1 Corinthians 13: Love

Love

1 Corinthians 13

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.

Love is patient

There is a tendency for us to more readily spot flaws in others than in ourselves.

Matt 7:3

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?

One challenge is that having identified the flaws, we want them to be removed quickly. We get upset when the change that we require does not take place immediately. We are increasingly upset when the undesirable behaviour occurs.

There is an important fact that many do not recognize or accept.

In many instances, we are especially frustrated and annoyed at behaviours in others that we have struggled with in our own lives.

This is usually some event or action or behaviour that happened or continues to occur in our lives that we detest.  Our feelings about it are so strong that we want to hit out at it – wherever it appears with a passion.

We project the frustration that we have about ourselves (past or present) unto the offender with increased intensity.

Consequently, it is useful to review those things that bring out your wrath to see if at some stage they were or still are issues for you.

1 Corinthians 13 is reminding us that in the context of the overarching command to love our neighbours, patience is required.

Colossians 3:

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each otherand forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

A charge to you today is the examine ways in which you are impatient. See if in those moments of frustration a feeling of deep and sincere love for the other person is your primary motive.

When love is at the heart of what we do, the level of impatience with others is not as great.

 

Love is kind

One key to letting kindness be an active part of our lives is to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes.

If we were in their position, what would we want?

That mindset has a way of bringing out the best in us.

It is important to remember that being kind is not only about providing money and things.

At the same time, sometimes our kindness should extend to providing for physical needs.

I John 3:

16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us, And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

 

Love does not envy

Aristotle (in Rhetoric) defined envy (φθόνος phthonos) “as the pain caused by the good fortune of others”, while Kant defined it as “a reluctance to see our own well-being overshadowed by another’s because the standard we use to see how well off we are is not the intrinsic worth of our own well-being but how it compares with that of others” (in Metaphysics of Morals). Source: Wikipedia

If we go back to wanting for others what we want for ourselves then we will be happy with whatever blessings they have received.

The command to “love your neighbour as yourself” directly opposes any thought of envy.

 

Love does not boast and is not proud

Boasting and pride are linked to our EGO or deceived SELF.

Recall the two main highways that lead to a corrupted way of thinking.

The first one leads us to getting attached to things, people and positions.

The more things we can claim as “mine” the fatter the EGO and the greater the level of deception.

The second highway takes us to a place where we focus on thinking how different we are from others.

The more different we are the bigger the EGO and the more deceived we become.

Christians are called to renew their minds (Romans 12). They are to reject the corrupt way of thinking that is wrapped up in “Mine” and “I am not like that”.

The key is to recognize that we are merely stewards of our material possessions and the positions that we hold. That situation can be dramatically changed without warning.

When we realize that things and positions are not an intrinsic part of who we are, then we deny self the right to boast or to be proud.

Only the insane will boast about a castle on a hill as if it belonged to them when they have no connection at all with it. Be careful how we use “my” and “mine” to impress others and to feel good about ourselves. We really do not own anything in a real sense.

The love of which 1 Corinthians 13 speaks comes from a renewed mind. This mind no longer conforms to the dictates of the EGO – the deceived Self. It does not hang on to things and positions.

 

Love does not dishonour others

Something that is unique – one of its kind – is highly treasured. A normal man who runs 100 meters in 11 seconds will not be widely celebrated. If you are the only one that runs it in 9:59 seconds then respect and adoration for you abounds.

The EGO feeds on adoration and on being celebrated.

If you put these two thoughts together you will recognize why it is important for the EGO to work hard at being different. The more we are just like everybody else the less respect and adoration we can claim.

A well fed EGO – our deceived SELF – actively puts down others in a drive to elevate itself.

Alternatively, it constantly reminds others of things that make them standout so others feel diminished and “less valued.”

Think about the “My father..” verbal contests among young boys or the “Your Momma” insult trade off of adolescents.

The love that comes from a renewed mind is humble. It seeks to relate to others where they are and to respect them.

 

Love is not self-seeking

The scriptures consistently prod us to become “equal opportunity thinkers”.

We should have a mindset that wants the best for not only self but for all others.

Php 2:3  Don’t do anything from selfish ambition or from a cheap desire to boast, but be humble toward one another, always considering others better than yourselves. (Good News Bible)

2Ti 3:1  Remember that there will be difficult times in the last days. 2 People will be selfish, greedy, boastful, and conceited; they will be insulting, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, and irreligious; 3 they will be unkind, merciless, slanderers, violent, and fierce; they will hate the good; 4 they will be treacherous, reckless, and swollen with pride; they will love pleasure rather than God; 5 they will hold to the outward form of our religion, but reject its real power. Keep away from such people. (Good News Bible)

 

Love is not easily angered

Anger is a melting pot of many ingredients. These include:

An action/event … a stimulus

Personalities

Relationships

Historical events

State of mind

How the event is processed

Implications & Consequences

Circumstances under which event took place – private/public etc.

Mindset

Col 3:12

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 

The Mindset has the power to overwrite the impact of all the other elements. That is why with a renewed mind, we can turn the other cheek.

We cannot overemphasize the importance and value of working on the way we think and getting to the point where we are more Christ-like in our thinking, feelings and actions.

 

Love keeps no record of wrongs

Col 3: 13 Bear with each otherand forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.

The false sense of “ME” that we embrace and protect so vigorously is a major contributor to the difficulty we have in dealing with what we perceive to be the wrongs of others.

The more highly we think of ourselves the greater the chance that someone is going to do or say something that does not fit well with our self image.

That is why some people get the feeling of being disrespected so easily.

Amazingly, people who have low self esteem are also very easily hurt by the actions of others.

The arrogant and conceited personality as well as those that have doubts about their competence and self worth tend to hold on to hurts for a long time.

When you feel good about who you are, the darts that others throw at you tend to bounce off more easily.

Another mindset that promotes unforgiveness is the desire to take revenge and punish the offender.

This is the eye for eye mentality that Christ warns against.

Matt 5: 38

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.

Lev 19:18  Do not take revenge on others or continue to hate them, but love your neighbors as you love yourself. I am the LORD.

Rom 12:

19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him;     if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

 

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

The love of 1 Corinthians 13 is associated with a transformed and renewed mind.

It is tied to a mind that manifests the fruit of the Spirit:

Gal 5: 19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like, I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.

