Oh Lord, How long?

O Lord – How Long?

“My soul is in anguish.
How long, O Lord, how long?”

                                                Psalm 6:3

            It is in times of crisis that I call out to the Lord. This is a natural reaction. My soul is dismayed. It is in anguish. I am troubled deeply within. My body and mind seem to be in utter confusion, in perplexing turmoil.

There seems no rest, no peace. I do not know which way to turn, which path to tread. My mind is twirling with questions, my heart is trembling with anxiety, my bones are aching in fear, my stomach churning from all that distress.

It is in times of crisis that I say, ‘How long, O Lord, how long?’ I start questioning the Lord and His timing. Why now, Lord? Why is this happening to me? When will you answer my prayer? Why have you allowed this disaster to occur in my life?

All this is a natural reaction. What we need in the midst of a crisis is a spiritual reaction. David knew times of crisis, times of anguish, times of despair, heartache, perplexity and downright fear. David, too, poured out his heart and soul to the Lord. But David also knew that the ultimate source of peace – the only true, reliable source of peace – is in the Lord.

Jesus said, ‘I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.’



Lest we forget

Lest we forget

During this special day Australians stop for a moment as a nation and remember those tragic events at Gallipoli in 1915. It is not a pleasant part of our history, nor was it glamorous. The general consensus seems to be, however, that this one event somehow defines us as a nation.

I must admit I have felt some disquiet about the recent controversy over the celebration of Anzac Day, especially the proposed centenary celebration in two years’ time. It’s our nation’s special day and should – must – be celebrated for the symbolism it represents. Our young nation has very few important, nation-building symbols and I feel that it is important it be observed. Take a moment on Anzac Day to reflect on the sacrifice of so many of our young people in many theatres of war; some are still serving today in troubled areas in several countries. Pray that they will return home in safety.

The Jewish people of the times when Jesus walked this earth had many powerful and meaningful symbols. At Easter time it is easy to gloss over the observance of the Passover. Jesus and his disciples met in the Upper Room to remember that momentous day in their history when they were delivered from slavery in Egypt. They took a spotless lamb and sacrificed it, applying the blood to the door frame of their home. The angel of death passed over and they were delivered from the bondage of slavery and gained their freedom.

On the cross of Calvary we see the spotless Lamb of God, sacrificed for our deliverance from slavery to sin, his blood poured out for our freedom from the guilt of sin. The Passover was to remember their freedom. Communion is our way of remembering Christ’s sacrifice until he comes.

Let us also be thankful for Anzac Day when we can remember our fallen soldiers, and pray for the safe return of our soldiers still serving on the fields of war.


Praying for others


Are you like me and sometimes wonder how to pray for those who are ill or in any sort of difficulty? We often assume that healing or the removal of the difficulty is what would be best, but that is not always God’s will for that dear one.  There are many lessons that God needs to teach us that can only be learned when we allow Him Who knows what is best and to accept the hard times as evidence of His loving training which will make us more like our Lord Jesus Christ, which is His ultimate aim for each of us.

Warren Wiersbe, long time pastor and author of many books, especially the “Be” books, wrote this:
An associate of mine, a gifted secretary, was going through great trials.  She had had a stroke, her husband had gone blind and then he had to be taken to hospital where (we were sure) he would die. I saw her in Church one Sunday and assured her I was praying for her.
“What are you asking God to do?” she asked, and her question startled me.
“I’m asking God to help you and strengthen you,” I replied.
“I appreciate that,” she said, “but pray about one more thing.  Pray that I will have the wisdom not to waste all of this.”
She knew the meaning of James 1 v 5 and 6. James not only explained what to ask for (wisdom) but he also described how to ask (in faith).

Another suggestion is to not only tell the loved one that you are praying for them but to write your prayer in an email or in a card to them.  It is much more personal to write ‘I am praying that you will know God’s loving arms around you during this difficult time and that you will especially be reminded of His lovely promise to you – “I will never leave you or forsake you.”



