“And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.” 1 John 4:16
God is love. He cannot help always loving because that is who He is. God can only love you because He is love. He loves you every day; not only on days He feels like it or on days that you please Him. His nature, character, personality is love. God loves you. He feels affection toward you. God is especially fond of you. He loves you dearly. He is well pleased with you.
He is well pleased with me? Yes! Because He made you. He formed you. He perfected you. He knows you. Deeply. Inside and out. He is pleased with you. That’s what ‘agape’ means.
Do you believe God loves you? Like that? So deeply. Can you even begin to comprehend the width, length, depth, and height of His love? It is a love that surpasses knowledge. I don’t think we need to comprehend it, even try to understand it. We just need to accept it. Believe it. Abide in it. Wallow in it. Just settle in and let it splash all over you. Coating you. Covering you. Protecting you. Redeeming you. Saving you. Healing you.
Wallow a little. Abide a little. Indulge in His plentiful supply. Devote yourself entirely to His love. Abide in God’s love and let God abide in you. Remember, God loves you because He is love. He cannot help but love you.
As I considered December, I could sense that extraordinary moment, as if an orchestral symphony was beginning an incredible crescendo. The hint that something was about to explode in magnificence and splendor. The cherry on top of the cake, the final flourish, the knowledge that something epic was about to happen – and it does! “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11) Christmas, the crowning achievement of a year filled to the brim with miracles. The creator becomes the created!
Mary understood the miracle of that very first Christmas. She knew the astonishing significance of this one, grace-filled, day. Luke 1:46 tells us, “And Mary said: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.” From the moment the angel appeared to Mary she began to magnify the Lord, she rejoiced in her God and Savior. Words of praise and adoration spilled from her lips, Mary did not magnify the Lord merely in her thoughts but with her voice! Loud and full of rejoicing!
I remember as a child being fascinated with the microscope at my father’s office. My Dad would take a tiny ant and place it under the glass, and I would jam my eye against the eyepiece. Suddenly I could see every detail and every hair on that little ant’s leg, its alien-like eyes looking back at me. I’d gasp with wonder, it was incredible! Magnified! You see, the more you magnify your Savior the greater He becomes, and the greater He becomes the more you magnify Him! Of course, we cannot make our wonderful, mighty God any greater than He already is or even begin to imagine His actual greatness, but when we magnify our Lord, make known His marvelous deeds, proclaim His abundant goodness then He becomes greater in our eyes. He becomes elevated in the eyes of those around us who hear our proclamation! Faith grows bigger and hope shines brighter.
This December let’s magnify the Lord together, proclaim His abundant goodness and shout His great name in an epic crescendo of praise! Let’s bring our gift of worship to the King of Kings, the Savior of the world, and make His deeds known among the people! Let’s join with the angels in shouting, “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 8:14)
Smell. That oh so important sense that can take us back within seconds to our childhood or to a memorable event. The smell of the first rains on dry and dusty soil brings me straight back to Africa, the smell of a frangipane flower reminds me of my wedding and the flowers in my bouquet. Often when my husband hugs me, I like to breathe in deeply as the smell of his aftershave makes me feel safe and after 25 years of marriage is one of beautiful familiarity. But the fragrance of potpourri can make me feel nauseous straight away as it reminds me of my pregnancy when the tiniest whiff made me feel sick!
Anointing oil was very important in Israel, and very expensive. Many oils were much more costly than diamonds and were a sign of great wealth. Each King and Priest was anointed prior to their taking office, the aroma advancing before them so that everyone would know – the King, the King is coming! Now when the new King was anointed, they didn’t just drip a drop on his forehead, no – this could be as much as a pint of fragrant perfume! Let’s take a quick look at a story back in the Old Testament, an occasion of celebration, great joy, the anointing of the future King of Israel, King Solomon – “So Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, Benaiah son of Jehoiada, the Kerethites and the Pelethites went down and had Solomon mount King David’s mule, and they escorted him to Gihon. Zadok the priest took the horn of oil from the sacred tent and anointed Solomon. Then they sounded the trumpet and all the people shouted, “Long live King Solomon!” And all the people went up after him, playing pipes and rejoicing greatly, so that the ground shook with the sound.” 1 Kings 1:38-40. This was quite the party, the people of Israel rejoiced so much that the ground literally shook. Zadok the priest took that anointing oil and poured it over Solomon, the smell would have been strong, radiating out through the crowd.
