Tagged: hope

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 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

Free indeed…?

17 Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. (2 Corinthians 3:17)

There’s this freedom in Jesus that I so long for. I’m certain it’s in Him. I see glimpses of it on people’s faces when we worship. When we are in His presence. When we stop caring and raise our hands, or sit still contemplating His Love or lie prostrate in surrender before the Almighty. when we can no longer “keep it together” and allow the Spirit of God to come into our hearts and lives. The freedom to discover and be who He has called us to be in Himself.

32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. (John 8:32 see end for full ref)

I long to have that freedom on a Monday morning when I step into work.

I long to have that freedom on a Monday morning when I step into work. I desire to experience that freedom on a Sunday afternoon when I’m in fellowship with my church family. I want that freedom at gatherings mixing with people from various walks of life. I yearn to walk in that freedom – even as I travel on trains and buses, making my way to some destination, having unexpected encounters with other commuters.

I think it’s a great robbery for any individual in the Church of God to imitate someone else or some idea, and forsake who God has intended for us to be in Him. To be free – that too requires faith, and could also be part of the abundant life we are promised in Jesus. At one point or another we all struggle with the question of who we are, who we aspire to be and who God is. I believe there is another level of freedom stored away in discovering answers to these questions. And John 8:32 (above) confirms this.

In the world people pursue practical, outward forms of freedom – some are justified, like freedom from discrimination or a dictatorship. But the world also campaigns for a caricature of “freedom”, a false sense of “freedom” that sends us further away from the presence of God and into further captivity. Okay so that’s in “the world”, can I suggest that in the Church some of us maybe walking around on eggshells, putting on a performance, working so hard to be who we are not called to be – whilst the person God created us to be, the purpose and desires He has for us are abandoned. Some of us have set ourselves an impossible assignment of trying to be someone else whilst the role we are called to play remains dormant and the work unfinished, until God calls someone else. Maybe this was part of the issue with Saul going above and beyond to do someone else’s job (in this case Samuel’s). Hastening to perform that which God had not instructed him to perform, and losing his God-ordained inheritance in the process.

9 So Saul said, “Bring a burnt offering and peace offerings here to me.” And he offered the burnt offering. 10 Now it happened, as soon as he had finished presenting the burnt offering, that Samuel came; and Saul went out to meet him, that he might greet him. 11 And Samuel said, “What have you done?”

(1 Samuel 13:9-11a see end for full ref)

Lately I’ve been hearing the word “freedom” in my spirit and as I desire it more and more it causes me to delight in worshipping God, because there I can have an audience of One and be free and transparent before Him. My intention here is not to point fingers, make accusations or even any assumptions, but to cause us to ponder the question. Am I free to be my authentic self?

Am I free?

I believe God calls us to His standard of godly living and righteousness, and I believe part of that standard is the freedom to be our authentic selves in Jesus. Think about Jesus’ short time spent in Gaderenes – as soon as the man who was spiritually bound, a prisoner and social outcast encountered Jesus – he was set free. But watch the reaction of the community who had seen this man wasting away, cutting himself, living a life of oppression, a life without purpose or freedom. What did they do when Jesus set him free? They asked Jesus to leave.

They asked Jesus to leave

15 Then they came to Jesus, and saw the one who had been demon-possessed and had the legion, sitting and clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. 16 And those who saw it told them how it happened to him who had been demon-possessed, and about the swine. 17 Then they began to plead with Him to depart from their region.

(Mark 5:15-17 see end for full ref)

How do I discover my ‘authentic” self – what does that even mean, especially in a “social media society” obsessed with outward appearances and false impressions. I go back to the One who made me, my Father in heaven to discover my identity and gain my freedom.

15 My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them.

(Psalm 139:15-16 see end for full ref)

Worship is so important

Which brings me back to the initial thoughts behind this post. Worship is so important. As I pour out and empty myself with a lifestyle of worship and surrendrance to God, my hope and prayer is that God sets me free from every facade preventing me from being who He has created me to be.

Have you had an experience which freed you from living a lie, where you felt loosed if you like, liberated?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this – we’re here to learn!

