Scripture today

Many of the stories, or parables, we read in the New Testament seem mostly concerned with relationships of different kinds. We come across numerous people in different situations, but the story line is not so much about who they are, but what they do, and their relationships with each other.

So, is it possible to relate these stories to our own relationships? I believe it is, because it seems to me Jesus had an underlying message for us all and deliberately wanted us to find out more about ourselves by delving deeper into His parables than the surface story was about

There is a parable in Matthew’s Gospel which has always had me questioning my sense of fairness. The story of the vineyard servants hired last getting paid the same as those who had laboured all day in the hot sun. To me it just didn’t seem a fair payment, until I asked myself why should I feel this way?

I realise that my understanding must really stem from how I would feel if I was in the shoes of those early workers. In reality, I have been saying to myself the owner shouldn’t be so generous, because in doing so he has tended to remove the just reward of those workers who have toiled throughout the day and equalise everything. And that’s not how it goes in this world of ours.

When I realise my envy and competitiveness is not the way our Father in Heaven wants me to feel towards others, I get a different slant on the story entirely. I think this parable is given to us to uncover something deeper within ourselves.

Maybe, as in my case, I feel I am being invited to treat others as Jesus would treat them, rather than how the world has trained me to react in a self-righteous way.

There is no doubt this is one parable that has a message for us all today, even though it was voiced over 2000 years ago.

I’m Peter Mack and that’s faith.

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Communication

Recently, I became engrossed in a story I was reading by William Bausch in his book, Storytelling, Imagination and Faith. In short, the story tells of a man sitting alone in his country kitchen concerned about problems he was having at work, at home, trying to balance the finances and other family matters which were weighing heavily on his mind.

Something made him look up and he realised Jesus was standing in the doorway. He assumed it was Jesus. The man was wearing a long white robe, had a beard and a golden halo around his head, just like the pictures you see of Jesus.

The man questioned the reason for such a visit and Jesus invited him to come for a walk with him. After getting over the initial shock, the man thought it mightn’t be such a bad idea to use this opportunity to get Jesus to give him some answers to his pressing concerns.

As they walked down the road the man started blurting out the problems, he was having at work. Rather than giving an answer, Jesus seemed to ignore the man’s concern and instead, pointed out how beautiful the landscape looked after yesterday’s rain.

The man tried on a number of occasions to get some answers to his problems, but each time Jesus evaded his questions by pointing out some other interesting facet, such as a butterfly or the fruit on a tree. The man gave up when Jesus challenged him to a stone throwing attempt at hitting a lamp post.

When they returned to his home, the man was upset that he hadn’t resolved any of his problems. As he looked up at Jesus, he detected a smile on the Lord’s face as Jesus turned towards him and said, “Stop trying so hard”. 

This so reminded me of the words of Jesus in Matthew’s gospel,’ Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest’.

I’m Peter Mack and that’s faith.

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Repair and respect

His old car had seen better days. It was easy to see how the sun had faded its paintwork and a number of small skirmishes with posts and walls had left tell-tale bruises on the bodywork.  

He knew there was something not right happening under the bonnet but, not being mechanically minded, he wasn’t sure what the odd noises meant.

His finances were tight but he knew he needed his car. His first thought was to get the bodywork repaired so he could once again be proud of his vehicle and hope the motor lasted long enough for him to save up and get the local mechanic to check it out.

Although it didn’t make him happy, he decided the repairs to the motor were more important.

Scripture tells the story of how Jesus was once asked to heal a physical illness and his response was “Your sins are forgiven”. This response was viewed somewhat cynically by the onlookers and Jesus asked them what was easier, to repair what could be seen on the outside or the unseen inside?

Sometimes we can pray really hard for someone to get better and we see no physical signs of improvement in their health. This doesn’t mean that our God isn’t hearing our prayer. It means our prayer is being answered in the way our God feels is more important for our friend.

In our so-called ‘instant society’ we expect things to happen when we want them to happen, yet in God’s repair workshop the overall needs of the person being prayed for is of prime consideration.

Our prayer then can be one of repair and respect. We ask our God to repair what we see as a problem and we respect how this prayer is used and thank our God for hearing our request.

