WHAT A SHEPHERD, WHAT A TABLE!

(January 16, 2021) Maureen McQuillan shares…

In these trying days of the worldwide covid-19 pandemic, its associated troubles, and regular TV bad news, it’s great to relax. Even to take a short break away from home driving around the refreshing open countryside minutes from where we live and enjoying the beautiful scenery.

Often, I spot sheep relaxing round the paddocks, those fleecy animals that cause me to reminisce about them, about shepherds and David’s refreshing Psalm 23.

Reassurance
Some folks have wrongly associated Psalm 23 with death … often Robert has its reading requested by non-churchgoers at funerals. But I see it as an encouraging psalm about life – a good life here and now not just in eternity, filled with the love and kindness of God!

David had been a shepherd in his youth. Although he’s talking about God removing doubts and fears, I see verses two to four of this psalm as reflecting on his own responsibility to ensure the flock under his care would be at rest, need of food and water supplied and, when frightening disturbing threats came along, his promptness to defend using shepherd’s weapons (and muscles as in 1Samuel 17:34-36a).

A thoughtful and fearless shepherd, David knew to care for these emotional animals (Yes, not only are humans emotional… a 2009 report published in Animal Welfare describes sheep are capable of experiencing a whole range of emotional feelings from fear to anger, despair, boredom and happiness). (more…)

WHAT ON EARTH DO WE NEED THE BIBLE FOR?

(January 13, 2021) Erica Grace, ex-missionary to South America, challenges Christians to value and uphold God’s word!

A pastor was announcing the coming marriage seminar to his congregation.

To encourage his people to come along, he said: ‘Don’t worry! The seminar won’t have anything to do with the Bible so it’s safe to bring your friends along. there will be no Bible bashing!’

How misguided can you be! Four important issues to note here…

1. The Bible teaches God’s word, not humanistic reasonings…
This young pastor erred in having such a Bible centre-less seminar in his church.

  • People can get humanistic teachings (that is, based on human reasoning) anywhere else.
  • But the function of the church is to teach God’s word, not humanistic teaching. (Well, isn’t it?)

(more…)

JESUS CAN MAKE ALL THINGS NEW… EACH NEW DAY

(January 11, 2021) Carol Round encourages us to reflect on a major choice for 2021…

Revelation 21:5 declares: ‘He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true”.’

The New Year is here! After the stresses of 2020, I doubt anyone wants to cling to the past. With the turning of the calendar to January 2021, sighs of relief were probably expressed by many.

Have you made any New Year’s resolutions?

While I used to, I don’t anymore. My list used to look something like this: lose weight, eat healthier, save more money, and so on. Those are also some of the more common resolutions made each January 1. (By the way, most people fail at keeping their New Year’s resolutions).

I quit making resolutions as I grew in my relationship with Jesus. Looking back, I cannot recall the last time I made a list of things to change in my life. However, I began to choose a focus word for the year. In the past, I’ve prayed and chosen words like trust, focus, and hope. My 2020 word was embrace – embrace more of God in my life. I would write the word at the top of each page in my daily prayer journal. Each time I do, I was reminded of my spiritual growth word for that year. (more…)

GOD’S GREAT RESET

(December 19, 2020) Dr Jim McClure, straight shooting theologian, reflects on attempts to remove Almighty God from society…

This has been a difficult year and a phrase that we are beginning to hear more frequently in the media is ‘The Great Reset.’ This refers to the goal of a worldwide coalition of big business and big tech working in association with the unelected members of the World Economic Forum whose goal is – to use their own words – ‘improving the state of the world’ and ‘to shape global, regional, and industry agendas.’ In their attempts to ‘improve the state of the world’ we have already experienced the loss of many of the freedoms we once enjoyed and took for granted.

1984 totalitarian society
Today we are seeing so many parallels with George Orwell’s novel 1984 which was written almost 70 years ago. It is an almost prophetic book that gives a vision of a totalitarian society where individuality is stifled, and basic freedoms are forbidden, and dissent is prosecuted.

On top of this we have experienced the promotion of corrupt and distorted morals in which what –

  • has been acknowledged for centuries to be wrong, has now become right,
  • was once recognised as corrupt, is now considered acceptable,
  • was denounced as immoral is now accepted as normal,
  • was once regarded a thing of shame, is now a cause for celebration.

(more…)

IT CAME TO PASS!

(December 19, 2020) Brian Bell challenges our moving into 2021…

A nearby retailer’s Christmas catalogue included interviews with several local personalities and one of the questions asked was to reflect on 2020 and what they had learned ie ‘The best piece of advice I’ve ever received was…’ Interestingly one young woman’s reply was ‘This too shall pass…’

Now whether she was aware or not, those words have a scriptural basis. There are times in scripture we read ‘and it came to pass…’ and while the context such as in Luke 2:1 (KJV, Darby) relates to fulfilment of an event, I have heard believers use them in the sense that ‘difficult’ or ‘bad’ times will pass.

Hope for 2021
I’m sure for many, the fact that 2020 is going brings some relief and the hope for something better in 2021. Its true 2020 proved an exceedingly difficult year, as we remember those who lost their lives to the virus; grieving families; for the organisations which collapsed for financial reasons; the loss of jobs and the impact on livelihoods; loneliness for many who live alone. We applauded, of course, frontline health and other workers. (more…)

THE DAY SANTA GOT ‘SAVED’

(December 17, 2020) Robert and Maureen McQuillan remind readers of the real reason for the season – lost people needing to be found!

