The joy of the Lord

A customer came into our shop last night who was so friendly. He asked how we were and was smiling and just being generally happy. It struck me that people who are like that, attract people. It is like the saying about catching more flies with honey than with vinegar. How often don’t we see other Christians who are really sullen and sometimes even seem to be depressed. Why would this be?

Nehemiah 8:10, Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.

Jerusalem had been conquered and many of the people had been carried away to Babylon. Most of the middle and upper class people were taken to Babylon and only the poor people remained. Nehemiah was one of the exiled Jews and was the cupbearer for the king of Persia. He heard that the wall of Jerusalem were broken and could not function because of grief. The king gave him a leave of absence in order to rebuild the walls. There was quite some opposition but eventually the walls were repaired and rebuilt. Ezra read the law and the people realized the weight of their guilt and started weeping. In the next verse the Levites say, ”Be still, for the day is holy; do not be grieved.”

Nehemiah 9:17 (b), But You are God, ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abundant in kindness, and did not forsake them.

This was about the Israelites in the desert. Even though they were really disobedient, God forgave them.

Let us look at this from another angle. Every one of us is like or has been like Jerusalem with her walls broken down, and that is really the best way to be so that God can build us up again. When our walls are broken down we are vulnerable. We can’t defend our hearts anymore. We can’t pretend anymore. We have reached the point where we are at the mercy of whoever we choose to trust. If Jerusalem was a person she would be trusting Nehemiah to rebuild her walls strongly and solidly. We need to choose the right one to rebuild our walls. How many times haven’t we heard about people coming out of a broken relationship and then entering another one and it ends badly and they are left even more broken than before. We need to call out to Jesus at this point and just give ourselves and our brokenness completely to Him. It doesn’t matter what we have done and where we have been, God wipes the slate clean and allows us to start over as many times as we need. We need to keep giving ourselves to Jesus. I know a Christian who says that he will walk alongside anyone who tries. It’s all about our hearts. God looks at the intentions of our hearts. He doesn’t judge us the way the world judges us.

The Levites said, “be still, for the day is holy.” The day that we give our broken selves to God for Him to rebuild our walls is a holy day. It is also a day of rejoicing because it is the beginning of our recovery. We can be broken for so many reasons, but God doesn’t judge us on what is behind us, He knows the future and He has determined our futures. We have good futures.

Jeremiah 29:11, For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

God knows that if we allow Him to rebuild our walls they are going to be beautiful and strong and solid. He is going to use the scars and in the places where those scars are we are going to be stronger than ever. Those trials we went through are going to be our strengths and we are going to be able to do as Habakkuk says and “Walk on our high hills”. We are going to triumph above our circumstances.

Whatever the reason there are Christians who look depressed, God is able and He can change even the most desperate circumstances. He is the only one who can change your mourning into dancing and exchange your robes of heaviness for a garment of praise.

 

You don’t get old

Last Sunday in our church a gentleman delivered a word from God. He said that the older people shouldn’t think that their time has passed, they still have a very important role to play in the church. It was so encouraging because I have often heard older people say that they used to do this and that, but they are too old now. I don’t think we can ever get to old to work for God or to play a role in spiritual matters. It is our bodies that get old, not our souls. I still feel very young and I’m quite certain I’ve passed the halfway mark of my years on earth, and I don’t feel at all old. My body can’t do everything it used to when I was 20 or 30 but on the inside, in the place that matters, I do not feel like I’m wearing out at all. When our bodies die, which they will, our souls live on.

Dr Michelle Strydom writes the following in her book, Healing comes through sanctification of the heart:

The brain is the only organ in the body that doesn’t age… it matures. You can use your amazing brain to help your body heal as well as prevent disease in your life. With correct use your brain should become more and more efficient as you become older. However, if you don’t use your brain you will not improve as you age, which is unnatural. You brain is designed in such a way that it naturally becomes more brilliant the more you use it.

People should not believe that their intellect and their usefulness is going to diminish as they get older. Except for wisdom we also have unlimited potential to improve our mental capacity and to play a very useful part in the body of Christ. The older we become the more valuable our contribution to the church should be. We should be soaked in the Holy Spirit, versed in Scripture and have the wisdom of years of walking with Jesus. We should not for one minute think that we should be handing over the reins to younger people. Just think about what happens when we die. We are going to heaven and the part of us that goes to heaven is our soul and our spirit. Are we going to sit around heaven in our new regenerated bodies with old souls that have forgotten the joy of our salvation? I don’t think so!

Each and every person has a place in the body of Christ.

1 Corinthians 12:7-31, Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way.

There is a place for each and every person in the church. The place isn’t one of taking a back seat or being a pew warmer. It is a place that adds value to the rest of the members. Each person has gifts and the gifts are without repentance.

