Simple Can it Be?
"At that time the disciples came to Jesus
and asked, 'Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?'
He called a little child and had him stand among
them. And He said, 'I tell you the truth, unless you change and
become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of
heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the
greatest in the kingdom of heaven.' [Matthew 18:1-4]
In view of these words of Jesus I have often
thort that what He meant was that we must keep it simple. 'Have
faith like a child' - a child doesn't have a grasp on salaries and
payments of food and water and electricity and so on, yet he will
trust that his parents will provide for him - he will have a bed
to sleep and food to eat and clothes to wear etc.
Yet as we grow up and 'get mature' we tend to
complicate things - unless we can prove something it can't be real.
Everything must have a reason or a purpose. Simple faith becomes
something for the weak or for children. We spend too much time doing
God's work of judging people and defending His name and not enough
time doing our work of loving people and caring for the poor and
sick and needy.
In light of this reasoning I want to use an
analogy I have used at a number of camps and schools that takes
the heavy, serious, complicated Christian life and breaks it down
a little bit - nothing overly revolutionary or new here, but maybe
for some of you it will be like, 'Oh, yeah that makes so much sense.
It seems a lot easier that way.'
CHRISTIANITY IS LIKE HAVING A GIRL/BOYFRIEND
(OR JUST A REALLY CLOSE BUDDY)
Now because I'm a boy type person I'll stick
with the girlfriend analogy but for you feel free to relate it to
boyfriend or close friend as it is applicable and relevant to you...
But the point is that there are some things
we will naturally do if we have a girlfriend and they also apply
to our relationship with God - as Christians we come up with these
big, complicated words like 'evangelism' and 'prayer' and 'church'
and often get scared or confused by what they mean. Let's see if
this helps us a bit.
[I] IF YOU HAVE A GIRLFRIEND, YOU WILL SPEND
TIME WITH HER.
You with me? That make sense? Not stretching
it too far...? But chances are that if you have a girlfriend, you
are going to spend time with her, and not even out of obligation...
you will WANT to spend time with her. Right?
Well that's 'QUIET TIME' or devotions or daily
time with God - whatever you want to call it. But we have tended
to make it into this religious thing that we have to do or we'll
be in trouble with God. Or a thing that we tend to feel really guilty
about cos we haven't had one for a few days or (gasp!) weeks...
Quiet Time is not about reading a passage out of the Bible and saying
a prayer and maybe working through a Scripture Union devotional.
It is SPENDING TIME WITH GOD. Yes we can do it by reading the Bible
and by praying and using devotionals... or we can do it by writing
a poem to God, or singing along with a worship cd, or going for
a run and having a conversation with God... and so on...
When you spend time with your girlfriend it
is not so much important what you do (movies, restaurant, the beach)
as the fact that you are spending time together. If that is not
the focus of your regular time with God then there is something
wrong and religion has crept in. Kill it DEAD! And missing a quiet
time is not the end of the world, but not having regular relationship
time with God should be. If you don't have enough time to spend
with God, then you are too busy.
I am quite a busy bloke. But BELIEVE ME, if
I need time to spend with a girl, it miraculously appears. God should
be SO MUCH more important than a girl. Make the miracle happen.
"He will keep you strong to the end, so
that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
God, who has called you into fellowship with His Son Jesus Christ
our Lord, is faithful." [1 Corinthians 1:8-9]
[II] IF YOU HAVE A GIRLFRIEND, YOU WILL TALK
TO HER/LISTEN TO HER.
Wow. Now I'm getting really WAY OUT hey? We're
talking extreme stuff here. No, really, once again plain common
sense stuff. It makes sense that if you want to ever get to know
someone better you need to spend time with them and talk to them.
Same thing with God. This complicated, scary
thing called prayer? It's communication with God. And if you go
check out the book of Psalms you can see that it can take place
in many forms - you can cry, you can shout, you can whisper, you
can sing, you can scream with excitement. I think the one thing
God values most in prayer and communication with Him is realness.
