Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Confidence Of Hope And Great Expectations

Right from the beginning of 2014, I knew without an iota of doubt that the year is going to be eventful in many ways. As I noted in my first post this year, it is a year marked with significant events in our nuclear and extended family. It is a year in which we are confident that we will see the manifestation of God’s supernatural grace, and many celebrations of growth, promotion, completion and expansion. Things have been rapidly unfolding over the past eight weeks of 2014 to indicate that we have not even seen the tip of the iceberg, in terms of what God has in stock for us this year.

Indeed, I entered the year with mind-boggling expectations. This page is insufficient to enumerate the magnitude of the things I am trusting God for this year. These words have been constant in my mind, “Prepare the ditches, for you shall neither see the rain nor hear the wind, yet the valley shall the filled with water” (2Kings 3:16-17).

I participated in the All-Night Prayer meeting held in my church at the end of January. It was the first time I was able to do so after many years. I left that meeting elated, high in the spirit and so full of confidence in the ability of God to bring to pass every promise and prophetic word, He has given us for this year. An inexplicable peace enveloped me and my heart was at rest. Honestly, I am overwhelmed at the amazing things I see God set in motion on our behalf during this month, the awesome ways in which He is performing His wonders in our lives.

There is nothing like having hope fanned to flame. Hope that refuses to waver or stagger at the enormity of the promise in the face of contrary circumstances.

“I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living” (Ps 27:13) – this is an example of kind of confident hope and great expectation I am trying to describe. David would have fainted and despaired if he did not have this confidence of hope. Such was the confidence that he had in God that he rejoiced in the prospect of waiting for the Lord. He was confident that inspite of the contrary evidences, he would remain alive to see God’s goodness and blessing.

There are many examples in the Bible of how David strengthened himself in the Lord in times of calamities and troubles. He knew the God he served. He knew God’s ability to deliver in times of trouble. And because of the depth of his knowledge of God, he could remain confident in hope.

There is a vital connection between faith and hope. Our faith must be anchored on knowing Who God is and Who He says He is. This becomes the basis for the confidence of our hope in God. Hope anticipates the reality of what God is saying, and the fulfillment of His promises, when we are in agreement with His word by faith. Hope is the proof of the faith we have in God. Hope disappears when our faith wanes because of we do not rightly understand who God is and what God is able to do.

God is a hope worth clinging to. In fact, there is nothing else worth clinging to in the time of storms and trials, or at any time for that matter, than God. I put my hope in God because I have an expectation that He will do what He says He will do. Therefore, my faith is based on the revelation of who God says He is according to His Word and the foundation for the confidence of my hope is firmly rooted in my knowledge of God.

Faith gives life to hope and hope strengthens our faith - Greg Simas

I am so persuaded that this is a year of the manifestation of God’s supernatural and exceptional miracles in our lives as individuals and as a family. I am confident that it is a year in which we will also do great exploits for God and for the Kingdom. I am not being presumptuous, my confidence is based on the God’s word and His promises.

There is surely a future hope for us according to the Word of God, and our expectation shall not be cut off (Proverb 23:18). This is because our expectation is driven and motivated by faith in God. Faith that is grounded on the revelation of who we know God is and on the ability of God.

As children of God, we have every right in Christ Jesus to expect a great tomorrow and a bright future even if our current situation is in conflict with that expectation. God’s thoughts towards us are thoughts of good. His plan is to give us a hope, a future and an expected end (Jeremiah 11:11).

There will be times when it will be difficult for us to wrap our minds around the magnitude of the things we are believing God for based on His unfailing promises and the Word He has given us. It can be so astonishing that like Mary, we will say, “how can this be?”

The woman with the issue of blood had an expectation driven by faith. She came from behind and pushed towards Jesus. She had just one expectation, just one hope: “if I touch the hem of His garment, I will be made whole” (Matthew 9: 20-21). Her faith was grounded on her knowledge of Jesus based on what she heard about Him. That knowledge supporting her faith, fuelled her expectation and made her confident in hope. There was no doubt that this woman was confident of what would happen when she gets to touch Jesus. The confidence of her hope gave her the impetus to push against the crowd all the way from the back until she got close enough to touch Jesus.

When our expectation is driven by faith, it is guaranteed to produce the right results which in turn helps our faith to grow and achieve its goal. A confident and relentless hope is the evidence of such faith.

