Beyond the Reef – In ‘Moana’

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In the recent children’s animation movie ‘Moana’ there are a number of very powerful scenes that if you look behind what you’re seeing on the screen, you can see something of the Spirit realm to which you and I belong. Of-course, these are only shadows & types.

One scene that really spoke to me was concerning Moana’s ancestors. Her ancestors were voyagers, you see. However, over time her people had decided to remain safe and no longer would venture out past the reef where all the best fish could be found for food. This reminded me of how the church has lost it’s way, she has lost her heart. The church was once a vibrant spiritual organism growing in her ongoing discovery into the Son of God as she lived out of His life that indwelt her. You’ve only got to read the book of Acts to see that. But she has become insular, self-protective and has lost her desire to know Him beyond what she is spoon-fed. She has shrunk back.

She has become afraid of the reef – the cross. In ignorance and spiritual immaturity, she hides from the pain and suffering of the cross that Jesus told us to take up and carry daily. She only desires comfort, knowledge, familiarity, knowledge without experience. She has settled for stories of Jesus instead of living His Resurrection Life that lies beyond the cross.

As the story goes on,Moana ventures out past the reef and things happen which is a great picture of portions of Christ’s body/church today. Yes folks, be encouraged for many saints all over the world are embracing the cross in its various and perfectly fashioned forms by the Father, venturing out past the spiritual reef and breakers, so to speak, in search of knowing a greater Christ than they’ve ever known before. Brothers and sisters in Christ are rising up in a growing desperate pursuit of Christ who is our real food, our real drink, the food that satisfies, the drink that quenches all thirst forevermore.

Coming back to Moana – Typically, once she has faced her fears and trials she eventually achieves the goal she set sail for. When this happens, the animators give the viewers a climactic explosion of life in a glorious scene of Moana sailing on the wild seas and watching with wide eyes of wonder, her ancestors on their boats riding the waves all around, passing her on their journey. The two realms of time & eternity are revealed simultaneously.

This scene spoke me to me of that great cloud of witnesses that we read about in Hebrews Chapter 12, verse 1;

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us…

I was reminded of our roots – that we as believers are sojourners, voyagers in our discovery of Christ and all that He is. He is the mighty ocean. He is the reef (the cross) and all that is beyond the reef yet to be discovered. He is the resurrection and the life! Our lives are meant to be lived out as an adventure in knowing Him through our trials and tribulations for the glory that lies before us – truly knowing Him!

Those trials and tribulations can come in all shapes and sizes. Yet, in all peril, we are travelling a path well trod by those who went before us – like Moana’s ancestors who forged on past the reef and through storms and danger carrying their adventurous spirit to find richer food and a richer existence as a result. So we can do the same in our journey in knowing Christ with hearts of faith.

Those saints who have walked the ancient paths of knowing God through all their trials and tribulations, perseverance and endurance, can really be thought of as our spiritual ancestors. I’m not talking about spiritual ancestors such as some indigenous tribal communities or new agers hold to that are not of Christ. I’m talking about spiritual ancestory in light of the reality that those of us who are in Christ, are called the children of Abraham – not in the flesh but in the spirit.

For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Nor because they are Abraham’s descendants are they all his children. On the contrary, “Through Isaac your offspring will be reckoned.” So it is not the children of the flesh who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as offspring.…(Romans 9:6-8)

We are the children of the promise because we have believed in the One who was sent, the Seed of Abraham, who was in the line of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – that is Christ Jesus. We have now been made one with Him by His Spirit.

Let’s get one thing straight. The journey of the believer is a spiritual one. That means it is not of this realm. It is not an external journey of a type of ‘godly’ behaviour, rules and appearances. It is a life lived by another realm, the realm of the Spirit.

…It is the only place in you that comes from the other realm, the heavenly realm, the external realm…It is the place where I (Christ) live as the connection between heaven and earth….(New Day, Milt Rodriguez, 2013).

“Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes… (Ezekiel 36:26)

God causing us to walk in His statutes (measure, ruling, commandment, covenant, proclamation) is a spiritual act on His behalf, done by God Himself Brothers and sisters, if you are in Christ God is causing you to walk in His statutes as He has caused countless other saints to walk there before us. Thousands upon thousands of saints have lived and died before us, having carried their cross daily as they walked the same paths of knowing Christ beyond the reef.

Is the Lord calling you to venture out from the comfort and conformity of life on an ‘island’ and go beyond the ‘reef’ to travel the ancient pathways trod by thousands of saints who’ve gone before?  Do you feel in your spirit that there is much more to discover and explore of and in Christ than you’ve ever known before? Do you sense that He is worth the desperate pursuit? Do you believe there is Life awaiting you on the other side of the reef?

Then Jesus said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

 

 

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The Kindness of The Good Master

Once we were slaves to sin and to this world. We were born into sin. We were enslaved, in bondage, held as captives and unable to free ourselves. But 2000 years ago a man who was both Son of Man and Son of God, came to us and set us free.

He loosed our chains, they fell off. He broke off our shackles. He washed us clean and healed our wounds. He removed the veil from our eyes. Then He said to us “It is for freedom’s sake that I set you free” and “Whom the Son sets free is free indeed”.

Captivated by Him, His beauty, His glory, His splendour, His love, His compassion, His kindness – we knew that to have freedom apart from Him would be no freedom at all. We saw the kindness and mercy of the Good Master and we willingly gave up our freedom which was no real freedom at all, to make ourselves His bond-servants. We wanted to be with Him forever. We dedicated our lives to Him.  Where else could we go? Where else would we go? For He held and still holds the words of Life.

“Thou hast set us free, Master. Now we belong to Thee”.

 

Are We Hidden Figures?

