Lead us not into temptation

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It is interesting that the Lord Jesus would ask us to make this a prayer: lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil (Matthew 6:13). What is the deal with temptation anyway? Isn’t the problem with sin?

My thoughts led me to a number of areas but what hit me the most was what I rediscovered in James 1:13-15. “Let no one say when he is tempted, I am tempted from God; for God is incapable of being tempted by [what is] evil and He Himself tempts no one. But every person is tempted when he is drawn away, enticed and baited by his own evil desire (lust, passions). Then the evil desire, when it has conceived, gives birth to sin, and sin, when it is fully matured, brings forth death.” [AMPC]

Every person is tempted – it’s not peculiar to you or to me! No wonder the Lord Jesus said we should “watch and pray lest you enter into temptation…” Matthew 26:41 [NKJV]. I like the Amplified translation: “All of you must keep awake (give strict attention, be cautious and active) and watch and pray, that you may not come into temptation…”

This happened when the disciples who Jesus had asked to pray with Him at the Garden of Gethsemane, just before the crucifixion, kept falling asleep instead of praying. I find that we are caught up in similar circumstances: we are caught up in the hustle and bustle of life as we know it and are mostly spiritually ‘asleep’ and unable to watch and pray. It explains why we get drawn away by our lusts and passions so easily. It explains why we give in so easily when we are tempted. We need to pray.

It makes sense to simply obey God’s word. Then there is no need to struggle with anything really. We have the help of the Lord! We have the Holy Spirit to support us with life as we know it so that we can be spiritually ‘awake’; meaning that we can be spiritually cautious and active, receiving grace not to yield to temptation. This is such an encouragement! We are not alone; we don’t walk this road alone! Praise God!

So, what do we do now? Simply pray, as the Lord has encouraged, so that we do not fall into temptation. I like how one minister of God put it. He said: I have the potential to commit adultery, to murder and to do all the evil in the world that any man can think of. It just won’t happen today! – Andrew Wommack.

Our daily connection with God and dependence on the help of the Holy Spirit ensures that we are delivered from the temptations that come with each day. There’s no need to worry about falling short of God’s expectations tomorrow or sometime next week. Matthew 6:34 says:

“So, do not worry or be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will have worries and anxieties of its own. Sufficient for each day is its own trouble.” [AMPC]

Pray and receive grace for today.

Blessings!

The Trap

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Reading through my bible study notes for the past year, I got to a page in ‘March’, and I have not been able to proceed. An interesting thought caught my attention and I must share it, but first some background. In the second book of Peter, Chapter 2, the first few verses tell us about what we have access to as we know God more. Let’s look at verses 2 & 3.

New International Version

“2- Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.  3- His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who has called us by his own glory and goodness.”

The Amplified Version

“2- May grace (God’s favour) and peace (which is perfect well-being, all necessary good, all spiritual prosperity, and freedom from fears and agitating passions and moral conflicts) be multiplied to you in [the full, personal, precise, and correct] knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. 3- For His divine power has bestowed upon us all things that [are requisite and suited] to life and godliness, through the [full, personal] knowledge of Him Who called us by and to His own glory and excellence (virtue).”

Reading through these, many nuggets can be taken away. One clear one for me is this: the more I know God, the more I am at peace. This, therefore, means that when I am agitated or afraid, it is a good time to increase my personal knowledge of God. That means I must read the bible for myself, in a version I understand, so that I can connect with the content and that way I get to know more about God. It is interesting that from this scripture, my peace is not increased by spiritual warfare but as my knowledge of God increased. Philippians 4:6-7 does encourage us to present our requests to God by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, and then God’s peace will guard our hearts and minds. We do understand that prayer is communion with our Father and our Lord. I see the need for a personal connection with God in fellowship (which is a combo of prayer, worship and bible study) to increase our levels of peace and free us from the “fears and agitating passions and moral conflicts” that we will be faced with in the coming years.

The second nugget is that I am called (destined) to be with God; to share in His nature. His divine power, His Holy Spirit, has provided all that I need for life and godliness. I find it amazing that I don’t need to struggle with lust, greed, pride and all unrighteousness; I must draw on God’s divine nature within me and let the knowledge of God progressively increase so that my flesh dries up and His divine nature is manifested through me. I must yield to the whispers of the Holy Spirit, which I can only hear as my connection with God is deliberately strengthen. Weak connections cannot transmit 4G signals! The coming years are times when 4G signals will become the minimum standard and we will need to upgrade to straight satellite connections. Think about that over the next few days and let God show you how this applies to you.

Verse 4 of second Peter is the main thought I’d like us to focus on.

