Pentecost talk

 

Did you all watch the royal wedding yesterday? With the appropriate oohs and ahs and isn’t she gorgeous?

I wonder how many gifts they received from all over the world? Do you think they sent any gifts back? ‘Sorry don’t want it.’

(Found out afterwards they gave all to charity!)

Have you ever been offered a free gift and then you rejected the gift? Do you know how the giver reacted to your rejection? Hurt? Surprise? Anger? Disbelief?

Even worse you accept the gift and lock it away in a cupboard – where it remains for years – probably never to be used in your lifetime!

Perhaps you hand it over to a charity and hope like – uhm – anything the giver will never ask you about it. Even worse they won’t see someone else using it.

Unwanted or unused gifts can – and often do – result in awkward moments.

Let me ask you about a gift I know you have received. A gift made available nearly 2000 years ago.

Jesus came to earth in human form and suffered abuse, assault and rejection before dying gruesomely on the cross. He rose again from the dead to take our sins upon His shoulders and to defend us in front of our Father God. As Jesus rose up to sit with His Father He promised us a gift.

So today we celebrate Pentecost. A gift to you from Jesus Christ. The gift of the Holy Spirit.

What have you done with this special gift from Jesus Christ?

Have you accepted the Holy Spirit? If so are you one with Him and is the Holy Spirit in you?

Have you accepted the gift of the Holy Spirit? Do you use this gift – or have you locked it away – probably never to be used in your lifetime?

Several Sundays back the gospel reading was about the vine. Jesus said “For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.”

You cannot be fruitful unless you remain in Me.

A vine branch cannot be fruitful if it separates from the vine. We cannot be fruitful if we separate from Jesus.

Jesus has not invited us to be spectators. Christianity is not a spectator sport. He wants us involved and active and filled with the Holy Spirit. Connected to the main vine. Connected to Jesus Christ.

If we look at the church of the Apostles in Acts it was different and it was inviting. People loved what they saw and they wanted some of it. Their numbers grew every day.

Why? Because the people in the church were not only filled with the Holy Spirit but they were also empowered by Him

Acts 1:8 (NLT) “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere….”

John 14: 26 “But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.”

When we are one with the Holy Spirit our knowledge and understanding of His Word will blossom. The Holy Spirit is going to teach us. Guide us. Encourage us. The Holy Spirit participates in the growth of the church encouraging and helping believers.

After Saul’s persecution of the Christians had ceased we read in Acts 9:31 “Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.”

“Encouraged by the Holy Spirit it grew in numbers.”

Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 12: 7 A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other.

Everyone is given a spiritual gift.

The church in Acts transformed the community. It was not exclusive to the members of the church. It served the community.

The member’s concentration (their focus) was on being one with God and for His Holy Spirit to be in them, individually, empowering them to be His light in this world.

Logically the church is a gift – not to Christians – but to the whole world.

Many Christians view church attendance, a daily prayer and a bible reading as being one with the Holy Spirit. Some even suggest it implies being born again. Abiding in God is not like reporting for work – ensure my time card is stamped – then do my fifteen or thirty minutes with God – mustn’t forget to tell God about my shopping list – now let’s get out into the world. How can that be even remotely considered a genuine attempt to abide in Him?

After reading a book can we claim to know the person who wrote the book? How can we imagine a close and loving relationship with anyone – let alone God – if we spend fifteen to thirty minutes with Him from time to time? Bruce Wilkinson challenges us to break away from dutiful activities to invest in a living, flourishing relationship with God.

He goes on to say that the break through, to abiding in Him, demands I must deepen the quality of my devoted time with God. Notice the word devoted time and not devotional time. Time – ‘devoted’ to building a relationship. Time – ‘devoted’ to learning a little more every day. Time – ‘devoted’ indicates actually wanting to spend more time with Him.

It was good enough for King David so it is good enough for me.

Psalm 27:4 “The one thing I ask of the Lord— the thing I seek most— is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, delighting in the Lord’s perfections and meditating in his Temple.”

I want to establish my relationship with Jesus to those heights. I want to wake up knowing my God, I want to converse with my God throughout the day and for His light to shine through me so others may be illuminated. I want to live in the house of my Lord.

I am ashamed to say I allow circumstances of this world to separate me from Him.

“Christian workers fail because they place their desire for their own holiness above their desire to know God. God cannot deliver me while my interest is merely in my own character.” That was Oswald Chambers.

