#26 Don’t throw babies out with bathwater.
In fact, maybe just don’t throw babies at all. That’s probably a healthy starting point.
i had a conversation with a friend today about Easter and how some people are refusing to celebrate it at all because of how it has been taken over by the world or by people who celebrate a particular aspect of Jesus [seen as purely saving your sins and making a way for you into heaven as the whole focus] or something like that. We’ve seen the same thing happen with Christmas [of course Jesus can’t have been born on December 25th!] and music and movies and so on. Questionable element and so throw the whole thing out.
Now using the Easter example that feels like such a huge pity. The bible narrative has a history of finding ways to remember the amazing ways that God showed up to rescue or provide for God’s people – from feasts and festivals such as the Passover to the many altars that were scattered across the Old Testament that were built to remember a particular moment when God had intervened.
Jesus Himself, when breaking the bread and sharing the wine, uses the words, ‘Do this in remembrance of Me.’
It is in festivals and feasts and through symbolic moments and acts that the people of God are able to retell and relive the stories of a God who is not distant and removed but chooses to presence Godself in the midst of God’s people.
i think the solution in this is to really do the work in terms of knowing and understanding – as best you can – what you believe. If you are strong in your convictions [based on a balanced holistic biblical understanding] then you don’t have to fear what others might try do to the day or the concept or the celebration. Just do it well yourself. And be an example to those around you of Truth lived out in Love.
A side thought on this, suggested by my wife, tbV, is the idea that christians could be a little more humble when it comes to Truth. We cannot assume we have the monopoly on Truth. As Romans 1.19-20 suggests, God has made it clear in nature that there is a designer and people have no excuse to live on this planet and think it just happened by accident. Therefore it makes sense that there is Truth to be found in other beliefs and even non-religious beliefs or those who don’t profess some kind of faith.
i am not saying ‘all roads lead to Rome’ here because i believe Jesus gave a very exclusive path to God that involves Him being ‘the Way, the Truth and the Life’ and that ‘no-one comes to the Father except through Me.’ But i am saying we can’t assume [as some seem to] that only christians have all of the Truth and everyone else has none of the Truth.
Can we be open to the possibility that God is working all around us [we don’t bring God to places – we go where God is already working and try and connect with what God is doing] and so as much as God’s image appears in every single person on earth, so God’s truth is to be seen and witnessed and experienced in various places and people around us.
Let’s stop throwing out the whole thing when there might be some aspects of the thing worth holding on to.
Where are you working in this place, God?
What is it you want me to see here?
What is it you want me to do here?
Who do you want me to draw alongside and share You with or learn from?
How do i bring Your kingdom in this place?
i personally think it would be sad if Easter passed by and for whatever reason you decided not to stop and pause and reflect and remember. The greatest sacrifice of all time. The greatest Love offering ever. The call to greater things than just yourself and your measly little serfdom. The beckoning towards community and transformation and ruin rebuilding and more.
Let’s stop throwing out all of the things and let’s hold to the Truth we profess and seek the presence and fingerprints of God around us wherever we are.
= = = = = = = = = = =
#27 Start in the mirror.
Jesus gives that beautiful and disturbing analogy of the speck and the log lodged in our eye [Matthew 7]
He cautions us to first remove the log from our own eye before attempting to remove the speck from someone else’s eye.
i find it helpful to imagine it being an actual log and speck. If you literally had a log in your eye then any time you turned to someone else to help them with the speck you think they have, you would literally smash them in the head with your log.
That’s a helpful way of processing just how important it is to deal with your own crap first. You cannot see properly to help someone else effectively when your vision is blocked by your own mess. Also there is the hypocrisy aspect. How dare you judge someone else’s tiny infraction without sorting out your own stain?
Do the work that needs to be done, both in your life and in the community of believers, but start with yourself and certainly don’t volunteer to help in an area that you have not been prepared to deal with in yourself.
Start by looking in the mirror and work with what you see there.
= = = = = = = = = =
#28 Don’t wait for God to tell you what to do.
Sometimes we can use the idea of ‘waiting for direction from God’ as an excuse to be inactive or self-focused and we need to be careful of that.
i understand this concept through what i call General Will and Specific Will.
So when Moses was called by God to ‘Set My People Free’ he was the only one who received a call from God [well, maybe Aaron got a sub-call cos Moses was a little chicken!] But for each and every Israelite [hundreds of thousands] they received a message that ‘We are leaving tomorrow. Be ready if you want to leave with us.’
One person with a specific call. Hundreds of thousands with a general call.
We see this throughout the Bible. Just because we get a sneak peek into some of the lives of individuals who received a specific call from God, we can feel like that specific call should happen for everyone and develop that into a nice me-focused theology. But again, there were millions of people receiving the messages of God through the few people God gave a specific call to.
Here’s the thing though. If you are genuinely seeking God’s will for your life, i can tell you what it is. [Really, Brett? That’s sounds a little presumptuous don’t you think?] Without a shadow of a doubt, here are some aspects of God’s will for your life, whoever you are:
 Love God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind and love your neighbour [which includes your enemy and particularly the marginalised in society] as yourself. This is God’s will for your life [Matthew 22]
 Forgive everyone. [Matthew 6] – in fact, Jesus goes so far as to suggest that your being forgiven is tied to your ability to forgive people. But this is definitely another aspect of God’s will for your life.
 Know God and be known by God. It is not enough to just do all of the things you think God wants you to do. In Matthew 7.23 the defining moment of being cast away from God is “I never knew you” and we see in the first few verses of 1 Corinthians 13 that doing all of the things without Love in them is a whole lot of nothing.
