Love cannot be forced: it must be freely given – we fool ourselves if we think otherwise. We may want someone to love us but we cannot win that person’s love by force. Even if we demanded love at the point of a sword, people might go through the motions of showing it but only out of fear – in their hearts they would despise us.
When nations have forced their religious views on others (the Crusades, the Inquisition, etc), it has always ended in disaster. These unfortunate episodes have blighted Christianity, creating international distrust which has lasted for centuries. The ‘Cause of Christianity’ will never be won at the ‘point of a sword’. We should remember this when making national policies, work policies, school policies and family policies.
One of the primary goals of Christianity is guiding people to receive salvation and come to love the Lord, but if we think we can achieve this noble aim through legal action, coercive bullying or nagging, we fool ourselves. Christ has shown us the way by living the example. People flocked to him seeking forgiveness, compassion, grace and love. Christ never forced himself on anyone.
1 Corinthians 13:4-6 defines love: Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in truth.
When we start living our Christian beliefs instead of forcing them on others, people may stop fleeing from Christianity – and run towards it.
Christianity - Business or Pleasure?
For most, business and pleasure is not the same thing. When asked: ‘Are you here for business or pleasure?’ people often mean: ‘Are you here because you have to be or want to be?’
Christianity was designed to be a wonderful relationship with God – not a religion. Sadly, the greatest obstacle for many people coming to Christianity is religion. It has turned what should be a pleasure into a business. Religion, burdened with its numerous works, rituals, cults, intolerance and atrocities, has distorted the true meaning of Christianity.
God isn’t interested in religion – He doesn’t need our insignificant works or our meagre money to complete His purpose, (Ephesians 2:8-9). He is God, the Creator of the universe – Governor of the laws that sustain science – Possessor of all knowledge and riches. God doesn’t need our help – we need His.
God is like a loving parent whose children have run away. His greatest desire is for us to choose to come back to Him. God created mankind with free will. He cannot and will not force anyone to love Him. We are created in His image – just as we desire people to freely love us, so too does God want us to freely love Him.
God desires a personal relationship with each of us. As a parent, He wants to protect and provide for us. He wants to impart His wisdom. His rules are written not to spoil our chance at happiness, but to increase it. Christianity is not a set of meaningless rituals, but a restoration of a family relationship with our Heavenly Father.
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.
Always Part of the Family
When we are born, we are born into a family – we don’t have any choice in the matter. We all have a biological mother and father and, whether we like it or not, they will always be our biological parents. We may also have biological sisters, brothers, uncles and aunties. Some may not know who they are, some will wish they didn’t know and change their name and end all contact. However, the fact remains we were born into that family and nothing we can do will ever change that.
As Christians we are ‘born again’ into the Royal Family of God (through faith in Christ). We did nothing to earn our place in God’s family and we can do nothing to change it. As soon as we believe in Christ, our names are placed in the ‘Book of Life’. Once born into God’s family, nothing can remove us – not even ourselves. We may disown God. We may turn our backs on Him and never talk (pray) to Him. We may even tell everyone we’re not a Christian, but it does not change the fact: Once a Family member, always a Family member. We did nothing to earn salvation and we can do nothing to lose salvation.
In Heaven, there will be many surprised people in the Royal Family of God. They will be eternally thankful that at one point in their life they believed in Jesus Christ and God immediately adopted them as joint heirs with Christ, sharing all His riches and privileges – and nothing they did thereafter could ever change that immutable fact.
The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ… Romans 8:16-17a
Expressing Our Love
When we are in love, it is natural to continually think about, talk about and long to be with that person. We express our love by foregoing things for ourselves so we can buy gifts for them. Service on their behalf is a pleasure and an outward sign of our inner devotion.
Sacrificial love, sacrificial giving and sacrificial service all sound quite painful. Though these Christian terms shouldn’t be taken out of context, we should question if our spiritual life and service has become a chore instead of an act of love. Often, we talk about sacrificing this and that for Christ; but when we are truly in love with someone, giving gifts and spending time in their company should not be forced but a natural result of devotion.
