Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Joy No Matter What!

“In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth…”
Luke 10:21 KJV

Can you imagine what it looked like when Jesus rejoiced? I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a quiet and reserved “hallelujah”. If He was anointed with the oil of gladness more than anyone else then I am sure He rejoiced more than the most enthusiastic sports fanatic watching his team about to score. If we’re honest, the picture most of us have of Jesus isn’t correct.
“Then the Holy Spirit made Jesus feel very happy. Jesus said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth. I am thankful…”
Luke 10:21 ERV

The Holy Spirit made Jesus “very happy” and if you allow Him to, He’ll make you “very happy” too. You can’t very happy without praising God and being thankful. If someone isn’t praising God or giving Him thanks, they’re probably not very happy. Being thankful and full of praise is a choice – you’re choosing to focus on something to praise God for, and be thankful for. It all comes down to focus.
 “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace. In the world you have tribulation and distress and suffering, but be courageous [be confident, be undaunted, be filled with joy]; I have overcome the world.” [My conquest is accomplished, My victory abiding.]”
John 16:33 (AMP)

Jesus said that we will have trouble in this world – there will be difficult and unpleasant circumstances. We live in a fallen world and there is an enemy who would love to make us miserable. But true joy isn’t found in the absence of problems. Circumstances, challenges and problems only have the power to depress you if you allow it. There will always be good valid reasons to be sad, depressed, worried, anxious and fearful, but all of that is rooted in circumstances which are temporary and subject to change. Jesus said that we will have things happen in this world which can make us sad, but we can be (and should be) courageous and full of joy because He has overcome the world! He’s encouraging us not to focus on the depressing things but to focus on His victory which is eternal, and allow that to fill us with joy!
“While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
2 Corinthians 4:18 KJV
We can’t (and shouldn’t) ignore the things going on in the world and in our lives. If you have a snake in your house it’s wise to catch it and get it out of your house. If you have a problem (or a mountain) you should deal with (speak to it) (Mark 11:22-24). The problem is that most of us focus on the problem, talk about the problem to everyone, think about it, pray about it, talk to more people about it… and we wonder why we are so sad and miserable. You have the power to choose how much joy you experience, and it starts with choosing what you focus on. If you choose to focus on the Lord, His victory and promises which are eternal, you will experience joy and peace. If you don’t, you won’t.

The Joy Of The Lord Is Your Strength!

Jesus was the happiest person on earth (Hebrews 1:9). He certainly wasn’t boring, and He attracted multitudes of people (even the worst of sinners) to Himself. They wanted to get close to Him and hear what He had to say (Luke 15:1). Children loved Jesus and He loved children (Matthew 19:14). Children are generally a great judge of character and aren’t usually drawn to mean and grumpy adults;  Jesus must have had a great character and personality.  Christians should be like this, too. We should be the happiest people on the face of the earth, and people should be drawn to us because of it.

“He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”
Isaiah 53:3 KJV
This is not a contradiction. What this shows us is that while Jesus was the happiest person on earth, He still had the capacity to grieve. It’s not wrong to grieve, but we need to grieve at the right things. This verse shows us that while Jesus was the happiest person on earth, He still grieved when He saw injustice and pain. I believe that Jesus is sad when we are sad – I believe that could be the reason that He cried when Lazarus died. He knew He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead, and so He wasn’t crying because His friend was dead - rather He was grieving for Lazarus’ sisters.  Jesus has compassion for us, and sympathizes with our pain and weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15). God is certainly an optimist, and with all the pain and heartache in the world I am sure that He chooses to focus on the positive rather than all the negative. He doesn’t ignore your pain and suffering – no! He has provided a solution for your situation through Jesus. He doesn’t ignore the pain and suffering, but I believe He chooses to rather focus on the hope that there is in the world because of Jesus and because His representatives (the church) are here to make a difference. He’s focused on your potential and the good plans that He has for you. I believe God is watching us with excitement and hope-filled expectation of good things to happen in and through our lives. I believe He’s eagerly waiting for us to give Him opportunities to invite Him to work in our lives and do amazing things. God isn’t ignoring the plight of the world, I believe He’s just more focused on the hope that there is. We should be like that, too. We should not be marked by sorrow and grief, but rather by joy and hope-filled expectation of good things to come. We should be the happiest people on earth, and yet the most compassionate and caring as well. When we see pain and suffering we should be moved with compassion (like Jesus) to help people, just like Jesus did.

“…this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”
Nehemiah 8:10 KJV
We shouldn’t be sorry (sad) because the joy of the Lord is our strength! There is strength in joy, but when we are not in the joy of the Lord we are weak. We may not have reasons to be full of joy – circumstances may be really bleak. But there is always a reason to have joy because of God – because of who He is and what He has done for us. When we focus on Him and what He has done for us – that we’re completely forgiven, unconditionally loved and abundantly blessed – then we will start to experience the joy of the Lord and that will result in us having strength.
If the apostle Paul can write his most joyful letter from prison (Philippians) and encourage the people on the outside to “rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4) then it’s possible for us to rejoice no matter what our circumstances are. True joy and happiness isn’t found in the absence of problems, or in circumstances. We find it in the Lord and what He has done for us.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Be Happy Like Jesus!

“Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.”
Hebrews 1:9 KJV
What picture you have in your mind of Jesus? Most of us picture a solemn, quiet, pale and sickly looking man who is very serious and hardly cracks a smile. But the picture the Bible paints of Jesus is quite far from the picture religious Christianity has painted of Him. Jesus was “anointed with the oil of gladness above His fellows”; that means that He was the happiest person on earth. And if Jesus was the happiest person on earth, then His followers should be living pictures of His example in being the happiest people on earth!
A lot of Christians don’t expect to be happy and enjoy their Christianity because they have the wrong picture of Jesus. You tend to become like the God you serve; people who see God as harsh, judgemental and angry usually are harsh, judgemental and angry, too. Many people see Jesus as boring and so they don’t expect to enjoy being a Christian. But if you think about it, there is no way that Jesus could have been boring. People wanted to be around Jesus; they were drawn to Him. People aren’t drawn to boring, or unhappy people.

“Now those who had eaten were about five thousand men, besides women and children.”
Matthew 14:21 NKJV
Jesus had spent the day teaching and ministering to a multitude of people. The Bible records that there were 5000 men present, excluding women and children. 5000 men spent the day listening to Jesus teach and receiving ministry from Him. These 5000 men weren’t thinking about food because they were enjoying Jesus so much. It’s a miracle that 5000 men were enjoying hanging out with Jesus so much that they didn’t think about food! They were in the middle of nowhere (a “deserted place”). There were no food stalls around. And it seems that the disciples were starting to get hungry because they approached the Lord saying,

“This is a deserted place, and the hour is already late. Send the multitudes away, that they may go into the villages and buy themselves food.”
Matthew 14:15 NKJV
I personally think that they were using the people as an excuse to get some food for themselves! “Lord, the people are hungry…” sounds more spiritual than, “Lord, I’m starving! Can we break for dinner?”. I doubt that this would have happened if Jesus were boring. If Jesus were like most preachers today, I doubt the people would have stayed as long as they did. People wanted to be around Jesus. At most churches nowadays, as soon as the pastor says, “Amen”, the people disappear in record time. There are many reasons for that – some good reasons – but a lot of the time it’s because people are coming out of obligation and the services are lifeless and boring (nothing like they would be if Jesus were leading them).

“Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him.”
Luke 15:1 NKJV
People aren’t attracted to unhappy or boring people. Sinners aren’t really attracted to religious folk and don’t really want to hear what they have to say, but sinners were attracted to Jesus and did want to hear what He had to say! I think it’s safe to say that Jesus wasn’t judgemental, harsh or unloving, and that He wasn’t boring. I’m sure He had a sense of humour, laughed and had a good time.
I’m sure Jesus smiled, and even shouted with joy when healing the blind or raising the dead. I doubt that He was emotionally dead or that He was always serious and solemn. You can be spiritual and happy. In fact, if you aren’t happy, you aren’t as spiritual as you think you are. God wants you to be like Him; He wants you to be happy and full of joy.

“For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty saviour. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs."
Zephaniah 3:17 NLT

You Can Be Happy

 “That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.”
1 John 1:3-4 KJV
We all want our joy to be full. Anyone who says that they don’t want to be happy is either lying or has been hurt to the place that they are familiar with and feel safer in their depression and misery. Thankfully for all of us, the end to our quest for happiness is simple. True joy is not found in the absence of problems or in material things; true joy is only found in having fellowship (relationship) with Jesus.  Christians should be the happiest people on earth!
There are reasons why you could be unhappy - but the answer to every one of those problems always comes back down to perspective and focus. What are you focused on? Your life follows your focus, and so if you’re miserable, I have good news for you: your emotions are completely yours to control. You hold the power to determine your level of joy. Joy isn’t dependent on circumstances - the apostle Paul wrote his most joy-filled letter from prison (not a very nice place) where he was imprisoned for his faith. He wrote to the Philippians saying, “Rejoice in the Lord always! Again I say rejoice” (Philippians 4:4). If you focus on your circumstances and on all the bad news that the world has to offer, then you’ll be depressed. Real joy isn’t dependent on circumstances. You may be going through such a rough patch that there is absolutely nothing good about your life right now. If you allow your joy to depend on your circumstances (you’re happy when things go well, and you’re sad when things go tough) then your emotions will continually fluctuate – they’ll be up and down like a yo-yo. That is not God’s will for you.
True joy starts in fellowship with Jesus and flows from fellowship with Him, too. Even though circumstances may be bad, there is always a reason to rejoice in the Lord. The only reason a Christian would be sad is that they focus on something bad and neglect to focus on what we have in Christ.

