With a Grateful Heart

As I look back over the year, I have tons to be thankful for despite the disappointments, losses, and heartaches of 2018.

One of such to be thankful for is this blog which has provided me with an outlet to express what God is doing for me on the inside. So, I just want to take a moment to say thank you to all my readership. Your encouragement in reading, commenting, sending me feedback about my posts, and sharing testimonies with me about what God was doing in your life through my blog was everything to me. It was like God Himself (through you) was saying “Well done!”  and I am truly grateful. So as I end this year, I will like to say a prayer for all of you:

I pray that God walks with you as you cross over into 2019. As you step into 2019 you step into freedom and the troubles of 2018 will bow down to the name of Jesus and cease. I pray that God will be your shepherd and you his sheep in 2019. May the peace of God guard your heart and garrison your mind from all fear. May your hunger and thirst for God be met by a deep revelation of the personhood of God and of His Christ. And may all your hopes and dreams for the new year be established. May God grant you the ability to love freely, the fortitude to forgive freely, and the grace to give freely. Finally, I pray that in 2019 you walk in blamelessly in the light of God and in the sight of all men. Amen.

Welcome to the end of 2018 and the beginning of the best year of your life yet.

Be intentional.

Having everything but possessing nothing: the problem of things

Yesterday, I  started reading A.W. Tozer’s The pursuit of God in which he delves into the concept of things and I will like to share with you what I have learnt.

Before God created man he prepared for man’s arrival by creating a world full of useful and pleasant things for man’s sustenance and delight. These things were always external to man. Within man was God’s throne and external to man were the gifts God showered him with. Sin, however, changed everything! The devil convinced our first parents that the things were more important than God setting the world on a course where God was forced out of the heart of man and things were allowed to enter. The heart of man covets things with such deep and fierce passion embodied in the words “my” and “mine”. There is no doubt that this possessive clinging to things is one of the most harmful habits in this life. Unfortunately, it comes so naturally (even my one year old uses those words) it is rarely recognized for the evil that it is. In the old testament, we see Abraham fall into the pitfalls of possessions.

Abraham had Isaac in his old age and he loved Isaac with every ounce of strength in him. Isaac represented everything sacred to his father’s heart: the promises of God, the covenants, the hopes of the years, and the long messianic dream. The love for his son was so strong that it bordered on the perilous and God had to step in to save both father and son from this uncleansed love:

“Take your son,” God said, “your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. Offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will show you. Gen 22: 2 Berean Study Bible

God made Abraham go as far with the sacrifice to the point of no retreat and then he intervened and asked Abraham not to lay a hand upon the boy. In effect, God was saying to Abraham, “I never intended for you to slay Isaac, I just wanted to remove him from the temple of your heart so I may take my rightful place and rule unchallenged. I wanted to correct the perversion in your love.” Isaac was his prized possession, the culmination of all he was and the embodiment of all he possessed and God had in a sense taken that away from him. That night on the mountain, God showed Abraham the difference between having things and possessing them. Abraham lost all his possessions but ended up gaining everything.

…declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your only son, I will surely bless you, and I will multiply your descendants like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will possess the gates of their enemies. And through your offspring, all nations of the earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.” Genesis 22: 16-18 Berean Study Bible

Abraham had everything but truly possessed nothing. When we take a critical look at all of Jesus’ teachings as recorded in the gospels, most of them focused on not allowing things to take front and centre in one’s heart but rather to allow God to take his rightful place in the hearts of men.

Seek first the kingdom of God and its righteousness [allow God to establish his rightful place in your heart. Let the things be external like it was in the beginning] and all other things will be added unto you. Matthew 6:33 [Interpretation mine]

And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for the sake of My name will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. Matthew 19:29

He demonstrated this in his parables, in his interactions with the Pharisees and Sadducees, in his instructions to the rich to sell their possessions and more figuratively with the cleansing of the temple. In that story, we see people allowing material things to be the central focus in the temple; the seat of God’s presence. Jesus chases them away in a bid to restore order to God’s temple where God is enthroned in the heart and minds of people (my house will be called the house of prayer [communion, fellowship, relationship with God]).

