Rest in Peace RIP

mandelLiving in South Africa, we have all recently joined with the world in saying farewell to the great Nelson Mandela. Few people have ever impacted the South African nation like he has, and certainly it could be argued, none has made a greater contribution to peace. Every news board, blog and social media blog, post or tweet has a reference to “Madiba” as he has been known affectionately in South Africa. Most of these messages of condolence has also been accompanied by R.I.P.

A day or two before Nelson Mandela died, Paul Walker died (Fast and Furious fame). A day or two after Madiba passed away, a famous South African world champion boxer “Baby Jake”died. They too were sent many messages saying RIP.  So what is this Rest in Peace all about? What does it really mean? And as believers in Christ how does this affect us?

Well all I can do is say how it affected me this last week. Now first of all let me make it clear that my piece below is about the principle of saying R.I.P. It is not a comment or a judgement on either Nelson Mandela, Paul Walker or Baby Jake. It is about what people mean by rest in peace and what the Bible teaches. I just know that as I read all these messages.

The Bible says clearly that “all who labour and are heavy laden”, should come to Jesus an he will give them peace. Resting in peace is a sentiment that people say when they want to send warm wishes to the dead, trusting that they will now be in a better place. Isaiah 48 v 22 says

There is no peace to the wicked

As I said this is nothing to do with Walker, Mandela or Baby Jake. This is about what we say very glibly. It is a b it like saying “I’m fine thank you” when you meet someone and they say “How are you?” Rest in Peace is just what we say when someone dies. But David is an interesting case:

In 1 Kings 22 David prays for the baby that he had with Bathesheba. The baby is critically ill, and David lies on the floor and will not rise or eat or be comforted. A day or two later, when David realises his baby has died, he gets up, washes, gets dressed and calls for food, after worshiping the Lord. David’s response when questioned is:

While my child was a live I prayed and asked God to save him. But now that he is dead, what can I do?

David understands that the time for calling on God is “in the living years” as Mike and the Mechanics would say. And that is our lesson too. If you want someone you love to “rest in peace”, make sure they know God before they die. Otherwise it may make you feel better, but the Bible points to a horrible reality for those who die without a saving knowledge of Jesus.

 

 

 

Discerning the seasons

Jesus told the Pharisees that they knew how to read the weather signs from the sky, but that they were clueless in spiritual discernment – “recognising the sign of the times”.

In the natural we all discern the weather, and the seasons, but in the spiritual, we often don’t. The thing is we are not just flesh and bone. We are spirit too. In fact the spirit part of us is more real than the flesh. The flesh will return to dust, but our spirit lives on forever.

What is the season you are in?

After the flood, God said this.

Genesis 8:22

While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”

We all go through seasons in life.

  • Seasons in our marriage
  • Seasons in our family
  • Seasons in our church
  • Seasons in our career
  • Seasons in our health

You cannot have summer all the time. Do you know why? Because if you only have summer you end up with a desert. It is often when we go through the hard times, the winter seasons, where fruit is scarce that we appreciate the good times when they come. Sadly, often all too soon, we think the good times will never end, but no-one is on the top of the mountain all the time. No-one enjoys summer all the time.

I believe  Gen 8 is prophetic and is not simply referring to the four seasons . In fact

Ecclesiastes 3

1 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace

You may be going through a time of winter, or autumn where things are not quite what they should be. You struggle and have stress and God seems more distant than you recall He once was. Someone once said ” if you are not as close to God as you used to be,… who moved?”  

Summer – is the time when there is abundance, the sun is shining, almost everything is going well, you just know you are blessed. This is the time when there are no major crises in your life. The days are at their longest, and they are flooded with light. Everything springs to life. God speaks and His presence is evident in your life and in your business and in your church.

