Bible Devotions

Seven Laws of Spiritual Success



2010-04-21 – “Worship: True Language”



After some reflection, I’ve decided to pick up some key passages from our “Seven Laws of Spiritual Success” Course. The course is based on a book by the same title by well-known devotional author Selwyn Hughes, who in his late 70s with terminal cancer, decided that there was one more book in him and felt led to try and put into book form the irreducible minimum of habits or principles that a Christian should have in their lives.



Here are the Laws:

1. Put Worship of God First.

2. Learn to live with a Gratitude Attitude.

3. Push through and Persevere.

4. Learn to Forgive.

5. Make Service a Lifestyle.

6. Stay Close to God.

7. Cultivate your Soul.



The course has been well-received and we are on Law 6. The devotions will pick up a few verses on each of the laws.



Enjoy!

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“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks.” (John4:23)

Jesus spoke these words while in a discussion with the Samaritan Woman at Jacob’s Well near Sychar. There were all sorts of things wrong with the picture:

- She was a Samaritan (not a pure Jew)

- Samaritans worshipped on Mount Gerizim and not the temple on Mount Zion

- She had a poor moral track-record

- She didn’t fully understand all that Jesus was saying to her.



But Jesus answers the woman’s argumentative theological question (“Which mountain are we supposed to worship on anyway?”) with the statement that true worshippers will worship in spirit and in truth. The awesome implication is that this is an invitation very clearly indicating that as far as Jesus is concerned, the woman could be one of those worshippers!



Worship is the true language of the soul: It’s about responding to God at the most basic level and being completely real with Him.



By the end of the interview, the woman has acknowledged that she has no husband, that she has been cast aside by men and is currently in an abusive situation (the man she was with wouldn’t even give her his name) and she has aired her cynicism with regard to organised religion. She has questioned and challenged Jesus and His responses have opened her heart and touched her soul. Listen to what she says in v.29: “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?”



But the eloquent language of her worship is in v.28: She _left_ her water jar and went to call the people to _come_ and _see._ She had gone to fetch water during the hottest part of the day to avoid the crowds, now she was calling the crowds to taste and see that the Lord is good.

2010-04-22 – “Worship: Commanded”

3 “You shall have no other gods before me.

4 “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God (Exodus20:3-4)


There is only one logical response when we clearly see how great God is: worship.



The problem is that we are often blind and insensitive to God’s awesome and majestic holiness. We are blinded and dulled by our own brokenness and distracted and misled by the temptations and desires that clamour for our attention. Worst of all, we are so busy trying to be our own gods that we lose sight of the One True God.



In the midst of this God calls us, no, more than that, He commands us to worship Him.



Does that sound narcissistic? Does it seem that God’s ego might be excessive? Not at all. The commands are based on truth.

God is so big, so awesome, so incredible, so amazing, so perfect in love, so glorious in power, so majestic in grace and so holy in righteousness that we were to see it all clearly (and our brains didn’t explode at all the information) we would know that not to worship would be a tragic denial of the truth that is right in front of our noses.



To use a simple analogy: it’s like a child who says he doesn’t like ice-cream! We would probably conclude that the child has never tasted real ice-cream. It is almost a universal law that children love ice-cream. It would almost seem criminal for a child _not_ to like it!



It would be a denial of the patently obvious if we refused to love and worship the one, true and living God.



But there’s more: Worship is a built-in desire for us as humans. We want to offer our devotion, love and loyalty (that’s what worship is) to something and when we offer it to anything but the one true God, it will destroy us.


So God commands us worship Him:

- because it makes sense

- because it reminds us not to point our built-in need to worship in the wrong direction.

2010-04-23 – “Worship: Threatened by busy-ness”


39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”



41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

(Luke10:39-42)


Worship is good for us. When we come to true worship of the one and only glorious Creator-Shepherd-Risen-King, we are are re-aligned, strengthened, renewed and clarified.



Mary figured this out. She realised that being with Jesus accomplished more than hurrying and scurrying did. She was opened her heart (a time-taking process) to bask in the warmth and fullness of His presence. Jesus promised that this was a worthwhile investment.


Martha missed it. She was doing a noble thing – a gracious thing. The problem was not her cooking and preparing but her attitude. Have you ever had a chance to read the little book by Brother Lawrence entitled “The Practice of the Presence of God?” Lawrence was a cook in a monastery who learned to become aware of the presence of God wherever he was. He discovered that he could be as close to God when he was scrubbing pots as he was when kneeling in the chapel receiving communion.



Most of us will be unable to learn how to have an inner sense of the presence of God in the midst of the daily bustle of life unless we have learned to take time out and practice quieting body _and_ soul. The secret lies in realising that it is Him and not me. That I don’t measure my worth by what I do, but that worth is found in Him.



Selwyn Hughes notes a friend’s observation: “When I meet a Buddhist priest, for example, I meet a holy man. When I meet a Christian Leader, I meet a manager.” This is trying to find worth in service.



From other pictures in the gospels, we know that Mary could be industrious and active – she was not a glassy eyed mystic. She just knew when to drop busyness for quiet contemplation.

2010-04-28 – “Worship: Eccentric?”


28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (Matthew11:28-29)

Eugene Peterson writes an insightful passage about being eccentric in a Biblical sense of the word. The Greek prefix “Ecc” means “out of” or “out from.” Therefore to be “eccentric” is to be “out of the centre.”



His argument is that the further away we move from having God at the centre of our lives, the more unbalanced and unstable our lives become. Imagine a the bumpy ride we have when the axle is not in the centre of the wheel. The more we allow other things to take centre place in our lives, the less peace we will have.


Lives that stay stable and fulfilling in the long run are lives that have God at the centre. This is what true worship is all about:

1. To realise that there is no God but Him

2. To realise that life makes no sense if He is not on the throne.

3. To find our rest in Him



Fortunately for us, Jesus reveals the Father to us in a clear way – we don’t have to wonder what God is like. There is no lurking fear that God may be a self-serving tyrant who has been ultimately corrupted by ultimate power. God is perfectly revealed in Jesus and we know that God is love and that God is ultimately good.



And worthy of our worship…

2010-04-29 – “Gratitude: Remember His Benefits”


2 Praise the LORD, O my soul,

and forget not all his benefits–

3 who forgives all your sins

and heals all your diseases,


4 who redeems your life from the pit

and crowns you with love and compassion,

5 who satisfies your desires with good things

so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. (Psalms103:2-5)


Selwyn Hughes’ second law of Spiritual Success is about learning to cultivate a gratitude attitude. This overcomes the weeds of dissatisfaction and discontent that so easily take root in our souls (but more on this tomorrow)



A gratitude attitude is about counting blessings, seeing life as a gift and, ultimately, seeing beyond the gift to the Giver. Selwyn Hughes offers the lovely quote: “One of the worst moments for an atheist is when he feels thankful for some special blessing but has no-one to thank”!



