THE END OF THE TUNNEL

Imagine yourself a silent witness to the humiliation that Jesus was subjected to before his death. The soldiers stripped him of his clothes, put a crown of thorns upon his head and mocked him. He was spat on, slapped in the face, flogged and struck on the head with a stick numerous times.

Now imagine that, as Jesus stands there, in his mind’s eye he is looking through a tunnel into the future – hundreds of years into the future – and he is focused on one person at the end of the tunnel. As he stands there with spit and blood running down his face, enduring the pain of being brutally hit and mocked, all he can think about is this person at the end of the tunnel. The person he is looking at is a hypocrite, a liar, consumed with jealousy, full of pride and envy. The person he is seeing has often had doubts about the existence of God and thinks of themself as being a decent human being.

He is concentrating so hard on this person in an effort to blot out what is happening to him and he is repeating to himself, ‘I will endure this, I will willingly go through being nailed to a cross and being separated from my Father in heaven if it means that that person has a chance of asking for forgiveness, of being forgiven and of being able to spend eternity with God and me.’

He knows that the only chance that person has is for him to die on the cross – to take that person’s sin upon his body, to have those sins nailed to the cross and to die for that person in the hope that that person will accept him into their lives, confess their sins and, because of the blood that he shed on the cross, be forgiven and so enter into a relationship with God.

Jesus would be the bridge between this person and God. ‘Forgiveness is the divine miracle of grace. The cost to God was the Cross of Christ. To forgive sin, while remaining a holy God, this price had to be paid.’ (Oswald Chambers)

You are the person at the end of the tunnel.
You are the person that Jesus was looking at.
You are the person Jesus died for.
I am that person.

Reposted….

Posted in Jesus, Life | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

HOW REAL IS YOUR MARRIAGE?

“A great marriage is not when the ‘perfect couple’ come together. It is when an imperfect couple learns to enjoy their differences.” –Dave Meur

There are far too many Christian marriages that are not real. What I mean by that is that they are not authentic or genuine and would never stand up to a closer examination of what happens behind closed doors. Too often couples pretend to be happy and in love in public, but in private the marriage is lonely, empty and hopeless.

Believe me, I know what I am talking about!

My husband and I could have received Oscar awards for our acting abilities during the first years of our marriage. We would drive to church on a Sunday fighting and screaming, or else sitting in frozen silence, and yet, as soon as we climbed out of the car in the church parking lot we pretended to be in love in order that no-one would know just how unhappy our marriage was and how close we were to get a divorce.

We wasted years pretending. Years full of hurt and loneliness. So many years of unhappiness before we finally sought help. How farcical is that? The church is the one place where we should have the freedom to be genuine, to show that we are hurting, and to ask for help—a place of safety for our emotions and relationships. And yet, it is often the one place where we are the most false. Where we feel the most judged.

There is no shame in admitting to someone in ministry or a professional or someone you trust that you are having difficulties in your marriage and need help.

Recently a friend and I were talking and she revealed to me, in confidence, some issues that she and her husband were struggling with. I responded that in the first few years of our marriage my husband and I had similar issues.

She looked at me in total astonishment and said, “But you and Steve have such a perfect marriage.”  I assured her that it had taken a lot of hard work, forgiveness, letting go of resentments, compromise, and counseling and many, many hours of prayer to achieve what we have now.

We have a happy marriage, we love each other completely but there are still misunderstandings, fights, and squabbles but the difference is we are committed to God and to each other to make our marriage work. We have been married for twenty-seven years and there is no way we are going to ‘throw’ those years away now.

It reminded me of an incident that occurred a few years prior. My husband and I were attending his niece’s wedding in England (we live in South Africa) and a few months earlier his sister had sent me a dress which I had packed to take with me to England. Whilst we were over there she phoned me at our hotel one morning to discuss what we were going to do that day and I mentioned that I was wearing the dress she had sent me. She said she couldn’t remember ever sending me a dress!

