Safe Haven – Shelter From The Storm

Safe Haven

Christians face many challenges in their lives on a daily basis. For some, it might be health issues. For others, it may be struggles with finances. Still others face uncertainty with respect to their careers. Relationship issues burden yet others. Some are even more unfortunate as to face multiple difficulties all at once or in an seemingly unending sequence.

The Psalmist also has experiences that cause him to “wrestle with his thoughts” and to “have sorrow in his heart everyday” Psalm 13.

We do well to draw on the Psalmist’s response to the challenges that we face in this life:

“But I trust in your unfailing love, my heart rejoices in your salvation.” Psalm 13:5

He encourages us to “Cast your cares on the Lord, and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous fall.” Psalm 55:22

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1 Corinthians 13: Love

Love

1 Corinthians 13

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.

Love is patient

There is a tendency for us to more readily spot flaws in others than in ourselves.

Matt 7:3

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?

One challenge is that having identified the flaws, we want them to be removed quickly. We get upset when the change that we require does not take place immediately. We are increasingly upset when the undesirable behaviour occurs.

There is an important fact that many do not recognize or accept.

In many instances, we are especially frustrated and annoyed at behaviours in others that we have struggled with in our own lives.

This is usually some event or action or behaviour that happened or continues to occur in our lives that we detest.  Our feelings about it are so strong that we want to hit out at it – wherever it appears with a passion.

We project the frustration that we have about ourselves (past or present) unto the offender with increased intensity.

Consequently, it is useful to review those things that bring out your wrath to see if at some stage they were or still are issues for you.

1 Corinthians 13 is reminding us that in the context of the overarching command to love our neighbours, patience is required.

Colossians 3:

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each otherand forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

A charge to you today is the examine ways in which you are impatient. See if in those moments of frustration a feeling of deep and sincere love for the other person is your primary motive.

When love is at the heart of what we do, the level of impatience with others is not as great.

 

Love is kind

One key to letting kindness be an active part of our lives is to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes.

If we were in their position, what would we want?

That mindset has a way of bringing out the best in us.

It is important to remember that being kind is not only about providing money and things.

At the same time, sometimes our kindness should extend to providing for physical needs.

I John 3:

16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us, And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

 

Love does not envy

Aristotle (in Rhetoric) defined envy (φθόνος phthonos) “as the pain caused by the good fortune of others”, while Kant defined it as “a reluctance to see our own well-being overshadowed by another’s because the standard we use to see how well off we are is not the intrinsic worth of our own well-being but how it compares with that of others” (in Metaphysics of Morals). Source: Wikipedia

If we go back to wanting for others what we want for ourselves then we will be happy with whatever blessings they have received.

The command to “love your neighbour as yourself” directly opposes any thought of envy.

 

Love does not boast and is not proud

Boasting and pride are linked to our EGO or deceived SELF.

Recall the two main highways that lead to a corrupted way of thinking.

The first one leads us to getting attached to things, people and positions.

The more things we can claim as “mine” the fatter the EGO and the greater the level of deception.

The second highway takes us to a place where we focus on thinking how different we are from others.

The more different we are the bigger the EGO and the more deceived we become.

Christians are called to renew their minds (Romans 12). They are to reject the corrupt way of thinking that is wrapped up in “Mine” and “I am not like that”.

The key is to recognize that we are merely stewards of our material possessions and the positions that we hold. That situation can be dramatically changed without warning.

When we realize that things and positions are not an intrinsic part of who we are, then we deny self the right to boast or to be proud.

Only the insane will boast about a castle on a hill as if it belonged to them when they have no connection at all with it. Be careful how we use “my” and “mine” to impress others and to feel good about ourselves. We really do not own anything in a real sense.

The love of which 1 Corinthians 13 speaks comes from a renewed mind. This mind no longer conforms to the dictates of the EGO – the deceived Self. It does not hang on to things and positions.

 

Love does not dishonour others

Something that is unique – one of its kind – is highly treasured. A normal man who runs 100 meters in 11 seconds will not be widely celebrated. If you are the only one that runs it in 9:59 seconds then respect and adoration for you abounds.

The EGO feeds on adoration and on being celebrated.

If you put these two thoughts together you will recognize why it is important for the EGO to work hard at being different. The more we are just like everybody else the less respect and adoration we can claim.

A well fed EGO – our deceived SELF – actively puts down others in a drive to elevate itself.

