The Rock…

The Rock

As well as books I have used films as sources of inspiration for my posts. However, the inspiration for this post comes from a personal friend. Family dynamics can prove to be a rich source of material.

Robert mentioned a conversation that he had with his younger sister in regard to the family.

Robert: And who is your rock?
Younger Sister: You are.
Robert: And do you know who is my rock? Jesus.

Robert has an elderly mother, living on her own in Melbourne, who regularly phones his younger sister to offload her troubles and woes. The younger sister already weighed down with Mum’s woes has an older sister who also rings and offloads her burdens.

Robert, the older brother, likes to call his younger sister to chat and listen. You know how it is in families. One person among the siblings is seen as the rock. And, on this particular occasion Robert, who is often the final person in the chain of family conversation, chose to declare Jesus as his rock.

This was no idle declaration on Robert’s part. Nor were they hollow words he had conveyed to his sister. Rather it was a declaration based on the firm conviction that Jesus is a firm rock and shelter. This conviction has been wrought out of difficult times. Robert knows about the storms that can rage on life’s journey. The storm of a dysfunctional marriage, separation and divorce, visits to the Family Court to secure access to a delightful daughter and on gaining access rights meeting the stringent conditions of access.

And the storm had only just begun!

One evening Robert was called out from a night class he was attending at the local TAFE College. Three friends had arrived and the sledge-hammer blow was delivered. They had come to tell him the sad news that his daughter, the light of his life, had been killed in a road accident. She was eight years old. The full force of the storm struck.

I know in part Robert’s emotional pain and suffering. I have been privileged to observe Robert cling to the foundation of his faith and prove it over the years. Robert is an inspiration and clearly his younger sister values his listening ear and inner strength.

These days you will find Robert actively engaged in his work, his church, the local walking group, where he was appointed secretary, and to cap it off he has completed several family history publications.

Matthew in his gospel records in chapter seven the story Jesus told of the wise and foolish builders, “…everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on a rock.”

And likewise, “But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.” The storm came and the house on the sand fell with a great crash.

The words of the old hymn,

On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand,

are as true today as they were back in the days of the hymn writer.

My hope is built on nothing less.

Forgiveness…

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During my time consulting with people in management I rarely came across a management book that mentioned forgiveness.

However, I did stumble across Paul Hanna’s book, You Can Do It! More than likely I was browsing in bookstore at the time. Paul left Qantas Airways in 1988 to start his own management consultancy and by the late 90’s was regarded as one of Australia’s leading motivational speakers.

In chapter nine, Forgive – and Heal Your Life, Paul covered the following topics, The person with the higher self-esteem apologises first, When you apologise, you discard your anger and make room for happiness, Regrouping after divorce, Dis-ease and unease toward others, Forgiveness and how it heals us all, Forgiving your parents for being human and When you blame someone, you give them power over you. Quite a list to cover in one chapter however, Paul does it well prompting the reader to consider the act of forgiveness more deeply.

Dale Carnegie in his all-time classic, How to Win Friends and Influence People, also espouses the principle, “If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.”

A quick reading of the New Testament scriptures soon uncovers the central theme of forgiveness and reconciliation. The love, mercy, grace and forgiveness of God are at the heart of the Christian message.

A well-known line in the Lord’s Prayer, the pattern for prayer given by Jesus, states, “And forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven our debtors.” Further words of Jesus are recorded by St Matthew following the Lord’s Prayer, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

Jesus makes it clear that God’s forgiveness is conditional upon our forgiving others. Where there is unforgiveness the forgiveness and freedom that comes from our heavenly Father passes us by. Hardheartedness toward others is symptomatic of hardheartedness toward God.

The act of forgiveness does not come easily or without cost however it is a requirement of Christian discipleship. The initiative in regard to forgiveness in our homes, our churches, our community, our sporting groups and our work places , whether we have been wronged or are the wrongdoers, rests with us who have experienced the grace of God.

Eric Liddell…


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Early Morning, Olympic Rings, Lake Wendouree, Ballarat

While continuing my thoughts from films allow me to introduce Eric Liddell. Some of you may recall Eric was featured in the award-winning film, Chariots of Fire. While the film focuses on Eric’s distinguished athletic career he gave it up at its high point to become a missionary to China. His decision became visible after the 1924 Olympic Games where he refused to run on a Sunday then afterwards winning gold and creating a world record in the 400 metres.

