It’s A(nother) New Day

I dance to this song and sing along, meaning every word. It’s in my ‘New Year’ playlist, twenty songs -some secular- that all speak to my spiritual journey. I might do a post and share maybe the top 5 one day.

Back to Becka Shae’s remake of Shape of You. When I first heard the original I didn’t think much of it but played it through a couple of times because a man I liked had referenced it and I was tryna figure out if I was missing something (I wasn’t, his appreciation of the song was decidedly not a glimpse into his feelings for me). Nonetheless it was catchy and stuck in my head until I wrote this (while thinking, of course, about said man):

A few days later a link to Becka Shae’s remake showed up on my YouTube recommendations, and although I rarely listen to covers, the word ‘Christian’ in her title caught my eye. I listened, then Googled the lyrics you know, as one does. I loved it.

Today it’s especially poignant. Tomorrow’s my birthday and as always this is a time of reflection for me. I’ve been thinking for a while but yesterday I found myself asking, what’s the point of it all? What’s the point of prayer, of all those ‘spiritual disciplines’ if at the end of the day you’re still lonely, hungry for intimacy, unfulfilled, unsatisfied, longing for something you can’t quite name?

Today I continued with the reflections, heartsick and sad over the fact of my frailty when it comes to resisting sin. I had forgotten that His strength is made perfect in my weakness. As sometimes happens, a tune started up in my head and it was If Ed Sheeran’s Shape of You Were A Christian Song.

Elohim breathe on me.

Over and over that one phrase looped until I scrolled to my music player, lay down and listened to the entire song.

Elohim breathe in me.

Here’s where I went wrong:

I haven’t read my Bible in a long time. Oh, I look up verses here and there, but actually searching God’s word prayerfully or in study? It’s been a while. Giving praise? Not unless I’m singing along to my playlist, but does that really count? Really? In my case I think not, because I’m usually doing something else too: cooking, checking Facebook; it’s been a very long time since I actually set aside time of any length to just bask in God’s presence.

If I am not walking in victory, if instead of regaining my balance after stumbling I am trying to dust myself off after a fall, perhaps that is because like Peter I looked at my circumstances and took my eyes off the Lord. There is, really, no ‘if’ about it.

Elohim breathe through me.

And here’s what I’m planning to do about it:

I run back to the arms of the Father, so gladly and unashamedly accepting of the scandalous Grace that allows me to run back. I look up Words I have received in more prayerful times, and I thank God for how He pursues me even when I am distracted, disobedient and unfaithful.

Holy, holy, holy Elohim breathe on me.

As I enter my new year, I stand on the forgiveness of the Father, I bathe in His mercy, receive His gift of Grace and look to His promises. For what can separate me from the love of God? Can loneliness, or hunger, or fear or pain? Can laziness, or depression, or hardship, or insomnia?

Romans 8:38-39

I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Happy new year to me.

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Morning Prayer

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Do you find it a struggle to come up with words to pray? You shouldn’t. Prayer should be like talking to your closest friend, and we never run out of things to say to those we love the most, do we? And we never worry about those comfortable silences in the presences of those who know our hearts, right? It should be the same with God.

However, sometimes we need a little help. Sometimes we find ourselves in seasons where the words don’t flow as they should, and the silences are awkward rather than comfortable. I’ve been there many times and as long as I am on this earth I know I will be there again. Below you will find a prayer that I have put together, or rather, a prayer that Nissi has channeled through me for your use should you need it.

Use this prayer first thing in the morning to get ready for your day. Feel free to adapt it to make it more your own – it IS yours in fact, a gift from Nissi to you. Copy and paste it onto your device, print it out, write it out – use it as you please. Edit it, delete lines and add others – use it.

My prayer is for encounters with God for you and yours.

With love,

N.

MORNING PRAYER

Jehovah Nissi, in the name of Jesus, I dedicate this day to You. I receive the anointing reserved for those You love and I hide in the shelter of Your protection, pleading the blood of Christ over anything and everything that is not of You.

By the power of Christ in me I declare that my enemies are scattered and their plans for my destruction fail for I am protected by the angels of the Holy One of Israel, He who has redeemed me, He who has called me by name and named me His. I plead the blood of Christ over this day and I anoint my angels with the power of Christ. I am protected and I am safe, and my children are protected and safe. The will of God rules this day and nothing that is outside of His will shall be of concern to me or mine.