We may be able to fool people with a simple 'How are you?' 'Fine!'
routine, but God knows better. And since He knows exactly how we
are doing it makes sense that we meet Him as the person we are,
not the mask we may have been holding out to everyone else.
You may ask, 'why pray to God if He already
knows everything?' - well I don't think it's about information-giving
as a lot of our communication with people tends to be. It's not
like God sits up there in heaven and hears a prayer and goes, 'Oh
my word, Brett has a cold?' And if it's not about information-giving
then what? Relationship. It doesn't matter that you know someone
loves you if you never hear it - and that is the one line you can
hear over and over again without it losing its meaning (actually
'Here's some chocolate' I find also works in that vein) God desires
to be in relationship with us. We need to talk to Him and not just
in the 5, 15, 30 minutes we've put aside for that. In your car on
the way to work, walking to school, before you go to bed, in the
shower - the cool thing about God is that He is everywhere and so
you can always talk to Him.
Secondly, what should follow naturally is that
if you have a girlfriend, not only will you talk to her but you
will also listen to her. With God, this is the one skill that tends
to get left out. 'I never hear God speaking to me' is a common complaint.
'Do you ever give Him a chance to?' would be my common reply. Yet
we don't - maybe because we can't physically see God or hear Him
audibly (although some people have had experiences of that).
But I really believe it is a skill we should
practice more (and every time I speak/write that line I realise
that I don't!) and we probably shouldn't expect it to come naturally
as we've been putting it off for years probably. It may take a little
bit of practice. But here's what I suggest:
Start small. Take some time, maybe five minutes
a day - if you have more, go for it. And spend time listening. It
may take you a few days of doing this just to be able to start blocking
off the sounds around you (ticking clock, cars driving by, phones
going off in other people's houses - TURN YOURS OFF during this
time!) and then a while longer to start hearing something. But if
you pray 'God please speak to me' or 'Jesus, what do you want to
say to me today?' and then spend some time listening I'm sure in
time something will come. Maybe a Bible verse, maybe an impression
or a thought in your head, maybe the name of a person to pray for
or visit, whatever God has to say to you...
"Then you will call upon Me and come and
pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find
me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,'
declares the Lord, and bring you back from captivity." [Jeremiah
"Jesus answered, 'I did tell you, but you
do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father's name speak for
Me, but you do not believe because you are not My sheep. My sheep
listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me. I give them
eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them
out of My hand." [John 10:25-28]
I think that's enough for now - this is a two-parter
and I'll share the rest next week but I encourage you to re-look
at and re-think and re-experience your relationship with God if
necessary. If you spend time with God because you feel you HAVE
to then pray and ask Him to give you the desire to spend time with
Him. Ask Him to show you a refreshed picture of who He is. Because
if you only spend time with God because you must, then there is
something wrong with how you see God.
In summary, if you have a girlfriend you will
naturally spend time with her, you will talk to her and listen to
her as you grow in your relationship - all those things should happen
And yet God is SO MUCH BIGGER AND BETTER than
a girlfriend... how much more so should we eagerly desire His company
and His voice and to hear how much He loves us and to let Him know
how much we love Him right back...
CHRISTIANITY IS LIKE HAVING A GIRL/BOYFRIEND
(OR JUST A REALLY CLOSE BUDDY)
Last week I started looking at our relationship
with God and comparing it to having a relationship with a girlfriend.
[I] IF YOU HAVE A GIRLFRIEND, YOU WILL SPEND
TIME WITH HER. [II] IF YOU HAVE A GIRLFRIEND, YOU WILL TALK TO HER/LISTEN
[III] IF YOU HAVE A GIRLFRIEND, YOU WILL READ
THE LETTERS SHE WRITES TO YOU.
