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Praise through the Storm

“I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth” (Psalm‬ ‭34:1‬).

The description of Psalm 34, is of David when he pretended to be insane in the presence of Abimelech who drove him out and he departed. In 1 Samuel 21, David fled from Saul who sought to take his life. He sought refuge among a foreign King and the King’s servant recognized him as one who fought with Saul and was hailed for killing ten thousands. David became afraid and pretended to be insane so the King Achish threw him out.

After David’s narrow escape he went to a cave of Adullam and everyone who was distressed, who was in debt, who was bitter in soul gathered to him. And he became commander over them (1 Samuel 22:2). David was anointed to lead and even in the midst of his adversity, there were people who were willing to follow him.

There are seasons when it feels as though we are being pursued by the enemy. God has made a way of escape and when you have escaped, people will be gathered unto you and you help them. Jesus prayed for Peter when he experienced temptation. “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke‬ ‭22:31-32‬). Peter’s ability to overcome adversity equipped him to help others.

God will save you out of this trouble. Your ability to endure this test and to overcome will give you the wisdom to help others overcome. You will help others in distress, who are experiencing trouble. Our assignment often determines the magnitude of our test.

Prepare a song of praise to God because you will overcome. The enemy will be confused by your praise. God has already provided the escape. Greater things are yet to come when we praise him through the storm. “My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad” (Psalm‬ ‭34:2‬).

A.P.-Y.

Better is Coming

“I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living”
‭‭(Psalm‬ ‭27:13‬)!

The most recent lockdown has felt quite onerous and trips to the supermarket feel like a day out. There is an end in sight as there is news that restrictions are about to be lifted. I am also looking forward to spring and an improvement in the weather. As I hope for a turnaround in the physical and environmental conditions, I am also hopeful that things are turning around for our good. As long as we are alive, we have hope of the promise of the goodness of the Lord.

I learnt recently that there are over eight thousand promises in the bible. Over seven thousand are promises that God made to mankind. Imagine that God has written in his word, over seven thousand opportunities for us to gain a blessing. Eight thousand promises means eight thousand opportunities to share in the inheritance of God’s goodness. God is not like people who make promises that they cannot keep. “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it” (Numbers‬ ‭23:19‬)?

What does the bible promise and how do we access these promises? God has promised to bless us with long life. “With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation” (Psalm‬ ‭91:16‬). In fact Psalm 91 is loaded with promises related to God’s protection from sickness and plagues. There are many other places in the bible where God promised us good health. “You shall serve the Lord your God, and he will bless your bread and your water, and I will take sickness away from among you” (Exodus‬ ‭23:25‬).

Time would not allow me to attempt to discuss all eight thousand promises in the bible. If we read about them in scripture and believe what it says, then declare those promises and they will manifest. Once we develop a deeper understanding of what God has promised in his word, then it is time for us to ask and receive. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Matthew‬ ‭7:7‬).

We have a role to play in activating the promises of God. First we have to study to understand what has been promised to us, then we believe and declare those promises and watch them manifest. The word of God is active and requires our engagement in claiming what belongs to us. And as we grow in the knowledge and understanding of what God has promised, then things are going to get better.

“Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised” (Hebrews‬ ‭10:35-36‬).

A.P.-Y.

Treading Water

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven” (Ecclesiastes‬ ‭3:1‬).

Wisdom will help us to discern when to push forward and when to tread water (effort that maintains current status but no progress). It takes faith and trust in God to believe that God has us exactly where he wants us to be. When our will is surrendered to him, when our trust is in him and he directs our going, then we know that our plans will succeed. “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established” (Proverbs‬ ‭16:3‬).

