Thursday, 29 November 2012

Be yourself!

Photo credit: favim
You are unique. God made you with all your personality traits and talents. When He made you, He considered everything about you and perfectly put you together for the plans that He has for you. So often we think that we need to be more intellectual, spiritual, theologically correct etc. before God will use us. WRONG!
Once again we are at the place where we think that it is something that WE do or a place that we reach that now qualifies us to be used by God and this kind of thinking is wrong. As I mentioned in my recent post, “God, what do you want me to do”, God is more interested in the heart than in anything else. God can do more with a person who has a willing heart than with a person who has had years of theological training. I hope we can just get this on a deeper and deeper level. It is so not about us and what we can do, but about what He can do through us. And the only way in which He can do something through us is when we realise that it is not our doing, but His and we allow Him to move.
I just have it on my heart to teach that we must just be free and secure to be ourselves and not strive to be like other people. God has put all the necessary things in you to enable you to reach, comfort and encourage the people He has placed in your life. If God can use a donkey to speak in Numbers 22:28 then He can use you and me in any space that we find ourselves in. You can meet God today and be used by God the same day. At every “stage” in our journey with Him, He has placed people in our lives that we can impact, support and encourage. We do not need to reach a certain level before we can be used by Him.
“Then the LORD opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?”” Numbers 22:28
Do not stress about doing everything right, you are already right by just being who you are in Christ and being who He made you to be. Live with freedom and joy, love freely and engage with the people around you with confidence, knowing that God will use you just as you are. Your life is a window for other people to see Jesus through.
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.” Matt 5:14-15
An amazing friend of mine once had this conversation with God:
God:  “What does a light do?”
My friend:  “Nothing, it just sits there and shines.”
God:  “Exactly, then why are you hopping around flickering and screaming: “I’m a light, I’m a light”? A light just needs to BE and by being what it is, it lights the way for the rest to follow, but hopping, flickering and screaming are just distracting people off the road and drawing attention to itself.”
Absolutely WOW, need I say more? Find out what God has put in you and be who He has made you to be. That is the place where you will shine, experience the most joy and be the most effective for Him.   

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Information overload!

Photo credit:
In the culture that we live in we often receive an overload of information. We have so many resources from books, television to the internet. All these are good and helpful, but can sometimes also be confusing especially since there are so many different opinions around. We gain so much knowledge and I often think that it is quite important to know what to say when. We often have so much to say, because we have so much information in our heads. The wrong words or right words at the wrong time can really hurt someone. I’m not saying that we should compromise, tiptoe around every person or conform to every other person’s view, but rather be wise and be led by the Holy Spirit when we speak.
It is so temping to just blurt out the answer or your view or what you have experienced lately and this can often leave someone with the wrong feeling of discouragement or hurt. We want to speak life into people’s lives and be supportive or helpful, not destructive. Often this takes self-control from our side and requires us to be sensitive to the needs of the people that we are speaking to.
We often have no idea what God is doing in someone else’s heart and what that person is going through. They are also on a journey with God and we need to meet them where they are at, not bombard them with knowledge which they won’t understand or just give our opinion because we can. Especially when their problem is vague and they are not sure what the root of the issue is. It is better to pray and ask God for clarity, instead of sending the person on a tangent, because you think you know what the issue is. It’s not very hard to find issues in ourselves or other people and it can be very tempting to just blurt out their issues which we can spot. This also can be hurtful and not helpful at all.
We need to approach the situation in a mature fashion and if you feel that God is not saying anything, then you also say nothing, rather listen and comfort.  We often have a generic list of things which may cause certain issues and emotions and feel tempted to start working through the list to obtain more answers. I have come to realise that when we approach these situations (people) with our own agendas, we often override God and don’t even give Him an opportunity to speak. This is so dangerous, because we immediately approach the situation with a religious mind-set instead of approaching it with insight from the Holy Spirit.
The same principle can be applied when we approach God, sometimes we need to put our agendas aside and just give Him an opportunity to speak. May we approach every situation with guidance from the Holy Spirit and set our own agendas aside and in so doing learn to hear His voice more clearly and help to address the real needs of people around us.  
“If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness.” James 3:3-6
“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.” Proverbs 18:21

“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” James 1:19

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

God, what do you want me to do?

