2 Timothy 1:7 (WEBBE): For God didn’t give us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and self-control.

Gather Together

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I came to the realisation again today how important it is to gather with other believers. We can truly inspire each other, because we each have our own unique story to tell. Sharing online like I am in this blog can potentially reach a large number of people at the same time, and that is great. But it is not the same as walking with somebody through the good times and the bad. It can just not have the same depth of impact on somebody’s life.

Hebrews 10:24-25 (WEBBE): 24Let’s consider how to provoke one another to love and good works, 25not forsaking our own assembling together, as the custom of some is, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

Getting together with other believers don’t necessarily mean a huge gathering of hundreds or even thousands of people. Jesus himself said when two or three are together in His Name, there He is too.

Matthew 18:19-20 (WEBBE): 19Again, assuredly I tell you, that if two of you will agree on earth concerning anything that they will ask, it will be done for them by my Father who is in heaven. 20For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the middle of them.”

Find a community of believers, large or small, where you feel at home. One where you feel free to encourage others just as much as you will be encouraged by them. And then don’t forsake your assembling together, because you have a role that only you can fulfill!

Your Story Matters!

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As I was waiting for my lunch order to arrive today, I was looking at the people around me. The place wasn’t crowded but there were enough people to make it interesting. There was a mom with her young son and a trolley filled with groceries. There was a group of friends that looked like this is their regular spot. And then there was an old man, eating by himself but looking perfectly content to do so. I was wondering what his story was, why he was there at that moment in time. Maybe his wife had passed away years ago and he still goes to their favourite spot in her memory?

And then it struck me that each and every person in that room has a story to tell!

Personal stories are easy to relate to. I have learned that one of the good ways to start a speech on just about any topic is with a relevant personal anecdote. In fact, just look again at the start of this blog post – I bet you could relate to my people watching story.

Each of us have journeyed with God to where we are today. Lots of things have happened to us, possibly mostly very down to earth, normal human experiences. It may seem like you have nothing special to tell. But guess what – our audience are made up of normal human beings that are actually interested in the lives of others! And hearing about your everyday experiences of being a child of God might be just what somebody needs!

There are many excuses for not sharing our testimonies with others. One that comes to mind is that we might feel that we cannot explain the theology behind the experience well enough. Well, that didn’t stop the blind man that Jesus healed on a Sabbath. The religious leaders called in the man that was healed to testify in the matter.

John 9:25 (WEBBE): 25He therefore answered, “I don’t know if he is a sinner. One thing I do know: that though I was blind, now I see.”

Nobody can argue that the man had this experience. No theological argument can undo the fact that he now can see. And he just stuck to his testimony.

So don’t be discouraged into silence – your story matters!

The Impact of God’s Word

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At school I had a friend that was a huge fan of the British royal family. This was in the days before the internet (yes, really!), when you had to read news papers and magazines and paper books to get information. And watch news reports when they were broadcast, because you could never see them again. But even then, she managed to always be exactly up to date with what the royal family was up to. You know how teachers always say “If I wake you up in the middle of the night, you have to be able to tell me (insert fact here)”? Well, you could wake my friend up at one in the morning and ask her what Prince Harry’s favourite breakfast is, and I am sure that she would instantly have been able to tell you!

How did she manage to know so much more than the rest of us? She put in the time to study all the information she could get hold of!

Today we have the internet at our finger tips, and we can find information about just about anything imaginable. Looking for a recipe that contains peanut butter and artichokes? Easily found (yes, really!). And yet with all the information about the Bible that we possibly could want, actually studying God’s Word to the point that it makes a difference in our lives is getting harder and harder because of all the distractions.

So I guess the big question here is why is the Bible worthwhile studying?

2 Timothy 3:16-17 (WEBBE): 16Every Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness, 17that each person who belongs to God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Romans 12:2 (WEBBE): 2Don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what is the good, well-pleasing, and perfect will of God.

The Bible has the power to transform our very minds, so that we are equipped to really represent God here on earth, to be His ambassadors.

2 Corinthians 5:20 (WEBBE): 20We are therefore ambassadors on behalf of Christ, as though God were entreating by us: we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

What are you waiting for? Study the Bible! It is worth it!

