Preaching to myself?

I am coming out of a very hard, difficult and emotionally exhausting season, as I suspect many you do too.  Many days I felt like giving up on my call, giving in to self pity, agreeing with the voice of the enemy that spoke through human voices, spoke through my inner voice.  Voices that called for me to come back into bondage, voices that told me I didn’t measure up, voices that reminded me of my past failures and “enlightened” me to my shortcomings.  But then from deep inside of me the Spirit called me to rise up, to come up higher, to take courage…

This morning I read something I wrote a while ago and I found myself thinking…this is good, Nicky, pay attention.  Listen to this lady, she’s on to something.  If you have read this before, read it again.  If you have not, enjoy.  I pray that you too will hear the Voice of Truth and that He will silence the Liar for you too.  By the way, in case you were wondering, the lovely young man featured in the story is now husband to lovely Gemma and yes, he added a few more.


Written 31 August 2012

My youngest son has put the cat amongst the pigeons, getting himself tattooed.  Word got out at our cell meeting and the reactions were interesting, to say the least. 

It got me thinking and I started to question the Lord about all this.  I can’t say I blame the boy.  You see, I like to wear colorful outfits from faraway lands, I paint my toes green and blue, sometimes they even glitter, I pierced my nose once and the stud makes an appearance now and again, I like my lippy and my jewelry make a statement – I am colorful!  I sway to the music when I worship, I clap, I laugh, I cry and sometimes I even shout “Amen!” when I like what a preacher says.  I walk barefoot, I sit on the carpet, I even have a glass of champagne when the occasion calls for serious celebration.  Now I want to tell my son no piercings and no tattoos.  I think not.

Having said all that, I have to tell you I fear God with an all-consuming holy fear…but I love Him more.  So I talk to Him about these things, just to make sure I am not off-side with Him. I want to share some thoughts with you. 

As I was meditating on these things I saw a mental picture of rows and rows of cages. Small, damp, cold, bare cages.  Jesus was walking from one to the other, unlocking them and swinging the gates wide open.  Some people saw the gates swing open and just about ran Jesus over, desperate to get out of there.  Some waited a while, stood at the entrance, looked out, saw others running, jumping and dancing outside.  They longed to be there too, so they took hesitant steps towards their freedom.  The further they went from those cages, the raster they ran.  The faster they ran, the freer they became.  Other still lingered in their cages.  You see, it’s all they know.  Those cages are safe.  No temptation there.  No distractions there.  It’s familiar.  Their grandparents lived in cages, just like those.  So did their parents…never did them any harm is… is what they say to themselves.  They know exactly what is expected inside those cages.  Tradition has taught them well.  They know when the next meal is going to come and they have very little responsibility inside.  No-one ever ventures in there and if they do, they are very quickly enlightened to the rules and laws inside the cage, making it a safe place for all.  No unexpected, “unpleasant” surprises for anyone.  Often these ones will peer out of the cage, watch the ones frolicking outside and judge them harshly, criticizing the way they dress, speak, worship, serve.  It’s hard to think outside the box when it is all you know.

What a sad existence, especially in the light of what the Word has to say about all this.  Galatians 5:1 reads “So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law”.NLT  Yet another translation puts it like this: “The Messiah has set us free so that we may enjoy the benefits of freedom. So keep on standing firm in it, and stop putting yourselves under the yoke of slavery again.” ISV

I love the part I have highlighted for you – stop putting yourselves under the yoke of sin and of the law.  The law kills but Jesus sets us free so that we can be totally free, without bondage of any kind.  Jesus does not condemn us, He expects nothing but our devotion and our love.  He will receive it through broken vessels; imperfect songs and mumbled prayers from a pure and adoring heart pleases Him more than the well-polished performance He has to endure too often.  He would rather have a tattooed 18-year old with a heart breaking for the homeless, the poor and the broken, than a well-polished little Pharisee, when He is out, about town where the need is.

The verse I quoted is not just one verse, taken out of context, excusing my ungodly habits.  Look at John 8:36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed, and Romans 8:2 “ because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” And Romans 6:16, 17 But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance.  You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.

You see, friends, it’s not the length of your skirt, the size of your earrings, the color of you nail polish, or the lack of it, that matters.  It’s whether you take Jesus at His word, trusting Him to preserve you as you make your way through life, dancing, singing, sitting on the carpet, painting your lips.  I do not know what your cage is like or why you fear to leave it, but I know this, you do not have to make it your home. 

Whether you are confined by religious tradition, the letter of the law, secret sin, addiction, bitterness, pain, anxiety, the spirit of fear, it’s all the same – you are a captive, living in a cage with a wide-open door.  You do not have to fear falling into sin, Jesus will preserve you and present you to the Father, without blemish or spot – He promised to do that for us.  As you surrender to the law of Love, give yourself unconditionally to the Messiah, He will keep your feet on the paths of righteousness.  Trust Him!  If you are caught in a web of addiction, of sin, of bitterness, unforgiveness or even religiosity, I want to tell you that you do not have to make that horrible place your home.  If you haven’t already, I dare you to call on Jesus and allow Him to unlock your cage, and when He does, run friend, run.

