Category Archives: Christianity

The Deal

Jesus said “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?” (Matthew 16:24-26 MSG)

Image by Tung Nguyen from Pixabay

This post is part of One-Liner-Wednesday.

God has a Sense of Humour

Saturday Night.

Our motorhome is almost packed and we are heading off tomorrow to Dube Private Game Reserve.

Life is not quite so simple however. I have asked one of our fellowship group members to lead the group in my absence.

The church has a lovely support system for group leaders with a monthly breakfast get-together and training. It was due to be tomorrow at 8am. I invited the stand-in leader to join me. My husband and I would go to church in the motorhome, I would attend the meeting, he would attend the early service and we’d leave straight after.

Meanwhile, today was the day when our Gideon weekly prayer meeting was to be in person rather than on WhatsApp. I don’t often attend the monthly in-person meetings. On Saturdays I usually take my granddaughter to Brownies and the timing might be tight. The WhatsApp method is easier. It’s not a problem to pray in bed from 7am to 7.30 and still be able to leave by 8.10. Assuming I would not be going, my husband planned a breakfast meeting with a friend and a fellow Gideon after the prayer meeting.

However, my granddaughter didn’t go to Brownies today because of a ballet rehearsal. I made my own plans. I needed to buy last-minute fresh vegetables before our trip. I decided I would go out to breakfast at a restaurant in the same complex as the fruit and vegetable shop, then buy the vegetables and be home in time to make soup for guests arriving at 12. That would leave the late afternoon to pack. My husband invited me to join the friend at breakfast. “Then I’ll have to attend the prayer meeting,” I replied. “And get up early,” I thought.

Then I remembered. I have given my time to the Lord. I don’t get to make the plans. He does. I didn’t even need to ask. I knew what the Lord would prefer between my praying and my spending an extra hour in bed.

Both the prayer meeting and the breakfast were blessings. I suggested that I could give our friend’s wife some documents at the training tomorrow, to which her husband replied that he wasn’t aware of a training tomorrow. It was almost six weeks since I had diarised the date so I checked with the elder who is my supervisor/mentor.

“Didn’t you get the message?” she asked. No, I didn’t. It appears that while I am on the email group, I am not yet on the WhatsApp group. The meeting has been cancelled.

Imagine how embarrassed I would have been if only our stand-in leader and I had arrived at the church for a meeting that wasn’t! That’s what would have happened if I had opted for the extra hour in bed.

I am sure the Lord had a good chuckle. He has a sense of humour.

My Prayer

Thank You Lord for giving me free choice. Thank You for Your amazing ability to co-ordinate events and work all things together for good for those who love You. May Ibe more and more aware of Your presence with me every day. Amen.

Fearfully and wonderfully made.

Sitting in the bath one morning, I noticed the sunshine coming through the window falling on my hand. Even though it is an almost seventy-year-old hand, it is an amazing piece of engineering! What piece of man-made mechanical expertise in daily use lasts as long?

I though of my skin. Waterproof but breathable. How many rain coats have I been through trying to find that combination? On top of that, skin is elastic – although admittedly there is a bracelet of fold lines at the start of my wrist. These lines are badges of work done, trophies of accomplishments. Moreover, skin is self-repairing. Can you imagine how expensive it would be to buy such an amazing material!

I swiveled my hand and opened and closed the fingers. I considered my bones, so delicately crafted, so well designed and well integrated with each other. I got to thinking about nerves for communication, blood vessels to keep all the parts alive and functioning, muscles for movement and tendons for connection.

How awesome and creative is our God! I love Psalm 139.

For you formed my inward parts;
    you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.[a]
Wonderful are your works;
    my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
    intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
    the days that were formed for me,
    when as yet there was none of them.”
(ESV)

My Prayer

Creator God, I praise You for Your wonderful works, Your amazing designs and infinite variety. Truly, I am fearfully and wonderfully made and I stand in awe of You. Amen.

The Prescription

My reading for today included Proverbs 3:5-10. It is a prescription for health, wealth and favour. Perhaps we should call it a prescripture.

