Religion vs Relationship

So two weeks ago, I had a conversation with my pastor that started with the statement “I am very angry with God”. And after about a 15- 20 minute rant about why I was angry, she prayed with me and I went on my rather morose way! And for the past two weeks I have been thinking, “well I put that out there, God and so now its your move” and for the past two weeks I have been wondering how both God and I will get past my confession and back into relationship. Yesterday as I was getting ready for church, I heard a sermon playing on the TV from a preacher I had never heard before and he started by saying, “people are the angriest they have ever been” and that piqued my interest and then God in his special way managed to speak to me through all my anger. So here is what I learned:

  • Lesson #1- Look underneath the anger
    • The preacher in a very dramatic reenactment described Naaman’s journey to healing from leprosy (2 Kings 5:1-8:15) . When Elisha had asked Naaman to get cleansed in the Jordan river his immediate reaction was anger. One would think that for someone who had travelled all the way for healing, he would have been more excited that he did not have to do something so arduous but no…Naaman turned away in anger. Now Naaman was a highly regarded and valiant soldier, a man’s man and his current state was a far cry from the success he had achieved in life. There was a great chasm between what Naaman’s expectations of the life of valiant soldier should look like and his current experience. And this chasm was filled with anger and rage. As the preacher said, success has a way of sedating us to think that we do not deserve any form of suffering and perhaps this was the state of mind of Naaman who expressed anger at the instructions to go and wash in the Jordan river. Two weeks ago, in unburdening about why I was so angry with God, I had shared with my pastor how I felt God could not be trusted. I was angry because I have spent a greater part of my life in service to God in one way or another and did not feel that God was treating me fairly with the adversity and unanswered prayers I have recently encountered. And guess what? I am not alone! Many Christians are asking God questions like, “why did I lose my loved one?” “why did I get Covid?” “why did you not prevent my marriage from falling apart?” “why didn’t the healing come when I prayed?”… and so on and so forth. As the preacher said so astutely, our everyday success has a way of sedating us into thinking that we do not deserve our suffering and the truth of that statement hit me hard. I have asked myself if my whole relationship with God had been built on the notion of reciprocity – that because of the things I have done in service of God that somehow I deserve God to give me everything I ask for. Two weeks ago, my pastor suggested that I reflect on what I have anchored my faith to- whether my faith and trust in God was tethered to the fact that my whole family has been serving Him faithfully and so felt like God owed us something for our service. I have spent the past few weeks thinking about this and have uncovered something really valuable which I share in lesson #2.
  • Lesson #2- What is your faith anchored to?
    • In exploring why I have been so angry, I have ruminated on what my trust is anchored in and came to the conclusion that my pastor was on to something. Over the years, I have built my faith and trust in Jesus based on the things He has done for me. The answered prayers for provision and providence, the many times of deliverance from accidents and ill health, the times I have experienced God’s grace have served to increase and grow my faith in God and in His abilities. However, my faith has not been anchored to more than that. For example, instead of building my faith around the fact that God is a healer which is His character, His essence, I have built faith around his acts of healing- so not on who He is, but what He does. And while God’s many acts helps to build faith, anchoring my faith on His actions alone is not a sustainable way to develop trust in a relationship. So in keeping with this example, during those times when God chooses not to heal me or my loved ones, my faith gets shaken because there is a gap between my expectations and my experience. In reality, whether or not God chooses to heal in a particular instance does not, and should not change the fact that He is a healer. In many ways, I have become like the Israelites of old who sought God for his mighty acts and so that was all God was to them. However, this was not the case with Moses. Even though Moses got introduced to God through his acts (the burning bush), he grew in relationship to the point where he knew God and communed with Him as friend with friend not because of what God could do, but because of who he is. Think about this:

He revealed his character to Moses and his deeds to the people of Israel (Psalm 103:7 NLT).

Psalm 103:7 NLT

So through all my anger, God managed to reach at the crux of what was bothering me and not only that, He has brought me into a place of deeper relationship with Him- just like He did for Naaman. When God got through to Naaman past all his anger, He not only brought healing to the leprosy but also healed his heart. This year I have experienced new dimensions of God and I find that the more I lean into it, the more it feels like my life is falling apart. And the more my life falls apart, the more it falls into place. So before I sign off, I leave you with this thought: Religion says God I did this so now it is your turn to do that but Relationship says God I trust you. so which one do you have? Religion or Relationship?

