October 25, 2010

Oh Faith!

Oh faith

Why are you so far from me
Why are you not simple to have
Yet you are what moves God
But you are not as easy as a hand wave

Things around me becloud my focus
My Father desires that I look to Him
He assures me that we are on course
Sadly, I am too restless to listen to him
Oh faith
Why are you so far from me

I try to fix my eyes on Jesus
One moment on Him, the next around me
I try to hold on to His word
One moment on the word, the next on me
Oh faith
Why are you so far from me

For each challenge that comes my way
I struggle with you and often am defeated
I look forward to when I shall all the way
Be triumphant though afflicted
Oh faith
Will I ever be full of you

Why are you and patience inseparable
Oh, how trying and worrisome it is to wait
Wait, I try but not for long am I able
Lord, help me to pray, believe and wait
Oh faith
Soon, I shall be full of you

October 18, 2010

How to overcome Temptation: using the temptation of Jesus as a case study

We are told by the scriptures we will not be tempted beyond our limits and even in the temptation, God gives a way of escape. I have yielded to a number of temptations that has come my way. Afterwards, I cast my mind back to remember the ways of escape that God provided which I did not take. Recently, God has made it clear to me he is dealing with flesh in me. Truly, I yield to temptation to satisfy the yearnings of the flesh.
Self or flesh is like a pampered child. A pampered child is allowed to have his way at all times even when the requests are not profitable. His parents imagine granting the child his requests will show the child they love him and also ensure his comfort. However, they get to know too late that the child’s character building is heavily hampered. The child may even turn and make life miserable for them. So when we continue to yield to the flesh, the spiritual part of us which should be our true identity is suppressed by the flesh.
Sin first comes as a temptation. The devil does not force anyone to commit sin. He entices, dangles sins and exhibits pleasures of sins but we can choose either to resist or yield to them. He did same with Christ but Christ chose to resist him.
As I studied the temptation of Christ, I realized we face similar situations:
The devil takes advantage of our weak moments
Jesus was hungry having fasted for forty days and nights and the devil took advantage of his hunger suggesting that he turned stones to bread. How many times has the devil taken advantage of our loneliness, lack of money, need for acceptance, background and unpleasant circumstances and tried to lure us into sin?
Identity and desires
I believe the devil must have heard God affirm Jesus as his son after Jesus’ baptism in River Jordan. And so he tried to lure Jesus to prove it... “If you are the son, command these stones to turn to bread. If you are the son, throw yourself down...” Do we really need to prove our identity? We are who God says we are. Period! If we try to yield to temptation to prove it, we are tempting God and it means we have not aligned with our God-identity. Then the third temptation relates to our desires. The devil pointed to the earth’s kingdoms and told Jesus he would give them to him if Jesus would bow and worship him. What are the things you want to have or achieve? How often have we tried to use ungodly ways to achieve them? How often have we bowed to other gods because we felt God was too slow with his provisions?
Pressure to live up to expectation
Sometimes we are placed on a pedestal by our design, families’ or friends’ and so we find ourselves struggling to live up to it. In some cases to live up to expectation may lead us to do ungodly things. There were pressures in Christ’s life to live up to who he said he was. One instance was on the day of crucifixion; people mocked him (including one of the criminals hanged alongside) “If you are really God’s son, save yourself, come down from that cross!” “Save yourself! Save us!” said the criminal.
How did Jesus overcome despite the tempting situations?
He understood his position
Jesus understood his position as the son of God who has come to earth to save you and I. He knew he could only achieve this by being blameless. Yielding to temptation would have rendered his sacrifice on the cross powerless. Although he was hungry, accepting the devil’s suggestion would have given devil a hold over him. Rather he chose to submit to God and waited upon him for supplies. Or imagine if he had listened to the criminal and save himself and the criminals hanged alongside!
I woke up to the realization that devil knows God has called me to be a teacher of the word in order that others may be liberated. So the devil had relentlessly lured me into sin to render me unfit. Indeed he succeeded for a long time because each time I attempted to talk about God he was quick to remind me of my sins; declaring me inappropriate for such an act. Thanks to God who never gives up on us. He opened my eyes to the schemes of the devil and I took a stand. So as Jesus refused to compromise his position in order to eat or save himself from the cross, let us do likewise. Compromising will delay or abort our visions.
He delayed gratification
I learnt the major root of sins is self gratification. Indeed Jesus was hungry but he delayed satisfying his hunger. When we don’t gratify the flesh, we open ourselves up for greater things. It was more glorious for angels to attend to Jesus’ needs than for him to accept Satan’s offer/suggestion. Forget yourself and look unto God, you will find both God and your true self.
He overcame by the word
The devil is so smart that one needs to be fully equipped with the word of God. Imagine if Jesus did not know the word, how would he have overcome? The devil attempted to quote scripture psalm 91 – Jump, God will give his angels charge over you so you don’t dash your foot against a stone. However, he was trying to entice Jesus to test God. Jesus understood that and so he quoted another scripture “Do not tempt the Lord your God” The word of God is a weapon against the enemy so equip yourself with it. You cannot survive or triumph without the word.
Once I asked God, “how can I give self a decent burial?” I heard in my spirit, “Start by starving it”
We cannot attend to every cry and craving of self and submit to God at the same time. So let us starve self so that God may increase in us and accomplish his purpose in and through us.

