How I respond

I have been reading a book by Philip Yancey “What’s so amazing about grace?” and it has given me a lot to think about my way of thinking of certain people. The one thing I know the Church of God has to offer which one is not supposed to find elsewhere is unconditional love. It made me wonder how much of this we still have to offer. Have we lost it? How does the church respond when faced with people who “fall short”? How do I respond to other people’s failures?

I heard a story about a thanksgiving Sunday in a certain church in London where a man boldly  but remorsefully stood before the congregation to ask the church to forgive him for  sexual sins committed with a young girl. The man stated that he had repented and asked God for forgiveness but he realised that he had to ask the church too. This man confessed his sin before his church and asked for forgiveness on his knees and the congregation (or most of them) listened with compassion clearly and boldly written all over their faces. I have been attending church for about 7 years now and though it is not a very long time, I have never seen anything like that. Not only so, I have seldom responded this way to those within or without the church. My focus has often been more on the problem that the person.

This man, had the courage to do what he did because he must have known that his brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers would not crucify him. He must also have known that he had the support of this family on his journey to wholeness and restoration. How many of us are bold enough to do this? Or should I say how many of us in this man’s place could confidently do same reassured that our local church family would respond in love? More important, I wondered if I would have responded with love and compassion.

I feel strongly that there is a part of me would not have been pleased with this man. My judgement may have gone along this line: “How disgusting! She is young enough to be your child! How would you feel were she yours?!” I wonder how gracious the Church truly is. If we cannot find healing, help, solutions and above all love in the church, what is left?

This man’s story reminds me of the woman caught in adultery. Jesus told the Pharisees who brought her to him and I paraphrase “If you are innocent yourself, please feel free to lead the execution.” Ofcourse none could do this. If I were there, I would be one of first to slowly turn and walk away as inconspicuously as possible and possibly very red in the face with the guilt of my own unrighteousness.

What about the couple choosing to go through with a divorce. I would probably say “Erm, you should work it out!…There is always a way out apart from divorce… Covenant! You are breaking the Covenant! How can you now change your minds?…I know that the Father hates it.” So must I hate the people involved as well? What about excommunicating them and treating them like the worst thing after the Devil’s agents? I think not that Christ would do this. Oh you can feel His genuine love, concern and interest in the well-being of the Samaritan lady who had gone through 5 marriages and had then settled for co-habiting. I wonder if I could extend the same grace. I don’t remember where He rubbed the law in this woman’s face.

And this one rocks me the most: homosexuality. I know I squeeze my face – at least within me when I see public display of affection by same sex lovers or partners. “Eeew! Sodomites! How do you do that?” says my self-righteous self. How we tend to treat these folks possibly with less grace than we treat adulterers and fornicators even though they are in the same category of sexual sins. What is sadder is realising how much of my face wrinkling is directed towards the sin rather than the people – regrettably very little.

Grace hates the sin but loves the sinner irrespective of how great the sin may be.  Grace offers support to the person who is already struggling with their weakness. Every one of us has an issue or two… I love this saying from a friend and I have modified it for my own use and I am loving saying it: “I have issues. You have issues. We all have issues.” So relax and refrain from pointing fingers and watch the wrinkles. Your issue stains you as much as mine does me. Whether yours be ‘more acceptable’ than mine or vice versa. Yours may not be as open to the public as mine however that does not excuse either one of us from “Pursue…holiness without which none will see the Lord.” Hebrews 12:14. More so it does not exclude us from “Love each other as I have loved you.” John 15:12

I must add that it is not OK to be comfortable with sin in our lives. Sin is always an act of disobedience toward God and unacceptable especially in the life of anyone who names himself after God. So I am definitely not advocating acceptance of what God’s word clearly denounces. Rather than focus on the problem, I am learning to offer support and to love just as He does me. We must call sin what it is- “Sin” however we must love always the person especially as we know we are all in the struggle together. This is not limited to Christians only – Jesus showed love to His disciples as well as the tax collector and prostitute. Above all I am beginning to understand better that the one who is able to love others irrespective of their issues is most likely the one who has come face to face with their own shortcomings and is grateful to the perfect God who loves them irrespective of and supports them during the regular seasons of weakness. Let us show love. That is what Jesus would do.

