A kangaroo got out of his enclosure at the zoo during the night. The zoo-keeper put him back and built the fence surrounding the enclosure higher, but this did not stop the kangaroo – it was out wandering again next morning. The keeper extended the fence higher, but again found the ‘roo was out again the following morning. Yet again he added an extension to the top of the fence, after putting the animal back in its yard. The next night as the roo again wandered as freely around the zoo as on the previous nights, the camel asked him, “how high do you think they will keep building the fence?” The roo thought for a moment then laughingly replied, “I guess they’ll just keep going higher until they realise, they need to lock the gate at night!”
This little tale set me thinking of how often we try so hard to change our lives in some way; to stop doing something we know is bad for us, or to make positive changes that would make us healthier or happier – and fail miserably repeatedly. Our will power, it seems, is not strong enough. No matter how hard we try, we so often fail to achieve in some important areas of our lives. Perhaps this is like looking at the fence and thinking we must try harder, and harder, and as the zookeeper in the story must have felt, feeling frustrated at not being able to achieve the desired result. And all along we are struggling unsuccessfully when we don’t have to. We just need to look around and see the real and far simpler answer. Scripture reminds us that in Jesus we have all we need. He says: “Come to me, all who are tired from carrying heavy loads and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28
We ‘lock the gate” by prayerfully putting our lives and every situation in Jesus hands. Then, as He changes our thinking and our hearts, we will begin to see the changes in our lives, without the struggle, without the fight. We can rest in peace.
SCRABBLE & BABBLE
If you play scrabble,then a good knowledge of words will stand you in good stead. Some of the highest scoring words used in competition have been bezique, muzjiks, caziques and quixotry. But what do they mean? Unless you can understand or have a use for unusual words there isn’t a lot of benefit in knowing them, except of course, for use in Scrabble.
Great writers can use wordsto create pictures that transport us to another time and place. Think of Charles Dickens, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien … don’t their stories seem so real? And when you see their books adapted for the screen, are the characters and places as you have imagined them? Good authors craft their words to create a picture in our minds of the places they describe, so you can see, hear, smell and almost touch what they write about, and feel the emotions of the characters? And what about newspaper journalists, … can they persuade you to their point of view, just using the written word?
Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious– remember when that word hit the airwaves in the film Mary Poppins! And can you say it backwards? And how about this word— pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis It is a real word and refers to a lung disease contracted from the inhalation of very fine silica particles specifically from a volcano, and is also the longest word in any English dictionaries. Words describe diseases, but can also cause dis-ease – ever had a bout of motor-mouth or foot-in-mouth syndrome! I blush now as I think of the times I wish I had ‘zipped-the-lip’!
James Chapter 3: likens the tongue to an unbridled horse. An unbridled horse can be controlled by the rider, but it requires a fully submissive horse, fully listening and fully obedient. Does that describe your tongue, fully in control? It doesn’t describe mine, especially when I am tired or in a situation I don’t want to be in. My tongue certainly needs my full attention whenever it is in gear.
I’m gladthat God’s Word has words like love, grace, forgiveness; words we can all understand and don’t need to look up in a dictionary or google on the web to find out what the heck they mean. (What does google mean?)
I like the factthat their meaning doesn’t change as with some of the words in current use today. I suspect that Gay/Gaynor is no longer used as a girl’s name. I’m glad and relieved, that justified still means that my standing with God is ‘just-as-if’ I had never sinned.
I also like God’s definition of forgive, to ‘cease to demand punishment’, and that when He says He has forgotten the sins of those who come to Him for forgiveness, means He is ‘unable to remember’ what they are talking about. This seems to be the only time we can say we remember more than God. Perhaps we should come in line with God’s definition when it comes to remembering our sins?
What power and hope is found in God’s Word … the Word itself is Life, Jesus is the Living Word of God and as we read He reveals himself to us. When we know Him, then we know we can believe the promises His Word gives each of us.
Just how lucky we are to have God’s Word available to us, to read whenever and wherever we choose. There is nowhere else to find the answer to life’s purpose.
Judy Pitt, Jamestown, South Australia.
God is always opening doors of opportunity. Scripture speaks several times about this and you can rest assured that as this year progresses, we will see this happening around us. We just need to recognise those doors and not be afraid to go through them, even when they appear in unusual ways.
