Month: November 2015

Two tests

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There are two types of tests in life. We will all face them and yet they don’t come with any prior warning or instructions.

They are the test of adversity and the test of prosperity. And both have an inherent  default trajectory in terms our relationship with God.

The test of adversity’s trajectory is towards faith in God. Facing adversity, facing circumstances that are clearly beyond our resources our abilities or our understanding tends to lead us towards calling out to God for help, for wisdom and or for breakthrough. And so we see the promise of Romans 8:28 at work in the midst of adversity as we draw nearer to God and as we discover things about God we would never have learnt without these tests. We might not want trials but we do often end up treasuring what is formed in us through them.

The test of prosperity on the other hand has a default trajectory that is away from God.  Having the provision we need, having received the things we have prayed for ought to draw us deeper into relationship, faith and gratitude to God (who is the source of those blessings) but from my experience both personally and as a church leader the opposite is in fact often sadly the case.

I wish it were not so but I can confess that my prayer life has often felt more vital and central to my walk with Christ when I am going through adversity.

Just this week I was looking at a group of men from Oasis who meet every week to pray and I started thinking of the guys who were not in the room, guys who had in the past been in the room praying.  The pattern was clear, during adversity each one of these men were there regularly but one after another had drifted away from these times of prayer just as God answered prayers for marriages, kids, finances, for businesses, for jobs, for justice in the courtroom…

God knows these two tests and their default trajectories and so he speaks to His people in Deuteronomy 6:10-12 pleading with them warning them not to forget Him in the moment He fulfills the promises He made to them.  He warns them of the test of prosperity, the moment after prayers are answered…

“And when the Lord your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you—with great and good cities that you did not build, 11 and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant—and when you eat and are full, 12 then take care lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”

God speaks again through Moses in Deuteronomy 8:11-15 appealing to them.

Take care lest you forget the Lord your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, 12 lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, 13 and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, 14 then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, 15 who led you through the great and terrifying wilderness”

Sadly we know the story, we know that God’s people did exactly what God has implored them not to do when they did enter into their Promised land.
Just this past week my Father answered some prayers I have been calling out to Him for.  I know that in this moment there is a test – will I allow these answers to overflow in gratitude and praise, will I allow them to fill me afresh with faith in my Father for other areas of life and ministry where huge questions still persist?

Gratitude to God is an amazing thing when it is expressedby us. It honours God as the source of all blessing in our lives and so simultaneously kills pride and the deceit of self-sufficiency and it fills our heart with love for our Father!

#grateful

By Gareth Bowley

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Will you?

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I was just 12-13 at the time, Dave was probably 25.  It’s strange but I can’t even remember especially how I got to youth each week (thanks Mom and Dad I am sure it was you!), but I do remember how I got home.  It was Dave’s Kombi!  That Kombi was a loud fun place to be, we used to get rowdy at times and even used to sneak up behind unsuspecting pedestrians on Main Road in Cape Town, going really close the the pavement and then suddenly at the right moment all hang out the windows bellowing out our best barking impersonations and then delighting in the heights people would jump to in their moments of sudden terror!

I have etched in my memory a moment driving in Dave’s car when he said something like; ‘I’d like to get to know you better…spend time with you and some other guys to help you grow in God.’

That moment, that short invitation changed my life forever!

Now, unlike the majority of young South African men today, there was nothing lacking in my family, no deficiency in my own dad but Dave’s invitation and the constant commitment to me and the intentional friendship that followed had both a formative and transformative impact on my life.

And so we started meeting as a discipleship group – normally about 4-5 guys and Dave.  Our normal rhythm was to meet early in the morning before school and after school before varsity, once a week.  We would most often gate-crash the Lautenbach families home, sometimes having to wake family members by knocking on their windows because Phil enjoyed his shuteye!  We’d talk rubbish, make a noise, read the bible, pray and share life together often by answering Dave’s questions which often seemed to get right down to the marrow of life.  The last question was often; “Have you just lied to me?”!  We were mates, Dave was our mate although he was different, he was friend and a father in God.

We got drawn into whatever Dave was up to and loved to just watch him do it, do it with him, have him let us do it and in time feel the release and the encouragement from him to do it on our own.  This happened as we became youth leaders, leaders at Summer Camp and on the men’s discipleship hikes that were so formative in all our lives.  We read the books Dave had read, and ended up learning to fast and pray and grew in our desire to give our lives for something that would last forever.