Fast forward to the week before Jesus’ death on the cross. Palm Sunday, also known as the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. “The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the king of Israel!” Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, as it is written: “Do not be afraid, Daughter Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.” John 12:12-15. Incredible similarity!
But where was the fragrance? Where was the anointing oil with the Kingly aroma that would have told the crowd surrounding Him that Jesus was the King of Israel?
For that answer we need to go back to the night before! Once again Jesus was at Martha’s house dining with Lazarus and many of his other friends. “Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.” John 12:3. How I love Mary, always doing something unexpected, her love for Jesus always on display! Mary took a pound – that’s nearly two cups, of extremely expensive oil and washed Jesus’ feet with it, using her beautiful hair as a rag! An astonishing display of devotion. 1 Corinthians 11:15 says this; “And isn’t long hair a woman’s pride and joy?” A women’s hair is her glory. Mary, in an act of absolute humility, laid her self-worth at Jesus’ feet, tenderly using her hair to clean away the dust and dirt from the day. Her actions saying, “I give you everything, all of me, from my finances to my self-worth, my identity, my dignity, every tiny little piece of myself.” “And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.” Not too surprising when you consider the amount of oil Mary poured out.
And so, our sweet Mary, fulfilled that part of the story. Perhaps the part of the story where the fragrance of Christ began, the fragrance of the King of Kings and LORD of Lords. The fragrance of the Great I Am, YHWH. As Jesus rode into Jerusalem the deep fragrance of spikenard went before Him, almost like the dot on the i or the cross on a t. This is the King of Israel. In the final week before the cross everywhere Jesus went, He would have carried the fragrance of the King with him, it would have said to the Roman soldier, “I Am the King of Kings,” to Herod and Pilate, “I Am the King of Kings,” to all those who mocked Him, beat Him and put Him to death, “I AM the King of Israel!”
The LORD showed me a picture of a wounded warrior on the frontlines. This soldier was wounded, one arm hung down useless, broken. She was battered and weary, bloodstains on her cheek. The LORD said to me, “Should I leave that soldier out on the frontlines in the middle of this awful battle or should I bring her back to a safe place where I can heal her and restore her. Where I can give her a cup of cold water to drink, bind her wounds, and then send her back to the frontlines stronger than ever after having had an encounter with me?”
I gulped when the LORD showed me this picture as I had never thought about it this way before. For me it had always been fight, fight, fight, and go, go, go. I needed a season of rest. My answer was, “Of course, LORD, bring her back to a safe place where she can be healed!”
I had a sense that the LORD was saying, “I am going to make you able, if you will let me draw you in, minister to you, I am going to make you able. I will work through you in power but you need to fight from a position of strength. Not weakness, not brokenness. When you are ready I will send you out again and what you will accomplish will amaze even you.”
For some of us, this is a season of saying ‘No,’ of strategic retreat, of allowing ourselves to stop and let our Abba Father minister to us. Time for an encounter with Him that will strengthen us, encourage us, heal us, and get us ready to go out into battle stronger than ever! It’s time for new assignments, new battle plans, new weapons, and a fresh encounter with the Father!
I’m on a journey, a quest if you will, where I begin to see the world, people, through rose-tinted glasses. An adventure to always see the beautiful things. If you know me well you will know the sarcasm on my tongue that contains a good peppering of cynicism. Far too often, I come to a conclusion about someone and their actions much too quickly and without giving them the benefit of the doubt.
“Time for change.” I hear the LORD say, “Time to teach an old dog new tricks!”
I remember walking through Mamelodi Township in South Africa. My eyes took in the awful poverty. Houses that were mere shacks made from scraps of iron or wood. Children with no shoes on their feet, covered in the red soil of Africa. And the garbage, piles of garbage everywhere, absolutely everywhere. My heart ached.
But as we walked through the township, I noticed a gorgeous Morning Glory plant climbing a rusty, barbed wire fence. Dozens of deep purple flowers shouting in the sun, “look at me, look at me, I am beautiful!” And it was, glorious, the shiny purple of the petals radiating loveliness under the clear blue sky.
