GRACE

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The words grace and peace are used together numerous times in the Bible. A lot of the New Testament writers began and ended their letters with the words “grace and peace to you”. Paul started the book of Romans with: “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ”. Peter started his second book with: “Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.”

In Acts 4:33 we are told “With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all.” The apostles were able to perform great miracles of healing and deliverance because God’s grace was resting upon their lives.

How wonderful to know that when we are in right standing with God His grace rests upon us to do what we otherwise couldn’t accomplish.

Extract from “God’s Promise for Families”

Image courtesy of Google

DISCOVERY……….

As I grow older, I discover more and more that the greatest gift I have to offer is my own joy of living, my own inner peace, my own silence and solitude, my own sense of well-being”.                   (Henri Nouwen)

We can only experience that joy when we have a personal relationship with Jesus – as we spend time in prayer and meditate on God’s Word.  The more familiar we become with someone, the closer we tend to become to that person.  The same is true with God.  The more we read about what He has done for us and what He desires for us, the more intimate our relationship will be with Him.

10009841_10151852343222574_573645414_nExtract from “God’s Promise for Families”

 

MY HEART’S DESIRE…….

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“In 1 Chronicles 29:5 God asks, “Now, who is willing to consecrate himself today to the LORD?” My heart leaped in response to the question posed and I exclaimed, “I am ready!”

I want to be set apart and used by God. I want to be able to witness to the people I come in contact with about His great love for us. I want to be part of the collective “we” spoken of in 2 Corinthians 3:18: “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit”.

One of the deepest desires of my heart is to be recognized as a child of God. I want to live in such a way that people look at me and know there is something different about me. I want to cultivate such a close relationship with God that the fruit of the spirit is evident in my life.

Matthew 5:16 encourages us to “let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” In Galatians 5:22-23 God’s Word illuminates further: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control”.

Extract from the book “God’s Promise for Families”

 

IS DIVORCE A SIN?

 

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I posted a blog on “The promise to never divorce”.  A friend of mine responded to that blog and I posted her response “The other side of divorce”.  The links to these blogs are below.

http://godspromisebook.blogspot.com/2014/04/noelene-curryspassion-in-life-is-for.html

http://godspromisebook.blogspot.com/2014/04/the-other-side-of-divorce.html

In response to these posts another friend sent me an email commenting on what we had written.  He has been happily married to the same woman for many, many years and I asked him if I could share his email and my response to it.  He very graciously agreed that I could.

I found what he wrote moving and insightful and feel he expresses and captures the pain of divorce in a very real way.

HIS EMAIL IN RESPONSE TO  ‘THE OTHER SIDE OF DIVORCE’ AND ‘THE PROMISE TO NEVER DIVORCE’:

This is a very good perspective from somebody who has been through the agonising road of divorce. Thanks for sharing. Only one comment from a non writer but I feel this needs to be said, given the comments about having sinned when divorced. So here goes:

Whether we have sinned or not is only for God to judge, not man.

Firstly let me say that I firmly believe and hold onto the ideal that when one marries, it is for life. For better or worse. That is my belief and I am very grateful that I have married a stunning woman who shares this ideal.

But in many cases, the pain and suffering that people go through in a failed marriage, and the people around them, is a huge burden to carry, and as this person puts it, more harmful than separation. To call it sinful in those cases to divorce is not our call to make. God knows the heart. He knows the person. He knows the circumstances. He loved us into life, he loves us through life and he guides our thoughts and deeds if we let him. Too many people live with tremendous guilt when they get divorced and find it difficult to reconcile this with what they have been taught in catechism. And victims of abuse in marriage and unfaithfulness live with enough of a burden. To have to also deal with getting out of that marriage being labelled sinful is probably even a tougher form of internal abuse caused by the turmoil between what their faith tells them and their situation. The two together are two big reasons abused people cannot bring themselves to getting out of an abusive situation, or leave it too late.

So to people in those situations I say. Be close to God. Live a life guided by His teaching as best you can. When things are tough, confide in Him. When things are going well, thank Him. And when things go wrong, ask Him for guidance, listen to His answer and trust in Him. And the decisions you take when you truly believe they are guided by Him will not leave you wanting. Let Him be the ultimate judge as to how you have lived your life, not man.

