An American investment banker was taking a much-needed vacation in a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. The boat had several large, fresh fish in it.
The investment banker was impressed by the quality of the fish and asked the Mexican how long it took to catch them. The Mexican replied, “Only a little while.” The banker then asked why he didn’t stay out longer and catch more fish?
The Mexican fisherman replied he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs.
The American then asked, “But what do you do with the rest of your time?”
The Mexican fisherman replied, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos: I have a full and busy life, señor.”
The investment banker scoffed, “I am an Ivy League MBA, and I could help you. You could spend more time fishing and with the proceeds buy a bigger boat, and with the proceeds from the bigger boat, you could buy several boats until eventually, you would have a whole fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to the middleman you could sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You could control the product, processing and distribution.”
Then he added, “Of course, you would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City where you would run your growing enterprise.”
The Mexican fisherman asked, “But señor, how long will this all take?”
To which the American replied, “15–20 years.”
“But what then?” asked the Mexican.
The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich. You could make millions.”
“Millions, señor? Then what?”
To which the investment banker replied, “Then you would retire. You could move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”
Our passion should be to know God better and better, because this is eternal life. We are going to spend all eternity getting to know God more and more. This is why eternity will not be boring for anyone whose passion is to know God. Our earthly life too will then not be boring any more. Let us learn something of God’s life and of His ways from Genesis 2, in the way He dealt with Adam. There we see that it was God Who saw Adam’s need for a wife and Who met that need and made a wife for him. There we see what God’s nature is like. God is always alert to the needs of people and does all that He can to meet those needs. When we partake of this Divine nature, we too will become like that – always alert to the needs and problems of those around us and doing everything we can in order to meet those needs! This will involve a great deal of sacrifice on our part often. We need therefore to ask ourselves whether we are willing to pay this price for partaking of the Divine nature.
Our Adamic nature is the exact opposite of this Divine nature. The life of Adam is thoroughly selfish and makes us alert only to our own needs and to the needs of our own family members. In fact it is so full of selfishness and jealousy that it does not want the needs of others to be met even by another. On the contrary. it enjoys seeing people suffer.
When man sinned, God placed cherubs in front of the tree of life with a sword that turned in every direction to guard the way to that tree. The tree of life symbolises eternal life – knowing God. Through this sword placed in front of the tree of life, God was symbolically showing Adam that if anyone now wanted to partake of the tree of life, he had to first experience the sword falling on his own selfish life. We read in Genesis 3:21 that as soon as Adam and Eve sinned, God killed an animal in Eden and clothed them with coats of the skin of that animal. There too God was teaching them the same lesson – that the only way for them to be clothed now was through the way of sacrifice and death. Adam and Eve had tried to clothe themselves at first without any “death” – with just fig leaves. But God threw those leaves away and showed them the right way to be clothed. So we see right from the beginning God emphasising sacrifice as the way for man to fellowship with Him and to be clothed with His nature.
God told Cain that his fundamental problem was that he “did not intend well” towards his brother Abel (Genesis 4:7). Jude speaks of those who walk in “the way of Cain” (Jude 11). Who are they? They are those who do not intend well towards their brothers. It is good for all of us to have a spiritual check-up in this matter. Can you honestly say that you desire the very best for all the brothers and sisters in your local church and for their families? Can you also say that you desire the very best for other believers whom you know in other denominations? Then widen the circle still further and ask yourself if you desire the very best for all the people whom you know, including your relatives, your enemies and those who have harmed you in any way. If you find a disturbance in your heart (instead of a rejoicing) when something good happens to another person or to his children, or if you sense a rejoicing in your heart (instead of a grief) when something evil happens to him or his family, what do such attitudes indicate? Just this that the life of Adam is alive and active in you.
If you are honest with yourself, you will soon discover whether you are walking the way of Cain or not. You must be quick when you see that evil Adamic life within you to put it to death, if you want the fire and the anointing of God to rest upon you constantly.
It is when the grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies TOTALLY, that there will be much fruit. One who dies totally to himself will never get offended, no matter what others do or don’t do. He will always intend well towards all. He will never get angry in any matter that concerns himself and he will never quarrel with anyone. He will never shed a single tear for himself in self-pity – for, surely, dead people don’t weep in their graves!!
Cain’s face was sullen and dark when he did not intend well towards his brother (Gen.4:6). We may not realise it, but the attitude we have in our hearts is often reflected on our faces. If you intend well towards all, your face will always beam with the joy of the Lord. Many believers are walking in the way of Cain. Beneath their weak smiles and the “Praise the Lord”s that come from their lips, are found wrong attitudes towards their fellow-believers. When people turn against you and do evil to you, God uses them to give you a scan of your real heart condition. If you cannot love them, your heart-scan will show that you have NOT partaken of God’s nature, for God’s nature is one that loves even His enemies. Jesus intended well even towards Judas Iscariot.
God desires the very best for all people. The gospel message is that we too can partake of this nature. Those who haven’t understood the gospel thus haven’t understood the gospel at all.
**Copyright – Zac Poonen. No changes whatsoever are to be made to the content of the article without written permission from the author.
“When I, Lori McPherson, first became a Christian, I had a glorious dream that was so real. I was standing on the wayside watching all these people busy preparing for something. They all had their own tasks to do, and it seemed they only had a limited time to prepare. Then I realized it was a wedding, an extravagant wedding fit for a king. I wondered to myself whose wedding it was, and how glorious it would be. Then I saw the bridegroom in all his magnificent splendour, so handsome! And I wondered what lucky bride was going to get this handsome and majestic man. And it’s as if all the people there could read my thoughts, and one of them turned to me puzzled as to why I was querying this and said “you!” I was shocked that I could be seen and heard, and tried to shrink away out of sight. At that moment I was afraid and all these thoughts went through my mind, ‘does he know who I am?’ for I knew I was not worthy of him. ‘Does he know my past?’ because I could tell he was so righteous, just and pure, and I wasn’t. He was way out of my league, and “has there been some mistake?!” all these thoughts crossed my mind because I was dirty, blemished and defiled. But the bridegroom came to me and smiled warmly, it was the Lord Jesus Himself. I couldn’t look at Him, I was ashamed. As He stood there, I could feel His love for me, so kind and accepting. He then held up a large picture frame with a blank white canvas and portrayed to me that this was to be part of the wedding decoration once finished, as before it could be put up, the blank canvas had to be filled with fruit that I had placed on it. This fruit was the fruits of the Spirit, the work I had allowed the Holy Spirit to do in me and through me during my earthly lifetime. This would be like a decoration of honour to Him, a wedding gift.”
**This wonderful dream represented the marriage supper of the lamb in Revelation 19:6-9. In an article by Christianity.com the wedding feast that John referred to in revelation is explained below, which leads up to the Big Day. John saw and heard the multitudes in heaven praising the Lord God at the wedding feast of the Lamb. The wedding feast of the Lamb is the marriage supper which was about to begin. To understand what the marriage supper of the Lamb is, let’s consider the three significant wedding customs in the time of Christ.
Three Major Parts of a Wedding Feast
1. A Marriage Contract. Wedding customs in the time of Christ were signed by the parents of the bride and the bridegroom. Additionally, this contract was signed by the parents of the bridegroom, and the bridegroom himself would pay a dowry (down payment) to the bride or her parents. Such a process began the betrothal period, which today would be called the engagement. One example of this was the one Joseph and Mary were in when Mary was found to be with baby Jesus in the womb (Matthew 1:18; Luke 2:5).
2. A Torchlight Parade Through the Streets. The bridegroom accompanied by his male friends went to the house of the bride at midnight, creating a torchlight parade through the streets. Such a parade would not be a surprise to the bride as she knew well in advance such an event was taking place so she would be ready with her maidens. They would then all join the parade and end up at the bridegroom’s home. Such a custom is the basis of the Parable of the Ten Virgins in Matthew 25:1-13.
3. The Marriage Supper Itself. During the time of Jesus, the marriage supper itself would go on for days as illustrated by the wedding at Cana in John 2:1-2. The events described by John in Revelation 19:7-10 describe the third phase of the wedding feast the marriage supper of the Lamb. John isn’t meaning to skip the first two phases of the wedding feast customs but is communicating they already have happened.
The first phase was completed on earth when each individual Christian placed his or her faith in Jesus Christ. The dowry, in this case, was paid by the bridegroom’s parent (God the Father) because of the blood of Jesus Christ shed on the Bride’s behalf. The Church is betrothed to Christ much the same way as the wise virgin in the parable. All Christians should be watching and waiting for the appearance of the Bridegroom the Lord Jesus (2 Timothy 4:8). The second phase picture, when Christ comes to claim His bride and take the Church to the Father’s house. The Marriage Supper follows as the third and final step and is a glorious celebration of all who are in Christ Jesus.
Delight in the Lord and the Final Day
The Christian will one day find their ultimate delight at the time when He consummates all things (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10). Revelation 19 describes the day where we will become like Jesus. On that day, we will wear the most beautiful wedding gown made up of our righteous deeds (Revelation 19:6-8). As glorified Christians, the people of God will finally fulfil the purpose for which we’ve been created, which is complete, unbroken fellowship with God. Such joy we will experience on that day is beyond description as we will see Christ face-to-face (Revelation 19:9). Every born again, Christian will experience this day because they have been declared righteous in the Lord’s courtroom.
The Lord’s Supper and the Wedding Feast
The Lord’s Supper on the Lord’s Day is a foretaste of such a day as the Wedding Feast. Every time we eat of the Lord’s Supper, we should long all the more for the day when the feast will never end. Whether or not you are partaking of the Lord’s Supper this Lord’s Day, focus your heart on the great wedding feast with the Lord Jesus.
As a parent, one thing I’ve come to learn is that true love for someone does not mean you give them whatever they want. For example, my children would like to eat donuts every night for dinner. In this situation, my love for them is the very reason that I deny them what they want. When I deny them, they may be tempted to think I don’t love them. But real love desires the person’s long-term good, over giving them what they want all the time.
