Category Archives: Jesus

Repentance: A Little Man’s Perspective

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I’ve always been intrigued by the story of Zacchaeus. I’m amazed that so many lessons can be learned from 10 bible verses which tell the story of an inquisitive man’s encounter with Christ.

Today I’d like to discuss Zacchaeus’ response to Christ, how his encounter caused a change in his character and God’s ability to exceed our expectations of Him.

The first thing to note in this story is that Zacchaeus had no intention of MEETING Jesus when he climbed in that tree. In verse 3 of Luke 19 it says that

“he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd, for he was of short stature.”

Put frankly Zacchaeus simply wanted to put a face to the name of a man everyone was talking about, but because he was short and the crowd was thick he had to take what could be deemed as extreme measures to accomplish his goal. When he climbed into that tree on the day that  Jesus was passing he was not expecting to have an encounter with God. He really just thought he had figured out a way to overcome the problem he faced: being too short to see.

That day however, Zacchaeus got more than he bargained for and his encounter with Christ made Him a better man. In the account of this story, the bible tells us that Jesus stood under the tree and acknowledged Zacchaeus by name and then proceeded to go to his home to share a meal with him. Can you imagine Zacchaeus’ surprise when Christ decided to meet with him, a dishonest man, who was hated by many?

The exhilarating part of this story for me is how Zacchaeus responded to being in Christ’s presence. Verse 8 of Luke chapter 19 says

Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.”

What we see is that while in God’s presence Zacchaeus not only acknowledged his wrong doings but he also made decisions to do what was necessary to reimburse those persons whom he stole from. Zacchaeus’ response to Christ has within it a clear model of what repentance looks like. Repentance is the acknowledgement of your sin and a decision to no longer do that thing which displeases God. It requires us to confess to God that we were wrong and sometimes it means doing what is necessary to undo some of the hurt we caused through our ungodly actions. Zacchaeus also teaches us that Godly encounters – through prayer, worship, the word of God, prophesies, dreams, visions, etc. – help us to change those things which are displeasing to God while building our character.

In addition to Zacchaeus’ response in this story I can’t help but admire and appreciate God’s ability to meet us at the point of our needs – even when we don’t realise how badly we need Him – and to exceed every possible expectation we have of Him at the same time.

I remember once I prayed and asked God for a new job because I felt stagnant in the one I had at the moment. Mere weeks after talking to God about it I got an answer to my prayer in the most unexpected way. God did not give me a new job. Instead, he allowed the managing director of the company I worked for to see my potential for a position I was not qualified for and because of that, I was transferred to another department and promoted. The ironic thing is, I wasn’t only unqualified but I was the youngest and most recent addition to the staff. Most of my colleagues could not understand the decision made by my manager but I knew it was God’s way of exceeding my expectations of him. Needless to say I went on to be very successful at that job and before I resigned I was responsible for spearheading major developmental projects for the company.

I guess what I’m getting at ideally, is the fact that it is possible to encounter God and see a change in our lives and circumstances because of that encounter. It is possible to experience the power of God to influence change in us and to see ourselves move from a place of sin to a place of repentance and restoration in Christ. Like Zacchaeus, we may not be expecting a life changing encounter with God but once we have a desire or an expectation of Him, He can meet and exceed all that we desire.

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From where I left off

2015 is missing from my blog. Ideally it should’t be, because 2015 was the year when I took time off to discover who I am and understand myself better and if this is the space where I record my experiences as it relates to God, then this is the place where I should have at least tried to document 2015 right? I keep thinking that I should include an apology somewhere in this post but I’m not going to, because I think it’s okay for a person to stop and reassess their life and find peace amidst the storm in isolation. I’m not sorry for abandoning this space but I missed it immensely. I missed engaging with my readers and engaging with other writers.

I can’t say that I regret not writing about 2015 though. The year has passed and I haven’t documented anything anywhere, not even in my personal journals. 2015 was my year for living, learning and letting go. I’ve had so many challenges and life changing events take place and I never once stopped to add those to my online archive of experiences-had and lessons-learned. As I sit in my hotel room (I’m in Thessaloniki Greece at the moment) and I prepare to pick up the pieces when I get home in the next couple of days I find myself thinking on Philippians 4:6-8

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

I’m in desperate need for God’s peace. My mind races like a Ferrari on an open circuit and while I know that ultimately God’s plan will be revealed to me in time, I still struggle to find stillness amidst the madness that I see before me. My heart aches for a glimpse of the not so distant future so my mind would cease to run rampant with worrying thoughts and I can wait peacefully for God’s promises to unfold. However amidst the uncertainty there is a great expectation stirring within me because I’ve experienced God’s awesome move in my life before and I know it’s at times like these He shows up and shows off for me.

