The Greatest Triumph

As we approach Holy Week, church activities, sermons, and social media will be inundated with messages about the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. A couple days ago, I was thinking of what my Easter post would be and realized very quickly I did not want to tell same “old” story. So I asked myself “what makes the death and resurrection of Jesus so unique that it is worth commemorating?” The answer came from an unexpected scripture in the book of Psalm:

No one can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for them— the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough—so that they should live on forever and not see decay… But God will redeem me from the realm of the dead; he will surely take me to himself.

Psalm 49:8-9, 15 NIV

Wow! When I read this a few days ago, it was like a light bulb went on! This scripture not only emphasizes the fickleness of life but speaks volumes about the work of Jesus. This is why his death is so important. Because no one can redeem the life of another, God had to redeem us Himself. He did so by coming down to earth to be a ransom for our lives. This is Jesus’ greatest triumph. The sermon this sunday made this point even more real for me. Whenever we talk about triumph it suggests a victor. The binary of a victor usually connotes the fact that there is a vanquished or a loser. Human victories are usually at the expense of others but what makes Jesus’ ransom and victory so unique is that it was at his own expense!

His death and resurrection was sign to the whole world that the ransom had been paid. He made a payment that was enough to ensure that we could live forever and not see decay. We know this because God raised Jesus from he dead so that he himself would not see decay (Acts 13: 34-35) and made him the firstborn from the dead (Colossians 1:18). Jesus became the poster child of a costly ransom paid. And for all of us who believe in Him and accept his redeeming work on the cross, Psalm 49 reads that “the payment is enough and we too will live on forever and not see decay”. We know with confidence that God HAS redeemed us from the realm of the dead and has already taken us to Himself. He did this victoriously when he exchanged His life for ours… He does this victoriously everyday in our lives with the work of His Holy Spirit drawing us in relationship with Him and He will do this victoriously when we close our eyes in death to this world and open them again in eternity in His presence.

This is why Jesus’ death is so important. This is why His resurrection is significant. In His death and resurrection lies our greatest triumph and victory : Eternal life.

God loved the people of this world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who has faith in him will have eternal life and never really die.

John 3:16 CEV

Yours Truly.

Finding wholeness in your story

Yesterday something interesting happened to me. I had started gathering together my thoughts for this post and all of a sudden I had writer’s block. So I decided to put the post aside and pick it up again after church and guess what we talked about in church? The power of sharing your story! I know without a shadow of doubt God is telling me something important and so here goes.

I have spent the last three weeks thinking about wholeness and how to find it after going through harsh life experiences (whether it was by your own doing or not!). I had been reflecting particularly about the story of the Samaritan woman at the well and how she was transformed from the woman who went to fetch water at midday so no one would see her, to one who run into the city screaming and drawing attention to herself. I concluded that sometime during her encounter with Jesus and when she left her pot and run she found wholeness.

For those of you who do not know the story, it is found in John 4:1-42. Jesus tells this woman about the things in her life that had brought her shame and instead of pushing those things into the deepest, farthest corner of her heart and mind, she brings it all into the light and allows God to replace her brokenness with wholeness. She had a sordid and maybe scandalous history with men and so she goes to the well when no one can see her or gossip about her and yet after her encounter with Jesus we see her running into the city screaming “come and see a man”. The very thing that had impugned her, we see her declaring with all boldness, “I have met a man”

There is something liberating about owning your story and being prepared to speak to the transformation that happens after we encounter Jesus. Personally, I believe that is how we manifest and live the wholeness that God perfects on our inside on the outside. Something powerful happens when we own and tell our story: the shame and condemnation that secretly creeps up on us when we dare look in that deep dark place in our minds where we hide our past sins and failures lose their power. Those areas get illuminated by God’s light as we bring them to light through our stories.

But if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.

1 John 1:7 NIV

When we encounter Jesus in our situations, and allow Him to, He makes us whole. But feeling whole is a different story! Here is where embracing the concept of growth becomes important. To feel whole, we need to give ourselves permission to grow from our experiences. The Samaritan woman would have never had the confidence to speak about any man (let alone a Jew) in public if she did not embrace this concept of growth. There is a quote that I have come to adore that spells this out clearly:

Just because you did something wrong in the past does not mean you cannot advocate against it now. It does not make you a hypocrite, you grew. Don’t let yourself or others use your past to invalidate your current mindset. Growth is a concept. Embrace it.

