Thursday, January 23, 2020

Love, love me do !


LOVE, LOVE ME DO

A new year, a new decade, a page, a new chapter. It is indeed a season for new beginnings. Yet,
These are some timeless truths we need to anchor in and remind ourselves.

Many of us make New Year’s resolutions, goals, and plans all of which is very good to in order to live with purpose and intent. I do it myself.
Let me share one  of my goals with you for this new season, nay for a lifetime actually.

My goal is to be more loving. I am by nature a doer. I feel fulfilled in doing tasks with many boxes ticked off. That also happens to be my love language i.e. serving people is what I do.

However, I ask myself a question: how well I am doing on being? Can I love in ways that others feel loved and receive love?

This makes me reflect on two passages which talk about love and challenge us. However, both have different approaches and standards.

The Pharisee, teacher, and ruler of the law were questioning and challenging Jesus’ authority and knowledge of scriptures. They were seeking to set a trap.
Imagine challenging the WORD OF GOD on the Word of God!! What utter foolishness. That is what spiritual pride and blindness do to us.

They tried to trap him by asking him of the Big 10 which was No 1.

Any God fearing Jew knew the answer to that:  Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord:And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.And these words, which I command  Deut 6:4-6

To this Jesus added, “Love your neighbor as yourself”.  Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[c] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[d] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matt 22:37-40
It was not addition really, but a summation of all the other 9. That sure tied the Pharisees in knots because they always wanted to get away with the bare minimum, counting dill and cumin.

Think about it. How do I love myself? Some of us love ourselves more and some less. Our love for ourselves can be distorted by life’s circumstances, experiences, culture, upbringing and what our significant others said to us, and how they treated us.

We can never love or give more than we give ourselves. For example if I don’t believe I deserve to live well, or dress well or earn well; chances are I will think others don’t need either and could even sit in judgment of any deviations from my standard. Mark that I did not say God’s standard.

The other thing that can happen is I could then give motivated by guilt or obligation.

Water finds its own level. That is where and how our love for others will rise and fall. Is this a standard to live by?
In the second passage, Jesus blows it out of the water in
 John 13:34
34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

This was for his disciples alone- not for the Pharisee or the crowds. To his disciples he gave them a New Commandment – to love as He loves us!

Now this makes perfect sense. Why would Jesus point to an imperfect flawed standard of love like us? He has always been the standard

He has never referred to anything but himself as being The way, The Truth and The Life.  Why, he even swears by himself because there was nothing higher to swear by! God is love. It is the essence of his being. Only He is perfect love and can love perfectly.

His perfect demonstration of love was in him leaving heaven to become a human, identifying with us, and then dying in our place.

This is the truest and highest standard of love. Jesus said it himself – greater love has no one than this that he lay down his life for a friend. You are my friends…

So loving your neighbor as yourself must come second to this greatest commandment.

As I think and ponder over this, I am reminded that I do not live by the law. I have been set free from the law. However, this is not so I can live at a lower standard. On the contrary, the bar has been raised to that of Jesus himself being my model.

If I keep this plumb line of love before me, I will make good choices not only for me but also for those around me.

The effect of loving as Jesus and not just to the measure that I love myself is that the world will be made aware of who Jesus is and that we truly belong to Him.

That is so powerful!! Is it no wonder that we fall into the trap of shifting dill and cumin? The devil would keep us busy counting from 1 to 7 and Jesus’ tongue in cheek response to that was not 7 but 70!

This year I want to remind myself to take
that love quotient higher and love as Jesus did. Do you?

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The Continuum - Overflowing with thankfulness | Part 4

PART 4

The Continuum Part 4

I am concluding my reflections in this very rich passage of scripture. You can read Part 1 by clicking here  Part 2 by clicking here and Part 3 by clicking here


Colossians 2:7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

Over the past couple of weeks, my reflection has been in this passage that is so rich in content, each word or phrase having so much weight behind it.

I come to the last phrase in this passage: ”overflowing with thankfulness”


This last phrase intrigued me. He starts with being rooted, built up, and strengthened in the faith. A natural flow from this could have been prayer. But he throws thankfulness into the mix and not just any kind. Thankfulness that is overflowing and in abundance.

It made me think of how often my thankfulness is just a trickle. What does overflowing with thankfulness look like?

The last year was a very challenging season. I was challenged to practice gratitude, declaring faith and blessing over every situation on a daily basis. I ritualistically went through my list of things that I wanted to give thanks for in order to cultivate a spirit of thanksgiving. This list comprised of the simple mundane things of life. As I did this, my thanksgiving list and its scope began to grow. 

Now every morning when I wake up and draw the curtains of my bedroom back I look out
and thank God for the vast expanse of the lush forest before me. I think God for the view with which I am blessed. I go on to thank god for my husband, my kids and focusing on all the good in them.
Have I become a person overflowing with thanksgiving? Not yet, but I am getting there.

