Day 24: The Efficacy of Prayer #28DayChallenge

To pray literally means to make a request or a petition, usually to a higher power. However, the word “prayer” in the Christian sense includes all kinds of communication and interaction with God. Whether we are giving thanks for His goodness to us, praising and worshipping Him for who He is, making requests for ourselves, or interceding on behalf of others, it is all prayer. Prayer also includes just expressing our thoughts or feelings to God, as we see many writers do in the book of Psalms.

The point of this post is to remind you that prayers works, and encourage you to engage in it continuously. The basis of this assertion is two-fold: God is able to answer our prayers, and He is willing to answer them. God’s ability is undisputed, clearly manifested by His works in creation and their sustenance. His willingness to answer is also unquestionable, only limited by His will. God is more eager to answer our prayers than we are to ask Him, but he will not do anything contrary to His Word.

Prayer is a demonstration of faith. If we believe in God, then we will pray. On at least three levels, prayer shows we believe in God. First, it shows that we believe that God exists (Heb. 11:6). Secondly, prayer shows we believe that God has power to answer us. Thirdly, it shows that we believe God is good and kind enough to grant our hearts’ desires. If we lack any of these three persuasions, then our prayer may be ineffective. But if we possess them, then prayer is simply putting our faith to work.

Prayer works in at least two ways. One, in transforming us as we draw closer to God. Two, in granting the desires of our hearts so that we can be full of joy (John 16:24). When we pray, we are interacting with God. That interaction usually makes us more conscious of our own flaws and calls us to a higher standard. He also speaks to our hearts as we pray, impressing thoughts in our minds to direct us. The more we set aside our thoughts, the clearer his voice is to us. Of course, God grants our desires when we pray, and sometimes He leads us to His Word to teach us the right way to pray.

As you come to prayer, it is imperative to ensure there is no obstacle between you and God. This is why we only come to God’s presence through the blood of Jesus, which paid the price for our sins. Through faith, we are declared righteous because of Jesus’ sacrifice, and every prayer we offered according to His will produces power and substantial results. Prayer changes lives and produces results. Take some time to pray today (now)!

The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:16b

Day 17: Following God into the Future #28DayChallenge

The future: that imaginary place where all our problems are solved and our dreams are fulfilled. The younger we are, the more excited we are about the future. It holds so much promise and possibility that we can barely wait to get there. We make plans and write lists and take steps to get to the future we imagine. And as the future unravels, beginning with the next moment after our dreams and plans, it brings questions, choices, and uncertainties – things we did not plan for or expect. None of us knows what lies ahead of us.

Yet the Almighty God knows what is in our future. He knows all the possibilities that lie ahead of us and the outcomes that correspond to every set of choices or decisions we make. He sees the myriad of possible outcomes for every phase of our lives, including those outcomes we could never imagine or would rather not imagine. With that infinite wisdom, He asks us to follow and obey Him. God clearly indicates in the Bible that he wants to lead us (Psa. 32:8). He wants to achieve the best outcome possible with our lives but we will have to trust and follow Him.

Following God into the future means entrusting our plans to God (Prov. 3:5-6) and depending on Him for guidance. It means committing every thought, plan, or course of action to God in prayer, and being willing to change if we perceive that God wants us to do something differently. Following God calls for faith and humility. We have to be convinced God has a plan for our lives and that our efforts are not enough to live a life of purpose. He alone can guide us to live our best lives here on earth.

Approaching life with this mentality, however, can be challenging. It does not shield us from trials, difficulties, or pain. In fact, following God is often marked with difficult emotional experiences such as fear, anger, sadness, frustration, or anxiety. Many who followed God have experienced rejection, persecution, and loneliness. Some had the option to avoid some of these experiences by taking alternative routes or going their own way. Others had no choice and would have had similar experiences had they gone their own way.

However, the beauty of following God is that He walks with us through those experiences. He transforms our minds using His Word and teaches us how to remain joyful amid sorrow, peaceful during a storm, and loving even when subjected to hatred or wicked treatment. Another benefit of following God is that we avoid costly mistakes and unnecessary battles that could drain us of energy as we run to fulfill our purpose. Most importantly, we live to fulfill the design of God for our lives when we choose to follow God.

The future is always bright and beautiful, no matter what phase of life you are in. Of course, it is never lacking in challenges. This is why God wants you to be deliberate in walking with Him, so that He can lead you to lead an eternally impactful life that maximizes your potentials and fulfills His purpose for your life. My prayer is that you will choose to follow Him every day. Amen.

