This week’s quick sermon.
There is so much fear around at the moment, but Christians should not be afraid. Psalm 91 can help us when tempted to fear.
This is a great article on transforming churches from a country club mentality to a true missional expression of the Body of Christ,
Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, the start of the season of Lent in the church year.
Lent is a time of preparation of our souls for the awesome events of Good Friday and Easter Sunday. It lasts 40 days, excluding Sundays, and has traditionally been marked by fasting or giving up of some luxury or other.
Lent is one of those ancient customs, going back to the early church period. In recent times it has been largely associated with the Catholic Church, which is a bit sad. Why should the Catholics have all the fun?
Lent is a great time to reorient our lives and our habits back towards God. Instead of seeing it as a time for “giving up” our little luxuries we should see it as a time of allowing God to bend us back to His direction.
Rather than “giving up” ice cream for Lent, it’s more helpful to ask ourselves, “What is it that keeps me distant from God?” Or perhaps, “What should I be doing that would draw me closer to God?”
The brilliance of Lent is that it goes for 40 days (plus Sundays). To establish a new habit generally takes up to 30 days. So setting up new life patterns that draw us closer to God during Lent reprograms our souls to keep the same pattern going all year.
Things you might “give up” during Lent: wasting time on the internet, including social media; road rage; obsessing about money, perhaps giving more to charity; crash diets; feeling bad about your performance as a christian.
Things you might “take up” in Lent to draw closer to God: help a neighbour with gardening; make a space in your routine for daily Bible reading; offer to lead your cell group; help a single mother with child minding; pray blessing for that annoying person.
If we do Lent right every year we can become super heroes of faith, bending our lifestyle away from the world and towards God.
Start today and let this next few weeks be a time of growing in Christ.
From “Eternity” comes this good news story about God’s provision in the drought.
Jarrod Amery with four of his six kidsImage supplied
The miracle crop that saved our farm
How this faithful farmer survived the drought
It’s nine months since Eternity caught up with 37-year-old farmer from Central West NSW, Jarrod Amery. At the time, Amery was simply blown away by the “miraculous” canola crop he had planted just weeks before – after a dream that he believed to be from God.
It was a big leap of faith. In the dream, Amery was standing in the midst of lush, green canola in a paddock on his 6500-hectare farm outside Forbes. Many drought-stricken locals would simply have written off the dream as wishful thinking; canola crops were few and far between, and those that did exist were struggling. Yet Amery, convicted by his desire to be a “supernatural farmer”, went and purchased $36,000 of canola seed. Then he and his wife Emma sowed it into the dry, thirsty earth and waited on God.
“I remember praying about the crop and saying, ‘God, we’ve done all we can do, and we’re trusting you.” – Jarrod Amery
It was a leap of faith that paid off. “The crop grew and grew and it flourished better than any other crops we planted,” says Amery. “It was the best crop in the area by a mile …
“Every Sunday after church, Emma and I and our six children would intentionally drive past that crop, even though it took longer to get home, and we’d thank God for the crop. I remember one Sunday in early June, we got out of the car and I said to Emma ‘this crop has grown to a stage where it’s exactly like I saw in my dream’, and I was like, this is amazing! This is a dream in reality.”
But when this “supernatural” crop was looking its best, the rain dried up during the middle of 2019.
“Pretty much from the first of July onwards, the rain stopped,” says Amery about a common problem across drought-affected areas of Australia.
“From July 1 to the end of January 2020, we had 46 millilitres, which is virtually nothing. Last year was the driest year we’ve ever recorded.
“As the crop went on, it got thirstier and thirstier. It still looked like one of the best crops in the area, but over time it started to wilt.”
Amery began to question God, saying: “God, I thought that this dream was going to have a happy ending.”
“I remember praying about the crop and saying, ‘God, we’ve done all we can do, and we’re trusting you that whatever happens, happens because you’ve got a good plan going on.”
The Amerys’ propertyImage supplied
While other canola crops on the Amery farm withered up and died, the miracle crop continued to grow, although “not at a great rate”.
“We made a decision that we’re going to put faith in God and that the dream was from God,” Amery reflects.
“We made a choice near the end of March  that we were going to sow [canola seed]. So we just started sowing 24 hours a day. We got 80 per cent of the paddock sown, but the other 20 per cent we didn’t quite get sown because it started to rain.
“We came back and sowed that last 20 per cent seven days later when the paddock dried out. That part of the paddock, that we sowed after the rain, withered up and died – it was un-harvestable.
“If we hadn’t have taken a step of faith … then we wouldn’t have had any crop at all.” – Jarrod Amery
“So if we hadn’t have taken a step of faith and started to sow the crop when God gave us the dream to sow it into dry soil, then we wouldn’t have had any crop at all.”
“That was a miracle in itself!” laughs Amery incredulously.
When the Amery family eventually cut the canola crop and sold it for hay (to be used as animal feed), they “got heaps and heaps and heaps of hay bales. More than anyone else in the district.”
“These hay bales were in great demand. Our hay was being sold from Tamworth to Guyra to Condobolin and even up near the Queensland border. It was going all over the place.
“That canola was approximately 10 per cent of our land mass, but provided us with around 80 per cent of our income in 2019.”