Bruce Wilkinson affirms, I am aware that many of God’s people live their lives ignorant of the promise of abiding in Him. The joy of abiding in Him. The power of abiding in Him.

That is quite frightening! Many of God’s people, in spite of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and in spite of the gift of the Holy Spirit, live their lives ignorant of the miracle and the marvel of the Holy Spirit abiding in them.

Psalm 42:1 tells me “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God.”

Really? Does it? Does my soul really pant for God?  If this is a deep need in my relationship with God then why don’t I pursue it?

Abide in me. Abide – remain faithful. Continue to remain.

In Acts 3 Peter heals the cripple at the gates called ‘Beautiful’. Verse 16 Peter tells me – “By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see.”

It is the name of Jesus and the faith that comes through Him (that is the Holy Spirit) that has completely cured the cripple. Peter’s faith not the cripple – Peter believed in the name of Jesus and was one with the Holy Spirit. As a result God used Peter to heal him completely. .. . .  because Peter believed in the name of Jesus and welcomed the faith that comes through Him.

The gift of the Holy Spirit is here – now – available to everyone. Jesus says “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find.” Jesus also said “whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these.”

All through the Holy Spirit abiding in me.

Do you seriously not want to accept this gift?

 

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Sermon John 14

I have never owned a GPS system to show me or rather, tell me, where to drive. I have never felt the need to own one, after all, I have been married for over 50 years. There is no need to own one. Although, I must admit, there is another side of me willing and interested in listening to an argument between my wife and the lady on the GPS. It may well be worth the time and expense.

What does a GPS actually do for you? My understanding is it tells you which route to take, where to turn and various other instructions.

The gospel reading today has Jesus telling his disciples where he is going and that he is going to prepare a place for them to live in His Father’s house.

Good old Thomas then says what all of them were probably thinking. “How can we know the way when we don’t even know where you are going?”

That in itself will make any GPS system pretty ineffective – if you don’t know your destination. Where are you going?

Jesus however did not stress the place. He did not highlight the destination.

Jesus emphasised the way. The fact He, Jesus, is the way. Jesus is more concerned about the journey rather than the goal. Logically of course, if we follow the way correctly, we will arrive at the destination.

I must confess I do this too often in my walk. I look towards the destination rather than towards Jesus. I find myself bogged down in the daily “things to do to get to heaven” rather than concentrating on my relationship with Jesus Christ. It develops into being all about the things I do rather than the shared journey with Jesus as my guide and leader.

In other words I am on the lookout for things to make me look good. Those big pride-filled things for myself rather than looking to be a good person. What is a good person? A friend of Jesus. A disciple filled with His Holy Spirit.

My aim is to be a person who is one with God. A personal relationship which obliges me to be one with Him and not just use Him. Trying to find what I can get out of it.

A selfish one sided affiliation.

Jesus tells me in today’s reading (John 14) “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is. From now on, you do know him and have seen him!”

In my simple view of faith that is pretty conclusive. If I want a close relationship with God there is only one way and that way is through Jesus Christ – and by insinuation through His Cross. I am not going to make my destination if I do not follow the way of Jesus Christ. Add to that Jesus offers to help me on this journey if I am struggling. He offers to share His yoke with me (Matthew 11) “take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and lowly in heart and you will find rest for your souls.”

How is that for a promise? “You will find rest for your souls.” The promise is not to free us from our labour – our troubles – but rather to gain in peace and love, to continue our way with Him and to grow spiritually and find a purpose in life.

Jesus is telling me that the only way to the destination I so earnestly seek is by following Him. By being one with Him. By forming a close relationship with Him. There is no other way.

Let me put that another way.

There is only one way to heaven (my destination) and that is through Jesus Christ and His way.

Acts 4:12 “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name – under heaven – given to mankind – by which we must be saved.” (Repeat).

In the same sentence Jesus also says He is the truth.

In Matthew 5:17 Jesus says He has not come to destroy the Law but to fulfil it. He follows with the Sermon on the Mount repeating in several verses “But I say unto you . . . . “ Jesus is spelling out the Law. The Law of the Prophets and the Word of God.

Jesus is the Word of God incarnate – the truth which we believe in His Word. The Bible.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.” John 1

Jesus Christ is the truth.

