Looking Beyond The Facts

Dear #PrisonerOfHope

We are living in uncertain times. 

Uncertainty is a difficult thing to bear, more so because the human mind is incredibly averse to uncertainty. We want answers. We want to know if this disease is going to kill us. We want to know where the provision is going to come from. We want to know if the job will still be there next month. We want to know how our children are going to turn out.

As children of God, a substantial part of our walk with God involves our faith being tested. Most of the time, when our faith is tested, we are tempted to believe in what we see (facts), and forget about what God says (truth).

Facts are temporary and anything that is temporary is subject to change, and yet the truth is eternal.

It is difficult to believe in the truth when you are staring the problem right in the face and you can’t see your way clearly through.

But even in the midst of circumstances looking precarious and threatening, God is still calling us to look beyond the facts……….

  • Fact: When I am afraid and overwhelmed.
  • Truth: God has not given me the spirit of fear but of power and of love and a sound mind.
  • Fact: When I am feeling helpless and hopeless.
  • Truth: God will strengthen me and help me; He will uphold me with His righteous right hand.
  • Fact: When I think God cannot use someone with my past.
  • Truth: There is therefore no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh but the Spirit.
  • Fact: When I don’t know what He will allow to happen.
  • Truth: What the enemy meant for evil, God is working it out for my good.
  • Fact: When it feels like I am jumping from one battle to the other.
  • Truth: Many are the afflictions of the righteous but the Lord will deliver her out of them all.
  • Fact: When it looks like I am surrounded by evil.
  • Truth: Those who are for me are more than those who are against me.
  • Fact: When I don’t have enough provision for the journey ahead.
  • Truth: My God will supply all of my needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
  • Fact: When I don’t know when God will move on my behalf.
  • Truth: God makes everything beautiful in its time.
  • Fact: When the medical diagnosis says the sickness cannot be healed.
  • Truth: By the stripes of Jesus I am already healed.
  • Fact: When I am told that I am setting myself up for failure.
  • Truth: Who is he who speaks and it comes to pass when the Lord has not commanded it.
  • Fact: When the puzzle pieces of my life do not make sense.
  • Truth: All things work together for the good of them who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

It is in times of uncertainty that we need to stand firm and challenge every fact by the written Word of God.

Signed: #RestoredMe

El Roi

“The God Who Sees Me.” Genesis 16:13

Dear #PrisonersOfHope

I love music and I agree with Friedrich Nietzsche when he said, “Without music, life would be a mistake.” 

I have been watching an inspirational music video by Kathie Lee Gifford and Nicole C. Mullen titled “The God Who Sees.” 

I don’t know how many times I have watched the video; the first time I saw it, I was left mesmerized with tears in my eyes. It is certainly the most beautiful thing I have seen in a long time. I don’t have earthly words to describe how beautiful it is. The message of hope in the video will carry many through the dark times in life, back to the light of God. What a refreshing and creative way to evangelize the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In the video, which was shot in Israel, Nicole relates the stories of four biblical characters; Hagar, Ruth and David during their wilderness experiences, ending with Mary Magdalene at the Garden tomb in Jerusalem. 

I can identify with these characters. 

I can identify with Hagar, an abused runaway slave. Hagar was so abused and mistreated, that she finally reached a breaking point, and fled into the wilderness. She found herself wondering in the wilderness alone with no provision and no hope. In the midst of her despair and hopelessness, the Angel of God appeared to Hagar in the wilderness, to give her hope. And Hagar immediately declared You are El Roi, “You are the God who sees me……..I have seen the One who sees me.” Genesis 16:13

I can identify with Ruth, whose life did not go as planned. She found herself on the journey to a foreign land, a journey to the unknown. In Bethlehem, Ruth found herself isolated in the field, gleaning after the reapers, just to survive.  Have you ever found yourself doing what you can with what you have left, just to survive? Ruth did just that, and trusted God to do the rest.

I can identify with David who was alone, terrified and on the run, being pursued by Saul, a King rejected by God. David watched the privileged life he had experience thru the court of Saul erode right in front of him, because Saul was on a mission to kill him. And yet, God’s Hand was still on David. 

