Monday, 31 May 2010

The 10 Day Challenge: Ten times better!

Father, I thank you for your word because through it, we learn how we may experience ZOE, the abundant life. I love reading about Joseph and Daniel, reason being that they 'ministered' without necessarily having a 'ministry'. So many times, some of us think that we can only minister from a church building or even so that ministry ends when we're through with our 'reasonable service' with fellow believers. These two great men encourage me in knowing that my lifestyle is the biggest sermon I can preach and that I can minister from anywhere. Joseph didn't go to church for over a decade yet he ministered as a slave and in jail. Daniel wasn't a priest and he ministered in palaces and even from a lions den! Halleluyah! God can use you where you are today, you don't have to be international or incorporated, just willing.

But Daniel RESOLVED not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself in this way
Daniel 1:8

I love Daniel because he's another shining example of being useful in the place of affliction. Daniel and friends had been taken into exile in Babylon, separated from family, tasked with learning a new language, tasked with learning new literature, this they acquiesced to but what they absolutely refused was to learn new customs and traditions that were CONTRARY to the will of God! Reminds me of Jesus words about "being in and not of this world." Yes, we are in the world, but we have all been given an assignment to go out and preach the gospel. You can't preach to the unsaved in tongues, we must speak a language they understand but we must not adopt their customs. I really needed this because I know I really have to resist the urge to 'blend' into my surroundings. Adapting to your environment does not entail adopting their way of life. Selah!

As I began to seek the face of God for answers and direction, concerning some challenges I'd been facing I was always led back to Daniel Chapter 1. I would read it and mentally assent however my main prayer focus was on v. 17,

'To these four young men, God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds'

But before 17, comes 11, 12, 13...I'm sure you get my drift and it is in those passages that  Daniel and co. issue a 10 day challenge (Thanks Pastor Jamal Bryant!) . See v.12 

Please test your servants for TEN DAYS: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink..Then compare....So he agreed and tested them for 10 days

I'd conveniently gloss over this Scripture but I believed the Spirit was leading me to do this. To give up my natural 'kings delicacies' for 10 days and replace it with His 'Kingdom delicacies' for 10 days. Hmm, would I say it was and still is hard because I'm still going through it. No, I'm not only eating vegetables and water but I have chosen to give up some things to focus on deepening my relationship with the Master. Is it easy? No! Do I have all the answers? Not yet! Have I fallen? Yes! Has it been rewarding? Triple yes. I thank God for my accountability partner (God bless you darling) because she has done a great job, keeping me on track spiritually and physically.

I want to issue this same challenge to you. Where are you now? Where do you want to be? What are you willing to give up to get there? In your relationship with God, what can you offer up as a sacrifice saying 'God, you know I would like to have this but I give it up to instead focus on my relationship with you?' Because truth is, it's not so much the giving up but the replacement (Holy Spirit I really need help with this). Its not so much not eating the kings meat but having vegetables and water instead. Its not so much turning off your favourite show but spending that extra hour in the Word, meditation and prayer.

The devil will come, he'll tell you that you don't need to do this, that you can't do this, if you fall he'll sing rubbish in your ears. If you expect him, you can prepare for him. Tell him this..

And at the end of the TEN DAYS, they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food....the king talked with them and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah: so they entered the kings service....... he found them TEN TIMES BETTER

Talk to God more, depend on Him always, get someone to keep you accountable. I know this post is for someone else apart from me and that's why I wrote it. God has so many plans He wants to fulfill on earth but He needs willing vessels to do it. You don't need a title to be used by God. Are you ready for ten times better? The challenge has been issued, are you up for it?

Remain blessed and highly favoured


Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Songs that inspire: Pure Praise

Hi people, please keep praising your God. God is a good God, yes bad things happen but it doesn't change the fact that He is God. I am really enjoying my Nigerian artistes these days. I think there are subtitles to this song, sorry for the quality. Just trust that this is pure praise! God bless you Pastor Chinyere Udoma.

