The Great Navigator
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose (Rom 8:28). Indeed one of my all-time favorite verses and I believe a favorite for many! Needless to say that all means all, total, complete. The first time I memorized the verse was back in high school, alongside my many good friends, young and zealous. Our goals were few and simple back then. Study hard, pray hard, pass well and get into the best university in the country then. It would not be long before our understanding of the verse would be put to test sometimes earlier than we anticipated as some failed to even qualify to enter the preferred colleges or for those who did, there were no guarantees for aspired degrees. With each failure came deep disappointment, despair and sometimes despondency. However, as failures came in so did success which in many cases was undeserved. It was then we began to understand that it is only by God’s grace that we are who we are. Fast forward many years post high school, the story of continues and remarkably Rom 8:28 holds true today as it did for us back in high school. It holds true in all our success stories as it does for our perceived failures.
‘Perceived failures’ indeed because we only see in part and understand in part. Picture how a car navigation system responds to a diversion due to an accident on the way or a wrong turn or misunderstanding of signs. The system will not abort but re-establish location and redirect us to the destination. As long as we keep plugged in and no matter the extra hours on the road, we will reach our destination. So it is with those who love the Lord and are always plugged in. All things will works for good! I will end by sharing Proverbs 21:3 (The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the Lord). Our role is to do our best, study hard, work hard, prepare our horses for battle (as it applies to each one) and follow God’s lead. Is it possible to fail one exam and still succeed? Yes it is! Can I miss one job and still prosper? Absolutely! Failure at any point could be a loss of one battle. It doesn’t mean the war is lost. Victory rests with the Lord, the navigator of our lives!
Choices during Time of Lamentation
Indeed in life, situations arise that do not make sense and are just too hard to process. I think we can all identify with the deep shame and grief that the Israelites felt when the book of Lamentations was written. What about the promises God had given them, to protect them and to deliver them from their enemies? How could God allow such devastation in their lives? Yet, in this terrible situation, there are choices that the writer of Lamentations made that ministered to me:
1.Choosing to meditate on the Lord’s goodness – (Lamentations 3:21) Yet this I call to mind and I have hope, because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed..) and v 24 ‘I say to myself , The Lord is my portion therefore I will wait for him’. In the middle of problems and chaos in life, we have a choice to make, meditate on our problems or meditate on God’s word, repeat the problem verbally or encourage ourselves in the Lord. We all know that problems do not go away by meditating on them. From experience, it only steals our joy and paralyses our relationship with God and other people. Rather, understanding that God is good to those who wait for Him and those who seek him gives us hope and the ability to wait for the Lord’s deliverance.
2.‘Machinozomu’ (wait with hope) – v26:It is good to hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. The Japanese translation speaks of ‘machinozomu’ which combines hope and waiting into one action. I realized from ‘machinozomu’ that hope and waiting for something cannot be separated. We can only wait for something that we hope will happen and if we hope that something will happen, then we wait for it. But, how do I practice ‘machinozomu’ as described in Lamentations.
3.Waiting Quietly – Do I have hope in my life? Yes I do. Am I waiting to receive something from God? Yes I am, but, there is something else that is mentioned in v26 that I do not always practice….waiting QUIETLY for the salvation of the Lord. Indeed it is not easy, I want to complain and I do complain. I also sometimes ask the questions WHY, HOW, AGAIN and so on. Of course it has not solved anything. For this reason, I do pray to God to teach us to ‘machinozomu’ quietly for His salvation.
Finally, I really thank God for providing breaks and new seasons in our lives. After a chaotic day or a difficult season, it is always refreshing to wake up to a new morning, a new week, a new month or even a new year knowing we can start afresh. Can you imagine if our lives comprised one continuous day with no break? Remembering Lamentations 3:22-23 ‘His compassions never fail, they are new every morning’ and connecting this scripture to Deuteronomy 33:25b: As your days, so shall your strength be , it’s so wonderful to know that God gives us new grace each new morning sufficient for the day. Since morning starts while we are asleep, I take this scripture to mean that God sends His grace well ahead of us. Even as we start a new year, God has sufficient grace to meet every daily challenge and as we hope and wait quietly for his salvation He will come through for us.
Keep Your Focus
A few weeks ago, I was flying from Japan to South East Asia. As I always do, I occupied the window seat with my camera at arm’s length. I must have fallen asleep midway through an on flight movie and of course when I woke up, I took a few seconds to remember where I was. Immediately I turned my focus to my favorite spot, the window, and adjusted the window lighting. As soon as I got a clear view, I could not believe my eyes. A rainbow! There it was in front of me, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. Yes, right there and in all splendor! O my God, I thought, a rainbow view from an airplane! I need to take a shot…quick. I reached for my camera and 10 seconds later, I was ready and raring to beautify my collection …only that it was no more.
Of course, I was on an airplane, maybe cruising at 800km/h or more and so and in the 10 seconds it took me to pick up my camera, switch it on and focus, we had actually moved more than 2 km and, the rainbow fell behind! I cannot describe how I felt at the moment, sadness and regret. In my fumbling with my camera, I lost a chance to enjoy the breathtaking site and regret that I may never get such a chance again at least in an airplane.