…For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3)

Recently I saw the movie titled “Hidden Figures”. (Picture provided by Google Images). The synopsis as described on google reads;

Three female African-American mathematicians provide crucial calculations for NASA’s space race against the Soviets, all while dealing with the racist and sexist assumptions of their white co-workers.

It is a truly moving and inspiring account of the achievements that each of these three ladies made against incredible opposition and injustice. Although the story is essentially about Katherine and her friends’ hidden mathematical genius that is ignored by NASA for a great deal of their story, it is also the story of them being ‘hidden figures’ themselves.The three women were considered to be less than nobody’s  firstly because of racism and secondly because of gender inequality – i.e. they were black and they were women.

The main character Katherine Johnson was disregarded, shunned and undervalued yet she was the smartest person in the room. And she knew it! In fact, each of these ladies knew the value of their skill and expertise, if only the powers-that-be would put aside their prejudices and pay attention.

Eventually of-course, those powers-that-be did start to notice how smart Katherine was. And her friends equally in their different departments. It was their unequaled skill that shone through above all their colleagues and superiors that got them noticed eventually and saw NASA achieve the goals it was after. Even the life of an astronaut was saved solely because of Katherine’s God-given mathematical talents.

What really stuck out to me in this story was the balance displayed in each of these mistreated and under-appreciated ladies, of a quiet confidence in their abilities coupled with humility.

Although these ladies each had outstanding talent that placed them above their peers in respect of skill, it was only ever for the greater good that they wished to be noticed. They each had a quiet, confident assurance that if they were free to function then the whole of NASA would benefit.

This reminded me of who we are in Christ. When we are free to function in who and how God has made us the whole body of Christ benefits.

Though the world will never see it, we as members of Christ’s body, beloved of God, ought to always be confident of our reality as priests and kings in the Lord’s Kingdom.  Sure, the world may and will mock us, ridicule us, shun and reject us and even persecute us but this should not, will not and cannot take away from who we are.

We must know that we are sons of the living God, set apart to be made by Him holy and righteous in His sight. We are favoured and blessed by God to be members of His family, His royal household and to share in His inheritance. This is who we are. Herein lies our confidence.

Yet, coupled with this confidence that is ours to enter the throne room of God with all our prayers, petitions and praise and to face a world and an enemy that despises us, we have also been given the humility of Christ.

Though it is tempting sometimes, we have no need to put ourselves forward, to speak up for and defend ourselves, even when the world persecutes us. Nor do we seek promotion in the house of God, we seek only to minister unto the Lord Himself and to Him in one another. We needn’t bring attention to ourselves, our ministry, our talents or gifts. Should God ever choose to use us for anything at all, He alone will bring it about for His glory, not for ours.

So can I encourage you today dear brother or sister, to remember always who you are in Christ Jesus. You are a branch in that Vine. God the Vine-dresser, our Husbandman, cares for the branches in the very same way He cares for that Vine! Wow! You are part of His beloved Son. You will always be in that Vine because it is the Father’s work that has placed you there. You are there to bear much fruit for His pleasure and HE will see to it that this is accomplished in you by the life of that glorious Vine in you, who is Christ.

Christ in us, the hope of glory.

In the knowledge, peace and rest of our place in Christ and in the heart of God, we can with confidence and humility serve Him and wait on Him. We needn’t struggle, strive or push. Everything, even our very lives, belong to Him.

…therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time…(1 Peter 5:6)

Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up. (James 4:10)

Are You Feeling Backed Into A Corner?

The movie ‘Invincible‘ starring Mark Wahlberg is based on the true story of an average guy, Vince Papale, who at the age of 30 earned a spot on the 1976 Philadelphia Eagles American Football team. The movie is available on Netflix if you have it.

Papale and his mates used to play football in the backyard on a regular basis and his mates thought he was so talented at it, that when there was a spot on the Philadelphia Eagles team open to public try-outs, they urged him to give it a go.

But Papale was down and out and had no belief in his capacity to do any such thing. He had just lost his job as a teacher and his wife of 15 years had just left him the same week and he went home to a literally empty house.

There is a scene in the movie where Papale is in his little empty house, and it had all become too much for him emotionally. He started bashing and kicking the walls and the only piece of furniture he had to throw was the telephone. After he’d blown off some steam, he sits on the floor against the wall in the corner of the empty room.

Instinctively, as an avid movie watcher, I knew this was his crisis point otherwise known as a turning point. He had no wife, no job, no means of paying his bills other than his few shifts at the pub – he was literally backed into a corner. He only had one option – to try out for the football team.

How many times have you experienced being backed into a corner? That corner is where everything we have tried has failed. Every direction we thought we were taking has closed. There’s nothing to turn to, to the left or the right and we can’t go back. We’re backed into a corner. The only direction we have to look at is the one right in front of us, which is the only way out of that corner.

It looks different for every person of-course, according to what direction it is that God has been trying to get us to go all along. For Papale, the only opportunity left for him was the one staring him in the face. It was the one that seemed the most ridiculous.  It’s the one in which he would have no self-belief.

Are you backed into a corner right now? Is there only one direction left that you had thought was ridiculous?

I firmly believe that God backs us into corners. We can try and be all about 101 different things. But when God is on our case to get us on board with His will for our lives, He’ll do whatever it takes to get us there. That means He’ll permit a lot of things at different times. He’ll permit hard times, failure, suffering, frustration, marriage breakdowns, sickness, bankruptcy, prison, homelessness, isolation, obscurity. He’ll do and let happen whatever needs to happen.

But you know what? The thing with God is that He’s always for us who are His, and never against us. Poor Papale’s wife was against him, she told him he’d never amount to anything.

Well, God knows who we really are. He knows that in His Son, we are something very special for God. He’s just gotta get us to that place where we see who we are in Christ, and we see what God is really about, what He’s really interested in and then get on board with that. And then it’s the most incredible existence we could ever have imagined.

