Tag Archives: Grace

Worthwhile reads

My friends have been busy.

Herewith an introduction to two new e-books, and links to both. Each are for download at no charge.


This book resolves the crisis of the HOW in Christian living. Many Christians live frustrated lives because they have tried ‘doing’ it for so long and nothing seems to change. They have prayed countless hours, they have fasted plenty meals and they have cried buckets of tears and yet, they can’t seem to live in the good of the abundant life Jesus promised. How do I do this? This book shows you.

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/727641

 


The Gospel reveals a Jesus who is for us. In all situations and circumstances, He is for us, and never against.

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/728917

 

 


Enjoy!

Like and share!

Grace breaks the chains (by Gert Botha)

I don’t know where to start cause there’s so much that’s happened during my journey and in reality, I don’t actually want to talk about myself, I’d rather talk about elephants and addicts, so I guess its sufficient to say: I was born some time ago, a cute blue eyed bouncing baby with rosy cheeks and curly blonde hair. Hard to believe it but, I’ve got a photo to prove it, of course its yellow from age

My parents called me GERT PIETER. Can u imagine that? This cute little baby. I once asked my mother, “HOW COULD YOU DO IT?” I learnt that it was a family name; my Oupa had it, and his dad had it. Tradition? Don’t rock the boat. That’s how it always has been, no need to change it. It’s safe to stick to what you’ve done in the past.

That’s enough about me, OK! Now about elephants and addicts …

When I wore the clothes of a younger man I worked in the Wankie National Game Park (Zimbabwe), and saw animals do amazing and strange things. One of those incidents reminds me of how ‘once free’ creatures can be held prisoner in captivity, even by imaginary chains. One day we heard a call on our walkie talkie (a two way radio – there were no mobile phones in those days – can you imagine that?) that a rogue elephant had to be culled because he had gone on a rampage and destroyed a number of huts in the area, but fortunately no one was injured. Of course this was something exciting to see so we packed up our tools and took off in the Land Rover to witness the event. We arrive at the camp where the damage had been done and saw, to our amazement, a huge tree that the elephant had partially uprooted and pulled across the railway line, so we proceeded to help the game ranger to pull the tree off with the Land Rover, but without success. We radioed to the station to send an engine to do the job and some hours later the tree was removed. We proceeded to track the elephant, at a respectable distance behind the game ranger, and saw the bull elephant that only had one tusk and was well known to the locals as a mean old guy. The game ranger went down on one knee, took aim at the charging elephant, let off a shot and dropped the animal a few metres in front of him. The hole where his tusk once was burst open expelling a pile of maggots and the game ranger explained that the elephant went rogue because of the excruciating pain. We were amazed at the incredible power of the “old” elephant that pulled down a tree which we couldn’t move with a Land Rover and gained a new respect for free animals in the wild.

In contrast: Elephant trainers in a circus attach a chain which is a few metres long to one leg of a young elephant and peg the other end into the ground, and in time the animal realises that it can’t wander too far from the peg in the ground. When the elephant is older, the chain is removed but the peg is still driven into the ground so it won’t go further from the peg than the length of the ‘imaginary chain’. Like the elephant, we are inclined to follow the same patterns: it’s safe in the comfort zone, even if it holds you back; it’s safe to stick to what you’ve done in the past. The unknown is scary and threatening. It’s dangerous to challenge authority, our culture and programming. At every town where the circus performs, the trainer drives a stake into the ground and the elephant is controlled and stays in that space. The elephant has to be rehabilitated before he can really break free from that bondage, and that can take a life time, patience and care (unless a miracle happens).

Even when the prison gates are opened and we are set free, the invisible chains of religion and legalism won’t let us go beyond a certain comfortable or even painful point. It’s safe to stick to what you’ve done in the past.

When I first met Jesus, it was a gentle deep encounter and my introduction was beautiful. I joined a congregation and did all the churchy things. It was good and I learnt commitment, obedience and servanthood. That was all part of my journey. For many years we were flowing in the river of life and it was wonderful, and we were contented, and safe. But then one day, and suddenly, a side stream flowed into the river from behind us and it became a powerful force to the extent that we felt threatened and had to decide to either allow the rising water to take us out of our comfort zone and engulf us, or get out up on to the river bank where it’s safe, to avoid the flood. This was the beginning of the end; the end of life as I knew it; the end of yesterday; the death of my past.

This was the grace message. Was I ready for it? Did it make sense? Could I understand it? Could I get my head around it? Was my heart able to receive it? No, no, no, no and no. Up until this time, the message of the cross had always been the ‘Show Stopper’; the core of my belief. Nothing has changed since the flood but I have had a paradigm shift in my spirit, and sometimes my head and heart have to catch up. Life is a journey, which is inevitable, and the only sure thing that is constant is change, and it’s the thing we often resist the most for whatever reason. We fear the unknown. We feel safe in our comfort zone, even if it’s not that comfortable. And the big one, the fear of man’s opinion, and rejection if we admit that we were wrong. Especially so if it’s been like that for a lifetime, and for most of us these fears are giants in our lives. Now, since the flood, many of these fears have become secondary considerations for me, although sometimes they still raise their ugly heads.

