· The Legend of Ben Hall on DVD - My copies of the movie THE LEGEND OF BEN HALL have arrived. Took 2 weeks after ordering from JB-HI-Fi. It’s a great film & story about the last year of the Ben Hall gang’s bushranging exploits. Matthew Holmes has made a great film along with some top young actors & camera & sound crew. The film follows the story of John Dunn with Ben Hall (the focus of my book TEENAGE BUSHRANGER) , but sadly leaves out any reference of teenager Dunn’s repentance & conversion to Christ before he was hanged at age 19. Despite this it’s a rip-roaring yarn with lots of action & sure to bring a tear to your eyes. Order your copy & enjoy. Better still get the book TEENAGE BUSHRANGER & read the gripping story of young Dunn & then re-live the story via the film.
· Bushranger Books in Aussie Prison Libraries - 600 of each of my bushranger books TEENAGE BUSHRANGER & IS NED KELLY IN HEAVEN? are in prison libraries around Australia. I continue to get phone calls, emails or letters from inmates or recently released prisoners saying how reading one of these books has greatly helped them. Some prisoners have asked the prison chaplains could they take a copy of one of the books home to share with friends. Others are phoning & buying copies to share with mates outside of gaol.
· Sad Ending of Catherine Dunn - Wilma Tanswell from Yass, a local historian has shared with me some of her research about the Dunn family. She has sent me a copy of a transcript of a Coroner’s Inquiry into the death of Catherine Dunn aged 14. Catherine was five when her big brother John was hanged at Darlinghurst Gaol in 1866. In 1874, Catherine, now 14 was working at Kalangoon Station near Burrowa as a nurse. She was in the employ of Mr. J. A. Murphy. Catherine had been accused of stealing two letters by the overseer, a Mr Brady. He threatened to tell Catherine’s parents if she did not return the letters. (Catherine would have been greatly distressed knowing how her older brother being a murderer had deeply affected her parents, especially her mother). Catherine in a very distressed state took a dose of the poison strychnine and after several hours of seizures & convulsions, died. Michael & Maggie Dunn had been called from their property & were with their daughter when she died. The coroners verdict was - death by suicide. (The Burrowa News, Saturday 20th June, 1874).
· Two new bushranger books -
· MRS KELLY by Grantlee Kieza - This new book traces the life of Ellen Kelly, Ned’s mother. Her troubled life in and out of prison and how she met her son in Melbourne Gaol where she herself was a prisoner just before he was hanged. Recommended - a good read & well researched.
· THE CLARKE GANG by Peter C Smith - A history of the infamous Clarke gang who terrorised an erea stretching from present day Canberra to the coast from 1865-67. Those who know the Ben Hall story will recall a brief occasion with the failed Araluen Gold Robbery when the Hall gang joined forces with the Clarke Brothers. The book is recommended but it is expensive...selling for $60-00.
· Another book that has come my way, found in our local Rotary Book Sale is a copy of a book published in 2004 - RIDING WITH THUNDERBOLT - The Diary of Ben Cross by Allan Baillie. Published by Scholastic. The diary covers Ben Cross’s adventures with Fred Ward as Captain Thunderbolt as they roam Northern NSW in 1865. There are some interesting insights into the life of a bushranger from a young man’s perspective. I wondered if teenager John Dunn would have felt the same!
No.23. RAISING-UP SAMUELS TODAY
Earlier this year due to renovations, we were meeting at a Grace Church Tuesday Prayer meeting, in the Children’s Church area. During this time of prayer we felt God was say - “He is raising-up children (Grace children) to be Samuels - prophets for today.” He was calling on us adults to encourage & empower our children/teens to hear from God & to speak-out the Word of God boldyl in our society today.
The theme for a recent Grace Church Men’s & Children’s camp at Mnt Seaview, was SAMUEL. We heard three challenging talks (directed to our Dads/Granddads & Sons & Daughters) on Samuel. The first was presented by Yoshiya Sakamoto & the second by Peter Wood & both were very challenging . The third talk was to be given by another of our young Dads, but due to an accident, he was unable to attend. As I prepared the 3rd talk sitting in my room at Mnt Seaview early Sunday morning, I felt God prompt me to put all three talks on paper to share with whoever would read this.
