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BREATH of HEAVEN

Some of you may have seen this piece on social media in recent times. It is a lovely rendering of the meaning (and purpose) of the name of God. Please take a moment to read and ponder.

 

There was a moment when Moses had the nerve to ask God what His name is. God was gracious enough to answer, and the name He gave is recorded in the original Hebrew as YHWH.

Over time we’ve arbitrarily added an “a” and an “e” in there to get YaHWeH, presumably because we have a preference for vowels. But scholars and rabbis have noted that the letters YHWH represent breathing sounds, or aspirated consonants. When pronounced without intervening vowels, it actually sounds like breathing. YH (inhale): WH (exhale).

So, a baby’s first cry, his first breath, speaks the name of God. A deep sigh calls His name – or a groan or gasp that is too heavy for mere words. Even an atheist would speak His name unaware that their very breath is giving constant acknowledgment to God. Likewise, a person leaves this earth with their last breath, when God’s name is no longer filling their lungs.

So, when I can’t utter anything else, is my cry calling out His name?

Being alive means I speak His name constantly. Is it heard the loudest when I’m the quietest?

In sadness, we breathe heavy sighs. In joy, our lungs feel almost like they will burst. In fear we hold our breath and have to be told to breathe slowly to help us calm down. When we’re about to do something hard, we take a deep breath to find our courage.

When I think about it, breathing is giving Him praise. Even in the hardest moments!

This is so beautiful and fills me with emotion every time I grasp the thought.

God chose to give Himself a name that we can’t help but speak every moment we’re alive. All of us, always, everywhere. Waking, sleeping, breathing, with the name of God on our lips.

(Unknown author)

 

Reading this reminded me of a song, written by English singer Chris Eaton back in 1990, called “Breath of Heaven”. A better-known version of the song was recorded by Amy Grant who re-wrote the lyrics and personalised them as a prayer sung by Mary, the mother of Jesus.

However, it is the original version of the song that I have always liked best. And, I do think it synchronizes beautifully with this study of God’s name.


BREATH OF HEAVEN

You are harvest, You are golden sun

You are cool rain, You are all in one

And in all my deepest thoughts

And in all my battles fought

You are within

You are within


You are crimson

You are midnight blue

You have called me to discover You

You have warmed my heart of stone

You have borne my pain alone

Speak to me now, speak to me now, speak to me now


Breath of heaven, hold me together

Be forever near me

Breath of heaven, lighten my darkness

Pour over me Your holiness for You are holy

Breath of heaven


I am waiting in a silent prayer

I am longing to be with You there

And with every fading fear

There is healing in my tears

Now I belong, now I belong, now I am strong


Breath of heaven, hold me together

Be forever near me

Breath of heaven, lighten my darkness

Pour over me Your holiness for You are holy

Breath of heaven

 

Here again we see the thought expressed that the “breath of heaven”, the divine presence, is never distant from us. And, of course, we see that reflected many times in Scripture, don’t we?

Throughout the pages of the Bible, we see that God is breathing life into this world (Genesis 2:7), into the broader universe (Psalm 33:6), into His followers (John 20:22) and into and through His Word (2 Timothy 3:16-17).


Another favourite song of mine, “Breathe Deep” by the Lost Dogs, has a simple message…that we should breathe deep the breath of God and, as we inhale (YH) and exhale (WH), we will better live out and express the nature, character and love of our Lord.


Perhaps these are all very timely reminders then that we should

Breathe deep,

Breathe deep the breath of God,

Breathe deep,

Breathe deep the breath of God.


May God breathe in, on and through you today.

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THE MISSING PEACE

It is many years since I last did a jigsaw puzzle. However, the other week I sat down over a couple of days and did a jigsaw puzzle. It wasn’t a huge one…it was just a 500-piece puzzle. Or, should I say, a 499-piece puzzle!

Yes, that’s right, there was a piece missing! Not just any piece, either, but one of the corner pieces!


It was rather frustrating….when all the other pieces were in place the eye was naturally drawn to the space where the missing piece should have been. Instead of looking at the picture with a sense of satisfaction and achievement, it was as though the puzzle was mocking me. Without that final piece in place, it had not been mastered, nor could it be!

