Category Archives: Random Thoughts

Prosperity and true riches

Sometimes when my mind wonders off to days long gone bye I still feel as if it was yesterday when I said goodbye to my school years. That was in 1984, almost 30 years ago. Turning the clock forward, at 47 I guess I am now considered to be in my middle age years. I mention the age thing as the message in a recent e-mailed CS Lewis book extract I received centered on our middle aged years.

Some context – the extract below and the book it appears in (‘The Screwtape Letters’ of C.S. Lewis) sets out a series of lessons on the importance of taking a deliberate role in living out Christian faith. It portrays a typical human life, with all its temptations and failings, as seen from devils’ viewpoint. The book is about Screwtape, an experienced demon, who advises his nephew Wormwood how to effectively tempt humans. The book mentions a ‘patient’ which refers to a man who Wormwood continually tempts and tries to keep in spiritual darkness.

The same extract also appeared in a February 2005 edition of Reflections, a C.S. Lewis Institute monthly newsletter under the title ‘An Unrecognized Danger’

“ … The Enemy has guarded him from you through the first great wave of temptations. But, if only he can be kept alive, you have time itself for your ally. The long, dull, monotonous years of middle-aged prosperity or middle-aged adversity are excellent campaigning weather. You see, it is so hard for these creatures to persevere. The routine of adversity, the gradual decay of youthful loves and youthful hopes, the quiet despair (hardly felt as pain) of ever overcoming the chronic temptations with which we have again and again defeated them, the drabness which we create in their lives and the inarticulate resentment with which we teach them to respond to it – all of this provides admirable opportunities of wearing out a soul by attrition. If, on the other hand, the middle years prove prosperous our position is even stronger. Prosperity knits a man to the world. He feels he is ‘finding his place in it,’ while really it is finding its place in him. His increasing reputation, his widening circle of acquaintances, his sense of importance, the growing pressure of absorbing and agreeable work, build up in him a sense of really being at home in earth, which is just what we want. …” (C.S. Lewis. The Screwtape Letters, HarperSanFrancisco, ©1942, Harper edition 2001, pp. 154-155)

CS Lewis wrote about how fertile the middle-aged years could be for undermining faith as emotions and energy may be reduced and the race has been run for some time. Conversely, if these years are ones of leisure and ease, it could also be easy for humans to become complacent, wedded to the world, rather than focused on what God is trying to make of them. Lewis notes the danger of these years – we could become jaded and focus on the disappointments of the world, where we cease to strive toward our heavenly home and settle simply for striving to make heaven on earth.

As described in the newsletter it is not only about adversity but also about how we deal with success and prosperity where the message was that “…  Adversity is certainly a danger to our spiritual life, as anyone who has experienced it can attest. But, success and prosperity can be an even greater danger. Many of us have achieved a measure of success and prosperity and many others are on the way to achieving it. May God give us the grace to examine our lives, eyes to see the truth, and courage to take action…”. Wise words, I think.

When I read the extract again I was drawn to part of it and some comments attributed to the Screwtape character “… Prosperity knits a man to the world. He feels he is ‘finding his place in it,’ while really it is finding its place in him. His increasing reputation, his widening circle of acquaintances, his sense of importance, the growing pressure of absorbing and agreeable work, build up in him a sense of really being at home in earth, which is just what we want …”

I guess there are a number of different perspectives here. My thoughts and feelings are off course partly influenced by the worldly experiences in the city where I live (Geneva, Switzerland). As with any city, it has its own charm, character and rhythms where Geneva, by most accounts, is a prosperous place and where there always seems to be some reminder of prosperity’s ebbs and flows. This applies to both the upside and downside scenarios (those of you who read this and who also live In Geneva will understand some of the practical realities of living in one of the world’s most expansive places).

Les Fêtes de Genève - Fireworks 2013 View of fireworks over lake Geneva

I can understand how prosperity could ‘knit me to the world’ and how the drive to find my place in it could easily result in the world finding its place in me. I guess this happened to me in South Africa where my primary focus was to built-up my home on earth.  On this point I have had some struggles in my mind as it is a personal belief that God wants for all his children to prosper in all respects. What I have realised over the past few years is that I can embrace it as long as I know that my focus is on God and His purposes.

