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We don’t want to be here today.
And yet, we knew this day was coming.

2 weeks ago Evie came into this church for the very first time.

It was for her dedication and many of you joined us on that happy occasion.

Little did we know it would also be her last time at church.

When we were in hospital, some people – when they heard about the age of our other kids, and heard about the nearly 5 year gap between Evie and Alethea.
They asked us: “Was Evie an accident?”
Evie was no accident.

She was planned.

Teresa and I had been umm-ing and ahh-ing about whether to try for a fourth child.
And in the end, the decision was: we’d try before Teresa turned 40.

Never in our wildest dreams were we expecting to bury that same child BEFORE Teresa turned 40.

Our precious Evie was a fighter. There’s absolutely no doubt about that. She fought through 38 weeks in the womb. She fought her way out during birth. In the time it took me to park the car with the kids, after dropping Teresa at emergency, she’d already come out.

She fought to breathe on her own – unassisted. A miracle in itself.
And then she fought through 3 subsequent trips to the hospital. All centred around breathing.

Evie fought bravely for 77 days.
But at the same time, 77 days was nowhere near enough.
We were greedy.
We wanted more – 770 days. 7,077.
Even 78 would have been better.

But the God who numbers all our days…..decided that 77 would be the number for Evie.
And of those 77 days, only 32 were at home. In her own cot.
Evie spent more time in hospital and at a wonderful children’s hospice called Bear Cottage.

While we were at Bear Cottage, I came this quote on their wall:

“We can’t add years to a life. We can only add life to those years”

Right from the get go, we knew we couldn’t add days to Evie’s life.

It hurts so much knowing that I’ll miss out on watching Evie take her first step.
I won’t hear her first word.
There’ll be no toilet training.
Evie won’t get to ride on the back of daddy’s pushbike.
No 1st day of school.
I won’t get to hold her hand to cross the road.
Or give her piggy backs.
I’ll never get to carry her on my shoulders.

I’m not gonna be able to take her out for milkshakes like I do with the other kids.
There’ll be no braiding her hair with my fat fingers.
Mind you, speaking of hair, we won’t have to remove nits.
I’ll miss out on driving her to netball or dance performances.
No driving lessons for that matter.

Today will be the one and only time I’ll walk her down the aisle.

Even though we couldn’t add days to Evie’s life.
We tried our very best to add life to her days.

It was ALMOST a privilege to wake up every 3 hours through the middle of night to feed her. That was like our daddy-daughter date. Our hang out time.

I’ll never forget that tight grip of her tiny hand – wrapped around my finger.
Rubbing my nose along her cheek that chubbed up more and more with each day.
I’ll never forget praying with her.
Reading a Psalm to her. Reading stories.
Singing songs like Be Strong and Courageous to her.
Stroking her hair.
Smelling her skin.
Bath times were our thing!
I’m already missing the cuddles, holding her skin to skin, close to my chest.
I’m missing the squeezy hugs.

Now I can’t give you answers for WHY God decided Evie would have a short life.
But I know for sure, that something that God has taught me has been the truth of these words in Psalm 63:3

Psalm 63:3 says this:

Because your love is better than life,
    my lips will glorify you.

As much as I wanted Evie to have a long life.
God wanted me to taste and see just how wide, how long, how high and how deep his love really is.

So that today, as hard as it is, my lips will glorify the God who gave us Evie.
I asked our kids what their favourite memory of Evie has been.

Maddie said… Everything.
Elijah said… hugs and holding her skin to skin
Alethea: poo-namis. Poo-namis that result in a change of nappy, her outfit AND her wrap.

When we were leaving Bear Cottage on Sunday, we each wrote a note to Evie on a little cardboard butterfly:

Alethea wrote all our names on it.

Elijah said: “I love you more than anything in the world. Your big brother Elijah:

And Maddie: “Evie – we love you and we will miss you. Evie is magnificent, cute, a gift and special”

Ever since we heard Evie’s diagnosis back in January, the impossible prayer point all along has been.

Number 1 – Evie would make it out of the womb alive so we could meet her.
Number 2 – Evie would get to blow out her first birthday candle.

In the end, God decided to say “Yes” to one and “No” the other.
But that doesn’t make him any less God.

We take great comfort that God himself is no stranger to the pain, the aches we’ve been feeling these last few days.

He’s been in our shoes.
When his one and only Son died on the cross.

Jesus himself – when he wept over Lazarus’ dead body - shed the same tears we’ve cried since Friday.

Even though God didn’t prolong Evie’s life.
We know with absolute certainty that he has the power to resurrect it.
Coz that’s exactly what he did with Jesus.
And as people who trust, follow, believe in that same Jesus, we know that what happened to Jesus will happen to us.
Death is not the end.

Ever since Evie died on Friday morning, I don’t think I’ve cried more in my life.
I’ve woken up, and straight away, the realisation that Evie is no longer in my room not has caused more tears.
And the tears are still there.
I’m not done yet.
Today, tomorrow, and for a long time to come.

But we don’t grieve and mourn as those without hope.

