Time to be good

Mental health is one of those issues society does not wish to drag out into the open for discussion. The stigma of mental disease appears in most societies and the question needs to be asked – why? Why the stigma?

Why is mental illness more of a stigma than physical illness? What stops us reaching out to mental patients in the same way we acknowledge physically ill patients?

I have been watching and listening to the Life Esidimeni enquiry, the scandal of 145 mental patients dying in horrific circumstances (and a further 45 still ‘just missing’). The lack of dignity shown to patients, family and even the dead is horrifying.

Mentally ill patients removed from hospitals to be “cared for” in private facilities where humane care, food (even water), security, love, dignity and common decency often flew out the window. Family members taking months to trace where their loved ones are then finding them ill, under-nourished or dead. Warnings from family and mental health specialists all being ignored by the officials, the police, ministers (parliamentary and provincial), doctors et al. Bodies found in mortuaries months after death decomposing, stinking, full of worms and death certificates suggesting ‘natural causes’.

The reaction of all the health officials and politicians is – of course – it was not my problem. It was him. Not my fault. Cowardly, lacking any sense of responsibility and over-paid.

Whatever happened to our humanity?

Then I sat down and looked at myself and how I treat people, how I react to others and how I behave when confronted in situations. I am not always too clever.

Listen I haven’t tortured anyone, or starved them or led them to die. But have I really behaved in a Christian and loving manner at all times and whenever possible?

I don’t know how you answer that question but my answer is sadly ‘no’. Not all the time.

Mother Teresa said “Be the living expression of God’s kindness; kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes and kindness in your smile.”

I must admit I am not too bad in that area and generally I am friendly and open with most people I meet in the shops, garage, restaurant, work environment et al.

I must admit I am not too good when the person makes me feel uncomfortable particularly if they do not fit into my accepted norms and standards.

Some years ago I used this quote. Regrettably I have lost the source. However it does speak to me about where and who I need to be.

“Give to every other human being every right that you claim yourself.”

A few months back I wrote in my blog about lack of humanity –

“Is this because I am “only human” or because I am too absorbed in my personal god – me?

Is this because there is only one way to live – by my standards? Everyone else is wrong?

Is this because I do not accept the choice of “others” in the way they live their lives? They are misguided?

I am ashamed to say my answer to the questions can be “yes”.

And I consider myself a Christian!”

Genesis 1:27 (NKJV) So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

God created man in His own image! What gives me the right to reject another person for my reasons – a little arrogant and blasphemous methinks?

“I shall pass through this world but once. Any good therefore that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again”.  Anon.

There is really little effort required in treating everyone we meet with courtesy, decency, dignity and humility (there’s that word again!). The amazing part of this behavior pattern is how people react to us and then we, in turn, receive their courtesy and compassion.

“It is one of the beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson

Through compassion we make other’s misery our own and by relieving their misery we also relieve our misery.

2 Corinthians 13:11. .  .  . be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.

 

 

Advertisements

Is joy a part of your life

Listening to and reading of the rampant corruption and evil surfacing during the South African court cases, enquiries and commissions leads one to suspect the country is very close to breaking down. Descending into another Zimbabwe. In fact hardly a suspicion but a fact. South Africa is very close to being a banana republic at best. A country on its knees at worst.

Thank heavens for the arrival of Cyril and his contemporaries.

I think.

I hope.

What is fascinating is this inability of man to accept facts which are placed before him – and then point fingers whilst his fingers are still in the cookie jar. All very depressing.

Then I started reading the good news – well concentrating on it anyway – and suddenly I found all is not lost. The more I looked the more I found. Normal everyday people assisting the poor, handing in lost wallets filled with cash or expensive cell phones, helping people in distress and oh – just so much more. There are lots of good people in this beautiful country of ours across all religions, people of all colours, both sexes, rich and poor and middle income and – well – just everyone.

Yet we are inclined to start all conversations, correspondence or interaction with a litany of foul deeds, crime, evil and all the horrible facts of life today. I know! I do it too and I must say I am not proud of it.

Satan and evil are winning because we are willing participants in their public relations and marketing plan. Unpaid Bell Pottinger agents for the dark side if you like!

