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Consider carefully how you listen

4 November 1999 was a perfect summers evening in Cape Town. An important evening, the opening of our 3rd Ear Institute in Belville Cape Town. We had a marque tent in the parking area, a large number of guests attending, some from Switzerland, and wonderful local food and wines from the Swartland (the Malmesbury area where my grandfather and my mother’s brothers farmed nearly a hundred years ago).

That evening the dedication and opening of the Ear Institute was done by Rev Frank Retief (who later became Bishop). His reading was from Luke 8:18 where Jesus said “Therefore consider carefully how you listen.” What apt words to use during the dedication of an Ear Institute…I thought – ‘ear and listen’. Over the years the words lingered on-and-off in my mind and little did I know it would only get it’s full meaning nearly 20 years later.

Currently there is a lot of noise going on in our country. Words like ‘state capture’, ‘nationalisation’ and ‘expropriation without compensation’ create fear among many people of all races and some are emigrating for greener pastures. And yet, more and more I start hearing the words of Jesus “…consider carefully how you listen.

Do I listen with a ‘worldly ear’ to the politics of the day and endless negativity of the people around me or do I listen with my ‘spiritual ear’ embracing God’s promises for our country and all its people where He says “…forget all that—it is nothing compared to what I’m going to do! For I’m going to do a brand-new thing. See, I have already begun! Don’t you see it? I will make a road through the wilderness … and create rivers (for them) in the desert!
(Isaiah 43:18+19 Living Bible)
The question I constantly have to ask myself is…with which ear am I listening? And then I realise that all I can hold onto are God’s promises given to me over the years during my quiet time. His promises are steadfast and forever, so different from human promises that are broken or simply forgotten.

For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. And in those days when you pray, I will listen. You will find me when you seek Me, if you look for Me in earnest.
(Jeremiah 29:11-13 Living Bible)

Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated.
(Isaiah 54:4+5 NIV)

This is the truth! All I have to do is consider carefully with which ear I listen.

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The three turtles

Following on from my previous blog (March 27) and my time on the farm where God encouraged me to PERSEVERE, I went back to the farm a few days later – this time with some of our senior Eduplex management.

We shared our challenges, frustrations and highlights and we discussed how King Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 20) handled his problem when he heard that a ‘vast army is marching against you from beyond the Dead Sea’. How he was badly shaken (panicked), then instructed the people to pray and the Holy Spirit then spoke through one of the people present and said they should prepare for war but that they would not need to fight ‘Take your places, stand quietly and see the incredible rescue operation God will perform for you….don’t be afraid or discouraged! Go out there tomorrow, for the Lord is with you!’

Over the years 2 Chronicles 20 helped me considerably when I felt ‘vast armies’ of problems were marching against me. I call it the seven “P’s” of 2 Chronicles 20 (that God gave us a miraculous answer to a specific problem the very next day based on this part is another story.)

  1. Problem – vast armies marching
  2. Panic – Jehoshaphat was deeply disturbed
  3. Prayer – got everybody together, shared the problem and prayed.
  4. Plan – God speaking through a bystander
  5. Prepare – they prepared for war and did not arrogantly just sit back
  6. Praise – they praised God for the victory even before the victory was given.
  7. Peace – after the victory they had peace.

We then went for a game drive. In the 13 years I have only seen 3 or 4 turtles on the farm. A small turtle crossed the road…and 400 meters further a bigger one and a short distance further another really big one. The biggest one I have ever seen on the farm.

I thought it to be interesting – nothing more. Little did I know that God had a message for me.
The next morning in my quiet time I read from one of my daily devotionals that quoted Song of Solomon 2:12 (the same verse that were read at the Royal Wedding!)

The flowers appear on the earth;
the time of the signing of birds is come,
and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land.”

I was stunned. Can God be so personal? I clearly saw the Eduplex – the pre-school that started small, the primary school bigger and the large turtle depicting the high school and Eduplex Training Institute that will take the vision God gave me, (to make a difference in deaf education,) worldwide. I then Googled tortoise and saw it is a symbol of longevity, sturdiness, intelligence, prudence, multiplication (many eggs) and endurance (PERSEVERENCE!).

