To Live IS Christ (8): Testimony 3

In my situation doctors have no answers – but God does.

I have six months away from work and will be using that time to seek God, and to build and strengthen my faith.

I start this journey with two significant scripture statements. The first is very encouraging, offering a very firm promise, a guarantee of answered prayer.

If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer (Mt 21)

And the second admonishes and cautions, with two examples of things that will prevent us from receiving: a failure to ask, and a selfish reason for asking.

You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives (James 4)

My understanding of these statements, is that we can’t pray with genuine belief, and therefore have the assurance that we will receive whatever we ask for – unless we have a clear and indisputable knowledge that we are praying according to God’s will, and not merely for our own misguided reasons.

This need to know God’s will is also confirmed by John:

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him. (1 John 5. my bold emphasis.)

How does all of this relate to my personal situation?

  1. I need to ask for healing
  2. I need to believe that I’ll be healed.
  3. I need to be sure of my motive for asking for healing.
  4. (most significantly) I need to KNOW that my healing is God’s will, or the other three are irrelevant.

How,  therefore, can I know His will for my personal circumstances so I can confidently pray in faith?

Does He leave everyone in my position facing uncertainty, and therefore unable to REALLY believe? Does God work in such a hit or miss way, so that knowing His will is guesswork or even impossible?

Or does He reveal His will through a personal revelation, a dream, a vision, a voice from heaven? (But only to a select few).

Or has He in fact already made His will clear in the same way that He has made His will about other things known?

Through His word, in scripture.

To Live IS Christ (7): Testimony 2

I readily recognise that MY life as a Christian has too often been one of compromise.  Becoming complacent in one’s faith is very easy, and if left unchecked will have an increasing eroding effect. I refer again to Jesus’s example of the seed (word) that sprouts among weeds. Growth may start healthily, and might even maintain a pleasing leafy appearance, but the required outcome of bearing fruit is choked by competing with the weeds and thorns.

Therefore I am thankful that God DOESN’T “act in terrible judgement” upon believers because of their understanding about particular Spiritual gifts, or a genre of fiction they may have read, or even if they haven’t read as much scripture as they could have (should have) done.
I’m sure if He did there would be few of us left to follow Him.

I have no doubt the majority of professing believers fall short in one way or another in their spiritual lives, even those who consistently read their three to four chapters of bible per day to maintain their “read the bible in a year” quota.
After all, it doesn’t matter how much bible is read – but how much of what’s read is put into practice.

I’ve been reading Psalm 119 daily, and that psalm would challenge even the most diligent reader of scripture, making it clear that obedience to the word is essential, not merely hearing (reading) it, and that obedience to the word is made evident through changed character.

While my original delay in addressing all of this on my blog was due to my reluctance “to justify (and reinforce) the wrong thinking” of the man who sent me the previously mentioned email, I realised I can not allow my journey back to health to be hindered by unforgiveness. Whether or not my situation leads to him falling deeper into error is beyond my control. I can only be accountable for my own forgiveness of him.

I recognise he had a concern for my well-being, but was misguided in his attitude and action. Maybe one day he will realise that.
Hopefully soon, before he unwittingly damages a fragile believer’s faith and/or further compromises his own.

But to the present, and the road ahead…

After being given what is basically a death sentence by the medical profession, I have a much appreciated freedom that removes room for compromise or wavering in my faith. I am literally facing a life or death situation.
I have nothing to lose. No reputation to worry about, so what does it matter how others may think of me? I now don’t hesitate to let everyone know that my trust is in God, and that it can ONLY be in Him.

Chemotherapy has made it necessary for me to take leave from work for the six months of treatment, and the medical prognosis indicates little likelihood of me being able to return after it. While the treatment offers no cure, it does give me free time.

It’s time I intend to use well, and it’s time I have started to use well, to build and strengthen my faith in God and see Him prove the medical experts wrong.

To Live IS Christ (6): Testimony 1

I started the series of posts “To live is Christ” because of a significant personal matter, something until now I’d not felt free to discuss openly on this blog. (Although it has been shared with a select few privately).

There are a  few reasons for my reluctance to write about this until now.

  1. It has been something I needed to come to terms with myself.
  2. Publicly revealing this had the likelihood to justify (and reinforce) the wrong thinking of the man mentioned in a previous post.
  3. Gloria asked me not say anything about it on the blog (because of reason 2).

