Category Archives: Teaching

What Does It Mean To “Work Out Your Salvation”?

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure – Philippians 2:12-13

The first time I ran across these verses, I scratched my head for I found them both contradictory and confusing.

Contradictory because it seemed to go against everything I knew about salvation. “I thought salvation was a free gift, so what is this verse talking about“, I murmured to myself.

Confusing because it seemed to suggest at first that we are working, and then it goes on to suggest that God is working. “Who is working here“, I pondered. “Is it me, Is it God, Is it both?“.

As I sought out an explanation from others, I quickly came to understand that this is a passage that divides the church into doctrinal factions. Moreover, depending on the faction, these verses are either used as pillars, wholly ignored, or only spoken about in private.

If like me you are a little bamboozled by this passage, I hope the next few abbreviated sections helps to shed some light. If it only persists in confusing you further, I apologize in advance.

Quick context: First, Paul wrote the his letter to the body of believers in Philippi (not unbelievers) as a thank you and encouraging letter. Second, these two verses complete a passage where Paul speaks about us having the mind of Christ – mind of humility and obedience – which ultimately led to Jesus’ name being exalted (read verses 5-11

What It Means To Work

There are multiple words for the word work in Greek. The Greek word translated as work in the line that says “work out your own salvation” is NOT the Greek word for toil and labor. The word work here means to cause or to effect (as in a change). In other words, it means to trigger.

The Greek word translated as works in the line that says “it is God who works in you” is the Greek word that means active.

So we see that it our job to trigger, and it is His job to be active in us.

What Own Salvation Means

Context reminder: This is written to a body of believers as encouragement and thank you.

No matter how you view Philippians 2:12-13, it is safe to say that all believers have triggered salvation by choosing to put their faith in Jesus Christ. This being the case, the question that lingers is this: What is Apostle Paul talking about when  he speaks of triggering (working out) our own salvation.

Context reminder: The preceding versus speak to Jesus the man having the mind of humility and obedience.

The word salvation simply means safety or to be delivered.

We (believers) have been delivered from the penalty of sin (God’s mercy), we presently have been given the ability to be delivered from the power of sin (God’s grace), and we will be taken away from the presence of sin (God’s final victory).

By this we see that salvation is three-fold – encompassing the past, present, and future. All of it is done out of the Father’s love and accomplished by Him through Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Indeed, a triune God accomplishes a triune salvation where our spirit is saved (past), our soul is being saved (present), and our body will be saved (future).

Our soul consists of our mind, will, and emotion. It will either conform to this world, thereby causing us or triggering us (working) to experience hell on earth in the kingdom of this world, or it will be conformed to the guidance of the Spirit of God, thereby causing us to experience heaven on earth in the kingdom of God. The choice is ours – choose a hellish life outside of the influence of the Spirit of God or choose a heavenly life inside of the influence of the Spirit of God.

While on earth, Jesus triggered the Kingdom of God to be manifested by having a mind set on humility and obedience. By so doing, God was active (worked) in Him to will and to do His good pleasure (compare this to Philippians 2:12-13). The pleasure of God was for Jesus to be the solution to people’s spiritual, psychological, and physical ailments, as detailed in miracle after miracle. Awesome!!!

Therefore, we see that these verses are an encouragement and admonition for us all – like Jesus – to trigger (work) our own deliverance (own salvation) from the kingdom of this world and to be delivered into the kingdom of God (which Jesus said was at hand and made available to us) by having a mind set on humility and obedience to the Holy Spirit.

Moreover, we see that Philippians 2:12-13 is speaking of our present salvation while on earth from the craziness sin will cause in our lives if we do not bend our mind, will, emotions to humility and obedience to the Spirit of God.

Why is it we have to do it? It is because Jesus the man is gone from the earth. He has already made the Kingdom available to us. Just as He won’t force us to accept Him, He won’t force us to live in the Kingdom He has already made available to us.

What Fear and Trembling Means

Looking up the original meaning of Greek word translated as fear in the passage reveals two words. One translates as possession or hold, while the other translates as awe or reverence. Hence the part that says “with fear” translates into with a possession of reverence or holding onto awe.  

Now if the question is awe of what? The answer is awe of what God has made available for such a man who operates in humility and obedience. Nothing should awe us more than what God did for His Son when He lived a life of unmatchable humility and obedience (see Philippians 2:8 -11)

The word trembling translates into quaking with dread. If the question is the dread of what? The answer is dread of missing out on the life that God paid for through the sacrifice of His Son. Is that encouraging?

Summary

God desires that we trigger a life of living in His kingdom (which has been delivered to us) by establishing a mindset of humility and obedience through taking a hold of the awe of what God has in store for us and a dread of missing out on it.

