Category Archives: TRUTH

Don’t Strive

DON’T STRIVE 2021

Some Christians aware of the need to be spiritual – can make the mistake of becoming unnatural.

I drifted into this in my early Christian experience.

We can be so zealous about wanting to please God that we are rather like the child who wants to paint the yard like daddy, but ends up with more paint on themselves than on the walls.

By that I mean, we immaturely try in our own ‘steam’ to be what God wants us to be – Paul the apostle has some advice for us:

I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.

The word ‘frustrate’ is very descriptive here – we end up frustrated because we have not learnt how to avail ourselves of God’s wonderful gift of Grace.

Grace not just for salvation, but for living. Rejoicing in our acceptance and maintaining intimacy through prayer and Bible meditation – changes us – and our behaviour.

The behavioural change is then manifest through the fruits of The Holy Spirit in our lives. Coming and appearing as they do from the inside-out.

A lot of unbelievers perceive Christianity to be only about the do’s and dont’s of a moral life lived.

Their perception is one of constant Straining to keep the ten commandments. The real point of relationship with Jesus Christ is not factored-into their reckoning.

Unfortunately this wrong perception can be true of Christians also.

Romans 7:17-19

17 But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. 18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find.

It is this consciousness of needing to perform that leads us astray into thinking that there is something good in our flesh and that we can find there, the resources we need to be good.

Paul states the dilemma every human being is in.

Even those who want to do what is right face that dilemma. The more we strive to be ‘good’ the further away it seems to go from us.

For those who ask the Living Christ into their innermost being through turning to Him and admitting they are contaminated by the sin nature, but are willing to give-in to Him receive another life – the very life of God through the indwelling Holy Spirit.

He it is, that we must learn to submit to. By so doing and allowing His mind, The Word of God, The Bible to replace our thoughts we increase in spiritual maturity and grow to be more like Him, while we maintain our meditation – centred on Christ, having received Him by faith.

We need to be reminded of this daily, as Christians. I’m glad to be the one today that reminds you, in so doing I remind myself:

Hebrews 3/

12 Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; 13 but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end,

Like passions

LIKE PASSIONS

There are different types of mentality that people ‘carry’, about spiritual matters, religion, or Christianity.

Consciously or unconsciously they carry certain fundamental conclusions that influence any further thoughts they might have on the subject of spirituality.

When presented with certain Christian thoughts, talks, or articles they have read or conversations they have been privy to – they ‘shoot down’ any presented conclusion that others (e.g. preachers) might offer.

Using their (metaphorically speaking) gun-thoughts, they satisfy themselves that they have reason to dismiss any exhortation the preacher might present.

There are many dismissive thought patterns but here are a few examples:

All religions are divisive and only cause wars.

Evolution has dismissed religion as mythical.

There are too many hypocrites in religion and I want no part of it.

No one has proven God’s existence.

It is impossible to be sure about God’s existence.

There are no absolutes.

Some mythological person living in the clouds will not get my allegiance.

And so it goes on…

If you have been a Christian as long as I have. There is probably not a lot of other products of human ingenuity to be encountered as reasons to dismiss faith and belief in Jesus as the Christ of God.

To engage with those who carry such dismissive attitudes – can be difficult – let’s be real.

However sometimes Christians do not live up to what they call others to follow.

That’s simply because they too – though followers of Christ – are subject to ‘like passions’.

The term ‘like passions’ is found in the New Testament, in James 5.

The King James Version of the Bible, uses this (in my view) very descriptive summary of what we all are:

17 Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are,

The Amplified version of the Bible expands it more fully –

17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours [with the same physical, mental, and spiritual limitations and shortcomings],

But the verse goes on to reveal a remarkable thing – 

and he prayed intensely for it not to rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. 18 Then he prayed again, and the sky gave rain and the land produced its crops [as usual].

There is no genuine Christian who would not long to be like Elijah the prophet, as we read of the fruit of his ministry and service to God Almighty.

