Seeking Strength

Dear God,

This morning for some reason I wake feeling weary.  Perhaps it is the things that I am dreading today in the day ahead of me.  Lord, I am dreading a confrontation with Joel; dreading seeing Hamish having been intimidated in his faith.  I am looking forward to seeing Megan again at lunch time, but Father – how do I tell her that her son thinks she’s dying?  How do I tell her of the things that he had confided in Emily?  Please Lord, will you settle my mind to take one step at a time and to focus upon each moment as it passes today and help me to draw on you for strength as each one comes.

Father as Paul instructed Timothy and Timothy probably sought your help to do – I ask you to help me to be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.  May I be firm in my faith and thankful for the blessing of forgiveness that you have given.  Help me to show the way to you to others.  May I not be intimidated by people like Joel or by people who try to twist the truth.  Lord help Hamish to be strong in the grace that is in Jesus also in spite of any opposition he may come up against at home.

Thanks that you provided reliable people for Timothy to teach your gospel to – the truth that Paul taught in the presence of so many witnesses.  Thank you that this has been handed down and that you continue to provide reliable teachers.  I thank you for Bennie and Ollie and their ministry.  Thanks for Gordon who leads our Church so prayerfully and for Kathleen and the kids.  May you help them to choose reliable people to teach to be teachers also so that your word will be taught and the work will be shared.

Father, may I be dedicated when it comes to serving you.  Help me to be focused on your kingdom, on your ways – may I not get so caught up in the things of this world that I lose sight of what you have focused on.  Your eternal glory – that I might give thanks for my salvation in Jesus that I will have the honour of loving and worshipping you eternally.

Father help me see today through the lens of eternity.

Amen

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Sound Patterns

Dear God,

What a passage to read on this day when I come before you burdened with my nephew’s situation, not knowing what would be best to pray for him.

In verse 13 of Chapter 1 Paul says to Timothy that he should keep the gospel that he heard from him as the pattern of sound teaching with faith and love in Christ Jesus and to guard the good deposit that was entrusted to him with the help of the Holy Spirit.

Father, these are good things to pray for any believer.  May you keep Hamish soundly patterned after the gospel he first heard and believed with faith and love in Christ Jesus.  Please, by your Holy Spirit guard the faith, the salvation that was given to him.  May he stand firm and faithful in your ways.  Father, where others are ashamed to call you their Lord when they are opposed – I thank you that Hamish has been faithful and ask that you will continue to hold him steadily in the face of  Joel’s hostility toward you.  May Joel come to know you also.

Lord, I ask that I will never be ashamed of my faith in you.  May I always be willing to say that I am yours.

Father, please help my family as we start to ask ourselves and each other over the weeks and months ahead where we stand with you because of the boldness that Hamish has shown and Joel’s response to his faith.

May each one turn to you and be saved,

In Jesus name I ask these things

Amen.

No Day For the Faint Hearted

The coffee machine died today.

Everyone at work was strung out like nothing on earth.

No, I am not kidding.  I promise you this.  Tempers were short.  Fuses would blow over next to nothing.  People were complaining of headaches.  You could almost see Charlie Green’s eyes roll back in their sockets.

If you ever want to make a workplace dysfunctional – just kill the coffeepot.

The only sane person in the place was Angie who’s pregnant and has been off the stuff for about six months… Oh – and of course there was Gina who is on a herbal tea fad (thank goodness) but she had something under her skin anyway and was no more fun than those suffering from coffeepot withdrawal.

I spent the morning playing it safe and stuck to desk work in the office with as little human contact as possible, then just before lunch snuck out to use the photocopier… only to find Scott having a show down with the machine.  He was red in the face and yelling at the thing calling it all manner of names that I’ve never heard him use on anything alive or dead as though this was going to stir the machine into action.  He’d obviously been there for some time with something he wanted done with some urgency.  But driven mad by lack of caffeine, he’d not examined the problem carefully in the exhaustive, systematic way that Scott usually does.

How did I know that?

Because I could see exactly why the machine wasn’t working.  And so could Gina when she stopped beside me looking at Scott’s ranting and raging.

“What the…?”

“I believe he’s trying to photocopy something.”

“You reckon?” she asks sarcastically.

