Monday, April 27, 2020

Only One Life, Twill Soon Be Past – Poem by C.T Studd

Two little lines I heard one day,
Travelling along life’s busy way;
Bringing conviction to my heart,
And from my mind would not depart;
Only one life, twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Only one life, yes only one,
Soon will its fleeting hours be done;
Then, in ‘that day’ my Lord to meet,
And stand before His Judgement seat;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Only one life, the still small voice,
Gently pleads for a better choice
Bidding me selfish aims to leave,
And to God’s holy will to cleave;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Only one life, a few brief years,
Each with its burdens, hopes, and fears;
Each with its clays I must fulfill,
living for self or in His will;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
When this bright world would tempt me sore,
When Satan would a victory score;
When self would seek to have its way,
Then help me Lord with joy to say;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Give me Father, a purpose deep,
In joy or sorrow Thy word to keep;
Faithful and true what e’er the strife,
Pleasing Thee in my daily life;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Oh let my love with fervor burn,
And from the world now let me turn;
Living for Thee, and Thee alone,
Bringing Thee pleasure on Thy throne;
Only one life, “twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Only one life, yes only one,
Now let me say, ”Thy will be done”;
And when at last I’ll hear the call,
I know I’ll say “twas worth it all”;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last. ”
— extra stanza —
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
And when I am dying, how happy I’ll be,
If the lamp of my life has been burned out for Thee

Connect Group - 10

Text: Psalms 23

Icebreaker: Could you complete the phrase “The Lord is my ………”? Now my question to you is: Is He? What does it mean to have the Lord as your shepherd?

Do you like to be in control? The reality is that the majority of us would prefer to be in control of our lives, careers, marriages and finances rather than to give control over those things to someone else. Understandably, this feeling is partly inherent in us, and society has promoted that self-sufficiency and independence in us since we were kids; however when we decide to walk with God we need to remember that He is our Shepherd, or to say it another way, that He is in control of our lives.
The problem is that to allow God to be the Shepherd does not come naturally to us and doesn’t happen instantly when we decide to start our walk with Him, this is a constant decision and battle that we will have to face throughout our lives. To know God as Shepherd, we have to surrender our life to Him – to be vulnerable and to let him rule all of our life, not just the parts that we don’t mind letting go of. To do that we have to identify who or what else we are allowing to have control in our lives.

My question to you is: Who is your Shepherd? Who is in control of your life? Below we will see what it means to have God as our Shepherd:

1)   He provides
Because the Lord is my Shepherd I will lack nothing. That means that what I need is God, and He will never be away from my life. God the Provider was understood as El Shaddai in the O.T. and the word Shad means breast - this helped the people to understand that just as a baby needs the mother’s milk to survive, in the same way we need the Shepherd to live, and what He says will come to pass in our lives.

2)   He gives rest
The Lord refreshes our souls, what a great blessing it is to know that He can do that! Are you tired or stressed? Do you need rest? What gives you rest at the moment? In this time of chaos we can either rest in the Lord or wrestle with Him – if we surrender to God then He will show us how to rest in Him and this rest with sustain and nourish us. Today we need to rest at His feet, that makes the whole difference.

3)   He leads
God wants to be our Leader; that is exactly what He said to the people when they asked for an earthly king. Today we might not have an earthly king with the same authority as in the past, but sometimes we allow so many other things to lead us (to influence what we should do, how we should behave and what we want to achieve). Remember that you are who God says you are, and you can be and do what He says.

4)   He guides
That means that the Lord walks amongst us and He wants to guide us to His right paths. That is exactly the image of the shepherd, and this closeness and intimacy is what the Lord is seeking to develop in His relationship with us.

5)   He comforts us
Comfort is not just a hug and an empty word of sympathy. To understand the kind of comfort that is being described here we need to know what a ‘rod’ and a ‘staff’ are. They can be the same thing, but here they are two distinct words, ‘rod’ meaning the wooden stick that David used when he took care of the sheep that belonged to his father. Remember that he used his rod to kill a lion and a bear (1 Sam 17.34-35). So, this shows us a comfort that guards against enemies.
In this text ‘Staff’ is a word that is more about the authority of God and this is reminder that God is in control of all things. So, David was comforted by God, because he knew that God would protect him from anything and everything, and through His authority, God would always be in control of his life. Would you like to be comforted by God?

Conclusion: God is calling you to know more of Him, would you like that? Let’s pray

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Connect Group – Study 09 – Psalm 85

Text: Psalm 85

Icebreaker: Have you ever created an expectation about something that was not even close to reality? Can you share it?

Scholars generally agree that this psalm was written after the Israelites were exiled in Babylon. They were returning to their land; however, things were not as they expected – things were far from what their “imagination’ led them to believe they would be.

