Friday, 9 December 2016

J O Y to the World!

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of 
J O Y ; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore ~ Psalm 16:11 (ESV)

A mercifully mild morning. Soft hazes drift in and out of view and a hush hangs over the valley where the clouds part. As so many times before, I watched a jackal buzzard slip into a thermal column and spiral upwards on an invisible stream of lift. Children dream of flying, and send kites, soap bubbles and balloons soaring amidst great excitement and laughter. We may still dream of it, but have long since stopped believing in the joy of soaring, of freedom from gravity, from the downward pull of all that is earthbound and weighty.

There is a small "winged" word, a word that is effervescent, luminous, light, buoyant and blithe.

J O Y...

I had, what I thought to be a relevant, pertinent and important topic in mind for this post, but when the Lord pushed this little word into the spotlight, I felt "light". The cork is being eased out, bubbles are rising to the surface. It is time to explore J O Y, with lightness and freedom from being secular and wordly.

I'd like to kick off with a few instances I remember experiencing soaring J O Y, which I believe to have been heaven-sent:

- When our children were born.
- When Jesus first told me in a breeze that he loved me.
- When my (now) husband first called me his princess.
- When I first feasted my eyes on the view from the newly cleared piece of land, which we now live on.
- When I first realised how much freedom the cross has afforded me (us).
- When I first listened to a truly magnificent symphony written by a man who could not hear.
- When I received a letter from a friend's daughter, telling me that God writes poetry about me.
- When I experience moments of deep worship.
- When I took my first light and tentative "free" steps after the confinement of a back brace.
- When I realised that I am God's masterpiece in the making.
- When I woke up one sunny morning and found that I belong...

There are still many more, and I believe the list will continue to grow with each new day, arriving with fresh mercies in it's dawn. Make your own list, even if it just a mental remembering - it is a joyous thing to do.

There are other stronger words which I associate with J O Y. Rapture, passion, ecstasy, elation, euphoria, bliss, rhapsody, jubilation, beatitude... And yes - peace and serenity.

I read the first page of a book recently, just to get a feel for it. The author relates how he never liked or enjoyed jazz, simply because jazz doesn't resolve. Until the day he watched a man on the street outside the Baghdad Theatre in Portland play the saxophone. He stood there, watching, listening, for fifteen minutes. Fifteen minutes, during which the musician never opened his eyes. I could relate. The wonder and J O Y of the experience, took him away. It changed him, gave him wings to travel to places never imagined.

J O Y is like that. It is contagious. That is, if it is for real. Consistently shiny, happy people can often annoy one with their insistence on bouncing their happiness around like a ping pong ball, while no one else is playing. But see a person enter a room who's eyes are lit with an inner peace and J O Y, so beguiling that even the grumpiest old moth is drawn to it. With the difference that the flame never sears or hurts. It is the hearth after the storm, hands around a steaming mug, soaking in a hot tub after a cold day. The play of light and effervescence at the foot of a waterfall, the splendour of the starry dome on a dark night.

J O Y is an infusion rather than an emotion. It is soaked up from the inside and overflows to the outside. It is more than raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens. Favourite things may add to J O Y that is already there, but it does not fade away when the "things" are no longer there.

Our seven year old (Luke) has just interrupted my writing by announcing that he and his brother are creating a little "world" with their blocks called "Zippylukia". One of those moments which definitely add to my J O Y !

A friend of mine once told me that she asked God for a song in the night. This became a source of  J O Y, being a rippling reminder of the reason why she sings. I leak out "good intentions", and still sometimes wake up in the night, not with a song, but remembering something I should have done, or with an anxiety about something I am still supposed to do. But my God of mercy knows this also, and He gives me a song regardless!

Which finally brings me to the "secret"; the three words which precede and follow true J O Y :

"Of the Lord".

The J O Y of the Lord makes me strong. This does not necessarily mean that I have more physical and mental endurance when I feel joyful, although it certainly helps! It means:
- I have strength against the condemnation of the law's just demands.
- I have strength against the assaults of our enemy.
- I have strength in the hope of God's promises.

J O Y comes to me, like sin leaves me - more often and more consistently the nearer I move to Jesus.

- The J O Y of the Lord is the joy that God Himself possesses.
- The J O Y of the Lord follow the tears of repentance.
- The solid J O Y of the Lord is the J O Y of sins forgiven and the hope of heaven, which is "under girded" by the grief over sin and our Saviour's consequent suffering.
- The J O Y of the Lord is J O Y in God himself.
- The J O Y of the Lord comes from spending time and understanding God's living Word.
- The J O Y of the Lord is the J O Y of God's forgiveness and covenant love.
- The J O Y of the Lord is the second fruit of the Holy Spirit.
- The J O Y of the Lord comes from a knowledge that even now, we are seated in heavenly places with Him.

Weeping may remain for a night - but rejoicing (J O Y) comes in the morning (Ps 30:5). 

Our hope and J O Y is in a Kingdom which is at hand, here - not a faraway, beckoning, golden mirage. The Ruler of this Kingdom is waiting to take you to places never imagined. He will use any means possible to lead you there. A whisper, a shout, a beckoning - all leading to J O Y in His presence. Hear God laughing. With you. Because of you. You bring him J O Y. As He longs to bring you...

Wednesday, 16 November 2016


Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. ~ John 14:27

Home. After a brush with the hot and hungry city, we arrived at our cabin in the breezy mountains, with deep sighs of relief. And once again, with a renewed appreciation of what we have here. But with nostalgic memories of special times with loved ones. Sleep evaded me while there, and it was hard to find silence and peace - even in the dead of night. I was confronted with myself in a way which is easily avoided when you are surrounded by mountains, forests and wide open vistas.

Yesterday, I read the editorial in the latest edition of "Barnabasaid" - a publication by "Barnabas Fund", which is an aid agency for the persecuted church. Bringing hope to suffering Christians worldwide. The editorial touched on the topic "The Peace of God." I felt that I needed to explore the reason for either the presence or absence of it in my own life. (Part of what I wrote is based on the content of the editorial mentioned.)

The English word for "peace", brings to mind the absence of disturbance and hostilities, of internal or external strife. But the Biblical concept of peace is far more dynamic and all embracing. The Hebrew "shalom" of the Old Testament means completeness and wholeness, well-being and safety. It can mean wholeness of body (health); wholeness of relationships (harmony between two parties); prosperity, fulfilment and success; or victory over enemies (absence of war). In the New Testament, the narrower Greek word "eirene", takes on the broader nuances of shalom.

The bible confirms that God alone, is the source of peace. He came to sinful humankind to establish with them a covenant of peace, enabling us to have a right relationship with Him.

