Advent Calendar day 4: Intentional worship

So yesterday I talked a little bit how Paul was opinionated and in today’s readings we see Paul providing some instructions for worship and for the church that on the surface seem rather chauvinistic and outdated. Paul admonishes that women ought to be modestly dressed, to be quiet and not to teach or assume authority over a man. This scripture certainly causes the blood of feminists to boil and frankly I have never heard churches speak about this. Preachers are like “Paul we agree with many things you say but as for this one- we ain’t even going there”. Frankly, I too wanted to gloss over this scripture and all but one thing kept coming to mind all day and convicting me. I kept hearing the word of God saying “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,  so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (1 Timothy 3: 16-17 NIV)- so read with an open mind”. So I meditated on this scripture a bit more and here’s what I have learned.

Paul was addressing his disciple Timothy and passing on God-inspired instructions that he operated by as he preached to Gentile pagan nations who did not know God (1 Tim 2: 7). These people who had come to know God under Paul’s teachings were coming from a cultural context very removed from what the Jews would have known and it was Paul’s ministry to help them make sense of how to become Christ-followers and truly let go of “worldliness” in pursuit of holiness. One may argue that the worldview in Paul’s day was a lot more primitive than they are today but that does not negate the word of God which is forever settled in heaven. Paul’s instructions to women remain relevant to the “more advanced-more-refined-feminist male or female” today as it did in those days. Here is the scripture in its entirety but I encourage you to read the passage from chapter 1:

I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God. A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man;  she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.

1 Timothy 2: 9-15 NIV

Paul encourages the proselyte women of his time to eschew disorderliness and vainglory but instead to pursue lasting virtues of faith, love and holiness. Paul encouraged women to work on having an identity that was not superficial but rather, deeply rooted in action- good deeds. This was the appropriate way for newly converted pagan women to present themselves in worship and it still rings true for children of God today. This is why after much thought, I titled today’s post ” intentional worship”. Women and men alike must be intentional in giving God worship that pours out from the inside out. Our actions must come from a place of love, faith and holiness that it adorns us before God and all that are beholden to us. Jesus said it best when He taught:

In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.

Matthew 5:16 NLT

This is God’s expectation of his children, women and men alike and whether Paul said it in a way that rubs many of 21st century Christians the wrong way or not, the truth of God’s word remains the same. Holiness should be our watch word and song.

Yours Truly

Advent Devotions day 3: But Grace!

This year I shared with you some of my worst days ever. Circumstances brought out the worst in me- I was angry a lot, frustrated a lot, complained a lot, secretly cussed people off in my heart a lot, and called people “idiots” more times than I would like to admit. Yes I know, those were not some of my finest moments and yet, God never decreased his grace and mercy upon my life. All year round, through my best days and my worst, God’s love remained constant and He did not deal with me like I deserved. Instead he saw me through His eyes of mercy and His grace covered me.

In today’s readings Paul eloquently shares this same sentiment:

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

1Timothy 1: 12-14 NIV

Yes, we know Paul who was once Saul of Tarsus, was not a great guy. He was very strongly opinionated as many of us are and did terrible things to the Church of Christ because of the things he once believed to be true. Frankly we have all been there… I have been judgmental, I have acted holier-than-thou and sometimes I have been a downright know-it-all. But the great news is that even Paul to whom at some point Jesus had to say to, “you have persecuted me enough.. haba!” (paraphrasing Acts 9:5)- even that Paul found grace and mercy.

God poured out his grace upon Paul abundantly; how much more you and I? There is nothing, absolutely nothing that you or I can do to deserve this grace and yet it is poured out for us so freely each and every day. Think back over the year… Can you identify specific areas where God’s grace was abundantly poured on you? Let’s give God praise for his unmerited grace and mercy.

Yours Truly

Advent Devotions day 2: Praise the Lord

Wow! Can you believe it is the 2nd of December, 2021? What a year it has been! For some this year has been about new adventures: starting a new job, getting married, having a baby, buying a new house, or getting better acquainted with technology. For others this year has brought losses: loss of a loved one, a job, relationships etc. Toilet paper made a come back after the global shortage and the covid vaccine debate remains heated as ever. At the end of the day one thing remains: we still have life! We have the breath of God in our lungs and our response is to pour out our praise.

Todays reading from Psalms 148- 150 admonish us to do just that and culminates in one powerful Psalm:

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord.

Psalm 150: 6 NIV

‘Nuff said. So what are you waiting for? Praise the Lord!

Yours Truly.

Advent Devotions day 1: You are not alone.

It is advent season and I love the idea of advent calendars- everyday for 24 days until Christmas you can reward yourself with something from an advent calendar! And while I am yet to get a calendar, I thought I would end the year with 24 days of reflections on my year from my bible readings over the next 2-3 weeks. I have themed this exercise “advent devotions” and my commitment to you is to meditate on the scriptures I read, reflect on it and share with you. So without further ado, lets begin with Day 1.

