Category Archives: Pursuing holiness

The cursed tree

I love trees. Every year we go for a walk in the woods in the Spring time and I love looking a the trees. I love to see how they stand there completely naked, tall, reaching up to the skies, soaking up every little ray of sunshine. I love seeing the buds and the new life springing and filling each single branch with new green leaves.

I never knew how many shades of green existed in nature until I moved to the UK and watched in amazement the lush display of the vegetation in this country. So many different shades of green from the lightest hint to the darkest one. So beautiful.

The last time we were walking in the woods, I noticed some trees were down. We had some very windy storms that year and they did not survive the battering. They were probably already dead and hollow. These trees will probably just be left there to rot as their wood is crumbly and not of much use. There were some that might have been struck by lightning and the wood can still be repurposed. Somewhere a nice table or maybe a lovely rocking chair will be fashioned. They might be cut for fire wood or made into floor boards. In the past, in some cultures, they were made into crosses.

Today is Good Friday and we spent some time thinking about a tree. Well, it was referred to as a tree in the Bible (1 Peter 2:24). This particular one wasn’t a tree we would have liked to contemplate, paint, take photos of, or even write about. This was a cursed tree.

The Jewish people would know that anyone who died on a tree (cross) would be under God’s curse. They would have been familiar with Deuteronomy 21:22-23

22 “And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, 23 his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God. You shall not defile your land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance.

So when Jesus, the Son of God (Luke 9:34-35), the promised King (John 4:24-25), the Creator of all things (John 1:1-5), died on a cross (tree) for you and for me, all those who were watching knew, as they hurled insults at Him, that He was dying a criminal’s death.

The most amazing thing about this death, this tree, is that Jesus himself knew, exactly what was happening and why it needed to happen.

This story did not begin with this cursed tree. It began a long time before this very sad day in the history of humanity. It took place in a garden by another tree when Adam and Eve chose to disobey God’s word (Genesis 2:15-17). In rebellion they took the fruit of the tree God had told them not to eat (Genesis 3:1-7) and in doing so, they were sent away from God’s presence. Their lives, and the lives of every human, ever since, were tarnished by sin. The perfect relationship with God had been broken and no matter how hard they tried and we tried, nothing could make a way for us to get back to God.

But there in the same garden, God revealed to Adam and Eve His perfect plan to save them and bring His children back to Him. When God cursed the Serpent He said in Genesis 3:15

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring[e] and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

A descendant of Adam and Eve would be victorious over the Serpent and would bring mankind back to God. Jesus is that man. God sent His Son to live among humans. Not as a “divine being” but as fully human. Jesus experienced every thing a human does. He lived the perfect life that Adam could not live, the perfect life that I cannot live. None of us can. Jesus did. There was no sin in Him. No wrong. Not only that, He died the death that all of us deserve. Every human being rejects God and rebels against Him. Even the “good” ones (according to human standards). See Romans 3:9-18. We all want to rule over our own lives (and other people’s). We all want to be the god in our hearts. Jesus did not. He chose to die for us. He knew He was going to experience the cursed tree and, in deed the curse of being separated from His Father (Mark 15:33-35).

That cursed tree should have been mine. But Jesus took it instead. He hung there, so I could live. Have you ever thought about this tree? This cross? Yes, the one that was supposed to be yours? Have you ever thought about how much love Jesus must have for you to choose to die your death (John 3:16)?

As we reflect this weekend about Jesus and his death on this cursed tree, do not let it pass you buy. Pay great attention to all you hear about Jesus and the salvation He offers you (Hebrews 2:1-4). Consider Jesus. He loves you. He died for you and for those who believe He gives the right to be children of God (John 1:12).

God bless and don’t forget: the story of this cursed tree does not finish on the Friday. Sunday is coming!

Where can I find rest?

I am not sure about you, but when I am feeling tired, stretched, overwhelmed by family, work, church service and life in general, I just want to climb into my bed, close the curtains, turn off the lights and forget about everything. If only that would be the answer! Don’t get me wrong, catching up with sleep is a start. The problem is, eventually, we have to get up, get dressed, tidy up the mess around the house, prepare to return to work and so on. Life does not stop and wait for us.

Some people have told me in the past they find it helps them to find rest or “peace” when they listen to a motivational speaker. Someone that will tell us we are worth it, we are strong and can do anything we want, if we put our mind to it. Some will attempt to give us little “recipes”, tips or tricks that if we follow each day, in a certain order, will help us reach the end of the day feeling good about ourselves. Changing our routine and habits can be a good thing, especially when we are overstretched.

Another thing people might turn to when tired, is mindfulness. Mindfulness colouring, breathing, walking, thinking… slowing down everything around us. Some nice techniques, some bullet points to follow and the promise (again) that things can change, if you stick to it, are very attractive indeed. Please let me say, I am not against mindfulness. I think there is a place for it in our lives.

I am pretty tired at the moment. I work in a school and the past years, it is fair to say, have been very challenging. I am sure it has been challenging for many people whatever their professional life looks like. My husband has been working from home and my kids have had hybrid education and like many other families we find ourselves overstretched. We are tired and long for things to be back to “normal”. We find ourselves weary. I find myself weary.