New Age philosophies and alternative religious cultures have made "peace" into something you have a right to. A brand, something you speak over yourself and others, and which can be attained by a mind-set, exterior means, rituals or substances.

There is a place in the South Indian city of Bangalore, in a depressed community among the weak and despised, where the Peace of God is at work. In this place, babies are rescued from child sacrifices to pagan gods. In this place girls are rescued from child prostitution. In this place, bodily ailments are treated, minds are educated, families are given security and well-being through economic self-sufficiency. In this place the reconciling peace of God is made known by word and deed, resulting in a new community of believers, saved for the Kingdom and glory of God through Jesus. It has grown and created more centres of love and compassion. It is a place of worship, a place where the true fullness of God's peace is to be found. A place which reflects the true "shalom" of God. Where the weak and despised are cared for and embraced. Where God's love transcends hatred, bitterness and judgement.

In Christ and through servitude to Christ and fellow-man, such a peace can be be found. The old Testament looks forward to the day when God's peace will be transmitted to us through the Messiah, the Prince of Peace, whose authority will grow continually, until there is endless peace and His Kingdom is established with justice and righteousness (Isaiah 9:6-7, Micah 5:4-5).

It is the Prince of Peace who comes. How can I keep from singing:

Hail! the heav'n born Prince of peace!
Hail! the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,
Risen, with healing in His wings.

In a time, when there is such conflict - against Christians especially, but also among Christians, among families, individuals, countries, politicians, theologians etc - I am reminded that not only has my Prince of Peace brought salvation, healing and wholeness, but He has also brought victory over Satan and all the evils of this dark and sinful world. Over the sin in my own heart. "The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet" (Romans 16:20).

Because of this - I can live in the peace of God, knowing that by it I am not only saved from sin and made whole in my being, but also will triumph over Satan.

So - whether the outward events and circumstances of my life are peaceful or in turmoil, my soul may continue to rest in the well-being of  "shalom".

Take heart saints - The maddening crowd, cannot crush you. The hype and busyness of this time of year, cannot overcome you. The deafening noise, cannot drown out your worship. The prince of lies cannot deceive you or steal your peace, joy and victory, when the Prince of Peace reigns in your heart.

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say:

It is well. It is well with my soul!

Thursday, 27 October 2016

A generous portion

The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places... ~ Psalm 16:6

This morning I stood on the deck, over-looking this piece of earth that we have the privilege to live on. I never tire of the wide, free view. An open arc of mountain, forest, and valley in the distance. A gift each day to lift eyes up and fill me with gratitude. Our smallest son has vowed never to leave Inesi. He is in his element among the trees, finding friends (creepy crawlies) and imagining himself a brave hero on a swashbuckling conquest. There is part of me that wishes that it could be so. That we could just always be here. Together. Safe. Free. Content. That our precious sons could inherit this portion of land, and continue to thrive on the place we now call home. But even if it is not impossible, should that be God's will for our children, it is unlikely.

I'm sure most parents with small or not so small children have at some point looked around themselves, and experienced doubt or even fear about the future for this next generation. Even for themselves. I have. But then I consciously shrug it off. The Lord who has kept us together and remains the anchor of our family, provides and protects. What we have in Him, does not change.

A few days ago as I was checking the rambling roses that we planted along a section of our fence last summer, a verse in Psalm 16 came into my head: "The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places, surely I have a delightful inheritance." The KJV simply refers to "the lines" and a "goodly heritage". I imagined that David was probably speaking figuratively, but I cheated a bit and "Googled" it to gain clarity. As always when a verse in the bible becomes clear, it has been "living" in my heart and mind and given me much comfort and even a sense of elation.

The allusion is to the “measuring cords” (lines) by which allotments of land were measured, and they are said to “fall”, possibly because after the measurement the portions were distributed by “lot”.

But our interpretation of inheritance often pertains to physical property, whereas "heritage" speaks more of shared values or traditions in a given culture or family. I would imagine a heritage is an intangible inheritance. Not something someone can take away from you.

Like in Psalm 119:111—”Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart.” Testimonies aren’t an inheritance; they’re a heritage. I was not able to put falling lines together with goodly heritages. But boundary lines and inheritances—those fit well.

David - who in this psalm speaks so much about security that he may be writing from exile - views the Lord as his inheritance, even and especially when his own land is out of his grasp. “Lines” refers literally to boundary lines, but the whole verse is a metaphor: God Himself is David’s portion, lot, and heritage. What more beautiful and pleasant property could you get? It’s no wonder that David ends the psalm by saying,

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11)

David's inheritance came through "lines" of genealogy. From God's chosen people - Israel, Judah, the Jews, a line was drawn from the first man Adam to the man Christ Jesus. David had reason to speak in this language, for he had God as his portion, a worthy portion, a goodly heritage. What could he have better? What could he desire more? That is why David sings in verse 7: "Return to your rest, O my soul, For the Lord has dealt bountifully with you"

As M Basilea Schlink wrote: "Every Jew, by his very existence, points towards God, towards the election and calling of Abraham, towards the election of Israel as a people for God’s own possession, singled out from among all other nations, particularly loved by God, who gave them special graces and promises and who kept them from perishing, throughout their thousands of years of history. Every Jew is a reminder that God is the Holy God, the God of the ten commandments. Every Jew is a reminder that God lives, that He pronounces blessings and curses and fulfils them both."

It is the natural heritage of the Jews. But in Ephesians 3:6 there is this amazing verse: "This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus."

We have recently updated our "Last Will and Testament", to make sure that our children will receive/inherit what is due to them by birth. Jesus wrote a will and testament with His blood, so that I may share in the covenant/promise/inheritance of God's chosen people.

By birth, I have no right to this. But God so loved me and so loved you, that He sacrificed His Son, so that we may share in this "goodly heritage". It goes beyond a country gone crazy, a world at war with itself, a chosen people denying and being denied their God-given right. Beyond riots and protests, Christians being persecuted, the "last days" nearing at an alarming rate.

God's plan is unfolding. And I am in it. Just a "scion", shoot, bud - grafted onto the Tree of Life, by a grace too all-encompassing and complete for me to understand. But still, here I am, a royal heiress, made worthy, together with all Jesus' children, to sing: 

For my Maker is my husband – 
the Lord Almighty is His name –
the Holy One of Israel is my Redeemer;
He is called the God of all the earth.
~ Isaiah 54:5 NIV

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Re-store = Re-pent + Re-turn

He restores my soul ~ Psalm 23: 3

I woke up today, with light pouring through the curtains. There was no need to fumble for the bed-side light. Almost half way through October, summer announces itself earlier each day. It urges us to bolt into action, to attempt to do a-z before the end of the year is upon us. In the "garden", minute bunches of yello-green beads have appeared on the grape-vine - the first promise of fruit since it was planted four years ago. Small cupped flowers peek from under the leaves of the young tomato plants. The herbs that add so much flavour to our daily fare, have awakened boldly from their winter sleep, adding an earthy note to the floral jasmine and honeysuckle scent. There is change and activity everywhere. Life on Inesi has also been marked by much change recently. Mostly positive, but draining none the less. This morning, as I lay contemplating the day's agenda, I became aware of how many people I know personally (including myself, and our country at large) who seem to be in dire need of restoration.