Autumn – is when you realise things that were going so well for a long time are not quite as good as they were, there are times of stress creeping in. Maybe spiritually speaking, after a time when you really walked close to God, perhaps now you just sense you are not reading the Word as often as before, not seeking God’s presence. Things which were once vibrant and alive now seem to be wilting. Things that used to run smoothly no longer run smoothly.

Winter –  is the time when almost everything is a struggle. Things are going wrong, blessings seem a life time away, you are spiritually battling, spiritually cold. You know God cares but you just don’t see the evidence in your circumstances. It is the season with the most darkness, the least amount of light. You seem to be spiritually blind, there are walls up around you everywhere, stopping the blessings, stopping growth. This is the time when we are at our weakest. But God has called us out of darkness into His glorious light. Before we came to know Christ, we are spiritually dead, the Bible says we are blind, we walk in darkness. Winter is the “season of spiritual discomfort, hunger, misery and emptiness” of our life. But the Light of the world came to bring us the True Light. And it is our misery and struggles which eventually bring us to repentance. When you are in winter, it is a time to reflect and to understand what it is God is teaching you.

Spring –  is the time when after a long hard winter, there are just signs that things are changing. There are signs of life, the days are getting warmer. Perhaps God is starting to warm your heart a little. The leaves are starting to come out, the days are getting warmer. Suddenly God is starting to speak to you again, and there is a spark of revival in your heart. The pain of winter is starting to fade, and it is time to start preparing for the growth that is coming. There is great hope for the months ahead. You will need to soon care for and nurture those things that used to be weak as they unfold into strength. You will know the joy of discovery and the excitement of new treasures previously unknown. In this time the promises of God become real. The first signs of life are a portent of things to come. It is a time to start getting excited, for summer and a harvest lies ahead.

In every season there is an appropriate response or way of doing. Recognising the season is the first step. God bless you

The Lord’s Prayer part 2

Finally, the start of this teaching:

9 “This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,

Jesus starts off his teaching of the disciples on prayer this way:

This is how you should pray!

Now I don’t know about you, but any time Jesus specifically says this is how you do something, then we need to pay really good attention! Jesus has already set the scene (see past 2 days entries), where he teaches us to find a private, quiet place alone and then to pray simple words (not fancy religious babble).

First point is the prayer is addressed to the Father. And Our Father who is in heaven. At the start of the prayer, I am reminded that God is not only God (the Almighty creator of heaven and earth, who is worshiped 24×7 as the Holy One), but that he is my Father. Jesus taught us elsewhere to call God the Father “Abba” (daddy). So the prayer starts of by addressing our father (one who we know loves us as a father) who is in heaven. I am so encouraged when I think of Him being in heaven, where he is preparing a place for me.

His name is to be adored “Hallowed be thy name”.

Then Jesus prays this…

“Thy Kingdom come”

Noe stop right there. Do you know what the kingdom of God is? It is firstly the central theme of the New Testament, but it means were God is in total control. When God created the heavens and the earth (Gen 1) he created everything that was good. This was the kingdom of God on earth. Everything followed God’s purpose and plan. When the kingdom of God comes, then God’s will happens. The Jewish people knew that when the kingdom of God comes, then fighting and war would end. Sorrow and sadness and sickness would come to an end. Thee would be no more anger and bitterness and gossip, and hating one another.

When the kingdom of God comes, there will be no sickness. Wherever Jesus walked while he walked the earth, the kingdom of God manifested. If someone was sick, Jesus healed them. Miracles happened. The dead were raised to life, and blind eyes were opened. Those in captivity to leprosy and demonic power, were set free.

In Revelation 21 we see a picture of how things will be when the kingdom of God comes fully.

 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

When Jesus was on earth, this is what followed him – the dead came back to life and the sick were healed. Jesus said at times that the “Kingdom of God is near” and at other times he said “the kingdom of God is here” and “the kingdom is within you”. I don’t want to get into the whole teaching on the Kingdom of God, but if you want a comprehensive study, check out books by Derek Morphew on the subject.

