Empowered

Empowered

EMPOWERED

A church without the work of the Holy Spirit being manifested in it, is a dying church. Similarly, those in whom the Spirit of God are not at work are experiencing a spiritual death. The Spirit of God is not only available to some, but to every Christ-follower and He gives life to the church and to God’s people. It seems that many Christians have become complacent about the work and power of the Spirit in their lives, but without Him, life is not really possible.

So, how does the Spirit empower us? Here are some thoughts about three brief ways we can experience God’s Spirit and in which He gives us life and power:

  1. Being filled with the spirit empowers our prayer lives.

We can never underestimate the power of and need for prayer, but busyness often keeps us from it. We often wallow around in the shallow end of faith and wonder why things aren’t really happening, but prayer is almost non-existent in our lives. If we don’t communicate with God, we can’t move forward in our faith journey. By the power of the Spirit of God, we are enabled not just to pray for ourselves and those we love, but even to pray for our enemies and for those who have hurt us. The Spirit moves us from sporadic SOS prayers to a lifestyle of prayer.

2. The Spirit also empowers us to know and walk in our purpose. 

When we don’t live empowered by the Spirit, the purpose of the church becomes about structures – about rules and regulations, programmes, religiosity and ticking the boxes. When we live empowered by the Spirit of God, we are enabled to focus on what’s really important and to live out our faith in real and practical ways. We are enabled to use our gifts and abilities, our resources and our talents to serve others as God intended.

3. The Spirit moves us to action.

At Pentecost, after the disciples were filled with the Spirit, the time of waiting was over and they went out into the world to fulfil their God-given mission. Our default is self-preservation. To step outside ourselves, to reach out to other people, to actually share the Gospel, to physically engage with the poor and the broken does not come naturally to us, but it is the calling to which we are called and the Spirit of God empowers us to do the radical things God asks of us.

 

“But you shall receive power, the Holy Spirit coming upon you. And you shall be witnesses to Me both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” – Acts 1:8

The power of one

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Tomorrow we have the incredible privilege of voting. The ordinary people of nation have the profound responsibility of casting a vote as to what kind of nation we want to live in and what kind of future we will choose for ourselves. There are many ways in which it is easy to feel small and insignificant and as though our effort, our reach and ability has no power to really affect any change or do anything that matters, but an election always reminds me about the power of one… my one voice, my one vote, makes a difference.

As a child of God too, I am reminded that my one life makes a difference. One conversation with someone, one prayer, one decision, one surrendered life can shape and change all of eternity. There is untold power in ONE.

Dwight L. Moody once said, “The world has yet to see what God can do with a person fully consecrated to him. By God’s help, I aim to be that person.” There is incredible power in one life, especially one that is surrendered to God. There is power in your one life. What will you do with it?

Just-us X Justice

Just-us

July is always a time when, at my local church, we always set aside some time to delve more deeply into justice. We ask ourselves difficult questions: What is justice, and particularly, Biblical justice? How are we being agents of justice in the world? Are there ways in which we are perpetuating or creating injustices? What is our mandate as Christians when it comes to fighting for and working for justice? What can we practically DO in terms of bringing justice right now?

Those who call themselves Christ-followers cannot shy away from the issue of justice because it is woven into the fabric of Scripture. The word or concept appears 134 times in the Bible. It is part of the very DNA of God’s revelation to us. Over and over we see the theme revealed as God cries out to His people to follow His way and not to treat others unjustly. In Deuteronomy 27:19 we read that in fact, He says, “Cursed is anyone who withholds justice from the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow…” Withholding justice is a serious offence.

It is also one of the primary issues Jesus had with the Pharisees. They were so religious that they stuck to the absolute letter of the law, going so far as tithing their herbs, but they had failed to understand and live out the spirit of God’s law, which is all about love and justice. Jesus said to them, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices–mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law – justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former” (Matthew 23:23)

It is all too easy to get trapped in that same mind-set that the Pharisees had. We become so focused on our own situations, even on our churches, and the good things we’re doing, that we fail to focus on what really matters to God and neglect matters of justice. It is very easy to get sucked into a very narrow frame of mind in which our lives are all about “JUST US” instead of JUSTICE. But that is not what God calls us to. We are called to advance His Kingdom in the world. The church is called to be the prophetic voice in our nation and to be mobilised in prophetic action; in real, practical ways to bring hope, Truth and light into a world that needs God’s touch and justice so desperately.

Friends, let us do everything in our power to move from JUST US to JUSTICE.

The time is now.

A life that pleases God

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Hebrews 11:5 speaks about one of the heroes of the faith: a man about whom not much is written in Scripture, but has the distinction of being only one of two people not to face death, but simply transitioning from this life to the next without having to endure dying. We don’t know much about Enoch, but we know that he pleased God. His life reminds me that the ultimate goal of each of our lives is to please God. We can spend so much time trying to please others, that we lose perspective of that crucial fact.

