Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Fall Back On Me

Do you know the trust game? You most likely would have come across one version of the game or the other as a child playing with friends and siblings, as a teen in youth group meetings or as an adult during team-building or management training events.
You close your eyes, fold your hands across your chest, fall backwards and hope that you are caught by your friend, sibling or other members of your team. The game teaches the value of trust. It is often used to encourage mutual trust and confidence within a team. Once you overcome the initial fear and doubt, faith arises that you will be saved from falling to the ground.

However, in the storms of life, we can not depend on those standing behind us because in all their best intentions and desire to catch and save us from falling, they may fail to do so. We can not put our trust in the arm of flesh at such times (Is 31:1-3). It will be futile to put confidence in flesh and to trust in the wisdom of men.
At such times when we are visited by life, God calls out to us to fall back on Him. He promises to catch us and save us from falling. Yet one of the most difficult things for us to do is to rest, lean on and totally depend on God to take care of us. We exalt personality traits of independence, strength and ability to be in control. Many of us have been brought up to be self reliant. We want answers and solutions to the problems facing us and we want it right away. We want to know how and when things will work out. But God is asking us to rely on Him, to trust in Him and to obey Him.
When we are unsure and things are uncertain, learning to trust and obey God becomes an imperative. There is no other way to be truly happy except we trust in Jesus and obey God’s Word. The light of His word illuminates our path and guides our footstep. God shows favor to - and bestows His joy on - those who would simply take His Word as is.
Simply trusting God and taking Him at His Word should be as easy as said but fear—false evidence appearing real—makes it seem so difficult. When doubts and fears creep into our hearts, they can not take root if we choose to trust in God and we fight back with His word. It is a choice we must make daily to lean absolutely on God—the Rock that never fails.
Trust in God is resting in and surrendering to the sovereignty of God Who is All-Knowing, All-Seeing, All Sufficient and Almighty.
How we respond in adverse situations is a demonstration of our dependence on God and our trust in His sovereignty. It is the evidence of the degree to which we are resting in God Who we know as the Creator of all things. He is in control of our lives.
As someone who professes to trust in God, I ask myself these questions:  
Can I be calm and steadfast in the season of pain, loss and distress as I am in the season of gain, ease and liberty?
Can I be peaceful and at rest in the midst of storms, troubles and difficulties as I am when the lines have fallen for me in pleasant places?
Does my life model the quiet confidence of one who knows that her Heavenly Father knows what He is doing, and He would not stand aside and watch me suffer for a season for no reason?
I am learning daily to be quiet and at peace in the midst of turbulence because I am resting on a Solid Rock of impregnable strength which will never fail or let me fall to the ground. Like David, I want to declare, “You are my trust from my youth and the source of my confidence” – being assured that all the events of my life are orchestrated by the hands of the All-Knowing and All-wise God Who can be trusted in every instance.
There is clarity in the word of God and the instructions He provides. Trusting in Him puts us in the position where we can see from His perspective, where our complicated life is made simple and our anxiety gives way to assurance.
Falling back on God is to come to a place of absolute trust and dependence on God. It is learning to follow His guidance as you obey His Word.
You can fall back on God for insights, instructions and illumination.
You can fall back on God—in His mighty hands you are safe and secure.
He will catch you.
He will not let you fall.
The Almighty God has your back covered when you are firmly rooted in Him.
Will you by faith fall back into God’s Hands today and let Him take care of all that concerns you?

“For You are my hope, O Lord GOD: You are my trust from my youth” – Ps 71:5
Trust and Obey by Carlene Davis