Yet we also learn of the nature he had. The same nature you and I are born with. Subject to sin – evil desires – unbelief – and so on.

Yet despite the shortcomings of Elijah – he overcame them not through ‘rule keeping’ but through relationship.

The relationship God offers to you and I.

Is it real? – you bet it’s real!

When you pray ‘no rain’ and there is no rain. And you pray ‘rain’ and there is rain. We kinda get the picture – right?

It is real!

Yet it is the same nature referred to here with: spiritual limitations and shortcomings, that stops the rain when the desire is – for rain.

There is only one thing we can do to annul our ‘born in sin’ nature – in order to bring the natural rain or the Rain of God’s Presence.

Here is the key – 

Jeremiah 29/

13 And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.

What is ‘being helped’?

WHAT IS – ‘BEING HELPED’?

Sounds like a strange question – one easily answered?

First port of call – the dictionary:

improve (a situation or problem); be of benefit to:

This is only one part of the definition, but perhaps the best part.

‘Be of benefit to:’

When you read one of the posts you follow – I’m sure it is usually ‘helpful’.

Placing money in the charity box – is helpful.

The child reaching out for the toy again, when you are trying to put their shirt on, can illicit the parental response of: ‘John this is not helpful’.

The Beatles gave us ‘Help’:

When I was younger, so much younger than today

I never needed anybody’s help in any way

But now these days are gone I’m not so self-assured

Now I find I’ve changed my mind, I’ve opened up the doors

[Younger – not needing anyone’s help. When really that’s probably the time we need it most].

What do we consider helpful? What remarks/blog post(s) do we find helpful?

Sometimes it can be someone’s post that is mixed with emotion. 

The blogger writes about some experience we have all had, and the person writing the post has an angle on it – that stirs us. Empathy arrives in our hearts and we concur (usually with a like-button-hit).

Help must be appropriate or concurrent with the situation of need.

Sometimes people try to help but their suggestion is not appropriate, lacking in sensitivity to the situation. 

Sometimes people are genuinely moved to help, but feel inadequate and blunder into doing something more unhelpful than helpful.

1 Corinthians 1:22-24

22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:

23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;

24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.

In this passage of scripture we read of different mindset-responses to preaching. In simple terms some perceive it as helpful and others?: ‘‘Paul this is not helpful’.

We read that the preaching for some was a Stumbling block (difficulty) or foolishness. This can be the perception of some who read a Christian-themed post, — and the post will get less like-button hits than a painting of a ‘bird’.

The other response is: ‘This is so helpful – please give me more of the same’.

The gospel message, referred to here in the above passage,  is meant to be 100% helpful. It is the power of God and the wisdom of God.

This present post, I believe to be helpful – it might even fit the category of ‘helps ministry’ (I Corinthians 12/28). 

It is encouraging you to hear and respond to the gospel wherever you hear it.

But I know also it is a stumbling block and foolishness to others.

I hope this clarification is helpful?

Unbelief

UNBELIEF

Our health is paramount. If we do not have good health – and yet we are not depressed – not being depressed isn’t as good as not being depressed in good health.

Now then – I will untangle the above. As I’m in danger of not understanding it myself (sic).

Health – to be healthy in body, but depressed in mind. Far from ideal I’m sure you will agree.

But to have an unhealthy body and an unhealthy mind is more worthy still, of our sympathy and empathy.

Jesus met an innumerable amount of needs, only a small fraction of which, is recorded in Scripture.

We read on occasions that ‘He healed all…’ We often don’t know how many made up the ‘all’. (But a multitude).

Matthew 12:15

But when Jesus knew it, He withdrew from there. And great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them all.

(This is a phenomenal fact if we can only take it in)!

But on one occasion ‘back home on the farm’ – He decided to heal only a few. Because of the unbelief and rejection of his divinity.

Matthew 13:58

Now He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief.

So when we ask the question ‘Why does He not heal everyone today?’ The starting place in searching for an answer is ‘unbelief’ – the kind that rejects His Divinity.

