Don’t make a plan

I was trying to work out this morning how to solve a problem that I had prayed about, when it struck me that not only must I not worry about things I’ve given to God, I must not try to make plans. I’ve heard that it says, ‘Do not worry’ 366 times in the bible, but I haven’t actually looked it up. I don’t doubt the figures at all and I try not to worry, but it just became so abundantly clear to me that instead of worrying, what I often do is try to work out a plan. We are not called to work out plans. I’ve often heard people say, “While you pray, I will make a plan.” Those plans are the plans that don’t work because they are born out of desperation and often end up making situations worse than they were to start off with. I know, because I’ve made many plans in my life. Plans to try and keep things together, plans to keep people happy, plans that have no Godly source.

A friend reminded me of Matthew 11:28 – 30 , “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” and 1 Peter 5:7, “casting all your anxieties on Him because He cares for you.” If I do what those verses say, I mean really do what they say; If we give all our cares and troubles to Jesus, why would we feel the need to keep looking for a solution? If we really trust him enough we would realize that we don’t need to make a plan. I think it comes from our culture that we have to be in charge, and we have to be responsible, and we have to take ownership and so on.

We need to really and truly learn from Jesus. When Lazarus got sick, Jesus didn’t rush to be at his side to cure him. He stayed another 2 days in the place where he was. He obviously listened to what God was telling Him to do. John 8:28, “So Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me.” If we can truly reach that point where we are able to take the Yoke of Jesus on us and give all our burdens to Him, we can live in peace. We will be able to truly believe that He does have everything under control. Just picture this, you have a really big problem, and you pray and give it to Jesus. Then you can pick up your bible, and instead of frantically looking for verses that you can memorize which will help you overcome the enemy, you can read the bible with peace in your heart. Then you can do what Matthew 6:33 says, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Maybe while you’re reading the answer to your problem will come to you. But maybe while you’re enjoying an unscheduled picnic lunch with your family, and you can because you aren’t worrying, the answer will come to you. Who knows, when you’re sound asleep, and you can be because you’re not worrying, your answer might come in a dream? There is a place for spiritual warfare and all night praying and fasting, but there’s also a place and a time to be at peace and to let the Lord fight the battles for you. Isaiah 26:3-4, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.” Philippians 4: 6-7, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

There you are. We pray and we tell God what the problem is, and then we leave it with Him, we don’t take it back, we don’t frantically run around looking for solutions, we don’t revert to plan A, B or C. We receive that peace which He is offering us and we trust Him.

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Throwing a fit

I just witnessed a little girl throw a very gentle fit because her mom refused to buy her sweets. She didn’t shout or collapse on the floor but rather turned on the taps and sobbed bitterly. I’m very proud of the mother who didn’t give in and guided her out of the shop without too much of a disturbance. I would think that this tactic has probably given her her will before, and she’s counting on it working again. We do that with God sometimes too, don’t we? We whine and beg and promise all kinds of impossible promises if He would just please give us what we think we so dearly need. If He will sort out the mess in our lives we promise to go to church every Sunday. We will read our Bibles faithfully every day if He will just provide the money we need. And so we go on.

I applaud you if you’ve never reverted to those tricks. The sad thing is the things we promise to do, and then probably don’t end up doing, even if we get what we wanted, are things that are good for us. Like promising to go to church. That’s not in God’s best interest, it’s in ours. Reading our bibles? Same thing. Being righteous or holy or whatever. We can’t turn God’s arm by trying to bribe Hm. For goodness sake, He created everything there is. Why would He suddenly say, “Okay here’s a brand new sports car for you, please go to church.” When I say it like that it even sounds totally ridiculous to me. God has no illusions about who we are and what we are and are not going to do in the future. Isaiah 46:10, “Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times that are not yet done, Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure.” God knows what we did yesterday and He knows what we are going to to next month and next year. No, we aren’t puppets who are being controlled, but it’s just that with God, time does not exist, and He can see the end of time from the beginning of time and the other way around. It’s a very hard concept to get your head around, but that’s how it is. And He doesn’t control because He gives us free choice. Deuteronomy 30:19 “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live;” Isaiah 48:18, “Oh, that you had heeded My commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river, And your righteousness like the waves of the sea.” I think those verses show us quite clearly that God doesn’t control or manipulate us. So why do we try to control and manipulate Him?