Remain blessed and highly favoured


Saturday, 22 May 2010

The Present a.k.a Today

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34 (NIV)

If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don't you think he'll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I'm trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God's giving. People who don't know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don't worry about missing out. You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. "Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes. Matthew 6:30-34 (The Message)

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith 2nd Timothy 4:7 (NIV)

'Surprise! You have a gift! If you're wondering what the special occasion is, it's called being alive, a fact that we too often and easily take for granted. Every day we open our eyes to God's present, the gift called 'Today.'. It is 24 hours, 1440 minutes, 86,400 seconds specially wrapped with God's love and His presence delivered to you daily! Yes daily! This gift called Today doesn't depend on you being good or bad, it's delivered to everyone who has and takes breath. It is often called the great equalizer because the same gift is given to rich and poor, male and female, educated and illiterate, tall and short...I'm sure you get the drift. The question is what will we do with our gift today?

Paul encourages us in Philippians 3:13-14 about how best we can make use of the present.

But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Forgetting what is behind..(Yesterday)

This means letting go of yesterday, we may not forget events but we render the memories impotent to keep us trapped in yesterday. Paul understood about letting go of the past to enjoy the gift of the present. His yesterday had both the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly. He was in his own words 'circumsised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee: as for zeal persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.' However, he also had a past he was not proud of as he also described himself as once being a 'blasphemer, persecutor and a violent man' and yet Paul says the one thing he does is to forget what lies behind.

'What lies behind you baby, Pain, betrayal, achievements, fame, notoriety, shame or sickness. Whatever it is, it's in yesterday. You can't go back in time and unravel the decisions, that you didn't pray enough, that you didn't hold on long enough...You have a new gift of today, what are you going to do with it? How will you press on towards the goal? Who will you call? Who will you forgive? What will you give up? What will you gain? It doesn't matter how far you feel the dream is from your reach. You get to that future one day at a time. Yesterday, you didn't pray or read your Bible, you didn't spend time with me. Today, you can pray and spend quality time with me (you know how much I enjoy those one on one moments!). Today you can apologise and ask for a clean slate with your friends. It's not about always doing everything right. Its about waking up, talking to Me and following My lead during the course of the day, celebrating the small achievements that are taking you in the right direction!'

Straining towards what is ahead, I press on (Today)

Those two words, straining and pressing indicate the exertion of force. It reminds me of being in the gym. No pain, no gain! To ever achieve anything of significance for God will exert strain, faith requires stretching beyond what one sees with the eyes of the flesh and pressing onwards irrespective of obstacles that may be standing in the way. It may be difficult, you may wonder how the mess can turn into a message, how the test can be turned into a testimony. God says, one day at a time, one right decision at a time. You can complete the vision, one task at a time, that bestseller, one chapter at a time (Amen!!). God said "If everyday, we lived God's day for us, at the end of your days we like Paul would be able to testify about having fought the good fight, having finished the race (which is a marathon and not a sprint by the way!!) and looking forward to our crown.
Do not worry  (Tomorrow)
Just like yesterday, tomorrow can also be a deterrent to us making the most of today. I used to say I'm a natural 'worrier' but I pray as I mature in Christ to take that ability to worry and convert it to an ability to meditate on the word of God. Rick Warren says if you can worry, you can meditate, worrying just means you meditate on problems! What does the future hold? Actually, our future is being played out by the decisions we make today but tomorrow is not in our grasp. There are so many things that could happen but we need to rest our hearts in the knowledge that we have a God who has all our tomorrows in His hands. Nothing takes Him by surprise and He's able to work everything (yes everything) the good, the bad and the ugly for our good as long as we are committed to loving Him and walking according to His purpose.I love The Message translation. Jesus says, "Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes!"
Halleluyah! So today I'm stretching, warming up, decking on my running shoes and continuing with the marathon because I must make it to the finish line, so help me God! What about you?
Dear Father
Daddy I ask for the grace to let go of yesterday, to stop worrying about tomorrow and for strength to face what is on my plate today. In Jesus name. Amen.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Songs that inspire: Stand still

Because sometimes all we can do is 'stand still and see the salvation of the Lord believing that the Egyptians we see today, we shall see no more'. The Bible encourages us that having done all to stand, stand therefore! Halleluyah!  Thank you Pastor Deitrick Haddon.

Stand still and know that He is God
and there's no need to fight,
the battle is not yours,
the battle is the Lord's.