In the kingdom of God abides love, joy, peace, self-control, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, goodness, patience and more regardless of our circumstance. Why would we not trigger that? I hope you agree that indeed good for us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling

 

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Symptoms of Rebellion – Part II

Mike Tyson once famously said ‘everyone has a plan till they get punched in the mouth’. I think this quote applies well to rebellion. Everyone who has signed up for rebellion has a plan on how to last until they get knocked down. Indeed, rebellion has a perfect record against all its opponents. In Symptoms of Rebellion – Part I, we started to look into what God showed Prophet Isaiah about the direct effects of rebellion on the individual. In this second installment, we will look at what God showed prophet Isaiah about its indirect effects.

Symptom D: Loneliness (Isaiah 1:7)

This verse starts off with “Your country is desolate”. A desolate country is one that is left stark and uninhabited; a ghost town where nobody lives and no one wants to visit. Unfortunately, this is exactly what rebellion does. It makes our country unattractive and drives people away. Though people may be close to us physically (we are not alone), we still feel a sense of loneliness that we cannot place. No matter what we do, there is a sense that something is missing. That missing something is God.

304px-light_bulb_icon_tips-svgLight-bulb moment: Though we may not be alone, rebellion has the effect of producing loneliness.

There is a part of our heart that only God can fill. Though we may rebel against God and fill those things with idols, we find that those things (whether relationship, money, food, or achievement) leaves us empty handed.

Question to Ponder: Am I looking for someone or something to fill a part of me that only God can fill?

Symptom E: Destruction (Isaiah 1:7)

The second part of the verse says “Your cities burned with fire”. For our cities to be burned with fire is for everything we spent a lot of time and energy building to be destroyed. An example where many people have built relationships for years only to lose it because they built the relationship without God (in rebellion).

Now, the bible warns us that we should take heed on how we build on our foundation (Christ) for everything built will be tested with fire (1 Corinthians 3:12-13 paraphrase). Hence, we see that the fire is not the problem, the problem is what we decide to build with. If we build on love ( Christ our foundation) with faith (gold), then we find that the fire only refines it. If we build on love but with faithlessness leading to rebellion (chaff), then we see that the fire will destroy the things we worked so hard to build.

304px-light_bulb_icon_tips-svgLight-bulb moment: Whatever we build in rebellion burns, but what we build in faith endures.

Question to ponder: What am I building right now that does not conform to God’s building codes?

Symptom F: Powerlessness (Isaiah 1:7)

The third sentence of this verse states “Strangers devour your land in your presence”. Another way of saying this is that things that are not welcomed in our lives (or we would like out of our lives) wreck havoc in our lives and we have no power to stop the carnage.

A person who knows what they are doing is wrecking havoc in their lives but cannot seem to stop the destructive behavior, is a person who understands what is means to be powerless. They know it is coming, they see it coming, they watch what it does, and they can do nothing about it.

304px-light_bulb_icon_tips-svgLight-bulb moment: A rebellious person is a punching bag for the enemy.

Question to Ponder: Are the hay-makers I am taking on the chin a result of rebellion in some area of my life?

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Symptoms of Rebellion – Part I

In some ways, animals are way smarter than we are. When it comes to rebellion, there are quite a number of things we can learn from them. Take a horse for example. Once a horse is ‘broken’, it will comply with it’s master and will be obedient. Not so with us humans, no matter how many times we are broken, we have this knack to stray back into our wild and rebellious state.

While we have the free will to be wild and free, and it may seem like fun to be a rebel and to decide our own fate, the problem is that we are terrible masters of our own lives. I remember when I decided to do my own thing – be the master of my domain as it were – it ended up with me eventually crying to God for help for I had made a mess of my domain.

304px-light_bulb_icon_tips-svgLight-bulb moment: When we decide to do our own thing instead of the God thing is when we find that life will do us dirty

While God will not stop us from taking the reigns of our lives, He does want us to know the kind of life we are signing up for when we decide to rebel against His lordship. Here are three common symptoms of rebellion.

Symptom A: Faint Heart (Isaiah 1:5)

Heart beat signifies the presence of life. The fading of a heart beat represents that a person’s life is slipping away from them. So it is with us spiritually!! Since it is the Spirit of God that gives life, the fading of our heart beat spiritually means that the Holy Spirit is losing its influence over our life.

Just as a fading heart beat indicates that we are slipping from life to death, the loss of the influence of the Holy Spirit over our lives represents the slippage from light to darkness; from the kingdom of God to the kingdom of the world!

304px-light_bulb_icon_tips-svgLight-bulb moment: A person with a faint heart is a person who has begun to lose the experience of the treasures of God’s kingdom – Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control

Instead of the wonders of the Kingdom, rebellion causes us to experience the blunders of the world – this includes jealousies, contentions, wrath, hatred, and all manner of undesirable traits.

Question to Ponder: Is my heart beat strong or has the beat of the Holy Spirit within me become faint?