I read something (and I really can’t remember who wrote it, or I would credit him) where the father said he had bought a new blue Schwinn bicycle for his son whose birthday was still a few weeks away. He thought that his son would love the bicycle but the boy hadn’t even mentioned wanting a bike. So the father proceeded to make the son believe that a blue Schwinn bicycle was what he really wanted. He did it so well that on the morning of the boy’s birthday the father asked him what gift he wanted and he said, ‘A blue Schwinn bicycle.” The story went on to say that that’s how we should be asking God for things. We should be communicating with Him in a way that He will tell us what He has for us, instead of us asking for what we think we need. 1 Corinthians 2:9, “But as it is written, ‘Eye has not seen, not ear heard, not have entered into the heart of man, The things which god has prepared for those who love Him.’” Ephesians 3:20, “now to Him who is able to do exceedingly, abundantly above all that we ask or think…” Proverbs 4:18, “But the path of the just is like the shining sun, That shines ever brighter unto the perfect day.”

Maybe we should start trusting God’s plan. That plan that He perfected before we were even formed. The plan he made before the beginning of time. In John 17:5, Jesus prays, “And now, O Father, glorify Me together with yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.”

Let us let go of all our agendas and let God do what He does best.

The elders will pray

Because of the ridiculously long hours running a take-away shop demands, I try to take off one day a week which is a Tuesday. I don’t always succeed but I try. This Tuesday I woke up feeling so sick. It didn’t take long to realize that is was a tummy bug. The kind that leaves you feeling like a washed out rag and you wonder if you will ever return to normal. My first reaction was, “This isn’t fair, why do I have to spend my day off feeling so bad?” Obviously feeling bad for one day isn’t going to have a major influence on my life and there are many people who feel much worse than I do every day. Not that that’s what I wanted to hear or even think. I stumbled my way through the day and at least I’m starting to feel a little bit more human.

Sometimes we’re in a position of helplessness and that’s how I felt today. I didn’t have the presence of mind to even pray for myself. James 5:14, “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins he will be forgiven.” My day of sickness wasn’t serious but I think sometimes when we are sick the sickness just totally overwhelms us and we are unable to think straight. That’s when we need to call for the elders to pray for us. By elders I think we can include serious Christians whom we trust to pray for us. I read about a woman who had cancer and was just so terribly unwell. A friend of hers told her to just do whatever it was she had to do and that she would cover her with prayer. She recovered completely. How awesome to have a friend like that.

To pray for your friends is such a privilege. I often wonder if we really pray the way we say we do. There are prayer worriers who make their life’s mission prayer and they are a group of unselfish dedicated people who seldom attract much attention. They are the people who can shift atmospheres and who you can rely on come wind, rain or shine. I do think that we should pick our prayers though. We should have a clear vision of who and what we are willing to pray for. Most of us receive all these social media requests to pray. Some of them are hoaxes and have been travelling around cyberspace for years. Others are of people we have never heard of and we aren’t even sure of where and when they originated. The problem with the internet is that anyone can post anything and it may be real or it may not. Then I don’t even want to go to the posts which say things like, “If you love Jesus, type Amen.” That’s just rubbish. Surely you don’t have to prove that you love Jesus by typing a comment. Or the others that tell you if you don’t forward this post you are proving that you actually love the devil and you’ll have years of bad luck. Makes me want to scream out loud.

Let me return to what I want to say. We should decide who and what we need to pray for and do a good job with that. We obviously pray for our families and the ones who are nearest and dearest to us. We also need to pray for our church and the area we live in as well as the government. In his letters to the churches Paul says that he prays for them. Philippians 1:3-5, “I thank my God in all remembrance of you, always in every prayer for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.” And then of course we are commanded to pray for our enemies. Matthew 5:44, “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” These two prayers directly oppose one another. The one is prayer for those who are in accordance and the other for those opposed to you. I just think that it has great value to pray for those who are opposed to God because they are the ones who need prayer. I don’t want to say that people who are serving God and can pray for themselves don’t need prayer, but if you pray for your enemies and they start serving God as a result of that prayer, what a victory! At the end of the day each one of us has to decide who they are going to pray for but we should try to have a list which isn’t so long and overwhelming that we feel like giving up before we even begin. May your prayers go directly to the throne room of God and be answered.

