home > Pastor’s Desk > 2016 > April 23rd> For Better or Worse

Pastoral Advice For Those Who Feel Out Of Control

Parents swear, and children suffer tooLife often presents us with circumstances where we feel like we are no longer in control. In these moments we tend to look for whatever we know we can control. This is why a husband will lash out at his somewhat compliant wife (and why some men would only marry a woman they knew they could intimidate). It is why a big sister, who is struggling to control her world in which her “friends” are so mean to her, will belittle her little sister at home. It’s why a boss who can’t control the economy will demean a junior employee in front of the other staff. And it’s why a boy who feels deprived of his father’s affirmation will become a bully in the schoolyard. Apart from these relational controls we have all found great comfort in at least controlling what we eat or drink. Thus, a teenage girl will stop eating – because at least she can control that. A too-long-single person, overwhelmed by loneliness, which they interpret as rejection, will eat to excess in an attempt to control something. For those who might identify with any of these examples I have two pieces of pastoral advice.

About Control

Couple-Reconcile

A couple can find themselves in conflict and not know how to deal with it

Powerlessness is a horrible feeling.On the other hand the ‘power’ that comes from knowing what’s happening, what’s about to happen and how to make it happen, can be deeply fulfilling. We were designed to control – but only up to a point. It seems to me that Satan’s original temptation of Adam and Eve had a lot to do with an impossible promise that they could control more.

¶ But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
Genesis 3:4-5

 
 

The appalling tragedy of this temptation is not only how false it was, but how much less it was of what Adam and Eve already enjoyed! Satan was offering Adam and Eve the power to become “like God” – but Adam and Eve were already “like God” because the were created in the image of God!

Before mankind fell into sin, God had given them control over their choices, control over their environment (Eden), control over their time, control over Satan, and control over the temptation to sin. Even after sin entered into the human race when Adam and Eve sinned, God told mankind that they had the power to resist temptation and choose not to sin.

“If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”
Genesis 4:7

But there were some things that mankind was never designed to control – even in the perfect world prior to mankind sinning – apart from the weather, it also included other people (with the exception of parents exercising ‘control’ over their infant children).

What Can We Control?

In a world filled with people corrupted by sin, there is now much we cannot control which is painfully highlighted every time there is a terrorist attack. To some extent, we also have limited control over our health – especially considering injuries inflicted upon us by others and illnesses due to industrial negligence.

For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope.
Romans 8:20

Despite the things we cannot control, we have the privilege of controlling our –

  • attitude
  • generosity
  • thoughts
  • prayers
  • time
  • diet
  • choices
  • relational transparency
 

These aspects within our control are important to appreciate for developing our relationship with God, and others. While relationships necessarily bring stress, conflict, disagreements, and grief, they are also the means of our most greatest and fondest joys and therefore our deepest fulfilment. We were created by God to be in relationships. This begins with our relationship with God, then with our soul-mate, then our biological family, then the family of God (Eph. 2:19), then those we interact with to lesser extents. But because relationships at each level brings commensurate stress, conflict, disagreements, and grief, they can leave us wondering how we navigate through them. This is when we take advantage of our God-given ability to control what we can. Let me explain:

AppleMarkThere will be times in life when we will not know what to do in the midst of these relationship tensions. This is when we may not know what the best thing to do is – but we should at least know what the better thing to do is by determining what would make things worse. A husband loses his cool at his wife one time too many and now his wife won’t talk to him. He may not know what the best thing to do is, but using the better-worse principle he should know what would make the situation worse (such as, continue to lose his cool at his wife, or, refuse to apologise to his wife). This is my first piece of pastoral advice.

¶ If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
James 1:5

Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.
Colossians 3:19

When Things Seem Out Of Control

And Micaiah said, “Therefore hear the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing on his right hand and on his left.”
Second Chronicles 18:18

¶  God reigns over the nations;
God sits on his holy throne.
Psalm 47:8

God is seated upon The Throne. He’s not on the edge of His throne. He’s not standing up from His throne. He’s seated on His throne. He reigns! This is why we declare that God is in control! Another way of saying this involves the word: sovereignty.

looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 12:2

A Sovereign is ‘a supreme ruler’ such as a monarch or emperor. Thus, when we talk about the ‘sovereignty of God’ we mean that God is ultimately in control. Just as any monarch does not ‘control’ every decision and action of their subjects, so the Lord doesn’t ‘control’ our every decision, choice, or action. Yet, and here is where the comparison with an earthly sovereign breaks down, the Lord is still able to direct, lead, guide, influence, or intervene in every decision, choice, or action of people and the rest of creation.

The lot is cast into the lap,
but it’s every decision is from the LORD.
Proverbs 16:33

Acknowledging this calls for trust from His subjects. Whether we are experiencing comfort, ease, plenty, or illness, distress, and lack – we know assuredly that our Lord is in control, and that He is always good! This kind of trust in God leads to contentment and peace.

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.
Philippians 4:11-12

It’s easy to write about, preach, and teach, but trusting God in the midst of illness, distress, and lack is a little more difficult. I faced this six months ago when I collapsed with a severe jolt of nerve pain down my spine and was unable to walk for 5 days. After a CT scan my doctor told me to brace myself for a bleak diagnosis and booked me in to see a specialist. During this time I was confronted with the real possibility of living with severely restricted movement for the rest of my life – or worse.