The three messages on Samuel - 1. Samuel - Hearing God’s Voice - 1 Samuel 3
2. Samuel - Obedience - 1 Samuel 15:22b
3. Samuel - What God is Looking For In us? - 1 Samuel 16:7b
1. Samuel - Hearing God’s Voice - 1 Samuel 3
Samuel was serving in the temple under the direction of Eli the priest (who was going blind). One night he heard his name being called. Twice Samuel ran to Eli believing he had called him. Eli sent Samuel back to bed. The third time he heard his name called, Samuel ran to Eli again. This time Eli realised it must be God calling Samuel, so he told him to go back & say when he next heard his name called, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”
Sadly, Eli had failed as a father and a priest. His two sons had rebelled and were acting wickedly before the people of Israel. Yoshiya reminded us as Dads & Granddads that we have a calling to portray the ‘image of God’ to our children & grandchildren. Eli had failed to demonstrate God’s character to his sons & they walked away from God. Many of us have children & grandchildren who are not walking with God, despite our love & witness to them. Sometimes there can be other factors that turn our children away from God, but in Eli’s case it was his failure to be a Godly Dad. Truth is he was probably so committed to serving God, he failed to spend time with his sons to impart Godly values into their lives.
Secondly, we can also note the faithfulness of this young boy. Despite Eli’s sons behaving badly, Samuel served God faithfully in the temple & did not let the actions of Eli’s sons deter him from being faithful. The lesson we must seek to impart to our children is that they must be faithful in the “little things.” If they demonstrate their faithfulness in serving God in small ways, God will give them bigger responsibilities and blessings.
When Samuel responded to God’s call the third time, God spoke to him a very hard word against Eli & his sons. What a challenge for young Samuel! What would he do with this message from God? He stayed in bed all night. We are not sure if he slept (I doubt it). In the morning he got up and went about his temple duties, one of which was to open the temple door. He was afraid to tell Eli what God had said. Eli finding the temple door open, called him, “Samuel, my son”. He asked him to share what God had said, to tell him everything. So Samuel faithfully told Eli everything God has said, he left out nothing. As devastating as this message must have been for Eli, he responded by saying, “He is the Lord, let Him do what is good in His eyes.” What a humble response from Eli.
Because young Samuel had faithfully delivered God’s message, he grew in favour with God and was held in high regard by the people of Israel.
Samuel learnt two important lessons which we Dads & Granddads must seek to impart to our children - he was honest & faithfully conveyed the message he had received from God. Yoshiya rightly reminded us that we have many more opportunities to hear from God today than Samuel did. At Jesus’ crucifixion the curtain in the temple was torn in two. Through Jesus’ death it was now possible for us to enter God’s presence through His blood. We now have access to God any day & at any time. We need to encourage our children to read God’s Word daily & listen for what God may be saying from His Word, or through other people, or impressions on their mind or via the audible voice of God.
2. Samuel - Obedience - 1 Samuel 15:22b
Peter Wood spoke as we sat around the campfire on Saturday night - on what it meant to obey God and not to compromise. The key verse was from 1 Samuel 15:22b “To obey is better than sacrifice and to heed is better than the fat of rams.”
Peter defined OBEDIENCE - Obedience is a compliance with an order, request , law or submission. Obedience can only come from listening to a command, then following that command.
In Chapter 15, the prophet Samuel confronted King Saul over his failure to do exactly what God told him to do. Saul was already in ‘hot-water’. In Chapter 13, Saul grew impatient when Samuel had failed to arrive. He went ahead and usurped Samuel’s role and offered a priestly offering to God at Gilgal. When Samuel finally arrived, he rebuked Saul for overstepping his Kingly role. He was called to lead, not act as a priest. By this Saul directly disobeyed God. Samuel had now realised that Saul will need to be replaced as the King of Israel because he could not be trusted to act faithfully. (c/f 1 Samuel 13:13-14)
Chapter 15 is regarded as a difficult chapter by some Biblical scholars, as Saul was commanded by God to totally eliminate the evil King Agag and the Amalekite people. To understand the meaning behind this command, one needs to track-back in the Bible & see how evil and unscrupulous the Amalekites had been. Saul attacked the Amalekites, but did not do as God commanded. He compromised! Instead of destroying the Amalekites, he spared King Agag and also he spared their animals. One could imagine Saul’s reasoning - he had an army to feed in the desert and these animals would have provided much sustenance for his army. Also he argued later that all these animals would have made great sacrifices to God. Sometimes our reason can cause us to not do what God says. We can argue and compromise instead of following God’s clear instructions. We sadly see this today with many people living contrary to how God expects us to live outlined in His Word, the Bible. This leads to ‘Christians’ doing some very ungodly things and hurting lots of innocent people.
When Saul realised he had been caught-out, he tried to cover-up his error and blamed his actions on other people. We need to encourage our children to always be truthful (even if it costs them) & never blame others for their actions - ”Oh Johnny made me do it!” Sometimes we can seek to justify our actions by saying it was the ‘religious or sensible’ thing to do. Saul used this argument, which led Samuel in his rebuke of Saul to say, “To obey is better than sacrifice.”
