Month: October 2015

The Remix

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Psalm 84 was written in the era of the old covenant when God’s presence was tied to a place but now in this era of Jesus having come, the temple curtain having been torn and the Holy Spirit having been sent by the risen Christ this is my re-mix version of the Psalm especially in the light of John 1:1-14 & 1 Corinthians 6:19.  Original in italics, remix in bold.

1  How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! 

How special & privileged are all people in whom Your Spirit dwells now, God almighty!

 2  My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord;  

My soul longs for, yes even despairs when I am not intimate with You Father;

my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God. 

My heart, my whole being responds to your tangible presence, God who is alive in me.

3  Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, 

Even sparrows have a place they belong, & swallows a place of safety for bearing young

at your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God.  In Your presence O God almighty 

They’re in Your presence continually almighty God, my King and my God

4  Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise! Selah 

Blessed are those who live aware of your presence, they will always be worshipping You!

5  Blessed are those whose strength is in you,

Blessed are those whose strength is in You, 

in whose heart are the highways to Zion.

those whose hearts are set on eternity with You now and forever.

6  As they go through the Valley of Baca they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools.

Because You’re with them, even in them, even desolate hard times & places can be transformed into times & places full of the life of God & refreshing;

7  They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion. 

Those who walk with You and with You in them are getting stronger each day until each one appears in glory in Your glorious presence at Your appearing at the end of the age.

 8  O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah 

God almighty, Father God, God of covenant promises please hear my prayer now.

 9  Behold our shield, O God; look on the face of your anointed! 

I speak to myself saying; ‘Behold your defender, God with you’. Father please see me now.

 10  For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. 

Father God, better is one day with You, in your presence, having You within me than thousands elsewhere far from You.

  I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness. 

The allure of the world has no allure for me I am content to know You, to know Your presence to know I am your child, I don’t need fame or fortune when I have You.

 11  For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. 

God You’re the One who gives me life, You’re my protector, You bless me again and again and care about my honour.

No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. 

God, You are better than I could have ever imagined, more gracious, loving, generous & kind towards those who have put their faith in You.

 12  O Lord of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you! 

God almighty, blessed is anyone who puts their trust in You!

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Her in His Image

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I think that many women struggle with themselves: We engage in self-shaming talk and we are hard on ourselves. We feel and carry around guilt and shame even though we don’t really know where it came from. We often feel the need to apologise for who we are, and the way that we are.

Genesis 1:27

so God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

It’s easy for us to hear that we were made in the image of God, but HOW are we as women, made in the image of a God we believe to be masculine? How is she made in the image of Him?

You emotions, your vulnerability, your spirit, your gentleness or your fierceness, your rising and falling, eccentric, reserved self – that is from the image of God. There is no mistake in who you are. There is no mistake in how often you cry, how sensitive you feel, how deeply you are moved by “insignificant” things or how loud and questioning you can be.

Song of Songs 4:7

All of you is beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you.

No, no. There is no mistake in who you are.

By Samantha Schreiner

What, why & what for…

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There I was sitting on a wooden jetty overlooking an estuary reading a book trying to re-charge after the first 8yrs of ministry in my role as an elder leading the team in the local church I serve.  I was tired.  No more specifically I was frustrated!  I remember thinking/praying/moaning to God that I felt a little like He had not kept his side of the deal…

Embarrassingly, I remember reciting some little “righteousness-list” in my head at the time stating how I had served God as a leader in some form or capacity in local churches for just short of 20yrs already by that stage, I had pursued purity as a young man and was married as a virgin, had never been drunk, followed God’s call and sold-up my stake in a business in Cape Town and moved the family to Amanzimtoti when God called us to…

…and where had it gotten me?  The church was struggling again, not many people were being saved or healed, leaders were few, money was tight and at times I felt alone as a leader.  I remember this distinct sense that God had somehow dropped the ball, a sinful sense that I deserved better because of my performance!

In God’s grace He rebuked me in the most remarkable way and took me on what became a month-long journey of God revealing the rot in my heart and re-wiring/reforming me to the point where I eventually repented to the Church publicly one Sunday morning of the way I had been poisoning the church with my wrongful heart attitude.