There’s always been head knowledge, and even a heart acknowledgement, of what Jesus did on the cross at Calvary to save the world. He died for me; that’s true. Suffered and took the punishment for me. Looking back now, I realise that deep down inside my spirit, I actually felt guilty and even responsible for His death 2000 years ago, and felt that I had to do stuff to make up for it. It was the same feeling that we got when our parents said things like, “Is that the thanks I get after all I’ve done for you”.

So what has changed?

Pre-flood I knew that Jesus suffered and died a horrific death to set me free, but the reason why he was prepared to do that has deeply impacted my spirit since the flood. It’s moved from head and heart to spirit. He died for me because He loves me, and I don’t even have to say the word unconditionally, because that’s what real love is. I know I’ve heard this 1000 times before, but since the flood, my spirit leaps up every time I say or think it as if it’s the first time I’ve heard it. I can’t explain it.

Grace has enabled me to be at peace with myself and others (most of the time). The chains have been broken and I am free, although some stakes in the ground still exist, and like the elephant, I’m on the journey of rehabilitation. The end of yesterday has begun.

Then there’s the addict …

In the churchy world of rules and religion, it’s OK if an alcoholic belongs to another church, or if he or she is the unconverted spouse of a member of the congregation. We will pray for deliverance; doesn’t he know that his body is a temple? It’s a sin, and somewhere it is written that thou shalt not, etc. But if it’s a church member who has an addiction of any sort, the guilt and shame associated with not being perfect and having feet of clay is overwhelming and so it’s kept under wraps, behind closed doors. The fear of exposure and condemnation from fellow Christians is sometimes too much to bear, so the sinner leaves the church and no one knows why and he is labelled a back slider. He goes to AA for help, knowing full well that only 14% of addicts who try to quit actually make it, and he introduces himself to the group nervous and embarrassed. He stands up and says, “Hello, my name is Joe, and I’m an alcoholic”, and then slinks back to his seat and sits down.

Then there’s the addict that has had a paradigm shift in his spirit and no longer fears man’s opinions, because the grace of God and the amazing unconditional love of the king has set him free. He doesn’t feel unclean and condemned anymore. He has received in his spirit the fact that his worth is not determined by the value that others place on him or his past, but by the king’s value of him. He goes to AA and stands up to introduce himself, and says, “Hello, my name is Joe, I am an amazing artist and I can’t keep up with the demand for my work. I have two beautiful children and a wonderful wife who I care for and who love me intensely. I am always busy with DIY around the house, I love gardening, and I’m an alcoholic”, and then he crosses the room and shakes hands with everyone in the group. So what’s the difference. He still has an addiction but the chains of condemnation and the fear of man have been broken, and he knows that he is loved and forgiven, because Jesus says so.

In a word, it’s Grace, Grace, Amazing Grace! The idea that grace allows you to do anything is an attempt by the enemy to deceive us again. Don’t fall for it. Pre-grace, what happened in public was important, and what took place behind closed doors stayed behind closed doors. Since Grace, what happens when no one is watching does count, and that’s freedom.

So what have I been set free from? Here are a few things. For me, this is freedom. People who used to bug me appear different and I find myself wanting to hug them (crazy), so if I hug you then you know. Car guards used to bug me. No, I don’t hug them, but now I give silver, not brass . That’s freedom. Waiters tip? They need it more than me now. That’s freedom. ESKOM? Remembering that others have no electricity; that’s freedom. Apologise when wrong; keep quiet when right. That’s freedom. Surrender the TV remote. Now that’s freedom!

Some time after the flood, I wrote this note: “Free at Last, thank God, I’m free at last”. Way back in the day, I recall that one of the songs we sang in was, “My soul escaped, like a bird, out of the snare of the fowler”. At the time, to me it meant that I had escaped from the power and influence of sin and temptation in my life, and indeed this was true to a point. However, it wasn’t complete freedom because unbeknownst to me, although the snare had been broken, I was unable to escape and run free. There were still chains that prevented me from moving too far from that which had kept me bound, not unlike house arrest. My journey as a Christian had begun, I was told, and I was now able to “earn” my crown in heaven, and everything would be fine. I just had to follow the rules that God had made, and if I failed I could repent and go on. If I tithed 10%, He would multiply it, and if I attended church and looked holy, this was all to my benefit. My status in heaven would be enhanced. Terms like “bless you brother”, “hallelujah” and “praise the Lord” were special holy code words to gain acceptance from fellow Christians. The leaders of the church were my heroes, and I followed them faithfully, and defended them when non-members challenged their teachings.

