Be a fish

A girl I know came to the shop with her son and her niece. Her son is 5 and the little girl is 4 years old. I started chatting with the children and I asked the boy what he wanted to be when he grows up. He said he wanted to become a policeman, which is a reasonable answer for a 5 year old. The little girl didn’t even hesitate to tell me she wants to be a fish!

At that age I suppose the concept of ‘when I’m grown up’ is very abstract for a 4 year old. But then again, there are certain concepts which are very abstract for most of us. Just think of the concept of Heaven. Yesterday a young person was asking me what was going to happen after Jesus comes. I couldn’t answer him clearly because I really don’t know all the details. I know that life after death, or after judgement day is going to be way better than it is now.

I know there are many people who really make a study of what the end times will be like, but for me, I have my hands very much full with just living from day to day. But getting back to the little girl who wants to be a fish, how many of your dreams that originated when you were young have actually come to fruition. We all have dreams and ideals of what we would like to do and like to be when that elusive ‘one day’ comes. Maybe you wanted to be a pilot but your parents didn’t have the money and you settled for something else. What if you wanted to be an artist and the enemy told you that you weren’t good enough and you didn’t even apply to university. Does that mean that your dreams are dead and you have to settle for second best for the rest of your life? That’s what the enemy wants you to believe. He wants you to believe that you weren’t good enough then, you aren’t good enough now, and you will never be good enough. He wants you to believe that the mediocre job you settled for is all that you’ll ever have. But what about God? Doesn’t the Bible say that God has a plan for you? Everyone has heard Jeremiah 29:11, For 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.

Let’s assume that you remember that dream, ten twenty or even forty years after you dreamed it. What now? How do you find your way back to that dream? The dream that God planted in your heart all those years ago has started to push its way into your consciousness. You believe that this is what you really have to be doing. Now you stand before a choice. You can choose to stay where you are and just push that dream back down where it’s been slumbering all these years or you can decide to do something about it. Just see what the next three verses in Jeremiah 29 say, 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. I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back from your captivity;

Call out to God and ask Him to show you what route you have to take so that you can get back to that dream. If He gave you the dream He will be able to make it happen for you. The last sentence says, “I will bring you back from your captivity”. I believe that being away from God’s plan for your life, or being out of His will is like being in captivity. When you aren’t living the plan God has for your life you are a captive. And you are never going to be too old for your dream. There’s a true story of a man who was a pilot. At the age of 80 his eyesight deteriorated and he was no longer able to fly. He went to university and studied to be a chartered accountant. At 84 he started his new career. So now, find your dream and go after it, and if you want to be a fish make sure you’re near the water.

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Turn the world upside down

I found a bible verse that is so incredibly scary. More than one actually, but I’ll start with one. Matthew 5:13, “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavour, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.”

This is what The Message says, “Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavours of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.”

Jesus says that believers are the salt of the earth. Salt can be used to season food or to preserve foods. Just think biltong. It also adds flavour by make (something) piquant or more interesting. The meaning of ‘salt of the earth’ is given in the dictionary as, ‘make (something) piquant or more interesting.’ If we are to be salt then first of all we have to live up to the name. We have to be the seasoning that brings out flavour. We have to make things much more interesting as well as preserving them. Now I ask, what must I be making more interesting and what must I be preserving?

I should be making life in general more interesting. I cannot be boring because I’m a Christian, can I? Christians are often seen as boring and unimaginative, dutifully going to church on Sundays and staying out of trouble.

I think many Christians are misled into believing that they should be people pleasers and because of references in the Bible about not judging, they are happy to tolerate almost anything. If I look at the apostle Paul, he was anything but boring. We are introduced to him in Acts 7:58 as the young man named Saul at whose feet the witnesses who stoned Stephen, laid their coats. Paul was well educated and well-travelled. He took many journeys by land and by sea, planted churches, made many converts and preached the Gospel. He wrote many letters to the different churches, which makes up most of the New Testament. He got warned about danger in visions. He even survived being bitten by a poisonous snake. He was shipwrecked and he was beaten and thrown into prison more than once.