“God, what do you want me to do?” is a question that people often ask and can actually lead to anxiousness at times. Sometimes you may become quite tense about it, thinking that you want to be the best child of God that you can be and you want to do all that God has for you to do etc… etc...
I totally understand where this line of thinking comes from. Meeting Jesus is an incredible experience and it makes you question your career, who you married, where you live, what you are studying or you suddenly feel like selling everything you have and becoming a missionary or something, but this is not what Jesus necessarily asks us to do.
“Yes, each of you should remain as you were when God called you. Are you a slave? Don’t let that worry you—but if you get a chance to be free, take it. And remember, if you were a slave when the Lord called you, you are now free in the Lord. And if you were free when the Lord called you, you are now a slave of Christ. God paid a high price for you, so don’t be enslaved by the world. Each of you, dear brothers and sisters, should remain as you were when God first called you.” 1 Cor 7:20-24
We cannot just quit our jobs, studies or marriages for that matter. Yes, we have found a God much greater than ourselves and we want to serve Him, but my suggestion at first is just relax. Not very profound hey? So hear me out…
We cannot help but think that we are so amazing that we need to help God plan our lives and what is best for us. When in actual fact, He has it all planned out without our input. Remember He knows you inside and out and He knows what your input and desires would have been and He has already shaped the plan to fit all of those. All that we need to do is walk with Him. Our responsibility is to keep our heart soft and open towards Him and our ears tuned to His voice. We do not need to try and think what He’s thinking and figure it all out. Just be yourself, the best version of yourself that you know you can be at this stage and grow with Jesus. He doesn’t need anything else from you. He will let you know when it’s time to quit your job or maybe move to another area. He will ask you to change degrees or to start something new. He will be the instigator and we just need to stop poking our noses in His business and relax and serve Him faithfully wherever we find ourselves at the moment.
Today I just want to set some people free from that “what do I do next” anxiety. God knows what is next and He’ll let you know when it’s time to move. If you have questions, write them down and ask Him (once) and wait for His answer, He has heard you. Spend time rather focussing on what He is doing around you at this moment and build into that. I used to tell myself often “you are exactly where God wants you to be” and this brought peace to my heart and the desires burning within it.
I have learnt that it is not so much about receiving the direction from God beforehand that is important, but being ready to act when the direction comes. Life is a journey with Him and not a puzzle we need to figure out. When we walk with open hearts towards Him, always desiring His will, He will not leave us alone in the field. He knows us and we know that He will show us the way, He is the shepherd after all. God will always use a willing heart, it's all about the heart, so if you are willing, be sure that He will speak to you and lead you.
“And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.”” Isaiah 6:8
“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” Proverbs 19:21
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-5

Monday, 26 November 2012

Have you been lied to?

Photo credit: dlistman
Within the systems of the world we are taught to build an image for ourselves. The world sells to us ideas like "you don't want anyone to know that you don't know the answer" or "you need to have this and that to be more socially acceptable" or "if you show weakness, people will think that you are pathetic". Some things have been so ingrained in us by the media and culture that we do not even realise it. We have been taught to be fake up to a certain level to avoid rejection or shame even with our closest friends. There will always be a certain culture that your friendship circle creates and if you act outside of that 'norm' then I bet you that you would not be comfortable to share it with anyone.

It breeds certain insecurities in us which can easily isolate us from friends or family because of shame or guilt and make us feel very alone. This is exactly what the devil wants and they are all lies. When he isolates us, his lies can consume us and break us down. Telling us how little we are worth and how we are a burden to everyone. The most fundamental thing that the devil can attack is your identity. The Bible says: Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.The moment that we forget who God has made us to be and what our identity is in Christ, it will render us defenceless. God is in us and that makes us stronger than any lie this world can throw at us.
Don't let feelings of guilt or shame destroy beautiful relationships which you have built, including your relationship with God. When we do something that we are ashamed of, it should give us even more reason to run to Jesus, because He forgives freely and takes away all our guilty feelings and shame which the devil taunts us with. He does not judge, but welcomes us with open arms.
The definition of mercy is “not receiving the punishment that we deserve”. The definition of grace is “receiving the abundance of blessings which we don't deserve”. Jesus shows us perfect mercy and gives us perfect grace and in Him there is no condemnation. Nothing can separate you from the love of God.
 “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Rom 8:1
“Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Heb 4:16
“The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.” Rom 8:11
“The thief (devil) comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10

Sunday, 25 November 2012

What have you said yes to?