If our Christian service is motivated by peer pressure, guilt or because we want something in return, our work will soon be a burden. Moreover, God is not honoured by this and He will not honour our ‘forced’ gifts.
If we have lost that ‘loving feeling’ for God, maybe it’s because we are taking Him for granted and are devoted to something else. Take a few deep breaths and think about the miracle of our existence and the many blessing we have (Philippians 4:19). Recall how God humbled Himself by becoming a man to die for us on the cross (Philippians 2:8). These precious gifts are results of our Heavenly Father’s devotion to us. When we truly realise how much God loves us, it is easy to respond in kind. We will naturally want to be in His company (times of study and devotion); to trust and talk to Him (claiming His promises and prayer); to give Him gifts in return (Christian giving and service).
So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7
The Frightened Child
It is complimentary to you as a parent when your frightened child runs into your bedroom in the middle of the night, climbs into bed and promptly falls asleep peacefully by your side. While too scared to sleep alone, the child has complete confidence in being safe in your protection.
Similarly, we compliment God when we flee to Him with our worldly woes and our fears promptly vanish because we are confident in His safe presence. God is glorified when we are at peace – completely assured that nothing can harm us. The Lord is my light and my salvation: whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life: of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 27:1
On the other hand, we can conclude God is ‘not’ glorified when we don’t trust Him and remain scared when He has assured us there is nothing to fear. (Isaiah 43:1, 2)
What things are presently worrying us: the uncertain future; hostile people; health issues? In this world there is unquestionably a lot one can worry about. God knows all our problems and is waiting for us to place them in His capable hands. He has the ability to turn bad things into good. Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10
We either choose to keep our fears or hand them to God. Our peace of mind will be determined by which option we select. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7
With air travel, it is standard practice for flight attendants to demonstrate safety procedures in case of an emergency. Should the cabin air pressure drop, an oxygen mask must be worn by everyone. Parents are told to fix their own mask before placing one on their child. At first, this may seem selfish and a little callous – surely, a loving parent should look after the child’s needs before their own? We can answer that question with another one. What good would the parent be if he or she blacked out from lack of oxygen while trying to save the child?
God tells us to love Him above all else. This is not a selfish command from a jealous God, but wise counsel from a loving God. If our first love is God and Christ, we actually increase our ability to love our family and friends. Furthermore, if we are occupied with Christ, we will not faint in times of adversity.
When we focus on God, we have the strength necessary to help those desperate for the oxygen of grace. However, it is important to first fix the mask-of-grace on ourselves by making sure we have the right relationship with God before we try helping others with their spiritual life. In having God in our lives, we can claim His promises, push our problems on Him and relax.
When we put other people’s spiritual needs before getting right with God ourselves, we may soon feel the effects of a lack of grace in our own spiritual life. Then, if we ‘spiritually black out’ by getting discouraged, depressed and despondent, what use are we to those loved ones around us? (Matthew 10:37)
Writing Love Letters
A man, filled with romantic notions, decided to write a love letter to his wife. He became so caught up in writing on how unbearable life would be without her that he didn’t notice she had arrived home. While he continued to write page after page, listing how he was his wife’s undying servant, she cleaned the house, did the washing and cooked in the kitchen. So involved was he in composing poetic words of his wife’s incomparable beauty, he didn’t notice she had dressed-up and changed her hair. When she invited him to walk in the park and watch the sunset, her husband declined; he was far too busy writing about how he loved to spend every minute in her wonderful company.
On her return, he eagerly presented her with the passionate love letter. His wife read it, gave a half smile and politely thanked him. Her husband was disappointed. He expected her to respond with romantic joy. Baffled, he asked: ‘Doesn’t my letter please you? Haven’t I written every loving thing a woman likes to hear?’
‘Yes, it’s lovely, darling,’ she replied quietly. ‘I do appreciate your thoughts, but I would rather see your love than read about it.’
We sing songs to God with many ‘Halleluiahs’ and ‘Praise the Lords’. We give offerings and tell God how wonderful and glorious He is. We rightly recognize how awful our lives would be without Him. But are we just ‘writing love-letters’, or is our life a living-love-letter to God?