A little while later we met up and she took one look at me and started to laugh. It was a good few minutes before she managed, in between laughing, to tell me that what I was wearing was actually a nightdress. I told her that I had worn it out in public in South Africa and friends had complimented me on the lovely dress that I was wearing. This just set her off again! The outcome was that I had to change my clothes and off we went to Marks and Spencers. She took me past the pajama department and there, indeed, was my dress hanging up in the nighty section!

That incident has always reminded me of marriages that ‘aren’t’. They aren’t real. They aren’t honest. And just as my ‘dress’ was actually a nighty, believers often pretend that their marriages are perfect.

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.  There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called;  one Lord, one faith, one baptism;  one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” —Ephesians 4:2-5

We need to start practicing these words, firstly in our marriages and secondly in the church.

There needs to be unity and peace and hope in our marriages and that needs to follow through into our church community.

The only way you will have a happy, fulfilled marriage is when you BOTH commit your marriage to God, seek counselling, go on marriage enrichment courses, READ THE BIBLE TOGETHER and PRAY TOGETHER on a daily basis.

Originally written for and published on Start Marriage Right https://www.startmarriageright.com/2020/03/how-real-is-your-marriage/

Posted in Godly marriage, Life | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

HOUSE WORK IS DANGEROUS…GOD IS FAITHFUL

House work is dangerous.
A few weeks ago I climbed on a ladder in order to dust the top of a very high cupboard in our house and the ladder collapsed underneath me.  I landed on the floor, on my left hand side and as I opened my eyes all I could see was this huge puddle of blood in front of me.  I heard this unearthly sound and realized that it was coming from me. I was groaning from the very pit of my stomach from the pain.

The end result was 10 stitches in my eyelid, the gash on my forehead was glued closed and my left side, hand and ribs were badly bruised and my left leg was hurt.

During the weeks that followed I went through a few  days of deep, deep depression. I was in such pain from my ribs, any  unplanned movement resulted in absolute agony.   I questioned God’s love for me and my purpose here on earth! Everything felt absolutely senseless – why did this accident happen?

Apart from my husband, God has placed two very Godly men in my life who have accompanied me on my Spiritual journey for many years and who are also really good friends to my husband and myself.  They both messaged me during this time wanting to know how I was doing and I responded “Feeling very depressed. Kind of like ‘nobody loves me, why me? What’s the point…?”

The one immediately arranged a time to come and pray with me as soon as possible even though I didn’t want to see him and certainly didn’t feel like praying and the other one sent me  wonderfully encouraging verses – you know the ones you really don’t want to hear when you are feeling down…verses like:

1 Thessalonians 5:18  Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Romans 8:28  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

I mean who wants to hear that when you have  fallen off a ladder, are in pain, and feeling depressed ‘that all things work together for good for those who love Him’?
I told him this was not doing anything for me right now and he replied:

“Stop feeling sorry for yourself and start reading the Word of God.  I suggest you start with James 1:2 – 4 and  John 16:33!

James states:

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

And John states:

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart!  I have overcome the world”

I needed that reminder.

A friend once said to Dallas Willard, the well-known Christian philosopher “Hey Dallas, my heart is breaking, I can’t fix it, I don’t understand it, and I’m sadder than I’ve ever been in my life.” He says there was a long pause and then Dallas responded “This will be a test of your joyful confidence in God.”

I needed to find a new joyful confidence in God.
And I did.
But I needed those two men to jolt me out of my self-pity and to remind me of the God we serve.
One to pray with me and one to tell me to stop feeling sorry for myself. I also needed my husband to lay hands on me and pray for me, which he has done over these past weeks.

My prayer is that each one of us will be surrounded by people who will be bold enough to confront us, pray with us and love us through our ‘trouble’.

Posted in Life | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

THERE IS HOPE…

The last word Jesus spoke on the cross was tetelestai which translated means “it is finished” in Greek.

Jesus put an end to all sin, all shame, and all guilt with that one word.

As human beings we define ourselves with one word:
failure
alcoholic
divorced
addict
worrier
worthless

Jesus, in His last breath cancelled out all these definitions by declaring tetelestai – it is finished.