Then Jesus says He is the life. He is life. He said He was going to die for us so that we can have eternal life. Here Jesus tells His disciples “Because I live, you will also live”: John 14:19.

The very fact Jesus lives having risen from the dead is proof that He is the life. Jesus controls life and death – both now and hereafter.

The question which may need an answer is – “Is Jesus the only way to Heaven?”

The answer unequivocally, without any doubt is yes. A great big roared yes to the whole world.

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

He is not a way, as in one of many; He is the way, as in the one and only.

Paul told the Sanhedrin “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

John wrote “I am writing to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name” (1 John 2:12).

No one but Jesus can forgive sin.

Your sins must be forgiven if you want to get to heaven. Jesus forgives your sins when you believe in Him.

The only way to get to heaven and reach God is to follow “the way.” Jesus is the way.

If your eternal life is dependent on you enjoying a close and loving relationship with Jesus Christ

what are you doing about it?    Amen

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Am I blessed?

I was talking to a man the other day who never made one positive comment about his life, his wife, his family or his surroundings. Everything was wrong and everything was everyone else’s fault – certainly not his. In fact his misery, over matters which he enjoyed absolutely no control, was faintly amusing if not rather pathetic.

His world was starting to fold in on him.

I accept his finances were up the creek. So are mine.

I accept his previous employers did him a dirty. Join the club.

I sympathise with him as his monthly budget stretches to breaking point. Mine’s broken.

Sadly standing amongst all this he never found any beauty in his life. The things that blessed his very existence. A loving and attractive wife. A successful wife in her own right and willing to help. He did not see this wonderful blessing. Why? Perhaps it did not help his fragile male ego that she was successful.

Sadly he missed telling me about his children and how they were doing at school. He never told me if he was proud of them. He certainly never mentioned his love for them. If he did not tell me the odds are pretty strong he’s never told them.

Acts 3; 2 “Now a man crippled from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts.

3 When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money.”

How many of us are like that cripple man. In every way that God made us we are perfect. We believe we have no weakness. But we know, deep down, that we have that one weakness. We don’t talk about it because – we-ell because men don’t talk about those things do they? It’s considered to be a sign of weakness to talk about your weakness. And yet that one area of weakness starts to consume our everyday life. That one area of weakness becomes our secret – something we do not share with any one. That one area impacts our lives so much we start to believe our lives are not whole and eventually it starts to affect everything we touch.

We all have an area of weakness. An area of our lives which we consider lame. An area of our lives we try to hide from those around us.

We feel discouraged, diminished and we do not fully participate in the life around us. It stops us functioning as a whole person – as a whole father – as a whole husband – as a whole man. We hide our weakness (our lameness) behind a façade of stiff upper lips and cowboys don’t cry and I’ll handle it my way and I don’t need help thank you and I’m a man I’ve made it this far on my own I’ll make it past this one. We alienate all feelings from our lives. We find it difficult to communicate with our loved ones – the ones who are stretching out to help us. We alienate our loved ones – our children, our wives and even our friends. All because we are not strong enough, not man enough to stand up as a man and confront our weakness. All because we cannot share our worries, our problems and our concerns with those who care for us. “I don’t need others to help me thank you very much. I can do it all myself.”

Have you ever wondered why life assurance rates for women are cheaper than life assurance rates for men? The answer is because women live, on average, 6 or 7 years longer than men. Why do you think that is?

The reason is men do not share their problems. Men do not talk to spouse or a mate about a really important problem in his life. Man is independent and he can sort it out himself. Hell he’s done it on his own so far – what’s changed? Man bottles his problems up and he never steps out of that horrible pressure he exerts on himself. We never acknowledge we have a weakness – a lameness. The truth is we each have a lameness that stops us functioning as a whole person.

The result is men die on average 7 years before our female counterparts. AND in the case of men in South Africa 70% of claims on critical illness polices are heart and cancer related. Both largely stress induced conditions.

We are no different from that cripple carried to the ‘Beautiful’ gates every day. His one area of weakness led to other areas of weakness and his spirit and emotions suffered as he allowed his lameness to influence his whole life.

We are no different from that cripple. We allow our weakness, our lameness, to keep us from functioning as whole men. Men of stature, men of integrity and men of God. How can we be men of integrity when we aren’t even honest with ourselves? We deny our lameness but even worse than denying our own lameness we walk past lame people every day and we never stretch out a helping hand.