“Then he says, “I will forget their sins and never again remember the evil they have done.”
Hebrews 10:17 ERV
This is enough to keep you happy: God isn’t remembering your wrongdoing but has chosen to forgive you! Yes, you might be going through a difficult day and yes, God cares about you and wants to help you through it. But if you put your today in perspective, in light of eternity and what you have in Christ, dealing with today will be much easier. What you focus on you give strength to - so choose to focus on Jesus and what you have in Him.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Walk in Wisdom

As a believer you are called to influence the world for Jesus (Matthew 5:13-16; Matthew 18:18-20; 2 Corinthians 5:20). We have a powerful message which transforms people’s lives and so we should naturally be reaching out to the people around us; showing them the love and goodness of God. It’s all about sharing with others what we’ve received from the Lord.

“Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?”
Romans 2:4 (NKJV)
A lot of believers have taken our message which is supposed to be good news and is supposed to bring great joy, and they’ve presented it in a way which puts people off rather than attracts them. A lot of believers wrongly use fear, condemnation, guilt and shame to try and witness to others. Their harsh, judgemental and unloving approach has misrepresented God and caused people to reject Him. But these people haven’t really rejected God; they’ve rejected the marketing of God.  The church doesn’t have a product-problem (we have a powerful, life-transforming message and a generous, loving Heavenly Father), we have a PR or marketing problem! It’s the goodness of God which leads people to repentance (to accepting the gift of salvation). When witnessing to others we need to focus in on the goodness of God towards them.

“… (God) has given us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.”
2 Corinthians 5:18-20 NKJV
Our ministry is one of reconciliation; that means “the restoration of friendly relations”. Our message is good news and one of reconciliation. We’re representing Christ and that means that we need to say and act in a way that He would, and He isn’t holding men’s sins against them (2 Corinthians 5:19) and has already extended friendly relations towards them. God’s not mad nor is He angry. Sadly, many have represented Him as angry, mean and judgmental when in reality God is in a good mood. The thing is that you cannot correctly represent someone who you don’t really know. Too many believers don’t know the true nature of God; that He is good, that He is love and that He isn’t holding anything against us.

“5 Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time…”
Colossians 4:5 (KJV)
Eternity is forever and our time here on earth is short. This verse is stressing the need for us to make the most of the time that we have with regard to our witness for the Lord. We need to “walk in wisdom toward” unbelievers. If we fail to be wise in the way in the way we relate to those around us we could end up burning bridges with people and losing opportunities to influence them for the Lord.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Savage Wolves

“Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. 29 For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. 31 Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.”
Acts 20:28-31 NKJV

The apostle Paul is giving the leaders in the church (the influencers) some instruction regarding their responsibilities as leaders. He reminds the leaders that the sheep belong to God and He purchased them with His blood. Controllers and manipulators tend to forget this because they take possession of the flock and try and get the flock to serve them. Genuine leadership serves others, just as  Jesus demonstrated when He washed His disciples’ feet (Matthew 13:1-17). Leaders have the responsibility to look after the people and care for them, but they need to remember that the sheep belong to God. Someone in a position of leadership is merely a custodian, overseeing and looking after what belongs to God.

Paul goes on to warn them the leaders that some people will come into the church like wild wolves (ERV) or savage wolves.  These wolves waited for Paul to leave before they tried to exert their influence. They wouldn’t be completely honest about what they say and do in front of the senior leader (in this case, Paul) because they know that the leader will not approve of them. Their sole purpose is to try and destroy the flock. Like Jesus said (Matthew 7:15-18), these people are hungry wolves who are only seeking to devour whoever they can and the trouble is that they look like sheep; “they are wolves in sheep’s clothing”. They seem to be kind and sound like they’re mature and loving, but as soon as you start crossing them they’ll start snapping at you. These wolves are not seeking to bless others but rather they’re seeking to build their kingdom and enrich themselves (whether it is with money, power or recognition). They aren’t interested in the church as a whole, but in themselves – it’s all about their gifting, their ideas, their Bible study, their revelation and their followers.

Paul also warned that some “wolves” will rise up from amongst the flock “speaking perverse things (teaching wrong things). Usually these kind of people like to teach. They don’t really get much out of the preaching and they believe that they could do a much better job if the pastor didn’t hog the pulpit and would give them an opportunity. These kinds of people draw people away from the rest of the flock and unto themselves. It’s more about themselves than it is anything else.  Paul goes on to say: “Remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.”  Usually those seeking to influence others the wrong way are new on the scene and don’t have a proven track record. They just pop up out of nowhere and want to lead and influence people without serving them. These are clear indications of a potential controller and manipulator.

