Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Dive Into Life

I want you to know, dear brothers and sisters, that I planned many times to visit you, but I was prevented until now. I want to work among you and see spiritual fruit, just as I have seen among other Gentiles. (Romans 1:13 NLT)

John Wesley, the great evangelist and founder of the Methodist church, in his lifetime, traveled over 250,000 miles on horseback preaching, an average of 20 miles a day for 40 years; preached 40,000 sermons ; produced 400 books; and understood 10 languages. At age 83, he was unhappy that he couldn't write more than 15 hours a day without hurting his eyes, and at age 86 he was ashamed he could not preach more than twice a day. He lamented in his journal that he had an increasing tendency to lie in bed until 5:30 in the morning. Then, he had woken up four o'clock in the morning for the past 50 years and had preached at 5 o'clock in the morning for the past 60 years. He went about his work methodically, organizing his groups into societies, classes, connections and circuits etc. Wesley was a proactive hard worker. He did not stand at the edge of life looking in but he dived into it completely. No wonder he made so much difference in his lifetime and left a legacy that still endures today.

In our text today, Paul exemplifies similar proactivity in God's assignment. He spoke of his plans to see the Romans many times in the past and how he had been hindered but he never relented. He spoke of his desire to work among the Roman Christians in order to see spiritual fruit as he had seen everywhere. Paul did not give excuses saying he was waiting on God to lead him. From the time God opened his blinded eyes, he began to preach the gospel. This paints the picture of a man, who like Wesley, took his assignment from God seriously, throwing himself fully into it proactively. Paul also dived into life.

It has been said that there are three kinds of people: those who make things happen, those who watch what happens, and those who wonder what happened. The proactive person is in the first category, they make things happen. Proactivity is the character quality of controlling a situation by causing something to happen rather than waiting to respond. This is what Paul and Wesley possessed and it is something everyone has the potential to demonstrate, including you.

Are you taking full possession of your days? Are you one of those Christians who procrastinate or laze around, giving the "waiting on God" excuse? Do you at least have some plans in place for your days (even if God might adjust, discard, replace or defer your plans)? Paul kept moving and sometimes God had to forbid him from going to certain places he had planned to go, readjusting his plans (see Acts 16:6). Someone has said that it is easier to steer a moving vehicle than a stationary one. When you become proactive, obeying God's written instructions to "go" he will guide you by his Spirit. Make up your mind today to become proactive. Take up those things you have delayed and procrastinated. Don't stand at the edge. Dive into life fully and maximize your it like Wesley and Paul did.

Decision of the Day

I will dive into life. I will not hedge or slumber. I am going to be proactive about God's assignment for my life.

Pictures: Hat tip to google images.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Windows of Opportunity

Now Joshua had commanded the people, saying, “You shall not shout or make any noise with your voice, nor shall a word proceed out of your mouth, until the day I say to you, ‘Shout!’ Then you shall shout.” (Joshua 6:10 NKJV)

There is a proper window of time to do certain things in order to get maximized results. If a farmer plants grains of corn and goes the third day looking for his harvest, he would only be met with disappointment. He has to wait a few months for the proper time of harvest. Now if the crop ripens and he delays to harvest them at the right time, they will be destroyed in the field and he would have wasted his effort at planting. Now imagine the same farmer, not planting during the planting season but waiting up until harvest season to plant. The same fate would befall the seeds as in the formal scenarios. This underscores the fact that some time calls for delayed action while others call for you to strike while the iron is hot. You have to be discerning to know which is which.

In the text, Joshua told the children of Israel to delay shouting until a particular time, the seventh day, after the seventh march round the walls, when the window of time for shouting will be ripe according to God's instruction. Shouting before or after this window of time would not bring the wall down.

There is a time for everything. Every purpose has a time when it must be carried out. For your life, there are steps to be taken now and others to be taken later. There is a divine sequence of things and there are windows of opportunity that open from time to time which when missed because of insensitivity can add complications and delays to life. You don't want to dig up your seed just after planting and you surely don't want to let them rot because you missed the harvest time.

It was said of the tribe of Issachar that they "... understood the signs of the times and knew the best course for Israel to take." (1 Chronicles 12:32 NLT). This ability to discern the proper times for the steps you need to take in life is available to you too through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. He has come to guide you into all truth for your life including the truth of times and seasons. He can help you know when you ought to move and when you ought to stay put; when you need to wait and when you need to act immediately; when you need to be quiet and when you need to shout. He can help you properly discern the timings of God for the needed steps and events of your life. He can order your steps.