Day 11: Faith, Unfeigned #28DayChallenge

Today, I want to share a few thoughts on faith, particularly in connection with the adjective “unfeigned” as used in the King James Version of the Bible. If you use more modern versions such as the NKJV or NIV, the word will likely be rendered “sincere” or “genuine”. In the first chapters of both his letters to Timothy, Paul speaks about “unfeigned faith”. In first Timothy, he speaks of it as a Christian virtue that works together with love. In second Timothy, he recalls Timothy’s unfeigned faith as he (Paul) longs to see him (Timothy). The word is mentioned both in 1 Timothy 1:5 and 2 Timothy 1:5.

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Waiting

Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. (Psa. 27:14, NIV)

I don’t like waiting. Whether for a divine promise or a human verdict, I like to see or experience the things I am expecting as soon as I am aware they are on the way. Waiting often feels like a waste of time and emotion. The object of our waiting dwells in our thoughts and stirs our emotions, filling us with longing and desire. Waiting can even make us anxious especially when we are not assured of outcomes.  But we all have to wait, at one time or another. Waiting is not just a part of our human experience; it is also a tool God uses to build our character as believers. So we all need to learn how to wait, and also how to make our waiting seasons count for God’s glory and our good. We should note here that no one waits for what they have the power to do or get; we only wait for things beyond our ability.

Waiting is associated with hope. When we hope for something, we have to wait for it because we do not yet have it. That raises two questions. One: what is the basis of our hope? Two: how we do wait for the things we hope for? The basis of our hope can be our desires, people’s promises, or God’s promises. If we hope for something on the basis of our desires or people’s promises, we have no guarantee that our hopes will materialize, and our waiting may be in vain. But if we hope on God’s promises to us, we have an assurance that it will come to pass. Every other thing for which we hope and wait has to be with caution. People may be willing but unable. We may desire but circumstances may not line up as we wish. God, however, is both able and willing to perform His promises. We only need to wait for Him.

So, how do we wait? We wait with patience. Paul tells us in Romans 8:25, “But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently”. Patience is a virtue God develops in us through seasons of waiting. We all need to learn patience in becoming like God. But patience does not come to many of us naturally. In seasons of waiting, God helps us to keep our eyes on Him and not grow anxious or restless while we wait. This helps us to develop the attribute of patience and apply it in the future. When we develop patience as part of our character, we no longer rush to actions or conclusions but always take time to gain understanding before we act so that we can act with wisdom and precision. However, if we are restless while we wait, we may get what we hope for but God’s purpose in building our character is thwarted or deferred till another season of life.

A season of waiting also builds our faith in God. When we have to wait, we often question why we got on to the path of waiting for what we now look forward to. If this reminds us of a divine promise that initiated our hope and on which our faith stands, then we cling more closely to that promise while we wait. We see this when Abraham waited for the promise of a son from God. Every time he recalled God’s promise, he gave glory to God for the promise that would be manifested (Romans 4:20-21), not doubting God’s ability. Waiting gives us the opportunity to reaffirm our faith while we have not yet seen what we hope for. This is what makes faith strong – the ability to stand and continue to hold fast onto God for a long time even when physical conditions contradict what we believe and hope for.

Waiting is never fun, but it builds us up. We learn patience and build up our faith as we trust in God through seasons of waiting. With thanksgiving to God and steadfastness of heart, we demonstrate our conviction that God can do what He promises, and He always honors our faith by bringing to pass the promise for which we fervently waited. So again I say to you who are reading: wait for the Lord!

Saved by Faith

Jesus rose from the dead. He is Lord.

To believe and confess these two statements means that you have been confronted with the truth of the gospel – that you have accepted your need for a Saviour and accepted the Saviour who was offered. It means that you have embraced the sacrifice of Jesus and the reality of God’s power in raising him from the dead.

It also means you believe sin and death have been conquered by this Jesus who is now appointed chief “reconciliator” of all men, seated in the place of power with God in the heavens. Surely if you have believed all of this and confess it with your mouth, there is nothing holding you from being saved – you are free from the hold of sin and death.

For you He died and rose, and you also believe the same, agreeing with him and receiving the object of your faith – the salvation of your soul.

