Archive for the ‘Dairy of a Freeman’ Category

BY RHONNI GREIG

In the field of special education, students with disabilities are often referred to as children with exceptional needs. As I reflect on the countless students I have worked with over the years, I am reminded of what it means to truly live an exceptional life.

As a speech and language pathologist and a student of “narrative” language, I have come to learn that we tell ourselves stories and then we live by the stories we tell ourselves.

This has never been truer as I consider my own life’s story. From a very young age I have always been directed to the cheerleading frontlines and sometimes broken pathways of working and engaging with the marginalized and disenfranchised in both my professional and my personal life—with my ultimate endeavor to be an instrument of hope, belonging, and restoration for those who have been abandoned on the periphery of opportunity and acceptance.

If asked what my spiritual gifts were, I would most confidently list mercy-showing and exhortation, but I know that these ministry gifts that God gives so freely are only a small reflection of my passion to impact lives through the love and kindness God has first extended to me.

Working with children with special needs I have witnessed them learning to walk (and sometimes crawl) among the ashes that were not of their own making. In those moments of overcoming great obstacles, I have been gifted with a rare glimpse into the shadows of triumphs that can bring redemption to life and work.

In my therapy sessions with students I see why these amazing children are considered exceptional.

It’s hard to describe what happens in the human heart when, in a moment of time, a child’s self-identity is redefined. “Disability” is no longer a part of their personal narrative. The knowledge and perspective of “possibility” releases an inner feeling that can only be described as pure joy for both the student and me the therapist.

Recently, I was captivated by the concept of ‘the glory of God’ which we read about in vivid descriptions in scripture and I wondered if there was a possible connection between God’s glory and our human experience of inner joy and contentment. I was intrigued by a message I heard from a dear friend and pastor from England, Mike Pilavachi, as he reflected on the life of Moses in the book of Exodus; and Moses’ bold request for God to reveal His glory to him.

I thought—the nerve, and in some ways the presumption of Moses! It’s not as if Moses’ life was lacking of any proof of God’s provision and presence—or His glory. God overwhelmingly displayed His glory to Moses in a multitude of ways from the burning bush, the plagues of Egypt, the parting of the sea, His daily provision of manna, through a pillar of fire by night—and the cloud by day.

But somehow even after experiencing all of those signs, Moses still felt that he hadn’t yet truly experienced God’s glory. So Moses prays, “Show me your glory” (Exodus 33:18). Really? What more could God do to demonstrate His glory to the people He loved?

The astounding beauty of this exchange between God and Moses is how delicately and intimately God answers Moses’ honest request. God responds. It is not with another supernatural display of His manifest presence such as fire, thunder, lightning or shaking of the earth, but rather God’s response is a close and private exchange in a crevice of a mountain,

And the Lord passed before him [Moses] and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands…”
Exodus 34:6-7

In this exchange God’s Holy presence is tenderly intertwined with His words of remembrance about His character and nature toward mankind. God makes it very clear to Moses that His real glory is proclaimed and revealed through the simple acts and gestures of goodness, mercy, and compassion.

What a revelation to everything within me that calls out for an authentic experience of God. Could it be that in those moments when we are compelled to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God that, God is quietly and affectionately invading our story and ushers in His glory through uncomplicated acts of goodness, mercy, and compassion.  The fruit of which releases “joy” to our soul.

If true, I’m deeply humbled and yet also profoundly moved to receive this great gift God extends to the followers of Jesus Christ—that through the work of His Holy Spirit, when we are afforded the honor to represent the Heavenly Father’s mercy, grace, and goodness—the very nature of God—the glory of God is revealed and I experience His joy. What an exceptional life!

The Apostle Paul understood very well the purpose and effect of seeing and experiencing the glory of God,

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.
2 Corinthians 3:18

Paul is telling us that once you receive this revelation of God’s glory—of his love, mercy, grace and long-suffering—the Holy Spirit will continually open our eyes to more of these aspects of God’s nature and character. We have an ever-increasing revelation of God, in the way God wants to be known to us!

As David Wilkerson paraphrases the Apostle Paul in Galatians 1:15-16, “I have within me much more than some doctrine somebody thought up, more than just a head knowledge of Christ. I have a revelation of who Christ is—a revelation of his grace, mercy and love. And this revelation has become the very source of all I am and do. It’s the very essence of my life!”—an exceptional life.

Scripture tells us that when Moses experienced this revelation of God’s glory in the cleft of the mountain—the revelation that God is good, loving, caring, gracious, forgiving—Moses quickly fell to his knees and began to worship,

So Moses made haste and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshiped.
Exodus 34:8

As I worship God today in gratitude and thanksgiving, I too boldly ask to see His glory in my life. Suddenly my eyes and heart open to the young pregnant mother who was just informed that the child within her womb has severe chromosomal abnormalities and will probably not survive the pregnancy, and if the child survives the pregnancy probably will not survive the delivery, and if the child survives the delivery—will not survive his first breath. The courage of this young mother to say, “I will not end the life of this child. He has value and a soul and I will carry him, give birth to him, hold him and pray over him for as long as God gives him life.” Through this young mother’s narrative—I experience God’s glory and bear witness to an exceptional life.

This young mother’s story and the many other young mothers and fathers I have been blessed to work with over the years—add beauty to my life. They help to write a narrative of an exceptional life—worthy of God’s love, mercy, compassion, and sacrifice.

A favorite lyric of mine written by the worship leader Sara Groves reminds me that, “their pain changed me, their dreams inspired, their faces a memory, their hope a fire. Their courage asks me what am I afraid of—what am I made of and what I know of love. And what I know of love.”

Today, God hands each of us a pen to write the stories we tell ourselves—our narrative. Within our grasp is a story filled with tales of God’s goodness, mercy, and compassion—His glory helping to define an exceptional life.

We also have the great privilege and sacred opportunity to inspire others to discover and write their own stories. Is there a friend or individual God is encouraging you to help write—or rewrite their story out of the ashes?

