- WordSpace info
- Wise Words
- God is like Superman…
- Very Short Stories
- All about the Grace
- Am I wrong?
- Petty Little Liar
- Faith Works…
- Driving Lessons
- Eye spy
- I need a hero!
- Once upon a time…
- Life Adventures
- More short stories…
- True Love
- Don't be a Franz
- Your Soundtrack
WordSpace is a way to help you encounter God in the spaces of each busy day. Scripture Union has a really cool team of writers who know what it’s like to be a young person trying to figure out life with God.
Check it out especially if you have any teens/young adults in your life!
Gossip is so tasty-how we love 2 swallow it! (Proverbs18:8) This is so true-isn’t it? We know we shouldn’t gossip but we do anyway. Read Proverbs16:28. Have you been hurt by gossip? Have you been spreading stories about others? Our words have power to build up or break down people. As Christians God wants us to build each other up, not break each other down. Check out Proverbs16:24. Who can you build up today?
Proverbs 18:8 Gossip is so tasty-how we love to swallow it!
Proverbs 16:28 A perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends.
Proverbs 16:24 Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.
Who do you spend the most time with? Do your friends make you better or badder? Read Proverbs13:20 for some advice. You need to have friends and people in your life that improve your character, encourage you to make good choices. Which of your friends add godly value to your life? Thank God for them! Check out Proverbs17:17. Ask God to help you to be a true friend.
Proverbs 13:20 He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.
Proverbs 17:17 A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.
What best describes your attitude or :(? The way you see yourself & the world affects you & those around you. See Proverbs15:13&17:22. Winston Churchill said: ”Attitude is a little thing that can make a big difference.” God gives us joy that’s more than just being happy. Joy comes from knowing God loves us & wants the best for us. It’s joy despite our challenges. Need an attitude adjustment? Chat 2 God about it.
Proverbs 15:13 A happy heart makes the face cheerful but heartache crushes the spirit.
Proverbs 17:22 A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
It’s often easier to give advice than take it. How do you react to positive criticism? Check out Proverbs19:20,21. It’s important to consider the advice of godly people. As disciples we are to be continually learning & growing, becoming more like Jesus. Being teachable is key, learning from yours & others mistakes. Decide today to listen to godly advice. See Proverbs12:1-let’s not be stupid!
Proverbs 19:20,21 Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise. Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.
Proverbs 12:1 Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid.
Read Proverbs3:5-7. God’s Word is so encouraging! We’re given clear guidelines for following Jesus. It’s all about God, not about us. Sometimes we need a perspective change especially when we start thinking the world revolves around us. It doesn’t! Remember that God the creator of the entire universe is in charge and knows best. We are called to trust Him with our all. How far are you willing to trust God today?
Proverbs 3:5-7 (Message) Trust GOD from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for GOD’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who’ll keep you on track. Don’t assume that you know it all. Run to GOD! Run from evil!
A fresh look at grace: What it is & what it’s not.
“Message from the dark side you have believed” Yoda
Imagine if Jesus were all powerful but not when it came to you or if he loved everyone fully but you a little less. Imagine if he forgave all confessed sin but kept some of yours on display. Sorry for you. I’d be continually bleak.
It’s been said that the best place to hide a lie is between two truths. Satan may be trying to convince you by twisting the truth. Beware! Don’t be picking up what he’s putting down. ‘My grace [everything in Christ Jesus] is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness.’ 2 Corinthians 12v9 (MSG).
Grace that saved/s us
“Mind what you have learned. Save you it can.” Yoda (Yoda accent optional J)
So you’ve been rescued by Jesus. Yay! Sins forgiven. Yay! Now what? Fact is – our enemy (the forces of evil) is still around and wants to do damage to you. Philippians 4v9 says, ‘What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you’.
So, what have you learnt, received, heard and seen? It’s God alone who has rescued and continues to rescue [protects, stands in the gap, defends] you. BAM! God’s continued grace at work. So mind what you have learned. Save you it can…
Grace – the power to be and become
“In this war, a danger there is, of losing who we are.” Yoda (Accent essential).
Remember those school sports cheers? “Who are, who are, who are we? We are (blah-blah) can’t you see. We are here to win today…” There’s this constant pressure on us to strive and achieve, to be the best – in sport, academics, socially – to fit in with ‘the rest’. That would be okay except when ‘the rest’ aren’t fitting in with Jesus. Don’t lose who you are or whose you are.
‘How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!’ 1 John 3v1.
“Try not. Do or do not. There is no try.” Yoda
The first time I flew in a plane, I jumped out of it (and there was nothing wrong with the plane). Hours before this, the jump instructor told me a gazillion ways I would die unless I deployed the parachute properly. Hectic! I could stay on the ground in safety but then I would never experience the sheer thrill and rush of free flight. So it is with God. So it is with his grace. You have to get into it to experience it.
‘And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love… may grasp how high and deep is the love of Christ.’ Ephesians 3v17-18. Read Ephesians 3v14-19.
Cheap and costly grace
Luke, “I can’t believe it.” Yoda, “that is why you fail.”
We see crosses everywhere – on walls, jewellery, tattoos. The symbol of the cross has become so common that it has seemed to lose its significance. Even vampires in movies aren’t afraid of crosses anymore. The saying goes that familiarity breeds contempt. So let’s press the refresh button as it were. Your being rescued bears eternal consequence and value. It cost Jesus everything.
‘For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God’. 2 Corinthians 5v21 (ESV)
God’s grace – The best of God given to you when you were the least deserving.
Making grace visible to others
“Always pass on what you have learned.” Yoda
God’s Grace! It’s all about you – So that you could be adopted into the great big family of God J. Now that you’ve been given a new name, it’s not all about you. Shock and horror, screams of terror!!! Seriously. How will society know that God is good? How will they experience the riches of His grace – unless you show them?
‘But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere.’ 2 Corinthians 1v14. We were never designed to keep God’s grace to ourselves. Go ahead. Spread the love…
Read 2 Corinthians 1v14-15.
DAY 1: God is like Superman.
The man of steel rescues people with his super-human strength and stops speeding trains, planes and meteors. But Kryptonite makes him weak.
Our God isn’t vulnerable to anything. He is God almighty and has the strength to play with mountains, oceans and even hold the universe in the palm of his hand. He flings stars into space and “calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing” (Isaiah 40v26).
When you’re feeling small just remember that our God is very big and powerful and more than able to rescue you.
Check out his description in Isaiah 40v21-31.
DAY 2: God is like Iron Man.
Tony Starke designs a protective suit of iron armour that helps him do amazing things and fight bad guys.
God has also made armour. In Isaiah 59v17 it says that God, as he fights against injustice, puts “on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his head.” Sound familiar? God not only made armour for himself, he’s made special spiritual iron man suits for us. Why? Because it’s dangerous out there and we need God’s protection against the devil’s evil tricks.
Are you wearing your spiritual iron man suit or are you running around in spiritual underwear?
Read about the body armour in Ephesians 6v10-17
DAY 3: God is like Mr Incredible.
“True to his incredible strengths, all Mr Incredible wants to do is save the world…It takes almost losing everything, however, for him to see that the real source of his power is his extraordinary family.” Pixar Website.
God is our Father (Isaiah 9v6) and we are his children. God can and does save the world on his own. He doesn’t need our help. But the wonderful thing is that he invites his family to be a part of his adventures. He gives us strengths, abilities and gifts.
You may not feel super but you are because you’re God’s child. Don’t miss out on those adventures!
DAY 4: God is like The Hulk.
Uncontrollable rage turns Dr Bruce Banner into the destructive Hulk.
Now God definitely doesn’t turn into a huge green monster but he does get angry. Did you know that? God gets really angry. But his anger is righteous. He gets angry when evil people hurt the innocent, where injustice is the norm and his own children reject him.
Yet even in the middle of describing God’s anger, the Bible says “The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him” (Nahum 1v7) Thank you God that you are slow to anger and quick to love us!
Read Nahum 1v2-8
DAY 5: God is NOT like Loki.
Thor’s foster brother, Loki, is an evil villain who misuses his power. He’s always plotting, scheming, lying and manipulating. Most of all he despises the human race.
Thank goodness this is not a description of our loving God. Don’t believe the lies the devil tries to tell you about our God. God is love and he delights in you and rejoices over you and wants to be in a real vibrant relationship with you. God is truth so he cannot lie.
When God says he loves you so much – he means it! Be encouraged today by Zephaniah 3v14-17.
DAY 1: God is like The Arrow.
Oliver Queen has a mentor who teaches him to shoot arrows with deadly accuracy.
God is also described as an archer: “The LORD thundered from heaven…He shot his arrows and scattered the enemies” (Psalm 18v13,14). Sometimes we can think of God as “gentle Jesus meek and mild” but he is a fearsome fighter who skilfully protects and rescues us from our powerful enemy.
God also trains us in the ways of battle. “It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect…He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze.”(Psalm 18v32,34). How’s your combat training going?
Read Psalm 18v29-42
DAY 2: God is like Captain America.
Steve Rogers, a puny young man with a warrior’s heart, is given a serum that turns him into a shield wielding super soldier who fights for his country.
God doesn’t need any serum. He is already the ultimate warrior who fights on behalf of his people. He is also described as being our shield. Listen to some more descriptions – my Rock, loving God, fortress, stronghold, deliverer, refuge (Psalm 144v1,2). Wow!
You may feel like a puny Steve Rogers but God strengthens you to fight alongside him. We’ve been designed to be warriors in God’s army.
Let’s fight that good fight of faith (1Timothy 6v12).
DAY 3: God is like Batman.
Bruce Wayne is Gotham City’s self-appointed protector. As Batman, he is champion of the weak and powerless. For all his good intentions, Batman doesn’t always win and besides he’s only an ordinary man with some really cool gadgets.
God has supernatural powers that enable him to always defeat evil. Sometimes evil can scare us and even paralyse us with fear. David wrote in Psalm 27v1 “The LORD is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?”
Have a chat with God about your fears and hear what he has to say to you.
DAY 4: God is like Spiderman.
After being bitten by a radioactive spider, Peter Parker starts noticing some odd changes like the fact that he sticks to things. Spiderman has the ability to stick onto absolutely any surface.
God has amazing stickability too. God sticks with us, he is persistent and he never ever gives up on us (Psalm 37v28). Even when we are faithless, God remains faithful. I’m so glad that he does!
He also gives us amazing promises “The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (Deuteronomy 31v8).
Thank you God for your super stickability!
DAY 5: God is NOT like Thor.
Thor is a mythical Norse god from the planet of Asgaard. Thor’s story is fiction.
God’s story is the truth. God is our very real God, creator of the entire Universe. He’s not a myth or a story. Have you experienced this amazing, miracle working God?
Our God has the power to change lives, to do the impossible, to create something wonderful out of nothing, to heal, restore and make all things new. “For the LORD is the great God, the great King above all gods” (Psalm 95v3-7).
Thank God for who he is. Sing him a song or write him a poem. He is our great God!
1. A slave girl, probably just a young teenager. Hasn’t been around for 2700 years. She was a captive in the house of an enemy Syrian General. She takes up very little space in 2 Kings 5 but has a voice that leaves an impression, even today. She had no power, no family and no rights but had a ginormous faith in God.
She said one line, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy”. Subsequent chapters show the results of her faith which affects the life of General Naaman, the king of Syria, the king of Israel and their nations.
Imagine the possible effects of your faith in God…Read 2 Kings 5.
2. So Jesus had just calmed the storm and all the guys were happy – Yay! But then they came ashore and were met by a man (a filthy, naked, long-haired raving lunatic who lived in tombs and used to cut himself with sharp rocks) screaming at the top of his lungs. Quite a welcoming party. The locals where somewhat freaked by him as he could break chains like twigs because he was a little overcrowded by demons. The End.
Imagine if his story really ended there – no more “yay”… But so begins his journey with Jesus. The man ends up being the 1st recorded missionary sent by Jesus. His restored relationship with Jesus helped to change his neighbourhood…
Read the story in Mark 5: 1-20.
3. I know a young couple who heard God saying they should move to the Far East. They, with their brand new baby, now live there where they serve the best coffee ever and have chats with the locals in English. Doesn’t seem like a big wow but their relationship with God is literally taking them places.
The guy just started an exchange with the local martial arts instructor where he teaches English and Mr Miyagi teaches him ninja stuff. Their journey has not been easy but they’re re-discovering the meanings of sweet sacrifice and eternal consequence.
Imagine where your adventurous relationship with Jesus could be taking you. Why not chat to him about it. Hear what he says.
4. Many children are raised by their Grandparents. So was I. Only thing is that my Gramps was white and my Granny was coloured. Imagine that in the 50’s & 60’s. While their experiences were absolutely crazy, the best stories, the ones that revolutionised my life were what I saw in their lifestyle.
They had such a closeness with Jesus – like best friends. I would often hear my Granny talk with Jesus in that way. It was like God actually confided in them. Sounds crazy but it’s true.
How’s your closeness with Jesus coming along? He’s very good at making relationships work.
Check out Psalm 25: 14.
5. I know about a lovely Christian teenage girl who lived in the Lesotho Highlands and whose father was the village chief. One day, a gang kidnapped, raped and discarded her. She knew that being an unwed, pregnant, teenage girl would bring much shame to herself and her family. What to do? What to do?
Not only did she choose to keep her baby but she also named him “Praise the Lord” in Sotho.
Sometimes bad things happen to good people. The difference is that, as a follower of Jesus, you’re NEVER alone. “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you”… “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid”. Hebrews 13: 5-6
See 2 Corinthians 4: 6 – 12 (the Message).
6. James & John were teenage brothers when Jesus called them to join the Team. He nicknamed them, “Sons of Thunder” maybe because of their hot headed reputation.
When the Samaritans prevented Jesus and the boys from passing through their territory, the Sons of Thunder wanted to call down fire from Heaven and turn the Samaritans into toast (Luke 9: 54-56).
They even got their Mom involved (Matthew 20) when they wanted to have the most important places in the kingdom. So Jesus shared some words with them (as did the other disciples).
Their characters were however transformed by the Holy Spirit as they outgrew their old reputation. If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation…
Read 2 Corinthians 5: 16 – 20 (the Message).
7. Violent Crime! Corruption! Certainly keeps the twitter feeds rolling. Some say that the godless criminals should rot in jail. Imagine if those same criminals actually found God – in jail. Impossible you say…
A friend of mine found himself on the wrong side of the law. He ended up in prison and became a proud member of a prison gang. His idea was to serve his sentence and make his way up the gang ranks. But God had other ideas.
He became a follower of Jesus while in prison, (which could literally be a death sentence). He now ministers to prisoners full-time as a free man – in every sense of the word. Nothing is impossible with God.
Check out Jeremiah 32:17.
8. So poor Joseph (in Genesis 39) found himself in a pit – again. But how did he get there?
He started out as a brat, got human trafficked, became a slave and ended up as Potiphar’s second-in-charge. Potiphar was Egypt’s captain of the guard and chief executioner. You didn’t mess with this guy. Potiphar liked Joseph because God’s blessing was on him but Potiphar’s wife liked young Joseph because he was ‘well-built and handsome’…
She pursued him relentlessly for days but Joseph would not give in. He said he “could not sin against God” (verse 9) – which led to dungeon time.
Honouring God in the decisions you make could be difficult sometimes but totally worth it. Really.
Check out Genesis 39.
A fresh look at grace: What it is & what it’s not.
Ultimate Bad Boy – violent, foul-mouthed, hates God, despises people, into human trafficking, rapes those he sells. Then in the middle of a deadly situation, he cries out to God who saves him. Why would you do that, God? Bad Boy deserved to die…didn’t he? Check out Ephesians 1v2-10. Through his grace, God gives us that which we don’t deserve – his love, forgiveness, power and presence. He doesn’t do so reluctantly. He freely heaps his grace on us through Christ and changes our lives forever. Thank you God for being so generous, joyful and wonderful. We love you!
P.S. Bad Boy is John Newton who wrote the hymn Amazing Grace. God – your grace really is amazing!
Grace that saved us
Marooned on a deserted island with no food or shelter. You’ve made a tiny wooden raft. A luxury cruise liner arrives. You’ve been rescued! The Captain himself invites you on board, promising free passage on the floating 5-star hotel complete with restaurants, pools and cinemas. But you politely decline. You already have your raft and can rescue yourself. (Mythbusters raft building: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kLKfRtXgo88).
Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? But sometimes I think we do that with God. We think we can save ourselves and be good all on our own. We need to ditch our independence and accept God’s gift of grace. Best gift ever and it’s the gift that keeps on giving. Read Ephesians 2v4-10. So…are you in your raft or the cruise liner?
Grace – the power to be and become
There lived an average man who lived an average, boring life. One day he became a Christian and continued living his average, boring life until he died. The end.
Seriously?! God is most definitely NOT boring. He is life itself. And he wants us to experience that vibrant life of adventure with him. God supplies his grace that equips us and enables us to become who he designed us to be.
‘God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go. This resurrection life you received is not a timid grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” Romans 8v 14-15 What’s next, Papa?
An epic treasure hunt with cryptic clues, exotic scenery and scary traps. Your heart is beating fast as you enter the treasure chamber. Sparkling jewels, glittering gold dazzles your eyes. But you reach for a rusted old necklace…
Eish, what were you thinking? Take the treasure-don’t settle for rubbish! God is such a good father who loves to spoil his children. How would our lives change if we let God spoil us on a daily basis with gifts of supernatural strength and resurrection power? We could be ‘filled to the measure of all the fullness of God’ (Ephesians 3v19). Wow!
Read this beautiful prayer in Ephesians 3v16-21 and put your name every time it says “you”
Cheap and costly grace
You’re unexpectedly set free from death row. You can’t believe it. You’re offered a new life, home and job. It’s unbelievable! But a month later you’re still wearing your prison clothes, hanging out with your old gang and back to your old ways. But it’s OK – you’ve got your “get-out-of-jail-free” card.
When our new life in Christ looks like our old life, the grace we’ve been given is cheapened by our actions. God loved us so very, very much that Christ sacrificed himself for us. Our freedom was bought at a great price. We are new creations in Christ. Live up to it! Check out The Message version of Galatians 5v19-23.
Making grace visible to others
So you had a bad day…you’ve wrecked your Dad’s car – repairs will cost a huge heap of money. Your best friend borrowed your favourite jacket and ruined it. You’re not talking to your friend until they repay you. Can things get any worse? Then your Dad says he forgives you and he’ll cover the costs. But you stubbornly refuse to forgive your friend. Hmm…you’ve just experienced forgiveness for a huge mistake but don’t extend grace to your friend. As God works in our lives, this must overflow out of us into others’ lives. We can’t keep all the good stuff bottled up inside. It’s not easy but God helps us to practice real love. See 1 John 3v16-20 (The Message)
Am I wrong for saying that I choose another way? / Now am I wrong for trying to reach the things that I can’t see? / Am I tripping for having a vision?… / Am I wrong? (by Nico and Vinz https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bg1sT4ILG0w ). So are you wrong for choosing to live a life of obedience to Jesus when it could be much easier not to? Are you wrong for choosing to trust Jesus even when everything is screaming for you to bail? Are you wrong for choosing to live a lifestyle that makes Jesus proud? Are you wrong?
But I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. (Philippians 3:12) Read Philippians 3:12-14.
Don’t Let Me Go Gangs of Ballet
Without your sight my eyes are weak / I am your arms, you are my feet
Please don’t let me go… / With the world outside of our doors / I said please don’t let me go
(by Gangs of Ballet).
Fact is – you cannot be a part of the family of God all on your lonesome. Isolation places a great big target on your back (and front) like a forlorn injured little bokkie at feeding times in the Kruger. In Exodus 17, we see that as long as Moses had his bro’s helping him by lifting his arms, the Israelites were winning the battle. Please don’t let go. Read Exodus 17:8-13
So Peninnah had a few kids and Hannah had none. Year after year Peninnah would follow Hannah around like an annoying fly to dis on her, irritate her and shove this shame in her face (till Hannah cried and wouldn’t eat). Check out 1 Samuel 1.
If Hannah could download MAGIC!, she would probably ask Peninnah,
“Why you gotta be so rude? / Don’t you know I’m human too?” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PIh2xe4jnpk
Interesting question though. Why you gotta be so rude? When we dis(regard) people, especially in public, we bring no honour to ourselves and score no brownie points with Jesus – Engage Reflection Mode now.
Irene Toby Mac
Going through some really rough stuff that never seems to end? The proverbial “Restart” button seems broken? “You are blessed when you are at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule”. (Matthew 5:3 The Message)
Keep your head up, don’t you ever let up / This storm will pass you be ready for the next one
Hey little girl with the pressures of the world on your shoulders / Don’t say that it’s over /
I heard your prayers, just cast your cares / And I’ll be there so don’t you fear.
(Check out this brilliant video by TobyMac on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HJ1DHhobVVg )
All Of Me John Legend
Don’t you just love being on the winning team? Especially when you’ve given it your all and then messed up but your team still wins. Double bonus.
You’re my end and my beginning / Even when I lose I’m winning
‘Cause I give you all of me / And you give me all of you.
(All of me by John Legend).
We’re in Jesus’ team. He has given us his everything and requires our everything in return.
“Because he loves me”, says the Lord, “I will recue him. I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me and I will answer him.” (Psalm 91:14-15)
Brave Sara Bareilles
A re-tweaked look at “Brave” by Sara Bareilles,
And since your history of silence won’t do you any good / Did you think it would.
Let My words be anything but empty. / Why don’t you show them the Truth
Say what you need to say and let My words flow out honestly.
I want to see you be brave…
Daniel and his three buddies, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, at different stages had to stand up for what was right. Even when they were teens they knew whose they were which enabled them to stand and be brave. See Daniel 3:16-18
Story Of My Life One Direction
One Direction. Love ‘em – Hate ‘em… but what a title “Story of My Life”. The opening line goes like this, “Written in these walls are the stories that I can’t explain”.
I wonder, are you the lone star in the story of your life? If the story of your life were told, who would feature in it? Then again, why should people listen to the Story of Your Life?
If Jesus is central in your Story, then your life has eternal value – eternal consequence. So let your life tell your story. “and they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.” (Revelation 12:11 ESV)
The devil would love us to believe that. He even tried it with Jesus.
Jesus is baptised and God says “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” (Luke3:22). What amazing words to hear. Next scene: Jesus is in the desert and the devil says to him “IF you are the Son of God…” (Luke4:3). The devil tries to make Jesus doubt who he really is – as if!
Hear God saying to you “You are my son/daughter whom I love; with you I am well pleased” and believe it. You are so worth it.
Petty Little Liar: “You’re so ugly, Hello Kitty said goodbye to you”
The devil likes to distract us. He gets us so focused on how we look, you know the outside stuff and how ugly/fat/skinny/pimply we think we are. We kinda forget about the inside stuff – the really important things.
You know the dis “Well at least he/she must have a great personality”? We’ve got everything upside down – that should be such a great compliment. God longs for us to have characters that are beautiful, mature, eye-catching and that draw people to Jesus.
Let’s focus on the important lasting stuff. Check out 2 Peter 1:5-11 in The Message.
Petty Little Liar: “Some people are has-beens…you’re a never-was”
The devil lies about our incredible significance in God’s Kingdom. He wants us paralysed by fear and doubt.
Joshua had really big shoes to fill as he took over from Moses. He had good reason to feel scared and inadequate. The task was huge. But God didn’t leave Josh alone. He gave him courage. He did amazing, miraculous things in and through this man – like parting the Jordan River under Joshua’s leadership (Joshua 3). 2 partings, 2 miraculous crossings, 2 leaders, one God!
What’s God asking you to do this week? Memorise Joshua 1:9 and be strong and very courageous.
Petty Little Liar: “Someday you will find yourself and wish that you hadn’t”
The devil wants us to believe that we’re such a waste of time, a defective piece of equipment.
This is so NOT true! But why do we so often believe our enemy and not our Creator? In Psalm 119 it says “with your very own hands you formed me” (v73). God made us personally, intimately, uniquely, beautifully. God adores you. He’s crazy about you. Speak these words aloud to God and enjoy him. “Oh love me-and right now!-hold me tight! Just the way you promised. Now comfort me so I can live, really live” (vs76,77).
Petty Little Liar: “You’re the reason people around you don’t follow Jesus. God’s never going to trust you”.
How do you know the devil is lying? His lips are moving. Don’t believe a word! God has saved you through his son Jesus and he wants to trust you with all kinds of adventures.
God chooses Noah to save the human race. He wasn’t chosen because he built big boats or was an animal whisperer. Noah walked with God (Genesis 6:8) in friendship and forgiveness. God gave him on-the-job-training and “Noah did everything just as God commanded him” (Genesis 6:22). God also trusts us with his incredible plans. So let’s trust him with our lives.
OUT OF THE ORDINARY: So imagine some important guy told you and your buddy to go down Main Road, take a left into 1st Ave and by the red door you’ll see a new 125cc bike just standing there with the keys in the ignition – take the bike and bring it back to him. If the owner has words with you, tell them “no worries, that other guy told us to take it”… Ja right.
Check out Luke 19: 28-36.
Sometimes Jesus asks us to do stuff out of the ordinary. We too have a choice, either to ignore him or to have faith and obey Jesus. (Having faith really works).
SMELLY CARPET: We moved into a cute little house with a cute little lounge. Unfortunately that cuteness was eaten by the angry, smelly, dying lounge carpet. We saved forever to replace that smelly thing. Then we noticed dear friends who desperately needed funds – so that gross smelly carpet stayed a few years more …
We see in Matthew 26:6-13 how a lady sacrificed something precious for someone she treasured more and in turn, received the applause of Jesus. “She has done a beautiful thing to me” v10. Everything you give to Jesus is valued, treasured and cherished by him (even if others don’t).
HOT-CROSS BUNS: Warm hot-cross buns with melting butter inside are a favourite food group of mine. Yum-Yum. Isn’t it great that these delicacies are so widely available (with or without raisins and/or chocolate).
Some of our Family (in the great big Family of Jesus) live in places and spaces where the worship of Jesus is a crime. They have to celebrate him in secret. We have become one Family through the blood of Jesus. I am allowing my hot-cross buns and Easter eggs to remind me to hold up our Family in prayer especially those who have to worship Jesus in secret. Please join me.
Check out 2 Corinthians 1:8-11.
UNFINISHED BUSINESS: Cape Town has a number of unfinished bridges and freeways. It’s the weirdest thing. All that effort and resources wasted and for what? My out-of-town friends would often dis me about it.
Imagine if Jesus said “Not my will but your will be done” but didn’t follow through with it. Imagine if he said to Pilate. “This is too hard, I’d rather be on holiday” and split. Imagine if the rescuing bridge (Jesus dying on the cross and resurrecting on the 3rd day) that reunited us with the Father remained unfinished? Thank God for Jesus’ words “It Is Finished!”
Read 1 Peter 3:18.
ROMANTIC GESTURE: Romance doesn’t come easily to me. When your mom says you are as romantic as biltong, you know you have problems. So when I was still dating my then girlfriend (now wife) I borrowed a friend’s car to surprise my girlfriend with breakfast. The fuel gauge didn’t work. I got stuck on the freeway – in the dark – in the rain. Epic Fail!
The fact that Jesus defeated sin and death and has given me his Holy Spirit is like a guarantee of fuel in the tank. No more epic fails as long as I ride with him. See Acts 17:24-28.
My very first driving lesson didn’t go well. Not only was I trying to actually drive the car, but my dad also wanted me to explain how the car engine worked. Seriously?! My brain went into overdrive. We drove home in frosty silence. My mom took over the driving lessons and I passed first time. In our Christian journey, we need to choose good instructors. Your life may depend on it! Do you have wise, godly people that are helping you become more like Jesus? If not, chat to God about it and watch for how he answers your prayers. Read: Proverbs 13:20.
My boyfriend, a law-abiding driver, thought the speed limit was 100km/hour. It was not. He was driving my dad’s car. A few months later the speeding fine got posted to my dad’s work. It was clear who was driving the car. Epic fail!
Rules of the road and speeding fines are there for our safety and to protect all road-users. God corrects us because he wants the best for us. We show our maturity as Christians when we “don’t sulk under his loving correction” (Proverbs 3:12 Message).
Thank you, Lord, for your discipline, your forgiveness and for helping us to change. Read: Proverbs 3:11,12.
Driving distracted like while texting or putting on makeup is dangerous. I had a hectic experience in Greece. A local Greek driver was drinking coffee at the same time as making phone calls and steering with her knees in crazy Greek traffic. Sjoe-Sjoe!
In life there are so many things that distract us. Not just the sin stuff but things that keep us busy and not focused on following Jesus wholeheartedly. “Keep your eyes straight ahead; ignore all sideshow distractions. Watch your step, and the road will stretch out smooth before you. Look neither right nor left; leave evil in the dust” (Proverbs 4:25-27 Message).
It was kind of scary the first time I drove at night. Everything looks very different. Imagine driving in the pitch dark with absolutely no street lights or car head-lights.
Jesus says that we are the light of the world. “The ways of right-living people glow with light; the longer they live, the brighter they shine” (Proverbs 4:18 Message). There are many people living their lives lost in total darkness. “But the road of wrongdoing gets darker and darker – travellers can’t see a thing; they fall flat on their faces” (Proverbs 4:19 Message).
Light belongs in dark places. Lord, help us to shine!
Has anyone given you directions that got you hopelessly lost?
We have God’s amazing Word to give us direction. Get to know it really well! “I’m writing out clear directions to Wisdom Way, I’m drawing a map to Righteous Road. I don’t want you ending up in blind alleys, or wasting time making wrong turns. Hold tight to good advice; don’t relax your grip. Guard it well – your life is at stake! Don’t take Wicked Bypass; don’t so much as set foot on that road. Stay clear of it; give it wide berth. Make a detour and be on your way” (Proverbs 4:11-15 Message).
You’re stressing as you take an eye test. You squint your eyes to make out the tiny letters. Try narrowing your eyes now. What happens? Your face crumples up in a frown. Not an attractive look.
As Christ-followers, God longs for us to completely trust him because he is completely trustworthy. Sometimes difficulties can cause us to lose focus and begin to rely on other things – money, stuff, even our own abilities. As a result we can “live squinty-eyed in greed and distrust” (Matthew 6:22 Message). Not an attractive look! So “don’t let this throw you. You trust God, don’t you? Trust me” Jesus (John 14:1 Message).
You’re watching an exciting action-packed movie with incredible scenery and stunts but it looks a little blurry around the edges, with tinges of red and green. You’re frustrated as others around you are saying “Ooh!” and “Wow!”. Oopsie – you forgot your 3D glasses.
Ever feel like other Christians are getting it right but you keep messing up? You need a perspective change. Deliberately put on your spiritual 3D glasses and let God renew your mind. God promises that he is continually at work in your life. Trust him. “God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you” (Romans 12:2 Message).
You’re part of a highly trained elite commando unit and have just completed a top secret mission. You’ve successfully rescued hostages from a highly dangerous situation in the dead of night. But the world will never hear of your bravery.
Only God has spiritual “night vision goggles” that allows him to see what is done in secret for his kingdom (like prayer, generosity, fasting). Maybe people will never get to hear of your acts of love and sacrifice. But God loves it when you don’t draw attention to yourself. “Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:4).
You’re living in the moment. It’s brilliant – the hero of your own story, large and in charge. Suddenly you mess up so badly there’s no going back. What a loser. Someone removes your Virtual Reality Headset. You’re shocked to realise none of it was real. Yoh!
The devil (Father of Lies) has come to “steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10). He creates an alternate reality of lies to entrap us. Jesus offers “real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of” (John 10:10). Remove that VR Headset of lies and live in the truth as a son/daughter of the Most High God.
You’re on a game drive and see a blurry object moving far in the distance. Using high powered binoculars you see that it’s a mother cheetah and her cubs. What an amazing sight.
Your future may appear like a blurry object on the horizon of your life. You may feel hopeless or worried about what lies ahead. Fortunately God knows everything and sees your potential. He knows who he created you to be and the adventures he has planned for you. Trust him even and especially when you can’t see what lies ahead. God has your future in hand and it is glorious in him! Check out Ephesians 2:10.
Bullets swarming. Bombs raining. You’ve been separated from your troop, alone, totally surrounded and the enemy is closing in. You can see the hatred oozing out their eyes. Who do you need when you can’t help yourself? Many see God as nice and tame, sweet and mild. They forget who unceremoniously flung the devil and his hordes out of Heaven. They forget that Jesus gave the devil a snot-klap on the cross. So when the devil comes in like a flood, you don’t need a puny god. You need the LORD God Almighty. The God of Angel Armies – for that is who He is…Check out Psalm 46:3 (the Message).
The 23rd floor beneath you is ablaze. Your legs are trapped under the heaviest cabinet in the world. The ferocious flames have now clawed their way up and are gorging the ceiling. Even your sweat is beginning to boil and nobody knows you’re there. Who do you need when you can’t help yourself?
Feeling alone and condemned can have disastrous consequences. Jesus runs in when others run out. “For he has rescued us out of the darkness and gloom of Satan’s kingdom and brought us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, who bought our freedom with his blood and forgave us all our sins”. Colossians 1: 13-14.
You’re on the operating table. The agony of each rasping, wheezing breath feels like a death sentence. Your heart is literally broken, oozing the red stuff and you’re surrounded by well-meaning mechanics. Who do you need when you can’t help yourself?
Jesus has placed eternity in our hearts. How stupid is it to rely on the temporary stuff when eternity is at stake. The problem with sin is that it infects us all with deadly toxins we have no antidote for BUT “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Luke 5:31-32
You’re in the dock. Serious charges laid against you. Some false. Some true. The slimy prosecutor has you just where he wants you – cornered and trapped. Whatever you say is used against you – and you’ve said many, many things. Who do you need when you can’t help yourself?
We have an enemy, the accuser who is well versed in bending the truth to get his way. Good thing then that the defender of our souls is both Faithful and True. Jesus is able to destroy the accuser’s lies and present you to the Father – blameless, forgiven and free of accusation. Not guilty. Check out Colossians 1:21-22.
You’ve been taken, tied up, gagged and beaten – held captive who knows where. Attempted an escape but got caught. Seriously Epic Fail! You’re the lamb, bleeding and broken and they’re wolves about to finish this game. Who do you need when you can’t help yourself?
Sin attacked – stealing, killing and destroying. Held us captive. Abused us without mercy. Game Over. But God… Whenever we see “But God” in Scripture it means a massive change is afoot. But God made us alive in Christ (Ephesians 2:5). But God demonstrates his own love for us (Romans 5:8). But God is the strength of my heart (Psalm 73:26). New Game.
On her way to visit her sick granny, Little Red Riding Hood is warned not to talk to strangers.
However deep in the woods she meets the Big Bad Wolf. She doesn’t ignore him or run away. She stops for a nice chat and things go rapidly downhill from there. She was just being friendly, wasn’t she?
As Christ-followers we have an enemy who absolutely hates us and wants to destroy us. Here’s good advice: “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith” (1 Peter 5:8,9). Don’t invite him in!
The first 2 lazy pigs build straw/stick houses. The third hard-working pig builds with bricks. Then the Big Bad Wolf arrives huffing and puffing and blows the puny houses down. Easy-peasy! The 2 pigs race into the brick house to avoid becoming a Wolf-Happy-Meal.
What kind of houses are we building with our lives? “Take particular care in picking out your building materials. Eventually there is going to be an inspection. If you use cheap or inferior materials, you’ll be found out” (1 Corinthians 3:12,13 Msg). Growing in our relationship with Jesus involves hard work, obedience and sacrifice but the rewards are out of this world.
Instead of dying on her 16th birthday, Sleeping Beauty falls into a deep sleep. She can only be awakened with a kiss from her true love. How romantic. However what happens if Sleeping Beauty didn’t wait for her true love’s kiss and instead got caught up with kissing a whole lot of frogs?
God calls us to live lives of purity. “You should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honourable” (1 Thessalonians 4:3,4). But don’t despair if you’ve messed up – confess to God and he will lovingly forgive you (Psalm 51:1,2).
Geppeto makes a wooden puppet that’s magically given life. Only problem is Pinocchio can’t stop lying. Each time he lies, his nose grows longer. Imagine if that happened each time we lied, told a half-truth or deceived someone. How long would your nose be?
Did you know that the devil’s native language is lying “for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44)? “The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful” (Proverbs 12:22). I really want God to delight in me – don’t you? Please, Lord, help me to speak the truth in love this week.
This sad story is about an Ugly Duckling who’s constantly bullied and rejected because he’s different. But one incredible day, he gets his “happily ever after” as he realises he’s grown into the most beautiful swan and found his forever family.
Sometimes I feel like the Ugly Duckling but then God reminds me that he’s not finished with me yet. “There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.” (Philippians 1:6 Msg). Trust God – he knows what he’s doing
Just a little more
The greedy Miller lies to the King about his daughter, hoping to make a quick buck. Greedy Rumpelstiltskin keeps asking the Miller’s daughter for things (including her first born). The greedy King can’t get enough of the straw being spun into gold. Poor girl – surrounded by greed, she very nearly pays a costly price.
A very rich guy was asked how much is enough? He replied: “Just a little bit more…” Don’t be trapped by greed for stuff (clothes, tech etc.). “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have” (Hebrews 13:5).
The beast within
An arrogant, superficial prince is magically turned into a Really Ugly Beast. Enter Belle who is beautiful, both inside and outside. As their friendship grows, so does love which breaks the curse and in the end they live happily ever after (once he transforms into a handsome prince who is now handsome on the inside too).
How often do we judge people by the way they look, act, dress? God is much more concerned on what’s going on inside and we need to be too. “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart. “ 1 Samuel 16:7.
Cinderella lives in a blended family but all is not well. Her step-mother despises her and her two step-sisters are really nasty. Cinderella does all the work while they party. They constantly mock and dis their step-sister. Not very nice – hey?!
Let’s not be mean, ugly step-sisters but Real Family. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same of that as Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:3-5). Enough said!
A hairy situation
An evil witch keeps Rapunzel trapped in a high tower with no way out. She grows up knowing nothing of the outside world. Until one day, a prince discovers her singing and both of their lives, as they know it, are changed forever.
Many people live trapped in invisible prisons – some through their own making or through other’s actions/words. Maybe you feel trapped by your circumstances, other people’s views of you or even your own sin and guilt. Good news – “Christ has set us free to live a free life” (Galatians 5:1 Msg). So come out of your tower and be free!
The Run Around
A very fast Hare arrogantly challenges a very slow Tortoise to a race. The result was inevitable… or was it? The Hare takes a nap along the way, fully confident he’ll still win but the slow and steady Tortoise keeps on keeping on and wins.
As Christ-followers, we can’t afford to lose focus or arrogantly think we’ve got it all sorted. We also need to help each other in the race. So “start running – and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in” (Hebrews 12:1 Msg).
It started out as my mountain getaway birthday weekend. Just me, my wife, a few friends and my two dogs. All fun-times until my wife disappeared out of sight as she fell down the ravine. No picture – just that sound of flesh hitting rock again and again – and then the deafening silence. Was she alive? Had she graduated to Heaven? Check out Exodus 3: 12-16. God told Moses that His nature would become evident through His actions. In the eternity of those few seconds, through the ferocious screams inside of me, I found I could trust Jesus especially when I couldn’t trust myself.