When You Don’t Feel Like It

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Have you ever had a day when you just felt like you cannot possibly minister to anybody? A day when you just don’t have the energy for it, when you just feel that you have nothing left to give? A day when you would rather go back to bed and sleep until the next day?

I think these are days when we can learn a great deal, if we don’t focus on how we feel but instead what the real source of our power is. Paul discovered that in his own weakness, God’s power is perfect.

2 Corinthians 12:9 (WEBBE): 9He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Most gladly therefore I will rather glory in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest on me.

Isaiah also wrote about how God is our strength when we are weak.

Isaiah 40:28-31 (WEBBE):
28Haven’t you known?
Haven’t you heard?
The everlasting God, the LORD,
the Creator of the ends of the earth, doesn’t faint.
He isn’t weary.
His understanding is unsearchable.
29He gives power to the weak.
He increases the strength of him who has no might.
30Even the youths faint and get weary,
and the young men utterly fall;
31but those who wait for the LORD will renew their strength.
They will mount up with wings like eagles.
They will run, and not be weary.
They will walk, and not faint.

So next time when you don’t feel like ministering, do it anyway. And you will experience first hand that God truly is the unfailing source of our power!

Power Outage

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This morning I was reading on the Gautrain platform on my way home. I had plenty of time to read, because there were train delays. The reason? A power outage somewhere further up the line, in the opposite direction to where I was going.

The e-book I was reading quoted this verse from Acts 1:

Acts 1:8 (WEBBE): 8But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you. You will be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth.”

Jesus said that we will receive power when we receive the Holy Spirit. So why don’t we see this power in the lives of most Christians today?

If I want to switch my computer on, but there is no power, the cause can be any of a number of things. The same holds true for our spiritual powerlessness. So lets look at some of them.

The most scary possibility is that the power grid has collapsed, and that energy transmission has stopped altogether over a large area. It is unfortunately possible when it comes to man-made power grids, but God remains the same forever. So our source of spiritual power is the most reliable in the universe.

Hebrews 13:8 (WEBBE): 8Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Maybe the power is off due to a circuit breaker that tripped. In our spiritual lives, maybe there are things that are blocking the power from flowing. For example, holding more tightly to the traditions of men than to a relationship with God. We should strive to remove such blockages.

Mark 7:8 (WEBBE): 8“For you set aside the commandment of God, and hold tightly to the tradition of men—the washing of pitchers and cups, and you do many other such things.”

Or maybe the computer is just not plugged into the wall socket. This is the easiest one to solve – just plug it in! And yet this is probably the most common problem in our spiritual lives. We often don’t walk with the Holy Spirit every day, but choose to do everything on our own instead.

Romans 12:2 (WEBBE): 2Don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what is the good, well-pleasing, and perfect will of God.

Whatever the cause though, consider the results. I was sitting on a train station platform, waiting for the train to arrive with many other people. Power that doesn’t flow where it was supposed to, can have a large effect downstream. So if you are not experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit, it is not just affecting you. It is also affecting the lives that you were supposed to impact. Can you afford not to fix the power outage?

Safe is Not Always Comfortable

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Tuesday afternoon there were storm warnings for Gauteng. I decided to leave work early to try and get home before the storm. As I was walking home, I asked God to keep me safe. So when I saw the rain getting close, I stopped to marvel at the beauty of it instead of panicking. I knew I was safe.

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A few minutes after this photo was taken, light rain started. It was the most refreshing thing after the heat wave of the past few days. The rain kept on getting heavier until I was completely soaked. I kept going, still feeling quite safe. But then the lightning started getting closer, and I found myself praying desperately for protection against the elements.

The Holy Spirit’s answer was profound. “Of course you are safe! But safe doesn’t always mean dry…”

This made me realize that sometimes when we ask God to keep us safe, what we actually mean is that we want Him to keep us comfortable. And sometimes comfortable prevents us from getting to where God wants us to be. It is hard to step out of that comfort zone, in order to reach the people that God wants us to reach.

When Paul and Timothy wrote their second letter to the Corinthians, they were anything but comfortable. But that didn’t stop them from spreading the good news, because they knew that God wouldn’t ever abandon them.

