Prayer is not a grocery list

So a few days ago I interviewed for an opportunity and prior to the interview, I had spent days praying about it and preparing for it. So many people also prayed with me and by  the day of the interview I knew I could not have been any more prepared than I was. After waiting for days after the interview, I finally received the dreaded rejection email… “you did great but we decided to go another way”… and boy was I disappointed (and honestly maybe I still am just a little bit)!

For the rest of the day and week, I did not know how to react. I had asked that God’s will be done and now that His will had not gone my way, I was upset. I started searching for some encouragement from the bible, from songs and from social media and a few days ago my encouragement came. A friend sent me a video featuring the late Ravi Zacharias and he said:

In the Christian worldview prayer is not a grocery list of requests before God… prayer is not seeking to change the will of God. It is communion with the living God such that he will change you to have the ability to receive what it is that He has for you. Ravi Zacharias

I felt chastised. To have thought that because I have prayed and others had prayed that automatically meant that I would be selected for that opportunity was very presumptous. Up until now, I have been of the mindset that prayer changes the mind and will of God to be favourable towards us. And while I am still learning more about prayer, I ask myself, “If I am praying to change the will of the all-knowing and all-powerful God, whose will is nothing short of perfection, then whose will am I seeking for in my life?”

I realized that I prayed that God’s will be done for me regarding that opportunity but I was disappointed with the outcome because in reality what I was saying was “God I want you to give it to me regardless of what your plans are for me.” This month, I am learning what it means to surrender your will to God and I now know it is easier to blog about it than to actually live it.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12: 2 NIV

I need a transformation in my mindset to be able to live a fully surrended life – I am strong-willed! I need a transformation in how I pray and what I use the privilege of prayer for. Prayer is not to impose my will on God but as Ravi rightly said, to ask that God will renew my mind to be able to accept His will as the ultimate in my life. I am humbled by these thoughts and I pray God helps me.

What about you? What does prayer mean to you? Share your comments below.

Yours Truly

 

Wealth Management: Expectations

Money… money… money… let’s talk money! This week my bible readings led me to 1 Chronicles 29 where I have learnt so much about money and how we ought to respond to wealth or lack of it. I will break this reading into different sections and I believe that there will be something in it for everyone. If you are so inclined join me to read the whole chapter for context.

The expectation of leaders towards giving

Many times you find the leaders of God’s people encouraging members of their churches to give to support the work of God. When I used to facilitate the offering session in my church, I would quote all sorts of scriptures to encourage the people about God’s faithfulness towards a cheerful giver. In 1 Chronicles 29 though something unique happens. The people are encouraged not because their leaders motivate them with great speeches and scriptures. This is why they are motivated to give:

And the people rejoiced at the willing response of their leaders, for they had given to the LORD freely and wholeheartedly. 1 Chronicles 29:9a BSB

They were encouraged by how much their leaders gave freely and wholeheartedly. Their leaders walked the talk and lived a life of sacrificial giving and so the people were encouraged to do the same. Regardless of whatever capacity in which you serve God  (whether as a leader with a recognized position or not), it is imperative that we not only do so in words but in deed also and our practice of giving must reflect same. And yes although there are many other things we give to God, I am specifically referring to money in this blog.

What is the expectation of those who have in abundance?

O LORD our God, from Your hand comes all this abundance that we have provided to build You a house for Your holy Name, and all of it belongs to You. I know, my God, that You test the heart and delight in uprightness. All these things I have given willingly and with an upright heart, and now I have seen Your people who are present here giving joyfully and willingly to You. O LORD, God of our fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, keep this desire forever in the intentions of the hearts of Your people, and direct their hearts toward You. 1 Chronicles 29:16 – 18 BSB

The first thing that is required of those who are comfortable financially, is to acknowledge the source of your wealth. It is from the hand of God that wealth passes on to us but not only that, He still owns it all. Wealth that comes from God is like a loan. And while we are not required to pay it back like a traditional loan, we are expected to be worthy stewards of the money, attributing ownership to the source who is God Himself.

God also expects that we mirror the generosity in which he gives us wealth with others (see the parable of the servant who was forgiven his debt- Matthew 18:21-35) and to do so willingly and joyfully. In addition, God also expects that our hearts be directed towards him at all times so that we are not consumed by the love of money. When God Himself is our Inheritance and treasure, our hearts will be constantly directed towards him for where our treasure is, there our hearts will be also (Psalm 16: 5; Matthew 6:21).

There may be another group of you reading this and thinking to yourselves “I do not think this applies to me! I barely have enough every month”! or you are thinking, “I am not financially comfortable even though I try to be generous. What about me?”

