Hope for the Hopeless (Help for the helpless)

Advent is finally here! Advent is a word that mean coming or arrival of something…in these 4 Sundays leading up to Christmas we are reminded that Jesus came…but what does his coming mean to us today? As we look around at the world that we live in and find ourselves struggling with feelings of apprehension and fear we may feel both hopeless and helpless towards the impact of terror in our day to day existence.

The impact of terrorism on the French in the last few weeks has left many people wondering how safe our lives really are. Our reaction to such a threat is often to retreat to places of security; to build up walls and mistrust those who are not like us. Fear is such a debilitating thing. We all fear something. Deep down we may fear the loss of loved ones; loss of independence; rejection by others; loss of job security or deteriorating health…if we allow our fears to rule our lives then we will live in a constant state of instability that will affect all of our relationships.

So what is the antidote to fear? Faith.

But what is faith? Hebrews 11:1 says, that faith is the basis for the things that we hope for. It’s being certain of God’s plans and intensions in our daily lives, even though we often only see them in hindsight. What do you hope for? World peace…good health for you or your loved ones…a happy and contented life…Without God’s intervention into our day to day lives we would have very few positive things to base these hopes on. We hope that human nature will prevail and that among the horrible things people do to each other – good shines through – and there are always some good news stories, yet by nature we are naturally selfish. We all have a problem with selfishness and a need for hope.

Jesus arrived into this world as the fulfilment of God’s promise to his people Israel. But as the descendant of Abraham, he was the one who fulfilled God’s promise that through Abraham all the nations of the world would be blessed. God’s promises of mercy, forgiveness, love and grace were not limited to Israel; just as they are not limited to the people who come to church…but to all who would put their trust in him. He gives hope to the hopeless and help for the helpless…because his promise is to all who would call upon his name.

God’s promise of forgiveness covers over all our selfish mistakes and restores us when we come to him with a humble heart. Like the Psalmist who wrote Psalm 25 (1-10), can you declare your trust and hope in God?  Can you sincerely say: “Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Saviour and my hope is in you all day long” (v5-6).

Jesus presence in our lives gives us the confidence to break down the walls that our fears build around us. He gives us help when we need it and a hope for the future that changes the way we live in the present.  As we move towards Christmas, let not become a slave to our fears, but let’s live a life of freedom that comes from a relationship with our living saviour.

God bless,

Tim Winslade

The King and I

My mother loved musicals and I grew up singing songs from The Sound of Music or Mary Poppins to while away the hours as we drove along in the car, long before modern in-car entertainment systems. Singing in the car was especially useful to ward off the effects of car sickness. Another family favourite musical was the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, “The King and I”, based on a (1944) Margaret Landon novel, which was later made into a movie starring Yul Brynner in 1956. It was the story derived from the memoirs of Anna Leonowens, a British governess and school teacher employed by King Mongkut, King of Siam (now Thailand), to help modernise the country, in the early 1860’s. The plot centres on the relationship between Anna and the King, which is marked by both conflict and a love they could not admit.

Why am I talking about The King and I? Before the start of Advent (the 4 Sundays prior to Christmas) we have a Sunday where we remember the Jesus Christ is King. But what sort of King is Jesus, and how should we relate to him if we call him King. In the Old Testament God was originally the God and King, before the people asked for a human King, just like their neighbours. Being subjected to a King meant that the people were subservient to any of the King’s wishes. They had to pay the taxes; be in the army and obey any decree. The King often ruled by divine right and most people had no direct contact with the King or any way to influence the King’s decisions.

When Jesus entered our universe as a human being, Philippians 2:6-11 says that, although he was the King of Universe, Jesus humbled himself as a man and was obedient to death on a cross, and that in defeating sin and death, even though people may not wish to do it at this moment, a day will come when everyone, everywhere, from all times of history will bow the knee and acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord and King over everything. That day is coming fast and Revelations 19:16 reminds us that when Jesus comes back, he will come back in his full glory as King of Kings and Lord of Lord of Lords. The good news is that we are all given the opportunity to recognise Jesus’ Kingship over our life before the end.

