Sunday, 26 March 2017

Help! Save me Out!

Recently I picked up a hiker on my way to work. My drive to work takes me forty-five minutes, which leaves ample time for conversation.

Among the light conversation we made, I asked him whether he knows Jesus, which he confirmed as most South Africans would. I left it at that for a while, making other conversation.

Then I returned to the topic asking him whether he is sure he would go to heaven should he die, which he denied.

Now you should know this was not planned - this was a divine appointment. Therefore when I asked whether he knows that he can be certain, the Holy Spirit led me to follow my question up with the passage from 1 John 5:13: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.

As I explained this to him an interesting revelation started unfolding in my heart. Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:15-16 that whoever believes in Him will be saved.

We are led to think that if we believe in Jesus' existence we shall be saved and inherited eternal life. But consider this for a moment.

·         Why do you trust your doctor with your health?
·         Why do you trust your financial consultant with your money?
·         Why do you trust the restaurant to provide you with safe and tasty food?
·         Why do you trust your spouse to support you in various ways?
·         Why do you trust the shop you purchase from?

Is it not because you believe in them?

There are various reasons why you believe in them.

·         They have given you excellent service.
·         They have proven themselves.
·         They have shown they care.
·         They have displayed love towards you.

So believing in a person means you are going to trust them to look after you in whatever you need from them, does it not?

What did Jesus mean when He said that whoever believes in Him shall have eternal life?

James 2:19 states: “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!”

Believing in Jesus’ existence is not sufficient, even the demons do that. Declaring you are a believer and going through the religious motions of Bible reading, church going, weekly home group meetings, and so on are not sufficient. Jesus spells out the terrible reality in Matthew 7:21-23: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”

In James 2:17 we read: “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”

Believing in the existence of God and of Jesus’ sacrifice is not enough. Your life needs to demonstrate by means of your actions and your relationship with Him that you believe in His ability to control your life. Also that His commands and Word are true and the only way by which you’re prepared to live. That is where holiness comes in – being set aside for the Lord.

Believing in Jesus is therefore an active trust in Jesus and his abilities and a proof of your love and devotion. “‘Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.’ Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, ‘Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?’ Jesus answered him, ‘If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me, (John 14:21-24).”

This is what will reserve your place in His presence – loving Jesus actively through a relationship of obedience.

Jesus said in Matthew 24:12-13: “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” Note He said ‘most’.

Are you just religious, having added Christianity to your portfolio of success, or do you have an active love relationship with Jesus and His Father?

Father God, I seek an active relationship with you in Jesus. Please guide me.

Friday, 17 March 2017

Where is God?

The Lord describes Himself quite often as having hands (e.g. Isaiah 64:8), feet (e.g. Psalm 110:1), and a face (e.g. Numbers 6:24-26). Isaiah 40:10-12 mentions His mighty arm and asks who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand?`

He identifies His dwelling as heaven (Matthew 6:1, 9).

Yet, He is omnipresent - everywhere at the same time.

How can the Lord have the figure of a person and be everywhere at the same time? Which part is where?

So, where is God?

I was in prayer one day contemplating the question how the Lord can minister to the needs of millions of His children all at the same time. He also knows everything about everybody all the time.

I don't believe the Lord intends to remain a mystery. He has always revealed Himself to the people who took Him seriously and He promises in John 14:21: “The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”

During my time of prayer I had a vision. We said the Lord is omnipresent, in other words He is everywhere. Acts 17:27-28 tells us: “God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.  For in him we live and move and have our being.’
God is everywhere and we are in Him, and that is what I saw in the vision. I saw a person in God to whom the Lord was complete. Although God, who is Spirit, is everywhere and have billions of people living in Him, He is everything to each person. To each person in the vision He had hands, feet and everything He reveals in the Word He has. This is how the Lord ministers to everybody’s needs. I believe the Lord shows it to our limited brains this way, so we can grasp it. It does not necessarily work like that in reality.

We cannot see the Lord and therefore no-one can have an accurate idea of how He works. We can just go by what the Bible says. It is important though to be aware that the Lord does not sit somewhere away in the heavens. Yes, He is there as well, for He is everywhere. But you are in Him and there cannot be a ceiling between you and Him from which your prayers can bounce. He hears all your prayers and answers every single one, although some answers are “wait” and some are “no” and others “not now”.