Oh there I go again. Stretching the analogy
for my own good. Who would possibly do that? Oh wait, all of us
right? Someone, especially someone you love, writes you a letter
and it makes sense that you will read it. These days it's cellphones
and the sms (text message) - how many of you see an sms arrive on
your phone from your girlfriend and go 'hey cool, I got a message'
and then put your phone away? No ways! You will read it! Why should
it be any different with God?
And there we bring in Exhibit A, that ominous
old-fashioned piece of literature called 'The Bible' aka 'The Word
of God.' I know a lot of Christians who don't dig the Bible - it's
too old, it's too boring, it's too confusing. With that kind of
perception around, no wonder no one wants to read the Bible.
But if you change the focus for a second and
see it as what it is - a love letter from God to us. Wow! Then it
starts to get exciting.
[and just as a side moment, the Bible is SO
not boring - it has some of the most exciting stories than any book
can offer - murder, rape, judgement, dead people coming to life,
God becoming man and so on - the verse I use to illustrate this
point frequently is Judges 1:6 - check it out! Not a boring book]
The Bible is a LOVE LETTER FROM GOD TO ME! There
are different parts to the letter - some bits tell about who God
is and give us some of the history of how He has worked with mankind,
some parts describe His love for us, some parts have instruction
for us which show us the best way we can live to have abundant life
as it was meant to be, and some bits tell us about a future plan
where everything just gets better - it is an exciting book!
If your girlfriend writes you a letter, you
will read it. Why not the same for God? Sure it's not the easiest
thing to read in one go, and I wouldn't really recommend trying
that, but the joy and reality of the Bible is that we can read some
of it every day and it remains relevant and life-bringing nearly
2000 years after it was written.
For me there was a time when the Bible was just
'The Bible' and now I'm in a time of 'I love this book' and it's
not like I did anything to make the change occur. I think God puts
the desire in our hearts or grows the desire possibly as we start
seeking Him. For me, part of that process was watching a friend
of mine, Jaap, who was on DTS with me in Holland three years ago,
every night reading the Bible and other books late into the night.
So hungry as a young Christian for more of God and to know and understand
God more. That helped fuel a desire in me to have a hunger like
that and God answered that over time and I left DTS a lot more interested
in and excited in the Bible than I'd arrived.
So maybe the place for you to start is by asking
God to give you the desire to read and know His Word. Read and learn
to love the love letter that is written by a God absolutely and
passionately in love with you.
"For the word of God is living and active.
Sharper than any double- edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing
soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes
of the heart." [Hebrews 4:12]
[IV] IF YOU HAVE A GIRLFRIEND, YOU WILL SPEND
TIME WITH HER FRIENDS
Hmm, so we're on to point four already (for
the Roman numerically challenged) and everything is making such
sense... in any ordinary relationship and especially with someone
we are going out with we do all that stuff naturally, so it should
make sense that in a relationship with God it follows naturally
But what about this one? Well if you have a
girlfriend then chances are at some stage, whether you want to or
not, you will end up hanging with some of her friends. The secret
is that you probably won't even like all of them (maybe for some
of you 'any of them'). But if your girlfriend has a birthday party,
for example, the odds are pretty good that she won't only invite
you and so you may be forced to spend time with people she digs
spending time with. Then your choice is to hate it and avoid it
and them as much as possible or figure that since she is going to
want to keep spending time with them and so realise that you may
as well at least try and get to like them.
Especially if you get married one day. Then
you will have to figure that the friends are there for good and
so you might as well make extra special effort.
This is a picture of the thing called church.
Another heavily theological word that has all sorts of meanings
and understandings and connotations attached to it. But what is
church? It's spending time with people that God loves and enjoys
spending time with. Ever think of it like that? Sure, there's a
lot more to it, but
intrinsically that is what it is.
Church is a place where two or more gather in
the name of Jesus and the Bible (there's that love letter again)
tells us that where you have that many people gathered in His name,
God is there. So, hanging with God and His people. If God loves
these people then it just may be worth loving them as well. And
getting to know them. And looking out for them when they are down
or in need. Whether you like them or not. That's not the point -
the point is God loves them and thinks they're worth dying for -
and if God thinks that, then it really should be good enough for
It's another one that can take off with a prayer
- God, help me to see in Your people the potential You see in them
- help me to feel about them the way You do - and help me to love
them in the way that You do.
