Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Lessons They Taught Me On Generous Liberal Giving

This blog post was conceived a few months ago after studying 1Sam 30. Three groups of persons emerged in the chapter based on the way they managed abundance and wealth:

-          The squanderer
-          The hoarder
-          The liberal giver

I was so intrigued with the liberal giver that I searched for as many of them as I could find in the Bible, to see what I could learn from them. I knew a number of them before; it was inspiring to reflect on the lessons I learnt from them in the past. They have fired me up again. I will share with you in this post and the next, the lessons I learnt from these liberal givers.  I will reserve the squanderers and hoarders for another day.

To set the stage, let me share some thoughts on liberal giving.

A liberal giver is like a farmer who sows abundant seeds on a good field. Liberal givers sow seeds of goodness into the lives of people connected with them.

Seeds have great potentials, and when nurtured, they produce an abundance, greatness and significance. Within the seed is the potential for multiplication, so seeds multiply. No seed is ordinary, no matter how tiny or invisible to human eyes as it may be. Every seed is a seed of destiny because it can influence destiny. Every seed is a seed of significance because it has the potential to make a difference. Every seed is a seed of promise, because it carries a promise to bring about a bountiful harvest.

Except a seed falls down and dies it cannot live and bring forth fruit. A seed must fall into the ground and die to bring forth fruit. Unless the seed is sown, it cannot bring forth harvest, it remains alone (John 12: 23-25).

As a seed must fall away from the hands of the farmer into a fertile soil to bring forth a good harvest, the gift also has to be separated from the hands of the giver. There must be a letting-go for the giving to be a blessing.

A liberal generous giver is a person who recognizes God as the Giver of everything he has. He knows God as the Source of the favour and blessings he is enjoying.

There are many examples of liberal givers in the Bible. As believers are God’s children by covenant, we are called by God to be a blessing. God in His covenant with Abraham declared; “…I will bless you; I will make your name great, AND YOU WILL BE A BLESSING (Gen 12:2), that is, a dispenser of good—one who dispenses good to others. Liberal generous givers are a blessing to others.

There are many lessons to learn from Abraham as a dispenser of good. His life was a blessing to others. The way he allowed Lot, his nephew, to make the first choice of land. Then he went the extra mile to rescue Lot in Genesis 14, and he interceded on behalf of Lot when God decided to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah for their sins. These are classic examples of the generosity extended to someone who does not appear to deserve it.

In Genesis 18, Abraham offered hospitality to three strangers. An added dimension was the fact that he hastened (he ran) to ensure the food was prepared with speed. His giving was with great enthusiasm, cheerfulness and without holding back. He went over and beyond the bread and water that was necessary, he provided meat, curds and milk to the strangers.

He taught me to be magnanimous by giving consideration to others first. He taught me that generosity can be extended to those who don’t deserve it—since I am also a recipient of God’s unmerited favour—grace. I learnt from him that I should go the extra mile in my giving, not just the minimum required because there is a blessing in going over and above the minimum. I learnt also to give with enthusiasm and with great attention to details.

Her generosity to Naomi is an example of sacrificial giving. She sacrificed the security of marriage among her people and sacrificially committed to living her life with Naomi to take care of her (Ruth 1:16-18).

Sometimes those in need are resistance to our help and may want to be left alone in their misery and loneliness. But our sensitivity to their needs and concerns driven by our passion for God will lead us to let love and faithfulness override their resistance. Ruth refused to give up on Naomi despite the insistent persuasion to be left alone. When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.

She taught me to be sensitive to the needs of those around me and never to give up on them even when my efforts are resisted or even rejected. She also taught me long before I got married; never to go to my mother-in-law empty-handed. When she was given food to eat, she reserved some for Naomi after she was satisfied (Ruth 2:18). I am glad today that I learnt this lesson early enough. I cannot begin to recount the blessing it brought me.

Ruth’s sacrificial and generous giving went before her. Boaz heard of it before he met her and pronounced a blessing on her: “May the Lord recompense you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the Lord…” (Ruth 2:12).

After his brothers had thrown him into the well-like pit, they sat down and ate the lunch Joseph brought for them (Gen 37:24). I can imagine that he must have been very frightened down in that pit. I can imagine him hearing his brothers’ voices as they ate. And I can imagine how he must have pleaded with them to show mercy. But they hardened their heart to their brother’s plea.

When Joseph revealed himself to his brothers, there was no trace of bitterness rather he wept and so loudly that the entire household of Pharaoh heard him. He forgave completely without holding back; “Come near to me, I pray you…” (Gen 45:4).

He sowed the seed of forgiveness and showed mercy to the same people who withheld mercy from him. He willingly shared his largess with his brothers and gave them a possession in the best portion of the land.

