I have been following Nigel Ring's blog for a while now and enjoy his practical/informative style of writing. Of particluar interest lately have been his articles on "Teams that work". They are "spot on" to say the least. Have a read on www.nigelring.org
This is one of those books I couldn’t put down......I just had to finish it and see what happens in the end. The end is not as how I hoped, but even through very difficult, emotional experiences, we see the grace of God, we see triumph existing in tragedy, we see how God uses us when we are “weak” and broken and how the “process” of going through these heartfelt experiences can draw us closer to God – make us dependent on Him.
“When I Lay My Isaac Down” is a true story of the heartache and pain a couple go through when their only son Jason is convicted of 1st degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment without parole. Do our tears ever dry up? I don’t think so! There is the comparison with Abraham in the Bible when he had to lay his Isaac down on the altar and we see how God came through for him. “Circumstances may appear to wreck our lives and God’s plans, but God is not helpless among the ruins.” Eric Liddell, Olympian.
There are two categories of “Isaac experiences”:
1. Some “Isaacs are losses that are thrust upon us
2. Other “Isaacs” involve personal choices
We realise that God loves us more than these Isaac experiences. The process of going through them is what is important.
Carol Kent writes about how their lives were turned upside down the night they received a phone call that their only son Jason, a lieutenant in the Navy, was arrested and imprisoned for murder. She writes so honestly about their deep sorrow, their broken hearts and how God will answer us when we pray. It’s a very moving book about faith and it certainly will strengthen your faith.
Carol writes: “There are some tragedies that are too big for a heart to hold, and defy any description that makes sense. Time weaves its way through the shock, the hurt, and the inexpressible feelings, and one day you discover that in the process of daily survival, you have instinctively made decisions (good or bad), defined your theology, formed an opinion about God, and determined that you will either curl up and die emotionally or you will choose life. The terrifying truthful fact is that, in choosing life, you realise it will never match the kind of life that was in your carefully thought-out plan for your future. It will force you to view people around you differently. Your brokenness.........has the potential to develop an unshakable faith that defies rationality.”
“When I Lay My Isaac Down” will change your view on personal challenges. I was so encouraged, uplifted and moved to tears when reading about how Christian community support, stand in the gap, pray and encourage one another in difficult, traumatic times. They become Jesus hands and feet and a demonstration of unconditional love. “When you’re in a crisis, if you have only one supportive person, you can make it through the journey. We all need at least one person to be there for us in the middle of a tragedy.” There is such power in community. One also becomes keenly aware of the spiritual battle one is in and how the enemy tries to “wipe out” Christians spiritually and emotionally. The power of prayer is also revealed in this book. The Kent family were continually covered in prayer by family and friends. I found that inspirational. We need each other.
Sharing our personal stories with one another is so powerful. I enjoyed reading the section on “The Power of Speaking Up: “Shared stories build a relational bridge that Jesus can walk across from your heart to theirs.
There is a common ground of understanding, forgiveness, acceptance, and healing when we are authentic with each other. When we tell our real-life stories of what we have encountered on the journey of life, we break down barriers and create safe places to risk revealing the truth. Intimacy in our relationships springs to life when we are no longer hiding behind the mask of denial, embarrassment, guilt, or shame. We’re just us – people who have had some good days in life and people who have had some very bad days. We’ve quit pretending that everything is “fine” and that life is grand. When we share our stories with each other, we find a way of relating without a facade and without the need to impress. We can just be real. This brings tremendous freedom.” I agree 100%.
This is truly an excellent book. I enjoyed reading it and have learnt a great deal.
Fly Wheel is an interesting movie about how Jay Austin, a businessman selling used cars gives his life to the Lord which results in an improvement in his family life and him running his business honestly. He feels convicted about his manipulative, dishonest business dealings.
His employees call Jay the ‘King of cheating’. He ignores his son, he hurts his wife with his speech and he is not a man of his word. He puts empty tithing envelops into the offering basket at church and his son Todd doesn’t want to be anything like his dad! Ironically, there is a wall plaque at the business Jay Austin Motors which says “Honesty is our best policy” and yet the business is anything but honest!