What now?

I have two friends who have been quite ill lately. As far as I know both do not have any test results yet and thus don’t know the cause of their illnesses or the prognosis. That’s a bad way to be living, being unsure of whether you’re seriously ill or not. Being unsure of the future can be extremely stressful. Not knowing whether there’s a cure for what you have isn’t a joke at all. I am praying that both of them will be quickly healed. Nothing is impossible and God is our healer. In 1995 we were involved in a serious motor accident. My son was 3 and spent a month in the hospital. I witnessed so much heartache while I was with him in the hospital. One specific case that I remember was a 3 year old who was diagnosed with brain cancer. I saw the devastation on the faces of his young parents and his grandmother. How do you live with a diagnosis like that? How do you smile and enjoy the time you have left with your precious child?

Is there really a difference between having a doctor tell you that you might die, and just living everyday life. The difference is the way you think about it. The truth is anyone of us can be involved in a fatal accident of whatever kind at any given moment. We could walk over the street and be run over by a truck. Just like that! And then it would be the end for us. We wouldn’t have had a chance to make any preparations or say goodbye. Life is like that.  Are there special things you would like to do before you die? Lots of people have a bucket list. I must confess that I had to google ‘bucket list’ the first time I heard the term. How long are you going to wait before you make a bucket list, or how long are you going to wait until you start on your bucket list? I suppose we all have a bucket full of things we would like to do but haven’t the time or the money to get them done.

Psalm 56:8, “You number my wanderings; Put my tears in a bottle; Are they not in Your book?”  A strange verse but when you think about it I think that David is saying that God sees and remembers all our sorrow. Psalm 139:16,  “Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they are all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as et there were none of them.” Job 14:5, “Since his days are determined, The number of his months is with You; You have appointed his limits, so that he cannot pass.” These verses tell that God knows how long we are going to live. Nothing we do is going to make any difference. Worrying definitely won’t extend your lifespan. Matthew 6:27 and Luke 12:25 both say, “And which of you by being anxious can add one hour to his span of life?” So we definitely won’t worry ourselves better.

And earth isn’t our final destination anyway. Philippians 3:17-21 in the Message, “Stick with me friends, keep track of those you see running this same course, headed for this same goal. There are many out there taking other paths, choosing other goals, and trying to get you to go along with them. I’ve warned you of them many times; sadly, I’m having to do it again. All they want is easy street. They hate Christ’s Cross. But easy street is a dead-end street. Those who live there make their bellies their Gods; belches are their praise; all they can think of is their appetites. But there’s far more to life for us. We’re citizens of high heaven! We’re waiting the arrival of the Savior, the Master, Jesus Christ, who will transform our earthly bodies into glorious bodies like his own. He’s make us beautiful and whole with the same powerful skill by which he is putting everything as it should be, under and around him.

I am not trying to minimize anyone’s illness or suffering. It is real and it can be extremely painful, physically and emotionally. I also know how parents suffer when their children are sick. I just think that whatever our circumstances we should have our eyes on our final destination, which is heaven. We should try not to worry and try to put more joy into our lives. I have heard of so many people who have consciously decided not to accept a medical diagnosis which sounded like a death sentence and lived many more productive years. At the end of the day only God knows how long we will live, not the doctors. We have to put all our faith in God and live life the best way we know how.

The Battle

I’m reading a book by John Eldredge called, Walking with God, and in one chapter he tells about how a lady, who has a prophetic gifting, called him aside and told him, “The battle in your life is against your joy.” Each one of us has a battle. I think a lot of us has more than one battle, but the truth remains, there will always be a battle to overcome. Nobody’s life is just plain sailing, no matter what it looks like from the outside. The battles we fight are mostly not for the world to see. The battles we fight are in our minds, because that’s where the enemy is at work. No word comes out of our mouths if it wasn’t a thought in our mind first. Dr Caroline Leaf who is a neuroscientist has done years of practical research and she says that the thoughts we think dictate what our brains are going to look like physically. If we have negative thoughts the dendrites in our brains look like thorn trees and if we have positive thoughts they will look like trees with leaves. Obviously its much more complicated than that, that’s just my summary.

