Monthly Archives: February 2021

We need a broken heart

Have you ever been in a position where you know you have sinned, you have done something wrong and all you do is try to cover it up, or you blame it on your circumstances, or on other people? You know how bad it is but you try to live as if it is not there. Maybe you haven’t been in that position but you have come across people that have. If I am honest, completely honest with myself, there were plenty of times when I found myself in that place.

King David also found himself in that situation. You might be familiar with the story of David and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11) and you know that David committed adultery, then to cover it up he had Uriah killed. The problem with sin is that it cannot be hidden from God. God sees the heart and God sent the prophet Nathan to confront David and although God took away David’s sin there were consequences for his sin. There are always consequences.

David knew he had sinned, but he also knew he had sinned against God. David wrote Psalm 51 after Nathan confronted him. This is what He says in verses 1 to 4:

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge. (emphasis mine)

David didn’t come before God with excuses about his circumstances and he didn’t blame any of his servants or family members. No. He knew he had sinned against his God and he was broken before his King.

We can see that David knew what God desires:

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. 17 My sacrifice, O God, is[b] a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.(verses 16 and 17)

God wants us to come before him with a broken heart, not bringing sacrifices or making promises but in humility, recognising we need Him to help us. David desperately needed God’s mercy and pleads for it. He knew he needed God to clean his heart from his sin. He knew God’s love and compassion. David had experienced God’s love, compassion and protection many times in his life.

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. (verses 1 and 2)

Until now, we have seen a man who knows what he has done is wrong and has offended God. He is not trying to get away from it, in fact he knows he needs God. He knows he cannot erase the past or the consequences of his choices, but he desperately wants his relationship with God restored. So he prays the famous verses:

10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.11 Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Picture the King here, broken, completely helpless, completely aware of his failure, fully prepared to give to God his life and trust in Him. David needed to bow before God in repentance, with nothing to offer except a broken and contrite heart, before he could ask God to create a new and pure heart within him. What a great example we have here of how we should act when we sin against God.

One of the greatest problems we have is that we do not think the bad choices we make, the sin we allow in our lives, are against God. We tell ourselves we are only hurting other people, or even worse, we say we are trying to protect ourselves against other people. No. Sin, no matter how big or how small is always against God. It always breaks our fellowship with our King and Lord.

In the case of King David, God sent Nathan, the message God had for David was pretty clear. There was no escape from the truth. David saw his sin exposed and he knew only God could help him.

We have the Holy Spirit living in us if we have given our lives to Jesus. This is one of the works of the Holy Spirit. Working in us to convince and convict us of sin in our hearts. He guides us and helps us to live in a way that is pleasing to God. When we sin, He convicts us. Puts that feeling in our hearts that we have done wrong. We must listen. We must repent and must come before God and confess our sin and cling on to the fact that God can and will create in us a pure heart if we are willing to submit to His rule over our lives.

In 1 John 1 verse 9 we read:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 

We don’t need to find excuses. We know that on this side of Eden sin still afflicts us. We know we are in a battle of the flesh against the spirit, and, when we fall let us not make excuses and play blame games. God wants us to come before Him with a broken and humble heart. We need to say sorry (not the “say sorry” we teach our children sometimes). No. We need to feel remorse. To feel the sorrow that comes with acknowledging we have sinned against the most gracious, merciful, holy, God. The sorrow that robs us of sleep, taste, and all senses until all we can do is pour our hearts out before God, recognising we need His help. We must remember how much He loves us. He gave His Son to save us and redeem us. We are secure in His hands. So may we approach his throne as David did.

God bless.

Photo by Engin Akyurt

Fresh water!

Have you ever gone on a long hike and found a spring of water to drink from? There is nothing more refreshing than spring water! I remember when I was a teenager and part of our church youth group, our youth pastor used to organise hikes to “Pedra Grande” (which means big rock) in my hometown. Pedra Grande is 1,418m high and it used to take us 4 hours to hike to the top. We used to gather at someone’s house and play games and then leave in the middle of the night to get there just before sunrise! It was great to walk with our friends and enjoy the fun. Well, while it lasted. After a couple of hours of walking, on top of the fact that none of us had slept, it seemed pretty silly to have agreed to take part in this activity. One by one we would go quiet and just walk in a single file, heads low and muscles aching, eyes red and mind drifting to a semi-sleep walk state.

