Wrestling and Willpower

19 05 2009

Have you ever had an arm wrestle with someone of similar strength? Willpower wins the wrestling. Where do you get will power? Is it natural? 

We might talk about willpower, in relation to giving up cigarettes, or going on some sort of a diet, or training for a highly competitive sporting event.  How do we feel, however, about the application of will power in order to embrace suffering for the benefit of someone else?

We might think of will-power as an admirable quality, but something we lack a bit in, ourselves. 

Consider: every day we exercise our willpower. We decide to do this, and not do that. We sometimes feels torn between two loyalties that we hold of similar value—two agenda’s in conflict with one another, at a point in time—and we have to choose.

We often choose our own preference, rather than consider either

(i) the needs of others, or

(ii) the will of God

The way of life, for a human being is not ‘in himself’. It is rather, what am I being called unt0, at this point, by God.

Jeremiah said: I know, O LORD, that the way of man is not in himself, that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps (Jeremiah 10:2 )

 

Jesus said: “I can do nothing on my own authority; as I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me (John 5:30)

 

This is a different approach, almost the opposite in fact, to that sung by ol’d blue eyes: ‘I did it my way’.  Frank Sanatra is often played at a funeral. It is designed to acknowledge the unique, even strange-unfathomable will of a person, in life. However, it is at times used, almost to underline the fierce attitude of autonomy and independence. 

This is a pity:

 Proverbs 21:2 Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the heart.

 For the God of all things, has made us to come under Christ Jesus’ Lordship.

All our lives may be a wrestling to avoid this.

We may need some open-heart surgery, as we wrestle with Christ the true Son, and wrestle with the Father, the true director of lives, for blessing—in order that our will with God, may indeed be wholly One.  What a wrestle our lives can be! 

 We do not come at it, naturally. It is a wrestle with the flesh (that stubborn self-will), to move with God in the often difficult, sometimes-surprising, yet very loving action of the Holy Spirit.

 What an incredible thing Jesus did, throughout his life, and his ministry, his sufferings and his death – even his resurrection.  He did not do merely his own will. His will was united with the Father, so that everything he said and did – issued in live, originated in love, and was the expression of holy love. Love that loves according to the truth. Love that loves according to grace. Love that comes into the world bringing mercy to people; yet love that is tough, steely, rich, burning to the conscience. Love for the Father’s will motivated Jesus, all the time. Wow! A Will given over to to the Father’s will. This is freedom?  

 Imagine that?

 Jesus came to do the will of the Father, to stand with the Father, and to do his will.  Wow. Image that? Doing the will of another, wholly united.  Jesus was seeking to know and do that will in the Garden, while he was dying. He was not suffering the resistance of unwilling flesh, surely. It was more like groping confusion in the anguish of the sin bearing which was his alone.

 As a forerunner to our life, today, the Father strengthened Jesus, by his Spirit, for the work of the cross. Now, in imparting his Spirit, to us, who believe, he has strengthened us to do his will.

What wrestling that can be.  For the disciples it included their inability to stay up and wrestle with tiredness. They were overcome by the weight of it all. Jesus was not. He wanted them to wrestle in prayer.

 Have you ever wrestled in prayer? 

You may think arm-wrestling needs willpower. What of prayer?

Consider: Jacob wrestled all night with God, and finally received the blessing, of doing God’s will. He walked with a limp afterwards, because he had fought with God. It was to remember the event.

We – I believe – need to wrestle with God (much of our life perhaps), until we are prepared to do his will. Rebels, can scarcely do the Father’s will, willingly.

 Consider: Abraham, believing in the God of eternal life, was yet prepared to kill his only big, grown son as a sacrifice, to do God’s will – to receive the blessings of God. But even Isaac must have been willing, as he was walking up the hill with his Dad.  They had no sacrifice with them. (In the end God proved a ram from the thicket). 

 “I can will what is right”, said the Apostle Paul. But doing it, accomplishing it, effecting it, was much more difficult. Indeed impossible ultimately in all things. This Paul saw, was due to the ever-present nature of sin. Sin affects motives, judgment, ideas, aims, senses. Even so, being willing is a great thing. Indeed in Christ, with His Spirit we are set up to do God’s will. 

 What a mighty thing to be able to will what is right (even if we can never quite totally accomplish it!).

Romans 7:18 For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it.

 Dear folks, thanks be to the Warrior Lord—Jesus Christ, for his willpower, set to do the Father’s will.  But always aided by the Holy Spirit.  

Be aided, wrestle to know! “There is rest in the wrestling”, said one wise man.

