol) that helps my little boy to breathe.
  8. Words, which express and mould our hearts.
  9. Books written by wise people who love God and want to build up His Church.
  10. A home that is weatherproof, warm and comfortable.

We are blessed

Christchurch earthquake, 4 September 2010

Little ole New Zealand is getting a bit of a battering from the forces of nature these days; floods, high winds, earthquakes, snowstorms … what next? The insurance companies must be suffering, no doubt our premiums are set to rise significantly.

The photo above shows some of the damage resulting from the magnitude 7.1 earthquake which shook Christchurch awake at 4:35 am on Saturday 4 September 2010. Fortunately nobody was killed in this earthquake, though two people were seriously injured. The repair bill is projected to be up to NZ$3.5 billion, making it the fifth most expensive earthquake for insurers and one of eight to cost over US$1 billion according to the NZ Herald. Add to this the cost of recent floods and other storm damage, plus the ongoing financial effects of the global economic meltdown, and there is cause for concern.

However, the fact I can be concerned about increases in my insurance premiums places me in the category of being one of the wealthiest people in the world. For most people in this world the very idea of insurance policies is a joke – they possess almost nothing to insure, the cost of the premiums would deprive their family of food, insurance companies would consider them too high risk to cover and what is the replacement cost of a shack made of recycled materials illegally built in a slum with rent paid to a gang of thugs? To the family who live there the cost of not having that shack could well be their lives, to an insurance company it might be only a few dollars.

Let me relate part of the story of another family enduring the aftermath of a natural disaster:

…the hurricane of Agatha swept away the previous clinging tin last May, buried it in dozens of feet of smothering red mud. The children had escaped in the relentless, pounding rain to the shelter of the police station. It sheet rained for days.

And when it stopped, he hauled the mud away with his bare hands, with one bucket, with determination sheerer than these cliffs, right up the side of this mountain. I think this would take weeks. I think this would take something out of the center of a man, to build a house again on the same sliding, swallowing, earth because there is no other place to go. He built this shelter again, what his daughter, his grandsons needed, with materials bought by Compassion.

This is a quote from a blog post written be Ann Voskamp while on a trip to Guatemala to see firsthand the work being done by Compassion child sponsorship. Please read this post, it captures in a unique way the reality of life for many (most?) people. Similarly, Ann’s post about how to make your life an endless celebration celebrates the humble service of Christ’s disciples even when it seems to make little impact on the multitudinous needs around about, and her post about the one word that fixes a broken heart, this broken world. I haven’t been there, I cannot capture the pain of a heart bleeding for the poor in such a poignant way.

Please click on the links in the paragraph above, take the time to read those posts and then consider something about the photograph at the top of this page; there is one very badly damaged building – the others, including some very large ones, are mostly intact. Then consider that on January 12, 2010 a similar magnitude (7.0) earthquake hit Haiti, demolished most of the city of Port-au-Prince and killed 230,000 people. Why the difference?

New Zealand is a very seismically active group of islands, so also is Haiti. Both nations have a history of destructive earthquakes. New Zealand has a seismic testing schedule for buildings, strict building codes, a government funded earthquake insurance scheme, well organised civil defence system, high level of private insurance, low population density and the recent quake struck at a time when few people were out and about. Aside from our population density and the time of the earthquake, a significant factor in our low casualty rates for natural disasters is wealth. It takes a lot of spare cash to be able to make useful contingency plans for events that are unpredictable, may not happen within your lifetime and may not even affect you if they do happen.

I am very thankful for the wisdom of our leaders over the years which has given us such resilient infrastructure in this nation. I have done my share of grumbling about the building consent process and the cost of compliance with building codes. Paying for a modest home is taking a big chunk of my pay each week, but the fact I can actually make those payments illustrates the vast gulf between the wealth I have and the poverty that is inescapable for most of my fellow people in this world.

What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it? (1 Corinthians 4:7 ESV)

You received without paying; give without pay. (Matthew 10:8 ESV)

Server switch

In order to (hopefully) improve the speed of this blog for people in NZ and to support local web host providers, I am going to attempt to move the Words of Eternal Life blog from a server located somewhere in North America to one located in Auckland. All going well you won’t notice anything, but there is a chance that the blog may be unavailable for a short period.

If you do try to visit and cannot connect, or get a ‘404’ error, don’t panic. Chalk it up to my lack of IT skills and visit again a few hours later when it should be all working again!

Thanks in advance for your patience!

A word of pain

A few years ago a hillside above the suburb where I live was ablaze with fire. We awoke at about 5am to a house full of smoke, the sounds of sirens and helicopters, and an eerie glow outside. This particular fire was caused by strong winds fanning the embers of a smaller fire seemingly extinguished several weeks previously. All it took to devastate that hillside were some sparks and a constant wind across dry scrubland. The resulting inferno was so intense that entire pine trees were suddenly exploding in flames. Such a fire destroys everything in its path.

There is another source of fire which can destroy lives – the burning words of someone who refuses to control their tongue. I have seem someone consumed with pain from the flaming tongue of another. This metaphor of the tongue as a fire comes from James 3:5-9:

So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. (James 3:5-9 ESV)

James not only uses the image of fire, but also of poison. A poison gets into our lives and causes sickness within, sometimes even paralysis. Words can crush a person, breaking their spirit and leading to a cycle of sorrow (Proverbs 15:4 and Proverbs 15:13).

The words from our mouths are like bullets – once fired off they cannot be retrieved, and if spoken indiscriminately they can cause great harm. Yet our words can also bring life and healing to others, it all depends upon the heart of the one speaking.

The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence. (Proverbs 10:11 ESV)

What comes out of our mouths reflects what is stored up in our hearts:

For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 
(Matthew 12:34b ESV)

It makes sense then that the words which will bring healing to our souls, the words of eternal life, come from the One whose heart is absolutely pure, good, righteous and holy. As we walk around in a world of sinners we will be wounded by careless, even vicious, words. Such wounds can fester and destroy us unless we are set free from their power. The way to be free is to abide in the word of Christ and know the truth (John 8:31-32). Truth will set us free from the lies spoken to us.