Blind or Evidence-based Faith
Two ladies were lost deep underground in the dark. After waiting many hours, one lady said: ‘I believe we should head this way.’
The other lady rolled her eyes and sighed: ‘You’re just as lost as me – why should I blindly follow you? How can you possibly believe your way is the right direction?
‘I can’t be certain, but the tunnel slopes upwards and there’s a slight breeze coming from that direction. Also, it’s less dim indicating that there may be light further up.
The truth is: in life we are all stumbling along in the darkness. How do you answer the following questions: Is there a God? Is there meaning to life? Is there life after death? Whether you believe: ‘yes’ or ‘no’, it requires faith.
No one can prove how the universe originated and no one has proven evolution – it remains a theory with many missing links. Still, many atheist laugh at Christians stating their religious belief is simply blind-faith while their belief is based on science.
To the contrary, many Christians base their faith on science and the evidence gathered around them. They see that all scientific laws are ordered, consistent and governed – which points them to a Governor. They have witnessed science redefine the simple cell as anything but simple. They marvel at the complexity of the DNA molecule (the most efficient information storage system in the known universe), and wonder at the intricate designs in creation and come to the conclusion: there is a Designer.
Many Christians also consider self-awareness, that invisible and defining sense within each of us that is often called a soul? Some explain it as simply the perfect balance of chemicals, ions and memory-association cells, but others rationally conclude that our self-aware spirit is infinitely more complex and is something that empirical science has had no success in examining or duplicating (no matter how many Hollywood movies have been made to the contrary).
Many Christians have weighed up the scientific evidence and used critical thinking to determine there is a Creator behind creation. Their faith is not delusionary or blind but evidence-based and this leads them to God.
To the atheist that thinks their core beliefs are not faith but proven facts, remember your foundation rests on a Big Bang theory where ‘nothing’ exploded and chaotically formed an ordered universe with unfathomable complex designs.
Romans 1:20 states: For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – His eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
Leaning on an object for support is fine as long as it’s solid. Unfortunately, most of us have leant on something flimsy or unstable and suffered an embarrassing fall.
There are many benefits of coming together in church, but one of the hazards is we start leaning on each other instead of leaning on God. When we have support groups to depend on in times of trouble we are often setting ourselves up for a big fall.
The Bible states in Jeremiah 17:5: Cursed is the man who trust in man and makes flesh his strength. No matter how saintly someone or some organisation seems to be – people are still people. Individuals and groups will fail and forsake you. They can unintentionally misdirect and give bad advice. They can have breakdowns and go negative. If people are the strength you depend upon, it’s inevitable you will have a fall – in which you may not get up from.
Alternatively, we may decide to go ‘lone-wolf’, only trusting in self and our own independent spirit to get by. But how strong are we? What happens when we reach breaking point?
There is nothing intrinsically wrong with relying on others from time to time or being independent, but we cross that line when we make anything apart from God our source of strength.
God wants us to lean on Him in bad times and good times. He is the only stable, unbreakable, unchanging support. He will never forsake us or steer us wrong (Deut. 31.8. Prov. 3:5-6). He is never too busy to listen and will never gossip behind our back. In times of strife, heartache and worry, we should stop giving lip service to God and start actively leaning on Him. We do this by claiming God’s promises and trusting He is working everything together for good, (Rom. 8:28).
When we lean on God instead of man, we’ll soon gain the peace-of-mind we once lacked and have confidence that He will lead us where we should be at precisely the right time.
Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord. For he shall be planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river and will not fear when heat comes; but it’s leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of the drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit. Jeremiah 17:7- 8.
A Blueprint of Christ
A blueprint is a design or pattern that is a guide to making something else.
When God created mankind, He put a blueprint of Christ inside each of our souls. This blueprint is the pattern and standard for us to follow. Though we repeatedly fail to live up to God’s standard we still have a strong sense of what is noble, what is right and what is wrong.
Due to this blueprint in our soul, we respond positively when we see Christlikeness in others. When witnessing integrity, courage, compassion and grace, we instinctively know that this is how a person should think and behave. We respond positively to heroic characters in movies or literature who exhibit those Christ-like traits.
Evolutionary thinking promotes that right and wrong are relative concepts; however, deep within we all have a strong sense of what is good and what is just. Though we may ignore it, there’s an inner moral voice that reminds us when we are losing our way.
God has not left us to stumble around in the dark. Our blueprint in our soul is intended as a guide to Christlikeness (Romans 12:2). Yet, just because we have the blueprint, doesn’t mean we will follow the instructions and renovate our thinking. We may choose our own pattern to mould ourselves even to the point of criminal behaviour. We have the choice to either develop the character of Christ or develop the character of the world within us. In the end, the sort of character we have built will be determined by which blueprint we have followed.
When we eventually die and stand before our Lord Jesus Christ, we will have no problems recognising Him as He is the perfect fulfilment of that blueprint in our souls. At that point, we will hope that we are a reflection and embodiment of His grace-filled character.
But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. 2 Corinthians 3:18
Imagine if your identity was stolen and the perpetrator committed crimes in your name. Suddenly, you are held responsible for their actions and now business and banks won’t deal with you. Of course you would want a chance to clear your name, but what if no matter what you said or did, people continue to believe the worst about you.
God’s identity has been stolen by violent religions and weird cults. Throughout history, so many horrendous things have been done in God’s name. Sadly, people now hold God responsible for the perpetrators’ actions.
To clear His good name for all generations, God came to earth as a man. Through the life and actions of Jesus Christ we learn first-hand who God is and what He stands for. “I and My Father are one.” (John 10:30.)
Jesus was loving, just and graceful to all – no matter their station in life, their sex, or their sins. He equally associated with high-born and outcasts. He actively stood against those who would condemned or swindle others. He did not force His views on those who rejected Him. We learn through His words and action that Jesus was categorically against violent crusades, inquisitions, terrorist attacks, suicide bombings, human sacrifice, suppression of women and abuse of children.
God’s true identity is revealed through the life of Christ. When Jesus willingly went to the cross to pay the ‘debt-of-sin’ so all may have eternal life, we truly see God’s love demonstrated.
Yet God created us with freewill and He will not coerce our volition. Despite the written revelation in the Bible, we may still choose to hold God accountable for the atrocities done in His name. But we must remember: God is not threatened if we choose to believe the worst about Him – He is not upset by our snide comments – and He is not less real for our unbelief. If we cut off our relationship with God, it is not He that misses out – it is us.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten (uniquely born) Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
Counting Our Blessings
It’s those times we go without that give us capacity to fully appreciate what we have. The joy of food is greatly enhanced when we have missed a meal. A moment of health is fully enjoyed when we have endured a long sickness. And we certainly adore those first sunny days after a long winter.
It’s hard to count your blessings when you have always had them. The angels were created in a perfect environment receiving blessing after blessing from God. They did not know suffering, pain or death. Instead of being grateful, a third of the angels became resentful and rebelled (Isa. 14:13-14, Rev. 12:4). We can see this same pattern repeated in humanity. History shows that a generation born into prosperity usually becomes an ungrateful generation with entitlement issues.
Appreciation often comes when we are deprived of something – ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’. Ironically, it is through adversity that capacity for joy is built.
God is not the author of suffering and never intended it for angels or humanity; however, He allows the repercussions of free will to take its course (both individually and collectively), so we can build a frame of reference to appreciate His unrestrained blessings in Eternity.
For those who accept God’s free offer of salvation (through Christ), there will be no more adversity after death. God can rain his blessings on us as He originally intended, and due to life’s lessons we will have the capacity to enjoy them. With our understanding of pain, loneliness, heartache and death, we will have an everlasting frame of reference to appreciate, health, love, joy and eternal life.