October 10, 2010

We may not be comfortable with everything but let’s choose to serve God all the same

Do you ever ponder over certain things in your life and wonder why you can’t have a smooth ride. Why should there be hitches at every phase of life? Why do I have battles that make me question the essence of my existence? I have loads of things about life I do not like. However, I have gotten to a stage in my walk with God that I believe there is no place to go from him even when I may not fully understand the following:

Unanswered prayers

The scriptures make us understand he does not withhold good things from us yet some of our prayers are not answered. Perhaps like me you wonder if it was something you had done wrong or you asked with the wrong motive. There are times I do a self-check and I find it has nothing to do with me. When I decide to look for solutions in the wrong places, I complicate my situation not knowing God is trying to teach me patience by not answering when I want him to. He takes his time to do everything right.

These days I am learning to cast my mind back to remember that indeed the one who sees the end from the beginning knows what is best for me and in the end everything will turn out for my good including unanswered prayers. I remember when I wanted to travel for postgraduate program in UK; I did pray but I was not granted study visa. Then I was upset with him for not coming through for me. But when I changed location for study, I realized indeed he had my interest at heart and in the end all glory will go to him.

So know that unanswered prayers does not mean God did not hear them or he is trying to punish you but it could be he is teaching you patience or he has something better in store for you.

Difficulties and frustrations

When I think my day is unbearable, I turn to God and ask, “Is it a crime for a day to go smoothly? Must there be hitches and hiccups on the way?” Well, you may have to watch your prayers if you don’t want challenges. I have come to realize that I get what I ask for. Let me explain. When I asked God to teach me how to be calm in crisis, he brought crisis my way. Then it dawned on me I can’t learn how to be calm in crisis without crisis. When I asked God to teach me how to love, difficult people came my way for me to learn how to love.

So I have learnt difficulties and frustrations are there to shape me in line with the life of Christ though I still have not embraced them fully. So learn with me and see challenges on the journey as one of the things God uses to shape us and help us to conform to his image.

Trials and temptations

When you come to Christ, you are told you are free to live for him; old things have passed away and a new life begins. Yet you find yourself still battling with the old things. You pray and pray but they won’t just go away when you want them to. You find yourself battling with the flesh unending. Well, as much as we may not like to be in constant battle, it seems it is part of the journey. As long as we are in this world, devil is never going to leave us alone and interestingly God allows it. Why?

Perhaps you discovered your troubles increased when you gave your life to Christ. When you were a sinner, you were probably not persecuted. Everything may have been going on fine. But when you surrendered to him, hell was unleashed on you and God allowed it. Why?

Trials and temptations are part of the unwritten contract signed when we surrendered to Christ. Even Jesus was tempted and tried. As much as we may not like trials and temptations, our Lord suffered and so we should not expect anything less. However, the good news is that no unbearable trials or temptations will come our way. God is always there to help us through them showing us the way of escape. But the problem with you and I is that we don’t always take the way of escape and sometimes we choose not to listen to the voice showing us the way. God is ever ready to fulfill his promise. So surely we can overcome trials and temptations.

Evil around us

I don’t understand how a human being can kidnap another person’s child and provoke emotional disaster. I don’t understand how a human being can be brave enough to take another person’s life. I don’t understand how a human being can work hard to destroy another person’s business. I don’t understand the height of evil around me. Perhaps you may have asked as I have, “God, where are you and all these things are happening? How could you allow all these to happen when you can prevent them?”

However, the evils around us do not negate the truth that God is good, loving, compassionate and merciful. God loves the evil doers and so he is patient with them so they may know him.

Furthermore, is it possible evil abounds because a number of God’s children are yet to manifest? Although we profess to be of Christ, our lives show that we are still hanging unto our old ways. So how can people around us change? We have not been salt for people to taste godliness nor have we been the light for people to see God’s colours. Indeed in situations where Christians have been Christ-like, lives have changed. I believe that the more Christians are truly who they are called to be, the less evil around us.

