Posts Tagged ‘thankful’

As a Christian who has been ‘around the block’ for some time, I have seen a lot of things, experienced a lot of things and not surprised by a lot of things. In some of my latest posts, you may have seen a change of my tone. This is because I am fed up and frustrated with Christians being fed false hope, being afraid to ask difficult questions in life. Nearly everywhere I turn, I hear messages about blessings, breakthroughs and divine favor, and not truly understanding the reality of being a christian. Because of some of those messages from the pulpit, when something happens like a Christian dying at 37 from cancer or something else disastrous happens in their life that they do not expect to happen to them as a Christian, they become disillusioned with the whole Christian faith because they have been blinded by and fed false promises.

So when I came across an article by C Michael Hatton on the Reclaiming the Mind Blog, it caught my eye because it tackled a question by an unbeliever head on. “Will God protect my children if I decide to come to him?” We could come with a text book answer with “Yes because you are a child of the King and he will protect you and your family” but I know from experience that the Christian life does not guarantee you any protection on earth.

I have placed the article in full below and I pray that you will swallow this hard truth more than a soft lie.

Will-God-Protect-My-Children

Will God Protect My Children?

My friend was not a Christian, but he was seriously considering it. He was one of my wild friends from my younger, crazier days. We used to drive from bar-to-bar looking for nothing but trouble.

We often talked about Jesus. I was one of those dichotomous Christians who did what he could to evangelize while neck deep in the clutches of carnality (now I am just dichotomized in other ways!).

He was an atheist and pretty determined to stand his ground. Initially, our reconnect involved uncomfortable re-telling’s of our former days of sin along with some (compromising?) laughter about such.

But we spent the next year talking about Christ Here we were a decade later having the same types of conversations during a different stage of life. He’s married with kids. I’m married with kids. He’s thinking about bigger, more profound things. I’m teaching about bigger and more profound things.

Hurdle #1 – “Do’s” and “Don’ts”

I was very excited and prayerfully hopeful about what God might be doing in his life. We talked on the phone about once a week. Often, late into the night. During these talks, he would present his objections and questions and I would present the possible answers. Sometimes he put his wife on speakerphone to ask her own questions and listen along.

I sent him a couple of books that really helped him overcome some of his misunderstandings concerning the nature of Christianity. Primarily, he saw Christianity as a legalistic set of “do’s and don’ts.” He had never even come in contact with the idea of grace. Our conversations culminated in his reading of Chuck Swindoll’s Grace Awakening. He was refreshed. Hurdle #1, successfully jumped.

Hurdle #2 – Intellectually Naive

In the backdrop of our conversations was his perception that Christianity was naive, with no place for serious intellectual conversations. We talked much about this and I sent him a copy of one of my favorite apologetics books (save the Open Theology leanings) Letters to a Skeptic byGregory Boyd (I told you I loved Gregory Boyd!). He slowly began to see that the central tenets of Christianity were not only sustainable but ultimately persuasive. Hurdle #2: successfully jumped.

Through this process, his objections were slowly losing steam. It was incredible to see the slow transformation of his mind. The misinformation was corrected as intellectual conviction grew. He had only one step left: an act of the will to stand before Christ and proclaim his helpless condition and ask for mercy. We were almost there.

The Unexpected Question

It was the day of Angie (my sister’s) funeral. He came to my parent’s house along with many other guests after I had preached at the church. He sat by the side of the house, timidly lurking about, not really knowing what to say. He knew Angie well and, like the rest of us, wasdevastated and confused by her passing.

When we finally talked (it was the first time that I had seen him since our reconnect), I could tell something was on his mind, something that the tragic circumstances of that week brought to his mind. We began to talk outside by his car. He mentioned my sermon at the funeral and seemed very appreciative. We talked a bit about Angie and many of our friends that had shown up.

Then things turned serious.

Grief in Dialogue

“Look, Michael,” he said, as if all our conversation until this point was just a deterring prelude to something more, “I get it!”

“Get what?” I responded.

“I get it. Call me whatever you want—a believer, Christian, or whatever… I get it. I believe. I believe all that stuff about Christ.”

Then there was some silence. I knew there was something more coming.

He continued, “But I am scared.”

“Scared of what.”

“You love Jesus and have been doing so much for him,” he said. ”Yet look at what has happened to you. Look at what happened to your sister. Look at the pain of your family. Look at your mom. Especially your mom. Your poor mom. She has always been into Jesus. She is the best example of a Christian I know of. Look at what God is doing to her. I am scared. I am scared of God.”