Discover and embrace your spiritual gifts and experience God’s glory as you write your narrative and help others to find the words to their story—experience the joy that comes when you chose to live an exceptional life of love, mercy, compassion, and sacrifice!

Here are some ways to use your spiritual gifts with families of special needs children and those on the margins of life’s opportunity:

▪ Volunteer to mentor a child with special needs in your church’s Sunday School
▪ Offer to babysit for a family with a child with special needs
▪ Volunteer for your local chapter of Special Olympics
▪ Host a “play date” for mothers with special needs children
▪ Begin a “Special Needs” family ministry at your church
▪ Help a family with special needs children find the resources in your community for social, academic, and vocational assistance
▪ Help to eliminate the feelings of isolation and abandonment that families with special needs children experience by inviting them to parties, gatherings, Bible studies, and vacations
▪ Volunteer at a women’s shelter
▪ Become a foster parent to a needy child

BY CARSON LEITH

“You’re going to be a pastor,” God tells me in the summer of 2011 while working at a fishing lodge in the Haida Gwaii in western Canada.

And then I shoot back, “Are you crazy?” It seemed to make sense but I was scared of it being true, even after I told Him that He could finally have a hundred percent of me.

“It sounds like you want to be a pastor,” says John Mark Reynolds, my mentor during my time in the Torrey Honors Institute, a Great Books program at Biola University. “You just need to stop being afraid of it.” I stare around at his office filled with books and think of how I want to lead, write, preach, teach and counsel: all with the motive of helping people grow. Maybe that’s what a pastor does…

“I think you need to be a pastor,” Chad tells me over a meeting that was supposed to be about a fishing trip. “You have the gift of ‘withness’ and presence. You’re just denying it because you’re afraid.” Coming from someone who did not know me in depth, this was both shocking and peaceful. Shocking because he pulled back the curtain on my soul without much history. Peaceful because I knew that what he was saying was a timely truth from God.

I was in business at the time and could play that game well, but it wasn’t what I was supposed to be doing long term. God certainly led me into business for a time of growth, which I consider invaluable. But it was time to move on. Four days later, I applied to Regent College in Vancouver Canada without telling anyone but my wife.

Not telling anyone was significant for me. I have historically sought much counsel in large decisions partly to be wise, partly to please others. And I lived in California, where my family lives. But here I was, applying to a graduate school in another country without consulting anyone because I was confident that this was the school I wanted to be shaped by: its people, its setting, its mission, its values, and its vision. Regent is a glove-fit for who I want to become: not just a pastor, but also a whole person who is intelligent, vigorous and joyful about his commitment to Jesus Christ, His Church, and His world. This newfound confidence in my decision to apply showed me that I was sure of this direction without needing anyone else’s opinion.

So what does this have to do with spiritual gifts? Everything.

The journey of discovering your true self is one that is actually quite disruptive. By “disruptive” I mean that it may lead to a geographical move, a career change, hardship, financial stress, and saying goodbye to those you love the most.

This is why many do not attempt to know themselves: it’s a scary process. But I would argue that it is a process through which you’ll experience the truest form of life there is.

Knowing yourself has so many factors to it. To name a few, there’s Meyers-Briggs, Strengths-Finder, family background, heritage, place, personality, weaknesses, passions, natural gifting, and last but not least, spiritual gifting.

It’s unfortunate that many people in Christian circles make a joke out of spiritual gifts—because to deny them or even worse to make fun of them is to miss out on how God himself has gifted you by His good will. It’s to miss out on your destiny.

Spiritual gifts matter a great deal. Because by them, God, out of His grace, uses us to bless a community. The gifts are not to build up our own kingdom, but His Kingdom.

I’ve had jobs all over the place. And it’s fascinating to observe the consistencies in my spiritual gifts across a wide variety of roles.

My primary spiritual gifts are:

  1. Shepherding
  2. Mercy-Showing
  3. Teaching
  4. Exhortation

I am a pastor-shepherd everywhere I go. I love to help people grow, I love protecting and governing and caring for my wife, I am burdened for the love, growth and care of the Church. Even when I was in business, people recognized my pastoral heart toward my coworkers. Nowadays, I’m the Dean of a Residence Hall at the University of British Columbia, where my wife and I get to take care of 40 undergraduate students who all have separate journeys and life stories. This role has been an incredible privilege and has been exhilarating as I get to essentially pastor a small group of students every single day.

To some this might be a draining role, but to me, it is life to my bones.

I feel alive. I don’t think about having to “go to work” or “do my job”—I’m just being myself everyday, and it just happens to be a “job” that the college wants someone to do! This kind of natural fit might be a clue to your own spiritual gifts being utilized.

The gift of mercy-showing comes out whenever I sense a burden or need in someone. I immediately want to surround them with love and compassion and comfort, often through physical touch. I am usually the first to notice someone on the fringes of a community and am drawn toward befriending them. Without really thinking about it, I desire to share in the pain of others and also help them to relieve their pain.

I am gifted in teaching. In every job I’ve had, I like to teach: how to make coffee, create a website, do direct marketing, write a great subject line on an email, study the Bible, start a blog, play guitar, and on and on. It’s my natural bent to teach people, and I’ve seen that gift in everything I do.

Lastly, I am an encourager-exhorter. I love to encourage my wife, friends, parents, brothers and sisters, coworkers, or people just doing great work in a given area. I am thrilled when I can exhort others to action, help them apply a situation to their life, or discover a little more about their purpose. Come to think of it, that’s probably why I wrote The Star Smith, my free 32 page eBook. The book’s primary purpose is to encourage others to find and do work that matters. In nearly all my writing, I end with a line that acts as a “push off the ledge” to go and do something or to be inspired or moved.