Finally I understood…sharing the vision of Eduplex will take time (maybe not even in my time) – all I need to do is do my part, endure and persevere, not give up, because it’s the last few yards that tell.

PS – I shared this story at a business meeting. The organiser’s wife sent him a message later in the day, without knowing about my ‘turtle talk’. “Look wat the children came home with today…”

Lord, thank you that you talk to us in so many wonderful ways. Through Your Word, other people, circumstances and also nature. Please open my eyes that I will not only see but also understand. Amen

Today is world turtle day. Read more here.

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“Take off your sandals, you are on holy ground.”

I have always found it interesting how the Holy Spirit ‘opens up’ pieces of Scripture or Daily Devotionals on a specific day when I need it most. Pieces that I have been reading for many years without ‘seeing’ the meaning or fully understanding it. One morning, while having my quiet time I read in different devotionals “Take time for prayer.” “Take time to be alone with Me.” “Spend more time alone with Me.” The next morning …“Make prayer a priority.” I have never seen all these messages from different devotionals so clearly.

I knew I had to go and spend time alone with God on the farm – I had to open my diary but I did not feel like going. I don’t like going to the farm alone…and yet I heard the words “Take time to be alone with Me.”

I drove out to the farm (196km) and after settling in I sat on the stoop and started praying for the many family and friends around me that were very sick. That evening I saw 7 bush baby’s crawling out of the garage, leaping into the trees. I have never seen 7, always just two or three.

Before sunrise the next morning I drove up to the highest point on the farm to have a coffee and a rusk and to pray at sunrise. Just as I became quiet I clearly heard the Holy Spirit’s say “Take off your sandals, you are on holy ground.” I was shocked and immediately obeyed and started praising the Lord while looking over the mountains as the sun rose praying Ps 212 “I lift up my eyes to the mountains, from where shall my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber.” I had an amazing time in God’s company.

That afternoon I again sat on the stoop thinking of that morning, wondering what to do next. Can anything surpass that morning’s ‘high’? I heard …“read Ezra.” “Ezra?” I asked, what can be in Ezra was my thought (Ezra tells the story of the rebuilding of the Temple 90 years before Nehemiah came to rebuild Jerusalem’s city walls.) I was so encouraged by what God was about to reveal to me, not only from the verses but also from the footnotes in my Life Application Bible.

  • Ezra not only knew God’s Word, he believed and obeyed it.
  • God cares more about what we are than what we accomplish. Magnificent accomplishments decay and disappear. Do not be discouraged – your relationship with God is more important!
  • I need more times of celebration during significant events in my life – like when we completed the foundations of the Primary School (July 2006) and the last phase of the High School (June 2013).
  • Do not let circumstances or lack of encouragement slow you down. PERSEVERE! Not by might nor by power but by My Spirit says the Lord! Reminding me of Zachariah 4:6 that weaves like a golden thread through our school’s (Eduplex) history.

The last morning The Holy Spirit gave me a message for the way forward “We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what God has promised.” (Hebrews 6:12) I need to sharpen up my daily quiet time and not buckle under the pressure. I have to persevere in faith and patience.

My reading that morning from ‘Streams in the Desert’ summarised the weekend “When the fire in your life is the hottest, stand still, for later on …it produces a harvest of blessings. (Heb 12:11) Sainthood finds its source in suffering. Remember, it requires eleven tons of pressure on a piano’s strings for it to be tuned.”

Nico – withstand the strain while being tuned…through faith, patience and perseverance. Don’t give up, it’s the last few yards that count!

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Without holiness… no one will see the Lord

Most years, while we are on vacation, the Holy Spirit graciously ‘gives’ me a bible verse for the year ahead. This year a strong and profound statement from Hebrews 12:14(b)

“Without holiness, no one will see the Lord.”