In this Psalm David acknowledges that we easily forget God’s benefits. As we will see in tomorrow’s eDev, we are very easily prone to rampant dissatisfaction: an entitlement attitude. It takes ongoing re-focussing to stay on the gratitude track.



David gives us a very meaningful continuum of benefits:

- Forgiveness

- Redemption (salvation)

- Love and Compassion (New every morning according to Lamentations 3)

- The gift of blessings and good things that keep our hearts young




A Biblical gratitude attitude is a God-ward one. We are not simply grateful in a general sense, but grateful to the Giver because the abundance that we have learned to recognise in life speaks of the abundance of who He is.



Next week we will talk about being grateful in tough circumstances, but for now the focus is on the Giver.



May it be that we realise that “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:16

2010-04-30 – “Gratitude: Beware of Discontentment”


But godliness with contentment is great gain. (1Timothy6:6)

Discontentment is a dangerous offshoot from the path of Spiritual Growth. It all started in the Garden of Eden…



God gave Adam and Eve dominion over all the plants and animals. He gave Eve to Adam and all was good. There was one (one only!) tree they could not eat from.



Watch how cleverly Satan the tempter plants discontent in Eve’s heart:

“Did God really say, `You must not eat from _any_ tree in the garden’?”


(No, only one… but watch how Eve answers…)



`You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ”

(Eve starts with a truth but adds a lie. God said nothing about not touching it – Eve is falling into Satan’s trap that God is a rule-making fun-spoiler and freedom-thief)



“You will not surely die, for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

(Satan is saying “Poor you! God is holding out on you! You could be so much more than you are now!”)



And so Adam and Eve buy the lie. They were king and queen of all the earth, but lost all gratitude for what they had and who they were and became discontent, ever grasping for more.



Discontent says “I’m being done in, I deserve better, I should not have to put up with this.” When we give in to the temptations of discontent, we become our own gods, seeking our own fulfilment and satisfaction – even rebelling against our Maker and Provider.



Discontent leads to crankiness, greed, critical cynicism, hate, theft, violence and many other destructive behaviours.



Gratitude is the powerful antidote. Gratitude defuses discontent and puts the focus on God the Giver rather than me the Grasper.

Try it this weekend!

2010-05-04 – “Gratitude in Hardship”


16 Be joyful always; 17 pray continually; 18 give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

(1Thessalonians5:16-18)


These are verses that many people struggle with. It just does not seem possible to be happy at all times and grateful for everything. How can one be happy in bereavement or grateful for illness or infirmity?



The quick and absolutely true two-part answer is that joy is not the same as happiness and that we give thanks _in_ and not _for_ all circumstances.



While this quick answer is correct, it often feels artificial and superficial to those who find themselves in the midst of tough circumstances. If I have been diagnosed with a dreaded disease it is difficult to imagine joy or gratitude in the heat of such news. To talk about being grateful in and not for my illness can often feel like pointless hair-splitting when I am overwhelmed by the current onslaught of bad news.



But Paul is not a stranger to bad news and tough circumstances. His is not ivory tower writing: Paul has experienced beatings, storms, betrayals, setbacks and debilitating ongoing personal illness.



His hope, confidence and unquenchable joyful gratitude stem from three rock-solid theological truths:

1. God knows and understands what I am going through because Jesus has already been there and my suffering is not an unexpected anomaly but a way in which I share in the suffering of Christ.


2. Christ with us in our suffering and there is nothing (no thing!) that can separate us from His love.



3. The biggest picture is clear that my suffering will not have the last word!



It’s about embracing contentment instead of discontent.

(More on this tomorrow!)

2010-05-05 – “Gratitude: Contentment”


12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength. (Philippians4:11-13)

Today we assume contentment has to do with circumstances. Paul understands it as a mindset. Many of us operate from a perspective that says that we have a _right_ to a trouble-free life. When trouble comes, we feel cheated and discontent.



Paul says contentment is not circumstance-defined but a choice. Sometimes we will need Divine help to be at peace in tough circumstances and Paul is crystal clear that this help is available.



A lot depends on what we are looking for:

A king once sent out two servants to travel through his kingdom: one to find flowers and one to find weeds. One came back dejected, shoulders drooping and feet dragging: “Your majesty, your kingdom is infested with weeds.” The other came back with a smile on his face, wonder in his eyes and a sense of awe in his voice: “Your MAJESTY, your kingdom is just full of beautiful flowers!”




Trouble is certain to come our way and infirmity and weakness are realities we must deal with just as surely as each one of us gets older day by day. But Paul is adamant that contentment is found on bedrock more solid than our circumstances. That bedrock is the love of God and our relationship with him.



This bedrock of relationship with God enabled Paul and Silas to sing after being beaten and motivated Paul to write upbeat letters even when he was in prison.



Discontent focusses on what I don’t have when I believe that I deserve it. Contentment has discovered the bedrock of knowing God’s love.

2010-05-07 – “Gratitude: A song in your head”


17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians3:17)

Have you ever had a happy little song get stuck in your head? I had that kiddes song “When I remember that He died for me” a while ago. It can perk up your whole day.



Selwyn Hughes tells the story of a preacher who was well-known for an attitude of gratitude. One cold and miserable Sunday morning he arrived moments before the service started and was sopping wet due to the downpour outside. Being the punctual type he did not tarry to dry himself off, but went into the pulpit dripping wet and cold to start the service. In his opening prayer he started off praying “We thank You Lord…” and after a pause in which the congregation wondered what he could possibly find to give thanks for, he continued “… that not every morning is like this!”



It’s a funny story, but it reflects a desire to sincerely give thanks in all circumstances. It is about valuing what we have instead of pining over what we don’t have.


Hughes also tells of well-known financier and philanthropist Sir John Templeton who spends his first waking moments thinking of five new things for which he is grateful.



Steven Covey talks about an abundance mentality instead of scarcity mentality. Gratitude recognises that life is rich and full and we should recognise it.



The Old Testament has a song stuck in its head: David taught it to the people, Solomon knew it, it’s in four of the psalms and Jeremiah knew it too:

“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good.

His love endures forever.”



A gratitude-attitude points us toward God and underscores His goodness – When we learn to be grateful for all we have it is hard to doubt His goodness!

