The Saving of John Paton

John Paton was a Christian missionary to the New Hebrides Islands in the South Pacific – a group of fourteen islands we know today as Vanuatu.

A native of Scotland, John Paton arrived in the New Hebrides 1858 with his young wife. But only a few months later he would lose his wife and young son to tropical fever. Despite the early tragedy John continued to work on the islands for decades. As a minister, educator, a developer of small industries for the locals, he was a strong advocate against the practice of slavery in the region.

One evening some hostile natives surrounded John’s house and were intent on burning out John and his second wife and killing them – including their young children. The Patons prayed as you would expect a missionary family would, and stayed awake all during that terror-filled night requesting God might deliver them. When daylight finally came they were amazed and relieved to see their attackers leaving. They thanked the Lord for his providence.

A year later, the chief of that tribe was converted to Christ. Remembering what had happened, Paton asked the chief what had kept him from burning down the house and killing them. The chief was surprised by the the question and replied: “Well… we couldn’t attack because of all those men who were there with you”. John Paton was socked because he knew no other men were there with them that night a year previous. The chief continued and said he was afraid to attack because he had seen hundreds of big men in shining garments with swords and spears circling the mission station. John Paton discovered he and his family were saved that night because God had sent a heavenly army to protect them.

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There’s a similar story in the Bible where an opposing army surrounds the city where the prophet Elisha is staying. Elisha tells those close enough to hear: “Don’t be afraid….Those who are with us are more than those who are with them” (2 Kings 6:16).

Elisha then prays to God that his colleague might see more clearly – and the eyes of Elisha’s servant are spiritually opened to see why Elisha told him not to be afraid. Something happens to the servant’s eyes and he sees what Elisha had known all along – the servant suddenly sees an even bigger army of God’s angels surrounding the enemy army, and these angels were ready to protect those who stayed faithful to God.

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Do you feel under attack at the moment? Is there a difficulty or a disaster weighing down heavily upon you? Keep faithful in prayer and know with confidence your Creator is surrounding you with all the heavenly help you need.

May the opening words to the 46th Psalm in the Bible be of comfort to you:

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in times trouble.”

 

Click here to read a story of another faithful Scot – a dog named “Greyfriars Bobby” who waited by the grave of his owner for fourteen years.

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About this blog: Pastor David Riley is a minister of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and lives on the Gold Coast in Australia. This article is from his “Reverential Ramblings” series – which you can subscribe to by clicking “follow” on this website.

Want to read more inspirational stories of faith from this series? Click here to read the fascinating story of a European king’s funeral and how in death we are all the same.

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“What profits a man if he gains the whole world yet loses his own soul?”

Michael Landy is an English artist who did something a few years ago that shocked and enthralled the British public.

London-born Landy spent three years cataloguing every possession he had in his life. Everything from a couple of postage stamps to his most important life documents such as his birth certificate and passport, all his clothing (including his late father’s favourite sheep-skin coat), old magazines, books, and all his furniture. He wrote a list of everything he owned including his beloved SAAB sports car. His list of possessions came to 7,227 items exactly.

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British artist Michael Landy standing in front of some of his list of 7,227 possessions

And in February 2001 Michael Landy, at the age of 37, then spent two weeks destroying EVERYTHING (yes everything, including the SAAB)! He set up conveyor belts in a shop window on London’s busiest street for shopping and invited people to watch as he disassembled, crushed, and shredded all his possessions. Over 45,000 people stopped at the shop window during the next two weeks as Michael Landy eradicated his life’s entire accumulation into nearly six tonnes of waste. The resulting bags of scrap were sent away to either be recycled or dumped into landfill.

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Michael’s SAAB being disassembled and destroyed

At the end of the self-inflicted exercise Landy was left with nothing but the clothes he was standing in… and some financial debt!

The response from the British public ranged from anger and outrage for such a waste, to applause for his courageous stand against consumerism. It caused many to think about their own relationship with the material things in their lives.