It is so easy to wallow in the “woe is me” and “cry the beloved country” gossip we often forget all we have to thank God for in our lives. Here is my list I started on without a lot of deep introspection. There is so much more to be grateful for and thankful.

I live in a log cabin overlooking the estuary of the Mpenjati River next to a conservancy. Paradise. Why then do we continue venting over electricity and water service (or lack of), potholes, road blocks, the drought and so we go on?

I live in a country which offers some of the most beautiful scenery and places to visit. When last did I sit down and talk about that rather than negative wailing?

I am blessed my two sons grew into fine men and succeeded each in his own way. Yes my younger son died too early in life but his legacy is my grand-sons who, fortunately, have grown to be like him rather than me! I am very proud of who they are today. Can you believe my wife called me crotchety the other day?! I mean! My elder son has blessed us with beautiful grand-daughters who love me dearly – as they should – and are the three most beautiful ladies I know.

I have been married to the same lady for over 50 years (that is two life sentences I am told) and though all the ups and downs we are still together today (crotchety or not!).

Financially I do not have two brass farthings to rub together but we live comfortably, simply and still enjoy a few luxuries, glass of wine et al. Life is what you make of it – not what other people make of you.

What this world has to offer is of little significance if only I concentrate on my Lord and Saviour. He promises me so much, has delivered so much and I know there is more to come. Most importantly when He decides to remove me from this mortal coil He promises me eternal life and His unconditional love.

What more do I want?

We basically have a whole country forced onto its knees by lies and deceit and corruption and evil and greed.

How do you think similar evils in my personal life affect the trust, love and support of family, friends and business acquaintances?

How much better my life when I spend it positively, lovingly and filled with His Holy Spirit.

“Happiness is never in our power and pleasure is. I doubt whether anyone who has tasted joy would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasure in the world” CS Lewis.

A truly great author despite finishing his sentences with a preposition!

John 15:11 I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!

Or NKJV – These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.

 

What is a church?

Elizabeth Elliot (A lamp for my feet). ‘Sometimes when I was a child my mother or my father would say to me “Shut your eyes and hold out your hand.” That was the promise of some lovely surprise. I trusted them, so I shut my eyes instantly and held out my hand. Whatever they were going to give me I was ready to take. So it should be in our trust of our heavenly Father. Faith is the willingness to receive whatever He wants to give, or the willingness not to have what He does not want to give.’

A very simple but heart-warming description of faith. Why do so many church going Christians fail to grasp what is offered to them? If only they would stretch out their hand. Sitting in church each Sunday with a Bible study thrown in during the week is unlikely to empower us with the Holy Spirit.

As believers and followers of Jesus Christ we are all filled with the Holy Spirit. However the empowering of the Holy Spirit, which happened at Pentecost, is something many Christians strive to achieve. Sadly many are unable to reach that realisation through a lack of knowledge, or a fear of what will happen, perhaps the environment in which they worship or sheer disinterest. The tragedy is the believer who really wants to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

“Though every believer has the Holy Spirit (Salvation), the Holy Spirit does not have every believer (Baptism of the Holy Spirit).” (Author unknown).

The point is the Baptism of the Holy Spirit does not make us better than other Christians, but it does make us better than ourselves. Remember too Jesus states quite categorically in Acts 1:8b that when the power of the Holy Spirit comes upon us we WILL BE witnesses. In other words transformation takes place and our character changes dramatically.

While Jesus was with them the disciples were still in an Old Testament mode. It was still Old Testament until Jesus died. Then, at Pentecost, we see the disciples and others empowered by the Holy Spirit to do the Kingdom work of God. Peter, for example, preaches and 3 000 came to Christ.

We have to take seriously the fact that the church is the church not by its corporate structure, or its form of worship, or its clergy or anything like that. All these are good as long as they are serving God’s purpose and not the purpose of the people of the church or the leadership’s own preferences. The church is the church because of the presence of God and God is present through His Holy Spirit and if the Holy Spirit is present Holy Spirit things start to happen.

The church is the church because of the presence of God and God is present through His Holy Spirit and if the Holy Spirit is present Holy Spirit things start to happen.

Makes you think doesn’t it? Certainly it makes me think very hard about where I am in my Christian walk. Correction! It made me re-think!