It’s not just what we do that matters but why we do what we do and what we believe doing those things does for us.

  

In Psalm 73 the writer is perplexed & envious of what he has observed – the prosperity, the good health of the wicked/arrogant/proud who are always at ease and always increasing in riches (vs2-12).  His experience doesn’t match his stated belief which is that “Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.” (vs1)  And so eventually he exclaims;

“All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence.” (Psalm 73:13)

The writer bemoans his ‘good works’ because they haven’t produced the results he was looking for.  However what this outburst reveals is that his heart’s true motivation was “I DO THIS TO GET THAT’ – it was transactional.  He was like me, sitting on that jetty grumpily reflecting…

I have lived like _______ and you, God haven’t done _________!

Like me (in 2011), the psalmist’s WHAT was fine but his WHY was wrong and his belief regarding WHAT DOING THOSE THINGS DID FOR HIM was wrong.

Our lives of holiness, or service to God don’t earn us anything.  Timothy Keller says; that it’s religion that says that; “we obey to be accepted”, the Gospel however, says; “we’re accepted and so we obey”.  We live lives as worship to God flowing out of a heart response to the most incredible love and grace and mercy that God has shown to us.

So, WHAT we do, how we live really does matter but what it vital is WHY we do what we do and what we are doing it for, what we think THAT ACHIEVES FOR US is vitally important.

This Psalm is so rich because it doesn’t end with the frustrated questioning that it’s first 15 verses are characterised by.  The whole Psalm hinges on vs17 when the psalmist enters God’s presence and suddenly gains a new perspective in God’s presence.  In the presence of God, eternity comes into view and this perspective changes everything.  His timescale has been too short, he has prematurely and incorrectly judged God.

He begins to see his own folly and the sinfulness of his heart (vs21-22) and then unleashes some of the most amazing worship in all of Scripture;

23  Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. 

24  You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. 

25  Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. 

26  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. 

27  For behold, those who are far from you shall perish; you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you. 

28  But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works. 

Life doesn’t often go according to our plan or timing or even our sense of fairness, but knowing that God is with us personally, knowing that our faith and future are secure in Him is enough for me.

He made me do it!

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He made me do it!  I don’t know about you but I know that I said those words many times growing up as one of four siblings.  Excusing one’s own behaviour by pointing to the behaviour of others justifying your own behaviour on the basis of that of others.

In Genesis 37 the story of Jospeh begins and it’s family dysfunction right from the start with Scripture recording no less than three times in the first 8 verses that Jospeh was “hated” by his brothers.

Why?  Well this family is a recipe for conflict, it is like the proverbial haystack soaked in petrol just waiting for a spark!  Think about this family for a moment with me; Jacob’s family has two wives who are sisters!  Two wives must be complicated but two wives who are sisters – phew.  There is deep pain and jealousy here as Scripture records that he openly loved one more than the other (Genesis 29:30).  To make matters even more complicated these two sisters were competing seemingly in some form of “baby race” trying to produce offspring, jealous of one another so much so that both of Jacob’s wives at some point have their husband there two female servants as additional wives for Jacob.

Now, Joseph and his brothers had not been responsible for this family context, but it was the one in which they were growing up in and were having to deal with.

Based on all that’s gone before, we ought not to be surprised to read in Genesis 37:3 that Scripture records that Jacob loved his son Jospeh more than any of his other sons.  He had done this before, with his wives, openly displayed preference.

And so, his brothers were provoked to jealousy and hatred for Jacob.  It recorded four times in the first 10 verses of the Genesis account of Joseph’s life story that his brothers were hated him vehemently and were also jealous of his favoured status within the family.  Their hatred that only grew as their dad gave him a special robe and also when he unwisely spoke of dreams he had received of the future to come that painted him in a favourable light compared to them.

Can you empathise with these brothers?  They must have felt some sense of justification in their heart attitude towards their brother because of all the family history of dysfunction and now also due to the favouritism shown to him by their father.

Is their hatred not justified, caused by the family circumstance and the actions of their father and their brother too?

