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.

Privilege with a side of racism

This week I concluded the book of Romans and I believe the last few chapters particularly Chapters 12- 14 are essential to living purposefully as a Christian here on earth. If you are so inclined, I encourage you to read them when you have a moment. In those last chapters, I gleaned some wisdom to share about the current state of affairs in the world right now (no I am not talking about COVID-19… I am talking about racism towards black, indigenous, and people of colour).

The murder of George Floyd and its resultant global uproar has brought to the forefront issues of privilege.  Privilege is described as unearned access to resources that are readily available to some people because of their social group membership, an advantage, or immunity granted to or enjoyed by one societal group above and beyond the common advantage of all other groups. There are many types of privilege: financial (class), racial or ethic category, religious (christian), male, able-bodied, marital status, age, height, weight, housing, educational, IQ, etc. We all, regardless of race, are privileged in one way or another and to oversimplify, when privilege is not used appropriately, you end up with social constructs such as racism, tribalism, systemic oppression, discrimination, apartheid, hegemony, and colonization to mention a few. These social constructs stem from one thing: people thinking they are better than others.

The book of Romans guides us on how to use our privilege appropriately as christians:

Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment…Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves…Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited…If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Romans 12: 3, 10, 16, 18 NIV

As we get closer and closer to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, this world gets stranger and stranger; humanity is getting more selfish and people are chasing after power only to use it at the expense of others. Oppression in its many forms both overt and covert is on the rise and as Christians, we need to take a stand to be different and we do so with this action word: LOVE.

Give to everyone what you owe them…Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another Romans 13: 7-8 NIV

We owe everyone a debt of love that needs to be paid just as freely as Jesus paid our debt of sin. Let’s not be conceited,  but instead, think of the next person as worthy and deserving of honor and love and pay that debt them.

You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat…Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. Romans 14: 10, 13 NIV

Let us not sit in judgment over others because of the privilege we hold be it by the colour of our skin, by what tribe or family  we were born into,  or by  our educational or financial status. Do not be the reason why another person does not experience the  abundant love of God that has been released into world. Do not let privilege be an obstacle but rather an opportunity to show the love of God and reach out to the lost because

By this everyone will know that you are [God’s] disciples, if you love one another. John 13: 35 NIV

Yours Truly

Ps: don’t forget to like, share, and comment and together lets be intentional in living out our faith.

 

 

The ethos of love

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

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

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

John 3:16 KJV

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

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

Yours Truly

How deep is your love?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yours Truly

On the fourth day of Christmas…

On the fourth day of Christmas, JESUS gave to me Love for all men; Peace in my heart, Everlasting life, and Salvation full and free.

And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us. Romans 5:5 BSB

God showed his love to us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us and he has poured this love into us so that we love one another. He does not merely ask this of us. He commands it:

So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. John 13:34 NLT

When my husband read the first few lines of the post, he snickered and said “you.. love for all men! You can barely stand XYZ!” And truthfully there are people that I cannot tolerate at all and yet the command of God is to love everyone. I acknowledge that while this is a daunting command, it is possible to obey it to the fullest. Jesus is our perfect example.

In creation, Jesus knew that one day the tree that he created would become an emblem of his shame in the form of the raw material for a cross. And yet he still made trees and blessed them and said everything including the tree was good. when he made plants like the beautiful rose bush, he knew that one day a crown of thorns would adorn his head but he did not despise shrubs but blessed them too and said they were good. Oh! he knew full well that man that he had created would turn around and be his tormentors but he still blessed man at creation and gave him dominion and authority over all things and said humankind was good. You see, Jesus saw the good even though he knew the disappointment would come. He chose to bless when he had the opportunity to curse, or ignore, or despise or say “I cannot stand XYZ!” The key is to see people as Jesus sees them: GOOD! If with all my failings and frailties God sees me as good, then who am I to not reciprocate?

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NIV

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.

New wine in old wineskins??

Since the first day, I read that scripture almost 20 years ago, I have wondered its meaning and significance. It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that the light bulb went off. Let’s look at the scripture together:

“And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the wine would burst the wineskins, and the wine and the skins would both be lost. New wine calls for new wineskins.” Mark 2:22 NLT

As new wine ferments, it releases gases which cause the wineskins to expand. New wineskins are more pliable and can accommodate the expansion but old wineskins will burst under the pressure. 

This reminds me of an illustration made by Pastor Rob Reimer in comparing our souls to a suitcase. When we come from a vacation, the usual thing to do is to unpack the suitcase to get rid of all the dirty laundry.  It is almost impossible and unnatural and somewhat disgusting to pack clean clothes into a suitcase without getting rid of the dirty ones from the previous trip. However, we do this a lot to our souls. When we do not walk blamelessly in the light of God or others it results in shame which we carry around in our souls and this is an example of dirty laundry. Until we get rid of the shame, the hurt, the anger, the doubts, and other things that weigh us down, our souls will have no room for God and His work in our lives. 

