Same Snake - Different Skin
Snakes have the curious habit of shedding their old skin in favour of a new one. Yet no matter how many times they shed their skin they are still the same old snake.
If we think we get into Heaven by changing our ways (shedding our skin by morally reforming) we have failed to understand the message of the Gospel – the Good News.
When Adam lost the rulership of the world to Satan (a spiritual snake) all mankind suffered the repercussions and became citizens in the devil’s kingdom. Through Adam’s original sin we inherit a corrupt (sin) nature which God cannot allow into His heavenly kingdom. (Romans 5:12)
No matter how righteous we think we are or how many good deeds we have accumulated, we will always fall short of God’s perfect and absolute standard He demands (Romans 3:23). We may impress other people with our reformed ways but to God we are still the same old snake. The only way we can possibly get to Heaven is by turning into a new creature.
To become a new creature we have to be spiritual ‘born-again’. This spiritual rebirth occurs at the moment we accept Jesus Christ as savior. We can do nothing to earn or deserve salvation – we are totally dependent on what God has done on our behalf. God made salvation easy for us because Jesus Christ did all the work on the cross by paying our entire penalty for sin.
When we believe in Christ, we accept God’s sacrifice on our behalf and we are imputed with Christ’s perfect righteousness. At that moment we are spiritually reborn (in Christ – a Christian) into the family of God for eternity. The Bible states in Ephesians 2: 8-9: ‘For by grace you have been saved through faith (belief), and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works (good deeds), lest anyone should boast’.
If we were able to save ourselves, there would have been no need for God to come to earth as a Man in order to pay the price for redemption. The good news of the Bible is we become heavenly creatures by simply accepting the gift of salvation by believing the Lord Jesus Christ died as our substitute on the cross.
Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3)
A Natural Production
Creation is a miracle – even those who don’t believe in God usually agree. Sometimes we need to pinch ourselves and remember that we are part of this miracle. We live on a beautiful, life-sustaining planet; spinning precisely around our energy giving sun; floating in an incomprehensible universe. When you think of the big picture, our daily issues become quite trivial.
Nature is the greatest production ever seen by any audience. We should take time from our busy schedules to look around and appreciate it. Each sunrise reveals beautiful landscapes which artists try to duplicate; plant life which produce precious oxygen to sustain us; and a vast variety of animals with brain functions that super-computers cannot match.
In this natural production, God is the Manager, Writer, Director, Producer, plus Costume and Set Designer. God loves seeing a full house enjoying His production.
If we are fortunate to see, hear, smell, taste and touch, we should use those senses to be astounded at the wonders around us. We should remember to be grateful if we possess a functioning body where we can take a walk or hold a loved one. Sadly, it’s only when we lose those functions do we realise what gifts they were.
Whether we acknowledge it or not, nature is an unfathomable miracle and is a glory to God’s creative genius. It is performed on a universal stage and is being enacted around us 24-7. We should do ourselves a favour and spend more time enjoying ‘God’s Natural Production’ and less time stressing about the trivial. Furthermore, we should add to the world’s beauty by creating, writing, building or doing that which will bring pleasure to others. Not only is it therapeutic but we may get an insight into the pleasure our Heavenly Creator receives when His creation-gift is acknowledged and appreciated.
Among the gods there is none like You, O Lord; nor are there any works like Your works. Psalm 86:8
Not a Christian - Yet
A caterpillar is not a butterfly – yet. Given time and the right circumstances, the caterpillar will make the transformation into the beautiful creature it was created to be.
Man is a fallen creature, but God desires every person be transformed into a glorious ‘New Creature in Christ’, (Psalm 149:4). However, many don’t want to transform; they seem content in their current state of atheism or indifference.
So what do we do with those people around us who adamantly reject Christ and Christianity?
Firstly, we are not called to ‘write’ people off.Keep in mind that while they still live there is still hope.
Our job is to pray for all in our vicinity – especially those without Christ. People may not wish to hear the Gospel from us but we can still witness to them by our actions. As opportunity arises, we can demonstrate our transformation and our Christ-like attitudes such as: tolerance, grace, inner-peace, forgiveness, (Romans 12:2).
When we behave like true Christians, those negative people (whom we thought beyond all hope) may turn around and start questioning what makes us tick. They have witnessed the transformation in us and desire that Christ-likeness for themselves.
We should never give up on anybody. Only God can judge if a person’s negative volition has gone past the point of no return. If a person is still living and has not yet believed in Christ as Saviour, we should simply view that person as: ‘NOT A CHRISTIAN – YET’.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17
Free As A Bird
While freedom allows you to move freely in any direction, the outcomes sometimes can be quite harsh. Freedom means you can reap rewards for good decisions but, equally, you are free to make bad decisions and reap the dire consequences.