WHY SHOULD I GIVE THANKS?
Why is Thanksgiving so important? Is God an egomaniac who needs us to praise Him? 

God does not need anything from us of anyone or anything. He is complete in himself. The thanksgiving is all for our benefit. It requires humility to acknowledge that the source of goodness that you enjoy is outside of yourself. You did not create it. It is acknowledging greatness in someone else. Thanking God is acknowledging Him as the source of all blessing and goodness.

Scripture is full of commands and encouragement to be thankful. The Psalms is full of it.
Paul commands us to give thanks always to praise God with thankfulness.
ManyPsalms start with this common refrain; “give thanks to God for His love endures forever” This is enough reason. His love toward us is lasting and not fleeting or frivolous.

WHAT SHOULD I GIVE THANKS FOR?
What should we thank him for? Thank God for who He is – our Father, our savior, The Lord of all. Thank God for His general blessing on all the earth. This is called common grace for it rains on the righteous and the unrighteous.

Thank God for His specific grace on your life. Start with the amazing grace He has shown you at the time you were saved: for is redemption and restoration work in our lives. Then thank him for the many other blessings: physical, financial, relational, health, material etc. Stretch yourself to be thankful for everything.

See how this habit will renew your mind – it will change a negative outlook to one full of faith and Hope will rise in your heart for dead situations. I have learned a lot about this in the last year and I believe I am only scratching the surface.

HOW DO I START?

Do a 40-day challenge of thankfulness. Have a list posted where you can see it and go through it on a daily basis.

 Every day I thank God for blessing my children and all that God is going to do in and through them. I pray  blessing and prophesy over their future calling our destiny in them. I thank God for my marriage and what God has done in us this far and ask Him to keep us strong in His love all our days. I thank God for our business and his amazing provision. I thank God for the church; and how God has blessed us and entrusted us with his people.
So get your list ready and start thanking God and see what miracles will take place in your life.

The turnaround will happen in your heart first and then in your circumstances. Thankfulness is the slender sinew that moves the hand of God to act.
We will find ourselves moving from a trickle of thanksgiving to a torrent. Will He not open the floodgates of blessings into our lives?

This brings me to the end of my reflections on these two verses. As I encourage myself I encourage you too to CONTINUE to grow strong, continue to build up your faith, continue to stay rooted in the things you have been taught and continue to grow in thankfulness.

If you found this blog helpful why not share it with your friends and drop me a line in the comments below and share how you have grown in your journey of being a thankful person.

Navaz DCruz
Oct 2018
( This is the concluding blog in this 4 part series)


Thursday, October 4, 2018

The Continuum | Part 3



PART 3
The Continuum Part 3

I am continuing my refelctions in this very rich passage of scripture. You can read Part 1 by clicking here and Part 2 by clicking here.

Colossians 2:7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

Paul goes on to encourage the Colossians to, continue to be strengthened in the faith. What does this man? He is asking them to make themselves strong. It begs the question; why should they do this, what should they make themselves strong in and how should they make themselves strong?

Let us reflect on each of these components.

WHY?

This becomes evident in the verses that follow verse7. We will come to that in a bit.
I think to myself about the different things that I can be strong in- many things can shape my thinking, my opinions and I can become strong in those. 

Having strong convictions is a very good quality. Or else I will be taken “captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces[a] of this world rather than on Christ.” Col 2:8.

Therefore, what are these convictions? What has shaped them – what is the value system and the underlying ethos of those convictions?
People today have strong convictions about many things viz. animal rights, forest conservation etc. Some of these things are not bad in themselves but if I do not have a healthy overarching paradigm for my understanding of life, my environment etc. my convictions could get skewed and a little misplaced.

The Colossians were not strangers to these threats as we can see from the warning that follows in verse 8. Paul is warning them not to be swayed by every wind of doctrine or argument or new-fangled idea that was floating around. People were mixing what they were taught with the philosophies of the day, the prevailing religious beliefs, a mixture of the law and grace. It was starting to look like a hot mess. And Paul was cautioning them against the adulteration of the gospel but to continue in what they were taught by the apostles and other trustworthy leaders

Are we not facing the same today? What was considered wrong or sinful in the bible is now being undermined and challenged? Fresh laws are drawn up every so often to call wrong right and vice versa. To call sin, sin has indeed now become “a sin”. What a tragedy!! Humanism has always tried to replace God and His standard as being the plumb line for our lives.

I like the way Paul always states the principle first and then addresses the practice. This is important lest we dismiss the principle as Paul’s opinion that we have an option to be convinced of or not.

