If only we were bird-brained

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Today is an unusual day. Partly pushed by guilt and partly pulled by the bright and beautiful sky, I managed to overcome my inertia and laziness to go to the beach for a run.

It was truly lovely, with the sky bright blue, a gentle breeze blowing and birds flying around. I almost fooled myself that I was enjoying the exercise.

Then the breeze suddenly picked up speed and soon it turned into a strong wind, throwing up leaves everywhere. As I looked up, I saw a group of birds desperately trying to fly out to the sea, fighting hard against the wind. No matter how hard they tried, they couldn’t move forward.

After a minute, the birds suddenly stopped flapping their wings and gave up fighting the wind. Instantly they started falling and tumbling in the sky. Must have been scary during those few seconds.

But before they hit the ground, they were suddenly lifted way up high, and the force of the wind flung them across the sky faster than they could have ever flown on their own.

They soared and flew magnificently, riding the wind and soon disappeared from view.

If only we had brains like the birds, we would know to stop fighting and let the Spirit carry us. The first few moments will be scary but we know He will never let us down.

But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. – Isaiah 40:31

 

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It’s all about redefined relationships

Renewed Life

Colossians 3:16 says “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.”

Far from being yet another thing that a Christian ought to do, verse 16 actually wraps up a series of remarkable statements beginning from verse 1 that redefine our relationships with one another.

If Christianity is not a religion but a relationship with God, then the renewed Christian life must be defined within the context of relationships, firstly with God and secondly with other people.

Our relationship with God is redefined because we are reconciled and restored through the redemption bought by Jesus’ blood. We have a new relationship with God based on grace through faith.

The renewed life is also about redefined relationships with other people – we are no longer trying to be better than others, but we are to consider others better than ourselves (Phil 2:3). We do not bear grudges and harbour vengeful thoughts, but we bear with each other and forgive one another (Col 3:13) We don’t just look after our own interests, but also the interests of others (Phil 2:4)

Our new status as new creations have given us a new relationship with God, and we have to let that redefine our relationships with each other, based on the values of holiness, forgiveness, mercy, kindness and love. The same values that define God’s relationship with us.

Therefore, “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:3‭-‬5)

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What keeps us going in the face of uncertainty?

when the only certainty is uncertainty

“And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” – Acts 20:22‭-‬24

When you think about it, this is a pretty amazing thing for Paul to say.

Paul did not know why the Holy Spirit wanted him in Jerusalem. He had no idea what will happen there. The only thing he knew for sure is that “prison and hardship” awaits him.

Yet in the face of certain uncertainty, Paul realises that if he were to complete his mission and tasks, he must trust God. His faith kept him moving forward.

To many of us, faith in God translates to a guarantee of safe passage, success and smooth sailing. But in Paul’s case, he was guaranteed to have trouble! So what was this faith that kept him going?

It was faith in God’s plan – God knows what He is doing and that was the reason that made Paul say “I consider my life worth nothing to me”. Paul didn’t let an uncertain future get in the way of pressing ahead in God’s purpose for him.

Don’t seek certainty in this life for none will be given except the certainty that in this world there will be trouble (John 16:33). But in the face of uncertainty, rejoice because we can exercise our faith by holding on to the only One who can lead and guide us. 

We may not have faith sufficient for the whole journey (few of us do!), but God gives us enough faith for each small step we take, and that is more than enough to eventually get us there.

“Father in a world of uncertainty, thank you for being the only unshakeable Rock on which we can anchor. Help us to fix our eyes on You instead of the foggy storms ahead, help us to trust Your guiding hand even while we press forward, step by step.”

How should a Christian respond to mockers and scoffers?

Mockers gonna mock

Remember Statler and Waldorf from the Muppet Show? (Yes, those are their names in case you didn’t know!)

Every week without fail, these two grumpy old men will mock every act and ridicule every performance by Kermit and the rest of the muppets. Most of the time, the gang shrug it off and continue with the show but on occasions the performers get frustrated by their mocking and begin to doubt themselves and what they believe in.