Romans 11:29, For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.

If your gift was prophecy in 1972, then it is still going to be the same in 2019. You might have some added gifts, but God doesn’t take away or recall gifts that you have been given. You are going to have to start using those gifts again if you let them stagnate. Dust off the cobwebs and get excited about being a child of the living God!

Testimonies

Today a friend and I were sharing some personal experiences. Things we wouldn’t normally discuss with people. The kind of things that hurt us as children and had consequences into adulthood. Things that God has delivered and healed us of. We all need that kind of kind friend who can keep confidences. We need to be able to unburden our souls to another human being at times, but not only to feel better about ourselves, also to help others.

Acts 14:3, Therefore they stayed there a long time, speaking boldly in the Lord, who was bearing witness to the word of His grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands.

When we overcome the bad things in our life with the help of Jesus, we owe it to our fellow believers, and non-believers to tell about it. We have to share what God does in our lives because that is the best way to prove to people that there is power in being a Christian.  If I tell someone a story I heard from someone else it will mean something, but if I tell about something that I experienced personally, it is a completely different story. I can tell it with conviction and I know all the details. You will hear the story with all the emotion that I felt when I experienced it.

Revelation 12:11, And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.

This is how powerful our testimonies about the power of Jesus is. Our testimonies are able to overcome the devil. A testimony gives people the courage to face their fears. It’s something like, “if it can happen to her, why can’t it happen to me?” “If God can heal her, why can’t God heal me?” “If he can be delivered from an addiction, why can’t I be?” You get it? Seeing and hearing things first hand are so much more reliable than a second hand story.

Everyone has a story. Every one of us has been through tough times and we all have the scars to show for it. Tough times are tough and mostly they hurt. A lot. But if we persevere and hold onto God and remember His promises through those tough times, we will come out the other side with a lot more character and faith.

James 1:2-4, My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

We have all been through various trials. I want to emphasize ‘various trials’. We don’t just go through one kind of trouble in our lives. We go through all kinds of tests that we have to overcome. It feels like when there’s a test we have to pass that test before we can go on to the next one. And I think we all feel that sometimes we just need a break from tests so that we can have a breather.

We just have to remember that there is value in troubles. God doesn’t bring troubles on us, they are mostly the consequences of reckless decisions, but our reactions, the positive way we handle these situations are what builds our character and our faith.

Job 34:12, Surely God will never do wickedly, Nor will the Almighty pervert justice.

John 12:31-32, Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself

The devil is the enemy and the way we overcome him is the way we overcome our troubles victoriously. We need to get our stories of victory out there. We need to share with our friends and acquaintances what God has done for us and is doing for us. Let’s start today and be a living testimony of the goodness of our Lord and Saviour.

God in a box

I met someone who claims to know when Jesus is coming back, or rather he claims to know when judgement day will be. He tried to convince me that what he was saying was the truth according to the Word, but I couldn’t really follow his train of conviction. It seemed that his main thought was that God doesn’t speak to people anymore and that everything that God did in the New Testament was everything that God did. According to him people must not claim to have heard from God in a dream because that’s nonsense and God has already said everything that He wanted to say. He says that if anyone wants to know anything at all it is in the Bible. I do agree that the Bible has all our answers but I cannot agree that God doesn’t communicate directly with us. Firstly because I have specifically had dreams which I truly believe to be from God, and secondly, why would Jesus be alive and why would He have left us with the Holy Spirit if the only communication that was going to take place would be through Scripture?

Why would Jesus say that we would know His voice?

John 10:4 And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.

John 18:37 Pilate therefore said to Him, “Are You a king then?” Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.”

Revelation 3:20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with me.

Just look at the piece in Acts 9: 10 -15 where God speaks to him in a vision and tells him to go to a specific address so that he can pray for Paul. In Acts 16:9 – 15 Paul has a dream of a Macedonian standing of the far shore of the sea telling him to come over the sea to help them.

Ephesians 4:11-12  And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,

1 Corinthians 12:7 – 10 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given to each for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.

There is no cut-off date in the Bible where God says, at this time dreams, visions and communications are going to stop and from this time on you have to find all communications in scripture.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am never going to say that God speaking directly to people in whatever form can replace the Word. And anything that anyone hears from God, in whatever form, should be tested against scripture. If we don’t do that there is the danger of making up our own doctrines and that would not be good, not good at all. We also cannot add anything to the Bible. Say, for instance, God tells you to go outside at midnight and He shows you how beautiful the stars are to illustrate His majesty to you. That is personal and you can share it with people, but you cannot make a rule out of it saying that now everyone has to go outside at midnight and look at the stars in order to realize how great God is.

Isaiah 43:19 Behold, I will do a new thing, Now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

Luke 1:37 For nothing will be impossible with God.