I’m Peter Mack and that’s faith.

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Getting away from it all

As humans we started off as nomads. When we leave our cities to go camping in the Australian bush, we have a real sense of getting back to our roots.

By camping, I don’t mean staying in a caravan park with all the facilities of home available to us. To ’get away from it all’, as the saying goes, is to travel to a setting where you can experience the rhythmic sounds of nature untarnished by the electronic or mechanical noises of the city.

Here in Australia it is so easy for us to find these locations where we can enjoy the natural sounds and sights of birds and animals; the wind in the trees; the movement of water in a river or waves in the sea.

It is in this environment we can experience feelings of peacefulness, mental wellbeing and the freedom and enjoyment of spending quality time with ourselves or our family and friends. Here it seems so much easier to be in touch with our God.

If you are an early riser you get to see the miracle of a new day dawning through the mists in a valley and hear the wake-up calls of birds passing around the early treetop news. If you are quiet, you might also see a mother kangaroo feeding the youngster in her pouch, or the platypus family sneaking out of their underwater home to welcome the day.

Having the time to sit in front of a camp fire, watching the sun slowly set on a perfect day while dinner cooks in the camp oven and the kids cook their marshmellows on pointy sticks in the glowing embers, is priceless.

Later as it gets dark, you get to view the wonder of a star filled sky that helps us realise we are just a small part of an amazing universe created for us to enjoy and look after by a God who truly loves us.

I’m Peter Mack and that’s faith.

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Sounds of silence

The noises of our busy world often keep us from finding the peace that exists in the quietness of our inner selves. Paul Simon’s song, The Sound of Silence was released in 1964. While his lyrics might be interpreted in a number of different ways, they do give us the opportunity to consider the importance of meditation in our lives.

“Hello darkness my old friend, I’ve come to talk with you again”.

As we quietly contemplate the darkness around us, we get the opportunity to not only share our thoughts and ideas with our God, but we get to listen for answers to our questions.

“Because a vision softly creeping left its seeds while I was sleeping”.

While waiting patiently in our darkened mind we can envisage the presence of our God.

“When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light that split the night and touched the sound of silence”.

Paul Simon perhaps could foresee how people would become so entrenched in their busy lives that they would lose sight of the God of their creation. Today we see so many texting while walking, talking or playing on their phones without hearing the sounds of life around them.

“People talking without speaking. People hearing without listening”.

Our God is reaching out to us and we need to find the time to quietly listen to His voice.

“Hear my words that I might teach you, take my arms that I might reach you”.

Instead we have created our own worldly Gods. We seek money, power and riches.

“And the people bowed and prayed to the neon God they made”.

Let us take the time to find our God in the sounds of silence.

I’m Peter Mack and that’s faith.

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Soul mates

A soul mate is usually someone with whom we feel we have a close mutual affinity. It is someone whom we trust implicitly and feel safe sharing and confiding our innermost thoughts and feelings.

Personally, I think our soul is where we store our hopes and fears, our dreams and our love. It is always to this location we retreat to find inner peace when all around us is in turmoil.

The Bible tells us we should go to our inner room when we want to pray. Could it be then that our inner room is our soul? If so, then our God must be there to share our prayer our deepest thoughts and our emotions.

Our God says we will not be left on our own and it is my bet it is in our soul, or ‘heart room’, as some call it, where our God waits for us.

With our God as our eternal soul mate, we can get excited about sharing our life with someone who cares and loves us unconditionally and is constantly available for us.

I’m Peter Mack and that’s faith.

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Apathy

As citizens of Australia many of us need to wake up from our complacency. Our life is eroding away with every tick of the clock and yet we keep finding excuses to keep busy.  It is as if we are frightened of what might happen if we were to stop and ask ourselves what our life is really all about.

A lifetime can be measured, but eternity is endless. However, it seems how we spend that eternity is directly related to what we do here on earth during our lifetime.

Perfect peace cannot be found in anything of this world. No amount of money or possessions can buy it and no variety of drugs can induce it.  In this world our trust in other humans can often lead us up dry gullies. Greed, money and sex are seen by many as their God and the major concern of many of us Aussies is only for ourselves.

