Unbelievable!

Last Thursday was an unbelievable day. Yes in the midst of the US election chaos and the ongoing criss of Covid our God is busy storming the gates of hell. Thursday was a gift of heaven’s hope igniting my little faith and giving great anticipation for what’s ahead for Christ’s Kingdom.

The day started out as normal. I had asked a friend Johan to help me navigate buying tires here in South Africa. Johan founded an amazing ministry in a local township for at risk preschoolers and he will be teaming up with Oceans this year. I will share more about this in a future blog.

As we were leaving the tire store Johann asked me to drive to a ministry called the NET that works with homeless. The night before he had emailed and asked if it was ok for a man I will call Ricky to come to the Retreat Center to do some work. Johann had received some money from a friend and both he and his wife felt strongly they should ask Ricky to do the work.

Ricky had been in and out of prison as he was a part of one of the most violent gangs in the area. Several months ago I was asked to speak to a group from the NET and Ricky was there. When I shared about God being a loving Father as seen in the gift of Christ, he quickly blurted out, “Don’t believe it, I’m a Muslim!” Which put a damper on the rest of the talk.

Then on the day Oceans sponsored free coffee at Stag Ricky walked by while I was in the shop. He looked bad and I noticed his arm was bleeding, he was in a dark place. I offered him a coffee and asked if I could pray with him, to my surprise he said, “Please pastor!” My words and prayer seemed so inadequate as he said, “Thanks,” and walked away.

So here we are driving to the NET to see if Ricky may be there. I said to Johann, “I’m not sure we will find him there, but we can give it a shot.” Any guess to who was the first person we saw? (Oh Tim of little faith). As Johann went to tell the director we were there, Ricky ran over to me and the first words out of his mouth were, “Pastor you need to lead me to salvation in Jesus!” Can I say, “Shock!” During my extended pause he went on to say, how that morning he picked up the Bible he got in prison and was reading it. As he was pondering the Word and a devotional he was given the thought came to him, “I need to find someone to lead me to Christ today and start a new life!” I proceeded to tell him how this is a Divine set up, only God could have put this all together, he smiled and replied, “Yes pastor!”

Johann joined us and together we shared about the way of salvation and the journey of following Jesus. So since our beaches are closed due to Covid we got a pitcher of water and surrounded by some of his friends he confessed Jesus as His Lord and Savior and was baptized. As we welcomed him into the family of God, the tears flowed and joyful hugs followed, yes unbelievable!!!

I know these are crazy days, but I hope this story encourages you. Every time I think about it I shake my head in awe of the Sovereign ways of God. He is moving and in the business of doing the unbelievable.   Jesus declared that He would have victory over the darkest strong holds of the enemy and nothing can stop His Sovereign take over of the world.

“I will build my church and the gates of hell will not stand against it,” Mt. 16:18.

Hang on to His promises and believe the unbelievable!

 

 

Trust My Hand!

Some times you just need to hear some mighty miracle stories. We were sharing some these on Tuesday at our weekly prayer time when Andre’ and Nicole, a couple who reside at Oceans Retreat Center, shared an amazing story.

A few friends from church had invited Andre’ and Nicole to run or walk down a  nearby beautiful coastal road. As the two of them joined the walk group they were taking their time enjoying the breath-taking beauty. That’s when they noticed a woman standing on a cliff below them looking like she was getting ready to jump. They quickly rushed down to get as close as they could to her and asked if she was ok, she wasn’t, in fact she was getting ready to hurl her body off the cliff to the rocks below.

As much as she begged them to leave-they would not-they continued to talk with her, pray, and called a local paramedic service. When the paramedic’s arrived they descended on a rope to the edge of the cliff, grabbed her, and with Andre’s help returned this woman to safety. Andre’ had instinctively grabbed her hand and as he did so, he commented that, “he felt God’s presence and weeped with the lady.”

God’s Sovereign Hand was all over this miracle. Throughout our prayer time I  had a picture in my mind of Andre’s big strong hand holding the hand of this older woman who had lost all hope. What a description of Father God, who holds us and cries with us when things are at our darkest. I opened my Bible to Isaiah 41:13 and read it to the group:

“For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.”

What a Father! One who will never let His children go. After prayer Andre and I went to get some coffee at Stag’s I wanted to hear more. As I was buying the coffee Andre picked up one of the Bible verses which are available for customers to take and be blessed by as they sip their coffee.  And guess what the Bible verse was? Yep! Isaiah 41:13. What an amazing God!

