Tag Archive: grace

‘For the director of music. A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.’

i mean, that’s quite an intro already, right? and possibly carries a profoundly deep message in terms of really getting our minds around the fact that David, altho he had messed up horribly, still ends up at the feet of God, rather than simply trying to hide or run the other way… where do you end up when you are caught up in the depravity of sin?

‘You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; You do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart
You, God, will not despise.’ [vs 16-17]

and there we see that David really gets it – he starts at the point of his brokenness and failure but realises that it is not the outward motions that God is after – it is not about performing the right religious activities or rituals – God wants to know and see that he has truly changed – God is interested in the heart…

‘Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.’ [vs 1-2]

this is the start of the Psalm – David appeals to what He knows of God, who he knows God to be – He appeals to God’s ‘mercy’ and His ‘unfailing love’ as well as His ‘great compassion’.

Note that David is asking for mercy, not justice. Which is a thing most of us do much of the time i imagine. David knew that calling for justice for his actions would mean his life. But knowing the God he serves, he knows deep down that even though he doesn’t deserve it and possibly might not even feel like he has the right to even ask, that God is all of those things and will likely respond with much mercy and grace and undeserved forgiveness and new life.

and then he speaks those words that Keith Green turned into such a brilliant and haunting song:

‘Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. [vs 10-12]’

this could be a daily prayer to start the day with… the search for a clean heart, the joy of really knowing God’s salvation and a spirit that is willing for whatever opportunity is placed in front of you…

[To return to the Intro page and be connected to any of the other Psalms i have walked through before now, click here]

let me be honest, i am tired of all the Oscar Pistorius ‘stuff’ – i am tired of it and i wish it would go away.

i am also deeply disturbed by it. i don’t know that i completely understand why, altho i know it has something to do with the fact that it feels like almost everyone has an opinion, many people have made judgements, many others are just sending links and updates and quotes and there seems to be something a little too much in that – this article that calls us all vultures, seems to capture some of what i am feeling the best

i have mostly wanted to not write about it, because i don’t want to be just another voice commentating on something i don’t have a lot of facts about – presuppositions for sure, news posted comments definitely and a lot of opinion and argument and sentiment and so on, but no one really knows what happened [except maybe Oscar] and maybe we never really will. so i will keep my writing to the idea of the thing, rather than the thing itself, as that is something i do have a little bit more of a valid opinion about.

the celebrity aspect has to be a part of it – if that was James Smith [google ‘James Smith’ to make sure i haven’t accidentally picked another celebrity name] then this case would not have even registered a blip on the radar. in fact there was a newspaper headline board on a pole when i went out earlier that read ‘two more girls killed in cape town’ and no one [relatively] is going to even know that that happened. so because the guy who allegedly shot the girl [Reeva Steenkamp by the way although it finally feels like everyone now knows her name as well] is famous, somehow this case means more.

i mean at this very point i am multi-tasking between writing this blog and trying to convince someone on facebook that a cartoon of Elmer Fudd blowing a woman’s head off with a shotgun because she is making a duck face at her camera is NOT OKAY… it is not “just a cartoon bro” and even further, ” I’m 100% positive no person on their right mind will shoot a girl in the face for taking a picture like that.” Yes, i’m with you on that point, i don’t think they will, but THAT DOES NOT MAKE IT OKAY!

on a different page, my friend Megan is posting awareness photos as to how often images of violence are subtly woven into advertising as far as women are concerned and the link from her original post to an article focusing on ‘America’s Next Top Model 8’: Week Four: Crime Scene Victims just makes me feel sick to my stomach – the challenge is for each model to pose as a person who has been killed in a different way – with a judge commenting, “What’s great about this is that you can also look beautiful in death.” – i couldn’t even make it through all the images…

it just leaves me wondering how far have we gone? and how long will we continue to call this all normal?

and how can i be part of the remedy?

i think it must be along the lines of posting and speaking and pointing towards and declaring LIFE. not to pretend that darkness and death and brokenness is not happening [we must never do that – we MUST act when people share ridiculous cartoon pictures and when people are challenging the mentality behind advertising and the fact that a celebrity should not be allowed to get away with something no-one else should] but to remind ourselves in the midst of it that LIFE is happening. the smallest light destroys and chases away the darkness!