I started reciting the familiar, comforting lines of Psalm 23 in my head. The Lord is my Shepherd... And then I came to the phrase: "...He restores my soul." There it was, so simple. We are tired, overwhelmed, fearful, confused, stressed, doubtful, whatever the situation may be - and God restores. But something made me question this...

We were recently pointed to a full teaching on Psalm 23, directly translated from the Hebrew text. It is quite long and it requires concentration. I have been wanting to listen to it, but the days have just flown past in a blurr of busyness (and absentmindedness sometimes). I took a deep breath, put my agenda aside, asked my boys for a bit of "space", found the relevant Youtube, and started listening. The hour and a half sped past. It is too rich and deep to summarise here, but I will leave a link at the bottom of the page if you'd like to listen.

What I would like to share is the meaning of  "being restored" in the context of this special Psalm of David, which has started taking root in my heart. Whenever I have recited this psalm to myself, (often in the dark of night when things go bump and your mind won't come to rest), I have pictured myself in an idyllic, peaceful setting. It is green, lush, the breezes caress, my hand trails in the water and my immediate cares and fears are stilled. Sometimes it took more than a few recitations to bring about the peace I sought. But in the image, I never knew how I got to this green place - I was just there.

David was a shepherd. He wrote from what was very familiar to him. The landscape around Bethlehem, in which he used to tend sheep was incredibly harsh. Arid, hot, rocky, inhospitable. Here, the shepherds had to carefully lead their stubborn sheep, covered in thick, lanolin rich wool, to places where they could escape dying from thirst and exposure. This semi-desert landscape is interspersed by wadi's or valleys, where the riverbeds fill up in the rainy season, but are often just a trickle. When the rivers do fill up, they are perilous places where sheep could easily be drowned. The shepherd had to carefully guide his flock up the river, to where the flow was calm, quiet, still, - where the over-eager sheep could drink without the danger of drowning. On the riverbank would be some trees and patches of  hardy grass where the sheep could graze and rest a while, away from the intensity of the sun.

I need my Shepherd. The world out there is hostile territory for Christians, and becoming increasingly so. I need to walk near to the Shepherd to let him guide me through the peril, submit to the prodding (rod) and hooking (staff), which are for my own good and to His glory. He turns me back from my errors and wanderings.

The original Hebrew word for "restore" in this context is yeshoveiv, which is derived from shuv, which means to turn or return, and is the root of the word teshuvah, meaning: turning back to God through repentance. There was my answer. God restores my soul, when I, turn back to the Shepherd and repent of the things that are wrong in His sight. The things that I have not asked forgiveness for, the things I have or have not done, which have hurt Him or others, or not brought Him glory. First comes the cleansing, then the restoration and refreshing.

True restoration comes through turning back to God through repentance.

Anything else will just be a temporary respite or escape. A denial of the root, which sits just below the surface. Out of sight for the moment, but still there.

When God shows me my errors, gives me repentance, and brings me back to my place and duty again, He restores my soul. And if He did not do so, I would wander endlessly and be undone.

No creature is more ready to go astray than a sheep, or more at a loss to find its way back. But the sheep trust the shepherd, they know His voice, they follow Him. They need Him for protection, for guidance, for all that is necessary to stay alive. The prodding and hooking is not always so gentle. But the shepherd would rather submit the sheep to some heavy handling, than to let them fall into the jaws of a predator, or the many other potential dangers which a sheep out on it's own will encounter.

The Lord is my Shepherd. I am one of  His flock. He restores my soul - He turns me back to Him. For this is where I belong. Away from Him is deception, lies in a sugar coating, deep voids of emptiness.  A good shepherd lays down His life for his sheep. My Shepherd did. I do not follow Him haplessly, since I know no better. I follow Him for there is No better. He is my All in all.

He is my strength when I am weak
He is the treasure that I seek
He Is my all in all

Seeking Him as a precious jewel
To give Him up I'd be a fool
He is my all in all

Jesus, Lamb of God
Worthy is Your name
Jesus, Lamb of God
Worthy is Your name

Taking my sin, my cross, my shame
Rising again, I bless Your name
You are my all in all

When I fall down You pick me up
When I am dry You fill my cup
You are my all in all
You're my everything
The beginning and the end
The first, the last, You are
The great I AM.

Jesus, Lamb of God
Worthy is Your name
Jesus, Lamb of God
Worthy is Your name!

Link to Psalm 23 - Jacob Prasch teaching:

Friday, 23 September 2016

Staying in Step

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 
~ Galatians 5:25

The first vivid but tender expression of Spring has passed. The sun is stronger and shade more generous. Summer is never quite guaranteed in an Alpine climate. There are blissful balmy days and mild nights. Then a cold front sweeps past with icy chills in it's wake. Sun-kissed skin is covered under layers once again and smoke drifts in tell-tale tendrils from the surrounding dwellings. It is not a predictable rhythm. One has to anticipate the beat and fall into step, or be left out of the dance...

I've often wondered about a particular verse in Galatians which tells us to "keep in step with the Spirit". Many of us can dance our hearts out on our own, but to glide smoothly along a dance-floor in graceful arches in the arms of another, is an art not many care to master. When I was a shy teenager, I remember being asked to dance at a wedding by someone's uncle. I mumbled an apology, but the older man was persistent. He proffered his hand to me, and I accepted with dread. "Just follow me" - he said. I tried so hard, but I could not "keep in step". "You are trying to lead" he said after a while. "That is my job". Following has never come naturally to me, but the assurance and competence of the older man gently convinced me to let myself be guided. It was not a ballroom finale, just a few minutes of discovering how sweet it is to synchronise movements with a confident leader.

But why do I need to keep in step with the Spirit, and how? (The King James bible says to "walk by the Spirit.")

The why is simple: To be transferred to the image of Jesus. This goal is more important than any spiritual experience or ministry I may have, and more important than any spiritual gift or knowledge that I may receive. 