At 4, I convinced my dad I was ready to cycle the big-boy bike. I sat on the cross-bar and peddled while he held the saddle and ran next to me. Faster and faster we went. This was a piece of cake, until I realised that he was no longer holding the bike and was way, way behind me. Only problem was the T-Junction ahead and I had not learnt about brakes…
See Matthew 14:22-33. What is important is not that Peter sank, but that even with a little faith, he was the only Disciple to walk on water. The others only watched…
The first time I flew in a plane, I jumped out (and there was nothing wrong with the plane). The jumpmaster had showed a gazillion graphic pictures of ways I would die if I messed up. So while hurtling down from just below space at a billion km/second, I wondered “Would my parachute help me to cheat gravity?”…
“So we take comfort and are encouraged and confidently and boldly say, The Lord is my Helper; I will not be seized with alarm [I will not fear or dread or be terrified]. What can man do to me?” Chillax. God’s got you. Check out Hebrews 13:5-6.
So we heard Jesus telling us to go to a specific country where the authorities really didn’t like Him. They had a tendency of doing all manner of nasty things to Jesus followers. We had to go there to link arms with and encourage the Family – and the trip would cost us R20,000 per person. I didn’t have R20K. Some said it was a sign to bail out but I couldn’t deny hearing Jesus’ clear instruction to follow Him there. Jesus doesn’t stop at “Come to Me”. He also says “Come with Me!” What are you hearing Him say to you? Read Jeremiah 1:4-10.
I’ve always loved climbing things, so started my training to become an abseiling and mountaineering Ninja. Pretty soon I would take groups of peeps abseiling and stuff. Imagine how the conversation changed when, while they dangling off a precipice, they heard me casually say that I had a healthy respect for heights. “YOU ARE AFRAID OF HEIGHTS. WHAT…?!”
I have come to trust the equipment that keeps me alive (like the three anchor ropes attached to solid rock that cannot move). I’m safe as long as I’m attached to that rock. Jesus says “Remain in Me” for a reason. See John 15:4-11.
Esau & Jacob were twins. Older brother Esau was a big hairy-manly-male-type and Jacob stayed home with mommy. Esau didn’t value his birth right. (Birth rights were big deals as you carried on the privilege, resources and good name of your father merely by being born first). He exchanged all that for potjie kos. See the biblical account in Genesis 25:29-34. You have been born again into the family of the Lord God Most High. You are joint heirs with Jesus, God’s only begotten son. That means you have equal share in Jesus’ birth right. The same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead lives in you. Don’t exchange eternal value for some temporary craving.
I was on a year-of-your-life programme and struggled to raise my financial support. Many of the church family would wish me well with lots of righteous sounding church words then disappear. A guy, having also heard my plight, looked at me, and also went away. He soon returned, shoved an overweight envelop into my jacket pocket then disappeared again. What a kingdom of God demonstration to me. Check out James 2:14-18.
When all is said and done, there’s a lot more said than done. Faith is a doing word. What you do demonstrates whom you are listening to, who you are trusting and what you believe to be true. Faith without action is in effect stillborn.
Jesus and Lazarus were BFF’s. Then Lazarus dies. Jesus shows up 4 days later and starts giving strange instructions like “Move the tomb stone” (which kept scavengers out and bad smells in). “He stinketh” replied Martha. See the biblical account in John 11:38-44.
Grave clothes were strips of cloth wrapped around the dead body. “Take off the grave clothes and let him go” (v44). Lazarus’ friends had to stand really close so that they could unravel the smelly, saucy grave clothes whilst protecting his modesty. Lazarus had to trust them. They also had to give him some of their clothes. Now that’s a circle of friends belonging to the kingdom of God!
Don’t you just hate being complicit in your own downfall. It’s like scoring own goals all the time. It’s just not right being the best scoring player for the opposite team. Check out Colossians 2:9-15.
Jesus gave you the right to really live when he rolled away the grave stone that imprisoned and kept you a convict of sin. Self-condemnation (to condemn oneself) is scoring own goals. It’s a slap in the face of God Most High who made you alive in Christ (v13). This isn’t becoming of someone who’s been given the fullness of Christ (v10). Satan condemns us. Christ convicts of sin but restores us to fullness.
“Although my memory’s fading, I remember two things very clearly: I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Saviour”. This is from the same guy who wrote “Amazing grace. How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now I’m found. Was blind but now I see” – John Newton.
“For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God” 1 Peter 3:18. That is the steadfast and secure platform from which we, as followers of Jesus, launch our daily lives. So, seeing as you have that absolute assurance, “live a life worthy of the Lord…” Colossians 1:10.
WORLD OF HURT
I’ve never been accused of being tall but loved school rugby. I was super-fast and had clever twists and turns but I was in a world of hurt when the enormous, bearded opposition tackled me. Did that deter me? NEVER!
Check out Hebrews 10: 35-11:1.
We don’t operate in our own strength. That would be an epic fail. Jesus empowers, enables and restores us. That is why “we are not those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved. Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 10:39-11:1). So do not throw away your confidence (Ch10:35)!
I remember being the lone voice in high school to stand and say “No! We will not do this.” I remember seeing unethical practices at my first job and telling the boss “This is wrong”. It felt like standing on a cliff-edge of doom but hearing Jesus saying “Jump! I’ve got you.”
Check out Psalm 46 (Message).
Following Jesus may take you to places that are dark and scary. So shine – after all, light belongs in dark places. Where He leads, he enables. That may mean some recharging time in the strong tower of his Word.
Jacob-wrestling God fights for us, God of Angel Armies protects us (repeated thrice). So do not throw away your confidence… Hebrews 10:35.
Mary goes to Jesus’ tomb in the dark (brave girl). The Big Stone’s Gone – Eish! Tells the boys they’ve been burgled. Only John & Peter investigate. John arrives but only takes a little looky-loo. Peter finally rocks up (maybe still burdened by guilt) #justsaying. At least he goes in. Peter sees more than John but both only see in part – then they bounce and leave Mary behind, all alone – or is she? Read John 20:1-18.
You can do the right things, be at the right places, at the right time with the right people and still miss Jesus. “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know”. Jeremiah 33:3.
If the Laws of Thermodynamics are to be believed, stuff tends toward increased disorder and decay, especially if left to their own devices. The evidence is all around. Given the right conditions (boredom, rage, stupidity), how long does it take for things to “decay or deteriorate”? The Earth truly broke at the Fall. But God…Check out Ecclesiastes 3:1-11.
The rhythms of many people’s lives are set to the beat of the disorder and decay around them. Yet Jesus says that he has set/planted eternity in our hearts and minds (v11). This is a divinely implanted sense of a greater purpose which nothing but God can satisfy. So when you feel that there’s more to this life, that’s God…
How about those movies where the skinny, pimply little guy is faced with an impossible task but at the last moment, against impossible odds, claws victory from the jaws of defeat leaving the arrogant gigantor-type dude reeling in disbelief and defeat.
Some Christians may look at all that’s overwhelmingly wrong in the world. Then believe that the Devil may actually be a worthy adversary to gentle Jesus meek and mild. Don’t be fooled. Our God is not a tame God.
“Therefore since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire” Hebrews 12:28-29.
Your eyes meet across a crowded room. Your heart beats faster. You have butterflies in your tummy You think they’re the most incredible person in the whole world BUT do they even know that you exist…?!?
Great news – God knows that you exist and he’s crazy about you. He sees you as incredibly precious. He absolutely loves you. Let that thought make you hold your heart and head up high today. “That’s how much you mean to me! That’s how much I love you! I’d sell off the whole world to get you back, trade the creation just for you” Isaiah 43:4 (Message).
Can’t get that person out of your mind? You close your eyes and see their face. You keep wondering where they are and what they’re doing. They consume your thoughts. Could they be The One?
As much as you can’t get that particular person out of your mind, God has the same thoughts about you. Can you believe that? He thinks that you are unforgettable. He’s even got a tattoo of you! “Yes, they may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have indelibly imprinted (tattooed a picture of) you on the palm of each of My hands” Isaiah 49:15,16 (Amplified).
But what to wear?
It’s the first date: hours are spent preparing, grooming, choosing the perfect outfit. Whew! Finally you’re ready, looking like a million bucks…you hope!
God dresses us in the most amazing outfits and we don’t ever have to worry about what to wear. He’s got that covered! “I will sing for joy in GOD, explode in praise from deep in my soul! He dressed me up in a suit of salvation, he outfitted me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom who puts on a tuxedo and a bride a jewelled tiara” Isaiah 61:10 (Message). Praise God right now!
Love, Lies and Betrayal
You’re in love and everything is going brilliantly. Then you hear that your bae hooked up with your best friend. Betrayal on the deepest level and you’re never going to forgive them…EVER!
God loves us jealously and wants an exclusive relationship. But in so many ways (big and small) we’re unfaithful to God. Thank goodness that he forgives us when we’re truly sorry. “In an outburst of anger I turned my back on you – but only for a moment. It’s with lasting love that I’m tenderly caring for you” Isaiah 54:8 (Message). You’re forgiven and deeply loved. Believe it!
You are mine
We all long to find Our Person and live happily ever after. We want everyone to know that we belong together…forever. And that may even lead to marriage and sharing the same name!
God sees us as His. We belong to him and to no one else. He’s given us a new name and a new start and he’s never, ever going to leave us alone. “But now, this is what the LORD says – he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine” Isaiah 43:1.
“Baby, if you love me, then you’ll sleep with me…” This popular line tries to manipulate people into doing things to prove their love. Is this true love? Seriously?
God selflessly turns that around and says “Because I love you, I will do something for you. I will sacrifice myself for you.” “But it was our sins that did that to him, that ripped and tore and crushed him – our sins! He took the punishment, and that made us whole. Through his bruises we get healed” Isaiah 53:5 (Message).
Now that’s real love! Thank him for his love right now.
What does the person you love most in the world, bring out in you? The best or the worst? My hubby and I are much better together and that’s how God designed us to function.
God also says that you are much better together with him. He strengthens you, helps you, gives you courage. He makes you waaay better than you are on your own. Trust him. He’s got you!
“Don’t panic. I’m with you. There’s no need to fear for I’m your God. I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you. I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you” Isaiah 41:10 (Message).
I must be dreaming!
The most popular, amazing person that everyone knows and really admires – they’ve just chosen you over everyone else. You used to feel so ordinary but now you feel extraordinary. Everyone knows who you are. It’s a dream come true!
Great news – it’s not a dream. The most incredible, powerful, amazing person in the entire universe has chosen you. God loves you madly, deeply, truly! How does this truth help you to live your life today?
“For your Maker is your bridegroom, his name, GOD-of-the-Angel-Armies! Your Redeemer is The Holy of Israel, known as God of the whole earth” Isaiah 54:5 (Message).
Throughout history men have competed to win a lady’s heart – from medieval knights jousting to duelling pistols at dawn, from punch-ups to epic sports field battles.
Fortunately we have the biggest, strongest protector in the entire universe. He is our Warrior God who fights on our behalf against the enemy of our soul (especially when we’re weak and vulnerable). He’s got your back! “The LORD will march out like a mighty man, like a warrior he will stir up his zeal; with a shout he will raise the battle cry and will triumph over his enemies” Isaiah 42:13.
Growing old with you
It’s so romantic to say that you want to grow old with someone. But if you don’t really love that person, when they start getting older/fatter/balder, you may want to look around for a newer model…
Thank goodness God doesn’t feel that way about you. God loves you unconditionally and not just when you are good/beautiful/well-behaved. Why? Because he doesn’t ever want to be apart from you. “Even to your old age and grey hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you” Isaiah 46:4.
Franz was a bit of a spoilt brat who thought he knew best. He started saying and doing foolish things against his friends and family’s better judgment. Long story short, he was assassinated by a group called “The Black Hand”. Then, those on one side unfriended those on the other leading to a few fisticuffs (which lasted over 4 years and left around 17 million dead, aka World War 1) – all because Franz would not listen.
“The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice. “ Proverbs 12:15. Don’t be a “Franz”. Listen to people who listen to Jesus. Check out Proverbs 14: 12-13 (Message).
ART OF RUNNING
I am of the opinion that the human body was not designed to run unless chased by a big beast, sporting big teeth, evil eyes and grievous intent. Proverbs 28:1a seems to support this view, “The wicked run away when no one is chasing them…” (mic drop).
But then there’s the rest of the verse, “but the godly are as bold as lions” Proverbs 28:1b (NLT). It is the character of a lion (the stuff inside) that makes it King of the Jungle. So young Simba, fill up with godliness so that you may stand boldly for righteousness – and make King Jesus proud.
HELL IS NO ESCAPE
My Granny, who could see through walls, would say “Hell is no escape and neither is the toilet…” when I used prolonged bathroom visits as an excuse for not doing my chores.
The sluggard says, “There is a lion in the road, a fierce lion roaming the streets”. [Excuses-excuses]. “The sluggard buries his hand in the dish; he is too lazy to bring it back to his mouth”. (Proverbs 26:13&15). Ssssies!
We’re not talking about having a lazy day. This is character defining. Bottom line – laziness not only reflects badly on you but also on Jesus. Our actions portray what we believe to be true.
My favourite knife is my Leatherman. Why? It’s REALLY sharp. (I’ve even cut cable with it). Second is my chef’s knife. Why? It’s balanced and REALLY sharp – except when it’s blunt. (Then it’s just a pain to use and REALLY dangerous too).
Proverbs 27:17 says “As iron sharpens iron, so one person (a friend) sharpens another”. This doesn’t mean rubbing each other up the wrong way. It means giving each other the right to be in each other’s business in an up-close and personal way with the intent to make each other better – sharp, balanced and becoming more like Jesus.
Garfield said “Fat has a sick sense of humour” (and he’s an authority on weight issues). I too have been told, “You need to lose a bit of pudding (weight) and get into shape”. My response, “Round is also a shape – Ha!” But why is it that putting on the pudding is SO much easier that losing it?
“Worry weighs us down, a cheerful word picks us up”. Proverb 12:25 (MSG)
There are many anxieties in life that weigh our hearts down. If the waters of your heart are low, find a Jesus-friend to help fill it up. Never underestimate an encouraging word whose season has come.
“And the waves they, wash over me, cos the riptide pulls me out into the deep, it surrounds me, holds me, follows when I breath” (Jeremy Loops, Waves). Ever feel spiritually dried out? Like you’re in the middle of your own personal drought? Good news! Jesus says, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Rivers of living water will brim and spill out of the depths of anyone who believes in me this way” (John 7:38 Msg). Immerse yourself in these beautiful visuals: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ckWRHc85yBU)U as you prayerfully ask Jesus to fill your empty spaces with life-giving water.
“Everybody takes all they can get from you, Till you’re left with almost nothing left of you, When each night is like a battle you can’t win, And the pain is like a weight you’re carrying, I will be the one to help you carry it…So I’ll fight, fight that war for you…I’ll help your back when your back’s to the wall, I’ll catch the tears when your tears fall” Jennifer Hudson (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ho0aVZHQnNM).
We have a champion. His name is Jesus. “Do not be afraid of them; the LORD your God himself will fight for you” (Deuteronomy 3:22). Trust Him!!
This song debuted in 2016. It’s still on the UK Top 40 in 2019. Over 2.4 billion views to date. It must be a brilliant, profound song – right? Have a quick listen and decide: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XqZsoesa55w
Sorry about that ear-worm. Hope it’s not stuck in your brain! Instead of listening to meaningless words, let’s focus on brilliant, profound life-giving words. “Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another – showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us.” (2 Timothy 3:17 Msg).
Life can often feel blah/hopeless/yuk/depressing and one asks, “God, where are you?!?”
Sometimes all we need is a perspective change. “Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective”(Colossians 3:2 Msg).
“I see You in everything, all day, And every beat of my heart keeps reminding me, I see You in every little thing, all day.” Watch Toby Mac’s Everything (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QurQEiOAQjA) and ask God to show you the world through His eyes today.
“Everybody says, “Say something that says something”… I don’t wanna get caught, up in the rhythm of it.
But I can’t help myself, no, I can’t help myself” Justin Timberlake: Say Something (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8MPbR6Cbwi4).
Through social media, it’s easy to say lots of stuff in the heat of the moment. But do all those words honour Jesus? In Ephesians 4:29 it says “Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift”. “Sometimes the greatest way to saying something is to say nothing at all”.
Text: John 5:16 – 6:71
Title: Against the Grain
This week’s readings place Jesus in what was most probably his last year of ministry on Earth. His language is spiced with stories, idioms and sayings. Some of them are understood, and others not so much.
We will see how the Old Testament shines a light onto Jesus the Messiah. Others however remain unconvinced. We’ll find that bread is more than ornamental and will discover the meaning of mokusatsu. May you rediscover that “to follow Jesus implies that we enter into a way of life that is given character and shape and direction by the One who calls us” Eugene Peterson.
Day 1: Monday 5th March 2018
Title: Stranger Than Fiction
Jesus had just healed a crippled man. The religious aristocracy got their collective knickers in a tight knot about this as he was “doing these things on the Sabbath” (v16). Jesus found himself out of their good graces and into their crosshairs. Sjoe-Sjoe! But wait, there’s more…
Read: John 5:16-30
Our passage continues with Jesus having the audacity to make outrageous statements: “My Father” (referring to Yahweh) and “is ALWAYS at work” (that would include the Sabbath). He was in effect saying that as the Son, he was equal to Yahweh, having the same authority as the Father. Eish Wena. Make it stop. And so they wanted to relieve him of his head.
Half of the passage is about Jesus, in relationship with the Father, echoing the words and works of the Father. The other half is about life abundant and raising the dead. Whenever Jesus says “I tell you the truth”, he means for us to pay special attention: v19 (Jesus echoes the Father), v24 (eternal life) and v25 (regeneration).
Everything Jesus said was and is true. The Jews did not agree with Jesus because they did not know and love him. You however know and love him.
What is Jesus saying to you that makes you to feel a tad uncomfortable? Hear him out. The devil condemns. Jesus convicts. “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life” (v24).
Day 2: Tuesday 6th March 2018
Title: The Ball Is In Your Court
When my grandparents read stories to me, they had a way of making it come alive, as if they were living it.
Read: John 5:31-47
“You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent…” (vv37b-38), yet you have so many bible studies.
“These are the Scriptures that testify about me” (v39). The Scriptures referred to here is the Old Testament. What an unfortunate paradox. They could not see that Jesus was the main topic of these very scriptures they imbued themselves in. How was this possible? They had the appearance (a form of godliness and piety) but denied and rejected its power, and so were strangers to it. See 2 Timothy 3:5. Religion had become mere cultural expressions – no eternal value.
Never before in the history of the Church, have we had so much bible study resource material so readily available to so many. (You are reading one right now). Yet there seems to be less and less evidence of the life of Jesus living and moving and having his being in us, the Church. How can this be? “I have hidden thy word in mine head that I might not think of thee” – a parody of Psalm 119:11.
When my grandparents read Scripture to me, they made it come alive because it was alive in them. Not only did I hear Scripture from their lips, I saw it in their actions. It’s our turn now.
Day 3: Wednesday 7th March 2018
Title: Upper Crust
Jesus was just informed that the John the Baptiser had been beheaded by Herod the Tetrarch (Matt 14:11-13). He tried to withdraw to a solitary place, presumably to mourn. This didn’t happen because he was intercepted by a crowd in need.
Read: 2 Kings 4:42-44 & John 6:1-15
Verse 4 seems to be a clue, “The Jewish Passover Feast was near”. This is at the heart of the entire chapter: “I am the Passover Lamb”; “I am the Bread of Life”; “I am sent of the Father”; “I am the Door into the kingdom of God” etc.
Jesus brought Phillip in on what he was about to do. It was not a test to see if he would fail. This meal (barley loaves and fish) was not an upper crust meal. It was the meal of the poor, only enough for a boy. Yet Jesus gave thanks to the Father for it.
“Let nothing be wasted” (v 12). The limited resources were made enough by Jesus. He took responsibility for that which was given to him. We too have the responsibility of stewarding whatever resources have been entrusted to us. It’s everyone’s responsibility within the kingdom of God, not just the rich, to add value to the kingdom by sharing. Some of us may be called to give away our entire meal.
Many in the crowd were blissfully unaware that the miracle they needed was taking place even while they were eating. Imagine you were that boy watching what you had given away, grow into a miracle…
Day 4: Thursday 8th March 2018
Title: Come Hell or High Water
So they’ve had a few exciting days in the hot sun – healing many, feeding the masses, crowds labelling Jesus as the prophesied prophet. Yay! Happy days. Why is it that things tend to go sideways at the worst possible time and place? In this instance it was in thick darkness, smack in the middle of an enraged lake and no NSRI to come to the rescue.
Read: John 6:16-21
Legend had it that sailors thought they were going to drown if they saw an apparition in a storm. Ferocious, fearsome wicked weather plus eerie apparitions equals paralysing fear. They were terrified and with good reason. Because of the topography, storms tended to attack with enmity and without warning. Even their expertise as fisherman of the region did not help them.
Note what’s not in this account of events. The apostle John (who was in the boat) does not mention Jesus calming the storm or Peter walking on water. Why? The focus is on
1) their fear;
2) their inability to do anything about their context;
3) their need for the presence of Jesus.
Jesus responded to them with one of the most famous verses in the Torah. “I AM WHO I AM” (Exodus 3:14) – saying that his nature would become evident through his actions. This promise is as true for you as it was for the disciples.
So when things go sideways at the worst possible time and place, Christ is with you – Christ is in you. Come hell or high water…
Day 5: Friday 9th March 2018
Title: The Proof Is In The Pudding
Which is best, the smell of home-made bread or the taste of freshly baked home-made bread?
Read: John 6:22-40
Messianic expectations would have been at fever pitch because of Passover preparations and the miraculous feeding. This passage however reveals a tectonic shift in the playing field. Before it was just the religious constabulary but now the crowds also want to throw Jesus out of the sand pit.
The crowds only wanted free stuff. They did not understand the value of what Jesus was offering so did not grasp this eternal free gift. They called for a messiah, a rescuing saviour but what they actually wanted was a free meal ticket forever. Read v27. Don’t be fooled. Striving to do good things or following Jesus as a cultural habit may appear to have short-term benefits. His kingdom is anything but short-term.
The Father has given Jesus all authority and authenticity. He has in turn authorised us in his service. See 2 Corinthians 1:21-22. Jesus is the bread of life. Taste and see that the LORD is good. (Psalm 34:8). Why slave or crave for that which is here today and gone tomorrow?
Home-made whole grain bread looks and smells wonderful on the table. It however only fills and nourishes when one actually eats it. Jesus replied, I am the Bread of Life. He who comes to Me will never be hungry, and he who believes in and cleaves to and trusts in and relies on Me will never thirst anymore (at any time). John 6:35 (Amplified).
Day 6: Saturday 10th March 2018
Title: Missed The Boat
The Japanese response to the Allied call for surrender was “mokusatsu”, meaning “We withhold comment – pending discussion”. This was misinterpreted as “We are treating your message with contempt”, resulting in the Hiroshima and Nagasaki carnage… Misinterpretations can have disastrous consequences.
Read: John 6:41-71
Jesus made many “I AM” statements in the book of John, some absolute – some metaphorical. They declare that He alone is who we need. Following Jesus means choosing a side. This is an informed decision that one sticks to. The crowds chose to misinterpret Jesus’ words because they didn’t like what he was saying. Many of Jesus’ followers chose to jump ship because “This is a hard teaching…” (v 60).
Let us not forget that our Commander-In-Chief is the Great I AM. The opposition may be fierce – Jesus said bad stuff will happen. He also promised that He is all we will ever need. He who promised is faithful (Hebrews 10:23). If we stay the course, the rewards are out of this world.
“We now demand glamour and fast-flowing dramatic action. A generation of Christians reared among push buttons and automatic machines is impatient of slower and less direct methods of reaching their goals… The tragic results of this spirit all, all about us: shallow lives, hollow religious philosophies… the glorification of men, trust is religious externalities… salesmanship methods, the mistaking of dynamic personality for the power of the Spirit. These and such of these are the symptoms of an evil disease.” A.W. Tozer (1897-1963), The Pursuit of God.
Day 7: Sunday 11th March 2018
While a picture may paint a thousand words, language has the capacity to evolve and yet cradle the same message. The most eloquent language is articulated through action.
There are those with the gift of the gab and those who are gagged. We have the right to remain silent and the freedom to shout from the rooftops. When it’s all said and done, there’s a lot more said than done.
Jesus chose to say and do what he saw the Father saying and doing. He urges us to follow suit. How are your actions a demonstration of Jesus’ words?
There’s a power that exists in a question that is not necessarily found in the answer – (adapted from Elie Wiesel). Why? – We tend to retain learning not from our experience but by evaluating our experience. Consider the following:
1) There are many subtle (and not so subtle) nuances, characters and storylines in this week’s readings. You may have encountered the expected and the not-so-expected. Scroll through the readings and describe what stood out for you about them.
2) What is the significance about what has been revealed to you?
3) Now what will you do with this knowledge?
4) Jesus said a great many things while he was on Earth. How would your life change if you were absolutely convinced that everything he said was true? Please explain your response.
Date: 12th – 18th March
Text: John 7:1 – 8:30
Title: Built For The Road Ahead
Last week, we encountered Jesus performing the impossible in and around the Passover Festival. His next Passover would be at the cross…
This week we see him in and around the Feast of Tabernacles. We encounter Jesus preparing the stage for his final entry into Jerusalem. Six months later, Jerusalem would know him as the crucified “King of the Jews” and in the age to come, see him (and bow down to him) as Eternal Majesty.
Bloodlust and hostility towards Jesus intensifies but an unlikely hero emerges in defence of Jesus. May you drink deep and be enlightened this week…
Day 1 Monday 12th March 2018
Title: It’s Not Inside. It’s On top
How good to know that our strength comes not from ourselves but from Jesus.
Read: John 7:1-13
Verse 1 summarises six months (April to October) of intense ministry in Galilee and the escalation of hostility against Jesus. His brothers (vv3-7) were not advising him out of concern for his wellbeing. The converse was true. They were unhappy with Jesus because he exposed their sin (v7). See what Jesus tells Nicodemus in John 3:19-21. People still hate Jesus for this reason. When Jesus enters society (inside and outside the Church) the comfort of sin becomes uncomfortably scratchy.
Jesus does not have a rubber arm for us to bend to our will. He still works according to his timetable. He would go to Jerusalem (v10) to prepare the way to his eventual crucifixion at Calvary a few months later. Some of his greatest opposition came from those who were closest. John is at pains to spell out that we too, as followers of Jesus, may walk this road of rejection caused by those who should be closest to us. Sometime later however, Jesus’ bothers do see the light and walk in it (Acts 1:14).
Opinion is still divided as to who Jesus is – a good man, a deceiver or Messiah. His brothers didn’t know who he was (even though they lived with him all their lives). The religious aristocracy didn’t know who he was (even though they studied the scriptures all their lives). Who do you say Jesus is? Who do you know him to be??
Day 2 Tuesday 13th March 2018
Title: A Taste For Life
Apparently Jesus and his disciples were unschooled. Yet there was a clear distinction between the teachers of the Law and Jesus (and later his disciples).
Read: John 7:14-24
The Jewish theologians where amazed (and probably perplexed) by Jesus’ teaching (v15). It was more than mere delivery. It was his authority. Jesus neither takes the credit nor hides behind false modesty. Read Acts 4:13 for a sneak peak. Verse 18 is a clue that we all would do well to follow, especially those having influence.
Jesus (v21) had healed a severely crippled man on the Sabbath (John 5:1-15). A principle of rabbinical culture and debate was that a positive regulation superseded a negative regulation if the two regulations appeared to be in contradiction with each other i.e., ‘thou shalt’ trumps ‘thou shalt not’. Those were their rules. Why is this important?
Thou ‘shalt not’ work on the Sabbath but ‘thou shalt’ save or protect life on the Sabbath. Rabbis understood a man to be made up of 248 parts or members. The highly regulated Sabbath was suspended if circumcision (work), involving only 1 part, happened to fall on the Sabbath. Yet they wanted to kill Jesus for saving the entire body, all 248 parts on the Sabbath. Ergo, if Jesus was guilty and deserved death, then so were they. They were right to be amazed and perplexed by Jesus’ authority. Absolutely brilliant!
Be careful not to judge yourself by your intensions yet judge others by their actions. The road to hell is paved with…
Day 3 Wednesday 14th March 2018
Title: Obey Your Thirst
About ? of the human body is made up of water. It lubricates, is a shock absorber to joints etc. and is a major transportation and cooling system. When one dehydrates however, your organs literally shrivel up and shut down. Dehydration is nasty business. You can last for weeks without food. Not so without water. Thirsty anyone?
Read: John 7:25-44
The people wholly misunderstood Jesus and what he was saying in the first and last sections of today’s passage. Who is he? Where is he from? Where is he going? They would have picked up what he was putting down had they paid closer attention to Scripture.
The last and greatest day of the festival was a crescendo of celebration and thanksgiving. The priests would carry water from the pool of Siloam and pour it on the altar with much fanfare. It was hugely ceremonial, drawing images from the miraculous provision of water out of the rock at Meribah (Exodus 17:1-7) as well as Isaiah 12:3 referring to the well of salvation. See also Isaiah 58:11.
Then Jesus shouts, “If anyone thirsts…” as if to say: “Are your insides starting to shrivel? Drink Me! All of Me” Don’t dehydrate. Drink deeply. Drink often – and out of you will flow rivers of Living Water… the promise of the Holy Spirit.
God says He alone offers us what we need to gain the prize, this Living Water, Himself. Don’t just swirl it – swallow it. Drink deep. Drink often. It’s what you put in. Obey your thirst.
Day 4 Thursday 15th March 2018
Title: How Can We Help You?
In John 5 the Pharisees commit to murder Jesus. In chapter 6 many trusted friends abandon their commitment to him. In chapter 7 the crowds see red and want him committed.
Read: John 7:45 – 8:1
The fine looking high horses of the religious aristocracy were looking evermore like dishevelled donkeys in the eyes of the Temple Police. See Matthew 7:28-29. What was the difference? Jesus was acting in obedience to the Father. They were following someone else altogether.
We tend to paint the Pharisees with the same tar-soaked brush then lob them into a sinking ship. This may be somewhat unfair. Nicodemus, who was one of the who’s who, risked more than just his reputation by indirectly defending Jesus. It would appear that his earlier coffee-chat with Jesus had had a significant effect on him. Nicodemus (v50) was beginning to show evidence of being with Jesus. Not only did Jesus bring to light the Pharisees hypocrisy, now one of their own was asking difficult questions about the supremacy and gravitas of the Word of God in relation to their actions. Their rebuttal (v52) was leaky. If they meant the prophet, then they forgot Isaiah 9:1-2. If they meant a prophet then they should have known that Jonah, Hosea, Nahum where from Galilee and possibly Elijah, Elisha and Amos.
The Pharisees treated those in their care with disrespect and contempt (v49) and suffered from stone-in-heart disease. What’s your evidence of being with Jesus? How’s the shape of your heart? Need a coffee-chat with Jesus perhaps…
Day 5 Friday 16th March 2018
Title: Let Your Fingers Do The Walking
Nicodemus’ human rights blurb is successful (John 7:51). The implications are that the Pharisees desire to “take Jesus out” in secret now has to be done via public trial. They are silenced and saunter home in a sulky huff to prepare for the next round. Jesus goes to the Mount of Olives in victory, the same place where Judas Iscariot would betray him six months later.
Read: John 8:2-11
Another day, another round. Jesus (v2) does not hide but returns to the Temple to share the heart and mind of the Father with the very people the Pharisees had scorned the previous day.
The Set-Up: Scribes and Pharisees are now tag-team partners against Jesus. They rarely saw eye-to-eye but the enemy of my enemy is after all my friend. How ironic that these teachers of the law use their prime weapon (the Mosaic Law) to administer a sham trial thereby breaking this very law. They produce another sham trial later to accuse and get rid of Jesus, yet again breaking the same law they profess to uphold and defend.
The Silencing: The Mosaic Law was written on tablets of stone by the finger of God. Jesus too uses his finger to write on the ground. Jesus does not respond by picking holes in their legal argument. He is silent for most part (as in his sham trial). In all of this, he makes three statements that speak the heart of God.
Jesus neither promotes nor condones sin, ever. He saves us from it. That’s grace.
Day 6 Saturday 17th March 2018
Title: You, Only Better
The Feast of Tabernacles are characterised by water and light. Jesus already invited the hearers to drink deep of the Living Water. Imagine the giant menorah blazing inside the Temple as well as hundreds and hundreds of shelters outside, all brandishing thousands of little lamp lights illuminating Jerusalem. Now hear Jesus saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).
Read: John 8:12-30
There would have been a mass exodus of pilgrims leaving Jerusalem in the days after the feast. The Jerusalem skyline that was permeated with the invasion of night lights during the feast, would have now returned to the norm of gloomy night darkness. Jesus’ words “Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (v12) must have resonated in the hearts of those who listened.
The Pharisees continue with the same argument they lost in John 5:31-47, in an attempt to discredit Jesus’ identity. Jesus is secure in his identity and calling as he has already overcome those battles (which started at his inauguration into public ministry). He responds several times by stating “I Am”. He was confident in who he was because he was confident in whose he was (resulting in v30).
The enemy of our souls does not keep score of his losses. He will not relent in chipping away at who you are. We therefore need to live in whose we are. Read 1 John 1:7
Day 7: Sunday 18th March 2018
We are constantly bombarded by messages trying to convince us we are not successful or complete unless we buy this or that. We live in a world of marketing. No surprises then that some of us believe God to be a cosmic vending machine that we have to transact with.
All the while there is Jesus saying: I Am all you will ever need to be complete.
Revelation 22:17, “And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life”.
We tend not to watch much TV in our home. An eye-opener was when my son recalled a TV ad as being reality. The power of selling a product is immense. Many sceptics view the Church as merely peddling a product.
People generally learn more effectively not merely from their experiences but by evaluating their experiences. Consider the following:
1) There are many subtle (and not so subtle) messages in this week’s readings. You may have encountered the expected and the not-so-expected. Scroll through the readings and describe what stood out for you about them.
2) Describe the significance about that which has been revealed to you?
3) Now, what will you do with this knowledge?
4) Jesus said a great many things while he was on Earth. How would your life change if you were absolutely convinced that everything he said during this week was true? Please explain your response.
Author: Tracy Rens
Week: April 9 – 15
Long Obedience, Same Direction
Eugene Peterson wrote a discipleship book entitled: A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. Ezra spans over 80 years and encompasses rebuilding of the temple and restoring of the people. This was clearly God’s work but humanly speaking it took a long time to complete. They must have experienced times of doubt and frustration alongside times of victory and faith.
Are you perhaps, like me, on a challenging journey of obedience? Let God encourage us this week as we “…persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised” Hebrews 10:36.
Prepare: “We have a God who delights in impossibilities” Billy Sunday. As you read, look out for the incredible ways in which God is at work.
Ezra 1:1-11; Ezra 2:64-70
Explore: God moves the hearts of pagans and God-followers alike. The result is a very large team of workers, abundant provision, royal authorisation and fulfilment of prophecy. Wow! What a great way to embark on a God-mission.
Sometimes on a long obedience in the same direction, we can forget how it all began. The beautiful moment God began to stir your heart with his plans. A missionary leaving for Turkey this week said: “Follow your tears…” These are the God-given emotions for other people/nations/situations that touch us deeply. We need to remember the early days. We need to recall the miracles God did, the words of prophecy spoken over us years ago and the God-given promises. As we deliberately look back, we get a glimpse of how God has been weaving everything together for the fulfilment of his purposes (long before he invited us to work with him). Ask God to stir your heart once again that you may have courage to continue your journey with him.
Respond: “Remember those early days after you first saw the light? …Nothing they did bothered you, nothing set you back. So don’t throw it all away now. You were sure of yourselves then. It’s still a sure thing! But you need to stick it out, staying with God’s plan so you’ll be there for the promised completion” (Hebrews 10:32,35,36 Message).
Laying the Foundation
Prepare: “But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:10,11). What can we learn from this building crew?
Explore: Over 70 years ago, the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem. Instead of rebuilding the ruined walls for protection, the people built an altar and laid temple foundations. Why? Because God said so. They were unified “as one man” (v.1) and focused on what’s most important – God.
Sadly we see physical evidence of badly built houses – promises are made, houses look good initially but cracks soon appear. This is often due to inferior materials and not following correct building procedures. In today’s society of measurable outcomes and pressure to produce, we must guard against hastening to complete God-given tasks. Sometimes due to external pressures as well as our own expectations, we can enthusiastically rush on and not lay the foundations properly. Every stage is important to God as he refines and prepares us for what lies ahead. Trust him – he is the master builder after all.
Respond: “It is the process, not the end which is glorifying to God…His purpose is for this minute, not for something in the future. We have nothing to do with the ‘afterwards’ of obedience. If we have a further end in view, we do not pay sufficient attention to the immediate present; if we realise that obedience is the end, then each moment as it comes is precious” Oswald Chambers.
The very long haul
Prepare: “From that day to the present it has been under construction but is not yet finished” (Ezra 5:16). This resounds with me, how about you?
Ezra 4:1-5, 24; Ezra 5:1-17
Explore: Through weapons of discouragement, fear and lies it looks like the bad guys have won. The people are defeated, distracted and have forgotten God’s call. But God, who knows their hearts, lovingly sends them two prophets to get them back on track. “So the LORD stirred up…the spirit of the whole remnant of the people” (Haggai 1:14).
God gave us an exciting, scary God-sized project. It’s been heavy going and if it was simply our own idea, we would have given up ages ago. As I write this, we are entering the 7th year of the “not yet finished” project. I am REALLY hoping that when you read this in 2018, that the project will be completed! As the years have galloped by, we’ve had to guard against a defeated mind-set. We need to continually remember to listen to God and not miss opportunities to be given courage (encouraged) and have our hearts stirred again. We must keep on keeping on.
Respond: ‘How does it look to you now? Does it not seem to you like nothing? But now be strong… all you people of the land,’ declares the LORD, ‘and work. For I am with you,’ declares the LORD Almighty. ‘This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear’ (Haggai 2:3-5).
Prepare: “I have found that there are three stages in every great work of God; first, it is impossible, then it is difficult, then it is done” Hudson Taylor.
Explore: God does it again. The opposition’s plan backfires spectacularly and they must, by royal decree, help and provide or else. When we patiently wait for God to act (and don’t try make things happen ourselves), God does the miraculous and gets the glory. We’re then greatly encouraged and have incredible God-stories to tell. It’s a win-win situation.
This long obedience in the same direction took over 20 years and spanned the reign of four kings. This was worth celebrating. Sometimes in the past we’ve found ourselves too exhausted and missed out on the opportunity to celebrate properly. God however places high value on commemorating and rejoicing over his victories. It’s so important to find ways to express your joy and thanksgiving to God. We are already making celebratory plans for when (not if) our God-given project reaches completion. We’re going to include others in the festivities and telling of God-stories. This will in turn galvanise and energise us all for the next obedience in the same direction.
