Friday, 3 August 2018

Flourish, where God has Planted you!

I am South African, and truly, of late, I have been very negative about being, well... South African!  Everything around us seems to be a struggle.  There is so much ugliness under the surface and so much corruption and there are those few outspoken "trouble-makers" who strive to promote hate instead of peace.

This country, South Africa, has SO MUCH potential.  The people in general want to get on with one another, grow together, find a way forward while embracing all our differences.  But those "trouble-makers" voices drown out all reason and objectivity, and encourage those easily influenced, to focus on the negative and harmful.

These very same "trouble-makers" in my opinion, seek only to make only their lives wealthy and opulent.  Their concern is not for those they influence.  But, I am no politician (thank the Lord).  I however have been questioning my existence here, and that of my family.

Do I really want to be here?
Is there really any hope?
History in those countries around us is not very encouraging...
Why bother?
Shouldn't we just go where there are more like-minded people?
Could we, even if we wanted to?
Will things ever change?

And the questions just go on and on, and buzz around my head, and I have of late spoken very negatively about my country and its people.  I have felt so anxious. 

So, in my anxiety, I went to the Word.  I decided to have a quiet time at a time I would ordinarily not, seeking peace and answers to my anxiety. 

My next chapter to read was Jeremiah 29.  It is a letter from Jeremiah to the captives in Babylon.

Jer 29 vs 5 - 7: (5) Build houses and dwell in them; plant gardens and eat their fruit. (6) Take wives and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, so that they may bear sons and daughters—that you may be increased there, and not diminished. (7) And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the Lord for it; for in its peace you will have peace. 

I immediately felt the Lord had answered my anxiety about my country, about my city, about my home, and my part to play in it.


I felt the Lord say the following to me:

  • Build your lives, and commit to them
  • Plant gardens and establish yourself where you live
  • Increase in your lives, family, friends, business
  • Seek the peace of your city
  • Pray to the Lord for the peace of your city
  • For, the peace of your city will be your peace!

Is that not awesome?!  I feel as though God has spoken into all my fears and removed them by saying, "Flourish where I have planted you!"

I have wasted many anxious moments and words on being negative and losing hope.  Feeling at a loss and wanting to abandon ship so to speak.  But I feel God is calling me on this and saying, "No, I've got this, just flourish and trust the rest to Me!"

From now on, I choose to speak positively about South Africa, I choose to have hope in my country and its people, and in the God who placed us all here.  I will pray for Cape Town with fervor and for South Africa and its leaders as well. 

I hope this resonates with someone out there who feels hopeless in their city!  Don't give up hope!  God is aware of everything going on, and He is aware of you and your place in it!

God bless
Tracy


My ABIDE scripture for this post is:
Jeremiah 29 vs 11:  For I know the thoughts that I think towards you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

James - Digging Deeper 5

And so we continue on in our James study.  This post we cover James 1 vs 16 - 18.  It always astounds me how much one can get out of just a few verses.  And the next time I visit in James, I will not be surprised when God shows me another facet to His character through His word.

Notes: EH = Everett Hill - Exploring the Elements of an Authentic Christian Lifestyle

James 1 vs 16 – 18:
(16) “Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers.  (17) Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.  (18) Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.” 

Deceived:
  • Deceived here in the Greek is “Led astray”.  
  • God does not want us to be led astray into thinking anything good in us, is of us.  That is pride.  EVERY GOOD THING comes from the Father.
  • The “running away from temptation” sounds negative, but perceived differently, its “running to and pursuing every good thing”, which is from the Father.
Every Good gift:
  • When we think that we are the author of good in us, we deceive ourselves and set ourselves up for temptation, open doors, and pride.
  • We should remember, “There is no goodness apart from God, so we must count on God’s good gifts to see us through each moment.” (EH)
  • When we realize that every good gift comes from God, we will start to intentionally depend on Him and shall reap the blessing that comes from that.  Independence does not bring blessing.  It brings flesh into play, which brings death.  Dependence on God brings blessing and life.
  • James is saying the way to avoid being deceived is to decipher what is of God and what is not.  He says here in James 1 vs 17:  Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above; it comes from the Father of all light, in whom there can be no variation…
  • If we, who are parents know how to give good gifts to our children (Matt 7 vs 11), how much more our Heavenly Father… Thus if it is good, glorifies Christ, good and useful for our sanctification, our continued transformation, then it is of God. 
  • If something leads us away from God, into darkness, into pride, self-reliance, etc etc, it is not of God.
  • God is the father of all light, and if we look on temptation, through the beam of His light, then the temptation looks pale, unattractive, with no draw.  Because God’s light exposes it for what it is.  Death.
  • Choosing God’s goodness, choosing light, choosing life, is not always easy and when we do so, God rewards us.  We must always remember that God’s mercies are new every morning for us because He loves us and wants us to be renewed daily and not weighed down by guilt, shame and despair.
  • I feel it needs to be mentioned here that James points out that that God is unchanging!  We may change, we may fail or succeed, but God never changes.  What He means yesterday, He means for today and tomorrow.  That is comforting in this ever changing world.
Firstfruits:
  • James says that we are a kind of firstfruits of the Lord’s creatures.  EH goes on to say that the reason for this is that God views us through the lens of Jesus.  Because Jesus is our righteousness. 
  • We are saved, born-again and transformed daily, but far from perfect.  He sees us for what we are right now, but also what He created us to be.  He treats us as He intends us to be, but gives us grace and mercy to journey to that place. 
  • We are made valuable simply because God has picked us. (EH)  We are His firstfruits, because it is His will for us to be so. 
  • As humans, made in the likeness of God and redeemed by Jesus, we are God’s most glorious creation, or at least we will end up being so once He is finished with our transformation. (EH)



