Saturday, January 17, 2009

The power of God to transform!

The first time I saw this movie almost 10 years ago I remember being so aware that my heart related so much to the character of Javert. It was like looking in a future mirror with shock and horror, and I was humbled by and drawn to the character of Jean Valjean. More so I was intrigued and haunted by the whole story played out in the movie. The clip above, was the first time I ever saw a glimpse of GRACE and MERCY demonstrated, the first time I saw one 'believe the best'....the fruit of the charachter's life later on in the rest of the movie makes so much sense to me now. I didn't understand it all but a hunger for true freedom had been awoken in me.

Today, something similar to what occurred in the clip above brought this whole scene back to memory and I have been asking questions.

How does grace (not law) work to change a man; a culture even?

Paul said: " I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith. (Romans 1:16)

"God made him (Jesus) who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."

The gift of righteousness sets people free from condemnation and then they become open to the power of God. And it is the one who embraces this gift and enters through salvation's birth canal who bears the fruit of righteousness. Christianity is not right DOING. It is right BELIEVING. Right believing will always lead to right doing! Those who are FORGIVEN MUCH, will LOVE MUCH!

"Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently." Galatians 6:1

How do we restore gently?

ALL have sinned, and fallen short of the glory of God.
God himself identified with us in our fallen condition when he came as a man and walked among us.

So we walk together with the broken...not alienating them, not pointing fingers and exposing flesh, but understanding that we too have been broken by the curse and it is only LOVE that has freed us. It is only grounded roots of love that produce foilage of beauty and the subsequent mouthwatering fruit of goodness.

Identity is always the issue. Let us tell them who they really are! The gospel proclaims for us all a picture of the finished work of Christ. If we want to give them real, positive, biblical hope, we must make them GOD conscious...not sin conscious, or problem conscious. Not past conscious, or future conscious. FOR He is a very PRESENT help in time of need! We must tell people that God is not holding their sins against them any more.

"For we know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin -- because anyone who has died has been freed from sin." (Rom 6:6-7)

And so we deal with darkness by releasing the light to shine, and do what it was meant to do:

Jesus entered Jericho and made his way through the town. There was a man there named Zacchaeus. He was the chief tax collector in the region, and he had become very rich. He tried to get a look at Jesus, but he was too short to see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree beside the road, for Jesus was going to pass that way. When Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name. “Zacchaeus!” he said. “Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today. Zacchaeus quickly climbed down and took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy. But the people were displeased. “He has gone to be the guest of a notorious sinner,” they grumbled. Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!” Jesus responded, “Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost. (Luke 19 :1-10)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

"Your unfailing love, O Lord, is as vast as the heavens;
your faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds.
Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains,
your justice like the ocean depths.

You care for people and animals alike, O Lord.

How precious is your unfailing love, O God! All humanity finds shelter in the shadow of your wings.You feed them from the abundance of your own house, letting them drink from your rivers of delight.For you are the fountain of life, the light by which we see"

Psalm 36:5-9

How strong your love, how relentlessly your kindness pursues me.
It is so good to know that you will never give up on me, never let me down.
How sweet to trust you, to know that you are pure and good; always.
How grateful I am that in you there is no darkness, no intent of harm or self seeking. You are beautiful. You are my one desire. You alone are all that I need and seek. Thankyou for loving me indefinetly.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Does the gospel make a difference?

Remember, the gospel is "good news".

Interesting article. From Times Online, here:

Missionaries, not aid money, are the solution to Africa's biggest problem - the crushing passivity of the people's mindset.
By: Matthew Parris

"Before Christmas I returned, after 45 years, to the country that as a boy I knew as Nyasaland. Today it's Malawi, and The Times Christmas Appeal includes a small British charity working there. Pump Aid helps rural communities to install a simple pump, letting people keep their village wells sealed and clean. I went to see this work.

It inspired me, renewing my flagging faith in development charities. But travelling in Malawi refreshed another belief, too: one I've been trying to banish all my life, but an observation I've been unable to avoid since my African childhood. It confounds my ideological beliefs, stubbornly refuses to fit my world view, and has embarrassed my growing belief that there is no God.