When we believe in Jesus Christ we are instantly in-Christ (Christians) and become citizens of Heaven (eternal citizenship can never be revoked). This is the beginning of our spiritual life where there is an enormous degree of freedom. Which direction we decide to take is up to us – like any true freedom, we are free to succeed and free to fail.
Like any freedom there is choice: we can use our spiritual freedom to glorify ourselves, or alternatively to glorify God. We are free to move in any direction. We can elect to abuse spiritual freedom and gain nothing of eternal worth or we can choose God’s way. He has promised that our decisions will reap rewards one hundred fold in eternity. Heaven is the true land of opportunity. We should ask ourselves daily: What am I doing with the spiritual freedom that God has so graciously given us – which Christ paid for completely on the Cross?
Ponder our Lord’s words about His imminent return, “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.” (Rev 22:12)
A frog is an amphibian. This word comes from the Greek amphi and bios, meaning double-life. Frogs live and function on land and in the water. They start their life solely in the water as tadpoles. When metamorphous begins, the tadpole develops legs, arms and the ability to live and breathe on land. As the changing tadpole further develops, it spends less time in the water and more time on land. Soon, it loses its earlier characteristics and takes on a completely new form.
As Christians, we are like the frog and have a double-life. It begins in the worldly realm and progresses into the spiritual realm. We start life as a tadpole (unbeliever), completely unable to enter the spiritual realm. However, when we believe in Jesus Christ a metamorphous takes place – we become a new creature in Christ (2 Cor 5:17).
As Christian-tadpoles we start to change. As we learn and pray, tiny spiritually arms and legs appear. As we continue to grow in grace, we start to lose our tail (old ways) and spiritual lungs begin to function (new ways).
Just as the transformation of frogs is progressive, so, too, are the changes in Christianity. Our new spiritual lungs form as we breathe in the Word of God and apply it to our lives. Instead of being stressed, bitter and dissatisfied, we start to relax in God’s timing and power; we become graceful and at peace.
If we stay in fellowship with God and advance in the Christian way of life, we soon start standing on our own spiritual legs. We desire to spend more time in the spiritual realm in fellowship with God than going about in the worldly realm. Eventually, our transformation is complete: we are frog-princes waiting to be kissed.
However, this is just the first transformation; when we die God gives us that kiss (resurrection) and we go through our final metamorphosis. We will receive our eternal resurrection body and will be clumsy frogs no longer but glorious royalty for eternity.
…For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 1 Corinthians 15:52-53.
The Pebble-Mound Mouse
A curious little mouse lives in one of the hottest, driest and most unforgiving areas of Australia; where the reflected heat from the ground can go above sixty degrees; where it may not rain for years on end; and, where the world’s deadliest snakes are its neighbours. How can this tiny creature possibly survive in such a hostile environment?
The clever pebble-mound mouse uses tiny stones to build a fortress-like home measuring up to nine metres across. The pebbles create natural insulation for his mound. The more pebbles the mouse uses, the cooler the inside temperature and the greater its protection. Outside the temperature can be scorching hot with deadly snakes searching for an easy meal, but inside its small fortress, the pebble-mound mouse stays very cool and safe.
For us, the stress and pressure of life can be unbearable. However, if we build a fortress around ourselves using the promises of God, stress and worry cannot penetrate our lives and we will remain relaxed, confident and happy. (Psalms 91: 1, 2)
The Snapping Turtle
A snapping turtle is one of the largest freshwater turtles in the world. A unique characteristic of this rather strange creature is the way it captures its prey – it doesn’t chase, it tempts the prey to come to it. This cunning turtle lies motionless on the river bed with its mouth wide open. To entice any passing prey, it wriggles its worm-like appendage on the end of its tongue. Then when an unwary victim enters its mouth, the turtle’s sharp jaws snap tight.
The world in which we live is filled with many enticing opportunities. A lot of these openings have very dark consequences such as: taking drugs, criminal activity and sexual infidelity. However, not all ‘open doors’ come with flashing warning signs of bad repercussions.
From time to time, we are all presented with tempting opportunities – it may be a job offer, a new relationship or an investment opportunity. How do we determine if it will be good or bad for us? When a new door opens, is it a door that God has opened, or is it the mouth of a diabolical snapping turtle complete with wriggling worm to tempt us in? We live in the Devil’s World and he can entice us with some very attractive opportunities which can equally appeal to our moral or immoral side. A fish that thinks it is beyond temptation is usually the easiest to catch.
God has given us two safeguards to keep us protected – His written word and His ‘still small voice’. We should heed both before we advance. If God’s word says: ‘No’, obviously we should not proceed further.
When tempting prospects are not clear-cut we should still move with caution and prayer. We may have good intentions but as the old saying goes: ‘The road to hell is paved with good intentions’. If we get a sense that something is not right, maybe we should listen to that ‘still small voice’ and not take up the new opportunity.