God has told us quite clearly that the most important commandment is to love Him with everything we have – and nothing less. He also tells us in His Word to spread His Word encouraging, teaching, preaching and helping others to reach out to Him.

The second sentence in the paragraph above is where my church should be standing.

Where does your church stand?

Where do you stand in just one of those areas? Encouraging, teaching, preaching or helping others to reach Him?

If you need wisdom ask our generous God and He will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. James 1:5.

Pray, asking God to reveal His will to you.

 

Will the church of the Apostles survive?

“If the Holy Spirit was withdrawn from the church today, 95 percent of what we do would go on and no one would know the difference. If the Holy Spirit had been withdrawn from the New Testament church, 95 percent of what they did would stop, and everybody would know the difference.” A.W. Tozer

This blog is copied in part from one I wrote over 3 years ago inspired by a thought provoking Bill Muehlenberg article.

I was immediately struck by the content because it is a position in which I and people close to me have struggled through. The tragedy when the church remains oblivious to or totally unconcerned about losing members. In particular members who are devoted, willing and crying to do the Lord’s work.

 

“The very people on whom a church relies for lay leadership, service and financial support are going away.”

 

Whilst church members rather apply their personal agendas the Holy Spirit grows more distant. The joy and peace of the Holy Spirit at work in our midst becomes a memory.

 

In his blog Bill says “There would be many reasons why people stop going to church. We all might have our suggestions as to why this is occurring. I have my own ideas. Let me list a few such possibilities here:

-Many believers are not being fed from the Word of God.

-Many believers are put off by the attempt to cater solely to youth or elderly or the resolutely stagnant while ignoring their needs.

-Many believers are tired of just being bench warmers, with no role to play.

-Many believers are looking for the real deal.

-Many believers are desiring genuine Holy Ghost revival, not just pep talks, self-help seminars, and a me-centred gospel.

-Many believers are starving for the reality of First Century Christianity.”

 

That, in my book, is a bulls-eye.

The first question I need to answer is if this ‘drop out’ menace is the result of an egocentric leadership. Only you can answer that question in your church.

“But the problem is, so often our leaders are so busy doing church, that they do not have this needed time to reassess . . . . . “

 

The second question I need to answer is how many people would return and grow the church if we returned instead to Jesus worship. When I say ‘grow the church’ it is not necessarily all about numbers but more importantly all about the ‘Holy Spirit’.

I was born again as a direct result of family, friends and church leading me towards the Holy Spirit. The same Holy Spirit who was evident in the church and active in the church and filled us all in the church with His peace and love. I did not give my life to Jesus Christ as the result of a lecture, a barbecue, a fun evening or some other entertainment.

I agree those things do have a role to play in the fellowship of the church – but it is just a supporting role.

I was a willing member of the congregation as a result of sermons and talks and guest speakers focussing on the one real reason why I was a Christian. The fact Jesus Christ died on the cross and rose again for me, so that my sins are forgiven.

2 Corinthians 5:  21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

People may disagree when I say surely we need to invite Jesus back into the church where we can praise Him, talk to Him, worship Him and obey Him. If we don’t do that in church and if we don’t lead people towards that end then where do the Christians, the seekers and the strugglers go to for fulfilment? If we cannot or do not coach the new generation will Christianity survive?

 

Here’s a question for all of us.

How many people have you drawn to the foot of the Cross to meet Jesus Christ?

When last did you receive or offer prayer to invite the filling of the Holy Spirit?

 

The Apostles did that (and more)

Acts 2:42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

 

Quotes

 

If we do not teach our children to follow Jesus Christ, the world will teach them not to.

Never reason from what you do not know.   Ramsay

People generally quarrel because they cannot argue.   G K Chesterton

I have no other but a woman’s reason; I think him so because I think him so.   Shakespeare

Have you ever had a baby?

Have you ever had a baby? Well I haven’t but …….. hmm maybe the wrong question.

Are you a parent who has experienced the joy of your child’s birth? I know every new father I meet is boasting to anyone and everyone whilst mother develops an awesome and inspirational love for the child. The birth of a new born child is such an incredible experience it has to be one of the supreme emotions a human can go through. In fact I don’t know why I restricted that to humans only. Any parent.

