How do you find the positive from someone put in prison for their faith? In North Korea, it’s even done by association. You might be imprisoned because an uncle believes in God, and if you’re pregnant, then your children are born in captivity. “Escape from Camp 14” showed me they’re not taught about love; they only know survival. Families have so little that they’re in competition with each other, even for daily food.
“The righteous person may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all” (Psalm 34:19). Christians can hold onto this truth: Rescue is coming. “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven” (Luke 6:23). We may not be persecuted the same way as North Koreans. For us it might be people showing hostility, or mocking our faith. Perhaps your relatives follow a different religion and are doing their best to steer you away from Jesus. “They will seize you and persecute you. They will hand you over to synagogues and put you in prison, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of My name. And so you will bear testimony to Me. But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. Everyone will hate you because of Me. But not a hair of your head will perish. Stand firm, and you will win life” (Luke 21:12-19). “Everyone will hate you because of Me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved” (Mark 13:13). “If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all” (Isaiah 7:9).
If you’re a believer in Jesus who’s being persecuted, keep relying on His Spirit to give you the right words and attitudes. Hold on till the end, and focus on your heavenly reward.
My tweets can be seen by everyone, so I have very few deep conversations on Twitter, but I saw a tweet once:
“Rejection is a short-term setback, not a permanent condition.”
I had to respond to that, because I heartily disagreed! I’ll use the example of a job-interview, but you can apply it to whatever your situation might be:
You go for a job – your dream job.
You don’t get it.
You thought you could do that job, so you’re hurt that you weren’t chosen.
After a while you get over the hurt, but you still haven’t got the job.
You may be offered a different job, or you might stay unemployed and continually struggle to find work.
Do you see? Rejection can be short-term and of very little consequence; it can also greatly affect someone’s life. My heart goes out to you if you’re living through the misery of being rejected, and I want to share with you Isaiah 41:9: “I have chosen you and have not rejected you.” That’s become one of my favourite verses. It’s amazing that God chose me – God, whose standard’s the highest of all. It doesn’t change my circumstance, but it does cheer me up.
“A gentle answer turns away wrath” (Proverbs 15:1). Apparently this works not only for humans, but for cats too.
When I thought about diffusing anger, my first answer was gentleness, but Paul gives some other ideas: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31-32). Did you see his strategy? Kindness and forgiveness. Conversely, that means when anger is present, there are unkindness and unforgiveness going on. How true! When I’ve been angry, I haven’t been very forgiving. You tend to look for the worst in someone – not the best.
One thing that’s helped with my anger (and I’ve only learnt this the last few years) has been first to think how my action’s going to affect other people. If I leap up in the middle of a meeting and storm out, for example, someone will probably follow to see if I’m all right, causing them to miss the meeting too. I suppose the reason this thinking helps is that instead of being angry, there I am doing the opposite – being kind.
You must have your own anger stories. Maybe you acted unwisely, like I have in the past, or maybe you handled it well. Perhaps you’ve been hurt by someone else’s bad reaction. Perhaps kindness and forgiveness really are the way to go.
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If you were to ask me what I find most difficult to overlook, this would be it: When a friend has lied to me. I think I find it so difficult because a friend is someone I’ve made the choice to trust. We confide in one another, and I value what they say. When trust is broken, that’s turned on its head. They’ve deceived me. Their action shows they don’t value my friendship, and they don’t want me as a confidante.
Jesus is no deceiver. He says: “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life.” He’ll never lie to us. He’ll never break our trust, and as we saw earlier this month, He says to His followers: “Love each other as I have loved you.” This gives us a responsibility as Christians to be totally trustworthy. It’s not for us to keep up a pretence. If we’ve agreed to something, we should stand by that, or have the courage to be honest if we’re failing.
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things” (Philippians 4:8).
In a magazine, I found a book called “Jesus Through Middle-Eastern Eyes”, that looked very good. It’s not on Kindle, so my mum very kindly bought it and said that when we meet up, from time to time, she’ll read me a chapter. Last weekend, we started it and I’m quite enjoying reading it together.
The introduction was much more highbrow than the book itself, but I still found it interesting. One passage it talked about was Luke 16:13, and that’s the verse I want to write about today. Here’s how the New King James Version of the Bible puts it: “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”
Most modern translations take that Greek word mammon to mean money, and certainly someone who’s greedy for money is going to be reluctant to give God control of their entire life, including their finances. What’s really interesting, though, is that the Amplified Bible says mammon can be translated as: ‘Anything in which you trust and on which you rely’. Wow! That’s a challenge. We can’t serve two masters; either we trust God, or we trust that other thing – money, relationships, ourselves …
I wondered what to call this post. I had planned for it to be about greed, but I read God’s Word and it expanded! I suppose to hold anything back from God is really self-preservation, and the opposite of that would be surrender.
