Me First! Me Only!

1 Corinthians 13:5

One of the main reasons Christians frown on teachings about “self-love” is that a lot of people believe such teachings will encourage people to become selfish. This is a very valid fear, as we live in a time when we are already battling heavily with the “me first!” attitude of the world. We must be cautious not to misinterpret one as the other; “Self-love” is having a healthy regard for one’s own well being and happiness, while “selfishness” is being so preoccupied with our own selves that we lack consideration for other people.

To be honest, as human beings, putting other people first is not a natural reaction. We are instinctively wired for self-preservation. Now, having a sense of self-preservation is a good thing, and is an important component of loving oneself. It means that we will avoid the things that bring us hurt and pain; that we understand that our feelings, wants and needs should matter. The problems come up however, when we do not extend this same courtesy to other people.

When we want other people to put us into consideration, but we do not reciprocate; when constantly do things that will favour only ourselves; when we constantly put ourselves first; when we do not consider the feelings of others and the toes we step on in this our quest to get what we want- this is no longer self-preservation, but selfishness.

“Love is not self-seeking” means that while acknowledging that we would not want others to insist on their own way if it would bring us pain, we understand that other people also feel this way and so we go out of our way to make sure that their needs and feelings are taken care of.

In Phillipians 2:3-5, we are told, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus”. We cannot do this in our own strength however, we need to daily ask God for the grace to love unselfishly.

Plugged In

Pray without ceasing…

-1 Thes 5:17

I really don’t know how people managed to be in meaningful relationships before the advent of telephones and instant messaging (lol, spoken like a true millennial). These technological advances have made it so that we can be in constant, real-time communication with the people in our lives even if we happen to be on different continents. We are constantly plugged in with them and are able to tell them about the things going on with us as soon as they happen. It’s strange and worrisome to us to hear people in a relationship say they don’t talk/text multiple times everyday.

A lot of people see prayer as just presenting a list of requests to God and so when they hear “pray without ceasing”, they imagine just droning on and on to God all day (which actually sounds tedious). I’ve heard quite a number of people say things like, “won’t you run out of stuff to say?” However, prayer is not just presenting a wishlist to God and it isn’t a monologue, it’s a conversation.

For us to be told to pray without ceasing, it means that God is able and willing to keep the lines of communication between us open constantly. This does not mean that we’re to separate ourselves from everyone else 24/7 and say we’re praying, It means that He wants us to be in contact with Him throughout our day, from the moment we wake up till we’re winding back down for bed; we’re to develop a lifestyle of prayer. Things like; thanking Him for opportunities/provision, asking for help before doing difficult things, praying for people we come in contact with/who cross our mind, praising Him for the beauty of the things he created, etc are all included in prayer. These are often called “spontaneous prayers”. Praying without ceasing means we stay connected to Him the same way we’re constantly plugged in online to our friends and families.

This week, explore the meaning of prayer and what it means to “pray without ceasing”. Stay plugged in.

The “S” Word

“This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,…” Rom 3:22-23 (NIV)

No one ever wants to be called a sinner. When a lot of people hear the word “sin”, they think of things like rape, murder, theft; “Evil” things. So you hear people say things like, “I don’t think I’m a sinner, I’m a pretty good person. I haven’t killed anyone and I don’t steal or cheat”. This, however, is a pretty myopic view of sin. According to Selwyn Hughes, “a sinner is someone who is estranged from God and who maintains a rebellious, resistant and independent attitude towards Him”. Sin, basically, is living your life independent of God and in disobedience to Him; That’s it. It doesn’t matter how good or well behaved you think you are generally, you can’t cancel out sin by doing a million good things- “for the wages of sin is death…” (Rom 6:23). The price of the sin must be paid.

A lot of churches and Christians shy away from teaching about sin because it seems to be such an uncomfortable topic. The mood of the present age is to challenge people less over issues, and a big part of the church is now striving to be politically correct to the detriment of the integrity of the scriptures. But to not talk about sin is to ignore the cost of Calvary. “For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood” (Rom 3:25, NLT). Jesus literally gave his life to pay for sin on our behalf so that we might be reconciled to God.
To not talk about it is to not talk about the foundation of our Christian faith.
To not talk about it is to ignore the greatest gift ever given to us by God.