There are 3 sections that we can see in this Psalm:

1.    Remembrance of God’s Mercies (85:1-3)
The psalm starts with a reminder which brings to the people’s memory their source of hope. The amazing truths about God and about what He has done for His people are summarised in verses 1-3. The author exalts the Lord for His favour, forgiveness, and pardon and for the withdrawal of the wrath which was a consequence of their sin. 

But with this remembrance two problems become apparent: Firstly, the people have a skyrocketing expectation of how life will be, which is based on a “romanticised past” and secondly they fall into an unthinking, automated thankfulness towards God, which leads them to take things for granted. – Both are complicated attitudes and if we fall into the same trap, both can be very dangerous for us. 

As a missiologist, I have seen many good people romanticising their home country or city of origin. With time away from it, they have forgotten what real life there was like, and have come to create a romanticised past that certainly doesn’t reflect the reality of how things are now and which maybe never did reflect reality.

 The other danger is that we put our lives on automatic pilot – we say the ‘right words’ or do the ‘right things’ but it is just an ‘automatic ritual’ that may not have much substance. Like the child who was asked to pray in the Sunday evening service and who ended up thanking God for the meal that he was about to eat instead! 
The problem is that if we approach God (or the end of a crisis) with these attitudes, then this phase of everything being good will be short and will lead us into a difficult time ahead.

2.    Disillusion with the Present Anger – Let’s blame others (or God) (85:4-7)
There is a turn-around here, almost like the introduction and the well learned verses had finished – and now the psalmist is saying ‘Let’s get real.’
A theologian says that this part of the psalm means: “Lord we have made such a mess of our life. God make us different.”

The major problem with becoming disillusioned is that we will tend to blame someone else for how we are feeling. It is rare that people will recognise that it was their EXPECTATION, or wrong assumptions, which took them to that place of disillusionment.   This leads to them blaming God and to them blaming other people around them.

The truth is that God changes people and God is working to change everything, but that is a process with us and within us. We have to recognise that God has no commitment to meet our expectations or to accept what we think He should do. I know that this may be difficult for us to accept, but that is the reality. God is God, His ways are perfect, His glory is Amazing and if we want the victory and amazing future that he offers to us, then we need to LISTEN to Him and to LEARN from Him.

3.    Listening to the Lord – the Key to a mature relationship (85:8-13)
Another change in direction – and with it, a key to understanding this psalm and to living our lives! Now it is possible to see a more mature reflection of a relationship with the Lord.

Let’s hear the Lord – that is the KEY. God is still speaking today, but some don’t listen. (Prayer is a two-way thing). Phil Meadows said “Prayer is a relationship and not an activity”.

To listen to the Lord is to have our interior nourished, our nature changed, and our lives restored to His will. And this process will lead us to have right expectations when the world changes or the crisis comes. It leads us to have hearts that are not hard, but that can be shaped and moulded by God’s influence, teaching and guidance as we journey through life with Him. 

In v.10 the author uses 4 key words “Mercy, truth, righteousness, and peace” – 4 spiritual characteristics of the Kingdom to come, of Jesus, and of treasures that can be found in the here and now by anyone who is willing to listen to and walk with God.

I remember when my son read Mark 16.1-8 and made a devotional (he was 10 years old). He came to 3 conclusions about the women in the story and about our lives. When we don’t listen, Jesus says to us that we:
a)    Spend money for nothing (they bought the spices?)
b)   We get concerned for nothing (they worried about who had rolled the stone away)
c)    We work and spend energy for nothing (they walked there unnecessarily).

Let’s listen and have the right expectation of the Lord in our lives. 

Conclusion: We can’t be too nostalgic about the past as this will lead us into a wrong expectation of the present and the future. Let’s pray and seek God in order to be changed and reshaped so that our hearts are not hard, but are soft and malleable enough for God to shape us for His purposes. 

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Jonathan Evan's eulogy to his mother Lois Evans

Lois Evans, the founder of Pastors’ Wives Ministry and wife of famed pastor and author Tony Evans, died on Dec. 30, 2019. (she is the mother of Priscilla Shirer).On Jan. 6, 2020, her family held a celebration of Lois Evans’ life and legacy, at which her son Jonathan delivered a sermon eulogizing his mother and expressing how he “wrestled with God” over her death.

