Monday Motivation: If

IF

Any decision you make can only be as good as the information you have available. It is not just a case of more information. Sometimes that just clouds the issue. The key is accurate information most relevant to the situation. Or in other words: good information!

This may be a very significant week in your life and the decisions you will make could have a far-reaching effect on your future. Here is some important and very good information that you should allow to weigh in on your decision -making this week.

What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? (Rom 8:31-32 NLT)

This is a beautiful promise and you should not read the ‘if’ in ‘If God is for us’ as denoting any uncertainty but rather as conditional. God is for us; therefore no one can be against us.

Whatever you are facing this week, God has chosen a side. He is not neutral. He is not impartial. He is not even a referee or judge waiting to see how well you do before he makes up his mind. He is on your side! He showed his hand when he sent Jesus and held nothing back to bestow on someone he would choose later. He is all in. For you. His choice was made a long time ago.

This is good information. It is accurate. It is relevant. Add it to whatever you are already considering as you make decisions this week.

“Yes, be bold and strong! Banish fear and doubt! For remember, the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9 TLB)

I pray that you will make brave, bold and wise decisions this week based on good information!

@reonlouw

(Your comments will be welcomed and treasured, even if you disagree. Maybe you can add something of value. Please be bold and free to do so.

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Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay

Who is your daddy?

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Let’s start this blog on a personal note: My whole life changed in the moments my children were born. Nothing that came before mattered anymore and every day since they have each brought joy to my life. I cannot imagine a more fulfilling experience than knowing them, loving them and getting to know them better and better as they grow.

This coming Sunday in South Africa we will be celebrating Father’s Day in South Africa. Quite possibly you will be celebrating the same in your country since this is not an original South African idea. It is a day filled with cliched sayings about the importance of fatherhood, braais (bbq) and gifts of biltong, ties and socks. And it is a day that in general evoke more complex and often fewer positive thoughts and emotions than Mother’s Day.

Over the years in pastoral ministry, I have shared in so many people’s journey and as a result in their pain. So many times, any exploration of pain leads to childhood experiences and many of those times to a relationship with a dad. Fathers play a pivotal role in their children’s lives and when they mess up, the impact is lasting and painful. The most significant result in any pain stemming from our relationship with our dads is that it bears fruit in our relationship with our heavenly Father.

Just to be clear, I do not think dads have exclusive rights to messing up our childhoods. However, they do have the ability to be either spectacularly good or destructively hurtful.

In trying my best to be a good father, I have looked around me in earnest for good examples to follow. And often wondered how to help someone restore their relationship with their heavenly Father after negative experiences with their earthly dad. The most profound example I have found is in how God relates to his son, Jesus. I’m hoping that His example recorded in the Gospels will help you in your relationship with your children AND that it will help you in your relationship with your heavenly Father. My excitement in having this opportunity to share with you is great. I am literally typing faster – an unnatural thing for me!  😊

We know from reading the Gospels that Jesus loved spending time with his dad. He would spend a whole day ministering to thousands while healing the sick. Yet at the end of such a day, he would still climb a mountain to spend time alone with him. We could spend many pages on everything Jesus said about his dad and to his dad but here is the thing: We only have two examples of God speaking to his son. Only two examples in recorded history of what God did to be such a great father. Such a great father that you would want to emulate him. And such a great father that you would want a close and intimate relationship with him, gleaning as much as possible from him as your dad as you face your challenges.

Being a parent is a complex role and I think since God knew he would have only two opportunities to show us how he would pack these occasions with as much content as possible. Wouldn’t you?

Well, in fact, that is not what he did. He repeated himself!! Yes, you are reading right. He repeated himself!! He only had two opportunities and he did the same thing twice!!

In Matthew 3 we read about Jesus being baptised by John the Baptist. As he comes up out of the water the Holy Spirit descends on him:

And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (Mat 3:17 NIV)

This was at the start of Jesus’ earthly ministry. Near the end we find him on a mountain with three of his disciples where he is transfigured before them:

While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him, I am well pleased. Listen to him!” (Mat 17:5 NIV)

Only two opportunities and he repeats himself. Might he think it very important?!?

Here are two applications. One for you as a parent and one for you as a child of God.

1.

Your child needs your love, acceptance, approval, pleasure and affirmation more than anything else. They should hear and experience this from you over and over again, not just once or every now and then. This is the one thing God gives you as an example of parenting. Don’t neglect it!

2.

When you strive to hear your heavenly Father’s voice, expect to hear him speak his love and approval. Many times, we expect to hear him tell us what to do or to correct us. Sometimes we think he will say things similar to what our earthly dads said. But we want to hear his authentic voice, discerning it from our own thoughts and other noise. On the evidence available to us, he mostly speaks his love, approval and pleasure. Listen for it!

If you are one of those honest and self-aware individuals (a rare breed), you might acknowledge that you may not be very pleasing to God. This means you have some kind of understanding of what you need to do or be to be pleasing to him and hear him speak those words. And you feel you are falling short or failing.