Alternatively, it constantly reminds others of things that make them standout so others feel diminished and “less valued.”

Think about the “My father..” verbal contests among young boys or the “Your Momma” insult trade off of adolescents.

The love that comes from a renewed mind is humble. It seeks to relate to others where they are and to respect them.

 

Love is not self-seeking

The scriptures consistently prod us to become “equal opportunity thinkers”.

We should have a mindset that wants the best for not only self but for all others.

Php 2:3  Don’t do anything from selfish ambition or from a cheap desire to boast, but be humble toward one another, always considering others better than yourselves. (Good News Bible)

2Ti 3:1  Remember that there will be difficult times in the last days. 2 People will be selfish, greedy, boastful, and conceited; they will be insulting, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, and irreligious; 3 they will be unkind, merciless, slanderers, violent, and fierce; they will hate the good; 4 they will be treacherous, reckless, and swollen with pride; they will love pleasure rather than God; 5 they will hold to the outward form of our religion, but reject its real power. Keep away from such people. (Good News Bible)

 

Love is not easily angered

Anger is a melting pot of many ingredients. These include:

An action/event … a stimulus

Personalities

Relationships

Historical events

State of mind

How the event is processed

Implications & Consequences

Circumstances under which event took place – private/public etc.

Mindset

Col 3:12

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 

The Mindset has the power to overwrite the impact of all the other elements. That is why with a renewed mind, we can turn the other cheek.

We cannot overemphasize the importance and value of working on the way we think and getting to the point where we are more Christ-like in our thinking, feelings and actions.

 

Love keeps no record of wrongs

Col 3: 13 Bear with each otherand forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.

The false sense of “ME” that we embrace and protect so vigorously is a major contributor to the difficulty we have in dealing with what we perceive to be the wrongs of others.

The more highly we think of ourselves the greater the chance that someone is going to do or say something that does not fit well with our self image.

That is why some people get the feeling of being disrespected so easily.

Amazingly, people who have low self esteem are also very easily hurt by the actions of others.

The arrogant and conceited personality as well as those that have doubts about their competence and self worth tend to hold on to hurts for a long time.

When you feel good about who you are, the darts that others throw at you tend to bounce off more easily.

Another mindset that promotes unforgiveness is the desire to take revenge and punish the offender.

This is the eye for eye mentality that Christ warns against.

Matt 5: 38

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.

Lev 19:18  Do not take revenge on others or continue to hate them, but love your neighbors as you love yourself. I am the LORD.

Rom 12:

19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him;     if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

 

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

The love of 1 Corinthians 13 is associated with a transformed and renewed mind.

It is tied to a mind that manifests the fruit of the Spirit:

Gal 5: 19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like, I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.

It is clear here that the flesh (our sinful nature) is the source of behaviour that wars against the Spirit.

Mat 5:6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

 

Love always protects

Think about the love that a mother has for her newborn baby and you get the picture of what this means. Nothing more needs to be said here.

 

Love always trusts

Trust is the glue that holds healthy relationships together.

When we act in ways that betray that trust, we weaken the bond of love and place the relationship at risk.

At the same time, trust is a two-way street. The failure of one party to trust makes it difficult for true bonding to take place.

In the scriptural framework, it is far better to trust and be betrayed than to withhold trust and be constantly imputing dishonest actions or motives on the part of others.

 

Love always hopes

When we love someone we want the very best for them. We hold out great hope that their wishes and aspirations will be achieved.

No surprise then that a love that is anchored in loving God with all our heart, loving ourselves and loving others as we love ourselves is full of hope and positive expectations.

The mind that allows the fruit of the Spirit to ripen in it will demonstrate a pure love and will rejoice in hope.

 

Love always perseveres

True love is not fickle. It is not easily disappointed or discouraged.

There is a sense of looking beyond faults and focusing on the end goals.

 

2 Peter 3:9

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

 

Love never fails

The love of 1 Corinthians 13 overcomes all obstacles.

Its poster example is reflected in Romans 5:8:

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

The challenge to you today is to let love be central to your very existence.

Repent of the unloving ways in which you have acted and continue to act.

Develop a deeper relationship with Christ and His teaching. Obey His commands and follow His example.

Why Jesus

Why Jesus?

1.      Why Jesus? He Makes Sense Out of Nonsense

A man cuts down a tree, uses a part of it to create a “god” and sets aside the remainder to cook the meal that his created “god” will provide for him.