As I discovered my spiritual gifts, I slowly realized that they fell under the multi-faceted role of pastor, which was an incredibly freeing and exhilarating thought. Over the slow course of hammering this out, submitting myself to God, and a good deal of conversation with others, I’ve found my calling. I found a role that will require all of my particular gifts, talents, passions, and personality.

There is a great temptation in seminary to feel like you have to wait until you’re in an official role to start using your spiritual gifts. My own common mistake is thinking too much about how I can be utilized in the future while forgetting about what God has given me today.

So I encourage you to look at what’s in your hand. What has God given you today? Who are you in relationship with? What communities do you serve? Your spiritual gifts are for those people and they can be used today.

Someday, if the Lord wants it to happen, I will be at a local church, using my gifts for the people of God there.

But what to do with today?

Use my gifts for the people of God here—the community I am in today.

Now…is enough.

The book of Proverbs has so many timely sayings and ideas that are appropriate for everyday life.

Confidence in an unfaithful man in time of trouble is like a broken tooth, and a foot out of joint. Proverbs 25:19

This particular verse has always intrigued us because of the completeness of what it says in so few words. If we place our confidence in someone who is not faithful to help us when we need it, we are in serious trouble. When this happens, we are hampered in not only what we say (broken tooth), but also in where we go (foot out of joint)…and both of these are very painful.

I you have ever had the painful experience of having a root canal in your mouth, or if you have bitten into something that was harder than you thought, which resulted in your breaking a tooth, then you know of this type of pain. You cannot eat because of the pain. It is difficult to talk because of the pain. Many times the pain is so intense that your sleep is adversely affected.

Let’s go one step further. Let’s say that along with the pain in your mouth, you have also disjointed your foot. Now not only is it difficult to talk, eat, and maybe sleep, it is almost impossible for you to walk around.

Think of it. Not being able to eat, sleep, walk, and having a hard time explaining any of it to someone else because of the pain. This is truly the picture of a miserable individual. It is certainly a place that we would never want to find ourselves.

But how many people do we put in that very same position when we do not hold what is told to us in private, in the strictest of confidence?

When what is told to the pastor in confidence gets “preached” at the next Sunday sermon?

When someone has for the first time told their deepest secrets to someone that they trusted, and similar information is haphazardly mentioned in a social gathering or shared with others “so that they could pray for the individual”?

When your best friend confides in you…and you open your mouth and let the confidential information slip to someone else, increasing the likelihood of the secret being spread like wildfire?

People’s hearts can be broken, lives can be ruined, trust destroyed, and relationships harmed by careless handling of confidential information.

Being a friend or a caregiver holds a great responsibility to keeping our mouths shut with information told to us in confidence.

However, if you are serving counselor, there are two exceptions you should point out to all people you counsel before they share information with you. These exceptions are valid and important because they can cause you, the caregiver, great legal and ethical trouble if not handled correctly.

  1. When a person tells you that they have either physically or sexually abused a child, most state laws require you to report this information to a local social services person.
  2. You cannot pledge complete confidentiality if the person tells you that they plan to kill themselves or that they plan to harm someone else.

Keep in mind that confidentiality relates to what we say and to whom we say it.

In every case, we need to think before we speak. We need to protect confidential information. We need to be considerate and trustworthy as a friend. And, if you are a counselor, you need to be professional and ethical, and follow the guidelines of the laws in your area.

Don’t be the source of pain in someone’s life through broken confidence.

Be a source of hope and healing to all.

People’s hearts can be broken, lives can be ruined, trust destroyed, and relationships harmed by careless handling of confidential information.

Being a friend or a caregiver holds a great responsibility to keeping our mouths shut with information told to us in confidence.

However, if you are serving counselor, there are two exceptions you should point out to all people you counsel before they share information with you. These exceptions are valid and important because they can cause you, the caregiver, great legal and ethical trouble if not handled correctly.

  1. When a person tells you that they have either physically or sexually abused a child, most state laws require you to report this information to a local social services person.
  2. You cannot pledge complete confidentiality if the person tells you that they plan to kill themselves or that they plan to harm someone else.

Keep in mind that confidentiality relates to what we say and to whom we say it.

In every case, we need to think before we speak. We need to protect confidential information. We need to be considerate and trustworthy as a friend. And, if you are a counselor, you need to be professional and ethical, and follow the guidelines of the laws in your area.

Don’t be the source of pain in someone’s life through broken confidence.

Be a source of hope and healing to all.

“They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord” 2 Thessalonians 2:9

To be shut out from God’s presence and from His power is to be without hope and without love forever. This is one of the hardest truths in the Bible. But here’s something I’ve discovered—the hardest truths can produce the most tender hearts. If you grasp this most difficult of doctrines, God will use it to soften your heart today.

To sustain your faith in a suffering world

“He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled… when the Lord Jesus is revealed.” 2 Thessalonians 1:6

If you’ve suffered at the hands of other people, or if someone you love has suffered at the hands of others, you will be faced with this question: Where is God in all this? How can I believe that God is loving and just when so often good people suffer and those who do evil prosper? This doctrine helps. It tells you that you haven’t yet seen the end of the story.

God says to suffering believers: “A day is coming when Jesus Christ will be revealed. Then you’ll see the full measure of My justice and the full measure of My love. Use this to sustain your faith in a suffering world.”

To restrain your desire to even the score

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge… but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.” Romans 12:18

Someone hurts you. Your immediate instinct will be to want to hurt them back. They brought you down, and you find a certain pleasure in bringing them down. How do you restrain the desire to even the score?

God will repay, so leave room for His wrath. You don’t need to take it into your hands when you know it is in His. You can leave it to Him.

On this foundation God says, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head” (Romans 12:20). If you don’t believe this, you’ll always be trying to even the score.

To increase your compassion for people who harm you

Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you Matthew 5:44

Anyone who’s suffered at the hands of another person, as all of us have, will hear this and say, “Love him? Love her? How is that possible?”