So what is God really interested in? What is it that He wants us to get on board with? His will of-course.

And he made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfilment – to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ. Eph 1:9,10.

The Headship of Christ – that’s the will of God. Of-course, that’s easy to say or write. But goodness me, what it entails!?! I could never comprehend all the applications and to the extent that Christ’s Headship reaches – must reach – will reach.  All things in heaven and on earth?! That’s a lot of things!

What about my things? What about your things?

That corner, or crisis, is what took Papale out of his comfort zone, out of his focus on his own self and his own failings, out of his ‘small’ thinking, and got him headed in the right direction.

Could that corner or crisis that you’re in right now, be God’s sovereignty in your life, to get you out of your focus on yourself, your failings, and out of your ‘small’ thinking and into His direction, even if you don’t understand it or you’ve been avoiding it or if it seems impossible or even too much to ask?  Could it be you’ve been going down all the wrong tracks and God has a certain track that He will not let you miss out on even if He has to shut everything else off?

If you’re backed into the corner at the moment, can I encourage you to really ask God what direction it is that is on His heart. Remember, our lives as believers, do not belong to us any longer, contrary to what many believers would think. There’s not one part of our life that belongs to us anymore. We went through the waters of baptism, the outward display of the reality of our having died with Christ and now living only in Him and out of His life.

Corners are crisis. Crisis are turning points. God is for us and not against us. God is faithful. God does the miraculous. God grants the desires of our hearts. God is trustworthy. Nothing is impossible with God. Seek first the kingdom of God and then He will take care of the rest.

 

 

 

The Stone of Destiny

This is a wonderful little movie which is based on true events concerning the history of Scotland and England. So because this is based on historical events, this post is not a spoiler alert and I would thoroughly recommend watching the movie. It is available on Netflix and youtube.

Basically, in the 1200’s Scotland had a large and heavy stone they used in or as a coronation chair for Scotland’s monarchs. There are legends surrounding the origin of the stone but whatever it’s origin, it held great political significance to the Scots and was symbolic of their being an independent country.

According to Wikipedia;

In 1296, the stone was captured by Edward I as spoils of war and taken to Westminster Abbey, where it was fitted into a wooden chair—known as King Edward’s Chair—on which most subsequent English sovereigns have been crowned. Edward I sought to claim his status as the “Lord Paramount” of Scotland, with the right to oversee its King.[11]

In 1950, a group of four students from Scotland stole the stone from Westminster Abbey and returned it to Scotland.  The movie ‘Stone of Destiny’ is based on this story.

As seen in the film, Scotland appears to have lost it’s sense of identity and has become apathetic in any political move toward standing alone as her own country. A political activist among the students finds he is unable to shake the call to capture the stone and return it to Scotland as a means of restoring the sense of identity to its people in order to rally them towards coming out from under English rule.

After the capture of the stone hits the headlines, all of Scotland rejoices.  There is dancing and cheering in the streets and a sense of national pride returns. The student decide to rest the stone on the grounds of Arbroath Abbey in safe keeping of the Church of Scotland.

With all the publicity and uproar in London, the students realise the stone will be seized by London authorities and they will be arrested. So facing the inevitable, they wait there on the grounds with the Stone of Destiny, preparing for the imminent arrival of the London Police.  In this scene, the main character looks to his fellow-students and with a big smile on his face, confidently says “Well, we might as well go down in flames”.  This is where a magnificent picture of the Lord is unveiled.

Christ is our Stone of Destiny. He’s the Cornerstone. He is described as a stumbling block to many. He is the stone that was rejected. Yet He is our Foundational Stone. He is the Rock of our Salvation. He is the Stone of our identity.

This Stone of Destiny of Scotland had been stolen/taken captive and given to the man-made church to be used as a footnote to their traditions and religious ceremonies – just as Christ has been smothered by the religious institutions of man and become merely a footnote, a watered-down gospel, something hidden under the pomp and ceremony of religious practises.

But these students were like the remnant of God’s people. Just ordinary folk, despised, rejected, of no significance. God has a remnant, a people of Nehemiah’s, who are rebuilding the wall. God the Father is  returning the Stone, the Rock, the Christ, and Foundation and Cornerstone, the Capstone to His rightful place amongst His people. And God is building again with living stones!  And oh! How this nation of believers, the Church, the Bride, rejoices when Christ our Rock is elevated to His rightful place! This nation of believers is given back her true identity, to remember and know who she truly is – holy, blameless, having been given all spiritual blessings in Christ, forgiven, redeemed, reconciled, justified – when Christ is given His rightful place the Church sees her reflection in Him and is strengthened to be who she is made to be in His image.

These students rallied together, not as one independent lone-ranger but all depending on one another as we in the body of Christ are dependent upon one another to display Christ to the world for who He truly is. They were prepared to be persecuted for the sake of returning the stone to it’s rightful place.

As the London Police came running across the lawn toward them, they stood there in confidence and boldness, yet meek and un-offensive. They were proud to have restored the stone to it’s rightful place and were prepared to accept the ramifications – loss of freedom, loss of reputation, loss of life as they’d known it.

So we, as believers called to rebuild the wall, to return to the original Way as it is called in the gospels and the book of Acts, are called to risk all for Christ’s sake, not loving our lives even unto death. And like Christ, who for the joy set before Him endured all His sufferings and even death on a cross, we too can rejoice in God’s wonderful plan and purpose of all time, to have Christ as Head, central and pre-eminent. Only then can we the church function in our true identity as Christ’s body, His Bride, God’s children, His family, God’s house.

Having then come out from under the ruler of this world and the spirit of this world, we see who we really are.  Though the foreign authorities of the air may fuss about and try to contain us, we will never lose our Identity and we are sure of our Destiny.

