Acting the Fool
Actors perform to their audiences on stage and in movies. Good actors can convince their audience they are something they are not. The ancient word for an actor is, ‘hypocrite’.
In the Christian life, we should NOT be actors. Our walk should be without ‘hypocrisy’ – we should not hide behind a mask. Being a spiritual-actor is a complete waste of time. We may fool many people into believing we are something we’re not, but we can never fool God. He sees behind the mask and knows exactly who we are and what we are thinking.
True, we sometimes need to put on a mask when dealing with certain people and circumstances, and it may even be commendable to put on a brave face in adversity. However, should we go too far with acting, life will soon become a continual performance with our true self only emerging when backstage (in private).
We gain nothing by fooling those around us. In fact, we have much to lose (real relationships need real people – actors only pretend). God wants our ‘Yes’ to be ‘Yes’, and our ‘No’ to be ‘No’,(Matthew 5:37).
We should relax about appearances because, in the end, an account of our lives is only given to the One who has witnessed our entire performance (both on stage and backstage). Being ‘hypocritical’ may fool some, but consider who we are really fooling? (Matthew 6:1, 16-18, Mark 7:6)
The beauty pageant was in full swing, but suddenly became silent when the pageant host asked the Miss World contenders a very curious question. ‘Which do you think is more important – beauty or wisdom?’
All the girls agreed that wisdom was the most important. The host then asked: ‘Which of these have you spent most effort trying to acquire?’ The hopeful Miss Worlds smiled towards the audience, showing their perfect teeth, but all declined to answer.
We spend so much time at gyms and beauty salons, and we invest so much money in products promoting and accentuating our outer beauty – but how much time do we spend acquiring wisdom?
There is nothing wrong with beauty. We should always try to look our best and keep our bodies in excellent health – but as with most things, it’s a question of balance. We should remember the Word of God is wisdom and wisdom is the essence of inner beauty. Outer beauty fades, but wisdom last to eternity – thus the Word of God is the ultimate beauty product.
If we don’t spend time acquiring wisdom, we are destined to become old fools. How silly is it to spend all our energy and resources on temporal outer beauty that eventually fades, yet completely neglect the inner beauty which will be our reflection for eternity. (1 Peter 3:3-4)
Painting a Self Portrait
The easiest portrait for artists to paint is a self-portrait. To achieve this all they need is their own presence, a mirror and the right light. They know their own features intimately; what’s more, they can feel how they look. Artists ready to paint are always ready to model, plus they have the added luxury of reworking their own image until it is exactly the way they want it. On the other hand, there may be many problems painting someone else’s portrait. The subject may not be available when the artist wants to paint and, even when present, may not sit still. On completion, the subject is rarely satisfied with the finished result.
As Christians, we should be working on our own soul-portrait by looking into the mirror-of-the-Word, illuminating ourselves in the light-of-Truth, and painting with brushes-of-Faith. However, as we work on our own portrait there is always the temptation to dabble with other people’s portraits. So when we hear an inspiring message, we are often guilty of thinking someone we know ‘should have heard that; it would have done him a world of good.’ But we should stop trying to paint other people’s portraits in the colours that appeal to us and concentrate on our own Christian image.
As long as we are alive, we are a work in progress. If we use the right techniques, eventually our soul-portrait will have a striking resemblance to that of Christ and, when we exhibit ourselves to the world, people will start asking (without coercion) what joyful colours and compassionate techniques we used, so they can apply them to their own soul-portraits. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
Where We Focus
Two birdos (bird-watchers) sat restfully on a hill with binoculars raised. One birdo was looking skywards and the other was focused on the valley below. Suddenly, the birdo looking into the valley jumped in rage. ‘Did you see that blasted cat? No doubt on its way to eat some beautiful bird! Doesn’t it make your blood boil?’
The other birdo shrugged her shoulders. ‘Sorry, didn’t see it. I’ve been focusing on that magnificent eagle flying peacefully above us.’
