The Gospel According to Esther

Posted in Reflections, Testimony on June 1st, 2009 by phil – Be the first to comment

Most Monday nights the Kendon family has some form of devotions together at the dinner table. At times we have read bible stories to our children, and at other times we have watched a christian DVD after supper, but lately we have being taking turns to choose a bible story and learn some lessons from it.

Tonight was Hannah’s turn and she chose the story of Esther. She read the portion of scripture relating to how Esther intervened to save her people from the extermination that Haman was planning and then we began to discuss what this story teaches us about God, Jesus and ourselves:

We concluded that the King is a type of God in this story. He is the one who has the power to rescue Esther’s people. If only the people could have the favour of the King, the threat to their lives could be removed.

We also agreed that Esther is a type of Jesus. She is the one who had to mediate between the people and the King, just as Jesus had to mediate between us and God. She was willing to lay down her life on behalf of her people by approaching the King without being summoned and Jesus did lay down his life on our behalf.

The Jewish nation in this story is a type of us. Through their mediator, Esther they were saved from certain death. Through our mediator, Jesus we also have been saved from certain death.

The gospel according to Esther is a great story and it is a reminder that all of history and all of the bible are pointing to the redemptive plan of God worked out through His incredible Son. To him be the glory forever and ever, Amen.

Base Church in Action

Posted in Apostolic, Reflections on May 25th, 2009 by phil – Be the first to comment

When we read through the New Testament and particularly the book of Acts we see the formation of Base Churches, which have the resources and leadership and capacity to advance the kingdom of God through spreading the gospel, raising up leaders, supporting other churches etc.

Over the last week we have had the privilege of advancing the kingdom in these ways:

  • Nick and Katie took a team to be with New Covenant Church Nelspruit where they ministered for the weekend. From leadership meetings, to business breakfasts to Sunday services - supporting and ministering to the local church.
  • Pascal left with the YOYL team for Botswana where they will participate in an outreach and then a leadership training time for the local Botswana churches.
  • Maude took a team into Tshelimnyama where they ministered to a number of orphans and also their “gogo’s” who are the primary care givers and often quite elderly.
  • We have a lady with us from Holland who has been hosted in VFC while she gets to know us a bit and explores opportunities to work together into rural African contexts in the future.
  • Francois takes a team to Mozambique this Thursday where they will minister into some of the local churches where we have built up relationship over many years.
  • In the last week, we have also done training internal to our local church (VFC) for new home group leaders and also eldership training.

This is the incredible privilege of what God has given us as a local church. It is a great joy and honour and I believe there is even more in store for us as we follow the ‘winds of the Spirit’ and remain faithful in what we have been called to.

An Essay

Posted in Personal Devotions, Reflections on May 18th, 2009 by phil – Be the first to comment

In this blog, I have attached a short essay about a man who has got stuck. He is frustrated with life in general and struggling to find his way through in God. I trust this story will be helpful to some who have started well, but have lost their momentum along the way.

From Frustration to Freedom

Frustrated! That’s how he felt as he opened his eyes in the morning. It was a feeling that never left him these days, an inner sense of restlessness and hopelessness. He could feel the blanket of depression settle on his shoulders as he showered and dressed and got ready for the day. ‘Here we go again,’ he thought to himself.

On the one hand he had everything he had ever dreamed of: a wife, a family, a good job, a house. He was a leader in the church – respected and valued by the team of which he was a part. What he had hoped for as a younger man, he had attained and yet he had never felt as unfulfilled as he did now. Instead of the feeling of deep emotional fulfilment he had expected would grow during this phase of his life, he only felt the emptiness of routine and repetition. Every day the same – somehow his life was counting and yet somehow it seemed so insignificant and he wondered what it would take for him to feel alive again.

No-one else could see his pain. Though at times it seemed like he was going to burst with the swells of frustration, somehow they were invisible to those around him. In contrast he was a pillar of strength to others. So many relied on him at some point or another to be a source of strength or even a beacon for them to get their bearings from. It seemed effortless for him to understand the journey of another and to speak into the heart of where they were at. He could do this for others, yet he was at sea in his own journey. He had lost his own moorings. He questioned even the basic truths of who he was and why he was here. Somehow deep inside he knew there had to be more, but what that was he felt helpless to discover and even more helpless to bring it to pass.

He had tried talking to his wife about it, but he could see that it had made her anxious. He could understand why – they were happy. They had worked hard to build their lives and now they had everything they wanted. She was afraid of where his journey would lead. She was afraid his frustration would lead to rash decisions – changing jobs or relocating to a different city. It would all be done in the name of God’s leading but actually just driven out of an inner emotional turmoil and instability. Anyway, she didn’t understand why he felt this way and the truth was he couldn’t even explain it himself. This was a journey he was going to have to walk alone.