Acts17:5-9 tells how Jason and his household were dragged before rulers of the city. The Jews thought that Paul was at his house in Thessalonica and they described Paul and his followers as, “These who have turned the world upside down.” So Paul turned the world upside down with his teachings and actions. Can we say that of Christians today? How many believers are turning the world upside down by following Jesus and Paul’s example?

And what must we preserve? We must preserve the truth. We cannot do what the world does and bend the truth and water down the truth so that it doesn’t mean what it used to mean. How many things which were totally unacceptable 50 years ago are now the norm, and not only the norm, but are tolerated and propogated as being good.

The second part of Matthew 5:13 says that if salt loses its flavour it is only good to be spread on a road. When are we in danger of losing our flavour? We are in danger of losing our flavour when we start compromising our fundamental beliefs and start looking and sounding like the world.

Hebrews 13:8, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Malachi 3:6, “For I am the Lord, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.”

Isaiah 40:8, The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.

If God never changes, and Jesus never changes and God’s Word never changes, why do we think that we should change and compromise our principles and beliefs when the world is putting pressure on us? As soon as we start to compromise our beliefs we are starting to lose our flavour, our saltiness. Our ability to make things more piquant and interesting has been lost and we are of no use to the Kingdom. The danger we have to be aware of is that Jesus says once we have lost our flavour we cannot regain it.

Let us stick to what we believe and not compromise our values. Let us turn the world upside down for Christ.

God is my source

I met a lovely lady today who told me that she works for God. I asked her what she did expecting her to say that she is a missionary or something like that. She said that she represents a certain company who sells retail goods, but that that is only her job as she works for God. I got what she meant. God is her source. He is the one who cares for her and provides for her. I remember hearing a teaching about that some years ago.

So if God is my source and not my job, my boss or my business, it will mean that I would live my life differently to what I would if He wasn’t. Or rather, if I didn’t see Him as my source.

How would my life look if I saw God as my only source?

First of all I want to establish that I believe every word in the Bible. Because of this I believe that God made the earth and all that is in it. Everything I have access to has been made by God.

1 Corinthians 8:6, Yet for us there is [only] one God, the Father, Who is the Source of all things and for Whom we [have life], and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through and by Whom are all things and through and by Whom we [ourselves exist].

Philippians 4:19, And my God will liberally supply (fill to the full) your every need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

James 1:17, Every good gift and every perfect (free, large, full) gift is from above; it comes down from the Father of all [that gives] light, in [the shining of] Whom there can be no variation [rising or setting] or shadow cast by His turning [as in an eclipse].

I have used the Amplified version of the Bible today. These verses illustrate how everything comes from God. He is the originator of everything that we have and that we receive.

Psalm 121:2, My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.

Psalm 91:2, I will say of the Lord, He is my Refuge and my Fortress, my God; on Him I lean and rely, and in Him I [confidently] trust!

Psalm 23:1, THE Lord is my Shepherd [to feed, guide, and shield me], I shall not lack.

God is the one who helps me when I am in trouble and who looks after me like a shepherd looks after sheep.

Psalm 27:10,  Although my father and my mother have forsaken me, yet the Lord will take me up [adopt me as His child].

Psalm 22:10, I was cast upon You from my very birth; from my mother’s womb You have been my God.

Psalm 139:13-16, For You did form my inward parts; You did knit me together in my mother’s womb.

 I will confess and praise You for You are fearful and wonderful and for the awful wonder of my birth! Wonderful are Your works, and that my inner self knows right well.

 My frame was not hidden from You when I was being formed in secret [and] intricately and curiously wrought [as if embroidered with various colors] in the depths of the earth [a region of darkness and mystery].

 Your eyes saw my unformed substance, and in Your book all the days [of my life] were written before ever they took shape, when as yet there was none of them.

God has known me from before I was conceived and as hard as that is to understand practically, that is what He says. Where there is a danger that my parents will forsake me, He says He will always take care of me. He also knows everything that will take place in my life.