Yours Truly

P.s. here is the sermon I listened to: https://elevationchurch.org/sermons/the-cost-of-going-off/

When God is Silent

Today we celebrate Good Friday and we remember all the activities of that fateful day many years ago, when Jesus was crucified. And then we will wait for Easter Sunday to celebrate Jesus’ triumphant resurrection. But what about Saturday? For many of us the day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday passes uneventfully. Can you imagine what that day must have been like for Jesus’ disciples and followers? After everything he had said and done, the reality of his death probably sunk in on Saturday as the city returned to normalcy post-burial of Jesus. Their leader was gone; His voice and power and influence silenced in death.

Have you ever felt like you are living in the in-between of life, just like the day between Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday when God seems silent? When prayers seem to be bouncing off the wall? Where your Saviour is no where to be found? I have felt God’s silence for a few months now. I have shared in multiple posts how I have prayed for things that are really important to me and God seems silent; I have prayed for health and seen the opposite in my life; I have prayed for strength and instead have experienced weakness; I have prayed for soundness of mind and instead have been unsettled and terrified by my thoughts. I am living in the Saturday between Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday.

But friends, we know from scripture that on the Saturday in-between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, God was NOT silent. His Spirit was actively making Jesus alive in the spirit! While to the world Jesus was dead and silent, He was very much alive in the spirit and fighting a victorious battle over death and captivity. Jesus was securing the keys to hell and death so that no one would ever have to separated eternally from God (unless by choice); He was ensuring that death lost its sting and power forever for any one who believes in Him. While the world experienced his silence in death, Jesus was in fact busy working the miracle of the salvation and His Spirit was preparing for the miracle of the Resurrection the next day:

For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit,  in whom He also went and preached to the spirits in prison… 1 Peter 3: 18- 19 BSB

And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit, who lives in you. Romans 8:11 BSB

God was very much present on Saturday as He was on Friday and on Sunday. So today, I pray for you even as I pray for myself that you will be encouraged in the in-between times when God seems silent. I pray that your Saturday (your period of silence) will not be too long so as to leave you discouraged but instead may this prophecy of old be fulfilled in your very lives during this Easter season:

“See, your Savior comes! Look, His reward is with Him, and His recompense goes before Him”

Isaiah 62:11

Amen! and Happy Easter to you all.

Yours Truly

You are being pursued by God

Over the last couple of weeks, I have spent some time in the book of Isaiah and as I have reflected on the scriptures I have read, one thing has become more obvious to me: God pursues us as much as we pursue Him.

The latter chapter of the book Isaiah is filled with imagery of a God pursuing a people who although do not reciprocate the love they are shown, are loved nonetheless. God chases after a people that He has chosen to be His and lavishes his love on them. As I read through those scriptures, I got nostalgic. I was reminded of a time when I was a single lady and the lengths my husband, then suitor, made to woo me- the long walks, the endless conversations, the trips back and forth between cities, and the gifts. Inasmuch as he was trying to catch my eye and impress me, so was I also trying to impress him; and this dance continued until we got married and this wooing continues till date.

Isaiah 59 sets the stage by describing how God wants to do so much more for the people of Israel but then their sins have separated them from God and He is so displeased with their state that He himself puts on righteousness as a breastplate and salvation as a helmet and comes to the rescue of his people:

He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm achieved salvation for him, and his own righteousness sustained him. He put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his head; he put on the garments of vengeance and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak.

Isaiah 61:10 NIV

Not only does he save them but also showers blessings on them and promises them an eternal inheritance. In chapter 61, we see Isaiah appreciating this love, just like it looked like for me many years ago when I started to fall in love with my man:

I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels

Isaiah 62: 3-5 NIV

We go on to see how much God figuratively pursues Israel in this courtship until He marries them and changes their name from deserted and desolate to married (sound familiar?):

You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God. No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate. But you will be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah; for the Lord will take delight in you, and your land will be married. As a young man marries a young woman, so will your Builder marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.

