Thursday, January 22, 2015

What Is In A Name

Identity. You call something a name and you identify it by that name. When my parents gave birth to me, they named me Agatha. It was not a name that came out of the blue, but a name they had thought and talked about while my mother carried me in her womb.

Looking back today, I have discovered that Agatha means ‘good’, and I have come to appreciate and love my name. But, before I knew the meaning of the name, especially in my teen years, I did not like that name very much. I wished my parents had given me an exciting name, like Francine or Francisca, a name I tried to ‘adopt’ for myself. My parents firmly rebuked me and that was the end of exciting Francesca.

My parents also gave me another name at birth; maybe after the suggestion of an aunt, but by the grace of God that name never made it to my birth certificate.
I now truly love being called Agatha, a good woman, and can now beautifully shout it out with confidence.

There is someone in the Bible who was given a name even before he was conceived in his mother’s womb. This name was given to his mother by an angel. She was a young girl, whose life was interrupted by a declaration from God. She did not choose to have the son and did not choose the name to be given the child. Her circumstances were pretty much pre-planned for her.

But what a child she gave birth to! What a name! His name is JESUS. He was given the
Name which is above all other names. It is a Name at which every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord! He is our Savior, our Lord, our Redeemer, the Rock of our salvation and the anchor of our faith. (References: Luke 1 & 2; Romans 14:11)

Some of us have been given names and born into families that we have very little appreciation for. Maybe we have even been born into countries we find undesirable. But despite the names we carry, the families we belong to and the nationalities we are part of, above all this we can belong to the greatest Name of all times, if we would make Jesus our Savior and the Lord of our lives. When we place ourselves under His Lordship, all these other identity issues become of very little significance.   

The problem with placing a lot of value on our names, families and nationalities is that we can either place too much value or too little value on ourselves. We thereby give other people and nationalities too much value over us or too little under us. Many atrocities have been committed as a result of how we value each other.

In Jesus Christ we are all one. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, no slave nor free, no male or female, for we are all one in Christ Jesus. Reference – Galatians 3:28. We all qualify to be God’s children and to be of use in His kingdom, no matter what labels we carry on us. The ground is level at the Cross of Calvary. Just as Jesus was born into Joseph’s ancestry, we are also by faith born into His ancestry. We belong to God the Father through Jesus Christ.

So next time you struggle with the name given to you at birth or the family you were born into or the country of your nationality and the blessings and curses which come with it, remember the new and most important Identity afforded to you in God through Jesus Christ our Savior and Redeemer. That ought to put to silence all the other identity dilemmas. You are more than just a name, for in the Mighty Name of Jesus Christ you can become all you ever dreamed of and achieve even more.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

God is greater than all the mountains you will face in the year

I lift up my eyes to the mountains; where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. Psalm 121:1,2

I thank God for the mountains He will lead me to in this year. For I know that He will give me the grace to climb each one of them. By depending on God I will grow stronger in my walk with Him.

Each mountain climbed will be a testimony of His grace which is sufficient for me in my time of weakness. Encouragement will come from knowing that 'the Lord my God is bringing me into a good land, a land with streams and pools of water, with springs flowing in the valleys and hills'. Deuteronomy 8:7

What are you O mighty mountain? Before God you will become level ground.

Psalm 121

A song of ascents.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all harm
    he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Have you ever missed Christmas

Have you ever missed Christmas? I don’t mean forgetting the dates. Our parents and Sunday school teachers did a wonderful job in instilling those dates deep into our conscience. I mean waking up on the 27th and asking yourself what the commotion on the past two days was all about!

Christmas, like Easter is very easy to miss. I missed my Easter last year. I had travelled to the rural village a day before the holidays, loaded with a whole package of solar lighting fittings. In my excitement to light up our homestead and prove to my mother that I was such a wonderful and caring daughter I quickly went about organising for someone to handle the connections.

There was a handyman who did odd jobs and lived a couple of miles from our village. Early Friday morning I woke up and drove to pick him up. In two hours he was done with my connections plus the usual neighbourly chit chat over a cup of tea. I drove him back to his village. On my way back home, at around 11am, the narrow road was suddenly flooded by a procession of Roman Catholic believers. They were carrying their mini crosses and singing very solemnly. This was a commemoration of the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ. Suddenly it hit me; this was Easter and alas, in all my rushing up and down the road I had forgotten about it.

At that particular point I felt like the disciple Peter. I had forsaken the One person who ever gave His life up for me. As I held on to my stirring wheel, with my foot on the brake to allow the church procession to pass, I felt so much shame. What was I doing on the road on a day like this? I was a Christian of many years; but on this day I was at the wrong place and doing the wrong thing altogether. I had missed Easter!

This is not uniquely my spot alone. You could miss Christmas too. By not keeping your mind focused on the One Person most important at Christmas you could miss it altogether.