“I do not write these things to shame you, but as my beloved children I warn you. 15 For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.”
1 Corinthians 4:14-15 NKJV

Paul wrote to the people he influenced and told them that his purpose in writing to them wasn’t to make them feel ashamed or condemned but to warn them. He was reminding them that he was their spiritual father and had a genuine love for them. He really wanted to help them and was seeking their best interests, not his own. One of the ways you can see if someone is a positive influence or not is to see if they’re merely instructing you (telling you what to do), or are they fathering you? Are they seeking to help you mature in your walk with God, and not just getting you to rely on them?

You need to be wise in who you allow to influence you. Healthy influences will help you to fulfill your destiny, but bad influences will corrupt you and prevent you from reaching your potential and fulfilling your destiny.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Controllers and Manipulators

Today we’re continuing to look at relationships and influence. John Maxwell said that “leadership is influence”, and so if leadership is influence then whoever you allow to influence you is in fact leading you. Those people will either lead you towards your destiny or away from it. We need to be wise in who we allow to influence us because there are some people who would seek to influence us but not for our benefit.

"Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.”
Matthew 7:15-18 NKJV
The problem with deception is that you don’t know when you’re deceived. Have you ever had someone deceive you? The moment you realize that they have been lying to you, you are free from their control (knowing the truth sets us free). That’s one of the purposes of deception: to try and control you. And it’s not for your benefit.
Jesus said that you should be on your guard (be on your defense) because some people who would come and seek to influence you are bad news. He called them “false prophets” but that doesn’t mean that every bad influence will call themselves a “prophet”. They might, but often they are more subtle than that. Jesus said that they will look like sheep on the outside, but inside they are “ravenous wolves” (starving, voracious wolves). They talk the talk and act the part, but if you look closely they don’t have what they talk about, there is little to no fruit of the Spirit or success in their lives. All they are really trying to do is win your favour (often through their generosity in gifts and finances) and then use that favour to manipulate and control you for their own benefit. They’ll give you advice as a “thus saith the Lord” but all they’re attempting to do is try and control you in the Name of Jesus. These controlling, manipulative people usually always seem very mature in the Lord and know the Bible fairly well, but if you look closer and dig a little deeper, you’ll see that they don’t really have any fruit. It’s all talk. Jesus said that we will know them by their fruit. So if, for example, they aren’t walking in patience and love (Galatians 5:22) but are rather marked by anger and impatience, then they probably aren’t looking out for your benefit and you probably don’t want them to be influencing you.

 “Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.” 1 Corinthians 15:33 NKJV
You need to be wise in whom you allow close to you because they will influence you. Healthy influences will help you to fulfill your destiny, but bad influences will corrupt you and prevent you from reaching your potential and fulfilling your destiny.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Destined to Influence

"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its taste, it cannot be made salty again. Salt is useless if it loses its salty taste. It will be thrown out where people will just walk on it. "You are the light that shines for the world to see. You are like a city built on a hill that cannot be hidden."
Matthew 5:13-14 ERV

You are destined to be an influencer. As a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21) you are now salt and light in the world. When light shines, darkness retreats. And one of the purposes of salt is to add flavour – you are the flavour in a tasteless world. You are destined to influence the world and help make it a better place.
“Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.”
2 Corinthians 5:20 KJV

You are an ambassador of Jesus Christ. God has chosen you to speak for Him and be His representative in the earth – that’s influence! You are called and commissioned to influence people for God. God wants to work through you to influence others for good. This is part of your destiny!

We all have a sphere of influence – people we come into contact with whom we can influence. For God so loved your sphere of influence that He sent them you! You are not the total answer to everyone’s problems, but as a Christian you have the total answer to everyone’s problems: Jesus! Think about it: what does God want to do in the lives of the people around you? Christ in you is more than able to help those around you, bless them and enrich their lives. As a representative of Christ, the way in which you act towards others should reflect the way that Jesus would act towards them. That’s love and grace.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Relationships God's way - Part 4 (Build a Bridge)

I like the saying, “offense is taken, not given”. The only reason we are ever offended is because we take the opportunity to be offended. Even if someone is offensive, you have to choose to be offended. Offense is a choice, and you have the power to not be offended.

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Galatians 2:20 ESV

If you’re a Christian, you died with Christ. That means that you no longer live – you’re dead! Do you know what’s amazing about a corpse? You can insult it, spit on it, beat it and just be plain nasty to it and it will not retaliate. It won’t even blink. A corpse cannot take offense. “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me”. Christ lives in you – He is now your life. He is love, which means that your life is a life of love. 