It’s very helpful to me to remember that God loves me with such a perfect love, that He will deny many of my earthly desires. To someone who doesn’t know God, this may look like God doesn’t care for or love them. But whoever knows God as their loving Father, they will no doubt be thankful for the many prayers and desires He didn’t answer, knowing that when they come into eternity they will look back and say “I’m glad He did things exactly the way He did.”
So if real love for my children doesn’t look like ‘giving them whatever they want’, what does it look like? The Bible – our foundation of truth tells us what real love is and what it looks like. I’d like to list out many practical examples of love the Lord has burdened my heart with, that illustrate the principles of real love as defined by the Bible. This isn’t meant to be a complete exhaustive list, but a list of examples God has put on my heart as practical goals I can have as I try love others, and God better.
Real love toward my children should look like:
• Asking God for wisdom to raise them (James 1:5)
• Praying for them consistently
• Taking their sin and disobedience very seriously, and not brushing it off
• Carefully disciplining them and rebuking them when it will build them up, not too severely and not too lightly, and never out of anger (Prov 3:11-12, Col 3:21, Heb 12:5-8)
• Teaching them that God loves them and is always with them, so they never have to be scared, and they can talk to Him any time (Heb 13:6)
• Teaching them the Bible, giving them foundational godly wisdom for life and godliness (Prov 4:5)
• Being patient with them (Eph 4:2)
• Not ignoring them
• Spending quality time with them
• Encouraging them (1 Thess 5:11)
• • Not losing my temper and snapping in anger at them (responding verbally or physically in a harsh way that is driven not by desire for their good but anger)
• Playing with them and laughing with them
Real love toward my wife should look like:
• Praying for and encouraging her (Heb 3:13)
• Plain and simple kindness (Eph 4:32)
• Considering what burdens she’s had throughout the day when I’ve been away at work
• Holding my tongue and keeping quiet when I am tempted to be angry or frustrated (James 1:19)
• Working hard at my job to provide for her what she needs (food, shelter, etc) without getting in to debt and making our family a slave to others outside our home (1 Tim 5:8)
• Being faithful to her – not committing adultery in the heart by looking lustfully at another woman (Matt 5:28)
• Being a servant, sacrificing time and energy to make things easier for her (John 13:12-14)
• Helping with household chores
• Not leaving messes around the house
• Sharing little words that God has spoken to me – ‘salting the conversation’ (Col 4:6) with the things of God, and ‘washing her in the Word’ (Ephesians 5:26)
• Expressing appreciation for her
• Laboring to present her as a spotless bride to Jesus (Ephesians 5:27)
• Rooting for her to grow in the Lord
• Playfully joking with her to make her smile, and to let her know that I enjoy her (Prov 5:18-19)
Real love toward my church should look like:
• Being quick and eager to forgive others (Eph 4:32, Prov 19:11, Luke 17:3)
• Encouraging them – letting them know how special to God they are and loved, and how necessary to the church body they are (Heb 3:13)
• Encouraging them to seek for an intimate life with the Lord, desiring that they would be enraptured with Him and not anything else in this life (2 Cor 11:2-3)
• Challenging them to become Christ-like (Heb 6)
• Praying for them in secret (Php 2:3-4, Matt 6:6)
• Not gossiping or speaking negatively about others (Psalm 41:7)
• Doing what I can to help them if I become aware of some need they have (James 2:15-16)
• Thinking of them throughout the week and bearing burdens of others, praying with real meaning for them and pouring my heart out to God (Gal 6:2, Matt 6:7)
• Never comparing myself with anybody in the church (2 Cor 10:12)
• Being real, not a fake hypocrite – “Let love be without hypocrisy” – being open about my own weaknesses and not trying to hide them so people think I’m godly (Rom 12:9), and thereby discouraging them making them think they are ungodly because they still have struggles
• Getting ‘under’ people by serving them and doing things quietly in the background, instead of trying to climb my way above everyone by seeking honor (Php 2:5-8)
• Weeping with those who are going through a hard time, not saying “I’m glad it’s not me” (Rom 12:15)
• Not being envious, but rejoicing with them when something good happens for them, cheering for them
• Exhorting them always to keep pressing into Jesus – to be persistent and consistent, to keep going even when things are tough (Matt 24:13)
• Gently rebuking them when necessary, so they can become aware and repent of their sin (Gal 6:1)
Real love toward the Lord should look like:
• Seeking Him alone and not His gifts (Psalm 73:25)
• Obedience, both inwardly and outwardly – “For this is love the love of God: that we keep His commandments” (1 John 5:3)
• Presenting my body as a living sacrifice to Him, and my body parts as His instruments of righteousness (Rom 12:1, Rom 6:13)
• Considering everything else on this earth besides Him as worthless, and living like that (not chasing after money, comfort, success or the pleasure of this world, but only chasing after Christ) – (Php 3:8)
• Laboring to build up His church (not in numbers but in Christ-likeness) “Do you love me? Tend my lambs” (John 21:15-17)
• Seeking for gifts that can build up the church in Christ, and eagerly desiring those gifts not to feel good about myself or significant, but desiring them for the sake of others (1 Cor 14:1-12)
• Being eager to spend time with Him and having a desire to always be in His presence, regardless of wherever I am or whatever I’m doing (1 John 1:7)
• Leaving anything He asks me to give up (even if not sinful) because I always want to be close to Him (Psalm 73:25, 28)
• Going to Him when I am struggling with some issue, and not trying to solve my problems myself without Him (1 Peter 5:6-7)
• Hating sin because it grieves Him (Eph 4:30). Not wanting to hurt the One I love the most
• Not complaining when something goes wrong or doesn’t turn out as I’d have hoped, but surrendering myself to it as God’s will, and praising Him in spite of the outcome (2 Cor 12:8-9)
• Being faithful to work hard at doing the mundane day to day tasks, because I’m doing it for Him (1 Cor 10:31, 1 Thess 4:11)
• Seeking eternal life – which is to know Him intimately (John 17:3)
• Cleansing myself because I want to be like Him (1 John 3:2-3) – (by cleansing, not just outwardly but cleansing all the evil that’s inside – things like anger, selfishness, greed, loving money and material things, a gossiping tongue, laziness, lukewarmness toward seeking God)
Up to this point I’ve only tried to illustrate what I believe real human love looks and doesn’t look like. But I’ve also been blessed to meditate on and see in God’s Word what His perfect love for me does and doesn’t look like.
God’s love for me doesn’t look like:
• Answering every prayer and giving me whatever I ask, no matter the consequences (2 Cor 12:8-9)
• Withholding all sickness, physical issues, job or family problems
• Withholding every temptation from me (1 Cor 10:13)
• Making me very wealthy (Matt 19:23)
• Giving me only easy relationships (at work, in my family, in the church, etc)
God’s love for me looks like:
• Giving me many precious promises in His Word so I can partake of His nature (2 Peter 1:4)
• Justifying me through Christ and now seeing me as righteous, just as if I’ve never sinned (2 Cor 5:21)
• Filling me with His Spirit so I can live in righteousness, peace and joy in the Spirit (Romans 14:17)
• Always being with me (Heb 13:5)
• Not just changing my location forever (from Earth to Heaven), but changing what I am forever (2 Cor 5:17)
• Putting boundaries around me that will guide me to seek for Him (Acts 17:26-27)
• Willingness to subject me to hardship for my eternal good (Romans 8:28)
• Willingness to discipline me (Hebrews 12:6)
• Always providing my needs, both physical and spiritual (Luke 12:29-32)
• Always thinking of my eternal good over the temporary earthly gain I could have (Mark 8:36)
• A fervent desire and joy to fellowship with me and be close to me (Zeph 3:17)
• A fervent desire to see me grow in the image of Christ, and working all of my circumstances to achieve this goal (Rom 8:28-29)
And the most special illustration to me of what God’s love for me looks like is:
Not holding back what was most precious to Him – sending His Son to earth to become a man forever, and as a man to die for me so I can have an intimate relationship with Him, knowing Him as my loving Father:
John 3:16, John 17:3
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life – And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent
“For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.”
In Ezekiel 16:49-50, God describes the real sins of Sodom that led to the destruction of that city (in Genesis 19). Most of us have always associated Sodom with sodomy (homosexuality) and other sexual sins. But sexual sin was the ultimate result of a way of life. What was it that led them into such depths of evil? Here we are told that Sodom’s sins were actually:
3. Gluttony (love of good food)
4. Neglecting the poor and needy
These were the reasons why God wiped out that city. It is interesting to note that God does not even mention their sexual sin. Sexual sin in Sodom was the result of their lazy, comfortable life-style. What can we learn from this? That there is a close connection between:
Pride and sexual sin.
Laziness and sexual sin.
Gluttony and sexual sin.
A lack of concern for other people and sexual sin.
Consider just these four areas. Many of you who are young have to admit that you are finding it very difficult to overcome your sexual passions. That is an extremely difficult area. But why not begin by overcoming in these four easier areas? You may, then, find it easier to overcome in the sexual area.
Begin first of all, by humbling yourself in all situations. Avoid all arrogance.
Then begin to be hard-working and diligent in whatever you do.
Then try fasting – avoiding food – once in a while.
And fourthly, begin to think a little more about the needs of people around you and see how you can help them.
Try this prescription for one year and you may discover that overcoming your sexual passions becomes easier. We cannot overcome any sin without grace from God – but He gives His grace only to the humble; and He helps only those who are kind and helpful to others.
It is unfortunately, normal among Christians of all denominations in India, for a boy’s father to ask for a dowry from the girl’s father before a marriage is finalised. This has reduced marriage to a business deal. Among unbelievers, such a practice is understandable because, being spiritually blind, they allow covetousness to rule their lives. But what shall we say when most believers also indulge in this practice – even those who claim to be Spirit-filled? Surely the Devil has blinded them too.
Many a marriage arrangement has failed because the parents of the girl could not meet the exorbitant demand for dowry made by the parents of the boy. Many girls in our land have been emotionally disturbed and brought to frustration because of this – and some have even committed suicide. Every day in India, some wife somewhere burns herself to death because of her husband harassing her to get more dowry from her father.