Just as it is unwise to put new wine in old wineskins, it is unwise to put new ideas into old mindsets. This is why year after year people make New Year resolutions and year after year, continue to be disappointed in their inability to accomplish them. In 2019, we will not get new results with old behaviours. We need to permit the Holy Spirit to transform us by the renewal of our minds.

Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Ephesians 4:23 NLT

This means we need to unpack the suitcases of our souls. We need to permit the blood of Jesus to cleanse us of the ignoble (and I say permit because a lot of times we hold on and don’t want to let go of the dirty laundry). We need to allow room for God’s presence in our lives. We need to be intentional about this.

God desires a relationship with each and every one of us above everything else. He wants to bring us to a place where we can experience His love and mercy anew with each new day; like fresh laundry for each new trip.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3: 22-23 ESV

My prayer is that Lamentations 3:22-23 will become my experiential reality from this moment forward and especially in 2019. And I pray it will be yours too. 

Many blessings in this season from my family to yours. Merry Christmas!

Naughty or Nice…

A few days ago a post on Facebook got me thinking. Basically, the post was admonishing parents to take credit for the gifts the expensive gifts they buy for their kids instead of giving the credit to Santa (great advice by the way!). The reason this resonated with me is that this year, my kids are old enough to understand decorating a Christmas tree and putting gifts underneath it so we decided to get one and embrace the Christmas traditions. Day after day, gifts are placed under the tree and being true to tradition, there have been lots of talks of Santa and Christmas carols in our home.

This morning, I decided to pay attention to the lyrics of one of the popular songs: Santa Claus is coming to town. So here goes:

He’s making a list,
And checking it twice,
Gonna find out
Who’s naughty and nice.
Santa Claus is coming to town

As I reflected on the lyrics, I realized that I never thought about a merit system when I got gifts for my kids.  I never checked any naughty or nice list. That was so far from my mind as I ordered items off Amazon. As I pondered this, I made a mindblowing discovery: my kids are getting gifts this Christmas not because they deserve them or have earned them through good behaviour. They are getting gifts for three simple reasons: they are my kids, I love them, and this is the season for giving.

Then I realized something even more amazing: that is exactly what God did for me (and you). Over 2000 years ago, without merit and without earning it God gave me the gift of His Son. I was earmarked for the naughty list; in fact, my name was marked with indelible ink on the naughty list; I certainly deserved a lump of coal or in my case, a perpetual furnace of brimstone. I was undeserving of any good gift but even before I was a thought, I was loved deeply by the Father. He lavished me with his love and called me his own.

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! 1 John 3:1 NIV

God gave me the wonderful gift of Jesus with 3 great benefits amongst others:

  • The blood of Jesus wiped my name clean off the naughty list and gave me permanent status as a daughter of the Most High God.
  • The love and mercy of the Father are renewed daily over my life to ensure I continue to enjoy the gift of Jesus without merit on a daily basis.
  • And finally, He brought me into his Kingdom and gave me a reason for the season.

Today I’d like to affirm to you that you have a Heavenly Father, you are loved beyond measure and He has a gift for you. Will you claim your free gift of love this season?

Lord You found me, You healed me, You called me from the grave
You gave me your real love, I thank You Jesus, You washed my sins away
Oh now I’m living, like I’m forgiven, You came and set me free
That’s what Your mercy did for me

What mercy did for me by
Crystal Yates/Joshua Sherman/The Emerging Sound/Drew Ley/Albert E. Brumley

…My cup runs over

Referencing The Lord is my Shepherd…

This part of the verse has always evoked thoughts of abundance. I always imagined this abundance to be what is bestowed on me by God and rightly so but from the last lesson on ‘…you anoint my head with oil‘ I discovered a unique link between the anointing which represents the Holy Spirit and His power and one’s cup running over. Let me draw the parallel.

When  God anoints us it is with the Holy Spirit and with Power and wherever the Holy Spirit is, the manifestation is as of a river.

“…Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them”. By this He meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. John 7: 38-39 NIV

Rivers are not stagnant. They flow. Every river has a source and the river of the Holy Spirit has its source from the presence of God.

Then the angel showed me a river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. Revelations 22:1 Berean Study Bible

In the book of Ezekiel 47, the prophet Ezekiel has a vision of this same river that flows from the presence of God. This river had its source right from the temple of God which represents the presence of God. The more Ezekiel ventured into the river, the deeper it got; from ankle-deep to the point where it was too deep to stand in, too deep to cross.