Isaiah 62: 3-5 NIV

As I read through these scriptures, I come face-to-face with a very relational and relatable God. I am reminded that inasmuch as my Christian walk is about drawing close to God, and getting to know Him, and giving Him control, and surrendering to Him, it is also about a God who continues to woo me with His great and awesome and mighty deeds. As a bridegroom delights in his bride, so the Lord delights in me and wants to impress me.

As we inch our way into the Holy week, may this thought comfort you and remind you that you are fully known and loved by God.

Yours Truly

Helping God’s plans along

Almost 16 years ago, I received a prophecy about something that was going to happen in what seemed like the near future. Thinking that this thing was going to happen in months after it was spoken, I started to look every where for signs. Everybody I came into contact with, I treated like they were my “destiny helper”; the conduit through whom this prophecy would be fulfilled. Over the years, I have put myself in very precarious situations trying to help God’s plan along.

Today I was thinking about the past 15 years and 9 months and realized I have not waited well for the fulfillment of God’s promises in my life. Here are two things I have done that I strongly encourage you NOT to do while waiting on God:

  • I have wavered between faith and doubt- In times of faith, I have clung to those words and prayed steadfastly asking God for a physical manifestation of what has already been accomplished in the spirit. I have thanked God for the things he has already done and used them as anchor points to secure my hope and expectations in God’s faithfulness, that He indeed is the same yesterday , today and forever. However, in times of doubt, I have asked myself if God really spoke. I have also made assumptions that the person through which this prophecy came perhaps never heard from God at all and made it all up. I have blamed myself for perhaps having itchy ears and in so doing, being susceptible to deception. Last week, I was reminded of this image of Elijah standing on Mount Carmel admonishing the Israelites sternly, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him. But if Baal is God, follow him” (1 Kings 18:20 BSB). James makes it clear that wavering between doubt and faith results in receiving nothing:

…But he must ask in faith, without doubting, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. He is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways

James 1: 6-8 BSB
  • I have tried to help God along– I met this guy a few months after the prophecy and even though others had warned me to stay clear of him, I remember my response being, “what if this was the person that God was going to use to fulfill that prophecy?” Well, needless to say, this guy was indeed trouble and my worse nightmare ever! He most certainly was not God’s conduit for anything…just a conduit of woes for me! You’d think that I would have learnt my lesson but no… as weeks became months; and the months years, I have justified helping God’s plan along by saying things like perhaps “this is how God intended to fulfil this prophecy” or ” God did not mean this…perhaps He meant that instead”. Today, I was reminded of Sarah who had a very similar conversation with her husband: Now Abram’s wife Sarai had borne him no children, but she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar. So Sarai said to Abram, “Look now, the LORD has prevented me from bearing children. Please go to my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family by her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. So after he had lived in Canaan for ten years, his wife Sarai took her Egyptian maidservant Hagar and gave her to Abram to be his wife. And he slept with Hagar, and she conceived. But when Hagar realized that she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress” (Genesis 16:1- 4 BSB). Sarah, after waiting for God for so long, decided to build her family some other way and even though she was blessed with a child through Hagar, this was not God’s intended plan and this blessing brought her more than she bargained for! But we know this of God’s true blessings for us, which is why we should not attempt to help God’s plan along:

The blessing of the LORD enriches, and He adds no sorrow to it.

Proverbs 10:22 BSB

This week, I asked God why after trying to help him along for 15 years, I have failed to see the fulfillment of the prophecy and He reminded me that like everyone of His children, He has chosen to showcase me and nothing I can conceive in my heart or mind can be as great and as elaborate as His purpose coming to pass in my life in His own time! Although it was impressive that Sarah was able to start a family with Abraham through Hagar at such an old age, it was even more so impressive and a wonder to the world that she was able to conceive her own child at an even older age! That is what God wants for you:

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

1 Peter 2:9 NASB

So be encouraged, in God’s own time He will accomplish and perfect everything that concerns you.

