Month: August 2015
A lot can be said about what praise is – what does it mean in our context of following God, to praise Him? One definition that makes a lot of sense to me is “to tell of all the wonderful things God has done”, to testify. So praising God has an aspect of reminding the next generation of how great, powerful and faithful God is, and so encourage and strengthen their faith.
We learn more about the person of God each time we experience His living involvement in our lives – we get to know Him uniquely as Saviour, Provider, Friend, Father, Counsellor… Some of those moments or glimpses of His care and love may fade or even go unnoticed, but nothing sticks in the mind like a miracle!
Psalm 66:5 – 7 is a song of praise – it says: “Look what God has done!” So I had a look at the two parallel miracles that verse 6 speaks about:
“He turned the sea into dry land; they passed through the river on foot.”
Exodus 14 tells the story of how God did the amazing miracle of parting the Red sea so that the Israelites could escape the pursuing Egyptian army, trekking through the sea on dry land.
“Israel saw the great power that the Lord used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and his servant Moses” (v 30-31).
Exodus 15 records a song of praise by Moses and a praise dance and song by his sister Miriam. These songs probably became part of the cultural heritage of the Jews, so that the generation who experienced the wonder, could inform and encourage their children.
Unfortunately this generation was destroyed during their 40 year wandering in the wilderness, and when the next generation is standing at the threshold of their inheritance – the promised land, God renews their faith by doing the miracle that probably immediately brought back their parents’ testimony – He dried up a path for them to cross the Jordan river!
At the Red sea God protected and saved them from the pursuing enemy. At the Jordan river God promises to “without fail drive out from before you the (enemy)…” (Jos 3:10). He affirms His protective involvement with His people.
These two miracles gave the nation of Israel an amazing testimony. But God’s work is never one-dimensional and for both Moses and Joshua these miracles were God’s confirmation to them and to the nation that God elected them to lead His people.
Let us hold on to the miracles God performs in our lives. They may be little things that happen in answer to heartfelt prayer, they may be breathtaking and make us want to run out and tell everybody. I make a point of sharing my big and small testimonies with my children, but I’m challenged to also record what God does in my own and my family’s lives, to be able to carry the testimony to the next generation. Each testimony strengthens our faith in the living God we serve!
by Lise Oosthuizen
As I grow older I realise more and more that nothing on this earth has true security. Time is constantly changing, money easily loses value, property prices are unpredictable and if the political situation in a country is perceived to be unstable, all the securities in terms of investment goes out the window.
Families often drift apart as siblings grow older – whether emotionally or, in the case of many South Africans, many people emigrate and then families are literally torn apart. Friends can be a great source of comfort and encouragement, but even this can be lost through misunderstanding, conflict or a change in one or the other’s circumstances.
In this life we are constantly challenged to find a firm foundation, an immovable rock on which to stand. A place of security and rest.
How easily we become distracted from putting all of our hope and trust in God. This one thought is like a repeated chorus in Psalm 62:
“For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress, I shall not be shaken.”
David reminds himself and us, that there is only One who can fulfil that role. There is only One who can give us hope, who can be a fortress of true safety in the midst of uncertainty, who can be our Refuge when the storms of life are raging all around us. God alone!
“Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.”
by Lise Oosthuizen
It is probably inevitable that the idea of propriety is so strongly ingrained in the psyche of the Afrikaner. We traditionally grow up in an environment where rules and obedience are made very important.
So I was wondering: do we really experience, or even acknowledge, true freedom in our walk with God? Of course, in his discourse in Galatians, Paul is referring to the Old Testament Law, but it seems that in today’s Christian life, any expectation can become a law, whether openly or subtly enforced.
The power of expectation and propriety can dishearten a Christ-follower who wants to please God: how to talk, how to behave, what to do and what not to do, etc. Sometimes so many structures are put in place in the church community that it may hinder people from the joyful experience of freedom in serving and following God, in response to His overwhelming love.
Of course order is important, and without structure very little is accomplished. But what is the motivation behind these rules or the structure – to enable, or to control? In the church family, maybe we should stop laying down the law, and start letting go of the law.