About half way up we would come to a spring, half hidden from the path by the lavish vegetation – what a moment, when we would hear our leader say, “We will rest here for a little bit and drink from the spring!”. Even now as I type these words I can remember the feeling of the cold fresh water on my face and the amazing taste! It was enough to brighten our spirits and spur us on the walk. There were 2 points on that trail with springs and we made good use of them, drinking and refilling our bottles, feeling encouraged we were almost at the end of our journey. Of course, at that point all we wanted was to get to the top and we weren’t even thinking about the journey back home. Once on the top of the rock we would just drop and wait for the sunrise! God never disappoints! He is such an artist and the amazing skies declare His majesty and glory. We would sit there eating the food we had packed and drinking the fresh water from the spring.

Eventually, the food ran out and so did the water. The tiredness would get the best of us and we would just lay there sleeping for a couple of hours and then have a Bible study before heading back down. During the day it was really different and sometimes scary to see where we had walked in the dark. The spring of water didn’t look much and one might think what the fuss was all about, until you tasted the water again. I do love a spring!

The Bible tells us that Jesus got tired after a journey and he felt thirsty (I love these moments in Scripture when we are reminded that Jesus was fully human and he knew what it is like to feel tired and thirsty). He came to a well where he spoke to a woman and asked her for some water. This woman was a Samaritan! Jews and Samaritans were not friends and did not associate with one another at all. You can read all about this wonderful encounter in John chapter 4. This is one of my favourite passages in the Gospels. He displays such love and compassion to this woman. He knew who she was and all that she had done and he was there offering her the greatest gift of all – salvation. She was really surprised he would talk to her and ask her to give him some water and this is what He says to her in verse 10:

“Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

Imagine what it would be like to live in a very hot area of the world and have to fetch water in the middle of the day and now be faced with this option of having living water (running water). I think it is hard for us to imagine this situation as all we have to do is turn a tap and we have running water. But Jesus knew how hard it was in his time to get water from a well and as refreshing as it might have been to those tired, hot and thirsty, that water would only quench thirst for a short while and soon they would need to return to the well to get more. But the water Jesus was offering was very different than the water this woman or any of us are used to. This is what He says in verses 13 and 14:

“Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Jesus is offering her salvation, a water that will never stop flowing and it will last for eternity. Of course at first, she thought Jesus was just talking about actual water, but when Jesus speaks to her about her life and He talks about the kingdom of God and who He is, she believes him and she goes and tells the whole town about Him. What a fantastic day that was! Many Samaritans received this wonderful gift. This offering of salvation of a living water, that will satisfy for eternity, is still available to all who will believe and follow Him. I have drunk water from many different springs through my life and I can say that spring water is the best water you can find. I can also say I have drunk from the water Jesus offers and I know that I have been saved and forgiven for all eternity! Now, that is a feeling that satisfies. No matter what happens, I am secure in Him.

All praise be to Him who is the fountain of all life and life eternal!

Photographs tell a story

I love looking at old photographs. I like picking them up and recalling the momentous occasions which caused us to stop and capture the moment. When I was little I remember going to visit my grandparents over the weekends and spending a long time listening to their stories as they proudly showed us their photographs. It was always very interesting to see how sometimes my grandma would be excited and cheerful about a particular photo, and sometimes she would pause, look deep into another with a longing for someone she had long lost. She would cry and she would sometimes laugh about the moments she treasured. Through the years, my sisters and I learnt the stories and we could recite them word for word, including the facial expressions and emotions.