I remember reading an article by a lady doctor who came home late one night to find her father sitting up in his pyjamas smoking in the dark. He was weighed down with worry and concerns affecting his life but his first statement to his daughter was – “Don’t tell your mother. She can’t handle it. The worry will kill her.”

Three months later her father passed away from stress related diseases. A victim of his own circumstances. Another man who carried the concerns and worries and problems of his life on his own shoulders. Another man too proud, too stupid or too ashamed to share his weakness, his lameness with his wife.

Ah yes – the wife. Remember her?

… for better, for worse ………… for richer, for poorer ……………. In sickness and in health ……….. to love and to cherish ……… and to honour in the Lord till death us do part.

I cannot find honour in withholding information from my wife which may affect her future. That is not honour, it is vaguely insulting. I cannot find honour when I withhold from my wife the lameness in my life. That is not honour that is keeping secrets. Hardly respect.

So here we are guys dressed up as men in a world we struggle to come to terms with. So like the cripple in the Bible we lie down outside the gates of the temple, gates called Beautiful, looking to others for alms. Looking to others for respect, honour, admiration or even appreciation. Making little or no effort to conquer our lameness, our weakness or cure the pain in our hearts.

Jesus Christ invites you to leave the gates of the temple and come inside the temple itself. He does not care about your history, your past, your bad things you have done or even what you are ashamed of and cannot share. Come inside the temple and meet the Lord God and His son Jesus Christ who loves you. He is a merciful God. He is not a judge or a God demanding you do something before you are forgiven. You are forgiven as we stand here now.

God sent his son Jesus Christ to die on the cross so your sins and my sins and his sins and his sins are forgiven. The slate is wiped clean. All Jesus Christ asks of you is to please come into the temple.

Ask the Lord God to give you the courage to know yourself and then to reveal yourself to others. Express your emotions to God today. He created you to pray with feelings.

Come before God today and with an honest heart admit “God the problem is with me. Fix ME Lord. Show me what it is I must do in order to be forgiven and healed by You and to be free – free to forgive others and to heal my relationships with my wife and my children, my friends and my co-workers.

 

Acknowledgements excerpts and idea from T D Jakes “So you call yourself a man?”

 

 

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Be prepared

In our daily lives we are prepared for most things which interest us, hold our attention, pay us for our services (we-ell sometimes) or something we enjoy.

When the situation arises or requires will we be in the front-line leading the way, proving by example or making sure we reach the required standards. The standards set by ourselves and/or the standards set by others. The yardsticks our managers, coaches, leaders and superiors call upon us in various ways.

The outcome or lack of interest which we exhibit will decide if we are a success or a failure, a leader or an also ran, an achiever or run of the mill. It is that call to action which we acknowledge and to which we respond which marks our life on this earth. We are rated by our ways and our ethics (those who understand the meaning of course).

I am firmly convinced God also wishes to use those of us prepared to listen and to answer His call.

Are we prepared?

Oswald Chambers says “We are so busy telling God where we would like to go. Yet the man or woman who is ready for God and His work is the one who receives the prize when the summons comes.”

“Readiness means having a right relationship to God and having the knowledge of where we are.”

I spend far too much of my time advising God on what He should be considering for me and my talents. I mean is He actually aware of my gifts and just how valuable I am and what a difference I can make in His plan of things. Besides leading a seminar on humility of course!

The thing is, in my case, my time of meditation is inclined to be a bit noisy because of all the feedback I am providing to God.

First question I need to answer is do I recognise His voice when He does call?

One of my favourite quotes is from Soren Kierkegaard who said “A man prayed and at first he thought prayer was talking. But he became more and more quiet until in the end he realised that prayer is listening.” Ignoring the poor grammar the lesson is an obvious one. How can you hear His call if you’re talking all the time?

John 10:27-28 (NLT) My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish.

Second question I need to answer is why should or would He call on me?

Now don’t go all philosophical and theological on me the answer (in my mind anyway) is a simple one.

Once again Oswald Chambers asks “Have you deliberately committed your will to Jesus Christ? It is a transaction of the will, not of emotion; any positive emotion that results is simply a superficial blessing arising out of the transaction. If you focus your attention on the emotion, you will never make the transaction.”

Okay then.

Proverbs 3:5-6 NLT.  Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.

Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.

