Useless Faith

It all stands or falls on this. There’s no middle ground. Jesus’ life isn’t simply an object lesson on living well.

The faith of many millions over centuries hinges on the resurrection that Christians celebrate on Easter Sunday (and throughout the year). If that one moment in history didn’t happen then our faith is a complete farce.

In a letter that he wrote to the church at Corinth a couple of thousand years ago, the Apostle Paul claims that if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, then the whole Christian faith is useless and all the world’s Christians are poor suckers who should be pitied.

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.

We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.

For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.

If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. – 1 Corinthians 15:12-19

Paul’s saying that the idea of Jesus being a good teacher who said some interesting things isn’t an option. He’s telling us that the whole Christian belief rests on the crucifixion and resurrection being historical fact.

For many, that’s too much of a stretch to believe. How can it be true that someone could be brutally killed yet return to life three days later?

But imagine for a moment that it is true. That would mean that death doesn’t have to be the end because it has been beaten at its own game.

We’ve all been inspired by the lives of others, even knowing that they have died or will at some stage die. Once they’re gone the story of their life, their trials and triumphs continue to influence and motivate us. Surely the story of someone who even triumphed over death itself should give rise to even greater admiration and inspiration … but of course only if the story of them defeating death is true.

When we look at the evidence, the truth of the resurrection emerges very clearly as the best explanation. There is no other theory that even come close to accounting for the evidence. Therefore, there is solid historical grounds for the truth that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. – Matt Perman

In his article, Historical Evidence for the Resurrection, Matt Perman takes a brief look at some of the reasons that many people over the past two thousand years have believed that Jesus rising from the dead isn’t just a nice story, it’s fact.

I don’t have time for a useless faith.

I’m not prepared to believe fairy tales and so while many will scoff and think I must be crazy, I will say that I believe that death has lost its sting because God raised his son Jesus from the dead.

That’s what I’ll be celebrating today and for all eternity.

I pray that you’ll take time to consider the significance of the Easter story this Resurrection Sunday.

The good news is that God, out of His love, became man in Jesus Christ in order to pay the penalty for sinners. On the cross, Jesus died in the place of those who would come to believe in Him. He took upon Himself the very death that we deserve. The apostle Paul says “He was delivered up because of our sins.” But the apostle Paul goes on to say “He was raised to life because of our justification.” Paul is saying that Christ’s resurrection proves that His mission to conquer sin was successful. His resurrection proves that He is a Savior who is not only willing, but also able, to deliver us from the wrath of God that is coming on the day of judgment. The forgiveness that Jesus died and rose to provide is given to those who trust in Him for salvation and a happy future. – Matt Perman

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Is it still confronting?

squatter slums

I’ve been asked pretty much the same question in a variety of ways over the last couple of years. Does it still affect you? Do you still find poverty confronting? Do you get used to seeing people living in extreme poverty?

My job as a Relationship Manager with Compassion Australia occasionally takes me overseas to see our work on the field. On those visits I not only visit the local churches that partner with Compassion, I get to visit some of the homes where those being sponsored live. I’ve recently returned home from another one of those visits and met with people who have been given enormous hope despite their poverty.

Yes, it’s still confronting, maybe not as surprising as it once was but completely confronting. No I don’t get used to seeing people living in extreme poverty. Yes, it still affects me deeply. When any of those answers change I’ll find a new job.

Click on the photo above to get a closer look at just one very small part of a squatter slum in Manila in the Philippines that I visited. You can see dozens of makeshift homes, mostly single room dwellings made out of whatever materials can be found, all perched precariously above an open canal filled with raw sewage. When the floods come, that canal swells and pushes its vile contents chest deep into the homes in the surrounding area. Locals told us that several of those communities have been destroyed by fire multiple times. The poor have no option but to clear away the ashes and begin again.

How can it not be confronting to see precious children and their families living in such terrible conditions?

These are people created in the image of God, being forced to live in cramped, unsafe circumstances. Poverty ties their hands. They have no choices. No way to lift themselves and their families out of their situations. Poverty tells them this is all they can ever expect.

It’s more than confronting. It’s unacceptable.