There is trouble at every sight,
so bad you wanna run and hide.
Your enemy is out for you
and you don't know why.

It takes all your strength
to hold back your tears,
but you know you gotta face your fears,
let me whisper a word softly in your ears.

Your enemies don't know what they will do
when they declare war on you.
Don't you think by know
they would have figured out
the Lord will always see you through.

There ain't no reason to live in doubt,
God has already worked it out;
so stand back and move out of His way,
'cause He will bring a brighter day

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Being useful in the place of affliction

....But while Joseph was there in the prison, the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favour in the eyes of the prison warden. So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there Genesis 20b -22

Now I want you to know brothers, that was has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains FOR Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly Philippians 1: 12-14

I, John your brother and companion of the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos BECAUSE of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. On the Lord's day, I was in the Spirit, and I heard...Revelation 1:9-10a

Daddy, I thank You for Your word because therein are divine truths on which we can have a fulfilled life in You. One of my favourite Scripture passages is Colossians 1:9-11 because it so aptly summarises what my purpose is as a believer. Upon further study, I found it interesting to learn that Paul wrote this letter (amongst others) to the church at Colosse from jail. I include an excerpt from my journal,

'Paul wrote this book from prison. What have you done in your valley? Have you cried and gotten angry with God? Have you settled into despair and depression? or Have you been productive in your captivity? David was sidelined in his own father's house and yet he managed to pen psalms, hymns and spiritual songs to the Father who promised never to leave or forsake him. In his obscurity, he was being prepared for his destiny. Do not despise the days of aloneness for it is in quiet and rest you gain confidence for your soul. Learn to embrace ALL seasons of God.'

All three men in the Scripture passages at the beginning of the post found themselves in jail not because they committed a crime, except in the case of Paul and John where speaking the word of God could be considered a crime! However, their approach to their circumstances are worthy of reflection and emulation.

I see Joseph being thrown in prison and wondering how this fit in with the dreams of greatness he had seen as a boy. It seemed like when he was finally getting there, he took a thousand steps back. He had enough reason to say 'Enough is enough, why must I continue to be persecuted for living a righteous life?' which is more similar to the lyrics I play in my own heart even when my lips refuse to sing but from his life I have learnt that the soul that has full confidence in God is able to sing that 'Everything is working together for my good'. So there in jail, with the favour and grace of God, Joseph was useful. It was his ability to connect with the prisoners and work with his giftings even in the place of limitation that eventually saw him end up in the palace. The favour and grace of God upon our lives is not for us to bask in pride as 'children of God' but to be useful in the kingdom.

Paul and John share a similar story, put in jail for sharing truth from the word of God. Father forgive me, for even now in the days of 'freedom of speech' how often do I really share your words with those outside the Kingdom? Father, please give me the grace. The island of Patmos was not a luxury island on the Carribean, John was exiled there because he had refused to obey men instead of God. He was true to the calling of God over his life whether it meant him living a 'comfortable' life or not. I am beginning to be careful of the definitions I use these days because I read the bible and look around me and there is sometimes a big difference. What does success mean? What does the good life mean? Success for me is to discover and then fulfill God's purpose for my life, wherever that may take me, whatever it requires. A life totally surrendered to the will of God. Dear God, I pray like Jesus that whatever cup you give me to drink that I may say 'Not my will but thine be done.' It was on this island that John received a revelation that we still discuss and debate about till this day. You can be useful in the place of affliction.

Paul said something interesting, that because of his chains, people were encouraged to share the word more fearlessly. No matter where you are in life, no matter how disadvantaged you think you are or the lack that you perceive in your life, God can use you as a source of encouragement in the lives of others. I recently became aware of an issue a friend of mine, who I admire greatly was facing and I was inspired by her faith in God. God has used her to bring healing in my life through prayer and encouraging words and I was surprised at what she had been through. God whispered to me that she was being useful in the place of affliction, go and do likewise.

So by His grace I will. I will continue to pray, I will continue to praise, I will continue to write what I have heard. Today I encourage you, don't allow the devil lie to you and make you focus only on the situation and lose sight of Christ. As long as we are in this world, we will suffer, its truth, its scriptural but we are told to be of good cheer for Jesus has overcome the world. This means irrespective of whatever, we can have joy that knows no limits and a peace that cannot be understood. Reach out in your home, reach out at work, at the gym, in your church and be a blessing with the gifts that God has given you for you can be useful in the place of affliction. God sees you, you have to believe that.

