Spoilt…

Recently my wife emphatically reflected out loud,  “We are spoilt!” I wholeheartedly agreed. We were sitting at table following our evening meal. The past three years had been difficult. My recovery from heart bypass surgery hadn’t been all plain sailing.  However, we had received wonderful support throughout. It had come from all quarters, the medical professionals, family and friends.

My wife went on to ask, “Why us?” I thought afterwards I could have responded with, “Why not us?” However, I didn’t but responded with the thought that we had been spoilt so that we could spoil others.

I had in mind the passage in Ephesians where the Apostle Paul writes, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us.” Ephesians 1:7‭-‬8 NIV

In difficult times we had experienced the lavishness of the riches of God grace and we in turn could help others experience some of this richness.

But wait, there’s more. Only a few days earlier I had been rushed to hospital with what I thought was a possible stroke. Once again the emergency health system kicked in to ensure I received the best possible care. Following my arrival  in emergency I was quickly diagnosed with Bell’s palsy. With the tests completed, and medication prescribed I was released from hospital the same day.

Again the sense of being spoilt came through, the immediate treatment by medical professionals then the follow up support from family and friends.

Three weeks later I attended a neurology clinic for a follow up appointment. While unexpected I was pleased to discover it was the same neurologist, David, who had attended me in emergency. After a few questions and a few facial exercises on my part David expressed his surprise at how quickly I had recovered from the palsy. I explained that we had a wonderful circle of friends, who were praying for me. He posed the possibility  of an MRI scan to see if there was some other underlying cause to the palsy however, he first wanted to talk to his supervisor.

David left the room and after several long minutes returned with his supervisor, Thomas. David explained that he had difficulty in convincing his supervisor, and Thomas wanted to see for himself.  Thomas asked me to blink both eyes and while he noted a slight delay in the eye on the affected right side of my face. He confirmed David’s assessment regarding my recovery and left, leaving David to finish the consultation. David handed me a slip of paper, which he had signed, explaining that he didn’t need to see me again, wished me well,  and to hand the slip to reception on my way out.

I felt SPOILT! The whole experience was amazing and I celebrated simply by quickly sending a text message to family and friends, and then enjoyed a cup of coffee before heading home to tell my wife.

Another passage written by the Apostle Paul  in Ephesians came to mind, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:20‭-‬21 NIV

Be asssured God wants to spoil us, to lavish the riches of his grace upon us.

But wait, there’s even more. These events have occured in the context of my being the primary carer for my wife. My ill health directly affects my capacity to care for her and in turn her quality of life is affected. So together when we say we have been spoilt we speak from first hand experience.

Not only is God our Rock, our Refuge in a time of need, He is our Provider in the midst of our needs. And does this lavishly.

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Counting Your Contentment Cash

Counting Your Contentment Cash was the final sermon topic of our Pastor for Children and Families before she concluded her ministry at one2one Church of Christ.

I was taken by the profoundness yet simplicity of Kay’s presentation based on Philippians 4:11-13, I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Previously each of the children in  the children’s ministry were involved in constructing a duct tape wallet the making some contentment cash for their wallet. The cash was cards and the children were invited to write on the back of the cards the things they were thankful for.

Remember the words of Jesus when he explained that the kingdom of God belongs to little children and unless we receive the Kingdom of God like a little child we will never enter it.

Kay explained that the essence of discipleship is taking what we read in the Bible and translating it into real life. Using her granddaughter to test the construction of the duct tape wallet and contentment cards confirmed the possibilities when shortly after an argument with her mother Kay discovered her granddaughter  sitting alone quietly in the lounge room with wallet in hand.  When asked what she was doing the grandaughter replied she was counting her contentment cash.

We could well do the same. God has given us an abundance of contentment cash.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

Ephesians 1:3‭-‬10 NIV

Kay’s sermon can found at Counting Your Contentment Cash.

Crossing the Road…

Neil attended our Discovery group recently.

In my post, Disruptive Grace, I mentioned I met Neil at a pedestrian crossing which I was about to cross to attend our Discovery group held in a local cafe.

Later that week I was able to meet Neil again. Here’s our text messages,

Hello Neil, Nice to meet you on the pedestrian crossing near the entrance to the Botanical Gardens this morning…I would like to get to know you more, maybe Thursday afternoon, to see if I can help in any way? Let me know and we can arrange a convenient time and venue. Bruce 😊

Thursday afternoon is fine. Would you like to come for a cuppa at my house or would you like to meet somewhere else. Thanks for your lovely message. See you on Thursday. Please confirm the place to meet. Cheers Neil 

A cuppa at your house would be lovely. How about 2 pm?

While visiting Neil and his family and I was able to explain in more detail what I was doing on the day we met. So I invited Neil to attend our Discovery group as my guest.