Sin is finished and no longer has a hold on us.  We may still need the ice pack for the bruises that sin has left in our lives but the hold of sin has been broken.

We may sin and suffer the consequences but Jesus conquered the power that sin has in our lives with that one word tetelestai.  “The Son of God came to destroy the works of the devil“ 1 John 3:8.  By His death on the cross and His resurrection He rendered Satan powerless – tetelestai, Satan’s power in a Believer’s life is null and void. We now fall under a covenant of Grace!

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8)

My two favourite biblical definitions of grace are “the attitude of God toward men” and “the liberty that God gives men.”

Liberty is the “state of being free.” God’s grace causes us to be free from the chains that had us bound—alcoholism, addiction to pornography or drugs, worry, jealousy, anger, self-pity, pride, eating disorders, poor self-image. The list is endless. Graciousness is defined as being “courteous, kind, and pleasant.”

In Isaiah 30:18 we are advised that “the Lord longs to be gracious to you.” What an amazing thought: God longs to be kind, generous, and courteous to us.  

If you are struggling with guilt or shame or worry or fear or an addiction or un-forgiveness or hurts – repeat to yourself tetelestai, tetelestai – it is finished.  The guilt is gone, the shame is gone, and you are no longer under condemnation.  Pray that God will give you the courage to come to terms with the past, to seek help for an addiction,  to know that you are worthy in order  that one day you will be able to say about that addiction tetelestai, it is finished – I am free.

Posted in addictions, Depression, Forgiveness | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Marry Someone With the Same Vision and Who Makes You Laugh

A couple close to me recently celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary.

On the surface, they are like ‘chalk and cheese.’

The wife is optimistic, impulsive and very positive. The husband, on the other hand, is a wee bit less optimistic and less impulsive.

About ten years into their marriage I asked her what it was that she saw in him that made her want to marry him. She responded, “His soul’s vision is the same as mine and he makes me laugh.”

It made me think of the letter that Paul wrote to the church in Philippi where he states “then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.” (Philippians 2:2)

They are both inordinately compassionate, hate injustice in any form and will always stand up for the downtrodden.

They both have a heart to serve the poor and marginalized and through the years I have admired how they are able to allow those who suffer to feel dignity.

They also both have a wonderful sense of humor.

She went on to explain that she had never met a man who shared the same soul vision as she did and who was prepared and committed to making that vision a reality no matter the sacrifices it might entail.

Their totally different personalities and way of doing things was something they could deal with because they shared the same soul vision.

Twenty years after asking her that question I asked the husband what advice he would give to other married couples or those contemplating marriage from his experience of 30 years marriage.

His reply was almost a replica of what she had said: “I think the only advice I have is to marry someone who shares the same values and goals in life as you do. And when things get tough—as they always do—hold on to the reasons why you married, and hold on to that commitment no matter what.”

“A soul mate is the one person whose love is powerful enough to motivate you to meet your soul, to do the emotional work of self-discovery, of awakening.” —Kenny Loggins

For 30 years I have watched as these two have chosen to continue to love each other through every difficulty and challenge. Her reply to my question about marriage advice after 30 years was:

“My marriage wisdom is sporadic. Commitment not a feeling and its jolly hard work.”

There has also never been a time when I am with them that there has not been laughter. No matter how dire a situation they have always maintained a sense of humor.

Kindness and a generous spirit go a long way. And a sense of humor. It’s like medicine—very healing. —Max Irons

Or as the Bible puts it “A cheerful heart is good medicine” (Proverbs 17:22)

Commitment, hard work, a shared vision and a sense of humor are vital if you are going to have a good marriage.

So my prayer for all couples contemplating marriage or who are married is 3 John 1:2…

“Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well”

Originally written for and published on https://www.startmarriageright.com/…/marry-someone-with-th…/

Posted in Marriage | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

THE CHURCH HAS LEFT THE BUILDING

Saw the above post on the Glendermott Presbyterian Church Facebook site and my heart rejoiced. My immediate thought was:

“God must really love this church, they have got it so right”

The church building is being refurbished so the church will now be meeting in the hall for services.

