Monthly Archives: December 2013

Not Entirely True

Jesus picI think all of us on social media are inundated with these pictures that circulate, trying to either make us laugh or think. There are so many ‘Christian’ ones, and I put the word Christian in inverted commas because some of them are just not biblical. This one pictured here was up on facebook and it caught my eye. The author here is probably trying to break people’s perception of Jesus, which I don’t disagree with, however they are just creating a new one for Him. Also, if you want to make such bold statements in such a short passage, you need to be careful, because some of what he has written here is either wrong, or misunderstood (by me). I am going to go through some of the statements here and show you why I say this. Now, just for the record, I hadn’t heard of John Fugelsang until today, and quite honestly I don’t know if he is a Christian or not, but the point is what is written on the picture and what we take from it. I have no issue with John, I just want to show you the importance of not believing everything on social media, regardless of the source.

Firstly, Jesus wasn’t American and never spoke English. What has this go to do with anything? To my knowledge no-one has ever claimed that he was and, if they have, they really need to read the Bible.

Jesus was “anti-wealth”. What? Where does it say that? I know, I can hear you scurrying over to your Bibles, looking up the passage about the rich young ruler who wouldn’t give up his wealth to follow Jesus. If you think that God is anti-wealth from that, then we should also assume that God is anti-children. Yes, you read that correctly. Do you think that that is outrageous? So do I… let me explain. God told Abraham to trust Him and sacrifice his son. Does that mean that God dislikes children? No! We’ll all say that God supplied Abraham with a scapegoat (literally) because He didn’t want Abraham to kill his son, He just wanted to know that Abraham put obedience ahead of his son’s life, which he did. If that is true (which I believe it is), could Jesus not have been doing the same thing with the rich young ruler? Unfortunately we don’t know, because the guy failed the test, as money was more important to him than following Jesus. If God is so anti-wealth, why did He bless David, Solomon, Lot and Job (to name a few) with so much? The LOVE of money is A root of all kinds of evil, not money.

Jesus was “anti-death penalty and torture”. Yes, he probably was, but He himself was tortured and killed, yet He never spoke out about it. He actually warned the others that they may have to endure it too. We need to be careful when we claim that Jesus was anti certain things, unless He came out and said it outright. I’m not saying He wanted it, I’m just saying that He didn’t oppose it outright. Jesus never said anything about abortion. Maybe, but He never said anything about facebook either. Just because He didn’t say anything about abortion specifically, doesn’t mean that He didn’t oppose it. Besides, the picture states that He was ‘anti-death penalty’, so is that any worse than abortion? We shouldn’t kill murderers, but we can kill babies? If someone kills their baby 5 minutes after he/she is born, we label them a killer (rightly so), but yet if we kill them before they pass through the birth canal, that is ok? Anyway, this is another discussion, I just find being anti-death penalty but pro-abortion a little contradictory.

Jesus was “anti-public prayer”. He quotes Matthew 6:5 here. If I told you that I once shot a man in the head (I didn’t, relax), you’ll be shocked and horrified and call me a murderer. Then, if you found out that this man was being burned alive and I shot him to end the pain and torture, because I wasn’t close enough to help, you’d label me a hero. The act was exactly the same in both instances, so how can I go from murderer to hero? My motives changed. The same is true here. Jesus is more concerned with WHY they are standing on the street corner praying, that He is with where they are praying. I agree that prayer is a personal act (like it says in the verses following Matthew 6:5) designed to help you grow in Christ, and should be done in private (like Jesus did). There is no issue with praying in agreement with other believers, while in the same venue.

The last point that I would like to make from that is the one about Jesus not being anti-gay. This old chestnut. I know that this is a very contentious issue today, everyone is so sensitive about it, whatever you believe. All I’ll say is that Jesus doesn’t hate anyone, so to say that He hates gays is an absolute lie. God does make His views on homosexuality pretty clear. It is a hate the game not the player kind of deal. I hate lying, but I don’t hate liars. If I did, I wouldn’t have anyone left to love, especially if I include exaggeration. To imply that Jesus hates gays or that He promotes homosexuality (the act, not the people) is risky as I don’t believe either of them are true.