The two gentlemen walking to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-34) nearly missed Jesus who was walking right alongside them. They were busy talking and pitifully wallowing over the events leading to his death. Their minds and conversation were focused on who Jesus was before he died - the man from Nazareth, instead of who he had said he would be – the King and Messiah of all nations. Had Jesus not spoken to them and revealed himself they would have gone on into Emmaus still enveloped in their confusion and ignorance.

We stand to lose a lot by not paying careful attention to details. Like a young man who went fishing with his uncle, an event he had been looking forward to for days. As he got the hang of what fishing was all about, he suddenly surprised everyone and himself by catching his first fish. But while the fish was still in the net by the water, he turned around and called out to his friends to come and have a look at his catch. That momentary side look was all the fish needed to dive back into the water and swim away from its captor.

Or in the case of a young lady who was so sure she had finally met the man of her dreams. But unfortunately she would not let go of her other boyfriends, and only to lose her lucky catch.

I am saddened when we attend conferences and participants refuse to heed to the call by preachers to take some time alone to reflect on the messages preached. That time of reflection is for most participants a time to go shopping! The local church has little success in this area of reflection time too, as parishioners are always rushing out to feed their grumbling stomachs.

All humanity and creation is centered around the birth of Jesus Christ. He came to this world for us and we must not miss the meaning of Christmas. Jesus was not just passing through our world or visiting; but he came to us so that we may experience a new beginning, so that we may have hope and so that we will experience peace and joy even while living in a troubled world. No, we must not miss Christmas by not paying attention to the events which brought us the King of Kings, our Redeemer and the Rock of our salvation.
A Song of Praise
In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah:
We have a strong city;
    God makes salvation
    its walls and ramparts.
Open the gates
    that the righteous nation may enter,
    the nation that keeps faith.
You will keep in perfect peace
    those whose minds are steadfast,
because they trust in you.

Isaiah 26:1-3

Friday, November 28, 2014

Dear Daughter

Allow me to introduce myself: I am Almighty God. There is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me. I AM WHO I AM, (the self-existent one). I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of bondage, the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. I never grow weak or weary. I am merciful and gracious, long-suffering and abounding in goodness and truth.

The thoughts that I think toward you are thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. I have examined your heart and know everything about you. I know when you sit down or stand up. I know your thoughts. I see you when you travel and when you rest at home. I know everything you do. I know what you’re going to say even before you say it. I made all the delicate, inner parts of your body and knit you together in your mother’s womb. I made you wonderfully complex!  My workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it! I watched you as you were being formed and woven together in the dark of the womb. I saw you before you were born. Yes, I carried you before you were born. I will be your God throughout your life time. I made you, and I will carry you along and save you. I have loved you with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.

Pay attention! For you are my servant. I, the Lord, made you, and I will not forget you. I have swept away your sins like a cloud. I have scattered your offenses like the morning mist. Oh, return to me, for I have paid the price to set you free!
But now, listen to the Lord who created you. I formed you and I say: Do not be afraid. For I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through difficulty, I will be with you. You have been chosen to know me, believe in me, and understand that I alone am God. There is no other God—there never has been, and there never will be. I, yes I, am the Lord and your Savior. No one can snatch you out of my hand. No one can undo what I have done. Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.

Yes, all this is true, but it is nothing compared to what I’m going to do. For I’m about to do something new. I will put a desire in your heart to worship me. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?

Adapted from the following Bible texts:
Genesis 17:1
Isaiah 46:9
Exodus 3:14
Exodus 20:2
Exodus 34:6-7
Isaiah 40 : 28
Jeremiah 29 :11
Psalm 139 :1-4
Psalm 139 : 13-17
Isaiah 44 :21-22
Isaiah 43: 1-2; 5; 10-11; 13
Isaiah 41:10
Isaiah 42:18
Jeremiah 32:40
Isaiah 46:3-4

Written by a friend of mine, Robin Zaleski

Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Holy Spirit Pursues Us In Love

‘If it had not been for the love of God the Father looking down upon me in my utter ruin and providing a perfect atonement for me in the death of His own Son on the Cross of Calvary, I would be headed for hell today.

If it had not been for the love of Jesus Christ, the eternal Word of God, looking upon me in my utter ruin and, in obedience to the Father, putting aside all the glory of heaven for all the shame of earth and taking my place, the place of the curse, upon the Cross of Calvary and pouring out His life, utterly for me, I would be headed for hell today.

But, what of the love of the Holy Spirit? He was sent by the Father in answer to the prayer of the Son (John 14:16), leading Him to seek me out in my utter blindness and ruin. He followed me day after day, week after week, and year after year, though I persistently turned a deaf ear to His pleadings, following me through paths of sin where it must have been agony for that holy one to go, until at last I listened.

He opened my eyes to see my utter ruin and then revealed Jesus to me as just the Saviour who would meet my every need, and then He enabled me to receive this Jesus as my own Saviour.