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” ~ 2 Corinthians 3:17

Walking by the Spirit is what I do when the desires produced by the Spirit are stronger than the desires produced by my physical body. This means that "walking by the Spirit" is not something I do in order to get the Spirit's help, but rather, just as the phrase implies, it is something I do with the "enablement" of the Spirit.

This is what God said he would do in Ezekiel 36:26, 27: "A new heart I will give you and a new spirit I will put within you . . . I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes."

When I "walk by the Spirit" or am "led by the Spirit" I don't feel the pinch or burden of the law. When the Spirit is leading me, and produces godly desires, then the commands of God are not a burden but a joy. So in a sense also, walking by the Spirit frees us from being under the law. "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom" (2 Corinthians 3:17).

The Spirit of God creates something new; He removes my heart of stone that rebels against God, and replaces it with a new heart which trusts God and follows His ways. Or to put it another way, the Holy Spirit establishes Himself as the new ruler of my life. "That which is born of the Spirit is spirit." ~ John 3:6

The new birth is when the Spirit of Jesus comes into my life, to create a whole new array of desires and loves, yearnings and longings. And when these desires are stronger than the opposing desires of the flesh, then I am "walking by and keeping in step the Spirit." We always act according to our strongest desires. This morning I watched my boys whispering together, plotting some kind of mischief. When they saw Mama watching, they giggled nervously and owned up to their scheme. At this point (thankfully) their desire to please me is stronger than getting into monkey business...

When I walk by the Spirit, the result is beautiful to God. It produces fruit of the Spirit, which is quite the opposite to the "works of the flesh" - which follow when I walk by my own will and desires. It is His fruit, not my works.

First I need to acknowledge that I need the Spirit to guide me - that I cannot do it on my own. As Paul says in Romans 7:18, "I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwells no good thing."

Then I need to ask/pray for the Spirit of Jesus to fill and enable me like Paul prayed in Hebrews 13:21: "And now may the God of peace . . . equip you with everything good that you may do His will, working in you that which is pleasing in His sight through Jesus Christ."

And when I have prayed for this to happen, I should also trust that it will. Have faith that it will. For I can believe without a doubt that since I have come under the gracious sway of God's Spirit, "sin will no longer have dominion over me" ~ Romans 6:14

But I also need to act in accordance to the guidance of the Spirit. Work out my salvation (Philippians 2:12), and with His grace, fall into step to play my part in the dance, which is my life of worship to Jesus.

The final step in this dance is to bow low and thank God our Father for any virtue obtained or any good deed performed by His Spirit. "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." ~ Colossians 3:17

I often wake up before first light seeps through the curtains. I lie there and mentally structure my day, feeling focused, strong and quite proud of myself in a way. All I want to do is get up and get on with it. Or at times just lie there in the comfortable warmth and ponder some more. For I know that the moment I turn to Jesus, it all suddenly seems so fickle, and I feel so small. As I bare my heart to Him, an inexplicable sweetness fills me, the voices of my children seem far away, the strong pull of all that I need and want to do is loosened. Words and pleas form on my lips that are not my own. And as I surrender into His arms - the day before me is altered. There is music, but it is His song. There is a dance, but it is not a furious jig on my own, eyes closed and lost in all that I feel and want.

There are strong arms around me. 

At times the dance is slow and gentle, and keeping in step with the Spirit of my Lord is simple. But at times there are dizzying twirls, when all I can do is close my eyes, let Jesus sweep me off my feet and trust that there; in the arch of His arms, is where I belong.

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Fire and Brimstone

"...Whose fan is in His hand, and He will throughly purge his floor, and gather His wheat into the garner; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." ~ Matthew 3:12 (KJV)

The elements have taken a leap from frost, ice and snow-peaked mountains, to hot dry summer conditions in the short span of a week. Berg winds bring warm dry conditions to our hills and everything crackles with static. The animals grow hot-headed and get into daily quarrels with the neighbour's "pack". I have nursed a torn ear and a bleeding eye but still they do not let up. Tender vegetable seedlings have to be pampered with a regular misting and early blossoms wilt and drop before the promise of fruit are formed. Our children thrive in the freedom the sudden heat has afforded, and have been the least affected by the sudden climate change. It still is a prolific time of long amber days, warm air sweetened with floral bouquets and new birdsongs at dawn. But there is a shift, a sense of change, which goes beyond the early arrival of Summer.

My husband called it a sifting, and I was reminded of what John the baptist said to people on the banks of the Jordan river about himself and Jesus: "I baptise you with water for repentance, but after me will come One more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in His hand to clear His threshing floor and to gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” (Matthew 3:11,12 - NIV)

The scene before us is that of the large hardened surface which was the “threshing-floor” of the East, the sheaves of corn thrown over it, the oxen treading on them, the large winnowing fan driving on them the full force of the strong current of air, leaving the wheat in the middle, while the chaff is driven to the outskirts of the field to be afterwards swept up and burnt. The metaphor was a familiar one. (Job 21:18; Psalm 1:4; Psalm 35:5; Isaiah 17:13; Isaiah 29:5;Hosea 13:3.) The new features mentioned in Matthew are (1) that the “coming One,” the expected Christ, will be the one holding the winnowing fork (fan) (2) that in the Old Testament there is a “scattering” of the chaff, and this now passes on to the “burning”; (3) that the fire is said to be “unquenchable.” The interpretation of the parable is quite simple. The chaff are the ungodly. The unquenched fire is the wrath of God against evil, which is eternal, and can only cease when the "evil" is ceased or transformed. The word translated “chaff” includes straw as well. Everything but the actual, useful grain.

When I was a girl, there was a time when our church was overseen by a "dominee" (preacher) who was passionate, loud and expressive. He often made people uncomfortable, but was respected by most. No one dosed off when He spoke. I have a sense that this was not a man who cared about being popular. He cared about the Truth. I was too small to understand the messages, but I imagine part of what he preached would have been classified as "fire and brimstone". Which became so unpopular and scorned, that Christians started avoiding the uncomfortable topics of sin and hell - the one being the consequence of the other.

Personally, I have again and again, been confronted with the reality of both, and it has not diminished my love for God. It has grown stronger, more reverent, deeper. More careful about taking grace for granted.

I love it when my husband comforts, showers affection and has fun with our boys, but what I respect him for most, is that he does not compromise on discipline. This is what a good father does. Actions have consequences. Why should this be different with our heavenly Father, who loves and wants what is best for us more than any earthly father ever could? 

