Independence: What does the bible say?

Independence seems like the ultimate confirmation of being a ‘real man’ or for that matter a ‘real woman’. Something inside us wants to prove that we can make it on our own, to pay our own way, to not need anybody. Perhaps that’s why some people move out of home when they turn 18 (or sometimes younger!) Perhaps we were taught from early on that being independent from our parents and those around us should be our goal. Birds will push their young chicks out of the nest so that they will learn to fly – if they didn’t push them, the little birds would never try something that strange. Maybe you’ve also been pushed out of the nest.

But more and more I’m starting to see how this mindset develops into a lonely and isolated existence. Going it alone – either as a single person or as a family unit – has some romantic notions and promises to never be a burden on anyone, but it can’t be healthy. God designed us to live in relationship with each other, to be a community. Listen to this verse from 1 Corinthians 12:

14For the body is not one member, but many. 15If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. 16And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. […]  20But now there are many members, but one body. 21And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” […]  26And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.

I love that part ‘If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it’. It’s not that I want to bring everyone down all the time – but have you ever suffered something in silence? Have you ever pretended that everything was OK, because you were afraid you would be rejected or be a burden – or you weren’t even sure what you were afraid of? As Christians we are supposed to be the body of Christ, and there are no independent parts in that body. Each part needs every other part in order to function, and God has designed us to work together in unity and harmony.

I have been wrestling with God today over finances. He has repeatedly reminded me to trust him to provide for me, but there’s that part of me that keeps rising up and saying “I want to do this in my strength. I want to provide for my own needs and in the future for my wife.” But that’s not how God is leading Ruth and I to live. He is asking us to be fully dependent on Him, and on our fellow Christians for all our needs. Even though things don’t look promising now, He knows our needs and He will provide for us. We have to let go of that part of us that wants to be independent.

I also think about Romans 12:10 – “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.” Was that only talking about honoring the pastor above yourselves? No. It applies to everyone in the church. To often, the person sitting next to me in Church is suffering emotionally or financially or in their health, but I’m not at all interested in listening, praying for and helping them. My prayer is that I am more sensitive to the needs of my brothers and sisters in Christ – and have the guts to ask them how things are really going for them.

Leaving The Caribbean

Last night at midnight the Logos Hope – My home – left the last island in the Caribbean on our schedule – Roseau, Dominica. The Caribbean has been my home for 8 months now, though the Logos Hope is where I spend most of my time so every time I walk out the door I experience some culture shock. If I were to use only one word to describe my experience of Caribbean people – I would say alive. Alive in a way that European and even Australian people can be dead. People want to talk to you, to say good morning to you as you pass in the street. People are not afraid to ask you spiritual questions. In this way they are friendly, but in another way they can be rude. Sometimes the staff in the book fair struggled to deal with the demands of insistant customers who asked for discounts, demanded service and rarely smiled or said ‘hello’. Christians here are not afraid to spread the Gospel – and I have learned a little boldness from them. The nations I visited gain their income from tourism, hosting wealthy white tourists on sandy beaches – while their populace often live in abject poverty. The contrast is frightening to me, and it scares me that the tourists don’t see the poverty as they are wisked away from their cruise ships in a taxi to a nice beach.
In the Caribbean I spoke in front of another church body for the first time, handed out gospels on the street for the first time, performed an evangelistic drama for non christians for the first time, told a story to a group of kids for the first time, and started really trying to talk about Jesus one on one with stranges in the cafe. I have become accustomed to introducing myself as Chris from Australia – the land of Crocodiles and Koalas and Kangaroos. I have learned the hard way how to lead a team with love and patience – and discovered in me and weeded out a competitive spirit that doesn’t support the body of Christ.
The Caribbean has been a special time for me, and I will never forget it.

Sabbath Week

“72 Kilograms of tinned tomatoes are the main ingredient in tonight’s dinner”. For one afternoon I volunteered to work in the galley – the ship’s kitchen. Food is cooked in large amounts and served buffet style to the ship’s crew, so amazing amounts of food such as 30 tins of tomatoes, giant boiling pots and power tools for mixing come in to play. The end result was pasta with tomato and meat sauce which the crew enjoyed – and nobody got sick!

Volunteering in the galley was my way of pitching in to give others some time off during Sabbath week on board Logos Hope. Every year, the ship’s crew takes a week out from our busy schedule to reflect, recharge and reconnect with God and with each other. Since the ship is closed to the public, those who work in events, book fair and office jobs will work in other departments to spread the load and give everyone some needed rest.

During this week I have really learned the value of forgiving and loving other people. We are a community of Christians from over 45 different nations working together to bring in the harvest. If we work as individuals we will ultimately fail in both our purpose and our example. I have identified people whom I have forgiven – the next step for me is to approach them and tell them.

The Fence

“She didn’t want to choose between Satan and Jesus, so she chose the fence, but the fence belongs to Satan so he captured her. But when she prayed, Jesus came and rescued her”.

This is how I quickly explained to a volunteer from Bermuda the meaning of a drama I performed the night before in the Hope Theater for an event called ‘Sunday Night Live’. The event was hosted by a local church called ‘Cornerstone’ and ran a lot like a talent show – around 7 acts from local Christians and ship’s crew. The difference of course is that each person brought glory to God in his or her own way. Some sang worship songs and others did stand up comedy without the dirty jokes.

At the end a pastor gave a short message challenging the youth. While he was speaking we – the drama team – assembled on the stage behind the curtains. I prayed “Jesus, please help me to portray you accurately tonight and to perform to my best”. Representing the character of Jesus is indeed a challenge for anyone, since we have all fallen short of his moral standards and gone our own way at times, and I was suitably anxious as his message drew to a close. But as the curtains opened and the lights came up God used me to present this message – don’t sit on the fence. Many said they were impacted greatly by the drama and some asked me to clarify it’s meaning, and I was happy to explain it to them.

God with us

Genesis 2:8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking a in the garden in the cool of the day

Numbers 35:34 Do not defile the land a where you live and where I dwell, for I, the LORD, dwell among the Israelites.’ ”

Rev 21:3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. a They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.

God has always desired to dwell amongst his beloved creations. In the beginning he dwelt with Adam and Eve in the garden, then He formed the nation of Israel to dwell with the people. Now he lives in our hearts and at the end all things he will dwell amongst us in the holy city. Hallelujah!