Sunday, 19 May 2019

The Sacrifice of Feeling Foolish

When you make yourself available to God and start asking Him to use you, you can be guaranteed that He will call you to do and say things that may make you feel foolish.  The problem is, if you are anything like me, we begin to doubt that those stirrings in our heart or ideas in our thoughts might not be from God, so we talk ourselves out of it.

It takes courage to trust that we have heard from God correctly, and there is the fear and risk of feeling or sounding foolish when we step out in faith.  Whether it is doing an act of kindness like paying for someone's groceries or sharing a word of encouragement to someone God has laid on our heart or even to be as bold as sharing the Gospel with a complete stranger, it is our obedience that God is testing.  Will we sacrifice our ego to maybe feel or look a little foolish?  

The challenge for us is to trust that we have indeed heard and interpreted God's message correctly and to take a leap of faith and as Nike says, just DO IT!  When we delay our obedience, the devil will be sure to use that pause to plant doubts in our minds, which will drain our courage to be used by God. 

I am ashamed to admit that there have been many times where I've chickened out, but the more I think about it, the more I realise that even if it was not entirely from God, if it's good and right, then what harm can it do?  Surely our obedience should be more important to us than feeling foolish.  So next time I feel inspired to be used as God's instrument, I intend to lay down my shyness and my fear of feeling foolish, as a sacrifice for obedience.  I hope you will agree to join me in this quest... 

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

A Sombre Easter

Unlike previous Easter celebrations which were happy and joyful occasions, this year proved to be a more sombre affair. As I shared the reasons why with my sister, I was surprised when she exclaimed how blessed I had been to be touched by God in such a meaningful way.

On Good Friday, as I ate my pickled fish and reflected on the symbolism of the fish, vinegar and spices, I was reminded of the intense pain and suffering that Jesus had endured when he died on the cross. Like the sacrificial lamb that he was, he endured and submitted his life as an offering to us all, knowing that it was for a greater purpose. As Christians, we should share, not only in the celebration of the Easter message, but also in the suffering. As a parent, I can only imagine how God must have felt to see his son suffering as he was battered and bruised and nailed to that cross. If you've ever watched the movie 'The Passion of the Christ', you cannot help but grimace in anguish at how much Jesus had suffered and endured.

On Sunday, again, instead of a happy, uplifting, joyful message, Pastor Jaco Janse van Rensburg from the Shofar Church in Century City chose to focus us on the betrayal of Christ by Judas and Peter and the importance of repentance. As he shared how Peter had denied knowing Jesus, I was reminded of how often I too had denied Jesus - by not sharing that I was a Christian with others or by saying, thinking or doing things that I knew he would disapprove of. As I wept with repentance of how sinful I was, I realised how it is only with a contrite heart, being made fully aware at the wretchedness of our sin, that you can fully appreciate the magnitude of Jesus's death and what it cost him and what it means to me as a sinner.

As a sinner, we can either choose to be like Judas who ended his life in despair or we can repent and be like Peter, who became one of the greatest witnesses for Christ. We may not go to the extremes of ending our lives, but by choosing not to repent, our sin can eat at us and end up killing our faith, our hope and even our future.

Two things stood out for me on Sunday's sermon. One was from Luke 22:61 when after Peter had denied knowing Jesus for the third time, Jesus locked eyes with him. Peter remembered what Jesus had said the night before and was filled with shame and wept bitterly. But I also reflected on the love and forgiveness Peter must have seen in Jesus's eyes - no condemnation or anger, just pure love and understanding, which remorsefully turned Peter's shame and guilt into true repentance.

The other highlight was the significance of Peter denying Jesus 3 times, and then in John 21:15-17 when Jesus, after his resurrection, asks Peter if he loves him 3 times. It is almost as if there is a spiritual transaction that takes place when we sin in the natural, that needs to be cancelled out again in the spiritual. Or perhaps the number 3, being the symbol of completion, was Jesus's way of saying 'It is finished'. Just like the message of Easter should be for us - Jesus died for our sins, paying the full debt of our transgressions. His work was done.

