Category Archives: Pursuing holiness

Jumping frog or dying frog?

I am sure we have all heard, at some point, the story about two frogs and a pot of hot water! Before I go any further, it is important to say that  I do not know the science behind this, nor have I ever tried this at home. I will use this story to help us understand some important warnings the Bible give us.

The first frog in our story was dropped into a pot of hot boiling water and he jumped straight out. The frog is sensitive to the temperature and somehow knows it is dangerous. It runs for his life! We shall call this frog the jumping frog. The second frog was put into a pot of cold water over the hob. The water started to get hotter and hotter until it boiled and killed the frog. The frog did not jump or tried to escape from his death. Its body got used to the temperature and did not feel the danger. We shall call this frog the dying frog.

You might be wondering what in the world my point is and what the link between the frogs and warnings from the Bible is! Christians are called to live in such a way that brings glory to God. We are called to trust in Him and keep our eyes and thoughts on Him. We are called to be different.

The Bible tells us in Romans 12:1-2

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Note verse 2: Do not conform to the pattern of this world.  We shouldn’t get used to the style and way those that do not trust in God, through Jesus, live their lives. Remember our dying frog in a pot of cold water that got hotter and hotter until it killed it? Well, we could become like that frog: too comfortable and adapt to the temperature of the present world to an extent that we would not see the danger – our hearts could get cold, insensitive to God’s voice and will.

The Bible also tells us in Hebrews 3:13-15

“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today’, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. 14 We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end. 15 As has just been said: ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.’

The author of the book of Hebrews is telling us that we should help one another so we wouldn’t be hardened by sin’s lies and have hearts stone, just like those that turned away from God in the desert after God had miraculously saved them from the Egyptians. It is possible we can get so taken by the things the world throws at us that we could turn our back on God.

We need to be jumping frogs –  we need to recognize the danger and jump out of the pot! We need to hold on to God’s promises and be different, in such a way that our lives would attract those who are dying in the pot! Let us encourage one another to live our lives with our eyes fixed on Jesus.

God bless.

How would you run a race?

How would you run a race? You might never really have thought about this question before, or you might be the kind of person that knows exactly how to do it! I don’t run. I don’t particularly like it but I admire those who can, and do it because they love it. Last year during the Olympic games, I really enjoyed watching the athletes run their different races. Their concentration, their effort, their dedication and determination to run, to win, to even just cross the finish line are amazing!  The athletes just focus on that finish line and they give their all. Sometimes, when something unexpected happens, such as a fall, they get up and keep running, because their eyes are on that finish line! I suppose for an athlete not finishing a race is worse than losing it.

The apostle Paul write to the Philippians to exhort and encourage them to keep pressing on keeping their eyes on the prize.

12 I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. 13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it,[d] but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” Philippians 3:12-14

Paul begins by saying to them he has not yet achieved the goal. In verses 10-11 of the same chapter he says:

10 I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, 11 so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!

The great apostle Paul wanted to know Christ in every way possible, and he is pressing on focussing on the prize, which is most and above all to Know Jesus. Being in heaven means being with Jesus. What an amazing prize that is!

Paul was telling them he was not living in the past, he wasn’t looking to the left or to the right, but he was looking forward to what lies ahead! I have never seen an athlete run looking backwards! When we live our lives as if we were prisoners of our past deeds we will not focus on our prize. Jesus has rescued us. He has offered us forgiveness and we are free from our past. Let me just say one thing here: learning from past mistakes is important, or feeling sorry for past sins is part of becoming a transformed person, but dwelling in the past is a dangerous thing because it takes our focus away from Jesus.

We are urged to press on! Look ahead! Focus on the finish line! Focus on the prize! I don’t want to pretend this is an easy thing. We live in a busy world and we do allow ourselves to get caught up in it. As mums, we do need to look after our families, teach our children, manage our homes well, do laundry, cook… the list goes on and on. Somehow we need to press on. We need to remind ourselves of the amazing prize awaiting for us! We need let Jesus inspire us over and over again. We need to rely on His strength to press on. If the prize is to know Him, how do we do it? We  might start by studying His word! Jesus is God and has authority over all things. If He is God, we must conclude His word is true. If his word is true, we must conclude we need to obey it and live it out! That is our next step. Talking to Jesus is also important, so prayer needs to be present in our lives. Spending time with Godly people is another way to Know Jesus better. Sharing  Him with other people is an exciting way to deepen the relationship with Him. This is not a finished list, just some simple steps.

How are you running your race?

4 types of heart

seeds3

We don’t normally think about the types of heart people might have. Is there such thing as different hearts? I googled it and only found different types of heart diseases or heart attacks, heart blocks or heart failures. I didn’t find anything about different hearts as in the muscle that pumps the blood around our whole body.

