October 16, 2011

The bestseller that describes the essence of my living

"We are not what we know but what we are willing to learn." – Mary Catherine Bateson

The benefits of reading and aspiring to learn from what we read cannot be overemphasized. Good books can change mindsets for a flourishing society. Indeed it is people who make up a society and when they are influenced positively, a fruitful world is created.

My favourite book is a bestseller and is ever fresh as I read it year in year out. Each time I read it, there is always something new for me to learn or apply in my career, relationships and my life.

My first real encounter with the book was in 1991. Because it’s voluminous I was only opportuned to read it from cover to cover in 2006. Before I used to read chapter by chapter and sometimes I would re-read chapters. Despite the fact I have read it cover to cover before, when I pick it up it seems I had not read it before. I seem to see another angle to what I have read. And if the portion am reading speaks to a present situation, it comes alive in a greater dimension.

I have come to realize that the more I read the book, the smarter I become. The book says a lot about day to day living such that when I apply its teachings, I am regarded as smart! It teaches me to prioritize my goals and if I follow my goals in order of priority, I am known as organized and efficient.

I struggle to cope with challenging situations that come my way. On such occasions, I act thoughtlessly and sometimes I regret my actions. One day as I battled, I read a portion that said, “If you crumble to pieces in the time of crisis, it means there was nothing in you in the first place.” I began to learn that in peace and tranquillity, solutions to my situations arise and when I apply them, it sometimes amazes even me that the solution occurred to. I began to learn that difficulties will continue to raise their heads but I don’t always have to fall to pieces or throw tantrums each time. The book teaches me to be joyful in the midst of my circumstances and know I have the power to overcome and the strength to keep going. In the end, victory will be mine and a personal transformation can take place even in difficulties.

I have also discovered that in reading, understanding and applying what I read, I discover my true self which is devoid of selfishness and is people oriented. When I focus on helping people, my problems become surmountable.

The book makes me understand that we can have a better society if we can accommodate and appreciate all men irrespective of culture and race. Furthermore, when we learn to treat others like we want to be treated, we can have societies infested with goodness and no evil. Wouldn’t that be awesome?

The book is an anti-depressant, a tranquilizer and pain killer that reduces my daily stress. It tells stories of those that have gone ahead of me for me to learn from. I don’t have to learn everything by personal experience. And it assures me that my challenges are not unique to me. 

It is a life coach, mentor and skills’ builder focusing on making me a better person for myself, family and friends. It x-rays my life and brings up hidden things to the surface so I can do away with them. It builds confidence in me and encourages me not to compare myself with others but to be content and maximize the talents and gifts in me.

It trains me on the principles of prosperity and teaches me how to be wise with money. I ought to master money rather it mastering me.

The Bible is indeed my favourite book. Though written many years ago, it is still relevant today and will still be a treasure for the future. Individuals need it. Nations need it. As I read some famous quotes, I realized many also value the bible as much as I do:

“It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.”
- Unknown author.

“...In all my perplexities and distresses, the Bible has never failed to give me light and strength.”
 - Robert E. Lee.

"I believe the Bible is the best gift God has ever given to man. All the good from the Saviour of the world is communicated to us through this book."
- Abraham Lincoln

The Bible is a guide, a director and a teacher. It is a builder, encourager and a light to my path. It creates order and administers discipline in my life. It shapes me to be who I am called to be and it is all I need to tackle the challenges life throws at me.

Image from Pamela Hodson @ dreamstime

October 10, 2011

How to stop being buddies with sins IV: Focus on God

After church service, I felt like screaming Eureka! I felt my struggles are over! Well at least, that is how I felt as I left church.

God opened my eyes to the reason for the ups and downs I have been experiencing as a Christian. Indeed the journey should not be a struggle.

The pastor spoke about our significance and the meat of the sermon was identity revelation. I understood that the reason we struggle in our relationship with God is that we focus on behaviour modification and not identity revelation. Well, that is what we have been taught in church for long and so we have been programmed to focus on changing our behaviour.

But you know what? We can’t on our own, change our behaviour. That would be working out our salvation the wrong way. Focusing on behaviour modification makes us focus on ourselves and that is not what Jesus taught. He encourages us to forget about ourselves and look to him. He said when we do this, we shall find both ourselves (our child-of-God selves) and him (Matthew 10:39; The Message – paraphrased).

It made sense as I reflected on my life. When I focus on avoiding sin; that is when I commit it. Yes, what I fear will come upon me! For instance, yesterday I was having a headache which persisted. I decided to lie down for a while. Initially I wanted to read but I did not think the headache would allow me. At the same time, I could not sleep and then I started worrying that my mind was idle and that could precipitate unholy thoughts. This is a typical case of me worrying about committing sin rather than focusing on Jesus.

