Friday 31 July 2009

Charging the darkness!

Gary Haugen shares a powerful illustration of how when his kids were small they were afraid to go into their rooms if it was too dark. In order to help them overcome their fear he made up a little game. He called them together at the bedroom door and then explained to them that they had nothing to be afraid of. Once he had done this he ran wildly into the room screaming, with them following after him. He called this game 'Charging the darkness!'

When we face fears of all kinds let's remember that Jesus stood at the door of our greatest fear (death) and he 'Charged the Darkness.' Three days later he returned from the room of 'death' - He was ALIVE and full of Glory.

God says,"So do not fear, for I am with you..." (Isaiah 41:10)

Charging the darkness, because Grace has led the way...

Thursday 30 July 2009

Feeling Thirsty?

Most of us reading this post are fortunate to live in a world where if we are thirsty we get ourselves something to drink. Whatever our 'drink of choice' is, we find something to quench our thirst - we make a plan!

So why is this not always the case when we 'thirst' for the things of God? We don't always consciously think "I need to allow God to quench my thirst!" We know this to be true, but our last resort is make time to drink from the well of the Spirit.

I am like this at times. I think that if I push myself a little more, then I will somehow be satisfied. That is so illogical, really. If an athlete is running a marathon and they are feeling dehydrated, they would be foolish to carry on running without taking in some fluids - it is dangerous to do this.

The same thing applies in our spiritual lives - it is dangerous to carry on running the race unless we have been 'Hydrated' by the Spirit.

Jesus said - "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." (John 4:13)

Drinking from the well of Grace,

Wednesday 29 July 2009

When I run...

Today has been one of those days where I have felt that I have been "running" from one thing to the next. I am sure we can all relate to days like this!? I know that sometimes they happen more often than we would like them to, but it is not always easy to slow 'Life' down.

Anyway, here is the thing - whilst, I have been "running" today I have had the words from Eric Liddell (the guy from Chariots of Fire) going through my mind. When asked about his Athletics and why he takes part in these events, he replied: "When I run, I feel God's pleasure."

He was speaking about Athletics, but I was struck by a different slant on his words -"When I am running around doing ministry, do I feel God's pleasure?" Ouch, that is a tough one. Being 'busy' is sometimes our way of making ourselves feel important. My prayer is that when I am 'running' all over the place that I would be doing it for a Godly purpose and not just to fill my own ego-tank.

Peace be with you.

Running in Grace,

P.S. Check out more on Eric Liddell

Tuesday 28 July 2009

Psalm 16:8

I pray that you will be encouraged by the following verse...
"I have set the Lord always before me.
Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken."
- Psalm 16:8

At first glance I thought the Psalmist was getting his 'word-pictures' a little mixed up. He initially says that he wants to 'set the Lord before him' and then he says that 'God is at his right hand.'

My logic initially resisted the notion that someone can be 'in front of us' and at the same time 'next to us.' However, this is God we are speaking about, so I will keep my illogical thoughts to myself from now on.

My prayer is that I would be able to keep focused on Jesus, in all that I do, but to also remember that He walks alongside me 'at my right hand.' Because of this - 'I will not be shaken!'

May you be blessed by His grace today.

Monday 27 July 2009

Restoring Hope

It has been a long time since I visited the Dentist. The reasons for this are mainly down to my 'fear' of the Dentist's chair and the sound of the drill!! It sounds strange I know, but I have been putting off my visit to the Big D. for ages and last week I sought of plucked up the courage to go. Well it was a 'half-portion' of courage, because instead of seeing the Dentist I decided to go to the Oral Hygienist (and yes, there is a difference!)

I spent most of the morning getting myself mentally prepared for the 'torture of the chair', but when I got there I was pleasantly surprised. The Hygienist was a Christian and once she knew I was a minister, she preceded to talk about Church and her faith most of the appointment. All I could add to the conversation was the occasional 'AH' or 'MMMh' as I had the suction pipe halfway down my throat.