God will severely judge all those who make marriage a matter of striking a financial deal. This judgment will begin at the house of God, among those who claim to be born again. It is because many believers have not spoken out against the evil practice of dowry that it is still so widely prevalent in Christendom in India today. It is a sad thing indeed when those who should be standing upright for God in a warped and crooked world, become warped and crooked themselves. No Christian who wants to please God should ever ask for, or receive a dowry.
Some brothers hide under the excuse that it is their parents who ask for dowry and not they themselves. But if they have any convictions at all, why don’t they speak up and tell their parents that they don’t want any dowry? The reason must be that they too secretly desire the money. If they are convinced that the dowry system is wrong, they should speak up for the truth. It is surprising that many brothers who are strong-willed when it comes to other matters, act like spineless jelly-fish when it comes to expressing their convictions on dowry to their parents!
Some brothers say that it is only reasonable that their parents who have spent so much money on their education should now receive some money as dowry from the girl’s parents. But the girl’s parents have also spent money on educating her! Why doesn’t the boy give money to her father for giving him an educated girl??
Others justify their asking for dowry by saying that their parents will need money to give as dowry for their sisters when the latter get married. But we can be certain that God will not let anyone down, who seeks to honour Him in this matter. If you honour Him, He will honour you and give good husbands to your sisters (or daughters) without your having to pay any dowry(1 Samuel 2:30). If you say you don’t have faith for that, then I have nothing more to say to you, for I am writing now only for wholehearted Christians. The commandments of Jesus are meant only for wholehearted Christians.
Others may ask, “What is wrong in receiving money which the father of a girl gives gladly to her as a gift?” There is certainly nothing wrong with that. But before any brother uses this as an excuse for his covetousness, let him answer these three questions first:
(a) Was money any factor at all (even if the least important) in deciding the marriage?
(b) Did you or your representative (whether father or relatives) ever ask for the money, (or try to find out how much money the girl’s parents had) before or after the marriage had been settled?
(c) Did you secretly hope that money would be given by the girl’s parents (either to the girl or to you)?
If the answer is “Yes” to any of these questions, then you have certainly fallen a prey to covetousness, however well it may have been covered up by different excuses.
It is in such situations that the contradiction between a believer’s preaching and his practice becomes evident to all. No wonder infidels are prompted to say, “Whatever Christians may preach, when it comes to money, they have the same religion as everyone else”.
In some places, I have heard that the dowry system is the reverse of what is found in most parts of India. There the boy has to give a dowry to the girl’s father in order to marry her. But whichever dowry system it be, the practice is an abomination to God.
Many may resent such a strong denunciation of the dowry system. But we must remember that the system is a product of man’s covetousness, which the Bible calls idolatry(Colossians 3:5). One has only to read the severe denunciation of idolatry in the Old Testament to realize how God detests it. The prophets of old were fiery in their preaching against it. They did not mince words when speaking against that which God hated.
We have preached against and stood against dowry consistently in CFC ever since the Lord established our church in 1975.
Personally, I have practised exactly what I have written above, in my own life. I refused to allow any discussion of dowry at the time of my wedding. I took the same stand against dowry when my four sons were getting married. In addition, I never sought to find out whether the parents of the girls (whom my sons were marrying) were rich or whether the girls themselves had good educational qualifications that would enable them to work and earn money. Unfortunately, these are the matters that most believers today are keen on finding out when getting their sons married. I was only keen to find out if the girls themselves loved the Lord and were disciples of the Lord Jesus. And I thank God that He honoured my desire by giving each of my four sons God-fearing wives who would help them in their ministry for the Lord and also help them to raise God-fearing children.
Whenever I conduct a wedding, I always take a signed declaration from both the bride and the bridegroom stating that no dowry has been exchanged between them or their parents. I do this so that both parties see the seriousness of this evil. If any dowry wasgiven or received, then I refuse to conduct the wedding. If they deceive me they are answerable to God.
To expect dowry, or to accept dowry are both just as bad as asking for dowry. Those who accept or expect a dowry are both covetous. Such “Christians” should be honest and call themselves “heathen“. They are certainly NOT followers of Jesus Christ.
Can you picture your asking Jesus to negotiate with a girl’s father about the amount of dowry he should pay you before you agree to give your son in marriage to his daughter? You know very well that Jesus would never be willing to negotiate in such a matter. That itself should show you that expecting or receiving a dowry is wrong.
Receiving dowry or giving dowry or helping someone receive a dowry are all offences according to the law in India. The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 states:
“If anyone gives or takes or abets the giving or taking of dowry, he/she shall be punishable with imprisonment for not less than five years and with fine not less than Rs.15,000 or the amount of value of dowry, whichever is more.”
Leaders of churches should be the foremost to obey the country’s laws and to honour God in this matter. Any church-leader who is unwilling to take a stand against this evil dowry system has no right to remain in leadership in any church. Some leaders may secretly take a dowry without anyone knowing it. But God will deal with such hypocrites in His own time.
At a wedding, money may be given for the actual expenses of the wedding and the reception. But even this should ideally be equally shared by both parties. Thus both the boy and the girl are given equal dignity before God. But we cannot make a rule in this matter, because some are able to afford an expensive wedding and reception, while others are not.
It is perfectly in order for a bride’s parents to give money to their daughter. But this is best done by putting the money in a bank account in her name.This is not a rule but only a guideline so that believers can preserve their testimony and not be accused of having received a dowry after the wedding.
There is another equally great evilin India – and that is the way daughters are treated by their parents when it comes to an inheritance. Many parents do not give an equal share of their wealth and assets to their daughters as they do to their sons. If it is evil to give or ask for dowry, it is an equally great evil for a parent not to give their daughters an equal share of their wealth as they give their sons. In God’s eyes, sons and daughters have equal rights to their parents’ assets. Any father who shows partiality to his sons over his daughters is an ungodly father, unfit to be called a Christian. Whether the father writes this in his will to be distributed after his death or whether he gives it to his children earlier is immaterial. But he must treat his daughters exactly like he treats his sons. And a daughter has every right to ask to be treated equally. Jesus taught that it is proper for children to ask their fathers for good gifts (Matthew 7:9-11).
If Jesus were in India today, He would denounce the dowry system ruthlessly. Unfortunately, church-leaders who claim to represent Him, do not denounce this practice – because they love money themselves, or are eager not to offend the rich, or hope to get a commission themselves in the process!
Even a non-Christian film-actor in India has spoken out against dowry recently. Aamir Khan writes:
“I am totally opposed to dowry. It is not only a retrograde practice but also an illegal one. Think about it – can a relationship, built on the foundation of money and greed, be meaningful or beautiful? We should make our daughter so accomplished and independent that she is capable of crafting her own future and becoming the master of her own happiness. Then she won’t need a greedy, useless groom to complete her life. Let her marry a person who respects her. Let her marry a man who she believes is worthy of her; whom she is happy to spend the rest of her life with.” [ http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/columns/article3439626.ece]
Such non-Christian film-stars are now putting to shame so-called “Spirit-filled, tongue-speaking” believers, in this matter! Those film-stars will rise up in the day of judgment and condemn all hypocritical believers.
This is one reason why the Lord has placed CFC and related churches (and I hope, some other churches too) as lighthouses in India, to stand for the truth and to proclaim His will in this matter. The Bible commands us to speak up for the rights of the needy (Proverbs 31:8, 9). We must stand totally against this evil dowry system that has destroyed the lives of so many helpless girls in our land. We must also urge all parents to give an equal share of their wealth to their daughters as they give to their sons.
Daniel took a stand for the Lord in Babylon in a very small matter – not eating certain foods that God had forbidden in Leviticus 11. That was a verysmall commandment – but it was a small commandment given by a greatGod. Because Daniel honoured God, God honoured him. God is testing us now in little matters, to see whether we qualify to be a voice for Him.
May the Lord preserve us as a prophetic voice for Him in our land.
By Zac Poonen
**Copyright – Zac Poonen. No changes whatsoever are to be made to the content of the article without written permission from the author. cfcindia.com / Picture by pexels
Often we put our self-worth in the type of clothes that we wear, the type of car that we drive, our accomplishments, our financial status, our relationship status, our talents, our appearance, etc. If you do this you will end up feeling broken and depressed. You will feel like you’re in shackles until you realise that Christ has set you free. Yes Christ has saved us from sin, but He has also saved us from the brokenness of having the world’s mindset.
Don’t let sin take away your joy. Don’t let the world take away your joy. The world will not take away your joy if your joy doesn’t come from the world. Allow it to come from the perfect merit of Christ.
Christ is the answer to all self-worth issues that may arise in your life. You are more to God than you can ever imagine!
“Not one drop of my self-worth depends on your acceptance of me.”
“If you find yourself constantly trying to prove your worth to someone, you have already forgotten your value.”
“Your value doesn’t decrease based on someone’s inability to see your worth.”
“Make sure you don’t start seeing yourself through the eyes of those who don’t value you. Know your worth even if they don’t.”
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
God created man in His own image.
As a result of the fall we are all broken. God’s image has been perverted by sin. Through the first Adam the image of God was tarnished. Through the second Adam Jesus Christ believers have been redeemed. Adam’s disobedience resulted in brokenness. Christ’s perfection results in restoration. The gospel reveals your value. You are to die for! Christ bore our sins on the cross.
Though we struggle at times due to the effects of the fall. Through Christ we are being renewed daily. We were once a people plagued by that broken image, but through Christ we are being transformed to the perfect image of our Creator. For those struggling with self-esteem we must pray for the Lord to continue to conform us into His image. This takes our focus off of self and puts it on the Lord. We were made for God not the world.
The world says we need this, we need this, we need this. No! We were made for Him, we were made in His image, and we were made for His will. We have a purpose. We are fearfully and wonderfully made! It’s amazing that we get to be image bearers of a glorious God! The world teaches that we need to work on ourselves and that is the problem. How can the problem be the solution?