As he drove into work that day, he contemplated for the thousandth time, whether this was a crisis to do with his career. Was it Black Economic Empowerment that was driving his inner world? He could argue that he had been overlooked recently for a key promotion opportunity in favour of a young black professional. But he knew that he would be pushing the boundaries of truth if he claimed that he had hit a ceiling in his career for that reason. His employer had frequently recognised his contribution and he was being recompensed at a level beyond many of his peers. It was not that simple. Even when he contemplated leaving his fixed employment to pursue a business venture, he had to admit that these dreams simply did not fill the void he was feeling. For sure, there was an appeal to being his own boss and a desire for financial freedom that a business venture could bring. But these dreams did not being about a sense of anticipation and peace that could overcome his frustration. No matter how big those dreams became they could not quell the inner storm.

He knew it was unthinkable, but lately he had even begun to wonder if his frustration was rooted in his marriage relationship. After 20 years of marriage there were aspects of their relationship which were dry and lacked life. Everything was ok but nothing was exceptional. Instead of an increasing sense of enjoyment and colour in their marriage they had settled for a mundane sense of friendship and peace that resembled the overcast grey clouds on a typical winter’s day. It wasn’t stormy, but it certainly lacked the colour and vibrancy of spring. He knew all the theory. He knew that if his marriage lacked anything at all, the responsibility lay on him to restore it. He was the head of the home. God had placed the responsibility of family leadership on him. Yet as much as he loved God and his wife he lacked the motivation or will to do anything about it. Was this the problem after all, or was this grey, dull reality of marriage just a symptom of the deeper problem in his heart?

He had not initially brought his heart to God in prayer – more out of an expectation that he would just snap out of it than out of a deliberate decision. But by now he was regularly pouring out his heart to God in prayer. Sometimes he would pace up and down the driveway expressing his deep frustration and his inability to diagnose why he felt the way he did. Other times he would break out in tongues, hoping that he was praying inspired by the Spirit of God but even as he was praying there were doubts lingering about the reality of what he was doing. Last night he had had a more lucid prayer time than most. He really felt that he had connected with God and almost had a sense that his prayer had been heard. He was hoping against hope that something would change but had woken up disappointed that he felt exactly the same.

As he walked through the office doors and headed down the passage to his workstation, he heard a familiar voice behind him calling his name. It was his boss, and he had a perplexed expression on his face as he asked. “Where are you going?”

It was as though he had been punched in the solar plexus as the question reverberated around his inner world. The question was only meant to remind him of a meeting that was happening first thing in the board room but instead it had cut to the heart of why he was feeling so much in turmoil. The truth was that he didn’t know where he was going.

In a moment it suddenly all became so clear. Somewhere along the journey he had got stuck He had lost the dream. The reason he was so frustrated was that he had nothing to look forward to. Biblical images began flooding through his mind as the Spirit impressed home to him the things he needed to receive and understand:

The Israelites waiting for revelation from Moses who took so long to come down the mountain. Eventually they took matter into their own hands, made an idol for a god and indulged in the ultimate self gratification. All because they had no revelation – they weren’t prepared to wait for instruction on where to go and what to do!

The Jerusalem church growing and growing and yet never getting out into the neighbouring regions to spread the word about Jesus until eventually persecution drove them into those regions and they found the dream again.

He was reminded of the proverb that says “Without prophetic vision the people cast off restraint…” That is exactly what had happened to him. He had lost a sense of God’s prophetic call on his life and his inner world had deteriorated into chaos. There was no sense of order and peace. He excused himself from the meeting, closed his office door and wept. He was so grateful to God for rescuing him from the prison – and now let the journey begin.

Vision

Posted in Reflections on May 4th, 2009 by phil – Be the first to comment

One of the plagues of modern life is the busyness and the routine that so easily consumes us. It is possible to pour out all your energy and personal resources for the primary purpose of just keeping your head above water and maintaining the life that you already have. And yet we know that there is much more to life than survival. One of the reasons that we get into a rut is a lack of vision for anything different. The world around us is living in a never ending cycle and we can easily get pressed into that mold. Before we know it we have lost our expectation or faith for anything different.

Pro 29:18  Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law. 

I don’t know if you have ever experienced the cycle of criticism and frustration that thrives in a heart that has no dream. When we have nothing to look forward to, we view everything through the lens of how it effects us. When we have a dream we are aspiring to, we view everything through the lens of personal fulfilment and purpose. Vision brings order to our hearts.
If you are in a place of frustration or caught in a cycle that seems to never move forward, ask God to rekindle the dream. Remind yourself of your first love and all the aspirations you had to be used in the kingdom of God. Dust off some old prophecies and hold them up to God again in prayer. Ask God to change your lens and renew your faith for the advancement of his kingdom in the world through your life in this generation.

