On the Subject of Following God

On the subject of following God there are many things that can be said. Jesus said “follow me and I will make you disciples of men..” to his disciples. continuously the theme in the bible is that we are to forsake our own ways and follow God’s word that He has spoken over us. In Ephesians Paul tells us that we have good works that have been prepared for us in advance. Following God is fulfilling purpose and embarking on a journey with God to fulfill the plan that He has already laid down for our lives. These plans are not to work us to the bone and make us miserable but  these plans are to prosper us and give us a good future (Jeremiah 29:11).

One of the many illustrations in the bible regarding God’s plans for our lives is found in Judges 4. The story of Deborah, one of Israels judges. In her time Israel was under the captivity of Jabin the Canaanite King. God had allowed this due to the nations disobedience to Him. Jabin’s commander was a man named Sisera who had a great army and was feared by all. It was in this time that God gave Deborah a word for Barak who was of the tribe of Naphtali. Deborah called for Barak and told him that God had commanded him to gather 10 000 men from the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali and to march to Mount Tabor. There God would give Sisera into his hand.

Just like Barak ( and Gideon, Abraham, Jacob etc), God will place a call on our lives to do something. What we do with that call is very important. The story of Barak showed me one of the scenarios that can take place, depending on our response to this call.

Barak’s response was simple. He was willing to go and do what God said, but just to make sure that God really came through he wanted to take Deborah along too as a guarantee. Already most of us are probably thinking.. “Clearly he has no faith!”  Which is just a bit hypocritical of us to because more often than not we give similar responses to Barak, but because we have an extensive understanding of language, we word our response in a whole lot of words that we think will fool God into believing that we trust Him. I am not Barak but I can relate to what he  have possibly been going through in his mind.

It would be easier if you could take your pastor your home group leader and every other spiritual leader in your life with you when you go out to war with the enemy (wherever this war may be fought) i.e. new city, new job, country, school etc.). That’s simply because they will encourage you when it seems like things are not working the way that you perceived they would be, and to be honest some of us may feel that they can be a guarantee that the word will come to pass (“after all they are closer to God”). Barak thought he knew what God was asking him to do. In his mind, he was of the tribe of Naphtali and he has been told to gather men from the tribes of Naphtali and  Zebulun who were not the greatest warriors of the tribes of Israel. The bible says of these two tribes…  “(Gen 49:13) Zebulun shall live at the sea-shore. And he shall be a haven for ships, and his border beside Sidon”, and of Naphtali … “(Gen 49:21) Naphtali is a deer let loose. He gives goodly words”. These two tribes were probably not first choice when it came to chosing men to go fight. What he did not realise was that is just like God, to choose the foolish things to shame the wise.

So Barak was possibly overwhelmed by the mission , but then he still believed. He was willing to go and fight but was not willing to do it alone.When Barak refused to go without Deborah God did not take the mission away from him. He would still fight Sisera’s army and win, but then there was a consequence. The honour of defeating Sisera was taken from him and given to someone else, even weaker than he perceived himself to be. God wanted Barak to be the greatest and to receive the greatest honour but Barak second guessed himself. SO instead of being the greatest he became the great! It doesn’t seem like a long way to fall but we need to realize that God’s intentions for us are not mediochre, His intentions for us are always at the highest level. It is really only in our best interests to have full faith in him.

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Politically Correct

On the issue of being politically correct. I found myself very challenged after I had been somewhat of a hypocrite. I heard that Joel Osteen had been on T.V doing an interview and that he had refused to make a stand on his views and beliefs on homosexuality and some other things. Touchy topic no doubt. We wouldn’t want to cause any problems by making irrational public outbursts. A lot of people condemned Joel (myself included) for that and I suppose that as a leader of the church if he doesn’t take a stance then it reflects badly on not only him but the faith as well.