If the person who harmed you was to see what they did and truly to repent, you might find it in your heart to forgive them. But if they just go on with no awareness of what they’ve done, or worse, they continue doing the same thing, it is very hard to have compassion.

Where do you begin in loving this enemy? The Bible’s teaching helps. Think about everlasting destruction in relation to the person who hurt you, and what it would mean to be shut out of the light and joy and hope and love of the Lord forever… You would not wish that on your worst enemy.

A deep grasp of this truth will help you to pray for those who’ve harmed you. Bitterness cannot survive long when you begin to pray, and you’ll be amazed at the way compassion sneaks in the back door of your heart.


This LifeKey is based on the message “God Will Bring Justice for You,” by Pastor Colin S. Smith, delivered January 9, 2011, from the series “Staying the Course When You’re Tired of the Battle.” Colin currently serves as Senior Pastor of the The Orchard Evangelical Free Church in Arlington Heights, Illinois. He is committed to preaching the Bible in a way that nourishes the soul by directing attention to Jesus Christ.

BY KAREN ARKAN

We’ve lived under some “real” persecution.

When I think of some of the situations my husband and I have lived through over the past 10 years, it almost seems like I’m an outsider looking in on my life, watching someone else’s nightmare unfold on some crime show. It seems very surreal and outside of our existence. But the truth is, we have tasted persecution.

Only a few years after we were married, Ramazan and I had come home from work, eaten dinner and then turned on the news in our home in the nation of Turkey. Ramazan left the room for a few minutes and, like some kind of weird prank, suddenly his picture was on the television with a headline that I could make out even with my limited Turkish.

“Man Arrested for Plotting to Kill Pastor”

What!!?? At first I hesitated and doubted my translation. But I read the headline again and I was sure that is what it said.

I called my husband Ramazan into the room and in a very low moment of our relationship he explained to me that indeed someone had tried to kill him and that we had been living under police protection for several days.

Suddenly my concern shifted from the headline into anger towards my husband for hiding this information from me.

He didn’t want me to worry.

For the next 4 months, police with were us 24 hours a day.

The day after the news broke, I went to my teaching job at a Turkish school. During the lesson, the principal’s secretary came into my classroom and asked me to come to see the owner of the school.

I panicked.

I called Ramazan to tell him that surely I was going to be fired. We both assumed that the school was now concerned that parents would be upset after seeing my husband on the news. They may have figured out that the wife of a Christian pastor was teaching their (mostly) Muslim students.

We quickly discussed what I should say to the owner of the school and that I should ask for at least a few months of severance pay.

I was shaking as I walked into the office.

For several moments, the owner of the school chatted with me about how I was doing, what she could do to support me, and how she could help.

This kindness was unexpected.

She finished and I waited for the next part. The firing. But it didn’t come. And I said to her, breathing a sigh of relief, “I assumed you called me here to fire me.” She replied with a generous amount of grace, “If any of the parents of our students are upset that you are working here, they can take their child and leave this school.”

This was the first episode in an outpouring of loving kindness which we received.

Another almost comical story comes to mind. A close friend of ours went to do his military service. He was being trained as an officer. In one of his training sessions, the instructor gave a slide presentation. Our friend was surprised when a picture of my husband Ramazan came up as an “enemy of the state.”

So yes, we have faced some difficult days. Hatred. Threats. False accusations.

Ramazan was even “unofficially” arrested at one point.

But today I’m thinking about something else. Today I’m thinking about a different kind of persecution that has been pretty intense in our lives this year.

I hesitate to even call it persecution. But in so many ways, some of what we’ve been facing hurts even more deeply then having some stranger after your life.

Hebrews 11 has always been one of my very favorite Bible passages. I always read it with such a sense of awe of what these faithful Heroes of Our Faith experienced and endured…

And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about (those)…who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies…There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.
Hebrews 11:32-38

Whew! That puts our troubles into perspective.

With all that we have walked through, nothing has been as severe as that.

And yet, maybe comparing our persecution isn’t the point.

As I said, it has been a hard year for us. Hard in a different way. It seems almost laughable to call what we have lived through this year “persecution.” But I think it has the same roots. It comes from the same origin. Jealousy, anger, hatred, selfishness, fear. Whenever we become the object upon which these emotions are projected, I think it pretty much feels like persecution.

Its personal persecution.

Ramazan and I are the first to admit that we don’t have it all together. We still feel very young and inexperienced even though we are technically now middle-aged. We don’t claim to have all the answers and it is very hard when we are in the position of helping others and for us to know the best ways to lead, guide, and encourage the people we serve. We don’t take this role lightly and we feel very accountable to the Lord for our decisions and for the counsel we give. We know this is a big responsibility and a job we cannot do on our own.

This year we have faced some trying situations in ministry. We’ve gone into places of helping and guiding to which we haven’t been before. And because of the magnitude of the responsibility we feel, we have carefully and prayerfully plodded these new territories. We slowly and carefully made decisions which we felt were best for handling the relational problems going on in the church we serve.

But the problem is, sometimes people ask for help and then they don’t want the counsel you offer. Sometimes people become resentful of the ways we try to help. Sometimes they blame us for not fixing their situation. And sometimes they lash out. Sometimes they cut us off. Sometimes they choose to stay in their brokenness and become even more angry.

Persecution is defined as: hostility and ill-treatment, especially because of race or political or religious beliefs; oppression. Persistent annoyance or harassment.

Persecution hurts because its personal. It hurts because we really love and care about the people we are trying to care for. It hurts when we try to do the right thing, to please and honor God, and then it is misunderstood as something else by others.

I don’t doubt that you’ve experienced the same thing. The same feelings of being the object of someone else’s wrath when you’ve truly tried to help. Its a lonely feeling. Its discouraging. And on the flip side, its the best place to be.

During our discussions, Ramazan and I always end up coming back to the same point. We did what would honor the Lord. Even when it was hard and unpopular. Even when we would have rather excused behaviors for the sake of staying on the good side of someone. Even when it was easier not to get involved. Even when it took us extra time and put us in awkward situations. And surprisingly we have found an ocean of peace in that place.