In the end, I left feeling good. My teeth were clean and she had restored my faith in 'Dentists.' In fact, I was so 'changed' that I booked a REAL Dentists appointment for a few weeks time. My Hope has been restored.

This whole episode got me thinking about how often we get the chance to change someone's opinion of the Church, God, or Christianity. There are many people in our community who have been put off Jesus because of a bad experience. I know that this is no excuse for them not to believe, but it is sad that they have judged the rest of us, because of the actions of someone else. Sad, but true.

This week, may we seek to 'Restore Hope' to those who may have lost their way.
Galatians 6:9-10 - "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers."

Living in Grace,

Sunday 26 July 2009

Riding Bicycles

We spent some time this afternoon teaching Nathan to ride his bike (without any side wheels). As he continues to learn how to ride we still need to run alongside him, holding the seat from time to time, keeping him balanced. What is exhilarating to witness is how a child laughs and smiles as they sense their new freedom. Nathan was no different.

There were many moments when he was smiling so much that he didn't realise that we weren't holding on anymore - his trust in us allowed us to run alongside him, but to give him the chance to ride for himself.

This image speaks to me of how God does the same for us. He walks/runs alongside us, smiling as we enjoy the Life he has given us. Of course He is still right beside us when we lose our balance and we need His strong hand to keep us upright.

May God's loving hand be with you this week, as you "ride" in the freedom of His Grace.


Saturday 25 July 2009

I'll get back to you!

I have been trying to get some information out of a local business for the past week - nothing complicated just a simple answer to a simple question. Anyway on 3 occasions I have called them and after they have not been able to help me they have said: "I'll get back to you!"

I am sure you have heard the same thing before. Needless to say they never "got back to me" - not even once. I had to phone day after day and still they had no answer!

Anyway, despite my obvious irritation, I was reflecting on how many times I have said the same thing to God. "Lord, not right now - I'll busy, but I'll get back to you!" And in the rush of life I have not got back God as soon as I had promised.

I wonder how God feels about my well-meaning "I'll get back to you?" Mmmh, probably a little disappointed too, I guess. Thankfully He is full of Grace and He has much more patience with me than I had with the business.

If you have moment read - 2 Peter 3:9

May you rest in His patience, understanding & Grace,

Thursday 23 July 2009

Yahoo and Google

Those of us living in the new Media & Technological Age are used to seeing the words 'Yahoo' and 'Google' on a daily basis. Many people are under the impression that these are modern words, but recently I have discovered that they are not at all (if you knew this already, forgive my stupidity)!

In 'Gullivers Travels' Jonathan Swift uses the word "Yahoo" - This was written in 1726.

In 'The Faraway Tree Series' Enid Blyton uses the word "Google" - The first book of the series was written in 1939.

As Solomon wisely said: "What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun!" (Ecclesiastes 1:9)

Be Full Grace and Mercy,

Faith for Fish

You may remember that we had to bribe my boys to be 'good' at Kim's brothers wedding two weeks ago?! Their reward was a 'Fish Tank' and boy has this been an interesting journey. Aquarium's and small fish are not an easy hobby, especially when we are trying to curb the enthusiasm of our sons.

Anyway, the tank was set up and the first 4 fish survived like champions - but that was until the new fish arrived on Monday. Sadly, 3 of the new guys died in the first 48 hours, which led to many tears and mass funerals. My boys wanted to take the fish back to the shop as they thought that the fish would be safer there. Aish, what do you do?! Well, I'll tell what we had to do - Last night the boys made Kim say a loooooong Prayer for the protection of the little fish, asking God to keep them alive until this morning. Well, as you can imagine this is huge pressure on the big guy (God) and on us. We were sneaking into their room last night, shining the torch into the tank just to make sure that non of the fish were looking a little wobbly. If they had been we would have had to have done a quick 'mouth to mouth' to make sure that all was in order this morning. (I was also ready to net out the dead fish before the boys woke up - sneaky, I know).