So the principle that Paul is stating is: Be strengthened in the faith.  From this, I understand that there I things that I could get strong in that could lead me away from the faith. Do not find strength in other things like one’s career, money, relationships, other philosophies etc.
I need to find my strength in the faith.

WHAT IS THAT?

We find this phrase “strengthened in the faith’ in many other places ( Acts 16:5, 1Cor 16:13, 1Pet 5:9, Rom 4:20). What does Paul mean by faith? I believe it is a body of beliefs.

 I believe he is referring to our faith in the Lord Jesus as our only savior. Our faith in the complete work of the Cross, being saved and sustained by Grace alone and in Christ alone. Our belief in  God the Father Son and the Holy Spirit. Our belief in the resurrection and the return of Jesus. Our belief in eternal life. Our belief in the Church and the unity of the body of Christ. This has been beautifully encapsulated in the Apostles Creed written in 390AD.

“As you were taught..”
We are to hold fast to the teaching that is in scripture and not waver from it. What has been taught? It is also important to know who is teaching me. Is the church that I am a part of preaching the full gospel in an undiluted way? Is it preaching sin, repentance, forgiveness, grace and all the rich inheritance we come into because of accepting Jesus sacrifice in the cross?

As we meditate on these truths each day, we will be strengthened in the faith.
We will get strong in the faith and what we believe and we will get strong by what we have come to believe. It will put strength into our soul and Spirit.
I pause to reflect on this…



HOW DO I GET STRONG IN THE FAITH?

I look back at my life and see that I started the habit of spending time with God and His Word when I was in school. I started maintaining a journal when I was around 13-14. That daily chewing on scripture morsel by morsel is what has made my faith strong today.
It’s not reading a whole chunk of scripture once a month that will do it for you. It’s that little bite-size pieces each day – those verses that you meditate upon that start to do its work for the Word of God is living and active (Heb4:12-13).

We are transformed by the renewing of our mind and allow our thinking to be retrained and shaped by scripture. Slowly the word becomes the plumb line that shows us when I am off balanced in my thinking or behavior.

It is not the random reading of scripture or only a diet of the Psalms that will make you strong. It's taking in the whole counsel of the Word of God right from Genesis to Revelation and all those difficult books like Leviticus,, Deuteronomy, Ezekiel in between.

I have read the Bible from cover from cover more times than I can recount and it has been an enriching experience with new treasures to discover each time. I love the Word of God. It is my treasure, my comfort, my compass, my delight. It is the first place I run to when I need to be strengthened of when I need guidance.

I have used devotionals books etc as supplementary tools but they can never replace the Bible.

When I meditate on the Word of God consistently my faith becomes strong and I become a strong person too. When this happens, I am “able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Rom 12:2)


As I end on my reflections today, can I ask you a question? How do you get strong in the faith? Maybe you would like to share your journey, and what you have found helpful in the comments below. If you have enjoyed what you are reading please share this blog with your friends on any social media you use. Why not WhatsApp it to a friend right now?

Navaz DCruz
(Concluding Part to follow)

For PART 1 Click here & PART 2

Saturday, September 29, 2018

The Continuum PART 2

PART 2


Colossians 2:6-7
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
In verse 6 



 I have been reflecting on this verse over the last few days. In the first part  I reflected on verse 6 and how we stay rooted in Christ. Paul is urging us to continue in certain things as we live out our Christian life and calling.

He is very clear in his communications. He isn’t just saying “Be a good Christian, “ Or “ Oh you have been saved, now enjoy life. It is all grace brother! Do not bother about anything. Jesus has done it all. Jesus loves you” etc etc.
He reminds his readers of the great sacrifice that Jesus paid for us all. He reminds us that is a complete work; Satan's defeated.

We are set free from the tyranny of the myriad laws that encumbered the poor Jewish soul.
Now that we are free – we are free for a purpose. This is specific for each one of us.
We are to continue in many things. However, this “continue” is not static. It’s not about maintaining the status quo. It is about sustaining growth. It’s progressive: from one degree of glory to another.  In scripture, we are encouraged to “build ourselves up in the holiest faith”.

I move my reflections on to the next part of verse 7, which asks us to be “built up”
Why do we need to do this? How do we do this and what is involved? Reflect with me.
WHY
In our journey as Christ followers, our aim is to become more and more like Jesus, to be Holy even as He is Holy. To fulfill the good works he has prepared for us to do. This is the reason we are saved. To be a light to all.

HOW
We are built up as we stay rooted – as we continue to grow deeper in our fellowship with him.
We get built up by meditating on His Word and allowing it to grow richly in our lives, allowing the word to challenge and change us. The phrase built up implies growth. As Christians we are on a continuum of growth – the overall movement in our lives ought to be forward.

