Half-way parked

I went to the bank and when I came out I noticed a bakkie (in American that’s a truck) parked on the halfway in the last parking spot. The car parked in that spot was way up in the front so there was some space behind it, but not enough for a second vehicle. It seemed to me that the driver of this bakkie thought if he was half way inside the parking at least he wasn’t parked totally illegally. Obviously, if a traffic officer had been there, it would have been considered to be illegal. You can’t be halfway in to be parking properly, you have to be all the way in. Just like they always say that you can’t be almost pregnant. You either are, or you aren’t!

We tend to think that we can be a Christian but still do all the things that people who aren’t Christians do. I know it’s really difficult to say no to all the things your friends are doing.

Romans 12:2, And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

One gentleman who says he is a Christian said that he drinks on Saturdays, and he gets intoxicated, but that God understands because he isn’t harming anyone and he’s always in church on a Sunday.

I can’t judge whether people are going to heaven or not. That is way outside of my jurisdiction. I just know that God does expect certain things from us. Not things to qualify our salvation, but things that have been put in place to protect us. Things that are going to make better people of us and grow us spiritually. In his book, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin wrote that “our nature inclines toward idolatry” and that each person’s heart is like “a perpetual factory of idols.”

Often Christian values and ways of behaviour are dismissed being as tedious, old fashioned, and legalistic.

1 Timothy 2:9 – 10, in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works.

I interpret this verse to mean that we shouldn’t be dressing to attract undue attention. Things like dressing modestly are not fashionable. If you decide not to expose your body when your friends are wearing skimpy clothes, which more that often have designer labels and are the thing to be wearing, and you don’t dress to fit in, chances are that you will be ridiculed. Same thing if all your friends drink and smoke. What about the television programs you watch and the music you listen to? The literature you read? But everyone is reading this book…I need to know what everyone is talking about.

I realize that a lot of the things I mentioned seem to apply to young people more than older people as young people are normally considered to be more likely to succumb to peer pressure. Don’t  be mistaken, if you don’t overcome peer pressure you are going to be subject to it as long as you live. It doesn’t suddenly go away as you age. People are always going to be putting pressure on you. Like when people want to borrow money from you. Are you obliged to do it because you are a Christian?

Luke 6:34-36, And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.

I’m going to leave that up to you to decide for yourself. My personal opinion is that if I am willing to lend to someone I must be willing to give it and not expect anything back. If I can’t do that than I shouldn’t lend.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not going to run around telling people what they need to read and wear and watch. God must convict them of that. I am saying that we need to be inspecting our own lives to check that we aren’t parked halfway in the parking spot.

Manure

Why do we think that God wants to bless others but have a hard time believing that He wants to bless us? Do we forget all the promises He made? Do we forget that the only blessings aren’t material blessings? I was speaking to a friend yesterday and she reminded me of the eternal blessings. She reminded me that God loves us and that we grow in the valleys and not on the mountain tops. Let’s look at a seed. Before we plant a seed we prepare the soil by digging it over and putting fertilizer or manure into it. Now if you know anything about fertilizer, it’s a chemical and chemicals can burn you. And manure is animal waste, it is stinky and unpleasant to be around. But that’s what the seed needs. First it needs to be watered, so it gets good and soggy, and it needs to be warm. Once that has happened it starts escaping from the seed pod and grows stems and roots. The seed doesn’t exist anymore and it starts to feed on the yucky stuff that’s been added to the soil. Soil is dirty as it is so here the seed is in an unpleasant environment and it is growing. It is growing and it is on its way to becoming a strong healthy plant, maybe the biggest tree in the forest. It is going to bear good fruit that can be eaten by birds and animals, and provide shade in the heat of the day. It will be a place where birds can build their nests and nurture their young. Among its strong roots insects will find a habitat. Small rodents and reptiles can also burrow among the roots to be safe.

