Tag Archives: faith

More puppies than one can handle …

Sitting at various places today: inside, outside, plastic chairs, wodden chairs, benches, i spoke with my new pastor about theology and the faithfulness of God.

To illustrate: he spoke about how once, while staying the concrete jungle, he so longed to hold a puppy in his hand, to bring back memories of more “natured” days. Being in distress He prayed to God as he was walking along the roads. So he walked past a park, saw two young dogs playing and thought: “thank you Lord for answering my prayers, that is enough”. The next day, his pastor invited him to a dog show where he had to go. At the show there was this a “puppy room” and so my pastor went into it, to have his wish fulfilled. He said “you could not see me anymore for all the puppies over me”.

Soppy story? Maybe. But it illustrates God’s work in our lives, so well. How faithful was God in answering? Paul wrote to the Ephesian church the following: “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think”. We ask and God … does not seem to answer. We get frustrated and discouraged. In my case, i know God is able to do it … but i don’t trust.

However, when i look back , even just a few weeks and months (as i did today) i must agree with Paul. I see what my pastor meant: God has done far more than what i ever asked for. Granted, He has not answered all my prayers, but He has given me far more of things i did not even think to ask for; and often He has given “more abundantly” of the things i did ask for. Far more abundantly!

So i stand resolved to mediate on Eph 3 again … to make it a priority in my life, to refuse to be discouraged and overlook the obvious:

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Eph 3:20-21)

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Test #1: Are you pursuing fellowship with God and other believers?

Walking in the light and walking in the dark

3 Tests

We all understand the polemic of light and darkness. We understand that they exclude each other as a concept, and yet, when it comes to our spiritual walk, we seem to suggest that you can have both at the same time. To this, John has something to say.

I want to show, from 1 John 1, 3 tests for you to take, so that you can see whether you are walking in the light “as he is in the light”, or whether you are walking in darkness.

Often we define darkness over the absence of light. In 1 John 1:5 the Apostle John gives us a, somewhat surprising, summary of the message he heard from Jesus during his time on earth: “God is light, and in Him is darkness at all”. So, if God is light and you walk in darkness you are walking without God. That is a very serious issue. My concern is that many “christians” are walking without God, some permanently, others temporarily. I hope that you will take those three tests honestly and earnestly for yourself.

Today i will bring you the first of the 3 tests:

Test #1Are you pursuing fellowship with God and other believers?

Note with me how John in verse 6-7 shows two sides of this: in verse 6 he shows the person walking in darkness and in verse 7 the one walking in light.

The darkness walker:

“If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.”
(1Jo 1:6)

The darkness walker is lying with his life to others. If you are there, you are saying one thing (namely that you have fellowship with Jesus) but your life (your walk) disproves your words.

A recent poll revealed that about 80% of “unbelievers” (those that would term themselves as such) would summarize Christians with one word: hypocrites. A hypocrite is one that says one thing but does another. They are the “submarine Christians”, the one going under during the week just to surface again on Sunday. That’s walking in darkness. That’s lying to others about your life.

Some questions to expose such a walk:

  • Is your Sunday behaviour different from that during the week?
  • Do you tend to be a “lone ranger”, avoiding fellowship with unbelievers?
  • Do you hate and refuse accountability (“who are you to talk to me”)?
  • When speaking to other believers is your life always “fine”?
  • When you sinned, are you sharing it with someone else, or are you hiding it away?
  • Do you love the fellowship when the fellowship is there, but love your sin when the sin is there?

You cannot call yourself a child of God and remain walking in darkness. It is impossible, for the mere fact of verse 5, namely that God is light.

If you remain walking in this way you are like a Pharisee, and Jesus had much to say about them:

“So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'” (Mat 15:3-9)

Does this describe you? If it does then pull all the stops, call off your whole life, go down on your knees and beg God for forgiveness. Repent from it and turn away.

The light walker:

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1Jo 1:7)

Instead of running away from accountability and fellowship, this person is running towards it.

If you are such a person your Christianity is transparent and genuine. You are real and open, for everybody to read. You are walking your talk. Your lifestyle matches your doctrine. Your Sunday behaviour is nothing different from what the rest of the week is.

Some questions that speak of such a walk:

  • Do you love the fellowship and hate your sin so much that you would do anything just to get rid of it?
  • Do you love other believers and want to be around them all the time?
  • Do you pursue accountability?
  • Do you love the Word, the Bible, for its candor about you and it’s direction?
  • Are you being “cut to the bone” by it, or has it become bland?
  • Are you looking towards Christ for help and forgiveness in your sins?

The direction of the dark person was away from the light, away from accountability and fellowship. The light person has the opposite direction, namely:

“But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been carried out in God.”
(Joh 3:21)

You want to be “clearly seen”, you hate the masks and hypocrisies that come so easy for us. Do don’t walk in obscurity, somewhere in between chairs.