Respond: “If you keep My commandments [if you continue to obey My instructions], you will abide in My love and live on in it…I have told you these things, that My joy and delight may be in you, and that your joy and gladness may be of full measure and complete and overflowing” (John 15:10,11 Amplified).
It’s always been about God
Prepare: “When we submit our lives to what we read in scripture, we find that we are not being led to see God in our stories but our stories in God’s. God is the larger context and plot in which our stories find themselves” Eugene Peterson.
Explore: Over half a century later, Ezra enters the story. Ezra was accomplished, devoted to God’s law, had impressive lineage and enjoyed the king’s favour. God’s hand was on Ezra. But Ezra is simply a supporting character. His name is mentioned 10 times here, while God’s name is mentioned 24 times. It’s so important for us to remind one another that ultimately it’s all about God and not us. Especially in our modern “selfie” culture, we need to keep the right perspective of ourselves and God Almighty. Ezra acted from this perspective, “Because the hand of the LORD my God was on me, I took courage…” (v.28).
As we take courage, because our great big miracle-working God is in charge, we should also raise our expectations. We shouldn’t limit ourselves to our own perceptions of what is possible with God.
Response: “So wake the hope that slumbers in my soul / Stir the fire inside and make it glow / I’m trusting in a love that has no end / The Saviour of this world has called me friend / Believe the unbelievable / Receive the inconceivable / And see beyond my wildest imagination / Lord, I come with great expectations” Steve Curtis Chapman.
No island living, please
Prepare: “Communion is strength; solitude is weakness. Alone, the fine old beech yields to the blast and lies prone on the meadow. In the forest, supporting each other, the trees laugh at the hurricane. The sheep of Jesus flock together. The social element is the genius of Christianity” Charles Spurgeon.
Ezra 9:1-15; Ezra 10:1-11
Explore: The first 5 verses in Chapter 9 focus on Ezra’s personal reaction to the people’s unfaithfulness. After that, the language changes from “I” and “my” to “we” and “our”. Ezra is not personally guilty of disobeying God in this context but he takes on corporate responsibility for the people. He stands in the gap on behalf of the nation. This in turn causes the people to confess their sins, repent and take action.
While our individual relationship with Jesus Christ is of utmost importance, we may at times have lost sight of the incredible value and power of corporate worship, corporate hearing from God, and corporate repentance. We are not in competition with fellow Christians. We need to humbly help each other run the race set before us. Contrary to popular belief we are not islands. God designed us for community/communion with one another. When he calls us to be involved with what he is doing, it’s always a team project. We often have different roles and different gifting but we are all working alongside the same God who calls us all (1 Corinthians 12:6).
Lord, help us to live together in you for your glory. Amen.
Thank you, God, for stirring our hearts to participate in amazing God-adventures. Thank you for helping us build where you’re building in your strength and timing. Thank you for celebrations of completion. Please help us to corporately obey you and bring you glory. Amen.
“Do not, therefore, fling away your fearless confidence, for it carries a great and glorious compensation of reward. For you have need of steadfast patience and endurance, so that you may perform and fully accomplish the will of God, and thus receive and carry away [and enjoy to the full] what is promised” (Hebrews 10:35,36 Amplified).
1. Did any of the days’ topics particularly resonate with you? If yes, what stood out for you and why?
2. “Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter” Francis Chan.
Are you and God busy dealing with things of eternal value? If yes, be encouraged and keep going. If not, ask God to lovingly show you where he wants you to be.
3. How can you practically live in close communion with fellow Christ-followers and assist them in running their race?
4. “Hope is the opposite of desperate and panicky manipulations, of scurrying and worrying. Hope means a confident, alert expectation that God will do what he said he will do” Eugene Peterson. How are you doing in the area of waiting on God? Anything you need to have a chat about with God or to a friend?
Theme: Acts 5:12-8:40
Author: Tracy Rens
Week: October 22-28
Acts reads like a gripping adventure novel. There appears to only be a few main characters, but the story of the early church incorporates countless unnamed heroes who sacrificed much, loved greatly and followed Jesus wholeheartedly.
Today we, as Christ’s body, also represent to a large degree the undisclosed heroes of the faith: the prayer warriors, the sacrificial givers, the wise teachers and the courageous goers to name a few. Let us not down-play our individual God-given roles in his kingdom. Let’s step forward confidently with great expectations of what God is going to do in and through us all.
Brave New World
Prepare: So much has happened…Jesus has gone, the believers are left waiting and praying, confusion, doubt, fear and then the Holy Spirit comes and nothing was ever the same again…ever!
Explore: Change can be uncomfortable and unsettling but “Christians should be ready for a change because Jesus was the greatest changer in history” Ralph Abernathy. We see how the arrival of the Holy Spirit has turned the believer’s world upside down (or rather right-side-up). They didn’t cause the change but they are swept along in the power and strength of the Spirit. Peter the denier becomes Peter the bold, Thomas the doubter to Thomas the faithful and James the impetuous transforms into James the passionate. While we only hear about the apostles working signs and wonders, I love the reference to “all the believers used to meet together” (v.12). It wasn’t only the twelve apostles who were experiencing this brave new world. All the believers were part of this incredible life-changing process. They may not all have been performing signs and miracles, but people were needed to host the out-of-towners, make meals, give generously to those in need, pray fervently and support the apostles’ upfront ministry. I look forward to hearing the stories in heaven of those who were physically part of the baby church and played invaluable roles (behind the scenes) of ushering in God’s kingdom here on earth.
Respond: “We will never change the world by just going to church. We will only change the world by being the Church” Unknown.
Pride and Prejudice
Prepare: “We fear men so much, because we fear God so little” William Gurnall.
Respond: This was a highly charged situation and the fruit of people’s hearts begin to be revealed. The courage and boldness of the apostles are clearly evident as Peter says, “We must obey God rather than men!” (v.29). Despite persecution, they continue to preach with Holy Spirit conviction and even rejoice in their suffering. This standard punishment was probably 39 lashes – definitely not a mere slap on the wrist. Out of trial and suffering, beautiful fruit is produced and the full message of new life spreads even further.
At the same time we encounter the religious leaders of the day. “Angry people are not always wise” Jane Austen. Jealousy, fear of man, fury and murderous intent sadly flow out of these men who are supposed to represent God Most High. But let’s not lump all the religious leaders together as Gamaliel enters the story. This rabbi is a prominent, highly respected Pharisee. He was apparently so revered that he was given the title Rabban (our teacher), a more prestigious title than Rabbi (my teacher). God uses him to speak godly wisdom into the situation and save the apostles. Gamaliel also plays an important role as Saul/Paul’s teacher and mentor. I wonder how the rest of Gamaliel’s story unfolded?
How is your story unfolding? What kind of fruit are you producing – vrot (rotten) fruit fit only to be thrown away or delicious fruit that nourishes people? Chat to God.
War and Peace
Prepare: “Someone dear to one can be loved with human love; but an enemy can only be loved with divine love” Leo Tolstoy.
Explore: These Christ-followers are often held up as the perfect ideal of living in joyful harmony. However the early church experienced real conflict and issues that had to be dealt with swiftly. There was too much at stake to allow the complaint to fester and throw them off course. The disciples knew what their roles were and didn’t try to do everything. Self-importance or feelings of inadequacy can cause us to get our roles confused within the body of Christ. “There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men” (1 Corinthians 12:5,6). There it is again – God at work in all of us. Seven godly men are chosen (“full of the Spirit and wisdom” v.3), prayed for and given full responsibility for the task. What’s the result? The kingdom of God continues to grow, including “a large number of priests became obedient to the faith” (v.7).
We see in this passage how both kingdoms handle conflict. By contrast, the kingdom of darkness stirs up opposition and uses lies, false witnesses and unlawful seizure. Sadly again, these Jews should have known that God absolutely detests lying tongues, shedding of innocent blood and wicked schemes (Proverbs 6:16-19).
Respond: How do we handle our conflict personally and corporately? Which kingdom do we best represent?
Prepare: “What God says is best, is best, though all the men in the world are against it” John Bunyan.
Explore: “Is there anything more worthy of our tongues and mouths than to speak of the things of God and Heaven?” John Bunyan. Stephen cannot stay silent as he speaks the undiluted Word of God that infuriates the “stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears!” (v.51). Stephen was full of faith, grace, power and the Holy Spirit. He also performed many great wonders and miracles. Stephen was entrusted with much and much was expected of him, even his very life. We need to all “live a life worthy of the calling” (Ephesians 4:1). However, as with Stephen, the triune God is ever-present in our lives and we are never alone nor forsaken. Take courage from this.
Those in the forefront, like Stephen, are often most visible and vulnerable to attack. We, as their family, should be supporting them, cheering them on and praying for them (lest they fall or be taken captive). Let’s not envy their prominence, look for fault or even feel insecure because of their gifts. Stephen was fulfilling his God-given role. Let us help one another in fulfilling the roles entrusted to each one of us.
Respond: “And Saul was there, giving approval to his death” (v.60). What an interesting way to end such a dramatic, emotional chapter. Lord, thank you that you are always at work fulfilling your plans – we trust you even when we don’t understand.
Prepare: “Never pity missionaries; envy them. They are where the real action is – where life and death, sin and grace, Heaven and Hell converge” Robert C. Shannon.
Explore: The believers probably didn’t feel ready for the mission field. They had done no strategic planning, training or fundraising. Yet God dramatically launches them into their own odysseys (extended adventurous journey). Initially it must have been terrifying and confusing. But Jesus did give them a clue: “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts1:8).
The apostles were most qualified to be sent out however “all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria” (v.1). There is the “all” again. Everyone was sent out and they all “preached the word wherever they went” (v.4). They didn’t keep quiet and subsequently many heard the good news and like in Samaria “there was great joy in that city” (v.8).
There’s much debate as to whether Simon the Sorcerer was truly saved. Being on mission with God can get messy. Just because God sent them out, it didn’t guarantee that everything would be smooth-sailing and successful. The exact opposite often occurs. At this point it is imperative that we persevere, working steadfastly and relying on one another (like Peter, John and Philip).
Respond: Lord, when things get messy in ministry, help us to keep trusting you and looking for where you’re working. Thank you for the privilege of experiencing exciting adventures with you.
Oh The Places You’ll Go!
Prepare: “You’re off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, so…get on your way!” Dr. Seuss.
Explore: God gradually entrusts Philip with increasing opportunities to serve him which leads up to the supernatural, strategic appointment with the Ethiopian. A powerful man who, at the time, represented “the ends of the (known) earth” (Acts 1:8).
Philip obeys immediately. “He got up and went…” (v.27 Message). God is looking for: “a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do” (Acts 13:22). Similarly we also need to be alert and obedient to the Spirit’s leading. We may not always have such dramatic encounters but think of those times when we just happened to “bump” into someone we’d been thinking of or events that seamlessly unfold and you know God is in it. At these times we need to be ready to speak the good news and practically minister to those God sends our way.
Our son was bullied at school. His solution was to invite the boy home for a playdate. Seriously?! When asked why, he said because that boy didn’t have any friends. God is using our son to help us build relationship with a family in need. God is so creative in how he works!
Respond: “The Bible makes it clear that every time that there is a story of faith, it is completely original. God’s creative genius is endless” Eugene Peterson. Let’s not miss out on what God has uniquely planned for us.
Once upon a time there was a kingdom suffering from a terrible drought. Heartbroken, the princess asked her father for permission to go and comfort their people. Her father agreed and as the princess began to walk the land, a crazy-beautiful miracle began to happen. Everywhere she walked the parched earth began to sprout flowers and streams bubbled up. Laughter was heard as children danced in the streams. People drank deeply and were satisfied. Glorious life sprouted up in the most unlikely places. “You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you” (Isaiah 55:12).
1. How did God speak to you this week?
2. “I want the whole Christ for my Saviour, the whole Bible for my book, the whole Church for my fellowship, and the whole world for my mission field” John Wesley. How “whole” is your walk with Jesus? Is there any area listed in the quote that you need to focus on or make a change?
3. Think of when you had a divine (God-arranged) encounter with someone. What happened? Going forward are you ready to speak of your God-stories? Ask God for opportunities and then be alert.
4. What is your wiring? What excites you? What is your role in the body of Christ? Are you fulfilling your role or do you need to make some changes? If yes, what are they? Chat to God – he wants you to come alive as you live out your calling in Christ.
20 – 26 March 2017
Theme: Christian Persecution
Title: An Injury to One…
I recall those old 10/40 window missionary report back stories at church. My take-away, “Satan’s winning because I’m a self-indulgent, lazy, Western, pseudo-christian”.
Fast-forward a few years and I find myself in places where the Church is not welcome and Jesus is hated – but I meet Family there, ordinary people doing extraordinary things with God. Even as I write this, I see my friends, our Family.
To the Family, an injury to one is indeed an injury to all (1 Corinthians 12:26-27). This week however is not about condemnation but rather about our Family community making Jesus proud.
• John 15: 9-25
• 1 Peter 4:7-16
Day 1: Monday 20 March 2017
Title: No Mister Nice Guy
So the earth broke at the fall. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put it together again. While it’s true that the devil is prowling around, he is no match for Jesus.
Read: Matthew 5:10-16
WWII historians tell us that the most destruction in Europe happened during the final chapters of the war. The Axis powers knew that they were defeated so they escalated their onslaught as a last attempt at salvaging victory. We are now in the last days. We too have a defeated enemy who is similarly upping the ante. Satan comes only to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10a).
Part 1 (vv.10-12): this persecution is for being and doing what is right because of following Jesus. We are to be the conscience of society whether they like it or not (and many will not).
Part 2 (vv.13-14): we are not to be hidden, shut away or ashamed. We have the backing and authority of Jesus through his Spirit. The devil may win some battles but our Saviour Jesus Christ wins the war. At the end, Jesus rewards us for faithfully following him.
I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In this world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you] (John 16:33 Amplified).
Day 2: Tuesday 21 March 2017
Title: Nkosi Sikelel’ IAfrika
Have you noticed the varied attempts of the authorities to “regulate” the Church and curtail our constitutional freedoms? Observed an increase of NGO’s and media groups opposing the Church under the guise of human rights concerns? We’re not socially acceptable anymore.
Read: Acts 5:17-42
“An unjust man is an abomination to the righteous, but one whose way is straight is an abomination to the wicked” (Proverbs 29:27 ESV). The apostles find themselves, for a second time, before the rulers of the people (leaders of society, those who were heading the struggle against an oppressive regime). These very important people had just warned the apostles in chapter 4 to stop doing good things in Jesus’ name. The apostles’ resolve was however not diminished, “We must obey God rather than human beings!” (v.29). The leaders wanted to systematically shut out Jesus the Christ and would choose any means to achieve this. When all seems lost (vv.33-40), our Sovereign Lord introduces Gamaliel, who came from their own ranks, to defuse the situation. God also used this same Gamaliel to train Paul who would become one of the greatest mouthpieces of the kingdom of God. This chapter lends an interesting perspective on praying for those in leadership…
Even when “The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One” (Psalm 2:2) we should pray for our leadership.
God bless Africa. Guard her children. Guide her leaders. And give her peace. For Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen.
Day 3: Wednesday 22 March 2017
Title: The Watch List
We’ve been to the most closed country in the world where Jesus followers are publically executed or worse – they’re sent to “re-education centres”. Even in places like that, the name of Jesus is praised.
Read: Matthew 10:16-31 & Isaiah 26:1-4
World authorities regarded followers of Jesus as a threat from the beginning of Christendom. This remains true even now. Could you imagine what an unstoppable force an army would be if they were convinced that their Commander in Chief could raise the dead? Rome feared us then and Pyongyang (DPRK) fears us now. Oppressive authorities and many other world orders try to hurt Jesus by hurting his children.
Less than 100 years ago Pyongyang was known as the “Jerusalem of the East” because of Christian revival. “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves” (v.16) seems quite harsh that is until we realise that we are indeed in wolf territory. Some of us are called to be sheep in wolves clothing, where vv.16-23a are daily realities for followers of Jesus. I love the reassuring words of Jesus in v.31 “So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”
It is astounding that many persecuted Christians do not ask for deliverance from persecution, but rather that they would be able to “stand firm to the end” (v.22b) in spite of it. Please join me in holding up their arms in prayer and support, that they would remain in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you (Isaiah 26:3).
Day 4: Thursday 23 March 2017
Title: Frenemies (Friend Enemies)
Did you know that the third greatest form of Christian persecution in Africa comes from within the Church itself? How can this be when they should know us by our love?
Read: 1 Corinthians 12:12-27
Frenemies – a term that has been popularised in recent times meaning friends that are actually enemies. They say nice things to your face then do not-so-nice things behind your back. How is it possible for the term “frenemy” to be such a strong characteristic of the Church in Africa?
If we are the Body, why the high body count because of friendly fire? If we are the body, why is the hand a fist – why does the eye refuse to see – why is the tongue a poisoned chalice? Why are some parts obese and others emaciated? Why the overwhelming emphasis on platforms all to praise a God who says he dwells not in temples made by hands. We were supposed to be seeing what Jesus is doing and saying and then following his lead. Who, do our actions suggest we are really following? We are meant to be the Bride of Christ not the harem of Christ. God has put the body together (v.24b). Let’s not tear it apart.
“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable” Brennan Manning – to which I add “Lord Jesus help us…”
Day 5: Friday 24 March 2017
Title: So We Don’t Lose Hope
As I write this, I see my friend and brother Kevin in my mind’s eye. He’s been imprisoned for being a follower of Jesus. Outwardly he is wasting away because of his prison conditions. He has now been charged with a capital offense which carries the death penalty. The situation seems dire. How could we possibly have hope here?
Read: 2 Corinthians 4: 1-18
The bookends of this passage are a repetition. Repetitions in scripture are there to place emphasis. It bolds, underlines and highlights the gravitas which in this case is “We Do Not Lose Heart”. Knowing and trusting the truth of the beginning and end, (the Alpha and Omega) we can stand through all the stuff in between.
Jesus pretty much said that his followers would always be targeted – that Satan would use his hordes and those he’s deceived to one end. His aim is to ambush, to overwhelm into confusion, to oppress into hopelessness, to steal, to kill, to destroy. But Satan constantly forgets that he is momentary and Jesus is our eternal, sovereign, all powerful, victorious God who continually empowers his children to withstand, endure and resist him. So because we focus on and live in our power source, We Do Not Lose Heart.
Jesus said: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). I’ve read the last pages of the Bible and guess what, WE WIN!
3 – 9 July 2017
Reading: Hebrews 10:19-13:25
Title: Dying To Live
Hebrews was written during the period of Nero’s reign (when the Christians were blamed for the great fire in Rome), Paul and Peter’s martyrdom and the destruction of the Temple. Christians were, and are still reminded that they have one life to live, that only what is done in Christ’s name, by his leading and for the kingdom, has eternal value.
Sacrificial love is worth it. Jesus is our living hope. “I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. I will not in any degree leave you helpless” (Hebrews 13:5 Amplified).
Day 1: Monday 3 July 2017
Remember the Smarties advertising slogan, “Whatalotigot”? Consider all you have in Christ as you meditate on today’s scripture readings.
Read: Hebrews 10:19-39
The passage starts with “therefore”. But wherefore is there a “therefore”? See vv.16-18. Previously, only once a year could the High Priest enter the Holy of Holies (with fear and trembling). Now Christ followers may enter God’s presence with confidence. Now nothing (no thing) separates us from entering. What is this hope (v.23)? It is our anchor, our Christ-in-me state that is not to be taken lightly for it was bought at great cost. This hope is to be shared liberally, especially within the Family.
Family takes care of Family. We are our brother’s keepers. Our gathering together is not just for chit-chat over cake and tea after church on a Sunday morning but to give courage to each other concerning our confident hope in Christ. The constant reminding of whose we are and the love and good deeds we are to be displaying, is crucial, especially in the trials of these last days.
Jesus invested everything he had in rescuing us from the penalty of sin. He does not take kindly to his precious gift being discarded like a present that has lost favour (Hebrews 2:3).
We WILL stand in confident hope in Christ – all the while being spurred on and built up by the Family. There is therefore no excuse to shrink back. Though we are hard-pressed on every side, We Do Not Shrink Back. What-alot-we-got!
Day 2: Tuesday 4 July 2017
Title: Faithless Faith or Faithful Faith?
Your faith, hope and trust flow from a single source. Where they lead you, depends on the source.
Read: Hebrews 11: 1-16 & 32-40
Verse 1 has to be read in conjunction with the last verse of chapter 10 as it speaks about faith. Faith is described as confidence and surety. These properties are not governed by the laws of natural science. The foundations of our faith are not in our skill or our attitude, but in the character and work of Jesus. It takes faith to trust Jesus. Faith is the very substance for our hope in Jesus. That is why without faith, it is impossible to please Jesus (v.6).
Enter the parade of flawed heroes that I fear I could never measure up to (vv.4-38). They however teach me that fear is the antithesis of faith – faith leads to trust – trust leads to hope. Hope in Jesus doesn’t ever disappoint. I recall when my bride fell off a steep embankment. I had no idea if she, as a result, had graduated to heaven. Regardless of my intensity of laying hands and prayer, her pain did not abate and neither was she instantly healed. I couldn’t trust my thoughts or the evidence before me. My only hope was that Jesus, “…who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist” (Romans 4:17b ESV), knew what he was doing.
When you find you cannot trust yourself, trust the character of Jesus. “He who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23).
Day 3: Wednesday 5 July 2017
Title: Unfit or Fighting Fit?
Picture a cross-country runner dragging a ball ‘n chain, who stepped into a bucket of sticky resin with one foot, has a pebble in the other shoe, is pre-occupied with his cell phone and is disregarding his coach who is trying to help him. What advice would you give that runner?
Read: Hebrews 12:1-13
Every athlete watches their weight and only uses equipment that adds value to their sporting discipline. Don’t be fooled. Sin adds weight and retards our progress. One of the nastiest side-effects of sin is that it convinces you that you know better than God. So when our God-Coach comes alongside you to instruct you in the way you should go, you think you have the right to tell him what’s what. You then have a big sulk when he doesn’t give up on you, keeping you on the right path. Jesus knows the way. He’s been to hell and back, literally. He would not invest an eternity in you if he didn’t love you. So shape up, keep the focus and make Jesus proud. There’s so much more at stake.
“Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses / let us run the race not only for the prize / but as those who’ve gone before us / let us leave to those behind us / the heritage of faithfulness / passed on through godly lives / Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful / May the fire of our devotion light their way…” Jon Mohr.
Day 4: Thursday 6 July 2017
Title: Awful or Awesome?
Ever seen a spoilt little darling in the throes of an intercontinental ballistic tantrum on the not-so-clean floor of the local supermarket? How they think their whining tirade would work in their favour is beyond me. Remember this image as you read the passage.
Read: Hebrews 12:14-29
This passage starts with an exhortation for us to get along with each other for heaven’s sake because sin is highly infectious and it has consequences. God, at first glance, may seem quite awful in verses 15-21 with a large, “Do Not Enter – Do Not Touch” sign on his heavily fortified metal gates. In reality however, he was only demonstrating his holiness and majesty, concepts that are ever decreasing in our modern philosophy of a God so familiar that he has become little more than a cool dude. CS Lewis nails it on the head in the book The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe where he writes, “He is not a tame lion… but he is good”.
Now is the time to listen and pay attention when Jesus speaks, “for our God is a consuming fire” (v.29). His Majesty is indeed awesome in the fullest sense of the word and his kingdom cannot be shaken “though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea” (Psalm 46:2b). He’s given you full access to himself. Don’t be that spoilt little darling…
“All powerful, untameable, awestruck we fall to our knees as we humbly proclaim / You are amazing God.” Laura Story
Day 5: Friday 7 July 2017
Title: Lifeless Life or Deathless Death?
“May the God of peace… equip you with everything good for doing his will” (Hebrews 13:20-21).
Read: Hebrews 13:1-25
Did Jesus wake up one day and say “Oh oops. When I said all those things about being your sufficiency and that you should trust me, what I actually meant was that you are to sustain yourself and trust nobody. Sorry ?.” Why is it then that we only live for the here and now? This world is not our home. We’re only renting. When he says to “be content with what you have”, he gives us a clue as to what we have – all of himself. “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (v.5). If Jesus takes his cue from the Father, should we not take our cue from him? Read vv.1-6 through that lens.
Everything is ever-changing. Our God is the only stability in all creation. He doesn’t stagger about aimlessly and neither does his Word (Matthew 24:35). The passage warns against other gospels that speak another truth. Our responsibility is to be planted into and sustained by the Word so that we will not be “carried away by all kinds of strange teachings” (v.9). Our lives bear witness to what we believe about Christ.
Family takes care of Family. Living only for self is a lifeless life. We are encouraged by Jesus’ example to die to self and thereby to truly live – a deathless death. Grace be with you all (v.25).
Author: Tracy Rens
Week: 1 January
Are you burdened down by things you could have, would have, should have done differently in 2016? Jeremiah wrote, “I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:20-23). Welcome to the first day of the rest of your life where God’s mercies are new every morning. Join me today as we resolve to make genuine, lasting, godly resolutions for 2017.
Today’s the Day!
Prepare: New year’s resolutions can be tricky beasts – they start out full of noble intentions but often serve more to condemn than encourage. How do you feel about your 2017 resolutions? What do you think God’s perspective is?
Explore: I think God loves it when we resolve to follow him whole-heartedly. The good news is as Christ-followers, we do not operate in our own strength but in the incredible power available to us. Our resolutions are not light and fluffy or centred on our self-improvement. Instead they carry eternal kingdom consequence as we hear and obey God. It does require discipline. There’s a clue in the name: disciples. I went through a difficult time where life was heavy going. I had to constantly forget “what is behind” (v.13) and deliberately “press on” (v.12,14) despite the ever-present challenges. It required discipline and resolve but God gave me strength for each new day. This included grace for the days that didn’t work out as planned. God also gave me the strategy of focusing on small victories when overwhelmed by the big tasks.
Sometimes we have to take baby steps but we resolutely continue to keep moving forward with Jesus.
Respond: Ask God to show you what godly resolutions/disciplines you need to focus on this year. Trust God. He’s got 2017 firmly in hand. “The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (Deuteronomy 31:8).
Theme: 1 Kings 17-19
Author: Tracy Rens
Week: October 23-29
Elijah and Me
Contrary to popular belief, we’re ALL involved in Christian ministry – service to God and others in his name and for his glory. “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” (1 Peter 4:10).
Elijah is called to speak God’s truth and live it out within the evil northern kingdom: Israel. Elijah experienced huge victories and crushing defeats. Where do you currently find yourself in your life of service to God? Allow God to minister to you this week as we follow the highs and lows of Elijah’s ministry.
The Hidden Spaces
Prepare: Meet Elijah as he starts out on his public life of service for God. How would you rate him as a missionary? What was your start like as you began serving and following Jesus?
1 Kings 17:1-24
Explore: Sjoe! This would make one impressive missionary newsletter including raising someone from the dead (first recorded Biblical account). I don’t know about you but my service to God never started out (or continued) like that.
But there’s more to the story than meets the eye. Elijah was human like the rest of us. Did you notice the phrase “Some time later…”(vv.7,17)? It lets us know that there were considerable periods of time between these amazing adventures that spanned 3½ years.
God often specialises in “on-the-job” training. After Elijah boldly and publically confronts the evil king Ahab, God hides him away. These times can often feel frustrating as we want to be doing exciting things with God. But God often uses these spaces of waiting to mould our character, teach new truths, provide for and prepare us for the next adventure. At times I have literally felt like God has grounded me like an airplane. I just wanted to take off to serve God. But God reminded me that airplanes are grounded not because they’re bad/disobedient but for safety, protection and repair/restoration.
Respond: Are you going through a time of waiting? Allow God to complete that special work within the hidden spaces of your life. Don’t fight him. Trust him – he knows what he is doing.
Prepare: The physical and spiritual drought continues to ravage the land but Ahab remains unrepentant. Elijah’s time of waiting is over and God sends him back to Ahab. Living in times of evil and despair, what role does God want us to play?
1 Kings 18:1-16
Explore: Elijah and Obadiah are both servants of God (the meaning of Obadiah’s name). They believe in God and have incredible God-stories to tell. However their reactions are vastly different to the current situation. Elijah moves immediately and courageously in obedience to God’s leading. God has precisely orchestrated the timing so that Elijah meets Obadiah and not Ahab. God is always at work behind the scenes. It’s important and encouraging to be on the lookout for these divine moments.
Obadiah’s reaction however reveals how fear has gotten a hold of him. There is a sense that he has divided loyalties from living in close proximity to Ahab. He is constantly surrounded by Baal worshippers, separated from regular contact with godly believers. It appears that he is relying on past victories instead of focusing on what God is doing in the present. Obadiah’s eyes are on the problem and not on God – his power, wisdom and strength.
Respond: As we live in times of evil and despair, we must not give in to a spirit of fear and hopelessness. We need to continue in right relationship with God and intercede on behalf of our land, serving in obedience. Trusting and knowing that “our God is greater…stronger…higher than any other” (Chris Tomlin).
In the Cross Hairs
Prepare: Elijah has a big target on his back because he follows God wholeheartedly. The Enemy is out to get him. What is your stance on doing battle against the forces of evil? Do you shy away or say “bring it on”?
1 Kings 18:17-40
Explore: In obedience to God, Elijah walks right into the enemy’s camp, outgunned and outnumbered. This battle is not simply taking place on a physical level. Imagine the huge battle that was taking place simultaneously in the spiritual realm for the hearts of mankind.
Elijah doesn’t act in his own strength and wisdom. That would have ended badly. Instead he resolutely stands firm “in the Lord and in his mighty power” (Ephesians 6:10). And God publically humiliates the kingdom of darkness (Colossians 2:15).
As we write these notes, my hubby and I have been experiencing that target on our backs. There have been many sneaky attacks aimed at demoralising and derailing us. We had to say this far and no further! We stood firm in prayer and invited friends to pray with us. We refuse to stop doing what God has asked us to do. We refuse to let our joy be robbed from us. We refuse to give in to fear. We will not only stand but continue to take ground for our Lord.
Respond: “No matter how fierce the enemy seems – when fear cripples us, anger enrages us, or selfishness possesses us; when adversity crushes us, opposition hounds us, or temptation plagues us – God is greater” Katy Kauffman.
Keep Walking Soldier
Prepare: As the rains fell, perhaps Elijah hoped the spiritual drought would end too. He had done everything God asked but the rulers were unrepentant. God calls us to a life of obedience that doesn’t necessarily entail success in human terms. Have you ever found yourself in such a situation?
1 Kings 18:41-46; 19:1-9
Explore: Elijah has just hit a major low after the incredible Mount Carmel victory. We have often experienced on-going spiritual opposition after we return from a mission/project. One can be vulnerable, lacking in prayer cover, exhausted and no longer vigilant. It is so important never to let one’s guard down.
God lovingly ministers to Elijah and provides rest, refreshment and restoration in such a practical yet miraculous way. Our loving Father knows what our needs are even when we don’t. But God doesn’t allow Elijah to set up camp and allow hopelessness to take root. Instead he moves Elijah on. There is a constant battle going on in our minds. We need to be actively renewing our minds and deliberately taking thoughts captive. We need to purposely stand on God’s promises which bring hope and peace. We need to encourage one another with both words and practical acts of caring.
Respond: “I know your heart been broke again/I know your prayers ain’t been answered yet/I know you’re feeling like you got nothing left/Well, lift your head…it ain’t over yet so/Move, keep walkin’ soldier keep movin’ on/Move, keep walkin’ until the mornin’ comes/And lift your head, it ain’t over yet…” Tobymac, Move.
Let It Go!
Prepare: “The thankful heart sees the best part of every situation. It sees problems and weaknesses as opportunities, struggles as refining tools, and sinners as saints in progress” Francis Frangipane.
1 Kings 19:9-21
Explore: God asks a question: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (v.9). Elijah replies with a big whinge. Then Elijah has an incredible encounter with the Lord. God repeats the question and Elijah repeats his answer. Sadly there appears to be no change of heart-attitude or perspective.
Sometimes we hold onto our hurts like badges of honour within Christian service. If you have been serving God for a while, you no doubt bear internal scars of hurt and betrayal. God is grieved by this as he never intended for his family to act like this. However we alone are responsible for our heart-attitudes and what we choose to hold on to. We must not let these hurts take root. Bitter resentment hinders us in our service to God and people. It robs us of our joy. Our selfish inward focus can blind us to others’ needs. God may not be able to use us as effectively and while he still loves us, may seek others who are willing to lay aside their grievances and run with him. I don’t know about you, but I definitely want to continue to joyfully run with God.
Respond: “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1).
1 Peter 4:1-19
1 Peter 5:1-14
Theme: Ending the year well
Author: Tracy Rens
Week: December 25-31
Stop! Take a deep breath…
Anxiety, fear, busyness and exhaustion can negatively affect our breathing. Our bodies are not able to function effectively in this state. Perhaps right now you are feeling out of breath physically, emotionally and spiritually. And 2018 is looming just around the corner.
This week let us set aside time to spend in God’s presence, resting and simply breathing in his life-giving breath.
“This is the air I breathe/ Your holy presence living in me / This is my daily bread / Your very word spoken to me / And I’m desperate for you / I’m lost without you” Marie Barnett.
Breath of Fresh Air
Prepare: Lord, I’m sorry for getting swept away by the outward trappings of Christmas. I come to you tired and drained yet not wanting to miss an opportunity to celebrate this momentous occasion with you. Thank you, Jesus, for coming to earth to resuscitate us. Help me breathe again.
Explore: As we follow Jesus, our starting point always needs to be Jesus – his example, his life, his words. Spend time meditating on verses 5-11. What fresh things does God want to reveal to you today?
From times of reflection and revelation there needs to come a “therefore” (v.12). We need to move forward in obedience to our saviour. Fortunately we don’t do this in our own strength or wisdom. We wouldn’t get very far, would we? God promises that he will be the one “who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (v.13). So let’s “go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society”(v.15 The Message).
Respond: Thank you Jesus that one day every tongue will confess that you are Lord (v.11). I don’t want to wait till then. I praise you, Jesus, for who you are and what you’ve done. “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end” (Isaiah 9:6,7).?
Beware: Noxious Fumes
Prepare: Definition of noxious: that which is harmful to health or corrupting to the mind/morals. During this year, have noxious situations stifled your breathing and negatively affected your foundation and purpose in Christ?
2 Timothy 2:1-26
Explore: Beware: the devil seeks to capture those who have “wandered away from the truth” (v.18). He often ensnares them through toxic situations created by negative, godless words. Timothy is encouraged not only to stand firm but to use his words to teach, remind, pray and gently instruct those most at risk.
Let’s be honest – have we in any way contributed to circumstances that led to ungodly thoughts and actions? Today is the Day of Goodwill where traditionally people give generously to those in need. What are we giving away to others, particularly with our words? Do they heal or hurt? Are we correctly handling “the word of truth” (v.15), fleeing evil desires and pursuing everything that is good and godly? Or do we need to clear the air?
Respond: “Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbours as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen” The Holy Eucharist.
Racing to Breathe?
Prepare: “Exercise daily in God – no spiritual flabbiness, please! Workouts in the gymnasium are useful, but a disciplined life in God is far more so, making you fit both today and forever” (1 Timothy 4:7,8 The Message). Are you spiritually fit?
2 Timothy 3:1-17; 4:1-8
Explore: The Christian race marked out before us is not a walk in the park. It’s like an extremely strenuous cross-country race full of obstacles and challenges (Ch3 v.12) along with beautiful experiences and victories. But you have to be disciplined and strategic in your training and implementation. Spiritual flabbiness won’t work.
When running you breathe through both your mouth and nose to give your muscles sufficient oxygen to move. We need to be breathing to race properly and not racing to breathe. How do we do this? By spending time in God’s presence and feeding on his Word. People in these last days will be “addicted to lust and allergic to God…But don’t let this faze you. Stick with what you learned and believed” (2 Timothy 3:4,14 The Message). It is of utmost importance that we are grounded in truth so that “Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us” (2 Timothy 3:17 The Message).
Respond: Tragically generations are growing up who aren’t grounded in God’s Word. “People will have no stomach for solid teaching, but will fill up on spiritual junk food” (2 Timothy 4:3 The Message). Ask God to show you who you can help to train up in his ways.
Prepare: Life can leave us feeling overwhelmed, drowning in all the demands. Don’t panic! God’s Word is our oxygen tank and our oxygen mask is our relationship with Jesus. These are not optional extras. They need to be used in order for us to truly live. So let’s breathe in these life-giving words…
Explore: Take time to soak in God’s precious, healing, empowering words. Perhaps read different Bible translations. And just breathe…
My prayer is that you will be “filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (v.19). This verse has always blown my mind. I can’t fathom all its depths but I love to pray it over others. “Live full lives, full in the fullness of God” (v.19 The Message). “That you may be filled [through all your being] unto all the fullness of God [may have the richest measure of the divine Presence, and become a body wholly filled and flooded with God Himself]!” (v.19 Amplified).
Respond: When the stress is on the rise in my heart I feel You say just/ Breathe, just breathe/ Come and rest at My feet / And be, just be / Chaos calls but all you really need/ Is to just breathe/ Is to take it in fill your lungs/ The Peace of God that overcomes/ Just breathe / Let your weary spirit rest/ Lay down what’s good and find what’s best/ Just breathe”
Just Breathe – Johnny Diaz (Listen to this song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hnjeMwxFuBA).
Prepare: As you read this familiar psalm, focus on the wonderful characteristics of God described in it. “We breathe in the revelation of who God is and then breathe out in praise” Nicky Gumble.
Explore: Thank you that I am yours and I can recognize your voice. Help me to be able to hear over the noise of life on earth. Thank you that you “let me catch my breath and send me in the right direction” (v.3 The Message). Thank you for your restoration, healing, making things whole in my life and those around me. Thank you that you bless and provide for me abundantly in the presence of my enemy. How that must frustrate him. Thank you for your protection and your presence. I am breathless at the wonder and awe of you, Lord God.
Respond: “May God make your year a happy one! Not by shielding you from all sorrows and pain, but by strengthening you to bear it, as it comes; not by making your path easy, but by making you sturdy to travel any path; not by taking hardships from you, but by taking fear from your heart; not by granting you unbroken sunshine, but by keeping your face bright, even in the shadows; not by making your life always pleasant, but by showing you when people and their causes need you most, and by making you anxious to be there to help. God’s love, peace, hope and joy to you for the year ahead.” Anon
Author: Tracy Rens
Week: April 3-9
Byline: Tracy and Eugéne love to creatively communicate Christ through Act Won Creative Arts (www.actwon.co.za). Team Rens (Tracy, Eugéne, Luca) enjoy dancing with abandon, living out loud and laughing often as passionate children of God on an epic rollercoaster-ride of faith.