‘Do not depend on your own understanding’. Now there is one big step to take.

I find it interesting Oswald says committing my will to God is not an emotional act but it is a physical undertaking using my will. In other words I commit my will to Jesus and concentrate on that alone because the emotions, the call and my faith will all follow Him.

Now why didn’t I think about that before?

Breathe on me, Breath of God, Fill me with life anew. That I may love what Thou dost love and do what Thou wouldst do. (Edwin Hatch).

Be ready for the sudden surprise visits of God. A ready person never needs to get ready— he is ready.

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The gospel according to me

Always enjoyed the story of the golfer whose opponent wanted to bend the rules “just a little” to suit his lost ball/out of bounds/behind an obstruction et al. If you play golf you’ve met them. You meet them in all walks of life. The golfer, instead of arguing, took out his rules of golf, with a pen, handing them to his opponent with the comment “Why don’t you mark all the rules we will ignore today. Only fair we both play the same game if it is not golf.”

Life is filled with those who wish to bend or ignore the rules to suit themselves or their current situation. In the process they are liable to be tainted and subject to social hostility. The end justifies the means in their lives.

Equally the Christian faith is littered with those who either do not understand, will not understand or choose not to understand the simple commands of Jesus Christ. The Beatles even wrote a song about it (Day Tripper) saying “got a good reason for taking the easy way out.”

How sad to place your entire future at risk for expediency.

St Augustine said “If you believe what you like in the gospels, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself.”

The amazing fact is faith is not rocket science requiring deep and unfathomable research to produce a finding open to discussion, argument and even rejection. In fact Christianity is open to discussion and argument and even rejection by rocket scientists and school drop-outs alike.

And yet those who have been born again do so simply and easily and even unsuspectingly at times. They find themselves deeply affected, at peace and their lives positively changed merely through opening their minds. An acceptance of the incredible, unconditional love of our God.

Why is that so difficult?

Paul put it quite simply. Because we are sinners. We find it easier to sin. Because if we can find an easy way out or do something without too much ‘hassle’ then that is what we do most of the time.

Jesus only asks that we love him. Nothing else. He wants to abide in us and for us to abide in Him. That is more than just a relationship.

Romans 8:39 (NLT) No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

James 1 22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.

Taking the easy way out? I just want to make friends with Jesus Christ and grow in my love for Him.

Is there anything stopping me?

Yes! Me!

 

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Living life to my full negativity

I recall the words of Willie Nelson – he who spoke to walls – who suggested replacing negative thoughts with positive ones will lead to positive results.

Helen Keller was an American author, political activist, and lecturer. She was the first deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree. She was incapable of speech or hearing from the age of 19 months. She had to learn language from scratch when she was around 8 years old. Later she obtained a BA degree (with no free education!). If ever somebody had an excuse to hide behind their problems and issues and be negative it was this lady. Read some of her works and quotes. She is an incredible, positive inspiration.

Then ask yourself what stops you and me adopting the same wonderful spirit in life?

“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow.” Helen Keller. She was blind!

“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.” Helen Keller.

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

I am always amazed (and I shouldn’t be) at how the average person will manage to find something negative in even positive situations. Our ability to see the worst scenario or imagine what could go wrong clouds our desire to love, to be loved, to find joy and to be at peace.

This negative ability – negative ability? Is there such a thing? Anyway you know what I mean. This negative ability covers every aspect of our lives to a greater or lesser extent. Many times we survive through the negative times only to revive the same negativity when the same situation arises.

A positive attitude to life and the future is surely what builds us and guides us on our way to fulfill our potential in life. As opposed to dragging ourselves down because of ‘what ifs’ or ‘maybes’ or ‘perhaps’ or ‘I can’t do it’ or ‘I don’t know if I can’ or or or .  .  .  .  .  .   and so we can go on.

Joyce Meyer penned one of my favourite sayings – You cannot have a positive life and a negative mind.

I am a firm believer in counting the blessings which you have been given and rejoice in them and build upon that ever growing foundation. If I concentrate on my blessings instead of sulking over my problems then suddenly the world is a brighter place, my life is filled with joy and all those ‘difficult’ things reduce in influence.