Discipleship: the call to surrender

When at first we identify as Christians, most of us have an incomplete or incorrect understanding of what it means to be a Christian. We may at first think it is a call to be good people, or an invitation to permanent happiness. We may be overwhelmed by the power of God, and expect that it will be used in our favour, or be conscious of our shortcomings, and hope that being Christians can help us improve and be our very best, possible even living perfect lives. But as the scales fall off, and we see the light of God, we begin to recognize that the call to be a Christian is not at all about our selfish desires: it is all about Christ.

Let us step back a minute, to the very beginning of time, where God made man in his own image, with the intent to have them rule over creation and be God’s representative on the earth. That was a moment of perfection – a chance for us to be the very best God wanted. But we ruined it. All of us – through Adam and Eve – ruined that moment of perfection and chose to go after what we felt we didn’t have (knowledge of good and evil), ignoring the very thing we had access to (the tree of life). Humanity became debased and the pursuit of selfish interests was born. We lost focus on pleasing God and became self-pleasers.

Fast forward several centuries and Jesus steps into the picture. He is the image of the living God: a 2.0 version of the man God had made, except this version did not fall short again. He succeeded where Adam failed. He resisted where Adam succumbed. He was the archetype of the new humanity God wanted to bring forward: the overcoming species that would fulfill man’s original purpose of ruling creation while remaining in submission to God. Where Adam tried to acquire his own wisdom by eating the fruit, Jesus rejected all advances and stayed true only to the words of His heavenly Father. Finally, the Son is here!

It was this Jesus that God set forward as an example of the new humanity. When he called men to follow Him, they often started out thinking like Adamic beings. They imagined He was another Adam – a conquering victor who subdues his enemies by instilling fear and imposing violence, who outshines his foes and obliterates his contradictors. But in a shocking act of divine irony – this Jesus surrendered himself to be killed by His enemies. The very one who had been promised as a Messiah, having manifested divine powers, allowed Himself to be crucified on a cross – the most demeaning form of capital punishment.

Hung on a cross for no sin of His, this Jesus began the path to “Saviourhood” by becoming like the worst of sinners. He laid down his life by faith, and the Father proved him to be the One by raising Him from the dead. Having risen, he again calls people to follow him and be like Him. But here lies the contradiction: we all love a powerful Saviour capable of healing the sick and raising the dead, feeding the hungry and giving hope to the hopeless. But who wants to follow, talk less of become like, a Saviour who debases Himself and serves like a slave, who takes punishment for sins he did not commit and blesses those who hurt Him?

Yet walking that path is the very essence of the new humanity. Deliverance from the debased nature within us begins from rejecting the very thing that makes us who are, so that we can embrace and begin to become like who He is. Neither our good works nor our evil actions are acceptable before God, because they all come from a fallen nature. Only the works that are done by the Son, through the Son and for the Son, are acceptable. We are not called to be better versions of ourselves. We are called to surrender our lives, take up His life and be like Him, to live by and take instructions from His Spirit. Not just once, but every day.

This is the call to discipleship: a call to surrender our lives and be like our Master Jesus. This is what it means to be a Christian – one whose life is modeled after the faith, love and service of Christ, who rejects every thought that originates outside of God, and depends on the written word of God as his daily bread. Being a Christian is not a cute thing to do or a faith to adopt in order to improve the world or our personal wellbeing. It is a call to an overhaul, a call to die daily and embrace new life continuously, a call to sacrifice, submission and service that translates to joy and hope not only for this life, but eternally.

Trusting Him in the Dark

Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the word of his servant? Let the one who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on their God.
Isaiah 50:10 NIV

Sometimes, the righteous walk in the dark. They deal with uncertainty, feeling their way around and wondering if God has abandoned them. People who revere God and obey His word do find themselves in such places, not because of sin or disobedience, but because we live in a fallen world. But God uses those times for our good.

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Praise You in the Storm

Today’s post comes from one of my favourites songs by contemporary Christian band, Casting Crowns. The song’s theme is maintaining faith in God through difficult circumstances. Praising God is a powerful way to declare our faith especially when we go through difficult seasons. It is our way of saying “God, I trust You, and I know you’ve got me covered.”

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Count it all joy!

This week, I’ve had my share of “troubles”, from internet disconnection for 3 days (meaning missed conference meetings and inability to work from home), to ATM dispense error and a trapped ATM Card (meaning I had to visit a banking hall for retrieval). It has felt like things were working against me. Or as we say in local parlance, my “village people” were at work….hahaha. But I count it all joy!

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