I’ve said all along, I wouldn’t have been able to do this journey without Jesus.
I would’ve fallen apart a long time ago.

I always thought Evie was a celebrity in her own right.
She’s been the most prayed for baby here at church.
Her Facebook group has 623 members.
Some of you here today wanted to be her Facebook friends before Teresa and I!

It’s been a privilege to share Evie with you.
Along the way, we’ve tried not to do pretend.
So please don’t think of us as super-Christians.
Instead, look to the Jesus who has smashed sin. And defeated death!

We know that Evie’s death has hit some of you harder than others.
Maybe it’s brought back memories of a child you’ve lost.
Maybe you or your own kids are sad and grieving right now.

We’ll be praying for you in the weeks and months ahead.

It’s been my absolute privilege to be Evie’s dad.
And even though I’ll have one less child to physically celebrate Father’s Day with this Sunday.
I’ll still be a proud dad of Evelyn Talitha Peiwang Lee.

But for now I hand her over to a better dad. Her heavenly dad. Her perfect dad.
A dad who can give her a resurrected body.

The God who loaned us Evie for 77 days, has now taken her back to be safe in his arms.

Until we hear we hear Jesus say “Talitha Koum”, we’ll forever miss our gorgeous girl.

I remember the day we discovered the term “Trisomy 18” and how crushed we were that our little girl had a genetic disorder and was classified as “incompatible with life”.

She would either not make it to birth or not make it to her first year. She would have severe mental and physical disabilities if she lived. We were crushed, angry, in denial, and felt at times that there was little to hope for. Even now, I feel frustrated and upset because we haven’t had enough time with her!!! We’ve been crying out every day to God to help us because we feel so much pain and we feel hopeless and weak and helpless.

But at the same time, God’s been so kind to us every step of this journey.

Whether it’s the blessings of paediatricians, doctors and nurses, midwives, therapists, volunteers – even the cleaners - that have supported us through this journey. Some of whom are here today. From Westmead, Westmead Children’s Hospital and Mount Druitt Hospital.

We’d especially like to thank the Palliative Care team at Westmead Children’s Hospital. And the wonderful team at Bear Cottage in Manly.

The professionalism, care, commitment and tireless hard work of all these folk makes them heroes in our eyes.

We’d also like to thank each and every one of you. For journeying with us every step of the way. Whether it was

Prayers prayed
Kind words written
Meals cooked
Blankets knitted & crocheted
Gifts given
Laundry washed
Feeding our chickens
Feeding our kids
Picking up our kids
Visiting us in hospital
Hugs and tears shared
Sending us texts and facebook messages

You being here today, supporting us and one another, is something we thank God for.

Evelyn’s life has impacted us deeply, and we hope that in her own way, she has brought you some joy too. Here are some things we’ve learnt:

We’ve been learning not to plan ahead too much but to make the most of every moment. Evie’s diagnosis meant that we’ve had to put our hopes and dreams for our daughter’s future away, and focus on enjoying our child for the day that’s in front of us. We arrived for our breech birth at Westmead hospital with nothing prepared (no car seat, no cot, no nappies). She came out in a huge hurry, 5 min after we arrived at the hospital. She emerged bottom first, and needing no help to breath or cry. What a miracle!

Evie’s living has reminded us daily that she is precious, valued and loved. Her inherent value and worthiness is NOT because of how healthy she is or what she can do, and its NOT because of what she’s capable of in the future. She is precious, loved and valuable because she is made by God and loved by Him. The quality of her life isn’t found in her potential – its found in God, who made her, who knows her thoroughly and who has taken her to be with him after a short while here.

God never says oops. He never slips up, he never makes any mistakes. There were errors in Evie’s genetic makeup, but she’s NOT a mistake or error. Her 77 days were precious, beautiful and memorable. Her features and mannerisms were adorable, from her crazy eyebrows, overlapping fingers, almond-shaped eyes, soft hair, pointy nose and lips. She gave us daily, hourly joy and we marvelled every day at the things she was able to do and achieve by God’s kindness: to breathe every breath, to have a strong heartbeat, to consume food, to lift up her head on her own, to graciously accept the shouting and jostling when her siblings fought about who got to carry her first. Our family loved her passionately and will continue to love and miss her.

We’ve learnt not just with head knowledge that God loves and cares for us. This has been a year of extreme stress, ever since we heard about Evie’s Trisomy 18 diagnosis in January. The last 2 months have seen us in and out of hospitals, doctors and juggling syringes, tubes and medications. When we’ve felt alone or overwhelmed, our God has provided just the nurse we needed to provide comfort or care, the perfect message from the Bible to soothe us, or relief in suffering for Evie and for us. We’ve experienced moments of laughter and celebration with each weekly milestone. God knows us and loves and actively cares for us. In the busyness of normal life, its hard to keep remembering that, but we have been made acutely aware of these realities over our Trisomy 18 journey.

Each day, we said this to Evie:
Daddy loves you, Mummy loves you and Jesus loves you most of all.