Today, we laugh at that as the nonsense that we associate with primitive minds.

Yet, celebrated lyrical icon Bob Marley declares in the anthem “Get up, Stand Up” …

“We sick an tired of-a your ism-skism game – Dyin n goin to heaven in-a jesus name, lord. We know when we understand: Almighty God is a living man. You can fool some people sometimes, But you can’t fool all the people all the time.”

Marley and the Rastafarian movement have moved the game up one notch from wood to human flesh and blood. They look to man who has no idea about the source of his first, last or next breath to guide, protect and provide for them.

So, some dismiss that set as being intellectually unsophisticated. The intellectually sophisticated do not need the drug that religion is to navigate through life.

They replace the ‘wood god’ and ‘man god’ with the idea that life is just one big accident. There is no intelligent design to be respected as the Source and to be revered and respected as God.

Knowing what we know about life, what we see about us, what our experience has taught us – does any of the above explanations provide a sensible answer about how this game of life came into being?

Can you reasonably expect that Ras Tafari –  whose rotted remains lie in the earth – can respond to your prayers? Can Jah really “Guide”?  Does Jah really “Know”?

Would you believe that it is by mere accident that the earth and the sun coordinate their movements so that they have not missed a sunrise or sunset for thousands of years?

Would you then also believe that there was an accident last month on the highway and out of it emerged a highly sophisticated space craft with a power source that is unknown to man but with the capacity to go to the moon in six hours?  Check google….

On the other hand, Jesus states clearly that He has been there from the beginning and knows exactly how it was designed and created.

John 8: 58 “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!

John 8: 42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me.

John 18:37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

John 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” 

Jesus clearly states that He has the answers to our questions. He knows the truth.

The wood has not yet been able to make any claims. Selassie disclaimed divinity. The intellectuals create theories that are less rational the worshipping wooden idols. At least they could be seen. It is hard to “see” the logic in the arguments of our intellectuals.

1 Cor 1: 20 Where is the wise person?Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signsand Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified:a stumbling blockto Jews and foolishnessto Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishnessof God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weaknessof God is stronger than human strength.

2.      Why Jesus? He Answers Our Questions

Jesus and His Apostle’s who carried and reinforced His teachings give us clear answers to questions that have occupied the minds of humans throughout the ages.

What is this game of life about?

How do I know when I win?

What are the rewards for winning?

What are my chances of winning?

What are the rules?

Is there a winning strategy?

Marley expresses a philosophy that is embraced by the intellectual unbelievers:

“But if you know what life is worth, You will look for yours on earth:”

This view is that the game of live is entirely about what happens during our brief stay here on earth.

On the other hand, the Christ-anchored philosophy highlights the misery and hopelessness that is ours if everything is confined to this life on earth. (1 Cor 15:19)

Removal of intelligent design from life takes away its meaning.

If we remove the rules and objectives governing Scrabble or Monopoly or Football then they lose their meaning. Anyone could come up with their own rules and the end – confusion.

That is what we have when we remove Divine Intelligence from life – confusion.

The Christian understanding of the game of life is the clearest and most logical.

The game was conceived and created by God…..the bearer of the intelligent design that is the source of the jaw-dropping complexities and creativity that is common place in nature.

The concept of God is in itself complex but Christians understand that there is a God-head of three Divine Beings – God (the Father), Jesus (the Son) and the Holy Spirit (the Counsellor).

God – not an accidental explosion of non-existent materials – created the universe. How He did it and how we choose to explain how it could have been done – using our limited scientific knowledge – is irrelevant.  Nothing about the order and the description of the creation process has been discredited by scientific research.

God states that He created man. His grand design was that man would spend eternity with Him. The concept of life being confined to our life on earth is flawed.

Gen 1:26 – 28 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. 28And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. 

Man has a soul that outlives his body. The soul never dies.

God is a spirit and so any image of God in us must be in spiritual form – our souls.

Our souls are of critical importance

God is particularly interested in our souls.

Gen 2:7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

The soul is more than our physical parts.

Our souls are far more important that our bodies.

 “Soul” occurs 458 times in the King James Version of the Bible.

Our souls are to be treasured and are beyond the reach of man.

Matt 10: 28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

What we do here in this life on earth determines what happens to our souls when our physical bodies die.

