The extra effort

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Joshua 10:9, 14: So Joshua came upon them suddenly, having marched up all night from Gilgal. …There has been no day like it before or since, when the LORD heeded the voice of a man, for the LORD fought for Israel.

God assured Joshua that regardless of the strength of the opposition, He was going to give Israel victory (verse 8). Nevertheless in verse 9, we see Joshua matching the army of Israel all night long to alight on the camp of the enemy suddenly, catching them unawares and starting a series of miracles through which the enemy was thoroughly routed. The promise of victory did not cause Joshua to relax, but to put in extra effort, making the army of Israel match all night.

That extra effort from Israel resulted in an extra effort by God, who helped them to crush the enemy with large hailstones from heaven, and making the sun and moon both standing still for close to a day, to “create” more time to thoroughly deal with the enemy (verse 11-14).

The promises of God and assurances of everlasting life should not result into a lackadaisical attitude on the part of Christians, but as Paul preached: work out your salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). It takes some effort to pray, fast, read and study the bible, and to act in line with what God wants.

And Paul testified about himself that God’s grace on him was not in vain because he excelled in labour, meaning he put in the extra effort to become an outstanding Apostle, standing shoulder to shoulder with the best of the rest (1Corinthians 15:9-10). You owe God your best effort of commitment, devotion and sacrifice because he showed nothing less on your behalf in the sacrifice of his Son (Romans 12:1).

It was a big effort for the whole army of Israel to match for hours and at night too. Think of it: how easy would it be for you to walk for several hours? Remember what they did was not a stroll in the park of a hike along uncharted territories but brisk walking for hours to confront the enemy all on the back of a promise from God. This shows that because God promised you something does not mean you should stay put but you should match in the direction of the promise in prayer, preparation and participation.

What would it take you to pray all night? (Yes, I sprung that on you!). That would be your own all match, but in a spiritual sense.

Paul said to Timothy, wage war with the prophecies proclaimed over you, not seat on them (1Timothy 1:18). And one way warfare is expressed is in prayer (Ephesians 6:10-12, 18). How desperate do you want the promises of God fulfilled? Even Jesus had to pray all-night sometime (Luke 6:12). The extra effort is to break away from your comfort zone and like a soldier, endure hardness (2Timothy 2:3-7). I don’t care what you do for your all-night extra-effort; maybe it is singing songs of praise, worship or proclamation to God, speaking in tongues, listing scriptural verses and biblical promises to pray with or a combination of all of those. Whatever you do, being with God all-night is an extra effort for anybody and that delivers the extra effort from God.

For the widow in Luke 21:1-3, throwing all her money into the offering basket was an extra effort that brought an extra commendation from Jesus, she became distinguished. The extra effort would distinguish you, just as the man diligent (with due attention and effort, excellence, commitment, faithfulness, investment and monitoring) in his work, would not stand before kings (Proverbs 22:29) as the extra effort distinguish Israel at the end of that military event (Joshua 10:21) and went on with that momentum to crush city after city. Get some fire under your rocket, some wind under your sail, some passion in your soul, some determination in your pursuits and some force in your bite.

Prophecy: when the extra effort is in place from your own side, the Spirit moves to ensure that your act of faith becomes a creative force; what you give then becomes multiplied back to you.

Question: where do you stand on the extra effort scale of one to ten?

Prayer activity: Pray that God will bless you with such wisdom that your efforts will always be made in the right direction.

Tomorrow’s topic: The Lord is your inheritance.

 

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Lean not on your own understanding

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Joshua 9:14: So the men took some of their provisions, but did not ask counsel from the LORD.

The children of Israel were deceived into accepting the Gibeonites who were part of the people to be destroyed in Canaan, the Promised Land. They observed the physical evidence and made decision on that, according to what appealed to the senses (Joshua 9:1-18).

Nothing deceives like the physical/natural senses. Ask Eve. She had an instruction from God to not eat the fruit of a tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden, but with Satan stirring her senses, Eve was floored (Genesis 3:1-6). While God wanted obedience from you, your senses can pull you in the opposite direction. No wonder Paul said that he pummels his body (the seat of his senses) so that after helping others spiritually, he would not be disqualified from reaping the fruit of his labour (1Corinthians 9:27), after being pulled away into wrong acts. Be mindful of what controls you: let it be spiritual pull and not the sensual ones.

Leaning on the understanding of God can help you live the right life by making the right decisions and going the right things.