I can identify with Mary Magdeline, who had a dark past in which evil spirits held her captive. Mary had an encounter with Jesus who delivered her from captivity. From there her life was never the same. Mary followed Jesus and served Him. She witnessed His crucifixion and burial. She was the first person Jesus revealed Himself to after resurrection.

Life can be messy, but there is a God who sees you amidst the messiness of life – whether you are a victim of abuse like Hagar or just doing your best to survive like Ruth – whether, like David you are living like a fugitive, or you are a prisoner in your own body like Mary Magdeline, tormented by evil spirits. Your story does not have to end where the pain began.

All these characters at some point faced darkest times in their lives. Their stories serve as a reminder that it is not how you start but how you finish, a reminder that you can make it beyond the pain and arrive at your ultimate purpose, a reminder that no matter who you are or what the situation is, God is not blind to your situation. God comes in to turn a hopeless situation around when all hope is lost.

Believe that God sees you and He is capable of changing your life. Our God is a God who sees.

Signed #RestoredMe

A Nation In Trouble

Dear #PrisonersOfHope

Our nation is in trouble. It is clear there is a fight going on for the soul of our nation. So many things seem to be going wrong. Every time we watch or listen to the news we hear horror stories: abuse of women in the hands of those who are supposed to love and protect them, violence at schools, rising racial tensions, dysfunctional political system, as if that is not enough, the church, that is supposed to be a place of hope and refuge is making headlines for all the wrong reasons.

24thFebruary, a 28-year-old murdered by a group of high school pupils.

1stMarch, an actor stabbed to death for his cell phone.

10thMarch, a 17-year-old stabbed to death, a victim of gang related violence.

12thMarch, a learner stabbed to death for his matric farewell shoes

13thMarch, an 18-year-old student stabbed to death outside school.

A 13-year-old boy was arrested in connection with one of the murders. This is disturbing, discouraging and baffling. How did we get to this point as a nation? It has become obvious at this stage that even politicians are powerless to do anything to fix what is broken in our nation.

A 13-year-old is too young to be associated with such a violent crime. I guess it is one of the mysteries of human behavior that even science cannot explain. But the Word of God shed some light on what we are faced with as a nation. There is a battle raging around us, and it is spiritual in nature.

Ephesians 6:12 “ For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities,against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Our nation is experiencing a spiritual problem, and a spiritual solution is needed.

In the book of 2 Chronicles 7:14, God is calling on His people to do something about the situation. “ If My people who are called by My Name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My Face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

Seasons of distress and hardship call for God’s people to do something about the situation. God is looking for men and women with humble hearts; who are willing to stand in the gap for our nation. He is not looking for multitudes because to Him a few make a majority. Through the faithfulness of a few, many can be delivered. God reduced Gideon’s army to less than 1%, from 32 000 to 300 men and victory was achieved.

Satan is on a mission to gain an advantage over us, to capture the hearts of our children and mess with their minds. But we are not ignorant of his devices, according to 2 Corinthians 2:11. It is a terrifying thought to know that our children have an enemy that actively plots to use them to destroy themselves and others.

As Christ’s followers let’s pray for our nation, lets join our hearts and offer up prayers for this beautiful ‘rainbow nation’. We have weapons strong enough to destroy strongholds, 2 Corinthians 10:4. We can defeat this enemy and intercept his demonic activities in our nation through prayer.

God is able to redeem the souls of our children from satanic markets and prisons and free them from any kind of satanic activities. He is able to replace the anger and violence in their hearts with joy and tranquility.

We are living in dark times, and much as it is tempting to think that we have reached a point of no return, there is hope. Jesus, the Light of the world is our hope, because light always wins.

“There has never been a time when light did not win over darkness. There are times when darkness feels like it is winning but that is an illusion. Light will always conquer darkness.” Makeda Pennycooke.

We can conquer this enemy through prayer.Prayer is our greatest weapon in this world. .

Signed #RestoredMe

Courage In Adversity

Dear #PrisonersOfHope

 What do you do when you find yourself at a point in your life at which everything seems to be falling apart? When you cannot stay where you are and you cannot go back, because both places have nothing left to offer.