However, so often we find ourselves censoring ourselves and checking what we say amongst those who do not believe the same as we do. I’m referring to christians that is. We want to make sure that everyone is happy and that there are no hurt feelings. Loving your neighbour does not mean accepting what everyone believes. I was challenged whilst watching a movie on the Gospel of John. Jesus went into the temple and chased away all the people that were dealing and embezzling people for sacrifices. He did not wait to ask anyone anything, He just went in there and cleaned up the place. I found myself involuntarily wincing, thinking that He is not going to get any points for tact. In my mind I thought surely He should have taken it up with the authorities of the temple. That is what we would do today, go take it up with the elders or pastor who are probably fully aware of what is happening. I was actually sympathising with the people whose money was scattered, those were losses they incurred. In that same time the pharisees came and asked Him who he thought he was for trashing the place and He told them He was the son of man and He would tear the temple down and rebuild it in three days. We always read it and judge the pharisees badly but I think if Jesus came today and started shouting at T.D Jakes or someone big in the ministry some of us would actually rebuke Him and tell him to watch His words. We like to think we are righteous and we do not think like the pharisees but we should check our hearts really. If you had been there witnessing this, chances are you were probably waiting to see how this madman was going to get it from the pharisees, because honestly that was just crazy! I saw in me how I can easily get caught up in calling ourselves righteous when we are behaving just like the pharisees. I have let the rules that run the world sink into my mind so much that I obey then subconciously. Many of us have to admit we also do that.

There is a place to be politically correct and a place not to be. If we really look at the life of Jesus and then compared our lives to His we would be seriously challenged. We spend our time apologising as christians for offending people. We are apologetic about our faith when that should not be the case at all, if we believe that we are believing in the right thing. Like Paul said, if we are wrong then we should be pitied most of all (1 Corinthians 15 v 19)… but we have the conviction that we are right. It starts small hey, in the work place wherever you are, are you a closet christian or do people know what you believe, and are they convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that you serve Christ. If we are being mistaken for anything other than a christian then there is a problem out there.

So like I said. I have been seriously challenged.

Thandie Newton’s Talk on Self!

 

I found this talk that Thandie Newton gave to be thought provoking. Escpecially with regards to identity and how identity is assumed. The first thing that struck me is that she actually sat down and analysed her situation and to understand it and propose a theory. I believe there is some truth in what she is saying and I also respect that it is a theory. I especially like the way she identified self.

Open Doors

We are called to be the salt of the earth and light to all the world. Recently I have been thinking about doors and the significance that they have figuratively in our lives. We like to speak a lot about open doors. In fact I don’t think there is anyone who doesn’t like open doors in their lives. Open doors usually symbolise opportunities and breakthrough’s in our lives. So what’s the link you might be wondering? Well I realised that usually we picture doors open and light shining through those doors. In a way its like that “go towards the light” thing that they do in movies. Its great and everything! Who doesn’t want to see the light at the end of the tunnel? Well what happens if there is no light shining through the doorway? I was challenged to consider these, open doors in a different way. Why can I not be the light that shines through the doorway? If you look at it there are two sides to a doorway….. the side that you are on and …. the other side! There is definitely something on the other side and if its life there are people on that side. I am challenged to be the person that brings the light to the other side of the doorway. I believe that this is a picture of what God wants us to be as His children and citizens of His kingdom. To be people who walk through doorways and allow God to use us as lights to light up people’s lives. So sometimes because of the lingo that we are used to, we disqualify some situations as doors, because in our minds doors should bring good things to us! Why don’t we consider opportunities to bless others as open doors. Bring on the doors!

Origins of Anthrax

One of my favourite series on T.V. is undoubtedly Criminal Minds. I have a general love for series with criminals, forensic science and (“not sure if this is a good thing or not”) serial killers. My favourite character at the moment is Dr Reid (the skinny guy). Of course some people would think that he’s pretty lame, with four degrees and being able to read books at super speed and all, but “you just got to love Reid”.

I was watching an episode (Somewhere in Season 5), where there was some guy (unsub) who decided that he was going to unleash Anthrax on a government institution because they wouldn’t accept him in. Along the way Reid who is full of facts, says that ” scientists believe that the first time that Anthrax has ever been evidenced in History is when God caused a plague of incurable boils on the Egyptians ” recorded in the book of Exodus. To be honest I haven’t made the attempt as yet to verify that statement and I am not sure if I will. As someone who has studied science academically and has had the opportunity to relate with some Professors and Doctor’s I wouldn’t doubt that some scientists do believe this.