Mighty Men

Posted in Reflections, Testimony on April 27th, 2009 by phil – Be the first to comment

This weekend about 140 000 men gathered in a farming community outside Greytown to sit under the ministry of Angus Buchan. God has raised Angus up in South Africa in these days and he is having a significant influence. He has been calling men into a genuine relationship with Christ and to live in a way that is consistent with their faith. On Friday night there were an estimated 20 000 men who responded to a gospel invitation to receive Christ.

A number of men from our local church have attended this conference over the last few years and many of them have come back with testimonies of God’s work in their lives. One young man testified on Sunday night that his first love for God had been revived.

To me, this is undeniably a move of God. For this number of men to attend a weekend gathering in the name of Christ, and for the fruit that is coming out of times like this, it can only be by God’s hand. May God continue to use Angus in South Africa and beyond. May there be many thousands and even hundreds of thousands who come into a genuine new birth experience with God through his ministry. May there be an activation of the men in this country to stand up and take leadership over their homes, businesses, churches etc. And may the kingdom of God advance in our day even more than we could ask or imagine.

I am reminded of the song of Deborah and Barak recorded in Judges Ch 5.

When the princes in Israel take the lead, when the people willingly offer themselves — praise the LORD!

A Weekend of Apostolic Input

Posted in Apostolic, Reflections on April 20th, 2009 by phil – Comments Off

This last weekend in Victory Faith Church, we had Ray and Moira Oliver minister to us at an Elders meeting on Friday and at our 2 Sunday services. Ray and Moira have been serving God faithfully in ministry for many years (Ray has been a believer for about 50 years). They have planted churches, raised up leaders, seen the lost come to Christ and helped build the local churches around the world through their relationships with others. 

In this blog I have highlighted some of the key points that stood out to me from the weekend for your meditation and encouragement:

  1. The primary position of elders is to be around the throne of God (Rev 4:4). People are longing for a leadership that spend their time in the throne room of God and minister out of that place to the people. When leaders are consumed with activity primarily rather than intimacy with Him, the result is a lack of anointing and effectiveness in ministry.
  2. Victory Faith Church is called to “Keep Pioneering”. A mature church needs to relaunch itself so that it is able to have the zeal of a new church plant along with the wisdom of maturity which will make it truly effective. (This is a paraphrase of a quote by Mark Driscoll)
  3. The christian community is to be a worshipping community. The promises of scripture are that if we draw near to him, he will draw near to us (James 4:8) and that there will be glory in the church throughout all eternity (Eph 3: 21). As we worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4: 23) he will manifest his presence and his glory among us and we will be a people that draw others into his life.

Let us take to heart the words that we receive from God and apply them to our lives. Let us fall more and more in love with Christ all the days of our lives and let us bring glory to his name by fulfilling his purposes in our generation and by passionately worshipping him with all our beings.

The Gospel

Posted in Reflections on April 15th, 2009 by phil – Be the first to comment

Right through the New Testament there are some rich summary verses which give us a concise yet very clear picture of the gospel message. These are great verses to have at your fingertips to be able to walk someone through the gospel in a short space of time and in an uncomplicated way. Perhaps the most well known example would be John 3: 16:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

The gospel starts with God - ‘For God’. If God did not take the initiative in salvation, there would not be a single human being who would be saved. It was God’s plan of salvation (we are told that the lamb was slain before the foundation of the earth - Rev 13:8). It is also God who works on the hearts of men to cause them to be born again, to be made alive because they were dead in their sins (Eph 2:1). The initiative is completely with God.

The gospel is good news because it speaks of the love of God for people. This verse does not speak of a God who so tolerates the world that he sent his Son but of a God who so loved the world. God loves all the people of the world so much that he offered the greatest sacrifice imaginable to provide a way of salvation.

The salvation that God has provided is for everyone. ‘Whoever’ believes. There is no restriction. No culture is excluded. No sin is too great to be covered over by the sacrifice of Christ. There is no-one who is above or below the salvation of Christ. ‘Whoever’ believes!

The way to receive this salvation is by faith. The only criteria for someone to be reconciled to God is to believe in Christ. To believe that he is the saviour whom God has sent. To believe that the sacrifice he made was sufficient to cover your sin. To believe is to appropriate Christ’s sacrifice to your life. 

The result of believing is that we escape judgement and enter into eternal life. The whole world stands condemned already because of sin (John 3: 18). The default position of man is that he will be judged by God because of sin. Man is guilty and will be held accountable. But if we believe we will not perish but have eternal life.

