LOVE KNOTS

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I was paging through a book the other day and this sentence caught my attention “God is closer to sinners than saints”.  The thought crossed my mind that it was a good thing as I doubt very much whether I will ever achieve the status of sainthood in this life time!

It carried on to say:

“God, up there, in heaven,

Is holding onto each person with a string.

Every time you sin, you cut the string;

But God fixes the string again, with a love knot.

Since this knot makes the string shorter,

You are also a bit closer to God.

Thus each sin cuts it,

And each cut means a knot,

And each knot draws you closer to God”. (Praying Body and Soul, Mehothds and Practices of Anthony de Mello)

Imagine yourself standing on the outstretched palm of God’s right hand here on earth, around your waist is tied a rope which is attached to God’s left hand in Heaven.  Every time you sin it is like you have taken a scissor and cut that rope but instead of plunging to your death you are supported by the hand underneath you.

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As you confess your sin to God “He is faithful and just and will forgive your sins and purify you from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).  God then reaches down with His left hand, to which our rope was attached, picks up our dangling piece of rope and ties the two pieces together with a love knot. He actually says in His word that He leads us “with ties of love” (Hosea 11:4). As His left hand goes back up to Heaven, the string tightens and He lifts His right hand a little higher so our feet are still firmly supported on His hand and we are drawn closer to Him.

Ephesians 5:1 states “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love.”

If we follow this command we will find that as time goes by we will sin less and less and therefore God won’t have to make as many love knots in the rope which is a very good thing because the shorter that rope gets the closer we get to heaven and the nearer we are to meeting God face to face which will mean we are dead!  God says to us “I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction.  For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you” (Deuteronomy 30:15,16)

Images courtesy of Google

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DEPRESSION……

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One of the Biblical characters that I most identify with is the prophet Elijah. He had major ups and downs, suffered from depression and frustration and yet was known as one of the boldest of God’s prophets!  I identify with the first part of what I wrote, not the prophetic part!!

  1. At one time God told Elijah to hide near a brook and said “I have ordered the ravens to feed you” and they do just that “the ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening”.
  2. Elijah had authority through God to tell a widow that her “jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry” and that is what happened.  There was a never ending supply of flour and oil in the house.
  3. This same widows’ son dies and Elijah cries out to God “O Lord my God, let this boy’s life return to him!” and “the Lord heard Elijah’s cry, and the boy’s life returned to him”.
  4. Elijah challenges four hundred and fifty of Baal’s prophets to call down fire from Baal and set a bull on an altar on fire.  The prophets cry out the whole day to Baal but nothing happens.  Elijah had made a separate altar and placed another bull on it with heaps of wood underneath it.  He then says he will call on his God to reign down fire from heaven and then, adds insult to injury, and tells some folks to fill four large jars with water and pour it over the altar.  He tells them to do this three times.  Once this is done, he calls upon the Lord and “the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil”!

Elijah then has all the prophets put to death.  The queen of the land at that time happens to be a woman named Jezebel and she is bitterly unhappy about the fact that all her prophets have been killed and she sends this message to Elijah “You killed my prophets, and now I swear by the gods that I am going to kill you by this time tomorrow night” and this man, who has witnessed the most awesome miracles, the incredible faithfulness of God, turns around and flees for his life!

He has just called down the power of God to start a fire with wood that has been drenched, he has been instrumental in bringing someone back to life from death, and yet, at the threat from a woman he flees for his life into the desert where he finds a tree, sits underneath it and gives in to self- pity! “I have had enough, Lord” he laments.

He reminds me of me!

I have known God’s faithfulness in my life, I have witnessed a few miracles, I have felt God’s peace and His comfort in times of great sorrow and yet when I am faced with disappointments, or the death of a loved one or the shattering of a dream I thought was from God, I too, sit down and cry out to God “I have had enough, Lord”.

Elijah falls asleep (or if he was anything like me, he cried himself to sleep) and while he is sleeping an angel of the Lord bakes a loaf of bread for him over hot coals and fills a jar with water and then gently touches him and says “Get up and eat”.  A few days later God speaks to him in a gentle whisper and then gives him an assistant in the form of Elisha to keep him company and to help him do what God has prepared for him to do.

God does not accuse Elijah of lack of faith, there are no recriminations about the fact that he ran away in fear.  God does not accuse him of being a coward and lambaste him for feeling sorry for himself.

Instead, God commands His angel to feed Elijah and to ensure that he has a good sleep and then God, Himself, speaks directly to Elijah and to top all this off He then gives Elijah a companion who will accompany him on his journey!

God treats each one of us in the same way.  His love and forgiveness is overwhelming.  When we are overcome by our own sins, mistakes, fears, hurts, God longs to comfort us and care for us and through the death and resurrection of His Son He has made a way for us to be reconciled to Him.  We don’t have to wallow in self-pity when we feel we have blown it/sinned against Him/failed – all we need to do is to take some time out, pray to Him, sleep, eat, rest and then wait for Him to speak to us.

God “does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities”.

Our God is “compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.”

Image courtesy of Google

1 Kings 18, 19

Psalm 103

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!

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.

GOD HAS FORGOTTEN

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Why is it that most of us find it almost impossible to forgive ourselves and to forget the shame of our pasts and yet, with the same breath, we acknowledge that we believe that “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness”? (1 John 1:9)
Isn’t that incredibly hypocritical of us? Doesn’t that show a major lack of faith on our behalf? God says He forgives our sins and “will remember our sins no more” (Hebrews 8:12) and yet we say we cannot forgive ourselves. How insincere is it of us then to tell other people about this amazing God when we don’t believe a word of what He says ourselves. What right do we have to call ourselves believers in Christ when we are invalidating the very essence of the Christian gospel message by refusing to forgive ourselves?

God “gave you a share in the very life of Christ, for He forgave all your sins, and blotted out the charges proved against you, the list of His commandments which you had not obeyed. He took this list of sins and destroyed it by nailing it to Christ’s cross. In this way God took away Satan’s power to accuse you of sin, and God openly displayed to the whole world Christ’s triumph at the cross where your sins were all taken away”. (Colossians 2:13-15)

Do I have faith in what Jesus Christ has done? “When I turn to God and by belief accept what God has done, the miraculous atonement by the Cross of Christ instantly places me into a right relationship with God. And as a result of the supernatural miracle of God’s grace I stand justified, not because I am sorry for my sin, or because I have repented, but because of what Jesus has done” (Oswald Chambers)

If I continually feel guilty about the sins I have committed, ashamed about the things I have done, upset about the hurt I may have caused others even after I have asked God to forgive me and made restitution where possible, what kind of witness am I for God? If I am trapped in the sins of the past how do I explain to someone that once they accept Christ as their Saviour they will be set free from sin, the benefits they will reap leads to holiness and the end result is eternal life.
We need to ask, as the apostles did, Lord “increase our faith” (Luke 17:5) and then start living in God’s grace. “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.”(Ephesians 2:8-9)

Once a woman who thought she was having visions from God went to the bishop for advice. He told her that the next time God appeared to her she was to perform a test by which to know that it really was God. She was to ask God what the personal and private sins of the bishop were. A month later she was back and she told the bishop she had done what he had asked.
God had replied “Go tell the bishop that I’ve forgotten all his sins”. (Anthony de Mello)