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Monday, July 25, 2016

God's Provision to The Prophet and The Widow

Have you ever sat through a message at a church where it was titled one thing but the message was about something totally different? There was so much meat being shared - it was a smorgasbord of good stuff; not necessarily connected but all good for you. That's what happened yesterday.

The story of Elijah and the widow in 1 Kings 17, starts off with Elijah being fed by ravens - the ravens would bring Elijah food to eat and he would drink water from the brook. This happened for a length of time. Because there was a famine in the land the brook dried up and the ravens stopped bringing food. God then commanded Elijah to go to a village where He had instructed a widow to feed him. 

The widow was very poor - she was down to her last portion of flour and oil that she would use to make bread. But the widow was also obedient despite her impending need. When Elijah showed up and asked for water and bread, she said, “I swear by the Lord your God that I don’t have a single piece of bread in the house. And I have only a handful of flour left in the jar and a little cooking oil in the bottom of the jug. I was just gathering a few sticks to cook this last meal, and then my son and I will die.” (v12)

Elijah replied, "Don’t be afraid! Go ahead and do just what you’ve said, but make a little bread for me first. Then use what’s left to prepare a meal for yourself and your son. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: There will always be flour and olive oil left in your containers until the time when the Lord sends rain and the crops grow again!” (v13,14)

Knowing that Elijah the prophet was a man of God, she did as he instructed and she, her son, and Elijah were able to eat for many days. The flour and oil miraculously lasted.
And then her son died, and she initially wondered if it was Elijah's fault. It's not a faulty assumption, humanly speaking - she was prepared to die before Elijah showed up; now she is able to survive since he showed up and now her son is dead. The only difference is Elijah.
Elijah takes her son up to his room - laid over him and prayed to God to restore the child's life - and God does. Upon seeing her son alive, she acknowledged that he truly is a man of God and the Lord speaks through him.

This is a powerful story. Using this story, the speaker highlighted the virtues of stewardship which are:
  • Service - no matter how much or how little you are entrusted with, a willingness to serve is important. Instead of being greedy or self-centered, focus on others. You never know how you will be blessed.
  • Management of what is given to you vs. ownership - as a steward you have been entrusted with the privilege of managing something. You treat it as if it's your own, though it's not. Were you to act like it was yours, you'd be out of line. The analogy used was one of being a server in a restaurant where you serve everyone. Your job is to serve not decide who to serve.
  • Long lasting impact - In this story because the widow was obedient when her son died the prophet healed him. In the same vein when you are obedient to God it has a long lasting impact and can impact more people than you would imagine.
It may seem hard or inconvenient to share the little that you have; with God leading you, little is much when God is in it.

So she did as Elijah said, and she and Elijah and her family continued to eat for many days. There was always enough flour and olive oil left in the containers, just as the Lord had promised through Elijah. I Kings 17: 15, 16 [NLT]

Are you a good steward? If you struggle in this area, ask God to give you a willing and obedient heart.

It's Monday - this post is inspired by what I heard on Sunday.


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Tony Evans - A Biblical Response on Race

This is a hard-hitting yet comforting message that is much needed today. The passages used are: the woman at the well, Peter's vision, and Paul confronting Peter.

Key points

  • Your theology determines how you respond; it is the most important thing.
  • God made us all - in his image.
  • Where we are today requires a Godly response.
  • When men and women of God are quiet, our impact is minimized and the culture goes crazy. He says it like this - "A mist in the pulpit, is a fog in the pew."
  • Racism is a sin; sin can make a good person bad.

I'd love to hear your thoughts.


Monday, July 18, 2016

The 4 Stages of Reconciliation

As Christians, we have a ministry of reconciliation that imitates Christ's reconciliation for us. In 2 Corinthians 5:17 and 18 - we become new people in Christ; as a result of becoming a new creation, we are given the ministry of reconciliation which allows us to be reconcilers.

Being able to reconcile is something that is much needed in our culture for to reconcile is to restore harmony and cohesiveness; to be able to coexist. In our broader culture, we are bombarded with schism and friction, there is racial inequity and animosity. The climate is ripe for retaliation. This is not the recipe for reconciliation.

Brenda Salter McNeil has written on The 4 Stages of Reconciliation; she is a minister who travels the nation and speaks on racial reconciliation to a variety of audiences. She is first and foremost a Christian who noticed this racial divide in her life.

  1. Realization - An awareness that there is a grievance. An acknowledgment that there is a problem.
  2. Identification - Empathizing and understanding the aggrieved.
  3. Preparation - What are you prepared to do to reconcile? Are you prepared to go the distance towards reconciliation?
  4. Activation - The action(s) that are necessary for change. Putting in the effort and the work to make the change
These steps were identified as steps for racial reconciliation as it relates to institutions, but they are applicable for reconciliation in general.

Hard things are hard and reconciliation of any sort is hard. As reconcilers, we are imitating Christ - which means we'll get close to perfect but we're going to fail. In our own strength, we can't remove the barriers. We will get tired of fighting the good fight. We will be traumatized by all that we see happening around us. 

