Tuesday, February 25, 2014

In the beginning was the Word,....

Hi there to all my friends,

I've been at Bible school for just over a month now.  This year, it is all about 'surveying' the bible.  About 20 of us get together for our lectures on a Wednesday morning. We have extensive reading to complete during the week, as well as an essay to hand in each week. To get through the Bible in one year is pretty daunting for me, but this is my year of Biblical pilgrimage and a time to educate myself and to determine God's course for my life. I am so grateful for this opportunity to attend Bible School.  It comes with a realm of emotions; it's exciting, interesting, sometimes daunting and overwhelming, but incredibly enriching. God's story is unfolding before my eyes.

I have already learned so much in the past four weeks. The bible is a collection of 66 books, written by a variety of authors over a period of about 2000 years. It is probably the biggest best-seller in literary history and is widely regarded as the 'inspired Word of God'. Sadly, however, it is often relegated to bookshelves instead of being used as a manual for life.  As I study this incredible book, it's as if God is slowly revealing Himself to me. His story is not anything I ever imagined...it is simply profound. I would encourage anyone to take the time to study the Scriptures - you will embark on an incredible journey, this I promise you!

The text that follows is my personal 'summary' of what I have learned in the past month.  It is, by no means, fully-inclusive.  Please understand, that this is a novice's point-of-view.  I am a child of God and am sharing my journey here, in the hope that it may inspire others to read the Bible fully and commit themselves to the abundant life that Christ offers.
At this point, I have only dealt with the following books:


This is what I have learned...

God's creation was utterly magnificent.  His Spirit 'fluttering' over the waters and the presence of the Trinity in those early moments of our precious creation is revealing. 
 "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning" 
(John 1:1).
 Out of this "Divine dance" came our beautiful planet, our animals, our environment and the hope of a lasting relationship between God and Man.

I am immensely moved by God's creation and often think back to my childhood and life on the farm.

 I was living in my own personal 'Eden' and often felt God's fluttering in the wind and the rustling leaves. Sometimes I'd sit on an elevated spot and marvel at the beautiful world which God had created. In child-like faith, I hankered after a relationship with Him...and He didn't fail me. I've always felt His gentle presence. But, like Adam and Even, I was torn from my Eden and eventually sent to boarding school.

Man's inadequacy to live alone and his sinful state is reflected in the first chapters of Genesis - as he comes face-to-face with his own sin.  We read how Cane kills Abel...etc...etc.  

Then we come across the story of God's intervention in this rapidly deteriorating world. We see God's preparation of Noah, his family and all the animals before the big flood. The Rainbow, ironically was the story's silver lining - a promise for us all to hold on to; both man and animals.

Then follows the story of the incredible faith of one man - Abram (later 'Abraham') - who was called from his home into an unfamiliar land to follow God, by faith. God gave him the promise that he would become the father of many nations...and he did.  (Somewhere along the line, I think I am part of this heritage.)

In the generations that follow, we see a distinct chasm forming between those human beings who are obedient to God and those who are not.  The consequences of sin and God's wrath on those who do not follow his ways is frightening (Sodom and Gomorrah). It is within this era that God allowed a particular tribe to grow. He shaped them, moulded them and referred to them as His chosen people.
We read about the emergence of a great leader -  Isaac's son, Joseph.  By chance or decree, he was sold into Egyptian slavery.  With God's help, he rose above his demise to save not only Egypt but also his own family from starvation.

In the 500 years that follow, sin and faith live side-by-side.  Both are strengthened simultaneously as God 'hardens the hearts' of the Egyptians and the Canaanites.  But, out of this all, Moses rises up to take his God-ordained leadership.  His preparation for this important task is amazing.  He is schooled in Pharoah's court to become both literate and also a military strategist, but he is also humbled by his 40 years as a shepherd in the region of Mt Sinai.  He is shaped and moulded to lead God's people out of Egypt.  The Lord intervenes and supports this mammoth task in a BIG, merciful way.  Miracles abound: The parting of the Red sea, manna, quails, food, water - for the 600 000 people who follow Moses into the desert.  

And then follows the commandments from God to introduce basic religious rituals into the gathered people in order for them to remember who their God is and what He has done: the Passover, the festival of unleavened bread, the festival of weeks, etc, etc.    Moses leads the people to the foot of Mt Sinai (with the help of his brother Aaron). A brand new Jewish calendar is also introduced. In the culture of the time.  This group of people definitely stands out as 'different' - like a sore thumb amongst the pagan people of the times.