Symptom B: Sick Head (Isaiah 1:5)

Our head is our thinker. For our head to be sick means that our thinking has become warped. It our thinking becomes warped, our behavior and actions will follow suit. If there is one major symptom of a sick head, it is paranoia.

Once in the throes of paranoia, the head makes up fantastic stories, delusions, and conspiracy theories that all make sense in the person whose head is sick. Perhaps no finer example of someone who had a sick head exists than that of King Herod the Great.

Another major symptom of a sick head is anxiety. I once heard someone say ‘everyone worries’. Well, i say just because everyone worries does not mean that everyone should. Both Jesus and Apostle Paul tells us not be anxious. Anxiety comes when our thinker is not being led by faith but is being influenced by fear. Hence, we see that fear, insecurities, and anxiety are symptoms of a sick head

304px-light_bulb_icon_tips-svgLight-bulb moment: While faith makes one heal, fear makes one sick

Question to Ponder: Am I anxious because I have rebelled against the truth of God’s word

Symptom C: Body full of untreated wounds, bruises, and sores (Isaiah 1:6)

Imagine a person who is covered in bruises, wounds, and sores. Such a person is in constant pain and would not like to be touched. So it is with spiritually with a rebellious person. Such a person is wounded, carried around pains from the past, and does not allow others to get close to them lest those people touch their sore spots. And because there is no part of them that is sound, such people are very easily offended and hurt.

Now, nobody goes through life without having some bumps and scrapes along the way. But for the whole body to be covered in untreated bruises, wounds, and sores as Isiah 1:6 puts it is a different matter! For the whole body to be covered means insinuates that the person continues to make the same mistakes time and again. For these wounds, bruises, and sores to remain untreated insinuates that the person has not bothered paying a visit to the physician – Jesus is the physician (Luke 5:31)

304px-light_bulb_icon_tips-svgLight-bulb moment: Life has enough vicissitudes of its own; why add to the troubles of life by adding our own rebellion

Question to Ponder: Why am I further wounding myself when I can submit to the One who can heal my wounds?

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Fact or Myth: Sin Keeps God From Responding to Us

What goes through your mind when it seems that God is not responding to you? In this time of spiritual vulnerability, the enemy of our soul wastes little time concocting all sorts of fascinating tales such as ‘God doesn’t love you’ or ‘Its your fault, for you have been living in sin’.

Because I am sure that most of you reading this post are way too spiritual to ever believe that God doesn’t love you (tongue in cheek), I wont address that here. This short post is aimed at looking into the school of thought that believes that God hides his face away from us because of our sin –  something I feel compelled to address again because it keeps on coming up.

Just a few weeks ago I had a dialogue with a fellow believer about this. He opened up to the scripture in Isaiah 58:1-2, read it with much emphasis and then asked quite contently, ‘What do you say to that?’

Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor His ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear – Isaiah 58:1-2 (NIV)

I responded by opening up my bible to Ezekiel 39:29 and asked him to read.

And I will not hide My face from them anymore; for I shall have poured out My Spirit on the house of Israel,’ says the Lord God.” – Ezekiel 39:26

His expression changed after reading this passage for he knew from the scripture that God has already poured out his Spirit (Read Acts 2 if you in doubt).

Since God has already poured out his Spirit, He no longer hides His face from us. While it is true that when we were living under the law, and righteousness was based on our ability to adhere to the law, lawlessness would indeed hide God’s face from us; It is also true that now that Jesus has sacrificed himself once and for all for our sins, and our righteousness is based on His finished work, God sees us through the lens of the perfect finished work of Christ and so our ability to adhere to the law no longer has anything to do with it.

Point to Consider: Jesus moved with sinners, He did not move away from them.

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Don’t Fall for the Facts

“And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples and said to Him, “Are you the coming One or do we look for another?”

That John the Baptist sent disciples to Jesus to ask him if He was the Messiah is quite astonishing considering that (1) he (John) was the forerunner who told everybody about Jesus (2) baptized Him, and (3) saw the heavens up and heard the voice the proclaimed Jesus as the Son of God.

That John – that man who Jesus called the greatest man to ever live – doubted the identity of Jesus tells us that the people must have had some credibility with John and or were very convincing. It also teaches us that we must be careful to examine what we are told before we allow ourselves to internalize it – to let what may be facts become truth to us.

The folks who spoke to John I am sure came as angels of light. ‘Oh John, we don’t want you to think of us as tattle tales, but we  must tell you that you have been bamboozled. He is not who you think He is. It pains us to tell you this but we must tell you nonetheless for we care about you and we don’t want you to spend time in jail. Why should you die in part because of your allegiance to this phony fellow’, they must have said. Then they proceeded to tell him some carefully chosen facts.

Now why did they present only a few facts? It is either because they ‘loved’ John or because they hated Jesus. Either way, they wanted to get their own way!