Jesus said, “But why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say.” Luke 6:46
Two Halves Make A Whole
Many things have two parts to make a whole. A candle needs wax and a wick to make light. A bow needs an arrow to hit the target. A CD needs a CD-player to make beautiful music. A BBQ will not cook without gas or coals. And a hose is just a pipe without water.
So many things need a counterpart before they can become truly effective.
God designed man and woman as two parts that come together to work as an effective whole. Quite often, we will only start functioning when we are connected to our counterpart. What one lacks, the other has in abundance and vice versa. Only as a whole do we start realizing our purpose and full potential. God created marriage so greater things could be accomplished. However, we must remember, in order for this to happen both parts must be in working order. (Ecclesiastics 4:9, Ephesians 5:31)
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)
Wheels on a Car
Your car heads in the direction the front wheels are pointing. When your front wheels are aligned there is very little wear and tear. However, when travelling over bumpy roads, your car’s wheels can become unbalanced and unaligned. Soon they start pulling at each other, causing unnecessary wear and tear. If your front wheels become so out-of-whack they are facing in opposite directions, your car will come to a complete standstill and will go nowhere until they are realigned.
Marriage is like a car and the husband and wife are like the two front wheels. Where the marriage goes depends on the direction the husband and wife are pointing. Life’s bumpy roads have a habit of unbalancing a marriage. To reduce the stress and anxiety we must quickly realign. If unchecked, there will come a day where both husband and wife are trying to head in different directions and then the marriage will come to a complete standstill.
Today, so many couples demand ‘me’ time. They have separate holidays, separate interests and separate social lives – then wonder why they have drifted apart and their marriage has gone nowhere.
The best way to have an aligned marriage is to communicate. Be interested in your spouse’s interests; share your desires, beliefs and disappointments. Continually service your relationship so your spouse is the first person you confide in. Compromise on the small things and determine to head in the same direction.
If we travel on life’s bumpy roads with a marriage that is properly aligned we will be delightfully surprised at the destinations we reach, plus it makes it so much easier for the back wheels (the children) to follow.
Colossians 3:18-19 states: Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them.
The King's Banquet
A good leader knows there are times to work and times to play. In days of old, a good king would hold a banquet for his subjects. Such banquets were intended to refresh, encourage, foster loyalty, raise morale and allow people to better know their king. Now, if a king went to a lot of trouble to prepare a banquet for his subjects, would he be pleased if no one turned up?
Every day, God prepares a banquet for us – feasts for the eyes, ears, body and soul. Graciously, God has provided a great variety in nature, scenery, sound and taste. He has provided added companionship through loved ones, friends and pets. He has also provided divine guidance through the Word (Bible). We should take time every day to appreciate these things.
However, we have many excuses for not attending God’s banquets: ‘Sorry Lord, I am too depressed.’ ‘Sorry Lord, I feel too guilty to appreciate the things around me.’ ‘Sorry Lord, I am busy chasing my own glory.’ ‘Sorry Lord, I am too busy serving You to eat at Your table.’
We cannot love the world and God at the same time. It is so easy to banquet (be preoccupied) at the altar of our works, accomplishments, sufferings, desires, disappointments and duties – when we should be dining with Christ. We should never be too busy to notice and enjoy the banquets God has prepared for us (family, food, nature, and so on), no matter how meagre or grand. We should take time each day to see what God has placed on life’s table before us. When we see our cup is overflowing – raise it up and toast the King Almighty. (Luke 14:16-20)
A matchmaker is someone who observes two people and thinks they have the potential of becoming a happy couple. The matchmaker then schemes to bring about a union, acting as a go-between and answering any questions. When both parties are pleased with what they have heard, the matchmaker arranges an introduction so the couple can begin a personal relationship, which may end in marriage.
As Christians, we are called to be spiritual-matchmakers for those in our family, neighbourhood or workplace (1 Cor. 3:5-9). If any lonely souls are seeking a spiritual relationship we should tell them of the most Perfect Person we know – Jesus Christ.