If you are on the outside, having to listen to the voices coming from the cages, condemning you, stealing your joy and causing you to feel judged, weighed and found too light, I want to encourage you to set your eyes on the Lord.  You will find Him right there, where you are, encouraging you to enjoy your freedom.  He will guide you, He will encourage you, He will teach you and He will use you.  Join your voice to mine, call to the caged ones, draw them out, and entice them to join us on the outside.  Pray for freedom and may the Lord have mercy on us all.  Stay free, keep moving further and further away from the cage and keep your ear on the ground, it is the season of God’s favor.  Listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit as He guides you and have fun loving Him.  It’s a joy and the joy of the Lord IS our strength.


A child shall lead them

A little girl bangs on the door.  I open and she says: “Mum didn’t knock loud enough!”  She’s on a mission, so focused that I don’t get my customary hug.  I have to call her back, teasing her about something, as I always do.  She has a little ziplock bag in hand – she brought a gift.  In the baggie is enough money to pay school fees for another little one, far away.


We have a little ceremony – with little one hiding behind mum’s legs.  I am sure there was a speech prepared, but the moment became just too big for one little girl. So mum explains…her pocket money is divided in three.  One third is for saving, the second is for sowing and the last for spending.  So she comes out from behind mum’s legs, she hands over her ziplock bag, she poses for a photo and sits down on the edge of the sofa.  Something’s up.  More to share and again mum must help.

The story is shared and a little hand opens, reluctantly, to reveal a few sweaty coins.  She counts them one last time.  “What will this buy where you live?”  The receiver is speechless, so all eyes are on me now.  “Well, that depends.  Some lollies cost more than others, but I am sure something nice can be bought for that.”  Not a satisfactory answer at all, the frown tells me so.  She hops up and quickly hands them over – almost as if she’s afraid she will change her mind.


So let me share that story too.  The coins in her hand represent half of her “spending third”.  Giving the third meant for “sowing” wasn’t hard – it never belonged to her.  Even when the gift was given, it wasn’t hers to keep.  Giving that portion was good and noble, a lovely thing for a little one to do.  But the coins clutched in a little hand…the giving hurt.  Really hurt.

So I find myself standing before my Father, clutching a fist-full of coins in a sweaty palm, thinking of the scene I witnessed just hours ago.  Giving Him praise and honour and worship and glory is easy – it never belonged to me in the first place, not mine to keep.  It’s the thought of letting go of the pain of a stab in the back, a stab in the heart, offering forgiveness for offence and repentance for sin, my portion to keep if I want to, that causes me to hold on a little tighter.  Like the little one, I count the coins in my hand one last time – “what will this buy in the kingdom where You live?”, I ask.  Like the little one, I drop the coins in an outstretched hand, quickly, before I change my  mind.  This kind of giving hurts…

Yes Lord… uhm… at least I think so

Recently we have rediscovered a song from years ago, by a South African artist I cannot remember the name of.  We sing it loud and we are convinced that we are not in denial.  Last night, as my husband and I took a little drive in the evening, it played and I sang – until Holy Spirit started to speak to my heart.  First I sang, and then I cried, because I could hear Jesus speak to me, as He did to the disciples, so long ago…

Then Jesus went with them to a garden called Gethsemane and told His disciples, “Stay here while I go over there and pray.” Taking along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, He plunged into an agonizing sorrow. Then He said, “This sorrow is crushing my life out. Stay here and keep vigil with me.”

Going a little ahead, He fell on his face, praying, “My Father, if there is any way, get me out of this. But please, not what I want. You, what do You want?”

When He came back to his disciples, He found them sound asleep. He said to Peter, “Can’t you stick it out with Me a single hour? Stay alert; be in prayer so you don’t wander into temptation without even knowing you’re in danger. There is a part of you that is eager, ready for anything in God. But there’s another part that’s as lazy as an old dog sleeping by the fire.” Matthew 26: 36 – 41The Message

The song I sang goes like this:  “He has fire in His eyes and a sword in His hand and He’s riding a white horse across this land and He’s calling out to you and me…”will you ride with Me, will you ride with Me? And we say Yes! Yes! Lord! We’ll ride with You!”