Matt 16: 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come  in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.

This is the most credible reason why it would make sense for us not to look out for our own benefit at the expense of others.

If we are playing a game without objective rules and nothing matters outside of the game, why would I not play in a way that suits me?

If there are 10 of us and 10 pieces of chicken in the buffet, why would I not go to the front of the line and take 3 pieces?

Jesus gives us a compelling reason.

We are advised that if we play the game of life right we will be rewarded. Our reward is differential treatment of our souls after we leave this physical body. If we play the game poorly we are condemned to eternal torment.

Jesus goes further by giving us the simple strategy for winning the game:

Matt 22: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

That is why it makes sense to put the common good above our selfish desires.

Matt 16: 24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.

This respect for a higher authority, rules and rewards is the most credible reason for doing good.

The description of a carefully designed, ongoing game with well documented guidelines and rewards and punishment gives us clarity as to how to go through life.

We understand the why, the what and the how.

 

The Why:

We were created to fit into God’s carefully designed plan. We have one guiding principle to follow:

The key principle is the need for man to do the will of God. That is our duty.

Ecc 12:13  Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.  14 For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.

We messed up through Adam’s failure to be obedient.

Rom 5:18 Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people,so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. 19 For just as through the disobedience of the one manthe many were made sinners,so also through the obedienceof the one man the many will be made righteous.

 

3.      Why Jesus? He saves us our souls

Acts 4: 12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.

What must WE do to save our souls?

1. Hear the Word – the Gospel

John 6: 45 It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.

Rom 10:17  So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

 

What must we do to save our souls?

2. Believe

Heb 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

John 8:24 I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.

 What must we do to save our souls?

3. Repent

Acts 17:30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent.

Luke 13: 1 Now there were some present at that very season who told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And he answered and said unto them, Think ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they have suffered these things? 3 I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all in like manner perish.

 

 What must we do to save our souls?

4. Confess Jesus is Lord

Matt 10:32 Every one therefore who shall confess me before men, him will I also confess before my Father who is in heaven. 33 But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father who is in heaven.

Rom 10:10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

 What must we do to save our souls?

5.  Be baptized for the remission of your sins

Acts 22:16 And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.

Acts 2:37 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? 38Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

1 Pet 3:21The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

  What must we do to save our souls?

6. Remain in Christ

John 6:3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?  4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

Rom 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

1 Pet 2: 1 Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, 2 As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.

4.      Why Jesus? He provides solutions to our problems in this life

Now that you are in Christ, the amazing rewards are open to you.

Is 59: 1.Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear.But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.

Eph 1: Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,who has blessed us in the heavenly realmswith every spiritual blessing in Christ.

John 14:6
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

This is the Father who says:

Jer 32:27 Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh; is there any thing too hard for me?

 

Why Jesus?

Because it makes SENSE!

Echoes Of Ezekiel

Echoes Of Ezekiel

I. WHO OWNS THIS?

Ezekiel 29: In the tenth year, in the tenth month on the twelfth day, the word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, set your face against Pharaoh king of Egypt and prophesy against him and against all Egypt.Speak to him and say: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says:

“‘I am against you, Pharaoh king of Egypt, you great monster lying among your streams. You say, “The Nile belongs to me; I made it for myself.”
But I will put hooks in your jaws and make the fish of your streams stick to your scales. I will pull you out from among your streams, with all the fish sticking to your scales. I will leave you in the desert,
 you and all the fish of your streams. You will fall on the open field and not be gathered or picked up. I will give you as food to the beasts of the earth and the birds of the sky. Then all who live in Egypt will know that I am the Lord.

 Multiple scenarios:

  • Up early and rushing about. Today, I need to get some important things done.
  • Can’t make it to Church or Bible Study or Youth Group Meeting – need to study for exam.
  • Climbing up the corporate or professional ladder – consumed by the work activities.
  • Overrun by financial woes – unable to make ends meet and facing rising debt.
  •  New: Love interest, Home, car, phone, child

The Questions:

Who does your day/brain/work belong to?

Did you think to pray?

Did you stop to read your Bible?

Have you lost your passion for the Lord?

Is this why you are distracted from focusing on God?

The message:

I need to get your attention. Something bad/worse is going to befall you.

Then you will know that I am the Lord.

Our take away from the Echoes of Ezekiel is to always focus on the Source of everything. Anything that consumes our attention, denies Him.