Where can we find the rest we need? What kind of rest do we need?

Is it the kind of rest Tony Stark longed for in the Avengers movies? Spoiler alert – if you haven’t seen the movies, skip this paragraph. When Tony was plagued by the thought the world could be destroyed by alien attacks, he could not rest. He tried everything and he lost a lot on the way, until he was able to defeat Thanos with the infinity stones. His wife tells him that she and her daughter will be ok and he can finally “rest” and he dies. Very moving if you like this kind of thing. I remember the deafening silence in the cinema.

Is it the expensive holiday in a paradise island somewhere with blue skies and crystal clear waters all around and no internet connection?

The Bible tells us we can find rest in our God, our Father, our Creator. Jesus said:

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

The first thing we need to be reminded of is that the rest we need is the one we can only find in Jesus. Our bodies will be restored after we catch up with sleep, our health will be restored (in most cases) after we look after ourselves, our life style can change and be calmer when we adopt the necessary routines, but there is nothing, absolutely nothing we can do (or anyone else, as a matter of fact) to find rest for our souls.

There is a weariness we carry all our lives because of sin and that can only be dealt with in the person of Jesus. No matter how many times we listen to motivational talks or feel good about ourselves. In the midst of our running from here to there and everything in between, there is a heart that is focused only or mostly on self. We want what we want and we find time and ways to tell others about that. The unkind words we say, either because we are dissatisfied with how our day is going or because we are too tired, the looks we give our kids or co-workers because they are not doing what we want them to do, the way we grumble when we can’t find the fresh produce whilst doing the supermarket run, even the pet gets blamed for the mess around the house. Do these sound familiar? What about the fact that we fail to include God in the things we do? Sinful behaviour.

The problem is that we miss the point when our soul is tired. The Psalms are a treasure chest full of gems when it comes to pouring hearts before the Lord and crying out for help. One of my favourite Psalms is 121. (click here to read it in full)

The Israelites had to make the long and dangerous journey 3 times a year to observe 3 special occasions the Lord had commanded them to. Jerusalem was where the temple was and where the presence of the Lord dwelt. The presence of the Lord brought the people protection and gave them a way to offer sacrifices for their sin and seek forgiveness. There is a possibility that the Psalmist here is thinking about that in verse 1:

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—  where does my help come from?

Another possibility is that the psalmist new the dangers that awaited as he was going to Jerusalem. Perhaps his heart was heavy, weary, full of anxieties as he travelled to the city. Like you and I there are different reasons and circumstances that bring us to this journey where we need to stop and ask, “where does my help come from?”. We must carry on reading the psalm as there is much for us to learn. The psalmist’s answer to his question is remarkable. Verses 2 to 8:

2My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip— he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you— the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

The answer is remarkable because this man knew who God is. He knew that God is the One who made the heaven and the earth. He knew that God is in control, reigning, sovereign over all things and He does not fall asleep. The Lord is omniscient and omnipresent, watching over us at all times. He knows every moment, every detail of our lives from the moment we are conceived to our last breath (and every moment in between). What a confidence and security this psalmist had.

Do we know our God well enough that we too might be able to answer in this way? Perhaps it is time that we stopped getting distracted by everything around us and within us and invested time in getting to know our Maker more. When we spend time in His word and in prayer we get reacquainted with God and we can find rest in Him even when the dangers are still very real, the worries still present, the uncertainties painfully displayed in our paths, God gives us rest. Rest for today, knowing that we have salvation in Jesus and a rest for tomorrow, eternity with God, no matter what this day might bring.

Praise and glory be to Him.

Photo by Jessica Delp on Unsplash

Lukewarm tea is not the same as hot tea

Do you ever come home after a long tiring day and say “I fancy a cup of lukewarm tea”?

Strange question?

I felt challenged this week by a sermon I heard and as I pondered over the verses and prayed about it I felt I should share it with you and encourage you.

Have you ever felt you don’t really need Jesus in your life? Have you ever considered you know enough now of this “Christian” life that you are ok. You can do it. Maybe if it gets too hard I know I can pray to God and He will help me. Have you been so distracted by culture/society that you have changed your views to accommodate theirs and feel you are in with the times? Do you feel outraged when you hear people taking God’s name in vain or blaspheming? Does it make you want to cry when people say that they would never read parts of the Bible either because they are too difficult, or full of rules, or just outdated? Do you find yourself taking control of your life and completely ignoring the One who gave it to you, through His Son? When was the last time you spoke to God just because you enjoyed His painting in the skies above or just because you felt the cold air as you opened the door in the morning? I am addressing these questions firstly to myself and those who have met Jesus and given their lives to Him. If you call yourself a Christian, think about these questions.

