CAST Voices Devotion: Ascension Day

CAST Voices Devotion: Ascension Day

25 May 2017

By Jean-Ray Knighton Fitt

Matthew 28:18-20

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations baptising them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And surely I am with you all the time until the end of the age.

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Today is Ascension Day – and these words are the very last ones Jesus spoke to his disciples on that day before he ascended into heaven. This is how Jesus handed over of the baton of messianic ministry from Himself to us.

On Tuesday we talked about God’s intention to bring blessing to all nations through the seed of Abraham—while we realise the seed of Abraham refers to the nation of Israel, the New Testament tells us that it refers particularly to Jesus.

But on Ascension Day we realise something else: that when Jesus left this earth he handed that responsibility over to us. The promise is not only about Israel, it is not only about Jesus, it is about us too. We are now the ones who, in the name of Jesus, carry the responsibility of bringing the blessing of God to all nations. This is God’s special calling on us. Remember that we said the Bible describes the blessing of God as happiness or joy, protection and security, favour, honour, peace, authority, long life, good relationships, many children, material abundance and most of all, the presence of God.

Remember also that it is through covenant relationship with God and obedience to Him that we receive His blessings and that we teach others to receive them too.

In this passage the word “All” is used five times:

First: All authority in heaven and earth is given to Jesus—so it is certain that we will succeed if we do what he tells us to.

Second: He tells us to go into all the world—no place is to be left out.

Third: He tells us to make disciples of all the nations—not just the individuals, but all nations. Whole nations are to be brought into the kingdom, every person in the world.

Fourth: We are to teach them to obey all the things he has taught us—this is real discipleship: absolute obedience to him in every way.

And Fifth: He will be with us all the time. We will not take a step or make a move where he is unable to guide us, rescue us or support us.

The blessing of God is much greater than the assurance of going to heaven, it is salvation every day in every part of our lives.  And it is not only for us—it is for every person on this planet. The blessing of God is a result of the kingdom of God and our mission is to bring that kingdom to every place and every person.

Questions to ponder:

  1. What is the difference between what Jesus says about all nations and the way we usually approach evangelism?
  2. How can we be better as Christians at making the connection between blessing and obedience for the people we serve through our ministries?

CAST Voices Devotion: All Nations

CAST Voices Devotion: All Nations

By Jean-Ray Knighton Fitt

23 May 2017

Genesis 22:18 In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.

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The theme of “All Nations” or “All People” is one of the important themes in the Bible. We first come across it in Genesis 6 where God says: “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them” … and he does. He floods the whole world and saves only Noah and his family.

But through most of the Bible, God’s agenda is to find a way to save and bless all people, and so he looks for a good man, a man of faith and obedience through whom he can bring that blessing to all the nations of the world.  Genesis 22:18 tells us that he found Abraham and appointed him as the one through whom he would bring this blessing. This is one of five times that God makes the exact same promise to Abraham – that through his seed all nations on earth will be blessed. This was his main intention, not only for Abraham’s life but for his descendants—blessing for all the nations.

The Bible explains in many ways what blessing means: It means happiness or joy, protection and security, it means favour, honour, peace, authority, long life, good relationships, many children, material abundance and most of all, the presence of God. And it is God’s desire that all nations of the world should experience this kind of blessing. So He made a plan to bring blessing to all the nations.

The Bible also makes the clear connection between blessing and obedience to God. In fact in this passage, all nations are going to be blessed because of Abraham’s obedience. But this blessing is not automatic – it is dependent on all nations learning from Abraham and his descendants (his seed) to obey God and live in covenant with Him just as Abraham did.

The New Testament explains to us that the blessing for all nations was not only through the nation of Israel (the descendants, or seed, of Abraham) but more particularly from one man—the ultimate descendant of Abraham, Jesus, who obeyed God in every way without fault.

Following Jesus will always bring blessing to us. Not necessarily every element of blessing all the time because there will be times of hardship, danger, persecution, loneliness, and poverty—he promises these to us too!  But His presence remains with us in all these things, and ultimately the journey of a life with Jesus does bring blessing in every way. Not only to us but to everyone around us.

Questions to ponder:

  1. Who is included in “All Nations”? Think of some names of people groups / nations.
  2. How have you experienced blessing through knowing Jesus and obeying God?

CAST Voices Devotion: Children & Role Models

CAST Voices Devotion: Children & Role Models

By Joseph Bode

Scripture: 1 Samuel 2:12-36; Deuteronomy 6:6-7

Devotion:

Children are a blessing from God and He has given us the responsibility to nurture them as they grow. However we have failed as parents, guardians, churches, and communities. The environment that we have created is toxic for children and it does not support their potential! The environment chokes their potential and eventually shatters their dreams. This forces many children to become substance abusers, thugs, poor, malnourished and so on.

On other hand, we also hear and see sad stories of children being abused, killed, forced into labour, etc. The list is endless. Those who are entrusted with the responsibility of caring for children have failed – they have neglected the responsibilities that God has assigned to them, even committing all sorts of crime against children. It is very sad that there are no role models, father figures, mother figures, brother figures or sister figures. The society is toxic and unfriendly to children.

Let’s look at a passage: 1 Samuel 2:12-36.

In the above passage we see a father, Eli, who was God fearing and did amazing things in the temple. He held a coveted highest office as a priest and a judge in the land of Israel. Sadly his sons brought it low because they sinned against God. The fact is that Eli did his job well, but he forgot his responsibilities as a father and parent – He neglected his sons. He was too busy for them, and he only began taking action after the people of Israel complained. He warned his sons but never stopped them, and the whole family had to suffer the consequences!