Remedies

Here are some practical ways how you can counter your darkness walking:

  • Pray: pray to God for light and a new desire. Ask Him to change your heart and open it up for correction. Only God can do such an operation.
  • Seek accountability: If you have strong Christian friends (or somebody you know) then ask them (or him/her) to hold you accountable. If you are a guy, choose a guy, it’s just a wiser way to do it because you will be able to share with inhibition or causing a sister to stumble. Girls should seek accountability with other girls, of course.
  • Pursue God: If you don’t have a quite time during your day, in which you spend time alone with God, make time for it. Don’t just make 5 minutes either, make it a time worth spending. You need a relationship with the one you proclaim again.
  • Spend much time in God’s Word, let it minister to your soul and seek Him in it.
  • Pursue fellow believers: if you are not in a discipleship relationship, find the most admirable believer and ask him if you can spend time with him/her. Think about becoming the person to disciple another, how must your life change for that be light and not darkness?

If you have more suggestions please make use of the comments section, i would live to hear more (as i am still learning here myself. I am still in need of this myself!)

Next time we will have a look at the second test: “Is your life marked by repentance?”

Keep walking in the light!

in Him.

t

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Dear friend, how is your dying?

One thing in advance: No! I am not depressed or have a negative view on life! To be quite honest, I love life, as much as God gives me the strength to, and as much as i can see Him working in it. Life is good, God created it, he gave it to me as a gift and He sustains it. I am thankful for every minute i get, every breath i can take, every thought i get to think (though i would love there to be more godly ones). I am so thankful for each day. A great part of the reason why i am so thankful and content with all is what i want to bring before you here.

Origins
I was recently again speaking with a brother who suffers from cancer. We had a long talk about faith and what reality has become. In our time together i was thinking about reality had become for him and how that was any different from where i am at.
On the outside there are some obvious differences: I am younger than he is, i am (as far as i know) healthy, he has cancer, he is married, i am not, etc. Death has just become a reality for him, not that he will die now, but if the treatments should fail he knows what the end of that is. So he lives a different life now. The day before he heard about this diagnosis he was a normal guy with a family, planning to get ahead in life, attending church, making plans for the future, dreaming dreams of his kids growing up, and all that. The next day all this comes tumbling down, like a house of cards. What has changed?

Well, he now has more information about when his death might happen. Maybe he can’t count on another 30-40 years anymore and rather has to plan around 5-10, unless God’s plan includes a full recovery (which in his case is, humanly speaking, likely). All life comes to an abrupt standstill, as if running against a wall of stone.
“How would i react? What would i say? Would i still be content in Christ?” Questions like those come into my mind all the time. Ministering to people in need also ministers to me. It’s a by-product of walking in the light (1 Jn 1).

So the question is still “what has changed in his life?” You see, i wanted to find out with what i can encourage him. But how do you encourage a guy who faces death? And then it hit me, right there: nothing has really changed. “Woah, hang on, but you can’t say that!” Well, think about it, we are all dying. That is the unfortunate reality. You never think about it, because you love life more, but if there is one thing for sure on this earth, it is that everybody has to die. And who guarantees you another day? I mean, really, don’t we live as if there is a Hezekiah kind of guarantee (who was given 15 years) of a set time, “at least another 20 or 30 years”. We all have a “best before” date. But nobody will ever know when that is, only God knows.

You see now, knowing this stops him to be a freak in this society. He is not the abnormal guy anymore, he is now the guy who actually has come closer to reality than you or i have come so far. I know, he is sick, i am not. So from that vantage point i seem to be further away from that reality, but that is not true. My life is in God’s hand, all days have been written out already (Ps 139:16). It might well be that i am going home to Jesus before he does. There are no guarantees.

The so what
“Ok, that just sounds a little pessimistic and morbid”, you might think. I hope to show you how seeing this encouraged me to live a life more to God’s glory than before (and i hope i could pass that on to my friend as well).

The one question that will inevitably arise out of this is “what sort of life would you live if you knew you were to die tomorrow?” Have you ever thought this? I have before this. But as quickly as this thought came, as quickly did i burry it again, because the answer to this is uncomfortable. The answer to this would include me doing what i actually knew i have and should do. It would mean that i stop living selfishly and stop investing in my little straw kingdom. You see, we don’t like that. So we live on, in a fantasy world we created for ourselves. We live as if we were to live forever on this earth, in this form with all we have now. Whether you are Christian or not, you should be able to see how silly this assumption is. We all know that death comes to all. It is part of life, part of our human condition of sinfulness, as direct result of Adam’s and our sin.

Are you seeing already where this is going? If i stop living my life as if i have another 40 years (which i might, or might not) and start living as a “dying man amongst dying men”, then my days will be much fuller with ministry to others. I believe this understanding should get even the most lethargic pew warmer of his behind and finally begin to be what he is called to be, an “ambassador for Christ” (2 Cor 6:20). A similar answer we can find in 2 Peter 3:11-12. The Apostle is showing how the second coming of Christ will make an end to what we now see. No timeframe is given. It could be today, or in thousand years, or whenever. In other places we read about Christ’s coming “like a thief in the night”. It will be unannounced and sudden.