Will God Protect My Children?

After another period of silence he asked the question of the hour, “Will God protect my children?” He went on, “Will he protect them or is he going to do to me what he did to your mom? Because from where I sit it looks like if you follow the Lord too closely, he brings terrible things into your life. I love my children and I am scared to death that he might hurt them or take them from me because I follow him… to test me or something. I don’t want that.”

Questioning God’s Intentions

My friend was no longer questioning the reality of God, Christ, the resurrection, or even his own need for a savior. He was questioning God’s plan. He was questioning God’s intentions. Simply put, he was scared of God.

This is really the broader question of suffering. But it is also particular. It is not, “Why does God allow suffering in general?” It was not even a “why?” question. It was a “will?” question. Whatwill God do? What can I expect as a child of God? Is He going to require too much of me? It is a question of counting the cost of following the Lord.

How do we answer such questions? How should we answer them to avoid misinterpreting God?

3 Really Bad Answers

Wrong Answer #1

Yes, of course he will protect your children. That is one of the benefits of being a child of God. Sign the dotted line.

I have searched throughout the Scriptures and cannot find any guarantees that when we follow the Lord, we, along with our loved ones, fall under a shield of protection that guarantees physical longevity, health, or safety. Believe me, I have searched for such promises.

My friend Trevin Wax in his book Counterfeit Gospels calls this the “Therapeutic Gospel.” It is the Gospel that offers benevolent guarantees of mundane goodness. It is the Gospel that says that once you have faith in God, you can expect physical blessings and security. About this Trevin says:

“If you believe that coming to Christ will make life easier and better, then you will be disappointed when suffering comes your way. Storms destroy our homes. Cancer eats up our bodies. Economic recessions steal our jobs. If you see God as a vending machine, then you will become disillusioned when your candy bar doesn’t drop. You may get angry and want to start banging on the machine. Or maybe you will be plagued with guilt, convinced that your suffering indicates God’s disapproval of something you’ve done. When we emphasize the temporal blessings that come from following Christ, we plant the seeds for a harvest of heartbreak.” (p. 54)

Wrong Answer #2

No, he will not protect your children. There is a good chance that God will take them from you to test your faith. Its called “bearing your cross.”

This is also an answer we must avoid. Suffering and evil are a part of the fall and are in God’s hands. While God uses suffering to bring us closer to Him and while we should not be surprised by these type of trials (1 Pet 4:12), we don’t know what God is going to do in our lives.

Matthew 5:45 says that God “causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” Suffering and pain are part of life. They are a part ofeveryone’s life. There is no way to know what God is going to do. While God is not in the business of making sure everyone lives as long a life as possible, He does desire Christians to live as full a life as possible.

All Christians I know have their share of suffering. All people I know have their share of suffering. The major difference between the suffering of the believer and the suffering of the non-believer is that the believers’ suffering is full of purpose. Romans 8:28 says that God is working all things together for good for those that love him. This “all things” includes suffering.

One thing we can be sure of is that life is going to take many terrible turns, but knowing that these things have meaning and purpose makes it bearable.

Wrong Answer #3

You’re misinterpreting things here. God was not involved in the death of my sister. God wanted my sister to live, but she decided to take her own life. God is not in control of the well-being of your children either. He has a “hands-off” policy on these types of things.

This is often referred to as “Open Theology”. It puts God in the cheerleading section of the game of life. Many people do this so that they can live with the reality of evil. If God could nothave stopped what happened, then He’s acquitted (in their mind) of any wrongdoing. However, this is not the God of Christianity. The God of Christianity is a God who is sovereign overeverything that happens. Daniel 4:34-35 is one of the great passages in all of Scripture speaking of God’s sovereignty:

“His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: ‘What have you done?’”

Even Satan has to come to God for permission to act (Job 1:6-12).

God’s “Perfect” Plan and His “Redeeming” Plan

This does not mean that evil and suffering are part of God’s perfect plan, but they are a part of His redeeming plan. Death, sin, and suffering are all evil. They were brought into the world when man fell in Eden. But God’s redeeming plan uses sin to right the wrong.

This is why God brought the greatest evil in the history of the world upon His Son. What seemed to be a defeat when Christ died on the cross was a wonderful expression of God’s love, redemption, and sovereignty introduced, not by the will of man, but by the predetermined plan of God (Acts 4:27-28). God is in control of all things, even our suffering.

