Tag Archives: Jesus

Who is This?

The disciples were in a serious storm and thought they would drown while Jesus slept. They woke Him and called for help. “And he said to them, ‘Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?’ Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled saying, ‘What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?'” (Matthew 8:26-27 ESV)

I understand the awe of the disciples. Those who read my blog will know the frustrations I’ve been having applying for visas to visit New Zealand. My son in New Zealand waited two hours to speak to the help-line and the information he got was not very helpful. I went along the rabbit warren of links and websites again and tried to make an appointment to hand in our passports. At least I found the sub-category that applied to our visas but the message was, “There are no slots available for this visa at present.” I discussed with my husband whether we should pay R1 104 to buy a walk-in appointment. We had almost decided on that but to buy the service we first had to make an appointment. So I tried again. This time there were two slots available, one on 30 September which is only a week away. We booked it, deciding not to go for the walk-in option which would show a lack of trust in the Lord.

Later, idly looking through accumulated emails, I found one from Immigration New Zealand. It said our visas had been approved and we could download our e-visas. The letter requesting us to present our passports has disappeared from my dashboard.

I was overwhelmed and filled with awe. When does an official government directive just disappear? I serve an awesome God. I have no idea what happened. The God who stilled the waves and the winds can also cause websites and technology to do what He directs. My God reigns!

Image by axonite from Pixabay

My Prayer

Lord, I am overwhelmed by Your sheer power. Thank You, thank You, thank You. I don’t understand what You did but I praise You. Amen.

If It’s not Messy, It’s not Real

When one is on a camping holiday, one gets to observe birds up close. I saw sparrows having dust baths right outside our tent. I googled it and discovered that indeed it is a way they clean themselves. They work the dust into their feathers then flap their wings and give them a good shake and the dust cleans them from mites and grease. A messy way to get clean!

A sparrow having a dust bath

When I was in grade two, my teacher told us that, when Jesus was a boy, He crafted sparrows out of wet clay and they flew away. I never heard that story again. Today’s chapter from John Stott’s book deals with sparrows. For the first time since 1958 I read that story again. John Stott writes, “The so-called Infancy Gospel of Thomas preserves a rather charming story (though almost certainly not authentic) of Jesus as a boy of five. He and other children were playing together beside a stream, and Jesus fashioned twelve sparrows out of soft clay. When his father Joseph asked him why he was breaking the law on the Sabbath day, ‘Jesus clapped his hands together and cried out to the sparrows and said to them ” Go!”, and the sparrows took their flight and went away chirping.'”

My Bible reading today was from John 9 and deals with the story of Jesus’ encounter with the man born blind. “After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. ‘Go,’ he told him, ‘wash in the Pool of Siloam.’” (John 9:6-7a NIV)

We all know what happened. But have we ever thought how messy it was? Jesus was standing with His hands covered in mud. The blind man was (presumably) led away to the pool with his face slathered with brown mud.

Fairy tales are neat and sanitised. “…and they all lived happily ever after.” Real life is messy. The Christmas card showing the immaculately clean baby in the arms of a serene mother, is not the reality. Giving birth is messy. It involves pain and blood. Lots of blood. Mary would have been exhausted, possibly tear-stained. Somehow we get it into our heads that when we become Christians, all our problems will disappear. That’s the fairy tale. The reality is that life is messy. It involves broken bones, times of struggle, hard work, disappointments and loss. Jesus never promised a problem-free life, only that He would be with us in the messiness. Jesus did not come to make life easy but to make men great. (I can’t remember who said that.)

So if life seems messy at the moment, don’t despair. Invite Jesus into the mess. He doesn’t mind getting His hands full of mud. He said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33b NIV)

My Prayer

Lord Jesus, I have preconceived stereotyped ideas about You. Please help me to come to grips with reality. You are much bigger than I can ever imagine. Help me to trust You implicitly , even in the mess. Amen.

Under or Above

The view from our motorhome is amazing.

It is no surprise that, from a place 500m from the main Scottburgh Beach, I could see surfers on Saturday morning when the weekend visitors arrived. I had every intention of writing a post for Streams of Consciousness Saturday where the prompt was “board.” I even took photos with my DSLR camera. Then I realised that my computer’s card reader no longer works and I left my plug-in one at home.

After the Sunday sermon https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QBZNtW-SL9A&t=54s by a visiting missionary, Martin de Lange, I decided to redirect my ideas.

Martin spoke about conversations he’s had around a braai where people are asked how they are doing. “All right under the circumstances,” many reply. Martin says Christians are not supposed to live under the circumstances but above them.

That’s where the surfboard illustration comes in. A surfboard is not meant to keep its rider under the water, but above it. Even if the wind blows or the sea is rough, a skillful rider stays above the waves, using their momentum to gather speed.

Faith in Christ is like our spiritual surfboard. Jesus said, “The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows].” (John 10:10 AMP)

Jesus did not intend us to live under the circumstances or to just keep our heads above water. Sure, we have problems but without problems there can be no miracles. We need to give our problems to Jesus and leave them with Him.

My Prayer

Lord Jesus, please help me to keep my eyes on You and not on my problems. I don’t need to tell You how big my problems are, but perhaps I should tell my problems how big my God is. Amen.

Gifts and Talents

I read Joshua 3 and 4 today, where Joshua, under God’s guidance, led the Israelites through the Jordan River. The priests carried the ark of the covenant into the river which was in flood. As soon as their feet touched the edge, water from upstream stopped flowing and piled up in a heap a great distance away.