The miracle of creation


Grevillea flower

Grevillea flower

Over the years my wife and I have been for many walks in a variety of locations around Australia.  The miracle of God’s creative hand is in evidence wherever we look. The wild flowers give the bushland around Murray Bridge great splashes of colour everywhere. Wildflowers like wattles, cassias and orchids can be found in profusion in many places.

On my early morning walks the native birds drown out all other sounds.  The harmonious calls of the Grey Shrike-Thrush echoes through the hills near our home. Honeyeaters zip from flower the flower seeking out breakfast. The Magpies carol incessantly while the Red Wattlebirds go about feeding their constantly hungry offspring. Yes, all around me, I can see evidence of the creative hand of God.


The miracle of God’s creation can be seen everywhere. All we have to do is to open our eyes to see the daily miracle of creation all about us. Don’t forget to praise God for the beauty all around us, whether that is in a single pot-plant or a large conservation park full of splashes of colour in every direction. Stop and listen to the birds singing their praises, and give thanks for the blessing to be able to see and hear them.

The miracle of creation is inspiring. I never cease to be amazed and delighted by it. Far greater, however is another miracle, the miracle of salvation. To think that almighty God, the creator of the heavens and the Earth – oh, and He also made the stars – was prepared to give us His only Son as saviour. That Jesus Christ was prepared to die in my place is an amazing miracle. That He was prepared to sacrifice His life so that I might live forever is a miracle. How amazing!



Trouble at home

            “…the wall of Jerusalem is broken down.”  Neh. 1:3

            A remnant of the Jews had remained in Judah and Jerusalem during the Babylonian captivity. Some had returned from Babylon during the previous 100 years. The temple had been restored and Ezra the priest had been instrumental in bringing about many social and religious reforms.

In the day of Nehemiah, the once proud city of Jerusalem, the city of the great king David, the city that was once resplendent during the reign of King Solomon, now lay in desolate ruins. Time and time again, this once great city whose influence beamed far and wide, had been overrun by marauding hordes. It was a strategically placed city and was thus in the direct paths of invading armies from the north, south and east.

Nehemiah was an important servant in the palace of Artaxerxes, King of Persia. He was the grandson of Queen Esther. While he was there, one of his brothers arrived at Susa with some disturbing news. The walls and gates of Jerusalem had once again been broken down and burned. The people were in great distress.

The enemy was having a field day. How the enemy loves to disturb us on the home front. We may be doing a great work for the Lord, experiencing great blessing. Or we may be witnessing effectively to others at our place of work. A friend of many years may be asking searching questions about our faith or may have accepted an invitation to a special church event.

It is at these moments of blessing, these times of spiritual insight, these occasions of breakthrough to formerly hardened hearts – times when victory is so close – that we need to be on guard. The enemy comes storming in through our walls of defence at home. Cruel, hurtful words are spoken, attitudes slump, habits grate on our nerves, loved ones are disagreeable, finances cause us untold worry and children are disobedient or openly rebellious. Whatever the attack of the enemy, it is sure to discourage us; it is certain to bring distress. It is often the little events that are guaranteed to bring discomfort, anger, bitterness, frustration – and end in sin.

Be encouraged. If you read through the life and experiences of Nehemiah, you will discover how to live prayerful and victorious lives. You will learn to experience a life filled with purpose and power.

Be comforted. Nehemiah’s name means ‘consolation of Joh’ and comes from the word that means ‘comfort’.

Above all, be on guard.


More than you can imagine

More than you can imagine

Remember when a telephone was for making and receiving phone calls – and nothing else? With our current generation of smart phones, that day has long gone. I’ve recently upgraded from a basic mobile that only made and received calls, and sent the occasional text message with not even a camera!

I am quickly coming to the conclusion that my smart phone is far smarter than me. It has two cameras, can contain a phone directory of hundreds of people – including their addresses and a lot of extra information, it can tell me the weather – in any city of the world, I can go onto the internet, check out maps from around the world, read and send emails, write and read Facebook updates and Tweets via Twitter. I can read books, listen to music, view photo albums, play games, read the Bible and check my bank balances. It updates me with news, traffic conditions and the stock market.