It was almost as though my eyes were suddenly opened. I could see beyond the povery, beyond the trash. Roosters with their gleaming black and orange feathers endlessly raking the red dirt. The sweet smile of the young lady who mischieviously posed as I took my camera out, children laughing as they chased a ball made from scraps of material. The wonder of watching a lady with huge bags of what must have been mealie meal balanced on her head – so sure footed as she dodged the holes in the dirt road!
I heard the LORD say, “Sometimes you have to look for it and look hard, open your eyes! Be attentive. What is your focus on – the garbage or the goodness? I see beauty in everything, especially in you! This is why the world is so beautiful outside. I couldn’t create ugliness because that’s not who I AM on the inside. It is the same with you, when you allow your beauty to shine through, become more beautiful on the inside then you will see the beautiful. As you let me mold and shape your character, take on my righteousness, you will see the beauty around you. Hiding in the cracks or cascading in the open. It will. be there, your perspective will have changed, your focius will no longer be on the ugliness or the critical, but on the beautiful.”
And so began my quest, my crusade to become that person with the glass half full, not half empty. Heck, with a glass that overflows with the beauty, the goodness of people, the every day surprises, flowers in the garbage and in the cracks of the rocks.
Are rose-tinted glasses really the ideal way to look at the world? Especially a world that is in as big a mess as our one is. I truly do believe the answer to that is yes. It is looking at someone or something, life, in an unduly idealistic, optimistic, sentimental or wistful perspective. Many may shout – “but that’s not real life!” But what about the Father, did He not look at me through rose-tinted glasses? If He hadn’t, all He would have seen was the garbage, the mess, the red dirt that caked my whole body, the poverty of my soul. But my Father saw potential, he knew the clay could become a beautiful pot, the piece of coal a diamond, the empty canvas a work of art. He looked at me optimistically, seeing past my sin, to the glimmer of beauty hidden in the shadows! He saw me through the blood of Jesus as a spotless bride! Should we not then strive to see others the same way, seeing potential, optimistically seeking beauty. I know it’s there!
Today I heard a saying, it made me catch my breath, another piece of the puzzle. Another step in my quest. “Judge every person with the scales weighted in their favour.” – Rabbi Joshua ben Perahiah. In other words, give everyone the benefit of the doubt, see the good in others. As my Father had so recently pointed out, open your eyes, see from a new perspective.
This is an old rabbinical saying, centuries old. Picture for a moment one of those old scales, like the scales of justice. You’re at the market on a hot day buying fresh produce from the farmers. The old, sun wrinkled farmer adds your grapes to the scale “one pound, you say?” The scale hits one pound and balances beautifully but the farmer adds yet another bunch because he’s kind. The scales tip in your favour, bagging them up he only charges you for a pound. “Judge every person with the scales weighted in their favour!”
The words Jesus spoke parallel that too: Matthew 7:1-2, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgement you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure your use, it will be measured back to you.” And so our question is left hanging in the air; what measure will you use when dealing with your neighbour? Will you let the scales tip in their favour – giving them the benefit of the doubt? Will you take the time to look beyond the shadows? What about that politician, can you do that with him too?! Ouch! I don’t know if I can LORD, but I can try!
Yesterday I saw a study in The Journal of Happiness Studies! Yes really, there is such a thing – I was surprised too! In a study of 707 people around the world, they looked at hostile attributional styles and benign attributional styles. In social situations, for instance, your friend doesn’t meet you for that lunch date, they don’t even call to cancel. How you react to that situation can greatly impact your happiness. Those that immediately decide that the other person was being malicious, are a lot less happy than those who gave the benefit of the doubt. The researchers suggest that giving people the benefit of the doubt will greatly improve your relationships as well as increase your sense of well-being!
It was as though I heard the LORD whisper to me, “This is part of your quest, part of the path to seeing others as I see them. Part of seeing the beautiful.”
You see, if there is ugliness in my heart I can’t see the beautiful. If there is condemnation, I will only see the garbage, piles and piles of it. But when I begin to train my eye, I begin to see beyond the shadows – to the flowers in the cracks. My view of the world changes, one beautiful person at a time.
Will you come with me? Come on my quest to change the world? To see God’s creation in glorious living colour, to see beyond the garbage, to see every person the way their Father sees them. A daily life of seeing miracles in the mundane!