UNKNOWN and I have modified.

Growth means being able to appreciate how far you have come and that means being honest with yourself about where you’ve been. Many Christians “conveniently forget” or to be blunt pretend they have never done anything wrong even to themselves all in the name of “old things have passed away”. And while I am not advocating for constantly dredging up the past, I believe it is important to acknowledge it and be willing to confront every aspect of you, the good, bad and ugly so none of it has a lasting hold on you.

For some, telling our stories means being consistent in telling people about God’s goodness in our lives. And for others it means James 5:16. But for most of us, it means acknowledging that thing that we are so ashamed of in our lives and then refocusing on what matters most. The samaritan woman did this: she acknowledged that she was living a scandalous life but did not stop there… she took the conversation further to explore how this dark thing in her life had affected other areas of her life… primarily her ability to worship God freely; and that is how she became whole.

Wholeness is within our grasp and one way it can be found is in having the boldness to share your story of how God transformed you and how he has brought you into His light.

Yours Truly

Priorities

Last week I came to the end of what has been weeks of binge watching the show New Amsterdam and the natural consequence of that was that I started to internalize the show. I spent the entire weekend asking myself “like some of those unlucky patients on the show, what if I was given 4-6 weeks to live; what will my priorities be?”

As I pondered over that, I thought about the things that have taken front and center stage in my life recently particularly, my job, my family, my educational pursuits, my acts of service and my pursuit of God (in no particular order). And believe me it was not an exercise in futility. I quickly realized what I would give up in a heartbeat to make space for other things in my life. And not only that, I found I had no space for regret, no space to look back; all I could think of was what I was yet to accomplish and how I could do all of that in 4-6 weeks.

Far too often we are robbed of precious time by cluttering our lives with priorities that have very little substance to add to our lives or we live stuck in the shadows of our past; be it past glories or failures. Thankfully, God has an encouragement for us through the words of Apostle Paul:

 But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:13-14 NIV

I don’t know why this scripture invokes the image of someone running a race but this was such a rich encouragement after going through my exercise and coming across this scripture in my bible readings. I felt God saying to me, “there is no time like the present to readjust your priorities and set your sights forwards and heavenwards”. I realize that what I value and prioritize will differ from others and so I offer no suggestions except one: that your priorities get you closer to the prize for which God has called and culled you to Himself. And I end with this food for thought:

 Be very careful, then, how you live- not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.

Ephesians 5:15-16 NIV

Yours Truly.

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!

Hello 2021

Oh my! I can’t believe we are at the end of January and already my new year resolutions seem to be going the way of the dodo! My commitment to you my dear readers was that this year, I will consistently send out a post each week which highlights how God is teaching me to live a spirit-empowered life but alas, the busyness of life had had the better of my weeks.

In fact this segues nicely into a scripture I read this week:

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you. Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you.

PSALM 32:8-9NIV

This scripture serves as both a reassurance and a reminder. I am reminded that God wants to be the center of my affection and my attention. He wants to lead and guide me even through the hustle and bustle of my days. More importantly, God reminds me to seek his counsel and guidance willingly and wholeheartedly. In 2021, I do not have to wait until I am in dire straits or at my wits end or encumbered with the weights of this world like a bridled horse before I turn to God.

So dear readers, I will like to start your year off with this encouragement: don’t let life’s circumstances force you to include God in your plans but rather be intentional in doing so and my prayer for you is found in Proverbs 16:3; that as you commit everything to the LORD, He will cause your plans to succeed and be established. Catch you next week!

Yours Truly.

I’ve Found It!

2020 has been a very strange year and I have had countless conversations about the meaning of life in light of year. A few days ago, my husband and I were chatting along these lines and we landed on a topic that gave me pause: finding one’s purpose in life.

There are some people who readily know the answer to this question and others who will never answer this question for themselves in their lifetime. Understanding your purpose, knowing your why (why do you exist) helps to make meaning of and give meaning to our hopes, dreams, aspirations, motives, motivations. It propels us towards the future that God envisions for us (…Oh this bring me back to my post from February…Your future is within you). God speaks our future into being… then creates us… and knowing our purpose helps us to walk the path to our expected end.