God has entrusted us with the responsibility of caring and nurturing children in His ways – in our homes, churches and communities. He wants us to make time for children and be good role models as well.

Deuteronomy 6:6-7 “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise”.

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Questions:

1. What is your attitude towards children? Do you see them as a blessing or a burden on your church or ministry?

2. How do you handle those children who are considered as an outcast, naughty, neglected, attention seekers, annoying and so on?

3. Do you consider yourself a good role model (father figure, mother figure, etc) to children? Are there areas you need to improve on in caring and nurturing for them?

CAST Voices Devotion: Learning from the Little Ones Part 2

CAST Voices Devotion: Learning from the Little Ones

By Cindy Whittle

Part 2: Children have unlimited potential

Exodus 2: The Birth of Moses
Now a man of the tribe of Levi married a Levite woman, and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months. But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him.

Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the riverbank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her female slave to get it. She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. “This is one of the Hebrew babies,” she said.

Then his sister asked Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?”

“Yes, go,” she answered. So the girl went and got the baby’s mother. Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you.” So the woman took the baby and nursed him. When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying, “I drew him out of the water.”
Devotion:

“Your greatest contribution to the Kingdom of God may not be something you do, but someone you raise.” -Andy Stanley
DSC_0648On Tuesday we looked at the Biblical account of the boy who brought the loaves and the fishes to Jesus. 5000 men were fed that day and the crowds who had come out to hear Jesus speak were exposed to Jesus the provider, the Jesus who is able to do the impossible, the Jesus who is able to take the little we give him and use it for the advancement of His Kingdom.

Today we consider the story of Moses. Moses was born into a world full of insecurity, fear and doubt on the part of the Pharaoh, which had in turn bred hatred and contempt for the Hebrew people. As a result, his very existence was threatened before he was even born. God allowed Moses’ mother to do what she had to to preserve his life because one day God would use Moses to lead God’s people out of Egypt after 400 plus years of slavery, one day God would give Moses the Ten Commandments, one day Moses would write the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible, considered the books of the Law. Moses would foreshadow Jesus. He would pave the way for Him.

It’s amazing to consider the two moms in the background of each of these accounts. Both moms were doing their best in completely different ways. I imagine the mom of the little boy with the loaves and the fishes got up early that day to pack his lunch. She supported him in the only way she could. He wanted to go to hear the Rabbi speak and she gave him all she had, to enable him to do that. I imagine he learnt to give all he had to Jesus from a mom who gave all she had to him. Jochebed, Moses’ mother, had to be even bolder to support her son. She had to go against Pharaoh’s command to save his life. Jochebed had to be fearless and determined. She had to believe her son had unlimited potential to be used of God. She believed God had a plan for his life that outweighed the cost of her own. I imagine he learnt to carry out God’s will without fear of what this could cost him from a mom who carried out God’s will without fear of what this could cost her. Think about that for a moment.

Questions:

1. You may be a mother or simply called to play the role of a mother in a child’s life. Do you believe that child has unlimited potential to be used of God?

2. Have you ever considered that God may have called a child in your care or simply in your company to do something of value to the Kingdom that far outweighs His purpose for you? How far are you willing to go to help them realise that potential?

3. Consider the mother figures in your own life. What have you learnt from them? What can you share because of them?

CAST Voices Devotion: Learning from the Little Ones

CAST Voices Devotion: Learning from the Little Ones

By Cindy Whittle

Part I: Children have unquestioning faith

John 6: Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand

Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. The Jewish Passover Festival was near.

When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.

Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”  Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”

Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.

When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

Devotion:

What … if?  What if?  These two words have the power to hold us back and stifle even the most confident voice in us if accompanied by the slightest bit of fear and doubt – “I want to share my idea but what if no one agrees with me? I want to believe the encouraging words I received today but what if my colleagues are just saying good things about me but they don’t actually mean it? I want to share my prayer request but what if everyone judges me if I am vulnerable and real?” But in the absence of fear and doubt and in the presence of Jesus, they are two very powerful words indeed. Two words at the inception of every innovative movement and every leap of faith CAST has taken, “What if poor people, who are possibly even in debt, could save money each month? What if fish farming could be started inland in Noodsberg? What if people could permanently move out of poverty? What if the cycle of fatherlessness could be broken? What if an 8 year old refugee child who could barely recognise a handful of letters at the start of a year could learn to read and maybe even write by the end of that year? What if there could be no poor among us?”

20160728 Word Works - Addington (8 of 32)

Friends, the little boy in this passage was poor. He had five small loaves of barley bread, the cheapest bread at the time, pretty much considered animal feed, and two small fishes similar to sardines or anchovies. But he asked “What if?” I imagine he asked “What if I gave my lunch to Jesus? What if I held nothing back?” No fear, no doubt, just the unquestioning faith that Jesus can do the impossible if we bring what we have to Him.  Jesus can take our ‘what if’s’ and turn them into a reality, a certainty, for the advancement of His Kingdom.

Questions:

  1. Consider the loaves and fishes in your hands today. The multitudes are hungry. What holds you back from giving all you have to Jesus?
  2. Do you ask “What if?” In your work or in your personal life? Even if it seems really unlikely, even an impossibility, do you ask it in any case and then hand it over to Jesus to make a way?
  3. Children have unquestioning faith. At what point have we lost that as grown-ups? And most importantly, how do we get it back?