Whatever that understanding is, I think you are mistaken. God approves of you and takes pleasure in you purely and only because of what Jesus did on your behalf on the cross of Calvary. Who you are or will become and the extent of your obedience to him is also the result of that very same cross. It is important to understand that obedience is a fruit, not a root. It is the result of my relationship with God, not a condition of having a relationship with him.

In all you hear, I hope you will hear God’s voice more clearly this Father’s Day.

@reonlouw

(Your comments will be welcomed and treasured, even if you disagree. Maybe you can add something of value. Please be bold and free to do so.

Please like and share this blog on as many channels as you can. It will also help if you subscribed to the blog.)

Image by skalekar1992 from Pixabay Image by Amber McAuley from Pixabay Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Journey towards life

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I am alive. So many things I can do and so much to see and experience. So much potential in who I can become in living, doing and experiencing.

But it is not to be.  Slowly I discover that I am told what to do. I have no say and my opinion does not matter. I am a tool. A vessel there for another’s whim. That other gets to decide what I do and where I go. Who I am and what I am worth. Choices are not mine to make. Left or right? / Up or down? / Good or bad? Not for me to decide for you see, I am a slave. I am owned. A mere possession, there not for myself. Alive not for my life and waking up not for my day.

I am a slave defenceless against my master’s whim, voiceless against my owner’s greed. Powerless. I am never going to be. I have no right to be. I do not matter. I am bound by a faceless evil that consumes me mercilessly.

Then one day he came. A soft-spoken, gentle man. Guileless. Wise. Free.

journey5

I followed. My slave master did not matter. The one whose greed and need I existed to satisfy faded away. I turned away from the one who destroyed me merely for a laugh… and followed.

Hope stirred in my chest. My heart yearned for significance. I wanted to matter, so I struggled against my bonds as I battled with the thoughts of a slave. I strained against the yoke that has been destroying me for years… as I strived to follow.

The harder I tried, the more I failed. The weight was too heavy. It felt as if I had the DNA of a slave and I knew I was losing the fight. I pretended to follow, but I knew my old master was still in control. The chains were unbroken and pulled me back and down.

I was not worthy. His words that made me yearn to follow, became beacons to my failures. I wanted to change but I could not keep it up. I knew this was the way, but I kept stepping off the track.

Hope lost is worse than no hope. It is darker at the moment when the light is switched off than in the middle of the night. I had seen the light and I knew it was there but maybe it was not for me…

journey2

He turned to me. ‘You are why I came,’ he said. ‘What you are trying to do… it is done.’ He stretched his arms wide and died. It is finished!

I was free! No bondage. No chains. No one controlling me. No one using me, moving me towards destruction. Freedom! Amazing! Wonderful! Alive! For the first time!

As he walked out of a grave, I bowed my knee. My Lord! You saved me! Set me free! I will serve you all of my days and with every breath. I will do whatever you ask and go wherever you send me. You are my Lord and for the first time ever, I serve with joy.

I study his words and memorise every command. My utmost for him who saved me. I belong to him and I am ready to change the world. His will be done, not mine.

As great as joy has become, as strong as the love that is burning in my heart has grown, the task is a big one. In moments of sober pause, I acknowledge the task is too big for me. The need out there drains me and the cry for help overwhelms me.

I must keep going. It is for my Lord… He saved me… He loves me… I am his! I must keep going. I must … but I am growing so weary…

journey6

He turns to me again and bends down to wash my feet. ‘You are no longer a slave. I call you friend! Take my hand.’

Streams of living water flow from deep within. I rise with clean feet and new strength from deep. As I hold onto his hand, I follow again. From up close… In step… Moment by moment.

This is easy. I can do this! And as I walk closer still, I hear his voice. It is a soft voice, like a whisper. You cannot hear it from afar. Even reasonably close such a whisper fades among many other voices. However, when you get really close, you hear. Clearly!

‘It was for freedom that I set you free.’

‘You are mine and I am yours.’

‘My child!’

‘My child!!’

‘I love you! Now and forever!’

‘I am the vine. You are the branches.’

‘Live in me as I live in you.’

In my heart, a yearning grows. It becomes a birth.

‘Abba, is that you?’

A slave I am not. A son I am. A father I have. An inheritance I possess.

I am alive. Truly alive!

I am free! Free indeed!

I can be. There is nothing left to do!

journey4


I wrote this during a sabbatical period in 2018 not thinking I would ever publish it. It is my hope that my journey will enlighten and lighten yours. Your feedback will, as always, be treasured.

Reon Louw

(@reonlouw)

Before and after

Easter

I love Easter! The chocolate. The hot cross buns*. The long weekend with TWO extra days. The Autumn weather here in South Africa.

The list can be much longer but let’s focus on the principal reason and a new reason. The principal reason is obvious and eclipses all the others completely and utterly.

I love Easter because of Jesus. His death and resurrection during these three days make them the most significant days in history. Nothing is the same after Easter. When Jesus spoke the words ‘It is finished’ everything changed. The before and after of Easter is the most important thing you can ever understand.

Countless sermons and books have been penned on this topic. After all, the contrast between the before and after of Easter is the Gospel. Without this change, there would not be a single church or Christian in the history of this world. The better we emphasize that nothing is the same after the events of Easter the better we are in preaching the Gospel.

