What makes you so different?
1 Peter 2:9
What makes you a Christian? According to the helpful results of a very quick Google search and I quote: “…in 2010 Christianity was by far the world’s largest religion, with an estimated 2.2 billion adherents, nearly a third (31 percent) of all 6.9 billion people on Earth.” That’s a lot of numbers. This is more a thought than a challenge, do you think our world reflects that there are 2 billion Christians – nearly 1 in every 3 people – on the face of the earth?
I remember having a conversation with a friend, about faith. I was trying to explain the difference between conveniently carrying the label of being a “Christian” and striving to live as a born again Christian. I was very impressed by my well learned “christianese” answers to her questions, but then she was also well versed on these answers too. When I was satisfied that I had repeated everything I had heard others describe the Christian walk as, she asked me “what does it mean to be born again”. I paused for a second, the conversation doesn’t usually go like this – people usually go away and think over the first set of responses. But I guess like Nicodemus when speaking to Jesus about the same subject, many of us have tried “religion” and it has failed us. No sound bites came to mind, so I would have to depend on the Holy Spirit and my own personal experience.
“Being born again means that Christ has become your source, for everything”
What followed was silence from my friend, and also silence from me, as I realised, I couldn’t put it any simpler than that. I felt challenged by the words that escaped my mouth. Undoubtedly becoming born again is both a spiritual and personal process and experience. But this transformation should also be visible in our physical lives. Being born again we no longer survive on our own competence or capabilities – our own plans, judgments and agenda. We become a blank canvas, we release every tension in our will (that tug n pull of ‘self’ that exists within all of us), so we can be shaped, moulded and transformed into His divine will and purpose. We become dependant children of God.
Sadly there is obvious contention between what God desires for us and what the world tells us to desire. Adam and Eve lived an abundant life in Eden, heaven on earth – and yet the one thing they were told was off limits overshadowed everything God had freely given them. From the beginning man has desired autonomy, but God has always called us to dependency.
Genesis 3:5 KJV
In the same way that we want our spouses, family and friends to choose to love us, not by obligation. God wanted us to choose Him, and still wants us to choose Him. As a Christian what is your greatest concern, discovering and accomplishing God’s will and plan for your life, or fulfilling your greatest desires and ambitions and thanking God when you do? Is God the reason or the enabler? I’ll say it again, is God your “reason” or your “enabler”?
As a child of God He should be both, but sometimes I realise He’s not the reason really, but a means to an end – the end being my gratification, my satisfaction. You may be on the right track in terms of your goals, but if you want them more than you want to please God then you’re still on the wrong track. The truth is that when you fulfil your desires and reach your finish line, you’ll find something else to desire and that haunting feeling of discontent will return – in truth it never left. Because like Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, who believed eating from the tree of knowledge would satisfy their curious hunger;
our pursuit for human satisfaction will always lead to the greatest level of discontentment.
So what am I really saying? I’m asking us to reflect over the months of this year or the last few years – has it been “my agenda” or “God’s”? It’s sort of like when you attend a party with someone, or enter a busy environment like a market place and you have someone following behind you. Until you look back and realise they took a detour somewhere along the journey. I think it’s very easy to do, even as a born again Christian.
Finding our way back
What makes you so different? What makes us different to everyone else appearing to run the same race of life? For some of us, our dreams and aspirations don’t seem all that different to those who are not Christians. That isn’t a bad thing – but who is the source of your vision? Who is sustaining your vision? Who is sustaining you? Remember my very simple explanation to a friend …Christ has become your source, for everything.
John 6:35 KJV
It can only be through Him, by Him and because of Him. I pray that God will give us the grace to return to His will, forego our temporal “goals”, fading ambitions and vain motivations – for His ever-lasting prize of life eternal in Jesus name.
Peace and Love
I spent most of my teenage years in rebellion. Against what, I’m not really sure. I still recall being pushed out of the pews by my cousin, I must have been around 10 years old. In good will, she encouraged me to answer the church altar call. But sadly that is all I remember from that memory, I don’t recall any on-going conversations to help me understand the significance of publicly accepting Christ as my Lord and Saviour. These conversations may have happened, and I did feel like I was doing something very special at the time, but to my recollection, no consistent counsel followed. But I will never forget being shooed out of the row where we sat. Still amuses me even today, I am so grateful that though she saw a child – she cared enough to desire my salvation.
So as I was saying, my teenage rebellion persisted, my path grew darker and darker, I was being “young n free” and gaining several knocks and bruises in the process. Everything that made me, me – soul spirit body where all being damaged simultaneously, by a single yet constant rebellion. By the time I was fourteen or fifteen years old, my mum had enough and soon I was living with my cousins. I still had my “freedom” but now it was under “attack” by very frequent fellowships at their home with other young Christians, attending church every Sunday and something that changed my life forever.