Can you give God control of your life? Do you trust Him to act in your best interests?
We sang at church on Sunday an older song (I hadn’t heard it for some time) about how Jesus has beaten the power of death. These are the fundamentals for a Christian – to confess Jesus as Lord, and to believe God raised Him from the dead (Romans 10:9).
Death had no power over Him, so it won’t have any power over us. Of course, I’m not saying we won’t die. “Everyone must die once” (Hebrews 9:27), and the process leading up to that can be very traumatic for people, but Hebrews 9 goes on: “Christ was offered as a sacrifice one time to take away the sins of many people. And He will come a second time, but not to offer Himself for sin. He will come the second time to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him.” If we trust that Jesus has saved us from death, then we know we’ll go into eternity with God, and we’ll have life with Him forever. What have we got to lose? We may lose our lives on earth, but we’ll endure and shine like stars in God’s heavenly kingdom.
When I was at school, I heard one of my classmates say he had eighteen albums by the rock group Queen. From then on, my goal was to collect nineteen or more. Have you thought where it comes from – this desire to outdo somebody else? It’s not just about the number of CDs we happen to own; it can be anything. We see someone with a gift of hospitality, and suddenly we want to plunge into home-baking.
“When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise” (2 Corinthians 10:12). The wise way to live is not to compete, but to appreciate one another’s giftings. Paul writes to the church at Ephesus about this very thing: That Christ is the Head, and we as His body depend on Him (Ephesians 4:15-16). As each part does its share, the body becomes stronger, so when we see someone living the life they’ve been called to, let’s encourage and build each other up. That’s how it’s meant to be in God’s kingdom.
One of the highlights of my week is helping out with Open the Book – an organisation that partners with Bible Society to bring Bible-stories to children in primary schools. We have various volunteers throughout the town and we’re in most of the schools now.
This week, we’re telling the children the story of Peter and John at the temple gate, healing a lame man in the name of Jesus. Its point is that Jesus cared about everyone, even those who were ignored by others.
I thought I’d give us the same message we’re giving the children – to think what we can do, today or tomorrow, to help somebody. “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4). Isn’t that a good way to combat the selfishness in the world?
I said earlier in the month that our difficulties were as diverse as our personalities. Our fears are diverse as well. I don’t write or talk about this often because I’m ashamed of it, but I have a real phobia of dogs. Intellectually I know not all dogs are the same, and that it’s unlikely I would be bitten by a dog in a public place, but I still tense up if I’m with somebody and a person with a dog walks past us.
1 John 4:18 says perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment, and that the one who fears is not made perfect in love. Really, this is logical. If I had the same love for dogs as I do for people, I wouldn’t distrust them. Perhaps you’ve known someone for a while, and there’s something about yourself you’re afraid to admit to them. If you could be sure they loved you perfectly, that fear wouldn’t be there. Fear of the future is considerably less for me because I know my God loves me and delights in my wellbeing.
Maybe you’re telling yourself that as humans, we can’t show that perfect love to each other, but Jesus commands His followers: “Love each other as I have loved you.” With His Spirit living in us, we have the power to show extraordinary love.
Let’s be people whose love calms the fears of others.
I heard on the radio last night there is actually a word, ohnosecond. It’s that moment when you realise you’ve just done something you really shouldn’t have done. I know I feel terrible if I’ve acted out-of-character and think I’ve misrepresented God, but that feeling can’t last long. If it did, I wouldn’t do anything positive ever again. Paul agrees that worldly sorrow brings death, whereas Godly sorrow produces repentance. Repentance means turning from what you’ve done wrong and living the right way.
When that ohnosecond comes, there are three things we can do:
1. Say sorry, but not really mean it. John the Baptist saw this when he was preparing the way for Jesus. He cut to the chase and said: “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” In other words, if you’ve truly repented, your actions need to match your words.
2. Drown in our own guilt. Judas Iscariot chose this option. When he betrayed Jesus, Jesus called him ‘Friend’ (Matthew 26:50), which says to me that Jesus’ friendship was still on offer. Judas didn’t take it, but hanged himself instead.
3. Turn to God and confess our wrongdoing. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:1).
For the rest of this series click here, or you can find other blogs on the Write31Days site