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Pearl Necklace

An unusual wandering in the “muse-land” took me to Chinatown. I walked along the street lined with jewelry shops and an array of beautiful necklaces displayed on the window of one of them drew my attention.
Through the window, I saw an old man sitting in front of a table laden with many bowls; his eyes beckoned me to come in. Unable to resist if I wished, I went in, with a swift sweep of his hands he directed me to sit across him. I did.
He picked a measured length of silk thread and threaded it through a needle, in a deliberate long pause, his eyes swept over the array of pearls in a wide range of sizes, shapes and colors in individual bowls on the tray in front of him, dazzling in their rich and vibrant luster.
He stretched his callous hands to the farthest bowl on the tray with tiny round pearls looking like caviar, picked one of them, passed the needle through it and several others, with a knot after each one, gradually increasing the sizes until the midpoint.
Then he picked a shimmering drop-shaped pearl with the colors of a peacock, lifted it up to the rays of sun streaming into the room and turned it around on the tips of his gaunt fingers—it sparkled in sunlight.
Precious,” he declared.
He strung it and continued with the round ones decreasing the sizes. It was a beautiful well-matched symmetric strand. I thought he would fix the clasp and finish it but he laid it down on another tray, picked up another strand of measured silk thread, and began the same process, this time the pearls were irregular in shape and size.
“Each unique.
I imagined so, since each pearl will bear the unique “signature” of the mother oyster that produced it.
Again at the midpoint he placed another shimmering peacock-colored pearl larger than the first one and finished up the strand as before. He laid the second strand below the first.
I was intrigued but I glanced at my watch and shifted in the chair: “Where is he going with this?”
He must have read my mind, he smiled and said, “Wait, be patient.”
He picked the third strand of silk thread and this time after the first few small round pearls, the sizes increased dramatically until about the midpoint and he placed smaller shimmering round pearls here and continued symmetrically to the end. He placed the third strand on the tray below the second.
Then he pulled one side of the three strands together, knotted them and worked the threads through one end of a gold clasp. He did the same for the other end. As he pulled them together an exquisite picture emerged, the midpoint pearls fitted on top of each other shimmering with the colors of a peacock. The irregular shaped dark green center was sandwiched between a thin rounded glittering black top strand and a thicker bottom strand in the same color. It was a perfect fit.
Beautiful, eh?”
Admiring what he created, he said, “Each piece, part of the story. Without one, necklace not same.”
I agreed with him. The product of the painstaking process was indeed beautiful. Each pearl, irrespective of the size or shape, had to be in a defined location for the strung pearls to come together in a perfect fit. Each strand could have stood alone but together they formed a beautifully created elegant necklace.

It is reassuring to know we are precious, unique, and beautiful in the sight of God—fearfully and wonderfully created by Him, Who meticulously string together every divinely designed event in our lives, and fit them together for our good and to fulfill His ultimate purpose for us.
The pit, Potiphar’s house and the prison—all fitted together to prepare the perfect path to the palace for Joseph. Each experience was a unique event, which took Joseph closer to the fulfillment of his dreams. It was from the pit he was sold to the Medianites who brought him into Egypt and sold him to Potiphar, a Pharaoh’s officer. It was from Potiphar’s house he was sent to the prison. The prison brought him in contact with the Pharaoh’s Chief Butler who at the appointed time provoked a recommendation on his behalf.   
Every event in our lives is allowed for a purpose and has a part to fulfill in the ultimate story. I got impatient because I did not know the design the old man had in mind for the pearls.
We also we get impatient and fidgety during the hard and difficult times when we seem to have more questions than answers. But this is the time to wait patiently with expectation trusting God Who knows the end from the beginning to work it all together for our good.
Do you know you are so precious to God and He has a good plan for you?

For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. – Jer. 29:11

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Be Not Discouraged

You opened your mailbox and clicked on the message
In a quick scan, curt statements declared your effort was not good enough.
Disappointed, discouraged and dejected, you stared blankly at the screen.
Your work rejected. No reason provided.
Hot tears sting your eyes as you struggled to stay in control.

You picked up the letter and opened the envelop.
Cruel, vindictive and unjust words flashed across the pages
Taunting you, mocking you and jeering at you.
With a stroke of pen and malicious intent, you were vilified
The paper fluttered in your trembling hands.
Intense anger raged deep within you like hot lava in a volcano waiting to erupt.

