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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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”

 

EMPATHY – YOUR PAIN IN MY HEART

 

IMG-20130626-00827(My sister and I – still growing and learning)

Empathy is defined as “your pain in my heart”.  How do we develop empathy if we never experience pain or hurt, sickness or the loss of a loved one, either through death or the ending of a relationship?

Oswald Chambers writes:

Suffering either gives me to myself or it destroys me.  The only way to find yourself is in the fires of sorrow.  Why it should be this way is immaterial.  The fact is that it is true in the Scriptures and in human experience.  You can always know that you can go to him, who has suffered, in your moment of trouble and find that he has plenty of time for you.  But if a person has not been through the fires of sorrow, he is apt to be contemptuous, having no respect or time for you, only turning you away.  If you receive yourself in the fires of sorrow God will make you nourishment for other people”.

My sister once wrote me a letter and this is what she said:

I think we are blessed in a wonderfully paradoxical way, because our capacity – huge capacity – for healing has been carved and hollowed out through our experiences of pain and feelings of rejection, feelings of never quite being good enough, through our failures, through our unmet expectations, and disappointments with ourselves and others – suffering is so intimately connected to wholeness.  Perhaps wisdom is simply a matter of waiting and healing a question of time”

It has been through my times of pain and sorrow that I have grown the most as a person.  It is also during those times that I have actively sought God and prayed the most!

Nick Vujicic, a man born without arms or legs has this to say:

I love how God lets us go through difficult challenges to help each other and encourage one another.  The challenges in our lives are there to strengthen our convictions.  They are not there to run us over”.

And then James Wilson said the following:

“And in the miracle of God’s provision for an escape, He takes the very scars that Satan inflicted to draw lines of beauty upon our souls. IF we turn over control to God instead of cursing Him!”

THE AGE OLD QUESTION! WHY DOES GOD ALLOW………?

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One of the most common words used in the English language must be the word WHY?
The dictionary defines ‘why’ as follows: for what reason, purpose or cause? An expression of surprise, disagreement, indignation”.
The majority of us struggle with the question of ‘why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?” Incredible that, as I was typing this, my 12 year old came into my office and read me part of an essay she had written. The title was “Why?” I listened in amazement as my child verbalized this age old question.
 Why? Why would God make the world if He knew that it would be destroyed? Why would He make the world if life for some people in this world would be destroyed or hurt for no reason? For a little child will lose its mother and be like a lamb alone in a field, hurt and broken inside. Why? This child who has done no wrong has now lost its mother. Why would God let this child suffer? Why? – Emma Jane Curry
Often, the answer to that question has got nothing whatsoever to do with God. It has to do with bad decisions the government of the country has made, or wrong choices our parents or grand-parents may have made or even the consequences of our own wrong doing. What about Global warming and climate change in the world today and the effects of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels or from deforestation? Man is responsible for that not God.
God created us because He wanted a relationship with us. He gave us freedom of choice because, if He had not, we would be robotic creatures unable to form a relationship or interact with Him.
 I heard the following story the other day and it highlighted for me the verse “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”. (Romans 8:28)
There was a king who had a devoted servant. This servant loved the Lord and was continually praising God for His goodness. The king and the servant went hunting one day and a lion attacked the king. The servant managed to fight the lion off but, alas, the king lost his index finger. The lion had managed to bite it off! The king was really upset and what made it worse was the fact that the servant told him he should be grateful to God for sparing his life. All the king could think of was the pain and the fact that his finger was missing. He could not believe that his servant was praising God for this so he had the servant thrown into jail. A few days later the king went hunting and was captured by a tribe who offered human sacrifices to their gods. The king was bound and laid on an altar in preparation for the sacrificial ritual to begin when the tribe suddenly noticed that he had a finger missing. This caused great consternation as it was forbidden to sacrifice anyone who was ‘incomplete’. They cut his cords and allowed him to go free. When he finally made it back to his village, the first thing he did was to go straight to the jail and set his servant free. He explained to the servant that if it had not been for the missing finger he would be dead. The servant then proceeded to give all thanks and glory to God! The king listened for a little while and then posed this question, “If your God is so good and amazing
WHY did He allow you to be thrown into jail?” The servant replied, “Because, my king, if I had been hunting with you, I too would have been captured. And when they discovered that you had a part missing I would have been sacrificed in your stead! Thank God I was in jail!”
We have no idea what the future holds but I do know that our time here on earth is very short compared to eternity! If we accept Jesus as our Saviour we will be spending eternity with God and the things that we experienced here on earth will fade into insignificance.
When the question why besets me I think about the answer Oswald Chambers once gave his wife. They had just been to visit a friend who was suffering from typhoid fever and was close to death and she asked, “I wonder what God is going to do?” Oswald replied, “I don’t care what God does. It’s what God IS that I care about”.
When the word why reverberates in my head I hold onto these words that God spoke:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your savior ……Do not be afraid, for I am with you”. (Isaiah 43:1-3, 5)
Photo courtesy of Google

WHEN WE BLOW IT!

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“If you have failed and you are filled with despair, with no idea where to turn for inspiration and strength, remember then the compassion of Jesus.  In the power of His love He encourages you to persevere and to rebuild your life”.1

One of the most comforting verses God put into the Bible is the one that says “…though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with His hand”.2 If we have accepted Jesus Christ as our Saviour and truly desire to serve the Lord and live our lives as His children the following verse will apply to us “If the Lord delights in a man’s way he makes his steps firm”3. It doesn’t matter how many times we may fail or feel we have blown it – if we are prepared to go before Him and confess our sins He says  “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.”4

Jesus knows exactly what we are like.  In fact He made allowances for our bad behavior when He answered Peter’s question “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?”  Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times”.5
He knew that we would need to come before Him time and time again to ask forgiveness for the same sin.

I often feel that nothing in my life changes. That I am still the same person I was before I accepted Christ as my Saviour.  That I will never gain victory over certain sins/wrong behavior/bad habits in my life.  I go before God and ask for forgiveness time and time again for exactly the same ‘sin’. It is then, in that moment of despair, that I cry out to God to give me the faith and the assurance that I am forgiven and I hear Him say “I am the One who began the good work within you and I will keep right on helping you grow in My grace until My task within you is finally finished on that day when Jesus Christ returns”.6

To back that up He put this in the Bible as well for whenever our hearts condemn us

 “ For God is greater than our hearts, and He knows everything.”7

1.  Ozrovech, Solly.  More than Life Itself: A Daily Devotional
2.  Psalm 37:24, Holy Bible, NIV
3.  Psalm37:23, Holy Bible, NIV
4.  Isaiah 43:25, Holy Bible, NIV
5.  Matthew 18:21 & 22, Holy Bible, NIV
6.  Philippians 1:6 paraphrased, LAB
7.  1 John 3:20, Holy Bible, NIV

Photo courtesy of google

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)