2010-05-11 – “Perseverance: Inspiration”


2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews12:2-3)

Selwyn Hughes tells the story of Sir Winston Churchill who was late at a graduation ceremony and arrived at the last moment. When asked to speak, he got up, glowered at the audience in his bulldog fashion and after a pause said “Never… give up.” After about 30 seconds he said “Never… never… give up!” and after an even longer pause he thundered “Never… never… NEVER… give up!” He then sat down while the audience gave him a standing ovation.




Perseverance is the third of Selwyn Hughes’ Seven Laws. It is about persisting in faith and finishing the work God has given us to do. It is about being courageous and determined for God’s Will and God’s Glory.



While people like Winston Churchill are great inspirations, our most significant example is Jesus Christ. He came into our world although He didn’t have to. He loved the broken and the wounded even when they failed Him. In John 17 He declared that He had completed the work that His Father had sent Him to do. In Gethsemane He submitted to the Father’s will even though He would have preferred to let the cup pass from Him.



He hung on the cross when He could have called ten thousand angels. He forgave those who had hurt and humiliated Him. Right at the end He gave up His spirit – not because He had finally been defeated, but because He chose to complete the work of being the sacrifice that would forgive our sins.



I remember seeing a very striking t-shirt on a body-builder that had a picture of the Christ on the cross with the marks of the scourging and the crown of thorns. The caption to the picture was “Can you bench-press this?”

Enough said: Jesus is the ultimate hero and we can be inspired by Him.

2010-05-12 – “Perseverance: Clarity”


1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (Hebrews12:1)

If it were easy, it would not be called perseverance!



When trouble comes and we need to “hang in there” and “stick it out” and “keep going” we struggle to persevere. The writer to the Hebrews gives two main reasons:


- we lack clarity and vision on the race

- we are encumbered or entangled as we try to run.



Today we’ll talk about clarity…



When he refers to the “great cloud of witnesses”, the author is pointing back to ch.11 where he has listed some of the well-known Biblical characters like Abraham, Moses, David and the prophets of old. He has recounted their perseverance and God’s faithfulness. In effect he is saying: “We have a wonderfully rich heritage of faith – we have seen how God answered their prayers and delivered them. The baton is in our hands. We must run with it.



How did you come to faith? Who passed faith on to you? Think about the 2000 years of church history that brings you to this place where the message came through generations and generations of fallible but faithful people just to get to you. Who brought you to Christ? And who brought them to Christ? And who brought them?? God has guided and managed HIS-story and His people so that you could be in the race – so why lose heart?

2010-05-13 – “Perseverance: Vision”


1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (Hebrews12:1)

The writer to the Hebrews identified the following obstacles to perseverance:

- we lack clarity and vision on the race

- we are encumbered or entangled as we try to run.


Yesterday we considered the clarity of the heritage of faith that has been passed on to us. We are surrounded by witnesses who bear testimony to the faithfulness of God. In the race of life there is a chain of historical events that lead to the faith being passed on as a baton to you and me.



But more than clarity, we need vision. There is a race marked out for us. Our faith is not a historical backward-looking faith, but a faith that is passed from the past into the present and takes us into the future. Many people do not persevere because they don’t have an idea of how God wants to use them in the future!



There is a race for us to run, a purpose for us to fulfill. Some will run a sprint, others a marathon, others will run an obstacle course and others will have hurdles to leap over.



But know this: God has chosen a race that is suited to your gifts, talents and circumstances. He has equipped you for the piece of road you are to run and He has full confidence in you and will empower you for the task by giving you the Holy Spirit.



You may ask: “But what is my race?” God will make this clear to you if you are open and receptive. Here are some guidelines:

1. Make sure you are willing to go where God leads. Busy-ness is an enemy here.

2. If you think you have an idea of what God wants you to do, start taking small steps in that direction. If it is God’s direction, you will feel it.

3. Check with spiritually mature people who know you well.

4. Don’t be discouraged by opposition.

5. Keep listening to the promptings of God in the quiet of your soul.



Running God’s race instead of the rat race is the most exciting and fulfilling thing you can do with your life – so get your vision clear!

2010-05-14 – “Perseverance: Hindrances”


1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (Hebrews12:1)

A couple of years ago I rode in a bike race in Grahamstown – it was very cold and looked drizzly and so I decided to wear a raincoat. About 10km into the race the weather changed for the better (Grahamstown can have four seasons in one day) and the raincoat was flapping, causing a lot of drag and cooking me. Fortunately I recognised one of the marshals along the road and so I tossed the raincoat to him and rode the rest of the race unencumbered.



Even good things can be hindrances in the race.



There are many folk in God’s race who are hampered and hindered by too much stuff, too full a programme, too many competing priorities and too many voices they listen too. We need to keep things as simple as possible recognising that we are attracted to complexity but that it is seldom efficient. It is better for us to do a few things well than many things badly. It’s better to have a small team of trusted coaches (the Holy Spirit and one or two reliable mentors) than to be listening to every voice and every opinion. Sometimes less is more.



On the other hand, a runner can fall out of a marathon because he did not eat all the carbs and proteins his body needed to sustain the effort. Similarly many of us are trying to run the race of life without sufficient soul sustenance. This lack of the basics will hinder our race.



What’s hindering your race for God’s glory in your life? Remember that a hindrance can be too much or too little of something, and that a hindrance isn’t necessarily intrinsically bad – even good things can hinder us as we run for God’s glory in our lives.



We will need to take a careful and fearless inventory…

2010-05-18 – “Perseverance: Entanglements”


1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (Hebrews12:1)

On Friday we spoke about hindrances in the race. We finish our section on perseverance off with a sober warning about entanglements. An entanglement does not only slow us down or tire us out – it will ultimately trip us up. Sin distracts, entangles and ensnares us and the Greek word used by the writer implies all three.



But there are multiple dimensions to this.

Some of us are being distracted or tempted (the sin is still in the future)

Some of us are caught up in the sin (the sin is in the present)

Some of us are guilt-ridden and paralysed after being tripped up (the sin is in the past)



If it is in the future we need to try to look toward Christ. In the sermon at Grace on Sunday Craig alluded to Dallas Willard who speaks about moving from the idea of “the cost of discipleship” to the idea of the “the cost of non-discipleship.” If you give in to the temptation, what’s the cost of the entanglement going to be? Is the stumble, the fall and the lost ground worth it? I would rather hear the Master say: “Well done, well run, good and faithful servant!”



If it is sin-in-the-present we have a tough challenge. Entanglements need pruning – we had a creeper that was strangling the tree it had climbed into because we had not kept it on the wall. The only thing to be done was to ruthlessly cut the thick stems that had once been fine tendrils. The longer we delay, the thicker the entangling vines become. We have to deal with sin in our lives – if we do it soon it’s easy – wait too long and you need heavy duty shears.



