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.

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!

Fear of Man (Part One)

Once our church had a few short term missionaries from the church testifying about their trip to Romania. They told of the drug problem and of the young people sleeping in the sewers. Mission work generally seems to focus on the poor and the needy in other countries and usually on the material provision for such people, along with the preaching of the gospel. As they were speaking, my thoughts went to the UK and other similar countries in affluent Europe. Because of the wealth of these countries real poverty is not such a problem and wherever people are poor due to misadministration of their funds, some missions do meet their needs for food.
A question then came up in my heart: ‘What about the souls of the other residents of our own country? How are they hearing of the gospel?’ Most people in this country have a good life due to either the availability of work or the social care structure, so they have no need for physical care and therefore their need for spiritual care seems to be ignored. It seems not to matter that they are they are headed for hell.
Every so often we get reports of Christians being persecuted in the UK when they try to testify, to pray for someone or lead somebody to the Lord. My wife worked for care houses run by Christians and supported by a local church, but because they are government funded they are not allowed to share the gospel or pray with the residents. Whenever I shared the gospel at work I can sense that some were sniggering at me. It probably happens to most of us. Maybe this is why we are reluctant to share the gospel – we fear persecution.
On more than one occasion I heard someone during a church service praising the Lord for our religious freedom and lack of persecution, and then I asked myself why we have a lack of persecution. If, in a few isolate cases of doing the Lord’s will people get persecuted, what will happen if we “obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29)? Persecution may become rife if we start to obey relentlessly, but souls will be saved and Christianity will grow much more rapidly. The first church was violently persecuted, but it did not stop them from spreading the gospel and they grew rapidly. So it is with the current persecuted church. Some years ago we met some members of the underground church in China. I suggested that they pray for Communism to fall so they could get religious freedom. Their reaction was quite adamant: “No, for it is persecution that keeps the church active and alive.” When people got imprisoned for their faith, they simply saw it as a new opportunity to spread the gospel.
Having religious freedom and external peace is a dangerous sign, since “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,” (2 Timothy 3:12). If we are not persecuted it means we are not a threat to the devil and his people. Persecution does not necessarily mean the loss of general religious freedom, but it can do. The fact is, people go to hell in their millions and the Lord is concerned about it. “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest,’” (Matthew 9:36-38). How are we going to answer before Him one day, since we must obey God more than we do men? We will continue this thought in the next chapter.

Lord, please prepare me to tolerate persecution for the gospel’s sake.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Shine Jesus Shine... (Part Three)

I have a hard word to bring. The Lord said to me he would like to shed His light upon us so we can search ourselves. I have spent most of yesterday praying that the Lord will show us in what areas our attitudes are not in line with His will.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23, 24). Maybe today we could pray the same. Do we grieve the Holy Spirit?

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life,” (John 8:12). The key condition in this promise of Jesus is ‘whoever follows me’. Who do we follow? I have seen many churches in my lifetime that copy other churches and all kinds of revival movements. I hear regularly from individuals who admire other individuals and their ministry and lift them up. One often hears of so and so who is or was such a wonderful man of God. When certain pastors are invited to speak at a particular event, the speaker’s credentials are listed. Who do we follow? What would these individuals have been without Jesus and the Holy Spirit’s anointing? Why do we focus on the individuals and give praise to them? Pastors and leaders are there to train, guide and support us in our calling, but we should not admire or obey man. We should follow Jesus through the Holy Spirit in us, obeying Him on a daily basis and giving Him all the glory. We should discern whether it is the Holy Spirit guiding us or whether it is men.

If you are a pastor or in leadership yourself, what is the motive behind your actions? Do you try to get the people stirred up emotionally so they will say they had a wonderful service and you can grow in popularity? Do you compromise the Word of God so you can preach what the people would like to hear, or do you preach truth, conviction, obedience and life? “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths,” (2 Timothy 4:3, 4). It is so easy to fall for the temptation to please people, for pastors are dependent on their tithes and offerings.

When you think of yourself - as pastor, a leader or just a Christian - are you pleased with yourself and what you have accomplished, and do you enjoy the attention of people, or do you pass praise on to the Lord? Are we looking at others, seeing the need for Jesus and making every effort to bring the light of Jesus to them, sacrificing ourselves in the process, or do we live self-indulgent lives, convincing ourselves that we deserve the comfort?