For whatever reason, instead of seeing the wonderful things that were happening through Jesus – the deaf hearing, blind receiving sight, demons being cast out and much more – they were more concerned that he hung around with tax collectors and sinners. In other words, they were more concerned about holding onto their laws than giving their life to people (selfishness versus selflessness)!

They cared more about when he decided to heal (whether on the Sabbath or not) than that people were getting healed. They even paid attention to what he ate and what he drank. In other words, they were busybodies instead of staying busy helping everybody!

Check out what Jesus says about these folks (Matthew 11:18-19 paraphrase): They accused John of having a demon when he decided not to eat and drink. Yet when I eat and drink, they accuse me of being a glutton and being a drunk! But wisdom is justified by her children.

What Jesus is doing here is warning us of people that (1) you can’t satisfy (2) have preconceived notions in their head about the way things ought to be (2) only see what they want to see (3) want people to fit into a bubble that they construct for them so they feel secure (4) are very resistant to change (something different) even if it is good (5) want to keep a hold of traditions that worked before but have now outlived their usefulness (6) are blinded by the futility of their own thinking (7) have their own agenda.

Since we won’t necessarily know when people are behaving out of such a heart (for we can all be guilty of being like those who went to John), this passage of scripture in Matthew gives us 3 things to always do when we are hear something about someone that we are not sure fits.

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Pray: In a spiritual sense, what John did by sending his disciples to have a chat with Jesus about it was pray. When you are hearing all sorts of slander about someone, the first thing you need to do is go to Jesus and ask Him about it. Ofcourse in the case of John, that person was Jesus.

Examine the Person’s life: Jesus said in response to the people that were accusing of everything that ‘wisdom is justified by her children’. Moreover, he told John’s disciples to give him a report of the wonderful things that were happening. Friends, wisdom always gives birth to the fruit of the Spirit and achieves good, both in the life of the wise and the lives of people the wise touch.

Ask the Person: After praying and examining the person’s life, the next thing to do is ask the person (if needed). John did not guess at it when he could not corroborate or deny the words of those that spoke to him. He went straight to the accused.

Note: John was unable to truly examine the character of Jesus’ life for he had been thrown in prison. That’s why I believe he asked

———————————————————————-Friend, if you are unsure about Jesus, instead of asking everyone else about their opinion of Him, how about asking Him to reveal Himself to you? It will save you a ton of confusion and wasted time.

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Are You Really Worshipping? What it Means to Worship

Do you believe in God?During Sunday service, you may hear the pastor say for you to ‘press in to worship’ or ‘adopt a position of worship by lifting up your hands’. You may also hear he/she say that worship invites Jesus into our situation and that ‘His presence is here; can you feel His presence?’ If all this sounds like Christianese you’ve never understood then I hope this blog post helps.

Worship cannot be measured by tangible actions such as closing your eyes, lifting up your hands, shouting, crying, jumping up and down, or throwing yourself to the ground. While these may occur during worship, the actions themselves do not prove that worship is taking place. Indeed, it is all too easy to be so used to performing a particular act that it becomes second nature. True worship is a love-based outward expression of what has taken place in our heart. If this still sounds like Christianese to you, consider the following passage:

“And behold, a leper came to Him and worshipped Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean” – Matthew 8:2

The passage tells us that the leper worshipped Jesus by saying something. Hence, we know that worship always says something. Indeed, worship always speaks from the heart. What came out of the mouth of this leper was a reflection of what was settled in his heart. What was settled in heart can be sifted out by paying careful attention to his words.

Worship Calls Jesus ‘Lord’

The first thing that worship entails is acknowledging Jesus as the Lord (master) of our lives. For Jesus to be the master of our lives means that we allow him to control everything. It means that he takes first position in our lives. When we come to worship, we come to say: Jesus, you are most important in my life and there is nothing or no one that I put above you. It means we have to put out and put away those idols that try to claim first position in our hearts. You know what idols I am talking about. Is Jesus the master of your life or is something mastering you right now? Is your mind half on your job, money, or a romantic interest all the time? If you are single, is your want to be married your idol? Let’s truly worship by putting these other things in their rightful place. To worship is to put Jesus back on the throne of our hearts

Worship Says ‘If You are Willing’

The heart of worship submits to the will of God in humility. Indeed, worship says ‘not my will but Your will be done’. In order words, worship surrenders all to God; it takes the burden off us and casts it upon Him. Worship acknowledges our own powerlessness and submits to our complete and utter reliance on Jesus. See, Satan wants us to be self-reliant because he knows he can continue to rain down those haymakers on us as he pummels us to bits in our mind. Worship on the other hand is a heart posture of being God-reliant. Instead of being in-secure, we become God-secure in worship. If there were words to describe this heart of worship, it would be the words ‘yield control to God’ and ‘humble yourself before God’

Worship Says ‘You Can Make me Clean’

‘You can make me clean’ is an assertion of what God is able to do. He trusted in the sovereign power of God to bring about good in his life and change his situation for the better. Just like the leper, a heart of worship is one that has faith in the power of God to bring about that which is good in our lives no matter what situation we face. See, worship comes expecting and trusting that something good will happen because we understand that our God is a good God; He is the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.  So we see that worship does not lose hope, is filled with endurance, and is convinced about the goodness of God in all situations and circumstances.