Passages to read and reflect on:

John 8:31-36

1 Samuel 13:1-14

Luke 13:10-17

Mark 5:1-20

Psalm 139

Are you having a pity party?

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So… I’ve been feeling sorry for myself lately.

During my primary school years – around age 9 or 10, one of the most anticipated events at the end of the school day was the ice cream man. As my mind shifted from the joy of not being the last one to be let out of the classroom (everything was a competition when I was younger lol), I could hear the chugging ice cream van parked on the other side of the leafy school fence. Most of the time I would have already spent my pocket money for that day on sweets, which I bought whilst making my way to school in the morning – golf ball chewing gums, jaw breaker fire balls, strawberry pencils – the list was endless. On those days I had no choice but to reluctantly walk past the ice cream van, envying the reception kids, who were not old enough to appreciate the flake vanilla ice cream they were allowing to melt all over the sleeves of their school uniform.

Other days I resisted the morning sweet binge in order to buy my double cone, three scoop ice cream with nuts, sprinkles and strawberry sauce on top. I had a very sweet tooth growing up. But on most days, I had done the former and therefore missed out on ice cream after school, so I felt sorry for myself. It’s not fair, if only I was like the kids whose parents picked them up from school, surely I would also enjoy this privilege. The truth is I needed to practice self discipline, sometimes it’s better we don’t get everything we want, when we want – everyday could not be “ice cream man day” because that would be bad for my health and I would also probably take it for granted – it took me a while to learn this.

Some 16 years later, as I analyse my current place in life, I still find myself grumbling “it’s not fair”. Perhaps there are aspects of your life that cause you to do the same. Why isn’t my reality like so and so’s? Why can’t everything be perfect all the time? It got to the point where I started to question God: why did You allow things to be this way? I was throwing the biggest pity party. Then I started thinking about Job and how unfair his whole experience was. Here was a guy who was so “faithful” to God, even offering sacrifices for the potential sins of his children and yet God still allowed the devil to take everything away from him! Surely he didn’t deserve that,

why would our loving, good God do such a thing?

The Holy Spirit led me to the book of Job and directed me to read the last 5 chapters and they completely shut down my pity party. If you are feeling discontent or frustrated with where you are in life or a particular ongoing situation like Job, I would encourage you to read just these five chapters – Job 38 to 42.

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The truth is our understanding of “morality”, “justice”, “good” is so warped by our sinful nature that we can never ever rightly question God. Yes you can take your questions to God like I did, but accusing God’s nature and character because you’re uncomfortable with where you are in life right now, only shows how wavering and fickle our faith in Him really is.

My mind went to sessions of praise and worship were I had heartily bellowed the song lyrics of the band Housefires’  “good good Father”. I thought to myself, am I not the same person that passionately sang these words to this same God? Why was I struggling to grasp His goodness now? The truth is God is constantly molding and shaping our faith, so that it is steady, firm and sure.

Romans 5:3-4
And not only this, but [with joy] let us exult in our sufferings and rejoice in our hardships, knowing that hardship (distress, pressure, trouble) produces patient endurance; and endurance, proven character (spiritual maturity); and proven character, hope and confident assurance [of eternal salvation].

Our faith in God should not be based solely on how comfortable He has made us, or the fact that we prayed and got what we prayed for, or the latest “good thing” that has happened in our lives. God is calling us to a faith that is based on our reverence and understanding of who He is first and foremost.

Hebrews 11:1
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

It isn’t logical, it isn’t transactional, it’s supernatural – it requires the inner work of the Holy Spirit to sustain this kind of faith, but it is possible to believe God simply because He is God – even when you’re in the storm. You’ve heard of child like faith – it’s very simple – young children believe even before they’ve seen the evidence. So things might be really challenging and discouraging for you at the moment, be encouraged things will get better. My prayer is that the Lord will enable us to wait upon Him, our hope will not be disappointed!

I Peter 5:10
But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.

May God enable us to be steadfast in our faith and confidence in Him, so that even in the valleys, the fiery furnace, the oppositions our hope will be firmly planted in Him until He comes to our aid in Jesus name amen.

Peace & Love ❤