What about me? I am barely surviving financially…

If you fall into this category, you are not alone. Many of us live in this sphere with you or straddle this category from time to time. My greatest encouragement since starting this blog has been from Psalm 23:1. I am encouraged that whatever I have at every moment of my life is enough for that moment because God is my shepherd and so I want for nothing!

Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the splendor and the majesty, for everything in heaven and on earth belongs to You. Yours, O LORD, is the kingdom, and You are exalted as head over all. Both riches and honor come from You, and You are the ruler over all. In Your hands are power and might to exalt and give strength to all. Now therefore, our God, we give You thanks, and we praise Your glorious name. 1 Chronicles 29:11-13 BSB

It is God that blesses. He not only gives wealth but also the ability to produce wealth (Deut 8:18). He blesses the work of our hands and makes it prosperous; He gives us divinely-inspired ideas as to how to make and save money; and He drives away the devourer for our sakes so that the money we make whether little or a lot meets our daily, weekly, or monthly needs. And what does God expect of those in this category (and frankly from everyone): Thanksgiving.

When I reflect through the eyes of thanksgiving here is what I see: that there are times when I think I will not be able to pay my bills but I do; that those months when I have felt the financial strain the most, no one in my household has been sick requiring care, my car has not broken down and neither has anything in my home required fixing or replacing. God has preserved the little I have enabling me to stretch my income to the last dollar to meet my needs and He deserves to be praised for that feat of greatness! God, I give you thanks and bless your Holy name.

I have been encouraged by  1 Chronicles 29 and if you have been encouraged too then share this blog with your friends. Don’t forget as usual to leave your comments as well so we learn together.

Yours Truly.

So What is Faith?

So, folks, I promised to share a deep dive my friends and I did into the topic of faith a few years back. So here goes- when people ask ‘what is faith?’ the temptation to respond with the generic Heb 11:1 answer is great.

Now faith is the assurance of what we hope for and the certainty (evidence) of what we do not see. Heb 11: 1 BSB

But what really is faith? How do you explain it to someone who wants to understand that scripture? Faith comes from the Greek word πίστη (pisti) which means to be divinely persuaded or to divinely persuade. It is different from belief  (pistevo) which means to be persuaded by oneself. Pisti also refers to a guarantee or warranty.

In essence, faith is a work of God and it is a divine persuasion based on God’s revelation in us.  It is God’s warranty that guarantees the fulfilment of said revelation in our lives.  Faith is not a condition of the mind. You cannot produce faith in yourself. Faith comes from God and has everything to do with the relationship you have with Jesus and we know faith is produced through our encounter with the word of God who is Jesus himself (John 1:1)

To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours 2 Pet 1:1b NIV

So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Romans 10:17

As previously mentioned having belief is not the same as having faith although they are very closely related. In the process of faith, belief is a necessary step but it is not enough because even demons believe (James 2:19). It is that personal relationship with God and His Word (Jesus) that carries belief from being persuaded in yourself to being persuaded by God to have an assurance of and to receive that which you hope for.  This is how it works in action:

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. Hebrews 11:6 NIV

In order to have faith one must believe in God’s existence and not only that but they must earnestly seek to be in relationship with him, believing that such a relationship will be rewarded. Let’s look at another example. Paul said:

For I know whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that He is able to… 2 Tim 1:12 BLB

Paul did not only believe but he knew the one in whom he had believed and in that knowledge and belief he was divinely persuaded… He received faith… the assurance that God was able to in this case guard that which he had committed to him.

In summary, faith is to be divinely persuaded based on God’s revelation of himself to us by virtue of our relationship with him. This gives us the assurance of the things we hope for (warranty) and the evidence of things that we have not yet seen (the guarantee).

I encourage you to share your thoughts on what faith means to you in the comments below and let’s learn together.

Yours Truly.

 

 

 

Unwavering Faith

So let’s talk about faith. The bible describes Abraham as the father of faith and Romans  4 says that because Abraham believed in the One who had promised, that faith was credited to him as righteousness.

Abraham heard the word of God that he would be the father of many nations. He waited and waited for the promise to be fulfilled with his wife Sarah and when that did not happen, he thought he will help the promise along by having a baby with a servant. For the longest time, Abraham assumed the promise had been fulfilled until God appeared to Him again and reminded him that the promised child will be born of Sarah. At this point, both he and Sarah were so old it was laughable but Romans tells us he held on to that promise unwaveringly.

Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. Romans 4: 20-21 NIV

Abraham heard the word of God and it built up and strengthened his faith. Faith comes by hearing and hearing the word of God (Romans 10:17 KJV). This weekend my family gathered together for a celebration and a discussion about the new age Christianity “name it and claim it ” doctrine ensued (shout out to my dad for sharing his thoughts on the subject). For those of you who do not know what the name it and claim it practice is it is where Christians are taught that what so ever they desire they can receive it as long as it is claimed in faith. Although this doctrine seems legitimate on the surface, it is flawed in its premise and this is why: sometimes the things people are naming to claim are not in God’s will for them and hence the faith they possess is not based on the word of God.

When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. James 4:3 NIV

When one’s motivations for praying for anything are rooted in the will of God and based on the word of God, it builds up faith. And when faith is engaged appropriately in that circumstance, then one can truly say to mountains be removed and they will obey. So my question for you today is this: Is your faith rooted in the word of God and upon the fact that the One who promises is faithful?

P.S. I’ll chase this post with a dive into more about the nature of faith in a few days. Until then stay safe and be intentional in living out your faith.

Yours Truly.

So how does God judge?

This is a continuation of the last post (and if you missed it, I encourage you to read it here) so let us jump right into it shall we?

Since the Garden of Eden, when Adam apportioned blame on his wife and years later when their son Cain singlehandedly decided that his brother did not deserve to live, humankind has been inclined to sit in judgement over each other, deciding who and what is right or wrong.

A couple weeks ago, my pastor in his sermon said, “We judge others by their actions but we judge ourselves by our intent” and that is so true of myself. I get upset when I think I have been judged too harshly by others if my intentions were noble! I say things like “God knows my heart”… or “God knows I never meant to…” and that brings me to another truth I have discovered about God in Romans: God knows all things! Let’s break that down a little further.

Romans 2:16 assures us that a day is coming when God will judge all men’s secrets and nothing will be hidden from him. His judgment will be based on one thing and one thing alone: TRUTH (Romans 2:2). But how do we know what is the truth about anything?

  1. There is something within each and every one of us that that points us to what is right. Romans 2:14-15 says we demonstrate that each one has a moral compass of right and wrong written in our hearts and this compass is policed by our consciences which either accuses or defends us. The problem with our conscience though is that when sin takes over a person’s heart, the standard by which the needle of our consciences moves is tainted and can become skewed through hypocrisy (which are the lies we tell ourselves). So if our conscience can be led astray through falsehood, and God’s judgement is based on truth, then we are in trouble.
  2. How about the law or a set of rules (described as the embodiment of knowledge and truth in Romans 2:20)? What if we follow a set of rules and live by them? That is all well and good but the thing about rules is that it is all or none. Once you break one rule, you are considered a rule breaker (Romans 2: 25-27) and therefore stand condemned. The purpose of the law or rules, therefore, is to help our consciences along by creating a consciousness of sin.
  3.  This is how we are justified: by our faith in Jesus Christ who himself is described as the Spirit of truth or Truth (Romans 3, 1 John 5:6). When we believe in Jesus Christ and belong to his fold, we are no longer condemned (Romans 8: 1).

So back to my initial thought. God knows all things and his knowledge is infinite and based on truth. So how will God judge the world? In truth! What is truth? Our limited minds cannot fully fathom what truth is and that is why God promises us that His spirit will lead us into all truth; because only God knows the “whole truth.”  Therefore how God will judge those that never got the opportunity to hear and know Jesus is really within his infinite knowledge of the truth (answer to last week’s question). However, today you and I are blessed with the opportunity to have heard of Jesus and what I do know is that JESUS IS TRUTH and if I believe in him, I will not be condemned when I stand before the Great Judge.  Let that sink in for a minute.

Yours Truly.

The ethos of love

Last week one my readers commented on my post How deep is your love? with the comment “if love for God doesn’t naturally flow to love for your neighbor, your so called love lacks authenticity before God.” Well that got me thinking about the nature of love. It is very easy to say we ought to love God and love one another but how do we go about it? What is the impetus of love and how is it really manifest?

C. S. Lewis describes 4 types of love: Agape (the unconditional love that God demonstrates); Storge (familial love- love between parent and child and vice versa); Philia (love between friends, brotherly love); and Eros (romantic love). According to Ravi Zacharias, the last three hinge on and have no point of reference without the first. Dare I say that in the world today, the point of reference for love has been lost. We love our houses, our jobs, our cars, our pets etc. Love is this word that is used so carelessly that it almost means nothing. But the truth is you cannot define love until you understand its point of reference, the Agape love and you cannot understand Agape love without an understanding of the one who has loved us so unconditionally that he gave Himself as a ransom for us.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that who so ever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.