I recall those 3 and 4 hour sessions on Sundays where we sat glued to our chairs learning under our guru. Then there were the 4.30 am prayer meetings for the men and the 30 day fasts, and I genuinely believed that these rituals were requirements to really be accepted by God. If one couldn’t reach those heights, you needed to work harder, and the guilt would creep in if you didn’t. My conscience was driven by performance and reward for achievement. In hindsight, this was all good character building and I learnt commitment, servanthood, obedience and faithfulness. These leaders were pivotal in my growth and they set the foundations on which to build, and I am forever grateful for them and their input. But something has happened. Because of grace my spirit has had a revelation, which, quite honestly, my head doesn’t always grasp. The most effective enemy is the one you can’t see, or the one you think doesn’t exist. That’s why we use camouflage in war. The enemy has deceived the church through religion and legalism for centuries, and at last the snare is indeed broken and I am truly escaped. Now, because of grace, I can recognise these in my life.

There is absolutely nothing I can do to earn my way in to heaven. I would love to be able to obey all the Ten Commandments all the time if that’s what’s required to get me there, but temptation will always be around. I know, you know, and He knows, that its impossible for me, and that’s why the only way is by His grace. Because of grace, my conscience has been reborn, so to speak, and I have become so sensitive to the truth of His unconditional love. This has me in a place where I don’t want to offend Him, and even ‘small sins’ like road rage raise a check in me immediately. I end up apologizing in the middle of the rage.

In the same vein, those dedicated men and woman who gave their all in establishing and laying down solid foundations in my life, I love and honour you. Thank God that you were obedient and willing to impart that which He had given you, which was right for that season. Now, please don’t take offence, but since the flood, He has reminded me that He is a jealous God, and that He is the only hero in my life. I’m sorry guys, you have been relieved of the title of hero, because I only have one hero to worship: King Jesus. and no other.

As for the 10% tithe, there was always the inner debate as to whether it’s before tax or not. Oh, what religious garbage that was. You can’t out give God so let’s stop the non-sense. Of course there always had to be the multiplication sermon on tithe day, just to rub in the law a little bit more. Well, now I find that giving has become a joy, and I find myself just increasing the ‘legal’ amount, just because.

HE BREAKS EVERY CHAIN! Fear, anger, unforgiveness, prejudices, negativity, addictions, religion, legalism.

Grace.

Free!

Like and share!

The Gospel includes

Nothing could be more revolutionary than that which is done to you in the moment that you first put your confidence in Christ. The Gospel believed is the Gospel received, and in that instant of faith, the greatest exchange imaginable is effected – Christ’s life for yours!

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:1–9).

goodbyeoldhellonewThe transformation that occurs is literally out of this world, as in a moment you go from being “in Adam” to being “in Christ”. All of the major metaphors of Scripture apply in that instant – death to life; darkness to light; satan to God, condemned to justified, slave to freeman; enemy to friend – on and on it goes. Many books would be necessary to do justice to the many wonderful facets of this single glorious truth – inclusion in Christ. And that’s the big idea. Believing includes us in Christ. This is not just some sort of transfer of allegiance; it is the all-encompassing transformation of a life. The phrase “in Christ” is ubiquitous in Paul’s letters, for it describes the essence of salvation. “In Christ”; “in Him”; “in Christ Jesus”. Those of us who preach and teach these truths will often refer to this as the believer’s position, placement, status or standing. In Christ!

Christians are saved, but they did not save themselves. They are in Christ, but they did not put themselves there. It is not even their faith that saved them. In the moment that they believed, it was the Holy Spirit who went to work as per the Father’s decree, transferring them from in Adam to in Christ. This was all of grace, and is something that God does to all who believe.

in-christThe enormity of what happens is not faith-sized, but grace-sized. It’s not as if those who have great faith receive a great salvation, and those with less faith receive a lesser salvation. Those with less faith may well appropriate less of the salvation given to them, but a lesser faith does not lessen the work of Christ on our behalf. To think thus is absurdity, for those who believe have not just seen, heard or tasted, but have entered into salvation by the power of God. Tentative faith (a mustard seed’s worth) does not unleash a tentative reaction from heaven. Salvation is a one-size-fits-all proposition – Jesus! Rather, believing thrusts us into the white-water of the new birth, and those who have put their confidence in Christ have been carried along by the power of God, away from the old and right into the new.