Sadly, there is not neon signs warning us away from life’s many traps. At times we will make a mistake and take the bait. SNAP – suddenly everything goes dark and we are dealing with bad repercussions. Fortunately, if we trust in God, he can turn our mess into something meaningful. If we keep our eyes on Him, we will come out of our dark predicament wiser and stronger. (Romans 8:28)
“Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Matthew 26:41
The Right Environment
If we want to attract birds to our garden, we must make sure we create a friendly environment for them. So we plant a garden with native trees, hang feeders and place bird baths to encourage them. By maintaining this environment, one by one, birds will come and soon we will be visited daily by a variety of birds.
We may wonder why so few people come into our lives. Maybe it is because we don’t have the right ‘environment of soul’. Wherever Christ went, people gathered around him. They were attracted to his inner strength, his compassion, honesty and integrity. We should be imitators of Christ – His characteristics attract people seeking God’s grace.
When we stop being judgmental and develop a Christ-like environment in our soul, it won’t be long before the birds (people seeking grace) begin to visit. When we have developed a truly graceful attitude, God will bring people into our lives to be refreshed.
However, when we develop this ‘Christ-like grace’ we will soon learn a truth: as a refreshing birdbath and feeder attracts desirable birds, it equally attracts less desirable birds like crows and ravens. Likewise, a graceful soul attracts desirable people but equally frustrating and annoying people.
We will be tempted to scare-off those undesirables only wanting the desirables to make themselves at home. In this way we can subtly become little Pharisees thinking it is good to be graceful but not if it attracts undesirables like ‘tax collectors, adulterers or gentiles’.
Getting grace right is a balancing act. We don’t want to be selective with our grace, withholding it from the unappealing people that are just as hungry for it as the appealing; nor do we want to encourage the ravens to a degree where all the other birds are frightened off. How do we solve this dilemma, God gives us both grace and wisdom to handle all circumstances if we seek it. (Matthew 5:43-48)
The Desperate Plant
If a plant is under stress, it doesn’t take long for the signs to show. First the leaves wither, followed by the branches and then finally, the roots themselves. Even so, when death seems so near, there is still hope while there is life. If the plant is given the right amount of water, fertilizer, light and time, small sprouts of life will appear and soon it will prosper again.
Plants are insightful illustrations of people. When they are under stress, it doesn’t take long for them to show the signs. Their interest in life – withers. Caring for themselves and for those around them – dries up. Eventually, their very roots (soul) become weak with depression. Death may be just around the corner. However, while there is life there is still hope. If someone under such stress is given the right amount of light (intercessory prayer), fertilizer (a loving environment), water and time (encouragement and patients), small sprouts of hope will appear. As God never gives up on us, we should never give up on them. But we must resist the temptation of smothering (over-watering is the quickest way to drown a plant).
The Bible tells us of God’s concern for those who are overburdened; He wants to take our load from us and be a refuge in times of trouble. Interesting, most of our Biblical heroes suffered depression from time to time. How many times did God prop up those withered plants so they had a chance to become future great trees, bearing fruit for many hungry souls to feed upon?
If we are to rise from our depression like our Biblical heroes, we must do what they did and stop holding onto our burdens and give them over to God to deal with. (Psalms 9:9,10. 34:18. 43:5. Matthew 11:28-30)
Riding a Runaway Horse
Horses come in all shapes and sizes, colours and breeds. Some horses are gentle and good-natured, while others are wild and unpredictable. If we wish to ride a horse, we should choose carefully – no matter what their nature, all horses are powerful and can cause great injury – intentionally or not. Riding a good-natured horse can be a pleasant experience, but we ride the wild ones at our own peril. Remember, if we are not in control of our horse, the horse will be in control of us.
Human compulsions, like horses, take many forms. Sometimes our compulsions are good-natured and even beneficial (shopping, television, exercise, eating, work, social life, entertainment and so on), but we must rein them in at the first signs of bolting.
Some of our compulsions are wild, unpredictable and deadly (prohibited drugs, gambling, illicit sex, criminal activity among them), and God forbids we ride these horses. If we disobey, it is at our own peril.
The more our compulsions gallop out of control, the harder they are to restrain and soon we’re riding an uncontrollable addiction. When we are no longer master of our compulsions and stuck on a runaway addiction, it’s only a matter of time before we fall into a deep and dangerous ravine. (Proverbs 29:11)
At times we hear about pods of whales beaching themselves. No one is certain why not just one whale but often whole pods strand themselves on a beach? Even if people manage to guide them back to sea, the whales often beach themselves inexplicably further up the coast.
