Life is not defined by possessions!

Our world is so upside down, back to front and inside out that we put great emphasis on the things that are the least important in life. We are born into a world that says, if you have great material possessions, you have ‘arrived,’ you are a ‘success,’ and are deemed more worthy than others. So, you spend your life, stressed, working every waking hour trying to earn the big salary and bonus; buying the latest fashion fad, the biggest house the fastest car. Now, just to be clear I am not saying we should not aspire to be the best we can, or that we should not aim high or try to achieve our dreams, or that we cannot be rich. What I am saying is we need to keep sight of what is important and not to get so lost in this mind-set that our health suffers, we become selfish and no longer care for others and their plights; and we should never, ever get to a point where we begin to worship the material things we have acquired in this life, because we cannot take any of it with us when we go. As a Christian we need to keep focused!

Being rich does not mean that your life is more important than anyone else’s, we are all the same in God’s eyes. We continue to breathe the same air, eat food and wear clothes; earthly wealth does not transcend you onto another plain, you are and will continue to be a human being. Your possessions cannot define you! Many people believe that Christians cannot or should not be rich, and of course that is rubbish! Christians can and are rich, but one thing we should not do is to worship the material things that we are blessed with. We should never lose sight of God’s purpose for our lives and what we are called to do. Our hearts should always remain with God. When He blesses us with wealth, He has a purpose for that wealth through us. God did not intend for us to accumulate great wealth and keep it to ourselves and our closest inner circle, spending the rest of our lives accumulating more and spending it on a hedonistic lifestyle… no! When we are being blessed abundantly, it is at that time the Christian needs to cling to God more than ever to spend it in a way that is pleasing to Him, to bless others, to do the work of His ministry and of course God wants you to enjoy life as well. But we can only balance these things if we remain close to Him and continue to allow Him to guide us.

I stated in my previous post that when we begin to plan for the future we should acknowledge that we have no control over it and we do not know if we will live to see it. Therefore, we should not be presumptuous in thinking that because we want it and have planned for it, that it will happen; for none of us know what tomorrow will bring. The Bible tells us, before we start planning for the future to speak to the Lord about it and tell Him if He is willing and you are blessed with life then you would like to do this or that.

The following parable found in the book of Luke 12:13-21 (KJV) tells us of a presumptuous and very rich young man, who thought he had a perfect and long life, after accumulating great wealth; not knowing that he would not live long enough to either. 

Scripture
And one of the company said unto him, Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me.
And he said unto him, Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you?
And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.
And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully:
And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits?
And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods.
And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.
But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?
So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.

In the scripture above, a man had great wealth and was selfish, he refused to share it with his brother. His brother too was covetous, so we have one who wanted what the other had and one who refused to share. The Bible confirms that a man’s life does not lie in the abundance of his wealth. The parable (a short story,) confirms that the rich man had so much wealth that he had to build greater storage facilities so he could store it, building himself a great empire. He also planned for years in the future but of course he did not know that the moment he finished storing his wealth he would die and never have a chance to enjoy it. This may seem far fetched but so many people do not live to enjoy their great wealth. You wouldn’t have to look very far to find proof of this!

Storing great wealth does not give us longer life, it does not buy us favour with God, we are not better than anyone else and when we die we have to leave it all here. The most important wealth to accumulate on this earth is spiritual wealth. It comes only from God and we cannot exhaust it. It starts with Love; loving God and loving others before yourself; accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour; having a real relationship with God and doing His will. Bursting with His Spiritual blessings and developing a Godly character. These riches, you CAN take with you when you leave here to go into the presence of God because these blessings are a part of Him. This will define you, the life you will lead and the life you will be blessed with. 

 

Appreciate the Present

Life is for living! I think we can all agree to that statement. But often we spend our whole lives planning and living in the future and all too often we miss the present, which is truly a gift from God. Of course, we should be wise and put some plans in place to deal with the future should we get there. Remember the Bible makes it very clear that we do not know what tomorrow will bring.

