For I know the plans I have for you….

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jer 29: 11 NIV

This scripture has brought comfort to many Christians (myself included) during times of uncertainty. Many times I have prayed this scripture when things happen in my life and I cannot explain them or when I am earnestly asking God for a special blessing, I remind Him from this scripture that his plans are to prosper me and give me a future and a hope.

Over the past few weeks, however, I have had the privilege of thinking about this scripture a little more deeply when I heard it quoted at the memorial service of a Christian young man who died very unexpectedly. The question was posed: “Was this God’s plan?” As I pondered the question, a very unusual answer came to me in the form of another question: “What is the future and hope God promises?”

If our hope in Christ is for this life alone, we are to be pitied more than all men. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ, all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ the firstfruits; then at His coming, those who belong to Him. 1 Cor 15: 19-23 BSB

As Christians, our hope and future are not of this world. Our hope, our future, our glory, and crown are in the fact that when our life is over in this world, we will stand victorious before the King of kings, Our God and Saviour Jesus Christ in the next world. If you have made Jesus the  Lord and Saviour of your life then you have a hope and a future and that is God’s plan for you. It is God’s desire that everyone is saved and comes to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim 2: 4 BSB).

So what about the prosperity promised in the scripture? People have a tendency to think of prosperity only in terms of money, wealth, and possessions but Jesus describes possessions not only as earthly but also heavenly. This is why He encouraged that we store up treasures in Heaven as well. This is not to say that I have prayed amiss all these years or encouraged myself with this scripture in vain. But as God calls me to enjoy a deeper relationship with him, I have come to the realization that this scripture Jer 29: 11 is both relevant for my life here on earth and also has eternal implications. I believe that God’s plan for me here on earth is that I prosper, be in good health, be successful, be happy and be delivered from harm. This is all scriptural. But I have also come to know in these past weeks that my prosperity, my future, and my hope is eternal and it is anchored in Christ the Solid Rock on which I stand while on this earth.

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: 18-20 BSB

As we slowly come to the end of the year, the end of a decade, the question I have for you and for myself is this: “Is your future anchored on the hope that is Jesus?” For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Yours Truly.

This Thing Called Choice

Recently I came across a posting for a job that I considered applying for. So many people encouraged me to apply but I wanted to hear from God and get the final green light. For days I kept praying, looking for a sign and after many days of waiting it hit me. God was not going to give me a sign! Instead, He would bless my choice like He promises in His word:

For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction. Psalm 1:6 NIV

God doesn’t make the choices for us. He orders our steps; He points us in the right direction through His word (Psalm 119:105) and through the counsel of trusted men and women (Prov 15:22); He may go as far as to give us the desire of our hearts to pursue certain choices (Psalm 21:2). But God will never make that final choice for us.

Two things intrigue me about Psalm 1:6 quoted above. The first is that my choices are not automatically the right ones because I profess to love and serve God. This scripture and others in the bible emphasize that this privilege is reserved for the godly, for the righteous. I need to be in right standing with God. When I am godly, I attract the presence of the Holy God into my affairs and He comes in, rejoicing over me with singing! How can my choices be horrible when God Himself delights in all the details of my life and is excited to share my successes and joys with me?

If you do what the LORD wants, he will make certain each step you take is sure/The LORD directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Psalm 37:23 CEV/NLT

The second thing from Psalm 1:6 was the emphasis on the word way. There is a binary contrasted here: the way of the righteous and the way of the sinner. Let’s read the entire passage that culminates to this ending.

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers.
Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction. Psalm 1:1-6 NIV

By our choices, the way in which we walk, we are either blessed or condemned. I recently heard an argument by a so-called preacher for a God that loves so much He cannot send people to hell!  Well… to that I say God does not send people to hell. People send themselves there by the choices they make. What God did for man in that regard was that He himself paid the ultimate price of death for atonement of sin for everyone. He continues to love everyone regardless of race, creed,  sexual orientation, and any other socially constructed categorization. He earnestly wills and desires that everyone will be saved (1 Tim 2: 4). What God will not do is make the choice of life everlasting or eternal damnation for anyone.

