Reading the first chapter of 1 Thessalonians today, I noticed this verse: “You suffered much, but still you accepted the teaching with the joy that comes from the Holy Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 1:6). I suppose it jumped out at me because for a while lately, I’ve realised I haven’t felt as close to God. It’s not that I’ve stopped believing in Him or been particularly venomously angry with Him. It’s been more a sadness really. When you see friends or family going through trials, sometimes you feel disillusioned and you can think so much about the problems, but not enough about the difference God makes.
This post I wrote for Alex is one example of the difference God’s made in my life, just this year. When I went up Table Mountain in Cape Town, I prayed the night before about which guide I’d have on the day. It’s really important to pray in faith about the little things, as well as the big things. I really believe God will help you if you involve Him in your life and your plans, but conversely, if you don’t involve Him so much, it can have a negative effect. When I’m not as zealous in my heart about the difference God can make, I don’t cope as well with situations. Like Jesus said, “Without Me you can do nothing”.
I went out last night to hear some Christian songwriters share their stories and perform some of their music. One thing somebody said was: “We can change, but God never changes” – so true. We might feel great; and six months later we might not feel so good, but God stays the same. We were encouraged to remember what we’d already come through, and that’s what I want to do.
I want to be like those Thessalonians. When suffering comes my way, or my friends’ or family’s way, I still want the joy that comes from the Holy Spirit. I want to remember the difference God’s made to me and keep close to Him. That’s my prayer. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8).
A friend on Facebook pointed me to this video. I had too much to say to just write a comment, so thought I’d blog about it instead. It’s an interview with 82-year-old Kenneth Copeland. I knew of him because he got involved with a project I used to support. He’s what Christians call a ‘Prosperity preacher’. I’ve come across so much criticism of the prosperity gospel and because I’m far from a millionaire myself, I also couldn’t see how it fitted in with Christianity.
One of the journalist’s main points seemed to be the question of why Kenneth Copeland’s ministry had private jets and he wouldn’t fly commercially. He spoke about the atmosphere on commercial flights and about alcohol. Was that the best place to be, he said, when you were about to preach to thousands? I certainly don’t believe the majority of people on a plane are drunk, but I do agree that alcohol can have a stronghold in people’s lives which is demonic. I’ve seen how it’s negatively affected people I know, and I’m sure they would live happier lives without it. If you want peace and quiet on a flight, you could put a pair of earplugs in and close your eyes; but if you can afford a private plane, and it leaves you feeling more comfortable and refreshed when you get to your destination, what’s wrong with that? He said in the interview that other ministries use the planes, not just his own, and that’s what God asks of people who are rich in this world – to be generous and willing to share. As far as I can see, he isn’t doing anything unbiblical. In fact, when he quoted the Bible, I thought he got his points across fairly well. I had never thought of Galatians 3:29 as a verse that connected Abraham’s wealth with us as Christians.
I don’t like the way he treated the journalist though. I found it annoying and quite sleazy. ‘Sweetheart’? ‘Babe’? ‘I love your eyes’? Straight onto first-name terms, and launching into prayer without asking whether she was comfortable with that? She came over as by far the most respectful of the two of them, which is very sad. I hope his wife’s had words with him about it, but are any of us flawless? Perhaps the interview helped her, as it helped me, come to a better understanding of the Biblical basis for the prosperity gospel. As I said, I’m far from a millionaire; but then, as far as I know, I haven’t been instrumental in one hundred million people coming to faith in Jesus. Maybe this is his reward for devoting his life to the cause of Christ. Jesus does talk about rewards now and in the age to come.
I may not be in a hurry to donate to Kenneth Copeland’s ministry, but shouldn’t respect and tolerance be within the church, as well as for those who aren’t church-members?
I hope you’ve enjoyed this series. Maybe you’re an Overcomer who’s seen it on Facebook, or maybe you’ve never heard of Overcomers and are now wishing you’d been one of us! Hopefully this has given you a taste of what it was like, and I’ve saved my favourite song for last.
When Jesus met with His followers after He had risen from the dead, He breathed on them and told them to receive the Holy Spirit (John 20:22). Now we can be filled with His Spirit until He comes again or we go to be with Him in heaven:
We long for the day
When we will see Your face;
We long to be with You – come quickly,
And breathe on us until You come.
If we ever had any kind of Overcomers reunion (which I would love, by the way), you can be sure I’d be singing this song with all my heart.