Introduction: Choose Life
Choice is unavoidable, inevitable and life-shaping. How often do we agonise over inconsequential choices while ignoring God-directed choices that bear eternal consequence? As Christ-followers we need to consistently make wise, godly choices.
Only two men chose to trust God and lived to enter the Promised Land. Joshua and Caleb chose life while an entire disobedient generation died in the wilderness (Numbers 14:30).
As we explore the book of Joshua, let us deliberately and daily choose life and hope over anxiety and defeat. “Now choose life, so that you…may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice and hold fast to him.” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20)
Prepare: “We have a choice as Christians. We can either be anxious, or we can trust in God” David Cho. What’s making your heart fearful, anxious or discouraged? Bring it to God.
>> Joshua 1:1-18
Explore: Joshua’s choice was clear. He could either obey God completely (he couldn’t half cross over the Jordan) or not at all. He had every right to feel terrified. Joshua had Moses’ impressive leadership sandals to fill and a seemingly impossible task to complete. No wonder God lovingly keeps reminding Joshua to be strong and courageous.
Interestingly when Moses is first called by God, he asks God to send someone else. Moses’ initial fear and unwillingness to obey, angers God. Joshua had the advantage of being a disciple under Moses’ care for many years. He learns from Moses about relationship with God (Exodus 33:11) and obedience (Exodus 34:10-11).
Therefore Joshua responds immediately with courageous obedience (even if his knees were knocking together). Choice is a deliberate act of will (despite the cost, despite my fear) in response to God’s command (to do something, to not be anxious, to step out in faith) based on relationship with God and trust in his character.
Joshua had a big role to fulfil, a big task to accomplish BUT a Big God who would do it. Joshua has chosen…wisely. How about you?
Respond: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go” (v.9).
Prepare: As we look at news headlines and our own personal challenges, things can feel rather hopeless. All hope is lost…or is it? “Hope is putting faith to work when doubting would be easier” Anon.
>> Joshua 2:1-24
Explore: A group of desert nomads descended from slaves were about to occupy a heavily fortified land of warriors and giants. The last time they had attempted this, it had ended in an epic fail and forty years of desert wanderings and whining. Why was it different this time?
The external circumstances had not changed but the hearts of the new generation had. They chose an attitude of hope that focused on Almighty God. The previous spies, apart from Caleb and Joshua, let their fears overwhelm them. Tragically they focused on themselves: “We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes” (Numbers 13:33).
As Christ-followers we need to be different. We are the bringers of hope in our community and country. It doesn’t come easily and needs constant renewing of our minds and hearts. As John Maxwell says, “We choose what attitudes we have right now. And it’s a continuing choice.”
Let’s forsake the worldly “grasshopper” view and say over our circumstances, “The LORD has surely given the whole land into our hands; all the people are melting in fear because of us.” (v.24)
Respond: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).
Prepare: “You can only learn what obedience is by obeying” Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Today look for all the examples of how Joshua and the Israelites obey God as they listen to God’s instructions, dedicate themselves to God, faithfully follow and then create a reminder of his miraculous deed.
>> Joshua 3: 1-17; 4:1-9
Explore: Recently I’ve been wrestling with the space I find myself in – frustrated in waiting, confused by circumstances, doubtful of my abilities. Then I heard God saying that all he requires is my obedience. He reminded me about a challenging China mission. God kept saying “Go”. In the end we went. What a victory! Then I spent most of the mission stuck in a hotel bathroom, too sick to do anything. The rest of my team got to experience God at work in amazing ways. I felt very alone in a foreign country. I then heard God saying that all he required was my obedience. I had obeyed and that was enough. When we left China I had such a sense of peace. I had no grand stories to tell but had learnt a valuable lesson in following him. God reminded me of this story recently. Obviously I needed reminding.
What is God saying to you about obedience? What river do you need to cross this week?
Response: “Rest in this – it is His business to lead, command, impel, send, call or whatever you want to call it. It is your business to obey, follow, move, respond, or what have you.” Jim Elliot
Prepare: “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way/ To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey” John Sammis. Do you trust God?
>> Joshua 5:1-15
Explore: This was a war strategy that made no sense at all. Instead of immediate occupation, God has the Israelites encamped behind enemy lines and physically incapacitated. Surely God knew better than that.
But as we examine the story, we begin to see that God is fulfilling his plans and promises. The first circumcision since leaving Egypt represents renewal of God’s loving covenant relationship with his people. The first Passover in the promised land is a reminder of God’s ongoing redemption plan. The people had to go undergo a spiritual transition before their physical transition into landowners. When we have confidence in our redemption through Christ and restored relationship with God, only then can we trust him and effectively advance into enemy territory.
How many times in our own lives do we doubt God’s actions and mistrust his leading? Panic can set in amidst confusion and anger. That’s when we need to choose to trust God. “Either we are adrift in chaos or we are individuals, created, loved, upheld and placed purposefully, exactly where we are. Can you believe that? Can you trust God for that?” Elisabeth Elliot
Respond: Thank you God that you are worthy to be trusted and that you really do know what you’re doing! “There is no greater joy in the Christian life than to trust Him and need no explanation.” Jack Hyles
Prepare: The opposite of victory is defeat. Defeat is described as being disheartened, thwarted, frustrated and overwhelmed. Do any of those words describe how you are feeling? Speak to your Father.
>> Joshua 6:1-27
Explore: God told Joshua, “I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses” (Joshua 1:3). God gives Joshua the unconventional battle plan and the people choose to believe God for this victory. There is no whining, complaining, questioning or back-chatting that characterised the previous generation. They literally walk in obedience and God is victorious.
As Christ-followers, how often do we allow defeat to creep into our lives and overwhelm us? It can lead us down paths of apathy and hopelessness. Chip Ingram reminds us that we do not fight for victory, we fight from a position of victory. We have the victory through Christ’s death and resurrection. We are children of the most high God. We have access to the same power that raised Christ from the dead. The devil is a mere created being whose evil works have been defeated at the cross for all eternity. We can trust our all-powerful God who knows the beginning from the end. His plans and purposes will prevail. We simply have to trust and obey.
Sjoe! Let’s choose victory today and dropkick defeat out of our lives.
Respond: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go” (v.9).
Theme: Joshua 7-24
Author: Tracy Rens
Week: April 10-16
Introduction: Behind enemy lines
Joshua reads like a typical “Boy-Action-Movie”. It’s full of bloody battles, fearsome enemies, gruesome death and hard-won victories.
Occupation of the promised land was no romantic-comedy. It took the Israelites 7 years to conquer the land and take hold of God’s promises.
As Christ-followers we have a formidable enemy bent on destroying us. We live behind enemy lines with no hope of a cease-fire. We cannot afford to drop our guard or waiver in obedience to our Commander-In-Chief. So this week let’s learn together how we can sharpen our swords, secure our defences and trust God for victory in this very real spiritual battle.
Crouching tiger, hidden dragon
Prepare: Just because something makes us uncomfortable or we don’t understand, doesn’t mean we should shy away from it. Ask God to reveal his heart to you as you read this challenging passage.
>> Joshua 7:1-26
Explore: Achan coveted, lied and stole. But the biggest problem was his unfaithfulness to God. Ultimately there was a traitor in the midst of Israel. Someone who pretended to be sold out for their cause but who literally had a foot in the enemy’s camp. This was a dangerous situation where the hidden enemy from within could destroy an entire army.
The modern world is uncomfortable with absolutes, black and white answers. Things are watered down in a permissive anything-goes type of attitude. Evil gets ranked on a sliding scale of what is perceived to be really bad and not so bad. This was more than a “simple” theft. We must realise the seriousness of bringing sin into the camp (our lives, our family, our community). Evil cannot be tolerated, entertained or condoned, not even a little bit. Evil is out to destroy us and often those around us too. Don’t mess with sin, flee from it! Evil must be totally and irrevocably destroyed.
God says, “I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction” (v.12) otherwise “You cannot stand against your enemies” (v.13).
Respond: “But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith” 1 Timothy 6:11,12.
Prepare: “It’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward. How much you can take, and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done.” Rocky Balboa
>> Joshua 8:1-29
Explore: The Israelites have been knocked down. How can they battle an enemy that defeated and killed 36 of their men? God however does not allow them to stay down. The message is clear – “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (v.1), don’t give up, let’s move forward…with Me. How encouraging that out of genuine repentance, comes restoration and renewal of mission.
“The nature of the enemy’s warfare in your life is to cause you to become discouraged and to cast away your confidence. Not that you would necessarily discard your salvation, but you could give up your hope of God’s deliverance. The enemy wants to numb you into a coping kind of Christianity that has given up hope of seeing God’s resurrection power” Bob Sorge.
Once again the key to victory is listening and obeying God. God gives the strategy that uses their previous defeat as their strength. The enemy is overconfident. Isn’t it amazing how your greatest weakness can become your greatest strength in God? God doesn’t waste any experience in our lives.
Respond: “My grace (My favour and loving-kindness and mercy) is enough for you [sufficient against any danger and enables you to bear the trouble manfully]; for My strength and power are made perfect (fulfilled and completed) and show themselves most effective in [your] weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9 Amplified)
The Empire strikes back
Prepare: God warned Moses and the Israelites to “be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land where you are going, or they will be a snare among you” (Exodus 34:12). Forewarned is forearmed – right?
>> Joshua 9:1-27
Explore: Frontal attacks are obvious and easier to withstand. The Gibeonite ruse involved deceit and subterfuge. Things were not as they appeared and lies abounded.
“If ignorant both of your enemy and yourself, you are certain to be in peril” Sun Tzu. While not focusing unduly on the evil one, it’s important that we know his modus operandi and thus be forewarned. He is the father of lies, the deceiver, the accuser and his ultimate aim is to destroy us. He also doesn’t fight fair. He often uses cowardly underhanded tactics and hit-and-run guerrilla warfare.
Many times God has exposed the devil’s sneaky tricks in my life. It doesn’t necessarily change my challenging situation. However I am empowered by the revelation. This enables me to pray specifically and intelligently into that situation and invite others to stand alongside me in prayer.
We must also not grow over-confident and remember to continue to “inquire of the LORD” (v.14). The battle is the Lord’s and we mustn’t run ahead. He really does know best.
Respond: “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (1 Corinthians 10:12). Ask God to lovingly point out any areas where you are vulnerable to attack. He is more than able to protect you.
R.E.D. (Retired, Extremely Dangerous)
Prepare: R.E.D. is a movie about retired secret agents who cannot stay retired. They have to be right in the middle of the action and subsequently end up saving the world. Prepare to meet another R.E.D. operative.
>> Joshua 14:1-15
Explore: Don’t you love Caleb’s attitude? “I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then” (v.11). There is definitely no mundane, ordinary existence for this 85 year old as he follows God wholeheartedly.
We have the privilege of personally knowing many R.E.D. operatives in the kingdom of God. They continue to serve God passionately, sacrificially and courageously all over the world. When I grow up I want to be just like them.
One of the Accuser’s strategies is to undermine our confidence in how God has created us and our unique wiring. “Satan’s greatest psychological weapon is a gut level feeling of inferiority, inadequacy, and low self-worth” David Seamands. He can whisper lies into our hearts that we are too…old, young, untrained, unskilled, stupid, inconsequential or unrighteous. Imagine an army that doubts its training and ability to fight. They would be rendered useless in battle. Fiery darts of doubt can also target our salvation, calling, ability to hear God and our kingdom effectiveness. But those are all LIES.
Respond: Thank you God that you are TRUTH. May you count me worthy of your calling and by your power may you fulfil every good purpose of yours in my life and every act prompted by my faith. Amen (2 Thessalonians 1:11)
The King’s Speech
Prepare: “Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.” Jonathan Edwards
>> Joshua 24:1-24
Explore: God is so personally involved in his redemption story: I took, I sent, I brought, I destroyed, I gave. As a dear friend would say, there are more eyes in the King’s speech than a potato. What a beautiful picture of God’s involvement in our lives.
At difficult junctures in my life I’ve cried out to God. Sometimes all God has said is, “Look back and remember”. As I read my journals I’m reminded of the miraculous ways God has guided, provided for and loved me. This enables me to trust him for the next step (even if he is silent).
It’s also important as God’s army to retell those war stories of past battles, temporary defeats, hard-won victories and life-lessons learned. We, as the body of Christ, are forged together in the heat of battle. As we speak of what our God has done, we give each other courage to keep fighting the good fight. Then out of remembrance comes resolution and response. “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (v.15).
Respond: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power…put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then…” (Ephesians 6:10,13,14) Keep standing, God’s Beloved One, keep standing!
31 January – 6 February 2016
1 John 1: 1–2:29
Byline: Tracy and Eugéne love to creatively communicate Christ through Act Won Creative Arts (www.actwon.co.za). Team Rens (Tracy, Eugéne, Luca) enjoy dancing with abandon, living out loud and laughing often as passionate children of God on an epic rollercoaster-ride of faith.
Title: Get the Picture?
There are many similarities between photography and our Christian walk. Both have their being in light. GOD IS LIGHT. If we walk in the Light (Jesus), we will enjoy vibrant fellowship with the Father, be led by his Spirit and as a result, enjoy fellowship with his children.
False teachers who seduced Christians with other philosophies, distorting the truth and denying the incarnation of Jesus was a great threat at the time.
The believers were reminded to:
1. Love God
2. Love people
“I consider that the chief dangers which confront the coming century will be religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God, and heaven without hell”. William Booth
Day 1: Monday 31st January 2016
Title: Keeping the Focus
When one takes a photograph, it’s important to focus on your primary subject or the reason for the picture is lost. Still your heart and mind and focus on the character of Jesus.
Read: 1 John 1: 1-4
An eyewitness account bears greater weight than hear-say evidence in a court of law. Jesus was eye witness to the actions and words of God the Father. John takes his cue from Jesus. He was with Jesus. Walked and talked with him. Touched him. Laughed and cried with him. Saw him performing miracles. Saw him die. Saw him arisen. Saw him ascend into Heaven. (There weren’t many around who could say that). This is the weightiness of his introduction and the gravitas of what he had to say. So the readers would do well to keep their focus on what was said.
John’s first-hand experience and relationship with Jesus brought about a complete change in his life that many could corroborate. His changed life subsequently impacted the lives of many others. These people were in turn drawn into fellowship with the Triune God with far reaching consequence.
But what is this message of great importance from one of the sole surviving eyewitnesses of Jesus? It is this, even though we may not have physically seen Jesus, we have experienced him. Our fellowship with God is not to be tossed away or taken lightly as it was bought at great cost.
Then Jesus told him, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” John 20:29b
Day 2: Tuesday 1st February 2016
Title: Cleaning Your Lens
1 John 1:5 is absolutely key to this entire letter from God. The central character of God is proclaimed, “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all”. He is Holy and completely sinless. This is our God.
Read: 1 John 1:5–2:2
In darkness, good and evil both look similar. The light however exposes things and shows it up for what it truly is. “Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light” (John 3:20–21).
In verses 1:6–2:1, we find 3 “if we claim’s” (all written in present tense), followed by something negative and 3 corresponding “But if’s” followed by something positive. This is not our initial salvation but the present continuous tense speaks about continual sanctification, cleansing us from ALL sin if we walk (note tense) in the light. Read 1:6–2:1 again.
We are reminded of the completed work of salvation and on-going sanctification. Not claiming to be without sin, but when we do sin, there’s complete forgiveness when we ask for it and remain in relationship with God. Jesus our advocate, the atoning sacrifice, turns away the wrath of God.
Christ died for us once and for all (removed the lens cap so that Light floods in). Sin however creates a barrier between us and God (smudges the lens so that the image is distorted even though the lens cap is removed.) Confession is God cleaning our lens.
Day 3: Wednesday 2nd February 2016
Title: Capturing the Truth
Jesus said that the two greatest commandments were to love God and to love people. We need the former in order to achieve the latter. These commandments form the basis of today’s reading. But it can be so hard sometimes…
Read: 1 John 2:3–11
This passage is often misinterpreted. It is not saying that if we don’t like or agree with someone in the church, that we are going to hell. There were a few wolves in sheep’s clothing that had infiltrated the church, causing dissention. That being said, if you truly love God, you will live the way Jesus tells you to (see John 14:15 and 23). I’ve heard it said that the army of God is the only one who stabs each other in the back.
If our actions are causing each other to stumble or to trust man’s ways in opposition to God’s ways, we prove that we are walking in darkness (see 1:7). Beware, rebellion is the path to the dark side. Remember the way you treat others is how both you and the rest of society will know whose side you are truly on.
We have to however find ways to get along and play nice with each other. Superficial love for each other doesn’t demonstrate the love of God. Shaking hands and masking a smile after church is like a telescopic lens. It looks all impressive but keeps you far away. A shorter lens allows us to get intimate and personal and share real life with each other.
Day 4: Thursday 3rd February 2016
Title: In Contrast
When taking a photo in dark places, you’ll need a light source or you’ll have nothing to show for it. The Holy Spirit is our constant light source.
Read: 1 John 2: 12-17
Verses 12–14 speak not only about cross generational churchgoers, but to people in various stages of Christian maturity. It presumes that those who have been Christians for a long while should show maturity of faith. Maturity of age however does not presume maturity of faith. Christian maturity inspires those who are coming up in the faith ranks. It spurs them on to overcome Satan’s temptations and proves that our trials do indeed produce perseverance (see James 1:2-4). It also shows that the younglings in the faith are learning and developing by what they experience in others.
Verses 14 & 15 should be read as one sentence. Read it using the word “therefore” as the bridging word. There are 3 dangers to guard against (3 P’s):
2. Pleasure (lust)
Not saying that we should have nothing to do with the world (for God so loved the world…), but we should not be lured into its system that would deviate us away from our first love.
If you are in fellowship with God and walking in the light, you have no business craving what the dark side offers. This, like the devil, will come to an abrupt and certain end. “Never open the door to a lesser evil, for other and greater one’s invariably slink in after it” Baltasar Gracián.
Day 5: Friday 4th February 2016
Title: Photoshop My Image
It’s amazing what some photo editing programs let you get away with. A touch-up here, a masking there makes it quite easy to hide one’s photographic faux pas from the untrained eye.
Read: 1 John 2:18-29
The last hour (v.18) is the time between Jesus’ resurrection and his glorious return. The dealers in darkness were saying that Jesus had left the building, never to return. Christians could do whatever they wanted to do – no consequences. (Enter day 4’s 3 P’s). These are the antichrists John refers to, people the Church would have known, people who may still have been professing to be Christians. The difference was in their lifestyles. They were peddling another gospel (the 3 P’s) and denying Jesus as Lord. The danger was that these wolves were selling a cheap gospel that many were buying into.
The resultant warning for the 1st century Church rings true for the 21st century Church. Don’t be deceived. Don’t pick up what they’re putting down. This is why we need to know the original so that we can detect the counterfeits. This only comes from living in fellowship with the Father. When you know the real deal, it’s easy to spot the fake. “… and all of you know the [Truth]”(v.20b). “See that what you have heard from the very beginning remains with you” (v.24).
Respond: You can’t Photoshop edit your relationship with God. Better to let him guide you and keep you living in truth now than be embarrassed at the end of time.
• John 15:1-8
• Colossians 2:6-15
7 – 13 February 2016
1 John 3:1–5:21
Title: Redemption Song
1 John is written like a song with many themed verses dealing with the implications of:
• God being Light (1 John 1:1–2:29)
• God being Love (1 John 3:1–4:21)
• God being Life (1 John 5:1–21)
The song repeats the central Chorus, “This is how we know…”, guiding us into loving God, resulting in us loving people.
It urges Christians to intimacy in their relationship with God, a sharpening in their theological understanding and to live their God-testimony within society. Christians had to grow in faith, obedience and love. It was not written merely in reaction to opposing forces but is redemptive in nature.
May we sing this song together and live God’s words of Light, Love and Life.
Day 1: Monday 7th February 2016
Title: Who am I?
There are 5 most beautiful and significant words on an adoption certificate: “as if born to you”. When the Father rescued us, He adopted us into his family, gave us a new name, identity, home, purpose and inheritance.
Read: 1 John 2:28-3:10
“Behold” (3:1 KJV) meaning consider carefully that we are sons of God – “And that is what we are!” We should draw our very identity from him. Verse 1 tells us who we are. Verse 2 tells us who we are becoming (more Christ-like). If this process of transforming us into the likeness of Jesus is the goal of the God-Head, should it not be ours as well?
There is a distinct difference between committing a sin and remaining in sin. When sin creeps in, have it dealt with. Repent and confess it to God and make right with man. Un-confessed sin festers and poisons your relationship with God. God knows what’s happening on the inside regardless what you’re showing on the outside. Remember, He is gentle and humble in heart.
Therefore don’t allow the devil to lead you by the nose. You know what is right, so do it. If you’re not sure, ask God. He’s not here to placate the devil but to destroy all traces of him. Don’t forget that God is your Father. Read v.10 again.
A definition of Christian maturity: The ability to distinguish between good from evil. (Hebrews 5:14). We are not only to be called the children of God. We are to BE the children of God.
Day 2: Tuesday 8th February 2016
Title: How Will I know?
“This is how we know…” This chorus is repeated several times in today’s reading. Repetition in Scripture means we should pay careful attention.
Read: 1 John 3:11–4:6
Why mention Cain and Abel? Cain hated Abel because of jealousy. He did not heed God’s warning and offer of restoration. There are many “Cain’s” in our society. They have no love for God and therefore no love for us – but we are not like them so we should not act like them.
“…how can the love of God be in him?” (v.17). Good question. We have no business hoarding possessions, especially when we “see our brother in need”. Selfishness and greed are characteristics of those who love only themselves and hate God – but we are not like them. It’s easier to say we’ll die for others than to live for them.
Knowing God and living out His love is how we keep a clear conscience. There’s a difference between conviction and condemnation. If your conscience is prickling, ask God why. If you are still feeling guilty, even after following God in obedience, rest assured that He knows your heart. It is not God who condemns us. So with a clear conscience, we can ask Jesus what makes Him proud and the Spirit will show us. If we get it wrong, fear not. God is greater than our faults.
So how do we know that we are following Jesus? We know this as we love God and as a result, we love people. Nothing else really matters.
Day 3: Wednesday 9th February 2016
Title: All you need is love
Love found. Love lost – the soppy stuff. Probably the subject of most songs ever written. But we’re not talking about what is love, rather who is love.
Read: 1 John 4:7–21
God is Love. The word “Love” appears 25 times. I think God is trying to tell us something. God and love are intrinsically linked. You cannot have one without the other.
Most believe love is important. Many believe that love is what makes one feel good – so they pursue ‘feeling good’, leading to widespread self-gratification. It is written, “God is love” – not “Love is god”. God’s love standard is way higher than the world’s. God’s love is sacrificial. The world’s parasitic. God’s love is measured by what it produces. The world’s measured by what it consumes. God’s love adds value. Darkness cheapens love. God’s love is eternal. The world’s love ends when the feelings fade. What do you base love on?
We don’t have licence to be false in our love for each other (as often depicted in church parking lots). Love is a doing word, a choice leading to action. Scripture doesn’t say “EPIC FAIL” if we are not gregarious by nature. It doesn’t say how many to love, rather shows how deep to love. Enter the Holy Spirit who empowers us to do the will of the Father.
How is your love for God displayed in your choices and actions? Don’t fear being loved by the Father or his Bride. Its love that makes the world go round after all.
Day 4: Thursday 10th February 2016
Title: How great is our God
So how do you feel after this week’s news? Elated? In despair? How does this affect the way you trust God?
Read: 1 John 5:1–12
We believe in God the Father / We believe in Jesus Christ / We believe in the Holy Spirit / And He’s given us new life / We believe in the Crucifixion / We believe He conquered death / We believe in the resurrection / And He’s coming back again / We believe
So let our faith be more than anthems / Greater than the songs we sing / And in our weakness and temptations / We believe, we believe / Let the lost be found / And the dead be raised / in the here and now / Let love invade / Let the church live loud / “Our God” we’ll say / We believe, we believe / And the gates of Hell / Will not prevail / For the power of God / Has torn the veil / Now we know Your love / Will never fail / We believe, we believe.
We believe in God the Father / We believe in Jesus Christ / We believe in the Holy Spirit / And He’s given us knew life / We believe in the Crucifixion / We believe He conquered death / We believe in the resurrection / And He’s coming back / He’s coming back again / We believe / We believe
Newsboys album “Restart”.
“I believe in Jesus. I believe he is the Son of God. I believe he died and rose again. I believe he paid for us all. And I believe that he’s here now. Standing in our midst. Here with the power to heal now. And the Grace to forgive” Vineyard Music.
Day 5: Friday 11th February 2016
Title: In Christ Alone
“In Christ alone my hope is found / He is my light, my strength my song… / No power of Hell / No scheme of man / can ever pluck me from His hand” by Stuart Townend & Keith Getty.
Read: 1 John 5:13–21
This conclusion summarises the letter. The word “know” is repeated 7 times. Repetition means emphasis so we need to take note.
God is life itself – both now and everlasting. God is with us and is approachable now and forevermore. Imagine the backlog if He only heard us one at a time, during banking hours. We have direct contact with Him through his Word, through prayer and through the Holy Spirit. He doesn’t only tolerate. Even when we’ve messed up, we still have access to him. This was important for the readers to know. They were under constant bombardment from antichrists trying to infiltrate, deceive and distract them from knowing the Truth. Therefore, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life” (v.13) and enjoy the benefits of being God’s children. So “Dear children, keep yourselves from idols” (v.21).
Faith in Jesus Christ comes from repentance and the forgiveness of sin. This leads to a right relationship with the Father, His children and to eternal life with and in Him. We therefore have confidence in approaching God, enjoy protection from the evil one and know God through the infilling of the Holy Spirit. Grace and peace to you.
• John 3:16 & 1 John 3:16 & Colossians 1:9-14
• Acts 20:25-35
Author: Tracy Rens
“Maturity does not automatically come with the passage of years. A prayer I pray often is: “Lord, let me grow up, before I grow old.”” John Wimber
Introduction: Grow up!
We recently celebrated our first ever family birthday with our adopted 7 year old son. It has been a year of challenges, joys, tears, laughter and growing up together as a family (aka Team Rens).
We’ve had the privilege of experiencing our son’s child-like wonder of life as he learns and discovers new things. We’ve also been frustrated by those moments of childish, sulky disobedience. How much more does God experience similar joys and frustrations with us, his children?
We are called to be child-like in our faith simply because “Dad said so”. Those basic values that we instil in our children should also apply to our relationship with God and our church family. Things like: listen to your Dad; play nice; say please and thank you; have fun and laugh often; keep learning new stuff; be honest; say sorry and move on; sharing is caring; have a good cry; it’s OK to ask for help; keep things simple.
Unfortunately there’s also the other side of the coin. How often do we as Christ-followers display unbecoming childish behaviour? Things like: not listening to often-repeated instructions, sulkiness, selfishness, bad manners, not sharing, not playing nice, whining and throwing our toys out the cot. Time to grow up!
This week we’ll be looking at 1 Corinthians chapters 1-3 where Paul has to deal with immature Christians: ‘I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly – mere infants in Christ’ (1Corinthians3:1). These Corinthian Christians needed to grow up in order to be what God had called them to be: living lights within their dark, depraved society.
I pray that God would help us all to ‘grow up mature and whole in God’ (1Peter2:2 The Message) and to help those around us to mature as well. Let’s get growing!
Tracy and Eugéne so enjoy working together full-time in Act Won creative arts ministry (www.actwon.co.za). Team Rens (Tracy, Eugéne, Luca) love to dance with abandon, act crazy, experience new things, laugh often, take time to savour God’s creation. Passionate children of the Most High God, they’re glad there’s never a dull moment on this epic rollercoaster-ride of faith.
Have you ever had a nightmare that you arrived for an important event completely unprepared? How did you feel? Ever feel like that as a Christ-follower?
READ: 1 Corinthians 1:1-9
Moms are super-heroes. Amazingly the child leaves home neatly dressed, everything labelled, school suitcase full of required stationery, books and nutritional snacks, having been mentally prepared for their first day at big school. Imagine sending your child off with nothing?
God sends us out with everything we need, but sometimes we forget it’s in our suitcase. Paul starts with a reminder that God has called us. It is no accident that you are called by God’s name. This must always be our starting point – that we are ‘Christians cleaned up by Jesus and set apart for a God-filled life’ (v.2 The Message). But wait there’s more – God has enriched us in every way and provided spiritual gifts needed for the journey. God also promises to ‘keep you strong to the end’ (v.8). We are not left to our own devices. What an incredible parent! ‘His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness’ (2Peter1:3).
Let’s stop whining that we’re not good enough, prepared enough, ready enough to live up to God’s calling. We are loved, we are gifted, we are blessed and we are called by our Father. Let’s make God proud.
Sit down with God and have a look together at what’s in your suitcase. Ask him to show you those wonderful surprises he’s tucked in for you to use and bless others.
Follow the leader
“I wonder sometimes if we ever give God a headache.” Dontay, Age 8
READ: 1 Corinthians 1:10-17
Ever tried playing follow the leader when it wasn’t clear who the leader was? It usually ended in a marked difference of opinion and a reminder to play nice.
The Corinthian Christians played an immature game of follow the church leader. It may have sounded something like this: I firmly subscribe to Paul’s dynamic proven gentile-outreach programme – look how many people he’s converted and his twitter following. I disagree, Apollos’s best-selling book, Pure living in Pagan Places really speaks to my issues. No, you’re both off-track, Peter’s Plainspoken Sermon Downloads for Everyday People is just the thing to grow your church.
Recently a friend we hadn’t seen in years told us a heart-rending story of his church leader who had fallen from grace and was made to leave the church. As a result, our friend who loved and respected his leader, has sadly walked away from the truth and exchanged it for a lie.
‘God didn’t send me out to collect a following for myself, but to preach the Message of what he has done, collecting a following for him’ (v.17 The Message). It must always be about Jesus Christ. Paul encourages his listeners to be ‘perfectly united in mind and thought’ (v.10) as they follow Christ. We need to keep it simple by following Christ and not get distracted by the latest and greatest book/sermon/programme.
It’s all about you, Jesus. Help me to follow you alone.
From the mouth of babes
“Dear God, please take care of my daddy and my mommy and my sister and my brother and my doggy and me. Oh, please take care of yourself, God. If anything happens to you, we’re gonna be in a big mess.” A young boy
READ: 1 Corinthians 1:18-31
Imagine a world without God. We would indeed “be in a big mess”. Yet we are ridiculed for supposedly not producing scientific facts and empirical evidence to defend our faith. We are called naïve, narrow-minded and self-righteous. Meanwhile the world welcomes and embraces the other religious beliefs and philosophies under a banner of inclusivity and love for all mankind. We’re the last ones chosen to be on the team.
Fortunately God chooses us. Our wise God, who is all powerful and all knowing, promises us that ‘the smart people who thought they knew everything will turn out to know nothing’ (Isaiah 29:14 The Message). The world is in a big mess because they stubbornly refuse to acknowledge that they know nothing and God knows everything. Their inflated self-importance blinds them to the saving power of the cross – the most amazing, miraculous truth ever to be revealed to mankind.
As God’s children, we too need to remember that we know nothing and God knows everything. Apart from God we can do nothing (John15:5). God graciously and wonderfully uses us in our weakness, foolishness and insignificance to bring him glory.
Thank you Lord that your power is made perfect in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). Please shine brightly through me today.
I’ve been thinking…
“Piglet: ‘Pooh?’ Pooh: ‘Yes, Piglet?’ Piglet: ‘I’ve been thinking…’ Pooh: ‘That’s a very good habit to get into, Piglet’” A A Milne
READ: 1 Corinthians 2:1-16
Thinking is good – God gave us brains for a reason. Our boy spends much time thinking and questioning. He’s gotten used to the phrase “That’s a good question, my boy” as I frantically think of answers. But sometimes Luca misunderstands and things get lost in translation. There’s a caution-caution here: our faith must never ‘rest on men’s wisdom (our own thoughts or others) but rather on God’s power’(v.5).
I’ve realised I can’t use big language or complicated concepts. I have to continually remember that Luca doesn’t have the life experience or cognitive ability to understand something completely. However as our boy matures, I look forward to having in-depth discussions with him especially about God.
The infinite Creator of the entire universe must also have to gear his communication with us. Paul speaks of ‘a message of wisdom among the mature’ (v.6). How God must long for his children to mature so he can have grown-up conversations with them. The passage speaks of God’s secret, hidden wisdom. It feels like we’d never be able to fathom it. But God is such a remarkable parent. He promises us that all will be revealed through the Holy Spirit within us that leads us into all truth (John 16:13). We have access to the Father, his mind, his wisdom and his power.
‘We have the mind of Christ’ (v.16) Spend some time meditating on this incredible statement.
View from my fort
“I have a lot of growing up to do. I realised that the other day in my fort” Anon. Are we stuck in our churches pretending to be mature instead of getting out there and obeying Jesus?
READ: 1 Corinthians 3:1-23
“But I told you five times already. Why haven’t you done it?” Repeated instructions must be one of the biggest frustrations of parenting. Chapter 3 contains mostly a repetition of the first two chapters. Hopefully by now the immature Corinthian Christians were getting the message that would radically change lives (their own and those around them).
Simple instructions work best for children to follow. Let’s do a basic recap.
1. Grow up in Christ (v.1,2).
2. The fruit of immaturity is worldly behaviour. Stop it. (v.3)
3. Don’t play follow the leader. Follow Christ. (vv.4-5)
4. God makes everything grow and graciously allows us to join in. But God does the real work because it’s all about him. (vv.6-9)
5. Beware what you build in this life. Is it worth taking with you into eternity? (vv.10-15)
6. You are God’s temple because the Holy Spirit lives within you. Live accordingly. (vv.16-17)
7. The world’s wisdom is stupid. ‘Be God’s fool – that’s the path to true wisdom.’ (v.19 – The Message)
8. You are children of the Most High God therefore be identified and known for your strong family resemblance. (vv.21-23)
Is God speaking to you in any of the above instructions? Put your big boy pants on and do something about it. It will delight your Father!?
As a teenager I had a bad habit of sighing when I begrudgingly obeyed my parents. When my mom called me on it, I’d tell her I was just breathing. Sorry Mom! Now my 7 year old boy is showing similar signs of sighing loudly. Payback can be a pain and so is disobedience.
However it brings much joy to my heart when our son obeys us willingly, gladly and upon first instruction. Here we are, not fighting against each other, but rather working together for what will ultimately be for his benefit. God delights in our obedience. It’s one of the very clear ways in which we express our love for God (John 14:15). I heard it said that God’s love language is obedience.
We want our boy to grow up like Jesus did. ‘And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom and the grace of God was upon him’ (Luke 2:40) growing ‘in favour with God and men’ (Luke 2:52). What wonderful prayers to pray over our children. In the same way God is praying that over us and longing for us to become mature. Let’s bring great joy to our Father’s heart as we love, obey and grow up in Christ.
“So many Christians are frozen in spiritual immaturity. They are easily offended, often distracted and without prayer or spiritual discipline. We think God is requiring of us simply to hang on, yet the Lord is looking for mature Christlikeness to emerge within us. He feeds us with His Spirit and Word that we might have every resource we need to obtain His very life and character. He baptizes us in fire that He might create proven character within us. He is relentless with His goal, expecting we should be also.” Francis Frangipane
Looking outward: Whiners becoming Warriors
War is raging outside, the odds are stacked against us, the enemy is fearsome and ferocious. We can’t stand by and watch our country get destroyed. We must join the battle and fight valiantly against the forces of evil. But we cannot do it alone. So we look around the room to see who will join in, those who are called by his name. Do we see a roomful of whining, crying, selfish disobedient children or a platoon of warriors – well-trained, strong in the faith, mature, battle-seasoned, bearing scars from past fights, ready to go to war in the name of the Lord. I pray that we would all be those Warriors and not the Whiners.
My dad would give this advice – that when you’re struggling through stuff, get out there and get involved in what God is doing. This will put your struggles into perspective and help you focus on something and Someone other than yourself. It’s all about growing up. It really isn’t about you. It’s always has and always will be all about our Almighty God.
What if the armies of the Lord/ Picked up and dusted off their swords/ Vowed to set the captive free/ And not let Satan have one more/ What if the Church, for heaven’s sake/ Finally stepped up to the plate/ Took a stand upon God’s promise/ And stormed hell’s rusty gates/ What if His people prayed/ And those who bear His name
Would humbly seek His face/ And turn from their old ways/ What if the life that we pursue/ Came from a hunger for the truth/ What if the family turned to Jesus/ Stopped asking Oprah what to do – Casting Crowns What if his people prayed
Let’s take that stand upon God’s promise and storm hell’s rusty gates.
Your drink of choice
>> Hebrews 5:11-6:12
I’ve been personally challenged during this week’s writings to grow up. God has pin-pointed a particular area that needs an attitude/perspective change. I am so glad that God continues to help me to mature and doesn’t leave me with my milk. Is there an area God has been highlighting for you?
I’ve also been convicted by seeing how the New Testament writers address the issue of maturity in Christ in such strong terms. I’ve been asking myself a question regarding the people who I am walking a road with, especially in a mentoring-type capacity. Am I continuing to give them milk when I should be telling them to grow up and eat their solids? This can be messy as babies don’t always want to eat their solids but it’s a start. Is there anyone in your life who you lovingly need to help grow up in their relationship and understanding of Christ?
We all grow together
>> Ephesians 4:1-16
We had a kitten that went through rather irregular growth spurts. Her hind legs grew much quicker than her front ones, so she walked a bit lopsided. Imagine a body with an enormous hand, one large muscular leg and one well-formed ear, while the rest of the body is sadly underdeveloped and ineffective. In the same way the body of Christ needs to grow together. It’s not a solo exercise. We need to help ‘prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ’ (vv.12,13). What an incredible promise, to attain ‘the whole measure of the fullness of Christ’ (v.13) and to be able to stand firm in love, truth and maturity.
Author: Eugéne Rens
Week: 23 – 29 March 2015
Byline: Tracy and Eugéne are happily married and are parents of a 7 year-old boy, Luca. This couple love working together full-time in Act Won creative arts ministry (www.actwon.co.za). They’re passionate about being on adventure with God and can’t wait to see what God has in store for them all. They’ve swum with crocodiles, walked with lions, flown with falcons. Favourite saying: “Luca, I am your father”.
“Why fit in when you were born to stand out?” Dr Seuss
The Gospel of Mark shows us who Jesus is by what he does and not just by what he says (18 miracles and 4 parables). Jesus is Messiah in Action who is motivated by great compassion. Jesus truly is:
• Our Servant
• Our Sacrifice
• Our Saviour
Chapter 4 takes a short break from the action and sits under a shady tree as it were and draws us into what the kingdom of God is like by way of story. Jesus reveals to us the very heart and mind of the Father – then gets right back into the action genre.
The disciples asked, “Who is this man?” Jesus is the power of God where everyone and everything is subject to his lordship, including nature, death and all the forces of evil. “This is God / Seeker of the lost and forever Father to the fatherless / He’s the hope of the world / every boy every girl he’s the answer” – Audio Adrenalin. This is Jesus whom we follow.