Jay has a “reality” check after watching a preacher on television. Conviction starts happening as he realises he has been grossly manipulating people and his life isn’t right with God or with his family. His self-analysis causes him to repent and he makes a decision to honour God in his business. He apologises to his wife and his employees for being such a bad example and he wants to live with clear conscience in all he does. Decisions to live a Godly life and honestly come with a price; Jay soon realises this but God comes through for him. Treat people right and they’ll come back to you. Scriptures that speak to him are Psalm 1(whole chapter), Psalm 37:3 – 7a, Proverbs 3:5.
Jay’s honesty pays off and we mustn’t be surprised when God is faithful to us. I particularly loved it when a former employee tried to tarnish his name through the media and Jay didn’t deny his former dishonest business practises – on the contrary, when he thought all was lost, God stepped in by using people to testify of Jay’s transformation. The power of prayer is so evident.
Fly Wheel is a movie of Jay’s faith journey and how faithful God is. He takes care of every detail. I enjoyed the movie.
2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old things have gone, the new is here!” Romans 10:13“...for, ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’”
Acts 3:1 "One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer - at three in the afternoon. Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful,......"
A lame man who was brought to the Beautiful gate was incapacitated and because he was in that condition, he needed special care. He couldn’t work and he needed to be carried. There was nothing wrong with this man in many areas of his body: he could see, speak, touch. He could move his arms and upper torso. In fact, there was only one thing wrong with him – his ankles had no strength. Sometimes only ONE thing can affect our entire life!
This man was handicapped and he needed to be carried. This made him dependent on other people. This man felt discouraged and had low self worth. He felt demeaned. One area of weakness had created another in his life. Not only were his ankles lame – he was lame. We each have a weakness in our lives that keeps us from functioning as a whole person.
What do we do? The easiest thing is to deny our own lameness. God sends people to the gate where we sit to help us receive what God has for us to receive. Watch for that person in your life. Look for that person. What are you expecting? Acts 3:2 – 3a) What do you want when you go to church? We tend to make the same mistake the lame man made when he was carried to the Beautiful gate that day. He was seeking alms and not expecting a healing. How do we look at other people? What do we expect from our encounter with them?
Illustration of the lame man
b) Vs 6 “What I have I give. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” Peter believed that what he has was better than silver or gold. Was he right? He had Jesus Christ. That is all we need – the power to overcome, to heal, to deliver from oppression and worry etc.
c) V7 We need to help people get up by giving them a hand – the right hand of fellowship. Be expectant! A miracle took place.
Mark 12:41 – 42“Many rich people throw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny.” Some things seem like they’ll be there forever like granite carvings, balancing rocks and so on. However, things we trust disappear. They fade away in the night with one sudden phone call, car ride or decision made. Perhaps we knew, deep down, that the person could not be counted on, the job could not last, the relationship would not weather the storm, but we decided to believe it was timeless anyway. When we carry many responsibilities – children, job, home, marriage, parents etc, we often come to trust ourselves as well. Who else will keep things going? we wonder. So we hold on tightly to keep everything together, to stay in control.
God’s desire is the opposite of our human inclination: He wants us to release our tight-fisted control. He wants us to give him the control of everything in our lives. The widow who gave two small copper coins showed her trust in God to provide for her, even if her very material possession was gone. The crowd who went before her gave a lot, but in proportion to what they owned, they gave very little. They were holding back. This faithful woman “put in everything – all she had to live on.” V44. God wants us to place everything in his hands, not because he wants you to be empty, but because the wants to fill you to overflowing. Of all the things we look to for stability and permanence, he is the only true Rock who will never fall or fade away.
Matthew 16:15 – 16“’But what about you?’ he asked? ‘Who do you say I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’”
“Jesus is Everything.” Mother Teresa’s words are demonstrated by her selfless, Christlike actions – she was a friend to the poor, unabashedly loving society’s rejects and giving hope to the hopeless in her adopted country of India. How broken her heart must have been every time she lifted an untouchable out of the gutter to die in her arms or she fed and bathed a hungry, dirty orphan.
Through her actions, this humble woman proved that Jesus was more than a good man, a brilliant teacher or even a prophet sent by God. She knew in her heart that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the living God, and that knowledge empowered her with enough love for a lifetime of service.