“Our faith is based upon what the word of God reveals to us about Who God is, what He has done before and what He has promised to do now and in the future.”

Our hope must be founded on the truths presented to us in the Word of God. We can have such a great expectation even when our current circumstances makes our optimism unrealistic. Our great expectation is intricately woven to the depth of our knowledge of God, which propels our faith and trust in God. And it must be grounded in the unfailing love of God revealed in Jesus Christ and sealed in our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). It is by the grace of God and because of His love for us that we have been given this eternal encouragement and good hope (2Thess 2:16).

Against all evidence to the contrary, Abraham, didn't simply hope. 
He believed in hope." - Christa Allan. 

Dear Friends, we too can learn to believe that against all hope, God can best display His glory and power in our lives. Hope makes us relentless in the pursuit of our dreams, desires and goals. It makes us relentless in the pursuit of God and in knowing more of Him.

We have an ever-living hope
A hope of which we can boast
A hope that does not disappoint
A hope that does not make us ashamed
A hope that is anchored on the infallibility of God
On His unfailing faithfulness.

It is this confidence of hope that informs my great expectations. And this is what I commend to you today. You are blessed beyond measures.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

I Celebrate You

Last weekend was about celebrating our loved ones, the significant people in our lives.

I am taking it a notch further this week. I had a period of reflection as I laid on my bed after arousing from sleep on Wednesday morning, and my mind went to some relationships I have had the opportunity to forge over the past years and recently too. I took special note of some in particular.

The more I pondered on these relationships, the more praise overflowed from my heart until songs of praise burst from my lips. I felt truly loved by God Who in His infinite wisdom connected my life with different groups of people who have become tremendous blessings to me. Here are two of them:

1. Long-term old friends. These are friends that I have known for many decades but have not seen for many years. Yet, at a phone call they are ready and willing to give a helping hand. I will cite some examples later.
2. Friends I made over the internet or through other friends who I have not had the opportunity to meet face-to-face, yet they have impacted me in a remarkable way.

Let me share some of the stories:

I was connected with AH through a long-term couple-friends of mine. My friend had raised a prayer request on my behalf in her prayer group in Seattle. One of the ladies eventually moved to Europe and my friend connected us. We kept in touch by email. She and her family later relocated back to US. A couple of years ago when my son was going to college, I emailed her and told her my husband and son were coming to US. I could not travel with them, to settle my son in college because of my medical situation. Not only did she accommodate my family during that period, she helped them with all the college shopping and transferred my son’s stuff to the campus. My son has a place to stay in her home whenever he is transiting between school and home. I am yet to meet her. I thank God for blessing me with such a generous friend.

I have seen my Chief Bridesmaid only twice since 1992. But we have maintained our friendship via phone calls, emails and over the internet. She has been a tremendous help and blessing to me. At a phone call, she will make herself available to me to help sort out one thing or the other, and this has happened more times than I could list or write about here. She is one of the many great friends I have abroad who have positioned themselves to be a helper and a blessing to my family and me. They offer their homes to my children and my husband during many travels. My children indeed have lost count of the number of non-biological aunties and uncles they have spread all over the world.

My husband and my friend who I had not seen since 2006 pulled a shocking surprise on me last Sunday, when she appeared besides me in church. My jaws literally dropped. I spoke with her the day before, she did not let on at all. Through her, I became connected with another lady who put herself at my mother’s disposal to be of great assistance to her. The lady left a lasting impression on my mother. The network of generous helpers just keep expanding.

I have yet another friend whom I have never met. The only contact I have with her is over the internet. I still cannot remember how I stumbled on her blog where she share creatively crafted poems, haikus and short stories. But she has become a source of inspiration and encouragement to me. She visits my blog regularly and leaves a comment. Each time I read her comment, I simply bless God. Writing can be a lonely experience at times, you spend a lot of time on your own staring at the screen. As a Christian writer, you pour hours into your writing driven by the desire to reach the world with messages that reflect the light of God’s glory and touch lives for good. Each time, I post a blog or share a piece of my writing, it is with a prayer that God would use the words He gave me to touch at least one life.

When friends write back or tell me that the message was timely, they gained from it or they were touched by it, my heart sings for joy. Why? Because it confirms to me that I heard God right on that one. Secondly, it is an affirmation that God hears my prayer that the words I have written will minister to someone at precisely the time in their lives when they need it. Thirdly, it is a honor to be used by God to fulfill His purpose and a joy to know you are fulfilling your calling. It is particularly touching when such messages come from people I have never met or seen before. God is truly awesome.