If it had not been for this patient, long-suffering, never-tiring, infinitely tender love of the Holy Spirit, I would be headed for hell today.

Oh, the Holy Spirit is not merely an influence or a power or an illumination but a person, just as real as God the Father or Jesus Christ His Son’.

Acknowledging the Person of the Holy Spirit
Extract from the book, ‘The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit’ by R.A. Torrey. Zondervan Publishers

Do Not Despair, Pray

How does one overcome despair? The secret is to pray. When nothing changes, you pray some more. And when nothing still happens, you pray even more. In fact you keep on praying until the cloud of despair disappears, not just when it lifts up a bit or shifts position, but until the sun shines bright again. Hallelujah! That is how we overcome despair.

In 2 Kings 4, the story of the Shunammite woman, Prophet Elisha told his servant, Gehazi. “Tuck your cloak into your belt, take my staff in your hand and run. Don’t greet anyone you meet, and if anyone greets you, do not answer. Lay my staff on the boy’s face.” V29

The boy was dead. But not to the Prophet who knew and believed in the God of life, Jehovah El Shaddai God Almighty, The God of Israel Jehovah El Elyon The Most High God. This is the God who is the dwelling place of every believer. ‘He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High, will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust”.

This God can be trusted in any situation, no matter how despairing. So, the servant ran, avoiding any distractions on the way, stopping for nothing and no one. His agenda was to reach the dead boy and lay the Prophet’s staff on him. When we pray, we must not allow for distractions, we must not stop praying, we must not lose heart, we must not allow the devil to plant more seeds of discouragement. We must focus on who God is, meditate on what He says in His Word and pray out the Word in agreement.

Because He lives within us, the Holy Spirit is ready and willing to intercede for us with groans and moans that words cannot express, once we cry out to Him for help. (Romans 8:26). The servant did his running, the staff was laid on the boy’s dead body but the Prophet was the one to come and breathe life into the boy. We must do the praying, fasting and declaring of God’s Word upon our situation and then allow the Holy Spirit to breathe change, life into our dead or dark situation.

‘He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God’. (Romans 8:27)

So, next time you think of giving up, despairing, think instead of who God is – God Most High. Think of who Jesus is – your Redeemer, Saviour, Rock of Refuge. Think of the Holy Spirit – the Great Intercessor who speaks and reveals the Word of truth to your spirit and brings life to your body and situation. Praise the Lord!

Friday, October 31, 2014

God Says It Is Well

Sometimes when people go into hospital they die. The following morning after I had been admitted the woman in the next bed gasped and died. All night long she had been groaning and moaning in her sedated state. Even though I am not new to people dying around me, this incident however shook me.

I was moved from that room on the same morning. Two nights later, the nurse came for her usual routine blood pressure and sugar readings. My blood pressure was low; in fact it had been steadily dropping all day long. She became concerned and I went into a panic. “Lord, what is happening to me? Am I dying?” I cried out silently as I sat in my bed.

Immediately the passage on the Shunammite woman (2 Kings 4:8-37), came to mind. It didn’t matter that it was around 1.00am. I grabbed my bible and started to read. I wrote down some notes and here is how the Lord encouraged that night.

§  The woman knew who to run to with her crisis. She ran to the Prophet Elisha. We run to the Lord Jesus, our Saviour, Healer and Deliverer.
§  This woman had birthed a son, after the Prophet spoke the blessing on her. God gives, the devil steals. John 10:10 reads, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full”.
§  The devil comes to steal what the Lord would have given us. Just as he had stolen the life of the Shunammite’s son, the devil was also threatening to steal my life even though the hospital was doing all it could to save me.
§  God has an army ready to combat any of the devil’s evil against us. As Daniel waited for his answer from God (Daniel 10:11-13) the enemy grabbed it and withheld it from him. But God sent the Archangel Michael to fight the devil and retrieve the answer to prayer which Daniel was waiting for.
§  Even to this day, God has never lost a single battle to devil. We overcome by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of our testimony. (Revelation 12:11). And ‘If God be for us, who can be against us’ (Romans 8:31)
§  We must always declare our healing, even before it is evident. The Shunammite kept answering, “It is well, it is well”. When the Lord Jehovah Rapha is your Lord and Healer, all is well!
§  Psalm 103:1-5 reads, “Praise the Lord, my soul;
    all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
    and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
    and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
§  The Prophet saw the Shunammite riding towards him from afar and was immediately concerned. God hears our cries for help even before we utter them. (Isaiah 65:24)

God’s power is revealed in His Word. If we would trust in the Lord and lean upon Him then no evil will overpower us. God is always faithful to His Word. One of my favourite scriptures is 2 Timothy 1:12, ‘I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day’.

When morning came I was not only alive but much stronger. The doctor came and prescribed a lower dosage on one of the drugs I was taking, as that was the reason for the lower blood pressure. I was also discharged that same morning. Praise be to God, as I continue to recover from home. All is well in Christ, dear brethren.