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Michael Landy sits amongst almost six tonnes of assorted waste as the London public look through the shop window on Oxford Street

In a similar way, Jesus Christ has been challenging us for two thousand years on how we approach possessions.

“What profits a man if he gains the whole world yet loses his own soul?” Jesus poignantly asks us in Matthew 16:26. A few chapters later Jesus challenges a rich young man to give away all his possessions and be a part of Christ’s Kingdom, something the wealthy gentleman simply couldn’t do when he considered his worldly riches.

In our daily walk with Christ we’re told that our life is more than the sum of our possessions and status but is instead a realisation of who our Creator is and His love for each of us.

The Bible says Michael Landy’s destruction of all his earthly belongings in 2001 is simply a forerunner to what is going to happen at the return of Jesus to this world. Where reminded by the Apostle Peter that: “The return of the Lord will come unexpectedly like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; and everything will be destroyed…the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare for judgment”
(2 Peter 3:10).

As you look to our Lord’s return with expectation and readiness let’s make sure our possessions don’t take possession of us.

 

Click here to watch a short interview with Michael Landy about his experience destroying all his possessions 

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About this blog: Pastor David Riley is a minister of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and he lives on the Gold Coast in Australia. This article is from his “Reverential Ramblings” series – which you can subscribe to by clicking “follow” on this website.

Want to read more inspirational stories of faith from this series? Click here to read the fascinating story of a European king’s funeral and how in death we are all the same

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“The Light of the World”

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A self-portrait by William Holman Hunt (1827-1910)

 

A painting by Englishman William Holman Hunt completed in the mid-nineteenth century was for many years the most famous picture in the British Empire.

Titled “The Light of the World” the painting was taken on world tours, and when it was brought to Australia in the early 1900’s it’s estimated that up to 80% of Australia’s population at the time came to see it.

Reports from the painting’s public viewings in Melbourne describe minor injuries in people stampeding in attempts view it. Large crowds are described as being in hushed reverence in front of the artwork. There are even reports of people fainting when they saw the painting.

The surprising aspect of this art story from over a hundred years ago is the painting – “The Light of the World” – is a portrait of Jesus Christ.

The artist had been inspired by a verse in the Bible, Revelation 3:20 – which says “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.”

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William Holman Hunt’s famous painting of Jesus as described in Revelation 3:20

And in the portrait Hunt paints Jesus standing with a lantern, knocking on a closed door overgrown with weeds. According to the artist this closed, dilapidated door represents the stubbornness of our hearts to have faith in Christ.

What’s not obvious when you first look at the painting is the door has no external handle or doorknob. The door can only be opened from the inside by the occupant of the home.

The message in the painting (and the words of Christ in Revelation 3:20) is clear: our Saviour Jesus is standing at the door of our hearts and knocking. And the person who hears that knock and also His quiet voice calling to them needs to open the door for Him. Christ doesn’t barge into our lives uninvited – His humility waits for each of us to open the door to Him.

Today the painting hangs in London’s famous St. Paul’s Cathedral, but the words of Christ in Revelation 3:20 that inspired the painting hang forever in our hearts.

Won’t you hear Christ knocking on your heart today and open the door for Him. He desires to come in and spend eternity in your company.

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About this blog: Pastor David Riley is a minister of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and he lives on the Gold Coast in Australia. This article is from his “Reverential Ramblings” series – which you can subscribe to by clicking “follow” on this website.

Want to read more inspirational stories of faith from this series? Click here to read the fascinating story of what the thirteenth-century theologian Thomas Aquinas said when he walked in on Pope Innocent II counting his gold and silver.

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Diving Deep: The Saving of Tony Bullimore

“IT WAS LIKE A WASHING MACHINE FROM HELL!” – Tony Bullimore

 

The English sailor Tony Bullimore shivered in the cold Southern Ocean waters. His upturned yacht was 1,500 miles south-west of the Australian coast and only 1,000 miles from Antarctica. He’d been in the water for four days after his boat was capsized by monstrous seas and bracing winds of up to a hundred miles an hour. “It was like a washing machine from hell!” was how Bullimore would later describe his experience. “But I couldn’t afford to get scared; I had to focus on how to stay alive for a little longer — just in case rescuers were coming.”