Remember above all, as much as we may not like everything God brings our way, he is working all things for our good. So whatever is happening you are not comfortable with, look to God and trust him to explain why things are the way they are. There may be lessons to learn or perhaps God has something better coming. It’s like a pregnant woman with morning sickness, decreased immunity and other discomforts but when she delivers amidst the pain, the baby overrides the pain.

We may not be comfortable but let’s not run away from God. Let us understand that despite the discomforts we are better in him than out of him.

Image by Bsilvia @ dreamstime.com

October 3, 2010

Understanding putting off old life and putting on new life

I was stung by Colossians chapter 3 yesterday and so I spent time trying to comprehend it. Verse 4 talked about my old life being dead and my new life being in Christ; then in verse 5 I am told to put to death everything related to the old life. So I wondered; if my old life is dead and I have a new life in Christ what do I have to put to death again?
The questions
Verses 5 -8 listed some of the old ways which include sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires (described by The Message as doing whatever you feel like whenever you feel like it), greed (grabbing whatever attracts your fancy – The Message), anger, rage (irritability), malice, slander and filthy talk. I believe I have the new life but I know I still see some of the old life in me. I know I am in Christ and the scripture says if I am in Christ, old things have passed away; behold the new has come. So why are old things still within my flesh? If old things have gone, why am I being told in Colossians to put them to dead? Then from verse 12, I am told to put on compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline, patience and the list goes on. When I gave my life to Christ, did not the old die and new life given to me? Why do I notice the old more than the new? I made up my mind to continue to meditate on Colossians 3 until I am convinced it is woven into my cells. So as I pondered and asked questions God began to explain to me:
Pictorial explanation
Imagine a slave whose master informs he is no longer a slave but a son having access to the wealth of the master. The master gets him a new set of wardrobe but every morning the ‘slave turned son’ wears his slave clothes. He wears his slave clothes out of habit. For more than 10 years, he has thought, spoken and behaved like a slave. Although he has been given a new life, he is still on automatic drive. His mindset needs to be altered and this may not happen overnight. For him to begin to wear his new wardrobe, he had to make a conscious and deliberate effort. He has to understand the change of roles, learn how to talk and act to depict his new role. Furthermore, to ensure he wears his new wardrobe, he may choose to help himself by burning his slave clothes. In fact it may not be advisable to keep any clothes for memorial because he may wear them someday. Also, keeping any slave clothes may slow down the process of speaking and acting like a son.
The process
When the scripture says we have been given a new life, it means a fresh start. We have to make a deliberate effort to put off the old life and embrace the new life. We had our old wardrobe of impurity, anger, hatred, unforgiveness and more. This old life has woven itself into our cells. However, God has placed before us a new set of wardrobe which includes gentleness, humility, compassion, discipline, forgiveness and patience. We have to dress in the new wardrobe. The new life needs to be woven into our cells thereby displacing and flushing out the old life.
Putting off the old life and putting on the new life is a daily process – daily walk in the spirit and daily death to self. Imagine your physical wardrobe; only a few of us if any can change our wardrobe at once. It is usually a gradual overhaul. However, if you tuck the old clothes somewhere around, someday you will pick them and wear. But if you give them away or burn them, you will no longer have access to them. Putting off the old life can be instant in some areas of our life or can be gradual. However, focus on putting on the new wardrobe God has for you. Consciously put on the new wardrobe daily and with time it becomes an unconscious daily activity. As you continue to do this with focus and intentionality, you will realize with time the percentage of your new wardrobe is far higher than the old wardrobe. This summarizes the process of perfection in Christ.
Practical Example
This morning as I was getting ready to go to church, a few things went wrong and I was unhappy and irritable. Then I heard in my spirit (having been meditating on Colossians 3), “Irritability! Don’t wear it!”
I responded, “Yes Lord.”
When I responded in affirmation, I began to relax. So I stripped off the old cloth (irritability), wore a new one (quiet strength) and I felt good.
It dawned on me that we do not manifest as the children of God because we do not apply what the scriptures say. It is meaningless hearing or studying the word without applying it. For us to put the old life to death we should understand that:
·         We have been empowered by Christ when we yielded to him and his grace is available for us.
·         We must be willing to give up the old life. If we set out to strip and burn the clothes of the old life, we are free to live as Christ has called us to live.
·         We must prayerfully put off the old life; then embrace and put on the new life. For it is not by our strength but it is God who energizes us to live for him. So seek his help
·         Obeying at every step ensures you conquer more grounds.
And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your all basic, all purpose garment. Never be without it (Colossians 3:14 –The Message).
And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity (NIV).
Therefore, if God says put off the old life, it means he has given us a fresh start, leverage and wardrobe for the new life. It is up to you and I to burn the old clothes; accept and wear the new clothes custom-made by our maker and lover. Our lives, families and the world will be better as we begin to manifest as children of God.
Image by greyman @ stock.xchng