It is simply not possible to be a half-Christian or a bad Christian. It is not we, ourselves, who make ourselves Christians. It is a work of God, and all that He does He does well. There is only one kind of Christian on the planet, and that is the perfect kind, for we are of His making. Some of us do live poorly representing our in-Christ-ness, thanks to paucity of faith, or to misbeliefs of one kind or another. But that does not mean that we are lesser Christians, for we are all Christians by the same work of the same Spirit. Understanding this is life-changing. In Christ, is in Christ, is in Christ! We’ve received a faith of equal standing before God, writes the apostle Peter. We might have different gifts and callings, and some might fellowship more intimately with God than others do, but we’ve all received equal access to God, with equal rights and privileges. It is all of grace alone, and all because of Christ alone. We have all received the highest title and the richest commendation imaginable, for in Christ we are all God’s beloved children, in whom Father is well pleased. That is who we are. That is our identity.

inchristlogoIn the moment of faith His story became our story. That’s the Gospel. In an instant, the Holy Spirit united us with Christ, in His crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection. We were raised to new life in Him, and are now seated with Him in heavenly places. We are the saved; He is the Saviour. Our salvation has come through our literal immersion into Him, and into His substitutionary, atoning work. Christians have been baptised (immersed) into Christ. It is this to which believers’ baptism testifies most graphically.

The gift of salvation is not extraneous to our person. It is not like an item of clothing or jewelry, or even like any other experience we might have. It is not something that can be received, explored, enjoyed, kept, exploited or discarded. It cannot be lost or misplaced. It is defining. It’s not so much something we possess, as something that possesses us. Being in Christ is far more a matter of Christ having us than our having Him. Those who have believed have been engulfed in Saviour and salvation just as surely as Jonah was swallowed by the big fish. The difference is that we were not ingested, but en-wombed. We were re-created; born again; re-made. Nicodemus puzzled over this because he could not imagine how he would ever get back into his mother’s womb. He understood the point, just not the means, for the womb into which the Spirit thrusts us is the work of Christ, from which we re-emerge altogether new.

col-3-3-hidden-in-christWe would better speak of believing into Jesus, even if it is grammatically awkward. Coming to faith is literally believing into Christ, which is what faith ultimately accomplishes as grace is appropriated by the Spirit. It is also why the whole experience is irrevocable. If we were saved by our faith, then our salvation could well be on-again, off-again. But we are not saved by faith; we are saved through faith. Believing opens the door to the tsunami of God’s power, and that which was wrought for us on the cross, is applied to us by the Holy Spirit. It is a leap forward from which there is no way back. In a moment, we are included in something altogether other, immeasurably bigger than ourselves. We are welcomed into a kingdom, a family, a fellowship, a union. We enter by literal re-creation. The Gospel believed is salvation received; the Gospel believed is inclusion in Christ.

This is one of a series of posts adapted from the e-book “Why the Gospel is the Best News Ever!” by Gavin Cox. Go to the first post in the series by clicking here.

Like and share!

The power of the Gospel

The Gospel is the power of God for salvation!

“I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” (Romans 1:16–17)

1This glorious Good News of Jesus’ death and resurrection is not passive, but active. It works. It does stuff; it accomplishes things. It’s also not just that the Gospel can be powerful when put to appropriate use, for example by powerful preaching or testimony, or when accompanied by confirming signs and wonders. The Gospel is powerful all on its own without any of these very good things attending it. Stand-alone, the Gospel is powerful! It is the power of God for salvation. It’s glorious to partner with, and it certainly makes good use of our gifts and callings, but the Gospel all on its own is able to save, for saving is its purpose, and save it does.

EarthGlobeAfrica.tif.746x600_q85The creation account helps us to understand. God the Father decreed; He spoke by the Living Word, Jesus; Holy Spirit did the work. Will, Word and Works, and there you have it – the Trinity in glorious synergy bringing something out of nothing. Into the dark, formless void that was, Father decreed, and that which was Spoken was accomplished by the Spirit, who was to be found brooding over the project to do all that was willed. In exactly the same way, salvation in Father’s will, through and in Jesus, and by the Spirit. When the Gospel is proclaimed, the Good News and the Spirit work together in creative synergy – Will, Word and Works – their sublime redemptive poetry, joyfully engulfing, loving, and saving, just as choreographed to do before time began.

GerminationJesus Himself made the same point very simply when He described the Gospel as a seed. Fertile seeds are powerful things, containing everything necessary for maturity, including life, thanks to their ingenuity in design. The whole oak is in the acorn. In the same way, the freedom and fullness secured for us in Christ is in the Gospel. Jesus crucified, died, buried and raised – such a tiny seed – yet therein lies every provision and every victory, sufficient for everyone who believes, and in an abundance befitting eternity. Just as fertile seeds can lie dormant for decades before conducive conditions facilitate germination, in the same way the Gospel shared can patiently await its appointed time. Like any seed, harvest depends upon the soil into which it’s sown, but scant harvest on occasion in no way reflects upon the perfection of this seed. On the contrary, just as we’ve witnessed plants of all kinds breaking through paving or rock, the Gospel produces exceedingly abundantly above expectation, again and again, even in the most adverse of circumstances.