God has never asked us to be pleasers of people. He has asked us to be faithful. And the deepest place in our hearts yearns to be as faithful and honored as the Heroes of Our Faith.

Years ago, Ramazan chose to take what he thought was the easiest and best way to handle a terrible situation. He chose not to tell me about the man who was arrested for trying to kill him. He was afraid of what my reaction would be. He thought staying silent was the best thing for me (and for him). He thought avoidance would protect me. This kind of tiptoeing actually hurt our relationship more than it helped us. Since then he has definitely learned his lesson and the Lord has redeemed that situation by bringing us closer as we faced that deep trial together.

There are definitely times to stay silent, but fear shouldn’t keep us from making the right choices in standing up for our beliefs and encouraging others towards living lives of integrity.

So While in Church this morning my Senior Pastor reminded me of the piece opined by Elnathan John in July 2012, though sacarstically comical, it points to our religiousness as a people and lacking Godly Character. I will allow you read through it, feel free to drop a comment or your thoughts in the Comment Section.

The Nigerian god is one. It may have many different manifestations, but it is essentially different sides of the same coin. Sometimes, adherents of the different sides may fight and kill each other. But Nigerians essentially follow the Nigerian god.

This article is for all those who want to become better worshipers. If you are a new or prospective convert, God will bless you for choosing the Nigerian god. This is just how you must worship him.

First, you must understand that being a worshiper has nothing to do with character, good works or righteousness. So the fact that you choose to open every meeting with multiple prayers does not mean that you intend to do what is right. The opening prayer is important. Nothing can work without it. If you are gathered to discuss how to inflate contracts, begin with an opening prayer or two. If you are gathered to discuss how to rig elections, begin with a prayer. The Nigerian god appreciates communication.

When you sneak away from your wife to call your girlfriend in the bathroom, and she asks if you will come this weekend, you must say—in addition to “Yes”—“By God’s grace” or “God willing”. It doesn’t matter the language you use. Just add it. The Nigerian god likes to be consulted before you do anything, including a trip to Obudu to see your lover.

When worshipping the Nigerian god, be loud. No, the Nigerian god is not hard of hearing. It is just that he appreciates your loud fervour, like he appreciates loud raucous music. The Nigerian god doesn’t care if you have neighbours and neither should you. When you are worshipping in your house, make sure the neighbours can’t sleep. Use loud speakers even if you are only two in the building. Anyone who complains must be evil. God will judge such a person.

This is how the Nigerian god judges people who are your enemies- evil people who want to spoil your hustle; like your colleagues who don’t want your promotion; like your single old aunties who secretly don’t want you to marry that rich handsome man (who you haven’t met yet); like all your neighbours who are stopping you from getting pregnant: He violently consumes them by fire. He returns all their evil plans back to sender. So when making requests about all your enemies, do not pray that they be forgiven or that they change. Pray that the Nigerian god kills them off with such violent finality that there is nothing left of them. 

Attribute everything to the Nigerian god. So, if you diverted funds from public projects and are able to afford that Phantom, when people say you have a nice car, say, “Na God”. If someone asks what the secret of all your wealth is, say, “God has been good to me”. By this you mean the Nigerian god who gave you the uncommon wisdom to re-appropriate public funds.

Consult the Nigerian god when you don’t feel like working. The Nigerian god understands that we live in a harsh climate where it is hard to do any real work. So, if you have no clue how to be in charge and things start collapsing, ask people to pray to God and ask for his intervention.

The Nigerian god loves elections and politics. When you have bribed people to get the Party nomination, used thugs to steal and stuff ballot boxes, intimidated people into either sitting at home or voting for you, lied about everything from your assets to your age, and you eventually, (through God’s grace), win the elections, you must begin by declaring that your success is the wish of God and that the other candidate should accept this will of God. It is not your fault whom the Nigerian god chooses to reward with political success. How can mere mortals complain?

The Nigerian god does not tolerate disrespect. If someone insults your religion, you must look for anyone like them and kill them. Doesn’t matter what you use—sticks, machetes, grenade launchers, IED’s, AK47’s. The Nigerian god sometimes deeply appreciates a good beheading for people who blaspheme. If the person who insults your religion is online and you can’t locate them, feel free to threaten to kill them. Like we say in Nigeria: “at all-at all na im bad pass”. Something is better than nothing at all. 

The Nigerian god performs signs and wonders. He does everything from cure HIV to High BP. And the Nigerian god is creative: he can teach a person who was born blind the difference between blue and green when the man of god asks, and he can teach a person born deaf instant English. As a worshipper you must let him deliver you because every case of sickness is caused by evil demons and not infections. Every case of barrenness is caused by witches and has no scientific explanation. So instead of hospital, visit agents of the Nigerian god. But the Nigerian god does not cure corruption. Do not attempt to mock him.

If you worship the Nigerian god, you are under no obligation to be nice or kind to people who are not worshippers. They deserve no courtesy.

The Nigerian god is also online. As a worshipper, you are not obliged to be good or decent on Facebook or Twitter all week except on Friday and Sunday, both of which the Nigerian god marks as holy. So you may forward obscene photos, insult people, forward lewd jokes on all days except the holy days. On those holy days, whichever applies to you, put up statuses saying how much you are crazy about God.

These days, the Nigerian god also permits tweets and Facebook updates like: “Now in Church” or “This guy in front of me needs to stop dozing” when performing acts of worship. Also, nothing like a Twitter hashtag with your pastors sermon. These are great hashtags to consider for Sundays: #SundaysWithJesus #JesusRocks #SundaySermon #Crazy4JC

In all, the Nigerian god is very kind and accommodating. He gives glory and riches and private jets. And if you worship him well, he will immensely bless your hustle.