Because as many as are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God, therefore, as a child of God you are equipped with the ability to hear from God (Romans 8:14), but a preoccupation with self, overconfidence in the flesh (Philippians 3:3) will always block this avenue leading to tear and pain.

On your own, you are all natural senses and no spirituality, to therefore lean on your own understanding is a recipe for disaster. Israel leaned on their own understanding with the bible specifically saying they did not ask for God’s counsel in making the decision to embrace the Gibeonites. From that lesson, you should only take steps after you have the witness of the Holy Spirit in you (Romans 8:16). You are no ordinary human being, you are child of God now, don’t underutilise your spiritual senses but be alive to God. The problem of the Israelites was not the unwillingness of God to instruct them, but their bent on relying on what they can observe, just like any other nation would do, not fully realising that they are not like any other nation.

There are two kinds of senses: natural and spiritual (1Corinthians 2:14-15,Hebrews 5:11-14). The natural senses have been developing since the day of your birth, while the spiritual senses started developing when you became born again. It is more likely, therefore, that you have used more man-hours developing and using you natural senses than you have, your spiritual senses.

We would be better off investing more time to developing your  spiritual dimension, starting from now because everyone needs a reorientation from leaning on our own understanding to God.

There is wisdom from above (wisdom can be defined as knowing what to do and doing it). James enjoined you to ask from the wisdom from above, rather than living all your life playing the hit and miss game of earthly wisdom (James 3:13-17). Let you decision rhyme with heaven’s, by not leaning on your own understanding but God’s.

Paul said that the only way to not be a fool is to understand what the will of God is (Ephesians 5:17). Do you understand what the will of God is for you, the direction he wants you to take, the decisions he wants you to make? These are definitely superior to your own understanding. You should ask: What is God saying in this matter? And you will be amazed that God had been waiting for you to ask; to acknowledge his superior understanding that will prevent you from errors; to recognise the beauty of his own opinion; to see the superiority of his guidance; to be humble enough to realise that you need God to direct your path (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Prophecy: Receive my help; I am willing to help you make the best decision for time and eternity.

Question: What is standing in the way of your full dependence on God?

Prayer activity: Lord set me free from dependence on self.

Tomorrow’s topic: The extra effort.

Tongue control

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Joshua 6:10: But Joshua commanded the people, “You shall not shout or make your voice heard, neither shall any word go out of your mouth, until the day I tell you to shout. Then you shall shout.”

The ability to control what comes out of your mouth is described by James in his book as the hallmark of spiritual maturity (James 1:26). In the same vein, Paul admonished that we should allow only wholesome communication to come out of our mouth (Ephesians 14:29).

To be able to take over Jericho, Joshua, based on the requirement of God, told the children of Israel to keep their mouths shut for six days. They exercised a great degree of tongue control, showing that the ability to shut up your mouth, when necessary, is a virtue.

When provoked, you may be tempted to start railing on your opponent or accuser, to loose your cool and start saying what you could regret later on. However, it is written that even a fool, if he keeps silent can easily pass of as being wise. This means that no matter your claim of wisdom, if you are a talkative, your rating on the wisdom scale will be low, but even if you don’t have an iota of wise thought in you, keeping quite will make you  seem to be wise (Proverbs 17:28). The moral of it is that it is better to not talk at all than to not talk aright. Some are rash with their words, showing their folly; being long on promises but short on performance, which is the opposite of the nature of God that we are supposed to express.

Another thing we should guard against is qself-praise. The book of Proverbs says that let someone else praise you and not your own mouth (Proverbs 27:2). Don’t be so preoccupied with the sense of your own self-importance; that is pretty obnoxious. You can’t be full of yourself and be full of God at the same time.

Again, the book of proverbs talks about a contentious woman; you are better off not crossing her path. She can go on and on using words to castigate people around her, and her husband, if married, in particular (Proverbs 21:9,19; 25:24; 27:15). When the bible says if be angry but sin not (Ephesians 4:26), you can easily achieve this if you shut up when angry. It is difficult to be seen as quarrelsome if what comes out of your mouth in the tone, tempo, volume and choice of words, do not communicate that fact.

Words can be spoken in a way to cause emotional harm or pain to the other person, just as they have caused you, disobeying the instruction of God to not revenge (Romans 12:19), but easily qualifying for the award of sword mouth, instead of having your words bring health to others.