Both of us know how awful the morning has been.  Both of us are a little unsettled by this foul tempered Scott who seems to have taken up residence where our annoyingly goofy Scott usually resides.  Neither of us is convinced we want to see the new Scott flatly embarrassed.

“You go and distract him and I’ll get that while he’s not looking.”

“Why do I have to do the talking?  He’ll bite my head off and swallow me whole.”

“No he won’t.  Just ask him some dumb question about what next week’s Bible study is supposed to be – I can’t do that and you know it.  Go on – now!” and she pushed me out of the shelter of the doorway and into the path of the jolly green giant.

“Uh … Scott?”

“What?” he thunders back at me.

Gina sneaks in on the other side of the photocopy room.  I’m committed now.

“Um. What passage are we looking at next week before prayer meeting?  I think it’s my turn to prepare.”

Scott looks kind of shocked now.  As though I’ve hit him over the head with a club.

Gina is down on her hands and knees beside the photocopier.

“I’m not sure, I’d have to check, but it’s not your turn” he adds calmly, speaking with the old Scott’s voice, “It’s Graham’s turn next week – you’re after Graham.”

“Oh,” I say, as Gina plugs the photocopier in and switches it on at the wall, “Thanks.” she rises and scoots out of the room.  “Hey, are you okay, you look kind of strung out?”

He looks a little embarrassed here as though wondering how much I’ve seen.  I must have kept a pretty blank face though, because he just answered,

“Yeah, a bit.  But I’m okay now.  Now if I can just get this photocopier working …” and he pushed the button again, looking stunned when the machine whirred to action and started copying.  “Well what do you know?”

“Yep.  A photocopier that copies things,” I say, as though oblivious to his last few minutes.  And then I leave.  Quickly.  Before I fall over laughing like Gina is already around the corner as she greets me with the words, “Well what do you know?”

After lunch though, the internet goes down, the internal mail servers crash and the fax goes off to join the coffee machine in the great electrical circuit in the sky.

Once more our department shows that we have the best staff with the most initiative in the place though – Kylie copied the coffee preferences list from the tea room and took Gina and I down to Gloria Jeans with her to get coffees, hot chocolate and iced tea for the team.  We were the only group in the building that left feeling good today.

Gina followed me home, saying that she thought that she’d left a book she wanted at my place after her Cello lesson on Monday.  I didn’t remember seeing one around anywhere – but then I’ve barely stopped and I’ve been a bit preoccupied the last couple of days.  When we got in there were two messages on my phone so I left her to scout for her book while I went to listen to the messages and make some hot chocolate.  The first message was from Emily who sounded distressed and asked me to call her back.  The second was Hamish – which worried me more.  He clearly asked me not to call back but said that he’d call back when he had a chance.

Preoccupied, I went back out to Gina who said that she had found the book.  We talked a little over our hot chocolate, but I didn’t notice until later that she hadn’t had much to say.

I called Emily almost as soon as Gina left.  She sounded so distressed that I went around to Paul’s to talk to her.

It seems that Hamish has been forbidden to talk to Jonah anymore.  This surprised no-one but Emily who couldn’t believe that her uncle could be so hard-hearted.  Hamish had also had his Bible taken off him and was told that he was not allowed to be a Christian anymore.  This did surprise me.  I had not expected Joel to be so direct and heavy-handed.  But Emily said that Hamish had told Joel that he could not say that it was not true about Jesus when it was true and that he was not embarrassed to be a Christian no matter what he thought of him.  She asked me if I thought that was brave, to which I agreed it was and told her that God helped people to be brave for him.

Emily also told me that Jonah thought that his mother was dying.  When I asked her why he thought that, she said that all he had told her was that “this was just like it was last time”.  I will have to talk to Megan.

When I got home I found two things.  Another message from Hamish on my answering machine.  The same as the first one.  “Don’t call me back.”

And a gap in the shelf that held Gina’s books.

Her Bible was gone.

nb Hamish also posted today 

Thankful Friends

Dear God,

It’s hard to believe that we have this letter that your servant Paul wrote to his friend not long before he expected to die.  That the words that you gave him to share with Timothy were so profound – that they were inspired by you, yourself.  I’m not sure what I would write to  a close friend if I were in jail expecting that I would be sentenced to death.  There is no wonder that the book – the letter – is so densely backed and intense.