 Coming to Jesus humbles us to live by another tune, and plan. The grace-tune, the grace-plan, the Spirit-led plan, the love-plan. May the Lord Risen and Present, strengthen you to do his will, to wrestle and find willpower, from God, to amazing make good choices. May grace be upon your weakness too.  Wrestling, with love willpower – Jesus was and is amazing for his clear approach to live truly, in all circumstances. What a wrestler. What authority. What redemptive power, for the human race, lies in wrestling for that which is true, amidst a broken, rebellious world. Cheers!





Things that matter

21 11 2008

It seems to me that there are lots of things that matter in life. But, sometimes one is faced – or confronted, with the brevity of life. Like when someone you know is suddenly taken from this life. Death, can come so quickly. It catches us, it takes by surprise. It leaves its deep shock in our spirit.

So then, what matters? Just having fun? Doing lots of good things? Having lots of friends? Laughter? Joy? Or, as the cynics, might say… nothing. 

No. There are things that matter.

In the end it comes down to relationships. Many will agree. But sort of beyond that, is the matter of purpose. And that can be summed up in two things:

(1) Participating in the “mandate”, the great agenda, for creation. Which is, having been blessed, to then…: ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth’ (see Genesis 1:28) 

(2) Participating in the “gospel”, the great hope, and certainty, for the future of creation. That is, pausing long enough for the resurrection and crucifixion, to have their full effect upon one’s life, causing a great change of mind… for the better.

So then, may you be in the things that matter. Mowing a lawn, or catching a fish, or studying the galaxies, or nursing a sick child – these are creational things.

And, unfolding the mystery of life – Christ Jesus – that is a gospel thing.

Both are good to do. Both need each other, not just for balance, but for fulness of life, and for exercising our true humanity; and for joy – ah yes, joy, and for – well, making true sense of it all.  Cheers!





Cyprus

3 01 2017

Wow. I knew the country of Cyprus was divided, and that the Muslim influence was quite problematic. But I until I read the notes in ‘Operation World’, I did not realise to what extent the nation has been divided. The Religion of Pieces, at it again.

“The country is divided as a result of Turkey’s 1974 invasion and occupation of the north. The Greek and Turk populations are separated: the north calling itself the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) and the south claiming the whole island as the Repubic of Cyprus (ROC). The ROC is internationally recognized as the legal government of the whole island; only Turkey recognizes the TRNC.” (Operation World, Jason Mandryk (Ed.), p. 295)

Population: 900,000

Capital: Lefkosia (Nicosia) 243,000

Official Language: Greek

Public Debt: 49% of GDP

Religion: The Christians are almost all in ROC and Muslims in TRNC.

Christian 71%, Muslim 24%, Non-Religious 3%, Hindu, Buddhist, Chinese, Sikh, Jewish…

Largest Christian Denomination: Orthodox (by a country mile!), Catholic, Apostolic…

Problem: The ethnic-cultural-politcal traditions cloud a fresh encounter with the gospel.

Prayer: Living God, who loves the human race, and redeems them in the ministry of Jesus Christ, may this year bring a new movement of the Holy Spirit, to open doors for the hearing and response to the gospel in new and enduring ways. We pray for the evangelical Christians, who, though small in number, are equipped with the power of your Word. May the foreign workers, British military, Logos Bookstore, Growing numbers of ethnic evangelicals and YWAM, Interserve and others, combine to be a witness to Christ’s Lordship in new and stirring ways. Amen. 





Cuba

11 06 2016

The largest island in the Caribbean. (Near the Bahamas, Haiti and Jamaica)

Population11, 350,000

Capital: Havana (Pun: I’m hav’n’ a good time in Cuba)

People:  Hispanic 98%, Asian 1%, Other 1%

Economy: “Sugar production, along with the rest of the economy, collapsed with the Soviet meltdown as aid and subsidies dried up. The US trade embargo, devastating hurricanes, repressive centralized socialist planning, corruption and poor productivity hamper progress. Lack of many essentials (including food) still affects the country, yet there is a high standard in literacy, education and health. Tourism is becoming more and more economically important.” (Operation World, p. 291).

Politics:  “Independent from Spain in 1898. Fidel Castro’s revolution (he was born in 1926) brought Communism to power in 1959, replacing a corrupt and venal regime” (O.W.)

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Religion: Christian 56%, Non-religious 25%, Ethnoreligious 18%, Hindu 0.14%, Chinsese 0.14%, Other 0.14%, Buddhist 0.14%  (where is Islam?…)

Prayer Points:

  1. For political, economic, demographic and ideological needs.
  2. For the purification of the Catholic church
  3. For recovery of the Evangelical churches, devastated by waves of emigration to USA
  4. For the 500,00 plus people imprisoned for ideological reason under Communism
  5. For renewed leadership in the churches, able to cope with change and growth
  6. For the less reached people groups especially those in the Santeria cult, linked with similar evil spiritual powers to Haitian voodooism.
  7.  For the foreign missionaries, largely restricted access.
  8. For the 1 million Cuban refugees (legal and illegal) living in the USA, and their fruitful influence on their home country.
  9. For the Christian help ministries with Bible distribution, Christian literature, radio and music.