Obviously issues arise requiring our attention and if we face them as issues to solve and overcome – and then move on – life can be a joy. If we keep harping on our inabilities or our limits or problems then very soon they become a part of our lives. We become imprisoned by the walls of our mind. Oh woe is me! We become in life what we do every day, say every day and how we behave every day. In fact if we make a point of doing the same harmful things every day and adopting destructive ways then we become, every day, more negative and miserable. When we think and act and behave positively then positive things happen to us.

A perfect example of this is social media where we struggle to find and enjoy the opportunity to engage in positive interaction with our friends and other interested parties. Communications vary from sick, violent, crude and insulting to just downright damaging to people and their personal esteem. Why engage? Why drag yourself and your views down to the level of people who attack, destroy, damage and insult? What do you gain from the engagement? Remove them from your social media circle.

Mark Twain had this to say about Congress. Substitute social media in the place of Congress. “Suppose you were an idiot and suppose you were a member of Congress; but I repeat myself.”

“Positive anything is better than negative nothing.” Elbert Hubbard

“Don’t find fault, find a remedy.” Henry Ford

 

 

Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you. Saint Augustine

 

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Am I the problem?

Do you think the present climate in South Africa is anywhere near the euphoria and patriotism that followed our victory in the rugby world cup in Jo’burg?

We never were the perfect democratic society but under the guidance of Madiba we did seem to be moving in the right direction.

Then everything got corrupted, stolen, twisted, covered in lies, hidden by greed and all of that topped by a sauce of dishonesty. The poor suffered immensely and social life in terms of trust, acceptance and tolerance went out the window. The perpetrators kept pointing fingers as they led this country on to its knees.

What on earth makes you think Cyril Ramaphosa’s government will change anything? I don’t think he has a hope!

But I honestly believe you and I can make it happen.

We need an honest government to walk with us. Corruption removed. Crime reduced.

But only we can make South Africa a better place. You and I and your neighbour.

Billy Graham the legendary preacher recently passed away at the age of 99. He is reputed to have said:

“My favourite verse of Scripture was taught to me by my mother when I was just a little boy: ‘For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.’

 

“This is the one Scripture that I always preach on in a crusade, usually on the opening night. I suppose it is the most familiar passage in the Bible. It has only twenty-five words in the English translation of it, but it is the gospel in a nutshell. Someone has called it a miniature Bible. The word “whosoever” in this verse means the whole world. Whatever the colour of a person’s skin, whatever language he speaks, God loves him and God is willing to save him. To me that is marvellous. It also says that life doesn’t begin when you die, it begins here and now.” (Bible Gateway)

“God loves him” and “God is willing to save him”. Why don’t we want to do the same?

Remember “God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Genesis 1:27. He did not create a man in your image, your religion, your colour skin, your language, your education, your breeding or to protect your bigotry. He created man in HIS own image.

He followed this with a very simple command ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbour as yourself.’ Luke 10:27.

Who is your neighbour? There’s the rub. Your neighbour is made in God’s image. And in Matthew 5:44  we are told “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.”

Now that is the difficult part where many of us struggle every day. To love everyone and in particular those who hate you. Returning hate with love not only confuses the opposition (not really the point I s’pose!) but it stops hate escalating. Draws people closer together. Hate on hate just develops the kind of situation we find too often today…… and what’s more we cannot say we were not warned.

Matthew 24:12 “And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.”

So what am I saying? I am saying God teaches peace and love. Why do we not believe in His Word and His promises?

“Throughout his life, Billy Graham said no other book is as important as the Bible and Christians need to make an effort to understand it. He suggested that a first-time reader not start with Genesis, but rather with one of the Gospels in the New Testament, adding that he often recommended the Gospel of John, “because the Gospels tell us about Jesus Christ—his life, his ministry, and especially his death and resurrection. All the Old Testament points forward to Christ, and he is the centre of the Bible’s message. Put Christ at the centre of your life, and once you do, you’ll understand the rest of the Bible more clearly.” Bible Gateway.

“Be the living expression of God’s kindness; kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.” Mother Teresa.

Unless or until, we start behaving in a Christian, civilised and respectful manner to all our neighbours Cyril Ramaphosa is going to struggle to change lives in our beloved country.

Why don’t you and I help him on this journey?

I know God will support us.

 

 

 

 

 

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Time to be good

Mental health is one of those issues society does not wish to drag out into the open for discussion. The stigma of mental disease appears in most societies and the question needs to be asked – why? Why the stigma?