Yes, I looked high and low for that one piece, but I couldn’t find it anywhere. And, of course, I didn’t feel that the puzzle was complete without that missing piece.


Now, life is not a puzzle, of course, but this little experience of mine did highlight some similarities. You know, regardless of how everything else in our lives fits together, there is often something that we feel is missing.

And without this “missing piece” we just don’t feel satisfied, or complete.


It might be that we think more money will complete our life picture. Or a better career. Maybe our missing piece is a person we want to share life with. Or it might be that our missing piece is a person we have lost. Perhaps it is something else that we want, but don’t have.


No matter what it is, most of us have a missing piece in our lives and, regardless of everything else, our mind’s eye only sees that which is not there.

So we feel incomplete. Frustrated. Cheated.

And this empty, frustrating feeling of being incomplete and inadequate is only further compounded when we compare ourselves with others who, of course, all seem to have all their pieces in place. That’s just salt in the wound, isn’t it?

(Truth is, they’re probably looking for their own missing pieces, too!)


You see, I reckon that we will never get to the stage where we have everything that we want. To be honest, I don’t think that is the point and purpose of life anyhow. After all, history is littered with examples of those who seemingly had everything….power, possessions, prosperity, position…and yet they were still desperately sad and incomplete.


I like what the Apostle Paul says in Philippians 4:11-13:

11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.


In essence, Paul is saying that our happiness is not dependent upon finding all those “missing pieces” that we want, and think we need.

Instead, he is saying that our lack of happiness and joy in life is because of a “missing peace”.

And that peace is not found in anything, or anyone, other than in “Him who gives me strength”.

Who is Paul referring to?

Jesus Christ.


The only way we can have this “missing peace” in our lives is through Jesus Christ.


The prophet Isaiah foretold that He would be called the Prince of Peace.


Jesus, Himself, said (John 16:33): “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”


On this, the first day of 2022, may I encourage you to find the missing peace for your life!

Only then will you have contentment and completeness. It is a peace that is deep and lasting, nothing like the shallow and transient peace of the world.


In this New Year, may you and I, may we….allow the Prince of Peace to reign in and through our lives.

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)


Oh, and if you happen to find a missing jigsaw corner piece, give me a call!

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A SEASON IN YOUR PATH

If you have been associated with Church@TheGabba for any period of time you have probably heard me say that “goodbye” is the hardest word to say in any language.

And, sadly, we have to say it too often.


It has been said that life is just a continuous series of greetings and farewells, hello’s and goodbye’s. And, in some ways, that also reflects a reality of church life and ministry.


In essence, a church is not a building, or a place…it is people and relationships. “Church” (ekklesia) is a collective term for a community…a group of people, gathered together by God’s grace, call and mission. It is a community of people in relationship with God and each other.


In our modern world the permanence and stability of relationships is continually being redefined. There is a much greater degree of transience these days as people tend to be quite prepared to move around a city, state, country, or even around the world, for employment and for other reasons. (Recent statistics show that the average person will change jobs about 12 times, often with a change of residential location thrown in.)

Of course, such change is very much a flip-sided coin…..there are the exciting opportunities and potential for growth, new experiences and professional and personal development. However, on the other side, there can be disruptions in other areas. And one of those other areas most effected is in the area of relationships.


For example, when a member of a family moves is felt deeply. Yes, we can keep in touch in so many wonderful ways these days with the advantage of modern technology, but there is still nothing like “being together”. The sense and satisfaction of presence.

And, yet, the “moving on” is an expected, normal and necessary part of life and living.

So, perhaps, when thinking about relationships, we should think in terms of seasons not of permanence.


Wayne Watson, a popular Christian singer-songwriter of some years ago, wrote a song called “A Season In Your Path”. In the song, he reflected on the ups and downs of relationships and yet, in spite of their seasonality, was able to still express thanks to God for them.

He sings….