If they start enquiring about this Stranger, we can confidently say: He is a Gentleman as well as a Lord; He is always reliable, loyal, honest, caring, brave, and would willingly lay down His life for all He loves. Hopefully, the lonely soul will be very excited about meeting this Inspiring Person and immediately ask for an introduction.
We have a marvelous opportunity to match our unbelieving friends and family with the ultimate Prince Charming. This could lead to their salvation and the start of another glorious relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ for eternity. Truly, a marriage made in Heaven.
Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. 2 Corinthians 5:20
The Unneccesary Middleman
A middleman is an agent who occupies a middle position between the dealings of two parties. Though a middleman is handy in many of life’s dealings, a good marriage does not require one. Marriages will only function if the two people involved communicate directly. If we use a middleman to communicate our thoughts, desires and actions to our partner, we don’t have a relationship with our spouse. We have a relationship with the middleman.
As Christians, we should have a very personal relationship with God. In this age, we have the privilege of speaking directly (through prayer) to our Heavenly Father – we don’t need a middleman. However, many of us court the communicators instead of the Creator. Teachers of God’s Word are often very inspiring people and we may mistakenly think that if we impress them, we will also impress God.
We must remember that a good relationship with God’s teachers doesn’t necessarily mean a good relationship with God. By devoting our time to winning brownie-points from them, we can inadvertently destroy any chance of having a satisfying relationship with the One they are trying to teach us about. (Jeremiah 17:5)
It would be foolish to say we love a person we had never met – only a love-struck individual, in love with being in love, would make such a claim. True, we may see someone outwardly and be instantly attracted, but only when we get to know the inner-person are we in a position to say whether or not we love them.
The best way of getting to know someone is through personal communication and spending time in each other’s company. Only then do we truly learn who they are. Before that point we can only say we love the ‘idea’ of that person.
When we first become a Christian it would be impulsive to say we love God when we know next-to-nothing about Him. True, we may be instantly attracted to His magnificence, His power and the graceful things He has done and is doing on our behalf. However, until we learn about His character and His beliefs, we are simply love-struck Christians who quickly declare undying love for a Person we know little about.
We get to know God through communication. He talks to us through the Bible (His Word which is alive and powerful). If we study, we soon learn about His core character and His beliefs. We also get to know God by working with Him (Christian service), talking with Him (prayer), and relaxing with Him (faith in God to solve our problems).
As with all successful relationships, it’s about each party getting to know the other. Omniscient God already knows everything about us (and amazingly still loves us). He has graciously given us an eternity to get to know Him. And, as we come to know Him, it will soon become evident that God is a perfect candidate for our personal, unreserved and everlasting love.
My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. (1 John 3:18)
Tit for Tat
We live in a world of ‘tit for tat’. The rules are simple: do unto others before they do unto you. You hurt me and I’ll hurt you. For every action there is reaction: anger for anger – violence for violence – hatred for hatred.
Christ turned the ‘tit for tat’ rule upside down by showing us grace when we deserved judgement – by giving mercy to the unmerciful – by demonstrating love when he encountered hatred – by showing generosity to the selfish. Christ lived His life not for himself, but for others. When we are born again into the family of God, we are encouraged ‘not’ to play by the rules of the world, but by a new set of rules laid down by Jesus Christ.
We create so much bad-mental-baggage when we viscously retaliate or seek revenge instead of forgiving and acting in grace. We will never find peace if we are always reacting to the injustices of the world. We need to give up our grudges and hand our baggage to God; He can defend us if necessary.
When we follow Christ’s example and rid ourselves of grudges and the desire to get our kicks in, we will be surprised to find we have inner peace. We have fewer problems because people aren’t reacting against our retaliations. We will find it easier to make and keep friends. People around us will notice how relaxed we are and will want to know our secret. The truth is, when we stop playing ‘tit for tat’, we win! When a man’s ways please the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him. Proverbs 16:7.
When a lonely person enters a new loving relationship, those close to the person notice a decided difference in their outlook. The old melancholy has gone replaced by a special feeling of contentment and a tendency to laugh. This change is attributed to the natural human desire to be loved and wanted.