“Now listen! Today I am giving you a choice between life and death, between prosperity and disaster. Deuteronomy 30:15 NLT

There is a way that leads to life and prosperity; and one that leads to disaster and death.  And the choice is yours to make. Scripture describes the way of life as narrow – a path less trodden; a path that seems contrary to mainstream thinking; a path you might be alone on in the company of your family, your coworkers, your spouse, your friends (Matthew 7:13-14). Finding the narrow way is very easy- Jesus said I am the way to life! That’s the first choice. Now staying on/ in the way of the righteous is a series of choices that we make daily. A line in one of my favourite songs is that “every choice is an act of war”– a war to stay on the path of the righteous or to walk in the way of the wicked. The comforting news here is that God watches over the way/ path of the righteous!

So what do you choose today?

…follow the steps of the good, and stay on the paths of the righteous. Psalm 2:20 NLT

Yours Truly.

 

Forgiven

I have done some really stupid things in my short existence here on earth… some of them I have chocked to immaturity but no matter how much I excuse others,  they have got a hook in my conscience and can bring me to a place of shame with just a fleeting thought. And yet most days, I strut about guilt-free, not carrying the weight of my careless past around. More often than not, I feel FORGIVEN. I say more often than not because there are a few days where a random event triggers memories from my past and with the memories come a twinge of condemnation. But even then, I still feel FORGIVEN.

Over the past few weeks, I have come to the realization that forgiveness is not free and should not be taken for granted. It always comes at a cost both to the forgiver and the forgiven; a cost which is manifest in expectations.

As we continue with our series on the Lord’s Prayer (sorry for the hiatus), I have had time to ponder over the next section:

Forgive us the wrongs we have done, as we forgive the wrongs that others have done to us. Matthew 6:12 GNT

Two expectations of the one who is forgiven are that:

  1. He or she does not become a repeat offender.  John 8:11: “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Now go and sin no more.” BSB. Jesus expectation of the woman caught in adultery was that having been forgiven, she’d not put herself in that position again.
  2.  He or she would replicate such forgiveness.

“Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him. In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars. He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold—along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned—to pay the debt. “But the man fell down before his master and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’ Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt. “But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment. “His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it,’ he pleaded. But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full.“When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened. Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt.“That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.” Matthew 18: 23- 35 NLT

The expectation of the forgiven is that they will, in turn, become the forgivers.

Forgiveness needs to be given freely and often. It is to be given without any demands of the offender; knowing full well that the offender may require to be forgiven for similar or other offences over and over again.

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not just seven times, but seventy-seven times! Matthew 18:22 BSB

It seems like a difficult task and frankly a futile one. Why forgive with the understanding that you can be hurt again? Another lesson from weeks of pondering is that forgiveness is not easy. It is easy to say to someone who owes you money, “Don’t worry. It’s all good!” only if you can afford to do so. Cancelling another’s debt  (sin, offence, trespass is likened to debt in scripture) like the King in the story above did can only come from one place: abundance.

It is not the abundance of things that I speak of; cos life does not consist in an abundance of possession (Luke 12:15). Rather I speak of the abundant life that Jesus promises: I came that they may have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10 ESV). This abundant life is the impetus for forgiveness. When God forgives you of all your wrongdoing, and you walk about guilt and condemnation-free, that’s winning the lottery of abundant life! You’ve got it good. You’ve been made and so you can afford to freely cancel other’s debt.

That’s not even the best part. The best part is that as we forgive others, God forgives us too. For those who love science, that’s a positive feedback loop! The more you forgive, the more you are forgiven and the more you are forgiven, the more you forgive. It sounds glamorous, I know, but forgiveness is far from glamorous. It is painstakingly difficult.

The reality of it all is this: To whom much is given, much is expected. The expectation of the forgiven is to become a forgiver. And if there’s anyone who has been forgiven much it is me! And so for me, forgiveness is not a choice. It is God’s expectation of me. And I know I can count on God’s spirit to fill me abundantly with His love and grace in my time of dryness so I can graciously forgive as God has forgiven me.