John 12:24, Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain

What happens when we start to get wet and soggy and warm? We start complaining. And when we are put into the fertilizer or manure? We shout out against injustice and unfairness. We believe that we are being punished. Why? Because it doesn’t feel good. It feels uncomfortable and it scares us. We have this ungrounded belief that if we believe in God then He is always just going to give us good things and we are going to be showered with nice things. But what about our characters? Does God want spoiled children who are going to be whining about all the stuff they want all the time? Why doesn’t God give me a big house and a fancy car like my neighbour? Why are things easy for other people and I always have to struggle? Why can’t my children get a bursary and others can? Etc, etc, etc. Sound familiar? Except that we are speaking bad things over ourselves,

Proverbs 18:21,   Death and life are in the power of the tongue,

And those who love it will eat its fruit.   

we are denying God the power to change our lives into things of strength and beauty. We are stopping the growing process. We are not hiding our lights under a bushel, we aren’t ever going to shine brightly enough to make a difference.

Romans 5:3-5, And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

We have to be willing to go through the process of being formed into the people God wants us to be. We have to go through this process to grow, else we will stay in the seed stage and we are going to become more and more miserable and disheartened until we give up.

We have to start looking at God, and life from a different perspective. We have to so that we can become the tree that is planted by the waters and bears fruit in season and always has green leaves.

All the time

When Christians speak their code called Christianese one of the most repeated phrases is: “God is good’, which, especially if spoken from a pulpit, will most probably get the response, “All the time.”

Does “God is good actually come from the Bible?”

Mark 10:18, So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God

Matthew 19:17, So He said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.”

Psalm 34:8, Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good;

Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!

Psalm 107:1, Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!

For His mercy endures forever.

Psalm 145:9, The Lord is good to all,

And His tender mercies are over all His works.

Exodus 33:19, Then He said, “I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.”

The Bible clearly states that God is good. Do we really believe it though, or do we have a secret fear that the plans God has for us might include a few things which aren’t going to be good or easy for us? Of course, being good Christians we can’t say anything like that out loud. We are expected to say that we know that everything will work out for the best, and we have come to expect ourselves to believe that too. There are certain things a good Christian just doesn’t say out loud! There are times when everything is going 100% wrong and we feel like that if we weren’t held together with sinews and ligaments we would surely physically fall apart. Isn’t that so? I think I’ve lived long enough to know that everyone at some time, or at various times, feels exactly that way. Life isn’t easy and the longer you live the more that becomes abundantly clear. So if God is good, why doesn’t life feel like the bed of roses the movies make it out to be? Why don’t we have continuous happy endings and live happily ever after and all the things fairy tales are made of?

Because…God is good. That’s why. If God was a wizard with a magic wand or whatever they use in fairy tales, then we would be able to eat all the chocolate we want and not get fat. But, because God is infinitely good, we are able to rely on concrete truths that He has included in His Word. There isn’t one single word in the Bible that isn’t true. We don’t have to doubt anything we read in it. We don’t have to worry about inconsistency. We don’t have to be stressed that He won’t have enough time for us when we want to speak to Him. We know for a fact that if we’ve done something wrong we can ask Him to forgive us, and He will. We can fix our hope on the promise that if we accept Jesus as our Savior, we are going to have everlasting life. We can sleep peacefully at night because He gives us peace. We can ask Him for provision because He has promised us that He will provide. We know that He will give us good things, they might not be the things we think we need but they will be the things God knows we need. We don’t have to be anxious about reprisals for our misdeeds because God is love and as such He is patient with us.

Yes, there are consequences. If we do stupid things we reap the rewards, but that is good because if there weren’t consequences we would be in terrible shape. We would all be like spoiled children. You know the kind. The kids who throw tantrums and their parents give them anything they want, and they grow up to be obnoxious pests. That kind. That’s what we would be like.

God is good because he is a responsible parent who cares enough for His children, He teaches them accountability and makes sure that they develop strong characters and are responsible human beings. That’s why we say God is good.