When we first meet Jesus, there is a fire burning in our hearts and all we want to do is to spend time with Him. We open our Bibles and we are hungry. We want to know more of Him. Prayer is a bit difficult at first but as we are assured it is just like having a conversation with Jesus we pray a lot. We want to talk to Him. Our lives are so much better and we feel so loved and cherished that we even tell our friends that we have found Him. Or better yet, we tell them He has found us. He died for us and forgave us. He promised us life eternal if we believe in Him. We are so in love with Jesus that we put a lot of effort and time into getting to know Him. This is great by the way. It is normal too. It is by His grace that we are changed and that we want more of Him.

Are you confused? Are you asking yourself what the point of this blog is? Bear with me. We are getting there.

Very often when we have been a Christian for a while, our attitude or our view of Jesus tends to change. It doesn’t necessarily mean that we don’t want to spend time with Him or know Him. It doesn’t mean we don’t love Him anymore. We are just busy. Too busy. There is not time or very little time for Jesus. Sunday mornings. Yes. Thank you Lord for Sunday mornings. I love Jesus, but life has not stopped, you know? I will read my Bible later today because my “to do” list is just a mile long. I don’t have time to go to the Women’s breakfast on Saturday morning? Are you joking? Have you seen my house? Church prayer meeting on Zoom? You must be having a laugh… I work in front of a screen all day… no. I will pray before I go to bed. I will buy the book being promoted for Lent but I have no idea when I will find time to read it. I will put it on the ever growing pile of good Christian books I have bought over the years and haven’t read yet. One day I will. I promise.

Sometimes we say all of the above and yet we find time to binge watch a Netflix series someone at work recommended. We find time to play video games or listen to our favourite music all day long. We engage in meaningless conversations and get distracted by the world around us and all it brings with it.

If this sounds a little familiar, read on.

There is a great danger that we could become lukewarm Christians. Not cold. Not hot. Not possible, I hear you say. I could never feel like that towards Jesus. Well, think of when you so wanted to have a hot bath and run it and whilst you were waiting for the bath to be filled you got busy with other things and by time you came back to it the water had gone lukewarm… What did you do? Did you jump in with excitement? Did you drain the water or added more hot water? Or maybe you poured yourself a nice cup of hot tea and set on the side just to find it 20 minutes later lukewarm. You tasted it a bit and either threw it away or drank it quickly pulling a face as you did it. Lukewarm tea is not the same as hot tea.

There is a warning for a church in Revelations about being lukewarm. The Church in Laodicea. As you read the verses remember that these words of Jesus are directed at Christians.

14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:

These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

21 To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

In verse 16 the words I am about to spit you out of my mouth”, mean Jesus is about to be sick – to throw up”. Strong image, isn’t it? A lukewarm Christian makes Jesus sick. That is probably not the kind of reaction we would expect from Jesus, but it is what we need to hear. Do we think we can do it? Do we think we have enough knowledge? Have we forgotten our first love? Are we so centred on ourselves that we think we don’t need Jesus? Verse 17 says:  “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked”. Again, these are harsh words. May they pierce our hearts and produce in us repentance.

Jesus loves us and this passage bring a warning as we have just considered but it also brings hope. Verse 19 says: “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.” There is hope. We must look at our hearts and repent. We must be zealous in our walk with Christ, by His grace. We are united with Him through His work at the cross and what it has accomplished. We are now justified and saved, made righteous with God through Jesus. That is never going to change but our communion with Jesus, our “relationship” with Him changes depending on how we walk with Him. Verse 20 is an amazing verse: “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” Jesus is saying to us, even though we might be lukewarm, wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked He is at our door, knocking, waiting to come in to have communion with us. Take heart my friend. This love is incomprehensible. Who loves like this? Only Jesus. His it is true. Jesus is offering it to us, all of us, that might find ourselves sometimes in a lukewarm place in our faith. Consider His words to the Laodicea church and examine your own life, as I have mine.

May our gracious God help us as we refocus on Him.

It is not fair!

How many times have you said these words or heard them? I think it would be fair to say too many times to be able to count. Why do people say it? There are many different reasons. When we were children we might have thought our parents were being unfair to us when they disciplined us, taking away a toy or a privilege when we disobeyed them. Maybe it happened at school when we were caught talking to another student in the middle of a lesson and the teacher didn’t let us explain that we were only trying to help the other student. Maybe you got a negative mark and the other student didn’t. It could have been that best friend (well, at least you thought they were your best friend) that ditched you for another friend. Sometimes we say it inside when we come home from work and the kids have not bothered to even do the dishes after they finished eating and expect us to do everything and still be smiling and ready to give them all the attention they demand.

Other times we say it because of what we see on the news, the injustice and the unfairness in the world. The footballer getting paid millions to run after a ball (apologies here to the lovers of the sport) whilst entire villages are dying of hunger in many countries because there isn’t enough financial aid available to help everyone, or the money sent has been lost. Animal lives being protected at all cost and babies being killed by the millions (I must say, I am an animal lover, but human life is more valuable to me). Or maybe it is the diagnosis of a serious illness for a loved one and you wonder how in the world could that be fair. It should be you not them. Another reason could be the news a dear friend passed in a terrible accident and you think of so many people God could have chosen to take instead…

It is not fair!

