Choose Joy

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                  “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” – Philippians.4:4

In most cases, even us Christians have fluctuating feelings depending on our situations. These are God given feelings. God has given us all these feelings of happiness, sadness, love, empathy and even anger and hatred. It’s just a matter of how we use them, that makes it a holy/unholy behaviour. For example, we are meant to hate sin, we are meant to be angry when we see injustice or something wrong. It’s also about what we do with those feelings; whether we act on them or just feel them and stay quiet. 

Today’s subject however, focuses on joy and happiness. This is what God has been teaching me. For the major part of my life, in fact right up to recently, i didn’t understand the difference. 

Now as the Holy Spirit taught me to meditate on this, I learnt that happiness is conditional, but rejoicing is a decision. Situations determine whether we feel happy or sad. For example, if something bad happens, you’re bound to feel sad or upset and something great happens, like meeting a long lost family or friend, you are bound to be happy. 🙂 

Joy however, does not fluctuate with situations. It’s anchored deep in the heart as a founded truth. As Christians, Paul is reminding us in the above verse that we are to rejoice at all times. All times?? Even when we are going through tough time? I know a friend who’s going through a grieving time due to a loss of a family member. Am I to tell her, ‘you need to rejoice’? 

Paul the apostle of Jesus Christ, wrote this while he himself was in prison. He sure knows what pain and suffering is, because he says,

“Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked. I spent a night and a day in the open sea. In my frequent journeys, I have been in danger from rivers and from bandits, in danger from my countrymen and from the Gentiles, in danger in the city and in the country, in danger on the sea and among false brothers, in labor and toil and often without sleep, in hunger and thirst and often without food, in cold and exposure. Apart from these external trials, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.” – 2 Corinthians.11: 24-28

To the outside world, it seems madness to say I rejoice in my suffering, for they see no reason to rejoice for in their moments of despair. But, as followers of the Risen Christ, as children of the Almighty, as a nation waiting for the establishment of God’s Kingdom, we have so much to rejoice for!! 

The Bible says: “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, yet our inner self is being renewed day by day. For our light and temporary affliction is producing for us an eternal glory that far outweighs our troubles. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” – 2 Corinthians.4:16-18

There is so much joy in that, don’t you agree?! This great gift of salvation we have received, this everlasting love we have been loved, this mercy we have received, and this hope of His 2nd coming that’s placed in us… Don’t these make our temporary troubles minute? When we think of all that’s been done for us and all the promises that are yet to come, when we take our eyes off what surrounds and look up to that mount  to see the glory and peace and everlasting worship looking to the face of our Beloved, wouldn’t we jump for joy, raise our hands in praise and smile?

Dear reader, we all have our own struggles and pains in life, and we all have moments of unhappiness, but let us not allow those situations and the enemy to steal our inner joy – that is only found in Christ. 

Rejoice brother/sister, rejoice… for your King reigns high above all,

                                                          for you are a child of the King, 

                                                          for your God is Sovereign,

                                                        for you are honoured in His sight and the apple of His eye,

                                                         for you are engraved in the palms of His hands,

                                                         for you are carried on His wings,  

                                                         for your Lover’s life gave you eternity with Him. 

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FAITHFUL in February

Dear readers, here’s a great lesson I have been learning through this month amongst many other things. If there’s one character of God that really means a lot to me, it’s His faithfulness! I always said, “God is faithful”, but never understood the extent of what it actually really meant in my life. So now God showed me a glimpse of it, I pray He does the same for you through His words.

Bible verses on faithfulness

“God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” – 1 Cor.1:9

“The One who calls you is faithful, and He will do it.” – 1 Thess.5:24

“If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot disown Himself.” – 2 Tim.2:13

“Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.” – 1 Cor.4:2

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.” – Heb.10:23

“He is the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea and everything in them – He remains faithful forever.” – Psalm.146:6

“But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.” – 2 Thess.3:3

Faithfulness defined

“He is the Rock, His works are perfect, and all His ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is He.” – Deut.32:4

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Faithful implies: Long continued and steadfast fidelity to whatever one is bound to by pledge, duty or obligation.

God is all these things because, He is Love! His love compels Him to be faithful and His faithfulness compels Him to love.

 

  1. Constant

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” – Romans.12:12

God’s faithfulness does not change by circumstances, because His faithfulness makes Him constant, unchanging and unswerving.

Faithfulness requires remaining true to who you are and what you’ve promised. Thus, God’s faithfulness makes Him dependable and trustworthy, because you can be sure that no matter what happens, He remains the same.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” – James.1:17

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.” – Heb.13:8

 

1.1 Time

Constancy has an element of time and change as part of its equation. Yet this element (constancy) stays the same despite those two variables. Being constant requires time. If time didn’t move on, how can you say that something has changed or not changed?