Christ is our Stone of Destiny!

 

 

Seeing Christ in the movie “Far From The Madding Crowd”

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Warning: Spoiler Alert! Reading this post will totally give the story away.

The film “Far From The Madding Crowd”is based on a novel by Thomas Hardy, set in Victorian England. It is full of shadows and types of Christ. Here’s some of what I saw…

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

The story is that of a shepherd named Mr. Gabriel Oak and his love interest, a strong, independent woman named Miss. Bathsheba Everdene. Even the names are amazing reflections. We see the leading man as a Shepherd, as is our leading man, Jesus. We know that the archangel Gabriel often appears as the Messenger from God on very crucial matters such as revealing the coming Messiah to Mary and Joseph.

Bathsheba in the Old Testament was very beautiful in the eyes of King David, who was a shadow and type of Christ. The name Bathsheba is made up of two words in its original text.  Firstly ‘daughter’ and secondly ‘oath’.  So the name Bathsheba reflects us as the promised bride to Christ, with God as our Father.

THE ADAMIC NATURE OF HUMANITY

In the beginning of the story, Miss. Bathsheba Everdene works on a farm, neighbouring the sheep farm owned by Mr. Gabriel Oak. Miss. Everdene is a strong, independent woman who is driven by her own ambitions. She is a hard- working, free spirited woman, and is very attractive in the eyes of Mr. Oak.

This is much like us in our state without Christ. We are a stubborn and rebellious people, born into an independent spirit.  We see this originating in the Garden of Eden when Adam turns to independence from God rather than obedience to the will of God.  We have all inherited this independent nature in Adam yet we are dearly loved by God.

THE GOOD SHEPHERD & THE FREE GIFT OF SALVATION

Mr. Oak is a humble shepherd and a man of few words. He notices Miss. Everdene from afar and then visits one day with a gift – the gift of a lamb. At this meeting, he asks her to marry him, stating how he will provide for her.  Miss. Everdene, however flattered and perhaps slightly interested, rejects his offer, stating she is too independent and doesn’t want or need a husband. Mr. Oak accepts her rejection of his offer and returns to his farm.

Here is a beautiful picture of Jesus, our Good Shepherd, knowing us from afar, since before creation and coming to our home, this world, with the free gift of His own pure and blameless life, as seen in the gift of the lamb. We know Jesus is described as the Lamb of God, the Lamb that was slain for our transgressions.  By offering this little lamb to Miss. Everdene, we see also Mr. Oak as the picture of the Good Shepherd, revealing his nature to her.

In the gift of the lamb, he reveals a gentle, innocent and beautiful life. Jesus is always wanting us to know His character. He is always showing us who He is, by what has been made. His life for us is a free gift with a promise of eternal value – a holy matrimony indeed.

THE DRIVING NATURE OF RELIGION TO THE LORD’S PRECIOUS SHEEP

That night, Mr. Oak is woken by the sound of his young untamed sheepdog named Young George, barking as he rounds up the sheep in the darkness of the night, ultimately driving them to their death as he drives them all over a cliff. To Mr. Oak’s painful despair, he destroys the silly young dog and inspects his sheep which are all dead or dying. Following this tragic loss, he leaves his farm to go and find employment elsewhere, having nothing left.

This young sheepdog shows the nature of religion that is very much alive in many of God’s people. The tragedy of this scene depicted perfectly the horror of the Lord’s flock being driven by religion, to it’s death. Oh, the anguish of the Good Shepherd over His misled sheep!

JESUS THE GOOD SHEPHERD WAS SENT TO HIS OWN SHEEP BUT BECAUSE OF THEIR UNBELIEF HE WAS REVEALED ALSO TO HIS OTHER SHEEP, THE GENTILES (Romans 11:11-25)

Mr. Oak stumbles across a farm where he can potentially find employment as a shepherd and it turns out the farm has recently been taken over by none other than Miss. Everdene, who has inherited it from her recently deceased uncle. She employs him as her shepherd to take care of her sheep and he humbly takes the position and works with a spirit of excellence.  

At one point, all Miss. Everdene’s sheep have eaten a type of grass that has caused their bellies to bloat and Mr. Oak is the only one who can save them. He saves them by wounding them in the side (a type of death that signifies Christ’s death for His sheep when He was pierced in the side and the church being born at that very moment reflected in Eve being formed out of Adam’s side – wow!). After going through this death experience, the sheep are then made alive.

This is an incredible picture of the believer’s baptism. In baptism, we enter into Christ’s death in order to be raised in His resurrection. Just as Gabriel Oak was the only one who could perform this operation on the sheep, so is Jesus Himself the Resurrection and the Life!

THE ENEMY SEEKS TO ROB, KILL & DESTROY BUT JESUS IS THE GOOD SHEPHERD (John 10:10)

A suprise love interest appears in the story in the character of Sargent Frank Troy. After losing his true love, Fanny Robin, in a matter of confused communication, he defects from the army with his broken heart and bruised ego, and stumbles upon Miss. Everdene on her property one night, only to return again the next day and pursue her. Miss. Everdene is completely bewitched by him and his lusty power over her is evident, much to her peril.

Mr. Oak, foreseeing the type of impending trouble by falling for such a character, warns Bathsheba but she finds herself unable to deny him, much to the concern and hidden heart ache of Mr. Oak.  In an impetuous act, Bathsheba marries Frank. Inevitably, Frank turns out to be a terrible presence in her life, bleeding her dry of money through his drinking and gambling and turning to controlling and violent behaviour towards her, she as a dove in his harsh, cold and crooked hands.

Frank Troy reminded me of the spirit of this world with its lustful enticements, lies and deceptions. How often the Lord Jesus warns us through the Holy Spirit, of  impending  trouble. If only we would listen to Him and trust the steady and caring character of our Good Shepherd who is ever with us. 

