Anticipating Abraham

 

I like to peer into, and glean from the lives of men who are the heroes of our faith, who have gone before us, and walked with God.   It is helpful in walking our own road of faith.
Abraham was a great believer, and to me was most notable for his obedience.  Obedience was the great facet of his life, yet there is more, Abraham was fully persuaded and lived in constant anticipation, so ever hopeful of following, and finding his promises from God.

When you are on a journey to a faraway place,  the road just seems to go on and on forever.
I  grew up in the heartland of South Africa, which is farmland, and so flat that on a good day you can see tomorrow.    The national road, that took us on our annual summer vacation to go and see, smell and taste the saltiness of the ocean,  was a very flat, straight, long, lazy strip of tar in vast farmland fields.    It went on forever, or so it seemed to me at the time, for when you have great anticipation, the getting there is almost unending.
Or, do you remember when you were a child, the almost unbearable anticipation for the time to open the Christmas gifts under the tree?   You could just not wait !

Anticipation is a healthy frame of mind. It is a desire that may, or may not be delayed, but nevertheless creates expectation, and that leads to hope.
The opposite of anticipation is anxiety, which is rooted in fear, the opposite of faith.
Anxiety creates worry, that can can lead to depression.
Hope is required for a future,  and a future needs a vision.
Perhaps one of the reasons mental illness is so prevalent in our times is that we have it all and there’s nothing to look forward to, no anticipation.
Proverbs 29:18 says  –  where there is no vision, the people perish. 

If there was one thing that Abraham had its was a vision of the future.
He is one of the great heroes of our faith.    In fact Abraham is the father of our faith.   It began with Abraham, when he heard the call of God to go on a journey to a faraway place that he did not know, or even how to get there.    That would require a response, and faith.   And what is faith  – believing the invisible, that which you cannot see, as if it were a reality.

Faith verse

And though some of you may not be familiar with who Abraham is in the Christian faith, his is a fascinating story of another dimension, set in the ordinary of the every day life   -yet woven in is this thing called Faith.   

Here briefly is the story of Abraham.

He was living in a heathen civilization, where idols were worshipped.  God told him to leave this land and his family and to go to another land.   A place where he would inherit the promises of God – the Promised Land.  (There is a parallel story here, between the physical and the spiritual)
Abraham, obeyed the call, and began to move on the long journey.
Abraham had a vision from God, and was promised that he would be the father of many nations, even though he was old, and did not have an heir.    Sarah his wife laughed when she was told that she would bear a son in her old age.     Isaac, which means laughter, was born to Abraham and Sarah – a miracle child.

Abraham became a wealthy man, a man of renown.
Apart from Isaac,  Abraham had other sons too.  Ishmael was born of Hagar, but they were sent off into the desert.

Isaac, the beloved son, married Rebecca and she had two children, the twins  Jacob and Esau.
Jacob, was sent to seek a wife from Isaac’s people.   He was deceived into marrying Leah.  He had 10 children.    Then he married his first love, Rachel, the sister of Leah, and they had two children,  Joseph and Benjamin.

In all Jacob had 12 sons, from which the 12 tribes of Israel would originate.
So the foundations of the nations were laid.

The forging and fostering of a people of faith began to emerge.
When  famine struck, they all went to Egypt for survival, which would become their place of slavery for four hundred years.   There they became known as the Hebrews.
Moses was born to deliver these people from their slavery and their oppression.

And so the story of a rescued people, destined for a better life in a promised land continues.   Their story unfolds through altar stones of worship, tabernacles and temples and then the City of Jerusalem.     Their story and wisdom congeals and is chronicled in their rich history in the  Old Testament.

Abraham had a vision of a city, of which God Himself  ‘is the builder and maker.’    And to this Abraham was called – to journey into the unknown, a journey of faith, for it was not, as yet, a real city.   A city forged in faith, through the making of a people of faith.   This was God’s vision,  a  v e r y  long term vision indeed – and Abraham received and
perceived it and so set out to find it.