I continue to depend of God and I continue to rely on His love, grace and mercy as I move forward. My heart still longs for more of Christ and my desire is still to please Him in everything I do. I wish only to see God take complete control of my life, regardless of what that translates into. I may not have documented 2015 in this space but I am certain the lessons I’ve learned will be referenced from time to time as I pick up from where I left off in 2014.

This 2016 I stand on God’s promise in Philippians 1:6

being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;

I expect great things from my great God and I look forward to serving Him, His people and His kingdom this year. God continues to be good and I will continue to give Him all honour and glory and praise. I am blessed to be numbered amongst His children and I am proud to proclaim His name across the globe!

2016 will be amazing and I can hardly wait to take you on this journey with me 🙂

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Encouragement From The Cross

John 3:16  For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Today I was reminded of the foundation on which my Christianity is formed. I am saved because God loved me enough to send the only son he has into the world to die on a cross and shed His blood for me. The thing is, He sent His son knowing that I would not accept Him right away and I would reject this perfect gift he was offering me. I believe in the story of the cross and in the saving blood of Jesus Christ, and that, is the foundation of my faith.

I think saying that I forgot the principle of the cross would be a bit draconian, but I can say that I needed a reminder of it today. When I first understood the love God showed me it changed my life. Everything I thought was important went out the door; career, marriage, friends, everything paled in comparison to my new desire for more of this amazing being.

As my desire grew and my passion became stronger, the enemy of my soul stepped in and life became a battle. The war between my flesh and my spirit was all too real and the weight of that battle took it’s toll on me. I started losing things, and I was stripped of every right I thought I had and for someone as liberal as me, that change was hard.

The darts came hard and fast and the closer I get to my purpose being fulfilled the harder this Christian walk seemed to get. Then, just as I was at breaking point, God reminded me of His love for me. He reminded me that I’m reconciled to Him and I’m His child. I was reminded that He loved me before I loved Him and gave up his most prized possession to secure a place in eternity for me.

Once, I spoke to a group of youths and I was told them that if you believe something then you should act in accordance with that belief. If I believed I had a million dollars in the bank then I’d go shopping and start swiping my debit card, expecting the machine to say “accepted” every time. In the same way, if I truly believe in God and the love He has for me then I’ll live my life following His word and expecting to have victory over the enemy time and time again.

I don’t believe that things will get easier. I believe that Satan will continue to fight me, that my flesh will continue to war against my spirit and the challenges will get bigger as I grow stronger in Christ. I also believe that the God I serve is greater than any challenge I will face in life. I believe that through Christ I can do ALL things and I hold firm to God’s promise that I will never be given more than I can bear. I believe and hold strongly to Mark 16:16-19

He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.

All of these promises are available, not only to me, but to anyone who believes in Jesus Christ; that he came to earth in the form of a man, died on the cross for our sins and rose again on the third day. I am who I am and I am where I’m at today only because Christ died on a cross to save me. That salvation is available to you too and whether you’re only now finding out about the cross or you’ve known about it for a long time, I think it’s good to have a reminder that someone loved you enough to die on a cross so you can have a wonderful eternity wrapped in God’s arms.

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Dissecting Worship: The Series

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Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

Recently I’ve found myself paying greater attention to what I sing when I worship God; both in my personal time and during corporate worship. What I’ve found is when I move past the melody and harmony of a song and I begin to process what I’m saying the songs ministers to me on a new level. No longer am I enjoying a song because it’s catchy or has a nice sing-along chorus, instead my favorite songs are those that have meaning to me and my relationship with God. It is because of this new encounter I’ve decided to do a series on Worship (musical aspect).

This series will do two things; it will challenge us to listen to a wider range of gospel music across different genres and it will allow us a space to share our thoughts on what we’re examining and what we’d like to examine.

I think here’s the perfect place to make a disclaimer:

I AM IN NO WAY EXAMINING THE AUTHORS, VOCALISTS OR MUSICIANS. I AM IN NO POSITION TO JUDGE ANYONE’S HEART CONDITION AS IT RELATES TO GOD AND I DON’T INTEND TO TRY. I CAN’T SAY A SONG WON’T MINISTER TO SOMEONE BECAUSE THE AUTHOR IS BACK SLID-DEN OR BATTLING WITH SOME ASPECT OF LIFE AND I AM OF THE FIRM BELIEF THAT GOD CAN USE ANYTHING TO TOUCH SOMEONE’S HEART (REMEMBER BALAAM AND THE DONKEY?).

