REJOICING ALWAYS

REJOICING ALWAYS

This week, I like to share with you about Rejoicing in a study of Philippians 3 and 4. To rejoice according to the Meriam Webster dictionary simply means to give joy to or gladden or to feel joy or great delight. To have joy is to experience great pleasure or delight. As much as it is so nice to see all this definitions it is even sweeter to experience Joy. Even if you can’t define it in grammar, you know it when you feel it or experience it. The scripture encourages us to Rejoice always. Paul writing to the Philippians wrote;

…and Rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. Philippians 3:3

Later again, he writes

Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, rejoice. Philippians 4:4

I believe when there are close repetitions in scriptures like this, then there is something for us to take note of. They are very important. A lot of times, we want to rejoice always but it seems the circumstances of life keeps our heads bowed and sad. The scriptures says

…In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. John 16:33

Notice that Paul writes to us in Philippians 3:3 and 4:4 as though, Rejoicing lies completely within our hands and our rejoicing never depends on the happenings around us. I believe this is true. You know despite the roughness and pain in the world, as Christians we can still rejoice. The secret is clearly stated in Philippians 3:3 and Philippians 4:4. It says Rejoice in the Lord, Rejoicing in Christ Jesus. That’s the Secret of Rejoicing always. Yes, continuous Joy forever is in the Lord. Rejoicing is only in the Lord.

Paul gave a thorough explanation of this in Philippians chapter 3 up until chapter 4. Rejoicing in the Lord, is Rejoicing in knowing the things he has done for me and He is doing in me. Joy is in focusing on the change of life, person and character he has given us. Looking at who we used to be and who we are now in Christ Jesus and even the hope of who we would become in Him. Joy is in focusing on His plans, His thoughts and will for us. See what Paul says here

Circumcised the eight day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ, Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord… (Phil. 3:5 – 8).

Paul, despite being in chains while writing this could rejoice and even implore others to rejoice because he was focusing his attention on what Christ was doing in Him. He could see the kind of Paul he was before, the kind of Paul he was now, and then could acknowledge Christ’s work in him.  Paul wasn’t putting his attention on himself, the light was on Christ in him. So he could rejoice always. Rejoicing always is in Christ. Joy is in counting those things that makes us puffed up and proud and make us want to boast as dung and irrelevant. Rejoicing always is in pushing aside those things we always like to rely on outside of Christ, so that we can enjoy the true riches of rejoicing in Christ.

Joy is in giving up the things of this world that don’t matter and pursuing the spiritual matters that would bring life and peace to our souls and be beneficial till eternity. Joy is in the pursuit of Him. The knowledge of Him. See what Paul says later in that same chapter,

That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Phil. 3: 10 -11)

Rejoicing always is in seeking him. Joy is in worshiping in spirit and truth and not putting our confidence in the flesh. Rejoicing always can never depend on us. It’s about Him. And as our hearts yearn and pants for Him, the more His peace fills our hearts and minds. Paul must have experienced this, despite all the problems and challenges he said this,

“We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; (2 Cor. 4: 8-9)”

You know the source of sorrows and sadness, is when we fill our minds with what we expect to happen to us or not happen to us. When our focus is outward and not in inward on Christ Jesus in us. Only Men of true joy can do what he said 2 Cor. 4:8 – 9 above, men who don’t bother about what is happening around them, their focus and pursuit is on Christ. Joy is keeping our gaze on Him. Joy is about Him and what he does, not what is happening to me. Rejoicing always is in Christ and in Christ alone. Philippians 4: 8 – 9 tells us the things we should focus our minds on that brings Joy.

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy-meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9)

Another source of Joy, Paul mentions is helping other believers, and especially those who labour in the work of Christ.

Brethren, Jesus came to give us the spirit of joy. That spirit dwells in every believer. We only have to tune our focus on him. Isaiah prophesying about Jesus, said Jesus came to do this:

“To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness: that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord. That he might be glorified. (Isaiah 61:3)”

He commands us to rejoice. He gave us the spirit. We only have to keep our gaze on him. Pursue the knowledge of Him. Focus our attention on what He is doing in us, who He is making us to be like. Know that Rejoicing always is only possible in Him. Rejoice always IN CHRIST and once again I say Rejoice.

 

I Call You Blessed

 

Written by Samson Afolabi

What Will Your Reaction Be?