2 Corinthians 4:8-10 (The Message*): 8As it is, there’s not much chance of that. You know for yourselves that we’re not much to look at. We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, 9but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken. 10What they did to Jesus, they do to us – trial and torture, mockery and murder; what Jesus did among them, he does in us – he lives!

Paul wrote to the Romans how nothing can separate us from God’s love.

Romans 8:38-39 (WEBBE): 38For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from God’s love which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

This week, I challenge you to step out of your comfort zone to reach out to somebody. Despite it being uncomfortable, remember that you are always safe in the arms of the Lord.

* Scripture taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

Words like Manna

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It is the start of a new year, and it somehow feels to me like the first blog post of the year should be a special one. It should inspire and encourage readers, and set the perfect tone for the year to come.

That is rather scary. And a lot of responsibility…

What most of you probably don’t know, is that usually I have no idea what the blog post will be about when I sit down to write. I ask God what he wants to communicate today, and the story unfurls from there. So today I started exactly there again – I asked God what I should write. And the verse that came to mind was this one:

Psalm 3:8 (WEBBE): 8Salvation belongs to the LORD.
May your blessing be on your people.

Blessing! That is a great topic for a first post for the year! So i jumped right in and started to search for other mentions of blessings in the Bible. And the information started to pile up and pile up in my mind in a large, disorganized jumble. So many good topics – where to start? Which angle to take? This is a good indication that I had missed the original message and gone off on my own tangent in my own ‘wisdom’.

1 Corinthians 14:33a (WEBBE): 33for God is not a God of confusion, but of peace

I felt anything but peaceful, so I decided to take a break and feed our darling little Schnauzer his lunch. As I was moving about, I was thinking about this mess that I had created, still trying to solve it on my own. (Yes, you may roll your eyes now.) Maybe I should start making a list, and prioritize the possible topics, and then write one for today and starting working on the rest that may very well last me half of the year.

And then that still, small voice of the Holy Spirit whispered real wisdom: “Messages are like manna in the desert. There will always be a new one next time, exactly perfect for that day. Don’t collect them and store them up and let them go stale!”

That was at once an aha! moment, and one of extraordinary peace.

Matthew 6:31-34 (WEBBE): 31“Therefore don’t be anxious, saying, ‘What will we eat?’, ‘What will we drink?’ or, ‘With what will we be clothed?’ 32For the Gentiles seek after all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33But seek first God’s Kingdom, and his righteousness; and all these things will be given to you as well. 34Therefore don’t be anxious for tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Each day’s own evil is sufficient.

Philippians 4:4-7 (WEBBE): 4Rejoice in the Lord always! Again I will say, “Rejoice!” 5Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. 6In nothing be anxious, but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.

I am filled with gratitude for this lesson that I have learned today. God will provide all that we need – physical and spiritual – every single day. Not only is resting in Him, trusting in His provision, a peaceful place to be. It is also far more efficient than trying to accomplish everything on our own!

But there is more to it than just knowing that God will provide.

John 14:26 (WEBBE): 26But the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things, and will remind you of all that I said to you.

The Holy Spirit lives inside each of us, to teach us all things. But the best teacher in the world will not get far with a pupil that refuses to learn. It is tempting to cling to what we already know, what is familiar, and refuse to learn new things. But that would be like scooping a bucket of water out of a river, and turning your back on the rest of the river forever. The bucket of water will only get you so far.

This year, be open to the teaching of the Holy Spirit. And you will learn INCREDIBLE new things!

Only a Happy New Year?

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“Happy New Year!” In English, this is the standard way of expressing good wishes for the year to come. It is easy to use and sounds right because we are so used to this expression. But lets pause for a moment, and really think about the meaning of the words.

Happiness is caused by earthly experiences and material things – it is dependent on circumstances, and usually is quite temporary (from Diffen). It is a good wish – we do certainly want our loved ones to have things and experiences that make them happy. But isn’t there more to life than external, worldly factors influencing our mood? What happens when everything doesn’t work out like we wanted, when there no longer is any reason to be happy?