Yours Truly

From Clay to Masterpiece

In my last post, I started on this train of thought of the messiness of life and how God wants to get in the middle of our mess; because we were made from dust and dust is messy and God always remembers that we are dust (if you did not catch that post you can do so by clicking this link). This week, I will remain on that soapbox a little while longer and dwell in the mystery of that..

So a couple weeks ago, I was really wrestling with myself and with God about the bout of unanswered prayers that have been staring me tauntingly in the face and at some point I concluded within myself that it was pointless to pray, convincing myself that God will do whatever He wants anyway. In not wanting to lose my place in my daily bible readings, I still picked up my bible, not expecting to hear from God but just to go through the motions and get it over with But God decided to speak to me anyway. Here was the verse that jumped out at me from my readings:

“What sorrow awaits those who argue with their Creator. Does a clay pot argue with its maker? Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying, ‘Stop, you’re doing it wrong!’ Does the pot exclaim, ‘How clumsy can you be?’

Isaiah 45:9 NLT

This scripture hit me in a unique way and even though I did not want to engage in dialogue with God at the time, this scripture has stayed in the recesses of my mind. The reason it was so significant was that before I started reading my bible, I was lamenting within myself about “if only God would do this or do that then I would be in a better place” In essence, I was saying to God, “you are doing it wrong! I think there is a better way you can be taking care of me!” You see, a few days earlier, I had read this scripture also (I read it in the NIV but I am posting the NLT version because that really brings the point home):

How foolish can you be? He is the Potter, and he is certainly greater than you, the clay! Should the created thing say of the one who made it, “He didn’t make me”? Does a jar ever say, “The potter who made me is stupid”?

Isaiah 29:16 NLT

Wow! such a harsh dose of reality! I am but clay in God’s hands although sometimes.. ok.. many times.. I have acted as though I hold all the cards! I act as though I am the boss of God and his sole purpose is to do my bidding…speak of a pot thinking it is better that the potter and knows how best it should be formed. While such complacent thinking definitely calls for repentance on my part, truth is clay needs to be workable in the hands of the potter- its not always all up to the potter. Sometimes I watch videos of potters at work behind the wheel (because that is so relaxing) and sometimes the pottery do not turn out the way the potter intended. Usually, good potters do not give up on the clay. They will either start afresh or work with the clay to redesign the pottery- with the end goal of a masterpiece. This illustration reminds me of a scripture:

The LORD gave another message to Jeremiah. He said, “Go down to the potter’s shop, and I will speak to you there.” So I did as he told me and found the potter working at his wheel. But the jar he was making did not turn out as he had hoped, so he crushed it into a lump of clay again and started over. Then the LORD gave me this message: “O Israel, can I not do to you as this potter has done to his clay? As the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand. 

Jeremiah 18: 1-6 NLT

Reading that scripture in context points to the place a surrendered will has in the creation of a masterpiece. God’s intention and plan for everyone is a plan for good and not evil to give each of us a future and a hope (Jer 29:11). The part we play in this is plan is to surrender ourselves to the will of the potter (God’s will) so that as he works with the clay (us) at the wheel (life’s circumstances), we turn out to be the masterpiece He intentioned. So back to my misguided thought that God will do whatever He want anyway so why bother pray?

One of the primary purposes of prayer is to align our will with God’s. Jesus taught us to pray saying, “your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. Aligning our will with God’s in prayer is even more important when we find ourselves in a dark place; a place of hopelessness, depression, desperation, disappointment, or despair. When instead of a beautiful pot I turn out to just be a lump of clay, that is ok, as long as I am still in the potter’s hand… He will turn this clay into a masterpiece.

Yours truly

Making peace with the missing pieces

In my last post I shared at length about how sometimes I get anxious and how I am trying to work on letting God “take the wheel” in my life. This week I encountered a situation that left me spiraling again and someone said to me “just sit in the awkwardness”… What a weird piece of advice for someone who stresses about everything! The next day, I caught a few minutes of Steve Furtick’s sermon and he said “we need to make peace with the missing pieces”. That night, I picked up my bible and this is the verse that was on my readings for the day:

This is what the Lord says— your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go. If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your well-being like the waves of the sea…”