If you are focused on Christ in you and His love for you, and if you’re allowing that love to flow towards those around you, you won’t be easily offended. If you’re just focused on loving others and being a blessing to them, then even if they are mean towards you, you won’t get offended. You’ll be more concerned with “Why are they like that?...  Are they perhaps going through a difficult time?”. Focusing on God’s love and allowing it to flow towards you and from you to other people make you more concerned about other people than you are concerned about yourself.
“A person's wisdom yields patience; it is to one's glory to overlook an offense.”
Proverbs 19:11 NIV

The mature are wise, and wisdom would make them patient with offensive people and cause them to help them to choose to overlook an offense. Overlooking offense is actually choosing to bless someone who has wronged you. Jesus said that we should “Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which spitefully use you” (Luke 6:28). That means that we shouldn’t respond to people as they deserve (no matter how badly they treat us). Let’s be honest: this is impossible in our own strength. We are not capable of loving others like this - apart from Christ. But we are not apart from Christ. He is in you. He is your life. His love is in you. As you choose to let Him love you and let His love flow out of you, it will be effortless to love those who do not deserve it.

 “Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.”
Proverbs 17:9 NIV

If we are promoting and cultivating love in our lives, then we will be quick to forgive others. We will even forgive as Christ has forgiven us (Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13). How has Christ forgiven you? Well, He forgave you long before you existed, long before you committed any sin, and long before you ever thought of saying sorry and repenting. That means that we should be quick to love others by choosing to forgive those who wrong us before they even say sorry or repent. This helps to build a bridge. It makes sure that the other person can always come and repent.

I want to encourage you: don’t try love people like this. It’s impossible and you will fail. Seek to have a revelation of God’s love for you and focus on receiving it. As you see it changing your heart and your life, then let that love flow to those around you. You cannot give what you do not have.

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Relationships God's way - Part 3 (The Company You Keep)

It’s liberating to know that we cannot be friends with everyone (we looked at this in my last post), but here is more good news: God doesn’t want you to be friends with everyone! (side note: this is not an excuse to be unfriendly and burn bridges, but more on that later).

“Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God…”
2 Corinthians 6:14-16 (ESV).
We should certainly always be friendly and loving towards everyone.  It’s our opportunity to be a witness and show people God’s love and influence them positively for Jesus (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8). We are called to be influencers; to be light in the darkness and salt in all the earth (Matthew 5:13-16).  God doesn’t want us, as believers, to completely separate ourselves from the world and have nothing to do with it.  We’re in the world but not of it (John 17:16). In order to reach the world we have to have something to do with it, but we need to ask ourselves: am I the influencer, or am I being influenced?

“Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.””
1 Corinthians 15:33 NKJV
If you think that you can keep bad company and not end up being corrupted, the scripture says that you're deceived. When you hang out (or fellowship) with someone enough, you tend to become like each other, even if just a little. You allow those closest to you to influence you. Since being married, my wife has influenced me to be a better man, and she has caught some of my humour. We’ve influenced each other. You may start using the same expressions, or enjoying the same kind of humour, but the influence also goes deeper and will affect your worldview which ultimately affects the way you live your life.  A Japanese Proverb says, "When the character of a man is not clear to you, look at his friends”. The people you are closest to will rub off on you. “Bad company corrupts good character,” and this will prevent you from reaching your potential and even fulfilling your purpose and living out your destiny.  That is why the Lord doesn’t want you to be friends with everyone. You should be friendly and kind to everyone, but choose your friends wisely and keep company with people who you can positively influence and who can positively influence you. The Pharisees (religious people) weren’t Jesus’ closest friends. Jesus had His disciples who were closest to Him, and then He hung out with ungodly people (Luke 15:1) - but they were not influencing Him, He was influencing them.

“Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behaviour from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.”
Ephesians 5:1-2 (MSG)
We should live lives of love for others – just like our Father God does. “Keep company with Him and learn a life of love.” This shows us that “good company corrupts bad character.” When we hang out (keep company or fellowship) with our loving Heavenly Father, His goodness and love will rub off on us and we will become more loving towards others. Focus on God’s unconditional love and grace for you, receive it and then influence others by allowing it to flow from you towards them.

If you find yourself in bad company and realise that you’re being negatively influenced, I want to encourage you not to burn bridges with others. Find some good friends who will influence you positively and help to build your faith, and start hanging out with them. You don’t have to stop seeing the bad company altogether, just start spending more time with good company and withdraw yourself from the bad company in a godly fashion. If you’re looking for some good company why not join a LifeGroup and start connecting with like-minded believers in a good church. Getting involved in a good church and serving behind the scenes should also provide you with some opportunities to make good friends.

The company you keep influences you positively or negatively, and will either help you to fulfill your destiny or it will prevent you from doing so.

Relationships God's way - Part 2 (You Cannot Be Friends With Everyone)

“All the believers kept meeting together, and they shared everything with each other.”
Acts 2:44 (GW)
The early church seemed to have met together quite a lot. And that is good. As believers, God has called us to be a part of each other and to meet together to receive the Word and encourage one another, and to live out our calling and mission as believers. Without being a part of other believers (the church), you will never be successful in fulfilling God’s destiny for your life. We need each other. We need each other in order to function as God intended for us.  And the reality is that whenever you have people coming together, you will also have the potential for many relational issues to arise. Therefore it is important to learn how to relate to people in a healthy way.