Thank you Lord, our God, for the growth of the Church in Cuba in recent years. Thank you for the refinement of the church at a local level, and the Spirit’s persistent ministry to the church. May the numerical growth continue, and may locals have wise leadership and courage to be a rich, powerful blessing to their nation, in the name of Jesus. Amen.

 

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Croatia

8 06 2016

Located in Europe, Croatia  is a Crescent-shaped country of 4.5 million people.  It is 91% Christian (primarily Catholic and Orthodox).  It is situated between the Danube River and the Adriatic Sea. It is a part of the Balkan States.

Capital: Zagreb (687,000)

Economy: “Long-term Communist mismanagement and the war with Serbs undermined a previously solid economy. Recovery is still in process, with relatively high unemployment and low wages. A resurgent tourist sector and the privatization of state industries have helped Croatia begin to turn the corner and develop over the last decade” (Operation World, p. 289).

Hatred: Some 1,600 years of rivalry between the Croat and Serb peoples, and their mutual hatred of one another was one of the potent factors in the terrible, horrifying Balkan wars of the 1990’s. “The iron bond shackling ethnicity to religion also hampers progress and stifles spiritual breakthrough” (Operation World). Forgiveness and love are of course keys to reconciliation and renewed trust.

Religion: Christian 91.6%, Non-Religious 6.01%, Muslim 1.9%, Jewish 0.10%, Hindu 0.02%, Buddhist 0.01%

Challenge to Prayer: Of the large Christian population some 87% are Catholic, and while there is a small but active Charismatic movement among them, and some very good Catholic leaders, it is sadly a nation where nominalism and empty rituals abound. According to Operation World, ‘Evangelicals are one of the few groups that straddle the ethnic divide. Many Bosnians, Croats and Serbs have been won to Christ and brought into the fellowship together.

Prayer: Thank you Lord for the gospel of grace spreading amidst a damaged society. Where the young people have little confidence for their future, and amidst high unemployment, may the Spirit of the Risen Lord bring renewed hope, and a desire for development and community, as the plan of God for creation, gives fresh impetus to rebuild the nation.

Part of the Balkan Peninsula:

It is difficult to obtain universal agreement on which nations belong to ‘the Balkans’. Most would include Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro,Romania, Serbia and Slovenia. Parts of Greece and Turkey are sometimes owned as belonging to the mix.

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See details re Bosnia, also: https://nwcc.wordpress.com/2013/01/23/bosnia/

 





Côte d’Ivoire

7 06 2016

 

Known until 1985 as ‘Ivory Coast’ (English), Côte d’Ivoire is an extremely beautiful place.

It is an African west coast nation situated between Ghana and Liberia. It has rainforest to the south and savannah and highlands in the north.

Capital: Yamoussoukro (895,000 approx.) Abidjan is the economic, cultural captial.

Population:  24 million approx.

Operation World says: it is “One of the world’s largest producers of cocoa, coffee and palm oil” (p. 284).

They obtained independence from France in 1960.  But political coups, failed peace agreements, and political tensions have dogged the nation. As with many other African nation, there is a Muslim north and a non-Muslim (Christian and animist) south.

Religions: Muslim 41%, Christian 33%, Ethnoreligious 24%

Money: They use the West African Franc. As does Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal, and Togo.

It is good to ponder the very existence, life, uniqueness and glory of every nation. For just as the nations enter the arena of the Olympic Games in a unique, noble, glorious manner, so too from Côte d’Ivoire, “people will bring into [the Holy City , the future community] the glory and honour of this nation” (Revelation 21:26).

Prayer Points:

  1. For political leaders who are visionary, non-partisan and free of corruption.
  2. For ways to handle million of immigrants from neighbouring countries.
  3. For the ongoing growth of the Evangelical churches, sharing God’s Word.
  4. For believers in Christ to resist the temptation to return to animist ways.
  5. For the demographic sectors of society needing the gospel.
  6. For the nearly 1 million people who have contracted AIDS in the country.
  7. For the ministries of many young people who have recently become Christians, to flourish.

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Costa Rica

9 06 2015

Capital: San José

Costa Rica became independent of Spain in 1821, and has had a very long record of stable government, democratically elected.

Religion: The dominant religion is Roman Catholic (73%), and the Protestant Evangelical Churches (12%) have also made a big impact. Within Catholicism, there has been a large Pentecostal/Charismatic movement, which has brought life and vitality to the churches,

Agriculture and Eco-tourism are an important part of the local economy.

Prayer Point: for the response of young people to the gospel – 2/3 of Costa Ricans are under 30 years of age; also pray for the ongoing blessing of Latin American neighbours with the gospel – Panama and  Nicaragua.