We see that discipleship is born out of having a real relationship with Jesus and not merely following a prescribed set of acceptable rules and norms or even a Code of Good Practice. Jesus asked the disciples to come to him at first. Eventually they came with him.
‘God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go! This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a child-like “What’s next Papa?” Romans 8:14-15 (MSG). All that we do, flows from whose we are. We are followers of Jesus Christ – our Servant, our Sacrifice and our Saviour.
As you partake of God’s Word this week, please don’t rush though the process. Hear Jesus saying, “Come to me. Come with me”.
Sleeping On Burning Beds?
“When you’re sitting in a dark room, you can either sit and curse the darkness or you can light a candle.” Anon
>> Mark 4:21-25
‘Then he said to them’ (v21). Who is this ‘them’? There’s a clue in verses 10 and 11. But why is that important? Jesus gave his followers responsibility to bear much fruit, a responsibility he did not give to everyone in the crowd.
The very purpose of a lamp is to spread light. The lamp does not exist for its own benefit, but to illuminate the surrounding area. Light belongs in dark places. It puts dark places on the endangered species list (v22). Verse 23 seems, at first, to be cryptic. Many have the capacity to hear God’s Word, but choose not to listen. They would prefer the Light be kept hidden or hindered. Evil loves and thrives in darkness (see John 3:19-20).
When Jesus says, “Consider carefully…” (v24), he gets my attention because the stuff that follows is really important. And here’s where our responsibility comes into play. We, who have heard the Word of Truth and have it burning within us simply have to display it by word AND deed. It’s dangerous keeping a burning lamp under your bed. The contemporary poets, Midnight Oil, ask an interesting question – “How can we sleep while our beds are burning?”
“Shine / Make them wonder what you’ve got / Make them wish that they were not / On the outside looking bored… Let them glorify the Lord” – Newsboys. ‘You are the light of the world’ Matthew 5:14
Growth is Proof of Life
A favourite hook of marketers is the slogan, “But wait, there’s more…” How heartening it is that with God, there’s always so much more. Pause and reflect on God’s loving kindness and grace towards you. Be still and know…
>> Mark 4:26-34
The kingdom of God is about growing – individual growth and corporate growth. The Parable of the Sower (vv14-20) describes how our attitudes either aid or hinder our spiritual growth. The Parable of the Growing Seed (vv26–29), speaks to our role which is sowing and reaping. While God is intimately involved in the sowing and reaping, it is he alone that enables us to grow spiritually, ‘lest any man should boast’ (Ephesians 2:9).
Mustard trees or shrubs were sometimes viewed as weeds because they sprouted absolutely everywhere. This could be why Jesus used it to illustrate how his kingdom would sprout absolutely everywhere on earth, in places welcoming the Church and places violently opposed to it. We, the body of Christ, are to grow in order to shelter and restore the broken so that they would know that God is indeed good and be drawn into him eternally. We have joined hands and hearts with those around the world and experienced the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven – and it is beautiful.
“Growth is not more of knowledge or increase of years. It is simply more of Him and less of me” Chip Brogden. Speak to God about your growth plan as his child and as the Church in order to impact to the world.
With Jesus in my boat…
“I’m taking the Lord at His word, and I’m trusting Him to prove His Word. It’s like putting all your eggs in one basket, but we’ve already put our trust in Him for salvation, so why not do it as far as our life is concerned?” Ed McCully (died with Jim Elliot)
>> Mark 4:35-41
Most of the disciples were professional fishermen. They would have been used to operating in adverse weather conditions. Note the contrast. The disciples were panic stricken. Jesus was peacefully asleep (on a cushion).
‘Don’t you care…?’ (v38). They saw Jesus performing many miracles for other people. Jesus drove out evil spirits, healed the sick (including Peter’s mother-in-law). Evil spirits declared who Jesus was and had to obey him (Mark3:11-12). The disciples knew about Jesus. They knew their God could save, but maybe he chose to be insensitive to their needs. They saw him as “Teacher”. The wind and the waves obeyed him as Lord.
Maybe you’ve bought into that perspective. God is good – all the time, but for other people. Maybe you’re worrying that Jesus is asleep at the wheel, that maybe you will go down with the ship unless you wake him. Storms don’t worry Jesus. He can handle those.
So, ‘Who is this?’ (v41). “This is God / Seeker of the lost and forever Father to the fatherless / He’s the hope of the world / every boy every girl he’s the answer.” Audio Adrenalin
Jesus demonstrates the Power of God in Action! So, why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?
From Mad to M.A.D.
“Jesus didn’t come to make bad men do good things. He came to make dead men live” Leonard Ravenhill
>> Mark 5:1-20
So Jesus had just calmed the storm and all the guys were happy – Yay! But then they came ashore and were met by a man (a filthy, naked, long-haired raving lunatic who lived in tombs and used to cut himself with sharp rocks) screaming at the top of his lungs. Quite the welcoming party. The locals where somewhat freaked by him as he could break chains like twigs because he was a little overcrowded by demons. The End.
Imagine if his story really ended there – no more “yay”… But so begins his journey with Jesus. The man could have been the 1st recorded missionary sent by Jesus. His restored relationship with Jesus helped to change his neighbourhood. See Matthew 4:25.
Jesus demonstrated that the forces of evil, even in great numbers, are subject to him. He is Son of the Most High God (v7). Jesus alone has the ability to restore that which the devil has tried to destroy. The man was now found ‘sitting there, dressed and in his right mind’ (v15) – truly free for the first time in who knows how long. Jesus gave him a new mind and a new purpose (and clothing that gave him dignity). In Jesus he had peace.
“Thank you oh my Father / For giving us your Son. / And leaving your Spirit till / The work on Earth is done.” Keith and Melody Green
Go M.A.D. Make A Difference…
Danger! No Touchie – Really?
“If you have been reduced to God being your only hope, you are in a good place.” Jim Laffoon.
>> Mark 5:21-43
Jesus met Jairus in that nightmarish space every parent dreads, ‘My little daughter is dying’ (v23). Some may criticize Jairus the synagogue ruler, for not having the faith of the gentile centurion (Luke7:9) because he pleaded with Jesus to ‘come [to my house] and [physically] put your hands on her that she may be healed and live’ (v23). This appears not to bother Jesus though. But then Jesus goes and gets distracted by someone unworthy.
Touching a dead body or someone who was haemorrhaging blood would have made one ritualistically unclean according to Levitical law. Any self-respecting Rabbi would not dare touch these. Everyone would have known this including Jairus and the lady. This could quite possibly be why Jairus wanted Jesus to step in while his only daughter was still alive and why the lady would only touch Jesus’ cloak.
Jesus defends the lady’s honour who had suffered for twelve years by publically calling her “daughter”, i.e. a precious, loved and accepted one. Could you imagine hearing those words of restoration at the same time as hearing of your own daughter’s death? How ironically cruel. But then the words of life ‘Don’t be afraid; just believe’ (v36). Two hopeless situations: suffering for twelve years, dead at twelve years old. Hopeless that is until Jesus stepped in.
Imagine if Jesus only dealt in the logical realm of rational possibilities. Trust Jesus. He knows what he’s doing. He’s God.
Benjamin Franklin (1706 – 1790) said, ”If you want something done, ask a busy person”. It would appear from our readings of this week that Jesus was indeed busy.
He spoke the kingdom of God to crowds and explained the deeper meaning to his disciples. Tries to catch a few winks in a boat but then is rudely interrupted by panic stricken young men and has to order a violent storm to hush – then he shares words with the chaps. One would think that matters would calm down on the smooth shores of the other side but alas, the welcoming committee of an over-populated-by-demons man who’s screeching demands. Then there’s the palaver with the herd of pigs and more freaked out crowds showing Jesus the door but the no-more-mob-man wants to join Jesus’ group but instead obeys Jesus and becomes the first missionary to the gentiles.
Then it’s back in the boat to the other side to even more pushy crowds. Pleas from a desperate dad about his almost dead daughter so Jesus needs to be involved there but gets interrupted by a woman in a really, really bad state and the disciples get all snarky about that situation. But then the girl dies and her distraught dad has a meltdown so Jesus has to hold his hand. (Haemorrhaging women and dead bodies were a touchy subject). Then the professional mourners give Jesus lip, (because a mob always knows best). Seemingly unperturbed by their rant, Jesus sends them out of the crowded house. Then Jesus takes the tweener by the hand and speaks words of life to her and she walks around. Then Jesus reminds the parents, who are probably in shock, to feed the youngling. Sjoe! Hectic.
Long story short – God is always at work. Period.
R.E.D. (Retired but Extremely Dangerous)
There’s this movie called R.E.D. about a group of cold war spies who have been sent out to pasture as they are no longer useful to the modern age of international espionage.
I love hanging out with R.E.D. operatives, older men and women who are cut from that type of resilient cloth. They are resolute about following Jesus wherever he leads. These kingdom-of-God Special Forces Operatives are involved everywhere – from playing the violin in the world’s most closed country to distributing modern Bibles where crowds and authorities often turn violent. Negotiating with local governments to turn camps hosting millions of refugees into spaces of hope. Here the forgotten meet Jesus through sport. Then there are those who have opened their homes so that young families that have been stolen by the devil can find peace, a warm bed and a full meal. There are those who have taken in discarded pregnant teenaged girls, homed and parented them so that they would have the hope and the means to stand. There are the R.E.D.’s who have moved to countries and spaces where being a Jesus follower are somewhat less than acceptable but whose lives are transforming society.
We have met a couple who literally travel the world with the sole purpose of encouraging (giving courage), to those on mission with God. Those who are using their business skills to develop and inspire an emerging generation of “consumers” into “producers” so that they would fill the huge entrepreneurship gap. We’ve met a couple who travel from country to country to bathe those countries in prayer-peration. Then there’s the lady who bakes the most amazing muffins and organises small groups to pray the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven.
The disciples started rough but grew into R.E.D.
Follow the Leader.
>> Mark 3:13-19 & Acts 4:1-22
“Spiritual growth depends on two things: first a willingness to live according to the Word of God; second, a willingness to take whatever consequences emerge as a result.” Sinclair B Ferguson
Mark 4 reveals Jesus as God in Action. Our very salvation bears witness to Jesus being God in Action. But Jesus didn’t just do stuff because it felt good. His actions flowed out of his obedience to the Father and compassion for those around him.
Jesus’ actions did not always win him popularity contests with friends, family and foes. There were many times that he was man alone. Yet he was able to do the will of the Father.
In today’s readings we see the disciples with their big-boy pants on. Following and obeying Jesus will do that to you. It takes you places… So, ‘If you love me [Jesus], you will obey what I command’ John 14:15.
Cause and Effect
>> 2 Corinthians 5:11-21
This week’s readings are filled with interesting cameo characters that we never hear of again: random people in the crowd, the guys in the other boats on the lake, the previously-demon-possessed man, the pig herders, the healed lady, Mr & Mrs Jairus, the 12 year old girl, the professional mourners. Imagine their stories.
But how had the local fishing, herding, medical and funeral industries changed? What happened in their equivalent of the social media scene after the man was freed from overcrowding demons and 12 year old Sleeping Beauty awoke from her “slumber”? Was it business as usual in the local synagogue with Jairus, dad to post-dead-12-year-old girl at the helm? We are not told in this passage but I would venture that the effect of Jesus in their lives had an impact on their daily living.
So, what are the effects of Jesus in your daily living?
Week: March 17-23 2014
Byline: Tracy and Eugéne are happily married and have recently become instant parents of a 6 year-old boy, Luca (“bringer of light”). This couple love working together full-time in Act Won creative arts ministry (www.actwon.co.za). They’re passionate about being on adventure with God and can’t wait to see what God has in store for them all. They’ve swum with crocodiles, walked with lions, flew with falcons. Favourite saying: “Luca, I am your father”.
Introduction: Echoes in Eternity
Promises. We hear them all around us. Some are quite extravagant in their claims boasting of clinical trials and surveys. This revolutionary device will… We are world leaders in… Our new and improved product will transform your life… leaving clothes whiter than white… And who can match the promises before an election. But talk is cheap and when we wake, we realise that the words are hollow and so are our pockets.
I was in an SU year-of-your-life ministry team called Summit. Part of our responsibilities was to raise funds to cover the monthly operational expenses of the programme. I struggled each month. Members of my home church would shake my hand with vigour, tell me how proud they were of me and promise to pray to the God of abundance for my financial support, but would rarely gave a cent. Then a man, who ran a little stall at a flea market, asked me what I needed. He then disappeared and moments later returned and shoved an overweight envelope into my jacket pocket – and right there, I experienced the kingdom of God in Mitchell’s Plain as it was in Heaven.
This week, we’ll be exploring one of the oldest books of the New Testament. It was written by James the Just, the brother of Jesus at a time when Christians where forced to leave their homes in Jerusalem and live in faraway communities who did not necessarily share their culture or value system.
50 out of the 108 verses in this rather pragmatic book are commands. It underscores the absolute importance for Christians to live in:
A. an adventurous relationship with God.
B. an adventurous relationship with people.
As Maximus Decimus Meridius in the movie Gladiator puts it, “Brothers, what we do in life, echoes in eternity”.
What really matters?
Prepare: The very start of James sets the priorities straight. This not just an introduction of himself, but in fact states who we are, “a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ”. Those are our starting blocks. Everything that flows from there on is pure joy.
>> James 1:1-18
Explore: When something is glued together, it needs a bit of pressure and setting time to strengthen the bond. Removing the pressure and setting time prematurely actually retards the strengthening process. ‘Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything’ (v4).
Verse 5 doesn’t presuppose doubt but rather implies the need for wisdom. It is indeed true that when we find ourselves going through heaps of “stuff” for the sake of the kingdom, we need God’s wisdom to gain the right perspective. God-given wisdom is needed so that we would not just scrape through but so that we could build up good muscle memory running with God, diving into his Word – also known as maturing in God.
If money, wealth and status mean nothing to the God we serve, why is it then that we place so much significance on it, compare and value each other’s worth in the kingdom by it? The Have Not’s should be glad that physical wealth means nothing to God otherwise they would be considered less than. The Have’s should equally be glad. Physical wealth devalues so easily.
Respond: As you are strengthened by God and train your reflexes to run with him, know that despite all the stuff you’re going through, the reward is out of this world. Love God. Love people. Nothing else matters.
The home of integrity is…
Prepare: ”When all is said and done, more is said than done” Lou Holtz.
>> James 1:19-27
Explore: When I talk too much and listen too little, my actions are actually telling others that I and my opinions are more important than they are. Remember, two ears and one mouth. God is more impressed by characteristics of humility than self-importance.
Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was. His response, “…love your neighbour as yourself” Mark 12:31. It is impossible to do this in our own strength, more so, the charge to take care of the most marginalised and vulnerable in society. Just feasting on the Word as a motivational resource is not good enough. We have to exercise our faith through serving God or we will grow flabby and fat. Verse 27 calls this pure and faultless religion. By caring for the powerless, with no hope of repayment, we, the Church, prove to society that there is a God and that He is indeed good.
There was a time when society held the voice of the Church in high regard. Not so much anymore. There’s been a disconnect between our words and our actions. A definition for hypocrite is: a person who pretends to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles etc., that he or she does not actually possess, especially a person whose actions belie stated beliefs.
“Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my father, and I too will love him and show myself to him” John 14:21.
Respond: The home of integrity is the space where words and actions meet.
Welcome to the Family
Prepare: A pastor asked a group of us to enter the church meeting as they were singing, dressed as coffin kids (wearing black clothes and dark make-up etc.). The inner turmoil as displayed on the faces of the meet-n-greet team was quite fascinating to behold as was the parting of the congregation as if we were bearers of plague.
>> James 2:1-13
Explore: ‘How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is who we are!’ (1 John 3:1). The King James puts it: ‘Behold what manner of love…’, meaning to take notice in awe and wonder at this great big Family of God in which we have been adopted into, whose great name we bear.
The rich and the poor would know their places in society at the time of the early church. The rich would enjoy the benefits, often at the expense of the poor. That’s the way the world worked for centuries. How radical then the claim of God that we are ALL his children, his joint heirs all enjoying the eternal benefits of his grace and mercy.
Showing favouritism or partiality is therefore the very antithesis of everything the love of Christ stands for, what Jesus died for, which is why verse 9 calls it sin. “Jesus paid much too high a price for us to pick and choose who should come” Casting Crowns.
Respond: “Welcome to the family. We’re glad that you have come to share your life with us. As we grow in love and may we always be to you what God would have us be – a family always there…” Psalty
Faith does work
Prepare: ‘This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers’ 1 John 3:16.
>> James 2:14-26 and 1 John 3:16-18
Explore: The title of this passage in my Bible reads: Faith and Deeds, not Faith vs. Deeds. It’s not a competition or comparison. This passage is also not in contradiction to Ephesians 2:8-9, where many stop reading. Ephesians 2:10 says that ‘we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do’. Our salvation is in no way based on our own effort. As followers of Christ however, we do have responsibilities that are actually privileges.
When I read the accounts where Jesus had compassion, he always followed it up with action. Taking action is often easier said than done. It requires true faith to trust God. Courage is often needed to follow in his footsteps. Obedience can be costly and messy. Verses 15 and 16 pose an interesting scenario between Christians. Verse 16 ends with the same excellent question that verse 14 begins with, ‘What good is it?’.
It is our actions that validate our words. Faith expresses itself by living in right relationship with God into living in right relationship with others, especially but not exclusively with the family of believers. “Ministry is what we leave in our wake as we follow Jesus” Gerald Hartis.
Respond: Read Hebrews 10:22-25. Darth Vader may have been onto something when he said, “I find your lack of faith disturbing”. Better to hear Jesus say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” Matthew 25:21
Loose lips sink ships
Prepare: “Loose lips sink ships” was a phrase originating from the American World War II propaganda meaning “beware of unguarded talk”. Loose words, like cannons, could have devastating effects. However, what was meant for evil, God can work for good.
>> James 3:1-12
Explore: The Bill of Rights in the South African constitution protects individual rights, like the right to move freely without a pass book. Words like Freedom, Dignity and Justice are integral to human harmony and peaceful coexistence. Today, South Africans celebrate Human Rights Day. But what does this have to do with the passage?
Small things can have great effect. We read how uncontrolled thoughts and emotions manifesting themselves as words, have the properties of a raging forest fire. We were at a camp site once while a fire was ravaging the mountains about us – and there was absolutely nothing we could do. How many people, young and old alike, are walking around, a shadow of their potential because they believe the words, spoken and demonstrated, that destroy? But the tongue in and of itself, is not evil.
Have you ever experienced someone coming alive through words of affirmation? Ever seen the water of a child’s heart raise up to overflow when they are given praise? Can you remember when you were at end of your rope and someone smiled and said, “Thank-you”? The word to encourage literally means to give or impart courage. Before you just lash out, ask yourself: Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind?
Respond: While it may not be in the Bill of Rights, it is our responsibility to build up people into his kingdom. Lord, please help us.
The book of James is quite a short book, saying that though, Goliath probably thought David was short and look what happened to him. It packs quite a punch as did David’s guided missile. It has a straight shooting, not messing around feel about it. Not many warm ‘n fuzzy songs are written with these verses in mind. One thing is sure, you certainly know where you stand as you engage with it.
But when, why and to whom was it written? The book of James is, by popular consensus, the first of the New Testament books written. Christianity was still new. As with any new building project, you have to get the foundations right. People who may have previously not gotten along, now found themselves being Family Members – and sometimes it’s easier to get along with the Lord God Almighty than with family. An expected greeting of the day was “Caesar is Lord”. Imagine the response little Hannah would get from Gigantus Maximus as she replied “Jesus is Lord”.
There are two central themes:
1. Having an adventurous relationship with God
You serve him as if the very joy of life itself depends on it. Not quite understanding how or why God lavishes his very best on you and for you and to you but being so, so grateful that he does. Finding out that you can trust him even when you can’t trust yourself, especially when he leads you into scary places.
2. Having an adventurous relationship with people
Recognising that we, who have surrendered ourselves to him, have been adopted into his name. That that which once was mine is now ours, not like communism but like Christ. Realising that our words and actions are powerful.
So – Love God. Love People. Nothing else matters.
Luca, I am your father
So it’s a long weekend because of the Human Rights Day holiday. We’re reminded of how far we’ve come and how far we’re yet to go. This is also an election year in South Africa. We’re reminded that our vote counts because it came at a great price and would lead to a better life for all. Yet there is so much suffering about and reasons to lose hope.
The New Testament Church was viewed as revolutionary due to the radical on-going actions of its members. Christians gave of their possessions to meet the needs of everyone. Widows and orphans were hemmed into families. In many cities, undesirable babies would often be discarded over city walls into rubbish dumps and sewers only to be carefully rescued by Christian families and raised as if born to them.
The Church has always been at the forefront of social change as a direct response to the compassion of the Father. The abolition of slavery. Inventing hot chocolate so that men would have an alternative to getting drunk in British pubs and be sober with their families. Starting Sunday Schools so that children could have one day off work per week and receive some form of education, etc. What of now? What about today?
My wife and I have been on a long obedience in the same direction regarding the make-up of our family. God has impressed his desire on us to adopt an older child as our first option. This journey has taken many years and has exposed us to realities of childhood neglect and abuse. I would have preferred remaining ignorant. We’ve literally just celebrated a year of my son calling me “Dad”.
How would God use you so that his will would be done on Earth as it is in Heaven?
>> 1 John 3:16-24
One of the last New Testament books written continues the theme of the first book written – one written by Jesus’ brother and the other by the Disciple whom Jesus loved. There were no better eye witnesses to the life and challenge of Jesus.
‘This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers’ (v 16). God’s message at the end of the 1st century is the same at the beginning of the 21st.
Real love is an action, not just a feeling. The contemporary poets, the Black Eyed Peas sings, “Father, Father, Father help us / Send some guidance from above / ‘Cause people got me, got me questionin’ / Where is the love?”
So, ‘let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth’ (v 18).
No Ordinary Family
>> 1 John 4:7-12
Ever seen comic book heroes breaking a sweat whilst being all super hero-like? They leap over buildings and lift train carriages with such grace and ease. How could we mere mortals possibly compare?
This week’s Bible readings speak about counting it all joy when the “stuff” hits the fan, to live lives wholly for God and to pour ourselves out for the Family. I know of precious few Super-Christian types able to maintain those levels of performance and they’re not even alive anymore. Where then does that leave us ordinary Family members who have not raised the dead – yet?
Is it written, “Be-ist thou a Super-Christian to complete thy work”? No! ‘He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him’ (v9). So, ‘if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault’ James 1:5.
Week: January 6-12 2014
Byline: Tracy and Eugéne are happily married and have recently become instant parents of a 6 year-old boy, Luca (“bringer of light”). They’re glad to have missed out on sleepless nights, nappies and tantrums. This couple love working together full-time in Act Won creative arts ministry (www.actwon.co.za). They’re passionate about being on adventure with God and can’t wait to see what God has in store for them all.
Introduction: Walk with Me…!
We recently adopted an amazing 6 year old boy. God’s idea, not ours and it is already proving to be an adventure of epic proportion. Our first month together often felt like we were merely doing family. We were going through the motions, learning about schools, play-dates, routines and parties, all the while coming to terms with enormous life changes. Of late there’s been a change in the dynamic. More and more we are being family and not just doing family. There’s a rightness and lightness about it and much joy!
Sometimes we can get bogged down with doing Christianity instead of simply being with God and enjoying him. We can miss out on the joy of what he created us for – himself.
At the beginning of the new year I heard God whispering these words – walk with me. This phrase contains both a command and an invitation. Walk with me! The authority of God Almighty as a master commands his servant to walk alongside him. The servant responds immediately in obedience. At the same time: Walk with me… is an incredibly intimate invitation to walk with our creator in friendship, trust and contentment, to listen to God’s heartbeat and hear the gentle whispers of the Spirit in our soul.
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me-watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace… Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly” Matthew 11:28-30 (Message).
So at the start of 2014, let’s respond with obedient, joyful hearts and walk with him. Let’s get walking…!
Quote: God is enjoying himself and he expects us to join him. Meister Eckhart
Saving the world
Prepare: Why did God choose Noah to save the world? Why would God choose you to save the world?
>> Genesis 6:1-22
Explore: Noah and Enoch (Gen5:22,24) are the only ones in chapters 5 and 6 who are described as those who ‘walked with God’. I’ve always loved that description and want to be described in that way: And Tracy walked with God. Try it with your name. Sounds good – doesn’t it?
“The history of all great characters of the Bible is summed up in this one sentence: They acquainted themselves with God, and acquiesced in his will in all things.” Richard Cecil. God is ready to give up on the entire earth but for one righteous man. God chose Noah because he walked with him. It almost sounds too simple. Surely Noah should have proved that he could build an ark/follow instructions/lead the human race. But it was enough that God knew him and so entrusts the survival of the entire human race to him. No small task.
Sometimes we may feel that we need to perform, to prove to God that we are the best suited, most righteous person for the job. We make plans, sign up for all kinds of good activities and even feel guilty when we say “no”. But as with Noah, God longs for us to simply walk with him. As we walk with God, he begins to unfold his plans. And they are always both mind-blowingly amazing and scary. Like when God said “Adopt an older child. I will specifically let you know who the child is. Do not doubt me.”
Respond: What do you have to release in order to simply walk with God?
God’s Positioning System (GPS)
Prepare: “Choosing Christ means walking along a single road, not several at the same time. If we wish to follow Christ and ourselves at the same time, are we not running after our own shadows?” Anon
>> Isaiah 30:1-5,15-33
Explore: The passage describes stubborn children who deliberately choose their own paths, wilfully getting themselves into trouble because they do not listen to their father. The promise in verse 15 is lovely but starkly contrasts with the end of that verse ‘…but you would have none of it’. There are similar echoes in Jeremiah 6:16 and chapter 7:23,24. God’s people continue to refuse God’s help and restoration. Thank goodness God does not give up on them or us! God’s beautiful character is revealed as he longs to restore his stubborn people. Against this backdrop God says “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, “This is the way; walk in it” (Isaiah 30:21).
As a Capetonian visiting Joburg it is essential to borrow a GPS in order to navigate these foreign lands. Our first experience was with the volume turned down. We did not realise this and tried to follow the picture on the screen with the little arrows. Needless to say there was a point where we were headed for Kimberly (opposite direction to our intended destination). Once we figured out how to turn the volume up we could hear “recalculating, recalculating”, we turned around, followed the voice and were back on track!
Respond: How often does God have to say “recalculating, recalculating” with regards to your life? Maybe it’s time to turn the volume up on your God Positioning System.
Feels like Kilimanjaro
Prepare: Ever been on an easy walk that suddenly began to feel like you were scaling the highest mountain in Africa?
>> Luke 9:18-27
Explore: Sometimes our walk with Jesus can feel a bit like breathlessly struggling to climb up Kilimanjaro when we thought we’d signed on for the proverbial walk in the park. Fortunately Jesus doesn’t expect us to go anywhere that he hasn’t gone before. Jesus has walked the road of sacrifice and suffering (v22). He knows how hard it can get, the tears you’ve cried, your fears for what lies ahead and when you can’t take one more step. Jesus not only understands but he’s promises to ‘never leave you nor forsake you’ (Deuteronomy 31:6). He’s with us as we go through the ‘valley of the shadow of death’ (Psalm 23:4) and when we ‘walk through the fire’ (Isaiah 43:2). Jesus gives us strength when we can’t take another step and enables us to continue walking without fainting (Isaiah 40:31).
Sometimes God calls us to “a long obedience in the same direction” Eugene H. Peterson. We were in the adoption process for 2 years. It was a difficult, emotional and challenging journey. There were times when we felt like giving up. But we knew God said we must adopt and so we continued on. We also knew we couldn’t pick and choose what we obeyed. It was all or nothing. Either we followed Jesus or we didn’t. And at just the right time God brought our son into our lives.
Respond: Where are you on that long obedience in the same direction? Speak to Jesus about your journey because he’s right there beside you.
Walking on water
Prepare: “If we only have the will to walk, then God is pleased with our stumbles.” C.S. Lewis
>> Matthew 14:22-36
Explore: Sometimes we have a storybook picture of Jesus gliding across a calm lake. In reality there were strong winds, big waves, and a boat being tossed about. Yet in the midst of the storms, Jesus appears and says “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid” (v27). He probably had to say that loudly to be heard over the wind and possibly the disciples’ terrified screams.
I’d like us to have a perspective change on Peter’s part of the story. We can often critically shake our heads over Peter’s lack of faith. But how about the fact that Peter experienced a miracle that none of the other disciples did. He walked on water (v29)! Can you imagine what that experience was like? He climbed out of a rocking boat, onto stormy waves and he walked. Yes he stumbled, took his eyes of Jesus and needed to be saved. But the fact remains: he walked on water. He only had a little faith but he still had faith – enough to step out of the boat.
Where is your boat? Are you still in it, maybe peering over the edge feeling a little sea-sick. Perhaps you have climbed out of the boat but are still holding onto it just in case? Or are you walking on the water and the boat has disappeared altogether? Wherever you may be, hear Jesus saying to you “Come” (v29).
Respond: Where is Jesus calling you to walk on water? You only need a little faith to step out of the boat and join the adventure.
Dancing with the Star
Prepare: Whose tune are you dancing to?
>> Galatians 5:1-26
Explore: My hubby and I love to dance and are always on the lookout for opportunities to do so. We eagerly wait for the right song and there is much joy dancing together. We know each other well and I manage to follow most of the time…except when he invents new dance moves. Jesus is our ultimate partner who invites us to join him in an amazing dance of life and joy. Before we can accept this invitation, we need to be reminded of Whose we are. We have been set free through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross (v1). We need to relax in that freedom and grace which is ours as children of the Most High God. Secondly we mustn’t get distracted by other tunes playing around us (v19-21). We need to focus on the Spirit, his leading and his music. The Spirit helps us to stay in step on a daily basis (v25).
Staying in step produces the good stuff (v22,23). This fruit comes in the form of character rather than a list of do’s and do not’s. We need to become people of character, Christ’s character. This fruit will bless those around us and can be used to invite others to join in the dance of life and joy.
“Following the Lord’s commands is more than dutiful doing. Through actively walking with God, we are conformed to His will; and as we walk, our faith to follow Him increases. By freely responding to the grace of obedience with our whole hearts, we enter a realm of trust in God.” Debra Evans
Respond: So whose tune are you dancing to?
“Joy, not grit, is the hallmark of holy obedience. We need to be light-hearted in what we do to avoid taking ourselves too seriously. It is a cheerful revolt against self and pride. Our work is jubilant, carefree, merry. Utter abandonment to God is done freely and with celebration. And so I urge you to enjoy this ministry of self-surrender. Don’t push too hard. Hold this work lightly, joyfully. The saints throughout the ages have witnessed to this reality…. You know, of course, that they are not speaking of a silly, superficial, bubbly kind of joy like that flaunted in modern society. No, this is a deep, resonant joy that has been shaped and tempered by the fires of suffering and sorrow; joy through the cross, joy because of the cross.” Richard J. Foster
Sometimes I think we take ourselves too seriously as Christians. Don’t misunderstand me-there are many things in our lives as Christ-followers that are deadly serious and cannot be ignored or trivialised. But at times I think we miss out on the joy of the journey. We can be too busy stressing about whether we’ve packed in enough food/maps/emergency gear and we miss out on the breath-taking experiences happening all around us. Christ calls us to live life to the full, a life of adventure and not of mundane existence. Every day Jesus joyfully invites us to walk with him. We never know what surprises he may have in store. We know it won’t be easy but it will be amazing with the odd bit of water-walking thrown in just for fun! And what stories we will have to tell of our God who walks with us. So don’t take yourself too seriously and get in step!
Speaking life and hope
“Never underestimate the importance of simply being physically present in the place God wants you. You may not be asked to perform some dramatic ministry, but simply being there is a ministry.” Warren Wiersbe
Too often we focus on the negative aspects of our land. But then I’m reminded of ordinary South Africans I’ve met who are doing extraordinary things for God. I know they would disagree with me about the extraordinary part but that’s where God supernaturally comes in. The young South African man who has heard God and moved to the Far East with his wife and baby. The cost is great, the wrestling with God on-going but at the same time, even if he doesn’t realise it, his life is inviting others on a journey of eternal consequence. The mother living in an informal settlement riddled with gang violence. She sits in her home, tears running down her face, telling of how she trusts God even though there is no money. And through her home comes a seemingly never-ending parade of children and teenagers she has rescued and given a home to. And God is there. The old lady faithfully praying for her extended family to know God. The newly-wed graduate professionals who are serving God in rural Africa. The young woman whose heart burns for the poor and is sacrificially obeying God as she loves the unlovely.
These precious people walk with God through the pain and the struggles and the joys and the victories because they know him and cannot envision life without him. And the stories go on and on and on and far outweigh the doom and gloom spoken over our land. Find out those stories, retell them and tell your own. Choose to speak life and hope over our land.
Walk with the wise
>> Proverbs 13:20
It’s good to have company as we walk with Jesus. Good company, that is. Friends who will encourage, give advice, help carry your pack if you’re tired, teach you more about walking well, help you keep going and not give up. Wise people can be people who have been walking for longer than you have. People who see things differently to you. People who can challenge and encourage you.
Here are some words from Steve Curtis Chapman’s song: Walk With The Wise. If we walk with the wise we will grow wise/If we walk in the light then our path will be bright I know/There’s someone who’s already been where we must go/In the light of what they’ve learned we find/That we will grow wise if we walk with the wise.
I’ve learned to look for answers in those born before my time/As I listen to them tell me what they’ve learned in their lives/I talk to friends with understanding much deeper than my own/And gain wisdom beyond measure I could never find alone./One life can be a candle with wisdom as its fire/And every life touches with it’s flame is set ablaze/if we walk with the wise we will grow wise.
>> Deuteronomy 10:12-22
A wise person once told me, if you’re in doubt at some point on your journey with God, check your marching orders. What was the last thing God told you to do? Do that as you await further orders. Verse 12 gives us our overall instructions from God. We need to reverence him, walk in all his ways, love and serve God with our entire being and obey his commands. Ask him to give you strength to carry out your marching orders today.
Week: August 5-11 2013
BYLINE: Eugéne and Tracy are a husband and wife team who have been married for 14 years. They are involved full-time in a creative arts ministry called Act Won (www.actwon.co.za). Act Won aims to creatively communicate Christ by utilising live theatre as well as other forms of creative communication. They have had the amazing opportunity and privilege of performing and ministering in South Africa and abroad on numerous occasions. A few momentous moments: making a terminally ill boy laugh while performing for him in the garden outside his hospital room window; almost getting locked in Hezekiah’s Tunnel in Jerusalem for the weekend; praying in the pouring rain in Tiananmen Square, openly praising God with a Djembe drum in a Very closed country. They are passionate about serving God and following him on wild, wonderful adventures of faith!!
HEY SOUL SISTERS
South Africa celebrates our female heroes this week. We cheer our Wives, our Moms, our Grannies, our Aunts and our Sisters. We remember their daily exploits and the super powers they possess in finding things. For many in our society, the Woman is the primary care-giver and the Custodian of Community. James Brown is onto something when he says that while this is a man’s world, it would be nothing without a woman or a girl.
When we hear the words “Radical Women”, images of Xena Warrior Princess, Joan of Arc, Wonder Woman or even Winnie Madikizela-Mandela may come to mind. We hold them aloft – unattainable to us mere mortals – but what of the Ordinary Radicals? What are their stories?
The Bible is jam-packed with Heroes of the Faith. Many of them were ordinary ladies doing ordinary things through an extra-ordinary God. I would venture that if asked, they would not see themselves as heroes.
This week, we’ll hear the God stories of a few midwives who defied the superpower man-god of the day and freed a nation. We’ll hear from a slave girl who says but two lines that changes the life of a general and a few kings. We’ll hear from a lady whose lifestyle and reputation made her unpopular with the religious constabulary. We’ll hear the song from a lady who filled man-sized shoes. We’ll find out about crunch-time support and hear about a blushing Bride.
May we be challenged by the Word of God. May we be transformed through His revelation into the likeness of His Son, being made spotless and without blemish – and may we “be doers of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22 ESV)
ISN’T IT IRONIC
Do you feel ordinary or insignificant in God’s Kingdom?
READ Exodus 1: 8-21
This passage is filled with irony. The strong are afraid of the weak (v8-10). Pharaoh tries to deal “shrewdly” (v10) but expects midwives to kill babies. His solution (oppression) only exacerbates his problem. He only perceives males as a threat and does not see women as having any impact or consequence. Yet, the genesis of the delivery of an entire nation is brought about by women who revere God more than they fear the super-powers of their time. How interesting that in chapter 2, more women are instrumental in God’s delivery plan including Pharaoh’s very own daughter.
So it’s the women who step up to the plate – those who are seemingly without impact or consequence. “The midwives, however, feared (revered) God and did not do what the king of Egypt told them to do; they let the boys live” (v17). Note that the midwives (Shiphrah & Puah) alone are named but not the King. He is the highest official in the land and is feared by millions. This is not merely an omission but is deliberate. “The memory of the righteous will be a blessing, but the name of the wicked will rot” (Proverbs 10:7). They are radical not because they were cunning but because they went about their daily affairs in obedience to God. Their relationship with God enabled them to revere and obey Him rather than the head of the Egyptian super power.
Do you feel as if you are of no consequence, that you are but ordinary? You are not! What a blessing – to be known by the Most High God.
NO WOMAN, NO CRY
Would you be prepared to give up something you love for something you love more?
READ Luke 7: 36-50
What’s every Christian event planners’ worst nightmare? An uninvited guest with a soiled reputation, from the wrong part of town, arriving at a special event and making a scene. That appears to be the case at first glance. What embarrassment for poor Pharisee Simon. Did this “sinner-woman” not know where she was? She was inappropriate in every way: her hair hanging loose, touching another man (even on his feet) and her actions (sobbing and kissing feet). The perfume denoted the tools of her trade (probably used to enhance her bed and chambers). She must have been the worst of sinners. Jesus should have known that if he really was a prophet.
The woman however did what a good host should have done. She literally gave herself in service to Jesus. No water basin to clean dirty feet, only her tears. No towel to dry the feet, only her hair. No oil for his head, only the tools of her trade. But her greatest cost was the scorn of those who should have known better. She believed that if she came to Jesus as a repentant sinner, He would not reject her. Note that Jesus faces Simon when addressing him but turns his back to him when rescuing and affirming the woman’s dignity. Her focus was solely on Jesus, no matter the cost.
Because of God’s great love for us, how can we offer him anything less than our all in worship? Spend time at his feet now.
MORE THAN WORDS
“In quietness and confidence is your strength” (Isaiah 30:15 NLT)
READ 2 Kings 5:1-15
The prime catalyst of change in this entire adventure is a young slave girl whose words are almost lost in this geopolitical saga. Young girls should have had very little influence in matters of State, let alone a slave girl. She says but two sentences, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy” (v3).
Note the radicalness of this girl. She has genuine concern, not hatred for her captor. Naaman was commander of the Syrian armies against Israel (v1). What a lesson for us as the Church. Many would bemoan being enslaved and see Naaman’s affliction as justice.