Image by Darko Stojanovic from Pixabay

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.
Be not wise in your own eyes;
    fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
It will be healing to your flesh[a]
    and refreshment[b] to your bones.

Honor the Lord with your wealth
    and with the firstfruits of all your produce;
10 then your barns will be filled with plenty,
    and your vats will be bursting with wine.
(ESV)

What stood out for me was verse 7. “Be not wise in your own eyes.”

I don’t know about other people, but I confess I am wise in my own eyes. My “wisdom” comes from many sources. Firstly, there is formal education. I did well at school and understood what I was taught. At university I specialised in microbiology, including bacteriology, virology, mycology, immunology and molecular genetics.

Then there is the wisdom of my parents. I tend to think that the way my parents did things was the right way. I am also influenced by my own experience. I will do things the way that has been successful for me with the least effort. Added to that is the influence of other people. When my daughter was a teenager, she persuaded me that my habit of tucking blouses into skirts or trousers was old fashioned. Younger friends agreed. Now I have an almost teenage granddaughter who tucks her tops into her skirts. Oh the freedom to express my own fashion sense (which was never amazing but it’s mine.”)

Other people speak with such confidence that I assume they are authorities. Campers will tell us the right way to pitch a tent or hammer in a peg. Friends will tell us how to attach a bicycle to a motorhome, polish furniture or attach toilet rolls. Some of this is useful and some is just their opinion. Then there are adverts, articles, Google searches, videos and the like.

So I’ve ended up thinking my way is the right way. And it isn’t. I make decisions based on a hodgepodge of history and interactions. I am wise in my own eyes.

The prescription from Proverbs is to give up this habit if I want spiritual health, in the same way a doctor might tell a patient she should give up smoking if she wants to improve her health. The trouble with prescriptions is that the doctor can’t make us follow his instructions or take the medicine he prescribes. That choice is up to us.

My Prayer

Father God, You have set out the right way to live in Your word. I confess that I don’t obey Your instructions. Please forgive me for leaning on my own understanding and being wise in my own eyes. Help me to trust in You with all my heart, and consult Your wisdom rather than my own. Amen.

Water

Yesterday I was still in bed when my husband told me we had a water problem. Fearing that our pipes had sprung another leak and anticipating that we’d be frantically mopping the laminated floor to try to save it from being ruined, I was slightly relieved when it seemed to be only a pressure problem. Instead of a gush, there was a trickle.

Image by Mikes-Photography from Pixabay

It soon became clear that this was not only our problem but that there was a generalized water disruption in our area affecting a number of suburbs. All sorts of problems surfaced which I would never have thought about. My daughter came to borrow the vacuum pump pot because the water boiler in the art studio wasn’t working. For a while hot water trickled out of the cold taps but before long even that dried up. We hadn’t realized how dependent we are on our water on tap. I kept trying to wash my hands after cutting an orange or before cooking. We couldn’t flush the toilet. Fortunately there is a borehole on the property so my husband fetched water in a bucket. To wash dishes we had to heat it in a pot because I didn’t want our kettle to scale up too much. As the day got later and there was still no water, I started contemplating how I could bath. It might have to be a quick cold wash instead.

Drinking water is a necessity for life but we use water for much more than drinking. Without water, plants won’t grow and there would be no life on earth. But water is also used for cleansing.

Jesus referred to water a lot.

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'” Now this he said about the Spirit,.. (John 7:37-39a ESV)

Jesus knows that in the same way as people without water will die, so without the Spirit of God, a Christian cannot survive. Moreover, the Christian can be a channel of life to others, leading them to cleansing and eternal life.

My Prayer

Jesus, I want to come to You often and drink. Please fill me with Your Spirit and may rivers of living water flow out of my heart. Amen.

In His Time

There’s a lovely little chorus my children used to sing when they were little. It’s called “In His Time.”

In his time, in his time
He makes all things beautiful
In his time

Lord please show me everyday
As you’re teaching me your way
That you do just what you say
In your time

Sometimes we can’t understand God’s perspective on time. I’ve been reading the story of Joseph in Genesis 37 and 39 again.