My Answer

I don’t know if God will protect your kids in the way that you desire. I really don’t. I am sorry.

I had no guarantees for my friend. There are no prenuptial agreements that we can ask God to sign.

In John 21 (I love this story), Christ has already risen from the grave. He is talking to Peter and has some hard news. He tells Peter, in essence, that he is going to suffer and die for his faith. Peter, curious and somewhat agitated, looks at his friend John, looks back at Christ and says, “What about him. Is he going to die too?” That is where we are. We come to Christ and say:

  • What about [fill in the blank]?
  • What are you going to do?
  • What is in store for me if I follow you?
  • Are you going to protect my children?

I suppose that the Lord’s response to Peter is the best answer we are ever going to get. Christ said to Peter “If I want him [John] to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me” (John 21:22). In the Greek, this is emphatic:

You follow me. Take your eyes off the details of the future and you follow me. I have John under control. You follow me. Your children are mine and I love them. Youfollow me. I don’t follow you. You follow me.”

We don’t come to Christ because of guarantees of health, wealth, or protection from physical danger. We come to him because He is Lord. We don’t become Christians because of fringe benefits; we become Christians because Christianity is true. We come to Christ and bow our knee knowing He loves us enough to die for us. We come to Him knowing that His plan, whatever that may be, is full of love, purpose, and wisdom. We come to Him because of the guarantees of the life to come, not the guarantees of this life.

secular-sacred

 

Look at the image above and be honest. If you turn left, what do you expect to find? And turn right and what do you expect to find? And more importantly, where do you think God resides most.

TURN LEFT: Most people will think this involves going to work, school, college, going to a bar or pub with friends, going to the movies, doing sports, going to the gym, engaging in your hobbies, playing secular music, going to the Notting Hill Carnival and dancing is what would normally be in ‘Secular’ camp

TURN RIGHT: Most people people would think that church, prayer, fasting, reading the bible, attending Christian conferences etc would all appear in the ‘Sacred’ camp

And if most of us as Christians are honest, we think that God is more on the right hand side than the left.

The video below gives a quick summary

As the video says, we as believers will say that we know that our Christianity should be displayed in all of our life but subconsciously, we divide our lives into sacred and secular and into areas which are more spiritual than other areas.

One of the things that I said that I learnt last year in this post was that:

People go through some really hard things in life and sometimes, it can be so comfortable to live in the church/Christian bubble without ever really engaging in the culture or the real world with real people who have real problems. I don’t want to be so involved in churchianity that Christ is in the background and is not relevant at all to the man on the street. I want Christ to be seen in me IN ALL of my daily life and that may mean sometimes doing stuff that traditionally ‘church folk’ don’t do. God is interested in the whole man.

I have had a few transitional points in my Christian journey and I believe that right now, I am in the middle (not there yet) of another one. The Holy Spirit has been teaching me a lot and most of it is not by me turning right to the sacred camp. Just by looking at people lives or watching the news makes me look at things with a Christian worldview. I have also been frustrated sometimes with the ‘Come and See’ mentality of churches. The fact of the matter is the vast majority of unbelievers have no interest in church or church events so what happens to them? How do we impact the culture?

I am involved with an employee network which aims to promote fairness for Black and Asian employees so that we are represented at all levels and so that there is true diversity, especially at senior levels. As it stands right now, it has been acknowledged by senior leaders that this is not the case. Is this less important to God than me attending a mid week prayer meeting?

In one of my old churches, whenever there was a public holiday, the churches would have some kind of convention where it was expected that members would attend and I always used to think to myself, why don’t they just let people stay at home and spend quality time with their families instead of expecting people to attend church all the time?

On March 22, 2013 at Convocation, North America’s largest weekly gathering of Christian students, Lecrae talked about erasing the secular-sacred divide. He pointed out that everything is God’s, so there shouldn’t be a division between our role in society and our role in the church. As representatives of God’s kingdom, we should engage, love, & rehabilitate every aspect of today’s culture for His purposes. Check out the video below

So I would like to summarise this post with Colossians 3:17 which states

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Those words ‘whatever’ and ‘everything’ mean………..you guessed it. ‘whatever’ and ‘everything’. Not just ‘church’ stuff.

