Many of us face difficulties, but how do you hold out hope when life continues to push you back down, leaving you broken?
Shea Watson has seen some of the worst that life can bring. From times of brokenness and not being able to see any hope at all, he’s now able to offer lasting hope to others, a hope that transcends it all.
“This is a message that heals people, and that healing … I can’t even describe the healing but I know that it’s there and I know that it’s real and it hasn’t gone away.” – Shea Watson
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 an article written some years ago titled 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
Yes, you might think it sounds like a fairytale, but what if it’s true? What if death can be conquered?
For over two thousand years, millions of people have placed their faith in Jesus as the one who overcame death and now offers the same to those who would believe. Are you going to dismiss that possibility without even looking at the evidence?
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Sometimes we find ourselves in a place where God begins to speak louder and more clearly than previously. Through the Holy Spirit, His voice directs us, challenges us, comforts us. So how do we capture those promptings and ensure they have more than a passing effect?
Over the past couple of months as I cycled across Australia, God used that radical change in daily routines to speak to me. It wasn’t as if I had extra time to hear from God. My ‘busyness’ levels were higher than ever but when we’re placed into different circumstances we can’t just fall into mindless routines. We’re forced to think differently.
I’m not sure I could even articulate everything God has been saying. Some of the conversation has been an invitation to go deeper, to seek greater closeness, to explore more of who He is and what that means for me. God reinforced care for the poor and care for those we encounter every day.
As life starts returning to ‘normal’ (whatever that is) there is the very real danger that the voice that was so clear in past weeks will grow increasingly silent. It won’t happen intentionally but everyday, ordinary life has a habit of crowding out the extraordinary. So how do times of the extraordinary help form a ‘new normal’?
Routines are helpful and the day to day stuff of life demands our attention but how do we intentionally grab hold of those times of difference and ensure they continue to reform the everyday stuff of life? How do we ensure that we are the ‘good soil’ that doesn’t let our busy lives choke out what’s important?
“Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” – Mark 4:3-8 ESV
I think part of the answer is in examining routines and deciding if there are any that we need to let go to make way for more helpful routines. We need to make way for those moments where God has our attention and can speak. We need to reset our priorities regularly to see if those things that are lasting and eternal have given way to the temporary and passing pursuits of this world.
We also need to act on what we hear, we need to practice obedience to what God is calling us to do or be.
Perhaps we should be writing down those ‘nudges’ the Holy Spirit gives us and returning to those notes often so that the directions we are given become part of our new routines.
How about sharing what God is saying with others so that they can be part of the journey you’re taking?
These are just a few thoughts and really only scratch the surface. I’d love to hear your thoughts. How do we ensure the voice we heard so clearly does not become silent?
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It’s a weird concept but I’ve been thinking again recently about the self-discipline we require to do the things we love.
We might imagine that we’ll just get on and do the stuff we love doing and that we only need to discipline ourselves to do the things that we don’t like to do; the things we have to anyway.
It takes real discipline and resolve for me to do any gardening and a bunch of other things that aren’t really my thing but what about the things I really enjoy doing?
Shouldn’t those things come easily to me?
Perth’s beautiful weather makes my city the perfect place for cycling. It’s one of my favourite passtimes yet if I don’t discipline myself to get out there on my bike I’ll miss out on something I love. It’s easy to sleep in on a Saturday morning instead of rising early to ride with my cycling friends but I know that if I put in the effort I’ll get greater benefits from cycling than I would from an extra hour in bed.
When I force myself into the habit of regular cycling I feel fitter and more energised, yet that discipline can slip away so easily. With a ride right across Australia on the horizon next year, I’d better get that discipline happening soon or I’ll miss out on my big adventure.
If I love reading so much why do I need to discipline myself to sit down with a book for an hour?
A week or two can often go past without me sitting down to soak in some words from the pages of a good book yet when I make the time to read I can easily get lost among the words and I thoroughly enjoy every moment of it. Sitting down with a coffee in one hand and a book in the other is one of the most satisfying things in the world yet I can waste my time on the trivial things of life rather than reading.