A few months ago I had a seemingly minor health issue. A number of consultations and scans showed up nothing of concern that could be causing the problem, so my local doctor fast-tracked a procedure (gastroscopy) with a visiting specialist.

In line with the previous outcomes, the specialist saw nothing of serious concern, but to cover all possibilities, took tissue samples for biopsy. Again she stressed that finding anything sinister would be extremely unlikely.

That was a Friday afternoon.

Over the weekend I received the email that included the following:

“A prophetic anointing actually came on me recently but I paused it, not wanting to hear it. But it is clear enough. I am to give Tim one last warning and then God will act in terrible judgment.”

This “prophesied” terrible judgement would come upon me for two reasons, one related to a difference of opinion about the gift of tongues, and the other reason was that I’d been reading crime fiction during the previous year , and that I should “fill with Bible instead”.

On the following Monday I heard from the specialist:

Diagnosis, cancer.

From the very first mention of that word, I’ve been completely at peace. A peace that has continued over these following months, despite the ongoing reality that every subsequent doctor’s visit led to increasingly bad news.

What started as, nothing of concern, and  “unlikely to be anything sinister”, progressed to “it seems we have caught it early” and quickly on to a diagnosis of “inoperable, and life limiting”.

Throughout the worsening news, I’ve retained a confidence in God, and the reality of Paul’s phrase “to live is Christ, to die is gain” has played a significant part in that peace and confidence.

For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you. (Philippians 1)

Two weeks ago I started a six month course of chemotherapy – apparently the only thing the medical profession can do for me, with the aim of prolonging life for as long as possible, which in their opinion may only be a year or two.

I praise God!

While man’s medicine can do nothing GOD is more than able.

When I first pondered the “to live is Christ to die is gain” alternatives I was probably leaning towards the assurance of the latter. However, I have since become more motivated by: “to live is Christ”.

A portion of Psalm 118 has become a particular joy to me.

I will not die but live,
and will proclaim what the Lord has done.

For me that currently sums up the meaning of “to live is Christ”:  living to proclaim what the Lord has done.


Teach me, Lord, the way of your decrees,
that I may follow it to the end.

Give me understanding, so that I may keep your law
and obey it with all my heart.

Direct me in the path of your commands,
for there I find delight.

Turn my heart toward your statutes
and not toward selfish gain.

Turn my eyes away from worthless things;
preserve my life according to your word.

Fulfill your promise to your servant,
so that you may be feared.

Take away the disgrace I dread,
for your laws are good.

How I long for your precepts!
In your righteousness preserve my life.


To Live is Christ (5)

I’ve started reading Psalm 119 each day.

I think a very simple summary of it would be Matt 7:24-27.

“everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

And also this word from James 1:

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

Psalm 119 is sharply focused on God’s word and its importance; not only as something to read or hear, but something to ACT UPON, something that leads us to obedience.

The Psalm continually refers to obedience to God’s word, His law, His statutes, precepts, decrees, commands…

No matter the description given there is no room allowed for NOT obeying.

And yet – how often do professing Christians try to excuse laxness (disobedience) by quoting something like we “are not under the law, but under grace“, conveniently ignoring the context.

…count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master…

Sorry lax Christian, Jesus Himself also shows the invalidity of that excuse of being under “grace not law”.

“Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching.”

And Paul wrote the following about “grace”, describing something clearly at odds with the popular application of the term:

It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age…

The new covenant does not free us from the obligation of obedience, it merely replaces the written law of Sinai with the law written on hearts and minds so that “the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Note that last conditional phrase, emphasised in bold type.



Bushfire Sunrise/Sunset





To the eye  the sun was actually bright red, but the light contrast makes it impossible to capture in a photo with our limited photographic skills.

The top one was taken by Gloria, the bottom, more blurry one by myself.

Even though the closest bushfires are around 200kms away, we’ve had some very smoky days, with the sky and air thick with smoke, making it unpleasant to be outside, so we’ve had to miss a few early morning walks over the past two weeks.

But missed walks are a minor matter.

We have family who are currently in northern NSW with volunteers fighting the fires there, and Gloria’s brother had to help save his own home and those of neighbours on the NSW south coast, with fire reaching the back fence of his property.


To Live is Christ (4)

The meaning of Paul’s phrase “to live is Christ” seems also to be the point being made here:

For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. (2 Cor 5)

In doing that (not living for ourselves) we have a clear example in Jesus Himself who didn’t come to do His own will, but that of the Father:

very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by Himself; he can only do what He sees His Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. (john 5)


Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. (John 14).