Evie, we ache. I was your mummy for only 77 days on the outside but I loved carrying you in my womb even before that. Mummy now has an empty womb, an empty car seat, empty bassinet, empty arms and a hollow heart. I will miss your little hand squeezing mine, your irregular heartbeat and deep breaths against my chest as I held you. I wish I had more time, more opportunities to feel your soft hair against my cheek, to breathe in your baby smell. From the time you were born to the last time I held you yesterday, I’ve been trying to memorise every look, the way you feel in my arms, every detail. I already miss singing to you and praying for you daily.

But here is why we chose your names:
Evelyn – our wished for life,
Talitha - our little girl,
Peiwang – hope… Dear Evie, our hope is sure and certain, even as we ache.

Jesus loves you, and you’re free from this unwell body now. Eternal life with your Saviour Jesus in now yours and you are safe. Jesus has defeated death. We are ever so thankful to God for 77 days with you, for the privilege of caring for you and sharing the world with you. We’ve had our last bath, last change of clothes, and last cuddle for now. But we will see you again because our hope is in Jesus Christ and the resurrection.

Evie’s diagnosis from the beginning may have been “incompatible with life”

But our God isn’t restricted by medical opinions.
Instead of incompatible with life, he’s declares loud and clear that Evie is “compatible with the life that really counts. Eternal life”

So many people - family and friends - love you, Evie. Daddy loves you, Mummy loves you, Maddie, Elijah and Thea love you. But Jesus loves you most of all.

Someone I've known for a long time who is a Christian was asked by her son who is gay if she would vote, 'yes' in the plebiscite. Here is how the conversation went. Her son is happy for the story to be told:

God has blessed me with wonderful children, one of whom is gay. Raised in a Christian family he knows the Bible’s teaching and we have spoken on a number of occasions about the conflict between the Christian faith and the gay lifestyle.

Just recently he, very hesitantly and sensitively, broached the subject of the marriage plebiscite with me.  He said that it would mean so much to him if his father and I could vote ‘Yes’.  He went on to say that he understood if we could not and that this would not change his love for us.

I said to him, “It is because I love you that I voted no because I really don’t believe this is what’s best for you.  I don’t want to hurt you…”

“I know, Mum,” he said.  “I understand that you and Dad have your beliefs and it doesn’t change that I love you.”

“And we will always love you too…nothing will ever change that,” I responded.

“Actually,” he continued, “I love that we can talk openly about these things. A lot of people I speak with are really amazed when I tell them that I come from a Christian, strongly religious family and that we don’t all hate each other.  They ask me how we get on and I tell them we all just love each other.”

And I am continually grateful to God that this is the case. This is an issue that can tear families apart and realistically I have to acknowledge that this is always a possibility for us. I am continually amazed and grateful that our son has not turned away from us.

By God’s grace our son understands our faith and what it means to my husband and I.  For I am utterly convinced that the one who made us knows what is best for us.  The God I know is a God of love. I trust him with my life; he holds my heart, and at the core of my heart is my love for all my children.

Although I don’t understand the why of everything, I believe that God has made us in all our diversity that we might learn to trust him.  This has become my rock and my prayer; it is the still, quiet voice that answered me from the midst of the storm.  Do I trust the one who sent his only son to die so that I might live?  I trust him with all that I am and all that is most precious to me.

Why do people feel the need to go to counsellors and therapists? I used to be one, so people often ask me this. At one level, it’s because people are in need of advice and insight—their marriage is struggling, they are deeply depressed, they don’t know how to discipline their children… However, in my experience, advice is not always what people want. Many end up going to a qualified stranger for one very simple reason: to be known. They want to share their life in a safe place and have another human being know their story and accept them. Isn’t this why we desire close friendships and marriage? To be known and accepted by another? The human psyche deeply craves to be understood.

A friend of mine once scribbled a short poem on a polystyrene coffee cup and gave it to me after church. He wrote, “If I could find a world where I would understand people who understood me, then I would be happy”. Being at church among God’s people fulfilled that longing for him (although only in part). That longing is also part of the reason for self-help groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and Gamblers Anonymous: they provide a place where you can tell your story to people who have walked in your shoes and who share your struggles, knowing that they will understand and not condemn you.

We all want to be understood. You may know what it’s like to have someone carefully listen to you and then thoughtfully reflect back their understanding of what you have said. Your instinctive response is to say, “That is exactly how I feel!” You can almost judge how well you listen to others by how often you hear that response. It shows you understand.

I think of the Samaritan woman who met Jesus at the well. When she returned to her village, she called people to “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did” (John 4:29). Normally it would be terrifying to meet such a man, but for her it was absolutely thrilling. With five marriages behind her she finally met the man of her dreams, who just happened to be the Messiah.

We were built to be known, and in Psalm 139 we discover the mighty, wonderful counsellor God, who knows us inside out and outside in.

Dear Friends,

Here is a prayer from the puritans that has warmed the hearts of many Christians:

O my Savior, help me.

I am slow to learn, so prone to forget, so weak to climb;

I am in the foothills when I should be on the heights;

I am pained by my graceless heart,
my prayer-less days,
my poverty of love,
my sloth in the heavenly race,
my sullied conscience,
my wasted hours,
my unspent opportunities,

I am blind while light shines around me:
take the scales from my eyes,
grind to dust the evil heart of unbelief.