Are we stressed or are we relaxed? The answer to that is usually determined by the focus of our thoughts. Stress and worry can be easily justified – often this world is a horrible place teeming with many injustices. However, if we allow our thoughts to focus on these worldly things, we will eventually develop a depressed and pessimistic outlook on life. This outlook will soon infect everything we do.
Frustration and stress is often a sign that we are overwhelmed by our goliath problems and not trusting in God. If we focus our thoughts heavenward, confident in the knowledge that God can take care of all the injustices of life and our overwhelming problems, the result will be inner peace.
On another note, we all mess up at times and God handles our falls through grace. When we focus on God’s grace and how every day we receive that which we don’t deserve (divine mercy instead of judgment), in turn we will be graceful, forgiving and mentally relaxed towards others.
‘But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.’ Isaiah 40:31
Driving in Our Car
Cars are a means of transport – they are wheeled vehicles propelled by the use of a motor.
Our spiritual life is like a car and, when we first believe in Jesus Christ, we receive one as a birthday present. God supplies unlimited power to our car’s super-engine. If we wish to go places in our car (spiritual life) we must first get in (1 John 1:9), turn on the ignition (faith) and place our foot on the pedals (personal motivation and drive). The steering wheel is our volition and it is up to us in which direction we head. However, God does not leave us to drive around aimlessly – there’s a map in the glove box to direct us (Bible), but we must read it to be of any use. We also have a radio (a still, small voice); if we listen, we’ll get regular traffic reports and know which roads to avoid.
God has designed a uniquely individual spiritual life for each of us. It saddens Him when we leave our spiritual-car in the shed and choose to walk (doing everything by our own energy) or worse, go hitching for a lift (relying on the power of others).
Pulling the Trailer
A trailer has no engine. It was never designed to be a self-powered vehicle. Trailers are designed to carry loads and can only move if attached to a source of power. If our trailer has a heavy load and a long way to travel, we attach it to a car, knowing it won’t get very far if we try to pull it ourselves.
Our trailer (Christian works) is attached to our car (spiritual life). The one should naturally follow the other (if we are thinking right things we will naturally do right things). When God is the power in our spiritual life, our work should never exhaust us – our burden should be light. The first priority should always be our relationship with God – He is the source of power. If we are becoming tired, maybe it is because we left our car (spiritual life), unhooked the trailer (Christian works) and tried to pull it ourselves. The sad truth is, if we are pulling our trailer (just doing works), we are going nowhere in our car (spiritual life). Soon, we’ll become exhausted and hinder everyone on the road. Eventually, other people will need to take our load because we are too fatigued to carry on.
In eternity-past angels were created in heavenly paradise. From the very outset they enjoyed God’s unrestrained love and blessings. They knew nothing of suffering, sickness, aging or pain, which were as alien to them as colours to a blind man. A being who has never suffered cannot truly understand suffering.
Conversely, humans are born into a corrupt world of suffering, violence, deprivation and pain. However, as Christians, we are told that when we die all these horrible things will pass away (Rev 21:4). We will then enjoy God’s unrestrained love and blessings. We will never again feel pain, suffer or get sick. It is beyond our comprehension to fully grasp how wonderful this will be.
Human history is lesson-time for both angels and humans – lessons God never wanted to give. However, when a being is created with absolute free-will, rebellion is bound to eventually happen and God has to deal with the repercussions of sin then and there, so the issue will never recur in eternity. In so doing He also demonstrates to all His creatures that a loving God must condemn sin if He is to remain perfectly fair, just and righteous.
As angels watch human history they witness God’s grace in action. We humans are the recipients of grace in our self-induced classroom of suffering. But we mustn’t think that mankind was treated unfairly. For those who believe in Christ, human history and suffering are thankfully a short lesson. Thereafter, we have eternity to learn the wonderful lessons of what it means to receive God’s unrestrained love and blessings. (1 Peter 1:12)
On the Knife's Edge
Knives can sometimes be misused and, if you carelessly pick one up by its sharp edge, you are sure to get a nasty cut. However, without knives, working in the kitchen, eating at the dinner table and many other everyday jobs would be immensely difficult.