I would also recommend listening to this podcast from Matt Reagan

 

 

If you know anything about my blog, I am hot on true doctrine and on rightly dividing the Word of Truth. But lately God has been working on my heart on how does that true doctrine work its way in real life. In my post ‘So what have I learned in 2013?‘. I stated:

People go through some really hard things in life and sometimes, it can be so comfortable to live in the church/christian bubble without ever really engaging in the culture or the real world with real people who have real problems. I don’t want to be so involved in churchianity that Christ is in the background and is not relevant at all to the man on the street. I want Christ to be seen in me IN ALL of my daily life and that may mean sometimes doing stuff that traditionally ‘church folk’ don’t do. God is interested in the whole man.

One of the reasons why I have not been posting as much as I personally would like to is because I have been going through my own difficulties. Its as if God is putting me the very things that I wrote about…….but in it all, I still have that joy in Christ that surpasses all understanding.

I mentioned my friends across the pond who host Real Talk Radio  in my post about Armor Bearers (if you are not afraid to have your thinking challenged, I would STRONGLY recommend you listen to some of these show discussions). One of the radio hosts is a guy called Elgin Bailey and on a couple of their shows, Elgin gave his testimony about where he is coming from and about his journey. Guys, this is where true Christianity is played out. Not just in church. Have a listen to where God has brought Elgin from

Part 1

Part 2 (from Elgin’s childhood)

Its so important that we remember where people are coming from and sometimes this may mean working with people THROUGH their struggles. There are so many people who have problems and guess what? They need the gospel too. Somehow we need to be able to bridge the gap between a hard life and a transformed life through Christ. Maybe they need to hear YOUR story.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. (Revelation 12:11)

 

Did you know that you make the bible say anything you want? One of the main problems that we see from the pulpit and from Christians in general is that we used eisegesis instead of exegesis. What do I mean? What many people do is start with THEIR thoughts and their views and then read that INTO scripture instead of starting with scripture and read OUT of it, not having any pre conceived thoughts or ideas and letting the scripture speak for itself, taking into account the historical context. A typical example of eisegesis is with Pastor Clarence McClendon in this clip at the 1:15 mark

Here he starts with a view of the prosperity gospel and then reads INTO 3 John 2 where it states that:

” Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.”

But you only need to go back one verse to see who he was talking to

The Elder,

To the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth:

John was not trying to make a doctrine about prosperity here. All he was doing was greeting Gaius. It would be the equivalent of us today writing a letter saying “I hope everything is going well with you”. That is all

However, if I told them that the White Camelia Knights of the Klu Klux Klan use the same process to justify doing what they do, I’m sure they would not agree. For example on their website which can be viewed here, they have started with their racist views and then use scriptures such as the below to justify their views

Exodus 33:16 “So shall we be separated: I and thy people, from all the people that are upon the face of the Earth”

Leviticus 20:24 ” I am the Lord they God which have separated you from other people”

Now some may say that this is extreme but it really no different than what is preached Sunday after Sunday in many churches. It is so easy for us in the western world to imprint our western thoughts INTO scripture which is where many false doctrines begin.

Francis Chan explains the difference between eisegesis and exegesis below

I saw this video below which is mainly for those who are preaching sermons but the general princple here should be used by every Christian when interpreting the scriptures and I would encourage every Christian (not only preachers) to use these very useful tips and guidelines when studying the bible. It could put a lot of fasle teachers out of business.

So next time you hear your preacher talking of Blessings, Breakthroughs and Divine Favor and your destiny which seems to be the norm now, ask yourself, are they reading that stuff INTO the scripture or OUT of the scriptures?

One of the things that really frustrates me about Christians sometimes is that we sometimes believe that we above non-christians. We think that somehow that we are exempt from some of the troubles that life throws at us. Yes, we expect to ‘go through’ but there are some things that we don’t expect to go through because we are the ‘King’s kids’. And at one point early on in my Christian life, I used to think like that but then my check engine light came on. Things didnt ‘work’ as I was taught on the pulpit. I started to ask questions. I gave tithes but never saw blessings (in what I thought was blessing) happen to me that was any different to those who didn’t give. I saw those who didn’t give tithes who were getting ‘blessed’ above me. However, I looked at the scriptures and looked at the the life of the main person (apart from Jesus) in the New Testament and that was the apostle Paul. Did I see him being exempt from certain trials as a believer? On the contrary. This is what I saw in 2 Corinthians 11:

But whatever anyone else dares to boast of—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast of that. 22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they offspring of Abraham? So am I. 23 Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. 24 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?