I’m really excited to begin this series and I look forward to the wealth of insight we’ll unveil as we embark on this series. The first song I’m going to evaluate is I Give Myself Away – William McDowell. Have a listen and do some evaluating of your own before I share my thoughts.

Also feel free to share a song you’d like to have dissected and your thoughts on any song in the series as we go forward. I’m looking forward to hearing from you. Send your requests via Facebook, Twitter or email me at testifywithme@gmail.com.

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I’m Back

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As you would have noticed it’s been a while (too long of a while actually), since I’ve written anything. My home has been undergoing renovations and as expected things are a bit disorganized and clustered.

I usually sit at my desk at home and write and for some reason that’s beyond me, I find it difficult to write anywhere else. Is that a writer’s thing or is it just me?

Anyways I’m back now. We’re putting things back in place at home and I’m getting my writing space back *happy dance*, and I have so very much to share with you. I’ve been through so many things and learned so many new lessons that I can hardly wait to share. God has been truly good to me and I’m thankful that His hand continues to be upon me.

Here’s some of the big things I didn’t get to share about while I was away; all of which I’m giving glory to God for:

– I preached my first international sermon at my Aunt’s church in Pennsylvania in August. God was with me all the way and my faith in Him increased during and after that trip.

– I’m officially an Aunty!!! My sister had a beautiful baby boy in and both mother and baby are doing fine

– I’m going to Thailand! Yup Thailand 😀 I’ll be part of Youth For Christ’s International training as a Young Leader in Evangelism and in addition to that I’m going to be a leader of a small group while there. I’m really excited about this trip to the point that I don’t think the reality of it has really sunk in. Who would have thought I’d be going to Thailand? Thank you Jesus!

– Lastly I’m spending time with my family for the next three months in an act of obedience to God. God has promised me restoration of my family and I’m eagerly awaiting the turn around that’s coming. This was my first weekend at home and I’m excited to see everything unfold. (I’ll be expanding on this in another blog as I go through this process)

All in all God has continued to be good to me and I’m continuing to live by his word

1 Thessalonians 5:18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

I look forward to sharing with you and hearing from you as our journey continue. I pray that God has been even more good to you than He has been to me and I declare that his favor and blessings are upon you and all that concerns you.

 

 

Can we really trust God?

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Romans 8:28  And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

A daughter was telling her mother how everything was going wrong. “I am failing Algebra. My boyfriend just broke up with me, and my best friend is moving away,” she wailed. Her mom listened patiently, and then asked, “I made a cake for dinner. Would you like a snack?” The girl grinned and said, “Sure, Mom. I love your cake.” The mom smiled and asked, “How about some cooking oil?” The daughter looked surprised at the offer and responded with a loud “Yuk!” The mom tried again, “How about a couple of raw eggs?” With a look of confusion, the daughter said, “Gross, Mom!” With a smile, the mother offered, “Would you like some flour or maybe a cup of baking soda?” The daughter responded, “Mom, all of those things are gross!” The mother cut a piece of cake and placed it on a plate with a fork. As she handed the delicious snack to her daughter, she explained, “Honey, all of those things seem bad when you think about eating them alone, but when they are put together in the right way, they make a delicious cake.”

God often works the same way. We sometimes wonder why He allows us to go through such difficult times, but when God puts those hard times together as only He can, they work out for our good. We just have to trust Him to do so.

I will never forget the day I learned how God really can turn tragedy into triumph.

I was sitting at my desk, working on an assignment from the counselor I had been seeing. For months, I had been wrestling with my past – slowly, methodically working through painful issues and buried memories that seemed to be feeding the clinical depression I was battling. As page after page filled with harsh realities, a memory slammed into my heart and mind.

The pain was overwhelming as a vile scene from my childhood slowly took shape. I could hardly breathe as I frantically tried to escape the certainty that I had been molested. The perpetrator had been our family doctor and a trusted friend. He had even provided free medical treatment when we couldn’t pay for it. I trusted him, counted on him. As a nurse, my mother worked beside this man every day and often babysat his children to earn extra money.

Anger unlike any I had ever known fueled violent thoughts of revenge and retaliation. I was angry with this man – and angry with God. How could He have let this happen? Where was the light in this dark place?

For months, I worked through painful memories and raging emotions until I saw the first glimmer of light. It was wrapped in chosen forgiveness. I began to see that if I had never been wounded so badly, I would never have been able to forgive so freely – and in doing so, discover a depth of healing and freedom only the greatest pain can produce. Today, I can honestly thank God for all He has accomplished in me through the sin of that man.