Discontent, zeal, drive and passion will make us want to do better than we did yesterday. It is absolutely necessary to be ambitious and to keep reaching forward. There are seasons when it is ok to be still and wait before we pushing ahead. There are also times when we have to weigh the cost to ourselves, our health, our peace of mind, our family and our relationships. We have to remember that it is God who gives us the ability to gain wealth (Deuteronomy 8:18). God will enable us to make progress no matter the obstacles or circumstances that we face. We have to trust that he will keep his promise to bless us and wait for his leading.

We surrender to God, to his will, his purpose, his plan and wait for his perfect timing. Timing is important and a great thing done in the wrong season can do more harm than good. Harvesters know the danger and futility of reaping a crop too early. With the best of intentions, we can force a situation to happen prematurely. Babies do best when they are carried to full term and a child born premature needs additional support.

Stay connected to God and you will sense his leading and he will give you clear instructions for the next season. Seek the Lord and trust him while you listen for his instructions.

“And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left” (Isaiah‬ ‭30:21).

A.P.-Y.

God has a better way

“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand” (Proverbs‬ ‭19:21).

We tend to regularly make plans for our lives, in terms of where we see ourselves at different stages. There are times however when God will say, ‘I have an even better plan.’

Disappointments are hard to process and it is hard for us to see at the time how a closed door is for our good. Often times its long after the event that it makes sense. It is then that we are able to see why God closed a door or diverted us from a perceived opportunity. The truth is that we can only see half of the picture or a glimpse into the future. God however knows the full story and he sees the beginning, middle and end. He sees the big picture.

With this understanding we surrender to his will and his leading. We surrender our need to be in control and acknowledge that he is God of our lives. Seeking God first can save us a lot of heartache and there are times when we have to wait. There is an appointed time for everything on earth. There are seasons when all of our trying does not seem to amount to much. Sometimes we have to be still and see the salvation of the Lord. Most battles are not won in our own strength but by the power and strength of the Lord.

Trust him. His ways are higher than our ways and his thoughts higher than our thoughts (Isaiah 55:9). After all, he is God and it is obvious that he knows best.

A.P.-Y.

Beware of Envy

“If I regard inequity in my heart the Lord will not hear me” (Psalm 66:18).

At times we become frustrated with God because we feel like our prayers and request for things go unanswered. Sometimes we are full of bitterness and resentment because it seems as though other people around us are progressing.

We have to be sure that our desires are in alignment with the will and purpose of God. If our desire is to measure up to other people, then are these desires from a place of purity? We have to remain focused on walking our own path and maintaining an eternal perspective. The desire to measure up to other people can take us off course.

Let us look in Genesis 4, at the outcome of envy and jealousy between two brothers. Both Cain and Abel brought their offering before God. Abel brought the best of what he had while Cain gave out of convenience. God was pleased with Abel and accepted his offering while he rejected Cain’s offering. The result was anger from Cain towards Abel. God questioned Cain about his anger and told him that if his offering was a good one, then it would have been accepted. Either way, Cain could not shake off his jealousy which led to resentment, rage and then murder (Genesis 4:1-8).

When we are truly living to fulfil God’s plan and purpose, when we are walking according to his will, then our gifts will make room for us. God created each of us with a unique design and purpose. He has invested unique gifts and abilities in us to accomplish his purpose and his will. David said, “Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvellous—how well I know it” (Psalm 139:14)

Envy, jealousy, rivalry and competition is a waste of time and can be dangerous. I don’t believe that Cain intended to kill Abel, but unhealthy and toxic emotions can lead to destruction. Don’t strain to look at what other people are doing and stop comparing yourself to others. Very often we are envious over a perception and based on what is going on for us, it can make it seem as though everyone else is having an easier time. We don’t know people’s personal struggles and some people are good at masking difficulties. Just because someone’s life seems perfect does not mean that it is. Everyone of us are waiting for something which has not come to pass yet. As long as we are alive, we will have at least one unfulfilled desire.

Be content with your lot and trust that God has a good plan for you. If you walk in obedience to God and be faithful, then there is nothing good that he will hold back from you. Trust in him and he will lead and meet your needs.