What Will Your Reaction Be?

So, Last week I wrote about BREAKING FREE FROM RELIGION. I got some responses from some of my readers,  encouraging me to keep up with the good work as they have been blessed by the write-up. On this premise, I would like to say a big THANK YOU to everyone that dropped a comment and to let you know that every word of encouragement meant a lot to me and the ALETHEIA COMMITTEE. But more importantly would be that we have the right reaction(s) to every of God’s word each time He speaks to us. Interestingly this would be the central theme of our article this week.

Whenever we read the Bible or read a scripture-inspired book or write-up or rather listen to a sermon, it’s important to know that the words spoken to us will only profit us if we make the right reaction(s) to them. Looking through the scripture, different reactions to God’s words played out when it came to people. Some disagreed, some disbelieved, some rejected while some took it up in faith and acted accordingly.

REJECTION
Peter – “Not So Lord!”

“But Peter Said, Not So, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean (ACTS 10:14)”

The Lord was about to extend the preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles, and He wanted to send Peter. He showed Peter a trance while he was waiting for food to be made for him. A sheet was lowered from heaven full of different kinds of “four-footed beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air” and Peter was told to kill and eat. But for Peter those animals were seen as “unclean” and even though it was the Lord who had given him the instruction, his reaction was still NO. In fact, Peter was careful to say “Not So Lord!” to mean that: though you are my Lord but this your word, I won’t take it. (Read the full story in Acts 10: 9 – 16)

A lot of us, still do the same thing today. Even when we know God is telling us to do something, we rather do something else, rejecting and saying “NOT SO LORD!” in our actions. When God tells you “Stop that relationship”, “don’t take that job” yet you go ahead, know just like Peter you are saying “NOT SO LORD!”

UNBELIEF
Mary and Zacharias – “How Can these things be?”

Zacharias was a priest and his wife’s name was Elizabeth. But they had no child because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years (Luke 1:7). One day, while Zacharias was ministering in the temple, an angel appeared to him and told him he was going to have a son, told him the name they were to give to the child and a lot of wonderful things about the child he (Zacharias) was going to have. Then Zacharias said

“How shall I know this? For I am an Old man, and my wife well advanced in years” (Luke 1:18)

He didn’t believe the angel. He was more persuaded of the physical conditions of himself and his wife. He knew that at a certain age, a woman cannot have a child any longer and that was more reasonable to him than God’s word. That made him mute until the child was born. Mary also had a similar encounter, she also said:

“How Can these things be, since I do not know a man” (Luke 1:34)

Sarah also laughed in unbelief when God said she would have a son in a year time (Gen. 18: 11 -15). They all seemed to have logical reasons not to believe God’s word. You know sometimes we also do the same. Even after our Pastors have declared God’s beautiful counsels to us, we still go ahead to esteem more our physical limitations than God’s word. We act in unbelief. We prefer to keep living in fear and worry than to rise up and boldly believe and confess God’s word to us. I act in unbelief sometimes too, am not an exception but it’s not right. We see God as a Compound Capital Fool. We see our problems to be bigger than God and His word. Today, Let our hearts be grounded in the knowledge of how great our God is and the powerful potential of our faith in Him.

ACCEPTANCE
The last section of people I want to talk is those who acted in Faith and stood to take up God’s word. Those who gave the right reaction to God’s word and promise. Abraham, Joshua, and Caleb, Paul, Isaiah. These people, though looked difficult to the mortal man what God requested them to do, yet they rose up, believed in their God and did exploits. (Dan. 11:32)

Abraham

God said “Take now your Son, your only Son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you” (Gen. 22:2)

Abraham Reaction “So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son; and he split the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him” (Gen. 22:3)

One of the things that interested me most was that Abraham didn’t just react rightly by obeying, He rose up early to obey God. Don’t blame God for making him the Father of all Nations. This was his only son of whom he had waited for a long time to have without any hope of having another, he even had to ride 3 days before he could locate this mountain God told him to go to. Yet, he didn’t change his mind. What is your own Isaac, Your Isaac could be your academics, husband, job, or whatever, think about If God says sacrifice it!  Can you? Can you rise up early to terminate it?

One of my heart desires, as always been “Lord I don’t want to just be a hearer of your word, accumulating knowledge but a doer.

Joshua and Caleb is also another example. They were 2 of 12 spies sent by Israel to spy the Promised Land.