Make it my chief joy to study thee,
meditate on thee,
gaze on thee,
sit like Mary at thy feet,
lean like John on thy breast,
appeal like Peter to thy love,
count like Paul all things dung.

Give me increase and progress in grace so that there may be
more decision in my character,
more vigour in my purposes,
more elevation in my life,
more fervour in my devotion,
more constancy in my zeal.

As I have a position in the world,
keep me from making the world my position;

May I never seek in the creature
what can be found only in the creator;

Let not faith cease from seeking thee until it vanished into sight.

Ride forth in me, thou king of kings, and lord of Lords,
that I may live victoriously, and in victory attain in my end.

Mike Raiter passed on this story to me a couple of years ago that touches on a key element of the story of the prodigal son.

There was a man sitting on the pavement beside the bus stop –

He sat there oblivious to people's disapproving stares and thought back 20 years to when he lived in the little red-brick house just around the corner. He wasn't even sure if the house would still be there. Maybe they'd bulldozed it years ago.

He remembers riding his bike up the path of the house to the front door and he remembers the bougainvillea climbing up the walls. That was 20 years ago.

10 years later the bike had become a motorcycle and he'd got in with the wrong crowd. The pub had become more of a home than his red-brick house and the debts had piled up. The day he'd gone home to ask his parents for a loan the house had been empty and he knew exactly where Dad kept the money so he just helped himself.

That was the last time he'd seen them. He hadn't wanted to go home after that and they'd lost track of him.

They knew nothing of his years of wandering or of the prison sentence. Yet while being locked up in the cell he often thought about them.

Once he was free, he would love to see them again if they were still alive but would they want to see him?

Since then he'd found a job but something kept drawing him back home and often it was just seeing another red-brick house or a kid on a bike or bougainvillea so he began the long journey walking or hitching a ride.

And, then, about 20 miles from home he had second thoughts; what right had he to do this and just walk in the house? Could they ever reconcile this haggard man that he'd become with the boy they'd loved and who'd so bitterly disappointed them?

He sat by the street and thought about the short letter he'd posted just a couple of days before. It just said, “If you want me home, hang a white handkerchief on the window of my old bedroom and if it's there I'll come and if not, I'll wave goodbye to the old house and go on my way.”

Well, he couldn't put it off any longer. He got up stiff and shivering. He slowly shuffled down the street towards the old house.

The sun was shining on the little red house except it wasn't a red house because every wall was festooned with white.

Every window was hung with white sheets, white pillowcases, white towels, white table cloths, white handkerchiefs, napkins, and white curtains ran right across the roof.

It looked like a ‘snow house’ because his parents were taking no risks. The man threw back his head and breathed a sigh of relief. He ran up the street and straight in at the open front door.

These sorts of stories of the lost coming home really touch a chord with many of us. I think in part, because to varying degrees they’re our stories and we have either walked away or we are the ones waiting for someone to come back to us.

You may have heard the very sad news that baby Elijah died on Monday afternoon at the age of only 5 months 11 days. As Jess, his mum, said on Monday, “Elijah had spent more time in her womb than in her hands.”

All death is bad but when it reaches the young, whether it’s a miscarriage, stillbirth or as in Elijah’s case, with so few months on this earth it deeply grieves our soul.

Our minds race through with so many questions but we only have a few answers. But they are profound answers that speak hope into our grief.

We know that when God became flesh and faced the tears of two sisters (Mary and Martha) upset at their brother’s death, Jesus wept with them.

God becomes flesh and does what he expects us all to do; to weep with those who weep. The heavy rain this week reminded me of the tears of Christ for Andrew and Jess and their wider family and friends.

But Jesus not only weeps with us in our pain he tackles death head on. Our Lord both defeated death in his resurrection and will return again to destroy our final enemy, death, once and for all.

As a child of parents who believe in Christ, Elijah is deemed to be in the covenant of grace. He is viewed in 1 Corinthians 7:14 as being ‘holy’, not because he escaped the sin and guilt of Adam but because he too has been washed by the blood of Jesus.

We take heart that Elijah is part of the new creation where there is no more grief or pain or death.

In the meantime, the body of Christ is to express Jesus’ love for those who suffer. Jesus cares through our love, our tears, our meals, our hugs, our words of support, and our prayers. I thank God for your ongoing support of Jess and Andrew and their wider family.

We are all impacted by this news. We realise that we can’t take life for granted. We understand that life is fragile and time is precious. One person told me that they have been hugging their children more since hearing the news of Elijah.

We don’t have all the answers but we know that we are called to love our children for as long as we have them and that is what Jess and Andrew have done. They have been loving parents who cared for Elijah to God’s glory.

Jess wrote on facebook,
“I wake this morning with a hole in my heart. I will never get to hold this tiny, fragile body ever again. But I know I will see your gorgeous smile again when I come to be with the Lord. He will look after you better than I have and ever will. How I need you though. I got used to waking up early each day to come and visit you in your hospital bed. You would sometimes be upset but when I held you, I knew you felt at home. You would never fail to give me (or anyone) a smile. And when I got the camera out, I dunno you realised you could make this a fun game of us finding creative ways to get a picture of you smiling lol.