It is time to cast off the apathy that abounds in this sun-drenched country of ours and allow ourselves to find peace.  We have been graced with this land of Australia, yet we shy away from recognising and accepting how we managed to be planted here.

If we fit this category, let’s make a genuine attempt to try and change our apathetic approach to life now.

I’m Peter Mack and that’s faith.

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Perseverance

So, you have a sick friend and you pray for that friend to be healed. Your faith tells you your prayer has been heard, yet your friend remains sick with no apparent signs of change for the better.

The longer this situation continues, the more frustrating it can become for you. First, you start to question whether your prayer has fallen on deaf ears. You ask yourself whether your God is really listening or perhaps is too busy attending to other’s prayers for more important needs.

Sometimes you might even feel you are insignificant in the overall scheme of things and your prayers are down the bottom of God’s ‘to do’ list. You might question your faith or even the existence of God. You could even start questioning whether the non-believers might have got it right after all.

As humans, how easily we can be disillusioned because things don’t happen for us when we want them and the way we want them to happen. We have become an instant society and because we can get instant answers by ‘asking Siri’ or typing our question into a computer search engine, we might tend to forget our God looks well beyond our instant expectations.

Let us be prepared to persevere in our prayer and understand that the healing of our sick friend is happening, in God’s way and time – not ours.

I’m Peter Mack and that’s faith.

We need love to survive

So often at wedding celebrations we hear the words Paul wrote to the Corrinthians concerning LOVE. “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things”.

Paul was a bachelor and I wonder if he really understood how difficult it would be for couples today to survive with all the pressures of life that surrounds us. There is a constant call for couples to sacrifice much of their own personal desires in order to maintain a loving relationship together.

When life deals us hard blows, it is so much easier to be able to face the situations and work through the problems together. When the kids get sick or there is a death in the family or one of our adolescents tangles with the law, our love for each other can unite us and help us face the situation together.

Even though love in a relationship should be more the giving than receiving, it is easy to understand how a couple might get to the point where they seriously consider giving up on the relationship. While we sometimes might dislike things about our partner’s actions, this does not have to affect the unconditional love we have for each other. For love is more deep-seated than emotional concerns. Love is not a feeling. Love is a decision.

Our prayer together should be that our God will help us love and care for each other, accept each other’s differences and help us make our love grow stronger.

Hopefully, this will enable us to happily face the future together, for we all ‘need love to survive’.

I’m Peter Mack and that’s faith.

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The Invitation

“Come back to me with all your heart, don’t let fear keep us apart”.

This is the opening line of the ‘Hosea Song’. It is an invitation to relook at our relationship with our God.

However, the operative word in this line is ‘fear’. God doesn’t want fear to keep us apart from Him. Yet, sadly, this is maybe the reason why we can easily distance ourselves from Him. Maybe we have grown up fearing the consequences of our indiscretions and have been in fear of God, the judge.  We all tend to judge ourselves severely, yet quite often forget to give ourselves credit for all the good we do for others.

Sometimes we might stray a bit from our faith and our personal feelings of negativity kick in. We can perhaps see ourselves as doomed and therefore find it easy to give up on God. This situation might even cause us to forgo some, or even all, of our religious practices which help us maintain our faith. So, we stumble along through life, often feeling alone and deserted, yet determined, that if we have to, we can do this alone.

How sad it is if we might have grown up with this fearful attitude. How sad that we may have only seen God as a judge on high and not seen Him as a caring, loving God who dwells within each one of us.

Perhaps we have failed to realise as humans we are not perfect. Our heavenly Father, recognizing our plight, sent us Jesus as our Savior. He taught us about the unconditional love our God has for us. He suffered and died for our sins and rose again that we might be convinced He was who He said he was. His simple message was to love our God and to love one another.

Sometimes it can be good for us to take time out to do a personal stocktake and clean out our inner cupboards. As the Hosea Song says, “The wilderness will lead you to your heart where I will speak”. And the Holy Spirit who lives in us adds, “Long have I waited for your coming home to me and living deeply a new life”. Thus, we are all being given the invitation to strengthen our faith and relationship with our loving God. It is up to us when, and if, we choose to accept it.

I’m Peter Mack and that’s faith.

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