This brings me to the new reason I love Easter.

When I started this blog, I made no secret of my love of social media. Yes, it is quite evident that it can be used for negative purposes, but the huge scope of benefits is there for everyone, including you and me.

I love that Christians get to broadcast their love for Jesus for the whole world to see. And that with a click of a button I can share a profound truth or encouraging story with everyone I know and with many I do not know. However, I do struggle with an aspect of this. Can you guess what it is?

Part of it is the syrupy sweet clichés everyone seems to post or share that makes statements regarding God that has no basis in truth or Scripture. Its only merit is that it will make some desperate soul feel better for a moment and over time people will start quoting it as if the Bible states it. Sweet sounding promises that God will not be keeping because He did not make them, may be more harmful than blatant lies that are easily disproven.

The other part of this is how Christians give one another hidings for things that they do or do not do or even believe. These constant ‘attacks’ from people who are absolutely right on people who are absolutely wrong about some barely relevant aspect of life or faith really pains me. The absolutes we apply to our cultural contexts and personal or even political values while demonising those with opposing views speaks of a small-mindedness that shames me. That I have often been guilty of this myself shames me even more and as a result, social media over Easter, this year, filled me with joy.

It seems that for these three days every Christian I am connected to on social media focussed purely on Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. And nothing more!

I am connected to every kind of weird Christian I can find with myself, of course, as the golden standard for normality.  😊  I find you guys fascinating. Also, I’m always interested in what God is doing in different parts of the globe through His church. And yes, I think it quite possible that He is working in and through you even though you do not agree with me about everything.

This is a mostly voyeuristic pursuit and I refrain from voicing my disagreement or even opposition to your opinions. But not during Easter. I have never clicked ‘LIKE’ or heart-shaped versions of it as often as this weekend as I was lambasted with beautiful statements on pictures of empty graves that stirred my heart and faith.

He is risen!!

It is finished!!

I love Easter on social media! It is the greatest display of Christian unity ever. All our petty differences seem to disappear for a moment as we celebrate our risen Lord. After all, He is the reason we have life eternal and life in abundance. Not because we are right, or our doctrines are pure, or our theologies are correct or even because we are able to convince others of how wrong they are.

It is finished. Jesus did it once for all.

Would it not be great if the whole year could be like Easter? And we could all be talking about Jesus and Him crucified? And nothing else?

For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified. 1Cor 2:2 NLT

I would really appreciate your response to this blog. Please comment.

Reon Louw

@reonlouw

* hot cross buns: a spiced sweet bun made with currants or raisins, marked with a cross on the top and traditionally eaten on Good Friday in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, India, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and some parts of the Americas.

Monday Motivation: a good story

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One day the story of your life will be told. Now is not the time to tell it. Now is the time to write it. Be a good writer!

A good story, whether a novel or a movie, needs intrigue, a captivating plot that keeps you guessing as to what will happen next. We often speak of a book that is a page-turner where you can’t wait to discover what will happen next.

It is possible to create this intrigue through an enemy plotting against the main character. The fate of the world is often at stake in such storylines and while I find it exciting, I do not expect to experience anything like that myself. My karate skills have not been exercised in at least 40 years and I have not pulled the trigger of a gun in about 25 years. There must be someone somewhere with better skills to save the world.

While intrigue is always important, a story will usually engage you when you can identify with a character in the story. In such stories, intrigue is often created by a misunderstanding between characters. Such a misunderstanding can result from one character pretending to be something he or she is not. Or by a character lying or not telling what they know, think or feel.

I have read or watched so many stories, thinking ‘If they only sat down with one another and spoke openly and honestly, the whole matter will be a thing of the past. All will be well!’ The problem is that that will make for a boring story that readers or viewers will lose interest in. As a result, characters will lie, deceive and pretend to keep the outcome uncertain and you on the edge of your seat or screaming with laughter.

That is great for a fictional story but I want my life to be different than a story created to keep readers engaged. I want to know where I stand with you and I want you to know where you stand with me. The intrigue in my life should not be the result of my lies or deception or pretence. It should be the result of the goals and challenges I take on.

Today I challenge you to simplify the plot of your life by being open, honest and upfront. No games. No pretence. No deception. I am who I am and I am not going to hide it or pretend otherwise. No one will be in doubt about where I stand or where they stand with me.

The Bible says it like this.

When you make a promise, say only “Yes” or “No.” Anything else comes from the devil.
Mat 5:37 CEV

  • If you are dating someone, let them know where they stand with you. No guessing.
  • If you are angry with someone, explain it to them. Don’t just glare or ignore them.
  • If you admire someone, tell them!
  • If you are in doubt about anything, ask!

Simplify the plot of your life and focus your energy on what really matters!

And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Joh 8:32 NLT


May you have a great week doing significant things that will become a great story to tell. May the story of your life become an epic tale told to encourage and uplift. Don’t become a soapie bogged down in needless intrigue.

Your comments will be treasured!

Reon Louw

(@reonlouw)