But…feel timid when incredible God-given opportunities arise? Feel that you don’t have what it takes to go through such doors? Here’s an encouraging personal testimony from Maureen McQuillan. Maureen used to feel so inhibited, inadequate, fearful and unable to communicate that she’d simply freeze and clam up if asked to do something that’d put her in the limelight
Maureen’s story: Decades ago I was given an unexpected ‘grand tour’ of Mount Gambier (SA) Television Station. As we passed a live daytime talk show being televised, I paused to observe the proceedings. Suddenly I heard that ‘quiet, still voice’ of the Spirit whisper to me, ‘One of these days you’ll be doing that.’
It was a classic situation where you immediately shake your head and feel that it was nothing more than your imagination or wishful thinking.
I should have known better!
Twice more I was to hear that same quiet voice repeating those scary words to my spirit. No way, I thought, I had neither the experience nor the desire to be on TV.
Two months later my Adelaide company informed me on a Friday night that they had booked prime TV time for the following Monday morning. With a very popular presenter, Maureen, and, by the way, you’ll be promoting our products.
Who me? Help! Time to panic. Time to reason with them that I’d never done any TV work before, that little me (and I am little!) couldn’t go live on TV, even for a short segment and certainly not at such short notice. Then I heard again that becalming soft voice of the Spirit. This time reminding me that he’d already prepared me for this moment by gently telling me in advance, that this was a door of opportunity, that all would be okay as I trusted him. I immediately sensed an unusual peace within and agreed to go on.
Monday morning saw me seated opposite the show’s host and, even though no instructions about the director’s hand signals were given me, we were off and running.
The Holy Spirit is our greatest friend and helper. We can call on him for his wisdom, strength, and creativeness in all matters whether in spiritual, business, or general life. I certainly did so in that TV situation and I was successful. In fact, my weekly segment ran for four years on different stations.
Here’s the thing…It’s impossible for me to fully relate how many difficulties stuck with me from childhood into adulthood. I’m just a little person – the proverbial five foot nothing – and I greatly lacked confidence. Can you imagine how it hit me when told to go on live TV and speak to hundreds of thousands of viewers? Immediately frightening! But knowing God was in it made the difference. Knowing that he had arranged the opportunity gave me the confidence needed.
The Holy Spirit already had a hold of my life and was now, even through secular means, proving to me how much boldness, confidence, and creativity he can give anyone who asks for his help. Yes, I overcame the inadequacies in my life and was successful as I looked beyond myself and relied totally on him. And it was all a preparation for the next step!
Since that breakthrough God opened many spiritual doors for me, enabling me to confidently minister in the ‘limelight’ on my own. I also assist Robert in effective ministry as we minister together at churches, camps, leadership sessions and conferences, even businesspeople sessions. And especially in trusting the Holy Spirit for everything and boldly moving in his gifts, particularly the prophetic and words of knowledge and wisdom to bless the church and mentor ministers.
THE OPEN DOOR
From both of us: Whatever ‘effectual door’ (1 Cor. 16:9) God opens for each of us this year, we mustn’t let anything, anyone, any lie or any satanic deception hold us back from taking it. If we do lack anything, we can ask the Holy Spirit for his assistance.
We encourage you all to recognise those doors of opportunity and boldly go through them!
When travelling through the Australian outback, our convoy stopped at an abandoned Afghan campsite. After decades of non-use there was still evidence of habitation such as a broken-down goat yard, the lid off a can, glass bottle stoppers.
Curiosity prompted me to lift the lid of a milk can lying amongst the salt bushes. A tiny lizard reared its head in defiance at me. Several others came to look at this tiny, courageous critter. I could have snuffed out its life with my fingers, yet it stared into my face, it’s mouth open wide, daring me to attack. I lowered the lid and left the little creature alone to live another day. It was the personification of courage.
DAVID VERSUS GOLIATH
Very few people would think of themselves as a David pitted against a Goliath, yet when their back is to the wall, they turn into a David, rescuing people from certain death, sometimes at the expense of their own. Speaking-up boldly for a cause they believe in when everyone else is silent.
Several years ago, my husband Bruce was called to visit a home at 2 am to deal with a drunken man. The guy was brandishing a gun and threatening to shoot anyone, including himself, who dared to try to take it from him.
Did Bruce feel like a David? No! Inside, fear made him feel like a jelly bag. But someone had to face the man and try to save him and his loved one’s lives.
ACTION – REACTION
Wondering how the man would react, Bruce took slow steps, one at a time, toward the man seated on a bed in a bedroom. Finally sitting down beside him, putting his arm around his shoulders, he took possession of the gun. What Bruce was doing, was it madness? an emotion that pushes him into acting without thinking? An adrenalin rush? Is courage an inbuilt trait … a response of self-preservation?