Jeremiah 9:23 This is what the Lord says:

“Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, 24 but let the one who boasts boastabout this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord.

1 Corinthians 1:31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

II. RESTITUTION

Eze 33: 14 And if I say to a wicked person, ‘You will surely die,’ but they then turn away from their sin and do what is just and right— 15 if they give back what they took in pledge for a loan, return what they have stolen, follow the decrees that give life, and do no evil—that person will surely live; they will not die 16 None of the sins that person has committed will be remembered against them. They have done what is just and right; they will surely live.

The echoes of Ezekiel point to the need to work to undo, correct or make compensation for the wrongs that we have done.

Repentance has a sense of restitution woven into it.

Numbers 5:6-8

“Say to the Israelites: ‘Any man or woman who wrongs another in any wayand so is unfaithful to the Lord is guilty and must confess the sin they have committed. They must make full restitution for the wrong they have done, add a fifth of the value to it and give it all to the person they have wronged. But if that person has no close relative to whom restitution can be made for the wrong, the restitution belongs to the Lord and must be given to the priest, along with the ram with which atonement is made for the wrongdoer.

It is not enough to be sorry. Corrective action is required.

 

III. WATCHMEN

Ezekiel 33: “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. When I say to the wicked, ‘You wicked person, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak out to dissuade them from their ways, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood. But if you do warn the wicked person to turn from their ways and they do not do so, they will die for their sin, though you yourself will be saved.

The echoes of Ezekiel leave no room for doubt about our responsibilities to be responsible for the souls of others.

This is reinforced by the Great Commission:

Matt 28: 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

 

IV. RESTORATION

Eze 36:16

Israel’s Restoration Assured

16 Again the word of the Lord came to me: 17 “Son of man, when the people of Israel were living in their own land, they defiled it by their conduct and their actions. Their conduct was like a woman’s monthly uncleanness in my sight. 18 So I poured out my wrath on them because they had shed blood in the land and because they had defiled it with their idols. 19 I dispersed them among the nations, and they were scattered through the countries; I judged them according to their conduct and their actions. 20 And wherever they went among the nations they profaned my holy name, for it was said of them, ‘These are the Lord’s people, and yet they had to leave his land.’ 21 I had concern for my holy name, which the people of Israel profaned among the nations where they had gone.

22 “Therefore say to the Israelites, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: It is not for your sake, people of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone. 23 I will show the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, the name you have profaned among them. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Sovereign Lord, when I am proved holy through you before their eyes.

24 “‘For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. 28 Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God 29 I will save you from all your uncleanness. I will call for the grain and make it plentiful and will not bring famine upon you. 30 I will increase the fruit of the trees and the crops of the field, so that you will no longer suffer disgrace among the nations because of famine. 31 Then you will remember your evil ways and wicked deeds, and you will loathe yourselves for your sins and detestable practices. 32 I want you to know that I am not doing this for your sake, declares the Sovereign Lord. Be ashamed and disgraced for your conduct, people of Israel!

Echoes of Ezekiel provide the hope of restoration.

You might be down and almost out, but restoration is possible.

Be faithful and put your trust in God.

Heb 6:10  For God is not so unjust as to forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have ministered to the saints and continue to minister to them.

V. What must WE do to save our souls and obtain restoration?

Hear the Word – the Gospel

John 6: 45 It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.

Rom 10:17  So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

 

  1. Believe

Heb 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

John 8:24 I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.

  1. Repent

Acts 17:30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent.

Luke 13: 1 Now there were some present at that very season who told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And he answered and said unto them, Think ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they have suffered these things? 3 I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all in like manner perish.

    3.      Confess Jesus is Lord

Matt 10:32 Every one therefore who shall confess me before men, him will I also confess before my Father who is in heaven. 33 But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father who is in heaven.

Rom 10:10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

 4.   

  • Be baptized for the remission of your sins

Acts 22:16 And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.

Acts 2:37 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? 38Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

1 Pet 3:21The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

  1. Remain in Christ

John 6:3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?  4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

Rom 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

1 Pet 2: 1 Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, 2 As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.

 

Free Electricity!

Free Electricity!

There is an earnest complaint in some communities that in years gone by they did not have to pay for electricity. They are upset that they are now being pressured to pay for the electricity that they use.

Many of us wonder how those people could be so unreasonable. We have to pay for water, light, telephone, food, housing etc.