Jehovah Nissi, my victory comes only from You and by You. Let my prayers meet You this morning, incline Your ear towards me and hear my cry. I declare this day and everything in it holy in Your presence and covered by Your might. I declare that this day shall proclaim Your glory as shall all the days following it.

I speak the will of God over this day; I speak the power of Jesus over this day and declare it consecrated and holy unto God. My actions this day will be pleasing to God, I claim the power of Christ in me and put to use the power of the Holy Spirit to make it so. Goodness and mercy shall follow me and go before me and blessings and grace shall fall upon me throughout this day.

I receive all the good things that God has set apart for me for today. Today I walk in abundance for the power in me commands favour and prosperity. By divine favour and divine right and through the power of Christ in me I receive every good thing that has my name on it. Blessings, favour, prosperity and abundance flow to me out of the Father’s abundance and by the power of Christ. The mighty power of God washes away all demonic influences blocking my blessings and I am unhindered in my prosperity, through the mighty power of God.

Today I will hear God’s voice and see as He wants me to see. Today I will be in God’s will at every moment; this day is set aside for God’s glory. I declare that this is the day the Lord has made, and I will rejoice and be glad in it.

Amen.

Scripture References:

Job 38:12-13, Psalms 88:13, Psalms 67:5-6, Psalms 16:6, Matthew 16:19, Nahum 1:7, Matthew 6:10, Matthew 6:34, Job 36:11, Psalms 118:24

That Same Spirit IS In Me

Last night I woke up around 3am (never got back to sleep so I’m quite tired and cranky this morning) and I found myself reading this verse:

Romans 8:11
But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.

I’ve heard people proclaim, when facing challenges, things like ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’ and ‘No weapon formed against me shall prosper.’ These are biblical verses but I sometimes wonder if we really realize just how much power and authority is available to us through the name of Christ. It hit me on reading Romans 8:11 that we say we have power through Christ but we don’t often act or live as though we do. At any rate, I often moan about this, that and the other without paying any mind to what I can do through the Christ who is in me.

Think about it. The same Spirit that raised Christ from death – that very same Spirit – is available to you. What can you not do, what can you not achieve with that kind of power? The problem is not that we need some special password or key to access it, by virtue of accepting Christ as your Saviour you have all the access you’ll ever need. I listen to Graham Cooke (link opens in new window) often and in one of his sermons he said something along the lines of ‘Jesus is brilliant and extraordinary.’ Well, Jesus is brilliant and extraordinary, and if that Jesus is in you and you in Him, what are you but brilliant and extraordinary too? The Holy Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead also gives you life, and not just life, but life in abundance. What can you not do? You no longer need be in bondage to sin or your flesh or anything else – you have been set free by the Son. Trust me when I tell you that therefore you are free indeed.

John 8: 34-36
Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. 35 And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. 36 Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.

Do you understand what freedom means? If you’re free you don’t act like you’re in prison, do you? Of course not! You carry yourself as one who can come and go as he pleases. By the same token, when the Son has set you free you don’t live as one who is slave to the flesh. When you know you have abundant life you don’t live as one who is lacking in any good thing. You must believe what the Word says and walk upright, confident in your victory in all things, over all things, for that victory is not only assured, but the battle has been fought and won already. You’re not fighting to be free from sin, you’re fighting to be free of the lie that you’re not free from sin.

This might be a difficult concept especially if you think of yourself as one who is ‘fighting’ his sin nature. If you’re fighting that battle then what did Christ die for? What happened on the Cross? No really, think about it.

What if you woke up and instead of fighting not to sin, you fought instead to live a Kingdom life, a life of abundance and freedom, a life of a resounding YES to every good thing?
What if instead of moaning about your finances and your health and your loneliness and your too-high rent (all things I’ve been heard to moan about by the way) you said ‘all things are working together for my good’ and believed that and talked and thought as if you believed it?
What if every time you were tempted you recalled that you are tempted to go backward, to a past that is as far removed from you as East is from West, and instead chose to reach for all that is pure and lovely and noble? Try it.
God will amaze you, surprise you, for no eye has seen and no ear has heard what God has in store for those that love him and believe in him.

January is, for most people, that time of year when we attempt to restart and refresh, when we press reset on our lives. I take stock twice a year -in January and around my birthday – and in 2016 I’m choosing to take God at His Word. Abundant life? Bring it, I’m here for it. He is faithful, I’m choosing to believe that He will not let me down. I’m choosing to believe His Word that all things work together for my good. Will you believe the same in 2016?