“Yes, Lord, we’ll ride with You.  We will stand up and fight!  We will ride with the armies of heaven; we’ll be dressed in white…”  You get the picture, I’m sure.  Like I said, we sing it with gusto, convinced that we are telling it as it is.  Like the disciples in the garden, we have the best intentions – the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

We say “Yes Lord” with our lips but our actions say something else.  Our actions say “Yes Lord… but remember, You need to read the small print I added to the contract before You sign me up”.  We say “yes” to Sunday morning’s church service, but not to the hospital visit on Sunday afternoon, when we nap to prepare for the next week’s slog.  We say “yes” to putting change into the offering bag, but not to the sacrificial giving that hurts.
We’ll ride with the armies of heaven, but not into the enemy’s camp, not into the far-away land, where they feed us weird food and let us sleep on a mat.  We’ll be dressed in white…when You clean us and we do not have to repent for our food addiction or our porn habit and we do not have to walk away from a destructive relationship or yet another gossip session.

Yes Lord, I’ll ride with You…if all my friends are coming too; Yes Lord, I’ll stand up and fight, but not if it calls me to fast for more than the period between breakfast and lunch or pray through the night.  I’ll ride with the armies of heaven…but not after a long day’s work when I’d rather chill out with something godly like a Christian movie, before I’m early to bed.  “Yes Lord” unless I have to forgive those who hurt me, lay down my pride, love the unlovable. “Yes Lord…”

There’s another verse that goes like this:  “That fire in His eyes is His love for His bride and He’s longing that she’ll be with Him, right by His side.  That fire is the burning desire is that His bride be with Him, right by His side and He’s calling out to you and me…Will You ride with Me?”  And we say “Yes Lord, we’ll ride with You”..if it’s not too uncomfortable, if we overnight in 5-star accommodation, if it’s paid for by someone else, if we have plenty to eat and we ride in style.  Yes Lord, unless it’s too cold, too hot, too dirty, too expensive, too miserable, too confronting, too sick, too sad…because I’m frail Lord and war is dirty business.


Yes Lord, I’ll ride with You…if my friends are right by my side, my husband, my husband, the children, the parents…Yes Lord, I’ll ride with You… if You make me invisible, You know what my boss and my colleagues are like!  Yes Lord, I’ll stand up and fight…after You bless me and after You take my pain away, and You cure me of my insatiable appetite for the things of this world, You pamper my flesh and You sooth my brow.

“Yes Lord, I’ll ride with the armies of heaven, I’ll be dressed in white” but only if You turn those fiery eyes on me Lord, and burn away the dross.  If You illuminate the dark recesses of my heart, where pride resides, where darkness breeds, where the flesh reigns.  Because that is what it will take – death by fire – the fire of the Lover’s gaze upon a bride that He longs for day and night, a bride worthy of the greatest sacrifice.  A life for a life.  The price was paid, His sacrifice was made.  It is finished.  How do you respond to that…

Deep Calling

My husband is known for his “green thumbs”.  He is able to make something grow where many have tried and failed.  Recently he has tried to grow some purple carrots.  You’d think growing a vegetable as common and humble as the carrot is simple, but apparently not.  His carrots resembled beets, only they were the ugliest, most gnarly roots I have ever seen.  They were even unfit for the juicer, as they were so gnarly that it was impossible to get rid of the sand and dirt trapped in the folds.

I did some research and learned that in order to grow healthy, straight carrots, you have to dig down deep.  You have to remove every stone, stick and piece of debris you can find, as even the smallest obstacle will stop the carrot from growing straight.  This was the mistake my husband made – he did not go deep enough when he prepared the seedbed.  The deeper soil was still full of rocks and debris and that caused his carrots to grow into such grotesque-looking fruit.

Our hearts are seedbeds too.  God says in Jeremiah 2:21
21 But I was the one who planted you, choosing a vine of the purest stock—the very best.  How did you grow into this corrupt wild vine? (NLT)
21 Yet I had planted you [O house of Israel] a choice vine, wholly of pure seed. How then have you turned into degenerate shoots of wild vine alien to Me?  Amplified


The Lord is speaking to the house of Israel, and to us.  He asks a very valid question – If I have planted you as a noble vine, from altogether pure and incorruptible seed, how did you become gnarly, altogether not resembling Me?

The answer I believe lies in the seedbed, with my husband’s carrots.  We settle for shallow.  Shallow is easy, we do not have to turn over much soil, we do not have to remove too many stones and we are lazy.  Shallow means safe also.  If you go into the shallow end of a pool, or a river, you do not have to use any energy to stay head above water.  There is a bottom under your feet; it takes no effort and no trust to stay alive.  Even as Christians we spend our lives in the shallow end, where it takes little faith and even less effort.  We allow the pastor to take responsibility for our spiritual wellbeing – after all that’s why we tithe – so that he or she can be paid to teach us.  We cultivate shallow friendships – they are easy to maintain and you can walk away as soon as it requires too much effort.  We skim over the Word of God, shallow reading does not require much contemplation, we get to pick and choose a few favorite verses and we disregard the ones that demand that we change our selfish ways.  Shallow says it is OK to demand to be first, have your own way and walk away when the going gets tough.