Allow the light of Jesus to show you your attitude and your level of obedience, for “the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few,” (Matthew 9:37), and “not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven,” (Matthew 7:21). We have no time to waste or spend in self-indulgence.

Lord, please break through my self-righteousness and show me who I am.

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Shine Jesus Shine... (Part Two)

Jesus said: “I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness,” (John 12:46), and “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life,” (John 8:12).
The devil’s purpose is to envelop men in darkness, to blind them so they cannot see their own condition. Some are blinded by self and all they can see are themselves, others are blinded by success, money, fame, lust, pleasure, religions and so on, up to the extreme of the occult and intense spiritual darkness. Many who call themselves Christians are even blinded by religion. In other words, they are so ‘religious’ that they have no idea what Jesus is like.
“You are the light of the world... let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven,” (Matthew 5:14-16). We are to bring Jesus’ light to the people. People’s darkness should be exposed through what we do and say. They need to see who they are and they need to recognize how the devil has blinded and deceived them. This would happen if we started praying for them. I became aware of a dear brother’s battle against sin and, before I did anything, the Lord prompted me to intercede intensely for him  through continuous, passionate prayer. This opened his eyes to see his condition and also to see what the Holy Spirit brought to his attention through me; which in itself is wisdom from the Lord and thus light. The light of Jesus was shed on him. As a result of the Lord’s light and power he progresses well – praise be to Jesus. The Lord also prompted me to pray intensely for the salvation of some people I regularly see and I look forward to the results.
Through our loving words and actions, together with our obvious relationship with the Lord, the light of Jesus will illuminate the lives of those around us. Unless people realize what they are like by seeing their sin, they will not come to Jesus. Once they see and accept Jesus, they have the light. During the rest of their walk with the Lord, His light will continuously make them aware of those issues in their lives that hinder their relationship with Him. This is providing they are close enough to Him and care enough to see what He tries to show them.
In the light of Jesus that emits from us, sinners will also see who He is in us. If we walk close with the Lord and depend daily on Him, the world will see His authority, anointing, love, joy, wisdom, peace, strength, and so on, emitting from us and they will recognize we are different. Some will honor us for it and others will persecute us. “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus,” (Acts 4:13). And yet they chose to persecute them.
“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you,” (John 15:7). I often ask the Lord for His authority and anointing to do my work well and to let my light shine well. If people see the Almighty in us, His name is glorified. That is how our light should shine.
Lord, I need to abide in you so my light can shine and you be glorified


Saturday, 24 September 2016

Shine Jesus Shine... (Part One)

“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life,’” (John 8:12) and in John 9:5 He said “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Now that Jesus is not in the world anymore, He has passed the light on: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven,” (Matthew 5:14-16).
The passage in John 9:5 above is preceded by the following: “We must work the works of Him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work,” (John 9:4). It is clear that Jesus felt urgency about the work to be done and He certainly did not let grass grow under His feet. “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written,” (John 21:25).
Our light shines whether we call attention to it or not. We do not have a choice. Jesus said ‘you are the light of the world’. He did not say, ‘be the light if you feel like it’. The Lord has pre-planned the works He has in mind for us. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them,” (Ephesians 2:10).
The works Jesus did were undertaken in His stride. He went through life ‘minding His own business’, so to speak, and then the opportunities for miracles and teaching arose. He did not seek them out.  However,  He was prepared for them, since He started His day in unity with His Father and walked in the Spirit all the time, which is why His works happened to be great. He had great faith.
Our works should also be undertaken in our stride. They may not appear to be great to us, but to the Lord they are great. “And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward,” (Matthew 10:42). Let us therefore be light to the world. I always try to make people feel special at work - to add a little light and joy to their day. When children’s medicines are collected I say things that lift them up and always call for a high five. Their little faces blossom and when they come in next time I can see the expectation in their eyes. When we participate in street children outreaches in Cape Town, we always play with the children, causing joy that they would think back on, and then remember that Jesus played with them. We may have given them some of their only opportunities of joy and fun. I also try to make my adult customers and my staff feel special. Whenever the opportunity arises I make it known that they need Jesus and that Jesus is special to me, so they know that this joy comes from Jesus. How about you?
We do not necessarily need to preach the gospel. We could just talk about what happened to us and live the joy that is in us, and the light will shine.
Lord, please show me how to let my light shine.