We need to work on our relationships.
Some relationships are easier than others, but we even need to put in a great deal of effort on our relationships with those we love.
Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well. ? Theodore Roosevelt
Do you find the same thing happening?
Are there things that you really love yet you find you have to discipline yourself to invest your time pursuing them?
I find the same thing with my faith. I’m never happier than when I feel that I’m in tune with the Creator yet I can let time slip through my fingers without making the effort to recharge my spiritual batteries.
The simple spiritual disciplines of prayer, reading the scriptures, reflecting and others that are absolutely life giving can be easily crowded out in our busy world.
Why do we let ourselves get robbed of the real stuff of life?
It’s somehow strange that we should have to exercise discipline and self-control to do the things that make us feel most alive but sadly it’s true. I guess that’s where priority setting comes into play.
What are you like at doing the things that you love? Are there things you love, things that truly energise you, that you have let slip away?
(This post previously published here at RodneyOlsen.net)
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This time a decade ago I was unsure if I would see Australia or those I love the most ever again.
It was April 2008. I was meant to be in Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti, for just over a week. Around 48 hours after arriving, I was back at the airport praying for the arrival of a plane to get us out of a city in chaos. Violent rioting and looting had taken over the streets.
The Global Financial Crisis of the time had created a Global Food Crisis. People in some of the world’s poorest countries could no longer afford even the most basic of foods.
I was in Haiti as part of my work for 98five Sonshine FM. I was one of four radio announcers invited by Compassion Australia to see their work first-hand. What we saw was the kind of desperation that grips people when they can’t put food on the family table.
A news report at the time described the scenes in Port-au-Prince.
The Haitian capital was paralysed by food riots yesterday as the United Nations gave warning that soaring food prices were spurring unrest around the world.
Rioters returned to the streets in Port-au-Prince a day after UN peacekeepers had to fire rubber bullets to prevent hungry Haitians from storming the presidential palace. Columns of smoke rose over the city as demonstrators, demanding that the Government take action over the rising price of foodstuffs such as rice, beans and oil, set fire to barricades made from tyres.
At least five people have been killed and more than 20 injured. Protesters compared the burning hunger in their stomachs to bleach or battery acid. –The Times Online
The BBC reported the riots in a story titled, ‘Hungry mob attacks Haiti palace’.
Crowds of demonstrators in Haiti have tried to storm the presidential palace in the capital Port-au-Prince as protests continue over food prices.
Witnesses say the protesters used metal bins to try to smash down the palace gates before UN troops fired rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse them.
Several people are reported to have been injured in the clashes.
At least five people have been killed in Haiti since the unrest began last week in the southern city of Les Cayes.
The demonstrators outside the presidential palace said the rising cost of living in Haiti meant they were struggling to feed themselves.
“We are hungry,” they shouted before attempting to smash open the palace gates.
In recent months, it has become common among Haiti’s poor to use the expression “grangou klowox” or “eating bleach”, to describe the daily hunger pains people face, because of the burning feeling in their stomachs. – BBC
After seeing just one Compassion project in action our team had to retreat to the relative safety of the local Compassion office. While watching panicked crowds running down the main road outside the office, the room we were in was showered with glass. A rock thrown from the streets below had smashed through the second story window where we had stood just moments before.
When the situation eventually reached a temporary calm we climbed into a couple of four-wheel drives and retreated to our hotel. The bustling streets we had travelled that morning now looked like a war zone. Businesses up and down the road had been attacked and looted. I remember noticing a service station that morning which was operating normally. Cars were filling up with petrol, people were going in and out of the attached shop. On the way back to the hotel that evening the same service station looked derelict. Not one piece of glass remained in place and every shelf in the shop had been completely stripped.
We were glad and relieved when we drove through the gates of the hotel. From there plans were made to fly us out the next day.
The Airport Journey
When the morning arrived we packed our luggage into the four-wheel drives to head towards the airport. We had no idea of the dramatic journey ahead.