 

City of God

 

I had been wanting to look a little deeper into faith, so when Dr Mark Chironna did a series on Hebrews 11,  I began to connect some dots, that overflowed, for me,  into the bigger picture of our faith.
So I tried to piece together the “faith genealogy” and where Abraham fitted into the whole of God’s story, and came to this brief summary, which may indicate that Abraham knew the story from the beginning to the end – he was given the whole story, apart from the details.

Adam,……… to Seth to Enoch and the genealogy line to Noah, the Flood.
Abraham,  the called faith people of God
Moses, the Law of God’s people
Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Kingdom of God, –  the miraculous ushered into the physical realm.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ, – the New Creation.
The City of God, the New Jerusalem.

Abraham was an ordinary man.   He made mistakes along the way.   He’s faith had not yet been perfected.
We can make mistakes too, our faith is not yet perfected.  ‘ Faith is good, becomes great and then perfected ‘ – says Dr Chironna.

History tells us that when the beloved city Jerusalem is finally destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD they are scattered, and Judaism is established to keep alive the Jewish traditions.
Jesus Christ is born in Bethlehem, and His followers become known as Christians, and the Christian religion is born on the back of the Jewish belief – in an invisible God, Creator of heaven and earth, with a Messiah and a redemption story for mankind, that would pave the way to a New Creation.

Redemption from the Great Oppressor of slavery, an evil liar who kills steals and destroys wherever and whenever he can do so, and still doing so to this very day !
And thereby may hang another story.

I suspect that Abraham may well have understood the Heavenly vision for
John 8:56  tells us that ‘Abraham saw Jesus’s day and rejoiced in it.‘   He knew that God raised Jesus from the dead, and this gave him the faith to know that God could raise up Isaac, when he was told to kill his own son as a sacrifice.
Abraham had great faith in God.

Abraham and sacrifice

 

 He knew that God was a miracle working God.    He was not only able to obey God, but trusted God, for he may well have known the story of Jesus and His resurrection from the dead, in fact the Gospel story.

Today, it is still faiths’s pattern to look ahead to a better future,  with anticipation and with hope.   A better place.      A place called heaven, the Promised Land,  that has a city where there are no tears or pain.   For now, an invisible place, that requires eyes that see and ears that hear and a heart that understands.
It requires faith to make it a reality.

Faith is important.   It is an essential substance that should be applied to our everyday lives too, for without faith we cannot please God. 
Hebrews 11:6  But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for He who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
God is faithful.

Let’s be the people that will go to make up that City….. a people of Faith, and practice it in our ordinary everyday lives,  always looking ahead  ‘calling those things which do not exist as though they did.’    There are still miracles that can be called in through faith, there are still people that need to know that God is a miracle working God, that all is not lost, that there is a better tomorrow, because with faith hope and love anything is possible.    Its God’s way.
As Dr Chironna says :  faith collapses the impossible into a possible reality.
(Love that !)

Its the miracle Gospel story, that will open us up to the same faith journey that Abraham undertook.
May we, like Abraham, perceive a good future and moved into it with anticipation, expectation and hope, standing on the promises in God’s Word – that is Faith !

 

God’s-Promises-Are-Yes-And-Amen-Bible-Quote

 

 

 

 

Mind-shifts and Mine-fields.

bright sunrise

 

A new day is dawning in South Africa.

South Africa, amazing, vibrant, diverse and surprising, as usual, has not failed to provide for speculative and spectacular politics over these past few days.   And especially so the last few months of the years of Jacob Zuma’s term in office, from which he was ousted by his own party members  just months before his term ended.   Just as with the previous South African president Thabo Mbeki.  The wheel has indeed turned !

South Africa has a way of going all the way to the edge of demise, before pulling back in resilience and fortitude.   The birth of the new South Africa in 1994 was a tumultuous time when the shadow of a civil war loomed but was narrowly prevented by prayer and skilful peace-keeping interventions that drew us back from the brink.

The Nelson Mandela years were hopeful with the new vision for a country where Oppression was lifted and all people were to be equal.   The working out of that dream was not an easy one as many mind-shifts had to be made.  Slowly the privileged ones had to expand their minds to inclusivity, and perhaps even more slowly, the underprivileged ones has to let go their grip on being a victim of their history.   Both difficult, almost impossible tasks for a very passionate, vibrant and an outspoken society – yet necessary to grow in unity and wholeness to build one nation.   But it would take time.