We refuse to get rid of the stones that hide beneath the surface and we try to convince those that God has prepared to eat the fruit that we have cultivated, that it’s good for eating – hoping they would be deceived as much as we are in denial.  Isn’t that what fruit is for?  Food?  When the Lord calls us to bear fruit, is it not so that the lost and hungry can come to us and be nourished?  Find something healthy and nourishing to eat?


For some time I have had some ideas tumbling around in my head and it all came to a head when one morning, just as I was waking up, heard Jesus say “I am the Fruit”.  This single phrase has led me on a treasure hunt and I suspect the end of this search is a long way off.  In my spirit I sense that this phrase spoken into my barely conscious mind had something profound to do with my search for the deep things of God.

For some time now I have been dissatisfied with being shallow, thinking shallow, believing shallow, living shallow.  Going deep…this is something I have been asking the Lord, to take me deeper.  I read Psalm 42
1 As the hart pants and longs for the water brooks, so I pant and long for You, O God.
2 My inner self thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God?
7 [Roaring] deep calls to [roaring] deep at the thunder of Your waterspouts; all Your breakers and Your rolling waves have gone over me. (This is how I felt – totally overwhelmed)
8 Yet the Lord will command His loving-kindness in the daytime, and in the night His song shall be with me, a prayer to the God of my life.
9 I will say to God my Rock, Why have You forgotten me? Why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?
10 As with a sword [crushing] in my bones, my enemies taunt and reproach me, while they say continually to me, Where is your God?
11 Why are you cast down, O my inner self? And why should you moan over me and be disquieted within me? Hope in God and wait expectantly for Him, for I shall yet praise Him, Who is the help of my countenance, and my God. (AMP)

And so, little by little a puzzle is pieced together for me.  As a child of the Most High God, I am called to bear fruit, so that a dying, malnourished world can come and eat, and be made whole.

In order for me to grow fruit that suits my origin, nobility, I have to cultivate the soil of my heart, so that the seedbed that will nourish and grow the incorruptible seed that God has planted, is free of debris, not only on the surface, but deep down. It’s not my “deep” calling to God’s, it’s His “deep” calling me!  It’s not me desperate to look like Him, it’s Him desperate for me to look like His Son.

1 Corinthians 2:10 in the Message version reads:  The Spirit, not content to flit around on the surface, dives into the depths of God, and brings out what God planned all along.

The way that I cultivate deep down, is to hope in God, to wait expectantly on Him and in all things to praise Him.  The word “praise” in the Hebrew is “Yadah”, which can also be translated as “giving thanks”.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 in the Amplified version reads:  Thank [God] in everything [no matter what the circumstances may be, be thankful andgive thanks], for this is the will of God for you [who are] in Christ Jesus [the Revealer and Mediator of that will].

And so I discovered the secret of going deep, deep enough to be able to cultivate the kind of fruit that resembles Jesus, the incorruptible Seed from which we have been generated.  It is to give thanks in all things.  So I am on a quest – to find ways to thank the Lord in everything, whether good or bad, like Jesus did.  So, Jesus is indeed the fruit that we cultivate when we choose to live gratefully.

Let me finish with the example Jesus set for us.  Matthew 26:26

Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread and, praising God, gave thanks and asked Him to bless it to their use, and when He had broken it, He gave it to the disciples and said, Take, eat; this is My body.

Jesus, knowing exactly what is about to come, praises God and gives thanks.  He digs down deep, recognises the grace of God contained in the hard, in the difficult and He gives thanks for the bread, the humble, the simple…the bread, the blessing from the Father’s hand…and He prepares to be the First Fruit.

Hidden in Christ

In his letter to the Colossians, the apostle Paul writes “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” Col. 3:1 – 4

Often we hear that we are to nail ourselves to the cross that we have to surrender all to the Lord, that we have to let go and let God…yet we live in fear, with insecurity, with no sense of purpose and craving for the boldness and the victorious life we know we are called to.  We live weak, powerless lives, we do not see the glory and power of God manifest in, around and through us.
It seems like an impossible feat, so often I think we just give up.  We take up our burdens, carry them for a while but then, like I do often, you come to your senses, wondering what you are doing and you get back on the cross.  Up, down, up down, never really getting anywhere and never really walking in the full authority delegated to us by Christ Jesus.

Let’s go back to Calvary, where it all started.  Jesus was a man, like us, flesh and blood.  Jesus was filled with Holy Spirit, like we are.  Jesus hung on that cross voluntarily, as should we.  How did He do it?  Knowing what was about to happen to Him, how did He manage to stay the course?  I believe once we have an answer to this question, we would find it so much easier to nail ourselves to our own crosses.

Jesus knew Who His Father was.  He had not only an intimate knowledge of who God is, but He knew who He was.  Jesus had full confidence that His Father would do exactly what He said He would do.  He trusted that He would rise from the grave – He was going to because He knew His Father would never, ever fail Him because He is the Son of God.