There are no accidents with God, nor is He surprised by anything or anyone in the life of His child. God uses even the most horrendous circumstances for our good. Every circumstance comes to us for a purpose, bound by God’s love and plan, and faithfully delivered with His permission. While we cannot go back and change our past, we can change the way we respond to our past, and determine how much power it has in our lives today.

Only God can take the broken pieces of your life and make something beautiful out of each one. He is waiting for you to let go of your pain and trust Him. And you really can. No one loves you like He does. You may not always understand or even like His process, but you can always trust His heart of love for you.

* Written by Mary Southerland – www.girlfriendsingod.com

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Shifting Positions: Trading Anxiety for Peace in Overwhelming Conditions

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Talk about a stressful week! Have you ever had one of those weeks where you had the world of things to complete; all very important, and you felt like you were getting no where with any of them? That was what I experienced last week. There were so many things taking place and so many things I needed to do and everyday I woke up I felt more drained than the day before with a lot less zeal to complete my tasks.

throw in the towelSoon enough frustration and stress were my pesty companions that I couldn’t get rid of. Those two buddied up to me like white on rice and I felt like there was no way to get away from them. Things were so bad that I went to church, assisted in worship, heard an uplifting message on knowing the enemy and the moment I got into my car I felt like throwing in the towel and calling it quits. I was simply exhausted!

I like to think of times like this as “show time” for God. Somehow in those times when I feel my worst He has a way of showing up and sorting things out without me orchestrating a thing. Of course I know that He’ll show up in times like this because He promised it in 2 Corinthians 12:9

And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”

But somehow when things come crashing down I forget that verse and always reflect on it in hindsight.

So, imagine me sitting on the floor in my room, literally crying. I felt so lost and hopeless. I started wishing I could give everything back and retreat to a cave and hibernate for a while. In the midst of my depression I got a text from a friend asking if I was okay. Usually when people ask if I’m okay, whether I’m okay or not I simply answer yes, ( I know, that’s a bad habit I need to break), but yesterday I just couldn’t say yes. So I took a deep breath and admitted to someone other than God that I wasn’t fine.

Almost automatically my day took a turn for the better.  My friend met me and we went out and had the most relaxing evening I’ve had in a long time. By the end of the night I was completely relaxed and I was able to talk to God without crying uncontrollably in His presence without words. I was able to tell Him exactly what was on my heart (not that he didn’t already know) and ask for His guidance.

God being the awesome God that He is and not being able to lie, held his end of the promise in Philippians 4:6 -7

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

By the time I woke up this morning God spoke to me and told me exactly what I need to do in order to continue this part of the journey. I woke up with a peace and a new found zeal and vision to do what I have to. Stress and Frustration has moved out (Thank God!) and peace has now taken up residence in my heart.

I wish I could find the right words to adequately explain the joy I’m feeling now. I feel peace and freedom, I’m looking back at all the times God has seen me through and I’m assured that he will see me through this period in my life as well.

Maybe like me you’re overwhelmed with the cares of this world and you’re feeling a bit down and out. I want you to know that the same Jesus that came through for me and picked me up out of the dumps, can come through for you too. Present your cares to him through prayer and thanksgiving and He WILL give you the peace to continue your journey.

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Living a Purpose Driven Life in the Temptation Era

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What do you think would be the consequences if an airline pilot midway to a destination decides to change the course; without permission from his superiors, because of an interest he has at another (off route) location? Allow me to put that illustration into perspective.

You’re on a flight heading to an important meeting on behalf of your company. This meeting could mean make or break for the company’s future and so it’s imperative that everything goes well. The meeting was called on very short notice so, unfortunately as soon as you land you’re going to have to take a taxi and go straight there; you won’t even have time to check into your hotel first. Now imagine that you’re on the flight with the “flighty” pilot, who steers the aircraft away from it’s intended destination because of a new found interest of his that isn’t on the way to where he’s going. Can you imagine the horror? All that you and your colleagues would have worked on would be destroyed, simply because the pilot could not resist the temptation that pulled him away from his purpose.

A lot of times this is what happens in the life of believers. We who have been ordained by God to fulfill a purpose in the kingdom are sometimes tempted to steer off course and instead of practicing self control; understanding the importance of our purpose, we give in to temptation not recognizing that there might be great consequences afterwards.

Temptation to step off course is not unique to us. Christ too faced such temptation while he walked the earth. In Matthew 17:21-23 we see a great example of this. In this passage Christ had begun to tell the disciples that he would have to suffer many things at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes and that he would be killed and be raised from the dead after three days. It was in that moment that temptation came through Peter.