Isaiah 48: 17-18 NIV

Coincidence? I think not! You see a few days ago, I got so overwhelmed, I was feeling like perhaps praying had outlived its usefulness in my life. I did not even know where to start in the place of prayer so I decided not to bother. I was feeling very discontent with a few things in my life: health of my loved ones, finances, parenting choices, progress in my studies, the state of my career, marriage- everything was under a microscope and I was grossly discontent. This left me feeling defeated and devoid of peace- yes like there are missing pieces in every aspect of my life! And if you know me, I like things neat and tidy and metaphorically wrapped up in a bow, I do not do missing pieces well. In my despair, the scripture above hit me hard and touched me deep…. “I am the Lord your God who teaches you what is best for you and directs you in the way you should go and if only you had listened then you would have had peace like a river and you would have wellness of mind, body , soul and spirit like the waves of the sea”

As I reflected on the root cause of my anxiety and despair, I realized it mostly stems from unrealized expectations, broken dreams, unanswered prayers- pretty much life not going the way I hope and envisioned (which reminds me of my last post about hope. If you have not read it here is the link). Truth is life is messy and that’s just it! We were created from messiness- from the dust of the earth- by a God who did not call us forth from the dust but who got down and dirty in the dust to make us. So whenever life feels messy, who else can you turn to but God?

As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.

Psalm 103:13-14 NIV

As I was walking away from the TV screen pondering over Steve Furtick’s statement about making peace with the missing pieces, he said “has it ever occurred to you that that missing piece is a piece only God can fill?” I have not stopped thinking about that statement in light of everything else I have shared. I know sometimes it is hard to turn to God, particularly when you feel He has disappointed you- by not answering a particular prayer, or leaving your hopes dashed or your dreams unfulfilled. But remember, while all we see are the pieces of our lives and the things that don’t fit, God sees the full picture. Which is why He says, if only you had listened to me, then your peace would have been like a river- in spite of what seems missing in your life because He sees the full picture. For thus says the Lord: “before you were formed, I knew you and from your mother’s womb I spoke your name, see I have engraved you in the palm of my hands and your walls are ever before me (Isaiah 49:1, 16; Jeremiah 1:5). So my question to you is “will you sit still in the awkwardness of life for just a moment longer?”; “will you make peace with the missing pieces of your life by finding peace in the Prince of Peace?”

Yours Truly

Grace Wins

I was recently thinking about the concept of grace and usually when people talk about grace, they talk about about the undeserved favour of God and somehow sin always works its way into conversations about grace. Grace is presented as something we receive in spite of our sins, a blessing of God that puts us in this state where our sins are “covered” or rather the just punishment for our sins are stayed. A famous grace vs sin scripture is the famous question posed by apostle Paul, “Shall we continue in sin so grace may abound? (Romans 6:1)”

And while the depiction of grace as the unmerited favour of God which stays punishment of sin is true- for we are saved by grace through faith, grace plays a bigger role in the grace vs. sin dialogue. It is not only there for after the fact of sin; it actually plays a big role before that sin even happens.

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good

Titus 2: 11- 14 NIV

In short, grace does not only offer salvation. It helps us to continue in that salvation until the we meet the Lord. It teaches us to renounce the things that pull us back into the old way of life, or things that gratify our worldly desires. So next time you feel that internal struggle whether or not to act in a manner that you know displeases God, that is grace at work. And whenever we submit our will to God and we allow the Holy spirit to lead us, grace wins! I leave you with the lyrics of this song by Matthew West titled “Grace wins”… Enjoy!

In my weakest moment I see you
Shaking your head in disgrace
I can read the disapointment
Written all over your face

Here comes those whispers in my ear
Saying who do you think you are
Looks like you’re on your own from here
Cause grace could never reach that far

But, in the shadow of that shame
Beat down by all the blame
I hear you call my name sayin it’s not over
And my heart starts to beat
So loud now, drowning out the doubt
I’m down but I’m not out

There’s a war between guilt and grace
And they’re fighting for a sacred space
But I’m living proof
Grace wins every time

No more lying down in death’s defeat
Now I’m rising up in victory
Singing hallelujah
Grace wins every time

Words can’t describe the way it feels
When mercy floods a thirsty soul
A broken side begins to heal
And grace returns what guilt has stole