“And Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it” (Numbers 13:30)

“But the Men that went up with him said, we be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we” (Numbers 13:31)

God had told these people the land was for them, He wanted them to go up and take up what He had assigned and allocated them, yet because of what they saw they were terrified. They esteemed their challenges higher than God. Their challenges were more real to them than God’s word. But Joshua and Caleb said, “If God says it, we believe it and that settles it”. What do you also say concerning all of God’s promises to you in the scriptures, do you believe them? Or are you more persuaded of your current challenges than God’s word?

Paul also said “Lord, what would you have me do” (Acts 9:6). Isaiah said, “Here I am, send me Lord”(Isaiah 6:8). You can read the full accounts in the scriptures indicated. When God words, comes to you what would your reactions be?

Yes. What would your reaction be even to this article? Positive, Negative, Discard, Find excuses. The ball is in your court but imagine if for every book we read, every sermon we listen to, every time we read the bible we gave the right reactions, we would be far more blessed than we are right now.

My dear reader, I ask you to ponder on this words, ask the Holy-Spirit to reveal to you where you aren’t responding to His word well enough and also give you the grace to respond positively.

I Call You Blessed
Yours in God’s Vineyard
Samson Afolabi

Step Up

Step Up

I got hooked on a dance movie called “Step Up”. These young people – in spite of their differences – united themselves to express their passion through dance. They recruited, practiced, and competed not only to win the prize, but also to be heard in their community. They challenged people to make a difference. These young people stepped up!

In a church community, we also need to step up and be united to speak out our mission. God has gifted us with spiritual gifts and we need to utilize them to build up the church and advance the Kingdom of God. We need to get out from our comfort zone and serve together in God’s vineyard. God has saved us and called us to serve. “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10)

Here are some responses that people give when asked to serve in the ministry:

I’m not ready yet. I wouldn’t know what to do.
I’m not worthy. I’m not good enough to serve God.
I’m not that gifted. There are others who can be more effective.
I’m too busy. I have a lot of things to fix first in my life.

Though some people may have the desire to serve, they often lack the confidence. And this is because they feel that they are not yet equipped. But here’s the good news! Jesus is not expecting us to perform. He is not expecting us to make a first class impression on him. Jesus simply wants our obedience to answer His call to follow Him. And when we make that first step, He will open doors of opportunity for us to grow, to be trained, and to serve in the ministry according to our gifts.

There is a saying that goes, “When God calls, God equips.”  Equipping and learning from Jesus is a lifetime journey. A heart of obedience, humility, and being teachable are the only requirements to do His ministry work.

When Jesus commissioned His disciples, He gave them the assurance of His presence wherever they would go. “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20). Jesus will never leave your side. He will be your guide, your mentor, and your teacher.

It’s about time to step up, my friend. Pray and discern where God is leading you to serve in the ministry. Be equipped for the work of service. Step up and make a difference in the Kingdom of God!

God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the call

Written by Pastor Maurice Rivera

Absolute Surrender

Absolute Surrender

Our journey toward Christ-likeness involves an absolute surrender to Jesus Christ. Surrendering absolutely happens when a person is willing to follow Christ no matter the cost. It is more than commitment, it is more than involvement. It may cost you some discomfort, your personal desires and aspirations in life.

Someone once said, “A man may be outwardly committed to the work of Christ but may not have been inwardly consecrated and surrendered to the will of Christ.”

We can be committed but not surrendered. Jesus is looking for a heart that is completely broken and surrendered to Him. Absolute surrender to Christ focuses not on our doing but centers on our being, not in our competence but in our character.

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves, take up their cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24.

To be completely surrendered to Christ one must deny himself. To deny yourself is you have to die to your earthly passion. Christ must be the center and supreme purpose of your life.

Paul the great apostle understood what it means to live a life of an absolute surrender to Christ. He said, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20. He considered himself dead but alive for Christ. His life is not his own to manage. His life purpose and goal was for Christ and His glory.

The evidences of a totally surrendered life to Christ is spiritual transformation, a powerful living testimony that would lead to effective ministry for the glory of God.

Are you surrendered to Christ?
Are you absolutely surrendered to Him?

“All to Jesus I surrender,
All to Him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him,
In His presence daily live.
I surrender all, I surrender all;
All to Thee, my blessed Savior, I surrender all.”

