AN ANSWER IN TIME OF TROUBLE
Psalms 86: 1 – 7“When I am in distress, I call to you, because you answer me.” Psalms 86: 7, NIV One of the most perceptive Christian writers of the 20th century was C.S. Lewis. Lewis was a bachelor until his late fifties and then married Joy Davidman, a recent convert to the Christian faith. Shortly after their marriage, Joy was diagnosed with cancer, and Lewis had to watch with agony as his bride slowly died before his eyes. Sometimes, things come into our lives that leave us puzzled and perplexed. Even the great psalmist experienced those feelings as can be seen in our focal verse. In the midst of your difficulty, one thing you can do for sure is to “call out” to God as the psalmist did. Let your emotions come through to Him. Don’t let your perplexity bring you to a place of losing hope. God is faithful! He will be with you in your time of affliction and suffering, and His intent is to bring you through it to victory. Find the words of comfort and encouragement that you seek in His word, and believe His promises to you. God is ready and willing to answer your cry to Him in your distress. And He will give you the assurance that, no matter how pressing the hardship is, regardless of the severity of the hard times you face, He will be with you wherever you go.
- Birthday Blessing: “The righteous will live by faith.” Rom.1:17
NOTHING SEPARATES US FROM GOD’S LOVE
Romans 8: 31 – 39“For I am persuaded that neither death nor life…nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God...” Romans 8: 38-39 (NIV) C.T. Studd gave up fame and fortune to serve God as a missionary on three continents in the mid-nineteenth century missions. When asked about what prompted him, he said “if Christ be God and died for me, then there is nothing too great that I can do for Him.” At the end of Romans 8 Paul asks, what can separate believers from God’s love in Christ? There are three pairs in verses 38 and 39. These pairs were selected by Paul because each represents the extreme of things dear to us. Nothing in this life and nothing in death can separate a believer from God’s love. Whether we live or die, we are in His love. Jesus won’t ever let us go. Nothing in our present experience, or anything to come, can separate us from God’s love in Christ. Also, if we were to travel to the “highest” or “lowest” points in the universe, or anywhere in between, we would never arrive at a place where we could escape Christ’s love. There is nowhere we can go, where anyone or anything can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Is there something you are going through that is making you feel like you are running out of God's love? Remember that nothing you do or do not do can make God stop loving you.
- Birthday Blessing: “Thou shall lend unto many nations, and thou shall not borrow.” Deut. 28:12b
CHOOSE TO LOVE AND SERVE GOD
Joshua 24: 1–3, 13–15, 21–24“And the people said to Joshua, ‘We will serve the LORD our God and obey Him” Joshua 24: 24 (NIV). According to W.H. Auden, a man is responsible for his choice and must accept the consequences whatever they may be. Where you are today is as a result of the choices you made yesterday and where you will be tomorrow will be premised on the choices you make today. Everything in life rises and falls on the choices and decisions we make daily. Therefore, there is the need to choose wisely and with discernment. As Joshua prepared to depart, he gave the opportunity for the Israelites to make a choice and they chose to serve and obey God. The long message he preached was geared towards enlightening them to the fact that if they choose to obey the Lord, they will thrive, but if they choose to disobey they will not only fail in taking over the land but God will also turn His face from them. Today, we are to make this choice daily, if we are going to serve the Lord or if we are going to serve ourselves and our desires. Always put the Lord first in your life. Obedience to the Lord will lead to abundant life, while disobedience leads to death. God has not changed; He is still a jealous God and His desire is that we choose Him above all. While the opportunity is still available, choose to love and serve God, and it shall be well with you.