It is clear here that the flesh (our sinful nature) is the source of behaviour that wars against the Spirit.

Mat 5:6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

 

Love always protects

Think about the love that a mother has for her newborn baby and you get the picture of what this means. Nothing more needs to be said here.

 

Love always trusts

Trust is the glue that holds healthy relationships together.

When we act in ways that betray that trust, we weaken the bond of love and place the relationship at risk.

At the same time, trust is a two-way street. The failure of one party to trust makes it difficult for true bonding to take place.

In the scriptural framework, it is far better to trust and be betrayed than to withhold trust and be constantly imputing dishonest actions or motives on the part of others.

 

Love always hopes

When we love someone we want the very best for them. We hold out great hope that their wishes and aspirations will be achieved.

No surprise then that a love that is anchored in loving God with all our heart, loving ourselves and loving others as we love ourselves is full of hope and positive expectations.

The mind that allows the fruit of the Spirit to ripen in it will demonstrate a pure love and will rejoice in hope.

 

Love always perseveres

True love is not fickle. It is not easily disappointed or discouraged.

There is a sense of looking beyond faults and focusing on the end goals.

 

2 Peter 3:9

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

 

Love never fails

The love of 1 Corinthians 13 overcomes all obstacles.

Its poster example is reflected in Romans 5:8:

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

The challenge to you today is to let love be central to your very existence.

Repent of the unloving ways in which you have acted and continue to act.

Develop a deeper relationship with Christ and His teaching. Obey His commands and follow His example.

Why Jesus

Why Jesus?

1.      Why Jesus? He Makes Sense Out of Nonsense

A man cuts down a tree, uses a part of it to create a “god” and sets aside the remainder to cook the meal that his created “god” will provide for him.

Today, we laugh at that as the nonsense that we associate with primitive minds.

Yet, celebrated lyrical icon Bob Marley declares in the anthem “Get up, Stand Up” …

“We sick an tired of-a your ism-skism game – Dyin n goin to heaven in-a jesus name, lord. We know when we understand: Almighty God is a living man. You can fool some people sometimes, But you can’t fool all the people all the time.”

Marley and the Rastafarian movement have moved the game up one notch from wood to human flesh and blood. They look to man who has no idea about the source of his first, last or next breath to guide, protect and provide for them.

So, some dismiss that set as being intellectually unsophisticated. The intellectually sophisticated do not need the drug that religion is to navigate through life.

They replace the ‘wood god’ and ‘man god’ with the idea that life is just one big accident. There is no intelligent design to be respected as the Source and to be revered and respected as God.

Knowing what we know about life, what we see about us, what our experience has taught us – does any of the above explanations provide a sensible answer about how this game of life came into being?

Can you reasonably expect that Ras Tafari –  whose rotted remains lie in the earth – can respond to your prayers? Can Jah really “Guide”?  Does Jah really “Know”?

Would you believe that it is by mere accident that the earth and the sun coordinate their movements so that they have not missed a sunrise or sunset for thousands of years?

Would you then also believe that there was an accident last month on the highway and out of it emerged a highly sophisticated space craft with a power source that is unknown to man but with the capacity to go to the moon in six hours?  Check google….

On the other hand, Jesus states clearly that He has been there from the beginning and knows exactly how it was designed and created.

John 8: 58 “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!

John 8: 42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me.

John 18:37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

John 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” 

Jesus clearly states that He has the answers to our questions. He knows the truth.

The wood has not yet been able to make any claims. Selassie disclaimed divinity. The intellectuals create theories that are less rational the worshipping wooden idols. At least they could be seen. It is hard to “see” the logic in the arguments of our intellectuals.

1 Cor 1: 20 Where is the wise person?Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signsand Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified:a stumbling blockto Jews and foolishnessto Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishnessof God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weaknessof God is stronger than human strength.

2.      Why Jesus? He Answers Our Questions

Jesus and His Apostle’s who carried and reinforced His teachings give us clear answers to questions that have occupied the minds of humans throughout the ages.

What is this game of life about?

How do I know when I win?

What are the rewards for winning?

What are my chances of winning?

What are the rules?

Is there a winning strategy?

Marley expresses a philosophy that is embraced by the intellectual unbelievers:

“But if you know what life is worth, You will look for yours on earth:”

This view is that the game of live is entirely about what happens during our brief stay here on earth.

On the other hand, the Christ-anchored philosophy highlights the misery and hopelessness that is ours if everything is confined to this life on earth. (1 Cor 15:19)

Removal of intelligent design from life takes away its meaning.

If we remove the rules and objectives governing Scrabble or Monopoly or Football then they lose their meaning. Anyone could come up with their own rules and the end – confusion.

That is what we have when we remove Divine Intelligence from life – confusion.

The Christian understanding of the game of life is the clearest and most logical.

The game was conceived and created by God…..the bearer of the intelligent design that is the source of the jaw-dropping complexities and creativity that is common place in nature.

The concept of God is in itself complex but Christians understand that there is a God-head of three Divine Beings – God (the Father), Jesus (the Son) and the Holy Spirit (the Counsellor).

God – not an accidental explosion of non-existent materials – created the universe. How He did it and how we choose to explain how it could have been done – using our limited scientific knowledge – is irrelevant.  Nothing about the order and the description of the creation process has been discredited by scientific research.

God states that He created man. His grand design was that man would spend eternity with Him. The concept of life being confined to our life on earth is flawed.

Gen 1:26 – 28 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. 28And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. 

Man has a soul that outlives his body. The soul never dies.

God is a spirit and so any image of God in us must be in spiritual form – our souls.

Our souls are of critical importance

God is particularly interested in our souls.

Gen 2:7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

The soul is more than our physical parts.

Our souls are far more important that our bodies.

 “Soul” occurs 458 times in the King James Version of the Bible.

Our souls are to be treasured and are beyond the reach of man.

Matt 10: 28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

What we do here in this life on earth determines what happens to our souls when our physical bodies die.

Matt 16: 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come  in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.

This is the most credible reason why it would make sense for us not to look out for our own benefit at the expense of others.

If we are playing a game without objective rules and nothing matters outside of the game, why would I not play in a way that suits me?

If there are 10 of us and 10 pieces of chicken in the buffet, why would I not go to the front of the line and take 3 pieces?