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Tony Bullimore’s upturned yacht was tossed around the Southern Ocean for four days before rescuers found him.

 

Tony Bullimore survived by sheltering underneath his upturned hull in an air pocket, in complete darkness. His only food was taking an occasional bite from a chocolate bar he’d managed to scramble in the wreckage. The year was 1997, and this ship-wrecked sailor was presumed dead by family and the media after so many days missing in wild seas.

When the rescue ship – the HMAS Adelaide – finally arrived at the wreckage site, one of the highly trained team climbed aboard the upturned boat and began knocking on the exposed hull. As Tony Bullimore huddled in the cold, wet darkness can you imagine how he might have felt the moment he heard someone on the other side of his boat knocking. Tony says he started shouting `I’m coming, I’m coming!”. He took a few deep breaths, dove under the water from inside his capsized boat, and then emerged into the morning sunshine. He would later say the experience of coming into the light was “heaven, absolute heaven”. The captain of the rescue ship recorded Tony Bullimore’s first words as: “Thank God… It’s a miracle!”

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This photo captures the moment rescuers knocked on the hull of his boat – and Tony Bullimore swam into the light after sheltering in his overturned boat for four days

The experience of the saving of Tony Bullimore twenty years ago from the Southern Ocean is similar to the those who’ve chosen to follow Christ. We too can feel lost in the swirling ocean of a confused existence, and yet Jesus – our spiritual rescuer – provides us with hope. “I stand at the door (of your heart) and knock” Jesus says in the book of Revelation. “If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to them and be with them.” (Rev. 3:20)

Can you hear the knocking of your Saviour on the hull of your heart? You may have given up hope – but the truth is your Creator has come, and He’s inviting you to take a few big breaths, to dive deep, and come into His light.

 

Want to read more inspirational stories of faith? Click here to read the incredible story of how a rural monk unexpectedly closed down the gladiatorial violence of the Roman Coloseum.

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About this blog: Pastor David Riley is a Christian minister residing on the Gold Coast in Australia. This article is from his “Reverential Ramblings” series – which you can subscribe to by clicking “follow” on this website.

The Skydiver Who Forgot His Parachute

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As Ivan McGuire boarded the small airplane with his video camera, the experienced skydiver didn’t know this would be his final ever flight.

Ivan worked as a cameraman filming nervous student parachuters taking their first-ever jump. He’d made hundreds of these flights, and any fear of leaping out of a plane from a height of three kilometres had left Ivan long ago.

On April 5th, 1988 Ivan McGuire jumped from a plane with his heavy VHS recording deck strapped to his back and the camera mounted to his helmet. Ivan had already completed two of these filming jumps that day, so he was a little fatigued – which may account for his soon-to-be-discovered forgetfulness.

On this final jump for the day Ivan calmly filmed the student strapped to his instructor as they both went through their free-fall and finally opened their combined parachute. Ivan then reached around to open his parachute…. and discovered that he’d forgotten to put one on.

The surviving video footage then goes from relaxed to frenzied.

How had Ivan forgotten to put on a parachute? Maybe it was simply tiredness, or perhaps he’d mistaken the video pack on his back as his usual parachute. Imagine what might have gone through the experienced skydiver’s mind as he was free-falling to Earth from ten thousand feet with nothing to save him. The salvaged footage recorded from his helmet shows Ivan going from matter-of-fact calmness to understandable panic.

 

It seems Ivan McGuire – on the day of his death – had simply gone-through-the-motions of his day without ensuring he had one very important thing with him.

As I reflect on this sad story, can you forgive me as a minister of religion for likening it to a spiritual cautionary tale? Yes, we need to live each day as if it might be our last. But we also need to be double-checking the faith we have in a loving Creator as our ‘saving parachute’.

