There is a Time

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by Calven Celliers

1, 2, 3, 4……. 36, 37, 38, 39 days until Spring.

Anybody who knows me knows that I hate winter (and if you didn’t, you do now). I’m not a fan of the cold, at all, whatsoever! Despite numerous attempts over the years, by various people trying to convince me that it’s easier to get warm than it is to cool down, the freezing temperatures and icy wind that blows across the highveld, overshadows any hope of ever converting me. I spend my days, from the first autumn leaf that falls, counting down to Spring, and then Summer… aaaah the very word brings a smile to my dial, especially after the bitterly cold weather we’re currently suffering.

As with Summer, Autumn, Winter and Spring, in our Christian walk, we too experience seasons that are wonderful and seasons that are not so wonderful; in fact, there are times in life that are far from wonderful, they’re awful and we wonder if they’ll ever end. So many verses in scripture come back to the foundational truth that God knows best and wants us to trust Him in all things and at all times. He made the world and governs the universe, and is never phased nor astonished at what is going on in the world at large, nor the troubling circumstances that are happening in the individual lives of His children.

In Ecclesiastes 3, wise king Solomon reminds us that there is a season for everything; we will experience both good and bad in this life.

1 There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.”

(Ecclesiastes 3: 1 – 8NIV)

Therein lies acknowledgement that we may experience seasons of great abundance or great loss. We can experience great joy or great pain. We have wins, and we have losses. But, the beautiful thing in all of this is that none of these seasons or experiences is ever wasted –

11 He [God] has made everything beautiful in its time…” (Ecclesiastes 3:11NIV)

There is a time for everything, life is full of contrasts, and God in His mercy always provides His love and His grace. We need to hold onto the blessed truth that the God on the mountain-tops of life is the exact same God who walks with us through the deep ravines. God is always there with His perfect love. We can trust that His timing is always perfect. God can take even the bad things and, in the proper season, turn them around and use them for good in the way He intends.

You may be going through a season right now that is not beautiful. Your finances look ugly. Your health looks ugly. Your marriage or a friendship looks ugly. Your future looks ugly. But God can make something good out of it as you trust Him with the pieces.

No matter what season you’re in; whether it is lack or abundance, remember that God is with you. He loves you and everything you experience is meant to grow you closer to Him and advance His kingdom. Cling tight to Him, whatever your season. There is a time for everything.

“Thank You, Father God, that You know the end from the beginning and that everything under heaven is within Your authority. Thank You, that You are in control of all that is happening in my life and the wider world in general. Times and seasons have been foreordained by You Lord. You even know the number of hairs on our heads and have scheduled each day of our lives. May I trust You through all the circumstances of life. As I seek Your face in prayer and praise, may I learn more and more to pray, ‘Thy will be done.’ In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

 

God bless,

Calven

Continue ReadingThere is a Time

Lean not on unto thine own understanding

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by Calven Celliers

This has been a crazy week to say the least. And as the events that beset our country unfolded, I stood dumb founded, not to mention deeply saddened and at times angry, at peoples appetite for destruction, corruption, greed and ability to be stirred to mass hysteria.

Many of the citizens in our country have blindly followed others this week, with little thought where all of this will end and the long-term suffering this week’s actions will cause. Before we let others lead us, it’s helpful to know what direction they’re going in and where we’ll eventually land up.

I once heard a story about a woman driving through a terrible snowstorm. She was completely lost and struggling under the hazardous weather conditions. She was understandably relieved when she happened upon a snowplow. She decided to follow the truck and kept as close to the machine as she possibly could while it removed snow from the road in front of her vehicle. After some time, however, the snowplow stopped and the driver got out and walked over to her car, asking her, “Lady, where are you going?” Upon hearing her answer, the truck driver replied, “Well, you’ll never get there following me! I’m plowing a parking lot!”

Far too many people in the world are following people who themselves have no idea where they’re heading. All too often people are only interested in being in the popular crowd, or jumping on the next big craze, and one day they wake up, like the lady in this story, and realize they’ve been going in circles for far too long.