Monday, 30 May 2016

Right Focus, Great Life (Part Two)

What is it that many Christians seek? You may disagree with me, but if you compare the lifestyle of western Christians with the early church as described in the Bible, you would see what I mean. From observing Christians it appears that many of us desire one or more of the following:

·         Power, importance, influence and position.
·         Money and comfort.
·         Entertainment and self-gratification.

What was the consequence of being a witness in the early Church? Was it not persecution and hardship? But the fruit they bore were many souls delivered from evil. Even today the persecuted church does not have time for vanity. A couple from the persecuted church in China once lived with us for a few weeks during their Bible college break. They told us what persecution was like in China. When I suggested they pray for the government to become democratic, so they may have freedom, they were adamant that they do not want it, since persecution purifies the church and keeps her active and fruitful.

The Lord God knew the self-centred heart attitude of man when He spoke the following through the prophet Jeremiah in Jeremiah 9:23-24:

Thus says the Lord:
“Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom,
let not the mighty man glory in his might,
nor let the rich man glory in his riches;
but let him who glories glory in this,
that he understands and knows Me,
that I am the Lord, exercising loving-kindness,
judgement, and righteousness in the earth.
For in these I delight,” says the Lord.

This passage gives a good indication of who God is and what He wants to accomplish. He does not only exercise His kindness as many preachers would like to portray so they may win more followers, but He also ensures people act according to His righteousness. Note also that His judgement is not preserved for judgement day, but is exercised on earth here and now. Think for example of what happened to Ananias and Sapphira in Acts chapter five. His judgement is exercised on Christians in the form of discipline as we see in Hebrews 12. He also expects the latter two to be preached and taught.
Why would God reveal Himself as such? He is our Father in heaven and we are created in His image.  Apart from sin He is just like us? What does a good parent do to prepare a child for life? You love her – this is lovingkindness. You teach her right living and respect – this is righteousness. You apply discipline if she does not comply - this is exercising judgement. The end result is a mature, obedient and respectful person, able to make a change to her world. This makes it easier to identify with the exact same method the Lord uses with His children and the purpose He aims to accomplish.

The Lord’s aim for the earth is right living, rightness with Him, peace and joy. The enemy, however, aims to accomplish exactly the opposite. Therefore the only way the Lord can accomplish His dream is by preparing willing sons and daughters to be efficient soldiers for the Kingdom, just as a worthy parent would prepare his child to be a useful citizen of society.

In addition to obediently responding to the Holy Spirit's guidance, we need to pray this commitment of God into being, in other words for this will of His to be done. This is the way it is in heaven, and this we need to pray to life on earth (Matthew 6:9-13). He committed Himself to the saints' prayers and will only act in response to prayer.

As Judge and Advocate (1 John 2:1, 2 Timothy 4:8) He wants to see righteousness exercised in government, in business, to the poor and the weak, as well as to His children. But He waits for the prayers of the saints. Therefore you should report unrighteous leaders, unrighteous business people and unrighteous activity to Him, the Judge and Advocate, and be prepared to do your part as the salt of the earth. This may result in you not being so popular and comfortable, since persecution is bound to come. But your crown is awaiting you in heaven.

Lord, please exercise kindness, righteousness and judgement on those who need it. I am thinking of... (Put in names).

Monday, 23 May 2016

Right Focus, Great Life (Part One)

How do you pray? A preacher once said he sees nowhere in the Bible where Paul, the apostle, prayed for his own needs. His focus in prayer was the Kingdom of God and people's involvement in it.

But where is our focus? Where is yours? Do we not usually have a shopping list before God?

What is the Lord's aim for His children? Is His dream not that we should know Him?

Generally man tends to focus on self. I do not even refer to non-believers here. Just listen to many of the messages you hear from the pulpit, on radio and television, as well as the lyrics of worship songs. What is the focus in them? I hear much of how God loves us and desires to bless us and how good He is to us and therefore we do not need to worry.