MY RESPONSE:

I just want to say that neither my friend or I would ever presume to judge anyone about divorce.  We are far from perfect ourselves and that verse “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”  (Romans 3:23) applies to me on a regular basis!

When I say that divorce is a sin,  I am stating a fact – not judging.  I realise that we can spend a long time discussing the semantics of ‘judgement’ versus ‘factual’ but I will try and explain what I mean.  God Himself calls it a sin.  That is a fact.
In Malachi 2:16 God says “I hate divorce”
When we get married we vow before God not to get divorced “What God has joined together, let no man put asunder”.  This is a promise that we make to God – breaking that promise is a sin.
Lying, stealing, cheating, murder are sins.  When we say someone has lied, which is a sin, we are not judging – we are stating a fact.  Again we could argue about semantics here!

This is why it is so liberating when God says He will forgive us our sins (when we say sorry to him for breaking our vows of marriage that we made before Him and to Him) and will remember them no more.
There is healing and freedom and a future after a divorce and we don’t have to ‘carry’ that pain and  hurt and guilt with us if we believe in Jesus Christ. (after a grieving process of course).

Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way as you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you”.  (Matthew 7:1 & 2)

KEEPING OUR HEADS ABOVE THE PAVEMENT

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“Did you hear about the rose that grew from a crack in the concrete? Proving nature’s laws wrong, it learned to walk without having feet. Funny, it seems that by keeping its dreams; it learned to breathe fresh air. Long live the rose that grew from concrete when no one else even cared. You see you wouldn’t ask why the rose that grew from the concrete had damaged petals. On the contrary, we would all celebrate its tenacity. We would all love its will to reach the sun. Well, we are the rose – this is the concrete – and these are my damaged petals.”

-Tupac Shakur

I came across the above quote on the blog site “takingthemaskoff”.   The blog is entitled LOST AND NEVER FOUND:  AN ALCOHOLIC’S UNKNOWN STORY.

It is an incredibly well written piece and if you, or anyone you know, suffers from a mental illness or an addiction – depression, alcoholism, cutting, anorexia, gambling etc – this blog is definitely worth reading.  http://takingthemaskoff.com/2014/08/19/lost-and-never-found-an-alcoholics-unknown-story/comment-page-2/#comment-982

Just realized what a superfluous statement that is “if you, or anyone you know, suffers …….”

I don’t think there is anyone in the world today who isn’t suffering or who doesn’t  know someone who is suffering.

The majority of us have bruised leaves and we are all striving to keep our heads up off the pavement.

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I look at the images above and marvel at the sheer determination and tenacity of these plants.  They have managed to grow and flourish despite the most severe odds stacked against them.

Despite the fact that they have no background, no knowledge of their parental seed, no grounding, no good role models they have still succeeded in growing into the most beautiful flowers that bring joy to most people who see them.

They have embraced the little they have – oxygen, sunshine and rainwater supplied by God – and have grown and flourished.

They have concentrated on growing every day instead of filling their days with regret and anger and bitterness as to where they have been placed!  Or constantly asking “why me?”  “Why could I not have been planted in beautiful fertile soil instead of just being dropped haphazardly onto the pavement and left there alone?”

I wish more of us could be like these plants and flowers.

Thanking God every day for what we do have and making the most of what we have been given. Continually looking up towards the Son.

Not looking at others and judging how they are doing, or being envious because it seems that they have more than we have.

But just striving to grow into the person God created us to be and in that way bring joy to those who pass us by.

Below is a link to a video that everyone should watch at least once in their life time.

learned to walk without having feet”

https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=10153154817558902&set=vb.672878901&type=2&theater

Photos courtesy of google!

“OWNING UP” (EVEN IF IT MEANS PEOPLE THINK YOU HAVE ESCAPED FROM A MENTAL ASYLUM!)

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I am married to a wonderful man – a conservative man, but a truly lovely guy!

This is why the following story has had such an impact on my life because I know just how conservative he is!

I asked Steven if I could share his story and he graciously agreed. It occurred in September 2004 when he ‘owned up’ to knowing God.  At that time I asked him to write down what had transpired and this is what he wrote:

Whilst driving down Voortrekker Road in Maitland I felt the Holy Spirit speak to me as I passed the Teko Chemical Buildings.  This was originally the site for the Cape Organ builders.

I had often driven past these premises and thought what a good work site this would be for our company!