and so i want to call on you [and me] this week to look out for stories of goodness and grace and beauty and Love and to share them via your status or your Twitter or your blog – for every negative story that is out there, let us share a positive one. if we can’t stop all that is bad [at least instantly] then let us at least celebrate and cheer on and be encouraged by that which is good. let those stories give us the strength and belief to get involved in the less-than-happy ones and hopefully see more positive endings to those as well.

life to the full

i am thinking of the invitation i just received to Linawo Chilren’s home’s 10th birthday celebrations, i am talking about the children’s house Val is a trustee of and the uThando LeNkosi Work Day, i am even simply talking about Monday night’s TheatreSports show at the Intimate theatre in town – whatever it is, let’s just start speaking and sharing some life, so that we don’t get taken completely down by the darkness…

for the first positive upbuilding story focusing on Nicholas McCarthy, one-handed pianist, click here…

a story of pilots flying in water and supplies to flooded areas and also a site for daily stories of good news

the inspiring and humourous no limbed Nick Vujicic has a baby boy…

is anyone with me on this?

i’d love to make this sound like the cool kind of parable Jesus would have used, but i don’t think i can.

a rock

but if it was a fairy-tale type story it would begin with something sounding like ‘Once upon a time…’ and very quickly end up at the place of ‘Brett looked at the path and it was blocked by the giant obstacle. He didn’t know what to do next.’

and depending on your perspective on life and God and big obstacles, Brett might do very different things next.

if you’re a ‘glass half empty’ kind of person, you might see the obstacle as a sign that God placed the obstacle in your path so you wouldn’t choose that particular path. go and find another easier path, Brett. [this could be Balaam’s donkey warning you off the path, it could be Paul being blocked from going to Asia in Acts 16, it could be the angel with the sword keeping Adam and Eve from re-entering the garden]

if you’re a ‘glass half full’ kind of person, you might see the obstacle as a sign that the devil is worried about the work you are doing and is trying to stop you. keep on, Brett, find a way around or through the obstacle because that is the path you are meant to be walking. [this could be the Israelites crossing the sea, Abraham attempting to sacrifice Isaac, Daniel deciding to continue to pray and being thrown in the lion’s den]

the main problem is that in either case the obstacle looks the same. it’s not like obstacles are divided into ‘push through because it’s the enemy placing it there’ kinds of obstacles and ‘turn around because God is trying to tell you to go a different way’ kinds of obstacles… they both simply appear as an obstacle and if you get counsel from wise friends of yours, you might find yourself listening to both opposing pieces of advice [both of which are an understandable reading of the scenario]

and so the key has to be the Holy Spirit – being in touch with and in tune with God so He can reveal to you which one it is? do i stay or do i go?

easy, huh? unless of course you are having a bit of trouble hearing God on the matter and then it goes back to making a hopeful choice…

this is a scenario that plays out often in our lives and happened again this morning [well, over the last few days] as we have had such issues trying to book a flight for Val:

GHE: It’s a sign from God – don’t do this Relational Tithe thing – you are meant to pull out of it and stay here!
GHF: It’s an attack from the enemy – God wants you to push through and defeat the obstacle and He is allowing it to be there to strengthen your faith.

ah okay got it, this could go either way, so which is it God?

[sound of crickets]

and so there lies the dilemma – i do think the solution lies somewhere in making sure we’ve taken enough time to ‘Be still and know that I am God.’ [psalm 46.10] and then also to invite the wisdom [and listening] of Jesus following friends – maybe as we listen together, someone will be able to make out the quiet whisper of God…

if not, though, we will have to make a call and follow the path of whichever one we choose, knowing full well that we serve both a Loving and Faithful God who knows our hearts and gets that we have done everything we thought of to try and ascertain which path it was… a God who, if we get it wrong while honestly trying to get it right, is so much full of Grace and Love and Forgiveness and Compassion that He will not leave us treading water in the after effects of a decision gone wrong…

therein lies a lot of the confidence i have in God… that He is able to make Himself heard when necessary, that He is able to direct and guide and beckon, that He is so quick to rush in and help out when things go wrong, that His bride, the church, has been created with a role of helping to ensure that we don’t fall face first on the ground and lie there, wounded and bleeding, without doing something about it.

and so Brett has some paths, and some obstacles, and a beautiful Valerie alongside him… and he is listening and asking and waiting… trying to figure out which is God and which is the enemy and which is just plain life…

and he is not TOO worried at all.