They said to one another, “Why are we sitting here until we die? If we say, ‘We will enter the city, the famine is in the city, and we shall die there. And if we sit here, we die also. Now therefore, come, let us surrender to the army of the Syrians. If they keep us alive, we will live; and if they kill us, we shall only die.” 2 Kings 7:3-4 NKJV

This is the story of the four lepers at the gate of Samaria. At the time of this story, the Syrians had placed a terrible siege against Samaria, resulting in famine so bad that people were not only eating donkey’s heads but also cooking and eating their own children. For the four lepers, going back to the city was not an option, especially with the city under siege.

The four lepers were cast out of the city because of their condition; they were considered ‘unclean’ and therefore could not mingle with ‘clean’ people. They were ostracized from their community because of their condition.

The irony of life is that those who cast them out had their own ‘condition.’ While the four lepers could not hide their condition, evidently eating away parts of their bodies, their fingers or their toes. The ‘clean people’ get to hide their condition, and yet it eats away their souls. The reality is, even those we perceive as living a better life may well be struggling with their own condition.

The very city that the lepers were cast out of was now under siege. And the four lepers were faced with two options; death or death. “If we go to the city we die, if we stay here, we die.” Damn if you do, damned if you don’t. Death from their perspective was inevitable.

It was at this point that the lepers conferred among themselves and decided that, since they were going to die anyway, they might as well do something unimaginable – go out to the enemy camp and beg for food. They may be killed, but again they might save their lives. They reasoned. Personally, I don’t think their chances were very good, considering they were lepers, already rejected by their own people. But hey, they had nothing to loose. It was at that point that the four lepers decided to do something about their situation. Change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change. When we begin to look at our situation through the lens of hope instead of the lens of hopelessness, it shifts the course of our entire existence.

Sometimes God brings us to a point of desperation to challenge our faith. He does not do it to hurt us, but to help us realize that there is more to us than the leprosy that seems to have taken over our identity.

The four lepers took bold steps of courage and ventured into the unknown, moved towards the enemy camp, and as they did that, God did the unthinkable.

When they reached the edge of the camp, no one was there, for the Lord had caused the Arameans to hear the sound of the chariots and horses and a great army, so that they said to one another, “Look the king of Israel has hired the Hittite and Egyptian kings to attack us!” So they got up and fled in the dusk and abandoned their tents and their horses and donkeys. They left the camp as it was and ran for their lives.

Did you know that our God does not need any help with anything? He did not need any help from the Hittites and the Egyptians. God caused a great sound that the Syrians thought a great army was approaching, so they fled for their lives, leaving everything behind including food.

God honors our frail, fearful, limping steps of courage we take in the midst of adversity. The lepers’ duty was simple to walk towards the Syrian camp and the rest was for God to do. When God saw the four lepers stepping out with great courage, He met them with His supernatural power.

Not only did the lepers eat, but they also shared the good news with the ‘clean people’ in the city, those that had cast them out. God used them to save the entire part of Israel. The weakest people were used to bring in God’s will and deliverance.

Signed #RestoredMe

In Pursuit Of Justice

Dear #PrisonersOfHope

I don’t remember hearing a sermon on Genesis 38. My first encounter with this story was during one of my ‘read the bible in a year’ attempts. And it immediately became clear to me why preachers tend to shy away from this story.

It is not a pretty story; it is ugly, and downright ugly. This is the story of a woman who was wronged, denied of what was rightfully hers and then left to rot in her father’s house. This is the story of Tamar, Judah’s daughter-in-law.

Judah had three sons. Er, Onan and Shelah. Tamar was married to Er, Judah’s eldest son, who died, leaving Tamar without a child. Judah gave Tamar to his second son, Onan. According to custom, if a man died, his brother married the dead man’s widow to ensure that the dead man had an heir. But Onan died too without giving Tamar a child. Again, the tradition was for a widow to marry the brother of her dead husband. So, Shelah was next in line, but he was still too young to marry Tamar. So Judah sent Tamar back to her father’s house to live as “a widow” until little Shelah is old enough marry her.