"Fire and brimstone (brimstone - Hebrew: גפרית ואש - gophrith - pitch or sulphur) is an idiomatic expression of signs of God's wrath in the Hebrew Bible.  In the Bible, they often appear in reference to the fate of the unfaithful. "Brimstone", the archaic (old) name for sulphur, evokes the acrid odour of volcanic activity. The term is also used, to describe a style of Christian preaching that uses vivid descriptions of judgement and eternal damnation to encourage repentance.
The King James translation of the Bible often renders passages about fiery torments with the phrase "fire and brimstone". In Genesis 19, God destroys Sodom and Gomorrah with a rain of fire and brimstone, and in Deuteronomy 29, the Israelites are warned that the same punishment would fall upon them should they abandon their covenant with God. Elsewhere, divine judgements involving fire and sulphur are prophesied against Assyria (Isaiah 30), Edom (Isaiah 34), Gog (Ezekiel 38), and all the wicked (Psalm 11).
The breath of God, in Isaiah 30:33, is compared to brimstone: "The breath of Jehovah, like a stream of brimstone, doth kindle it."
Fire and brimstone frequently appear as agents of divine wrath throughout the Book of Revelation culminating in chapters 19–21, wherein the devil and the ungodly are cast into a lake of fire and brimstone as an eternal punishment:

"And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone" (Revelation 19:20, KJV).

"And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever" (Revelation 20:10, KJV).

"But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whore mongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death" (Revelation 21:8, KJV).

Two archaeologists found brimstone in the ancient cities of the Holy Land reported to have suffered from the disaster. William Albright and Melvin Kyle set out to find the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah in 1924, and found brimstone at Southern end of the Dead Sea.

According to Jewish historian, Josephus, "Now this country is then so sadly burnt up, that nobody cares to come at it;... It was of old a most happy land, both for the fruits it bore and the riches of its cities, although it be now all burnt up. It is related how for the impiety of its inhabitants, it was burnt by lightning; in consequence of which there are still the remainders of that divine fire; and the traces (or shadows) of the five cities are still to be seen,..." 

With our "carnal" hearts, we are apt to put aside the convincing commanding power of the Word of God. We become prone to rest in the honours and advantages of being members of an outward church, which falls short of heaven. But faced with the Truth in God's word should fill the careless and secure heart with terror. Our corrupt hearts cannot be made to produce good fruit, unless the regenerating Spirit of Christ has grafted the good Word of God on them. And every tree, however high in gifts and honours, however green in outward professions and performances, if it does not bear good fruit, the fruits in keeping with repentance (Matthew 3:8), is cut down and cast in the fire of God's wrath. The only place fit for barren trees. If not fit for fruit, they are fit for fuel.

No outward forms can make us clean. No regulations can replace the baptism of the Holy Spirit and of fire. The purifying and cleansing power of the Holy Spirit alone can produce a purity of heart and the fruits that accompany salvation. Christ baptises with the Holy Spirit. He gives the gifts that follow this baptism.

True believers are as wheat - substantial, useful, and valuable; hypocrites are as chaff, light and empty, useless and worthless, carried about with every wind. These are mixed, in the same outward communion or association. But we are warned that there is a day coming when the wheat and chaff shall be separated. The last judgement will be the distinguishing day, when saints and sinners shall be parted for ever. In heaven the saints are brought together, and no longer scattered; they will be safe, and no longer exposed; separated from corrupt neighbours without, and corrupt yearnings within, and there is no chaff among them. Hell is the unquenchable fire, which remains the portion and punishment of hypocrites and unbelievers. Here life and death, good and evil, are set before us: as we now are in the field, we shall be then in the floor.

We shall all face the winnowing, the separation - no one shall escape it. There is much that a true child of God can rest in, take comfort from. But to be complacent about being judged is a mistake. We are loved, so fully loved. But this does not mean that our sin is overlooked - grace alone does not guarantee a place with Christ in eternity. Sin has been forgiven, not accepted. Heaven is not merely a place above the fluffy clouds where we shall no longer face heartache and sorrow. It is a reality of being in Jesus' presence - He is our heaven. Hell is the opposite reality - removed from the presence of the One who is the very spindle around which everything revolves. This is what we should fear most, not being thrown into the unquenchable fire, but being removed from the One who truly completes us.

God did not intend for anyone to end up in hell with the devil and his demons. That is why His Son Jesus went there on the cross in our stead. But this is not a gift to be taken for granted.

John Bunyan said: "There is a road to hell, even from the gates of heaven."

Empty and alone in utter darkness for eternity.

Or transformed - in the sweetest, most beautiful, presence of Jesus. As David Pawson said when he spoke about being in the presence of the Lord. "They will look at my face and the face of my Saviour, and they will not be able to tell the difference. For having looked upon His face I shall finally be, as He is."

Ah Lord, with trembling I confess,
A gracious soul may fall from grace;
The salt may lose its seasoning power,
And never, never, find it more.

Lest that my fearful case should be,
Each moment knit my soul to thee;
And lead me to the mount above,
Through the low vale of humble love. ~ Charles Wesley

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Progress and Joy

"... I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith" ~ Phil 1:25
(The apostle Paul's words)

Yesterday I walked down the winding path which leads to our cabin and became aware of a quickening. No longer only tight green buds held in secret on the top branches of the birches, but a burgeoning life on every sprig, vine and branch. The tender Camellia blooms swoop with the grace of young belles in their ballgowns. Crab-apple blossoms are borne lightly on slender limbs. From the damp, fragrant earth the lilies wake up to the call of Spring. Early dawn brings fresh sounds and scents - a new song rises with the sun. Lanky-legged calves and fleecy lambs totter after their mamas with sweet dependence and trust. There is an impulse to gather flowers and watch clouds drift by. To dig hands deeply into the earth and plant seedlings, to nurture new growth. To gawk in wonder at nature being renewed, while the world at large sinks into disconnected despair or a false sense of security.

For many people the shift from one season to the next is a time of conflicting emotions. There is anticipation and excitement - tempered by a hint of sadness, for yet another phase and it's associated routine, joys, comforts and challenges - coming to an end. 

We have moved furniture, pruned, worked compost into the tilled soil, stretched stiff joints from unusual activities and soaked up the warmth on sun-kissed days. Tried new recipes, kicked off shoes to dance to an old song, and filled the house with blooms and blossoms.

Then a cold, pale day arrives with a hush and a whisper and the familiar crackle of the fire reminds me that winter will not be pushed back that easily. But it is not only in the seasons that there is a tension and a seeming contradiction from one day to the next. In the last week alone I have read Psalms of praise, reminders of God's anger and wrath, blessings and curses. Confirmations of the expanse of His love and grace to all people, as well as His fierce judgement of His own bride. I have been convicted of a personal stagnation, a tendency to rest too much in the comfort of this all-encompassing grace. I have been reminded that the subject of "end-times" can no longer be viewed with the notion of  "we will deal with it when it comes", for it is already here. 

