Friday, October 18, 2013
Today's topic sounds a bit pretentious doesn't it? Well, I certainly don't claim to know the secret to "good Christianity" but over the years I've learnt that there are some qualities that are absolutely necessary in order to have any chance at succeeding as a Christian. So here they are:
1. Determination - From the first day that you make a decision to follow Christ there will be opposition, naysayers, mockers and more. If you want to make it past the first day, week or year then you need to be determined and sure that this is the decision that you want to make. People will mock you, laugh at you and remind you of your past. Now it's the time to be strong headed if there ever was one. Be determined that no one will change your mind with their lofty arguments, mocking or jeering.
2. Persistence and Perseverance - This is closely linked to point number 1 but slightly different. The Christian life can be fun, eye opening, joy giving and much more but it can also be very hard. You will have moments when you fall, make a mistake and feel like giving up. Don't. You will find every ounce of strength that you need to make it in the Holy Spirit. From the very beginning, learn to depend on Him. It will come in very handy in those difficult times.
3. A thick skin - One thing that always amazes me is this: the world thinks that they can do whatever they want to us or say whatever they want about us and we shouldn't do anything about it because our Bible says to turn the other cheek. As a Christian, you will be lied to, lied about, hated for no reason, ridiculed etc, etc, etc. Learn to let things slide off your back. If you spend your time worrying about every little thing someone does or says about you, you won't have time for anything else. Also note that even among your fellow Christians there will be people who hurt you for no reason. Learn to look past that and forgive. You'll find that you are a stronger person for it.
4. Discipline - This one is a biggie. Christianity is about following rules and our rules are clearly written down in sixty-six books. Following rules requires lots of discipline so now is the time to learn some. Forget all the rebellious ways of your past where you questioned every rule because what God says will never change. Learn to trust that his rules are for your own benefit because they are. Good discipline will keep you out of trouble. Try fasting, I've found that exercising control over the body helps to control the mind.
5. Devotion/Faithfulness - Above all things, stay true to God. Remain faithful. Don't get bored or slack with your Christianity and don't compromise. Pay attention to your spiritual link with God. If you do, you will notice when it starts to fade. Nurture your relationship actively. Feed it, set time aside for it and make it your number one priority. You'll find that it is a lot easier to know what God wants from you and to hear His voice if you are constantly listening for it.
Thursday, October 17, 2013
Gossiping. We all know that it's wrong yet we all still do it. Yes, that's right. I said all of us. Every body gossips or has gossiped at some point in their lives. Sometimes it happens accidentally or unconsciously but it still happens.
It is so easy to be pulled into gossip. You may not be a compulsive gossiper; you may not even like gossip, but somewhere along the line somebody comes to you with a juicy story that you just can't help listening to. It may even appear that you are discussing the story out of concern for the individual in question. However, at the end of the day, it's still gossip.
Dictionary.com defines gossip as idle talk or rumor, especially about the personal or private affairs of others. We can all agree that we've all done that, right?
So what makes gossiping so dangerous? Let's see, here are a few reasons.
1. A lot of the time the things we gossip about simply aren't true. We can do a lot of damage to someone's character, family life, careers etc with idle talk. We even justify our gossiping by saying where there is smoke there must be fire, but have you ever come across a situation where there isn't even an ounce of truth in a story that you've heard?
2. Gossiping can lead someone to depression. The worst possible feeling you can have is knowing that you are being talked about but not knowing what is being said. Maybe people have gone into states of depression because of this. Others have committed suicide. It's easy to say that people should keep their heads up and ignore gossip about themselves, but let's be honest. Some people aren't very strong and we destroy them with our idle words. We are like bullies preying on the weak. You never really know what people are going through behind closed doors and your idle talk may just be the thing that pushes them over the edge.
3. It's just plain wrong. I clicked through one of my bible apps and just did a search for the word gossip in the NLT version. Even I was astounded by the number of results. Here are just a few.
A troublemaker plants seeds of strife; gossip separates the best of friends.
Wrongdoers eagerly listen to gossip; liars pay close attention to slander.
A gossip goes around telling secrets, so don't hang around with chatterers.
As surely as a north wind brings rain, so a gossiping tongue causes anger!
Fire goes out without wood, and quarrels disappear when gossip stops.
Psalm 15:1,3 (I advise that you read the whole chapter)
1 Who may worship in your sanctuary Lord? Who may enter your presence on your holy hill?
3 Those who refuse to gossip or harm their neighbours or speak evil of their friends.
So how do we avoid Gossiping? I said earlier that most of us do it unconsciously but there are ways to recognise gossip and nip it in the bud.
1. Are you talking to a third party about somebody else's business? That's gossip, so stop.
2. Are you really sure that you are doing this so that you can help that individual? If so, what is your plan for helping. If you have none then stop talking. It's not your business.
3. We all have friends who are just dying to know the latest developments in some body else's life. The unfortunate thing is that we often come across information because people confide in us. So let us learn to keep things that are confidential to ourselves. Don't even tell your other best friend. It's how gossip starts in the first place. When asked, simply say "I was told in confidence" and leave it there. Eventually your friends will learn that they shouldn't even bother to ask you about some body else's business. These two verses of scripture bring out this point clearly.