January 2022! When I say that out loud it doesn’t seem possible that we could be in 2022 already. Along with a new year comes new visions, resolutions, a brand-new page to be written upon. It’s a time to sit and ponder about what 2022 will bring, a time of hope for the future. We want to do better, be thinner, get fitter, save more, love more. A desire for change is birthed every New Year’s morning.
As I sat and considered my own life a study came across my desk, it is called The Power of 4 Effect. The Center for Bible Engagement surveyed over 400,000 people around their world and their findings were astounding. If you are not reading your Bible four times a week, then your life is statistically the same as that of a non-believer! Your life will not change in any significant way than that of one who never reads His Word. This survey also discovered if you are in God’s Word four times a week, you are 30% less likely to be lonely, 59% less likely to view pornography, 228% more likely to share your faith, and 407% more likely to memorize Scripture. These are some mind-blowing stats!
John 8:31-32 says this; “Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” If you tarry and remain in the Word of God, then you will know the truth. Not only that, His Word will set you free and deliver you from bondage. What a beautiful promise, a promise of change and freedom.
As the sun rises over 2022 may I encourage you that if you make any resolution, make it one of being in the Word of God. He will change you, remold you, and set you free. You will be a radically different person by the end of this year. Not only that but when those hard times come you will have something to stand on, God’s Word hidden in your heart!
Christmas really has to be my favorite time of the year. It’s a time of miracles, a time when God’s goodness and grace is put on display. Christmas lights illuminate the darkness and hot chocolate warms us to the tips of our toes! It’s a time to give gifts, give to those less fortunate, and give of our time. Everywhere we look it seems as though the very air itself is electrified with the possibility of a great and glorious miracle.
Albert Einstein said this; “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” Of course, the greatest miracle of all and the very reason for this season is the birth of a Savior; “For there is born to you this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:11
On that day when the shepherds heard these words, they fell down and worshipped the Savior. When the wise men saw Him after his birth they didn’t coo or make funny faces at the newborn King, they fell down and worshipped Him. Both groups saw the miracle, they discovered a Savior, one who would rescue them from the great and overwhelming shadow of death. They knew that the appropriate response was to worship at the feet of Jesus.
It’s so easy to lose the wonder of it all, to forget the virgin birth, to forget that a dozen prophecies were fulfilled in a single moment, to rush through this season stressed about finding the perfect gift and throwing the best Christmas party! Instead, let’s spend this season looking for the miracles, looking for God’s goodness, seeing His beauty on display. Let’s spend our time really worshipping our Lord, Jesus Christ!
I sense that many are walking into 2021 with feelings of trepidation, and rightly so. 2020 certainly didn’t turn out to be the year we had dreamed of. There is a feeling that we need to tiptoe softly, tentatively, nervously into 2021, not expecting anything. Fear of the unknown weighs heavily, and we almost dare not hope for things to be different. I totally understand.
Two words have shaped my life in a huge way, however. But God. I should be dead in my sin, but God. So many bad decisions along the way, but God. Knowing our wonderful Abba Father the way I do, I know there is going to be a ‘But God’ in 2021. Does 2021 have the potential to be as bad as 2020 was? No doubt. But God!
A quick search of the Bible reveals dozens of scriptures that contain a ‘but God’! “But God remembered Noah,” “But God did not give David into his hands,” “But God will redeem me from the realm of death” and “But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever!” The best one of them all is in Acts 13:29-30: “When they had carried out all that was written about him, they took him down from the cross and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead.”
We certainly don’t have the answers—only questions about what 2021 may or may not bring. But we do know our God is a redeemer. He has not only redeemed our very lives through His death on the cross, but He redeems each one of our stories. We know that God has plans for us for this year, and we know He has put us here for a purpose. Even though the storm clouds of fear, anxiety, and worry may gather on the horizon, let’s look for the ‘But God’ in 2021—the ‘But God’ that raises us from the dead, brings dry bones to life, and gives us strength, purpose and vision! May He fill your year with surprises, joy, and pleasure around every corner. May your year be filled with ‘But God!’
Last night we climbed up a small hill near our home and waited with great anticipation as the sun set in glorious golden colours. I held my breath as the sky became deep blue, would we see the Christmas Star? We missed it on the 21st as it had been cloudy but tonight was a crisp, clear, night and stars were beginning to twinkle.
