March 15, 2013

Halfway Through Lent!!!

I wrote on Ash Wednesday to tell you of the beginning of Lent and to remind those who had forgotten,that Lent was here.I shared with you the message from mass that Wednesday and the poignant assignment we had during this season , which was to be Ambassadors Of Christ every day of our lives but especially during Lent. I wrote of the importance of honoring God this season, on experiencing Christ's pain on the cross by fasting,giving up bad habits,volunteering and so much more. For those who missed that post, find it here.

We are more than halfway through with the Lent season and I thought it would be important for us to analyze how the first half has been so far. I had hoped to chronicle every day here but i thought to wait it out and write midway.

I had planned on giving up so many things during this period, dedicate more time to God, help more and mostly, pray often and spend more time with God. While I am not making excuses, life gets in the way sometimes and it did get in my way.

I had planned to give up chocolate and anything that wasn't good for my body like fries, ice cream, cakes and all the fatty food you can think of, as a way to cleanse my system for Lent. The first week i was able to pull it off and after that, I would forget sometimes and eat them, realize only after i had taken a bite or even finished eating that i wasn't supposed to be eating that.

I had also planned to give away some of my clothes and shoes to the needy and volunteer more time at one of the many community outreach at church. The clothes and shoes i did give away and i was proud of myself because these clothes and shoes, i still had enough wear in them and i loved most of them but i gave them away with so much ease.But i hadn't been able to volunteer my time to help in the community until this weekend and i am so looking forward to it.

Another thing i had planned to do was fasting and it was easy to follow up with this because I had just recently incorporated it in my life. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of fasting and the feeling that comes with it. It is liberating and the joy that comes during and after the fast when you are breaking it with songs of praise and worship is astounding. It is truly something to experience.

And the last things I had planned to do, was not to get angry with people or not to take things too seriously or personally, to be more forgiving and tolerant of people, to show more compassion towards people as Christ shows to me, to love all, to not be judgemental and most of all to love God more by calling and praying to him often.

 I cannot tell you in all honesty that I did all the things listed above as i had hoped to, or that the season hasn't been riddled with its own temptations. I failed several times on the plan of cleansing my body as i indulged, sometimes greedily on satiating my sweet tooth. I got overwhelmed and busy I forgot to volunteer my time to help a just cause.I let people get to me sometimes and lashed out at them only to regret it moments later, wishing i had thought before acting. I wasn't easily forgiving when i got hurt and i occasionally judged people when it was not my place to do so.

Yes i faltered and i take full responsibility for not being a good ambassador of Christ. But i am happy for my little victories too. The times when i craved a chocolate bar and saw it right in front of me but passed it up,the times when someone hurt me and i didn't let them get to me, the joy i felt when i went through my closet picking out clothes and shoes to give away, the times i fasted and the wonderful experience that it was, the times when i was understanding, tolerant towards people and mostly, the times i spent in God's presence.

I analyzed my first half of Lent and it hadn't quite gone the way i had planned to, so i hit the reset button a few days ago and that is why i wrote this morning. To tell you that, you too can hit the reset button. Have you analyzed your first half and you too like me weren't very proud of yourself?  Is there more you know you can do and wish to do? Do you want to correct yourself in the little time we have left?

Good news. You can correct yourself.There are so many things that God has promised us and reassured us of, and one of those things is His forgiveness. 2 Corinthians 5:18-19 says 'All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.". In this verse, we see that God already forgave us our sins even before we wronged him when he gave Jesus Christ on the cross for us.Christ coming was to reconcile us back to God and because he loves us so much, he doesn't keep scores of our wrongs.

We have guaranteed grace from God but we must always seek for that grace first.We must always come to God with contrite and genuine hearts for 1 John 1:9 says 'If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.'  and Acts 3:19 reads 'Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord'. For us to move forward and start all over on a clean slate, we need to ask first for forgiveness for the past wrongs and repent from them,and as we have been assured,God is just waiting for us to ask and it is done.