Anyway, thankfully God held true to his word and the fish survived the night. The boys went to school happy and Kim and I breathed a huge sigh of relief. All that remains is for us to check the tank before the boys get home this afternoon!!

Seriously though - it struck me that my sons were exercising a lot of faith in bringing their 'fish prayers' before God. They truly believed that God would protect them. Sadly, I was not as 'faith-filled' as they were, but that may have had to do with my ability to keep an aquarium. I am grateful that God honoured their simple prayers, because I didn't feel up to explaining to them why God doesn't always answer our prayers.

God hears our prayers - all of them!
Be blessed by His GRACE,

Wednesday 22 July 2009

67 and Water

Last Saturday we were all challenged (through Nelson Mandela's example) to do 67 minutes of community service or to do something remarkable for other people.

Whilst on the Mission Trip to Ubombo, we never focused on the '67 minutes' but we were serving others in many ways. One of the things that challenged me from our time away was our use of water. You may have read from previous posts that we had to contend with a water shortage whilst 'up the mountain.' So for many of us 'city people' things like brushing teeth, using the toilet, showering, drinking etc all took on new dimensions. We actually had to do some planning and thinking as to how we coped with these ordinary tasks.

On monday, whilst I was enjoying the freedom of brushing my teeth (with running water on tap), it struck me how much water is normally wasted through a simple task of brushing our teeth. Think about this...

There are many people that leave the water running whilst brushing their teeth (including me at times), but how much water is wasted like this? Maybe 300-500ml a time? So if in an average family of 4, almost 2 litres could be wasted in the morning and another 2 litres at night. Thats 4 l per day and 120 litres a month. Now do the maths - even amongst 1000 families linked up with a school (e.g. Maritzburg College), we would waste 120 000 litres of water in one month (and lots of money too!).

That good drinking water is wasted because I am too lazy to turn my tap on and off...boy, do I feel guilty.So here is to never brushing my teeth again, whilst letting the tap run!

When reading Genesis 1 & 2 we should not assume that ours is the right to abuse what God has given to us. We are given the privilege of being His stewards or caretakers. We will give an account of what we do with this gift.

Drink from God's pools of GRACE,

Tuesday 21 July 2009

Sowing wisely...

'We reap what we sow!'
This concept is not new to any of us - in fact, it is so common in our modern language that even non-Christians use this Biblical truth as if they had just read it from Scripture.

It appears in numerous places in Scripture - Job 4:8, Proverbs 11:18, 22:8, Galatians 6:7, however, I like the version from 2 Corinthians 9:6 - "Whoever sows sparingly will reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will reap generously."

We often use this verse to speak about 'giving or tithing', but for me there is a profound challenge to every aspect of my life. If I choose to sow 'sparingly' in my relationships with Kim and the boys, then I can't expect to reap a awesome relationship with them. If I sow sparingly in my devotional life, then I can't expect to be on 'fire' with the Lord and to hear His voice clearly. If I am stingy in sowing into my friendships, then I can't expect others to know how I am doing. If I sow 'lack of exercise' into my life, then I can't expect the doctor to give me a clean bill of health (oops) and if I sow little time into sermon prep, how can I expect to preach a good sermon?!

I can't grow an Apple tree if I plant pumkin seeds! We choose what we Sow & consequently we choose what we Reap!

Sow with Grace,

Monday 20 July 2009

Why the kids?

When some folk have heard that we took our two older boys (6 and 4)on our recent Mission trip to Ubombo, I have noticed their surprised looks. No one has said the words, but we have noticed their facial expressions, which have all implied, "You took your kids where?"

So Yes, we took our kids on a Mission Trip and it has done them the world of good. We pray that in the end it will give them some greater perspective on life and how we should seek to help others. At least now when we give them the whole speech about 'finish your food cause there are starving kids in Africa' they will not be able to retort and ask us 'you are always talking about these kids, but we never see them!' Now, our little boys know that there are other kids (the same age as them) who don't have any parents, who struggle with megre resources and who are battling with HIV.

