Mail Order Christianity

Do you know when the first commercial mail order business started?  They printed catalogues and people could order goods and they would arrive via the mail. The first mail order business was started in January 1893!  Since then, mail order has developed and given way to way bigger and quicker providers of our wants and needs.

Today we have, Amazon, Loot, Takealot and more who are very efficient.  You can sometimes get your goods within 24 hours.

With COVID and lockdown, companies have been innovative and now you have the Checkers 60 app on your phone.  You can order groceries and household goods and get them delivered within sixty minutes.

We have become accustomed to seeking-and-finding.  With the internet and all these amazing Apps, we have an infinite dispenser of goods to meet our personal needs and wants. And very often we can have them delivered right to our door, and if we pay an extra fee they may arrive in a shorter space of time.  This is how we do business.

A question for us to consider: “Do my personal needs and wants reflect a similar mechanical and business approach to my relationship with God?”

My need or want, energizes my entitlement, my sense of faith becomes my payment for an immediate reaction from God.  And the as my intensity, need and faith increases it is like a double payment for a rushed delivery.  And my expectation is that as my intensity increases what I desire from God will arrive in a short space of time.

In our modern-day Takealot digital mind, I wonder if we think we have the right words, phrases, intentions to connect, procure and convince God to give us what we perceive we want or need?

Let me simply suggest to you that it does not work that way.  God is not a one arm bandit, that we say a prayer, give a tithe, go to church, feed a poor person and the pull the lever and our answered prayer pops out. As we delve into Psalm 23, we will see much of the ‘Already’ and the ‘Not Yet’ of the kingdom of God in David’s prayer.

This prayer speaks to us of provision, rest, refreshing, direction, breaking fear, comfort, anointing, blessing and salvation!  But do we read it with our Takealot mail order Christian lenses or our kingdom lenses?

David begins his prayer speaking to us of provision. “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing” (Psalm 23:1). The Amplified Bible puts it this way: THE LORD is my Shepherd [to feed, guide, and shield me], I shall not lack.  Why do we have a Shepherd?  To feed us, to guide us, and to shield us. If we need to be shielded it means that we need protection.  Why do sheep need a shepherd?  To protect them from the predators, wolves, bears and lions.

Let me say use a sports metaphor; When you are playing in the game of life, there is an opposing team playing against you.  The good news is that you are on the winning side.

If we put on our Takealot Christianity mail order understanding that God is our infinite dispenser of goods to meet our personal needs and wants when we read this scripture.  All we see is that part that says, “I will lack nothing” Come on Jesus! Yes please!  I do not want to press into the reason I need a Shepherd.

Jesus said, “Seek first…”  The Greek words are  zēteō prōtos;

It is not just seek, like I’m looking for my keys, the meaning is much deeper. Zēteō; is to seek: —deliberating, demanding, inquiring, looking, made efforts, searching, seek after, striving trying, kept trying to obtain.[1] And the word first, prōtos; —before anything else, first of all, of first importance, the first one, first thing, foremost [2] We seek Jesus first and His kingdom first an foremost, as Eugene Pedersen’s paraphrase of scripture the Message put it: Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don't worry about missing out. You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. (Mat 6:33)

David goes on and speaks of rest.  He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, (Psalm 23:2) If we read it simply with our modern-day-digital Takealot Christian mind of mail order we believe we will be stting on a beach in Mauritius drinking something out of a coconut waiting to get to heaven?

Again, we read this and think, oh yes, I can rest.  But Rest from what?  Work, illness, surgery…

And did you see it? The Shepherd, MAKES ME…  Sometimes for our own good we are made to lie down.  Do you know that if a sheep kept wondering away from the flock the shepherd would break its leg.  Bind it up and carry it with him until it learnt to stay with the flock for its own safety. 