So the waiting game began for Tamar. Days turned to weeks, weeks to months and months to years, and there was no word from Judah, even though Shelah had grown up. Judah failed to honor his promise to Tamar. Judah suspected Tamar was a jinx and was responsible for his sons’ death. But according to the bible God had killed both his sons because they were wicked. Tamar remained an unmarried widow in her father’s house. It was very difficult situation for Tamar to accept because it was at a time when a woman’s worth was based on bearing an heir, a time when giving your husband an heir was a woman’s claim to fame.

Tamar found herself in limbo; stuck between a rock and a hard place, with cards stacked against her. What do you do when the cards are stacked against you? Do you give in or do you fight back? Tamar fought back by disguising as a prostitute.

After Judah’s wife died and his period of mourning was ended, he went to Timnah to shear sheep with his friends. When Tamar heard that her father-in-law was in town, she took off her widow’s clothes, covered her face with a veil, and sat on the roadway. When Judah saw her, he thought she was a prostitute and negotiated for her services in exchange of a young goat. And since he did not have a goat with him, he gave her his signet seal, a cord, and his staff as a pledge toward later payment.

Later when he sent a friend back with payment (a young goat) to retrieve his items, the prostitute was nowhere to be found.

Three months later Judah was told that Tamar was guilty of prostitution and as a result was pregnant. Judah responded by saying, “bring her out and have her burned to death.” I believe Judah was looking forward to getting rid of “his problem” (Tamar) permanently, in a legal way. As she was being brought out, Tamar produced the staff, seal and cord, saying, “I am pregnant by the man who owns these.” And she added, “See if you recognize whose seal and cord and staff these are.”

Confronted by the evidence, Judah had no choice but to acknowledge that he had been wrong, “She is more righteous than I, since I would not give her to my son Shelah,” Genesis 38:26

Tamar’s place in the family of Judah was secured. She gave birth to twins Perez and Zerah. A few weeks ago, my Pastor made a very interesting statement saying that, relationships can be a mistake but children born of those relationships are never a mistake. This statement resonates with this story, because God chose Perez to be the one through whom the Messiah was to be born, but that’s not the kicker. In the book of Matthew chapter 1, Tamar was given the honor of being the first woman included in the genealogy of Jesus Christ.

But how can that be?

Could it be that maybe the story of Tamar has less to do with her unconventional and scandalous way of doing things and more to do with the character of God. It shows us that God will accomplish His purpose despite man’s righteousness.

When God wants to use you to accomplish His purpose, people’s opinion of you do not matter. Because He knows that their opinion of you is nothing more than their interpretation of you. They do not know or understand you, and they are not privy to your story.

The story of Tamar is not a pleasant story. It includes broken promises, deception, and immorality. We see in the story of Tamar the scandal of grace. In fact the grace of God is so great in this story because today we know Jesus Christ as the Lion of the tribe of Judah.

The is the story of a woman whom in the face of extraordinary injustice done to her took extraordinary risk to redress that injustice.

 

Signed: #RestoredMe

How Did I Get Here?

Dear #PrisonersOfHope

The story of the prodigal son is found in Luke 15. He asked his father to give him part of his inheritance, and few days later he journeyed to a far country, where he wasted his possessions with prodigal living. When he had spent all, there arouse a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. Verse 16 NTL says, “The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything.” I guess it was at that moment he asked himself the question, “How did I get here?”

2 Samuel 12, David commits adultery, and then tried different tricks to cover-up his sin. Finally, he ordered the execution of an innocent man, Uriah. The Lord sent Prophet Nathan to David, who told David a parable of a man who did something very evil. Verse 5 says after hearing the parable David burned with anger and said to Prophet Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die.” Then the Prophet said to David “ You are the man.” I guess the question that came to David’s mind was “How did I get here?”

David could not even recognize the person he had become. He had become someone he never thought he could be.