John 3: 16 along with many other verses is a wonderful summary of the gospel. It comforts the hearts of believers and serves as a guide to lead others to Christ so that they too can enter into this great salvation

Amazing Grace

Posted in Book Review on April 7th, 2009 by phil – Be the first to comment

I have just finished reading a book called “John Newton - From disgrace to Amazing Grace” by Jonathan Aitken. Although I have heard of the transition from slave trader to hymn writer and full time pastor, I have never explored the detail of John Newton’s life story. This book is compiled largely from personal journal entries and also his written correspondence between himself and various other persons.

It is a story that is truly a testimony to God’s incredible power to save and also his power to transform a life. John Newton’s life prior to his meeting with Christ was an absolute disaster. He deserted from the Navy during war time. He was rebellious and insolent as a sailor. He ended up being held captive in Africa by locals who were participating in the slave trade. Eventually he became the captain of a slave ship himself where he was responsible for buying and transporting slaves from the coast of Africa to the West Indies. From these depths following his salvation, he rose to become a prominent church leader of his day eventually using his influence to assist William Wilberforce to abolish the slave trade.

It is a story of redemption and is characteristic of God who takes the worst of sinners and turns them into trophies of his grace.

1 Timothy 1: 15-16

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners - of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.

Why I believe in Marriage

Posted in Wedding on March 30th, 2009 by phil – Be the first to comment

 

Nico and Mary-Anne exchanging vows

Nico and Mary-Anne exchanging vows

I had the privilege this last weekend of conducting the wedding ceremony for my younger sister. It was a privilege and not something I really ever expected to have the opportunity to do. As part of my preach to the couple and their friends and family present, I spoke about the virtues of marriage which I would like to share with you here.

There are some who would say – why are they getting married at all? There are many who have either personally or through friends and family experienced heartache and hurt when marriage has broken up. There are a thousand different views on marriage in the world many of which actually tarnish the image of marriage in society. But here are some of the virtues of marriage:

  •  1st marriage is the way that God has ordained as the foundation for the family unit which is the foundation of society. It is God’s way that 1 man and 1 woman should leave their respective parents and be joined together in one flesh.

Gen 2:24  Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

The reason that marriage is to be highly esteemed is because God has established it and he has determined that this is the way for men and women to live together and to create families.

  • The 2nd virtue of marriage that we can extol is that in marriage there is a public commitment made between the man and the woman. There is a selflessness in marriage, a giving of ourselves to our spouse by promises that we make. In marriage we cut off from ourselves the convenience of being able to slip in and out of the relationship depending on what we are getting out of it, but rather we commit ourselves to what we are going to put into the relationship in order to preserve it and nurture it even when it costs us. There is a change in legal status that happens. The husband will no longer be a bachelor under the law, nor will the wife be a spinster under the law. They will each become a married person under law – there is a seriousness and a weight to becoming married.
  • The 3rd aspect of marriage that I want to extol this afternoon is the picture that it give us of God’s relentless love for us. Every time we witness a wedding, we are reminded that God has committed himself to us. Every time we witness an anniversary we remind ourselves of the faithfulness of God’s commitment – he will never break his vows. The picture we have before us today is a picture of the love that Jesus has for the church and the total commitment in his heart to be together with her for all eternity.

Son 8:6-7 Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the LORD. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If a man offered for love all the wealth of his house, he would be utterly despised. 

Love is in the Air

Posted in Testimony, Wedding on March 23rd, 2009 by phil – Be the first to comment

This weekend has been a wonderful celebration of love in the life of Victory Faith Church as one of our most favoured sons has married one of our most favoured daughters. Jamie and Lisa’s wedding on Saturday has been a victory over all worldly ways and the seduction of our age.

We saw this weekend a model of purity that will guide many others through their own journeys of courtship and marriage. We saw a love for God and his ways and an honouring of God and each other.

We saw an expression of deep love. Some have a way of putting into words the depths of true love that they feel towards one another which resonates in our own hearts for our spouses. Both the pursuer and the pursued can learn the art of expressing our love in ways that minister deeply to the one we love.

We saw a prophecy begin to activate and envision a young couple with the purposes and the gifts of God and to fill their hearts with dreams of all that God will do through their lives. There is power in prophecy to release a future and to activate lives with the word of God.

We saw an honouring of those who have played a role to disciple and nurture maturity and strength. Parents, friends, mentors, elders, brothers and sisters have all played a part in the journey to bring a young couple to this place. There is such joy in appreciating and honouring those who have helped us on the journey and played a role in our lives.

We saw glory being brought to God in word, in action and even in atmosphere as an acknowledgement that he is the author and perfector of our faith and he is the one who designs and executes his plans through our lives.

We praise God for his favour towards us and to Jamie and Lisa and we pray God’s richest blessings upon them all the days of their lives.