John Henry’s commentary says the following:
  • We are taught yet further that, while we are the authors and procurers of all sin and misery to ourselves, God is the Father and fountain of all good.
  • Let corrupt men run into what notions they will, the truth, as it is in Jesus, stands thus: That God is not, cannot be, the author and patronizer of anything that is evil; but must be acknowledged as the cause and spring of everything that is good.
  • Father of lights: vs 17: God is the Creator of the sun and its rising and setting are the same, unchanging. So, God is unchangeable. What the sun is in nature, God is in grace, providence, and glory; aye, and infinitely more. 
  • As every good gift is from God, so particularly the renovation of our natures, our regeneration, and all the holy happy consequences of it, must be ascribed to Him.
  • Us as God’s firstfruits: That we should be God’s portion and treasure, and a more peculiar property to him, as the firstfruits were; and that we should become holy to the Lord, as the firstfruits were consecrated to Him, Christ is the firstfruits of Christians, Christians are the firstfruits of creatures.

By God’s will, we have been chosen to be His firstfruits, holy and set apart, for His glory and enjoyment.

God bless
Tracy



My ABIDE scripture this week is:
Prov 16 vs 3:  Commit your works to the Lord, and your thoughts will be established.




Also in this James Study series:
James - Digging Deeper 1
James - Digging Deeper 2
James - Digging Deeper 3
James - Digging Deeper 4

James - Digging Deeper 6 coming soon 😊

Monday, 25 June 2018

True Worship or False?

What are you reading at the moment that is helping you in your journey to a closer relationship with God?  For me I am currently reading "Man's Purpose" by AW Tozer.  That man does not mince words let me tell you. 

I have found his forthrightness very much like a bucket of cold water thrown in your face.  Its very refreshing! 😊

Tozer says that our prime reason for being, is to worship God.  And through this book he is trying to get across exactly how one does this.  I have been praying and asking the Lord to quicken my mind so that I can understand and absorb all that he has to say.  I want to know all I can about worshiping God so that I do it in a manner that is acceptable to Him. 

I was struggling with something that Tozer had said.  Not so much that it was not understandable.  Just in that what he said made me feel that nothing I do is satisfactory worship for God.  And while I believe my acceptability comes from a place of God's righteousness and grace and mercy, and nothing of my own, I felt Tozer was expressing an impossibility of my being able to worship God in such a manner as I thought to be acceptable.  He was eliminating all the ways I thought I was worshiping God.

He states the only way to worship God is in (1) spirit, and (2) in truth.  (John 4 vs 24)

I can understand this just fine.  God is spirit and we can worship Him anywhere.  Its not about where, a building, a place.  We can worship God anywhere because He is in us.  It is not about physical sacrificing and outward show.  It is about our hearts and souls seeking to worship God.  Worshiping God in truth, means to acknowledge the truth of Who He is.  He is Lord, Saviour, Creator.  There is no way to God but through belief in His Son, belief in His death and resurrection.  This is the truth of God.  We can only truly worship God if we believe the truth of Who He is. 

Tozer went on to say that much of today's "worship" of God, in church and among us as Christians is NOT true worship.  Its more about us, and entertainment, etc.  And while I do see this, and believe this to be true in many circumstances, I felt as if Tozer is saying that when I go to church and sing our praise and worship songs, that I am not worshiping, or at least, not in a way acceptable to God.


