The Thanksgiving Invitation

There is power in a heartfelt thank you! Recently Oceans hosted a group of Wycliffe Bible translators from Madagascar. They were some of the most gracious people I have ever met. Their English was limited, but one phrase they knew very well was “thank you!”

Greeting them each morning in the dining room I would ask how they slept. With big smiles they would reply, “Good, good! Thank you!” And when I inquired about Thobeka’s breakfast of eggs, bacon or flapjacks, they would give the same response. Over the next several days here in South Africa we definitely stretched their taste buds, as in Madagascar a bowl of rice is main food for each and every meal.

One morning before eating the group burst forth in a song of praise and filled the dining room with a heavenly peace, what a way great way to start the day!

I would say a spirit of thankfulness and the main food of turkey seems to be the focus of the upcoming American holiday. As a pastor back in the US I always loved the Thanksgiving service. God’s children both young and old often shared testimonies. Theses testimonies shifted the atmosphere as grateful hearts gave praise to a gracious Father. I would leave those services filled up, even before feasting on turkey.

In Psalm 100 we are given an invitation by the Holy Spirit to join in a Thanksgiving Celebration like no other. And the only requirement for you to enter into this festive celebration is this:

“You can pass through His open gates (doorway) with the password of praise. Come right into His presence with thanksgiving. Come bring your thank offering to Him and affectionately bless His beautiful name!” (Ps. 100:4 TPL).

I love that “praise” AND “thanksgiving” are the “password” into the presence of our precious Savior God. Making our focus to lift up thanksgiving to the One who has given us abundant life, is a prelude to what we will experience for eternity when we enter heavens realm.

For when we declare as the Psalmist did:

“Yahweh is always good and ready to receive you. He’s so loving that it will amaze you – so kind that it will astound you! And He is famous for His faithfulness toward all. Everyone knows our God can be trusted, for He keeps His promises to every generation,” (Psalm 100:5 TPT)

We feast on His soul satisfying presence.

My Madagascar friends’ spirit of Thankfulness was a direct invitation for me to join them in a heavenly Thanksgiving feast to “taste and see that the LORD is good!”

May you invite others into the Father’s presence through your spirit of praise and thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anointed to Love

The sun had set in Fish Hoek and Patty and I were just finishing dinner when there was a knock on our flat door. It was Sunny, a 14-year-old young lady, who resides on the Retreat Centre campus with her mom Thobeka-who is part of the Oceans Team. Sunny asked if we had time to talk. You could tell she was was visibly shaken and her eyes were watery from crying.

We will never forget that night of May 26, 2020 when Sunny shared, “I think I heard the voice of God tell me He loves me!” Due to Covid lockdown Sunny was exercising on campus when she was startled by the voice and the love of God that filled her heart overflowing with a “joy unspeakable and full of glory.”

As we talked through this heavenly encounter I shared how the Holy Spirit supernaturally breaks through at times to anoint His children with the Father’s love, a gift that grants a deep, deep assurance that we are His beloved children. Often this Anointed Assurance is given as a preparation for a work the Father has preordained.

1 John 4 reiterates this truth:

“And He has given His Spirit within us so that we can have the assurance that He lives in us and that we live in Him,” (vs. 13).

The Holy Spirit’s work highlights the Father’s love through the gift of His Son Jesus. He makes this “perfect love” (vs. 18) become real within us. He brings the Divine Trinity into our hearts and seals it with this unexplainable love.

Sunny’s father passed away when she was six years old and Thobeka and their church family has done an amazing job disciplining her and from a young age Sunny has believed in Jesus as her Savior. Yet, on May 26, 2020 the Holy Spirit anointed and sealed her in a powerful and unforgettable way.

Fast-forward to October 2022 when Oceans board and staff were gathered for a retreat in Colorado when a phone call from South Africa came through it was Sunny. She wanted to share the news that she was elected “Head Student” or we would say President of the student body, of Fish Hoek High School. Everyone there had met Sunny and all joined in celebrating this amazing honor.

Celebrating with Sunny & Thobeka

This young lady, who simply went about living her life for Christ, and never sought to promote herself, was voted in by over 1000 students to this prestigious position. Another amazing fact is that she is the first black student in the history of Fish Hoek High to be Head Student.

The last few years as Sunny attended high school, Heaven’s love has been a river flowing through her to classmates, teammates, and teachers. Sunny is an example of the work of the Holy Spirit, who sealed her heart with the assurance of the Father’s love to bring His love to others.

The road will not be easy for her as the school has been facing many spiritual attacks and powerful forces have come in to bring division. Yet we know the Holy Spirit has sealed her with His love for such a time as this.

May this story encourage you and give you hope that God’s “perfect love” found in 1 John 4 is what we need and the world needs to heal our deep wounds. One person, filled with the “perfect love” from the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit can be a conduit of His love to a thirsty world.

Please pray for Sunny and the student leadership team, which many are Christian, that God would protect them and use them to bring His love into hurting places.