Joseph was a teenager, somewhat cocky and arrogant as many teenage boys are. His brothers hated him. So much so, that, when the opportunity arose, most of them would have killed him. The oldest brother intervened, persuading them not to shed their brother’s blood but rather to throw him down a well. He intended to rescue him later but in the interim the other brothers sold Joseph to slave traders on their way to Egypt.

Joseph found himself in a terrible situation not through any actions of his own. He was a slave in a foreign country. He couldn’t speak the language. He trusted in God and prayed to Him, no doubt begging to be returned to his father. God didn’t answer that prayer. But He was with Joseph in his situation. “When his master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favor in his eyes. “ (Genesis 39:3-4a NIV)

Joseph was unjustly accused. Again an innocent person suffered because of the sin of others. Joseph ended up in the king’s prison. He must have wondered why God had allowed such an unjust thing to happen to him. Yet again the Lord was with Joseph and everything he did was successful. but he was still not free. He was still in a foreign land.

Joseph was thirty before things finally changed for him. ten years of the prime of his life were wasted. Or were they?

When Joseph finally appeared before Pharaoh, there was no trace of the arrogant youth. Joseph was humble, yet confident in God. God had used the years that seemed wasted to mould Joseph’s character. In the ten years, Joseph had also learned to speak Egyptian, a skill he needed both to communicate with Pharaoh and to fulfill his role as overseer of all Egypt. God couldn’t have used Joseph as he was when he first arrived in Egypt. God’s plan needed time.

So often we find ourselves in a situation where God doesn’t answer our prayers. We can’t understand why He has allowed us to suffer. We pray and we pray. We feel God has abandoned us, we doubt His love.

God uses the unjust, the unfair, the unfortunate trials of our lives to fit us for His future plans. He promised never to leave us nor forsake us and He honours that promise. He is with us when we struggle, when we don’t understand, when things seem to go from bad to worse. Joseph was able to say to his brothers, “What you intended for evil, God intended for good.”

God makes all things beautiful in His time. That is the point. It takes time and we should not waste the pain.

My Prayer

Lord, I am limited by my perception of time. I can’t understand why You don’t bring healing when I’ve been praying for years. Like the Psalmist I want to ask, “How long, Lord, how long?” Even though I don’t understand Your ways and Your times, please give me eyes to see Your presence with me even when there seems no relief in sight. Amen.

What God says

On Wednesday we attended a choir festival. My granddaughter is in her school choir which was one of six high school choirs taking part.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

One of the songs performed was “You Say” by Lauren Daigle. I felt a deep affinity with the words.

“I keep fighting voices in my mind that say I’m not enough

Every single lie that tells me I will never measure up

Am I more than just the sum of every high and every low

Remind me once again just who I am because I need to know

Ooh-oh

You say I am loved when I cant feel a thing

You say I am strong when I think I am weak

And you say I am held when I am falling short

And when I don’t belong, oh, You say I am Yours”

Jesus says about the devil, “When he lies he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44)

Unfortunately we believe many of these lies – especially when they concern ourselves. The father of lies will tell us we are failures, we can’t do anything right, nobody loves us, we’ve been so bad that God will never forgive us and other similar lies. He will make us doubt our identity in Christ. “If you are really a Christian, you wouldn’t…” He even tried it with Jesus. “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread. ” (Luke 4:3 NIV,) or “If you are the son of God, throw yourself down” (from the pinnacle of the temple). (Matthew 4:6.) Each time Jesus countered with Scripture.

That’s what I love about this song. It tells us what God says.

We are loved. ” I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” (Jeremiah 31:3 NIV,) “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Abide in my love.” (John 15 vs 9 ESV.)

We are strong in Christ. “I can do all things Through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13 NIV)

I know God is trying to teach me these truths at the moment. I was in Pick ‘n Pay, about to rush home after grabbing a quick lunch, when my phone rang. It was one of our elders so I thought I’d take the call. When we disconnected, I became aware of what song they were playing in the huge store – “You say” by Lauren Daigle! If I hadn’t had the phone call, I would have left the shop five minutes earlier and another song would be playing. Do you think God is trying to tell me something?