I have realised that it is no longer enough to pray, read books and passages of Scripture, or listen to teachers - even if all they say is scriptural and sound. There is too much information, even the most solid in the faith can get confused in it. I wake at night, trying to sort out all this knowledge, vying for a place in the already congested place of remembering. Names swirl through my mind. People in need. People who are sick, lonely, broken hearted, poor, hungry, scared, LOST.  But what remains once the list has been placed at Jesus' feet is a certain knowledge that this is no longer enough.

I would love to go on and on about all I am learning through my confusion, but I am held back by the conviction that each person needs to work out his or her own salvation with Jesus. Never before has it been more crucial to have a deep personal relationship with our Saviour. A marriage can never flourish if the man keeps on bringing his wife flowers, but has an affair with his secretary. Or when a wife dutifully irons her husband's shirts and cooks his favourite meals, but finds her satisfaction and fulfilment from meetings with her friends. There is a handful of people from whom I have learnt so much, and at times feel so indebted to, but they would be the first ones to remind me that the greatest way of thanking them for this, is to live out the Truth that they have entrusted in me. And the only way I can do this is by following Jesus.

There is no way I can follow the course of a star in the heavens if I look at the telescope. I need to look through it to see it's illuminated path.

In the course of reading and listening and trying to learn and discern and trying to do all I needed to do, I have certainly felt a sense of achievement. Until I realised that what I felt was pride in all I had done or tried not to do. This took me back to my knees and I rose stiffly, knowing that it is "God alone who works in me to will and to act according to His good purpose." ~ Phil 2:13

It is not the works that work out my salvation, but the regeneration by His mercy to a "new birth". Having been reborn, the old is gone, the new has come. The "new" longs for Jesus, feels lost without Him. The more the "new" is regenerated to the likeness of Jesus, the more His goodness and the desire to "to do good" flows into those who are being renewed. By doing good we reveal God's purpose for His people. By doing good we reveal Christ's grace in our lives. And this grace provides life change.

"For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all people. It trains us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, as we wait for the happy fulfilment of our hope in the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. He gave himself for us to set us free from every kind of lawlessness and to purify for himself a people who are truly his, who are eager to do good." ~ Titus 2:11-14

Being eager. We have a seven year old who is excessively eager to learn. And when a new concept becomes clear to him, he does a jig and jumps up and down with the joy of this new knowledge.

When all is said and done and there are no words left to convince or describe, it is my eagerness to pursue the Lover of my heart,  the irrepressible joy that comes from a love-relationship with Jesus, that will continue to speak the loudest. The need to sing and dance like David. It is the one instance when "everything with moderation" can happily be thrown overboard. "Excessive admiration and adoration, deep reverence offered, extravagant respect or devotion." 

Jesus is worthy of nothing less.

Friday, 29 July 2016

Breaking the Silence

Speak Lord - your servant is listening ~ 1 Samuel 3:10

A gentle mist-rain is falling. The recent downpours have left everything washed and refreshed. We relish drinking in the crisp clean air, and simply wile away the time peeling and eating oranges in the weak winter sun while it is out. With the smell of wet leaves wafting up from the earth. After stormy days and wind-lashed nights, the silence is sweet. The mist is a gentle friend that softens sounds from the village and shuts out the world for a while.

But there are times when silence is not a comfort. When we wait for a familiar foot-fall, a soothing voice on the other end of the line - anything. When even God seems distant. When social media takes the place of real connection between people and the silence is deep. When prayer is a monologue of all we need and want, but still, God seems to remain silent.

In my early thirties I read a novel of historical fiction written by Shusaku Endo with the title "Silence". It left an imprint on my heart and made me feel distinctly uncomfortable. Wonderfully written,  it weaves the story of a Jesuit missionary sent to 17th century Japan, who endures persecution in the time of Kakure Kirishitan ("Hidden Christians") that followed the defeat of the Shimabara Rebellion.
The young Portuguese Jesuit, Sebastião Rodrigues (based on the historical figure Giuseppe Chiara) is sent to Japan to succor the local Church and investigate reports that his mentor, a Jesuit priest in Japan named Ferreira, (based on Cristóvão Ferreira,) has committed apostasy. The novel relates the trials of Christians and the increasing hardship suffered by Rodrigues.
Fr. Rodrigues and his companion Fr. Francisco Garrpe arrive in Japan in 1639. There they find the local Christian population driven underground. To ferret out hidden Christians, security officials force suspected Christians to trample on a "fumie", a crudely carved image of Christ. Those who refuse are imprisoned and killed by anazuri (穴吊り), which is by being hung upside down over a pit and slowly bled.
Rodrigues and Garrpe are eventually captured and forced to watch as Japanese Christians lay down their lives for their faith. There is no glory in these martyrdoms, as Rodrigues had always imagined – only brutality and cruelty. Prior to the arrival of Rodrigues, the authorities had been attempting to force priests to renounce their faith by torturing them. Beginning with Fr. Ferreira, they torture other Christians as the priests look on, telling the priests that all they must do is renounce their faith in order to end the suffering of their flock.
Rodrigues' journal depicts his struggles: he understands suffering for the sake of one's own faith; but he struggles over whether it is self-centered and unmerciful to refuse to recant when doing so will end another’s suffering. At the climactic moment, Rodrigues hears the moans of those who have recanted but are to remain in the pit until he tramples the image of Christ. As Rodrigues looks upon a fumie, Christ is said to break His silence:
“You may trample. You may trample. I more than anyone know of the pain in your foot. You may trample. It was to be trampled on by men that I was born into this world. It was to share men’s pain that I carried my cross.”
Rodrigues puts his foot on the fumie, and the Christians are released...
We had a copy of this book on our shelf, but during a recent clean-up, I gave it away, remembering how uncomfortable it made me feel all those years back. This morning as I sat down to write, I remembered why. I wanted God to thunder in anger, to punish the persecutors, to protect the apple of His eye, to whisper words of comfort to those suffering on behalf of their faith. Anything, but to be silent and "allow evil to triumph".

But reading over the words that Jesus is said to have spoken to Rodrigues, I was reminded of this passage of scripture: "Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God;... - John 13:4. There was no need for an outward show of power. His presence could not be reduced to a crudely carven image. His victory was unequivocal and could or would not be undone. We share in His victory, but also in His suffering. From verse 5 onwards, it tells of how Jesus takes off His outer garments and continues to wash the disciples' feet. Simon Peter refuses to have His feet washed by the Messiah. Jesus says to Him in verse 7: " You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand." Even though this specific incident took place to show the disciples that they had to be spiritually washed by Jesus to be sanctified and have part of Him, and how the Master became the servant as an example to us, God had a different message for me today. But the verses were placed on my heart to help me understand what I was grappling with, and to relay the message that I wanted to share. And to be peaceful about what I cannot understand here and now. Did God not speak?