The law has its place, it is not void of meaning. It confirms to us that we are sinful, that we cannot save ourselves, and that we desperately need a Saviour (Gal 3:10-11). “So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith” (Gal 3:24).
Each believer is at their own place of spiritual growth, becoming more and more like Jesus. We are all on the same road, following God, and should love and encourage one another, not restrict and control each other. “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (Gal 5:14).
I am learning about this freedom. “Kancane kancane” (little by little) I am starting to understand my own freedom in Christ bought with His precious blood, and it becomes easier to practice grace and love towards others.
Gal 5:1 “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery”.
by Lise Oosthuizen
What are God’s ‘precious and very great promises’ Peter refers to in 2 Peter 1:1-4? After all they seem to contain incredible life transforming power as Peter says that “through them you might become partakers of the divine nature”! So, what are the promises that Peter might have had in mind?
Maybe Peter was thinking of the promised outpouring of the Holy Spirit on all flesh, and of Jesus as the promised Messiah that he referenced in his sermon at Pentecost… (Acts 2)
That seems likely as it would also fit the textual context here in 2 Peter 1 as he has just said that God’s ‘divine power’, has given us ‘everything we need for life and godliness’ (NIV). God’s power is not some impersonal force in Scripture, rather Peter is in all likelihood referring to the person of the Holy Spirit whom John also describes as our “Helper” (See John 14-16 in ESV)!
So, with the precious and very great promise of new life through faith in Christ Jesus as Messiah, and with the precious and very great promise of divine enabling power by the Spirit who leads us not into sin but into Christliekness (Galatians 5:16-24) as we keep in step with Him and as we are enabled by His power in us…
…we as people CAN share in God’s excellency, in God’s divine nature and character – it’s possible when we are living out our new life in Christ (Galatians 2:20) enabled by and Helped by the Holy Spirit.
So let’s remember these precious and very great promises of new life in Christ and the empowering and guiding the Holy Spirit our Helper, let’s draw on His help and in so doing become more and more like our Father who is in heaven.
By Gareth Bowley
By Gareth Bowley
If you jumped into the boxing ring with someone like Mike Tyson or Floyd Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao – don’t be surprised if they started throwing some punches! After all, they’re boxers, this a boxing ring…!
Or to put it another way, if you lived in Bhagdad or Jerusalem or Gaza and you heard air sirens wailing you wouldn’t think – “I wonder what that noise is?” You’d run for cover, grabbing loved ones and maybe prized possessions in the seconds before the expected air or rocket strike. After all these cities have been and to some extent are still war zones…!
Understanding clearly the context, the place, the time in which we live can dramatically affect how prepared or unprepared for are for what might happen next. If you were scheduled to get into the boxing ring with a famous heavy hitter you’d prepare, get some training or even cancel the appointment. If you live in a war zone you prepare yourself with a wartime mentality. And that mindset, that readiness could well save your life.
And yet as believers in a country like South Africa where it is acceptable to attend church, to read your bible and pray we can make the mistake of having a peace-time mentality, thinking that we live in peace-time and so being surprised by things that according to Scripture ought not to surprise us.
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. (1 Peter 4:12)
Don’t be surprised beloved Christ follower, don’t be shocked when trials, troubles, difficulty, opposition come even when ‘fiery trails’ come – don’t be surprised as if something strange, something out of the ordinary, something unexpected was happening!
The apostle Peter’s perspective is not a ‘peace-time mentality’. This life is a boxing ring, he knows that there is an opponent, an enemy who’s throwing punches, launching missiles at God, at the church and at God’s children… He knows that life is not like a war, life is not a metaphor, this life, this age is literally a war, the in between now and not yet age within which the devil is real, is ugly and is breathing out threats and opposition towards us as Christ followers. Seeking to discourage, to disrupt us from passionately being steadfast in our followership of Jesus and our serving of His purposes on His planet. He knows that the fiery trial comes to test our faith to prove its genuineness…
A wrong mind-set leaves us both unprepared for trials and also leaves us vulnerable to making wrong conclusions. As a church leader over and over again I have heard, watched Christ followers grappling, floundering in their faith in God even when they have undergone trials, tests & faced opposition. They have looked, sounded shocked, surprised that these things were happening, some have even had crises of faith wondering whether God is loving towards them, doubting whether God is good and sovereign, doubting their own faith because of the trials they’re up against.