Chances are you're going to be around most of
them for a long, long time so it's worth getting your differences
sorted out now.
"Let us not give up meeting together, as
some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another
- and all the more as you see the Day approaching." [Hebrews
[V] IF YOU HAVE A GIRLFRIEND, YOU WILL TELL
PEOPLE ABOUT HER.
I'm sitting with an average of about one girlfriend
every ten years, so believe me when I tell you that if I get a girlfriend
you will know about it!
When I was younger, Jonty Rhodes, the greatest
fielder cricket has EVER seen, was my hero. I used to love watching
him play cricket. I had pictures of Jonty Rhodes in almost every
room in my house. And I do mean ALMOST, because both bathrooms had
pictures of him on the door (my folks and sister didn't see the
merits of having his picture in their rooms). You could not spend
a lot of time with me without hearing that I thort Jonty was cool.
I wrote to him (and when I say 'younger' I mean when I was 20-something
not like 8 so ja, slowly start edging towards the door kind of stuff).
His parents managed his fan club and so one day my friend who knew
where they stayed, drove me to their house and I met his mom (fully
- she invited us in for juice and gave me clippings of him and I
indefinitely borrowed flowers from the garden to press - stop laughing
Sam! She was there!|). Eventually I managed to meet up with Jonty
and gave him the FISH cap I'd had made for him (never saw him wear
it on tv - the punk!) and chatted to him for about 5 minutes. Very
The point is this - I thort he was cool and
so people go to know that! If anyone insulted or dissed Jonty in
conversation I would dive right in and start defending him and could
explain why his test average was not as high as it should have been
and how could they drop him from that arena and just let him play
one day cricket and so on.
And then there's God! Jonty is NOTHING on God.
Doesn't even come close. Not even on the same graph and so can't
even begin to compare them.
Do people know I am absolutely stoked and passionately
IN LOVE WITH God? They should. It should be a natural thing. Same
as the story with the girlfriend. The news is going to get out.
Via sms, phone call, internet and live visuals. If I never wanted
to be seen with my girlfriend, what kind of message would that send
to her? How important would she feel? Even if I kept reassuring
her how much I loved her and talked to her and listened to her and
read her letters. At some stage she would want people to know about
her (probably from the very beginning)
Well that's this big, scary, threatening concept
known to Christians as 'Evangelism' - telling others about God.
The way I heard it put excellently once was
this 'You are just one beggar who has found bread, telling another
beggar where to find it.'
'But I'm not called to evangelise!...' Maybe
not, but you are called to let people see Jesus in and through your
life and not to hide it away.
Do people that live around you and interact
with you know that you are in love with God? Or is that an area
where you still need to invite the Holy Spirit to come in and make
"But in your hearts set apart Christ as
Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks
you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with
gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those
who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may
be ashamed of their slander." [1 Peter 3:15-16]
I hope that these two weeks have helped simplify
the whole idea of what it means to be a Christian - in understanding
anyways - in practice and living it sometimes does get a bit more
complex. But I think this is a good place to start.
If we claim to love God and be in relationship
with Him it should follow naturally that we will:
# Spend time with Him # Talk to Him and listen
to what He has to say # Read the Bible - the love letter that He
has written to us # Go to church and spend time with the people
God loves and who love Him (obviously God loves people who are not
Christian but that falls into the next category) # Tell people about
God and how He has changed our lives and invite others to know Him.
Simple, isn't it? But not necessarily easy.
Cos if your Christianity is easy, chances are you're doing it wrong...
But it should be life... lived to the full! In loving, growing relationship
with God. Who is always waiting, lovingly to forgive and restore
where we have messed up and get things moving in the right direction