So why did I write this article? To push my political agenda? No. I just want to show people that however ‘nice’ or ‘Christian’ a post seems, it always needs to be sifted through the Scriptures. Even what I write in my blog, I trust that people go and compare this to Scripture and if I get it wrong I would expect you to disregard it.

Be careful what you read (and post) on social media.

Much love.

Richard

Survival of the Fittest

Growing up in South Africa and having animal-loving parents, I have been very privileged to have gone to plenty of game parks, and seen many wild animals. I have also seen various kills (where one animal kills another for food), lions, wild dogs, cheetahs and even an eagle, I have seen them all kill prey. The lion kill was very interesting. The lions split up, singled out a weak individual, separated them from the herd, and ambushed the poor impala. So what has this got to do with Christianity? Glad you asked.

The bible says that the devil roams around like a lion, 1 Peter 5:8. He ‘hunts’ in the same way as a lion does. He’ll try and separate you from the herd, single you out and then ambush. So how does he do this? Well, there are a few ways but one in particular that seems to be fairly common is to try and convince you that you are the only one who falls short. Remember, the devil has very little real power, all he really has is deceit, lies and illusions. He’ll try and convince you that you are all alone in your sin, he’ll try and tell you that everyone else is living the perfect Christian life and you get it wrong. He’ll try and convince you that you are not worthy to come before God.

This is the very time when we need the herd. This is when we should come together with our Christian friends and let them know what we are thinking. Let them come around us and reassure us, pray for us, share with us. When we realise that all have sinned, and that there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus, the devil loses his power over us! How many times have you dished out advice, and then later on have someone give you the exact same advice back? I do it all of the time. We know what is right and wrong, we know what to do, but the devil gets into our heads and confuses us. This is his number one weapon. Coming together, sharing what we are going through and helping each other out, is what takes the advantage from the devil and gives it straight back to us.

I know what some of you are thinking, yes but then people judge you. Please read the post entitled ‘Judgement Day of Golf‘ for more about this. I know sometimes people try and bring you down, but try and surround yourself with people who actually want to help, and then let them. You can always think more clearly when you are not emotionally involved in a situation, if you trust your friends, their advice for you is probably better than your own advice!

It is not only our responsibility to rely on the herd. We need to be strong, the lions are always after the weak, the strong put up too much fight. Yes, if we are strong, it makes us more of a target for the devil, but the bible says that if we resist him he will flee. We need to be strong to do this. What do I mean by strong? Another good question. I mean read your bible. Pray. Spend time with God. All of these 3 bits of advice will make you stronger. When Jesus was tempted by the devil He rebuked him using scripture, if we don’t know the scripture how can we rebuke the devil? Also, the devil used scripture to try and confuse Jesus. Reading the scripture is not good enough, the devil knows it all, the question is do we understand it? Do we know how it impacts us? We need to be able to use scripture, in context, as a weapon against evil. We also need to use our gifts (I have written a few posts about this) and call on the power of God to manifest in our lives as and when we need it. All of this will make us strong and help us to resist the devil and take ground.

Don’t be an easy target.

Richard

Not So Basic Training

I was meeting with a group of guys and we started comparing a spiritual walk with being in the army. Like Paul spoke about the spiritual armour of God, and gave illustrations of a Roman soldier, we looked at a spiritual battle much like a war. The bible says that we are here to fight a battle, not against flesh and blood, but a battle non the less. We are here to fight evil wherever we may find it, and whatever form it takes. (Just remember, we are here to fight the sin, not the sinner). There are a few things that we can learn from the army in our spiritual walk.