He came the week we finished our series, Rediscovering God’s Compassion for a Lost World, with Jonah chapter four our final reading.

Beforehand I sent a text suggesting that in preparation Neil download a Bible app onto his smartphone in,

Good Afternoon Neil, I trust you and the family are all well. In readiness for tomorrow you might like to download a Bible app onto your phone. The one from Life Church is very good. Tomorrow we will be reading chapter 4 of the book of Jonah. I look forward to seeing you. You will be my guest. 😄

His response,

Thanks, I will see you tomorrow, I don’t believe in God nowadays as all violence under the name of God and religions. I also sorry to say, I was born in Hindu family, I can’t download bible. See you tomorrow. Cheers. Neil

My response,

Neil, Thank you for your openness. Remember you will be my guest and as such most welcome. 😊

His response,

Thanks for your appreciation. Glad to meet all your friends there tomorrow.

As I said, Neil attended, readily introduced himself to the group, and contributed to the discussion after the Scripture passage was read out by one of the members of the group…

Sunday Evening

I greeted Anne when she arrived just before the start of the Sunday evening service. It was the second time I had met Anne. A few weeks earlier I had met her in the reception area to the church offices. Anne was leaving after attending a Woman2Woman craft activity.

It was good to see Anne again at the evening service. I was attending because my daughter was conducting the baptism of a lass, who was a member of the youth group.

After the service,  a friend, Amie, told me she would be conducting her first Discovery Bible Study Monday lunchtime in the food court in Central Square, and Anne, and another lady, would be joining in.

Monday morning I sent this text, “Hello Amie, You, Anne and Marg are in my prayers for your first DBS in Central Square today. Praise God, he is always at work drawing people to himself, through our Saviour Jesus. Bruce”

Monday afternoon I received this message, “Thanks Bruce. Anne came and we did knowing God  personally and she accepted Jesus as Lord and Saviour. She wants to do the 7 commands before baptism. Marg didn’t show so we will keep praying for her and invite again next week.”
The Kingdom of God is here and it is Growing.

Meg’s Story Continued…

In one of my posts in July 2014, Meg told her story and mentioned she and her husband, Shane, wanted to get married again. They were married in 2007 in a registry office in Japan. Now  they wanted to be married in a church.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAToday, Saturday 28 February, I attended their re-commitment ceremony. It was a special day. Their pastor invited the guests to stand and to the music of Steve Grace’s, Marry Me Again, Shane and Meg entered the chapel with their three delightful children, Nina and Mae on either side, and Taiki held safely in his father’s arms. Shane looked very smart in a new suit, Meg was radiant in a lovely wedding dress and the children were all dressed for the occasion.

I was very emotional. It was ten months since I baptised Meg following her acceptance of Jesus as her Saviour and I had watched her grow in her understanding of her new relationship with her Heavenly Father. Not only was a I privileged to pray a prayer of dedication during the ceremony but I knew I had been privileged to speak into Meg’s life and the life of her family.

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I watched as the afternoon unfolded, the ceremony conducted by their pastor, the vows and the exchange of rings, photographs, support from family and friends, and after the ceremony the  food, the cutting of the wedding cake, and of course more photographs. Underlying it all, and what made it extra special was the support of the members of their home Bible Study group. The group helped arrange the printed order of service, the suit for Shane, the wedding dress for Meg, the food, the wedding cake and of course the photographs.

I came away amazed at the graciousness of God, who patiently seeks out those who would come to him and receive the gift of new life and a new Spirit through His Son, Jesus Christ.

On the inside of the back cover of their order of service Shane and Meg wrote,

We would like to take this opportunity

to express our sincere thanks for sharing

this special day with us.

We trust that the ceremony conveys

the depth of love that we share

with each other and the hope we have for the future.

We both look forward to sharing our lives

together trusting that the love of God will reign throughout

our lives and reflect upon

our friendship with you all.

Again, thank you for your participation in

celebrating our day

and our special friendship.

Shane & Meg

I’m Having a Ball…

My name is Philip. During a recent conversation with my mentor Bruce I emphatically stated I was having a ball. If you knew a little of my history life had been anything other than a ball. What has changed?

Earlier in 2014 I decided to contact a former teacher. While it took nearly twenty minutes I was determined and I persevered until I finally contact Bruce. We became re-acquainted. It proved to be the first of many phone calls and text messages since.

I wanted to thank Bruce for calling me a Christian, over 40 years ago. Bruce was a teacher at the school I attended and a fellow student had encouraged me to speak to him. Bruce welcomed our conversations and counted it a privilege to explain to me how I could get close to God and become a follower of Jesus. During one conversation in a local cafe I responded and received Jesus as my personal Saviour. Then Bruce declared that I was now a Christian thus confirming the transaction that had taken place between me and God.