Today you are the temple of God. Is the Kingdom of God within you? Does God sit unchallenged on the throne of your heart? Or does He contest with things, the gifts he showers you with? As we go into a new year my prayer is that we make a commitment to let go of the things that have taken a grip over our heart and allow God to be our one true treasure.

“The man who has God for his treasure has all things in One. Many ordinary treasures may be denied him, or if he is allowed to have them, the enjoyment of them will be so tempered that they will never be necessary to his happiness. Or if he must see them go, one after one, he will scarcely feel a sense of loss, for having the Source of all things he has in One all satisfaction, all pleasure, all delight. Whatever he may lose, he has actually lost nothing, for he now has it all in One, and he has it purely, legitimately, and forever.” (from “The Pursuit of God (Updated, Annotated)” by Aiden Wilson Tozer, A. W. Tozer, Ruth Zetek)

My Bucket List of Requests

As the year draws to a close, Christians all over the world spend time either privately or corporately to pray; thanking God for a successful year and to lay a bucket list of requests at His feet for the new year and I am no exception.

I woke up this morning ready to compile my bucket list so that I could spell them all to God in prayer when I felt God’s spirit directing me to read the story of Joseph. Now, I have read the story of Joseph over and over again but I decided to obey God’s leading and do it anyhow and I can assure you I wasn’t disappointed. I will share with you what I learnt:

Joseph was a boy who was sold into slavery by his brothers. Through a series of incredible events, he went from being a slave to the ruler of Egypt, a superpower in his days.  As I read on I discovered one of the key secrets to Joseph’s success: The presence of God

As we journey through Joseph’s life, the circumstances and seasons of his life changed but the one constant was the presence of God. Joseph was successful, blessed, gained the favor and trust of men, experienced God’s kindness, and was entrusted with great responsibility because God was with Him. 

And the LORD was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, serving in the household of his Egyptian master. When his master saw that the LORD was with him and made him prosper in all he did, Joseph found favour in his sight… Potiphar put him in charge of his household and entrusted him with everything he owned…the LORD blessed the Egyptian’s household on account of him. Genesis 39: 2-5 Berean Study Bible

The LORD was with him and extended kindness to him. He granted him favour in the eyes of the prison warden, who put all those held in the prison under Joseph’s authority, so that he was responsible for all that was done there. The warden did not concern himself with anything under Joseph’s authority, because the LORD was with him and gave him success in whatever he did. Genesis 39: 21-23 Berean Study Bible

 Pharaoh asked them, “Can we find anyone like this man, in whom the Spirit of God abides?”… You shall be in charge of my house, and all my people are to obey your commands. Only with regard to the throne will I be greater than you. I hereby place you over all the land of Egypt…“I am Pharaoh, but without your permission, no one in all the land of Egypt shall lift his hand or foot.” Genesis 41: 38- 44 Berean Study Bible

If you are like me and your bucket list for 2019 is that you are asking God for success, for favour in certain endeavours of your life, for more responsibility (as in to be entrusted with more: spiritually, financially, in your job, with the fruit of the womb, etc.), or you are simply asking for God to smile on you and be kind to you, then look no further than the presence of God. What God was teaching me from Joseph’s story was that all my hopes and dreams are found in Him and when His presence accompanies me, all those things I am looking for will accompany me as well just as they accompanied Joseph.  It was God’ s presence which brought the elevation from slave to ruler and it is the same abiding presence that will usher in those things that you are asking for.

My encouragement to you today is to dare to ask for the presence of God to go with you into 2019 and be a constant throughout the seasons of the new year. I dare you to pray like Moses:

“If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. For how then can it be known that Your people and I have found favour in Your sight, unless You go with us? How else will we be distinguished from all the other people on the face of the earth?” Exodus 33: 16 Berean Study Bible

I can assure you that with the presence of God as your constant you will always come out on top like Joseph regardless of what 2019 throws at you. You will always win.



New wine in old wineskins??

Since the first day, I read that scripture almost 20 years ago, I have wondered its meaning and significance. It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that the light bulb went off. Let’s look at the scripture together:

“And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the wine would burst the wineskins, and the wine and the skins would both be lost. New wine calls for new wineskins.” Mark 2:22 NLT

As new wine ferments, it releases gases which cause the wineskins to expand. New wineskins are more pliable and can accommodate the expansion but old wineskins will burst under the pressure. 