I am going to say that the first thing that should change is that I should put way more trust in God and not worry. There are lots and lots of references in the Bible about not worrying. I should change my mindset to trust God instead of trusting people. I should operate in faith at all times. I should not look to my employment as my source. God can and will provide beyond what we can ask or even think. If I see God as my source, I will also be less selfish about my needs, realising that the things I need are the things that God wants to give me, and that those will be things that are good for me. If God does give me things that seem to be materialistic, like a nice car for instance, then it’s up to Him, I will not manipulate Him to give me my selfish needs. I will also live a much more grateful lifestyle, and complain a lot less. I think 5 minutes is not enough for this subject so I may continue. Thank you for listening. Blessings to you.

Swept Clean

I suppose it’s not just okay to tell someone that you don’t like them. Imagine going up to people and telling them in their faces that you don’t like them. I shudder to think how it would be received. How would I receive it if it was me? I don’t really think that it is the person that is not likeable. It is the spirit behind, or inside of the person that causes that person’s behaviour. I think that because every person has a place in them for a spirit, there must be some kind of spirit in everyone. Because there are only two kinds of spirits, the Holy Spirit of God, and evil spirits from the devil, it will be either of these that will be present in people.

Luke 11: 24-26, “When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it swept and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first.”

Matthew 12:43-45, “When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. So shall it also be with this wicked generation.”

This parable says that when an evil spirit is driven out of a person, there is a void which has to be filled. If it is not filled then the void is open for the evil spirit to return, but it will not return by itself, it will bring with it 7 other spirits more evil than itself. If that void isn’t filled with the Holy Spirit that person is going to be in much more trouble than when he started out. This also tells me that people cannot walk around with nothing inside that space that wants a spirit residing in it. And it’s not a matter of believing that there is a God or believing that the devil exists. As far as the bible is concerned this is what it is. I speculate that if someone is a good person, but he isn’t a believer, there will be some kind of spirit in him which isn’t very wicked.

John 8:44, You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.

Here Jesus was speaking to Jews, not Gentiles who had never even heard of God. These were supposed to be God’s chosen people.

Luke 1:15, For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.

John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit while he was in his mother’s womb. What an amazing thing to happen. I am assuming that Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit from conception because He was conceived by the Holy Spirit.

Sometimes people behave in certain ways because they are being influenced by the devil. It doesn’t necessarily make them bad people, they are people who are being misled. Christians should pray for discernment so that they can recognize what is going on and make a difference in their lives.

What I’m getting at is that we shouldn’t just judge a book by its cover. It is quite possible that a person could be under the influence of some spirit and we should rather love people so that they can start to see the Holy Spirit in us, than judge them and spoil all our chances of winning their soul for the Kingdom.

 

Emotional Strength

Esther was a Jewish girl living in exile with her uncle, Mordecai, in Persia. They were part of a close knit traditional Jewish community. King Ahasuerus had banished his queen, Vashti from ever appearing before him again because she had refused to appear before him when he summonsed her. His advisors had told him to get another, better queen in her place. Hence, there had been a call for beautiful young virgins to be sought for the king. Officers were appointed to look for these young women, “to be gathered”. It was not voluntary at all. So these girls were brought to the palace and given beauty treatments for a year and probably taught court protocol etc. Esther was one of these girls. Her uncle had told her not to reveal her heritage or her family.

Imagine this: Here is this teenager, all alone. Between many people but still all alone. She couldn’t tell anyone anything personal about herself because it might give away her background. She could not confide in anyone at all. Basically her whole world had changed in the blink of an eye.

Could you handle that? What if, one morning, you woke up in a strange place you’ve never seen before and you have absolutely no contact with the outside world. You have no way of going back to where you came from and you have no way of contacting anyone you know. No phones. No TV, no social media. Nothing. Nothing is familiar at all. You are like Esther. She was thrown into the king’s harem. You have been thrown into some strange world where you know nobody. You don’t even know if there are other people and if you would be able to speak their language if there were.