Note - It is much easier to bring a bullock or lamb to be sacrificed, than to bring every thought, emotion & action into obedience to God and be subject to His Will. c/f Hebrews 4:12-13.
3. Samuel - What God is Looking For in Us? - 1 Samuel 16:7b
Our final insight into Samuel at the Men’s & Children’s camp came from 1 Samuel 16:7b - “The Lord does not look on the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
Now that Saul was no longer to be the King of Israel, Samuel sought God as to who will be the next King. God sent him to Bethlehem to the house of Jesse. So as not to earn the wrath of a now increasingly dangerous King Saul,
Samuel went to offer a sacrifice at Jesse’s house as God had told him. When he arrived, he asked Samuel to bring in his sons to see which one God was calling to be the next King of Israel. Jesse brought seven of his eight sons before Samuel. Both Jesse and Samuel thought one of that these big strong boys would make a great King. But God did not choose any of them. Samuel asked Jesse if he had any more sons? Jesse said his youngest was out in the fields looking after the sheep. David was brought before Samuel. He was not big & strong like his brothers. He is described as being ruddy & handsome. (Ruddy describes someone as red or having a suntanned healthy face) As soon as he appeared Samuel knew that this was the next King of Israel. Samuel anointed him and the Spirit of the Lord came upon young David. He was anointed with God’s power. (This Godly power was later seen when David killed a lion and a bear and then the Philistine giant, Goliath - c/f 1 Samuel 17)
We Fathers can often miss which of our children God has chosen for special ministry. Like Jesse, we look on the outward appearance. The champion footballer or netballer, the brightest student, the most handsome or beautiful of our children. However we need to seek God, as He looks on the heart. Often our wives can see this more clearly than we can. It is a child’s heart that God is looking for in those who are going to do great things for Him. Fathers ask God to show you the heart of your children. Encourage & nurture your child’s heart. It may be that the child is a champion physically, but it is the heart of the child that will really count with God.
1 Peter 3:4 - “Instead , it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”
God is seeking to raise up Samuels, -
who will hear His voice, do exactly what He says,
see through the charades people put on
& have open, caring & Christ-like hearts.
Same Sex Marriage – “To be or not to be?”
I have been asked by several readers to comment on why I am voting NO in the Same Sex Marriage plebiscite.
Firstly, the issue is much bigger than a couple of beautiful people (whom God loves & Jesus died for) wanting to legalise their same sex relationship by marriage! The SSM vote goes to the very core of our civilisation & the foundation of the family. God specified clearly in the beginning that marriage was for Adam & Eve, not Adam & Steve. Undermining the very fabric of our society by introducing SSM may have serious repercussions. Australia has enjoyed bounteous blessings from God over the past 200+ years even though we have not deserved His Love & Grace. I wonder if this issue, if voted in, could be the ‘tipping point’ that would see God withdrawing His many blessings from this nation!
Secondly, there is a very real danger that if the YES vote succeeds, there are no safe guards in place to protect those who would not want to participate in or support SSM due to their conscience or religious beliefs. The Government refused to put these safeguards in place when the plebiscite was sent to a postal ballot.
Already we have seen attacks on those who believe in the traditional marriage of one man & one woman. Paul Kelly points out in a very poignant article in The Australian (August 12, 2017) what happened in Sydney. The Mercure Hotel, which was to host an event of various Christian groups to form a strategy against same-sex-marriage, was threatened with violent protests such that the staff safety could not be guaranteed. It had to cancel the event…… The most celebrated domestic case is the decision by Tasmania’s Anti-Discrimination Commissioner that the Catholic Archbishop of Hobart, Julius Porteous, had a case to answer for distributing a book in Catholic schools defending traditional marriage. There are also some disturbing examples in the UK of a young couple prosecuted for failing to bake a wedding cake for a SSM & the UK Catholic Adoption Agencies being shut down for failing to agree to adoptions to same sex parents. Here in Australia, Cooper’s Brewery was boycotted for its support for the Bible Society. The Australian Christian Lobby office in Canberra was firebombed by a gay activist & again attacked by egg throwing just a few days ago. True. Be warned!
Please vote. It’s time for the ‘silent majority’ to speak up against the opinions of our biased media & insipid politicians. It’s time to say an emphatic - “NO”!
