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

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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

No new tricks

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 I often say to people I am walking with in this journey of following Jesus; “the devil doesn’t have any new tricks, because the old ones are still working!”

In Genesis 3 we read of that fateful day when Eve was tempted and ended up sinning with Adam and the whole course of human history was altered.  And in the Scripture’s account of that moment we can see the strategy of the devil, how he drew her off God’s good plan for her life and into his.  He has no new tricks so considering the old ones will help us avoid the same mistakes. I see five strategies in Genesis 3:1-6 from our enemy, may considering them make us more alert to them and enable us to take counter measures.

1) The devil plants seeds of unbelief & doubt (vs1)

We know from verse 2-3 that Eve’s problem was not a lack of knowledge regarding what God had said, her problem was not a lack of understanding.  Her problem started with the seeds of doubt, the questions that had been sown by the devil.  He posed questions about what God had actually said and calling into question God and God’s integrity; “God told you that!”

2) The devil lies and contradicts God’s word to us (vs4)

The devil is the deceiver (Revelation 12:9) and one of his main weapons is lies, misinformation that contradicts God’s words to us.  The devil deceived Eve by sowing thoughts contrary to what God had said.

3) The devil lies about God (vs5)

The devil is also known in Scripture as the accuser.  So he lies and calls into question God’s motives and integrity (vs5).  Is God really good and loving, are His commands for us good or restrictive and bad?

4) The devil makes false promises (vs5)

He makes false promises about being able to be like God or to know what God knows, to possess knowledge equal to God’s, even to usurp God and His rightful place in our lives (vs5).

5) He awakens ungodly desires (vs6)

The Genesis 2 picture depicts Adam and Eve as happy, content in the Garden of Eden, content in each other and in relationship with God – with God as loving and involved Creator and them as happy beings created by God.  Yet in vs5 the devil proposes an idea, a desire that must have never previously existed; ‘you can be like God, you can throw off your dependence on God, and be self-determining’!  That’s an ungodly desire, that’s the essence of sin, to replace God with ourselves, His desires with our desires.

In addition to that in vs6 we read that Eve desired the tree now in a way that she hadn’t desired it previously.  The tree held an appeal to her ‘it was a delight to her eyes’ and now ‘the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit’.

Eve didn’t desire this tree or its fruit previously, she might have been curious about it or appreciative of its beauty but now she desired it for what it would give her…

May your consideration today of these very old tricks help guard you and keep you from the enemies deception which is designed to rob from you and destroy your faith and ultimately your life.

By Gareth Bowley

The whole truth

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One of the strong oppositions to our complete trust in the Bible is the theory of evolution.  From an innocuous start as a theory, it has become the norm of thinking for many people on how the natural things around us (and ourselves as the human race), came into existence.  It heavily impacts the world view of Christians and non-Christians alike, and affects the way science, medicine, history and many other subjects are perceived, researched and taught.

As a child, I grew up with the idea that evolution has a strong standing, and I tried to consolidate it with the creation story of Genesis.  So, possibly, the days of creation were actually long periods of time.  Isn’t there a verse somewhere that says to God a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like a day?  And so, although I desperately wanted to believe the creation story of Genesis 1, there was always the confusion of the evolutionary process.  In the end, I decided it must not be that important.  I believe humans were created in God’s image, and for the rest – however that happened really has nothing to do with my faith.

Wrong!! I didn’t realise how much this point of view impacted the way I trusted the Bible to be (or not to be) the infallible Word of God.

A number of years ago a friend gave us a set of DVDs on various themes of this subject, from the view of Creation Science.  As a family we watched the whole series and I was set free!  The Word of God really was true in respect to the six days – yes, literal days! – of creation! And as my knowledge grew, I realised how many Christians were being led astray and confused by the religion of evolution.

There is in fact no evidence for evolution on such a grand scale as to allow one species to develop into a totally different one, as is taught in schools, and accepted as truth. Many people are being deceived by half truths and even open lies.  And what is promoted as a science, is in fact a philosophy of deception that many choose to believe, and work very hard (spending unbelievable amounts of money) to prove.  With every so-called discovery to prove evolution, the media goes into a frenzy, but when the half truth or lie of the “discovery” is later exposed, it is kept quiet.

Obviously, it will take more than a quick blog to explain the depth of deception of the evolution perspective.  The point I am trying to make is this:  it brings immense peace and freedom to be able to believe that the whole of the Bible is truth.

The truth of the creation account as set out in Genesis 1 confirms and underlines the truth of the rest of God’s Word. God is in fact the Creator, and He chose to tell us openly how He created.  Not over periods of millions of years (which incidently becomes millions and billions more with each new “discovery”), but in six days.  And on the seventh, He rested.

“And God saw everything that He made, and behold, it was very good.” (verse 31)

To accept the truth of God as the Creator God, impacts our faith in all aspects of God’s character as revealed in His Word and our experience.  If we can fully trust Him in one aspect, we can fully trust Him in all.  To me, it brought tremendous relief. Because, how can we as mere mortals judge and discern which passages of Scripture to believe and which not? We can’t! We can only rely on God – that He has given us His complete, infallible Word – the whole Truth!

by Lise Oosthuizen

The Cup

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One of the most moving stories for me is when Jesus was about to be arrested in the garden of Gethsemane. This account takes me apart every single time and it changes the way I worship.