To control your tongue is to control your emotions. Just as you don’t want to have your emotions running wild, you cannot afford to have you tongue running wild in gossip, abusive language, lies and exagerrations.

If you are talking about sanctification, that is, dedication to God,the indicator is your level of tongue control. James says he that does not err in words is a perfect man (James 3:2). If your words cannot be faulted, you life cannot be faulted. The purity you embrace that leaves out tongue control is vain, and deceptive.

It was David who prayed that God, let the words of my mouth be acceptable to you (Psalms 19:14); let that also be your prayer, since God’s help is needed to achieve tongue control.

Prophecy: let the purity of God be expressed through your mouth, it is light to the hearers and joy to heaven.

Question: how do you rate yourself in tongue control?

Prayer activity: Help me Lord to speak aright and to know when to not speak at all.

Tomorrow’s topic: Lean not on your own understanding.

 

Satan’s wild-goose chase

Joshua 2:6-7: But she had brought them up to the roof and hid them with the stalks of flax that she had laid in order on the roof.  So the men pursued after them on the way to the Jordan as far as the fords. And the gate was shut as soon as the pursuers had gone out.

While the two spies sent from the camp of the Israelites were in Jericho, word went out about their presence in the house of Rahab, and certain men were sent to her house from the king to lay hands on them. But Rahab hid them inside the roof of her house. She however directed them the king’s men to look outside the gate of the city, for the Israelites, which they did for about three days (verse 22). They went on a wild-goose chase because those they were looking for had been hidden up in a roof and afterwards hid themselves for three days.

This describes what Paul, the Apostle, meant when he said we died, were raised with Christ and now have our life hidden in Christ who is with God having been raised up to the right hand of God in Heaven. And because of our new location up in the heavenly places, for all intent and purpose, we (believers in Jesus Christ) are out of the reach of Satan.

It is interesting that the men sent from the king of Jericho spent three days looking for the spies (as they had to hide themselves for the same several days), the same number of days that Jesus Christ and us by proxy (see June 14 post) spent in the grave (Satan’s territory). If we are on our own, Satan would have access to us, but now in Christ Jesus, we are unreachable; not because of us but because of Christ who hides us. Because the spies hid themselves for three days, they were not caught; also because Christ hid us for three days in himself in the grave we are no where to be found by the devil. Due to Jesus’ sinless state, Satan could not gain access to Him, ditto us, whom He shared His righteousness with (2Corinthians 5:21).

If all that is too technical for you, what I have been trying to say is that Satan hates you because you are a threat to him just as Israel was a threat to Jericho’s continued existence as a city and he wants to do something about it. He thinks that he has a chance to do that now that you’re a still on the earth, where he rules in the lives of men just as king of Jericho had the chance to kill the Israelites when they were in Jericho on the spy mission. They could not be reached for three day, first because someone hid them up in  the roof of her house which I said was a type of our being hidden in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus; and because they hid themselves (which was of their own initiative; the initiative required of us is to believe in Jesus) for three days being a type of our being dead and buried with Christ for three days which transformed us into the body of Christ that Satan cannot access. Do you understand? Can you grasp that concept?

Satan cannot reach you to harm you now, because your life is hidden in Christ (Colossians 3:3-4). Also, we were raised with Christ (Ephesians 2:5-6, Romans 6:4-5) and have been taken by fiat from the devil’s sphere of influence to now be under God overriding influence in a new kingdom (Colossians 1:13).

Realise this: all attempts of the devil to move you away from the cover of the love of God is futile (Romans 8:35-39), we see that nothing can move us from the cover of God’s love. It is also confirmed that we are in God’s hand and no one can pluck us away from his hand (John 10:28-29). We are free from satanic influences. Have that as part of your view of yourself. There is nothing uncertain about your situation; you have been insured through the death of Jesus. Just like a worker bee

has only one chance to sting a thick-skinned victim and afterwards dies, unable to attack another victim, Jesus took on himself the sting of death (which is the way Satan manifests his power [Hebrews 2:14-15]) on our behalf.  And there is nothing the devil can do except make attempts and all his efforts are going to amount to a wild-goose chase.

Prophecy: It is true that Satan is the god of this world but it is also true that you are not of this world. Be assured that in my kingdom you exist under the condition of light and darkness has no place.

Question: is it really true that Satan’s attempt to reach you is merely a wild goose chase? 

Prayer activity: I give you praise Lord because of your comprehensive work of salvation for me. 