I am a teacher, so, I hear these words a lot at school. When a student receives a lower grade than they expected but fail to realise they did not put enough effort into what they were supposed to do, they say these words trying to shift the blame to the teacher. As a mother, I hear it all the time when I need to sit down with my teenage children and say they are losing privileges because of their behaviour and the words come straight out. When I get frustrated because our plans have to change due to work commitments, the words are there. Sometimes they are not voiced but they poison the heart in the same way.

I am in the middle of course which takes you through an overview of God’s grace displayed through the entire Bible and as I consider this grace and what Jesus accomplished for us on the cross, I wanted to share that He never, not even once, said “It is not fair!”. No. He left His home in Heaven. He came as a human being. He knew the cost. He was obedient to death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:8).

This is how the apostle Paul describes Jesus in Colossians 1:

15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. (verses 15-20)

The title of this passage is the Supremacy of the Son of God, and you can see how powerful Jesus is and his authority. He was there when all things were created and all things were created by Him and for Him. We see how God was pleased to have His fullness dwell in Him (that shows us that Jesus was fully God). Jesus was there before all things in perfect harmony as the second person of the trinity and He holds all things together. This is a brief and rich description of our Lord Jesus. But then we read the end of verse 20 “by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross“. This is where some people struggle. God sent His only Son to the cross, to suffer and die for our sins. It is not fair, is it? That Jesus should have to die for my sin. The just, perfect, sinless, mighty, powerful God took my place on the cross.

What love is this? That pays so dearly? This is God’s grace. Grace is unmerited (undeserved) favour. Jesus said in John 3:

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 

God so loved the world. That is such an amazing verse, incredible and so difficult to comprehend… such love. When I became a Christian many years ago, I could never understand a father giving his son for someone. Now I have kids and I cannot even contemplate that idea. No. I would never be able to do that. Give one of my kids to die to save an enemy or a friend, as a matter of fact. Unthinkable. This is what God did. He knew we could never gain his favour because of the sin in our hearts – that rebellion we have against the King of the Universe. God still loves us. He had a perfect plan to bring us back to Him. A costly one, but a perfect one. This is the grace of God and He offers it free for anyone who believes. God does not call us to comprehend it, but he calls us to believe in Him and place our trust in Him. When we do that we stand free, justified, righteous before God. Jesus continued in John:

18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

Believe today. The gift is there. God’s grace and love poured out for us. Place your trust in the Son of God. We should, all of us, have been on that cross, not Jesus. We deserve death, not Jesus. If you think I am being a bit over dramatic here, all you need to do is search the depths of your heart and you will see it. So, it is not fair that the King of Kings should die for me. NO. His great love poured for us. His blood shed on the cross has redeemed us, brought us forgiveness and eternal life. We are set free. We are no longer God’s enemies.

You might already know God’s love and you have recognised Him as your king, but if you haven’t, do not turn away from this precious gift of salvation Jesus offers. Many have turned away from Him and refused to accept this glorious sacrifice He made. They said no to God and they stand condemned. Perhaps you need time to think about all of this. Perhaps you need to look at Jesus’s life and the claims He made about himself. Maybe you should investigate more about Him, so, why not spend some time reading a Gospel? Maybe join a church? Ask the questions that are in your heart? Come to Jesus, at the foot of the cross and bow down to Him. Surrender your life to Him and watch as He transforms your life for His glory.

God bless.

The good and perfect law!

Living in a time like ours where laws have been created and amended to suit needs of the people (or so we would hope) or to protect the vulnerable and needy (again, we would hope), it seems appropriate to think about God’s law.

I read Psalm 19 one morning this week and it talks about law, statutes, precepts, commands and decrees. As you can imagine, I spent some time looking up the words in the dictionary – here we go: 1) law: the system of rules which a particular country or community recognizes as regulating the actions of its members and which it may enforce by the imposition of penalties. 2) statutes: a written law passed by a legislative body; a rule of an organization or institution. 3) precepts: a general rule intended to regulate behaviour or thought; a writ or warrant. 4) commands: an authoritative order and finally 5) decrees: an official order that has the force of law. You guessed it – they are used as synonyms. What is remarkable about the verses in this Psalm is the way the Law of God reflects His character.

In verse 7 we see that “The law of the Lord is perfect”. We should not be surprised by this bold statement because God is perfect. His law is perfectly good, perfectly right, nothing needs to be added to it or taken away from it. It is given by a gracious God and is perfectly designed to bring us back to God, thus “refreshing the soul”. The verse continues: “The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy”. What an amazing assurance for those who trust the mighty God! We can be absolutely certain that what He has commanded is honest, sure, reliable and truthful because God is trustworthy. He cannot change. His character is the same from all eternity. We can rest knowing that what the Bible teaches us is a sure foundation for our living and for our hope thus “making wise the simple”. We can find wisdom by following God’s law.