When we as Christians are melancholy and are taking life too seriously – then maybe we have forgotten we have a personal relationship with God who dearly loves and wants us. It’s easy to become so caught up with life’s hustle and bustle that we forget that the Creator of the Heavens and Universe loves us personally. He gave us the greatest of gifts by becoming a man (Jesus Christ) and paid the penalty for our sins. His desire for us is to spend eternity being spoilt by His perfect love, (…His compassions fail not. They are renewed every morning… Lamentations 3:22,23).
If we remember and focus on the fact that we are so loved, with a perfect, eternal, divine love, we should stop feeling melancholy or lonely. Our ‘sads’ should disappear to be replaced by a relaxed, contented attitude. When our mind is occupied by God and Christ the worries of the world will never weigh us down. Furthermore, people around will notice the change in us. When they enquire how it came about, there’s our golden opportunity to arrange a divine introduction. (John 3:16)
Our Invisible Friend
We live in a ‘physical’ age. If something cannot be physically examined it is quickly dismissed as nonsense. Many believe humans don’t have souls. To them, those invisible spiritual traits of personality, self-awareness, dreams and love are simply a precise balance of chemicals, ions and memory association cells – nothing more.
As for God, though science sees a complex design behind everything in creation, many dismiss Him as nonsense because the Infinity Creator of the universe doesn’t fit conveniently on an examination table. If something can’t stand up to the scrutiny of examination – it probably doesn’t exist.
As Christians, we proclaim to the world that we have an Invisible Friend. To a world that has become deaf to God’s call and blind to His presence, it is easy to understand that many may think we are crazy. All they see is a bunch of nutty people talking (praying) and responding (Christian Service) to the demands of their Invisible Friend.
This is where many Christians may be tested to deny God. Even when we hear His whisper-quiet voice and feel His presence, we ignore our Invisible Friend because we don’t want the world to consider us insane. But we must remember, the day is coming when we all will stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ and our once Invisible Friend will be visible to all, (Rev 1:7). How will we respond when Christ questions: ‘I have always been a Good Friend to you and faithfully stood by your side – but what sort of a friend were you to Me? Did you stand by Me?’
Our reply will seem quite feeble if we say, ‘Sorry Lord – I was embarrassed. I didn’t want people thinking me silly for acknowledging You!’
Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16
A Successful Marriage
Why remain devoted to one person in marriage when there are so many other fish in the sea? There is a world of difference between hooking-up with a partner for the shallow pursuits of personal pleasure and a good marriage which accumulates into the bonding of two souls.
A good marriage demands that both parties must put their selfish, shallow demands behind and dive deeper for something better. Sadly, most married people stay on the superficial surface and never get to the true depths of what marriage should be all about.
Why restrict ourselves solely to one God when there are so many other gods to pursue in this world – gods such as money, popularity, power and success?
Just like marriage, Christianity is the bonding of Creator and creation. To work, both parties must remain loyal and devoted to each other – if one is unfaithful, the marriage will not be successful.
On God’s part, He remains faithful – He never forsakes us, lies to us, or cheats on us. But what are we doing to make this spiritual marriage work? Are we simply swimming on the surface with our relationship with God? If we are reluctant to give up our selfish pursuits and demands, our relationship with our Creator will always be shallow.
To have a successful relationship with God, we must stop flirting with the other ‘gods of this world’ secretly hoping for a better deal. Only when we stay faithful and devoted to God can we really start bonding with Him. Then, like a human marriage, we will be surprised to find we gain far more than we lose. We will discover a deeper relationship with greater joy and fulfilment than we have ever experienced before.
But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9a
Generally, to say we love someone when we know little about them is foolish. Yet young children rarely know much about their parents, but still they love them. The reason is simple; children know instinctively three very important facts: their parents unconditionally love them, support them and protect them.
For Christian growth, it’s very important to learn about God – the more we know about our heavenly Father, the greater will be our love for Him. However, as we study and mature, we often forget the simple fact that Christianity is like the life of a child.