I'm so glad you waited for both daddy and I to be with you before you left us. For us to be with you when you did. I got to hold you right before you said your goodbye to us. And I am so glad I got to hold you when you left us. I wish I could hold you forever, but no, I have to hold you in my heart, forever. Until we meet again. I know you will enjoy Jesus’ presence more than mine, my sweetheart. I love you.”

The divine attributes are the qualities and characteristics of God. Let Joseph Mizzi take you through a summary of the God we worship.

God is personal; he is not simply an impersonal force or energy, as imagined in Eastern pantheistic religions. God thinks, chooses according to his will, loves and hates. He speaks to us, and we to him; he enters into and maintains a personal relationship with people. He designates himself ‘I am’ (Ex 3:14), and we address him with familiar titles such as ‘Father’.

God is spirit (John 4:24); consequently he is invisible (Heb 11:27), and does not have a physical body like us (Luke 24:39). Scripture speaks about ‘the eyes’ and ‘the hands’ of the Lord, but evidently such language is figurative.

God is independent; he is self-existent and does not need anything or anyone. We are dependent on God for every moment of our existence, but God has life in himself (John 5:26). ‘Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things’ (Acts 17:25).

God is immutable, that is, he does not change. He is ever the same in all his perfections. He cannot become more, or less, wise, holy and good. He is infinite in power; he does not grow weary, and he cannot become more powerful than he is. ‘For I am the LORD, I do not change’ (Malachi 3:6).

God is eternal and is in no way limited by time which is itself part of his creation. God knows no beginning and will have no end. ‘Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God’ (Ps 90:2).

God is omnipresent. Being present everywhere, he is not limited by space. ‘Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there’ (Ps 139:7, 8).

God is omniscient; he knows everything. He does not need to learn anything; he is never forgetful. He knows himself and all his creation perfectly. ‘Known to God from eternity are all His works’ (Acts 15:18). God knows us perfectly: ‘O LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways’ (Ps 139:1-3).

God is good. ‘For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You’ (Ps 86:5). ‘God is love’ (1 John 4:8). He is merciful, delivering sinners from their just condemnation; he is gracious, granting them blessings they do not deserve.

God is holy; he is distinct from all creatures and exalted above them in infinite majesty and purity. ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!’ (Isa 6:3). God is morally perfect. ‘God is light and in Him is no darkness at all’ (1 John 1:5).

God is righteous. He is always perfectly just and never guilty of the slightest injustice. ‘The LORD is righteous in all His ways’ (Ps 145:17). His law is the expression of his righteousness, rewarding obedience and punishing disobedience.

God is faithful. ‘God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good? (Num 23:19). His children can rest assured that he will perform all his promises and lead them to final glory. God ‘will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord’ (1 Cor 1:8, 9).

God is sovereign; he possesses absolute power and authority, and exercises total control over all his creation. He acts exactly as he desires; nobody can annul his will or frustrate his intentions. He ‘works all things according to the counsel of His will’ (Eph 1:11). ‘His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom is from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’’ (Dan 4:34, 35).

God is omnipotent, that is, almighty, all-powerful. He is able to do whatever he wills. ‘I know that You can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You’ (Job 42:2). In him we enjoy absolute security. ‘He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty’ (Ps 91:1).

Adoration
This is the true and living God – infinite and perfect in all his attributes! Being proud and sinful, the natural man cannot and will not bow before his Maker in adoration and obedience. Though the first commandment warns against having other gods other than the true God, man has come up with other ‘gods’, less than the true God, fashioned according to his imagination.

May God give us grace to know him in his majesty, that we may know him in truth, trusting and loving him with all our hearts. God alone can open our eyes and reveal his glory to us.

‘Give unto the LORD, O you mighty ones; give unto the LORD glory and strength. Give unto the LORD the glory due to His name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness’(Ps 29:1, 2).

(Taken from Christian Thumbnails – A Survey of the Core Beliefs of Christianity by Joseph Mizzi p21-22)

Thank You Father that You are the faithful, good and righteous God. You are the Lord who always keeps Your promises. You are the God who is gracious and merciful in salvation, even as You are just and wrathful in Your judgments.

We thank You for Your faithfulness throughout the centuries, throughout the millennia; You have always kept Your promises, Your plans for our salvation have been unwavering.

We thank You that even in the garden, in the moment that humankind was being cursed in judgment for their vile rebellion, You were showing grace and mercy – promising a Satan-crusher, who would one day make all things right, who would one day crush the evil one and his evil works, who would one day restore creation and humanity’s relationship with You.

We thank You that even as the people of the earth had become so wicked that You were grieved You made human beings and determined to destroy them by flood – un-creating and recreating out of water – in Your grace You acted to save Noah and His family, through whom You would continue to work out Your promise to bring blessing to the world.

