Friday, March 30, 2012

Do you aim to please people or God?

Or maybe a bit of both, but where you start (pleasing God before people or people before God) is important.  When it comes right down to it, if you will bow to the expectations of other people instead of doing what you know will please God, that's really bad.  It's not a good sign for you and it is doubtful that you are really a Christian.


It's good to want to please people, to serve them, to help them.  But what if they want you to do something bad?  Fit into the crowd, go along with the church leaders on pressure tactics for tithing strategy, buy some alcohol for underage drinkers, share that juicy piece of gossip, watch that dodgy TV show...  These things are not pleasing to God and you are compromising your witness to unbelievers by associating with them.


If you start your day praying something like the words below, you will have God behind you and you will be reminded of your number one priority for the day: Glorify your Saviour and Maker.  But remember that the fallen human is tricky too.  Check your motives because you might just try to get people against you so that a different group of people will see you being "persecuted" for the faith.  This is a different side of people pleasing which is just as evil.  Your motivation for any people pleasing should be love, and in this you will be pleasing God (if you love Him first).


"Lord, help me to keep my mind on you and your will.  Help me to please you this day by walking in your ways.  May my walk be a witness to your Glory and may I catch myself if I act to please people in a way that compromises my main purpose of sharing your glory.  Help me to believe that this is important and not just pray it so that I can say I prayed it.  Amen"


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Before and After: There will be obvious change

Someone loses a heap of weight, someone else begins a new exercise regime, another goes into rehab for drug and alcohol abuse.  These are all good changes to make in your life but they don't guarantee a spiritual change that comes with salvation.


Don't get me wrong, there will be obvious change.  The things I've mentioned above may be a part of that, symptoms if you like, but the change is not the individual actions so much as the attitude that leads to continual change for the better in the spiritual person's life.  


A percentage of people who pick up a self-help book will change as I described above.  The Christian difference is that it is not self-help, it is God-help.  He initiates it, He sustains it, He makes it happen and go on happening until you die or Jesus returns.


The obvious change will always include love.  And not the selfish love that is prevalent in single adults who sacrifice all of the great blessings of God to shape themselves after the latest self-help guru.  Spiritual love will embrace God's blessings (which often come as challenges) and will sacrifice selfishness to be changed by the Spirit.


Look for it and you will see it.  If it's not where you look, it is doubtful that the Spirit (and salvation) is present...


Sunday, March 25, 2012

Appreciate your suffering and trials

It's clear that the Christian will encounter difficult times in his or her life.  How we face these times, our attitude, is vital.


One person will shrink back, reluctant to feel the pain, or reluctant to be challenged in an uncomfortable manner.  Some trials involve the revealing of personal sin or character defects.  Nobody wants to face these really.  This sort of pain is far worse than physical suffering, which is why it is harder to submit to.


Another person will realise that such exposure is unavoidable - God sees all of your defects anyway.  This person will not only realise this obvious truth, but they will also embrace it, and the pain in confronting them self, so that they might overcome their flaws and grow to be a better person in Christ.  They will also approach trials and suffering as a chance to learn more about them self, again opening to see the reality about them self.


The Christian's path is always upward.  They don't seek pain and suffering for fun, but they do hope to change for the better every day, bringing glory to their Saviour.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Listening to others, really listening

There are two types of listeners.  They can be described in several different ways:


Those who listen, and those who really listen (properly)

Those who listen to themselves only, and those who listen to others

Those who love themselves, and those who love others

Those who wear you out, and those who build you up

Those who don't change much, and those who learn and grow and develop

Those who are selfish, and those who are selfless


In practice, we are all a bit of both types.  Some are more at one end of things than others but we all have room to improve.  I have three questions for you:

  1. Can you see how all of these things relate to being a good listener, and loving your neighbour?

  2. At which end of the spectrum do you want to be? (or, which is the more spiritual end?)

  3. Is the amount that you really listen to God (properly) reflected in how you listen to others?


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Worship God how He wants (not how you want)

Really, for the spiritual Christian, their desires line up with God's desires.  This means that they will want to worship how God wants them to worship.


But it's worth highlighting that there are many who would worship God in their own way.  I don't mean in an individual way, which of course we will do.  I mean that some prefer certain rituals, songs, candles, locations, etc.


This misses the point on a number of levels.  First, they fail to realise that worship is not an event that you schedule into your week.  Worship is an entire lifestyle with every decision reflecting the love that you have for your Saviour.  Second, for those who doggedly insist that these rituals are needed to get into the right frame of mind, they often are the same people who misunderstand what it means to be spiritual (to worship in the "spirit" part of worshipping in spirit and in truth).


The truth part is the truth about who God is, as revealed in his Word (the bible).  The spirit part is nothing to do with a demonstration of the gifts of the spirit.  The spirit part is the spiritual lifestyle modelled after Christ and showing much fruit of the spirit.  In these two things is the knowledge of how to worship God as He wants.  Don't be led astray from the simple, but hard to walk in, truth.


