The New Harvest Christian Fellowship

Pastors’ Blog

Self-Control

It’s happened again. I am starting to feel some extra chunkiness on parts of my body that wasn’t there two weeks ago and I must admit that it is only my fault. I have no one else to blame. Here’s my confession: I have been snacking A LOT since lockdown began and parts of my body are starting to become the evidence of all this snacking. It has become a habit for me to work a bit, get a cup of coffee and then find something sweet to nibble on while enjoying my coffee.

This wouldn’t be a problem if it happened every now and then but it is something that I like to do every day – sometimes multiple times a day – to the point of making me want to get up right now and get a snack while I am typing this up (which I ended up doing by the way!) This realization of over snacking is something that frustrates me because about two years ago I preached on this very topic of self-control and it was an area that I was showing some strength in but now… not so much. And this got me thinking, “Why is self-control so important in the life of a Christian?” A scripture that I have seen a few times since our lockdown began is 2 Timothy 1:7 ESV which says:

7 for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

It’s amazing how I have often focused on the fact that the Holy Spirit is powerful and loving but needed to be reminded this morning that he is also the Spirit of self-control. While doing some reading on the topic I came across these words by David Mathis who is the executive editor at desiringgod.org:

“It sounds so simple and straightforward, perhaps even commonplace. It’s not a flashy concept or an especially attractive idea. It doesn’t turn heads or grab headlines. It can be as seemingly small as saying no to another Oreo, French fry, or milkshake — or another half hour on Netflix or Facebook — or it can feel as significant as living out a resounding yes to sobriety and sexual purity. It is at the height of Christian virtue in a fallen world, and its exercise is quite simply one of the most difficult things you can ever learn to do.

To put is plainly, to be self-controlled is to be like Jesus and this is why it is something that we allow the Holy Spirit to cultivate within us. According to the book of Hebrews Jesus was tempted in every way like we are but never sinned. This means that Jesus is incredibly self-controlled. This is why being self-controlled in every area of our lives is so important – nothing should have such a hold on us to the point of feeling like we have to give into it. So it may seem like something small but the next time I say no to the desire to find a sugary snack to accompany my coffee, the closer I become to looking like my Savior which can only be seen to be a positive.

So here’s to resolving to be more self-controlled in this area of snacking! This is only something I will be able to accomplish though the Holy Spirit’s power and through staying accountable to whoever reads this blog. So if you would like send me a random message to find out how this journey is going, go ahead – I will be as honest as possible! Also, maybe take some time to think through any area of your life that you are feeling led to be more controlled in and I would love to be praying for you so send me a message if this is something I can do for you.

Much love,

Luke

The Unwanted Guest

 

Today I have something different for you. Instead of sharing my own thoughts I will be sharing a poem that was sent to me from one of the congregation members.  It is very well written and I was blessed and encouraged as I read it. I pray that you will be too.

God Bless

Graham

 

THE UNWANTED GUEST

Unannounced, uninvited and unwanted:
He arrives, like a thief in the night –
To steal one of your most prized possessions –
Your HEALTH, to which you held on so tight.

No matter your colour or culture,
No matter the state of your health –
To him, absolutely nothing matters
Not even the state of your wealth.

It all starts so innocently,
Maybe a cough, or a sneeze –
Plus a fluctuating temperature,
And then, your lungs start to wheeze.

Now starts the frightening process –
First, a visit to the Doctor for you –
Then those dreaded, scary words –
“It’s the Corona virus, not just the ‘flu!”

Isolation in the ICU ward,
With oxygen, tubes and meds:
So many others in the same condition,
But sadly, not enough beds!

God created this magnificent planet
And gave us the privilege to live here.
But now this dreadful Virus
Is just destroying all we hold dear.

So many Families have been split apart
Because of this awful disease.
Which transmits from one person to another
With droplets from a cough or a sneeze.

(BUT……There is HOPE)

I know if we all stand together
And pray for God’s healing hand
He will show us His mighty love
And HEAL our beautiful land.

How wonderful if a cure may be found
To cleanse the Earth from this affliction –
But first we must all have absolute faith
And pray with total conviction.

“Dear God, we beg you on bended knee
Please send us a cure,
That we all might endure –
This is our passionate plea!”

Let’s start by obeying our Country’s rules,
Self-isolate and always wear masks
If you have to go out, Stay a metre away
From others while completing your tasks.

We must have faith that this time will pass
If we pray and obey the laws of the land –
In years to come, we’ll look back amazed –
We saw the work of God’s own hand!

(Thoughts surrounding our present conditions as a result of the Corona Virus.  In self-isolation March/April 2020, I took some time to put my thoughts into words.)

Who are You?

“When you know who you are, you’ll know what to do” – These words have always stuck with me. The first time I ever heard them was while doing schools ministry with my friend Ezra. He was quoting this phrase from Craig Groschel to some of the teens we were spending time with. I was recently reminded of these words while reading through John’s gospel as suggested by one of our New Harvest Family. These words from John 1 really stood out to me:

 19 And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” 22 So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” 24 (Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.) 25 They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” 26 John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, 27 even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” 28 These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

John knew who he was and because he was comfortable in his identity this allowed him to do what he was called to do. He was not trying to earn his identity of preparing the way for Jesus but was living out that identity since he knew that was what God had called him to do. Notice that he didn’t feel the need to be someone else or give into the temptation of elevating himself to the place only Jesus could hold – no – he was content in preparing the way for Jesus and he did an exceptional job in doing this.

So what is our identity as Jesus’ disciples? One aspect of our identity that has been standing out to me a lot lately is “child of God.” I have had the amazing privilege to spend a lot of time with Seth lately which has been such a blessing. I love my son so much and it blows my mind that God loves me more than I love Seth and that He wants to spend with me like I enjoy spending time with my son. The Creator of the universe – the completely holy and set apart God wants to spend time with His children – how cool is that? God is our Father who loves to give us good gifts (Matthew 7:11) and loves us so much that He sent His Son to die on our behalf so that we might be reconciled back to Him (John 3:16).

If God is our Father and we are His children this means that disciples of Jesus are actually family and we are to love one another as we have been loved. We do not show love to earn God’s love but allow God’s love for us to be the fuel to love fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. We love as a result of living out the reality our identity as dearly loved children. It is important that we recognize that this love should not be restricted to the family of God. The full expression of being the family of God is found in loving the world around us in the same way Jesus has loved us. So my challenge for all of us today is find a way to show love to someone that is in desperate need of God’s love and allow God to love that person through you!

Much love,

Luke

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