Saturday, April 20, 2013

All things work TOGETHER for our Good

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. Romans 8:28 NLT

This Bible verse takes a lot of abuse. We misquote it a lot and one variation that I hear often is "all things work out for good". This is what causes a lot of people to doubt its validity. This misquote causes us to expect every situation to work out in our favour. When it doesn't, we blame and doubt God.

What this scripture is really saying is that no matter how many difficult situations you may face, in the end God's plan is that all the tiny pieces of the puzzle will come together and the big picture will be something great.

You see each situation has a purpose in our lives; and it's not to frustrate us, but to mold us for the future. Our reaction to each one is important because it determines whether we are ready for the next stage in our process. God never promised that we'd have stress free lives but He did promise that He would always have our backs (Hebrews 13:5b).

Remember that in the end all these tiny situations that cause us headaches will come together and work out in our favour. It's always at the end of the puzzle that we realize what each piece was for. The same thing goes for life. You will realize how each situation or struggle has come together for your good at the end when you look back and marvel at how God worked it out.

Till then, keep on trusting God. Know that He is busy putting your puzzle together and it WILL work out according to His plan if your trust him and do what He asks.

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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Obsessed With Our Desires

We all have desires for our lives; things that we want, things that we want to do, things that we want to be. Sometimes, these desires overcome us or overwhelm us. It's quite possible to develop tunnel vision where these are concerned. Maybe, as you get older, you realize that it's taking a really long time to achieve your goals, or maybe nothing seems to be working out right. Two things can happen at this point, you can give up on your goals, dreams or desires or becoming so obsessed with them that you see, hear or feel nothing else. None of these outcomes are good ones and none of them are what God requires of us.

I've learned the hard way that God sometimes withholds the things we desire most from us simply because we place so much emphasis on it. Its not that he doesn't want to give you the desires of your heart, but rather, he wants you to want Him more than anything else in this world. When you begin to focus on anything else with such tenacity, it becomes your god. Your real God will not allow that to happen. Its very easy to destroy our relationship with God when earthly desires get in the way. They become our focus and sometimes, the only thing we pray for. They consume us so much that we forget to see the other good things in life. We don't count our blessings anymore, instead we pine and dwell on the things God hasn't given us yet.

I recently learned that sometimes when you let go of the thing you desire most, that's when God steps in to give it to you. Of course, it does not work that way all of the time, God only gives what we can handle. But sometimes He really does what to give us that thing that we desire but we're so obsessed with it, He has to hold it back. When we recognize our obsession and step back and give it up, living our lives according to His will, He steps in and gives us the best.

God is supreme and sovereign and He won't share His worship with anything, including our personal desires. Examine your heart and whatever it is that you desire, ensure that it has not taking His place. Ensure that it's not the only thing that you pray for. If it is, change your prayer to "let your will be done in my life". Totally surrender your will to His with no strings attached and be willing to accept a "no" for the thing you want most. If you can't accept His will in place of your desires, then you haven't really surrendered. Don't get me wrong, its probably one of the hardest things you will ever do, but its the right thing to do. Until then, you'll be struggling for something you'll never get.

Please note that I am not saying that you shouldn't have goals and desires because without these life would be pretty empty, however, never ever let them be your sole purpose for living.

Have a blessed day!

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Saturday, April 13, 2013

Feather-weight Christianity

Since Christ made an appearance here on earth Christianity has always demanded a bit of radical faith. First of all, it takes a radical determination to believe the things we do. To the ordinary man, what we believe looks somewhat ridiculous. It may even look ridiculous in our own eyes sometimes, but we have our experiences and assurances that keep us going, so we believe.

Believing is one thing, however, actions are something totally different. Back in the day of the apostles, proclaiming Christianity was punishable by death, yet that era gave us the most radical Christians we have ever seen. In the face of persecution, the apostles continued to preach, teach and lead their flocks of believers.