THE SPIRIT OF THIS WORLD LEADS TO DEATH AND DESPISES THE CHURCH AS THE CHOSEN BRIDE AND EXPRESSION OF CHRIST (Revelation 12)

Upon the news that his lost love Robin Fanny has died after giving birth to his baby, Frank turns to his wife Bathsheba and states that as dead as Robin is, he will always love her more than he does Bathsheba, and that Bathsheba is nothing to him.

Subsequently, Frank attempts to drown himself, leaving Bathsheba a widow. She then contemplates accepting the marriage proposal of another suitor, Mr. Boldwood, in order to secure her bleak future because of the many losses she has suffered. 

Mr. Boldwood is an older and wealthy chap whose property is adjacent to hers. Proposing to her earlier in the film, Bathsheba had declined, once again preferring her independence.  Mr. Boldwood however, remains in the picture as a dear friend and although she has not promised anything, there is a hint of possibility between the two until Frank’s entry.

To Bathsheba’s shock, Frank returns, having being rescued from the sea and relishing in his being presumed dead. He abruptly demands money from Bathsheba to survive. Mr. Boldwood catches him strong-arming her and shoots him in the chest, killing him. Mr. Boldwood is then imprisoned. It is through Mr. Boldwood’s act of chivalry and love, that Frank is defeated and Bathsheba is set free from his grip.

Mr. Boldwood’s character reminded me of Christ, in that he gave his life for Bathsheba, even without anything in return.  This is an extravagant love and reflects the extravagant love of God for us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

WE LOVE BECAUSE HE FIRST LOVED US (1 John 4:19)

Finally, Gabriel as Bathsheba now calls him, makes plans to set sail to another land, leaving her to her independence.  Bathsheba, runs after him, begging him not to leave her. He however, is insistent that he must move on. There is a moment of tension when Bathsheba is seen to weigh up her life without him and confesses her affections for him at-last, clearly deciding she cannot have a future without him. Ultimately, Gabriel embraces her with a longing kiss and the two head back to her farm, arm in arm.    

God is like this. He has loved us with an everlasting love, just like Gabriel for Bathsheba. He sent His Son Jesus, the Good Shepherd, to express His love for us and promises us a love-covenant for all eternity. Jesus stands at the door of our hearts and knocks. He says whoever will open it, He and His Father will come and make their home within our hearts.

Bathsheba had to come to a place of surrendering her independent spirit and as a result was given a personal revelation into the love and character of who Gabriel was. We too, must come to a point of repentance in turning from our independence from God and into a ‘seeing’ who this beautiful Christ is, and confess with our own mouths that He is Lord. He is only too delighted to then come and make His home with us.

Just like Mr. Oak waited for a long time for Miss. Everdene’s affections to be returned to him so he could take her as his wife, Jesus is waiting for His bride to be ready so He can take her home to be with Him.

Church, brother, sister, we have a Good Shepherd who leads us beside still waters, who restores our souls, who leads us in the paths of righteousness for His sake. He makes us lie down in green pastures. His rod and staff protect and comfort us. Do you know your Good Shepherd today? Have you seen Him, do you know Him? Maybe you’ll watch this movie again after reading this post.  I pray you will see even more of Him!

Happy viewing 🙂

 

 

Christ our Ever-Rest

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Well, I went to see the movie “Everest” last week and in 3D. Wow. I really recommend the 3D version on the big screen.

It’s the true story of a team of hikers on their trek to the summit of Mount Everest. Pretty soon into the film, I began to see and hear the Lord in it and this progressed throughout the film.

For us believers, Christ is our summit. Like the summit of Mount Everest to these hikers, Christ is our ultimate, He is the glory and majesty of the mountain of God. There is nothing as glorious than to know Him, to stand with Him in the heavenly places, to be one with Him. As on that mountain, in Christ, we view the world like never before and our breath is taken away. Just as the individual hikers in this story were driven to reach the summit, we too are driven to know Him as our greatest reality.

And Christ is not only the summit but He is our Ever-Rest. Christ is the Eternal Rest of God that we enter into. He is the Sabbath of God. He is the Seventh Day. He is the completeness. In Him, it is finished. In Him, God has now ceased from His labours. Wow! What a mountain! What a summit!

The main crux of the story is about a team of individual climbers that come together under the supervision and expertise of an exploration group that climbers pay to help them fulfil their ultimate dream of reaching the summit. The group was headed up by a man named Rob. As the team met for the briefing in the beginning of the story, Rob pointed to a picture of the mountain. Pointing to a certain height which was lower than the summit, he said to them “Human beings simply aren’t meant to function at the cruising altitude of a 747. Our bodies will be literally dying”.

I instantly thought of us in our ‘trek’ into Christ our summit. Of-course we don’t ascend and reach greater heights as perhaps some of us in previous religious environments may have thought. We realise that Christ lives in us, He is not external to us. We as believers into Christ, are not like the Tibetan monks and those of similar persuasions who believe they are to attain to a certain level or height in their ‘spiritual’ journey. No, for us it is the ‘knowing Him more deeply’ that is our summit. As Paul said “That I might know Him”.

However, this knowing Him requires a sacrifice, a dying to our self-life. Our flesh has in fact, already been crucified on the cross with Christ, because God knows our flesh cannot withstand His glory. Our flesh cannot pass from this life into the next for our flesh (physical and soulical) is unregenerated but our spirit is alive in Christ. Now, having been crucified with Christ and raised with Him in His resurrected life, we are born again by the spirit and able to enter in.

Rob’s role was to brief all climbers prior to the climb, to prepare them in practical training, to go ahead of them by making sure safety elements were in place before they got there such as ropes, oxygen tanks and supplies, to encourage them and spur them on along the way, to guide where they place their feet and to keep them heading in the right direction against the risk of snow-blindness, to watch out for their physical and mental conditions on the climb, to send them back down to base camp for rest and medical attention if they were at too great a risk, and ultimately to get them to the top of the summit. He was with them every step of the way.