John 3:16 KJV

So here are some truths about the nature of love: God is love. And all forms of love flows from Him. We love because we are loved. I tried a simple exercise to hinge everything I hold dear on the unconditional love of God and this is what it looked like: I love my kids because God loved me enough to entrust them to me… I love my husband because God loved me enough to give him to me… I love my job and house and car because God loved me enough to bless me with them…I love God because He first loved me… It really is something! When I hang everything I hold dear on the peg of the eternal and unconditional love of God Himself it really changes my view of love. It gives my love for these more weight than just flimsily saying I love XYZ.

So based on this, I will like to take my question from last week “how deep is your love?” a step further and ask, “how deep is your knowledge of the God who Himself is love?”

Yours Truly

How deep is your love?

This week the sermon in church was from Revelations 2: the message to the church in Ephesus. The take home message was that if we have no love for God and for each other then we are no better than those who do not know God. In the simplicity of that statement, I was reminded of my posts on our covenant relationship and our responsibilities to the covenant. I am referencing these two short posts: We are Covenant People and Our Covenant Relationship (I encourage you to go back and read these and so I will keep this post short and sweet).

As part of the terms of the covenant, we are to love God and as Jesus clarified, this love is demonstrated in love for God and for each other as those two are not mutually exclusive.

What does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God by walking in [obedience to] all His ways, to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the LORD, which I am giving you this day for your own good? Deuteronomy 10: 12-13 BSB

If anyone says, “I love God,” but hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And we have this commandment from Him: Whoever loves God must love his brother as well. 1 John 4:20-21 BSB

Jesus sang the praises of the church in Ephesus in Revelations chapter 2 and if you never read verse 4 you’d think they were the model church. All that good however was negated by a lack of love for God and each other. Love for God and for each other is paramount. It is not optional. If we are to continue to enjoy the benefits of being in a covenant relationship then we have to adhere fully to the terms of the covenant, otherwise the consequences are dire (i.e. the removal of your lampstand from its place vs 5- If any of you have any thoughts about what this means feel free to leave a comment or send me a message). But there is hope. Thank God in Jesus there is always hope. And here is the hope we have:

Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.  Rev 2:5a NIV

So my question for you is “how are you doing with loving God and loving others?”

Yours Truly

…And God used all of it!

So this week I concluded the book of Acts and as I was going through the book, I got a glimpse of Paul’s character. I gathered Paul was very disciplined, very opinionated and outspoken, and a little hotheaded “I know my rights” kind of guy. Paul was being brought before the courts for his belief and faith in God and during his trial, Paul the hothead got short with one of his accusers only to realize that that was the high priest he had insulted and that did not help his case at all! In fact, I was a little disappointed when in the midst of the trial Paul announced that he wanted his case tried by Caesar the Roman Emperor.  I imagined Paul in a matter-of-fact-i-know-my-rights kind of way declaring, “I appeal to Caesar” (finger pointed to the sky). The reason I was disappointed was that we know from reading the Book of Acts that Festus stated he would have released Paul from jail and dismissed the case if he had not made that statement.

Although Paul ended up in prison for such a long time because of that one statement, I realized that the journey to get to Rome to appear before Caesar allowed him to have some incredible experiences preaching the gospel in remote islands. God had called Paul to minister to the gentiles and if it took one comment or even a character flaw to get him to the gentiles then God was going to use everything! Another thing I know about Paul’s character is that he was completely surrendered to God. He brought every part of him into ministry partnership with Jesus Christ: his disciplined nature, his opinionated and outspoken self, his passion and even his hotheadedness. AND GOD USED ALL OF IT!!!

There are many things about who I am as a person that I am very proud of and I do not hesitate to use those traits in service of God. For example, I am a planner and very strategic in my thinking and so I find myself in many roles in and out of church that lean in on my ability to effectively lead teams or effect change. However, there are also traits in my character that need work. Those are the things about me that perhaps frustrate the people who know me very well and have to live or deal with me on a regular basis (…sorry husband dear…). I do not necessarily present those as an offering to God when he asks for all of me. I leave those flaws at the door but unfortunately, those character flaws keep getting in the way of God’s plans for me.

Today, I learn from Paul that if I make all of me (the good, the bad, and the ugly) available for God to use, He will use all of me to bring about His purpose for my life and His kingdom. Even the not so desirable parts of me will not get in God’s way. He will use everything that is surrendered and what He does not find useful, He will conform to the image of His Son Jesus Christ (Romans 8: 29, Philippians 3:10). That is great news. I do not have to be perfect. I can come just as I am.