I know that those years in Dave’s discipleship groups have been the single biggest reason why I believe that I am today at age 42 still walking in the purposes of God, those years formed me, formed my love for God, my desire to live for His purposes and formed my character.

In his letter to Titus Paul says; “To Titus, my true child in a common faith” (Titus 1:4).  When I read this I thought of Dave and how he could say to me, say to many like me; ‘my son in the faith’.

I’ll never forget the one meeting we had when Dave got a serious look on his face, opened the bible to 2 Timothy 2:2 and having read it declared that if we did not begin to pass on to others what He had been giving to us he would have to cease to meet with us!  We were given 6months to find someone else, other younger guys or lease mature believers to then gather around our lives.  Our assignment was to simply do what Dave had done with us again and again.

When I read Paul’s greeting to Titus I felt challenged again, and it’s a challenge that I believe every Christ follower who has known Christ for more than 2years should feel; “Who are your spiritual sons/daughters?”  Who have you, who are you pouring your life into?  Who would call you ‘Dad’ or ‘Mom’ in God?

Dave was that guy for me.  But the challenge is who can say that I, that you have been that guy, that woman for them?

Discipleship is an intentional relationship, it requires effort to start and effort to keep going.  Discipleship has aspects of friendship, teaching, imitation, accountability, equipping & release for the purpose of stimulating greater love & devotion to Jesus and His mission in the lives of others.

To disciple is to develop LOVE for Jesus, FAITH, CHARACTER, GIFTING in another and then RELEASING them to do as you have done with them.

At the moment I have three young guys who call me; ‘Dad’.  Two of them have their own dad’s, but it is my joy to know that Dave’s fathering of me, Dave’s challenge to reproduce what he had deposited in me and modelled to me has in fact happened.

In South Africa, we live in a fatherless generation, we have a crisis!  Who can honestly call you ‘dad’ or ‘mom’ in the Lord?  I urge you to take this to heart, to share your life intentionally with others, to ask God to open your eyes to those around you who’s lives will be transformed like mine was if only you’d take the initiative and invite them to share life with you.  Will you?

By Gareth Bowley

Me and my kingdom?

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So, as a christian, would you like to be known as the guy who likes to put himself first?

As I read 3 John, I could sense the frown on the brow of the wise apostle John, around 80 years old by this time, he must have mentored numerous church leaders.

He bluntly points out the way in which Diotrephes hampers the work of the kingdom: he talks wicked nonsense against those in authority in the church, he refuses to show hospitality to travelling evangelists, and acts harshly against those who want to welcome these brothers into the church and possibly their homes.

The bottomline is this – he likes to put himself first.

It is really easy to fall into the trap of putting ourselves first.  When we get angry, when we insist we are right and someone else is wrong, when we feel our rights have been violated, when we feel entitled, when we feel we’ve been treated unfairly, when we don’t get our way.  When we prefer to speak rather than listen.  When we treat others unkindly. When we feel, talk or act in rebellion.  When we push to get our point accross at all cost. Even when we feel sorry for ourselves – it is really pride in a different garment.

God names rebellion in the same breath as withcraft and idolatry – it means the same thing: we sit squarely on the throne of our lives in obstinate contrast to allowing God to be King.  We like putting ourselves first.

John continues to explain that acting like Diotrephes is an evil not to be imitated, and that those who do evil have not seen God. So they are deceiving themselves and others.

Sometimes I listen to how people talk and find it hard to try and reconcile it with how they live and act. Because actions do speak louder than words. Diotrephes seems to have a leadership position in the church, and yet, his actions do not speak of someone who knows, loves and follows God.

In contrast to this, John confirms the good reputation that Demetrius has built up.  And interestingly he connects what people know about Demetrius with the truth. His words and actions are clearly reinforcing his good character as a true follower of Christ.

The same is said of Gaius in the beginning of this letter – his fellow christians gave a good testimony of him and John commends him on “walking in the truth”. In other words, there is a clear correlation between what he confesses and how he acts and lives.

Gaius shows their visitors hospitality and love.

He also obviously has a teachable spirit as John uses the opportunity of this letter to give him further pointers to show practical love and support to these workers in God’s field: “You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God…”

So, the question to ponder when reading 3 John is: who are you really?  Are you living a lie – pretending to love God and others, but really putting yourself first, or are you walking the self-sacrificing path of the truth in Christ?

Anyone can learn church language.  The true test is not whether we say the right things, but whether we do the right things – walking the truth in love.

The true test is whether you like to put others first.

May my words be few and my actions speak of the love of God.

by Lise Oosthuizen