The Things I Allow To Fill My Life

This verse speaks into giving the message of Christ permission to “marinate” my life. This just made me think of the things that I allow to fill my life. There are many things I give permission to occupy and fill my life in different ways. I do this by allowing certain things about my character and way of life. There is also the danger of allowing my inner world to go unchecked.

Unchecked by the Word of God. Unchecked by not praying as I ought, as a follower of Christ. More for my good than anyone else’s. Sometimes I’m not intentional enough. At other times I am. The challenge of being consistent. There’s wealth I miss when I don’t let Christ’s message completely affect me.

The message of Christ in all it’s richness means embracing God’s plan for me and through me, for others. The message of Christ is rich. By “the richness of the message of Christ” Scripture also speaks into the access the message of Christ gives me to God’s grace. The grace to become more into His likeness.

Not only that but the grace to grow together with other Christ followers. It means I depend on other Christ followers as much as they depend on me. We become more like Christ as we help each other. The outworking of Christ message not only demands responsibility for working out my salvation -Philippians 2:12-, but also my responsibility to my brothers and sisters.

Thus, the richness of Christ message filling my life helps me become in matters of identity. It affects my behaviour, in the matter of lifestyle. It reminds me of the need of others, lest I get self-absorbed. Being self-absorbed means I have the ability to allow myself to fill my life. Contrary to what Scripture teaches and God wants of me.

I need to be more mindful of the things I allow to fill my life. Attitudes, cares, relationships, hobbies, words, works, everything.

God, may I be filled and consumed with the richness of your Word. Help me see the wonderful things in your law – Psalm 119:18.

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Talking About Nuthin’

I’m a fan of Lecrae’s music. He has a new album, Anomaly, dropping soon. “Nuthin” is one of the songs on the album but has been released as a single. He’s done what no Christ following artist has done in terms of speaking to both the world and Christ follower. By the world in Lecrae’s context, I mean hip hop culture (I’m not saying he only speaks into hip hop culture either).

As a Christ follower one of the things I wrestle with is being overt with my faith in a way that people in the world at large don’t shut down or check out. There are more reasons than I can count why culture, that is the world, in a general sense, doesn’t want to hear anything from followers of Christ. We, as Christ followers, are partly to blame. (That’s for another post…)

I grapple with “earning a voice”, a right to be heard, with the world and at the same time not selling out when it comes to representing Jesus, the Christ. I want to tell the world and at the same time I don’t want to sell out.

In the song “Nuthin” Lecrae speaks about how hip hop culture is talking about nothing. He belittles the things that are celebrated and bragged about in favour of speaking about encouraging people and Jesus. Lecrae has been rapping for at least ten years. He has, in a sense, earned a right (or cred) to speak into the culture the way he does.

He’s been exposed to the hip hop culture and understands it. He speaks the language. His message is the differentiator. Together with Lecrae and all Christ followers I have the unique differentiator: the message of Christ.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. (2 Corinthians 4:7 [NIV] )

In speaking the message of Christ to the world I wrestle. How do I earn the “right” (or cred) to be listened to without selling out to the message and Christ Himself. I know it is the Holy Spirit who convicts and not me or how I deliver the message. However, how do I know I have done all I can?

I strive to please Christ and I know it is not by my works I’m saved. But I also know that others are saved, in a sense, by my work. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I want to be able to speak into the culture and be given a fair chance (whatever that is) to be heard. We have this treasure in earthen vessels… (2 Corinthians 4:7)

We are ignored, even though we are well known… 2 Corinthians 6:9 (NLT)

Paul says that he, and his colleagues and the message of Christ they preached were ignored despite being well known! It seems Paul’s fame didn’t guarantee a “a fair chance to be heard”. Yet he was one of the most effective preachers and church planters, ever!

Fame is not the goal. Attention on myself isn’t either. I just want to make sure the message of Christ is heard the best way I can. The world is talking about a lot. And I agree with Lecrae; they’re talking about nothing. In representing Christ I want to be effective…

In saying something about Christ and the privilege of following Him I also want to make sure I’m not one of those people who talk about nothing.

Jesus, help me to represent you and represent you well. May I not talk about nothing so many will follow you. Amen.

Consistency And Integrity: What God And Me Want

This blog is a window into my journey in alignment with what God wants me to be and do. Though I’m the one writing this blog, it is easily the story of every Christ follower. We’re all embroiled in a battle of some sort.