But before we deal with society, let's start with our homes and our relationships. Let's be reconciled with each other.  Then let's spread it to our communities until we are impacting the world. Oftentimes when there is a need for reconciliation there is a perception that one side is right and therefore the other side is wrong. Reconciliation says - we're both right; now where do we go from here. The purpose of reconciliation is to bring others to Christ. By being a vessel of reconciliation, others will see something different in us and want what we have. 

As believers, each one of us can allow Christ's spirit within us to give us the power to be reconcilers. It's like a tree with concentric circles - our ministry impacts those closest to us and spreads to have a broad impact.

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation.... 2 Corinthians 5:17, 18 [KJV]

When there is a breach, how do you reconcile? Do you use any of the steps above? Are you trying to affect change in society?

It's Monday - this post is inspired by what I heard on Sunday!!!!


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

I Will Not Live In Fear; Here's Why

As a mother of a black son living in America, I could have succumbed to fear a long time ago. When you're constantly bombarded with news of black men suffering excruciatingly at the hands of police officers, it can do something to your psyche. When every shooting seems to justify the blatant disregard for life, it hurts. When one is indeed innocent, that message gets lost in the black and white story. This is not a new phenomenon, though in the past week it seems to have reached a boiling point. Within my circle of close friends and family, most of the men have a story of being wrongly stopped by police - within their neighborhoods, on their way home, and when they least expected. I won't sit here and tell you what to do and how to act when stopped by the police, for though that is good, that too has its flaws.

From the time of my son's birth to the present, I've had an opportunity to be fearful or faith full. I choose to live by faith and not by fear. Living by fear makes you paranoid; makes you skittish; makes you not trust others, torments you in your dark hours. You can't relax whenever your child or husband leaves the house, and while it's normal to a degree for parents to worry, this degree of worry is sickening; it literally can make you sick.

I choose to live by faith grounded in God's word. It's a faith in God that gives me courage; it's a faith that gives wisdom; it's a faith that gives strength. When I was afraid for my son, I prayed and God gave me peace. The more I prayed, the more peace I received. My son one day told me, "Mummy, you don't have to live in fear." That statement combined with my prayers gave me more peace than I can put into words.

I would encourage mothers to pray - but not with resignation but with an expectation that God will protect our boys and men. God will change hearts of those in authority. God will remove the systemic blocks that are in place in our society. God will raise up leaders, mothers, you and me to affect change in our society. We can't do it in our own strength; as we look around we can see the fruits of that. But with God guiding us, a different day is coming.

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? Psalms 27:1 [KJV]

Ye that fear the Lord, trust in the Lord: he is their help and their shield. Psalms 115:11 [KJV]

The Lord is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me? Psalms 118:6 [KJV]

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7 [KJV]

Fear or Faith? How are you coping?

Friday, July 8, 2016

Faith Expressions

Every four years the Olympics happens. However, in order to be selected to the team, an athlete has to compete at the trials. Usually, for Track and Field, the top 3 in each event makes the team.

Allyson Felix is attempting to do what hasn't been done in a while at the Olympics - run the 200 and the 400, but first, she had to make the team. During the finals of the 400, she seemed to be in a bit of trouble. But then on the homestretch, in the last 100, she found another gear, passed everyone and finished first. As she crossed the line, she smiled, mouthed, "Thank you Lord," and raised her hands.

The race in the women's 100 was intense- English Gardner was one of the favorites to make the team but not the favorite to win. As they came across the line, English Gardner leaned first,but because it was so close she had to wait awhile to be declared the winner. As she was walking around the track, emotion overtook her and she went to child's pose on the track and started to pray out loud. "Thank you Jesus, O God I praise you, thank you Jesus....." With tears and emotion, she kept praying. Surprisingly, it was all captured on tape.

Two different expressions of faith on the world stage, both sincere, both as a result of persevering and winning. Our faith expressions are indicative of our relationship with the Faithful One. They also reaffirm our faith and strengthen us. Our faith expressions don't only show up in victory, but oftentimes during the minutiae and trials of just living. We nurture our faith in different ways - some take time daily early in the morning to spend time with God; some walk or run while praying; some journal; some wait until the wee hours of the morning to meditate and pray. Some of us are loud, vocal and emotional (like English Gardner) and some of us are quiet (like Allyson Felix).

In marriage, you have an opportunity to see your partner's faith up close and personal and I find this to be one of the beauties and benefits of marriage. Your spouse's expression of faith may look different than yours due to temperament and personality - but don't let that become a stumbling block, instead look at their lives and see the difference their expression of faith makes. In marriage when you both are working on building your faith it's a recipe for success. It's a guarantee of a firm foundation so that no matter what comes you can handle it. Once you have the same faith, don't force your spouse to live out their faith as you would. 

Having a firm foundation in our marriages and families impacts the way we interact with society. With so much violence, hatred and fear so close to home, it is imperative that our faith is strong and that we are not fearful of expressing it. With all the racial turmoil in America, one of the first things I do is hold on to my faith and express it. My faith and its expression provides wisdom and courage to know how to navigate these times and what I can do to make a difference. It may start small but it will grow.

Whatever faith you are it will be expressed in your day to day. As a Christian, it will show up in your speech, your actions, your thoughts, your behaviors, as your faith is intricate to you. So live accordingly and walk worthy of the vocation to which you are called.

I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called.....Ephesians 4:1 [KJV]

How do you express your faith?