The Lord is close

6 January 2014

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18.
There will come times in our lives when we are crushed in spirit and brokenhearted. We know we are not immune from heartache whilst we await the return of Jesus, but Jesus has promised us that He is close and has demonstrated this to us in John 11.

When Lazarus died, Mary and Martha were devastated and went to Jesus. The sisters also questioned why Jesus didn’t prevent Lazarus’ death. By then, it seemed too late and the mix of emotions that the two sisters felt closely identifies with our heartache and pain as believers. We know and have faith that the Lord will redeem all that is lost and will wipe away every tear when He returns. Yet, that doesn’t prevent us from having heartache in this world. We quite understandably will ask God WHY? WHY DID YOU NOT PREVENT THIS?

Some of us feel ashamed for allowing ourselves to feel this way. We feel it shows weakness and sometimes we also think it shows a failing in our faith in God. That is absolutely not true. Our heartache does not mean less faith in the Lord – and the Lord never rebuked Mary or Martha for questioning his reasons for not acting earlier. We are not told why Jesus decided to stay on two more days before going back to Judea and Jesus did not offer any explanation either when the sisters asked him why. Just as God today may not always offer an explanation for everything.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9.

What Jesus did offer was his tears. We read that Jesus wept with the sisters. The God, our Lord, the Almighty and the Alpha and Omega, weeps with us. He is close to us in our brokenness and when we are crushed. We don’t need to hide behind a false and tough image of strength. We are not spiritually weak because we get hurt and we are not angering God when cry out to Him, or even question the circumstances. Jesus accepts all of us in our state of brokenness. He is just saying to us, you don’t need to know why it happened, you only need to know that I am here, that I am close, and that I am God. Jesus is like that friend who just accompanied you when you were in pain and even though no words may have been spoken, it was of great comfort to know someone was there going through and sharing it  with you.

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Enjoy life

5 January 2013

It’s not difficult to feel burned out with today’s technology of unceasing communication, high-speed service and higher expectations of everything in general. People I meet often tell me how exhausted and tired they are from their jobs, and some, being good Christians, are also busy with ministry in their free time. Being busy, is sometimes seen as being dutiful and faithful. But whilst it is important to be responsible at our jobs and to have a heart for the kingdom of God, we must guard against burn out. We can avoid burning out by taking time to enjoy life as God intended. Solomon, in all his wisdom came to this conclusion:

Even so, I have noticed one thing, at least, that is good. It is good for people to eat, drink, and enjoy their work under the sun during the short life God has given them, and to accept their lot in life. And it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—this is indeed a gift from God.” New Living Translation – Eccl 5:18-19.

Indeed, it is a blessing to be able to live life and enjoy every moment. To enjoy the gifts of God, whether in wealth or in kind, whether small or great – for this is the portion that God has given and this is the gift. A Christian friend from Nigeria told me today that in his country, there is a saying that we should not treat waking up and eating as a habit. The most fundamental act of breathing was appreciated as a gift.

Being grateful to God does not just come in the form of praising God and re-counting testimonies of faithfulness and blessing. There are times for great rejoicing, and then there are times for simply enjoying life in itself. In the same way we love seeing someone enjoy our gifts, God also enjoys and is delighted when we enjoy His gifts.

Today, I choose to enjoy the good gifts you have given me Lord, I will enjoy the life you have given me today, along with every material blessing and every spiritual blessing that you have given me. Today, I speak blessings into my work and I ask that you bless the fruit of my labour. Help me Lord to enjoy the work that you have given me as my portion.

What did Jesus see?

4 January 2014

What did Jesus see when he saw you and I? Did he see our sin? Did he see our mistakes? He saw everything, our past and our future. Our moments of victory and also our moments of defeat. More so I believe, Jesus saw the beauty that would be revealed by his blood. When we accepted Christ and were forgive for our sins, we were washed whiter than snow.  We are also told that we would become the bride of Christ. Without spot or blemish. A radiant church, prepared as a bride for her bridegroom. I believe, that was what Jesus saw when he came in human flesh to offer and subject himself to torture and punishment over our sins. We are told, that for the glory set before him, he endured the cross and scorned its shame, nailing it to the cross. So that those who believe would become sons and daughters of the Most High.  We are the glory and the joy of the Lord, we are His inheritance. and He is our inheritance.

“Your Maker is your husband— the Lord Almighty is his name.” (Isa. 54:5)

“I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the Lord. (Hosea 2:19-20, God speaking to his people)”

Lord, remind us in our daily walk with you that we are your betrothed at the cost of the blood of the Lamb. Help us to walk and grow in holiness, righteousness and love.  Keep in us, the anticipation and joy of your return.