A mix of emotions stirred within me as I helplessly watched these two scenes played out. First, in anger I wanted to scream;
“How dare …?”
Some hours later, I realized anger will not add value. What next then? Like a wisp of smoke, the humming of the hymn “What a Friend we have in Jesus” steadily drifted into my heart until the words took root—“Take it to the Lord in prayer.”
Despised and vilified?
“Take it to the Lord in prayer”
Aggrieved, angry and wounded?
“Take it to the Lord in prayer”
Men of old did the same, when the enemy rose up against them.
When Sennacherib came to invade Judah, Hezekiah took courage and declared, “Do not be afraid or discouraged … there is a greater power with us than with him” (2Chron 32:1 – 23). Sennacherib also wrote letters to Hezekiah—He mocked the king. He terrified the people. He insulted the Lord.
Hezekiah and the prophet cried to God in prayer. God answered. He sent an angel and annihilated the Assyrian host, 185,000 of them, and their king withdrew to his land in disgrace.
Jehoshaphat received alarming news from his men—a vast army had come against him from Edom (2Chron 20: 1 – 30). He resolved to seek the Lord. All the men, with their wives and children stood before the Lord as the king prayed—“… we do not know what to do, but our eyes are on You.” God answered through his prophet saying, “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s ... You will not need to fight in this battle … Stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, …”
Jehoshaphat and all the people praised and worshipped God with very loud voice. As they sang and praised, God sent an ambush into the enemy’s camp. They annihilated and destroyed one another.
For forty days, day and night, Goliath presented himself before the army of Israel (1Sam 17:16 – 50). He provoked them. He mocked and terrified them. He reproached the Lord. David encouraged them saying, “Let no man’s heart fail because of this Philistine.” He recalled how God delivered him from the lion and bear while he was tending the sheep. Goliath scorned and despised him.
But David confident in the Lord declared, “… I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty...” Assured that God will deliver the enemy into his hands, and the whole world will know there is a God in Israel. So David prevailed over Goliath with a sling and a stone.
In all these instances, deliverance came by the Hands of the Almighty God. He intervened in a way made obvious to all, that it was only by God’s hands, those called by His name were saved. And there was a great plunder afterwards!
When we endure much ridicule from the proud and much contempt from the arrogant (Ps 123:4), we are assured that God resist the proud and pours contempt on those who defy Him and His people.
These three witnesses encouraged me that at times of great distress; our first action must be to seek the help of God and trust in His enduring mercy.
We should never be discouraged but take it to the Lord in prayer.
If God be for us, who can be against us – knowing that God is with us to help us in all our troubles inspires hope. It encourages us to stand firm. In all these things we are more than conquerors. God makes our trials our gain. Faith in God and His remarkable ability to intervene in mysterious ways on our behalf inspires courage in our hearts in trying times.
When we take it to the Lord in pray, we will ultimately celebrate victory and it will be with resounding thanksgiving.
Are you distressed and discouraged? Will you take it to the Lord in prayer?

Take it to the Lord in prayer. Composed by Joseph M. Scriven 1855. Performed by Chris McDaniel

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Start Today Right

It is a brand new day – Today
Today is a precious gift
Today is a covenant fulfilled—day follows after night
Today is a mystery—unknown and unlived

Daybreak _

Start Today right
Only but with Him
That I ought to know
So much lined up to do
With urgency, I jumped out of bed
At that moment, He called out to me:

“Stop, start it right with Me”

Sometimes I listen, sometimes I don’t
When I don’t, like a run-away train
I run from pillar to post
Around and around in circles
Much time wasted, much energy dissipated
At the end of the day, disappointed with not much done
Distressed, at breaking point,
I groaned and complained,

“Why did it all go wrong?”

“Why this, why that?” I reeled off my complaints.

I didn’t even wait for a reply—until much later
He spoke gently into my heart,
“You did not make me a part of your day”
I should have learnt my lesson by now
So often I run on the fumes of His grace
When I could have the whole essence of Him.
It is so much better to start it right with Him

I need Him, yes I do
I need His help, I need His guidance
I need His leading, I need His direction
To get through each day
No matter how much I need to do
I need to start first with Him

Before I jump out of bed Today
My daily labor to pursue
To You, my Lord I turn, in praise and in worship
In Your presence abiding, surrounded by Your glory
Today’s load of mercies is fresh and new
That is the one I seek
Yesterday’s is stale like the old manna.

With Your eyes on me, navigate my steps
Through the minefield of distractions seeking to devour my time
With wisdom inspired by Your Holy Spirit
Show me what to do, how do it and when to do it.
So my best I can give for Your glory and honor.

Praying and Studying the Word
Time spent praying and studying Your Word
Must be “important and urgent.”
It’s top on my list of things to do Today.
In those quiet moments in Your presence,
You instruct me in the way to go
From thence I receive guidance to direct my day
There I lay my plans and desires before You
and trust You to establish my steps
When I call on You,
You show me hidden things and reveal secrets to me.