Remain blessed and highly favoured

Zoe B

Update: Jaycee (Thanks dearie) sent me this link a few hours ago about a practical example of being useful in your place of affliction. Testimonies like these put things in proper perspective for me. Need time to reflect. Check out Pastor Zac's story here

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Songs that inspire: You are God alone

There is no one like our God. He is God alone, no one can take His place because there is no one who can love us like He can or do what He can do or truly has even done in our lives. There's no question of His greatness. God bless you Pastor Marvin Sapp.

There’s no question of Your greatness,
no searching of Your power.
All the wonder of Your glory,
to You forty years is but one hour.
Your knowledge is all encompassing,
to Your wisdom there is no end;
for You alone are God,
You are God alone.

Your mercy is everlasting,
Your truth is here always.
You are He who was and is, and is to come.
Who is He that can number you day,
You’ve flung the sun to burn in space,
and the night’s moon powers light from day;
You are God alone.

Now unto the King,
eternal, immortal, invisible,
the only wise God,
the only wise God;
You alone are God,
for You are God alone.

Be all glory and honor,
dominion, and power
forever and ever, amen.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Amarachukwu; The grace of God

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have SUFFERED a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 1st Peter 5:10

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is SUFFICIENT for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong 2nd Corinthians 12: 8-10

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age Titus 2: 11-12

Today's post is based on the sermon notes I took during service yesterday. Thanks to Pastor Dipo O for sharing what he heard at the feet of the Master. I thank God for my Pastors, yesterday I really needed to hear that message. Like I could have just gone home when we read the first verse because I just knew that was God speaking to me directly. Amarachukwu- 'The grace of God'. Indeed the struggle is over.

God's grace upon your life enables ordinary 'ole us do extraordinary things for God. Grace adds God's super to my natural enabling me to be supernaturally natural. This is my season of grace, the grace that separates me from the struggle. There is a difference between working hard and toiling. Toiling represents putting all your effort into something without any appreciable results. I'm tired of toiling, I've invited Jesus into my boat and I'm throwing my nets wide out for a catch.

Why do we need the grace of God? We need the grace of God for salvation, for by grace we have been saved through faith lest we boast. Grace is that divine leveller for all become equal at the foot of the cross. The grace of God enables us to live above sin and walk in righteousness. Lord I thank you because by your grace, I can say NO to ungodliness. We can't overcome temptation in our own power we must always lean on the grace of God. Grace means obedience to God. There is a grace upon my life to accomplish God's purpose for my life, there is a grace for achievement and walking in destiny.

The grace of God is not a license to sin or to live at the edges wondering how far we can push the lines before we fall. Shall we continue to sin that grace may abound? The grace of God enables you to endure the trials that inevitably come our way. The grace of God will strengthen us and enable us fulfill our calling no matter what comes our way.

It doesn't matter what you are going through now, how deep the valley is, how uncertain the road less travelled looks remember that His grace is continuously with you when you make the decision to let go and hold on to Him. His grace is more than and will always be more than sufficient.

I feel so relieved because I know I must live according to my name. Amarachukwu: The grace of God.

Remain blessed and highly favoured

Zoe B

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Songs that inspire: My praise

....Just because at the end of the day, no matter what we still have our praise to give Him as an offering. God bless you Pastor Gabriel Eziashi!

I will exalt you, my God the King: I will praise your name forever and ever. EVERYDAY I will praise you and extol your name forever and ever. Psalm 145:1-2

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Give me the boy.

Some time later the son of the woman who owned the house became ill. He grew worse and worse and finally stopped breathing. She said to Elijah, "What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?" "Give me your son Elijah replied.".......Then he cried out onto the Lord......."Oh Lord, let this boy's life return to him!" The Lord heard Elijah's cry and the boy's life returned to him, and he lived. 1st Kings 17:17-24

Then God said, "Take your son, your ONLY son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about." ........."Do not lay a hand on the boy", he said, Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son." Genesis 22:2,12

(I suggest reading the verses in between in both passages)

Father, I thank you for your word. It admonishes as much as it encourages. A lamp for my feet, a light for my path directing and guiding me. Thank you Jesus.