Give me this day my daily bread, O God,  so out of my abundance of love, and grace, and truth, and mercy, I can confidently say to those who offend me, “Don’t worry. It’s all good!

Yours Truly.

 

Picture from Clear Sky Group. (2018, November 23). The importance of forgiveness in recovery. Retrieved from https://clearskyibogaine.com/the-importance-of-forgiveness-in-recovery/

Our Daily Bread

Give us this day our daily bread. Matthew 6:11 NIV

I have spent almost a month pondering over what this scripture means to me and I learnt two lessons from this line of the Lord’s prayer.

Lesson 1

Many times in my life when I have prayed about my needs and wants, there is some measure of extravagance to it. I am asking God (with all earnestness) for some really big things… we are talking lots of moolah and always for many good causes but in the course of thinking of this scripture, there was a paragraph from the book I am reading, Pursue Overtake Recover, that really struck me. The author, Kerry Kirkwood said:

Many of us pray big prayers and yet prepare little for the answers. Without wisdom from above, the answers to some prayers would be destructive. For instance, you may ask for a million dollars to flow through your hands and yet are not prepared because you have not been faithful and responsible handling hundreds of dollars… The receiver of the gift must be equal to the size of the gift so as to contain the answer when it comes.

That really hit home for me. so what has this got to do with my daily bread? Everything. I am learning to ask for my DAILY bread. Not more than what I need but exactly what God knows I need each day. Since I learnt from Psalm 23 about not wanting because God is my Shepherd, god has proven Himself to me and my family. We have had enough to get us through every day. Some days, this means we have enough to give generously to others and other days it means we have just enough for our family unit. Regardless of the day, whatever God blesses us with is enough for the day. It is our DAILY BREAD. I am 100% in agreement with the prayer of the wise man:

Keep falsehood and lies far from me; 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 dishonour the name of my God. Proverbs 30: 8-9 NIV

Lesson 2

A lot of times when we think of daily bread, we think of our physical and financial needs and while that is all well and good, bread in scripture represents far more than that! let’s look at these scriptures together:

Yes, I am the bread of life! I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and this bread, which I will offer so the world may live, is my flesh. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” John 6: 48, 51, 58 NLT

Jesus contrasts two kinds of bread. One is for physical sustenance and the other is only found in Him and it gives life, even eternal life. Because it is Jesus himself. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world (John 6:38 NIV).  So when Jesus is teaching us to pray for our daily bread, we are asking God to give us enough of Himself for another day; enough presence, enough power, enough revelation, enough of His spirit for the day.

So how do I access this bread and how does it give me life? Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” (Matthew 4:4 NIV). The Word of God is key and when God Himself inspires us with the exact Word we need for the day, how blessed will our day be! We will experience the life-giving power of God’s word. The same breath of life that was breathed into the first man’s nostrils making him a living creature is manifest in every word in scripture because All Scripture is God-breathed… (2 Timothy 3:16 NIV)

So if you have been following along in this series, we start by acknowledging who God is as our Father and identifying our place in His kingdom and the next step is to ask for God’s enablement by asking for enough of God for the day. Perhaps if I start my day with a measure of God’s spirit, I may not struggle as much with my thoughts, with what I say, with my actions, and with my motives and motivations throughout the day! So:

This is the air I breathe
This is the air I breathe
Your holy presence living in me
This is my daily bread
This is my daily bread
Your very word spoken to me
And I’m desperate for you
And I’m lost without you

Yours Truly.

Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven

Have you ever prayed for something that you really really want or need and ended that prayer by asking that God’s will be done? Once I was praying for a miracle for a loved one who was dying and my only request was that God heals them so they live. I finished that prayer with “but let your will be done” because I thought it was the Christian and humble thing to do when asking for such requests. In that moment all my hope was that God’s will was also that this person lives otherwise that would defeat my whole prayer! In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed a similar prayer asking that God’s will be done and we all know how that turned out for Him! (we will come back to this point shortly)

In short, I have never liked adding that caveat to any prayer. This week I dug deep into why I do not like to pray “Your will be done” and I realized it is because of two reasons: Many times I do not know what God’s will is and the second reason is a fear that even if I found out what God’s will was, it will be in conflict with what I want or think I need. This week, God taught me a few things to get me unstuck from this mindset.  So let’s delve in.