Is Living a Christian Culture Enough?

Many have said that living “counter-culturally” is part of a Christian’s lifestyle. I agree. Most of us would say this means doing more Christian things. But I feel living a “Christian culture” is not the fool-proof way in faith.

From my observation, some of us may start going to bible study classes, join some form of community service or be attached to a care group or house church. We start listening to Christian songs, speak the Christian lingo and hang out with Christian friends. Then maybe once in a while there is a big Christian conference event or worship concert. We may have deep issues that require healing and may take some time to experience inner healing through the help of other leaders. Some may travel for short term mission trips. Then eventually we may take up some form of leadership role or have our own long term ministry.

Don’t get me wrong. This is all great and also essential to growing as a believer and contributing to the kingdom of God. But I am challenged today that somewhere along the road, all this activity can become a stumbling block in our faith. I say this because I realise all this activity also has the tendency to make us feel good about ourselves and give us a “spiritual high” or may even feel like a checklist to maintain. I wonder if there is a danger that all this activity could, if we are not alert, end up masking the purpose of our faith.

I am reminded that being in an authentic relationship with God and increasing our love for Him and others is the most important goal in our lives. Sometimes, we just need to stop “doing” and just be still. Jesus often went to a place of solitude to pray and just be with the Father, even after a full day’s activity, as if what he was doing wasn’t enough to bring him close with God. The truth is, works did not equal closeness with God. Jesus had to consistently and intentionally separate himself from works and just be with the Father.

And so do we. What we do is not nearly as important as why we do them. Let us return to hear the Father’s voice. Let us make prayer not another activity to tick off the list, but let prayer be a two way dialogue between us and God.

God, we desire to be near your heart and draw closer to you each day. Take us deeper into you.

Fear

When Jesus told us not to worry about the future because the birds of the air have nests and are fed even when they do not store up, I believe he wasn’t telling us not to bother working. But he was asking us not to fear (or be “anxious”) about the future. To do what is necessary (be wise), yet also have faith that God will see it through. Sounds simple doesn’t it?

Today, fear drives a lot of people. I sometimes see this especially in parents. From the moment the child is born, I hear of parents easily moving from joy to fear about the child’s future. Fear can be a powerful driving force in many lives and can come in many different forms.

I have to admit myself, that sometimes, noticing other people’s fears, makes me also fear for the same things. Fear is an infectious disease and a cancer.

Our cure does not depend on wearing more face-masks, waiting for the next best drug or worst still, going through an operation to remove a tumour. Rather, we can run straight into the Word of God which we are told is “alive and active, sharper than a double edged sword, penetrating and dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow, discerning the thoughts and attitudes of the heart”. Hebrews 4:12.

If we believe and exercise our faith in using the Word of God as an instrument to combat fear and all the other invisible diseases of the soul, we will no doubt see miracles and be as free as the birds Jesus spoke about.

Father, I pray that your Spirit open our spiritual eyes and heart to receive your Word and I pray that your Word will not only enlighten the way, but also kill off the cancers of life that so easily entangle our lives.

Starting a New Year

It’s the new year and for many, it is also the hope of something better, the beginning of new resolutions that are made after reflecting on the past year.

In Matthew 3, we see the baptism of Jesus and the beginning of Christ’s public appearance. Like us in the new year, Jesus was starting a new journey, marked by the symbolic baptism in the river Jordan and the confirmation by the Father of his identity.

“You are my Son, with whom, I am well pleased.”

I thought it was interesting how God didn’t give Jesus a road map of what he was to do. There was no list of things, places or names Jesus was to go to. Jesus was simply told who he was and that God was pleased. God chose to speak those words to Jesus after Jesus made an intentional act to be baptized. Baptism symbolizes death of self and the resurrection into new life in the Spirit. The words God spoke were to commission Jesus with authority and with the power of the Holy Spirit.

Today, we need to claim those life giving words into our lives. You may have a set of goals and resolutions in mind for the new year or you may just have a hope for better things to come this year. Whatever it is, commit it to The Lord – and do not gratify the desires of your selfish flesh. Give yourself and what you will do to The Lord in an act of surrender as Jesus demonstrated in his baptism. And The Lord will make your paths straight. He will commission you with the power of the Holy Spirit and you will hear the same words He spoke to Jesus, that He is well pleased with you.

“Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun.” Psalm 37:5-6.

“A man plans in his heart, The Lord determines his steps and makes them sure.” Proverbs 16:9.

Lord, today I commit the new year into your hands, I give you my heart, my thoughts and my time and I ask that you bring to fruition the good works that you have prepared in advance for me to do. Your will be done, your kingdom come.