Prayer : The Calm that Follows the Storm

Reblog of a recent post by my friend Paul at granosalispaullocandro.wordpress.com

 It has been said that even as an exercise in itself prayer has psychological benefits. It can be a means of releasing the tension that result from worry and fear.

Yet we are assured from Scripture that prayer is not merely a subjective exercise like reciting a Buddhist mantra rather it is the placing of our situation, needs and fears in the hands of God.

Looking at the story of Hannah in the early chapters of the book of Samuel, we see an example of the change fervent prayer brings to situations.

For a woman to remain childless in those days was treated as a reproach and an inferred some sin in the life and God’s displeasure. Hannah although she had the devotion of her husband still had to contend with Peninah’s ridicule and reproach. The stigma of her society at that time was difficult to cope with.

Her visit to the tabernacle and fervent prayer to the Lord was such the Eli the priest accused her of drunkenness. She promised any child that God gave her would be returned to the Lord as his servant. Eli when he heard her story blessed her and wished her well.

17Then Eli answered and said, “Go in peace; and may the God of Israel grant your petition that you have asked of Him.” 18She said, “Let your maidservant find favor in your sight.” So the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad. 1 Samuel 1:17

The immediate result of this prayer made in faith was relief from the grief and sadness she had experienced. This in itself is a real blessing. These emotions accomplish nothing and if indulged to long can be damaging.

The great result was the birth of the prophet Samuel who was on many occasions the saviour of the people and a great instrument in God’s hands.

Hannah Presents Samuel untuk Eli

The real blessing of prayer lies in its being mixed with faith in a God who engages with us and seeks our good. It is He who gives us peace in the midst of adverse circumstances and dire need.

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The Christian message is a revelation of a limitless ability to deliver. It is never a try; it is always a triumph.

A Bunch of Everlastings, F.W. Boreham

Image result for quotes from fw borehamGood Works

The natural result of the gospel of Christ is to manifest itself in good works and charitable works at home and abroad. The tendency however,  has been that the good work continues while the proclamation of the Gospel message goes by the board.

The other side of the coin is that the proclamation of the Gospel is made but it is not matched by a social concern for those in need.

In all things we must fight against a lack of balance and making our own ends the rule by which we act. We must take our lead from the New Testament church which boldly proclaimed the Gospel while at the same time ministered to those in need.

Wanna Buy a Duck?

Joe Penner was a comedian very popular in the 1930’s although little remembered today. Although highly talented he was gradually sidelined by the repetition of the same sort of material and catch phrases e.g. “Wanna buy a Duck”?

While it is true that the Gospel remains the same basic message, it never jades us by repetition.

Like Rome it has many roads that lead to it. As we would a flower or a mountain, we can see the gospel from different points of view and in different lights. Should the Gospel become dull and uninteresting to us let us look at it from another of its many perspectives.

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More to Life…continued

The More to Life series mentioned in my post, https://brucestaley.com/2016/01/19/more-to-life/, has begun!

Last week by way of introduction it was Discovery Bible Study Reloaded and we examined Matthew 7: 24-29, the parable of The Wise and Foolish Builders.

Lots of laughter when someone  recalled a children’s song of long ago and got the group to join in.

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This week was the first study, Life, in the series.

John 10:10
“I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.”

No singing this time but lots of excitement. Names were quickly entered on our Pray4five cards. And more excitement for me when my young friend, Praveen, from India, agreed to lead the group next week.

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Podcasts of the weekly sermons are available at http://www.churchone2one.org

Not only reloaded but reinvented into a Discovery Discipleship Movement. We shall what see what God has in store.

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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Taking the Plunge…

Lawrence Baptism (640x427)

Have you taken the plunge with simply the bungee rope saving you from certain death as you dropped from the launch platform? Bungee jumping is a popular adventure activity and while I haven’t taken the plunge I can imagine the experience is exhilarating.

The whole experience of being baptised is also exhilarating and while initially there may be anxiety, even fear if you are afraid of water, baptism is an important step in the faith journey.

In the sacrament of baptism we identify ourselves with the death and resurrection of our Saviour and God performs a miracle.

The Apostle Paul in Romans 6;3-5 describes it this way, “…don’t you know that all of us who were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.”

And Romans 6:11, “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

In Acts 8 we find the story of the Ethiopian official, who upon being told the good news about Jesus from Phillip, when he came across some water said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptised?”

The Cross…

Lake Eyre (800x532)

The message of the cross is foundational to our Christian experience.

The Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:18 states, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those who are being saved it is the power of God.”

Rather than the opposite of foolishness, which is wisdom, Paul chooses the term, power of God. The Gospel or Good News is more than good advice, telling us what we need to do, nor is it simply information about God’s power, it is God’s life-giving power!

In Romans 1:16 Paul declares, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes.”

The gospel is more than head-knowledge; it is the amazing power of God that radically transforms people’s lives.

A wonderful illustration of the miraculous transforming work of the gospel is the Lake Eyre Basin, which is one of the largest drainage systems on a global scale. The Basin covering an arid and semi-arid part of the Australian continent spans four states and territories. When the rains arrive the river beds and surrounding countryside are remarkable transformed by the life-giving water. Vegetation springs to life and wildlife multiplies. The scale of the transformation is exemplified by the filling of the usually dry Lake Eyre, the fifth largest terminal lake in the world.

All this reminds me of Geoff Bullock’s song, The Great Southland,

This is our nation, this is our land
This is our future, this is our hope
A land of reaping, a land of harvest
This is our land, this is our home

This is the great southland of the Holy Spirit
A land of red dust plains and summer rains
To this sun-burnt land we will see a flood
And to this great southland His Spirit comes

This is our nation, this is our land
This land of plenty, this land of hope
The richest harvest is in her peoples
We see revival, his Spirit comes

This is our nation, this is our land
This lucky country of dreams gone dry
And to these peoples, we see a harvest
And to this land, revival comes

The message of the cross is the life-giving power of God that can dramatically transform a dry and thirsty soul and transform a nation.

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.