Matthew 27 tells us the story of a man called Judas Iscariot. This is a man who betrayed Jesus by identifying Him to Roman soldiers with a kiss in return for 30 pieces of silver. After the conviction of Jesus, Judas had a moment of sobriety. Verse 3 says “ seeing that He (Jesus) had been condemned, (Judas) was remorseful and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priest saying “ I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” But those who arrested Christ would not negotiate. Suddenly Judas found himself experiencing his “How did I get here?” moment. Judas threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed and went and hanged himself.

Judas was not the only one to betray Jesus on that night, one of Jesus’s closest friend would later reject Him. In Matthew 26 v 34, Jesus predicted Peter’s denial. “Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” Peter said to Him, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” Fast Forward to verse 74 “then he (Peter) began to curse and swear, saying, “I do not know the Man!” Immediately the rooster crowed. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus. Peter went out and wept bitterly. It was at that point I believed Peter asked himself, “How did I get here?”

The lost son, the king of Israel and two of Jesus’s disciples, have something in common.

They have made mistakes

Mistakes they could not correct

And they were regretting their mistakes

Mistakes, we all have made them. The reality is that we all have to live with the mistakes we’ve made since we do not have the power to undo them. Maybe you are looking at your life right now and thinking, “This is a mess,” and you are wondering how you got here. I have had that thought a few times. Okay, more than a few. How did I get here? This is the question we ask ourselves in the moment of sobriety. A moment when we think, “if only I had done things differently.”

So what do we do after we have erred? Where do we find hope and rest for our regrets?

I have come to realize that sometimes is not so much about the mistakes we have made, but what we do after we have made the mistakes that makes all the difference. People deal with regret and guilt differently. Judas attempted to fix his mistake by returning the thirty pieces of silver. While David went on a great cover-up mission that saw him committing more mistakes in the process.

At the end, Judas felt condemned and allowed his sorrow to drive him to despair rather than allowing his sorrow to drive him back to Jesus. Judas was filled with remorse. Remorse is an overwhelming regret that leaves you hopeless. While the other three guys repented. Repentance is sincere regret that turns you back to God.

2 Corinthians 7 v 10 says, “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.”

Our mistakes are meant to guide us, not to define our character.

God is able to use the worst things that we have done to bring glory to His name, and to teach us more about His gracious and patient character.

Signed: #RestoredMe

Do Not Worry (from my diary July 2011)

Dear #PrisonerOfHope

I once heard someone saying sometimes the blessings of God come with burdens. It was winter of 2011, my children were coming home for the holidays. I had not seen them for a year. I was very excited about the prospect of seeing them again, every day spent without seeing your minor children, is a long time. Everything had been confirmed. They were landing early hours of Sunday morning. After our reunion at the airport, on our way home as we were conversing, I noticed something; they used to call me mummy but now it was just mum. Clearly a transition had taken place and I was not there to witness it. We drove home for a nap before heading to church.

Much as I was overjoyed by their presence (blessing), I was also worried by the fact that I had to feed them (burden). It was during my season of lack, I barely had enough for my own upkeep. Later that morning we made preparations to go to church. They loved going to church or maybe they loved the fact that the church is not far from Mac Donald’s. I usually took them to McDonalds after church. That morning, going to church presented another burden, which was taking them to McDonald’s after church. Staying at home was not an option, I needed the peace that comes with being in the presence of the Lord.

After church, I took them to McDonald’s, as if everything was fine. Everything was not fine at all. I was like a woman in the books of 1 Kings 17, who was going to prepare her last meal for her and her son to eat and die. I gathered the little I had left and presented it at the counter, and watched as they prepared meals for my children.

Later that evening, they went to sleep early, because they were still tired from their journey. That gave me enough time to engage in what was my favorite pastime “worrying.” I worried about the fact that I didn’t have enough resources to keep them for a month. I felt weak and defeated. Finally I gathered enough strength to leave my seat and go to my room. On my way, I passed their room. There they were, fast asleep, peacefully oblivious to their mother’s concerns. Once I entered my room, I was ready for an encounter. The Psalmist says ‘the Lord is close to the broken hearted’. My heart was in pieces. I had adopted an active prayer life, kind of aggressive sometimes, I had thought of myself as a prayer warrior, ready to confront any demon that dares rear its ugly head. But on that day I felt defeated, my knees were weak, I could barely stand. I went down on my knees next to my bed. I uttered a few words in prayer about my situation. Then I spent the rest of my prayer time crying. As I gathered enough strength to climb on my bed, I thought of my favorite scripture Romans 8 v 28, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. As my head hits the pillow and ready to close my eyes I began to wonder if anything good can come out of the situation.

