Saturday, February 25, 2006


Have you ever experienced when a topic, or a name of somebody seems to come up in completely different circumstances or you happen to be thinking about someone and someone else mentions their name. I suppose we can put that sort of thing down to co-incidence or, as Christians, you may feel that it is God speaking to you about that subject or person, and that you need to respond in some way.

In the last months before I left Zimbabwe, the Holy Spirit moved in our assembly in just that sort of way. He woke a member of our church up every morning for three mornings in a row, at exactly 3:33 a.m. He shared this phenomenon with our Pastor, Dave, who a week later, was also woken at 3:33 a.m.. Dave decided that clearly this was of God, and that we as an assembly needed to be aware of it and to seek the Lord for clarity. He had no sooner finished explaining about 3:33 a.m. Wake up call, when Debbie came forward and explained how she was woken at about that time by a call on her cell phone - no-one was there. She looked at her watch, and it was 3:34 so around 3:33 a.m. God phoned her, we think. Chrissie felt the Lord was saying "Call on me and I will answer and tell you great and unsearcheable things you do not know." Jeremiah 33:3. So we felt that God was calling the Church to deep and searching prayer for the nation. We responded by starting a weekly fast, which I believe continues till now. John, a missionary who was part of our fellowship was woken at 3:26 a.m. He shared with the assembly and God lead me to Revelation 3:2-6. "Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. Remember therefore what you have received and heard; obey it and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you. Yet You have a few people in Sardis, who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me dressed in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life but will acknowledge his name before my Father and His angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. "

This last week has been another week for what I would like to term, "A thematic Word."

On Sunday, Pastor Rich preached a message on "What is the Bible - getting down to absolute basics. He discussed the Scriptures as God's revealed Word, and the need to engage in regular reading and studying of the Bible for personal edification. (building up of one's self.) It was a great preach! Nothing I haven't heard before, but nevertheless, important to hear again.

On Monday, we did an unusual thing in this family, we read the Bible together, as a family. We were using a daily devotional of my mother's - by Bishop J. C. Ryle. The text was from Mark, but there was a text for further reading: 2 Tim 3:14 - 4:5. (I will quote this text in full a bit later, but for now I would like to show you the thematic development, as it unfolded during the week.)

On Wednesday I went to our home group. The text was Genesis 12:1-9 - we have been discussing Abraham, and he is the Bible Character around whom we are focusing our study. But as the evening unfolded, it became clear that the Lord had a clear word for a particular member of our group, but also for the group as a whole, about the importance of spending time in God's Word, hearing from God, every day.

At the end of the study we were all given an extract from a Charles Swindoll book from which I will quote the opening paragraph:

A vital walk depends upon daily discernment of the will of God. God could speak audibly with each of us if He desired. However that is not the norm today. He has left us His Word and His Spirit instead. But some find God's leadership difficult to discern. It needn't be hard or hazardous; but poor judgment has led many far afield. The following guidelines are designed to help you stay on the path of certainty and assurance"

Swindoll gives the the guidelines under the following headings:

  • Search the Scriptures. Swindoll quotes from 2 Tim. 3:16-17 under this heading.

  • Pray for understanding

  • Seek godly counsel

  • Be patient

  • Read about God's will.

On Thursday evening, my mother and I went to an ordination service for the leader of my Parent's Bible study, who was being ordained as a deacon, which is the first step in the process of becoming a minister, in their denomination. The bishop, who presided over the ordination used as his text 2 Tim 4:2-8. In his preaching he exhorted the deacon to "Preach the Word" understanding the urgency of the message, and understanding that it is truth, it corrects, it rebukes and it encourages, but that many people nowadays will reject the preaching of the truth and will seek out what their itching ears want to hear. It was a really powerful word from God.

Let me emphasise that on each of the four occasions mentioned above this text or sections from this text were read or referred too. Co-incidence - I don't think so: More like a God-incidence!!

