Conjures up many ideas – mostly negative ones. You may think of your back, an old injury that plays up. You may think of emotional pain. It may be something that never seems to go away.
The International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) defines pain this way:
“an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage.”
Unpleasant doesn’t really do it justice.
But as with all experiences, it does teach us something.
We remember we are vulnerable.
We remember we are fragile.
We realise we are reliant.
These are unpleasant reminders.
Because we like to think we are independent. Strong. Resilient. But the truth is we are never far off from needing help.
Recently my parents were in a car accident. If there was ever a time to think about mortality it was then. They were extremely blessed to be alive. But they were not spared pain.
Sometimes I wonder why this was. Why some people walk away from a terrible car accident completely unharmed while others suffer terrible injuries.
I suppose the one who walks away scot-free will get insurance money, buy a new car and then occasionally recount their incredible luck at a dinner table conversation. But for others there will be no forgetting their vulnerability. And perhaps one day we will all be the more thankful for the reminders.
According to Dr. Gary Chapman, we have 5 primary ways of communicating love: words of affirmation, quality time, physical touch, receiving gifts, and acts of service. To find out your primary love language, you can take this online quiz: https://www.5lovelanguages.com/quizzes.
My primary love language is acts of service. (When I ask Roy what his is, he says “all of them – in large quantities”).
But I also really value words of affirmation.
One of my favourite Bible characters is Barnabas. That wasn’t his real name; his name was Joseph. But people nicknamed him “Barnabas,” which means, “Son of encouragement” (Acts 4:36). Although he isn’t a major character in the Bible stories, there is enough to tell us that he was someone who affirmed and built up those around him to help them reach their full potential.
For example, when Saul, a former persecutor of the Christians, arrives in Jerusalem as a newly converted Christian himself, “he tried to join the followers. But they were afraid of him. They did not believe he was a true follower of Jesus. Then Barnabas took him to the missionaries. He told them that Saul had seen the Lord on the road. He told them also how the Lord had spoken to Saul and how he had preached without fear in Damascus in the name of Jesus. After that he was with them going in and out of Jerusalem” (Acts 9:26-28 NLT).
Saul, renamed “Paul” after his conversion, and Barnabas become partners in ministry, traveling together to share the good news of Jesus wherever they went. But “Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, ‘Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.’ Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord” (Acts 15:36-40 NLT).
For better or for worse, Barnabas believed in his cousin John Mark despite his past failure and gave him another chance, true to his character as the “Son of Encouragement.”
Do you have such a person in your life who encourages, affirms, and cheers you on, even when others don’t? Perhaps it’s a good day to thank them for their faith in you.
Or perhaps it’s a good day to be a “Barnabas” for someone else today. Who can you encourage? Who can you affirm? Who can you give a “second chance” to?
“So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing…Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone.See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people” (1 Thessalonians 5:11,14,15 NLT).
I was invited by my good friends Rosie and Hannah to join other young people for this exciting project called ShareHim back in 2015. I had no idea what ShareHim was about but a mission trip to Mexico with the crew sounded quite exciting. I later found out that ShareHim required each participant to hold an evangelistic campaign every night for two weeks at a designated church. At that point in life, I had previously had the chance to preach here and there but preaching every night for two weeks was daunting to say the very least. But I decided to take up the invitation and head to Tuxla Gutierez, Chiapas, Mexico.
The organiser briefed us during our first day there and invited us to first have solid prayer time above anything else, even if it meant taking the time from preparing the presentations for each day. This was a radical idea because I was already nervous presenting the messages which I was not too familiar with and to a local crowd I didn’t know. But I took up the invitation and prioritised prayer and then prepared the messages. The first few nights at the Real del Bosque Church were tough because I had not established any relationship with the church members and those in the community. But despite feeling like I did not deliver the message too well, the Holy Spirit worked in the people’s hearts.
After the first week, I started to ease up and the church family also warmed up to me. I was invited to eat lunch on the Sabbath with them and they prepared some special tamales for me. I was also invited by one generous family to go to the night market after one of the presentations to have the local street food like elote. I thoroughly enjoyed the blessings of friendship, good food, and the blessing of sharing God’s word. By the end of my two weeks, God blessed our time there with many making the decision to be baptised. The trip, overall, was such a humbling and growing experience for me and the crew and I felt so honoured with the series of invitations for and during the trip.
God has many invitations for us in the Bible. He invited us to come and reason (Isaiah 1:18), receive rest (Matthew 11:28), walk in the light (John 8:12), drink the living water (John 7:37-39), and dine together (Revelation 3:20). He invites us because He is a relational God and wants to have a much closer relationship with each of us. It is an absolute honour to know that our Creator wants to even eat together with us (eating is something I love and 95% of the people I know enjoy).