I share my story here on the blog. God has given me special blessings, trials and challenges unique to me. It will never cease to amaze me how these resonate with those who read what I share here. To the extent that I can joyfully thank God that my pains are not in vain. It is for the gain of others. Because God comforts us in our trials and tribulations, so that we may be able to comfort others in their troubles with the comfort which we ourselves are comforted (2Cor. 1: 3-5).

I have made numerous friends through the Writers’ groups and websites I subscribe to, through a foodie group I belong to on Facebook (So You Think You Can Cook), and Bead Jewelry makers whose creative work inspires me. I got connected with most of them through the internet and many have gone out of their way to share very useful tips, suggestions and “insider” information. They willing pointed me in the right direction at no personal benefit. I salute them for their generosity.

It is a privilege and honor to be blessed with such dear friends I can call at a time of need, who would respond positively and rise up to be my helper and friend in deed. Many times, I know that it is not out of convenience that the help is offered and given, it is often at a sacrifice. It is only God Who can reward them with the good measures, pressed down, shaken together and running over.

There are those wonderful friends who pray for me, pray with me and simply take it upon themselves to hold on to the hands of God on my behalf.  You are precious gems of God’s glory. I bless God for you.

After I spent time thanking and praising God for all these numerous relationships He graced my life with, I was truly awed at God’s awesome goodness.

Today, I celebrate all my friends and all those my life have been linked with for one purpose or the other as designed by God. Each of you in your unique ways made me more and more appreciative of God working in mysterious ways His wonders to perform in our lives.

A study of Jonathan’s love for David is illuminating (1Sam 18-20). It is a great example of selfless and heroic love. I cannot begin to write about the selfless and sacrificial love my friends have shown towards me. 

Today, I want to celebrate every one of you, I am honored to call friend.

What did I learn from these reflections?

It is that one of the ways to keep friendships strong is to actively nurture them. Friendships require nurturing by the parties involved in it. It simply doesn't just happen. Here are some of the ways you can nurture your relationship:
- Pray for one another
Be present in the relationship. Even when you are separated by thousands of kilometers, with a little effort you can stay in touch with each other.
- Be the best you can be for each other. 
-  Act in their best interest.

To you, my dear friend, especially those I have not met yet or seen in a long time, I say, I look forward to seeing you someday soon if the Lord wills. If not, I hope to see you before the throne of grace. Be sure to be present there.

In what ways are you nurturing your relationships? Share with us in the comment box below and bless someone.

“Dear Heavenly Father, 
let the words that I write today reach one person with Your love and grace.” 
-  Deb Kastner (31 Devotions For Writers).

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Love is Giving

That is what love does. It gives and keeps giving.

A few days ago, I was musing about how far people would go to put a smile on the face of someone they love. How much we are willing to sacrifice to make someone we love happy and fulfilled or simply to be there for that person. It was also overwhelming to note how much we desire to show the significant people in our lives that we love and care for them, and yet we hesitate and don’t do so as often as we ought to. It cuts across all our relationships: parent-child, husband-wife, friends, and siblings.

I read the story of a woman who, when she found that her 3-year old son had learning disabilities, gave up her dream of becoming a paediatrician to stay at home and help her son through school. She was at the verge of completing her specialization. The son now holds a degree in engineering. What a sacrifice.

Love is a verb, without an action, it is merely a word. Simply put, you cannot say you love someone without a commensurate action to demonstrate it. It is not simply what you feel, it is what you do. And one of the things that love does best is that it gives. Love makes a choice, a deliberate decision, to give. It is proactive—always looking for opportunities to give of itself. It takes action to deepen intimacy between you and your spouse. It is in full motion when it gives attention to a friend in need. Even the seemly small gestures enveloped in huge affection makes a lot of different.
Love gives
It gives selflessly
It gives sacrificially
It gives unconditionally

We have a perfect example to follow:

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). God gave His best and most precious just for you and me. See what the given Son did:

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters” (1John 3:16). There is no greater love than for a man to lay down his life for the sake of his friends. Jesus gave up His glory in heaven when He came down to earth. Then he gave up His life for us on the cross at Calvary.