"I was wrestling with God because I said, “If we have victory in Your name, didn’t You hear us when we were praying? Didn’t You see the cancer? … Didn’t You hear us? Why didn’t You do what we were asking of You?
“Because your Word says, ‘If we abide in You and Your Word abides in us we can ask whatever we will and it will be given to us’? Your Word tells us that if we ask according to Your will that You hear us.
“Your Word is telling us in Mark 11 that ‘if you pray believing you will receive.’ ‘To be anxious for nothing, but through prayer and supplication make your request known.’ Where are You?”
I was wrestling with God the last few days because “this was a great opportunity that we can tangibly see Your glory.
“Everybody was praying, not only in Dallas, but around the country and around the world. People were watching. Where are You? This was an opportunity to see Your glory.”
And as I was wrestling with God, He answered. And He said, “Number 1, You don’t understand the nature of My victory because just because I didn’t answer your prayer your way doesn’t mean that I haven’t already answered your prayer anyway.
“Because victory was already given to your mom. You don’t understand because of the victory that I have given you.
“There was always only two answers to your prayers—either she was going to be healed or she was going to be healed.
Either she was going to live or she was going to live. Either she was going to be with family or she was going to be with family.
Either she was going to be well taken care of or she was going to be well taken care of. Victory belongs to Me because of what I’ve already done for you.
The two answers to your prayer are yes and yes. Because victory belongs to Jesus.”
Then He said to me, “You need to understand that I am God and I am sovereign. And My game plan is bigger than any one player on the field.”
“So you need to trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on you, but lean on Me because I have the ability to make this crooked situation straight. I am the sovereign God. That’s why they say that I am that I am.
“As higher as the heavens are above the earth are My ways from your ways and My thoughts from your thoughts. We don’t think the same. P.S. Don’t tell me how to get my glory.”
And finally He just let me know, ‘I appreciate your prayers and your trust in Me, but the way that you are coming to Me now is a sense of entitlement like I owe you something.
“You can’t tell me what I’m supposed to do. I’m God. You can’t say, ‘Well it should’ve been this way.’
“You can’t tell me, ‘Well as much as she served you, You should’ve done it this way. As much as my dad has done in ministry and as much as we’ve done in ministry and how faithful this family is, it should be this way.’
“Don’t come to me with that entitlement. Because without My victory and what I have done all of You would be on the doorsteps of hell.
“I don’t owe you anything. You owe me everything.
“And I know that it was hard for you to sit there and watch your mom die, but don’t let that belittle the fact of how hard it was for Me to watch my Son die so she could live. So back up off me with your entitlement.
“There were always two answers to your question—yes and yes—because of My grace being sufficient.”
Thank You Lord.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Connect Group – Study 08 - Beyond a Story II

Connect Group – Study 08 - Beyond a Story II

TextGenesis 7:1-7

Icebreaker: Has anything changed since last week? How are things in your ark?

Last week we heard about 6 ideas that we can learn from the story of Noah’s Ark, and today we will be looking at 5 more points from this story which will help us to have a better life. So, let’s get started: 

7) For safety’s sake, travel in pairs.
We were not made to be alone! God reveals himself in community and relationship.  He made us to be in families and in communities. The fact is that if we try to live as an “oyster”, alone in our shell, we will never be fulfilled because God didn’t make us to be alone.

The Bible is full of references to the importance of sharing with one another in order to be healed (James 5.16: "Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.")
It says how powerful it is to pray with other people (Matthew 18.19: “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.)
It also tells us about the importance of meeting in a group to seek Him (Matthew 18.20 “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”). 

Would you like to have a safe and less stressful journey in life? 
Then don’t reject the people that the Lord gave you to walk with you, instead cherish those that God is using to take care of you. Don’t take it for granted!)
In our church (our ARK) you will only be alone if you don’t ask for help!

8) Speed isn’t always an advantage. The snails who travel at 0.047 km/h were on board with the cheetahs whose top speed is 93km/h or 70 mph.
We live in a society where speed becomes not just a skill, but a necessary quality. Many parts of our society are more concerned with quantity and speed than with quality. Even without realizing it, we absorb this desire for everything to be fast; “Fast food”, instant lifestyle, and wanting everything without waiting for it, has a become more and more normal and so we live life at speed but often overlook our need for quality. Sometimes this will even affect our relationship with our families and with God. 
Remember that quality is more important than speed in many areas of our lives. Would you like to have more quality in your relationships? 
Would you like time to STOP and think (or re-think your life)? Wait! That is exactly what most of us have right now, so enjoy and take that opportunity. 

9) When you’re stressed, float a while.
In Brazil we say: “Are you stressed? Go fishing!” 
The fact is that in the middle of our desert we need to create some “oasis” or a “place of refuge”. Jesus had His prayer time as an oasis in the middle of the chaos of His life and ministry. When you are tired or stressed, what do you do? How do you react? 
Learning to float is a necessity!  
God wants to help us; would you like His help? All you have to do is ask Him. 

10) Remember, the Ark was built by amateurs; the Titanic by professionals.
One of the marks of the 21st Century is ‘specialism’ or the rise of the ‘Specialist’; we love this word and will seek help from a specialist when we need something important. 
There is nothing wrong with that, but the problem begins when people prefer to listen to the “professionals” instead of listening to the Lord. Sometimes we prefer what others say, even though it is the opposite of what God says. 
Can you imagine if Noah had listened to the professionals of his time? – We wouldn’t be here because they tried to tell him that it would not rain! 
God wants to be part of your life and remember that He is never wrong. 
Would you like to listen to Him? All you have to do is tell Him that this is what you want and He will respond. 

