“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.

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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)

THE LORD’S PRAYER – WITH A DIFFERENCE!

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Dallas Willard was once asked how he prayed.  He answered that he prayed the Our Father every morning before his feet hit the ground. I can just imagine Satan’s reaction whenever Dallas Willard put his feet on the ground in the morning.  It must have been something like this “Oh hell!  He is getting up – take cover!”

Prayer and faith go together.  You cannot have the one without the other.

In Biblical terms prayer is a personal communication or request addressed to God and faith is a strong or unshakeable belief in God without proof or evidence.

“Prayer is a necessity to man – it is a universal phenomenon; but while not exclusively Christian, it is most real in Christianity because the Christian life is a life of fellowship with God.  In Bilbical religion the relationship between God and man is genuinely interpersonal. Prayer is essentially communion;  God desires man’s fellowship, and man needs the friendship of God.1

What follows is an example of how Dallas Willard prayed the Our Father.  I am writing this from memory and have added a few of my own personal thoughts – this is basically a guideline of  how he prayed.  You can add your own relevant requests, praise, thanks-giving to the basic outline.  You can also spend a lot more time on each section!

Our Father

My God, my Dad, my Lord, my Pappa, my Father

whom art in Heaven

You are high above the earth. You are all seeing. You are omniscient.  You know all about me and yet you still love me

hallowed be Thy name

You are majestic and wonderful. I praise your Holy name. Your name is powerful and mighty.

your kingdom come

Lord, please fill me with your Holy Spirit. May I be your hands and your feet here on earth.  May people see your Kingdom in me.

your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven

I pray Lord that I, together with all other Believers, will be able to love others in a way that will ensureYour will being done here on earth through us.

Give us this day our daily bread

Thank you Lord for the abundance that you shower upon me.  For the home I live in – let me not take it for granted.  Let me share my abundance with others. Make me aware of the needs of those around me.

and forgive us our trespasses

Lord, please forgive me for not living a life of love.  For wanting my own way.  For judging others.  For repeatedly doing what I know is wrong in your sight.

as we forgive those who trespass against us

I need your help to forgive those who have hurt me.  Who have made me feel that I am not worthy.  Who judge and criticize me.  Help me Lord, to be able to forgive myself for the wrong I have done.

Lead us not into temptation

Please help me to be satisfied with what I have.  To be thankful for all I have.

but deliver us from evil

Lord, please break the chains that bind me.  Break the habit of me feeling worthless, angry, inferior, proud, judgmental.  Deliver me from addictions – be it alcohol, drugs, pornography, eating disorders. 

For Thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever and ever

Thank you Lord that nothing can ever befall me that you are not aware of.  That no matter what happens you have already prepared a way out – help me to trust, grant me more faith to know that you are all powerful.  I glorify your mighty name.  I praise you.

Amen

So be it.  I go into this day with my hope and my faith firmly placed in You, my God, my Lord, my Saviour.

May each one of us be the kind of person that when our feet touch the ground in the morning, Satan says “Oh hell, they are up.  Take cover!”

1.  The  Handy Bible Dictionary & Concordance

Photograph courtesy of the internet.

SOMETIMES OUR CHILDREN LIVE ON A DIFFERENT PLANET!!

Saw this board whilst walking down the street yesterday.  It triggered a memory of an incident that occurred a few years ago with one of my children.  I need to set the scene for you first though!

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Ever since our oldest child started pre-school I have prayed, together with other mothers, at their respective schools.  We have also always taught our children that lying and stealing is wrong and are, in fact, even mentioned in the ten commandments!

“You shall not steal”

“You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor” (Exodus 20) – which basically means don’t lie.

Now about the incident.

I was just walking into a  prayer meeting at the Junior school, feeling quite ‘holy’ when I checked my phone messages. Please note that subsequent to this, I no longer check any messages before going into a meeting.

There was a message there from my child in Senior school.  What follows is a record of messages stemming from that one:

Child:  “ Hey, mom.  Is it ok if I forge your signature on my History test? If it’s not signed I get detention”

Me:  “What planet have you been living on for the past fifteen years?? (now you can see why the message on the board above triggered this memory!” From the time you were born your dad and I have taught you that lying and stealing is wrong.  By forging a signature you are effectively doing both!!!!”

Child: “I thought it would be ok cos you have already seen the paper and thought my mark was pretty good”.

I walked into the prayer meeting and told the ladies present “you will not believe what my daughter has just asked me!” and proceeded to tell them with great indignation.

One of the moms present responded “I think it is amazing that she asked you whether she could forge your signature and didn’t just sign it”.

This stopped me in my tracks and I messaged the child back:

“Meet me in the reception area at your school at first break and I will sign the test for you”.

When I arrived at the school I told the receptionist (who also happens to be a good friend of mine) why I was there.  I was still feeling a bit indignant.

She replied “Noel, you should be so thankful that your child asked you.  A large majority of the students here would just have forged the signature and not thought twice about it”.

That evening I was recounting the story to my oldest daughter via skype as she was overseas at the time.

Her response was “That is so silly.  Why would she even ask you something like that?”

I was just starting to pat myself on the back and think ‘well, at least I have got it right with one child’ when she stated “I would have just signed the test if you had already seen it!”

When you have children you just can’t win.

There is a lovely Irish saying “Shame the devil and tell the truth”

“The Lord detests lying lips, but He delights in men who are truthful” (Proverbs 12:22)

I have sometimes, in the past, told a ‘little white lie’ mainly when I have wanted to spare someone else’s feelings when the truth would have hurt them but a ‘little white lie’ is still a lie.

And in the long run our ‘little white lies’ add up and can be quite detrimental towards others.

If we are to teach our children honesty, we need to be honest in all things.