We don’t have the answers and all of these man made solutions are temporary, but the Lord is eternal! It’s either you create a temporary identity for yourself or you can choose the everlasting identity for yourself that is found and secure in Christ.
1. Genesis 1:26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
2. Romans 5:11-12 And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have now received this reconciliation through Him. Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, in this way death spread to all men, because all sinned.
3. 2 Corinthians 3:18 And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into His image with intensifying glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
4. Psalm 139:14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
5. Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
You’re so loved and beautiful beyond imagination!
The world will never comprehend. Even you will never comprehend the great love that God has for you! That is why we must look to Him. You are not in the world for nothing. Your life is not meaningless. Before creation God created you for Himself. He wants you to experience His love, He wants to spend time with you, He wants to tell you the special things of His heart. He never intended for you to look for confidence in yourself.
God says, “I’m going to be your confidence.” It is important on our walk of faith that we get alone with God so we can allow God to work in us and through us. Before the world was created God looked forward to you. He anticipated to have time with you and to reveal Himself to you. He waited in anticipation!
The Bible tells us that God’s heart beats faster and faster for you. Christians are the bride of Christ. Christ is the bridegroom. On a bridegroom’s wedding night all it takes is one look at his bride and his heart beats faster and faster for the love of his life.
Now imagine the love of Christ! Our love grows dull, but the love of Christ never wavers.
Before creation the Lord had many plans for you. He wanted to share His love with you so you would love Him more, He wanted to remove your doubts, your feelings of worthlessness, your feelings of hopelessness, and more. We have to get alone with God!
We struggle with so many things, but the one thing we need we neglect!
We choose things that never wanted us, that want to alter us, and that never satisfy us over a God who died to be with us! We choose them over a God that says you are wonderfully made. Before the world looked at you and said you are not good enough God said I want him/her. He/she is going to be my treasure.
6. Ephesians 1:4-6 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will–to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.
7. 1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, to proclaim the virtues of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.
8. Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
9. John 15:15-16 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.
10. Song of Solomon 4:9 “You have made my heart beat faster, my sister, my bride; You have made my heart beat faster with a single glance of your eyes, With a single strand of your necklace.”
You don’t need to prove to anyone how valuable you are.
The cross speaks louder than your words, your doubts, your accomplishments, and your possessions. The Creator of the Universe died for you on the cross! Jesus shed His blood. Don’t you understand that the simple fact that you are alive right now shows that He knows you and He loves you? God has not forsaken you. He hears you! You feel forsaken, but on the cross Jesus felt forsaken. He has been in your position and He knows how to comfort you.
You are not your past mistakes, you are not your past sins. You have been redeemed by the blood. Keep on pressing on. God is working through your struggles. He knows! God knew you and I were going to be messy. God isn’t frustrated with you so take that out of your head. God hasn’t abandoned you. God’s love is not based on your performance. God’s mercy is not dependent on you. Christ has become our righteousness. He did what you and I could never do.
You were bought with the precious blood of Christ. Not only has God chosen you, not only has God saved you, but God is working in your struggles to make you more like Christ. Don’t let things like sin discourage you. You were bought with the blood of Christ. Now press on. Keep on fighting! Don’t give up. Go to the Lord, confess your sins, and press on! God is not done working yet! If you could have saved yourself by your performance, then you would have never needed a Savior! Jesus is our only claim.
He thought about you when He died on the cross! He saw you living in sin and He said I want him. “I’m dying for him!” You must be so valuable that the Creator would come down from His throne, live the life you couldn’t live, suffer for you, die for you, and rise again for you. He was forsaken so you could be forgiven. Even if you tried to run away from Him you would never be able to get away from Him!
His love would catch you, cover you, and bring you back! His love is going to keep you to the end. He sees every tear, He knows your name, He knows the number of hairs on your head, He knows your faults, He knows every detail about you. Hold on to Christ.
11. 1 Corinthians 6:20 You were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
12. Romans 8:32-35 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died–more than that, who was raised to life–is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?
13. Luke 12:7 In fact, even the hairs on your head are all numbered. Do not be afraid; you are more valuable than many sparrows.
14. Isaiah 43:1 But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.
15. Isaiah 43:4 Since you are precious in My sight, Since you are honored and I love you, I will give other men in your place and other peoples in exchange for your life.
This world teaches us to focus on self and that is the problem.
It’s all about self-help. Even in Christian bookstores you will find popular books titled “5 Steps For The New You!” We can’t fix ourselves. Until you realize you were not created for yourself you will always struggle with self-esteem issues. The world doesn’t revolve around me. It’s all about Him!
Rather than looking to the world to patch up spiritual wounds which it can never do, we should look to God to change our heart. When you take the focus off of self and put all of your focus on Christ you will be so consumed in His love. You will be so busy in loving Him that you will lose the doubt and the feeling of rejection.
You will genuinely love yourself. We always tell people to trust in the Lord, but we forget to tell people that it’s hard to trust in Him when we are not focused on Him. We need to work on our humility. Make that your goal. Think less of yourself and think more of Him.
16. Romans 12:3 For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.
17. Philippians 2:3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.
18. Isaiah 61:3 To grant those who mourn in Zion, Giving them a garland instead of ashes, The oil of gladness instead of mourning, The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.
The world has us comparing ourselves to each other.
This is hurting us. We are not to be like the world. We are to be like Christ. Everyone wants to be like someone. The person who you compare yourself to is comparing himself/herself to someone else. It’s meaningless and it will make you weary. It’s time to say enough is enough.
When you compare yourself to the world you allow Satan to plant seeds of doubt, insecurity, rejection, loneliness, etc. Nothing in this world will satisfy. Find satisfaction and joy in Christ which remains forever. You can’t try to substitute the joy found in Christ. All other joy is only temporary.
19. Ecclesiastes 4:4 Then I observed that most people are motivated to success because they envy their neighbours. But this, too, is meaningless–like chasing the wind.
20. Philippians 4:12-13 I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
21. 2 Corinthians 10:12 We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.
Setbacks bring down our self-esteem.
Throughout life we make expectations for ourselves. I do it all the time in my mind. I expect to accomplish this at this time. I expect this to be a certain way. I don’t expect setbacks or roadblocks, but sometimes we need a reality check. We are not to trust in our expectations. We are to trust in the Lord because when our expectations prove to be unfaithful we know that the Lord is faithful. We trust our future with our Almighty Father.
Proverbs 3 tells us to not trust in our thoughts. Expectations are dangerous because once you don’t meet your expectations you start to struggle in different areas. You start to struggle with your identity in Christ. You become disappointed in who you are. You start to lose the love of God. “God doesn’t care about me. He doesn’t hear my prayers. I am not fit to do this.”
Maybe you struggle with self-esteem and self-worth because you have encountered a few setbacks. I’ve been there before so I know how it feels. Satan starts spreading lies. “You’re worthless, God has too much to worry about, you’re not one of His special people, you’re not smart enough.”
We have to understand. We don’t need a title. We don’t need to be big and be well known. God loves us! Sometimes setbacks are because the love of God is so great. He is working in broken people and He is making diamonds out of us. Don’t trust in your setbacks. Allow God to work everything out. You can trust in Him. Pray for more joy in Him.
22. Philippians 3:13-14 Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.
23. Isaiah 43:18-19 Do not call to mind the former things, Or ponder things of the past. Behold, I will do something new, Now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, Rivers in the desert.
24. Isaiah 41:10 Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.
One thing about my church that I love is that church members take turns reading different chapters in Psalms. Whatever you are struggling with whether it is self-worth, anxiety, fear, etc. take the time to read different Psalms especially Psalm 34. I love that chapter. Psalms will help you with putting your confidence back in the Lord instead of yourself. God hears you! Trust Him even when you see no changes in your situation.
25. Psalm 34:3-7 Glorify the LORD with me; let us exalt his name together. I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. This poor man called, and the LORD heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.
We all struggle with self-worth to some degree. However, the more we learn to take the focus off of self and put it on Christ, the more we realize where our true identity lies. God’s love is so profound it’s difficult to understand. Leonard Ravenhill once said, “it’s not about how much you have to give to Him. It’s about how much He has to give to you.”
**By Fritz Chery at Bible Reasons / Picture by Amine M’Siouri at pexels
COMMUNICATION WITH GOD is a two-way matter. We hear God speaking to us through His Word first. And then we speak to Him. But prayer is not just making requests to God. A primary part of prayer should be having fellowship with God, like a bride with her bridegroom. There are no rules on how a bride should speak to her bridegroom.
But as a discipline, it’s good for our prayers to consist of: (i) praise to our Father for Who He is; (ii) confession of sin and failure; (iii) petitions concerning the kingdom of God; (iv) petitions concerning our own needs; (v) intercession for the needs of others; (vi) thanksgiving for what God has done; and (vii) thanksgiving for what God will do. Jesus told us to “pray at all times” (Lk. 18:1).
A Good Habit A good habit to develop is to learn to speak to God about the little things of daily life – and thus to be in a spirit of prayer throughout the day. Thus, speaking to God will become a joy for us and not a ritual. We’ll also find that God speaks to us in our hearts in surprising ways.But these are just the kindergarten-lessons in the school of prayer. We can progress further if we are faithful. In any case, prayer should never be allowed to degenerate into a dry, empty ritual. Prayer is like breathing. When our breathing becomes difficult for us, then we know that something is wrong! Prayer was never meant by God to be dry or boring.
But as we progress, we will find that prayer becomes hard work. If we are faithful with the little burdens God lays on our heart to pray about, we’ll find that God gives us more and more of His burdens. Thus we can become co-workers with God, in His work of blessing others. Jesus prayed `with loud crying and tears’ (Heb. 5:7). Once when He prayed in Gethsemane, His sweat became like great drops of blood (Lk. 22:44). His praying was so intense. Once He spent a whole night in prayer (Lk. 6:12). He had a habit of slipping off frequently into the wilderness to pray (Lk. 5:16). As someone has said “Like tourists look for sights to see, whenever they come to a new place, Jesus always looked for a quiet place to pray wherever He went.”
