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What is the next word that jumps out at you? Easter Break, Easter Bunny, Easter celebration, or Easter Holidays perhaps? Regardless of which word that came to your mind, I think we can agree that generally we are all confronted with the increasing secularization of Easter. It is becoming more about time off and holidays than it is about remembering Jesus. Maybe this is appropriate considering that as a percentage of our population Christians are in the minority.

What concerns me though is that this secularization also seems to be mirrored in the followers of Jesus. Easter, arguably the holiest event in the Calendar, is increasingly becoming more about time off than remembering the gift of Jesus to this world, why is this so? I think there are probably quite a few reasons, our increased busyness, the de-regulation of trading ours and the desire to “get away from it all,” but I can’t help but wonder whether our general disconnection with things “eternal” has something to do with it.

Karl Marx, one of the fathers of communism said, “Religion is the opiate (opium/herion) of the masses.” Marx was critical in his era of the ruling authorities and the exploitation of the masses they oversaw. His view was that religion helped excuse this exploitation because it told people that they could endure poverty and deprivation now, because of the “paradise” of the life to come. Ironically Marx’s message and his nemesis, capitalism both focus on the here and now. Whether through humanism or materialism both denied the need of the eternal and it seems as a result left us a legacy of slavery and exploitation, arguably the very things they were seeking to eradicate.

I ‘m not suggesting we should return to an exploitation of the masses, so as to get a better sense of the eternal, however it does appear that the pendulum has swung so far towards the “here and now” that we have no ability to live life with a sense of the eternal.

Ted Dekker, Author of “Slumbering Christianity,” says that generally most people live their life with the hope that their “payday will come”. In other words that they’ll finally get that job, pay off that debt, find that relationship, get to that stage of life they are looking forward too and then their “payday will come.” Is this a familiar thought to you? If it is, his next question might be good to ponder. His question to the Christian (that gets caught up in the round-about of dream, fulfillment, discontentment, desire, dream) is, “do you live life with a real sense of the eternal?” It is only when we do, says Dekker, that we can see this life as it truly is, just a fore thought of the life to come. Listen to the words of Jesus.

“If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds…What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provision” – (Matthew 6, the message).

I hope for us as a church and for you that Easter is a great chance to celebrate Jesus. Relax, eat Easter eggs, enjoy a break but celebrate it in the light of eternity, because without eternity what are we living for?

Dave.

P.S. In light of us celebrating last Sunday that Easter is like the Christian “new years day”, Perhaps you could ask, “How am I drawing closer to you Father? I want to be closer to your eternal heartbeat.” From there, listen to what he might prompt you with. Whats going to be different?

Familiarity“; it can be a blessing and a curse. When people know us well they can encourage us deeply because of the relationship that has been developed. Yet familiarity can mean that we can also grow apathetic, failing to see the “Christ in” each other.

Click on play button below or right click HERE to download

Click on play button below or right click HERE to download

My first ever Rock concert was Bob Dylan. It wasn’t my “choice” (Bob Dylan was a bit before my time). Craig, an older friend of mine had a spare ticket and invited me to go. On the way home from Koonung stadium we pulled up at a set of traffic lights. A V8 Torana pulled up alongside of us with a group of guys in it (SLR 5000 for those who remember them). The driver motioned to me that he wanted to talk and for me to wind my window down.

Innocently I did and he then told me that he and his mates wanted to “kick the living ….. out of us.” I was just a bit shocked (we hadn’t done anything). As the lights turned green these guys began to chase us and we tried to get away from them. What ensued was a 45 minute, white knuckle ride through the suburbs.

They didn’t catch us (thank goodness), but in looking back I can’t believe we didn’t respond differently. In trying to get away from them we drove near or past three police stations. All we needed to do was stop out the front of a police station and I’m sure these guys would have kept going. However their intimidation pushed us into a rash response.

The demonic thrives on intimidation. They recognizes they doesn’t have any power of their own. That was taken back from them when Jesus rose from the dead. That’s why James, Jesus’ little brother wrote,
“But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” James 4:6-7.

When the demonic are seeking to intimidate us, all we need to do is stop at the Police Station of our Heavenly Father. When we do the demonic will take off, because they can see that we know whose we are and what authority we have. Unfortunately, like Craig and I, we all too often “race around” trying to loose the demonic, through trying to solve problems through our own efforts or by being cowered into inaction through fear.