Love yourself

Children are often taught that God will not be pleased with them if they are naughty. God becomes the weapon that parents use to force their children into obeying them and then the children build an unrealistic image of a God who is just waiting for them to put a foot wrong so that he can punish them. Unfortunately many people also feel this way because of the manner their earthly father’s treated them. If we are brought up with condemnation it is easy to believe that God is also going to condemn us when we do something that is not pleasing to Him. And if everything about our upbringing was performance based, we will believe that we have to perform correctly in order to win God’s love. Unfortunately some people never believe that God loves them regardless of what they do.

 

If we keep believing that we have to do things a certain way in order to please people, we are soon convinced that it is impossible. Instead of making peace with it, we try harder and harder and very soon are in a state of fear and fear because nothing we do is ever good enough. You see, there’s a difference between US and what we DO. Our DOING is not US. We can think things like, “I don’t deserve nice things because I’m too fat’, or, ‘I don’t deserve to go on holiday because I don’t work hard enough.

Everything that happens can then be put into two categories:

Things are going well therefore God is pleased with me.

Or

Things are really bad therefore God is punishing me.

But God doesn’t operate like that. He is the only one who accepts us 100% the way we are. Where my husband might say that I need to wash the dishes more often, God doesn’t use things that we do as a measuring stick for His love. He loves us regardless of what we do.

The next step is self-hatred because instead of realizing the problem is not ours, we believe that it is us that are not good enough and not our actions. I know that self-hatred sounds really, really bad and if you were to hold it up against yourself you will say, who me? Never!

But think about it like this:

If you work for a boss who is really demanding and whatever you do he is never satisfied. He always complains and finds fault and never, never, ever compliments or acknowledges that you have done a good job. Sound familiar? This could also be a spouse, parent or child! Once you fall into the trap of trying to do better and win favour you start to believe you are not good enough. Believing you are not good enough is essentially self-hatred. It is said that 87% of all diseases are caused by our thought life, and many auto immune diseases are caused by self-hate! While I’m on the topic of disease, people blame God for their diseases or they claim that God put a disease on them to teach them some kind of a lesson. Forget it. It is simply not true!

 

So if hating ourselves is so bad, what should we do about it? We have to learn to love ourselves.

Let me establish that by loving yourself I am not implying selfishness, arrogance, being conceited, self-seeking, self-centred or vain. Those are never attributes of love anyway.

1 Corinthians 13 is known as the love chapter.

Let’s look at what love looks like.

Verse 4 -8:

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 the truth;

bears all things,

believes all things,

hopes all things,

endures all things.

Love never fails.

 

We normally look at these verses in the light of how we show love to others. But what about looking at them and measuring ourselves against them?

Are we long suffering (patient) with ourselves, or do we beat ourselves up because we don’t get things right the first time. How many people haven’t reached their potential because they aren’t patient with themselves?

And kind. Are we kind to ourselves? Do we give ourselves any grace?

And what about ‘love keeps no record of wrongs, (NKJV thinks no evil), We forgive others for what they have done but to we forgive ourselves and forget the bad decisions we made? Do we lie awake at night and beat ourselves up about stupid things we did, and wish we could change the past. When we do something wrong the procedure is as follows: Ask God to forgive you, and immediately move on and learn from what you did. And drop it! Fill that void with love.

We can go down the list and I would encourage you to measure your self-love against this list.

Mark 12:31 as well as Matthew 22:39 both say that we have to love our neighbour as we love ourself. So Jesus said that we have to love ourselves.

If we don’t love ourselves we are going to be miserable and sick most of the time. We aren’t going to be pleasant to be around.

 

 

The first step towards loving ourselves is to accept ourselves. Nobody is perfect. That has been used over and over as a self-defence phrase. “”nobody’s perfect!!!!!”” But seriously, not one person is perfect or is ever going to be and the sooner we accept that the better. We need to start seeing ourselves the way God sees us.

