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.

A new handbag

I just took a good look at my handbag and I think I need a new one. I don’t have a few bags, I just have one and I use it till I decide it’s paid its dues and then the search for another one. This time I don’t have in mind what I want so it will be a bit of a search. I will know when I see the right one. My handbag isn’t so much a fashion accessory as a utilitarian item. It must be big enough to carry my wallet, diary, kitchen sink… But not so big that I can’t comfortably carry it around. You get the idea; it must be just right, it must suit my lifestyle.

I wonder sometimes if people aren’t looking for that kind of religion too. Something that suits them just right. Something that doesn’t require any effort from them so that they can carry it around comfortably. The right size and shape and it must make them look good too. They don’t want to be confronted by it and they don’t want to be taken out of their comfort zone. They would like the Gospel to be according to their own wants and desires. They only want to acknowledge the pieces of the bible that suit their lifestyle.

But Jesus didn’t come to make life comfortable for us. He did say, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28–30. Note that He said we have to take His yoke on ourselves. He didn’t say that we wouldn’t have a yoke.

1 Peter 4:12-13, (Message Bible) Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner.

The definition of a yoke is: a wooden crosspiece that is fastened over the necks of two animals and attached to the plough or cart that they are to pull.

Note that the yoke is put on two animals and that they pull the cart or the plough together. A yoke is not meant for one animal by itself. We must take the yoke of Jesus, in other words we are in the yoke with Jesus by our side pulling with us. He doesn’t leave us all alone and give us all the hard pulling to do. No, He is with us every step of the way. So instead of trying to miss out of having hardships and accepting the yoke that He offers us, we have to welcome and embrace that yoke that He is offering us. If we do not, then we are going to be all by ourselves, handling our burdens by ourselves and trying to muddle through life in our own strength. That is not a good place to be.

Matthew 28:19-20,  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

Hebrews 13:5, 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.”

Romans 8:38-39, For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:15-17 in the Message Bible is just so beautiful, This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him!

Let us embrace and welcome the yoke that Jesus gives us and let us wear it with perseverance and with gratitude for everything He has done and is doing for us.

The Secret Place

I was looking at a post on the internet about what women over 50 should be wearing and what hairstyles should have. Each one of us has been made differently and we enjoy different things and we have different gifts and talents. We look different, we think differently and we express thoughts and emotions differently. There are an estimated 7,7 billion people on earth and every single one has a different fingerprint. Not one thinks and acts exactly the same as anyone else. Not even identical twins are exactly the same. That’s how God planned things to be.

So, if I am not exactly the same as anyone else why does the media and popular culture try putting me in the same box as another bunch of people. We get fashion for over 50’s and make-up for people who are in their 30’s and music for young people. Even church services for older folk. And do you know what the scary part of all these labels is? We believe them and we willingly get into their stupid boxes! We believe that people over 50 shouldn’t be wearing bright colours or blue sandals or flowers in our hair or whatever it is everyone is shouting about. We believe that if we use a certain moisturiser or anti-wrinkle cream we are going to look younger, but even though we look younger we are still going to follow the rules for our age because that’s the right thing to do. Seriously? Are we going to allow people to make up rules for us? People who sit somewhere in an office and are paid to sell magazines, cosmetics, jewellery or clothing are doing what they do best in order to make some company a big profit.

Psalm 139:13 – 16 For You formed my inward parts; you covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skilfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.

If God formed us in our mother’s womb, if He is the one who made us ‘fearfully and wonderfully, shouldn’t we be asking Him what we should wear and what we should do instead of following whatever fashion or culture dictates? I am not saying that there’s anything wrong with dressing fashionably, we just shouldn’t get carried away with it and let it become the focus of our lives.

God has a dream for each one of us. He has a plan that is so special that we wouldn’t believe the whole plan if we got to see it all at once.

Psalm 91:1 He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.

Song of Solomon 2:14 O, my dove, in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the cliff, let me see your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely.

Imagine being in that secret place with God, and He tells us everything that He has planned for us. He tells us how much He loves us and how special we are. Just think of the intimacy we are missing with God because we spend so much time worrying about material things. Each one of us has things that we do and things which we allow to steal time from us that we could have been spending with God and hearing His voice and doing His will. I am going to make a plan to spend more time with God. Not because I am worthy to be in His presence, not because I did anything right, or didn’t do anything wrong, but because Jesus died for me and I have been made righteous by His blood. I have the right to come right up to God’s throne and pour out my heart to Him and hear His heart for me because of Jesus’ sacrifice for me. Let us pay less attention to what the world expects of us and pay more attention to God’s great love for us.