The focus appears to be mostly on I, me, and myself and very little on discovering who the Lord God is and what changes we need to make in order to become like Jesus, so that God may be glorified. Then I cannot help thinking of the passage in 2 Timothy 4:3: “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”

When we witness, do we not usually focus on telling what the Lord has done for us and how He has blessed us and provided for us? You may ask what is wrong with it. Is that not what the Lord has promised He will do? Yes, He certainly had our wellbeing in mind when He made those promises, but not so much for the sake of our own comfort, but rather that we may be fit and cared for whilst we work in the harvest field of His Kingdom and at maintaining a righteous relationship with Him (Matthew 6:33, Matthew 9:37). In this context He promised His care and provision whilst we busy ourselves with His interests. How about therefore getting involved with the needs of others and then witness what the Lord has done for them?

What are we seeking when seeking the Kingdom of God? In Romans 14:17 we read that the Kingdom of God is righteousness (rightness with God), peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. So what are you actively pursuing through prayer and action? You firstly seek right standing with God for yourself. This you do by moving into Christ's righteousness through faith (John 3:3-5). You make the rightness with God, which Jesus bought for you on the cross, your own. You cannot earn rightness with God. It's a gift you have to accept for yourself.

But you may already be born again and therefore have taken the previous step. Next you have to bring your soul in line with this righteousness by working with the Holy Spirit to get your behaviour and desires right before God (Philippians 2:12-13). Resulting from this is peace and joy because you are progressing towards living in faith and obedience.

Following this you need to work towards getting those around you to have this same Kingdom. This involves witnessing, evangelism, serving, preaching, teaching, encouragement, exhortation, prophesying and so on.

With regard to seeking right standing or righteousness with the Lord, have a read of 2 Corinthians 6:16-18. Have you checked yourself whether you are free from idols and of use to God? This passage continues in chapter 7:1: “Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.”

Do you see what God's aim is with your life? Do you still think just becoming born again or belonging to a church is sufficient? (To be continued)

Sunday, 8 May 2016

The Power Behind Overcoming Temptation

If there lived on this earth one expert in the art of surrendering to temptation and justifying yourself for yielding, it was the old me.

When I felt in a bad mood and felt like being rude, I simply acted rudely. If my flesh wanted the pleasure it craves from carnal desires, I found justification to surrender to the desire. In such a situation the Holy Spirit would call on me for a pep talk, after which I repented and let it go. But to be honest, I did it reluctantly.

Then the blame game started. I have often thrown 1 Corinthians 10:13 before the Lord, which reads: “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

“Why do I struggle so much with sin if this promise of yours is true?” I wanted to know. “You don't seem to care to help me to overcome.”

Hands up. Who has been there?

Then one morning I had this wonderful revelation on this passage.

Let us consider it carefully. The first part basically informs you that temptation is not from God. It is from the nature of man and it is to this nature that Satan directs his suggestions or temptations.

It is the second part I would like to discuss here though: “God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”
We have the promise that we will not be tempted above what we can bear. Other translations mention that we will not be tempted above our strength. So when we succumb to the temptation and then sin, who failed; God or us? As mentioned I have often blamed God. And you, who did you blame?

The promise in this passage is that the Lord has given us strength to resist, as well as a way out of any temptation. So if we yield we actually wilfully ignore the solution the Lord gave us, do we not? We choose to sin. We already have the strength to resist as well as the way out, yet we still do it.

The passage continues to inform us that the Lord will provide with the temptation a way out. “But some temptations come so quickly,” I hear you say, “there is no time to wait for a way out.” This is where the miracle comes in. The word used in this passage is ‘with’. At the moment the temptation comes, the way out of it is already there. It comes with the temptation. The choice whether you will take it is still yours though.

The day following this revelation was an interesting one for me. During my quiet time that morning I declared this passage over my life and was ready to look for the way out. I was very tired and felt particularly down. Therefore my flesh had set itself up to snap at difficult patients and to enjoy the opportunity to be rude.

I did not feel like smiling or being friendly, yet every time I faced a patient, my mouth somehow turned into a smile and friendly words in a kind tone came from my mouth. Remember, my carnal nature was ready to be rude, but because I declared my surrender to the Lord and His Word, they miraculously determined my actions. This was God's strength overruling my weakness and His way out that came with the temptation.