I woke up Monday morning more worried, but I had to face the day ahead. Later in the afternoon I remember I gave a friend a R1000, I can’t remember what it was for. I immediately gave her a call that I was going to need it. A R1000 it’s a lot of money when you have nothing. I asked her to deposit it into my new accounts since I was not sure if the old one was in good standing. She was doing an electronic transfer, and told me she was having problems with my new account. I then reluctantly asked her to transfer into the account I was unsure of. I thought that account was not linked to my phone since it has been inactive for a while.

To my surprise, I immediately received an notification on my phone that a R1 000 has been deposited into my account, but the balance reflected as something like R148 000. I immediately called her to check how much she has deposited and she confirmed a R1000. I looked at my phone thinking, “I hope this is not a sick joke”. I left everything that I was doing and rushed to the nearest ATM, and when I got there it was not working. The next time I was going to be able to go to the next ATM was in two hours. The uncertainty was torturous. After the time had passed, there I was at the ATM next to my home. R1000 was my daily limit on that account. I withdrew that amount and after that the machine got jammed without giving me the receipt to check my balance and no sms notification came through. I stood in front of that ATM more confused, “what is really happening?” I asked myself. Then an idea crossed my mind, to go to the garage and fill petrol in my car and pay using my card. When I got to the garage I was cautious enough not to ask for full tank. I asked the petrol attendant to pour R200. I anxiously waited for the outcome of the transaction, which then showed “transaction successful.” Not really sure of the drama that was unfolding, I was headed for Steers, I bought them food, using my card, result? “Transaction successful.” It was at that moment that I realized I indeed had money in my account. I called my sister, screaming at the top of my voice, telling her of what had just happened.

But where was it coming from? That night I did not sleep. This new blessing had placed a new burden in my life. What if the money got into my account by mistake? What if they discovered the mistake, and it’s all gone in the morning? These were some of the questions that flooded my mind. Obviously my first stop the next morning was at the bank. I was there before they open. As soon as they opened, I started looking for a face among the workers I can trust, and this beautiful lady approached me, I trusted the authenticity of her smile. I cautiously explained why I was there, followed her to her desk, gave her my ID. She checked on her computer and said that it was my pension money from an organization I worked some years ago. They had already paid my pension not once but twice. So this was my third pension. I asked for the money to be transferred to my other account. (I think you know why)

But I noted with great interest when the lady who was assisting me at the bank said the money cleared at midninght. At midnight, unlike Paul and Silas who worshipped and praise God, I was crying my eyes out to the Lord, not knowing that He was busy working a miracle for me.

The woman in the books of 1 Kings 17, thought she was going to prepare her last meal for her and her son to eat and die. Little did she know that God was working a solution to her problem.

From that day I knew without the shadow of a doubt that, God has my back. That day when I entered the house, I had a swagger on my walk.

Here a thing about God, He means what He says. When He says ‘Do not worry,’ He means just that. All we need to do, is to trust Him. Do Not Worry, Matthew 6 v 25 -34

Signed:#RestoredMe

 

The Longing To Be Loved

Dear #PrisonersOfHope

I have been following the stories of Nigerians who were deported from Libya with great interest. Just the other day I was listening to one deportee relating the stories of their suffering and how “they were treated worse than animals,” she said. I couldn’t help but wonder what makes a human being to treat another human being like that. My interest in their stories comes from the fact that I am familiar with the place; I have spent a season of my life there.

During my stay there, I spent days and nights reading a book by Francis Rivers “Redeeming Love.” I thought this romantic novel was going to help me understand some things about love. Anything that has to do with love sparks my interest. One of my favorite songs in my late teens was by British – American band, Foreigner, “I want to know what love is,” I was also fascinated by Billy Ocean’s “The color of love.” I desperately needed to know love, in its entirety.