It has a calendar which is synchronised with the calendar on my computer – and the calendar on my wife’s computer and phone – with automatic updates from either of us. It has done things I didn’t tell it to do and probably a whole lot more things I’m not aware of – yet. In fact, I know I have probably only used a very small part of its total capacity. Already it has exceeded my expectations and can probably do far, far more than I can ever imagine.

Paul wrote: “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!” (Eph. 3:20-21) God is able to do far more than we can ask or imagine! Sadly, we often limit God with our small prayers, our limited dreams or our finite visions.

Dare to dream big spiritual dreams. Dare to imagine how great God can be in your life, and in the life of the church. Dare to pray imaginatively. Dare to come boldly to his throne of grace – then expect God to answer those prayers. We have a great God, one who has blessed us in so many ways in Christ Jesus, a loving God who desires to bless us even more than we can imagine, and all made possible through the death and resurrection of his Son.

As we worship him today, give him all the glory.


Joy in the midst of tears

As I walked out of my classroom I heard a voice saying, “You are leaving your classroom for the very last time.” It was profoundly prophetic. I never did set foot in that classroom again, except to gather up all my things and say farewell to the children.

The months leading up to that point were filled with tears. Tears of frustration, anger, confusion, pain and tears from sleeplessness. The stress of coping with thirty energetic eight year olds had taken its toll. Looking back on that pivotal day, I hadn’t been coping for a long time. Sad to say I admitted later in the year that I had lost the passion to teach.

People working in the helping occupations, like teaching, nursing, medicine and many others need to be passionate about their work. It is essential to have a passion that drives you to get up every morning and joyfully look forward to the day ahead. I had lost the passion. Each day was a test of endurance to be negotiated. It was a long, dark tunnel of despair and I paid for it with a body that decided to shut down. “Enough!” it seemed to scream at me.

I sought medical help. My GP was fantastic. He quickly diagnosed that I was clinically depressed. A course of medication helped to some extent. He arranged for counselling. That was way out of my comfort zone, but so essential to my eventual recovery. She listened to me, she was never judgemental and she allowed me to let it all come out – often in a flood of more tears. Fortunately, she had an ample supply of tissues.

Nearly ten years later I’m well into my journey to recovery. It has not been easy. There are constant reminders of a sense of failure. There are yearnings for the wonderful rapport I had with children.  There is a disappointment in not being able to use the skills developed over 35 years. Now in retirement I have a growing passion in pursuing writing as a new career.

How did I survive? I am convinced that God’s amazing help pulled me through this crisis. Sure – at times he pulled me screaming, kicking and sobbing. Again it was a quiet voice softly encouraging me. “The time is right,” it kept saying until the day I signed my resignation papers.

Even in the tears there was joy. This joy was a deep, inner contentment that God knew what was best for me. I identified with Nehemiah who said, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” I drew enormous strength from that inner joy.


Postscript: within minutes of posting this article, I received news that a former student of mine had last week taken his life after many years of depression, substance abuse and misdiagnosed conditions. This came on top of a teaching colleague’s son taking his life earlier in the week. If you are depressed, or not coping with what life throws at you, please seek out medical and professional help. You are more valuable than you realise. You are precious in God’s sight, and he is able to heal, strengthen and bring joy to your heart once again.

My God, My Refuge

My God, My Refuge

“O Lord my God, I take refuge in you.”  Psalm 7:1

            Into every life there comes a time when one says, ‘I’ve had it! That’s enough! I just can’t take it any more!’ It matters little what has brought one to such a position. The crisis point has been reached; one has been stretched to breaking point. Everything inside seems to scream out, ‘STOP! I want OUT!’

The natural reaction can take several forms. We may rant and rave, shout and curse, lashing out at all within tongue reach. Or we may withdraw into a sullen depression, in a pit so deep we can’t see which way is up. Or we may drift into a swamp of indifference, wallowing languidly in an attitude of ‘I don’t care any more.’