Michael jr., a Christian comedian, does a great job of talking about knowing your why (And this is an aside… my husband and I became a running joke on his recent live comedy show). Here is a clip about knowing your why:

Still deeply contemplating my purpose, I read a scripture that revealed my why to me as clear as day:

For I am [emphasis mine] God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for me to do. Ephesians 2:10 NIV

What an eye opener! After all these many years of living (…and this is my Jesus year…) I have found it! I have read this scripture many times but I had never connected to it this way until I approached God and asked for him to show me my why. But now it does not end here. This is just the beginning. Its time to figure out my what? who ? how? when?

I started by saying 2020 has been a strange year. It has had its up and downs but this year has blessed me with this great gift of discovering my why. I leave you with this thought and something to prayerfully consider as we draw the curtains on 2020:

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” 

Mark Twain

Yours Truly

On Mission for God

Have you ever had an earworm? Don’t worry its nothing gross! It is when you have a song or tune on repeat in your mind and for the past three weeks I have not been able to shake this song: “…But if we are the body, Why aren’t His arms reaching?…Why aren’t His hands healing?…Why aren’t His words teaching?…And if we are the body…Why aren’t His feet going?…Why is His love not showing them there is a way?” The sermons in church have not helped matters because for the past few weeks we have been discussing the up, in, and out dimensions of the relationships God calls us to and being on mission for God has come up many times.

There are so many ways to be on mission for God and in todays times one does not have to look far to find some injustice or cause in the world to be passionate about. Mine is food insecurity. Over the years, I have had personal experiences with being hungry and not having enough to eat and God always provided food in extraordinary ways. I vividly remember one of such experiences where I had been crying through the night because I had no money to pay my tuition and I had received notice from the university that my account was going to be blocked and my rent was also due. Granted I had not eaten but that was the least of my concerns that day. The next morning I received a text from someone I had met only two days prior who told me that that night she could not sleep. She said she had heard a voice through out the night telling her I was hungry (***goosebumps! I know!***). By the end of that day, my tiny apartment had been stocked with so much groceries and household supplies from this lady and this is just one of many of my stories of how God has provided for me when I was facing scarcity.

I believe while on earth, Jesus’ ministry was shrouded with a passion for connecting with and attending to issues of food insecurity. We see this in his miracles, his parables, and notable stories of his life involved food and gathering together to eat or made reference to food (e.g. In the house of Mary and Martha, Zacchaeus, the last supper, miracles involving turning water to wine, feeding people to mention a few). One of such notable passages is this one:

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Matthew 25: 35-40 NIV

In the past few weeks this passage has become a driving force behind my passion to be on mission for God in the area of food insecurity. Despite the cliché of “the starving African children” you do not need to look as far as Africa to find food insecurity. There are people in every country who go to bed hungry and wake up without knowing where their next meal will come from. Poverty and its resultant food insecurity is a reality within every race and has been exacerbated by the global pandemic for those who experience it. So how can we be on mission with and for God seeing that he is equally as passionate about this need in the world?

Here is what I am doing: I am starting a community box in my neighbourhood that will be stocked with non-perishables for people to take as needed. I am not sure how this is going to play out. I have tried to talk myself out of it but the more I try, the more passionate I get so I have given up trying to talk myself out of it. I believe in this mission: as God did for me many years ago by supplying me with food even when I was too hungry to pray for food so do I want to do for others who might find themselves in similar situations. If you want to support this mission financially, I have added a donation link to this post so you can do so as you are led by God. But more importantly, I want you to pray for this “passion turned mission”. I have thought of the many ways this can go wrong and I am sure others will too. So pray that this mission will reach the right people who truly need it and that it will not fail.

My community pantry

This week I received an email and the opening line of it read “Imagine you had the ability to spread hope in your community…” (talk of serendipity!) and that is what I want to leave you with. Imagine you were on a mission for God, where would this mission take you? What cause has God laid on your heart to pursue? How has He called you to bring hope to the people in your sphere of influence? How can you be on mission for God?

Yours Truly.

P. S. here’s the link I mentioned: paypal.me/intentionalchristian and be sure to keep an eye out for updates on this project.

2020… the runaway year?

Have you ever felt like erasing a particular day from history? When I reflect on my life, there are about a handful of moments that I wish I could erase from my existence: decisions I wish I never made, days that I wish were all a dream, moments in time that I wish had never happened. Certainly 2020 has felt like that  for some people and I have seen memes calling for 2020 to be deleted from history!