The sermon confirmed what I sensed God has been trying to tell me. When I focus on him and continually gaze on him, with time I shall observe that my sinful habits are no more. He would do the pruning as I remain connected to him. Anything that will prevent us from being who he has called us to be will be removed as we continue to develop our relationship with him.

As I studied John 15 (The Message) today, I realized I should focus on my relationship with God being intimate and organic; to please him and obey his word. What does it mean to be organic? Organic in this context means to develop naturally. The relationship should be seen and applied as an essential part of my existence; a constituent necessary for my completeness.

When our relationship with God is intimate and organic, we shall bear bountiful fruit (multi-faceted; multi-component and multi-dimensional) naturally with no struggles.

When I focus consistently on him and not on my sinful habits, with time sin will become foreign, wither and fall off. He will do the work.

As I behold him, I become his splitting image. Yes, we are who we behold. God is without sin and so we shall be without sin. Remember it is not an event but a process.

Lets us not pause the process by going on a break or sabbatical for it will prolong the process. Rather, let us be consistent in gazing on him. Remember, as long as Peter looked at Jesus, he walked on water, but as he removed his eyes from Jesus, he began to sink.

Do you want to stop being buddies with sins? Focus on God consistently and persistently!

Image by Vanell @ stockfreeimages.com

October 2, 2011

How to stop being buddies with sins III: Approaches to bible study

In the story of Mary and Martha, Jesus made it clear the kind of relationship he desired with his people. God understands that we have affairs of life to attend to but those affairs can be better taken care of if we can spend time at his feet like Mary.

When Martha interrupted Jesus to report Mary; Jesus said Mary has chosen what was vital and it will not be taken from her. Let’s learn to come at Jesus feet to receive strength, power, wisdom, joy, peace and patience to face whatever challenges may come our way.

Studying the word is being at the Lord’s feet, hanging on every word and tapping from the Most High.

One of the reasons a number of people do not read the bible is because they don’t understand it. I used to have such a challenge when I used King James Version of the Bible. However, studying the bible has been a delight since I discovered The Message. This version has made me realize the bible is applicable to a 21st century Christian. Yes, bible versions in contemporary English such as The Message can help us appreciate the word of God.

Come to the word prayerfully and determined to be dealt with, willing to let God reproduce his character in you. Then you can get up from your place of study having taken a dose for the day which will nourish and keep you.

There are a number of ways to approach the study of the bible. You can choose any approach or apply a number of approaches.

Study by book
You may study by choosing a book to read. If you are new to the word or you have decided to return to the basics in your relationship with God, I would recommend the book of John which I am reading currently. It teaches a lot about Jesus and how he related with our father in heaven. If Christ is our model, then we ought to learn how he succeeded here on earth to obey his father till the end.

Afterwards you may choose to read the other books of the gospel – Matthew, Mark and Luke; and some letters of Paul such as Romans and Hebrews. In Romans, Paul discusses the life, death and resurrection of Christ and exposes the beneficial implications to us while in Hebrews, he teaches us to let go and let God. You can read the books one after the other until you have read all and then you start all over again.

Study by Topic
You may also choose to study the word by topic. If there is any topic you don’t understand or you want to know more about; you can do so with the help of a concordance. Perhaps you want to know what God says about suffering or self-sacrifice; then you can make use of study tools to achieve this. Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance can help you undertake an exhaustive study of the topic.

Study by symbols, people or time
Fire, water, earth, passover, tabernacle, numbers, places and colours for instance are symbolic and worthy of study. The number 3 is symbolic for balance or completion while number 7 is for perfection. Purple is for royalty and gold is for kingdom. I also see gold as refinement. So you may choose to study to know what these symbols signify.

You may choose to study the lives of people such as Jesus, Abraham, Daniel, Joseph, Steven, David etc. How you want to study by time is up to you – flood age, fire age, Christian age, before Christ or after Christ etc.

In addition, you can use a number of study tools in order to enrich your output.

Have a study notebook
A number of times as you study and ponder on the word, God may expound a passage or verse and it will be great to write what he is telling you and you can meditate on it. Many days later, when you read what you have written down, it will be fresh. God’s word is so alive that each time we study; there is always a fresh angle to it.

Look for study tools
You can use commentaries, bible dictionaries, Bible guides such as devotionals

A site to go for a number of bible study tools is BibleStudyTools

Now having studied, Apply!

Ephesians 6:13-17 (The Message)

Be prepared. You're up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it's all over but the shouting you'll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You'll need them throughout your life. God's Word is an indispensable weapon.

Need I say more? You are more blessed if you are a doer of God’s word. You are an overcomer if you are a doer of God’s word.

Like the song by casting crown; at the Lord’s feet we find all we need, we ought to dwell there and never leave. Yes, we should operate from there. Sin cannot be your buddy if you operate from God’s feet.

How do you study the bible? Share by leaving a comment to motivate and encourage others.