I will not say that it is fact because I believe that the bible is the truth and it doesn’t actually say how the boils scientifically came to be. I found this very interesting because in my initial reaction I was totally aghast. I was bristling at Reid’sstatement! Then the reasonable me kicked in and I started thinking about it. It makes complete sense that God would be the first to know about Anthrax. After all He is all-knowing and everything was created by God for God. I think what is important to know is that, this does not make God a terrorist. I’m not sure whether this was what Reid was implying or not but, his statement can be easily misconstrued to mean that (that’s if he wasn’t implying that). God does not have any evil in Him it says in 1 John that He is light and He is love. There is no darkness in Him and there is no evil. What it does tell us though is that God is obviously more scientifically advanced and since He is the beginning (Alpha) he would know more science than we do. I personally think that God is science and that all the scientific discoveries that we are making are us learning more about Him, it’s just that we have decided to call it science. I don’t know what they call it in heaven but it might just be different. Our knowledge is very limited we do not have all the pieces of the puzzle and that is why there are still so many questions in science, like how the earth was really formed. If you chose to believe solely in science then I can imagine that there would be a lot of frustration because we haven’t yet managed to piece together all the pieces of the puzzle that make up our universe and our being. I choose to believe that all that we know about science is working to fulfillment of all that is written in Genesis and throughout the bible.

Privilege of Weakness

Some of us are weaker than others in certain aspects of our lives. I am a shy person and generally have low confidence levels. This goes with the usual, low self-esteem and a higher than normal regard of what people think about me. These are weaknesses that I am very painfully conscious of. In my Christian walk, I have found that I have to rely very heavily upon God, in order me to do anything, especially ” big” things. It has had its highs and lows in my life. The highs being that I need to spend a lot of time with God and the lows being that if I have moved away from God then everything  seemingly goes wrong in my life. Most times there is a loss of equilibrium in my life. I am not able to be self-sufficient for very long. Every now and again I come to a place where I say, “It’s not fair”. The same scriptures in the bible apply to all of us but then some people seem to be better equipped to apply them than others. Take for example (2 Timothy 1:7), “He has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity but of love, power and a sound mind.” That scripture for me is an anchor, I find myself praying it a lot and having to remind myself of it very frequently. I am beginning to see my weakness as a privilege though. Though it is hard to see it that way when you are in a low and frustrated place, people like me in a way are in a good position. For it is harder for a rich man to get into heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle. James (1) writes that believers who are poor should boast because God has honoured them (and those who are rich should boast because God has humbled them). In John (15) Jesus says that He is the vine and without Him we can do nothing. For me that is a very true statement, without Him I can do nothing. I find it very difficult to stray far from God and for that I am grateful. I’m not saying that its bad to be confident and outgoing, I’m just saying that if you are not then do not despair, because we have been honoured by God. He has decided to keep us close to His bosom so to speak. For that reason we should be soaring high because “they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength they shall rise on wings like eagles”.

Christianity – Relevant to our Age

Has christianity today become a fantasy that people exist in? The world that we are living in today is constantly evolving and some would believe or subscribe to the fact that christians need to evolve as well. Is christianity relevant to todays world, the challenges that people are facing and the way that the world is evolving. I have met so many christians, who when they discuss the issues that are on the discussion table today usually start their discussion with the words, “christianity aside”, or lets forget about faith for a moment and lets discuss this pertaining to reality. I find myself answering every question that pertains to life with God inside it. Does that make me disillusioned? Yes I do admit that I am not one of those people who sit and spend the entire day thinking about Global debt and other big topics. In fact I am one of those whose lives is actually quite simple not much on their minds really until now. I am beginning to realise that we are living in a world that has a lot of questions. The world is waiting for people to answer those questions. Each time someone comes up with an answer that answer leads to more questions. The age that we are living in is not an easy age. We are required to give more of ourselves than our fathers grandfathers and forefathers before that. I think that this should be an indication for us as christians about how we should be practising our christianity. If anything we should be greater men and women of faith than our fathers, grandfathers and forefathers. But funny enough we often speak of great men of faith like Spurgeon and the Martin Luther’s. Just as the world is being challenged to push to a greater level of performance we as christians need to up our levels of christianity. We need to become more relevant.

Romans 8:19

New International Version (NIV)

19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.

I think this scripture is relevant to every generation in their time. Martin Luther and Spurgeon they were relevant in their time. The word they preached has not changed since then. It is the same yesterday today and forever. However our generation needs to understand this word and it will only understand it through us. We need to go into the word and draw out the answers through the revelation from the Holy Spirit that relevant pertaining to this age that we are living in. Just like those men of God did in their time.

This is a challenge to myself as it is to anyone else. If people have heard this before then good. It needs to be spoken to us over and over again. We need to stop living in our Holy bubbles. We also need to stop thinking that God is exclusive to what is going on in the world. God is very relevant today. He is as real today as He has ever been.