As Christians, we live in this world but we certainly are not of this world. Many Christians tend to forget this. The ways of the world are very different to the ways of God (Isaiah 55:8 KJV; 1 Corinthians 3:19 KJV). If we follow the pattern of the world we will get the world’s results, and it doesn’t matter how good they may seem - God’s results are far better and so we should be following His pattern. The world is constantly training us on how to live life and how to relate to others and so it is vital that we be purposeful in learning what God’s Word teaches and embracing it.

“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Romans 12:2 (KJV)
If we aren’t being purposeful in renewing our minds (changing our way of thinking) then we will automatically conform to the pattern and mold of the world. You won’t be successful by accident; you will need to get into God’s Word and study it, and then start choosing to believe it. What you believe will determine how you experience relationships and all of life.

The world tells us that love is “give and take” and that you are the most important person in a relationship (not just in marriage but in all relationships). With that kind of belief you will always go into a relationship looking to get something out of it. That’s called self-centredness.

“Don't be selfish; don't try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.” Philippians 2:3 (NLT)
The Biblical approach to relating with others is to seek to be a blessing, not to be blessed. Jesus taught this many times (Matthew 6:27-28, 32-33, 36). Now I am not saying that you should allow people to abuse you, and I am certainly not saying that you have to be friends with everyone. If you are in an abusive relationship, I don’t believe that God would want you to stay in it – you are valuable. And you don’t have to be friends with everyone - but you should befriendly and be able to walk in love towards everyone. The truth is that you don’t have the capacity to be friends with everyone in your life. We should certainly be friendly and hospitable with everyone, but we can’t build deep friendships with everyone. Jesus didn’t either. He had thousands of followers during His earthly ministry, and then He had His core team of 12 close friends. Within that core team, Jesus had a few even closer friends.

It’s also important to note that good relationships are two-way. You can extend love and grace towards someone, but it will accomplish nothing unless they receive it. Sometimes you won’t be able to build relationally with someone because they are not participating; they’re rejecting you. And that’s okay. You just keep on doing your part and keep a good heart towards them. You are 100% responsible for 100% of your side of any relationship. You cannot force people to receive your goodwill, or to respond positively to it, but you can love them anyway.

“Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:21 (KJV)
You choose how you respond to others. When people do evil against you, choose not to respond like the world would. Choose to pray for them and then you focus on God’s love for you. As you do, His love will flow in your heart towards them.

“And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet.” Matthew 10:14 (KJV)
In context, Jesus is saying that when you go to minister to people and they don’t receive you or what you’re saying, then move on. I believe it can apply to relationships too. If someone isn’t receiving your goodwill towards them, then don’t curse them and cause a scene, rather simply move on. You cannot be friends with everyone, but you can be friendly with everyone.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Relationships God's way - Part 1 (Don't Try And Love Others)

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the LORD.” Isaiah 55:8 KJV

“For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness.” 1 Corinthians 3:19 KJV
God’s ways and the ways of the world are two opposing systems of thought (or belief). We cannot expect to enjoy the abundant life and the fruitfulness of having a relationship with God while we’re operating within the world’s system of belief. The way that we think and believe in our hearts will determine our experience in life (Proverbs 23:7). If we’re operating in the world’s system of belief we will experience the results that the world experiences, but if we’re living in God’s system of belief we’ll experience the abundant life that Jesus has for us. With regard to relationships the world has a specific way of doing things - but in the Bible we see that God’s way of relating to others is almost the opposite of the world’s. The world promotes the idea (sometimes too subtly to detect) that: “I am the most important person in the universe”. This underlying belief would cause people to instinctively always put themselves first – it’s narcissism and self-centredness.  God’s ways are the opposite.

“Don't be selfish; don't try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.” Philippians 2:3 NLT
We should definitely have a healthy view of ourselves, but the Biblical approach to relating to others is to not be selfish, to be humble and to consider others as more important than ourselves. The world is trying to get people to like them; they do many things to try and impress people.  This is actually just self-centred. You don’t try to impress people for their benefit – you do it for your own benefit. You want them to like you. We’re called to be a blessing to others, and as long as we’re trying to impress others or win their acceptance, we cannot bless them.

“But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you… But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same… Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.”  Luke 6:27-28, 32-33, 36 NKJV
You definitely won’t get this kind of advice from the world. I doubt any psychologist will tell you to love those who hate you, and seek to bless people when they treat you badly. But Jesus encourages us to be like our Father and treat people better than they deserve; don’t give them “what’s coming to them” but rather see the value that God has in them and seek to be a blessing to them. God’s way of relating to others is far from the world’s ways.

The way that you treat others is usually directly related to the way that you believe God is treating you. People who are judgmental and condemning towards others usually believe that God is too. They usually believe that God is relating to us based on our performance and as a result they are very legalistic when it comes to performance in others (more than in themselves). They have high standards and an unrealistic expectation of people, which drive the people around them nuts.

“Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” Luke 7:47 (ESV)
When you know how much you are forgiven by God and how much He loves you, then you will overflow in love towards others. It’s a legalistic and usually fruitless exercise to try and love others. I am not telling you to do that. I am telling you that if you focus on God’s unconditional love and grace for you, then it will naturally start to overflow in love and grace towards those around you. You cannot give what you do not have. Receive His love and grace, and allow it to overflow in your life towards those around you.

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Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Victory is yours!

“For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.”
Romans 5:17 KJV
Jesus came to reverse what Adam did and give us a new life! In Adam we were doomed for defeat and suffering. We were victims without a hope, but in Christ we are destined to live in victory! Jesus reversed the curse (and its effects) so that we could experience “MUCH MORE” the goodness of God in Jesus. Yet, sadly, most Christians are more familiar with the effects (or fruit) of Adam, than the effects (or fruit) of Jesus; we identify more with Adam than Jesus.

“Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him… For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
1 John 5:1,4-5 NKJV
If you believe that Jesus Christ is born of God, you are born of God and therefore, you are an overcomer and not overcome. It doesn’t matter how tough the circumstances are and it doesn’t matter how dark things get because now that you are in Christ, victory is in your DNA. You are not doomed to suffer defeat but destined to reign in life and live in victory!

“You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”
1 John 4:4 NKJV
It doesn’t matter if the whole world is against you because the greater One is living in you. You are His dwelling place. Jesus in you is far greater than anyone or anything that could come against you.
“The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows).”
John 10:10 AMP
God’s will for you is an abundant life. That speaks of excess and more than enough. God wants you to be increasing not stagnant or decreasing. His will for you is for you to go from glory to glory!

“I am the vine, and you are the branches. If you stay joined to me, and I to you, you will produce plenty of fruit. But separated from me you won’t be able to do anything (ERV)... When you bear (produce) much fruit, My Father is honored and glorified, and you show and prove yourselves to be true followers of Mine (AMP).”
John 15:5, 8 
God’s will for you is that you have a fruitful life. He desires that your relationship with Him would allow a flow of life from Him to you, and that that life would produce fruitfulness in you. Fruitfulness, not failure brings glory to God. He is happy when you’re doing well and prospering because this is your destiny.
Choose to believe what God’s Word says about you and declare it boldly. When the enemy tried to tell you otherwise, or when he tried to come and steal, kill or destroy, then resist him (James 4:7) by declaring God’s Word concerning you and telling the devil to get lost. Victory is yours!

A side note: If you are a South African and are registered to vote today, please read my article on the importance of voting by clicking here, and go vote!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

South African Elections 2016 - Are you voting?

They say you should never talk about politics in church. I could never understand that because it’s such a huge part of life and as believers it is our opportunity to have our voice heard. I don’t believe that real change will come through government – God has commissioned real change through the ministry of the Gospel by the church. But the church (believers) needs to go into all areas of life (including politics and government) and bring God’s influence there. As a pastor and leader it is important that I do my part to help educate people on how their vote as a Christian, matters.

Christian, it’s your duty to vote. It’s also your opportunity to make your voice heard. We’re given an opportunity to let our voice be heard, by voting, and give men and women the privilege of representing us and making laws and making decisions that reflect our beliefs. Your vote reflects your values and so before you vote you need to make sure that you know the values of the party that you are supporting.

Our faith as believers needs to make an impact in all arenas of life including politics and government. I was involved in politics for a number of years before going into full-time ministry, and know how things work and can tell you lots of stories from “behind-the-scenes.” You can be a Christian and a politician and be in any political party. But if your faith and the Word of God is not your foundation and guide, and if it does not influence your decisions and policies then you are just playing games and you are not truly fulfilling your God-given destiny to make an impact for Him.

We have a system of government where every vote counts because of proportional representation. Don’t believe the lie that we need a stronger opposition or a “don’t divide the opposition”. If you know anything about the past couple of years of our history, you’d know that many opposition parties have stood together to form a coalition governments and bring about change together. And smaller parties are making a difference! Every vote counts and your vote reflects your beliefs. Don’t vote out of fear or ignorance; get the facts and vote for a party which will stand for you.

I know of a case in certain municipality where a very popular opposition party put forward a proposal to force a church to close its doors and move. I was sitting in the public gallery of this meeting. The main reason for their proposal was public disturbance – a few of their members had lodged complaints about traffic congestion and many people gathering in the area. One of the representatives of that party who is a Christian expressed to a friend of mine that they were in a moral-conflict because their daughter goes to that church and it is doing such a great work, but this representative had no voice in the matter because the party had decided. I do not know what the outcome was – I don’t think that the church was closed-down or forced to move, but the story should be a wake-up call for us as Christians.

Take time to find out about the different parties. Contact those who are standing for council in your area and ask them a few questions about their values and how they plan to represent your faith and values in government. Pray about it and ask God to lead you.

