The New Harvest Christian Fellowship

Pastors’ Blog

Trying Again

I came across an interesting YouTube channel today called CSLewisDoodle where an artist draws doodles along with “selected essays by C.S. Lewis in order to make them easier to understand.” The videos are fantastically well done and I can recommend you check them out.

In watching one of the videos drawn from Lewis’s Mere Christianity the following section stood out to me:

We may, indeed, be sure that perfect chastity [sexual morality] – like perfect charity – will not be attained by any merely human efforts. You must ask for God’s help. Even when you have done so, it may seem to you for a long time that no help, or less help than you need, is being given. Never mind. After each failure, ask forgiveness, pick yourself up, and try again. Very often what God first helps us towards is not the virtue itself but just this power of always trying again. For however important chastity (or courage, or truthfulness, or any other virtue) may be, this process trains us in habits of the soul which are more important still. It cures our illusions about ourselves and teaches us to depend on God. We learn, on the one hand, that we cannot trust ourselves even in our best moments, and, on the other, that we need not despair even in our worst, for our failures are forgiven. The only fatal thing is to sit down content with anything less than perfection.
                                                                                                     (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity)

I found C.S. Lewis’s words to be incredibly insightful and encouraging. As believers, we are all on this journey of sanctification, that is, becoming holy through putting to death the sinful habits in our lives and becoming more like Jesus. We all have certain areas of sinfulness that we struggle with and at times it can seem impossible to attain that Christian virtue in our lives. Nevertheless, we mustn’t stop trying.

For some of you, this period of isolation has been a setback in your journey towards holiness. Without the physical presence and encouragement of your brothers and sisters in Christ, you may be struggling even more in your daily battle against sin in your life. Do not stop trying. “Never mind. After each failure, ask forgiveness, pick yourself up, and try again.” God will give you the strength to try again, the Holy Spirit will empower you to pursue holiness.

13 Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:13-16 NIV)

 

God Bless

Graham

Sickness

Have you ever wondered why we get sick? Why is it that our bodies can be infected with various viruses and troubled by different ailments? The short answer is because sin exists. Sin brought with it a whole host of different problems when humanity succumbed to temptation. With the fall of man came various consequences and sickness is one of those consequences. The reason why I felt it necessary to address this topic today is because there is a lot of talk going on about COVID-19 at the moment. With all this discussion have come many different takes on God’s plan for our lives in these challenging times. One such forwarded message I recently received from a friend said:

“One of the blessings God has for us is health. Sickness is not part of His plan for your future. In His goodness, He wants to come and remove sickness from our lives. Believe for divine health and trust Him to protect and heal you” – Author Unknown

While this message is very encouraging there are parts of it that are untrue as we will experience sickness in this life for a few different reasons such as:

  • A result of living in a fallen world
  • Poor health choices
  • Satanic or demonic attack or influence
  • God’s cause or allowance

That last reason may make you feel a bit uncomfortable. But we must remember that God is Sovereign and above everything in His creation. Sometimes we will get sick because we simply walked past someone else who was sick and get infected with whatever they have or maybe our sickness is self-inflicted through prolonged poor health choices. Sickness can also possibly be a result of a demonic attack or maybe, just maybe, God is causing or allowing us to be sick for a specific purpose to accomplish a specific goal in our life or someone’s close to us.

While we don’t have the time to get into all the theological discussions that could be had on this topic, what I want us to take away from this post is that we will get sick in this life for a variety of reasons. And when trying to determine the reason for our sickness we must remember that God is still good, even in our sickness, and that God has every ability to use that sickness for our good:

28 We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose – Romans 8:28

Much Love,

Luke

Change of Plans

I was chatting to a congregation member over the phone yesterday and she mentioned that for her birthday in May her family had planned to come visit from all over the world. What with all that is going on with the Covid-19 pandemic they had decided to postpone the arrangement to her birthday next year. She then said something along the lines of when we made the plans we should have said “God willing…” referencing James’ words in chapter 4 his letter to the believers. I felt it was a very apt observation.