Oh! What great and awesome love that the Father has lavished on us that we should be called the children of God. For to us whom He gave his Son, He gives all things freely with him. Our heavenly Father and our Lord Jesus Christ demonstrated their love for us through what they gave for us.

“Love is what is left in a relationship when selfishness is taken out” 
– Nick Richardson

I know love is in the air this weekend as we observe the Valentine’s Day. But it should not be a test of how much your spouse or friend loves you, it should be about celebrating your marriage, your relationships and the life you share together with the significant people in your life. It should be about putting your love for them in action.

“I will stop expecting your love, demanding you love, trading for your love, gaming for your love. I will simply love. I am giving myself to you, and tomorrow I will do it again. I suppose the clock itself will wear thin its time before I am ended at this altar of dying and dying again.
God risked Himself on me. I will risk myself on you.
And together, we will learn to love, and perhaps then, and only then, understand this gravity that drew Him, unto us.” – Donald Miller

Loving someone means we are willing to take a risk, to be vulnerable, to be open and to give our all. God took the same risk on you and me when He declared His faithful and undying love for us. I love the chorus of this old time song by the Gaither Vocal Band:

I am loved, I am loved
I can risk loving you
For the One who knows me best
Loves me most
I am loved, you are loved
Won't you please take my hand
We are free to love each other
We are loved

I can declare with all boldness, confidence and joy that I am truly loved:

I am loved by my Heavenly Father Whose love for me is beyond description.
I am loved by my Redeemer, Saviour and Friend, Who gave His life just for me.
I am loved by my dearest husband, whose love keeps giving and giving, who cares for me selflessly and supports me to be who God has called me to be. His twinkling smile brightens my world.
I am loved by my compassionate sons who never cease to amaze me. My personal stand-up comedians who make me laugh even when it was difficult to do so.
I am surrounded by our loving families—mine and my husband’s. The warmth of their care and love makes my heart glow with pride.
I am truly blessed with friends in deed. Friends who stick close through the thick and the thin. Friends who go the extra mile to be there for me. Friends who never cease to encourage me and bring the best out of me.

Today, I celebrate all my relationships and all the significant people God blessed my life with. And I ask you, dear friends, to do the same. Show your love, act your love and give of yourself to those you hold dear to your heart. It is only now when we have them that we can do so. When they are gone from us, we will have the memories of our time now sharing our love with them, to hold on to.

“The greatest weakness of most humans is their hesitancy to tell others how much they love them while they are still alive” – Orlando Battista.

I encourage you to show and tell your love to your loved ones today, this weekend and beyond. Do take time to cherish them now.

For my dearest husband:
I could never thank God enough for loving me so passionately and for extravagantly lavishing His love me. Perhaps, in my loving you for who you are and with all my heart, I may in a little way show to God, how grateful I am for His love and for blessing my life with you.

I love you and cherish today and for all times.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Compelled to Do Good

“What is the worth of my life if it is not a blessing unto others?”

Earlier in January, I stumbled on a letter I received in January 2004, exactly ten years ago, while rummaging through some old documents. And I found the above statement written at the back of the letter.

The letter was written by a lady I got to know when I was living in Tamale, Ghana. It brought back a load of memories of my time there. I attended the Lighthouse Chapel International during my stay in Tamale from 2001 to 2003, and became very close to the Pastors of the Church, Pastors Patrick and Joy Bruce. Not only was I welcomed with open arms and made to feel at home in a strange environment, these two became truly a blessing of God to my family and me. I will put this in context shortly. I also had the opportunity of befriending many young ladies (some preparing for marriage) and many young couples. I still maintain contact and a good relationship with some of these people.

I had to leave Tamale hurriedly in a critical health situation. I was evacuated first to Accra and eventually to Geneva for medical attention. It was the Pastor and his wife who took care of my children before they could join me in Accra en-route for Geneva. They, along with other members of the church, helped to pack my personal effects for the trip and took care of my house until I could return back to Tamale three months later to tidy up my affairs and prepare for my departure from my duty station. I had an already established home in Geneva, having all these young ladies and couples in my life provided me the opportunity to bless others with the household items I had acquired in Tamale. The writer of the aforementioned letter was one of the recipients of the items I gave away.

In her letter, she reminded me of a message I shared during a Sunday Service and how God used that message to minister to her later at a time of need. She also wrote that when she received the items I left for her, she thought it was a mistake because she did not think I knew her name until she saw it pasted on the items. She noted she had spent her first salary learning how to bake so that she can have an additional source of income. Receiving the baking tins was an answer to her prayers.