I guess God alone deciphers when people need each other most

Who will be the blessed receiver and who will be the gracious host

And all a servant here can do is unto the Lord avail

Content at times to be the wind and at times to be the sail


I think that chorus expresses it well, don’t you?


As we come to farewell Mick and Anne and their family, I think it is appropriate for us to also acknowledge that God brought this family to be a part of our church family for a particular season, and reason. In his role as the Associate Pastor for the past four years, Mick has contributed greatly, and his contribution will be missed. However, it has not been a one-way street. It never is.

I believe that this season has been an important time of love, affirmation and ministry from the church to this family, too, and they depart from C@G enriched and encouraged.


Saying “farewell” is difficult. However, we entrust Mick, Anne and the children to God’s good grace. We believe that the Lord will bless them and that they will be a blessing to others along the road. And, we also believe that God will continue to do His work here amongst us at C@G for the glory of His name and for the building of His church in this place and for all eternity. Yes, there will be challenges. Yes, we may have to stand a bit straighter and stretch a bit further…but God will be glorified in and through His people, His church.


For now, though, we thank God for bringing Mick and Anne into our church family and for the mutual blessing we have all had in this “season in your path”.

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BETTER TOGETHER
At our recent Vision Sunday service we affirmed the fact that we, as a church, have been called to "Love God....Love Life....Love People".
This is the very essence of who, what and why we are, as a Christian church.
We also adopted "BETTER TOGETHER" as a special theme for the year. 
  
The past year, defined by a global pandemic, has been an horrendous one for us all. It has provided huge challenges, both physical, technological and, especially, spiritual for us as a church. It has been a year where we have seen many people become disengaged from the church. It has been a threat to our sense of fellowship. It has been a time of stress and, in times of stress, people become very insular and critical. And no matter how much we have done, how much we have tried, how much we have cared….for some it has not been enough.
Instead of pulling together, the stresses of this past year have tended to pull us apart.

But are we the first to experience such times of challenge? Of course not!
Think of the believers gathered together in the early days of the first "church". What was their context? Read ACTS 2:42-47.
Well, it was only a matter of weeks since Jesus, their leader and Lord, had been arrested, brutally killed and taken from them. At that point they were fearful, hiding, disconnected, disowning their faith, probably even betraying each other. Their immediate past was not one of comfort and ease, or rollicking good times. Far from it. They feared for their lives.
Yet, this passage is one that we often hold up as the example of how a church should be.
And so we should.
Because the church is not defined by the conditions of the society it finds itself in, or the problems that surround it.

Over the past months of prayerful consideration of where the church is at in these challenging times, the phrase kept coming to mind…”better together”. I guess because we have all been mindful of how the times of isolation and distancing and not being able to gather have affected us….we do believe that we are better together. But it must go beyond merely meeting on a Sunday morning.
That is good, but it is not enough.
Look at Acts 2….they met in the courts, they met in their homes, they enjoyed fellowship and studying the Word and praying together. They were, in the truest sense of the word, a community of believers.

And right now, I believe it is so important that we re-discover what it means to be a community of believers.
So, we have intentionally and prayerfully taken BETTER TOGETHER as a theme for this year as a reminder that all that we are and do as a church is "better together".

As my thinking and praying has developed around this theme, I have been drawn to preach through the Book of Acts…as part of our discovering afresh what it means to be a community of believers.
Acts is all about being “better together”…in fellowship and in mission.
Instead of individualism, Acts presents a radical community so committed to Christ, the cause of the Gospel and each other.
Instead of pluralism, Acts presents a church that based its life on Christ that compelled them to share the Good News with the world.
Instead of wishy-washy compromise, Acts presents a church that was convinced and convicted.
Instead of resources focused inwardly, Acts presents a church that released its best for the cause of Christ and the spreading of the Gospel.
Instead of relying on excellent techniques, Acts presents a church relying on the Holy Spirit and on prayer.
Instead of avoiding suffering, Acts presents a church willing to suffer discomfort, persecution, even death, for the cause of Christ.

I see the lessons that we can learn from a study of Acts as being powerful and beneficial for us as a church, as a true community of believers….and that will underscore all that we do and how we do it.