This is the passage from James 4:13-16

13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will travel to such and such a city and spend a year there and do business and make a profit.” 14 Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring — what your life will be! For you are like vapour that appears for a little while, then vanishes.

15 Instead, you should say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 16 But as it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.

No one could have predicted the global disruption to all of our lives that the coronavirus outbreak brought this year. As things progressed event after event got cancelled. Gatherings were called off. Plans were disrupted. Even the things that we’ve always come to see as constant, things so concrete that we’d never have dreamed of them not happening, would not happen. This global pandemic is a reminder that we do not know what tomorrow will bring or what our life will be.

Now this is not to say that we shouldn’t make plans. After all Proverbs 21:5 says, The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance and advantage, but everyone who acts in haste comes surely to poverty,” (AMP). It is good to plan, but in our planning we shouldn’t become presumptuous. We shouldn’t give in to the temptation that having a plan means we have life all figured out. The truth is we don’t, there is only one plan that will always come to fruition: Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails,” (Proverbs 19:21 NIV).

This is why James advises us to remember, in all our planning, to acknowledge, “if the Lord wills , we will live and do this or that.” Our lives are in His hands, in fact, all life is in His hands. We are but just a vapour, He is eternal, and it is His plan that will prevail.

The wonderful thing about this, for us as believers, is we know that God is good and His plan for our lives, and for all creation, is ultimately good. So even when our plans get disrupted, when nothing seems to go to plan, it’s okay because we are still in the will of God.

 

God Bless

Graham

Weeds

So I think I finally get it – after years of people telling me how amazing it is – I have finally experienced it for myself… gardening is pretty cool! For a while now I have often walked around my parent’s garden, and the next thing, an intense pain invades my foot and when I quickly pull it up I have a thorn (or thorns on a bad day) which need to be carefully extracted. This past Sunday Cammie and I decided to do some gardening as we are staying with my parents for the duration of the lockdown (thanks mom and dad!) My goal was to get rid of these pesky weeds which have been hindering my barefoot walks through parts of the garden – their time had come! So with garden rake in hand I began to gently pull at a visible patch of weeds and they slowly began to give way. I pulled and pulled and finally realized that I now had a bare patch of sand staring back at me.

Unfortunately while pulling up the weeds I also pulled out all the grass in that area as well… my bad! So I thought, “I must persevere! Maybe I just needed to refine my technique a bit!” Unfortunately my second attempt was no better than the first as this time I decided to throw on some gloves and tackle the task by hand with no luck. When I took time to investigate the patch where there was once grass and weeds I noticed the intricate network of roots that kept these weeds alive. To the best of my knowledge they had intertwined themselves with the grass and it would be really difficult, or next to impossible, to extract them without uprooting the grass as well.

Upon pondering on this experience I was reminded of these words by Jesus:

24 He presented another parable to them: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while people were sleeping, his enemy came, sowed weeds among the wheat, and left. 26 When the plants sprouted and produced grain, then the weeds also appeared. 27 The landowner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Master, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Then where did the weeds come from?’ 28 “‘An enemy did this,’ he told them. “‘So, do you want us to go and pull them up?’ the servants asked him. 29 “‘No,’ he said. ‘When you pull up the weeds, you might also uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At harvest time I’ll tell the reapers: Gather the weeds first and tie them in bundles to burn them, but collect the wheat in my barn.’” – Matthew 13:24-30

In Jesus’ kingdom there are good seeds who represent His disciples and weeds who represent false believers and teachers who Satan has sowed amongst these disciples. We see that these false believers and teachers will be present with us to the end of this age and are sometimes quite difficult to tell apart from the true disciples of Jesus. What does this mean for us as disciples then? Are we supposed go out expending all our energy tracking down and ripping out all those who we expect to be weeds? No – according to this parable these people will one day have to answer to God.

Instead of going on a weeding expedition I think what would benefit us all the more is to allow the Holy Spirit to cultivate in us the evidence of His presence in our lives, enjoying the positive influence we can have on the world while being genuine disciples of Jesus:  22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control – Galatians 5:22.