Jesus knew that the time was coming for him to be arrested. He takes himself to a quiet place to pray and asks his disciples to pray and keep watch with him, but they kept falling asleep. I imagine in Jesus’ distress, he had never felt more alone.

It says in the Bible that Jesus was so overwhelmed by sorrow that he was at the point of death. Have you ever been so overwhelmed in distress and sadness that you felt like this?

Matthew 26:39 He prays to his Father three times saying;

“My father. If it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.

Yet

not as I will, but as you will”.

The desperation in Christ’s voice can be heard and felt through these pages.

And God does not respond.

Why?

I imagine that God was in so much pain as He watched His son in the garden that He couldn’t muster up the strength to answer; “No, my son. It has to be this way. I cannot let this cup pass from you”.

And so He turned his face away instead.

God needed Christ to drink the full cup of death so that WE could be reconciled to Him.

Jesus must have felt so incredibly alone that night. The dread he must have experienced as he waited for his betrayer to come for him. The distress he must have felt at having his friends fall asleep while he struggled alone through anxiety. The ache he must have felt when he cried out to his dad three times, “please, if there is any way please, take this cup from me” and got no response. This must have been a terrifying place to be.

We can see the sacrifice that both God and Christ made that night. God said it has to be this way – death. And Christ, having understood that the cup could not be taken away, took it with both hands and drank it. All of it.

He could have changed his mind and had angels surround him immediately to defend him, yet he says; “how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen this way?”

When I read this story, I feel a mix of incredible emotions. I feel so sad that I could cry. And I do. I feel like I can’t actually talk to God. I did this. I am the reason God had to have His son drink this cup.

But I also feel an easy garment of grace put upon my shoulders.

What a huge sacrifice was made for me.

The most touching of all is when Judas came to betray Jesus, Jesus quietly says to him;

“Friend, do what you came for”.

In this moment, Jesus calls his betrayer friend. He still views Judas as a friend and has no bitterness towards him. Judas is still accepted and loved even in this very moment.

This tells me there is peace between God and I.

Christ still sees me as friend.

By Samantha Schreiner

Forgive?

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I think it would be easy to forgive Puss in Boots for just about anything. With his eyes all big and glossy, your heart starts to melt and you feel all sorts of soft emotions. But what about the people who really hurt us in life? The ones who often don’t ask for our forgiveness and don’t even apologise?

If we wait for a Puss in Boots moment with people who have wronged us, we will be waiting for a very long time.

Forgiveness is a choice, not a feeling.

One of my worst qualities is that I am unforgiving. If I am honest, I don’t quite like the concept of forgiveness, yet I know this is something God has told us to do seventy-seven times. I seem to have an acute sense of what is fair and I tend to be quite spiteful at times. These are terrible qualities.

Because of this in me, you would understand then, why the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant drives me absolutely insane. Everything cries out within me; this is not fair!!

Matthew 18:21-35 tells the story of a servant who owed the king ten thousand talents. He was unable to settle his debt and the king wanted to put him in jail, but the man fell to his knees and begged for mercy. The king had compassion on the man and decided to cancel the debt entirely.

But as soon as the man left the king, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him one hundren denarii and demanded payment. The servant begged the man to be patient with him, but he had the servant thrown in jail until he could pay off the full debt.

The man went from having huge debt cancelled in an instant, to punishing a fellow servant for a small debt owed to him. But we get so caught up in what the man did to a fellow servant, overlooking that we are that same man! We do this to each other all the time. We punish each other for things done against us rather than forgive one another freely.

We have a wonderful example to follow. The King cancelled our debt instantly when we asked Him to forgive us. He didn’t weigh up all our wrongs to see if we deserved His forgiveness and He didn’t make us do something for Him first either. Yet we are still unforgiving in nature.

God does not half-heartedly forgive us and neither should we half-heartedly forgive others. We need to be asking God to give us perspective of the sins we have been forgiven for, in light of the sin that has been done against us.

Unforgiveness is something that needs to be dealt with aggressively.

God commanded us to love one another. When we are unforgiving and bitter towards someone, we are not loving that person the way God has called us to.

Joshua Harris points out that the cross is unassailable proof that we can be and are forgiven.

We need to see the cross not only as something done for us, but something that was done BY us.

If we can send Christ to the cross and still be reconciled to God, then we can forgive sin that has been committed against us. “Withholding forgiveness is a form of reverse pride that says ‘MY standards are higher than God’s’. This makes you the saviour”.

Psalm 103:10-12

He does not repay us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our inequities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our trangressions from us.

In closing, I’d like to add that choosing to forgive the people who have wronged us does not mean that God did not weep over the pain we felt. God is not detached and distant from what we feel. He will judge everyone accordingly one day, just as the king dealt with the servant in the parable. But we need to leave this judgement up to God.

Romans 12:19

Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath. For it is written: “it is mine to avenge: I will repay” says the Lord.

One of my best qualities is Jesus.

I will forgive.

By Samantha Schreiner