Over the years past, I rarely "heard" God giving me a way out, or answers to my endless questions with unmistakable clarity. There had been promptings and inner convictions, many answers to prayer, peace in times of anxiety, joy in times of mourning. I used to think it had something to do with spiritual immaturity or lack of faith. But in hindsight I realise that I was listening for random words rather than the Word, for a "small voice" in my head, giving me the answers I wanted to hear.

In the time that we live in now, we may also feel that God has become silent. That He is standing back, waiting for the cup of wrath to fill up. We cry out, because we can't hear His voice above the busyness, din and depravity in the world. We listen and read what spiritual teachers and preachers have to say to make sense of it all.

But, God has never been silent - He has spoken. Jesus is the Living Word. If we take up that Word today and read prayerfully what He wants to say to us, we will hear. God has spoken - He speaks - He will speak until the end of days. Through His Word, known to us as the bible. Not lifeless pages filled with stories and feel-good messages. But the Word become flesh.

Jesus; alive and as close as the pages in which and through which: He speaks!

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

One and ALL

This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires ALL men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. ~ 1 Timothy 2:3-4

Our winter days can be bleak and bitter. But there are those days when the wind settles and the sun is mild and lovely. The air is crisp but not biting. And a gentle light flows over everything, softening the stark winter landscape into something soothing and peaceful. The change of season is distinct and often spectacular - nature announces the time of year, man and beast adjust to it's rhythm. Our children continue to thrive, regardless. But for me, it is often a time of survival, when I have to dig deep to stay strong and joyful. A great part of our days revolve around keeping warm. Without the glow of a fire in the hearth, a mountain home seems almost devoid of life. When the sun is weak and the wind merciless, I tend to ponder too much, and sing too little. My fingers are stiff and slow to reach for the bible on my bedside table. I hide them under the blankets or buried in my pockets, while burdens lay heavy on my heart.

At times, surrounded by so much beauty and blessed to be able to live a simple life, the reality of the world out there seems a bit like a mirage in the desert. But one cannot isolate yourself anywhere, the enemy does not discriminate and our village is no paradise. We are in this world, and it's madness and depravity cannot be escaped. But it can be overcome. And we can play a role in bringing the Kingdom of God nearer, especially to those who do not know Jesus for who He truly is.

The human heart has a tendency to divide people into "the good" and "the bad". We pray for the "good" ones, and hope that God will deal with the "bad" ones fairly and justly. But I realised quite some time ago, that this is not a reflection of God's heart. He sees the "saved" and the "unsaved" and loves them all equally. One of the most loved images of Jesus is of Him carrying a lamb. The lost one, the stray, which he brought back from peril, against all odds. There are so many parables drawing our eyes to a Saviour who goes to great lengths to return the lost to him, who does not want one of His precious ones to "perish".

In a world gone crazy, with the cup of wrath filling up faster than we can imagine, it is easy to loose sight of the fact that Jesus still desires for ALL men to know Him and be saved. And in the light of that knowledge, it is hard to understand why they are not. We see people stubbornly clinging to their old ways, sinking deeper into the quicksand of unbelief. Or being slowly poisoned by little lies, diluting the essence of  Truth, which is Jesus Christ. Until the distorted faith has no more power or real effect in their lives.

Some of these people may be very near and dear to us. But some are appointed as rulers of our country, beggars by the roadside, the man on who's heart evil has a strong hold, and who has succumbed to a life of crime. The woman who has sold her body so many times that it has become just another way to survive. The person who has wronged or hurt you, or mocks your faith. But God looks down, and is overcome by sadness and love. For them all. And longing. The same longing which caused Him to surrender His Son to the cross.

As we draw nearer to Him, we start feeling a hint of that sadness. The sadness for mankind. But then unexpectedly, for a complete stranger or someone we distinctly dislike, a neighbour, a friend or family member. For those whose eyes may be merry, but lack the light of Jesus. Our hearts break when a loved one looses sight of  the Way, for a way which seems easier and offers more instant and obvious rewards.

That is when I know that we are still "urged" to offer "requests, prayers, intercessions, and thanks on behalf of ALL people". For it is "good and acceptable" to our Lord who "desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth". ~ 1 Timothy 2:2-4

And I want His desire to be mine.

It is also a deep comfort to me in this time, to be reminded that Jesus still goes after that one lost sheep, not just once, but time and again. I will not stop praying, for I know that He does not stop saving. Jesus goes to untold lengths to woe His lost children back into the fold. It may seem like our prayers are to no avail at times but:  "The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance" ~ 2 Peter 3:9

In each heart there is a void that can only be filled by Jesus. We were made for Him, through Him. Does a parent ever stop loving a rebellious child or stop longing to hold him near as when he was just a baby? How much more does our heavenly Father long for those who need Him so, but do not realise it.

I cannot possibly pray for everyone by name, but it has been special to see how the Holy Spirit places very specific people on the paths and hearts of people who have made themselves willing to intercede on behalf of others. God does not need us to save, a soul is brought to repentance and is saved by the working of the Holy Spirit. But my faithful prayer may open the way for this to happen. It is the difference between standing at the edge of a cliff, helplessly looking down at a fallen child of God, or having a rope to throw down. With Jesus, we have that and more - but it is still up to the person involved to take hold of it, and it is still the strength and grace of God which pulls him/her back to safety. Inch by painful inch at times, times in which persistent prayer and trust keeps the hope alive.

This remains to me, one of the amazing miracles of our faith: The authority we have. It makes me feel strong, yet humble. No longer a helpless witness, but chosen and equipped to step into the battle with confidence. No longer crippled by a misplaced despondency over the state of the world or individuals in it. Many battles have been fought and won in the quiet, often lonely places of prayer. There are no medals for bravery or accolades for achievement here. Just deep, strong trusting hearts, satisfied to live out the desire of the One they love and serve beyond question or doubt. For when Jesus is (and was) lifted up from the earth, he will draw ALL men unto Him. ~ John 12:32

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

A Time to be Truth - full

Sanctify them through thy truth. Thy word is truth. ~ John 17:17

It is cold. Not a cosy winter wonderland kind of cold. Gnashing and ripping, winter bares its fangs and all life scuttles away and hides. Day breaks with a moaning at the windows, an absence of birdsong. Tall bare trees bend like old men, tired and weather-beaten. Bitter as it may seem at times, winter is necessary. Pests and their larvae are eliminated to a large degree, stubborn forms of bacteria are dealt with. Extreme weather also reins in some invasive plants. It purifies, invigorates. Even though my whole body seems to offer resistance, I wrap up in un-matching layers and a charity bought fake fur, and brave the outdoors with my family. In tumbles over kite lines, with wet noses and stiff fingers, laughter borne away by the wind, the threat of winter is pushed aside for a short while. We return as happy conquerors, with large appetites.