The devil used Peter to present a new perspective on the situation. Peter, whom I imagine must have been very emotional at the time started to rebuke Christ, telling Him that he should not have to suffer these things because of who he was. I don’t know about you but that seems like a pretty good argument. I can just see Peter in my mind’s eye telling Christ how great He was and reminding Him of how many great things He accomplished and how much more he can do on earth. Peter must have been so persuasive in His attempt to stop Christ from facing the cross.

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Thankfully Christ knew His purpose and was driven by it! Jesus’ response has  in it the secret  to surviving in the temptation era (V.23).

 

1. First thing first, Christ knew His purpose. One of the main ways to resist temptation and remained focused on your purpose is to know what you have been called to do. You might be wondering “how do I know if I’m called to do anything?” or “how do I know what my purpose is?”. First thing first we all have a purpose as ambassadors of Christ to represent him and preach the gospel (2 Corinthians 5:20). Secondly we can pray and ask God to reveal to us what is His purpose for our lives as it relates to the kingdom of heaven and he will reveal it to us.

2. Secondly, don’t be afraid to call the devil’s tricks for what it is. Jesus recognized that the devil was using Peter (who was close to him) to present the distraction. Because he knew it wasn’t really Peter but Satan working through Peter he spoke to the devil directly. Sometimes the enemy uses things and people close to us as a means of pulling us away from our purpose. However once we know our purpose we will be able to discern the tricks of the devil and like Christ rebuke him and send him on his way.

3.Thirdly, we need to know the difference between the things of God and the things of men. Everything that is of God can be found in the word of God. If there is something presenting itself to you that is not in alignment with God’s word or with your calling then you know that it is not of God for you to indulge in that thing. Anything, regardless of how good or pleasant it seems, regardless of how great the intention might be, once it pulls you away from the things of God and your purpose in Christ it is a trick of the enemy. In praying it is important for every believer to ask God for the spirit of discernment. We need to depend on God to help us to discern clearly the things that are of him and the things that are not.

The world we live in today presents many, many delightful things that may cause us to drift away from what God has ordained for our lives. However the word of God along with God’s mercy and grace can keep us on the path of righteousness. Let us not be like to fictional pilot above, who carelessly steers off course without realizing that the course ahead is much more important and rewarding than the distraction on the side. All of our purposes can be attained if we keep our eyes fixed on the things above and trust God to keep us till that time when His will is accomplished in our lives.

 

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Divine Appointments – Christine Caine

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Matthew 5:4 Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted.

There is something good waiting beyond disappointment for each of us. There are appointments that God has destined. There are good works for each of us to do. And isn’t it interesting that the word appointment comes from within the word disappointment?

I’ve often marveled at that because I’ve seen again and again how disappointments take something from us: a dream, a piece of our hearts—maybe whole chucks of it. But disappointment leaves something too: a gift, an opportunity, the possibility of creating change. This means we can move from the valley of the shadow of death to new horizons and bring others with us on that road.

The enemy would like us to feel such a depth of disappointment that we never find our way back to the plan God has for us. If he can convince us to stay stuck in our disappointment, we’ll miss many of our future God appointments. I realize that some disappointments seem so big that we can’t imagine ever being able to move beyond them. We ask deep questions and they go unanswered. For example, when someone dear to us dies, no explanation will satisfy the questions crying out inside. But even for these tragedies, God has made a way.

When a precious couple named Maria and Dimitri lost their fourteen-year-old-son, Peter, they had many unanswered questions. They struggled mightily but they didn’t try to answer them. Instead, they determined to walk down that road of disappointment and heartbreak with Jesus. On the day of Peter’s funeral, still burdened with pain, sorrow, and grief, their family made a decision. Even though they did not understand why this tragedy had occurred, they would continue to trust God. They would keep on believing his promises.

They proclaimed at the funeral: Today is a sad day, but it is not a bad day. The devil thinks he has the victory because our son has died. But our son is alive with his Jesus, and is partying in heaven. The devil has not won. We are not burying our child today, but we are sowing him as seed into the soil of this nation. We believe in a mighty harvest of young people to spring forth. Out of one death, there shall arise new life.

Their words said, this family bruised by grief but beautiful with belief stood silently. There is a road through disappointment. Disappointment is not an end but an opportunity for a divine appointment.

Point to Ponder

One disappointment, or even more than one, does not mean that all the good works God ordained for you long before you were born are now impossible. There are still many ahead of you, beyond the disappointment. You can choose to allow God to propel you into the next chapter of good works God has destined for you.

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