The Beauty of Worship

Why is this important you ask? Why is it important to (1) Place nothing above Him (2) Surrender to Him in humility (3) Have faith that He will bring about what is good and best in our lives. The answer is found in Matthew 8:3 where Jesus says ‘I am willing’, and then promptly makes the leper clean. In other words, the worship brought about the miracle!

See, God has never turned away anyone who worships Him in Spirit and in truth! Indeed, ‘Placing nothing above Him’ moves us towards Jesus, humility invites Jesus into our situation, and faith gives Jesus permission to do the good that He loves to do in our lives (See Daniel 10:12 and Hebrews 11:6).

So my friend, if you want God to move in your life, then you want to come to truly worship. I hope you agree with me that we have too much to gain for us to simply go through the motions.

Food for Thought: Am I acknowledging Jesus as master, surrendering to Him in humility, and have faith in Him in my life or am I just going through the motions in life?

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How Can I Experience God’s Best For My Life?

Do you believe in God?This week I roused myself early each morning to attend 6:00 am prayer at church. Though we all sought the Lord for different things, a common theme emerged. We were all crying out to the LORD for His glory to be revealed in our midst, in our lives, and in our communities. In other words, we wanted to see his majesty, splendor, magnificence, beauty, honor and victory manifested in a tangible way.

As I pressed in with the rest of my brethren in prayer, asking the Lord to show me His glory, He spoke to me saying: You ask me to show you My glory; My glory is already present within you; All you have to do is yield to it. When He said this, He brought to my remembrance the following passage of scripture:

To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of gloryColossians 1:27 (NKJV)

How Can I Experience God’s Glory?

Through the bible, we know that Jesus is the brightness and radiance of God’s glory (Hebrews 1:3). We also know that the Father is glorified when our lives bear much fruit (John 15:8). Hence we understand by these scriptures that Jesus is the radiance of God’s glory because His life bore an incredible amount of fruit. And Indeed Jesus life is still bearing fruit through the relationship He has with those who accept Him.

In fact while physically in this world, Jesus’ life bore so much fruit (through healing, preaching, setting people free…) that we are told that the world is not big enough to capture all that He did (John 21:25). So how did Jesus bear so much fruit and so manifest the glory of God? He did it by surrendering himself completely to leadership of the Holy Spirit who spoke to Him the words of Father (John 5:30).

  I am able to do nothing from Myself [independently, of My own accord—but only as I am taught by God and as I get His orders]. Even as I hear, I judge [I decide as I am bidden to decide. As the voice comes to Me, so I give a decision], and My judgment is right (just, righteous), because I do not seek or consult My own will [I have no desire to do what is pleasing to Myself, My own aim, My own purpose] but only the will and pleasure of the Father Who sent Me – John 5:30 (Amplified Bible)

See, Jesus was able to manifest the glory of God because He surrendered to the Spirit of Grace (the Holy Spirit) who was within Him and empowered him to bear much fruit. Why did Jesus surrender to the Spirit of Grace? It was because He fully trusted the Spirit’s leadership and guidance for He knew the Spirit was from God the Father.

In other words, the trust and belief that Jesus had in God, enabled Him to surrender His life to the leadership of the Holy Spirit, and so allowed Him to do those things that glorified God – things that were seemingly impossible before.

Hence, we see that faith (trust and belief) in God leads us to surrender to the grace of God (the Holy Spirit) who then in turn empowers us to radiate the glory of God. The truth is simply this: Faith leads to Grace; Grace leads to Glory.

304px-light_bulb_icon_tips-svgLight-bulb moment: The glory of God is radiant and draws people to God because it accomplishes both the supernatural and natural things that defy man’s belief and expectation. In other words, evangelism is helped when the glory of God is manifested in a tangible way.

304px-light_bulb_icon_tips-svgLight-bulb moment: It is impossible to experience the glory of God without  having faith and walking in it.

How Can I Recognize Faith?

Faith is the key to experiencing the glory of God. Without faith, we are unable to do the works of God. No wonder James, the brother of Jesus says that ‘faith without works is dead and that he will show his faith by what he does (James 2:14 – 18). By this we see that talk alone is cheap and profits nothing!

Real faith on the other hand unleashes the power of God and reveals the glorious works of God. Only words of faith carry life-changing power which in turn carry out the will of God. It does something tangible.

So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it – Isaiah 55:11

Hallelujah, I will say it again: Real faith releases the power of God (grace) which then in turn unleashes the tangible presence and evidence of the glory of God. Real words of faith does something, it just doesn’t go into a vacuum!