Are we constantly beaching ourselves – becoming discouraged and disillusioned? Life is a vast ocean, filled with many dangers and detours and if we don’t watch where we are heading we can easily beach ourselves and eventually turn from God.
Our wellbeing depends on whom we choose to follow. Make no mistake; we are all following someone or some philosophy – to a greater or lesser degree. If we are following a charming-idiot, there should be no surprise when we are grounded on life’s many reefs. But equally, if we put our trust solely in the wise counsel of men, we are also heading for danger. There are many charismatic-intellectuals that claim they have the answers to the ‘meaning of life’. As a society, we are putting our faith in their theories and following them. But if the person or philosophy we are following is heading in a bad direction, we will all run aground when they do.
As Christians, we still have this problem of following people. We should never build our spiritual life around another person – no matter how inspiring, admirable or saintly he or she may seem. Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength… Jeremiah 17:5. Many Christians have walked away from God because the Christian leader they were following failed to live up to a perfect standard.
So, there remains a dilemma: When lost in life’s ocean, direction is needed. Fortunately, God has supplied an impeccable leader. If we keep our eyes on the Lord Jesus Christ and follow Him, ignoring other calls, we will never run aground. When we pursue Christ, we will constantly be amazed at where He guides us. He will lead us to a relaxed attitude, inner peace, a divine purpose and eventually – eternity with Him.
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. Proverbs 3:5-6.
Kittens are naturally playful, curious, innocent and trusting, a combination that makes them completely oblivious to life’s many dangers. Were it not for their ever-watchful mother, they would fall foul of many tragedies. When their mother senses something is wrong, she calls her kittens to safety, but often they are not interested in heeding their mother’s warning. But when danger becomes more threatening, the mother grabs her kittens by the scruff of the neck and removes them from harm’s way.
We are all like little kittens – completely oblivious to many of life’s dangers. Sometimes we become so preoccupied chasing our ‘balls of wool’ (interests in life) we do not heed God’s warnings of imminent danger. To save us from future threatening situations, God must sometimes forcibly remove us from harm’s way. This is often accomplished with an unpleasant circumstance. If we are wise, we will act like the compliant kitten grabbed by the scruff of the neck and go quietly, letting God have His way without struggle or objections. When circumstances beyond our control suddenly upend our life, we should take comfort in the knowledge that our Heavenly Father knows best. (Exodus 14:13, Psalms 46:10)
Different Species of Birds
God has created a world with many different species of birds, each with its own distinct colours, characteristics and call. Through creation, we can learn that God clearly loves variety (Gen 1:25). Yet despite this knowledge, we are often guilty of thinking that when we become Christians we should all be white swans.
We should then perhaps ask ourselves how many times God has wanted a Christian eagle that speaks eagle, to witness to the eagles – a Christian owl that knows the owls’ ways, to bare testimony to the owls – a Christian wren to speak fluently to the wrens? Unfortunately, if all God’s birds are pretending to be white swans, none of their own species will take them seriously.
As Christians, we should stop pretending to be something we are not and realise God made us the way we are for a reason – to be missionaries in our own occupations and recreations.
Whoever we are, whatever we do, we should do it professionally as unto God. As we grow in Grace, we should develop our own individual personality and let God worry if we fit in or not. When we have our eyes firmly set on God, we will start glided through life, tranquil and relaxed, filled with compassion and inner strength. Then, at the appropriate time, God will raise us up so those around will look and wonder how we maintain an inner peace amongst life’s ups and downs. When they question, we shall have the answer in a language they understand and honest personality they admire. (1 Corinthians 12: 4-6, 19-21)
The Protective Parent
Nature is a curious thing. It seems we’ve all been programmed with a survival instinct – an overwhelming drive to stay alive. This instinct is in all of God’s creatures. However, there is another instinctive programme that overrides the survival instinct – it is a parental instinct. Nature shows us that when young are threatened, both the mother and father will override their own survival instinct and fight to the death to protect them. What makes an animal, programmed to survive, suddenly forfeit its life so its young may live? Where did this selfless and loving instinct originate and who is the programmer?
This loving instinct originates with God and He is the programmer. “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” John 15:13
Through Adam, we all sin and are under the penalty of death and judgement. We must remember, God is perfect, God is law and He must condemn those who transgress the law or He would compromise His perfection. However, there is another facet of God’s character – He is a Parent and we are His children. So as a Parent, God has a dilemma – His children are threatened with judgement at death and ironically He must judge them. Yet the thought of His children suffering is abhorrent to Him – He would die to protect them. That is why He willingly came to earth as a man (Jesus Christ) and forfeited His life on the cross so we could survive. As our substitute, He took the punishment from judgment onto Himself so we could have eternal life – evidence of a perfectly loving God. It now rests with us to accept His sacrifice and the gift of salvation.