Jesus gives us a compelling reason.

We are advised that if we play the game of life right we will be rewarded. Our reward is differential treatment of our souls after we leave this physical body. If we play the game poorly we are condemned to eternal torment.

Jesus goes further by giving us the simple strategy for winning the game:

Matt 22: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

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.’40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

That is why it makes sense to put the common good above our selfish desires.

Matt 16: 24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.

This respect for a higher authority, rules and rewards is the most credible reason for doing good.

The description of a carefully designed, ongoing game with well documented guidelines and rewards and punishment gives us clarity as to how to go through life.

We understand the why, the what and the how.

 

The Why:

We were created to fit into God’s carefully designed plan. We have one guiding principle to follow:

The key principle is the need for man to do the will of God. That is our duty.

Ecc 12:13  Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.  14 For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.

We messed up through Adam’s failure to be obedient.

Rom 5:18 Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people,so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. 19 For just as through the disobedience of the one manthe many were made sinners,so also through the obedienceof the one man the many will be made righteous.

 

3.      Why Jesus? He saves us our souls

Acts 4: 12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.

What must WE do to save our souls?

1. Hear the Word – the Gospel

John 6: 45 It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.

Rom 10:17  So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

 

What must we do to save our souls?

2. Believe

Heb 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

John 8:24 I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.

 What must we do to save our souls?

3. Repent

Acts 17:30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent.

Luke 13: 1 Now there were some present at that very season who told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And he answered and said unto them, Think ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they have suffered these things? 3 I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all in like manner perish.

 

 What must we do to save our souls?

4. Confess Jesus is Lord

Matt 10:32 Every one therefore who shall confess me before men, him will I also confess before my Father who is in heaven. 33 But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father who is in heaven.

Rom 10:10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

 What must we do to save our souls?

5.  Be baptized for the remission of your sins

Acts 22:16 And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.

Acts 2:37 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? 38Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

1 Pet 3:21The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

  What must we do to save our souls?

6. Remain in Christ

John 6:3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?  4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

Rom 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

1 Pet 2: 1 Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, 2 As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.

4.      Why Jesus? He provides solutions to our problems in this life

Now that you are in Christ, the amazing rewards are open to you.

Is 59: 1.Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear.But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.

Eph 1: Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,who has blessed us in the heavenly realmswith every spiritual blessing in Christ.

John 14:6
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

This is the Father who says:

Jer 32:27 Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh; is there any thing too hard for me?

 

Why Jesus?

Because it makes SENSE!

Echoes Of Ezekiel

Echoes Of Ezekiel

I. WHO OWNS THIS?

Ezekiel 29: In the tenth year, in the tenth month on the twelfth day, the word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, set your face against Pharaoh king of Egypt and prophesy against him and against all Egypt.Speak to him and say: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says:

“‘I am against you, Pharaoh king of Egypt, you great monster lying among your streams. You say, “The Nile belongs to me; I made it for myself.”
But I will put hooks in your jaws and make the fish of your streams stick to your scales. I will pull you out from among your streams, with all the fish sticking to your scales. I will leave you in the desert,
 you and all the fish of your streams. You will fall on the open field and not be gathered or picked up. I will give you as food to the beasts of the earth and the birds of the sky. Then all who live in Egypt will know that I am the Lord.

 Multiple scenarios:

  • Up early and rushing about. Today, I need to get some important things done.
  • Can’t make it to Church or Bible Study or Youth Group Meeting – need to study for exam.
  • Climbing up the corporate or professional ladder – consumed by the work activities.
  • Overrun by financial woes – unable to make ends meet and facing rising debt.
  •  New: Love interest, Home, car, phone, child

The Questions:

Who does your day/brain/work belong to?

Did you think to pray?

Did you stop to read your Bible?

Have you lost your passion for the Lord?

Is this why you are distracted from focusing on God?

The message:

I need to get your attention. Something bad/worse is going to befall you.

Then you will know that I am the Lord.

Our take away from the Echoes of Ezekiel is to always focus on the Source of everything. Anything that consumes our attention, denies Him.

Jeremiah 9:23 This is what the Lord says:

“Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, 24 but let the one who boasts boastabout this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord.

1 Corinthians 1:31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

II. RESTITUTION

Eze 33: 14 And if I say to a wicked person, ‘You will surely die,’ but they then turn away from their sin and do what is just and right— 15 if they give back what they took in pledge for a loan, return what they have stolen, follow the decrees that give life, and do no evil—that person will surely live; they will not die 16 None of the sins that person has committed will be remembered against them. They have done what is just and right; they will surely live.

The echoes of Ezekiel point to the need to work to undo, correct or make compensation for the wrongs that we have done.

Repentance has a sense of restitution woven into it.

Numbers 5:6-8

“Say to the Israelites: ‘Any man or woman who wrongs another in any wayand so is unfaithful to the Lord is guilty and must confess the sin they have committed. They must make full restitution for the wrong they have done, add a fifth of the value to it and give it all to the person they have wronged. But if that person has no close relative to whom restitution can be made for the wrong, the restitution belongs to the Lord and must be given to the priest, along with the ram with which atonement is made for the wrongdoer.

It is not enough to be sorry. Corrective action is required.

 

III. WATCHMEN

Ezekiel 33: “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. When I say to the wicked, ‘You wicked person, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak out to dissuade them from their ways, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood. But if you do warn the wicked person to turn from their ways and they do not do so, they will die for their sin, though you yourself will be saved.

The echoes of Ezekiel leave no room for doubt about our responsibilities to be responsible for the souls of others.

This is reinforced by the Great Commission:

Matt 28: 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

 

IV. RESTORATION

Eze 36:16

Israel’s Restoration Assured

16 Again the word of the Lord came to me: 17 “Son of man, when the people of Israel were living in their own land, they defiled it by their conduct and their actions. Their conduct was like a woman’s monthly uncleanness in my sight. 18 So I poured out my wrath on them because they had shed blood in the land and because they had defiled it with their idols. 19 I dispersed them among the nations, and they were scattered through the countries; I judged them according to their conduct and their actions. 20 And wherever they went among the nations they profaned my holy name, for it was said of them, ‘These are the Lord’s people, and yet they had to leave his land.’ 21 I had concern for my holy name, which the people of Israel profaned among the nations where they had gone.