Many things in life have the potential of being misused and abused – including money, sex, drugs, television, electronic games, cars, social life, music, books and fashion. The list is long but, just as with knives, all are susceptible to misuse and abuse. As Christians, we are often guilty of completely banning legitimate things because they have the potential to cause harm. However, blanket-banning legitimate things solves nothing. If the Bible says they are suitable and beneficial, they are here to stay. Our children should be taught how to handle life’s-knives so they don’t injure themselves. Otherwise, should everything with potential for misused be banned, we shouldn’t be surprised when later they mishandle these things and injure themselves. Education is the key – God has given us biblical instruction on misuse and abuse to help us determine the safe side of ‘life’s knives’.
A see-saw is a plank balanced in the centre of an upright support in such a way that each end can rise and fall alternately. To function properly, a see-saw needs an equal load on both ends. A single person on a see-saw is just a dead weight which will move neither up nor down.
Our spiritual life is like a see-saw. God is the upright support in the middle which never moves. The plank is our spiritual life. On one side we must balance – ‘studying the Word’. On the other side – ‘spiritual production’. One without the other results in either a dead-spiritual-life or the production of dead-works. Study without production is like a tree that never bears fruit. Works without study inevitably result in the production of wood, hay and stubble to be burnt at the ‘Judgement Seat of Christ’. As with most things there must be a balance. However, one does come before the other – learning the Word of God always comes before production. Yet if there is no production (applying those things we learn) there will be no movement. Our spiritual lives should always be in motion. If it is one-sided we should not be surprised when we become a spiritual dead weight moving nowhere.
Raising Our Glass
When someone has done something deserving praise, it is customary to fill our glasses, raise them and make a toast to honour that person’s achievement. To be honoured with a toast by a dedicated professional is usually far more meaningful than to be toasted by an empty-headed drunk.
God is perfect and everything He does is exceedingly worthy of our praise. However, before raising our souls to heaven to praise God (in prayer, communion, and so on) we should make sure we are sober (in fellowship – 1 John 1:9). We should also fill our souls in awareness of why we are honouring Him – otherwise our toast to God is just an empty-headed praise. The more our soul is filled with the Word, the more meaningful our praises are to Him.
The Critical Eye
A man was happily fishing when his wife showed him a glassy, fist-sized, muddy rock. He gave it a critical look and said, ‘Toss it away. I don’t want dirty things messing up my car’. The lady wiped the rock and again held it out to her husband, saying, ‘Take a closer look, Dear. This is what is traditionally known as a diamond-in-the-rough.’
As sinners living in a corrupt world, we are all filthy with sin. A critical eye will only see the bad in everything: people, circumstances, literature, fashion, media and so on.
As Christians, God has given us a righteous standard of living and we should stay vigilant to unsavoury influences – no one wants dirt to mess up their clean living. However, an occupational hazard of Christianity is turning into a self-righteous Pharisees who see nothing of worth in the tax collectors, prostitutes and coarse things of this world.
A critical eye only sees the faults and failings, not treasures hidden within. We must come to see people and circumstances as God sees them – ugly ducklings needing growth to become white swans.
That’s not to say every dirty rock is a diamond-in-the-rough. However, if we hope to discover treasures in life, expect them to be covered with some dirt and needing a bit of polish.
Be tolerant with one another and forgiving, if any of you has cause for complaint: you must forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3:13 REB
Whip of Judgement
Anyone familiar with using a whip knows it should be handled with great care. A whip can cause nasty injures. For instance, if used incorrectly, it can flick back at the same speed as when lashed out.
God has given each of us a Whip of Judgement. It is never to be used on others. Its purpose is to help self-restraint and, with correct use, our whip (judging self) will not injure but encourage personal advancement.
We are strictly forbidden to misuse our whip to judge and criticize others. Indeed, God has made sure that should our Whip of Judgement be used incorrectly, it will snap back to injure us at the same speed as we lashed it out.