“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
The spider is a cunning insect. It spins an almost invisible web across the path of its prey and then patiently waits for unsuspecting insects to pass by. Then when a bug falls into the web it soon becomes entangled and is at the spider’s mercy. Now that the insect is caught, the spider will secure it by wrapping it with more webs and, at leisure, sucks the nourishment from it.
Satan is the biggest spider of all. He lurks unseen in the background and relies on his many webs of lies and deceit to catch his prey. Like the spider, he doesn’t usually chase his prey – he waits for it to come to him. Satan has spun many ingenious and near-invisible webs to entangle us (insects). Webs that appeal to our pride, our self-righteousness, our lust for power, success, popularity, wealth, fame and so on. No matter what sort of person we are Satan has spun a web that can catch us.
Once entangled, we are at his mercy and it’s very hard to break free. Ever so slowly, we are wrapped in webs of our own addictions. We become tangled in our lust for power, approbation and gratification – then trapped within the bitterness, jealousy and depression that follow. Soon we are so entwined the only purpose we can possibly serve is to nourish Satan’s plans.
How do we avoid becoming entangled in Satan’s invisible systems of lies and deceit? We look to God. He knows the whereabouts of every web spun by Satan. If we take our lead from our Lord Jesus Christ and choose the paths He walked, Satan’s webs will never entangle us. (2 Corinthians, 2:11, 1 John 2:16, 1 Thessalonians 3:5)
To Each His Own
God did not create only one plant, with one flower, with one fragrance. There are many different plants with unique flowers, each with its own colourings, characteristics and distinct fragrances. Some flowers attract bees, while others attract birds, butterflies, beetles, ants and even mice. A flower’s fragrance is designed to attract certain creatures to begin the process of pollination. Plants also flower in their own season. How well they flourish depends on whether they are firmly rooted in rich, watered soil and how much light they receive.
Plants are rather like teachers of God’s Word. They have different appearances, colourings and personalities. Teachers who grow in God’s Word, feed off Christ’s light and speak the Truth without hypocrisy in their own personal style, will bloom in their own season. Their fragrance will resonate with a certain type of person who is attracted to the Truth presented in a way they understand. Just like the bee, these people will be pollinated (with the Gospel) and will spread it around when they go out into the world.
God did not create one flower to appeal to all creatures – nor did He create one teacher to appeal to all people. God has illustrated this in the Twelve Apostles. Each had their own distinct personality, characteristics, styles and uniquely different fragrances. (Jeremiah 3:15)
The Busy Robin
A little robin built a nest and laid her eggs. While she gathered food, a cuckoo snuck an egg into the nest. Later, the robin didn’t question why a new egg had appeared – she was far too busy for that. When her chicks hatched, she didn’t question why one of her chicks was distinctly different from the others. Nor did she question why one chick ate three times as much as the others – she simply worked three times harder to feed it. One day, the cuckoo chick pushed the other chicks out of the nest. Yet, the exhausted robin still did not question; there was no time as the cuckoo now commanded attention around the clock.
In our busy lives, we can easily forget that God desires a personal relationship and has given us an amazing opportunity to share in His eternal kingdom. However, this fallen world has a habit of distracting us by sneaking cuckoo eggs in our nest for us to raise. (Luke 9: 59-62)
Cuckoos can take many forms – some good, some bad. It may be an addiction or obsessive hobby that needs continual feeding. It may be a demanding friendship or organisation. Or, it may even be charitable work that needs round the clock attention. (Luke 10: 38-42)
We can become so busy that it’s hard to determine if we are raising a cuckoo. Periodically, we need to stop and question our schedule and check our motives lest something of no eternal importance starts taking all our time and energy.
We should ask ourselves – is what we are doing:
- causing us to neglect our relationship with God, family and self?
- motivated by guilt or seeking the applause of other?
- causing undue stress, anxiety or depression?
- taking all our time, yet bringing no glory to God?
God demands a right thing be done in a right way. No matter how outwardly honourable our busy endeavours may seem, if our motivation is wrong, all we have created is wood, hay and stubble that will be burnt at the Judgement Seat of Christ. (1 Corinthians 3: 12-15)
Our time on earth is brief. Let us not waste it by raising cuckoos that bring no glory to our Divine Father. Christianity is about developing right relationships. If our first priority is relationship with God, our other relationships and ministries will gracefully fall into place – only then will our burdens be light.
“Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28
A man owned an extravagant aquarium and spared no effort maintaining it properly. He spent many hours attending all his fish and knew their every characteristic. Yet, for all his time and effort, it was evident the fish knew nothing of him. It seemed impossible they could ever get to know him.
Whenever he came close to the aquarium the fish hid in fear. When he cleaned their tank, his fish fled not understanding cleaning was essential for their future well-being. Even when he showered them with food, they never showed any acknowledgement to their loving caretaker.