But Jesus is not an earthly type of King who rules and dominates his constituency with his whims. His reign is characterised with humility, justice, mercy, compassion and love. He gives us the choice to follow, but what he offers is not a loss of freedom, but the freedom to be the person that God has always intended us to be. Jesus is the King, but what am I? More than a servant…a fellow heir of God’s inheritance to all who believe. Like the story of Anna and the King, my relationship with Jesus has its moments of conflict – but underneath those struggles, is God’s passionate love for us, a love that is not secretive, but that He declares loud and clear. How we respond to God’s love is foundational to acknowledging his Lordship over our lives….is Jesus your King?

God bless,

Tim Winslade

Sings of the times

Summer’s coming…the days are getting hotter and more humid…there’s cricket on the TV and the 4th term of school is flying by, it won’t be long before the school holidays start and the Christmas rush begins. We rush to fit in Christmas parties with our work colleagues; with our social groups and our community…we brush off the decorations, bring out the lights, sing some carols and give gifts…We celebrate the coming of Christ our saviour – the prince of peace – yet Christmas is one of the most stressful days on our calendar! What have we made of the Christmas season? We have removed the focus from the giver to ‘a gift’. We have taken Christ out of Christmas and what we have left is a meal. It’s a sign of the times.

We have a bit of fun with our church sign. We try to put up witty and thought provoking things for those who are travelling by. Looking at our sign may be the only connection with church that many people passing by will see.  I wonder what the local community thinks of our church? Certainly the perception of church and Christianity has changed over the last few decades.

It’s a sign of the times that certain freedoms that we once experienced in being able to share our faith publically have gradually been eroded to the place where we have only Christmas and Easter set aside as ‘holy-days’.   Yet, even the reason for these days is lost in the ever increasing push for consumerism.  It’s no surprise that many of the children in our schools have no concept of Christianity; without the ministry of our school chaplains, whose role in schools is one of presence more than proclamation. Yet, even their presence is being challenged – by those who see Christianity and religion as nothing more than a crutch for the weak minded.

Romans 10:10-17 asks how will people know unless someone tells them? It also asks, how can someone tell them unless we send them? One of the roles of the local church is to send out people for particular jobs – to be messengers – missionaries – sent ones!  We send out our people to help at Ashmore State School, as Kid’s Hope Aus mentors; as Religious Education teachers; to do concerts, Christmas festivals and holiday programs, because we know that this is what Jesus would have us do!

I have said before, that the majority of people who come to faith in Jesus Christ have had foundations laid in their lives when they were children. Rather than retreat to the edges of our community and only come out when we have permission, Jesus sends us into our communities to bring the love of God and the hope of the good news. We may have fewer opportunities than we had in the past in some areas, but that just allows us to be prayerful and get creative to find new ways that we can be a Christian presence in our community.

So, let’s be proactive about the opportunities that we have to present the good news beyond our doors. Things may be different than they were in the past. But the good news of the gospel is relevant to everyone across human history…past, present and future…for Jesus the good news for all times…

God bless,

Tim Winslade

Paid in Full

This week we revisit the beautiful story of Ruth. Last week we talked about Ruth’s loyalty to her mother-in-law and her sacrificial love, grit and determination that not only brought a happy ending, but gave her a hope and a future that was not hers to assume. Remember, Ruth was from Moab, a neighbouring people who traced their descent to Abraham’s nephew Lot. They were a people under a curse and as a result were often opposing Israel and God’s blessing to them. It was to Moab that Naomi and her husband Elimelek had moved during a famine in Israel – unable to farm their ancestral land – they went elsewhere looking for their fortune, but only found grief and devastation.

It was in bitterness and devastation that Naomi returns to Bethlehem and tells all her relatives that she has changed her name to Mara – because her life is bitter…because God has caused her so much pain. The story follows the poorest of the poor in Israel – with no means of support and no way to reclaim her family’s land, Naomi is destitute – but where there is a God, there is a way!