We should hold on to what we believe and what we read in the Word and we should never, never ever try to put God in a box or limit Him.

Coffee and Unity

I got to church on Sunday just as the service began. My spirit was too low to praise and sadness surrounded me. I was there for about two minutes when I realized I couldn’t stay. My state of mind was clear to see and people with the very best intentions would either ignore e, or surround me with love and compassion, and I wasn’t open to accepting either in a group situation. When I got to the front door, a friend walked in who was even later than me. She hugged me and asked if  I was all right. My tears started to flow and she suggested that we go and sit in her car. We spoke for a while and I felt better. I told her that I would not be going back to church and she suggested that we go for coffee. It was the best thing that could have happened to me. God’s timing in impeccable. We spoke about spiritual matters and our children and work and the weather. It was glorious. It was exactly what I needed.

Ephesians 4:1 – 6, “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”

How are we ever going to live in unity if we don’t get to communicate on a personal level if we don’t interact on a personal level. We will never get to know anyone’s heart if we don’t connect with them in a way that we can actually hear what the desires of their hearts are. That is not something that’s going to happen in a church service. A small group or cell group is going to take us closer, but there’s nothing like one on one conversation over a cup of coffee.

Jesus didn’t just walk around preaching and multiplying loaves and fish, He shared many meals with people. I’m sure if coffee was around at that time, Jesus would have told parables over bottomless cappuccino.

Luke 19:1 – 10 tell of how Jesus invites himself to Zacchaeus’s house for a meal. The result was miraculous. Zaccaeus repented of his devious dealings and gave half his good to the poor.

In Luke 10:38 – 42 Jesus has a meal at the house of Mary and Martha and Martha complains bitterly that she has to slave away in the kitchen while her sister sits at the feet of Jesus.

When Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law in Matthew 8:14-15, she got up and started serving them.

Matthew chapter 22 tell of the preparations for the Passover meal which became the basis of Communion as we know it today. A group of friends having a meal and discussing the imminent fate of their Master became known as the Last Supper. A simple meal shared between them was set down as one of the auspicious occasions in history. The meal where Jesus announced that He knew who would betray Him; a meal where the disciples argued about who was the greatest; a meal where Jesus predicted Peter’s denial and His own death. This happened around a table, over a meal, not in a synagogue or a church with dramatic organ music or drums rolls stirring up the atmosphere.

I am not saying you shouldn’t go to church. Not at all. Church has a place in our lives, a very important place. It is the place where we worship and celebrate Christ’s love with other believers and should not be neglected. But coffee is what fellowship is all about. This is where we get down to grassroots.

So have coffee or have tea or juice or cheesecake with a friend and fellowship and get to know each other’s hearts as well as God’s heart.

Healed – or not.

I read something today that made so much sense to me. It was in the book, ‘Healing comes by Sanctification’ by Dr Michelle Strydom. It came down to that more non-believers get miraculous healing than believers do. Just think about the prayer lines in churches on a Sunday. How many people actually get healed? How many people get healed at a crusade in Africa where no one has even heard about Jesus? Lots! Blind eyes are opened, the deaf hear, the lame walk. We have all heard the testimonies and seen videos. So why would God choose to heal people who don’t honor Him and who haven’t accepted Jesus as their savior? But people who have been serving Him for years and go to church every Sunday still have multiple medical issues? Just think about it this way: If you’ve never heard the Gospel, never been given the chance to follow Jesus, then some guy from a far away country has a meeting and you go. He calls up everyone who is sick and you go because you have severe arthritis and have been unable to work for the last 10 years. He says some words in a language you don’t understand and suddenly your fingers straighten, your toes and feet come into line, and the pain disappears. You test this newness in your limbs and very soon you are jumping up and down like a child and running around the arena. What is your first question? “Who did this? How is it possible?” The ministry workers tell you about Jesus and you decide that if this Jesus God could do this then He deserves your loyalty. Your family and friends are in awe and they all decide that Jesus is the way to go. You see what’s happening? If non-believers see miracles they become converted. But what happens when a believer is healed? And it does happen. Not much. Hopefully they will become more zealous in their witnessing.

 

What does the Bible say about healing? Reading through the Gospels it seems like most of the people Jesus healed were not believers yet. Probably obviously because His ministry on earth only lasted 3 years. . The Books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Acts are the spreading of the message of salvation. They are foremost for non-believers. This is about coming to Christ and in these books there are many healings. The Books from Romans to Jude are about sanctification after Salvation. They were written for believers. Psalm 31:10, “For my life is spent with grief, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my iniquity, and my bones waste away.”