We must remember Christianity is essentially a very personal relationship between us and our Divine Parent. The simplicity of our relationship with God can be easily overshadowed as we learn advanced doctrines and busy ourselves with many Christian commissions. But when difficulties and adversities push us around, we should remember the simple fact that we have a Divine Father who unconditionally loves, supports and wants to protect us. He patiently waits for us to run to Him with all our difficulties.
No matter how we have failed, the mistakes we have made or when the world overwhelms us, we can confidently rush into the comfort of God’s open arms and fearlessly poke our tongue at all of our problems. In life, we will always be dealing with bad circumstances and bullies, but when we place ourselves in God’s omnipotent arms we can relax and enjoy peace-of-mind, confident that all things will work together for good, (Romans 8:28).
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 27:1
Hard to Build - Easy to Destroy
In life, we soon learn that it takes lots of time, effort and thought to build something, but practically no effort to destroy it.
A good relationship is hard to build. It demands a lot of consideration and effort. It needs ‘give and take’ but mostly ‘give’ in the form of understanding, listening and forgiveness.
So, are we relationship builders or wreckers? When we review our life do we see a trail of broken relationships due to carelessly spoken words, thoughtless acts or an unforgiving heart? Do we soon destroy friendships because we are too self-absorbed? Do we constantly demand attention but seldom give it? Do we always seek favours but never return them? Do we insist on sensitivity and understanding yet in turn we are insensitive and unforgiving? If we are honest, there is a little wrecker in each of us; however, we should all aim to be prolific builders.
God created humanity to have a relationship with Him. But friendships are not formed by one party doing all the taking. God has given us so much; in return He hopes we will give back some time getting to know Him.
God also created us so we can build lasting relationships with each other. This takes effort but is one of the primary reasons of our existence. In life, we may build impressive portfolios of wealth and fame but if we haven’t made good relationships, what have we really accomplished? Relationships can last into eternity – all our accumulated wealth will not.
Invest in relationships; build them up – spend more time encouraging people than tearing them down. Thus God implores us in Ephesians 4:32, ‘…be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.’
Joining the Royal Family
Four poor little children lived with their wicked, self-serving stepfather who never fed or clothed them and beat them daily. Quite clearly he didn’t care whether they lived or died. One day, policemen came to the children’s house and arrested the stepfather for the murder of their mother.
When the news spread, a kind prince said he would like to adopt the children. He then approached the four of them and said he had arranged the paperwork, paid all expenses and solemnly promised to always look after them. All he needed was their signatures and they would then legally become members of the royal family for the rest of their lives, living in a palace of great splendour and many wonders. The four children would surely jump at the prince’s gracious offer. But it was not to be. Incredibly, perhaps, one of them spat on the legal papers and kicked the prince in the shin. Sadly, the ungrateful child wanted to grow up just like his stepfather.
Our stepfather, Satan, is the ruler of this world. He was served an arrest warrant and his sentence is pending, (Rev. 20:10). God wants to rescue us from our cruel stepfather. He has done the necessary legal work and sent a gracious Prince (Christ) with the offer to adopt us into His family. All we need do is accept this generous offer and sign the papers (believe in Christ). Then we are adopted into the greatest Royal Family of all time – and beyond.
What fools we would be to spit at Jesus Christ’s offer by rejecting Him as Saviour. We must remember, if we keep Satan as our legal stepfather, we receive his inheritance. Satan has only an eternal jail sentence to share with his family, but God has the riches of the universe to share with His.
For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him may be saved. John 3:17
Joining the Family Dinner
A very rich man sat at his dinner table and watched his three children fight over the TV remote. He decided to make his children an incredible offer. If they would stop what they were doing and come to the table as a family for dinner, then join him to clear away the dishes, he would reward them generously. He told them that after dinner his private jet would fly them to the best theme parks. Then they could tour the world and visit any location they personally desired. Added to this, they could invite all their friends and the same offer would be made to them.
Two of his children leapt eagerly from their chairs and joined their father at the dinner table – this was an extremely generous offer not to be missed. They were so overjoyed, that spending ten minutes afterwards doing the dishes was just an opportunity to discuss the fantastic wonders to come. As for phoning their friends with the invitation, that certainly wasn’t a chore.