Both Jesus and Paul demonstrated their confidence in the power inherent in the Good News in a rather noteworthy way. Both encountered self-appointed ministries whose motives were questionable, and neither sought to put a stop to them. Both knew that the Gospel was well able to look after itself. Good motive or bad, the power of the seed remained unchanged.

picture1This blog post sets up a series of a further ten posts, each expanding on what the Gospel does. It works wonders; awesome wonders. The Gospel bears fruit; plentiful, abundant, lasting fruit. The Gospel does all that the Lord designed it to do. It is ever so worth our while teasing out the richness of the Gospel’s power, so as to better to understand, admire, appropriate and communicate it. The beauty is that the Gospel doesn’t justify or redeem or reconcile or …; it justifies and redeems and reconciles…. Where one stops and another starts is of little consequence, for the colours, flavours and facets (pick the metaphor you most prefer) work off and into one another in magnificent, enriching, enhancing and compounding splendour.

downloadContemplating the Gospel in this way is comparable to gazing into the night sky. It will always be breathtaking, and there will always be more to see. This is the nature of the infinite. Describe what you see in terms of planets, stars or galaxies, whichever you prefer, for magnificent remains magnificent, even when perspective shifts. My prayer is that this exercise in Gospel-gazing will whet your appetite for a lifetime of exploration. Together we will forage on the fringes of the inexhaustible, exploring the limitless bounds of the revelation of our Lord that will keep us captivated for all eternity.

Adapted from the e-book Why the Gospel is the Best News Ever! by Gavin Cox

Like and share!

Good News

downloadThe Gospel is news. It’s news about Jesus – about who He is, what He did, and why He did it.

His story goes right back to before the beginning, when He partnered with the other members of the Godhead in formulating their creative and redemptive plans, agreeing on their respective roles. He was then so successful in His mission that its impact is comprehensively retroactive and will be never-ending. The cross spans time and space, for by it God was reconciling all things to Himself – things on earth, and things in heaven.

Throughout the ages, this story has been told by those who saw, heard and experienced it unfold and develop. It is so well attested to all along the way that it comes to us as eye-witness news, with many of those witnesses having been martyred for their unwillingness to waver in testimony. Yet, in contemplating its enormous scope, let’s not imagine that the Gospel story is a complicated one, for this is not so. The poignant facts are all to be found condensed within the life of a single individual, Jesus Christ. The Gospel is short and simple, easily remembered, and easily told. Even little children can understand it.

imagesWhen this news – Jesus crucified, died, buried and raised – first broke on the streets of Jerusalem on Pentecost morning a little more than two millennia ago, it did so empowered by the Spirit, and immediately went viral. The believing community of a hundred and twenty soon gained three thousand more, and from there it snowballed. Confirmed by miracles, signs and wonders through the centuries, today the worldwide community of believers numbers hundreds of millions, and the forward momentum of this message gives no indication whatsoever of slowing down.

Wherever the news about Jesus has gone, it’s been just as controversial as Jesus Himself was. This has been a good thing, for it means that this news has been interrogated and tested every step of the way. The first major think-tank – and there have been many since – took place as the key role-players in the believing community gathered at what we today refer to as the Council of Jerusalem. This was necessary because the news was leaping across ethnic divides, and they wanted to make sure that everyone was getting the facts, and not some culturally distorted version of the facts. This Council was presided over by James, the half-brother of Jesus. Like him, many of those present had seen first-hand what Jesus had done, and heard what Jesus had said with their own ears. This gathering therefore constituted the ideal forum for crystallising the Gospel, paring it down to its essentials. What was then viral is now global, and those early leaders served us well, as did many others through the years. Much has happened, but the facts remain, and today the Gospel is as clear as it has ever been. What we learn through it all is that truth remains true, and ceaseless attention simply polishes the diamond all the more. The news, as proclaimed by Peter on the streets of Jerusalem, is the news we herald today.

download (1)Jesus lived the sinless life no descendant of Adam could. Every one of Adam’s line is a sinner, due sin’s wages, but sinless Jesus received these on our behalf. He died for our sins. Three days later, God raised Him from the dead, thereby vindicating His claims, and establishing His vicarious death as redemption for sinners for all time. All who believe this, in so doing appropriate His substitution personally, and thereby enter into a glorious exchange – their sin for His righteousness. All of it, for all of it! He received what sinners deserve, and in believing, sinners become saints as they enter into all that He deserves. The Gospel believed is salvation received, and it is by faith alone that men and women are put right with God. The Holy Spirit makes them alive and anew. In the moment of faith, those who believe are instantly transported from darkness to light, from death to life, and from being in first Adam to being in Christ (last Adam). God Himself, who made this possible for them, does it to them. We believe; He works! This is the Gospel!