The Bible speaks of different types of heart. Jesus once told a story about a farmer who sowed seeds. Some seeds fell along the path, some fell on rocky places, some fell among thorns and some fell in good soil. This story can be found in Matthew 13:3-9.

The places where the seeds fell represent people’s hearts. The first one hears God’s word but does not understand it. This heart is vulnerable to the attacks of the evil one who snatches that seed, or God’s word, away from that heart. The second one, receives God’s word with gladness in their hearts, but because it is in rocky ground it does not have deep roots and once the persecution starts, they let go of what they heard and don’t believe any more. Note, when we talk about persecution here, it might be as simple as being mocked by peers at school or at work for believing in Jesus. It does not necessary mean being put in prison because of His name. The third type of heart is that of a person that hears God’s word but is too preoccupied with the things of this life. It is a heart that is concerned and distracted by the wealth and riches of this world. So, those things stop this heart truly believing. The fourth and final type of heart is that of a person who hears God’s word and understands it. This heart not only understands it, but because it does, it produces fruit. It is someone who lives it out and therefore witnesses to other people.

Such a simple story but so rich! How many times have you been discouraged when telling people about God and the amazing love He showed us through Jesus and they simply do not get it or choose to ignore it? Jesus told us we would meet people like that. He also told us we would meet hearts that are good soil, so, do not be discouraged. Like with the farmer, our responsibility is to sow the seeds, God will prepare the soil.

Have a blessed week.

Love and Knowledge

One of my favourite books of the New Testament is Philippians. We are studying it at our church in our Mum’s Bible group. This morning we looked at 3 verses that I really love. Paul was in prison and he is praying for the Philippians. How encouraging is that?

We looked at Philippians 1:9-11

“9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God.”

What a remarkable prayer! Paul is asking God to help the Philippians love more in the knowledge and depth of insight or discernment. Two key ingredients essential for any Christian to live a life that is pleasing and glorifying to God: love and knowledge. Both are important and need to work hand in hand. If we only have love, everything would be a bit fluffy. We would always try to please those we love and we would lose sight of the most important thing: pleasing God. If we were only wise and discerning, we would be cold and would not be sensitive to the needs of those around us and would probably become like the Pharisees.

We need to love more and have knowledge that only comes through Jesus. We need to know Him better and we need to imitate Him. He gave us the ultimate example of love and knowledge and discernment. Only through knowing Him deeply we will be able to follow Him. Our lives will then be pure and blameless and what we live and produce will be righteous and will be pleasing and glorifying to God.

My prayer is that this wonderful prayer Paul prayed for the Philippians would be true in my life and in the lives of those who love Jesus.

Completely restored!

Today’s sermon at our church in the morning was very challenging! We finished the book of John. We looked at John 21:15-24

15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ he said, ‘you know that I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Feed my lambs.’ 16 Again Jesus said, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He answered, ‘Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Take care of my sheep.’ 17 The third time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ He said, ‘Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.’ 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, ‘Follow me!’ 20 Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, ‘Lord, who is going to betray you?’) 21 When Peter saw him, he asked, ‘Lord, what about him?’ 22 Jesus answered, ‘If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.’ 23 Because of this, the rumour spread among the believers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, ‘If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?’ 24 This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true.

Jesus and Peter were having a conversation. That same Peter that had denied Jesus just before He was crucified. Jesus was asking him if he loved Him. Not once but 3 times Jesus asked the question: Peter, do you love me? (verses 15, 16, 17) Each time Peter answered Jesus was working on restoring him completely. He was forgiven, accepted and chosen to carry out an amazing but very hard job: to look after Jesus’s sheep (verses 15, 16,17). Peter like most of us, failed greatly in his walk of faith and trust in Jesus, yet, Jesus in his mercy and grace offered him a part in building his church here on Earth and leading His people.

Jesus being God and knowing all things also presented Peter with the reality of the task ahead! Peter was to follow Jesus – in everything. In life and in death. It would not be easy. Christian life is not easy. We may not live in a country where we are killed because we confess to be Jesus’s followers, but standing firm and trusting in Him is not always seen as a good thing. Jesus was clear to Peter though, the commitment to Him had to be complete.

Wow! It really made me think. We are to follow Jesus period. We are to follow Him no matter how hard it will be! No matter how many people will laugh at us, oppose us, hate us, we are still to follow Him. Not only that, we are not supposed to compare our lives as Christians to anybody else’s. We need to keep our eyes on Jesus. It does not matter how I have lived, how many times I have chosen to do things my way, how I have pushed Jesus away from the throne of my heart, if I LOVE Him truly and return to Him, He will restore me and use my life for His glory. How amazing is this? What love is this?