We thank You that even as humanity rose again in rebellion against You at Babel – using the technology that You had enabled them to discover, they sought to make a name for themselves in neglect and defiance of You. Yet You in Your grace chose a man, Abraham, and made him great and precious promises to bring blessing to all nations through him and his seed.

We thank You that throughout the centuries You kept those promises, miraculously bringing from Abraham’s body a great nation, giving that nation the promised land of Canaan and bringing to them and through them great blessing.

We thank You that though the people of Israel were enslaved and mistreated in Egypt, in faithfulness to Your promise to Abraham, and in Your great grace, You sent them a deliverer – Moses. You rescued them out of Egypt, from under the yoke of slavery. By the blood of the lamb slain You made it possible for the angel of death to ‘Pass over’ them while judgment fell upon the enemies of the Lord. We thank You for this great act of salvation that pointed forward to an even greater salvation that would come – rescue from sin and death and Satan by the blood of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world so that Your judgment passes over us who trust Him, and falls only upon Your enemies.

We thank You for giving the Israelites the tabernacle, which became the temple – a place where You could dwell in their midst and they could come into Your presence – though only by sacrifice and priestly mediation for You are a Holy God. And we thank You that this pointed forward to a greater temple, to God truly coming to dwell amongst humans in the flesh – and making it possible for people to come into Your presence, the presence of the Holy God by faith, through Your priestly mediation and sacrifice.

We thank You Father for giving Israel Your Law at Mount Sinai, which among other things, displayed to them and to us that no one can be obedient to God,
no one can keep the Law to be right with God, that sin is so pervasive and powerful that we need God to save us. Your Law prepared people for Your Saviour who would come in fulfilment of Your promises to Abraham.

We thank You that though Israel rebelled against You again and again, You were faithful to Your promises. You brought judgment upon them as You promised, but even in doing so, You continued to show mercy, preserving a remnant through whom You would one day bring blessing to all nations.

We thank You for raising up a man after Your own heart, a king to whom You would make the incredible promise that his dynasty would endure forever, the promise that his kingdom would be eternal – a promise that looked forward to a great King who would one day come to fulfil that promise.

We thank You for Solomon, the King gifted by You with incredible wisdom, who causes us to look forward to the coming of one greater than Solomon, the one who will not only be just but perfectly wise, who in Himself is wisdom from God for us.

We thank You that while the kings of Israel and Judah, and the nations themselves, continued to rebel against You and turn to foreign gods, You were faithful to Your promise to bring judgment upon them, and yet You were faithful to Your promise to Abraham; in Your grace You always kept a remnant.

We thank You for growing a prophetic hope for the prophets, who, whilst proclaiming judgment on the rebellious nations of Israel and Judah, also proclaimed Your salvation – the coming of a whole new era when things would be made right and all Your promises would come to fulfilment.

We thank You for Your promise of a New King, one from David’s line, who would be empowered by the Spirit, who would rule in absolute righteousness and holiness, who would be ruler forever, who would be the eternal God, the everlasting Prince of Peace.

We thank You for Your promise of a New Covenant, a covenant that deals with the terrible disease of sin once and for all, a covenant that promises internal transformation – a new heart that is not a heart of stone but a heart of flesh, and a new desire to be obedient to You, a desire deep within by Your Spirit.

We thank You for your promise of a New Temple in a New Jerusalem, to which the nations will flock – returning to God.

We thank You for Your promise of a Spirit-age, where, with the coming of the Spirit-King, you will breathe life into the dead by Your Spirit and pour out Your
Spirit on all types of people, an age in which people are cleansed and changed deep within.

We thank You for Your promise of a whole New Creation, for a time when all things will be transformed, when there will be universal harmony, when the whole created order will be put right and the effects of sin will be no more.

We thank You Father that You are You – the God who makes promises out of a character of love and grace, and keeps those promises on pain of death.

Thank You Father.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Equal But Different by Bronwyn Chin in June 2012.

I thank God for the gift of Cancer!

I don’t like being in pain and I don’t like having terminal pancreatic cancer. I would like to grow old with my husband and see my kids grow up. But God appears to have a better plan. I know that he is faithful. His plans are the best and do not revolve around me. Acts 13:36 says: “For when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation he fell asleep ...” When God has done what he wants through me, I will die in his perfect timing.

Why has God given me cancer? Maybe it is to make me repent of my wrongs and turn to Jesus – it has certainly done this. Maybe it is to make me talk more to my friends and family about Jesus – it has certainly done this. Maybe it is for reasons way beyond my understanding – it is certainly at least this. All I know is that God has given me this gift of cancer to use for his glory. We pray daily for the cancer to miraculously go away. But if God chooses to say no, we can trust him nonetheless.

It is still hard to really grasp that I am only here for a very little while. But as the bible teaches: “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.” 1 Peter 1:24

When I was suddenly diagnosed in Dec 2009, it was a total shock. I had no idea that I was sick. My life at that time involved being a busy wife, a mother of four active children (aged 9, 12, 14, 15), and a part time General Practitioner.