· God Loves Bushrangers - Hearing of these tragedies in my home town has made me seek God more for an opportunity to share my message on bushrangers - GOD LOVES BUSHRANGERS. In other towns & cities where I have shared this message, I have seen tough men who felt they have done so many wrong things that God could not possibly love them, respond in tears as they heard of God’s amazing grace. I am getting letters, emails, phone calls from men in Australian prisons who have read one of my bushranger books borrowed from their prison libraries & told how they have now “found peace with God”. I am writing a third bushranger book - MAD-DOG, MIDNITE, THUNDERBOLT & JESUS in the hope that more broken men may discover God’s Love through Jesus. In the book I am re-telling the stories of many of Australia’s infamous bushrangers & asking “What if they had met with Jesus?” One example is comparing the story of Mad-Dog Morgan & the encounter Jesus had with the Gerasene demoniac (Luke 8)!
· Healing Tsunami - This is the title of another book I am writing based on a seminar that I have conducted and a booklet I wrote years ago called FOOLS FOR CHRIST. In the seminar & booklet I have sought to demonstrate the principal from THE BOOK OF ACTS that “signs & wonders” preceding as well as following the preaching of the Gospel will stir many lost souls to turn to Christ. I realise that I may never be able to impact Churches & local Christians in the way I long to personally, so hopefully this new book will spread the message a lot further & equip more Christians to minister like Jesus.
· Mnt Seaview Encounter - Trevor Suitor and I were at the Mnt Seaview Resort camping ground about 40ks west of Port Macquarie checking out the site for a Grace Church Men’s Camp. There was one couple camping there. We got talking & found the couple were neighbours of my sister & brother-in-law at Gundaroo/Sutton. Then when they asked me my name, they jumped up and said excitedly, “You prayed for us at St Thomas’ church 20 years ago & God healed us!” Amazing. Finally I asked them where they go to Church? Gunghalin Anglican in Canberra. Their ministers names are Rev Mick & Naomi Dasey, who were teens from Inverell 30 years ago & on our Crescent Head Beach Mission team. Naomi was a teen in our church in Tingha & we loved her name so much we also named our first daughter Naomi (also after the Naomi in the Bible).
· New Website - www.KerryMedway.org -Eric Edge has re-constructed my website with all the latest ‘you beaut’ innovations & tighter security. It has many ‘bells & whistles’. Contains info about my books & the ministry we offer to Churches. Check it out - www.KerryMedway.org . I recommend Eric if you are interested in a similar website. Contact him @ 1300 177 088 or at www.EdgezoneMedia.com
· Ministry over the next 3 months -
· September 20 - October 7, 2016 - CFT Tour of New Zealand - Kerry & Julie will be leading a Christian Fellowship Tour of New Zealand - 17 days from the Bay of Islands in the north to Dunedin in the south. We will be sharing some devotions from the Psalms - A TASTE OF PSALMS IN NEW ZEALAND. What an adventure we are in for!!!!
· November 6 - Kerry is conducting a wedding (a couple, whose young child died last year & was buried by Kerry, have now asked me to conduct their wedding.) Isn’t this special!
· October - November - December, 2016 VACANT - no preaching or ministry bookings for the rest of the year, nor for 2017. Interesting times!!!!
Thanks for your prayers & support…. Kerry & Julie
No.21 An Antinomy
D. L. Moody, a famous American evangelist in the 1800s, was walking down the street with a friend. A drunk man came staggering towards them. The friend said to Moody, “Hey, isn’t that one of your converts?” Moody looked at the man as he swaggered along the street. “Yes he is,” he replied. “He is one of my converts, but not God’s.” Moody understood that if God saves someone, they ARE saved. But if someone responds simply to Moody’s eloquent preaching and not to God’s touch, then they are not truly converted or Christian.
How am I saved?
Is it God’s Sovereign will or human responsibility? Am I predestined or chosen by God or do I make this decision myself when given an invitation? The Bible holds both these positions as true. J. I. Packer in his book “Evangelism & the Sovereignty of God” says that these two truths are held in tension alongside each other in the Bible.
He calls this tension AN ANTINOMY.
The Shorter Oxford Dictionary defines ‘antinomy’ as “a contradiction between conclusions which seem logical, reasonable or necessary.” Another definition is, “A contradiction of two absolute truths. Both correct but opposite.” So how can we have two absolute truths that contradict each other and yet hold them both as absolutely true? Our minds struggle with this, but the Bible holds these truths “in tension.” Like two rail lines on a railway track, running side by side, equally apart & yet essential for the safe passage of the train. Place too much emphasis on one track rail and not the other or pull the rail lines apart or try to bring them together and you will derail the train!