Photo credit: favim
There’s a line in a Jason Upton song, In the beginning Part 2, which just captivated me one day. It says: “Deliver us from the temptations of what we can do, that have trapped us in the bondage of the system of this world.” This line is just incredible, as I understand it, just because we CAN do something doesn’t mean that we SHOULD do it.
“"Everything is permissible"--but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible"--but not everything is constructive.” 1 Cor 10:23
 ““All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be enslaved by anything.” 1 Cor 6:12
Paul is saying to the Corinthians that just because all things are permissible, not all things are helpful and uplifting. He mentions that he will not be enslaved to anything. Just because something is permissible, doesn't mean that it is beneficial for our bodies, emotions and spirits. This statement is quite general and hard to confine to a short blog, so I’ll just highlight two things which it immediately speaks to me about.
Firstly, God has called us for a purpose. Certain things we will have to say yes to and certain things we will have to say no to. We cannot do it all, because doing it all will eventually lead to spreading ourselves too thinly and not serving wholeheartedly as God calls us to. We will also end up feeling drained and demotivated. The things that we will have to say no to can be good things, godly things, but things which God has not asked us to do at this moment in time. Or the things that we have to say no to can just be ordinary things, but things that can steal or distract us from what God is asking us to do and these things will always leave us in a place of feeling more drained after we started than before.
You will have to identify for yourself what this can be in your life, there is no list, no set of rules. It can be that God wants you to help a friend or simply rest, but then you feel obligated to be involved in a fundraiser which takes up your whole day. Fundraising is not a bad thing, but it’s not helpful if God has another plan for you or if He knows that you need rest. The same thing with watching television, one day it is fine to watch television for hours, another day it drains you and steals you away from something amazing which God could have shown you that day.
Secondly, we should never become enslaved to anything. To me this means that I should not make anything else more important than God. I should not be enslaved by work, sports, recreational activities or even the opinions of others.  The list is very long and this will be different for every individual, we all know where our weaknesses lie and which things distract us from God.
The point is that when we focus our attention on God, we won’t be so affected by the world and their views and expectations. We won’t feel condemned for not doing something, if God did not ask us to, even if other people don’t see it the way that we do. We need to learn to live life free from the expectations of other. Yes, we will make commitments, have responsibilities and respect others, but we do not need to be conformed to what other people expect us to be.
We need to walk in step with God, so that we always know when to say yes and when to say no. What God asks from every person will be different and there is no set pattern and you cannot ask or look at a friend. It is between you and God and only you will know what is helpful in your life and what is not. You will have to be honest with yourself and maybe even let go of some things which you enjoy. But be certain that the fruit that we reap from walking with God will always outweigh any other benefit that we thought we might have had. In this way we will always be effective in love without becoming drained or discouraged and we will live the life of abundance and joy that God has for us.
“If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” Gal 5:25

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Is your god a superhero?