The amazing thing is that even as we look in wonderment at those who refuse to pay for electricity, we do not expect to pay for our sins. We commit sin after sin without any true penitence and there is no genuine repentance from those actions that displease God.

We raise placards in our minds that read: “We want FREE SIN!!!”

Why should the living complain when punished for their sins? Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord. Lamentations 3:39-40

 God is a God of grace but also a just God. He hates sin and places a heavy price on it. Woe!

 

What happens when 2012 changes to 2013?

What happens when 2012 changes to 2013?

 

We are coming to the start of a New Year. The numbers on the calendar will be changed.

What else will be new in your life?

For some of us, the change of dates will be the most significant difference between this year and the next.

If we are brutally honest, aspects of our lives have become stuck in a rut. The time, place and faces may change but the events seem all too familiar. Deja vu is a constant companion.

For others, the New Year promises to bring developments that we dread. We will need to face realities that make us uncomfortable.

Still others are bursting with excitement as they look forward to new achievements in the New Year.

The underlying theme of most of my presentations this year has been the need for the renewing of our minds. (Rom 12).

Today, I want to share some thoughts related to the adjustment of our mindsets that you could consider taking on board in 2013.

 

Bucket list clarity

Spend significant quiet time going through a careful analysis of what is your purpose in this life and what are your core priorities.

What is it that you feel committed to becoming, doing, experiencing before your life on earth ends?

Compile a list and assign priorities to the each item. In the final analysis, you should be able to identify a bottom-line “must” that should give direction to all your thoughts, words and deeds.

We expect that at the top of the list will your preparation to spend eternity in heaven.

Ecc 12:13 Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.

 Be mindful of where you anchor your goals and priorities. Gamaliel’s counsel is wise:

Acts 5:38 “….if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail.39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”

In addition, I am urging you to go further and to earnestly commit to documenting your vision, mission and goals in clear terms.

Review from the Scriptures and adopt the philosophy of:

  • Moses’ plan with respect to the occupation of the Promised Land
  • Nehemiah’s plans for the rebuilding of the wall
  • David/Solomon’s plans for the building of the temple.

Let 2013 be different with respect to:

  • greater clarity of purpose
  • more detailed planning
  • increased commitment to documentation of goals, plans and progress.

 

Expanded horizons

 

One of the by-products of stress and a harried lifestyle is the tendency to become increasingly inward looking.

As we grapple with life’s challenges, they tend to consume more and more of our being and we risk losing sight of the bigger picture.

Matt 6:34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

 Matthew 11:28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 

Some of us are walking with our heads bowed and only have a view of the pavement.

Let 2013 be different as we look beyond our challenges.

2 Cor 4: 16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewedday by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Let us dream big dreams in 2013. Let us set lofty goals individually and collectively.

1 John 5: 14       This is the confidencewe have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.

Our horizons tend to be influenced by age and by gender.

Some of us have given in to a philosophy that says “at my stage in life I will just watch the dates change until time is called on me.”

Gen 12: 4 The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s householdto the landI will show you. “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran.

At age 75 Warren Buffett set up a $30 billion contribution to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for use in various world-wide charitable causes.

Cancer survivor Barbara Hillary became one of the oldest people, and the first black woman, to reach the north pole.

At age 70 Benjamin Franklin helped draft the Declaration of Independence; Judy Brenner ran the Boston Marathon.

At age 60: Frieda Birnbaum became the oldest woman in the U.S. to give birth to twins.

At age 40: John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth.

At age 30: Donald Trump persuaded bankers to lend him $80 million so he could buy the Commodore Hotel. Bill Gates was the first person ever to become a billionaire by age 30.

At age 20: Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard and cofounded Microsoft. Jane Austen wrote Pride and Prejudice, her second and most famous novel.

At age 19: Keshorn Walcott from the little island of Trinidad beat the entire world at the Olympics in a discipline (javelin throw) that is unusual for athletes outside of Europe and the USA.

At age 16: Tennis player Tracy Austin became the youngest person to win the U.S. Open.

You are not too young or too old to achieve more. Broaden your horizons!

Incredible does happen. It can happen at your location if you welcome it.

Dare to be the difference and break new ground in 2013.

 

Positive expectations

 

We serve a mighty God and we cannot go about with a defeatist’s mindset.

Numerous examples are provided to indicate that once we walk with God we need not rely on our strength but on His. And so, there is every reason to have positive expectations.

