A picture of perfect rest

Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?” (Mark 4:38 – NLT)

Recently I have been intrigued by this curious picture of Jesus, sleeping like a baby, with his head resting on a comfy cushion as high waves broke onto the boat and began to fill it with water. What must have been flashing through the minds of His 12 terrified disciples as they looked at the man they had so recently agreed to follow to who knows where? Did any of them remember the words of Jesus’ family recorded in Mark 3:21, when He got so involved with crowds that mobbed him that He and His disciples didn’t have time to eat. “He is out of his mind,” His family said.

Jesus was understandably weary, after a long day of teaching a very large crowd on the lakeshore. Before the fierce storm came up, no doubt, some of the slower-witted disciples were scratching their heads trying to makes sense of Jesus’ endless parables about farmers and lamps and mustard seed. They had seen Him operating in a supernatural way, healing sick people and casting out demons. But they also knew he was a man like them who got physically and mentally tired and appreciated creature comforts like a soft pillow under his head. But as the waves crashed into the boat and the water level and panic level started to rise about them, they woke Jesus up shouting: “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?”

Perhaps Jesus yawned and rubbed his eyes to focus after his beauty sleep was so rudely interrupted. Then no doubt he listened for his beloved Father’s voice before he confidently commanded the waves to be still. The wind stopped suddenly and the waters became calm. Then Jesus said to his seriously rattled followers: “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” ( Mark 4: 40). Was he perhaps feeling a little grumpy? No doubt he wedged his cushion into place in the back of the boat again and was back to sleep in a jiffy. The poor disciples were now possibly more terrified of this peaceful sleeper than they had been of the storm.  “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!” (Mark 4:41)

As a man Jesus, our earthly role model, was perfectly at rest in every circumstance because He never doubted his Father’s goodness, power and love for Him. That’s the rest He wanted His disciples to have in His presence. That’s His desire for us. Will we ever get it?

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Wonderful miraculous healing testimony

It has been a while since I posted on this blog. The reason for this is that God has recently provided me with a great opportunity to edit a new, online Christian newspaper called Gateway News and this has been keeping me very busy.

I have just published an awesome healing testimony on Gateway News. I encourage you to read it and suggest that while you are on Gateway News you should subscribe to our free newsletter if you would like to receive a brief, weekly newsletter highlighting top stories of the week. It would be great to have you on our list of subscribers. Please tell others about Gateway News as well and join the conversation by commenting online or writing letters to the editor to news@gatewaynews.co.za. You may also send articles or news tips to that same email address.

Meanwhile, I hope to start writing more frequently on the Amazing Love blog again soon. Most probably I will be concentrating on short meditations (or devotionals) if you prefer, as most true stories will appear on Gateway News.

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As she sowed, so she reaped

My friend Brenda shared this story which her daughter Michelle sent to her in an email from Taiwan, where she and her husband Shaun work as English teachers in different institutions.

It is the time of the year when classes graduate and when teachers usually receive cash bonuses from their employers in recognition for their service. At Michelle’s school the bonuses are traditionally handed over in red envelopes.

In her email Michelle wrote: “Remember I told you that I didn’t think we were getting a bonus this year? Well, we did! When I got to work on Tuesday, Felicia, one of the anshinban teachers, was very excited to tell me that they’d got bonuses. I checked my email and saw that I’d got the same as last year (NT6 000 which is around R1 300) and I was so excited.”

Michelle told a fellow teacher Eden to check her email and sure enough she had also received a bonus. She said they both assumed that their other colleague Peggy had also got a bonus but when Peggy checked her email it transpired that her employers had given her nothing.

“I couldn’t believe it,” wrote Michelle. ” She was so upset and said she would have been happy with even a couple of hundred because it’s about the ‘feeling’ and even though she is leaving, it’s supposed to be a thank you for the year already passed and even though she is leaving she agreed to help them by staying on till the end of March to complete two classes’ graduation ceremonies even though she had already found a new school and they said she could start after Chinese New Year.