“And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4
The Ultimate Power
We all enjoy the benefits of electricity; it lights our world and powers our houses and devices. Though we depend on electricity, we learn from an early age that high voltage can kill. If you touch an exposed live wire, you will be zapped – it makes no difference whether you are a boy or girl, young or old, good or bad.
God is the Ultimate Power – He is the Energiser behind all other power sources – He created and upholds the universe and all the laws of science and nature. We enjoy the benefits of God’s power daily, but while we live on earth God gracefully insulates us from His potent essence.
Though God is infinite, people often ascribe human characteristics to Him and then condemn Him on that basis. They say things like: ‘If God is good and loving, how can He sentence people to Hell for not accepting Him?’ We must remember our infinite God is beyond our understanding; to judge Him on human standards would be wrong.
When we die, we come face to face with God and the Bible states, His perfection is not compatible with sin or human righteousness. If we are not ‘fully insulated’ when we come face to face with Him, God’s essence must cast us from His presence.
We may say, ‘Well, I don’t want to be in God’s presence if He is like that!’ But remember, Hell, for lack of a better word, is the very place where God’s comfort and provisions are not present.
God is as He is – He cannot compromise or change or He would cease to be the Binding Energy of the universe. Like electricity, if we want the benefits we must acknowledge the dangers. The Bible warns us, from Old to New Testament, if we are not ‘fully insulated’ in His presence, we will be judged and condemned. We may meekly say, ‘But I’m a relatively good person’; however, that is like being relatively insulated when we touch a high voltage electrical wire.
God wants us all to enjoy the benefits of His infinite power for eternity. Yet the Bible clearly says, we are all sinners and have fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). To insulate ourselves from being cast out of His presence, God (through Jesus Christ) died on the cross to pay for our transgressions. (Philippians 2:5-8)
The choice is up to us; we either accept or reject the work done by Jesus Christ on our behalf. Only by accepting Him as Saviour are we ‘fully insulated’ when come into personal contact with the Ultimate Power of the universe.
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23
‘For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.’ Romans 3:23
Religion Versus Christianity
A man that was honest, dynamic and hardworking was rejected at every job interview he attended. It wasn’t because of his qualifications – his resume was impeccable. He was rejected because of his twin brother’s criminal reputation and was judged untrustworthy by association.
Many people reject Christianity on the basis of the horrible things done in the name of religion. However, we forget that Jesus Christ was not impressed with religion either. In fact, it was religious people that conspired to nail Him to the cross.
The Bible states that Jesus Christ is the Son of God – the manifestation of God in human flesh (John 10:30). We can see through Christ’s life that God is very much against crusades, inquisitions, terrorist attacks, suicide bombings, human sacrifice, suppression of women and abuse of children.
When Christ was alive, He took a firm stand against hypocritical religious leaders; He tossed spiritual-swindlers out of the temple who were fleecing the public; He courageously stood between religious zealots ready to execute a woman charged with adultery.
Sadly, religion has given Christianity a reputation it doesn’t deserve. God is no fan of religion. If we reject Christianity on the basis of the despicable things done and said by religious people, we have judged Christianity and God unfairly.
Religion may wrong you, condemn you, malign you or nail you to a cross – but God certainly doesn’t want this. He desires to have an eternal, loving relationship with each of us no matter who we are or how we have failed Him.
Christianity is not about a set of meaningless rituals, feeling guilty and trying to be good. Christianity is a restoration of a family relationship with our Heavenly Father through the saving work of Jesus Christ on the cross. God greatly desires we accept His gift of Salvation so we can be reconciled with Him for eternity. The choice is now individually up to us if we wish to be reconciled with Him.
John 3:16 states, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son (Jesus Christ), that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
For years, boys have been wishing they were Superman. But what happens when a boy straps on a cape and jumps of a roof hoping to fly like his idol? For a brief moment there is exhilaration, but then he comes crashing to earth.
What is our wishful thinking? What philosophies are we buying into?
Racy TV shows infer a passionate love life if we are promiscuous. Glamorous TV characters go through many sex partners without any consequences in following episodes. So, if we imitate, will we also get off scot-free? No, it is wishful thinking believing we can play the field and have no repercussions for all involved.
Or are we impressed with movies that portray drug taking and excessive drinking as the way to party and popularity. Do we really think we will get those positive results if we mimic?
Or maybe we are imitating rock stars or computer game characters that empower us to be ‘super independent’, a lone-wolf who hits hard and hits first – with attitude. Those that do, usually lose what friends they have with their selfish attitude or land in big trouble with random acts of violence.
Like the boy who jumps off the roof hoping to fly, there will be a brief moment of exhilaration before we come crashing to earth.
We must be very careful of our wishful thinking. Movies, computer games and music can have a powerful influence on us. We must keep in mind that many destructive actions are glamorised and show no repercussion if practiced in the real world.
God implores us to keep away from things like: gossiping, self-absorption, illicit drug taking, unrestrained sex and violence acts. He does this not to stop our fun, but to stop us ruining our lives. It is our choice. The battle is lost or won in our thinking.
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” Romans 12:2a
Believing We Are
What is our mindset? A prince acts like a prince because he believes he is a prince. This results from being told from birth that he is royalty and at some point he accepts it and acts accordingly.
When a girl is often told by her peers she is beautiful, she will act with confidence and self-worth.
Sadly, the opposite is also true; we can believe we are ‘nothing’ because we accept negative comments. Often, if we believe we are nothing, we act like it and allow people to treat us accordingly.
As Christians, we are born again as joint heirs into the Royal Family of God because of Christ’s efficacious work on the Cross. (Rom 8:16-17, Phil 3:20). What does this mean? We are told we are divine royalty but most of don’t act like we believe it. We go through life filled with worry, feeling unloved and believing we are nothing important.
When we do start believing we are sons and daughters of God we will also act accordingly:
We will believe we are treasured and someone of worth. John 16:27 states: “For the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and believed I came forth from God.”
We will have an unshakable confidence amidst the battles of life because we believe that all-powerful God will be with us. Hebrews 13:5 states: For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
We will speak boldly knowing our Heavenly Father will vindicate us if necessary. Romans 8:31states: If God is for us, who can be against us?
We will be relaxed and joyous because our Heavenly Father governs all the laws of nature and owns the riches of the universe. Psalm 68:19 states: Blessed be the Lord, who daily loads us with benefits, the God of our salvation!
Finally, when we truly believe we are Spiritual Royalty, joint heirs with our Lord Jesus, the result we be the mindset of inner peace. Isaiah 26:3 states: You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.
Parents soon learn that when the TV is on their children’s productivity immediately drops. The only way to get their kids to do their homework, chores or exercise is to switch the TV off.
Prosperity is the greatest distracter to growth in the spiritual life. When all is going well we often take our eyes off the ‘eternal goal’ and lose ourselves in the details of life. Before we know it, a stimulating social life, acquiring more wealth and accolades, or playing with expensive toys and trinkets takes up all our time and energy.
Here is God’s dilemma – like any good parent He desires prosperity for His children; however, God knows that without capacity, prosperity will simply be a distraction to spiritual productivity and advancing in the Christian life.
The only way to bring many sons and daughters to Glory is to moderate life’s prosperity or remove it altogether until capacity is developed. This is not to say that God only prospers the mature Christian; there will always be different levels of prosperity and adversity throughout our Christian life. Furthermore, when considering prosperity and adversity, we must factor we live in the Devil’s world and everyone within it has a sin nature.
It’s natural to want prosperous circumstances, but it’s not likely God will rain prosperity on someone who has no capacity, especially if that prosperity is a distraction to growing in Grace. “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.” 3 John 2
Keeping Up Our Guard
In martial sports like boxing and karate, you soon learn that if you don’t keep your guard up it’s only a matter of time before you are clobbered.