Why do you then feel your prayers bounce from the ceiling or that the Lord does not hear or answer you? Why not consider this scenario? You are busy with something that demands your attention. Maybe you’re watching television, listening to your music and/or are busy with whatever is important to you. Your best friend walks into the room and tries to communicate to you. You may or may not hear them, but are too busy to attend to them. You may even ask them a question, but do not listen to the answer.

Would you consider this to be rude? How would you feel if someone treats you like that?

How do you think the Lord feels when we treat Him like that? He is everywhere. You live inside of Him. How attentive you are to His presence though makes the difference. From experience I know it is possible to be extremely busy, but to still be aware of the Lord all the time. You just need to be tuned into His voice and nearness.

That was why David was called a man after God’s own heart. To him the Lord was everything. It was important to him that the Lord be honoured.
If you have your focus on the Lord all the time and not on your own desires, ambitions, dreams, status and honour, you will be intently aware of His will and desires for your life, and His power and love will be made manifest in you.

This is why Matthew 7:13-14 states:  “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

The Christianity culture is vast. Billions of people live the Christian way of life. But only a few are willing to sacrifice their idols for a dedicated and focused life in and with their Lord and Master.

Throughout the entire Bible the Lord cried out for this kind of relationship with the crown of His creation. He spoke through the prophets and apostles, He punished and corrected, but only a few people yielded to this focused and dedicated relationship.

Where do you stand? What are you prepared to sacrifice for an intimate and focused relationship with your Lover who is there for you twenty four seven?

Lord, I want to find the narrow, focused and dedicated way that leads to Eternal Life. Please lead the way. Help me become intently aware of your nearness to me all the time.

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Perfect love drives out fear

"And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.  This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the Day of Judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love, (1 John 4:16-18)."

What is perfect love and why would it drive out fear?

Do you think the Lord God loves you perfectly? Yes? Okay, now for the next question. Are you sometimes afraid? Do I hear you say quite often? So, do you maybe wonder why you are still afraid quite regularly if the Lord loves you so much?

If God's perfect (Greek meaning: complete) love is supposed to drive out fear, why are we still afraid? Is God not supposed to miraculously wipe away our fear with His love?

Consider a little child. If she is afraid of something in her room, what does she do? She screams out or calls her dad or mom. Why would she do that? It is because she knows they love her. How does she know it? They often told her that.

Would having told her be enough to give her confidence to call on them for help? If I were in her shoes and had no evidence of my parents' love apart from their words, I would probably have screamed for help in any case, testing whether they would respond. This would prove that their words meant something.

What is it that gives a child confidence to sleep alone in a dark room? Is it not her parents' assurance of her safety, backed up by their nearness? She has learned through a relationship with them to rely on their power to make her feel safe. Their love and protection have always been there, but her faith in them grew as she learned through relational experience that they can be trusted.
The Lord's love and protection are always active. It is however your believing it that activates it for you. Jesus said in Mark 11:23:  “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them." This faith comes through a relationship with the Lord. "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God, (Romans 10:17)."

Just like a child develops faith in the parents' abilities through a relationship that creates confidence with the child, so you will develop faith as you receive revelation from the Lord through your relationship with Him. This revelation comes through the Word of God as you study it to get to know Him better. As you study the Bible, the Lord highlights passages for you that increase your faith and forms the basis of it.

Through the years the Lord has blessed me with much revelation in the form of passages from the Bible that became real to me and brought me faith. Recently Psalm 23 became very real to me, and removed any doubt I may still have had in His abundant care.

You can have the same. When you're fearful and quote Psalm 23 (or any other passage you may have received) in prayer, once the Lord has made it real to you, faith in God's love rises up and drives out any fear.

The result of this faith relationship is peace in your heart that He will never leave nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5). You learn to quote His promises of perfect love through prayer, asking, and thanksgiving in times of fear until His peace fills your heart (Philippians 4:6-7).

Love and adore the Lord and you will not fear, for you will have insight into His character of love.

Lord, please fill my heart with revelation from your Word to replace my fears with faith.