Proverbs 27:1 (KJV)

Boast not thyself of tomorrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth (You should not boast of tomorrow, for you do not know what the day may bring.)

The following scripture is saying exactly the same thing but it explains a little further and tells us how to deal with uncertainty of it:

James 4:13-15 (KJV)

Go to now, ye that say, Today or tomorrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain:
Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.
For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.

The scripture tells how we are constantly making the big plans to go away for a period of time and live life according to our desires. It continues to tell us how fragile life really is, by describing it as a ‘vapour,’ here only for a short time and then vanishes away. And finally, a most important message we should take away from this and use from this moment on. When making the big elaborate plans for the future, do it with the knowledge of how fragile life really is and with respect to the Lord for blessing us with it in the first place. Confirm that all the plans you are making, you make if the Lord will it and if you live to see the future. A wise person will always acknowledge the fact that so many things can happen from one minute to the next and ask the Lord for His blessings for the future.

How often do people plan an evening out to relax and enjoy time with family and friends and in a second their lives are gone, because someone decided to take their own life and as many others as they can at the same time. How often do people plan the journey of a life time and set out never to reach their destination. How often are we in great health one minute and the next minute a pain appears from nowhere followed by devastating news from the doctor. That is how fragile life is. It really is like ‘vapour’ and can be snuffed out in a second; so every second is precious.

By living in the future we so often miss the present. Sometimes we are blessed with many things happening in the present and before we even begin to appreciate them, we start to worry about what if… what if it doesn’t work out, what if I can’t afford it, what if they don’t like me… what if??? That is the future which is not yet yours, so why worry about it. By stressing about the future which we have no control over, we cannot appreciate the present which we are living in.

The future

So distant, exciting, the unknowing
Uncertainty, hope, anticipation growing
Thoughts, plans, meticulous preparation
Ever striving, for that unknown culmination
Of promises not yet realised
But ever alert, remaining poised
Ready for all that it brings
That future for which your heart sings.

Patience, endurance must ensue
As your past resurges on the you it once knew
Desiring, vying for full restoration
Not to be outdone by present dedication
What is to be is not what has gone
For the present too will not be outshone
I’m the here and now it boldly affirms
The past is no more but for the future you yearn.

Time passes slowly it would seem
And the future, determined to be seen
Arrives fresh as a flower in bloom
Then gone again all too soon
For the present, must have sped ahead
Waiting to greet me instead
Future eludes me but it’s now apparent
The moment it arrives it becomes the present.

Plan for the future, but it will never be yours
Its furtive promise continuously allures
The present you have but try to ignore
With sight firmly set on what lays before
The fluid and seamless movement of time
Passes with future to present and past entwined
The wise will use the time at hand
For tomorrow is promised to no man!

Don’t Bypass God’s Process

I think we can all agree that no one likes to experience pain, suffering or disappointments. No one likes to be let down by family and friends or have their hearts broken by those they love. We do everything we possibly can to avoid the things that hurt us and often we try to protect ourselves by ensuring we never go through those experiences again. This is no different for the Christian; after all we are still human beings with feelings and emotions. We didn’t lose the ability to feel when we made the commitment to following the Lord. In fact the ability to feel the pain of others is often greatly increased.  When we come to the Lord, there is a process involved in cleaning us up, preparing us for the journey and equipping us to endure to the end. To achieve this we must go through the process, the pain, suffering and sacrifices just as Christ did; not that I am saying it is all pain and suffering.

Imagine for a moment you would like to be a brain surgeon. You cannot say “I want to be a brain surgeon” and by the next week you are a brain surgeon. There is a process to go through. Lots and lots of studying, sleepless nights, exams, sacrifices, failures in not achieving the grades you need and going back to the drawing board. The trauma of losing patients whether through no fault of your own or through mistakes made on that journey. Becoming qualified and registering with the necessary bodies, and respecting the authority of those over you. There is no other way that you can become a brain surgeon unless you go through the process and endure to the end and even then, there is ongoing training to maintain your skills level and keep up with new procedures, technology or even to pioneer new procedures yourself. If someone told me they got up one day and decided to be a brain surgeon and a year or so later they were ready to operate on my brain, I’d have to take my chances WITHOUT the operation!!