Twenty-one years later, at age 43, Eric was nearing the finishing tape in his final race on earth. During his time as a missionary Eric wrote three religious works, two pamphlets and a longer work, A Manual of Christian Discipleship, which circulated in manuscript form in a Japanese internment camp, in his beloved China, where he died of a brain tumour on 21 February 1945.

In his longer work, now published under the title, The Disciplines of the Christian Life, Eric explains his purpose in writing:
• To place before people the limited amount of Christian knowledge that every Christian should have;
• To help people apply their knowledge to daily life; to live according to the light they have;
• To develop the devotional life so as to create basic Christian thinking on subjects of conduct, action, outlook and attitudes.

He also explains that the key to knowing God is obedience. He says, “Obedience to God’s will is the secret of spiritual knowledge and insight. It is not willingness to know, but willingness to DO (obey) God’s will that brings enlightenment and certainty regarding spiritual truth.”

Jesus in John 17:7 states, “Anyone who chooses to do (obey) the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.”

While reading Eric’s book I was continually reminded of chapters 11 and 12 in the book of Hebrews. In chapter 11 the writer lists the people of faith who have gone before and then in the opening verses of chapter 12 he writes, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

Eric Liddell is another numbered among the great cloud of witnesses.

Wilderness Experiences…

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Recently, Ian, one of my nephews, had his fifty-fifth birthday. I can still recall Ian staying a few days with our family when he was a lot younger. Before leaving to go back home he presented us with a lovely piece of pottery he had crafted and inside the vase he had placed small hand-written notes to each member of the family with another note to all the family.

The note to me read, “Spring is at hand the very moment you realise it’s winter.” It brought a tear to my eye. I recalled that during one of our chats during his stay I had mentioned that I was in the midst of a personal winter.

You can see from the photograph we still have the vase, which is now used as a pen holder. As well as the pens the vase still holds the personally-penned notes from Ian.

Seasons or ‘wilderness experiences’ are common to the Christian journey.

In Song of Solomon 2:11-12 we find,

“See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come.”

Just as winter is preparation for spring so our ‘wilderness experiences’ can be used by our Heavenly Father, who cares for us, in preparation for a more effective period of ministry and mission.

The term ‘wilderness experience’ is drawn from several accounts recorded in the Scriptures.

Firstly, the Old Testament account of the tribal nation of Israel wandering in the wilderness for forty years following the nation’s refusal to enter the Promised Land. Throughout God remained with his people, provided for their daily needs and prepared them for their passage into the Promised Land.

Deuteronomy 2:7, “The Lord your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands. He has watched over your journey through this vast wilderness. These forty years the Lord your God has been with you, and you have not lacked anything.”

Secondly, the account found at the start of Matthew 4 where Jesus, following his baptism by John, was led by the Spirit into the wildness to be tested by the devil. This period of examination was at God’s initiative and tested specifically Jesus’ newly revealed relationship with God, the Father, and his Messianic vocation as the Son of God.

Selwyn Hughes in his autobiography, My Story, following his own wilderness experience wrote,

“I studied and read a lot about what Christians refer to as the ‘wilderness experience’, and the conclusion I came to was that it is a prolonged or deeply intense period of trial and testing in which a particular providential purpose is being worked out. It is something we are led into by the Lord. God either arranges it, or allows us to enter into it, not because He wants to punish us but because He wants to prune us. He does this because it is the only way He can bring his purpose to pass in our lives. Wilderness is a place of pain, isolation, humiliation, uncertainty, loneliness, depression and desperation.”

Personally, I respond with a resounding, “Yes!” to all of the above.

I recall a particular occasion when a young man, who I had befriended, committed suicide. I was only a young man too. I had picked up Graeme on a Friday evening to take him home for weekend leave from psychiatric care only to receive a phone call the following Saturday morning to advise me of Graeme’s death. I still drive past the address in my travels around Ballarat.

Following Graeme’s death I experienced all of the emotional symptoms mentioned by Selwyn Hughes as I wrestled with the “What if?” question.

Life’s experiences continue to teach me that the Lord my God is with me, He will ensure that I will not lack anything and He is shaping me after the character of His Son, Jesus, for His purposes.

Here’s a word of encouragement from Romans 12:1-2,

“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without really thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognise what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”

The Message