Written by Pastor Maurice Rivera

Stay Connected

Stay Connected

Over-time I have discovered as a writer that my readers relate most when I explain scripture as I have applied them to my personal experiences. This approach brings more light to the bible, those stories tend to stick more to the mind, and they are always enticing to read.

People enjoy reading stories. As such, I have always trusted the Holy Spirit to remind me of  specific experiences which I can use to understand the scriptures. Once the Holy-Spirit told me, “I am always speaking to you, sometimes directly to your spirit and sometimes through the experiences around you. If you would learn to open your minds and take careful note of your experiences, you would discover my wisdom expressly shared and demonstrated to you’’

So I decided to add this to my prayers: “Dear Holy Spirit, I know you are not an illusion or a mirage, neither are you a mere belief or a thing. You are a Person, the third person of the Trinity. You are the power of the Godhead and you have been given to me to be a comforter and a partner. Help me to stay conscious of your presence and help me STAY CONNECTED to you”

Let me give you an illustration. I have noticed that when two people are in love, they have an overwhelming desire to share moments together but if they are not talking for quite some hours or – even worse a full day- , there must be a problem.

The same relationship can be seen between a Christian and the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit has emotions, He can be grieved (Eph. 4:30) and He loves. Many of us often forget that the Holy-spirit always wants our company, he doesn’t like to be ignored, he has been given to always be with you when you sleep, when you walk the streets, when you eat, when you drink.Every-time, every second, he wants us to talk with him, he wants our attention. He wants us to tell him our challenges, and he wants to also talk with us, he wants to give us wisdom on how to make decisions, he wants to tell us more about God’s kingdom. He wants our fellowship. He wants us to STAY CONNECTED. He doesn’t just want 10 minutes out of the 24 hours of our day. He is not an errand boy. He is our love.

If we will be diligent enough to stay connected and be careful we will learn a lot from our day to day experiences.Let me share two lessons which I learned in the past weeks. I hope it encourages our heart.

After my exams, my plan was to immediately  take a vacation. I wanted to visit some nearby countries  to give my brain a good break . I was so tired from studying. I planned the trip with two of my friends.

They planned the flights, the buses and the accommodations, and we shared the bill. The trip was really beautiful -peaceful flights, nice discussions, sweet meals, interesting places.It was fun! In Amsterdam, my friends had planned that all night we would keep walking around and to see places , so they didn’t bother to book a room that night. Since I didn’t plan with them, I didn’t know this,. Unfortunately, our planned night tour in city was far below expectations. We had already seen all the interesting places that day and by night-time we were all really tired.

We couldn’t leave the city because our bus was booked for the next morning according to the plan. The night wasn’t comfortable at all. We were visitors with no place to sleep. The only place available was the concrete seats at the Central Train Station. And even though we were tired and weak, the security men allowed us to only sit and not sleep. And we were like that all night! In the midst of this, the Holy Spirit said to me that this is an illustration of Christians on earth.

Christians are sojourners, we are travellers.We shouldn’t expect luxurious comfort here on earth. Our comfort comes when we remember our home, the place where we can finally be with God in body. Many Christians get distracted by seeking comfort here on earth.

“And if you call on Father, who without respect of persons judge according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear” (1 Pet. 1:17)

Paul speaking, said when we are pressed on all sides, we must keep moving. Our encouragement is that one day we will be home. Every traveller is encouraged at the thought of the word HOME. It’s always an encouragement. It always gives strength and hope. Likewise we are supposed to be encouraged as Christians. Our consolation shouldn’t be from the things here.

To continue the story, we survived the night, travelled to Belgium where we had booked a room. We were all tired resulting from a sleepless night. We just wanted to check into the room and rest before going around to see that city. Then we encountered another problem. We couldn’t check into our room. We felt like dying. Just then I remembered that a day before I travelled, I was sharing with a friend about my trip. Then he said “hey, my parents live in Belgium have their contact in-case you need a place to stay”. I never asked for their contact, in-fact I was merely sharing it with him, so we could pray together about it. I never saw the need to have their contact, because I believed all had been settled by my friends. I reluctantly collected their contact. It was when we were denied entry into the room that I remembered my friend’s parent. They were very kind and hospitable to us. We had a nice dinner together with them, with very soft and cosy beds and they even drove us again to the airport the next morning, to catch our flight.. We lost a room and got a house. We wished we had planned to stay longer with them.