Some people are trained to face danger as in warfare, firefighting and ambulance attendants. We expect these people to be brave. Yet when questioned they deny being courageous. They claim to have saved their mate because he was just that – their mate, and that they were scared stiff.
Training certainly holds a person steady in a time of crisis but even ordinary, untrained people become courageous in a time of emergency.
What about Bruce, what was his motivation? Firstly, his response was governed by his acceptance of his call by God to serve his fellow man, and secondly, by his desire to prevent tragedy. Bruce went fuelled by the hope in Christ that this unhappy man could be delivered from his bondage.
Having met Christ in his teens, Bruce was now, after years of experiencing God’s faithfulness in all walks of life, completely sure that God was well able to do anything he promised. Even though he was scared stiff, he responded to the 2 am call because he believed that God was able to keep him. The roots of courage are sown in our past experiences and the history we have with God.
When Bruce arrived at the home of the drunk, he couldn’t just barge in and demand the gun be dropped. No, it was soothing words, then a slow step by a step march across the room to sit beside the man
Courage is like a muscle, the more we dare to use it by taking risks not just in the ‘big’ moments to save lives, but also in the ‘small’ ones like speaking to the neighbour, inviting someone to church or home to a meal – it can be doing something that we have never done before.
TAKE A RISK
If we dare to take a risk, we are flexing the muscle of courage. By so doing, we grow as a Believer and as a person. If our fear is not challenged then we remain weeping violets. Should we continue to be afraid to say boo to a goose, we will not achieve very much. Without daring we are not living.
Take one step at a time and flex your muscle of gallantry, move forward as people who have faced their fears and overcome them.
Through the Biblical writings of Joshua, God urges us to, ‘Be strong! Be courageous! Do not be afraid … For the Lord your God will be with you. He will neither fail you nor forsake you.” (Joshua 1: 6 – 9. LB)
Our first love is magical and wondrous, goose-bump material. My first love was an exploration of romance. We were both fourteen. He was short and tubby, I was tall, slim and gawky. He was not a prince on a white charger, I was no Barby doll, but we were attracted to each other.
Our first kiss was heart-stopping, a stolen moment at the primary school Christmas break-up party. Not the practised film-star passion but a wet fumbling. Our relationship never grew, my parents moved to another district and we never met again.
MY SECOND LOVE
was my prince on an iron horse or bicycle. He was too poor to own a car, the car would come later. Dark, handsome, average height. The chemistry was there from the start. Cupid’s arrow found its target and we married. Sixty-six years later we still fizz with the magic, though age has taken its toll.
MY THIRD LOVE
Is Christ, Son of God. This is not an Eros or romantic love but an agape love. The love of God for man and of man for God, a self-less, sacrificial love.
God’s love for us is beyond magical, it is jealous, possessive, transforming, redeeming, healing and freeing. There is no end to his love for us, no bottom, no height or width. We are the apple of his eye. D L Moody once said, ‘If you ask me why God should love us, I cannot tell. I suppose it is because he is a true Father.’
Such unconditional love is known as the grace of God, the unearned favour of God given to us not for what we have done or haven’t done, not for who we are or aren’t. Philip Yancey wrote, ‘Grace means there is nothing I can add to make God love me more, and nothing I can do to make him love me less.’ Such love is the sacrificial love of agape. ‘For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son so that anyone who believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life… There is no eternal doom awaiting those who trust him (Jesus) to save them.’ I have no concept of such love, it is beyond my understanding that anyone could love me so much.
MY TRUE LOVE GAVE TO ME
When this wonderful truth of God’s unearned favour dawned on me the colours became brighter and prettier, I felt clean and new, I had a purpose to live. I felt I wanted to dance for a million years. I had been floundering, searching for what? Suddenly I was found and I had found Jesus, my third love, a self-sacrificing, agape love. This Agape love, this unmerited favour of God, does wonders for the self-esteem.
I want to close with this thought expressed by Paul Ellis, ‘he who has Christ lacks no good thing. In him we are fully, completely, and totally sanctified.’ Another quote from a letter by an early believer, ‘So you have everything when you have Christ, and you are filled with God through your union with Christ.’ (Colossians 2: 10)
Les was a fossicker. He had spent the day digging fruitlessly among the rocks for amethysts. The clang of spades on rocks sounded loud in the drowsy somnolence hanging over the scrub.
‘I might be onto something here,’ Les’s voice broke the quiet afternoon
Carefully he scraped and brushed away the dirt and was able to lift a huge crystal from its hiding place. It lay in his hand winking at him. His joy knew no bounds.