Earlier in the week, I received a phone-call from a delightful woman who also lives a simple life in a relatively isolated place. She had been reading quite a bit of what I churn out each week, and it was a generous thirty minute conversation, rare in these days of abbreviated text messages. She made me realise once again, that people often weave an image around someone who puts their inspired thoughts into writing. And the truth is often far removed from this "image". It was humbling, because I knew as tempting as it was to leave her with this flattering impression of me, it was time to be truthful.

I sat down on a chair, dog-fur on the seat (and on mine...). I was wearing the same striped leggings in which I had slept, with a floral stretch skirt hastily pulled on over it. Feet shod in long socks and my husbands sheepskin slippers, an overlarge fleece top over two long-sleeved T's and a paisley scarf around my neck. My graying hair uncombed, and eyes still puffy from sleep. I took a deep breath and started telling her the truth about myself.

I know that some of the stuff that I have written over the years is actually quite good. That much I will admit. But that does not make me "good". Nor am I a writer or a teacher, or aspire to be. When I read over most of what I write critically and honestly, I realise that time after time after time, my haphazard thoughts, and unstructured research, are brought "together" by the leading and guiding of the Author and Perfecter of my faith - Jesus. Writing used to be such a discipline. I used to "sit" on a blog for days, before I felt ready to let it go. Probing each sentence for accuracy. Depending heavily on my husband's editing and opinion. Since I have realised that a God-given gift needs God-given inspiration, and submitted my thoughts to Him, it has become increasingly easier. I may now enjoy the intimate times of writing, knowing that the Holy Spirit will cover my mistakes, and God's grace will take the messages into hearts and places where there is a need for it.

That is part of the truth about me. But that is trivial. Truth itself presents the greater challenge to us all. How absolute (infinite, pure) is truth? Can there truly be more than one truth when it comes to our salvation? Wikipedia refers to truth as being "in accord with fact or reality, or fidelity to an original or a standard". But if there is no single original or standard against which to test the truth, who's belief or teaching is truth and who's is falsehood? There are probably many clever arguments from great minds, which I can add to substantiate that truth is absolute. The opposing argument would be that it is relative to what you believe.

Paul wrote to the Romans telling them to "not be conformed to this world." Part of that means that I should not buy into a system of belief that says absolute truth is a myth. That parts of the Bible are not relevant to us, or have been superseded by another part.

But I know that it is the work of the Holy Spirit to open spiritual eyes, and to seal Truth into people's hearts. Judgement begins in the house of God, with His church and His people. Firstly my own heart and understanding needs to be searched and rooted in His truth, before I can try to point out the error in another's.

For me, there is a wonderful simplicity behind the issue regarding truth. Jesus says in John 14:6: I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. He did not say: I will lead you to the truth or reveal the truth, but I AM THE TRUTH. There is no knowing the Truth without Him. One with the Father, before the first tick of time had sounded or the circle of eternity had commenced, there was Him. The original. Alone. In no need of man to validate Him. Yet still, He created man, as an expression of  His Love. His image, and the truth of his existence made visible.

Denying truth can not make it false. Ever. It sadly only leads to deep spiritual confusion, to places where there may be many truths. Leading further and further away from infinite Truth. Measured against conscience, which is as unreliable as a plumb-line blowing in the wind, truth shifts and changes. Often only a small deviation from the truth, which seems so temptingly acceptable, is in reality laced with a miniscule amount of poison, not enough to detect, but enough to start a slow death.

Spirit-filled Christians do not need to be subjected to this poisoning. This verse is one of many which gives me this reassurance: "But the anointing that you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as His anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in Him." (1 John 2:27) If we abide in Jesus, true Christians have an inward confirmation of the divine truth which they have absorbed. The Holy Spirit has imprinted it on our minds and hearts. Jesus should have a constant witness in the hearts of His people. The pouring out of the gifts of grace on sincere followers, is a seal to the truth and doctrine of Christ, since no one gives that seal but God himself.

I recently listened to an in depth explanation of our spiritual armour, which reminded me how crucially important truth is in the spiritual battles we face. The first piece of armour Paul mentions is: the belt of truth. It made me realise that this belt is not an accessory. Without it, as a soldier in God's army, I would be ineffective and defenseless.

The belt—known as the cingulum or balteus—played a crucial role in the effectiveness of a Roman soldier's armour. It was the belt that held the scabbard, without which there would be no place to put a sword. The breastplate was secured onto this cingulum - if it was not firmly in place - the breastplate would simply slip off. In addition, from this belt hung strips of leather to protect the lower body. 

Truth should cleave to me as a belt cleaves to my body. With false doctrine, I cannot enter into spiritual warfare and expect to be effective. As the belt encompasses the waist - the truth of the gospel encompasses, protects and empowers us.

Jesus, praying to the Father, gives a clear and straightforward definition of truth: God's Word. The Holy Bible (Scripture—the word of truth) was given by inspiration of God (2 Timothy 3:16). The Greek expression translated "inspiration of God" literally means "God-breathed" He actively and fully inspired the Bible to reveal His truth to us.

His promises, His commands, His word—they are all truth, plain and simple. After all, "The LORD of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?" (Isaiah 14:27). If God says something, there is no force that can stop Him from doing it—we can rest assured that it will be done.

The world we live in teaches that truth is what we make it—that good and bad are relative and that there are no absolutes, only equally valid opinions. But I know that the Bible teaches that truth is God's Word—that good and bad are defined by Him and that they are eternal and unchangeable absolutes, uninfluenced by time or opinions.

Imagine a belt with a segment missing. No matter how tiny the sliver that isn't there, the belt is still useless. To do its job, it must be one continuous, unbroken piece. I cannot try to live God's way without total belief in its validity - it would be like trying to hold your sword up with a belt that isn't continuous. Neither will work. My trust in God and His Word must be solid, without break, or else I will quickly find myself powerless, without a weapon.

Truth sets us free. It is a promise. As we come to know Jesus, we come face to face with Truth. He shows us the beauty of Truth in quiet moments at His feet. In every line of His Word, pure, dividing, life-giving and sustaining. It is the difference between a life lived in the shadows, under the artificial light of self-proclaimed truths. Or life in the light of His Truth, glory and grace. Freed, transformed, equipped and victorious.