I believe this theme, “better together”, can be something that helps focus us this year. But it is not a gimmicky slogan…it is a biblical mandate.
Our over-arching church theme - Loving God….Loving Life….Loving People, is enhanced by this focus. For, in fact, as a church we love God, love Life and love People better…when we do it together.

So, using this as the theme for this year, I believe we can wholeheartedly get behind our desire for more  and effective Life Groups, community outreach, social activities, mission activity, ministry groups, working bees and, indeed, anything and everything that will help us to be and to do that which we have been called by our Lord to be and to do.

However, it is impossible for us to be “better together” if we are not going to be in it together.
So, even in the face of many challenges and unknowns ahead, let us to move forward, prayerfully, practically and, in the Lord, powerfully together.
Let's rise to the challenge......together!
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MAKING A SPLASH

You have probably heard by now that we are having another baptism service on April 4th (Easter Sunday). This is really exciting!


However, it is also something that some of you may be a little bit confused about. You see, lots of different churches and denominations practice baptism...but what that actually is can be quite different, and even have a different meaning, or doctrinal background.

So, allow me to try and simply explain what we, at Church@TheGabba (a Baptist church) believe about baptism and how we practice it.


Going back some hundreds of years ago, there was a broad theological movement (which became known as Protestantism) which grew out of the 16th century Reformation. Basically, this was a move away from the errors, excesses and traditions of the Catholic and Orthodox churches and a move back to solid New Testament teachings.

The Baptist movement/denomination came out of this time with a fierce and independent desire to conform to biblical teaching and practice, not on human traditions and direction. And one of the specific areas that the early "Baptists" focused on was that of "baptism". Obviously, just by name alone, you can see that baptism was important to Baptists!

But what was most important was reaffirming the understanding of what baptism was, who it was for, why it was practiced and how it was to be practiced. And the New Testament had all the answers to these questions, but the traditions of the "church" had departed greatly from them and had turned baptism into something that was not biblically supported.


You can check out the Scriptural foundation for these doctrines below, but, simply, our belief is that baptism is for believers and by immersion.

The New Testament clearly teaches that once someone became a follower of Jesus (a Christian convert) they were baptised.

The New Testament is also quite clear in that the method of baptism was by immersion (going under the water). The Greek word used is baptizo which means to "immerse or dip under". And this particular method also best signifies the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, so there is great significance there.


Now, it is important to stress that baptism doesn’t make you a believer…it shows that you already believe. Baptism does not “save” you, only your faith in Christ does that. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Baptism is a wonderful way to declare your faith and trust in Jesus Christ. It is not a case of waiting until you are "perfect" enough, or a "better Christian"....a baptism is like an introduction to the Christian life, not a graduation from it!

Even for people who have been baptised in a different church tradition, perhaps as infants, "believer's baptism" can be something very important and significant.  Being baptised as a believer does not disrespect the previous experience or, for example, the parent's decisions made for the infant....but, rather, it is a case of making a public declaration by your choosing, as a believer, to respond biblically, obediently and faithfully to Christ.


So, here at C@G, we would encourage every person who is a genuine follower of Jesus Christ to be baptised. If you would like to find out more, or discuss this further, it would be a joy to hear from you. (Email me at: pastor@gabbachurch.org)


BIBLICAL FOUNDATION for BELIEVER'S BAPTISM

Why should I be baptised?

1. To follow the example set by Jesus Christ . (Mark 1:9)

2. Because Christ commanded it. (Matthew 28:19-20)

3. It demonstrates that I really am a believer/Christian. (Acts 18:8; 1 John 2:3)


What is the meaning of baptism?

1. It illustrates Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. (1 Corinthians 15:3-4; Colossians 2:12)

2. It illustrates my new life as a Christian. (2 Corinthians 5:17; Romans 6:4)


Why be baptised by immersion?

1. Because Jesus was baptised that way. (Matthew 3:16)

2. Every baptism in the New Testament was by immersion. (Acts 8:38-39)


Who should be baptised?

Every person who has believed and trusted in Christ. (Acts 2:41; Acts 8:13; Acts 8:12)

  

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