7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one
1 John 4:7-11
Love may translate into a feeling but it so much more than that. It is a daily choice to get closer to God and then live out our lives as he instructs.
Love is from God
Love is instruction
Love is a Covenant
Love is a supply line
Love is a source of strength
Love is an antidote or cure for fear
Love is a measure for our walk
Love triumphs over darkness
Love is a place of rest
Love is not earned
Love is accepted
Love is intentional
Do you understand who you are?
You are the beloved of God, the apple of His eye, a city on a hill that cannot be hidden, a chosen one, a king, a priest. You are loved by God and that is enough.
In a previous piece, The Essence of Faithfulness, Ruth’s life taught us that we all receive a gift that we must work on faithfully and bear fruit to attain our calling and assignment on earth. Faithfulness is foundational because it attracts the resources needed for the assigned task, weaves in the connections needed to live and thrive, and provides stability to our walk.
We are created for community life thus we thrive through faithfulness to the call and consistent communication. Communication is the impartation or exchange of information through a medium, which can be written, spoken, or in any other form. Effective communication is designed around the needs of the recipients and listeners so that they can truly connect to and interpret what the speaker is saying.
For this conversation, we will explore three levels of essential communication.
God: I used to see God as the guy sitting up there waiting to hit me on the head for everything I did that he did not like. I have since learned that he isn’t like that at all. He is the creator of the universe, Father, and lover of all. He is our source, strong tower, shield, and defence. He loves us and is always speaking words of life to us with the hope that we will listen and then guide us. His words do not return to him void but accomplish all He determined they would (Isaiah 55:11).
He does not withhold from us but provides ways to connect to us. I searched high and low for the perfect way to connect with God. In the search, I found there are several ways to reach him. We connect to God through prayer, the Scripture, the spoken word from his servants, His promises (the ones He has given you as part of your journey), and His blueprint. When God gives us a word, he supports it with a plan and people to bring it to work, His Blueprint. Our conversations with God are a response to his love.
Self: We are all created in God’s image and likeness: his beloved. However, do we understand what that means? Do we see ourselves as worthy of his love and love ourselves fully? Do we accept ourselves as we are? How do we speak to ourselves?
I am reminded of Proverbs 23:7, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” This reality is foundational for every person on earth. We all speak to ourselves based on how we perceive ourselves. We respond to the image in the mirror based on our inner truth. However, is it aligned with whom God says we are and are becoming?
If we are negative to ourselves, we will speak negatively and out of line for our calling. To be faithful to God’s call on our lives means we must be true to how we deal without ourselves. Be faithful to the word of God for who you are and speak to yourself in the right tone; full of love.
Others: Scripture tells us to love others as we love ourselves (Matthew 12:31). This means that I cannot be faithful to a friendship with someone else if I am not faithful to my relationship with myself and God. My relationships will be unstable if we are not communicating well with others. How I engage with others is frequently premised on my personal self-awareness and self-confidence levels.
Which of the three levels of communication do you find challenging? Are you in good stead in all of them or is there one that is a struggle? I have learned that I can only work on what I acknowledge. My previous poor self-communication had significantly affected how I spoke to myself and in turn, impacted how I expected people to deal with and treat me. I choose to work on communication in my journey to consistent faithfulness.
Essence means the inherent nature or indispensable quality of something abstract or a concentrated extract. It is the thing that determines character. Faith means trust and devotion while faithful is remaining true to the fact, to be loyal and steadfast. A faithful person is the opposite of a traitor. Faithfulness is an action word and the quality of being faithful and keeping true to your word. It also means following through on your commitment,
One depiction of faithfulness is Ruth in Ruth 1:11-17.
Can you imagine getting married and your spouse passing on then your mother-in-law going back to her home? She asks you to remain but you choose to go with her no matter what. Ruth in the bible really intrigues me because I don’t know if I would have been that way. It is hard enough for many of us to leave things that are familiar but what would it be to uproot yourself completely?
A couple of things catch my attention:
She had and lost: the loss did not taint her sense of life. I imagine she still loved life and particularly her mother-in-law. What kind of relationship did they have? How had they cultivated it? Where did they deepen it? How did she maintain her inner sense of balance?