- Birthday Blessing: “I will hope in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.” Psalms 74:14
COVENANT WITH GOD CONFIRMED
Joshua 24: 25 – 28“On that day Joshua made a covenant for the people, and there at Shechem he reaffirmed for them decrees and laws.” Joshua 24: 25, NIV There was a family who understood the value of covenants. They were poor, yet they sold everything they had so that they could go to the temple to have their family sealed together. They literally had nothing but their clothes, when they were leaving home. On their return, a hurricane hit the small island where they lived and everyone lost everything. The father then remarked, “We are poor, but everyone on the island is now poor too. The difference is that we have a family sealed for eternity.” If they had kept everything, they would have lost it and not have had the covenant. To them, obtaining the covenant was worth selling all they had. God made a covenant with the Israelites. But they broke it and Joshua had to renew the covenant for the people at Shechem. Are you faithful in keeping the covenant you made with God? How committed are you in ensuring that the covenant relationship between you and God is not broken? Even if you have broken yours, God wants to renew and confirm His covenant afresh with you, Will you give God a chance for a new covenant in your life? God is eager to develop a covenant relationship with you. If you promise to trust God with your life, God promises to strengthen, guide and sustain you. God is always faithful to His words.
- Birthday Blessing: “... your strength will equal your days.” Deut. 33:25
WE PROMISE TO SERVE GOD
Joshua 24: 16 – 21“But the people said to Joshua, ‘No! We will serve the LORD.” Joshua 24: 21, NIV We live in an era where promises are rarely kept. Many make promises, but never fulfil them. Nations sign important treaties and then break them at will. Many couples show little regard for their marriage vows. The Israelites had a choice to either serve God or the idols of the land. But they chose to serve God with a promise to obey Him and not any other god. In this perverse society, we, who are God’s people, should be known for keeping our promises. Once we have committed ourselves to serving God, we should trust Him irrespective of the situation and circumstances around us. The Israelites had many reasons to turn their back on God. They were faced with a lot of challenges that threatened their faith, yet they chose to fix their eyes on God. When life gives us reasons to doubt God and deny Him, we must always remember that He created the whole universe and He is committed to taking care of us. Are you presently going through challenging times? Does it seem like God is far? Is the devil challenging your faith? This is the best time to reaffirm your faith in God. Our ability to choose God in challenging times is a reflection of how much we trust Him.
- Birthday Blessing: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” Psalms 23:1
RESCUED FROM EGYPT, SETTLED IN CANAAN
Joshua 24: 4 – 12“I brought you to the land of the Amorites...They fought against you, but I gave them into your hands...and you took possession of their land.” Joshua 24: 8 Many of us are used to packing and moving from one place to the other, either by virtue of transfer in our places of work, or the search for greener pasture. Moving from one place to the other is not always easy and it is full of uncertainties. Sometimes in the process of moving, we are separated from some pleasant and unpleasant people and circumstances. So was it with the Israelites. They were in bondage and captivity in Egypt under the cruel hands of Pharaoh for over 400 hundred years. God sent His prophet to deliver them, and take them to the promised land flowing with milk and honey, where they settled permanently. Irrespective of the kind of bondage and captivity you are in right now, not minding how long you have been under the oppression of the enemy, God is rescuing you from your “Egypt” and is settling you in your “Canaan” in the mighty name of Jesus, Amen. God delivered the Israelites without any of their own effort. He is also willing to deliver us without any effort from us but our faith and trust in Him. Your season for moving from bondage to freedom, lack to abundance, sickness to health, poverty to riches, barrenness to fruitfulness, single to married, joblessness to gainful employment, etc. is now! Just believe in God's saving power.
- Birthday Blessing: “I will make your oppressors eat their own flesh; they will be drunk on their own blood…” Isa. 49:26
KEEP THE FAITH AND LIVE
Joshua 23: 2 – 6; 14 – 16“If you violate the covenant of the Lord your God, which he commanded you, and go and serve other gods...the Lord’s anger will burn against you, and you will quickly perish from the good land he has given you.” Joshua 23: 16 It is often said that crisis will reveal what a man already is. This is both comforting and frightening because we all wonder how we would react if everything we held dear was really on the line, like our faith, family, health, career, future, and most of all our lives. We always wonder, would we have the faith to make it? Or would we collapse? All the things we have believed, would they still be enough when the heat comes? You never really know the answer until that moment arrives. That was the case with Joshua and the Israelites. Their faith was on test. It was on a balance scale, will it survive the test? Can they keep the faith and live? Or will they abandon their faith and suffer the consequences? The believer’s life begins with faith; it is lived by faith, and sustained by faith. Faith for the believer is not an option, but the pivot on which his life revolves. Anything the believer does outside faith is considered sin (Rom. 14:23). If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you? Live in such a way, so there can be no doubt about your faith. Keeping your faith in God as a believer is the only key to survival.