The devil has an assignment for each one of us, an assignment that doesn’t include God’s plans. An assignment for our downfall. The battle begins in our minds and the more we pay attention to what the enemy is telling us the worse the state of our minds become. It might look good for a while because that is how he is going to try to make us believe that we should follow what he is telling us. It definitely won’t stay good though. The enemy’s plans are to steal, kill and destroy you. John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” Jesus came so that we could have abundant life and with that abundant joy. John 15:11, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” Isn’t that just beautiful? Jesus wants our joy to be full. He doesn’t just want our glass half full, He wants our cup to be running over. There’s an Afrikaans Children’s song about Jesus dying for us that says, “Dit borrel in my want ek is so bly, Jesus het my lief, Dit borrel al weer, ek kan dit nie keer, ja Jesus het my lief.” It’s bubbling in me, I am so happy, Jesus loves me. It’s bubbling again, I can’t stop it, yes Jesus loves me. That is how we should be all the time. Bubbling over with the love of Jesus.

But very few of us are actually bubbling over with joy. It’s very hard to detect joy even in church. Even though we obviously allow the enemy to come and steal our joy, we often suppress it ourselves. We think things like, “I can’t even pay all my accounts, I don’t have the right to have fun. Or, I don’t spend enough time with my children because I’m working so hard to make ends meet, I can’t take time out to just enjoy life and living. What about, The economy is so bad if I don’t spend every minute in my business it’s never going to survive. Nobody is going to do the work the way I do it so I’ll just have to redo everything again.”

We don’t seem to think we are worthy of having joy in our lives. We are always working so hard to make ends meet, to please people, to live up to self imposed standards that we forget that we have been commanded to take a day of rest, and that joy is one of the fruit of the spirit. So do we really bear fruit if we don’t have joy? Is it okay to have only some of the fruit? I think they are a package deal because it says ‘fruit’ and not ‘fruits”.

We have to start recognizing the battles in our lives and start doing something about them. In which area of your life is the enemy attacking you? What does he want to steal from you? Health, finance, relationships, faith? Maybe he’s attacking your self control and patience. We know from Jeremiah 29:11 that God does have a plan for every life. Also Ephesians 2:10, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them”. Don’t let the enemy steal from you one minute longer. If you need to confess something, then confess it. If you have an addiction or habit you need to overcome, then seek help and get it behind you. If you need to spend more time in the bible and in prayer then schedule it. We can’t be giving the enemy the satisfaction of being in charge of even a little part of our lives. We have to be overcomers and we have to do it now!

No longer a slave to fear.

I was listening to the song, ”I’m no longer a slave to fear”, (written by Jonathan David Helser) – https://youtu.be/f8TkUMJtK5k – and one line particularly struck me. The words are, “You split the sea, so I could walk right through it.” They sort of just jumped right out at me. When Moses and the Israelites were camped on the beach of the Red Sea, the Egyptian armies were closing in on them. Genesis 14:9 – 10, “So the Egyptians pursued them, all the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, his horsemen and his army, and overtook them camping by the sea beside Pi Hahiroth, before Baal Zephon. And when Pharaoh drew near, the children of Israel lifted up their eyes and behold, the Egyptians marched after them. So they were very afraid, and the children of Israel cried out to the Lord.” Verse 13-14, “And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” Then the Angel of God (in the form of a pillar of cloud) went between the Egyptians and the Israelites and caused darkness on the Egyptians and light on the Israelites. This is so amazing. God’s attention to detail is magnificent. The Egyptian army is in darkness while Israel has light. Moss stretched out his hand and the sea moved back. A strong east wind caused the water to part into walls with dry land in between. The children of Israel crossed over the sea without wetting their feet. The Egyptians then followed and while they were in the middle of the sea God made the chariot wheels fall off. And God told Moses to stretch out his hand again on the other side of the sea. The waters returned to normal and the entire Egyptian army was wiped out. The Israelites even saw the dead bodies of Egyptians who had washed up on the shore.

Let’s think a bit about what happened here. The Israelites were being pursued by a mighty army and they had no means of defending themselves. They called out to God and then complained and doubted that God would help them. In spite of this, God performed and awesome miracle. The first thing that strikes me is that even though they doubted that they would be saved, God came through for them. All they had to do was go forward. That’s it! Moses had to stretch out his arm and the rest of the people had to go forward. God even said they should be still and He would fight for them. How easy is it to be still and trust God when there is great danger around you? It’s hard enough to trust God when your turmoil is internal! And the way God put the enemy in the dark and put His people in the light is just stunning. Then they go through the sea and once they are on the opposite shore He destroys the enemy. Just like that!