She chose to remain: Naomi begged her to go back to her family but she said no. I can imagine that as they walked or travelled Naomi would keep asking her to go back but she was steadfast. How did that certainty remain? What did she know that kept her with Naomi? I remember Naomi telling her that she could not give her a husband yet Ruth remained. Ah! This woman.
She listened to and followed instructions: Ruth had no knowledge of how to be a good Israelite woman. How could she, a Moabitess, know? So she listened and followed everything Naomi told her to do. I also imagine that she watched Naomi’s interactions with others, and listened in on conversations and prayer times. She was on track right down to the evening visit to the harvest fields to see Boaz.
How many of us would be so diligent in such challenging situations? Would you even think about it? What I find interesting is the seeming simplicity of her life even with very challenging circumstances. Remember they were two daughters-in-law and Orpah went back. Please note, there is nothing wrong with her going back. It is what made sense to her. Yet Ruth chose a different path because she knew in her hearts of heart that her path was aligned with Naomi and she would not let go.
Each of us has that kind of calling. There are people who are integral to our coming of age and reaching impact. In recent years, I have encountered several of my integral people and it has been transformative. They have spoken over me and challenged me to keep growing but it has also shown me a few things.
I RECEIVED a gift from God: it was inputted into me before my birth and it is designed to make my life journey successful. So do you!
I must WORK on and with the gift: the work includes understanding, using, creating room for others and growing through the process. So must you!
I must BEAR FRUIT: the proof of my life and gift is in the lives transformed; that is my fruit. A tree without fruit is either cut down or ignored so imagine a life that does the same. I must bring forth and so must you.
The only way to do this is to remain faithful to the call of God. I have a choice to remain faithful or not and I have learnt that being faithful to the cause is all that matters to me today. The essence of faithfulness is the CHOICE to remain true to who I am, what I know and who I am called to be.
We have developed unhealthy independence by being bullied into not asking for help. In life, it links to pride, fear, arrogance, and shame. It is a learned and reinforced behaviour that can become a stronghold if not attended. This behaviour is accepted because it is a cultural response popularised over time.
Conversations around me opened a chasm of clarity for me. I have been severely independent since my childhood right into adulthood. I had been unable to ask for help for so long despite knowing I needed help to break out of where I was. It took a major crisis in my life to bring my unhealthy independence to the surface and forced me to deal.
Things changed through a conversation when one of my leaders shared how they learned to ask. Asking makes us better, not less than the next person. When we ask for help, the response is never guaranteed and sometimes discouraging beyond belief. Anyone could say yes or no, ignore the ask or castigate the request. We do not have control over anyone’s response. The bottom line, I learnt that asking is an avenue to grow.
I had to ask for help shortly after that conversation; I couldn’t help the trepidation I felt because I was afraid of rejection. Since I couldn’t deny the need, I gathered my wits and asked. This time my internal response was different because I understood a few things:
No one is obligated to listen to me.
It isn’t mandatory for anyone to give.
I am not less of a person if I need help.
The instruction to ask does not mean that the person asked will give.
Learning to ask for help changed me significantly. Everyone read the message, thought about it, tried to help, and communicated back to me.
It broke the SHAME associated with it.
It turned my eyes to good so clearly that I didn’t get disappointed.
It allowed God to prompt others to hear, grow and help.
It taught me to TRUST God and his power because He is ALL powerful, wise, gracious, good, loving, and present.
A good response must be to overcome the shame, unlearn some things and learn new things. I must grow into several things:
Forgiveness: This is the conscious and deliberate choice to let go of hurt, resentment, or vengeance toward those who have harmed you. It is extended to people whether they repent or not or whether they deserve forgiveness or not. Forgiveness is a divine instruction that connects me to personal freedom and will enable us to counter unhealthy independence.
Compassion: when you have known lack, you are gentler with people and more understanding. Paul made this clear in Philippians 4 when he talked about having much and nothing in turn. It reminded him that his strength is in Christ; that is enough. It made his heart softer and warmer for people leading to a more fulfilled life.
Respond: when you have known lack, it is easy to see and resonate with the hurt of others and meet their needs. It is easier to answer the call for help and not be frustrated when people do not respond to you.
Learning to ask makes your life simpler and richer every day. Do not avoid it; embrace it daily.
He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.”