 Be focused on the things of heaven more than the things of earth. In Matthew 6 we read ‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.’ While the currency on earth often seems to be things, the currency of heaven is most definitely people and so make sure you are investing in people over things.
 Go and make disciples of all nations and teach them to obey the things Jesus has taught you. This can be found in Matthew 28 and is an ongoing command to all who follow Jesus.
 Put God first in your life. Jesus said to those who would follow Him, ‘If you want to follow Me, deny yourself and take up your cross daily and follow Me.’ [Luke 9.23] This is not a once off prayer prayed at the front of a meeting but a daily commitment to once again deny self and follow Jesus.
There are probably more, but if you are wanting to know God’s will for your life, all of those things are part of the will of God for your life. Because they are the will of God for everyone who would follow Jesus.
Let me close with a bit of tension – while i fully hold to the General Will vs Specific Will theory as a foundation and structure for how following God works, we have to add in the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. That is a space where God might choose to give you specific will and call you to specific people or specific acts. But those will always be consistent with these areas of general will and they will always be in agreement with what God has revealed to us in God’s Word.
So don’t wait for God to tell you what to do. Because God already has. Simply start doing it. And taking others with you.
= = = = = = = = = =
#29 Work on your smell.
i worked at the Spur restaurant for five years [long, long ago in a galaxy] and you know who we hated serving the most? Christians. Why? Because they didn’t tip. Sunday night after church groups of young people would take up some of the biggest sections in the restaurant and make the most mess and normally end up short on their bill and have to figure that out among themselves and would often leave the most pitiful tips, or often none at all.
If you can find someone who can say the term ‘christian movie’ without rolling their eyes, you must safeguard that endangered [or maybe indoctrinated] species because it is a rare find as we are known for making substandard media. There have been some pleasant exceptions in the music realm [particularly, i think when it comes to heavier brands of music] but even there, for the most part, we tend towards being weaker.
i have heard similar unfortunate comments made from people who did business with people who claim to be christian and sadly even those who work within churches [often those who work with the youth] have often been badly treated and walk away with scars and in much need of rehabilitation.
We are meant to do so much better though.
i absolutely love this passage in 2 Corinthians 2 where those who follow Jesus are described as having the fragrance of Christ:
‘For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.’
Fortunately, there are also a lot of areas where this has been overwhelmingly true. When it comes to education and healthcare and relief work during and after disasters, the church has been known to show up in the biggest and most beautiful ways. When xenophobia was at its most horrendous height in South Africa many people and organisations around the country got involved but there were so many churches who opened their doors and i remember feeling so proud – for a change- that we were in the news for all the right reasons.
Because there have been experiences such as the Crusades, or silence and complicity during apartheid, or rampant sexual abuse and cover-up which have left an absolute stench in their path.
The seeming inability to largely own our sin and demonstrate the confession and repentance we are called to, does not leave a sweet smell in the room.
This is both an individual and a corporate thing. What type of personal smell do you leave behind? When you do business with people? When you play sport on the field [looking at you, Brett Fish!]? When you play games with people? When you pay the person who cleans your house or looks after your garden or children?
What type of smell does your church leave in the community it is part of? When it deals with black/coloured/indian people on the leadership? When it pays the people who work for it? When it responds – or doesn’t – to the violence or chaos happening in the communities around it?
We need to ensure that in all ways and at all times we are very much leaving people with the image of Jesus and experience of His deep love, compassion and mercy as we interact with people, talk to or about them and in our attitudes and actions and words.
Smell more like Jesus. And leave a more than generous tip!!!
= = = = = = = = = = = =
#30 Tell us what you’re for.
One of the worst election posters i see out and about right now is the DA poster that says ‘Stop the ANC EFF, vote DA!’
It tells me absolutely nothing about the DA except who they are against.
i remember a number of years ago, the Barna group did a survey asking random Americans on the street what they thought christians believed. The top five things were all things they thought christians were against – Christians are against smoking, drinking, abortion, being gay… and some other fifth thing.
When Jesus was hanging out with His disciples for their last meal together, He took a moment to say: “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know you are My disciples if you love one another.”
Combine that with the greatest commandment in Matthew 22 and a reminder in the Great Commission in Matthew 28 to make disciples and teach them to obey the things I have taught you, number one on the list of things Christ-followers should be known for is our Love.
How is it possible that so often we are known by what we are against more than what we are for? Especially when we have such really great stuff that we are for.
We have a list of fruits of the Spirit that is meant to live in us when we choose to follow Jesus: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
We are called to be people who show enemy love, who look out for the marginalised and those deemed ‘the least of these’ by society, who comfort all who mourn, and who rebuild ancient ruins and restore places long devastated… and more.
More than we are against divorce we should be for thriving relationships and families. More than we are against abortion we should be for taking good care of babies and children that have no homes.
Yes, there are some things followers of Jesus are not for, but if we were completely living towards the things we are meant to be for, a lot of those would be taken care of along the way.
Take a moment to mirror this. When people think about you as a person, if they know you as a Christian or follower of Jesus, would their go-to definition of you more likely be to the things you are for and actively involved in, or would it be a knowledge of the things you are very much against?
Take some more time to mirror the church congregation you are part of: More known for what you are for or against? If you’re spending thousands of rands being against the government taking away the right of parents being allowed to hit your kids, are you spending even more money on education or working with parents on how to parent well?
Do the things we are for outweigh the things we are against?
If we think of Jesus, how often did He talk about the kingdom of God compared to how often He tackled the corruptness of the religious leaders? How often were His actions about including, healing, teaching, eating with, and how often were they about negating or bringing down or challenging.
There are definitely times for both. But we need to err on the side of things we are for.
Let me know without a shadow of a doubt, what you are for!
[To catch the next five tips, click here]