If God could do it for the Israelites all those years ago, will He be able to do it for us today? They were God’s chosen people. We are much more than that. We are His children if we have accepted Jesus as our savior.  John 1:12, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” We can expect God to help us out of trouble. Just like a child can expect a parent to help his out of trouble. And God didn’t just help them out of trouble, He helped them onto the next leg of their journey and then He destroyed the enemy that was coming up against them. What kind of problems and trouble can God fix? Luke 1:37 says, “For with God nothing will be impossible.” The answer is clear. God can do anything. Nothing is too difficult for Him.  2 Corinthians 5:7,  “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” It is so easy to be blinded by our circumstances. The Israelites saw the Egyptian army coming and they saw the sea in front of them. They didn’t see God’s plan. Fear was threatening to overwhelm them. God doesn’t give us the details of His plans to get us out of trouble before we are actually in the situation. Because we don’t know His plans we assume there aren’t any plans and we try to make our own plans, which either don’t work or just put us into more trouble.

God always has a plan, that’s all we need to remember. He will split the sea so we can walk right through it. We must no longer be slaves of fear because we are children of God.

 

Knowledge

There have been some very dark happenings in our community lately. There is a lot of depression. There is a lot of despair. There are people who always answer you with, “I suppose I shouldn’t complain” when you enquire about how they are. I like to put on a happy face when people ask me how I am too because I like to think positive and I believe that speaking negatively doesn’t help anyone. But tonight I’m wondering if we should always do the ‘put on a brave face’ thing. Should people think that everything is fine? Are we a society of fake people? Do we shy away from people who wear their heart on their sleeve and complain when they feel bad? Do we shun people who are negative because we see things on Facebook that say you must cut negative people out of your life. Only surround yourself with positive people because positivity rubs off on you and all that jargon.

Are we allowing social media to tell us how to live or are we going to book that the Creator of the Universe gave us and looking at what it says.

Hosea 4:6 says, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge…” Verse 12 says something that is so profound, “My people inquire of a piece of wood, and their walking staff gives them oracles. For a spirit of whoredom has led them astray, and they have left their God to play the whore.” God was speaking to the Jews. His people. Not a heathen nation. How far are we from the truth? How far do we have to look to know how far we are from the truth? We can just pick up our phones and log into social media to see exactly how far we have strayed from the truth, or rather how far we’ve always been from the truth. Do we see a pretty picture with a saying something like, “What you think, you become. What you feel, you attract. What you imagine, you create.” Nothing wrong with that is there? Sounds really great so we like it and share it. That’s a Buddha quote. What about this one? When you truly care for someone, their mistakes never change your feelings because it’s the mind that gets angry but the heart still cares.” That’s Radhekrishna. “The mind is fickle. It won’t obey you. Every time the mind misbehaves, use your discretionary intellect to bring it back to the equanimous position.” That’s apparently a Hindu quote. It sounds really great, although I can’t even figure out what it means. Either we do not use the knowledge we have of what is in the Bible, or we don’t know what is in the Bible, when we allow these seemingly innocent sayings to start corrupting our minds. We might as well be inquiring from a stick what our futures are going to be.

I believe that a big part of the problem is that there are deceiving spirits all around us who are whispering all kinds of untruths to us and we listen to them because we don’t spend enough time in the scriptures. John 8:44 says that the devil is the father of lies. 2 Corinthians 11:12 – 14, Paul is speaking about false apostles. “And what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as the we do. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deed.”