Unbelief in Christ is rejection of Christ. At least on this occasion. At other times his disciples exercised little or no necessary faith. But – they did not reject Him.

Faith is difficult to pin down. It cannot  be boxed into a definition. It cannot be squeezed into a formula that is 1-2-3, do-this-then-that and every time – you will have success.

So as a result of their struggle to understand faith – many abandon the idea of having faith and so abandon Christ.

Faith comes – it isn’t always here – it comes to us. We could write post after post after post on the subject.

17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

It comes through hearing God’s Word – i.e. God speaking to you or me. Whether God speaks directly by using another, as in preaching, or by giving a night vision/dream, or by speaking in an audible voice or by an open vision – or by using the Bible someone has opened and is reading – but God will and does speak to the individual heart.

For that to happen we need to open the book in the first place – and when we meditate on it – by so doing, it gives permission (as it were) to God to speak to us.

Does He need our permission? Yes and no – but It certainly helps!

To give Him permission to speak to you – is an act of faith.

More faith follows because we read His thoughts and that activates the revelation of faith to our innermost being.

But the worst kind of unbelief is to ignore Jesus Christ completely.

All other shortcomings of faithlessness – can be forgiven, to those who ask.

But the unbelief that rejects Him completely, is the unbelief that is not asking for forgiveness, nor hoping for eternal life through Jesus Christ The Lord.

Mindsets

MINDSETS

We all carry certain mindsets.

As the Politicians are apt to say: ‘let’s be clear…’

So let’s be clear about what a mindset is.

Dictionary: Mindset

the established set of attitudes held by someone: 

So that’s what having a mindset means. For good or bad.

This is not a good thing if we are closed to any progression in our thoughts.

This is a good thing if we are convinced and established in what is correct – unshakeable in our convictions.

It is interesting to note the different mindsets of others. We find these out, (in part at least), when we read a post, or listen to a conversation, or hear someone speaking for some cause etc.

For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks…

Once we speak – we are exposed. Once we write we are exposed. At least partially exposed.

But then we have to deal with, the tendency of others to misunderstand us. Others misunderstand our words. And afterwards mis-represent us in passing-on what we have said.

Words and where to place the emphasis in a sentence, can lead us all astray in incorrectly ‘interpreting’ what the heart of the person is really meaning, and consequently where they are really at, in their (as above Dict. def.) ‘attitudes’.

Too short an utterance, by someone, can cause us to misinterpret their heart when for example they say: ‘I don’t agree with charity…’

What we hear and decide is that, they are not in any way a benevolent human being. When what they really meant was: they do not agree with certain Charitable Organisations that have been exposed as corrupt.

They just didn’t give us the full picture when they spoke…

Most (?) folks want to be honest. Even their ‘hard/difficult/cantankerous sides – they feel justified in not hiding from us, in the name of honesty.

And it’s true that ‘what you see is what you get’ is better than feigned niceness, or hypocritical sweetness that says one thing to your face and another behind your back.

As we go through life we encounter all kinds of words, from all kinds of mouths, exposing all kinds of hearts.

And thus we choose our friends carefully.

I sometimes consider my expectations, and standards too high, when it comes to what I expect from friendships. Because I see a predisposition in many to insincerity.

So yes I do seem to prefer the ‘real’ person as opposed to the ‘nice’ person.

Except when the real person isn’t nice to me 😅!!

In relationships of a less intimate kind, we often find ourselves having to ignore, tolerate, or suppress/deal with our negative responses to people we rub shoulders with every day, perhaps in a work situation.

Their ‘attitudes’, of course can give ground for gossip.

When others we work with, compare notes behind the person’s back.

This is how in the eyes of others, reputations unfortunately are indirectly formed or trashed.

Others see the same weaknesses in someone, and the reputation of what their heart is like, is established by ‘gossip agreement’.

Often though, others make the partial picture, regarding the person’s character, into the whole picture.