Last week I was listening to the radio and I heard something that deeply moved me in a way nothing has for a long time. The radio host said- God is not against us- and that spoke so many volumes to my heart. You see, this year there have been times when even though cerebrally I know God is not against me, everything else felt like the opposite, leaving me feeling all alone. Many times, I took on a me-versus-the-world persona in the face of adversity; forgetting this fundamental truth- God is not against me. Even better is that not only is God not against me, He is for me and if God is for me, nothing can be against me. He is fighting for me and will never stop. He is my sufficiency.

Today’s readings from the book of Psalms 145 only adds to this encouragement:

You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing. The Lord is righteous in all his ways and faithful in all he does. The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them. The Lord watches over all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy.

Psalm 145: 18- 20 NIV

So dear friend, let this wash over you: Even when circumstances are dire and it feels like the whole world is against you, God is for you! He surrounds you like the mountains surround Jerusalem and he stands beside you as the Man of War and Jehovah Sabaoth- The Lord of Hosts- you are never alone!

Yours Truly.

You’ll understand why….later!

When God promised the Israelites the promised land, He also promised to drive their enemies from among them. However, many times as I read through the book of Joshua I noticed that the bible said the Israelites were not able to drive out all their enemies and in some cases lives among thee enemies or forced them into hard labor. Despite this fact, the book of Joshua concluded with the verse:

Not a single one of all the good promises the LORD had given to the family of Israel was left unfulfilled; everything he had spoken came true.

Joshua 21:45 NLT

Well  that sounds very contradictory! If God fulfilled every promise then why weren’t all their enemies destroyed? Well after a whole generation this made sense. In the book of Judges, we see why:

…he did this only to teach warfare to the descendants of the Israelites who had not had previous battle experience…

Judges 3:2 NIV

To the doubtful person, God had not kept his promise. However, because God has the bird’s eye view of our lives and certainly did of the Israelites. He left a few nations among them to teach warfare to generations of Israelites who would come later who had no experience in battle. God knew the Israelites would need to be prepared for battles later on in their history so He left nations in their promised land who would eventually give them this experience.

When life seems like it is not going the way you want or God’s promises seem unfulfilled, do not look to the bigness of your problem but to the bigness of your God. And know that His plans are always for your good, though you may not understand them today, he is making you battle ready for your tomorrow.

Yours Truly

When it does not seem to end…

Have you ever watched a movie where bad things continue to happen to the good guy and you just sit at the edge of your seat waiting for things to turn the corner? Or is this your lived experience where things seem to just not work out and when you think relief is around the corner, you encounter another disappointment? Well, this has been my work life lately. Just when I think it cannot get any worse, something happens to prove that it sure can!

I have fallen into a bad habit of complaining and sometimes to stress to whoever is listening how dire I think my situation is, I overemphasize portions of my ordeals or exaggerate what others did as I recount these stories. I have certainly thought of easier ways for my terrible experiences to end and some of them have not been exactly neighborly. For the past few weeks I have been praying for psychological, emotional, and physical strength just to get through my days and a few days ago it came in the form of a scripture:

The scepter of the wicked will not remain over the land allotted to the righteous, for then the righteous might use their hands to do evil.

Psalm 125: 3 NIV

The reason I find solace in this scripture is that it affirms for me that God is truly interested in every detail of my life. He sees I am struggling and I know He will intervene in the nick of time so that I am not tempted to do wrong out of desperation to be rid of the negative experiences I am encountering at work. The problem will surely come to an end.

If your life is like the movie I described and is anything like mine then my prayer for you today is simple: May the Lord direct your steps and delight in every detail of your life ( psalm 37:23). May the hand of the enemy cease to rest upon whatever concerns you so out of desperation, frustration, or in your quest for solutions you are not tempted into wrongdoing. May Jesus be your living hope this week and if your foot is slipping or when your anxiety is great within you, may His consolation bring you joy and His unfailing love support you (Psalm 94:18-19). Amen

Yours Truly.

When good intentions go awry

Have you ever tried to help someone and ended up making the situation worse? Have you ever been completely genuine with your actions and had your intentions misconstrued? This year has been filled with many such events for me. In communicating with the people that report to me at work, with my friends, and even sometimes with my husband, sometimes my words and actions have been taken the wrong way leading to angst and conflict. This can be very emotionally draining and discouraging.

After having one such day this week where I thought I was encouraging a friend but sadly what he heard was discouragement, I in defeat turned to my bible and this is the prayer I found:

…we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith.

2 Thessalonians 1:11 NIV

What sweet encouragement! What blessedness to read that it is God who brings to fruition our every desire for goodness! This takes the pressure off being good and having good intentions. This tells me I no longer have to worry how my “goodness” or good intentions are perceived. That is God’s job to bring it to fruition. My job is to continue to do good deeds prompted by faith and God’s job is to make sure that the intent is realized fully in those who need it. And you know the beauty of all of this? It is not so that I feel good about myself but so that Jesus is glorified!

We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Thessalonians 1:12 NIV

So today I pray for you that God will make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by your faith.

The father’s role

It has been a minute since I got into writing but that is another story for another day. In my last post a few months ago, I talked about a role model in a rather obscure character: King David’s mother. In my more recent bible readings, I came across a scripture that exemplifies the role of fathers in the lives of their children. In the past few days, a rather dear friend has been blessed with his firstborn son and so this is dedicated to him and to all the great fathers I know.

