If God could sit and reflect on the year I have had with me, I am pretty sure His advice to me for next year would be exactly the reading from today:
In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for special purposes and some for common use. Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.
Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will. 2 Timothy 2 : 20-26 NIV
This year, I found myself in situations where I was afraid- afraid mainly of the outcomes of things that were beyond my control. What will the result of this medical test be? What will the result of this court case be? What will the result of this application for XYZ be? I was fearful that the outcomes would not be be what I wanted and would change everything. Today’s reading gives me a different perspective to situations that are beyond my control:
For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.2 Timothy 1:7 NLT
What can power, love and self-discipline do for me when I am anxious about something I have no control over? I can declare boldly and with POWER, God’s supremacy over every situation. I can rest in the promise that because of God’s great LOVE for me, everything will work out for my good even if it does not “look” good. And finally, I can exercise SELF-CONTROL and wait for God to do what He does best in His time- He makes all things beautiful in its time. And the beauty of this is that all of this is possible because of God’s spirit at work in us. He has given us a spirit of POWER, LOVE and SELF-DISCIPLINE so that we can triumph on days such as ones that are filled with fear of the unknown.
Have you ever had a conversation about someone or something and felt worse afterwards? This year, a few of my conversations felt that way. There were lots of situations that I had very strong opinions about and did not hesitate to voice them out but I always seemed to feel less unburdened and more ungodly afterwards. I always felt like I had let myself down because of the flavour of those conversations which in my opinion were irreverent. Today’s readings is an admonishing about this exact issue:
But avoid irreverent, empty chatter, which will only lead to more ungodliness,2 Tim 2:16 BSB
As the year comes to an end and I start reflecting on how I can be better in the new year, this will definitely be something I would watch out for: empty, idle, and godless chatter and babbling about people and situations and instead try to be flavour my conversations with grace and season it with salt.
Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.Colossians 4:6 NIV
I have always wondered what it means to season one’s conversation with salt- I assume it was an expression that came from the ancient Near East. To take it literally, I look at the function of salt in adding taste, adding flavour, and preserving and I think this is what conversations with every one I encounter should be like. People should walk away feeling enriched and with their dignity preserved and that is what seasoning my conversations with salt mean to me. What does that statement mean to you?
In my last post I shared about a meeting I had over the weekend with a few friends and how that really encouraged me. During this time, we got to reflect on the year and a theme one of my friends focused on was the fact that nothing is impossible with God. As I reflected on my year, I realized many areas of my life where I had let God take control of but there were other areas where I had relied heavily on my own abilities or had placed my confidence in others only to be disappointed. I know cerebrally that God can do the impossible but sometimes by my actions, I had declared that there were things even God could not help me with. By not entrusting those problems with God and trusting Him for solutions, I had unconsciously decided that those problems were too big for God. In today’s reading, I was reminded of a hymn we used to sing in Bible study over 20 years ago:
…for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him for that day.2 Timothy1:12
Through out the year, have there been things in your life that you have excluded God from simply because you don’t want to bother God with that? Or have you ever felt that He is too big for your small problem? or He has answered too many prayers and you don’t want to be greedy with one more request? Well Paul reminds us that God is able to take care of whatever we entrust to Him regardless of how big or small. He is the God of possibilities.
P.s. Thanks Nathan!
Today in church, my pastor spoke about the all too popular Christmas story but for the first time something caught my eye that I have never seen before (shout out to Pastor Kirk of Living Hope Alliance Church) Here is a summary of the story: Mary had been betrothed to Joseph and one day, an angel appears to her and tells her she is favored of God and that she would have a son, Jesus, who would be the savior of the whole world.
A careful look at the story reveals some very interesting things: Even though Mary received God’s favor, her life did not suddenly get easy. She was about to be faced by a difficult situation- she was going to become a pregnant virgin who was betrothed to a man who was not responsible for that pregnancy! Talk of awkward and the possible ridicule and shaming! Many Christians today pray for favor and while that is a good thing, favor does not always or necessarily guarantee easy. What favor guarantees is that you get the presence and power of God within you and overshadowing you as was the case for Mary. She was overcome with power from on high as the presence of God in the form of a baby inhabited her.
Another thing was that even though Mary had been favored of God, receiving the power and presence of God was not automatic. Mary had to say yes to those things and she did so with the famous words “be it done unto me according to thy word”. Have you made a willing choice to be a carrier of God’s power and presence? Do you make this choice everyday to be an honorable vessel that carries His power and presence?
A large house contains not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay. Some indeed are for honorable use, but others are for common use. So if anyone cleanses himself of what is unfit, he will be a vessel for honor: sanctified, useful to the Master, and prepared for every good work.2Timothy 2:20-21 BSB
Yesterday I met with a group of my friends who have been constant in my life for the past few years. During this meeting, one of them shared about the most impactful things he has learned all year. Here is a summary of it:
He spoke about the power of our thoughts and the fact that God responds to our thoughts more than we think. He illustrated using the story of when the devil thought in his heart to be like God and by the many times Jesus rebuked the Pharisees because of what they were thinking in their hearts. In the words of my friend, prayer is not just about what we say aloud to God- our whole life is prayer and so is our thoughts. What have your thoughts been saying to God recently? How would God judge your thoughts? How well do your thoughts represent you before God? as i pondered over what he said a scripture came to mind:
O LORD, you have searched me [thoroughly] and have known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up [my entire life, everything I do]; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, And You are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue [still unspoken], Behold, O LORD, You know it all. You have enclosed me behind and before, And [You have] placed Your hand upon me. Such [infinite] knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is too high [above me], I cannot reach it.Psalm 139:1-6 AMP
God is interested in every detail of our lives including our thoughts. That is an area that we must also surrender to the lordship of Jesus. Many of us think as long as thoughts reside in our minds and hearts and we never speak them then we are entitled to the privacy of those thoughts. However, this scripture tell us no thought is as private as we think it is. God is intimately acquainted with those secret thoughts- good or bad. So today my prayer for you as is for myself is simple: that the peace of God would garrison our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Phil 4: 7) and that every single one of our thoughts would be taken captive to make it obedient to Christ (2 Cor 10:5).