Firstly, we all have specific functions. In the army you’ll have soldiers, snipers, engineers, bomb specialists and special forces just to name a few. This doesn’t even include the navy or the air-force. They all have a specific role, but all of those roles come together to help each other out and to win the war. This is the same when it comes to spiritual gifts, we all have them and we bring them together to help each other out and to have a combined unit that can win the battle. As the soldiers do, we need to train to develop our skills/gifts so that we can use them to the best of our ability when we are called on by God. Don’t get me wrong, the gifts are from God and done in His strength, but we need to practise them to tune ourselves to use them better.

Secondly, we need the ‘basic’ training. I was watching a military type movie this last week, when there was a young soldier in battle for the first time who was panicking. The young man looked to his CO and the CO told him to calm down and rely on his training. He was trained for this very instance, so when he was in the fight, he relied on what he was taught. He didn’t need to think about it. We should be the same, although I will hold my hand up and say that I need to ‘train’ more. Our training is spending time with God, reading scripture, and most of all praying. Praying is not for God’s benefit, but ours. It is there to get us ready, to tune our hearts to the heart of God, it is there to prepare us for battle. It is also there so that we can ask God to go before us and soften the targets for us, open people’s hearts to His word. Jesus was never caught off guard when He was out doing ministry. He never called the disciples over for a prayer meeting when someone was sick, He just dealt with it. How could He do that? He spent ages in prayer, He spent the time preparing for His ministry before He went into battle. When He was in battle, He didn’t have to think, He just relied on His training (time spent with the Father).

Thirdly, the soldiers have the tools to help. We do too, but we often don’t use them. Paul even explained them to us using a soldier as a visual aid. Look at the spiritual armour of God, Ephesians 6:10-18, I don’t need to list them again. You would not expect a soldier top go into battle without any gear, so why do you try and go out into battle without the armour of God? Make a conscious effort to make sure that you are covered by this armour. It will save your life and keep you in the fight.

Fourthly, and lastly, soldiers work together. Even the most elite special forces, always go out in pairs on missions. 6 soldiers together are more than 6 times better that 6 individual soldiers scattered around. Not only are they better, but they can take on missions much bigger than they could on their own. We as Christians should remember this. When going out into battle, make sure that we are accountable to someone. There is a reason why we work in pairs. Look at any significant individual in the New Testament, they all went out in pairs (at least), even Jesus had disciples. Meeting with other like-minded Christians can help you strengthen each other and yourself, and you can learn from each other. The other side of this is camaraderie. Look at how close soldiers are when they have served together. Like brothers. Doing ministry with people will do this too, and that closeness will help all parties concerned.

I hope that this encourages you to get yourself kitted out and head into battle!

Oorah!

Richard

Prisoner with a Key

This morning I listened to a sermon about spiritual gifts in the church and the fact that we all have them. The preacher told us that we all have a part to play, and that we need to embrace our gifting in order accomplish what God has called us to do. This was a sermon that was particularly close to my heart, as I love to see people discover their gifts and start to use them.

I saw a picture, before the sermon, of a ship that was breaking the ice. A strong ship that is sent out to break the ice so that the smaller ships can pass through unscathed. This is what God is calling us all to do with our gifts. When we use our gifts, they encourage and bless others as well as ourselves. We can never use up our gifts, in fact the more we use them, the stronger they become!

Unfortunately, there was another picture too, this one not so positive. I saw a picture of a person in a prison cell, locked away from using their gifts. The thing about the person in the cell, was that they had the key. Yes, locked in a cell with the cell key. Sounds wrong but that is what I saw. I think that this picture refers to a lot of Christians who stop themselves from discovering their gifts, although they are desperate to have a gift and use it. Let me explain.

I would never have discovered that I have the gift of prophesy if I never decided to give the first word. I had never even considered it until I was asked if I had ever given a prophetic word before. When I said that I hadn’t, I was asked to give one. I could have run away at that point, or made some excuses, or said that I couldn’t, but I didn’t. I gave it a go. The person who I gave the word to said that it rang true with them and that they were blessed by it! I was thrilled! Since then I have given hundreds of words, and I know that it is a gift from God for me to bless others but I get blessed too just by using it! This is what God does, everyone is blessed if we listen to God and be obedient.