To get back to mindsets. We very quickly retreat into our particular mindset in given areas. Biases emerge/manifest, when we won’t think twice about the possibility of looking at something another way.

Be on sentry duty over your mind, and see if any wrong conclusions are wanting entry.

Be open to change. But firmly hold to moral principles.

Let our mindsets be formed by correct principles, and not by a careless accumulation of half-cocked conclusions.

Thought for the…

Thought for the

‘Thought for the day’ is a familiar phrase, especially amongst Christians.

I was contemplating this phrase.

What – only one thought for a whole day?

Is that ‘a thought’, as in a theme for the day?

Maybe I should be fare and admit that it can also read: ‘Thoughts for the day’ (Plural).

‘Thoughts for this day’ – like now – what thoughts, should we be having, in our present day, as we pass through this strange year of Covid?

Is there good thoughts we might have missed?

Thinking is usually preferred over mindless behaviour.

Bringing us to the phrase: ‘Mindless aggression’. Suggesting someone who wants to be mad at the world regardless of any restraining thoughts offered by others to assuage their anger.

Aggression where the voice of conscience is drowned-out in unrestrained abuse, heaped on anyone who stands in the way. We see plenty of that in society – do we not?

Thoughts for the day – hmm – how about: ‘love your neighbour as yourself?’

Or ‘humble yourself under God’s mighty hand’?

Or ‘turn the other cheek’ when struck?

I played the part of Lentulus a Roman courtier, in Androcles and the Lion, by G.B. Shaw, a school production – back in the day.

Do you turn the other cheek when they strike you?” I said to Androcles in my snivelling cowardly voice tapping him weakly on the cheek, with trepidation, per chance he didn’t agree with turning the other cheek, after all.

The play suggesting (in my view) that such ‘turn the other cheek’ behaviour caused consternation, or incredulity. Lentulus looking for some kind of explanation for such extraordinary behaviour.

Who wants tested on turning the other cheek?

But to return good for evil is certainly ‘a thought for the day’ worth embracing.

Thoughts for the day – I marvel at how many thoughts we think in just one – 24 hr. – day.

God also thinks continuously. The difference is –

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,

Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,

So are My ways higher than your ways,

And My thoughts than your thoughts.

Higher thoughts – for the day.

If His thoughts are higher, then there is no point in looking to understand them – using our lower thoughts (minds), alone.

How about having the thought of embracing His ‘higher thoughts’, for our ‘thought-for-the-day?’

Open the book (Bible) anywhere and meditate thereon – and you will find higher thoughts entering the realm of your lower mind.

Majority not always right

MAJORITY NOT ALWAYS RIGHT

It’s an awful thought that the majority are wrong. The majority have been wrong before – without going into examples from history, suffice to say, ‘majority rules ok’ – is not always the case.

There is no guarantee that the loud shouts from the minority – will prevail – even though a later generation may find out, that the minority were in fact right all along.

Conversely there will always be those who oppose the good sense of the majority and insist on their skewed point of view.

Now I leave it to you to think of examples of either of the two scenarios.

Every religion has a so called ‘point of view’.

Some cults in the minority will not listen to ‘reason’, as offered by those outside the cult.

Movements grow. We hear often of online grooming by evil organisations, that recruit young ‘impressionables’ to follow their extreme views and ways.

Another scenario is the minority increasing their numbers.

We think of the minority Nazis proselytising the majority until they became the Nazi majority.

And now the majority (in re: the Nazi context) look back and ask: ‘How could this have ever happened?’ – so ridiculous does it now seem.

Ridiculous until the present day pendulum of deception begins again to swing.

Jesus said: 

13 “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.

I think it’s safe to conclude that many is the majority here and few the minority. (there are few who find it).

These are relative terms, from a ‘numbers’ perspective.

However there is a lesson here also that highlights the fact that many are on the broad way (to destruction) – and the few on the narrow way (that leads to life).