As I continued with my flight and even now more than 4 weeks later, I sometimes think of that incident and I end up drawing comparisons with life situations. Often in my life I have lost a chance to enjoy the beauty of the moment due to fumbling and distractions. I have allowed several agendas to take away the chance to enjoy and like my 'rainbow moment' I have often lost both the view and the shot. Loss of focus even momentarily can cost us so much.
How I wish we would not yet distractions take away the beautiful moments in life, small and big! More importantly, let us not lose focus of our purpose here on earth, to worship and to live for God. The word of God encourages us to focus on what is worthy and not let the distractions of this world choke us. Hebrews 12:1-2, ‘Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.’
Even if it means, stifling the urge to reach for the camera, or take ‘THE Shot’ let us keep our focus, enjoy what God has set before us , throw off distractions that entangle us until we cross the finishing line. Thank God we are not alone on this journey. We have Jesus Christ who is the author and finisher of our faith! Whenever, we feel like fumbling for the ‘cameras’ in this life, let us fix our gaze on Him! He will take us through to the finishing line.
The Faithful One
I was reading the other day from Isaiah 49 and my heart leaped when I got to v23b….Then you will know that I am the Lord; those who hope in me will not be disappointed.” This chapter like the rest of the Bible is full of promises and reminders that God is faithful. I would like to share a few of them with you. I pray that you will remember them at all times. The fact is while people may fail, God does not because he is always faithful. Rather than trust in people, let’s put our trust in God who is able to come through for us at all times. We may not fully understand his ways, but we must always trust in his faithfulness. He is faithful!
Have you ever trusted in a system to make good its promise or come through for you only to be disappointed? Broken promises, broken dreams and broken hearts, this is all part of life here on earth. We trust because it is the natural thing to do if we are to have a meaningful relationship with friends, family or even business colleagues. Yet, over and over again, trusting seems to set us up for disappointment and dejection. More often than not, friends family, institutions that we are loyal to and have sacrificed for end up betraying us. As long as we are here on earth, we seem to be continually setting up our lives for failure, for disappointment for heartbreak as long as we have each other.
Seems like a hopeless situation, right? However, do not lose heart, there is hope! This is because God is faithful. He does not disappoint those who hope in him as he says in Isaiah 49:23b, he does not lie and he keeps his promise. The word of God, the Bible is full of promises that God keeps time and time again. Below are a few and God bless you as you read them.
Deuteronomy 7:9 Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations
Romans 3:3 What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God?
1 Corinthians 1:9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
2 Thessalonians 3:3 But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.
Psalms 91:4 He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
Change of Legacy
Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez,saying, “I gave birth to him in pain.” Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request.(1 Chr 4:9-10)
For a few days now, I have been trying to put together an article for this page. Today my message is related to seasons and the mixed impact that each season brings. Imagine the cool breeze coupled with the beauty and fragrance of flowers filling the air in spring, the scorching heat in summer, spectacular foliage in fall and of course freezing and sneezing in winter....Just like that the season changes.
I first wrote this article during mid-summer, when it was humid and scorching and we were all wishing it would rain. How ironic that as I write to you now, its mid spring here in Tokyo, cool, refreshing and beautiful…How seasons change!Reflecting and exploring our lives today, we all know that everything is also always changing. Like seasons, relationships, fashion, finances and even ourselves…nothing is constant. At times it is hard to keep in track and we may feel like we are lagging behind. Overwhelming as it may be, there is good news… Our God is the same, yesterday, today and forever. Alleluia!
Does anyone remember the book of Chronicles? Yeah, the family trees and genealogies! Fast forward to 1Chr 4:9-10… Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, “I gave birth to him in pain.” Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh,that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request. (New International Version (NIV)). Jabez is one of the few people in this section with a story to his name. His is a short but very sweet story:
1.Jabez is first introduced as being ‘more honorable than his brothers’
2.But his mother is said to have named him ‘Jabez’ because she ‘gave birth to him in pain’
3.And at some point in his life he ‘cried out to the God of Israel’ and made just 4 short requests: Oh, that you would bless me! Enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me! Keep me from harm ! (or keep me from evil in KJV).Wow, what a prayer! But, why such a prayer Jabez…? Because, as he says at the end of his prayer..’ that I will be free from pain’ or as in KJV ‘that I will not cause pain’. What a prayer!
I am sure many of us identify with Jabez. While we do not fully understand why his mother called him Jabez, it is clear that the season of pain that caused her to call him ‘Jabez’ when he was born also followed him for a while in his life. What kind of pain? I am not sure. However, this I know for sure, pain is pain and it is always painful.
Be it physical, emotional, caused by sickness, difficult conditions, financial doldrums, broken relationships, abuse, any kind, any source, it is still pain and it still remains an unpleasant sensory and/or emotional experience. It hurts! The incredible part in Jabez’s story lies in the last part of v.10..summed up in just 4 words..’ GOD GRANTED HIS REQUEST! Alleluia! Season shift and legacy changed! From Pain to Honor, what a beautiful ‘Before Prayer/ After Prayer’ development!