These gifts take practise, they don’t just happen over night. David Beckham didn’t wake up one morning and discover that he could take an amazing free kick, that took years of practise (combined with a natural talent). Now the natural talent part is like the gift, but we still have to provide the practise part. If you never try and kick a ball, how will you know if you can or not? It is the same with spiritual gifts, if you never try, how do you know if you can?

Some of us sit in our prison cells looking out at others who are practising their gifts, and wonder when we will get to practise ours. Meanwhile, we have the key in our hands. Unlock the door, open it and give it a go! People say that they can’t use their gift because they don’t know what it is. Well, either do a spiritual gifts test to see what yours is, or try them all. Parents tend to sign their kids up for just about every sport and extra curricular event in order to find out what they enjoy and are good at. Why don’t we do the same for ourselves with our spiritual lives? Give them all a try, see what you are passionate about and what you seem to be good at. That will help you to establish where your gifting lies.

As much as I love to minister to people, I don’t ever want to be selfish with my gifts. I want to see us all walking in the Spirit and using our gifts to the maximum, imagine what we could accomplish! In the business world people often tend to keep skills to themselves in order to have the edge. One thing I love about the Kingdom of God is that it works just the opposite to that. Give it away and you will never be without!

Get out of your cell, find your gift, and get going!

Richard

Benefit of Obedience

I heard a sermon about Jonah. It covered the whole book of Jonah and was a really interesting look at events. I think the preacher got most of it right in explaining that God wants obedience from us, and He won’t just accept us walking away from our calling. This is all in fact true but, if you read Jonah and put what you read into action, I believe that it is important to take it in context of the rest of the Bible. What I mean by this is not to forget why we need to be obedient.

Reading passages like this one could paint God as a bit of a tyrant. Do what I tell you, otherwise I’ll make your life a misery. This in fact could not be further from the truth. It shows Jonah as a disobedient prophet who tried to run away; it also shows him afterwards complaining that God actually did what He said He would. This is all true. I would like to show a slightly different angle. If Jonah had embraced what God had asked him to do, and gone out in faith and love, he would have had an amazing experience. I mean, how many of us have gone and turned an entire city away from sin and toward God? Not many, I would imagine. This is the kind of life that God wants for us, He wants us to live this abundant life.

Allow me to illustrate this with a story. It was a good few years ago, probably about 25 or so, and I was a young boy. We (my mum, dad, brother and sister) were at a water park in South Africa. There were various water slides and my sister and I were having a wonderful time going down the slides. It was a case of pay to get in and ride as many slides as you like, so we were in our element! My brother on the other hand was a bit scared, and he wouldn’t go down the slide. My mum eventually got fed up with him, dragged him to the top of the slide, and threw him down (relax, no child abuse). Needless to say that, after the crying stopped, my brother realised that it was great fun and went down again. The next load of tears were when we needed to go home, as my brother was having way too much fun! So why did my mother chuck him down? Was it because she was a tyrant and wanted to see my brother in pain? Was it because she was in charge, and what she said WILL happen? Or was it because she loves my brother and she wanted to see him have fun, she wanted what was best for him? Contrary to what my brother may have thought at the time, it was definitely the third one, she wanted what was best for him.

Have you ever thought about spiritual gifts? I think it is totally genius that the more you use your gift to bless others, the more you are blessed! How cool is that? You never run out of a gift, you can’t give it all away, yet the more you use it to help and bless others, the more you are blessed. Win – win. God is very clever like that!

So here is the lesson… ready? Next time God calls you to be obedient and do something, instead of moaning about it or trying to avoid it, why not embrace it? You may even find that it was exactly what you needed, you may even find yourself more blessed than those you are blessing! The basic teaching of the Bible says put God first, others second and yourself third but, if you do that, you actually end up being more blessed than if you put yourself first. Our God is an awesome God!