And, in the shadow of that shame
Beat down by all the blame
I hear you call my name sayin it’s not over
And my heart starts to beat
So loud now, drowning out the doubt
I’m down but I’m not out

For the prodigal son, grace wins
For the woman at the well, grace wins
For the blind man and the beggar, grace wins
For always and forever, grace wins
For the lost out on the street, grace wins
For the worst part of you and me, grace wins
For the thief on the cross, grace wins
For a world that is lost, grace wins

Yours Truly

Hope in the midst of hopelessness

For the past 5 years, I have been sharing bits and pieces of my life with you and some of you have come to know me a little through my posts if you did not know me before. So for those of you who have never met me, I am really smart… I am talking high IQ, straight As, top-of-my-class smart but underneath all of that smart is someone who has a lot of anxiety.

Since my childhood, I have harbored irrational fears and worries and I have carried these on into my adult years. Because I have a high IQ, I have found ways to cope which have made me very high functioning- so while others with the same disorder might be crippled with fear, for me anxiety shows up as thinking ahead through multiple scenarios and having backup plans for my back up plans. I am very strategic in my thinking, I am always prepared, I always bring my A-game, and I push the limits of excellence in every thing I do. This is what the world sees. What people do not see is the crippling fear that drives everything I do- fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of death, etc. and the associated anxiety that accompanies all those fears. Occasionally, I have the perfect storm in my life where it all gets too overwhelming for me and I would be in an internal state of despair and hopelessness even if I am functioning normally on the outside- a perfect example would be this very moment as I compose this blog albeit so eloquently and yet internally I am in a state of hopelessness.

Too many things beyond my control came at me so fast this week, my usual mechanism of being able to adapt with a backup plan failed and left me feeling helpless and hopeless. Today, I tried journaling to channel some of the thoughts running through my head at a mile a minute and when my writing could not keep up with my thoughts I just gave it up. In my despair, I picked up my bible and my readings took me to Isaiah 40 and verses 30 and 31 just leapt off the page at me:

Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Isaiah 40:30-31 NIV

Feeling hopeless and mentally drained, I saw the promise of strength in that scripture. But the promise comes with a caveat- to hope in the Lord. Huh? I am feeling hopeless and in order to get out of this state, I need to hope? If only it were that easy! So I asked God, I said “Well so what do I need to do to hope in you?” and as I waited impatiently for a response, the answer that came was definitely not what I was expecting. It was something like this:

A lot of times when we pray for or wish for something, we envision a certain outcome and we build our hopes and expectations around that outcome. For example when we pray to God for healing, our hope is built around the outcome that we would be healed and if we are healed then we are pleased that our “expectations have not been cut short”. But if the outcome is different from what we expect, we are disappointed and blame God, blame ourselves for not having faith enough or accept the outcome as something that should not be questioned or we blame others. The problem with this premise of hope is that hope is not predicated on outcomes. Hope is rooted in God, to be more specific in the unchangeable nature of God’s purpose. It is in God’s purpose for our lives that we find hope.

In the same way God, in His desire to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable nature of His purpose, intervened and guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things [His promise and His oath] in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled [to Him] for refuge would have strong encouragement  and indwelling strength to hold tightly to the hope set before us. This hope [this confident assurance] we have as an anchor of the soul [it cannot slip and it cannot break down under whatever pressure bears upon it]–a safe and steadfast hope that enters within the veil [of the heavenly temple, that most Holy Place in which the very presence of God dwells], where Jesus has entered [in advance] as a forerunner for us, having become a High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. Hebrews 6:17-20 AMP

Hope that is built on an expected outcome is not safe and steadfast hope because our desired outcomes may not always be God’s purpose for us which does not fail (Psalm 119:89). So for me to come back to a place of strong encouragement, indwelling strength and confident assurance on days like this, I need to simply trust that He is working everything out to fulfil His purpose for me regardless of my desired outcome. This is what it means to me to hope in the Lord (or wait on the Lord as some translations put it). And as I hope in God, He will restore my strength and transport me from the place of despair and hopelessness as He is doing now.

I leave you with this scripture as my prayer to God:

The LORD will work out his plans for my life [fulfill his purpose for me]— for your faithful love, O LORD, endures forever. Don’t abandon me, for you made me.