What is the 'Default State' of Your Mind?
One of the cool and sometimes ‘uncool’ things about computer settings is the default state option i.e. the first choice presented before I get to choose my preferred option. Good for us because we always have a starting point. Talking about default states I think we often have a default state of mind. Good for us if that default is ‘trusting the Lord’ but as we discovered a few months ago with some dear sisters at church, worry is often the more common default.
In our Prayer and Sharing Ladies group we decided to memorize scripture every week and share revelations throughout the week. I immediately jumped onto it as I was thrown back to my days in high school when we challenged each other to memorize scripture every week and recite it during our weekly Scripture Union cell group meetings. I look back with amazement at the depth in the word that this group achieved in young people.
Indeed , the memorizing and reciting of scriptures enabled many, including me to create a storage of scripture in our hearts and sure enough, almost 20 years on, my spirit still exudes Jer 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you…., Rom 8:28 All things work together for good to those who love the Lord..and so on. May God bless the visionary for Scripture Union in Zimbabwe for the remarkable impact on elementary and high schoolers!
Back to my present ladies group at church, we agreed to start with Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the Lord and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your parts straight. Proverbs 3:5 was expanded to include all the verses before and after verse 5 and, what a blessing it has been! Today I will only discuss verses 5 -8. Verse 7 instructs us not to be wise in our own eyes but rather to fear the Lord and shun evil and in turn we get health to our body and refreshment to our bones. Talk about weariness from worry and ‘meditating’ on life’s ever present problems! It is almost as if our minds are set to default worrying state. Picture a typical day, from the time you wake up to the time you retire to bed. For the 16 or more hours that we are awake, there is always a decision to be made, a challenge to be solved and an action to be taken. Often times we find ourselves at that ‘default’ state of mind…worrying.
Agreed, not all our worries are of equal magnitude but the effect is the same. Worrying wearies us and tends to be retrogressive and detrimental to our health and well-being, not to mention time wasting!
How much easier it would be if we adopted Proverbs 3:5-6 and reset our minds to a new default state of ‘trusting in the Lord’ and ‘not being wise in our own eyes’. The truth is the Lord knows us by name. He sees our struggles and knows our challenges. As promised in Prov 3:6 God will make our paths straightand in Prov 3:8 such a state of mind will bring health to our body and refreshment to our bones. After all , according to Rom 8:28, ALL things work together for good…! Yes, they do, they do those who love the Lord and whose minds are set to ‘trust’ default.
O, how I wish I would always maintain a ‘trust in the Lord ‘default state! I wish this for myself and for all of you. I wish that we learn to trust the Lord always with our lives, acknowledge Him in all our ways and we quit being wise in our own eyes. May God make your paths straight, may He bring health to your body and when you get weary, may He bring refreshment to your bones. May Prov 3:5-8 become the default state of your mind. God bless you.
My Daily Choices
Recently, I decided to go ‘no-elevator’ and work out at the same time. Though my office is in the 6th floor and I should naturally use the elevator, I decided to take the stairs instead. That means on average, I climb about 200 steps every weekday! You can imagine how I feel by the time I get to the final lap…lots of huffing and puffing which by the way is waning day by day.
Looking back from when I started my ‘no- elevator’ journey back in January, I could not be prouder of my achievement. Why am I doing it you may ask? The simple answer is it is my sole workout routine which costs me nothing! Secondly, I am happy making the choice to go the harder and longer way as opposed to pressing the button and being elevated to my floor in a few seconds. Physically there obvious benefits which I am already enjoying but beyond those benefits is a reality.
The stark reality is the fact that I am allowed to make a choice and I am enabled to exercise that choice by God Almighty. Early on in my journey I was not lost to the fact that it is by God’s grace that I have the strength and ability to do a seemingly easy task of walking up the steps and I am able to continue only if I remain healthy and fit enough. Since I realized that profound truth, I always acknowledge God’s grace as I trudge on. It is indeed by God’s grace that I am what I am (1 Corinthians 15:10).
In Proverbs 3:5-6 we are encouraged to trust in the Lord with all our heart and not to lean on our own understanding. Rather, we should acknowledge Him in all our ways and He will make our paths straight!
Walking up the stairs may seem like a small routine and of course there are more challenging situations that come our way. As women, as girls and as children of God, we have to continually make choices and go on some journey. Some choices may seem easier and others tougher but the fact is our choices will determine our journey. Thank God that we are never alone when we make choices and during the journey as long as we trust and acknowledge Him.
Proverbs 3:7 further instructs us, ’Do not be wise in your own eyes, Fear the Lord and depart from evil, it will be health to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.’ There you have it right there! Refreshment on this journey is also available. As I walk up the stairs I sure could use some refreshment to my bones from the 4th floor going up... How much more refreshment we need on our Christian journey! I wish all of you well in your respective journeys. I so wish that as we make daily choices, big or small, we will always acknowledge the Lord.
May God continually refresh and strengthen you!