For decades, the jovial fat man dressed in red has replaced the advent of our Saviour Jesus as the central focus of Christmas. Christmas became ‘Xmas’ – as if Christ has been cancelled out and without meaning. Generally, people have always regarded Christmas as a special time of family, fun, food, cards and presents… but the birth of Jesus is still central for Bible-believers!

Christmas memories
We ourselves particularly recall some Christmases as special and precious…

  • Weeks of carols played in shops and expressions of genuine well wishes for Christmas.
  • Christmas Day mornings back home  awakening early to faithful carol singers from a local church gathering in the snow under a streetlight and warmly heralding the birth of Jesus.
  • Then the traditional gleeful opening of presents and the excitement following.
  • Soon we’d be hurrying off to early church for a down-to-earth service that highlighted the arrival
    of the Saviour of the world who came to bring peace to earth.
  • The Christmas Day luncheon and family fun together.
  • And, most especially, that best Christmas Day morn of all when our beautiful darlin’ daughter Wendy was born!

(more…)

REJOICING: ‘SHOW ME THE WAY, GOD…’

(December 14, 2020) Robert and Maureen McQuillan share a Christmas-centred challenge:

Christmas in in the air and we just had to watch it yet again… It’s a Wonderful Life, that 1947 classic Jimmy Stewart movie, commended by Movieguide® as ‘arguably the most beloved movie of all time.’

A Christmas story about (as Jimmy Stewart put it in a recent Movieguide® report) ‘… an ordinary man who discovers that living each ordinary day honourably, with faith in God and a selfless concern for others, can make for a truly wonderful life.’

Recognising… God carries
After serving for four years during WWII flying B-24 bombers over Germany, having been appointed Chief of Staff of the 2nd Combat wing, 2nd Air Division of the 8th Air Force, the actor, now Major James Stewart, ended the war after 20 combat missions, receiving recognition and medals.

This splendid movie was his first after returning from England – but he was war effected, sickly-looking, couldn’t sleep or focus and depressed.  Jimmy Stewart has told how a little book that his dad gave him before he was shipped out brought him through those tense years of leading men into bombing raids. Called The Secret Place—A Key to the 91st Psalm, he would read it before every raid over Europe – and carry it with him. He has said, ‘And I was borne up. Dad had committed me to God, but I felt the presence of both throughout the war.’

Realising… God cares
Jimmy Stewart is known to have relied on his faith both during the war and in life in general. In It’s a Wonderful Life, the character he plays is George Bailey, a humble businessman who turns nastily ungrateful, worried sick due to an unexpected seemingly unsolvable crisis and wanting to end his life.

But faith in Jesus drives the man behind the character. Jimmy Stewart recalls his own feelings during that lowest point in George Bailey’s life when he is faced with unjust criminal charges and, not knowing where to turn, ends up slumped in despair in a little roadside restaurant, unaware that most of the township’s people are arduously praying for him because they care: (more…)

GOD SUPPLIES THE VICTORY!

(December 14, 2020) Norman and Margaret Moss share this encouraging Christmas meditation…

Such is the power of inspired scripture that when Charles Jennens gave the libretto of the Messiah to Handel, the composer was so moved and inspired that in 24 days he had completed the oratorio!

Handel said of the Hallelujah Chorus, ‘I did think I did see all heaven before me, and the great God himself.’

Victory lies in scriptureHoly Scripture can do that – and more! We were meditating on Isaiah 9:6…

‘For to us a child is born,to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.’

Victory lies in Christ
Proverbs 21:31 came to mind: ‘Victory rests with the Lord’ and we felt the Lord was saying- (more…)

THE PROSPECT: NO ROOM AT THE INN

(December 12, 2020) Brian Bell shares a point from one particular Christmas nativity play …

If you have young children and or grandchildren, then this story may resonate in your heart. For me it is more poignant in the current restricted climate which has prevented us gathering at school this year to see our children or grandchildren in the expected Christmas nativity play.

One aspect of the Christmas story is that of no vacancy for Joseph and Mary at the Bethlehem inn – as Luke 2:7 says, ‘… there was no lodging available for them.‘

I don’t believe the following telling of one particular Christmas nativity play will cause any offence (it’s my adapted version of one that, I understand, was first published in The Baptist Herald, December 1968 in my teen years, and has since been adapted elsewhere in various forms).

The Preparation
Wallace was just nine years old.

Most people in town knew that he had difficulty keeping up in school. Big and a bit clumsy, he was slow in movement and in mind. His class, all of whom were smaller than Wallace, would get a little irritated when Wallace would ask to play games with them. Especially when winning was important and even though they would try to keep Wallace out, he would hang around anyway – not sulking, mind you – just hoping he would be asked to play. (more…)

MAKING CHRISTMAS MEMORIES

(December 11, 2020) Erica Grace, ex-missionary to South America, challenges us with great motherly (and heart-centred!) advice…

What is the first thought that comes to your mind when you hear the word ‘Christmas?’

  • Most children say: Food!
  • Most men too!
  • Most mothers say: Work!

Good memories are vivid
Why is food so memorable? Food is of special significance because the sense of smell is intricately linked with memory, more so than any other sense, just one whiff can evoke memories.

Good memories are intricately connected to good food. Our brain sorts through our memories associating happy events with good food and celebrations. The emotional association of events and food leaves an indelible print, much more accentuated during our childhood. Childhood memories have a longer lasting imprint, especially in association with special days like birthdays and Christmas. (more…)