And Timothy… still wrestling with a church with renegade leaders.  Overreaching leadership.  Trying to teach all kinds of different things from your teachings.  Leading people in all different directions.  How do you lead a church like that in unity with a focus on you, on Christ, your gospel – your truth as revealed by your Spirit through your word – or the scriptures and the teaching of Christ as they had then.  What a hard job.

No wonder it is of God’s grace, his mercy and his peace that Paul reminds Timothy – what comfort.  The things that Timothy probably clings to (longing for them from his church), and that his church need reminding of.  I know I do – constantly.  What comfort there is in these three things that you have given and promise that we will know even more fully in heaven.  I bet these are things that Paul’s eyes are cast toward now also as he longs to see him.

Imagine having someone giving thanks for you night and day in their prayers.  For the work Timothy is doing? or for Timothy himself?  I tend to think both.  Please forgive me Lord for not taking the time just to thank you for people, for the work they do, their ministry, their generosity, their friendship.  Please help me to be more thankful.  Thanks for Timothy and the faithfulness that you gave him, for his mother and grandmother who also had faith in you and for the words that we have to learn from here because Timothy was  a faithful servant of yours and a friend of Paul’s who needed encouragement – and who Paul wanted to see again before he died.

Father, I don’t say it often enough – but thank you for a family who care for each other.  Thanks for giving Joel and Paul and I parents who loved us and brought us up the best way they knew how.  Thanks for Karen and for Lisa while she was with us.  Thank you for the kids – for Hamish and Callum and Emily and Jasmine.  For love.  Lord I pray that you will help Joel to be reasonable about Hamish’s faith.  That he will not cut himself off from the rest of the family in suspicion.  I ask that you will open Joel’s heart and draw him to yourself.  Please God.  Claim both him and Paul as your own.  Take Karen and Callum and Jasmine and Mum and Dad as well.  May they become faithful servants of you.  Thank you for the encouragement that is mine and the glory that is yours in Hamish and Emily.  And thank you for my new friend, Megan.

Amen

Demanding Response

Dear God,

 

Today I read a letter that your servant Paul wrote to another of your servants, Timothy.  Right through.  The letter.  Not the headings in the Bible or the chapter numbers.  Not the verses or the paragraphs.  I copied it out without anything but the words themselves and read it.

Just the letter.  As a letter.

It makes such a difference to how you read things sometimes.

Thank you for preserving it – your word.  Help me to remember to read your word as more than just a text-book when I study it.

Lord, you had so much to say to Timothy through Paul – so much to pass on to others through this letter.  You ask for nothing less than my full attention, do you? Yet to understand anything at all of your character is to be transfixed by you – and it demands a response.  How do I ever get complacent about you? Your presence? Your mercy? Your holiness? The approval that you have granted me?

Father, please open my heart to you as I study your book of 2 Timothy.

Help me also to know what to do with the new knowledge of Gina.  Bennie’s Genie.  What do I do with this?  So far I’ve not had to make a decision because Gina’s not been in yet this week – but sooner or later she’ll be back and will see that there is something that I’m not saying.  She doesn’t miss much.  Lord, please grant me wisdom.

Right now I’d best be going.  Dinner with Jonah and family with Paul and the girls tonight.  Lord, please bless this evening’s conversation and open Paul’s ears and heart.  I can’t wait to spend time with these people.  They seem so lovely and I can’t wait to hear about how Hamish came to Christ!

Amen

 

Demanding Response

Dear God,

Today I read a letter that your servant Paul wrote to another of your servants, Timothy.  Right through.  The letter.  Not the headings in the Bible or the chapter numbers.  Not the verses or the paragraphs.  I copied it out without anything but the words themselves and read it.

Just the letter.  As a letter.

It makes such a difference to how you read things sometimes.

Thank you for preserving it – your word.  Help me to remember to read your word as more than just a text-book when I study it.

Lord, you had so much to say to Timothy through Paul – so much to pass on to others through this letter.  You ask for nothing less than my full attention, do you? Yet to understand anything at all of your character is to be transfixed by you – and it demands a response.  How do I ever get complacent about you? Your presence? Your mercy? Your holiness? The approval that you have granted me?

Father, please open my heart to you as I study your book of 2 Timothy.