The important thing to understand is what the kingdom of God looks like. And Jesus tells us to pray “thy kingdom come”. The exciting thing about praying this is that you can pray the kingdom to break through in your life and circumstances. This means that what you are really praying for is supernatural intervention and provision in your life. if you are sick and you pray “thy kingdom come” you are inviting God’s kingdom power into your world and that will transform and heal. If you are struggling financially, God’s kingdom power can break the power of debt and lack because there is no debt and no lack in His kingdom.

So from no on when you pray this prayer, and you pray “thy kingdom come”, remember what you are asking God to do. You are inviting His kingdom to break out in your life and in your family and business and church, with God given power and abundance. And the best part of it all is that Jesus told us to pray this. He would never have told us to pray this unless it was possible (and likely) that God the Father will answer by sending his kingdom into our daily walk, as we ask it of him.

Wow, I hope you are excited by that. I am!

 

The Lord’s Prayer part 1

Jesus tells his disciples that if they want to know how to pray then this is the way to pray:

Jesus tells his disciples in Matthew ch 6:

5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

First of all Jesus tells his disciples where to pray. He says public prayer is fine, but the reward is being seen. However, powerful prayer is prayer that takes place away from other people, in the privacy of your room, or anywhere quiet and private. Why did Jesus say close the door? Because this will ensure that you purpose in your heart to get alone with God and pray. Intentional, private, secret prayer to the Father is rewarded!

Jesus said the Father WILL REWARD YOU. Every time. Isn’t that amazing? I am sure you have not often thought of prayer this way, but Jesus is absolutely clear on this: pray in private to God your Father, and He will see it and hear it and He will reward you. Now the moment many people think about reward, they think money. I don’t believe this is what Jesus is referring to but remember that James tells us that God is the Father of Lights and he is the giver of all good gifts. The reward you get may be anything from peace, to assurance, to improved relationship, to deeper closeness with God – anything really. But Jesus says that when we pray like this , God the Father will give us a reward.

I do’t know about you, But I find that special and amazing.

7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

Jesus teaches her that we can keep things really real and simple with God. There is no need to speak fancy, religious sounding words. Just keep it simple and real, for this is what the Father seeks.

Now I have kept you waiting for two days before getting into the meat of the prayer, so please come and check tomorrow as you will not be disappointed. God bless you as you go now or later today to seek a quiet place to speak to Him, and remember to be real simple and honest with God. And after your prayer time, rejoice for He will reward you.

 

Really Understanding the Lord’s Prayer

How many times have yo recited the Lord’s prayer?

I bet thousands and thousands of times. When I was young, we recited this every day at school before we sat down. I think of those days as “the good old days” because now all trace of “religion” has been removed from the schools in South Africa (and most likely wherever you live too). I see Christianity as a life lived with the God who made me – it’s a relationship (where we share life together) and not a religion (a set of rules and traditions to live by).

Having been someone who recited the Lord’s prayer many times, and having subsequently grown into an adult and heard many sermons given on prayer and the Lord’s prayer, you may be surprised (as I was myself) to discover that the power I have always known must be in the prayer, IS INDEED THERE, but I never understood it.

I have served the Lord in many churches (as an elder in a few over the last 25 year) and so you would expect I would have always had a really good deep understanding of the prayer. But I was shocked to discover recently that I knew it as a traditional prayer only. A traditional prayer gets recited at various times (sometimes the end of a church service) or at a funeral or a wedding. But then recently God showed me in my spirit what this prayer really is all about. This is the journey I wish to share with my readers. I hope you will be as blessed by this as I have been.

I would love to hear your comments and maybe testimonies as you discover this amazing power with me. I believe you will be blessed, as I have been deeply, deeply blessed. I could even say that since discovering the deeper meaning of this prayer, my life has changed radically and for the better.

The power of blessing part 4

I believe that blessing has a power to transform, and this has been discovered by the Jewish pople for many centuries. The Jews bless their children and pronounce blessing over family members at Shabat each Friday evening.

