The Enemy in Me

For the past few weeks my bible readings have been focused in the Psalms and if you have read the Psalms, you will notice that in a lot of the verses, David expresses his anguish and laments about his enemies. He calls out to God many times to decimate his enemies and to give him relieve from their evil ploys and accusations. Every time I read such verses, I subconsciously try to connect to the psalm by reflecting on the people in my life who might fit the criteria of an “enemy.” I start to think about the oppositions I face in my life from people and situations and consciously or subconsciously, position those as the enemies as I convert these Psalms to personal and sometimes fervent prayers.

In the last little while, my pastor has been teaching us to try a reflective prayer where we ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to us areas in our life where God wants to breathe new life. He simplifies the process as giving God the remote control to your day and asking God to replay your day to you and pin point those areas in your day. I decided to try this while reading Psalm 68 and the result was really enlightening.

I had just come off a very trying day at work and I was reading Psalm 68 where David is jubilant about the victories God brings over his enemies. As I was connecting with that scripture and silently praying with David “Summon your power , God and show us your strength our God as you have done before (verse 28)”, I started to ask myself if perhaps there are other people out there who are reading the same Psalm with me in mind as they pray to God to show his power? Are there people out there who are also reading some of these Psalms and subconsciously thinking of me as the enemy? I believe this was the Holy Spirit telling me in His own way that sometimes I am not the wronged in those “oppressive situations”. This is why this verse had so much meaning for me:

Rebuke the beast in the reeds, the herd of bulls among the calves of the nations, until it submits, bringing bars of silver. Scatter the nations who delight in war.

Psalm 68:30 BSB

Sometimes, I have to rebuke or ask God to rebuke the beast in me. The behaviours that are not usually characteristics of me but show up on occasion and are offensive to others- “the herd of bulls among the calves” need to come under the authority of Christ. This “beast” must be humbled to the point where it is submitted to God’s will- where I am submitted to God’s will.

So folks, next time you read the Psalm and come across scriptures like “Let God arise and his enemies be scattered (Psalm 68:1)”, before you think about that person or situation as the enemy you are at war with, look inward. Is there anything in your life that is characteristic of the enemy you are fighting? If so, ask God to rebuke that beast so that you do not become collateral damage when God arises.

Yours Truly.

All because we do not carry…

The past few weeks have been fraught with worrying for me and when I worry, I pace and talk to myself. I imagine at length the situations that are stressing me out or have the potential to stress me out and talk myself through them. This has been one on my coping mechanisms for many years.

This weekend, I found myself in one such spot. I had confined myself to my room and paced about talking to myself for almost an hour non-stop. After a while, I paused to freshen up and my daughter came to me and said “Mummy, are you done praying?” I remained silent for awhile unsure of how to respond. I had spent almost an hour talking through my worry and stress and I had not once in that time invited God into that conversation. In that moment, I was overcome with many emotions but prominent among them was gratitude that my kiddo knows that we have such a privilege to talk to God about anything and a little shame that I had not done that. The words of Joseph M. Scriven from the hymn “what a friend we have in Jesus” flooded my mind:

Oh, what peace we often forfeit
Oh, what needless pain we bear
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer

I don’t know what you are going through right now. But if I have learned anything today, it is that I can trust God with my worry and stresses, He is waiting to be invited into those conversations.

Yours Truly.

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!

Do not settle!

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

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

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

Genesis 11: 31-32 NIV

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

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

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

Psalm 37:4 BSB

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

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

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

Hebrews 12:1-3 NIV

Yours Truly.

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

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