God's truth protected me in another way during that time as well. The previous day a pretty woman, who worked with me, really flirted with me and I had difficulty to resist her. The following day, the day of the revelation, I was kind of scared to go back there, but thanks to the power of the declared Word of God these temptations also lost their power. I easily avoided her attentions and she quickly got the message.

The Lord's Word is true and always has the power to accomplish what it was sent for (Isaiah 55:10-11). The only times its power does not work for you is when you choose not to believe and apply it.

Remember the Lord God is always ready to back the promises of His Word for you with His power. You simply need to believe it, declare it, and put action to your faith - in other words apply it consciously and deliberately.

Lord, please teach me how to apply your Word by faith.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

A Poor Man's Fairy Tale – A True Story

This is a true story about a Christian who acted in obedience to the Holy Spirit within the Romans 12:6-8 gifting he has received from God. I will call him Friend.

Friend had a job to be done for which he needed a few labourers. He knew he would find willing hands on a street corner to help him, and hired four men. About three hours into the day he realized he would need at least one more man otherwise they would not finish in time.

Since the town, where he found the workers, was quite far away from the site where they worked, he was not really keen to drive all the way there, and resolved that they would try and make it with the hands he had.

The Lord God, however, had other plans. Friend's job that he assigned to himself was to load the trailer and drive the foliage to the dump. Soon after he had realized that he actually needed another worker, it became time to dump another load. As soon as he had turned onto the main road that leads to the town where he had found the men, and also to the nearby dump, a man waved him down.

He was dressed like a painter, which in fact he was. Friend told him he was only going to the dump a kilometre down the road and not to the town where Painter was headed. When Painter offered to help him unload the trailer at the dump, Friend realized that this was a divine appointment and hired him. Little did he know what the Lord God had in mind. Painter identified himself as a Christian.

Painter's job became loading and unloading the trailer together with Friend. During their trips to the dump they became friends and impacted one another's lives under guidance of the Holy Spirit.

As they drove through the village where they did the job, Painter pointed out two houses he had painted and also offered Friend his business card. Friend liked what he saw when he observed the paint jobs on the houses and felt led to design a one page website to promote Painter, which he did for free and hosted as a sub domain to his own domain. In the next couple of weeks he took pictures of some of Painter's work as well as of Painter on the job.
A week after Friend had launched the website Painter had three houses to paint, all as a result of the website. The two of them kept contact and six weeks after he had launched the website, Friend came to the area again and Painter asked to see him. He overflowed with joy and could not stop hugging Friend. He told Friend that he now had a staff of five painters and had purchased himself a small car.

When the Lord arranged the divine appointment between the two of them, Painter was poor and struggling to get work. He was faithful in that he marketed himself by handing out a simple business card he had printed, but had little work and hungry children. God had heard his prayers and knew about the hobby His servant, Friend, has - website design.

And the outcome - provision for a poor man who was prepared to use what he had. Painter stays faithful in marketing himself, but now has a web address on his card. Clients are able to see his work before they contact him and therefore contracts are flooding in.

Painter also heeded Friend's exhortation to deliver excellent work, something he previously neglected due to a poor man's attitude. The website makes him feel professional and so does having staff he is responsible for, as well as the fact that he has wheels. Therefore he delivers professional work.

The Lord gifted all people with the intention that we should serve one another with what we have. He does not necessarily want everything to be formalized, but only wants His children to be there for one another with what we have to offer.

“By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another,” (John 13:35). What is it you have available that someone else may need. If you listen for guidance from the Holy Spirit, He will lead you in the right direction and your joy will be full.

It is vital, though, that you give your best and walk the extra mile. “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men,” (Colossians 3:23). Friend told me he made the website appear professional and appealing; exactly the way he would have done it for himself. He took trouble to go out and take pictures, searched for relevant links on the Internet that customers would appreciate, and so on.

Jesus went all the way in serving total strangers with what He had, in obedience to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, according to the will of the Father. If all Christians have the attitude that the Lord Jesus had, the world would see Jesus in us and desire change.

Romans 15:1-9: “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbours for their good, to build them up. For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: ‘The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.’ For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

“Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, so that the promises made to the patriarchs might be confirmed and, moreover, that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.

