dinsdag 30 juni 2015

Are you really born again from above?

John, a Manchester United fan finally succumbs to the persistent pleas of his friends who are all Manchester City fans and decides to join them. He gets rid of all his MU paraphernalia and symbols that showed he was part of the MU in-group and now adopts those of MC. His friends are elated and John himself is also elated receiving so much attention and affirmation now that he has become part of the MC fraternity. He enjoys a sense of ‘homecoming’ and a happy feeling of belonging. He quickly learns all the club songs and adopts the club culture and its mannerisms. Any thoughts of his former MU allegiance are quickly suppressed and all evidence is removed from his house. He is now a committed MC member and makes it a point to make it clear to everyone, in particular his friends.

Unfortunately many people tend to think that being-born again is a similar process. You leave the non-church in-group and join the church-in group and break with all that is part of your former life and try hard to fit in. The church in-group surrounds you with attention and affirmation and now considers you as one of them. All you need to do is mouth the right confession of faith and learn the church songs, adopt the church’s culture and all the mannerisms that come with it. In some churches adult baptism is a determining factor to show that you truly belong, in others it is speaking in tongues, in others it is displaying an excessive love for Israel and again in others it is something else. Now you are considered truly born-again, a new person in Christ…..but are you really?

Biblically speaking being born again refers to a deep inner transformation whereby our hearts are cleansed from selfish desires, sinful indulgence, bitterness, envy, mistrust, unforgiveness, suspicion, hatred and other evil things that come from within and undermine and defile our lives and our relationship with God and people. Being born again refers to a total inner transformation whereby our hearts are totally cleansed and Gods love is poured out within them so that we deeply learn to love God, ourselves and our fellow human beings. It is an inner spiritual renewal that results in our lives being characterized by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. No longer do we adopt all kinds of laws, rules and regulations to keep us moral, because now the love of God in us becomes our moral compass. He has truly written His law into our hearts so that we do not even want to sin. Are we then also free from the sinful impulses in our body and mind? No, these will still seek to tempt us, but deep within our hearts is a love-powered impulse to do what is right in Gods eyes towards ourselves and towards other people. The love and joy, peace and strength this transformation brings far surpasses the initial but quickly fading elation of being initiated into a new in-group or the joy of belonging to a fraternity that does not bring true freedom but puts us under the law of constantly trying to perform to people’s expectations so that we may not be rejected. Being born of above gives us the power to even stand alone against the tide because we know ourselves deeply loved by God and in communion with Him. At the same time we greatly appreciate and value fellowship with those who with a similar transformed heart follow in the footsteps of Christ regardless of their church or other affiliations.

maandag 29 juni 2015

What is really hidden in our hearts?

Matthew 12:33-36

33 "Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. 36 But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.

Here Jesus states some important truths in his discussion with the Pharisees. The fruit, the effects and results of our behavior and the words that come out of our mouths show what we are really like deep inside.

Like the Pharisees whom Jesus at one stage called whitewashed graves we may successfully indulge in reputation management and fool many people into thinking that we are actually good people. Maybe we can even almost convince ourselves. But when we no longer have the energy to suppress what is truly inside of us. What if the storms of life shake our existence? What comes up from deep inside? Bitterness? Hatred? Or is it love, compassion, forgiveness, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control through the Holy Spirit?

We can thank God for the trials and the storms of life for they bring out of us what is truly inside of us. For some it will mean a deepening of their faith as they stand in amazement at what God has done in their lives, for others there is the opportunity to stop the (self)deception and repent and seek God and ask Him for a new heart. A heart in which Gods love is poured out. A heart in which His law of love is written.

zaterdag 13 juni 2015

Does religion cause war?

Atheists are quick to point out that religion causes war, but is that really true or are they simply assigning blame on religion as it suits their antireligious agenda? The Bible comes with another explanation. It says that people are the problem: "no-one is righteous, not even one....they are quick to shed blood" (Romans 3:10-15). Religion does not create wars, people do. People can use anything to justify their evil, political ideologies, religion, nationalism, tribal allegiance and so on. That is why Jesus says follow me and obey all I commanded you. The only true peacemakers in this world are those who truly follow Jesus' teaching of loving one's fellow human as much as we love ourselves and doing unto others as we would like people to do to us.

maandag 8 juni 2015

Everybody lies - 2

Lets start by being honest about one thing: None of us likes to be lied to. All of us need the security and safety of being able to rely on someone and to be able to trust someone at their word. However, many people still resort to lies, even within the Christian community.

Now apart from the deceitful sociopath or the pathological liar who just can't help him/herself there are other reasons why people may lie to us. I am not saying that these are valid excuses for we should have nothing to do with anything that comes from the father of lies. Instead we must walk in the light which means truthfully and transparent. However understanding why some people lie or hide the truth from us may help us to relate to them differently.

 1. They don’t want to hurt your feelings.

Some people genuinely but mistakingly believe it is better to sweettalk with lies than to upset someone's feelings with the truth. Often these is encoded in their family or community culture and hard to unlearn unless they tackle it mindfully and seriously out of a desire to obey Christ more than culture.

In other cases the underlying reason is that they feel they need our love, affirmation, support or help and they truly fear that if they are totally honest with you that we may reject them. Often this goes hand in hand with a low selfesteem and fear of abandonment.

