Friday, March 25, 2011

walk the walk

At our recent church service, our pastor was talking (again) about evangelising, and how important it is for us to actively approach people and tell them about Christ. As part of his sermon, he even had us turn to our neighbour to tell the person something about God and what He had done for us (obviously most of us had nothing to say in those brief, awkward minutes).

Well now clearly I'm all for sharing the Good News with everyone; I think it's so important to tell people who don't know God about His power and goodness, and what better way than to share one's own personal experiences. But I think that that can only be done if the person himself is wanting to know, is seeking that greater knowledge of God.

I'm not so sure about just going up to random people and launching into a whole spiel about how great Christianity is and why you need to be good and save your soul. The pastor even told us how some thugs wanted to beat him up for staring at them, but when he told them he wanted to share the Gospel with them, they immediately beat a hasty retreat. Honestly, I really think people who aren't seeking God just won't want to stop and listen to you.

BUT, they might stop and watch you, and they'll see if you live a holy life, if you really are a witness for Christ, if you actually walk the walk. If you go around depressed and fearful, bad-tempered and unkind, critical, harsh, uncaring or intolerant, then it'd be pretty hard to believe you're a victorious Christian. But if you show yourself to always be full of the fruits of the Holy Spirit...

What are these fruits? Love, joy (gladness), peace, patience (an even temper, forbearance), kindness, goodness (benevolence), faithfulness, gentleness (meekness, humility), and self-control (self-restraint, continence) (from Galatians 5:22, Amplified). They are the "fruits" that a Christian should be producing in his or her life. They are of the Spirit -- the Holy Spirit -- which means they come from God, not us. We need God's help to develop these qualities in ourselves (for I'm sure most of us know we are quite some ways from having or achieving them on our own), and so we must pray for -- and practise -- them in our lives till they are truly natural to us, part of our own characters, and visible for all the world to see.

Matthew 7:16 says "You will fully recognise them by their fruits". Do people recognise us Christians by our fruits, the way we live? Sadly, I don't think that's always so.

I think it would be so much better to do as St. Francis of Assisi said: Preach the gospel always -- if necessary use words.

Coincidentally, I just received this "Weekly Wisdom" from Christ Notes, entitled "A mature Christian "preaches" with his or her life":

Many times we try to talk people into accepting Jesus, but yet we fail to show them Jesus; we don't act any differently than the rest of the world, even though we claim to be saved. The world isn't looking for talk; it wants walk. Therefore, we, as Christians, must live differently: stop telling, and start showing.

Matthew 7:20 tells us how to recognize truly mature Christians: "by their fruit." Stop worrying about the outward show that you put on in front of your friends, and start developing the Fruit of the Spirit in your inner life (see Galatians 5:22-23). Then once you have learned to be kind, gentle, peaceful and joyful even during difficult circumstances, non-Christians will see you and say to themselves, "I want what you've got." Then, you will be able to share Jesus with them effectively.

We need to develop the Fruit of the Spirit in our lives. Interestingly, the first Fruit mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23 is "love." Furthermore, in John 13:35, Jesus said, "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." In other words, love ought to be the trademark of every believer.

It is by living a life of love that you make the world hungry and thirsty for the joy, kindness, patience, peace, and stability that you have. The world isn't reading the Bible; they're reading Christians like you. And if they don't like what they see in you, they're not going to want what you've got—Jesus.

From Christ Notes' Weekly Wisdom

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

cats & dog

Custom order Cat-Cats and Doggy waiting to be finished.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

loving today

I realised that I spend a great deal of time exploring the Internet, delighting in the brilliant, beautiful work of the many talented artists and artisans around the world. And so I decided I simply had to share these wonderfully creative treasures with everyone, with a fairly regular collection of gorgeousness that's caught my eye. I believe too that there is a plethora of undiscovered talent out there, and oftentimes their lovely creations get overlooked, so hopefully my little contributions will help them get discovered. Enjoy!