So how do we please God? Here are three simple thoughts:

1. A life that pleases God bears fruit.

Jesus told his followers that their outward actions, or the fruit of their lives revealed what’s going on inside them (Matthew 7:15-32). Hearts set on God and on the right things will bear good fruit. When we bear much fruit, by staying connected to Jesus, God will be glorified and pleased (John 15:1-8).

2. A life that pleases God is one that yearns to know Him better.

Enoch “walked with the Lord” (Genesis 5:24). One of the most crucial questions we should be asking ourselves is “How can I get to know God better and grow closer to Him?” We often take our relationship with God for granted and don’t put in the time and effort in cultivating it. Many of us take on too much. Even too many good things is not good. We have to be making the time to grow our relationship with God and know Him more intimately.

3. A life that pleases God is one that is lived with gratitude.

We seem to live in a culture of complaining, but God is delighted by a grateful heart. What are the things for which you need to be thanking God right now? How can you change your perspective from a complaint-perspective, to a gratitude-perspective?

 

I pray that when my life is summed up, as Enoch’s is in Hebrews 11, that people will be able to say about me, “He pleased God”. There is no higher calling in life than that.

 

#riverschurch

I must say I’ve been somewhat amazed at how Christians, Pastors and Churches have responded to the Rivers Church controversy. We’ve  acted and responded just like the world responds. Judgement, scinicism, hatred, jealousy and envy, amongst others.

When I see a church respond on the trending tag #riverschurch with their own church’s service times, as if to take advantage of the situation and draw people to their church. When I see Pastors post and add their voice of concern or advise, yet in their very churches women aren’t allowed to preach or be elders, or be ordained. Where are the churches with women who serve as Senior Pators or Lead Pastors? When I see Christians that have responded, who choose to turn a blind eye to their own racism and insist on removing the splinter out of their brothers and sister’s eye. I weep for the church. Our churches see the poor as inconvenient, widows and orphans as a burden and the marginalized, we keep a safe distance away. 

Let’s call out the churches who refuse to acknowledge women’s gifts in leading, teaching and preaching. Let’s call out the churches whose Eldership is all white and all male. Let’s call out the churches who pay their workers slave wages, let’s call out the churches who pay their male and female pastors and staff unequally. Enough! 

You might have noticed that the church is fair game. No longer are we protected by a populace who sees the church as untouchable, Godly and Holy.  We lost that when we justified and supported apartheid. We have a long road ahead of us Church. God will really begin to use the church in our country, when we all see the sinner in ourselves. When we turn from our wicked ways, when we turn to God as an act of repentance for our racism, prejudice and worldly behavior. When we start figuring out that God needs us to work together as one body. Unified. God will use us when we take His commandment of love seriously. When we become a truly inclusive church, built on the love and acceptance of Jesus Christ. When we replace arrogance with humility, judgement with mercy, prosperity with simpleness, envy with peace and hatred with love.

This Sunday, I’m going to be praying for my brothers and sisters in Christ who worship at Rivers Church. I pray for healing, I pray for conviction, I pray for wholeness, I pray that God would convict its leaders of His way in this situation. That He would lead them to full knowledge of how to make things right. Most of all, I pray for everyone, for whom this has become an obstacle in the way of knowing Jesus. 


This Sunday, I’m praying for the racist in me, the racist in all of us. May God heal the church. 

Youth Day

Youth Day

Today we commemorate Youth Day. We remember that in 1976 young people – children – paid a terrible price for seeking to be seen and heard, for being counted and acknowledged as valuable and worthy citizens of our nation. Today, we mourn and we remember the devastating truth that it is often the most vulnerable – the young, the widows, the orphans, the sick, the aged, that suffer the most from the injustices in our world. Youth Day is a stark reminder that we failed our children in 1976 and in many ways, we are failing them now.

A recent statistic from Oxfam indicated that 1 in 4 people in our nation is hungry. 1 in 4! Many children still, 40 years on from that terrible day in Soweto, do not have access to basic education and find themselves equally dispossessed and disempowered. Millions of children in our nation are orphaned by HIV and suffer under the scourge of poverty. Throughout the world, there seems to be a wave of hatred, violence and fear that is washing over people. Our children are being brought up in a world where, just this last week again, too many innocent people died because of hatred, ignorance and fear.

The day of the Soweto uprising was a turning point in our nation’s history, and today, as we reflect on that, it is my deepest prayer that we, the church, the people of God, will not stand idly by and allow things to degenerate to a catastrophe like that one before something is done about the children of today. We face many big problems and challenges, but we serve a bigger God. Each of us can and MUST do our part – do what we can with what we have – to build a better future.

In Scripture we read about how when Queen Esther was faced with the annihilation of her people and felt helpless and powerless to do anything about it, her uncle Mordecai reminded her of the truth that she was brought to her position in the empire, “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14). Each of us is here, in our sphere of influence, with our unique gifts, talents, resources, connections, experiences and abilities for such a time as this. Let us pray earnestly and work tirelessly to do all we can to let God’s Kingdom come, to honour the memory of the students of 1976 and to do right by the children of our nation.