This is certainly wrong, disrespectful, counter productive and manipulative. However, it may be good to look at ourselves too! If we tend to overreact to our partners mistakes and get upset easily or respond very emotionally then we teach them that honesty is very costly. Or if we get all dramatic or even aggressive when someone tells us a truth we don't like then we are essentially conditioning them to say what you want to hear to keep the peace.  Its a common occurance to see such kind of lying out of fear in children who grow up with patents whose tempers are volatile. At best people may resort to sugarcoating or avoiding a volatile subject.  At worst, it’s a straight up lie to avoid drama, waterworks or verbal/emotional violence (or worse).

Are such the responses of the weak, of cowards? Maybe they do really feel vulnerable, disempowered or threatened. Besides, how do we know how it feels to be at the receiving end of our anger or drama? Its easy to point fingers at those who cower in fear and lie in order to appease us or avoid conflict but maybe we may also need to have a look at the log in our own eye. After all, why would someone be straight and honest with us if it simply leads to anger, rejection, harsh words or other negative sanctions? If not telling the truth seems harmless enough and being honest will just cause drama, heartache and grief for both parties, why would someone want to do it? Of course lying remains wrong but we should also avoid doing anything that makes it hard for people to be honest with us.


Another reason why some people lie is because they want to impress us.

Some people don’t feel they are “good enough” without lying or putting up a front.

In a way we could almost feel flattered when in a relationship our partner is trying to impress us in that way. However the problem is more than the lie he/she tells us. They believe a bigger lie that they are not “good enough” to get/keep us.  It’s not a compliment - its lack of faith in themselves, in us and in God when it comes to the relationship. Not only is it insecure behavior, but it also prevents that real and strong foundation is build for the relationship to develop beyond the superficial.  They must be encouraged to take a step of faith and choose to be honest regardless of the consequences, trusting God rather than their clever lies.

We can help them by affirming that we still want them if they are “real” with us. Or better, that we will want them more. Until they reach that point where they dare to trust our love they may continue to lie to avoid conflict for fear of losing us.

We are called to walk in truth and love. Real love is honest and truthful and those led by love do not walk in lies of commission or ommission.  They respect the other enough to build open and honest relationships.

Most of us are also acquainted with people on the other end of the spectrum and are brutally honest all the time. Those kinds of people go beyond being brutally honest and are often brutal to be around.

But tactful, well delivered honesty is crucial as the foundation for a real and lasting relationship. Unfortunately it is a tall order to expect from most people. Sad, but true – the best you can do is encourage tactful honesty from them and give them time to show they love you enough to do so.

When someone is honest with you, they are trying to do the right thing and respect you – this is part if true love. The best response you can give them is to thank them for their honesty and let them know how it hit you without drama.   It takes emotional maturity and life experience to be able to show people that you can handle and appreciate tactful honesty. But when you do, people will be honest with you

Pride and humility

When we think of pride we quickly think of boastful or or arrogant people who have a better-than-thou attitude based on their looks, wealth, achievement or popularity.  Certainly such pride is sinful and unloving for when we exalt ourselves we automatically put others down and no longer treat them as respectful as we treat ourselves. The Bible reminds us that God himself will oppose the proud but gives His grace to the humble (James 4:6).

However, humility is not the same as a low self-esteem. A low self-esteem is a non-verbal complaint to those who don't value us. Its a cry "affirm me", "value me", "look at me, I am also in need of love, care and affirmation". This cry is in itself legitimate for God created us with those needs so we would turn to Him for fulfillment. Yet, if we seek to build our sense of self-worth and self-esteem on people's approval or opinions of us then we do the same as the arrogant boastful people of this world do. Not only is this idolatry but it can easily lead to becoming self-absorbed, self-obsessed and self-centered in the process. As a result we may end up forgetting the emotional and other needs of those around us including our partner and our children. Instead of trying to bolster our sense of self and sense of worth by drawing attention to ourselves, we are to die to self, and instead focus on Christ, find our fulfillment in Him and help others do so too. It is when we loose ourselves in Him that we find ourselves as He pours out His love into our hearts (Rom. 5:5).

God gave us worth when He created us in His image. He reaffirms our worth when He purchased us at the highest price possible so we can be His own (Ephesians 1:14). Because He values us how anyone lesser than Him values us is irrelevant. His authority is above all. When we build a healthy self-esteem on Him, we will value ourselves enough to not become involved in sin or worldliness that enslaves us and ends up exposes us to treatment below our true worth in Christ. Instead, we focus on conducting ourselves with humility, thinking of others as better than ourselves (Philippians 2:3). Finally Paul reminds us in Romans 12:3 “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.” Let us not exalt ourselves above others, nor humiliate ourselves below others, but value ourselves soberly as God values us: Once sinners, enemies and useless by nature but now bought at a high price, loved and valued by the One who truly matters.

zaterdag 6 juni 2015

Glitter and glamour in our praise and worship shows


Hosea 6:6

For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, And in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.

John 14:23

Jesus replied, "Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.

Romans 12:1

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God--this is your true and proper worship.

In many churches today a lot of attention is given to praise and worship. At times there even seems to be a competition between churches of who has the bigger and better worship performance. Yet the emphasis on outward perfectionism, status and performance reflects the spirit of the world and not that of Christ.

The worship God seeks has nothing to do with music styles, musical performance and outward show. God delights in loyalty, that we know Him intimately, and live a life of humble obedience to the teachings of Christ. In that way our lives are a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God. That is proper worship.