Now a confirmed atheist, I've become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people's hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.

I used to avoid this truth by applauding - as you can - the practical work of mission churches in Africa. It's a pity, I would say, that salvation is part of the package, but Christians black and white, working in Africa, do heal the sick, do teach people to read and write; and only the severest kind of secularist could see a mission hospital or school and say the world would be better without it. I would allow that if faith was needed to motivate missionaries to help, then, fine: but what counted was the help, not the faith.

But this doesn't fit the facts. Faith does more than support the missionary; it is also transferred to his flock. This is the effect that matters so immensely, and which I cannot help observing.

First, then, the observation. We had friends who were missionaries, and as a child I stayed often with them; I also stayed, alone with my little brother, in a traditional rural African village. In the city we had working for us Africans who had converted and were strong believers. The Christians were always different. Far from having cowed or confined its converts, their faith appeared to have liberated and relaxed them. There was a liveliness, a curiosity, an engagement with the world - a directness in their dealings with others - that seemed to be missing in traditional African life. They stood tall.

At 24, travelling by land across the continent reinforced this impression. From Algiers to Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon and the Central African Republic, then right through the Congo to Rwanda, Tanzania and Kenya, four student friends and I drove our old Land Rover to Nairobi.

We slept under the stars, so it was important as we reached the more populated and lawless parts of the sub-Sahara that every day we find somewhere safe by nightfall. Often near a mission.

Whenever we entered a territory worked by missionaries, we had to acknowledge that something changed in the faces of the people we passed and spoke to: something in their eyes, the way they approached you direct, man-to-man, without looking down or away. They had not become more deferential towards strangers - in some ways less so - but more open.

This time in Malawi it was the same. I met no missionaries. You do not encounter missionaries in the lobbies of expensive hotels discussing development strategy documents, as you do with the big NGOs. But instead I noticed that a handful of the most impressive African members of the Pump Aid team (largely from Zimbabwe) were, privately, strong Christians. “Privately” because the charity is entirely secular and I never heard any of its team so much as mention religion while working in the villages. But I picked up the Christian references in our conversations. One, I saw, was studying a devotional textbook in the car. One, on Sunday, went off to church at dawn for a two-hour service.

It would suit me to believe that their honesty, diligence and optimism in their work was unconnected with personal faith. Their work was secular, but surely affected by what they were. What they were was, in turn, influenced by a conception of man's place in the Universe that Christianity had taught.

There's long been a fashion among Western academic sociologists for placing tribal value systems within a ring fence, beyond critiques founded in our own culture: “theirs” and therefore best for “them”; authentic and of intrinsically equal worth to ours.

I don't follow this. I observe that tribal belief is no more peaceable than ours; and that it suppresses individuality. People think collectively; first in terms of the community, extended family and tribe. This rural-traditional mindset feeds into the “big man” and gangster politics of the African city: the exaggerated respect for a swaggering leader, and the (literal) inability to understand the whole idea of loyal opposition.

Anxiety - fear of evil spirits, of ancestors, of nature and the wild, of a tribal hierarchy, of quite everyday things - strikes deep into the whole structure of rural African thought. Every man has his place and, call it fear or respect, a great weight grinds down the individual spirit, stunting curiosity. People won't take the initiative, won't take things into their own hands or on their own shoulders.

How can I, as someone with a foot in both camps, explain? When the philosophical tourist moves from one world view to another he finds - at the very moment of passing into the new - that he loses the language to describe the landscape to the old. But let me try an example: the answer given by Sir Edmund Hillary to the question: Why climb the mountain? “Because it's there,” he said.

To the rural African mind, this is an explanation of why one would not climb the mountain. It's... well, there. Just there. Why interfere? Nothing to be done about it, or with it. Hillary's further explanation - that nobody else had climbed it - would stand as a second reason for passivity.

