If God were to look into your heart right now, what do you think He’d find?

funny thing about this post, only two of the pics I uploaded pulled through. No matter how many times I tried to upload the others failed. What’s that about?

In reading the dry text of Exodus 25 I came to the realization that God tells us what He wants, when He wants it, how He wants it – and he doesn’t compromise.
There’s no bargaining with His statutes, no negotiations, no compromise. This is a very difficult thing, a very heavy thing indeed.
God spelt out exactly, down to the last cubit, how he wanted His ark. In detail. He didn’t say, oh you know just a squareish thingy with handles and oh by the way you can cover it with gold if you happen to have any lying around. Gold, by the way, that He made provision for even before the Hebrews left Egypt. Think that was a stroke of luck?

Why do we think God would be so specific about an inanimate object and be less so about what He requires from us? We have seen God give commandments and precepts in the preceding chapters – again, very specific. My thinking is that this God isn’t about to let anything slide. This is not the kind of god to whom you can ‘explain’ your shortcomings. He’s not here for that, as modern-day lingo would put it. This is one big, scary God.

This is the same God who, knowing full well that you could never meet his standard, allowed for a blood sacrifice so that you could still stand before Him, and not only stand, but call him Abba while you’re there. To skip a lot of theology – OT sacrifices of animals foreshadowing Christ on the Cross- this God gave His Son that you might have eternal life. -But He is still who He is and He still doesn’t compromise. He still wants what He wants, in the way He wants it, when He wants it. In other words, He is still God and nothing you do or say to justify your disobedience will move Him.

– but he looks at the heart

I hear you exclaim. Yes indeed He does, and you know as well as I do that your heart is deceitful above all else.

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For example: you know deep down that you’re to dress modestly whatever that looks like and yet here you are, dolled-up to the nines with all your albeit lovely bits either hanging out and tightly encased in some material that leaves little to the imagination. You lie say to yourself – it doesn’t matter what I wear because God looks at the heart. Uhm, what is in your heart exactly?

You know you want the thrill that comes from noting his eyes stray to your cleavage, or from walking away and then looking back over your shoulder to find him admiring your backside. You know you want, nay crave that attention, and you know it’s because you’ve got that ache deep inside you that you try, over and over and always unsuccessfully, to magic away with illicit sex, or improper relationships, or drugs, or drink, or the quest for yet another degree, or a higher salary -or whatever your poison is. That is what is in your heart, and that is what motivates your actions. I see you.

Am I saying it’s wrong to want to be admired, to want to look good, attractive even? Honestly this issue of what is appropriate dress and even if there is such a thing as appropriate dress is too long to be dealt with today and isn’t even the point of this post.

I know you got lost there, keep up now:
The point I’m making is this: just because you justify your actions by saying God looks at the heart knowing full well that the last thing you want is for God to really look at your heart, doesn’t make your actions justifiable before God and it doesn’t mean God understands. What God understands is obedience and you availing yourself of the Grace that is given to you, not you deliberately and knowingly sinning, talkin’ bout ‘God understands my weaknesses’…
Come on now, stop with that mess.
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I’m talking to the girl in the mirror…

Things that stood out for me in today’s reading of Exodus:
Being a foreigner where I live, the verses regarding treatment of foreigners of course stood out to me (Exodus 22:21-24): South Africa has high crime levels, and high rates of single parenthood – many women are widowed by death and by the justice system, and many many children are being raised by single mothers. I found myself wondering if this isn’t a judgment in part for how the nation treats foreigners, the recent (and not so recent) xenophobic and criminal attacks being topical.
I wondered how far into time the benefits and curses laid out in the old testament reach – and then God convicted me: if I think S.A’s problems are due even partly to ill treatment of sojourners, how much of my struggle is because of my own actions that directly contradict old testament teaching?  How’s that for another reminder that I need to stay in my lane?

Regarding a nation’s treatment of foreigners and the conduct of sojourners in foreign lands, i am reminded of these verses also in the old testament:

Jeremiah 29 is a letter to the exiles in Babylon and part of it reads thus: 

“Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce.Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.

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To apply or not to apply, that is the question, hmm?

How often do I intentionally pray for South Africa’s peace and prosperity? With reference to the rest of the passage, do i always make restitution when i borrow something and lose or damage it? Do I treat strangers, visitors, widows and orphans well?  How would i do if my actions were graded using the Exodus standard?

It became clear to me that it is easy to see the failings in others while ignoring the same in ourselves. It is easy to hold others to a higher standard of behavior than we hold for ourselves. The whole log vs speck thing? Jesus wasn’t playing. If I say I live ‘under Grace’ and these precepts no longer apply to me, then I must agree that that same Grace is extended to others.

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I can see clearly now the plank is gone...

I was humbled by today’s reading. I get what the new testament meant about the Law pointing out sin and I am once more reminded of just how great God’s love is that He gave His only son to die for my sin, and that He extends Grace to me, continuously. Thank you Father, thank you Jesus.