Have you ever considered how God must have felt when His Son was born knowing the pain, suffering and death he was to endure? If you knew that lay in store for your child what would be your reaction?

John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

God loves us so much that He gave us His one and only Son ……………  so that we may have eternal life with Him. My love for my family is deep and strong but I waver at the thought of offering or giving one of them to a person who is disobedient, rejects me or says I do not exist. In fact I am ashamed to say my Christian virtues go into a wobble faced with anybody who is otherwise. In other words they do not agree with me (you can read that sentence several ways!).

But really – give your own child as an offering to save someone else’s child is a huge step. That is love.

1 John 4:10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

Then again Jesus was obedient to God His Father and willingly gave of himself to save a sinner like me (oooh and you too!).

Here we find God in human form as the Son of God and capable of doing anything He wants to do on earth. He knows He is going to be humiliated and tortured and crucified but He allows the whole ghastly process to run to its conclusion. At no stage did He call on those miraculous powers to hurt or exact retribution on those against Him.

I don’t know about you but if I enjoyed those miracle powers there is little chance I would not use them against my enemies. Especially in the face of such pain. Jesus never lifted a finger against them instead He blessed them towards the end.

Actually come to think of it Jesus has said to me (and you) that we can perform all these miracles and more in His name. Makes you think huh?

1 John 3:16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.

You cannot ask for any greater sacrifice than a man who is prepared to die for you.

The issue now is one of believing the Word of God.

If you do believe then ask yourself why or how you cannot offer your life to Him.

That is, after all, the only thing He ask of us.

1 John 3:18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

I cannot improve on that verse. Walk the walk don’t talk the talk.

May you be blessed this Christmas by a meeting with the Holy Spirit and may you be filled with love and joy and compassion and peace.

2 Thessalonians 3:16 Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.

 

Fundamentalist me

Fundamentalism is apparently a negative word in many places today. I am shattered to hear, not only the attitude, but also the source of many of these statements.

Firstly let me state how I view fundamentalism and the best interpretation I found was in Got Questions.org.

“Fundamentalists seek to guard the truth of Scripture and defend the Christian faith, which was “once for all entrusted to the saints” (Jude 1:3).

The church today is struggling in the postmodern, secular culture and needs people who are not ashamed to proclaim the gospel of Christ. Truth does not change, and adherence to the fundamental principles of doctrine is needful. These principles are the bedrock upon which Christianity stands, and, as Jesus taught, the house built upon the Rock will weather any storm (Matthew 7:24-25).”

Let me also say fundamentalism, as I understand it, applies to the whole Bible which, among other things, promotes loving your neighbour, compassion, forgiveness, grace, mercy, humility, patience, peace and so much more.

If that is fundamentalism then I am a fundamentalist. I do not see the issue with defending the principles and truth of the Word of God. Surely faced with a life situation my first option (and my only option) must be to the Holy Book for the answer?

If I do not believe in the inerrant truth of the Bible then can I pick and choose the parts I like? The gospel of me? Not the Word of God.

Let’s also accept that as in any situation there are those who can be labelled extremists. They are zealots not applying the full Word of God. In this context no allowance is made for grace and mercy. That’s not fundamentalism in my book – it is too extreme for the Holy Book.

For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. Proverbs 2:6

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.  James 3:17

 

Personally I prefer to think of myself as a follower of Jesus Christ and God His Father.

I believe the Bible is the true Word of God – literally. Therefore it is free of error.

I believe Jesus Christ was born of a virgin and conceived by the Holy Spirit.

I believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God and He died and rose again for my sins.

I believe Jesus Christ rose from the dead on the third day after His crucifixion.

I believe in the Holy Spirit.

I believe in the miracles recorded in the Word and I believe Jesus will come again to this world.

I believe God hears and answers my prayers to His glory.

Does that make me a fundamentalist?

Then that is what I am – and without apology.

Half full or half empty

Is the glass half full or half empty? Which attitude is the one you apply in your everyday life?

My problem, I presume, is the same as everyone else and sadly too often does lean towards half empty. I do allow myself to be dragged down by the media and the man next door and the general attitude of most people. O woe is me, the country and the world.