Christianity promises a life of inner joy – if this is so why are there so many uptight, depressed Christians?
We may be able to quote the Bible from cover to cover, we may know all the promises and can converse on any biblical doctrine, but if we don’t apply that which we have learnt we are defenceless. We are like a fighter who knows all the fancy moves but gets into the ring and freezes – all his knowledge is useless and will not save him from being hit.
The Bible tells us that the world will slug us if we do not keep our guard up (1 Peter 5:8-9). If we don’t apply the ‘Biblical Truths’ we have learnt to our daily circumstances we will get clobbered by adversity and slapped miserable in prosperity.
We guard ourselves from stress, bitterness and depression by applying biblical promises and doctrines. This is where many Christians fail because there is a huge difference between knowing and applying. Many people live Christianity academically and never actually trust the things they learn in the Bible; instead they lean on their own wisdom or worldly council then wonder why life always knocks them down.
We must actively trust that God will honour His Word at the right time and in a right way (even if His time and way doesn’t seem right to us). If we hand our problems to God but continue to stress, it may be an indication that we have little faith.
Remember, we get results not by what we know but how we apply that knowledge. When we keep our ‘spiritual’ guard up, adversities in life won’t knock us out. Only then will we start developing the relaxed-attitude and joy promised to us in the Bible.
John 15:11 states: “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.”
Glow in the Dark
If you hold phosphorus under a bright light then turn out the lights the phosphorus will glow in the dark. This is a process where energy is absorbed by a substance and is slowly released in the form of light.
As Christians, we are Christ’s representatives in a world filled with dishonesty, despair and selfishness. We are called to be a light in darkness. How is this possible when we have a sin-nature and are fully capable of all the selfish deeds taking place in the world around us?
We charge ourselves with the Word of God and reflect Christ’s characteristics. When we are under Christ’s light, if we have the opportunity for revenge – we will choose to forgive; when we could cheat – we will deal honestly; when we could be selfish – we will be happy to serve; and when we are stressed – we will learn to relax and trust in God. When Christians energise themselves with God’s promises and mandates they are a graceful light in a dark world.
But we must remember: if we don’t constantly expose ourselves to God’s Word our Christ-like light will soon cease and we will become just as dark as the world around us. Then, we have failed to be a graceful Christian that glows in the dark.
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16
The Happiness Experiment
An experiment is a procedure undertaken to make a discovery, observation, or demonstrate a known fact. For the best results an experiment needs a suitable candidate tested under the right circumstances.
We all wish to be happy. The big question is what will make us happy? Is happiness found in riches, fame or power? An experiment is needed to truly find out. We can either spend a lifetime chasing these things ourselves or we can look at the results of the ultimate happiness experiment recorded in the Bible.
God supplied a perfect candidate that had it all: the looks, the power, the fame, and the riches. Furthermore, King Solomon was a man historically noted for his wisdom. God allowed Solomon to indulge in all the worldly things that many believe happiness is found.
Very few people in the world have had the opportunity and resources to experiment like Solomon could, (read Ecclesiastes). He was one of the wealthiest men of his age. He was admired for his great accomplishments and envied for his power. He partied like few in history. On top of this he had one of the world’s largest harems. So what did wise Solomon conclude? Did any of these things bring him lasting happiness?
After many years experimenting and observing, Solomon concludes in Ecclesiastes that these things are: ‘meaningless vanity and chasing after the wind. Those who have money never have enough. Those who have power and fame are never satisfied’. He further concludes: ‘True happiness can only be found in knowing God and fulfilling His commandments’.
So, we have the option of accepting the results of the ‘Happiness experiment’ or, like a dog chasing his tail, we can continue pursuing happiness through the acquiring of ‘stuff’.
King David (Solomon’s father), concluded in Psalm 16:11: You will show me the path of life; in your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore
In the Old Testament, before the Judges of Israel could bring their people back to God they had to knock down the idols that were being worshiped.
Before our friends and neighbours give the Gospel a hearing, we sometimes need to knock down the idols they are worshipping. Today, the idol is evolutionary thinking. Sadly, most people don’t believe evolution is a theory but an established fact.
It is handy for Christians to have an understanding of “evolution versus creation” to give rational answers when people question. There are plenty of examples in nature and science that illuminate the design in creation and points to the Designer behind it, (Google the many eminent Christian professors and doctors that have written excellent scientific defences for God and Christianity).
However, there is an occupational hazard to Christian apologetics. We can become so caught up arguing evolution that we neglect to mention the Gospel. Many educated Christians have won academic debates, but without the Gospel no one has been won to Christ. We must remember that: The Word of God is alive and powerful… (Hebrews 4:12). God honours His Word, not our clever arguments. When His Gospel is spoken, God will rattle the hearer to its importance and will haunt them with its message time and time again.
There is certainly a place for Christian apologetics in toppling evolutionary idols, but without the Gospel it’s simply an academic argument.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. (1 Peter 1:3)
There are many different ways to breaking in a horse. ‘Horse Whispering’ or ‘Natural Horsemanship’ is a gentle training method that is often employed to rehabilitate horses that have become vicious and stubborn due to abuse or accident. Horse whispering develops a rapport with the horse resulting from observation and communication.
Horse whisperers employ the following principles to get the best results:
Take time to understand how a horse works and thinks.
Talk to the horse in gentle soothing tones.
Spend time around the horse.
Feed the horse personally.
Listen to the horse.
We sometimes wonder why friends and loved ones can become antagonistic whenever we try to present the Gospel. If we get on their backs and dig in our Christian spurs, nine times out of ten we’ll be bucked off. Being pushy or confrontational usually stops the ‘good news’ message from ever being accepted. When trying to get friends and loved ones to Christ, we should take a few tips from Horse Whisperers:
Take time to understand our loved one’s perspective. Learn their interests and what is important to them.
Don’t get confrontational – it never helps.
Spend time around your loved one. Take an interest in what they are doing – build a rapport. Don’t be judgemental.
Help them out. Everyone is carrying a load – even children. Gracefully lend a hand, expecting nothing in return.
Listen to them. If someone feels they have been listened too, they are more likely to listen in return.
We should all try horse-whispering techniques on friends and loved ones; at the very least we will have a better relationship with them. Certainly, these principles take time and a lot of patience, but when it is regarding friends and loved ones the results are ‘eternally’ worth it.
2 Corinthians 9:6 states, “But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.”
Many adolescents zone out and stop listening to their parents’ council. It’s only when they end in trouble that some become humble enough to listen to advice.
Humility should be the hallmark of a Christian. This is not the, ‘ah shucks – I’m nobody’ sort of humility; this is the humility of always being teachable no matter how important we become.
God is constantly trying to instruct us through Biblical wisdom and our circumstances, but often we are so distracted by ‘worldly’ things that we don’t want to hear the lessons – so we zone-out.
God patiently wants to instruct each of us. But as we advance in the Christian way-of-life, we often assume the little we know is a lot and stop being teachable; or, we think God is a killjoy trying to stop our fun with all his rules and regulations. Usually, it is only when we end in trouble and are trying to dig ourselves out that we start to seek His divine advice again.
We should periodically stop and review our attitude regarding God’s Word; (remember, just because we praise God it doesn’t mean we are listening to Him). Have we zoned-out? Have we become our own authority? Are we too busy to seek His wisdom? If we want to avoid future pitfalls (and some pits we certainly want to avoid), we should stop being distracted, even by beneficial things, and zone-in to our Heavenly Parent’s wise Word.
Proverbs 3:5-6 states: Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.