I felt God telling me to phone the number on the outside of the building.  I did not – I drove to Atlantis and carried on working.  On my return down Voortrekker Road and as I was nearing the Teko building I felt God once again saying to me, phone the number that is on the wall.  I picked up my cell phone and dialed the number and asked to speak to the manager.  I had no idea what I was going to say to him!

I was put through to a guy called Charles so I said to him, “I’m just phoning to inquire if the building is up for sale or maybe will be in the future”.  He told me that he believed the building had just been sold but would check to see whether the sale had gone through.

He took my name and number and said he would get back to me.

I drove back to our hired premises and told my office manageress that we had just missed the sale of excellent premises.  I had hardly finished telling her about it when my cell phone rang.  It was the other manager, Renier, phoning from Teko and he asked whether I would go in and see them the following day.

I arrived at the premises at nine the following morning.  I was introduced to the two partners.  I was in jeans and my steel toe cap boots and they were dressed in suits and ties!  They sat me across the table from them and Charles asked me how I had known that the building was for sale as nothing had been advertised.  I hesitated not knowing how I was going to tell them that I had heard a voice in my head the day before telling me to phone and inquire.  I heard the same voice again prompting me to tell them the truth, so I took a deep breath and told them that as I was driving past the building a voice in my head told me to phone the company number.  I proceeded to tell them that I was a believing Christian and I believed it had been God speaking to me.

They both looked at each other and started to laugh, and I thought “that’s it!  They think I am crazy. They are going to throw me out of here!” They then proceeded to tell me that they were also believing Christians and when I had phoned the day before they had been praying to God about their situation as the person who had agreed to buy the building, via a private sale, had just pulled out of the deal because he had not been able to obtain the finances.

I advised them that I had no money either and would have to contact the bank but that I really wanted the building!  The bank granted me a building loan and when I phoned to tell them they said that the man who had pulled out of the deal had walked into their offices half an hour after  I had left them, cash in hand, to buy the building.  He had managed to raise the finances after all.  They informed him that the building had already been sold.

If Steve had not said yes to God by phoning that number and by acknowledging, before strangers, that he had heard a voice in his head that he believed was God’s telling him to phone, even at the risk of sounding like he had just escaped from a mental asylum, he would not be in those premises today.

Steve could have just told them that he had phoned on the off chance it was for sale but would also have had to add that he had no money and no security to offer for a loan.

So when the gentleman walked into their offices, cash in hand, they would have sold it to him and Steve would have missed out on an incredible blessing from God.

Over the years he has told this story to encourage others to listen to and acknowledge God’s voice and it has been an incredible encouragement and witness to us of God’s care and interest in our lives.

If he had not said “yes” to God he would have no story to share and would also have missed out on the amazing business premises he now has.

In Isaiah God says to each one of us who believe in Him “I have chosen you and have not rejected you.  So do not fear, for I am with you, do not be discouraged for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you,  I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:9 & 10)

And then He goes on to say “I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness, I will take hold of your hand.  I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open the eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.”

All we as believers have to do is to ‘own up’ to knowing Him.

A TRIBUTE TO MY DAD ON HIS 85TH BIRTHDAY!!

My dad, Edward Raymond Lutge, known as Ray from birth, turned 85 on the 23rd August 2014!

In the words of Colin Garvie:  “Ray has had a colourful ministry as a missionary of the SUM in Nigeria and now a Supernumerary Minister of the MCSA.”

He is a truly remarkable man.
He accepted Jesus into his life when he was a young teenager and through many hardships, joy, pain, immense heart ache and much laughter he never wavered in his belief that God was good and faithful.
He took to heart the words Jesus spoke:
“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men”.
Not only was he a ‘fisher of men’ but he was also a great fisherman!

 

 

When he left school he qualified as a plumber.
He also trained as a missionary with the Sudan United Mission and spent a few years as a missionary in Nigeria on a leprosy mission settlement.

He then studied and qualified as a school teacher and taught for many years.
At the age of 60 he was ordained as a Methodist minister.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DAD!  GOD BLESS.
 