We need a biblical theology of suffering that produces robust Christians who since Christ suffered, have as His followers also ‘armed themselves with the same way of thinking'(paraphrase of 1 Peter 4:1), Christ followers; ‘who rejoice in that they share in Christ’s sufferings so that they will rejoice when Christ’s glory is revealed’ (paraphrase of 1 Peter 4:13-14) and who have “entrusted their souls to a faithful creator while doing good.” (1 Peter 4:19), Christ followers who know that “the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials” (2 Peter 2:9) and who are convinced that “after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” (1 Peter 5:10)!
Brother, sister, a right mind-set, a correct perspective on this life will prepare you for the trials that will come, will help you in the midst of them to not have a crisis of faith but to secure your faith in the one who will rescue us, will restore, establish and strengthen us in this life and into eternity. Life is a war! It’s not like one, it is one. But we know how this war ends, we know who wins… His name is Jesus, and we are His forever and ever, His beloved ones who will reign with Him forever and ever. Amen.
When Christ followers activate the unique combination of gifts, passion, talent and perspective that God has blessed them with to serve others something remarkable happens… Peter says in 1 Peter 4:10-11
“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
It’s worth noting that the clear teaching of Scripture is that EVERYONE has received a gift, an ability that when empowered by the Spirit and activated to serve God’s kingdom purposes can be considered a spiritual gift. More than that Scripture teaches here that we are not owners of these unique God-given abilities but that we are in fact ‘stewards’, we are those who have been entrusted something that belongs to someone else – to God. These abilities are God’s, not ours, they’re entrusted to us and we need to steward them well for God’s purposes. It’s also worth noting that, Scripture never gives an exhaustive list of such gifts, and the lists that are given are not meant to limit what abilities given by God and empowered by the Holy Spirit can be considered ‘spiritual gifts’. The feel of this passage is that there is a whole host of varied gifts which all put on display the remarkable the glorious grace of God for all to see and experience as people use their gifts to be a blessing to others. So every child of God has been given unique abilities by God, for God’s purposes and the exhortation here is that each one is to ‘use it’ to serve others. For example, the person with the gift of encouragement who just thinks encouraging thoughts but never actually does something with those things is gifted but is not fulfilling the purpose for which that gift was given and so is short circuiting God’s intended purposes for them, for others and for Himself. When we activate the gifts God’s entrusted to us three amazing things happen: 1) Other people get blessed Because the gifts/spirit-empowered abilities God’s entrusted to us are from God and enabled by the Spirit, when we use them other people get blessed by God. They encounter God’s love, God’s grace, God’s help, perspective, generosity, wisdom… I can not think of a time when I have seen a spiritual gift activated under the enabling influence of the Holy Spirit (who Galatians 5:16-25 says doesn’t lead us to sin but to incredible godly fruit) which did not thoroughly bless the other person. I know when someone encourages me, is generous towards me, hospital, caring, brings a prophetic word etc – I always feel built up, I feel like Inhave be blessed by God and them, when that person is being motivated by the enabling work of the Spirit. These gifts we have been entrusted with are ‘to serve one another’. 2) We (the one who activated their gift) get encouraged Something wonderful happens inside us when we know we have been used by God, when we have obeyed the Spirit’s promptings! It is exhilarating to be used by God, tank-filling to see someone blessed by God with you as the instrument in His hands… My experience is that when I step out, when I am a good steward of the the gifts God gave me, when I use them to bless others, I in turn feel like I get most-blessed. 3) God gets glorified Peter’s direct teaching from this passage is that when we are good stewards of the good and varied gifts of God has entrusted to us, God’s grace gets experienced, God’s incredible nature gets put on display to other people and God gets the glory! Do we need any other motivation to step out and use the God-given gifts God our Father has entrusted to us? Who doesn’t want these three results in their lives and in the lives of others? These three things ought to be enough motivation to overcome laziness, fear of people or anything else that might hinder us from using the gifts God has entrusted to us.