2 Tim 3:14 - 4:5

"But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures which are able to make you wise for Salvation though faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in Righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will Judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage - with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.

Just some points that I glean from this passage, for personal application:

a) "How from infancy, you have known the Scriptures. Oh what a privilege it is to be introduced to God's Word from a young age. Nobody can be too young to hear from God through His Word. If you are a parent of small children, make it a daily habit to spend some time reading it with them. (Please note that I use the preposition "with" instead of "to".) Children will see that this book is special to you, and so in turn, it will be special to them. Choose the old favourite stories like Noah's Ark, Jonah and the "Whale", The birth of Jesus (don't wait for Christmas time for this one!), Some of the parables, the death and resurrection of Jesus (again, you don't have to wait for Easter to talk about this.), and stories about Peter and John healing the beggar at the temple gate, the conversion of Paul, and many more beside. Use a children's Bible or a modern English (or whatever your home language is) version of the Bible, and tell the stories with as much gusto and originality as you would the fairy tales and adventure stories that you read to them. By doing this daily you are communicating, without "telling them" that the Bible is a daily thing, and doesn't just belong in church, or Sunday School or school Scripture classes (if your Child is so fortunate as to have these.) Don't just read to them, also ready to discuss what you read. You can role play, you can ask questions that stimulate thought about the story, like, "Why do you think Jesus said that the Samaritan was a neighbour to the injured man?" And of course be ready to answer your children's questions. The Bible says in Proverbs 22:6 "Train a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not turn from it."

Reading to and with your children from an early age has proven educational benefit, and, reading the Word of God to them will also yield spiritual dividends.

I was blessed that I had early exposure to God's Word, the Bible, and I thank and praise him for that, but you may not be so young and have not had the same privilege. Yet if you have recently turned to Christ, and become born again, you are a spiritual infant, needing the milk of God's word. You too can decide from this time on, to make reading God's word a part of your daily life.

b) Scripture makes us wise to Salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Let's be clear here. Reading the Bible in and of itself will not make you a Christian. It is not the reading of God's Word, but the response to it that matters. Salvation is a free gift of God, freely given and received by faith of each of individual. The Scriptures are like a signpost pointing us to God, showing us the way to Salvation they are not Salvation itself. As a child, our favorite holiday resort was Nyanga in the eastern Highlands of Zimabwe. Now in order to get there we would drive on the road to Mutare until we came to Rusape, where there was a sign at the turn off saying "Nyanga - 98 km."

It would have been ridiculous if we pulled over and said, well we don't need to go any further, we have seen the sign. No, we needed to go in the direction that the sign was pointing. Yes, without the Bible, we would not be able to find Salvation, we would not be aware that there is Salvation in Jesus Christ, but the Bible itself is not Salvation.

c) The Bible is God-breathed - that is, it is God's Word - every word of it, and rejecting any part of it, is as good as rejecting the whole document. This is a central tenet of Christianity, and though we may discuss interpretation of certain scriptures, and there may be disagreement among Christians on aspects of God's Word, as Pastor Rich pointed out in his message on Sunday, anything that is essential to Salvation, is very clear in Scripture.

Well, I'm sure I could go on, but this turning into a dissertation instead of a blog, so I will desist and let the Word of God speak to you for itself. I will provide a bibliographical reference in my next blog to the the documents (other than the Bible) that I have quoted from or made reference to in this blog.

God Bless,


Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Me in my Study! Beavering away at my books and getting down to some "serious graft!!"