As we walk through life we tend to mark moments in our history, don’t we? A birthday party, a first day or last day of school, a graduation ceremony, a group of close friends enjoying time together, a fun day at church camp or a dressing up contest set up by the youth leader. Our weddings, our children and their firsts. Other things we capture, a first car, a family pet, a treasured gift, a house we buy (sometimes, we take a photo of the house we wish we had). We tend to photograph the people who mean something to us in the hope we won’t forget them or how much we appreciate them. When visiting different places we click away trying to capture the place in the hope that when we look at them, we will remember the textures, the smells and sounds, the beauty and the impact the places had in our lives at that particular moment. As it happens, we capture happy moments but we also capture the sad ones. The broken leg, the stiches we had after a bad fall, the last photo with someone we love and we know will no longer be with us when we next visit. The photographs we take and the stories we tell are used to pass on to the next generation a bit of ourselves and our legacy.

In the Bible, we have the stories that God inspired men to write which tells us all about Him and His wonderful plan to rescue us. In the Old Testament we read the account of creation and a perfect place where God placed Adam and Eve and they were living in perfect harmony under His rule and enjoying His blessings. (Genesis 1) We see a sad day when sin entered the world when Adam and Even disobeyed God and creation was cursed and there was separation between God and humanity (Genesis 3). God so loved the world even then, he chose a people for Himself. God promised Abraham he would become a great nation and God would be their God and would be with them always. (Genesis 12:1-2) The accounts of Abraham and his descendants tell us how that story began. It is a fascinating story. An incredible demonstration of love and grace, time and time again.

Joseph’s story tells us of how much sin really is destructive and how it disregards life. His brothers sell him and lie to their father only because they were jealous of him. (Genesis 37)Through all his hardship Joseph trusts God and God performs an incredible rescue of his people from famine and they go to Egypt (Genesis 46). Many years later when they had been enslaved by the Egyptians God hears their cry and again He sends Moses to rescue them. To be a messenger, to point them to Him. (Exodus 3:1-10) They are rescued from Egypt and start their journey towards the promise land. The land God had promised to Abraham his descendants would enjoy.

At this point I have to apologise. These descriptions are more like faded black and white photographs – go read Genesis and Exodus. You will get all the colours, you will feel the emotions and will be placed in a much better place to understand these moments, you know why? Because God himself breathed it and used his chosen people to write it down. These are not just “old photographs”, they are the absolute truth.

After God rescued the Israelites from the Egyptians with mighty signs the people started to grumble and complain. Sin continued to corrupt the heart of men and they rebelled against their God. The people disobeyed God and were made to wander in judgement, through the wilderness, for 40 years until they are given the land God had promised (Numbers 14:26-35).

During this time God gives Moses the law, a set of principles and rules by which the people were to live. They were to be separated from the other nations, different, consecrated to God. They were to follow the rules carefully and they were to remember what God had done for them. At the end of his life Moses challenges the people to obey their God and remember what they had witnessed and pass it on to the future generations so they too would love and revere the Lord.

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)

I learned these verses when I was a teenager and recently I have been very challenged by them. Have I been telling my children about the wonderful things God has done? Am I spending time looking at the “photographs”, those special moments God recorded for our benefit, and sharing them with them? The command was for all the people, not just the ones who are Bible teachers or are in charge of leading God’s people in their spiritual growth. Do I speak about God’s power and might enough that my children want to know Him? Do I share it with them in a way to spark their interest? I am not sure I do it to the extent the verses challenge me to. I want to, but I know I cannot do it in my own strength. I need God to help me. I need the Holy Spirit to change my own desires so I can be obedient.

What about my own “photographs” and stories of my journey of faith? Have I been sharing them with my children? I need to tell them how God changed my heart one day and I surrendered to Him instead of running away from Him. They need to hear that it wasn’t always easy being a teenager that went to church on Saturday evenings instead of going out drinking with friends. There were plenty of tears shed during my school years when I was “bullied” for being a follower of Jesus, God helped me see that He was my friend and He would never leave me. My children need to hear how God helped me through times when friendships were shaken, some lost and some renewed in His strength (I am so grateful for the friends God has kept in my life). I need to let them see that I have cried and wrestled with God many times but even when I didn’t understand, with his help, I still chose to obey. God was there when singleness seemed to be the only option. The struggle to let go of a dream and trust in Him completely. He is so gracious and good and He gave me a wonderful husband to share my life with. He was there when loved ones died, to sustain and strengthen us. God was so present comforting us when having children of our own seemed very unlikely. Through the tears and shattered hopes he was there. We chose to trust Him with everything and He heard our prayers and blessed us with two beautiful children. I need to share these “photos”, these glimpses, these moments that tell my story of faith to help shape and point them to Jesus. Most of all I need to look back and see how much God has done for me and how much He has changed me. I need to give Him the glory.