Joy seems to me a step beyond happiness. Happiness is a sort of atmosphere you can live in sometimes when you’re lucky. Joy is a light that fills you with hope and faith and love.
– Adela Rogers St. Johns (from Optimize)

Joy is a lasting inward peace and contentment (from Diffen). That sounds to me like a much more worthwhile goal to pursue. But how can we get there?

Life need not be easy to be joyful. Joy is not the absence of trouble but the presence of Christ.
– William Van der Hoven (from Beliefnet)

The presence of Christ is what makes all the difference! If we walk in a relationship with Him, filled with the Holy Spirit, then joy is one of the natural results.

Galatians 5:22-23 (WEBBE): 22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, 23gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Romans 14:17 (WEBBE): 17for God’s Kingdom is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.

So my wish for you for the new year is this one:

Romans 15:13 (WEBBE): 13Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope, in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Shepherds Heard the News

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When Jesus was born, the angels appeared to some shepherds to announce this great event. Even though this was the ultimate noble birth – the very Son of the God of all of the universe come to earth – the angels didn’t go to the powerful and famous people of the day. They brought the news to some very ordinary folks, people just like you and me.

Luke 2:8-20 (WEBBE): 8There were shepherds in the same country staying in the field, and keeping watch by night over their flock. 9Behold, an angel of the Lord stood by them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10The angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be to all the people. 11For there is born to you today, in David’s city, a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. 12This is the sign to you: you will find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth, lying in a feeding trough.” 13Suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly army praising God, and saying,
14“Glory to God in the highest,
on earth peace, good will towards men.”
15When the angels went away from them into the sky, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem, now, and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16They came with haste, and found both Mary and Joseph, and the baby was lying in the feeding trough. 17When they saw it, they publicised widely the saying which was spoken to them about this child. 18All who heard it wondered at the things which were spoken to them by the shepherds. 19But Mary kept all these sayings, pondering them in her heart. 20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, just as it was told them.

There are two things that we can learn from the shepherds. They were busy working when the angels appeared to them – it says that they were keeping watch over their flock at night. But when they got the news, they realised that this is far more important than anything else at that moment. And so they “came with haste”. They had their priorities straight – God comes first! How often do we allow our daily activities to be more important than God?

They were shepherds – people that were probably more comfortable out in the veld with the herd than in big human gatherings. They weren’t pastors or celebrities or rulers – they didn’t have the ear of the people. And they certainly didn’t have the Internet. And yet they “publicised widely” what they had heard. They knew that this was great news, that it was meant to impact many people. They didn’t care what anybody thought – they shared the good news as much as they could! How often are we too ashamed or too afraid to share the good news?

The good news that we know now is far more elaborate than what the shepherds had. They “just” knew that the Saviour was born – we know what He accomplished in His time here on Earth! Shouldn’t we be shouting it from the rooftops?

Giving

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Christmas is the spirit of giving without a thought of getting. It is happiness because we see joy in people. It is forgetting self and finding time for others. It is discarding the meaningless and stressing the true values.
– Thomas S. Monson (from Brainy Quote)

Christmas is much more than just giving of course. It is a celebration of the greatest gift humankind has ever received – Jesus coming to earth! But giving to others is certainly an important part of this celebration. And that is great – giving reflects something of God’s love for us, working through us.

Matthew 5:16 (WEBBE): 16Even so, let your light shine before men; that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

So what about the rest of the year?

1 Timothy 6:17-19 (WEBBE): 17Charge those who are rich in this present world that they not be arrogant, nor have their hope set on the uncertainty of riches, but on the living God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy; 18that they do good, that they be rich in good works, that they be ready to distribute, willing to share; 19laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold of eternal life.

Galatians 6:7-10 (WEBBE): 7Don’t be deceived. God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. 8For he who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption. But he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9Let’s not be weary in doing good, for we will reap in due season, if we don’t give up. 10So then, as we have opportunity, let’s do what is good towards all men, and especially towards those who are of the household of the faith.

If we really trust that God will always provide for us, then there is no reason to stop giving the moment Christmas is over. Then there is no reason to tightly hold onto every sent.

How are you going to make a difference next year?