Suddenly, there above the horizon, the Christmas Star appeared, bright, beautiful, glorious! “There it is!” I shouted in excitement. A magnificent gift from above! As I stood and took in its sparkling edges, I thought to myself, am I gazing at the very same star that the Wise Men followed so many years ago, and I smiled to myself, wrapped up in the warm glow of His love. In a year filled with so many difficulties the God who spoke the planets into existence, the God who sprinkled the heavens with a trillion sparkling lights, gave us this miraculous gift of the Christmas Star. A reminder that He. Is. Coming. An invitation to seek out the newborn King!
It all reminded me of a sticker I had once seen on a car – ‘Wise men still seek Him!’ So many of us know and love the story of the wise men and have watched many a Christmas nativity play and perhaps have even acted in one! This may be our frame of reference but something wonderful jumped out at me when studying those Wise Men.
Matthew 2 tells us that the Magi, who saw the star, travelled a considerable distance to Jerusalem to seek out the King of the Jews. Once in Jerusalem, they enquired of King Herod, the chief priests and scribes, all who knew and studied the scriptures, where the Christ was to be born. These incredible scholars of the Word of God immediately quoted Micah 5:2; “But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are not the least among the rulers of Judah, for out of you shall come a Ruler who will shepherd My people Israel.” The Christ will be born in Bethlehem of Judea. Interestingly these learned men, scholars of the scriptures, chose not to seek out the Messiah, the Saviour, even though he was born only 5 miles away! They knew the scriptures well, but were not changed by them.
In contrast the wise men headed off to Bethlehem and Matthew 2:10 tells us; “When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy.” From this we can deduce that the star had not been visible during the whole of their travels. The star had appeared many months before guiding the Magi to the general area, it then appeared again in Jerusalem leading them to the King. These Wise Men heard the Word of God and they acted upon it. In faith they travelled on to Bethlehem and were overjoyed when they saw the star again. The wise men stood on the scriptures, sought the Christ, and found Him!
So, this Christmas, the question that remains is – will you seek Him? Will you take the time to stand on faith, believe that God’s Word is true and seek the Newborn King? Knowing that this King will not forever be newborn, but is in fact your Saviour, your Redeemer, the one who came to draw you to Himself because He cares for you! Knowing that this tiny baby came to earth to go to the cross, taking on your sin and mine, because He loves you! Wise Men still Seek Him!
Tonight, another clear night, I am going to climb my hill again and watch the sun set in all its splendour and marvel at this year’s gift of the Christmas Star, perhaps I’ll imagine I’m a wise man and in faith I will set off into the unknown, knowing that if I seek Him – I will find Him!
2020 has been a year that has come with many challenges for so many people, certainly a very hard year. If you listen you will hear the dialogue, “2020 is the worst year we’ve ever had, what an awful world we live in.” Negativity certainly swirls all around us. But is 2020 the worst year we’ve ever had, is the world we live in as bad as we think it is?
You see, I believe God chose every single one of us to be here, right now, on this earth. The earth our beautiful Creator created especially for us! Did He make a mistake? Acts 17:26-27a tells us this; “And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord.” You were indeed placed here, by God, during this season, in 2020, as quoted in Esther, “for such a time as this!”
I decided to take stock of my own journey in 2020. Six months ago, I began a prayer meeting on a Friday morning with a beautiful group of women. What glorious times we have had with the LORD, worshipping, listening and waiting on Him. Have I missed being with my children this year? So, so much! Have I missed the social side of life? Sure. Harder to watch has been seeing so many sick and literally starving. But, have I drawn closer to my Abba Father? Oh my, yes I have!
So here in begs the question, can we rewrite the script of 2020? Can we pivot and see things from another perspective? Absolutely we can! With under two months left in 2020 can we change the outcome? I believe that if we are intentional, we can! Why did God set you where you are and at this time? Our scripture tells us; “so that they should seek the Lord!” Every day is a day when God extends new mercies to us, every day our Abba Father beckons and encourages us to draw near to Him and He will draw near to you! Seek the Lord out, rewrite your script, making 2020 a year your relationship with the Father changed, a year when you drew closer to your Savior. That will be worth savoring and remembering!