Why is mental illness more of a stigma than physical illness? What stops us reaching out to mental patients in the same way we acknowledge physically ill patients?

I have been watching and listening to the Life Esidimeni enquiry, the scandal of 145 mental patients dying in horrific circumstances (and a further 45 still ‘just missing’). The lack of dignity shown to patients, family and even the dead is horrifying.

Mentally ill patients removed from hospitals to be “cared for” in private facilities where humane care, food (even water), security, love, dignity and common decency often flew out the window. Family members taking months to trace where their loved ones are then finding them ill, under-nourished or dead. Warnings from family and mental health specialists all being ignored by the officials, the police, ministers (parliamentary and provincial), doctors et al. Bodies found in mortuaries months after death decomposing, stinking, full of worms and death certificates suggesting ‘natural causes’.

The reaction of all the health officials and politicians is – of course – it was not my problem. It was him. Not my fault. Cowardly, lacking any sense of responsibility and over-paid.

Whatever happened to our humanity?

Then I sat down and looked at myself and how I treat people, how I react to others and how I behave when confronted in situations. I am not always too clever.

Listen I haven’t tortured anyone, or starved them or led them to die. But have I really behaved in a Christian and loving manner at all times and whenever possible?

I don’t know how you answer that question but my answer is sadly ‘no’. Not all the time.

Mother Teresa said “Be the living expression of God’s kindness; kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes and kindness in your smile.”

I must admit I am not too bad in that area and generally I am friendly and open with most people I meet in the shops, garage, restaurant, work environment et al.

I must admit I am not too good when the person makes me feel uncomfortable particularly if they do not fit into my accepted norms and standards.

Some years ago I used this quote. Regrettably I have lost the source. However it does speak to me about where and who I need to be.

“Give to every other human being every right that you claim yourself.”

A few months back I wrote in my blog about lack of humanity –

“Is this because I am “only human” or because I am too absorbed in my personal god – me?

Is this because there is only one way to live – by my standards? Everyone else is wrong?

Is this because I do not accept the choice of “others” in the way they live their lives? They are misguided?

I am ashamed to say my answer to the questions can be “yes”.

And I consider myself a Christian!”

Genesis 1:27 (NKJV) So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

God created man in His own image! What gives me the right to reject another person for my reasons – a little arrogant and blasphemous methinks?

“I shall pass through this world but once. Any good therefore that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again”.  Anon.

There is really little effort required in treating everyone we meet with courtesy, decency, dignity and humility (there’s that word again!). The amazing part of this behavior pattern is how people react to us and then we, in turn, receive their courtesy and compassion.

“It is one of the beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson

Through compassion we make other’s misery our own and by relieving their misery we also relieve our misery.

2 Corinthians 13:11. .  .  . be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.

 

 

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Is joy a part of your life

Listening to and reading of the rampant corruption and evil surfacing during the South African court cases, enquiries and commissions leads one to suspect the country is very close to breaking down. Descending into another Zimbabwe. In fact hardly a suspicion but a fact. South Africa is very close to being a banana republic at best. A country on its knees at worst.

Thank heavens for the arrival of Cyril and his contemporaries.

I think.

I hope.

What is fascinating is this inability of man to accept facts which are placed before him – and then point fingers whilst his fingers are still in the cookie jar. All very depressing.

Then I started reading the good news – well concentrating on it anyway – and suddenly I found all is not lost. The more I looked the more I found. Normal everyday people assisting the poor, handing in lost wallets filled with cash or expensive cell phones, helping people in distress and oh – just so much more. There are lots of good people in this beautiful country of ours across all religions, people of all colours, both sexes, rich and poor and middle income and – well – just everyone.

Yet we are inclined to start all conversations, correspondence or interaction with a litany of foul deeds, crime, evil and all the horrible facts of life today. I know! I do it too and I must say I am not proud of it.

Satan and evil are winning because we are willing participants in their public relations and marketing plan. Unpaid Bell Pottinger agents for the dark side if you like!

It is so easy to wallow in the “woe is me” and “cry the beloved country” gossip we often forget all we have to thank God for in our lives. Here is my list I started on without a lot of deep introspection. There is so much more to be grateful for and thankful.

I live in a log cabin overlooking the estuary of the Mpenjati River next to a conservancy. Paradise. Why then do we continue venting over electricity and water service (or lack of), potholes, road blocks, the drought and so we go on?