I find it completely unacceptable that in a day and age when we have every resource we need to turn poverty on its head, there is still such a gap between the excess we experience and the complete lack of resources experienced by many, many millions around our world.

Some would throw their hands up and say that that’s the way it will always be and I would challenge them to think again. Over the past few decades we’ve seen a dramatic decrease in extreme poverty around the world, which tells us we can make a difference, but the statistics are still alarming. There’s still much to be done and it won’t be done unless we all play our part in bringing about change.

So yes, it’s still confronting. It’s still unacceptable. It’s still something I want to spend my life changing in whatever way I can. I know that I can only play a very small part in bringing about change but I’ve seen enough to know that small change isn’t insignificant change.

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Chynna Stole My Heart

ChynnaMum

I met Chynna yesterday. She stole my heart.

The poverty we’ve been seeing around parts of Manila in the Philippines over the past few days has touched me deeply but it suddenly became real when I met Chynna, an 11 year old girl that our family recently started sponsoring.

When we arrived at her local church, a church which partners with Compassion, Chynna and her mum were standing outside waiting. They were excited and nervous. So was I. Chynna’s mum bent down and said something quietly in her ear then pointed towards us.

We walked inside and I was introduced to a nervous, shy, but very happy little girl. Both her and her mother were beaming. They had been told that today they would meet Chynna’s new sponsor. Chynna had been sponsored previously but for whatever reason, her sponsor had cancelled her ongoing support. I was more than happy that our family could step in and begin supporting Chynna so that she can be released from poverty in Jesus’ name.

ChynnMumRodney

I gave Chynna a number of small gifts, including a small photo album with pictures of our family and Australia. There’s still room in the album so that we can send more photos. I’ll certainly send a few that were taken at our meeting yesterday so that she can remember that very special day.

Chynna’s home is a short walk from the church and I was invited to visit. As we walked out of the church Chynna grasped my hand and walked beside me. We followed her mother through the street and down a small alleyway. Their home is just one room, about 3 metres by 3 metres. There is one double bunk inside. 9 people live in that one home. Despite the limitations of housing that many people in that space, the room was neat and orderly. Other family members warmly greeted me and those that were with me.

After spending some time there I had the opportunity to pray for the family, specifically Chynna and her parents. We then wandered back to the church.

We spent a little more time together while we had a tour of the facilities used for the Compassion project and more more of the children being helped by the local church. Then it was time to go.

Chynna’s mum once again expressed her thanks and Chynna gave me a goodbye hug. It was hard to leave but it was time to go.

The letters we write to Chynna will now have greater meaning. The letters we receive will hold great significance. We can’t be there each day to support Chynna and her family but by sponsoring her I am convinced she is part of a community which loves her and will ensure the very best for her as she continues to grow.

If you sponsor a child, never underestimate the significance of your contribution. If you’re not already a sponsor, please consider sponsoring a child today through Compassion.

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Poverty Doesn’t Define Micole

Wall Art

Micole was born into poverty but the poverty he faces every day no longer defines him.

Over the last few days I’ve heard incredible stories of transformation as I’ve been part of a group visiting the work of Compassion in Manila, Philippines. I’ve had the privilege of traveling here with some former colleagues from 98five. They’re taking the opportunity to tell Perth listeners about the people we’re meeting and the life change we’ve seen.

I had the honour of meeting Micole when I visited a church in Manila which partners with Compassion. He’s now 19 yet despite being registered in a Compassion project from the age of 7, Micole openly admits that he made a number of bad life choices. He says he was smoking, drinking, fighting and choosing the wrong friends. That was all before he turned 16. He described himself as being trouble for his parents and his siblings described him as a ‘black sheep’.

At the age of 16, the things Micole had been learning at the local church began to become real to him and he started to understand the help he was receiving thanks to his Compassion sponsor.

I see the goodness of the Lord in my life. I grow spiritually and because of that I read the word of God, I pray to him every day, I confess my sin and he forgives me. Now I commit myself to God I spend more time with him and I see that he change my life. Before I have a messy life because of the sin that I have but God fixed everything. He directs me in the paths of righteousness and now I have a ministry in our church which is teaching and music. We teach children in outreach and Sunday School extension in music. Sometimes I am the song leader in praise and worship team in our Sunday service.