Tearing Down the Old
Normally, people don’t want to live in a leaky, run-down house built on a shaky foundation. So if opportunity presents they leave. Yet, if they love the location they will tear down the old structure to rebuild a better house on a stronger foundation.
We all live within the confines of our beliefs. We should ask ourselves: what ‘structure-of-thinking’ have I built? Do I believe that money will buy me happiness? Most people would quickly say, ‘No’; however, they are living and working like it does.
Think about it honestly – are we living in the belief that happiness and fulfilment will be acquired with the attainment of power, beauty or the approbation of others? Do we believe getting married (or divorced) will solve all our problems? Do we think achieving great accomplishments will fill the emptiness? These are all structures of thinking that the world has sold to us. But does happiness reside in these worldly things? The people who do acquire them quickly realise there is no lasting happiness there. These things are just vanity and grasping for the wind (read Ecclesiastes). Sadly, it’s only when we do acquire what we thought would bring us lasting happiness and fulfilment do we realise what a flimsy belief we were living in.
God wants us to be happy in any circumstance and He has instructed us how to do this. To attain God’s promised happiness we need to renovate our thinking. We need to tear down our shaky, old ‘happiness-beliefs’ and rebuild on a solid foundation of our Lord Jesus Christ. When we start thinking as our Lord did, we construct on a solid foundation of truth that will confidently see us through all the peaks and valleys of life. As Colossians 3:2 states, ‘Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.’ (Rom 12:2, Phil 4:8, John 8:32)
The Fickleness of People
Prominent actors, sport personalities and musicians know all too well the fickleness of people. One minute you are flavour of the month and can do no wrong, then suddenly the media turns and the crowd becomes hostile.
Today, there is a real push in Christian circles to encourage each other. This is certainly not a bad thing; however, it often leads to a lot of insincere reinforcement. Churches are filled with well-meaning Christians encouraging others simply for encouragement-sake, not on the basis of genuine support of what others are doing, teaching or trying to accomplish.
It is certainly nice to have people’s encouragement when doing Christian works, but if their praise is our motivating factor, when the crowd becomes indifferent or turns antagonistic, we will ‘drop our bundle’, get depressed and cease our good works. As the Bible plainly states, ‘Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength.’
Our Lord Jesus Christ certainly understood you could count on people’s fickleness more than their encouragement. One moment the crowd was cheering Him with palm leaves and shouting, ‘Hosanna’. Within a very short time these same people were shouting for His execution. We should be eternally thankful that our Lord kept His eyes firmly set on God and did not draw his strength from people. We should unquestionably do likewise! (Jeremiah 17:5)
A personal trainer is someone who teaches and motivates others for the purpose of their physical advancement. A good trainer understands that people have varying levels of fitness and ability – that too much too soon will only injure and cause people to be discouraged and lose interest.
A good trainer starts small and motivates their students to push themselves. They inspire them to exercise and educate them to develop good eating habits.
When their student has turned their ‘fat into fit’ and everyone is commenting on the transformation, it always brings credit to the trainer.
We seldom consider the role of the Holy Spirit (the third Person of the Trinity). He is our ‘Personal-Spiritual-Trainer’. He has full knowledge about us and knows exactly what we need to build spiritual muscle. He motivates us when we lack motivation. He persistently whispers in our ear (the still small voice of our conscience) and inspires us to push ourselves. He encourages us to have a balanced spiritual diet (Biblical Truths) and discourages us from junk food (sin). At times He organises difficult circumstances and frustrating people to enter our lives so we can build spiritual muscle (but has promised to never test us beyond what we can handle). He also understands the need for rest and will organise thrilling circumstances and wonderful people to encourage us to new levels of spiritual maturity. He is the Perfect Trainer and is at our call 24/7.
But here’s the problem: trainers can only help those that come to them with a real desire to improve themselves. We would be wise to employ our Holy Spiritual Trainer; not only will we eternally benefit, but furthermore strong-healthy spiritual students always bring glory to their Trainer.
The Artist & His Gallery
A rich artist decided to create something special for the city he loved. For many years he quietly worked on various masterpieces. He then built a wondrous gallery and filled it with his art. Finally, he opened his gallery free to the public and sat back to watch their reaction.
Soon word spread and people came in droves. They toured the collection and exclaimed the wonder of the artworks within. However, the artist was quite disappointed! You see, none of the public wondered about the artist or gave him any credit. For some strange reason they thought the wondrous gallery had come into existence by itself and the artworks had just randomly appeared.
There are a lot of foolish-smart people examining the wonders in nature and making fabulous theories that stubbornly deny a Creator. They document their findings with words like: ‘nature’s design’, ‘programed’, ‘order’ and ‘purpose’. Yet then proceed to state all complex systems and coding in creation originally appeared from nothing – that all living things evolved over long periods of punctuated time, guided precisely by random chaos.
Ironically, many atheists belittle those who have faith in God – thinking themselves wise for not believing in an unseen Creator. However, the foundation theories of evolution are based on missing links and debatable evidence – thus it is called a theory. It takes great faith to be an evolutionist. Those who believe everything in creation originally appeared from nothing and created itself truly demonstrate the greatest faith the world has ever witnessed.
Psalms 19:1 states: The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork.
In Loving Company
Often, the reason we don’t have excellent relationships in life is because we have taken our loved ones for granted in pursuit of other things. We have forgotten what is important.
A good ambition for life is to spend as much time as possible in the company of loved ones. We understand this when we first fall in love, or when we have a baby, yet as time passes we often take them for granted – then subtlety, the things of the world intrude. Bit by bit, we become far too busy pursuing personal ambitions than desiring to be in the company of the ones we love most.
Regarding God, if we say we love Him, we should naturally desire to spend as much time in His company as possible. This does not mean we hang around a church 24/7. God is omnipresent (everywhere simultaneously), so wherever we go – there He is. We can include God in everything we think and do. When we are excited about the wonder of life – we can praise Him. When we are sad or worried – we can confide in Him. When we are stressed or fearful – we can confidently hand our problems to Him.
As we get to know God, our prayer life should lose its religious-ritual and become a long conversation with a Loved One that never ends. This is the relationship our Heavenly Father wants with us.
If we keep God as our first love, it results in a better relationship with self, family, and friends. We will start seeing people through God’s eyes. We will have peace; we will be more caring, tolerant and interested in others. Then, when we spend more time with loved ones (exhibiting Christ-like virtues), we will quickly find they will want to spend a lot more time in our loving company. (Psalm 91:14-15, Philippians 4:6-7)
Hansel and Grethel
Hansel and Grethel were two children abandoned deep in the forest by their parents. After many days lost and hungry, they stumble across a cottage made of bread and cakes which they immediately feast upon. If they weren’t so hungry they may have realised the house was a trap and could have avoided the witch who wanted to fatten and eat them.
Hunger drives people to do irrational things, just as the ‘hunger-for-affection’ will do the same. In times of loneliness we are very vulnerable; this is when we are ripe to fall into the arms of deceitful people and unscrupulous organisations. When we are starving for a bit of human attention, all it takes is a smile and a bit of personal interest to suck us in. Because we desperately want to be liked we don’t question the integrity and motivation of the person / organisation that is being so sweet to us. Then, before we know it, we are trapped in a bad relationship or locked into a shifty organisation and all our time and resources are being devoured.
Hansel and Grethel escaped from their bad situation. Unfortunately the fairy-tale ending doesn’t always happen in the real world. Even if one does escape from their bad relationship, organisation or cult, there can be lifelong scars.
Because of this, prevention is far better than the cure. When we find ourselves starving for the bread of human affection, do as Christ did when tested in the desert, (note that Satan waited for Christ to become ravenous with hunger before he tempted Him). How did Christ pass the temptations? He focused on God – He kept looking Up.