You want rest?  You have a part to play… It is not simply a Christian Takealot mail order thing.  Jesus says to us:

Mat 11:28-30Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  (29)  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  (30)  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

We must come to Him; we must take His yoke… The word yoke is two words in the Greek. Hē, zugos; and the meaning is much deeper than we think.  It means that we take up all Jesus calls us to, His case, cause, circumstance, companions, condition, experience and followers and we pair with them.

David goes on and speaks of refreshing, He refreshes my soul.” (Psalm 23:3) And we all need refreshing, don’t we?  I know I most certainly do.  It has been a long road.  This COVID thing, people getting sick and some tragically dying.  With lockdown there is nowhere to hide for people and the realities and frailties of their lives, relationships and work is being exposed.  Personally, having two surgeries close together, crutches, pain, medication.  It wears a person down and I need refreshing.  Are you perhaps in need of some refreshing?

With our Takealot Christian mail order mind-set we think, “Come on Jesus, I know you refresh my soul, as Nike says, Just Do It Already”  

However, Peter says this to us in Act 3:19 “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,”

We have our part to play, we must repent, and again the Greek word there is not simply saying I’m sorry.  The word is metanoeō; and it meant to change one’s mind or purpose.  It is to make a one hundred and eighty degree turnaround with your life.

David continues and speaks of direction, “He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.” (Psalm 23:3). We need His direction, it is so easy to stray onto the wrong path, walk through the wrong door.  But if we stay focused on Jesus, He will guide us in the way we should go.

Again, we see the tensions of the kingdom and scripture.  We want the Lords direction when we are going the way we want to go.  What happens if He leads you down a path that you do not want to go down? This is when we must heed Solomons words, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; (6) in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Pro 3:5-6)

The Lord breaks our fears when we are in the darkest places in our lives, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; (Psalm 23:4) He breaks fear in our lives. Even when you are in the Valley, He is with you.  That means you still must go through the valley.  With your modern-day-digital mind of Takealot mail order Christianity in place, you pray and expect deliverance from the valley. In my experience, very often He does not save you from or out of the valley, He saves you through it.  That is what this scripture is saying, even though I walk through the valley, you are with me.

If Jesus simply delivers you from the valley when you pray why would Peter say to us:  Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.  (7)  Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.  (8)  Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  (9)  Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. (1Peter 5:6-9)

David gives us assurance that He will comfort us who mourn, “your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)  Even Jesus Himself says we will mourn and be comforted, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4).  We must understand that, Jesus will bring us comfort, but it also means you are going to have something to mourn about…

Then we go onto anointing. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. (Psalm 23:5)  You anoint my head and my cup overflows! Yes please!  Come on Jesus bring on that anointing!

What about what David says just before this?  You mean I will have enemies?  Um, yes you will.  If you believe in Jesus and stand on what He says, you will have enemies. If it is all anointing and cups overflowing when you come to Jesus why would the Lord say, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go." (Josh 1:9)

Its not all about anointing, there will be enemies and you will need to be strong and courageous!

However, there is blessing on the Lord, as we continue in this prayer of David, “Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,” (Psalm 23:6) And yes, we have blessing being children of God, His goodness and love are unfailing and unending.  And we need that goodness and love, if we didn’t why would the Apostle Paul pray for us in this way? I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, (17) so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, (18) may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, (19) and to know this love that surpasses knowledge--that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.  (20)  Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, (21) to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Eph 3:16-21)

There is blessing but it does not negate that you will go through difficulties, but in Christ Jesus our salvation is secure because as David says, “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23:6) Our salvation is secure in Jesus.  However it does not negate the fact that we live in a fallen world and will still go through troubles.  Paul writes to us and says, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,  (39)  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all (fallen ACP) creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 8:38-39) What He is saying is that while we face death, demons, powers, and all sort of things in fallen creation, nothing can separate us from God’s love in Jesus.

As I close off could I encourage you to take off your Christian Takealot mail order lenses and prayerfully read this prayer once again with your kingdom lenses.  As you do, may His kingdom come and His will be done in your life.

Psalm 23 - A psalm of David.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
    he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,[a]
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.