Nowadays, we have things so much easier. We can gather in public places and talk about our God. We can declare boldly that "I am a Christian" without fear of any harm coming to us. We basically have it pretty easy.
So why then are so many of us practicing feather-weight Christianity? Why are we just doing to bare minimum? We walk into church on Sunday morning, or Tuesday night or whatever other day we choose to go to church and after that we behave like we've paid our dues. We have the "no one can judge me except God" attitude and we basically live our lives however we want. Most days, no thought is taken concerning God's rules and our lifestyle does not match up with the Bible or with Christ. We have a million and one excuses for the reason that we can't do what the Bible says and we claim that those that do are fanatics or ignorant Bible thumpers.

Its been said before that the main reason the world resents Christianity is the Christians. We don't practice what we preach and that serves as a deterrent to those on the outside. Our pulpits are confused and we relax our principles in the name of tolerance or love. I bet God is saddened when he looks down on His Church; His bride that he's supposed to return for. The bride that should be getting ready for his return.

There are a lot of things wrong with collective Christianity but it takes each individual to look at him/herself and make the changes. The Church is you and it is me. It is not a building or a denomination. Therefore it is not a building or a denomination that needs to change but you and I. Our priorities need to be reset, goals revisited and lives re-examined because change starts with the individual. Let your neighbors see a difference in the way you live. Let your coworkers see a difference in the way you work. Don't use excuses to fornicate or to party like a wild animal. It's easy to put on makeup and head to church and call yourself a Christian, but it's a totally different story where living the life is concerned. Let's go back to the basics, honouring God and doing His will. That's all that's required from us.

Let's live today with a difference. The world is watching.

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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Wearing Kindness around your neck!

Are you loving and kind? If you are a Christian you will probably say yes. Love and kindness are words that are or should be synonymous with Christianity. In other words, if you are a Christian, then you should be loving and kind.

Well, unfortunately for some of us, love and kindness are actions, not feelings. You see, love does no one any good if it is not demonstrated. Same goes for kindness. A hungry child is not fed simply because you feel compassion towards them. They only get fed if you get up and feed them.

I watched a pretty disturbing video yesterday where a camera crew and a couple of actors tested the general public on a street corner. They pretended to kidnap a 7 yr old girl (also an actor). This little girl called out for help several times, screaming at the top of her lungs "he's not my dad". Several people passed by (men, women and teens), but no one helped this girl. Over and over, they did their act until finally a group of men, without uttering a word to each other acted in unison. They not only felt compassion or kindness towards the little girl, they acted on it.

That story reminds me of Jesus' parable of the Good Samaritan. Our world has conditioned us to think in a "it's not my business" kind of way and even as Christians we adopt that culture. We ignore the plight, not only of our fellow Christians but also of our fellow men in general, thinking that somebody else will help.

The Bible tells us in Proverbs 3:3 (NLT)Never let loyalty and kindness leave you! Tie them around your neck as a reminder. Write them deep within your heart. Something tied around your neck or written deep in your heart cannot easily be forgotten. Let us remember to exercise kindness at all times. Don't leave it to someone else. Don't feel sad and then do nothing about a situation. Your feelings don't help anyone. It's your actions that do.

Go out today with kindness tied around your neck!

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Monday, April 8, 2013

Avoiding self-inflicted depression

Some times we humans crave for things we shouldn't have. Maybe an extra candy bar when we're trying to lose a few pounds, or maybe it's relationship that's off limits for whatever reason. Since the garden of Eden, man has wanted what wasn't good for them.

I'm sure we've all found ourselves in the situation where God has said no about something we want yet we continue to toy with the idea in our heads. We romanticize the moment when we finally get want we want, dreaming of the possibilities and how beautiful it will be. We day-dream and obsess and obsess and obsess. And the more we obsess, the more we need to torture ourselves at the end of the day when we're reminded that the things we spent the day dreaming about can never happen.  When the harsh reality hits, we're on the brink of depression and all we can think to do is blame God. "Lord, why can't things ever work out for me? I never get anything that I want. Everybody is happy except me." Does that sound at all familiar?