When He had said this Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” John 11:43-44 NIV

This event triggered the Pharisees to crucify Jesus. Lazarus had been dead four days. Jewish tradition prompted the family to bury soon after death, but the Jews also believed the spirit hovered over the dead body for up to three days. This time too had passed. Lazarus was a fully dead man! It was a real miracle to bring him back to life, and this was too much for the Pharisees. What the Pharisees underestimated was that this power would continue to be exhibited in the life of Christians for thousands of years to come. If you are a child of God, you have been brought from death unto life.

Jesus had raised Lazarus from the grave. We should love the story because it shows the power of the Savior. We can know that if He can raise the dead to life, we can trust Him to help us make our house payment or whatever struggles our life may hold. We need to remember that today. Since Jesus has power over death, is there anything in your life that He can’t handle?

Jesus came to give us life! Jesus told Lazarus to take off His grave clothes, to quit “living” like he was dead. Shouldn’t we do the same thing? Have you received Christ as your Savior? Is your name recorded in Heaven as a child of God? Have the angels sung “Glory” over your salvation? Have you personally, without reservation, believed that Jesus died for your sins, and that the only way you will enter Heaven is through the grace of His shed blood on the cross?

Well, TAKE OFF YOUR GRAVE CLOTHES! Quit “living” among the dead. Look alive! Jesus saved you by grace, through faith, not unto death, but unto life! Shouldn’t that make a noticeable difference in your life today? SO LIVE! Don’t let this world steal your joy. Don’t let Satan rob you of your peace. Stop worrying over tomorrow.  Start living!

Take off your grave clothes and LIVE!

Why should we wait for marriage for sex? 

Seriously, if you had to answer that question, what’s the first thing you’d say?

Many of us would reply, “Because God wants us to!” That’s what we were taught. But here’s the problem with using that as the main reason: It makes it seem like we only have one chance to get this right, and I think it’s one of the main reasons that so many women carry such shame about sex (even women who waited until they were married!). We make it seem like God doesn’t like sex, which isn’t true at all! And we make it seem like purity is an all or nothing thing.

Last night I listened to a podcast with the Sex Chat for Christian Wives gals, and one of the things they talked about was how to give kids the message that sex is meant for marriage WITHOUT adding heaps of shame. I think the way that you do that is by explaining the reasons WHY God wants us to wait for marriage.

So I’d like to do that today. Perhaps some of you could have better used this post five or ten years ago, but it’s an important one, so if you like it, please pass it on!

The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex

Among those who are very committed Christians, only about 30% waited until they were married to have sex. Of those who did not wait, though, a tremendous proportion volunteered on the survey that they wished they had. So many said, “Why didn’t we just wait the extra two weeks?” Many say they’ve been plagued with guilt since.

First, if you didn’t make it until your wedding, and you did have sex first, you need to let the guilt go. Jesus died for that, and to carry around the guilt only hurts you, your marriage, and your sex life. To carry around the guilt is to say that Jesus’ sacrifice wasn’t enough for you, and that’s just adding to the problem! So let it go. You are not impure, because our purity is not based on what we did with our bodies, but on what Jesus did with His.

But the real thing I want to talk about was this comment. One woman said,

“I grew up with everybody telling me why I should have sex. Nobody took the time–not my parents, not my teachers, not my friends–to give me a good reason not to. I should have waited, and I’m going to make sure my children know why.”

I thought that was rather sad, but also rather typical. So in this post, I want to give you the reasons why you should wait.

Why Wait for Marriage to Have Sex? 6 Reasons it's best to wait--and I'm not even mentioning STDs or pregnancy, either! Let's just look at the relationship.

1. God does tell us to wait until marriage for sex.

Some people question if God really DOES tell us to, because no where in the Bible does it say, “don’t have sex with someone you’re not married to.” You’re right. The Bible does not use those words. But it does use the words “sexual immorality”, which is a more modern translation of the word “fornication”. And what does fornication mean? Having sex with someone you’re not married to. So the Bible DOES say it; it just uses older words to do so, and we sometimes forget what they mean.

Nevertheless, as I said, this isn’t the main one I want to stress. It isn’t like God is up there in heaven, thinking of ways to make our lives miserable, or at least a lot less fun. No, when He has a command, there’s a good reason for it. And let’s look at those reasons:

2. Having sex before you’re married can make your friendship less powerful.

Here’s a comment another woman made:

I wish we had waited until we were married, because our relationship became nothing but sex. We didn’t know how to do anything else.

Sex is a powerful force. It is physically amazing (or at least it can be), and once you start, it’s hard to stop. It seems like that’s what you should be doing all the time.

And many couples, once they become sexually active, find that their relationship does now revolve around sex. Instead of finding other things to do, they stay in. Instead of socializing with other people, they jump in bed. And what happens? They lose their friendship. In fact, studies have shown that the level of emotional connection you’re at when you start having sex tends to be the level you stay at. Sex gives you an artificial feeling of intimacy. Then when you get married,  you realize your relationship is shallow, and it’s harder to get it back on track. It’s better to build that emotional connection early!

3. A relationship can’t survive on sex alone.

You need other things to keep you going. One of the benefits of not having sex while you’re engaged is that you’re forced to find other things to occupy your time. You talk, and find out about each other. You find hobbies or sports you can do together. You go biking, or hiking, or you play golf. You volunteer together. You DO something.

Once you get married, you settle into a routine. You go to work. You come home. You have dinner. You watch TV. You go to bed. You have sex. The problem is that, for women especially, you’re not going to want to make love unless you’re also connecting on different levels. And sex should be the culmination of the relationship, not the basis of the relationship. Sex should flow out of your friendship, affection, and companionship; your companionship, affection and friendship can’t flow out of sex.

We need to feel connected first. But so does he. For sex to be meaningful, it has to be two people who truly love and want to be together. But how do you know if you want to be together if you don’t really know each other? You can have sex a ton and not really know each other, because you’re not doing anything else.