A.P.-Y.

Be Still

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth” (Psalm 46:10)!

This stillness which the Psalmist refers to is waiting before God in his presence and listening to his voice for direction. The idea of being still can seem counterproductive when we aim to accomplish a goal. How does it make sense to wait and do nothing? “but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah‬ ‭40:31‬).

We gain strength from coming before God to pray and waiting in his presence. We sometimes rush to pick up the phone when we have a problem and Google is our main source of reference for many things. For many of us prayer is the last resort after we have exhausted every other option.

Meditation has developed an orientation to Eastern religions and the Christian Church does not always emphasize stillness and solace before God. We approach God in prayer with many words and an anxious heart and very often never listen. It is important to pour out our hearts to God and to bring our petitions to him. It is even more important to practice being still in his presence, waiting for his response and listening for his leading.

God speaks to Prophets, Pastors and ministers but he also speaks to anyone who will make themselves available to listen. When we daily practice coming before God in repentance, worship and prayer and practice waiting in his presence then he will reveal himself to us. “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).

God is always speaking. Will you listen and can you hear his voice? His voice brings peace, comfort and assurance. Be still and listen for his leading.

A.P.-Y.

Moving Forward

“Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,” (Philippians 3:13-14).

Paul reminds us that we cannot run a race with our gaze focused on what is behind us. There are seasons to mourn and to remember past wrongs. To not acknowledge past wrongs and to find a resolution is to live in denial. Nevertheless, there is a season to mourn, to remember and make peace with our past. At the end of that season, we have to make an effort to leave those things behind and to press forward.

Some painful memories are hard to forget and it is important to remember the lessons so that we do not repeat the mistakes. There are times when we need to confide in someone about painful memories. A counsellor is able to provide support and bring closure to unresolved trauma. It is constantly reliving the injustice that keeps us from living a full life. You cannot move forward with your head stuck in the past or run a good race with your gaze focused in the opposite direction.

Pray and confess the sins and wrongdoings of the past. Accept your part in any wrongs that you may have contributed to. And where you were wronged pray the prayer of forgiveness. You are not doing anyone a favor when you forgive, but you are setting yourself free to live. You cannot run your race with the heavy weight of unforgiveness. “Let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

It takes faith to trust that what God has in store in the future, is better than what we experienced in the past. It is dwelling on past wrongs that creates anxieties about the future. God has a good plan in store for us and our past does not define our future. You can start today to trust God and allow him to create a path for you. Stay connected to God. Trust in him and believe that he has a good plan and future in store for you.

“I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus”(Philippians 3:14).

A.P.-Y.

Maintain Integrity

Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ Anything more comes from the evil one (Matthew 5:37).

Jesus taught his disciples that it was not necessary to take oaths when they communicated with others or when they made a commitment to someone to complete an action or task. In essence we should be able to trust the words of others as truth and feel confident that what someone says or promises they will try their best to do. There are situations when we will make promises with the best of intentions and are unable to maintain our commitment. In these circumstances, we should make every effort to make amends. Let people know in advance that you will be late for a meeting for example, or that you will not be able to deliver on a promise.

People learn to measure our integrity by how we deliver on what we have promised to do. And even if we are unable to deliver on a promise that we made every effort to rectify the situation. “Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds” (Colossians 3:9). At times we can make off the cuff promises or tell white lies to make someone else feel better or to make ourselves look and feel good. We set other people up when we make empty promises and the emotional impact is one of disappointment and mistrust.

Do not make a promise that you are unlikely to keep or one that you know you did not plan to deliver on in the first place. In Acts, Ananias and Sapphire sold their land and committed to give the money to the Church. They colluded and decided to lie to Peter to make him believe that they were giving all the money from the land. Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land” (Acts 5:3). Peter warned that they had lied not to man but unto God.