Some of us are struggling to go forward because we have stumbled and have led ourselves to believe that we are out of the race. Once we have dealt with our sin in true and sincere repentance, then guilt is a useless emotion. Either the blood of Christ is expensive enough and effective enough to wash away our sin or it is not! If we say not, then we are placing our opinion higher than that of the One who will judge the world. And that does not make sense.

It’s time to get back in the race!!!


And never… never…. never….. give up!

2010-05-19 – “Forgiveness: Remember to Forget”


He who covers over an offence promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.” (Proverbs 17:9)

“A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offence.” (Proverbs19:11)


Selwyn Hughes wrote this in his “Seven Laws of Spiritual Success”:

It is another law of life, I believe, that spiritual health and success depend on our ability to forget the hurts and injuries that others have given us – not to have them erased from memory, but to deal with them in such a way that we are not emotionally overwhelmed by them. (p.91)



Forgiveness is about covering over an offence. Many people say: “I can forgive, but I can’t forget.” They think that forgiveness requires amnesia and they can’t seem to blank the painful event from memory.



The biblical take on forgiveness is that we cover over an offence.



Two illustrations may help:

When a child writes graffiti on a wall a parent may paint the wall again, but the writing may shine through and so another coat of paint may have to be painted over when the first coat has dried. This will have to be repeated until the writing doesn’t shine through…


When Noah came out of the ark, he planted a vineyard and one afternoon overindulged in the fermented fruit of his labours. He collapsed in an indecent state and one of his sons took great delight in his dad’s humiliation and enjoyed telling his two brothers about it.

They handled the matter very graciously and respectfully. They walked into the tent backwards, not looking at their dad and draped a blanket over him.



When we are hurt, wronged, offended or betrayed by another, it is very tempting to nurture the pain and carry it with us, so that whenever we remember the event we feel the heartache, anger and pain all over again.

BUT…

remembering to forget means we must paint over it, or cover over it until we can remember without pain.

2010-05-20 – “Forgiveness: The Power to Forgive”


(A longer but important eDev today…)



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. (Romans8:28)


Where does the power and the strength to forgive come from?



One of the best Biblical frameworks for understanding forgiveness comes from the life of Joseph. If there was anyone in a position to be resentful and bitter it was Joseph:


- Failed by a father who spoilt him and caused his brothers to hate him.

- Betrayed by his brothers and sold into slavery

- Treated badly and framed by Potiphar’s wife

- Forgotten by the wine-steward who he had helped in prison

- Years of his prime-time life wasted in slavery and jail.



But Joseph does not display the scarcity mentality that is so often present in those who are weighed down with bitter grudges and deep-seated resentment. Two events illustrate this:



- At the birth of his first-born, he he names him Manasseh, which means: “God has made me forget. (Gen41:51)



- When their father Jacob dies, his brother’s fear that the “proverbial hammer” would now come down and the day of reckoning would come, but Joseph gets his brothers together and says: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good.” (Gen 50:20)



Joseph found the power to forgive because he trusted that God was at work in the bigger picture:



1. We was willing to let go of pain in order to count his blessings. Many of us, when we are hurt, close our hearts to the good that is still there and our pain becomes our idol. Joseph did not try to hide his pain, he acknowledged there had been pain, but he was allowing God to heal it, one sunrise, one blessing, one child-birth at a time.



2. Joseph was willing to leave vengeance to God.* He trusts that God has worked in their hearts. He trusts God to right the scales and does not enter into the petty destructive cycle of revenge.




3. Joseph is certain that God could bring good out of evil. He was certain that human evil was not a show-stopper to God.



Centuries later, Paul would speak with the same conviction. The power to forgive and overcome tragedy, darkness and betrayal is to trust in a the goodness of God who specialises in transformation: bringing the sunrise after a dark night, spring after winter, and Resurrection Sunday after Crucifixion Friday.



Our power to forgive comes from the big picture that God is ultimately in charge and that He is ultimately good! An unforgiving spirit is ultimately a lack of belief in the transforming power of God.

——————————————————–

*Some have interpreted the game Jospeh played by not revealing his identity to his brothers, “framing” Benjamin with the cup in his saddlebag and pretending to arrest him as an attempt to “get even” with his brothers, but it is clear that his real interest is in whether their hearts had changed and whether he could trust them again.

2010-05-21 – “Forgiveness: What UNforgiveness is.”


“Then the master called the servant in. `You wicked servant,’ he said, `I cancelled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

(Matthew18:32-34)


One of the most powerful definitions of unforgiveness I have ever heard goes like this: “Unforgiveness is me drinking the poison and hoping that the person I am angry with will die.”




Think about it for a moment… There are people we are still mad and resentful at who don’t even know it – they may already be dead (and not even at our hand!) – and we still harbour all sorts of hate, hurt and unforgiveness in our hearts. Who’s getting hurt? Not them, but us.



Jesus tells a hard-hitting parable of a servant who owed his master an obscene amount of money and was pardoned and then refused to pardon a fellow servant who owed him a teeny tiny amount.



The master hands him over to the “torturers.” Selwyn Hughes and many modern psychologists make a big deal over the havoc unforgiveness can cause in our lives. When our souls are burdened with the baggage of past hurts and resentments, it leads to:

- Destructive behaviour

- Diminished mental and physical health

- Anguish (or Obliviousness) for the one we are not forgiving!

- A warped perspective of God



When we refuse to let go of past hurts, we find ourselves in the hands of the “torturers.”



Is there festering rage, an inexplicably poor self-image, a sense of the world being grainy monochrome instead of colour, a constant sense of tiredness or a lingering sadness in your life?

Maybe you need to let someone go – maybe you need to release a past hurt – you may be in the hands of the torturer – maybe you need to forgive.



The worst is when we are drinking the poison of unforgiveness against ourselves…




It’s time to stop the poison drinking – it’s time to escape the torturer. Next week we’ll look at how.

2010-05-25 – “Forgiveness: An imperative”


Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Colossians3:13)

When I was in primary school, one of the secretaries had a coffee mug that read “I don’t get mad – I just get even!” ((Too) many years down the line I still remember it.) Modern society regards vengeance as a right and rage as something we are entitled too.



From God’s perspective forgiveness is not optional. It is an instruction and a command. We MUST forgive. It is a Spiritual Law. We can not and may not reserve the right to withhold forgiveness or take vengeance.



Why?



1. Because we are unjust people – we will never balance the scales. Our vengeance is usually over the top and we trigger off endless cycles of downward spiralling violence.