That’s why we have that period, in engagement, to get to know each other. And the habits we develop then will carry over. If you’ve been helping out at church together, you’ll keep doing that. If you’ve been hanging out with your siblings, or with your friends, then you now have friends you can spend time with together. If you’ve been biking, you know you like doing that together.

But if you’ve been doing very little of anything at all, what is going to hold you together once you’re married? You need to have a friendship; you need a reason for that connection. Sex can’t be that. And couples who have learned how to build their friendship beforehand do much better in the long run.

4. Sex cements you together, when perhaps you should stay apart.

Another woman wrote, “I confused sex with love. I thought that since we were having sex, we were bonded and meant to be together. I was wrong. I shouldn’t have married him.” Sex gives you a false sense of intimacy. When we have sex, we release the “bonding hormone” oxytocin, which makes us feel close to the person we’re with. We start to experience those fluttery feelings, and the wistful longing for that person.

But it doesn’t mean it’s based on anything real. Many people have “fallen into” marriage because they’ve been having sex and it seems like the next logical step. But while the physical side of their relationship accelerated, the rest of it didn’t. And now their friendship is stunted and it doesn’t look like they can build it up again.

One more thing on this point: the more people that you are “cemented” together with before you’re married, the harder it will be for sex to cement you together later. Sex can cement you together; but if you have sex and then break up and have sex and then break up, you start teaching your heart not to bond. And that’s setting yourself up for problems in your marriage, because sex becomes something distinct from love. You may still love your husband, but you don’t do it through sex, because sex has become only physical. That’s sad.

5. Good sex before you’re married does not mean that you will have good sex afterwards.

Many people make love to see if they are “sexually compatible“. That’s pretty stupid, because any two people can be sexually compatible as long as they love each other. Love should be the basis for sex, not physical prowess in the bedroom.But sex after marriage tends to be different from sex before. Over and over again, my respondents said, “I can’t believe how sex changed. It used to be fun, but now it’s a chore.” Or, “he used to care for me; now he doesn’t.”Once the commitment is there, sex changes. And if you’ve been making love already, it often changes for the worse.

Sex used to be something forbidden, and that gave it excitement. Now that it’s not, it’s become hum drum. Or he used to care about you; now he doesn’t. That’s because you started having sex when you were courting, and he had to impress you. Now he doesn’t.

But isn’t that the way with any marriage? Not really. If you don’t have sex until you’re married, it’s new, and you learn together. He learns how to please you. It’s now part of your marriage. Have sex first, and it can easily become something that is treated in a more lacksadaisical way after you say your vows.

6. You don’t know how to make love.

Sex is supposed to be about connecting you together on all levels. When you have sex without the commitment, you take the bonding part out of the equation. And it’s very hard to get it back. So it means that sex, once you’re married, won’t be the powerful emotional force that it can be for others. It’s still focused primarily on the physical, and not on the rest. The emotional is not the primary consideration.

And so, dear friends, I urge you to wait for marriage for sex.

It helps clarify your choice for marriage, and helps you to marry your best friend. It gives you a tool once you’re married to cement you together. And, of course, waiting helps you obey God and not become pregnant when you don’t want to. And saves you from the worry of STDs. (But I didn’t even include those reasons because you all heard them in health class!)

Does all of this mean that if you did have sex before you were married that your marriage is doomed? No, of course not. It’s just that you have some obstacles in your marriage that need to be talked through. You have a few hurdles, and God can help you get over those hurdles.

But if you’re not married yet, my question would be this: why set yourself up for hurdles? Nobody said they regretted waiting in my survey; the majority of those who had sex before marriage said they did regret not waiting. Listen to those voices, and wait.

There’s a reason God did what He did, and it wasn’t to punish you or rob you of fun. It was to protect you.

We’re Talking Power Here. Real. Life-changing. Power.

Christianity isn’t about how to be spiritual, achieve your goals or have your best life now. Christianity isn’t about philosophy. It’s not about talk. Christianity is about power.

Power to obey God. Power to change. Power to love those who are messed up. Power to get back up after being pummeled by wave after wave of affliction. Power to wield the sword of the Spirit and the shield of faith to extinguish the devil’s fiery darts.

The gospel itself is the very power of God:

For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:17-18

DA Carson, says of this verse, “One might have expected Paul to say, ‘For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the wisdom of God.’ Instead, he insists it is ‘the power of God.’  

And: 

“The gospel is not simply good advice, nor is it good news about God’s power. The gospel IS God’s power to those who believe.”  (emphasis mine).

God’s word confirms this:

For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power1 Corinthians 4:20.   

For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 2 Corinthians 10:4

The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. James 5:16

Do we believe prayer has great power? I don’t feel electricity when I pray. I feel weak. I’m a jar of clay. But God puts his power in pots. We connect with God’s power through our mustard seed faith. An electric cord is weak and flimsy. But when we plug it into a socket, it connects to all the voltage of the electric company, which courses into our sabre saw or vaccuum sweeper.

Ask God for his mighty power today. Thank him that he promised your prayers are powerful and effective. Remember, the kingdom of God isn’t talk; it’s power.

TheBounce is an Excerpt-based digital publication and was brought to you by Touchstone International. You can follow us on twitter @touchstoney and find us on Facebook @touchstoneinternational
:::There’s Hope for a Tree:::

So on this Sunday, after church, I walked to the patisserie to get me some cake and Ice cream.