We know the rest of the story that both Ananias and Sapphire fell down dead and were carried away and buried. I think most of us consider this story to be quite harsh and wonder why their judgement had to be so extreme. Peter’s view of the situation was that the land belonged to them anyway. If they wanted to sell the land and keep the money it was theirs. The challenge was that they decided to bear false witness. They made the decision to lie and cause deception in order to make themselves look good in front of others.

I am not advocating that anyone who is deceitful and deceptive should fall dead. What I am urging us to do it to speak the truth and let our yes be yes and our no be no. Make sure that your promises are made from a place of genuine intention. If you cannot keep a promise then let people know. We teach people that we are trustworthy and have integrity when they can trust that what we say is the truth.

A.P.-Y.

God Honours Marriage

“Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous” (Hebrews 13:4).

Paul reminded the Christians in the Hebrew church about the importance of marriage. He warned against adultery and sexual immorality as this would attract the judgement of God. I am generally surprised when someone tries to justify pursuing a relationship with a married person. The justification is often that, ‘maybe they married the wrong person.’ Why would anyone want to be the person to put another person’s marriage to the test? God is serious about his judgement against those who fail to respect other people’s marriages.

God created a system of marriage for men and women to help each other grow and develop. I believe in a marriage, our assignment is to help make each other better. God wants us to have companionship and created the marriage union as a means to bring order to society. “Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him”” (Genesis 2:18).

Ever wondered why children whose parents get divorced sometimes end up with emotional difficulties? God hates divorce and Jesus said in Matthew, “So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate”” (Matthew 19:6). I appreciate that there are instances when a marriage is no longer healthy due to abuse and persistent infidelity. It is never wise to advice a person to stay in a marriage where there is abuse. Infidelity is one of the occasions when God says that he permits couples to get a divorce. Some couples are able to work through challenges including infidelity with the help of a counsellor.

Either way, even healthy marriages experience seasons of challenges. God expects married people to put each other first above all else. This also includes parents and extended family. The survival of godly marriages, will depend on couples having the ability, to set and maintains healthy boundaries to protect the sanctity of their union.

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

A.P.-Y.

Helping Others Brings Rest

“until the Lord gives rest to your brothers as he has to you, and they also take possession of the land that the Lord your God is giving them. Then you shall return to the land of your possession and shall possess it, the land that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you beyond the Jordan toward the sunrise”
‭‭(Joshua‬ ‭1:15‬).

The journey of the children of Israel through the wilderness and into the promised land was an interesting one. It provides significant detail which is still relevant today for our journey through life and into God’s promise of rest. There is an eternal rest beyond this life in heaven, where we will live with God. However, God also provides seasons of rest and an inherited promise on earth for people who obey him and walk in his will and purpose.

After the freedom of the Israelites from Egypt, we study their journey through the wilderness into their land of promise. The journey was characterised by challenges, seasons of miracles and victory, disobedience and punishment. They eventually come into God’s promise of blessing. We share in that inheritance as God’s people, through adoption into his family.

In Deuteronomy Israel defeated Bashan and took possession of the lands before crossing over the Jordan river. Those lands were allocated to the Ruebenites, Gadites and half the tribe of Manasseh. These were three of the tribes of Israel that were the sons of Jacob.

Moses however, commanded them to cross over the Jordan to help the other tribes. This was to help them do battle and take possession of the rest of the promised land. And the tribes kept this decree and sent their men of valour with the army to help their brothers.

In Joshua 22, all the battle ended and God gave rest to all the people. Joshua acknowledged the work that the tribes of Rueben, Gad and Manasseh had done in helping their brothers. He told them that they could then go back to their own lands and rest.

It must have been a major sacrifice for these tribes to go beyond their land to help the other 10 tribes in battle. Nevertheless I imagine that within their unity there was strength for everyone to accomplish more.

The bible offers principles for life and instructions that we can choose to follow and adopt as examples for living. I suppose it makes it easier for us to rest knowing that we have worked to help others to win.

A.P.-Y.