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 final episode of the Hall of Faith Season, Dara has a surprise waiting for you. 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.
How far into the new year are we allowed to go before it becomes socially unacceptable to say Happy New Year? Some believe that after the 1st of January it’s already weird to say Happy New Year whereas there are some Nigerian aunties and uncles who beg to differ and will still greet you with a Happy New Year in April. This is the first time I am formally addressing my blog readers so no matter how deep into the year we are, I’d like to wish you a Happy New Year!
The first few days and weeks of this year have been rather reflective for me and I’m sure for many of you reading it has been the same: You reflect on the past year and ponder on what the year ahead holds. Søren Kierkegaard, a Danish theologian once said “Life can only be understood backward, but it must be lived forwards.” I love this quote because it is only when you reflect on the past that you have an appreciation of what has happened and you gain the strength to face tomorrow. The year 2021, looked different for everyone, I can speak for myself and say that it was not all smiles and laughter. Often my tears, frustration, and pain were masked behind a simple yet infectious smile. Some might say that’s being fake but I tell you there are times when you have to faith it till you make it. I will speak more about this on my blog and podcast this year. At the start of last year, I shared a blog post entitled “Roses are red, God is on my side, in 2021 I wanna be…”; under the shadow of God’s wings. So throughout the year, my main goal was to reside under God’s wings; this meant trusting God wholeheartedly. I have learned that when you reside under the shadow of God’s wings as we are instructed in Psalms 91, you will certainly have JOY in chaos.
Joy is in an unexplainable emotion, as I have previously stated in a previous blog post. Joy is superior and different from happiness. Happiness is dependent on what is happening, but Joy is dependent on God. Since God never changes, Joy is always in abundance. What does this look like? Having Joy means that your world may appear to be crumbling but you wake up every morning with peace that passeth all understanding. It means knowing that God will supply all your needs according to His riches even when your bank account is in red or the payment is declined. It means knowing that God is a problem solver even when your situation seems impossible. It means knowing that God is a way maker even when it seems like you have run out of options. It means knowing God is the light in the darkness even when all that is around you seems dire, dark, and hopeless. It means knowing God is a promise keeper even when people say no to your requests or doors get shut in your face.
It means knowing God will you give you joy amid chaos.
I am sure this is not the first time you are hearing the phrase “Choose Joy”, it is easy to choose joy when life is going your way, things are working out as ‘you’ planned. However, when the table turns and the clouds turn dark and it seems like you are running up an escalator going down it’s harder to obey the command to choose joy. When God inspired Paul’s writings to include this command He knew the future won’t always have clear sunny skies and there will be trying moments, where we want to throw in the towel yet the command, remains unchanged – choose Joy in Chaos.
The ability to choose Joy in chaos can be illustrated and understood by nature, let me explain. In the natural world, chaos looks like natural disasters: avalanches, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, dust storms, floods, tsunamis, tropical cyclones, blizzards, heatwave, droughts, thunderstorms, tornadoes, firestorms, wildfires – these disasters are notoriously known for their impact on everything in their path. In particular, we hear about houses and trees being uprooted thus causing more damage. Taking myself back to geography class I recall that there are a variety of measures put in place for areas at risk of these natural disasters to minimise the extent of chaos caused. For example, making sure the house sits above flood level protects it from flooding; bolting the house to the foundation helps it withstand earthquake tremors; storm shutters protect glass windows from shattering, and so on…
Likewise in our lives, we also have situations that threaten to ruin, shake and uproot all that we are familiar with. Just like the houses have reinforcement against natural disasters we can also have that assurance by having a firm foundation. That’s how you’ll make it when the wind is blowing and threatening to knock you out.
The ability to choose Joy in chaotic moments is based on the foundation we lay. In the bible, there is an account about a metaphorical natural disaster: The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Builders which can be found in Matthew 7:24-27. This parable summarises that although the houses looked the same on the outside their foundations (sand or rock) differentiated them. The real foundation of our lives is usually hidden, the storms we encounter reveal the foundations we have. In this upcoming year, the storms of our lives will test our foundations, so we all must lay firm foundations that will keep us grounded.
How do we lay firm foundations?
The surest foundation is The Word of God, in which we are taught to trust solely in Jesus Christ. We are also reminded in John 1:1 that Jesus is the living Word of God. Jesus is the rock that holds us together when storms threaten to uproot and displace us. Do not base your foundation or faith on feelings, experiences, or in people – it must be based on Jesus Christ. If a person’s foundation is built on a miracle God demonstrated in the past, when it seems like God is now silent and has not answered their house will be devastated if that was their only foundation. However, if you know it is Jesus that holds your life together and you develop that solid relationship with him you will always have the ability to choose joy in the choas.
Maverick City Music released a song last year entitled “Firm Foundation” – you must check it out if you haven’t done so yet. Allow me to use the lyrics to make a declaration to you:
I do hope you treasure the words of this song and take steps today to build a firm foundation that will sustain and uphold you through this year.
As you embark on this 2022 journey, God will make everything that concerns you to work out as He intends. May God open the doors that need opening and close the ones that must remain closed. The specific details of the year may not necessarily be made known to you but one certain thing is that God is by your side so there is no reason to be fearful. In all you do count on God and not yourself, count your laughs and not your tears, count your gains and not your losses.
A favourite emotion of mine is JOY. It is independent of our daily battles & struggles but dependent on God. Unlike the UK Sun, God’s presence in our lives is constant and never dries up. May Joy be the genre of your life. As the year draws to an end, draw near to God’s promises and experience the strength only His joy provides. Any wasteland you may find yourself in will not have the final word. When you remember the past year and your mind wanders down a gloomy and unpleasant path, STOP & REJOICE.
Choosing joy and remembering who God is and what He has done will not only turn your frown upside down; it causes His light to radiate and give you a permanent facial glow.
I don’t know what lies the enemy has been saying about you or your dreams, goals & expectations for this year, but it’s time to look your giant in the eye and tell it how big your God is. There’s no playing around when God is involved as the opposition is no match for Him. We must play our part by letting God step into this battlefield and reel us into victory. I declare that the enemy will not have the final say.
Darkness sometimes seems to win and the world often feels like it’s crumbling; In moments like these we shout and ask – Where are you God? The psalmist explains that “God is the lifter of our head”, He can change our body language so that we don’t adopt a position in which our heads hang low due to the weight of our woes. In this month, as you call out to God, May He lift your head above the waters, above your troubles and onto higher grounds.