P.s. Thanks Bari
As we come to the end of the book of Ecclesiates, I have reflected on it all and realized the whole book culminates in a few simple key advice:
- Be content with the life you have and find joy in the days you have been blessed with
- Life lived without a higher purpose is meaningless because our toil and status on earth does not hold any currency in the afterlife
- Finding purpose cannot be done apart from God
Solomon concludes Ecclesiates with a reflection on what gives meaning to life and what finding higher purpose looks like
Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.Ecclesiastes 12: 13 NIV
We make our lives meaningful on earth by using it to secure a place in God’s kingdom for all eternity. Our life takes on meaning when everything we do in public and in secret is geared towards living in complete obedience to God’s will and purpose for our lives
For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.Ecclesiastes 12: 14 NIV
These words are certainly worthy of pondering over.
I recall in my younger years I did something that I still regret to this day. Although it was a single incident that perhaps may not even be remembered by parties involved, I certainly remember and it colors that time of my life. Have you had a moment’s lapse in judgement where you said or did something that changed everything? Today’s reading hits the nail right on the head with this proverb:
As dead flies give perfume a bad smell, so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor.Ecclesiastes 10:1 NIV
In this scripture, folly is contrasted against wisdom and honor and has been described to be the undoing of both. Folly can come in many forms- a small act of unkindness, a moment of anger, a rash decision or a harsh word can cost a person a great deal. It can cast a shadow on one’s bright future, can close doors of opportunity and can bring great misfortune. We need to apply ourselves to wisdom in all our endeavors and a wise heart dictates that there is a proper time and place for everything
Whoever obeys his command will come to no harm, and the wise heart will know the proper time and procedure. For there is a proper time and procedure for every matter, though a person may be weighed down by misery.Ecclesiastes 8:5-6 NIV
So how do we respond to this advice? The psalmist prays “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:12) and I today I pray same of God.
Dear Heavenly Father, teach us to realize the brevity of life, help us to number our days and redeem the time you have given us. And above all, give us a heart of wisdom so we are not entrapped by folly. Amen.
Have you ever met some who was utterly unreasonable or very set in their ways to the extent that they would not listen to reason? This year, I encountered a few people whom I would describe as extreme. I had to deal with someone extremely wicked, someone who could not be pleased by anything anyone did, someone who was so self-righteous their self-righteousness could outshine the sun, someone who was so stubborn and opinionated it has probably cost them more than they have to spare and someone who was so bitter and unforgiving they could not see when they were hurting themselves in the process. Have you encountered any body like this or are you such a person?
In today’s reading, God encourages us to find balance in all things and avoid extremes:
Do not be over-righteous, neither be overwise— why destroy yourself? Do not be overwicked, and do not be a fool— why die before your time? It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other. Whoever fears God will avoid all extremes.Ecclesiastes 7: 16-18 NIV
Earlier this week, we spoke about times and seasons for everything and God has instituted everything in its place so we can be balanced. Another scripture that captures the need for balance in every thing is this prayer of Agur to God:
…give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, `Who is the LORD?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.Proverbs 30: 8b-9 NIV
Moderation and temperance are very important virtues in finding balance in life. Everything needs to be done in moderation and as the year closes, many of us need this reminder:
Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.Philippians 4:5
As humans we are hard-wired for connection; it is fuel for our souls. We were created to be in community and when Adam did not find a suitable match among the animal folk, God said, it was not ok for him to be alone and created Eve so Adam could be in community. Because we live in a broken world, not only is connection between man and God broken but even between humans. We see and hear of the atrocities of war, racism, discrimination, violence, persecution etc. that demonstrate this brokenness on a daily basis.
In August I listened to Jody Carrington do a guest lecture on relationships and she spoke about the importance of reconnection in relationship building. She recommended connecting to 3 things as often as you can: your people, your breath, and your why. Now I am not going to regurgitate the entire session but I want to speak to connecting to your people.
2021 was a tough year for most and even those that had it easy may still have experienced some pretty grueling days. I found that I leaned heavily on some friends and family who know me for who I am, celebrate me for me and with whom I could be myself- no makeup, cry face and all. These people I have come to appreciate as my people… my tribe. Many of you had similar stories or you may have had random people who showed up in your life for a season but made a significant positive impact. Today’s reading emphasizes the benefit of being surrounded by people who are your people-whether it is friend that loves you like a brother, or a spouse, or a member of your family, or just someone who wished you well and helped you get through 2021; this scripture is for them:
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.Ecclesiastes 4: 9-12
As you read this today, think about these people, connect with them, bless them, pray for them, thank them- they were your people, your tribe! And God made them available to you in your life for such a time as this.