‘the most wonderful time of the year ‘ has returned but what makes it so wonderful? – the end of a long year, quality family time or the general holiday spirit? What I love most is the heightened awareness of the title Emmanuel – God With Us. In the hustle & bustle of the next few weeks and days, one can easily fall into an overthinking, overwhelmed and overworked mode, but I urge you to linger in God’s presence. If you feel discouraged, He can lift & cheer you up. If you are exhausted, He can strengthen you. His presence can refill, replenish and refresh you. May you truly experience Emmanuel during this festive season!
As the months of 2022 pass by, you may have accumulated a few hiccups & heartaches and the weight of these cause your shoulders to drop. I remember this bible promise: Cast your cares on Jesus and He will sustain you. Picture this; as you pile your troubles & struggles on God, He carries the load and lifts the weight off your shoulder. We usually half-heartedly let God take these woe-filled backpacks; we want to help him out – but He doesn’t ask for that – He wants your trust. Trust that God will keep you standing tall and cross the finish line. May God give you strength, hope, courage and determination as you give him the heavy bag-packs of life.
Life sometimes feels like a series of unfortunate events. We have experiences that “take away from us” and leave us feeling depleted, disadvantaged or at a loss. I’m reminded of Joseph’s life which was anything but straightforward, however, the meaning of his name was manifested: he was promoted from the pits of life to a palace. Joseph aka Yosef in Hebrew means God will increase or God adds. So despite the losses you have experienced this year or in the past, I pray that God Yosefs in your life, causing your losses to be outnumbered by the wins.
In life, there are seasons we are to: “Be Still” and others to “GO”. Being still allows us to linger in God’s presence and experience His move in our lives. However, we often confuse the two seasons and remain stagnant. In an attempt to get all the answers before advancing, we end up settling; satisfied with crumbs when more blessings await us. Quit trying to figure out the whole picture and follow God’s leading even when you don’t have all the answers. May your obedience be rewarded.
Welcome to the second half of 2022 and the month of my silver jubilee! Are you enjoying life or surviving? Days off are good; holidays are even better, but Jesus died so that we can have an abundant life irrespective of time & place. The enemy programmes us to think that the cup is half full or half empty but walking with God means the cup is overflowing. God desires to give us an abundant life in which we are thriving in addition to surviving. This month – I declare that unspeakable Joy is your testimony. May you experience God’s innumerable blessings in all areas of your life.
I’m yet to meet a person who detests comfort. A simplified, stress and drama free life is ideal. However, God prefers us to step out of what’s comfortable and familiar. He dares us to take leaps of faith and venture out of our comfort zones. You can’t test the strength of an elastic band until it’s stretched, so this month stretch beyond your current safety spaces and watch the beautiful reward that awaits.
As you have stepped into May, I urge you to stay plugged into God. By spending time with the True source of light, your life will be illuminated and darkness eliminated. Additionally, light shines through “cracked pots”: although life shatters us remember that God’s light shines greater through cracked pots than those that pretend to have it all together. May God’s light shine through your life and perform wonders.
Over the last few years, there have been several changes that have made our usual activities that mark the life of a Christian more difficult to follow. I’d say it began when churches were closed due to the pandemic. For someone like me who was a regular church attendee, it was a shock to my system that we no longer went to the actual building. Attending church was soo dear to me, not only was it a place where I could worship and “meet” God, it was a setting where I enjoyed sharing and fellowshipping with other like-minded people. Most importantly, Friday evenings were a time of the week I would eagerly count down to because it meant that the Sabbath was here and I could finally REST with no strings attached. So during the pandemic, I made it my duty to hold sabbath school classes with my youth group and attend the zoom or YouTube live churches I wanted to attend. I was even able to finish reading the entire New Testament which was a huge achievement for me. The ‘pick and choice’ aspects of worship created flexibility but also allowed space for “laziness” and cracks to filter into my usual idea of what the sabbath was and soon these would filter into my overall relationship with God.