Your life might find it’s earthly end then, whenever that is. Or it might find its end here on this earth tomorrow in a car accident, a stroke, cancer, HIV related issues, a house breaking … the possibilities are endless. There is not a guarantee. Please understand this. It is very important to understand God’s gift of life, every day anew. This is important to understand His never ending grace and mercy, every day anew.

Another friend of mine was just 2 weeks ago diagnosed with HIV. He is a child of God, a pastor in fact, who got this disease not because of anything he had done wrong. He went through so many difficult situations in the past two years: he lost two children in infancy, his grandmother (who raised him) died, his wife suffered from depression because of the loss of the children, he got sick all the time. And now this. What does a guy like that say about life, reality and God?
With tears in his eyes he stood before me, after he just heard the news of his test results. He said to me “Thomas, you know, my life has changed so much in the past two years. I realize now that everything has been given by God. I don’t just know it, i know it now. All things come from Him, every day is a gift, and all things in that day”.

I was fighting my tears as i tried to encourage him. Inside of me i was broken because of this tragedy, after all he went through and after all his faithful and godly example. But i was also broken over the this man’s faith and love for God, which put my own life in the correct light. You see, he began to live according to reality, i was still living in my self-created dream world. But my saved and changed nature screamed out that he is right! He is so right!

What it is about
There is so much more one could (and maybe should) say about this. I have only started touching the surface of a deep, deep ocean of truth. One thing is realized is that it is not really about how i live (please track with me on this now), but about how i die.

Why is that?

Firstly because of what have said until now, the reality of living each day as another present from God. But there is also another reason: you can live a fantastically Christian and churchian life, just to fall away on the last lap, deny the faith and your creator. This happened so often in history. Take Charles Templeton, for example. What does his life now mean? He died not being able to ever repent again. And on the other hand you get the people like the mother of one of my seminar y professors, who died with the Bible open to God’s promises, praying for her children (even though they only got saved after her death). Her faithful dying (over the course of her life) left such a huge impact in many peoples lives.
So i ask you again: how is your dying? Are you busy faithfully following God, being overwhelmed by His great gifts He gives every day: live breath and everything (Acts 17:25). Are you living in faith to His promises? Do you really know these two things, that God is good and that He is sovereign (as another seminary professor’s last sermon outline read)? How will people look at your dying in hindsight? Will it be with apathy because you lived a life all for yourself and by yourself? Or will they remember you as content in God, thankful and cheerful for all you received from Him. Will they remember you as praying for others and calling them to faith in the one reality most people don’t want to open their minds to? Will you die with your Bible in your hand and God’s promises in your heart?

And just to balance this out again. If you are a believer in Christ Jesus, you understand that eternity awaits every human being, either heaven or hell. We are all eternal beings. We all live with, marry, speak to, sit next to, walk past eternal beings. As a believer in the fact that Christ has died for your personal sins, you know that He has bought forgiveness and sonship for you, by His blood and death. As a believer in God’s unfailing promises you know that you have an eternity with Christ to look forward to. As a worshiper of the risen Christ you understand that you will rise to eternal life with Him on that last day. As a faithful son of God you know that this world is only a passing stage, a pilgrimage. You are greeting from afar the promises of life eternal, at the fountain of life, in the fully revealed glory of God.

You see, dying is not so bad a thing anymore, is it? Know that if you are covered in Christ, if your found in Him and known by Him, this world is as bad as it gets. An eternity of glory, love, light and perfection awaits you.

But if you are an unbeliever, than this world is as good as it gets. If you are there, cancer and HIV will mean the end of this world for you. There is no hope. But in Christ, there is hope abounding; never ending hope!

So, dear friend, how is your dying?

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The Amazing Graciousness of Grace

My pastor and friend Josh sent me this quote this morning. I was so encouraged by it that i decided to share it with you. We will have a series around that very topic soon. I am so excited!

“How can we recover the new affection for Christ and his kingdom that so powerfully impacted our life-long worldliness, and in which we crucified the flesh with its lusts?
What was it that created that first love in any case? Do you remember? It was our discovery of Christ’s grace in the realization of our own sin. We are not naturally capable of loving God for himself, indeed we hate him. But in discovering this about ourselves, and in learning of the Lord’s supernatural love for us, love for the Father was born. Forgiven much, we loved much. We rejoiced in the hope of glory, in suffering, even in God himself. This new affection seemed first to overtake our worldliness, then to master it. Spiritual realities—Christ, grace, Scripture, prayer, fellowship, service, living for the glory of God—filled our vision and seemed so large, so desirable that other things by comparison seemed to shrink in size and become bland to the taste.
The way in which we maintain ‘the expulsive power of a new affection’ is the same as the way we first discovered it. Only when grace is still ‘amazing’ to us does it retain its power in us. Only as we retain a sense of our own profound sinfulness can we retain a sense of the graciousness of grace.”

Sinclair Ferguson

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