Fight The Battle Jesus’ example shows us how important prayer is. If He needed to pray so much, how much more you and I need to. Fight the battle against laziness then, and determine to be a man/woman of prayer at any cost.
New Covenant Church The primary mark of a new-covenant church is that God is present in its midst. When the church comes together, and everyone prophesies under the anointing of the Holy Spirit, those who come to the meeting should be convicted of their sins and acknowledge that God is present in the meeting (1 Cor.14:24,25).
One of the fastest ways of discouraging yourself and getting trapped by the sin of envy is when you compare yourself to others. God has a specific plan for you and you won’t accomplish that plan by looking at others.
Count your blessings and not the blessings of someone else. Let God control your life and give Satan no opportunity to discourage you from the purpose God has for you. Know that all you need is Christ. Set your mind at peace by focusing on the Lord.
This is another way to build unity, by not looking to see if I’m better than the next person, spiritually, intellectually or with anything else the Lord has blessed me with.
“Don’t compare yourself to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.”
“A flower does not think of competing with the flower next to it. It just blooms.”
What does the Bible say? Bible verses to Help in Comparing yourselves to others:
Galatians 6:4-5 Each of you must examine your own actions. Then you can be proud of your own accomplishments without comparing yourself to others. Assume your own responsibility.
2 Corinthians 10:12 We wouldn’t put ourselves in the same class with or compare ourselves to those who are bold enough to make their own recommendations. Certainly, when they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves to themselves, they show how foolish they are.
1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you. That ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing.
All it does is lead to envy
James 3:16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.
Proverbs 14:30 A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot.
1 Corinthians 3:3 For you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?
Set apart from the world
Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
“1 John 2:15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”
We don’t live for people
Philippians 2:3 Don’t act out of selfish ambition or be conceited. Instead, humbly think of others as being better than yourselves.
Galatians 1:10 Am I saying this now to win the approval of people or God? Am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be Christ’s servant.
Isaiah 2:22 Stop regarding man in whose nostrils is breath, for of what account is he?
Give God your all
Mark 12:30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with your entire mind and with all your strength.’
Psalm 37:5 Commit your way to the LORD; trust in Him, and He will act.
Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
1 Timothy 6:6-8 Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.
Psalm 23:1 A psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd; I have all that I need.
Be grateful in all situations.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 Whatever happens, give thanks, because it is God’s will in Christ Jesus that you do this.
Psalm 136:1-2 Give thanks to the Lord because he is good, because his mercy endures forever. Give thanks to the God of gods because his mercy endures forever.
Compare yourself to Christ instead so you can be more like Him.
2 Corinthians 10:17 As the Scriptures say, “If you want to boast, boast only about the LORD.”
1 Corinthians 11:1 Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.
That way you can live out God’s will for your life.
Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Psalm 138:8 The LORD will work out his plans for my life–for your faithful love, O LORD, endures forever. Don’t abandon me, for you made me.
2 Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realise this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!
Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Psalm 139:14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.
Unifying the Body of Christ – Divided we fall, United we stand
If we say we love God but hate any of our brothers or sisters in His family, we are liars. If we don’t love someone we have seen, how can we love God, whom we have never seen?” 1 John 4:20.
The Bible tells us to bear with one another in love, knitted together as a local body, accepting and respecting each other’s differences; be it colour, nationality, language or gender. We’re to put aside our racial, cultural or societal differences, and to die to ‘self’ in order to maintain unity within the brethren. As the Bible states in Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” As Christians we are all called to conform to the likeness of Christ, and not one particular group or culture. We are all equal and loved by the same almighty God who sent His beloved Son Jesus to die for us all. The only thing we’re not to compromise on is God’s Word, His instruction manual on how we’re to live; and the Lord requires the whole gospel to be preached, without exception or apology.
The almighty sovereign God didn’t make a mistake when He placed us in a particular local body; He placed us there so we can serve, build, love and unify as one body in Christ, putting aside all differences in order to build unity and the spirit of faith in the church. Let us not justify why we cannot accept someone who is different than ourselves. Let us search our own hearts and ask the Lord to cleanse us from any partiality, deep rooted behaviours, patterns, prejudices that leave us so slowly. If we confess our sins, the Lord is faithful to forgive us. We can ask Him to help change us, with the help and power of the Holy Spirit. How can we learn unconditional love, if we’re around people who meet all our conditions?
Here are some Bible verses that can help build unity in the Church:
Ephesians 4:2-3, “Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.”
John 12:24, “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives.”
In Romans 12:16, “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly, Never be wise in your own sight.”
1 Corinthians 4:7, “What is so special about you? What do you have that you were not given? And if it was given to you, how can you brag?”
Philippians 2:2-4, “Then make me truly happy by loving each other and agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, working together with one heart and mind and purpose. Don’t be selfish; don’t live to make a good impression on others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourself. Don’t just think about your own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and in what they are doing.”
So then, let us love one another, for when we love one another all will know we’re His disciples. – John 13:35
Article by Lori McPherson / Picture by Pixabay at Pexels
Susanna’s devotion to her faith and her family clearly shaped her son John Wesley’s character and had an impact on countless lives. Few mums know what it’s like to raise 10 children like Susanna Wesley. Her son John, the founder of the Methodist movement, published a letter in which his mum shared her “principal rules” for parenting, covering things big and small. Because our understandings of child development have changed greatly in the nearly 300 years since Susanna was raising her kids, we might not agree with all of her advice. But some still rings true today.
RELIGIOUS EDUCATION Devotions –“The children of this family were taught, as soon as they could speak, the Lord’s prayer, which they were made to say at rising and bedtime constantly,” Susanna reminded her son. Worship and Music – When the Wesley children were a little older, the day began with reading or singing a psalm, reading an Old Testament chapter, and saying private prayers — all before breakfast. At the end of the school day, they paired up to read a psalm and a New Testament chapter. Sabbath – Sundays were special in the Wesley house. The children “were very early made to distinguish the sabbath from other days,” Susanna wrote. Even when the kids were very young, they were expected to participate in the family prayers, “which they used to do by signs before they would kneel or speak.”
EDUCATION Focus – In the Wesley household, nine to noon and two to five were reserved for the children’s education, a top priority for Susanna. “It is almost incredible what a child may be taught in a quarter of a year, by a vigorous application,” she remembered. No goofing off – Susanna expected the children’s full attention during the education hours. “Rising out of their places, or going out of the room, was not permitted unless for good cause, and running into the yard, garden or street, without leave, was always esteemed a capital offence.” I imagine Susanna smiling as she wrote that last line to her now grown son. Reading – Each child was taught to read at age 5, both the boys and the girls. Susanna noted, “[P]utting children to learn sewing before they can read perfectly is the very reason why so few women can read fit to be heard, and never to be well understood.” She would not allow that for her daughters or sons.
ORDER AND DISCIPLINE Routine – The Wesley house ran on a tight schedule. “The children were always put into a regular method of living,” she wrote. Times were assigned for naps, education, meals, and bedtime. Self-regulation – Susanna was convinced that “self-will is the root of all sin and misery,” and worked to help her children develop self-control. Positive reinforcement – Susanna believed, “That every signal [sic] act of obedience…should always be commended and frequently rewarded.” When the thought is there, but the execution lacking, Susanna adds that parents should then “sweetly” direct the child on “how to do better for the future.” Discipline – When needed, Susanna strived to discipline appropriately. “Some [infractions] should be overlooked and taken no notice of, and others mildly reproved,” she wrote, “but no willful transgression ought ever to be forgiven children without chastisement, less or more, as the nature and circumstances of the offence require.” Forgiveness – Susanna taught that a child should never be punished for the same offense twice, and “that if they amended they should never be upbraided with it afterwards.” Peace – The child-filled Wesley household was not chaotic. “The family usually lived in as much quietness as if there had not been a child among them,” Susanna remembers.
SLEEP Bedtime – After dinner at 6, the process of getting the children ready for bed began at 7 p.m. with the youngest child. All children were in bed by 8 p.m., whether they were ready for sleep or not. “[T]here was no such thing allowed of in our house as sitting by a child till it fell asleep,” she wrote. Naps – As infants, the children napped on a schedule. “This was done to bring them to a regular course of sleeping,” Susanna reasoned.
MEALS AND DINING Dining – Mealtime was family time. When the children were young, “At dinner their little table and chairs were set by ours,” Susanna recalls, near enough to be supervised. Children graduated to the dining room table, “As soon as they could handle a knife and fork.” No snacking – “Drinking or eating between meals was never allowed,” Susanna shares, “unless in case of sickness which seldom happened.” Choosing meals – The children were expected to eat what was served. “They were never suffered [permitted] to choose their meat, but always made to eat such things as were provided by the family,” Susanna wrote. Medicine – “They were so constantly used to eat and drink what was given them,” she remembers, “that when any of them was ill there was no difficulty in making them take the most unpleasant medicine.”
MANNERS Polite speech – Susanna expected her children to be polite. If they wanted something they were to ask, and were given “nothing they cried for, and instructed to speak handsomely for what they wanted.” No lying – Susanna believed that children were tempted to lie when they feared punishment. “To prevent this,” she reasoned, “a law was made that whoever was charged with a fault, of which they were guilty, if they would ingenuously confess it, and promise to amend,” they would not be punished. Respect for property – The Wesley children were taught to keep their hands off of another’s stuff, even “in the smallest matter, though it were but of the value of a farthing [1/4 of a penny], or a pin; which they might not take from the owner without, much less Money against his consent.” John Wesley shared this advice from his mom in his published Journal as he reflected on her death. The entry is dated August 1st, 1742, the day of her funeral. He hoped it would help others caring for “a numerous family.”
*Susanna Wesley gave birth to 19 children (including two sets of twins). Unfortunately, nine died in infancy or soon after.
When Jesus instituted the ‘breaking of bread’, He used a word that He never used before – the word ‘covenant’. A proper understanding of this word is essential if we are to partake in the Lord’s table meaningfully.