Proverbs 7 – your harlotry revealed

i’ve often heard comments such as “so&so is a stumbling block for me” but i’ve never, ever, heard anyone confess to being a stumbling block for another.

Reading Proverbs 7 led me to pondering my impact on the lives of others: the following verses refer:

And behold, the woman meets him,
dressed as a prostitute, wily of heart.
She is loud and wayward;
her feet do not stay at home;
now in the street, now in the market,
and at every corner she lies in wait.

i’m thinking about my colleagues – am i being ‘salt’ to them? am i a branch bearing the fruit of the original vine? honestly, i think i can do better. there is a lot of room for improvement in that area. what about my friends  outside of work? what kind of influence am i? am i enticing them to bad behaviour, or am i the good company that brings value to their lives? am i like the harlot mentioned in this chapter – loud and uncouth, drawing the innocent to their death with ill-conceived ideas?

you see, the woman mentioned in these verses is a prostitute, or very close to one. she is also a married woman, and yet we see her making plans to spend the night with a man other than her husband.

this passage isn’t just about men avoiding harlots and prostitutes and not sexing women who are bent on cheating on their husbands. no. i believe the Word goes deeper than that. the ‘harlot’ is a substitute for anybody who is trying to draw you away from who should be your first love: Christ, and through Him God the Father.

do you have such people in your life? do you tolerate them because well, you’ve known them for years and they’re good people, and they were there for you when no one else was? i’m not saying cut them off, i’m just saying examine your relationship with them and tighten what needs tightening; loose what needs loosening.

more importantly though, and more relevant for me right now, given my other projects: am I that person that somebody needs to cut off? am i out here causing others to stumble, leading God’s chosen to sin? am i?  are YOU?

i dont know about you, but i’m taking a hard look at what i do and the people i do it with and i’m asking God to show me, by His Holy Spirit, how i can be ‘salt’ and ‘light’ in the world, and how i can better use what talents i have to bring Glory and not dishonour to His name.

you know that verse that talks about how the Word judges even those innermost thoughts? it is so true that the Word does this. when you feel convicted then the Word is doing it’s job. don’t fall for Satan’s condemnation though, that’s another story altogether.

Hebrews 4:12

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

…and there is also this:

clean heart

Amen.

Proverbs 5 – loose the cords of your sin

Proverbs 5:21 For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the Lord,
    and he ponders all his paths.
22 The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him,
    and he is held fast in the cords of his sin.
23 He dies for lack of discipline,
    and because of his great folly he is led astray.

In our great excitement for the things of God, in the passion of our faith and in our eagerness to share His Word, we sometimes often forget that God is also a god of justice.

God sees everything we do, nothing is hidden from Him. Take another look at verse 21. This is not a joke. All our thoughts, dreams, plans, all our actions are laid bare before the gaze of Almighty. We sin with impunity (or so we think) and then wonder why we struggle and suffer. It’s simple – there are consequences to our actions. Sometimes the consequences are immediate and painful, but when the effects of our sin are not outright and immediate we are lulled into a false sense of security, thinking we’ve ‘gotten away’ with it.
However, before we come before the throne of Grace to partake of that Grace, it is necessary and vital to confess our sin that we may be purified from it:

1 John 1:9
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Confession and thus repentance make a world of difference. I know, it’s hard. Some sin is stronghold and it can be next to impossible to break the hold it has over us. Note, I said next to impossible, which means we can be set free. That’s where Christ comes in. But you already know all this. So take this is a friendly reminder: if you’re not experiencing the peace and joy of God perhaps you are still holding onto unconfessed sin. It may be a weakness you have, something you struggle with but that you are enjoying too much to give up – an illicit relationship perhaps? It may be that you are harbouring ill-will in your heart, holding onto unforgiveness and bitterness. It may be that you are envious and jealous, or that you are a gossip and slanderer. You might be an adulterer, or a liar and a thief. Whatever it is, if you have not brought it to the foot of the Cross know that you are blocking your own blessings and not walking in victory. You are basically stealing your own joy.
The goal is to be more Christlike, bearing our crosses, confessing our sin. There is a world of difference between accepting your sinfulness then coming before God with an issue you are struggling with, and living with unconfessed sin. The former is what being a Christian is about; the latter will lead you down that wide path and be the death of you, in every sense of the word.
Examine your life. Accept God’s discipline and the leading of the Holy Spirit, repent and find life, abundant life.