Let us assume that you are an expert in survival and that defending yourself and finding food and shelter won’t be a problem. Your physical needs won’t be a problem. Just like Esther. She had food and a nice place to stay, seven handmaidens to serve her and eunuchs entrusted with her care. She had no physical needs but her emotional needs were not taken care of at all.Are you strong enough emotionally to adjust to a sudden and drastic change of environment? Will you be able to function without messaging or calling the people you rely on? Will you be able to function without the people around you that you? Are there loved ones that you feel you cannot live without? Is there support system that you rely very heavily on? What about that friend or family member that you can always call when you can’t cope won’t be available now. No inspirational messages or podcasts that can keep you going. No escape from reality by surfing social media or watching videos. Your favourite coffee isn’t even available! If you think about the TV series, Survivor, the greatest problems the contestants face aren’t physical. Their biggest problems are emotional. If they aren’t emotionally strong they can’t handle the pressure.

How do you become emotionally strong? By putting all your trust in something.

I found a website which has 7 characteristic of emotionally strong people. (www.psychologytoday.com) I added an eighth one to the list.

  1. Are less discouraged about setbacks and disappointments
  2. Are more adaptable to change
  3. Are able to recognize and express their needs
  4. Focus on getting around a hurdle rather than on the hurdle itself
  5. Can learn from mistakes and criticism
  6. Be able to recover more quickly from emotional wounds such as failure or rejection
  7. Tend to see the larger perspective in a challenging situation
  8. Know who they are

 

I find this very interesting because these are characteristics of Jesus.

  1. Are less discouraged about setbacks and disappointments

When Jesus was faced with the news that his friend Lazarus was dead, The Bible says, Jesus wept, which proves once again that He was 100% mortal, but He didn’t fall into depression. He went to the tomb and faced the problem head on. He didn’t allow people to discourage Him.

John 11:39-40, Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of him who was dead, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?”

Then he proceeded to call Lazarus out of the tomb and he came out alive.

  1. Are more adaptable to change

When Jesus was a child and went with his parents to the Passover feast in Jerusalem, He didn’t let the strange surroundings phase Him at all. He went to the temple and spoke to the teachers who were there.

Luke 2:48-49, So when they saw Him, they were amazed; and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously.” And He said to them, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?”

He was adaptable to any situation and spoke as easily to the teachers and rabbi’s as he did to the simple fishermen who were to become his disciples. He was also equally at home with tax collectors and prostitutes.

  1. Are able to recognize and express their needs

Jesus knew exactly what His needs were and He did express them. He never pretended to be okay when He was tired and in need of rest.

Luke 5:16, So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed.

Matthew 14:22-23, Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He sent the multitudes away. And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray.

Jesus knew when He was tired and needed to rest or needed to be alone to pray. He didn’t pretend everything was okay when it wasn’t.

  1. Focus on getting around a hurdle rather than on the hurdle itself.

Jesus was confronted with the problem of the women caught in adultery. He never spoke about the adultery (which was the problem.) He never quoted the law.

Leviticus 20:10, The man who commits adultery with another man’s wife, he who commits adultery with his neighbour’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress, shall surely be put to death.

He got solved the problem by going around it.

John 8:7, So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.”

  1. Can learn from mistakes and criticism

Jesus was perfect and He didn’t make mistakes. But He taught us what to do.  There was a storm and Jesus was lying in the bottom of the boat sleeping, and the disciples were having a panic attack about the boat that was going to sink. They woke Jesus up and He calmed the storm.

Mark 4:40, But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?

Jesus teaches us that we have to have faith. It was a mistake to be fearful.

And what about when people criticise us:

Matthew 5:43-48, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ 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, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.

We are called to love people and not to retaliate in the same way that we are attacked. We are not allowed to take criticism personally.

  1. Tend to see the larger perspective in a challenging situation

When Jesus appeared before Herod and Pilate He never defended Himself because He saw the bigger picture. He knew that by dying He would be saving you and me from eternal damnation. He knew that the suffering would be temporary. He didn’t react or retaliate when the soldiers mocked Him and spat on Him and beat Him. He saw Kingdom value in an earthly situation.