Indeed time reveals many things in life. And being faithful means: even if time is passing, even if all circumstances change, you remain true and firm in your original word/promise/belief.

This means faithfulness requires patience. Because we don’t know what the future holds and we are almost certain that time and circumstances move/push against our constancy, faithfulness becomes a difficult battle.

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  1. Hope

“Many claim to have unfailing love, but a faithful person who can find?” – Prov.20:6anchor.png

Hope is the anchor on which faith is attached to. The stronger the anchor, the more secure the faith. It’s also amazing that an anchor is in the shape of a cross. It reminds us that the cross is our greatest source of hope. Because the cross tells us that we are now God’s children and our Heavenly Father wants the best for us. And because our Father is faithful, we find the courage and strength to be faithful.

 

2.1 Vision

anchor2Vision is the ground on which faith is planted on. This vision is God’s word and promise. Vision is where hope faces towards. Unless you have an end goal or destination, you are dropping your anchor on shallow grounds.

 

 

2.2 The wind and storms

The wind and storms are the forces mentioned earlier (such as time and circumstances) that try to move faithfulness from its rooted ground. With passing time, patience’s thread can weaken and with intensifying wind of circumstances, the anchor (hope) can be shaken.

Yet there’s one good news even in all this. The ground beneath on which the anchor holds on to, is constant and undisturbed by the wind and storms. This constant and unchanging faithfulness of our God is what makes a Christian smile and still able to say, “I’m good, by God’s grace.” This strong foundation is what enables a Christian to be faithful despite changing times and circumstances. And because of this, many of our fathers considered it pure joy to partake in His suffering.

 

  1. The reward

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’” – Matt.25:23

Being faithful does not depend on the size or type of matter we are entrusted with. What really matters is how we have dealt with it; whether we have been faithful or wicked or lazy.

Christ is the perfect image of faithfulness. He remained faithful to His calling until the end, even when it cost Him His life. And as His followers, we ought to be faithful just as He is, whether in small or great tasks, whether in the storms or relative peace.

May we find great comfort in knowing that He is faithful to us at all times and may that spur us on to imitate and reflect our loving Father! Amen!

“This calls for patient endurance on the part of the people of God who keep His commands and remain faithful to Jesus.” – Rev.14:12

“I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True…” – Rev.19:11

Life in a dead hope

5613310391490960143She was his only daughter

A child like no other

On the verge of death

He left her to seek the Healer

“Don’t bother Him” they said

“She’s already gone” they cried

But Jesus increased his faith

Talita was raised from the dead

 

He was on the way to the grave

Her only son, her future now tainted

He is wrapped ready to be buried

When Jesus stopped the mourners

“Arise!” He lifted the boy’s hands

Helping him to his feet on the ground

 

The corpse stunk after 4 days

Death entered the house of Jesus’ friends

Lazarus was much loved until Jesus wept

Then He shouted, “Lazarus come out!”

Wrapped in grave clothes, he emerged to the light

 

Now here are these dry bones

Could there be hope for them?

Their flesh eaten by the ground

Their bones dried by desert sun

“Could these bones live?” He asked

“Only YOU know” I replied

So He spoke the word

Then these very dry bones rattled and joined

Tendons, muscles and skin

Then He spoke another word

A breath of life entered into the slain

 

Yes my God is Sovereign

Giving life to all His children

I choose to put my trust in Him!  

 

Though it tarries…

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“For the vision is yet for the appointed time; It hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; For it will certainly come, it will not delay.” – Habakkuk.2:3

God tends to give us promises that might be near and far. Some seem too good to be true, like Joseph’s dream of being a king. But when we are absolutely convinced of His promises and that He will do them as He has planned, we have such confidence in His ability. As they say in the world ‘good things are worth waiting for’, God’s best are always worth waiting for. 

God’s promises to Abraham, Joseph, David… they all had to wait and hold tightly to that vision that He had once given them. 

Abraham had seen the vision of having a son when he was about 75 years. At this stage it was already impossible considering his and Sarah’s age. But God had to make it even more impossible by making him wait another 24 years, so that Abraham’s faith grew stronger and stronger until he was crowned ‘father of faith’ (Romans.4:16) 

“Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.” – Romans.4:20-21

The same for Joseph and David; the kingdoms they were promised at a young age were only obtained after many years of suffering and pain. In the case of Joseph, contrary to his vision, he became a slave in Egypt. And in the case of David, he had to flee the very king he loved and who was also his father-in-law. These two men however, had such strong conviction that GOD never lies and that He has a time for everything. So they waited patiently for Him, avoiding the shortcuts the world had offered, for they feared and revered the Lord more than others and more than their dreams. 