New International Version

“Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”

The Amplified Version

“By means of these He has bestowed on us His precious and exceedingly great promises, so that through them you may escape [by flight] from the moral decay (rottenness and corruption) that is in the world because of covetousness (lust and greed), and become sharers (partakers) of the divine nature.”

  • We escape the moral decay/corruption that is prevalent in the world by flight. There’s no easy way to avoid moral decay and unrighteousness; we must deliberately turn away, avoid, all that will erode our morals. You know what affects you and I know what affects me. The point is that the world continually throws up acidic principles which will numb our consciences and rot our values. It seems clearer to me why I need to progressively increase my personal connection with God – God’s living water is alkaline and it will wash away the acidity of the world so that I am renewed! Halleluyah.
  • We have everything we need which pertains to life and godliness. To truly live a life that has value in time and in eternity is possible because God has given me that access. Through my direct connection with God, I can live well; I can access divine empowerment for life on earth and I can also access eternal life! That’s awesome.
  • We must not fall into the trap set by covetousness (lust and greed). This makes sense on all levels. There is a trap set to slowly entice us away from things of eternal value and to erode our consciences so that we become numb. Our eyes see so much which we are encouraged to ‘aspire to get’. Yet, those things have no real value. It just occurred to me that there is a trap set that I must not fall into! That is freaky.

No one wants to feel trapped, swindled, defrauded, or cheated. There is a deliberate movement to promote modern-day idolatry among us. Most of us practically worship at the altar of our possessions: our cars, our exotic homes, our jewellery, our degrees, our hour-glass/six-pack bodies, our human connections (our group chats for example), and so on. We really need to stop and review.

How on earth did we become so vain, self-centered when we are supposed to be like Christ? Why aren’t we becoming more like Christ and sharing in the divine nature, which is the life God has called us to? What is going on?

It’s the trap. The trap of the world: lust and greed; lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and pride of life (1 John 2:16). In the coming years, we must not get caught in this trap. We must partake of the divine nature such that we can escape the corruption that is in the world through lusts. If you feel trapped already, there’s a clear way out. Be deliberate about your personal fellowship with God – go into your closet and shut the door (Matthew 6:5-6). Spend quality time with God using the combo of prayer, worship and bible study; upgrade to a spiritual 4G connection and then do a further upgrade to direct satellite feed. We need this in the coming years to truly live. The trap is set but because we know it, we can escape it. Halleluyah!

Joy Isa

We must choose!

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Must I really choose?

choicesMaking a choice is something that comes naturally to all human beings; choosing which drink to have or which type of food to start with at a buffet; choosing which movie to watch online; as an infant, choosing which friend to play with on the playground. We make so many choices on a daily basis based on environmental factors, our emotions and the needs that present themselves before us, amongst others. According to a publication by Roberts Wesleyan College, adults make about 33,000 choices every day; making 226.7 decisions daily on food alone!

With such an amazing capacity to choose, it is interesting that a number of believers in the Lord Jesus Christ find it challenging to choose to do what God expects at all times. We have the word available to us, however, we do not choose to “meditate on it day and night” (Joshua 1:8). We have bible apps in multiple translations, reading plans and devotionals on a wide range of topics of interest, however, we do not see the word as “a lamp to our feet and a light to our path” on this journey called life (Psalm 119:105).

In Romans chapter 6, the Apostle Paul presents an interesting analogy of choice, relating it to the concept of slavery which was relevant to his time. He compares slavery to the continual surrender of a person’s will, which in our time we would compare with addiction. When we continually yield to a craving, we are considered addicts. When we continually and diligently follow the expectations set out in our job descriptions, we are considered workaholics – addicted to our jobs. Let us examine what Paul says in Romans 6.

Romans 6:16 [AMPC version]

16 Do you not know that if you continually surrender yourselves to anyone to do his will, you are the slaves of him whom you obey, whether that be to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience which leads to righteousness (right doing and right standing with God)?

Romans 6:19 [NIV]

19 I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness. 

In simple terms, we are enslaved to whatever we yield to, to sin or to righteousness, so we must choose.

As we have the capacity to make an average of 33,000 choices each day, it will be useful for some of those choices to have eternal value. We can make the choice to fellowship with God, to prioritize our time with God above time with anyone else (John 15:7, Matthew 6:33, Psalm 91:1-2). I find that this seemingly simple choice can be herculean when one lives in a bustling city, where the drive to and from work alone can be a real trial of your faith! When you think about it though, you can choose to spend your precious time with your Precious Lord and Friend. If you truly love Him, then you must choose to spend time with Him every day.

