How deep is your love?

As we close the chapter on the month of love, I cannot help but ponder over a scripture I came across in my readings a few days ago which I will share with you momentarily.

Whenever, I read about love in the bible, my mind goes right away to the people in my bubble: my family and close friends. Do I love them? Absolutely! But lately, God is working on expanding my reach in terms of love. He wants to make my bubble bigger and so I have had to think about what it means to love my neighbour. If you asked me if i loved my neighbour my response would be yes- I do not wish them any ills, in fact, I do not wish them anything at all. I will say I am at peace with my neighbour but that is because I do not interact with them at all. I pray for them but that’s because I am actually praying for myself- for example, if their house burns down, my house burns down so I pray against accidental fires. In reality, while I do not think evil of and for my neighbours, I do not think about them at all. As I reflect, I realize the path of least resistance for me is to coexist peacefully with my neighbours without being intentional in loving them. This method has worked for me for many years so I keep asking why God is making me uncomfortable with my quota of “love” for my neighbours and people outside of my bubble? Perhaps my answer is found in Philippians 1:9-10

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ

Philippians 1:9-10 NIV

When I think of what’s best for me, I think of God’s plans for my life to prosper me on all sides. I think of the manifold blessings of health and wealth. I think of climbing many social ladders and having great acclaim. I have never thought that God’s best for me may be in relation to how I interact with the world around me in love. I guess this is why my love needs to be shrouded in knowledge and insight so that I can understand God’s heartbeat and what He wants to do in the world through His love manifested in my love. I need my love to not be superficial or simply vainglorious but to be effective in helping me discern what God’s best is for me and for the world at large. I need my love to be driven by purpose so that it makes me pure and blameless before God.

So I conclude by asking you: How deep is your love?

Yours Truly.

Hope in Lament

Two years ago, I made a commitment to read the entire bible again. However, this time instead of doing it it a year, I wanted to slow it down so I could savor every reading and so I opted for a three year reading plan. For the past month so I have been “stuck” in the book of Psalms and I use the word “stuck” because as much as I love the Psalms, oh boy is it ever so dreary! The first 40 chapters are full of lots of lamenting so much so that I stopped looking forward to my daily readings. In fact I remember telling God how tired I was reading all of these laments because I could not find any fodder for my blogpost from them! You can imagine my great joy yesterday when my reading plan switched gears to the book of Philippians. Despite my relief, I still asked God what lessons there were to be learnt from lament and the answer came today in our Ash Wednesday Service at church dubbed “Hope in Lament”. This is what I learnt:

As Christians, we sometimes encounter situations where there is a disconnect between what we know to be true of God and our reality here on earth. Cerebrally, we know God to be good, kind, and loving and yet we sometimes encounter situations that make us question God’s goodness, his kindness and love towards us. If you are a “good African Christian” you would have been told explicitly or implicitly at some point that to question God and to ask why questions His sovereignty and is an expression of a lack of complete trust in His will and plan. But this is where lament comes in. Lamenting gives us the opportunity to be real with God and to have a safe space and outlet to tell God exactly what we are feeling and thinking without holding back. We can come to God with our raw emotions without censoring ourselves for fear we will offend His majesty. David, the apple of God’s eye, certainly knew the value of being real with God. In the Psalms, he speaks openly to God about his mental health, his physical health, his emotional health and his spiritual health. In his laments, he acknowledges God for who He is, sovereign and all and does not hesitate to lay it all- the good, bad and ugly before His Sovereign King. Jesus himself just before the cross found value in lament- in not letting the anguish he felt in his soul consume him but to find an outlet in crying out that the cup be taken away from him! In one of his darkest moments, he lamented to God.

So today I have learnt the value of lamenting- it is a healthy outlet God provides for his children so we can let out some steam when the world beats down on us. It is not ungodly to lament, rather, it is another way God proves to us that He understands what it is like to be human- that He understands that sometimes our emotions get so pent up within us we feel like we are going to explode and He invites us to lament to Him- no judgements! In fact he encourages it so much that when the bible was being compiled He ensured that there was a whole book called Lamentations to model for us that it’s okay to lament. Now while I am not looking forward to the book of Lamentations, I am grateful for the lesson that I can come to God with any and every thing in my mind and heart without censoring or judgement. There truly is hope in lament!

Yours Truly.

P.S. shout out to Pastor Colin of Living Hope Alliance Church for an awesome service!

Do not settle!

Have you ever felt the passion of a dream get snuffed out and you had no desire to pursue that dream any longer? Have you lost the oomph for something that you once held so dear? Have you every given up the pursuit of some ambition? I certainly have. When I was much younger I thought I would grow up to be a doctor. Every thing I did in my childhood, my elementary, and secondary education had prepared me for this dream. In fact, I had started on the course in pursuit of a career as a medical doctor but along the way I settled for something else.

This past sunday, my pastor drew my attention to a passage of scripture that I have glossed over many a times. This is the story of Abraham’s father Terah:

Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram, and together they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. But when they came to Harran, they settled there. Terah lived 205 years, and he died in Harran.

Genesis 11: 31-32 NIV

Terah had started a journey to Canaan- a land that becomes very symbolic and important to the Israelites many generations later; a land that was to be the promised land of the Israelites. Whether by his own design or by God’s divine providence, Terah had a desire to relocate to Canaan. God’s desire was for his chosen people whom he had not called out as at yet to always possess the land of ancient Canaan. That dream had been conceived in the heart of Terah and whether he knew it then or not, he had answered the call. But something interesting happens: somewhere between Ur of the Chaldeans and the promised land, Terah settles. We know from Chapter 12 that Terah settles in Harran so much so that he establishes his household in Harran and becomes a full citizen of Harran along with his entire household. He stops in Harran, he establishes himself in Harran, and finally he dies in Harran without ever making it to the promised land.

So I ask again, have you every given up the pursuit of an ambition and settled for less than? There is an interesting passage from the psalm that gives me lots of comfort in times of uncertainty with my ambitions and desires:

Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart.

Psalm 37:4 BSB

Over the years, I have come to interpret this that not just that God giving us the things we desire but also that He places those desires in our hearts in the first place- just as He may have done for Terah to motivate him to move to Canaan. As I delight myself in God he gives me desires towards my life’s ambition to fulfil the purpose for which he has called me. And so my encouragement for myself and to you dear reader is to persevere and not settle in Harran (whatever your Harran may be).

There is another great lesson to be learnt from this story that I cannot overlook, with more eternal ramifications. Just like Terah, we are only to be sojourners on this earth. Your starting point – your Ur of the Chaldeans- is your geographical location on earth but the end point – your Canaan and promised land- is in Heaven with our God and Savior Jesus Christ. Many, like Terah, have settled for the pleasures of Harran (things of earthly benefits but certainly little to no eternal ones) and have missed out on all the good things of Canaan (Heaven). Lets take a lesson from Terah… set your sight on the end goal.. persevere to the end where the reward of eternal life far outweighs any reward of the life here on earth. I leave you with a verse to ponder:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Hebrews 12:1-3 NIV

Yours Truly.

Shout out to Pastor Kirk Cowman of Living Hope Alliance Church.