Best News Ever 3D

From Why the Gospel is the Best News Ever! Available for download from a broad selection of e-book platforms. Click on the image to go to the book’s page and select the version that best suits you.

 

 

Like and share!

Living in the Will of God

Will of God 3D

Living in the will of God is the application of the New Covenant in our day to day lives. This book is full of well illustrated and very practical instruction on how to do just that. The will of God is the will of God for all of His children, and you too can confidently live in it.

What Beta Readers have to say about the book

The story goes that a visitor to New York hailed a cab and asked, “How do I get to Carnegie Hall?” The cabby’s reply was short and to the point: “Practise, practise, practise!” This was clearly not what the tourist expected. Whereas he was requesting directions to a destination, he received instructions on how to achieve success. This is so true of Christians who are trying to find a way to live in the will of God. We are given lists of instructions comprising a series of do’s and don’ts and told to practise, practise, practise. The truth is that we can practise until we die and still never achieve any degree of success. This is because thinking in this way makes it all about US and our performance. Receiving direction is entirely another matter. While it’s possible to receive both accurate and inaccurate directions on the subject, accurate directions always point to the finished work of the cross and what JESUS has already done. There is a sense that we do need to practise, but it has nothing to do with improving performance. The more we “practise” Jesus as the Author and Perfecter of our faith, the more likely it is that this will become our default position and the assurance that we are in His will, a lifestyle.

This little book is an excellent departure from the hundreds of self-help manuals and books on shelves around the world. In it Gavin does a superb job of showing us how to live in the will of God and avoid embarking on a journey that leads nowhere. Because the Gospel is all about Jesus, the road always leads to Him. Read it for yourselves to discover how uncomplicated this “how” really is. I give it five stars.

This is the third in the “Not Confused” series. Do yourselves a favour and read the first two as well.

Who should read this book and why?

LIVING IN THE WILL OF GOD is not difficult or complicated. As a matter of common sense, living in God’s will is God’s will. Surely? Why then would our Heavenly Father put it beyond the reach of any of His children? Rather, simple logic dictates that it cannot possibly be the preserve of the spiritual elite, but that living in the will of God is for everyone.

This book is for anyone who has wrestled with these matters. What you’ll discover is that the only real obstacles to living in the will of God are between our ears. This must be so if the grace of God is always sufficient. Obeying Him doesn’t rely on our own resources or abilities. Neither is it dependent on any particular situation or circumstance. The Lord always supplies what He later requires. What obstructs is an amalgam of misinformation, misunderstanding and misbelief. Lodged in our thinking and reinforced by those around us, these keep us bogged down in a veritable quagmire of unbelief. Fortunately there is Good News at hand. The Lord has provided a way out of that swamp. The Gospel is the power of God for salvation. It brings light and life, imparts faith and releases the power of the Spirit. Hence the Bible’s confident assertion that those who know the truth are set free by it. The Gospel is not information, but revelation that enables transformation. The Gospel is the power of God for salvation, and it delivers.

This little book is unashamedly a Gospel “how to”, with the emphasis on Gospel, because Jesus has already put in the hard yards. Living in the will of God relies on His efforts, and not our own. As the truths of the Gospel are applied, faith arises in hearts and minds are renewed. God is the initiator; we are the responders. He loved first. We love in return because we are loved.

Download your copy today!

downloadsmashwords-logoibookskobo barnes-noble-logo

Like and share!

Self transcendence

Sanneh-What-If-Boxing-Were-Run-Like-MMA1-1200The world’s stage has become a boxing ring demanding comment. Perhaps it’s more of a cage fight or a backstreet brawl, but I’m sure you take my point. On one hand we have the liberal left, on the other the fundamentalist right.

The left’s iron fist is in a satin glove. The talk is tolerance and dignity for all, and these are good things. What is flawed is the underlying philosophy of self-actualisation and lawlessness. This is as intolerant as the right as it proffers rights without responsibilities. I buy into the dignity for all, and I think we should make a great deal of space for one another, but I’m against boundary-less-ness, and I don’t want any sinful, demonised fellow becoming the best manifestation of his sinful demonised self possible. Wrong will never be right, and no matter how fine the satin glove, the iron fist it clothes bodes deadly for our future.

The right is no better. The horseshoe strapped across its knuckles is Law – eye for eye and tooth for tooth. That sounds good until we remind ourselves that all are sinners, not unlike that sinful, demonised fellow. The right is as self-obsessed as the left as well, except self-denial replaces self-actualisation. I’m all in favour of the rule of law, but not of legalism, which carves a hard road into the future, littered with judgementalism, condemnation, pride, self-righteousness, idealism, exclusivity, elitism and prejudice.