  1. Are able to recover more quickly from emotional wounds such as failure or rejection.

Once again, Jesus never failed, but He was rejected in Nazareth, His home town.

Luke 4:22-30, So all bore witness to Him, and marveled at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth. And they said, “Is this not Joseph’s son?” He said to them, “You will surely say this proverb to Me, ‘Physician, heal yourself! Whatever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in Your country.’ ” Then He said, “Assuredly, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own country. But I tell you truly, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a great famine throughout all the land; but to none of them was Elijah sent except to Zarephath, in the region of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” So all those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up and thrust Him out of the city; and they led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down over the cliff. Then passing through the midst of them, He went His way.

We have to walk away from criticism that is undeserved. If it is constructive then we can learn from it, otherwise we just walk away from it.

A lot of disciples left Jesus because of His teaching regarding eating His flesh and drinking His blood in John 6:41-71. He did not let this blow Him off course at all.

John 6:67, Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?”

8.  Know who you are

Esther knew her identity. She was a Jew and even though she was married to a heathen king, she never forgot who she was and that her life had purpose. Her purpose was to save the Jews from certain death.

Likewise we have to know our identity. We have been redeemed at a price. We have been bought with the blood of Jesus and even though we live in a world full of sin, we have purpose. Our purpose is to carry out the Gospel so that we can save our brothers and sisters form certain death.

We need to become more and more like Jesus by reading the Word and by having a relationship with God so that we can be emotionally strong enough to stand up against the pressures of the world. We need to be there for one another, and support each other instead of tearing each other down. And we need to be thoroughly prepared for a time when we only have the Lord to rely on. God is certainly the only on we can rely on 100%. People disappoint us, reject us and even die on us when we need them.

Joshua 1:5,  No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you.

Hebrews 13:5-6, Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we may boldly say: “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”

Hebrews 13:8, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

We will always, always be able to trust Him and take Him at His word. Nothing is impossible with God. Put all your troubles at the foot of the cross, and start trusting Him with your whole being so that you can be left standing when everything falls apart around you.

Your function

I met a group of tourists from the Czech Republic and the tour leader told me that on TV in his country South Africa is portrayed as being a very dangerous country. He asked me if it was safe where we are. I told him that even though we have had a few burglaries and an armed robbery, I do not feel unsafe. I will not allow criminals to keep me hostage by getting extreme security measures and by being afraid. I also told him that I’m a Christian and if I die I will go to heaven, and that really isn’t anything to be afraid of.

Should we be allowing criminals to dictate how we live our lives? In most of our country it is plainly clear that our first priority is security. Even the smallest town has a security company which offers burglar alarms which are coupled to armed response. Insurance companies won’t cover properties which aren’t secured with fencing and alarms and burglar bars.

What is the problem? Why have we become such an unsafe place where criminals dictate our lifestyle? Aren’t the police effective enough? Isn’t the justice system doing its job properly? Or is it the politicians that are to blame? None of these. The problem is the church. And before you shoot  me, take a minute to listen. What is apparent is that there is too much crime, but our problem is a spiritual problem.  There are people who have spiritual authority who are praying over our country, breaking curses and releasing blessings. But that is not enough. Each believer should be praying for his or her area daily. We should be getting up in the morning and be speaking blessings over that place we live. We should be speaking only positive words about our neighbourhood, our neighbours and our families. We should be speaking blessings over the businesses in the place we stay.

We should not be compromising when it comes to what we believe in. If we believe something is wrong we should be willing to stand up and defend that thing. If we believe that wearing conservative clothing is what we should be doing then we should do it, no matter what the people around us are saying about it.  Jesus never tried to fit in. He did what God told Him to do and did not compromise. When He and His disciples were plucking and eating heads of grain on the Sabbath, the Pharisees kicked up such a fuss. He didn’t let is worry Him. Matthew 12 :1-8. When He healed a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath it was the same story. Mark 3:1-6. But Jesus kept doing what He believed was right.