Last summer, I started my first proper job post-university in a different city (Leicester, UK). In between settling into a new work routine, attending a new church, and settling into this new city, my priorities started to lean towards getting through the day. The routines I had formed, such as spending 2-3hrs reading my bible, when life allowed more flexibility were a lot harder to maintain. It worsened when I started a new work rota 4 months after I began working – this new rota meant that I had to work at least one weekend sometimes two a month, this meant that I could no longer have my usual sabbaths to countdown to. I did not think this would cause as much of a problem as it did in my walk with God, but I would be lying if I said it did not. I even lost my bible app streak of over 1400 days (Whelpppp). I have learned so much in my overall faith journey and I continue to do so. I am sharing this with you all because transparency is key and I am hoping someone else can be blessed by what I have to share.
You see I didn’t just suddenly stop building an intentional relationship with God, it slipped in through the cracks and this is what happens when we do not actively try to remain on guard and watch out for the enemy’s darts and distractions. I will not bore you with all the details because I am sure you can all understand what I mean when I say you do not hold your first love in the same position as they had always been in, in summary, I would go days without reading my bible and even without prayer – I would whisper a word here and there in emergency moments but I allowed the gifts and blessings that God had granted me push him to the outskirts of my life. Despite it not being my intention by not being intentional about strengthening my walk it was inevitable. For someone who has tasted and seen that the Lord is good, it reaches a stage where your soul craves God and is not coping because it has been starved. This lack of communion with God has fruits; feeling overwhelmed, falling into temptation, lack of peace and feeling distant from God. Despite this, God never departed, I could still feel and see his presence, beauty and handiwork in my life. Even though I felt far from him, He was always near and when I decided enough was enough and change had to be implemented he was right there waiting to give me a warm embrace. You may be familiar with the story of the Prodigal Son: a young son who is impatient and greedy asks for his father’s inheritance ahead of time. The father agreed and the son leaves home and wastes ALL the money, he eventually becomes homeless and gets to a stage where he is in a pigsty considering eating their food. He decides to return home and to his surprise, his father welcomed him back with open arms.
We are never given the name of this prodigal son, but I think that is because we can all put ourselves in his shoes at one or several points in our lives. I see myself as the prodigal daughter, I stumbled in my walk with Christ and to an extent believed the lies of the devil and allowed busyness to be a tactic in my life – I grew distant from God. But the most beautiful part of the story is that similarly to how the father of the Prodigal son waited patiently for his son’s return and did not hesitate to run to embrace him when he returned, God eagerly waits for our return. He is knocking on the doors of our hearts waiting for us to let him in – A life lived without God is seriously not worth living.
We are never told how long the son was away from home, it’s not important because it doesn’t matter if you have been doing life in your strength for one day, a few months or years, God is waiting for you. The father sees the son from a distance – surely this means that he was eagerly anticipating the return of his son. To make a direct parallel to God – our father; he is patiently waiting for us to “come to our senses” in the pigsty that we are in and return to him. We may feel that we have squandered everything and seems like all hope is gone but I want to remind us all that our father never stopped loving us. We may have strayed far from his divine presence but all it takes is that decision to turn back towards him and we will find him waiting for us with open arms. We do not need to remain in our hopeless state, choose to repent and turn towards God, then we will surely realise the demonstration of his reckless love towards us: in that whilst we were STILL sinners he sent His son to die for us.
And that is a key lesson from the easter narrative: God is a God of second chances. Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection illustrate the second chance we have all been given. God loves new starts and new beginnings, He does not place limits on how many fresh starts one can have. The devil, our adversary, wants us to lose sight of God’s ability to give us the fresh start we desire so he keeps us stuck in a cycle of our past, our mistakes – essentially keeping us in the pigsty. But just like the Prodigal Son had an AHA moment [ a moment of sudden realization, inspiration, insight, recognition, or comprehension]; which led Him back to the Father we can also have one.
My definition of Repentance is to make a 180 degree turn away from that which does not glorify God. Imagine a child doing wrong and not feeling bad, the parent will be worried because if the child does not feel bad there is a low likelihood that he/she will want to change. As Christians, we should not feel good about doing bad or straying away from what we know is right. The Holy Spirit convicts us for sin, i.e. He lets us know that we are guilty of sin. This is when you have that “ah-ha” moment, Isaiah said, “Woe is me for I am ruined”, David said, “I have sinned against the Lord”, this is a Eureka moment – the point at which you come to your senses and see you are indeed in the pigsty.
I had an AHA moment and I want to share with you this simple acronym which I hope you can implement in your lives as well.