What a wonderful thing to look forward to at the end of an earthly life, dancing on a golden street beside Jesus – your forever Bridegroom. This definitely is a song of celebration. It goes on a bit, so I tend to switch off before the end, but I like the main part of it.
I’ll be honest. This song is one I struggle to sing in full:
I will bless the Lord forever,
I will trust Him at all times;
He has delivered me from all fear,
He has set my feet upon a rock.
Anyone who read about the concerns I had before I went to South Africa will know that I’m fearful at times, so I don’t have a problem singing He can, instead of He has. Sometimes I fear; sometimes I fall short of living the way God wants me to. That’s not an excuse so I can continue to do wrong; it’s just a fact.
Romans 3:23-27 talks about how we all fall short of God’s glorious standard, but that’s where Jesus comes in. We can own up when we fall short, ask for His forgiveness, and allow God to make us more like Him. Then we can boast about our ever-present help in time of need.
Here’s a song that seems to follow on nicely from yesterday’s, because this talks about mercy too:
Let the pain and the sorrow be washed away
In the waves of His mercy, as deep cries out to deep.
If you wonder about that, deep calling out to deep, it’s in Psalm 42:7: “Deep calls to deep in the roar of Your waterfalls”. I read recently that it has been phrased like this: “My deep need calls out to the deep kindness of Your love”.
The message of this song is that if you’re weak, if you’re feeling dry and in need of some refreshing water, you can come to the waves of God’s mercy. His deep kindness will meet your every need.
In a previous post, I said a Scotsman changed the words to a song. He did the same with this one. The original words are:
Like a rose trampled on the ground, You took the fall
And thought of me, above all.
This man thought it was irreverent to say Jesus thought of me, so it became ‘Rose again, above all’. At the time we just sang it without question, but having listened to it since, I can’t bring myself to change the lyric. John 3:16 says God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son, so the fact that Jesus took the fall with me in mind? Surely that’s the whole point of the song. If I was altering the words at all, I might say ‘Thought of us’, but I think I like it as it stands.
The title of this song made it very difficult to find. I was looking for “Lord, Light the Fire Again”, but no; it’s “You Have Called Me”. It reminds me of Jeremiah 29:13, where God says we’ll find Him if we seek Him with all our hearts.
Lent is over now and it’s Easter, or ‘Resurrection Sunday’ as some of my friends call it. I wish I could get used to doing that, because I like it better than Easter.
Anyway, I read the last day of my Lent devotional today: “Faces Around the Cross”. It focused on the two people walking with Jesus along the road towards Emmaus, when they didn’t yet recognise Him. For anyone who doesn’t know the story, it’s in Luke 24:13-34. They’re walking along the road when someone joins them. They think the man’s a stranger, so He asks what they’re discussing and they open up to Him. “We had hoped He was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel.” They were sad and disillusioned.
The author of my devotional said this is what it would have looked like without Easter – “A tragedy; a story without a moral; a drama that ends before the final act”, and then it hit me: We can feel exactly that. Christians aren’t immune to life’s challenges. We go through problems like anybody else, and when we see others in the midst of great suffering, it can feel like Jesus isn’t alive anymore.
Where are you with Jesus today? Are you disillusioned with how your life’s turning out? Let these words encourage you: He’s still alive. Instead of “We had hoped”, we can keep hoping. Whatever you’re going through, it’s not over, and it’s not too late for God to step in. Maybe you’re not having the greatest day today, but it’s my prayer that there’ll be better days to come.
He’s still alive. Please don’t lose hope.
“It is God who makes us able to do all that we do” (2 Corinthians 3:5). When I read that verse, it makes me feel optimistic about life – that it’s full of possibilities, if the God who created everything is the One enabling us. In the book of Job, conversations take place in heaven. They’re conversations that Job himself isn’t privy to, but they concern him. First, the devil makes the accusation that Job’s only interested in serving God because his life’s going well (Job 1:9-10). Later, when Job’s experienced tremendous loss, Satan says he hasn’t cursed God because nothing’s happened to him personally (Job 2:4-5). God disproves his point by allowing Satan to hurt Job, but He had to allow it. Satan can’t hurt anyone without God’s permission, and that includes us.
Want to know how this truth helped me step out and do something amazing? Read the rest at Worship Unlimited Ministries, home of the Worship Unlimited radio-show.