Life is not just a cocoon that we shape around our kids to protect them - it is good for them to slowly understand that life is difficult, but that with 'Love' we can conquer a lot of injustice.

The Bible says that if you train up a child in the way that he should go, that when he is older that he will not depart from the WAY (Proverbs 22:6). This is another reason why we wanted our boys to come on Mission with us. Jesus always had a heart for the poor, lost and marginalised. If we do the same, then we mirror the heart of our Saviour.

Grace upon Grace,

Sunday 19 July 2009

Ubombo 09

We have just come back from our 5 day Mission Trip to Ubombo (340 km's from Durban). There were so many things that we learnt from walking alongside these awesome people and as always we have come away richly blessed, despite our 'Mission' to them.

It was initially a struggle for us to come to terms with the 'water supply' issues, which meant that we never had hot showers when we wanted and we had to fetch water to fill our toilets with. We had to boil most of our water or use specially collected rain-water. All of these proved to be mere challenges that we managed to work around - It is a timely reminder of how we so often take these 'luxuries' for granted, when many millions of poor people are coping with these issues daily.

Our aim on this trip was to share with the God's people in a tangible way - not so much to preach to them (as they are already Christians), but to minister to them through the 'ministry of presence.' In other words, we worked alongside them, sang with them, interacted with the orphaned children, painted their rooms, fixed broken furniture and tried to impact their lives through significant 'small things.' We trust that our gift of time will be used by God to make a sustainable difference in their lives.

Soli Deo Gloria

Grace to you,
P.S. - I am going to take a long bath now.

Tuesday 14 July 2009

On which road?

I have been reading a little of Eugene Peterson's 'Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places' - it is a great book. Here is an awesome thought from it:

"The End of all Christian belief and obedience, witness and teaching, marriage and family, leisure and work life, preaching and pastoral work is the LIVING of everything we know about God: life, life and more life. If we don't know where we are going, any road will get us there. But if we have a destination ... there is a well-marked way, the Jesus-revealed Way."

This is not a new concept to many of us, but I want to suggest that it needs to become something that we wake up to every morning afresh - if I have no clue where I am going, then I can choose just to stay on the 'train' and sure enough I will reach the end, just like billions of others. But, I don't want to be an idle passenger, like the masses. With Christ's prompting, I want to choose my destination and then to consume every waking moment making the journey 'remarkable.'

May we all choose the Grace filled path today.

It's a pleasure walking the journey with you.


Monday 13 July 2009

Right Perspective

I have to confess something.... is sad to say, but there are not many times when I get amped by singing Hymns (that is bad for a minister to confess - pray for my soul). So yesterday, it came as a great surprise to me that God spoke clearly to me, whilst singing a Hymn in the morning service. The Hymn is a very well known one (Crown Him Lord of All) and I must have sung it loads of times, but it was two lines in verse 5 that really spoke to me...
"Go, spread your trophies at his feet,
And Crown Him Lord of all."
(Edward Perronet)

The message is clear in these few words - what we gain in this life (trophies, material gains, recognition etc) all count for zero when put in the proper perspective. This is the whole 'casting crowns' idea (which is also from a Hymn by the way - wow). When we place these things before God they are dwarfed by His Glory and Awesomeness.

So, go and spread your trophies at His feet - let's get our perspective right today.

God, your Grace stops you laughing at my feeble attempts at Glory - my tiny trophies are nothing compared to your incomparable riches, yet you still call me 'your Child.'

Grace blows me away again!

Sunday 12 July 2009

Jesus speaking to Michael Jackson's 'loneliness'

Unless you have been asleep for the past 2 weeks, we all know that the 'King of Pop' has gone to meet his Maker. I would love to have been a fly on the 'heavenly walls' as Jesus and MJ met face to face - what words would have been spoken? Unfortunately, that is not a privilege we get to enjoy.

Anyway, in the past few days I have been struck by the huge sense of irony that MJ was surrounded by millions of adoring fans and 'groupies', yet he struggled so much with loneliness. Read this quote that I found - “People think they know me, but they don't. Not really. Actually, I am one of the loneliest people on this earth. I cry sometimes, because it hurts. It does. To be honest, I guess you could say that it hurts to be me.”-(Michael Jackson). How tragic is that?!