For those who’ve recognised Christ in their life the Bible says: “Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9). This biblical promise is a daily ‘parachute of faith’ that allows each of us to be saved whenever we fall.

Click here to view Ivan McGuire’s helmet video of his final jump

Click here to read about one man whose ‘one word sermon’ for thirty-five years was viewed by over one billion people

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About this blog: Pastor David Riley is a Christian minister residing on the Gold Coast in Australia. This article is from his “Reverential Ramblings” series – which you can subscribe to by clicking “follow” on this website.

The Missing Piece

“THE MISSING PIECE”

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There’s a bizarre story of a young lad who loved to take apart the family’s household appliances so he could see how they worked. His parents encouraged his curiosity (as they reasoned it was better than spending hours playing games on Xbox) just as long as their son put the equipment back together again in perfect working order.

His parents went out one afternoon for a few hours leaving the teenage boy at home alone – and this young, inquisitive tinkerer thought he would challenge himself. He decided to take apart the family’s antique grandfather clock.

He carefully swirled his screw-driver and twisted his favourite tools to have all of the vintage mechanisms lying across the lounge room floor. He admired the craftsmanship of the inner-workings of a hundred-year-old clock, and he was careful to remember where each part went.

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As he put the antique timepiece back together again he felt a rush of adrenaline. His parents had warned him away from the heirloom clock for years as they feared the teenage boy would damage it, but now he’d been able to examine it without their knowledge and his parents would never know.

But, the feeling of achievement began to disappear as he neared the end of the restoration. The young lad had one piece left over and he had no idea where it was meant to go. As he considered an attempt to take the clock apart again he heard his parents’ car coming up the family driveway, and so he ran upstairs to his bedroom and thrust the left-over mechanism under his pillow.

That evening as the family ate dinner the antique clock operated as it always did. They watched a long movie together and the clock continued to strike the bells of the hour with military precision. As the family prepared for bed after a long day the boy’s worries began to ease. He sensed he’d escaped any parental discovery of an expensive heirloom’s unauthorised dismantling.

At midnight, as the teenager lay in bed thinking about the close-call, the clock began its usual chimes. The young lad counted them to help get to sleep – nine, ten, eleven, twelve…. thirteen, fourteen! The boy sat up in his bed. The clock continued ringing…. eighteen, nineteen, twenty. The boy – once again his body surging with adrenaline at the probability of being discovered – jumped out of bed. “Bong…. Bong…. Bong….” – Thirty-six times, thirty-seven times…the clock continued as if it would go on for eternity. He grabbed the missing piece from under his pillow and began to run down the hall towards his parents’ bedroom unsure of what he was going to say.

The teenager banged on the bedroom door, and with the chimes still ringing through the family home he yelled out the first thing that came into his head: “Wake up, everybody! Wake up! It’s later than it’s ever been!!”

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This wry story is, in a way, a reminder of the Bible’s promise of eternity. Jesus of Nazareth spoke with His followers about having a sense of urgency regarding the coming of the Kingdom of God. He discouraged any delay in surrendering our sins to Him as our Saviour, and then seeking His ever-lasting forgiveness as we align our lives with Him.

To illustrate this sense of urgency Jesus told a story of five maidens who were sleepy, foolish and complacent, and another five who were wise and stayed ever-alert to the coming of their master. Jesus concluded the story by saying to His Disciples – “Keep watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which I am returning.” (Matthew 25:13)

So, for believers in the return of Jesus Christ there is a message. And that message is: “Wake up! It’s later than it’s ever been”

(Read about another teenager from three hundred years ago who showed incredible faith in her Saviour despite her deplorable circumstances)

 

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About this blog: Pastor David Riley is a Seventh-day Adventist minister residing on the Gold Coast in Australia. This article is from his “Reverential Ramblings” series – which you can subscribe to by clicking “follow” on this website.

 

 

 

Feed the Right Wolf

There’s an old story from American folk-lore of a Cherokee elder speaking with his grandson.