Some people quote the Old Testament eye-for-an-eye principle as a justification of vengeance, but they miss the bigger picture. In ancient culture in a scenario where I had a fight with someone and he broke ONE of my teeth, I would go and get my brothers and we would break TWO of his teeth, and then he would get his brothers…


The eye-for-an-eye principle was just the start of limiting the cycles of violence. The Old and New Testaments move us toward a better principle: “Vengeance is mine” says the Lord. He alone can balance the scales with true justice.



2. Because we have a deep well of forgiven-ness (more on this tomorrow)



3. Matthew (6:15) says: “But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” The degree to which we harbour resentment and unforgiveness in our hearts has an impact on our experience of forgiveness (the poison principle we spoke about previously) More on this in the next few days…



4. It’s what Jesus did: “Father forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.”



So, forgiveness is not optional – we are not making a big concession when we forgive – we’re just doing what is required.

2010-05-26 – “Forgiveness: Forgiven-ness”


When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having cancelled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. (Colossians2:13-14)

Here’s a basic, fundamental principle underlying the law of forgiveness: Our capacity to forgive deepens as we understand that we are forgiven.



Selwyn Hughes writes at length about how a deep sense of being forgiven has been central to his relationship with God. When he was a young boy he would stand up whenever the pastor asked if anyone had anything to share and he would say “I’m forgiven” and then sit down.




A couple of hundred years ago an English gentlemen played a prank on five of his friends. He sent them anonymous letters saying: “All is found out – all is revealed.” All five left the country. Guilt weighs heavily on all of us.



Christ went to the cross to forgive us.

Not for our good points, good looks or multitude of talents.

He went to the cross for our sin: that dark, horrible store of deception, self-centredness, hatred, arrogance and shame that lives in each of us.



He dealt with it decisively. It will never come back to haunt us.



In his book on the Seven Laws Selwyn Hughes, now in his eighties, wrote: “Tears are flowing down my face now as I write. To be forgiven by God and to be reconciled to Him through His Son Jesus Christ is the most glorious thing that can happen to anyone.”



Our capacity to forgive deepens as we understand that we are forgiven.

If we find it hard to forgive, we may not understand how much we are forgiven!

2010-05-28 – “Forgiveness: As we forgive”

Forgive us our debts,

as we also have forgiven our debtors.

(Matthew6:12 )


Here’s a profoundly uncomfortable truth and principle:

Our experience of being forgiven by God and our track-record with regard to forgiving others are linked.



It always remains true that Christ’s death is sufficient to forgive all sins. There is no question about His ability to forgive and wash away our sins. Jesus died to pay the price of your and my sin, past, present and future.



But what good is a gift of a billion rand if it is in my bank account and I never withdraw a cent?



If I have a deep sense of forgiven-ness, it is a deep well that I can draw from and I can offer some of that living water to those around me. If I am unwilling or unable to forgive, then the implication is that my well has a locked lid on it and even I can’t drink from it.



Understand the principle: we don’t forgive others to earn forgiveness – that would be the cart before the horse – we forgive others because we ourselves have been forgiven.



This is the point of the parable about the slave who was pardoned a huge debt by the king and was thrown into prison when he would not forgive a tiny debt incurred by another slave.




If we are UNABLE to forgive, it is because we have not completely understood how great a debt God has released us from.

If we are UNWILLING to forgive, it is because we have hardened our hearts to the reality of our own sin and the grace that sets us free.



In short, complete forgiveness is available to us in Christ, but if we have not fully embraced and connected to that forgiveness it manifests in us being unwilling or unable to forgive. Not forgiving others is a _symptom_ of not connecting to and experiencing God’s forgiveness.

2010-06-01 – “Forgiveness: And now it’s time….”


“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke6:37-38)

Do you have a scarcity or an abundance mentality?



People with scarcity-mentality see everything as a finite resource,

- the glass is on its way to being empty,

- they are afraid for the future,

- they fear that there will never be enough,

- have a cynical perspective on life,


- pain and resentment is their god

- and they find it hard to forgive.



Verse 37 describes the symptoms clearly:

- They are judgemental

- Quick to condemn

- Slow to forgive and uncertain of their forgiven-ness.



People with an abundance-mentality see a world brimming with opportunities because they are convinced that God is good,

- their glass is on its way to being filled,

- they are optimistic for the future,

- and trust in today’s blessings as hope for tomorrow’s provision

- and are able to forgive because they have a deep and abiding sense of being forgiven.



Which are you?



—————————————————–


We’ve talked about forgiveness, we’d explored the foundations, the walls and the roof of forgiveness – now it’s time to move into the house.



It’s time to forgive.



But how??

1.Own your own forgiveness. Draw deep on the well of your forgiven-ness – think of Jesus forgiving you while hanging on the cross – Hear Him say “Father forgive…” and “It is finished.”



2.Make a decision to let it go!

- Remember that God will sort out the justice side of it.

- Speak it out! (This is Behaviour Modification.) Whether you tell the person that you forgive them, speak it out in prayer or write it in your journal, the point is you need to make a statement of forgiveness.

- Remember forgiveness does not make something all-right, it is just letting go. (Remember God deals with the justice side…)

Ask God to help you remember without pain.



3.If the memory hurts, go back to step 2. (Remembering without pain)

Deal with any lingering resentments.



4.Wish the person well. You don’t have to be their buddy, you’re simply relinquishing the blood-lust of vengeance.


————————————————–

Forgiveness is one of the hardest yet most-important things we can do.



The choice is yours:

You can:

- walk around with festering resentment toward people who don’t know,

- live with unresolved rage toward people who may even be dead already

- or harbour bitter condemnation toward yourself for past failures.



Alternatively you can GET FREE by letting it go. Read back over the last 6 eDevs, get your head around it and fill your heart with forgiven-ness and just do it!



Now is the time.

2010-06-03 – “Service: Give as God gives”


But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God,


slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. (Psalms86:15)


The Fifth of the Spiritual Laws is “Service” (“Giving yourself to Others”)



Selwyn Hughes describes his own journey into a new paradigm – a “Spiritual Revolution.” It all began when he was reading a theological book on the Trinity by DB Knox.



These two sentences grabbed his attention:

“We learn from the Trinity that relationship is the essence of reality and therefore the essence of our existence, and we also learn that the way this relationship should be expressed is by concern for others. Within the Trinity itself there is a concern by the persons of the Trinity for one another.”



The nature of God is to share, care, and give.



Granville Morgan, the much-loved Welsh Minister who served at St Columbas Presby Church in Parkview for many years, once said:

“God’s favourite word is AND. He made trees _and_ flowers, elephants _and_ kangeroos, planets _and_ stars, you _and_ me.”