As well as the ANTINOMY we are about to examine—GOD IS SOVEREIGN & MAN IS
RESPONSIBLE, there are a number of other antinomies in the Bible. For example - God is ONE God, and yet He is THREE! Jesus is 100% God, and 100% man! Judas was chosen by God to betray Jesus and yet because of his corrupt nature, he decided to betray Jesus. The Bible holds these antinomies in tension, giving equal weight to both opposite truths. Another intriguing antinomy from the Old Testament book of Exodus is in relation to Pharaoh refusing to let the children of Israel go from Egypt. You will read 17 references to Pharaoh refusing to let the people go. Nine times we read, “And God hardened Pharaoh's heart.” However there are eight other references to the hardening of Pharaoh's heart - three state quite clearly that “Pharaoh hardened his own heart”, the other five are ambiguous, but lean more to Pharaoh hardening his own heart, than God hardening it. So here is the antinomy - nine times God hardened Pharaoh’s heart & possibly eight times Pharaoh hardened his own heart!
An antinomy is not the same as a paradox. An antinomy is two apparent conflicting truths held in tension alongside each other. A paradox is a figure of speech. The appearance of
contradiction are not the facts but the way they are described or interpreted from life’s
experiences. A paradox presents two apparent conflicting truths that can be
unravelled and resolved. Not so with an antinomy. Both conflicting truths are to be held in tension, believed in and never to be resolved.
An example of an antinomy from physics is in the study of light. There is undeniable evidence to suggest that light consists of ‘waves’ and ‘particles’. No one understands how light can be both waves & particles. It just is! No matter how physicists try and explain the evidence, these two seemingly incompatible positions must be held together, and both must be treated as true. This scandalises our tidy minds. No matter how hard we try, we cannot comprehend nor unravel an antinomy. We simply must remain loyal to the facts.
Regarding the antinomy of Jesus being 100% God and 100% man, there is a well-known sect that has struggled to accept the fact that Jesus is God. So they have set-about to change all references to Jesus’ Godhead in the Bible. So far they have made over 4000 changes and are still discovering contradictions to their belief and having to make more changes!
1.God is Sovereign & Man is Responsible
This antinomy is in regard to our becoming a Christian. Do I save myself or am I saved by God?
The answer is YES! Both are categorically true according to the Bible.
God is Sovereign, He is in control. The world is not spinning out of control, He has it in the palm of His Hand. (John 10:29 & 1 Peter 4:6). There are many references stating clearly that God predestined or chose us before the world began, (Romans 8:29…”For those God foreknew, He also predestined…”; Ephesians 1:11…”In Him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will.”; & 1 Peter 1:2… “who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit….”. The Bible makes it very clear that we are saved by His Grace...eg, Ephesians 4:8-9. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast.”
& Titus 2:11...For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men…”.
There is no doubt that God is the prime mover in salvation. God saves, we don’t save ourselves, nor do we save
Alongside God’s Sovereignty in regard to salvation, there are an equal number of verses in the Bible that make it very clear that we must respond to the message of salvation. eg… Acts 2:21 & Romans 5:18… “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”; Romans 10:9… “That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him (Jesus) from the dead, you will be saved.”; 2 Peter 3:9… “The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
These passages and many others make it clear that we must decide to follow Jesus. In fact, Jesus made it quite clear that we must ‘repent’ in order to turn and follow Him… Matthew 4:17.. “From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent , for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.”
It is interesting that in some passages of scripture the antinomy of God’s Sovereignty & man’s responsibility appear in the same text of scripture. Examine the passage we referred to above...Ephesians 1:11….following on with verses 12-13… “in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of salvation. Having believed you were marked in Him….” Note in this passage the emphasis on ‘hearing & believing’ actions we take upon hearing the message of
salvation. The antinomy of God’s Sovereignty and man’s responsibility can also be seen in this one verse…. Luke 22:22… “The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed, but woe to that man who betrays him.”
So what do we make of all this? We simply do as the Bible does, hold both truths in tension.
Follow Jesus’ instruction in Mark 16:15-16 to… “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptised will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” Paul’s instructions to Timothy - 2 Timothy 4:2… “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season, correct, rebuke and encourage - with great patience and careful instruction.” Preach & witness…. Acts 1:8… “And you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem…. etc.”
We are commanded to share the good news about Jesus Christ. Our job is to tell, God is the one, through His Holy Spirit, who will do the converting. Knowing God is Sovereign & that man is responsible takes a lot of the pressure off us. We must earnestly seek to win the lost for Christ, but if they fail to respond, it is not because we told it badly or failed, but it may be that God has not moved sovereignly upon them.