The front page of a newspaper is normally filled with gloom and doom. The television news apparently must be dramatic, eye catching or counting bodies. Seemingly the requirement necessary to sell your product. The worst news (in terms of gory detail) receives the most attention. What an awful assessment of modern society.

Don’t get me wrong the reports on hurricanes and earth-quakes and corruption is news we want to keep up with – and the gory details of course. They are inclined to go on a bit however.

My issue is just how much we seek to watch or participate in incidents which are negative, disturbing or traumatic. If you need evidence watch people near an accident or distressing incident. They can put lives at risk just to get a better look. One has to ask why? What on earth do you achieve? Do you feel better as a result?

Look at social media and how it is abused to spread bad news either through printing horrific stories or using inserts to denigrate, insult and destroy the self-worth and even the self-esteem of people we may have never met. Again I have to ask why? What difference is my post going to have on those involved? What am I going to change from the past? Influence maybe and perhaps help combat the evil – but there are better ways to do that sort of thing. If you are really serious.

Yesterday is not ours to recover but tomorrow is ours to win or lose.  Lyndon B Johnson

The world we inhabit offers us so much to love and enjoy. Yes there are negative things and that fact cannot be ignored. But there are so many positive things for us to come across, new experiences, and consequently an opportunity to grow and fulfil our lives.

That must be the joy of life.

The motivation of a positive individual provides power in your life and the impetus to build and grow as a compassionate caring human being. In the process appreciating our God given gifts and the beauty of this world. I honestly believe it is a power because negativity debilitates and builds on our weaknesses. Weakness to grow, to love, to understand and to move forward.

Again if you need an example look at the effect Bell Pottinger made on the thoughts and attitudes of so many South Africans to the extent of increasing racism. What a waste. Imagine all those resources being poured into positive benefits and attitudes instead of hatred  and fake news.

I started some time ago on Facebook where, after two or three posts which I found offensive or in poor taste, I removed or blocked the individual concerned. Now my social media is not littered with so much negativism. It does help a little.

I am seriously considering the cancellation of my digital television subscription because I find little in the way of entertainment most evenings. Entertainment that does not scare the hell out of me or depress me or leave me feeling down. Yes I will miss the sport but with things as they are at the moment – mmmm – is that sounding negative? Oops! Sorry.

Yes I will keep up with news, I will follow interesting subjects on social media and I will enjoy the company of positive people and my family. What else do I need?

I think Henri Nouwen says it all for me:-

“Did I offer peace today? Did I bring a smile to someone’s face? Did I say words of healing? Did I let go of my anger and resentment? Did I forgive? Did I love? These are the real questions. I must trust that the little bit of love that I sow now will bear many fruits, here in this world and the life to come.”

Keep the company of positive folk and witness as a symbol of a positive and joy-filled life.

For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.  Matthew 7:2 (NLT).

Encourage living faith

My talk from last Sunday.

I don’t know what you are like but I am an absolute sucker for magicians and conjuring and magic tricks. When they come on TV or at a kid’s party you will find me in the front row.  And please don’t tell me how it works (the magic trick) – I don’t want to know. It’s magic!!

But you know the best part? It is the reaction of the kids. The kids become totally absorbed in a show whether it be a magician, a pantomime, a television show or whatever. They are there totally involved laughing and screaming and pointing and joining in with the show. They relax and enjoy themselves. They live in the situation.

Then again I do find myself touched by a really good movie, or affected by music or moved by talented artists even overwhelmed by real life situations on news or media channels.

How about you when you are absorbed or immersed in a book or a movie or music or whatever? Do you let yourself go and become enthralled as you live in that moment, that situation, that happening around you?

I am not ashamed to say I find myself emotionally moved when I really involve myself. I am moved when music gets into my soul. I am moved when a movie grips my mind or my heart, I am moved when watching young talented performers, I am emotionally moved when the moment overcomes me and I let it enfold me and I live it. I live in it.

Similarly there are times when I have been led by Jesus to a warm place where my heart overflows and literally feels as if it is flooding with warmth and joy. I just wish the experience happened more frequently in my walk with Jesus. Living my faith. Living in my faith.

I am filled with positive emotions as a result of His intervention in my life. Peace, joy, fulfilment, calm, wonder, exultation etc. etc.  I want to and try to live my faith. I want to live in my faith.