Photo credit: favim
Today is was thinking about the word “god” or “king” and what they mean in general to the average person. I can maybe imagine a Thor or Zeus like figure riding on clouds, being able to control the wind, rain and lightning. I was thinking about what I would want a good god or king to be like if I had to design one whom I can serve to. I would want him to be powerful, courageous, admirable, glorious, wise, gracious and fair, someone I can aspire to, who is confident in himself and his decisions, someone who is not swayed by fleeting emotions or the opinions of the peanut gallery. He should have authority and respect, be feared in love and admired. He has to have vision to lead the people and put good structures in place to protect them from enemies or a financial crisis. Actually the list goes on and on. Maybe you should take a moment and consider what you would want in a god or a king who you can admire, love, respect and serve.
I think it is quite easy to imagine, because we have so many superhero movies and TV shows today which portray the lives and adventures of kings and gods.
My question then is this, if we can imagine for ourselves the perfect god or king, then why do we so often ask God not to act like the perfect god or king (that we want Him to be) and actually contradict ourselves and our own expectations? Let me explain by example, we want a god who has a backbone, who is confident and secure, but we daily tell God what to do and how to make situations work and then indirectly tell Him that we know better than Him. Or we want a god who is consistent and fair, but we try and manipulate Him by our words or actions and we tell Him to whom He can show mercy and whom we don’t think deserve mercy. We tell Him whom He should judge and discipline, but we let ourselves off the hook too easily.
Do we really think that He is so insecure to fall for our feeble demands, manipulations and tantrums? Do we not realise that He can see through it all, through every thought we have ever had and every motive behind every deed. “But if I do this, surely God will do that” and “if I act like this then surely God would respond like that”.
We are just so foolish. We desire to know an all-powerful God, but we want Him to be controlled by us to suit our needs and selfish desires. Surely a god who bows down to the beck and call of every one of his followers, like an insecure slave, is NOT attractive. I’m not sure about you, but that’s not the type of god that I want to follow. I want to follow a warrior, someone who can lead me to greatness with love and kindness, but fear and respect, someone whom I can trust, who commands with authority and confidence. I don’t want a god who begs: “please follow me, I’ll do anything for you”. No, I want a god who says: “follow me and I’ll teach you how to live a victorious life”
“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” James 4:10
I think you get my point. Today I just realised how small I am in relation to God. I’m a million times smaller than an ant and He is bigger than the universe. Then I started thinking how ridiculous I am. Me the little puny ant making demands at an all-powerful God. If anything, I show say: “God, please have mercy on me, I am but a humble servant”. How amazing that God then takes this humble servant and makes her a princess, the daughter of a King. Wraps her in robes of righteousness and gives her an eternal inheritance. How merciful is He? How just is He? How gracious and faithful is He that even though we mock, slander and tempt Him, He still shows us mercy and kindness.
I want a king and a kingdom that I am willing to die for and how amazing is it that my King has already set the example by dying for me.
“For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.” Romans 9:15-16
“For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:7-8
“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”” Gal 3:13
“For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.” 2 Cor 5:21

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Level burnout!

You might reach a point where you just feel drained and empty. You just feel as if all you are doing is giving, loving and serving, but you get nothing in return. You start feeling irritable and a little resentful towards other people and you might even think that no one really cares about you, but you just have to care for everyone. I will call it the “burnt-out” level. I think this happens to everyone once in a while and we need to learn how to handle it and take preventative action against it.
When we start our relationship with Jesus He expands our hearts. He gives us the ability to have and receive more love, so that we can give more love, it’s pretty simple. The problem is this, we get used to His overflow of love and we start giving more and more love and the people around us get used to taking more love (because we give more). Then suddenly we get busy, we neglect spending time with Jesus, but we still give, give, give, because we are so used to it and it is now part of our nature to give and love. What we do not realise is that we can only give what we have received and if we don’t spend time with Jesus and get refreshed in Him, we will end up with low levels of love and then resentment and irritation sets in and then suddenly everyone becomes too demanding and everything becomes too much for us to handle.
Don’t get me wrong, we have God is us, so we have all the love that we need in us, but spending time in God’s presence activates our love, it reminds us of who God is and how amazingly gracious and lovable He is and then instantly we just feel fabulous again. We feel as if we just want to burst at the seams with love. We realise that we don’t need to be satisfied by the people around us, but that He can satisfy our every need. He makes us feel worthy, appreciated and most of all incredibly loved. This then catapults us into the world to once again give, love and serve with a genuine smile.
It does not mean that we don’t appreciate or need the love and affection of the people around us, it just means that we don’t have to connect our sense of worth to the amount of love and affection that we receive from the world. God will always make us see how much we are worth and how precious we are and this is where our confidence comes from. God’s words to us are life and as children of God our spirits crave His words every day.
“But He answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”” Matt 4:4
Remember to replenish the “love battery” as my friend described it today. Let us ensure that we spend enough time in God’s presence to prevent “level burnout” and this will enable us to constantly be a joy to everyone around us without feeling irritable or empty. You are SO incredibly loved, believe it!