The priests stopped in the middle, still holding the ark, while all the people crossed over in their tribes. Chosen men, one from each tribe, collected twelve stones from the river bed and carried them on their shoulders until they reached Gilgal.

Imagine the strength required of the priests to hold the ark, which was overlaid with gold, for a number of hours while standing still. Imagine the strength required of the twelve men to carry heavy rocks on a long hike. They were presumably chosen for their strength.

Strength is a gift from God, as is leadership, athletic ability, intelligence, entrepreneurial skill, artistic or musical talent, or any other God-given talent.

Image by Brigitte Werner from Pixabay

Jesus said, “Apart from me, you can do nothing.” (John15:5b NIV) The World lauds and rewards human achievement, but none of it is possible without God’s gifting.

My eighty-nine-year-old mother always says, “Use it or lose it,” usually talking about her brain and how she does crossword puzzles to exercise it.

As Jesus illustrated in the parable of the talents, (Matthew 25:14-30,) it is true of all God-given abilities and talents. If a man gifted with unusual strength goes to the gym and exercises regularly, his strength grows. A musician, dancer or actor practices regularly to become better in their field. Those gifted with intelligence study to make the best of their abilities. If they don’t, they are like the servant who buried his talent in the ground and the master took it away from him.

Use it or lose it.

My Prayer

Father God, You are the giver of all gifts and talents and You distribute them as You will. May I neither envy those more talented than myself, nor neglect to exercise or use the gifts You have given me. Amen.

It’s All About the Heart

It was in the newspaper.

A woman left home to look for her poodle which had gone missing. On the way she saw a pit bull mauling a little girl. According to onlookers, she did not hesitate but threw herself onto the child/dog maelstrom thus saving the little girl’s life. The woman is badly injured, recovering in hospital.

Would I have done a thing like that? If I am honest, the answer is “no.” That is because of what is in my heart.

Proverbs 4:23 reads, “Above all, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (NIV) What is important to us determines our actions and words.

The first commandment, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart…” really makes the rest of the commandments unnecessary. If God had His rightful place of first in our hearts, we would want, above all, to please Him and glorify Him.

So why would I not throw myself onto a vicious dog to save a stranger? Because other things take first place in my heart. First in line would be me, myself and I, followed by my plans, my family, my comfort. I am not prepared to risk my life and skin for another.

But Jesus is. While we were still His enemies, He gave His life for us, enduring excruciating pain before He died. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this. while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8 NIV)

Would Jesus have saved the little girl? Of course. So I am still very far from being in the image of Christ. I can’t even keep the first and most important commandment. I am an idolater.

My Prayer

Lord Jesus, I realise I am a sinner. I am not even capable of keeping the first commandment. I confess You do not have first place in my life. Please forgive me and grow me by Your Spirit to a point when I can love You with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. Amen.

Pruning Time

When our youngest child was two, the bank where my husband worked transferred him from Durban to Johannesburg. We bought a house we liked but made the mistake of agreeing to the sellers’ requirement that we only move in after six months. Fortunately the bank paid for us to be accommodated in a guest farm for that period. It was called Siesta.

I met an older lady there whose family was also in limbo. They were waiting for all the red tape to be processed before they could move to Australia. They had had a very traumatic burglary and had decided to get out of South Africa as soon as possible. She took me under her wing. One of the things she taught me was how to prune roses. She said you had to control where new shoots would grow so you get an open look and not a crisscross pattern in the bush. You do this by cutting just above a growth node in the direction you want the branch to go.

Image by RitaE from Pixabay

We had a visiting preacher at church today and he preached on John 15. “I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful…Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” (vs 1,2,4 NIV)

If we want to bear fruit, he said, we must do two things – remain, and expect to be pruned. Pruning is not a punishment or a sign of God’s displeasure but a necessary step to growth. Just as gardeners prune roses to produce bigger and healthier blooms and well shaped bushes, God prunes us to train our vigour into healthy growth and much fruit.

It is nearly pruning season for roses. If I were a rose, it is certainly not something I would look forward to, even if it were for my good.

My Prayer

Father God, pruning is not something I relish nor look forward to, yet I have to trust You to know exactly when I need pruning and how to do it. I submit my life again into Your hands. Please help me to remain in Christ. Amen.

From the Sidelines

Tomorrow is Wednesday and the day we join other pensioners for our ten pin bowling league. I am one of the worst bowlers in our group but nobody takes it too seriously and we all just have fun.

Some weeks ago I was trying to practice the presence of God by imagining Jesus with me. First I let Him bowl through me. All I can say is, He may have been a wonderful carpenter, but His bowling was no better than mine.

Then I thought perhaps He is my coach. That gave no better results.

Finally I realised that if God is my Father, He would be where any good father would be – watching his child from the sidelines.

I pictured a school cricket match. The fathers don’t go onto the pitch and hold their sons’ bats. Good fathers get enjoyment out of watching their children play whether they are good players or not. They cheer when their children hit sixes or take wickets, and shout, “Unlucky” if they are bowled.

In actual fact, my Father is more interested in my attitude and sportsmanship than in my performance.

So where is Jesus in the bowling alley? He’s standing unobtrusively behind the bowlers. He cheers when I get a strike and commiserates when I throw a gutter ball. He enjoys my enjoyment and smiles when I react in a God-honouring way.

Jesus said, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.” (John 15:9 ESV)

My Prayer

Thank you, Father, that you love me unconditionally, that there is nothing I can do that will make You love me more, or less. Thank You that You are a good Father and are interested in everything I do. Amen.

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.

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.

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.