All the bounty of creation is testimony of God’s extraordinary and extravagant (in the best sense of the word) generosity.



Created in His image, we reach our fullest created potential when we are generous and serve others. Being loved by God and created in His image, we are impelled to serve others and all the more so when we are confronted by the staggering example of Christ’s earthly life of generosity and sacrifice, succinctly wrapped up in his own mission statement “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)




We give and share because that’s what God does!

2010-06-04 – “Service: What is love?”


7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (1John4:7-10)

If God is love and we, in His image, are called to love and serve our neighbours, then what is love?



Selwyn Hughes offers some definitions:

* Bringing out the highest good in another person.

* Love is the only service that power cannot command and money cannot buy.

* Love is always open arms. If you close your arms about love, you’ll find you are left holding yourself.

* To love is to be vulnerable.



John’s definition of love is simple: When God saw our need, He took the initiative. Jesus came into our circumstances, He paid the price, He shed His blood.


Love is when we

1. take the initiative,

2. step into the situation

3. and give of ourselves.



Although this looks simple – it is actually very profound.



The enemies of love are fear and self-centredness.



And the more we reach out in love, the more these get pushed aside. A little later in the same chapter John writes: ” 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear”



May we begin to practice this kind of love.



2010-06-08 – “Service: Jesus did it”


26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave– 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew20:26-28)

This text is Christ’s Mission Statement:


“To serve and give my life as a Ransom.”



All His life was prayer and love.



He gave Himself generously:

- Sacrificed the glory and perfection of heaven for the brokenness of earth.



- Put omnipotence in the background to embrace our frailty.



- Tasted poverty and simplicity, working for a living. (Can you imagine the Creator of Heaven and Earth, making furniture to put food on the table?)



- Once His public ministry began, He sacrificed privacy and “me time” for the sake of the needy masses. (Even the disciples disturbed His prayer times.)



- Healed others even though energy would leave Him when He did. (See the account of the woman who touched the hem of His garment.)



- Walked, Worked and Taught to the point that it left Him tired. (See Him sit down at the well in Samaria, “tired as He was.”)


- See Him washing the feet of disciples who were arguing about who was greatest, and this after three years of being with Jesus!



- He wrestled with His destiny at the cross and accepted it, even the the enormity of it weighed very very heavily on Him. (Describing His state of mind to the disciples in Matt26:38 He says:”My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death…”)



- He endured the cross and all of hell for us



- Even after His intercession He continues to serve us, because the writer to the Hebrews reminds us that He makes intercession for us. (Heb7:25)



In His letter to the Philippians, Paul quotes what many scholars believe to be an early Christian hymn:

2:6 [Jesus] who, being in very nature God,

did not consider equality with God

something to be grasped,

7 but made himself nothing,

taking the very nature of a servant,

being made in human likeness.


8 And being found in appearance as a man,

he humbled himself

and became obedient to death — even death on a cross!



If Jesus lived a life of service and He is God’s Son, what excuse do we have not to serve?

2010-06-10 – “Service: Discombobulate Them!”


If your enemy is hungry, feed him;

if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.

In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head. (Romans12:20)


Have you ever been discombobulated?


I’m not making things up – it is a real word.

It means “To throw into a state of confusion; to befuddle or perplex.”



Many Christians have discovered how a genuine, loving and sincere act of service can discombobulate people. It shakes their presuppositions, breaks down their defence-mechanisms and opens their hearts.



Paul is quoting Proverbs here and, as far as the burning coals go, Proverbs is probably making reference to an old Egyptian ritual which the NIV Study Bible describes as follows: “A guilty person, as a sign of his repentance, carried a basin of glowing coals on his head. The meaning here, then, would be that in returning good for evil and so being kind to your enemy, you may cause him to repent or change.”



I picked up two stories that illustrate this.

A church group went from store to store volunteering to clean up their staff toilets. At one shop the manageress was aggressive and suspicious. When she saw how well they worked and realised that there were no hidden strings attached, she told the pastor of the brokenness and waywardness of her life and then with a quivering lip she asked “would there be place in your church for someone like me?”



Another church offered free car-washes to the community, but they did not get many folk coming because people suspected that there was some kind of catch. So the next time, the church advertised a “One Dollar Car wash” and this seemed to allay suspicions and soon there was a long queue of cars to be washed. When customers brought their cars to be washed, they were met by cheerful people with big smiles and warm welcomes and the car was well washed. You can imagine the speechless surprise for customers then, when the car had been washed, the church folk GAVE them a dollar and wished them a safe trip and a blessed day.



Service discombobulates people.

It breaks down the stereotypes of hypocritical Christians and creates a willingness to receive the message. So, after we have preached with our actions, we may just get to preach with our words too.





2010-07-13 – “Quick Review”


5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart

and lean not on your own understanding;

6 in all your ways acknowledge him,

and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs3:5-6)


The Soccer World Cup is over: it’s back to school, back to traffic and back to the routines after six weeks of a very different vibe here in South Africa. We need to give thanks to God for His hand over our land and pray that the good work He has begun will be completed in us! May He make our paths straight as we trust in Him!



We’re going to get back into Selwyn Hughes’ “Seven Laws” as we still have two laws to go, but before we get into them, let’s look back at the ground we’ve covered so far.



Here are the first five laws with a one sentence summary and a relevant verse.



1.The Primacy of Worship:

Recognise that living for God’s honour is the only goal that is really worth pursuing.

“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” (John 14:23f)




2.Making Gratitude a Habit

A “Gratitude Attitude” puts our eyes on the Giver of the gifts and keeps us from cynicism and depression.

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Col.3:17)



3.Perseverance

Trouble and hardship are not an exception to the rule – we were told to expect trouble – we need to rely on God and push through trouble.

“Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Heb.12:3)



4.The Art of Forgiveness

Are you eating poison and hoping the person you’re mad at will die? Let it go!

“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Col.3:13)



5.Give yourself to Others.

Service is the very nature of the Trinity – As Jesus washed feet, so must we.

“Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave– just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matt.20:25-28)


Tomorrow we go on to Daily Repentance and Renewal.

2010-07-14 – “Renwal: It’s Daily”


22 Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,

for his compassions never fail.

23 They are new every morning;

great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations3:22-23)


The sixth of Selwyn Hughes Spiritual Laws (as sure as gravity) is all about daily renewal. Although the Law itself is pretty obvious, I find that all of us neglect this law in practice.



Our walk with God is a relationship.

