The unpopular subject we’re all talking about

This year, more than any in recent history, we’ve been confronted by the mortality of man on a global scale. It has been emotionally exhausting at times getting daily updates of how many lives were lost the day before; and yet it has forced many of us to reflect on death and eternity. A few weeks ago the much-loved and respected apologist Ravi Zacharias passed away.

During the months leading to Ravi’s  passing, a social media campaign #ThankyouRavi gained momentum, as people shared their appreciation for Ravi’s ministry, dedication to defending the Gospel and discipiling others to do the same. I could understand the sentiment, but I felt like people were already saying goodbye to Ravi (he was still with us) and it made me feel uncomfortable.

Death makes all of us feel uncomfortable. The last few months of the Covid-19 outbreak have confirmed the tragedy associated with death. There were times during these past weeks  where it felt unending, but as lock down restrictions are beginning to lift, here we are coming out on the other side in Jesus name.

Whenever I read through the book of Acts and the Gospels, my heart sinks everytime I read about disciples being martyred. No matter how many times I read through the Gospels, there is always a minute part of me desperate for Pilate to reject the Jews unlawful and unjust sentencing of Jesus to death. Within myself I murmur Pilate stand your ground don’t let them do this, their making a mistake, He is the King of the Jews. But the reality is regardless of how “nice” or “noble” my internal petitions may sound, it would mean no crucifixion, no resurrection and that would mean no salvation for us today.  Jesus Christ had to die.

In Sarah Davis’ tribute to her father Ravi Zacharias on the RZIM website Sarah said something that really made me stop and think.

 

“My father is more alive than ever before”

I had to ponder on this statement for a while. Then suddenly I started to grasp what the Apostle Paul was saying in 1 Corinthians 15:55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?

Sarah’s loving tribute to her father reminded me of the ultimate hope of every follower of Christ. As Paul rightly points out in 1 Corinthians 15:19 the Christian’s hope is not to live forever on this earth. We are not pursuing immortality in a finite world. But instead our hope is to fulfil God’s call for our lives here on earth, and ultimately inherit eternal life with Him in heaven.

Sometimes I wrestle with difficult questions when someone dies, whether they’re high-profile or not. “Why God, why did You allow this person to die? What about those left behind? Couldn’t You have spared their life?” I’ve never received a direct response to these questions. But when my grief becomes to heavy to bear , and drives me to the presence Of God – then I see Jesus and I’m comforted. I’m reminded that death is not the end, nor is it tragic for the believer. Because what awaits us is incomparable to what we see now. 1 Corinthian 13:12

I’m not trying to trivialise death. It is devastating. Death is horrible, especially if preceded by suffering, sickness or injustice. Even now there are many mourning loved ones lost during the outbreak, and they deserve to be comforted and supported through their grief. But let’s also remember that death is not the end, and for every believer in Jesus Christ – life, abundant – indescribable in comparison to the standards of this world, is only just beginning.

So here is a challenging thought, perhaps this taboo topic of death, may be a path way into a discussion about life, eternity, salvation and God’s redeeming love. This also is Good News.

Lord we bring before you every person heart broken and grieved by the loss of a loved one. We bring before you Lord every person who feels the loss is unbearable. We pray that You minister Your peace to every heart, we ask You to carry them in their weariness, and envelop them with your presence, to comfort and renew them in Jesus name amen.

Are you ready for revival

If someone asked you “who is Jesus?”, what would you say?

I’m currently reading the book of Acts and I’m fascinated by how often the Apostles and followers of Jesus had to tell people who Jesus is. Notice I said “is” and not “was”.

It could be argued that because this was the early church and so close, time wise to Jesus’s life on earth, his notoriety was only beginning to spread, so in a very literal sense people didn’t “know” of this Jesus. There’s an example of this when the Ethopian Eunuch during a pilgrimage to Jerusalem asks Philip who a passage in the book of Isaiah is referring to – we’ll come back to that later.