Jacob at his death pronounced an astounding blessing on Joseph. He declared that he is a fruitful bough (denoting extra-ordinary increase) by a well, spring or fountain. He is well-watered like the trees by the rivers of living waters. He brings forth bountiful harvest of fruits, and his branches run over the wall (Gen 49:22).

Joseph was an inexhaustible dispenser of good, and the giving of his fruitfulness transcends beyond the usual boundaries of an enclosed garden. He spreads his largess abroad. The blessing of God on him was great. I learnt from Joseph that there is no limit to the blessings we can dispense to others irrespective of how we have been treated. He gave liberally and generously the gift of mercy and forgiveness.

Dear Friends, do you know more of such liberal givers? We all have been blessed with seeds we can sow into lives, what are you doing with your seed?

Liberal givers dispense goodness, they sow seeds of goodness into the lives of others.

May God’s grace richly abound to you that you may abound in every good works. 

To be continued.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Let These Parents’ Worst Nightmare Ignite the Flame of Revival

I am a mother. I have two sons. The standing rule in my family is that the boys call home anytime they move from point A to point B. I expect them to call in as soon as school is over before they begin their after-school activities. If I don’t get a call from the boys as at due, I would wait a while and call them. If I don’t get a response after making several calls, I'll send a prayer to heaven. I know God is keeping watch over them but they will surely have some explaining to do as to why they could not be reached. Why? You might wonder. Because like all parents, we want an assurance that our children are safe and fine.

A friend's daughter went “missing” a few years ago. She did not come back home after school and she did not respond to numerous calls on her cell phone. By 7:00pm, we were in their house. The women stayed with the mother while the men were on the street going from one police station to the other in the bid to find her. The waiting period seemed endless. We prayed and we prayed some more. Yet, the anxiety and concern continued to mount as hours went by. Praise be to God, she was found later that night. I still remember those moments of not knowing where she was or what was going on. You can't even begin to imagine the emotional state of the mother.

When David and his men came back to Ziklag, they found that their wives, sons and daughters had been taken captive by the marauding Amalekites. The Bible recorded in 1Samuel 30 that David was greatly distressed. The souls of his men were bitterly grieved to the extent that they talked of stoning David, each man for his sons and daughters.

It is a parent’s worst nightmare, that heart wrenching fear that your child can be taken away from you. How would such parents go to sleep not knowing where their child is or what has happened to that child? The subtle suggestions of the enemy as he paints the picture of worse-case scenario in the mind of the parent is enough to cause fear to grip the hearts of such parents.

On the 15th of April 2014, over 200 young girls were abducted from their school while taking their examination in Chibok, Northern Nigeria by a group of terrorists. Multiply the number of these girls by two and you will have an idea of the number of parents grieving at this time not knowing where their daughters are. Add the grandparents, aunties, uncles, brothers and sisters to the list. One can imagine that the souls of these people will be bitterly grieved and they will be in great distress at this time.

They know that their daughters are in the hands of men whose hearts are so desperately wicked that they will wantonly shed innocent blood without a thought. They know that their daughters are in the middle of nowhere exposed to many dangers. They know that each of these girls are in constant fear of what may happen to them and whether they will ever see their parents again. These thoughts must indeed add to the nightmare of the parents.

These parents’ worst nightmare is not theirs alone. It is the nightmare of anyone who has a child. It is the nightmare of anyone who has a conscience. It is the nightmare of anyone who cares about the fate of these girls. This is not just a crisis in a small corner of Nigeria, it is a national crisis. Knowing that terrorism doesn't respect borders, this nightmare is possible anywhere. This a reflection of extent of wickedness that man can perpetuate on fellow mankind for any reason.

But more importantly, it is a wake-up call to everyone called by the name of the Lord within Nigeria and beyond. It is a call for spiritual awakening for all the churches in Nigeria and for all those who have been at ease in Zion, feeling comfortable in their cocooned world.

When Peter was arrested by Herod and held captive in the prison, what was the response of the church? Fervent prayers were persistently made to God for him by the church (Acts 12:5). The fervent and persistent intercession of the believers brought about a divine intervention, the Lord sent an angel to deliver him. And when Peter realized what had happened, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John, where a large number were gathered together and were praying (Acts 12:12). They prayed without ceasing.

Perhaps, the nightmare of these girls and their parents will cause a stirring up in the hearts of believers in the land, which will result in a movement of prayer that will ignite a spiritual awakening in the churches and a revival, resulting in the move of God’s power across the land like the sweeping force of a Tsunami wave.

This is my earnest and fervent prayer; that the nightmare of these girls and their parents will cause men and women across the globe to fall on their knees, praying without ceasing and with strong purpose that the Lord will move in the affairs of men in our nations.