In the Bible the Greek term for ‘church’ is ekklesia – to call out of.  We are called ‘out’ of the world to serve God.

We are the church.  Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit.

There are Believers all around the world whose demeanour and behaviour change drastically as soon as they enter the church building grounds.

They go from being in a bad mood, shouting at the children, fighting with a spouse, getting angry at drivers on the road to being pleasant and polite and friendly to everyone as soon as they enter the church building.

Some Believers could win Oscar nominations for their acting abilities on a Sunday morning.

They go from being angry, depressed, sad, anxious… to pretending to be happy, content, and at peace with the world.

I am one of those Believers.  I live with a family of similar Believers.

Too many of us are not living as the church of God.

We should daily be growing in the fruits of the spirit – love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)

Colossians 3:9-10 puts it so succinctly Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices  and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”

For many years I lived with this thought “how is it possible that I have the self-control to pretend for a couple of hours on a Sunday morning that everything is fine with my world, and yet, do not have the same self-control at other times?”

No matter what anyone says or does to me in church I never lose my temper, or show that I am angry, or burst into tears.  What I do instead is to keep quiet, think about it and if it is really bothering me I will contact that person when I have thought more about the situation.

I do this because it is out of place for me to lose self-control in the church building.

What hypocrisy and how farcical – I am the church. I should be exercising the same self-control and self-discipline that I do for those few hours on a Sunday morning every moment of my life.

I am the church so I should be reflecting love, peace and joy to the world.

So, over the years (albeit a very slow process at times) I am consciously choosing to live in God, to seek His face, to reflect His love to the world.

One of my favourite authors C.S. Lewis puts into words exactly how I feel.

“Those who put themselves in His hands will become perfect, as He is perfect – perfect in love, wisdom, joy, beauty, health, and immortality.  The change will not be completed in this life, for death is an important part of the treatment.  How far the change will have gone before death in any particular Christian is uncertain.”

We have to allow God to get into us. The way we do this is through prayer, reading God’s word, meeting in the church building and being the church of God at all times not just on a Sunday morning.

“If you want to get warm you must stand near the fire: if you want to be wet you must get into the water.  If you want joy, power, peace, eternal life, you must get close to, or even into, the thing that has them.”  – C.S. Lewis

Posted in God | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

A MORNING SPENT WITH GODLY MEN (AND WOMEN)

What a privilege it is to be able to spend a morning with the Godly men of ROTOP.

This past Wednesday Rev Douglas Bower was the speaker and his topic was “The race that is set before us”.

ROTOP stands for Round Tables of Prayer and its mission statement says that all the men must strive “to learn to function ‘as a unit’ in ‘watching over’ and ‘looking after one another’ demonstrating the reality of faith in the true, living God; proving how practical the principles of the Word of God are; and how invaluable to everyday living”.

Every now and again they open their doors and allow women to attend.  If it hadn’t been open to women this past week I would have sneaked in anyway because Douglas has a way of expounding the Scriptures and I would not have wanted to miss an opportunity to listen to him speak!

Douglas spoke on the ‘long race of the Christian’.

“We are all racing towards the reward, and have to keep our eyes fixed on the heavenward prize”.

Below are some of the main points he made:

We need

  • to keep our eyes on the finish line – never looking backwards only forwards
  • to follow the track
  • to listen to the ‘marshals’ directing us – the men and women God places in our lives to encourage us and guide us
  • to have Gospel centered prayers
  • to not let earthly things distract us
  • to be prepared for tribulations, trials and difficulties
  • to make use of any handicaps and turn them into advantages

At one point he asked the following question which has stuck with me:

“If you were to be arrested for being a Christian – would there be enough evidence to convict you?”

How wonderful it would be if we were able to answer that question with a resounding YES. If our lives reflected good craftsmanship at all times.

“The Christian shoemaker does his duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes, because God is interested in good craftsmanship.”
Martin Luther

Posted in Life | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment