THE CHRISTIAN WALK

The Thorn


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Dear Lord,

You have been and continue to be the strength of my life and I don’t know how else to live. I have sought you and you have answered. In all honesty, the answers haven’t been the ones I have expected but in hindsight, they have been the best answers I ever received. Hindsight is 20:20.

Sitting at the feet of one of your sons I learnt something new…

“The Obstacles I meet are not designed for me to fight.” When I heard that I was stumped because I was raised to fight against things that stand in the way of my good. In that lesson, it struck me that I can only fight what God tells me to fight and often the things I must fight against are the things that are blocking my inheritance.
It was striking that You Lord have allowed the thorn in my flesh for a reason…yes there is a reason. You have allowed that thorn so that it can produce more of You in me. Very often, the thorn I’m fighting is needed for my inheritance and my coming out. I have the choice to settle for removal of the thorn and have physical satisfaction but lose the inheritance OR leave the thorn be and work with God for His plan. That way, the thorn produces the right fruit and once the right fruit is produced You bring relief.

The last few days, weeks and months have been really hard in regular perspectives but I have learnt to trust You are the best leader in the walk called life. The thing I was left saying was I want to get to the place of hope as described in Hebrews 6:17-20…

Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil.

This hope remains steady even when the thorn in my flesh is so painful, bothersome and doesn’t seem likely to be removed. When You said the thorn MUST produce more of You and only You can remove it, I begun to understand that to have the matters I want immediate resolution for settled ahead of Your time is to stall my process and hence stop me from producing fully mature fruit to Your glory. I also realized that the process is still on-going because the very thing that caused me such extreme pain only 6 days ago is now so clearly trigger to fully indicate where I am in my journey and allow me to course correct daily.

Now I begin to truly understand that nothing is by chance and any situation when seen through Your perspective can and does produce more of You daily. I stand amazed at Your love for me and Your determination that I produce ONLY YOU. The reality that You won’t judge my walk by how much property I have rather by how closely I walk with You, hit me right between the eyes. Even as I still have learning and growing ahead I press on knowing afresh that You are at work in me. You provide for my needs according to Your riches in glory, You never let me down, You open and close doors as would help me bring you out…You are God alone and I choose once again to seek You above all else and find the peace that is set in You.

It is done in Your Name.

THE CHRISTIAN WALK

Seek First


Diane, can I clarify something?

Sure!

You said that when you wanted to really walk in your calling, you prayed, asked God to speak to you and He came through?

Yes!

You also said that you realised He had never moved but you are the one who had walked away and fear and the need for control had built a thick walled bunker around you and confined you.

Yes.

How did you realise that?

What do you mean?

Well, what showed you that you had made the steps away and not God?

It was a series of things.

Like what?

Well, as I learnt to sit still and meditate on God’s word I realised that I had lost the connection I had in the past.

What do you mean?

Do you believe God created you for a very specific purpose that only you can fulfil?

Maybe!

Why maybe?

Well, we can’t always be 100% sure you know?

Remember we said earlier there is no maybe with God; it is either yes or no right?

Yes.

So I ask again, do you believe that we are all created for a very specific purpose?

Even though I am not sure I will say yes, for the purpose of this conversation.

How do you know?

It is the bible?

Where?

I don’t know…you read your bible and you will find it.

Hahahah….you crack me up. In Ps 139 and Jer 1, God tells David and Jeremiah respectively that he knew them before he created them in their mother’s belly; even before He knit them together His plan for them was ordained. Other examples where when He told Abraham that he would be the father of nations, David that he would be a king, Solomon that he would build the temple, Jeremiah that he was a prophet, the apostles that they would take the word to all the world and even Jesus that He would be the saviour of the world.

Yes I know that.

So, do you know why you are here on earth? Do you know that which God created you to be, do and become?

I am honestly not sure.

Why?

I believe that our spiritual authority should be the one to guide us where to plug in.

Why should they?

Well, they are the ones who really hear God.

Seriously?

Of course.

Why? Don’t you hear God yourself? Don’t you read His word? Can’t He speak to you?

He can, but He speaks more to the leaders in the churches.

Are you sure?

Well, doesn’t He?

Not really! God speaks to all of us in the same measure but we do not always believe that He does so we let others lord their relationship with Him over us.

Are you saying that I don’t need to have a spiritual authority?

No! I am saying that only God can confirm where you need to be planted and who should have the authority over you but He can only do so by speaking to you.

But church is where we are taught the word of God

The fellowship of the believers is the place God confirms the things He has told you or provides answers to what you have been asking Him and leads you into the place to true understanding. To confirm what He has already said to you means that there is another place where you are spending time with Him and hearing Him clearly. The fellowship of believers is not the place to develop clones of our leaders and to find funding for our projects.

What do you mean?

Each of us needs to cultivate our relationship with God such that it is deep and vibrant and we can each share of the good things God has taught us and shown us. We need to focus more on becoming like Christ and less on becoming like the people we hang out with. The best way to become like Christ is to spend time with and in Him.

So you mean listening to gospel music, reading the word, going for meetings, sharing our faith?

No, I mean spending time at the feet of God and in constant conversation with him about everything in your life. The things you have will be a part of the process but in a different combination from everyone else.

So you mean, talk to him about everything?

Sure!

Even the days people upset me and I just want to punch them?

Absolutely!

And the days when nothing makes sense and I am so lost?

Sure!

And the days when I am so happy I cannot contain it?

Definitely!

How will that change my life?

Well, when you spend time with Him, His desires become your desires and you pursue a deeper relationship with Him and in the end you are more connected and a better example of His word. You will learn to feel compassion for those around you, you will pray for people with greater understanding, you will know things and bring His kingdom to the earth with greater depth. I know for a fact that when God says He is looking for those who worship him in spirit and truth it is not about certain common behaviours and habits that are taught in church, rather it is all about a deeper relationship with God that will bear fruit that will be unmistakably Him.

How do I get there?

You spend time with Him and allow Him to strip you down and remove all things that will stand in His way and let His kingdom come to your life.

Now that is why I struggle with God.

Why?

When He starts stripping us down. I totally dislike it.

Why?

He leaves us a shadow of our former selves and we have to find new ways to deal with life.

Could it be that your former self is not who God created you to be and is a distraction or hinderance to His will?

How is that possible Diane?

It is possible because we are raised in systems and cultures that shape us from birth to behave, appear, respond and be a certain way. These cultures are even pushed by our churches as the way we do things based on denominational teaching and how the founding fathers set things up. Even as these things may not necessarily be bad, are they the things that important to God at this point in time?

Eish! Explain!

In the book of Acts, we meet Paul and the Apostles discussing the gentiles and whether or not they needed to adopt certain parts of Jewish culture to be considered full Christians. The resounding answer was no but it only came after they sought the face and word of the Lord. They agreed that God did not need us to subscribe to a certain culture or way of behaviour other than what He leads us to. This stands out because then it means that the criteria for a deep relationship with God is when we produce God in all we do rather than some outward behavioural patterns.

So you are saying that it is better to be walking with God and working through my issues one by one than exhibiting certain behaviours that I can learn.

Yes. However, don’t get me wrong; there are things God will demand of all of us to produce and walk in but there is no rule book that if you do not do the following things you are not a believer. The word is clear that if we believe in our hearts and confess with our mouth’s that Jesus is Lord then we are saved. The word also says that the followers of Christ will be known by their love and good fruit. We only produce fruit when we are connected to the vine and when we are connected to the vine then the fruit we produce is like the vine and not like a certain fellow human.

That is so dicey and so hard!

Not really!

Why do you say that?

Well, when we focus on ‘seeking first the kingdom and His righteousness…’ it all begins to fall into place. It becomes something that is from the inside out and the fruit is lasting and very effective in showcasing God and His work in our lives. It becomes obvious to us first and then others that something has happened and we have changed for the better. It has to start from within.

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Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you Matt 6:33

THE CHRISTIAN WALK

Stepping Away from Fear – 4


There are portions of scripture that don’t make sense to me anymore?

Why is that Joan?

Well, Jer 29:11 says, ‘I know the plans I have for you, plans for good and not for evil , to give you a future and a hope. Then look at life and its realities. So often there seems to be no way out and surely very little good if any in the struggle. 2 Tim 1:7 says ‘God has not given us a spirit of fear but of love, power and a sound mind.’ But here there is so much to be afraid of. So much death, lack, loss, uncertainty…it is so hard to understand all this in light of that scripture. Do these scriptures even make sense to you?

Yes they do.

How can that be Diane? Do you know what it means to have nothing and your children are waiting for you at home? Do you know what it means to trust God and He doesn’t come through?
Yes I know what it means to lack but I also know that God always comes through
Really? Always?
Absolutely
Well, maybe for you…I’m still waiting for him to sort me out. We have close to no food, I don’t have work to go to, I have fee balances due and no expected income, my relatives are unwell and expect support from me, the relatives who could help are busy gloating? I’ve lost hope…. Where is this God who comes through? Where is the God who provides all our needs according to HIS riches in glory? Where is the God who wishes good and not evil for me? The guide, healer, giver, grace, provision…. Where is He?
Right next to you!
Yeah, right! He’s nowhere near me!!!!

Are you sure?

Yes!!!

Absolutely sure about that?

Yes!!!

Let me ask a question

Shoot!

You are almost out of food right?

Yes!

So there’s food for today?

Yes.

Then give thanks for that.

And then?

Find the next thing to give thanks for.

Like what?

Do you have a roof over your heads?

Yes

Give thanks. Do you have clothes?

Yes.

Give thanks.

Do you have love?

Maybe

Give thanks.

Even for the maybe?

Sure… In everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

Everything?

Yes everything!

Even when it’s not enough?

Yes, even when it’s not enough.

Even when it’s not making sense?

Yes, even when it makes no sense.

Why?

Because it is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

What if I don’t want to?

You can choose not to but it may not really help you in the long run.

Why?

Is the fear, anger, questions, ranting etc helping you?

Maybe…

Yes or no?

No.

So why not try something new?

Fake it till I become it right?

No, absolutely not. It has to be speaking those things that are not as though they are.

Why?

It creates room for God to step in.

How?
He inhabits the praise of His people and He is looking for those who will Worship Him in spirit and truth.

How does that connect to my situation?

If you really trust Him then you’ll know that you can count on Him no matter what and all things will work out for your good according to His purpose and plan.

Maybe.

There’s no maybe with God… It’s either we trust Him or we don’t.

I can’t just trust Him on one thing and doubt Him on another?

How would that work? What if your friend or someone you care about says they trusts you with food but not with money, how would you feel?
I’d say they does not trust me at all.

So, why accord God a different status?

What do you mean?

If you want a fellow man to be fully reliable and trust you and you’d expect to be full reliable too,

Why would you expect God to be unreliable?

Mmmmh…..

If your brother says he’ll give you money on Friday but isn’t able to, what happens?

Even as I may be upset, I’ll ask when he expects to get it and wait hopeful that he’ll sort it out.

So why treat God differently?

How do you mean?

You are cutting you brother slack to sort things out another day yet you are shouting at God when He doesn’t respond on your timeline; isn’t that a double standard?

Eish! Explain!

Who is supreme, all wise, all knowing, totally able, gentle, true, good, above all, in all, through all; God or your brother?

God.

So, when HE says that He has got you covered and it is taking a while, wouldn’t you rather hold on for Him to do His thing in His time?

But His time is so long….

To Him, a day is like a thousand days and a thousand days is like a day so be patient.

Until when?

Until He provides and through whom He provides.

That will be late!

God is always on time.

Whose time?

His time!

Are you listening to yourself Diane?

Yes, why?

You sound like you are just spouting things you have read.

Oh, trust me…I know where you are as I was there just a short while ago.

Really?

Sure!

With no food, fees and supplies and no real source of it?

Yup!

What happened?

The short version…God waited until I was really still and listening and able to obey and then He broke out the supply.

How?

He taught me to ask Him for what I needed and keep my eyes focused on Him and then He would send His children to meet the needs.

How come He hasn’t come through for me and I have been here for so long?

I don’t know! You need to find time and be still with Him, in Him and He will surely answer and supply all your needs according to His riches in glory.

You make is sound easy.

Oh, it wasn’t easy until I understood the depth of His love. The day I understood that I don’t have to understand everything about His plan and I just have to trust Him for today things got easier.

What do I need to do?

Be still in Him, seek Him earnestly, wait on Him, learn to trust Him.

So I need to fast and pray and go on a silent retreat?

Well, I don’t know because you need to hear from Him what you need to do.

Isn’t that what you did?

No! I didn’t.

What did you do?

I prayed and asked Him to speak to me and not to let me fall because I would surely die. Over a period my heart stilled and then I realised that He had never moved away from me. I had allowed the things around me to drown out His voice and build a wall between us. He was always there but the fear and need for control had built this thick walled bunker around me and I was confined.

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Have you allowed the things going on around you to drown out the voice of God and build a wall between you?

 

THE CHRISTIAN WALK

Face Off With Fear – 3


safari walk 31.08.11 001Diane walked to the bus stop and waited for the bus so that she could get home. She thought about the conversation she had with Jean just a few months ago while she waited for things to turn around. It seemed like light years ago yet it was clear that it was pivotal to her walk today.

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Hi Diane,

Hey Jean, how are you?

Blessed. How are you?

Scared, fearful, afraid, terrified.

Why?

Everything around me is crumbling…it’s all falling apart and I don’t know what to do

Have things changed since the last time we spoke?

Not really.

Why?

I still don’t have a job and a regular way to provide for my children and I am scared.

What are you scared of? What is keeping you up day and night?

I fear that my efforts to provide won’t bear enough fruit. I fear that my dreams are simply pipe dreams and will yield nothing. I fear being put to shame because I can’t live up to people’s expectations. I fear that my children will be harmed by all this struggle. I fear that my family won’t get out of the hole we are in.  I fear that we’ll be deserted when God exposes us. I fear that there is something I have done and God has chosen to turn his back on me. I fear that no one will understand enough to give me a job. I fear that my children will hate me for failing to provide for them. I fear that they will hate God for taking away their way of life for nothing. It’s so terrifying to live in this place of fear. There is no beginning or end to the fear. When I get up I do so in terror, when I lie down to sleep it is there, when I sit in house or do the chores it is there, when I look at the empty shelves it squeezes the life out of my heart. When I go out I feel people are staring at my shabby clothes and are talking about me. When I have to walk to places because I don’t have fare I feel like I have a sign on my head that says failure.

IMG_20130428_102030Girl, you need to get out of there immediately or you never will.

What do you know about this place anyway?

More than you could ever imagine.

Really?

Yes. I was in a different situation but all the same was controlled by fear.

How did you get out of it?

Honestly? Only God was able to crack this one for me.

How?

I went back to His word. Over and over the word of God says do not fear. I went back to God and asked Him to show me the way out and He did just that.

How?

We had long conversations with Him and His servants and several questions came up over and over again.

What kind of questions?

Gut wrenching one like:

  • Did I really believe that God is in control? Who did I really trust? Who did I really depend on?
  • What would happen if God never changed the situation; would I still love Him or walk away? Would I talk about His goodness and greatness or would I just let my faith slide?
  • What are the things that really trigger the fear and panic attacks? What did I really trust in that would fuel the fear when it didn’t happen or work?
  • Do I really believe that there is a reason for this season? Was I willing to be a spectacle for Him to use to draw men to Himself? Could I be the lamp that would attract others to God because of the life I lived and not the possessions I had?

Oh my! Those aren’t easy questions but you knew the answers didn’t you?

At first the surface answer to the questions was yes I believed in God but as I asked my questions over and over I begun to come up blank, sad and afraid. Right then, I realised that the answers I was giving were not real. They were the things I was taught as a child but they had not solid ground underneath. The storms of life had washed out the sand and now I had nothing left to stand on.

Oh, my! Then what?

DSC09894One day at the end of myself I asked God what I needed to do and He sent me to His children who wouldn’t give me answers but would guide to really find the answers in my heart. I talked to daddy and he told me to ask myself the same questions and be really honest about the answers I give and then question ever answer till I knew what really was the driving force in my life. So I sat with myself again and asked the questions again but this time, I looked deeper and more thoroughly till I came to the truth and it was humbling.

Why was it humbling?

I realised that I was driven by my personal ideas and agendas not God’s agenda.

What does that mean?

Well, remember how God called out Abram from Ur of the Chaldeans to follow Him with only the promise of greatness later? Calling to him to go to a place that He, God, would show him and saying he would be a father of nations yet he was old and his wife was barren…

Yes.

Did he follow?

Yes.

Did he always believe?

Yes.

Then why did he and Sarai try to help God and have Ishmael? Why did Abram keep reminding God that a servant would inherit his wealth? Did they really believe?

Isn’t Abraham and Sarah?

Those names were given when they got to the place of full dependence on God. They went through hard times that confirmed that God had indeed called them and if they held onto and stood on his word all would eventually be well. Isaac wasn’t born for another twenty-five years after the promise of a great nation from his loins but Abraham believed God even when he was doing his own things. God sent him against large well-equipped armies with his small simple men and they were victorious every time. God consulted with him about destruction He planned for Sodom and Gomorrah and allowed him to plead for mercy.

Ok…..

20150919_144116Anyway, as I listened to God and learnt to really hear Him, I found that I was depending on my abilities and knowledge to make it through instead of fully relying on Him. There were many instances when I thought I was dependent on Him only to realise I had partial trust in His word but was depending on myself to bring the rest into fruition. Nothing could have prepared me for this reality and I was totally floored.

What did you do?

I went back to the word and begun to ask God questions.

What kind of questions?

Personal questions… When you say you will never leave me or forsake me, what does that mean to me? When You say your plans are for good and not for evil to give me a future and a hope, how can that be with all this drama around? Have I missed something in my walk with you? Am I focused on the wrong thing? Do I even know what your word over my life means? What is the basis of my life, God’s word to me, cultural and social expectations or my own ideas? Do I even know for certain what God has said about me, about each of my children and my legacy? Who am I called to be in God and how do I need to live my life?

Did the questions help?

Not in the beginning because I couldn’t see any difference in my answers but as I spent time meditating and thinking and assessing and listening clarity began to come. My life was predicated on what people would think about me rather than on God’s word upon me. I judged everything based on what was expected by society rather than God’s word upon me. I did what I thought was good and then asked Him to rubber stamp it. I claimed, decreed, declared and sowed seed in other people’s gardens but left mine unattended. My focus had me looking around me and travelling to others farms to help them plant, weed and tend their gardens so they were growing yet my land lay fallow and unattended. God had given me seed to plant in the place appointed for me but I was out there planting the seed in the fields of others without realising there was nothing in mine. This meant that when harvest time came there was nothing in my garden to harvest.

Oh my!

2013-04-20 12.35.03Yes oh my! I now knew why I had ‘nothing’. I simply was not building my life according to His intricate plan for me and that was the only way I would find the fullness I needed. So I let go of everything and sat in my place until His word became the focus of my mind and I understood that place. I sense that is the crossroad you are at. Fear and worry are a clear indicator that we don’t trust God fully and are still in control of our lives. Fear and worry can be used as great indicators of where we are in our walk and show us areas we need to deal with. However, fear and worry should not be a regular part of our lives because God is present and He is love so… ‘There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. 1 John 4:18.’ Since ‘God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7’, we can walk tall and sure that when we walk in His word and plan we are set and will succeed.

Is there ever a time when fear is good?

Yes, the fear (meaning reverence and awe) of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, we approach our father with reverence and fear. These are the few times it is useful but on a whole, it derails us from faith and love for Him.

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Has fear been a driver in your life? Deal with it and walk in the knowledge that God indeed has a plan for good and not for evil to give you a future and a hope as He has designed it for you and nothing else