In Proverbs 3, wise King Solomon instructs us to let the Lord lead us into a balanced life and proper decisions, saying Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” (Proverbs 3: 5 & 6KJV)

So many of the things that cause us the most difficulty and heartache in life, the source of so much of our anxiety, fear, doubt, and anger with others and with God, is the result of leaning on our own understanding. Our limited understanding can easily lead us astray. Scripture tells us that 25There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” (Proverbs 16:25NIV) When we choose to direct our lives according to what seems right to us, we often reap disaster as this week’s events in South Africa have proven. Every person must make a decision whether to live his or her life according to personal preference or according to the unchanging Word of God. It’s one thing to acknowledge God. Many people admit there is a God and even believe that God is good. It’s another thing to submit to God’s authority, obey His commands, and make Him the Lord of one’s life.

To ‘lean not on your own understanding’ is really just another way of saying we need to live by faith.

“Faith is the most misunderstood word in the religious vocabulary. Faith is an attitude of trust in the presence of God, which is simple enough to say; yet to live by faith means to surrender your entire life over to God.” (Paul Tillich) 

Sin first entered the world when Adam and Eve disobeyed God, choosing their own ‘wisdom’ rather than trusting and following God in His infinite, perfect wisdom. All these years later, nothing has really changed. As I reflect on the havoc of this past week, I see now more than ever that only God’s wisdom can fix the messes we’ve made.

5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (James 1:5NIV)

Let us pray in the midst of this chaos for godly wisdom to prevail!

 

God bless,

Calven

Continue ReadingLean not on unto thine own understanding

The Art of Waiting

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by Calven Celliers

Not long before his death in 1996, Henri Nouwen wrote a book called Sabbatical Journeys, in which he wrote about some friends of his who were trapeze artists. They told Nouwen that there is a special relationship between the flyer and the catcher on the trapeze. This relationship is governed by important rules, such as: The flyer is the one who lets go, and the catcher is the one who catches. As the flyer swings on the trapeze high above the crowd, the moment comes when he must let go. He flings his body out in mid-air. His job is to keep flying and to wait for the strong hands of the catcher to take hold of him at just the right moment. The flyer must never try to catch the catcher.” The flyer’s job is to wait in absolute trust. The catcher will catch him, but he must wait.

“Waiting is a period of learning. The longer we wait, the more we hear about Him for whom we are waiting. Waiting is not a static state, it is a time when God is working behind the scenes, and the primary focus of His work is on us.” (Henri Nouwen)

 I love the way the late Eugene Petersen paraphrases the words of the apostle Paul to the Romans, in The Message saying, 24 & 25waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.” (Romans 8: 24 & 25TheMessage)

 The hardest part of living by faith is waiting on God. We want God to act swiftly and decisively. We don’t want God to work behind the scenes; we want to see what He is doing so that we can be confident in what He is doing. Our natural human reaction when God doesn’t act according to our ideas is that we want to take matters into our own hands. As we see time ticking away, we grow more and more impatient. When time seems against us, His promises begin to look impossible. We feel like we have to act now or miss out. When people feel like they will miss out, they react and interfere with God’s intended purpose. We try to put ‘legs on our prayers’.

So, what is it that God wants to do in us during these periods of waiting? The prophet Isaiah says, 31 But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31NKJV)

THOSE WHO WAIT ON THE LORD WILL HAVE INWARD STRENGTH:

The people in Isaiah’s day were in captivity, they needed inward strength to give them power over temptation. As Christians God wants us to rely on Him, whatever we are doing. As we look to Him, He will give us the strength to continue when we are tempted to give in. There are times when we want to throw in the towel, yet when we look to our Lord, Scripture assures us He will renew our strength. The God on the mountain, is still God in the valley.

THOSE WHO WAIT ON THE LORD WILL HAVE UPWARD STRENGTH:

There are many ups and downs in this life, but God will give us victory over the downs if we focus on Him. While Peter’s mind was focused on Jesus, he was empowered to walk on the water. But when his focus was on the storm, his fear short circuited his ability to receive God’s sustaining power and he began to sink. Everything hinged on whether he focused on the Saviour or on the storm. Where’s your focus as you wait on God?