That is aimed at people who are pretending to be doing God’s work, but are misleading people. If the devil can pretend to be good how are we going to be able to know who is good and who is bed? How are we going to know which social media post is a quote from the Bible and which one comes from a different religion altogether? How are we going to know which thoughts that enter our minds come from the Holy Spirit and which ones come from evil spirits? We aren’t going to know if we aren’t actually physically reading our Bibles and acquiring the knowledge that God wants us to have. The only way you get to know the author of the Book is when you read the Book. We need to be so versed in Scripture that we can’t be deceived by the enemy. We ought to be able to uplift and encourage the one’s who are struggling instead of avoiding them. Let’s do what 1 Thessalonians 5:11 says and start living the victorious life we are supposed to have, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”

Jesus or nothing

I noticed that there are so many different people eating at our shop today. Some have takeaways and others sit at the tables to have a relaxing meal. Different people with different tastes.  I live in a country with cultural diversity. I see and communicate with people of different cultures who speak different languages daily. That’s the way it is where I live and I wouldn’t want to live any other way. I know that South Africa has many problems and there’s a lot of propaganda making things seem very confusing most of the time. There are people who emigrate and others who threaten to emigrate. There are people who speak about having separate states which would house the different cultures.

From the beginning of the Bible people of the same culture couldn’t get along. Cain and Abel were the first brothers – ever – and Cain murdered Abel. Jacob and Esau were twins and they had a huge problem with birthrights and blessings. Jacob had to flee because Esau wanted to kill him. Luckily they eventually made peace with each other. Joseph’s brothers wanted to kill him because he was his father’s favorite and they were getting sick and tired of all the dreams he was having about them bowing down to him. Fortunately for them they settled on selling him as a slave and he ended up saving the whole family when there was a famine. I don’t even want to get started on Moses and God’s people in the desert. That was a story of epic proportions. They just could not agree on anything. Even when God did  miracles like part the sea for them to pass through and then drown  the entire Egyptian army in that same sea, they still doubted and couldn’t just be happy following Moses. Around and around and around they went in the desert for forty years until God eventually allowed them to enter the promised land.

Then of course different cultural groups lived apart and were constantly at war with each other. Think of Israel in the time of King Saul and David who were at war with the Philistines. They were two different cultural groups. Obviously the Israelites were God’s chosen people. But even among themselves there were a lot of problems and when Saul became jealous of David he went all out to try and kill him. After Saul died and David became king, David’s son Absalom with a whole army went after David and trying to kill him. What a mess! And they were all Israelites!

It seems that the times when the Jews were in exile in other countries were the times when they actually didn’t fight as much with each other. Eventually in 1948 Israel once again became a homeland to the Jews and now of course there are terrible differences between the Jews and Palestinians but that’s another story altogether.

Why can’t we all live together and accept each other’s differences instead of being seeing the differences as obstacles. If we do what Jesus told us to do we will be able to live together. Matthew 28:19 – 20, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo I will be with you always, even to the end of the age.” Acts 1:8, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you: and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all of Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Why don’t the people who say they are Christians just do what Jesus told them to do instead of fighting over differences in doctrines of different churches. Why don’t we all just embrace the teachings of Jesus and get over ourselves and our insecurities. We shouldn’t be worried about what people are going to say about us or think about us. We have to decide whether we are going to serve God with everything we have or if we’re not going to. There’s only one way, there’s no such thing as soft religion. You are either going to be a Jesus freak or nothing. Revelation 3:16 says, “So then, because you are lukewarm and neither cold not hot, I will vomit you out of my mouth.”

Let us work at putting our differences aside and let us go all out and follow the Messiah!

IOU

We invited a couple we’ve been friends with for ages to braai with us. That’s a South African barbecue. We had a very nice evening and when they left the wife said, “Now we owe you a braai.” My mind stopped working for a few seconds. I know that this is the way people think but it really shouldn’t be that way. Why do we always think that if someone does something for us we owe them something in return? And then sometimes we see the “pay it forward” campaigns. It’s a great idea, it has awesome consequences, but why should it be necessary? Should people really have received something in order for them to do (or give) something nice to someone else? I’ve even seen ‘random acts of kindness’ days, or weeks. Why should there be time set aside for being kind to strangers? Haven’t we progressed beyond the Good Samaritan? Can’t we just do things for others and not expect anything in return. Even more, can’t we allow others to do things for us without feeling guilty about repaying them? We probably have to learn to receive more than we need to learn to give. Some of us even have a hard time accepting compliments.

The Bible teaches all about receiving.

Matthew 13:23, “But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what he has sown.”

Acts 2:4, “Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about 3000 were added to their number that day.”

1 Thessalonians 2:13, “And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God.”

Matthew 10:40, “He who receives you receives me, and he who received me receives the one who sent me.”