22 “Therefore say to the Israelites, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: It is not for your sake, people of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone. 23 I will show the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, the name you have profaned among them. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Sovereign Lord, when I am proved holy through you before their eyes.

24 “‘For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. 28 Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God 29 I will save you from all your uncleanness. I will call for the grain and make it plentiful and will not bring famine upon you. 30 I will increase the fruit of the trees and the crops of the field, so that you will no longer suffer disgrace among the nations because of famine. 31 Then you will remember your evil ways and wicked deeds, and you will loathe yourselves for your sins and detestable practices. 32 I want you to know that I am not doing this for your sake, declares the Sovereign Lord. Be ashamed and disgraced for your conduct, people of Israel!

Echoes of Ezekiel provide the hope of restoration.

You might be down and almost out, but restoration is possible.

Be faithful and put your trust in God.

Heb 6:10  For God is not so unjust as to forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have ministered to the saints and continue to minister to them.

V. What must WE do to save our souls and obtain restoration?

Hear the Word – the Gospel

John 6: 45 It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.

Rom 10:17  So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

 

  1. Believe

Heb 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

John 8:24 I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.

  1. Repent

Acts 17:30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent.

Luke 13: 1 Now there were some present at that very season who told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And he answered and said unto them, Think ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they have suffered these things? 3 I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all in like manner perish.

    3.      Confess Jesus is Lord

Matt 10:32 Every one therefore who shall confess me before men, him will I also confess before my Father who is in heaven. 33 But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father who is in heaven.

Rom 10:10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

 4.   

  • Be baptized for the remission of your sins

Acts 22:16 And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.

Acts 2:37 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? 38Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

1 Pet 3:21The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

  1. Remain in Christ

John 6:3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?  4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

Rom 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

1 Pet 2: 1 Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, 2 As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.

 

What happens when 2012 changes to 2013?

What happens when 2012 changes to 2013?

 

We are coming to the start of a New Year. The numbers on the calendar will be changed.

What else will be new in your life?

For some of us, the change of dates will be the most significant difference between this year and the next.

If we are brutally honest, aspects of our lives have become stuck in a rut. The time, place and faces may change but the events seem all too familiar. Deja vu is a constant companion.

For others, the New Year promises to bring developments that we dread. We will need to face realities that make us uncomfortable.

Still others are bursting with excitement as they look forward to new achievements in the New Year.

The underlying theme of most of my presentations this year has been the need for the renewing of our minds. (Rom 12).

Today, I want to share some thoughts related to the adjustment of our mindsets that you could consider taking on board in 2013.

 

Bucket list clarity

Spend significant quiet time going through a careful analysis of what is your purpose in this life and what are your core priorities.

What is it that you feel committed to becoming, doing, experiencing before your life on earth ends?

Compile a list and assign priorities to the each item. In the final analysis, you should be able to identify a bottom-line “must” that should give direction to all your thoughts, words and deeds.

We expect that at the top of the list will your preparation to spend eternity in heaven.

Ecc 12:13 Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.

 Be mindful of where you anchor your goals and priorities. Gamaliel’s counsel is wise:

Acts 5:38 “….if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail.39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”

In addition, I am urging you to go further and to earnestly commit to documenting your vision, mission and goals in clear terms.

Review from the Scriptures and adopt the philosophy of:

  • Moses’ plan with respect to the occupation of the Promised Land
  • Nehemiah’s plans for the rebuilding of the wall
  • David/Solomon’s plans for the building of the temple.

Let 2013 be different with respect to:

  • greater clarity of purpose
  • more detailed planning
  • increased commitment to documentation of goals, plans and progress.

 

Expanded horizons

 

One of the by-products of stress and a harried lifestyle is the tendency to become increasingly inward looking.

As we grapple with life’s challenges, they tend to consume more and more of our being and we risk losing sight of the bigger picture.

Matt 6:34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

 Matthew 11:28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 

Some of us are walking with our heads bowed and only have a view of the pavement.

Let 2013 be different as we look beyond our challenges.

2 Cor 4: 16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewedday by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Let us dream big dreams in 2013. Let us set lofty goals individually and collectively.

1 John 5: 14       This is the confidencewe have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.

Our horizons tend to be influenced by age and by gender.

Some of us have given in to a philosophy that says “at my stage in life I will just watch the dates change until time is called on me.”

Gen 12: 4 The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s householdto the landI will show you. “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran.

At age 75 Warren Buffett set up a $30 billion contribution to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for use in various world-wide charitable causes.

Cancer survivor Barbara Hillary became one of the oldest people, and the first black woman, to reach the north pole.

At age 70 Benjamin Franklin helped draft the Declaration of Independence; Judy Brenner ran the Boston Marathon.

At age 60: Frieda Birnbaum became the oldest woman in the U.S. to give birth to twins.

At age 40: John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth.

At age 30: Donald Trump persuaded bankers to lend him $80 million so he could buy the Commodore Hotel. Bill Gates was the first person ever to become a billionaire by age 30.

At age 20: Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard and cofounded Microsoft. Jane Austen wrote Pride and Prejudice, her second and most famous novel.

At age 19: Keshorn Walcott from the little island of Trinidad beat the entire world at the Olympics in a discipline (javelin throw) that is unusual for athletes outside of Europe and the USA.

At age 16: Tennis player Tracy Austin became the youngest person to win the U.S. Open.

You are not too young or too old to achieve more. Broaden your horizons!

Incredible does happen. It can happen at your location if you welcome it.

Dare to be the difference and break new ground in 2013.

 

Positive expectations

 

We serve a mighty God and we cannot go about with a defeatist’s mindset.

Numerous examples are provided to indicate that once we walk with God we need not rely on our strength but on His. And so, there is every reason to have positive expectations.

Rom 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Let 2013 be different in the level of confidence that we display.
Can there be a greater sense of faith and assurance in our prayer life, in our decision-making and in how we present ourselves?

I love the frightfully stark manner in which James addresses the issue:

 “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.” James 1: 6 – 8 (NIV)

We can take encouragement from Apostle Paul’s admonition that we should not be anxious for anything (Philippians 4:6). Think also on Christ’s challenge that if we ask, seek and knock we will receive, find and have doors opened to us. (Matthew 7)

Let us break down psychological, financial, health, relationship, career, self-esteem “walls of Jericho” in 2013.