My Prayer

Lord Jesus, You give me strength. My identity is in You. Please give me discernment to recognise lies that I have believed and the wisdom to replace them with truths from Your Word. Amen.

The Birds and the Bees

Our dining room table is near the window that overlooks the bird feeder. While we eat breakfast, we enjoy the birds visiting our garden to eat fruit, bread and seeds.

Black Collared Barbets are frequent visitors

Every morning I put out bread and apples or oranges cut in half in the fruit feeder. The bread feeder hangs beneath it. It is like a cage which can just accommodate two slices of bread. As the sparrows and weavers eat the bread, crumbs drop onto the ground so clumsier birds like doves cluster under the feeder to forage for bread crumbs.

When I go out to replace the fruit every morning, a buzz of up to ten bees greets me. They think I put fruit out for them. My purpose is to feed sparrows, weavers and mid-sized birds like barbets, starlings and occasional go-away-birds. However, doves also benefit and so do bees.

This illustrates to me that all our actions have knock-on consequences. “The Butterfly Effect” is a metaphor to demonstrate that little insignificant events can lead to significant results over time. Recently both my husband and I have had feedback about something we did or said at least ten years ago, that we have forgotten about but had an impact on other people that they still remember.

Adam and Eve made a decision to go their own way instead of God’s way and the whole of humanity was contaminated by sin. The Bible says, “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:22 ESV)

The things we do and say have consequences that we might never have imagined. They will affect people we might not even know. The things we do matter. The things we say matter.

My Prayer

Lord, I sometimes speak without thinking and act on the spur of the moment. Please teach me to guard my tongue and measure my steps. I want to commit my ways to You so You can direct my paths. Every day. Amen.

Like a Little Child

Jesus said,” Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me,…” (Matthew 18:3-5 ESV)

Image by Steven Batty from Pixabay

After church this morning, we met the missionaries our church supports from the Ukraine, Arkadiy and Anneke Naydenov. Since the calamitous events that have been happening in the Ukraine recently, their life has been turned upside down. They managed to escape to Hungary and recently arrived safely in South Africa. They have a five month old baby, a contented, peaceful, happy child. Anneke was telling us that during air raid sirens, crossing borders, living in different countries and four different houses, he would just look at her in complete trust and coo happily. “That,” she said, “is how we should trust God.”

I’ve been meditating on that picture all afternoon. My trust in God is so far from that ideal and yet, all of us, at one time, had that same unquestioning trust in our parents. We could do nothing for ourselves, we were totally dependent on our parents, particularly our mothers. Imagine how stress-free our lives would be if we could recapture that trust and place it in God, Who loves us more than our parents ever could, Who has promised to care for us and provide for us, Who is the perfect Parent.

My Prayer

Father God, I know that You love me. I believe You know how to care for those who belong to You. Why do I find it so difficult to trust You with all my heart? Please help me. Amen.

Insiders and Outsiders

Later when Jesus was eating supper at Matthew’s house with his close followers, a lot of disreputable characters came and joined them. When the Pharisees saw him keeping this kind of company, they had a fit, and lit into Jesus’ followers, ‘What kind of example is this from your Teacher, acting cozy with crooks and misfits?’

“Jesus, overhearing, shot back, ‘Who needs a doctor; the healthy or the sick? Go figure out what this Scripture means: ‘I’m after mercy, not religion.’ I’m hear to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders.'” (Matthew 9:10-13 MSG)

As far back as my school days, there always seemed to be an “in-crowd.” They were the popular girls. They seemed to have secrets that the rest of us didn’t understand. They were confident and poised. I was never one of them.

Image by DONT SELL MY ARTWORK AS IS from Pixabay (adapted)

What Jesus said in this passage makes so much sense intellectually. We need a doctor when we are sick, not when we are well. However it is difficult to understand with our hearts. It is exactly because of our failings, struggles and imperfections that Jesus came. While He came for everybody, It is those who are not in the “in-crowd” that need Him most, those of us who feel like we don’t quite fit in to society, who battle to live a victorious Christian life.

My Prayer

Lord, when I’m not coping, when I feel spiritually weak or unwell, I run to you, my doctor. Please help me to allow You to speak to me, then do what You say. Amen.