 

BROKEN VESSELS

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This is a continuation of my previous post “My Father’s hands”

I decided to trust God and believe that I was completed and that I could start pouring out His love to those around me.  It was great and the feeling lasted about two days and then I fell back into some old bad habits and I had a picture of me, the jug, being knocked off the table where I had been placed and landing on the floor.  My handle broke off and a few cracks appeared on my body.
I mentioned to a friend of mine that I had thought I was past the clay stage and had become a beautiful jug but now felt that the jug was broken and I was back on the potter’s wheel.

She wrote me the following little note “maybe God is just super gluing your handle onto Himself and His love”.

I could see Jesus kneeling down and tenderly picking me, the jug, and my handle up and gluing it back together again with His love.  As He ran His hands over my body the cracks disappeared and I was whole again.

It is a known fact that once something has been super glued it will very rarely ever break in the same place again.

Psalm 145:14 says “The Lord upholds all those who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.”

A couple of months later the same friend wrote me another note.  This is what she said “By the way God would like you to know just how much He likes you.  As I am typing this He is giving me a sense of how deeply He cares for you.  That He took great care in making you and He is really rather pleased with how you turned out!  He also says to remind you that He is a God of awesome compassion”.
How encouraging to receive words like these from our friends.  We often feel so worried and stressed that God cannot get through to us so He places His message on someone else’s heart so that they can tell us just how much He cares for us.
Often all we can see are the imperfections, the bumps, the cracks and the areas where we have been super glued together.  God in His love is continually healing us and mending us in order that when He fills us up we will not leak.

A person who is dying of thirst and who comes across a jug holding pure water couldn’t care less what that jug has gone through or what it looks like because it holds life giving water that can be poured out.

God says in Joel that “…I will pour out my Spirit on all people1 and then in Romans it says “…God has poured out His love into our hearts”.2

We, in turn, need to start pouring this love out to others.
We need to take the time to be filled up and this is done when we spend time in prayer and reading the Bible, by worshipping God in song or by just sitting and watching a beautiful sunset knowing that He has created this world for our enjoyment.

Once we are filled we need to pour out these blessings into other peoples lives.  We have to move and share ourselves with others otherwise the blessings inside us become stagnant and we become dull and stale.

Psalm 16:11 says “You have made known to me the path of life;  you will fill me with joy in your presence…”.
Psalm 81:10 says “I am the Lord your God….Open wide your mouth and I will fill it”.

A potter’s mark is a device used for the purpose of identifying pottery wares.

On an ancient Greek vase the following mark was found “Exekias made and painted me”.
Exekias was an ancient Greek vase painter and potter.
Isn’t that such a beautiful image.
One day when I die I want my tombstone inscription to read “God made and painted me!”

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  1. 1.  Joel 2:28 (NIV)

2.  Romans 5:5 (NIV)

MY FATHER’S HANDS

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There is a verse in Isaiah that has always captured my imagination.  It goes like this:

“And yet, O Lord, you are our Father.  We are the clay and you are the Potter.  We are all formed by your hand.”1
I have this wonderful image of God sitting on a wooden stool with the potter’s wheel positioned between His knees.  In His hands He holds a lump of clay specially chosen by Him from which He is going to form me.
As He puts the clay onto the plate He makes sure that it is centred and then He begins to spin the wheel using His feet while both of His hands start to mould and shape the clay.
As He works He prays unceasingly.  He speaks words of love, encouragement, joy and kindness into my life.  He starts to visualise the life He wants me to live.  So much thought has gone into the making of me.  As I begin to take shape in His hands He realises that actually there is something even more special He wants for me so He kneads me back into a lump and starts again.

Once the item of pottery has been formed it is then put aside in a safe place to dry.

Once it is dry it can be painted and decorated and then it is put into an oven to bake.
A close eye has to be kept on the item while it is baking to ensure that the heat doesn’t damage it.
We have all been created individually by God.  Some of us are plates, some cups, some bowls, some jugs – it doesn’t matter what we are – we all have two things in common.
The fact that we were created by Him and the fact that we can all hold or contain something that can be poured out.

God decided He wanted me to be a jug.  He visualised me as a beautiful jug filled to the brim and overflowing with love and the ability to do so much good in the world. In His mind there is not a blemish or a scratch on me and He has painted me inside and out with beautiful bright coloured flowers – crimson, yellow, blue, orange and green.  I am so amazingly beautiful in His eyes because I am His creation.

In fact in Ephesians 2:10 it says exactly that “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do”.