I know a number of Godly men and women in government personally, and can vouch for them. I had the privilege of working alongside some of these men and women as an administrative support in parliament a few years back. I also know a few men and women in local government who are doing great things! These men and women are making an impact for Jesus in our government and are defending the church and our rights, so that we can do the work God has called us to.

I encourage you to do your homework and vote according to your values. I am not telling you who to vote for, but I will tell you who I support. I whole-heartedly support the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP). They have faithfully stood for Biblical values since 1994 and have a proven track record. I honour the men and women in the ACDP and all that they do for our nation. You may be saying, “but I don’t know anything about the ACDP!” And that’s probably because they don’t get the support they need and thus don’t have budgets like the bigger parties do. Here is a copy of their 2016 local government manifesto, I encourage you to take a look at it and consider supporting them. Click here for their manifesto

If you don’t agree with me please don’t allow that to divide us. You’re still welcome at our church and we can still be friends. Don’t allow politics to divide the church. Again, I believe that we need to be involved in government through voting and standing as candidates (if you feel called into that) but what will bring about real change is if the church wakes up, preaches the true Gospel, and make true disciples. Selah. 

Seek first...

“Keep your lives free from the love of money. And be satisfied with what you have. God has said, “I will never leave you; I will never run away from you.”
Hebrews 13:5 ERV
We often worry about finances, but we don’t have to because God is with us. For people in the world, their lives revolve around money and most their time and energy is spending trying trying to get more so that they can spend more and have more – they love money and chase after it because they are never satisfied with what they have. A lot of believers are like this too. The enemy makes us discontent with what we have and so he gets us to ignore what we have and desire what we don’t have, which fills us with a love for money, instead of a love for God and His kingdom.

“Don’t worry and say, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 That’s what those people who don’t know God are always thinking about. Don’t worry, because your Father in heaven knows that you need all these things...”
Matthew 6:32 ERV

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”
Matthew 6:33 NKJV

When we trust in our heavenly Father to provide our needs then we won’t worry. Worry is an indication that we aren’t truly believing and trusting in God and His Word. And it’s easy to fall into the trap of worry when we’re focused on the lack or need instead of the promise and provision. People who don’t know God worry about having their needs met and chase after money and stuff. But we have a loving Father who knows that we have needs. He can look after us better than we can look after ourselves. We allow Him to look after us by following His divine order which is seeking first His Kingdom and righteousness. That means that our number one priority should be God’s way of doing things and His way of being right with Him (Romans 5:1. “His way of being right with Him" is relating to Him by grace through faith; not by performance). The result of seeking first God’s kingdom and righteousness, and not seeking after having our needs met, is that we will experience supernatural provision.

“So I tell you, don’t worry about the things you need to live—what you will eat, drink, or wear. Life is more important than food, and the body is more important than what you put on it. 26 Look at the birds. They don’t plant, harvest, or save food in barns, but your heavenly Father feeds them. Don’t you know you are worth much more than they are?”
Matthew 6:25-26 ERV

You have nothing to worry about. God is with you and will never abandon you. Seek first (prioritize) seeking His kingdom and relating to Him by grace through faith, and you will see things work out supernaturally.

Never will I leave you...

“…I will never leave you nor forsake you.” 
Hebrews 13:5b NKJV
You don’t know for sure what is going to happen today, or this week. Life happens and sometimes the pressure can get pretty intense. Sometimes the pressure we experience is finance related; we have to pay the bills, and we need money for day-to-day living. It doesn’t matter how much pressure you’re under and how bad the circumstances may get, you have a guarantee that God Almighty (your Daddy) is always with you – He has promised to never ever leave you or turn His back on you. 

You may feel like the mess you’re in is your fault, and maybe it is. You may have made some unwise decisions and as a result you’re suffering (reaping the consequences). There is no condemnation in Christ (Romans 8:1). God didn’t promise to only be with you when you made good decisions – He’s with you even when you make foolish decisions and mess up. You may not feel His presence and you may feel like He is miles and miles away but the truth is that He is always with you. He will not abandon you, even when you mess up. And He isn’t merely with you, but He’s with you to help you.

“God is our protection and source of strength. He is always ready to help us in times of trouble.” 
Psalm 46:1 ERV
“Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” 
Hebrews 13:5 NKJV

The promise of God never leaving us is given in context of finances. It’s so easy to feel like God has forsaken us when we have financial difficulties (especially if it’s the result of bad decision), but He doesn’t. He’s still there. He will never leave us nor abandon us.

“Keep your lives free from the love of money. And be satisfied with what you have. God has said, “I will never leave you; I will never run away from you.”  
Hebrews 13:5 ERV

God is with us therefore we don’t have to allow financial circumstances to cause us worry, fear or anxiety. Our hope and security is not in the economy but in the Lord. Because He is with us and because we have His unmerited favour (Romans 8:31) we can be confident and secure knowing that He is our provider (Matthew 6:25-34; Philippians 4:19).