Micole says that he is so glad and blessed that he came to know God in his life. He thanks God that he used the church and Compassion to help him change and submit his life to him and he is happy to serve Jesus.

God will never leave me, I just call his name whenever I am afraid and broken he is always there for me to make me happy, cheer me, hug and protect me. He is faithful and loving. Thank you Christ Jesus for changing my life and now in all I do I honour you.

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Holding 80

speedo

It feels like you’ve suddenly hit some kind of time warp. Everything seems unusually slow. You been traveling at 100 kilometres an hour when you see the ‘road works’ signs. Your foot comes off of the accelerator and you let the car drop back to 80 kilometres an hour. Well at least, that’s what you should do.

I recently went through a road works area on the freeway and had to slow down for a section of my journey. While there were a few other drivers taking notice of the change in speed limit, most people just kept going at 100 or more. Cars were whizzing past me on both sides. Those traveling in my lane starting banking up behind me, probably cursing the moron who was slowing down the traffic flow. At a time like that it’s hard to remember that holding the car on 80 kilometres an hour is the right thing to do. If no one else is paying attention to the rules, is it really making any sense for me to waste my time? Do I really want everyone else cursing me for doing the right thing? Surely it’s easier to just go with the flow. Despite what everyone else is doing, sometimes you have to hold 80.

There wasn’t a lot of risk involved for me in either slowing down or speeding. The choice was to earn the scorn of other drivers or risk a fine. I chose the scorn. Other people put a lot more on the line when they go against the prevailing thought.

There’s a guy in the Old Testament named Micaiah who dares to go against prevailing thought and stand up to the kings of two nations. He chose to do so even though 400 other ‘prophets’ had already given a different opinion. Surely the majority had to be right.

5 So the king of Israel summoned the prophets, 400 of them, and asked them, “Should we go to war against Ramoth-gilead, or should I hold back?”

They all replied, “Yes, go right ahead! God will give the king victory.”

6 But Jehoshaphat asked, “Is there not also a prophet of the Lord here? We should ask him the same question.”

7 The king of Israel replied to Jehoshaphat, “There is one more man who could consult the Lord for us, but I hate him. He never prophesies anything but trouble for me! His name is Micaiah son of Imlah.”

Jehoshaphat replied, “That’s not the way a king should talk! Let’s hear what he has to say.”

8 So the king of Israel called one of his officials and said, “Quick! Bring Micaiah son of Imlah.”
2 Chronicles 18:5-8

Did you notice what the king of Israel said? “There is one more man who could consult the Lord for us, but I hate him. He never prophesies anything but trouble for me!” Talk about shooting the messenger. He hates Micaiah because he doesn’t stroke the king’s ego by telling him what he wants to hear.

How often do we only allow ourselves to be surrounded by those who agree with us? How often have we dismissed those who bring us the truth, as difficult as it may be sometimes? Do we seek out people who have permission to challenge us or only those who will say what we like hearing?

After a bit of banter between Micaiah and the kings, Micaiah tells them the news they don’t want to hear. He tells them that God doesn’t want them to go to war. The king of Israel then sends Micaiah off to prison with orders that he be put on strict rations of bread and water.

As I’m sure you’ve already guessed, they go to war and it all ends in tears for the king of Israel. And by tears I mean death. Not being willing to take notice of what he didn’t want to hear caused his demise.

The 400 prophets said what the king wanted to hear, but it certainly didn’t benefit him. In the end, the fact that they wanted to please the king and weren’t prepared to stand on the side of right made them complicit in his death.

Holding 80

Holding my speed at 80 kilometres an hour was really no big deal but there are times, and I think we’ll see more and more of them in coming days, when we’ll need to ‘hold 80’ on various issues because we know it’s the right thing to do. Everyone else maybe doing something different and we may start to feel that we might as well just go with the flow, but we know that we need to stand firm.

We don’t want to be ‘people pleasers’ who just say what others want us to say. We don’t want to be those who point the finger and expect everyone to fall in line with our views. We simply need to hear clearly from God and then not be afraid to stand. Whatever the issue and whatever pressure there is to keep moving with the majority, sometimes we need to hold 80.

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