At times, God allows us to see into the lives of those around us, not so we can judge them but to intercede (with prayer) on their behalf. (Romans2:1)
A home is a constant battle to keep clean. If we sweep things under the carpet or shove things into cupboards it won’t be long before it is a mess again. We may have hidden the clutter, but a surface clean at best is only a temporary solution. Periodically, we must have a good spring-clean because a cluttered home can never be an organised home.
Our soul is our permanent home and, just like any home, it gets messy every day (with sin and many other issues of life). We may dress neatly and put a smile on our face, but this is only surface cleaning. The truth is when we don’t deal with our sins and unresolved issues, they mount up and our souls are soon filled with garbage (such as depression, jealousy, fear and bitterness). We must not allow unresolved issues and sin to clutter our lives (nor can we shove them into compartments of our soul and pretend they’re not there). A cluttered soul is an unorganised soul. Periodically (daily if possible), we have to deal with these problems before the Lord. Otherwise our lives will always be one big mess. (1 John 1:9)
Artists & Vandals
Both artists and vandals leave their mark. So what are some of the differences that separate them? Artists create while vandals destroy. Artists leave their mark in appropriate places while vandals don’t care where they leave their mark. Artists try to inspire, while vandals demoralise. Artists endeavour to add to beauty, while vandals take from beauty.
We should ask ourselves if what we have created is worthy of exhibition in our own lives and in the lives of others. For instance, do we always expect encouragement from others yet never give it; demand help yet never offer it; insist on honesty but deal in dishonesty; always take but never give; pursue ambition not caring who is knocked down? If on reflection we answer in the affirmative, then we are not artists, we are vandals.
If our life is a trail of devastation and broken relationships, we have certainly left our mark (much to the detriment of everyone who has known us). Our selfish actions are a direct result of our selfish thinking. If we want to change, we need to renovate our thinking.
God wants us all to be life-artists. We are to encourage, aid and inspire – to build people up and help them look heavenward. If we are sensitive to needs of others and give them a hand with their burdens, people’s lives will be better because we are in them. God desires that we create many ‘spiritual artworks’ in the lives of others that He will exhibit forever in eternity.
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)
A Christmas Illustration
Over the years Christmas has lost its Christian focus. Even so, from among the Santas, elves, Christmas trees, stockings and presents emerges a wonderful illustration of the true meaning of Christmas.
Santa is a joyful giver ruling benevolently from the North Pole / God is a gracious giver ruling benevolently from Heaven.
Santa reads all the mail sent to him by children of the world, then tailor-makes gifts for each child / God listens to every prayer sent to Him by His earthly children, then tailor-makes blessings for the individual needs of each.
Santa has elfin helpers working towards his goals / God has elect angels working tirelessly for His glory.
The Christmas tree is where wonderful gifts can be found / The Tree of Christ (the Cross) is where the incomparable gift of eternal salvation can be found.
Children who are nice or naughty will have their Christmas stocking filled either with presents or with coal / Likewise, whether we follow God’s plan or our own determines if our lives will be filled with blessing or with self-inflicted-problems.
As Christians we must remember we are the ‘Christmas-message-ambassadors’. Our job is to herald the Good News of Salvation just as on the first Christmas the angels did: Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11)
When we always keep in mind (especially through challenging circumstances) that we have been given the ultimate gift of Salvation, we start celebrating each day like it was Christmas. When we are filled with the Christmas (Holy) Spirit and realize our ‘daily cup’ is overflowing with grace, we attract people who want that same Christmas joy in their lives. We then have the wonderful opportunity to lead them to the first Christmas Tree where God presented Himself as a gift – a living Sacrifice – and became humanity (the babe in the manger) to wipe away the ‘penalty of sin’ and reconcile the world to Himself so all who believe in Jesus Christ may receive the gift of everlasting life. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Weapons of Mass Destruction
A boy was having the time of his life shooting arrows aimlessly into the air without thinking where they landed. When his father rushed out and grabbed the boy’s bow, he complained, ‘I was having fun – why did you stop me?’ His father replied: ‘Son, you are completely oblivious of the damage you are causing.’