 For 2015 I was encouraged to forget the former things, that God was going to do something new in our country, did I not see it?…it has already begun, He was going to make a pathway in die wilderness en rivers in the desert. (Isaiah 43:18+19)  It had a profound effect on my thinking about God’s plan for our country and the many challenges that lay ahead…and God did do something new…don’t you see it?…it is still happening.

For 2016 – I had to find my strength in quietness and confidence in the Lord. (Isaiah 30:15) and that it is weakness to be fretting and worrying, questioning and misunderstanding, rather than accepting in quietness and going forward in strength…and God did give me strength notwithstanding my own fears.

For 2017 I lifted my eyes to the hills, wondering where my help would come from in the year ahead and I realised that my help will only come from the Lord, the Maker of Heaven & Earth. (Ps 121:1+2) … and God did help me.

For the year ahead I realised that God wanted to take me to a new level when I read “Without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14b).  It came as a shock and I had to read, reread, meditate and think about this profound statement. If I call myself a Christian it is not just a quick statement or a game – it is a life-and-death matter and very, very serious. Having a profound FAITH in the Son of God for the forgiveness of all our sins should lead to a distinct and holy lifestyle.

Where do I stand?

I had to do a serious reality check on my own life – can I really say that I am leading a holy life?  Holy?…with my eyes, my thoughts, my words, my heart and my deeds? It starts by believing in the Son of God. Once we believe we are saved from sin and made holy by faith. Our faith grows by seeking God’s face on a daily basis. As I look back over my life I was encouraged by God’s promises and guidance to do things I would never have dreamt of doing – the Eduplex is one of the them and the Ear Institutes another. I had to overcome all my fears and be obedient to His promises and guidance. It was not easy, but it was exciting!

It took years of prayer, planning, tears and hard work. We did the possible and God did the impossible. But still, I can do all of this ‘for the Lord’ but where do I stand on the path of holiness? Am I making every effort to live in peace with all men; to see to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many; see that no one (yes, also me!) is sexually immoral (Hebrews 12:14-16.) Again I had to ask …”Am I faithful to my spouse with my eyes, my thoughts and my words?”

What do I listen to with my ears – am I part of negative or inappropriate talk? Is my heart and my mind really turned towards Jesus and do I take captive every thought (yes, especially questionable thoughts) and make it obedient to Christ? (2 Corinthians 10:5)

I trust that 2018 is going to be a blessed year as I try to obey on this journey called holiness – busying myself with God Things rather than Good Things.

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NO EXCUSES

(This piece was such a blessing that I asked Gerhard Papenfus’ permission to place it on my blog. Trust it will also be a blessing to you. Nico)

Within the current South African political context we are constantly confronted with information which points to a very bleak future. The situation we find ourselves in, if not viewed from God’s perspective, will surely paralyse us.

I want to share with you two pieces from God’s word which steadfastly indicates that what is happening around us is no excuse for us to depart from that which God has called us to do.

In Matt. 24: 45 and 46 Jesus says the following: “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the Master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time. It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns”.

To God, no obstacle is big enough to serve as an excuse not to fulfill your purpose. That includes being a very small minority in a country with a very hostile government.

In the well known passage about the talents (Matt. 25: 14-30), the man who hid his talent because he ‘was afraid’, received no sympathy from the master. The message is clear: no matter what we might contemplate as a sufficient reason for not doing what we are called to do, living the ‘abundant life’ we are called to live, will stand up to Gods scrutiny.

Jesus has called us, chose us – regardless of what is happening around us – “to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last”! (John 15:16). Thus, God calls us to make the kind of contribution the enemy, in whatever form it presents itself, cannot interfere with. It is this ‘fruit’ which will feed the world; without which those in our sphere of influence will staff. We dare not withhold it.

Here’s the key, given to us in John 15:5: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit: apart from me you can do nothing” – nothing! – whether in good times or in bad times.

Whilst not ignoring what is happening around us, let us value it for what it is; it is overwhelmingly incomparable to the indwelling Christ, the only source of abundant, powerful living.

 

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