Friday, 3 March 2017

What Do You Hope

In Psalm 37:4 we read: Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
What are these desires? Is it a mansion of a house, a sports car, and loads of money? Is it fame or power? I believe the Lord has shown me that the desires mentioned in this passage are His desires for your life and for His Kingdom. In other words, if the Lord is your delight, if He is your main source of pleasure and fulfilment and is the one you live for, He will put His desires in you. You will then desire what He wants you to desire.
This has a number of advantages, which is not the aim of this message today, but I will mention one. If you delight yourself in the Lord and seek His will for your life, you simply need to look at what you desire, for that desire would be the Lord’s desire that He put in you. By doing what you desire you are doing His will. Obviously the desire should be in line with the Word of God.
This desire you have creates hope in you. This is not the kind of hope in the context we often use the word hope; “I hope this and that will happen”, in other words a sort of despondent attitude. No the word hope in Biblical context denotes a glad expectation that you will get the desire you have if you ask it from the Lord. This is why Hebrews 11:1 declares:” Now faith is the substance (assurance) of things hoped for, the evidence (conviction) of things not seen.”
The Lord has put the desire in your heart. You have an exciting expectation that it will be fulfilled, but it has not happened yet. So what now? You display an assurance that your expectation will be fulfilled and you act under a conviction that it will come about, even though you cannot yet see it manifest. This is faith that pleases the Lord (Hebrews 11:6). Then you take whatever steps needed for this hope to manifest, for James 2:17 tells us that faith without works is dead.
For example; 22 years ago a certain pastor had a desire to begin a radio station to reach the thousands of souls in his city with the gospel of Jesus Christ. After the station had been going for a while, he got the desire to have a building to house the station in. He put this hope to action and started to look for a property. When he found what he wanted and heard the price, he realised he did not have the money... but he had the glad expectation – the hope. The seller told him he would be happy if the pastor could give him a third of the money as a deposit. Even though the pastor knew he did not have the money, he agreed that he would bring it the next day – putting action to his faith. He then went to his treasurer asking him to write him a cheque for the said amount of the deposit.
Next he went to his bank in the hope the bank would settle for an arrangement, but on the way there he had the desire to first get their mail from the post office, since he was in the area. Guess what; in the mail was a cheque for the exact amount he needed. He still went to the bank, but this time not as a beggar, but as a conqueror to deposit the cheque. Twenty two years later this radio station is still reaching millions with the Gospel.
Can you see how he responded to his desires, even the simple desire to get the mail? He had no proof that the money would be available, but he had a cheque written based on his assurance that God will somehow honour his faith.
This is what pleases the Lord as per Hebrews 11:6. If you act on the desire He put in you, even though you have no physical assurance, it will happen.
Is the Lord your main or only delight? What is it you desire? What is it you hope?
If we live only according to the sinful nature, our desires would be determined by the sinful nature – greed, lust, and pleasures that pleases the sinful nature. If we live a little by the sinful nature and a little by the Holy Spirit, we will have a little of both kinds of desires. This is why we are often confused, for we have to distinguish between our desires and the Lord’s desires,
But if we are holy (set aside) and focused on the Lord alone, His desires will determine our faith and actions.
So what do you hope? If it is anything that can further the Lord’s Kingdom and interests, then start acting to your convictions by faith. This can be something to meet your personal needs as well, for after all if you are wanting you cannot be effective in the Kingdom of God.

Lord, please teach me to live by faith.

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Monday, 27 February 2017

Be My Witnesses (Part Three)

Paul encouraged the Colossians: “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone,” (Colossians 4:5, 6).

This is what sowing seed, as we mentioned in part one of this series, is all about. We must be on the lookout for opportunities. Usually when we do things to benefit ourselves, we make the most of every opportunity, do we not?. The business person will see an opportunity for sales and will do his utmost to make the most of it. A lady will see an opportunity to wear the lovely new outfit she has bought and will make the most of it. A reporter will see the opportunity for a front page story and will make the most of it. If we are at all opportunistic, we will spot opportunities and use them.

In order for such opportunism to be used to fullest extent, we need to be interested in the opportunity. If secular opportunities are of interest to you, you are bound to make the most of them. How about the Kingdom of God? Are you really interested in it? Is it of concern to you that those working with you, those playing sport with you, those shopping with you, and so on, are going to hell, except if someone leads them to Jesus? Unless we are concerned about lost souls, we will never break out of our selfish lifestyles. We need to surrender to the Holy Spirit, so we can devote our time and energy to winning souls.