Somewhere in the long ago, the crystal had formed in a cataclysmic upheaval. It had lain hidden for countless eons, a treasure formed in the dark until Les found it.
Isaiah recorded the word of the Lord to Cyrus, ‘I will give you the treasures hidden in the darkness, secret riches; you will know that I am doing this – I the Lord God of Israel, The Lord found me the one who calls you by your name.’
I often wondered what this verse meant. It has slowly dawned over time that the treasure spoken of was learning to praise the Lord in all situations. Learning the power of intercessory prayer, learning to believe in God in the face of opposition, leaving behind grudges, forsaking pride embracing the humility of obedience. These attributes were formed, like the crystal, in dark times.
Milton, the great poet of his time, lived in a world of darkness, he was blind.Despite that darkness he wrote immortal poetry. Likewise Fanny Crosby, also blind, wrote hundreds of hymns that are still sung today, precious crystals of praise and insights about the Lord. They learnt that in times of physical darkness and the darkness of circumstance, the person of the Lord is formed in them.
C.S. Lewis was devastated by the death of his wife. He described his feelings as though God had slammed a door in his face and double locked the door from the inside. Later, when his grief subsided he recognised that his walk with God plumbed new depths. Out of the darkness of grief he was able to write a book that gave hope and life to its readers – a treasure from a secret place.
Paul the apostle was no stranger to the dark places. From those places he wrote most of the New Testament. His writings have spanned 2000 years and are treasured and enriched by all who read.
I may have been formed in the kingdom of darkness but I thank God that he searched for me and brought me out of that kingdom into the kingdom of light as Les the fossicker exposed his crystal to the light. I also praise God that he has taken me through the dark times so that I found the secret richness of him in my life. More and more over the years I can say with Paul, ‘We rejoice when we run into problems and trials for we know that they are good for us – they help us to learn to be patient.’
On Nov. 18, 1995, Itzhak Perlman, the violinist, came on stage to give a concert at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Centre in New York City.
If you have ever been to a Perlman concert, you know that getting on stage is no small achievement for him. He was stricken with polio as a child, and so he has braces on both legs and walks with the aid of two crutches. To see him walk across the stage one step at a time, painfully and slowly, is an awesome sight. He walks painfully, yet majestically, until he reaches his chair. Then he sits down, slowly, puts his crutches on the floor, undoes the clasps on his legs, tucks one foot back and extends the other foot forward. Then he bends down and picks up the violin, puts it under his chin, nods to the conductor and proceeds to play.
By now the audience is used to this ritual. They sit quietly while he makes his way across the stage to his chair. They remain reverently silent while he undoes the clasps on his legs. They wait until he is ready to play.
But this time, something went wrong. Just as he finished the first few bars, one of the strings on his violin broke. You could hear it snap – it went off like gunfire across the room. There was no mistaking what that sound meant. There was no mistaking what he had to do. We figured that he would have to get up, put on the clasps again, pick up the crutches and limp his way off stage – to either find another violin or else find another string for this one. But he didn’t. Instead, he waited a moment, closed his eyes and then signalled the conductor to begin again.
The orchestra began, and he played from where he had left off. And he played with such passion and such power and such purity as they had never heard before. Of course, anyone knows that it is impossible to play a symphonic work with just three strings. I know that, and you know that, but that night Itzhak Perlman refused to know that. You could see him modulating, changing; re-composing the piece in his head. At one point, it sounded like he was de-tuning the strings to get new sounds from them that they had never made before.
WORKING WITH WHAT YOU HAVE
When he finished, there was an awesome silence in the room. And then people rose and cheered. There was an extraordinary outburst of applause from every corner of the auditorium. We were all on our feet, screaming and cheering; doing everything we could to show how much we appreciated what he had done. He smiled, wiped the sweat from this brow, raised his bow to quiet us, and then he said – not boastfully, but in a quiet, pensive, reverent tone – “You know, sometimes it is the artist’s task to find out how much music you can still make with what you have left.”
What a powerful line that is. It has stayed in my mind ever since I heard it. And who knows? Perhaps that is the definition of life – not just for artists but for all of us. Here is a man who has prepared all his life to make music on a violin of four strings, who, all of a sudden, in the middle of a concert, finds himself with only three strings; so he makes music with three strings, and the music he made that night with just three strings was more beautiful, more sacred, more memorable, than any that he had ever made before, when he had four strings.
So, perhaps our task in this shaky, fast-changing, bewildering world in which we live is to make music, at first with all that we have, and then, when that is no longer possible, to make music with what we have left.