Yet often as Christians we come to the Lord, spend no time with Him to find out what His purpose is for our lives, and can’t be bothered to study the Word of God and allow it to feed our spirit. We don’t talk to Him so we have no relationship with Him, but we decide that we want something and expect to get it by bypassing His process. We have our own agenda and put our action plan in place. My question to you then is, “if you can’t bypass the process in the world why would you think you can bypass God’s process?” Surely that’s disrespectful! We cannot fulfil our destiny in Christ if we bypass God’s processes. We must suffer a little, make sacrifices, hurt a little, go through disappointments to come out the other side, stronger, wiser and with a testimony. Ready for the next challenge that life throws at us.

If you come to the Lord today and try to be a preacher, teacher, prophet and such like, a month; year later, you are trying to bypass the process. You have learned nothing, have experienced nothing, you have no testimony, you cannot stand in the face of adversity and you certainly will not know how to deal with the challenges of that office. Three of the most important things you will need to start working on the moment you come to the Lord is your relationship with God, spending real quality time with Him, speaking to Him and listening when He speaks to you. Finding out what you are called to do, what your purpose is. If you don’t know what you are called to do how can you fulfil your destiny? Then you need to learn to wait on the Lord. Let Him train you and take you through the processes required for your ministry.

To achieve anything in life there is always an underlying process!

Scripture

Isaiah 40:28-31 (KJV)

Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding.

He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.

Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall:

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

The Christian and Injustice

Wounded by religious practices, let down and hurt by those we care about, used, abused and brutalised… we all experience injustice of one kind or another throughout our lives. Some we can forgive and move on to live a fulfilling life, others not so easy to let go of and can adversely affect lives!


Romans 12:21

Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

People walk away from the Lord for so many reasons that it would be impossible to list them all.  Some are bruised by religious practices, others have been treated unfairly by a member or members of the church, some are tempted back into the world by the things they miss whilst others weaken in their Faith and fall away.  Whatever the reason is we are all still responsible for our walk with the Lord and ultimately our salvation.  Blaming someone else will not be an excuse on the day of judgement.  We must forgive or we will not be forgiven! Forgiveness releases us from the situation as much as the person we are forgiving.  If we do not forgive and let it go, we bind ourselves into that situation and cannot move on.

Everyone struggles with injustices, but no one can claim a greater injustice against them than Jesus Christ and He said on the cross before He died at the hands of His own, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”  Whatever the injustice, go to the Lord with it; all of it.  Offload on Him and let Him help you and build you back up so you can be prepared for the next one, because the Christian will experience many injustices on their journey.  This journey is about winning the battles and not the war, the war is for God and He has already won it, we just need to survive.

Many Christians fall away from the faith and many people refuse to come to it because of a fundamental lack of understanding.  For the Christian, injustice is often a deal breaker due to a significant lack of understanding that the Christian journey sets you apart from the world and anyone set apart from the world is no longer part of it.  Therefore, if you no longer socialise by binge drinking, getting drunk every weekend, having casual sex, misusing substances; or if you were never a part of that world, then don’t expect to be accepted by the players in that game.  Not only will they not want you to eat at the same table as them but they will victimise you, sometimes openly but more often subtly.  The workplace is fertile ground for this.  Your strategy is to expect it, armour up with the right spiritual tools, talk to the Lord about it, a lot, and let Him deal with it for you.

