I know You are here


To and From  Hamner

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
Psalm 23:4 (NIV)

Today the Daily Bible Verse I got in my mailbox consisted of the verse quoted above, from probably one of the most famous of all Psalms.

Dave Whitehead reminds us how we have all known places of despair and subsequently how we can find comfort in his presence. For me what jumped out was the wording of the first part of this verse.

It does not say “I will fear no evil if/when your are with me”; it clearly states “for you are with me.” It is the certainty with which David speaks to us about God‘s presence. We all may go through times of spiritual dryness, cry out to God but it seems almost as if He is not there.

Our natural inclination may well be to give into this feeling and subsequently rely on our own strength and cope with the anxieties and stress that follows. David shows us a different way: there is no doubt in his mind that God is with him. And thus he walks through the valley of death boldly, sure of God’s presence.

I can’t but keep wondering. If I was a sure as David, that God was present all the time, what would that valley of death really look like? Would it still be as desolate and scary if we were absolutely sure, like David seemed to be that God was right there by our side? I think that it would actually light of the place substantially and as Christians we’d be enabled to walk boldly into those places/situations we so easily like to avoid because they seem dark and desolate and actually be the salt and light.

Irritating Christchurch Earthquake Questions


I so had enough of the small messages and posts about how come so many churches were damaged so badly? As if the last aftershocks were all about God trying to make a point to us. God had nothing to do with it: the earth did what the earth does. Those churches they were older buildings just like some secular icons in the wrong place. So no, God was not trying to make a point to the Anglicans and Catholics by destroying their cathedrals, as well as the baptists and other denominations.

How come no one asks: how come some many church buildings did survive? How come he missed so many that, in biblical terms deserve judgment? Was God having an off day missing the mark so badly? God was not having a bad day, he did not miss the mark, he had nothing to do with it. If he was really after the churches, would he not have waited till Sunday morning if he was behind all this?

Why were so many Christians gathering last Sunday in the churches that did survive or in other alternative places. How come so many, even those in the gravest circumstances displayed an amount of peace and love that many non-Christians could only dream of? Ah probably because you knew the obvious answers already: people gathered in their own or other churches either because they are trying to make up with an angry God or because they did not get the message or because they were after the free after service coffee and tea with home bake.

I know that the Bible says that love is patient but please stop testing it with questions to which you already know the answer or that are actually not sincere.

Thanks

Be Still: Psalm 46


A quiet moment at the waterfront

Be still, and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10)

What an amazingly comforting verse this is. Read the whole Psalm and we are looking at the most incredible comforting word. The Psalm as a whole encourages us to place all our hope and trust in God, in His power and providence.  In our busy lifestyles of today, in a society that places us the individual in the center of the universe, where temptation is ever present, where economies and politics fail us, this verse is often easier said than done.

It is very easy to wonder whether God is still able to keep up with our fast paced, rapidly changing world and lifestyles. Well God is very capable of keeping up but are we able to be still?

It is very easy to call Him our Protector, our Comforter, our Father but just imagine this: what if your child called you all this but never got to spend any time with you. I know as a parent that I long for the special time with each of my sons, that I love our family time. I hate to think what it would feel like if time and time again my boys would say, sorry I don’t have time for you.

God wants a relationship with His creation not just collectively but individually, and because of that He gave His only begotten Son, who died on the cross for all of us, not just collectively but each of us individually. How do you think He’d feel when time and time again He’s being told ” sorry not now, I am too busy for you, I have other more pressing things on my mind right now, can’t you see I am trying to get ahead of things, do you have any idea what kind of trouble I am in right now, look Dad, my job is on the line, how am I going to pay for the mortgage, what will other think of me when I am jobless, come on guve me a break, don’t call me I’ll call you.”

In all this, I now realize we are actually shortchanging ourselves. It is in the “being still” that we remember His past, so that we can have faith in our now and future, I know I can. It is in the being still that I realize that I am not in control: He is! It is in this realization, that His history, also on an individual basis should be enough reason to trust Him with my here, now and future that I find the peace. Perhaps it may help some to turn the phrase around: know that I am God and be still.

Being still thus comes not from taking a break from our busy life styles, but from knowing who God is; from remembering what He has done, what realizing what He is doing in our lives right now, and from trusting our Father in whatever  He will do in our lives. Realize and embrace that God is totally in control, and will do everything He has purposed and promised to do! Then enjoy God’s peace!

Prayer

Great and glorious Father God, you are truly amazing. When I stop and think what you have done, what you are doing I find myself at peace, no matter what life is bringing on my path. Life may get hectic, challenging, my circumstances may be great of sorrowful but in all this I remember know that you are God. Write your truth on my heart, and in my mind and keep it right there so that I may indeed be still.