It is here, in this setting , that Moses receives the 10 commandments and the instructions on how to worship and sacrifice.  God, too, reveals that He wants to live with his people and makes a way by giving instructions for the building of His Tabernacle.

 It is an elaborate construction but if you study it carefully, you can clearly see the symbolism (in the materials used) of our precious saviour Jesus Christ. (This is a full subject on its own)
The tribe of Levi (Levites) are appointed as God's ordained priesthood to look after His earthly dwelling place.

It is here that we notice God's plan start to take shape as He prepares a 'set apart' people to become his Holy nation.  Everything is planned out in minute detail.  Instructions for sacrifice, atonement and day-to-day living are prescribed by God.  (In my humble opinion, this was an almost impossible task for the people - ie to make atonement for their sins and make themselves 'right' with God.  Disobedience was dealt with harshly - often in death.  Blood sacrifices were called for...and the poor animals took on all the people's 'sin'.  Scapegoats abounded!)

I really battled with this section of the bible - Leviticus - particularly because of my fondness for animals.  It is a book of blood and gore; God's wrath and judgement is evident.  The tension of trying to fulfil God's immaculate standards of living within a fallen world is extreme.  Desert living (Wilderness) was harsh and unforgiving too.  People had to rely totally on God's grace and provision.  I, personally, would not have survived.  My own death - either from sin or other - would have been imminent.

In Numbers and Deuteronomy, God eventually leads his people to the Promised land although it takes a further 40 years.  Sadly, the Israelite's lack of trust in God necessitated that they spent a lot longer in the desert before entering their much awaited 'Promised land',  Even Moses and Aaron weren't immune to God's judgement.  Only two individuals from that generation survived - Joshua and Caleb.

Joshua took on the anointed leadership of the Israelites into Canaan.  It was a period of battles and shedding of blood as the Israelites overthrew the various "Wicked" kingdoms in the land. They eventually did occupy their "Promised" land, but they failed in one thing - the total annihilation of sin. (This is almost an echo of Noah's time)

Even at this stage, It is obvious that sin is here to stay and there is a clear need for salvation and a brand new covenant. How wonderful it is to be privy to this story...in retrospect.

"Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy" 
(Leviticus 19:2 NIV)

sending lotsaluv

Monday, February 17, 2014

An appropriate, Godly response...

As many of you know, I travel a life-journey with a condition called 'anxiety and depression'.  I have recently returned to the church and have been blessed with new insight into Biblical teachings. This has had a major impact on my life and the management of my condition. After-all, we are all innately spiritual creatures.

I realise that there are many, many people around the world (approximately 125 million) who suffer from depression. The difficulty, however, is that we all suffer uniquely and differently.  It is with this in mind that I would like to share some of the profound teaching from our pulpit yesterday. I really feel that sufferers can benefit from this teaching.

This wonderful message was particularly focussed on 'ANGER' and was prompted by an unfortunate road-rage incident which happened in our city on Friday.  Sadly, one person was killed and the other suffered serious injuries. A murder charge now hangs over his head.

While I sat listening to the message in church yesterday, I couldn't discount the fact that it applied to all our human emotions and our responses to life-incidents.  I found too that all the elements of the message can be applied to those of us who suffer from ANXIETY & DEPRESSION. It is with a deep sense of love that I share some of the points from the sermon with you:


* We must begin to realise that we need to SLOW DOWN in our emotional responses to life-incidents; take a deep breath before we react

* It is important to ACCEPT our condition (in our case - ANXIETY and DEPRESSION) and UNDERSTAND our heightened responses.  

* We should take the time to develop an ACTION PLAN so that we can apply it when we notice the darkness of DEPRESSION descending. We are encouraged to sit down this week, during our quiet-time, and to seriously think about this.  Here are the points to consider for our ...

 - To ACKNOWLEDGE the intensity of our emotions in particular situations.
- To take time to assess the SOURCE of these emotions
- To analyse our RESPONSES to different life-circumstances.
- To admit and accept our universal need for LOVE, SIGNIFICANCE and SECURITY...and to realise that God can and will provide for all these needs:

"And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus" (Phil 4:19 NIV)

- To resolve to make a PERSONAL RESPONSE ADJUSTMENT to the life-incidents which are catalyst to our heightened responses.  This skill is perfectly available to us and can be enabled by sincerely "Practising the presence of Jesus" and by asking the Holy Spirit to intervene.


So, dear friends, if you are in this boat, please join me in putting this action plan into your life.
Sending lotsaluv


I would like to take a moment to acknowledge the teaching from our pastor Calven Cilliers  (NEW HARVEST CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP) and for his love and commitment to bringing us this Godly-inspired message.