It’s probably easy to make ourselves busy, thinking we are “living for Him” – but that busyness is fruitless if not based on the knowledge of what the Lord actually wants us to do. How do we ensure that we are genuinely living for Him and not merely satisfying our our own desire for purpose or even some wrong preconceptions about what living for Him means?

Jesus gives lengthy instruction about this when He compares Himself to a vine and His followers as branches of that vine.

No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. (John 15)

In the same discourse, Jesus also referred to the need for His words to remain in us. How is this put into practice?

Psalm 1 tells us something practical about fruitfulness, and the word (law), that ought to be of help.

Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,

but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season.

The Psalmist points to a two part path to fruitfulness:

  1. avoiding things associated with sin,
  2. actively delighting in “the law of the Lord” and meditating upon it.

The word “meditate” is interesting, having meanings that include: to murmur, utter, speak.
I get a sense of reinforcing our understanding through speaking the word to ourselves as we consider it.

I also came across this section in Proverbs (4) that gave me a little more food for thought and gives the same two-part instruction as the Psalm regarding application of the word, and protection against undesirable influences (guarding of the heart).

My son, pay attention to what I say;
turn your ear to my words.
Do not let them out of your sight,
keep them within your heart;
for they are life to those who find them
and health to one’s whole body.
Above all else, guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it.

There is clear benefit from attending to God’s word and treating it seriously, making it an important part of our life, meditating on it day and night; and not letting it out of our sight, instead of merely having a casual acquaintance with it.

Hearing, heeding and acting upon God’s word is how we ensure we aren’t following fruitless paths in our lives. It’s the way we establish a strong, secure foundation. But that is not something that happens by itself, without determination and discipline.

To Live is Christ (3)

As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.

To Live is Christ, is to give sacrificially, and not merely giving a small part of what’s plentiful.

I’ve come across far too many teachings and attitudes that try to justify the possession, accumulation and maintaining of wealth by Christians. And now, while I’ve not considered myself to  be among the wealthy, I have to recognise that I’ve been a lot better off than many.
I’ve not had to worry about the necessities of life: food, drink, clothing, shelter, while there are clearly others who have no assurance that they or their family will be able to eat on particular day.

Apart from fulfilling those day to day living requirements, I’ve had resources that have allowed me a more than “reasonable” amount of comfort.

In recent weeks Gloria and I started to reassess our situation, and have honestly been shocked at the extravagance we’ve developed over many, many years. While everything individually seemed a minor expenditure, the total spent on trivialities and frivolities is disturbing.

A few dollars here – a few dollars there, and soon cupboards and shelves were full of unnecessary things that accumulated increasingly.

How could we have better used the money spent on those things? How many could have been helped? What difference would have been made if it had been used to promote the gospel instead of filling cupboards and shelves?

And yet – I suspect ours is not an extreme example in the affluent, western Christian community.

We should have known better.

We have a garden. I have seen how weeds thrive with little encouragement, even in the harshest of conditions. If they are ignored for any length of time they soon take over and choke out the desired plants.

It’s significant that Jesus referred to the choking effect of weeds and thorns (“the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things”) that make His word unfruitful in the lives of those who try to grow despite the weeds.

We should note that the weeds aren’t openly choking out life. Things may seem healthy and vital. But the purpose of seed is not to grow a healthy looking plant, it’s purpose is to bear fruit.

It can be easy to let the appearance of life to overshadow the reality of fruitlessness, and forget that fruitlessness is effectively, ultimately, death.

To Live Is Christ (2)

From Matthew

Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.

Luke adds to the above:

Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

“To live is Christ”,  is to NOT live for self.

However, denial of self is NOT some kind of self-punishing ascetic exercise meant to prove one’s piety – such as that said to be practiced by some medieval monks. It is a denial that frees and enables service. What would otherwise be spent on serving self can be used to serve others.

In his “to live is Christ to die is gain” statement, Paul points out that death would take him to be with the Lord – an advantage for Paul – but living would give the opportunity to serve others.

In considering this, a discourse on fasting found in Isaiah came to my mind, in which the point is not to deny oneself food for the sake of denial, but fasting is used as an opportunity:

to share your food with the hungry
    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them

At the heart of self-denial, at the heart of “to live is Christ”, is service towards others.