30 If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. 31 The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, he who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying. 32 At Damascus, the governor under King Aretas was guarding the city of Damascus in order to seize me, 33 but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall and escaped his hands.

A gospel full of Blessings, Breakthroughs and Divine Favor, is not a gospel at all. If this is all you are hearing in your church, then I would say that you need to run from such teachings and don’t be blinded by false promises. You cannot plead the blood out of a situation. Life is life. Here are some issues that Christians sadly have had to go through in life

Rick Warren’s son committing suicide
Tedashii (the Christian rapper) losing his one year old son
Marvin Sapp’s wife dies of cancer
Rev David Wilkerson dies in car crash

Then Hebrews 11 goes on to talk about some who…

….were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— 38 of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.”

When we have a false view and expectations God and Christianity based on some of the rubbish that is perpetuated on many pulpits, when stuff happens, we have just set ourselves up for a fall.

So lets be real Christian and not give others this false impression. We will go through EXACTLY (and maybe more) problems than a non Christian but know we have Christ with us THROUGH the trial.

Taken from Wretched:

When I am married, then I will be happy…. until you tie the knot.

When I have children, then I will be happy…. until you have kids.

When my children are more self-sufficient, then I will be happy…. until they are out of diapers.

When my children are in school, then I will be happy…. until they ride off on the bus.

When my children leave the home, then I will be happy…. until you are an empty nester.

When I retire, then I will be happy….until you don’t have to wake up to your alarm clock.

Happy

A Syllogism

Here is a syllogism that is trustworthy and true: Satan is a liar and the father of lies. Satan is in control of the world system. Therefore, the world system is a lie.

The world system tells you that happiness lies just around the corner. Happiness is not where you are, but where you think you should be. Happiness is anything but this. That is a lie.

Perhaps you have purchased the lie. Perhaps you are in a funk because you are not living this God ordained moment with joy. Perhaps you have worked yourself into a state of frustration because today is not tomorrow. You need a Biblical re-orientation.

“This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Ps.118:24) So how do we do that?

Good theology

Once again, our worries, problems, anxieties, frustrations and confusions have a solution in good theology.

1. The doctrine of sovereignty reminds you that the day you are living is exactly the day that God has ordained for you. (Ps.37:23). You are supposed to be in the season you are in. You will NEVER be content with any season until you realize that you are in the season that God has pre-arranged for you.

2. The two verses before Ps. 118:24 give us our reason to be glad today, “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief corner stone. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.” (Ps.118:23,24) Knowing that we have a Savior allows us to rejoice today, not tomorrow when we perceive that things will be easier or better.

If you have grown discontent because you perpetually long for tomorrow, re-orient your thinking. Today is the day God wants you to live, and He wants you to live it for Him because He has provided a cornerstone for you.

new-begin-2013-to-2014_72147488208

Happy New Year readers. As you may have noticed, I haven’t really blogged a lot lately. Why I hear you say? In a word….LIFE. I have been doing a lot of learning and self examination in recent months as well as going through some stuff personally in my life….but God is still on the throne and I love him for being faithful to me even when I haven’t been faithful to him. So what have I learned last year? Here are a few things.