Why would this general believe his slave girl captive? Why would Naaman convince his King to write visa letters to the King of Israel? She must have had such confidence in her Great Big God, even though she was still enslaved. He may not have believed her if her conduct had not matched her conviction. She clearly spoke her convictions – a bold yet simple testimony of the Lord God Most High. The risks would have been extremely high for a captive to be so forthright. Her confidence was not in her context but in her God.
Note the impact one girl’s faith had on the commander. Naaman moved from “I thought” (v11) to “I know” (v15). We are not told if the girl was freed from slavery. We are however assured of Naaman’s life-changing transformation to salvation (v15).
Pray for boldness and the right words to say in whatever context you find yourself in.
THIS IS A MAN’S WORLD???
Are you involved in mentoring and being mentored? What is the impact of these relationships?
READ Judges 4:1-16 & Hebrews 11:32-34
The situation was dire. Israel was in effect a vassal state. They were oppressed for 20 years – no battle hardened army to speak of and no weapons. Morale was down. “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit” (Judges 21:25). The overlords had superior numbers and forces (900 chariots of iron). Even travel was restricted to byways.
Into the breach steps Deborah who is a wife (v4) and a mother (Judges 5:7). She was also a prophetess meaning she declared the Word and wisdom of God. She had no stately office but operated under a tree (v4).
Deborah had to remind Barak “Has not the LORD, the God of Israel, commanded you…” (v6b ESV). 10,000 practically weapon-less men had to go from a mountain top into a valley to face the enemy. Chariots were unstoppable in valleys. An insane command one would think.
Why did Barak need Deborah to hold his hand? She was clearly not a sword wielding side-kick or warrior. Why is he named in the Hall of Faith (Hebrews 11) and not Deborah? He was weak of faith. Deborah was always strong of faith. His “weakness was turned to strength; and became powerful in battle” (Hebrews 11:34). Maybe the “wife & mother” figure of Deborah who was speaking the Word of God to a fearful reluctant leader, made all the difference.
Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come…” (Isaiah 35:3-4)
ISN’T SHE LOVELY
The time leading up to a wedding is filled with all sorts of preparation so that everything is just perfect. How are we preparing as the Bride of Christ?
READ Ephesians 5:25-27 & Revelation 19:6-8
In action movies of bygone years, females did little more than argue with each other, flutter their arms about and scream incessantly. Villains rarely took them seriously. Today, many non-believers and even some Christians characterise the Church with the same disdain – fluttering our arms about, arguing and making noise. That’s not the Church, the Bride I see in Scripture.
God describes a living organism, a body that is Holy (Sacred), cleansed by continual immersion in the Word, radiant, without defect and blameless. Like a well-trained soldier, she is always in a state of readiness (Revelation 19:7). She is definitely not a wimp as the living God works through and resides within her. This Bride is more than a conqueror who presses on towards the goal and is firmly rooted and established. She knows that she is not a citizen of this world and that her identity is in Christ. She is able to follow after God because she recognises His voice. She is no slouch with the sword because she knows the Word of God. She knows that she is dearly loved and so she loves. Villains beware. She is not the harem of Christ but the unified Bride of Christ. Yes we are still being prepared but the celebrations are coming soon!
Jesus paid the bride price for you by giving his all. Ask God to reveal to you what preparations still need to take place individually and as the Church.
Big Match Temperament (BMT). You just know when you have it. Everyone else knows when you don’t. It speaks about the “stuff” you have inside that enables you to rise above the rigors of the task especially against tough opposition.
There are a number of moments in Biblical history that were pivotal, real life or death moments. One of these involved the first Adam and another involved the second Adam. The first was when Adam and Eve messed up. Adam was however presented with the opportunity to take responsibility for their actions, (and non-actions in his case) and make things right. Adam however dropped the proverbial ball. He chose not to “man-up”. My Sunday school account of the Fall, led me to believe that Adam was being very spiritual somewhere else in the garden when it all went down and that Eve made junk for all of us. Not so. She “gave some to her husband, who was with her…” (Genesis 3:6)
The other account is when Jesus was being crucified. Nowhere in the Gospels do I see evidence that the Disciples, except John, were present and accounted for. When the chips where down, it was the women, who had supported Jesus’ ministry all the way from Galilee, that were there. The women went to the tomb while the guys were keeping themselves safe somewhere else.
This is not a cheap attempt at men-battery but, as I look at society, I wonder where the real men are? Similarly as I look at the modern day Church, I can’t help but ask, “Where are the real men”? Look around you. What’s the ratio of active men and woman in your church? How many single ladies can’t find God following Men?
Lord, this absolutely has to change. Please help.
I grew up in a family with a great appreciation for jazz. Those cassettes were well used by us and our neighbours. The only time of silence seemed to be when we were sleeping, (and even then, Mo Town and Gospel invaded my dreams). One of my parents’ older classics was Aretha Franklin’s “R-E-S-P-E-C-T”. I would sing and play it without hearing or realising what she was saying. It just sounded cool.
This week South African celebrated National Women’s Day. The history of our country is seasoned by ladies who have defied the odds and were catalysts of change politically, financially, emotionally and spiritually. Grannies seem to be chief among them. They seem to possess the right balance of heart and hand.
I am encouraged by ladies coming into their own in entrepreneurship, to see young ladies breaking stereotypical moulds and live life on purpose. I am encouraged to hear the heart of the Father through the lips of His daughters. Godly ladies – how fundamental they are in the Kingdom of God. How fundamental to raising a nation. A woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. (Proverbs 31:30)
I often wonder if the Moms of great leaders knew who they were carrying on their shoulders. If Moses’ mom for example, knew his potential as she allowed him to drift down the Nile. I wonder if my Gran knew what she was planting into my life during that foundational period. She certainly prayed as if she knew. There is a common denominator for many ordinary radicals whose lives have eternal consequence. They had a significant person in their lives who loved God and modelled that conviction. So as our societies, cultures and generations influence each other, “All I’m asking is for a little respect – just a little bit”.
EXTRA READINGS 1
SHAPE OF MY HEART
READ: Acts 16:11-15,40
Lydia’s conversion takes place on the banks of a river outside the city. This is an important fact. “Historical insight: Inscribed on the arches outside the city of Philippi was a prohibition against bringing an unrecognized religion into the city; therefore, this prayer meeting was held outside the city, beside the river.” (Life Application Study Bible). Lydia must have been an influential person because her conversion led to her entire household seeing the light. She also “persuaded” (v15) Paul and the crew to stay over, and these guys were on a mission.
After some excitement, (demon possessed slave girl and a prison break), the crew ended up at Lydia’s house again for a home group meeting (v40). Remember the prohibition? Something changed in the city. Lydia now ploughed her influence into the Kingdom of God.
EXTRA READINGS 2
STAND BY ME
READ: Luke 8:1-3
Behind every successful man… the saying goes. Jesus had a ministry support crew. These were a diverse group of ladies spanning the social and economic strata, from the privileged in Herod’s court to social outcasts. Demon possessed people were often outcasts on the fringes of society. Yet they were together. We find them mentioned throughout the Gospels. They weren’t only getting their hands dirty by doing the cooking and cleaning but often inspired the guys into action. Who brought the news of the empty tomb?
Supporting Jesus “out of their own means” (v3) not only refers to money but had broader application. They supported Jesus with all they had and were. Jesus was Messiah. He saved them therefore their very lives were in his hands. A truly diverse team of ladies following hard after Jesus.
Week: July 1-7 2013
BYLINE: Eugéne and Tracy are a husband and wife team who have been married for 14 years. They are involved full-time in a creative arts ministry called Act Won (www.actwon.co.za). Act Won aims to creatively communicate Christ by utilising live theatre as well as other forms of creative communication. They have had the amazing opportunity and privilege of performing and ministering in South Africa and abroad on numerous occasions. A few momentous moments: making a terminally ill boy laugh while performing for him in the garden outside his hospital room window; almost getting locked in Hezekiah’s Tunnel in Jerusalem for the weekend; praying in the pouring rain in Tiananmen Square, openly praising God with a Djembe drum in a Very closed country. They are passionate about serving God and following him on wild, wonderful adventures of faith!!
I DID IT GOD’S WAY
One of the most popular karaoke songs remains Frank Sinatra’s “My way”. At one time it was also the most requested tune for UK funerals. Man says “I did it my way.” God says “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways” (Isaiah 55:9). What song are you singing?
We need to constantly check to see if we are living our lives God’s way or our way. Let’s be honest – we prefer to be in control and to make our own decisions. We often ask God to bless what we’re doing and to join us. This can happen in subtle ways that start to undermine our complete dependence on Almighty God and His guidance. When we choose to do things our way, we can settle for the good and miss out on the best that God has planned for our lives.
“My Way” lyrics: For what is a man, what has he got?/ If not himself, then he has not/ To say the things he truly feels/ And not the words of one who kneels/ The record shows I took the blows/ And did it my way
We are called to kneel before God Most High and acknowledge his Lordship over every area of our lives. This week as we look at some of the chapters from the second half of Isaiah, let us examine our hearts. Ask God to show you where your ways/decisions/perspectives have taken precedence over His ways for your life. God says: “I am God, and there is none like me…My purpose will stand and I will do all that I please.” (Isaiah 46:9,10)
Let us sing together with much passion and enthusiasm, even if it’s not perfectly in tune – “We did it God’s way!”
LIVING ON A PRAYER
“My way is hidden from the LORD; my cause is disregarded by my God” (Isaiah 40:27). Do you feel like this or know of someone else who does? Bring your prayers and tears before God now.
READ: Isaiah 40:6-31
Isaiah 40 ends with the beautiful, comforting and well known words in verses 28-31. Yet how many of us know/have memorised the earlier verses in this chapter? I was going through a challenging time and asked God if He had forgotten my situation. He answered by sending a beautiful sunrise and asked, “Did you make the sun rise this morning?” Of course I had to sheepishly answer “No”. God asked Job similar questions which all highlighted the fact that He is Creator God and there is no one like Him. Isaiah 40 seems to echo that type of question and emphasises aspects of the immensity of God. There is indeed none that is his equal. Take some time to reflect on these descriptions of our God. Isn’t He amazing! No wonder His ways are higher than ours.
Doesn’t it just blow your mind that this huge, all powerful, all mighty God “tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart” (v11) Now re-read verses 27-31. Isn’t it incredible that this Great Big God loves us so tenderly, hears us and strengthens us in our struggles and challenges of life.
“But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.”(v31) Spend time now in the presence of your God and Father who promises to renew your strength and enable you to soar with Him.
I WILL SURVIVE
If you had the power to help people forget traumatic past experiences – would you do it?
READ Isaiah 43:1-13
It’s always struck me in this passage that the people had to pass through the waters and fires (v2). God didn’t rush in and rescue them. They had to go through the difficult times but God promised to be with them.
There have been painful times in my life when I have cried out for God to save me, to make the bad stuff go away and enable me to forget it all. However Isaiah says “when you pass through…”(v2), because those waters and fires will come. It’s a part of life here on earth. God uses those rivers and fires to wash and cleanse us, strengthen our character, teach us new aspects of Himself and make us more like Him. If we were saved out of every difficult experience/relationship/decision we would be self-indulgent, weak people of no real use to anyone. We would definitely not bear a family resemblance to our Father.
God reminds us that he has created us for His glory (v7). Our lives and the way we deal with challenges need to reflect God and draw others to Him. After all it is all about Him. He created us, He formed us, He saved us and He calls us to Himself.
Remember your past and thank God for how He brought you through the floods and fires of life. “He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us…” (2 Corinthians 1:10)
EVERY BREATH YOU TAKE
“Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.”(Mark 16:15) How do you feel about this verse? Speak to God.
READ Isaiah 49:1-23
Every time I read this chapter I feel such a sense of excitement, remembering past God-adventures and the stirrings of future possibilities. God has used this chapter to speak to me about going, sometimes literally to the ends of the earth. “I am setting you up as a light for the nations so that my salvation becomes global!” Isaiah 49:6b (Message). God is sending missionaries from Africa back to first world cynical, post-Christian countries, saying “Return to sender with love”.
The amazing thing is that He entrusts us with this message of eternal hope and restoration (take note of the beautiful images in the chapter referring to this). When God calls us to be involved with what He is doing, it is always for His glory and purposes. It’s actually not about us. Moses was called to set the Hebrews free from Egypt. Joseph was placed in a position of power and authority to save not only the Egyptians but also his own people from famine.
God’s ways are so much bigger than our dreams, ideas and plans. The adventures He calls us on are so much more exciting and overflowing with His supernatural power. Choose His ways and you will experience living life to the full!
Ask God where He wants you to go – around the world or across the street to share His love. “I tell you, now is the time of God’s favour, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2)
DON’T GO BREAKING MY HEART
What do you think pleases God about how we live our lives? What displeases Him?
READ Isaiah 58:1-14
The Israelites thought that God would be impressed with their outward show of being religious (v2,3). We too can go to great lengths to do and say the “right” things in order to give the appearance of being a “good Christian”. This often happens because we seek the favour of man not of God. I continue to learn hard lessons as to whom I most want to please – God or man. God is also not impressed with the appearance of godliness. He is able to see right into our hearts. He knows our motivations and deepest thoughts. We cannot fool God!
Thank goodness God doesn’t just convict us. As we re-enter into an intimate relationship with Him, we are able to hear His voice and know what pleases Him. It’s always challenged me knowing that God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7) and not merely the act of giving. I can do the most sacrificial, miraculous Christian actions (1 Corinthians 13:1-3) but if I do it without love it amounts to nothing. So our actions need to flow out of our love for God and not merely doing the “right” acts. God’s instructions are challenging but He will be with you. The promises are so beautiful when we walk in obedience with Him.
“You’ll be known as those who can fix anything, restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate, make the community liveable again.” (v12 Message) Ask God what He wants you to do in your community/communities to bring life, hope and restoration to your nation.
DON’T STOP ME NOW
Think about the activities/projects/people’s live you are involved in at the moment for God. Do you feel burdened down or alive?
READ Isaiah 61:1-11
In the Nazareth synagogue (Luke 4:16-21) Jesus reads Isaiah 61:1-2a. He stops before the reference to the day of the Lord’s vengeance (God’s judgement of mankind) as that hasn’t happened yet. Here he focuses on the really good news of why he came. Jesus then says, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”(Luke 4:21) This was not favourably received but it didn’t prevent God’s plans from being fulfilled.
Isaiah 61 not only refers to Jesus but also contains guidelines for us to experience adventure with God. We, as followers of Christ, have the Spirit of the Sovereign LORD (v1) and have been anointed to go out into the world. What struck me most about this chapter is the feeling of lightness and rightness in working alongside God. We are called to deal with heavy issues of evil, injustice and destruction. However there is such a sense of hope and restoration as we walk with God and trust Him.
Are we delighting “greatly in the LORD” (v10)? Are we deliberately putting on those robes of righteousness? Are we then able to offer others “a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair” (v3)?
We are called to go…to bind up…to proclaim…to release…to comfort. This calling is for now and not sometime in the future when it may be more convenient. Time is running out and we need to make the most of every opportunity (Ephesians 5:16). As we do so we will experience more of God, His joy and lightness of being.
It’s all about God – His ways, His plans and His glory. It’s not about us – our ways, our plans and our glory. It’s easy to state that but sometimes our lives don’t reflect this truth. We live in a world that continually tells us it’s all about us, our happiness, our decisions and our individuality.
That’s why it’s so good to read Isaiah and be reminded about God’s sovereignty, holiness and love for us.
In preparation for writing these devotionals we had carefully allocated enough time to meet the deadline. However as we attempted to start writing we kept getting interrupted. This was frustrating as the deadline began to loom ever nearer. We were busy with “The Lord’s work”. Why were we getting disturbed so much?! We were starting to feel stressed out. Then God helped us to have a perspective change. We began to realise that many of the interruptions were God-given invitations to be a part of what He is doing in our neighbourhood. As we joined God we experienced Him teaching us new things. We also had many opportunities to see Him at work through us, touching other people’s lives. How important to have a changed perspective and not get anxious about completing the devotionals timeously (which somehow happened in between the God-opportunities). God’s timing is so often not our timing. He definitely knows what He is doing! Trust Him and you should also stress less as a result!
Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God. God will be constantly cancelling our plans by sending us people with claims and petitions. We may pass them by, preoccupied with our more important tasks, as the priest passed the man who had fallen among thieves, perhaps – reading the Bible.”
LIVIN’ LA VIDA LOCA
This song title means “Living the crazy life”. This feels like an apt description. On an almost daily basis we hear reports of corruption in our city, country and across the world. This corruption is found across the board from those in power all the way down to ordinary citizens. The overwhelming majority of South Africans say they are Christians. Why then is there so much corruption in our land?
Isaiah 59:14-16 says “So justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance; truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter. Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey. The LORD looked and was displeased that there was no justice. He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm worked salvation for him… “
The Lord is appalled with the situation. We must not allow corruption to be a part of our society and way of thinking. We need to take a stand and ensure that we are abiding by the law of the land and not trying to “get away” with things (no matter how small it may be). We also need to initiate the conversations that get people thinking. We need to pray that corruption would be exposed and that whistle blowers would not get into trouble but be rewarded instead. We need to ask God how he wants us to bring justice, righteousness and honesty back into our suburb, city and land. Thank goodness God is and will be with us as we speak out and act against corruption and lawlessness. Let us not blend in with the rest of the world but stand out as a peculiar people who live life according to God’s standards and laws.
EXTRA READINGS 1
TOTAL ECLIPSE OF THE HEART
READ: Isaiah 53:1-12
Isaiah was written over 700 years before Christ’s birth. Yet God spoke through Isaiah prophesying what was to come. God left a blueprint of his plans embedded in His Word. These particular passages are full of prophecies that Christ fulfilled.
Take time to meditate on Isaiah 53, focusing on Christ’s amazing love and sacrifice. Worship Him!
EXTRA READINGS 2
READ: Isaiah 65:17-25
John Lennon tells us to: Imagine there’s no heaven/It’s easy if you try/No hell below us/Above us only sky/Imagine all the people living for today. In direct contrast, Isaiah calls us to focus on the New Heavens that God will create. There is such a sense of joy and anticipation of finally being in God’s presence. “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:3,4). What beautiful, amazing, mind-blowing promises as we look forward in hope to when all of God’s purposes and plans will be fulfilled.
Meditate on these lyrics: I can only imagine/What it will be like/When I walk/By Your side
I can only imagine/What my eyes will see/When Your face Is before me
I can only imagine/Surrounded by Your glory, what will my heart feel/Will I dance for You Jesus or in awe of you be still/ Will I stand in Your presence or to my knees will I fall/Will I sing hallelujah, will I be able to speak at all/I can only imagine (MercyMe)
Week: July 23 – 29 2012
BYLINE: Eugéne and Tracy are a husband and wife team who have been married for 14 years. They are involved full-time in a creative arts ministry called Act Won (www.actwon.co.za). Act Won aims to creatively communicate Christ by utilising live theatre as well as other forms of mass communication media. They have had the amazing opportunity and privilege of performing and ministering in South Africa and abroad on numerous occasions. A few momentous moments: making a terminally ill boy laugh while performing for him in the garden outside his hospital room window; almost getting locked in Hezekiah’s Tunnel in Jerusalem for the weekend; praying in the pouring rain in Tiananmen Square, openly praising God with a Djembe drum in a Very closed country. They are passionate about serving God and following him on wild, wonderful adventures of faith!! Introduction
A Search and Rescue Mission
Imagine a movie – the hero gets orders from Mission Control, there’s an enemy bent on destroying the world, failure is not an option – closely followed by, ‘this message will self-destruct in 5 seconds’… It’s an impossible task. The fate of the world rests on his shoulders but the odds are ridiculously stacked against him. Just when all hope seems lost, our hero performs death defying feats, employs all kinds of gizmos, destroys captain evil in a daring move and saves the day. Remember the movie 2012, about prophesies of doom, Mayan calendars, Nostradamus, the fringe element in society, the end of the world is neigh etc…
Society finds itself enthralled by such messages. They seem very willing to hand over their trust, hope and belief in these matters rather than believing the Truth. What’s interesting is the growing phenomenon of influential church leaders questioning the validity of the words of Jesus. ‘Would a loving God really…’?
So, was Jesus crossing His fingers behind His back when He spoke of His purpose for coming to Earth? Was he sucking that whole, ‘sin separates us from God thing’ out of His thumb? Are the wages of sin still death? Does He still love the whole world? Is He still a God in action, relentlessly pursuing those who are lost? Does He still empower us to join Him? – or was Jesus only joking??? Has R.E.M. nailed it when they say, “It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine”?
Meet THE Action Hero, watch the news, enjoy supper, hear from of a 14-year-old girl and read Jesus’ words that do not self-destruct in 5 seconds. Enjoy!
Prepare: God is on a Mission (and is a God of Action!)
Read: John 3: 3 – 21
Explore: We, as humans, are faced with a task that is way beyond our pay grade, an impossible quest. The mission: To undo the effects of sin and to reconcile us with Almighty God. No amount of intelligence, technological breakthroughs, philosophies, human ingenuity or clever twists and turns has ever been able to reverse the consequences of sin. The wages of sin is still death.
The text shows that an upright citizen like Nicodemus, ‘who was Israel’s teacher’ (v 10), did not understand these matters, let alone have the capacity to do anything about it. Imagine if that was the end of the story, if eternity were left up to us – a truly impossible task. But wait, ‘With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God’. (Mark 10:27). God is on mission. He alone can save us from ourselves and from the one who would seek to steal, kill and destroy us. ‘… because that is why I was sent’. (Luke 4:43)
How amazing is it that God has chosen to use us in His mission. He clearly does not need us but invites us to work with Him. ‘All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us’. (2 Corinthians 5:18-20)
Respond: Thank-you God for sending Jesus…
What’s so good about the News?
Prepare: When you saw last night’s news or read yesterday’s paper, did it sound somewhat familiar?
Read: Mark 13: 5 – 13
Explore: ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…’ (Charles Dickens). Many would look at society around us and agree with that statement. Some would even say that society is ‘going to Hell in a hand basket’. Then there are those who would have us believe that the world will end in December this year. While it is true that Christians throughout every generation believed in the imminent return of Jesus, today things would appear to be heating up at an exponential rate.
Do we truly believe that our God is on Mission, that He is returning very soon and that we are to join Him? Then certainly there should be a great urgency for all of us who bear His Name, to share this great hope we have (this Good News of the Gospel) with those who do not yet know God. How could it be that we, who have been adopted into His grace, could operate as if Jesus were never coming back? What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch’ (Mark13:37). ‘These are the beginning of birth pains’ (v 8). Interesting to note that the entire chapter 13 is basically Jesus’ own words. Remember, Arny was not the only one who said, “I’ll be back”…
Respond: Father, thank-you that you have not left us behind, alone and without hope. Please teach us how to ‘watch’ and to respond to your guidance, in the mighty name of Jesus.
Thank-you for the supper. Amen.
Prepare: A Muslim friend once told me, ‘Show me your budget and I’ll show you what you believe’.
Read: Mark 6: 30-44
Explore: Jesus’ feeding the multitude is one of the few miracles that is recorded in all four Gospels. Is this coincidental? I would venture that God wanted to place special emphasis on these events. The Disciples (v 31), as well as the crowd, would have been somewhat peckish as it was getting late (v 35). Not only do the Disciples recognise the need of the crowd and bring it to Jesus’ attention, they also supply Him with a solution. Jesus’ response may have seemed strange because, if you took it to its logical conclusion, there would be significant costs involved. The only resources they seemed to have was a boy and his dinner-for-one.
Jesus has the fish & rolls. The crowd wait in anticipation, the occasional tummy rumble reverberates across the plains. Jesus gives thanks and hands the food to the Disciples for redistribution. But what if the Disciples merely acknowledge God’s blessing and quote Scripture about Him owning the cattle on a thousand hills. With grateful hearts, they themselves feast on the blessing of God’s provision, (they too were hungry), and sing the song, ‘I’m forever grateful to you’. All the while the multitude watches but misses out on experiencing the God who intensely loves them.
Respond: For many who have the privilege of employment, the 25th of the month is pay-day. Could we possibly be growing fat on what was meant for the expansion of the Kingdom of God, whilst being very polite about it… ‘Feed my lambs’. ‘Take care of my sheep’. ‘Feed my sheep’.
First Things First
Prepare: The life of Mission and Ministry is not our highest priority. A life in relationship with Christ is.
Read: Mark 1: 14 – 20, John 21: 15 – 19
Explore: ‘Come, follow Me’ (Mark 1:17a). Words a master speaks to his apprentice. What would those words have meant to Peter (and the other soon-to-be Disciples)? Those are the words a Rabbi would tell his cream-of-the-crop students as an invitation for them to graduate to the next level – for them to watch him and see what he was doing (John 5:19), to learn from him (Matthew 11:29), to have relationship with him. In short, to become like him. This incidentally is a definition of Christian meaning Little Christs. What’s important to note is that Jesus first says to have real relationship with him, and out of that, ‘I will make you fishers of men’ (Mark 1: 17b). This is the first time Peter hears the words ‘Come, follow Me’ from Jesus.
The second time we hear these words said to Peter is when Jesus restores him (John 21:19). Jesus indicates the deeper sense of his call. It is not merely for Peter to tag along, but to follow hard after Him by taking up his cross. The fact that Peter has blundered and is restored proves the priority Jesus places on relationship with himself over merely doing stuff.
Respond: It is by God’s grace that you too have been rescued, been put right-side-up with God and not by the stuff you do, can do or even should do. What we do is always subject to who we are. Who we are is in Christ. Mission will flow out of that.
Prepare: Go into all the world and make disciples. But All The World is a big place…
Read: Matthew 28: 16 – 20
Explore: Note the absence of question marks in this entire passage. Before Jesus commissions them, there’s a ‘therefore’. Wherefore is there a therefore? He starts with a fact, ‘All authority in Heaven and on Earth has been given unto me. Therefore…’ (v 18 – 19). He has not given us a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7) neither did He give us that spirit that makes us a slave again to fear (Romans 8:15) but He gave us the authority and power to be his representatives here on Earth so that we could, at any stage give the reason for this hope that we have (1 Peter 3:15).
‘If your Gospel isn’t touching others, it hasn’t touched you!’ – Curry R. Blake. Mission with God is not just for the Super-Christian types, but is a lifestyle. Christians did not name themselves but were named by those watching their lives (Acts 11:26). A lifestyle on Mission could affect people in ways we may never dream possible. Saul witnesses the life of Stephen, is instrumental in his execution (Acts 7 & 8), but later becomes a Brother. The demonised man (Mark 5) becomes the first missionary to the Gentiles. Many Samaritans are transformed because of the lifestyle of the woman at the well (John 4:39).
Respond: So wherever you go, make disciples of all nations (v 19a – God’s Word). Still mission impossible? It is Christ who strengthens you. Someone who knew what he was taking about, said a long time ago that with God, all things are possible…
‘Since I have my life before me’
By Brooke Bronkowski (excerpt from the book ‘Crazy Love’ by Francis Chan)
I’ll live my life to the fullest. I’ll be happy. I’ll brighten up. I will be more joyful than I have ever been. I will be kind to others. I will loosen up. I will tell others about Christ. I will go on adventures and change the world. I will be bold and will not change who I really am. I will have no troubles but instead will help others with their troubles.
You see, I’ll be one of those people who live to be history makers at a young age. Oh, I’ll have moments, good and bad, but I will wipe away the bad and only remember the good. In fact, that’s all I remember, just good moments, nothing in between, just my life to the fullest. I’ll be one of those people who go somewhere with a mission, an awesome plan, a world-changing plan, and nothing will hold me back. I’ll set an example for others, I will pray for direction.
I have my life before me. I will give others the joy I have and God will give me more joy. I will do everything God tells me to do. I will follow the footsteps of God. I will do my best!!!
Brooke died in a car accident. One thousand five hundred people attended her memorial service. Many testified to the lifestyle she led. Two hundred became Christians at her memorial service alone. Her life on Earth may have ended at fourteen, but her impact did not. ‘I’ll be one of those people who live to be history makers at a young age…’
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:5)
Sometimes we presume that, apart from serving self-interest, general western society is not interested in any god, let alone the one true God that we serve. If we listen to the messages in pop culture, we may be pleasantly surprised by what we hear.
The popular R & B artist, John Legend sings an interesting song. This is the first verse and chorus.
‘I realised as I lay down to sleep, we haven’t spoke in weeks. So many things that I’d like to know. Come have a talk with me. I need a sign, something I can see. Why all the mystery? I try not to fall for make believe but what is reality? Where do we go? What do we know? Life has to have a meaning. Show me the light. Show me the way. Show that you’re listening. Show me that you love me. Show me that you walk with me. Hopefully, just above me, Heaven’s watching over me.’
The title of that song is ‘Show Me’. Two simple words but oh so heavy in meaning. Many in our society would have the same request, ‘show me’. Some may not even be aware that they’re asking. To some, seeing is believing. So what should society be seeing in us in order to believe? If your church building were removed and was replaced by a parking lot, how would the community around it change?
Someone asked, ‘Will the heathen who have never heard the Gospel be saved? It is more a question with me whether we, who have the Gospel and fail to give it to those who have not, can be saved’.
Not called. Really?
‘Not called!’ did you say? ‘Not heard the call,’ I think you should say. Put your ear down to the Bible, and hear Him bid you go and pull sinners out of the fire of sin. Put your ear down to the burdened, agonized heart of humanity, and listen to its pitiful wail for help. Go stand by the gates of hell, and hear the damned entreat you to go to their father’s house and bid their brothers and sisters and servants and masters not to come there. Then look Christ in the face, whose mercy you have professed to obey, and tell Him whether you will join heart and soul and body and circumstances in the march to publish His mercy to the world.’
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ Isaiah 6:8
Most of us are not great orators or communicators. The thought of drawing attention to ourselves leaves most of us cold. Clearly, God’s call to us to join Him in His search and rescue mission is not an optional extra. We are all soldiers in this war. All of us are in the fight. Someone said that while all may not be able to shoot straight, everyone can carry a bullet. The arrow head is useless without the shaft, the fletching and the notch at the end. I am comforted by the fact that God chooses to use the foolish and the weak things to achieve His aims (1 Corinthians 1:27). What’s more is that he has given us everything we need to represent him and make him proud. Thank God!
Week: April 23 – 29 2012
BYLINE: Eugéne and Tracy are a husband and wife team who have been married for 14 years. They are involved full-time in a creative arts ministry called Act Won (www.actwon.co.za). Act Won aims to creatively communicate Christ by utilising live theatre as well as other forms of creative communication. They have had the amazing opportunity and privilege of performing and ministering in South Africa and abroad on numerous occasions. A few momentous moments: making a terminally ill boy laugh while performing for him in the garden outside his hospital room window; almost getting locked in Hezekiah’s Tunnel in Jerusalem for the weekend; praying in the pouring rain in Tiananmen Square, openly praising God with a Djembe drum in a Very closed country. They are passionate about serving God and following him on wild, wonderful adventures of faith!!
According to the Collins English Dictionary the word ‘absolute’ means 1. complete; perfect 2. free from restrictions or exceptions 3. having unlimited authority 4. undoubted; certain 5. not dependent on, conditioned by or relative to anything else 6. Pure, unmixed 7. that which is totally unconditioned, perfect, or complete. Now carefully reread the above definition in light of it describing God – Absolute God. What an amazing description of our amazing God!
In this week’s readings Jesus demonstrates his ‘absoluteness’ as the Son of the Most High God while relating to individuals with love and compassion. We get a picture of Jesus who is fully man but at the same time also fully, absolutely God. ‘For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.’ (Colossians 2:9,10) A wise friend of mine described it as the Immensity and Intimacy of God. Our minds and hearts struggle at times to understand and reconcile this description of God. We tend to focus more on either the intimacy or immensity of God. Both however are integral aspects of God’s character.
Jesus asks a very important question: ‘Who do you say I am?’ (Luke 9:20) Our view of God and His character directly impacts every part of our lives. Henry Blackaby said ‘What you believe about God will determine what you do and how you live.’ I pray that God will reveal new facets of Himself to you this week that will encourage, excite and challenge you to respond to Him in kind and with absolutely everything that is within you.
Prepare: Evil wants to cultivate a spirit of fear in us. Are you standing firm in the absolute authority of Jesus or is fear paralysing you?
Read: Luke 8:26-39
In our society today evil is often glamourized. It is portrayed seductively in movies and is shown to have great power. The demon-possessed man demonstrated supernatural strength and lived like a wild animal. This was a terrifying manifestation of many demons who called themselves Legion.
However as soon as Jesus confronts the demons, the only thing they can do is acknowledge his absolute authority over them and declare Who he is. The demons themselves experience terror. Suddenly they don’t seem so scary any more – the Light has literally been switched on!
Jesus is the Creator who even commands the wind and the raging waves to obey him (vv22-25). The demons are merely the created beings who cannot stand up against the ‘Son of the Most High God’ (v28). Their day of judgement is coming and they know it! It is essential for us to remember and stand firm in the knowledge that ‘the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world’ (1 John 4:5). The demon-possessed man was set free instantly and his life changed forever. The man experienced Jesus’ love. He had probably not been loved in a very long time. Naturally he wanted to accompany Jesus but instead Jesus gave him an important job. He became one of the first missionaries in the New Testament!
As we experience His absolute authority in our lives and those around us, Jesus says: ‘Go home and tell everything God did in you.’(v39 MSG)
Are you (or someone you know) currently facing a challenging situation? Bring that to Jesus now.
Read: Luke 8:40-56
This is a tale of two very different women. The one woman had been extremely sick for twelve years, was poor due to numerous doctors’ bills, was ceremonially unclean and therefore shunned by society. Jairus’s daughter had only been alive for twelve years, had good social standing and was probably well off because her father was the synagogue leader.
The only thing they had in common was that they were both in impossible situations that man could not fix. Jesus was their last hope. Thank goodness Jesus is able to do the impossible! Jesus also demonstrates his love for everyone, regardless of their social standing. He treats both women with equal love and absolute healing. He doesn’t favour one above the other.
Jesus knows that there is more at play than just a desperate need to be physically healed. It is sometimes easy to focus solely on the impossible situation and forget about the people that are involved. Jesus also operates according to God’s timetable and not man’s. He doesn’t rush onto the next task or meeting. He takes time to tenderly address the sick woman in the midst of the crowds. He restores her in the eyes of herself and her community. Jesus speaks lovingly to Jairus, a devastated father. Jesus addresses his fear and encourages him to ‘just believe’ (v50). Then Jesus demonstrates his ability to completely heal and restore miraculously. That’s the God that we serve!
Bring your challenging situation before God and hear Jesus say to you, ‘Don’t be afraid; just believe…’ (v50).
As you retell your daily life stories – who gets the glory: you or God?
Read: Luke 9:1-9
The disciples went through a time of intensive training as they soaked in Jesus’ teachings. They personally observed the power and authority of Jesus at work in people’s lives. Now it was time for the practical application. As true followers of Christ, they had to be ready to obey Him completely.
Jesus told them to travel extremely lightly so that they would learn to trust Him for all their needs and not rely on their own resources or strength. This would glorify God and not the disciples. The task was a daunting one and Jesus knew they could not fulfil it on their own. He gave them power along with the authority to exercise that power, (without which their mission would have been a complete failure).
Imagine what the disciples felt at the start of their mission. They received specific instructions to trust God, travel light, cast out demons, heal the sick and preach the Kingdom of God…Oh wait! We have been given those SAME instructions. As true followers of Christ we cannot ignore Jesus’ words no matter how uncomfortable, fearful or inadequate it may make us feel. It is of utmost importance that we hear God. We must then trust and obey him fully. God will then lead you on adventures that have eternal consequence. He sends you out with the absolute authority and ‘mighty power that raised Christ from the dead’ (Ephesians1:19,20 LB). Let the adventures begin…
Jesus says to you, ‘Don’t load yourselves up with equipment. Keep it simple; you are the equipment.’ (Luke 9:3 MSG)
God invites us to be a part of what He is doing. Do we make ‘the most of every opportunity’ (Ephesians 5:16) or ignore them because they don’t fit into our carefully planned schedules?
Read: Luke 9:10-17
The disciples return from their God-adventures brimming with stories to tell Jesus. They are extremely tired but cannot escape the crowds. Jesus would have been justified in turning the crowds away but He doesn’t. He has such a selfless heart of compassion for the people. Jesus uses the opportunity to continue preaching and healing people.
Exhaustion can really hinder us. It is easier to deal with people and their needs when one is well rested and in control. There will always been many needs therefore it is essential that we allow the Holy Spirit to specifically reveal the God-opportunities. These opportunities often occur at inconvenient times and interfere with our lives. We can feel overwhelmed and unable to cope. Fortunately God provides the strength we need! When we respond in obedience and minister to others, God blesses us with new experiences of Himself.
Meanwhile back in Israel another God-opportunity presents itself and the disciples nearly miss it. They have seen the need but resort to human logic to solve it. Then Jesus tells them to feed the people (v13). The disciples take stock of what they have (5 loaves and 2 fish) to feed 5000 men (plus women and children) – truly an overwhelming situation! Jesus asks them to give what they have and he proceeds to do the miraculous. Jesus demonstrates absolute, abundant provision.
What is your response to Jesus saying, ‘You feed them.’ (Luke 9:13 MSG)?
Jesus asks you, ‘Who do you say I am?’ (v20).
Read: Luke 9:18-27
‘Who do you say I am?’ (v20). This is such an essential question. If the disciples believed the crowds, there would be no reason for them to follow Jesus to the death. However Peter responds ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God’ (Matthew16:16). Our own response must reflect the passionate conviction that Jesus is God Most High and worthy to be followed! Having established Who he is, Jesus predicts his death and sets the example of absolute selfless sacrifice. He goes first and we follow in his footsteps of suffering and obedience (Galatians2:20).
Sometimes we make our own plans and ask God to bless them. We offer God what we can afford. We think we have enough of God to get by but there is so much more! Christianity is not merely a nice add-on for our already full lives. Jesus sets the standard for Christ-followers. It is not a serving suggestion but a daily command.
Picking up our cross doesn’t refer to a burden or difficulty we must carry. The prisoners carried the crossbeam of the cross that they would be crucified on. The cross represents our willingness to die, possibly physically, but definitely figuratively every single day. We must surrender everything to God and die to our right to control our lives. But what a privilege to completely entrust our lives to a God who sacrificed absolutely everything and in turn requires that we give him absolutely everything.
‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.’ Luke 9:23
Knowing about God is not enough. We need to personally know God and His character. We need to experience His immensity and intimacy on a daily basis. We need to trust that God knows best. Why do we have such a sense of trepidation about trusting God with our lives, as if He is going to be mean and make us do something we really don’t want to do. He is a good Father who loves his children.