It does not stop there. The psalmist carries on by saying in verse 8 “The precepts of the Lord are right” completely in harmony with God’s eternal will. They are right because God is holy and merciful and just. All He desires for those he created as image bearers is right and when we follow his commands we can see them “giving joy to the heart”. There is no hidden agenda, no selfish motives. All of what God designed for us is right. How amazing to think about God’s law in this way. David continues by saying “The commands of the Lord are radiant” because our God is radiant! There is no darkness in Him or blemish. His glory cannot be gazed upon. It reveals all to all. For those who embrace His commands, the Holy Spirit uses it by “giving light to the eyes”, and so we can see our misery and how much we need God in our lives.

Verse 9 starts like this “The fear of the Lord is pure”. This fear is the reverence and owe we are to have before God because of who He is. It is pure – clear and clean and when we revere God in the way He deserves it will cleanse us. It will help us focus on worshiping God alone. Many will say that these verses have application only for the people living in David’s time because of the ceremonial law and that now, because of Christ we do not have to revere/fear God in the same way. Well, this awe is something that culture and time will not change it will be “enduring forever”. This has definitely got me thinking about the way I act when talking about God. David concludes this part of the psalm saying “The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous”. This means they are established, penned, proclaimed, framed in God’s perfect and infinite wisdom. The law in all its entirety is good and worthy. There is no part that needs to be re-written, edited or updated. All of the commands are righteous.

These rules, were declared by God, given to us so we can know how to live our lives in a way that will glorify His Name. There is no error, no misjudgement, no bias. The men who create laws in our world are full of flaws, some with good intentions, some after self gain, but all are imperfect nevertheless. Our God is perfect and so is his law.

It seems a bit odd that I started the post discussing the middle verses of the Psalm first, but rest assured that David set the scene of this amazing psalm by first describing God and his glory and majesty which are revealed through His creation. Who has not marvelled at the starry sky and wondered about the power required to bring it to being and to sustain it? The order and the details of how the sun, the moon, the stars, and how the obey the design of the Creator are inexplicable. It is amazing and terrifying! David used the common things that people in his time and ours would take for granted and he points to the God who is Creator, powerful, good, merciful before he starts telling them about the law He has given us.

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun. It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is deprived of its warmth.

At the end part of the psalm, David tells us that God’s law is more desirable that gold and sweeter than honey from the honeycomb. Again David uses the common things like wealth and senses to illustrate his point. Gold is only momentary, it gives pleasure only in this life. Its value fluctuates and the status it brings changes and even ceases. God’s law is richer and more desirable because it comes full of grace and it concerns our souls for eternity. As for the sweetness of honey, it gives nutrients to the body and quenches the hunger for a brief moment. But the law of God satisfies the soul and its nutrients help our faith grow. They are used by the Spirit to warn us and assure us of the great reward we already have in heaven waiting for those who follow God and obey His commands.

They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey,
 than honey from the honeycomb. 11 By them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward.

Then David looks at his own heart and his sin and he pleads with God to free him from sinning and breaking the law he has just been talking about. He knows he cannot do it on his own. He knows that he needs God to help him. Do we? Do we recognise we cannot keep God’s law on our own?

12 But who can discern their own errors? Forgive my hidden faults. 13 Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then I will be blameless,
innocent of great transgression.

David finishes with the most famous verse in this psalm: He is praying that his words, the confession he has just uttered, the desperate need he had of his Saviour, would be pleasing to God.

14 May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

May we learn to see God in the way David did and may we seek his help to obey his law.

God bless.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash


We live in a world where things change very rapidly. When we have information readily available to us on our phones 24/7 we can hardly keep up with the changes all over the world.

In 1991 I spent 6 months living in America and I remember writing letters (yes, letters!) to my family in Brazil and then having to wait for what seemed like an eternity (4 weeks) to get a reply. When I read their news it was already old news. I had to learn to be patient as I knew it would be a while until the postman brought those letters.

Oh how things have changed! The speed in which information changes is ridiculous and people are influenced by it and change their behaviour because of it. It is almost as if we are in a constant state of uncertainty: people pack their food in the morning only to find out they don’t really fancy that sandwich, so, they buy another one at lunch; couples choose their kids’ names and then give them nicknames or even other names because they changed their minds about the original given names. Men and women spend hours deciding what to wear to a party, only to change their minds a thousand times before leaving their front door. People pick and change even their gender depending on how they feel in the morning.

There are too many voices telling us that we must change or even telling us that we can’t change and that is ok, as long as we are happy.

As a Christian, I find it very comforting to know that our great God, our Creator and Redeemer does not change – ever! This is a good thing. We can trust Him and his promises. We can be certain that His plans and purposes are unfailing. God is not going to change His mind if He is in a good or bad mood. He is not going to go back on His word if we disobey Him. We know from the Bible that His life never changes as we can see in Psalm 102:23-28

23 In the course of my life he broke my strength; he cut short my days. 24 So I said: “Do not take me away, my God, in the midst of my days; your years go on through all generations. 25 In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands.
26 They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. Like clothing you will change them and they will be discarded. 27 But you remain the same, and your years will never end. 28 The children of your servants will live in your presence; their descendants will be established before you.” (emphasis mine)

And in Malachi 3:6 we read:

I the Lord do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.” (emphasis mine)

In the book of Malachi we learn that the people of Israel had not repented from their sins and although they were now living in Jerusalem, after the Babylonian exile, they were still following their own hearts and desires and were not honouring their God and obeying Him. How comforting it is to hear that it is because God does not change that they were not destroyed.

