Pray to Die Well

This week I’ve found myself thinking about death a bit, and in particular the idea of dying well.

For christians dying is a transition from the world of limitations, brokenness and sin to the life lived in the fullness of the presence of God where there is no death, no sin, and everything is made new.

So death is not to be feared, but to be approached with confidence, even joy. Therefore for many centuries christians would pray for the grace to die well, that is peacefully.

Our culture has turned a blind eye to death because we all want to believe we will be for ever young and never die. We have relegated death to a private act, preferably in hospital.

Lately there has been a trend in churches to be “positive” and focus more on living well and less on eternity and transitioning there. So christians are less likely than ever to pray to die well.

This week I heard of two instances of christians dying well.

The first was the very public death in Indonesia of eight people, all drug smugglers and all foreigners, including two Australians. Most of this group of eight had become christians in their time in prison. The two Australians in particular had worked tirelessly to help their fellow inmates. Andrew Chan had gone as far as to be ordained as a pastor, and was recognised as such in the prison.

These men went bravely to their death, refusing the customary blindfolds and singing hymns. A pastor who witnessed the executions said she had never seen a group of people so keen to go to be with the Lord.

These men died well, bravely, even heroically.

Yesterday I attended a funeral for a local lady, a mother of three, who was diagnosed with cancer seven months ago. She is relatively young, and the cancer was an aggressive type. Although the doctors thought she might live two years, she died much more quickly. Her husband gave the major part of the eulogy, but he shared how she died. He related how on Friday night he climbed into bed next to her and, as he had done every night for their entire marriage, he kissed her three times and said, “Goodnight.” Then, he said, she breathed two quick breaths as if saying “Goodnight” and that was it.

Leonie died a good death.

Lord, grant that we may die peacefully and well.

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Reflection on John 15:1-8

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Scripture

I am the true grape vine, and my Father is the gardener.”

Observation

Jesus is the true vine. The Father is the gardener who cuts off unproductive branches and prunes the fruitful ones so that they will be even more fruitful.

If we remain in Christ, He will remain in us. The only way to be fruitful is to remain in Him.

He is the vine, we are the branches. If we remain in Him, and His words remain in us, we can ask for anything and know it will be granted.

Application

Jesus is the true vine, the real “Israel.” He is the life of the people of God.

To have spiritual life means we have to be connected into Him. When His personality and words flow through our lives then we can ask for anything and have our prayers answered because we are praying in accordance with His will.

My responsibility is to stay close to the Lord, filling my heart and mind with Him and His word.

Then I will be fruitful.

Prayer

Lord please help me to stay connected to you, the true source of eternal life. Without you I can do nothing of lasting value. Amen.

Time To End The Death Penalty

There aren’t too many Australians who don’t have an opinion about the death of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran last night. There aren’t too many opinions on the other non-Australians executed at the same time.

The thing that Australians need to take hold of is this- if it is wrong for Indonesia to execute Australians, it is wrong for any government to kill any people as part of the judicial system.

In the ten years since they were convicted of attempting to smuggle 8.3 kg of heroin out of Indonesia to Australia and sentenced to death, they have shown an amazing turn around in their lives. Both became Christians and devoted themselves to helping other prisoners.

It was a classic case of the best outcome for the penal system to change people for the better.

But judicial systems are not there to make people better, they are there to punish people for crimes.

There are many reports this afternoon that the condemned men spent their last hours worshipping God. As they were standing in front of the firing squad, all 8 men sang “Amazing Grace.” A pastor who was with them to offer spiritual support said she had never witnessed a group of people so willing to go to be with the Lord.

How many lives have been changed by the testimony of these people? How many are yet to be brought into a relationship with God through them?

Having said that, the fact remains that the death penalty is always wrong. In this case, the authorities proceeded even though there were appeals still in process. But the President needed to show the voters he is tough on crime. In the U.S. it is a fact that the death penalty falls disproportionately on poor black people.

I hope that the “Stand For Mercy” campaign gains momentum and expands to cover all the countries in Asia, plus the United States.

I suspect it won’t because Aussies tend to be very parochial in their passions.

Reflection on 1 John 4:7-21

Scripture

God showed how much he loves us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love- not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.

Observation
We must continue to love one another. If we do not love we do not know God. God’s love for us is seen in His Son. He loved us and sent His Son to die for our sins.

If we confess that Jesus is the Son of God we live in God. God is love. As we live in God our love grows more perfect. His command is that those who love God must love their brother and sister.

Application
God’s love is as big and as perfect as God Himself for God is love.

When Jesus was asked to summarise the whole of the Jewish Law, it came down to two thing- love God and love your neighbour.

Now John tells us that if we do not love others we do not know God who is love. Of course, like all of life, this is a growth process- our love becomes more perfect as we grow closer to God.

Prayer
Lord help me to know you more and to grow in your love. Amen.

Reflection on Acts 8:26-40

Scripture

Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.

Observation
An angel of the Lord sends Philip along the desert road. Along the way, he sees an Ethiopian eunuch travelling in a chariot. The Holy Spirit tells Philip to go to the chariot.

The eunuch is reading from the scriptures, so Philip explains to him the way of salvation.

They come to some water and the eunuch asks to be baptised. As they come out of the water, the Holy Spirit transports Philip to the town of Azotus.

Application
Philip listens to divine guidance and, as a result, one man is saved and the gospel goes into Africa.

It is so important to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit and to be obedient. We trust in our own human abilities and programmes far too much.

Sensitivity and obedience to the Holy Spirit accomplish far more than any human activity by itself.

Prayer
Lord, please teach me to listen to you. Help me to hear that still small voice and to obey you when you direct me. Amen.

Autumn in Narrabri

Many people reckon that autumn is the best season in Narrabri. I tend to agree as the worst of the summer heat has gone and the unpleasant winter cold is yet to come.

After a long dry spring and summer, everything seems to be responding to the cool and wet conditions. Flowers are blooming, insects are buzzing and gardens are looking great.

Here are some photos from my afternoon walk around my yard.

I love these bright orange fungi slowly devouring the old tree stump.

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These bushes are covered in blue and yellow flowers.

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Vincas thrive on neglect and just keep flowering and growing.

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Native rosemary is in bloom.

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These things are drought hardy and just keep going ,then flower at the first chance after rain.

img_7620Good old petunias just keep going and going. I do need to buy some more as we lost a lot over summer, but for annuals they certainly live for a long time!
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