As I stood there tired, knees numb as I queued because I am not the only one with sweet-mouth.
I saw the Visa card sign on the table, it read… ‘VISA, ACCEPTED HERE’

Something just snapped inside of me when I saw that sign, my heart just instantly became so heavy and from where I come from, I think I knew why. Church for me has been my place of strength and forgiveness, and I wondered if broken people felt so when they came through our doors. 
There is one story in scriptures I love so much, it is the one of the adulteress that was being accused by the Pharisees, remember that story?
Jesus only wanted one thing, to be alone with her, so he could speak to her heart. So he asked them one question. “Let the one among you without sin be the one to throw the first stone”
“they went away one by one” after hearing those words. “The Gospel, with an amount of irony, says they went away, one by one, starting with the eldest: clearly they owed a lot of money to the heavenly bank!” So now, Jesus has his alone time with her…
“Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 

More like; “We are alone, You are before God, no accusations, no gossip: you and God”
“No one condemned me, Lord.” And so Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”
What’s more, Jesus “was pure and could have himself cast the first stone.” But Christ “goes further than that. He does not say adultery is not a sin, but he does not condemn her with the law.” This is “the mystery of the mercy of Jesus.”
That He forgives without condemning.
Sometimes I wonder how hard the hypocrisy in our sermons over the pulpit and the reflection of our personal lives is chasing people away from God.
I remember that Andy Mineo’s song where he goes “I am only a beggar pointing to you where the bread is at”.
That got me personally!
And sometimes I wished Christians will show others that there is life in Jesus because we have experienced a genuine fountain of forgiveness from the father rather than act like “Gatekeepers of salvation and detectives in the Department of Holiness and Perfection Affairs”
Just a little prayer!

Father, I thank you because the entrance of your word will lighten up the hearts of your people, you will teach them the acceptance that only comes from you and the unconditional love that the cross shares abroad in their hearts”
YOU’RE ELOHIM, GOD IS LOVE


So, in that story, we see the merciful attitude of Jesus: He defends sinners from their enemies. He defends the sinner from a just condemnation.
He who is the forgiveness of sins tells the woman that she is accepted, that she is forgiven, isn’t it just liberating?!!
I remember God asking me once, “Do you clean up before going to have a bath?” I was puzzled and just responded “Isn’t that what a bath is for?” 
I remember a Friend of mine being confused when I asked her this and in turn, Imagine the confusion in heaven when we act the way we do.
A lot of us are waiting to be good enough for God before we court his presence; before we go to the throne room, but like that sign reads, God is bringing us to a place where He says ‘Darling, your weaknesses are ACCEPTED HERE, In fact, my presence is a fountain of forgiveness!”
He is calling you to a place of knowing that He has loved you even from the foundations of the earth, while you were dead in sin, he has forgiven you. Hard to believe but it is the truth.
Remember what he told Jeremiah? “Even in your mother’s womb, I knew you”
His love does not call you to shrink under the responsibilities of knowing that the one who placed the stars in the sky and called them by name calls you friend, NO.
His love says “The hair on your head is numbered, it all works together for your Good” That’s his love for you!
His love calls us to a place where we are loved enough to say ‘Father, a thousand times I have failed and your mercy didn’t leave me, and should I stumble again, still I am caught in your grace’…
The medicine is there, the healing is there—if only we take a small step toward God or even just the desire to take that step.”
God leaves nothing untried in reaching out to you, He overlooks no possibility, no matter how small, in attempting to give the gift of forgiveness.
God awaits us with open arms; we need only take a step toward him like the Prodigal Son. But if weak as we are, we don’t have the strength to take that step, just the desire to take it is enough.
Jesus goes beyond and forgives us not with a decree but with a loving caress.
What is God saying to you? accept my waterfall of forgiveness, the blood paid for you.
His blood chose you unconditionally, so stop cleaning up before coming to me, stop trying to get right with me before coming to me, no I don’t need you to, I just need you to come.
God is saying, don’t clean up before you come, because I am the bath, I am the fountain of ever so abounding forgiveness… DARLING, YOU ARE ACCEPTED HERE!
In my presence, you can come boldly to the throne of grace, however dirty you think you are, let me clean you up, just come
However weak you are, let me give you strength, allow my grace to flow in the areas of your weaknesses, your insecurities, your fears, allow me to work through you both to will and to do.
Will you let him?
Adam said “Lord, I heard you were in the Garden, I was AFRAID, so i hid, because i was naked” and guess what God’s response was? 
“Who told you that?” 
Sometimes our skewed perception of God is what keeps us away from him. We shrink because we don’t deserve the love we get.
But the cross deserved it for us.

Believer, the price on your life is an overpayment, Jesus paid the bounty on your life, you have received liberty by the cross.
I will meet you where you are, stop the hide and seek… I love you unconditionally, I won’t ever condemn you.
My love is forever, guess what it made me do for you? it made me hang on the cross, it made me take whips for you, I took a spear by my side for you, I am not stopping until I have you… Until you say yes!
… A little scratch here and there, some bruises here and there is not enough to take you away from me, you are my pristine and priced possession, stop pushing me away because you don’t think you deserve this love that I give, no, you are totally worth it.
He is saying… hey you, woss, I made you, I love you just the way you are, I don’t want you to do better just to please me, nah I want you like that, don’t put on the make-up when you come into my presence, I want you without a snapchat filter, I made you remember?
Like the Samaritan woman, he asks us to drink and not thirst anymore, he says, when you get to the end of yourself, free refills are ACCEPTED HERE! 
So, tossed around by weaknesses, insecurities,chained by sicknesses, what is he saying like Visa Card? YOU ARE ACCEPTED HERE!
Come when you think I don’t deserve you, when you don’t like what you see, when you think your card will be declined, and you will still be ACCEPTED HERE.
His words are not empty, because he proved his love by his sacrifice.

Here’s what John the Beloved says of Jesus…
“Greater love has no one than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” John 15:13
He went to the bottom for you, descended to the depths, suffering the consequences of all your failures and totality of your fears.
Thoughts of you keep him awake, you are ACCEPTED HERE!
Feel free to Come, Come when you feel like the worse Sinner, come when you feel higher, Come when you are depressed, come when you are less impressed, COME, YOU ARE ACCEPTED HERE. 

#Selah

TheBounce is an Excerpt-based digital publication and was brought to you by Touchstone International. You can follow us on twitter @touchstoney and find us on Facebook @touchstoneinternational 

:::There’s Hope for a Tree:::