Thabo Mbeki, a man for an African vision saw a larger picture, and spoke of an African Renaissance.  This might have planted seeds, but for the time being it may well have been a vision for a time to come.  The Government of the day were finding their new power-based feet, as ordinary South Africans were grappling,  with their new-found identities, pressing social issues, the Aids epidemic, and wanted swift and decisive plans and actions.

Thabo Mbeki was unceremoniously recalled by his party, and in his place Jacob Zuma took over the reigns of this fledgling nation.   When a nation and its leaders are in unchartered waters it would be good to have a compass or a plan.   There was no clear announced vision to take the country forward, probably due to the identity crisis in the new governing party.   For years they had been fostering a revolution movement to take over the country, and had perhaps, in hindsight now, not made the mind-shift from political revolution to good political governance.  So political football was played out, to only the delight of the political parties involved, as the rest of society was waiting for  a clear directive to move forward – none came.     But the dissatisfaction of the poorer citizens who saw no economic change whatsoever began to demonstrate their dissatisfaction and very real frustrations with protest marches and the burning of some establishments.
Huge mine-fields for the nation were beginning to appear as greed and corruption had seduced well positioned power people in power structures to take, grab and hold onto  all the resources and wealth that were there for the taking – the looting of the State coffers.     And this happened, without a peep from anyone, until it was almost to late, and another demise glaringly stared us in the face, as foreign looters – (and  calculating foreign  nations with power and nuclear aspirations may well have played a pinnacle role,  perhaps yet to be revealed, when the rotting cancer of corruption in South Africa is finally and fully exposed)  –  and all this went unchecked !
The global markets reacted to the situation in South Africa, and then only did the alarm bells go off.   Of course the president was not equipped to deal with these problems, buried his head in the sand and strategically played delay tactics to squirm out of any responsibility.
But  ordinary South Africans are resilient, and fierce stalwarts of integrity and righteousness.  And so once again, the claw-back from the demise came this time through protest marches, the media, the press, and by God’s grace the Judicial system, that had been waving the constitutional flag of morality and justice to reign supreme for all South Africans.

flying SA flag

Now,  a new day has dawned in South African politics with a new president. Cyril Ramaphosa, who spoke at the State of the Nation address in Cape Town on 16 February 2018.    He breathed hope into our politically fatigued nation,  gave a renewed vision of hope –  a revived Nelson Mandel vision for equality for all South Africans.   But this time, having passed through all the tumultuous times of nation construction and deconstruction,  there is an inclusive economic plan, that means business with the rest of the world to invest into our collective future, even a building stone for a fast developing  African continent.

All South Africans have been invited to take part in this new era that has dawned.  As President Ramaphosa indicated in his speech,  it is for all South Africans who want equality through hard work, integrity, the rooting out of corruption, and to build a new South Africa.
To cap it all a former Finance Minister Trevor Manuel put it this way :
” Ship South Africa has a new captain, and its all hands on deck “

The  one mind-shift that will accelerate the move from poverty to progress to prosperity is this:   Ask not what can I get but rather ask what can I give ! – then go and build and plant wherever you are, and whatever you do, to benefit yourself and others in our community.

The time has indeed come for all South Africans to build and to plant one nation with integrity and with honour, for the benefit of all who live in her, and for the benefit of the country and the continent.

 May God bless South Africa.

Butterfly SA

Jeremiah 18 : 9  And the instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom,
                              to build and to plant it,…..

 

HOPE… catch it if you can.

peach flower

HOPE
I heard the Voice in my head say, ” why don’t you write an essay on Hope.”
What a topic !   Because hope can be so elusive, not easy to pin down, let alone examine.
What is hope ?  I scratched my head, and thought it a topic for another day.  So I put it on the back burner of procrastination.

But it wouldn’t go away. Hope came looking for attention on nearly everything I read, heard, even the people I met along the way that week seemed to shout out “I’m  Hope” look at me !   Well it seemed that Hope needed some serious attention.