I live in a country which offers some of the most beautiful scenery and places to visit. When last did I sit down and talk about that rather than negative wailing?

I am blessed my two sons grew into fine men and succeeded each in his own way. Yes my younger son died too early in life but his legacy is my grand-sons who, fortunately, have grown to be like him rather than me! I am very proud of who they are today. Can you believe my wife called me crotchety the other day?! I mean! My elder son has blessed us with beautiful grand-daughters who love me dearly – as they should – and are the three most beautiful ladies I know.

I have been married to the same lady for over 50 years (that is two life sentences I am told) and though all the ups and downs we are still together today (crotchety or not!).

Financially I do not have two brass farthings to rub together but we live comfortably, simply and still enjoy a few luxuries, glass of wine et al. Life is what you make of it – not what other people make of you.

What this world has to offer is of little significance if only I concentrate on my Lord and Saviour. He promises me so much, has delivered so much and I know there is more to come. Most importantly when He decides to remove me from this mortal coil He promises me eternal life and His unconditional love.

What more do I want?

We basically have a whole country forced onto its knees by lies and deceit and corruption and evil and greed.

How do you think similar evils in my personal life affect the trust, love and support of family, friends and business acquaintances?

How much better my life when I spend it positively, lovingly and filled with His Holy Spirit.

“Happiness is never in our power and pleasure is. I doubt whether anyone who has tasted joy would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasure in the world” CS Lewis.

A truly great author despite finishing his sentences with a preposition!

John 15:11 I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!

Or NKJV – These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.

 

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What is a church?

Elizabeth Elliot (A lamp for my feet). ‘Sometimes when I was a child my mother or my father would say to me “Shut your eyes and hold out your hand.” That was the promise of some lovely surprise. I trusted them, so I shut my eyes instantly and held out my hand. Whatever they were going to give me I was ready to take. So it should be in our trust of our heavenly Father. Faith is the willingness to receive whatever He wants to give, or the willingness not to have what He does not want to give.’

A very simple but heart-warming description of faith. Why do so many church going Christians fail to grasp what is offered to them? If only they would stretch out their hand. Sitting in church each Sunday with a Bible study thrown in during the week is unlikely to empower us with the Holy Spirit.

As believers and followers of Jesus Christ we are all filled with the Holy Spirit. However the empowering of the Holy Spirit, which happened at Pentecost, is something many Christians strive to achieve. Sadly many are unable to reach that realisation through a lack of knowledge, or a fear of what will happen, perhaps the environment in which they worship or sheer disinterest. The tragedy is the believer who really wants to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

“Though every believer has the Holy Spirit (Salvation), the Holy Spirit does not have every believer (Baptism of the Holy Spirit).” (Author unknown).

The point is the Baptism of the Holy Spirit does not make us better than other Christians, but it does make us better than ourselves. Remember too Jesus states quite categorically in Acts 1:8b that when the power of the Holy Spirit comes upon us we WILL BE witnesses. In other words transformation takes place and our character changes dramatically.

While Jesus was with them the disciples were still in an Old Testament mode. It was still Old Testament until Jesus died. Then, at Pentecost, we see the disciples and others empowered by the Holy Spirit to do the Kingdom work of God. Peter, for example, preaches and 3 000 came to Christ.

We have to take seriously the fact that the church is the church not by its corporate structure, or its form of worship, or its clergy or anything like that. All these are good as long as they are serving God’s purpose and not the purpose of the people of the church or the leadership’s own preferences. The church is the church because of the presence of God and God is present through His Holy Spirit and if the Holy Spirit is present Holy Spirit things start to happen.

The church is the church because of the presence of God and God is present through His Holy Spirit and if the Holy Spirit is present Holy Spirit things start to happen.

Makes you think doesn’t it? Certainly it makes me think very hard about where I am in my Christian walk. Correction! It made me re-think!

God has told us quite clearly that the most important commandment is to love Him with everything we have – and nothing less. He also tells us in His Word to spread His Word encouraging, teaching, preaching and helping others to reach out to Him.

The second sentence in the paragraph above is where my church should be standing.

Where does your church stand?

Where do you stand in just one of those areas? Encouraging, teaching, preaching or helping others to reach Him?

If you need wisdom ask our generous God and He will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. James 1:5.

Pray, asking God to reveal His will to you.

 

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