We need to start accepting ourselves the way we are.

Now I know there are a lot of Christians who will condemn me for this statement because how can I be telling homosexuals to accept themselves the way they are. But think about this: If I accept myself and all my hang-ups, whether it is sexual orientation, alcoholism, anxiety, depression or whatever, I have a better chance of giving God the freedom to start working in my life than when I am struggling with whatever state I am in, trying to hide it, flaunt it, or fix it myself.

If I am trying to fix myself, God can’t do it, and that is what He does!

What happens when we become a believer.

Ephesians 4:24,

and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.

The new man includes your new victorious attitude. The new man has been created to be like God. If we have been renewed to be like God, How is God?

Genesis 1:26-27,

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

And what’s more, God uses weak instruments to accomplish great things:

Exodus 4:2, He used the staff in Moses’s hand to do great signs.

Judges 15:15, Sampson killed a thousand men with the jawbone of a donkey.

1 Samuel 17:40, David selected 5 smooth stones and killed a giant.

1 Kings 17:12, A widow showed compassion on Elijah and as a result her oil and flour lasted throughout the famine.

1 Kings 18:44, there was a cloud the size of a man’s hand that ended the drought.

Matthew 13:31-32,  Jesus talks about faith the size of a mustard seed.

John 6:9, five barley loaves and two small fish feed 5000 people

And then one that we sometimes have a hard time coming to grips with:

Zechariah 4:10, For who has despised the day of small things?…

We don’t want small beginnings and insignificant things. We want loud thunder and torrents of rain. We want thousands of souls being won for the Kingdom. We want the big and the great and the significant. We don’t think that little things mean anything. We want to be able to measure our success and our victories. We don’t want to do something if it isn’t going to bring us a big profit.

But here it says we shouldn’t despise the day of small things.

That day we gave the cashier at the supermarket a smile. That day we helped change a tyre. You know that day? That day might have been the start of something bigger than you would ever know but what if you ignored it?

Because we are weak instruments God can use us greatly.

Romans 8:11, But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.

Colossians 3:1, If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.

Because I have been raised with Christ, I set my heart on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.

 

A Jesuit, Bernard Bush wrote:

It takes a profound conversion to accept the belief that God is tender and loves us just as we are, not in spite of our sins and faults, but with them. God does not condone or sanction evil, but He does not withhold His love because there is evil in us. The key to this understanding is the way we feel about ourselves. We cannot even stand or accept love from another human being when we do not love ourselves, much less believe or accept that God possibly could.

 

God is not the father who comes home drunk and beats up his wife and terrorises his children. God is not the father who expects you to be seen and not heard and is the tyrant who has to be obeyed without question. God is not the father who measures your performance and always finds you lacking. God is also not the absent father who doesn’t care what you do.

This is who God is:

John 3:17, For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

Zephaniah 3:17, The Lord your God in your midst,

The Mighty One, will save;

He will rejoice over you with gladness,

He will quiet you with His love,

He will rejoice over you with singing.

 

Who else feels about you the way God feels about you? Nobody! But you have to start feeling that way about yourself so that you can reflect God’s glory into the dark world.

 

If you are having feelings of guilt, anxiety or fear, those feeling are not a reflection of what God feels about you. The only time our feelings line up with God’s feelings is when we love ourselves intensely and freely. We should also not be measuring our virtue because in our own strength it is impossible to be good. People who are perfectionists are always measuring themselves, and others, to the ideal. There’s a huge canyon between the real and the ideal. Ideal is in their imaginations. Ideal and perfect does not exist!

The next thing to do is to turn the focus away from ourselves towards others. Focusing on our own problems and failures is not going to help. Neither is focusing on our own abilities and achievements. Achievements are like money. We will never have enough if that is our focus. Just like we will never be good enough if pleasing people is our focus.