I am a fan of Oswald Chambers and here are his comments regarding John 4:14 which reads “but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”

“This is not a simple stream of water it is an overflowing fountain. If you find His life is not springing up as it should, you are to blame – something is obstructing the flow.

We are to be fountains through which Jesus can flow as ‘rivers of living water’ in blessing to everyone. Yet some of us are like the Dead Sea always receiving but never giving because our relationship is not right with the Lord Jesus. Is there anything hindering your faith in Him?”

My problem is when I do find those fountains of living water flowing from me they can stop flowing after a while.  My human nature allows me to slide back – again. I create the obstruction and the flow stops. I need the support of those around me to maintain the flow and to stay where I want to be all the time. I want to be a conduit for the living waters flowing from Him.

Family and friends and my church are obvious sources of support but sadly this is not always the case. Family, friends and the church can – and do – become opinionated and careless discouragers.

Brother Yun is a quite remarkable evangelist from China who has written several books and I will quote from his book titled “Living Water”. He quotes, first of all, from Hebrews 1:7 – “He sends his angels like the winds, his servants like flames of fire”.

“Satan can’t stand in the face of God’s fire. He hates it and spends much time trying to douse the flames.” Then later on he says:-

“Many churchgoers see it as their duty to extinguish any signs of fire in the church. Even the smell of a smouldering ember causes them great alarm. Often when a Christian gets a vision from God believers come along and do everything they can to throw a wet blanket over the zealous disciple. Wet blankets are highly effective at dousing flames.”

While it is human nature to accept opinion as fact we must be careful voicing negative opinions. What we say may heavily influence the actions of those who hear our opinions.

Brother Yun again – “Many passionate followers of Christ have missed their ministry as a result – the ministry God has called them to perform. The wet blanket brigade celebrate – they have another disciple in their image.”

BUT – NOT in the image of Jesus Christ. The image of Jesus Christ is clearly where I want to be?

Let me put that another way – in the words of Oswald Chambers – “Are you more devoted to your idea of what Jesus wants than to Jesus Himself?” In other words do you love the thought of Jesus Christ or do you actually love Jesus Christ Himself.

I have to give the Son of God His opportunity to work in me. I want the direct simplicity of His life worked out in me exactly as it was worked out in His life on earth?

Is our concentration on Jesus Christ and do we praise Him with ALL our hearts? Because that is what we say during our service of worship – to love Him with all our heart, all our souls and all our mind.

The church is a place where I should feel loved and encouraged. The church is a place where I should love and encourage others. My desire is to grow in my knowledge of and love for God the Father. This is the place where we (meaning all of us – not just a few) decide on the type of Christian environment in which we want to participate, grow and find Jesus Christ. Church should be my safe spiritual home where Jesus reaches out to me and teaches me. Where I openly provide Jesus with the opportunity to reach out to me and teach me. Where maybe Jesus has reached out to teach me using a member of the church. It must be my Christian duty to provide that member with the opportunity to fulfil God’s call. It is the encouragement and support every Christian needs to move closer to their God. To obey God’s call.

Oswald Chambers asks the question “Is the Lord Jesus Christ being abundantly satisfied by your life, or are you exhibiting a walk of spiritual pride before Him? Never let your common sense become so prominent and forceful that it pushes the Son of God to one side. Common sense is a gift that God gave to our human nature— but common sense is not the gift of His Son.”

The wonderful thing about our faith is how simple it is. Jesus Christ wants nothing more than my love and my devotion to Him. To HIM. Not to a cause. Not to a mission. Not to a ministry. Not to anything. Just Him. Just Jesus Christ Himself. The other things may very well follow if it is His will.

In Matthew 18:3-4(NLT) Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.”

It is as simple as the life and love of a little child. Humble and not self-centred. Simple love and devotion for Jesus Christ – nothing else. Unreserved.

I have invited the Son of God into my life and I assume many of you have done the same. Surely having issued that invitation my purpose is to allow Him to do His work in me. Is the simple life of Jesus Christ allowed to flow out of me? Exactly as it flowed out of Him when He was walking this earth.

John 14: “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!”