“We love because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19
“This is real love--not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” 1 John 4:10
“Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” Romans 5:1-5

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Free from the law

Photo credit: Trini Schultz
“O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith - just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”?
Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.” Gal 3:1-9
Abraham walked with God even before the Law of Moses existed. He believed in God and it was counted to him as righteousness as he walked by faith in a relationship with God. Only thereafter the Law of Moses was set in place for the Jewish people and in order to attain righteousness they needed to uphold the law and priests had to make sacrifices in order to atone for the sins of the people.
God’s intention was not just to save the Jewish people, but also the rest of the world (the gentiles). This could only be made possible by sending Jesus who would die for the sins of the entire world and be the perfect sacrifice. The world now does not have to attain righteousness by living according to the law, but can simply receive righteousness by putting their faith in Jesus and what He has done at the cross.
Even when the law existed God did not judge people by the law per se, but by their hearts. Take David for example, he committed murder and adultery which were both punishable by death according to the law, but the Bible describes him as a man after God’s own heart, because he loved God dearly.
In the scripture above, Paul writes to the Galatians reminding them that their walk with Jesus started by faith, when they believed in Him and not by works of the law. They started drifting and thought that they needed to uphold part of the law and traditions to please God. The Bible says: “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” Heb 11:6
Let us today not forget that God and God alone is the author and perfecter of our faith and that we do not need to uphold any law to perfect our faith, because we have been made perfect in Jesus. We do not have to work for our salvation (or righteousness) anymore, it is a free gift for all who believe in the name of Jesus. It is only through Him that we can get to the Father. So let’s not allow old traditions or cultures to taint our relationship with Jesus and put us in religious bondage. Let us rather walk in faith, tuning our ears to His voice.

“For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.” Galatians 3:10-14

Brandon Heath - Give me your eyes

Monday, 19 November 2012

Grow love not war

Picture credit: friendburst
“Again he began to teach beside the sea. And a very large crowd gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat in it on the sea, and the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. And he was teaching them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Mark 4:1-9
It is our responsibility to keep our hearts open to God, always ensuring that there is good soil for His words to fall on and take root. The smallest things can hinder us from receiving His words and can make our hearts hard, whether we intend to do it or not. Unforgiveness, resentment, offence, anger, bitterness, anxiousness etc. are examples of seeds which Satan sows and if it takes root in our hearts, can choke the good seeds and steel the good soil. We are the ones who give power to these emotions or weeds as illustrated here and harbouring them is our choice.
I do understand that maybe great injustice has been done to you and forgiving someone for their harsh words or abusive actions might by very difficult, but God does not expect us to do this alone. We can ask Him to help us forgive, even though we struggle, all we need to be is willing to forgive. It is so dangerous to harbour unforgiveness as it breeds hurt, bitterness, contempt and often results in anger.  
When we are angry, the last thing we feel like is being vulnerable or lovable. We put our defences up, harden ourselves and we get ready to fight. Sometimes we just see red and there’s no space for reason. So now you can imagine, God is love. How does He fit into that picture? He doesn’t. When we reach that state, we inadvertently say that I’m here to take revenge and I want justice and someone needs to pay for the way I feel. At that moment we cut God out and our emotions take over and what follows thereafter can only lead to destruction of self and others. Afterwards when our emotions clam down, the last thing we feel is a sense of relief or joy, but rather increased hurt, emptiness and probably remorse.
“Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.” Eph 4:26-27
When we try and punish someone for the wrong they have done towards us, we end up punishing ourselves more, especially when it involves people close to us. As with all of the lies of the devil, revenge is just another attractive door with a graveyard behind it. Let’s ask God to help us today, to rather choose love and to learn to let go of past things that are dragging us down and keeping our hearts hard. Let’s remove every weed to allow for more space and good soil for God’s words to take root and grow in our hearts and His peace will reign in our hearts.
“He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Col 1:13-14
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.” Col 3:12-15

The world is wide open - Jason Upton - SUCH a powerful song!

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Where are your roots?