John Posted by Picasa

Saturday, February 11, 2006

My Weekly Blog - Stormy weather

    Hello Friends,
I went to Bible Study this week; it was very stormy. No, not the Bible Study - the weather. As we sat down to start studying about Abraham, the lightening and thunder started too. Graham the home group leader had to speak loudly to be heard over the noise from outside. Then there was a really loud clap of Thunder, it must have hit somewhere in the premises, because we all jumped. Then again, and again. Apparently, this storm was all over the district. At one point the lightening was very close and out went the lights (I felt at home - quite used to that from Zimbabwe - not that there needed to be a storm to knock the lights out in Zimbabwe). Four little children came through from where they were sleeping and joined the grown-ups in the lounge. Of course the animals were upset too. One of the group members who happens to be a next door neighbour to the hosts house, remembered that certain electrical equipment was still plugged in, so he decided to run home and make sure everything was off and unplugged. He ran out the gate, and a strange dog (a beautiful white alsatian looking dog) ran in from the street - straight into the house.) So at one point, we had four children, 12 adults, 4 dogs all huddled together in the lounge. They stayed there until the storm passed over, and the children were reassured that the storm had gone away. Eventually, the things calmed down and the children went back to bed, and the strange dog left, and we continued our Bible study by torch and candle light. Before long the lights were back on and everything returned to normal. Strangely enough, I got a devotional about storms on my email the very next day. It's written by a chap called Ron Hutchcraft and he has daily devotional entitled "A word with you." I copy it here for your interest:
#4979 - "Storm Proof Security"
Acts 27:18-20

    If they ever ask me to be a participant in those Nielsen ratings of who is watching what TV show, they'll probably find me watching the Weather Channel more than a lot of viewers. Oh, not necessarily because I'm intrigued with low-pressure systems, or barometric readings, or cumulus nimbus clouds, but because I want to see my future in the places I may be traveling to. But sometimes, they don't have the weather on. They have this primetime documentary show called "Storm Stories." Now while the story of a storm that happened twenty years ago isn't going to help me plan for tomorrow, the stories are pretty dramatic. They're often amazing accounts of the people who survived major weather disasters - and the people who didn't. It's especially interesting to see what steps help you be a storm survivor rather than a storm victim.

    I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about "Storm Proof Security."

    I'll bet you've got your own personal "storm stories," don't you? I know I've got mine - stories of some life storms that you've been hit with; medical storms, financial storms, family, marital, heavy weather with your kids, maybe your work, or the ministry, your relationships. One of the most dramatic storm stories I ever read is actually in our word for today from the Word of God in Acts 27, beginning with verse 20. It's going to help you survive your storm - because it shows the two anchors you can hang onto that no storm can touch.

    Paul is a Roman prisoner, being carried to Rome aboard a ship loaded with Caesar's grain, and they get hit with a massive storm that drives them all over the Mediterranean for two perilous weeks. Paul says, "We took such a violent battering ... they began to throw the cargo overboard." That's pretty desperate. The apostle goes on to explain that "neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging." Have you ever been in a situation like that where none of your usual points of reference could help you; you're drifting and confused. That's what we're talking about here.

    Then, "we finally gave up all hope of being saved" (Acts 27:18, 20). Notice, "we" gave up all hope. Even the spirit of the great Apostle Paul has succumbed to the storm. But then the next day we find him standing up and saying to everyone aboard, "Keep up your courage because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed." What happened? Well, God reminded Paul of those two anchors that will carry you through. He explains to the people on that storm-threatened ship: "Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me and said, 'Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you'" (Acts 27:22-25).

    Anchor #1: Who you belong to. The God "whose I am." Don't let the storm make you forget that the Lord is your God and that His sovereignty is unshakeable. No life that is in the hands of the Sovereign Lord is out of control no matter how much it feels like the storm is winning. If you are His child, then every storm in your life has either been sent by Him or approved by Him for His glory, for your good and your growth.

    Anchor #2: Who you do it for. The God "whom I serve." The storm can blow away every reason for finishing the thing that God gave you to do except one - the One who called you to do it. He hasn't moved, no matter how much the ship is getting blown around. God told Paul, "The mission I've given you, you will complete." He's saying the same thing to you. Hang onto your anchors and no storm, however violent, will sink you!

    About the ending of the storm story: The ship that was supposed to be headed from Israel to Italy - the ship that had been seemingly out of control for two weeks ended up going aground on the island just south of Italy. All the time Paul's ship had appeared to be out of control, it had been right on course, and so is yours because of the God "whose you are and whom you serve."