We need to get rid of our baggage. The more baggage we drop the better we start loving ourselves. I

think that love fills the space that the emotional baggage was occupying. If we have to forgive, then we have to go and do it, we can’t cling to the past. Look at it this way: A balloon represents the past, we all have a varied past. Now if you pop the balloon it becomes useless. It loses its function. If you are going to keep dragging this balloon with you, you are going to get some strange looks. If fact you are going to look really stupid. That is like yesterday. Yesterday is gone, its usefulness has been spent. There’s only one good place for it and that is in the trash can. It has the ability to cause harm if it isn’t disposed of properly, just like the hurts from our past that will harm us if we don’t deal with them. Good memories are great. They’re like an inflated balloon bobbing on the breeze, but they’re just memories and good or bad, we can’t dwell on the past. We need to live in today and today this popped balloon has outstayed its welcome. So we get rid of it.

 

Just remember that God loves you and that Jesus died for you. If you are good enough for Jesus to die for you are good enough for people and you are certainly good enough for yourself!

 

 

 

Endurance

I’m reading a book which is set during the 100 years or so before the birth of Christ. It is set in Egypt and Rome and during the period when Cleopatra ruled Egypt. It is historical fiction but very well written and I can visualise a lot of what is happening. Chava is a Jewish girl who grows up spending most of her time with young Cleopatra as a companion. After Caesar invades Alexandria and Cleopatra has his child, Chava falls out of favour and Cleopatra has her and her father (who used to be tutor to the royal children) imprisoned and eventually sold as slaves. Chava had refused to worship the Greek Gods in the temples in Alexandria and ends up in Rome working on a farm. (This is how far I’ve read and it’s about half way through the book.

Now I know that circumstances can change very quickly and nobody is guaranteed the lifestyle they have at present but can you imagine being relatively wealthy and then the next thing you are in a stinky prison and a year later you are being paraded before slave traders?

We are so quick to look at people who seem to have everything and say. “What about me, Lord? Why do I have to struggle and turn over each cent? What did that guy do right and what did I do wrong? How come my life is always a struggle?”

Now to give a little perspective, Chava believed that God had told her when she was quite young that she would be a blessing to Cleopatra when she was queen and that she would be with her on her happiest day as well as her last day. This made Chava believe that she would always be close to Cleopatra. When she is in prison and eventually sold as a slave she starts to question God’s words to her. She couldn’t fathom how that would happen in her present state and she began to doubt God’s words to her.

We do that too. We look at the promises in the Bible, we hold onto a prophetic word, we remember what God has told us personally, but it seems like it’s never going to happen. Our circumstances just get worse instead of better and we want to give up instead of persevere.

Isaiah 40:31, 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.

Romans 12:12, rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer;

Galatians 6:9, And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.

James 1:12, Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.

There is always the temptation to stop believing the promises of God. Just because things aren’t happening the way we want them to and in our time frame does not mean they aren’t going to happen. And even if they don’t happen, should we turn our backs on God? Should we decide that we know better and we can do things on our own? Some people might, but I know that God loves me and that He has a plan. The plan might not follow the route I thought it would and it might not even be the plan I thought it would be, but He definitely has a plan that is way better that any plan I could ever make.

If the things you had planned for your life aren’t exactly going as you thought they would, I have this advice for you: Get happy, and start praising God because He has something so awesome waiting for you that you can’t even start to imagine it, and if you stop trusting now, you aren’t ever going to know what it is.

Thorns

I have been struggling with a printer that just won’t cooperate. It has been, and is continuing to be so frustrating. And no, I’m not going to tell you how I just laid hands on it and it started printing. I think the one thing that has wasted my time the most has been printers that won’t work properly. I’m sure it isn’t even almost as bad as the thorn that Paul had in his flesh, but I think you’ll agree that struggling with something that just won’t change, improve or go away is not exactly a pleasant experience. How are we supposed to handle things like these?