I am glad to be part of the Melbourne City Adventist Church community that also extends God’s invitations to the people of Melbourne. Each time I have brought friends and colleagues to our church family, they have felt very welcomed. I pray that we will continue this beautiful culture.
Sometimes I can be a stickler for getting things right. When I have a disagreement with someone, usually about something incredibly unimportant, I have to find out who is right. Perhaps it’s ego or perhaps it’s… No, I guess it is ego.
Upon a recent viewing of a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie I was sure about the origin of a particular object while my viewing companion objected to my opinion (fact, by my judgement). I had to turn to Google to find out who had it right.
Several years ago I had a similar experience with the Bible. I had a study Bible that suggested very strange things in the notes between chapters. Mostly helpful hints on interpretation – but I felt it went too far when interpreting Jesus’ view on the Sabbath and actually stated something to the effect of ‘remember the weekday and keep it holy’!
This prompted my search to find the ‘right’ version of the Bible. During my search I started with the oldest versions I could find and looked into how they were translated. Now, I am only familiar with the English language, but I do recall reading about some Latin versions of the Bible.. in particular the Vulgate, a Latin translation of the Bible by Jerome who, in 382, sought to correct inaccuracies in the existing Latin version (or versions, I’m not sure).
Now, you may assume that this piece may be about the version of the Bible I settled on, but I recall this story because I recently came across Jerome again earlier this year while reading a book about Wit; sorry to subvert expectation. Now, I mean to cast no aspersions on Jerome, but I found a very interesting anecdote about his translation.
Most people agree that it is not known what specific fruit the ‘forbidden fruit’ in the Garden of Eden was. Many people just refer to it as an apple – because, I always assumed, it was a very common fruit and sprang first to one’s mind. James Geary, author of Wit’s End, reveals that the word for evil in the Vulgate as translated in the story of Adam and Eve’s fall is malum, which is actually also the word for apple (I guess it’s a Latin homophone/homonym). Geary suggests that this prompted Saint Jerome to pick that word to describe what Adam and Eve ate.
As the Vulgate became the translation of choice for the next thousand years or so it was long enough for the apple to receive its undeserved bad rap. Geary goes on to describe several examples of puns in the Bible, even in the original Hebrew, not necessarily translations.
This brought to mind a discussion I heard about whether God has a sense of humour. An interesting notion, I wonder if it’s possible to ascertain an answer through delving into the language of the Bible? And even then, would any humour in the original language transcend the differences in time and culture between ourselves and the original authors?
While I dig out my interlinear Hebrew Bible and Strong’s concordance, I’ll leave you with this parting thought: I have come to the realisation that there may not be one, definitively ‘correct’ version of the English Bible, and proper understanding of much of it takes careful study and prayerful consideration.
When my nephew first arrived in Australia he wasn’t used to the sea. It was cold and full of mysterious and frightening things – slimy sea weed and fish and spiky anemones and seals. He refused to go in.
That was a few years back. Now he is six.
Yesterday we went in off the front beach. Me in a snorkel, him in swimming goggles. He swam where I led, out of his depth and over rocks covered in all sorts of things I would be reluctant to put my feet down on.
I pointed to fish as I saw them and he looked, came up to breathe, and then lowered his head to see more. He wanted to stay in forever but was becoming cold so we went in. He stood on the beach, shivering and wrapped in a towel and asked when he would be warm enough to go in again.
Today he mustered up the courage to go in with a proper snorkel for the first time and came out talking excitedly about fish.
It no easy thing to learn to snorkel. It is strange breathing through a tube. And the sea is risky. There are big sting rays where we went in. And always the possibility of sharks.
Today a dead grey nurse shark larger than me, hook in its mouth, washed up on the same beach. It required great trust to go out beyond his control and in complete dependency into an entirely unfamiliar situation.
But it opened up a whole new world.
I was touched at his trust in me and excited for his future.
Snorkelling has opened up an entirely new magic kingdom full of improbable fish and brightly coloured weed, sting rays and seals and swimming in a lattice of light for me.It is an easy joy.
But life isn’t, always.
I keep finding myself way out of my depth, in difficult situations I haven’t experienced before and don’t know how to deal with.I get frightened. And there are times I have been sure I am going under. I don’t know why life has to be quite so hard.
I have also found the most difficult times bring the bible alive. The Psalms become vivid. Jesus is ever more comforting and ever more impressive (how did he keep going in the midst of such threat?) Paul’s letters, most particularly 2 Corinthians, read like they were written particularly for me. And in my darkest times the book of Job reads like the one true voice that brings hope.
The great God folk have been way out of their depth before me.
And I have also found that, when I desperately need him, God is there in a whole other way.
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