Stay In Your Lane: how God told me to do just that

If you open your Bible trusting God to speak to you, He does. And what He says, not to mention how he says it, just might surprise you.

I am often fascinated by how we all respond to Old Testament rules: some we ignore completely and others we blow out of all proportion. Before I started this journey I thought GMG would be much like a group study and I was looking forward to asking all kinds of questions and sharing knowledge with other believers. GMG of course is not like that, as it’s about fellowship while reading the Bible for yourself and communing with God via the SOAKs, rather than a theological, formal study of the Word. I’m glad for the format, for the accountability and the shares. It’s exactly what I needed without knowing I needed it.

I have always found the Old Testament (the Pentateuch in particular, I barely know the rest of the OT) to be difficult as it always made me wonder if I was really living according to God’s laws or if the NT had made me a lazy excuse-wielding believer, well-versed in “christianese”, using “grace” as an excuse to not follow the rules. Having never really prayerfully read through the OT for myself, except a few verses here and there in church, systematically reading through Exodus is a real blessing indeed and strangely I am receiving more insight into the Word and deepening my relationship with God in ways i never thought possible. This would likely not have happened in a bible-study class, where I would have been relying on someone else’s interpretation of Scripture. This is not to negate formal bible study and/or the use of commentaries, but merely to say it’s amazing what God can do if we truly trust Him. I trust Him to reveal His word to me, to give me insight and understanding and to lead me to commentaries if need be – and He always does just that.

So – Exodus 21.
The chapter opens with the rules for dealing with slaves and my immediate thought was – God condones slavery?!? *shock! horror!* I’d always understood Bible-sanctioned slavery to be practised only in cases of war prisoners and yet here God was talking specifically about Hebrew slaves! How could this be? Why would the Chosen people make slaves of their own? I needed help to understand this and so I turned to Google, after a quick prayer. Most of the commentaries I read glossed over the issue – not surprisingly, after all the Atlantic Slave Trade is still a very sensitive and political issue – and I was about to give up hope of finding a useful detailed commentary on the subject when it hit me: God cared about the well-being of slaves, period. He had rules for how they were to be treated, and frankly it’s none of my business. Yep, I said it.

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I could embark on a study of slavery or bond-servantship or whatever you want to call it, as it was practiced in that era and in the Bible, but beyond a kind of ‘general interest’ kind of exercise, would focusing on this, right now, serve me? Would it bring me closer to God? Would it give me insight into His plans for me? Was it something I felt God leading me to pursue? I had to answer no to all these questions.
God revealed to me, through my reading of Exodus 21 at around 3am, that the issue of slaves and slavery in the Bible, no matter how interesting it is to me personally, is not one I should expend energy on right now. In other words, the extremely clear message for me from Exodus 21 is: stay in your lane.

This is a very timely message for me. I’m still in ‘new year mode’- making some much needed changes and it’s a challenge to remember to be about my own business and let other people do them. I tend to be very controlling of the people around me and I’m learning the importance of not offering advice unless it’s asked for, and really just not butting into other people’s lives no matter how good my intentions. I need to stay in my lane for real. You know it’s about to get real when God Himself tells you mind your own business and not worry about things that are not your concern. You miss out on the good things in your own life because you’re so busy about someone else’s life, or too busy with things that shouldn’t even be a part of your life anymore.

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You see, every time you open your Bible trusting God to speak to you, He does. He just doesn’t always say what you expect in the way you expect.

I’d would also rather go the long way ’round than face war

Y’all know that verse, 1Corinthians 10:13? How easy it is to quote it at others when they are facing trials and temptations, but oh how quickly we forget to quote and apply it when we find ourselves facing the fiery darts of the evil one without our spiritual armour in place. Be honest now, did you put on your armour  this morning? Is your shield of faith firmly grasped in your arm, to defend against those blows from Satan? I confess, this week has been a difficult one for me, dealing with this that and the next thing; I really need to get my shield, and the other pieces of armour and STAND.

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but I digress…

…it is easy to tell others that they will not be tempted beyond what they can bear but believing that for ourselves in the midst of temptation, is a very different story isn’t it? I mean let’s face it, if we did believe that, and lived it, we really would be more than conquerors wouldn’t we? Yet we fall time and time again because how quickly we forget that the battle has already been won; all we have to do is STAND and this too shall pass. It’s quite funny if you think about it. Or maybe my sense of humour is just really quirky. Anyway.
I was reminded of first-corinthians-ten-thirteen this week as I continued my chapter-a-day study of Exodus. In Exodus 13:17, we see God leading the Hebrews the long way round so that their hearts would not be weakened by thought of war.

“Now it came about when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God did not lead them by the way of the land of the Philistines, even though it was near; for God said, ‘Lest the people change their minds when they see war, and they return to Egypt,'” (Exodus 13:17).