Joy

Reference to publication by Wesleyan College: http://go.roberts.edu/leadingedge/the-great-choices-of-strategic-leaders

 

Life should have meaning!

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As I sat in a hotel room in Zanzibar and worshipped the Lord for his provision, a thought crossed my mind: “Wouldn’t it be nice to live like this, in the lap of luxury; It would be nice to just chill and have 5-star service available, and to be able to afford it, with change to spare, wouldn’t it?”
Then another thought followed closely: “Enjoying all of this on a daily basis may seem like it, but without a purpose, your life would be meaningless.”

Life without a greater goal, life without a purpose beyond oneself ends up in ruins. So many celebs and ‘super rich’ people thrive on the fact that they give back to society and they use that which they have to make a difference to others on the planet. Others who pursue personal pleasure to the maximum, at the end of the day, still end up with a sour/bitter taste on their lips. It is clearer to me that life without that inner compass that guides one to fulfil a goal or a purpose beyond that of self, is not a life lived to the fullest.

Version 2

My greater purpose is to please My Maker; to bring pleasure to God any and every way He deems fit. I am filled with deep pleasure at making an eternal connection with God, even through simple worship. I do not have to engage in deep spiritual warfare to turn chaos into order because I depend on Him for daily support. I do not have to wrestle the enemy to the ground as God is my shield, and in Him my defense is sure. I pray to remain vitally united with Him, not to yield to temptation or struggle to resist but to overcome by His strength and power. Like Joseph, even though I may be ‘on top of my own world’, I ensure that I do not lose sight of who’s really on top.

My peace remains intact because it is God’s gift to me. I do not strive to earn it, but I walk in it, as I fulfil destiny and purpose on a daily basis. I do not worry about mistakes and/or drawbacks because I know in whom I have believed, that He is able to keep my steadily on the path of righteousness, for His glory, not mine. So I accept His correction, as redirection, so that I do not wander off course in this journey called life.

I celebrate the God who has given my life meaning. I am humbled by His mercy, His love, and His grace. Thank you, Baba!

Joy

What time is it?

Ecclesiastes 3:1 [AMP] “To everything there is a season, and a time for every matter or purpose under heaven.”

When the weather turns, from a hot, cloudless day into a cool, cloudy day, we know the rains are coming so we find cover. When we see lights used to decorate streets, shopping malls, homes and offices, we get a sense that a celebration is approaching; most likely Christmas and then we respond accordingly (shop, plan, etc.) When there is bodily weakness, we either eat, rest or visit the doctor. Should it not therefore be, that as we notice the changing social, economic, and political climate of the nation, we should take appropriate actions?

It doesn’t take a prophet to tell that as a nation, Nigeria is in a changing season. All Nigerians have to make deliberate decisions in this season. While we can predict the length of seasons (in terms of weather), we cannot predict the length of the season of change we are in. Therefore, what actions are we to take? What is the appropriate response in this season?

Worse still is the fact that, all individuals have their own peculiar seasons of life: are you in the early stages of marriage, do you have a new job, are you in the winter months of your life, do you feel it is all gloom and doom around? What season are you in and what time is it? How can you know what to do, when you don’t even know what is happening in the physical, emotional, social and spiritual atmosphere around you?

It is time to go to the One who holds time in His hands!

Job 22:21-23a [MSG]  “Give in to God, come to terms with him and everything will turn out just fine. Let him tell you what to do; take his words to heart. Come back to God Almighty and he’ll rebuild your life.”

Every individual is unique and has unique seasons. There are overlaps and connections as humans do not live in isolation. We must therefore go to God to understand where we are and what we should be doing; our ignorance could affect those around us. It is time to seek God’s help, especially because as a nation, we are in a season of famine. We need God’s help, like the family of Jacob who went to Goshen (a land of plenty) when the world around them was dry. (Ref: Genesis 45:8-11)

Where is Goshen? It is where God points you to, the place God has prepared for you in advance; so you need to come to terms with him and everything will turn out just fine!

Blessings!

JI

Christmas is a time of reflection

Many focus on the gifts that they give or receive, which is in line with God’s example; this is the season where His greatest gift to us was delivered. Others focus on the celebration of this precious gift – the Saviour of the world – and spend time singing ‘psalms hymns and spiritual songs, making melodies in their hearts of the Lord’.

I find that this is a season to reflect on my personal connection with this Precious Gift – with Jesus. I find this season a vivid reminder of the sacrifice of a Father, in the bid to save His children. I reflect on my level of appreciation of this Gift, and how I have demonstrated it (or not) over the year. Most often, I am compelled to repent for being distracted by life and undervaluing this Gift, and my gratitude is renewed.

As such, I celebrate yuletide, not in much merriment, but in deep appreciation of the love of my Heavenly Father for me. I give gifts to strangers, to help share this love with them, hoping that they will be reminded of His love as they receive the gifts. I give gifts as an expression of appreciation to those who I have vital connections with, to family and friends, and I trust that our connections are renewed in the spirit of the season.

So when I say ‘happy holidays’ or ‘Merry Christmas’, I truly mean that all should experience and enjoy the real reason for the season.

Merry Christmas!

JI

Lessons in Leadership: Loyalty

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“Just as we fully obeyed Moses, so we will obey you. Only may the Lord your God be with you as he was with Moses. Whoever rebels against your word and does not obey it, whatever you may command them, will be put to death. Only be strong and courageous.” Joshua 1:17-18

Question: What made the people so loyal to Joshua?

Background:
Where there is a clearly defined mission with clearly defined goals, the human resource needed is easily attracted. While we recognize that there are both extrinsic and intrinsic motivators that can attract people to a mission, the mission itself is a key factor. Another essential part of this mission is the leadership that drives it. Strong leadership gets the job done and engenders commitment from all the members of the team.
In situations where the baton of leadership has to change, one often finds that new leadership goes through a transition phase. In this phase, the followership watches, weights, and wonders about the capabilities of the new leadership and its capacity to steer the ship in the right direction. When leadership is seen to promote the corporate agenda, the agreed mission and not personal aggrandisement, loyalty is more easily engendered.
Loyalty is important to every leader. It makes one feel that the invested effort and energy is worthwhile. Loyalty adds grease to the leadership elbow.

Brief Case Study:
Moses, the great leader who had delivered the Israelites from bondage in Egypt, was dead; the baton had been passed on. His shoes were enormous and one cannot but assume that Joshua might have found it intimidating to fill Moses’ shoes. From the passage of scripture above, we see the people pledging their allegiance to Joshua, and I wondered: How…so soon after Moses’ passing…what did Joshua do? Those Israelites were not the easiest people to lead; even Moses had a tough time handling the job; so what happened?

As I mused over this, it became apparent. The Israelites could clearly see that Joshua’s leadership was not about a personal agenda but about continuing with the plan of God for them. This made me think about a number of leadership ideologies I had learnt previously.

Hypothesis:
While good leadership is encouraged to inject change into a system in order to demonstrate prowess, simple adjustments might work as well. It seems to me that a firm understanding of the mission of the group/organization/institution and the leadership’s drive to actualize that vision in new and interesting ways will endear the followership to the new leadership, and could make the transition phase less tedious.

Try it out:
Are you in a transition phase as a leader? Are you concerned about buying the people over? Is it possible that you’ve started off on the wrong foot and you possibly need to re-start?
• Think about the people you are leading.
• Think about the mission of the group/organization/institution. Receive understanding and clarity from the Lord, and wisdom to lead.
• Focus on achieving that mission and not primarily demonstrating your leadership prowess.
• Lead the team in an agreed direction and be innovative about the journey there.

Blessings!
Joy Isa

The Way Forward

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There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death. Proverbs 14:12

As intelligent beings, we have our thought patterns and our learned behaviours that lead and guide us on life’s journey. We learn these over time and depending on the amount of stimulus we invest in their development, we gain mastery of them.‘Dwelling in the secret place of the Most High’ is one behaviour that we need, but have not invested adequate time in learning. Choosing to spend time with God, seeking first His kingdom and its righteousness, being truly hungry and thirsty for His presence…

What is the way forward?
How do we make this choice that affects our time in this world and the next? How do we overcome the plethora of distractions that hit us from the big screen, social media and print media?

I believe we must simply choose.
All athletes choose to train, so that they are always ready for any competition that comes along – they improve their ratings continuously. They know that if they should take a break, some energetic youngster will move up the ladder and they move down automatically. They choose to sacrifice a lot that others indulge in, in order to adhere to their lifestyle choices.

Today, I meditate on the choices I must make, in order to remain actively connected to My Heavenly Father. I am embarrassed by the poor choices I have made previously; choices that have distracted me and I am reminded of the need for repentance – a true turn around, a return to the King. This is the way forward.

Job 22:21-30 (The Message Translation)
“Give in to God, come to terms with him
and everything will turn out just fine.
Let him tell you what to do;
take his words to heart.
Come back to God Almighty
and he’ll rebuild your life.
Clean house of everything evil.
Relax your grip on your money
and abandon your gold-plated luxury.
God Almighty will be your treasure,
more wealth than you can imagine.
You’ll take delight in God, the Mighty One,
and look to him joyfully, boldly.
You’ll pray to him and he’ll listen;
he’ll help you do what you’ve promised.
You’ll decide what you want and it will happen;
your life will be bathed in light.
To those who feel low you’ll say, ‘Chin up! Be brave!’
and God will save them.
Yes, even the guilty will escape,
escape through God’s grace in your life.”

TEACH YOUR CHILDREN THE WAY OF THE LORD

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There are times when God’s command seems cumbersome. Mothers are instructed to teach their children (Proverbs 1:8-9). Investing the time, energy and effort needed to teach children is often the last thing on the minds of our busy female populace. Between the workload in the office, the traffic constrains that take up so much time in a big city, the demands of running a home, meeting the needs of a husband, all your siblings and in-laws, doing the work of the Lord in varying capacities, and trying to have a life – hair, clothes, exercise, facials, spa, rest…there is hardly any time to spend with the children. Time spent with the children has now been reduced to homework sessions and scolding sessions.

We have outsourced the ‘teaching’ of our children to educational institutions, therapists and Sunday school teachers…to all the so-called professionals. We have relegated an all important, God-given assignment to the back burner and spent time in a range of other pursuits.

The bible is replete with examples of people who were so busy serving and whose children ended up causing shame to the name of God and to their parents. We have the children of the high priest Eli as one of the more popular examples. We have the sons of David, who committed detestable acts as another example. We also know of similar cases in our time; cases where children of the high and mighty, the rich and famous, the super spiritual, end up a wreck – often moving from one rehab centre to the next, one failed business to the next, one failed marriage to the next.

Thank God we also have examples of people who have been able to “get it right”. There are unsung heroines in the bible who achieved much by simply raising Godly children. We have the story of Bathsheba, wife of David – former wife of Uriah – who in spite of her treacherous beginning, was able to raise Solomon, King of Israel. We have the story of Rahab – former prostitute- who turned to God and was able to raise Boaz, a godly man who took on Ruth and had Obed, grandfather of king David.
One heroine in particular is Queen Esther. Her story I find to be the most intriguing. She was taken into captivity with the Jews, her parents were killed and she was raised by her uncle. By some ill-fate at that time, she was captured and forced to compete for the king’s favour, because she was beautiful…what we have turned into a lovely movie must have been an absolutely terrifying experience for a young girl. When she became queen, she kept her faith and brought deliverance to the people of Israel in captivity. Most importantly though, she raised a son, a King of Persia that had a heart for God. Her son – although a King of the most important heathen empire of that time, was the one who ordered the rebuilding of God’s temple in Jerusalem. Esther was the mother of King Cyrus.
II Chronicles 36:22-23 gives an account of his command.

King Cyrus was named by God 150 years before his birth and about 200 years before the degree which fulfilled Isaiah 44:28-45:1 (bible research is available on the subject). God needed a Cyrus to be born, to be raised, and he positioned Esther to become queen in Persia, so that her godly influence could lead to the building up of his change agent. Imagine if Esther got caught up in the affairs of Babylon and forgot her godly heritage…the story of Cyrus would possibly have turned out differently.
Imagine if Jochebed, mother of Moses, had not been one to remain sensitive to God, the story of Israel’s deliverance might be written slightly differently today.

I encourage all mothers out there (and fathers too!)- do not relegate your primary assignment to the back burner! Teach your children about God and be a role model for them in the pursuit of God.
JI

Return

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The Word of the Lord for this season is RETURN!

As individuals, we need to return to the place where our hearts are open to the possibilities that God presents to us. We need to once again believe that God has our best interest at heart; that His desires for us will help us achieve greatness in our sphere of influence. We need to believe God – to trust that He is faithfulness itself so He will ensure that our deepest needs of peace, safety, fulfilment and purpose are met.
We need to return to the place where we can freely weep in His presence in worship, in pure adoration of His majesty; where tears of appreciation slide down our cheeks as we acknowledge His mercy and grace over us. We need to once again hunger for His presence – not His gifts or His blessings, just His presence.
You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy, at Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11

As a church, we need to return to the place of true oneness, which is love exemplified. We need to be sincere in our service to God, seeking to please our Father, not just to get rewarded like hired servants. We need to be sincere in our ‘love’ for one another, which can be demonstrated by acts of kindness.
Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another. Romans 12:10

When we return as individuals, then the church will become the true Bride of Christ. Then the Kingdoms of this world can become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ.

Selah!

A Prayer:

Lord help me know you more: my determined purpose is that I may know you. Lord, help me progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with You; perceiving, recognising and understanding the wonders of Your person more strongly and more deeply…in Jesus’ name. Amen! Philippians 3:10a AMP.