My theory is that we have this incredible need to be in control of whatever is going on around us because in our hearts we do not have full confidence that our heavenly Father will come for us.  We do not really believe that He will not fail us.  This, for many of us comes from the voice of the enemy, reminding us of the times we prayed and “weren’t” heard.  We believe that in order for something to be true we have to be able to figure it out with our minds – a simple “no” from the Lord is not enough.  We insist on questioning, reasoning, nagging even and when the Lord stills says “No” without any further explanation, we just give up on Him and decide that He is not to be trusted.  We then devise theologies and reasoning to support our thinking and so we create these strongholds in our minds and we are set on course for living without the security that we should have (like Jesus had), simply because of our position as sons and daughters.  Once we accept Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, we are seated in heavenly places and all the resources of the Kingdom of God is at our disposal.  Yet we live like beggars, eating from rubbish bins.  We watch our children, we hoard our resources, we guard our homes, our spouses, our positions, in fact we spend all our energy preserving what we have, never going on to the attack often simply because we just do not have the energy.

When you really grasp Who your Father is, when you trust His Word, when you believe that He will do exactly as He says you can relax.  You are able to confront the enemy and say with full conviction “Leave me alone.  My Father says if you contend with me, you contend with Him, my Father says my children He will save (Is 49:25), you touch them, you touch Him.  You can boldly say to the spirit of infirmity – be gone with you, my Father says through Jesus’ death on the cross all my sickness is healed.  You can confidently lay your hands on the sick, command healing knowing that Abba is backing you up, Jesus said so.  Understand, dear friends, that when you roar at the enemy, even if it comes out as a squeak, Jesus roars loud and clear, when you need protection the Word says Abba tucks you under His wing, when you proclaim victory over any situation, the voice of God thunders in the heavenlies – ON YOUR BEHALF.  When you surrender your stuff, your job, your position, your ministry, your reputation, your hopes and dreams to the Lord and Satan comes to steal, kill and destroy, he does not take from you; he takes from Yahweh, Almighty God Himself!  Will he ever get away with it? Never!

So today I challenge you to give it up – all those things you hang on so tightly, even the hurt and disappointment of the past.  The dreams that never came to fulfillment, give it up.  Allow everything you have, everything you are and everything you hope to be, to belong to the Lord.  When you do, you will be able to say with full conviction, like David: I will extol the Lord at all times; His praise will always be on my lips. I will glory in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice. Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt His name together.  I sought the Lord, and He answered me; He delivered me from all my fears.  Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; He saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lordencamps around those who fear him, and He delivers them. Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. Fear the Lord, you his holy people, for those who fear Him lack nothing. Psalm 34:1 – 9

The Valley of the Shadow of Death

Many times as I talk with Christian brothers and sisters, they express the same fear.  They tell me that they know how weak they are and that they are afraid that they might backslide and fall away altogether.   I have struggled with the same fear and I too, have heard the voice of the enemy, trying to convince me that I am not right with God.  I battle doubt too, from time to time.  We have to make up our minds that doubt and fear will not be the final authority over us, but that we will submit everything to the Word of God.
The Word says in Jude 1:24
Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault.
And in  John 6: 35 – 40
35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 36 But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. 37 All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent Me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”
Psalm 23:3, 4  He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.   NIV
When we are weak, when we transgress, when we are confronted with the condition of our hearts – even things that are so bad that it could lead us to spiritual death, Jesus is more than able to preserve us.  The Father’s will is still (as it’s been from the beginning of time) that none should be lost.  How much more is that true for us, adopted into his family by the sacrifice of Jesus.
When we go through the “valley of the shadow of (spiritual) death”  – those times when we have to deal with hidden sin, the attitudes of our heart, where we begin to understand how far we stray from the Lord’s will and purpose for our lives, we can rest assured that He will guide us with His staff and that he will discipline us with His rod of correction – to preserve us so he is able to present us blameless, without a single fault.
Every Christian will pass through this valley, the place where we begin to be complacent, the place where we lose concentration, those times when we get tired or just plain lazy. It is in these times when we become vulnerable to the enemy, where the shadow of spiritual death begins to hover closer.  It is in these times, the times when we doubt our salvation, where we are exasperated, frustrated, upset, ill, in pain, whatever it is that happens,  that the enemy convinces us that Jesus is not enough. When all of a sudden we begin to doubt the work done on the cross, our standing with the Lord, our ability to hear His voice, the lack of spiritual fruit in our lives and our inability to move in the gifts of Holy Spirit, we have to refocus.  We have to fix our eyes on Jesus again and we have to choose to believe every promise given to us in the Word of God.
We have to remind ourselves of the scriptures I quoted, and many other like these.  We cannot trust in our emotions, we cannot trust in our ability to interpret what we see in the physical world around us, we cannot trust the voices of even Christian brothers, sisters and leaders.  We can only allow ourselves to trust in the Word and promises of the Lord.  Before Jesus died, He said “It is finished”.  It is indeed finished.  The work was done at the cross.  All we need to do is to stay buried in Jesus and trust Him to present us to the Father, washed in His own blood.  Father, Son and Holy Spirit is the same yesterday, today and forever.  They do not move, they do not change – we do.
So let us make up our minds that we will submit ourselves to the Lord’s rod and staff, that we will allow Him to teach and train, discipline and guide us through the scriptures and through the Holy Spirit.  Let us be quick to repent and turn back to Him and let us follow closely behind Him as He leads us in the way everlasting.

