Many times, we are so engulfed by the hustles and bustles of this world until we lack time to be with our maker and our Lord. We get so busy with the little things of life until we lose the important things that we ought to have majored on. We find ourselves taking so much into thought things that do not add any value to our spiritual lives i.e. we have our hearts, Spirit and soul all involved yet at the end, it will be of little or no benefit to us. At times, we give such issues all our attention, both physical and at times we involve our spirituality. Please note that I am not saying that we shouldn’t; no!! All I mean is that we should have our priorities right when it come to such issues especially where it concerns our relationship with God.
Mary and Martha’s story is not new to us. When Jesus and his disciples arrive in Bethany, Martha opens up her house for Jesus and his disciples to rest. Martha gets down into the business of preparing something for the visitors while Mary gets busy at Jesus feet listening to the wisdom and the teachings that He was giving to his disciples and maybe Lazarus was there too; but Martha comes to complain that Mary has left her to do all the work. We all like to welcome our visitors and make them feel comfortable and at home and have them have a nice and good memory that would make them come back for another visit. This is all what Martha was doing but she forgot that what Jesus was offering was far much ahead and better in worth more than what she was struggling to do.
That’s how we behave. We make ourselves busy serving and ministering until we have no time to sit down and be refilled again and ministered to by God. There are two things that must really cut out clear in our lives working for the Lord and building our relationship with God. Many times we are careful of the first and not the latter. We put so much efforts to make sure that we do something that can be recognized but Paul reminds us that “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” Ephesians 2:8-10; but by sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening to him and building our relationship, we can be saved.
Martha was cumbered with much serving but we should know that serving should never be a substitute for really knowing Jesus personally. Jesus knew that many would opt for service rather than a personal relationship with him and that’s why he warned his disciples and said in Matthew 7:22-23 “many will say to me that day, Lord! Lord, we prophesied in your name, cast out demons in your name and did many works in your name? and I will say unto them – I never knew you, you workers of iniquity, depart from me”. What a sad incident would that be? This clearly depicts to us that we can do good works or service for God without having a saving relationship or knowing him personally and yet we can know him but our works deny him. This is a paradox. This is what Titus warns us against in Titus1:16 “They profess to know God, but their works deny him; being abominable, disobedient and disqualified for every good work” Our main aim and agenda when we know Jesus Christ as our Lord and savior should be to strive and work out our personal relationship with me. Jesus said in John 15:5 “…If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
Our good intentions to work or do ministry for God without him will amount to nothing. Jesus clearly said that if anyone is not in me, he cannot do anything. This meant that it is only Jesus who can give you the strength to accomplish the great work that he has prepared us for as his workmanship. It is my prayer this day that we will choose the latter which is worth and will not be taken away from us - To build our relationship with Him – Jesus.
“A divided house can never stand” – Those were the words of Jesus to the Pharisees who were in doubt and were questioning the power that he was using to drive out demons and heal the sick. Jesus takes his time to speak to the Pharisees and let them understand the principles of a kingdom. A kingdom can never stand from without when it is crumbling from the inside. This is so evident even in the governments that we see in the world today. Every time there are wrangles or disunity amongst leaders in a certain government, there tends to be failure. Jesus says “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. This is a principle that we ought to understand and it is the same trait that the devil uses to bring disunity amongst Christians thus causing fall outs.
You will come to see that many of our Christian brethren are heartbroken and others hold some resentment against others. This is happening because the devil has planted the seed of discord amongst us. Once in a while, we step on each other’s toes but that shouldn’t mean that we should hold that against each other forever. We need to be forgiving each other. Jesus went ahead and gave them an illustration. If you want to take what belongs to a strong man, then you need to first tie the strong man and then you can take away what you need from him. Can you imagine that this is exactly what the devil does to us and robs us the joy, peace, fellowship, love, unity and oneness that we should be enjoying as brethren? Instead, we should be the ones who are tying him off.
Jesus clearly outlined the work of the enemy in John 10:10 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Now if Jesus came so that we could have life in its fullness, why should we allow the enemy to keep as in captivity while we have our freedom in Christ? This is where it needs us to indentify and deal with the things that cause disunity among us as believers and brothers in the family of God. Some are very minor such that they shouldn’t be affecting us but yet, we seem not to have matured enough to get ourselves from their captivity. Some of the issues that bring disunity are:
a) Unforgiveness – as much as are Christians and going to heaven by faith, we still struggle with unforgiveness. Jesus taught his disciples (whom we are part of) how to pray and said; “… and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” and Jesus added “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:14-15 the condition is that, you should forgive others so that you can also be forgiven. We are commanded not to allow the sun set while you are annoyed. One of the biggest dangers of unforgiveness is that it hinders your worship and sacrifices to God. Matthew 5:23-24 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift” why hinder your worship to God through unforgiveness? Forgive and move on.