And thank you Oceans family for helping invest in Sunny, through your love, prayers, and financial support which has helped with her and other students education fees.

Will you Dance with Us?

I have to confess I like to dance. It may not be pretty, and it sure isn’t graceful but there is something liberating about it. After a few hours of socializing at my son and daughter in-laws wedding I finally made it to the dance floor with the whole family and it was pure joy. We laughed at one another’s moves, bounced around to the rhythmic beats, and celebrated the gift of marriage.

I’m convinced dancing it part of our DNA. One of the reason I love Africa so much is the freedom so many have in worship to express their love to God through dance. And I believe one of the best ways to contemplate the Trinity is to see it as a dance between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

There is a continual pouring out of love between the 3 persons, each giving praise and pouring out affection to the others who make up the united Godhead. Before the beginning of time this dance of “perfect love” twirled joyfully in eternity. From this dance-creation was formed and the crown of creation, man and woman were invited into the dance.

We all know what happened when Adam and Eve chose to dance alone, apart from the perfect love of God. Instead of dancing in the freedom of His love we became slaves to fear and were ruled by our insecurities. We forgot how to dance. But as noted in the previous blogs discussing 1 John 4, each of us has been called back to the dance of “perfect love” (vs. 18).

Our Good Father has continued to pursue us and invites us back to “The Dance” through His Son Jesus. Jesus entered into our dark prison cell and took on the punishment of our sin of rejecting God’s love and opened up the door to once again summons us to the dance:

“This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (vs. 9-10)

I love the picture in Scripture of the Son being the bridegroom and we are called the bride. Jesus lays down His life for us at the cross in order to put on us His perfection depicted at a spotless wedding gown. As we receive this “robe of righteousness,” by faith we are invited into the wedding dance of the Trinity for all eternity (John 3:29- 36, Eph. 5:22-33, Rev. 19:1-10).

How our world needs this message of the dance today. All the anger and rage flowing out of hearts today shows we have chosen to dance alone in a prison of fear. The Father sent His only Son to show us how to get back to the dance floor where “perfect love cast out all fear,” (vs. 18).

You can tell those who have joined the dance of the Trinity by the overflow of love in their hearts for others.

“No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us,” (vs. 12).

Jesus, the second person of the Trinity is our invitation by the Father to join the dance. Yes, it can seem scary to get out of your sit and on to the dance floor but once you take His hand and you join the dance of “perfect love” you will never want to leave the dance floor.

I hope you’ll dance!

Fathered by God

I got back to our flat at Oceans Retreat Centre in a daze after a sleepless flight from the US. It was strange coming back without Patty as we agreed to have her stay a few weeks longer to get some family and grandma time in. But as I turned on the lights I was greeted with gifts and cards hidden all over the room by her.

As we talked the next day she asked if I found the one under the pillow? “No,” I said and quickly looked. There I found my favorite picture, I was so tired I had no idea I was sleeping on it. But what a great reminder it was that I’m never alone, I have been given a “Perfect Love” which begins with a Father’s love.

In last weeks blog I shared how I was given the blessed gift of dwelling and spending time in 1 John 4:7-21, as this was the text for my son and daughter in-law’s wedding. At the heart of these words is verse 18:

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.”

The source of perfect love always begins with the Father, the first person of the Trinity. The greatest longing in every soul is for a Father’s love. We were created to be Fathered by God, it runs through every strand of our DNA. Our enemy knows this and he will do everything in his power to keep us from knowing the love of a Perfect Father.

Just take a glance at our insecure world running in every direction searching for something, anything to fill our empty souls. We have listened over and over again to the lies that more stuff, more sex, a bigger salary or basking in the spotlight of success will make our deepest fears for significance go away. How would you say that has that worked out?

Only the Father’s perfect love can heal your wounded sin weary soul. In 1 John 4 we see the very definition of God is “love.”

“Those who are loved by God, let His love continually pour from you to one another, because God is love. Everyone who loves is fathered by God and experiences an intimate knowledge of Him…the light of God’s love shined within us when He sent His matchless Son into the world so that we might live through Him. This is love; He loved us before we loved Him,” (vs. 7-10 TPT).

Chew on those verses for a while, it was the Father who pursed you with His love, calling you back to His heart through the gift of His only Son.

Back in 1995 holding my 1-year-old son in my arms, I saw the picture Patty put under my pillow the other night. I will never forget that day as tears flooded down my face as I heard in my soul, “I’m your Daddy and you are my beloved son” and for the first time I understood Romans 8:15:

“For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear but your received the Spirit of sonship. And by Him we say “Abba Father.’”

Perfect Love that drives away all fear and insecurity comes from the heart of Father God. What I need, you need, and our world needs most is to experience the source of Perfect Love that flows from the Heart of God the Father.

That 1-year-old son who I held in my arms when I encountered the Father’s love is all grown up and married. But oh how thankful I am that my Heavenly Father spoke again on his wedding day text to remind me and hopefully you that you are Fathered by a loving God, who has made you His very own precious child.