I went to bed that night confused and worried about my ability to worship God in a way that is acceptable to Him.  Then, in the morning I got up, fed the dogs, made my cuppa and headed for my bible for a quiet time.  And.... the next chapter to read was Isaiah 66.  The last chapter of Isaiah. 

The heading in my bible reads:  True Worship and False

And I smiled.  God has a way of letting you know He knows what you are doing.  He knows that you want to learn.  He knows you want clarity.  He knows what you are thinking!  Yes, He knows! 

The next verses really sum Worship, acceptable or not:
Isaiah 66 vs 1 - 2(*red italic notes are mine)
(1)  Thus says the Lord:  "Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool.  Where is the house that you will build Me?  And where is the place of My rest? (God does not need a building, a place to be worshiped. earth and heaven are His footstool)
(2)  For all those things My hand has made, and all those things exist," says the Lord.  "But on this one will I look: on him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at my Word.

The true worship that God accepts is from a contrite heart, a broken heart, a humble spirit.  One who looks to God for salvation and who fears Him as Lord and Saviour.  Who respects His word.  Thus, to truly worship God, in spirit and in truth, we must be humble, contrite, and fear Him, as in: respect and honour Him as Lord of all.

What then is false worship, unacceptable to God?
Isaiah 66 vs 3 - 4:    
(3)  "He who kills a bull is as if he slays a man;  he who sacrifices a lamb, as if he breaks a dog's neck;  he who offers a grain offering, as if he offers swine's blood;  he who burns incense, as if he blesses an idol.  Just as they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delights in their abominations, (people doing outward shows of worship with no desire to change their hearts and actions)
(4)  So will I choose their delusions, and bring their fears on them, because, when I called, no one answered, when I spoke they did not hear;  but they did evil before My eyes, and chose that in which I do not delight."

False worship comes from external show, self-reliance and pride. This "worship" is not acceptable in God's eyes.  God was not happy with those who outwardly showed worship by sacrifice, but continued in sin and their own pleasures.  Their hearts were not right before Him.

So, I feel the Lord as allayed my fears and reminded me its about my heart.  Its about the intent of my heart.  When I praise and worship God in church, in my home, in my car, my intention is to love God, to worship Him in spirit and in truth.  I do not do it for anyone else, I do not do it to show anyone else anything else.  It is me, worshiping Him.  And I believe that when I do worship God in this manner, He accepts it. 

I do however pray that God show me where I fail, how I can improve, and where I need to change so that my worship remains acceptable in His sight.

Let me know your thoughts.

God bless
Tracy

 

My ABIDE scripture this week is:
John 4 vs 24:  God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

James - Digging Deeper 4

James 1 vs 13 - 15: (13) Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. (14) But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. (15) Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.

(Note:  EH = Everett Hill - Exploring the Elements of an Authentic Christian Lifestyle
           MH = Matthew Henry)

EH Notes:
  • We will be tempted, its when not if.
  • God allows temptation and difficulties for our growth and strength of character. We need these so that we can stand against, and withstand the wiles of the devil.
  • Don’t be discouraged by temptation, but don’t underestimate it either.
  • When tempted, do as Jesus did, use God’s word, as it’s alive and powerful, and will protect you.
  • Do not panic, or fear the temptation, but look to God, as His word says He will give you a way out of temptation. 
  • The temptation can’t harm us, unless we let it – its very much our choice to pick it up or not.
  • When we stand firm on God’s word (thus we need to know God’s word) no temptation will overpower us. Its power is our choice. Choose God’s way in faith 

EH then goes on to discuss IF/WHEN we do fall into temptation and sin
  • He explains that God’s forgiveness is there
  • Not accepting His forgiveness is at its core, disobedience. (← is this not profound?)
  • We tend to not ask forgiveness because we feel shame, we deserve the consequences, we feel we need to earn the forgiveness - when all along, God is extending forgiveness with no strings attached. It doesn’t fit our thinking because we know we fell, thus we need to suffer in it, but God restores because He extends grace and mercy, and doesn’t want us to suffer needlessly.
  • Also, the price He paid to save us from those failings, we need to honour His sacrifice by accepting His forgiveness, repenting and walking in the right way.



Life Application notes:
God doesn’t tempt people, He tests them. He does allow Satan to tempt people, however, in order to refine their faith and to help them grow in their dependence on Christ. We can resist the temptation to sin by turning to God for strength and choosing to obey His word.