b) Pride – They say “pride comes before a fall” and it’s amazing to see that this is eating up so many of us. It is because of pride that the devil who was an angel was hurled down to the earth. Solomon the wise man said; “Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.” Proverbs 13:10. Small successes cause us to be proud but remember the Lord hates pride. “The pride of man will be humbled and the loftiness of men will be abased; and the LORD alone will be exalted in that day.” Isaiah 2:17 James reminds the brethren to remain humble so that the Lord will uplift them at his own appointed time.
c) Jealousy – With Pride, jealousy comes up. This is perpetuated by envy too. When I see that someone is doing better than I am, I will tend to envy him/her and thus when I am not able to reach where he is, I become jealous and in turn, this creates a rift between us because I will tend to think that he/she is becoming proud. This also brings about the class issue and in this, we rate people and place boundaries between them and us citing that they are higher than us either on education, social status etc, but did you know that God doesn’t recognize all that? He sees each and every one of us as his children with no class at all.
There are more than these that bring rifts between us. I pray that the spirit of the Lord will quicken you to indentify such in your life and tie them up before they tie you up. God loves it when we are all in unity and in oneness. Take a look at this: BEHOLD, HOW good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment poured on the head, that ran down on the beard, even the beard of Aaron [the first high priest], that came down upon the collar and skirts of his garments [consecrating the whole body]. It is like the dew of [lofty] Mount Hermon and the dew that comes on the hills of Zion; for there the Lord has commanded the blessing, even life forevermore [upon the high and the lowly]” Psalms 133:1-3 It is my prayer that God will bind us together with cords of love so that we will live together in unity so as we can enjoy God’s blessings in abundance.
James 1:22-24; Luke 8:4-15
Jesus speaking to his disciples and the crowds, he tells them the parable of the sower. In this parable, he speaks about 4 different types of people that hear the gospel at the same time but act on it differently. It is so amazing on how most of us act, I included. I tend to think if God was really one of us, He could have gotten tired of canning us because of our attitude and actions that we take every time we hear his word. Every time we hear God’s word, it comes with a purpose. The bible says in Isaiah 55:11 “So shall my word be that goes forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it” It is therefore up to us, to get to go deeper and get to know what the Lord intends for us through each and every word that comes forth to us because it is not in vain.
James writing to the church likens such a person to someone who looks into a mirror, sees his/her image but forgets what he has seen immediately. The word of God is a mirror unto our lives and reflects our lives day to day. We are supposed to use it to evaluate and check out our lives but rarely do we do that. Our lives are usually a reflection of who we are in the inside – our hearts and spirituality. This is one of the biggest issues that Jesus had against the Pharisees. This is what He said about them; “Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? But give what is inside the dish to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.” Luke 11:39-41
I know we all like photographs. Every time you go to a studio, you want the person to get the best shot of you while you are there so as to reflect your real self. Most of the times I have had people tell me that my pictures do not resemble the real me. I ask myself why and yet I am the same person both physically and on the photograph. The same question is what we are supposed to ask ourselves when it comes to our spiritual walk and life with Christ. Does what people see you do/live correspond with what you believe? If it doesn’t, then know there is a missing link that needs to be fixed. When someone tells me that I do not resemble my pictures, I usually tell them that I will have another picture taken of me and get to have it look like me. When you usually go to a studio or even use some software’s like Photoshop, you can play around with pictures and tone them up or change a few features so as to resemble you or look the way you want them to be.
Amazingly, these days, we have so many Photoshop Christians. I am sorry to say this but it’s the plain truth. The truth about ourselves is not what we always want to see or want others to see. The touched up version of who we are what we prefer and to safeguard ourselves, we erect walls around us which we let no one to intrude or wear masks which present a false appearance of who we are. What we forget is that we can’t hide the truth forever. When the truth is required of us, it will automatically show and we will have no place to hide. It is really hard to hide the truth about who we are permanently. The question is; why should one lead a double life? Jesus said; “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? 17Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.” Matthew 7:15-20
There are some things that tend to reveal our inner selves even if it’s only to us in our private times. Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth will always speak and thus when you are forced to react, the real you will emerge in what you say and do. I thank God because He uses people to see beyond our false appearances and make us face our real selves. As I had said earlier on, the bible is the mirror because it reflects our hearts every time we read it and helps us amend our ways. Do you value what the bible shows you about yourself? It doesn’t help at all to break the mirror if you are displeased with the image thereof. The next time you see an image that you do not want to see again, do not get angry or annoyed with the picture, but rather change the person in the picture.