Over the phone my gravelly voice gave away the fact that I had throat problems and I had difficulty speaking. However, I made sure Bruce listened explaining that since my decision I had not followed through choosing instead to go my own way.

Just as firmly Bruce explained the parable of the Prodigal Son or Lost Son and while we may turn aside from following Jesus God never ceases to hold to His side of the contract. In fact my desire to contact Bruce was evidence or confirmation of God’s amazing grace drawing me back to Him.

Since that first telephone conversation things have changed. With the help of others, Bruce, Mabel, Pastor Rob and now Linton, I am working out what it means to follow Jesus. I want to make special mention of my good friend, Walter, who has stood beside me during the tough times and is now watching me take giant steps in my faith journey. Thank you, Walter.

During one of our conversations I explained to Bruce that in the past when I walked out the door of my home unit I did so with a chip on my shoulder and anger in my heart but now I walk out the door with a spring in my step and gratitude in my heart. Pastor Rob during his first visit gave me the words of Philippians 4:13, “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” I’ve now placed these words above my doorway to remind me that I step out in God’s strength.

More recently I took up the invitation from Pastor Rob to attend a morning worship service at his church. Mabel, another one of my mentors accompanied me to lend moral support. I felt very much at home. Over a cuppa after the service I made use of the pen and note paper I use to help with my communication. Pastor Rob, who was standing behind me, noted the words that I had written, “Forty-one years absent.” He asked whether the words referred to me to which I replied, “Yes.” Pastor Rob immediately responded, “Welcome home!” I knew I was home.

15 In the story of the Lost Son, Luke 15, the penitent son on returning home receives a joy-filled, “Welcome home,” from the father and immediately a feast is arranged to celebrate the son’s return. I tell you I’m having a ball. God wants to welcome us home. He wants to know we belong and He wants us to have a ball. Bruce has given me another story, the Parable of the Great Banquet, found in Luke 14:15-24, to read with my new-found mentor, Linton, who I met at church.

I’ll be going to church again. Mabel will come with me again to lend her support and I have extended an invitation to my friend Walter to join me whenever he can.

I know I belong and I’m regaining a sense of worth and purpose. I’m excited because God is opening my eyes to where I can serve Him. I’m having a ball…

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Meg’s Story…

My name is Meg and I am married to Shane. We have three children, Nina, six, who has started pre-school, Mae, three, and Taiki, who was born last year.

I grew up in Japan and Shane grew up in New Zealand. We met in Alice Springs when I was touring Australia. I didn’t want to get married but Shane was very persistent and he followed me home to Japan. We were married in Japan in 2007

Shane is a Christian but I never understood anything about be a Christian. We settled in Ballarat. I had to stay home to mind the children while Shane went to work. I was very lonely and we argued a lot. I realised something had to change so I started attending MOPS, Mothers of Pre-School children, at a local church, York Street Church of Christ. I then joined a Bible Study. However, my home language is Japanese and I found it very difficult to understand.
One day two ladies, Karen and Janine, from one2one MOPs, came to speak at the York Street MOPs. I cried while I was listening to their stories.

One day I said to Shane, “We should go to the church at one2one as a family and see what it is like.” We have attended ever since and I have been attending MOPs with Mae and Taiki at one2one. We love our church family and I love one2one MOPs.

Although I was attending church with my family and attending MOPs regularly I still didn’t understand what it meant to be a Christian. I couldn’t understand why God would let His son Jesus die. I would never allow Nina to die. One day I realised I needed to talk to someone who could explain. So a few weeks ago, one MOPs morning, Grandpa Bruce explained to me simply how I could know God personally through His son, Jesus. I have placed my trust in Jesus. Grandpa Bruce invited me to pray in Japanese, my own language. It was the first time I had prayed to God in Japanese and I know He heard me. His Spirit confirmed it in my heart.

Since then my good friend, Kate, has been helping me learn what it means to follow Jesus. I know I am a VSP, Very Special Person, to God. He loves me and cares for me. God is helping me to be a better wife to Shane and a better Mum to our three children. Do we still argue? Yes, but I know now that God is with us helping us work things out.

Recently we had a family holiday in New Zealand and made time to see Shane’s family. Shane’s mum likes me and I was able to have a lovely chat with her.

I was baptised on Sunday 27 April because I knew baptism is a big part of following Jesus, and I want to obey Him as my Lord and Saviour.

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Here I am with Grandpa Bruce and afterwards with friends from my church family, who prayed for me after my baptism.

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Shane and I are getting married again soon. Pastor Mark is marrying us and you are all invited.

When I was young my father died. I miss him. However, I now know that I have a Heavenly Father who cares for me and my family and watches over us each day.