Father, please guide me as I obey you in displaying the attitude Jesus had.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Go in This Strength of Yours

I will return later to this series we are busy with. The Lord gave me a few Golden Nuggets I would like to place first.

I would like to share an interesting revelation with you.

Gideon was threshing out some wheat in the winepress. He was dead scared of the Midianites when Jesus, called the Angel of the Lord in the Old Testament, visited him. You can read his history in Judges 6-8.

Throughout this passage it is clear that Gideon found it equally easy to panic and believe. When he had an encounter with the Lord, faith came easily, but when his bad self image and lack of confidence got the better of him, despair stepped in just as easily.

When Jesus appeared to him He greeted Gideon with the words: "The LORD is with you O mighty man of valour," (Judges 6:12). The Lord should have known Gideon's personality, which was characterized by fear, insecurity and lack of self-confidence. Why would He have greeted him this way?

A few verses later He ordered Gideon in verse 14: "Go in this might (or strength) of yours and save Israel from the hands of Midian; do I not send you?"

Many scholars take it that Jesus spoke faith over Gideon when He uttered the latter, in other words proclaiming Gideon's potential and what he was like at the time.

Usually it is a good idea to motivate people this way, especially those with lots of confidence. You tend to get results. But those suffering with a lack of confidence are not so easily fooled. They find it difficult to get past the barrier which was erected by a lack of faith in themselves. They need sufficient evidence that they are actually able to do it. If you have experienced this before, you will understand it. Therefore, even though the Lord believed in him, Gideon still had himself to encounter. You will find much evidence of it in this passage.

We said earlier that Gideon easily panicked and got into despair, but equally easily acted in faith after an encounter with the Lord.

I have mentioned two significant phrases the Lord had said to Gideon, which actually became quite famous throughout the ages and have been used in many messages. I believe they relate respectively to each of these two characteristics that Gideon displayed.

Firstly, when the Lord told Gideon to "go in this might of yours" He meant the strength and courage Gideon had at the time, which was not much. It is not easy for anybody to, in your own strength, be more than you are.

Gideon also proved this fact by immediately acting within character. He said in verse fifteen: “So he said to Him, ‘O my Lord, how can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.’” This is exactly the position the Lord wanted him in, for then the glory would be His and not Gideon's, which is why He comforted Gideon with the words: "The LORD is with you" (verse 12), "do I not send you" (verse 14) and "I will be with you" (verse 16).

It is of no use you try to pump up your self-confidence in order to become something you are not. It is better to step out saying: "I cannot do it, but God can do it through me." Then we go in the strength we have and the Lord does the part we cannot do.

Secondly, why did Jesus call Gideon a mighty man of valour? He did know Gideon's fearful personality, did He not?

If you display faith in the Lord God and through that please Him (make Him happy), He releases to you a lot of strength and power. "The joy of the Lord (in other words Him being happy) is my strength," (Nehemiah 8:10), and "without faith it is impossible to please God," (Hebrews 11:6).

The Lord knew Gideon's ability to easily trust Him, believe Him, and rely on Him. These virtues made Gideon mighty and powerful, not because of him, but because the Lord was to be with him. God's joy, as a result of Gideon's faith and obedience, released His might and power to Gideon.

How about you? In what manner is the Lord pleased by your faith and obedience? Paul mentioned in 2 Corinthians 12:9: “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. Gideon went out in the little strength he had, trusting the Lord, and had the privilege to see the Lord's power on display.

Which weakness currently stands in your way to step out in service to the King of kings?

Simply go out in the little strength you have available, and God's almighty power will be made perfect in it.

Jesus said that if you have faith as small as a mustard seed you will do mighty things; “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. (Matthew 17:20). That is all you need. The reason why many Christians accomplish very little is because they do not even have that amount of faith.

All you need is to start doing what you know God expects of you, even if it is with a throbbing heart, shaky legs, and breath that gets stuck in your throat when you try to speak. Believe me, that is probably how Gideon felt. As you start seeing the Lord's faithfulness and power in action, your boldness and faith will grow, until it is as big in comparison to your initial faith as a mustard tree is in comparison to the seed it came from.

The result - God's Kingdom and your heavenly treasure will prosper.

Lord, give me the courage to go out in the little strength I have and make you happy by acting in faith.