Proverbs 2: the value of wisdom

all verses from Proverbs 2, ESV, unless otherwise specified

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When I was still in primary school I came across Rudyard Kipling’s poem, ‘If’, and I fell in love with it. When I felt that he was old enough, my son and I went through that poem, discussing point by point what a good man is and how he behaves. I never mentioned to my son that the writer of the poem was an out-and-out racist because you know, priorities – there’s plenty of time for him to question things; imma let him enjoy his childhood a little longer. The reason I mention that poem is because in reading Proverbs 2 I was reminded of it and to my great delight here is a manifesto for right behaviour (or part of one, since we established that the whole of Proverbs is basically a guide for right living) whose author does not make me squirm uncomfortably. Here is something that I can study with my son and unequivocally support it without worrying about the day he finds out that it wasn’t intended for him and that the writer in fact did not think much of him. I mean, you gotta love the Bible!

Proverbs 2 basically lays out the benefits that will come with heeding the words of the wise; indeed the chapter is titled ‘The Value of Wisdom’.

1  My son, if you receive my words

and treasure up my commandments with you,

2  making your ear attentive to wisdom

and inclining your heart to understanding…

5  then you will understand the fear of the Lord

and find the knowledge of God.

Proverbs 2 is still part of the introduction to the Book of Proverbs, and clearly lays out the value of wisdom, and the importance of fearing God as we discussed yesterday. Verse 5 says that you will find knowledge of God and understand the fear of the Lord but this is conditional on what comes before, in verses 1-4. Basically if you pay attention to these words and these commandments and hide these words in your heart and follow these words and live by these words…doesn’t this bring to mind the verse that speaks of faith coming by hearing and hearing the word of God?

Romans 10:17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.

If you want to know God, or, put another way, if you want the hidden knowledge of God and to walk according to His precepts and to be always in His will(as far as possible, let’s face it we mess up), then you must make a commitment to studying the Bible. There is no other way by which God reveals Himself to us and by which we can believe in Him except to hear the Good News preached. You cannot have faith, let alone grow it, if you do not regularly hear the Word, and I say this as someone who has not set foot in a church in almost four years. The reasons why I haven’t been to church are valid, but be that as it may there is no denying that my faith has taken some severe knocks since I stopped going to church. We need to fellowship with other believers so that we can grow in our knowledge of the things of God. We need to sharpen each other, we need to test our interpretations of God’s word and that cannot happen if you’re isolated. Don’t get me wrong, not going to church doesn’t mean I don’t fellowship, but it does mean that I rarely if ever fellowship in a space designed for that and that alone i.e. church.

Even a cursory reading of Proverbs 2 will show the good things that come from living a right life by living according to God’s word, and that’s all well and good. I mean, who doesn’t want a good life, a life of integrity, free from harm, protected by the Almighty, blessed and favoured with all kinds of good things, and, let’s not forget, wisdom? seriously, who doesn’t want that? that’s not the whole of the story though. There is also this:

21  For the upright will inhabit the land,

and those with integrity will remain in it,

22  but the wicked will be cut off from the land,

and the treacherous will be rooted out of it.

It’s all good and dandy to go on about all the good things you will benefit by being attentive to these words and walking according to these commandments, but it’s equally important to be aware of the consequence of foolishness, that is, of not having a teachable spirit,not seeking the path of wisdom and not fearing God. This isn’t a game, people! We do ourselves and each other a disservice if we fail to acknowledge that there are real consequences for reckless and foolish behaviour: you will be cut off from the land, uprooted out of it. What does this mean exactly? I’ll tell you.

There is a question somewhere in the Bible along the lines of ‘what truck do darkness and light have with each other?’ I’d Google the exact verse but this WordPress app is playing games and I know you know exactly (or close enough) which verse I’m talking about. The point that I’m making is that you know full well that God cannot abide evil, and that if you continue along a path you know to be disobedient and out of God’s will you will be cast out into the darkness. This is real talk. So whatever you’re doing that is wrong (and you know full well what it is), just stop. I’m over here mentally going over my own missteps and failures and my own delicious sin that I’m loathe to get rid of because lets face it, if sin wasn’t so delicious getting rid of it wouldn’t be all that hard now would it? But you know what? We need to learn to fear God more than we love sin and that can only happen if:
1. we spend time in His word so as to learn to trust that He is who He says He is
2. if we confess our sin and turn away from it, and
3. if we truly accept Christ and by doing so, Grace.
Is it going to be easy? Come now, you already know that if it was easy you would have done it long ago. A more valid question is: is it going to be worth it? The answer to that is a resounding YES!