Confessions of St Augustine, a free download


I was alerted by email that Project Gutenberg has made available as a download “Confessions” by St Augustine.  In Confessions, Augustine shares his story of conversion from sinful living to following Christ whole-heartedly. The book has served as a model for many Christian writers throughout the centuries.

A more detailed outline of the book can be found at Wikipedia here >>>.

Having Dinner with a Sinner


29 Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?” Luke 5:29-30

These verses are one of the several examples that illustrate how Jesus made the Pharisees, the religious leaders feel uncomfortable about his actions.Tax collectors, sinners, surely not worthy of having diner with Jesus!?!

A similar, in fact even farther stretching story is found in Matthew 9

9 As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.
10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

I was reminded of these stories when, glancing over some old documents in a (vain) attempt to clean up my computer I stumbled upon a little booklet with tips for religious leaders. What was I tho think of the tip that as a religious leader we should at least maintain “one friendship with a non-believing friend.”

Did I read it right? It brings us back to some very basic questions on where we stand as a Christian. Are we ok to eat with scandalous people or sinners, or unbelievers? It can not be denied that we are called to fellowship with fellow believers but that does not mean we should shut the door for the rest of the world. The safe and cleaned up bubble Christianity has become for so many may well need more dinners with tax collectors and sinners! Jesus didn’t come to please the religious crowd nor to fall out  to the social crowd. He didn’t come to hang out with the wild ones. Instead, Jesus entered the world to set the captives free, to gather what was lost.  When we look back over the Gospel of Luke, we see Jesus reaching out to men and women, young and old, powerful and forgotten, sick and demon possessed, as well as the politically connected, the traitors. What is that telling us about “loving our neighbor”?

An old friend from the Netherlands wrote me the other day to express his joy in seeing me “finally being a Christian”. It was at that moment I found out that himself  had been a Christian for all those years we were good friends without ever knowing about it. Perhaps if he would have been more clear about it, either in word or action, it would not have taken me forty five years. (Then again, was I really ready to listen at the time?) He explained to me that he was somewhat private about his faith. My suggestion is that as a Christian that is exactly what we should not be doing. You don’t need to force it on others, but that does not mean you have to be quiet about it; at least you could be open about it.

Howard E Wright states quite confrontational:

“Closet Christian,” why are you hiding out today? Are you hiding out to save your own skin? Are you afraid of what people will say if you declare your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ?
Wherever you are hiding, you need to come out and declare your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The world is going to eternal ruin while you hide in your church and fellowship with “the frozen chosen.” It is the same kind of thing the churches did in Germany when train loads of Jews and Christians that were taken off to gas chambers were passing by their churches. They just turned the organ up a little louder.

If all our friends are Christian, we miss the path shown to us by Christ. Who are the tax collectors and sinners of your neighborhood? Would they invite you over to their place for dinner? How do you feel about that? It seems to me that it is pretty hard to make disciples of all nations if the only people you see are “the converted.” If there is anything to be learned here it is that we do not need to make Christianity something we do in our spare time in our little Christian “members only club” we call, a church.

The statistics are clear; once the average person becomes a believer in Christ, he or she loses contact with all unbelieving friends within two years: you could  call it “pagan friend ditching.” Some do this on purpose others as a consequence of their new life or because of a misinterpretation of 2 Corinthians 6:14:

“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?”

However Paul is not telling us to not have unbelieving friends, but not to join together with unbelievers in their practices and world view. In other words, the yoking together means to join with them in their lifestyle and belief system; to be like them. This does not mean that we can’t have unbelieving friends. In fact we should have unbelieving friends. some good reasons:

  • It’s not the healthy that need a physician (Matthew 9)
  • They keep you real, in that they will force us to know where we stand when we say things like “I was moved by the Spirit.” You may be able to get away with that amongst your club members, but what if you are asked straight forward: “what do you mean moved by the Spirit?” E.g. is there still substance behind your jargon?
  • They keep you on your toes, with great questions. So far the best suggestions and questions seem to be coming from my non believing friends. I ended up learning a lot having to come up with answers to their questions.
  • Probably the best reason is that Christ had unbelieving friends, so what is stopping us. If it was good enough for Christ, that who are we to ignore such friendships.

Jesus life challenges the Pharisee in all of us? He’s not lashing out against religion but against hypocrisy against form over substance. How are we ever going to find the lost sheep if we refuse to look beyond the flock? How are we ever going to heal the sick of we commune with healthy people only, how are we going to make disciples of all nations if we commune with followers only?