When having fallen to temptation don’t blame others, situations, worldly ease etc. The Christian accepts responsibility for his or her wrongs, confesses them, and asks God’s forgiveness.


Matthew Henry notes:

MH lays the blame firmly at the feet of man for responding to temptation and completely refutes anyone trying to turn blame onto God.
  • “Our first father Adam, tells God, the woman thou gavest me tempted me, thereby, in effect, throwing blame upon God for giving him the tempter. Let no man speak thus!”
  • “It is very bad to sin, but is much worse, when we have done amiss, to charge it upon God, and say it was owing to Him.”
  • “Afflictions, as sent by God, are designed to draw out our graces, but not our corruptions.” (I love love love this statement)
  • “Stop the beginnings of sin therefore, or else all the evils it produces must be wholly charged upon us.”


My thoughts: Therefore, don’t pick up the temptation, because if you do, the resultant sin and consequences is all on you.  Its all about choices in the moment of temptation!

EH notes that temptation in of itself has no power over us, but if we act on it, we give it power to plant seed and grow to full blown sin.

To summarise:
  • Temptation is a given
  • It has no power over us, except that which we allow
  • God allows temptation and trial to strengthen us
  • Its all about choices
  • If/when we fall, the buck stops with us, its on us, our choice, take responsibility
  • If/when we fall, God is ready to forgive
  • Not accepting God’s forgiveness is pride and disobedience
  • Accepting His forgiveness immediately restores your relationship with Him

I hope you are as encouraged as I am that temptation is not to feared as much as we do fear it!  God has given us a way out, no matter how far along in our faith walk we are.  

God bless
Tracy



My ABIDE scripture for this week is:
1 Corith 10 vs 13:  No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

Monday, 11 June 2018

The more you ABIDE, the more you WANT to ABIDE!

My One Word for this year is ABIDE (See post HERE).  My goal therefore for this year was to spend more time in the Word, dig deeper, know more, get closer to the Lord, invest more time, heart and mind to getting closer to my Lord and Saviour, Jesus.  I am finding in doing so, I just want more!  More of the Word.  More knowledge.  More understanding.  More history.  I want more of Jesus!

My ladies bible study (God's Girls) are currently digging deeper into the book of James.  We are loving it!  I love how I am looking up things I never considered before.  Who is this person in scripture?  Where do they come from?  What part do they play?  What happened to them?  Google is marvellous for some of those questions.  I just want to pick everyone's brain about what they know.
I also find I am not just taking what someone says at face value!  I am checking what they say for myself, in the Word!

I am going through 1 John at the moment in my quiet time and there are so many references to ABIDE.  They are all so encouraging and uplifting.  John is writing to Christians and encouraging them to not be influenced by false teachers and teachings.  If we ABIDE in God and in His word we will be able to prevent ourselves from being waylaid and deceived, and.... we begin to understand His love for us.


1 John 2 v 24:  Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning.  If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father.   

If God's word, the truth, is in us, then God is in us and abides in us.  Thus we have His protection and His love in us.

1 John 2 vs 26 - 27: (26) These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you. (27) But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.

Because we abide in Christ and thus Him in us, we will not be deceived by false teachers.  Our consciences will be on high alert!

1 John 2 v 28:  And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.

We will recognise Jesus when He appears!  Does that not give you peace?!  It makes me feel confident that if someone comes claiming to be Christ, we will know the truth and not be fooled!

1 John 3 v 6:  Whoever abides in Him does not sin.

This means that if we abide in Christ and in His word, we will recognise sin and steer clear.  We will not be able to sin on purpose.  We will not be able to stomach hurting Jesus or the Holy Spirit on purpose.  Abiding in Christ protects us from sin.

The "LOVE" connection!

1 John 4 vs 12(b) - 13:  If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us.  (13) By this we know that we abide in Him, and He is us, because he has given us of His Spirit. 

1 John 4 vs 15 - 16:  (15) Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.  (16) And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.

If we have love in us for our fellow man, then God abides in us.  If not, we need to abide more!  Spend more time in His word until we start to love people the way God wants us to.  And we are only able to love the way God wants us to, if we are able to confess Jesus as the Son of God, and we believe in Him.  When we understand God's love for us, and the love He wants us to extend, we are starting to abide in Him and Him in us.

This is a place, a way of being, that we should desire with all our hearts.  Let us ABIDE in Him daily, now and always.

God bless
Tracy


My ABIDE scripture today is:
1 John 3 v 16:  By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us.  And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.  

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