Yesterday I read a excerpt in the service from C.S, Lewis’ “Screwtape letters.” In this passage uncle Srewtape, a senior devil, is coaching his young protege Wormwood in how he can render his Christian “assignment” ineffective for the Kingdom of God.

Obviously you are making excellent progress. My only fear is lest in attempting to hurry the patient you awaken him to a sense of his real position. For you and I, who see that position as it really is, must never forget how totally different it should appear to him. We know that we have introduced a change of direction in his course which is already carrying him out of his orbit around the Enemy; but he must be made to imagine that all the choices which have effected this change of course are trivial and revocable. He must not be allowed to suspect that he is now, however slowly, heading right away from the sun on a line which will carry him into the cold and dark of utmost space.” Pg 61.

The “change of direction” is to keep us from exercising our authority. Either through Apathy (us underestimating it or not recognizing it) or intimidation (we respond with Fear and seek to look to our resources and strategies first).

I was praying and reading last night from psalms and into the life of Hezekiah. I won’t get into all the verses but as I reviewed the scriptures and prayed I thought as a church we are currently mirroring what happened to Hezekiah. After the nation had gone through a time of restoration and renewal they were faced with the threat and intimidation of Sennacherib the King of Assyria (Read about it in Isaiah 36-37). Hezekiah is sent envoys and threatening letters that insult God, telling the nation they “have no hope” in face of the strength of the Assyrians. Hezekiah’s first response is to go to the Temple and “Spread out the letter before the Lord (Isaiah 37:14)”

I believe at the moment, after the reconciliation process and service we went through, that the demonic is trying to intimidate us through Disillusionment, Discouragement and Despair. The reason being is that he can see we are on the edge of pushing into some great things with God.

This unholy trinity has no power, instead we need to stop, in prayer and spread the threats out before our heavenly Father where we feel any sense of Disillusionment, Discouragement or Despair. Lets be reminded as Lewis says, of our “real position” as children of God. Remember the enemy has no power over you, your family, or his church; only the power we secede to him.

You are my King and my God, who decrees victories. Through you we push back our enemies; through your name we trample our foes. I do not trust in my bow, my sword does not bring me victory;but you give us victory over our enemies, you put our adversaries to shame. In God we make our boast all day long, and we will praise your name forever. Psalm 44:4-8.

Blessings for a great week,

Dave

PS- Confidentially if you need to tell myself and the elders of the areas you are facing any of the Three “D’s” l’d like to know so we can led and pray better.

Between our sin and who we really are is the blessing of a forgetful God. What causes God to forget? Have a listen and find out.

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Good morning everyone,

I am sitting again in a hospital waiting room. Josh has broken both bones in his left arm and we are just waiting to hear whether he will have to stay in overnight. Jules was only here last week for Reuben’s final x-ray after he broke his arm a few weeks ago. Last weekend we went to Warrnambool to spend time with Jules family, only to get there just in time for Jules’ mum to be admitted to hospital. So hospitals are very familiar places (maybe God is trying to call us to a hospital ministry).

Monday night I watched “Q&A” on the ABC. The special guest panelist was professor Richard Dawkins, Professor of Biology at Oxford university . Richard Dawkins, is often called a militant atheist. Amongst the books he has written is, “The God Delusion” and “The greatest show on earth” an apologetic for Darwinian evolution. His is in Australia at the moment speaking at a series of public meetings with other famous atheists like Peter Singer, Professor of Ethics at Princeton university in the U.S.
I have been watching Professor Dawkins interviews with interest. I have been frustrated at the vast amount of airplay Professor Dawkisn has received and the unwillingness that interviewers have towards challenging some of his shallow arguments, circular reasoning and subjective statements he presents in dismissing faith.
Last night as I watched Q&A I became increasing “passionate” about what he was saying and the inability of those there to challenge his reasoning. The result was a sleepless night composing letters in my head to T.V. hosts and radio presenters. I also spent time praying for Richard Dawkins, thinking he is our 21st century equivalent of the “Apostle Paul”. Imagine if he became a Christian! In my frustration at wanting to see an able presentation and defense of Christianity my thoughts turned to “What kind of voice do we have in presenting the gospel?
I was reading some of C.S. Lewis’ “Screwtape letters.” Lewis writes as a fictional older demon, “Screwtape” as he coaches his demon nephew, “Wormwood” in how to befuddle and render useless the Christian the has been assigned. In discussing science Screwtape advises, “…the best of all is to let him read no science at all but to give him a grand general idea that he knows it all and that everything that he has happened to pick up in causal talk and reading is the result of ‘modern investigation.’ Do remember that you are there to fuddle him.” Pg 14.
“General ideas” and to “fuddle him,” The demonic wants to keep us in places of confusion and ignorance. But one of the tactics that he has employed (and which the church has swallowed) is that we shouldn’t tell people about Jesus because we could turn them off or be accused of “bible bashing.” The result is that we have reduced what we believe we can say about the gospel to doing “good things.”
Good works are good but they are only one part of what Jesus showed that sharing the Gospel is all about. We need to be able to give reasonable answers for our faith and be demonstrators of the Gospel’s power with good works & supernatural power.
If someone asked you one of the big questions to dismiss Jesus what would you say?