Ephesians 1:4-6; Psalms 139:15-16
Love!!! Love!!! Love!!! This is a simple word but with a very strong influence and power within it. Though this word has been misused, God’s original purpose for it still stands. Love is a high esteem that God has to his humanity children and we should have the same towards each other. This is clearly shown in John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son…” When God created you and me, his original purpose was to have fellowship with us but Adam sinned and the fellowship was cut off but yet, ever since, God was always working on a plan to restore His fellowship with man – His special creation. To be sure that you are God’s special creation, take a look at Genesis 1:26-29, God had to take time and involve God the Son and the spirit to create you, but for the other of his creation, he just said – “let there be”… how special then are you?
Paul tells the Ephesians “For He (God) chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love, He predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will – to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.” Ephesians 1:4-6 Paul shows us that even before god created us, he had predestined and chose us as his own vessels of honour and to use us to bring pleasure to him. He chose us as His own sons. God made us so that He could love us. “This is what the LORD says – he who made you, who formed you in the womb, and who will help you: Do not be afraid, O Jacob, my servant, Jeshurun, whom I have chosen”. Isaiah 44:2. Every day, God reminds us that we should not fear anything because He is watching over us to shower us with His everlasting Love. You have to know that you are God’s first choice. This is what James 1:18 says “He chose to give us birth through the word of truth that we might be a kind of first fruits of all he created.” What else on earth would we need when we know that we are God’s favourites and He minds so much of us. David asks in Psalms 8:4 “who is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?”
You need to know that because God loves you so much, such that even before you knew him, He loved you. 1 John 3:1 says “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.” Again in vs. 16 he says “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” With God so full of love, He chose to show us Love and lavish us with his love and Paul tells the Romans that “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8. Imagine of yourself while you we deeply lost in sin, God still loved you and had a purpose to save you and readopt you as his son; that’s how deep his love for us is.
Isaiah reminds the children of Israel about God’s undying love for them. He is a father who carries us in his hands and takes care of us. This is what he tells them; Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all you who remain of the house of Israel, you whom I have upheld since you were conceived, and have carried since your birth. Even to your old age and gray hairs, I am he; I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” Isaiah 46:3-4. What a loving father He is. In Numbers 11:14, Moses was to weary and fed up with the children of Israel and he cried to the Lord telling him that he was tired. But God reminded Moses that He had created them himself and thus He would take care of them. God knows you by your name and He sees each and every situation that you go through. “But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.” “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.” Isaiah 49:14-16. There is not a single day that the Lord will forsake you.
The children of Israel were in slavery in Egypt and when God was about to deliver them and have them go to worship him, Pharaoh hardened his heart. Exodus 5:17. Sometimes we find ourselves in such situations. Everyday there is a challenge for us towards achieving our goals and vision but it is very encouraging to know that God orders our steps. David said “If the LORD delights in a man’s way, he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand. I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.” Psalms 37:23-25 David had a testimony of God’s love and faithfulness.
The child that a parent loves is allowed to go through some experiences through guidance from the parent so as to get to know some things. And God having loved us, He allows us such moments. James 1:2 says Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” The Lord will allow us such moments so that He can mould us into the kind of people He wants us to be. After being loved and molded by God, we need to live our lives out for him with holiness and above all, we should rediscover our passion. Revelation 2:5 says “Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.” When we do that, you can be sure that God will be pleased and love you more and more. Above all, he will be proud to testify of you just as He did for Jesus saying “This is my beloved son, in whom, I am well pleased.”
God has always a way of blessing the people that honour him an d follow whole heartedly after him. It is very clear in God’s word that God took care of his people and made them proper in the land of the living as long as they honoured God. Isaac lived among the Philistines and God blessed him and made him prosper in the land amidst a famine. He lived in peace with the Philistines till it reached a time when they got jealous of the way God was blessing him whilst they were in famine. The bible records that “Isaac planted crops in that land and the same year reaped a hundredfold, because the LORD blessed him. The man became rich, and his wealth continued to grow until he became very wealthy. He had so many flocks and herds and servants that the Philistines envied him” – vs. 12-14 That is how the devil behaves. He is always jealous of God’s blessings in our lives.
You will read on and realize that the Philistines went ahead and filled all the wells that both Isaac and his father Abraham had dug. Later on, Isaac and his family moved away and dug other wells but the Philistines claimed them and filled them up again. Nevertheless, what encourages me is that Isaac did not give up on digging up fresh wells. Despite the fact that the Philistines always claimed the wells he dug, he continued to dig till the Philistines realized that they are not discouraging this man not to dig more wells, instead, the more they did discourage him, the more he pressed on and God blessed him.