Can I get an “amen”?

Richard

Let It Be..

This blog post is a difficult one for me, as it is a very personal story, and it is fairly fresh, so it is still a sensitive issue. I am not sharing it because I want everyone to see how wonderful I am, I am sharing it because I think that there are many people out there who could benefit from taking similar action. The last job that I was at, before I started my own business, was for a company that was run by a less than honest person and, to cut a long story short, they short paid me 2 months salary. Fortunately we had money in the bank to cover this, but that money was earmarked for a car, which we now have not been able to go and buy. Being the responsible people that my wife and I are, we decided to keep that money in the bank for now, as starting a business can be unstable, and we need that money to help us until the income stabilises.

I went the legal route, and the courts ruled in my favour (without a court date) as I was owed that money, but the sheriffs have been unable to get my money from these people. They have pleaded bankruptcy, yet are still living a comfortable life, with their children at a private school! This obviously made me upset as every time I get on the bus, it reminds me that I should have had a car if they had paid me. It was getting to me. It was eating away at me, making me bitter.

This is when I decided to let it go. There is no shortage of scripture telling us to forgive, but it is really difficult when we are in the right and someone has blatantly stolen from us. I am starting my own business, and I believe wholeheartedly that God will bless my business. I can’t afford always to be looking back at something that could have been. I also realised that I trust God for my money, not my old boss. God will provide, my old boss won’t. So I decided to hand it over to God, let Him deal with my old boss, and put my need for a car in His hands and see how He provides! The only problem was that this involves me forgiving my old boss. This was really hard. Really hard.

When I said the words, “Lord, I forgive him for what he has done”, it was difficult to get them out, but when they were out it was like a weight had been lifted off of my shoulders! It is now in God’s hands and I am excited to see what He does with it! I am pushing forward with my own business and the future is looking good.

I would like to encourage everyone out there to forgive those who have wronged you, even if they were blatantly to blame. Give it over to God, let Him deal with them, and put your needs into His hands. Besides, who is more likely to provide, the God who created the universe, or someone who has already wronged you? I know it is not easy, believe me, but it is so helpful. Remember, if you want to take hold of what God has for you, you first have to let go of what you are holding on to.

Keep up the good work.

Richard

Man Stuff

This is a post for all the men out there, as we have a responsibility to God, our wives and our children. So, whatever you marital status, this is for you. When I was young and single, I never really paid attention to verses about husbands because I figured that I would read those when I was a husband. This is not really a good idea, because it is often too late. If you can get yourself where God wants you, and start working towards being a good husband, then when you do become a husband you’ll be ready. Besides, the verses that show you how to be a husband are good for men, regardless of whether they are married or not.

Let’s start with some scripture, I won’t include the obvious ones about wives submitting to husbands and husband loving your wives, as I think we’ve all heard those at plenty of weddings! 1 Timothy 3:1-5 says, This is a trustworthy saying: “If someone aspires to be an elder, he desires an honourable position.” So an elder must be a man whose life is above reproach. He must be faithful to his wife.He must exercise self-control, live wisely, and have a good reputation. He must enjoy having guests in his home, and he must be able to teach. He must not be a heavy drinker or be violent. He must be gentle, not quarrelsome, and not love money. He must manage his own family well, having children who respect and obey him. For if a man cannot manage his own household, how can he take care of God’s church?

Now I know what you are thinking – yes, but that is about men who wish to be church elders. That may be so, but are they not good guidelines for us all? Should we not all be striving to be the best that we can? Then why lower your expectations just because you are not a church elder? I was chatting to some people yesterday and was saying that we are all responsible for our own spiritual walks, don’t rely on a pastor or church. Yes they are there to help, but relying on them 100% is not advisable – you need to take charge of your own life. We, as men, can get ourselves to the standard mentioned in this passage (and others) as that will make us good friends, husbands, Christians and church leaders.