Ruth’s loyalty and love leads her out to glean from the fields…which was a principle that God gave to his people to provide for the support of people like Naomi. Land owners would allow the impoverished to follow the workers and gather up what was left and, by some coincidence, Ruth just happens to glean from Boaz’s field. Clearly we see that it was not a coincidence – but a God incidence, God intervening and answering the cries for help from Naomi and Ruth. Ruth’s loyalty in the story is matched by the kindness and generosity of Boaz who on inquiring of who she is, is impressed by her commitment to Naomi and goes out of his way to ensure that they are catered for.

The next part of the story would make all match makers smile! Naomi, realising who their benefactor is, devises a bold plan that might secure their future and encourages Ruth to sneak out and sleep by Boaz’s feet while he is protecting his harvest and see if he offers to cover her during the night – which is symbolic for covering over her financial distress; her lack of position and reputation; and taking her as his wife. Boaz agrees and in the process exemplifies of what we call a ‘kinsman redeemer’. A kinsman redeemer is a rich male relative who rescues and delivers their family from financial hardship and purchases their freedom.

Boaz was such a relative of Naomi’s family, but there was someone closer who rejected the offer of buying back the land and restoring Naomi’s line, because it came with conditions….a marriage to Ruth. But what his relative saw as a problem, Boaz saw as an opportunity. Just as in Ruth 3:9 we see the poignant picture of the needy supplicant, unable to rescue herself, requesting of the help of kinsman-redeemer and make her his wife, Jesus is our kinsman redeemer who  pays the ransom, removes the curse and makes us His own beloved bride; and blesses us for all generations. He paid the price in full and gave a future and a hope. He is the true kinsman-redeemer of all who call on Him in faith.

God bless,

Tim Winslade

True Grit

The story of Ruth is one of the most endearing ‘love stories’ in the Bible. It’s a story that starts out with devastation and despair but end s with hope and joy. It’s a story of a young widowed Moabite woman whose love for her mother-in-law through immense difficulties stands as a beacon of hope commitment and love for all time. It’s a story that illustrates what real love is….that lives the code of I Corinthians 13. Ruth’s is sacrificial love; a serving love; a determined love that endures regardless of the circumstances and yet Ruth was not a Jew! Yet, just as she is grafted into God’s people and ultimately becomes the grand-mother of King David, so her story highlights God’s intention to adopt into his family all those whose hearts are pure and truly seek after him, no matter what their ethnic background.

Today’s story comes from Ruth 1:1-18. It sets the scene for what is to come. It starts with Naomi’s bitterness over losing her husband and sons, while living in a foreign land and the problem that she faced without any form of support. Faced with such a bleak future she is forced to make the bitter journey back to her own people…but Ruth refuses to let her go alone. There is something about Ruth’s words that are timeless. To Naomi’s urging to go back, she replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God” (v16).

Ruth had no idea what she would face. As foreigner – in a patriarchal society – she had no means of support – yet she was willing to sacrifice her on comfort and security out of love and respect for mother-in-law. Ruth showed true grit! She was determined to follow through with she started…it took a lot of courage; humility; determination and grit!

Grit and determination is something that I have said recently characterises successful leaders. Being willing to persevere and continue to work towards a vision, while overcoming difficulties is essential no matter what the goal. I head recently that most people who completed Phd’s were not the ones who got the best University entrance scores – but those battlers who were willing to put in the hard work to achieve the accolades.

Ruth’s faith in her adopted God is an underlying element to the story. To trust God, to persevere, to work hard and to be honourable before God and the community…ultimately brought a blessing to Ruth (and Naomi) that went far beyond her expectations. Her marriage to Boaz brings a happy ending to a story that starts in bitterness and tears. Like the Psalmist Ruth was able to proclaim: ‘you turned my mourning into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and gave me joy’ (Psalm 30:1).

Even in the midst of our most desperate moments – God reminds us that there is hope. This hope is not just about the future – but inspires us to keep on serving God and loving others, right where we are….because rewards our perseverance.

God bless,

Tim Winslade