Tomorrow’s topic: Tongue control

 

“I am feeling suicidal”

Jonah 4:3, 8:  Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” …  When the sun rose, God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint. And he asked that he might die and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.”

Jonah was definitely feeling suicidal with what he was saying above: “Take my life from me; it is better for me to die than to live.” Note that the person talking was not an ordinary man but a prophet of God. But he wished he were dead, his life was loathsome to him.

Understanding his suicidal feeling will help us to understand him and by extension ourselves. Jonah felt he had a good reason to feel like dying since what he didn’t want happened: he didn’t want God having mercy on the Nineveans. He felt used (refer to Jonah1-4). He seems to be so obsessed with seeing from his own point of view even if that point of view is making him feel rotten.

Whatever the perspective from which you are seeing a situation, that is not uplifting for you (I am not talking about a sin situation where the only remedy is genuine repentance), it is the wrong perspective. You need to see things from the point of view of what God says. What He says is that His thoughts for you are not for evil but for good (Jeremiah 29:11). His word says that for you who love God, all things (emotionally pleasant or otherwise) are working together for your good (Romans 8:28).

God went a long way to illustrate the error of Jonah’s perspective to him (John 4:6-11). Those who feel suicidal like Jonah are excessively involved with their own emotion. They are fixated, their emotions locked in on an event or a series of events that destroyed their views of themselves or the image they have worked to maintain.

What is required is a wholesale abandonment of a person’s view of things, to embrace another’s- God’s. When someone who is feeling suicidal is recommended for counselling or therapy, all the therapist can do is to help the client gain a new way of viewing the same set of circumstances they are surrounded with, in the past and present.

What better therapist than God who sees the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10)? Abandon your own calculation and embrace God’s, it is then that things will add up. In God’s calculation, there is no hopeless case, because his conclusion is, “to him that is joined to the living there is hope (Ecclesiastes 9:4).” In God’s calculation, difficult time passes. He can bring roses out of the thorn-bushes of our lives.

Rather than becoming a dope-addict because of the feeling of suicide, making it worse, become a hope-addict. You will not be arrested for it because it is the God of the universe who says hope will not disappoint, it will always deliver (Romans 5:5).

One cause of the feeling of suicide is being brokenhearted and Jesus came to heal broken hearts (Luke 4:18). He can reach where the knife of the surgeon or the words of a therapist cannot reach. It is interesting that the word of God is described as being sharper than any two-edged sword piercing to division of the soul and spirit (Hebrews 4:12), thereby causing you to gain the divine perspective of any situation.

Your journey does not end where you fell (Micah 7:8); there is still a distance before you. Elijah was in a similar situation like Jonah (see 1Kings 19) when after a thunderous victory on Mount Carmel against false prophets, Jezebel threatened his life and he fled. He thought his journey had ended, that all he had worked for had gone down the drain because Jezebel was still powerful.

He walked to Horeb, the Mount of the Lord, asking that God should kill him. (It was hinted that a feeling of loneliness added to Elijah’s suicidal bent and God gave him a new perspective on that too, a different way of seeing his loneliness [verses 10,14 and18]). At the end of his encounter with God, He gave him a still-small-voice perspective of Himself and sent him on further journeys.

God refused to jaw-jaw with Elijah on all the burning issues in his heart. Instead, he told him to get on with life, quit sulking, and get some assignments done for Him. God rekindled Elijah’s sense of purpose, making him see that his life was still worth something to God, even if not to Elijah himself, who thereafter carried out further assignments for God.

Feeling suicidal? What you need is to gain a new perspective and have a renewed sense of purpose.

Prophecy: It is not my will that any should perish but that all may come to the knowledge of the truth; this will set you free.

Question: How common is the feeling of suicide among Christians?

Prayer activities: Lord, cause me to always be preoccupied with your purpose and perspective of things. 

Tomorrow’s topic: Satan’s wild goose chase

 

Prayer before change

Jonah 3:8: but both men and beast must be covered with sackcloth;and let men call on God earnestly that each may turn from his wicked ways and from the violence which is in his hands. NASB

Why not call on the Lord for the change you want and not worry or make futile resolutions. Someone said you cannot solve a problem on the same level that it was created. That is why man, having fallen into sin since Adam could never by a dint of effort lift himself up.

Break the cycle of frustration in your life by calling on the Lord for the change you need. Stop fooling yourself that you can handle things. You need a supply of grace that Jesus Christ stands for. We were told that he is full of grace, i.e, divine ability (John 1:14, 16-17).