A Covenant Relationship with God
The first mention of the word ‘covenant’ is found in Genesis 6:18, where God promises to establish a covenant with Noah (Genesis 9:9, 11). God had judged the whole world because of man’s sin and now He made a covenant with Noah that He would never again judge the world with a flood as He had just done. God gave a sign to mark the covenant that He then made. It was what we now call the ‘rainbow’. God, however, called it ‘My bow in the cloud’ (Genesis 9:13). The word used for ‘bow’ there is exactly the same word as is translated elsewhere in the Bible for the weapon, the bow. A bow is always aimed in the direction of the one who is to be shot with the arrow. The significance of the bow in the cloud pointing upwards (instead of downwards) is that God who dwells in the heavens was Himself going to receive the arrow released by that bow and take the judgement for man’s sin. The bow would not be aimed at man but God Himself. The world has never since been judged by a flood. Psalm 69:1, 2 states that the floods of God’s judgement went over Jesus on the cross. This was the fulfilment of the sign of the bow in the cloud.
The next person in the Scriptures with whom God made a covenant was Abram. This is first mentioned in Genesis 15:18. Notice there, how God entered into the covenant with Abram. Abram was told to bring three animals and two birds, to slay them and spread them out on the ground (15:9, 10). The animals were to be cut into two and laid each half opposite the other. At night, God came down and as a smoking fire-pot and a flaming fire passed between those halves of the dead animals. Thus it was that the Lord made a covenant with Abram. The significance was again clear – that God Himself would lay down His life (as those dead animals) for Abram. As in the case of the sign of the covenant with Noah, death was the way that the covenant was established – a death in which God Himself took the initiative.
This method of establishing and confirming a covenant later became a practice in Israel (as is seen from Jeremiah 34:18, 19). Whenever two people entered into a covenant, they would slay a calf, divide it into two and walk between the two halves, thus symbolically stating that each was prepared to lay down his life for the other in being true to the covenant. It was a serious offence to make such a symbolic vow and not to keep it. Hence God told the people of Judah through Jeremiah that He would judge them severely for making such a covenant and then breaking it.In Genesis 17, we find God re-confirming the covenant with Abraham. Again God gave a sign to mark the covenant – this time, circumcision. Circumcision is a cutting off of the flesh and symbolises (as Philippians 3:3 and Colossians 2:11 make plain) death to the flesh.
We notice that the symbol of the covenant is again something that speaks of death. This time, it was Abraham and his seed who had to signify their willingness to be faithful to the covenant unto death. The external circumcision was but a sign of God’s desire to circumcise the hearts of the Israelites to love Him wholeheartedly (See Deuteronomy 30:6; Romans 2:28, 29). This teaches us that there can be no wholehearted love for God apart from death to the flesh.The next time we read of a covenant is when God made a covenant with the nation of Israel through Moses – what we call the ‘old covenant’ or the ‘Old Testament’. We read this is Exodus 24:4-7. Moses wrote God’s words in a book (the book of the covenant), slew young bulls as a sacrifice to the Lord and sprinkled the blood of the bulls on the people saying, “Behold the blood of the covenant which the Lord has made with you” (Exodus 24:8). The covenant was sealed by the blood of the slain animals.
This is the first time in the Bible that the phrase ‘the blood of the covenant’ occurs. This is the same phrase that Jesus used when passing the cup around, at the last supper, to His disciples (Matthew 26:28). Under the old covenant, the blood was only sprinkled on the people. Under the new covenant, Jesus invites us to drink of the cup. This symbolises the fact that under the old covenant, the law could only cleanse a person’s external life whereas under the new covenant, we can be purified inwardly.
Again, the covenant is entered through death. In Hebrews 9:13-22, this contrast between the blood of bulls and the blood of Christ is brought out; and we are told there that “where a covenant is, there must of necessity be the death of the one who made it. ….it is never in force while the one who made it lives” (verses 16, 17). This is why every symbol of every covenant that God made with any man symbolised death.The only way that Jesus could establish the new covenant with us was through His own death; and the only way that we can enter into that covenant and its privileges is through death to ourselves. This is the meaning of eating the bread and drinking the wine at the ‘breaking of bread’.
In Hebrews 13:20, we are told that God brought up Jesus from the dead through the blood of the eternal covenant. What does this mean? The blood shed by Jesus on Calvary’s cross was shed as a result of resisting sin unto death (Hebrews 12:4). Jesus was determined to obey the Father and never to sin. His attitude to His Father was, “Father, I would rather die than disobey You in one small point” (See Philippians 2:8 – “obedient unto death”). This was Jesus’ covenant with His Father.
Now Jesus invites us at His table to drink of the cup which is the blood of this new covenant. Are we willing? Can we drink of the cup which He drank of? Do we long, like the apostle Paul, to know “the fellowship of His sufferings being conformed to His death in order that (we too) may attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:10, 11).
Most believers come to the Lord’s table so lightly, without any understanding of what it implies and what the covenant is all about. Only one who is determined to strive against sin even unto blood can take part of the Lord’s table worthily.The word ‘covenant’ could be likened to a solemn agreement signed in a court. No one would sign an agreement in a court, without carefully reading and understanding the terms of the agreement. But how lightly believers take part of the bread and wine at the Lord’s table! No wonder, as in Corinth, even today many believers are weak (physically and spiritually), sick (physically and spiritually) and a number of them die before God’s appointed time (1 Corinthians 11:30) – all because they come to the Lord’s table lightly.
In Leviticus 26:14-20, God had warned the Israelites that if they made a covenant with Him and then broke it, they would become sick and diseased and defeated and there would be no profit in their labours or in their businesses.It is a serious thing to break a covenant. “Do not be hasty in word in the presence of God. When you make a vow to God, do not be late in paying it. ….It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay it” (Ecclesiastes 5:2-5).Anyone who is repeatedly plagued by sickness and weakness should carefully consider whether he has carelessly broken his covenant with God. This is why James tells us to confess our sins in order to be healed (James 5:16).
The bread that we break symbolises the body of Christ. First of all it symbolises that physical body that Jesus took when He came to earth, in which He never did His own will but His Father’s (see Hebrews 10:5-7). Thus His body was a broken, yielded body all through His earthly life. His body was like bread – easily broken when touched even slightly. Such was His yieldedness to His Father’s will at all points. When we break the bread and partake of it, we are testifying thereby, very solemnly, that we too desire to go the same way of yieldedness and brokenness. It is a serious thing therefore to say that to the Lord at the Lord’s table, and then live as though we never made a covenant with God. We may not be perfect, but the Lord expects even the newest believer to have a willingness to go the way of death to self, no longer to live for oneself, but for Him alone (2 Corinthians 5:15). Otherwise we partake of the bread unworthily, not discerning the Lord’s body rightly.
A Covenant Relationship in the Brotherhood:
The bread that we break symbolises not only the physical body of Christ but also the church, the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 10:16, 17), for there is but one loaf, and we who are many are one body. Those who “eat the sacrifices are sharers in the altar” (1 Corinthians 10:18). If we eat at the Lord’s table, we are to share His death on the cross (the altar) – death to our self – not only in our relationship with God, but also in our relationship with others in the body of Christ.”We ought to lay down our lives for the brothers” (1 John 3:16). This is another aspect of our testimony at the Lord’s table. It is not only with the Lord that we enter into a covenant, but also with our fellow believers. And here too the covenant is entered through death to self.
As the two parties entering into a covenant in Israel passed between the two halves of the slain (‘broken’) calf, even so today we enter into a covenant with one another through the broken bread. This is just as serious a matter as the first aspect that we considered earlier, of making a covenant with God.In 1 Samuel 18:1-8, we read of Jonathan entering into a covenant with David. This is a beautiful picture of what the covenant relationship should be like in the body of Christ. It says there that Jonathan’s soul was knit to the soul of David. The ‘knit’ used here is the same word used in Nehemiah 4:6 where it refers to the wall being built in such a way that there was no gap at all in it. So too was Jonathan’s heart was knit with David’s – there was no gap between their hearts for the enemy to come through. It says further that Jonathan loved David as himself. This is our calling in the body of Christ too – to be joined together as ONE, such that there is no gap between us (no gap of misunderstanding, jealousy, suspicion, etc.) whereby the enemy can come through and bring a division.
Jonathan should have been the one person in Israel who should have been most jealous of David, for he was a threat to Jonathan succeeding Saul as the next king of Israel. Yet he overcame jealousy and loved David as his own self. How Jonathan puts New Testament believers to shame!
Jonathan then made a covenant with David; and as a symbol of the covenant, he took off his royal robe and put it on David. This was symbolic of Jonathan’s desire to die to himself as the next king of Israel and to make David king. We are commanded in the body of Christ to “outdo one another in showing honor” (Romans 12:10 – margin). We are to so die to ourselves that we sincerely and earnestly long that our brothers will be greater and higher and more regarded than ourselves. And we take our robe, if necessary, to cover a brother’s nakedness wherever it is seen. Thus we can make our brother glorious in the eyes of others. This is what it means to enter into a covenant relationship with the brothers in the body of Christ.
It is impossible to enter into such a covenant without dying to self persistently. All the problems that riddle almost every assembly of believers arise because the believers therein have not entered into such a covenant relationship with one another. Everyone seeks his own. The net result of this is that Satan triumphs. But such assemblies are not the church that Jesus is building, for Jesus said that the gates of hell would not be able to prevail against the church that He builds (Matthew 16:18).
Jesus is building His church in this world today. If we are to be a part of that church and to have a part in building that church, then we need to take to heart covenant relationships and should seek to learn with all our hearts what it means to make our brother glorious.
Then we read that Jonathan also took his armor, his sword, his bow and his belt and gave them to David. Entering into a covenant with our brothers, we surrender every possible weapon with which we can harm them in any way. This is the meaning of Jonathan’s action. The weapon with which the maximum damage has been done in Christendom is the tongue. Are we willing to lay down this weapon in a covenant relationship with our brothers in such a way that we will never again speak evil or backbite or gossip against another, even once.
This surrender of our weapons also implies a trust in our brother such that we can afford to be defenseless before him, because we know that he will never harm us. It is through such trust and confidence that the brotherhood is built.