Photo credit: Smashing feed
“But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
He will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.” Jer 17:7-8

I find this scripture so amazing. As we trust in the Lord, our roots are always in Him and there will be no fear or worries when trials come and our lives will always be full of life and bearing fruits such as love, peace, joy, patience, kindness, self-control, gentleness, faithfulness and goodness. (Gal 5:22-23)
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matt 6:33
As we anchor our roots in God, seeking His kingdom, He will add to us all that we need and even if there is a drought (financial crisis) in the land, we will still prosper and even when trials come, we will still have the joy of the Lord as our strength. He will never leave us or forsake us. He has equipped us for every battle.
“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Phil 4:19
I count it a privilege to be able to walk with God on this journey in life. I know that there is so much to learn and so little time, but He has it all planned and we can be assured that it is beautiful. We each walk our own journey, but our God is still the same. He is love and He has good things planned for His children. Let us walk with one another, encouraging each other to look to Jesus every day. Not to rules or culture, but to a person. Let us encourage each other not to seek the will of man or of church, but the will of God. It is only when we look at our world through His eyes that we can see the needs and the hearts of people and only then we can truly respond, in love, the way in which Jesus would respond. Let us not be put in bondage by our own ideas or the ideas of other people, but let us strive to hear His voice every day, above every other voice and to follow Him wherever He may lead us.
Let us be so close and so rooted in Him and His love that rivers of living water will always flow through us and then our leaves will always be green and we will always bear fruit.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Wrestling with God

Picture credit: flickr
“And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob's hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.” Genesis 24:30
God loves and honours perseverance. Jacob refused to stop wrestling until God blessed him. God is so much stronger than Jacob and could overpower him in a second, but He allowed Jacob to wrestle with Him all night. He wanted to see how badly Jacob wanted the blessing and what persevering character He could find in Jacob. Jacob did not give up, he wrestled until the break of dawn and then God blessed him. God changed his name from Jacob to Israel and his sons and daughters became known as the Israelites, God’s people.
Sometimes God pushes us to see how far we are willing to go, not just to reveal to Him our true character and determination, but also to reveal to us what character He has placed inside of us. As we see the character which is inside of us, we are encouraged and gain confidence. A coach will not make an athlete run 10 kilometres, if he knows that he has the potential to run 20. He will push his trainee everyday so that the trainee can see what potential he has in himself. This will enable the trainee to go further than he ever thought he could.
God works in the same way. He knows what He has planned for you and what He needs to prepare you for and I can assure you, the greater the preparation or the trial, the greater the destiny. So do not get discouraged when God stretches you, He is preparing you for greater things. Sometimes we think that some people have it so easy and why are we having to struggle with something, but I can assure you, the greater the struggle, the bigger the blessing. Imagine Jacob gave up during the night, he would never have received the blessing or have had an entire nation named after him.
When we wrestle with God, we never leave the same way. Wrestling with God changes us. The name Jacob means “he takes by the heel” or “he cheats”. This was not an honourable name and Jacob deceived his brother twice, but after wrestling with God, God restored his honour and gave him a new name. Count it as an honour if God wrestles with you, He would not wrestle with you if He didn’t know that it will be worth it.
 “For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:10-13
Everyone who believes will not be put to shame. Do not be ashamed when you struggle or face a trial, you will not be disappointed. He will never put you through more than you can bear. Next time when we get to that point, ready to give up, remember Jacob and lift up your head and say “bring it on God, I will take the blessing!” and you will never be the same again.
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4

Come to me - Bethel Music

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Speak life

Photo credit: favim

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:11
When God speaks a word, it has to come to pass. It cannot return to Him empty. In Genesis 1 it says that God said “Let there be light” and there was light. He spoke light into being and many other things if you read further. When God speaks, He speaks life, His words bring life and when God has spoken something over your life, then you know that it will come to pass and bring life.
“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” Matt 24:35
“God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfil? Behold, I received a command to bless: He has blessed, and I cannot revoke it.” Num 23:19-20
We should guard our hearts and not let doubt side-track us from what God has spoken. It will only rob us of our joy. Sometimes it is good to not tell everyone about the secrets which God has revealed to you. Some people might not respond in the way that you would want them to or discourage you by saying it is impossible or that you have surely heard wrongly. Rather share with people who you know are full of faith and willing to walk the journey with you.
“But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”” Matt 4:4
When God has made a promise to you, He will walk the journey with you. He has already gone before you and made the way. He is more committed to this thing then you could ever be and He has so much in store for us. And as God is in us, let us speak life over our lives, loved ones, our promises and our situations.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Patience is a virtue

