faith

The sacrifice of worship

Posted on

prostrate-before-god

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

The whole truth

Posted on Updated on

images

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

A question of faith

Posted on Updated on

Nice_sweet_children_playing_in_sand

Are we also a generation like the one Jesus encountered while ministering here on earth? In Matthew 11:16-17, the Master Storyteller paints one of the most interesting pictures to me, of children sitting in the market place, calling to their playmates:

“We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;

We sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.”

This generation sought every reason to disparage the signs of the coming Messiah.  They were comfortable in their current paradigm.  There was no space for a huge change as would be implied by the evidence of Jesus’ ministry.

Throughout Jesus’ ministry He was confronted by those who chose not to believe Him or in Him, but rather criticize what He was doing.  They needed to find a different explanation for the miracles He performed, for the lives He changed. And what was easier and more controversial than blaming His power on the work of the devil?

Today there are still many people who chase after miracles, as if that would bring them faith.  But I do not believe that miracles can create or sustain faith.  A miracle may spark in a searching heart, the reality of a living God, but true faith is only sustained by a relationship with the Faith-giver.

I have witnessed the craze of “miracle rushes” (like “gold rushes”), but the outcome was usually sensation and controversy – often with the character of the miracle working preacher exposed as bearing fruit contrary to the gospel.  And even in this, Jesus gives us a tool to discern when His Spirit, or the enemy, is at work – “Yet, wisdom is justified by her deeds.” (verse 19). A tree can be evaluated by the fruit that it bears – and so each ministry stands or falls by the fruit of its minister/s, no matter how many or spectacular the miracles/”miracles”.

Where does faith come from then?  Can we work up faith within ourselves like they proclaim in many movies: “if you only believe”…?

Faith originates with God.  He gives everyone a measure of faith.

So why do some people not believe the gospel message?  It comes back to God’s original design – that He gave man a free will, an ability to choose for himself.  Some choose to use their faith for the purpose it was given – to believe in God.  Some choose to deny this gift of faith and reject God, or use their faith to believe in something contrary to God (it is obvious, for example, that due to lack of evidence, evolution is a faith based competitor to Christianity).

It boils down to the choice we make.

By the grace of God, I chose to believe the gospel message of salvation through the completed work of Jesus on the cross.  I choose to believe in the Bible as the infallible Word of God.  And in my walk with God, there were times when I was confronted with arguments against this choice, and I had to examine my faith, and the reasons for it.  And still, every time, I choose to believe in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

God is faithful in every way.  And when you choose to enter into a relationship with Him, He confirms your faith and allows it to grow as you come to know more and more of His awesome person.

Yes, He performs miracles! Yes, the way He shows His living involvement in our daily lives is an amazing encouragement that helps our faith to grow.

Let us seek His miracle-performing power for the reason of His glory, not as a crutch for our faith.

by Lise Oosthuizen

He did it again!

Posted on

Man-on-loudspeaker

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

Life is hard!

Posted on Updated on

despair-head-in-hands

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

The Extra-ordinary and the ordinary (Luke 1:1-25)

Posted on Updated on

Are you like me? Sometimes thinking; “If only God could speak to me audibly, then I’d follow or obey!” But then I read the account in Luke leading up to Jesus’ birth and I realize that’s probably not true. I am not sure about you but I sadly tend to give myself more credit than I should – assume I’d have more faith would be more obedient than is the case in reality.

Luke 1 is an account of ordinary people with very ordinary responses to an extra-ordinary God and His dealings with us.

In Luke 1 we read about a guy called Zechariah, he is one of the priests in the temple, he is advanced in years and he and his wife have not been able to have children up to this point. One day while serving God in the temple the angel Gabriel appears to him in response to his prayers.

I identify with Zechariah maybe more than some might as you could say that like me, Zechariah was “in the ministry”. So he should be a man of faith, prayer, should expect God to answer prayer, to be present when we seek Him…

But that is not the case in Luke 1. Zechariah is serving God in the temple, there are a multitude of people are outside praying, he is making sacrifices to God – which is all good. But then God does something! God actually shows up. God shows up in His temple of all places, in response to the prayers of a His people, of all things!