I had to make an important decision recently and I was so confused. I am aware that the Word says that the Lord is not the author of confusion so I had to get on my knees and really ask Him to speak to me because there were just too many voices speaking in my heart. I was led to the first scripture above and although I didn't really get it then, God used it to speak to my heart and make things clear again. I thank God that I have a God who speaks to those who put themselves in a position to listen.

The widow of Zarepath has a chance encounter with Elijah that changed her life forever. She chose to do something 'crazy' and God rewarded her faith by ensuring that she had supernatural provision in the time of famine. That would have been a great enough testimony to just put a 'The End' to her story. Obey God and He provides for you. Simple, right? But then I serve a God who is very interesting. I'm excited about God these days because there's always something new to discover, some secret thing to be revealed.

So the prophet lives in her house and then her child gets sick and not just sick, he progressively gets worse until he dies. Truth be told, the presence of God in your life doesn't mean that there will be no trouble. In fact, in case we ever wanted to forget, Jesus reminded us emphatically that in this world we would have tribulations and trials but he also encourages us to be of good cheer because we have peace in Him as He has overcome the world. I'm wondering God, why allow the situation get to that point, also woman why not call the prophet when the boy's temperature was a little higher than normal. So many questions? Why would Jesus spit and use mud to heal a blind man and simply command the eyes of another to be opened? Why would Jesus ask the men at Lazarus tomb to roll away the stone and then tell a dead man to come out on his own?Why would God deliver Peter from prison and Herod's grasp only to allow him to be crucified upside down later on in life? Why did God deliver Shedrach and co. from the fiery furnace and not Stephen from the mob that made him the first martyr for Christ? So many questions but Jesus is the answer. We serve a God of purpose who sees all and knows all. He is a Sovereign God and makes all things work together for His plan.

Back to the widow, her son is dead and she brings him to the prophet. The prophet asks for the boy and takes him from her arms. What is the boy in your life today? She was at a point where she had run out of options, you can't give food to a dead body to resuscitate it, you can't love it better or provide medicine or band aids. At this point, we must relinquish it/him/her to the Master. I ask again what or who is the boy in your life? Can you entrust it into the hands of the Master? Or are you holding on to something dead and allowing it to ebb your joy, peace and virtue?

Elijah took the boy and took him to the upper room, the place where He met with God. This meant for a period she was physically separated from her son. We must learn to trust God that even when we can't see the miracle, we know that God is working on our behalf. I'm not sure she knew whether she would get her son back alive or not but I know she knew he was safest in the arms of the prophet. Praise God, she got her boy back alive but I wonder what would have happened if she had said no to Elijah when he asked her to give him the boy? I pray never to hold on tightly to something that is dead, being so blinded by the situation that I refuse to see the open arms of God asking me to entrust it with him.

Another important point, when her son died she went to the prophet. Not to the 'experts' but to the prophet, not to her relatives but to the prophet. I'm not saying don't seek advice from experts and relatives but let God always have the final say of whatever situation you are going through. Make room in your counselling to seek God's counsel and let that be what stands in your life. Help me Holy Spirit.
The second scripture came as well and I struggled to understand how the two were linked because in this situation the boy was not dead but God said the principle of trust and obedience link the two, for when Abraham took Isaac on that journey he didn't know if he would come down that mountain alone or with his son. He had to give him the boy as well. There should be nothing ever that we cannot place on the altar when God asks us to. God is not a wicked God, when we truly believe He is a good God, we find it easier to obey Him.

So I gave Him the boy and I cried as I did but He has given me so much peace about the situation and surrounded me with love that leaves me speechless sometimes that I can't help but continue to give praise to my God. I encourage you to do the same. Sometimes the best decisions in life are not always the easiest.

Remain blessed and highly favoured

Zoe Believer

N.B I'm thinking of writing an 'Ask Zoe' post soon so if there is something you want to know about Zoe Believer or my thoughts on specific issues, email or leave a comment and I'll try and collate questions and give answers to the best of my ability so help me God.