The man finally realised that if his fish were ever to understand who he was, he would somehow have to become a fish and swim among them.
As ludicrous as the above illustration may sound, this is similar to what God did. He humbled Himself and took the form of man (Jesus Christ) John 10:30.
We must understand that the human brain is incapable of comprehending a Being who exists simultaneously in the past, present and future – who knows everything that has, will and may happen – with power to create and destroy the universe and the heavens with a single word. It would be easier for a fish in a tank to appreciate the man outside, than for mankind to comprehend an all-knowing, all-present and all-powerful God.
However, God gave us the best illustration of who He is, in a way that our tiny brains can understand, by becoming one of us and walking among us. So, if we wish to know God, we do so by knowing Jesus Christ.
(God) made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Philippians 2:7-8.
The Insignificant Snail
A snail moves slowly through life leaving a slimy trail in its wake which dissolves within 24 hours. Soon, it is very hard to see any evidence of its passing. When a snail dies, the only evidence of its past existence is an empty shell. To us a snail is very insignificant – its existence hardly worth noticing.
No matter what their beliefs most people agree that life is a miracle. So, is it a random miracle or does our life have meaning and purpose? The Bible declares that God created life, the universe and all scientific laws that govern it. (Genesis 1:1)
On a universal scale, we are even more insignificant than a snail. We move through life desperately trying to leave a trail that will be remembered, but usually our trail disappears as soon as we pass. Like the snail, when our life’s journey ends, all we leave behind is an empty shell.
As insignificant as we are, it is truly amazing that God includes us in His plan, (Psalms 8:4). So we must conclude: If we are not doing God’s will in our lives, all we are creating is a worthless snail trail that will quickly fade away forever.
By faith we understand that the universe was formed by God’s command, so that the visible came forth from the invisible. (Hebrews 11:3). I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called. (Ephesians 4:1)
A fire needs three elements to keep burning: HEAT – OXYGEN – FUEL. If one of these is missing, the fire will eventually go out.
We have all seen those excitable Christians who proclaim they are ‘on fire’ for the Lord; however, a year later the fire has gone out. If our spiritual fire is fueled by emotional experiences, we don’t have a spiritual fire; we have spiritual flares that briefly light our darkness but soon burn out leaving us once again in the gloom.
Three elements are required to create a genuine spiritual fire: FAITH – HOPE – LOVE. We need FAITH (to trust in God) HOPE (for absolute confidence in God) and LOVE (Christ-like love directed towards God and reflected back to all humanity). These three elements will fuel and flame our spiritual fire so it continues to burn.
To get a fire started we need a spark (all spiritual lives start with a single act of faith in Christ – John 3:16). When our spiritual fire is alight, the more FUEL (Love for God) we use and the more OXYGEN (Confidence in God) we blow onto it, the greater the resultant HEAT (Faith).
A genuine spiritual fire is not an emotional high – it is a Christ-like confidence and inner peace that produces compassion and warmth. This inner glow lights up the world in darkness. When our spiritual fire is burning, it won’t be long before people step out of their gloom to seek sanctuary and comfort from its warmth. ‘And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13.’
The first letters of the Greek phrase, “Iesous Christos Theou Yios Soter (Jesus Christ Son of God Saviour)” spell, ichthys, the Greek word for “fish”. For two thousand years, the fish has been a symbol of Christianity.
It is interesting to note the fish is an aquatic creature designed for underwater life. Fish come in all shapes, sizes, colours and characteristics and are a great source of sustenance for many other creatures. They can lay millions of tiny eggs, most of which end up as food for others. Thus it appears the main purpose of a fish is to sustain and strengthen other creatures.
Christians are Heavenly creatures designed for a spiritual life. We, too, come in all shapes, sizes, colours and personalities. Christians have many purposes – one of the highest being a source of nourishment to the needy.
In an intolerant world, we are to be tolerant. In a world of hatred, we are to love. In a world of despair, we are to give hope. Many people will feed from our Christian attributes as, we in turn, feed from the teaching of Jesus Christ.
Just as fish lay many eggs, we hopefully produce many acts of compassion, love and wisdom to be digested and turned to energy by the hungry souls in our community. Just like the fish, we are unlikely to see the results of our eggs (spiritual works). We will never really know who was led to Christ and salvation through our labour, until we reach Heaven. (John 21: 15-17)
Although great in size, the humpback whale is a graceful and gentle creature. Yet when a pod of killer whales try to separate mother from calf, the peaceful humpback will act violently. She will warn the killers to keep back. If the warnings go unheeded, she will then defend her helpless calf by bringing down her mighty tail on those who would hurt her baby.
People are sometimes shocked that the Bible is filled with wars and violence approved by God. We live in a brutal world (the Devil’s kingdom) where many blood-thirsty individuals and nations cause harm and havoc.