I don’t know about you but I think the world is in need of a lot more of all these fruits which we have to offer!

 

Much love,

Luke

He Refreshes My Soul

You would think that with the slower pace of life during the lockdown that you find yourself more at peace, more refreshed. And yet, despite the neighbourhood being quiet, my mind has not been so. There are so many messages, news articles, Christian posts and opinions flying about that I found myself growing weary of it all.

Living in the information age, the skill we have to develop is not so much the acquiring of information but rather to be discerning in what we take in. Not all good things are good for me.

I got to thinking, how do I simplify my thoughts? How do I de-clutter my mind? I recalled the words of that old chorus:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full, in His wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace

It’s like when a camera changes the object of its focus, the background becomes blurred and no longer distracts from what is before you. Focusing on Jesus helps us to quiet our minds. He fills our thoughts and we find peace amidst the storm.

I love the way the ISV Bible translates Psalm 62:1-2

My soul rests quietly only when it looks to God;
    from Him comes my deliverance.
He alone is my rock, my deliverance, and my high tower;
    nothing will shake me.

I can understand why Jesus would often draw away on His own, during his time on earth. There must have been a multitude of concerns and responsibilities weighing down upon Him. Yet He was always at peace, for His focus was on the Father.

Psalm 23 declares:

The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures,
   He leads me beside quiet waters,
    He refreshes my soul…

If you are weary, if your mind is cluttered, if your home is noisy and it’s difficult to find some peace, know that in Him there is rest and refreshment for your soul. Focus on Jesus and let the rest fade into the background.

God Bless

Graham

Strong God

We are now entering the second day of the lockdown, the second day staying at home. I can only just thank the Lord for our home, a place where I know His peace rests – despite all the noise! There are certainly far worse places to spend 21 days, and that’s what is on my mind this morning. For my family, home is a place we want to be – at least most of the time, in a push my kids would probably say their grandparents homes would be preferable! But for some others home is not a place they want to be. For them home is a place of argument and conflict, even of physical or emotional abuse. Home may be a place of loneliness. For some, these 21 days are a sentence, a prison lockdown. This is a difficult and sad reality to acknowledge.

It is in thinking of those who face this difficult situation that I read the words from Psalm 68:4-6.

Sing praises to God and to His name!
    Sing loud praises to Him who rides the clouds.
His name is the LORD
    rejoice in His presence!

Father to the fatherless, defender of widows—
    this is God, whose dwelling is holy.
God places the lonely in families;
    He sets the prisoners free and gives them joy.
But He makes the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.

My God is a Strong God. He is a Father to the fatherless, a Defender of the most vulnerable. He is near to the lonely, drawing them into His family where they are loved. He sets free those who are imprisoned, even though they are locked down. I will sing the praises of my God because He is able to save those who are in danger, He will heal the hurt, He will preserve the suffering enabling them to endure. Though I am powerless to help the vulnerable and afflicted, He is not. Therefore I will pray and ask Him to rescue them, to protect them, to comfort them, to set them free in their hearts so that they would fear no man.

Please join me in praising our Strong God. Father to the fatherless, defender of widows – this is God

Small Changes

Yesterday, despite being quite hectic, started well enough by replacing a little part in my engine. I have not invested much time into “handy man” type activities and I enjoy it when I have the opportunity to do something technical with my hands even when I’m not 100% sure what I’m doing.

So this little part (seen in the image to the right) is called a Coolant Temperature Sensor (I think), and it plays a large role in the car starting effectively and a bunch of other important stuff which I’m sure many of the mechanically minded people can tell me about. Anyway, I replaced the part and the car started! The day couldn’t have begun any better!

Cammie and I did some last minute running around like filling up with some petrol just in case we needed to get to the shops during the lockdown and on our way home my car started shouting at me! I looked down and saw that it was informing me that it was currently overheating and would probably be a good idea if I stopped before the engine exploded! The cause of all this car drama was that the new sensor I had just installed wasn’t functioning correctly. While my car was now starting just fine this new sensor was causing a whole different problem.