Widespread pancreatic cancer has a very bad reputation and my oncologist originally gave me a prognosis of 3 to 6 months to live. However God has had other ideas and my cancer has partially responded to chemotherapy. For the last two and a half years I have received chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and surgery, and lived with ill health, knowing I have a time bomb inside. My family have become experts at coping with me regularly vomiting, and being bed bound at times from the different treatments.

As the cancer keeps spreading throughout my body I am very aware that Jesus is my Lord and Saviour in whom I can depend, and that all other ground is sinking sand. I am so grateful to God for everything. I am thankful for who God is, his majesty, his splendour, and his promises. I am thankful for my family, friends and life. I am so thankful to God for the resurrection of Jesus which means I will have victory over death and don’t need to fear pain or the dying process. It is such a comfort to read:

‘“Death has been swallowed up in victory”
“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is Your sting?”

The sting of death is sin and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God. He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ’. 1 Corinthians 15:55‐56

As I get sicker and spend a lot of time lying down in pain, I sometimes wonder what use I am to God and what he wants me to do ... now. I miss being able to
do things. I actually miss physically being able to tidy up! And I miss the joy of serving my husband and kids more.

What is hard is coping with chronic pain and deteriorating health while still navigating the physical and emotional challenges involved with 4 children and a busy husband.

Another challenge is “not knowing”. It is impossible to plan. Last year I had 5 hospital admissions. I have no idea what condition I will be in 6 weeks, let alone whether I will even be alive.
However, I am just so thankful for God’s guidance in the bible. The bible is so clear about what God wants me to do now, even as I get sicker.

‘Be joyful always; pray continuously; give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus’ 1 Thessalonians 5:16

God is so clear. This is what God wants me to do now. Thank him.

As I write, I have just returned from a visit to my oncologist. He is urging us not to receive any more chemotherapy (or other treatment) out of compassion because (in his view) it only has a 10% chance of treating the cancer and will greatly erode the quality of life that I currently enjoy. It is hard to stop and have no treatment. It feels like giving up. But I still know I can thank God.

Leaving my husband and 4 gorgeous children grieves me greatly (and makes me cry every time I think about it, even as I write now). However, I know God will take care of them. Please pray that each of them will continue to trust God into eternity.

So I thank God for this gift of cancer because he is good and he is using it for his purposes. The plans of the Lord are perfect even if I don’t know the reasons for everything. All I know is that soon I will be with the Lord forever because Jesus alone has saved me through his death and resurrection.

I hope to see you all there!

Here is a prayer written in the 17th century by a Puritan Christian. I found it
most helpful to meditate on and thought you might benefit as well.
Ray Galea

O my Savior,
help me.
I am slow to learn, so prone to forget, so weak to climb;
I am in the foothills when I should be on the heights;
I am pained by my graceless heart,
my prayer less days,
my poverty of love,
my sloth in the heavenly race,
my sullied conscience,
my wasted hours,
my unspent opportunities,
I am blind while light shines around me:
take the scales from my eyes,
grind to dust the evil heart of unbelief.
Make it my chiefest joy to study thee,
meditate on thee,
gaze on thee,
sit like Mary at thy feet,
lean like John on thy breast,
appeal like Peter to thy love,
count like Paul all things dung.
Give me increase and progress in grace so that there may be
more decision in my character,
more vigour in my purposes,
more elevation in my life,
more fervour in my devotion,
more constancy in my zeal.
As I have a position in the world,
keep me from making the world my position;
May I never seek in the creature
what can be found only in the creator;
Let not faith cease from seeking thee until it vanished into sight.
Ride forth in me, thou King of Kings, and Lord of Lords,
that I may live victoriously, and in victory attain my end.

John and Betty Sharpe who joined MBM in 2010. They served as missionaries with New Tribe Missions among the Tugutil people in Indonesia (1980-1995). Here is one story from their experience.

The evangelisation of Tugutil people of Lili was a long process that first involved teaching key Old Testament stories before telling the story of the life and saving work of Jesus. We had taught the creation of the angels and the Devil’s subsequent fall. We then taught how one third of the angels followed Satan in his rebellion against his maker and that these fallen angels were the demons that played such a big part in the Tugutil’s lives.

The completion of teaching Genesis Ch 3 happened to coincide with the time of the year when the Tugutil would go away in order to offer rice to the spirits to ensure a good harvest. Actually they ate very little rice in comparison to most Indonesians, but of the little they did grow some would need to be held back to offer to the spirits. This spirit festival continued on for several days and nights and involved the pounding of drums and dancing to summon the spirits, including a war dance called the “cakalele”. As their attendance would involve being absent for several lessons, we decided to stop the teaching until all those involved returned. When relaying this decision, we were in no way prepared for their amazing response.

One of the key men, Taunu, began by saying that they were not going to have their festival this year in fact they were probably never going to have it again. He went on to tell us how they had crushed the spirit rocks used by them for protection when they travelled, and thrown them, along with other fetishes and objects relating to the spirits, into the river where they could never be retrieved. The disposal of these kinds of objects often happens after the completion of telling the entire story of redemption but never have we heard of it happening so early in the teaching. As a team we had purposefully never condemned the way they lived or any of their practices. The thinking was that if any permanent change was to come about it would have to be a work of God’s Spirit and not simply conformity to what we missionaries saw as acceptable belief and behaviour. Genuine change must come from within.