2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (TPT) The extraordinary level of the revelations I’ve received is no reason for anyone to exalt me. For this is why a thorn in my flesh was given to me, the Adversary’s messenger sent to harass me, keeping me from becoming arrogant. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to relieve me of this. But he answered me, “My grace is always more than enough for you, and my power finds its full expression through your weakness.” So I will celebrate my weaknesses, for when I’m weak I sense more deeply the mighty power of Christ living in me. So I’m not defeated by my weakness, but delighted! For when I feel my weakness and endure mistreatment—when I’m surrounded with troubles on every side and face persecution because of my love for Christ—I am made yet stronger. For my weakness becomes a portal to God’s power.

Nobody knows what the thing was that troubled Paul, and it really doesn’t matter one way or the other. After he asked God three times to remove it, and it wasn’t removed, he decided to make peace with it. Making peace with it didn’t mean that he embraced it as his own. He called it a messenger that Satan sent to harass him. That’s how bad it was but he decided that if it would stay with him he would have to use it for his good and not allow it to pull him down or to be in rebellion about it all the time. Paul said that God told him that His grace was enough for him and that when Paul was weak, God could manifest His power through him all the better. Paul also said that it would keep him humble.

Say, for instance, that you have arthritis, but you don’t let the pain overwhelm you and you continue playing a sport weekly. When someone asks you about it you tell them that it is by the grace of God that you are able to do it. You don’t complain and when you feel like giving up you remember what Paul said and you go on with a smile. You are going to become an example of God being strong because you are weak. There are lots of things we can’t do in our own strength. Like if you work for a temperamental boss, and you ask God to help you stay calm and keep delivering high quality work. Your colleagues are going to notice that there is a quality in you that most people don’t have. That will be an opportunity to share the Gospel with them.

Genesis  50:20, But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.

This is what Joseph said to his brothers who had sold him into slavery. God can use any situation to bring about His plan. Sometimes it feels like you are being buffeted from every side, but if you just hand the situation over to God and allow His strength to fill your weakness, then He is going to be able to make His plan work.

Romans 8:28, And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

Here we can see that God can take any situation and turn around its original, or perceived purpose and use it to our advantage.

Luke 22:31-32, And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.”

Jesus tells Simon Peter that the devil wants to test him and that He will pray for him to stay strong. What is very interesting is that He said that when it was over that Simon should pray for his brethren. That means that Satan is going to test all believers and we should pray for each other to be able to withstand it.

Let us say with David:

Psalm 31:19-20, Oh, how great is Your goodness,

Which You have laid up for those who fear You,

Which You have prepared for those who trust in You

In the presence of the sons of men!

You shall hide them in the secret place of Your presence

From the plots of man;

You shall keep them secretly in a pavilion

From the strife of tongues.

 

 

Integrity

Integrity is such a rare thing these days that people have learned to trust no-one. There are so many people who would lie without blinking, while looking into your eyes. There are so many unscrupulous people that the honest ones are just thrown into the mix and everyone is deemed with suspicion. Because we have a business we are often asked for credit and we have lost money as a result. But then you get the occasional individual who is so honest that he will go out of his way to repay R5 he was short when he purchased something.  What does the bible say about integrity?

Proverbs 11:3, The integrity of the upright will guide them,

But the perversity of the unfaithful will destroy them.

Proverbs 28:6, Better is the poor who walks in his integrity

Than one perverse in his ways, though he be rich.

1 Peter 3:16, having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed.

Proverbs 12:22, Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord,

But those who deal truthfully are His delight.

Provebs 21:3, To do righteousness and justice

Is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.

2 Corinthians 8:21, providing honorable things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men.

These passages make it abundantly clear that God expects us to have integrity, to speak the truth and to be consistently honourable. We can’t be honest in some of our dealings and not in others. We cannot compromise of standards of ethical behaviour, especially in business dealings. If you are a Christian in business you know that people scrutinize you and watch for you to make a mistake. So what must we do? How must we handle things?

Proverbs 4:25-27, Let your eyes look straight ahead,

And your eyelids look right before you.