One evening one of my cousins, ordered me to go up to the room to read my bible. I wanted to stay in the living room in front of the TV, but I was cultured enough to know that you don’t argue with someone older than you, even if it is just a few years. I remember how my heart sunk, I was definitely being punished, or so I thought. What injustice, what wickedness, what a cruel act to send me away. But it was the one of the best things that has ever happened to me . It was difficult at first, I’m sure I caught many Zzzz’s but over time I started to scribble on my King James Bible, a gift from my mum (I still have it today – see above). After a while it became a routine, and I developed my own relationship with the Word. (Thank you Cuzzy). During this time I did some of the most scandalous things in my teens, however, something amazing happened, I started to hear God’s voice!
We all hear God differently, for me it’s like your conscience, your inner thoughts, constantly speaking to you – except you are not influencing them, you are not the source of what you hear. The inner voice of the Holy Spirit. I would spend another seven years or so, going from bad to worse. But because I started to hear God’s voice, I was praying my way through those years, I kept talking to God. Asking Him to take over. The more I lost control, falling into drama after drama, the more I became convinced that I needed to relinquish control to God; as deep as I was in sin, He heard me and He did take control.
So if you want to hear God’s voice, I would encourage you to start with studying His Word. It may sound too ordinary, too easy – what no vision, no dramatic supernatural encounter? Nope. I started hearing God after studying His Word. Like I have said in previous posts:
you can’t understand someone no matter how loud, clearly or slowly they are speaking, if you don’t take the time first to learn their language.
You can start with reading a chapter in the Bible a day, meditating on specific passages, or memorising a verse of scripture a week. God’s Word is life, it will literally transform everyone who comes in contact with it, who has a willingness and desire to change.
For the word of God is living and active and full of power [making it operative, energizing, and effective]. It is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating as far as the division of the soul and spirit [the completeness of a person], and of both joints and marrow [the deepest parts of our nature], exposing and judging the very thoughts and intentions of the heart.
May God grant us the grace to study and remain in His Word, so that we can be transformed to the image of His Son, hear from Him and be led to His perfect will for our lives in Jesus name amen.
Peace and Love
It isn’t my relationship that redeemed me.
Some of us have been to terrible, dark places in our lives – paths we blame ourselves for journeying; so that if any man or woman should choose to love us, deep within us we believe there lies our redemption.
“She can be loved”
His proposal tells the world “she can be loved”, and having her by his side makes him ”desirable”. Is it partly because, although we say Christ has redeemed us, we continue to hold ourselves guilty of our past? This is certain, you will never be able to pay for the life you lived, and there is nothing you can do to change your past. But His blood is more powerful, more than capable of helping you to recover from those mistakes and healing your traumas. His blood calls you a new creation. Even if you were the worst of sinners, there is no darkness, no failure, no history that the blood of Jesus cannot overcome and wash away.
“…bought at a much greater price”
Do you long desperately for ”Mister right’‘? Well contrary to the world’s fairytale there is no knight in shining armour who can save you, because the truth is – we all need saving. Maybe you’re already in a relationship? Do you love it when people talk about your relationship? Does it give you a confidence in your self-worth, which you dare not carry alone? The truth is, no relationship status, no ring can redeem you, because you were bought at a much greater price. Are you able to love and appreciate your worth, the unique value placed in you by God? Or are you still angry and still ashamed? I find I feel more confident since getting engaged, it’s like you carry a stamp on your left hand that says “you’re worth it” (like the L’Orèal ads). But the novelty will soon wear off and then what? Will you seek for the next thing to make you feel redeemed and cleared of your past?
Christ is before you asking you, “Woman where are thine accusers?” Think about the woman accused of adultery, even after the accusations ceased why did she remain there, stood before Jesus? Perhaps her greatest condemnation – the one that kept her where her accusers left her, was her own. What have you done wrong? How have you messed up? Whatever it is, I have news for you, you have been redeemed. You don’t have to justify God’s love towards you or His blessings in your life. There is no need to feel ashamed anymore, when the spotlight is on you. They don’t see who you used to be, they don’t see your past sins and struggles, they see God’s glory. They see YOU, redeemed and refined by Christ – because you are. Jesus took your shame to the cross, you have been redeemed and there is no catch, but believe that your redemption is in Christ.
Your redemption is not pegged on your relationship status. When it comes to the matters of your inner-self, your relationship status is irrelevant. Start addressing those memories that try to convince you that you haven’t changed. Read about Paul, he could have carried the shame and guilt of a notorious past, persecuting the church. He would have been justified to seek the approval of the people he was sent to share the Gospel with, but instead he allowed his identity and call in Christ to be the driving force of his life. You can too.