Why not ask him today to teach you discernment, and when he leads, follow him. Don't run ahead or lag too far behind. Walk in tune with his timing. Shout when it's shouting time.

Decision of the day

I will pray to God constantly for discernment to know the proper time of things in my life. I will be accurate in timing.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Your Obstacles Aren't Dead-Ends

So on the second day they marched around the city once and returned to the camp. They did this for six days. On the seventh day, they got up at daybreak and marched around the city seven times in the same manner, except that on that day they circled the city seven times. The seventh time around, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded the army, “Shout! For the Lord has given you the city! When the trumpets sounded, the army shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the men gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so everyone charged straight in, and they took the city. (Joshua 6:14-16, 20 NIV)

Defensive walls were built around ancient cities to keep invading armies away, to regulate commerce and for other activities such as a meeting place city elders . The walls built by the Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks and even the famous Great Wall of China are examples of this. These walls are massive masonry structures. For example, the walls surrounding Jericho, one of the most ancient cities of the world, now part of the of West Bank area in Israel, was composed of two structures, an outer and inner wall. The outer wall was about 6ft thick and 20ft high while the inner wall about 12ft thick and 30ft high. A guarded walkway about 15 feet wide was between the walls. It is said that the walls were so thick that six chariots could race side-by -side on it. Homes were even built along the wall.

In other words, the walls of Jericho were towering intimidating obstacles. They were practically impenetrable by Israel. While Israel's dream, the promised land, lay on the other side of the walls, enclosed. It looked unreachable because of the daunting walls. It appeared that they had reached a dead-end.

However, with God, there are no dead-ends. If he has promised something, no towering obstacle can stop you from entering it when you act on his word. It doesn't matter if the obstacle is a Red Sea, an overflowing Jordan River, a towering wall, opposing giants or a huge mountain. God can make a way to the place he promised you even if it means tumbling down obstacles.

Are you facing an obstacle that looks like a dead-end right now on your path? Do you feel like your God-given vision is enclosed in thick insurmountable walls. A lost one you want God to deliver? A lost community you are burdened about? A mound of insurmountable debt? A sickness? A huge project that intimidates? An endeavor that makes you feel inadequate? The same God that crumbled Jericho's walls is your God and he hasn't changed bit. He's still the mountain-mover, the wall-breaker and the sea-parter. He is the way-maker. Your obstacles aren't dead- ends. There is a path forward in God. Obstacles are opportunities for miracles. Follow Joshua's example. Get an inspired instruction from him regarding the seeming dead-end, and if he tells you to do something foolish like marching, shouting or dancing. Better get cracking because that will be the only way to get the walls cracking.

Decision of the Day

God still brings down walls. I will not see the obstacle on my path as a dead-end but as an opportunity for God to work a way-making miracle

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

If God Tells You to Go Around in Boring Circles It is Never a Waste of Time

So on the second day they marched around the city once and returned to the camp. They did this for six days. On the seventh day, they got up at daybreak and marched around the city seven times in the same manner, except that on that day they circled the city seven times. The seventh time around, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded the army, “Shout! For the Lord has given you the city! When the trumpets sounded, the army shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the men gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so everyone charged straight in, and they took the city. (Joshua 6:14-16, 20 NIV)

A circle is a round, never-ending, no-edge, always-the-same-appearing-from-every- point, continuous geometrical shape. It is a perfect illustration of a repeated boring routine. It is so boring that "going around in circles" is a common idiom for expending plenty of time and effort trying to do something, without making any measurable progress; to have much activity without achievement. To "run around in circles" is to waste one's time in aimless activities. To "talk in circles" is to talk in a confusing manner, speaking without making a point. A "vicious circle" is a problem situation that leads to another problem which then leads to the first problem again and loops on an on without solution. Circling something over and over is illustrative of the height of aimless boredom.

Yet this was the victory strategy God gave Joshua for bringing down the massive walls of Jericho and taking the city. Isreal was to circle the wall for seven days and on the seventh day seven times. This could have even been a more interesting experience if they had been allowed to interact, maybe sing some songs or carry on conversations with fellow circlers those seven days. They were to do it silently without a sound until the last circle. It was boring routine. Yet it was the way God chose to show his power on their behalf.