I believe that if we start with the small things and do what we believe God expects from us, we will have more confidence in doing the bigger things when they come along. If we haven’t ever prayed for our own children how can we expect to be praying for nations?

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

We should not ever look at the things which we are doing for the Kingdom and compare them to the things other people are doing, whether they are more or less. God has called each one of us by name and He has a purpose for every one of us.

Isaiah 43:1, Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine.

I believe that when we find the purpose God has for us we will know it and we will be satisfied knowing that we are serving Him the way we should be. If we find that we are looking at what others are doing and thinking that they are doing more important and bigger things and we wish we were doing those things, it means we haven’t discovered our function yet. We need to pray and ask God what our function is and ask Him to reveal it to us and to prepare us for it lead us towards it so that we can do it in His perfect timing.

So what does this have to do with crime in South Africa? I believe that there are people who have the anointing and the calling to be praying for cities and countries. Intercessors who can stand in the gap.

Ezekiel 22:30, So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one.

We need to ask the Lord to show us what our function is, and we should be willing to start small with whatever it is we have to do. If we don’t start, we’ll never get to the place God has set aside for us.

Don’t worry

Yesterday I heard of somebody I know who has been diagnosed with cancer. He has a very young daughter and his obviously distressed. Dr Michelle Strydom, who wrote a book called, “Healing begins with sanctification of the heart”, and uses a lot of Dr Caroline Leaf’s research, says that no disease in incurable. Both these doctors are Christians and Dr Leaf is a neuro scientist. What the book says is that between 87 and 95% of diseases are caused by fear, anxiety and stress, and that by changing our thinking patterns we can heal our diseases. The thoughts we think is what makes us do what we do and makes us what we are. The Bible confirms this statement.

Proverbs 23:7,  For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.

We all have thoughts running around in our minds all the time. A friend was telling me how she reacted to an unfavourable situation which she didn’t feel comfortable speaking out about, by a million thoughts crowding her head, and she assured me they weren’t positive thoughts. This is a normal reaction. We do it all the time. People often say, “You can think what you like, but you can’t say what you like.” That isn’t necessarily correct though. We should be training our brains to think good thoughts and not to get upset over every issue. When we are stressed there are changes that take place in our brains and these changes affect our bodies. I’m sure most people have experienced the affect that shock or anxiety has on the stomach. We suddenly have to go to the bathroom even if we haven’t eaten. That is such a simple example, but is a real example of how our thoughts affect our bodies.

Sometimes we are in a difficult emotional situations and we feel that the best thing we can do is to suppress our feelings so that everything appears to be normal. This isn’t a good thing, but neither is throwing tantrums about everything either. By being silent and putting away negative emotions or by being explosive and hanging all the dirty on the line you aren’t building the right kind of connections in your brain. If you have either of those problems you have to learn to trust Jesus, to take the Bible at face value, and to apply the promises that you have been given. Firstly, God doesn’t want us to be stressed. Apparently there are 366 references to not worrying. I say apparently because I haven’t looked them up myself. That sounds like a good project for one day. And secondly, God made provision for our fear, stress and anxiety. He sent Jesus to die for all those negative emotions.

But how does Jesus stand in for our anxiety. I see it this way: If I am not a Christian, I live like the rest of the world lives and I regard stress as totally normal. When I accept Jesus as my Saviour, I begin to look differently at the world. I realize that I am only here temporarily and that there is life after death, for me, an awesome life because I now am a child of God and will go to heaven. So automatically a lot of fears I had before I became a Christian just aren’t relevant anymore. I don’t have to fear death because death is not going to be the end, but the beginning of a wonderful new life. I read my bible and I realize that Jesus died for my sins and that God gives me grace to be able to live without sin, but when I do sin He does forgive me. I also learn that there is absolutely no reason to fear people because it is repeated many times in the Word. I don’t have to fear being destitute because God says that He will take care of me. Just like I don’t ever have to fear being lonely. He will never leave me or forsake me. Jesus also died for our sickness. There is no sickness that He can’t heal, and when I look at the research I mentioned, it makes sense. When I put my trust in Jesus and I stop worrying and being fearful, I am going to have many more positive thoughts which will send sickness running. There are conditions that aren’t stress related, but Jesus is in the miracle business and the Word tells me that nothing is impossible for God. And of course one of my favourite verses tells me how I should think.