Paul David Tripp says;

“People and situations do not determine our behaviour;

they provide the occasion where our behaviour reveals our hearts.”

We are not in control of many things, but we are responsible for our response.  Joseph and his brothers did not pick their family, they didn’t choose their father or have control over his decisions and actions, but they were responsible for their behaviour, their response.

They hated Joseph, they allowed that hatred to simmer, they shared it, they spoke to each other of it and ultimately they acted on it when they plotted to kill him and ended up selling him as a slave and then they sinned again by deceiving their father and causing him heart ache for years to come.

We need to own our sin, the circumstances, other people didn’t “make us do it” and don’t justify our sinful actions, attitudes or words.  This quote by PD Tripp has been so helpful to me forcing me to continually see with clarity that people and situations just provide me with the mirror I need at times to see what is truly in my own heart.

A new perspective

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Watching a documentary series on television, I became intrigued by the strength of the family bond.  In this series, the presenter and staff pull out all the stops in an impressive detective display, reuniting long lost family members – adopted children seeking biological parents, children raised by single mothers searching for their father, parents looking for children with whom they’ve lost contact due to broken relationships…

And each time the reunion confirms this one fact – there is a link between members of the same family that spans continents and cultures.  Parents never forget the children born to them, and children have an unidentifiable want that is only satisfied by either meeting their parents, or at least gaining a better perspective and more information on who they were.

So the story of Joseph intrigued me.  Here is a much loved son, who is betrayed by his brothers and becomes traumatically lost to his family.  He goes through a series of trails, pain and unfair situations.  But eventually God turns it all around and he becomes a super-powerful person in a super-powerful nation.

And after many years, he comes face to face again with his family.  The intricate storyline that follows may be a reflection of the deep emotional turmoil he experiences.  Surely that same strong family bond identified in the stories I mentioned above made him want to be reunited with his family? But he doesn’t know whether he can allow himself to trust them again. They were, after all, to blame for the trials he had experienced.

So, he tests them.  And he finds them changed men.

Genesis 45 paints a touching portrait of a powerful man exposing his vulnerability – weeping aloud “so that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it.” (v 2).  Maybe all the years of pain also came to the surface.

Joseph shows tremendous spiritual maturity when he reveals his identity to his brothers.  He is able to forgive them.  But even more than that – he is able to look past the people who should carry the blame, and see the hand of God.

I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt.  And now, do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.  For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest.  And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors.  So it was not you who sent me here, but God. (v 5-8 – my emphasis)

What a perspective!

With distance in space and time from all that happened, God had revealed to Joseph that His plan was at play here and ultimately it was not even limited to Joseph’s good, but would benefit a whole nation.

Of course, with hindsight one can more easily identify the hand of God in troublesome situations or relationships that cause your life to take a different direction.  It should give us hope and increase our faith in God for each subsequent trial.

Because blaming people cannot give our pain purpose. God, who knows the end from the beginning, uses every person and circumstance in our lives to bring His purpose to fulfillment.

Letting go of blame and the need for justice (or revenge), allows us to love again.

Blaming people obstructs our eternal perspective, obscures our view to God.  Forgiveness is an act of faith.  It expresses our trust in the goodness and faithfulness of God.  It acknowledges that God is omniscient, all-powerful, eternal and always fully in control.

by Lise Oosthuizen

So where has the romance gone?

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Reading the story of how Abraham sent out his servant to find a wife for his beloved son, Isaac, it seems that finding a marriage partner was a very calculated activity.  But it is in fact the opposite!

God knows the desires of our hearts, He knows our personalities and habits.  Only He can perfectly suit two people to each other.  And His choice for Isaac was perfect, because the two of them loved each other dearly.  And what a wise servant, to stay close to God in this pursuit (Gen 24:21)

“The man gazed at her in silence to learn whether the Lord had prospered his journey or not.”

I have experienced a very similar story recently when a dear friend of mine’s daughter got married.  And to illustrate how much God is involved in the choosing of a marriage partner even today (as much as, and even more than, He is involved in every part of our lives), let me briefly recap the story to you.