In Numbers we read about the priestly blessing that God gave to Moses and Aaron. God told Aaron and his sons that this is the way to pronounce a blessing.

Number 6 v 24 The Lord bless you and keep you; 25 the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; 26 the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace

The blessing is now an instruction to the priests and God says this is how you must bless.

  • In Jewish tradition, the konahim are to pronounce the blessing, this means any male over 13 may partake in saying the blessing
  • They do not look at the person to be blessed, but rather look down to concentrate on God and the blessing that is being bestowed
  • The blessing comes from the Lord

Only God can bless, but God says “those who bless you I will bless”.

All of this is important because the blessings of Abraham are ours. In fact, under the New Covenant (a better covenant) we who know Christ as Saviour, have way more.

  • Abraham was not a child of God – he was a friend of God
  • He did not have the Holy Spirit
  • Abraham would much rather have lived now in our times

Our better blessing

  • We are born of God – we have Christ’s blood in us
  • We have the spirit of God living in us, making us alive spiritually

The blessing of Abraham is ours

Romans 4 v 16 Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. 17 As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.” He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.

 

  • We receive the promise by faith
  • It is therefore only by grace that we receive the promise
  • Through faith, we become heirs of the promise

But we have a better covenant

Psalm 32 Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. 2 Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them.

Through knowing Jesus, and through our adoption as sons and heirs to all that God has, we can walk in His blessing. Not through anything we have done, but through grace.

The power of blessing part 3

Having understood, that God’s blessing is much more tan increase and fruitfulness,, we then see the next event that comes with God’s blessing. It is the story of Noah.

But before Noah receives the blessing, sin brings a curse on the world. God curses Satan and the serpent has to now crawl on it’s belly. God says that man will now have to The world moves from being under God’s blessing to under the curse, and will have to wrk the land to get food.

But God is more about blessing than curse. And so we see Noah arrive on the scene at a time when the world has become infinitely evil. This is the way the Bible describes Noah:

  • Righteous
  • Blameless among the people of his time
  • Walked faithfully with God
  • Obedient (he did everything God instructed him to do)

Whenever you walk in righteousness, the blessing of God will overflow you. Noah was fully righteous. In fact, he was blameless. Wow, wouldn’t it be great to be called blameless by God? In addition, he walked faithfully with God. Righteous, blameless and faithful! And when God had instructed Noah to build the ark (at a time the world had never seen rain or floods), the Bible says Noah obeyed God in every way.

God establishes a covenant with Noah Gen 6v18

When they come out the ark God blesses Noah and says

  • Be fruitful (a repeat of the blessing spoken over Adam)

God then makes a covenant with every living creature on earth and he gives a sign to the earth that God will never again destroy the earth by flood. That sign was a rainbow. I found it interesting that God established the rainbow as a remembrance for God (Not for man). The rainbow will be a sign for who? For God to remember!

  • The sign of the rainbow is a sign to man that God remembers his covenant

Finally Abraham arrives on the scene in Genesis 12

V 2 “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. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.

The blessing included

  • Fruitfulness
  • God will make his name great
  • Abraham will be a blessing
  • Whoever blesses Abraham will be blessed
  • The blessing will reach all nations on earth

Some spiritual lessons

  • We must expect increase and fruitfulness
  • We must bless one another
  • Expect the blessing to flow between each other

The Power of blessing part 2

The first blessings in the Bible is when God creates animals, birds, fish and of course man. God did not specifically speak a blessing over the plants, although they were created to multiply too. Only when God made living things with blood did He speak the first blessing

Blessing on Man

Gen 1v 28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.

Notice there are three parts to the blessing that God spoke over Adam.

  • Be fruitful / increase
  • Subdue the earth
  • Rule over every living creature

Fruitfulness

God’s blessing at the very core is about fruitfulness and increase. That is what life is supposed to be – an ever increasing fruitfulness. Healthy things grow and increase. If something is not increasing it is not healthy We all understand this, in terms of how we understand blessing.