What is God’s will for me in any situation?

That is a difficult question for this very reason: For who can know the LORD’s thoughts? Who knows enough to give him advice?  (Romans 11:34 NLT). No one knows the mind and heart of God except God’s Spirit.

For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 1 Corinthians 2:11 NIV

But thank God that through the sacrificial work of Jesus on the cross, we have been redeemed. And through this work of sanctification and justification and now have God’s spirit; the spirit of reconciliation (1 Cor 2:12). It is by this Spirit that we have the mind of Christ. As our minds are being renewed to become more and more like Christ’s, we are able to know the will of God.

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12: 2 NLT

In every circumstance we face, God’s will for us is good, pleasing, and perfect. So back to my initial comment about how it ended for Jesus when he prayed that God’s will be done in the Garden of Gethsemane… well we know that He ended up dying a distasteful and painful death. However, we on this side of history, can look back and say that God’s will was good, pleasing, and perfect because that death brought us back into relationship with God (this is why Good Friday is really good!). Take solace in this promise of God:

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV) 

What do I do if what I want/need and God’s will are not in agreement?

This question is easy. Remember that in the Lord’s Prayer Jesus taught us to pray “your kingdom come” before “your will be done”? If we come to the place of understanding that Jesus Christ is king over our lives and over the earth, then the choice becomes easy.

For the king’s word is supreme, and who can say to him, “What are you doing?” Ecclesiastes 8:4 BSB

Frances Havergal captured the response of every Christian who has surrendered to the Lordship and Kingship of Christ in her famous hymn as thus:

Take my will, and make it Thine;
It shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart; it is Thine own;
It shall be Thy royal throne.

Jesus conquered the world in an epic battle and now the kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ (Revelations 11:15 CEV). He reigns supreme and sovereign over all the heavens and the earth. So as sons and daughters of the King of the heavens and the earth, not only should our prayer be “your will be done” but we can confidently add “…on earth as it is in heaven

Yours Truly.

Your Kingdom Come

This week I have been pondering over the next line in the Lord’s prayer: Your kingdom come. Why would Jesus, a man whose earthly ancestry was from the royal lineage of Israel and whose heavenly heritage is the King of Kings, ask his disciples to pray for the kingdom to come. Many times when I pray this prayer I get hung up on this line. I often ask myself if that means that God’s kingdom is not yet on earth and God has no rulership or authority on earth and so Christians have to pray for God’s kingdom to come. I have also wondered if it means we are asking God to hasten the day when the sky will be rolled back like a scroll and the Lord shall appear with great power and glory (Matthew 24:30).

To be honest, I had been dreading the thought of moving on to this phrase in the Lord’s prayer until this evening. As I was reflecting on what “your kingdom come” might mean, another scripture kept coming to mind:

“The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.” Rev 11:15 ESV

To English scholars, you will understand that the phrase ‘has become’ is a present perfect tense. This tense indicates either that an action was completed at some point in the past or that the action extends to the present. At face value that scripture implies that at some point the kingdom of the world was not the kingdom of God and has now become so. If God owns everything how did He lose the kingdom of the world and who did he lose it to? I started reading a book yesterday titled Pursue Overtake Recover by Kerry Kirkwood and I learned something that might help answer these questions.

In the book, Kerry describes redemption as such: Redemption means  to buy back or pay the ransom; but it is more than that , it means the original owner  never loses the right to redeem. It always has to be the original owner who redeems it not someone else down the line.  The original owner has first right to refuse the redemption or to pay the redemptive price required. Keep this in mind as we move along.