I think, initially, it was while I was reading the verses in Romans that raised the whole question of hope.  Verses like:  if you can see hope its not longer hope –  but hope that is seen is not hope – Romans 8:24.
And hope, even if there is no hope –  who contrary to hope in hope believed. – Romans 4: 18
So I went on a hope hunt, and found :
We are prisoners of Hope… Zechariah 9:12
Hope is the anchor of our souls.…Hebrews 6:19
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when desire comes it is a tree of life.  Proverbs 13:12
All very comforting, rewarding and necessary to know.

Is Hope and Faith the same thing ?
We hope in something we cannot see, but is that not faith ?  Is Faith then something else ?  Now faith is the substance of things  hoped  for, the evidence of things not seen !!    A little more head scratching !!    Faith says that we call things into being as if they exist,  – but if we can’t see them, how can we call them?    What comes first, Hope or Faith – the egg or the chicken so to speak ! This is  where Desire comes in, those little seeds of wishes and wants and dreams. So is it Desire, Hope then Faith ?  Is Hope a carrier of Faith?  Well, if Hope comes from Desire, that is God-given and put into our hearts (the incubator), in the first place, then Faith must be to Believe, – the belief of the promise, the patience and the determination to see it through into existance, – into Reality.

That is for vision building, but of course, Hope can go the other way too. It can be the very crutch we lean upon when things go wrong.  On considering Hope, I came across a few Blogs that week on Hope, by accident of course!   I came a little closer to looking at, and being astonished at,  Hope.

https://unshakeablehope.wordpress.com
A man named Bill who has for the best part of eighteen years suffered with classic motor neuron disease, which is a disease that attacks the nerve cells responsible for contolling voluntary muscles.  His blog is called unshakable hope !!  Need I say more.  Visit the blog and let Bill tell you his story.

Another self-improvement blog on WordPress called Dopeylife wrote a thought provoking post on Desire vs Need,  which challenged me to think deeply on Desire equals Hope, and I made a long comment on that blog, trying to figure it all out.

That very same week I, co-incidently, met Tiffy at the grocery shop. She is a lady who lives in our complex.  She was preparing to go and see the cancer specialist, who had successfully treated her for her first bout with cancer. She looked and sounded very optimistic even cheerful, and said she just hoped and prayed that God would grant her
the peace, and the joy to carry her through the next bout of treatment for this new cancer.
Hope is an eternal carrier for Life.

We cannot live without it for  Hope gives us a Future  !!

While watching a movie on Stephen Hawkins, a professor in quantum physics, who has a muscular disabling disease and lives his life crumpled-up in a wheelchair, I caught this phrase he spoke to an audience :
“Where there is life, there is Hope.”  One can only stand to humble attention, when these words are spoken by a person so crippled, yet not broken,  and living with hope.

It slowly dawned on me that Hope is only truly appreciated if you have your back against a wall and there is no way of getting out of the situation.  No way, No help. The only way is looking up to God who can make a way out, (whether we acknowledge this or not !) or carry us over or through the troubling waters of trials and tibulations. And more – give us the grace to bear it all.  Further more to that, we may never see the desired results we hoped for in the first place!  – but some may come to see something even better and far more far-reaching.  We seldom, maybe even never, get to see the end from the beginning.

I had heard the Preacher say, that Hope is one of the cores of the Christian faith.  That is true !    I remembered one of my favourite Scripture verses is found in Proverb 13:12 …
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when Desire comes it is a tree of life... and a beautiful picture of a blossom tree in full bloom came to my mind.

So,  now I’ll talk  “pictures” to tell a little story of Hope .

why me tree

The Why Me tree, with outstretched arms to heaven, in a cold and barren land.

Pruned treesThe painful wounds of pruning, sealed up with a healing balm for protection and healing.

peach blossom branch
Beautiful  full budded blossoms, bursting into bloom, making a splendid show, announcing  the cold barren winter is over.

imagespeach blossom

                                                                            Proverbs  13:12
  Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when desire comes it is a tree of life.  

peach blossom

Ah,  there it is,  the new fruit, for a new season!  Is this the reason  for Hope ?

peach fruit.jpg

The Fruit.  Delicious, delightful, delectable and plump, ready-to-eat peaches,  basking in a sunshine day, just waiting  to be picked  for our pleasure.

blossom twig

Hang in there, little Twig.  You’re part of a beautiful tree, in a very big orchard, created by a loving, caring and wise Gardener, who knows your seasons well, and what’s best for the fruit bearing trees of His orchard.   You are not alone.   Bloom where you are planted.