WHAT
What do I do, to be built up, to grow, to be encouraged, and to be focused?
 So what do I continue in? Here are some things:
Continue to be a learner – seeking the kingdom to influence my lifestyle and decisions.
Continue to add to my “faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.”  (2Pet 1:5-7)
Continue to persevere in the face of trialsbecause you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And tastings so my faith grows strong.” (James 1:3)
Continue to dig deep into God’s word in sweet fellowship and prayer (Col 3:16)
Continue to do good, and not grow weary of it (Gal 6:9)
Continue to meet with other Christ followers to encourage and be encouraged. Let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are doing.( Heb 10:25)
Continue to build on Christ the Cornerstone. (1Cor 3:11)

When I do this, I will grow strong, mature and be productive bearing the good fruits of the faith.
 Are there things that you need to continue in that you have stopped doing? Now is a good time to hit the reset button and restart.

Paul knew that there would be times we would slacken off or give up. That is why there are so many verses encouraging us to keep going, to fight the good fight of faith, to press on, to keep at it. Let us encourage each other and our other brothers and sisters to keep going.  We are yet to come into our best. Let us continue to the finish line and finish strong.


Thursday, September 27, 2018

The Continuum


THE CONTINUUM

Colossians 2:6-7
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

This is the verse I am reflecting on today and want to mull over it bit by bit because I think there is a lot in this small but very rich instruction  Paul is giving us Christ followers.

V6 a- So Just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord -  Paul was encouraging the Colosse Christians to hold on to truth and not be swayed by many fine sounding arguments ( verse4) or even a false gospel that was already making the rounds. (verse 8).

How did we receive Jesus?
He wants them to hold fast to what they were taught by the apostles. They received it from men of creditability and received it by faith.
I pause to think about this. We have no lack choice today as to who we would like to listen to, which church sermons we want to watch. Sometimes we can be sucked into subtle false teachings without even realizing it.

We need to know whom we are learning from: what is their track -record, what is their life like, and what are their core doctrines. It is not easy to test this in the cyber world.

The other thing that Paul is reminding them is about how they received Christ. How did we receive our salvation? We received it by grace through faith. Nothing more, nothing less. The Cross of Christ is complete and covers everything for me. I cannot earn it, I don’t deserve it. I appropriate it by faith alone and in humility accept this grace gift in my life.
Let no one add to that or take away from this great work of our wonderful God.

The deity of Jesus was coming into question no sooner did he resurrect from the dead and ascend into heaven. This truth is still being challenged and toyed with today. Let us remind ourselves of the glorious savior who did a finished work making a public spectacle of Satan and all his schemes when he triumphed over him on the Cross. (verse 15). The devil thought sending Jesus was the greatest trick and his ace card. What he and not know was that he played into the very plan of God that sealed his fate forever.

Let us remind ourselves that the life we now live is not to be lived by a set of rules. We live this life because we have a relationship that is sustained by deep communion and staying firmly rooted in Jesus ( verse 22-23)

V6b - continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him,.

In my 4+ decades of being a Christ follower, one thing I have seen and now with an ever increasing measure, sadly, is that people often start well but do not continue with increasing fervor. Some tragically lose their way floundering amidst the cares and worries of this world.

So the encouragement to ‘continue ‘is not without cause. To Continue is an important motif in the New Testament and should be in our lives too. This is said in many different ways in the Bible. Here are some : persevere in the faith, fight the good fight of faith, press on toward the goal, run the race with perseverance, run the race marked out for us, he who preservers will be given the crown of life, do not grow weary in doing good and many, many more such exhortations.

This is not a call to continue to exist. There is a manner in which I am to continue. Paul goes on to tell us how.

As I reflected on the word ROOTED, I thought it is good to pause and ask some questions. Is, my life built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness? I have salvation here and here alone. He is my Rock and the source of my life. He is my cornerstone. This means I am not relying on my strength, independence etc.

 Why are roots important?
It is the life source to the whole plant. Whatever soil the roots of my heart are planted in, will nourish me and determine how healthy the plant will be and what kind of fruit I will produce.

So where do I get my values from? What is influencing my life and my character formation? Is the soil that of the world or is it Christ? What my mind feeds on will affect thought patterns, my emotions, and my behavior.

What soil my roots are in will affect what is” built up”. I can wipe and clean and polish the leaves all I want but if the roots are rotting or have poor nutrition or are in a toxic environment, the rot is going to show and destroy the plant as well. The plant will grow, but not as a healthy one.

So what do I learn from this morning’s reflections? No matter how old or young a Christ follower I am, I need to continue to be rooted in Christ which is the richest and best place to have my life planted in. John 15 is replete with repeated reminders to remain in Jesus so that we will bear fruit that will last.
I pray and you and I will continue on this continuum of life with steadfastness growing from strength to strength being built up in Christ. 

How are we built up? More in the next blog. Click here for Part 2 

Navaz DCruz