When we focus on God, we realise how much we are loved every moment of every day – He does not forsake us. When we are truly occupied with Christ, loneliness will not take hold and overwhelm us. Our hunger to be loved will be completely satisfied.
The Bible states: ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ Matthew 4:4.
When we have a headache we normally take a pill to stop the pain. Interestingly, the pill doesn’t cure anything but simply blocks the pain signals for a short period. Anyone suffering serious headaches can tell you that when the effects of the tablet wear off, the pain quickly returns.
There are many ‘soul-aches’ we can suffer such as: loneliness, depression or bitterness. We often try to cure these soul-aches with distractions like: shopping, partying, drinking, computer gaming, or expensive toys. Like the headache pill, these are just temporal solutions that allow us to forget our miseries for a short time. They may distract us from our woes temporarily but they will never cure our soul-ache; when the effects of our distraction wear off, our soul-ache will return with a vengeance.
The cure lies with God. We were designed to have a relationship with our Creator – in Him we will find completeness. The Bible states: ‘My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever’ (Psalm 73:26). ‘You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore’ (Psalm 16:11).
Our emptiness of soul can only be cured by God. We may call ourselves Christians, but if we continue our frantic search for happiness in the stuff of this life and refuse to trust in God we will never enter His peace. (Philippians 4:7)
Hard to Exercise
It is easy to exercise when full of strength and bursting with energy. What is hard is continuing our exercise routine on days when feeling low and lethargic. Top athletes discipline themselves to train on good days and bad days. To succeed in sporting endeavours one cannot be a fair-weather athlete.
It’s easy to be thankful and praise God when our lives are prosperous and full of blessings, but can we continue to praise God when things go bad? Thankfulness in adversity is the true mark of a mature Christian. To praise God in a crisis shows that one is focused on God and His eternal plan – not on present difficulties.
God has made provision for us in ALL circumstances. He has also promised, to those who are focused on Him, not to test them beyond their capabilities (1Cor 10:13). Our afflictions have purpose. It may be to make us stronger in Christ – a time to build spiritual muscle. Or maybe our adversity is designed to be a future witness to others. Christ’s suffering did not benefit him – he endured it purely to benefit us.
Usually, God’s purpose for allowing adversity into our lives is a mystery – it is very hard to exercise ‘praise’ in those circumstances. But if we ever hope to be strong Christians we must discipline ourselves to take eyes off self and set them firmly on God’s eternal goal. When we trust and abide in Him we will find God gives us the energy to go on. Strength will soon follow so we can run the race He has set before us. As a result we will be ‘sincerely’ thankful to Him in all circumstances.
We must constantly remind ourselves, the adversity before us is never as great as the Power behind us. (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
Exposure is defined as the act of exposing, laying bare or leaving unprotected. Exposing ourselves to the sun will eventually leave an impression on our skin. In photographic terms exposure is the act of allowing sunlight to fall on a sensitive plate. The longer the exposure – the deeper the imprint. An over-exposed photo is known as a ‘washed out’ impression.
Everything we do, watch and read leaves an imprint on our soul (our sensitive plate). We should choose carefully what we expose ourselves too. If we bombard ourselves with undesirable television programs, publications or music that promote violence and pornography it will leave a deep impression on our souls. That imprint will eventually twist our ‘norms & standards’ rendering us unable to normally interact and relate to people in personal relationships – before long we will become socially ‘washed out’.
God wants us to expose ourselves to His Word – daily. When we constantly think Biblical Truths, the image of virtue, integrity and grace will be imprinted deeply on our soul. It will bare a striking resemblance of our Lord Jesus Christ who is the physical manifestation of God Himself. The result: inner happiness, confidence and a non-judgemental, relaxed-mental-attitude regarding all circumstances in life. (Luke 1:79)
Following the Leader
A wolf found herself raising a human child. Knowing nothing of human ways, she raised the boy in the only way she knew – as a wolf. The child instinctively did as his wolf mother did and grew to be like a wolf in all but appearance. When he developed into manhood, the wolf thought it time he began acting like a human. But the man knew not how, for what example was there to follow?
As good parents we naturally want our children to grow to be happy and caring, instilled with a relaxed attitude and strong integrity. Yet if as parents we are bitter, dishonest, lazy, vulgar and indulge to excess, can we expect our children to be different? We may repeat to those in our care, ‘Do as I say – not as I do,’ but that is just a sad lesson of double standards.
God (our Heavenly Father) gave us an example to follow in Jesus Christ. His motto was, ‘do as I do’. He was that which He taught – He led by example.
Due to our sinful nature we will never be perfect parents; and because our children have that same sinful nature they will be quick to follow any bad examples and slow to pick up on good traits. If we honestly wish the best for our children we must set the best possible example of integrity, happiness and Christian living by following our Lord’s lead, then hopefully our ways will become our children’s way. This is why the Bible states, ‘Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it’. (Proverbs 22:6)
The animal kingdom has a great variety in behavioural patterns: fierce, gentle, powerful, cute, poisonous and so on. All animals are not approached or handled in the same manner. Some are docile while others are wild. In handling a snake, it is carefully picked up from behind the head. A horse is not approached from the rear for fear of getting kicked. And zoo vets better know their stuff when handling lions and tigers and bears – oh my!
As Christians we are mandated to approach people with God’s Word. Like animals, people also come in a variety of personalities and temperaments. Just as one size does not fit all – the way we successfully approach one person with the Gospel will not necessarily work with another. Some are as prickly as a porcupine, others stubborn as a mule, others as crafty as a fox, while some are as gentle as a lamb. We soon learn that if we approach them with the Gospel in the wrong way (or at the wrong time) the response will vary from indifference to outright hostility.
We should seek God’s wisdom when spreading the Gospel with what to say and when to say it (through the Written Word and prayer). If in doubt, tarry awhile to allow time for the Holy Spirit to shine His wisdom on the handling of certain people so we can approach them appropriately with the Word. Keep in mind that people can never be forced into the eternal safety of God’s heavenly sanctuary, but many will be guided.
When our bodies lack certain vitamins there will soon be signs of those deficiencies. Lack of vitamin A causes night blindness. Lack of vitamin B causes blemished skin, hair loss and insomnia. Lack of vitamin C causes bleeding gums, loose teeth, muscle aches, dry hair and skin. Lack of vitamin D causes weak bones.
When our soul lacks the intake of God’s Word it won’t be long before we see outward signs of depression, bitterness, selfishness, arrogance and so on. God’s Word is the element that produces virtue, a sense of purpose, a relaxed mental attitude, inner strength and happiness. Without it we shouldn’t be surprised when our soul is deficient – lacking meaning and causing a huge vacuum that we constantly try to fill with all sorts of meaningless ‘worldly’ rubbish.
When we are deficient in something, the smart thing to do is identify what is missing and remedy it. Only when we ‘regularly’ absorb God’s Word, claim His promises and abide with Him will we truly find our soul lacks for nothing. (1 Thessalonians 4:12).
Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. Matthew 4:4.
The Glass of Milk
A man called his father desperately seeking advice on his troubled marriage. He told his dad that his new wife and he were arguing non-stop.
His father thought for a while and then stated he had the sure-fix cure. ‘Son, next time a quarrel starts sip a glass of milk but don’t swallow it. Hold it in your mouth until the situation calms down. Repeat this whenever you are about to argue and you’ll soon see matters improve.’
A week later the son excitedly called his father, saying, ‘It actually worked – our relationship has never been better. Tell me dad, what is the secret behind the glass of milk?’
His father replied, ‘No big secret. The milk does nothing – it’s keeping your mouth shut that solves the problem.”