David knew times like this too. He was assailed on all sides by enemies, injustice, disloyalty, criticism – not to mention attempts on his life. He, like us, experienced seasons of anger, times of depression and periods of indifference.

What sets David apart, however, is that he knew what the spiritual reaction to stress should be. He knew that he could take refuge in God his Lord. God is waiting patiently and lovingly, offering us His arms of refuge. Let your mind and heart rest in His peace. When you do, all will change. The crisis may not disappear, but His presence will make it bearable – and able to be overcome. Step back and, in faith, allow God room to transform your crisis into an exciting challenge – and a thrilling victory!


Being thankful – no matter what

Being Thankful – no matter what

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thess 5:16-18)

When things are going right, when we are feeling healthy, when there are no troubles facing us, it is easy to worship God, give thanks to him and lift up our hearts and voices in praise to our heavenly Father. When a whole congregation feels the same way it lifts one’s spirit and we are quick to say what a blessing we have had during the service.

But what about those troubled times when the storm clouds gather, illness makes us feel foul, a serious operation looms large or there is an outbreak of conflict in the home, the workplace – or even the church? When that gloom and heaviness descends it is so hard to see the silver lining, it is difficult to make out the path set before us and our hearts become shrouded in fear, worry and depression stabs at our peace.

In the last few verses of Paul’s letter to the believers in Thessalonica, he exhorts them to give thanks in all circumstances. What? Am I to give God thanks that I have lost my job? Should I thank God for the loss of a dear family member? How can I be thankful for that terminal illness? Or that serious operation which may change my life forever?

In all circumstances. That is an all-encompassing statement. ALL circumstances. No exclusions, no exceptions. That’s hard, challenging and sometimes very difficult. But we also know that nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 8:39) Take comfort and strength from the love of God. He loves and cares for each one of us so much, he gave his only Son to suffer the punishment due to us.

On this special Harvest Thanksgiving Day let us remember the vast number of blessings that he showers upon us daily – in fact, he lavishes us in his blessings. Blessings like our daily food, clothing, homes, family and a peaceful country. Then there are the many spiritual blessings of love, peace, forgiveness, his spirit, redemption, cleansing… the list could go on and on.

He has done so much for us, so remember on a daily basis to give thanks in all circumstances.


Walking to Emmaus

Walking to Emmaus
Luke 24: 13 – 35

One of my favourite passages would have to be the account in Luke’s Gospel of Cleopas and his friend walking on the road to Emmaus. As they walked along they talked about recent events; of the trial of Jesus, of his suffering and death; of stories of sightings of Jesus alive.

They were joined by Jesus as they walked, but they didn’t recognise him. He asked them what they were talking about and they related the recent events in Jerusalem. “We had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel,” they said. They had totally missed the point of the ministry of Jesus.

They were just hoping for a political solution; they wanted Jesus to be king and for him to overthrow the oppressive Roman occupiers. In their limited vision and understanding they were only hoping for freedom from Rome. They didn’t realise that Jesus came to fulfil a much bigger ministry: to redeem the whole world, not just Israel, and to bring freedom from the guilt of sin, not just a political freedom.

Jesus then explained to them in great detail about himself, the Christ (or Messiah), and how he was foretold by the prophets of old. It must have been quite a revelation concerning the ancient writings, for they said later, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked?”

When Jesus gave thanks and broke the bread their eyes were opened and Jesus disappeared. I think at that moment they had a clear understanding of what Jesus had been teaching them. They saw – and they understood in their hearts.

Do we walk through life with eyes closed to the truths of the teaching of Jesus? Do we read the words in the Bible, and hear the words spoken in sermons, and hear what Bible teachers say – but the eyes of our understanding are blind and we don’t grasp what Jesus is really saying?

I hope and pray that each one of us will experience our “hearts” burning within us as we hear, read and meditate on the words of life.