“Anyway, I felt so bad for Peggy that I went straight to the ATM and quickly drew
NT1 000 for her and put it in a red envelope and left it on her desk (I had finished for the day, but she was still teaching). I just wrote her a note and said that there was no way I could enjoy my bonus knowing she got nothing and that I wanted her to know that I appreciated everything she had done during the year and that I thought she was a wonderful teacher. I was a little worried that she wouldn’t accept it, but she did and was so grateful. She said it made her cry and she couldn’t believe someone would do that for her. Honestly, I couldn’t imagine NOT doing anything. She works so hard and I think it’s disgusting that they didn’t give her a thing. I’m glad I was able to make her feel a little bit better about things.”

Michelle said she also gave a red envelope containing NT 1 000, to Anne, the nanny to her two young children. She said she was very grateful for the extra cash she had left over, after giving a third of her bonus away, as their combined salaries were going to be a little low because they had taken some unpaid leave.

But it seems that God had other ideas. Michelle wrote in her email: “It’s funny, though, cos Columbia (a college) has given Shaun NT1 000 every single year for the past 4 years and I thought it would either be that or even nothing this year, considering the fact that he had switched to part time. But despite knowing this, I still felt that I really wanted to give something to Anne and Peggy. And you know what? For the first time ever, Shaun got NT5 000 from Columbia! I couldn’t believe it when he told me.  A miracle for sure!”

A miracle for sure, I would agree and a delightful illustration of God honouring the principle of sowing and reaping which is set out in 2 Corinthians 6 – 8. — Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.

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Back in saddle with a mission after horror smash

Reg Haupt

Reg Haupt...back in the saddle

In May 2010 my friend Reg left his family in Port Elizabeth and went to Cape Town to explore a business opportunity. Being the dedicated sportsman that he is, he kept up his habit of going on daily morning cycles.

It was during a morning ride on June 6 that his life was changed forever when he was struck down in a bone-shattering head-on collission with a car driven by a drunken driver. His left ankle, right leg, left hip, pelvis, T6 vertebra, seven ribs and collar bone were all broken: there were 15 fractures in all and doctors who examined him after the accident wanted to amputate his right leg. Reg says God miraculously saved his life and his leg.

After 40 days on his back Reg graduated to a wheelchair and nine days later he was discharged from hospital. Back in Port Elizabeth he began the slow road to recovery: learning to use crutches and eventually starting to put weight on his right leg. On November 26th he was told he could start cycling again.

Since the accident Reg has experienced ups and downs in his faith, wavering between times of depression and times of counting his blessings and standing on the promises of God. His body is much stronger now but he is still in need of much healing. His present greatest concern and source of frustration is his need to find employment in the face of substantial medical costs and a diminishing bank balance. But for the moment he has set his sights on a mission that has become very close to his heart. In March, three months after getting out of his wheelchair, he plans to cycle some 800 km to Cape Town to raise funds for Cheshire Home, a Port Elizabeth home for disabled people. He also aims to raise awareness about the consequences of drunken driving and to promote responsible drinking. Reg says he feels great empathy for permanently disabled people at Cheshire Home and he is motivated to do something to help the non profit organisation (NPO 008-314) secure income to help cover its high operating costs.

Reg invites anybody who would like to sponsor his fundraising mission to do so by depositing money in the following  bank account: Cheshire Home Summerstrand, Nedbank Govan Mbeki, Account 1212 032233, Branch code 121-217, reference: cycle.

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Entering through a new gateway

At the end of 2010 my wife Val and I sensed God leading us to make some significant changes in 2011.

For me it would mean leaving the real estate industry to take up freelance writing with a focus on Christian writing. For Val it would mean teaching maths. Writing and maths are our respective natural talent areas and we felt God saying that if we used these gifts from him to earn our income he would provide and would also open up new opportunities for us to share the Gospel.

After consulting elders at our church in January we decided to step out in faith in the new direction God was indicating to us. We had both been out of our respective fields for many years and had no clear plan of action. But God did not waste time showing his faithfulness.

An old friend Trevor phoned me for some technical advice and in passing asked me what I was doing these days. When I said I was going into Christian writing he said God’s timing was perfect. He set up a meeting for us to share what God had placed on his heart: something he had been praying about for six years. The result was that a short while later I was appointed to edit Gateway News (www.gatewaynews.co.za), a proposed new Christian news portal for our city, Port Elizabeth to be launched later this month. The portal, which is a project of Transformation Christian Network (www.tcn.org.za), owes its name to a recent prophetic word about God’s redemptive purpose for Port Elizabeth to be a Gateway into and out of Africa for God’s authority and power and for the prosperity and upliftment of its people. Recently a group of Christian leaders in the city shared this word with the mayor and deputy mayor but that is another story to be written about later.