Photo credit: Ramon Mariano
I remember years ago asking my mom what the word “virtue” means. She tried to explain, but as a child it was difficult for me to understand. Today I can safely say that I understand what “virtue” means and why people say that patience is a virtue. At many times in our lives we will find ourselves in situations where we will need to have patience and wait whether we want to or not.
The question is what do we do in the waiting period? Maybe you are waiting for a situation to change or for a promise that God has made in the Bible (direction, wisdom, finances, healing, restoration etc.) or maybe God has spoken to you about something more specific in your life, regardless of what it is, you are still waiting.
We never know how long the waiting period might be, unless He tells you of course, but often we need to just walk in faith and wait and this can often be difficult. Especially when hours become days, days become weeks and weeks become months or years. Doubt can set in and we can become dismayed or even angry.
It is important in these times that we do not lose focus, that we keep our face fixed on God and what He has already said, whether in the Bible or whether to you directly. God never panics and He is not still trying to figure out the solution to your situation. He knows what He is doing and His timing is perfect, He has planned it long ago. He has heard your request and your “answer” (so to speak) is on its way.
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matt 6:33
So while we wait we undertake to not sulk, complain or get angry, but to serve God diligently, knowing that what we have asked for is on its way. Rather than looking at what we not yet have, we focus on what we do have and that is everything we need in Jesus. Instead of seeing ourselves as people sitting in a desert, we stand as expectant people walking into the promised land.
Faith is knowing that we have what we have asked for, before we even receive it. So today, thank God in advance for what you are soon going to receive.
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Matt 7:7
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Phil 4:6
“Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.” Jer 33:3
“You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” Jer 29:13
 Awesome song!!

Monday, 12 November 2012

But the greatest of these is love

Photo credit: bohomoth

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
            Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
            Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”1 Corinthians 13
There is nothing stronger than love. That’s why God describes Himself as love in 1 John 4:9. He could have called Himself “power”, “success”, “freedom”, “truth” etc, but He chose to be called “God is love.” God is all the things mentioned above and more, but He chose to be love. This is so powerful! To think that love is not just an emotion or an act, it is an actual person and when you meet Him, His loves changes you. It’s like a powerful drug and you keep wanting more and more.
The closer you walk to His love, the less power everything else in your life has over you. Addictions have to leave, unforgiveness becomes forgiveness, anger becomes kindness and the list goes on. And the beauty of it all is that we do not have to do a single thing to earn it. We just come, we just come to Him with a willing heart and His love just changes us.
He finds us in our need and in our brokenness, in our sadness, hurt and honesty, He comes with gentleness and He freely gives. His love heals, it restores and it multiplies. 1 John 4:19 says: “We love, because He first loved us.” We have no idea what love is before we experience His love and only then we can go and share what He pours into us with others. We are filled with His love everyday so that what we have can overflow into the lives of others.
Love is not just a candlelight dinner and a bunch of roses, it “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” and it never ends, never tires and never runs out. Sometimes love does not look like the “fluffy love” we imagine. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 and this is what love looks like. It is to lay your life down for a friend. Even if you were the only person on earth, God still would have put Jesus on the cross, because God is love.
“And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Saviour of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgement, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:14-19          

Sunday, 11 November 2012

And there was grace...

Sometimes it can feel as if life is hanging by a thread, a nervous moment of tension, so many things have been said and done and decisions have been made. Sometimes we just reach a point, a point of “What now God”? “Where to now?” A point where you have put it all in His hands and your stomach makes a nervous turn. That is where we meet faith, at the end of the line where nothing else can save you, when options are scarce and opinions plentiful. That is where we can say, not my will God, but your will God.
It does not matter how you got to this place or how many bad decisions you have made, God will meet you there. His love is big enough and His grace is abounding. There might still be natural consequences for your actions in this world, but God in His mercy and grace will pull you through it all. Nothing you have done can scare Him away, He is always ready, waiting for each son and daughter to return to Him so that He can restore to them all that this world has stolen.
Pour your heart out to Him, be honest, even blunt, He can handle it, trust me He has heard worse. He knows your most inner thoughts and hurts and He knows where you are coming from and how to deal with you. In Him you find all answers and all comfort, in Him there is no condemnation, but love and freedom.
At the end it’s you and Him and there is no stronger team. Wait on Him, trust in faith, listen to His voice and know that He will catch you, lift you up and restore you. You are not alone.
“Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” John 8:2-11
The most powerful thing to me about this scripture is that Jesus invited those without sin to cast the first stone and yet Jesus himself, who is completely without sin, did not cast a stone, but released the woman to be free. How good is God?!
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you.” 1 Peter 5:6
“God's law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God's wonderful grace became more abundant.” Romans 5:20
Picture credit: Luis Montemayor

