From First to Last, From Last to First

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by Graham Mol

I’m sure you’ve heard Jesus’ saying before:

“But many who are first will be last, and the last first,” (Mark 10:31)

I can tell you its a firm favourite among Christian kids when they lose a race. “Ya but in the Bible it says the first will be last and the last first… so I win!”

As with many well-known sayings from the Bible, it is well worth asking ourselves what does it really mean? So often we quote or recite these platitudes without truly understanding their full meaning. Therefore, let’s take a brief dip into Mark 10:17-31 to see what Jesus really means when He says that the last will be first and the last, first.

The passage where we find this saying from Jesus is one that deals with the Rich Young Man. This young man came running up to Jesus asking Him what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus brings up the commandments to which the man confidently claims that he has kept all of them from birth (which is to say the least, extremely unlikely!) Jesus, seeing right into the man’s heart, challenges him to renounce his worldly wealth and come follow Him. What an opportunity! To be included in the group of Jesus’ disciples. Yet the young man doesn’t quite see it that way. Unable to give up his substantial possessions he sadly turns away from Christ.

Jesus remarks on how difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God. This is not because they are rich, but rather because they struggle more with not trusting in their own possessions. When questioned by the disciples He does clarify that it is difficult, but not impossible with God working in a person’s heart. The disciples then state that they have given up everything to follow Christ. Jesus affirms that no one who has sacrificed their comforts and securities to serve the Lord will not be rewarded, both in this life and the life to come.

It is at this point that Jesus says: “But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” We can be clear that Jesus is not speaking of a simple role reversal of the rich and poor in the Kingdom of Heaven. Rather, what Jesus is homing in on is that those who placed themselves first. Those who chose that which would benefit them and advance their own selves, those who “store up things for themselves but are not rich toward God” (Luke 12:21), would ultimately find themselves coming in last.

But those who put others first, thinking of their needs above one’s own (Philippians 2:3), those who lay down their rights and privileges to serve the Lord and His people, those who are willing to lose their live’s for Christ’s sake, will instead in their humility find themselves lifted up. The last will indeed be first.

***

I do realise that this is a blog post and not a sermon (sorry!) but hear me out for this is something that is very relevant to our lives right now. For much of 2020 and it seems to be the same in 2021, many of us have been in a form of survival mode. And survival mode means “me first”. My needs take precedent over the others. “I need this!” Everywhere we look we see this kind of attitude being displayed as people try to navigate the pitfalls and dangers.

But we, children of God, followers of Christ, are called to live out our lives differently. We are called to think of others, to at times give up our preferences or desires, sometimes even our “needs” to serve our Lord, His Church and the lost. We can do that willingly because we know that every single thing we let go of, every sacrifice we make, is noted by God and He will reward us, both in this life but oh so much more in the life to come. We who graciously step back into last place will indeed find ourselves first after all.

 

God Bless

Graham

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The Fire Storm

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by Caryl Moll

One of the things I feared most, as a young child growing up on a farm, was the annual “fire season”. The images of the familiar orange glow on the horizon at night-time and the acrid smell of smoke in my nostrils still strikes a deep fear in me. Fire is unpredictable. Add wind to the equation and it becomes even more terrifying. Fire creates its own conditions and can whip itself up into an unimaginable storm. It’s scary. Unpredictable and very scary!

I recall a particular incident one year on the farm. The fire had been raging for days across the vast countryside. It was edging closer and closer to our farm and our homestead. The whole community was on heightened alert to fight the various outbreaks. Some people’s homes had been burned to the ground and some had lost everything in the flames. We were all under threat and the carnage was visible for miles. Now it was approaching our home – from all directions. What were we to do?

That particular evening, my father was out in the fields, with a group of workers trying to build fire breaks and fight the approaching flames. My mother and our household staff had packed up all our belongings and piled them up on the outside lawn. We’d soaked the surrounding area using a small hosepipe, but there was no guarantee that our efforts would save our belongings. The dogs and farm animals were rounded up too as we waited for any indication that they needed to be moved. They were uncertain and scary moments. The only thing we could do was to wait and pray for a miracle.

As the night advanced, my father still hadn’t returned and my mother was becoming increasingly more worried. (We didn’t have cell phones in those days, so there was no communication). I remember her setting up a safe place for me to ‘sleep’, but sleep was the furthest thing from any of our minds. Fear gripped us all as we huddled and listened to the sounds of the wind changing direction and nearby trees going up in flames. We were totally at God’s mercy.

Sometime during the night I fell asleep, but woke up to excited voices.  I recognised my father’s voice immediately and ran from my sleeping area to go and investigate. The scene that greeted me was one I’ll never forget…

My father stood in front of us all, visibly exhausted and bending over to catch his breath. His shoes were clogged in mud and he was covered in dark soot and dirt – from head to foot. He was hardly recognisable – only the white of his eyes and the glow of his teeth stood out. He still had hair on his head, but his eyelashes and eyebrows had been singed off totally. All the hair on his arms and legs was gone too. My father was a ‘hairy’ man and was now ‘hairless’. Thankfully, his skin was intact. He had no visible burns.

The strange thing in that moment was my father’s mood.  Perhaps it was from the adrenalin rush, but he was smiling widely and laughing in gratitude. We all stood there, hugging each other together – alive in that moment.