304px-light_bulb_icon_tips-svgLight-bulb moment: Faith releases power that accomplishes something tangible – that something is the will of God.

For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God’s power – 1 Corinthians 4:20 (NLT)

How Can I Grow My Faith?

But I don’t have much faith you say! Well Jesus says that we can move mountains if we have faith as tiny as a mustard seed! So don’t underestimate what even the tiniest amount of faith can do.

If that’s the case then why is the size of my faith important you ask. The size of our faith is important because it determines what we ask of God and what we are believing in Him for. Indeed, God grants to us that which we have enough faith to believe in. First, if we do not believe, we will not ask. Even if we do ask  but not in faith, we receive no reward. So dare to believe. If we call ourselves believers, we ought to believe!

You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask – James 4:2

And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him – Hebrews 11:6

Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God – Romans 10:17

If you want to grow your faith, all you have to do is spend more time reading and meditating on the word of God. The more of His word you have within you, the more you are able to hear from God – for God will never speak contrary to what He has written in His holy word. The first things that God will start to speak to you is how much He loves you and how He is for you and not against you. He will show you the errors of your ways and then give you a promise for the future. How amazing!

This love which He shares with us is what draws us to lower our guards, get closer to Him so we know Him more. By so doing, we come to trust and belief in Him more. Faith = trust and belief in God. If we trust and believe in Him and trust and believe that He loves us, then it follows that we will trust and believe in what He says and move in it – thereby unleashing grace and glory.

304px-light_bulb_icon_tips-svgLight-bulb moment: The size of our faith determines the size of our request. In other words, if we limit the size of our faith, then we limit the manifestation of God’s glory in our lives. So, believe big and ask big in faith – and go from glory to glory.

Food For Thought: If you want God to show you His glory, then you have to show God your faith

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Prayers That Get the Job Done

Intense DevotionThe effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much – James 5:16

Jacob was in trouble! He was about to face his brother Esau twenty years after he had cheated him out of his birthright by pretending to be him to their father.  Jacob was sure that Esau remembered the episode. How could he forget such a thing! Jacob must have reasoned within himself: Not only did I steal his birthright, but I ran away as quickly as possible from the scene of the crime with my tail between my legs without uttering as much as a word of apology!

Jacob was in serious trouble. If the offense was bad enough, Esau was now coming to meet him. Oh yes, it was about to be on like Donkey Kong and Jacob knew that he had no chance. Esau was coming at him with 400 strong men while Jacob’s corner mainly consisted of women and children. Moreover, Esau had the advantage of passion on his side. Jacob knew he deserved the justice that was about to be meted out on him. What was he to do? It seemed his plea for mercy from Esau had fallen on deaf ears! What he did was make the first quality decision he had made in a long time. He went to Papa God in effective and fervent prayer as a righteous man. When he did, God answered him.

What Made Jacob Righteous?

I know what you are thinking. How can I say that Jacob was righteous? If righteousness is measured by what we do, then Jacob was on the opposite of righteous. Jacob was the kind of man with whom you did not want to be affiliated. He was a trickster and a cheater.

If righteousness is measured by what we do, then we are all in trouble, for the best that we can do in the arena of righteousness is as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). All of us have fallen short of the passing mark (Romans 3:23). The good news is that righteousness is not determined by who we are but is determined by whose we are. It is not determined by performance but is determined by relationship. We know this for we are told that those who have a relationship with God are righteous. Here is how the bible puts it: For He (God the Father) made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin to become sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (Jesus) – 2 Corinthians 5:17

So what made Jacob righteous? He was righteous because he had a relationship with God through the promise God had made to his fathers. Similarly, we are righteous because of the relationship we have with the Father through the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus.

What Made Jacob’s Prayer Effective?

Know the Will of God: Jacob started his prayer by reminding God of His own words concerning him. He said to God: You told me to return to my country and family and I will deal well with you (Gen 32:9). I will treat you well and make your descendants as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude (Gen 32:12). See, Jacob knew the will of God for his life and so he prayed the will of God. The bible says that we ask and do not receive because we ask amiss (James 4:2). It is impossible to ask amiss when we ask according to the will of God! Jesus said that He will do whatever we ask in His name (John 14:13). To ask in the name of Jesus is to ask according to His will. If this is not too clear, consider the messengers in olden days who declared that they come in the name of the king. What they are saying is that they have come according to the will of the king and to declare his will. If we want our prayers to be effective, we have to know the will of God for that which we pray and then pray it.

Humble Yourself: Jacob continues with the words, I am not worthy of the least of the mercies and truth which you have shown me (Gen 32:10). In other words, Jacob submitted that his success had absolutely nothing to do with his own strength, efforts, position or character. He humbled himself before God. The bible tells us that God will not despise (turn away) a broken and a humbled heart (Psalm 51:17). Perhaps the clearest illustration of humility getting the attention of God is found in the book of Daniel. The angel of the Lord said to Daniel: From the first day that you set your heart to understand (the will of God) and to humble yourself before your God, you words were heard (by God); and I have come because of your words – Daniel 10:12.