But the story doesn’t end there. Nicole and Andre’ were able to visit the lady they helped.  Nicole bought some flowers and a card and included the scripture verse with Isaiah 41:13 in it and they headed to her house. When she opened the door she was overjoyed to see them as hope was returning. They listened to her story, prayed with her, and a new friendship was birthed.

In a time when the invisible hand of fear seems to be dragging many into darkness and despair, it is good for us to be reminded of the Father’s Hand that will never let go of His Children, even when hope can seem lost. Jesus, the visible Hand of the Father said:

“My Sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, no one can snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of My Father’s hand…” (John 10:28-29).

As we begin 2021, hear your Father say, “Trust my Hand, I won’t ever let go!”

 

 

 

 

“Do You Hear What The Children Are Saying?”

Blog is Mike Verkaik’s, Oceans Outreach Director, reflections on Christmas program performed by children living in local motel.

“Do you hear what these children are saying?” the teachers of the law asked him. “Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read, ” ’ from the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise’?” Matthew 21:16 (NIV)

“Jesus is born, the Savior of the world, Merry Christmas!” Those were the concluding words from our Christmas program at the motel, and our greeting to each of you during this time of celebration.

The past weeks have been difficult ones at the motel. Residents have been evicted, others arrested, a resident trapped in addiction was taken by ambulance to the hospital again and a mother/grandmother, who lived at the motel for almost 3 years, passed away.

However, last Sunday, from the struggles of life three children, portraying angels made the following proclamation, “Glory to God! Glory to God! Glory to God in the highest! “, As they acted out the Christmas story.

In the midst of addictions, deception, ramifications of Covid-19, brokenness and death comes His story, His hope, His plan of salvation from the mouths of children. They are the ones caught up in the wake of lives that are broken, defeated, struggling to break chains of the past, or trying to get through the difficult times we are living in.

“Mary, it’s you. You are going to have a baby, a little boy. You’ll call him Jesus. He is God’s own son, He’s the one, He’s the rescuer!” said Ann, playing Gabriel. Samantha responds, “It is too wonderful, how can it be true?” “Is anything too wonderful for God?” replied Ann. “Whatever God says I will do, I am God’s servant”, ended Samantha.

These were the beautiful words spoken by two young girls looking for hope, for understanding, and identity in a world that has shown them little of their King, their Savior and Lord. Yet, our Father ordains them to boldly proclaim the salvation story to their parents, fellow residents and peers. As they quoted the paraphrased account of Jesus’ birth from the gospel of Luke, I listened to the words, and watched the children overcome their nerves and fear.

Just an hour before the performance I found Sally, one of the angels shouting “Glory to God”, leaning against her dad saying through her tears, “I can’t do it, I don’t want to go up there.” But God sent Brianna, a young girl who loves Jesus, to comfort and encourage her, and she left the arms of her father to proclaim the glory of her Abba Father.

Samantha, who played Mary, a quiet girl, who struggles with speaking to adults or in front of people. How amazing to have her say, “Whatever God says I will do.” After the performance her proud dad put his arm around me, smiled as he said, “I can’t

believe she did that, maybe this is what she needs to give her the confidence to step out of her shell.”

Did you hear it? Did you sense it? Hope, redemption, encouragement and joy. God, coming down and speaking His truth through the voices and lives of children to a community, and a world that is experiencing some difficult times. A church being birthed, standing in the gap, calming fears and insecurities, and proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ.

*All pictures used with permission.

A Good Father & Free Coffee

 

We have two great son in-laws Nick and Hunter. They love the LORD, my daughters, biking, and coffee, what else could you ask for. In fact, Hunter loves coffee so much that he roasts his own beans and works at a coffee shop.

Recently Hunter shared how a church in their community paid for free coffee and goodies for a whole day to anyone who walked in the door and gave the name of the church. Now thats an amazing gift for this small coffee business as well as for the community!

As I was having my devotions the other morning and thinking about the Father’s generous gift of the Gospel, my mind went back to coffee. Yes, a cup of coffee was in my hand but also what happened at Legends Coffee shop in Aurora, Colorado.