In Matthew 16, Jesus asked his disciples who they thought he was. Peter aced the pop quiz, calling him “the Son of the living God.” We all know that Peter wasn’t perfect. He was the one who had denied Jesus three times at Jesus’ trial. Yet at this key moment, he comprehended that Jesus was the Messiah God had promised for centuries. After Pentecost, Peter’s boldness allowed him to proclaim Christ’s identity whenever and wherever he could, regardless of the persecution and suffering it invited. Eventually, he was crucified for spreading the news that Jesus was God’s Son. Peter was crucified head down because he felt unworthy to die in the same manner as Jesus. To the Apostle who once denied him, Jesus was everything; in fact, Jesus was the only thing.
The ONE who lived among us was God’s hands and feet. He gave us the very words of his father. He taught us how to love. He taught us how to give. And he taught us to die as a grain of wheat dies, so that the seeds of life are multiplied (see John 12:24)
Mother Teresa understood that was Jesus, there was no such thing as loving moderately. So did Peter. They showed others that Jesus was Lord of their lives by loving as he loved and serving as he served – continually, wholeheartedly and sacrificially.
Character – What does the Bible say? What is character? Character is the traits that form the individual nature of some person or thing – moral or ethical qualities of honesty, courage, integrity, reputation etc……..
What does the Bible say? Here are a few scriptures on character….
1. Romans 5:3 – 5“More than that we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character hop, and hope does not put us to shame because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” The sufferings produce a step by step transformation that makes believers more like Christ.
2. 1 Corinthians 15:33 – 34a“Don’t be fooled by those who say such things, “for bad company corrupts good character. ‘Think carefully about what is right, and stop sinning.” Keeping company with those who deny the resurrection can corrupt good Christians. Don’t let your relationships with unbelievers lead you away from Christ or cause your faith to waver.
3. Hebrews 6:17“So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath.” There are 2 unchangeable things:
The character of God is holy and he does not lie. His promise is sure, and doubly sure when combined with his oath. This encourages one to hold fast to the hope of God’s promises.
4. Hebrews 1:3“The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honour at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven.” Not only is Jesus the exact representation of God, but he is God himself – the very God who spoke in Old Testament times. He is eternal; he worked with the Father in creating the world (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16) He is the full revelation of God. You can have no clearer view of God than by looking at Christ. Jesus Christ is the complete expression of God in a human body. The book of Hebrews links God’s saving power with his creative power. In other words, the power that brought the universe into being and that keeps it operating is the very power that cleanses our sins. No sin is too big for the Ruler of the universe to handle. He can and will forgive us when we come to him through his Son.
5. Ruth 3:11b“All the people of my town know that you are a woman of noble character.”
6. Proverbs 31:10“A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.”
Lets be a people with noble character.
More on character…..1. It is developed by difficult circumstances
2. Degraded by sin
3. Tainted by jealousy and immorality
4. God tested the Hebrews character in the wilderness
5. God judges by character, not by appearances
I would be true, for there are those who trust me; I would be pure, for there are those who care; I would be strong, for there are those who suffer; I would be brave, for there is much to dare. I would be friend of all--- the foe, the friendless; I would be giving, and forget the gift; I would be humble, for I know my weakness; I would look up, and laugh, and love, and lift.” ― John C. Maxwell, Developing the Leader Within You
Trustworthiness Be honest • Don’t deceive, cheat, or steal • Be reliable — do what you say you’ll do • Have the courage to do the right thing • Build a good reputation • Be loyal — stand by your family, friends, and country
Respect Treat others with respect; follow the Golden Rule • Be tolerant and accepting of differences • Use good manners, not bad language • Be considerate of the feelings of others • Don’t threaten, hit or hurt anyone • Deal peacefully with anger, insults, and disagreements
Responsibility Do what you are supposed to do • Plan ahead • Persevere: keep on trying! • Always do your best • Use self-control • Be self-disciplined • Think before you act — consider the consequences • Be accountable for your words, actions, and attitudes • Set a good example for others
Fairness Play by the rules • Take turns and share • Be open-minded; listen to others • Don’t take advantage of others • Don’t blame others carelessly • Treat all people fairly
Caring Be kind • Be compassionate and show you care • Express gratitude • Forgive others • Help people in need
Citizenship Do your share to make your school and community better • Cooperate • Get involved in community affairs • Stay informed; vote • Be a good neighbour • Obey laws and rules • Respect authority • Protect the environment • Volunteer ________________________________________