Ask Honestly: Jacob continues: Deliver me, I pray from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him lest he come and attack me and the mother with the children (Gen 32:11). Jacob was very direct with his prayer. He did not beat about the bush but he was very honest with God. He said, I am afraid, help me. He did not try to impress God with clever words. He simply surrendered to the gravity of the situation and prayed a truthful prayer. I have come to realize I must surrender to the truth. If I have been a fool, I surrender to that truth and go to God and say, Lord I have been a fool, help me. Surrendering to the truth requires that we pray what is truly in our heart. If what is in our heart does not reflect the truth, God will show us that as well. It is crazy not to tell God the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

What Made Jacob’s Prayer Fervent?

The Angel of the Lord visited Jacob because he prayed an effective prayer. Once visited by the Angel of the Lord, he continued in fervent prayer, asking for the blessing of the Lord over his quandary with Esau. He was so determined and relentless in his pursuit that he wrestled with the Angel of the Lord even after his hip came out of joint. He wrestled until day break. Elijah is another man who would not relent in prayer. He prayed seven different times until a cloud of rain appeared in the sky.

We must be as Elijah and Jacob. We must wrestle until day break (until there is light at the end of the tunnel). The presence of the Lord signifies that something significant is about to happen. That is not the time to give up but it is the time to press into God and wrestle with him until we receive the blessing.

When we doggedly pray the will of God in all humility and surrender is when we will see results in our lives.

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If God is Good, Then Why Did He Banish Satan (Evil) to the Earth?

A few weeks ago, I met a lady who saw my cross and snickered. Soon enough, she asked if I was a believer or if my cross was just a fashion statement. When I told her I loved Jesus, she said to me “Well, I don’t believe in God”. When I asked why not, she said “I can’t believe in a Being that would allow Satan on earth. Tell me this, if God is good, then why allow Satan access to us in the first place”.

Good question I said. It seems that you know something of God. Yes, she said. I was raised church but I have now moved beyond all that. I don’t believe in God anymore. I asked if she would give me a shot at an answer. She said I would be wasting my time. I told her I would anyway.

Below is the gist of what I discussed with her (It is included in the book: No Victory Without Faith)

Though the Bible does not explicitly say, it is not far-fetched to believe that Satan’s unhappiness with God reached a crescendo when God decided to create man in His image and made him the ruler of the earth. Satan, who was never satisfied with leading a third of the angels of heaven, but was hungry for more power and was tempted to overthrow God, looked at the earth with longing eyes as God made it.

He must have said to himself, “Finally, I am going to get a place to call my own and rule over. I am now going to be like God. It is about time God came to His senses. He knows I have been eyeing His throne and He has surely seen it. So He has decided to create the earth and give it to me. Finally, I will have my own place!

Satan so wanted the earth that he had earlier tried to kill the child that was born to rule all the hosts of the earth beforehand (Revelations 12:4).

Now that the earth was being formed by the Word of God, he was sure that his time had come! When Satan heard that man was being made in the image of God – the image of love, faith, and authority – enough was enough. He must have said to his belligerent self,

Is it not enough that I have to serve God, now I have to serve man? Why should I have to serve a being that was created after me? He does not care about me at all. Why not just place me and my angels on the earth to rule? Why not give me what He knows I want?

Satan was outraged! So he (who is called the accuser of the brethren) approached the throne of grace and brought an accusation against God. He gave God a piece of his and accused Him of being unjust and uncaring. Of course, God knew the character of Satan and knew the content of his dead heart. In turn, Satan in his blind ambition thought he was making a good case to God. In truth, all he did was reveal the extent to which pride and greed had consumed him. He revealed that he had no ounce of love but was filled with evil. (Note: Evil sacrifices all things to achieve its self-seeking end). God could and would not allow such a creature to have dominion. For God to have allowed that would have made God unloving. Furthermore, the end of such a rule would be pandemonium for the creatures subjected to Satan’s rule.

Since God is holy and without blemish, Satan was no longer fit to live in the presence of God – once the iniquity of pride, greed, and self-seeking was found in him (see Ezekiel 28:14- 17). After this episode, God had to do something with Satan. Being merciful, God decided not to destroy Satan and his co conspirators (a third of the angels of heaven) – the price that his iniquity deserved. Instead, He decided in His goodness to banish Satan and his gang to the earth!

In making this decision, God executed both justice and mercy at the same time. First, He was loving and merciful in that He did not destroy Satan (His own creation). Wow! That God would show even Satan mercy reveals how big God’s heart is towards all creation. Second, He was just in that He punished Satan by banishing him to the earth – away from His presence.