“Redeeming Love” is a love story based on the book of Hosea in the bible. God instructed the Prophet Hosea to marry a prostitute, Gomer, not just to marry her but to love her. No matter how much Hosea loved Gomer, she still went back to her old ways. I spent my time reading this book trying to figure out why this woman who was so loved, kept running away from Hosea’s loving arms.

The longing of my heart has always been to be loved. And because of that, I have worked very hard to earn the love, admiration and friendship of others. “If I am to be loved, I have to earn it,” so I thought. Anything that comes freely without my effort has always been suspicious. Yes, Jesus loves me for the bible tells me so. But I have always thought He loves me when I am good.

In Hosea’s relationship with Gomer, we see a wonderful picture of the redemption we have in Jesus Christ. Gomer is a picture of the lost sinner. In spite of how she has hurt him, Hosea still loves her. What an awesome picture this is of the great love of the Father for me.

This love pursued me while I was a sinner, and brought me home where I belong. Once in a while like Gomer, I find myself straying away from this love, but it keeps pursuing my stubborn heart. Always reminding me of what God had said about me in Isaiah 43 v 1 ……He who created you, Octavia, He who formed you, Tavy. “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name, you are Mine.”

His love sought me out when I have nothing to give in return. His love found me while I was desperately looking for man’s acceptance, meanwhile Ephesians 1 v 3 -6 tells me that Jesus has already accepted me. His love found me while I was searching for love, meanwhile Ephesians 3 v 19 tells me that I was already loved by God.His love found me while I was searching for my worth, meanwhile 2 Thes 1 v 11 – 12 tells me that He had already made me worthy.

His love corrects me when I am wrong, like the prodigal son, it gives me courage to want to go back home to my Father, although expecting the Father treat me like one of his slaves, because I have messed up. Instead of condemning me or shamming me, He embraced me and reminded me that I am “His Beloved.”

There is a song by Cory Asbury called “Reckless Love”, this Easter weekend as I was meditating on God’s love for me, I suddenly heard my own voice speaking to God through the lines that say:

When I was Your foe, still Your love fought for me.

You have been so, so good to me

When I felt no worth, You paid it all for me

You have been so, so kind to me

Maybe like me you have been working very hard to earn the love and admiration of other people, let me tell you something, this will only lead you on a dead end. But when you know who you are and how much you are loved by God, your longing to be loved and accepted by man disappears.

This Easter you too can overcome your longing to be loved by others, and instead experience the transforming power of the love of God. After all, He paid the ultimate price for you.

He wants you as you are. Broken as you are, He will fix your brokenness. Empty as you are, He will fill your emptiness. Limping as you are, He will hold your hand while you limp, until your limp becomes a walk and your walk becomes run and your run becomes a flight.

In a world filed with pain and suffering, love founded on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ is the remedy our souls need.

Signed: #RestoredMe

Things We Hide

 

Dear #PrisonersOfHope

I have been thinking about the things we hide. We humans are very good at hiding things. I guess is a survival skill in the world such as ours, hiding becomes a habitual coping mechanism. We believe our survival depends on keeping some things tucked safely away, never to be exposed to the scrutiny of others.

We want others to think we are younger than we really are, so ….. we lie about our age. We try to hide body fat under baggy, over-sized clothing. Thinking, if people cannot see them, then they do not exist.

10 years ago I started a magazine called “The Diplomat” and for the launch issue I had to go to the studio for a photo shoot. I had about 20 pictures taken, I was then asked to choose one picture out of the 20. Obviously I chose the one that I wanted others to see, the one that I thought represented me the best.

I don’t really like taking pictures but once in a while I do take selfies. Then I edit them, once I have successfully removed the parts of me I don’t want others to see, I find myself tempted to put them on my whatsup profile because it represents what I want others to see.

In this age of social media, it is so easy to be someone else, it is easy to fashioned ourselves into anything we want others to think we are. We put up the highlights of our lives on social media, where we always seem happier and better-off than we sometimes really are, then we edit out parts of our lives we don’t want others to see, and convince ourselves that if no one can see our struggles, then they are not real. Then we get so obsessed with protecting our image than we are with fixing the problem.

