Category Archives: Pursuing holiness

No Pick ‘n’ Mix!

pick n mix

I am amazed of how many pick ‘n’ mix offers are about when you are out shopping. In a lot of ways I am grateful for it. When we take the kids to the cinema, for example, we can have one bag of sweets with all sorts, so everyone is happy! Some suppermarkets have something similar to the original pick ‘n’ mix idea: it is the “any 3 for 10” or “any 2 for 5”, etc. That is also helpful if you want a pack of mince, some diced beef and some chicken and you can get it all for £10! There is a negative side to this culture of being able to choose, though. You might eat more sweets than you should/would, if you had one small bag of a type of sweets. You might be tricked to think you wouldn’t save money if you bought your meat and poultry separately.

Unfortunately this culture of “Pick ‘n’ Mix” is entering the church as well. People pick and mix what they want, as long as they are happy that is fine. They pick the nice bits about the Bible, the ones that make them feel warm and loved, but they refuse the parts of the Bible that are designed to instruct and rebuke in love. People want God’s blessings and gifts but they don’t want a relationship with Him – they don’t want the commitment. They pick the bits of Christian life that suits them and they mix it with the things the world offers them and they feel they have done enough.

The Bible tells us in 2 Timothy 3:16-17

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God[a] may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

It says “All Scripture”, it does not say: “some parts of it” or “The Old Testament”, or “The New Testament”, or “the letters Paul wrote”. NO. It says: “All Scripture”! There is no room for a pick ‘n’ mix culture when it comes to the Bible. You cannot choose what you like and leave what you don’t like.

As for mixing what the Bible teaches, with the views the world tempts us with, the Bible tells us:

“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.” Romans 12:1-2

Note verse 2 says “Do not conform to the pattern of this world”. It is an order as the verb is in the imperative form. We are not to be living like the world. We are not to mix the truths of the Bible with ideals of this world and pretend they fit together. That is not pleasing to God.

Most of the time when we buy sweets at the pick ‘n’ mix in the cinema, we find ourselves complaining of a tummy ache or we feel slighly uncomfortable. So, what first looked like a good idea, was in fact bad for us. Sometimes when I get home after bying a “2 for 5” offer I realise I could have saved money because it was cheaper to buy them separately. The offer appeared so attactive that I did not even read the label with the prices before I picked the items up. False economy!

When we find ourselves trying to pick ‘n’ mix what the Bible teaches us, we should stop right there and then. No matter what the world says to us: we should not have a pick ‘n’ mix faith.

May our God help us to walk closer to Him and trust Him more!

God bless!

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A little surprise in a messy pile!

As I was picking up what looked like a mountain of clothes and toys from the floor in my 7 years old son, I found a cross he decorated at Easter time at school. He carefully coloured it in yellow and put lots of gold glitter around it. Normally it is on his wardrobe door so he can see it.  I must confess my mind was full of things I wanted to tell Master C about the mess in his room and I wasn’t impressed with the fact he hadn’t even made his bed before he left to school. Do you know the feeling? I was muttering to myself and then God surprised me with a wonderful reminder of His love for us.

Immediately I remembered the verses in Hebrews we studied yesterday morning at our mum’s Bible group and my heart was filled with a sense of awe. These are the verses:

“During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” Hebrews 5:7-9

Jesus was fully God and fully human and He experienced extreme agony when He prayed to His Father in the Garden of Gethsemane (verse 7 refers to that). Jesus knew how much He was going to suffer for us and, although he asked God to take this cup away, He chose to be obedient and follow through with the great rescue plan!  Jesus didn’t have to learn obedience – He was never disobedient, but He learnt the full cost of obedience when He gave Himself to be our Saviour. He became a perfect sacrifice, without sin, to make atonement for our sins. Mission accomplished and He IS the source of salvation for all who obey Him. What an amazing Saviour we have! What love is this?

All of a sudden the mess in my son’s room didn’t matter anymore! I continued tidying up with songs of praise in my mind!

Thank you Jesus for your immense, inexplicable love!

God bless!

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?