This week as I read the book of Esther, I could identify with the people of Israel living in Susa who one day were going about their normal activities and the next were staring down a notice of a death sentence. I could identify with Job who just wanted the day he was born to be obliterated from history! How quickly the circumstances of life can change! Anyway the book of Esther is one that demonstrates the omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresence of God in a tangible way. And for those of us just absorbing the stories in the book of Esther God’s power and invisible yet capable hand is manifest as a series of coincidences. God comes through for the Israelites over and over again using what appears to happenstance to remind us that He rules in the affairs of men!

Are you having one of those days (or weeks, or months, or years) where nothing seems to working out like you thought it would? Well…here is my encouragement: Nothing takes God by surprise. He is still very much in control of His universe (and yes although it may not seem like it 2020 is not a runaway train… God is driving this engine!).  So here are a few scriptures to remind you of God’s sovereignty.:

“Remember this, and show yourselves men; recall to mind, O you transgressors.
Remember the former things of old, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and
there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things
that are not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure,’
Calling a bird of prey from the east, the man who executes My counsel, from a far country.
Indeed I have spoken it; I will also bring it to pass. I have purposed it; I will also do it”
(Isaiah 46:8–11)

“For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:10–11).

‘This decision is by the decree of the watchers, and the sentence by the word of the
holy ones, in order that the living may know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men,
gives it to whomever He will, and sets over it the lowest of men” (Daniel 4:17).

He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives
wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding (Daniel 2:21).

They raised their voice to God with one accord and said: “Lord, You are God, who made
heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them, who by the mouth of Your servant
David have said: ‘Why did the nations rage, and the people plot vain things? The kings of
the earth took their stand, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord and
against His Christ.’ For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both
Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered
together to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done” (Acts
4:24–28)

This was definitely not the direction this blogpost was going in my mind (speak of runaway trains…lol) but I know that I am more encouraged now than I was starting the post and I hope that you are encouraged too.

Don’t forget to share with a friend. They may need a reminder too that GOD IS STILL IN CHARGE.

Yours Truly.

The choices we make

Last week news of a US- based Ghanaian pastor who killed his wife of 5 years hit the airwaves and even though I must confess I have not entirely followed the story, the bits and pieces I have heard got me thinking. The one thing I believe to be an absolute truth is that God is omniscient and nothing takes Him by surprise. This led me to asking, “So does this mean that God knew that this lady would die at the hands of her husband just 5 years after marrying him?” and the answer is Yes He did! And had this lady known that this was how she would meet her end would she have still married the pastor? (…and that’s all I will say about this story)

When God put Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden He knew that they would someday be deceived and inadvertently change the course of history. But He gave them freewill and choices. Both the choice to eat or not to eat the forbidden fruit had consequences and God knowing what choice Adam and Eve would make had to make an effort to warn them to make the right choice but ultimately they had to make the choice.

Every waking minute of every day we make choices: Our lives are saddled with choices, each of which lead us on a path to a certain outcome; unfortunately, many times we do not know what the outcome will be until we get to the outcome. And I truly believe that when God says He will never leave or forsake us, He truly means it and He walks with us along the paths we carve for ourselves regardless of the outcomes. However, we are blessed to know an amazing God who sees the end from the beginning and can help us order our steps aright so that we are set up to make choices that lead us on the path to God’s expected end for us.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.

Jeremiah 29: 11 KJV

He has given us His Word, He has given us His Holy Spirit, He has given us the blessings of the advice of people around us to help us along the way… But more importantly he has given us the ability to have an intimate relationship with Him where we can ask Him to personally lead us through life’s journey. This past Sunday, my pastor started a series in church titled, ‘the Way’ and this scripture is more apt than ever:

 …”Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.

John 6:68 NIV

Only Jesus’ words…His daily direction for our lives can lead us towards eternal life because without Jesus as our guide, “There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death” Prov 1: 25. So here is my prayer for myself and for you:

Guide my steps by your word, so I will not be overcome by evil.

Psalm 119:133 NLT

And this week, pay attention to the choices you are making, no matter how mundane and be intentional in asking for God’s direction in all of it so that we all come to God’s expected end!

Yours Truly.

P.S. don’t forget to share your thoughts on this post and share it with your friends too!