There was a young South African woman who dedicated her life to God and purposed to also trust Him to provide her with a husband.  She set out to get a clear picture in her own mind about the qualities a man should possess to make him a good husband.  She allowed herself to dream of her perfect man, and entrusted these dreams to her Father.

On the other side of the world was a young man who, amidst constant pressure to join the dating game, and constant ridicule for not doing so, trusted God to point out to him whom to marry.  He decided to keep himself pure until that day.

So the young woman went to the other side of the world for a short period of time, attending a course at the very insitution where this young man worked. And sure enough, God pointed out to him that this is the woman whom He has chosen for the young man.  And although the young woman recognised many of the attributes of a good husband in this young man, she had no idea of the conversation between him and God and in due course she returned to South Africa.

Almost despairing, the young man asked God for wisdom in ways to start courting the young woman.  Telling the story in detail astonishes everyone as to how God’s masterplan came together in ways no human being can conceive.

The two of them got to know each other through e-mail and a deep appreciation and love for each other grew in their hearts.  God opened the way for them to get engaged and then married, and they now have a beautiful little girl and another child on its way.

Their lives still speak of God’s miraculous dealings as they move forward in His plan for them.

Are they a unique couple?  Is God really interested in helping young men and women today, find their perfect life partner? YES!

It is not only the old, Biblical story of Isaac and Rebekah, or the recent, modern story of my two young friends above – it can be your story too!

You have entrusted God with your life when you answered “yes” to His call.  Won’t you trust Him and WAIT until He shows you the one He has chosen for you?

by Lise Oosthuizen

The sacrifice of worship

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And so we encounter the first mention of the word “worship” in the Bible.

In Genesis 22:5 we read that Abraham leaves the young men travelling with them behind with these words: “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you” (my emphasis).


This chapter (Gen 22) is an amazing picture (shadow) of the sacrificial journey of Jesus:

He is the only Son of God, just as Isaac was the son of promise, the heir.

Abraham placed the wood for the sacrifice onto Isaac’s shoulders, foreshadowing the way Jesus’ cross was placed on His shoulders and He had to walk with it through the streets of the city to Golgotha.

Isaac cried: “My father!” and received the comfort of his father’s reply: “Here am I, my son” (verse 7).  In contrast, Jesus called out in anguish and pain, forsaken by God (Matt 27:46) so that we never have to go through the utter desperation of ever being without our Father.

And then there is Abraham’s profound answer to Isaac’s concern about the absence of a sacrificial animal: “God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son” (verse 8).  God, the Father asked His Son, and Jesus offered Himself, to once and for all atone for the sins of the world.


What great courage, what great FAITH! No wonder Abraham is mentioned several times in the faith hall of fame as described in Hebrews 11!  He was willing to literally sacrifice this son for whom he had to wait so long!

Abraham had an absolute trust in God – that He would provide an outcome. In Hebrews 11:19 it says that Abraham “considered that God was able even to raise him (Isaac) from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.”

Abraham understood something of the awesome power of God.  Some say that he saw a vision of the future redemptive and death-conquering work of Jesus – the Lamb of God, on the cross.  He didn’t look up to see the ram God provided, because it was caught in a bush behind him (verse 13).

So, worship, in this context could be interpreted as submission to the will of God, a picture of humility before the sovereign King. The Greek word “shachah” (worship), used here, speaks of a posture of homage, bowing down in worship to God as a response to His great power.

“This act of worship is given to God because He deserves it, and because those who are speaking are people of His pasture” (Strong’s Concordance).

There is a special, priviledged relationship between God and those who are called as His own.  As believers, we have the intimacy of children with their father, but we always, always have to remember with reverence that our Father is the Almighty, Omniscient, Omnipresent, Eternal, Immutable God!

We have free access to the innermost parts of the throne room, and our response is to bow down, to submit in immediate obedience, to pay homage to our Great God.

“Shachah” is more than a posture of the body, it is a position of the heart, which influences the actions, words, thoughts and lifestyle of one who worships God.  It is a life focused on God.

by Lise Oosthuizen