In the beginning, God placed Adam in the garden of Eden and gave Adam full authority to rule over everything on earth. God in essence gave the kingdom of the world to Adam (humankind). As ruler over the kingdom of the world, only Adam had the authority to  give up his rulership to another. The devil who had been cast down to earth for many many years (Isaiah 14:12-14) prior to Adam could not rule over the earth until Adam gave up his rulership to the devil through disobedience. The kingdom of the world which was man’s inheritance became the devil’s.

See Genesis 1:28 and compare with Genesis 9:1. You will notice that after the flood God made similar pronouncements of blessings upon mankind as he made in the garden of Eden when he first created man. But the second time around ,God never mentions anything about man’s dominion over earth.  Man had given away that dominion to the devil at this point. Have you ever wondered about the devil’s audacity in this scripture: Again, the devil took Him (Jesus) to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. “All this I will give You,” he said, “if You will fall down and worship me.”(Matthew 4:8-9 BSB). Yeah that’s where it comes from.

Now remember I said to redeem something in biblical times, it could only be done by the rightful owner  not someone else in line. So to redeem the kingdom of the world, it could only be done by God who is the rightful owner and Lord of the earth (Rev 11:4). “Now the kingdom of this world belongs to our Lord and to his Chosen One! And he will rule forever and ever!” (Rev 11:15 CEV). Jesus the Chosen One, has redeemed the kingdom of the world but He did not hand that right back to man. Instead, He promised man keys to the kingdom of heaven.

“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”Matthew 16:19 NIV.

And so now man’s authority to rule on earth is subject to his authority in the kingdom of  Heaven as a joint heir with Christ.

So He said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy. Nothing will harm you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Luke 10:19 BSB

So when I pray, “Your kingdom come” it is an affirmation God’s rulership and authority over the kingdom of the world. It is a recognition that I have authority on earth because I have ties with the kingdom of God. And finally it is to pray that more and more people come to this same recognition so that they can also have dominion and authority too as long as they too submit to the Lordship and authority of Jesus Christ, the owner and redeemer of the earth.

Yours Truly.

Our Father who Art in Heaven

For many people, the thought of God as a father is shaped and coloured subconsciously by the relationship that they have/ had with their own fathers, biological or otherwise.

Growing up, my dad was the scariest person I knew.  He was this tall, bearded man that towered over us little children, with a booming voice that filled the room when he spoke. Even my friends were afraid of him. When boys would call the landline, they’d hung up as soon as my dad picked up. Even the friendliest of hellos from my dad sounded scary. It did not help that my dad was also the disciplinarian in our home and a principled one at that! Although my dad was highly approachable, I rarely went to him with my flimsy problems, only the important ones. I would go to him to help me solve math problems or help with my English essays. Everything else, I talked to my mum about. Seeking and getting my dad’s approval was everything. I studied hard in school and tried to always outdo myself term after term because I knew my dad was pleased when my report card was good.

My dad sounds like most people’s image of God: a very tall man in the clouds with a voice that can fill a whole room or the whole earth, very principled, disciplines his children when they sin, can only be reached through prayer and in a specific manner (in church, prayer posture i.e. kneeling with hands clasped and eyes closed, etc.), seems loving  or rather there are things in the bible about Him that say he’s loving but when we look at the relationship we have with him, love is not the first word that jumps out at us. For many people, myself included, the word father does not equate tenderness.

Fortunately, I have lived long enough to experience a shift in my relationship with my dad. While I continue to have the utmost respect I could have for another human being on this planet for my dad, he is no longer the scary man I used to know. His presence does not evoke fear in me. In fact, I would not mind blowing everyone off just to hang out with my dad. As I have gotten older, I have found he is so cool. He’s full of wisdom and experience and is very funny. I find myself reminiscing over our recent conversations and laughing to myself. When he calls to check on me, I feel so special and when he prays for me, I feel loved. His approval is still everything to me so knowing that he will read this post makes me slightly nervous (Hi daddy…!).

So it is with Our Father in Heaven. When one has not developed a relationship with him, it is hard to fathom the depth of love and the tenderness of God. He is this being that we send our requests to and if you have done enough good or you are “righteous” enough, our requests are granted. But as you begin to encounter the Father’s love, the first truth that becomes apparent is that you are loved.