Friday, March 18, 2011

my Radar -- who died today, aged 7

My sweet, beautiful Radar has died. I miss him so much and the most terrible part of my sadness is the great self-reproach I feel, the conviction that I didn’t spend as much time with him as I should I have, didn’t show him how much I love him. I don’t think I even realised how much I loved him till now, but isn’t that how it is…

I had adopted Radar as a companion to Bonnie, my other bunny, and wonderfully, they bonded right away and were never apart from the moment they met. They did everything together… playing, eating, grooming, sleeping… both of them resting close against each other on a lazy afternoon was a perfect picture of domestic bliss. In fact they were always close against each other... And so, I felt myself somehow relieved of having to do as much cuddling as I used to. Sitting with his lifeless body this morning, I wished I could stroke his back again, so that he’d stretch out flat for the full enjoyment of it, and rub between his ears the way he liked, but of course it was too late.

Thankfully, I have the blessed assurance that Radar is not completely gone; I sense his joyful, friendly spirit around me, relaxed and easygoing as always, but o! I miss him so! Take from my grief now the lesson that we all know in our hearts, but so often neglect in our busy everyday lives – show, show, show your loved ones how much you love them while you can, that you will not know the pain and despair of remorse and self-reproach, but will be comforted by the knowledge that you made their lives as happy and fulfilled as could be.

Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am in a thousand winds that blow,
I am the softly falling snow.
I am the gentle showers of rain,
I am the fields of ripening grain.
I am in the morning hush,
I am in the graceful rush
Of beautiful birds in circling flight,
I am the starshine of the night.
I am in the flowers that bloom,
I am in a quiet room.
I am in the birds that sing,
I am in each lovely thing.
Do not stand at my grave bereft
I am not there. I have not left.

Mary Elizabeth Frye

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

on walking in love

As I've been seeking to grow in my walk with God, I've learnt that an important part of it is paying closer attention to the way I treat others. Love, I think, is a very central theme of Christianity; in Mark ch 12, we read:

28Then one of the scribes came up and listened to them disputing with one another, and, noticing that Jesus answered them fitly and admirably, he asked Him, Which commandment is first and most important of all [in its nature]?

29Jesus answered, The first and principal one of all commands is: Hear, O Israel, The Lord our God is one Lord;

30And you shall love the Lord your God out of and with your whole heart and out of and with all your soul (your life) and out of and with all your mind (with your faculty of thought and your moral understanding) and out of and with all your strength. This is the first and principal commandment.

31The second is like it and is this, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.

Well, much as we'd like to do this, we all know how easy it is not to, and yet at the same time, I'm sure we'd all agree that the world would be such a wonderful, wonderful place if everyone loved their neighbour as themselves. Wars, crimes, all the terrible things of the world -- if only we all truly knew how to love one another. But with our carnal natures, it is something we must consciously aim to do, constantly, with everyone, under every circumstance. We need to pray perseveringly for God's help with this.

When I about 11, I was part of the choir in a school pageant. The choir was physically divided into two parts on the left and right hand sides of the stage. This was done because at one part of the performance, the actor playing the little girl asks her actor parents, "How do wars begin?"

The parents then start propounding their own views on the subject, but being unable to come to an agreement, or to even agree to disagree, their debate descends into a full-scale fight. The chorus aids this chaos by shouting on the one hand, "No it isn't!", and on the other, "Yes it is!" -- back and forth -- until the girl's voice pipes up, with the choir singing in parentheses, "Now I know [said the little girl, with a great big grin] -- you have shown me clearly how all our wars begin".

For some reason, though this pageant was at least 3 hours long, and we were practising for it for months, this is the only part of the whole thing I remember. Perhaps it was because we actually enjoyed shouting back and forth like that. I wonder if it somehow reflects that human relish for discord and disunity. For we are such great believers in being right, in having our way, in not being taken advantage of -- we do not know what it means to walk in love, to be adaptable to others, to have the attitude of a servant.

You may have heard the phrase "love covers a multitude of sins"; it is one of numerous phrases from the Bible that the secular world has picked up and likes to use sentimentally. It is from 1 Peter 4:8, and in its entirety reads, "Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins". In the Amplified Bible it reads, "Above all things have intense and unfailing love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins [forgives and disregards the offenses of others]".

I believe it's so very, very important for everyone, and especially Christians, to walk in this love. Yet how often do we find ourselves being rude, unhelpful and intolerant, saying harsh, cruel things, even thinking unkind, sarcastic, mean thoughts. No -- let us aim, and keep aiming, to walk in love, to be of service to others, to put others before ourselves.