He is a faithful God and if you sincerely call upon Him in the name of Jesus, He will not forsake you. Come on, try it. Try Him. Taste and see that the Lord is good, because until you do, you will never know or even be able to imagine the sheer goodness of what God has for those that love Him and because they love him, obey his commandments. A gold star for you if you correctly identify all the verses that make up the sentence in italics. Hint: there are three.

Proverbs 1: the beginning of wisdom

all scripture is from Proverbs 1, KJV

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7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

It is not possible to share my thoughts on Proverbs 1 without mentioning the all-important verse above. I remember one of my old high school teachers who would thunder this verse in his very loudest voice while wielding a cane painfully and expertly across some luckless student’s palm. I am convinced that he thought he was God’s representative to our school and really, that fearing him, the teacher, would lead that most unruly of student bodies to all wisdom. Didn’t work, but I never forgot the verse, so perhaps even back then a seed was planted for me to come to accept the fact that fear of God really is the beginning of wisdom.

I’d like to say that I’m sure you all understand why it is necessary to have a healthy fear of God, but i’m sure of no such thing and so, here we go. Fearing God means exactly what it says: be afraid, be very very afraid. You see, the reason we don’t fear God the way we should is that pastors and the church have in recent years brought us a god who is quite unlike the God of the Bible. Nowadays we have a wishy-washy god, who bends to our whim if we just shout loud enough, name it and claim it, and participate in any number of weird and dare I say ridiculous activities. This god is so far from being God that really, it’s not even funny.

If you want to know why you should fear God just look at any atheist manifesto: they speak of a God who ‘murdered’ countless thousands, demanded impossible things of anyone unlucky enough to cross His path and basically terrorised the enemies of his chosen people. Feel free to go through the Old Testament if you don’t believe me. God is still the same God, and really, someone should warn those atheists – they mock to their own peril. So what am I saying? I’m saying an acknowledgement of who God is, what He can do and what He has done is the beginning of wisdom. You cannot, absolutely cannot come to a full knowledge of who God is and not have your knees knock together in mindless fear.

That fear will keep you from doing evil because you know the wrath of God is real and it is terrible, but even more importantly, that fear will drive you into the arms of the One who loves you – Christ. Try as you might, you cannot on your own avoid messing up and earning the wrath of Justice. It is impossible because ‘the heart of man is evil.’ With Christ you step into Grace, you are justified and sanctified and instead of a recalcitrant child cowering and hiding after misbehaving, you have every right to call yourself, literally, a child of God – and we all know that parents love their children and want only what is good for them. How much more does your Father in heaven want only what is good for you? That terrible God of the Old Testament becomes the loving God of the New only if you are clothed in Christ. That’s what salvation is all about after all – saving you from the terrible wrath of God.

And that was just from 1 verse.

10 My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not. … 15 My son, walk not thou in the way with them; refrain thy foot from their path: 16 For their feet run to evil, and make haste to shed blood. … 18 And they lay wait for their own blood; they lurk privily for their own lives. 19 So are the ways of every one that is greedy of gain; which taketh away the life of the owners thereof.

The next important section of the chapter is an admonition to flee from evil. Not only should you flee evil because you know and fear God, but because no good can come from it. Obviously. A lot of the bad people do is done to get more money, but according to these verses the actions you undertake are really just a way for you to spill your own blood, destroy your own life. No get-rich-quick scheme is without a catch, no rule-breaking without consequence. Let the fear of God keep you from the company of evil-doers, and let the power that comes with the name of Christ keep you from doing evil, from giving into temptation.

23 Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you.

It’s not all bad news though. If you’ve been a believer for any length of time, you have undoubtedly experienced what I like to call ‘the believer’s high’. If you turn away from evil, badness and wickedness, if you seek the face of God and His counsel, He will pour out His Spirit upon you and you will live a life free from fear of evil. More to the point though, God will begin to reveal Himself to you and you will know, really know, what a personal relationship with the Almighty looks and feels like. That moment when you realise that something has happened that can only be explained in terms of God is a beautiful, affirming moment. It’s a pity that we are a fallen people and we quickly lose that awe and return to our old ways – a great pity indeed, but that is where the book of Proverbs comes in. The entire book exists to help you design and live a ‘right’ life. I hope you will join me as I blog and pray my way through the Proverbs of Solomon. It is my prayer that you find these posts helpful, useful and encouraging. And finally…

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