Starting over not only means asking God for forgiveness but forgiving those people whose hurt in our hearts may be holding us back form our salvation. Mathew 6:14-15 says 'For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.'  and Mark 11:25 says 'And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins. ". It is not enough to ask God for forgiveness because we know it is already granted but we have to forgive others. Unforgiveness holds our blessings back from God and it keeps us prisoners of our own emotions and lives, while the person we are angry with goes about their life and we are filled with so much bitterness. Whatever it is, we need to let go and release God's blessings and forgiveness to us.

Some of us might be so disappointed with ourselves that we feel discouraged to start over but God's arms are always open to receive His children. So many times we have read in the Bible of how the Israelites wronged God and how God accepted them into his presence. God has promised to never forsake those who call on his name and if you think you will not be able to do it, just call on him . Isaiah 41:10 says ' fear not, for I am with you;  be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you,  I will uphold you with my righteous right hand'. and Exodus 15:2 says 'The LORD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.'.God is your strength and your courage and he is willing and ready to walk this journey with you.

1 Corinthians 10:13 'No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.' It doesn't matter what may be ahead of you or what you think you are afraid of. God already knows the temptations will abound. They will come in all forms, friends, trouble at work, dysfunction in the family and more and even battle in the spiritual realm that you can't see. But as Paul told the people of Corinthians, he is saying it to you me. No temptation will befall you that man has not seen, but through it all, God will be faithful. He will not let it happen and even if it did, God will make a way through for you.

So braze yourselves up, dust yourselves up and get back on the wagon. For we are not only ambassadors of Christ especially during the Lent season, but every day of our lives and we need both God's forgiveness to start over and his courage and strength to keep going forward. Our journey as Christ's ambassadors, as Christ's feet and hands on earth is never ending. But we need to know that whenever we falter or fall short of doing that, He is always ready to lift us up again with his love,his grace,his mercy,compassion and kindness.

For those who have done good so far, keep it up and expect your reward only in God and for those like me who failed in some areas, here is a second chance to do it all over.It is never late with God because all he cares about is our hearts and its genuineness in serving him and doing his works.So go ahead and make those plans again, this time knowing that God has forgiven the past,is glad you are back and is ready to walk with you through the whole journey.

I leave you with one of the powerful verses in the Bible from Philippians 4:13' I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.' Have that at the back of your mind always and with Christ, indeed all things are possible. Wishing you the best as you go through the last days of Lent,may you find strength in Christ and may he guide your ways always.

Happy and blessed weekend.

March 8, 2013

Why Do We Limit God?

A few days ago, a friend of mine told me about something that he really wanted to see happen in his life, something he wanted to achieve and that he hoped he would. He went on to say he has prayed about the issue several times and hopes that God answers His prayers. And just a few seconds after saying that, he started second-guessing himself. He started wondering if really he would get what he wanted, and started piling the odds that were against him to achieve that particular goal. He started doubting his abilities and told himself that, it would be difficult for him to make it.

In that instant I found inspiration to talk him out of that mindset, out of the negativity, the self doubt and to give him confidence. But after talking to him, I realized that I too have been guilty of that same behavior at some point in my life.

There have been times when I needed something so very much and after praying and committing it to God, I would find myself asking all kinds of questions. Questions like what qualifies me to have that and not the next person, if I was good enough for what I wanted, if I was really ever going to get it and/or how would I overcome all the hurdles to get it?.

I realized after talking to my friend and examining myself that, so many of us are guilty of this. We want something and we go down on our knees to ask God in prayers as He asked us to. For some of us, we are praying for a new job, some are praying for a baby, some are praying for a job promotion, some for success in exams and so on. And after we make the prayer, we get on our feet and start wondering if that prayer will be answered or if it will come to pass. We start looking for answers or excuses why the prayer will not be answered,we start listing our shortcomings and sometimes even use the past to justify why that prayer will not come true.