 

Spring cleaning

 

The tendency to gather baggage appears to be common to most humans. Physical clutter attracts our attention perhaps because it is visible.

Our lives are also cluttered with things that do not add value. Let us welcome 2013 with a spring cleaning of our minds.

There are thoughts and habits that are weighing us down and limiting our effectiveness. We know clutter when we see it. Take time to clear out some of the negative things that have started to define you.

Phil 4: 8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Bad habits and wayward thinking have a way of becoming addictive. Breaking loose from them might be challenging. Step up to the challenge and break free in 2013!

 


Shared vision

What is your favoured operating style when you encounter challenges?

Do you prefer to tough it out on your own or do you seek early support and assistance?

Independent thought and courage are important as we strive for success. At the same time, we are not intended to be islands unto ourselves.

Let 2013 be different because of our increased willingness to share our visions and our burdens. Let us set up support mechanisms and seek out the specific input of wise and like-minded individuals who are firmly grounded in the faith.

There is immense value in wise counsel. Hear Solomon on the issue of advice:

 Proverbs 12:15 The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice.

Out in the wilderness animals move in closely-knit packs. This is designed to provide a solid front against the threat of predators. The strategy of the predator has consequently shifted to picking off the strays, the weak and the lame. They do not succeed in getting animals that are in the centre of the pack. There is safety in numbers.

As you strive to be the best you can be, take care to take up a secure position in the pack.  Never put yourself out of the reach of well-meaning, supportive and firmly grounded individuals.

No matter how shy or private you are, take care to identify at least one tower of strength to whom you can look for support and guidance.

The persons you choose must be able to command your respect and be able to put themselves in a position to understand your situation. You cannot rely on persons who will let you have your own way or who will provide the spiritual equivalent of ‘take 2 aspirins and go to bed’ for every situation.

If there is no one that fits the bill readily accessible to you, you should set about coaching someone to play that role for you. Work with them to bring them to the required level of maturity and sensitivity.

Just DO NOT try to go it alone!!!!!

The shared vision is also about being there for others and for letting them into your dreams.

Gal 6:2 Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.

 

Get to heaven

 

We end where we started – the imperative of getting to heaven. The scriptures outline a clear plan of salvation.

Christ tells us that the way to the Father goes through Him. (John 14:6).

The conversions reported in the New Testament reflect these steps:

1. Hear and believe:

Heb 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

 2. Repent:

Act 2:38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

3. Announce Jesus as Lord of your life

Rom 10:8 But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach;   That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.   For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

4. Be immersed in watery baptism for the remission of sins (Act 2:38)

5. Live by the Spirit

 Romans 8:13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.

7 Keys to Success in 2012

7 Keys To Success This Year

Most of us are determined to achieve more this year than we did last year. I want to share 7 keys to success this year.

Key #1: Tap into the source

The single most important springboard for success this year is to ensure that you have access to the source of blessings.

Eph: 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

Being in Christ is the single most important step to success.

Phil 4:13 13 I can do all things through Christ[a] who strengthens me. 

Matt 7: 7   “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.   9 “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!     

The empowerment that comes from being anchored in Christ sets you on a path to success.

Proverbs 21:31 The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the LORD.

Seeing what benefits come from being in Christ does not put you in Christ. Having friends and families in Christ does not put you in Christ. Spending time with people who are in Christ does not put you in Christ.

To be in Christ, you must be aware of His sacrificial death to pay for man’s sin and believe it to be true.

You must make a decision to live a life that is in conformity with Christ-like principles and to reject the old ways.

You should have made a public declaration that Jesus is Lord of your life.

You should have been immersed in baptism for the remission of your sins. Following that you continue to be obedient to God’s will for your life.

Remain firmly grounded in Christ and you are all set for success. With Jesus as the vessel you will get where you want to go.

 

Key #2:  Expect great things

This year you should work to make every thought a positive one. Just expect better will come.

Our thoughts have inordinate influence on what manifests in our lives.

Philippians 4:8-9

Meditate on These Things

   8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. 9 The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.

You get diagnosed with an illness. Pray fervently and constantly think that with a change of diet and life style and the aide of health practitioners you will beat it and get better.

Research data indicates that patients with a positive disposition survive longer.

You had your mind set on something coming through for you and you do all that you are supposed to do you and more and yet for some inexplicable reason it is stalled. It is just not happening for you.

Don’t give up. Continue in your pursuit. Re-double your efforts. But always believe that it will come through for you.

 

Key#3: Pray without ceasing

Do not underestimate the power of believing prayer.

 1 Thess 5:16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

 James 5: 13 Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

 17 Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. 18 Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.

This year, you should also dare to have the mindset of Jabez and to pray about it.

1 Chronicles 4:10 Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request.

Be bold in your prayer life. However, ask believing.

James 1:  5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

 

Key#4: Be focused and passionate about what you feel called to do

Narrow your focus. Determine what is at the core of what you want to achieve. Follow your passion. Do not be distracted. Do not be caught up either in your challenges or your successes.

 

Nehemiah 2: 1 In the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was brought for him, I took the wine and gave it to the king. I had not been sad in his presence before, 2so the king asked me, “Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.”

 

   I was very much afraid, 3 but I said to the king, “May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?”

 4 The king said to me, “What is it you want?”  Then I prayed to the God of heaven, 5 and I answered the king, “If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my ancestors are buried so that I can rebuild it.”

 

Key#5: Be faithful and diligent

This year be scrupulous in ensuring that your every thought, word and deed is in keeping with the scriptures.

This is a year for ensuring that we expunge sin from our lives. We are going to accept that through Christ we can live righteous lives.

We will commit to Bible study so that we will be encouraged daily to abide by its principles.

We will commit to getting rid of the sins that beset us. Let us be embrace honesty where deceitfulness was a feature of our lives.

We will commit to chastity where fornication and adultery was a feature of our lives.

We will commit to forgiveness where malice was a feature of our lives.

We will commit to filling our hearts with love where hatred and bitterness have been taking root.

The history of Israel and Judah highlight the fact that God consistently punished sin and rewarded repentance and obedience. Let us not invite God’s displeasure and wrath this year.

Let us not lose sight of the fact that while God’s reaction might not be a swift as when Ananias was struck dead, He abhors every sinful act and promises that we will be held accountable for our actions.