You will come to realize that this is the time that God appeared to him and made a promise to him: “the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bless you and will increase the number of your descendants for the sake of my servant Abraham.” vs. 24 This was a clear indication that all this while, God was with him and seeing what he was going through. This is how many of us are these days. We have so many people among us who have the Philistine mentality. God has given us the potential to prosper in the land of the living and He has spoken and confirmed this to us in many ways but whenever we meet a challenge, we give up.
How many times did Isaac dig up the wells? He re-dug the wells his Father Abraham had dug twice and dug up new ones twice making it a total of four times. The potential that God has given you cannot be deterred by anyone – it is only you who can put a limit to yourself. Take a look – everywhere that Isaac, God made him prosper till the Philistines realized that they could do nothing about it. You do not have to be curtailed by the people around you who are not happy with the success that God is giving you. Your efforts will be blessed by the Lord and not by any human being. It doesn’t matter how many time you have started to do something and people have come and discouraged you and you left what you were doing – Move on and try again and again, as long as God is with you, you are bound to prosper.
It is so discouraging that the people we trust most are the same people who discourage us. Take a look at Nehemiah; Nehemiah 4:1-3, 7; Tobiah, Sanballat and the Arabs came together to oppose him while he was rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem but Nehemiah didn’t give up. Then, why do you have to give up? What the people who have the Philistine Mentality do is that they are being used of the enemy to deter us from accomplishing God’s purpose in our generation and season. When they filled up the wells, the water was contaminated and thus could not be used for its purpose, thus not accomplishing the purpose the well was dug for. The biggest challenge that we have as believers is to rise up to the occasion and refuse to be deterred or discouraged by the ‘Philistines’ amongst us.
One thing that is sure is that, they will one day give up one you if you do not give in to their discouragements. When the Philistines saw that they could do nothing to deter Isaac from being blessed, they came to him, confessed and made a treaty with him. This is what they said “We saw clearly that the LORD was with you; so we said, ‘There ought to be a sworn agreement between us’-between us and you. Let us make a treaty with you that you will do us no harm, just as we did not molest you but always treated you well and sent you away in peace. And now you are blessed by the LORD.” vs. 28-29 Those who are against you or are out to discourage you, God will open up their eyes and they will see that God is with you and there is nothing that they can do to stop him blessing you and God will cause them to come and confess to you.
Remember the three friends of job? After they had spoken so ill of Job, God speaks to them and tells them to go to job with a sacrifice so that Job would pray for them so that God would relent his anger on them because they had acted in their folly (Job 42:7-10) One thing you have to keep in mind is that – “Do not hold any grudge or harbor any resentment against those people who act badly towards you or do you wrong. All you need to do is love them and forgive them. Isaac prepared a party for the Philistines and blessed them as they went on their way. Same as job; he offered a sacrifice and prayed for them. You will notice that after doing this, they both afterwards were blessed the more.
May God bless you this day as you purpose to rise above the Philistine Mentality around you.
1 Corinthians 9:24-27
Watching the IAAF competitions going on in Germany, I looked at the athletes as they all dashes towards the finishing line to claim glory for their countries. It was so bad to have our own athlete (Janet – Kenya) pushed down and fell at the finishing line. Take a look at the hard training that they go through and the practice that they put into this. Leave alone the athletes, early in the morning, in my neighbourhood, early in the morning I see guys running and jogging at 5 am in the morning. All this, they indulge themselves in such a discipline simply because there is something that they are aiming to achieve. Paul knowing the value of athletics in the ancient Roman Empire, he equates our Christian walk of faith with a race.
In the earthly races, only one person receives the grand prize that is tagged to the race; but thanks to God that in our heavenly bound race, we all have a prize to receive if we run the race as per the rules set thereof. In every race, there are set rules that are set for you to abide with if you will win the race. And same to our walk of faith to heaven, there are principles and rules that are set that we ought to adhere to id we will run this race successfully and with the race. If you do not abide with the set regulations, you are disqualified for the race. Paul urges us to run the race in such a manner that we will attain the prize thereof. This is what he says – “Run in such a way as to get the prize” – 1 Corinthians 9:24b.For us to run this race to its completions, we need to realize a few things that will help us run this race.
a) We need to know that this race has a starting and a finishing point – In the earthly race, there is a starting and a finishing point. For us, when we received Christ as the Lord and savior of our lives, we started this race. That’s the starting point. The finishing point for this race is Heaven. And for every runner, he runs with his eyes fixed on the finishing point having in mind the prize that he/she will receive. Paul told the Philippians I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:14. This is the same attitude we should have like Paul, fixing our eyes on the prize.