We don't have to criticise and belittle others because of our own hang-ups; we don't have to have the last word just to feel important or good; we don't have to hold back from being generous and helpful with our time, energies or resources, fearful of somehow losing out; we don't have to be grudging with our praise or forgiveness. Believe the best of everyone -- don't be one of those who wallow in feeling victimised, martyred or hurt, and then go around with a continual air of reproach (and you know we can do this in some of the subtlest, cruellest ways). As C.S. Lewis writes in The Business of Heaven: "Do not waste time bothering whether you 'love' your neighbour; act as if you did".

Just the other day a certain aunt of mine called to remind me that I hadn't told someone that they needn't do something. Well yes, I'd quite forgotten to tell them because of... a bunch of reasons I won't bother to numerate out of self-pity. However, as I started to ask that she please tell that person on my behalf -- because she was right next to the person -- she said, "No, I'm not going to tell her -- you tell her, it's your responsibility".

Now honestly, I just did not understand this. I mean, she knew that the person needed to be told, she was right there, yet she deliberately chose not to help me because she obviously felt I had to be made to do it -- like a sort of punishment I suppose, so that I'd learn my lesson as it were.

BUT, I remembered then that I must walk in love -- it doesn't matter whether the other person does or not -- and that I must do so in even the little, everyday things, so that it truly becomes instinctive, a way of life.
And so -- while in the past I may have reacted to my aunt with a string of frustrated explanations, or some cutting remark which would almost certainly have descended into a regrettable personal exchange -- I just laughed to myself. True, I was also doing a great deal of mental head-shaking, but at least I was keeping my mouth shut. For just as much as I could have reminded my aunt that love covers a multitude of sins, I too could do the same. Again, as Lewis writes in The Business of Heaven, "In our own case we accept excuses too easily, in other people's we do not accept them easily enough".

Inasmuch as my aunt can be demanding or difficult, so can I. It may be a question of which-came-first-the-chicken-or-the-egg, but it doesn't really matter now -- I am no longer a child; I want to walk with God, and be mature in that walk, and that means I must walk in love. Increasingly, the Holy Spirit makes me conscious of the way I am with others -- including my own children -- and helps me to be patient and tolerant, slow to anger and quick to forgive or apologise, always believing the best. Ask God for the grace to do this; He wants us to walk in love for our good -- that we may have wonderful, uplifting relationships, and positively transform the world in which we live. If we can't even do it at home...

1IF I [can] speak in the tongues of men and [even] of angels, but have not love (that reasoning, intentional, spiritual devotion such as is inspired by God's love for and in us), I am only a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

2And if I have prophetic powers (the gift of interpreting the divine will and purpose), and understand all the secret truths and mysteries and possess all knowledge, and if I have [sufficient] faith so that I can remove mountains, but have not love (God's love in me) I am nothing (a useless nobody).

3Even if I dole out all that I have [to the poor in providing] food, and if I surrender my body to be burned or in order that I may glory, but have not love (God's love in me), I gain nothing.

4Love endures long and is patient and kind; love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy, is not boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself haughtily.

5It is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God's love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong].

6It does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth prevail.

7Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening].

8Love never fails [never fades out or becomes obsolete or comes to an end]. As for prophecy (the gift of interpreting the divine will and purpose), it will be fulfilled and pass away; as for tongues, they will be destroyed and cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away [it will lose its value and be superseded by truth].

9For our knowledge is fragmentary (incomplete and imperfect), and our prophecy (our teaching) is fragmentary (incomplete and imperfect).

10But when the complete and perfect (total) comes, the incomplete and imperfect will vanish away (become antiquated, void, and superseded).

11When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; now that I have become a man, I am done with childish ways and have put them aside.

12For now we are looking in a mirror that gives only a dim (blurred) reflection [of reality as in a riddle or enigma], but then [when perfection comes] we shall see in reality and face to face! Now I know in part (imperfectly), but then I shall know and understand fully and clearly, even in the same manner as I have been fully and clearly known and understood [by God].

13And so faith, hope, love abide [faith--conviction and belief respecting man's relation to God and divine things; hope--joyful and confident expectation of eternal salvation; love--true affection for God and man, growing out of God's love for and in us], these three; but the greatest of these is love" (1 Corinthians 13, Amplified).

PS: In keeping with walking in love -- please pray for Japan and consider contributing practically toward relief efforts. These are some agencies you might consider:
Save the Children
Japan Society
World Vision International
The Salvation Army


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