Today when we get together with friends, it is socially acceptable and seems like fun to spread the latest gossip or mind other people’s business. However, when shooting off our mouth recklessly (as in gossiping, maligning and judging), we are firing a very dangerous weapon that can (intentionally or unintentionally) cause irreparable harm.
Like an arrow in flight, careless words cannot be recalled once released. If we shoot off our mouths, not thinking of the consequences, it’s only a matter of time before we bring someone down – followed by the inevitable repercussions.
God wants us to guard our tongue. He sees all things and has witnessed time and time again the mass damage caused by reckless words. Our tongue should be used for what it was created – to praise, to glorify and to encourage. Thus God warns us in Proverbs 15:1, ‘A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.’
Prints are made using a variety of methods, yet the basic process is the same. An image is engraved onto a plate, be it a sheet of metal, wood or stone. The plate is then inked and pressed onto another surface. The result is a reflective impression of the image engraved into the plate.
Our lives are a reflection of what is engraved in our soul. We begin life with a blank plate (soul) on which other people leave their impression. Care should be taken as to whom and what we allow to impress us. Wrong impressions can easily destroy a plate. Even more care should be taken with regard to marks (and remarks) we impress on those around us – especially our children who impress very easily. A negative word or irresponsible action cannot easily be retracted – the impression is made and cannot be removed. We may attempt to cover it up, but sadly too many plates are ruined due to the bad impressions etched upon them.
Christ was very careful with his every word and action. He is the Master Printmaker. Every plate (soul) that allows Christ’s impression to be engraved on it will produce a magnificent print (life) to be widely acclaimed as a true masterpiece. (2 Tim 3:16-17, 2 Cor 3:18)
A holiday can be a time of personally discovering new things. Most of us take photos to remember these exciting events. Naturally, when arriving home, we want to share our experiences with family and friends. However, we soon discover most people are not as excited about our snapshots as we are.
Christianity is a personal journey. As Christians seeking truth we will be led by the Holy Spirit to many new discoveries (points of truth suddenly made real). It is natural to be excited about our spiritual-breakthroughs. Passionately, we want to share what we have discovered with those around us. But we should not be disappointed when others don’t show the same enthusiasm for our ‘spiritual snapshots’. People have so much going on in their lives. Unless they have discovered the same Spiritual Truth, we can’t expect them to be excited as we are.
However, people’s indifference to our excitement should not discourage us from viewing life as one grand holiday of spiritual discovery. God the Father is our Travel Agent, Christ has covered the cost and the Holy Spirit is our Tour-guide. When we enjoy all aspects of life (content in prosperity and adversity), others soon take note. They will ask how we can be so relaxed and filled with passion, like one continuous holiday. This is our opportunity to tell them about our Travel Agent, so they, too, can book themselves on the spiritual tour where God will lead them to discover what we have experienced and take snapshots of their own.
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
Things Babies Do
Babies do many things we would be ashamed to do as adults. They suck thumbs, fill nappies, vomit on people and all their bodily functions run riot – it’s just a fact of life. We all did these things as babies, but on reflection there is no embarrassment because we know those are simply the things babies do.
At times, Christians quietly ask themselves: In Heaven, will I always be humiliated by the hurtful and shameful things I did on Earth?
One could speculate that in Heaven, with a new resurrection body and separated from our earthly sin-nature, we will be so far advanced from our present state that we will look back over our time on Earth without lasting embarrassment – no matter the stupid things we have done. The gap between our resurrected-self and how we were on Earth will be far greater than that between an adult and baby.
Thankfully, when resurrected, we will remember without mortification our time on Earth when our revolting sin-natures were running riot. Jesus Christ paid for all our sins to rub our slate clean – Heaven is the ultimate fresh start. The promised joy is presently beyond our comprehension, but we can certainly surmise there will be no place for any lasting regrets or shame.
“And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Rev 21:4.
Tearing Down the Old
Normally, people don’t want to live in a leaky, run-down house built on a shaky foundation. So if opportunity presents they leave. Yet, if they love the location they will tear down the old structure to rebuild a better house on a stronger foundation.