Is the Son of God given an opportunity to do His work in me and through me? Am I filled with the Holy Spirit of God? Is Jesus in me?  Do I allow the Father to be glorified through me?

You cannot do it on your own. But Jesus will do it through you so that His Father may be glorified. So that your Father may be glorified.

The question is do I allow Him into my life? Do I let Him move close enough to be one with me? Do I allow Him to work through me?   Do I actually ask Him into my life?

Do I provide the support and the love necessary to help others? Do I encourage other followers of Jesus Christ?  Do I actually ask Him how I can help others?

God always hears the prayers of His Son, and if the Son of God has been formed in me the Father will always hear my prayers. How is the Son of God formed in me? Through the Holy Spirit being in me and for me to be in the Holy Spirit and for me to be led by Him.

Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me.” —John 11:41

 

 

A Passion for Prayer

Highly advanced aliens land on the earth for a visit. The first person they see is you. As a gesture of good will to mankind they offer you a simple device which can cure illness, change the attitude of people, bring harmony and peace to your country and relieve us from the burden of sin. They give it to you and leave it with you and in your hands.

What would you do with such a powerful and simple device?

  1. Sell it to the Guptas
  2. If you are a man – take it to pieces to see how it works.
  3. Keep it to yourself – a secret
  4. Hand it over to the United Nations or the president of your country
  5. Share it with everyone and anyone who wants it to the benefit of all

Imagine the power you hold in your hands? The ability to change things for better in the world. Especially when you know it works and you have seen it in action.

Now please can I ask all of you to hold your two hands together, palm to palm, fingers pointing upwards.

Amazing! You all own one of these devices. A direct line of prayer to the God who made heaven and earth.

Karl Barth  said – To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of this world.

There is so much to be passionate about in prayer because the results are there for us all to see. How many of you here today have witnessed or been involved in praying for something and God has provided?

Do you know how often God positively answers prayer?

Prayer is not just a church ritual to make us feel better. Prayer is raw power. Prayer is access to the Almighty God.

Your prayer can obtain what otherwise will be withheld. Prayer can accomplish what otherwise remains undone. Prayer can accomplish what a willing God can accomplish. How can you not be passionate in prayer?

James 5:13-15 (The Message) Believing-prayer will heal you, and Jesus will put you on your feet. And if you’ve sinned, you’ll be forgiven—healed inside and out.

I don’t know about you but the biggest danger in my life is a casual – far too casual – approach to my communication with God. There are times when I take it for granted or just casually say something to Him. Bordering on the irreverent and even the offensive.

Over the past 3 weeks we have talked about prayer and the necessity of a right attitude – maybe that should be a righteous attitude – when talking with God. A need for openness and reverence and sincerity and directness when kneeling before the Almighty God.

What we need to remember is the miracles that do follow prayer when God listens to us and our call to Him. Whilst the aliens landing and handing over a machine is a joke the power of prayer is not a joke. It is real and most of us – if not all of us – have been witnesses to or involved in prayer that has healed the sick, healed the broken-hearted, healed the hurting, healed the angry, healed the unforgiving, healed the unwise, healed the rifts splitting peace and harmony, healed personal issues and so I can go on ad infinitum.

What is the limit to the power of prayer?

Well – what is the limit to the power of God? A loving God willing and wanting to move closer to us.

I read a quote the other day which said “Don’t tell me the sky is the limit. There are footsteps on the moon”. Well now there are man-made vehicles on Mars and other far distant planets. What is the limit for man now?

Nowhere near the limits of God – if He has any at all. How can the God who created all of the heavens and earth be limited by anything? So why should your prayer in righteousness, in reverence, directly, openly and sincerely be any problem?

The Gospel reading today illustrates the point. Jesus instructed the disciples not to tell anyone else He was the Messiah. He told them to keep the secret because at this stage they did not understand what Jesus was really all about. Many thought He was a military commander come to rid Israel of its invaders. The danger was their lack of understanding of Jesus and who He is and what He came here to do.

Sometimes we fail to understand who Jesus Christ really is and His power on earth and in the heavens. Do we really appreciate what Jesus did on earth when He walked as a man? Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Jesus Christ can do anything – cure the sick, still the seas, feed the 5 000, change water into wine and so we can go on. Furthermore Jesus made us a promise that we can do anything He did – and even greater things – if we do it in His name.