So I decided to preach on this tonight - (well mainly on our own sense of loneliness), but hinged it on what Jesus may have said to MJ (and us) about the times that we feel empty, lonely, desperate etc.

These are the 5 'words' that I feel God may have spoken to us, in a summarised form:
1. I understand your loneliness - (Mark 14 - garden of Gethsemane & John 16:32)
2. You are the 'apple of my eye.' - Deuteronomy 32:10
3. You are my 'masterpiece' (workmanship) - Ephesians 2:10
4. I am still looking out for you (Job 36:7, 1 Kings 19)
5. Let me be your strength - Psalm 46:1, Exodus 15:2, Isaiah 41:10

It does not matter how many followers we have on Twitter or 'friends' on Facebook, we can still feel deeply broken at times. The 'Kings of Kings' promises to walk alongside us in 'the valley of the loneliness.'

May you know His presence with you today.

His Grace is enough

Saturday 11 July 2009

Just in Case!

I have been doing a fair amount of packing and unpacking the past couple of weeks. I have to admit that I thought I would be better at it by now, but I am still a bad packer. The reason why I am so bad is because I am a 'just in case' packer. You know what I mean? I pack a few things that I know I probably won't wear or need, but I put them in 'Just in case!'

I am not sure what 'Just in case' could mean exactly, but I guess I want to be prepared for the unexpected... hey, that's how I justify myself, so give me some space! Sadly, I have realised that most of the 'just in case' things that I pack never get worn or used and all I have succeeded in doing is moving them from my home to some other place and then back again. What a waste of time, effort and energy.

Perhaps my 'just in case' packing habit tells me about my indecisiveness or my attachment to 'things'. Maybe it confirms my innate desire to be a 'superstar' or perhaps it simply points out that I need a bigger suitcase. Perhaps the truth is in one of these possibilities.

What I am challenged by is that in my life I can't afford to be a person who carries emotional baggage around with me 'just in case' I may want to deal with it one day. As a Christ-follower I need to trust Jesus with every part of my life and to leave unneccessary burdens at the foot of the Cross. I don't need to carry stuff with me from one friendship to the next, one relationship to the next, one job to the next - you get the point!

Jesus clearly invites us to 'come to me all you who are weary and heavy burden and I will give you rest.' (Matthew 11:28) That's one invitation I can't afford to ignore.

Grace to you,
Living in Grace,

Friday 10 July 2009

Creating Memories

We have just had a wonderfully time away as a family. There were so many things about this 'break' that were special and unique - but above all, the whole time will be treasured in our memory banks as an 'awesome holiday'.

I think the past few months have re-emphasised for me the importance of 'living in the now' and enjoying the truly valuable things in life (like family and friendships). For the first time in ages, I tried to be really 'present' with my family during the 5 days away. By this I mean - living every moment to the fullest. So often I find myself planning and thinking ahead to the next 'thing' or 'event' or 'project' that I forget to embrace the gift I am presently living. By doing this I miss out on the treasures that are before me and end up stressing a little longer about stuff that can actually wait.

So, with the guidance of the Spirit, I sincerely tried to put other agenda's aside and I sought to savour every swim, walk, meal and time of laughter with Kim and the kids. In the end I think it worked - God was good to all of us and I will remember this week for years to come.

God you have been a generous friend - You Grace is endless. Thank you for allowing me to touch the hem of your garment.

Thanks for walking this road of Grace with me,

Sunday 5 July 2009

Wedding, fishing and surprise - part 2

Well the wedding was awesome - it was a real family affair with Kim playing the piano, me doing the service, our boys as page boys (they were brilliant by the way - so I had to cough up the bribes) and the rest of the family all involved. It was great to catch up with all the family again.

The fishing was as expected - disappointing. I fished for about 15 minutes - it was so cold that I may as well have been fishing in Alaska.