“We must never forget that it is God who saves. It is God who brings men and women under the sound of the gospel, and it is God who brings them to faith in Christ. Our evangelistic work is the instrument that God uses for this purpose, but the power that saves is not in the instrument, salvation is in the hand of the One who uses the instrument.”
…. J. I. Packer…. “Evangelism & the Sovereignty of God.”
ALL OUR PREACHING, WITNESSING & PRAYING IS TO BE DONE KNOWING GOD IS IN CONTROL AND THIS IS WHAT HE HAS CALLED/INSTRUCTED US TO DO. THE RESULTS ARE IN HIS HANDS.
No. 20. EVEN IF - FAITH!
Pastor Todd Murray revealed some disturbing research as he shared his vision for Grace Church in 2015….
One hundred years ago, if you had the capacity to survey every person in the world regarding religious belief, you would have discovered that in the year 1900, 34% of the world’s 1.65 billion people would have checked the box “Christian” in one of its dominant forms of Catholic, Protestant or Orthodox. One hundred years later, with the explosion of conversions all over
Africa, Latin America and Asia, with prolific church planting strategies and effective evangelistic outreaches like the Jesus film, the percentage of Christians is still at 34%. With our current population near 6.5 billion people, there are certainly many more Christians today than in the year 1900; but the percentage has not changed. To create a different
future--to change the trajectory of the church-- we need to think differently and act differently.
…..Leadership Network/Nine Game-Changers for Global Missions
This data shocked me and I have for several months been seeking God as to how this stagnant
percentage growth could change? Perhaps we Christians by growing in faith & trust in Almighty God will help.
Ever since I first heard the story in Daniel Chapter 3 of Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego I have found it an enthralling
story. Three young Jewish men who refuse to worship King Nebuchadnezzar’s 90 foot gold statue and are thrown into a fiery furnace for their refusal. Amazingly the three men have their ropes burned-off and run around inside the fiery
furnace together with a fourth man. This fourth person is identified as ‘a son of God’ by Nebuchadnezzar. The King is so overwhelmed by this miraculous event that he decrees from now on all people in Babylon should worship Shadrach,
Meshach & Abednego’s God.
It’s a great story that gripped my imagination way back as a child. Over the years I have read it perhaps hundreds of times. Only recently I saw something I had not noted before. The three young men as they are about to be thrown into the fiery furnace, state that they have their trust in God. Even if they do not survive, their trust is still in God. Selwyn Hughes in a December 2014 issue of Every Day With Jesus drew attention to the fact that these men put their trust in God and His ‘bigger picture’. Whatever happens to them, whether they live or die, they will still trust God to be working His purposes out. It’s an Old Testament portrayal of Paul’s great saying in Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good, of those who love Him who have been called
according to His purpose.” (NIV)
One of the joys of having stepped-down from pastoring a Church is that I now have more time to pursue statements like this that jump out from scripture. I have probably dozens of latent sermons I have researched from passages in the Bible. I have seen these Bible texts again and discovered wonderful new truths about God. Most of these sermons will never be preached, but I have had a lot of fun doing the in-depth research into the scriptures.
Let me share some insights gleaned after reflecting on Daniel 3 verse 18 “But EVEN IF he does not, we want you to know, O King, that we will not serve your gods or worship the
image of gold you have set up.”
It is my prayer that there will be many young and older men and women with faith in Christ who will stand-up against the imposing forces of evil creeping into our society and be bold and place their total trust in God to bring about God’s
1.God is Able to Deliver
Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego had absolute confidence in God. They knew God was able & willing to deliver them. The Hebrew boys had no doubt in their God.
Sadly for many of us when we pray we waver between opposing beliefs. We say things like, “Well I know God CAN heal me, but I’m not sure He wants to!” Or “God is able to put my marriage back together, but I am not sure He wants to!” “I know God can reach my kids, but I am not sure He wants to!”
The writer of the book of Hebrews gave us a great description of faith, with no ‘doubts’ or ‘buts’. “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1)
When we go to God in prayer for a financial need, a healing need, a relational issue, or on behalf of the nation, we ought to pray and ask without doubting. We need to have the confidence in God that John spoke about in his epistle, “Since we know He hears us when we make our requests, we also know He will give us what we ask for.”(1 John 5:15)
Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego trusted God whilst facing life threatening circumstances. They stood tall and did not doubt, despite the threats of the Babylonian King. God did come & save them in a remarkable way & we get a glimpse of Jesus in the fiery furnace rescuing His boys.