In Val’s case a young friend Wonga who is a regular visitor at our home told us that his maths teacher had just announced that she was going on maternity leave. Val immediately phoned Wonga’s school principal and her former colleague Elbie and was awarded a four months relief teaching post at Ethembeni Enrichment Centre. Elbie said Val’s call was “an answer to prayer”.

We are excited to be walking through the new gateway that the Lord has opened! We still don’t know how it will all pan out. But we are blessed that we are starting as answers to some people’s prayers.

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Drowned boy raised from dead after prayer

I was browsing through a Dutch Reformed Church online newsletter which unexpectedly landed in my inbox today when I came across a news item with the headline “Testimony of a boy who drowned”.

I started reading the all-to-familiar horror story of a toddler who had drowned in his parents’ swimming pool. This drowing occurred in the Free State farming town of Bothaville. Drowning is one of the top causes of unnatural deaths of children in South Africa and for every one child that drowns, five children are left with permanent brain damage due to prolonged oxygen lack that occurs in a near drowning. It takes only four minutes without oxygen for irreversible brain damage to occur.

According to the newsletter item which was written by the toddler’s mother, Dorette, she had been busy cutting her husband’s hair for a wedding, when she noticed that her 15-months-old son Dieter was missing and that the door to the swimming pool was open. She asked her mother to go and check the pool area. A few moments later they heard her mother scream and everybody ran outside. Dieter was floating face-down in the pool. When her husband pulled him out he was limp, dark blue and his normally brown eyes were white. He did not respond at all to her husband’s frantic attempts to administer artificial respiration. He was dead.

While Dorette’s husband rushed Dieter to the doctor’s rooms, she and her parents and her 7-year-old daughter fervently interceded for the boy, praying in tongues and proclaiming the word of God and the name of Jesus. By the time the doctor was found and had connected Dieter to an oxygen machine, he had been without oxygen for at least 20 minutes.

The doctor, accompanied by the boy’s parents and grandmother, rushed Dieter to hospital. Without hope of a medical solution, the doctor and a nursing sister at the hospital prayed for the boy. Dieter’s heart suddenly began to beat and he was put in an ambulace and transferred to a hospital in Welkom, a larger town some 77 kilometres away. Dieter remained in a coma throughout the ambulance ride but his heart continued to beat and he was breathing.

By this time, Christians all over South Africa had responded to a prayer request and were praying for Dieter. A woman from Exelsior, who was unknown to the family, sent them a message stating:”Praise and honour my name, because no harm will come to the boy”.

At the hospital in Welkom a paediatrician told Dieter’s family that he would live but there was no guarantee that he would not have brain damage. The boy’s grandmother, Wilhelmina, told the doctor that the name of Jesus was the guarantee that Dieter would be miraculously healed.

I phoned the family this afternoon and spoke to Wilhelmina. She told me the incident happened in 2008. She recalled vividly how she had found her grandson’s body floating in the middle of the pool. She said that after the initial shock she had felt a supernatural peace and had shouted: “In the name of Jesus you will live!”

“Our entire family knows the Lord,” she said. “We know that there is power in his name and that what you declare in his name will come to pass.”

Wilhelmina, like a true proud granny, told me that Dieter, now aged four, was well and “exceptionally intelligent”.

She said that two years before the drowning, a prophetic word had been spoken over her and her husband, to the effect that they would go through deep waters so that other people may come to believe in Jesus. She said many people, all over South Africa and from as far afield as the United States and the Middle East had come to faith in Jesus as a result of the testimony of Dieter’s death and resurrection.

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Stirred, not shaken

Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe. (Hebrews 12:26)

When I read these words in Hebrews recently I felt that we Christians need to take heart that although the world is doing its utmost to deter us we are citizens of an eternal Kingdom that will never be shaken. We may be stirred but if we hold fast we will not be shaken!

Indeed, we read in Hebrews 12 that a day is coming when it will be the world and all created things that will be shaken and destroyed.