There is always what God wants and what I, in my selfishness, want. The thing is, what God wants and or expects of me is ultimately the best for me.

There is one sure way of being and doing what God requires of me / us. One sure, guaranteed way to be consistent and foolproof integrity. And that is doing what God’s ways says. God is consistent, and I am not.

Because He doesn’t change living according to His Word helps me to be consistent. I cannot be anything close to what God wants me to be without a relationship with His Word. Not just any kind of relationship, but an intimate one. Deep, insane, savage, unrestrained love for the Scriptures.

It is in this kind of relationship with God’s Word that what what God and me want is aligned. Not that God gets on the same page as me but the other way round. God’s Word reveals Himself. It uncovers me, who I am and what I’m not (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Not for the sake of it but so that I become more like Him. So that I’m equipped to do what He calls me to (2 Timothy 3:17; Ephesians 2:10).

The words of the Psalmist give me comfort in knowing that I’m not the only one. This gives me courage to pray:

God, help me to love Your Word. I want to want to live according to Your Word. When I compare my life to Your Commands may there be no difference. None at all. Amen

Forgetting How To Pray

I think a lot. A lot about how I live is internal. I’m neither extroverted nor introverted. I’m one of those guys who are half and half. Because I think a lot, a lot of what happens to me is internal.

Sometimes I over think things. I’ve always been this way, as long as my memory serves me. I don’t fight it. I’ve learned how to make that work for me.

(Writing is one of the ways I’ve explored to help me process things.)

forgetting how to pray

This morning, as I took as walk along the coast I realised how much I had redirected some of my ‘prayer energy’ or focus to thinking. I had started thinking about the things I wanted to and should’ve been praying about.

Some people say God hears their thoughts and He should just take their thoughts as prayer. That is is them, not me!

Articulation

I don’t have a comprehensive, theological definition for what prayer is. Neither will I be prescriptive about how you should pray. However, for me, prayer must be articulated. It must be expressed.

Jesus knew that the Father knows us through and through. Every thought, anxiety, aspiration, reservation and passion. Everything. yet, Jesus invites us to ask (Luke 11:2-3; Matthew 7:7 cf. Philippians 4:6).

Prayer is more than thought; it is articulating [Click to Tweet]

I haven’t done a specific study, but as I think about it, there is nowhere in Scripture where prayer is just thought. Then again, it might just be my ‘bias’ toward prayer being articulated.

If most people are honest when they think “prayer”, they think “articulation” and “expression”. Never mind what people think right…

How

Because I grew up in a Christian home prayer was a norm. When I decided I was going to be a Christ follower I did wonder where my parents and others sourced their prayers. There were times I got stuck on the ‘how’.

How do I come up with things to pray? How can I string words and craft sentences in such a way that God understands and I don’t make a fool of myself?

This morning I seemed to find myself at the same place I was as a little boy. Remember, my ‘philosophy’ on prayer being articulated…

Thus I have to articulate my prayer, so that I know that I am praying. Also, I do believe that God knows what we need. He knows our thoughts but prayer is one of the ways we express our faith in Him. Faith in His love for us and willingness to act for and on our behalf.

Somehow I asked myself, “how should I pray?” I pray often. But here I was, asking myself how I should pray. Then I realised something else. What I was asking myself was how was I to articulate or express what I was thinking to God.

Perfect articulation is not the object of prayer; connecting with God is [Click to Tweet]

How could I be so stupid to believe that i had to wax eloquent when it came to prayer? For this moment, at least, how did I start believe that God only hears the eloquent?

After slaying these thoughts I whipped a messy and heartfelt prayer. I’m sure it pleased the Father to hear that snot and tears… I connected with God. He did some things in my heart.

Messy prayers mean and do more than unarticulated and unsaid prayers [Click to Tweet]

God is never surprised or puzzled when our (messy, articulated) prayers reach His ears. Like a parents having pleasure at their children’s attempt to speak, I know God loved hearing from me.

Pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Rather the messy prayer than none at all…

What other barriers stop people from praying? Like me, have you had similar experience(s) in your prayer life?

The Cost Of Discipleship

One of the books I’m reading at the moment. It cuts to the heart of translating grace to daily living and what it means to be a disciple of Christ.

Bonhoeffer is candid and explicit. I don’t think it is him really, just that he echoes the implications of being a disciple of Christ as per Christ’s teachings and call, in a practical and easily understood manner.