2. Even if - Trust in God
The three Hebrew boys made a key statement in Daniel chapter 3:16-18, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the the King, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and He will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
This is amazing. These boys walked into the fire with an “even if - faith”. Even if everything fell apart at the seams, they had absolute confidence in God. Some commentators have suggested that the boys may have doubted God with this statement. I strongly disagree. Their faith was allowing for “the mystery of God.” They did not know God’s Ways. They did not know everything about God. They simply knew that God was GOOD. God was SOVEREIGN and no matter what He chose to do, their faith in Him would not waver.
This ‘even if - faith’ is very courageous. It has been the way followers of Christ have walked as Christians down through the centuries. This faith allows us to admit we don’t always know what is going on, but not knowing, will not cause our faith to waver. The ‘even if- faith’ person says, “I am going to follow God no matter what. Even if the
person I am praying for doesn’t get healed, or doesn’t get healed instant l I will follow Him.” “Even if something
tragic happens that messes with my theology, I will still trust in and follow God.”
Paul states in 1 Corinthians 13:12…. “For now I see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face; now I know in part; but then I shall know even as also I am known.” We understand some things, but there are many other
instances we do not understand. We know lots of things about God, but His acts are often a mystery.
‘Even if - faith’ is the opposite of ‘only if - faith’. This faith is NOT built on God doing what I want Him to. It is NOT built on understanding all of God’s ways. It is NOT built on ALL my prayers being answered the way I want them to. Even if I am enduring tough times, I will continue to follow God. Even if my pastor or a Christian friend lets me down or hurts me, I will still follow God. Even if the person who led me to the Lord turns away from Christ, I’ll still follow God. Even if my beloved partner whom I am praying for does not get healed, I will still follow God. Even if God never answers another one of my prayers, I will still follow God.
What a difference ‘even if - faith’ will make.
I have prayed for hundreds of people who have been wonderfully healed. I have prayed for hundreds of others who have not received healing. I am not aware that the ones who were healed had a stronger faith than the ones not healed. Sometimes it has been the opposite. I have prayed for children, who have died in my arms. I have prayed for children who have been dead and have come back to life. I don’t understand, but I know God is working His purposes out with a much bigger picture than I can grasp.
I recently read a story about an American missionary who had a withered arm. He went to China to assist in an
orphanage for a short while. While he was there a six year old orphan, who was physically disabled saw his withered arm and asked the carer at the orphanage could he pray for the American’s arm and ask Jesus to heal it. Given
permission by his carer, the boy hobbled over to the American and asked if he could pray for his withered arm. The Chinese boy was crippled himself, yet he had the faith to believe that God could and would heal the American
missionary’s arm. The boy prayed a faith-filled prayer. I wish I could say the man’s arm was healed at that moment, it wasn’t. But the way the Chinese boy prayed was a powerful testimony to ‘even if - faith’.
How strong is my ‘even - if faith’ ?
No.22. Something Beautiful, Something Good
At Easter we had the thrill of returning to Coober Pedy for the 100th Anniversary of the Discovery of Opal. We were invited by the Rev Geoff & Tracey Piggott, Bush Church Aid missioners at the Catacomb Church. Whilst there I met again 80+ year old Daphne Butler who reminded me that 35 years ago whilst visiting her older son in Coober Pedy, she had shared a song with us at the Church. She had just come up from Adelaide after burying her teenage son Daphne told us how God had been very close and how she had stood at the graveside of her son while singing this song.
The song was Bill Gaither’s, “Something Beautiful”….
Something beautiful, something good
All my confusion He understood
All I had to offer Him was brokenness and strife
But He made something beautiful of my life.
This is the part she taught us, but I have since found an extra part….
If there ever were dreams so lofty and noble
They were my dreams at the start
And hope for life’s best were the hopes
That I harbour down deep in my heart
But my dreams turned to ashes
And my castles all crumbled, my fortune turned to loss
So I wrapped it all in the rags of my life
And laid it at the Cross.
Whenever I have faced difficult times I have found myself humming and singing the first four lines of this song and found great comfort in knowing that in the midst of my confusion and loss, God is still working His purposes out.
In Genesis chapter 32 we read of the account of the time when Jacob wrestled with an angel from God all night and was blessed in the midst of his brokenness. Read Genesis 32: 24-29
1.Alone with God… verse 24
Jacob had been a fugitive for some twenty years. He had stolen his older brother’s birthright, cheated his father-in-law and was on the run. He was about to meet his older brother Esau and he was afraid of what he might do. At last he was alone with God.
Deceived people are often running away and don’t want to stop and be alone with God for fear of what He may reveal. They busy themselves, do everything except stop and spend time with almighty God in prayer.