It is very important for every Christian to know that God’s character never changes – His attributes will never improve or get worse. God is perfectly holy. He will never be holier or less holy because that would imply imperfection or a limit to his character. He will never improve his eternity or have it in a deteriorating state. Because God is perfect in His being, His character stays the same. This is what the Bible tells us in the book of James 1:17

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (emphasis mine)

Another thing we must hold on to is that God’s truth never changes – because God is infinite in knowledge and wisdom, there can be no error or oversight in his plan and his purpose. Since He is infinite in power, there can be no failure or frustration to accomplish his purpose. The Bible contains God’s truths, his word and his plan. Perhaps it is this point that many people, including Christians, struggle with. They see the Bible as outdated. They say “we moved on”. “we are modern people”. They try to accommodate the Bible into the world views and only look at what suits this view. Here are some verses from the Bible we can look at:

Psalm 33:10-11 “The LORD foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples. But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations (emphasis mine)

Isaiah 14:24 “The LORD Almighty has sworn, Surely, as I have planned, so it will be, and as I have purposed, so it will stand’” (emphasis mine)

Isaiah 46:9-11 “I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose’ . . . I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it” (emphasis mine)

Proverbs 19:21 “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’S purpose that prevails” (emphasis mine)

There are many other verses that show us that God does not change. We need Him to stay the same. The Gospel itself needs God to be unchangeable. Our hope for salvation depends on it. “As long as his infinite sameness endures, he will not change his mind about setting his love on us” (Jen Wilkin, None Like Him, page 85). This is an incredible thing: we are secure in Him because if God has pronounced us righteous, we are righteous because of the blood of His Son Jesus, shed for us on the cross. Romans 8: 35-38 is like a lighthouse in the middle of a storm, standing firm, reminding us that nothing can separate us from the love of God.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”  37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (emphasis mine)

Next time you are feeling overwhelmed with all the changes around you, remember that we believe in a God who is unchanging, because of God’s character He cannot change. He is the same forever and He loves us and never changes His mind about loving us. Be encouraged – the sameness of God is a blessing to us all!

Half empty or half full?

Have you ever been disappointed in your life? Perhaps you’ve saved money to buy that car you needed only to find out the last one was sold 10 minutes before you entered the shop and all they have left is a model you can’t afford. Or maybe, you were one mark, just one mark, short of passing that all important exam. You might have been waiting for that first date, and when it happened you realized he was not going to make the cut, as he was not the person he said he was on his Instagram or Facebook.

Other disappointments could be a diagnosis of a disease that was missed a few years previously and now it is too late to treat. It could also be that job interview that never happened or a promotion that was given to someone else. The house you were buying got taken off the market.

What do we do when we feel disappointed? Where do we go? Who do we speak to? What things do we allow our mind to be filled with during these times? Do we look at our cup and see it as half empty? How long do we allow the disappointment to linger in our hearts? Does it become the idol in our hearts?

Recently in a talk I delivered to the ladies in my church, I spoke of the discipline of conviction. Conviction being a belief that it is so strong that it changes the way we live our lives. This talk was part of a series on “Pursuing Holiness”. In our journey to become more Christ like we need to train ourselves to develop Bible based convictions.

The first thing we need is to believe the Bible is God’s word and the absolute truth. When we believe that it will be easier to understand that we need to live life based on the teachings God has given in His word.

You might be scratching your head asking: What does that have to do with disappointment? Bear with me. We will get there.

We also need to know that the Bible is a book about God. From the first page to the last it reveals to us His character and His will. It tells us that He is a God who is Sovereign, eternal, omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent, unchanging, self-existing, self-sufficient, infinite, incomprehensible, holy, loving, gracious, good, merciful, truthful, faithful, wise, just and righteous. These are only some of God’s attributes. This is the God we trust when we become Christians. The Bible tells us that He loves us so much that He initiated the greatest rescue plan – He sent His one and only Son to die for us on the cross.

Getting to know our Sovereign Lord through the pages of scriptures will help us to develop convictions which will change our behaviour. Even as I wrote the past sentence, I am thinking: I know God is Sovereign and his will is perfect (Romans 12:2), so my disappointment should not last. Right? I know that God will take care of my needs and that I should not worry (Matthew 6:25-34), so my disappointment should be momentary. Right?

Is my cup half empty? Why do I feel that I have been let down? Worse, I look at everybody else and think that their cup is half full. Have I sought God through the process preceding my disappointment? Have I brought my desires in line with what the Bible says I should pursue?

Often the problem is not that our cup is half empty or half full. The problem is that we have lost sight of the truths we learnt from the Bible and are not responding to the situation based on our convictions. We react to the situation based on our emotions alone. Don’t get me wrong. Feeling sad when a situation does not go the way we expected is not wrong. However, how we react to it might be.