Ponder the path of your feet,

And let all your ways be established.

Do not turn to the right or the left;

Remove your foot from evil.

Hebrew 13:18, Pray for us; for we are confident that we have a good conscience, in all things desiring to live honourably.

We have to carry each other in prayer and also keep our friends accountable.

Luke 6:31, And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.

This verse says it all. Nobody wants to be treated badly, therefore we must treat people well. We must be honest in our dealings with each and every person. We cannot afford to not be honest. It doesn’t matter how tempting a situation is, we have to remember that the devil is waiting for us to step into his traps.

1 Peter 5:8-11, Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

We are in the privileged position to be able to use the grace that God gives us to resist temptation and stay on the narrow path. We also have a good Father who forgives us when we stumble. We are just so absolutely, awesomely and abundantly privileged to be able to call ourselves children of God.

Samuel! Samuel!

Have you experienced that God sometimes tells you to do something and then you start doubting that it’s really God and you think it’s your imagination. Can you imagine what Samuel must have thought when God called him.

1 Samuel 3: 11-14,  And Samuel answered, “Speak, for Your servant hears.”

Then the Lord said to Samuel: “Behold, I will do something in Israel at which both ears of everyone who hears it will tingle. In that day I will perform against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. For I have told him that I will judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knows, because his sons made themselves vile, and he did not restrain them. And therefore I have sworn to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be atoned for by sacrifice or offering forever.”

Just think about it. What if God told you to go and tell your boss, whom you seriously respect, that he’s going to destroy his whole family. That is a serious thing to tell someone who pays your salary, or in Samuel’s case, who is your guardian. This is such a serious message and if it is wrong or wrongly accepted you are going to come out of it with egg on your face. But, guess what? You’re off the hook. Look what the New Testament says about prophecy.

1 Corinthians 14:3, But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men.

Ephesians 4:11-15, And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—

1 Peter 4:10-11, As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Here the bible very clearly states that God will let people use their gifts to build up and edify the church, the body of Christ. I don’t know enough about the subject to say anything about prophets who get messages for countries and for the world. All I know is that if I hear a voice telling me to strongly rebuke my neighbour, then I am listening to the wrong voice. If God is warning someone about things they are doing wrong, it will not sound like a warning to anyone who is listening, but the person hearing it will know. Prophetic words are meant to be confirmation of things that God has already told you and placed in your heart. It’s not something to be afraid of. Any person who is not happy with a message given to him or her that is ostensibly from God is welcome to disregard such a message, or to pray about it and see if it brings them peace. Because I take the Bible at face value I believe that there are still prophets and apostles just like there are pastors, teachers and evangelists. The function of all these is to build up and to edify and to work towards the good of the church.

The Lord’s army

How many times don’t we hear Christians say that they are under attack or that they have been under attack? I used to wonder what they were talking about because I didn’t think I experienced any spiritual attacks. Until the penny dropped and I realised what is was all about. The Bible tells us that we are in a spiritual battle. And by ‘we’ I mean believers.

Ephesians 6:10-13, Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

Here it is clear that there is a spiritual battle and that believers are the target. Satan and his demonic forces are the enemy.

2 Corinthians 10:4-6, For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.

Here we are given a hint as to the nature of the battle. It speaks about thoughts. One part of the battle is in our thought life. The demonic forces are very good at planting thoughts in our minds. Negative thoughts, misleading thoughts, deceptive thoughts. We have to learn to identify these thoughts for what they are and reject them as fast as they appear. We have to renew our thinking as it says in Romans 12:2, And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

This all takes place in our minds and we have an internal battle which is ongoing which we have to overcome.

But what about when people attack your character?

Matthew 10:22, And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.

John 15:18,  If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.