Bonhoeffer:

Discipleship means adherence to Christ…

 

Marching Orders

I’m starting to read Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “The Cost Of Discipleship”. Excited to see what the rest of it will be like.

The introduction is already up front: it is not about what people or even we, ourselves, want for or of ourselves but what Jesus, the Christ, Himself wants of us.

God, would you help me, and many others serving You, to stay on track with what you want of me and them.

Focusing on what Jesus wants means ignoring a lot of demands on ourselves. Help, Lord, sometimes I Am Jonah.

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Stunting The Gospel

I love well researched and written works. I believe that God entrusts us with gifts and means to communicate. With that our obligation is to do the best with what we have and leave the rest to God’s Spirit. Any communication of any message, any preaching of God’s Word must be done well.

Matt Chandler (with Jared Wilson) have done a splendid job in a great work, The Explicit Gospel. I will do a review of it when I’m done with it. It is probably one of the best books (besides the Bible, of course) that communicates the Gospel in a non-complex, yet accurate way.

creation waiting

The reason I write this post is because of something that struck me as I read. It is a statement that wowed and convicted me, all at the same time:

The gospel doesn’t terminate on individual salvation… – The Explicit Gospel

I know that ultimately, God’s plan is for a new heaven and a new earth (2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1). I’ve also read the Romans 8:19-25 and just focused on how creation just can’t wait for the sons of God to become perfected…

Something I’ve overlooked for a while is how the culmination of the Gospel is not just individual salvation. That our salvation (as a result of the Gospel) is connected to nature as well. Man’s fallenness also brought bondage and decay to nature. I feel embarrassed to admit that I’ve, in a sense, ‘forgotten’ that part of God’s plan is that, with man’s restoration through his salvation, God wants to and will restore creation as well.

Another trap that we can easily get caught in is to think that God is just about saving us and restoring creation. This kind of thinking puts us at the centre of the Gospel. Though we benefit from the Gospel, though creation will ultimately benefit from our salvation, we are not the ultimate object of the Gospel.

The ultimate object of the Gospel is God’s glory and the consolidation of Christ’s supremacy [Click to Tweet]

Creation sings of God’s grandeur, power and majesty. It has been somewhat limited in doing this because of sin. I must remember that though I am a beneficiary of God’s grace through the Gospel, I’m not the object. No!

God’s glory is. I would love to think that God went through all the trouble He did to save me and that is all, but that is only a part of the story.

This also means I should be careful that my worship of God is God-centred and focused. I could think of God’s saving me from sin and its power for the sake of me and forget that His glory trumps that, to say the least.

Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see— such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together. Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything. For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross. – Colossians 1:15-20 [NLT]

God, help me to keep you at the centre and circumference of everything.

We’re stunting the gospel when we think it starts and ends with our individual salvation [Click to Tweet]

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Spur Others On

God has given me & other Christ-followers a responsibility to each other. As part of His body we’re responsible to spur each other into good works.

This means I must be open to accept challenges to mature from my fellow Christ Followers. It also means that I mustn’t be so caught up in myself that I don’t make time to think of ways motivating others to acts of love and other good deeds.

I don’t get into relationship with God by good works but I am in relationship with Him also FOR good works

My Convenience And ‘Their’ Commitment

I’m looking into the book of Acts as part of my theology studies. I’ve never seen things in it the way I have the last few weeks. It is amazing what God can do with people fully yielded to Him.

It is amazing what happens when the Spirit of God is allowed full reign in the lives of the disciples in the early Church. Peter boldly speaks and 3,000 people repent and are baptised (Acts 2:14-41).

Peter and John challenge the authorities with no fear (Acts 4:1-31). They speak God’s message with boldness. Philip follows the leading of the Holy and baptises the first gentile and he is translated to another location (Acts 8:26-40).

The dead are brought to life; people are set free from oppressing spirits… There are many things God did through ordinary people, empowered by His Spirit.

I’m excited; challenged and freaking out as I read the amazing accounts of the early Church.

My Convenience And Their Commitment

I pray God would use me like how He did with some of the followers of the Way in those early days. Then I cower. Do I really have the commitment of the early Church? Would I be willing to drink death’s cup through stoning, like Stephen?

Can I get up from a beating and proceed to preach in the next town like Paul? Can I really stand before dignitaries and tell them to go jump off a cliff because my commitment is to God’s cause like Peter and John did?