My father explained that he and his workers had been forced to run for their lives – through a tunnel of encroaching fire – to escape sure death. He described the pivotal moment during their ordeal. There were two paths: one was a wider, grassy ‘field’ and the other a narrower path surrounded by fire. The wind suddenly picked up and an inner voice prompted him to choose the narrower ‘cauldron’ for him and his workers.

“Run! God, save us,” he had shouted as they sprinted through the flames. There was no time to waste. They ran for their lives.  Thankfully the decision was the correct one. They’d chosen wisely because with the wind had suddenly turned and within minutes the wider, alternative field was engulfed in flames. One moment of decision had saved them all.

So, the image that remains the most prominent for me from that night was my father’s SMILE. Despite losing all his hair, he was celebrating and thankful to God for saving him and his workers. Despite losing most of his farm during the fires that year, he’d adopted a mantle of gratitude. It was a lesson for me…and a lesson for us all…

So, dear reader, as we face our own terrible ‘fire’ that is engulfing our world, let us remember this image of my smiling father. Yes, we may not escape this ordeal unscathed. We are all affected by the things happening around us, but we must remember that God is only a prayer away. He is with us – no matter what the outcome.

Be safe, dear friend….and know that God loves you! He’s got this!

 

With love, in Christ

Caryl

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My Dad Can Do Anything!

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by Luke Kincaid

Last night, while Seth was playing with some of the children in our complex, I was taken aback by what one of the little one’s had to say while they were talking about their dad. I can’t remember what I asked them exactly but it was in regards to their dad’s ability in doing something or another and her response made me smile:

“Of course! My dad can do anything!” with a beaming smile on her face.

Upon hearing these words I thought to our indescribable Father in heaven and how these words said by a four year old were applicable to Him:
 
God can do anything, you know – far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but buy working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us. – Ephesians 3:20-21 (The Message)
 
Our Father in heaven is able to accomplish incredible things in our lives and those around us. So be reminded of the fact today that we have the strongest dad, the smartest dad, the most loving dad, the best dad! 
 
Thank you Father for loving us so much and giving us the right to be called your children through our Savior and big brother Jesus!
 
 
Much love,
 
Luke
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All of Our Tomorrows

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I am happy to announce that our regular blog will be kicking off on Monday 11 January and we are looking forward to sharing our thoughts, experiences and reflections on what God is showing us through His beautiful creation, daily life and His word.

That being said, today’s post is just something I was inspired by and would like to share with you all. May you be blessed by the beautiful words of this song and the story behind them.

God Bless

Graham

Sovereign Grace Music

Thousands of years ago, David said, ““Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” (Psalm 139:16) God knows every one of our days and holds them in his hand before we even live them.

Looking back at 2020, that might be a difficult truth to grasp. But it’s still true. The foundation for our hope lies in one place: the promises of God revealed fully to us in the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. If God would give his only Son to pay for our sins, how will he not also give us every good thing? (Rom. 8:32) Even when those “good things” look like 2020, we can be confident God is using them for our eternal joy and his eternal glory. That is just the knowledge we need to give us faith and hope as we look forward to 2021.

This past year one of the Sovereign Grace songwriters, Dave Fournier, brought a set of lyrics to our songwriting retreat called, “All of Our Tomorrows,” eventually set to a beautiful tune by Ryan Foglesong. The song is a prayer that acknowledges and prays for God’s careful, wise, personal, and faithful involvement in the lives of those Christ has redeemed. It speaks to our need for guidance in the future, comfort in loss, and strength for all our days.

We recorded a simple video of the song this year and plan to record a full version next year. We pray God would use this song and the truth it proclaims as a means of faith, comfort, and hope for all of your tomorrows.

Lyrics:
This spinning world by Your own hand
Hurls ever on around the sun
The seasons march at Your command The old departs, the new year comes
And though celestial is Your gaze
You search and care for all our ways
We offer up to You this day And all of our tomorrows

May zealous youth and cautious age
Determine not the steps we choose
Great Shepherd, guide us through each day
Oh, how we want to follow You
Come Living Way, our way make clear
Let perfect love drive out our fear
Be Thou our vision, now and here
And all of our tomorrows

When winter makes us reminisce
Of warmer days so distant now
Of cherished saints the sun once kissed
Whose beauty passed behind the clouds
Let all our fond and longing tears
Remind us we are pilgrims here
We trust You, Sovereign of our years
With all of our tomorrows

Hands to the plow, we’re pressing on
And running hard to win the prize
Empowered by the love of God
With grace before and grace behind
For lo, what hope before us stands
You finish all that You began
Eternal joy is in Your hands
And all of our tomorrows

Written by Dave Fournier and Ryan Foglesong Vocals: McKenzie Fuller Piano: Bob Kauflin Produced and edited by Grace Nixon Filmed by Bekah Heid and Grace Nixon Assistant engineering: Caleb Grunau © 2020 Sovereign Grace Worship/ASCAP, Sovereign Grace Praise/BMI (adm. worldwide at CapitolCMGPublishing.com, excluding the UK & Europe which is adm. by Integrity Music). Sovereign Grace Music, a division of Sovereign Grace Churches. All rights reserved. CCLI #7167554

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