“We had heaps and heaps and heaps of hay bales. More than anyone else in the district,” says Jarrod Amery.Image supplied
While the farm is still running at a loss, Amery says: “If we hadn’t done what God had shown us in the dream, we wouldn’t have had any income whatsoever from that paddock. That would have probably resulted in Emma and I not being able to carry on with our agricultural business.”
“That small thing we did by just sowing in faith has enabled Emma and I to continue on during this drought, which has been ever so hard, and to come out the other side and continue to live the dream of being farmers.”
The next leap of faith
“We’re off to a far, far better start this year than last year,” says the ever-positive Amery. During the past week, they’ve received 115 millilitres of rain – that’s 80 per cent of the entire rainfall at the property last year.
“That water will stay in the ground until we want to plant our crops. So it’s money in the bank pretty much.”
Amery believes that the drought is starting to break, although he qualifies: “but I don’t shout it from the hilltops because some of the farmers haven’t got that rain yet.”
For farmers in his local area, the recent rain has been a “massive morale booster” and “a game changer”.
Jarrod AmeryImage supplied
Reflecting on the lessons he’s learned during this drought, Amery says: “It has been really hard at times and very challenging, but I know that God is so faithful and he’s so good. And I also know that I’ve learnt the most important lessons in life when life’s been most challenging.
“I have not wanted to waste such a difficult time by sitting around twiddling my thumbs, waiting for my environment to improve. I’ve been really consciously seeking out what can I do better on my farm; God, what do you want to show me about my heart, what skills do you what to teach me, what do you want to show me to help me to be a better farmer, a better business person, a better family man, a better community man at this particular time?”
While he doesn’t want to minimise the impact of the drought, Amery goes as far as to say that the drought is actually one of the best things that’s happened to him as a farmer.
“I reckon that this drought could be one of the greatest opportunities that I’ll have in my career.” – Jarrod Amery
“I’ve been thinking about this. The drought for some people seems like a waste of time, a waste of effort and a waste of money. But I reckon that this drought could be one of the greatest opportunities that I’ll have in my career.
“The number of things that I’ve learnt – that people have taught me, I’ve taught myself or God’s shown me – turns you into a bigger, better and wiser person.”
Amery says he’s “only on the start of this journey” of faithful living. He is currently waiting on God to direct his decisions about stock purchasing and crop planting in the next month or so.
“I’m determined not to do what I’ve always done because if I do that, I’ll get what I’ve always gotten,” he explains.
In summing up, Amery adds: “The crux of it is if you believe that God’s speaking to you, you’re better off giving it a go rather than waiting and waiting to see if it was from God.”
From Christianity Today
Image: Francisco Seco / AP
Less than two years since taking office, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has helped Ethiopia achieve the kind of peace and reconciliation once deemed impossible, including resolving a border conflict with its East African neighbour Eritrea.
Today, his efforts earned him the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize.
Though some Ethiopians have questioned whether the recognition has come too soon, the Nobel Committee stated, “… even if much work remains, Abiy Ahmed has initiated important reforms that give many citizens hope for a better life and a brighter future.”
At 43 years old, Ahmed is Africa’s youngest leader. He made quick and deliberate efforts toward reform when he took office in April 2018.
Ahmed signed a peace accord with President Isaias Afwerki of Eritrea last year, after decades of political stalemate and two years of violence that cost 80,000 lives along the border. The two countries have grown increasingly open to one another, with resumed air travel and telecommunications, the New York Times reported.
The prize announcement commended his leadership, saying:
He spent his first 100 days as Prime Minister lifting the country’s state of emergency, granting amnesty to thousands of political prisoners, discontinuing media censorship, legalizing outlawed opposition groups, dismissing military and civilian leaders who were suspected of corruption, and significantly increasing the influence of women in Ethiopian political and community life. He has also pledged to strengthen democracy by holding free and fair elections.
As CT previously reported, Ahmed also helped reconcile two branches of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, which split for political reasons in 1991. Orthodox represent the largest religious group in the country (around 40% of the population, compared to 19% Protestant and 34% Muslim).
He fostered reconciliation between Muslims and Christians in his hometown of Beshasha while a member of parliament and immediately began meeting with Abune Mathias, the Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church as prime minister, offering his support to help end the schism. Negotiations had been cautiously ongoing for years, but perceptions of government opposition muted the effort, reported OPC News.
The son of a Muslim father and Orthodox mother, Ahmed is a Protestant Pentecostal, or “Pentay,” like many Ethiopian politicians.
His faith is seen as a driving factor in his push for peace. “There is something of the revivalist preacher in the way he evangelizes for his vision,” BBC News noted. “He has the energy, the passion, and the certainty.”
According to the Catholic Herald, Pentecostal beliefs correspond with the sense of hope and ambition in politics. “The beguiling feature of Pentecostalism is the idea that nothing is impossible,” said Andrew DeCort, director of the Institute for Christianity and the Common Good,
A member of the Full Gospel Believers’ Church, Ahmed told followers after taking office, “We have a country that is endowed with great bounty and wealth, but is starving for love.”
After today’s announcement, the prime minister tweeted, “I am humbled by the decision of the Norwegian Nobel Committee. My deepest gratitude to all committed and working for peace. This award is for Ethiopia and the African continent. We shall prosper in peace!”
Ahmed is the 24th Nobel Peace Prize recipient from Africa; last year, the award went in part to Denis Mukwege, a Christian doctor dedicated to healing rape victims in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).