This reminds me of an illustration made by Pastor Rob Reimer in comparing our souls to a suitcase. When we come from a vacation, the usual thing to do is to unpack the suitcase to get rid of all the dirty laundry.  It is almost impossible and unnatural and somewhat disgusting to pack clean clothes into a suitcase without getting rid of the dirty ones from the previous trip. However, we do this a lot to our souls. When we do not walk blamelessly in the light of God or others it results in shame which we carry around in our souls and this is an example of dirty laundry. Until we get rid of the shame, the hurt, the anger, the doubts, and other things that weigh us down, our souls will have no room for God and His work in our lives. 

Just as it is unwise to put new wine in old wineskins, it is unwise to put new ideas into old mindsets. This is why year after year people make New Year resolutions and year after year, continue to be disappointed in their inability to accomplish them. In 2019, we will not get new results with old behaviours. We need to permit the Holy Spirit to transform us by the renewal of our minds.

Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Ephesians 4:23 NLT

This means we need to unpack the suitcases of our souls. We need to permit the blood of Jesus to cleanse us of the ignoble (and I say permit because a lot of times we hold on and don’t want to let go of the dirty laundry). We need to allow room for God’s presence in our lives. We need to be intentional about this.

God desires a relationship with each and every one of us above everything else. He wants to bring us to a place where we can experience His love and mercy anew with each new day; like fresh laundry for each new trip.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3: 22-23 ESV

My prayer is that Lamentations 3:22-23 will become my experiential reality from this moment forward and especially in 2019. And I pray it will be yours too. 

Many blessings in this season from my family to yours. Merry Christmas!

Naughty or Nice…

A few days ago a post on Facebook got me thinking. Basically, the post was admonishing parents to take credit for the gifts the expensive gifts they buy for their kids instead of giving the credit to Santa (great advice by the way!). The reason this resonated with me is that this year, my kids are old enough to understand decorating a Christmas tree and putting gifts underneath it so we decided to get one and embrace the Christmas traditions. Day after day, gifts are placed under the tree and being true to tradition, there have been lots of talks of Santa and Christmas carols in our home.

This morning, I decided to pay attention to the lyrics of one of the popular songs: Santa Claus is coming to town. So here goes:

He’s making a list,
And checking it twice,
Gonna find out
Who’s naughty and nice.
Santa Claus is coming to town

As I reflected on the lyrics, I realized that I never thought about a merit system when I got gifts for my kids.  I never checked any naughty or nice list. That was so far from my mind as I ordered items off Amazon. As I pondered this, I made a mindblowing discovery: my kids are getting gifts this Christmas not because they deserve them or have earned them through good behaviour. They are getting gifts for three simple reasons: they are my kids, I love them, and this is the season for giving.

Then I realized something even more amazing: that is exactly what God did for me (and you). Over 2000 years ago, without merit and without earning it God gave me the gift of His Son. I was earmarked for the naughty list; in fact, my name was marked with indelible ink on the naughty list; I certainly deserved a lump of coal or in my case, a perpetual furnace of brimstone. I was undeserving of any good gift but even before I was a thought, I was loved deeply by the Father. He lavished me with his love and called me his own.

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! 1 John 3:1 NIV

God gave me the wonderful gift of Jesus with 3 great benefits amongst others:

  • The blood of Jesus wiped my name clean off the naughty list and gave me permanent status as a daughter of the Most High God.
  • The love and mercy of the Father are renewed daily over my life to ensure I continue to enjoy the gift of Jesus without merit on a daily basis.
  • And finally, He brought me into his Kingdom and gave me a reason for the season.

Today I’d like to affirm to you that you have a Heavenly Father, you are loved beyond measure and He has a gift for you. Will you claim your free gift of love this season?

Lord You found me, You healed me, You called me from the grave
You gave me your real love, I thank You Jesus, You washed my sins away
Oh now I’m living, like I’m forgiven, You came and set me free
That’s what Your mercy did for me

What mercy did for me by
Crystal Yates/Joshua Sherman/The Emerging Sound/Drew Ley/Albert E. Brumley