Only once we can fully appreciate and comprehend what Jesus's death means for us as a sinner, can we then rejoice and celebrate how Christ conquered death by rising again to give us the amazing gift of eternal life.

Friday, 5 April 2019

The Cycle of Comfort

Reading 2 Corinthians, I've come to realise that the purpose of our suffering, is to become a part of God's cycle of comforting. When we go through the storms of life, or are shaken by the tragic loss of a loved one, we get to experience God's amazing comfort, as well as the comfort of family and friends. 

God promises us that He will be with us during these difficult times, which tells me we will and should expect to go through them. Grabbing hold of God's tangible comfort, allows us to stand firm, without having to fall apart, for it's in His comfort that we find the peace to trust Him, even though we do not understand why. It is in His arms that we find His strength to carry all the pain and hurt, until we are strong enough to lay it down.  The cure for our despair is trusting that God will, not solve the problem or take away our pain, but help us to get through it. 

If you are in desperate need of God's comfort right now, but cannot feel His presence, then trust that He is there, whether you can 'feel' Him or not. Spend time alone in His presence, encouraging yourself with the healing balm of the Psalms and completely open up your heart to Him honestly in prayer.  God hears all the groanings of our heart when we don't know what to pray. Build up your spirit with worship and praise and let your free-flowing tears heal you with their cleansing. I also find that spending time in nature helps me to feel God's presence. Be bold enough to ask God for a sign that He is there, and be amazed as He shows you His goodness. 

Another comfort revelation I've come to learn, is that when a sorrow is shared it is instinctively halved. Sharing our pain with others and accepting their gifts of prayer as we battle with lifes trials, testings and tribulations, is a blessing we should be thankful for, and not take for granted. And the amazing thing is, that when we comfort others, putting aside our problems and our pain, we ourselves are helped and comforted in return. In fact, it is the purpose of our very pain that we are able to comfort others who go through the same thing, that allows us to truly empathise and become an effective comforter.  

So next time you meet someone who is going through something you have had to endured, you can come along side of them with a comfort only you can offer, for God has prepared you for this very task...

Friday, 15 February 2019

Pruned for Joy

If you’ve ever experienced the joy of gardening, you will appreciate the wonderful benefits of pruning off all the dead leaves and twigs after a hard season of winter.
When we ourselves experience God’s pruning in our lives, we assume that He too is cutting off all the dead things in our lives.
However, I recently heard an insightful sermon that gave me a different perspective to God’s kind of pruning and His purpose for it in our lives. 
Unlike winter pruning, God also prunes us during Spring and Summer seasons by thinning out our growth to help our fruits grow better and bigger. By fruits, I’m not only referring to our fruits of the spirit, but our Christian growth in general.
All pruning is painful, but we need to understand that God’s purpose for it, is to help change us so that we can better fulfill our purpose and destiny, thus enabling a more joy filled life.
We can see this kind of pruning throughout the Bible, through the testimonies of men like Joseph. So often we experience testing times after a spiritual victory, which is God’s way of snipping off our ego and keeping the glory on Him instead of on ourselves.
Much like plants, God’s pruning builds character by removing over-mature, weak, problematic & excessive growth, so that we can produce a bigger yield of better, longer-lasting, more durable fruit.
Our fruit is not only for our benefit, but also for the building of God’s kingdom. When we allow our growth to remain uneaten within us, it becomes overripe and inedible, and will be pruned from us.
When we submit to God’s pruning, we inevitably become better, more mature Christians with better, bigger more life-changing fruit (growth).
If you are going through a tough time right now, I challenge you to ask yourself what is God trying to prune out of your life? Is it people, like aphids that are eating away at your growth; is it securities and things that you have become too dependent on; or is there pride, ego or offenses that need to be pruned out of you?

Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Rest for the Week

Working for a Jewish boss, I have often admired his family’s devout observance of the Shabbat, the commandment to keep the Sabbath holy, and have at times pondered the concept of what this means.

As Christians, we tend to believe that the Sabbath commandment only applies to Jewish followers, as a law to be strictly adhered to, and that it is not necessary for the rest of us. Having recently heard an insightful sermon on the Sabbath, I have had a change of heart and am intrigued what it could mean for all Christiams. 