Prodigal Son reference
“But when he came to himself/to his senses, he said, How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!” Luke 15:17 NKJV
What alarms are ringing in your life? What alarms do you keep snoozing? Alarm bells must have been ringing as the prodigal son continued spending his money recklessly but he continued to snooze them till he ended up in the pigsty. God doesn’t want us to reach rock bottom before we come to our senses.
“He said to himself...” Luke 15:17
“I will arise and go to my father and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.” Luke 15:18-19 NKJV
Brutal honesty is hard but essential. God knows everything [even the “hidden sins”] so we do not do it for his benefit, it is more about us acknowledging the state we are in. Honesty is a vital ingredient in having life changing moments / spiritual awakening. This involves us looking at ourselves in the mirror and speaking the truth about the person staring back.
The son was honest about what he deserved, this can be difficult to come to terms with and admit. However, avoiding brutal honesty steers us away from lasting change.
“So he got up and went to his father.” Luke 15:20 NIV
Unless our story says “so she got up / so he got up” – nothing changes. A lot of people remain in the stage between honesty and action. We wake up to the alarms, are honest with ourselves but remain the same. This is when we have to obey God even when we don’t feel like it, the feelings will eventually catch up.
The son identified the first step which was to return to his father, that is also our first step. He can take it from there.
AHA adapted from Devotional and Book by Kyle Idleman
AWAKENING must lead to HONESTY, CONVICTION must lead to CONFESSION.
HONESTY must lead to ACTION, CONFESSION must lead to REPENTANCE.
That brings me back to repentance: that 180 degrees turn to set you back on the correct course. It is not easy, but with the help of God, it is possible. When I decided I must turn back to God, He opened up ways and new ideas and most importantly the strength and motivation for me to continue to develop my relationship with him again (regardless of having the bible streak or not). I am still struggling to get through the Old Testament books as it can get repetitive, but I persevere because I have already tasted and seen that God is good and it would be silly not to carry on and experience him fully.
Joyce Meyer once said: ” You cannot do anything about what is behind you, but you can do a great deal about what lies ahead of you”. So dear reader, as we remember Christ’s demonstration of love towards us on the cross, I appeal to you; Think of an area in your life that needs a fresh start and decide to take that first step in the direction toward God. As you do this I pray that God allows you to experience an AHA moment, wipes your sin stained slate and brings beauty out of the ashes in your life.
I’ll leave you with these declarative lyrics;
I’m turning away from the things that I do That I know aren’t pleasing in your sight I’m turning away from the messed up mindset And the things that I know aren’t right I’m turning away from the past the hurt and shame All the things that had me bound I’m turning away, turning away
When temptation tries to lure me off my course I will choose you, I’ll choose you Cuz I’ve been there and I’m not going there no more Said I want a new start I’m giving you my heart From your love I never want to depart
Lyrics to Turning Away by Bryan Andrew Wilson
Stay blessed and have a reflective Easter Season,
P.S – If you’ve read to the end of this post you have the privilege of knowing that as of midday on April 17th – Easter Sunday the trailer for Season 2 of The Undiluted Word Podcast has been released. Go and Listen now and please share with others.
In this episode of the Hall of Faith, Dara brings a hero of faith who waited on the Lord for a specific gift but was blessed with so much more in the waiting season. Listen closely to hear how this guest's faith has been tried, tested and transformed. Follow @theundilutedword on Insta, read blogs on http://www.theundilutedword.com and listen to the Gospel playlist on Spotify. Send feedback via direct message or email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Stay blessed!
It’s funny how lost items are usually found in the most unlikely places. Similarly, God is found in the least spectacular places & moments. We miss out on countless intimate moments with Him by waiting for grand occasions but God shows up in our normal; in our mundane; and our mystery. This month, may your ordinary moments have an extraordinary flavour. Expect the unexpected because God doesn’t fit into your box of expectations. He will always show up and show out; sit still enough to notice.
Andy Mineo once said that “the opposite of faith isn’t doubt it’s when we believe we have everything figured out”. A lot of us fall into this trap, we become fixated on our set plans, schedules and lists because we believe it’s what’s best for us. However, God’s interruptions are invitations to something more significant in our lives. Don’t miss out on God’s move because you’re busy making your lists and schedules. May God interrupt your plans and substitute them for greater things in your life.