[i would LOVE to hear your perspective and thoughts on the two ways an obstacle can be looked at and maybe an experience you have had in that]

‘Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath.
Your arrows have pierced me, and your hand has come down on me.
Because of your wrath there is no health in my body;
there is no soundness in my bones because of my sin.
My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear.’ [vs. 1-4]

Um, wait, what? This must be one of those other psalms, right, the psalms not written by david?… Nope, says it right there, a psalm of david, a petition…


something must have happened.

the “them” became the “me” perhaps…?

which i have been alluding to as from psalm to psalm we have been seeing this gung ho “kill the bastards” type attitude from david towards “those who sin” giving the strong impression that he was not part of that team… and now suddenly, he has fallen, and not just a little [popular opinion places this psalm after the bathsheba incident] and now suddenly he is the prodigal shamefully crawling home with his tail between his legs and no longer the older brother indignantly declaring his worth and deservement of reward.

how quickly the tables turn.

i wonder how differently david would write most of the psalms we have looked at already now that he finds himself on the other side – do you think his “smite the enemy” and “decimate those who sin” calls might be more grace-filled restoration focused petitions?

how does this affect the way i view the people who i don’t like or who have hurt me [maybe really deeply and painfully] when i start to get how someone maybe doesn’t have to be a complete schmunglehead to do complete schmunglehead things? because i did those things so it can’t be SO bad, right?

‘Lord, do not forsake me; do not be far from me, my God.
Come quickly to help me, my Lord and my Savior.’ [vs. 21-22]

while it is a good thing to call on God in your time of need and brokenness, once has to ask the question of whether david might have had a lot more people to call on as well and to have gather around him [dispensing grace, mercy, love, forgiveness, compassion] if he had shown a lot more of it to others in his previous writings…

i hope this psalm in some small way is a reminder to us that God has shown us incredible grace and mercy [love, forgiveness, compassion] in sending Jesus to die in our place. How dare we not extend the same kind to those around us, whose sins against us will not likely compare with God’s need to pour His wrath on His very Son.

[To return to the Intro page and be connected to any of the other Psalms i have walked through before now, click here]

and on to Psalm 5:

this is an interesting one. powerful line in verse 5 – ‘You hate all who do wrong.’

is that true? of course it is. it is true to where david is at the moment of writing and what he is feeling [and maybe secretly wanting]

but is it Truth? absolutely not. we know from reading the rest of scripture that God does not hate anyone – His desire is that all will be saved [‘This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.’ 1 Timothy 2.3-4] – but we can see this as an expression of the frustration david is feeling as he writes this piece.

what’s interesting is that david himself secretly doesn’t want it to be true… read a little further – ‘You destroy those who tell lies. The bloodthirsty and deceitful, You, LORD, detest.’ [vs 6] is that starting to sound familiar?

remember this same david when it comes to the story of bathsheba, the wife of one of his trusted army officials and how david tells lies, is bloodthirsty and deceitful and even more… he definitely does a whole lot of wrong and is not hoping at that point that God will wipe “them” out quite as passionately as he is in this psalm… which makes me think he wrote this before the events of 2 Samuel 11 had taken place, probably from a place of thinking he was so much better than those around him who get it wrong.

this feels like the psalm from someone who is largely naive and untested in the ways of temptation and needs a bit of the reality check that screwing up royally can bring you. which he later gets. to the extreme. i wonder how this psalm would sound if it was written after that incident? probably a lot more use of words like ‘mercy,’ ‘grace’ and ‘forgiveness’?

i do like how it ends though, ‘But let all who take refuge in You be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread Your protection over them, that those who love Your name may rejoice in You. Surely, LORD, You bless the righteous; You surround them with your favor as with a shield.’

[To continue on to Psalm 6, click here]

[To return to the start of this series on Psalms as well as some other Bible things, click here]

…and the discussion continues seeking out a Christ-following version of dating and relationships that is more effective than the model we have simply been borrowing from the world – beginning with a renewing of your mind and refusing to conform any longer to the pattern of this world.

it has been incredible seeing the dialogue happening on the “Stand Up!” notes the last day so please keep it up – i suspect this one will bring a lot of comment as well and it is most welcome.

Somebody asked the question – what if we have already crossed the line physically with someone or some ones?

There are two very important points to hear on this one:

[1] God is full of grace and love and that is freely available when we take responsibility for our past and when we confess our sins and invite Him to bring freedom, restore purity and grant forgiveness. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” [Romans 8.1] So if you are living with condemnation and guilt, then something is definitely wrong. Go to God. Deal with it with Him, and move on.