Daffodils

The children and I went to a lovely little park near our house called Highdown Gardens yesterday afternoon and we saw some daffodils there. It has been too cold so everything is growing a bit slow this spring, but still it was lovely! The kids ran around and had lots of fun while I was photographing. I love taking pictures of the kids and of the flowers.

As I was walking around looking at the beautiful daffodils I remembered a passage from Matthew 6:25-33

25 “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? 27 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? 28 “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, 29 yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 30 And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith? 31 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33 Seek the Kingdom of God  above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

I am very greatful for the little reminders through the day of God’s promises and faithfulness! We should not worry about things such as food and clothing. Verse 26 tells us about the birds and how God provides for them and then how much more value we have to HIM than the birds. Verse 28 talks about “lilies of the field”, but all flowers are beuatiful and God looks after them. Then verse 30 tells us that God will provide clothing for us as well. In fact these verses all tell us that God will care for all our needs – not our wants.  All we have to do is put Him first in our lives. What an amazing promise!

An Invitation to the Feast!

A few weeks ago we had a guest speaker at our church. The sermon was on a very well known passage from the Bible. We know it by “The prodigal son” in Luke 15:11-32

The story of a father and two sons. The father represents Jesus in this story and what He offers us. His amazing invitation to come home to Him. The younger son represents all the people who want no ties and choose freedom. They choose a life of experiences but put no real value in the relationship with the father. The older son represents those who live by the book. The respectable ones, those who work hard and achieve something.

If we are honest with ourselves, we can identify with both brothers. When was the last time you said to God: “Yes God, I would like your blessings and your gifts, but as far as having you as my King… ” ? That is what the young son did wasn’t it? He wanted the father’s money but not the father.

The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. 13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.” Luke 15: 12-1

When we come to think about the older son, when was the last time we said: But God, I am doing everything by the book: I am not drinking, steeling, lying, I pay my bills, I have a good life and I am an example to everyone, I even go to church every Sunday … why this or that is not happening? It is just not fair!” See the older son kind of had a tantrum when he found out his father was celebrating his son’s return.

“29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’” Luke 15:29-30

The father went out to both sons. To the first he run while the son was still a long way out and opened his arms to him to receive him back not as a slave but as a son. Jesus does not want slaves.

22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.” Luke 15:22-24

God does not just tolerate us, HE loves us! He wants us in the feast. Then the father went out to the older son to beg him to come into the feast. There again He was extending the invitation to the second son, who, despite being there with the father, did not have a relationship with him… a father son relationship. He saw himself as a slave and the father as a slave driver.

Jesus is offering to both kind of people the same thing: a place in the feast – eternal life with Him. The young son had a bad past – he had done something terrible. He was as bad as bad can be. But no one can be too bad for Jesus. HE died on the cross for all the badness in the world. So it is not badness that keep people out of heaven.  The older son, was respectable, hard working, by the book kind of son. But he was too good to accept charity… he was doing all the things right. Goodness can keep people out of heaven because they fail to recognize the mercy and grace that was extended to them as well. The older son refused to take part in the feast of mercy and celebration of a life that had been found.

May God help us all to accept the invitation to be part of the feast!

This post was based on the sermon preached by Glen Scrivener. The original sermon can be found here http://www.angmering.org.uk/sermons/?preacher=Glen+Scrivener

I can’t forgive!

Forgiving someone is a very difficult thing. Perhaps this is because we feel hurt or upset when someone offends us, and sometimes we just find it would be so unfair to forgive what people did to hurt us. Our pride and dignity is hurt. We are focussing too much on us, and we ignore our own guilt before God.

You see, God is holy and his honour and dignity are perfect and eternal! When we recognize that, it becomes easier to see that we have received something we do not deserve.

Have you ever stopped to think about your sin, your offenses against God? Can you count them? Perhaps if you did that and then multiplied it by God’s holiness and dignity you would find the result is the size of your debt to HIM. Your guilt.

The Bible tells us that the penalty for our sins is death:

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23

Striking isn’t it? To think that we deserve death but we received forgiveness. This is what God did with our sins:

“You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. 14 He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross.” Colossians 2:13-14

Our record is now clean. While we are letting revenge and bitterness cloud our minds and hearts God sent His Son to die on the cross for us.

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

Amazing isn’t it? So, when we focus on that it becomes easier to forgive those that offend us.

“Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” Colossians 3:13

May God give us the strength to practice forgiveness in our lives.

God bless.

Thanks to Ricardo Libaneo who shared a fantastic post on this subject and has encouraged me immensly. Ricardo is my brother-in-law and is a pastor of a Baptist church in Brazil.

Pruning!

I am not much of a gardener! In fact, I normally kill all the plants I touch, not by choice, of course! I love gardens though! One of the things that always amazes  me about the British people is how much pride they take in having a nice tidy garden!