For these great men of faith, the waiting was painful and the pressure immense. They often felt they were going in circles with no end point, just holding on to one end of the thread. But they knew one thing – that He who promised was faithful to keep His word! The waiting made the promise more precious, more beautiful and God used those years to build their characters so that they were equipped enough to accept those precious gifts. This is God’s way! 

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah.55:8-9

 

 

He hears the voiceless

ishmaelHagar…what do you normally associate that name with? Have you even heard of Hagar before?

Hagar was a slave of Abraham and Sarah. When Sarah became old and didn’t have a child, she asked Abraham to give her a child through Hagar. But when Hagar became pregnant, she started to make fun of her mistress. As a result Sarah mistreated Hagar until she decided to flee. Hagar found the Angel of the LORD on her way, who told her that He has seen her misery and that He will bless the child she was carrying and that she should name him Ishmael (meaning God hears). Then He told her to go back to her mistress. (Genesis.16)

Hagar, “gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” – Genesis.16:13

A few years later, Ishmael grew and Sarah bore a son, Isaac. Since Sarah was still not happy with Hagar and her boy (as Ishmael was mocking), Abraham was forced to send the boy and his mother away. Although he provided them food and water for the journey by the time they reached the desert of Beersheba, they run out of supply. Hagar refused to see her son’s death, so she left him under a tree and started to weep at a distance. Again ‘the God who sees’ met her in the place where no one else could answer to her cry for help.  He promised her that the child will be a great nation and opened her eyes to a well of water, so she and her son lived and did not die. (Genesis.21)

Hagar was a slave, a slave is a property and has no legal rights. Even if she was to speak or cry, she was voiceless, alone and poor. But the God who sees the unseen and hears the deepest cries of the heart, He heard her and met her in her hour of need. He blessed the son of the slave as He blessed the son of the queen (Sarah). The Bible says:

“Before a word is on my tongue
 you, Lord, know it completely.” – Psalm.139:4

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” – James.1:17

Is faith blind?

 spectaclesNow faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” – Hebrew.11:1

This is the first verse that comes to our minds when we think of faith. The chapter goes on to list all the fathers of faith who did awesome things simply by having faith in God. Verse 6 explains how faith works: “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” This little faith they had moved mountains, endured hardships, split the Red Sea, obtained promises, concurred lands and became victorious in battle. 

Was this faith blind? Was it just a pure day dream and simple hope on luck? No; this faith is confident and assured that what God has promised, that He will do. Yes, we do not see it yet, just as an athlete doesn’t see the finish line at the beginning of the race, but he hopes and believes that there is a finish line and runs towards it. If faith was blind, it would fall at every pitfall it comes across its path, but the Holy Spirit guides its steps and faith leaps over the pitfalls and stumbling blocks stood on its way. Faith doesn’t stop at every cross road, to determine whether that was really the finish line, it knows fully well what it should look like and sees the distractions along her path long ahead to leap over them. So faith is not blind, in contrast faith is where we have the clarity of vision! Faith is the ability to see clearly that which is not seen by physical eyes. 

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” – 2 Corinthians.4:18

If faith is that spectacle that clarifies our vision, why shouldn’t we get it?

Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move.” – Matthew.17:20. How faithless are we when we doubt God? If only we had that ONE mustard seed! May God help us believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him, Amen. 

 

Sing over me

6358748036944186621892622963_musicMusic is powerful; the words that hang with the sweet or strong melodies could have a life saving or life destroying effect. David used songs to praise, worship and plead with God; the psalms are true testaments of how important songs were to David (Psalm.1-150). God can use various methods to speak to His children. One of the many ways for me is through songs. God uses specific songs for each season and occasion of my life that is so relevant either to encourage, uplift, teach me or just to praise and worship Him. Thus, I have many songs that I associate with a certain time in my life and how God has been so faithful to me through those.

Songs are used for various reasons these days and it’s worrying to see that the world is using it as a main tool to clear the path to hell for many vulnerable people, particularly children and youngsters.  Music has a power to affect our emotions and how we feel about the words spoken within the songs. Whether we are just loving it because it has nice beats or just for mere enjoyment, the words will stick to our minds and some how affect our way of thinking on the subject being sang about. 

As one preacher said, “GIGO – Garbage In Garbage Out”, whatever we fill our minds that is what we will produce. You cannot grow what you haven’t sown. Let us allow God to fill us with His praise, allow Him to use songs to comfort us in times of need and to fill our hearts with shouts of praise in times of joy. 

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” – Romans.12:1-2

Wandering child

running20away20-20little20girlShe is but a curious child, adopted from a painful past to a glorious present. Although most kids have a vague memory of their childhood, she vividly remembers every detail of the stench from which she was rescued. Yes she was born into the lowliest and most horrible place called sin. This shanty town offered her the momentary comfort of shelter in the shack she called home. It offered her friendship in the secrecy of gossips that turned to bite her with their stings and bad habits that were norm in its streets. She was hurt but it was the only place she knew.