[2] Having said that, the church often gets it wrong in terms of our definition and understanding of God’s grace and Love because at no time does it cancel out His justice. Love and justice always work together along side each other. But in the name of niceness (rather than Truth) the church has created this concept of “Second Virginity” which is the idea that when you confess your sins you can become a virgin again. It is a nice concept, but it is just not true. Once you have had sex with someone, your virginity is gone and that is a consequence you need to live with. God forgives and restores and will deal with all condemnation and guilt, but you cannot be made a virgin again.

There is a big difference between sin and consequences. I am reminded of one of my friends who slept with her boyfriend and got pregnant. Does God forgive her sin if she asks Him to? Absolutely. Did God remove the consequences? Not at all. She has a son – who is an amazing kid, we’re not disputing that [Romans 8.31 reminds us that God can bring good out of all situations] – but at that moment all her dreams and ideas for her life and situation changed completely. She can be forgiven the sin, but some of the consequences stick around.

So if you have crossed the line physically and messed up there is hope for you in terms of forgiveness and grace and being able to let go of condemnation and guilt. If it is your current dating person then it is important that you speak about it directly and put things in place that will protect you from the temptation to mess up there again. Having accountability with an outside Jesus-following person who is of the same gender as you is a highly recommendable thing.

And i have to say it again but this topic of dating better requires an absolute renewing of our minds. We need to think differently. We need to enter into dating relationships with an awareness of the dangers of sexual attraction/temptation and have some principles in place to protect us from going there.

so back in new year’s times i met a guy called gabe at an event i was mc’ing and it wasn’t the greatest of meetings – we had a difference of opinion over some or other thing, i blogged about it without using his name (altho everyone who had been at the event knew who i was talking about) and he (and more particularly his friends) didn’t like that i did that so much (some of his friends got quite pissed off with me telling me what a solid follower of Jesus he was and how i didn’t know him and how could i say stuff and blah blah blah)…

turns out funnily enuff that despite the event being on the other side of the country, Gabe is from nearby to where i live and so when i finally was able to get hold of him, he very graciously agreed to meet (slash take me out for pizza) and we met and chatted and got to know each other better and dealt with the new year’s vibe and put it behind us… which was pretty cool.

anyways, i was invited a long time ago to speak at the Rondebosch/Rustenburg schools Christian Union camp which i did this last weekend, with the beautiful Val joining me in a really fun Relationships workshop and we had a complete vibe at the camp…

turns out, the other speaker on camp, was none other than mister Gabe himself – i had already gone to hang out with him in Jan at a camp he led worship at for one nite and so i’d seen him in ministry mode, but it was cool getting to see him ministering in another way…

and i learnt stuff… not necessarily new stuff i didn’t know, but in both of his talks there was at least one key thing that he unpacked differently to how i’d heard or seen it before and so it really was a growing situation for me which was really great – revelationary stuff…

the one was about Jesus being baptised in Matthew 3 (see title) which ends with “As soon as Jesus was baptised, He went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on Him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is My Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.” [Matthew 3.16-17]

and then Jesus heads out to the desert to fast and pray and eventually be tempted by the devil…

actually, as i’m writing this i remember two things that Gabe brought out of this passage…

[1] the first is to note how many miracles Jesus had done up to that point, how many great preaches He had done, how many of His acts of spending time with the people in society – women, children, tax collectors, lepers, samaritans – that no one liked or spent time with, and the answer is none. Jesus had not done any of His public ministry yet and He receives complete affirmation from God. God’s pleasure and love is a result of God, not of Jesus achieving or earning it. That is a pretty hectic picture of grace.

[2] and the second is that when the devil comes to tempt Jesus, he starts with the questioning phrase, “If you are the Son of God…” in the same way that he met Adam and Eve in the garden and questioned what God had said to them. But we’ve just witnessed it in Matthew 3 as did Jesus – heaven opened and God boomed out in a loud voice “You are the Son of God” – Jesus has heard that He is the Son of God, from His Father and so when the devil comes with his little “if you are the Son of God” He is able to stomp all over it and point back to what just happened. Because Jesus has His identity firmly wrapped up in God and who the Father says He is, the temptations and accusations of the devil fall completely flat.

So stop doing stuff to try and earn God’s love – you already have it [do stuff as a result of incredible gratitude and response to the love you have received – Christ’s love compels me…]

And find your identity in God, stop being sidetracked by the lying voice of the devil… if you follow Jesus, you have been made into a child of a king, live in that status…

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