Have you noticed that God does many miraculous things by giving people repetitive boring things to do. He told Naaman to dip in the Jordan seven times to be healed of his leprosy. Israel had to gather the manna day by day routinely for forty years. Leftovers were not allowed. Moses went about routinely in the Sinai wilderness for forty years keeping his father-in-laws sheep not knowing that the same routes and tracks he learned by routine would be the same he would take God's people through later. The widow woman was to borrow vessels from neighbors and fill each one one by one. When Jesus wanted to provide wine, the people had to pour water repeatedly into the jars to fill them. Even the bread and fishes had to be broken and shared to a multitude one by one, and in the process, they multiplied. It seems many times that the formula for miracles was, Boring Routine + God's Power = Miracles. Routine was repeatedly combined with God's power to produce amazing acts of God.

Are you currently doing something God instructed you to do that has become boring routine? Do you feel you are going in circles staying in obedience to God? Are you having to repeat the same boring things over and over everyday-praying everyday for a loved one without noticeable change; praising God incessantly day-by-day, while nothing bulges; going about your God-given assignment faithfully to the point of boredom? Do you have to write daily, preach weekly, study repeatedly, search for prospects, make calls, volunteer, practice your skills etc and yet it seems you are only making circles? Be encouraged. Always remember, if God tells you to go in circles, it is never a waste of time. It is preparation for something great about to happen in your life. Keep circling. The victory is coming. The boring will become the exciting. Though you may not see it, the wall is already cracking from within and soon the circle will become a straight line into your God-promised city.

Decision of the Day

I will do what God says to do even if it feels like going in circles. I will use routines to my advantage

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Sometimes We All Need Cheerleaders

When we get together, I want to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours. (Romans 1:12 NLT)

A child was trapped in the fourth story of a burning house. The child came to the window and began to cry out for help as the flames engulfed the building. A fireman got on the fire escape ladder to climb to where the child was in order to rescue the child. As he climbed, the winds blew the flames to where it was making it unbearably hot and dangerous to keep climbing. He hesitated and thought of retreating from this dangerous mission.

Down below, a crowd of people had gathered. As they saw the fireman hesitating, their hearts melted at the thought of the child perishing in the fire if the fireman couldn't reach him. Then someone in the crowd began to cheer. Soon everyone in the crowd began cheering on the fireman. As cheer after cheer went up, the fireman suddenly gathered up courage, climbed through the dangerous fire, engulfed in smoke and got the child down to safety. In a situation that could have turned disastrous, cheers made a difference.

Sometimes the life of faith can seem like climbing a fire escape ladder while the house is burning. You have a worthy goal but the way up there is treacherous. So you hesitate and may even get discouraged to the point of despair. At such times when you are really tempted to quit and pack it all up, a little cheer can make a whole lot of difference. There is something about well-timed encouragement that can suddenly put the springs back to your steps and rearrange the stars that have fallen of your sky. A cheer can put you back in the game of faith.

No matter how self-motivated and independent we are, we all need the cheers of others sometimes. Even Jesus, at the Garden of Gethsemane needed his friends to stand with him at his darkest hour of trials. In our text, Paul shows us the fountain from which such encouragement of faith flows in the words: " When we get together..." Mutual encouragement takes place in fellowship with others. A great company of faith- filled friends is a necessity in the faith walk. Think of the following. Is it possible that the four Hebrew children thrown in the fiery furnace found it easier to stand their faith because they were four not just one? Would Esther have been able to confront the king had it not been for the encouragement of Mordecai? Peter and John went to their company after they had been beating for preaching the gospel. They joined hands to pray and everyone was cheered. Paul was despondent almost to the point of death until Titus arrived to cheer him up. How about the paralyzed man whose friends broke the roof down to get him to Jesus?

On and on we could go to demonstrate the power of mutual encouragement. As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend. (Proverbs 27:17 NLT). You need a cheering company too. You need to get together often with such friends. Sometimes at your most discouraging times, you are tempted to stay away from others but non- fellowship is like a poison that kills so slowly that you may not realize it. An animal out of the pack is easy prey for predators. Sometimes, it is strife and bitterness that keeps you isolated. Guard against that, bitterness makes your circle smaller and smaller until it be becomes a circle of one- you. That's dangerous. Find a company if you do not have one yet. If you do already, utilize it. Get together often even if it requires effort. Stay in touch with your company. Be a cheerleader of others and when its your turn, receive your own cheers gratefully.