The revival that took place in Wales in 1904 began with a movement of prayer and was sustained by a movement of prayer. For a revival and spiritual awakening to take place in our nations, there must be someone or some people willing to travail in fervent prayers. Such fervent prayers are effectual because they can impact all the spheres of our national life.

This is the kind of movement of prayer that can be generated as a result of this incidence. So, as the Lord stirs up our hearts, let us gather together in our homes and in our churches, and pray for these girls held captive by these violent wicked workers of iniquity that the Lord will cover them with His feathers and hid them under the shadow of His wings. Let us pray that the Lord Himself will be a wall of fire around them and that we will recover all of them.

Let us pray for their parents that the Lord will garrison and guard their hearts from every agitating fears and anxieties with His peace which passes all human understanding. That they will be encouraged in the Lord and in His faithfulness as David encouraged himself in the Lord in 2Sam 30:6.

Let us pray for the descent of the Holy Spirit upon all of us in all our churches that will fire aflame a desire in our hearts to persevere in intercession until the move of the power of God in our nations is so mighty that it will pull down the barriers, which have hitherto divided us, and it will bring about unity in the body of Christ. To the extent that believers will passionately pursue God to work with extraordinary power in our land.

On Thursday, May 15th, 2014, we will gather together here in Geneva to pray for our girls in captivity, for their parents and for our nations. We will continue to persevere in prayers until we see the victory of God over those who seek after our land to destroy, destabilize and devour.

Dear Friends, will you be stirred up in your hearts to be a part of this movement of prayer that has the potential to bring about a revival in our land? God bless you as stand in the gap.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

To Share Or Not To Share: Part 2

First of all, let me apologize for my absence from this space for the past two weeks. I had many balls to juggle in the air. I cannot complain because it has been my prayer to be gainfully engaged but I did not anticipate the overwhelming volume of things that would daily demand my urgent attention. I learnt to commit my arm-long list of things-to-do to God each day in prayer and keep my focus on His agenda.

This blog refused to be written in a hurry. When I started the discussion three weeks ago, I did not expect the volume and seriousness of the response it would generate. I am very grateful to all those who responded both on the blog and by email. Thank you very much for your contributions. They were insightful.

There were many viewpoints provided and a number of issues highlighted. It appeared that this is an issue that many couples are struggling with. Also, I got some feedback that were personal and required some counselling. It was at this point that I decided to go back to the Lord in prayer. I needed His leading and guidance to address this issue and in particular to give the right counsel to those who presented personal situation.

Pooling together all the contributions I received, with a further study of the Word and vast literature available on the subject, I would like to address this issue from three premises:

1.       God’s plan and desire for marriage.
2.       What secrets, lies and withholding information does to the relationship.
3.       Instances when discretion and sound judgment is required.

God’s plan and desire for marriage:
We can glean from Genesis 2: 24 – 25 that God desired for a man to be united to his wife and for the two to become one flesh. Then, we note that the two were both naked and they felt no shame: “they were not ashamed.” That is, not embarrassed in each other’s presence

We can conclude from these two verses and many others that referred to it in the New Testament, that God’s will is for husband and wife to be in spiritual and functional unity, walking in integrity and serving God together. “The biblical concept of marriage is an oneness between two individuals that pictures the oneness of Christ with His church.  When this harmony, unity and oneness is operative, the entire society prospers under the hand of God” (1).

Both the husband and the wife are expected to supply what the other lack so that they can become truly one flesh in complete unity, complementing each other.

“Nakedness suggests that they were at ease with each other without any fear of exploitation”
– Bible Knowledge Commentary.

This is the degree of fellowship that God intended for marriage, where there is no fear of exploitation or a potential for evil to be done to one another, but a depth of trust which indicates that they will both act in the best interest of each other. Anything that will cause a couple not to be at ease and open to each other has the potential to destabilize the unity and harmony God intends for them to share.

True friends should not feel the need to hide what they are doing from each other. “And the Lord said, shall I hide from Abraham that which I do?” (Gen. 18:17). Abraham was a friend of God. True friends communicate freely with each other without fear. Husbands and wives should shared such an intimate relationship, which allows for free and open communication.

Openness is what God designed for marriage as they become one flesh. God’s desire is for husband and wife to have a marriage where secrets cannot have a foothold.

Secrets, lies and withholding information does and its effect on the relationship:
Surprises are great in a marriage once in a while but they are not likely to be a constant dynamics of the relationship. 

“Where transparency and trust are the forefront of a marriage, surprises should never be a problem” – Kate Aldrich (www.onefleshmarriage.com)

Secrets are those things you do not INTEND to tell your spouse. Secrets will keep us from connecting at a deeper level. Keeping secrets imply a certain level of “shadiness” that will limit openness in a relationship. Withholding information and keeping secrets can be counter-productive to growing an open, honest and healthy relationship. Once it becomes easy to keep “little secrets” it will not be long before we begin to keep big secrets, which would be detrimental to our marriage.