Well, fellow Christians, if you have done this in the past or are doing it right now, then what you are actually doing is limiting God.Anytime we go to God in prayer and come back to doubt ourselves and our abilities, we are not only doubting ourselves but we are doubting that God will come through for us.We are doubting His power, His love,His grace,His kindness and His mercy.

When we doubt ourselves, we are saying that we are unworthy of Christ's love and His blessings. We are saying that we don't really believe in Him as we claim to,we are saying that there is only so much that He can do and we are trying to be god of our own lives by answering  all those questions and putting in all those limitations.

Psalm 55:22 says 'Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you;He will never let the righteous fall'. Didn't this singular verse just ask us to cast all our cares and burdens onto God for He will sustain us? Casting our cares means taking our problems, desires and wants to God in prayer and sustaining us means He will see us through and grant us that which we have asked for. When we take a burden or concern to God in prayer, we should really free ourselves from it after prayer and let God do His work.

Mark 11:22-24 reads 'So Jesus answered and said to them,"have faith in God.For assuredly,I say to you,whoever says to this mountain,"Be removed and be cast into the sea",and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. Therefore I say to you,whatever things you ask when you pray,believe that you receive them,and you will have them'. Questioning ourselves after a prayer says very little of our faith and yet Jesus urges us to have faith in God in this passage. It doesn't matter what we are praying to God for or what miracle we  are asking Him for. What matters is that we we have faith in God, believe in Him and have absolutely no doubt in our hearts and whatever it is that we are seeking for will be granted.

Let not the unanswered prayers of the past be a measuring rod for why God can't do in your life what you ask of Him, for surely there had to be a reason why that past prayer went unanswered(topic for another day) and only God actually knows why. Live in the present and believe in God's abilities and promises for that present situation or prayer.

God assures us several times in the Bible that He listens to us and will answer our prayers when we pray. Passages like John 14:13-14 which reads 'Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it' and Mathew 7:7 says ”Ask, and it will be given to you seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.'

As children of  God and as Christians, we came to know of the love of God from the Bible.It is the only proof of His existence coupled with the miracles in our lives, when we know we couldn't have gotten out of a particular situation on our own. As Christians, we made a conscious decision to have faith in God,we chose to believe and that is what sets us apart from non-believers.

We are not ordinary people but extraordinary people bathed in the love of God and basking in His glory filled with promises.And though we live with unbelievers and pray for the same things as unbelievers, our attitudes and mindsets should set us apart from them. For while they sit and questions their abilities, doubt themselves, reminisce on the past and dwell on their failings,we on the other hand have to rejoice. For we serve a living God, a God who keeps His promises, who answers His children, who knows their minds and thoughts even before they come to Him in prayer and who would not forsake them or allow them to be shamed.

So go ahead.Go on your knees and make that fervent prayer to God about that new job you applied for, that baby you desire so much, that promotion you are longing for at work, that exam you are about to write, that new business you are about to launch and so much more.Make that prayer with all your heart and faith,get on your feet and forget about it because God is now in control of everything.Working behind the scenes,putting the right people in your path, leading you to the right door and direction, opening new opportunities for your, emboldening you even without your knowledge, building you up and strengthening you,connecting all the dots and voila,your prayer is answered.

And for Him to do all of that, we have to let God be God in our lives and stop trying to answer our own prayers. For if we could actually do it ourselves, then  we would have no reason praying to Him but since we can't , we have to let Him do His work after we pray. 1 John 5:14-15 says 'And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.'

I would leave you with one of my favorite Bible verses, the first part of Psalm 46:10 which says 'Be still and know that I am God' . I just found out that still comes from a Hebrew word meaning to 'let go' or 'release' and it just gave a whole new meaning to this verse and makes it all the more powerful. Whatever you ask God for in prayers or whatever miracle you are believing Him for, let it go and release it to Him, because He is still on the Throne and has sovereign control over every thing. And that second part, know that I am God means let God be God of your life and see how beautiful He makes everything in and around your life.

Have a blessed weekend .