In heated situations, the appropriate thing to say is usually nothing – yet few of us have that control. We feel we must constantly vindicate ourself, matching insult for insult and never letting anyone get the upper hand. But where does that get us? People will believe what they wish no matter how we plead. Furthermore, even if we happen to win the insult match we certainly don’t win friends.
Our Lord Jesus Christ said very little when unfairly tried and condemned, (…as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so He opened not his mouth. Acts 8:32). Christ gave them no reason to justify their wrong actions. He knew the power of silence.
When we have absolute confidence that God will vindicate us (if necessary), there is no need to open our mouth in our defence. We can relax and practice tolerance and virtue-love. We soon learn that having a Christ-like attitude resolves the majority of life’s problems before they even begin. (Proverbs 17:28. Psalms 5:11).
To Fear or Not to Fear
Fear is a state of mind caused by a sense of impending danger – whether real or imagined.
Amazing opportunities are missed through fear. Those who have phobia of spiders and bugs often avoid the outdoors and miss tremendous experiences. A fear of rejection or intimacy hinders a good relationship. A fear of public speaking may prevent one from taking leadership roles. A fear of travel and the unknown stops one from experiencing amazing places. Fear of failure stops people trying.
God does not want us to live a life of fear. He states many times in the Bible: “DO NOT FEAR – I am with you!” (Gen 26:24, Ex 14:13, Josh 8:1, Luke 12:32,). Fear is a sin; it shows a lack of trust in God and His ability to handle our every situation. We may not have the power to overcome our fears – but God does.
The undeniable courage of David springs from his trust in God, ‘The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’ (Psalms 118:6). As with David, God has incredible plans for each one of us.
Often, the reason nothing eventful happens in our lives is fear has become an obstacle. We fear to take a risk or try something new because something bad may happen. In order to move forward we must give our fears to God trusting that He has ‘all things’ under control. God must become more real than our fears.
God has promised that we will not be tested beyond our ability if we stay focused on Him (Romans 8:28). When we truly have confidence in God there is an absence of fear, resulting in courage and the ability to relax under pressure – even when faced with our worst fears.
As Christians, God has even taken away the excuse for ‘fear of death’, (1 Cor 15:55) and when we are not afraid of dying, we can really start living.
Hebrew 13:5-6 states: Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we may boldly say” “the Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”
A man saw a mother duck and her duckling crossing a busy road. Without a second thought he jumped in front of the traffic. Tragically his good intentioned deed caused a car pile up that ended in loss of lives and countless dollars of property damage.
All of us soon learn that a good intentioned deed can often have tragic results. We mean well, but do not take into account the variables. Fortunately, God knows all outcomes. At times He allows certain adversities to take their course in people’s lives to give those concerned the opportunity to come to Him and grow in grace. It is in the struggle that makes the strength. Yet, when we see people in difficulty we are inclined to rush in with our aid inadvertently robbing them of their chance of growth. Many of us have a sense of heroic that impulsively charges into people’s troubles, shouting, “I WILL NOT ALLOW THIS TO HAPPEN!”
What have we done? We have come between them and God. Our sympathy and sudden interference may cost more than we know. This is not to say we should do nothing. But before jumping in with well-intentioned aid and advice, we should ask ourselves: do we know the facts? Is our aid and advice needed or even wanted? Are we taking sides? Are we making ourselves a crutch so people lean on us instead of God? Is our desire to help from our own impulsive-nature or is it Divinely-inspired? If in doubt we should seek wisdom from God – He has a way of turning tragedies into triumphs. (James 1:5)
An Explosive Reaction
We soon learn in chemistry there are elements that are harmless, but when mixed with other elements an explosive reaction can occur.
Everyone (except Christ) has a sin nature. All have their own personal areas of weakness. One person’s area of temptation may be licentiousness (immoral depravity), while another is self righteous legalism (moral depravity). Being temped is not a sin – even our Lord Jesus Christ was tempted. Succumbing to temptation is the sin.
For example, if we have a compulsive nature and are tempted towards drugs or immoral sex, we must endeavour to keep our sin nature away from places with drugs or pornography. If we have a tendency to judge and malign, we should avoid gossipy groups. If we have a short temper, we should separate from elements that set it off. The mixing of our sin-nature with corresponding temptations is like a powder keg waiting for a spark which usually results in an explosive situation that can make a devastating mess of our lives.
THE SOLUTION: Add God’s truth to our thinking and the outcome will be positive, resulting in a relaxed mental attitude that will defuse potentially hazardous situations. Gradually, we develop a non-judgemental, inner happiness and self worth which will produce harmonious living and reflect the Glory of God. (James 1:12)
Choose Your Hard
In Western cultures, obesity is at its highest recorded level. We are overweight because we are eating the wrong foods and doing less exercise. Yet many complain they don’t have time to eat right and that doing exercise is too hard.
I saw an excellent fridge magnet that stated: “Being overweight is hard! Eating right and exercising is hard! CHOOSE YOUR HARD!”
Our first hard option of being overweight has no benefits and is the cause of future bad health. Our second hard option takes effort but builds strength and results in future good health.
The same is true of our soul. Many suffer from stress and depression – it seems to be a cultural epidemic. In the Bible, God has provided the wisdom to give people a relaxed mental attitude, inner strength and inner happiness, but people say they don’t have time to study God’s Word – it’s too hard!
If I may rephrase the fridge magnet: Being depressed and stressed is hard! Learning God’s Word and trusting in Him is hard! CHOOSE YOUR HARD!
Both options are hard. Our first hard option leads to a worry-filled life that has no eternal benefit. Our second hard option builds inner strength and inner beauty that will ultimately bring glory to God.
We are created for a Glorious purpose. God has given us time to learn wisdom and build a capacity of grace that appreciates the people around us and our present circumstances – whatever they may be. Yes, this capacity takes effort but results in a relaxed mental attitude that makes life so much easier in the long run.
We are what we think! It’s our choice. Every day we must choose our HARD. What will your HARD be? (Hebrews 10:36)
Spiritual Exercise Opportunities
People achieve an amazing level of fitness when they look for ‘exercise opportunities’ in their daily routine. They will take the stairs instead of the elevator, stretch while working on the computer, do leg squats while waiting for the kettle to boil, and workout while watching television.
Going to church is great, but our spiritual life shouldn’t be limited to church on Sunday. Sadly, the only time many Christians think about, learn about and thank God is while attending church. While this is a great starting point it won’t produce the effective spiritual life the Bible promises. (Isaiah 40:31)
Christians who have the most dynamic spiritual life have not compartmentalised their Christianity to one day a week. Whenever opportunities present themselves in their daily life, they contemplate and apply Biblical Truths; their prayers are a continuous conversation with God and they bring Him into all facets of their life.
By utilizing God’s Grace and applying Biblical doctrines at every opportunity, these Christians rapidly develop a dynamic spiritual life, a robust faith and a relaxed inner peace. They are far better equipped to handle life’s problems than the Christians who give a ‘nod to God’ just once a week on Sundays.
Every day our choices determine what sort of Christian we will become and how we will handle life’s ups and downs.
The way of the lazy man is like a hedge of thorns, but the way of the upright is a highway. Proverbs 15:19
Bees are known for being continuously on the go, tirelessly buzzing from flower to flower collecting pollen for the community hive. It’s interesting to note that while many people would love to be as ‘free as a bird’, ‘playful as a puppy’ or ‘fierce as a lion’; few want to be as ‘busy as a bee’.
There’s no doubt we can learn many good lessons from bees, yet few of these lessons are about joy and excitement. A Christian failing is being so busy working for God that there is no time to have a relationship with Him (see Martha & Mary in Luke 10:38-42).
In our eagerness to please God we work stoically, enduring all setbacks and ignoring all pleasures. In our religious zeal we often neglect those closest to us; alienating our spouse, overlooking our children and disregarding our own needs – all in the misguided belief that we are doing God’s will. Like the bee, we accomplish much but are a testimony to no one.