John 1:12, “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”

The greatest gift that anyone could ever receive is salvation. To accept Jesus into their heart and have a living relationship with Him. To have the assurance that they will not perish but have eternal life. There’s nothing that can ever match up to this. Ever. God doesn’t ask for anything in exchange for eternal life. He doesn’t lay down 1000 rules we have to follow every day. He doesn’t put guilt onto us for not doing everything the way we think it ought to be done, but can’t live up to. And when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, He even gives us the Holy Spirit. Free of charge. No cost. Then the Holy Spirit gives us gifts. The gifts of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:4-11), and the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 6:22-23). And He doesn’t ask us for payment of any kind. These are free. Nothing we can ever do can repay Christ for dying for us on the cross.

Look at what Jesus says to the Samaritan woman at the well. John 4:10, “Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ then you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.””

and verse 13-14, “Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”’

Jesus never asked for anything in return for healing anyone either. He didn’t charge people to perform a miracle for them. He even changed water into wine at no cost. He could have had quite a lucrative business there!

There is nothing you or I could ever do to repay Jesus for dying on the cross for our sins. Nothing. Not one single deed would warrant payment for what He did for us. How can you ever repay someone for dying for you, for giving everything for you? We have received so much. And we are being blessed and protected every day. Let us give without expecting anything in return and let us learn to receive graciously without feeling guilty and trying to repay.

Choices – Living purposefully

I was driving and listening to a gospel CD. There’s a song called Outrageous Grace, by Robin Mark and the first verse is:

There’s a lot of pain but a lot more healings

There’s a lot of trouble but a lot more peace

There’s a lot of hate but a lot more loving

There’s a lot of sin but a lot more grace.

The chorus says: Oh outrageous grace, Love unfurled by heaven’s hand,

Oh outrageous grace, Through my Jesus I can stand.

 

These words are so touching and so comforting. They are also about choices. We can choose how we want to live. Life is about choices. We choose daily between getting up or staying in bed, having cereal or eggs for breakfast, driving to work or taking a bus. The last one is wishful thinking on my part. Our town is so small, I would choose between driving or walking. But you get where this is going. We have to choose all the time. We should be more aware that we are making choices and not just being swept by the tide of life. We have to think clearly and positively. Philippians 4;8 truly has become my favorite verse. “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” And next to it, Romans 12:2, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

We have to be so aware of what enters our minds all the time. How do we handle stress? Do we sit and worry about it or do we give it to Jesus like we should? Have you realized that sometimes you’re in a stressful situation and you pray and carry on with your life. One day you realize that the situation has been resolved but not at all in the way you thought it would be. Looking back you sometimes can’t even figure out how it all worked out. it seems like some situations can be solved without your intervention. We love to think that things can only be solved the way we want them to be solved. We manipulate and struggle and stress but we forget that we are not God.

The song says ‘there’s a lot of pain but a lot more healings.” The main thing that has to be healed is our minds and the way we think. We need to pay more attention to our thoughts. If we do that we aren’t going to hurt those we love. We aren’t going to drive away well-meaning friends by putting up walls around our hearts. We are going to have to learn to trust God with our problems while we can sit back and think good thoughts. Just imagine this, you have a big problem. It’s been weighing you down and you have no peace of mind. You can’t sleep at night and you can’t imagine that this problem will ever be solved. You’ve considered going to a psychiatrist but you don’t actually have the cash. Spending money you don’t have is only going to make your problem worse anyway. You are at the end of your wits so you decide to take God at His word and try to apply what the bible says. You see that you can be transformed by the renewing of your mind. So you cast all your burdens on Jesus. Matthew 6:25, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat of what you will drink; not about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?” Now you’ve given all your worries to God and you sit down in your armchair, relax and start thinking good thoughts. You find that you can relax totally and soon get sleepy. You go to bed and fall fast asleep. You sleep for a solid 8 hours and awake the next morning feeling like a brand new person. You can’t believe how good you feel. You see everything through new eyes even though nothing has changed. You keep this up for a few days and suddenly, because you have changed the way you think, you see what the solution to your problems is. I know this sounds very simplistic, but I urge you to try it. Try taking God at His word. Try savoring His outrageous grace and start living your life purposefully.