The surprises were numerous - firstly, I got really close up to a Blue Duiker one morning whilst fishing. Awesome God moment - felt really blessed to be in that moment. Secondly, meet an old school aquaintence, who was the photographer - he took some brilliant photos and got to chat with him also. Thirdly, our boys were so well behaved during the wedding service that I thought someone had switched our kids with another 3 boys - I was a proud dad as the Declan and Nathan walked down the aisle first, with little Josh also dressed in his 'suit'. They took their roles so seriously - the bribe was well worth it.

Anyway, my friends, I will be out of action for a week - enjoying a bit of family time and having a 'fast' from my computer. I will post when I get back.
Be blessed by our Master.

Live well in Grace,

Thursday 2 July 2009

Weddings, fishing and surprise!

Kim and I are busy preparing to go to her brother's wedding on Saturday. I have the honour of leading the service and she is playing the music during the ceremony - it is really going to be a family affair. Our little 'warriors' are going to be 'Page-boys', which should be really interesting. I'll let you know how that one goes - we have bribed them already, but I have my reservations. Monty Python here we come!

Weddings can be filled with a whole bunch of different emotions, but it certainly feels as if this is going to be a wonderful time of celebration, family re-unions (the aunts & uncles that you haven't seen since the last funeral/wedding) and much laughter. Life is not easy, but these specials moments are to be enjoyed all the more. That's why Jesus loved to be in the middle of these events (John 2 -wedding at Cana) - He embraced Life and He wanted us to truly live for the moment. His Kingdom is near, so let's live in His Adunbant life.

Typically the groom and other guys enjoy a round of golf (or something similar) on the morning of the Wedding - this time, we are going 'Fishing' - we will probably catch no trout, but that's not the point. The object is to 'man-bond' - in other words, just stare at our line in the water and make the odd chirp across the dam. Most of these comments will be directed towards the groom! It is his fault for choosing to get married on 'Independence Day!!'

Lastly, family occasions are always filled with surprises - one can never predict when and how they arrive, but they always turn up. I look forward to these moments - the unpredictability makes the whole weekend seem dynamic and alive. I will keep you all posted, especially if there are some real gems.

Anyway, I leave these words with you...

"Everything in Christ astonishes me." - Napoleon

May we be astonished by His Unending Grace,

Wednesday 1 July 2009

Enter In...

Yesterday I was challenged to make the 2nd half of 2009 count - to be intentional about using all that God has blessed us with in order to leave a remarkable legacy. So here I am typing some thoughts for the start of the 2nd half of the year ...

I have my son Josh on my lap at the moment - he is not well (He has broncitis), but he is desperately wanting to type something on the computer, so here are the thoughts of a 15 month old... "jjjjjdjjjjjjjjjfjfjfjfjjfffffffffff." Wow, was that deep or what? Did you notice how many "j's" were in his profound statement. Freud would have something deep to say about that.

Anyway, what I really wanted to say is that God continually "stands at the door and knocks" (Revelation 3:20) - he does this because he wants to enjoy fellowship with us on a daily basis. This verse is often used in the context of 'Salvation' and I have no problems with that, however, I feel that there are many times after my moment of conversion, where I have chosen to close the door on God. I have invited Him in and things have gone well, but suddenly I have become self-centred, proud, insecure (or whatever) and then have subtly asked him to leave and then I have closed the door.

This may not make good theological sense, but I am sure you understand what I mean. In order for me to make anything meaningful happen in my life I need to work in partnership with Jesus - so that means I have to invite him into my life, my plans and my family. He will not come barging in otherwise.

As if to bring this more clearly across to me, the book I am reading at the moment (John Eldredge - Waking the Dead) has a quote in it that speaks of a similar thing.
"Let us not stay at the door, for the time is urgent. Let us enter!" - Gandalf (Return of the King)

Come let us enter into the 2nd half of 2009, knowing that God wants to journey with us. Let's invite the 'friend of sinners' to be our Guide.

Grace to you,