Sunday, 26 January 2014

Sunday: Fear Not


"But now, thus says the LORD,
who created you, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel:
'Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by your name;
you are Mine.
'When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned,
nor shall the flame scorch you.
'For I am the LORD your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
I gave Egypt for your ransom, Ethiopia and Seba in your place.
Since you were precious in My sight, you have been honored,
And I have loved you.' "

Isaiah 43:1-4

Saturday, 11 January 2014

A Word, and How to Really Make a Difference in 2014

I had to go into the city this week.  Which inevitably got me to the mall for a few errands.  And the grocery store for supplies and a restocking of the pantry and fridge.

The frigid temperature outside sat at -35C, but that wasn't the give away that January had begun.  In every store, every aisle, I was bombarded with 'improve-your-life-now' books, videos, exercise gear.  Every thing under the sun to help you be better organized; to be a new you.  Cause apparently I'm not ok.  neither are you. We all need to be better.

And what a better time to do that than January?  The month of beginnings.  A friend writes that January means 'doorway'. Reminds me of walking through to something new, starting over, leaving behind.

Unfortunately most of us will leave behind our new improved attempts by February.  And is it any wonder? I couldn't help but notice the racks of chocolate bars, or baked pastries, or other yummy-but-not-so-great-for-the-waistline-goodies which were within arms reach of the racks and racks of the self-improvement promotions. Defeat lurked at every corner.

Many people begin their year with a word.  One word.  Last year I had to be different, I chose two words: 'Jesus' and 'broken'.

Broken I was.

Recovering I still am.

Jesus I needed more that ever.

 If 2013 is really behind and I've walked through a new doorway this first month of the year, let me say, "Thank the Lord for His glorious grace!".  I needed 2013, it was beautiful, life changing, difficult, heart-wrenching, and desperate.  In a good way.  Jesus carried me through, and so yes, I did get 'broken', but I also got more of Him.

I wasn't planning on 'doing' a word for 2014.  Until I got a bloggers assignment from Compassion.  The assignment?  Prayerfully chose one word for 2014, and blog about it. The Lord gave me the word the very next day.  Yet I've hesitated writing about it, hesitated making sense of it.

The word?  Victory.  As soon as I read it, I knew it was the word.

"For whatever is born of God overcomes the world.  And this is the victory that has overcome the world - our faith.  Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?"  1 John 5:4

Victory.  Oxford Dictionary defines it as:
"an act of defeating an enemy or opponent in a battle, game, or other competition"
A trip to Uganda in April, 2013, to visit and serve imprisoned children, showed me like I never knew before, that there is an enemy to be defeated indeed.  The enemy's name is oppression. His sister's name is poverty; brother's name, hopelessness. They are all children of their father, the devil.  And they are very real indeed.

I met them face to face and their burden is heavy.

Since that trip, I have wrestled with myself.  How to DO more to help these children, any child, to help the poor and needy anywhere in the world.  I've been so overwhelmed by the utter immensity and magnitude of the problem, that I don't even know what to do or where to start.

I have ideas, great starts, big plans, and then epic fail.  I know the Lord has burdened my heart to do something, to speak up, to advocate and create awareness, yet nothing so far to show for it.  And I wonder, as I read 1 John 5:4, if I've been the one trying to change the world (ha, in my mind anyway!), when it is only Jesus that has the victory.

Our faith, in the promise of His Word, that He will crush the enemy, He will bring good news to the poor, He will heal the brokenhearted, and proclaim freedom for the captive, He will shut the big mouth of injustice.

Him.  Not me.  Not you.  Not us.  Not our grand ideas.  Jesus.  But don't we help Him?  Aren't we suppose to DO something?  Of course we are.  We are commanded actually.

Brian Fikkert puts it well in his book titled "When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor....and Yourself":

"What is the task of the church?  We are to embody Jesus Christ by doing what He did and what He continues to do through us: declare - using both words and deeds - that Jesus is the King of kings and Lord of lords who is bringing in a kingdom of righteousness, justice and peace.  And the church needs to do this where Jesus did it, among the blind, the lame, the sick and outcast, and the poor."

More and more I know the only real help comes, the only real change happens, not because someone has a roof over their heads, food on their table, clean water to drink, a school to attend - yes, these are important and need to be done - but the only victory for those who are crushed by oppression, poverty, hopelessness, is found in Jesus. 

That should change everything we do.

Whether we are serving on the other side of the world, supporting those who do, or ministering to the single mother, or widow down the street, Jesus and His gospel must be on our lips, for it is only He who will bring the real and lasting change; change that lasts beyond February, to eternity.

For who will overcome the world?  Only he who believes in the name of Jesus Christ.  
And how shall they believe, if they do not hear.  
How shall they hear, if we do not tell them.    

I remember this one boy I read the Bible to in one of the prisons I visited in Uganda.  It was clear this boy understood the Word of God.  I asked him who his favorite person was in the Bible.  He said, "Jesus", as he smiled back at me.  We talked for a few minutes and he said to me, "God is good."

This nine or ten year old child -abandoned and living in a prison meant for convicted young offenders, surrounded by hundreds of other abandoned or orphaned children, utterly hopeless, the spirit of despair heavy upon the place - has victory.  It isn't in his current circumstances.  It's in Jesus.  And His promise of hope, and a future, and glorious joy.

This boy has overcome the world.  He didn't become a better him, renewed by self-improvement efforts or New Year's resolutions.  He believes in the name of Jesus, and in that he has already defeated the enemy.

Lord, I pray that you will use me, use each of your children, this 2014 to help bring victory to someone - true lasting victory that overcomes the world.  As we work to improve the material and physical aspects of a persons life, may we also speak with a love and boldness the message that Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords and is He bringing in a kingdom of righteousness and justice and peace.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Looking Up {or Faith the Size of a Mustard Seed}

 "Then Jesus answered and said, "O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring your son here." 
Luke 9:41

I was reminded today of how easily I can become faithless, just like the disciples.
Here, they had tried to help a demon possessed boy, because of the urgent plea of his father,
but all nine of them - 
those left behind to tend to the multitudes while Jesus and Peter,
John and James went up the mountain for the night -
were unable to do it.

The disciples had the power to cast out this demon.
It says in Luke 9:1, "..and He gave them power and authority over all demons.....". 
Just forty verses later, unbelief kept them from the ability to do it.
Unbelief.  Rooted in pride, self.
When our eyes drop from gazing above to heaven, it's joy and hope,
and sink low to look to ourselves,
to what we see or think we see,
to what's going on around us,
to who's on the mountain with Jesus while we're left to tend the mundane.
Pride kills faith.
We don't need a lot of faith.  Only faith the size of a mustard seed will do. 
It's pretty small really, the smallest of all seeds, according to Jesus. 
If we are willing, Jesus helps increase our faith, as we gaze back up
He encourages our faith, deepens it, strengthens it. 

All we need to do is look up - to Jesus, our sure hope, and His faithful promises.

"Therefore, we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."
Heb. 12:1-2

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Sunday: His way is perfect

"For You are my lamp, O LORD;
The LORD shall enlighten my darkness.
For by You I can run against a troop;
by my God I can leap over a wall.
As for God, His way is perfect;
The way of the LORD is proven;
He is a shield to all who trust in Him.

For who is God, except the Lord?
And who is a rock, except our God?
God is my strength and power
and He makes my way perfect."

2 Samuel 22:29-33

Jumping Tandem