  1. First I have learned more about myself. The more I learn about God and closer I get to him, the more of my sin comes to light and I recognize how unworthy I am of God’s grace. Paul said he was the chiefest of sinners. I am forever in debt Christ for the sacrifice that he made to bridge the gap between me and God and to take the punishment for my sins. On the surface, everything may seem OK, but we all struggle with something in our lives which may not always been seen externally. This can sometimes be something as subtle as pride or self righteousness. Romans 7: 15-25 statesFor I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! 
  2. I have learnt that for some reason, Christians are afraid to question things and reluctant to ask questions that are not normally asked in Church. Many are satisfied to follow the crowd without checking things out for themselves. This can be questions such as is Tithing biblical, why do we have Armor Bearers or where in scripture do we see anyone pleading the blood? I thank God for my friends Elgin Bailey and the twins John and Jonathan Bolton on Real Talk Radio who are not afraid to address this issues and questions head on. Check out their shows here.
  3. More and more I am learning that the hardships of life is no respect of persons and just because you are a Christian does not give us any special pass. No matter how many times you try to ‘speak those things’ or ‘decree and declare‘, you will go through EXACTLY the same things that a non believer goes through. Whether that be sickness, financial difficulties, relationship problems and the like. The difference is as Christians, we are going through it WITH Christ and that gives us hope unlike unbelievers. Even though I have always known this, this year has bought it to the forefront in my life
  4. Life is like a vapor. As I get older, I know that I am just on the conveyor belt of life. I saw last year that the older generation are now beginning to drop off like flies. And not only them, but people who are not far away from my age are dying as well. James 4:13-14 says  “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” I have to make this life matter, not just for now on earth but for eternal. I know that I wont be here forever, so I want to leave an eternal legacy, especially in the life of my children.
  5. I have to make the most of the ‘windows’ in my children’s’ life. What do I mean? Well last year, my son turned 16, my daughter turned 20 and my step daughter also turned 16. There are many windows in your children’s life that you have to make the most of because that window of  opportunity will not last for ever. For example, when they were younger, we used to do a lot of things together. As I stated on my Dear Daddy post, this could be swimming, going to the park. going to the cinema etc. Now they are at that age where I am no longer the person to go out with because they have their own friends and its not cool to be out with Dad all the time. I cannot get those old windows back. It makes it even harder that I do not live with my biological kids but I am still determined to be there for them, no matter what.
  6. People go through some really hard things in life and sometimes, it can be so comfortable to live in the church/christian bubble without ever really engaging in the culture or the real world with real people who have real problems. I don’t want to be so involved in churchianity that Christ is in the background and is not relevant at all to the man on the street. I want Christ to be seen in me IN ALL of my daily life and that may mean sometimes doing stuff that traditionally ‘church folk’ don’t do. God is interested in the whole man.

These are just a few of the things that I learnt last year. I know that I will learn more this year in this school called LIFE. The question is, what will I do with these lessons?

1 We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. 2 Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. 3 For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.” 4For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.

5 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, 6so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

7 Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.

Following my ‘We Must Go’ post, one thing that I know is that I have been guilty of not bearing with the failings of the week. It is so easy for us who are strong to expect others to be just like us or to be just as mature as we are but we often forget how many of us were when we just came to faith. Many of us (including me) had a lot of zeal without knowledge and maturer christians had to bear with us. At the same time I must balance this because there is a difference with ‘bearing with the failing of the weak’ and ‘bearing with the failing of those who know better but REFUSE to do better’. The danger sometimes is that those who should be mature (Hebrews 5:12) , try to justify their sin with a ‘God is not through with me yet’ attitude and refuse to receive godly counsel and instruction at every turn. Matthew 18:15-20 deals with this subject.

Then there are those who have been genuinely hurt by life. My wife goes to The Feast every Wednesday to help feed the homeless and disadvantaged and she tells me of where people are coming from. Sometimes we as christians are so used to be in our christian bubble that we forget that there are real people out there with real problems who need to experience a real God. This came home to me as well when I helped hosting a table at an Alpha Course and knowing that different people are at a different stage in their christian walk or in their searching.

Below are examples taken from I am Second which provides “insight into dealing with typical struggles of everyday living. These are stories that give hope to the lonely and the hurting, help from destructive lifestyles, and inspiration to the unfulfilled. You’ll discover people who’ve tried to go it alone and have failed” 

I Am Second – Michelle Aguilar

 

I Am Second – Lecrae

 

I Am Second – Josh Hamilton

 

I Am Second – Karen Green

 

I Am Second – Nate Larkin

ONLY the gospel can save but we must take into consideration where people are coming from, not diluting the message but speaking the truth IN LOVE

 13 When Jesus heard it, He departed from there by boat to a deserted place by Himself. But when the multitudes heard it, they followed Him on foot from the cities. 14 And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick. 15 When it was evening, His disciples came to Him, saying, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is already late. Send the multitudes away, that they may go into the villages and buy themselves food.”
16 But Jesus said to them, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”
17 And they said to Him, “We have here only five loaves and two fish.”
18 He said, “Bring them here to Me.” 19 Then He commanded the multitudes to sit down on the grass. And He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed and broke and gave the loaves to the disciples; and the disciples gave to the multitudes. 20 So they all ate and were filled, and they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments that remained. 21 Now those who had eaten were about five thousand men, besides women and children. (Matthew 14:13-21)

Lately, God has opened my eyes to the real plight of real people. The fact is in this fallen life we live in, many people struggle with life in one way or another. My wife is involved in The Feast in my church which meet every Wednesday evening and supply the homeless with soup, a hot meal and pudding for all who come, with hot drinks, clothing, emergency food packs and housing advice provided – as well as fun and friendship. The Feast is part of the Jericho Road Project which was ‘set up with the aim of supporting those who live on the streets and helping them to become functioning members of society’.  My wife always tells me about the real problems that these people have which could range from alcoholism to drug addition to teenage pregnancy to sexual/physical abuse. I think sometimes, we (including myself) as Christians are so used to being in our Christian bubble or we are so used to being around ‘safe’ people that we forget that the good news of the gospel is for everyone in spite of their background and what they have gone/are going through.