Let us spend this year in dread of a God that is to be feared and respected. Let us stop being careless with our souls. Stop using Christ’s sacrifice as an excuse for indulging our sinful desires.

In this jubilee year, let us give up wanton sinfulness. Let us give back our lives to God.

This is also a year where you need to put in more effort. The more challenging the times and the situation the more effort it requires to overcome them.

When the going gets tough the tough gets going.

Prov 6: 6 Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!
7 It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, 8 yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest. 9 How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep? 10 A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest— 11 and poverty will come on you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man.

 

Key#6: Collaborate

This is the time for collaboration. Alliances and partnerships are essential to success. The idea of going it alone is challenging and is not recommended at this time. We need to share our burdens with others and help them to bear their burdens.

1 Cor 1:10

[ A Church Divided Over Leaders ] I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.

Proverbs 24:6 Surely you need guidance to wage war, and victory is won through many advisers.

 

Key#7: Be patient and persevere

James 1: 2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 

 James 1: 12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

Reflect on the less celebrated part of the recollection of Elijah’s action at Mount Carmel. He had just silenced the prophets of Baal by bringing about a most amazing display of God’s power through his prayer.

Recall that he had warned that there would be no rain for 3 years and that it would rain at his behest.

1 Kings 18:  41 And Elijah said to Ahab, “Go, eat and drink, for there is the sound of a heavy rain.” 42 So Ahab went off to eat and drink, but Elijah climbed to the top of Carmel, bent down to the ground and put his face between his knees.  43 “Go and look toward the sea,” he told his servant. And he went up and looked.  “There is nothing there,” he said. Seven times Elijah said, “Go back.”  44 The seventh time the servant reported, “A cloud as small as a man’s hand is rising from the sea.”    So Elijah said, “Go and tell Ahab, ‘Hitch up your chariot and go down before the rain stops you.’”  45 Meanwhile, the sky grew black with clouds, the wind rose, a heavy rain started falling and Ahab rode off to Jezreel. 

Consider also the Jericho march and the patience that it required.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

Engage, Encourage, Enable

Engage, Encourage, Enable

As we move forward in this new year, I want to share some options for your commitment.  Many of us fail to follow through on our resolutions. Here is hoping that this year you will make one or more of these options come true.

The resolutions fall into 3 basic categories:

Engage, Encourage, Enable

Engage

The invitation is that this will be a year in which we strive to be more engaging. Let us seek to look beyond ourselves and our inner circle.

I am suggesting that this should be a year in which we widen our sphere of influence. Let us be more open to the possibility of interacting with others.

Instead of holding our heads straight and avoiding contact let us change our mindset and actively seek to connect with others.

Let us banish the word “Shy” from our vocabularies and work to broaden our network of friends and associates.

Each new contact that we make represents an option for new possibilities. So the more contacts we make the more possibilities become available to us.

Proactive networking and being open to engaging new contacts is one of the keys to success.

“To the weak I became weak in order to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some of them.” 1Co 9:22

 I would also like for us to commit to making real connections this year. Move at least one of the surface interactions that we have to a genuine friendship.

Move from exchanging pleasantries to a genuine interest in issues of concern to the other party.

Is there scope this year to learn more about someone’s hopes, fears and aspirations?

Can we take time to go beyond the warm greeting to better appreciate what makes someone else tick?

In an increasingly sceptical and untrusting world, the call of the Great Commission to go into the world and teach is going require us to engage others on a real basis.

“Show me that you care, if you want me to listen to you.”

The politicians are increasingly being confronted with the phenomenon of people simply opting out when they fail to get the feeling that their interests are of genuine concern.

Let us reflect on Christ’s genuine concern about the well being of others. He dealt with their health concerns and took swift action to deal with their hunger.  He sought to resolve their understanding of the law and how to relate to the authorities.

Above all, He was open to contact from anyone. He was not a respecter of persons and His mission led Him to constantly make new contacts.

Let this year be a year of engagement.

I suggest that we do not limit our commitment to engagement only to connection with others.

Let this be a year in which we open ourselves to something new.

This might be a new hobby, or a new type of book or show. Initiation of a fitness routine.  Going on a diet.  Going back to school.  Starting a new business.

Let this be a year of new beginnings…  a year in which we engage something different.

I would also like for this year to be a year of encouragement.

The environment is overrun with negative sentiments. Predictions of hard times abound. Doom and gloom have been our constant companions.

I suggest that we lift the veil. I suggest that we replace the forecast of dark clouds with expectations of bright sunny skies.

The potential impact of a change of mindset is generally under-estimated.

“Peter answered him, “Lord, if it’s you, order me to come to you on the water.”  Jesus said, “Come on!” So Peter got down out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came to Jesus.” Mat 14:28 – 29

I was able to walk on hot, flaming coals bare footed without being seared because of a change of mindset.

Let us focus our energies on being encouraging in our thoughts, words and action. Let us adopt positive mindsets this year. Let us recall that with God all things are possible Matt 19:26.

Let us base our faith on the fact that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” Philippians 4:13.

So, in our conversations let us strive to sound notes of encouragement versus discouragement.

We can take the commitment to be encouraging further. We can actively cheer on others in their pursuit of positive goals or in the honest performance of tasks that they have been assigned.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” Hebrews 10:24

Let the phrase “Well done!” roll off our tongues more often. Let us be there to say “Don’t give up! You can do it! Persevere, the victory will be yours!”

Lay any temptation to tear down to rest this year. This year you only have eyes for positive outcomes. Thoughts of failure are banished. Disappointments may come but we know that they will be fleeting and victory will be yours in due course.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 New International Version (NIV)

Our encouragement should also embrace helping others to remain in the faith.

“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness”. Heb 3:13

Let us make it a point of duty this year to help others in their Christian walk. Let us encourage a brother or sister to greater levels of commitment and service.

If the opportunity presents itself, strive to restore someone who has fallen away.

“Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. 2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Gal 6: 1 -3

Our next commitment is to be enabling this year.

As we become more engaging and widen our network of contacts. And as we encourage others and ourselves to positive achievement, we will have created opportunities for us to become enablers.

Each of us has the capacity to help someone to achieve one of their goals.

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. James 2:14-17

This year we should strive to translate “good wishes” and encouraging words into tangible action.