When we keep our struggles hidden, they become a wall of defense around us that prohibits others from getting close to us for fear that they’ll see what we are hiding.

When we keep our struggles hidden and unattended, then they grow bigger, and the more we hide, the more there is to keep hiding. “Like moss, shame grows in darkness. Bring it to the light and it can’t survive.” Unknown.

When we hide, we do not tell the truth to others, and to ourselves. We actually start lying to ourselves about our reality.

But when we open up about who we really are, the mistakes we have made, the pain we have suffered, we find our own freedom but above all we liberate others to find theirs as well. When we acknowledge our struggles we give others the much-needed permission to be human themselves. We inspire them to own the parts of their story that they may feel shame around.

When we hide our truth, we give others ammunition to use it against us, we allow their false stories to bury our truth. Brene Brown says when we own our own stories, we avoid being trapped as a character in the stories someone else is telling.

We, Christians are very good at hiding things. This stems from our belief that as Christians, we are supposed to have it all together, at all times. And as a result, we make conscious effort to cover up our struggles, and put on the religious mask.

We have mastered the art of pretending so much that we even take our mask to God. Forgetting that God cannot bless who we pretend to be.

In 2 Corinthians 12 v 9 God said to the Apostle Paul “My Grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” And Apostle Paul made this powerful confession, “therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

God’s Grace meets us where we are not where we pretend to be.

Our shortcomings, pain, hurt, doubt, shame, fear, anxieties and insecurities are no surprise to God. We may try to hide them from others, but we can’t hide them from the One who created us.

Signed: #RestoredMe

The Mercy Factor

Dear #PrisonersOfHope

We have all done something that warrants severe punishment.

John 8 v 1 -11, tells about a story of a woman caught in an act of adultery. Verse 3 ‘ then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, “Teacher this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?” This woman according to the law of Moses was supposed to be stoned to death.

This is the story of God’s mercy. Every single one of us is that woman. We are all guilty of something. We all have failed and done something we are not proud of. Mercy is when God spares us from bad things we deserve.

The thing that I find interesting about this story is that according to the law of Moses, both the woman and the man were supposed to be put to death. If this woman was caught in the very act, so where was the man? I think the Pharisees chose to bring the woman and not the man because of different codes of sexual morality that apply to men and to women, the double standards of sexual morality.

While the Pharisees saw a filthy woman who was supposed to be condemned to death, Jesus saw a broken woman and ministered forgiveness. Life can be messy, each one of us is broken, and to live in the broken world means we all need mercy. Cece Winans’ song “Mercy say No” clearly expresses the circumstances that this woman found herself in:

As I’ve come to see the weaker side of me

I realize His grace is what I”ll need

When sin demanded justice for my soul

Mercy said no

I’m not gonna let you go

I’m not gonna let you slip away

You don’t have to be afraid

Mercy said no

Sin will never ever take control

Life and death stood face to face

Darkness tried to steal my heart away

Thank You Jesus, Mercy said no

Our God delights in showing mercy. His mercy always triumphs over judgment. While justice demanded that she be stoned to death, we see Jesus throwing a lifeline to this woman. While the law threatens judgment and rejection, the gospel tells us a beautiful story of a loving God who came to free us from shame.

Through all of my failures, past and present, I have learnt that the Christian life is not about the good things I do. It is about what Christ has already done for me. Every one of my failures has brought great grief over my disobedience but has also brought the realisation that I have a great Savior whose mercy long outlasts my failings, the realization that I am not the good news but Christ is the good news.

Jesus said to the woman, “neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.” John 8 v 11. These words show us that God does not want the sinner to die, but to repent of all the evil he has committed and live. Jesus was not concerned about winning a debate about an interpretation of the law of Moses, His goal was to save a soul and reveal that salvation is only found in God’s love

So was the ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ, everywhere He went the oppressed and the rejected followed Him. They knew that He will offer mercy and forgiveness.

The law condemns us all. We all need Jesus!

Signed: #RestoredMe