Peach blossom orchard
We have been intrinsictly wired for Hope.
Hope comes through spoken words,  that blow on the gentle thermaIs of the Wind, or even through written words that can give birth to pictures, to concepts and plans, to life, and the eternal life hereafter.

Hope is elusive, catch it if you can… it will carry you through whatever season of hope or despair you are in, carry you on to faith, and a desired end.

God says :
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil to give you  a future and a  hope.       Jeremiah 29:11

light peach blooms

The Garden of my Heart

The Garden of my Heart As one of my projects in the CareSA Foundation is the Care Africa Movement, – which includes Care Gardens, with the catch phrase ”Plant a garden in your yard, Plant a garden in your heart” – I thought I’d tell you of the garden in my own heart. Planting a garden in your yard or on a window-sill or in an old car tyre is the easiest of the two gardens required to take the Care Africa movement forward. It is easy when the Will is motivated to do this. Take good seeds plant them in good soil, water, nourish well and weed occasionally. Then harvest the fruit of your labors with fresh food from your garden for your table. All good, all physical. But on the spiritual side – for that is where the “heart” is – planting a garden in your heart may not be so easy to do. First of all, you will need a good gardener. I am in a season in life where it’s hard for me to do things for myself. So I need help. But I have a good gardener that helps me on a regular basis. He knows everything there is to know, and I mean everything, about nature, the environment, and the garden – from what is in the soil to the sky, weather patterns and pathogens. It is strange how the memory works in the garden of one’s heart. When I was a little girl I remember looking up into a black velvet sky and seeing the stars suspended like tiny diamonds in an African sky. The overwhelming feeling of awe. It was so very very beautiful. Still is ! I remember, as a young women travelling on a tourist boat in an Aegean sea, feeling the wind on my face, and an aloneness not felt before, but also the flood of a thankfulness of just being there, and “seeing” the sea the colour of dark blue ink, with the ripple of splashy white waves, lapping at the boat. Divine moments of being able to ”see” and appreciate the world around me. When you begin to “see” the world, and its created beauty around you, something comes alive in your heart. Look around you, what do You “see” ? I had a brief encounter with my gardener when I was young. I thought he looked very serious, even a little stern. But I had heard that he was an intently caring person, which made me feel comfortable. It was only much later in my life when he invited me to “come to the garden” that I got to know him a little better. In fact it was in those years that I had to tend, what I now call, the garden of my tears. It was a hard time then. But I believe the tears helped to soften the hard ground intended for the planting of some good seed. He did a splendid job, and I had to work with him alot to root out strong weeds and undesirables that were growing unchecked. It did not happen all at once, and took a long time to get the basic foundation of my garden laid. In fact there is always on-going maintenance, and a clearing away for new expansion. My gardener loves new ground and new growth. He has been my live-in gardener ever since, and I would not trade him for any other. I highly recommend you to make him the gardener of your heart too. He’s name is Jesus Christ. Only you can appoint Him as the Gardener of your heart. It will not take a letter of appointment, only a prayer of faith to invite Him into your heart. He will root out all your weeds, plant beautiful seeds of destiny and purpose, and can grow you from a sapling tree to a forest. He not only is your Gardener, but that of many. He is the Divine Intelligence of creation that has created everything, I mean everything, from cosmic dust to the minerals of the earth, from microbes of fungi, virus and bacteria to soil, seed, rain and stars. He knows about things, big and small. And He knows about me, and He knows about you, and cares for the whole earth and the whole human race ! Most beautifully, He is known as the Redeemer of the human soul – and therein lies the more story to tell – but for another time. When I look into the garden of my heart, I can only say this : “He makes everything beautiful in His time.” What does the garden of your heart look like ? Ready for some gardening ? Ready for some transformation ? – then join the Care Africa movement, and plant your Care Gardens “ in your yard and in your heart.”