Sharing information should be a constant practice in trust and honesty. Open and honest communication is not only the best way to build a healthy relationship, it is the foundation of any healthy relationship. Indeed, trust and honesty are the backbones of a good relationship.

Secrecy robs the relationship of intimacy. It creates a gulf between the couple. The more you hide from each other, the more you turn away from each other, and the wider the gulf becomes. Even when physical intimacy appears to be ok or even great, emotional and spiritual intimacy becomes limited and strained.

-          How can you truly be one flesh with someone you cannot share your heart with, someone locked out of the some areas of your life?
-      How can you pray in unity with someone you are lying to or not telling the truth when asked?

What is the motive for not sharing? The crux of the matter is still WHY we are withholding information from each other.
-          Is it in the best interest of the other party?
-          Does it require lying or sidestepping the truth?

There should not be any sphere of our lives as a couple that is not accessible to the person we are one flesh with in a healthy marriage. That does not how mean that we don’t occasionally need our space or time alone, which is by mutual consent.

Instances when discretion and sound judgment is required:
I would like to share two Biblical stories as case studies of when discretion and sound judgment were exercised in the Bible with regard to sharing information.

The Bible noted in 1Samuel 25 that she was an intelligent and beautiful woman with good understanding. She was married to Nabal. Her husband was described as churlish, mean, wicked and evil in his doing. No one can talk to him – does what he wants to do regardless of the consequences. He was an ungrateful man, who could not show even the required societal courtesy. His wickedness put his family at a great risk.

When Abigail was informed of her husband’s action and the evil that has been determined against her household. Her reaction was spontaneous – she wasted no time to initiate remedial action (1Samuel 28:18). Note verse 19: “…But she did not tell her husband Nabal” what she was going to do. Wisdom dictated that she took action without her husband’s knowledge.

She pleaded and interceded for her unthinking and unwise husband, and her entire household. She also prevented David from having on his conscience the burden of needless bloodshed. After she had succeeded in averting evil from her household, she went to her husband to tell him. Here again, she exercised discretion and wisdom by waiting for the right time, she told him nothing because he was drunk. She waited until morning when he had become sober, and she told him ALL that had happened.

She did not lie to her husband about the events that took place neither did she withhold the information from him. But knowing the kind of man her husband was, she managed the situation with discretion, good judgment and wisdom. At the appropriate time she told him everything.

There are still men and women who don’t listen to others and only do what they want to do even to the extent of putting their families at risk. If you are married to such a person how can you exercise discretion in managing sensitive situations in your relationship without telling lies and being dishonest with your spouse?

When crisis thrusts itself on us, we need to take a tight rein on ourselves and let the Holy Spirit guide. I believe we should not depend on our own reasoning to deal with such a situation but on God’s grace and help, and expect His grace to work on our behalf. We can also seek counsel from respected Christians.

Abraham (Genesis 22):
Abraham and Sarah waited 25 years for Isaac, the child of promise, to be born. Then, God tested Abraham by asking him to sacrifice his only son whom he loved on a mountain he was to be shown. The Bible recorded that early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey and took his servants and his son with him on the journey. His response was instant and of unquestioning obedience.

The question as raised by some of the contributors to this discussion was; did Abraham consult with Sarah overnight and told her about God’s instruction? Obviously the answer is a resounding NO! I don’t believe that Sarah or any woman for that matter would have willingly given up a child, she waited so long for without a strong argument.

But Abraham knew God as a covenant keeping God. He knew that in matters concerning God’s clear instructions, he could not consult with flesh and blood but simply to act in quiet submissive obedience.

I learnt from this story that there will be instances when we cannot consult with flesh and blood when God gives a clear instruction that requires our submissive obedience. I believe that under such circumstances God’s grace will also be available to the spouse to understand why such obedience is required and be supportive of it.

Some other highlights from the feedback:
-          While transparency is important, a couple may need to exercise discretion in sharing something a third party had shared in confidence. When this is shared between the couple, it should be only for the purpose of praying and not for discussion with another person.
-          God said that two is better than one. It is important that couples should make decisions about issues that concerns their lives together.
-          Keeping secrets from our spouse erodes confidence and creates opportunities for suspicion and distrust.

God is a God of knowledge, by Him are actions weighed. He knows us inside out and He know the motive behind all we do. We will account to Him for all our actions. It is possible to take remedial actions when we have not acted right, but first seek God’s face and guidance, and possibly godly counsel.

Today’s post has been long and extensive in the bid to cover as much angle as possible on this subject. I pray that you will all experience the true oneness that God designed for your marriage and trust that it will enrich your relationship.

1.       http://www.studymode.com/essays/Anthropology-Marriage-And-Divorce-1007854.html