In 1 Samuel 19, 20, we see Jonathan’s steadfast loyalty to David even at the cost of having to stand against his own father. Jonathan stood by his brother David in the presence of carnal relatives. Truly he is a worthy example for all of us to follow. We are to love the brotherhood more than our blood relatives.In Amos 1:9, 10, we see how seriously God viewed a breaking of the covenant of brotherhood. Tyre had made a covenant with Israel in the days of Hiram. Yet in the moment of Israel’s need, they betrayed Israel and delivered them over to their enemies and thus broke the covenant that they had made. God told Amos that He was going to judge Tyre severely for this.
In 2 Samuel 21:1, 2, we read another example of this. For three years there had been a famine in Israel. When David sought the Lord for the cause of this, the Lord told him that it was because Israel had broken the covenant that they had made with the Gibeonites in the days of Joshua. King Saul had killed the Gibeonites, disregarding that solemn covenant. Years later, long after Saul had died, judgment caught up with Israel. God may delay His judgments, but where He does not see repentance, those judgments will surely come. One may ask why God delayed so much in sending the famine. No doubt it was because He gave Israel time to repent. When they did not repent, judgment fell on them.
Paul told the Corinthians that if they judged themselves, God would not judge them. But since they had not judged themselves, therefore many of them were sick and weak and many died before their time (1 Corinthians 11:30, 31). All believers who are perpetually weak and sick should seek God to see if the reason for it is perhaps a broken covenant of brotherhood – taking part in the table of the Lord and then betraying their brothers and sisters, behind their backs, by slander, gossip, etc. This was the chief crime of Judas Iscariot – that he had partaken of the covenant meal with Jesus and then gone out and betrayed Him. As the psalmist prophesied, “Even my close friend, whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me” (Psalm 41:9).
May the Lord enable each one of us to examine ourselves and partake of the Lord’s table meaningfully in future. Let us repent wholeheartedly of the sin of breaking covenant with the Lord and with our brothers and sisters; and let us take heed to the voice of the Spirit that has come to us.
The troubles of life can make us cranky and out of sorts, but we should never excuse these bouts of bad behaviour, for they can wither the hearts of those we love and spread misery all around us. We have not fulfilled our duty to others until we have learned to be pleasant.
The New Testament has a word for the virtue that corrects our unpleasantness—gentleness, a term that suggests a kind and gracious soul. Ephesians 4:2 reminds us, “Be completely humble and gentle.”
Gentleness is a willingness to accept limitations and ailments without taking out our aggravation on others. It shows gratitude for the smallest service rendered and tolerance for those who do not serve us well. It puts up with bothersome people—especially noisy, boisterous little people; for kindness to children is a crowning mark of a good and gentle person. It speaks softly in the face of provocation. It can be silent; for calm, unruffled silence is often the most eloquent response to unkind words.
Jesus is “gentle and humble in heart” (Matt. 11:29). If we ask Him, He will, in time, recreate us in His image. Scottish author George MacDonald says, “[God] would not hear from [us] a tone to jar the heart of another, a word to make it ache . . . . From such, as from all other sins, Jesus was born to deliver us.”
Humility towards God will make us gentle towards others.
The apostle Paul had a lot to say about gentleness. Paul was the founding pastor of the church at Corinth and taught there for eighteen months (Acts 18:1–11). Yet, soon after he left the city, the believers rejected him as a true apostle. Paul had every reason and every right to come down hard on these believers, but he didn’t. Instead, he appealed to them “by the humility and gentleness of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:1). In his letter to another church, Paul urged two feuding sisters to reconcile. Paul asked that their “gentleness be evident to all” (Phil. 4:5). In dealing with people who are not sympathetic to the Christian faith and are antagonistic towards us, Peter urged us to be ready “to give an answer to everyone who asks [us] to give the reason for the hope that [we] have.” But we are to do so “with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).
The Scriptures show us how we should relate to everyone—we are to be kind, gracious, respectful, and gentle.
Prayer: Dear Lord, I want to be a gentle person. Please help me to be kind and gracious to others today.
Article by David H Roper (c) 2020 Our Daily Bread Ministries
“Have patience with me,” cried the slave as he begged his fellow-slave for mercy (Matt.18:29). This is also the unspoken cry that comes to us as housewives and mothers from many of those with whom we have to do each day. But we need to be sensitive in our spirits if we are to hear that cry – for it is unspoken. It may be that our children are slow at learning something that we have repeatedly been trying to teach them, and we are sorely tempted to become impatient with them. If we could hear their unspoken cry, saying, “Have patience with me, I am trying my best to do it right,” then it would be easier for us to overcome the temptation to get irritated with them.
Perhaps the servant who helps us with our work around the home is somewhat clumsy, and not as clean as we want her to be, and we are tempted to be hard on her. But her unspoken cry is, “Have patience with me. Give me another chance and I’ll improve” – and we are presented with another opportunity to be more gentle. Or it may be that our aged parents, being old and infirm, are now dependent on us. Their feeble, unspoken cry is also, “Have patience with me. I don’t want to trouble you, but I need your help now.” If we are sensitive to their feelings, we will hear their cry and help them, without depriving them of their dignity, and without letting them feel their dependence.
Perhaps the behaviour of our fellow-sisters in the church is a trial for us. Their unspoken cry is also, “Have patience with me. I still lack a lot of wisdom.” Then we realise that they also, like us, are struggling towards perfection.In such situations, we all find a tendency in our flesh to be like that unmerciful slave. Yet those are the very times when we need to remember afresh how much we have been forgiven by God, and how patient others have been with our own follies. So we should have our spiritual ears attuned at all times to hear the cry for patience that comes to us from our fellow-slaves – both young and old. Let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (James 1:4).
If we are not careful, we will spend an entire lifetime wishing for the things we do not yet have. So often I myself am guilty of this, so today I want to encourage you not to wish one more minute of your precious life away. We must carry hope with us. In fact, Proverbs 13:12 tells us, “hope deferred makes the heart sick.” We must hope and pray for the good things God has in store for our lives, but we must also embrace right where we are because today is a day you will never get back. If we do not guard our hearts diligently, discontentment will rob you of everything good in your life if you allow it too. But we can fight discontentment by digging up the things in our heart that shouldn’t be there and replacing them with good things.
There are many roots of discontentment, so today I want to challenge you to find the cause of those roots, dig them up, and plant seeds of thankfulness and gratitude. You don’t have to worry about your future because God already has it written in the palm of His hand. And if God is already there, you can bet it’s going to be something wonderful. Bitterness, envy, and anxiety breed discontentment, but thankfulness breeds contentment. Gratitude will overflow into every area of your life.
Practice thankfulness in this moment, no matter what your situation may be. Just as the apostle Paul spoke about in Philippians 4:8, set your minds on whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, honourable, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy. Don’t allow discontentment to rob you of today’s blessings.
The Father’s Love Letter An intimate message from God to YOU.
My Child, You may not know me, but I know everything about you. Psalm 139:1 I know when you sit down and when you rise up. Psalm 139:2 I am familiar with all your ways. Psalm 139:3 Even the very hairs on your head are numbered. Matthew 10:29-31 For you were made in my image. Genesis 1:27 In me you live and move and have your being. Acts 17:28 For you are my offspring. Acts 17:28 I knew you even before you were conceived. Jeremiah 1:4-5 I chose you when I planned creation. Ephesians 1:11-12 You were not a mistake, for all your days are written in my book. Psalm 139:15-16 I determined the exact time of your birth and where you would live. Acts 17:26 You are fearfully and wonderfully made. Psalm 139:14 I knit you together in your mother’s womb. Psalm 139:13 And brought you forth on the day you were born. Psalm 71:6 I have been misrepresented by those who don’t know me. John 8:41-44 I am not distant and angry, but am the complete expression of love. 1 John 4:16 And it is my desire to lavish my love on you. 1 John 3:1 Simply because you are my child and I am your Father. 1 John 3:1 I offer you more than your earthly father ever could. Matthew 7:11 For I am the perfect father. Matthew 5:48 Every good gift that you receive comes from my hand. James 1:17 For I am your provider and I meet all your needs. Matthew 6:31-33 My plan for your future has always been filled with hope. Jeremiah 29:11 Because I love you with an everlasting love. Jeremiah 31:3
My thoughts toward you are countless as the sand on the seashore. Psalm 139:17-18 And I rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:17 I will never stop doing good to you. Jeremiah 32:40 For you are my treasured possession. Exodus 19:5 I desire to establish you with all my heart and all my soul. Jeremiah 32:41 And I want to show you great and marvelous things. Jeremiah 33:3 If you seek me with all your heart, you will find me. Deuteronomy 4:29 Delight in me and I will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4 For it is I who gave you those desires. Philippians 2:13 I am able to do more for you than you could possibly imagine. Ephesians 3:20 For I am your greatest encourager. 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 I am also the Father who comforts you in all your troubles. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 When you are brokenhearted, I am close to you. Psalm 34:18 As a shepherd carries a lamb, I have carried you close to my heart. Isaiah 40:11 One day I will wipe away every tear from your eyes. Revelation 21:3-4 And I’ll take away all the pain you have suffered on this earth. Revelation 21:3-4 I am your Father, and I love you even as I love my son, Jesus. John 17:23 For in Jesus, my love for you is revealed. John 17:26 He is the exact representation of my being. Hebrews 1:3 He came to demonstrate that I am for you, not against you. Romans 8:31 And to tell you that I am not counting your sins. 2 Corinthians 5:18-19 Jesus died so that you and I could be reconciled. 2 Corinthians 5:18-19 His death was the ultimate expression of my love for you. 1 John 4:10 I gave up everything I loved that I might gain your love. Romans 8:31-32 If you receive the gift of my son Jesus, you receive me. 1 John 2:23 And nothing will ever separate you from my love again. Romans 8:38-39 Come home and I’ll throw the biggest party heaven has ever seen. Luke 15:7 I have always been Father, and will always be Father. Ephesians 3:14-15 My question is…Will you be my child? John 1:12-13 I am waiting for you. Luke 15:11-32
Customer: Well, after much consideration, I’ve decided to install Love. Can you guide me through the process?