Since the first century, there has always been people who mock the Christian faith and the Truth that we hold on to:

They said to you “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. – Jude 1:18-21

Even though we are burdened for their salvation, these mockers sow doubt, cause divisions and create conflict within the family of believers. Our response is not confrontation but first and foremost to “build up our faith”, secondly to “pray in the Holy Spirit” and thirdly to “keep ourselves in the love of God.”

To “build up our faith” is to continue in the fellowship and communion with Christ and each other through observing the Lord’s Supper, corporate worship, and coming together to exhort and encourage each other (Hebrew 10:25) to follow Christ’s teachings.

To “pray in the Holy Spirit” is to pray according to the Spirit’s will and His leading, for the Holy Spirit lives in all believers.

Finally, to “keep ourselves in God’s love” is to remain in Jesus, for the love of God is in the person of Jesus Christ. To turn away from Christ is to depart from God’s love. To remain in Christ’s love is to obey His commands (John 14:15)

Only by having a strong faith anchored in His Word and Truth can we hold on to those who doubt, snatch to safety those who are falling, and reach out to those who have turned away.

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. – Colossians 2:6-7

 

 

He hears us whether we hear Him or not

He hears us

Sometimes in our quest to hear God we get frustrated because we can’t hear Him. This is especially so when we are struggling through a difficult patch. And in those moments, we suppose that He is not responding to our cries because He didn’t hear us.

This is why Psalm 116 is such a great wake-up call. The psalmist celebrates the fact that God heard his voice, not that he heard God’s voice.

In the 19 verses of this Psalm, not one mentions God’s response and yet the psalmist can say in verse 5

Return to your rest, my soul,
for the Lord has been good to you.

That’s because he knows that “Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.” (Psalm 139:4)

God hears our prayers whether we can hear Him or not. And we know from experience that He will always do what is good and necessary for us.

Father thank you for hearing us, our praises and petitions and everything we utter. Forgive us for being obsessed with hearing You that we forget You hear us. Forgive us for thinking that because we cannot hear You, You cannot hear us.

 

Don’t be an inside out Christian

Don't be an inside out Christian

Outwardly we are called to live out the character of Christ by doing good and loving others. Inwardly we are to be holy – completely pure, without a hint of impurity.

Unfortunately, some of us have gotten it inside out – showing our “holiness” outwardly, while living to please ourselves internally.

Being pure and holy inside without showing love and kindness outside keeps us from being close to others.

But doing good deeds outwardly while living a secret life of sin keeps us from being close to God.

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. – Ephesians 5:1‭-‬3

Don’t be an inside out Christian, but be a Christian inside and out.

 

Does God’s Word have room to grow in your life?

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We learn from the parable of the sower in Luke chapter 8 that the Word of God is like a seed planted by a farmer.

We like this visual metaphor because it is easy to understand how the various types of soil can affect how it grows. And we often pray for God’s Word to grow big and strong in our lives, with deep roots and bearing much fruit.

But it is important to realise that if we want this to happen, if we want to be the good soil in the story, we must first prepare the soil to receive the seed.

Preparing the soil involves ploughing it to soften it. And the process of ploughing is by nature and definition very disruptive and destructive. Whatever is already growing is uprooted and thrown away.

If we want to receive God’s Word into our lives and have it bear fruit, we must be ready for God to prepare the soil, to disrupt whatever is already occupying the land even if they are our pride and joy, planted and nurtured painstakingly over the years.

Otherwise the seed that is God’s Word will be strangled and crowded out by what we have planted there, never to grow into maturity, much less bear fruit.

What have we been planting and nurturing in our lives? Are they what God wanted? What if God didn’t like what we planted? Are we willing to let God uproot them so that He can grow His own harvest in our life?

“Father my life is Yours and whatever You have planned to plant and grow in my life, may Your will be done. I submit and surrender to You whatever I have planted. I release my hold on them, I let go of any pride I have over them and I pray Lord that Your Word will grow unimpeded in my life to bear fruit a hundredfold.”