When we grit our teeth and endure for Christ’s sake, God may be glorified; but God is doubly glorified when we relax joyfully in whatever circumstances He places us. The only way we can achieve this is by concentrating on God and having faith He has all things under control (even when we drop the ball). When we take time to smell the roses and be amazed by what God is doing, we then start developing the joyful inner-peace promised to Christians. This happiness is the living testimony to the power of the Christian life and others do notice and want it in their own busy lives. (Psalm 16:11)
You may have done a good turn for a friend or relative, such as lend money in their time of need. However, if that person fails to repay their debt they have two options: either apologise and try to make amends, or avoid you – as well as their own responsibility. It is a sad part of human nature that when we wrong another person, instead of thinking bad of ourself, we make excuses and look for reasons to justify our ingratitude by thinking bad of them.
Many people who reject God don’t do so from unbelief but because they have failed to live the Christian life. They may be so preoccupied chasing their own dreams, trying to bring glory to themselves or fulfilling their lusts, that when they finally take time to consider God and all He has done for them they have two options: either apologise (repent) and endeavour to live a Christ-centred life, or stay self-centred and find excuses to condemn Christianity and reject the One to whom they owe everything. It is easier to find fault in the Person we have failed than to find fault in ourselves and admit it is we who need to change. (Hebrews 6:4-6)
When you enlist in the military, you are a soldier in name only. Only after undergoing basic training in military skills and learning obedience to authority will you know how to function as part of a unit. Then you are truly called a soldier.
When you believe Christ died on your behalf for your sins, you become (in-Christ) a Christian soldier. At that moment you are usually not aware you have just enlisted in God’s Army – a career that is eternal and not optional. Conscription in many nations is mandatory for all able- bodied persons. New Christians, regardless of ‘physical’ circumstances, are all able ‘spiritual’ bodies. And, as in the military, enlistment is just the beginning.
To overcome life’s many adversities Christian soldiers must be trained to use spiritual weapons and armour. The Bible contains our orders and instructions (a clever acronym for the BIBLE is: Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth).
Drill Instructors are the teachers of God’s Word. They drill us in spiritual skills on how to get in step with the Christian walk and work as a team.
Sadly, at one time or another many Christian soldiers soon go AWOL (Absent With Out Leave). God neither rebukes nor discharges anyone, but patiently awaits their return (like the father of the prodigal son). Once back in rank, by following Biblical orders and practicing our spiritual skills, we become exemplary Christian soldiers not only in name, but in thought and deed. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
Ride of a Life-time
When bike riding, it is exhilarating to coast downhill with the wind whistling by. It’s easy to be proud of speeds reached with so little effort. However, we often forget in these thrilling moments that gravity is doing most of the work. The real test of bike riding is when peddling uphill with the wind against you. Great strength does not come from coasting downhill, but by exerting yourself on the ride uphill.
Our journey through life is full of ups and down. It is so easy to coast through prosperity when everyone is behind us, backing and congratulating us. In positive and encouraging circumstances, life takes little effort and it’s easy to become overconfident.
The real test of character comes when we hit a steep hill of adversity – the wind suddenly changes and everyone seems against us. Progress can be so agonisingly slow, that we feel it would be easier to give up. However, God allows us to go through times of adversity to give us a chance to grow ‘spiritual’ muscle. We really must focus on God and trust in His Word if we are to move forward. Our future ‘inner’ strength is built from the adversities we overcome today. If life was simply a ride of prosperity, the single by-product would be a big, self-serving ego. (Isaiah 40:31)
Pounding New Members
Martial Arts clubs are always keen to recruit new members. Yet few recruits would ever return if a club’s philosophy was to initially beat them ‘black and blue’ in order to show what poor fighters they were.
When we meet a new believer or someone interested in Christianity, we shouldn’t hit them with our personal list of taboos. Christianity is about a personal relationship with God and Christ not how we dress, the music we listen to, the games we play or books we read – etc, etc.
If we pound people with: ‘NOW YOU ARE A CHRISTIAN, YOU MUST STOP DOING THAT AND START DOING THIS’, we shouldn’t be surprised when they flee from Christianity. Our job is to encourage new Christians, not to bruise them ‘black and blue’ with our list of personal taboos. Furthermore, many of our so-called Christian taboos have no real Biblical standing.
We should demonstrate grace and Christian tolerance. Give new Christians time to find their feet. Don’t add to their load with a list of ‘dos-and-don’ts’. Help them focus on the good news of the Gospel and knowing our Lord Jesus Christ. If changes are needed in their life, God’s Word and the Holy Spirit will reform them from within at precisely the right time without any spiritual bruising that our zeal tends to make.
Come to Me, all who are weary and whose load is heavy; I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28 REB
Most kids get things back-to-front. They give their utmost attention and best efforts trying to impress the ‘in-crowd’ who, in return, wouldn’t give them the time of day. And to the family who unconditionally loves and provides for them, they demonstrate their worst behaviour.
As we grow older, do we change? We give our utmost to companies that have no appreciation of our loyalty and who, if they thought higher profits could be made without us, would retrench us without a second thought. We eagerly give our attention and time to rich and influential people, but to those who love us unconditionally we reserve our impatience and intolerance.
So, too, do we take for granted our Heavenly Father who unconditionally provides for our every need, keeps us safe, never forsakes us, loves us so much He came as a man and died on the Cross to provide our eternal salvation. Yet, unless we are in strife, we seldom give God the time of day.
Most of us are caught in the rut (the same as when we were kids) of chasing status, power and the admiration of others. Sadly, if we pursue the attention of the World, it will use and inevitably spit us out. In retrospect, we will wish we had spent our time and effort on those few people who have always loved us unconditionally – the top of the list is our Heavenly Father. (1 John 4:9-10)
Cattle often break through a fence and stray into bushlands. They follow each other aimlessly and wander farther and farther down the wrong track. Once night falls and a ready supply of food is not at hand, these stray animals will probably wish they were back in the safety of their protected fold – but now they are lost. Unless their owner finds them and guides them back home, they will continue to stray where circumstances lead until ending up in some wild back-country where they may stay for good.
God has promised that if we trust in Him, all our needs will be provided. Sadly, we are like cattle and often stray from what is best, (it’s in our nature). Once on the wrong track, it’s natural to chase our fancies and follow other people who have also gone astray. Predictably, all will become lost. Our Divine Shepherd will call us back under His protection but, once on the wrong path, sometimes it is easier to keep with the wandering herd than go it alone and turn back.
If we continually follow the fancies and people of this world instead of following God, we will inevitably end up in a ‘circumstantial-back-country’ where we may remain for the rest of our miserable lives. We should consider: if we plan to stray from God, plan to wander through life without any true meaning, purpose and contentment. (Proverbs 3:5-6. Isaiah 49:10)
Lost in a Passion
In a time of multi-media, it is so easy to lose yourself in your passions. People can be so engrossed in their world of sport, music, television and gaming that they are lost to any other message. When passions and hobbies become the primary focus, how does one ever find out about God?
For centuries, Christian missionaries have been trained and sent to communicate the Gospel to lost villages deep in the dense jungles of Africa, South America, China, India, and other distant places. But what about those in our communities who are just as lost in their consuming passion? God will raise Christians who know the path, can speak the jargon and can point the way home.
This is why God created many of His Christian sons and daughters with ambitions to be athletes, musicians, actors, artists, directors, writers and other prominent performers, so they can be missionaries in their own field. Yet it is often felt these vocations have little to do with Christianity.