This is the type of abundance God promises when we are anointed with the Holy Spirit. There will be an overflow in our lives. The caveat is that the more of the Holy Spirit you have, the deeper you will get into this river of God (God’s presence, the knowledge of God, the experience of God) and the greater your overflow. As you may have realized, I am not speaking of overflow and abundance in terms of what you get from God but what pours out of you. Think about the scripture again….my cup runs over. What is inside of you that fills your cup and then pours out to the people around you?

Let’s get back to the analogy of the river in Ezekiel 47.

Then he led me back to the bank of the river. When I arrived there, I saw a great number of trees on each side of the river. He said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, where it enters the Dead Sea. When it empties into the sea, the salty water there becomes fresh. Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows. There will be large numbers of fish, because this water flows there and makes the salt water fresh; so where the river flows everything will live… Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river. Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail. Every month they will bear fruit, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing.” Ezekiel 47: 6-12 NIV

When this river that flowed into the Dead Sea, it changed the very nature and composition of the water from salty to fresh. Wherever the river flowed there was life; fish, trees, fruits. There was life. So I ask again; what is your cup overflowing with? Do you bring freshness to the saltiness of life around you? Does your presence bring life to those who are dead emotionally, spiritually and even physically? Or do you suck the life out of people when they hang around you?

Now let’s talk fruit. In Ezekiel’s vision, wherever the river flowed it brought with it, fruit. The presence of the Holy Spirit in one’s life will be evidenced by the fruit He brings.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, [and] self-control. Gal 5:22-23 ESV

The one thing I just noticed about this scripture is that even though it lists 9 qualities they are all described as one fruit, not fruits! The same spirit that brings love, brings joy and the other 7 fruit with it. So I ask yet again? What is overflowing from your cup? Is it Love? Joy? Peace? Patience? Kindness? Goodness? Faithfulness? Gentleness? Self-control?

In Ezekiel’s vision where ever the river went, fruit never failed. Every month they will bear fruit, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Are you lacking in these fruit that the river of the Holy Spirit brings? Pray to be anointed with more of God’s Spirit; Draw close in relationship with God; Be intentional in spending time in His presence.

It’s the river of God’s spirit that flows from the presence of God which will keep you bearing fruits day after day…month after month… in season and out of season. Then you’ll love everyone in spite of, you’ll have joy in spite of, you’ll have peace in spite of… and demonstrate all the other gifts even in your off seasons.  So for the last time I ask…

WHAT IS FLOWING OUT OF YOUR CUP?

Steadfast and Unfailing

As my husband and I celebrate another wedding anniversary, I think of one advice that I try to live by in my marriage.

To always keep my word no matter how small and mundane; this goes a long way to build trust

For instance, if I constantly promise to take out the trash and forget to do so, although it may seem insignificant, slowly my failure to keep my word will chip away at the foundation of trust that we have established; and soon my husband will start taking everything I say with a grain of salt.

I visualize trust like a long rope you give another person and with every time trust is broken, a piece of the rope is burned off  until there is nothing left and trust once lost and cannot be easily gained back.

Even with this visualization, I think how long the rope God has given me is! For the many times I have disappointed Him,  you’d think I’d have burnt through my rope years ago. However, a scripture comes to mind:

If we are not steadfast [trustworthy], he remaineth steadfast [trustworthy]; to deny himself he is not able. 2 Timothy 2:13 Young’s Literal Translation

God is steadfast, unwavering, and unfailing. Its His divine nature to never fail and to keep to His word. His thoughts and actions are consistent with His character which is to be steadfast and unfailing. He does not waver in His promises.

The greatest promise I made to my husband was in my wedding vows: to love him through everything. But even then, most times my love is conditional. On a day like today, when its our anniversary, I LOVE him! But who knows how I’ll feel tomorrow when it’s just an ordinary day! No wonder Micah said

Don’t trust anyone–not your best friend or even your wife! Micah 5:7 NLT (you need to read it in context though!)

I can be wishy-washy in my love. But not God! He is not wishy-washy about His love. He promised to love us with an everlasting love. A love that is steadfast and never fails. He promised this steadfast love will never cease and to guarantee this, He renews His love every morning so its fresh. He sees you like it’s the first time He is falling in love with you…. and then he loves on you all day… and in the morning His love resets and He starts all over again!  That’s my interpretation of this scripture:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;
 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness [trustworthiness, steadfastness] Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV

Oh I remember how it was like when my husband and I were dating! how fresh… how sweet that love was… but I digress…

So dear reader, as you set out to be intentional, I encourage you with this song:

This we know
We will see the enemy run
This we know
We will see the victory come
We hold on to every promise You ever made
Jesus, You are unfailing (Vertical Worship)

Dedicated to my loving husband….