When Paul the Apostle was facing a difficult situation, after he prayed, God told him, “my grace is sufficient for you (2Corinthians 12:7-9).” God’s grace is the answer to all categories of human needs and you can access it through prayer. The writer of the book of Hebrews enjoined his readers to draw near to the throne of grace to find grace to help in times of need (Hebrews 4:16).

Break the cycle of errors and sin in your life by seeking God’s grace. It may be humbling to acknowledge that you don’t have all the answers but you are no match on your own for the devil and what he can throw at you, but the grace of God is more than a match.

The words of the verse in focus were spoken by the king of Nineveh to his people after hearing that God would destroy the city for its evil deeds. Rather than ask them to try hard to change from decades long evil habits and practices handed down over generations, the wise king wanted his people to seek God gore the change they want to see in themselves.

Don’t think grace is a weak word. It is divinity in humanity. It is the limitless in the limited. It is the difference between Moses and Jesus.

Prophecy: As you open your heart to me in prayer, I will open my hands to you in grace.

Question: What area of your life is not covered by God’s grace?

Prayer activity: Lord, expand my capacity to pray.

Tomorrow’s Topic: “I am feeling suicidal”

Salvation is from the Lord

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Jonah 2:9:  But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the LORD!”

The amazing thing about this statement from the mouth of Jonah was that he made it while in great distress having been swallowed up by a big fish. In spite of the bad situation, he confessed that salvation is of the Lord. Jesus also made a similar confession as hinted by Peter when he quoted somewhere in Psalms saying that Jesus affirmed said to God that even though he was going to die, God would not leave him in the grave (Acts 2:23-32). In a similar way, Jonah was buried in the belly of a fish for three days,  God brought Jesus Christ out of the grave after three days. They both spent the same number of days in their various places of incarceration.

To those still with the thought that the story of Jonah spending three days inside a fish is a fable, it also means you do not believe Jesus rose from the dead. To limit the miraculous power of God is to deny that the miracle of the resurrection of Jesus is not true, permanently shutting the gate of salvation against yourself.

It is true that salvation belongs to the Lord. John 10:10 says that the devil came to kill, steal and destroy but Jesus came to give life, swallowing up whatever has been done in the works of the devil just as it is written that the purpose for the manifestation of Jesus is to destroy the work of the enemy (1John 3:8b). Jesus definitely is the
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trump card of God for salvation.

Jonah’s experience reflects God’s salvation through Jesus in three different ways:

1) The result of their incarceration: The saving of Jonah from the belly of the fish resulted in saving grace being extended to the Nineveans an example of the world. Just as Jesus came from the dead after three days and because of that, salvation is preached in his name (Acts 10: 39-43); also Jonah came from his own three-day incarceration to bring salvation, though unwillingly, to the Nineveans.

2) Their experiences showed God’s compassion:  Salvation belongs to the Lord because it is as a result of the kindness of God, otherwise it could not have been achieved (Lamentations 3:22). Jonah did not want God to have mercy on the people of Nineveh, just as the Jews in the time of Jesus were impervious to the notion that salvation would come to the gentiles (Acts 10:28, 11:18). God’s overreaching compassion without regard to tribe, gender, social status or state in life because caused salvation to flow from the Jews (Jesus  being one) to the ends of the earth (Isaiah 45:22, Acts 13:47).

3) The power in the salvation message: Salvation belongs to the Lord not only because he sent it to a group of people through men (Jonah and Jesus) who were buried for three days; also not only because his compassion was overflowing without limit; the third reason is the ability of God’s message to cause repentance in people, making the way to God, to salvation open through believing the message and the messenger. The Nineveans believed Jonah’s message and where saved as they responded  to it; also through the message of Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord (Romans 10:9-10) people all over the world can be saved. God is not just compassionate, someone who merely wishes you well, hoping for the best. He has the power to effect the salvation inside of you, if only you would believe.  God effects salvation (Ephesians 1:19, 2:1) by causing his power to course through you to take you from the pit of damnation to experience ressurection also be a source of salvation to others like both Jonah was and Jesus is.

#Daily prophecy: when it seems all is over, I step in with my saving grace. Do not think I am limited by anything. I am all for you as long as you can be all for me.

#Daily question: What stops people from reaching out for the saving grace of God?
#Daily prayer activity: Lord help me to be all for you.
*Tomorrow’s topic: Prayer before change.