Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Blog Moving to a Different Location

This is just to let all my followers know that my "Faith From the Fold" blog has moved to the following location: http://repairerofbrokenwalls.com/hope/category/faith-from-fold/

The "Faith From the Fold" blog at the Blogspot location will be taken down in a couple of weeks.

However, my writer's blog, "Upon My Word", will continue at this site at avrilvandermerwe.blogspot.com

Looking forward to continuing the online conversations!


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Goodness of the Lord in the Land of the Living

I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.
Psalm 27:13, 14

     Back in the day… when Moses was leading the people of Israel through the wilderness en route to the Promised Land, he had an encounter with God born of desperation. This encounter culminated in Moses asking of the Lord, “Now show me Your glory.” (Ex. 33:19)
     God’s response to Moses’ request is significant: In answer to Moses’ desire for a revelation of God’s glory, God says, “I will cause all My goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim My Name, the Lord, in your presence.” (Ex. 33:20 – my emphasis).
     To Moses, in the midst of his wilderness of pain and desperation, God manifested His glory in the form of His goodness.
     The situation Moses found himself facing was not of his own making. It had come about as a result of the treacherous actions of the people he led. Within Moses a deep chasm of yearning opened up – a longing to know God more intimately in this place of agonizing distress.
     “… teach me Your way so I may know You…”
     Did Moses not already know God? Of course he did! He had spent hours and days and weeks in close communion with God. “The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend” (Ex. 33:11). Yet the agonizing circumstances Moses found himself in, brought him to a place of even deeper dependence on and longing for God.
     Like many of us, Moses could not see the way forward from this point, but God gave him this promise and assurance: “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest” (Ex.33:14).
     What wilderness of pain, confusion and distress are you facing right now? Have you been casting around, trying to find a way forward, a way to resolution of the problems you are facing, a way to healing?
     We live in the information age and have become conditioned to chasing up one perceived resource after another. It’s time to stop the restless searching for answers that never completely satisfy. It’s time to come aside with the Lord and in that place of stillness with Him, ask Him to teach you His way so that you may know Him more. Not know the answers, the solutions, the remedies more – know Him more. It’s time to open that inner chasm of yearning to all that God is, and ask Him to fill your landscape with His glory.
     He will answer with a revelation of His unending goodness. And as your heart receives the wonder of all He is in His boundless love and infinite faithfulness, you will come to a place of confident rest in the Presence He has promised as much to us as He did to Moses: “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Heb. 13:5).
     Then you too, will be able to proclaim along with the psalmist: I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Woman Why Are You Weeping?

     "Woman, why are you weeping?" John 20:13, 15.
     These words have been resonating in my mind all Easter weekend.
     A study of the original language in this passage reveals that Mary Magdalene was not just weeping - she was sobbing. She was grief-stricken and heart broken and distraught. So much so, that when she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and He asked her the same question the angels had asked, "Woman, why are you weeping?" she did not even recognize Him.
     Until He spoke her name...
     When she heard His voice speak her name in this personal and intimate way, she recognized the presence of her beloved Lord. In that moment, everything changed.
     The question that is burning in my heart for you, dear reader, is "Why are you weeping?"
     What circumstances, what experiences, what absence, what emptiness, what pain has left you grief-stricken and heart-broken, your heart sobbing in agony, "Where is He? I don't know where He is!"
     Oh He has been there all along, dear ones, but in your stricken and distraught state, you have not recognized His near presence in your circumstances.
     To each one of you whose heart is right now broken and crying out in pain and sorrow, my prayer for you, is this: I pray in the name of the One who loves you with a deep and inexhaustible love, that today, even as you read this, you will hear your Lord speaking your name as personally and intimately as He called Mary's that day. And as you hear His voice speak your name, may your eyes be opened to recognize the presence of Him whose love never fails, never wearies, never falls short - and holds you all the days of your life.
     Insert your name into this story, as these words echo in your own desperate heart: "_________ why are you weeping?"
     Pour out your heart to Him - all your deepest fears and sorrows. And then turn and hear as He speaks your name: "_________"
     He is the One poured out in love and resurrected in power to redeem all that you surrender at His nail-scarred feet.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

More Words from the Cross

     Six more times Jesus spoke from the cross:

1. To the thief who in the moment of their greatest agony, recognized and acknowledged Jesus for who He truly is, Jesus said, "Today you will be with Me in paradise" Luke 23:43. The moment this criminal turned towards Jesus, he was forgiven and his eternal destiny secured. He did not have to work for his salvation. Jesus, hanging there right beside him, was in the very process of securing his redemption. He called  on the Name of the Lord... and received the free gift of God's grace! When we recognize and acknowledge who Jesus truly is, and call on His name, this free gift of His grace becomes ours also.