This does not mean you will not have to go through the struggles inherent in these situations because you must.  When a baby is learning to walk they will fall over many times.  A parent will try to catch them when it first starts happening, but they cannot stop this or prevent it otherwise the baby will never learn to walk. Many of us come to the Lord believing that everyone who is called has love in their hearts for God and for each other and that now they are in church all will be well and everyone will welcome them with open arms.  Unfortunately, this is not always the case.  The first few years in the life of a Christian is hugely important in much the same way as the first few years in the life of a baby.  A good start in a new life lays solid foundations and a bad start will hinder progress and cause unnecessary pain because the foundations are not solid.

Becoming a Christian is the first step on the journey.  Love started us on this journey and love will bring us through.  Often when relationships fail in life, you will hear people say ‘Love was not enough,’ and this belief is expressed in films and books again and again.  Whilst this statement is true to some extent it is not the whole story.  The truth is, “Our love is not enough but God’s love is more than enough and perfectly able to cope with anything we experience in life.”  We need to practice God’s unfailing, unconditional, unfathomable transcendent love.  Through it all things can be accomplished. You will find that place in you heart to forgive the injustice and move on.

It may seem a little strange when I say practice loving people, especially when they do evil things to you but that is the single most important factor that will keep you flowing in your calling to reach that beautiful destination.  Ask for help all the way, ‘Lord help me, I can’t do this on my own.’  The human being has the capacity to love for a life time, the real unconditional love which is God given.  When this gift starts flowing in your life you will be victorious in Christ.

 

Waiting on the Lord

I’ve asked the Lord for something for the past few years and He hasn’t answered. I’m fed up of waiting, how much longer is it going to take?


Waiting on the Lord is, oh so difficult for many Christians, because people are, oh so impatient.  We are spoilt we want it now and we want it our way.  But just as parents should teach and guide the child, so the Lord teaches and guides us.  Throwing a tantrum, kicking and screaming at the Lord doesn’t work, trying to force Him to bow down to you doesn’t work, slandering Him and declaring that He hasn’t given you what you wanted doesn’t work.  Love, patience, temperance, determination all characteristics of God and the Godly person and that works.

God exists outside of our time and space.  Our time ticks by slowly, while God’s is at a speed that we cannot comprehend.  The following scripture gives us some idea of how God’s timing transcends ours and why if we are waiting for an answer for a few years it seems like a life time to us, when in actual fact, it is but a few minutes to God.

2 Peter 3:8

… one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

So, our time and God’s time are literally worlds apart.   The table below gives rough calculations of the differences between our time and God’s time and do not take into consideration leap years or any other anomalies.

God          1 Day = 24 Hours

Man          1000 years = 365,000 days = 8,760,000 Hours

1 of God’s Hours would be approx 41.6 Years to us

1 minute to God would be approx 253.47 days to us

With these rough calculations, you can work out for yourself the equivalent of five or ten of our years in God’s time.  We are a demanding generation and as Christians we get very impatient when we ask God for something.  For some, a few months or a few years is too long to wait for an answer and they get frustrated, while others give up.  Working on this premise, Jesus left us approximately two thousand years ago and to us that is a very long time, but in God’s time it was approximately two days ago.

When you come to the Lord, don’t come with your personal agenda, forget your demands, what you want and when you think you should get it.  That mind-set is all wrong.  I recommend the following scripture to help you to change your mind-set and start dealing with your expectations when you come to the Lord:

Matthew 6:33

But seek you first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

Seek Him with all your heart, don’t worry about your list of demands and your timescales.  He knows why He called you and will provide you with everything you need for the journey.  Coming to the Lord and telling Him, you want to be a professional footballer or an actor, or expecting never to struggle financially or otherwise is a false reality that you have created for yourself.  Seek to know what God’s perfect will for your life is.  What if He didn’t create you for the purpose you crave, does it mean that He has failed you?  Absolutely not! it means you were determined to have your own way and as a Father, He said No!

Even when we understand this concept and decide to wait on the Lord, we can still become impatient and often not unsure what we should be doing during this time.  Do we have a time slipping back into our old ways, a time of partying, not bothering to worship with other church members, stop praying or fasting?  Most definitely not, quite the opposite!