Cage+Fighting+Held+Wembley+Arena+2Gf3OFQ5HVOlAs we watch these two worldviews slug it out on the world’s stage, the battle reeling from political to economic to religious arenas and back again, let’s remind ourselves of three important facts. Firstly, these opposing worldviews are the best that human wisdom have to offer. Secondly, no matter who wins, nobody wins. And thirdly, the Gospel is divine wisdom and the alternative to both. There we find news of sins forgiven, and of deliverance from the dominion of the same. There we find self-government anchored in God and re-creation, and actioned by the transformational leadership of the indwelling Spirit. There we find hope beyond self-actualisation and self-denial, neither of which have a track record worth perpetuating. For there we find the transcendence of self. Co-crucified with Christ and co-raised with Him, we are in Christ and Christ is in us. In the Gospel we find fullness and freedom within the absolute of the Altogether Good. There we find grace. There we find faith. There we find life. There we find hope. There we find God, who has already done everything necessary to find us.

Like and share!

Serendipity Guaranteed

Brand Pots high quality picPottery is not easy. When we started out, we reasoned that the mastery of ancient crafts were well within the reach of modern man. “If the Neanderthals could do this, so can we”, I would chirp. Thing is, outspoken ignorance throws egg on its face. Mine sure did.

There are just so many variables. The ancients would dig and refine their clay. I buy mine. That probably works in my favour with consistency, but the material remains organic and variations occur. Then there are the challenges of construction. Wheel work and hand building are our thing. Construction includes decorating if slips or pigments are used. The dry wares are then bisque fired, followed by glazing. I buy my glazes too, tweaking the commercial stuff a little from time to time to give me what I want. Application is by dipping, pouring, spraying and brushing, or perhaps a combination of these. Then its back into the kiln, which peaks somewhere around the twelve hundred degrees centigrade mark, making us stoneware potters and our products vitreous.

Here’s the the thing. It sounds so simple. But it’s not. Materials interact with tolerances as fine as fractions of a gram. Temperature is sensitive to the degree. Factor in water quality (there’s water in everything), ambient temperature, humidity, and of course the kiln, and you’re stirring alphabet soup hoping to write a short story in the swirls. The only constant is inconsistency, and with every kiln opening the butterflies flutter a-frenzied in the belly.

Our_Pot_MergedA small percentage are good pots. Sometimes there are none. Occasionally a few. A tiny percentage of pots are real stunners. Even in the safe zone of white glaze over buff clay on an undemanding form, if you want six, make eight. This is because there is serendipity in every good result. Serendipity, when the variables coalesce into a smile.

But here’s the other thing. It is not serendipity alone. As Gary Player (famous golfer) reportedly said, “The more I practice, the luckier I get”. It’s a studied serendipity. A considered and nurtured serendipity. The more I apply myself to every stage of the process, the luckier I get, and the further I push the materials towards manifesting their flamboyant beauty to full potential. I’m no longer a novice, and I’m by no means yet a master, but my serendipity quotient is a pleasing rising tide.

Which brings me to the Gracious Potter. His wheel is this mortal coil, His kiln the furnace of life. Talk about variables, and that’s not to mention His impurity-ridden detritus-sodden uber-organic raw material, us. He is the Potter. We are the clay. He works in love, mercy and grace, bringing His genius to bear in His every thought, word and deed. His artistry is centered in the work of Christ, and songs of praise saturate the atmosphere as He works. There is pitch-perfect resonance throughout as His grace compensates over and above and more than enough, no matter what.

Cox_Pottery_2014_Collection_5835And out of the mud of sin and shame, saints from sinners, beauty from ashes, and the oil of joy for mourning. It’s life from death, glory from dishonor, peace from mayhem, and the eternal from what was only perishing without hope. What’s not to adore! There He is, ever redeeming, reclaiming, restoring, recreating, with the skill and patience of infinite love. His grace is a magnificent study in engineered serendipity. A carefully conceived, considered, constructed and nurtured serendipity. As such it is no serendipity at all, for a guaranteed serendipity is a contradiction in terms. His goodness is not of chance at all, but a reflection of His person and the fulfillment of His inviolable promises, which are firmly founded on the covenant of Christ.

Like and share!

Where are the nine?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn His way to Jerusalem, somewhere between Samaria and Galilee, Jesus encountered ten lepers on the outskirts of a village. News of who Jesus was had reached these unfortunate souls, and so, staying at a distance as was their lot as outcasts, they cried out to Him for mercy. In response, He instructed them to go and show themselves to the priests. As they did so, all ten of them were healed. How kind is our God, loving indiscriminately, and curing the incurable.