The Scripture challenges us to stand firm in our faith and not to give in to the world’s attempts to mock us, seduce us or destroy us. The world’s attack on Christianity is being orchestrated on two fronts. There is a sophisticated campaign to discredit Biblical values and teachings by portraying them as ignorant, outdated, repressive and insensitive. There is also an unprecedented campaign of terror and intimidation that is being waged against Christians that is largely ignored by world governments and media.

As Christains we believe that the word of God in the Bible provides us with keys to living a blessed life now and for eternity. It is interesting to look at what is happening in society in some of the arenas in which the world has succeeded in undermining Biblical values.

For instance God says all human life is precious and a gift from him but the world says birth is a matter of human choice. According to recent statistics 42 million babies are aborted every year. One out of four babies conceived in the United States is aborted — mostly because of “inconvenience”. In Russia 45% of babies conceived are aborted. It varies from country to country: one in five in the United Kingdom, one in three in China. In my own country, South Africa, the proportion is relatively lower at one in 17 but it is common to see posters on street poles and bus shelters advertising abortions and teenagers may have abortions without informing their parents.

The world scorns the Biblical view that sex is intended as something wonderful to be shared between husbands and wives. Apparently 96 per cent of sex on TV and movies takes place outside of marriage. The pornography industry earns 97 billion US dollars a year — more than the combined revenues of Microsoft, Google, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo!, Apple, Netflix and EarthLink. Three billion US dollars a year is spent on child pornography. A growing number of people — sadly including many Christians — confess to being bound by addiction to porn. All of this in the name of “freedom”!

The Biblical notion that God intended marriage to be a sacred union between a man and woman is under increasing attack. Christians who hold a Biblical view of marriage are called narrow minded, homophobic, offensive and bigots. The world’s idea that gay marriages are an equal lifestyle choice to traditional marriages is being increasingly taught in schools and people who challenge this dogma face lawsuits or losing their jobs. The US is bowing to the new worldview by introducing passport forms that replace the words “mother” and “father” with “parent 1” and “parent 2”. At the same time statistics show that in various parts of the world marriage rates are declining and divorce rates are increasing.

The grinding poverty in which most of the people of the world live despite our technological advances and supposedly enlightened humanistic ideologies, are tragic evidence that our world is being stirred by dark forces. One out of two children in the world live in poverty and 22 000 children die every day due to poverty. A quarter of humanity live without electricity. At the other end of the scale 0.13% of the world’s population control a quarter of the world’s financial assets and the wealthiest 12% of the world use 85% of its water.

Meanwhile the world’s great scientists and intellectuals mock the Biblical assertion that God created everything, and boast that their discoveries are unlocking the secrets of creation. Yet in truth the more deeply science probes the wonders of outer and inner space, the more the evidence points to intelligent design of all things. Even the simplest single cell organisms reveal layers of complexity that rule out the popular theory that they were early building blocks in the evolution of species through random mutations and natural selection. Likewise the fossil record defies the world’s scientists by providing no record of gradual evolutionary changes.

As I mentioned earlier, the world’s onslaught against Christianity extends to terror and intimidation. In fact, persecution facing Christians is the largest “human rights” violation issue in today’s world. According to the World Evangelical Alliance, over 200 million Christians in at least 60 countries are denied fundamental human rights solely because of their faith. Estimates vary on the number of Christians who are killed because of their faith but indications are that it is between 100 000 to 200 000 annually, with most of the killings occuring in Muslim countries. Muslim converts to Christianity face death sentences in countries like Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, Sudan and Malaysia. Ironically, Christianity has been growing phenomenonally in China despite decades of persecution: currently there are an estimated 130 to 180 million Protestant Christians in China and indications are that the Government has accepted that there is no way to turnback the Christian tide.

When the writer to the Hebrews wrote that “we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakeable” he was encouraging Christians to stand firm in their faith no matter what trials they faced. He was urging them not to give up the magnificent eternal inheritance that Jesus had purchased for them at great cost in exchange for man-made idols that would be destroyed when all creation was shaken.

The idols of the modern world: materialism, gratification, “choice” are already showing cracks as they lead to misery, bondage and broken relationships in this age. Christians stand firm. Jesus is the answer for everyone. Nobody who calls on his name will be turned away. Nobody who holds to the word of God will be shaken. Now is the time to heed the advice of the writer to the Hebrews by being thankful and pleasing God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe.

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