I was overwhelmed reading the letter again even after 10 years. It was a joy to note that when we follow God’s leading, we can be used by Him to meet specific and targeted needs. I don’t know at what point I wrote the message behind the letter but reading both together was what trigger the blogs posted in the last three weeks on compelling motivations. The question on my heart as I read and re-read the letter and message was, why do we do the things we do?

Here is the rest of the message I wrote behind the letter:

“If you live your life based on what people think or say about you, your life will be very limited and shallow. It is God Who sees and judges the intent of the heart. It is His reward and medal that you want not those of men.

In the ministry of blessing and reaching out, you will be misunderstood, judged wrongly and your motives will be questioned. But all these will not matter as long as you are motivated by the desire to do the will of God and by the desire to do what is right simply because it is right to do so.”

My greatest heart desire is to be a conduit of God’s blessing to as many as God will bring my way. I desire to be an inexhaustible dispenser of good based on God’s charge to Abraham: “Be thou a blessing.” See related blog post: Be Thou A Blessing

Sometimes we can be a blessing to others out of abundance and sometimes it is simply because it is right to do so, even if it means denying ourselves to enable us meet the needs of others. Sometimes it is out of convenience but most times, it can be simply inconveniencing. So whatever the circumstances under which we respond to God’s leading in our heart to be a blessing and even when we are misunderstood and our motives questioned, what is critical and most important therefore, is our motive for wanting to be a blessing and to do good to others.

What therefore should be our irresistible moral justification for being a blessing or for doing good to others?

First, we are commanded to do so in the Bible: “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10 KJV). The Holman translation of this verse says that as we have the opportunity we must work for the good of all people, especially those of the household of faith. Proverbs 3:27 admonishes us not to withhold good from those it is due, when it is in our power to act. So we do good to all men out of obedience to God’s command. Because he that knows how to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin (James 4:17).

Secondly, as I indicated in my blog post, Compelling Motivations; “A truly grateful heart will long to demonstrate its thankfulness by pleasing the One Who has been kind and generous to him.” We position ourselves to be a blessing to others out of sheer gratitude to God for His awesome goodness to us.

Be Generous

Our generosity must extend to all men, not just to our friends and relations. As long as we have the ability, we are encouraged as the occasions presents itself, to respond to the needs of those around us. There are many blessings promised to those who are generous, they will be enriched in every way to continue to be a blessing to others; he that shares his food with the poor is blessed (Prov. 22:9). Also, our generous giving causes praise and thanks to be given to God by the recipients (2Cor. 9:11).

Our time here on earth is a seed time, we will reap an everlasting harvest when we sow well. We are encouraged to persevere in well doing so that we can receive a good reward.

Heart Check

There have been many times when I have asked myself why I like giving things out to people and blessing them with gifts, which I pray would be useful to them. I asked what my reasons and motives are, and what I hope to accomplish by doing this. Sometimes, I had to be hard on myself about clarifying this, because the last thing I want is to get a man’s reward. As much joy as it brings me being a blessing to others, I want to be sure in my heart that it is God that I am looking up to for reward and appreciation. It cannot, at any time be, for the purpose of being labelled by anyone as a generous woman.

While it is good to do such heart checks as often as possible, it is important to note that this must not become a barrier or a limitation to doing what you know strongly in your heart that God has called you to do. If we are guided by what men think of us, we will be limited and restricted in responding to God’s leading and doing His will.

At What Cost

The will of God will never lead us to where His grace cannot sustain us. I have been guilty in the past of putting a strain on our family finances in my bid to bless people. I have since learnt that there is a right way of doing the right thing and there is also a wrong way. The end does not justify the means.

Since I cannot afford to jeopardize the lives of the significant people God has bless me with in a bid to be a blessing, I must therefore take time to listen to God for leading and direction on how to carry out His will and assignment for me. If I try to do it in my own strength and wisdom, it will exert a huge cost on not only me but also on those close to me. That will not glorify the name of God.

So, dear friends, in what ways are you fulfilling the charge given to us to do good to all men? What challenges have you had along the way? How did you overcome these challenges? Share with us and encourage others.

It requires a definite decision and concrete actions to be a blessing to others. I encourage you to make that decision and take that concrete step today. You are blessed beyond measures.