It could also be argued that because we, especially those in the west are living in an age and culture where Christianity is widely recognisable – even if it’s not necessarily understood, we wrongly assume that everyone knows who Jesus is. A society built on a Christian foundation, but numbed by secularisation. We have church buildings everywhere, some are even tourist attractions, various public holidays and most schools teaching about Christianity at least up to secondary education.

But this cultural assimilation of the Christian faith has cause many of us in the Church to fall asleep, and become complacent with the message of the Gospel. We don’t carry it with fire in our belly, instead it’s like a clubcard; you might pull out during a trip to the supermarket for some points, which confirms you as a “loyal customer”. But once you’ve completed your transaction, you put it away conveniently in your purse or wallet, and return to the throes of life like everyone else.

At this time many of us are praying for revival. We are so desperate for the restoration of the righteousness of God and His healing in our land.
The world is getting darker and darker – evil and immorality are rife.
Yet as I thought about revival whilst reflecting on the book of Acts, I heard the Holy Spirit say:

how would you describe Jesus to someone?

If there arose a national hunger to know who Jesus is, even an international hunger – people seeking for The Truth – if revival started, what would you be saying about Jesus?

In Acts 2:14-40 Peter refered to old testament king David prophesying of his Lord to come – Jesus the Messiah. In Acts 3:12-26 after they healed the man at the beautiful gate of the temple, Peter reminded the Jewish people of God’s covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and explained how it related to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In Acts 7 Stephen testified of Jesus. He gave a very detailed account of who Jesus is, before the court which provoked them to kill him. In Acts 8:29 – 39 Philip witnessed to the Ethiopian Eunuch, which led the Eunuch to ask to be baptised in Jesus’ name. Paul who was once Saul shortly after his dramatic conversion went to the synagogue in Acts 9:20 and declared Jesus as the Son of God, which led the Jews to plot his death. Peter again in an act of obedience honoured an invitation from the Centurion Cornelius in Acts 10:34 and as Peter told him and his household about Jesus, the power of the Holy Spirit fell on them and they were baptised in the name of Jesus.

This continued as God built His church and thousands were saved and the Gospel spread far and wide, even amidst persecutions, in a context that recognised Christianity but didn’t understand it.
We want to see it again, the Gospel like a wild fire spreading across our cities and nations – untameable and undefiled.
But I ask the question:

are you ready for revival?

Are you prepared to share the Gospel? Can you tell people why you’re a believer of Jesus Christ? What is your testimony?

It’s not that scary a question, the Holy Spirit has been sent to bring to our remembrance what we know and believe about Jesus Christ the Son of God, as He told his disciples in John 14:26. Jesus also said the Holy Spirit will tell us what to say when we are called to give account for our faith Luke 12:11-12

This post isn’t intended to undermine or judge anyone’s faith in Jesus Christ, but to encourage us to draw closer to God in preparation to do what the Apostles and followers of Christ did all those years ago.

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:
1 Peter 3:15

Lord Jesus, I want to be ready to share the hope that I have in You with boldness and wisdom. Help me to have such intimate fellowship with Your Holy Spirit and Your Word – to truly know You and abide continuously in Your presence – so that I will be a faithful witness of The Gospel, in Jesus name.

A physical cure for a spiritual problem

From the very beginning, we have been trying to remedy our spiritual nakedness with physical solutions, which no matter how creative and “symbolic” – will always be inadequate.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
Genesis 1:27
And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
Genesis 2:7

When God created Adam and Eve, He filled them with His “breath of life” (Gen 2:7), created them in His own image (Gen 1:27). So then they carried His Holy Spirit literally, and therefore did not need redemption since there was no sin on earth.

I’ve always read these early passages in Genesis with a western lens. I was thinking about Adam and Eve’s nakedness, and asking – why did they hide from God after the fall? My answer had always been, they hid because they were naked… duh!