In Mark 4, verses 13 – 20 (New International Version), Jesus explained the Parable of the Sower as follows:

 “Then Jesus said to them, “… The farmer sows the word. Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown

In 1 Timothy 6:17, Paul, as part of the advice to Timothy, advised that “… Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment” ( New International Version)

In Isaiah 55 verses 1-3 the Lord Invites His People to Come to Him  “ … Come, all of you who are thirsty. Come and drink the water I offer to you. You who do not have any money, come. Buy and eat the grain I give you. Come and buy wine and milk. You will not have to pay anything for it. Why spend money on what is not food? Why work for what does not satisfy you? Listen carefully to me. Then you will eat what is good. You will enjoy the richest food there is. Listen and come to me. Pay attention to me. Then you will live. I will make a covenant with you that will last forever. I will give you my faithful love ……” ( New International Version)

The verses in Timothy and Isaiah have the same message to those who have been blessed with wordly wealth and those who have less and the message is the same – seek and find God for with Him there is true riches, life and His faithful love.

Ben de Bruyn – Copyright © 2013

Prayer for Daniel and Ellen at their wedding on Saturday

Prayer for Daniel and Ellen at their wedding on Saturday

Dear Lord

In John 15 you tell us that you are the Vine and we are the branches. You tell us that your Father is the farmer and cuts off every branch of us that doesn’t bear grapes and that every branch that is grape-bearing will be pruned back so it will bear even more.

Please hold Ellen and Daniel close to You in Your arms when they go through a pruning process, both on an individual level or together as a married couple.  We know that this process may be hard at times, but please give them the grace and strength in these times and for them to remember that when we are joined with You and You with them, it is an intimate and living relationship, and that the harvest is sure to be abundant.

My prayer for them is also to make themselves at home with You where they should remember your words that “… my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon,,,”

Thank you for reminding us through John in John 15 verses 11-15 that:  “… I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love.”  May Daniel and Ellen love each other this way until they meet up with you in Heaven.

Thank you for reminding us through John in John 16 verses  23-24 that:

  “… This is what I want you to do: Ask the Father for whatever is in keeping with the things I’ve revealed to you. Ask in my name, according to my will, and he’ll most certainly give it to you. Your joy will be a river overflowing its banks! …” May Daniel and Ellen ask of you in Your name and according to Your will so that You will provide to them a river of overflowing joy,

As You have prayed for your followers Lord:

 “… Holy Father, guard them as they pursue this life. That you conferred as a gift through me so they can be one heart and mind as we are one heart and mind …” The same glory you gave me, I gave them, so they’ll be as unified and together as we are – I in them and you in me. Then they’ll be mature in this oneness, and give the godless world evidence that you’ve sent me and loved them in the same way you’ve loved me…

We pray this blessing in your name over Daniel and Ellen.

Amen

These words are not only for them but for all of us, whatever the circumstances or wherever you are.

 

Love for our children

It has been a weekend of celebration and joy for our friends in Geneva. On Friday, it was Daniel and Ellen’s wedding. On Saturday, Frank and Devi were blessed with a new baby boy. Elmer and Rahel are expecting their first baby any day now, so more excitement on the way! I took a few pictures for them over the weekend and was touched (Elmer graciously agreed that I can share the pictures below).

It made me think about the love we have for our children –

…Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them…’’ Psalm 127:3-5, New International Version.

…These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates…’’  Deuteronomy 6:6-9, The Message.

…For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be…’’ Psalm 139:13-16, New International Version.

I was also reminded of God’s love for his children –

‘’…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…’’ Psalm 23:6 New International Version.

May you experience the Father’s love for you.

Ben de Bruyn – Copyright © 2013

Blessings at our church retreat

An affirmation of love

Earlier this afternoon we returned from our church retreat in the Swiss Alpine town of Leysin.

It was a wonderful time of fellowship and I was blessed with a fresh perspective on the significance of the spoken words of the Father when Jesus was baptised “… and a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased…” Luke 3:22 (New International Version). Before this weekend I have never paused to reflect on the significance of these words. I wish thank Dr. Erik Spruyt, our guest speaker, as I now have a better understanding and more importantly appreciate the significance of these words to me.

At the time when God spoke these words, Jesus’s ministry had not yet taken off and He had not performed any miracles. These words affirmed God’s love before Jesus had done anything. On a personal level I all too often feel pressure to prove myself, or to perform or justify myself. This weekend I realized that God’s affirmation to Jesus also extends to me and that He has affirmed me with love which is constant and, best of all, that I do not first have to perform to receive it. To know who I am in Him is to know that I am loved and have been affirmed – no more striving to prove myself first to seek acceptance!