It is the fourth commandment in the Old Testamentand even though many Christians interpret Hebrews 4 as Jesus becoming our restI am also seeing a purpose and a need for setting aside one day a week to recharge ourselves physically, and to reconnect with God, to refresh and strengthen us spiritually.

There are many verses in the Bible that urge us not to work on the Sabbath or do anything in pursuit of our own interests. (See Isaiah 58:13-14) Yet, instead of seeing this as a legalistic law, we need to realise that rest is not meant to be a reward or a luxury, but a necessity of life, something we tend not to allow ourselves enough of, without feeling guilty.

We’ve chosen to ignore the need to rest, choosing instead to be fearful of not getting everything done, or running out of time to finish all the tasks on our to-do list.  Yet, God promises us that a Sabbath rest is a fruitful time and that when we observe it with a willing, holy attitude, He will provide provision in place of it, like He did with the manna for the Israelite's.

We should not see it as an obligation to NOT do ANY work, but rather as an opportunity to seek God and find rest in the process.  When we change our perspective of it, the Sabbath becomes the Lord’s gift to us and is no longer a law or a burden, but an invitation to be blessed with much needed rest.

When we spend time resting in God’s presence, the fruits and blessings we receive are peace and joy, which is a great inventory to start a new week with - Not to mention the increased productivity and creativity it will produce in our lives.

The Sabbath is not about resting perfectly, but resting in the one who is perfect!  It’s not about not doing chores or work, or things we must be doing on the day, it’s merely about being consciously in His presence. The Sabbath is not some meaningless ritual or restriction. God created it for our benefit as a gift and a blessing.

We need to see the Sabbath, our Sunday, as Christians, as our weekly date with God, and become eager and willing to sacrifice OUR time to give Him our undivided attention to help deepen our relationship with Him.

If this has struck a chord with you, I urge you to study God’s word further on this subject.

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Remembering the Deceased

In a recent insurance application, I was asked the date and age of death of my late mother and father, which got me thinking... Why do I have no desire to acknowledge that anniversary and yet so many people around the world, go to great lengths and expense at marking the occasion? 

Memorial Day is different, as we are remembering the loss of so many to war, 'lest we forget', but for a loved one, it makes no sense to me

For me, an anniversary, for example, for a birthday, a wedding or when you gave up an addiction, is something to be celebrated as a happy memory, so I don't understand why a death should want to be remembered in the same way. Don't get me wrong, I still have special days of when I remember them more than most, but these are on their birthdays and on Mothers/Fathers day.  Whatever way we choose to remember our loved ones, whether it be by lighting a candle, taking flowers to their gravestone or place of death, or just spending time mulling over all our memories of them, it is an acknowledgement to ourselves and others that, although they are gone, they are not forgotten.

I'm also intrigued that some people still pray for their loved ones who have passed on, and I have to wonder if God still hears these prayers, especially if you aren't sure that the person has gone to heaven...

Some people go to great lengths to show they are in mourning and yet others, like the Irish, view a death as a celebration of their life and not as an end of it.  Let's face it, we all must face a death at some point in our lives, but as sad and painful it is to miss someone, when I reach my end, I would much rather have my life celebrated, than my death remembered...  

What do you think?...

Monday, 12 November 2018

Life is short

Today I was reminded again how short and fragile life is... One of our clients at work, who was only 52 has died suddenly and unexpectantly.  Although he wasn't well and was in hospital for what everyone had thought was an operation to cure him, it was sadly not meant to be.

It made me think of that phrase 'dying before ones time'. Who's to say when it's our time? Our lives are not our own and our expiry date has already been stamped by God  We live by His timing, and not our own. Another reason why each year, our birthdays should be celebrated! 

Death should be our wake-up call to start living with purpose, passion and power! May each moment of every day be meaningful, productive, enjoyed and appreciated. 

And when our bodies alert us with symptoms, may we not put off going to the Doctor to have it checked out, before it's too late... 

All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. Psalm 139:16