Ephesians 5:21-33 explains how to be a good husband (and wife) and it shows the men as the head of the household. This is a contentious topic, as womens rights movements get upset, because they feel that everyone deserves ‘equal rights’. If they actually read the whole chapter and understood what it meant, they would realise that marriage is a relationship with spiritual hierarchy, not dominance. This is a huge responsibility for the men – it is no picnic, we are called to love our wives like Christ loves the church. He died for the church. No pressure. To illustrate this responsibility, I thought I’d share the following statistics from The Demographic Characteristics of National Minorities in Certain European States.

1. If both father and mother attend regularly, 33 percent of their children will end up as regular churchgoers, and 41 percent will end up attending irregularly. Only a quarter of their children will end up not practising at all.

2. If the father is irregular and mother regular, only 3 percent of the children will subsequently become regulars themselves, while a further 59 percent will become irregulars. Thirty-eight percent will be lost.

3. If the father is non-practising and mother regular, only 2 percent of children will become regular worshippers, and 37 percent will attend irregularly. Over 60 percent of their children will be lost completely to the church!

What happens if the father is regular but the mother irregular or non-practising? Amazingly, the percentage of children becoming regular goes up from 33 percent to 38 percent with the irregular mother and up to 44 percent with the non-practising. This suggests that loyalty to the father’s commitment grows in response to the mother’s laxity or indifference to religion.

Let’s make it clear: the devil is trying to destroy Christian marriages and families. Judging by the information above, if he can break the man he can take down the whole family. This just shows that there is huge responsibility on the men. So, in short, it is time to man up and take the challenge! I leave you with this link to a Casting Crowns song that should get you inspired!

Image

Good day gentlemen,

Richard

We Are Weak But He is Strong

This is a phrase that although is true, I believe is often used out of context, in this post I will attempt to explain why. It also goes hand in hand with phrases like, “We need to wait for God to get involved because we can’t do it.” Possibly true, but a bit inaccurate.

The reason why I say that this is not entirely accurate is because the Bible says that when we believe in Jesus and accept His gift, we are a new being. It says that we are born again as a new creation, an heir to the throne. We are then adopted into God’s family. Brothers and sisters with Christ. Does that not give us power and authority? Are we still weak and pathetic, or have things changed?

You see there are generally two camps where this is involved. You get one side who always claim to be weak, yet God is so strong and we need Him to do everything. The other side implies that we do not need God because we are strong and we determine our future, but I don’t think either are true. I believe that since accepting Jesus, I have the Holy Spirit, which means that I have authority in Jesus to do certain things. Remember that Jesus left us to spread the gospel, make disciples, heal the sick and cast out demons etc. He was here showing us how to do it, and now He has left us here to get on with it and left The Holy Spirit to empower us.

Now don’t get me wrong, I know where the power comes from so I always acknowledge that it comes from God. I don’t think for a second that I can do it on my own. However seeing as God is now part of me, and I part of Him, telling people that I (a new creation in Christ) am weak, is suggesting that God (in me) is weak too. That is just not true. I know people who say this don’t mean that God is weak, but they do need to be careful as that is the conclusion that people may come to. Besides, the bible says that WE can do all things through Christ who gives us strength. WE can do all things, He supplies the power, we do the action. To say that we are weak and He is strong may be true, but He is in us which makes us (the combination or new creation) strong too.

The only reason why I am saying this is because I don’t want us to sell ourselves short. Especially when we are in Christ, we can’t sell ourselves short. So many times I have heard the title phrase being used as an excuse not to do what God has called us to do because we are ‘waiting for God to do it for us’. God has given us a job to do, and we need Him to do it, but He wants us to be involved. He has given us the responsibility and authority here on earth to do what we need to do, and He will provide the power as and when we need it. And with God backing us, we are anything but weak, we are strong! Strong in Christ!

I pray that we realise who we are in Him, and that we step out boldly in His power and authority in order to accomplish what He has set aside for us to do!

Amen!

Richard