I will try to be still, to listen to God’s voice, to receive the Spirit and then to act out of the love that God has given to me. I will remember who I am in Him and I will respond in what I do with the knowing of my security in Him.

Meeting the Father at the cross

When discussing ‘Meeting the Father at the cross’, we talked about sin; hurt; unmet needs and false beliefs. The Spirit lead us to focus on hurt and I found it deeply insightful that I have subconsciously tried to deal with some feelings and lies caused by hurt in my own strength, not knowing that as with confession of sins, I can also give these feelings to Jesus. He paid the ultimate price on the cross not only for my sins, but also took the burden on Himself of all negative feelings or thoughts which can be caused by hurt, for example anger, frustration, disappointment, injustice etc. This can be done in prayer and I have experienced a wonderful release in doing so, a process which I look forward to continue with. Perhaps the two pictures below which I posted in the past in the photography section of the website provide a graphic description of sorts – You can move from this …

Paris: Street art near Pompidou museum 2 July 2012
to this ….

Moscow People: Fountain fun in Moscow heatwave summer 2010 1

Moscow, Russia – Girl cooling off in summer heatwave

‘’… I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in His holy people, and His incomparably great power for us who believe….’’ Ephesians 1:18-19 (New International Version).

Ben de Bruyn – Copyright © 2013

 

Random Thoughts: Seeking Comfort

I am currently reading a book called ‘’The Well’’ by Mark Hall, (www.youtube.com/watch?v=GCdIYEIurlw) who is a pastor and the lead singer of Casting Crowns (https://castingcrowns.com).

In one of the chapters he talks about “Philippians 2: 3 – 4 ‘’… Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others…” – English Standard Version (ESV)

When I read this passage I was astounded that my mind focused outwardly as I caught myself thinking … if only ABC could read this … This was a lesson to me as I realised how quickly I was able to stumble and judge others, and how I had just missed out on Paul’s message in this passage. I found it surprising, having just read about humility and the interests of others, but stumbled into the trap of silently focusing outwardly.

Jazz musician in Perugia, Umbria, Italy

It was wonderful to read how Mark Hall described in his book that the only way to versus 3 and 4 is if we understand Philippians 2: 1 – 2, which says “…So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind …’’ English Standard Version (ESV).

The point he makes is we cannot rely on our own strength but have to find comfort from Christ’s love ‘’… If our comfort is from Christ’s love, we don’t have to look out for our own interests. Our comfort is from Him. We don’t need to seek comfort from other people …” – p69 of ‘’The Well’’ by Mark Hall.

I will seek out His comfort and then hopefully be better equipped not to fall in the same trap as which I did today when I read Philippians 2: 3 – 4.

Casting Crowns also does a great song called the Well, which you can listen to on you tube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FA8UNaGKRhY

Ben de Bruyn – Copyright © 2013

Random Thoughts: Hope

HOPE

“… When hope is crushed, the heart is crushed, but a wish come true fills you with joy …” Proverbs 13:12 – YouVersion

I have started reflecting on this passage and was struck by the enormity of these words. Where do you find hope and sustain it? How painful is the desperation which attached itself to hopelessness? How do you escape hopelessness? What do you do when you wait and how to deal with the delays?

Hope (as a noun) is defined as “…To desire with expectation or with belief in the possibility or prospect of obtaining; to look forward to as a thing desirable, with the expectation of obtaining it; to cherish hopes of…” Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary With it, we can endure many things, even should situations become seemingly unbearable.

In the Bible, David received a promise that he will become king. It took many years of endurance and tests before this happened and he then also had to face many subsequent tests“… I’m homesick—longing for your salvation; I’m waiting for your word of hope. My eyes grow heavy watching for some sign of your promise; how long must I wait for your comfort? There’s smoke in my eyes—they burn and water, but I keep a steady gaze on the instructions you post. How long do I have to put up with all this? How long till you haul my tormentors into court? The arrogant godless try to throw me off track, ignorant as they are of God and his ways. Everything you command is a sure thing, but they harass me with lies. Help! They’ve pushed and pushed—they never let up but I haven’t relaxed my grip on your counsel. In your great love revive me so I can alertly obey your every word …” Psalm 119:81-88 – The Message Bible

Place your hope in God. With Him we have a certain future and He will never allow us to suffer beyond our own capabilities to handle difficult situations, despite how desperate it may seem at times. When what we have desired for arrives, we will be filled with joy.

Use the word of God to build hope – especially if others may ask why you have hope – “… Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. 1 Peter 3:15-17 – New International Version

Ben de Bruyn – Copyright © 2013