- Birthday Blessing: “The Lord God…will make me to walk upon mine high places…” Habakkuk 3:19
RULES ON PEOPLE RELATING TO PEOPLE
Exodus 20:12 – 17You shall not covet your neighbour’s house. You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife...or anything that belongs to your neighbour. Exodus 20: 17, NIV God is not a selfish God who is only interested in how we relate with Him. He is also interested in how we relate with one another in this world. The first four Commandments tell us how to relate with God our creator, while the second set tells us how to relate with fellow humans. These laws can clearly be understood in the light of Matthew 22:37-40, where Jesus emphasized in verse 39 “you shall love your neighbour as yourself.” For any meaningful relationship to thrive between man and man, love for each other must be the underlining factor. When you love your fellow man as yourself, you won’t murder him; you won’t commit adultery with his spouse; you won’t steal his property; you won’t give false testimony about him; you won’t covet his house, male or female servant, Ox, donkey etc. By centring the fulfilment of these laws on love, Jesus wants to change our hearts, so that we would be willing to lay down our own lives for others; that we would honour our parents with gratefulness in our hearts, that we would be able to speak the truth to one another in love (Ephesians 4:15); that we would be willing to provide for the needs of others. Through these, our relationships with others will be one that is pleasing to God.
- Birthday Blessing: “When you pass through the waters I will be with you …” Isaiah 43:2
RULES ON PEOPLE RELATING TO GOD
Exodus 20:1 – 11“Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Exodus 20:3 KJV While growing up in our home, our father gave us rules and regulations which every member of the family must adhere to. One of such rules was “no work, no food.” It was mandatory for everyone to work on the farm during the holidays. When anyone breaks the rule, the atmosphere at home will be dull because while others are eating, that person will not be a partaker. The usual jokes will be absent, forcing us to go to bed early. Breaking the law amounts to a break in the relationship. In the same vein, God gives laws that will maintain a good relationship between us. Our focus today is on the first part of the Ten Commandments.These four commandments are directly concerned with our relationship with God. The first commandment, “No other gods”, is the foundation of all the other commandments. If Israel would keep this one, they would be able to keep the rest as well. These laws are meant to guide us and improve our relationship with God. When we keep them as children of God, we will discover that our relationship with God becomes strong and enviable. We will see ourselves being changed by the one who desires to do something in us and through us. We will become mediators of His presence to all creation. Obedience to God's instructions is the only way to experience His power.
- Birthday Blessing: “The LORD thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth.” Deut. 28:1
FEAR THE LORD AND LIVE RIGHTLY
Deuteronomy 6:20 – 25
“The Lord commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the Lord our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today.” Deut. 6: 24, NIVWe all know what it is like to be gripped by fear. We all know what it is like to have a shiver run down our spines, our mouths go dry, and our hair stand on end. That is what fear can do. Far too often we are afraid of the wrong things in life. We fear the wrong people because we feel they have power to either hurt us or favour us. But we often forget to fear God, the only person who has power over everybody. Today's passage admonishes us to obey all God's statutes by living rightly, and fear the Lord our God. To fear God does not mean cowering in terror before Him. Rather, the fear of God has been aptly defined as a wholesome dread of displeasing Him. To live rightly also connotes that this wholesome dread of displeasing God should drive us towards doing the right things in order to keep pleasing Him always. Therefore, the decision to live a holy life should not be based on the fear of what God will do to us, but it should be because of our desire to please Him. By doing these continually, we will enjoy the fellowship of the God and the benefits that come with it.
- Birthday Blessing: “…I will be an enemy to your enemies and will oppose those who oppose you.” Exodus 23:22.