Now Jacob was alone with God and he had a confrontation with Him via an angel. Who was this Man or Angel that Jacob wrestled with all night? We are not sure. Most commentators believe it to be an angel, some suggest that it may have been the Lord Jesus Himself. Whoever it was he came from God and he was to confront Jacob & wrestle with him all night. Note, it wasn’t Jacob starting this fight it was the Lord. God’s Man could have overpowered Jacob easily, but the Lord wanted Jacob to prevail. God was wanting to achieve something wonderful with Jacob, that would not be achieved in a brief encounter. In the long struggle throughout the night, Jacob was to learn something of God’s amazing Love.
2. Broken by God…. Verse 25
Finally as dawn was breaking and they had wrestled all night, the angel touched the hollow of Jacob’s thigh and crippled him. Jacob was crippled and could not go on, the strength in his leg was gone and he could no longer stand against the angel of God. Now he couldn’t even run away. God had brought him to the place of absolute brokenness and dependence on God. He had nowhere to turn, but to submit to God.
When commenting on Moses spending 40 years in the wilderness at the “back side of the dessert” after fleeing from Pharaoh, A. W. Pink said that this was Moses’ time to be broken. He went from being a self-confidant, arrogant Egyptian prince to a shepherd who was willing to listen to a voice coming from a burning bush & do what God commanded.( “Gleanings in Exodus” by Arthur W. Pink).
Selwyn Hughes featured ‘brokenness’ as a theme for a 1984 edition of Every Day With Jesus (repeated in 2005). The title was “Strong at the Broken Places”. He quoted Ernest Hemingway, who said, “Life breaks all...but many are made strong at the broken places.” Selwyn went on to say that the place in which a bone breaks and then heals will be so strong that, generally speaking, it will never break there again. In the same way, when the skin is cut and scar tissue forms, the healed part becomes tougher than the surrounding skin. Selwyn concluded that if this happens in the natural, why not the spiritual? In Hebrews 11:34, we are reminded of this truth..”weakness was turned to strength”.
What an encouraging truth.
Gordon McDonald who was stepped down from his international ministry role after admitting to having committed adultery, said these potent words… “One of the things I have discovered in my brokenness is that until one eschews all of the excuses, until one comes before God with the heart cut completely open and acknowledges that there are no words, that one must stand before Him in silence without excuse, only then can healing begin.”
3. Blessed by God….Verses 26-28
As the sun rose Jacob was hanging on to the angel. He was clinging to God and would not let Him go until He blessed him. God had been waiting for those words from Jacob and then something wonderful happened. God blessed Jacob. He changed his name (Jacob meant he who grabs, a liar, cheater, schemer and deceiver). Now Jacob became Israel, which meant - ‘ a prince of God!’ He became a prince because he had finally come to the end of himself. He was crippled that he would be crowned. There is no blessedness without brokenness.
Jacob walked with a limp. After this encounter with the angel of God, He (now called Israel) had to lean on God. He walked leaning on a staff to the end of his days (Hebrews 11:21). Jacob walking with this staff was a reminder of his need to continue to lean on God.
4. Walking from Brokenness into Blessing
If there are areas of your personality, your marriage or your relationships in which you feel woefully weak &
inadequate, be encouraged. God’s ability is able to overcome your inability. By His transforming Grace, your frustration can become fruitful. You can be strong at the broken places. HOW ?
Selwyn Hughes outlined three steps towards healing -
Step 1. Realise that God can do more with sin than just forgive it.
Honestly take your failure & brokenness to God. Repent of your sin & past failings and look to God for healing & restoration.
Step 2. Understand the major reason why you tend to brood on the past.
Brooding & continuing to dwell on your past failures indicates that you have not received God’s forgiveness nor have you forgiven yourself.
Step 3. Forget the matter by reversing the process of remembering.
Confused? Well this is how memory works - when a shameful image from the past pops back into your mind over & over, it gets locked into the memory with all its shame & pain. Train yourself so that when these images recur, think of something good, a Bible character, a favourite Bible verse or a chorus you love to sing.
Selwyn told of a Christian man, involved in one of the deepest sins imaginable, who had learned to blot out unwanted memories the moment they rose to the surface, by focusing his thoughts on the Cross.
Another wonderful tool is to turn your unwanted thought into a prayer. Don’t pray about the sin itself, but pray for God to build into you love, forgiveness & peace.
You will find if you can put these three steps into practise that the images of the past will rise less and less in your mind. When they do occur, they will occur only as fact: the emotions will no longer register a sense of burning shame.
Finally a quote from J.I. Packer - “Our God is a God who not merely restores, but takes up our mistakes and follies into His plan for us and brings good out of them. This is part of the wonder of His gracious Sovereignty.” …. KNOWING GOD …. J. I. Packer