We must be careful to put our trust completely in our Lord God when we feel disappointed. We may not understand why our situation has not gone according to what we expected but we must believe God has our best interest at heart. We must remember that God has redeemed us for Himself. He has brought us back to Him through Jesus and whatever situation we might be going through it is for our good (Romans 8:28).

If in our reaction to our disappointment we sinned, i.e. displayed an unjustified anger, or blamed God for what happened, or delighted in our misery too long until our hearts were full of bitterness, we must confess our sins before our God (I John 1:9).

Knowing our God more as we read the Scriptures will certainly help in developing convictions but we must trust Him. We must believe what we know about Him and most of all we must let the Holy Spirit teach us what we need to learn through all the situations we go through. God is still God and He is sovereign and good.

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Clean clothes!

Imagine for a minute that I do a lot of running (I don’t, just in case you didn’t know). Now consider these two scenarios: 1) I run long distances each day and get covered in sweat and mud. I go back home take off my dirty clothes and straight away put on my nice clean clothes and go to work. 2) I run long distances each day and get covered in sweat and mud. I go back home take off my dirty clothes, have a shower, put on my dirty clothes and go to work. You might be thinking “ew disgusting”. Who on earth would do that?

We have been considering the pursuit of holiness in my past 2 posts and today we will be considering that God’s grace teaches us to say yes to positive qualities of the Christian character. These are the qualities that we call the fruit of the Spirit. (Read Galatians 5:13-26) In order for us to be able to say yes to these, we need to consider what the Apostle Paul said in Ephesians 4:22-24

22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

In the process of striving to attain, pressing on in this journey of seeking holiness, we need to “put off” the old self and “put on” the new self. Lets consider my two scenarios: we think they are disgusting but very often as Christians we do exactly that. Consider scenario number 1. We might feel sorry for something we did, so we mumble a few words to God and put on our nice smile and go on our day trying our best to do the good things that will impress God. Now consider scenario number 2: we might genuinely repent and hate the sin we have committed against God, but we continue to let our self be in control of our desires and we go on living our day doing the same thing we did with no change.

There are problems with my two scenarios. If we take off the old clothes and put clean ones on without showering, all we are doing is making the clean clothes dirty and we are only concealing the mud and smell. If we shower and put the dirty clothes back on, all we are doing is making our body dirty all over again. The smell and the dirt will be transferred back to us. The perfect scenario would be to shower, get dry and put on the clean clothes before going to work. The process of getting clean and changing into clean clothes go together.

We need to do the same when it comes to pursuing holiness. We need to “put off” the old self and “put on” the new self. They go together. As we scrub the mud away, i.e. as we repent genuinely of the sins we cultivate or struggle with, we get dry and put on the nice clean clothes we have, i.e. we put on the new self, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” This is where we strive, we persist, we press on to imitate centred on God’s grace and with the help of the Holy Spirit.

We must remember that the grace of God is sufficient and it must be in the centre of our pursuit. Lets consider Titus 2:11-12

11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.

Verse 12 presents us with the positive side of what grace teaches us: to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives. These 3 words Paul uses here relate to actions towards one self, neighbours and God. We need to be self-controlled in order to practice the restraint we need in order to focus on good things of life. We also need to deny all things clearly sinful. We need to learn to live upright lives. That means we must have the right actions and conduct towards other people. Godliness is having regard for God, his glory and will in every aspect of our lives. Small or big. We must do everything out of reverence, love and obedience to Him. These are our new, “clean clothes” so to speak.

What an amazing, wonderful, gracious God we have! Not only has He sent His Son to die on the cross for us as a perfect sacrifice, but He has also given us what we need in order to live holy lives. Let’s be encouraged. We have God’s grace and the Holy Spirit living in us. We also have God’s word. We need to train ourselves to open it up, read and study it so we can know God more and understand all of the wonderful things He wants to teach us. For now remember to put off the old self and put on the new one. We are new creations in Christ. To get back to my scenarios: get in the shower, scrub all the mud off and get dressed in your bright clean clothes.

Have a blessed week.

Photo by Ylanite Koppens from StockSnap

No snooze button!

It might surprise you to know that I am not a very disciplined person. Well, it does not come very naturally to me. I need to work hard on it each day. Be it in small or big things, training ourselves to change and commit to these changes take time, but we must do it. The bad habits we have can be small and seem insignificant when we look at them, but we must work on even the smallest changes that need to be made. For example, I very often set the alarm 15 minutes earlier with the intention of jumping out of bed with enough time to do my daily Bible reading and start all the little chores that need to be done before the kids are out of bed and we are off to school and work. What happens almost always is I push the snooze button, role over and sleep. Eventually when I get up time is short, I am frustrated with myself, but can’t control it and then end up getting the kids worked up and frustrated too. My pushing that snooze button, instead of getting up straight away, causes a cascade of “little sins” throughout those moments and makes me feel really bad all morning. Bad for shouting at the kids, for being angry with the traffic, but most of all for not even having had time to read my Bible. I am working on it. I need to change and with God’s help I will. I have a note saying NO SNOOZE BUTTON to remind myself when I turn my light off. Maybe I would be better off buying an old style alarm clock. I need to say no to this very bad habit that causes me to sin.