The incident is recorded in a way that uses words economically, yet it is richly nuanced for those with enough background to read between the lines. The only fellow who made the effort to thank Jesus was a Samaritan, and the way in which Luke phrases things strongly implies that the other nine were all Jews. Jews and Gentiles were reluctant bedfellows, but these men had found community in their leprosy. Therein is a parable, for all men regardless are united in their sinfulness, and sin is nothing other than leprosy of the soul.

The ethnic divide in the group infers different priests and different temples – the Samaritan to Samaria; the Jews to Jerusalem. Does this not again speak to the modern church in penetrating ways. We, who were united in our lost-ness, are often divided in our found-ness, as church affiliations define us in polarising ways. This is so disturbing given that our very lives rest in a common salvation. A further noteworthy nuance is the way in which this incident blends into the broader story. Jesus was often rejected by Jews, yet received by the Samaritans and other Gentiles. Self-righteousness is indeed the enemy of faith, and Law is a ministry of death. It is so to those it disqualifies, and in another way it is also so to those who deceive themselves and permit their religiosity to craft and nurture pride within. Nothing quite carries the stench of death like fetid self-righteous arrogance, don’t you think?

10-lepers-slide2But Jesus healed them all! He healed the half-breed Samaritan who flung himself at the feet of Jesus in gratitude. He healed His Jewish brothers, whose testimony remained within the confines of the religious community in Jerusalem; the same community that campaigned vociferously for Jesus’ execution at the hands of the Romans. How ironic. Nevertheless, Jesus healed them all. Is this not an essential lesson for all who love to bless and minister to others? Love them all, no matter how leprous or self righteous they are. Love the grateful and the ingratiate equally. This is grace.

I’m not suggesting that loving and expecting nothing in return is easy. The only way to travel down that path, albeit with stumbling steps, is with the help of the Spirit, and in the recognition of that being the way in which God loves us. Perhaps those who struggle the most with this are church and ministry leaders, for the success of our churches and ministries depends on others being willing to sacrifice alongside of us. For us, giving and giving without substantial return on investment spells vocational disaster, and so we – the professional lovers – are somewhat surprisingly the most likely to resent the “other nine”. When Jesus drew attention to these other nine (the account is in Luke 17:11-19), He was shaping our personal responses to grace. His philosophy of ministry remained unchanged – He healed them all. And so should we. But let’s you and I be like the one, responding to grace in faith and gratitude, and allowing these to move us. In doing so, we will be those who give praise to God in all things.

Like and share!

Loving Jesus well

imagesJesus loved us well. He laid down His life for us. In His death we find our redemption and our true value; no one pays that high a price for junk.

Loving us with unconditional extravagance includes not treating us as our sins deserve. This is an extraordinary notion, for everywhere else, at least in measure, the converse is true. The Scriptures reassure us of this – we will reap what we sow. This universal law is less than comforting in a fallen world where sin, weakness, carnality and lawlessness are interwoven into the fabric of life. What it means is that on a macro level what goes around comes around, and that we all experience an unintended proliferation of weeds come harvest time.

Not so with the Lord. Thanks to the cross, we are the recipients of unmerited favour. We do good; we get good from God; we do bad, we still get good from God. The mystery of grace is that this transforms us. We love because we are loved. We love Him because He first loved us. Little by little we are moved from living for ourselves to for living for Him. Little by little we move towards that place where the deepest desire of our hearts is to lay down our lives for Him; to live for the proverbial audience of One. This was how Jesus lived; this is how Jesus would have us live; this is how Jesus helps us to live; and living this way is how we find meaning in life.

Living surrendered to the Lord Jesus is not complicated or difficult. It’s not something that we figure out or strategise for. It’s not about obeying laws, fulfilling demands or meeting requirements. Neither is it grandiose, elitist or only for the super-spiritual. It’s not even of necessity unpleasant, even though it is a way of life defined by sacrifice, because it is after all for another, and inevitably for the benefit of others. It is life in the moment, naturally supernatural, and extraordinary in the ordinary. It’s a cocktail of kindness, mercy, generosity, encouragement, embrace, joy, peace, miracles, signs, wonders and gratitude. In it all the universal law of sowing and reaping – which in the lives of sinful men and women must inevitably present as the law of sin and death – elevates to giving and receiving, which is the law of Spirit and life. To live for the Lord is to live by grace; not by just desserts, but by unmerited favour, and of doing unto others what Jesus has done to us.

Music_WorshipThe saints you and I most admire are inevitably only doing what Jesus tells them to. They’re following the Spirit, walking in the grace they’ve been given. This was true of the heroes of the faith whose stories pulsate on the Bible’s pages, and it is true of those who provoke us to love Jesus more by the way they lead their lives alongside us day by day. Let’s join them today, walking in the grace that is ours in Christ Jesus, and simply doing what He tells us – no more; no less. This is worship in it’s truest sense. This is loving Him well.

Like and share!