THOSE WHO WAIT ON THE LORD WILL HAVE OUTWARD STRENGTH:

I have personally ministered to people who, while waiting on the Lord, have been not only been tempted, but have actually quit the Lord’s work. They become weary and discouraged because of their circumstances and as a result have bailed out on God. God expects us to be faithful, which literally means full of faith, faith that completely trusts and depends on Him. It is active faith, not passive faith. It is a faith that delights in doing the Master’s will. It is love that results in action. It is a faith that keeps doing the right thing even when the waiting becomes long. The Bible says in Ecclesiastes 9:11 that, 11 …The fastest runner doesn’t always win the race…” (Ecclesiastes 9:11NLT) The race is won by those who have learned to endure; who wait with patience; who wait expectantly; and who live in faithfulness to God.

Waiting is an art, and God’s timing is everything.

 

God bless,

Calven

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The Quest for Peace (Part 2)

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by Calven Celliers

In my blog post last week, we considered how Romans 12 is one of those really challenging passages of Scripture because it goes against our very human nature, particularly when it comes to “keeping the peace” with people who are stubborn and defensive and who harden their hearts and resist our efforts to be reconciled.

The apostle Paul introduces us to a principle that applies to every situation where we are dealing with such people – never pay back evil with more evil, rise above this tit for tat philosophy. In other words when someone does something bad to us, we are not to do something bad back to them.  Instead, he says, “21 Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.” (Romans 12: 21NLT)

“When he was subjected to intense and repeated personal attacks Paul realised that a true peacemaker is guided, motivated and empowered by their identity in Christ. This identity is based on faith in the most amazing promise we could ever hear: God has forgiven all our sins and made peace with us through the death and resurrection of His Son. And He has given us freedom and power to turn from sin (and conflict), to be conformed to the likeness of Christ, and to be His ambassadors of reconciliation. It is the realization of who we are in Christ that inspires us to do the unnatural work of dying to self, confessing sin, addressing others’ wrongs graciously, laying down rights, and forgiving deep hurts – even with people who persist in opposing or mistreating us.” (The Peace Maker – Ken Sande)

God has given us divine weapons to use in this quest. These weapons include Scripture, prayer, truth, righteousness, the gospel, faith, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Too many people, these resources and qualities seem feeble and useless when dealing with ‘real problems’, but these are the very weapons Jesus Christ Himself used to defeat Satan.

In Romans 12 Paul describes five basic principles that contribute to a victorious offensive and how we can use them with people who we are at loggerheads with.

[1] Control your tongue – When you are involved in conflict, you may be tempted to indulge in gossip, slander and reckless words, especially when the other person is saying the same kind of things about you. But if you react with harsh words, you only make matters worse. The challenge for us is to respond in grace by saying only what is true, necessary and helpful.

[2] Seek godly advisors – I’ve come to see that if in you’re in a prolonged conflict with a lack of any noticeable progress, one of the best ways to try resolve the issue is to surround yourself with wise and spiritually mature people who will encourage you to stay on a biblical course. Don’t fight these battles in isolation.

[3] Keep doing what is right – We as Christians are to continue doing the right thing even when others don’t cooperate. When Paul says that we must do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honourable, he is telling us to behave and conduct ourselves in such a way that anyone who is watching us will acknowledge that what we did was right.

[4] Recognize your limits – It’s important when you’re dealing with difficult people to recognize your own limits. Even when you try and always be the better person and do what is right, some people will adamantly refuse to live at peace with you. Whilst you can do everything you can to be reconciled to others, remember this, you cannot force others to do what is right.

“Boundaries define us. They define what is me and what is not me. A boundary shows me where I end and someone else begins, leading me to a sense of ownership. Knowing what I am to own and take responsibility for gives me freedom.”  (Dr Henry Cloud & Dr John Townsend – Boundaries)

 [5] Use the ultimate weapon – The ultimate weapon is best described as deliberate, focused love. Instead of reacting spitefully to those who mistreat you, Jesus wants you to discern their deepest needs and do all you can to meet those needs.

I warned you this is a challenging portion of Scripture! But let us never lose sight of the truth that “with man this impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

 

God bless,

Calven

Continue ReadingThe Quest for Peace (Part 2)