Christianity, post-Reformation and post-Luther, with its teaching of a direct, personal, two-way link between the individual and God, unmediated by the collective, and unsubordinate to any other human being, smashes straight through the philosphical/spiritual framework I've just described. It offers something to hold on to to those anxious to cast off a crushing tribal groupthink. That is why and how it liberates.

Those who want Africa to walk tall amid 21st-century global competition must not kid themselves that providing the material means or even the knowhow that accompanies what we call development will make the change. A whole belief system must first be supplanted.

And I'm afraid it has to be supplanted by another. Removing Christian evangelism from the African equation may leave the continent at the mercy of a malign fusion of Nike, the witch doctor, the mobile phone and the machete."

And for further insight, watch this....

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Full of Hope in 2009!

“This I know, God is for me” (Psalm 56:9)

This excerpt from Steve McVEY was exactly what Father has been whispering to my heart:

"Our God is a friendly God and He is sovereign over the universe. So, wherever we are we can trust Him to work all things together for our good. Is the universe friendly? It doesn't matter. The God who rules the universe is.

How you think about life is very important. As you move into 2009, appropriate the virtue of applying God’s underlying goodness to every situation you face in life. Do you believe the following statement? God is for you. There is no substantial ground to stand on when it comes to expecting the best until we have settled that we do, indeed, believe that statement.

Without absolute confidence that God is for you, circumstances may toss your emotions and actions around like a cork in the ocean. The person who has settled on the fact of God’s goodness is able to calmly move forward in anticipation of a good outcome
Does that mean that we always get what we want? Not at all, but it does mean that while our path may be a winding one that sometimes leads us through valleys, we are progressing all the while toward a good place. Any place God leads us is a good place because it is God’s place for our lives.

As you move through the next year, expect the best. Consider every positive result in your life to be a reminder from God of His intent to bless you. Look for His hand and listen for His voice in the subtleties of your day." - Steve McVey

So like I did in the beginning, I am watching and listening. Only this time I am EXPECTING. I am pregnant with the seed of HOPE and that hope will give birth to life in me and for others.

Friday, January 02, 2009

The true reflection

My lover thinks I'm beautiful and he is enamoured with me.

My Father says I am His delight and He really enjoys me.

Faithfully I've been showered with this ever pursuing, devoted love from the moment of my birth. Words of affirmation....tender touches...lavish gifts....sweet time together...humble service. Over and over He gives to me. In the secret place of conception He smiled on me...

Ephesians 1:3-6
"How blessed is God! And what a blessing he is! He's the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in him. Long before he laid down earth's foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son."

But little have I noticed. Rarely have I believed.
My gaze has been at my own tattered, bruised, ugly FLESH.
Scarred by condemnation, groping gratification, poverty's fearful withholding, rejection, isolation and demanding expectations I have kept myself locked in a prison of self hatred. Not living loved, but living as though cursed.

A precious blogging friend shared a parable this week and asked the question that highlights this problem: 'Have you been gazing into your Lover's eyes as He speaks truth to you or are you bewitched by your own reflection in the mirror?'

The stickers only stick if you let them...

To gaze into my lovers eyes means I must lift my eyes and look away from my flesh. I must turn from the curse of the law...until His eyes alone become the true mirror reflection. And Pappa's words, they MUST be the only one's I receive. (Romans 10:17. Peter 6:68) I must preach this gospel to myself daily! And rest confident...

Corinthians 5:14-17
"Our firm decision is to work from this focused center: One man died for everyone. That puts everyone in the same boat. He included everyone in his death so that everyone could also be included in his life, a resurrection life, a far better life than people ever lived on their own. Because of this decision we don't evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don't look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We're Christ's representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God's work of making things right between them. We're speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he's already a friend with you."

He thinks YOU are beautiful and he is enamoured with YOU.

YOUR Father says that you are His delight and He enjoys YOU.

Faithfully He has and will shower you with this ever pursuing, devoted love. Words of affirmation....tender touches...lavish gifts....His sweet presence...humble service. Over and over He will give to you. In the secret place of conception He smiled on you...He still smiles on you. Will you, with me, percieve and recieve how true and real this love?