“Grandson,” the wise elder says to the young lad, “Let me tell you about a battle that goes on inside everyone. It is the battle between two wolves”

As the young impressionable boy looks up his grandfather continues: “One of the wolves inside us all is called ‘Evil’.  This wolf is anger, it is hatred, it is discord and jealousy, It is rage and envy, greed, arrogance, self-pity, resentment, lies, lusts, and superiority.

“The other wolf that is inside us” continued the Grandfather “is called ‘Good’. This wolf is hope, it is serenity, it’s humility, joy, contentment. It’s love, peace, kindness, gentleness, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”

The Cherokee elder was then silent, and the grandson thought about these words for a moment. After a few minutes the young boy looked up and asked: “Grandfather, in the end which wolf wins?”

The old Cherokee elder replied simply, “My son, the wolf you feed is the one that wins.”

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The truth of this often told tale are echoed in the Bible. The ancient words of Scripture speak also of a battle between good and bad. It’s a battle we see in our wider world, and it’s a battle we see in our own souls.

Christ in His battle with Satan in the wilderness gained victory by reminding the Devil of godly values found in scripture (Matt 4:1-11). Through Christ’s sacrifice and example you and I can also have the same victory over Evil that our Saviour had.

In the letter to the Philippians the Apostle Paul gives similar counsel to the Cherokee elder: “Whatever is true and noble”, Paul says, “Whatever is lovely and admirable, if anything is excellent and worthy of praise – allow you mind to consider only these things. And the God of peace will be with you always.” (Philippians 4:8)

In ‘the battle of the two wolves’ – the battle between Good and Evil – going on in your own heart and mind make sure you’re feeding daily the one based on the truth of Jesus Christ.

 

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About this blog: Pastor David Riley is a Christian minister residing on the Gold Coast in Australia. This article is from his “Reverential Ramblings” series – which you can subscribe to by clicking “follow” on this website.

Dr. John Hunter’s Prophecy of His Own Death

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DR. JOHN HUNTER’S PROPHECY OF HIS OWN DEATH

John Hunter was a celebrated Scottish medical doctor of the 18th-century. He was a pioneer in the field of surgery and was appointed as the personal physician of King George III. Towards the end of his life Hunter was appointed as the surgeon-general of the entire British Army.

But Dr. John Hunter – like all of us – had his faults. One of his assistants who worked with him towards the end of his life described John Hunter as ‘warm but impatient, readily provoked, and when irritated not easily soothed’.

Dr. Hunter had a problem with anger, and he suffered with a heart condition.

When he discovered his heart problems were often brought on by anger, Hunter complained:

“My life is at the mercy of any scoundrel who chooses to put me in a passion.”

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A statue of Dr. John Hunter is in London’s famous Leicester Square

This personal lament of Dr. John Hunter proved to be prophetic. At a meeting of the board of St. George’s Hospital in London in 1793, Hunter became entangled in a heated argument with other board members. He stormed out of the meeting, and dropped dead in the next room.

“My life is at the mercy of any scoundrel who chooses to put me in a passion” Hunter had grumbled only a short while before his own death.

Dr. John Hunter’s untimely demise at the age of 65 is a cautionary tale to anyone today who allows their own emotions to be determined by the whims and inclinations of others.

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There’s an ancient proverb found in the Bible that says: “It is better to be patient than powerful. It is better to have self-control of your own emotions than to be in control of an entire city.” (Proverbs 16:32).

The result of living in the spirit of Christ is love and joy, peace and patience, gentleness and self-control. For our Creator has given us a spirit of love and self-control of our own emotions (Galatians 5: 22-23, 2 Timothy 1:7).
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About this blog: Pastor David Riley is a Christian minister residing on the Gold Coast in Australia. This article is from his “Reverential Ramblings” series – which you can subscribe to by clicking “follow” on this website.