I remember reading these verses and thinking that they were more specifically for people like missionaries who were being persecuted, or people in communist countries who were arrested if they preached or went to church. In the meantime I have discovered that this isn’t the case. If you are a believer, you are the target. The enemy doesn’t cross reference or leave footnotes as evidence of the reason you are being attacked. There can be people who will actually make reference to the fact that you are a Christian and how the choices you make aren’t what the world would consider good sense. And they will be mean about it. This is easy to recognise and accept. You could even be a little smug about it because it feels like persecution as you understand it. But at other times people will say that rudest, nastiest things to you which you never saw coming. They might attack your character or your morals or your children. In fact anything that is going to hurt you. You are left reeling and you don’t understand where it came from. This is an attack from the devil. He sees your weak points and he targets them. We know that he plants thoughts, so all he has to do is plant a thought in the right mind. This person is not going to come out and tell you that they are being hateful because you are a Christian, they might not even know that you are. The result is that you feel mortally wounded and crushed. Please realise that this is just another one of the devil’s tricks and don’t fall for it. Except for you feeling really awful, there is now animosity between you and whoever has been used as the instrument of destruction. That is why Matthew 5:44, says,  But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,

Just remember that like in a regular army the best soldiers are sent to the front to be in the toughest battles. If you feel like you are under attack all the time take heart, God loves you!

We are soldiers

I wonder if we realize how much God loves us and how much good He wants for us.

Jeremiah 29:11-13, or I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.

Here’s a question. We all know this verse and if you look on Pinterest you will find pages and pages of Jeremiah 29:11 paintings, drawings, calligraphy and tattoos. In fact I only typed in J-E-R-E and I got Jeremiah 29:11. I didn’t even have to search. I think I can assume that we all know this verse and this passage. It’s nice and comforting. It’s safe and it doesn’t confront us and we can look at it when we’re not really prospering and say, “It’s okay, God has a plan, I’m just going to believe that.”

What part do we have to play in that plan? I think that a lot of people assume (or wish) that God will just reach down and make the plan a reality without much effort on our part.

But do we really believe what God is saying here. Do we put it into our minds and write it on our hearts. It’s all good and well to write things on walls (physical or virtual) but to write them on our hearts is another story altogether. When we are sick and tired and struggling financially what do we do? Do we embrace this verse and cry out to God or do we curl up in a ball and just cry? Obviously the easy thing to do is to just cry, get depressed and tell everyone (and ourselves) how unfair life is. That’s the normal thing to do isn’t it? We get together with our friends and complain and compare unfairness. Nobody stands up and says, “What do you think you’re saying?” Nobody reminds us that God is really on our side and that we are, in fact, speaking death over our situation.

Proverbs 18:21, Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.

Whenever we speak we are putting words out there into the universe. Words that we can’t put back where they came from. We speak all kinds of negative things over ourselves and then we can’t understand why all these terrible things are happening to us. I realize that is becomes a habit and I fully realize that when bad things happen and when we’re feeling miserable or sick, it’s not easy to be positive. But that is exactly what we must do. We have to force ourselves to become positive. We must praise God because God does not bring the bad things over us. That is the work of the enemy. God allows us to go through trials to strengthen us.

Romans 5:3-5,  And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

We need to remember this when we are despondent and when it feels like the whole world is resting on our shoulders. We are becoming better people. We are getting spiritually strong.

John 10:10, The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.

If the enemy’s mission is to kill, steal from, and destroy God’s children and he is not going to stop, how can we survive? We can survive by taking a few practical steps. Ephesians 6 tells us to put of the full armour of God. Only soldiers wear armour, therefore we are soldiers and we are in a battle. If we weren’t in a battle we wouldn’t need armour and if we think we aren’t in a battle we are living under an illusion. Then we can change the way we think according to Romans 12:2. The way we do that is to filter our thoughts as is stated in 2 Corinthians 10:15 and think positive thoughts (Philippians 4:8)

It isn’t easy and the Word never tells us that is will be but we are soldiers and we have to make sure that we are well trained in the skills that our manual prescribes. We are soldiers and our commander in chief has a plan that is going to prosper us.