I thought about how during lockdown Oceans was given a super natural gift from the Father, Stag coffee shop for $1. And how God clearly showed we need to give this over to Kegan Haakonsen, Oceans Retreat Center’s manger at the time and let him run with it. By the way Kegan has done a fantastic job in the midst of a difficult economy.

As I sipped my coffee that morning I sensed the Lord’s prompting Oceans to give a similar offer to the Fish Hoek community, a day of free coffee from Stag. I emailed the board, talked it over with Kegan and because of some generous gifts from donors it became a reality.

So on Monday all people had to do was come up to the counter and meet a smiling Kegan and say “A Good Father,” and Venus, the barista, would make up their favorite drink. Yes, I know it is just coffee, but maybe, just maybe this small gift might ignite a thought about the Father’s generous heart in giving His only beloved Son as free gift to all who call out in faith to receive Him.

I praise God for Flatirons church and how their generosity reached us in South Africa and gave us the opportunity to experience the joy of giving and blessing others with the Father’s generous love. The day was filled with divine appointments, tears, prayers, shock, and opportunities to tell the story of a Good Good Father and His Son. It was awesome watching others pay it forward as well.

Listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit this Christmas season. How is your Father calling you to demonstrate His  goodness and kindness to those in your sphere of influence. Go for it, it may be your best and most joyous Christmas ever!!!

“Whatever is good and perfect comes to us from the Father above, who created all heaven’s lights. Unlike them, He never changes or cast shifting shadows. In His goodness He chose to make us His own children by giving us His true word (Jesus). And we, out of all creation, became His choice possession,” (James 1:17-18).

 

 

Jerusalema Challenge!

I’ve got a challenge for you during this Christmas season! Patty and I were invited to be apart of the Christmas celebration at the Ocean View Care Center. Pastor Raymond, a volunteer at the Center, taught us the Jerusalema dance. This song and dance was birthed in South Africa, swept through Africa and all over the world even making its way to the US.

To be honest I’m a little behind the times on social media so I had to go home and look up this catchy song and dance challenge that went viral during the pandemic. The song is in Zulu and has its roots in a much older gospel hymn, “Jerusalem Ikhaya Lami (Jerusalem My Home.)” The hymn celebrates a longing for a New Jerusalem, a hope for a better place where suffering will end. Jerusalema echoes those same desires. Here is the English translation:

Jerusalem, my home Rescue me, Join me, Don’t leave me here!

My place is not here, My kingdom is not here, Rescue me! Come with me!

Save me, save me, save me, Don’t leave me here….!

As I read these words and listened again to the song I thought about the joy we saw at the Care Center in both the children and the teachers. The whole Gospel was shared in both words and songs and it was a taste of heaven on earth for us. We both really needed it and came home so blessed by the day.

But at the same time pain was very present. Two teachers had recently lost family members one had been killed in a drive by shooting and another stabbed due to gang violence. Many children peered through the fence asking for food to feed their hungry stomachs. It made us both so sad to witness such real life situations for this community.

Yet here was singing, dancing and powerful prayers of hope right in the middle of a community filled with a hot bed of violence, corruption, and overwhelming needs. Quite a polarizing picture, the celebrations of the Christmas season and most of 2020. The gift of hope in Jesus and a brutal battle ground of reality. The gift of God’s only Son in the midst of so much pain is a potent reminder that this world is not our home. There is a New Jerusalem coming for all who have walked through the cross of Jesus Christ. His blood and forgiveness has opened doors both now and forever into an eternal Jerusalem. All who have experienced God’s saving grace are already in spirit apart of a heavenly Zion, a New Jerusalem where we can live out of His forever love.

Our faith response to the gift of our Heavenly Jerusalem needs to be singing and dancing for what has been given to us in Jesus both now and forever. As Pastor Raymond led us in the Jerusalema last Friday, we need to dance & sing in the midst of our battles & brokenness.

Patty and I actually pulled up a tutorial for the Jerusalema dance. We still have some practicing, but it created many laughs and served as a reminder that our hope and our calling to bring His Hope to all He leads us into contact with. We challenge you this Christmas season to sing, dance, and pray the Jerusalema wherever God has placed you and even in the midst of difficult circumstances.

“And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem coming down from God out of heaven like a beautiful bride prepared for her husband.” (Rev. 21:2)

P.S. If you want to see the dance performed by the local Fish Hoek High School click on the link below…..and if you and your family master this dance! Love to see a video!!!