b) The crown/prize that we all long for is not perishable – As I noted earlier, the athletes get into rigorous training so that they can be ready for the race and with. Paul says “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” vs. 25. There are situations and circumstances that we go through in our Christian walk that are meant to prepare us for this race. But many a times we do not realize this; the best that we do is to complain that God is not fair at all; but that’s part of the training that we need to go through so that we can run with perseverance. Winning a race takes hard work and discipline, and the only thing that keeps us on track is keeping the eyes on the prize. Why would you go through what it takes unless you think the prize makes it worth it in the end? Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.- Hebrews 12:2-3 Jesus gives us power and purpose for the race. Paul puts it this way: Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings [our hard training], because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope”.- Romans 5:3-4
c) We need to run this race with self control - This is what Paul’s getting at when he talks of “strict training.” Athletes know you can’t win without self-control. We say no to anything that pulls us away from our desire for God’s word, for our commitment to serving in his name, our desire for God’s holiness to reign. At the end of the day, self-control is a matter of being controlled by the Spirit. The discipline of self-control is a fruit, a gift, of the Holy Spirit as God works out his good purpose in us. Paul refers to this in Galatians when he says, “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature” – Galatians 5:10. What hurts your self-control? What compromises your training? Too much TV? Too much sugar? Not enough sleep? Always wanting more, bigger, better things? On the other hand, what stirs up your resolve for God’s Word, his holiness, the love he wants you to share with others? Take anything that pulls you away from the prize, and ask God to help you get it under control. That’s what Paul does. Look at how he puts it in 1 Corinthians 9:26-27: “Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave” Paul is saying, be careful, and don’t be enslaved by the body and by its wants and appetites. Instead, take control.
d) We run the race with all of our strength – The winner wins by running hard. He or she gives everything they have. They don’t just jog or run until they start to get tired. This isn’t a race for the lazy or unmotivated. The Christian life is like that—to be lived with all our might as long as we live. The race we’re running for the prize he sets before us takes all the effort, all the zeal, all the energy we have. We don’t in our own strength, but in his, as we strive and push onward and serve and love in the strength he gives us. At one point or another, everything in us screams out, “Stop! Enough! I can’t go on any more. I don’t want to pay the price.” But that’s the way of the cross, of self-denial. Paul tells the Corinthians “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.” 1 Corinthians 15:10. We accomplish everything through Christ who strengthens us. Getting to heaven isn’t based on what we do, it’s all about grace. That’s why Paul would say, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” Philippians 3:12
Let’s all strive to run this race of faith to heaven with perseverance adhering to all the rules laid thereof and at the end of the day, we will be able to say like Paul; – I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” - 2 Timothy 4:7-8.
Giving is a very sensitive part and issue in the human life. But it is yet the most important issue in the life of a human being as it brings about blessings in our lives and opens up doors and windows for blessings in our lives. This is the only area that God asks us to test him and we will see how he will bless us (Malachi 3:10-12) but as human beings, we tend to really be hard with what we have and end up not being blessed. The principal still remains – you cannot add water to a jug or vase that is already full. And when we do not give out, we are telling God that “I am contented with what I have so there is no need for you to add me more.” And God being faithful to his word, He will not certainly do that.
Taking another dimension in my own thoughts regarding what God was telling the children of Israel is that, He was telling them “if you want me to bless you, then bless me too, then I will reciprocate” but do we really understand that? Jesus talks to his disciples and warns them of judging others. He gives them some critical to do’s that we ought to do so as to live in peace and harmony with everyone. Apparently, looking keenly at the world of today, these are the things that are happening and they are in the rise. People judging each other, finding faults in each other, condemning, criticizing and also revenging the wrongs done to them.
My question then is this; if we really want to live in a world that is free and with justice, why don’t we give the freedom that we want and thus we will have it back? In the light of this, Jesus said “Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. Don’t condemn those who are down; that hardness can boomerang. Be easy on people; you’ll find life a lot easier. Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity." Luke 6:37-38. I like the line that He said that you will find life easy, when you give it away, you will get it back in abundance – with blessings and bonus.
As human beings, we are used to pick up fights and find faults in other people. Sometimes, it is not even worth to do it. Jesus said, instead of doing so, let us first check out our acts first and see that they are straight and then from there we can be able to correct others and guide them. Jesus knew that every man wants to be holy in own sight – that’s why He warned us not to be like the Pharisees. He goes ahead and speaks of our lives being living trees that ought to produce fruits. He says that a fruit depicts the type of a tree that it is. The fruit shows whether the tree is healthy or sick. What type of a tree are you? A sick or healthy one?