Many of us think that we give our hearts to Jesus once and we repent once and then its all a done deal. But our walk with God is a daily returning to Him.



Whether I like it or not, a sincere relationship with God will involve recognising every day that I have drifted away from Him and need to return to Him in ongoing repentance.




Many people don’t like the idea of coming back to God “cap in hand” all the time, but our verse for the day puts a new angle on it. God’s mercies are always way ahead of us. We can’t catch God empty-handed of mercy and compassion. We can’t surprise Him with more brokenness than He is able to heal.



His loving-kindness and compassion are new every day – we are not coming “cap in hand” before a tyrant with a scarcity mentality. We can come to a God who daily offers more than we could ever need!



That kind of makes you want to run to Him doesn’t it? :-)

2010-07-15 – “Renewal: Deliberate Dependence”


Be appalled at this, O heavens, and shudder with great horror,

My people have committed two sins:

They have forsaken me, the spring of living water,

and have dug their own cisterns,

broken cisterns that cannot hold water. (Jeremiah.2:12-13)


Jeremiah summarised the stubborn independence of the sinful Israel with a powerful image: On the one hand a spring of Living Water and on the other a self-dug defunct cistern. (A cistern was a hole dug in the ground and lined with clay that would hold rainwater)




Jesus described what a God-connected life could look like in John 7:

“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive.”



Imagine the contrast between that life-giving stream and the stagnant puddles one might find in a broken cistern. (Come on! Stop! Don’t read any more until you’ve imagined it!) Stream vs Stagnant Puddle!



Spiritually speaking – this is true for many of us – we’re trying to live on past spiritual experiences – making excuses of busy-ness and stress and so we ignore the Living Stream of the Holy Spirit’s still small voice and try to cope on cistern water.



Why do we do this?

Maybe I’m speaking for myself, but I think there are two big factors:



1. We’re chicken! We’re scared that the Still Small Voice is going to challenge us out of our comfort zones!



2. We are rebelliously independent – we want to be in charge. Going to the Stream means we do it on His terms not ours. And so we drink cistern water in the ultimate act of cutting off our noses to spite our faces.



Maybe its time for some deliberate dependence: I won’t take another step into this day without taking a drink from the Stream.

2010-07-16 – “Renewal: A Soul Quake”


1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple



5 “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”



8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”

And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isaiah6:1-8)


Selwyn Hughes quotes John White in this chapter:

“It is a terrible thing to live as a Christian and yet to live independently of the life offered to us in Christ, to relegate God to irrelevance.”



Craig Groeschel (now the pastor of one of the most dynamic church movements in the world) wrote a whole book about discovering that he was living as a “Christian Atheist.” He called himself a Christian and worked as a pastor but he was functionally an atheist. Fortunately things have changed in his life.



Selwyn Hughes says that we need an “earthquake of the soul”


It happened to Isaiah:

Disillusioned and frightened by the Socio-Political situation of the day, he went to the temple and got much more than he bargained for:



1. A God who was bigger, holier and closer than his preconceptions. The God he met in the temple was on the throne, was attended by angelic powers and emanated glorious dazzling awe-inspiring Holiness: Pure unadulterated goodness.



2. Isaiah recognised his own smallness. He realised the inadequacy of his own schemes, credentials and plans. He was struck with his failure to come close to what God had made him to be and his complicity in the brokenness of society.



3. He made himself whole-heartedly available to do God’s work.



Unusually this “call” of Isaiah does not come in ch.1 but ch.6 and while it may be retrospective, it does give one a feel that maybe this is not a once-off but an ongoing thing.



His soul-quake(s) gave the Old Testament some of the most beautiful promises.



Quake-proof buildings are a good thing – quake-proof souls are not.

Hope you have a soul-quake sometime this weekend!

2010-07-21 – “Renewal: What needs to be done.”


1 Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God.

Your sins have been your downfall!

2 Take words with you

and return to the LORD.

Say to him:

“Forgive all our sins

and receive us graciously,

that we may offer the fruit of our lips.

3 Assyria cannot save us;


we will not mount war-horses.

We will never again say `Our gods’

to what our own hands have made,

for in you the fatherless find compassion. (Hosea14:1-3)


We’ve talked about daily renewal:

- God’s mercy is new every morning – It’s abundant grace!

- It’s about realising that we can’t dig our own wells. (Broken cisterns)

- It’s a soul-quake where we recognise the shaky ground of self and the solid ground of faith.



Repentance is simply a description of what going back to Him is like.

Many of us go through Regret, Remorse and Reformation (we realise we’re in trouble, we’re sorry about it and we try to put it right) but that is not repentance. (None of these take us back to God)



Repentance (or Renewal) is about going back to God.


The goal of repentance is to get back to God and nothing short of that will satisfy.



If we repent because we have lost inner peace or have a sense of guilt, then we have not really repented. Repentance is about being close to God. If we don’t go for that, we will dig our own wells.



So what does Hosea say:

1. We go to God – conscious of our sin.



2.“Take Words…” No fumbling on the issue – call a spade a spade

- I failed to trust God with my longings

- I failed to believe that He loves me

- I failed to see the value He gives my life.



3.We acknowledge that no-one else can save else

- Not Assyria

- Not Horses

- Not other powers

- The fatherless (powerless) find compassion in You




4. Offer the fruit of your lips – praise.



Let’s sum it up:

Renewal (repentance) is a daily (sometimes hourly!) prayer that is offered in sincere faith and sounds something like this:



“Lord, I need YOU, because my life is like a broken cistern that holds no fresh water, only You can save me, and I give myself to You again. Thank You that I am forgiven and loved. So here am I – send me.”

2010-07-22 – “Soulcare: It’s vital”


O God, you are my God,

earnestly I seek you;

my soul thirsts for you,

my body longs for you,


in a dry and weary land

where there is no water. (Psalms63:1)


This is Selwyn Hughes’ Seventh Law and like Stephen Covey’s Seventh Habit (“Sharpen the Saw”) this one takes us inward again. An analogy that works for me is that the first six laws are like ripples in a pond spreading outward and the seventh law throws a stone back into the middle so that the ripples can start again!



Henry Drummond described the soul as the “chamber with elastic and contractile walls, which can be expanded with God as its guest, illimitably but which without God shrinks and shrivels until every vestige of the Divine is gone and God’s image is left without God’s Spirit.”



Many of us started a journey with God, but because we have not learned the art of Soul-Care, the hurly-burly of life has squeezed God’s influence out of our souls and we have been overcome with the noise and chaos of life…



Soulcare is about making space and time where we can open our souls to God again so that He may whisper into our spirits, strengthen our character, galvanise our convictions, nourish our self-images, love our inner-child and heal our brokenness.