3 Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the [a]fowler And from the perilous pestilence. 4 He shall cover you with His feathers, And under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and [b]buckler. 5 You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, Nor of the arrow that flies by day, 6 Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday.
7 A thousand may fall at your side, And ten thousand at your right hand; But it shall not come near you. 8 Only with your eyes shall you look, And see the reward of the wicked.
9 Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge, Even the Most High, your dwelling place, 10 No evil shall befall you, Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling; 11 For He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you in all your ways. 12 In their hands they shall [c]bear you up, Lest you [d]dash your foot against a stone. 13 You shall tread upon the lion and the cobra, The young lion and the serpent you shall trample underfoot.
14 “Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will [e]set him on high, because he has known My name. 15 He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him. 16 With [f]long life I will satisfy him, And show him My salvation.”
God has built need into life: for our supply is in Him ~ Rev Tom Otieno.
We are in some of the most challenging times we have ever seen in our generation. I saw my parents navigate hard times and always sort it out. However, we are now in the front seat.
I learned early not to ask for help and to make do with what I had. I heard that it is honourable to suffer through things and persevere. We get applauded as strong when we do not ask for help. In fact, the less we need support, the stronger we are thought to be. Eventually, we lose the ability to ask for help and the capacity to respond to requests. In time we create unhealthy independence and pride that is detrimental in the long run.
We are shamed, castigated, or bullied for failing to meet our needs or asking for help. We appear weak if we can not do something or meet society’s standards because asking for help more than once is frowned on. Seeing people shamed or bullied because of asking for help has led to fear that keeps us silent. So, we learn to hold back and find ways to cope in silence and struggle.
God is my source, supply chain and the holder of the access keys to all resources. God allocates how said resources get to me and works through men. When I do not or cannot ask for help, my supply or access to resources is restricted.
I must learn to ask God for direction on the season and supply, be patient to ask how I will access the provision and who is the supply line. For instance, if I need to talk to the head of a large corporation, I need to speak to the office to book the appointment. I would also need favour with the personal or executive assistant to get time in the schedule and finally show up ahead of time and engage well during the meeting.
I am not saying we depend on people and ask them all the time; no! The truth is, I must be conscious that God speaks a word and then works through people. I must listen carefully to what he is saying.
I previously wrote about being out of line with my spiritual leader. If you missed it, be sure to read about submission or stubbornness. I could console myself that though I was out of line, it was mostly ever so slightly. Yet out of line, no matter how little is out of line and I needed to recalibrate and realign.
Realignment is not as simple as I expected it to be. I thought I would pray and get over it, but alas! It was so much more. God led me on a journey that brought all my pride and self-importance to the surface and then crumbled it one piece at a time. He exposed my sense of self and unveiled the ugliness underneath it. He uncovered the deep hurt and fear that made me build walls and showed it up for what it was: hiding.
How could I hide these things from myself for so long?
The unveiling of myself was somewhat painful but not hard. Realigning was the challenge. I had to acknowledge that distraction had moved me away from my assigned path. I was so used to my leader that I had forgotten how to listen, respect and honour him.
In teaching, Apostle Selman explained that we are all multi-dimensional. We receive grace from people based on the dimensions of their lives we acknowledge and how we interact with them. So if I see my lead as a friend, I only receive friendship and friendly advice. If only a brother or sister, that is what I receive. If I see them as a prophet or priest and engage with that dimension, I will partake in the prophetic and priestly. However, to fully receive all that is mine, I must understand how God views them and their assignment and respond appropriately.
Ah! Indeed I was off track because I had become lax in my dealings.
I expected my lead to understand when I did not show up as if I was showing up for him. I expected him to check on me and pray for me always. I expected others in the team to understand when I did not participate fully. I forgot to pray for him and the work he does. I missed learning opportunities because I had heard him speak so often that I was less engaged when he repeated teachings.
My first port of realignment should have been the knowledge that God assigned me to His servant and work. I needed to reconnect to why God attached me to this particular leader. My behaviour was a great reflection of my relationship with God: a mirror of the importance I had given Him. My inconsistency and flippancy said a lot more about my walk of faith than I could imagine.
The only remedy was total recalibration.