I was at a funeral for a 74 year old child of God. Let’s call her Mrs M. The church was packed and many lovely tributes were given. However the one that most impacted me was from a young woman from Burundi. Mrs M met her when she was working as a car guard. She had recently arrived in South Africa and was 6 months pregnant. She only knew some English phrases and could understand a few more in writing. So they had an awkward conversation in the car park via broken English and written words. That was ten years ago. She and her daughter are now a part of Mrs M’s family, a relationship which continues today even after her death. The Burundian mother experienced God’s love and compassion at a time of desperate need. Mrs M’s life and actions reflected her relationship with the God of absolute love, power and provision. All the glory goes to God!
Do our lives reflect our absolute conviction that Jesus is the Son of the Living God? Do we affirm with our words and actions that Jesus is indeed Lord of our lives? How are we bringing glory to God on a daily basis?
This week we celebrated Freedom Day. If you had to give a quote about freedom, what would it be?
SOME FREEDOM QUOTES: ‘There is no such thing as a little freedom. Either you are all free, or you are not free.’ [Walter Kronkite] ‘There is no easy walk to freedom anywhere, and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death again and again before we reach the mountaintop of our desires.’ [Nelson Mandela] ‘I think my first album opened a lot of doors for me to push the freedom of speech to the limit.’ [Eminem] ‘Freedom itself was attacked this morning by a faceless coward, and freedom will be defended.’ [George W. Bush] ‘People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use.’ [Soren Kierkegaard] ‘Real freedom is having nothing. I was freer when I didn’t have a cent.’ [Mike Tyson] ‘No amount of political freedom will satisfy the hungry masses.’ [Vladimir Lenin] ‘Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.’ [Pope John Paul II] ‘For I used to say to white people in South Africa, you will never be free until we blacks are free. Because freedom is indivisible.’ [Desmond Tutu]
There are many diverse views on what freedom is. As Christ-followers we know that real freedom comes only from Jesus. ‘So if the Son sets you free, you will be absolutely free’ (John 8:36 GW). We have been set free forever from sin and death through Christ’s sacrifice. People need to know about this amazing freedom. We must share this wonderful truth!
Read: Colossians 1:15-23
This is a phenomenal description of who Jesus Christ is and what He has done for us. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves and others about the nature of our supreme God and King. R C Sproul says, ‘Men are never duly touched and impressed with a conviction of their insignificance, until they have contrasted themselves with the majesty of God.’ As we focus on the awesomeness of our Saviour we are aware of our smallness and absolute dependence on His grace and mercy. This is a good place for us to be as we cannot rely on ourselves for salvation. Our responsibility is to ‘fully believe the Truth, standing in it steadfast and firm, strong in the Lord, convinced of the Good News that Jesus died for you, and never shifting from trusting him to save you.’ (v23 LB)
Read: Romans 4:13-25
This is an amazing statement of faith: ‘Being absolutely convinced that God would do what he had promised.’ (Romans 4:21 ISV). Abraham faced an impossible situation that had gone on for years and years. He made some mistakes along the way but at the end of the day he is described as ‘God’s friend’ (James 2:23). Abraham had an intimate relationship with Creator God and he believed Him despite the circumstances. He knew God and that made all the difference. ‘Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed…’ (v18). This is such a beautiful verse. I pray that as we face challenging decisions, circumstances and relationships that we too may say that ‘against all hope, we in hope believed…’
- Up on the roof
- Balancing lightning
- Test in Testimony
- Just a Thought
- Act Won Snippets
- The Mattress is sucking me in
- Well Done
- The SA Tour
What was I doing up there, hot choc and camping chair in hand? I was perusing the time-honoured tradition known as “throwing my toys in spectacular fashion”. You see, my Bride and I have been wrestling with God about some really important matters, the kind that has life changing consequence as a by-product. I had no issue with the wrestling part. That prize went to the Responses. I found them somewhat, (let me be very careful here), unimpressive. Maybe God was occupied with other stuff. Whatever it was, He clearly needed me to volley through some reminders, just a little bit of gentle persuasion, (there is after all Biblical precedence for reminding God about stuff).
So the toys where flying. The tossing of said toys gained velocity and penetration as my throwing arm warmed up. I was in great form. It was at the height of this tirade that I saw a plane in the distance. The time of night, angle of approach and size of the craft convinced me that it could possibly be a Boeing 737-300, (or 400) from Joburg, and that’s when the voice of God came through loud and long by way of the Devine Klap. (For those abroad, or who have forgotten how to speak Afrikaans, a klap (kl-up), is a lovingly gentle connection between the cup of the hand to the back of the head, used ever so effectively in matters of persuasion. This is often followed by a good sulk by way of the one owning the head). The klaps were in the form of questions that, when answered, left you with the title deed to being the opposite of proud.
How many people on this Earth have ever seen an aircraft and knew what it was? (And I was in a minority category who could answer in the affirmative). How many people who knew what an aircraft was have ever flown in one? (And I was transferred into an even smaller group in said minority category who could answer in the affirmative). How many jetsetters know where the emergency exit seats are (longer leg room)? (Dropped down to an even smaller minority). How many have actually piloted an aircraft on more than one occasion? (Yip, I was a member of a minuscule minority). And you think you have the right to throw your toys at Me about “stuff”. And immediately I knew the squirmy feeling that Job must have gone through after he threw his toys and God had to have his little “chat” with him…
There’s so much about Me that people have not seen or experienced. How will they know I AM good unless they hear and experience your story? How will they know how to fly in my Grace unless they see My story. How will they know where the “exit seats” of Mercy are unless they experience My character through your story. How many are missing the plane?
At that moment, I felt compelled to be silent, to sheath my throwing arm and put my toys back in the box, all the while realising that my story is really His Story, alive in me. So that’s what Peter and the boys meant when they said, “We cannot stop telling about the wonderful things we saw Jesus do and heard Him say” (Acts 4:20 Living Bible).
So there I was, on the roof of the church building, being reminded of HIStory…
I write this note on a day of great significance. Today, one year from now will be the final day of the greatest sporting event to have ever been held on African soil, the 2010 FIFA World Cup TM. Governmental departments and Organisations, even Organised Crime Syndicates have seen the potential, caught the vision and are feverishly setting up operations in preparation for the coming event – and I can’t help but wonder if we, the Church, have really seen the signs of the times?
I recall the words of those much wiser than that I am to, “…pray to the Lord of the harvest…” and it seems so pedestrian, so without action – but as I read the context, it is revealed to me that it’s all about action, its Prayer-In-Action!
And so I pray to the Lord of the harvest that He would do what only He can, change the heart and mind of mankind. When my car’s engine dies a horrible death and the bank account’s somewhat anorexic, I hear those words again and pray to the Lord of the harvest. When I’m struggling to find champions for The Ultimate Goal – Arts in Action!, in Bloemfontein, PE, Rustenburg, Polokwane and Nelspruit, in agony, I pray to the Lord of the harvest. Though I do not know the outcome, I know His character – so I trust Him.
I met with some interesting people this past week. A guy who recently became a Christian, carves broken mirrors into Word Art. He secures the letters onto polished wood and Scripture is revealed. He then sells it as his only form of income. He shares his hard life story with me and tells me, “Brother Eugéne, I just want to let my light shine”. On the other side of Town, I met a guy already involved in Sports evangelism. He told me of his concerns about those on the side-lines who are not interested in sport. “How can they too be drawn in?” he wondered until he saw how the creative arts offers a way, not only to engage them, but so that they see themselves as an integral part of the team… and I see evidence of the Lord of the harvest at work…
And so we learn that we are not the harem of Christ but His Bride whom He is fiercely protective about. Please spread the word about the opportunities to part of The Ultimate Goal, especially about TUG Arts in Action! What an awesome opportunity we have to make Jesus proud.
“…the Goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind – Just as you, Father, are in me and I in You, so they might be one heart and mind with us. Then the world might believe that You, in fact, sent me. The same glory You gave me, I gave them, so they’ll be as unified and together as we are – I in them and you in me. Then they’ll be mature in this oneness, and give the godless world evidence that You’ve sent me and loved them in the same way you’ve loved me.” John 17:21-23 (Message)
Well, picture the scene. You’re sitting by the starboard window of the plane, watching the sunset, (and realise that there are way more than 7 colours in the spectrum), as a symphony of more-than-mere-colour unfolds before you… it doesn’t get better than this, sunset above the clouds. Then as nightfall clocks in for its shift, you see what resembles a Cyclonic Baobab-looking mushroom cloud, huge in form, angry by demeanour, dressed in ash-black candyfloss, moving in an upward spiralling motion. The darker it becomes, the more menacing this creature is – the plane echoing its own displeasure with a few nervous rattles – not very comforting when you’re 35,000ft somewhere over the South China Sea. (Images of the TV. series “Lost” come to mind). Just before the “green flash” on the horizon engages nightfall, you see what seem to be flickers of something Alive in the Cloud Creature. Occasionally, they peek outside the candyfloss. Lighting bolts gawk at you long enough for you to detect the subtle differences in the colour of its electrifying talons – greens, blues and purples. The shadows they cast inside the beast just takes your breath away – each blast lights up the sky, again and again, and again. The darker it becomes, the more elaborate is their Tango. This cosmic showcase is the most scary, yet thé most beautiful phenomenon you’ve experienced in such a short eternity… but I get ahead of myself. Lets go back to the time before China Actual…
We had some real adventures in the run-up to us leaving for China – the elated energising of having a strong sense of the LORD God Most High leading us into that land to be good and faithful servants, to be His hands and feet, to be Jesus with skin on – yet contending with the almost orphan that lurked in the wake of the deepest of relational bonds in a state of flux – and then there was the ever present challenges of funding – experiencing the test in testimony – seeing people experience newness of life as they partnered with us in obedience to God, being one mind, one heart one purpose – the realisation that many who supported us where grand parents, single moms, the young, those who went to bat for us because they knew Jesus would be found on the rubbish dumps, and that’s where we were going – all planting a sacrifice of praise. Instantly, it was much more that just 105 people from 13 different nations who were to intervene in China and Thailand, but a combined formidable force of thousands, side by side, advancing. And that was the mark of obedience – obedience, the evidence that the nature of God is alive in us – in me.
A day before we were to leave, we were still short by a bag load of Euros, (not to mention any bubblegum money). These Euros were a last minute addition to the budget and had to be paid on arrival in Thailand. As Tracy & I were checking our account inside the bank – we saw a friend there who told us that God had placed a peculiar Rand figure in her mind that she was to give to us. The smiles and ring-a-rosy hugs came to an abrupt end when the integrated computerised system of the entire banking chain crashed at precisely the wrong moment. Sanity prevailed, (after a while), and she was able to draw the funds from another source. Guess what, the figure God told her was a few pennies more than the €225 we needed. Can anyone else see God “showing off” here???
An absolutely crucial element to this entire intervention was to be the deciphering and distribution of our coded updates and prayer requests via the Act Won Mission control. I can only imagine what might have been prevented from happening, or what indeed happened as a result – and that’s limited to my imagination only. How amazing the Church, being bows and arrows in the Hands of the Master Archer…
I recall the Sunday before we left. We had just joined a new Church and had one meeting with the associate Padre who agreed that it was right for the Church to send us off in prayer. Well, that’s the norm you may think – unfortunately, it had until then, not been our, (Tracy & my), experience. I still remember the event. We are invited to stand before the Church with the associate Padre, who says some stuff, (what he said is a bit vague now because of all the excitement – this was the first time were being sent off in prayer in our new home Church). Then the senior Padre jumps up from his seat, flies up the three stairs to the stage in single bound, envelopes us in his arms, (and he’s not a big boy), calls up the elders and say’s that we are now ready to proceed. A momentous occasion… And I knew we were not alone in this. Despite the fatigue, we were ready to go – to link hands with our family within the Walls and to serve them, as Jesus would have us…
PART 2: Thailand Actual – We all spent a few days in Thailand to get our orders, be introduced to each other and pre-prayer for the intervention within China. We stationed in the far northern part of Thailand, relatively close to the borders of Myanmar and Lagos and virtually surrounded by thick jungle. The Thai people have an amazing respect for their Royalty to the point where everyone stands at attention if the royal couple appears on TV. We were in a night market when this official sounding music started playing. I was astounded when everyone jumped and stood as a sign of respect. The only ones still moving were the tourists who quickly towed the line, (when in Rome and all). This respect seemed not to be based on fear, but a real love for the Monarchy, which is apparently reciprocated by them.
94% of the population are Buddhists. You see it everywhere you go – the temples – the idols – the rituals. Many, many people are sincerely devoted but are sincerely deceived. We went to one of the larger temples. To get there, we had to climb a gazillion stairs, flanked on either side by gold and jade dragon-like serpents with multiple heads, forming giant handrails. I wondered whether the prostrate / bowing action of the worshippers were aided by the onset of fatigue and maxed out heart rates caused by scaling those stairs. Worshipers have to buy the mandatory incense and lotus flowers for offerings at the bottom and lug it all the way up those stairs. Almost everything in the temple is covered in gold leaf – the craftsmanship is exquisitely ornate and seemed century’s old – idols are everywhere. I saw in one of the temple chambers overpopulated with incense, many “open minded” foreigners finding “enlightenment”. They where receiving their blessing from a chanting monk whilst being tied to an idol. A father was teaching his two-year-old daughter, temple ritual and etiquette – how to pray and present offerings. This youngling was not interested in the least. Everywhere I looked, I saw devoted people worshipping Religion, (their gods) – and for a moment, I wondered if our church games were really any different. Do we, (God’s people, called by His Name, who have this mystery within us, which is Christ, the Hope of Glory), do we in our gatherings worship the Lord God Most High or do we sometimes settle for and bow down to the god of “doing church” and sing praises to our rituals, bring offerings to religion – hmmm, and I wonder who’s more impressed, the God of Glory or us…
A major contributor to the Thai economy is its thriving sex industry. I used the word “industry” because it really is an industry. Prostitution in Thailand is enjoyed by local and foreign patrons alike. It “services” the desires of male and female clientele and those batting for both teams – just because someone looks like a pretty lady, doesn’t necessarily mean you are looking at a female. Just because it looks like a karaoke bar, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s just a karaoke bar… One of the teams stayed in Thailand and partnered with the local Y-WAMers. Much of their time was spent in the places the Pharisees way back in the day would frown upon. How is it that our Saviour Jesus was often found in these types of places, engaging and even eating with tax collectors and sinners… if you’re wondering what to pray about, wonder no more…
Then there were the “Vomit Commits”. They are pimped up yellow or red Bakkies, (for those not understanding South Africanism, Bakkies [Bah-keys] are what the Americans call pick-up trucks), with 2 benches in the loading bay so that up to 8 people can be seated facing each other – sporting colour-coded canopies with automatic aircon, (use your grey matter, [which is actually pink] to work it out), and a big space where a canopy door is normally found. If you are prone to motion sickness when careening and whipping around mountainous jungle roads and hairpin bends at break-neck speed, who’ll know why we affectionately dubbed it, the Vomit Commit.
We were under the impression that we would primarily be involved in mercy missions within Chinese orphanages. As such, our pre-mission prep was directed to that end. Imagine our surprise when, a day or so before departing from Thailand to China, we found that our team’s focus of operations would be within the bounds of sports ministry. But wait, there’s more. Not only would we be the sports team, but would be involved in running a camp for special needs children… a tad to the left of what we were expecting, especially since a significant proportion of our sports team were ladies with vast amounts of life experience but who were not necessarily that competitive on the sports field. While sports evangelism is an effective ministry, God was going to have to help us big time…
In the 1st paragraph of Thailand Actual, I mention some of the reasons for us meeting in Thailand as a big group (If you dozed off during the 1st chapter, you can do a recap. It should still be exactly where you left it, 1st chapter is a subtle hint). A primary reason for us having to meet there was that in the People’s Republic of China, it’s illegal for focused groups larger than 10, to gather without the express permission from the local Chinese authorities. We were not about to ask those authorities for permission – but more of that in the adventures of China Actual…
PART 3: China Actual – Beijing Capital International Airport looks like a huge dragon rising out from below the clouds. One reason was that the roof of the structure actually looks like a dragon’s back. The “cloudy” part is because of the pollution that confuses one into thinking its overcast. Trixy it is… The airport has to be one of the most gargantuan structures on the planet. You need to board a monorail to get between the terminals… there were very few Chinese people inside the actual airport, besides those working there – but more of that later.
We were en route to Manchuria in the northeast part of the country. The City Centre we were in reportedly had between 30 & 40 thousand taxis but only about 7.5 million people living there, (that’s just the CBD). Not that bad when you think that the population of China is reported to be around 1.35 billion. (A billion has 9 zeros). As soon as we came into Beijing CBD, it looked as if all 1.35 billion of them were surrounding us. 1st culture shock – a gazillion people vying for that space generally reserved for breathable air to orbit your head. 2nd culture shock, hearing that deep throatal growl as phlegm and other particulates are extricated from deep within the throat and lungs, then, contorting the mouth to take on the form of a portable missile silo. Once a firing solution is achieved, a chunky yellowish / greenish projectile is launched, hitting its kill zone like a Sidewinder missile. This is particularly interesting when the ritual is played out in the close confines of a passenger aircraft. (Who says travelling Cattle Class wasn’t fun…). 3rd Culture shock, the Squatty Potty, distant cousin of the well loved and now appreciated Western toilet, aka the Throne. This Potty has a most interesting shape in many parts of China, in that it’s level with the ground, i.e., there’s no seat or bowl-like structure for ones economy class posterior extremity to relax on. It’s essentially a hole in the ground flanked by two panels for ones feet. Taking careful aim is no longer just the preserve of male patrons to this most hallowed pastime, hence the name, “Squatty” Potty… oh what sweet justice, seeing ladies who were novices to this delicate art form leaving, Throne Room Suite shaking their legs because of wet calves. Obviously still to make it to the rank of sharp shooter… I was so very proud of my Bride on the high-speed train as she exited the Squatty Potty Containment Unit victorious, hands raised aloft like Rocky, announcing to all the world that she was a conqueror having peed with laser point accuracy whilst travelling at 250 km/h – no small feat I must add. I was so proud – Love is…
“Look like tourists – don’t attract undue attention to yourself. Many have been contracted as “Spies” so be on your guard when locals attach themselves to you. Your hotel rooms could be bugged. All forms of communication is filtered and monitored by the authorities”. This is what we heard just before our 30 hours in transit from Chang Mai in Thailand to our destination city in China via Beijing. We covered the last leg by overnight train, through the countryside. The countryside is so beautiful, I felt as if I was a participant in a National Geographic “God smiles on Nature” epic.
We where met by our contact who is an “M” . So there we were, gathered in a large circle in the station parking lot by our “M”, (the only person in China wearing a luminous orange t-shirt), with military vehicles buzzing all around us, like flies orbiting the stuff that flies orbit, (if the vehicles are the flies, what does that make us??? hmmm!) Then “M’ gets us praying in said large circle. You have to understand that we were a group of 30, excluding “Let-me-blend-in-with-my-lumo-orange-target-top” boy and his trusty sidekick Translator Man, which meant we were a tad on the heavy side of 10, all in a circle having an impromptu prayer meeting. Remember the buzzing vehicles and the rule of ten. “M” then told that there was only time to drop our luggage at the low cost hotel we were staying at because the Sports Team had to report for our first assignment, to challenge a team of local guys in a gentle game of basketball. (I think five of us touched a basketball at least once, maybe in a shop). But wait there’s more. “M’ further reported that their operation may already have been infiltrated by a SPY. We were to be careful what we disclosed in his presence and had to be aware of his position At All Times… (Be still my beating heart). There wasn’t even time for brekky, so we bought some mystery meat sandwiches and bottled water en route.
Not only were the guys we were playing hard-core basket-ballers, but they were giants – what was with that? At least most of them were middle-aged men. We could take them… thus ensued the first half where we lulled the hard-core Chinese giants into a false sense of security by graciously allowing them to wipe the floor with us. (What humble Christians we are). Truth be told, it felt like one of those movies where in the first half, the underdog team are destroyed by the super-muscular super-jocks, only to receive an inspiring pep talk by their optimistic coach who succeeds to lift their spirits so much that the klutz who normally falls over his own feet, attempts an impossible three-pointer that wiggles through the air in super slow-mo with everyone holding their breath (because there’s only 1 second left on the clock and they are 2 points in the dwang), only to exhale with much fan fare after they hear that sweet “swish” a millisecond before the cry of the hooter, winning the game by 1 point. That didn’t happen to us. We were comprehensively annihilated. Gentle game of basketball indeed… At least we had something they didn’t have, enthusiastic cheerleaders… They must have been impressed by our resilience and our ability to absorb unrelenting hard knocks, for they very enthusiastically invited us to a rematch the following week. Good thing they could not see my internal sissy-boy sobbing. While sports evangelism is a well-proven tool to make known the Gospel, there has to be some form of competitive edge at least. Was this going to be a sign of things to come??? Other teams were breaking down strongholds through prayer warfare, building schools, spending time with those suffering with leprosy who were thrown out of society and being forced to live in leper colonies, walking through un-chartered territories, driving mountain passes in dilapidated vans where half the tyres were hanging over the edges of sheer drops in order to meet with people in unreached villages and spread the Gospel – and here we where, playing around with little bouncy balls… would there even be an opportunity to use the clowning equipment we had surreptitiously slipped in with us – there had to be something I was missing – there had to be more than this…
We were there again for the rematch and were significantly more competitive. The group of Americans that bolstered our ranks may have had something to do with that. Our South African translator was en route to the baby hospital when she sensed God instructing her to go to the basketball match instead, (I remind you that she is not well known for her basketball skills). After the game, the place was abuzz with spontaneous informal discussions between our group and the local giants. We found that these guys were all professionals & leaders in their fields, doctors, etc. Our translator, who speaks high Mandarin with great fluidity, was really on form. We however noticed that their leader, a man who had the influence and authority of an African Chieftain, was not there. He was taking a much-needed shower. If there was anyone who needed to be here, it was this guy. The discussions ended and the rest of the guys went for their showers. In waltz’s the Chieftain guy, all good ‘n clean ‘n fresh and starts a conversation with our translator. I imagine her excitement levels peaking as he tells her of his story. He had been to another country two years prior where he had become a Christian. Wow, amazing, but he continues. He had however not had any contact with any Christians since then as the official State churches are monitored and one doesn’t just stumble into an underground church, (no church, no Bible study, no discipleship). So he’d been on his own, for two years. The “M” who had been playing basketball with this man for about the same time, was blissfully unaware of this crucial bit of info. He and the Chieftain guy were then connected and had arranged to meet on a regular basis, to plant him into a local church and for discipleship. Put yourself in the shoes of this man. What would your impressions of the Lord God be after this basketball match? It is interesting to note that our “spy-guy” was not present that day. Can anyone else see God balancing lightning in his hand??? I think He knew we needed this eternal perspective – and I was an obedient child again. I realised that we could only operate by listening to and following the Holy Spirit.
We joined the baby hospital team for a day. The patients ranged from babies to about 8 years old. All of them where orphans. It important to state at this stage that a significant number of children in Chinese orphanages are technically not orphans. The “one-child-policy” may have something to do with this. (If they already have a child and are caught by the authorities for being pregnant, they face heavy fines, which many cannot pay or the mother is removed and is forced to have an abortion regardless of the term of pregnancy). Many families prefer to have a son as their child. (There are many possible reasons for this that I will not venture into at this juncture). We noticed that many of these boys grow up to believe they are the special ones and are worshipped as such by their parents. A growing number of these ankle biters seem to be spoilt little brats with emperor complexes re-enforced by their parents. On the other side of the scale we find that many girl babies are discarded, thrown away, some soon after birth, thrown into rubbish dumps, in sewers, on the streets etc. The fortunate ones are placed in hotel lobbies or Police stations or in airports. Many of the Caregivers in State run orphanages are there because they are serving out their community service punishment, so their hearts may not be fully into the task. It’s been said that one can often smell an orphanage from afar and that many of these children suffer total neglect and have very little stimulation. They all know that they are throw-aways and they grow up carrying those starting blocks through life. Imagine this polar generation growing up in the same society. What future consequences are being forged??? (For interest sake, 432 babies were officially abandoned or discarded in the Western Cape Province of SA in the first 6 months of 2008. I am convinced that every society, including the Church is judged by how it treats it’s least fortunate amongst them.)
The hospital we went to however was not state run. One could say that these dear children are some of the fortunate ones. Some of them however had severe medical conditions – brittle bone disease, chronic eczema, mongolism. The list goes on. There was this one little girl baby who suffered severe complications at birth which left her in a vegetative state. She is said to be blind, maybe even deaf and is fed intravenously. She shares an English name with one of the ladies in our “tour group”, who spent the better part of a day holding this youngling. Their combined beads of salty prayer shared the same lappie. (For those not understanding South Africanism, a lappie [Lah-pi ] is a soft cloth of many uses). These children were absolutely fascinated by us. We would carry them, feed them, change their expired nappies, and play with them – all the while praying over them and for them, holding them so close that they would feel and experience the quickening in our spirit as we sang praises, ever so softly to the Lord God most High. This fascinated the younglings. The one baby bloke, (who had just devoured a HUGE bowl of rice & mincey looking sauce and chilli paste), seemed absolutely transfixed by me. Must have been my winning combination me being of a darker shade that he was accustomed to, fuzzy wool on my noggin and the round eyes. His gaze was fixed on me like a sniper. Another one, who had some sort hearing challenge, would focus what little hearing he had in absolute concentration and follow the soft sound of prayer & praise that came from the general direction of my lips. Then there was the baby girl, who was said to be in a mild vegetative state, but who had a tenacity that became evident when I placed my pinkie in the palm of her hand. The amount of power in that little one’s grip may have been sufficient for me to lift her, yet it was said that she was “unresponsive”. While it was true that we were holding them, playing with them, loving them and praying over them, I met Jesus in these three younglings. “For my eyes have seen Your Glory. For my ears have heard Your Name. I have placed my hands in Your hands. I will never be the same”.
So in our host city, the Sports team played basketball with giants of the game and played soccer with the locals. The hospital team went to a hospital for orphaned younglings and the “PR” (Prayer Team) were involved in engaging the enemy full on in prayer warfare. Then, in the spirit of the Olympics, we all combined to treat a local orphanage to a bi-lateral Olympic games, (there were two teams, Team China & Team SA). There were 30 plus children, ages ranging anywhere between 5 and 18, some with physical disabilities, all with excitement – taking part in the activities. There were arts ‘n crafts, modelling balloons, songs and team chants, face painting – all manner of fun and games. The hall was abuzz in effervescent colour and the sound of children being just that, children. We even had the opportunity to do some clowning and told a “Good Moral Story” using the parable of the Good Samaritan as the basis to ask them the questions, “so then, who IS your neighbour? “ & “how do you SHOW love to them?” Their responses were phenomenal. T’was great to experience how comic humour transcends cultural barriers. (Personally, I wanted to do the parable of the Good Tibetan, but my idea got shot down – not too sure why…) The Great Games was made complete with a Grand Prize Giving Parade where everyone received a medal & a modelling balloon. Then we took everyone, all the children, (including those of us who are still child-like), for some grub at a local eatery. Wow, what an experience. A gazillion excited younglings in one place, singing, cheering, and chewing… this one booitjie who was confined to a wheelchair, got hold of one of our lady’s camera and proceeded to snap away – and change some of the settings. Some of the pics where not too shabby.
So off we went to their modest home where we found out that most of the children could play a musical instrument. This was not too surprising as the Papa was a music teacher – so he has taught his children to play a range of instruments. It was like entering Abby Road Studios. These guys know how to Rock the joint. The lead singer, who was totally blind, (and seemed to have perfect pitch), came alive when he had his lead electric guitar in his hands and the mic in his face. They played rock, classical pieces and traditional Chinese music. One girl played the precise piece of music we chose for our China promo DvD. (Our choice was totally random). My Goosebumps had Goosebumps with that sense of confirmation from our Lord.
One of the boy’s modelling balloon swords had become unravelled and was looking rather glum. I then took the now wonky looking balloon and re-shaped it into a sword. His eyes almost burst its sockets in sheer delight, that was until I unravelled the sword again. He had that Not-Impressed-Ninja look about him so I slowly showed him how to make his own sword. Took it apart and gave the limp-looking balloon to him. When I saw his bottom lip growing I gestured that he had to fix it himself. Slowly, the twisty became a broadsword. I dismantled it again to see him refine the art of model balloon broadsword making. He was last seen dismantling other swords then showing their disgruntled owners that that which seemed dysfunctional, could be made whole again… Hmmm!
The other time all three Tourist Groups were together was when we hired a bus for a PR trip to the North Korean border. Travelling there and back takes half a day, really. When I stood on the bank of the river separating the two sovereign countries, I thought, “I can swim across this river – easy peasy ”, that was until I saw the high powered patrol boat sporting a machinegun turret and not-so-happy-looking uniformed personnel on board. We were reliably informed that, ten days prior to our visit to this sleepy river town, a tourist went onto the bridge that connected the two countries, wandered into no-man’s-land and was promptly “taken out” by a sniper from the other side of the river – do not pass Begin, do not collect R20,000… and I was standing about 100m from said bridge. Imagine my lack of warm fuzzies. We were also informed of two little factoids:
1. All the buildings we could see on the Korean side of the river were fake, just like a movie set. This was to promote an impression that the country was an example of thriving prosperous living. Again, that culture of “Saving Face”, despite the reality…
2. North Korean Citizens often risk crossing the river to stay in China because to them, China represents all that is Utopia, freedom and new world opportunity.
That puts into perspective what life may be like in North Korea, which would convince people to risk life and limb to get into China… North Korea does enjoy the dubious honour of being one of those countries that executes Christians in public. Every so now and again, those who make it over the river, find themselves getting to Know Jesus via the underground Church. What then follows is absolutely incredible but would be unwise for me to divulge in this public forum. Lets just say that the Maker of Heaven and Earth really gets involved. I think He was involved all along…
What would an intervention be without adventure… we were returning from the border around 21h00 when we were stopped by the guys toting blue lights, big guns and military issue moustaches. They decided to play that fun game, “lets take away their passports and growl at them”. Ai Karamba! The rules of the game are simple, when your passport is confiscated, bad things generally happen to you. (You must understand that it was thick dark at night and we in that pumping tourist center of Absolutely Nowhereville). The boys were a tad suspicious. All of us waited in the bus for that eternity when they had our passports. I was sending coded sms’ to Act Won Central HQ in SA requesting immediate PR cover. Once we were pre-prayered, two from our bus finally went to “chat” to the authorities. One of our guys was wearing a China National Soccer t-shirt. This seemed to score major goals with the head honcho who, after a while, returned all our passports. There may have been a smile. Was difficult to tell. We engaged faster-than-sound thrusters and boosted out of there only to hear the deafening sound of a tyre blowout twenty minutes down the track. I’ll leave it up to you to figure if we had a spare wheel or not….
It was around 10pm-ish and the dark was getting thicker. We hobbled into a little village just off the high way and stopped by what vaguely resembled a place where retired tyres would hangout. The bus driver and the owner dude were soon fighting with the back wheel. Half of us tourists got out the bus to stretch our legs. Some of the locals could no longer contain their curiosity and came to investigate. Soon, what seemed to be the entire village was found congregating around our bus. We found out that we were the first round eyes that many of these villagers had ever seen. What a wonder. Various opportunities presented themselves for us to share the Hope we have by way. We used the colours of our South African flag as a tool. Enter my cue to send those covert PR request sms’. It was about that time when we met a lady who may have been the only Christian in the entire village. Oh the joy of sharing, encouraging and building her up, (all very secretly of cause), the electricity of being One in Spirit. Imagine being that lady. You meet some round eyes by some seemingly random emergency that forces them into your village. You find out that they are Family from the other side of the world with a personalised message for you from the Lord God Most High. The voice of God had travelled from the other side of the Wall, via a burst tyre to find its home in your heart… Once the wheel was secure, we said our Chi-Chi-Ye’s and drove off. We were scarcely on the highway for 20 seconds when the the guys toting blue lights, big guns and military issue moustaches pulled into the village behind us. Can anyone else see God balancing lightning here…
I had certain expectations of what the Chinese people would be like before our intervention. Most of those perspectives took a decided nosedive however when I actually rubbed shoulders with the people. Yes the locals may not have a grasp of queuing in line, yes some of the men may pull there tops up to their chests revealing their bellies, (in a bid to keep cool), yes they may be experts in deep-throat projectile games – they may have many other shortcomings, but we generally found the everyday Chinese people to be polite, humble, hospitable & extremely curious about us and where we came from. We were continually bombarded with people in sensory overload. I now realise why. Most Chinese have similar features, skin tone, eye colour, hair colour and physique. Anything out of that norm prickles the sensors with a need to know. (If you where blond, tall, had blue eyes, was black or had curly hair, you had instant rock-star status. I imagine that our pictures are on the walls of a few million homes in China). Then there was the fact that many people had never been exposed to foreigners – ever. Just to remind you that all forms of communication in China, i.e. electronic, data and voice is filtered & monitored by the authorities, resulting in limited interaction with and exposure to those outside the Walls. (Many websites are blocked). Many I spoke with were slightly confused when they heard that I was from South Africa. They simply did not know where South Africa was. (Saying that though, many evolved first world citizens think South Africa is the capital city of the country Africa).
Spending time in the English corners really opened my eyes to the impact that communism has had on this nation. (English Corners are public places where locals who have some grasp of English come to hear your stories and tell theirs. One is literally surrounded by crowds clambering for your attention). These interactions with locals of all ages exposed some of the evil of communism. Many were firmly brainwashed into believing that there was no God because man had killed God, in fact the Government had killed God, which meant the Government was really God. I would hear that sentiment oozing out when I spoke with the young and the elderly alike. We saw CCTV cameras and the military everywhere. There were even cameras in the taxis we used. Remember the bugging, the Rule of Ten, the recruitments of spies… Just because a cute excited teenage girl followed you around wanting to know you, didn’t necessarily mean she was just a cute excited teenage girl. Most Chinese people in the international airports were staff because Chinese are generally not allowed out of the country without express permission. Chinese TV stations, (called CCTV), only showed good news about China and little to nothing from the other side of the Wall… Despite all of this stacked against them, we found them to be a humble, lovely people.
To the Chinese, the concept of sin is likened to being a criminal. (Doesn’t go down too well). So how were we to tell them about the Good News of the Gospel? They have a concept called Guanxi, [gwaan-shi]. It speaks of relationship. We therefore would speak about having good guanxi with God Most High, effectively, God reconciling us to Himself…
While the people may be lovely, some of the food is, shall we say, “exotic”. It has been said that the Chinese will eat everything on four legs except a table. Hmmm! We thought we were very clever, (while still here in SA), and decided to go vegetarian for the duration of this intervention. “Pragtige plan” we thought. [Excellent plan – (for the less fortunate not understanding Afrikaans)]. We however soon adopted a rather different approach, “if anyone knows what we’re eating, keep it to your self”. Ignorance is bliss after all. They believe in serving a gazillion course meal. The stuff just keeps on coming – like a magic bowl. (Be still my beating heart). There was this one time however, when we were eating with some local gastronomes. They were very impressed by the skill with which we drove our chopsticks. (Little did they know that Chinese food is one of my favourite food groups). The one lady, who spoke some Ingrish, would sort of mention the type of dish as it was placed on the table. She commanded our careful attention. The magic bowls would continue to appear, she’d tell us what it was, we’d hoover it down and so on. Then this one large platter appeared, with much fanfare, and was placed in the center of the table. All the locals, now wearing their poker faces, stared at the platter, then at each other – no one saying a word – our attention now fixed on the Ingrish speaking lady for the low down on the platter – her response, absolute silence as she accessed the filing cabinet in her brain for “ways best to describe exotic meals to round eyes”. Still silence, except for the sound of crickets somewhere in the background. Again the locals eyeballed each other in code. Still just the sound of crickets… Finally she breathed the immortal words, “this is Special meat”. (With much emphasis on the word “Special”). No explanation of what made the meat so “Special”. Why was the meat special? Where did the special meat come from? Did it have a name before? Was it the Chinese equivalent of Fluffy? All questions we dared not think out loud for we remembered our food info pact to each other. Besides, we had already Given Thanks for the food – not merely asking God to bless it. It came from Him anyway so it was already a good and perfect gift. Our job was to take it down. God’s job was to keep it down. Back to the Special meat… they were diving in with much gusto. We were eyeing each other to see who would blink first. The locals noticed we were not as enthusiastic about the Special dish as they were. (Not too sure how they’d picked that up). Finally, Nick took a chunk, closed his eyes and sent it to Special Mystery Meat Heaven. The rest of us did some white knuckle watching to see if he would blow. It was tad surprising when he said, “Hmmm!” and seemed to mean it as well. I went in – brain punching in the abort code but taste receptors singing the Hallelujah Chorus in six part harmony. We later found that it was beef prepared in a Special way. A bit of a let down but what an honour… we were however fortunate as we were in major cities. Those in the rural areas had gastronomic tails to tell of the exotic sort… did someone mention Two Minute Poodles???
We were told that everything you heard about China, would probably be true somewhere in China. This was brought to light when you saw the huge differential in the economical status of the people. Evidence of opulence in the extreme sharing the same space with intense-in-your-face poverty that would stagger your imagination, and that was in the cities. We found out that a significant proportion of the people where in effect, slaves – working seven days a week with no public holidays and owning very little by way of assets. The international airports have virtually no Chinese travellers because they are effectively barred from travelling out of the country, except for strict business reasons. The saddest for me was, because this had become the culture, most were blissfully unaware of their oppression. Which brings me to the Church in China.