This sends us back to look into our own lives. Do we mind to keep our lives healthy in him? Remember in John 15:5-6, Jesus said that he is the true vine and his father is the gardener. If we remain in him and him in us, then we will bear fruits and without him, we cannot bear any fruits. What is your relationship with God? He is the one who prunes us and gets rid of any unworthy aspect in our live as He prepares us to bear much fruit in him. This is how the message bible puts it. “Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me. I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. (John 15:4-6) As it is written, the relationship between you and god should be intimate and organic meaning that you feed from him so that your fruits are healthy. And the only way that you can feed from him is through his word and listening to him.
God’s word is a mirror to our lives. David says in Psalms 119:9-11 “How shall a man cleanse his way? By taking heed and keeping watch [on himself] according to your word [conforming his life to it].” When we use the word of God to conform our live to it, then, we can rest assured that we are living in line with God’s will, plan and purpose for us. When this is done, we will find ourselves doing what is expected of us and not being stumbling blocks to others. We will find it easy to do what is right to others and not being so quick to judge or point out things without first checking our lives out.
Paul said to the Galatians – Galatians 6:9 “So don’t get tired of doing what is good. Don’t get discouraged and give up, for we will reap a harvest of blessing at the appropriate time” This is the only way that we can receive our blessings. Not getting tired of doing what is right because God is just and He will repay us at the appropriate time. Check your life and remove the unwanted aspects that are not worth in your life and the ones that are making your life and relationship with God look unhealthy and thus the fruits that you will produce will be attractive and glorify your father in heaven.
A while ago, I shared about ‘Being my brother’s keeper” – (http://dennisdailyword.wordpress.com/2009/07/02/wednesday-1st-july-2009-devotion/). Over the weekend, something happened to me and it got my mind engaged so much into this and I have found myself so much in deep thought asking and evaluating myself whether really I am really my brother’s keeper. Do I really do what I am supposed to do as God wants or I am just there as a hypocrite and rebellious as Cain was. I felt so challenged and as I went before God in prayer and repentance, I found asking myself so many questions and I came to realize that we have more to just than being a brother’s keeper.
We need to re-examine how well we fulfill our obligations to one another as brothers in the family of God and also in the same biological families. Here are some of the questions that I was asking myself and you can also ask yourself too and get to know where you stand in this subject.
a) When one becomes a brother:
1. Do we receive them into the family of God, or ignore them? Romans 15:7 “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God”. Do we assimilate them properly in the family life of the congregation? Do they remain on the fringe? – If we do not even know their names, we can be sure that we are failing as our brother’s keeper!
2. Do we edify them, or we put stumbling blocks in their way? - Romans 14:19 “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification”. As individuals, are we “body-builders”, do we encouraging the members of the body? Or are we like a cancer, weakening the members of the body of Christ by a) By our own example, b) By our words, attitudes, etc. – It was said of Philemon that he refreshed the hearts of the brethren; do people say the same of us?
3. Do we submit to them, or arrogantly rule over them? – Ephesians 5:21 “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Submission is of great essence and value amongst believers and brethren if at all we will live in unity and harmony. When we submit to one another, we are able to value each other and accept correction with love when done without looking down at each other.
4. Do we serve them in love, or expect them to serve us? - Galatians 5:13 “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.” Paul says that we are all free and not under any form of rulership, yet we should not long to be served, instead, lets also avail ourselves for service to others in love just as Christ did for us.
5. Do we demonstrate hospitality to them? - 1Peter 4:8-10 “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” At times, we have our brothers and sisters in situations that they really need our assistance. Others are sick and have various needs. What is our response to this? Do we visit them in their time of need and minister to them?
B. When one is overtaken in a fault…
1. Do we even consider them? – Hebrews 10:24-25 this at times drives brethren away from each other. This is mainly because we no longer view him or her as a brother/sister in Christ, but instead, we view them as sinners of which they are not. Are we even aware who they are or we just hear rumours? Are we ignorant of their problems? Do they drift away, with no one making an effort to reach them?
2. Do we exhort them, lest they become hardened by sin? – Hebrews 3:12-14 or are we afraid to confront them, for fear of running them away? If we truly love them and approach them with humility, they are not likely to run away. If they do, they are running away from God, not you! Remember, such exhortation is to be daily! Perhaps we wait too long…
3. Are we willing bear their burdens? – Galatians 6:1-2 do we offer them a shoulder to lean on so as to help them overcome and become stronger or we rather not be bothered?
4. Are we quick to forgive them when they repent? – Ephesians 4:32 at times, fear of not being forgiven and accepted back into the family may keep some from repenting and returning to the fold and thus many tend to move away or even shun away any form of fellowship that we might try to have with them. Do we communicate the willingness to accept with open arms and offer complete forgiveness?