A Coolant Temperature Sensor (I think...)

What I got from this rather frustrating experience is that small changes can make a big impact. This one little part in the engine if not functioning properly can cause a multitude of problems and if simply changed to a functioning part makes everything work as intended. And this got me thinking – what areas of my life are currently not functioning as optimally as possible?

I must admit, with everything going on in the country at the moment it is easy to fall into negative patterns of thinking. The problem is that if we allow our minds to fixate on negativity this will lead to impacting what we believe and if negative beliefs are not challenged this can then impact how we behave. It is a domino effect – Our mind can impact our heart and our heart can impact our actions.

While doing some research on the topic I came across two scriptures which show us how making small changes in how we think can clearly impact us for the better:

2 Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God – Romans 12:2

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you – Phillipians 4:8-9

Much love,

Luke

All Aboard the Ark!

Today has been a busy day. I know this because I’m only writing this blog post now, late in the evening, despite knowing this morning what I wanted to write. I’m sure it has been a busy day for all of you as we approach the hour of the lockdown. There are just so many things to sort out, to go and buy, family and friends to visit before not seeing them in person for nearly a month. The stores have been chaotic – so much for social distancing!

All this hustle and bustle made me think of how it must have been like for Noah and his family getting everything ready on the ark before the rains hit. Sure, it took a long time to build the ark, but the loading of the pairs of animals only happened in the 7 days before the rains fell (Gen 7:6-10). There must have been a lot of frantic activity on the ark, making sure everything was ready. Did they have enough food for all the animals? Was there enough food for the family? Did they buy enough toilet paper?!?

As the day approached, and Noah and his family thought about the long period of time they would be cooped up in the ark floating. I’m sure there was a great deal of apprehension, doubt, even fear. Scholar’s reckon that the family and all the animals spent about a year in the ark! The 40 days and nights was merely the period of constant rain and flooding. It took a long time for the waters to finally recede after they had wiped out all life on earth. In that light maybe 21 days isn’t so bad…

Here’s the amazing thing though. When the family and all the animals were on board. When the rains and floods started. It was God who closed the door, who shut them in safe and sound:

13 On that very day Noah and his sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth, together with his wife and the wives of his three sons, entered the ark. 14 They had with them every wild animal according to its kind, all livestock according to their kinds, every creature that moves along the ground according to its kind and every bird according to its kind, everything with wings. 15 Pairs of all creatures that have the breath of life in them came to Noah and entered the ark. 16 The animals going in were male and female of every living thing, as God had commanded Noah. Then the Lord shut him in, (Genesis 7:13-16).

It’s such a small detail. One we might even miss in reading the account. And yet it is worth taking special note of it. To me it speaks of God’s tender care for us, His people. God personally shut them in the ark, like a parent tucks in their child ensuring they are safe and warm. It’s reminder that we are loved by God and He will look after us. So if you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed by the flood of all that is happening in our country, in our world. Know that God is the God who takes special care of us. He’ll “tuck us in” and keep us safe. Like Noah and his family, we should place our trust in the Lord.

 

God Bless

Graham

Tears in a bottle

The other day I was flicking through a few YouTube videos and came across one that was highlighting the talent of a young man on the current season of American Idol. It was an excellent performance that actually caused one of the judges to cry. What stood out to me wasn’t his transparent emotion but the fact that he felt that he needed to apologise for his tears.

And this got me thinking – why do people often apologise when they cry? Is it because they feel embarrassed or is it maybe because they feel like they are making others feel uncomfortable? I can’t remember the last time I saw someone apologise for having a good time or someone saying sorry because they were so excited about a situation they didn’t know what to do with themselves. So why do we often feel as if we need to apologize for crying?