About that Anchor #1 - it says "If you are His child." I believe we are all His children in the sense that He is our Creator, but in this case I think Ron means if you have been adopted into the family, that is, you have committed your life to Jesus Christ, to follow him and live with Him for ever. Even if you are not a Christian, however, I think it is true to say that God allows storms in your life, to help you depend on Him, and call on His name. I remember that one of the first sermon's I preached, while at Bible college was based on Psalm 107:
Others went out on the sea in ships; they were merchants on the mighty waters.
They saw the works of the LORD, his wonderful deeds in the deep.
For He spoke and stirred up a tempest (storm) that lifted high the waves.
They mounted up to the heavens and went down to the depths; in their peril their courage melted away.
They reeled and staggered like drunken men; they were at their wits' end.
Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble and He brought them out of their distress.
He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed.
They were glad when it grew calm, and He guided them to their desired haven.
Let them give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for men.
PS 107: 23-31
"For He spoke and stirred up a tempest." Some people shake their fists at God and say why do you let me suffer like this. Others cannot accept that God would cause his children to suffer and that there must be some other explanation. I am inclined to think that both reactions are wrong (though understandable.)
Firstly those who shake their fists at God: They acknowledge God is the source but they forget that He also brings the calm that follows the storm. Yes, storms do have natural scientific explanations for their occurrence, but I believe that God controls even these natural forces. But I'm speaking also about the figurative storms in our lives. God knows about them, and He has allowed them, for whatever purpose. Maybe He's waiting for you to call on Him.
The second group who deny God would cause the Storm, they have ignored that line I quoted, "He spoke and stirred up a tempest." The other week in Church, Pastor Rich was saying that above everything else God loves his Glory and so everything he does is to increase His Glory. Because of this, He also loves us and has created us for His glory. " 
We see this exemplified in the following verse that follows the section I quoted above: "Let them exalt Him in the assembly of the people, and praise Him in the council of the elders." Ps 107:32 Who are the "them" being spoken about? I think they were the same sailors who were in that storm. It may not be possible to give to testimony and praise God while in the midst of the storm, that's understandable, but you will come through it, and then, you must "exult Him" by telling others how He took you through. Friends, I've been through many a storm in my life. And I will no doubt experience more in my life time, but God is taking me to my desired haven, and even if I can't see it, God is directing that ship - He has his hand on the rudder."
I do hope that someone getting this at this time will be encouraged by this. If you have any questions, or would like prayer, feel free to write to me, and I will gladly pray for you.
You may share my blog with friends, particularly if you feel that I have said something that will touch their hearts. (If that is the case, the glory belongs to God.)
I am praying today for my friend Alisan, her husband, David their two children who left Johannesburg today to go to Namibia as missionaries.
Till next week then,

I have sent this to a number of my friends so I just want to explain to those getting this for the first time. I have started a blog and a newsgroup on Yahoo. I have resolved to write one a week. Sometimes it will contain news about me, sometimes something that has got me thinking will result in a little comment. Mostly it will be of a spiritual nature, a Bible Study, or just what God has been saying to me. Whatever it is, I like to share it, in the hope that it will touch someone, and is a word in season.
If you have written to me and said that you would like to get these on a weekly basis but you do not have access to the internet, then I have added your name.
If you have written to me and said please don't send me this thing - I'm sorry, I never got the email - write to me again and I will make sure I don't send you any more.
If you have not written to me but would like to get this weekly, I can do one of two things:
1. Add you to my NewsGroup - that will involve you going onto the Internet and registering. (send me an email saying you want to join and I will send you an invite). (I know it's complicated, but it prevents all kinds of wierdos trying to send us rubbish.)
2. Add your name to my private list (if you can't or don't want to go online to join). Send me an email saying PRIVATE LIST please. 
If you do not want to get this, send me a brief email saying NO MORE PLEASE. (Don't forget the "PLEASE"!!!)
Your friend,