Zechariah is flawed, shocked, even “troubled” Scripture says. He clearly was not expecting this manifestation of the presence of God.

I am slow to criticize Zechariah though, because I see myself in him. Maybe you are like me, often no different from Zechariah? I know that I can easily slip into “low expectation mode” – and I have to fight it off. I pray for healing but do I actually anticipate God responding and healing, I along with others pray for His presence in our meetings every week but would we be shocked if He sent an angel to represent Himself?

Although I have never served in the temple like, Zechariah I do spend my days ministering to God’s people. There are many times that I have prayed for people and they have sadly not been healed but there have been quite a few times that I have prayed for people and they have been healed. And in those moments my response often has been similar to that of Zechariah’s, I have been surprised, even doubtful in the moment of this other persons rejoicing of pain that is gone…!

I wish it were not so but it often has been.

Or we will be driving home from a Sunday meeting where God was tangibly present in some way, and while reflecting on the morning yes we are grateful but sometimes I catch myself in conversation together with Nadine and there is a hint of surprise in the conversation, “wow that was unexpected”, even though what we had just witnessed is what we pray for weekly…!

Are you like me? Like Zechariah?

Have you ever thought, “I will believe if God speaks to me audibly”?

Reading Zechariah makes me wonder whether we will in fact believe in those moments. Zechariah is in the temple, people are praying, an angel of a God appears and makes some monumental and good promises to him and his response is to be terrified, his response is unbelief and a request for more confirmation please.

“And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.”

“How can I trust you?” – that is essentially what he asks. “How can I believe you?”

Here we have the extra-ordinary (Zechariah is speaking to an angel of God) and a very ordinary response (How can I believe?). We know that Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth had not been able up to this point to have children, we know that Elizabeth was considered barren, so we can empathize with the struggle for faith but Zechariah is speaking to the angel Gabriel after all.

Will we believe even when faced with the extra-ordinary and God speaks to us audibly with a visible manifestation of His glory?

The good news is that a God is very patient and gracious in His dealings with guys like Zechariah, yourself and myself. God could have changed His mind, chosen someone else who was “performing” better, had more faith than Zechariah – but God didn’t!

God is so gracious and forbearing, His work in our lives is always by grace, never by our works our good effort. In my 30+ years of following Jesus, I have had so many “Zechariah moments”, even in the past 11 years of serving God as a pastor, I have still had and still will have so many “Zechariah moments”, but my Father is gracious, He is patient and He loves me very much even though I and my faith are so ordinary.

And for that I am so grateful.

Having said that, my Father and your Father does want us to believe, He does want us to have expectation and faith in Him and for His in-breaking power, and faith is always better than unbelief or just low expectations…

After all, Zechariah’s stumbling faith did cause him to loose his voice for nearly a year! Our unbelief does have consequences, but this is the amazing thing…

God used even that unbelief for a His good plans. God doesn’t waste anything, uses all things to work all things according to His good plans and purposes for us.

I can’t say for sure, but I have a feeling that Zechariah being mute all those months probably ended up being used by God to prepare people for the extraordinary work God was going to do through John in preparation for Jesus Himself. Word would have gotten out about Gabriel’s appearance, even if it was the genesis moment for a game we now call Pictionary. Word would have spread of Zechariah’s being struck mute and sudden burgeoning art career as he tried to communicate with Elizabeth and others about what happened to him and what had been promised. And once John was born to this couple who were previously barren, and Zechariah could speak I have no doubt that his account and his experience prepared the hearts of people for what was going to be an extra-ordinary ministry.

So God can and does use all things for His purposes, even our unbelief, our very ordinary faith. God is so good and gracious, He does not waste anything and can even use our weak faith and low expectations, our being so ordinary to work in extra-ordinary ways to fulfill His amazing purposes for us and for His glory through simple ordinary people like you and I.

I identify with Zechariah, do you? In his story I see the ordinary of my life and the extra-ordinary of God colliding and I am encouraged that God is not shy of ordinary people like me, God is not limited by our weak faith, God is not impatient with us but works through us to bless us and to use us in His amazing purposes, to bring glory to His Son, Jesus.