How awesome is God, I ask you? He didn’t put on the Hebrews more than they could bear, just as He will not put on us more than we can bear. Effectively what this means is that the only battles you will ever be faced with are ones in which victory is guaranteed. Yeah I said it: GUARANTEED. If you have to fight it, you will beat it. You got this! Now run tell dat!
If you’re lost right now give yourself a few minutes and that lightbulb will come on.
Got it? Good. Moving on…

So what am I saying? I’m saying you have to internalise first-corinthians-ten-thirteen because it is TRUTH, the kind of truth that will save you a lot of heartache if you believe it. How do you internalise it? By using it in conjunction with the armour previously mentioned. I of all people know that this is easier said than done – if you know anything about me you know that I haven’t always walked in victory and I’m betting that you haven’t always walked in victory either. That’s OK – Grace abounds and His strength is made perfect in our weakness. The point is, when your faith is weak – and those times will come, trust-  that’s when you should lean on Him even more. As I told a friend this week – God can handle you telling Him that you’re having a crisis of faith. He doesn’t want you to just struggle through that all by your lonesome, He wants you to BOLDLY approach His throne and tell him what you need. Isn’t that what Christ died for? So that we can have that exact kind of intimacy with God the Father, the Creator of all?

I refuse to wallow in weakness any longer, i refuse to allow crises of faith (and I do mean crises) stop me from reaching my full potential in God. The Word of God says I am more than a conqueror and it’s time I believe that and live like I believe that.

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It took reading Exodus 13:17 to get this epiphany – if I needed any confirmation that good morning girls is where I need to be right now, I have received it. Amen and amen.

…and just for laughs:

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Have a happy weekend ‘allbody’, walk in the Light!

What I learnt in the second week of Exodus

So here I am at the end of the second week of the good morning girls study of the book of Exodus.
This is what God has placed on my heart to share:
– if you listen God will speak, and if you trust, God will act.
I don’t know how it is for others, but for me the ‘voice of God’ isn’t a loud booming voice coming from the nearest tree or showerhead. I don’t so much hear the voice of God as feel it, and what it feels like is clarity of purpose. It feels like assurance that that thing I think I should do is the very thing I should do. It feels like conviction that this action needs to happen, these words need to be said, this email needs to be typed out and sent…see where I’m going with this?
              And God acting? How does God act, how does he move? He uses people. More so now in the age of Christ, than in any other time in history – at least as far as I know. God acts through us. He uses people who are sensitive to his prompting and obedient to him to fulfill His purposes. That’s how He acts: through people.
God uses us to bless others and uses others to bless us. Other people carry our miracles, just as we carry other people’s miracles. God acts, and he acts through other people.

What does all this have to do with Exodus I hear you ask?
Well, I’m not sure exactly, I’m typing as the Spirit moves me, you see but why do you think God told Pharaoh, through Moses, everything that He was going to do? I mean, He’s God, he could have just gone ahead and done it and somebody would have figured it out eventually and said, as they spit out flies, -wait one minute, this must be God. God warned Pharaoh, through Moses, and each plague stopped when Moses entreated God until Pharaoh acted up and the next plague rolled into town. So what does this mean? If the Old Testament is a kind of foreshadowing of the New Testament, then …. Get it? -God uses people to accomplish his will! Not because he has to but because that’s how He has chosen to operate.

What does this mean for you and me? It means our relationships matter. It means it matters who we choose to associate with. It matters who we spend our time with. It matters how we treat others. Are we a blessing to them or a stumbling block? Are we allowing God to use us to bless others? Are we open to the blessings that God has for us that come via our relationships? Food for though, hmm?

I tried to find images to go with this post and I failed. Here are some pictures because real blog posts have images from my end-of-year holiday instead.

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See the three giraffe?

Giraffes at sunset

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Elephant, almost close enough to touch

Elephant, almost close enough to touch

Have a happy weekend!

because i need some structure and accountability in my life

towards the end of last year i came across this website: Women Living Well and i was immediately hooked. i knew i’d have to do this. i don’t remember how exactly i ended up on that site but i believe God led me there and well, here i am.

briefly, Women Living Well is a site for women who want to walk closer with God and it provides a variety of resources to help them achieve that. i’m probably not conveying how great Courtney’s site is, but if you take a look around it you’ll know exactly what i mean.

i signed up for one of the ‘Good Morning Girls groups’ and i’ve already met some wonderful women who are as keen to deepen to their walk with the Lord, and as honest about their struggles as i am. after years of swinging between weak atheism and strong agnosticism, the time has come for me to stand up for what i believe in: a personal God, who cares what happens to me and wants a real relationship with me. do i have all the answers? no, of course not, but i have enough to know that right now at this point in my life, i’m in the right place.

i haven’t done very well with posting regularly but hopefully that is all going to change sooner than later. i’m looking forward to this journey and i expect miracles in 2015 and beyond!