We read from Rom 6:23 earlier; the full verse says, “for the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Jesus died for our sins and is only through His death that we are saved and made righteous before God. Salvation is a gift. It’s not something we earn by doing good deeds and it’s one that you need to accept if you haven’t already.

Grow Up!

Hebrews 5:12-14, 6:1-3

When a child is born, breastmilk is the only food they can take that is mild enough to not irritate their digestive system, and It provides all the nutrients they need at that stage of their lives. As they begin to grow, their nutritional requirements grow also, until a point is reached when just milk isn’t enough. Solid food is then gradually introduced until they begin to eat “adult” food, and then the milk is phased out. This is normal physiology.

What happens when you see a 4-year-old who takes breastmilk as his only source of food? Eyebrows will be raised and questions will be asked. Why? Because we all know that it is abnormal. That child will be malnourished and his growth will be stunted compared to other children of the same age because he isn’t getting what he needs. So then, why are there so many 10-year-old and 20-year-old Christians who are not bothered that they are subsisting on “breastmilk”? People meant to be breaking bones are sipping milk, and they are not worried about their states of malnutrition!

The writer of Hebrews noticed this abnormality however, which is why he said, “you have been Christians a long time now, and you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things a beginner must learn about Scriptures. You are like babies who drink only milk and cannot eat solid food” (Heb 5:12 NLT). According to their years in Christ, they were supposed to have moved past the stage “milk” because it was for those who were yet unskilled in the ways of righteousness (v13), but they hadn’t! Their slothful attitude towards the word of God had resulted in spiritual stunted growth.

Are you like the Christians to whom this letter was written? Have you been taking milk for too long? Are you spiritually stunted? Now, the definitive treatment for physical malnutrition is addressing the underlying cause and correcting the nutrient deficit and It is the same for spiritual malnutrition. Yes, you are a Christian and you have given your life to Christ, but You’re not spending enough time reading the word? You don’t pray? You regularly neglect going to church? Please correct the deficit. Remember however, that you cannot do this on your own, and trying will only leave you frustrated. It is God alone who can give you both the desire and the power to do His will (Phil 2:13). Why not ask Him for help today? It’s time to grow up!

Extravagant Love

The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: “l have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness”

-Jer 31:3

“We accept the love we think we deserve”
-Stephen Chbosky

I think about this quote a lot. Initially, I thought about it only in terms of romantic love, then I added love among friends as well. Then one day it struck me that, even when it comes to God’s love, we accept the love we think we deserve.

What do I mean? For the longest time, I struggled with the concept of God’s unconditional love. Some days I still struggle with it. I viewed love through the lens of a kind of reward system; “I am loved when I am good”.
So when I’ve been on my best “Christian” behavior I agree that God does love me. I’m deserving of His love. When I slip up though, at the back of my mind I believe I no longer deserve to be loved by Him, so I subconsciously deny it.

As a result of this, I stayed stuck in a place where I kept on trying to be worthy of God’s love for me and let me tell you, it’s an exhausting and draining place to be.

I know I’m not alone in this. A lot of us have been conditioned to view love as a reward for good behavior, so when we’re told that there’s a God who loves us with an everlasting, unconditional love, we don’t really believe and we keep looking for the “catch”.
But do you know what I learned and what I’m still learning? Say it with me: “God’s love for me is not dependent on me”. Pause here. Say it until it sinks in.

This has freed me from the mental prison of trying to earn God’s love. I already have it. There’s literally nothing I can do that will increase the love He has for me. He loves me wholly and perfectly.