This is the time to seek the Lord continuously, by praying and fasting, believing Him to take you through any struggles you are faced with, reading and studying the Bible with a passion.  It is this time of seeking and searching that confirms to the Lord that you really want to be with Him, it is a time you should connect with your personal praise and worship and put all your needs before the Lord, always remembering that He will do what is right for you.  The following scripture tells us that this is the time that the Lord will use to bless and strengthen us:

Isaiah 40:31

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

When you think it’s quiet, that is when everything is happening, but you can’t see or understand it until it hits.  Remember Daniel who was praying and waiting on the Lord with continuous prayer, not knowing that the messenger angel was fighting with top level demons over Persia, which prolonged his journey.  Then look what happened when Daniel received his answer, the angel appeared to him and explained what had happened.

Know that God hears you and will answer you, but you must learn to wait on Him to receive your blessings, not just the things you have asked for but the blessings that He has promised if you seek Him.

Recommended Reading: Daniel 10 (27th book in the Old Testament)

Tithes and Offerings

 

Should I pay tithes and offerings? Paying tithes comes under the Old Testament and we are now under the New Testament!

Giving to the Lord is a constant ‘bone of contention’ with many Christians disputing whether they should give tithes and offerings to the church or not.  Should they give one tenth, should they give everything, should they give what they can or give nothing at all!  The Old Testament tells us that Abraham gave tithes and that the people were commanded to give tithes to the priests who looked after the temple and prayed to God on their behalf.  The definition of ‘tithe,’ is one tenth of annual earnings, which was taken as a tax for the support of the Church and the Priests.  Through many generations people would pay one tenth of their earnings to the church and this would be used for its’ upkeep and maintenance and paying the clergy who was providing a service to the community, as this was their full-time job.

Many will say that one tenth of their earnings is too much, and all sorts of accusations is levelled at the church when people do not want to give anything to God.  There are many misconceptions that money will just appear from nowhere and the church will survive somehow.  The church does survive but money does not just fall from heaven.  The New Testament does not force any Old Testament laws onto the church today, but we should still have a willing heart to give to the work of the Lord.  Church buildings have mortgages and rents to pay, loans, maintenance requirements, tools and resources for services for the community and how are all these things provided for?  Someone has to give into the treasury in the first place.

When the first church came into being Jesus did not enforce any laws or instruct the Apostles as to what to do to raise funds for the church, neither did He rain down gold from heaven.  If we dissect this argument a little further, those who think one tenth is too much to give will definitely not like the solution that evolved naturally when the first church came into being which was to sell everything they had and give it to the church.  Throughout the Bible the Lord encourages us to give, to the house of God, to give to the poor to give to each other:

2 Corinthians 9:7-8

Every man according as he purposes in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loves a cheerful giver.  And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work:

The Bible tells us to give from our heart, not begrudgingly or because we want something in return and that God loves the person who gives cheerfully.  God is also saying that you will find favour in Him when you give and He will provide for you the things you need in life.  So, God is asking us to give what we decide and from our hearts but not to put a price on it and hold the Lord to ransom by deciding what we want in return for what we have given.  The following scripture confirms to us that Jesus wants us to give into the church:

Luke 21:1-4

And He looked up, and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury.  And He saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites.  And He said, Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow has cast in more than they all: For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury (poverty, pennilessness) has cast in all the living that she had.

Because the widow gave everything and from her heart this was pleasing to God and even though it was much less than what the others gave it was ALL that she had. God is not telling us how much to give and if we don’t have great amounts we should give what we can.  To Him it is worth as much or more than those who can afford the lavish elaborate gifts, not that there is anything wrong with those!