Yours Truly.

Forgiven

Can you imagine living in a time where you had to follow a set of rules with not so stellar leaders as role models? Well those were the times that the Israelites lived in as recorded in the book of 2nd Kings. They had leaders that led them astray with idolatry and perversion and even though the rulers of those times got what they deserved, the Israelites shared in the consequences of the sins of their leaders.  Back in those days, many sins and transgressions were not forgiven by God. Notable among them were idolatry, burning children as sacrifices to gods, and of course disobedience… don’t get me started on disobedience. In those days there was a swiftness with which God exacted punishment on rule breakers, a swiftness that we may not necessarily experience today because of the grace of God. I think this week I discovered one of the scariest phrases ever written in scripture:

…and the LORD was not willing to forgive. 2 Kings 24: 4 NIV

As I ponder the stories I encountered in the book of 2nd Kings, I wonder if most of those people who met a sad fate had never heard of the word repentance. Most of these people received warnings from God through his prophets about what fate they would meet because of their disobedience or wickedness or whatever atrocities they had committed and I wonder if they were that ignorant about the fact that they could turn back to God, or were they just resigned to their fate? Was repentance even an option then?

It is very interesting that our fate (outside of Christ) is not very different from those of old… Unlike them though, the option of repentance has been made so readily available for the same transgressions that God was previously unwilling to forgive. It costs us nothing (except maybe our pride) and as an added bonus, the grace of God affords us the gift of time to “bypass” swift justice and yet many of us do not seem to value the fact that we have been afforded such a precious gift!

As I ponder all of this, I have come to value the ability to go before God and confess and repent of my wrong doings. What a blessed state  and dispensation to live in… How precious it is that I can go before God and say I am sorry and instead of an “I am unwilling to forgive” response, I can leave with an assurance of being forgiven as well as being refreshed (Acts 3: 19-20)…WHAAAAT!!!!! That is amazing.

Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away. Acts 3:19 NLT

Yours Truly.

Know your truth and live it

One of the most confusing, weird, and controversial stories in the bible that I have encountered so far has been the story of the young and the old prophet from 1st Kings 13. To summarize the story, God sends a young prophet to deliver a word to the ruling king but not to stop or eat or drink or return the way he came. After he delivers the word he sets on his way but an old prophet chases after him and deceitfully persuades him to come home with him and eat. As soon as the young prophet finishes eating, the old prophet asks why he did not obey God and tells him he will die because of that and true to the word of the old prophet he is mauled by a lion on his way home.

For days, I have been meditating on that scripture asking what lessons can be learned from such a bizarre story and this morning a scripture crossed my mind,

By smooth words he will turn to godlessness those who act wickedly toward the covenant, but the people who know their God will display strength and take action. Dan 11:32 NASB

This scripture, even though contextually was a prophecy about the future state of the Israelites has allowed me to think through this story a little bit more. The young prophet received a word from God not to eat or drink after he had delivered the message to the king. The king tried to convince him to stay for a meal but he refused but when the old prophet came and deceitfully told him God had said he should come home and eat, he relented and went with him. What went wrong? Did he no longer believe God had initially spoken to him? Was he motivated to disobey God’s word because he was afraid to offend the old prophet? I don’t know the answer to these questions but what I know is that there was a disconnect between what he spoke as truth and how he lived that truth in different circumstances of his life.

The scripture from the book of Daniel assures us that those that know their God will display strength in the midst of deceit, confusion, fear, mixed messages or flattery and will resist such influences. They will not only speak their truth which comes from the word of God but they will live that truth. With all the uncertainty surrounding the covid virus and its implications on global health and wealth, there are so many theories out there and frankly, some are scary. And yet God assures us that his promises for us will not fail because He cannot lie. He offers himself to us as an anchor of hope when it feels like we are being battered by the storms of life and that should be the TRUTH we SPEAK and LIVE.

So when God wanted to make the unchanging nature of His purpose very clear to the heirs of the promise, He guaranteed it with an oath. Thus by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be strongly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and steadfast. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus our forerunner has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever in the order of Melchizedek. Hebrews 6: 17- 20 BSB

Regardless of the circumstances, we need to hold on steadfastly to the truth of God’s word and not be influenced by anything especially fear. Know that the God who has promised is a faithful God, rest in His promises, be strong and courageous and walk in the strength of the Lord.  Jesus is praying and interceding for you.

Yours Truly.