This guy reminded me of the Holy Spirit. Our counsellor, the Spirit of God that goes before us and prepares the way. The one who comforts us, prepares us, looks out for us, spurs us on and takes us deeper into Christ. The one whose hand is always on our shoulder, and who speaks words of encouragement into our hearts. The one who equips us for the journey into knowing Him. The one who leads us and points us to Christ, our summit, encouraging us always to keep our eyes fixed on the prize.  How beautiful.

Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead I press on toward the goal for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14 (NIV).

As the climbers reached higher in altitude, breathing became extremely difficult as the air thinned to a point of there being almost no oxygen at all. In a way, the oxygen tanks supplied for the journey up the steep slopes of Mount Everest, resemble the Spirit of God in us. It is only by His Spirit that we are able to survive the journey, to enter into the depths of knowing Christ. It is a spiritual life, not one lived out in the capacities of the flesh, human ambition or intellect. He is the air that we breathe and without Him we cannot go on.

The hike up the mountain was and always will be a fierce one. It is a stumbling block for many, and many do not survive the journey. It is a narrow and dangerous path and few will make it to the top.

 “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it”. Matthew 7:14 (NIV)

Christ was often described in scriptures as the stumbling block by which many would fall, because they look for something else, something more in line with their own faulty expectations of who the Messiah would and should be.

For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 1 Corinthians 1:22-24 (NIV)

But like Mount Everest, Christ is not predictable. As Rob states in the movie “the mountain has it’s own weather patterns”, so it is with Christ. His Kingdom is not of this world’s ‘weather patterns’. And so for many, it is a journey that seems to ask too much of them just as the rich young ruler unable to give up all his possessions to follow Jesus (see  Matthew 19:16-24). Christ, like the mountain, requires us to give our all, our very lives, as He Himself gave His life for us.

As you can imagine, the hikers climbed this mountain in extreme conditions of snow, sleet, high speed winds, descending black clouds filled with thunder and lightening, extreme below zero temperatures, incredibly narrow cliff ledges and on ridiculously steep slopes in high altitudes. I was not surprised that so many lost their lives.  At one point two of the climbers after a day’s climbing, speak to each other in their tent of the suffering and their acceptance and surrender to the fact of it, all for the glory of reaching the summit.

But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him … I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Philippians 3:7-11 (NIV).

When we read through the old testament, we read the lives of the prophets and those sent by God. In the New Testament we read the lives of the apostles and those called by God to follow Him. We see their lives are ones of great human loss and sacrifice, for the glory of knowing Him.  Of-course we read of Christ, the sacrificial lamb, the one who was slain for all mankind. We are told that no servant is greater than his master. So we come to understand that a life lived for the glory of knowing Christ, is also a life of suffering, trials and tribulations whilst on this earth. But we are also given exhortation in that our current sufferings cannot compare with the glory that awaits us.

…Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (NIV).

As already mentioned, Rob is a shadow and type of the Holy Spirit in many ways throughout this story. He is a constant source of strength and hope. However, he is also a shadow and type of Christ. He goes the extra mile for the sake of keeping one climber safe who loses his way and this ultimately costs Rob his life. Yet, He did not die before leaving new life as his pregnant wife later gave birth to a baby girl. Jesus Christ is our Good Shepherd. He goes after the one that is lost. He lays down His life for His friends. He gave His life up for all. But He did this in order that the Father would have offspring and His family would multiply and grow, increasing His expression on the earth through His body of believers.

We also see the body of Christ at work in this film. Rob does not choose to work as a lone wolf. Rob works as head of a team of many. As Christ is the Head of His Church, He has constrained Himself to His church and the Head is not separate from the body. The team of climbers was made up of experienced climbers, sherpas and amateurs. It was one team but many parts, and all functioned according to Rob’s direction.

So it is with the body of Christ.  One Head, one body.  One Spirit. One goal. One Purpose. One glory. One mountain. One Summit. Christ.

 

 

 

 

How I Saw God’s Love In “Catch Me If You Can”