A gossip goes around telling secrets, but those who are trustworthy can keep a confidence.
Others may accuse you of gossip, and you will never regain your good reputation.
I hope these tips can help us become more aware of gossip and how easily we can fall into the trap. As with all things, awareness is the first step towards resolution.
Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant. Galations 1:10
It's easy to get caught up trying to make people like you or even approve of you. The world has us constantly seeking attention, affection and approval.
Human beings are strange characters. They don't like you for one thing, but if you change it and do want they want, they probably still won't like you anyway.
Everyday in the media we see severe cases of people-pleasing. Singers who want to be famous get on stage wearing next to nothing and the crowds go wild, soaking it in and buying out their records. People seem to want to only listen to music made by "bad boys" or "bad girls" yet these same singers get seriously crucified in the media when their marriages only last a few days or they are caught with drugs. Most of them can't cope with their people-pleasing so it affects their lives.
People-pleasing is very dangerous for Christians and non-Christians alike. Even in our church lives we sometimes get caught up with putting on a show. Sometimes we raise our hands just because it is the thing to do, not because we want to surrender totally to God. We join certain committees just because everybody else thinks that you'll be good at it even though you don't like doing that particular thing. We even find ourselves marrying a particular person because everybody thinks that "you two look great together!".
Unfortunately for us, people-pleasing has the undesired effect of not pleasing God. If we spend the rest of our lives looking for approval from man, we will probably never accomplish what God has in store for us. If we're busy worrying about what men will think of us, then we'll be too distracted to hear what God wants from us.
Trying to please people is like trying to fill a bucket with holes, it will never happen. Man's perception of what is good changes daily. Somewhere on the planet on any given day and at any given point in time, there will be someone who does not like what you're doing or who simply doesn't like YOU.
Pleasing God is so much easier and has many more benefits. First of all, God will always love you, no matter what, even when you make a mistake. Secondly, His plans for you have already been set. They won't change, because He never changes, therefore you won't be chasing a moving target. Thirdly, God will help you get to where He wants you to go. God guides us through every step in our process and is there to ensure that we don't hurt ourselves when we fall.
So let us go through today remembering that our job is not to please every one around us or even to gain the approval of man. Let us remember that our focus should be on God's plans for our lives and what He wants us to do with it. Remember also, that what God wants from us is true worship i.e. a lifestyle that follows his commands. We can't be true worshippers if our lifestyles are following the commands of the person sitting next to us in church.
Tuesday, October 15, 2013
And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your soul? Mark 8:36
We live in a world that is overly concerned with gaining material wealth. People are no longer content to live comfortably but are driven by a constant need to earn more and own more. Unfortunately, these desires have permeated our churches. Don't get me wrong, I certainly do not believe that Christians should be poor. Nor do I believe that we should be in a constant state of begging and borrowing and living from pay check to pay check. However the Bible admonishes us to be careful. There comes a point where we cross the line of desiring financial freedom and we start walking in pure greed.
What is the point really of owning several homes, fancy cars, etc. if at the end of the day our relationship with God suffers as a result. We may never stop going to church and we'll still pray but what happens when our prayers become self centred and self catering? What happens when all we pray is "Lord give me"? God wants us to be prosperous, but more importantly, He wants us to have a pure relationship with him. He wants us to yield to him and not to be begging for blessings. He wants that when He blesses us, our focus does not turn to the blessings but it stays on Him. God wants YOU more than anything else and you should want HIM more than anything else.
Let's start seeking the giver instead of the gifts. Let our focus be a relationship with God and the work He requires of us. The blessings will come, but when they do, don't forget God. Don't rush through your praise because your new possessions are taking up all of your time. Don't lose your focus or your soul for the sake of material possessions.
Devotions like this one and others can be found in a handy collection in Kindle or paperback format.
To grab your copy, click here.
Sunday, October 13, 2013
Looking back can be very tempting. When God asks us to move forward, He usually requires that we leave some things that are very important to us behind. These things tend to spur what I call, the Lot's Wife Syndrome - looking back at the things that should be left behind with longing.
That story bears an important lesson for all of us. There are certain things in our lives that may be tripping us up, causing us to stumble, to fall, to be in constant pain etc. These may even be things, places or people that we love. However when God is ready to bring us to the place where we fulfill our destiny, those things can't come with us. They'll hinder our growth and cause us to fall all over again. That is why he asks is to leave them behind.
We all know that this is easier said than done; but one thing that will make the task a little less daunting is getting rid of the Lot's Wife Syndrome. Looking back every few days at what you left behind will make you want to go back and pick it up again.
God knew that Lot's wife was heading for trouble that day, hence the reason she was turned into a pillar of salt. She probably wanted to go back. She had friends in that burning city. Her home was there; her whole life was there. However, if she went back, then Lot would have probably followed, after all, she was his wife. I believe that God could not allow something like that, so she was stopped.
Let us stop looking back with longing at the things we know that we need to leave behind us. Let us follow God with confidence, knowing the He is leading us to the best thing for us.