For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.

1 Thessalonians 2:11-12 NIV

Fathers are admonished to encourage their children- to celebrate them and be their #1 fan. It is a child’s blessing to have a father that encourages him/ her to reach his/ her potential and is so proud of his child he wants to shout it off the mountain tops. Society is rife with absentee fathers- men who do not take any responsibility for the physical, psychological, spiritual, emotional and financial well being of their children. However, God admonishes fathers not to exasperate their children by the way they treat them lest they become discouraged (Ephesians 6:4; Colossians 3:21).

A father’s role is to provide comfort and be a source of comfort for his children. Fathers are pillars of safety for their children- in all spheres of life. Fathers need to create an atmosphere where their children are not afraid of them but rather respect and reverence them (Hebrews 12:9). The words that come out of a father’s mouth and the actions that he portrays should bring comfort to a child and not fear. Society deems women to be relatively more nurturing than men and with the ideology of nurturing comes comfort. However, God’s standard for fathers is that they too ought to be a source of comfort for their kids.

I spoke earlier about dads encouraging their children to reach their fullest potential and there is no greater goal on earth than the goal of living a life that is worthy of an eternal calling (Ephesians 4:1-3). A very significant role God has entrusted to fathers as the spiritual head of their households is to be examples of godly living and to chart the path for their children to follow. Fathers are to set the standards of holy living for their children and to charge their kids to live holy lives. This is the greatest reward of fatherhood: that the travails of a father results in Christ being formed in their children (Galatians 4:19).

So today I leave you with this… are you role modelling godly fatherhood? Are you a source of encouragement, comfort and a beacon of godliness for your children, biological or otherwise?

Yours Truly

The Unsung Hero

last week as I was reading the bible something caught my eye: a very rare mention of King David’s mother. We do not know a lot about her, we do not hear stories of her but over the past few weeks she has become my unsung hero. Let me introduce you to David’s mother:

Turn to me and have mercy on me; show your strength in behalf of your servant; save me, because I serve you just as my mother did.

Psalm 86:16 NIV

We do not know much about David’s mother and her relationship with God but we know a whole lot about David and his relationship with God. We know that David was so close to God, he was known as a man after God’s own heart- a beloved of God. We know that David served God wholeheartedly and even when he strayed he was still connected to God. David’s life is a role model of friendship, communion and relationship with God. But this scripture tells us a little more about his relationship with God.

David credits his relationship to God to his mother. He did not get there on his own- he observed and perhaps was taught to love and serve God the way he did by his mother. And in a time of distress, he calls on God to remember him and draws on the connection his mother had to God.

Some translations say… “save the son of thy handmaiden” (in reference to is mother). Whenever, anyone is described as a handmaiden in scripture- it connotes humility and a life of surrender and servitude. However we dice this, it says a lot about David’s mother whose name is barely mentioned in scripture if even.

I have learned this week the value of my ministry to my kids- I am their role model- the person they look up to and would one day exemplify. As they observe me everyday- who do they see? what do they see? Are they one day going to be able to pray “Turn to me and have mercy on me; show your strength in behalf of your servant; save me, because I serve you just as my mother did”?

Food for thought.

Yours Truly

The faces of Jesus

We are almost halfway through the year and a lot of the non-profit agencies and charities have started sending out emails to remind people on their mailing/donor lists to consider making a donation. One scripture that is a bedrock for a lot of Christian organizations is from Matthew 25.

When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? When did we see You sick or in prison and visit You?’ And the King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’

Matthew 25:38-40 BSB

All over the world, the faces of the poor, hungry, economically and sometimes socially disadvantaged have been used on fliers and infomercials to communicate this scripture very vividly. These faces represent Jesus’ mission of social justice on earth, His heartbeat for the world. This scripture gives us a glimpse into what Jesus looks like and who He is. This week I read a scripture that made me rethink how Jesus is represented here on earth:

…and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

Colossians 3: 10-11 NIV

Christ is all and in all. Wow. Sometimes it is easy to forget this, particularly in this “covid year” where the person next to you is perceived as a potential threat to your health or that of your loved ones. However, the pandemic has simply heightened and emphasized for me my deep-seated lack of connectedness to others. Although I have continued with my philanthropic work during the pandemic, God through this scripture is reminding me that His face is seen in more than hunger, poverty and homelessness which are the causes that are near and dear to my heart.

He is all and is in all. This includes that weed- smoking neighbour whom I have gone out of my way to avoid; that employee who has made it a point to be a thorn in my flesh; that Facebook friend whose social media posts I find slightly irritating; and even my kiddos who sometimes test the limit of the fruits of the Holy Spirit in me- Jesus is represented in all and is in all. So how is God calling me to respond to this? Well the answer is found in the rest of that scripture:

Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with hearts of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with one another and forgive any complaint you may have against someone else. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which is the bond of perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, for to this you were called as members of one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

Colossians 3: 12-17 NIV

‘Nuff said.

Yours Truly