How we answer such questions may reveal how well or poorly we are in fulfilling our responsibility to be our brother’s keeper as well as Living up to the one responsibility we have that includes all others that is: to love one another as Christ loved us - John 13:34-35 If we have failed to be our brother’s keeper, we need to…
· Repent of our lack of concern, our inactivity, or whatever has hindered us
· Confess our shortcomings in this area to God
· Resolve to apply and fulfill with zeal our responsibility as our brothers’ keeper.
What Is Involved In Being Our Brother’s Keeper?
1. Teaching one the gospel. (Mark 16:15, 16) “And he said unto them, Go ye into the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned”
2. Loving him as we love self. Matthew 22:39 “and the second is like unto it, Thou shall love thy neighbour as thyself.” 1 John 3:17 “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?”
3. Restoring him when he falls. Galatians 6:1 “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” James 5:19-20 “Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.”
4. Sharing his burdens and joys. Galatians 6:2 “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ”. Romans 12:15 Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.
5. Doing good to him. Galatians 6:10 “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith”.
6. Helping him when he is in need. Ephesians 4:28 “Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth”.
7. Treating him the way we want to be treated. Matthew 7:12 “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do you even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets”.
What else could we need to do than this? Bearing each other in love and taking care of each other. I know once we put this into practice, we are bound to live in harmony and thus, God will be pleased and He will command a blessing upon us as that’s the promise of his word – Psalms 133. May God help you as you purpose to be your brothers’ keeper.
Solomon the great wise king ever to live spoke to his sons the words of wisdom as God had given him the wisdom. He speaks out very deep, in sighting and true things that I have found very important in my personal life. In this particular chapter, he urges his sons not to neglect his teachings rather, they should embrace them and take careful note of them, thus they will help them in times when they will be needed. At time, it happens so with our lives; especially with the word of God. We hear the word but yet at some points we take it for granted.
Take a look at what Jesus teaches the multitudes in Matthew 13:1-23. He brings out the four categories of people that hear the word of God and how they react to the same. There are some of us who are the pathway, others are the stony ground, others are thorny ground and other of us are the good fertile soil. That is how we take the word of God and the teachings that we get. You may tend to differ with me but all of us fall in any of the four categories; the question is; if you know your category, what are you doing to change or improve? How I pray that we will always take the word of God and make it our mirror that we use to reflect our daily lives with.
Solomon gives us a lot of wisdom that we can apply in our daily lives. These are tips that we can us in our lives and we prosper. There are several benefits that come to us when we take heed to the word of God and put it into practice. Solomon outlines these things; in each and every verse, there is a promise that is tagged to it if we are careful to fulfill the requirement stated above the promise. Let me look at each of them.
1. If we take heed to God’s word and keep it in our hearts, we will have prolonged life and prosperity (vs. 1- 2) – God’s word is full of his promises that speak about prolonged life and prosperity. But it is until we honour God and have his word engraved in our hearts and thoughts, that’s the time we will experience and achieve all the promises there of. The problem with many of us is that we claim the blessing without first fulfilling the requirement thereof. May God help you and me to see and fulfill what is required of us so as to get his blessing. Take a look at these verses: “And if you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.” - 1 Kings 3:14; “The fear of the Lord prolongs life, but the years of the wicked will be short.” - Proverbs 10:27; “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” - Ephesians 6:2-3; “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.” - Psalm 91:14-16.
2. Love and faithfulness wins us favour before men honour God and men (Vs. 3-4) – It was all because of love that Jesus came to the earth to seek and save the lost. When He was sent by his father to come and fulfill the mission He was sent to accomplish, he did it faithfully to the point of dying on the cress for you and me. During his stay here on earth, the bible records that Jesus grew up both in stature and wisdom, having favour before men and God – Luke 2:52 and Solomon having known this, he advises us to live both faithfully and in love with one another. When you love someone and you are faithful to him/her, he/she will not find it hard to go out of way to do you special things that you do not expect. That is how our God is.
3. Trusting in the Lord and not our minds, allows God to order and guide our steps (vs. 5-6) –How many times have we did things in our own way and they hit the rock? How many times have we not involved God in our plans and thing go the wrong way but when we turn to God and ask for his guidance, the things we do prosper and flourish. It’s the promise of His word that He will give wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding. He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice, and He preserves the way of His godly ones. Then you will discern righteousness and justice and equity and every good course – Proverbs 2:6-9; Look at these other scriptures that speak about God’s guidance in our lives: Psalm 25:9 – “He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.”;
Psalm 25:12 – Who is the man who fears the LORD? He will instruct him in the way he should choose.”