God desires to deal peacefully with everyone and wishes no-one any harm. He would rather go to the cross and suffer harm Himself than inflict harm on others (God paid the ultimate price at the cross so ALL may have salvation). Yet there are many individuals and nations who have rejected God and wish to harm the innocent. God is slow to anger and looks for graceful solutions to resolve conflicts (without compromising His perfect character). However, when predators continue to threaten those in His care, God is forced to act (Psalm 103:8-9).
Firstly, He gives a warning and, if they persist, He will lift His mighty ‘hand of judgement’ and send it crashing down. God does not desire this, but He will not be mocked. God has made promises to care for His children and knows that sometimes the only way to deal with ruthless people and violent nations is to speak in the single language they understand.
God’s violence is not an emotional reaction, nor is it wrong. It is an act of righteous violence similar to a mother protecting her child. It is a last resort for God, but we should be eternally grateful that our Divine Father will not stand by and let evil triumph.
The Lord is your mighty defender, perfect and just in all His ways; Your God is faithful and true; He does what is right and fair. Deuteronomy 32:4 GNB
A Disaster Waiting to Happen
An avalanche is caused by a build-up of loose snow, ice and earth set in motion down a hill or mountainside. Initially, it may be small but, as it gains momentum, it gathers mass to descend with great force, indiscriminately destroying everything in its path.
Anger is a disaster waiting to happen. If we let thoughts such as self-absorption, jealousy, hurt pride and feelings of injustice build up, they can be set into motion instantly by angry desire for self-vindication. When these thoughts are unrestrained, a disastrous chain of events occurs. Anger soon gathers bitterness, irrationality and blame before sliding into hostility. As it builds momentum it forms into resentment and hatred. Before we know it, our anger has turned into an implacable avalanche of retaliation and vengeance.
God has asked that whenever we feel our temper rising we should immediately hand the problem to Him. He will vindicate us if it is warranted. We should never let our anger get out of control – it is neither objective nor productive. It is irrational and destroys all relationships in its path – friend, foe or family. No wonder the Bible states: ‘Never let the sun set on your anger’. (Proverbs 29:22. Ephesians 3:26)
Weeding the Garden
There were no weeds in the Garden of Eden. In this beautiful garden, every plant had its purpose and its place. But when man fell (sinned), Satan became the Head Gardener (ruler of the world). At that moment, nature was corrupted and weeds began to appear. They thrived and multiplied and now the world is choked with them.
Today, if our gardens are not constantly tended, it will not be long before they are taken over by weeds.
Sins are like weeds in the garden of our soul – if they are not pulled out and disposed of, they will soon take over. We must constantly tend our souls by keeping our sins in check; otherwise, like weeds, they will grow rapidly and spread their seeds – not only in our garden (soul) but in neighbouring gardens (the souls closest to us). When our soul is choked with sins, it is impossible for new plants (divine good) to sprout, flower and bear fruit. (1 John 1:9)
The Chopping Block
If chooks have a good ‘run’ (shelter) and the right food and environment, there is no reason for them ‘not’ to produce eggs. If a chook has these things and still does not lay, it won’t be long before the farmer brings out the chopping block and replaces it.
When Christians have everything they need (availability of the Word, good teaching and the right environment) they should be producing ‘good works’. God always gives us a good ‘run’. He has an individual plan for each of us with many opportunities to spiritually-produce and bring glory to God – simultaneously procuring rewards for eternity. However, if we have everything necessary but stubbornly live our Christian life always consuming (never producing) it won’t be long before God shows us the chopping block and replaces us. All those opportunities that would have been ours will be given by God to another. This is why He sometimes allows us to go through a near-death-experience – only then do many Christians wake up and start producing ‘divine- good’. (John 15:2)
Cattle often break through a fence and stray into bushlands. Then, 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 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, often starving and suffering, in some wild back-country.
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 (1 John 1:8). 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 people and the fancies of this world instead of following God, we will inevitably find ourselves in a pleasure-seeking back-country. We may have thought we were heading to a liberating, fun place only to discover a lonely backwater of self-absorption, regret, and dissatisfaction. We will drift aimlessly through life without any true meaning, purpose and contentment. Many who stray from God wander lost here for the rest of their unhappy lives.
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. Proverbs 3:5-6
Wind is defined as air set in motion by natural causes. Since wind is an invisible current, how can we be sure it exists? We can deduce wind’s existence and presence by how it influences surrounding objects. We see trees swaying, flags fluttering, clouds moving and so on. We can also feel its force on our skin and hear it when it blows through certain instruments.