Grace be with you xx

12 Legions of Angels

This one is dedicated to everyone going through. I have actually been overwhelmed by the number of those I know who seem to be facing very tough times. Not that experiencing challenging times is a new thing however I guess it hurts more when you know those in it.  You wish you could just wave a magic wand and all would be made well. I have friends who have been job hunting for months and are still at it, some battling health problems, problems in the family, tough relationships with friends and foe, betrayals from loved ones… and the list goes on. Apart from being amazed by how much people have been and are still going through, Some folks I cannot help but salute their courage and strength as they endure and persevere through so many storms in their one life. I hear some stories and I want to cry because I know they are doing the same within.  Often times, we think we are in a bad situation until we hear another person’s story. This is the point when we ought to stop to give thanks because irrespective of it all, we are all still standing, still hoping, still longing! I know tough time happens to us all however I like and I hope for the fairy tale endings for everyone. You know the ones where the bad guy dies eventually and the hero is celebrated. The best part of this is that at this point, he cares not for the wounds received during the fight. This puts a smile on my face :-).

I would like to encourage everyone fighting a battle today. I know One who has you in His hands. He’ll come through for you. I know what you are going through because I am fighting some battles myself. One thing I am certain of – With God, all things are possible, and in two simple words spoken to me too by my Brother and Best Friend Jesus “only believe.”

You know God knows what it means to go through the wilderness and to endure seasons of behemoth challenges. Whilst Jesus was here on earth, He made a statement on one of the toughest days of His life. He was in the garden called Gethsemane with a few friends when a band of soldiers appeared bearing swords and clubs. They did not hesitate to ask for the one they came to arrest – Him. One of His friends who tried to defend him pulled out a sword to fight but Jesus said, “Put your sword back in its place…Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and He will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?” God is able to rescue us out of every situation and in a grand style too! However, He lets us go through it sometimes. When I think of angels, I imagine strong celestial beings with massive wings. When it gets tough, I can imagine their wings wrapped around me providing comfort, as a shield to protect me, or strength to elevate me. I also feel these can face any foe standing before me because they are most definitely strong. What’s best is that they are described as agents sent by God to work on behalf of His children. I cannot provide you an angel but I know they respond quite positively to God’s word. I cannot question God, but I can encourage you so here are a few thoughts to keep that smile on your face and a skip in your stride:

“He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous Matthew 5:45. It is actually normal. Good and evil happens to all irrespective of our moral standing. The challenges we face are absolutely normal in this present age. We are all in it lol.

“I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.]” John 16:33 (amp). You are already a winner! He’s done the work already so that you can smile. This means that even before you knew of the battle ahead, Jesus fought and won the battle on your behalf. Which means, you have already won.

“Cast your cares upon Him for He cares for you” 1Peter 5:7. Give it all to the Burden Bearer. Simply because He knows you cannot carry the problems you face successfully, He asks that we leave it all to Him. This should free you to be happy and at peace.

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust. Surely He will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence”. Psalm 91:1-3. You are covered. He’s got you all covered so relax and do no fret. You are safe.

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” Psalm 46:1. You have constant help. He wants you to know that you are not alone. He is there with you and will be with you through it all.

“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” 1 Corinthians 10:13. This problem will not kill you lol. If He’s permitted it, He must know you can handle it. Moreover, there is a solution which He will provide as well.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” James1:2-4. You will come out stronger. So the test is for a purpose: to strengthen you and make you better. In other words, there are boyish ways in you and these trials have a way of bringing out the man in you.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” 2 Corinthians 12:9. Especially in your weakness, you are strong! It is normal to think we always need to be strong but there is actually more power released during our season of weakness. So when you feel weak and cannot bear to deal with one more issue or moment of pain, be rest assured that He is being strong on your behalf.

“The LORD your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as He did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, and in the desert” Deuteronomy 1:29-30. God is fighting for you. The battle is not yours and the One fighting for you has never lost a battle. So rest, you do not exactly have to do the fighting by yourself.

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” Hebrews 12:2. This too shall pass. There is ‘light’ at the end of every tunnel. This season will not last forever, there is an end ahead of you so just keep moving.

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven…” Matthew 5:11-12. Great is your reward. For those enduring persecution, you have a reward in heaven, so rejoice because you are actually truly blessed :-).

“Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering” Hebrews 13:3. You are in my prayers. I know what it means to need to pray but have no strength or faith in you to do this. During times like these, friends and family helped me through. God knows your pain and He will come through for you however, especially to those I know, I have you in my heart and prayers. Together we stand in agreement, He will come through for us.

Avec Amour xx