 

Broken Batons

BROKEN BATONS

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Arturo Toscanini was the Beyonce of the operatic world for the first half of the twentieth century. For over fifty years Toscanini was the world’s leading conductor of orchestras, and was the headline performer at Milan’s famous “La Scala” and New York’s Metropolitan Opera.

Apart from his musical genius, Toscanini was legendary for his fits of rage. If rehearsals weren’t going perfectly, the Italian maestro would scream and swear and throw whatever item was closest to him.

The librarian who looked after all the sheet music in one of Toscanini’s orchestras became quite distressed by Toscanini’s habit of hurling expensive musical scores at the musicians when he became angry. After a few episodes of expletive-laden rage, the librarian observed that one of the first things Toscanini did when he lost his temper was to take his conductor baton in both hands and attempt to break it. If the baton snapped, Toscanini would calm down and the rehearsal could continue. If the baton didn’t break, Toscanini would become even more enraged and rush around grabbing the expensive sheet music tearing it to pieces and hurling it at his musical colleagues.

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So the orchestra librarian developed a cunning plan to minimise both the emotional damage to the orchestra and also the expensive waste of musical scores. The sneaky librarian made sure all of Toscanini’s batons had a slight crack in them so Toscanini could break them easily whenever he started one of his childish rants. Once Toscanini broke the baton he’d calm down and the music (and musicians!) would be saved from further abuse.

Our world today is filled with anger. We see it online in our dialogue, we see it on our roads in our driving, it’s in our political diatribes, and unfortunately anger is also occasionally invited to our our own dinner tables. Yet unchecked anger is an emotion that has no place in the words and actions of a follower of Christ.

There’s an ancient Jewish saying found in the Bible: “A fool vents all his feelings, but the wise  bring calm to all circumstances” (Proverbs 29:11). And someone close to Jesus of Nazareth wrote to first century Christians saying, “All of us must be quick to listen, slow to speak, and even slower to get angry. Anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.” (James 1:19-20).

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Anger may break batons and even bones, and it often damages our bond with our loving Creator.

The Apostle Paul wrote something to the Philippians I remind myself of whenever I feel the red mist of anger descending:

“Let your gentleness be known to all men because the Lord is at hand.

Be anxious about nothing, but through prayer and with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God – and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:5-7)

As Alexander Pope once said, “To be angry is to revenge the faults of others on ourselves.”

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About this blog: Pastor David Riley is a Christian minister residing on the Gold Coast in Australia. This article is from his “Reverential Ramblings” series – which you can subscribe to by clicking “follow” on this website.

A Royal Story

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When Queen Victoria was a young girl she understandably didn’t quite understand the full responsibilities of being the next in line for the throne of Great Britain.

 

The story is told that the young Victoria’s private tutors would become frustrated as they tried to prepare her for the role of being Queen one day. They were unable to motive the young princess to concentrate on her lessons and take her studies seriously.

 

Finally, one of her teachers became exasperated with the young girl and sternly reprimanded her: “This is not the way the future Queen should behave!” the vexed tutor exclaimed.

 

Upon hearing this, it’s reported that the young Victoria went quiet for a few moments and then said quietly “Yes. From now on I will be good.”

 

And she was.

 

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A young Victoria – painted by Franz Xaver Winterhalter of Germany

The realisation of a young girl that she had inherited this high calling immediately gave Victoria a sense of responsibility that profoundly affected her conduct for the rest of her life.

 

This royal story from two hundred years ago reminds me of the Apostle Paul writing: “Don’t you know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? It is because Christ died for you that you are holy.” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17)

 

And the Apostle John had a similar realisation when he wrote: “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1)

 

When we realise we are a son or daughter of the King of the universe that should compel us to take our earthly duties more seriously.

 

Perhaps we should respond to our calling from Christ with the same words as a young Queen Victoria: “Yes. From now on I will be good.”

 

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About this blog: Pastor David Riley is a Christian minister residing on the Gold Coast in Australia. This article is from his “Reverential Ramblings” series – which you can subscribe to by clicking “follow” on this website.