The broad road is the easy road. The narrow way is the more difficult (compressed) road, the one perhaps, not immediately attractive.

Why more difficult? For a number of reasons, indeed there may be many reasons we could highlight.

But to enter, or consider entering the narrow gate or venturing forth on the narrow way demands much more thought and heart-searching than what is required on the broad road, where the majority walk.

Do what comes naturally, sinfully and selfishly and you have qualified for the broad road.

So keeping it simple we have an equation:

Few – narrow entrance – narrow way – join the minority – eternal life.

Many – wide gate – broad road – join the majority – eternal death.

The minority got it right in this context. The narrow way leads to eternal life – the broad road to eternal death.

Those on the broad road that leads to destruction are quick to ignore or dismiss the wise, who walk the narrow way.

So it only remains to conclude – ‘the majority are not always right”.

The preacher…

THE PREACHER MAN

An artist – a painter, is not known for one of his paintings, but known for the accumulative effect of his life’s work. That’s why we have retrospective exhibitions.

Likewise he who is instructed in the things of the kingdom of God brings forth old things and new – to represent the whole counsel of God. (Matthew 13/52)

So in a sense the preacher who is so instructed, doesn’t have one sermon to share on a given Sunday morning – but has the sum total of his experience with the Lord to offer to anyone who is hungry for spiritual reality.

What a joy it is to find people who are hungry to hear and learn and know by experience – this wonderful Word of this Wonderful God.

To varying degrees Christians realise their need to ‘eat’ this Word. And usually those who eat little – are those who live by ‘bread alone’ Whereas man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. (Matthew 4/4)

Some sought Jesus because he could whip up a good meal, others sought Him because He alone – had the words of ETERNAL LIFE. (John 6/68)

So the preacher must be ready to give what he feels is the specific for the morning, but be ready to go somewhere else as he ‘rummages’ through the treasury God has put in his heart.

What the listeners must do is shut out every other voice but the voice of The Holy Spirit who can apply the word in ways the preacher is unaware of.

COG-nitive

COG-nitive.

There are many ways that the following can be established. But using my own blog as an example – It does not surprise me that the attention/likes my posts get, vary depending on the subject matter.

Like the workings of an antique clock – the cogs in our minds start-up and send our thinking in different directions in response to something we see or read.

We usually don’t notice our response has just been stimulated to be what it is. We only act out the result. (Embrace or reject)

Someone posts on the subject of gardening, and it just so happens, that you having just started to plant and cultivate new areas of earth, in your summer weekend hobby pursuit.

So immediately the cogs start to spin and as one cog effects another, the dial shows you have spent twenty minutes of interested reading of a gardening post.

Likewise the blogger is posting on – say – ‘Moses on the mountain top’ and so certain cogs shut down and the brain-clock, grinds to a halt, while your mechanism switches off to such biblical stuff. Not your cup of tea.

But as for me…

(Exodus 34)

More than just a man

MORE THAN JUST A MAN

As the teachings of The Lord Jesus Christ go out

into the ears of the world

Hands are raised to block those ears

and minds are filled with doubt

                         …

They want a new and different gospel –

One that will leave them alone

As they continue to use their free will

To do as they please – unbeknown

                         …

I cannot beat you up

With my perfect heavy touch

I have failed and remain impaled

Upon the cross of my total failure

                         …

Left there – dead in sin – alone

Separated from a Saviour

Destined for experiences still unknown

When justice is dispensed at the throne

                         …

But look – see what has happened instead

I have been saved from the dead

‘Cause someone else has taken my place

Thorn clad and pierced in the side

                         …

So that I can be free – forever to abide

In the One who did all this

Taking my place on the tree

Full of pain – to give me life abundantly

                          …

All I do is stretch out my hand

His grace sufficient

To make me one of His band

A disciple forever learning

So I say ‘Behold the man…’

                          …

You will see – looking closer than before

That He is more – than just a man

He is The Son of the Most High God

Fully God, fully man – please understand

                          …

Take your blindfold off your eyes

And give yourself time to realise

That to see the man is to see the One

Who pleased the Father as the Only Begotten Son

I as you

 I as you

And now I am in your shoes

Looking at me – this religious oddity

And in your shoes I see me

As utterer of strange language

And in your boots I be

And kinda get how you see me

In your coat – I see

I’m a purveyor of strange things

I – as you –

see me

and my strange persistency

See

Some kinda crusader?