Although I didn’t understand what was happening at the time and I certainly didn’t know what my future held, I had by this stage of my Christian walk grown to trust God despite my circumstances. As I was to discover, much of my now degradative spine was the result of a motorcycle accident I endured some twenty-five years earlier (which at the time saw me immobile for two months). My confidence in God’s goodness despite my adversities is grounded in Scripture and experience. And this leads me to my second and closing piece of pastor advice when life is not better, but is worse: despite how you feel or what you’re going through, worship God and resist the temptation to withdraw from regular worship.

We are designed and created for relationships and to worship God. In both of these we find our deepest joy and fulfilment – even in times of worse.

¶ I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
Romans 12:1

Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe.
Hebrews 12:28

Your Pastor,

Andrew

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AMAZING ACCESS

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WHY FINDING TRUTH MATTERS

How can we determine whether a claim is true or false? Some people think there are different kinds of truth — my truth, their truth, and your truth. But how do they know that their assessment of truth is true? After all, their assessment – that there is my/their/your truth might just be based on their truth rather than the truth. Truth has certain qualities that distinguishes it from what is false-
 Truth corresponds to reality.
 Truth is verifiable (that is, if it is true, it can be evidentially shown to be so).
 Truth is falsifiable (that is, if it is false, it can be evidentially shown to be so).
 Truth is sometimes testable (that is, claims that are experiential can be tested by experience – including scientific claims, historic claims, and existential claims).
We have good reasons for the believing that the Bible is true because it is the divinely inspired, reliable and authoritative Word of God which has been superintendedly preserved by the Holy Spirit (read more about this).

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We live in a fast paced world. We expect things to happen quickly. None of us like to be kept waiting. Even when we order something online we expect it delivered straight away. Some of us having to work two or even three jobs just to be able to pay the bills. We describe ourselves as time-poor. Yet, we all get twenty-four-hours in a day. Sixty-minutes in an hour. And sixty-seconds in a minute. Most of us need to adjust how we see, understand, and treat our time. This will involve, what will be for some, adopting a foreign and largely unaccustomed view of time that involves worship, sabbath, and deepening relationships. From this biblical perspective we will come to see time as a gift from God, not a curse, or source of frustration. Within this gift of time God teaches us how to worship in those times when it is difficult to do so. Rather than thinking this divine gift of time is ours to do with what ever we want, God uses this gift to teach us that we should gift it back to Him beginning with (but not limited to) treating Sunday as a sabbath to come together to recommit our hearts, voices, minds, and presence with God’s people, back to God. God gives us passing time to learn to deepen relationships – especially with our kin, and our friends. Time is meant for relationship building. 

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It may well still be the best-selling book of all time – and continues year-by-year to be so – but certainly is not the best-read of our current times! If there was ever any doubt about this, the events this week in Hobart, at St. Mary’s (Catholic) College Girl’s School, should remove all doubt! A furore erupted over the news that the prescribed Scripture reading for the year-end graduation celebration, which incorporated a Mass, was “Wives submit to your husbands” taken from Ephesians. Callers into ABC radio’s breakfast program decried this assault against women – especially young, vulnerable girls. One caller, responding to the news that the text being used was a citation from Ephesians, denounced Ephesians and apparently demanded, “Just who does this Ephesians bloke think he is?!” Another caller stated, “Why are they quoting ancient Roman philosophers in the twenty-first century?!” And yet another caller somehow linked all religious wars to passages like this one in the Bible! He remarked, “I’m an atheist. All wars are started by those who are religious! No war was ever started by atheists!” (Perhaps he had never heard of Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Mao Zedong, Pol Pot, Vladimir Putin, who were collectively responsible for the deaths of over 20,000,000?) This furore led to the Archbishop conceding that the Ephesians passage did not have to be used at the graduation ceremony. But this furore has highlighted just how unaware many Tasmanians are about what the Bible is, what is actually says, and why it says it. And I am now about to correct this deficiency.  

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Of the many tributes paid to her majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, was the often noted reflection that during her reign the world underwent a series of rapid changes that were dramatic and unprecedented in human history. There were technological inventions that revolutionised the way people could access international travel options enabling them to be virtually anywhere in the world within a matter of hours. New forms of communication emerged with the development of a global satellite communications network enabling people to watch Neil Armstrong take his one giant leap Live on their black-and-white TV screens (as I did in the corridors of Corio Primary School in 1969). Space exploration, the stuff previously just in the realm of science fiction writers, became a reality with manned and unmanned voyages to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. But the past one hundred years have also been a time of great upheaval with empires crumbling, governments toppled, wars waged, genocides committed, pandemics raging, nations birthed, rulers assassinated, and massive refugee movements from oppressive Islamic and Communist regimes. Added to this has been the demise of professional journalism and the rise of internet-citizen-journalism where it is now common for TV News reports to feature footage taken from someone’s cell-phone which was posted on social media rather than the more expensive option of sending their own film crew there. And while we’re mentioning the internet, let’s not forget to mention – the internet. This alone has possibly been the most monumental change in the way people communicate, work, learn, and shop. But while it was noted that the Queen had witnessed all of these many changes, it was also noted that the Queen herself was an unchanging constant during all these upheavals who brought about a sense of stability, peace and reassurance. To millions of people around the world, she was their rock in a world of turmoil and change. Yet this was only possible because she herself had an immovable, dependable rock upon which she had built her life.

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