Then I thought about the indigenous tribes still littered all around the world today. Despite all man’s “advancements”, these pockets of communities still choose to wear little or no clothing, without any shame. So in some cultures physical nakedness doesn’t necessarily equate to shame. Genesis 2:25 reads “And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed”. So Adam and Eve were aware of their nakedness. But after sin, their nakedness brought them shame, before the One who created them.

Could it be that Adam and Eve’s nakedness wasn’t just physical?

Could it be, after the fall, for the first time Adam and Eve became conscious/aware of their spiritual poverty. God’s covering of holiness had been removed after they ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Now they knew good, but they also knew evil.

For the first time, they were spiritually naked, exposed and confronted by their sinful humanity.

God is holy in His very nature, He embodies holiness, He is the definition of holy. His free fellowship with Adam and Eve was because they were made in His image. So they were able to communed together, in unlimited intimacy because they carried His Spirit and were sanctified by Him. (It’s the reason why today when we are born again by His Spirit, we can grow in intimacy with God).

But after eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, that covering of holiness – the constant indwelling of God’s Holy Spirit departed from them, and they became spiritually naked.

Then the eyes of the two of them were opened [that is, their awareness increased], and they knew that they were naked; and they fastened fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.
Genesis 3:7 (AMP)

They quickly discovered that their new state of spiritual vulnerability needed a remedy. Just like in the world today. We have journeyed through the age of enlightenment, the information age and now we are in the digital age where knowledge is at our finger tips – literally. We know so much, but to know doesn’t mean we can cure. So they sought their own inadequate “fix” of fig leaves – a physical cure for a spiritual problem, just as we still make attempts to do today. From the very beginning, we have been trying to remedy our spiritual nakedness with physical solutions, which no matter how creative and “symbolic” – will always be inadequate.

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool [afternoon breeze] of the day, so the man and his wife hid and kept themselves hidden from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.
But the Lord God called to Adam, and said to him, “Where are you?” He said, “I heard the sound of You [walking] in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.”
God said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten [fruit] from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”
Genesis 3:8‭-‬11 (AMP)

In the old testament only the appointed High priest could enter the Holy of Holies, within the tabernacle – once a year on the day of atonement. They would have to sanctify themselves in preparation, because if the priest was not as “sanctified” as he thought, he was in no position to appear before God to make appeal on behalf of the children of Israel and he would die. The presence of God’s holiness would not condone even the High priest’s sin. See
Exodus 28:33‭-‬35

So Adam and Eve hid from God’s holy presence. Because indeed as God said, the day you eat of the tree you shall surely die (Gen 2:16-17). Man could not be in God’s presence again as in Eden. The nature of sin made it impossible for them to remain where God’s presence freely visited.

Think about a new born baby. Pure, innocent, but as he or she grows, that childlike innocence is relinquished to human lusts – and suddenly we “see”, but our seeing only condemns us the more.

But the beauty for God’s love for us is that Just as God came looking for Adam and Eve in the garden – He has never stopped pursuing that restored communion and friendship with us.

Thank God Almighty for Jesus Christ the great Redeemer, who is able to purge our sins and stand as our righteousness before God.

We all share that same spiritual nakedness with Adam and Eve, and the desire to be covered; but only God’s love revealed in Jesus Christ, can adequately clothe us again.

To quote the chorus from a song which gets me excited everytime I hear it.

“Only Christ can truly satisfy”.

Are you ready to be naked?

He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.
Isaiah 40:29

Sometimes our determination to appear strong and resilient, slows down our deliverance.

I’m not encouraging victimhood, but transparency before God. Some of us have even made “faith” a barrier between us and God.

“I’m “believing” God”

“He will do it in His time”

– which at times, are not expressions of true faith in God, but simply caveats for inaction, prideful complacency and ignorance posing as faith. Preventing us from being real before the one who knows the fabric of our souls.