I asked God for sight, healing and restoration, pleaded for mercy and grace; I sought a pathway back to wholeness. God graciously gave them all to me. However, the work was still incomplete without an apology to my leader. It did not matter that I was one of the more consistent ones. It did not matter that he was not upset or frustrated with me. It only mattered that God had shown me my error that I had to correct.
The apology brought me to my knees, head bowed by the weight of my actions. I had a clear picture of my faults and those of the team. I could see how our actions had short-changed many of us. Only God can understand what I saw that day and the weight of it. I understood how important honouring God’s servant appointed to lead us is.
Honour is a door to dimensions we would otherwise not know. It is the foundation of growth in all aspects of life and the key to revelation and insight. Honour cannot be traded or demanded. Honour is purely by the revelation of who the person is and what they represent in God. Honour is about obedience to divine instruction and not manipulation to get a blessing.
Honour bears rich and valuable fruit.
I received a verbal blessing for realigning, a lighter spirit and peace in the depths of my soul. Certain things that weighed me down and confounded me shifted. Major decisions I had made but could not keep became possible. My eyes opened, my ears popped, my mind connected to concepts then my hands produced good work. Now it was clear that the sense of stagnation I had was partly because of where my heart and mind had been. There are dimensions I could not rise into when I had dishonoured or been lax with the servants of God.
Do not be like me and live so flippantly that you miss your divine reality.
My change has come as I have learned to believe the word of God fully. The shift has settled as I have begun to see my leaders for who they are in God’s sight. I have become watchful of the leads I serve and now understand the truth of who they are. I have changed how I interact with my leaders. The measure of grace I receive from them has also changed.
Sometimes we wonder why things are not working. Doors to opportunities remain shut while the promises we are waiting for remain unmet. Has something in this article challenged you? Good! Now have a conversation with God; ask Him to show you the state of your heart, what is off track and how to turn it around.
If you have read my blog for a while, you know conversations are the trigger I need to create the right words. To the new readers, welcome to partake in a tasty banquet of honest conversations. This space is about learning and revelation because none knows everything; we learn something new daily.
I have been talking about submission and will likely keep circling back here a lot over the next few months as I continue to learn about it.
Today let us discuss submission to authority. Submission is a conscious choice to live in and under the leadership of another. It is about obedience and commitment, a deep trusting connection directly related to love and a decision.
Recently as I listened to a teaching, a new dimension of submission came to the fore. When God calls us to submit, let us must remember it is to all authority around us, including the spiritual covering us. Our spiritual leader is the person who guides us in our walk with God even though we do most of the work.
An effective spiritual authority does not lord things over us or demand obedience. They know who they are, who God has sent to them and what each one needs. They are prayerful, faithful to and diligent in the Word. They only have a word for those actively seeking God and can discern the truth in each situation. They are not manipulative because they are confident in God’s power and ability to change people without their help.
A friend asked me how well I knew my spiritual authority.
He shared how God had been speaking to him about respecting and submitting to authority and what he learnt shocked him. It was clear to him that we needed to change our dealings with our lead. We needed to connect, submit, honour and work with the appointed servant of God so that our lives work out well. We needed to consult God about the connections and preserve them as instructed.
Think of Elisha and Elijah. Elisha wasn’t the only prophet in the land, yet he was the one called to support Elijah. He quickly answered, connected to the calling to serve, left his home and everything he knew and followed Elijah. It was not an easy decision to follow diligently; Elisha was faithful. In the end, he received a double portion of the anointing. He appropriately extended the work of God and honoured Him with his life.
I have to admit I hadn’t asked God about my lead recently. I knew him but hadn’t even considered that I could be out of line or that I needed to go deeper. I had assumed that since I was serving, all was still well. Alas, it was not so. All was not well. You can imagine the questions that started running through my mind about my lead:
Who is this man in God?
What does he carry that I am assigned to support?
How must I support the work?
How often must I be available?
What about his anointing and ordination that my life extends or multiplies?
Have I honoured him as God would have me do?
Am I genuinely and willingly submitting?
Is my submission half-hearted?
Have I been faithful to the assignment God has given me?
Sadly, in most cases, I had been lacklustre and half-hearted.
I could console myself that though I was out of line, it was mostly ever so slightly. Yet out of line, no matter how little is out of line and I needed to recalibrate and realign. Contrary to my expectations, it was a journey that brought all my pride to the surface and then crumbled it one piece at a time.