As we becoming more engaging and as we strive to be encouraging let us find ways to actively enable others as well.

Our enabling action may come in many different forms. It need not require material resources. A simple word of advice could make a huge difference in someone’s life.

Maybe just sitting quietly with someone as they work through a challenging situation may enable them to move forward with their life.

The key is to be on the lookout for opportunities to make a difference. No longer opt to be a bystander. Put up your hand and be counted. Reach out and lend a hand or provide a shoulder. Be a sounding broad. Give someone the assurance that you are there for them.

This year commit to enabling others on their life journey.

In closing, your most significant action in enabling others would be to share the Gospel with them.

No act of empowerment can compare with that of leading someone to Christ. In order to do so you will have to engage and encourage them.

Share the good news of Christ’s sacrificial death to reconcile us to God, the need for repentance, public acknowledgement of Jesus and baptism for the remission of sins.

On a personal level, this is a year for getting things right with God.

We are committing to obeying the plan of salvation before it is eternally too late.

We are committing now to being fully aware of our deceitful SELF and to call out the impostor every time it appears.

We are committing to hungering after righteousness.

We are committing to devoting ourselves to immersion in God’s word on a daily basis.

We are committing to applying its teachings to our lives.

This year we will engage, encourage and enable.

God bless you!

Inspiring Story

The army readies for battle.

The General commands the drummer to beat the “Attack” rhythm.

The army advances and suffers heavy losses.

The General commands the drummer to beat “Retreat”.

The drummer continues to beat “Attack” despite the General’s desperate shouting for “Retreat” to the played.

In tears the drummer confesses: “Attack is all I know General. They never taught me Retreat.”

Happy ending: The army continues to push forward to the beat of “Attack” and overcomes the enemy.

Discard “Retreat” from your playlist so that “Attack” will be all that you know. When the chips are down and defeat stares you in the face  – attack.

Attack – doubt.

Attack – fear.

Attack – with a clarity of purpose and thought.

Attack – with a carefully crafted plan of action.

Attack – with the goal in mind.

Attack – with God as your leader!

 

How do I deal with spiritual struggles — My relationship with God being up and down or failing in the same areas over and over?

I believe that life is a great teacher. If we just take the time to look at things that happen around us we can take away important lessons that we can apply to other aspects of our lives. I am fascinated by such explorations and I have the fortunate or unfortunate habit of wanting to share the findings with others.

Today is no different. I am going to invite you to join me in drawing lessons from riding a bicycle – Lessons from cycling.

The first lesson I want us to draw is the observation that being a cyclist requires personal involvement in the act of riding a bicycle. There is a famous champion cyclist who dominated cycling before my time and yours at Race Course down in Kingston Gardens. His name was Frank “Gungoo” Minott. Now if Gungoo had a son who also dominated cycling and he in turn had a son. While schoolmates might give the grandson the nickname “Cyclist”, that name will not become reality until grandson gets up on a bike and rides it.

Being a true cyclist is not something that is inherited. It is not something that is conferred on you as some honour. Even if grandson joined a cycling club and attended all their functions he would not be a genuine cyclist until he rides one himself.

Well, of what relevance is that to us in the spiritual realm?

In the first place, you can’t have an up and down relationship with God if you don’t have a relationship.

Christianity is like cycling. Being a Christian is not something that can be inherited. It is not something that is conferred upon us as a special honour. It does not rub off by mere association. We have to take action on a personal basis to become a Christian.

There might be one here this morning that has never made the personal commitment to be a Christian. You might have had a family that are Christians. You might have many friends who are Christians. You might have visited congregations of Christians and might even consider yourself to be a good person. But you have not yet obeyed the Gospel call to actually be a Christian.

If that is your state this morning, you need to consider the following thoughts.

God made man and planned that man would live eternally (Gen 1:27;2:17). Man disobeyed God in an act that is called sin. Sin separates us from God and makes it impossible for us to share eternity with God. We have all sinned and face God’s judgement. God in a supreme act of love decided to give man a chance to avoid eternal condemnation. This was achieved by having his Son Jesus Christ die for our sins. Jesus rose from the dead so that we too might have victory over the grave. (Rom 3 and 6). To do so, having heard what I just said, you must believe that there is an escape from being lost in sin.

You must decide that you will no longer remain in your sinful state. You should be ready to make it known publicly that you are going to make Jesus Christ the Lord of your life. You must then submit to baptism for the remission of your sins and commit to living in accordance with the doctrine that is set out for us in the New Testament.

Whatever you do, please take steps to get right with your maker today. Too many people want to get the best of both worlds. There is nothing in the world that is worth a fraction of your soul. Protect it now before it is eternally too late.

Rom 6: 19
19 I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness. 20 When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. 21 What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

There is a secondary point from this first lesson:

Spiritual growth and development is also a personal matter. If 4 generations in your family were able to recite the entire Bible backwards, your personal development will be stunted unless you study and expose yourself to Bible study personally.

Immersion in the Bible is a great antidote to running hot and cold about God and a buffer against spiritual struggles.

The second lesson we want to draw from cycling is the recognition that if I want to commit and stay committed to cycling I must come to identify some lasting value in cycling. I must find some intrinsic – some core – value that will stand the test of time. I might get attracted to the activity for a variety of reasons but unless I am able to extract something of special significance and lasting value, I might not be able to remain committed for the long haul. I might bask in Daddy’s legacy and enjoy the time I spend with club members but unless and until I find some personal connection that is lasting and real, there is no guarantee that I will not simply slip away when conditions change.

Of what relevance is that to us in the spiritual realm?

Christianity is something that is a long term project. We make a commitment to be Christians forever. That kind of commitment requires strong backing. It cannot be based on what others are doing or what is fashionable at a particular point in time. We have to find a personal anchor for our own life as a Christian. If we do not find some special intrinsic value for ourselves we stand a great chance of losing our way.

This lesson goes beyond just the spiritual realm. Whenever we make long term commitments we had better be sure that there is something special and lasting there to make us want to honour our promises and commitments. Marriage is one such area.

What is it that you use to anchor your life as a Christian? What is it that gives you the confidence that you could withstand difficult challenges that shake you to the core?

Is Christianity going to be a source of annoyance to you when your circumstances change for the worse? Is Christianity your solution of first choice? Is it your answer to every problem?