Philippians 4:8, Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.

Now that we know what to do we need to start doing it!

Spiritual Seat Belt

I have come into the habit of putting on my seat belt whenever I drive. It has become second nature to me. Yesterday, for some reason, I hadn’t put it on when I left home. As I approached the main street of our little town I realized and quickly buckled up. I struck me that if I was involved in a collision while not wearing my seat belt I could be seriously injured. Just like that I could be in big trouble if I don’t wear the armour of God daily. We need to protect ourselves from evil.

Ephesians 6:11-18, Put on the whole armour 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 armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—

Obviously this armour is spiritual and not physical but because the different parts are referred to as physical items that we can associate with it makes it very real to us, the same way the parables of Jesus have value. Also the physical items make it easy to remember. We have to make sure that we have our armour ready at all times because our enemy is going to look for any little chink in the armour so that he can attack us. According to the pieces of armour mentioned we have to make sure that we always walk in truth. We have to know the truth because it will set us free and we have to speak the truth. We have to be in good standing with God, we can’t afford to be going about ignoring the things we know we should or shouldn’t be doing and still expect God to cover us. And our feet? We have to be ready to spread the Gospel at all times, not only at church meetings or outreaches. The shield of faith is so important. We cannot let our guard down. The flaming arrows are those hurtful and accusing words and actions which strike our hearts and cause pain. We have to have faith in Jesus to back us up so that we can know that the flaming arrows are attacks from Satan. The helmet of salvation is just what it says. We have to know that we have been saved. If someone asks if we are going to heaven when we die, we must not say, “I think so,” or, “I’m not sure.” We have to be sure, and if we doubt we must make an effort to speak to someone about it so that we can be sure. And of course the sword of the spirit is the Word of God. We have to read and know the bible.

This is not a prayer of protection that anyone can say and then be supernaturally protected. This is practical stuff. Things that we have to be sure of in our lives. I have often received messages about the power of certain prayers, and I’m sorry, but I don’t think that’s what God intended. He isn’t a magician. You don’t say a few magic words and things happen. Faith is about believing, else it wouldn’t be faith. We are protected by the things we believe and not by words. Obviously our words carry weight and when we pray and we use the words in the bible, they carry weight, but they aren’t magic.

Just like a seat belt protects us from potential harm, so the armour of God protects us from potential harm from our enemy. It also equips us to fight against that enemy in time of need. But we cannot put on the armour if we aren’t children of the living God.

…and give you peace

How often don’t I hear people saying, “I trust my instincts,” or “I trust my gut feel,” where they should actually be saying, “I trust my God.” I do realize that God does give us a feeling of peace when we trust Him for something, but the peace is not what we should be trusting. We should be trusting the God who gives the peace. Peace is such a precious commodity yet it is so overlooked and not given the status in our lives that it should have. How often can we claim to really have peace in our lives?

Numbers 6:24-26,  “The Lord bless you and keep you;

The Lord make His face shine upon you,

And be gracious to you;

The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,

And give you peace.”

Psalm 4:8, I will both lie down in peace, and sleep;

For You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.

Psalm 119:165, Great peace have those who love Your law,

And nothing causes them to stumble.

Isaiah 26:3, You will keep him in perfect peace,

Whose mind is stayed on You,

Because he trusts in You.

These verses tell us that God brings peace to those who belong to Him. I have often prayed about decisions I had to make and that I wasn’t sure of, and God has led me with peace. One thing I do know is that if I have to make a decision and I have an uneasy feeling about it, I definitely must not do it. It took me a long time to realize that and as a result I have made some really foolish decisions in my life. Sometimes we pray about something and feel peace and go ahead and do it, and it doesn’t work out the way we envisioned it. Does that mean that we had a false sense of peace or that God changed His mind about it? I don’t think so because we aren’t always going to just have good times. Sometimes there is a lesson we have to learn when things don’t go exactly our way. Something I have learned is that when we trust God through trouble we grow in character and we get much closer to God than if we had just had it easy.