However, one son didn’t join the family dinner – his favourite show was on. He gave away the opportunity of a lifetime to watch a half-hour sitcom.
When we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, we are ‘reborn’ into God’s family. As our Heavenly Father, God has made us a generous offer, which makes the offer described above look dull. God has said, if we join our family at the table (Christian fellowship), help with the dishes (Christian service) and invite all our friends (evangelize), He will give us fantastic rewards, far beyond our imagination and expectation (2 Timothy 2: 11-13).
What we do in life ‘does’ have repercussions throughout eternity. Life is so small compared to forever – less than a half-hour sitcom. We would be pretty stupid not to switch off ‘life’s distractions’ and join the family dinner for an eternity of riches.
But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9.
Rescuing Loved Ones
In medieval times, stories abound of valiant knights charging in to rescue hapless maidens taken hostage by a terrible dragon. After the rescue they kiss and proceed to live happily ever after – or do they?
A romance quite often begins with a rescue, but ends with neglect. We may start a romance when we meet someone and reassure him or her of how special they are. As the years pass, however, we can become complacent and forget to encourage our partners who, suddenly, are snatched away by old inner fears, doubts and worries.
God has given a very special role to each person in a romance – that of chivalrous protector. We are to shield each other from inner-dragons by letting our partners know they are loved and valuable with no good reason to be jealous or insecure. When we fail to be vigilant we shouldn’t be surprised if our partners are taken hostage. Then as prisoners they are not where they should be – by our side fighting spiritual battles.
An occupational hazard of Christianity is spending so much energy trying to encourage strangers that we neglect the primary people in our lives. If that happens, we should immediately re-rescue our loved ones from their inner dragons by reassuring, encouraging and taking the time to make them feel special again. Nothing rekindles a romance like a rescue.
And parents, the same principle of re-rescuing and reassuring applies with our children. (Colossians 3:12-14)
A warrior-maiden is a lady prepared to fight for her beliefs. In times of battle it is far better to be aided by warrior-maidens than surrounded by girlish-women who are more hindrance than help.
We are in the middle of a spiritual battle. God never designed women to be helpless and useless. God designed women to be warrior-maidens, to stand equally by their man fully equipped in God’s armour with sword drawn. At times maidens need rescuing, but what is seldom admitted – so do knights. Men are prone to battle weariness and can become very discouraged. Just as knights slay dragons – maidens inspire knights to continue the battle.
We all need someone to guard our back and fight at our side – this is the function of marriage. Women have a wonderful role; they have the power to inspire and keep their partners’ eyes on the heavenly objective. God intended man and woman to fight as one unit. When two are knitted together as one and each covers the other’s back, it will be possible to win spiritual battles which once seemed impossible. (Genesis 2:18, 24. Proverbs 31:10-31)
Keeping in Contact
In our busy lives, it is easy to lose contact with family or friends. If we don’t make an effort, our close relationships will eventually slip away. As time passes, those old friends will rarely come to mind and they will simply become people we once knew.
At first we may have had a meaningful and personal relationship with God, but if we don’t keep in regular contact (through prayer and study) we inevitably lose contact with Him. He will cease to be a reality in our daily life and we may begin to wonder if He exists at all.
God is a Gentleman; He will not force entry into our lives. He patiently ‘rings us’ through our circumstances hoping we will pick-up for a chat (Revelations 3:20). If we are lazy with our correspondence we can quickly lose contact with God – even when we attend church regularly. We can be so busy with various Christian programmes and fellowships, that we have no time for a relationship with God. Ironically, our friendship with God can be lost in the very place we go to develop it.
Christianity is not about religion – it’s about a relationship with our Heavenly Father. God is all around us and will never forsake us. He waits patiently – continually giving us little reminders to call home.
We may feel too much time has passed since we last spoke to God and we have let Him down in so many ways. Fortunately, God doesn’t hold a grudge – when we finally call home, our Heavenly Father happily picks up our loving relationship where we last left off.