Does the thing you want most but know you can't have consume your thoughts? Do you dream that just for one moment things will be different and you will get to have want to really want. Then you need to quit torturing yourself. The answer is already no and God won't change his mind. Dwelling on the situation daily will not make Him change His decision. All it does at the end of the day is make you bitter, angry and depressed. You're destroying yourself and in the process you're failing to see the good things that God has in store for you; the things that are actually yours. Your life could be a lot happier if you'd accept the things you can't have and look to God with trust for your future.

Stop the self destructive behavior. Instead of dwelling on what you can't have, occupy your mind with something productive. Learn a new skill that falls in line with your life plan. Develop a new hobby. Play music while you work to keep your thoughts from straying. Actively monitor your thoughts. When you notice that you have slipped, make a decision to stop and deliberately occupy your mind with some thing else. And of course, ask God for help to overcome the thoughts and the obsession with whatever desire you have. Believe it or not, he will provide a way of escape but you have to be willing to move on and your eyes must be open to see what he's brought you.

Have a blessed day and remember to take control of your thought life. 

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Monday, April 1, 2013

Making a list

In my church we're taught constantly that having a clear vision is important for any organisation. It's something that we see in real life almost everywhere. Every successful organisation that you walk into has a vision and mission statement that's prominently displayed. They teach it to the their staff, explain the way forward and then expect people to work toward those goals. This is a good example of a biblical principle used in the world successfully. (Habakkuk 2:2)

So I began to wonder, what if I applied this to myself. I mean, I have goals for my own life; there are things that I'd like to see happen in my life. So why not write down my own vision? Why not create for myself a statement that says where I want to go and how I plan to get there? Sounds like a good idea right.

So, here I get down to the real subject of this post: Making a list. See, as a much younger Christian, I was taught that giving God a list was a no-no. I guess the reasoning behind that was based on the "God is not our bellboy" theory. Over the years I've learned that presenting God with a list has some merit. I still believe that God isn't my bellboy and I can't just go asking him for this, that or the other just 'cause I feel like it, however,  I believe that making a list is simply a matter of gathering your thoughts clearly on paper. Some things don't make sense until we write them down.

Goals, visions, plans etc should align with what God has in store for us so writing this stuff down should basically be saying, Lord, this is what I desire for myself. If you've been in a close relationship with God, communicating with Him daily, then it will be a no-brainer to have your plans line up with His. Communion means communication, this usually adds up to agreement. We Christians tend to have the belief that "God knows what I want" and we don't verbalize anything. Yes, God knows our thoughts, but I believe that He still wants us to ask for what we desire. Why else would Christ advise us in Matthew 7:7-8 to “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened."

I firmly believe that a lot of us don't have what we desire most because we don't ask. Or, because we ask and then we do nothing about it. So back to making a list. When we start of making our lists, it appears that we are presenting God with a list of demands, however, what I've found is that we're creating a list for our own selves to follow. Your list is your vision, the things you want to accomplish with your life. Your list reminds you of where you're going and it makes it easier to plan to get them. The list helps you keep focused on your real goals. The list can also show you which desires are most shallow. Just like you won't vocalize your most embarrassing thoughts to your friends, you won't put something you know deep down that you shouldn't have on your list that you present to God. Even if you do, He'll come back and remind you that you shouldn't have it. Eventually, if you're mature enough, that item will drop off the list.

Sometimes, your life just needs a visual reminder of what you need to accomplish in order to accomplish it. When I was a young girl I'd take scripture verses to my mirror so that I could memorize them. Later, I stuck important sayings on my wall so that I'd live by them. This is pretty much the same thing.

If you've found it difficult to focus on a plan for your life, make a list and present it to God. Let Him tweak it and remind you what is most important. He might even add some things to the list. Be open to His correction then move forward with your life with a plan in hand.

Be wise, write your vision.

Joana James - Author of From Redemption to MaturityTrusting God with your Future,   Nightmare at Emerald High & Alana and Alyssa's Secret & Finding Romeo