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Incline your ear, O LORD... Psalm 86

The spiritual Christian (and which Christian isn't?) will think about scripture enough to notice some strange things.  Here's an example from Psalm 86 verse 1 which reads:

"Incline your ear, O LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy."


We know that God is everywhere and that nothing at all escapes his observation, right down to our thoughts and intentions (which are often hidden from ourselves even).  So why then does he need to incline his ear, as though he is not listening always?


The answer is that he doesn't really need to incline his ear because it is already inclined.  God cannot un-incline his observation.  Instead, this is the psalmist (David) calling out from a human perspective.  He is really just asking that his prayer be heard and responded to.  He is calling on God to make his closeness felt to David.


God hears us, without a doubt.  God also loves us to draw near to him, not as if we can actually get closer to him physically (or he to us), but to incline our hearts to him in adoration of his majesty.  Sometimes we need to draw closer to God in our lives and sometimes we need him to make his closeness felt to us.  But never forget that he is already with you in all of his infinite greatness, and that no thought of a stray prayer will ever escape his notice.  


God is the perfect parent to His children - always there when they need him, and we are always in need of him.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Emotion vs(?) Reason: What is love? What is faith?

How does your faith survive when you don't feel it?  During these times are you no longer a Christian?  Do you have to feel it to really be saved?  How does this parallel marriage, and how marriages seem to end when the love evaporates?


There is a huge misconception running rampant in the world today.  It's about love.  Underneath this is the surprising assumption that we deserve to be loved.  Do we really?  And how do we love God?


People get divorced because they don't feel the love any more.  But this misses the essential aspect of love that is shared by the Christian faith towards God: "Commitment".  Love for a spouse requires commitment, even when you don't feel the pleasant feelings of love.  Love for God requires a commitment to the mental assertion that God exists and that He is who He says He is.  The feelings may come and go, but they follow the commitment.


So do we deserve to be loved?  If you properly understand the nature of sinful, fallen man then the only answer can be, "No way do we deserve this!" But knowing that you don't deserve to love or be loved should make your gratitude for love, and commitment to love, much stronger, so that it survives the lack of supportive emotion.


And there is no excuse for your marriage to fail due to a lack of love unless you have failed to love through commitment.  Likewise your faith.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Details awareness (again)

You can't consider details enough. Whether it's the finer points of scripture reporting attributes of God, aspects of your life which require long term strategy to sanctify, or details of your conversation technique of which even a momentary slip up can have eternal consequences. All of these details are important beyond our understanding.


Realise this though: you don't need to get it perfect for God to accomplish his will. He will ensure the outcome so relax just enough to maintain your sanity!


The process of becoming aware of details leads to the process of becoming better at controlling those aspects noticed. It takes years but is rewarding beyond all expectation.


It must also be noted that your success in this is dependent on the work of the Spirit in you. So pray for help and never stop.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Will you read carefully? (The devil is in the details)

Some people prefer to listen to the bible rather than read it.  Is this wrong?  I don't think so.  Many Christians through history did not have the written word but instead passed scripture along via word of mouth, or by listening to it from a priest.  


When the printing press came along it became easier to have a copy of the text.  The advantage of this is accuracy.  Instead of the potential for the word to degrade (like in a game of Chinese Whispers) there was a fixed and fair copy to refer to if there was any doubt over the words or meaning.


So what's important is actually detail.  Whether we listen to the Word or read the Word, we need to make sure that we are getting an accurate version into us.  It doesn't stop there though.  Where the details matter most is in how you engage with the text.  There is no point in having such a wonderful and perfect copy of the bible coming into your ears or eyes if you don't stop to notice the details of what God has to say to you.


The phrase "The devil is in the details" means that the catch, clause, or part that everything hangs on, is in the finer points.  In our case, the Devil can catch us out if we miss the important details.  So I urge you to engage your mind as you listen or read.  The spiritual person sees the importance of every word of God and will strive to conform their life to every detail.


Friday, March 2, 2012

Who is really spiritual? (When it comes right down to it)

We are called to examine ourselves to see whether we are really Christians.  Not every who calls Jesus Lord is a Christian.  Not even everyone who thinks they are a Christian is one.  That is one very important thing to remember.


Another thing to remember is that we are expected to carefully judge whether those close to us are really Christians (and encourage them to examine themselves if we think they might not be - but do it gracefully)


But... when it comes to the crunch, we can't tell whether someone who professes faith in a biblical Christ is definitely not saved.  It is not for us to judge (in ultimate terms anyway).  We can still refuse Christian fellowship with someone who is professes faith though they are unrepentant, but it is not our place to say definitively that they are not saved.


Only God can separate the wheat from the chaff.  The difference between wheat and chaff is the heart and intentions.  Even someone who appears totally outwardly spiritual could be a clever wolf or an empty piece of chaff, hiding alongside the true wheat.


Leave ultimate judgement up to God, but be wise with your decisions.  Especially about who you let to teach other believers.