Rom 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Let 2013 be different in the level of confidence that we display.
Can there be a greater sense of faith and assurance in our prayer life, in our decision-making and in how we present ourselves?

I love the frightfully stark manner in which James addresses the issue:

 “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.” James 1: 6 – 8 (NIV)

We can take encouragement from Apostle Paul’s admonition that we should not be anxious for anything (Philippians 4:6). Think also on Christ’s challenge that if we ask, seek and knock we will receive, find and have doors opened to us. (Matthew 7)

Let us break down psychological, financial, health, relationship, career, self-esteem “walls of Jericho” in 2013.

 

Spring cleaning

 

The tendency to gather baggage appears to be common to most humans. Physical clutter attracts our attention perhaps because it is visible.

Our lives are also cluttered with things that do not add value. Let us welcome 2013 with a spring cleaning of our minds.

There are thoughts and habits that are weighing us down and limiting our effectiveness. We know clutter when we see it. Take time to clear out some of the negative things that have started to define you.

Phil 4: 8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Bad habits and wayward thinking have a way of becoming addictive. Breaking loose from them might be challenging. Step up to the challenge and break free in 2013!

 


Shared vision

What is your favoured operating style when you encounter challenges?

Do you prefer to tough it out on your own or do you seek early support and assistance?

Independent thought and courage are important as we strive for success. At the same time, we are not intended to be islands unto ourselves.

Let 2013 be different because of our increased willingness to share our visions and our burdens. Let us set up support mechanisms and seek out the specific input of wise and like-minded individuals who are firmly grounded in the faith.

There is immense value in wise counsel. Hear Solomon on the issue of advice:

 Proverbs 12:15 The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice.

Out in the wilderness animals move in closely-knit packs. This is designed to provide a solid front against the threat of predators. The strategy of the predator has consequently shifted to picking off the strays, the weak and the lame. They do not succeed in getting animals that are in the centre of the pack. There is safety in numbers.

As you strive to be the best you can be, take care to take up a secure position in the pack.  Never put yourself out of the reach of well-meaning, supportive and firmly grounded individuals.

No matter how shy or private you are, take care to identify at least one tower of strength to whom you can look for support and guidance.

The persons you choose must be able to command your respect and be able to put themselves in a position to understand your situation. You cannot rely on persons who will let you have your own way or who will provide the spiritual equivalent of ‘take 2 aspirins and go to bed’ for every situation.

If there is no one that fits the bill readily accessible to you, you should set about coaching someone to play that role for you. Work with them to bring them to the required level of maturity and sensitivity.

Just DO NOT try to go it alone!!!!!

The shared vision is also about being there for others and for letting them into your dreams.

Gal 6:2 Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.

 

Get to heaven

 

We end where we started – the imperative of getting to heaven. The scriptures outline a clear plan of salvation.

Christ tells us that the way to the Father goes through Him. (John 14:6).

The conversions reported in the New Testament reflect these steps:

1. Hear and believe:

Heb 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

 2. Repent:

Act 2:38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

3. Announce Jesus as Lord of your life

Rom 10:8 But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach;   That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.   For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

4. Be immersed in watery baptism for the remission of sins (Act 2:38)

5. Live by the Spirit

 Romans 8:13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.

Where was God?

When tragic events occur, many voices are raised in a mighty chorus asking “Where was God?”

Many of the voices in that chorus have not spoken the word “God” in a while….not since the last tragedy.

A simple series of answers come to mind:

God was where He was when by His grace He gave you the life that you now claim to be yours.

God was where He was when He allowed you to bask in His sunshine or play in His snow.

God was where He was when He allowed you to benefit from so many things that you now take for granted. You even claim them to be yours: “Mine and my” roll off your tongue easily without respect for THE SOURCE.

Critically, God was where He is now, as by His Grace, He allows you another breath to be able to read this.

God is where He has been before the creation of the world: Everywhere.

If you are really serious about finding Him, you will. He promises to reward those who diligently seek Him.

God created man in His own image. Man was intended to be different from plants and animals. He gave man the option to choose. Free will was to be a special gift for man. We messed up and now that freedom to choose is more like a curse.

The abuse of free will is what causes us to have to endure the bad and the good.

Understanding who God is and His will for our lives allows obedient believers to better weather the storms of life.

Here are some thoughts that I support: