Monday, February 28, 2011


“‘Meaningless! Meaningless!’ says the Teacher. ‘Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.’ What does man gain from all his labour at which he toils under the sun?” Ecclesiastes 1:2-3
Let me say upfront that Ecclesiastes is not my favourite book of the Bible. Yet it is there for a reason: it shows us the conclusion we come to if we ignore the fact that life goes on into eternity after we die.
If this life is all there is, then yes, life is meaningless and unfair. Solomon writes in this book about his pursuits of wisdom (1:12ff), pleasure (2:1-11), working (2:17ff), etc. and found that none of them endure after one dies. If a man builds a great business and makes lots of money, it goes as an inheritance to a child who may squander it all. What does it matter, Solomon argues, if a person is wise or foolish, righteous or unrighteous? Everyone dies in the end.
But here is where we need to have the right perspective. It does matter what we do in this life. One day there will be a judgement seat, and every person whose sins have not been judged at the cross of Jesus Christ, will have to stand before God and be judged. Murderers who got away with their crimes will not be able to escape this time. And for those of us who are in Christ, we will be rewarded for our work.
So next time you’re feeling like life is meaningless, take a step back and look at things from an eternal perspective.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Saying thank you

“One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked Him – and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, ‘Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?’” Luke 17:15-17
The account of the healing of the ten lepers is only given in Luke’s gospel. Jesus healed many lepers, and there was provision in the Law spelling out how they were to be cleansed by the priest, but in the entire Old Testament this lay dormant (the only leper healed in the Old Testament was Naaman, who was a Gentile; see 2 Kin. 5 and Luke 4:27). Leprosy is a symbol of sin: it numbs the nerves to its condition and eventually takes over the whole body. So it is most fitting that only Jesus was able to cleanse it.
You’d think that if you had been healed from an incurable disease, you would say thank you. Yet only one of the ten lepers bothered to do so, and he was not a full Jew but a Samaritan.
God expects to get the credit when He does something miraculous, but He doesn’t demand it. He appreciates it when we say ‘thank You’ and acknowledge His hand working in the situation. Let us not be people who neglect to thank God for what He does and what He has done in our lives.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Controlling your anger

“A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.” Proverbs 29:11
It’s not wrong to be angry. Jesus got angry with how obtuse the Pharisees were towards the things of God, and with those who were seeking to make a profit off people who simply wanted to worship God by selling things in the temple. So the sin is not in being angry. Rather, it’s what we do when we are angry, that can be sin – if we are angry for the wrong reason, or if we let it get out of control. Another point to note is that Jesus was never angry about what people did to or said about Him. He was only angry when people were being hindered from coming to God.
In the New Testament, we read, “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires” (Jas. 1:19-20). There is such a thing as righteous anger, which Jesus displayed, but when we get angry it can seldom be called ‘righteous anger’.
Every day, there will be something or someone that winds us up and gives us opportunity to vent our anger. But the wise thing to do is control it.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Heart attitude

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.” Psalm 51:17
God hasn’t changed from the Old Testament to the New. While He instituted the Old Testament sacrifices, these were as symbols and not because the blood of animals could actually cleanse anyone’s sin (Heb. 10:4). They were symbols of Christ who was to come, and also a visual reminder to the people how serious God takes sin: that it requires the shedding of blood (Heb. 9:22).
However, over time many people became callous to these things, the Pharisees being the prime example of those who prided themselves in keeping the ceremonial law down to a T, yet missed the whole point (Matt. 15:2-6, Matt. 23). They continued in sin, thinking, ‘Oh, I can just go to the temple and make an offering,’ without making any change in their heart or repenting. Jesus told the story of a Pharisee and a tax-collector (Luke 18:9-14), where the tax-collector received forgiveness because he repented, but the Pharisee did not.
Sadly, it is the same today in the body of Christ. God requires a change in our heart attitude towards repentance, not an outward action. No matter how many things we do, if we don’t repent in our hearts, it gains us nothing (see 1 Cor. 13:3). But if we do repent, God will forgive us every time (1 John 1:9). He will not despise us when our heart is broken over our sin.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

David's sin

“Against You, You only have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You are proved right when You speak and justified when You judge.” Psalm 51:4
This is an interesting verse. Psalm 51, as we know, is David’s psalm of repentance after he had committed adultery with Bathsheba and arranged for her husband Uriah to be killed, and had been confronted about it by the prophet Nathan (2 Sam. 11-12). But when it comes to acknowledging his sin, David says to God, “Against You, You only have I sinned”.
David realised that his sin was not just against Bathsheba, and it was not just against Uriah. But he had sinned against God – breaking two of the Ten Commandments (adultery and murder) – and he had forsaken Him in his position of king, being God’s instrument to lead the nation of Israel, a witness to the people.
The same is true when we sin against someone. Ultimately we are sinning against God. We need to repent and seek forgiveness both from God and from the other person. And like David, we may have to live with the consequences of that sin (although God is able to lessen their effect if we repent). When we realise just how bad our sin is in God’s sight, that is the driving force that leads us to repentance.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Receiving praise

“The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but man is tested by the praise he receives.” Proverbs 27:21
This is an interesting proverb. How do we respond to praise? The answer says a lot about us.
Do we expect to be praised? Jesus said if we do something with the motive to be seen by other people, when they praise us we have received our reward in full (Matt. 6:1-2, 5, 16).
Do we enjoy being praised? Do we think we deserve it? Does it puff us up? These are indications that we have not completely conquered our pride.
Do we brush it off when people praise us – perhaps even coming across to them as rude?
Or do we accept praise gracefully and acknowledge God? This is what Jesus sought to do. On several occasions in the gospels, we read of how when He healed people the people were amazed and glorified God because of it (e.g. Matt. 9:8, 15:31, Mark 2:12, Luke 7:16, 13:13, 18:43).
There is nothing wrong with people thanking you for doing something, or remarking that you did a good job. A simple ‘you’re welcome’ is appropriate. Turning to them and saying, ‘I know, aren’t I great?’ is not.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

To answer or not?

“Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself.
“Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.” Proverbs 26:4-5

On the surface these verses can appear confusing and contradictory. We are left asking the question, ‘So should I answer a fool according to his folly, or not?’ The answer is, it depends on the fool.
There are some people who are only ever looking for an argument or debate. They do not approach theological discussions with an open mind. Their goal is to humiliate those who believe in God, for entertainment and self-satisfaction. These are the people of whom Jesus said, “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces” (Matt. 7:6). We are not to waste our time, or the gospel truth, with these kinds of people.
Then there are other people who, while they may be misguided with regards to their views on God and spiritual things, do not have a completely closed mind. When someone says, “I don’t understand why God would allow babies to be born with severe deformities”, there may be opportunity there to help them understand. In these instances, we are to answer them using their own logic to show them their error. In the case of babies being born deformed, we can point out that deformities are a result of sin and the curse, that it is not God’s doing and that He loves that deformed baby all the same.
In the end, we need wisdom to know firstly whether to respond, and secondly how to respond.

Monday, February 21, 2011

A good reputation

“A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.” Proverbs 22:1
There are a few things in life that money can’t buy. One of them is a good reputation. A reputation is built from a life of consistency – either for good, or for bad. Someone might have a reputation as a thief, because they have a habit of stealing. Someone else might have a reputation for being honest, fair, and trustworthy, because those are the character traits that they consistently exhibit.
Reputations don’t change overnight. While sometimes people can have life-changing experiences that cause them to drastically alter their lifestyle – for example, they may be prone to driving recklessly, but when a close friend or family member dies in a car accident, they change their driving habits; or they may have a habit of partying hard and getting drunk, but after some ordeal involving a hospital stay they vow not to drink again – their reputation for being an irresponsible driver or a drunk will continue long after they have given that up. In those cases, how much better it is not to have such a negative reputation in the first place. However, if you have a bad reputation, it’s not too late to change that. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor. 5:17).

Sunday, February 20, 2011

God reigns

“God reigns over the nations; God is seated on His holy throne.” Psalm 47:8
There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind as to who has ultimate authority in the world. While Satan may be the prince of the world (John 12:31), God is the King. While Satan has the world in his clutches, he cannot do anything that God has not given him permission to do.
And God has established human authority in reigning over the nations. Paul wrote, “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God” (Rom. 13:1). This was in a time when the governing authority of his time and place – the Roman empire – was actively persecuting Christians. Yet Paul says, submit to them. Some of the laws may seem stupid to us, or annoying. For instance, speed limits on roads. We might be in a hurry to get somewhere, or there might be no other cars around. But the law says you can only go so fast in this area, and if you go faster and are caught you will have to pay a fine.
However, if our government demands that we do something contrary to the Word of God – such as will happen during the Tribulation, when everyone will be forced under penalty of death to worship the Antichrist – then we do not have to submit to that law. In that case, we are to submit to God’s higher authority. There aren’t many examples of this in our western society today, however. Our governments will give account for how they ruled over their people, with the authority God gave them. If they treated their citizens well, they will be blessed; if they were oppressive, they will be judged. All the same, we are to submit (except for the case above).

Saturday, February 19, 2011


“The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways, but the folly of fools is decption.” Proverbs 14:8
One thing we should all do more of, is thinking about the consequences of our actions or our words before we do or say them. True wisdom is not about saying profound things, but rather it’s having the sense when to speak and when to hold your tongue. The same thing goes for our actions, which, like our words, are impossible to undo. We might be able to cover them up, if we’ve done something in private, but we still know we’ve done them and that God has seen us do them.
One example about where we should think about the consequences is when we deceive people. We’ve all heard the story of the boy who cried wolf: he did so to seek attention from others, and people came to the point where they would ignore him. But on the day that there really was a wolf, they also didn’t listen to him, with tragic consequences. If we go around deceiving people, it might work in the short term and we will gain the attention we are seeking, but we will also gain a reputation of being a liar and a deceiver. Ultimately, we will lose our friends and no-one will trust us. Is it really worth it? Think about the consequences.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The key to knowledge

“Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering.” Luke 11:52
This verse is similar to Matt. 23:13, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.” In this verse in Luke, Jesus announces woe on them because not only have they shut the door to the kingdom of heaven, but they have thrown away the key.
The teachers of the law had a responsibility to teach the people about the coming of Messiah. They, more than anyone else, should have recognised Jesus for Who He was. But not only did they fail to recognise Him as Messiah, but they openly denounced and rejected Him, and forced others to do the same (c.f. John 9:22, John 12:42).
In the Old Testament, we read, “He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure” (Isa. 33:6). This is another thing the Pharisees and teachers of the law had lost – the fear of the Lord. They were willing to conspire to murder Jesus, in order to maintain the status quo with themselves at the top of the heap.
The message is still the same to us today. We can find ourselves placing restrictions on people – ‘You can’t wear jeans to church’, or ‘you shouldn’t go shopping on Sundays’, or ‘you can’t be a Christian if you smoke.’ The Bible doesn’t say anything about any of these. It’s not up to us to judge the jeans-wearing, smoking, Sunday shoppers concerning their own liberties. Let us not be guilty of hindering people from entering the kingdom.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

God is near

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1
Isn’t it comforting to know that wherever we go, and whatever situation we find ourselves in, God is right there? And not only is He there, but He knows exactly what is going on – both to us, and inside us. God isn’t only close to us when we are thinking about Him, or when we are in trouble, but He is ‘ever-present’.
This is reminiscent of the message that both John the Baptist and Jesus preached in the first few years of their ministries: “The kingdom of God is near.” While many assume that they were speaking of how the time was at hand when Messiah would bring salvation to the world through his substitutionary death, the word ‘near’ can mean close by in space, not only in time.
“...the righteousness that is by faith says: ‘Do not say in your heart, Who will ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down) or, Who will descend into the deep?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? ‘The Word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,’ that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming” (Rom. 10:6-8).
God hasn’t made things difficult for man to find Him. Remember, He came to us, to our world, to live among us and show us the way. “God did this so that men would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:27).

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Walking with the wise

“He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.” Proverbs 13:20
It’s no surprise that we become like those we spend time with. Their mannerisms rub off onto you, their values and priorities. This is all fine and well if those values and priorities are good and Biblical, but what if they are not?
I’ve found there are two extremes in the Christian world today with regards to making friends and choosing who to spend time with. Some Christians do all their socialising at church. All their friends are Christians, and they choose to come into contact with non-Christians as little as possible.
Then there are those on the other extreme, who spend as little time at church as possible (usually because of ‘the weird Christians’ there) and have a plethora of friends who aren’t Christians. For sure, some people who do this do it sincerely hoping that they can be a witness to their non-Christian friends, and some befriend people for the sole purpose of witnessing to them. That becomes difficult when the person being befriended states in no uncertain terms that they are not interested – but that’s another issue.
We need a balance between these. According to this proverb, if we want to grow wise, we should be spending more time with those who are wise – those who fear God (Prov. 9:10). We shouldn’t refrain from talking to people who aren’t Christians, but realise if you seek counsel from them, it will not be from a Biblical viewpoint. We need to choose our friends carefully.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


“The Lord detests lying lips, but He delights in men who are truthful.” Proverbs 12:22
God places a high value on honesty, and He hates it when we lie and deceive. In fact, lying is mentioned twice in the list in Prov. 6:16-19 of the things God hates. When we lie and deceive, we are doing the work of Satan – who is called the father of lies (John 8:44). It doesn’t matter how big or small the lie is, nor does it matter if it is a denial or an exaggeration – it is a lie and God hates it.
Lies will always catch up with us. Have you noticed, how if you tell a lie about something, you have to consciously remember it and who you’ve told it to? Then you need to tell more lies to keep the story consistent – and remember all of those and who you’ve told them to? It really is easier to just tell the truth right from the start. Sooner or later, your lies will be exposed, and when that happens, your credibility and your Christian witness will take a hit.
God doesn’t want us going around deceiving people. He wants us to be above all that, to be people of integrity. It’s not too late to change. Just look at Jacob – his very name means ‘heel-catcher’, or ‘deceiver’. But God took hold of him and gave him a new name, Israel, meaning ‘prince with God’. He can do the same for you too.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Giving the benefit of the doubt

“A fool shows his annoyance at once, but a prudent man overlooks an insult.” Proverbs 12:16
Some of us have difficulty keeping our temper. We look at the list of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23) and see ‘patience’ and ‘self-control’ and think, I could do with some of that! As we’ve already seen in other proverbs, holding your tongue is the wise thing to do in pretty much every situation. Every day, we will get annoyed at someone, even if we don’t leave the house. The key is not to vent that annoyance immediately. First, we should give the other person the benefit of the doubt. They may not have meant to be offensive. They may have been trying to make a joke, but not been on your wavelength. Or, they may have been talking about a general situation, and you interpreted it as them complaining about you specifically.
Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we don’t need to give in to what the flesh wants to do, getting angry, shouting, and generally throwing a tantrum because you think someone is being rude to you. Instead, we can have self-control, wait for the person to finish what they’re saying – and then, if they are being rude, to respond in grace and gentleness.
The children’s saying, ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones but names can never hurt me’, we all know is not true. But how much hurt those names cause us, is up to us – how much we hold onto them and let them fester inside us. So always give people the benefit of the doubt, and then respond as Jesus would have.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Service or devotion

“‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’” Luke 10:41-42
Mary and Martha were two sisters, who lived in Bethany with their brother Lazarus (whom Jesus raised from the dead). Jesus and His disciples often stayed with them when they were visiting Jerusalem, as it was not far away. But these two sisters could not have been more different in character.
In Luke 10, we read how Martha was busy fussing over the visitors, preparing food and making room in their house. Meanwhile, Mary was sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening to what He had to say. Naturally, Martha got upset that Mary wasn’t helping her.
Sometimes it’s easy for us to get so busy serving the Lord that we fail to take time to just sit and listen to Him. Our schedules are packed with preparing things for church – maybe teaching Sunday school or leading a home group – that we feel like we don’t have time to just sit in God’s presence, be still, and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to us. If we only concern ourselves with service to the Lord, without spending devotional time with Him, we will get burnt out and bitter about the work. But as we spend time just sitting listening to Him, He will soften our hearts and fill us with His Spirit – which will never be taken away from us.
We don’t need to choose between service and devotion – it’s not a case of one or the other. But we do need to put them in the correct priority order.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Knowing God

“All things have been committed to My by My Father. No-one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no-one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him.” Luke 10:22
Many people today claim to know God. But many also deny that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that He is God the Son. Anyone who says that Jesus is a prophet but not God, or a good teacher but not God, or a good example for us but not God, is denying this truth that is central to the Christian faith. There are many other religions and cults that fall into this category. In the words of Jesus Himself here, no-one can know God if they deny Jesus Christ. If they truly know God the Father, then they will know God the Son. There is no half-way house here.
The apostle John tells us, “If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God” (1 John 4:15), and “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:12).
There are some doctrinal issues that we can – and should – agree to disagree on, because they are not essential for salvation. Things like the timing of the rapture; whether it’s ok for Christians to watch TV or go to movies; drinking alcohol and eating pork; whether tithing is still appropriate; what really happened with the Nephilim – none of these are central to salvation. But the confession of Jesus Christ as God is not something we can agree to disagree on.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Pigs and gold rings

“Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion.” Proverbs 11:22
In this proverb, two unlikely things are contrasted: a pig, and a beautiful woman. This is not saying that a beautiful woman who shows no discretion is like a pig – let’s read the proverb again. It says that she is like a gold ring in the pig’s snout.
Gold is still highly valued today as a precious metal. But would you take a gold ring from a pig’s snout and use it as a piece of jewellery for yourself? You would always be reminded of where it had come from, where it had been. To a Jew, that gold ring would be particularly unclean and unfit for any other use. In other words, the pig makes the gold unclean, even though ordinarily the gold would have been of high value.
So too with a beautiful woman who shows no discretion. Ordinarily, she would be of high value. But because she has sold herself out to wallowing in the mud, her beauty is tainted and worthless.
All women should show discretion, not just the beautiful ones. Indeed, true beauty is on the inside: “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewellery and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight” (1 Pet. 3:3-4). Let’s not take that beauty and use it for something that is unclean.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

When wealth is worthless

“Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.” Proverbs 11:4
We are told by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matt. 6:19-20). Wealth is perhaps the primary driver behind our society. Everyone seems to want to get as much as they can, in pursuit of happiness, security, and self-worth. But this pursuit is futile: to be truly happy it seems to require just a little bit more than what you presently have.
Ultimately, in the Tribulation, wealth will be useless. Nobody will be able to buy or sell without the mark of the beast, so all the stashes of gold that people have laid up will be worthless. Not that having great wealth will save you from the plagues of the Tribulation anyway. Rich and poor alike will face the judgement of God in those days. The only thing of value will be righteousness, because committing yourself to Christ and living a righteous life now will spare you from the wrath that is to come. Again we turn to the words of Jesus: “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matt. 6:33). What are you putting your trust in?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Hold your tongue

“When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.” Proverbs 10:19
I’ll freely admit that I talk too much. And, I don’t remember most of the things that I say. I remember a school assignment we had once: to make a record of the conversations we had that day – who with, when, what about, for how long. It’s harder than it sounds – despite carrying a notebook with me everywhere, I had to make three attempts at keeping a record of every conversation in this way.
There is another proverb that says, “Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue” (Prov. 17:28). When I think about it, most of what I say is completely unnecessary. And sometimes it comes back to bite me – spilling secrets and talking about other people are often inevitable if you don’t keep a tight reign on your tongue, and sooner or later you’ll say it to completely the wrong person.
James had much to say about this: “All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison” (Jas. 3:7-8), and “We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check” (Jas. 3:2).
Maybe today it’s time to take stock of how much we talk. You can’t take words back once you’ve said them. Think: is it really necessary to say this? What will, or could, the consequences be?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Stirring and covering

“Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs.” Proverbs 10:12
This is a contrastive proverb, where two opposite things are contrasted. Let’s take the two lines one at a time.
First, hatred stirs up dissension. That is, when there was no dissension to start with. Have you noticed that if you don’t like someone, you will look for any little flaw or fault so that you can point at it and say, ‘That’s why I don’t like them!’ Hatred towards people wants to start an argument so that the hatred is justified – when there was no cause for the argument at all. We need to be careful that we aren’t doing these things, because the Bible tells us that hatred towards someone is equivalent to committing murder (1 John 3:15).
In contrast, we have the second line: love covers over all wrongs. Hatred stirs up dissension when there was no wrong; love covers over when there is. Love doesn’t just refrain from stirring up dissension, it is active in covering it. Love is the primary fruit of the Holy Spirit working in the life of a believer. Do you find it easy to be a peacemaker? We are supposed to become more and more peaceable as we grow in the Lord (Matt. 5:9). Our lives are so short, we shouldn’t spend our time making enemies. This is reiterated in the New Testament: “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Pet. 4:8). Love doesn’t ignore the sin, but it seeks to cover – just as Shem and Japheth covered their father Noah as he lay in his tent in a position of compromise (Gen. 9:21-23). We cover the person to protect them from attack, while they sort things out.

Monday, February 7, 2011

A daily walk

“Then He said to them all: ‘If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.’” Luke 9:23
We read in other versions of this passage (Matt. 16:24, Mark 8:34) about taking up our cross, counting the cost to follow Jesus. Luke adds a small but profound word to this: ‘daily’.
Taking up our cross is not referring to that initial decision we made to follow Jesus, be it 20 minutes, 20 days, or 20 years ago. We also need to understand what the phrase meant in that culture. The only people you would see carrying crosses were those who had been condemned to die by crucifixion. Not everybody was executed in this way, but only the worst offenders – murderers, thieves, insurgents. They would be forced to carry their cross through the city to the crucifixion site.
In our day, the symbol of the cross has become sterilised. If we were to replace it with a mental image of, say, an electric chair, we might get a bit closer to understanding how shocking it would have been for the disciples to hear Jesus talking about carrying their cross to follow Him. Taking up the cross automatically places you in a position of submission, humilitation, and condemnation. It is not something that can be done in secret, but it is very public. And Jesus tells us we are to do it every day. What does this mean for us? Every day, we must make a conscious decision to lay down our own desires, the things that the flesh would have us prioritise, and follow Jesus – even if that means public ridicule and disgrace. Jesus doesn’t want half-hearted followers. He wants us to be committed.

Sunday, February 6, 2011


“Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him.” Luke 8:18
We all need to consider how we listen to, and how we respond to the gospel message. We may have heard it many times before, perhaps every week in church as the altar call goes out. This is not just a message to those who acknowledge they are not Christians. It is also a message to those inside the church.
There are some people to whom this applies. Don’t dismiss the gospel, thinking that you are already saved by works, or because your parents are Christians, or because you went to Sunday school as a child. Have you made a personal decision to accept Jesus Christ as your Saviour? If not, then what you think you have – eternal spiritual security – will be taken from you.
If we have come to faith in Christ as our Saviour, we also still need to listen carefully to the Word of God, because then we will be given more: more insight and understanding, so that we become mature.
How do you respond to the Word of God, and the gospel, being preached? Are you blase about it, thinking you’ve heard it all before so you don’t need to listen? Or do you accept it and seek to be taught new insights from the Holy Spirit?

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Guard your heart

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” Proverbs 4:23
It’s very easy to let ourselves become desensitised to sin. All you need to do is leave the TV on, look at magazine racks, watch music videos, continue listening to lewd conversations when they come up at work, etc. How many times did you hear the name of God or Jesus being used as a curse word this week? Or does it not bother you any more? Even worse, do you find yourself doing the same things?
All of these, and you can think of others, are examples of how we are becoming more accepting of sin, personally and as a society. In a society where homosexuality is not only tolerated, but celebrated and promoted; where adultery is the theme behind most of our TV programming and movies, where violence is prevalent in video games, where music videos are becoming increasingly pornographic – it’s hard to maintain innocence in the way that God would have us do. We are to be innocent of evil (Rom. 16:19). Think about this: it’s impossible to go back, once you have lost innocence.
It’s a tragic thing when our hearts become hardened and numbed to sin. We tolerate it because society tells us to. But then we fail to see the devastating effects it can have on us, and we start to indulge it ourselves. Just as we eat well to look after our physical heart, we should take even more care of our spiritual heart.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Love and faithfulness

“Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favour and a good name in the sight of God and man.” Proverbs 3:3-4
Love and faithfulness are listed here as being two particularly desirable character traits. Love, for God and for others, means being kind and doing for them what you would have them do for you. Faithfulness is being loyal and trustworthy. Together, they spell integrity. A person of integrity, who keeps their promises and always does what is right, will gain favour with both God and man.
People might mock you for being a Christian, but they will respect you for being consistent. What the world really can’t tolerate is people who say they are Christians and then do un-Christian things: lying, defrauding, gossipping, cheating, etc. But if you are known for being reliable, you will gain people’s trust. Once you gain their trust, they are more likely to listen to what you say concerning the gospel and salvation.
Our first priority is to have integrity before God. Ultimately, His opinion of us is the only one that matters. But there will be flow-on effects in that the people around us notice too.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Greater than John

“I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” Luke 7:28
Jesus uttered these words after John the Baptist’s messengers had left. This is a verse that confuses many people, because it looks like a complete contradiction. How can John be the greatest man ever born, and yet be less than the least of those in the kingdom of God?
The important thing to note is those four words: “in the kingdom of God”. The kingdom is a new group of people, of which John was not a part. He was the last prophet of the Old Testament and the old dispensation (Matt. 11:13). Once Messiah came, then the kingdom of God was established in the hearts of believers.
So how is it that the least of the NT believers is greater than the greatest of the OT believers? Because we now have direct communion with God through the Holy Spirit indwelling us, which will never be taken away. Think of the great men of faith in the Old Testament: David, Abraham, the prophets. Although they had periods of communion with God, it was not always the case. It was David who wrote, “Do not cast me from Your presence or take Your Holy Spirit from me” (Ps. 51:11) – something that the Christian does not need to fear. The Holy Spirit will never be taken from us: He is our guarantee of salvation (Eph. 1:13-14). We have a unique relationship with God now, that the OT saints yearned for. “God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect” (Heb. 11:40).

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The messengers

“So He replied to the messengers, ‘Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of Me.’” Luke 7:22-23
John the Baptist had been put in prison by Herod for speaking out against him taking his sister-in-law to be his wife. While he was there, he heard of what Jesus was doing and sent messengers to ask Him, “Are You the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Luke 7:19).
This shows that John had a lapse of faith while he was in prison. Like many others, he expected Jesus to overthrow the Romans and establish His kingdom there and then. He knew that Jesus was the Messiah (see John 1:34), but he is effectively asking Jesus, ‘When are You going to get the show on the road?’
The verses above are interesting. While John’s messengers were there, Jesus was doing all these things – giving sight to the blind, causing the lame to walk, healing those who had leprosy, making those who were deaf to hear, raising the dead, and preaching the good news to the poor. They saw Him do all these. Jesus tells them, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard.” The miracles are proof that Jesus has authority to preach the message He is preaching. Then Jesus gives a mild rebuke: “Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of Me” – or, on account of what I am doing.
Jesus knew what He was doing. He wasn’t about to change His timetable to fit in with anyone else’s expectations.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

From death to life

“When the Lord saw [the widow], His heart went out to her and He said, ‘Don’t cry.’
“Then He went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, ‘Young man, I say to you, get up!’” Luke 7:13-14

It’s interesting to note a few things about each time Jesus raised people from the dead. There are three people whom He raised: this widow’s son, Jairus’ daughter, and Lazarus. (There was also Himself and the saints who came out of the tombs (Matt. 27:52), but He did not speak to them directly.) There are many others He could have raised, but only these are recorded for us.
There is a reason these three people were raised. Jesus didn’t raise them for their own sake – indeed, we know that believers who die are far better off where they are, than to be raised to life on this earth again and die again later. But particularly in the case of this man, Jesus raised him for his mother’s sake. She was a widow, and he was her only son. In that society, it would have meant a life of destitution for her, since there was no social welfare system and women were considered of little value. By raising her son from the dead, Jesus gave life and hope to her situation.
The case is also true for Lazarus. He lived with his two sisters, Martha and Mary and was presumably the breadwinner in the family. The daughter of Jairus, the synagogue leader, was raised to alleviate the family’s suffering.
These were all foretastes of the power of the kingdom of God. Jesus demonstrated that He had the power over death – and not only physical death, but spiritual death also. That power is available to us today. This is why Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life” (John 5:24).