God listened

In the book of Exodus, chapter 1, we read the story of a difficult situation the Israelites are in.  They have grown into a mighty nation and the Pharaoh had become afraid that they would overpower the Egyptians.  It tells of the slavery they found themselves in and of a plan to kill the sons of promise, by killing all the baby boys born to the Israelites.  God promised Abraham a mighty nation as his inheritance and Pharaoh was trying to stop God’s plan from coming to pass.

In Chapter 2 we are told the story of the birth of Moses, how his life was saved and how he was raised in the courts of Pharaoh, the enemy of his people.  When he becomes aware of the injustice against the Isaelites,we see how Moses tries to help his people, by taking matters into his own hands.  He kills an Egyptian who was beating an Israelite, thinking that no-one saw, but when it becomes apparent that he was seen, he flees Egypt.  Later we will see that he lived in the desert for forty years, tending his fater-in-law’s sheep, before he is revealed as the redeemer of his people.

Let’s read verses 23 to 25 from chapter 2 in the Message version.  “Many years later the king of Egypt died.  The Israelites groaned under their slavery and cried out.  Their cries for relief from their hard labor ascended to God:
God listened to their groanings.
God remembered his covenant with Abraham, and with Isaac, and with Jacob.
God saw what was going on with Israel.
God understood.

God knew and He was not caught by surprise.  He was already at work, preparing for their release.  He had a man ready to lead them out of Egypt, only the man himself still had no idea that he was the one.  Father God had planned everything at the begining of time – a redeemer for the Israelites, one that would lead them to the safety of the land promised to them.  God knew that his chosen people would find themselves in trouble, and he had intervened to save the life of Moses.  God had also sent him into the desert to prepare him for the task ahead.  Now all that was necessary was a meeting between God and Moses – a revelation of the call and ministry prepared in advance.

In the same way, we find ourselves enslaved by our enemy.  We are slaves to addiction, to religion, to heartache and self pity, to name a few.  We have an enemy who recognises that we have the potential to be great – and the potential to be a great threat.  We have an enemy that will stop at nothing to kill us and destroy our inheritance.  Our enemy does not play fair and our sons and daughter are also targets.

But God, in His almighty gracious and merciful way, have also prepared for us a Redeemer. When we call out to  God, He hears our groanings, He remembers his covenant with us, He sees what is going on in our lives and He understands.  Psalm  103:14 reads “For He knows how weak we are, He remembers that we are only dust”.

We have a Redeemer, who was tempted in the desert for 40 days, like we are tempted, and came out victorious, in the power of the Holy Spirit.  A Son was given to us who is more than able to do what He was called to do – heal the sick, raise the dead and set the captives free.  We have a Saviour available to us that would lead us through the desert we call home now, all the way to the heavenly kingdom promised to those who overcome.  He had gone before us and have prepared a way for us.  We have been set free from our captor and been given authority over everything in heaven and on earth, we never have to pass through death, we can walk straight into our eternal inheritance – all we have to do is follow Jesus.

If you find yourself in a desert today, where you feel dry and alone, look around for a burning bush. God is waiting to meet with you, He longs to spend time with you.  He is waiting to show your geat and marvelous things, waiting to reveal your call and destiny to you, so that you can also labour with Jesus.  He is waiting for you to call out to Him, He remembers His promises to you and through Jesus He has made a way for you to come home.  We have a home prepared for us and God is also waiting, He remembers you.

Everything around you might be telling you that He has forgotten you, that He does not see your pain, that He does not care about your troubles.  But none of that is true.  God is not a man, that He should lie and in Jesus every promise made in the Word of God is yes, and amen.  When He promises never to leave us, nor to forsake us, He does not lie.  In Isaiah 49 verse 15 and 16  we read  “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne?  Though she may forget, I will never forget you!  See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.”  Go on, go talk to Him, He want to hear all about it.

A letter to the Fallen Church

Today I have an encouraging word for the church of Jesus Christ…a word from Jesus Himself, to encourage you to perservere and to overcome.