I have some lovely guidelines on how to lead people to the Lord, which I will make available soon, but a good beginning is to make use of every opportunity to wet someone’s appetite towards Jesus’ love. It does take a measure of courage and boldness though, but once you have started it becomes easier every time and once you have got into the habit of looking for opportunities, the Holy Spirit will put them in your way and give you the words to say. He is constantly looking out for willing servants.

When one of my staff members mentioned to me the hardships she and her family goes through, I said that, if she accepts Jesus as her savior, He can help her carry the burdens and also protect and heal her and her family if she would pray for them. Every so often, when she complained about something else, I reminded her of what I have said. Another staff member asked me how it was that I had become a pharmacist and in my answer it came out that I do not particularly want to be one, but the career does give me much opportunity to pray. Our conversation then turned to believing in Jesus. When I was complimented on the success of the pharmacy since I have started managing it, I was able to tell her that without lots of prayer going into it, I would not have been able to do it. This makes people aware of Jesus and prepares the way to lead them to Him.

All we need to do is to tell a total stranger in the queue at the supermarket that Jesus loves them, to publicly give the Lord the glory for our successes, to offer Jesus as the solution to people’s problems and to tell people at work about the miracles Jesus did for us. When conversations at work go in the direction of the spiritual, make sure that you tell them the Bible version. Just be sure not to become religious, but to stay practical and logical. We need to make the gospel attractive.

Lord, give me courage to make the most of every opportunity to sow seeds towards salvation.

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Sunday, 19 February 2017

Be My Witnesses (Part Two)

To be an effective and dedicated witness for Jesus depends on a few things. While the disciples were with Jesus, they enthusiastically did what He had asked them to do in terms of witnessing and miracles. It was as if they tried to please Him like good students at school would please their teacher. The disciples were under Jesus’ supervision and were able to return to Him for feedback on how they fared (e.g. Matthew 17:15-21). We can see a good example in Luke 10:1-20 where He sent out the seventy-two to prepare the way for Him. “The seventy-two returned with joy and said, ‘Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name,’” (V17).
But when Jesus died, the disciples’ anchor was gone. They had nobody to impress anymore, nobody to give feedback to, nobody to ask for feedback – they were powerless. While Jesus was alive and with them, He was their power and they relied on Him, which is why Jesus encouraged them in Acts 1:8: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” The Holy Spirit took Jesus’ place for feedback and encouragement.
When we live for ourselves and are subject to embarrassment, fear of opinions and fear of persecution, such as losing our jobs, we have no power to witness. Like the disciples of Jesus we need to depend on the Holy Spirit for power. When our relationship with the Lord is of such a nature that we do not care what we feel or go through, as long as the Lord is pleased (impressed) by our obedience and faith, witnessing will come easily and we will know the Lord will look after us whilst we witness. If we lose our jobs, if we get thrown into jail and even if we are killed for our faith, we will know the Lord is in control of our lives. That is why that family of missionaries, of some years ago, were able to sing worship songs to the Lord while they were buried alive and the father’s voice was the last one to be heard.
Romans 6:8: “Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.” V11: “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” We do not live for ourselves anymore since we have died with Christ. We have died to sin such as self-centeredness, materialism and self-gratification and we live for Jesus. Therefore, if we are filled with the Holy Spirit and totally in love with Jesus in such a way that we would give Him anything He requires, witnessing would come easily. We would love as Jesus loves and see those lost souls that are going to hell as Jesus sees them and it would burden our souls as it does Jesus’ soul. Once we have come to the point of loving like Jesus loves – unselfishly – we will find it impossible not to tell of His love.
Apart from sacrificing His life on the cross, Jesus sacrificed His life for the salvation of others while he was on earth. He did not consider Himself in the least. “Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, ‘Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.’ Jesus replied, ‘Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head,’” (Matthew 8:19, 20). Jesus poured out His everything for others and ever since the book of Acts, many others have done the same.
How about you and I?