God likes Christians to succeed in their endeavours (while exhibiting Christ’s characteristics) so they can reach those people lost in that passion. God knows that sports fans listen to every word from their favourite athlete or coach. When a famous singer, actor, artist speaks, their words are considered profoundly by their groupies. Those lost in their world of passion may not hear the Gospel from parents, teachers or partners, but ironically will give serious thought to what is said when coming from their heroes. (1 Samuel 2: 30)
A caretaker is someone employed to look after, administer and protect the property belonging to another.
God is the sovereign Creator of all things – everything belongs to Him. Most of us like to think our property belongs to us – that’s why we find it difficult (and even rebel at the idea) that we own nothing. (Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. Job 1:21).
The truth is our property, our time, our talents, our health, our spouse, our children and even ourselves belong to God (We were bought at a price: 1 Corinthians 6:20, 7:23). We are simply caretakers of all we possess. We are employed by God to look after, administer and protect that which He has entrusted to our care. If we acquire anything, it’s simply on loan.
So, what sort of caretaker do we make? Do people and property prosper under our care? How are we using our God-given time, health, talents and possessions? If we suddenly lose them like Job, can we say: ‘The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.’?
If we are a faithful caretaker of God’s possessions in this life, He has promised in Matthew 25:21, 23: ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things’
Not Many Mighty
When a person is strong, healthy and full of vitality, he seldom gives a passing thought to hospitals. Hospitals tend to be occupied by people in need.
Some of life’s most unappealing people are Christians. Such a description is based on how the world judges appealing: rich, powerful, physically attractive and socially witty. Many who attend church are weak, frail, needy people – often lonely social outcasts with many personality hang-ups. The truth is few churchgoers would be ideal advertisements to swell the ranks of Christendom.
So where are the outgoing, successful men and the glamorous women whose mere presence could draw a crowd to fill gaps in the pews? The Bible states: Not many mighty are called! (Mark 2:17). Just as healthy people don’t check into a hospital – powerful, self-reliant people see no need to depend on God. Their ‘earthly’ blessings such as riches, fame, good looks or personality are often the greatest stumbling block to seeking God and salvation.
When Jesus Christ walked the earth, those who sought Him were not the elite or the in-crowd. Generally, they were society’s outcasts. Christ invited everyone, yet only those in need came to His call.
Often, impressive people need life to bring them down before they seek God asking for a hand-up. It can take adversity before many will accept Christ’s work on their behalf and start relying on God’s power instead of their own. Ironically, when we are weak, then we become strong. (2 Corinthians 12:10)
Accountable to Whom?
As two convicts were being escorted to trial, one turned to the other and pleaded: ‘I’m a good bloke! I’ve helped so many people! I’m a respectable citizen! Ya gotta believe me!’
The fellow convict replied: ‘Why you telling me? Even if I believe you’re the “Humanitarian of the Year”, it ain’t gonna help one bit with the judge.’
Why do we feel compelled to justify our spiritual lives to fellow believers? When we die, we give an account to God alone. Most Christians know this, yet still vainly justify their actions to peers in an attempt to be respectable.
The truth is people will think what they want – no matter what we do or say. Just because people think the worst of us, doesn’t mean God does. Alternatively, just because we have convinced many people we’re saints – doesn’t mean God agrees. Being right with people isn’t the same as being right with God. We are all sinners, God judges us on the basis of the Cross, grace and His perfect works, not on our relative righteousness. (Isaiah 64:6)
A great burden is lifted when we stop trying to justify ourselves and hold ourselves accountable solely to God. There is no need to worry about Him misunderstanding us. He knows the truth – and that very fact should ‘set us free’. (John 8:32)
The Critical Eye
A man was happily fishing when his wife showed him a glassy, fist-sized, muddy rock. He gave it a critical look and said, ‘Toss it away. I don’t want dirty things messing up my car’. The lady wiped the rock and again held it out to her husband, saying, ‘Take a closer look, Dear. This is what is traditionally known as a diamond-in-the-rough.’
As sinners living in a corrupt world, we are all filthy with sin. A critical eye will only see the bad in everything: people, circumstances, literature, fashion, media and so on.
As Christians, God has given us a righteous standard of living and we should stay vigilant to unsavoury influences – no one wants dirt to mess up their clean living. However, the occupational hazard of Christianity is becoming like the self-righteous Pharisees who see nothing of worth in the tax collectors, prostitutes and coarse things of the world. A critical eye only sees the faults and failings, not treasures hidden within. We must come to see people and circumstances as God sees them – ugly ducklings needing growth to become white swans.
That’s not to say every dirty rock is a diamond-in-the-rough. However, if we hope to discover treasures in life, expect them to be covered with some dirt and needing a bit of polish.
Last Dying Thoughts
A man collapsed from a heart attack. As he lay there reflecting on his life you can bet he wasn’t thinking, ‘Oh, I wish I worked more’.
Usually, people’s last dying thoughts are about their relationships. Concerns over promotions, unpaid bills, petty squabbles, or gaining wealth are so insignificant when weighed against death, yet we spend so much of our life concerned with the insignificant.
True, we need to attend to such matters on a daily basis, but sadly we often give the mundane too much priority and neglect things of ultimate importance. As unpleasant as the thought may be, we all die. We should live every day as if it were our last – for it might be. We shouldn’t wait until our death-bed to be concerned about things that are truly significant. We learn from the Bible that our wealth is temporary, but relationships can last forever.
God graciously gives us time to consider things of ETERNAL significance – like Christ, salvation, our relationship with our Creator and our relationship with family and people.
We should take time to question: If I was dying now, what would be my dying thoughts? Interestingly, those same thoughts should probably be our ‘daily living thoughts’. (Ecclesiastes 2:4-11)
Making Our Mark
When we make a mark in sand, it will last only a few days before being blown or washed away. Carve a mark on a tree and it may last decades, and if we chisel a mark on a rock it could last centuries. In time, however, when the marked object is defaced or destroyed, so too is any evidence of what we did.
Many of us want to leave our mark on the world, be it in business, arts, sports or the military. Even though some are extremely successful and leave behind a giant mark, when the world eventually ends so will all evidence of the things done upon it. If we invest time and effort marking temporal things, when they are destroyed, so too is that investment.
If we really want to leave a lasting impression, we should leave our mark on something permanent – GOD’S ETERNAL PLAN. God has given us all the tools and a role model (Jesus Christ) to show us how. Things our Lord did in His life were in accordance to God’s plan and will be talked about and glorified forever. If we follow Christ’s example and use the resources Grace provides, God guarantees our mark will never be erased, destroyed or fade. We should all remember – personal glory in life is fleeting; the glory of God’s plan lasts forever. Life is but a drop in the ocean compared to eternity. (Matthew 25:21)
As parents, we have to be careful not to give unwanted advice or lectures to our grown-up children. Otherwise, this is a sure way of upsetting family relationships and receiving fewer visits from them. One of the hardest things in parenting is waiting for children to ask for our opinion. Wisdom always has a greater chance of being accepted after being sought.
We sometimes wish God would literally speak to us daily. But if He did we might soon get very tired of His continuous ‘lectures’ on what we should or shouldn’t be doing. Moreover, if God suddenly told us the truth about ourselves, we would probably be offended and not want to speak to Him again. God is no fool. He knows His unwanted advice and counsel could separate us from Him. Consequently, He has written His advice and lectures in the Bible – His wisdom permanently and readily available for anyone at anytime. When we exhaust all avenues of human wisdom and finally get to the point of asking for Divine counsel, God will guide us gently to the right answers. As a Loving Parent, God does His upmost to encourage many visits from His wayward family. He knows that forcing unwanted advice on strong-willed children will immediately end all contact and destroy any future dialogue. Instead, He wants the best possible relationship with us. (Proverbs 2:7)
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