For many years I felt that in making me God had got stuck on the kneading and moulding stage or had forgotten me in the oven.  I also felt that during the process of making me He became distracted and that was why I was far from perfect.

I never seemed to be able to grow into my full potential, there was always a nagging feeling inside of me that something was missing and a lot of the time I did not feel that my life had much worth or value.  There were so many times when I felt such deep hurt and pain and loneliness in my life that I was sure He had forgotten me in the oven and that I was damaged beyond repair.
I longed to make a difference in the world.  To be able to touch other people’s lives and bring comfort and healing to them but always felt that I was not worthy.

Then one day I realised that I would never be able to do any of these things if I was constantly in the process of being made.  How could I offer anything of value to anyone else if I did not feel I was worthy and complete myself.

There is a verse that says “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works so that no one can boast”.2
This is the most wonderful verse in that it takes a lot of pressure off us to perform and if we truly believed what God tells us “I am the Lord who sanctifies you”3 we wouldn’t have the need to ‘work’ so hard at being Christians!

Photograph by Carrie Sandoval
1.  Isaiah 64:8 (LAB)
2.  Ephesians 2: 8 & 9 (NIV)
3.  Exodus 31:13 (NAS)

THE IMPERFECT CHURCH

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“If you think you have finally found the perfect church, DON’T become a member of it, as it will then no longer be perfect” (someone once said!)

Yesterday we were driving through Carlisle, England and the sign above caught my eye.  I made hubby drive around the block and find a parking space in order that I could take a photograph of it.

The words resonated strongly with me.

The church is there for sinners!

My personal definition of the church is “anybody who believes that Jesus Christ died on the cross and rose again in order that whoever believes in Him will have eternal life”.

There are church buildings, and then there is the ‘church’,  made up of people living all over the world.

Some of the loneliest and depressed people are found in a church building.  One of my dearest friends who used to live on the streets told me once, that he was initially far lonelier in the church than he had ever been on the streets.  He felt that a lot of folks who went to church were hypocrites – because they were Christians they felt they had to pretend that everything was fine in their lives. As though by believing in Jesus Christ they were no longer allowed to be honest and open about their negative emotions!  That by admitting they were feeling depressed/angry/hurt/sad/a failure they were basically negating their faith in Christ.

Someone else once said “Christians are not perfect, they are just forgiven and their sin/mistakes/faults are no longer held against them”.

That is my kind of Christianity.  Knowing that I live in God’s grace.

Over the centuries some churches have lost sight of God’s commandment “love one another as I have loved you” and are far more interested in the ‘man made’ rules which even churches of different denominations differ on.

Adult water baptism – right or wrong?

Communion – some denominations will not allow somebody from another denomination to take full communion?

Child baptism – a must or not really necessary?

Apartheid – separation of different races – which some churches actually justified by using Biblical scriptures?

Once you accept Jesus as your Saviour and are filled with the Holy Spirit you cannot continue behaving in the same way.  You need to strive to be more Christ like, to love others as He has loved you BUT to know that when you “blow it” you have the option of confessing your sin and being forgiven.

I have just read this to my husband and he stated “On the basis of what you have just written I would be put off church for life!”

That is not my intention at all – to put anybody off joining a church!  I do, however, believe that in order to be happy and accepted in a church, you need to find a church like the one advertised above.

A church that accepts everybody and strives to love everyone who enters their doors as Christ loves us.  That means that the majority of people in the church need to have the same goals and basic belief that everyone is worth loving.

There are always going to be people in the church building that you are not going to agree with and some people who you will just not like, but if the majority of people in the church building invite others in the building into their homes for meals and fellowship, if the majority, who are more financially wealthy, share with those who are in need, if the majority are willing to forgive each other, than I would say that is the church you need to join.

My friend eventually found great healing, acceptance and warmth in the church and learnt to look past the few people who he felt judged him.  It is vital to fellowship with other Believers and to have God’s word explained by others who have had a revelation of the Scriptures and are able to teach God’s truth.

And yes, I do belong to a church!  In fact, I have been a member of my church, Mowbray Presbyterian Church in Cape Town, South Africa for over 17 years.

My church is filled with all kinds of people – different races, different upbringings, some are selfish, greedy and needy – far from perfect, but they all love the Lord and strive to live their lives sharing Christ’s love with others.