Do you honestly believe that is true?

If we do not, how can we believe in the power of prayer?

If you really believe in the Word of God and believe He died and rose again from the dead – then what is the limit of your prayers? I do not believe there is a limit.

Do we really understand God’s Word – the Holy bible – and have we understood the contents? I am not talking about reading a chapter a day – or however many you read. I am talking about really understanding and believing in the Word of God.

If we do not really understand the Word of God, how can we believe in the power of prayer?

If we use God’s Word when we pray, when we prepare to pray and in our everyday lives then we grow in our knowledge and love of God. We learn the Truth. The Truth draws us into a closer relationship with the Holy Spirit and the light which is Jesus Christ. We need them both in our lives all the time.

R A Torrey was a prolific and powerful Christian author at the turn on of the 20th century. Here’s what he said……..

“We learn to abide in Christ by feeding upon His Word, His written Word as found in the bible, and looking to the Holy Spirit to plant these words in our hearts and to make them a living thing in our hearts.

If we then let the words of Christ abide in us, they will stir us up in prayer. They will be the mould in which our prayers are shaped” and then later on he says “Triumphant prayer is almost impossible where there is neglect of the study of the Word of God.”

He also describes the prayers of George Muller who would begin by reading and meditating upon God’s Word until, out of this study of the Bible, a prayer began to form itself in his heart. A prayer led by God and His Word. How powerful is that prayer when God Himself is the author.

I cannot conclude any better than using the words of Jesus Christ printed in

John 14:15-17 (The Message Bible)

The Spirit of Truth

“If you love me, show it by doing what I’ve told you. I will talk to the Father, and he’ll provide you another Friend so that you will always have someone with you. This Friend is the Spirit of Truth. The godless world can’t take him in because it doesn’t have eyes to see him, doesn’t know what to look for. But you know him already because he has been staying with you, and will even be in you!

Amen

 

 

Man’s inhumanity

Why is it that today we attempt to isolate ourselves inside our culture, our skin colour, our way of living, our faith (or lack of it) our . . . . . . .   and so we can go on. What is it that stops us from accepting “others” or “them” as a part of our lives on this earth? Even as a part of this earth and God’s creations?

The results of this attitude can be seen daily on the news, in the media and general discussion. Hatred, bigotry, prejudice, racism, intolerance, chauvinism, bias, violence, superiority, arrogance, demands, narrow mindedness, lack of thought and so we can go on. Believe me I know about it because I have suffered these lousy attitudes in my life to a greater or lesser degree. Giving and receiving!

Is this because I am “only human” or because I am too absorbed in my personal god – me?

Is this because there is only one way to live – by my standards? Everyone else is wrong?

Is this because I do not accept the choice of “others” in the way they live their lives? They are misguided?

I am ashamed to say my answer to the questions is “yes”.

And I consider myself a Christian!

Genesis 1:27 (NKJV) So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

God created men and women in His own image. Yes they do have different roles to play but inequality is not part of God’s plan. Men and women are created equal – but not the same. The Word of God is silent on the superiority of one race over another, one sex over another, one culture over another or one anything over another. Except good over evil of course.

The Word does, however, say there is only one God.

And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil. Ephesians 4:26-27 Anger is often the result of hurt pride or jealousy.

Romans 12:9-10 (NLT). Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honouring each other.

The amazing part of my journey, the ups and the downs, is the fact God’s Word, so powerful and so filled with mental, emotional and spiritual sustenance, has not played a bigger part in my life. Perhaps it has not been allowed to play a bigger part! The Word tells me how to be free.

John 8:32. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. Once I am free in the Word I find joy and deep satisfaction in life.

Once again I am led to the faith I try to follow and believe. If I am a witness to the light and if I am showing “others” and “them” the light, am I not making this world a better place? Am I not helping to heal and restore? Am I not obedient to the commands of a God I proclaim to serve?

My God wants one thing and that is a loving and reverent relationship with me and you and “them” and the “others”. The more Jesus we have the less antipathy towards “them” and “others”.

Abraham Lincoln said “The strength of a nation lies in the homes of its people.”

Proverbs 22:6 (NKJV) Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.