God's Word for today

Friday, 30 September 2011

Drinking and driving

I got this on an e-mail from a friend in the US.  Although I cannot speak from experience (that pineapple beer in Std 8 aside), I thought that it was priceless nonetheless.

I would just like to share an experience with you all, and it has to do with drinking and driving. As you know some of us have had brushes with the authorities on our way home from the odd soiree over the years.

Well, I for one have done something about it: Last night I was out for a few drinks with some mates and had way too many of the good old bubbly. Knowing full well I was wasted, I did something I've never done before. I took a bus home.

I arrived home safely and without incident which was a real surprise, since I had never driven a bus before............

Sunday, 11 September 2011

I'm getting old!!!

Here is a pic of James pulling Belinda's car out of the garage.  Seems just the other day when I held this tiny baby in my arms...

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Scriptural reflections on prison ministry (5)

Passage: Jeremiah 29: 11-13
" 'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.' "

How does this passage relate to prison ministry?
It is interesting to note Verse 11a, “[f]or I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD …”, since a visiting pastor to the prison, who presented a course on anger management, made the statement that “none of us are here by accident … to be in this particular place at this particular time, participating in this particular session, is God-ordained”. It can certainly be validly argued that, for the prisoners who attended the anger management session, if they took on board the insights imparted, and turned them into lessons to be learned and applied to their own lives, this could certainly be seen as “[a plan] to prosper you and not to harm you; [a plan] to give you hope and a future” (Verse 11b).

It was readily acknowledged that uncontrolled anger was undoubtedly a contributing factor to many of the prisoners committing the crimes that they did, resulting in their incarceration, and being empowered to deal with such anger would give them hope for the future since the likelihood of this anger driving them to re-offend would be greatly diminished.

What relevance does this passage have for ministry?
The passage has particular relevance for ministry, since the message that it contains is one of hope. A problem that many people face as they journey through life is the apparent lack of meaning of it all, a sense that one drifts through life going through the same daily routines for 70 or so years, after which life ends. The fact that God has a plan for our lives gives us hope and direction, and a sense that our time here on earth is not futile but has purpose.

A primary aspect of ministry is to proclaim this message of hope; to help people to understand that their lives do have meaning and purpose. God hasn’t just “lit the wick” and then allowed the candles of our lives to burn on their own until, eventually, it burns itself out. Our job as ministers is to accompany our congregations on a journey to discover God’s plan and purpose for our lives.

How does this passage define serving for Christ?
Jesus’ earthly life and ministry was no mere accident of history – he was sent by God with a specific mission, anointed by the Holy Spirit, and its express purpose was to “preach good news to the poor, … proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, [and] to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor (sic)” (Luke 4: 18b-19, NIV). He then set about fulfilling his purpose. Towards the end of his earthly ministry, after he had risen from the dead and was about to ascend into heaven, he gave a mission and purpose for their ministry, being to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28: 19-20a, NIV).

What this teaches us about serving Christ is that, just as he was sent by God with a purpose, so he has called us with a specific purpose in mind as well. Our obligation as Christians, therefore, is to seek the specific purpose to which Jesus has called us, and carry out that purpose with faithfulness and integrity.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Scriptural reflections on prison ministry (4)

Passage: Philippians 3: 12-16 (NIV)
"Not that I (Paul) have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.  Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."

How does this passage relate to prison ministry?
Referring to the previous verses, whereby Paul claims no accolades from anything he has done in his own strength but gives all glory to Jesus for what he has become, this passage calls upon us to be humble. None of us can claim to be perfect, but we can strive for perfection in Christ. Paul however does not claim to have reached this point yet.

When it comes to ministering to prisoners, one faces a temptation to become smug in believing that because we may not have committed the kind of acts that has resulted in the prisoners’ incarceration, we are somehow better than them, or at least, “less sinful”. This passage reminds us that none of us can claim to have made it. Irrespective of where we may be on the journey relative to others, we need to be conscious that we are all on a common journey, striving towards the goal that Jesus has set for us. Our attitude should therefore not be as one who has arrived and is therefore pointing the other to the destination, but as one journeying alongside the other in order to reach the destination together.

What relevance does this passage have for ministry?
I was given the nickname “Captain Tupperware” during my Phase One year in 2009 because of a declaration that I made in a sermon one day that a “piece of Tupperware” (referring to my clerical collar) does not make me something special in a “holier than thou” sense. The collar serves merely as a badge of office, in the same manner as the black cap with the “M” embroidered on it identifies the person handing me the cheeseburger and Coke as a McDonald’s employee.

Staying with this analogy, when one goes to a McDonald’s, it is not the employee wearing the black cap that is of importance – the reason one is there is because of the food and beverage. The person serving, as well as the person being served, both have an equal need to eat and drink. Likewise, in a ministry context, the important aspect is to be able to draw closer to Christ, which both minister and congregation need in equal measure. The members of the congregation are there for the message, with he minister’s role being merely to deliver that message.

If one were to apply this to prison ministry, we need to remind ourselves, according to Romans 3: 23, that all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. The need for love, compassion, and forgiveness is one shared by prisoner and minister alike

How does this passage define serving for Christ?
The main message that comes out of this passage is one of the need for humility. While it is desirable for us to strive towards Christian perfection, this does not give us the right to become arrogant about it. Paul clearly states that he has not yet arrived, and that in fact his spiritual journey up to this point is not because of his own achievements but because of what Christ has done in him.

This brings a mind a story related to me by a pastor some years back. He was at a preaching engagement out of town, and as he entered the lift lobby of the hotel one evening, a man staggered out of one of the lifts, obviously under the influence of alcohol. The pastor’s first thought was, “How disgusting to be that drunk in public”. He then felt the prompting of the Holy Spirit on his heart, as though he was hearing Jesus say to him, “The only difference between that drunken man and you, is Me”. Convicted of his judgemental attitude, the pastor asked God for forgiveness and began to pray for the man.

Paul is clear that the only difference between the “old Saul”, who persecuted Christians, and the “new Paul”, who is an apostle for Christ, is Christ Himself. “Pressing on toward the goal to win the prize” therefore reflects a sincere desire to draw ever-closer to Christ. Our motivation should be to do likewise, journeying alongside others as we become one in Jesus.