As we began the drive we found that more and more roads had been barricaded and blocked. We had to take smaller and smaller side roads. Most seemed to be rocky, narrow, dirt tracks.
The further we went the more people seemed to be surrounding us. It was hard to tell if the crowds were just people wanting to go about their day to day business or if they were likely to attack our vehicles seeking food or money to purchase food. To make sense of what was happening we could only rely on those in our vehicles who spoke Haitian Creole and even then we only got some of the story. They were more than a little occupied with trying to navigate our way out and in keeping us all safe.
At one point an angry man with a steel bar seemed to be trying to incite the crowds against us. Just as the mood was heating up someone in the crowd pointed to the Compassion logo on the side of our vehicle and said something along the lines of, “They’re from Compassion. They help our children. Let them go.”
There was another incident when a man with a machete jumped onto the back of our vehicle. Thankfully, he jumped off almost as quickly.
We eventually passed that area but the ever-growing crowds made the trip very slow and we had to stop many times as people swarmed in front of our vehicles.
At one stage we came to a complete standstill. Edouard Lassegue, Compassion’s Vice President of the Latin America and Caribbean Regions was travelling with us. Originally from Haiti, Edouard got out of our vehicle to speak to people around about us to see if there was a way forward. He stayed in contact with the local Compassion staff in our vehicle via mobile phone as he wandered through the crowd. At one stage one of the men with us who had been speaking with Edouard just shook his head and said, “There’s no way out. There’s no way out.”
Thankfully Edouard did find someone willing to show us a way through. At that point, we didn’t know if the young man who had offered help could truly get us out or whether he had friends waiting for us and we were being led into a trap, but we couldn’t stay where we were.
Weapons of Mass Distraction
We moved very slowly down the narrow laneways. It seemed that if we’d opened the windows of our vehicles we could have reached out and touched the buildings on either side.
Eventually, we turned a corner to see a crew-cab ute or ‘pickup’ parked in the middle of the street ahead of us. There were several people standing on the rear tray of the vehicle, all heavily armed with automatic weapons. Thankfully, they were also wearing police vests.
Edouard once again stepped out of our vehicle and moved slowly toward the police with his arms high in the air to show he wasn’t armed. After hearing about our situation, the police gave us an armed escort the rest of the way to the airport.
Our troubles weren’t over at that point but we were safe. We then had to wait many hours for a flight out of Haiti.
Finally, we boarded the plane which would take us back to Miami before a flight the next day to visit Compassion’s work in the Dominican Republic.
As we gathered speed along the runway I remember seeing smoke rising across Port-au-Prince.
I felt relieved that we were leaving, that we were safe, but at the same time, I knew that for millions of Haitians, there was no option to leave. They were still in the streets facing the reality of the daily battle to find food. They didn’t know when they might next be able to feed their families. Life in one of the world’s poorest nations was just getting tougher.
I knew at that point that I needed to tell and retell their story. We had been in danger for a short time. The people we had just left behind were still in danger without any way of escaping.
The children that were sponsored through Compassion would continue to receive care, and I was so thankful for that, but so many more needed help. I knew that I needed to tell more people about the opportunity to make a difference for those children and their families.
Those events of a decade ago convinced me that I would do whatever I could to partner with Compassion to see more children released from poverty in Jesus’ name. For a few years after that incident, I used my position working in radio to speak of Compassion’s work. Then late in 2013, I had the opportunity to work for Compassion, which is where I’ve now been for over four years.
There’s much more to be done in places like Haiti and the other countries where Compassion works.
Later this year I’ll be cycling 4,300 kilometres from one side of Australia to the other to raise money for Compassion’s Highly Vulnerable Children’s Fund. If you’d like to donate towards that fund just follow this link. Maybe you’d like to make an ongoing contribution by sponsoring a child. You can do that right now by following this link.
Ten years ago I escaped a dangerous situation but for millions of children around the world, the danger goes on. Please consider what you might do to change their world.
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