Matt 13: 44 -45
44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.

The third lesson explores the observation that the essential secret of being able to ride the bicycle is the concept of balance.

Balance is an oft mis-understood concept. There is a tendency to mix it up with the idea of variety.

Balance in this context should be understood in the context of something in relation to an objective standard. When it matches that standard it is in balance.

[Explain exchange of potatoes and yams and other foodstuff using a see saw and stones. The stones become the objective standard]

The objective standard in cycling is that the rider should be perpendicular to the ground. If that relationship is maintained they could ride forever without ever falling.

The further one moves away from the objective standard and the longer that situation prevails the more likely and imminent the fall.

What is the relevance of this for us in the spiritual realm?

We have been provided with an objective standard for how we ought to live our lives. Christ demonstrated the model through His Life and teachings. We need to examine ourselves and take care that we are not off balance.

If we find ourselves in a state in which we are off balance we must like the cyclist take quick action to restore balance or face the risk of falling.

Gal 5:19
19 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

The issue of failing in the same area over and over, is a reflection of the fact that Satan focuses on our weaknesses. We are not tempted with things that are not appealing to us.

When we fail in a particular area over and over, it means that we have sent out signals that we have desires and interests in the area of the failing. We might have tried to contain it or to mask it, but it lingers. We might also be actively giving it to it which reinforces Satan’s resolve to keep presenting that option to you.

So what is the answer?

1. Take encouragement from: 1 Corinthians 10:13 (King James Version)
13There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.
2. Work to re-write the script that is being played from your sub-conscious.
a. Stop praying about the area of failing and dwelling on it.
b. Start praying about the state that you want to be in as a replacement for your area of failing.
c. Visualize yourself in the replacement state.
d. Give thanks that you are being blessed with being able to live in this replacement state
e. Ask empowering Why Questions to support your prayers.

3. Get support from others.
a. Share your challenge with someone you trust
b. Ask them to hold you accountable

4. Associate with others who seemingly are comfortable in the replacement state bearing in mind that you tend to become an average of your 5 closest friends. You might need to change some of the people you associate with or change how you relate to them.

Our fourth lesson from cycling is the realization that spills and bruises are an integral part of cycling.

The essential difference between people who persevere with the cycling and those who gave up while learning to ride is that one set got back on the bicycle after falling down and the other set quit.

What is the relevance of this for us in the spiritual realm?

We have to keep in the forefront of our minds that Christianity does not guarantee comfort. Christians must expect to find themselves in unpleasant circumstances from time to time. That comes with the territory and should be taken in stride. The cyclist who climbs back onto the bicycle after a fall is more concerned about the overall cycling experience than on his weeping wounds and aching body. THIS TOO WILL PASS!

Consider Paul, the highly respected Apostle. He was roundly criticized by some members of the Corinthian Church about things that would cause a lesser person to walk and talk to themselves. Even His status as an Apostle was questioned. Paul’s response to the challenge is instructive for us as to how we ought to deal with challenging situations. We should strive to be able to present with a clear conscience the responses that Paul gave. Look for example at:

2 Cor 6:1 – 13

6 As God’s fellow workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. 2 For he says,
“In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.”
I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.
Paul’s Hardships
3 We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. 4 Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; 5 in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; 6 in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; 7 in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; 8 through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; 9 known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; 10 sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
11 We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. 12 We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. 13 As a fair exchange—I speak as to my children—open wide your hearts also.

Many of the spills and bruises that take place in life come from inter-personal relations. We cause each other a lot of pain and suffering. We could dramatically reduce this pain and suffering by adopting principles from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians.

Three critical questions should underpin how we relate to others in any and every situation:

1. Have I spoken freely to the other party?
2. Have I opened wide my heart to the other party?
3. Have I withheld my affection from the other party?

That is the objective standard that we must bring to bear in our relations with others.

Of major importance, is the need for us to use those questions as our guide when we observe or find ourselves being asked to comment on relations among others.

Instead of seeking to take sides, we should objectively walk the individuals involved through the 3-step questioning process:

1. Have you spoken freely to the other party about this?
2. Have you opened wide your heart to the other party?
3. Have you withheld your affection from the other party?

There is usually no need for you to set up yourself as judge and jury. Every single one of us needs to see ourselves as stepping stones and not stumbling blocks.

I promise you today that if as an individual you use the 3-step yardstick as the measure of your relationship with others, you will attain eternal joy and happiness.

I promise you this morning that if as a congregation we can truly use the 3-step process in our dealings with each other, there will be no limit to what we can achieve in Christ.

Our fifth and final lesson unearths the reality that cycling is about moving from one point to another and to get there we need to be focused.

[Tell story of showing off fact of being to Mom, losing focus and ending up in a wall.]

Safe and successful cycling must be based on the principles of shutting out distractions on the one hand and keeping one’s eye on the goal on the other.

What is the relevance of this for us in the spiritual realm?

The road of life is full of distractions. They come in so many varieties that sometimes it is hard to identify them. But they are there. They slow our forward progress and may even take us off course.

We have to be vigilant to shut the distractions out of our lives and to keep our eyes on the goal. The focus on the goal is paramount. When that is in place even when major obstacles are placed before us we still insist on moving towards our goal. Nothing will stop from getting there and from helping others to do the same.

Phil 3:13
13 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
15 All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained.

Brethren, you cannot be a Christian by looking on or by association. It is a very personal experience. YOU have to take personal action.

Find something about being a Christian that inspires you personally and respond to it. That is what will keep you faithful and stop you from backsliding. Cyclists usually join a club or ride with friends….that helps them to keep going even when they might feel somewhat down. If you keep close to God’s family you too will remain faithful.

Staying faithful and claiming the prize is directly linked to staying in balance with the objective standards. The closer you stick to the standard the safer will be your Christian ride. People only fall when they stray from the objective standard that is laid out for us in the Bible.

At the same time we have to realize that even good riders have spills. The key is to get up and get back on track. Unfortunately, sometimes we are thrown off balance by the devil. We should not give up our Christian ride in frustration. God’s grace is available to restore us. Repent, ask for forgiveness, make a commitment to resist the devil and move on with your Christian ride.

Finally, keep your focus. Your goal is to spend eternity with God in Heaven. Do not let the world’s distractions pull you off course. Keep your eyes on the prize.