Help me also to know what to do with the new knowledge of Gina.  Bennie’s Genie.  What do I do with this?  So far I’ve not had to make a decision because Gina’s not been in yet this week – but sooner or later she’ll be back and will see that there is something that I’m not saying.  She doesn’t miss much.  Lord, please grant me wisdom.

Right now I’d best be going.  Dinner with Jonah and family with Paul and the girls tonight.  Lord, please bless this evening’s conversation and open Paul’s ears and heart.  I can’t wait to spend time with these people.  They seem so lovely and I can’t wait to hear about how Hamish came to Christ!

Amen

Few Should Presume

Dear God,

I have decided that the only living thing that I ever want to be responsible for is a cactus.  I hear they’re pretty hard to kill.  I’m not good with other plants.  I gave up on goldfish after my third, and I don’t really want to be tied down by a cat or a dog.  Besides, I’m not fit to train them.  I’d end up with fat, lazy pets from bribery.

One thing I think I’m glad I’ve not borne is the responsibility for so far is teaching.

Bennie was over for dinner last night.  Dinner was delicious (as always), and we had had dessert.  Right before I went to get the coffee, Bennie spotted the books that Gina had given me loaned me.

“Are these the books that you were telling me about?”

“Yeah.  There’s some great stuff in there.  I’m working through it as fast as I can so its all ready to go back as soon as she wants it again,” I say.  I’m having a confident day for Gina.  “Take a look.  I’ll be back in a minute with some coffee and then we can go do some decorating…”

I came back a couple of minutes later and found Bennie with a book open to the front page where only Gina’s name was written in her lap, in tears.  I put the coffee down.

“Bennie?”

“My Genie …” She was sobbing now.

“Gina is Genie?” I ask, horrified.

Bennie nods.

Genie was a uni student that Bennie poured a lot of time and love and prayer into discipling when she was working in a part time ministry position on a university campus nearby.  Genie was a keen Christian, eager for mission, hungry to grow; she soaked up training in evangelism and how to teach and by the end of uni she was teaching and training others herself and contributing a lot to the running of the ministry.

Gina’s story.  It fit.

Bennie’s heart was breaking.

All I could do was hold her and pray.  Ready to pray with Bennie when she was ready too.

I thought again of Gina and the words I had been reading just before Bennie had come.  How James warned that those who teach would be judged more strictly and I wonder what lay in wait for her should she ignore the need to repent.

No – not many should presume to be teachers.

I looked at Bennie and thought of the other costs.  The joys and the depths of the heartaches.  It is a gift and a burden that God has only assigned to some.  Lord, may it be that this is Gina stumbling – that she will be righted once more to serve you.

Today I had the privilege of meeting a different kind of teacher.  I think Emily was even more excited that I.  We had visiting missionaries on home assignment at Church come to share their future plans with us.

It was the family of Hamish’s friend, Jonah.  It was so exciting to meet and thank Jonah for sharing the gospel with Hamish.  Jonah and his parents and Emily and I were very excited to meet each other.  I believe Emily was invited to play on Tuesday.  She and Jonah disappeared off to one side with much whispering and chattering – and I shall pretend that I don’t want to know what is going on so that I can tell the truth when Joel asks me if I know anything if anything is anything along the lines of my suspicions.

In the end, Paul and Jasmine and I are all invited to come Tuesday for dinner as Paul and Jonah’s father really hit it off, and his mother and I were not done talking about their work overseas when everybody needed to leave.

What a commitment to take on being teachers of the gospel overseas in places where it is barely known.  Where you have to learn a whole new language and culture to communicate with the people.  That has got to be a pretty frightening responsibility to look in the face at times – even if it is a joy.  I know that Kylie used to freak out about going to Scotland … let alone a place closed to the gospel (where people don’t speak English!).

Lord, thanks for the chance to meet these people who were behind getting the message of salvation to my nephew; for Jonah, who chose to speak as your servant and his parents who taught him to do this.  Please support him as he keeps supporting Hamish.

Help me to remember to pray for Kylie, for Jonah’s family and for other missionaries – that they may live blamelessly among the people they serve and honour you in all that they do.

Please help me to live blamelessly here amidst my world as I witness here also Lord.

Amen.

See today Hamish Johns’ Secret Diary for an update on his journey.