Across the river she gazed every morning to the skyscraping towers and sparkling streets of the city, yet she never understood what happened or even how to get there. One beautiful morning as she gazed towards that city as usual, her mother summoned her in. There she found an old rich man with a wide smile upon her entrance. This girl suffered slavery in her own home, her mum was willing to essentially sell her. As she looked between the eyes of this old man and her mum for clues as to what’s happening, she could but only see silence. Finally, the old man opened his mouth and with a surprisingly gentle voice that she never heard before all her life he said, “my child, you will come to stay with me. I have paid the full price.” As he uttered these words, she looked at her mum who was holding the bag of money and refusing to look back to this child or say a word. This child never understood what was happening but she knew well enough in her heart that going with this old man was the best decision she would ever make in her entire life. She stood and as he stretched out his hand, she lifted hers to hold them. 

Now many years have passed and the morning view has changed. Now she woke up every morning and as she looked across the river to where she came from, she was grateful for this kind old man. Yet one warm afternoon, she missed her past, she missed the momentary happiness and what seemed freedom that  her town called sin offered her. She wandered off from the gates of mercy and paths of grace and righteousness towards the isle of temptation that lead to her past. The sky was getting dark, the path grew more ugly, when she suddenly had a flash back of the day when she was rescued from that town called sin and the kindness of the old man who loved her as his own. How he must be weeping over her disappearance? Has he withheld any good thing from her? Has she lacked anything? None. She was just curious child dipping her feet to the fire of her past. 

It didn’t take long for this wandering child to realise that she better get back home. She didn’t stop to think whether her father will let her in, she knew his kindness and love well enough. She run back, back to her place of safety and peace. 

“For my feet were close to slipping….
You spoke to my heart in time….
You have promised, and I do believe….
You won’t forget this wandering child….” – Bethany Dillon (So Close) 

“So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” – 1 Corinthians.10:12

“In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” – Romans.6:11

“For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” – Colossians.3:3

“Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules” – Colossians.2:20

Possible is not impossible

 

impossible-just-wordI once read a phrase 

Something that a word uttered

“I’m possible”, said the Impossible

The first part made it difficult

“I am”, signified my ability

When I saw matters

Through the eyes of probability

0 in 1 was the chance

A place where hope can’t be found

 

I had to drop the ‘I am’

It only revealed my weakness and shame

Making my impossible possible

Chaining all my hope in its jail

 

But where can I find this ‘possible’

If looking inside me has made me crumble?

 

I gazed up to the heavens

And faced towards Him

“With man it may be impossible” He said,

“But with God, all things are possible”

 

For Him,

No distance is too wide

No mountain is too high

No burden is too heavy

Nothing can make Him weary

 

For He is,

Strong, powerful and mighty

Sovereign, kind and holy

Awesome loving and wonderful

Just and faithful

That is my King!

 

So it’s no longer ‘I am’ but ‘Him’

For with my God all things are possible!

“For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.” – Romans.11:36

 

 

Rejoice with Habakkuk

 53627-dance-in-the-rainBe joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” – Romans.12:12

Consider your bad days, what do they consist of? The shower goes cold, the kettle doesn’t boil, you miss the bus or your car breaks down, you’ve made some silly mistakes at work (unintentionally), customers are not happy with you, it starts to rain and you haven’t got a coat… your life seems nothing but a mess! Sometimes right from the start till the end you may experience things that annoy you, upset or stress you.

Yet despite all this, we are asked to be joyful, patient and prayerful? How can you be joyful and your day is all gloomy and nothing seems to go right?  How can you be patient when all you are experiencing is bad thing after another?

The prophet with a funny name, Habakkuk once said:

“17 Though the fig tree does not bud
    and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
    and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
    and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
    I will be joyful in God my Savior.

19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
    he enables me to tread on the heights.” – Habakkuk.3:17-19

I often asked myself the question why do such things happen and there could be a lot of reasons. But it seems that Habakkuk knew a secret that allowed him to ‘dance in the rain’ of misery as it were. Despite all the discouraging problems that he described, he said he “will rejoice in the Lord and be joyful in God my Saviour”. Why? There is nothing to be joyful about losing your crops and your animals! He answers it in the following verse; Habakkuk knew who God was to him. God was His strength that enabled him to tread on the heights, so he can see past the gloomy present situation.

Praise or thankfulness has a way of lifting us up to the higher grounds to see things beyond the momentary mess, because it reveals to us the greatness of our God and who we are in Him. Only then can we find the joy that Habakkuk described, the kind of joy that makes you dance in the rain. Praise is also a massive declaration of faith in God’s sovereignty.