Category Archives: parable

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.

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.

Apology notes

On Saturday I attended a family fun day organised by the Girl Guide Association in this region. The plan was to move around in a small group and take part in activities representing other countries at various well spaced locations at Delta Park. It was great fun and included hitting a piñata, fishing with magnets in the river, making Canadian pancakes on upended tins and solving puzzles.

Delta Park
fun and games at the Mexico base

During the day I came across people I was involved with a long time ago, when I ran a Guide company.

At the end of the day, I received two apologies. One from a young woman who was manning the India base. She told us all about henna painting for Indian weddings. She was dressed up in Indian clothes and I wasn’t 100% sure she was the girl I had known but I asked her how she was doing. She called me Irmgard but I didn’t say anything. When she saw me later, she apologised profusely for getting my name wrong. I also got an SMS from the lady who used to be my commissioner. I had waved to her. She apologised because she hadn’t recognised me.

I need to write an apology letter of my own.

Dear Lord Jesus,

I invited You into my day on Saturday morning then forgot about You. When I woke with a headache, I didn’t consult You or ask for Your help but took two aspirin then slept for another fifteen minutes. I could have used Your help later in the day, too, when I got to the Guide campsite and there was no sign of my granddaughter or my son-in-law. You gave Your help anyway. When, not ten minutes later, I was hailed by my son-in-law, I did not think to thank You.

I know You were with me. You were there in the beautiful autumn trees, in the Ibises rummaging in the newly mown grass, in the gurgling river. How easy it would have been to pray a silent “Thank You.” But I didn’t. I ignored You all day. When I puffed up hills that the Brownies took at a laughing run, I didn’t ask for Your help, although I am sure You would have given it.

I had fun, even though I was physically exhausted and my foot was sore after I twisted it going down a step. However, I am sure my day would have been greatly improved if I had consciously involved You. If I had used the opportunity of walking in nature to also pray, talk the walk, so to speak. Instead, I treated You like a fifth wheel and I’m sorry.

We learned in church today about how You reinstated Peter, meeting him in his weakness where he was. (John 21:15-19). I know You do the same to me. You know I am just dust and yet You love me. Even if I ignore You, You will never forsake me because you have promised. Thank You. Please continue to walk with me into the coming week and help me to be more mindful of You. Amen.

Reflections and Memories

Today we took my car in for a service. The official agent for Chevrolet is Williams Hunt, which is now located in Fourways. It took us just over an hour to get there this morning, with peak-time traffic leg-shackled by an outage of power to robots. We ended up spending time in Cedar Square which is outside of our usual neighborhood, sustaining ourselves with breakfast after our long and tiring journey.

We sat outside a restaurant called Smoke Daddy and I was struck by the reflections in the window.

The only thing “real” in this picture is the portion of a motorbike in the bottom right corner. The rest of the picture is made up of reflections and, in some cases, reflections of reflections.

It struck me that our memories are something like this. Reflections can be distorted by the position of the light, the integrity of the glass doing the reflecting and our point of view. Likewise our memories can be distorted by our emotions, our subjective points of view and other circumstances which can magnify or reduce their importance.

On occasion, my children have recalled incidents from their childhood which I remember totally differently. I am convinced my view is the accurate one, and they are just as sure of the integrity of theirs. The truth might be neither.

God knows that our memories are just as fallible as any other part of our humanity. In various places in the Bible He exhorts us to “remember the Lord our God.” In some cases He gave His people memory aids. In Joshua 4, when Joshua led the Israelites across the Jordan River, which parted for them, the Lord said to Joshua, “Take twelve men from the people, from each tribe a man, and command them saying, ‘Take twelve stones from here out of the midst of the Jordan from the very place where the priests’ feet stood firmly, and bring them over with you and lay them down in the place where you lodge tonight.” (verse 3 ESV)

This was to be a memorial down the generations so the people would remember what God had done for them.

In the New Testament, Jesus arranged the same kind of memory aid when He instituted Holy Communion. “...the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.'” (1 Corinthians 11:23b – 24 ESV) He did the same with the cup.

Many of the Psalms have a certain structure. They start in depression or despair. Then the psalmist calls to mind what God has done for him in the past. He remembers God’s goodness and power. The Psalm ends with a strong statement of trust in the Lord.

Psalm 77 starts, “I cry aloud to God, aloud to God, and he will hear me. In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord; in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying; my soul refuses to be comforted.” Then verses 11 and 12 read, “I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds.”

If it is good enough for the psalmists, it is good enough for me. One of my memory aids is my journal. Sometimes it is encouraging just to look back and realize how God has been at work in my life. It might be an idea to take 12 smooth stones and write on each some event in my life where God was definitely involved. My stones would include how I met my husband, how God provided our cottage and how my back was healed.

My Prayer

Father God, I have a tendency to forget Your goodness to me. I know my memory is fallible. I get distracted by everyday life and even the rumours all around me. Please help me develop a habit of actively and purposely remembering Your mighty works in my life and Your many special gifts to me. Amen.

A Time to Wait

We spend a lot of our lives waiting:- waiting in queues, waiting for children to come out of school, waiting for our tax refund.

On Friday I made hot cross buns. As with all yeast cookery, it is a long process and involves a lot of waiting. After mixing and kneading all the ingredients, there is a time of waiting for the dough to rise. When it has doubled in size, it gets punched down to size and kneaded again. I have an electric bread-maker which performs those tasks for me. I just have to form the buns then wait for them to double in size again. It would be no good putting them into the oven before they have risen. They would turn out like stones. The waiting is necessary for the final product. The buns have to be at the right stage of readiness before the next stage can take place.