Out of this experience, Psalms 46:1 made more meaning to me.

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalms 46:1)

God had seen that we were going to be in need of a place to be, and he made adequate preparation for us. The help was suited and crafted to perfectly suit the trouble we had. It was timely. This once again made me learn to trust God. Now, I know even better “He’s got my back”. Many of us are worried about the future not knowing that God has made adequate preparation for it without Him informing us, He only wants us to cast our cares upon him.

It’s like when parents are expecting a baby, they make ready everything for the baby, the baby doesn’t have to worry about what to eat, what to wear, or how to live. It’s made ready, the baby just comes to enjoy it. We are also “God’s Baby”. Let’s learn to trust in the provisions already made by our father.

I Call You Blessed
Written by Samson Afolabi

Grow in Grace

Grow in Grace

“But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever. Amen” (2 Pet. 3:18)

I opened the Facebook App on my phone just to take a sneak peep as a short break from my mathematics books, then I saw my one of my very close friend wishing is Pastor’s wife happy birthday and he added “grow in grace”. This 3 words jumped at me, and I asked what does it mean to grow in grace? I had also used the phrase as a prayer for many of my friends and this time I wanted to find out what it really meant. My search led to writing this.

This phrase is contained only in Peter’s last words in his epistle in 2 pet 3:18. Now what did Peter mean by grow in grace? This was what I saw;

1.  A deliberate Action
The use of the word “grow” informs us of the deliberate, intentional aspect of the statement. Every believer is responsible for their “grace level”. We have to make the choice to grow up spiritually. Yes, do the work to grow. Paul speaking in Ephesians 4:14 encourages us not to be children tossed to and fro. So it means it lies in our capacity to choose either to be children (babies) or matured men and women of faith. And how can we be matured, by learning grace. Grace speaks of the Person of Jesus. So the next time someone tells you to grow in grace, know it’s more than a prayer, it’s a charge. Luke 1:80, and Luke 2:40 points out to us that our Lord Jesus also choose to grow. He grew and increased in favour before God and Man.

Spiritual growth is not measured by how many years you’ve been in church, it is measured by how much deliberate effort you’ve put into growth. Growth doesn’t fall on people, people put in effort to grow spiritually.

2. Learning Grace to Stand
Another question to ask would be why did Peter tell this men to grow in grace? The answer is found in reading some earlier verses. You will discover that they were to grow in grace to be able to stand against people who were misinterpreting Paul’s epistles. The Message translation from 2 Peter 3: 16 -18 makes it clearer. It reads,

“Some things Paul writes are difficult to understand. Irresponsible people who don’t know what they are talking about twist them every which way. They do it to the rest of the scriptures, too, destroying themselves as they do it.

But you, friends, are well warned. Be on guard lest you lose your footing and get swept off your feet by these lawless and loose talking teachers. Grow in grace and understanding of our Master and Savior, Jesus Christ.” [2 Peter 3:16 – 18] MSG

Many People have thought that when grace is taught, we give people the ticket to sin, NO! Peter says here “Learn Grace to Stand!”

3. Expand Your Capacity
“Enlarge the site of your tent [to make room for more children]; Stretch out the curtains of your dwellings, do not spare them; Lengthen your tent ropes and make your pegs (stakes) firm [in the ground]” Isaiah 54:2 [NLT]

To grow in grace is to increase in capacity. You will be able to do more as your capacity increases. Expand your inner capacity to do more. A 10 year old child would do more than a 2 year old child. If you want God to use you the more than you are doing now, then you have to grow, you have to enlarge your capacity. You need to train your spirit more, set yourself more to the tune of the spirit. Take away those things that distract you. Focus more on Grace (the person of Jesus). As we look steadfastly on Jesus, we are changed to the same level of grace as Jesus (2 Corinthians 3:18). Let me scream it out once again, GROW IN GRACE!

How do I then grow in grace?  Study the scriptures and pray especially in the holy-ghost, listen to more edifying songs, listen to preaching’s that edifying your spirit, read spiritual books, fellowship with other brethren, have a spiritual company and every-other spiritual exercise that energizes your spirit man. As a final note, let’s know that it is God’s delight that we grow just as it is delight of every father to see his children grow. He delights to give us grace as we decide to grow in grace.

I Call You Blessed!
Written by Samson Afolabi