Psalm 37:4, 7 - Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass … Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him;
Psalm 37:23 – The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord;
Jeremiah 10:23 – O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps;
Isaiah 30:21 – Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left’
4. The fear of the Lord and hating sin, bring health and nourishment to our bodies (vs. 7-8) – God hates sin and He will not withstand its presence. It is because of sin that he destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah and also caused the flood in the times of Noah. But take a look at this scripture, if we fear the Lord and shun evil, Health will be our portion. God told the children of Israel in Isaiah 57:18 “I have seen his ways, and will heal him: I will lead him also, and restore comforts unto him and to his mourners” This shows that the Lord delights when we walk in reverence of him and in his ways and righteousness. David recounts the blessings that God had accorded him and this is what he says in Psalms 103:2-3 “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who forgives all you sins; who heals all your diseases” If we walk faithfully in reverence and fear of him, this is his promise; “If you listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His eyes, if you pay attention to His commands and keep all of His decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you” Exodus 15:26
5. Honour the Lord with your wealth and your barns will overflow (vs. 9-10) – What we own is the Lord who has given us to be custodians but as human beings, we have taken total ownership till we have forgotten the source of what we own. God expects us to be faithful custodians and also we should honour him with what He has given us rather than having it to enslave us. For many of us, the latter has taken the better of us. When you honour God with your wealth and possessions, you will live in abundance. Solomon said “he who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity. Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil – this is the gift of God. - Ecclesiastes 5:10, 19 our love for possessions is vanity, but when we honour God; we have peace.
6. Do not despise the discipline of the Lord, because it is a gesture of his love towards you (vs. 11-12) – The Lord delight is in you and me. Just as a father would love to see his child grow up in the right ways and manner, thus the same way God wants us to and thus he disciplines us just the way we discipline our earthly children. Hebrews 12:9 says “furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? When discipline is given, it is given in love and thus, when the Lord disciplines us, we should take it positively rather than having a negative attitude to us. Let us know that it is all for our benefit.
What else do we need in our day to day life when we have the word of God outlining everything we need to do so as to have what we need? My prayer is that God will open our eyes of understanding so that we will see what He wants us to see, walk in his ways and live as per his statues.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Giving thanks is an art that as Christians that we need to cultivate in our individual lives. Many times we find it hard to give thanks in the many situations that we find ourselves in but Paul encourages us to give thanks in all circumstances despite what it would have been. This is what he says “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 He reminds us that it is God’s will that we should always be joyous and this is God’s perfect will for us.
David says in Psalm 100:4-5 “Enter the temple gates with praise, its courts with thanksgiving. Give thanks to God, bless his name; good indeed is the LORD whose love endures forever, whose faithfulness lasts through every age”. David understood the whole purpose of being thankful to God. He used to enter into the presence of God with a thankful heart reflecting on what the Lord has done for him. David had really gone through some situations that were not encouraging for him to stand and give praise to God; but yet he chose not to be brought down buy those situations. Think about this incident: David is making melody to the king to sooth him but yet, the same person wants to kill you. How would you react to such a situation? Many times, we allow the situations and the issues we are passing through to carry the day rather than allowing our hearts to rest in God and find joy and strength in God.
At other times and in other, less joyful situations, it may not be as easy to remember to be thankful, even though we are asked to give thanks to God for everything, in all circumstances. All circumstances - means both the good times and the bad. You may ask, “Why all circumstances? Why be thankful for the bad happenings of life?” As I understand it, God doesn’t cause the bad things but He will use our experiences for our good. We must remember that God sees our whole life, not just today or this year. He knows the experiences we will need and the strength that will be required for our future and, if we are willing, will use them for His purpose. In Romans 8:28, Paul tells us; “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”.
This does not mean that all things will be good in the life of the believer but that God will overrule and work even through the tragedies caused by sin’s presence in the world to accomplish His purposes in the lives of those who love Him and who have responded to His call. Three things should enable the believer to give thanks in all circumstances: having an inward sense of joy, peace from knowing Jesus and knowing that God plans a beneficial result from every trial. Having these three attitudes and convictions deep within us, we can courageously and easily weather every storm that might come our way.
This is what Habakkuk says “Though the fig tree may not blossom, Nor fruit be on the vines; Though the labor of the olive may fail, And the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, And there be no herd in the stalls – Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, and He will make me walk on my high hills.”Habakkuk 3:17-19 what other reason can we have of not giving thanks to God?
“Therefore by Him, let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name… And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased” Hebrews 13:15-16 Make each day of your life full of giving thanks. Every evening, as you recount the events of your day, give thanks to God for the good things and for the good that He has promised to bring out of the hard things. It may just become a lifelong habit.