Catch me if you can from google imagesThis is an amazingly true story of a young man in his late teens called Frank Abagnale Jnr (played by Leonardo De Caprio) and FBI agent Carl Hanratty (played by Tom Hanks).  The way I see it, it’s also the true story of the rebellious heart that is found in each one of us and a loving God who never gives up. Having learned wayward ways from his financially struggling father, Frank takes up a life of fraud, forgery and false identities to escape his painful realites of his parents’ divorce. In a bid to restore what financial loss was incurred by his family through his father’s actions, Frank sets out on an adventurous life, taking risk after risk, all the while dumbfounding the powers that be with his incredible forgery skills. The movie is titled “Catch Me If You Can” because of the cat-and-mouse game running throughout the story between Frank and Carl. Carl volunteers to chase down and bring in this young man who is essentially stealing millions of dollars from American banks through fraudulent cheques, parading as an airline pilot, a lawyer and a doctor. Even though Frank is continually on the run from Carl and the authorities, every Christmas Carl receives a call from Frank. It becomes evident to Carl, that Frank is lonely and Carl has in many ways become his only friend.  As the chase goes on, there appears to be a mutual respect and genuine liking of one another that grows. Although Frank is living a life of criminal activity, as a young man there is still a level of childhood innocence that seems to come through and for which Carl seems to care very much. So in some respects, Carl looks out for Frank’s safety and well being when he is in the hands of the French police. In the end Carl catches Frank and brings him to justice with a 12 year prison sentence, yet chooses to visit Carl during his prison time. Upon one visit Carl brings to Frank, one of the latest forged cheques that he has come across from another fraudulent source. He seeks Frank’s expertise in order to identify possible leads on who is forging the cheques. Recognising Frank’s incredible skill, he then introduces a superior FBI agent to Frank on another visit. Carl volunteers to act as Frank’s custodian and Frank becomes employed by the FBI to assist them in cracking down on fraud. Before the closing credits start rolling it is noted that Frank continues to work for the FBI in this capacity, earning hundreds of thousands of dollars per year and that he and Carl have remained very good friends. It is a truly remarkable story of redemption. Frank Abagnale Jnr is like us when we are lost in our sin before meeting Christ. Even though there may not have been evil intent in our hearts initially, we were drawn to sin, self and deception, even unwittingly. Before we knew it, we were caught up and made prisoner to sin and unable to get our way out of it. The further we ran, the more we lost, and the less control we had over our destiny. Carl Hanratty is like Christ. Christ is always ‘after us’. He is always there, following us, knowing our whereabouts, and looking out for us, calling us to righteousness, even as we continue in our sin and rebellion. Like Carl was always encouraging Frank to give up, Christ never tires of wanting to bring us into righteousness. Christ wants to restore our innocence and He knows it can only be done through Him. Frank had to give in, surrender, give up, admit defeat. It was only by doing this, that Carl could restore Frank into society as a respectable human being contributing to Carl’s cause of upholding the law. We are the same. It is only when we finally give ourselves up and over to Christ that our lives can make sense and we find purpose,  integrity, a future and a hope, awaiting us in Him. Frank was always running from Carl and yet had a longing to be his friend. At one point, he asked Carl to stop chasing him because he was obviously tired of running. We too, even though living in sin and rebellion from God, can have a sense that we actually need Him. We have an aching in our heart for relationship with this God who is always calling and drawing us to Him, even if we try to ignore it. Frank was safer and better off in the custody of Carl than having his own freedom. His own freedom was a threat to himself, he was unable to deliver himself from his past and he was unable to stop his wayward ways. By agreeing to be placed in Carl’s custody, Frank actually found freedom and blessing, which was undeserved. It is like this for us. When we accept the Lord Jesus as our Saviour, we become a bond-slave to Him. We understand that living life by our own independence is really a life of slavery to sin but a life surrendered to Christ, where He is now our Master and friend, is a life of abundance and liberty which we could never create for ourselves. And of-course, all of this is a marvellous story of grace – unmerited, undeserved favour. It is by grace we have been saved, through faith, and not that of ourselves, but it is a gift from God…lest we should boast…    

Lord of the Rings ‘Return of the King’

the-lord-of-the-rings-the-return-of-the-king-title-card

I’ve watched all the episodes of the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit series, a few times over and conclude there are many obvious shadows and types of Christ and the Church seen in each episode, too many to write about!  More than likely, many others have written about these and so I thought I would share just some of what I saw in the episode titled Return of the King.

In this episode, we see a ‘steward’, Denethor II, who sits himself on the throne of the kingdom of Gondor.  This steward is not the true king and is quite mad. The Gandalf character who might be a type and shadow of a prophet if you like, reminds Denethor II that he is only a steward and only on the throne until the True King returns.  `The steward

So naturally, I saw Denethor II as a type of Satan, having set himself up as authority and ruler, seeking the throne that only belongs to Christ Jesus. Of-course, we know that Satan is by no means on the throne, but that he only seeks to be! He is called the ‘prince of the power of the air’ (Ephesians 2:2). If there’s one thing that exposes the lie of Satan’s supposed rule, it is the declaration of the True King, as the True Authority above all names and all realms, whose name is Jesus!

We read in Ephesians 3:10 & 11,

His (God’s) intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord (NIV).

The name of the true king in the story is Aragorn. Aragorn has been on a long journey, from far away, in his quest to take his rightful place as king of Gondor. Interestingly, Aragorn is the son of a previous king, and the people are anxious for Aragorn’s return. Google Images

Jesus, of-course, is our true King and we, His people, await His return.  Just like the shadow and type of Aragorn, Jesus is humble, kind, and reflects the heart of His Father to His people. He has a servant heart and those who truly know Him, love Him and are honoured to serve Him as their King.

There is an impending final battle for Aragorn to take back the kingdom that is rightfully His and it is a battle against many enemy armies. Of-course we also read of the great and final battle in the book of Revelations, that will take place before God’s Kingdom is revealed in its glory, never to be lost again. Aragorn needs to gather more men to fight for him in this final battle. In the story, he awakens an army of the ‘dead’ to come and fight for him. Of-course, it is just a story and there’s a lot of detail about why this army exists the way it does. However, there is one scene in this part of the story that to me at least, was a reflection of Christ.

Google Imagles

Google Images

As Aragorn declares “I am not afraid of death” and heads boldly into the mountain where the dead army reside, I was reminded of Christ, and how Christ was not afraid to go into death for us, how He conquered death and is able to walk in and out of all realms! Christ faced and won the final battle for us, at the cross of Calvary where He defeated Satan and the power of sin and death.What a King! Our Lord Jesus is said to ‘fill the universe’!

And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with Himself (Ephesians 1:23);

He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe (Ephesians 4:10)

Finally, after defeating the enemies completely, the kingdom of Gondor is established under the reign of the true king Aragorn. There is a great ceremony where the Gandalf character crowns Aragorn in the presence of the people and there is a mighty cheer, and one feels there is a sense of oneness in the kingdom.

Google Images

Google Images

Proceeding down the aisle through the throngs of people, Aragorn comes face to face with his long lost beloved Arwen, to whom his heart had been true though separated for a great deal of time. Arwen was once an elf and immortal but in order to be able to marry Aragorn, a mortal man, she had voluntarily gone through a death experience in order to lose her immortality she once had as an elf. There is an assumption in the story that the two are betrothed and at this ceremony, Aragorn takes Arwen as his queen.