A psychologist by the name of Sheryl Paul answers this question in the following way:

“Well, it’s not a difficult question to answer. The vast majority of my clients — and the human population — grew up with the very clear message that crying wasn’t welcome or even tolerable. “Get over it” was the message that most kids were — and still are — raised with. Because if you’re a parent who hasn’t embraced your own pain, who still views pain through the lens of shame that you absorbed when you were a child, you can’t possibly create an environment in which your child feels safe to cry.”

Crying is a natural response to painful and difficult situations and we don’t need to apologise when we become so overwhelmed we don’t know what to do other than cry – there is no shame in this action. I must admit that the impending lockdown and all its ramifications has had me quite emotional. On Monday I was on the verge of tears because I was feeling so overwhelmed and I’m sure many of you may be feeling the same way.

But do you know that our God is so great that he doesn’t turn away when we cry? He doesn’t feel uncomfortable and tell us to stop – he welcomes our tears because he loves us and cares about how we are feeling. While David was in the custody of his enemies he wrote these words in Psalm 56:8; 10-11.

8 You yourself have recorded my misery
 Put my tears in your bottle.
 Are they not in your book?

10 In God, whose word I praise,
 in the Lord, whose word I praise,
11 in God I trust; I will not be afraid

We can find comfort in the fact that God remembers the pain we have gone through in this life – he doesn’t forget about a single tear we have shed. David was so confident in this fact that he used the imagery of God collecting every tear in a bottle and recording our pain in a book. And while there are still many tears for us to cry and many difficult situations to face in this life we can stand firm in the knowledge that there will come a day when tears from pain will no longer exist:

“Then I heard a loud voice from the throne: Look, God’s dwelling is with humanity, and he will live with them. They will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them and will be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; grief, crying, and pain will be no more, because the previous things have passed away,”
(Revelation 21:3-4)

Much love,

Luke

The Lockdown & Isaiah 26

I think we all knew that it would be a big announcement that the president would be making last night, even if we hadn’t comprehended how drastic the measures might be. The prospect of the 21 day lockdown, as necessary as it is, is a daunting one. And yet, it is more the fear of the unknown and the anxiety that such restrictions produce in us that are worse than the reality of it. There will still be food available, there will still be the essential services. Many of us are blessed to have the comfortable homes in which we will now be spending a great deal of time.

Most of all, we know that God is still in charge. This is something that has been highlighted by the message that has been widely shared via social media (i.e. WhatsApp, Facebook etc.). The gist of this message is that South Africa’s lockdown begins on 26 March 2020, now somehow, someone was prompted to take the 26 of the date and the 20 of the year and refer to Isaiah 26:20 which reads:

“Go home, my people, and lock your doors! Hide yourselves for a little while until the LORD’S anger has passed,” (NLT).

I wouldn’t go building a theology or prophetic message based on this, such as, is the Coronavirus God’s judgement on the world? Or, is this the final judgement? If you want a fantastic take on these questions I can recommend a sermon Louie Giglio preached the last Sunday (Sermon Link Here). But it is encouraging to find this word linked in some way to the events unfolding in our country.

The message is that God will watch over us, as we stay in our homes and ride out this storm. He is in control. Another coincidence (or what people call a “God-incidence”) that was pointed out to me is that the end of the lockdown, 16 April is the last day of Passover this year – I double checked and this is accurate. Passover commemorates the time when God’s people were “passed over” by the angel of death as God brought judgement on Pharaoh and Egypt, their oppressors. The Israelites who had brushed the blood of the lamb sacrifice on their doorposts were kept safe in their homes. Jesus, the Lamb of God, is the one who saves us, He keeps us safe.

And so, to end I want to leave you with these encouraging words elsewhere from Isaiah Chapter 26:

You will keep in perfect peace
 all who trust in You,
 all whose thoughts are fixed on you!
Trust in the Lord always,
 for the Lord God is the eternal Rock.
(Isa 26:3-4 NLT)

In a time of anxiety and fear we, God’s people, can have perfect peace in the situation. Let us trust in Him, let us keep our focus on Him and His word. He is constant. He is good. He will be the firm rock-foundation below our feet in a time of shifting change.

God Bless

Graham