Thursday, 8 November 2012

In the wind and the waves

Photo credit:  tumblr
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.” James  1:2-6
This is a harsh message, but there is no space for doubting in the kingdom. This doesn’t mean that we will never doubt and if we doubt, God is still faithful to us, but faith is the power of the kingdom and it is impossible to please God without faith. We cannot have one foot in the faith bucket and one foot in the doubt bucket, there is nothing harder than sitting on the fence.
As James mentions above, we do not want to be waves driven and tossed by the sea and that is what we look like when we doubt in who God is. When trials arrive it can feel as if a carpet has been pulled from underneath us and we panic, our emotions climb on a rollercoaster and they go up and down and all around. We don’t think straight, we grab onto every possible solution and we try and take control and in the process we get more desperate and more disappointed.
“We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” 2 Cor 10:5
Instead we should strive to remain calm, to try and immediately restrain our fears and anxieties by taking every thought captive and submitting it to the word and will of God. In this way we can choose not to climb on the rollercoaster and to rather rest in the peace of God, to rest in His word and the promises that He has spoken over us. God has not given us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, love and self-control.
May we pause every time a wave comes and without fear face the trial head on, knowing that He who is standing behind us is greater than anything that this world can throw at us.
“Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4
“And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. “ Heb 11:6

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

A real encounter

Picture credit: favim
”And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” 1 Cor 2:1-5
We have a mandate from Jesus to go out into the world and to tell people about Him. To tell them that their sins are forgiven and that they can walk in a relationship with Him. Across the world there are so many “methods” of telling people about Jesus.  When we talk to people about God each situation will be different as each person is unique, but only God can give them a real revelation of the fact that He is real, we cannot try to convince someone with lofty words and knowledge.
I’m not saying that we should not tell people, teach people or share wisdom with people, I am merely saying that the Holy Spirit should be the instigator as to how we should approach each individual. He knows their hearts and their needs and He will minister to them through us if we allow Him to. Sharing the gospel is not a competition to see how many or how quickly we can convert someone, it is a matter of the heart. Loving someone unconditionally whether they agree with you or not and walking a road with them without expectations.
The only way to be effective is to be led by the Holy Spirit when sharing the gospel. Sometimes one day or one prayer is enough, but sometimes it takes months or years of consistent love and friendship or even no words and only actions. God prepares the hearts of the people around us beforehand and He knows when the soil of their hearts is ready to receive the seeds that we sow. I still remember so clearly the day that I met Jesus. It was such a radical experience for me, sitting in darkness one moment and my heart being flooded with light and love in the next. It was instant, it was beautiful and I wouldn’t exchange that experience for anything in the world.
The last thing that you want is to force someone to believe or pray a prayer. We need to lead people in such a way that they understand what it means to have a relationship with God and not just a lifeless religion. They need to have a real encounter with God in order for them to truly be convinced. They need to know that they can expect to hear God speak, because He loves to spend time with His children and that it is a journey. There is no need to water down the gospel or make it more comfortable for people to accept, we should only be real and honest, sharing with them in love.
As Paul mentions in the scripture above, he didn’t approach the people with lofty words and wisdom, but with the true message of Jesus. How He died for their sins to set them free, how He loves them and how He desires to spend time with them. He displayed this truth in the Spirit and in power that the faith of the people would not rest in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
Not allowing someone to have an encounter with God is robbing them of the true meaning of being a Christian. Rather approach the situation in Spirit and power, demonstrating the love of God and encouraging them to seek God and hear His voice. God will not let you down, He is faithful and He will let His love find them.