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Cook Islands

9 05 2015

“The Cook Islands, Niue, Tokelau and Pitcairn are all officially, or unofficially in the case of the last, related to New Zealand. None are independent. All have seen a large part of their population move to New Zealand or Australia” (Operation World, Jason Mandryk, p. 278)

Over 100 coral atolls and volcanic islands 3,500 km northeast of NZ. Only 15 are inhabited.

Capital: Avura

Polynesian 89.2%

Language: English, and Cook Island Maori.

Self governing parliamentary democracy in free association with NZ.

Religion: Christian: 96%  wow!    Non-religious: 3%   Baha’i:  0.8%

On Pitcairn Islands all are Seventh Day Adventists. Famous for its settlement in 1790 by mutineers from the British ship, the Bounty.

Economy:  Fishing, Agriculture, Tourism, Offshore banking.

Prayer: May the Lord Jesus, living, and ascended continue to bless, guide, correct and renew in faith the peoples of this beautiful place in God’s world. We pray that the Scripture now in the local heart language may impact each person’s walk with God. We pray that – as people move away – those who remain will not be tempted to despair, but rather, trust the Living God for a good and rewarding future.





Congo (DRC)

7 04 2015

Congo was formerly called Zaire.

Capital: Kinshasa

Official Language: French

Religion: 92% Christian

Notable Geographical details: The Congo river system and massive rainforest areas.

Details from “Operation World”:

1. Both (i) Arabs and (ii) Belgium’s King Leopold II enslaved and looted the country during the 19th Century.

King Leopold’s private empire was notorious, and virtually halved the population. Some 10 million people died over a 30 year period.  

2. The Belgian government took over in 1908. Since then, the Belgian colonial rule and international mining companies have exploited the Congo’s resources. The local people have been treated badly. However, the Protestant and Catholic churches have made a huge positive input to the nation. 

3. The West’s propping up of Mobutu’s corrupt government is the primary reason for the present chaos.

4. Operation world says: “Inter-ethnic hostility during the 1990s led to warfare, killings and many fleeing for their lives in Shaba in the south and the Great Lakes in the east and northeast. Hutu and Tutsi ethnic militias, of both Congolese and foreign origin, still roam the Great Lakes region, terrorizing the populace and perpetuating violence, destruction and terror.
The evils of the past need to be admitted, repented of and put right for the Congo to have a viable future. Some Christian groups in Belgium have offered identificational repentance for the predations of their country, a positive development.

The wars of the 1990s and following embroiled the military forces of seven nations and provoked the rise of local inter-ethnic conflicts and warlords. None of these forces and factions had Congo’s best interests at heart. Most foreign forces have withdrawn, although Rwandan troops often cross the border to pursue rebels. Many militias are still at large, and the ravages of war must still be repaired”.

Points for Prayer:

1. Lord of the Nations, we pray that Hostilities may cease and peace take hold.

“Now, only the eastern Kivu and northeastern areas remain unstable with regular violence, a patchwork of rebel forces and militias. Pray for international bodies, regional governments and the woefully inadequate DRC army and police to act with justice, decisiveness, wisdom and authority in making and keeping peace. The UN peacekeeping force (MONUSCO) is large but impossibly overstretched in its new remit to help rebuild Congo”.

2. May Illegal forces be disarmed and disbanded.

“Most militias have devolved into little more than personal armies of dangerous warlords, wreaking terror upon an innocent and helpless populace far from the safety of government or international forces. Included among these are the Lord’s Resistance Army (from Uganda) and countless groups in the provinces of Kivu, Maniema and Orientale, including PARECO, CNDP, FDLR, FNI, Simba, Mai-Mai Simba, Mai-Ami Kapopo, Mai-Mai Yakutumba, others. Providing jobs and even basic needs as incentives for these desperate men to lay down their arms is a great challenge”.

O Lord, we pray for these men to be convicted and disillusioned with this life and for those continuing to perpetrate such violence to be stopped. We pray that the past and present warlords and war criminals may be stopped and brought to justice.

3. We pray for the return of the 1.7 million displaced people to their homes. Around 1.3 million people in the east of the country alone have been uprooted. Life in refugee camps is miserable and uncertain. Those interned are vulnerable to militia attacks, disease and sexual predation, and they live with little or no resources for anything beyond mere survival.

4.  The cessation of war crimes and exploitation of the conflict. Untold horrors have been committed against many thousands of innocents. Rape is routinely used as a weapon of fear, as are mutilation and torture. Stealing cattle – the portable wealth of many tribes – is a normal activity for militias, as is illicit mining of diamonds and other resources to be sold to unscrupulous foreign buyers.

O Risen Lord Jesus, King of all Nations, we pray for an end to these evils, and the furthering of your reign of peace and hope.








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