What I do know is that even in the worst of times, if we hold on to the promises and if we hold on to the love of God and if we never forget that Jesus died for us, we are going to have peace. Look what Acts 16:25-26 Paul and Silas did when they were in prison.

But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed.

Even though they were in prison they were singing hymns. You don’t sing if you don’t have peace.

The kind of peace that they had is the kind of peace we should seek. The kind of peace that leaves you calm when everything is collapsing around you. When sickness threatens to claim a loved one’s life; when you are overwhelmed with debt; when relationships are torn apart; when crime is rampant; that’s when you have to look to Jesus and remember that He died for all these things. He has already taken all the pain that these things cause and the Holy Spirit came to comfort and guide us through all the trouble.

God is our source. Our source of sustenance, our source of comfort, our source of wisdom, our source of life and our source of peace. Nothing that can happen in this world is so bad that we cannot overcome it if we look to God as our source. The peace that He provides is all we need to be able to function. We have to trust Him at all times with everything we have and with everything we are because He loves us and He will never leave us or forsake us.

Defend your faith

I was chatting to a young man about different religions and cultures. He mentioned something someone had quoted to him from the Bible, meaning it to say that there are many ways to God. He said that it didn’t make sense to him and I agreed. We read some more verses that disproved what the man had told him. I was very proud of this young man when he came to the conclusion that the greatest problem among Christians is that they do not know the bible. A lot of Christians do not have adequate knowledge of the Bible in order to be able to defend their faith. Can we defend our faith? How often do we get called on to defend it, or do we just shy away from controversial and confrontational conversations about religion?

Psalm 1:2, But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.

How often do we do this? Life is so busy and demanding that it often seems like an unattainable goal.

Joshua 1:8, This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.

The Law of Moses doesn’t apply to us today because we have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus and not by the law, and although we aren’t called to practice all the things demanded by the law, we are still expected to know the Bible. Being made free of the law does not mean that we have been made free of the Word of God.

1 John 5:14-15, Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.

How will we ever know what God’s will is if we don’t know what is written in God’s Word? When we pray the only way we can pray according to God’s will is to know what God’s will is. And the only way we will ever know what God’s will is, is if we know what is written in God’s Word. We cannot possibly pray according to the Word if we never read our Bible, or even if we only read it sporadically. So many people rely on daily readings or devotionals instead of reading the Bible for themselves. There’s nothing wrong with using a devotional because there are some really informative and inspiring one’s, but there is so much more that God has put in His Word especially for us. When we read something that someone else has written, it can help us, inspire us and guide us, and mostly that’s what it’s meant to do. Even though it has value and sometimes we really gain great insights, it is still second hand inspiration. A second hand vision so to say. I think each one of us should aspire to hear from God ourselves. It should be a priority for us to gain insights for ourselves from the Word. We do not live in the Old Testament times where God only spoke to certain people. We have the Holy Spirit who communicates God’s words to us if we care to listen. I remember clearly the first time that I realized God was actually speaking to me. It was beyond awesome. I was so excited.

What we have to remember is that we can’t just know a few choice verses and think that we know the Word. We have to read is actively. It is so easy for people to take verses and use them out of context. If we don’t know the Word then we cannot refute them if they do this. We need to be confident enough in our knowledge of the bible to be able to know how to defend our faith. I remember reading my bible very intermittently for a number of years until one day I decided to start reading it seriously. I read daily for about a month and then stopped for a couple of weeks. I realized that I had stopped and started again. Something happened and suddenly the bible just opened up to me and I couldn’t help myself. I would sneak away during the day to read my bible. It felt like I could feel the love of God emanating from the pages. I realized that it wasn’t just a complicated book, but that it had life. That is how I learned to love the bible and why I am still reading it and discovering new truths all the time. I would like to challenge you, if you aren’t actively reading your bible, to start and experience God’s love and grace first hand.