Decision of the Day

I understand the power of mutual encouragement. I will utilize it in my faith walk. I will get together often with a company of people who I can cheer and whom can cheer me on in my walk of life.

Monday, July 8, 2013

A Faith Lesson from the African Impala

But the Lord said to Joshua, “I have given you Jericho, its king, and all its strong warriors. You and your fighting men should march around the town once a day for six days. Seven priests will walk ahead of the Ark, each carrying a ram’s horn. On the seventh day you are to march around the town seven times, with the priests blowing the horns. When you hear the priests give one long blast on the rams’ horns, have all the people shout as loud as they can. Then the walls of the town will collapse, and the people can charge straight into the town.” (Joshua 6:2-5 NLT)

It is a fact that the African impala can jump over 10 feet and at a jump cover a distance of over 30 feet. How possible is it then that these extremely versatile animals can be kept in a zoo with only a 3-foot tall wall surrounding them? Here's the explanation. The impala will not jump if they are unable to see the spot where their feet will land. So, even though they can jump several feet higher than the wall surrounding them in the zoo, they do not jump because the 3-foot wall obstructs their sight of the outside where freedom waits. Because they cannot see, they do not jump, even though they could. Hence they remain limited.

What an illustration of the order of faith. It is a popular saying that "seeing is believing." This is the wrong order. When it comes to faith in God, the believing and action comes before the seeing. In our text, we see the order of faith clearly spelt out by God. First is the provision. God said " I have given you..." He did not say, " I will give you..." It was a done deal. It was an accomplished fact. So, faith begins with God's gift. It originates from God's promise. Faith takes its roots from an accomplished provision of Grace.

Second in order is the practice. What God promised and provided by grace must always be followed by believing action by the recipient of the grace. Israel had to march around the city of Jericho even though it was already theirs by grace. Grace demands and deserves believing action. This is the way grace is appropriated. After action then comes the possession, when the thing provided by grace becomes the experience of the recipient.

See this order in salvation( the full package of all Jesus brought to earth):

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God"— (Ephesians 2:8 NIV)

First Grace planned, appeared, died, rose again and provided. Then we believe and act through grace, then the promise of Grace becomes a living reality in our lives. This is the order of Grace. God gives, you march and shout, the walls fall and then the city is yours. Don't wait to experience with your physical senses before you act on the word of God. Practice the word of Grace and then you will see. You do not want to be locked up like the impala for not jumping because you cannot see the landing spot. Take your eyes of the limiting walls of circumstances surrounding you because you have the capacity to soar by grace. If Grace has promised in his word, He has provided. Act and the walls will either be scaled or they will crumble like Jericho's.

Decision of the Day

I walk by faith and not by sight. I have things in the correct order. I do not see to believe but believe and see. I will act in faith on the provisions of Grace. The walls will crumble and I will possess the promise.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Two Dogs, Two Owners

And you are included among those Gentiles who have been called to belong to Jesus Christ. (Romans 1:6 NLT)

A parable. Two dogs each owned by two different masters have unique stories. Dog #1 was owned by a merciless and cruel master who frequently abused the dog, depriving it of food, leaving it to sleep out in the cold, neglecting to walk it or taking it in to the vets when it was sick. Dog #1 lived a miserable life. Eventually it died.

Dog #2 was lucky to be owned by a loving and compassionate king, who lived in a mansion (much like the White House), with many servants and children. The King ,his children and servants saw to it Dog #2 was well fed, cared for and exercised. It lived a happy life.

What do you think made a difference in the lives of the dogs? If you said "ownership" or "who they belonged to" you are right. Whoever a thing belongs to makes a whole lot of difference. Ownership determines care, use (or abuse) and quality of life.

Paul says you are called to belong to Christ. Christ then becomes your owner, which makes all the difference. Your quality of life then is hinged on the character of Christ your owner. You should know you are in good hands. Christ is more like the second master in our parable. He is not an abuser like the first who delights in beating you up and teaching you lessons by depriving you of life's necessities and then strikes you with a cancer for extra credit as some unknowingly declare him to be. He is a benevolent owner. A compassionate master and a wonderful care-taker.

You can relax in his ownership, trust that he's perfecting everything that concerns you today. Nothing in your life escapes his notice and care. Even the very hairs of your head are numbered. You focus on loving and obediently serving your owner, surrendering to his will. He'll take care of the rest.

Decision of the Day

I belong to Christ. My owner is good. My quality of life is determined by him. I will love and serve him and enjoy his benevolence and protection.