I’m learning now to stop relating with Him from a place of fear and apprehension. I’m not in competition with anyone for His love. I’m not trying to bribe Him with my service. The peace this has brought me is overwhelming, and I pray, along with Apostle Paul that,

“…the life of Christ will be released inside you, and the resting place of his love will become the very source and root of your life. Then you will be empowered to discover what every holy one experiences—the great magnitude of the astonishing love of Christ in all its dimensions. How deeply intimate and far-reaching is his love! How enduring and inclusive it is! Endless love beyond measurement that transcends our understanding—this extravagant love pours into you until you are filled to overflowing with the fullness of God!”
Ephesians 3:17-19 TPT

Now, go listen to Cory Asbury’s “Reckless Love”. Read the lyrics. Listen again.

Believe it.

Accept this love 🤗

Burning Bushes

Exodus 3:1-6

Moses was busy attending to the flock of his father in law when he noticed a burning bush. This seemingly simple observation at that point was the key to the liberation of a nation.

Burning bushes in themselves weren’t uncommon in the desert, there was a logical explanation for their occurrence. However, Moses was observant enough to notice that it wasn’t being consumed, and so he went to take a closer look (v3).

Now take a look at v4, “When the Lord saw that He had caught Moses’ attention, God called to him from the middle of the bush, “Moses! Moses!” “Here I am!” Moses replied.” (NLT, emphasis mine)

God then went on to introduce Himself and set into motion plans for the deliverance of His people.

Often times God shows us signs to catch our attention so that His wonders can follow, but we’re too busy to notice.

Now Moses was tending his sheep. He had a valid reason to just turn away and say “I don’t have time for this” but he went to take a closer look.

Sometimes the only thing standing in the way of us getting a solution or an answer or an instruction from God is that we have not yet stopped to take a closer look at the burning bush.

We have to stay alert to seek Gods working. God isn’t “pushy”. Benny Hinn says “the Holy Spirit is a gentleman”.

He’ll give a sign then wait for us to notice and come to Him. He won’t force Himself on us.

If we don’t notice the signs He keeps giving, He eventually goes quiet.

Are you too preoccupied with your own self to take note of the ways God is trying to catch your attention? Take a step back and look around you. Look for the burning bush.

The Guilty Prosecutors

John 8:1-11

“Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”

We are always eager to remind God about the sins of others,
Remind Him about the “rules” He set.
So anxious to be His policemen;
“Hey God, here’s a bit of sin that you might have missed”
Doesn’t He already see all?

“He who is without sin, cast the first stone…”

Sure we don’t literally stone people anymore, but some us of are still expert marksmen.
We sit perched on our high horses,
Our bags of stones held tightly against us,
hurling them at everyone and anyone who dare sin;
We puncture a hole through the log in our eye
So that we can better spot the spec in our neighbors eyes,
And with all the haughtiness we can muster,
We judge;
Forgetting that, “all have sinned”.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left…

See, the Pharisees were smart enough to know that they were not worthy to cast a stone,
but not us.
No, we stand, firmly planted, searching the ground for stones to cast.
Oblivious to the massive targets stuck to our backs,
We perform target practice on our neighbors.
It never occurs to us to walk away, why should it?

“Neither do I condemn you…”

We are indignant!
“What do you mean you don’t condemn them Father?”
“Let me tell you what they did!”
We proceed to list out their offenses.
We are lawyer, judge and jury.
We fight God for not understanding.
“Father, they are the worst sinners!! You can’t forgive them, you can’t!”

“Go now and leave your life of sin…”

And she walked away, whole.
She walked away, cleansed and forgiven.
We walk away, dragging our bags of stone behind us.
We walk away, the logs in our eyes bigger, the hate in our hearts burning hotter;
Looking for the next victim to execute.
We have so conveniently forgotten all our trespasses;
We never ever stop to think,
If Jesus decided to hurl even one stone at me, where would I be?

It’s not a new thing to see people judging others for things they themselves are guilty of. It’s been around for thousands of years and it’s not going anywhere soon.

My challenge to you this week is, before you point accusing fingers and judge someone, look into your life and check to see if you’re not guilty of a similar (or even worse) offense.
If you say you’re not, look into your life and check to see if you’re not guilty of ANY offense.
Be gracious, as you have received grace.