Last year, I remember seeing this program on TV and it broke my heart to see that children could live in these conditions

Sometimes, we can feel helpless and overwhelmed that we cannot solve all the worlds woes or make a difference in the whole world but we CAN make a difference in one persons life. Maybe give some money to a worthy cause or give someone who is ‘going through’ a listening ear. Make them feel like somebody and that they are valued. Do something. Jesus was moved with compassion and told US to ‘give them something to eat’. I love this song below which challenges us to move into action.

One thing we must be careful of though is not to omit the gospel when caring for the disadvantaged.

The Gospel – Social Justice = Not true Christianity

Social Justice – The Gospel = A better earth to go to hell from

The Gospel + Social Justice = Christlike Christianity

WE MUST GO!!

Here is a question for you? Do your work colleagues or your school friends know that you are a Christian. If so, how do you act in front of them? Does your light shine? Do you laugh at their ungodly jokes? If most of us are honest, we have all failed in one or more of these areas

However, the bible gives us instructions on how to act in these situations

14 Do all things without complaining and disputing, 15 that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast the word of life… (Phil 2:4-16)

Being blameless doesn’t mean we can be sinless but what it means is that our life should be such that the unbelievers
around you will have to really pick their brains to say anything bad about you that will damage or destroy your christian witness

13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.  (Matthew 5:14-16)

Jesus said that if we ashamed of him then he will be ashamed of us. This does not mean that you preach at them at every opportunity. This would be totally inappropriate but what it does mean is that they should be aware, in one form or another, that you are different. The bible says that we should be ready at all times to give someone an answer to the hope that lies in us (1 Peter 3:15). If someone is hopeless, be the one who can give them hope. As stated above in Phillipians 2:16, ‘hold up the word of life’ to them

Another thing we need to do is…wait for it….work. And not just when our bosses and teachers are watching us.

 5 Slaves (employees/students), obey your earthly masters (employers/bosses/teachers) with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. 6 Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. 7 Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, 8 because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free.

 9 And masters (employers/teachers/bosses) , treat your slaves (employers/students) in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.  Eph 6:5-9) (italics added by me)

 I have a Christian group at my work place and I received this email so thought I would share it with you

In Between Times 17.9: Sleep and Awake: Joseph’s Career

Discovering The Therapy of Work

When Joseph was 17 years old, he had a dream that his father and brothers would bow down to him. As a result of that dream, his brothers treated him terribly and then lied to their father. Joseph experienced nearly 15 year of injustice as a direct result of his brothers’ reaction to his dream.

During those 15 awful years, Joseph was a slave and a prisoner, working long hours for no pay and little comfort. It was an agonising ‘in between time’ and there must have been times when he really struggled to understand what was going on. He was slandered, abused, used and forgotten , and needed all his strength to carry on.

There was one stream of life in which he found his path. Sure he was faithful to God and seemed to find reasons for hope under terrible circumstances.

But Joseph’s expression of faith during this dream-initiated ‘in between time’ was his conscientious work ethic. Everywhere he went, he did his job well. In Potiphar’s house he was a professional, upright estate manager. In prison he became a supervisor over other prisoners. For Joseph, his work-style was his therapy, his sanity, and in the end, his passport to success. It was his work that earned him a place in the national government and gave him the route to the fulfillment of his dreams. It was his career path that enabled him to confront his family damage and a toxic behaviour of his brothers.

Many of you reading this piece will know only too well some of its themes. Around 17 years of age, lots of us carry a dream, an ambition or a hope. Similarly, life can be unjust, unfair and damaging both in family and work context. Surely one key feature of Joseph’s story is that his conscientious, uncompromising, honourable and hard working approach to his job opportunities paved the path for dream fulfillment and family reintegration. Perhaps this year is a good time to choose working hard and well as a redemptive path, all the time recognising the inner work of God as your source of progress, so in 2011 work well.