Revelation 3:7 – 13  is a letter to the faithful church.  Philedelphia is the only church that received no rebuke, but received encouragement and a beautiful promise from The Lord.
It reads like this:
“To the angel of the Church in Philedelpia write:  These are the words of Him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David.  What He opens no-one can shut, and what He shuts no-one can open.
I know your deeds.  See, I have placed before you an open door that no-one can shut.  I know you have little strength, yet you have kept My word and My Name.
I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars – I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you.
Since you have kept My command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.
I am coming soon.  Hold on to what you have, so that no-one will take your crown.  The one who is victorious I will make a pillar in the temple of my God.  Never again will they leave it.  I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of My God, which is coming down out of heaven from My God; and I will also write on them My new Name.  Whoever has ears, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

 Who is this speaking to us?  Who is the one making a promise to the ones who overcome?  The One who is true, He who has the keys of David.  Jesus –  He who is to be trusted above all else.

What is He saying to us, His church?  Jesus says that He sees our hard work, He notices our service and now He says to us, see what I have done for you…I have opened a door before you that NO-ONE can shut.  I don’t know about you, but this encourages me.  No matter what things look like in the natural, Jesus opens doors for us and no man or demon can shut it again.

Jesus is aware of our struggles and He comes to help.   He sees our hearts, that we use the little strenght that we have to serve Him and He loves that we do this.
Jesus also promises to expose the pretenders amongst us and to promote us.  We can rest in  Him – He will protect us from impostors and He will raise us up and honor us before them.  This means that we can concentrate on worshipping our Lord and we can trust Jesus to purify His church.

 Another promise we have is that of a reward for keeping the Word of God in patience – a promise of safety in the dangerous times to come, but also a warning that we will be tested.  We can be confident that we can do all things, through Jesus who will stengthen us.  This confidence in our Lord will keep us in the dark days that we know are about to come.  We cannot escape the trials that we will have to face, but we can be confident that we will be saved.

Jesus is giving us fair warning – He is coming.  God says “I do nothing without warning my prophets” and from all over the world we are receiving the same message – prepare yourselves, Jesus is coming.  He is also warning us that it is possible to loose our crown.  We have to value and guard it.  We have been running the race diligently, we cannot but persevere until the end.  Satan wants to steal our glory and wants to stop the kingdom of God from manifesting on earth and we have to be on our guard.

We have to remind ourselves that Jesus is our Bridegroom, who promised to come back for us.  He is coming back for a spotless and blameless church.  We should never forget this and we should commit ourselves to preparing for His arrival.  Not only should we prepare our own hearts, but we should be encouraging each other to be ready to receive Him.  Let us commit ourselves to be clay in the Potter’s hand, to be open to receive correction from our Heavenly Father and to allow the Spirit to lead us into all truth.

To the overcomer Jesus makes a promise of a prominent place in God’s house.  What a day when we come face to face with our Father, to hear Him say ” well done, good and faithful servant”.  So let us persevere, let us run the race to the end, looking to Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith.  We can indeed do all things through Jesus Christ, who gives us strength.

Today, when The Lord sets before us an open door to testify about His goodness, let us testify.  If He set before us an open door to teach or preach, let us be faitful in it.  If today The Lord opens a door for you into the mission field, go through it.  He who is Faithful and True will go before us and He will reward us for our diligence in due time.

Where to Lord?

I like to get things right.  One of my favourite sayings is “if you are going to do something, do it well”.  My walk with The Lord is no different – I want to get it right.  Not because I strive or because I have any delusion that I have anything to give in exchange for the favour of God, but because I understand that before I was even born, God had a plan for my life.

When we truly grasp what Jesus had done for us at the cross, how He gave Himself to bring us into right relationship with the Father our perspective change. It is only when we grasp the incredible impact of Jesus’ death and the implications for us, that we can begin to see the bigger picture.  Jesus’ life on earth was never about Himself, and our lives are not about ourselves.

When we begin to understand the heart of the Father, how we existed in His imagination long before we ever saw the light of day, we begin to see that we live for something and Someone far bigger than ourselves.  Even the most self-centred, narcissistic person could not love themselves as much as the Father loves us and the Word of God tells us that that we cannot even imagine what the Lord has planned for us.  1 Corinthians 2: 9 says:  “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind have conceived, the things God has prepared for those who love Him.”

Psalm 139 is a wonderful Psalm.  It tells us that we were fearfully and wonderfully made.  Fearfully means with great respect – The Lord fashioned us with utmost respect and He planned every day before we were even born, because we were all created with and for a purpose.  Yet we place little value on our days.  We waste hours, days, even years of our lives, going after things that will never bring us any closer to being who and what we were created to be.  I realised that this was true for myself and I started to on a journey to find out what it was that The Lord has imagined when He created me – a journey more frightening and more rewarding than any I have ever been on.  What an adventure we go on when we surrender to The Lord’s plan for our lives and how wonderful as His plan starts to unfold before us!

The Word of God is an amazing map – it leads us step by step and gives us clue after clue as we read it with Holy Spirit as our guide.  We never really arrive – we simply go from glory to glory, as Jesus promised us.  So I find myself again, asking The Lord “where to from here”, and “what do You need me to do next Lord?”  My spiritman is always whispering to me to go deeper, search higher and before long I find myself working in my own strength, because I really want to please my Father.

