I struggle with fear.  I get overwhelmed unexpectedly.  I think it is just the way my brain works.  I can be calm, calm, calm, calm and then suddenly not so much.  The 'not so much' is particularly strong at 3am in the morning when I feel like the sky is going to fall in on me.  Thankfully I awake again at 6am and it isn't all so grim.

The Bible says a lot about fear.  God seems to kinda "get" that part of being human is getting scared.  There's a lot in there reassuring us to "Fear not".  And why are we encouraged to be less fearful?  Because God is with us.

I don't think the Bible is dismissive of our fears.  It's not saying 'oh don't have fears' because fear is pretty instinctive.  When I'm standing at the edge of a cliff, fear is a right response.  Fear actually protects me at that point.

But fear can come from other places too.  How about FOMO?  Fear of not getting what I want out of life.  Fear of my children not turni…

Preaching and Period Pain

Last week my husband was away preaching at a uni student conference. I dropped in for a visit to the conference one evening after work (when I say 'dropped in' I drove for an hour and a quarter to get there and was smashed for the next two days ... but hey, so not the point of this story!).

As part of the series of talks on the resurrection, he was talking about this passage in Revelation 21:3-4.
"And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying "Look!  God's dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them.  They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.'" (NIV)
To expand his point he listed off all the sadness and pain that would be taken away in the new creation.  And then he ended the list with 'period pain'.  
The 700 people in the room kind of froze. …

Advent Challenge Christmas Eve

In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made, without him nothing was made that has been made.  In him was life.  And that life was the light of all mankind.  The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.  

There was a man from God whose name was John.  He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so through him all might believe.  He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.  The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.  He was in the world and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognise him.  He came to that which was his own but his own did not receive him.  
Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believe in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.  Children not of natural descent nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.  
The Word bec…

Advent Challenge Day 20

"For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ" John 1:17
If you've ever looked at the Old Testament laws that God gave the Israelites you really do wonder about how anyone was meant to not break any of them.  Keeping things up to God's standard was a full time job and even then you had to spend a lot of time sacrificing animals to make up for all the laws you didn't keep.
Often people wonder if this is the same God that we follow today.  He is.  He showed his standards and expectations through the law that he gave Moses.  He showed how unattainable it is to meet his standards.  
This verse in John reminds us of Jesus' role.  It was to bring grace and truth.  It was to make us acceptable before God despite our inability to ever match up to God's perfect standards.  In Jesus' sacrifice on the cross, we are freed from the need to make endless sacrifices.  
Jesus brought grace and truth.  He brought freedom and rest.

Advent Challenge Day 19

Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. John 1:16
Over the past few days our family has been watching 'Star Wars' together in preparation to see the new movie. It's one those classic series where if you've seen all the movies you pick up the clues given at different points in the movies about who people are and their significance to one another. (Annoying for those who haven't seen it before I might add!)

Reading this verse is a little bit like that. It's one of those 'if you've read the story up to now you'll get what's going on' moments. Here John says that God already showed his chosen people the Israelites grace by choosing to dwell with them but now in the arrival of Jesus we have ALL (that word again-a reminder this is for all people) been given a grace that replaces that already given.  We all have the opportunity to have God dwell with us.

Why is this grace? Why is it a gift? Neither the Israeli…

Advent Challenge Days 17 & 18

The glory of the one and only Son who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.  John testified concerning him.  He cried out, saying, 'This is the one I spoke about when I said, "He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me"' John 1:14,15
"Jesus is the ultimate prophet not simply because he brings a better word.  Jesus is the greatest prophet because he himself is the message.  He doesn't simply pass on a message from God like every other prophet.  He is the message... The letter of Hebrews begins, 'In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son (Hebrews 1:1-2)" (Chester, 2015, p. 78).
More than ever this time of Advent has convinced me that I want to commit to really having a good look at John in 2016.  This introductory section has raised so many interesting ideas that I'm keen to follow them through the whole book.  L…

Advent Challenge Days 14, 15 & 16

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.  We have seen his glory... John 1:14

(I have to apologise for the compilation effort but in the midst of driving five hours to Wagga and back to go to my Master's graduation on Monday, I came down with a nasty cold and am writing this from the lounge.  Must be the end of term!)

God dwelling among us is a big deal.  It was a big enough deal when God chose a people for himself and made his presence known to the Israelites as they wandered the desert after the Exodus, as fire by night and a cloud by day (Exodus 13:21). Then when the Israelites stopped they set up a tabernacle for God to dwell in, among his people (Exodus 40:34-35).

But when God spoke to his people, he spoke through prophets like Moses.  Even then God in his full glory could not be seen by Moses.  Moses even asks God if he can see him.  God responds, 'But', he said, 'you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live' (Exodus 33:20).  

When John…