Psalm 138: 8 NLT/ESV

Yours Truly

Love in Marriage

I have had my fair share of admirers…some secret and some not so secret… in fact I married one of them! But before I got married, I dated a few guys. One of these, I loved so much… there was a time in my life when this guy was my world- I would have and did anything for him, I would have given up everything for him. In fact I loved him so much that when ever we had a fight my heart will break it literally hurt. You can imagine how I felt when we broke up! Ouch! But for the longest time, the love I experienced in that relationship was my standard of what love should be- If I did not feel that “young love” with a guy, then it presupposed I did not love him and he was X’ed off my list.

Fast forward to about 10 years ago when I met my hubby- we connected right away but that “love” was not there. I kept waiting for the moment when that “young love” would kick in and it never came. I kept thinking well maybe when we get married it will come and frankly after all these years I’ve got nada! Oh I know you know I love my husband very much… He is my everything and owns every part of me and that is biblical okay? lol But you know sometimes I have wondered if I truly love him since I have not felt what I felt when I was much younger and in love. I have secretly pondered if I sold myself short on love and settled for the next best thing.

Many get into marriage with a perspective that mainstream media portray love in marriage to be- endless days of kisses and lovemaking, and getting along with this gorgeous human being who makes breakfast in bed only to be disappointed. Some start off with a whirlwind romance that sweeps them off their feet and expect that everyday of their marriage will look like that only to be disappointed. Or maybe you are looking for this person that you can be desperately in love with, be shamelessly infatuated with and hopelessly fawn over and he/she is simply not there or has disappeared since the I dos .

Over the past few years, God has been teaching me to change my perspective of what love is, particularly love in marriage, and here are a few of the things I am learning. Love in marriage:

is selfless– before I got married I read a book where the author described that the love in marriage should look something like so: that the wife seeks the best for the husband, seeks to please him, to make him fulfilled in every which way with no consideration for herself and the husband seeks the best for the wife, seeks to please her, and prioritizes her needs in every way- that selfless love will sustain them. This is a love that gives, that sacrifices and puts you first. Realistically, would you see this selfless love all the time? No because we as people are inherently selfish but with careful intentionality this selflessness can be more the norm in any marriage- For God so loved the world that he gave…

is sacrificial– do you have a spouse who makes you feel valued by giving you the best of their time, attention, worldly possessions and is not stingy with their affections? Are you the kind of spouse that does not give the leftovers of your time, attention, affection and possessions to the marriage? For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son… The price of love is costly, is precious, is “only begotten”… it is not leftovers. Sacrificial love does not have to involve anyone literally dying for you (although it is nice to know without a shadow of doubt that a person will literally take a bullet for you), It may look like a spouse putting away his/her devices to have a conversation with you and focusing on just you in that moment. It may look like a lavish getaway… It may look like taking the time to help you dry the dishes while you wash… What ever it looks like, it leaves you feeling valued, feeling like you are a priority, and someone’s #1 just as God made you his priority the day he gave up his only begotten son for you.

is rewarding- …that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life. Do you feel reciprocity in your marriage? Is there a healthy balance of give and take? Do you feel like you have someone who is always in your corner? A constant friend, and confidante, and someone you can complain to, celebrate both small and great things with, someone who accepts you warts, farts, and all? Marriage should not feel like punishment or a chore but it should feel like hard work and effort. Just as you have to believe to be saved and enjoy eternal life, the rewards of marriage do not just drop in one’s laps. Love in marriage, looks like a spouse who is putting in the effort to make the marriage work- it may look like forgiving indiscretions, investing in counselling when things get tough, being intentional in not giving the other reason for regret and going the extra mile to make sure the other person feels like they hit the jackpot when they got you. Marriage should leave you feeling like you are getting something out of it- a partner who steps into your life’s story and does life with you till your race ends. That, in and of itself is a reward.

So I conclude with a line from one of my favourite songs: How deep is your love? Happy Valentine’s day.