 

[1] Thomas, R. L. (1998). New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek dictionaries: updated edition. Anaheim: Foundation Publications, Inc.

[2] Thomas, R. L. (1998). New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek dictionaries: updated edition. Anaheim: Foundation Publications, Inc.

A Call To Fast And I Don’t Mean Be High-Speed - “Our journey to Pascha”

We find ourselves living in tumultuous times, don’t we?  And each of us has our own stories to live, I own valleys to go through and hopefully our own mountain tops to reach.  How do we get through this thing called life?  By holding onto Jesus, by seeking Him, by drawing near to him!  A great way to do this is too fast and pray.

Throughout the bible we see people praying and fasting.  They fast and pray as a response to pain and suffering, to difficulties, to tragedy, to death and to so much more.  We also see people praying and fasting as a time to seek Him, and to prepare themselves both physically and spiritually. In these unprecedented times of COVID, lockdowns, economic upheaval, relational difficulties and so much more, is anything happening in your life that you may want to consider fasting and praying? 

I believe the Lord is calling us to join in with his Church to a time of fasting and prayer, this is traditionally called Lent.  Since I am Greek, I am going to call it “Our journey to Pascha”. Pascha comes from the Greek meaning Easter.  This time of fasting and prayer is our journey to Easter.

What do we fast? In a nutshell, anything.  Anything that you have daily that you give up so that when you would usually have it, you would be reminded of our three reasons to fast and pray.  To prepare your heart, to gain perspective and to seek Him.

To expand briefly on the three key reasons I feel we should pray and fast:

To prepare our hearts for Easter.

Easter is not some magical ceremony about the date, the traditions or anything apart from reminding us of the suffering, the crucifixion, the death and ultimately the resurrection of Jesus.  Think of it like communion, (I understand Easter is not a sacrament, this is simply a helpful way to think of it) Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me” We remember and celebrate Easter to remember and celebrate Jesus.

We should pray and fast to help us gain perspective on the difficult times we are living through.

We can have two things that cause us to fall into despair.  Either we get tunnel vision, and we believe we are the only ones struggling in these times.  Or we are impacted by the echo chamber which is social media instead of the Jesus of scripture. Both cause despair, we pray and fast to gain perspective.

Most importantly, we pray and fast to seek Him.

 I would like to call us to seek Him in this time of fasting and prayer.  Why? Well, who else knows all, who else is the beginning and the end, who else is all powerful, who else is able, who else is the provider, the peacemaker, the healer, the comforter, the encourager, the protector, the all-powerful one?  He is the one who will never let you down, will always be there and will love you no matter what.

We seek protection, provision, comfort etc. but none of it is to be found in programs, books or on Google.  It is to be found in a person, and that person is Jesus.  Jesus is the provision, peace, comfort, encouragement, protection producer. In this time of prayer and fasting let us seek Him.

I have drawn some scriptures together which I have paraphrased as a prayer letter from our Father to us as an encouragement to seek Him:

Father, I thirst for you, my whole being cries out for you, in a dry and gasping land where there is no water. I will look to You Lord and Your strength; I will seek Your face always. You, God, are my God, intently I pursue you; I will take delight in You Lord, and may You give me the desires of my heart. Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you. I will look to You Lord and Your strength; I will seek Your face always. I will seek the Lord while He may be found; I will call on him while He is near. I know that without faith it is impossible to please You Lord, because anyone who comes to You must believe that You exist and that You reward those who earnestly seek You. My Jesus says, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Therefore, I will seek the Lord, I will ask, and trust that He will answer me; That He may deliver me from all my fears. I know that if I come near to Him, He will come near to me. For this is what He says, “Seek me and live.”

(My paraphrase of Psalm 63:1, 1 Chronicles 16:11, Psalm 37:4, Psalm 9:10, Psalm 105:4, Isaiah 55:6, Hebrews 11:6, Matthew 7:7, Psalm 34:4, James 4:8, Amos 5:4)

Rather than wondering whether you should fast, ask why you would want to miss out on the Father’s reward.

 

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