It isn’t my relationship that redeemed me. I was a wreck, and Christ saw me, broken, desperate and tired, and He carried me. Long before my Fiancé noticed me or even knew who I was, long before there was any proposal in sight, Christ began a work of redemption in me. So I encourage you today, to forgive yourself and forgive your past, and begin to learn about your redemption that is everlasting in Christ. As my Pastor often says – “your past is past”, and no man can, no man has redeemed you and no man will, but the living God.
May God help us to believe His unconditional love towards us, may He teach us step out of the shadows of our past and hand over every negative memory and guilt to Him, and may God teach us to truly love ourselves, in Jesus name amen.
Peace & Love
Even as a Christian, don’t make the mistake of believing that your acknowledgment of God is the end of the journey.
The journey has only just begun.
You are no longer the same, in fact you will spend the rest of your life being changed forever.
You are created with such intricacy, such specific detail – nothing in this world can ever fill the void – this world alone is insufficient for you.
There are things hidden within you that only God knows about.
There are joys and rays of peace you strive for, and God has kept them in a secret and lovely place.
There is no one person without a destiny in Christ; as wretched as you may think you are, or think the next person is. God carefully designed this unique vessel, this God-inspired creation, for His own joy of loving us and the incomparable, indescribable joy of being loved by the Father.
So I encourage you today, to return to that secret place, the place that God called Jacob back to, so many times. The place where God first met with you.
Don’t ever be too busy for God, He is your sustenance – without Him, you will run out of steam. Sunday isn’t enough, everyday you must desire to rekindle that special love between you and the Father – spending time with Him in your own special way.
And if you don’t know Him, He has been waiting to know you all of your life.
Wanting to know God, is enough to begin the journey.
Pray this prayer with me: Dear Heavenly Father, I know that I’m a sinner. And I ask for your forgiveness. I believe your son, Jesus, died for my sins and rose from the dead. I turn from my sins. I repent of my sins. I invite you to come into my heart and life. I want to trust and follow you as my Lord and Saviour. In Jesus’ name, amen.
For the joy of the LORD is your strength
“I choose Joy”
How easy is it to hold on to joy, when a wave of sadness floods your mind?
A misplaced item, the wrong choice of words, a scornful look, the playing out of injustice, a subtle descending of sadness – covering the heart. But the day is not spent.
See, the Son still shines, even in the thickest night, look up and see, the Son still shines.
His smile radiates over us. Beloved of Christ, hear the voice of the Living God, serenading your soul. His love for you, colours each day. Even in the silence, listen, for your inhale and exhale are only echoes of His profession of love to you.
If ever again you notice that wave beginning to descend, or you feel the heaviness of it covering your heart, remember that you are the apple of God’s eye. He sustains the universe for your benefit. In jealousy Satan endeavors to steal a joy he has lost forever. He recognises the strength of a joyful Spirit and the might of a heart filled with gladness. A heart better able to love, to trust, and to forbear. But have you noticed how difficult it is to love yourself, to love your neighbour, when you are sorrowful? I am learning that deep sadness is like a filtered lense. When you put it on, it takes the colour, the beauty away from everything, and since only we are seeing the things around us through this filter, it makes us feel alone.
So I challenge you today to take off the shades, lift the blanket, shake off the waves and choose joy, because
the joy of the Lord is your strength
We can, to a very great extent control even our own emotions; but then, besides, we can do more than that. It may be quite true, that you cannot help feeling sorrowful in the presence of sorrowful thoughts, and glad in the presence of thoughts that naturally kindle gladness. But I will tell you what you can do or refrain from doing-you can either go and stand in the light, or you can go and stand in the shadow. You can either fix your attention upon, and make the predominant subject of your religious contemplations, a truth which shall make you glad and strong, or a half-truth, which shall make you sorrowful, and therefore weak. Your meditations may either centre mainly upon your own selves, your faults and failings, and the like; or they may centre mainly upon God and His love, Christ and His grace, the Holy Spirit and His communion.
You may either fill your soul with joyful thoughts, or though a true Christian, a real, devout, God-accepted believer, you may be so misapprehending the nature of the Gospel, and your relation to it, its promises and precepts, its duties and predictions, as that the prevalent tinge and cast of your religion shall be solemn and almost gloomy, and not lighted up and irradiated with the felt sense of God’s presence-with the strong, healthy consciousness that you are a forgiven and justified man, and that you are going to be a glorified one.
Today, you will be confronted with many choices, many opportunities to make decisions.
There is one decision that you can make, that will enable you to see, taste, hear and feel the goodness of God which already surrounds you. Choose Joy today.
Peace & Love