Image by alisonyo from Pixabay (My hot cross buns were a bit of a flop. They hardly rose at all)

God also waits for the right stage of readiness before He acts. He could have raised Jesus on the Saturday, but the time was not yet right. God’s timing is always perfect. Sometimes we don’t understand why the Lord doesn’t answer our prayers immediately. We don’t understand all the processes that need to take place before the time is right.

Easter Saturday is a time of waiting. “Waiting for God to do what only God can do. And of all the kinds of waiting we can do, there is no waiting more difficult than waiting on God!” (from Rosebank Union Church Holy Saturday Prayer Retreat)

There are different ways to cope with the waiting of Easter Saturday. We can look back on Friday and stay locked in fear, disappointment and depression. We can look forward to Sunday, trusting in God’s promises and His faithfulness. We can look around at the gifts and opportunities that are unique to Saturday. If there is a friend to bring comfort, we can rejoice in the gift of friendship, if there is a beautiful sunset, beautiful art, beautiful music or delicious food, we can appreciate and enjoy them. Perhaps we notice somebody else to whom we can be a blessing.

Most likely, our waiting will be a mixture of these different view points, but as we wait more and more on God, we can use our waiting period more and more for His glory and our growth.

Psalm 27 v 13-14 reads, “I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; and wait for the Lord.” (ESV)

My Prayer

Lord, I am not good at waiting. Please teach me the self-control to wait patiently and to trust You, no matter what. May I not waste the waiting times You have set for my growth. Amen.

The Cinderella Fruit

Image by anwar suseno from Pixabay

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; Against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22 ESV)

Love is popular. There are songs and poems written about it down the ages. Peace is almost as popular. Everybody wants Love, Peace and Joy at their party. Patience, Kindness, Goodness and Faithfulness are welcome everywhere but don’t get as much limelight as Love, Joy and Peace.

It is easy to spot those Christians where the popular fruit is growing. A loving person or a joyful person are hard to miss. Likewise people growing in peace, patience, kindness, goodness and faithfulness are easy to spot.

Self-control is the Cinderella fruit, easily overlooked and undervalued. Yet self-control is a fruit of maturity. We have all come across children who think the world revolves around them and want their desires fulfilled NOW. Hopefully as they grow and mature, with the training of loving parents, they learn a measure of self-control. But true self control is the result of the Holy Spirit working in a surrendered life.

Self-control refuses to be grumpy even when he is tired or hungry. Self-control doesn’t react aggressively when a driver cuts in in front of him or hoots at him. Self-control can discipline himself to spend time with the Lord on a regular basis. Self-control can stick to a diet, can get up on a cold winter’s morning without complaining, can suffer pain and illness without becoming a pain to others and can control his thoughts. Yet the person with self-control is not immediately obvious to all, although the opposite Is perfectly patent.

I am not sure whether the Holy Spirit grows these seven fruits evenly in our lives or whether He causes circumstances which grow a particular one at a specific time. I can certainly think of times in my life where patience training has been noticeable. What have other people experienced? Do you think the Fruit of the Spirit grow evenly in our lives or do certain of the fruit have growth spurts?

My Prayer

Holy Spirit of Jesus, please continue to grow Your fruit in my life that I may conform more closely to the image of Christ. Amen.

Where Has the Sun Gone?

It is supposed to be Autumn. We have been having lovely sunny days with maximum temperatures hovering between 21 and 24 degrees C. Yesterday the rain started. The temperature has dropped by at least ten degrees. We haven’t seen the sun for two days. The sky is misty grey.

No blue sky in sight.

Where has the sun gone? In actual fact, the sun hasn’t gone anywhere. It is exactly where it is supposed to be. Nuclear reactions still take place at its core, fusing hydrogen to helium, generating immense amounts of heat and energy. We don’t see it because the conditions on the earth have blocked it from our view temporarily. It is not the sun that has changed but the conditions and circumstances where we are.

Sometimes we can’t see God. We wonder where He has gone. Jesus promised never to leave us nor forsake us. He is with us even when the circumstances and conditions of our lives obscure His presence. God is constant. He doesn’t change. When we don’t feel Him near, He is still with us, loving us, guiding us and working out His plan in our lives and for the world.

Nobody stops believing in the sun because they have a couple of rainy days. Neither should we stop trusting God when troubles and problems obscure our view of Him.

Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NIV)

My Prayer

Lord Jesus, please help me to trust in You even when circumstances form a cloud around me so dense that I can’t see You. Give me the faith to keep believing in Your unchanging love. Amen.

The Choice

Yesterday my middle granddaughter had her ears pierced. She jumped about joyfully as she went with her Mom to Cresta to the jewelers. She knew it was going to be painful but it was her choice for her eighth birthday present. For the joy of being able to wear pretty earrings like her sister does, she endured the procedure.

First the ears were marked to get the placing correct.

Jesus also made a choice.

Next week we remember Good Friday and Christ’s crucifixion. Probably the best known verse in the Bible is John3: 16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (ESV)

We are mistaken when we think that Jesus was a victim. Jesus has the same love for us as the Father. “The Puritans would often speak about the Father and Son agreeing in eternity past, both of them together, to redeem a sinful people. Theologians call this the pactum salutus, the ‘covenant of redemption,’ referring to what the triune God agreed upon before the creation of the world” (From Gentle and Lowly by Dane Ortland.)

Christ had a choice. Nobody could kill Him against His will. He said, “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again.” (John 10:17-18 ESV)

Why would Jesus choose to do this? The Bible explains it thus: “…looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame,… (Hebrews 12:2 ESV)

The joy that Jesus kept in mind was the joy of having a relationship with us, of doing life with us, the joy of being able to welcome us to where He is and to spend eternity with us.

My Prayer

Lord Jesus, thank You that You love me that much; that You chose me. Amen.