2. To His mother and to the disciple John, Jesus said, "Dear woman, here is your son... Here is your mother..." Jesus honored His human mother in the midst of His suffering, and made provision for her by entrusting her to His closest human friend. In ministering to others, we are not to neglect our own families. Jesus knew that He could trust John with this special responsibility. Are we trustworthy disciples and friends of Jesus? Are we trustworthy friends to others?

3. "My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?" Matt. 27:46 For all eternity the triune Godhead had existed in perfect love, fellowship, unity and harmony. But in this moment on the cross, as the Son was bowed under the weight of the sin of all humanity, He experienced the wrath of a holy God against that sin. Sin separates us from the Father. As He bore our sin on our behalf, Jesus experienced the separation from the Father that is the consequence of sin. His body had already been broken; now His heart broke with the agony of an unthinkable separation... All this He did because the triune God loves you and I so passionately, that even this He was willing to endure, just so that you and I can be reconciled in relationship with the Father. Oh that we would not cause further agony to the heart of this One who loves us so dearly, by treating His sacrifice and gift with light indifference and careless compromise!

4. "I am thirsty" John 19:28. In the twenty-four hours since His arrest, all the torture and torment Jesus had endured had resulted in massive fluid loss - mostly in blood. In addition to all His physical, mental, emotional and spiritual agony, He also experienced a ravaging physical thirst. Yet His thirst was not only physical. His thirst was also the consuming inner longing for His creation - humanity whom He had formed in His own image, and for whom He now gave Himself as a sacrifice - to return to the deeply intimate loving relationship with God for which He created us. This was a thirst birthed out of His passionate and inextinguishable love for you and me. Oh pray that we too, would thirst deeply for love relationship with Him! He promises that those who come to Him in this way will never thirst again. Only in Him is there deep and lasting satisfaction!

5. "It is finished" John 19:30. Jesus had completed the work He had come to do. Compelled by His great love for us, He had taken upon Himself all of our wrongdoing, and had borne the consequences for our sin in our place. It was done: the price of our freedom was paid in full. All that remains is for you and I to gratefully receive this extravagant, undeserved gift of His love, mercy and grace.

6. "Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit" Luke 23:46. Nobody took Jesus' life from Him. Nobody had the power or authority to do so. Jesus gave His life of His own volition - just as the Father also gave the Son. It was a gift compelled by love. Love gives; love gives self. The Father and the Son were united in this love for you and I, and their love for one another - this love that gives. And because of this love, the Son, having paid the price in His blood for your sin and mine, could safely commit His spirit to the care of the Father as He entered into the darkness of death. He was held in the hands of the Almighty I AM - and not even death itself could contain Him! Because of Jesus, into His hands you and I can commit all that we have and all that we are and all that we experience - and there we can safely rest in the only One who holds all power and all authority, even over our deepest darkness! We can trust His love; we can trust HIM!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Words from the Cross

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” Luke 23:34.

     He had stepped down from His royal throne, into a world that He had created, and that was His own possession. There He had subjected His divine nature to the frailty of human flesh. He had poured Himself out for others: loving, giving, healing, restoring, embracing, comforting, delivering, feeding, nourishing, satisfying, raising to new life.
     A week after the crowds shouted “Hosanna!” they screamed, “Crucify Him!”
     He was betrayed, arrested, mocked, scorned, abandoned, denied, rejected, tortured and set to die the most excruciating, disgraceful death known to humanity.
     A human assessment might indicate that He had wasted His time and energy in pouring Himself out for the sake of others. A human assessment might deem all the love He had given was now thrown back in His face and regarded as of no account. A human assessment might conclude that while He had served a purpose for a while, He was now to be cast aside like a tool that was no longer of any use.
     Yet in the midst of His own extreme suffering and rejection, Jesus never lost sight of His greater purpose, His kingdom perspective. Man’s assessment was not the final word; God’s purposes would be served no matter what anyone said.
     Jesus looked down on His tormentors in the moment of His greatest torment, and prayed: “… forgive them…”
     On more than one occasion before Jesus went to the cross, He urged that each of us who want to come after Him, will have to take up our own cross also, and follow Him. What does this mean?
    It means pouring ourselves out in His name, for the sake of His kingdom and the lives of others. It means loving, giving, healing, restoring, embracing, comforting, delivering, feeding, nourishing, satisfying, offering new life to others. It means a self-sacrifice of time and energy and self-interest and personal comfort…
     And having done all that… it is just possible that we too, might be rejected, scorned, betrayed, abandoned, tormented, and metaphorically crucified by the very ones to whom we have poured out His love.
     When that happens, voices may whisper that we have wasted our time and energy, that we have failed, that all we have done and given is deemed useless and meaningless, that like a tool that no longer serves any purpose, we are now cast aside.
     Ah, but the cross… the cross we have taken up to follow Him; the cross upon which our arms, too remain outstretched in love, even during and in spite of great pain. Because man’s assessment is still not the final word, and God’s purposes will yet be fulfilled through our obedience, no matter what anyone says.
     Because of Jesus, and because we are His and not our own, we too, can look with compassion on those who treat us so, and say, “Father, in the name of Jesus who gave His life for such as these, forgive them, for in their state of brokenness and blindness, they know not what they do…”
     And the Redeemer will not only accomplish all that is on His heart, and fulfill His purposes in such lives, but He will also redeem the pain of the cross we have carried.
     By God’s assessment, the way of the cross is the way of triumph!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Serving a Betrayer