In our pursuit of holiness we must be rooted in the grace of God. Grace teaches us to say no to ungodly behaviour and worldly passions. In my studies and research in the past few months I realised I never really understood what the term ungodly means in a broader sense. I have always thought of ungodliness being the same as wickedness. I was always quick to think of Sodom and Gomorra, or maybe someone like Adolf Hitler, or the terrorist who flew the planes into the twin towers in New York in 2001. We might think of people who kidnap and traffic human beings all over the world, violent husbands that attack their wives and children, parents that neglect and murder their own children or children who murder their own parents so they can be “free” to do what they want. These things are wrong and evil and it would be right to think of them as ungodly. For a better understanding of how God views ungodliness see Romans 1:18-32.

In a broader sense the word ungodly means disregarding God, ignoring him and not taking him into account in our lives. You can imagine my shock when I realised that I have been so ungodly, so many times, that I would be ashamed to admit. The many times when I jump to conclusions, make decisions without praying, considering scriptures… The times I sit around with colleagues who are mocking God and I say nothing. It is the opposite of what we are commanded to do in Matthew 22: 37-39

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (emphasis mine)

The process of learning, of pursuing, of striving to attain holiness is not always easy because it means we need to examine our hearts, look deep inside, find those bad habits we have, those sins we cultivate and say no to them.

We must also learn to say no to worldly passions. What does that mean exactly? It means to have a love for things of this life such as possessions, money, prestige, power that grows inside and takes over our desires, attitudes and thoughts. It becomes what we consider the most important thing and it consumes us. Passion for things of this world start small in our lives, it might be a jealous thought about the house our neighbour has or the car they drive, the school they send their kids to and so on. It might be sparkled by a promotion at work and the desire for a bigger team of people to manage, more power, a corner office. Very often I find myself thinking I am immune to these kinds of thoughts, after all I am a follower of Jesus, I read my Bible, I pray, I go to church, I help other people and therefore, I couldn’t possibly, ever be someone who will love this world and the things of this world that much.

We must remember that we are now citizens of God’s kingdom. We are supposed to live as foreigners here. We are supposed to be thinking of our home in heaven where we will be for eternity with God. This is what we are encouraged to do in 1 Peter 2:11-12

11 Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

God has given us his grace, his undeserved favour and this grace means that we are forgiven through Jesus. When He died, he paid the full price to satisfy God’s wrath and God accepted his payment and now we have His righteousness. (See Romans 3:19-26). Grace also reminds us that there is no more condemnation and sin has no dominion over us (See Romans 8:1). Because of God’s grace and with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us we can be disciplined/trained to say no to sin. We can stop pushing the snooze button, so to speak. We can examine our hearts, confess our sins and start the training each day knowing we are secure in Christ and his grace and his love will sustain us.

Have a blessed week.

Photo by Julian Hochgesang on Unsplash

Training for a race!

Have you ever tried to run a marathon? I haven’t. In fact, I haven’t tried to run any distance since I was a small child and used to be chased by geese at the park. I know quite a few people that enjoy running and have decided to run a marathon. I know that they are having to discipline themselves and adopt a regime of training that is quite strict. They have to change their diet, have all the right equipment and most of all they have to run, every day, no matter the weather conditions. I admire people with that kind of commitment. I guess, that is why I enjoy watching the Olympic games.

It fascinates me to listen to athlete’s stories of their dedication and focus. For some of us, mere mortals, it might seem a little over the top to spend all that time training just to get a medal around your neck. But I have to admit, as a Christian I have a lot to learn from the dedication, focus, commitment of an athlete and the discipline they have.

In our pursuit of holiness we must train ourselves, rooted in God’s grace to rid ourselves of all the bad habits, the sins we cultivate in our hearts in order that God be glorified in us. We must keep our focus on Jesus, after all, to be holy is to be like Jesus. As the runner keeps focused on crossing that finish line, so, we must focus on the giver and perfecter or our faith.

Hebrews 12:1-3 tells us:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (emphasis mine).

The preparation for a marathon is hard and long, and when you ask friends about it they will tell you of the many times they thought about giving up, but they didn’t. Either because they were running to remember a loved one, raise money for a good cause or just for personal satisfaction. They needed to do it. They had a goal.

God set the goal for each Christian: “Be holy, because I am holy”. That is what we need to remind ourselves each day. We are in a much better place than athletes though because God’s grace is being poured on us each day through Christ for our salvation and for our sanctification. The same grace that saves us is the one that disciplines us and helps us to pursue holiness. This is what Paul tells us in Philippians 1:6

 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

We have God’s grace and through his grace we also have the Holy Spirit working in us. In my next few posts I will be talking about this amazing grace and how it disciplines/trains us in this journey, pursuing holiness.

Have a blessed week.

Photo by Cameron Venti on Unsplash