Wondering why I bother

repeating myself

As you –

I see me

As a one-track-mind(er)

Who has consistently

shared the same message

I step back into me

And realise

I will never be you

And you will never be me

But you can become as I be

Because I was as you be

We can both meet at the cross of calvary

Perfectionism (tyrant?)

THE TYRANT OF PERFECTIONISM

I don’t know if you share such conclusions, but I often think of, time I have wasted in my life.

The thing is – I can, but won’t be – terrorised by that thought-tyrant.

The thought that we could have done better, been more profitably employed, accomplished more, been a better servant, given more, took a right turn instead of a left at a particular juncture in life, been more adventurous, stepped out in faith more and so it goes on.

And unfortunately I too readily, become a candidate for the deposition of such thoughts. This is borne out of a basic desire inherent in most ‘normal’ people – the desire to do well, be morally upright, accomplish something, and so on.

The most important motivation for the professing Christian is to please God and to be in obedience.

But when you are overwhelmed with your own failures one aught to inoculate oneself with a good dose of reality.

Because such shortcomings, are common to all humans.

To be perfectly free from such conclusions of sinfulness or imperfection is impossible. 

There was only One who fulfilled the call of perfect timing and the perfect use of time, coupled with His morally perfect life.

An examination of the life of Jesus, should leave us aghast at such perfectionism!

I however, am easily disappointed in yours truly, sometimes a justified disappointed for a real reason, sometimes not justified, because of the perfectionist tyrant, trying to unfairly discourage.

One needs to know the difference between legitimate desirable self-examination and awareness and morbid introspection.

One needs to keep one’s conscience healthy – yes. But also be aware – 

II Corinthians 2/

…lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.

You can become aware of this perfectionist tyranny besetting your moral aspirations, when you examine your own thinking. It is by your own contrivance, as you are overwhelmed by a ‘million’ (imaginary?) things you are not doing.

You can also realise that it can be the result of a dark power that is engaged in sending fiery darts into your mind.

Ephesians 6/16

…above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.

So your sense of imperfection and disappointment with yourself, can be the result of your own invention or demonically inflicted.

There is a whole biblical teaching too long to go into in this post, that establishes the alien-workings of darkness summed up in the apostle Paul’s words to us:

Ephesian 6/

12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this [present] darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) places.

The Only Living and True God is not such a tyrant, but at the same time, is only too aware of our shortcomings.

His desire for us is firstly and foremostly that we engage with Him in relationship. Then as any good Father – He then starts to help us to mature and grow out of our immature behaviour.

And – as a by-product – make better spiritual use of our time.

We cannot live in perfection or spiritual maturity straight away after we have encountered and submitted to Jesus. In the sense that the Christian life is an ongoing growing experience.

That’s why we account that His long-suffering is our salvation.

Christ offers us perfect acceptance when we choose Him as Lord. This is our perfection. It suffices God’s requirements, that we ask Him into our lives.

II Peter 3/

15 and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you,

Most(?) people want to live right. Do good and be a follower of what is right. But they can’t find the ‘how to’ of the whole thing. And all of us are blind to many of our shortcomings. 

Until we meet Jesus and allow Him to start to change us from the inside-out, we shall remain the same – unchanged.

So yes we do need to be perfected, but not by the dictates of the perfectionist tyrant.

Footnote: It could be suggested that the last thing this secular world needs is to be reminded that perfectionism can be a tyrant. Some might suggest – no one is the least bit interested in moral perfection. But is excusing any and all behaviour, else why still indulge in it?