Yours Truly

A Relational God

In the past couple weeks I have been listening very closely to God about what it means to have a relationship with him. God has been speaking with me regarding this and it all starts in a garden. For those of you who missed last week’s post, this is coming from my realization that I do not know what it means to be in relationship with God so I asked God to teach me. I do so with the understanding that in order to persevere in my faith , I need to see clearly who Jesus is, and what he has done for me. So, let’s go to the garden…

In the beginning, God created humanity to have a relationship with Him. The full embodiment of the Godhead created Adam and Eve to be in the image and likeness of God and gave them creative power and dominion over everything (Gen 1: 26-30). God made humanity different from the angels- who are God’s messengers that do His bidding. He created beings who were a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory (Heb 2:7- 8) and filled them with many of His abilities and attributes so that he could relate with them on a different level- not as servants like He would the angels but as friends. He made humans with the ability to create beings in their own image and likeness like God had done; to call things into existence by speaking just like God had done; to have power over created things like God does; and He gave man the ability to take care of things, and to nurture and cultivate things just like God can. He even topped it all by giving humans the ultimate key to relationship with Him: CHOICE. (Relationship is all about choice- you choose who you want to be in relationship with and how much you want to give to that relationship. You choose whether people you meet will become strangers, acquaintances, friends, lovers, etc. The only thing man did not choose was to be created- because that choice lay in the hands of the Creator and that still remains true today for us as humans with the the ability to procreate, children do not choose to be born, that choice lay in the hands of the parents, the creators- but I digress). So on a daily basis, God came down and spent time in fellowship with Adam and Eve in the garden He made for them. Until one day, Adam and Eve chose to no longer be in relationship with God and chose disobedience over obedience; and the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil which is death over life. And that day, everything else broke. Humans still had everything that God had bestowed upon them in creation- the ability to create, nurture, to have dominion and to bring into existence things that are spoken- but what had changed was that because Adam and Eve chose death- everything that humans have created and done since then is tainted by the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and the internal struggle of good and evil was reproduced in every human after that day.

In the meanwhile, humans were created by God, for relationship with God and God’s plan is to reconcile and restore humans back to that original place of relationship in the garden where God would come down and dwell with his creation and He promises to do this in the fullness of time:

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

Revelations 21:1-4 NIV

However, in order for humans to return to this place of relationship with God, they had to make a choice to reject the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil which is death and choose life. But how? Humans have tried for many millennia to find their way back into relationship with God but cannot on their own because everything we do comes from the nature and likeness of Adam and Eve which is not the same as the nature and likeness of God. For us to get back in relationship with God, our nature and likeness must be changed back to the way it was in the beginning because the only way to be in that kind of relationship with God as Adam and Eve had in the garden is to be in the image and likeness of God as it was in the beginning.

God had to remove the option of death so that the only choice left to make was life for anyone who is ready to make that choice. The only way to do that was to take on death itself by dying. In order to do this, God had to assume the human nature with its struggles between good and evil (which is death) and life. God in human form as Jesus (also known as Emmanuel which means God among us and with us), chose life for all, just as Adam and Eve had chosen death for all. He did so by being the sacrifice of death in the choice of life and death so that as many people who want to be reconciled to God no longer had the option between death and life- only life. This is what we call being ‘born again’- it is the act of choosing life over death and by so doing, taking on the image and likeness of God so that you can go back to being in relationship just as you were created to be.

But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because He suffered death, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone. In bringing many sons [and daughters] to glory, it was fitting for God, for whom and through whom all things exist, to make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. For both the One who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers. 

Hebrews 2: 9-11NIV

So in last week’s post, I admitted that I did not understand how God can keep forgiving over and over again and when His love would run out. There is still a mystery there but that does not negate or diminish the fact that Jesus revealed the depth of God’s love for humankind by taking our place and dying for us. It is this love, this yearning to restore relationship that is activated every time I pray for forgiveness of sin and choose life- even if it is 1000 times per day! This is why God can forgive me unconditionally because every time I renounce sin, I am choosing a relationship with Him and I am choosing life and that is all He desires- that no one perish but that all come to choose life, even everlasting life. He wants a Revelations 21 ending for everyone of His creation- to be back in relationship with Him forever as was intended in the beginning. And this is the simple gospel.

Yours Truly