We cannot see God, but just because He is not seen doesn’t mean He is not there. To us, God is an invisible force. In revealing Himself, He is unpredictable like the wind. Most of the time, God is like the still air that invisibly surrounds and sustains us. At other times, He is a gentle breeze that relieves us on a hot day. Yet, on occasion, He can be a hurricane ripping the roofs off those who shelter in their ignorance and refuse to acknowledge His existence.
God is everywhere (omnipresent) and, like the invisible wind, we can deduce His presence by the way He affects things around Him. We can witness God’s wonderful design in Creation. We can see the changes in those people’s lives who have trusted in Him. We can hear God’s whisper-quiet voice as it blows through our conscience. Furthermore, just as wind makes a distinct sound when blown through an instrument, God works through the lives of many Christians so His message is clearly heard around the world.
The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit. John 3:8
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)
Animal handlers, zoo keepers and veterinarians understand animals should not be handled in the same manner. Some animals like rabbits are docile while others like crocodiles are wild. A horse is not approached from the rear for fear of getting kicked. A poisonous snake is carefully picked up from behind the head. 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 people are as prickly as a porcupine; others stubborn as a mule; or 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 interest to indifference to outright hostility.
We should seek God’s wisdom when spreading the Gospel. It is through study and prayer we will understand what to say and when to say it. If in doubt on how to approach certain people with the Gospel – don’t rush in – tarry awhile to allow time for the Holy Spirit to shine His wisdom on the situation. Keep in mind that people can never be forced into the eternal safety of God’s heavenly sanctuary, but many will be guided if handled correctly.
For this is what the Lord commanded us to do when He said: I have made you a light to the nations, so my salvation may reach the remotest parts of the earth. Acts 13:47 NJB
The Monkey that Presses the Button
In years past, NASA has used monkeys to advance space travel. Whilst these monkeys were chosen for their special abilities and trained for certain functions, NASA provided the rockets, supplied all the resources and employed a large team of experts to administer its space program. The monkeys were only required to push certain buttons on cue.
As Christians, we have a fantastic opportunity to play a part in God’s plan. When we choose to serve Him, our needs are all provided. God works tirelessly controlling circumstances behind the scenes. He supplies all the resources and the environment necessary to accomplish our ministries. He provides the ‘filling of the Spirit’ for guidance, plus a large team of experts (elect angels) to administer numerous unknown requirements and keep us safe. And unlike NASA, God doesn’t make mistakes!
Being orientated to grace means we don’t worry. We realise we are not capable of achieving anything by ourselves – it is by God’s grace that His plan for our lives is accomplished. And, no matter how big our individual Christian ministries become, we should always remember we are totally dependent on Him in everything we do. Even when we manage great things that God intends exactly on cue, the fact is – we are simply the monkey that presses the button. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
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.”
Cuttings & New Growth.
It is amazing how we can cut pieces from some plants, then put the cuttings in soil where they take root and grow. From the sacrifice of one plant, many new plants can be cultivated.
God is not the author of suffering. He intended Eden (paradise) for mankind. Suffering is a direct result of man’s freewill being used in opposition to God’s plan.
Though God does not desire suffering, He sometimes allows afflictions (cuttings) to occur for the purpose of new growth. In looking at the big picture, God is working all things together for our eternal happiness – not for temporal happiness. As in Job’s case, any suffering we are undergoing may be the cause of future growth – both for ourselves and for many others. Furthermore, disasters, large or small, remind believers and unbelievers alike that their time is limited and Heaven cannot and will not be found on earth.
Every day, God works silently behind the scenes stopping millions of disasters we will never know about. When God does allow a disaster to take its course, He has taken every minute detail into account. He has the foresight to know the suffering and sacrifice of one person can lead to the inspiration and salvation of many. We must trust in God in crisis. Sometimes the greatest triumphs emerge from the greatest tragedies. Where would we be if God did not allow Christ to suffer on our behalf?
He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season… Psalms 1:3a
Computers operate via a series of coded instructions called programs. Although few of us ever meet the originators responsible for these programs, we don’t delude ourselves thinking computers programmed themselves without an original programmer.
How do birds know how to build a nest? How do bees know how to make honey? How do beavers know how to dam a river? How do spiders know how to design a web? How can certain fish and birds migrate thousands of kilometres then return each year with satellite accuracy? How do blind, miniscule, newly born kangaroos know how to wriggle their way from the birth canal all the way to the mother’s pouch to suckle milk? There are so many inexplicable natural phenomena swept under the carpet with the word, ‘INSTINCT’. Do we delude ourselves thinking everything in nature has programmed itself?
In fields such as engineering, academic minds continue to learn complex lessons from nature. Shouldn’t we be asking where nature learnt these lessons, or will we casually say – given time they happen by themselves? The Bible declares that in nature, everything is created by God. Therefore, He is the Original Programmer who wrote the coded instructions we call instinct.
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse. Romans 1:20
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