Now, He not only banished him away from His presence, He banished him into the presence of man. Since man had been given rulership and dominion over all things on earth, God in effect made Satan subject to the rule of man.

“I cast you to the ground (earth), I laid you before kings (men), That they might behold (see, discern, take heed of) you” – Ezekiel 28:17b

In other words, God said to Satan, “I see that you do not like Me because I created man. I also see that you do not like man because he is created in My image. Well, you will now be subjected to the rule of the creation that you revile so much for absolutely no reason. I will not mete out the destroy your sin deserves just yet. You do not like My rule you say! Well, I will let man rule over you!

Instead of counting his lucky stars and thanking God for sparing him from destruction, Satan exploded with anger. Instead of accepting God’s judgment, he started a war in heaven and tried to force his way into power. Thankfully, Michael and his host of angels were able to defeat Satan and his gang (see Revelations 12:7:8). So Satan was booted out of heaven kicking and screaming! He landed on the earth having great anger towards both God and man (see Revelations 12:12).

So why did God banish Satan to the earth? He did it to punish Satan stripping him of his former glory and to subject him to the rule of the creation he hated so much.

She said she had not heard that before. Long story short, we proceeded to talk about this blog and she said she would visit. I hope she is finding answers. I hope I planted a seed on good ground that day.

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10 Surefire Ways to Get Yourself Depressed – Part II

Part I of this blog discusses how living in Disguise, having a sense of Entitlement, foolish Pride, Rebellion against the truth, and Envy promote depression in our lives. Another 3 character traits that tend to alienate us and promote depression are as follows.

(6) SELFISHNESS: Selfishness makes it “all about us”. It is trait that comes out us when we operate out of fear and greed. Society has done a great job hiding this trait under a rug of vernacular. Instead of saying we are only thinking of ourselves, we say that we are acting independently. Instead of admitting that we looking out only for our own self-interest, we say that we are looking our for our own security.

Good relationships require give and take. With selfishness, there is no giving…there is only taking. This is why selfishness never results in happiness.

Nothing breaks that cycle of selfishness more than engaging in giving and serving others – especially when the person does not deserve it. Just try it today, go over to someone who does not deserve something and make their day. Watch the smile on their face; watch joy fill their heart as you tell them there is no catch. In truth, when we engage in ‘catch-less’ giving, we receive more than we bargain for. There is something about selflessness that fills us up with joy and happiness. Thus while selfishness sucks the life out of us, selflessness rewards us with the gift of life. So ask yourself how you can make someone’s day today. Then be intentional to make it happen.

If you do not believe me, then believe the wisest man who ever lived. Jesus said: Give and it shall be given unto you. If you want love and happiness in your life, give love and happiness.

(7) STUBBORNNESS: The difference between determination and stubbornness is the state of the heart from which the action comes. While determination is born out of good heart, stubbornness is born out of an evil heart. While determination is positive, stubbornness is negative.  Stubbornness is what makes us dig our heels in – sticking for things we know are not right. Stubbornness is what causes us to never admit our wrongdoing or our wrong ways of thinking.

Setting a wall up against the will of God , moving against his spiritual laws, and not admitting when we are wrong are surefire ways to be depressed. Just ask Judas Iscariot. He stubbornly set himself against Jesus even after it was clear to him that Jesus knew he going to betray him. The result: His ensuing deep anxiety and remorse led him to hang himself. Other stubborn guys we know of are Pharaoh of Egypt, King Saul, and Jonah. They all suffered for it.

Lets not be like all  these guys who suffered deep anxiety.  Let us not hang our joy and happiness on a tree. Let us be determined to do what is right and let us be quick to turn towards what is good. We ought to accept being called a flip-flopper and do what is right than be known as a resolute people who steadfastly drove their lives off into the gorge of remorse and anxiety just because they were trying to save their image.

To win yourself off stubbornness, remind yourself that you do not have to be right all the time.

(8) INSOLENCE: Being loud, rude, and otherwise obnoxious wins us no favors in life. In fact, it tends to alienate us from peaceable people in the society. It causes unnecessary dissension and strife.

Since birds of a feather flock together, it is highly unusual to find insolent people walking around with peaceful people. At some point, insolent people will be rude to one another and take offense. Hence, the end result of insolence is that we miss out on the joy our relationships should bring us. That in itself can cause us a deep sense of anxiety as the people we love to get out of dodge for their own peace of mind.

In other words, it is difficult for people to love you for you if you are rude, crude, loud, and obnoxious. If they do, they would rather love you for you at a distance. Thus, it will be difficult for you to walk in fellowship with others when you are insolent. Once fellowship is removed, watch out. You are prime candidate for negative thoughts and the other tricks of Satan. Don’t I say “I don’t need anybody”. Everybody needs somebody.

Friend, lets us remember that we are to exhort and speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:19). Only then will we have positive and meaningful fellowship with one another.

 

 

 

 

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