Finally, Taunu totally amazed us as he continued. Apparently, as they had heard the story of Satan’s deception of Eve, they had realised that they had also been deceived into following this Satan and his demons. But now we had come to tell them about the one true God and they had decided that they no longer wanted anything to do with Satan but instead wanted to follow the true God who they were now hearing about for the very first time. This happened after teaching the first three chapters of the Bible!

Thus began a journey that would lead them to discover Jesus, God’s ultimate answer to mankind’s devastating dilemma.

Dear Friends,

On Thursday, we farewelled Shane Viglione, our dear brother who is now with the Lord. Some have asked whether we should have a memorial plaque for him but if you knew Shane that is the last thing he would have wanted.
But it is right to honour those who serve Christ so well. So let me take this opportunity to share what my brother and dear friend taught me over the 15 years I had the privilege of knowing Shane Joseph Viglione.

1. Be thankful in all things

Shane never grumbled. He was a man who was deeply thankful not just when things went well but even when they did not. For example, after he was diagnosed with cancer and given 2 years to live, we organised a prayer meeting where two hundred people gathered to pray for Shane and his family. As he left the prayer meeting, Shane said to Amanda with tears in his eyes, “Why me, why me…?” I asked Shane later if he meant, “Why did I get cancer?” but he said, “Why has God been so good to me? All my life I have been so blessed.” From his salvation to his wife Amanda, from his children to his work, Shane knew that every good gift comes from God.

2. Be joyful in salvation

Shane loved Jesus and delighted in his salvation. Whenever Shane talked about Jesus dying for his sins you could be guaranteed he would be in tears. It was a running joke in the family. “Don’t get Dad to read the bible he will cry…” I loved seeing his joy in Christ. He reminded me of the privilege it is to be a son of God.

3. Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought

When I interviewed Shane at church after his diagnosis I said to him, “Some people are saying ‘how can God allow this to happen to such a good person?’”
 Shane’s response was crystal clear. “Why not me… I am a sinner. I am no different to others”. He knew that he was a great sinner and that Christ was a great saviour.

4. Be humble

You could know Shane for 10 years and not know that pound for pound he was at one point the best Judo practitioner in Australia. He represented Australia in the Commonwealth Games in New Zealand and was probably cheated out of a bronze medal. I talked more about his Judo success than Shane did. The same goes with his work. He was a successful businessman but he never boasted of his success.

5. Keep your head in all situations

I have seen Shane in lots of meetings and under lots of pressure but not once did I ever see him lose his temper. Can I say that again NOT ONCE! He handled pressure without panicking and could think clearly when things were tight.
At various points in the year, church budgets would go in the red, sometimes really red, but Shane never panicked. “We will be alright”, he would say. “God will take care of us”. And he did.

6. Love your wife as Christ loved the Church

Let’s face it; most people I know were jealous of the Vigliones. They seemed to have the perfect marriage. What Shane taught me was to not only tell your wife that you love her but to tell other people of your love for your wife. After 22 years together, Shane and Amanda would still send lovey dovey text messages to each other as if they were 16 year olds who had just fallen in love for the first time. Shane constantly told me how much he loved Amanda.
I realised I had to unlearn the ugly Australian tradition of not speaking well of your wife in public. Even on his deathbed, only days from the end, Shane was singing a Dr Hook love song to Amanda while he was heavily sedated with morphine.

7. Children are a gift from the Lord

I think Shane’s favourite command must have been, “Go forth and multiply”. Each one of his 6 children was an absolute joy to Shane. He was so proud of Ethan, Isaac, Joel, Elijah, Moriah and Phoebe.
 Although he was a busy man at work, and busy serving the church, Shane and Amanda never tired of taking their children to youth group, kids club, music practice… etc etc etc. They both felt that raising children who loved and served Jesus was their first priority.

8. Have a good reputation with outsiders

Shane was a great boss. Normally when a person from church works for a Christian boss or organisation, I take them aside and lower their expectations. I prepare them for what often happens: Christian bosses do not always act like Christ. But I never had to do this for the many people I knew who worked for Shane. I learnt that a long time ago.
I have not worked for Shane myself but many have consistently testified that he was a genuine boss who cared for the worker more than the profit margin. Even when a worker stole from him, he would hold the person accountable but still try to show them grace.

9. The more that is given, the more that is required

Shane knew that everything belonged to God, so the more that things went well in the business, the more he was generous. Many of you have been on the receiving end of that kindness.

Shane understood his success was not the result of his work but a gift from God, and he understood that the more that is given, the more that is required.

So much more can be said about Shane. I count it such an honour to have known this man. I don’t know why God took him home at this time with such young children. I don’t know why God did not allow Shane to ever enjoy the church building that he was instrumental in building.

What I do know is that Shane was jealous for Jesus and he would want us to live life for the glory of God, and make every moment count. So imitate Shane as he imitated Christ.

Your sad but thankful brother in Christ,

Ray Galea

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