There are effectively two separate church groups in China, the State run church, (the Three-Self Church), and the underground Church. We were not allowed to go to an underground Church for fear of exposing them. (I am told that many, many Underground Church Pastors in Beijing mysteriously “disappeared” in the run up to the Olympics). The relationship between the two groups is not exactly warm and fuzzy. Apparently what happens in the Three-Self Church is ordered, monitored and regulated by the State. I’ve been informed that they are not allowed to preach inter alia, Christ crucified and having a personal relationship with Him. Most of the theology revolves around self-actualisation, (dodgy stuff). You will understand our slight hesitation when our entire “tourist” group was taken to a Three-Self Church one Sunday morning. They met in a five-story building, consumed an entire floor, spilling over down the stairs to other floors, a couple thousand of them ages ranging between 15 and 40. (No aircon…) Saw individuals in some or other steward-leadership role wearing brightly coloured t-shirts with “Follow Jesus” in large print on the front and “Child of God” on the back. They had a large rock-type contemporary band playing worship in song. Everything was in Mandarin. When they sang or spoke, it wasn’t that kind of swallow-your-words-whisper we used to do during school assembly prayer, but with defined determined passion. Felt slightly uneasy at first. When they read Scripture, the leader would read one verse, the congregation the next and so on, and so on – John Chapter 16, 17 and 18, with boisterous conviction. The singing was equally fervent. Then we recognised one song: Above all powers, Above all kings. Above all nature and all created things… Above all kingdoms, Above all thrones. Above all wonder the world has ever know… Crucified, laid behind a stone. You lived to die. Rejected and alone… We joined in with all the gusto we could muster, drawing quite a bit of attention by those sitting in front of us. It was then that we realised the significance of What was being sung, Where it was sung and Who was singing it. This song boldly announced to all that the Lord God was Most High – higher than any authority or power, including the Government… and we sang with even more passion. How special it was, hearing your heart flowing through your mouth as it mingled together with all the saints bringing pleasure to our Father, who was right there alongside us, in our very presence. Hours later, they ended off with a very militant sounding song with actions adding exclamation. Didn’t understand a word of it but just knew by their expressions that it meant serious business. Rushed to our interpreter lady who’s heart seemed to be beating out of her eyes in unqualified delight. She said that everything that had been said and sung was absolutely theologically sound. The last song was a declaration that, even though they bled or were killed, they would take this Gospel back to Jerusalem, (B2J). It is said that there are 120 million Christians in China. One of the convictions of the Chinese Church is to tithe of their people. Their aim is to send 12 million Christian Missionaries Beyond Their Walls to Jerusalem via the NAMESTAN’s, (North Africa, Middle East, and all the “Stan’s”, i.e. Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Afghanistan etc.). You will note that the Namestan countries are not very accommodating towards the Christian Gospel. It is said that currently, there are 700,000 career missionaries on the planet. Could you imagine an extra 12 million!!! And they are waiting to be released. I picture them like those racehorses just weighting to burst out of their racing stalls. How sad it is that bums in pews and bucks in buckets consume many in our cosy churches… Oh that we would strive to make God proud to call us His children…
Tracy had the added joy of spending a couple of days making friends with Ralph, our hotel room toilet. (This was not a squatty potty). Some nasty infection of the Kling-On variety, invaded her biological defence system, causing an inverted swallowing effect. (She was blowing chunks for a couple of days). This significantly depleted her system to the point where she could not keep anything down resulting in her running to Ralf and staring at the ceiling tiles in the room for hours on end. She could not even strike up a conversation with the cleaning staff as they could not speak Ingrish – then there was the possibility of little bugs with ears in the rooms… while we were making adventurous memories of God, she was left alone, wrestling with all the challenge and battles of Pre-China, how God had clearly led us here and now she was staring at an arb ceiling. That was just not right. There had to be more. Through all the wrestling, one phrase resounded, “well done good and faithful servant”. That phrase we church people normally classify in the “your work has been a success” box. Where’s the success in hugging porcelain??? Then she noticed, as if for the first time, the word “servant” in the phrase. She was the servant – God was the Master. The Master determines what the servant does. A faithful servant is the one who follows the will of the Master, regardless. A faithful servant is characterised by obedience. The Master had told her to be part of a team to go to China. And that was it. The team was doing what He had told them to do. It was He who was reconciling the people to Himself. Yet He was honouring her by calling her His good and faithful servant… This is the wonder I’m married to…
A moment of great significance was when all 12 “China tourist” teams convened in the Capital and conducted PR walks in Tian An Men Square. You will recall the happenings around the 3rd – 5th June 1989 – the People’s Liberation Army, the protests and the lone guy standing in front of the battle tank, (tank man), what happened to him and thousands like him. The irony is that the place literally means Gate of Heavenly Peace… and we were standing on that very spot. Not only were we standing there, but we PR’d and sang praises to our Father all around the square, all the while looking like tourists with our cameras and moving in small groups of two’s and three’s. What made it really special was that it happened to be raining that day which to us at least, symbolised our Father washing away all that the place has come to represent, the oppression, the blood that flowed on those paved stones and the evil that is palpable as it towers over the perimeter of the square. As we covered the square, a song filled me, “Through our God we shall do valiantly. It is He who shall tread down our enemy. We’ll sing and shout the victory. Christ Is King!” the rain mixing with our tears as we proclaimed “CHRIST IS KING!”, all under the constant gaze of security cameras and the Military.
So I’m back on the plane having just seen and experienced God balancing lightning in His hand – and I find myself process wondering, trying to grasp what had just happened over this time up to and during this China Challenge.
It was God Himself who had drawn us to China. Though we had missed all the financial deadlines, it was He who supplied the funds. All my efforts contributed the side effect called agonising stress. I was part of a team, called to serve. The measure of success is not quantified in numbers or intentions, but the level of faithful obedience. Recognising the Master and following Him. Obedience is better than sacrifice…
Worship inevitably leads to service, yet so often we try to do it the other way around. Whatever we worship, ultimately we serve and ultimately our choice is not whether we will worship but only whom we will worship.
Mankind has, through the ages, tried to kill God or at least tried to convince themselves that they have. Even under the most oppressive conditions, the Most High God proves that He alone is God, that He empowers His Bride and causes her to grow and flourish as He prepares her for that day. We thought we were taking God to China but found that He was always there – He was very much alive and He was showing off.
Commercial passenger flight has only really taken off since the 1950’s. I can hop on a plane and be on the other side of the world in 12 hours – or they are coming to me. The Earth has become a Global Village. Communication is instantly possible in most places in the world – no longer do I need wires to communicate, I can just pick up my handset and find the world at my fingertips. Never before has it been this possible to GO to the ends of the Earth and make Disciples of ALL nations…
I am to pray for China to open, that communism would be crushed, ending forced abortions and imposed slavery – for sound Biblical doctrine to be taught that millions across our world would see Him high and lifted up.
While we may have been the arrowheads in this instance, those who had invested Physically, Emotionally and in Prayer, formed the bows, the shafts & flights in the hand of the Master Archer who never misses the target.
The BBC reported that the Olympics “left the rest of the world in no doubt that China is a rising power; a power which is modern, efficient and dynamic. But it is equally clear that, when it comes to political and some civil rights, China is still repressive.” The report then asks what will happen next. “Now the Games are over, will China be spurred further along the path of reform? Or, now the pressure has eased, will it be even less inclined to accept criticism from the rest of the world?” The questions were partly answered by the news that the Chinese Communist Party plans to launch a nationwide crackdown on four “unstable social elements” in October. These elements were listed as Christian house church leaders, petitioners, human rights defenders and political dissidents. The believers of China clearly continue to need our urgent prayers.
“As a prisoner for the Lord then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you received… It was He who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers to prepare God’s people for works of service so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the true knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ”. Ephesians 4:1 & 11 – 13
It was widely believed that the Caesar was divine. This could have been why, within the Roman Empire, there was a saying / greeting, “Caesar is Lord”. The People of the Way often came into trouble because, not only did they believe, but they also in turn had a saying, “Jesus is Lord”.
Imagine big Centurion Maximus Brutalis raising his hand and saying, “Caesar is Lord” and little Hannah with her thirteen-year-old, full faced smile replying, “Jesus is Lord indeed”… This could have one of the reasons that the Christians were viewed as enemies of the State and were considered a threat to National Security. Not so nice things tended to happen as a result. They were fed to starved wild beasts, used as target practice as a national pastime, became living candles for parties and to light up main roads, were living cadavers in the name of medical science, and so on, and so on.
The People of the Way also had a reputation for taking care of the outcasts of society like those suffering with leprosy, often with great risk to their own life ‘n limb. It was the culture of the day where fathers would prefer their first born to be a son. As a result many, many girls were discarded, often within hours after birth by being thrown off the city walls and into the city dumps and sewers to die a horrible death. The People of the Way would comb through these dumps and sewers and look for these discarded infants, adopt them and raise them up as their own loving children. This was their reputation, not just when things were all jollification, but smack in the middle of heavy and constant persecution. It’s within that context that the early Church was born and matured, where they were encouraged to “… Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the Hope that you have. “ 1 Peter 3: 15
Why am I telling you all this? You may have already seen our China Mission promo DvD. While it may be true that the Chinese Christian Church may not be used as human torches or fed to hungry lions, many of our family over there face death and persecution in a way that we in the West can only imagine. It is however true that the Church is growing in ways that would stagger our imagination. The one-infant-per household policy has had an interesting side effect in that boys are also the preferred gender, resulting in many, many children, especially infant girls being discarded. Imagine the psychological effects of knowing you were discarded? Large numbers of the orphans are technically not orphans but were merely throw-a-ways. It is within this context that we, the Act Won team, are absolutely convinced, that we are to be in China for a short-term mission during the Olympics to work in the orphanages, to be the servant of the local Church, to be salt and light, hands and feet, sons and daughters of encouragement, to be Jesus with skin on…
I have just received an update from the SA organiser that the airfare to China via Thailand, has increased by around R2,500 per person. But wait, there’s more. The full fare has to be paid by 24th June or we South African’s forfeit this good deal, as even greater surcharges will be added thereafter. We need another R57,000.
That’s where you come in. We are in desperate need of the miraculous, for the Act Won bank balance to go on a rapid weight gain programme and for our hearts not to fade on us. PLEASE, PLEASE, join with us as we call on the Lord God Most High for His intervention. Maybe this is the “test” part within the testimony…
About a month ago, I was treated to one of these “sandbox” experiences. The build-up was like being a Dentist’s, (I’m-going-through-a-rebellious-phase), child at a chocolate buffet. I walked through a hanger toward the airstrip, all the way, my mind theatre playing endless scenes of the Gulfstream G-650 on the other side of the doors, waiting… just for me.
Imagine my surprise to see a third of the posterior end of a grease monkey, (the smiley end was buried somewhere in the engine bay). My Gulfstream was a two-seater Jabiru. The craft could fit into my lounge… and I don’t have a big lounge, trust me. I só knew what Cinderella felt like at 00h01. Then there was the rusty voice from within said engine bay. “I think it should work now,” it groaned. My life was balancing on the immortal words of, “I think it SHOULD work now”!!! A surprising thought was hitched to the back of those words… “I have become Keith Green. Today I die in a plane crash”. There would be no Controlled Falling. Nope. Just falling, flaming meteorite crashing to Earth falling… accompanied by high-pitched girlie screams embracing their best friends, arms ‘n hands covering face, for as everyone knows, That Really Helps! But wait there’s more. My pilot was to be, none other than, the dentist with whom I had just a few days earlier, cancelled our appointment with… I Was Going To Die…
Then, from out of nowhere, a verse materialised, “… for me, to live is Christ. To die is gain…” I had a resolute sense of knowing that I was actually not afraid to die or afraid of death. Not in the least. Ashamed at the thought of the high-pitched girlie screams yes but of dying or death, No. To Die Is Gain… I would be WITH JESUS like never before. Then there was the added bonus of smelling colours and being able to fly without the aid of a two-seater Jabiru. I would BE-WITH-JESUS. That was the second part of the verse however. What of, “…to Live is Christ…” hmmm…
Found that when these words where written, Paul was in a Roman prison and may have been in deep emotional distress, a prisoner of the State with the real expectation of meeting the sticky end of execution. Verse 21 of Philippians 1 is such poetry, “for me to live is Christ and to die is gain“. The next verse however, originally written in Greek reads, “But if to live in the flesh this for me fruit of labour and I might choose. I do not know”. This reflects his thoughts, conflicts and feelings … and I know a bit of what Paul is combating against. I know a little bit about what happens when thoughts and feelings of being alone in the trenches And of doubt And of perpetual disappointment, when they become tag-team partners who rage against Trust, Convictions and Beliefs for control of the Bus. I know a little bit about 2 Corinthians 1:8, when Paul speaks of being under great pressure far beyond his ability to endure. I know a little bit about it when Mama Theresa said, “God won’t tempt me with anything I can’t bear. I just wished He didn’t trust me this much”. I know a little bit about those places.
The other day, while we were intensely filming our China Mission promo DVD, running to cruel deadlines, we received some un-invited guests… four guys, the leaders of a small Cape Flats Church we had visited some time back. They had heard about our pending mission and decided to take time off work, drive all the way to Plumstead with the express purpose of praying for and encouraging us, no strings attached. I do not recall ever being the object of such blessing… And I was lifted. I was back in the sandbox… at altitude with the stick in my hands and the rudder controls at my feet, somewhere past Riebeek Kasteel, through the valleys and over the Tulbach / Ceres mountains… lighter than air, defying gravity, playing in Angel’s sandboxes. Not mere controlled falling, but Flying.
“I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him.” The LORD is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.” Lamentations 3:19-26
There’s just something about flying…
Imagine the scene… there are about 150 of you lined up outside high walls of stone and razor wire. Suddenly you are allowed to funnel in, one by one, past many, many checkpoints… all the time being counted, counted. Behind you, you hear the doors of iron “clang” shut, the sound of which screams down the many corridors as it echoes to places yet unknown to you. Then there’s the sound of the keys, keys the size of a man’s hand, fighting with locks, to open the way ahead. And that’s just getting in…
You soon find yourself sharing a largish room with the rest of these radicals – but something, something has changed. The brass band fires into action heralding the Name of the Lord God Most High. And something changes. It’s then when we actually realise why we are here in this place, this place of seeming hopelessness. We are here to pray and in so doing, speak Hope and Life and Grace into the spaces where despair and death and condemnation are cruel taskmasters.
Then we are on the move – the brass band leading as in days of old, playing those rhythmic “koortjies” that, regardless of your rhythmic capacity, you cant help but sing to – and you can almost sense walls falling down. The sound of praise resonates throughout the prison as it proclaims to the gates of hell “You shall not prevail”. And so we advance, 150 plus people of different backgrounds, different colours, different ages, different languages, different denominations all marching as one – praying, singing – being the Church, not a harem, but the Bride of Christ…
And so we pray for the people there as we walk past the cells. Some mock us and call us all kinds of colourfuls. I recall a time when we were met with a barrage of sound, like something from a scene in Lord of the Rings. I could actually feel the “nasties” flying, scuffling about. There was this one person at the back of a crowded cell with the weirdest eyes and her stationary hair seemed to be moving although “oozing” would be a more accurate description. So we pray. Some are curious as to our being there and struggle to believe that strangers would come from all over on their behalf, just for them. There was this guy, lets call him Schabir, who was absolutely bowled over by this, especially since he was Muslim. (Incidentally, he still asked for prayer). And so we pray…
They ask for all kinds of prayer, for themselves, their families and for their re-introduction to society. Then there was the time when this stereotypical looking Black Mama Granny was bent over these three boys behind bars, still in their PJ’s. They were huddling each other while her arms enveloped them – And they were praying. You just knew, the Lord, the Lord God Almighty was there…
You would hear testimonies. I once asked a guy what I could pray for. He very politely interjected and told me that a few months earlier he had become a Christian in that crowded cell. He was the only one then – But now there were three of them. They would pray for me. And they prayed…
All the while, the sound of Praise and Prayer is heard… and not just on Earth…
I recall the times when we prayed through the crèche, where moms and their younger-than-two-year-olds, are incarcerated. You would see a mom holding her child up to the bars so that the infant’s limbs would dangle through. She’s crying for you to pray for her child who may not know life outside these walls… and the Reds Letters become real… about those who are sick, orphaned, widowed, hungry, thirsty, alien, without clothes, in prison – the least of these…
You see, this place is only around 6km beyond the walls of my own church. We share the same road. This is wonderful because it proves to me that I have opportunity to be “Jesus with skin on” right in my back yard… And I remember the Red Letters… What a time for the Church to be just that, The Church… And the gates of hell will not prevail…
Then what happened…
All of a sudden, the Black Screen of Death appeared. “…Preparing for Hibernation…” (Imagine Darth Vader music playing in the background). You see, the battery of the laptop I was using, is not that good. (It suffers from Chronic Fatigue). That is why I had all the correct power cables plugged into the wall socket. The only problem was that I had not actually switched on the power by the wall socket.
The electricity was available but I was not accessing it. I was so deep “In The Zone”, that I had not noticed the small but important icon in the bottom right corner of the computer monitor, indicating the percentage power left in the battery.
What have I learned through all of this??? Just because things LOOK right, doesn’t mean it actually IS right. This reminds me of an interaction Paul had with young Timothy. Paul mentions that in the last days, people would “… have a form religion but deny the power therein…” 2 Tim 3:5. Interesting hey!!!
Just a thought…
The past three or so weeks have been rather busy. We did our last performance of Mrs “P” of the Desperate Housewives of the Bible trilogy, at Grace Family Church in Kommetjie. It was evident from the group discussions that followed, that God had been / was interacting with the individuals who chose to hear for God and listen to Him.
Then the short run of “Hard of Hearing”. This we performed at Durbanville Seniors Club, a Congregational Church Ladies saamtrek, (conference for those not understanding Afrikaans), Hottentots Holland NGK, St Martins Anglican and Valley Church in Hout Bay. Very little breathing space… This play is highly technical. Wish I had an extra pair of arms to navigate the sound system and computer simultaneously. The play takes the perspective that God speaks, but that we don’t always hear Him. We ask questions about this and challenge people to step out of their business and to “…Be still and know that He is God…” Ps 46. we would call for silence, for them to process what they had just seen and heard and respond to God appropriately. I sing a song to that effect as well. Things became challenging when I started developing a Man Eating Cold. The kind that only attacks Real Men… you will appreciate that singing in high tones with Darth Vader scraping the back of my throat, is not good. We prayed for the miracle and on every occasion, my voice would clear just before I opened my mouth to sing… (Vader would re-appear as soon as I stopped obviously). Imagine this absolutely thrilling sight, we are all packed up, walking down the center isle and out of the venue, turn back to see people, dotted all over the place, still involved in engaging with their God…
Some of the responses were to the effect of, “Jy het vir my laat lag, jy het vir my laat huil en ek het daar vir God ge Hoor…”, “That was like tonic to me.”, “The silence, it was in the silence…”
Then we had a most interesting request. There is a 7 year old boy currently in Constantiaberg Hospital who has an extremely rare form of cancer, so rare that there are / were only 10 known cases of it in children. A miracle has already happened in that a perfect tissue type match of 6/6 was found in France allowing for a transplant. The boy however remains in severe pain and discomfort.
This is where our story however begins. We were asked to do a Clown-o-gram for him. (Big “D”) We were to perform this out side his window as we were not allowed in his sterile room. We look to the sky and see the intention of the clouds… and pray for a gap in the rain…
So there we are, outside his window, a walkie-talkie in his room and in my hand so we could interact… the curtains open and I am greeted by the sight of a 7 year old boy with a breathing apparatus attached to his face, like that of a fighter pilot, him wearing Rick Ashley black sunglasses to assist him to see outside through the window and the oldest 7 year old boy I have ever seen, stares back at me. You see, this cancer was diagnosed when he was a baby and he was not expected to live longer than 5 years. He had been fighting all his life… and it showed.
So there we are, doing our routine, happiness and vibrant colour splashing all the hope we represent… yet I cannot see any physical response from him because of the mask and the shades. We bring out a bright beach umbrella to help with the glare. 20 or so minutes pass and we are done. And then, this tiny arm rises up, a hand unfolds and Big D waves… you have to understand the effort that small action cost him… It was then that I began to grasp what our little attempt to creatively communicate Christ meant to him. And then, for the first time, I saw that the room was full of other people, nurses, his parents and granny, all with great joy oozing from them.
We met with his mom outside and saw this lovely lady full of Hope. We exchanged stories and cries of joy… I stand there and hear what their family have been through… I stand there and listen as she relives what had just happened in that little room and I see a smile that has been weathered by trauma I can only imagine, yet her face is too small and cannot contain the smile.
We say our goodbyes and are now in our car that hones terribly because it leaks. Suddenly the heavens open with meaning as it rains. We are silent for a long while and experience again what had just occurred. The young family who are so in love with God, despite their context… the not so young 7 year old looking like a Rick Astley shaded fighter pilot, the smile of the mom holding the walkie-talkie, the pride of a protective father who’s wielding a video camera, the wonder of a granny and the respite of nurses, the stories that will soon be told to the 2 year old sister who had not seen this event and of the parents of Big D who will be celebrating their wedding anniversary this coming Thursday … I hear myself asking myself, “will goodness and mercy follow me if I were I in that situation???” The words of the contemporary poets, Casting Crowns, play in my head, ”…i’ll praise you in the storms, and I will lift my hands. For you are who You are, no matter where I am” and I wonder… things like the smelly car and all the “light and momentary troubles”, become just that, light and momentary
The family have been advised that their son and brother may not be around for much longer, but then there’s God… and I wonder… is anything to hard for the Lord… suddenly that is no longer a question but a statement of affirmation.
So, where do you fit into all of this? Active and aggressive prayer cover my friends – Active and aggressive prayer cover. God Is Active! – and the gates of Hell cannot prevail…
These are the stories of a toddler, a terrorist and an unlikely treasure that have punctuated my last three weeks.
Tracy & I met with a friend, lets call her Erica, who had just returned from the funeral of her 2 ½ year old niece. I can still see her as she sat on our couch, hot bush tea in one hand and a chocolate chunk cookie in the other. (Cookies highly addictive & wicked but oh do they rock). She recalled the trauma of the event, of having the loss of a child. Then her expression changed to that of joy under pressure. Somehow, through all of this, her entire family found that God was there. He was theirs. The interesting thing was that this only happened when Erica quit trying to force God into the situation. When she let go, He lavished Himself. Isn’t that just God…
I had a double bed long before Tracy & I where married. It was however on its last legs at that stage. Ten years later, the mattress had developed a rather sick sense of humour. It would be the end of a long day. I would be rapidly approaching Planet Sleep. The mattress would wait until I had landed on Planet Sleep and de-activated all systems. Then it would strike… with an unprovoked ballistic spring. There would always be a direct hit to my waist and ribs. The attack would normally happen between 03h00 – 04h30, effectively activating my anti-gravity boosters, sending me hurtling into the atmosphere of Planet Sleep where I would orbit the planet without hope of re-entry. NOT the way to start the day…
Then I received a call informing me of a queen-sized King Koil bed that was being organised for us. You can imagine my delight. The occasional exorcism of the old mattress would no longer be necessary. The plastic wrapping was removed and the queen-sized King Koil was soon in its rightful place… sunbeams delighted the room. The sound of Angel choirs filled the air. All was well in the world … the promise the first good sleep in ages… Oh that first night’s sleep. It would however be more accurate to say, “Ouch, that first night’s sleep”. My back, obliterated by the mattress that just sucked you in. how could this be? What happened to the sunbeams and angels, the balance in the world??? Sleep swapped places with wrestling without my consent. But how could this be. This was a precious gift. I complained to the giver of every perfect gift like a ten-year-old girl with a windowsill lip. Then, seven days later, the sunbeams returned, the choir, the balance. But what had happened? You see, we had learnt various ways to drive the old bed. This included having to jack our noggins up with several pillows. (Pillows are great implements of conflict resolution within marriage by the way). We however used those very same driving techniques for the new bed. We learnt that “old wine in new wine skins” caused the mattress to suck you in. The mattress was indeed a perfect gift, a treasure… that God doesn’t give yesterdays best… we have to learn how to use what He has bestowed to enjoy the treasure.
Last Friday, a group of us had a discussion / interview with a previous APLA operative. (APLA was the military wing of the Pan African Congress during the apartheid era). Lets call him Sipho. He was a unit commander. He was also a sharp thinker. He was a military man not a politician. We asked him lots of questions and he answered them with precision. We soon saw the turmoil in Sipho… the anger of now being discarded because he was not MK, (the military wing of the ANC). We had an invigorating hour with him. He told us of his dismay that there were no longer any leaders in our society. All have betrayed the people in pursuit of wealth and power. We countered in suggesting that certainly this was not so. The Church had wonderful role models that added value to the community. That’s when matters became really interesting. His experience of church leaders convinced him that these church leaders, as he put it, were indeed “oppressors”. They drove in “nice cars” and kept taking money from the community they were meant to be serving. The people got nothing in return but empty promises. They said one thing but meant or did something totally different. They were, (here he struggled to get the word, so we helped him out), hypocrites. He repeated hippo krites. Then he asked an interesting question, “What kind of hippo krite are you”? We had to acknowledge that while some Christians may very well be hypocritical, this was indeed not true for all. There he sat, triumphant in his dismay.
I then shared some of my stories of “activity” during the state of emergency in the 1980’s. He seemed duly impressed. A bond had developed between us. I asked him if there was a change in him from that time as a unit commander until now. His metamorphosis was no butterfly. I told him of the story of my wife being the most phenomenal woman ever in time and history. How we met, how she proposed to me and how we now work together in something that is far greater than both of us. I then whipped out a picture of Tracy, white face and red mane looking back at him. He held the picture very delicately and I saw the surprise in his face. He couldn’t figure this contradiction. My stories of the 80’s and now this picture. Then I asked him where he found hope. He said that that was indeed a good question, still clutching the picture. Again he said this was a good question, but one that he could not answer.
How sad is that. Not that Sipho at that point could not give an account for any hope that he had or could have, but that he could not see evidence of Hope in the Church. But how can that be when we carry in us the Hope of Glory, the Good News, rivers of Living Water. Are we not salt and light? How is it that when Sipho looks at the Church, his impressions are that of oppression? I beseech you, in light of this, to offer yourselves as living sacrifices. Wholly and pleasing to God. Is this not your spiritual act of worship?
A toddler, a terrorist and a treasure. All gifts from God. How awesome is He that He calls us His own and trusts us with His treasure.
You may be aware that we will be joining a team from the Hellenic Ministries on a mission to Greece. We should be hitting the islands of Crete, Rhodes, Kos and Patmos in two months time. We have written a new series of street sketches to perform as part of our evangelical arsenal. We started performing those sketches here in Cape Town. The calendar is pretty booked between now and mid August when we take a break.
I was feeling somewhat glum during this last month. We need a minimum of R60K for the mission, (excluding transit fees to JHB & “bubblegum” money for when we have breathing space over there). R60K is a whole lot of money, especially when you have absolutely nothing. We however had a sense of God telling us to GO! A good buddy of mine often reminded me that “What God orders, He pays for”. We felt very strongly that we where not to run around, hat in hand, begging for funds. This did not sit well with me so I started all manner of Plans & Schemes to “assist” our Father. I soon had this image of God going down on one knee, patting me on the head and saying, “These plans & schemes of yours are excellent my boy, (I hate being called ‘My Boy’), but not if you are serious about following Me”. So I attempted the Under-Cover- Covert stuff because God doesn’t see those, right… No knee, no pats, and no “my boy’s”, just a farm load of ulcers and headaches followed by a little Klap, (for those abroad, or who have forgotten how to speak Afrikaans, a klap (kl-up), is a lovingly, yet gentle connection between the cup of the palmed hand to the back of the head, used ever so effectively in matters of persuasion. This is often followed by a good sulk by the one owning the head).
Then came the righteous indignation… I had a legitimate expectation of prayer & emotional support and to a lesser degree, financial support from certain “You can count on us” groups. We had however found that after all is said and done, there’s much more said than done. May I refer you to the above mentioned “plans and schemes”, who threatened to enter as if on queue. Thought I was about to be re-introduced to said “klap” once again when, a passage my Gran often sang came to mind. The Afrikaans really grips it though and, I think expresses it best:
“Ek slaan my oë op na die berge. Waar sal my hulp vandaan kom? My hulp kom van die HERE wat Hemel en Aarde gemaak het en trou bly tot in ewigheid… Kyk, die Bewaarder van Israel suimer of slaap nie. Die HERE is jou Bewaarder…tot in ewigheid…” (For those outside of SA, or who have forgotten how to speak Afrikaans, see Psalm 121).
We are finding that the support is coming from all kinds of places, people who have only heard about the mission, people we hardly know offering to engage in fund raisers… from those who have in abundance to those who gave out of poverty so that those who have not heard may have an opportunity to hear God… I have had interesting calls from unlikely places speaking encouragement. The Act Won bank account has put on a whole lot of weight… so far around R38,000. I must state that we really, really appreciate the encouragement, as there is no worse feeling than a sense of being in a battle, alone and wounded. Please, please don’t stop. Your partnership is vital and has eternal consequence.
A group of us guys met over breakfast three weeks ago when we heard the confessions of a desperate man. One of the guy’s, who is involved in a vital ministry, found his life and that of his family, almost destroyed in ten days. Ten days. It’s frightening what can happen in ten days. He found himself alone, wounded and losing the battle. I heard the warnings of that broken man who’s life cried out the pitfalls of being isolated, being all self sufficient, not having active prayer cover from true prayer warriors. Please, please don’t stop praying for us. Your partnership is vital and has eternal consequence.
As I write this, I have a heavy heart. You see, a good friend of mine died about 24 hours ago. He was one of those straight shooting evangelists who didn’t mince his words, who was tired playing those Warm-Fuzzy-Church games. We often met a Penny Lane for breakfast where he would remind me of the greatness of the God I serve. It was he who first twisted my arm to join him on this mission to Greece. It was he who told me that what God order’s, He also pays for… I was really looking forward to being with him in the trenches in Greece… and so, for the slightest of moments, I find myself questioning the wisdom of God’s plan… this also serves to remind me of the urgency of which this message of Hope is to be spread… for it is the Power of salvation… I am reminded of the greeting message on my cell phone: “ETERNAL CONSEQUENCE”. I look at the Act Won promotional material and I see a verse. The lettering is red on a black background for maximum effect and reads:
“Therefore I urge, (or ‘beseech’ in NKJV), you brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind”. Romans 12: 1-2.
Please, please follow hard after God… Live in His great adventure… and then hear the Father say, “Well done…”
The first miracle was the luggage… the props alone was btw 42-45 kg. (SAA allows 20kg per person, there are 4 of us, thus a limit of 80kg.) The balance was for clothing etc. Our combined luggage mass was above 90kg according to our calculations. This was a point of great concern as we could not afford to pay extra for over loading. Much prayer at the baggage check-in. The attendant was very serious. The bags went through. He was still serious. I asked what the weight was, expecting the worst. His answer, 70 kg… I reckon there were a few angels lifting some of our luggage.
We “lost” one of our cases at JHB airport. It is a tad bigger your normal garden variety sized suitcase & has a bright orange lid, very difficult to lose. It’s a kist we affectionately call “the Coffin.” The baggage controllers had registered it as over sized luggage without informing us. Needless to say, we were left waiting for the Coffin at the normal collection point. Eventually went to oversized luggage section and found a sad and lonely Coffin waiting for us.
The first weekend was indeed in interesting one. We sort of hit the ground running. The flight was an “interesting” one as well. Let’s just say that some passengers “lost” there lunch during the flight… We finally touched down late afternoon/ early eve. Some members of our first performance Church came to collect us at the airport with a signboard to attract our attention. They however succeeded in not only grabbing our attention, but everyone else at JHB airport. The sign read” Act Won: Desperate Housewives.” They were bombarded with many queries whether the TV serious was being filmed at their Church. What an opportunity to invite people to their church. (They had informed the onlookers that the play had nothing to do with the TV series.)
An early morn start for our first performance. What a delightful community. Grace Family Church is predominantly a Chinese community. We felt like the apostles of old who were taken in by a community and absolutely cared for. They lapped up everything we said & did. I could see a number of individuals having one-on-one conversations with God dealing with all kinds of “stuff” during ministry time. After the service, there was an open invitation to the members for a Chinese “lunch.” Btw 50 & 70 people rocked up. The food just kept coming & coming. “…and no-one lacked for anything…” I was indeed humbled by this experience.
We were then whisked away to our second performance experience for the day. Northcliff AOG. A different community. They had also grasped the concept of caring for the needs of others & it had nothing to do with being rich or poor in monetary terms. They could see we were tired & just stepped in. Long story short, God showed up despite our being tired. He had some deep & meaningful conversations with individuals.
We are now in Horizon were the soapie “Isidingo” was/is filmed, about 20 mins from Soweto. Much regrouping & prep for this weeks performances on the go.
We would really appreciate continual prayer cover. All of us are suffering with headaches. I have been woken up in the wee hours because of the throbbing…Please remember to keep us in prayer.
MIRACLE # 2
The JHB winter can be quite harsh on the skin, especially if the skin is accustomed to the Cape Town climate. Ruth decided to get some night cream moisturiser. A good idea you would think. She thus got a product normally associated with gentle baby skin products… again, a good thing. She applied said gentle moisturising cream to her face with the legitimate expectation of smooth, gentle, baby soft skin in the morning, (or at least after a number of applications.) NOT SO. The moisturiser actually burnt her skin / face. (You will recall my “Manamal” [man – animal] allergic reaction during our last missionary journey to the UK.) We rushed her off to the pharmacy, (which is always full,) only to be told of numerous instances where that particular product has caused burn & scaring to the faces of other lesser mortals. Much prayer & expensive cream later & dear Ruth now has an almost perfect complexion.
We thank God for this miracle as:
• She has to wear tons of war-paint during the various Act Won productions.
• Our concerns of the effect of the war paint on her traumatised skin.
• A KFC-like face would not be most up building for someone having to portray confidence on stage. (Besides, it could scare the people away before God had a chance to deal with them).
Early mornings & evenings are indeed challenging here in the JHB winter. Let’s just say that it’s rather crisp. Seeing the air you are about to breathe was something to get around the brain. We thought of the song that best illustrates our respiratory functions here in the City of Gold: “This is the air I breathe…”
AND GOD SPOKE…
Tracy & I have been reading the accounts in Ezekiel & Genesis. It is amazing to read how God spoke to people. One of the drama’s we are currently performing, deals with that very fact, God speaks. We have experienced first hand, God speaking & dealing with his children here… a rather humbling experience to think that God uses us, His plastic tubing, (conduit,) to get the message across.
“We are marching to Pretoria…”
We are off to Pretoria after being thoroughly well hosted by the good people this side of the Boerewors Gordyn, Our bags are all packed and the saddles are being warmed up. We are indeed looking forward to this next adventure, meeting and experiencing new people etc, etc. We have a number of performances & a drama workshop there. Please continue to pray for the plastic tubing…
Update # 3
So here we are in Irene, Centurion… it’s still cold at nights but not as cold as it was in JHB.
As a proud supporter of Western Province & Stormers rugby, I brought along my Stormers cap. This however is Bulls country. I was STRONGLY advised by our hosts not to, under ANY circumstances, venture out with my little Stormers petjie (Afrikaans meaning, [little hat]…) as they would not be held liable for any injuries caused.
It’s been an interesting week, but a good one. Run Thru the Bible: OT (RTB) on Wed eve, Desperate Housewives Trilogy (DH) Fri morn, Drama workshop Sat afternoon & Hard of Hearing (HoH) Sun morn & eve.
Tracy & I have had to work through challenges of our own. Before you run to any conclusions, let’s just say that if we were in Bombay, (as it was previously known), it would possibly have been said that we had had the wonderful experience of Bombay Belly. Butt enough of that…
One of the Churches we visited has a number of people in it who are interested & involved in the creative arts. The girls therefore agreed to run an informal drama workshop this past Sat afternoon. That eve, the Padre apparently received a number sms’ from rather excited people who attended the workshop and left rejuvenated about the prospect of Creatively Communicating Christ.
We have met so many, many wonderful people during this 2nd Act Won missionary journey, several of whom have interesting stories to tell… from hilarious & spectacular bloopers Padres have made in their churches to the harsh & hurtful realities people know as life. We met a young mother who told us of her story that leaves me somewhat ashamed to be a Proudly South African male. Yet she owns a smile that absolutely radiates the newness of life & hope. But hers is a brave smile… a smile that shouts out, “My story is far from over…” Her developing confidence in our Father is such that she is able to stand before a crowd and sing with great conviction, “… Incomparable! Unchangeable! You see the depths of my heart & You love me the same. You are amazing God…” our Miracle # 3.
When we first wrote DH, we never imagined the kind of impact it would have on others, how it would be that so many people could identify with the characters in this trilogy. Please join with us as we come before our Father on behalf of these dear people who are lonely, who cannot let go of that which entangles, who carry heavy burdens, who have unmet expectations or who simply have not had the life giving experience of sins forgiven. Should you find yourself in one or more of these corners, I can only share with you from my own story. Medical science had given up on me. They wanted to pull the plug and declare me dead. According to them, there was no life. There was no hope. Yet here I am, full of life, with everlasting Hope.
Matthew 5 declares that “You’re blessed when you are at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and His rule…” (the Message)
On Mon 12th, we bid farewell to Gauteng & fly to Durban. The call of the ocean is great, (even if the water is to warm.) Please continue to pray for these conduits, (refer to Act Won Update # 2.) Feel free to log on to our website www.actwon.co.za for more exciting sights & scenes of the life & times of Act Won. We try to keep it regularly updated.
Update # 4
So, we are back in the Fairest Cape… I feel as if I should start this final Act Won 2nd Missionary Journey update saying, “Greetings from the Churches in Observatory, Northcliff, Roodepoort, Irene, Durban North, La Lucia & Hilton. Grace & Peace to you, fellow workers with our Lord & Saviour, Christ Jesus…” (or is that a little overkill?)
When last we “spoke,” we were about to leave Centurion & journey to Durban. There were a few concerns about the volume of luggage we were dragging across the countryside, more so, the miracle it was going to take to get it through airport check in… lets just say that I do believe in the God of miracles…
So what have I learnt in the past 40 days since we left a rainy Cape Town on our 2nd Missionary Journey? To help me process this, I ask myself three questions:
• So What?
• Now What?
So, what happened?
Many of these experiences are already mentioned in Updates 1, 2 & 3.
We were taken in and cared for by absolute strangers, often at great sacrifice to many of them. Miracles unfolded right before us. Many heard the Word of God, believed it and chose to obey. We experienced the privilege of co-labouring with people of different backgrounds and cultures, received unqualified support from corners we had not expected as well as disappointment where we presumed support. We were constantly on the move, living out of suitcases, found that there are many, many churches in South Africa. We saw the lights go on after meaningful conversations with individuals about eternal consequence – had the privilege of hearing peoples life stories. Reconnected with old buddies around a pooitjie, depletion and rejuvenation sharing the same time and space – having a two year old grab hold of your name & shout it with delight over & over & over again – being spoilt by our Father…
What does that mean?
• I can trust the Character of my Father.
• Individuals in the Kingdom of God are willing to “do” or “be” for no reason other than God said so. A pity the individuals are so few…
• I presumed many things, made plans based on those presumptions and found that I was not always correct.
• With so many churches in our country, why is it that we struggle to effect change in our communities? We have life to share; we have the author of Hope… we have beautiful buildings to!
• God uses people’s imperfect life experiences to draw imperfect people to Himself.
• Society often views the Church as a talk shop not a workshop.
• Eternal consequence starts now.
• I am to trust the God of miracles and not the miracles as such.
• Prune pooitjie prior to a performance is not prudent procedure.
How does that impact life as I know it?
• Our key verse was from Colossians 1:28, “So we go, we tell everyone about Christ. We warn them and teach them with all the wisdom God has given us.” We go, we tell, we warn, we teach… all of this is useless until we “be.”
• There are reasons why “the labourers are few.” I cannot afford to be complacent. I cannot afford to play church. Eternal consequence keeps ringing in my mind.
• When that toddler spoke my name, it got my attention. Whether she knew it or not, she had my attention. When I speak the Name of Jesus, I get God’s attention. Whether I know it or not, I’ve got His attention…
• Many promises were made, much was spoken about, and great prayers were prayed. When it’s all said & done, how much is said and how much is done? My actions are to be proof of my conviction.
• I am not home yet. This world but a screensaver, in low-resolution monochrome. Heaven is home, high definition, full colour… Home
Thank you ever so much for your partnership in the Kingdom of God. Please keep on checking our web site to keep abreast of the Creatively Communicating Christ team. www.actwon.co.za