Peter Thompson

Preferring Others to Oneself

“Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to the governor as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honour everyone … “

1 Peter 2:13-17 (ESV)

In the last few years we have witnessed increasing acts of lawlessness accompanied by growing levels of fear across the world. When threatened, we humans are fairly predictable in our response. We either attempt to help others or ourselves; we welcome or we shut out; we flee or force others to flee; sometimes we simply freeze.

Cries of racism and prejudice attempt to arrest control of public debate by silencing any opinion contrary to the loudest and proudest. Someone is accused of racism when what they are really pointing to has more of a religious tone. 

Underlying many of the concerns being expressed or suppressed in today’s media (social and corporate) is the personal desire to remain safe wherever we live and work. This basic desire is a principle upon which most modern societies are founded; so too is the desire to be able to choose how we will live.  Safety and freedom to choose are enshrined in modern thought. 

The problem of lawlessness emerges when how I want to live conflicts with someone else’s version of how I should live. When unrestrained by concern for the well-being of others, individualism tends to undermine society. Exercising restraint for the betterment of society has always been a struggle for those committed to the ideal of individual choice, because the individual is at heart self-centred. Our preference is ‘I’ not ‘we’. It is made even more difficult when the basics of communal living, which had been acknowledged and observed for centuries, are pushed to one side as being out of date with modern thought. 

 What is it that is wrong about the Ten Commandments as a standard for communities to live with dignity and respect? Is it because the time-proven values limit personal choice? Are universal absolutes rejected because they limit personal behaviour? 

Modern opinion consistently ignores that we live before God and will one day give account of how we have done so? As Christians, we are instructed to live as servants of God. This instruction alone reminds us that we are not the centre of the Universe and that our opinion may not be the most important. It reminds us to see our behaviour in the context of the Creation in which we dwell - see vv 18-19. 

There will be a time in the history of the world when people live by The Lord’s values. Until then the Apostle Peter’s advice is timely and helpful; look to God, look beyond yourself, show dignity towards men and women entrusted with governing, seek to do good. Doing these things strengthens our conviction that we are free in Christ and able to sacrifice self-interest for the betterment of all.                                                                                                                                       

Peter T

 

 

Providential promises

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for He has said, “I will never leave you for forsake you”.
— Hebrews 13:5

The Lord promises to never leave nor forsake those who believe in Him. He points us to being content with what we have and to trust His provision.

The Lord draws close to us in many ways and the key of knowing Him is to seek to experience His closeness day by day. Father is always near.

One of the privileges of being a pastor is that there are occasions when the Presence of God becomes very real, despite suffering. This often happens when all the pretence of life is stripped away and we are only left with the bare bones. Usually this happens when I visit someone in hospital. Just this past week, four people from our church have been visited by one of the Pastors and each received the Lord's Supper. One of them is, at the time of writing, close to death. The striking feature of being with them was the strong Presence of Jesus in their rooms.

The one close to death, Margaret, had her niece staying with her in the hospital room. The niece noticed that her Aunt's arms and hands had become black. So she decided to place a small Bible in her hands, which Margaret clutched, despite being unconscious, next to her heart. After a while the niece looked at the hands and saw that they had returned to normal colour! The skin of the arms remained blackened, but the hands had normal skin tone. As she showed Kathryn and me the hands clutching the Bible, the Lord's Presence was very real.

This act should not have surprised us as the Bible is a spiritual power object.

Two of Father's great promises are that He will both provide and remain. Think about the widow of Zarephath in 1Kings 4: 8-15 or about Stephen in Acts 7: 54ff. Both promises came true. Of course, the promises are not only for the individual; they apply equally, if not more so, to our life together as the Body of Christ.

In the coming days, we can be sure of Father's Presence and Providential care.

Peter Thompson

 

For Christ's love compels us

For Christ’s love compels us...
— 2 Corinthians 5:14, NIV

Both Jesus and the Apostle Paul had deep insight into the nature of love. Two of the biblical highpoints that bring revelation about the nature of God’s love can be found in John 13:34-35 & 1 Corinthians 13.  

In the former, Jesus told his disciples that love must be the distinguishing mark of their lives. The ‘new command’ He gave them used the command of Moses, which teaches we are to love God with all our strength and our neighbour as ourself, as a springboard to deepen these commands. Jesus even taught we are to love our enemies…

The command to love one’s neighbour was not new; the newness was found in loving one another just as Jesus had loved His disciples, even if it meant giving one’s life for another! [John 15:13]

In the later, Paul teaches that love is a doing thing, something that is expressed in actions. However, he also teaches in an earlier passage in the same epistle that love cannot be measured by actions alone; motives must also be assessed to determine what is loving. In doing so, he points to the fact that Jesus will disclose the purposes of the heart when He returns to judge the living and the dead. [1 Corinthians 4:5]

When we do a kindness for someone, why we are doing it is as important, perhaps more so, as what we do. Of course, our motivation is helped when we truly live with a deep appreciation of the love God blesses us with. As Paul discovered, God’s love can compel us to do far more than we ever imagine. 

Peter Thompson

Christmas

Christmas

I am sure many adults can look back to their childhood days and recall how exciting Christmas was for them. I know that I always approached Christmas with great anticipation, looking forward to any presents I may receive from “Santa” and family. Interestingly enough, the memory I most treasure was the annual Christmas Day cricket match amongst uncles and other family members, which usually followed the family lunch or evening meal. As I reflect, I can almost feel the same bloated condition that seems to accompany Christmas Day meals and usually resulted in a hasty retreat from the fray of battle on the backyard cricket pitch for a number of the adults.

Halloween

Over the past few decades, Australians have been increasingly influenced by American culture. The emergence of basketball, baseball and gridiron with their associated paraphernalia (ex. Caps, collectors’ cards) is a good example. The adoption of the baseball style cap by the traditional Aussie sport of cricket because of the attraction of its image for the youth of our country is a further illustration.

Forgetting has a double edge

Forgetting has a double edge

t is easy to forget things, especially as one gets older. The Bible is full of people who forgot things; some even forgot God! The disciples forgot to take provision (bread) on a journey across the lake to the region of Magadan. The chief cupbearer forgot Joseph after his release from prison. Job felt his friends had forgotten him in the midst of his misery. 

It's called creation for a reason

It's called creation for a reason

Standing on the wharf at Gerainger Fjord in Norway, a fellow traveller said to me, “Isn’t nature wonderful?” I replied straight away, “You mean Creation?” He was caught unawares, usually his repartee was quick, and in the moment of hesitancy I inquired, “Do you know the Bible calls it creation for a reason?” He, of course, didn’t know this, so I offered the reason: “The word creation points beyond itself to its Creator.”