We all live within the confines of our beliefs. We should ask ourselves: what ‘structure-of-thinking’ have I built? Do I believe that money will buy me happiness? Most people would quickly say, ‘No’; however, they are living and working like it does.
Think about it honestly – are we living in the belief that happiness and fulfilment will be acquired with the attainment of power, beauty or the approbation of others? Do we believe getting married (or divorced) will solve all our problems? Do we think achieving great accomplishments will fill the emptiness? These are all structures of thinking that the world has sold to us. But does happiness reside in these worldly things? The people who do acquire them quickly realise there is no lasting happiness there. These things are just vanity and grasping for the wind (read Ecclesiastes). Sadly, it’s only when we do acquire what we thought would bring us lasting happiness and fulfilment do we realise what a flimsy belief we were living in.
God wants us to be happy in any circumstance and He has instructed us how to do this. To attain God’s promised happiness we need to renovate our thinking. We need to tear down our shaky, old ‘happiness-beliefs’ and rebuild on a solid foundation of our Lord Jesus Christ. When we start thinking as our Lord did, we construct on a solid foundation of truth that will confidently see us through all the peaks and valleys of life. As Colossians 3:2 states, ‘Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.’ (Rom 12:2, Phil 4:8, John 8:32)
Glow in the Dark
If you hold phosphorus under a bright light then turn out the lights the phosphorus will glow in the dark. This is a process where energy is absorbed by a substance and is slowly released in the form of light.
As Christians, we are Christ’s representatives in a world filled with dishonesty, despair and selfishness. We are called to be a light in darkness. How is this possible when we have a sin-nature and are fully capable of all the selfish deeds taking place in the world around us?
We charge ourselves with the Word of God and reflect Christ’s characteristics. When we are under Christ’s light, if we have the opportunity for revenge – we will choose to forgive; when we could cheat – we will deal honestly; when we could be selfish – we will be happy to serve; and when we are stressed – we will learn to relax and trust in God. When Christians energise themselves with God’s promises and mandates they are a graceful light in a dark world.
But we must remember: if we don’t constantly expose ourselves to God’s Word our Christ-like light will soon cease and we will become just as dark as the world around us. Then, we have failed to be a graceful Christian that glows in the dark.
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16
For years, boys have been wishing they were Superman. But what happens when a boy straps on a cape and jumps of a roof hoping to fly like his idol? For a brief moment there is exhilaration, but then he comes crashing to earth.
What is our wishful thinking? What philosophies are we buying into?
Racy TV shows infer a passionate love life if we are promiscuous. Glamorous TV characters go through many sex partners without any consequences in following episodes. So, if we imitate, will we also get off scot-free? No, it is wishful thinking believing we can play the field and have no repercussions for all involved.
Or are we impressed with movies that portray drug taking and excessive drinking as the way to party and popularity. Do we really think we will get those positive results if we mimic?
Or maybe we are imitating rock stars or computer game characters that empower us to be ‘super independent’, a lone-wolf who hits hard and hits first – with attitude. Those that do, usually lose what friends they have with their selfish attitude or land in big trouble with random acts of violence.
Like the boy who jumps off the roof hoping to fly, there will be a brief moment of exhilaration before we come crashing to earth.
We must be very careful of our wishful thinking. Movies, computer games and music can have a powerful influence on us. We must keep in mind that many destructive actions are glamorised and show no repercussion if practiced in the real world.
God implores us to keep away from things like: gossiping, self-absorption, illicit drug taking, unrestrained sex and violence acts. He does this not to stop our fun, but to stop us ruining our lives. It is our choice. The battle is lost or won in our thinking.
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” Romans 12:2a
NOTE: These amazing Bible illustrations were created by Free Christian Illustrations. In conjunction with our partnership with Free Christian Illustrations, Bible IQ received express permission to provide this creative content on our website. Free Christian Illustrations is an amazing organization with a similar Bible-focused and Kingdom-building mission and we encourage all of our readers to visit them at www.freechristianillustrations.com.