Behold what manner of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God. And that is what we are! 1st John 3:1 BSB

This is not the kind of love that you have read in the bible countless times… For God so loved the world… and it just does not faze you… oh no no no! This is the love that washes over you; a love that draws you in and makes you feel special.  You feel the love. You feel like you are a child of God. The second thing that changes is your image of  God.

For you did not receive a spirit of slavery that returns you to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” Romans 8: 15 BSB

When you encounter the Father’s love (I keep referring to the process of encountering the father’s love because many of us have head knowledge of this love but it has not been translated yet to heart knowledge), your image of God changes. There is no fear in approaching Him for perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18). He is no longer this scary personality who is watching us and keeping records of our sin and standing in judgement of us and our actions.  He becomes our Abba Father! His presence becomes everything. We just want to sit at his feet and glean from his wisdom. We are excited to share our lives; our joys and pain with him and look forward to his encouragement and comfort. So when we pray… Our Father who art in heaven… it is not just a phrase from a childhood prayer we learnt in Sunday school. We are actually calling the attention of our heavenly father and with anticipation of having him turn his attention towards us to hear from us.

Lord, I want to love you more than I’ve ever loved before. You’re so easy to adore, Lord I want to love you more.

Yours Truly.

The big “V”

Vulnerability, the big V is something that you seldom see in churches. As far as I know…church leaders have never sinned in their lives! They never get discouraged…! They never feel like God has let them down…! Oh, and they do not get sick…! I grew up with this mentality of being a Christian and especially as one who was involved in church leadership. I always had to have it together and be well-composed especially for those who look up to me.

I recently listened to a TED talk by Brene Brown on the power of vulnerability and I will summarize what I learned and how I apply it to my walk with God.  From Brene’s research which spanned over a decade she discovered that:

We are hardwired  as humans for connection however, there is one thing that unravels connection in society and this is shame. Shame is simply a fear of disconnection. “Is there something about me that if people knew then i won’t be worthy of connection?” [This reminds me of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden after they sinned; they hid from the presence of God because they were filled with fear and shame].

Shame is universal and is underpinned by vulnerability. Vulnerability is not comfortable or excruciating but it is necessary, and yet people struggle with it so much. According to Brene, we deal with vulnerability by numbing the grief, the shame, the fear, the disappointment, but unfortunately, we are not wired to selectively numb some emotions and leave out others. When we numb all the bad stuff we also numb joy, happiness, peace. We make the uncertain certain- so religion which used to be “I believe in faith and mystery” becomes “I am right, you are wrong. shut up!” We pretend that everything is ok and that the things we do does not have an impact on others.

Through her research, Brene discovered another set of people: A group of people who live life wholeheartedly and have a strong sense of belonging. What she found that those people had in common were that they had courage (to be imperfect), compassion ( to be kind to themselves first, and then to others), connection (the willingness to let go of who they thought they should be, in order to be who they were) and finally vulnerability.

Brene discovered that vulnerability is the core of shame and fear and unworthiness but it also is the birthplace of joy, creativity, of belonging,  and of love. After listening to this talk I wanted to see what the bible says about vulnerability and I was led to many scriptures but I will highlight a few:

  • 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
  • Romans 7:23-24
  • 2 Corinthians 13:4
  • James 5:16
  • 1 Corinthians 2:3-4
  • 2 Corinthians 11: 27-30
  • 2 Corinthians 4: 7

If you read those scriptures you will see a common trend. Vulnerability is about declaring our weakness before others and before God. This allows God’s grace to flow. When we are weak, we leave room for grace to pour in. I will take Brene’s conceptualization a little further to say vulnerability is the birthplace of grace. It is the portal that allows us to receive more of God’s grace in our lives.  I am reminded of a parable of Jesus:

“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. Luke 18:9-14 NIV

The pharisee would not allow himself to be vulnerable even in the place of prayer to take a hard long look at his life. And when you contrast the Pharisee with the tax collector, the tax collector encountered grace and was justified (for we are justified by grace through faith.. Romans 3:23-25). I believe Brene was on to something here: those things that bring us shame, fear of disconnection, and unworthiness in other words those things that make us vulnerable are the things that we need to be the most real about with ourselves (because you cannot lie to yourself), to God (because He knows all things) and to others (because vulnerability in the place of confession with prayer, brings healing)

I come broken to be mended
I come wounded to be healed
I come desperate to be rescued
I come empty to be filled
I come guilty to be pardoned
By the blood of Christ the Lamb
And I’m welcomed with open arms
Praise God, just as I am

Yours Truly.

P.S. you can listen to the Brene’s TEDtalk by clicking here

Losing Control

I tried to fit you in the walls inside my mind
I try to keep you safely in between the lines
I try to put you in the box that I’ve designed
I try to pull you down so we are eye to eye

Just a whisper of your voice can tame the seas
So who am I to try to take the lead
Still I run ahead and think I’m strong enough
When you’re the one who made me from the dust

When did I forget that you’ve always been the king of the world?
I try to take life back right out of the hands of the king of the world
How could I make you so small
When you’re the one who holds it all
When did I forget that you’ve always been the king of the world?

 

Every time I hear this song, I feel openly rebuked by the lyrics because it is so true of me. For those who know me, you know I am a planner. I have backup plans for my backup plans and in every situation, I try to be in control and take charge. Very few people have ever seen me lose control,  or even lose my temper (you do not want to poke that beast though…!) This sunday in church, I was humbled by the sermon that spoke to how 3 groups of people in Mark’s account of the gospel responded to Jesus and I found myself right smack  and sitting pretty in one group. For context, the account is taken from  Mark 3: 20-34. The three groups of people identified are the family of Jesus, the Teachers of the Law, and the disciples that sit around Jesus’s feet. The group I identify with is the family of Jesus so let’s take a look at them, shall we?

Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” Mark 3:20-21 NIV

Many times, I’m like the family of Jesus. I have heard and read about the miracles and the awesome power of God at work in the lives of the ancients and believers today. I pray for others to see and experience God in wonderful and miraculous ways, but when it comes to my own life…it’s a different story! I need to take charge! I trust God to do X, Y, and Z but I make my own plans in case God does not pull through or He takes too long. My commitment sometimes is half-hearted. With my mouth, I say, “yes Lord I trust you completely!” But in my heart, I am like “Okay so how am I going to deal with this!”

I find myself at an impasse.  I realize that I cannot call Jesus the Lord of my life when I am unprepared to relinquish the reins. For someone who is always in control that’s hard. But more than being in control, I sincerely want to please God and so with this post, I remind myself that GOD IS, HAS ALWAYS BEEN, AND WILL ALWAYS BE the King of the world.  I want to go all in with God and let Him have His way. Today I chose to believe fully and utterly “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV) and I give back the areas of my life that I control right back to the King of the World!

Shout out to Pastor Kirk Cowman!

Yours Truly.

He Rejoices Over Us with Singing

We sing to God in praise and in worship but do you know God sings over you too? He not only sings over you. He rejoices over you.

“Cheer up, Zion! Don’t be afraid! For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” Zephaniah 3:16 NLT

Today I come with glad tidings! I was recently at a Don Moen concert and I got to experience what it means to have God rejoice over me with singing.   It was a very spectacular thing and  I am going to try to duplicate this in the blog. It involves your participation.

Let’s try this together. I want you to sing this verse (meaningfully) to God:

There is none like you. No one else can touch my heart like you do. I could search for all eternity long and find there is none like you

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KnhUh2tt97Q

Now that you have sung it to God, I want you to sing it again but this time close your eyes and imagine that God is singing this same verse to you.

Pretty spectacular right? Can you imagine the King of Kings in all His majestic glory saying to you, “there is none like you?” And indeed that’s true! There is no one in this entire world that’s like you! So

“Cheer up, [insert your name]! Don’t be afraid! For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”

Yours Truly.