Even with my small knowledge of the gardening world, I know that certain plants like shade, others like direct sun light. Some are outside plants and some are indoors. I also know that in order for a plant to thrive in the garden and get well established it needs pruning. I have always been fascinated by the pruning process! The gardener there, looking after the beloved plant, cutting away the over growth, the dead bits, the tired ones. Sometimes I watch thinking to myself: “will that ever grow again and be beautiful and colourful?” I often forget the dedicated gardener loves his plants and he knows when the pruning needs to happen and which plants in the garden need it. The gardener knows the plant well. He speaks to it and shows how much he cares and how much he wants to see the plant flourishing and blooming in the right season. The plant cannot do anything, but wait until the time is right and the work has finished.

God is the greater Gardener! He knows all his plants well and in the right time He will start pruning his garden. He will be cutting away, taking the dead, dry bits away, removing what is not good. This process is hard but necessary. All of us, as Christians, will be pruned by the Master in order to grow and flourish. Sometimes it might seem as if we will not be able to get through it, but the supreme Gardener, the Creator, the King of our lives has the whole design in mind and HE knows each plant well. He knows how much light or shade we need, how much water or feed to give us and He knows how beautiful we will be and how much fruit we will produce after the pruning is done and the right season comes.

Perhaps there are times in our lives that we think it is hard and we might not be able to get to the other side of a problem, a disappointment, a health issue, a broken heart, a broken relationship, a different answer to our heart’s desire. Perhaps through these times we find it really hard to understand why.

God is most likely pruning us. Training us to grow in a way He has already designed for us. He is preparing us for, in the right time, produce the fruit or flowers that will embellish the garden and bring an amazing fragrance to the air.

May I suggest that we should respond to God in the same way the plant respond to the gardener: with complete trust that the Gardener knows what he is doing. Although we might feel hurt, cold, ugly, alone, He loves us and is taking care of us. If we carry on trusting and reminding ourselves that God has a perfect plan, it might not be the same plan we think it is perfect for us, but we can confidently say that HIS plan is far better and truly perfect.

“Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.” Psalm 62:8

“Lord Almighty, blessed is the one who trusts in you.” Psalm 84:12

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6

“I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.” Psalm 40:1

Spring cleaning!

I am not sure I should be spring cleaning my house yet. It doesn’t feel like spring yet! I guess, officially, it is not, until next week anyway! But I decided to start! What a daunting task ahead! I have lots of cupboards, wardrobes, toy boxes to clean and organize, lots of furniture to move around in order to get to those little corners and get it cleaned! I am having to do 2 rooms a day so I can carry on with the rest of the family routine.

So far I have 3 big bags of recycling paper, empty bottles, pots, and one big toy bag to take to the tip and I only did one room and two bathrooms today! If you are like me, I find it really hard to throw things away. I hold on to everything and have been advised many times that when it comes to spring cleaning I need to be ruthless. This is a new thing for me! I have decided to have a little break before I attack my son’s wardrobe!

As I was finding all this unwanted junk and cleaning, scrubbing and vacuuming, I thought about my life and heart! I guess it is time to spring clean my heart as well. Not that I have any power to make it better, because only Jesus and through Him my heart can be clean and new, but I guess, there are things I store there that shouldn’t be in there.

We quite often are very meticulous about our house and cleanliness. Whenever a friend comes around we are frantically cleaning, making sure it is presentable and that people would not think bad of us. Well, at least we do that downstairs!

Why is it that we don’t do that with our hearts? There are lots of clutter in our hearts, unwanted things that are taking too much space. These things could be thoughts we have been having, or the desire to have more material things, or the way we use our tongues to say things we shouldn’t say. It could also be the way we use our eyes, what we watch on TV, or the way we treat other people. How about the lack of patience with our children, or our selfishness screaming louder for “ME” time or recognition for all that we do. To be completely honest it could be all of the above or any combination. We often keep these things stored in our hearts in a little corner, in the dark, collecting dust, being a good ground for all the spiders to crawl in and it is looking ugly.

Surely that is not the way we want to present our lives to the King of kings. It is time to stop and look inwards. Look in all the little corners, cupboards unopened doors of our hearts and let the light in and get the cleaning started and finished so the house is ready for the King.

It is all very well, you might say. But how? How do we do that? We must ask Jesus to help us. It is such a daunting task to get rid of all the things that take space in our hearts and lives that should not be there. Jesus will help us through it. First thing we need to do is recognize that we need to clean our hearts and want to, then, we need to tell Jesus we are sorry for the mess we have made and we would like to present to Him a heart that is in better shape. We can only do that by giving it all to Him, in a big black sack so it can be disposed of.

I remembered a passage that I heard many times and even memorized when I was growing up and it gives us some important things we should keep in our hearts and they will help make it a more presentable home for our Lord and King,

“Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon.Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Philippians 4:4-8

Happy cleaning everyone!