As a final thought this quote from a Matthew 9 Commentary:

Jesus came to call sinners-to invite them to God’s final banquet (Mt 22:3, 14), a foretaste of which the present table fellowship with them may have represented. Jesus’ demand for mercy is so critical that it recurs in 12:7 (see also 23:23). Many of Jesus’ contemporaries who practiced sacrifice also emphasized the priority of mercy over physical sacrifice. That Jesus’ opponents agreed with his principle in theory yet invited his reprimand should force us who acknowledge his doctrine to survey our practice as well (compare Jer 2:35; 1 Jn 1:10). …

… But Jesus’ example gave me courage to continue to engage all people with the gospel, regardless of their moral background; and some of them committed their lives to Christ. Yet I have learned that some apparently worshipful and Bible-centered churches do not welcome such persons-suggesting that ultimately Jesus who ate with sinners might not truly be welcome there either.

With which sinner are you going to have diner?

On Silence and Hearing His Voice


I am slowly but surely heading towards a first year of being a Christian and I guess that my good friend and pastor Gideon Hoekendijk could not have said it any better than yesterday when attending a pastor’s lunch with Jason Westerfield, the whitest black preacher I ever heard:

talk about being thrown in the deep.

I guess that is what has happened in no uncertain way. From being a skeptic with an unexplained urge to go to church, I found myself in the midst of a community and events that are after revival, after the restoration of the Tabernacle of David, after God’s presence in the here and now and not as some distant unpersonalized life insurance policy for the hereafter. So far it has been an amazing journey. Let it be said: a challenging one for sure. After seven years studying and working towards a book on debunking RELIGION, I ended up encountering RELATION, and no matter how smart, rational, intellectual you are (and with an IQ of 148-154 depending on which test in which language I guess intellectual fits the profile), it was in experiencing RELATION with the living God, not at all distant, but highly personal that  I was shook up in my ugg- boots and am on a daily basis.

In all this I learned about the other side of prayer: loud, in tongues, long, with open arms, face down on the floor, for others, and I must say it has not always been easy.  A lot of my foundations, actually very similar to what Christchurch has been going through in the past weeks, seems to reflect what has been happening to me in  a personal, intellectual and spiritual sense. In a very direct and profound sense I had to came to a point where the adagio: I NEED TO UNDERSTAND SO THAT I MAY BELIEVE, was replaced with I BELIEVE SO I MAY UNDERSTAND.  And while I am far from perfect in that sense, a bit of the old rationalist, the facts and evidence based investigative consultant is still there, yet it is in reading the Bible and praying that real answers came, most of all when I stopped talking to God to give Him a  chance to speak.

This Jason Upton song seems to reflect this need for silence the way I experienced it.

 

I guess what it boils down to is that we spend an awful lot of time talking, requesting, to God, and don’t get me wrong, that may well be for all the right reasons; but it is, at least for me very easy to forget taking the time to listen to God and if anything it has been in the listening that I found my answers and actually am starting to experience the reality of the restoration of the Tabernacle of David, the power of His presence and the peace that comes with that. If there’s anything that typifies the past year as a Christian it must be that it is in the speaking to God that we get our issues sorted in the literal sense but for me it is in the silence that I seem to find the answers. I do not always like what I am hearing and in all honesty at times I thought I knew better. But it seems that the more you hand it over to Him the more peaceful you become in whatever comes your way. But… you need to take the time to listen, to ask at times

what are you trying to tell me Father?

Best of all: if you subsequently shut up and listen there is a good chance the answer follows, either while being silent or in the form of a sign straight after that, or when you read your Bible and some or the other passage seems to speak to you more than the others.

And when it comes to being quiet, I have found the music of Kimberly and Alberto Rivera working miracles for me btw just as much as the music ministry within Harmony Church and I guess that’s why I enjoy playing there so much. And in hindsight: what a foresight! It was not through doctrine or intellectual exercises but through music, in the words of Gideon Hoekendijk, my love language, that I came to encounter the Spirit before I was converted, and in such a strong way that there was nothing left but to be converted: PRAISE THE LORD! And is it just not  miraculous, after seven years of diligent “religious fraud” investigation, what happened to me happened in the eight year, the year of restoration: for me now the year of RELATION. Talk about a God  with a biblically sound plan! BUT…. back to Kimberly and Alberto Rivera. Below some of my favorite youtube videos. I will post the highlights  but suggest you listen to the songs as a whole.

I hope you enjoyed the videos as much as I did again. I hope and pray that like me you will find answers in His Presence and your Silence.