"... He poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciples' feet..." John 13:5
     No one was excluded. That night, Jesus washed the feet of every disciple - including the feet of His betrayer. He had sacrificed His throne in heaven to walk among corrupt humanity. In the form of a man, He had sacrificed His family, His time, His energies, His personal needs and comfort. He had poured Himself out into the lives of others unendingly - and especially into the lives of His disciples.
     And yet... when they entered the Upper Room that evening, not one of His disciples offered to wash the dust off the feet of the One they called "Master". Instead, it was He who knelt and served them in this way:
·         He washed the feet of the disciple who would deny Him
·         He washed the feet of the disciple who would doubt Him
·         He washed the feet of the disciples who would go to sleep just when He most needed the support of close friends
·         He washed the feet of the disciples who would run away in preservation of their own lives, leaving Him to face His suffering alone
·         He washed the feet of His closest human friend who would "follow at a distance" when His hour of arrest came
·         He washed the feet of the disciple who had already gone behind His back; who would prove most treacherous; who would betray Him...
     When He was done, He said, "Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you" John 13:14, 15.
     How are we to do this? We are to set ourselves to serve others by "washing" them in and with and through the love of Jesus - not only those we naturally like or who are nice to us in return, but also those who:
·         Reject and disown us
·         Are skeptical and cynical of us
·         Accept our support, but are nowhere to be found when we are in need of support
·         Are self-serving at our expense
·         Distance themselves from us
·         Prove treacherous, and betray our trust
     If we are "not greater than our Master", then surely as His followers, we can do this much for His sake, and in His name, serving His Kingdom, and not our own.
   "... whoever loses their life for My sake will find it" Matt. 10:39.
Love so amazing, so Divine
Demands my soul, my life...

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Washed by Love


I always feel overwhelmed with thankfulness when I think of how Jesus poured Himself out into the lives of others in love and power at a time when He knew He was only days away from facing the cruelty of the cross.
     He had said of Himself: "The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many" (Matt. 20:28). One way He demonstrated this, on the night of His last supper with His disciples, was by washing their feet. They had walked quite some distance that day - most of it uphill, and probably along dusty and rocky paths. Their feet were probably not only dirty, but also tired and aching.
     Jesus took upon Himself the task of the lowliest servant, and washed the weary feet of the men who had walked all the long way with Him thus far. Little did they forsee that they would soon forsake the One who served them so - and who was about to sacrifice His life in an even more painful and profound way.
     At first Peter protested, but Jesus replied, "Unless I wash you, you have no part with Me." The reason? There is only One who can truly wash us clean of all the collected detritus of our sin-infected lives.
     Jesus, in His great love, still "washes our feet". When it seems that the road we have walked has been long and rocky, leaving us aching with the weariness of it all, He invites us into communion with Him - and there He washes us in His cleansing, refreshing, restoring love.
     He also extends a further invitation: He invites us to follow Him, and in our turn to lay down our lives in His service to others. In this way, we too, get to "wash the feet" of others, with the love of Jesus.
     In keeping with this message, I re-post here the poem I shared at Easter time last year:

© Avril VanderMerwe

Like the grime of an ancient traveler
At the end of the footsore day
I have accumulated on my feet
The dust of roads I have trod.

Step after step-chafed blisters have
Broken to leak muddied tears
Along trails ragged with bruised
Hope urging me on one more climb

To the cool space of an upper room.
Pierced hands pierce the gloom.
A splash of water pools my feet.
Washed by love on bended knees. I weep.