Subdue

Part of God’s blessing is the ability and right to subdue that which is beneath us. We must learn to subdue – but this is an action – our lives should be actively subduing. Subdue is a strong action. It means to overcome that which comes against you. God has blessed you and me with the gift and ability to subdue. We forget this often. Jesus through his death has set us up for victory.

Rule

  • Ruling means to survey, study and then ensure we engage in every part of life to rule over it. Things we forget to rule over will not come under our governance.
  • We must also rule over sin. If we don’t rule over the desire for sin, it will crouch at the door and try to rule us. (Gen 4 v 7)

The blessing of God is so much more than just being fruitful and seeing increase. God has blessed us to be leaders, and to be subduers of evil, and subduers of circumstances that come against us.

The Power of blessing part 1

It has been months since I wrote anything here, but this has been time where I have been seeking God’s leading and direction and I am at the verge of some exciting times in my spiritual walk I believe.

And so this week on Sunday I wrote to my home cell group in Hout Bay and told them we will be studying the Power of Blessing. I did not know why I felt this should be the topic, but I have recently been looking at the blessings Jacob imparted to his sons (found in Genesis ch 49 and 50). So then what happens as so often happens when you walk with the Lord, is I was looking for a software CD at home and found a DVD that my dad had given me years ago – a talk by Rick Godwin on the power of blessing.  I had never listened to that DVD properly and lo and behold, up it pops out of nowhere.

My first thoughts turn to the way we use the words “Bless you” in English. We usually say “bless you” after someone sneezes. Or we say God bless this food to our bodies when we say grace before a meal. Why do we do this and has this anything to do with the Bible?

Well I looked up why we say bless you after a sneeze and this is what i found:

Wishing someone well after they sneeze probably originated thousands of years ago. The Romans would say “Jupiter preserve you” or “Salve,” which meant “good health to you,” and the Greeks would wish each other “long life.” The phrase “God bless you” is attributed to Pope Gregory the Great, who uttered it in the sixth century during a bubonic plague epidemic (sneezing is an obvious symptom of one form of the plague).

The exchangeable term “gesundheit” comes from Germany, and it literally means “health.” The idea is that a sneeze typically precedes illness. It entered the English language in the early part of the 20th century, brought to the United States by German-speaking immigrants.

Virtually every country around the globe has its own way of wishing sneezers well. People in Arabic countries say, “Alhamdulillah,” which means, “praise be to God.” Hindus say, “Live!” or “Live well!” Some countries have special sneezing responses for children. In Russia, after children are given the traditional response, “bud zdorov” (“be healthy”), they are also told “rosti bolshoi” (“grow big”). When a child sneezes in China, he or she will hear “bai sui,” which means, “may you live 100 years.”

For the most part, the various sneeze responses originated from ancient superstitions. Some people believed that a sneeze causes the soul to escape the body through the nose. Saying “bless you” would stop the devil from claiming the person’s freed soul. Others believed the opposite: that evil spirits use the sneeze as an opportunity to enter a person’s body. There was also the misconception that the heart momentarily stops during a sneeze (it doesn’t), and that saying “bless you” was a way of welcoming the person back to life.

This is interesting, because it pre-supposes a belief that sneezing means you are about to get sick. Jesus has already healed us by his stripes on the cross. Jesus died not only for our salvation but also to bring us health through his body broken. Well this is so, if you believe Isaiah anyway. And I do!

So I wonder if saying bless you after someone sneezes is contrary to holding faith that through Christ we have been healed? It makes me think anyway. But this is not the real use of the word blessing as I understand it in the Bible. Jesus blessed the food before he ate with his disciples, and this is why we say grace / ask God to bless the food to our bodies.

But there is sooooo much more to biblical blessing. Til tomorrow