So, here we can see just a shadow and type of Jesus the Christ, the Anointed One of the Spirit of God and in the summing up of all things, being united with His Bride, which of-course is the Church.  We can also see that we the church, as represented in the shadow and type of Arwen, must also go through death as in the waters of baptism, and a daily dying to our self-life, just as Christ our Lord went through the full baptism of death and resurrection for us. This death and resurrection is a daily principle we as christians are called to live by. Of-course, the opposite of Arwen’s change from immortality to mortality, is true of us.  The scriptures say of us in 1 Corinthians 15:53, 54 that our mortality will put on immortality! We are already in fact, as we abide in Him, being changed to His likeness!

Google Images

And lastly, there are the characters of the little hobbits in the story, standing before Aragorn at his crowning ceremony as king. All the way through the story, the hobbits knew the king and his plans. They co-laboured with him, if you will. And just like them, we know our King Jesus and God has made known to us His plan and His heart, in His Son. Aragorn turns to the hobbits and calls them ‘friends’.  Although we can see the church in the shadow and type of all the people of the kingdom of Gondor bowing to their king, we can also see this aspect of the relationship we have with Jesus, in that He says in John 15:15;

I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you (NIV).

All hail King Jesus!

What else can you see of Christ in the series of the Lord of the Rings?

(All images taken from Google Images)

 

American Sniper movie – Forever changed – Ruined for Anything else

Taken from google images

Taken from google images

Dear brother or sister,

Firstly, let me say, in this post I am not condoning war, killing, murder, racism, other religions and I am not in any way glorifying war. I am not pro any country over another.

Having said that – American Sniper, what a movie. What a story. What a spectacle of the reality for the believer who has seen the Eternal Purpose of God and is ruined for anything else.

In a nutshell and be it right or wrong, the true story goes that Chris Kyle signed up to serve his country with a deep heart conviction that he was called to protect his fellow-Americans in this way. This led him to the war zones as a sniper where he served four Tours of Duty, saved many American soldiers’ lives, killed 160 enemies as a sniper, became a legend in the eyes of many of his countrymen and comrades and returned home a tormented man, damaged and changed, trying to re-connect with family and society. He was never the same again.

It is common knowledge that young men in particular, can be taken up with some fantasy of war and being solders, being convinced there is much glory and honour in serving country.  For the young soldier there can be a sense of calling, duty, pride, bravery, excitement, hope, destiny, purpose and meaning. There is generally an expectation of victory, glory, wonder, certainly comradery and even adventure and sight-seeing. However, one thing is true of any I have heard speak after the event of being at war, and that is, that except for the comradery, it was none of those things. And this is my point.

Those to whom the Lord has given a glimpse of His Eternal Purpose, can be likened to such a young person. We leave the safety and familiarity of the traditional or institutional church environment and habits and we walk into this ‘organic’ church life expecting some hard times and challenges for sure. You know, we’ve read the books, we’ve heard the testimonies, we know it’s not going to be easy. However, we have heard the call and we can’t help ourselves now. We are compelled to go!

We ‘enter in’ so to speak, this ‘organic’ body life, in order to seek this glorious experience of the Lord’s Bride expressing Christ in all His wonder and love, power and light – to fellowship with brothers and sisters who have also heard the call and who have given their lives up for Him – and we intend to walk this path together with that same sense of calling, duty, courage,  excitement, hope and purpose, believing we will see glory, wonder, adventure and experience a similar type of comradery.

What does such a one find? Just like the young soldier, this one finds the journey into organic life in Christ, is more about death than anything else!! – pain, suffering, loss – losing ones’ life (self-life) in the sense that he is no longer an individual accountable only to self but now moves as part of a corporate body, loses his individual status or spiritual reputation, risks his life (self-life) for the corporate body and its purpose (to let Jesus win!). This one risks his life all day every day in community life of the body.  He thought training was hard! – like Chris Kyle training to be a navy seal on the beaches, even that didn’t compare with what faced him. But now that he’s living it, he’s on the front, he’s on the ground, he’s functioning with other soldiers alongside him who are also functioning, he is getting used to death. Death is now becoming a way of life. So it is for those in true organic body-life, under the headship of Jesus Christ. It was the way of Jesus, why wouldn’t it be the way of His followers? 

If we’ve seen the Lord’s Eternal Purpose, we have no alternative but to keep dying and giving up our lives. We know it’s worth it. We have no life of our own, no personal status or value. We are members of a corporate body and live only for the purpose of that corporate body, which is to let Jesus win on every occasion so He is seen in the earth. Our personal lives have no individual value. We risk our lives every day and die new deaths every day for the sake of the purpose of this body. Even though we may live physically, still have jobs, families and regular every day commitments, we are ruined for this life (self-life). We are never going to be the same. We can’t return to who we used to be.   People might look at us from the outside and think we’re the same person we used to be but we are not. Not ever. And there is no going back.

The young soldier deployed for war doesn’t have a clue what he is signing up for.  When we enter into ‘organic’ church life, neither do we.

But!!  The glory! Yes! There is glory there! A far greater glory than what any young soldier might be hoping for. A richer glory than we have ever experienced before. The glory of the Lord Jesus truly freely functioning as the Head of His Church, that He is. It is the sweetest and most consuming wonderous glory that ever there can be here on earth – to see and know with our spiritual senses, the wonders of the Lord Jesus getting what He wants.

Having been given a glimpse of this purpose, a glimpse of this glory, what choice is there? It’s like when Simon Peter said to Jesus “Lord, to whom shall we go? For You hold the words of life”. 

We have no-where else to go Jesus. Just a glimpse of You in Your bride has ruined us for anything else.