Psalm 38:3-8 in the Message, “I’ve lost twenty pounds in two months because of your accusation. My bones are brittle as dry sticks because of my sin. I’m swamped by my bad behavior, collapsed under gunnysacks of guilt. The cuts in my flesh stink and grow maggots because I’ve lived so badly. And now I’m flat on my face feeling sorry for myself morning to night. All my insides are on fire, my body is a wreck. I’m on my last legs; I’ve had it – my life is a vomit of groans.”

These are only two of many verses that illustrate how the way you live affects your health.

 

James 5:16, “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” You may think that confessing your sins, or the bad way you’ve been doing things takes a lot of courage, but what it really takes it true repentance. The realization that you are wrong. And we don’t like being wrong. It’s not something we do well. Psalm 34:18, “The Lord is near those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit.” Psalm 51:17, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart – These, O God, You will not despise.”

I other words, we have to be brought to our knees by the realization that we are wrong in whatever it is we have been doing and we have to be willing to speak to someone about it so that we can be healed. Have you ever done something that you know is wrong and then worked up enough courage to tell someone you trust what you did? How did you feel once you told them? Way better, right? That’s how it works. Sometimes you only have to confess to God, but you have to confess and you have to sincerely turn away from what you were doing wrong. And you will be healed. Or maybe you won’t but your heart will be healed and that is way more important than your body. God doesn’t work by formulas, He works by love.

Turn your face

I know a lady who some years ago who was diagnosed with breast cancer. She took some time off work, went away on her own to a quiet place for a week and spent that time praying and fasting. She didn’t get any treatment and she’s still alive and cancer free today.  I knew another lady who was diagnosed with liver cancer. She hadn’t been particularly sick, just a niggling pain that she decided needed checking out.  Within two weeks she was hospitalized and less than three months later her family buried her. It was so sad. Both these ladies had been given a potential death sentence. One accepted it but the other one did not.  One saw the negative side and believed what the doctors told her. The other knew that there was a positive side and believed what God told her. How would you react to that kind of diagnosis? King Hezekiah was sick and near death. The prophet Isaiah went to him and told him to set his affairs in order because he was going to die. Now I don’t know about you but if a reliable and tested prophet of god tells me I’m going to die, I’ll believe it. Hearing something from Isaiah was like hearing from God Himself. If god tells me I’m going to die, I think I would definitely get my affairs in order. Do you know what Hezekiah did?

2 Kings 20:2-3 “Then he turned his face toward the wall, and prayed to the lord, saying, ‘Remember now, o lord, I pray, how I have walked before you in truth and with  a loyal hear, and have done what was good in Your sight.’ And Hezekiah wept bitterly.”

Isaiah hadn’t even left the palace, when god told him to go back to Hezekiah to tell him that God had heard his prayer and that he would heal him. He would live another 15 years and the city would be saved from the onslaught of the Assyrians.  Isaiah told the physicians to put a lump of figs on the boil that was causing the inflammation and three days later Hezekiah had to go to the temple. But that wasn’t all. Hezekiah asked for a sign from God to prove that he would live and that the Assyrians wouldn’t prevail over them. I’m thinking, “seriously Hezekiah? It was like, Okay Lord you said you would heal me, now prove it.”  Verse 9 – then Isaiah said, “This is the sign to you from the Lord, that the Lord will do the thing which he has spoken: shall the shadow go forward ten degrees or go back ten degrees?” And Hezekiah answered, “It is an easy thing for a shadow to go down ten degrees; no, but let the shadow go backward ten degrees.” So Isaiah the prophet cried out to the Lord, and he brought the shadow ten degrees backward, by which it had gone down on the sundial of Ahaz.

God told king Hezekiah he would die and he decided not to accept the diagnosis. As simple as that. It wasn’t a doctor who told him, it was the Creator of the universe!  Instead of running away from God and seeking a cure someplace else, he turned his face to the wall and spoke to God. That’s exactly what the lady with breast cancer did. She didn’t accept what the doctor told her. She turned to God and spoke to Him. You may ask but what if God hadn’t healed her? She would have gone to heaven, and is that such a punishment?

Psalm 103:2-3 : “Bless the Lord, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits:  Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases, Who redeems your life from destruction, who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies.”

But what if it’s god will that I must die? I would say that even then you should never give up. If you have the chance to raise a petition to God, then do it. If you have the chance to strengthen your faith then do it. I am not saying that doctors don’t know what they are doing by any means, I just know that we are far too credulous when it comes to the opinions of medical professionals. If the doctor says so it must be so. But what does God say? Hezekiah didn’t even take God’s word.

Proverbs 18:21 –“ Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit.”  As difficult as it may be, don’t be tempted to speak negative things over yourself. Speak life. And don’t allow others to speak death over you. Not even a doctor. Stay positive. Stay close to God. If you are a child of God and you’re in the position where you have been diagnosed with a potential death sentence, and it doesn’t sit well in your spirit, then it’s time to turn your face towards the wall.