May our great God help us as we recount the wonderful moments He has recorded in his word for us and may he help us to share our own stories of faith with our children so they too can learn to trust in Him and live for Him.

By the way, there are more wonderful moments in the Bible, so, don’t stop in the Old Testament – read it all!

We were not made to know everything

If I could have a super power I would choose the ability to know everything instantly. Imagine being able to just pick my violin and instantly play a concerto by Vivaldi! How wonderful would it be to be able to hear a language or see it written and instantly be able to speak it and translate it? How satisfying would it be to know all there is to know about science without blinking an eye? It would be fantastic to pick up a book and know everything about it and its author! I would love to know everything there is to know about all the wonderful places around the world. That was me, day dreaming again.

I know that in order for someone to be able to play Vivaldi concertos, hours will be spent on practice and even then, there is no guarantee the performance will be flawless. I know it takes years to understand, speak and translate a language – believe me, I am still learning it. Scientists, even the ones who are ahead of their time, must spend their life learning and researching in order to be successful. The fastest readers need to set aside time to flick through pages and research all there is to know about authors. If one could travel around the entire world our short, finite life would not be enough to cover all the wonderful places God created on earth. But to know things is to have power. Whether we admit it or not, we all desire this power.

How about being able to know everything about the future? That would be amazing right? Things would be so much better if we could know the future and be certain that all will be well. Isn’t that why we spend so much time online these days browsing the internet, searching for all that knowledge we so desire? Maybe, for some of us those hours spent browsing, give us a sense of “I know it all now”. (By the way, it is worth mentioning, I am not against using the internet – that would defeat the purpose of writing this blog to share with you. The internet is also a useful tool in many ways.) We go on then thinking that we are now able to take charge of our lives, our decisions and our future because we are well informed. We think that by knowing all we can change all. Knowledge gives the sense of power, doesn’t it? We were not created to know everything. We were created to trust the One who does.

The Bible teaches us that God and only God knows all things. We call this attribute of God omniscience. God knowns everything intuitively – He has never been taught anything. God does not depend on anyone to teach Him or to counsel He simply knows all things. In Isaiah 40:13-14 we read:

“Who has measured the Spirit of the Lord, or what man shows him his counsel? Whom did he consult, and who made him understand? Who taught him the path of justice, and taught him knowledge, and showed him the way of understanding?”

The answer to the question in these verses is off course no one. God is the origin of all things and because He is infinite, eternal, outside time, His knowledge is eternal. He knows everything all the time and He knows it completely:

I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’ Isaiah 46:10

“Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world” Acts 15:18

God’s knowledge is also intimate and exhaustive – it penetrates the human heart. Nothing can escape his gaze, He searches the deepest secrets of our hearts.

You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. Psalm 139:1-4

“From heaven the Lord looks down and sees all mankind;” Psalm 33:13

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7 (emphasis mine)

When I stop for a minute to think about our God and the fact that He knows everything about all things and He knows everything about me, it is just incredible. He knows my deepest thoughts and my fears. He knows my needs and He knows my future too. He has been there already. He knows all the details, the ins and outs of each situation and He loves me. Wow!

Do you know what is even more cause for our hearts to be filled with joy and trust in our all knowing God? He shares some of his knowledge with us. Jesus said that if we believe in Him we have eternal life. God lets us know our future will be spent with Him when we put our trust in Him.

May our gaze be on him. May our day dreaming become of Him. May we trust in Him completely because He knows us completely.

All glory to Him!