Lord, help me to love you so seriously that I would give myself for others.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Be My Witnesses (Part One)

Under the title ‘Fear of Man’ we have started to talk about making a difference and that we may be persecuted as a result. We have concluded that in certain countries, with so-called ‘religious freedom’, we will be persecuted if we do the Lord’s work as he would like it done. Paul told Timothy: “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,” (2 Timothy 3:12).
Once again the Lord has shown the way in the Bible for those who are prepared to go beyond religion to be an active soldier for Christ. The Bible is actually cleverly written and if we make it our business to know it, the Holy Spirit will use that knowledge to guide us and keep us safe. The Lord works by means of His Word and responds to His Word when used in prayer and in service.
Jesus told His disciples when He sent them out: “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves,” (Matthew 10:16). What He tells us, His disciples, here is that we must carefully listen to how the Holy Spirit wants to reach a soul, in other words, to walk in the Spirit. Remember we are in a war. Unsaved souls currently belong to the world and the world belongs to the devil that makes every effort to protect his property, which is why Christians get persecuted. Satan continuously puts structures in place that give him a mandate to persecute Christians. For example, Communism in China prohibits Christianity and so does Islam in the Muslim countries. In the western world political correctness is his latest strategy. Even though religious freedom exists, political correctness demands that human rights be protected. Can you see how clever it is?
But the Lord is the God of the universe. He is almighty, all-knowing and much craftier than the devil could be (except in an honorable way) and He has sent His Holy Spirit to guide us. The devil will never come to a person and say: “Boo, I am the devil and I do not want you to follow God.” He comes in very sly ways. In the same way the Lord’s disciples must depend on the Holy Spirit to be clever and crafty in the way we witness to people.
We need to keep in mind that it is not our job to convince people to follow the Lord, but that of the Holy Spirit. All we need to do initially is to sow the seed. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 3:6: “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.” For every soul that gets saved, many seeds have been planted in their hearts. You may witness to someone and then move on, whilst continuing to intercede for him. A little later the Lord sends someone else to witness to the person, who waters the seed and so it continues until the person gets saved. Sometimes it is someone close to you and you do most of the sowing and watering, but it is still the Lord who brings the person to salvation. When the person is ready, the Lord will send someone in for the harvest.
In order to limit persecution we need to obey the Holy Spirit. Jesus told His disciples to witness. Do not preach - tell your story. You can share what you have witnessed in your own salvation and Christian life, of the experience of someone else or of some miracle you have observed. Whilst doing this you can weave a whole teaching, with scripture quotations galore, into it, but telling it in the first person as a story makes it a testimony and not preaching, and therefore .

Lord, show me how to be crafty in my witnessing.

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Fear of Man (Part Two)

When we reached out to the people of the night in Cape Town some years ago, we had a growing outreach team. After youth club on Friday nights we would have drinks and snacks in the coffee bar and then I would lead a team of about forty or more young people to witness on the streets, especially in front of the many night clubs in the surrounding areas. We also took teams in buses to other night clubs further on. We had amazing times, seeing mighty works of the Lord, but this landed me in front of the elders of the church.
“How can you take our young people in our buses to the night clubs in the middle of the night..?” Then they listed all the carnal fears and dangers and the potential image damage to the church. By the wisdom of the Holy Spirit I made them understand that we were doing the Lord’s work and He was looking after us, which He did. “And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say,” (Luke 12:11, 12). After they had grilled me, the head pastor came over to encourage me saying: “If you have survived this one, Henry, you will survive anything.”
More recently in another church in England, while I helped out at youth club one night, I happened to get into conversation with three ten year old girls. One girl was opening her heart to me in a code language we both spoke. I realized this was a divine appointment and settled in on their level, sharing the Lord’s wisdom with her as the Holy Spirit led me, to put her troubled heart at ease. Lo and behold, next thing I became aware of the person in charge towering over me with fire in her eyes, trying to hint that I should move away from the girls. Since I was busy with the Lord’s business and had a divine appointment, I ignored her and continued with what the Lord had in mind. She eventually became verbal and I had to end the conversation. Needless to say, I received the usual grilling.
Whose work are we doing, church, when we are so scared of what man can do to us? In the first example the church leaders were scared of the possibility that somebody may sue the church if something happened to some of the young people, and they were concerned about the image of the church. What would people think of the church, should they find out their young people hang out around night clubs?
In the second example the church was also afraid. What would happen if people found out that a man, who already had grown, married children himself, had a conversation with a ten-year-old in public where everybody could see them? What could happen to the church – maybe a law suit?
“The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe,” (Proverbs 29:25). These were only two examples, but can you see where the church is headed? We are compromising with the world! In Hebrews 11:36-38 we read: “Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated - of whom the world was not worthy--wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.” Does it sound as if they were concerned about their image or what men can do to them?

Lord, my rewards are waiting. Help be to obey at all cost!

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