So what does all this have to do with getting naked? In the garden of eden, when God created Adam and Eve, He made them naked, and they seem to be unfazed by this. But after they sinned and their eyes were “open” , they hid from God, in their most vulnerable state. They didn’t consider that God was accustomed to their nakedness, but instead they hid from Him.

Adam and Eve’s nakedness wasn’t the issue, their naked, exposed physical form wasn’t what separated them from God. But their reluctance to be naked, vulnerable, transparent, before God – that separated them from Him.

Ask, where in my life am I trying to present the “best” version of myself to You (God), when You can see every crack, fracture, bulge and brokenness?

My weaknesses, my weariness cannot separate me from God, but my false pretences can.

David was the second king of Israel, chosen by God and yet he made numerous mistakes. He impregnated another man’s wife, committed murder, sending Uriah to his death on the battlefield. He was greatly bereaved, losing a child days after birth, and he suffered ongoing conflict within his own immediate family. But flaws and all, David was always quick to appear naked before God. Whether in his praise or repentance.

In 2 Samuel 6:14 -23 we see this demonstrated. David’s response to the comments made by his wife Michal, further emphasises this point:

20 When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, going around half-naked in full view of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!”

21 David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the Lord.

22 I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.”

2 Samuel 6:20 – 22 (NIV)

 

I like the term undignified – ask, how undignified is my praise, my worship, my surrenderance, my prayer before God? Many of us have become too good at “keeping it together”, that we cannot be broken before God – so He cannot heal us.

If you are familiar with the story of Hannah from 1 Samuel – you’ll recall how her petitions for a child made her appear unhinged in the house of God. To the extent that the priest Eli asked her, isn’t it too early for you to be drunk?

Imagine if it was this day and age, how many of us have the desperation of Hannah within us, and yet we are making “pretty” prayers before God and man. Jesus clearly says in Luke 4:16 -21 He came to set the captives free.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,
Luke 4:18

In Luke 5:31 He rightly said that those who are “whole” do not need a physician, but they who are sick. The truth is that none of us are whole, but only some of us are willing to acknowledge this before God, so only some of us experience the fullness of His grace.

Make up your mind today, and every day here on, to be completely naked before God and He will be your covering. He will clothe you with His grace. He will shelter you from the elements of this life – if you acknowledge your vulnerability. As Paul said “When I am weak, the I am strong”.

Teach us how Lord in Jesus name.

9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
2 Corinthians 12:9 – 10

Love is… NOT poetry

Roses may be red and violets blue but Love is… NOT poetry

My Dad’s wedding gift to us was a simple assignment. Read 1 Corinthians 13. Of course we were both already familiar with this passage, and studied it together during our courtship.

I remember us attempting this whlist in the first days of our newlywed high – with the best intentions, it seemed like the easiest task. Piece. Of. Cake.

But, I can safely say three years later – actually being married takes the words of 1 Cor 13 from “nice ” to NECESSARY!

When I heard this scripture at weddings it sounded “nice”, I would day dream about having this love one day. But now within a marriage I’m learning…

Love is not poetry, though it can be inspiring, beautiful and poetic

Love isn’t a fuzzy feeling

Love usually isn’t getting ‘your way’ by any means

Love doesn’t do the bear minimum

Love goes above and beyond

Love isn’t fleeting and thrill seeking

Love isn’t always social media friendly or retweetable, or likeable

Love has no filter and no hiding place

Love doesn’t play games

Love doesn’t have a plan B

You can’t “fall out of love” because you didn’t “fall” in to it

Love is a choice

Love is usually not the popular choice, but the best choice.

God is Love

God is Love, and if you truly believe this as a Christian it will transform your approach to loving your spouse, a sibling, colleague or stranger.

As I encourage you to (re)visit 1 Corinthians 13 today, I ask – can YOU love like this?

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.
And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;
does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;
bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails.
But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.
I Corinthians 13:1‭-‬8 NKJV