For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5b
You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.Isaiah 26:3
As children, we often fail to understand that when we hurt our brothers and sisters we also hurt our parents. Conversely, brothers and sisters who encourage and support each other in spite of petty differences are a pleasure to witness and bring great credit to their parents.
As Christians, we may not always see eye to eye with everyone in our church as well as have differences of opinion with Christians in other denominations. But that does not change the fact we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. Do we please our Heavenly Father (who feels the hurt of His every son and daughter) when we openly criticise other Christians? What message does it send to the world when we attack another member of our Christian family? We are Christ’s ambassadors. Squabbling amongst ourselves grieves God and brings no credit to Him. Those who witness a family fighting in public are always glad they are not part of that family.
As Christians, maybe we should practice what the Bible preaches: Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:30-32)
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 often 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, would retrench us without a second thought. Furthermore, we eagerly give our time and attention to influential and rich people, but to those who love us unconditionally we often reserve our impatience and bad manners.
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, (1 John 4:9-10). Yet, unless we are in strife, we seldom give God the time of day.
Most of us are caught in this 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 us and inevitably spit us out. In retrospect, we will wish we had spent our time and effort on those few people who have always unconditionally loved us – the top of the list is our Heavenly Father. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5.
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)
The Glass of Milk
A man called his father in desperation seeking advice on his troubled marriage. He told his father that his wife and he were arguing non-stop. His father thought for a while and then stated he had the sure-fix cure. ‘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 dad, ‘It actually worked Dad, our relationship has never been better. Tell me what the secret behind the glass of milk is?’
The dad 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 usually say is 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 want to no matter how we plead, and when we win insult matches we 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. (Psalms 5:11).
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)
Sharing the Pain
Loving parents share the pain of their children. When something bad happens to a child (such as an injury, illness, rejection or failure) the parent also shares it. Love connects people. When we love someone, we invest part of ourselves in them – and when the object of our love suffers, so also do we.
God is our Heavenly Father. He is connected to us in ways we cannot fathom. As Christians, God dwells in us and is with us 24/7. He has truly invested Himself in us. Like a loving parent, he shares in our moments of greatest joy and triumph and he shares our pain.
When we suffer through illness, loss or rejection – God suffers with us. He knows our grief and greatly desires to comfort us. God is not the author of pain and suffering – Eden and paradise was His design for us. Because of freewill (individually and nationally) we have brought hardships upon ourselves, but we must understand that God has not forsaken us. We see, through Christ, that God is sharing every pain of mankind’s fall from grace.
Even when we step out of line and God must discipline us, He also loves us and shares our punishment. As children we find it hard to believe when our parents say, “This is going to hurt me more than it will you”. When we become parents we realise how true this is. Through love we are connected to our kids and partake in their ups and downs.
As Christians, when we start loving God (more than ourselves) we also start sharing His grief: the grief of a lost world that has rejected Him. We start sharing His desire: the desire to save the lost. And we share His joy and triumphs, and these are unfathomable and eternal.
Hebrews 13:5 states: For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
A prison is defined as a place of captivity – a position of confinement or restraint, be it physical or mental. The worst ‘prisons’ are the mental ones we create for ourselves. They can be the hardest from which to escape.
When we don’t forgive other people’s trespasses against us (either real or alleged), we incarcerate ourselves in hatred and thoughts of revenge. We are locked away in bitterness as we refuse to forgive and move on, waiting until the wrong-doer either apologises or compensates. But if the offender does neither and is let off scot-free, we are the ones imprisoned and we can remain in our self-imposed prison of resentment for the rest of our life. (Matthew 5:24-26)
When God asks us to forgive the debts of offenders, it is primarily for our own benefit. God does not want to see us trapped in a prison of our own making. The only way for us to escape is to forgive as God forgives us. Only when we are ‘free’ from our self-imposed prisons of bitterness and hatred can we find ‘peace of mind’. Then, once liberated, we are in a position to help set others ‘free’.
Be kind and merciful, and forgive others, just as God forgave you because of Christ. Ephesians 4:32 CEV
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)
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.
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.
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