11) No matter the storm, when you are with God, there’s always a Rainbow waiting…
Are you in the middle of a storm in your life today? Are things getting worse? 
Do you need some help to get out of the storm? 
Remember that the storm will pass…
With God the best is yet to come! Would you like His help in your life? 
He is inviting you to know Him better today. Would you like that? The next step is for you to accept His invitation. 
CONCLUSION:  Jesus doesn’t want you to miss the boat or anything else that He has for you. Your part is to accept Him and to be willing to have more of Him. Would you like to know and have more of God today? Let’s pray.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Connect Groups – Study 07 – Beyond a story I

Text: Genesis 7.1-7

Icebreaker: What do you think about the story of Noah’s ark? What do you think about a cell with 11 topics?

There is one certainty that we all have at the moment – we are living in unprecedented times! Things are different and nobody knows exactly what to do during this crisis. No one knows either, exactly how long this time will last. If someone told us 6 months ago that this is how the world would be now, we wouldn’t have believed it.
Today we will look at a story that happened long ago but that changed the world. In the middle of the crisis, Noah and his family were stuck in the ark for a long time and I am sure that we will learn from them how to cope with the lockdown, the crises we face, and how to have faith in God in the midst of it all. By the end of this time, I hope that you may even be glad of the people that you are sharing the ark (your house) with this time of the flood (lockdown):

1) Don’t miss the boat.
We have one life and it is very short, but eternity isn’t! Remember that Jesus is inviting everyone to get in the boat with Him and that it is the best choice that we can ever make.
When we face death and this international crisis, we need to remember that Jesus offers us a life beyond this life! Don’t miss the boat.

2) Remember that you are not alone in the boat.
This is a very important principle that many people ignore. In your job, family, church or community you are in the same boat as everyone else. My question is, what are we doing to make this time better for everyone? What are you doing to make your boat (house) a better a place to live? In this crisis remember that you will only win when other people win as well!

3) Plan ahead. It wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark.
I know that we were all caught by surprise by this coronavirus situation, but we can learn a lesson from our experience and start to be different from now.
You can decide that after this pandemic (and even in the middle of it) that you will start to plan ahead, to think about the future and especially to think about your future in eternity. Make a decision today that your life will be different, that you will start to discern, plan and execute what God has for you, and that you will not only react to circumstances – but act in and through them. To be ready for this, take the opportunity to be with God more during this time.

4) Stay fit. When you’re 600 years old, someone may ask you to do something really big.
The Bible says that we are a temple of the Holy Spirit - (1 Cor 6.19). I am not here to preach a magazine image of beauty to anyone, or an unhealthy diet, but we have one life and one body, and the message we are called to share can only be delivered for as long as the body is able to do so. So, let’s keep that in mind! Enjoy your time of exercise every day (especially in such times as these), and do not create a health problem by having unhealthy eating habits during this time. Take care of the body that God gave you, it is the only one that you have.

5) Don’t listen to criticism from people that are not with you; just get on with the job that needs to be done. 
We can and should listen to the constructive criticism that comes from people who are with us, or that are in a position of authority over us. But don’t base your life in, or try to react at any cost to, the criticism that comes from people who are not a good example, or who are not in a position of authority over you! You don’t need to be who others say you are, but who God says you are! This is the best for your life. Another important aspect during this time is to try not to be too occupied with social media! Not all the information there is helpful, truthful or worth spending your time on!

6) Build your future on solid ground.
Are you building your house (future) on the rock or on the sand? In Noah’s time many people were prospering and building their lives thinking that that was it; thinking that they were amazingly good, and nothing would or could go wrong. But they were wrong, and they even lost their lives because of that.
And what about us? Are we listening to the Lord and doing what He says, or building a nice life and not paying attention when He asks us to move to a boat? 
During this time many people are being faced with their decisions and lifestyles and they are realising that they were building their lives on the sand. Coronavirus came and is blowing away the sandcastle. However, there is still time for us to build our houses on the solid ground, on the rock, and be ready for whatever tomorrow brings.
Start today – Jesus wants to help you with this process because he cares about your life. 

CONCLUSION:  Through this first session, and through these 6 things we can learn from Noah and from his time of facing a world crisis!  Through his story, we are being challenged to reflect on our decisions and lifestyle choices!
Take the time to think about how you want your life to be from now on. What life do you want to build with God? How would you like society to be when this has passed, and what can you do to spread the good news to help this become a reality?

Connect Group 33 – Lord teach us how to pray

Icebreaker:  Think about a conversation that you have had recently with someone who you are close to – it could be a friend or a member of ...