His tools are Truth (His Word), surrender (Prayer and Confession), Stillness (Time out) and the “still small voice” of His Spirit.



Selwyn Hughes says this: “The soul is renewed in daily contact with God. Neglect this and the result will be emptiness of the soul. The soul needs time with God it if is to develop and grow. Those Christians who say they are too busy to spend time with God in prayer and meditation will find that this neglect of the soul will have serious repercussions in their lives…

For years now, a conviction has been growing in my heart that the Christian life rises and falls at the point of the devotional.”


(More to come in the next few days…)

2010-07-23 – “Soulcare: BagPipe Heart”


This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says:

“In repentance and rest is your salvation,

in quietness and trust is your strength,

but you would have none of it.

16 You said, `No, we will flee on horses.’

Therefore you will flee!

You said, `We will ride off on swift horses.’


Therefore your pursuers will be swift! (Isaiah30:15-16)


A valued friend responded to my eDev yesterday…

Picking up on Henry Drummond’s quote of the heart being an elastic chamber that expands with God in it or shrinks without Him, my friend suggested that we have the choice between being vuvuzelas or bagpipes. The key difference is not in the mono-tone of the one compared to the variety of the other, but in the bag, which, when filled, allows the piper to play a much longer note than the human lung can blow the vuvu!



Isaiah records God’s Word to those who think they can keep going in their own strength. The bottom line? In the Rat Race the rats win.



In repentance, rest, quietness and trust is salvation and strength.



Soul-care means we fill the “sak” (bag) of the “doedel” (tune or ditty) (Sorry, I just think the Afrikaans “doedelsak” is so onomatopoeic) with the breath of God.



The old hymn says it best:



Breathe on me, breath of God,

Fill me with life anew,

That I may love what Thou dost love,

And do what Thou wouldst do.




Breathe on me, breath of God,

Until my heart is pure,

Until with Thee I will one will,

To do and to endure.



Breathe on me, breath of God,

Blend all my soul with Thine,

Until this earthly part of me

Glows with Thy fire divine.



Breathe on me, breath of God,

So shall I never die,

But live with Thee the perfect life

Of Thine eternity.

(Edwin Hatch 1878)




Have a “doedel” weekend!

2010-07-27 – “Soulcare: Practical Ideas”


Look to the LORD and his strength;

seek his face always. (Psalms105:4)


Selwyn Hughes comes to the conclusion that daily time with God is the foundation of soul-care. (This is a theme I dealt with in detail in my series on how to have a daily Quiet Time which you can find under “resources” on www.emmanuel.org.za )



Here is a summary of the practical hints Selwyn Hughes gives:



Unfortunately today the daily Quiet Time (QT) is unfashionable but it is still the most effective habit.



- Are you too busy? (Ask yourself “but when will it stop?” Start and see things fall into place!)


- Is having a daily QT a bit like legalism? (But what about good habits?)



- How can I pray at all times? (Have to learn to pray at SOMEtime before all times)



But How?

========

1. Decide on a Time

Choose an amount of time and a regular time and then ring fence it. More is better.

Guard your privacy

Avoid the phone and other intrusions

Mornings seems to be best…



2.You may have to practice “studied neglect.” i.e. choose to neglect other things (a tv show or reading the newspaper from front to back)

He will help you re-cast your priorities.



3. Choose a spot

This creates associations and atmosphere’s that help you.




4. Read your Bible

This should be at the centre of your Quiet Time. It is always fresh!

“…we ought to reverence it, respect it, store our memory with precious fragments of it, learn its highways and byways and make the reverent reading of it a privileged part of every day.”

-Pray before your read.



-Read slowly: scribble down summaries, notes, questions.



-Meditate on it: “Great matters have to be given a second thought.” Memorised Scripture becomes the “unseen Sculptor who will chisel in the secret chambers of your soul the living forms that constitute a deeper knowledge of Him.”



-Listen to what it says

Learn to Listen to God..

Develop a “trained ear.” – Takes Time.

“As exercise strengthens the body and education enlarges the mind, so our sensitivity to God develops and grows as we learn to wait in silence before Him.”

“My sheep listen to my voice…”



5.Pray.


- Begin with Worship (Hallowed by Your Name)

- Repent and Confess

- Intercede for others and yourself

- Thanksgiving

And remember, He always answers. (No, Slow, Grow, Go)

2010-07-29 – “Soulcare: Centrality of Scripture”


9 So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, `Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.’ ” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. (1Samuel3:9)

Scripture is our best starting point for life and for soul-care.



It is an abundant treasure trove in which we can find:

- the stories of real human beings who journeyed with God

- passionate poems of God-followers who experience joy and sorrow

- intimate pen-sketches of the life and ministry of Jesus

- the struggle of those who tried to hear God’s word in the midst of history


- laws that reveal God’s justice

- lessons from the mistakes of those who blew it

- the adventures of the church spreading out across cultures

- the warnings and encouragements offered to the early churches

- wisdom nuggets from those who wrestled with life and God

- irony, drama, humour, poetry, rich imagery and real LIFE.

- the logical details of the awesome plan of salvation



BUT the Bible is not an end in itself – we are not Biblicists – we don’t worship Scripture, but we read it because we believe in a God who speaks to us and that the Bible reminds us what He is like and how He “sounds”.



Samuel didn’t know it was God speaking and he didn’t know how to answer.



We serve a God who is in constant DIALOGUE with us. God speaks in our circumstances, He whispers in our consciences, He uses the wise words of others to prompt us and He nudges our spirits in the right direction. He will hug us in a sunrise, comfort us in a sunset and impress us in a waterfall. He will calm us with a rush of peace in the midst of a time of trouble and He will invigorate us in a time of praise and worship. But we can often miss these “words” because we forget what He “sounds” like.



When I throw myself into His Word on a regular basis, I find that I know what He “sounds” like and recognise His words in the rest of my life. And in Scripture I learn how to answer when God speaks.

2010-07-30 – “Soulcare: Final word….”


I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (John15:5)

Let’s just state this as simply as possible:



Jesus said:



…….APART



……….FROM



…………ME



……………YOU



………………CAN


…………………DO



………………….NOTHING.





Soulcare is about connecting to HIM!

Nothing fancy, nothing too complex, it’s about you and me opening our hearts regularly to Him. (We do this by prayer, Bible Study, Worship, Obedience, etc but it boils down to connecting to Him.)



The alternative is nothing.



—————————————————————

That brings us to the end of the reflections of the “Seven Laws of Spiritual Success” by Selwyn Hughes. Hope it has been valuable.


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