Isn’t Christianity irrelevant now that evolution shows us where we have come from?

How can God be good and loving when there is so much pain and suffering in the world?

Religion is irrelevant since it is the cause of so many of the wars in the world?

Having a “general idea” is not going to cut it with those who don’t know Jesus. Instead the Richard Dawkins of this world are going to look more credible. As a church we have a good reputation in our community but we need to build on this with a willingness to “give an answer for the hope we have (1 Peter 3:15)”. After Easter we are going to set aside several weeks on Sunday Mornings to pray and equip ourselves with some reasonable responses to the “big questions” that seekers ask. God may not have Richard Dawkins for us to speak to, but He will have others that we need to be ready to share concisely and effectively why we are followers of Jesus.

So from the kids ward in the Geelong hospital, have a great week.

Dave

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Have I annoyed you yet?
If I haven’t I am sure I will. I have theory about relationships that I developed out of the pre and post marriage counseling Jules and I have done. Relationships go through a series of rooms. The first room is the “fluffy room.” Its where things are new and exciting. In a romantic relationship, its usually where the boy is trying hard to win a heart. Lots of flowers, dinners, walks, notes etc, etc.

But relationships can’t stay in the fluffy room. In fact if they do its unhealthy. As a relationship moves from the fluffy room things start to happen. The imperfections of the other begin to emerge as your get to know the “real person.” But relationships can survive and flourish as they move from the Fluffy room and into the “Fairdinkum room.”

Jules and I have nearly come to the end of 5 months with you. We are loving you and the community here, but as I said at the outset, I am sure there are things that I am doing that may have annoyed you. Because the reality is the longer you travel with people the more you get to know each others strengths and weaknesses.

So what enables a relationship between and couple, friends, a pastor and the church, or the church itself move from the Fluffy room to the Fairdinkum room? Love… Its why Jesus said the greatest command is to Love God and Love others (Matthew 22:37-40). Its why Paul sought to teach the Corinthians the “most excellent way” of Unconditional Love as the means to overcome their issues (1 Corinthians 13:1). Finally and more specifically its why Peter said to the churches his letters were addressed to, “Above all, Love one another deeply because Love covers over a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8).

I am sure that as Peter wrote this he had his own failures and inabilities to Love in mind. Peter had denied he knew Jesus. He’d gone back to fishing turning his back on God’s call on his life. Yet despite his failure Jesus sought him out, restored him and reaffirmed God’s call and purpose for his life. Where failure and sin isolated Peter, Jesus’ Love renewed Peter into the Fathers plan for his life.

Who do you know well enough to know their mistakes, failures and shortcomings? Where have you allowed someone’s shortcomings to disqualify their strengths and what God has called them to do and the vision he has given them?

“Love covers over sin (sin is missing God’s standard)”, because Love chooses to look at what Is not what isn’t. If we are bound by chords of agreement we’ll struggle to move out of “Fluffy Room” relationships (have a listen to my message on Love and agreement from two weeks ago) . The Kingdom maturity that God the Father calls us to only comes through Love.

So who comes to mind when you think of those who you haven’t “Loved”. Can I encourage you to ask the Father to give you love for that person and then write down three things about

1. The good you can see in them,

2. The gifting you can see in them and

3.What they bring to the Kingdom. Then every time you are tempted to hold them to their past, choose to remind yourself of this list and celebrate them.

CBtB, I Love you. I am so blessed that God has brought our family to this church. I’m really looking forward to the “Fairdinkum room” that contains our vision, future and the next stage of what God has for us.
Have a great week.
Dave.

PS- Jules and I are heading to Warrnambool this weekend. Jules Mum started new treatment for her cancer this week and while we are praying for the best we are wanting to have some family time with her while she is well. We’ll miss you this Sunday.

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