So the members of the very first church gave everything they had, this was not a commandment, it was not a law, it was a choice made from the heart. The first Christians, the widow and her two mites; gave all they had, and I don’t imagine that there are many people these days who would give all that they own.  And the Lord is not asking anyone to do this, His simple message is give willingly and from the heart into God’s treasury for the workings of the Ministry.  If you choose to give one tenth of your earnings do so, if you decide on another amount do so, if you choose to give what little you have or a lot that’s fine too, but do give into the working of God’s church to spread the Word of God to the corners of the earth.

Put Christ back in Christmas… Please!

 

christmas

The world seems to have removed Christ from His own celebrations and replaced Him with X, thrown Him out and brought in Mr X. So, what does this really mean for our Christmas celebrations? What are we really doing on the 25th of December each year? Let’s break it down a little! Christmas means a celebration of Christ. Christ is our Lord and Saviour and Mas means celebrations, it really is that simple and uncomplicated. My experience of X is that it is a letter but not much else. We also use it as a correction tool to cross out mistakes and replace them with the correct meaning. Knowing that X means absolutely nothing, it is reasonable to conclude that if we are celebrating Xmas we are in fact celebrating NOTHING!

Each year we spend millions and millions of hard earned monies, travel thousands of miles across oceans to unite with family and friends, give and receive gifts, rejoice and party in every sense of the word for… wait for it… NOTHING; as we are celebrating X! Whilst this is more than a little disturbing, it does make perfect sense that in a secular world, so far removed from God it would be impossible to celebrate Him without really knowing Him in the first place. Therefore, instead of getting to know Him, we have found a work-around, which is to hijack His celebrations, rename it and use it as an excuse to celebrate in a way dictated by ourselves and not by the real meaning of Christmas.

For everyone who knows Jesus or is curious to know Him and what He really represents, please don’t leave Him out of His own celebrations. We may not have the correct date and the celebrations may have been born out of pagan celebrations initially; but celebrating the fact that Jesus Christ came into our world to die for us is a very good thing. It was never a time to go out and party hard, drink until you are senseless, remembering nothing of the wonderful occasion, buy expensive presents for babies and children who cannot possible attribute any value to them, eat until we can barely breathe, then eat some more, complain about our increased weight over the ‘Xmas’ period, then pay to lose it in the New Year!! These are truly Xmas and not Christmas celebrations.

Christmas however, is a different matter altogether. It is a time for celebrating, remembering and meditating on God’s arrival as a man in the earth. Giving thanks and showing love to each other, but more importantly, helping people to understand who Jesus Christ is and why He came. Although the event should be remembered all year round we know how busy and ridiculously hectic life gets so it is good to put special time aside to enjoy this great, great occasion in the history of mankind. Unfortunately, it becomes increasingly difficult to pass this down through generations as it is now considered an offence to have nativity plays in schools ‘in-case we offend other religions by mentioning Jesus Christ,’ the bedrock on which our society was built on.

If we make it about expensive gifts we often cannot afford, getting into debt, doing everything in excess and regretting it in the New Year, the real meaning is lost. Showing God love for what He has done and continues to do and showing each other love in this age seems to be the most elusive gift of all that few can afford to give; yet it is completely FREE! Truth be told, the heart is very rarely involved in these practices often perpetuated through pressure, expectations and pride.

I don’t want to be outdone again!
I’ve got to step up my game this year!
I can’t really afford it but it will look bad if I don’t get them something!
If I don’t get her the latest version on the market she will think I don’t love her!
He got that last year so this year it has to be this!
One present is not enough!

How is the heart involved in any of the above reasons for giving? These are the pressures we put ourselves under when we take away the real meaning of Christmas and make it about Xmas. A few days’ holiday from work is always a good thing as rest was always in God’s plan for us. We were never created to be working ceaselessly, but this has become the norm; far removed from the days of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden.

Have a wonderful and blessed Christmas and try to remember not to remove Christ from His celebrations, but embrace Him and what He did for us, which is why we have these celebrations in the first place. Let ‘X’ remain where he is, crossed out and replaced by Christ, the true meaning of Christmas!

Have a blessed Christmas.