In times like these, where I am so aware of my humanity and how far I fall short of the glory of God, when I really want to know what He requires of me,  He reminds me of Micah 6: 6 to 8
“What can we bring to The Lord? What kind of offering should we give Him?  Should we bow before Him with offerings of yearling calves? Should we offer him thousands of rams and ten thousand rivers of olive oil?  Should we sacrifice our firstborn children to pay for our sins? No, o People, The Lord has told you what is good, and this is what He requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Our Father does not require expensive gifts, huge sacrifice or hard labour.  He simply wants us to love what He loves – righteousness and mercy and He wants to walk with us, in a love relationship. He wants us to come into agreement with Him – that’s what it means to be humble.  He is saying “I am holy, you be holy, I love mercy, you extend mercy, I am your Father and I want to walk with you daily and we respond “You are my father and I will walk with You.  How beautifully simple.

When we respond to Him in this way, He takes us with Him as He goes about His business – reconciling a broken and lost world to Himself.  He takes us on one amazing journey after another, and He allows us to experience His love and His grace and His blessing as we work alongside Him.
How wonderfully easy it is to just follow Him, as He leads us on on by His Spirit.  Let us make up our  minds to do what is right, to show mercy and walk humbly with our God.

For Freedom

The struggle for freedom is a universal struggle.  Through generations, in all cultures and in many parts of the world we have had and still have, freedom fighters.   People who disregard their own comfort and their own safety and security to fight for freedom for themselves and for their countrymen. In the country of my birth, arguable the most famous freedom fighter, Nelson Mandela wrote his biography…Long walk to freedom.

Teenagers live by it, people are prepared to die for it.  We also see this struggle for freedom in our homes and our churches. This is also not new.  Often, when these brave souls appear in the church, they are labeled “rebels’.  The ones who dare to go against convention, against the norm and status quo of tradition or church policy.  These are the ones who are not satisfied with the answer “because that’s how it has always been done”.  It is indeed a long walk to freedom for most of us.

Jesus is the best biblical example of this kind of rebel.  He fought relentlessly against convention, against traditions of men and against every spirit that would keep people bound up.  In Luke 11 we read the story of Lazarus, the friend of Jesus who died and was brought back to life after Jesus prayed.  In verse 44 Jesus says to the disciples, after Lazarus walked out of the tomb “Unwrap him of the grave clothes and let him go free”.  This has always been the Father’s heart for His children.  The we would not be entangled by grave clothes, but that we would be free.

This intention for us is clearly expressed in the Word of God.  2 Corinthians 3:17 says:  “Now the Lord is Sprit and where the Spirit of The Lord is, there is freedom.  Galatians 5:1 tells us that it it for freedom that Christ has set us free, therefor we are not to subject ourselves to slavery again.

From these passages we can come to two conclusions:  Where there is no freedom, there is no presence of the Spirit of The Lord.  When He comes to us, freedom comes with Him.

The second is that we are to value our freedom, the freedom Jesus bought at such a costly price.  We cannot submit ourselves to bondage again – not to the bondage of the law and to the bondage that comes with sin and definitely not to the bondage of religious tradition.  In chapter 2 of his letter to the Colossians, the apostle Paul warns us about being strangled by the rules and traditions of men.  In verse 20 and 21 he tells us:  “Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to this world, do you submit to its rules? Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!

What Paul is saying is that we are no longer subject to the laws and traditions of men.  In Colossians chapter 3 he urges us to put to death everything that has to do with our earthly nature, our love for rules and regulations, of man-made traditions, our love of the carnal.  He reminds us in verse 3 that we have died to all of these and that we are now hidden in Christ – the ultimate freedom.

In Matthew 23 verse 13 to 15 is the account of a very harsh criticism Jesus had of the teachers of the law and of the Pharisees.  Jesus says to them: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees!  You hypocrites!  You shut the door of the Kingdom of God in people’s faces!  You yourselves do not enter, neither do you let those enter who are trying to!  Woe to you teachers of the law and Pharisees!  You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are!”

Jesus goes on to proclaim woe after woe on the teachers of the law and the Pharisees, calling them whitewashed graves with dead bones inside.  Jesus is really serious about this!  In verse 26 He tells them to clean the inside of the cup, then the outside of the cup will be clean too.  Sadly, many of us are doing the same, trying to keep the inside clean, by submitting the outside to a thorough scrubbing.

Laws, rules and regulations will never make us holy – only the love for Christ and the resence and power of Holy Spirit  will stop us from becoming slaves to sin again.  Let us today invite the Spirit of The Lord to come and clean us on the inside, to bring true freedom to our spirits, our bodies and our minds.  Let us rejoice as we see how the freedom Jesus paid for brings with it the desire to be holy and righteous and how we grow in freedom and holiness as we walk with Him.