The first thing we neglect when we have so much to do is our quiet time with God. Yet our success each day is hinged on the leading and guidance we receive from the Holy Spirit. It is not the length of time spent that matters but that we recognize the need to depend on God for guidance and to turn towards Him for direction.
“Commit your ways to the Lord, trust also in Him. He will bring it to pass” (Ps. 37:5).
“Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed” (Prov. 16:3)
To commit means to give over to another and entrust something to someone else. In this context, it means laying it upon God Who has the strength to bear it for us—your plans, purposes and pursuits for each day, your projects big and small, and your desires. It excludes nothing and includes everything that pertains to living. He will take care of the minutest detail of all our concerns.
When you handover your day to God first thing in the morning, you need not worry about how the tasks on your list will get done, instead you listen for the cues given by the Holy Spirit to know what to do and what to pursue each step of the way through the day. You will receive the grace to recognize and avoid time-wasters and distractions.  If it is important enough to engage your attention, then it is important enough to commit it to God.
I want to do everything I do each day the way God wants me to do it. I want to do it right the first time. I do not want to waste time or energy. I want to hit the nail on the head at each time. I have realized I can not do it on my own.
I can only do it right when I start it right with Him.
You may have to set your alarm to wake up a little earlier than usual and devote this time to connecting with the Giver of the new day. I have also learnt to spend some moments to give thanks for the blessing of a new day before setting my feet on the floor each morning.
Whatever you do, be sure to start your day right with God.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Unfinished, Twice As Much

I was alarmed when I read recently about the number of abandoned projects littering the landscape of many countries. The reasons proffered include crashed economy and in some cases insufficient planning, which resulted in monumental waste of national resources. There is a huge cost for not completing the projects as at when due. Much more resources will be required to revamp the projects and finish them. Abandoned projects often become affected by the forces of nature to the extent that they can become structurally defective.
Unfortunately, abandoned projects are not limited to our nations alone. If we pause for a moment and do some self examination, we are sure to find an “Edsel room” tucked away in a corner of our lives, filled with artifacts of unfinished or abandoned projects, failed ventures and unfulfilled dreams.
Unfinished projects – not brought to the expected end – require more motivation and more resources – time, energy and funding – to start again and take to completion. Unfinished the first time, takes twice as much, if not more to finish. Unfinished projects eventually get abandoned, forsaken and deserted becoming a breeding ground for the unintended.

The unfinished projects in our lives are as varied as the number of them. What happened to the New Year resolutions – abandoned by the end of February? What about the activities initiated but left uncompleted, which could be as simple as starting a book but never finishing them, resulting in a bookshelf filled with many unfinished books. At the other end of the spectrum are the costly ventures which have remained uncompleted. The list could fill this page if I try to enumerate the many types of unfinished projects cluttering our lives.
The reasons for them are just as varied. The first culprit is procrastination – putting off until later what you can do now and finding out that it was not easy to come back to it. I started compiling the register of birthdays of members of my church last November. After sharing the first draft for correction, all I needed to do was to revise and finalize the document. I set it aside.  When I was ready to continue, other papers had piled up on it, it took me time to find the document and over the next three months, I spent time extracting information every month from the uncompleted profile. This is just an example how time and energy can be wasted when we do not finish even a simple task the first time round. Imagine what happens when bigger tasks when left unfinished. We save resources when we do a project right the first time. Doing it right means taking it from start to the perfect and expected end.
No one who puts his hands on the plow and looks back … For a plowman putting his hands on the plow—akin to undertaking a business—to be successful in his work and keep in a straight furrow, he needs to keep his gaze intent on the goal and do it with his whole heart. The furrow being made is marred the instant he looks back or takes his focus from the goal. This is how distraction can prevent us from completing tasks we have initiated and from reaching our goals.
Many times dreams, tasks and projects are abandoned because we give up when faced with obstacles and challenges. It takes sustained efforts and perseverance to prevent abandonment at such times.
You lose sight of abandoned projects even when it is looming before you. How many have expended much resource on exercise machines which are gathering dust at different corners of our homes? Though we know we need to get on them to maintain a healthy lifestyle and we see them every day yet we are not motivated to use them – for whatever reasons.
Sometimes goals change, because when life visits us, it brings along changes in our circumstances. At such times, some projects may no longer be relevant to our new situation but this is not a reason to abandon the project. You may need to let it go or repackage for other purposes. It may be a blessing to someone else.
Whatever the reasons may be, it always takes much more to complete every task we leave unfinished. The cost of unfinished projects is not only monetary. It encompassed much more for which monetary value can not be assigned – missed opportunities for many who would have benefitted from the project and the purpose for which it was meant will not be accomplished.
Abandoned project of any size will clutter your life. What is that one thing you have forsaken or deserted? It may not even be a project, it may be a relationship you have given up on or a dream that you have left un-pursued. Perhaps it is time to visit your “Edsel room” and deal with its content properly. Clutters take up useful space and make it difficult to move forward. It is time to free your life of the artifacts of unfinished and abandoned projects, and create space for something new and vibrant.

The Lord your God will make you abundantly prosperous in all the works of your hands… - Deut 30:9

The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands will also complete it… – Zech 4:9