Tech Support: Yes. I can help you. Are you ready to proceed?
Customer: Well, I’m not very technical, but I think I’m ready. What do I do first?
Tech Support: The first step is to open your Heart. Have you located your Heart?
Customer: Yes, but there are several other programs running now. Is it okay to install Love while they are running?
Tech Support: What programs are running?
Customer: Let’s see, I have Past Hurt, Low Self-Esteem, Grudge, and Resentment running right now.
Tech Support: No problem, Love will gradually erase Past Hurt from your current operating system. It may remain in your permanent memory but will no longer disrupt other programs. Love will eventually override Low Self-Esteem with a module of its own called High Self-Esteem. However, you have to completely turn off Grudge and Resentment. Those programs prevent Love from being properly installed. Can you turn those off?
Customer: I don’t know how to turn them off. Can you tell me how?
Tech Support: With pleasure. Go to your start menu and select Forgiveness. Do this as many times as necessary until Grudge and Resentment have been completely erased.
Customer: Okay, done! Love has started installing itself. Oops! I have an error message already. It says, “Error- Program not run on external components.” What should I do?
Tech Support: Don’t worry. In non technical terms, it simply means you have to Love yourself before you can Love others. Pull down Self-Acceptance; then click on the following files: Forgive Self, Realise Your Worth, and Acknowledge Your Limitations.
Customer: Got it. Hey! My heart is filling up with new files. Smile is playing on my monitor and Peace and Contentment are copying themselves all over my Heart. Is this normal?
Tech Support: Yes, that means Love is installed and running. One more thing before we hang up. This Love program is freeware.
“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (John 14:26)
Kindness is a lifestyle. It is a daily practice. It is a choice. As Christians we are to grow in the fruit of the spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, and kindness – and growth takes time. A seed does not transform into a tree overnight, but with careful watering, tending, and patience, a seed will slowly grow day-by-day into a strong towering tree. It is the same with kindness. We must be faithful every day to bear the good fruit of kindness. Being kind should be our default mode, a habit of goodwill, a heart of continual service every day of the year.
If kindness needs faithful practice every day, kindness also requires intentionality. Oftentimes, kind acts are on-the-spot, in the moment, and unplanned. However, we must be intentional, it isn’t just when we feel like it. Kindness requires a seeking out, a looking for the needs of others. During his life on earth, Jesus was a perfect emblem of this fruit of the spirit. For three years of ministry, he looked toward the needs of others, never turning them away. He could be counted on. How often today do we miss opportunities to show God’s love to others because we are too busy? We rush here and there, leaving the needs of others in a blur as we whiz past. Slow down and open your eyes. Jesus took the time, and you should too. So, slow down, make the time, and look for the needs of others. Be intentional in showing kindness; be consistent.
“Love your neighbour as yourself,” – the second greatest commandment. But, Lord, “who is my neighbour?” With this question, the Parable of the Good Samaritan was born. Here, a Jewish man was robbed and beaten, left to die. The Jewish priest and Levite passed by, but the Samaritan saved him. The point of Jesus’ story was this: everyone is your neighbour – the foreigner, the widow, the orphan, and even your enemy. We are to show merciful kindness to everyone. “The Lord watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless;” “Love your enemies…do good to them that hate you;” “he who does not love his brother, how is it possible for him to love God who is invisible?”
Time and again, God looks out for the cause of the widows and orphans; he cares deeply for the strangers in the land; he emphasizes love for family; he requires mercy and compassion for even your enemies. Oftentimes, we want to choose to whom we show kindness. Left to our own, we would limit kind acts to friends and people in authority above us, people from whom we can attain something in return. But Christ calls us to lower our eyes and look at those who are below, who have nothing, can offer nothing, have no defender. He calls us to welcome the foreigner, the rejected in our land.
Rather than revenge, He calls us to bless our enemies, knowing that through kindness, we can soften hearts. It is easy to get irritated at siblings, throw them under the bus, argue, fight, blame, or just plain ignore them, but Christ emphasizes mercy, patience, love, and kindness to our families. Friends are easy to love, but we are called to be a friend to the friendless. Kindness is selfless, compassionate, and merciful; its greatest power revealed in practice to our enemies and amongst the least of these. Love your neighbour; show kindness to EVERYONE.
For a perfect emblem of Biblical kindness, we need look no further than Jesus. Crowds followed Him and travelled miles just to hear him speak. Healing the sick, feeding the hungry, teaching the people, caring for the widow, and defending children, Jesus lived 33 years of perfect kindness. He is not asking any more of us than what He willingly practiced himself. Even on the cross, He displayed compassionate, merciful kindness praying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Defending the weak, poor, and needy, He stated, “As you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”
Jesus was perfectly selfless in everything He did. Flowing unceasingly from Him, kindness was His lifestyle. He took notice for the cause of the needy, intentionally and consistently seeking them out, even when He was tired and weary. Without partiality, He was kind to everyone, even if they didn’t “deserve” it. He turned no one away. And by the shedding of his blood on the cross, He demonstrated His love for the entirety of humanity – the ultimate act of kindness. Christ is the perfect role model of kindness.
So, what does Biblical kindness look like? It looks like Christ. Not for just a season or one day of the year, kindness is for every moment of every day; it’s a habit, a lifestyle, a continual practice. It is intentional, taking time and patience, a giving of ourselves in “the busy,” even when we are “too tired.” And lastly, kindness is for absolutely everyone. As we intentionally show kindness each day, may we shine the light of Christ to a dying world in need of a saviour, a generation in need of love and grace. Be Jesus to someone today and every day; make Him your role model and kindness your lifestyle.
We all have our stories to tell of how we came to know Christ, and I always love to hear them, as they’re never the same. The Lord works in miraculous ways, wooing us and convicting us via His Holy Spirit, as Titus 3:5 states ‘He saved us, not by the righteous deeds we had done, but according to His mercy, through the washing of new birth and renewal by the Holy Spirit’.
I grew up in a dysfunctional secular household in London, England. I had a warped view of spirituality from a young age and this led me to seek ‘higher truth’ in my own way. I was bit of a magpie grabbing onto whatever fit in with the way I wanted to live my life, till eventually I came across a movement called the New Age which derived from the East. A movement which heavily into improving, ‘the self’ and worshipping ‘the self’ through a wide range of spiritual beliefs and practices. I latched onto it and ran, even qualifying as a life coach in such matters.
I was into self-help books, astrology, tarot cards, mediums; I believed in reincarnation and studied past life regression. I was into reaching higher states of consciousness through meditation, which I learned through yoga, in turn making me curious about the yogi teachers themselves. I believed there were many paths to God and it didn’t matter what religion you practiced, as it all led to the same place and that it was a personal choice on how you chose to get there.
I was running wild, partying, clubbing, drinking, shopping, consumed by the image beast. I was careless and reckless in my behaviour, mixing with the wrong crowds. I wore a mask to the world, not wanting to be me, as deep down I was wounded, lacking self-esteem. I was in the miry clay, the pit of sin. I was on fire for the devil and running away from life.
I got to a point that all the doors closed in on me, and everything that could go wrong, went terribly wrong. I was caught between a rock and a hard place and went through a serious bought of depression. I was broken and wounded, and felt like I had no one to turn too. In my pain suicidal thoughts wrecked havoc on my mind. When I had a realisation of the selfishness of this act, I had a feeling of remorse and that I was ‘not right’ as a person; and that I was a self-pitying evil mess and I just randomly started to repent of my sins. I didn’t realise at the time what I was doing, but I know now. And Jesus in the midst of my pain reached out to me and gave me peace. In Psalm 34:18 it says ‘The LORD is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit’ it didn’t matter that I wasn’t a Christian as the Lord is no respecter of persons. In my pain and torment, I just knew to cry out. That night the Lord took the broken pieces of my life, and mended me together again. What months of therapy couldn’t do, Jesus did overnight, He healed me. The following morning, I looked at the world with fresh eyes, I felt like a new person.
I knew it was Jesus because of the prayers my grandmother had been giving me to read in the midst of my pain; she was always watching the religious channel and as I was staying with her at the time, something must’ve unconsciously sunk in. Because of this I wanted to know more about Him and started to read the Bible, I always thought that he was some sort of teacher, like one of the gurus from my meditative yoga practices. And as it says in Jeremiah 29:13 “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” So, I sought Him. I’d heard about Jesus, the great teacher, the Hollywood Jesus with the blonde hair and blue eyes, the baby catholic Jesus, the Muslim Isa the prophet, but it’s not until that night in my room when I was seeking for ways to take my life that I came to know the real Jesus, the Son of God!
Soon after I found myself working abroad, and was led to a Christian volunteer charity worker, who was a pastor. He showed me some verses in the bible, that really spoke to my heart like, Colossians 2:8 “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception [pseudo-intellectual babble], according to the tradition [and musings] of mere men, following the elementary principles of this world, rather than following [the truth—the teachings of] Christ.” and also Deuteronomy 18:9-14, among others. I had to renounce the new age religion and repent properly of my sins. I had to personally invite Jesus into my life. So I did, as Jesus didn’t come into the world to condemn the world but to save it (John 3:17). It was the goodness of God that brought me to repentance (Romans 2:4).
Since becoming a Christian that hole in my heart that I tried to fill with the empty things of this world started to slowly get filled with Jesus, as something in the spirit realm had taken place, the third heaven, God’s Kingdom. I started to build upon this relationship with prayer, just talking to the Lord. And I began reading and looking for guidance via His Word the Bible, His love letter to the world. The Bible is living, it’s breathing, and it’s sharp and active, like a double-edged sword. And when it goes into your soul, it cuts things, it breaks things, and it changes things. It weeds out the garden of your heart so it’s pleasant for the Lord to reside there.
When I realised how much I’d been deceived it shook me to my core, but my journey didn’t end there, it was only the beginning… The Bible says in John 8:32, ‘Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’