I am privileged to be in a nation where I don’t get persecuted for my faith. As I think further, many Christ followers around the world live with persecution as it was for the early Church.

The questions I ask myself have to do with what I am willing to do for God. Perhaps I have it twisted. Perhaps the question I should be asking is, “how yielded to God am I?”

What is the extent of my surrender to God and His purposes for all people? Am I surrendered to God to such an extent where nothing is an inconvenience to me?

My convenience and comfort sometimes seem to have more of my allegiance than the purposes of God… May I be so given to Him, His glory and purposes…

God, as I pray, would you give me courage to pray. Give me courage to live a life fully surrendered to you. Because how I’m spent will not matter when I am that, surrendered… No greater prayer could I ever pray… Amen.

[Photo Credit: Dietmar Becker on Unplash]

My Opinions And God’s Will / Plans For Others

My Opinions And God’s Will Plans For Others

I have opinions. Many opinions. I sometimes think I know more than I really do. Sometimes I convince myself of that. At other times I am so blinded by “my convictions” (whatever that is).

I blindly believe and act according to what I think is best. I do this for me… The sad thing is that I also impose this on others, as well. And, worst of all, I try to recruit God to my side of the “judgment lines“, when He doesn’t do what I think He should be. Like He needs to be convinced I’m right… There are times I’ve had my opinions about others and God’s will for their lives.

In some instances I’ve felt God shouldn’t be doing some things through some people. Either because I (strongly) felt they just weren’t “wired” for it. I justified their failures as validation for inadequacies I perceived in them. As if God didn’t already know what they could and couldn’t do. As if He was blind, like when parents think the world of one child and treat the other as a demon of sort.

My Opinions And God’s Will Plans For Others

You know when the “angel of a sibling” does nothing wrong and mom and dad don’t believe the “bad one” when he or she reports a bad incident perpetrated by the “angel”?

I cry foul when God seems unfair, when He is actually being gracious to others [Click to Tweet]

Like Jonah, the one in the Bible, I fight God on His will for people. Jonah was upset that God wanted to show mercy on Nineveh. He was livid that God showed mercy to “bad people” (Jonah 4:1-4).

Some translations of the Bible say that Jonah was “displeased”, but when I read around that, “displeasure” is way too mild. His reaction, to go out of the city and ask God to kill him, “displeasure”? Yeah right! Jonah was livid! Infuriated!

Reading Philip Yancey’s, “What’s So Amazing About Grace” challenged my view of grace. It helped me understand a little more just how gracious God is and can be.

However, there are other instances, where I have, in different ways, God’s will and plans for others. Why did God not take my opinions on the people or the situations?

God seems to remind me that my opinions of other people and what He should do don’t really count. For that I’m often infuriated. Infuriated, like the brother who stayed home, in Jesus story. You know, the brother who didn’t squander his part of the inheritance from the father who was still alive…

I guess there are instances where I have been that older brother. The one who was more upset with God’s grace on others despite how they dissed Him.

And, ironically, also relieved.

Relieved that God doesn’t act like how my sometimes, depraved mind and emotions sometimes want Him to. That His grace goes beyond what I think. The thing is, if He had to do that for others, like how I sometimes think He should, then He would also need to withdraw His to / from me. His grace that I’m in always desperate need for.

What makes me think God needs my wisdom on dealing with people He made, knows and loves infinity multiplied by infinity forever, more than me.

God’s plans, for others aren’t dependent on my opinion of them or their circumstance [Click to Tweet]

This, as I’ve written about it in the past, sometimes gets in the way of my assignments as God send me to others. My opinions are often a hindrance to encouraging others to fully commit to what they feel God is leading them to.

Somehow I’ve been reminded of how my opinions, our opinions cause people to be hesitant in being completely given to what God wants of them. We can easily and nastily get in the way.

That’s what the Pharisees and Sadducees did in Jesus’ time. They somehow, made themselves the standards gatekeepers. They exalted their opinions above God’s love and plans for others. When I join them. Do like “them“.

God, forgive me. Help me remember, keep this at the fore of my mind: Your will, grace and plans for others doesn’t depend on my opinions or feelings. May you help me (and all Christ followers) to not have opinions but discern Your will for others and be a part of it where and if we need to be. Amen.

[Photo Credit: David Restivo]