There’s more to The Power of Love than we realise!

In 1993 the popular Canadian singer Celine Dion released a cover version of a song originally performed by by Jennifer Rush called “The Power of Love”. Featured as a single from her album, The Colour of My Love, it followed the release of another single of a cover of “When I Fall in Love” from the same album. It was subsequently nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Female Pop and Vocal performance and an American Music Award for Favorite Pop/Rock Single in 1995.

As a single it became an international smash hit, rising to the top of the charts in the United states, australia and Canada, topping the Billboard Hot 100 for 4 weeks and becoming the first Celine Dion single to do so. It fast became a certified platinum hit in the US and achieved gold sales in other markets worldwide. Much as the lyrics allude to the relationship between two lovers it strikes me that the reference to the power in love is actually quite relevant to our relationship with our Father in heaven.

Many of us would like to see God’s power at work in our lives and we often go to great lengths to seek this power. Long periods of fasting and prayer can often be found in our quest for this Holy grail of the anointing and often that does yield results in some form or another. I do not consider myself to be much of a book writer but this theme has of late been kindled inside me as I seek His face, that I am considering delving into the potential benefits of love in our lives, apart form the apparent feel good side of it. The lyrics from the song have a chorus that includes these words:

‘Even though there may be times
It seems I’m far away
Never wonder where I am
‘Cause I am always by your side’

(The Power Of Love lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, EMI Music Publishing)

In a similar fashion, Hebrews 13:5 tells us that we should be content with what we have ‘because God has said, “never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”’ This is indeed a comforting promise from our Father but it still does not address the issue of why so many of us today bear only the promise of God’s power in our lives but do not see its manifestation. Reading the Acts of the Apostles we clearly see the manifestation of both God’s love and His power in the daily lives of the believers, especially after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. I am sorely tempted to write everything in one blog post but the more I meditate upon the power of love, the more I realise that it is an untapped resource that we have yet to fully understand and probably requires a deeper look into than meets the eye. For this first blog post lets dwell on some foundational things. Find some time and look up the word love in the  Bible and you will see it mentioned over six hundred times. A quick look up on the word hate and you will find it mentioned only around 120 times. It is even mentioned more times than the word worship (around 240). It seems therefore that love has a great deal of importance in Gods Word.

John writes in 1 John 4:11-12 (NIV) ‘Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.’ These verses clearly indicate that God desires to inhabit our beings with His presence and in doing so manifest himself. The obvious requirement is that we should love one another since He has himself loved us first. In John 13: 34,35 Jesus tells his disciples the following: “A new command I give to you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” We are often so keen to have people ‘know’ that we are believers not realising that the best demonstration of our faith in God is the way we treat one another and others. I shall continue with this thread on the power of love and see where it leads. Let us end with the foundation for love which is God the father’s love for us in John 3:16: ‘ For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life’ (NIV). There is no greater love than that which God has for us!

Be blessed! Be loved! Believe!

Show and Tell

In the fourth chapter of the Gospel of John we are given the account of the Samaritan woman at the well. We often quote verses twenty three and twenty four where Jesus talks of the time when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth.  Jesus reveals himself as the Messiah to this woman who clearly understands that the Messiah (or the Christ) is coming.
As soon as this revelation hits her, something amazing happens to her. She leaves her water jar and the task at hand and immediately goes back to the town and tells the people in it to come and see this man who knew so much about her. In her excitement she leaves the task at hand as being less important than telling everyone to come and see this man whom she has discovered to be the Messiah. Many in that town came and believed because of her.
I’d like to call this the principle of ‘Show and tell’. It is something commonly found in our early school years in some schooling systems, where children are encouraged to bring something that they have from home and show it to everyone. For those of us who did this we can recall how we overcame our inhibitions as we proudly told everyone else about the item we brought. For some it would have been a favourite toy. Others would bring a pet. Some may have even brought a parent who had some exciting job.
The key thing is you did not just show; you also told. You did not just tell; you had to show. The two went hand in hand. In the book of James Chapter 2 verse 14 -20, James comes down hard on believers who claim to have faith but they show no evidence of it in their deeds. I had one of those moments today as I was coming back home here in Dar es Salaam from a quick trip to the bank. As I passed our National Service Headquarters at Mlalakuwa, on the road to Kawe, I noticed a woman with a crutch standing by the road waiting for the bus. As I drove by I looked at her face and noticed her discomfort and could not help wondering what was going on in her mind. I felt like stopping to give her a lift, if she was heading in my direction, but drove on. Fortunately, the Holy Spirit kicked in and every scripture that you and I would not want to have confront our inaction popped into my head, not least of all the story of the good Samaritan. Up ahead was the Kawe roundabout and I turned and headed back to where she still stood. I asked her where she was going and found out that she was actually waiting for public transportation heading pretty much in the opposite direction. Due to the difficulty of actually getting a seat in the mini-buses we call ‘Dala dala’s’ she was hoping to find one fairly empty that would stop and pick her up to the last three stops before they turned back to a suburb of Dar es Salaam called Tandika. I also found out that she had recently broken her leg in an accident where she slipped in her home. I offered to take her to the bus stop at the end of the route, since she was not having any luck at her stop. Once she was in I then offered to get her a three wheeler scooter taxi that would take her home and paid for it, watching her gratefully get into the ‘bajaj’.
To cut a long story short, I had to show my faith by my deeds. It is not only very gratifying to see the impact of what might be seen to be a random act of kindness, but it is also a way to show how much we are like our Father in heaven. James says in Chapter two verse 17 that ‘In the same way, faith by itself, if is not accompanied by action, is dead’. (NIV). I am no more special than any other believer, but I would hate to think that God considers that my faith is dead because of my not responding to His word.
We live in a world where we are quick to call ourselves something or the other but our actions, or lack thereof, speak louder than our words. The time has come to show and tell of our Father’s love. Let us not be quick to tell and slow to show.
Be blessed. Be-lieve! Be a blessing to someone!

You can’t worship God without Pesach! (Passover, Pasaka..)

In Exodus chapter twelve, we read the account of the actual event this book is named after. The interesting thing is that instructions that clearly indicate they are to be observed for generations to come, of an act that has supernatural consequences for eternity, are given to Moses and Aaron. As I meditate on the work of the cross and what Jesus did on it I am led to see that somehow, without the cross, we cannot worship God at all!

Prior to this event God commissioned Moses to ‘go to Pharaoh (Exodus 8:1) and say to him, This is what the LORD says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me.’ After many signs and wonders and plagues, Pharaoh and his folk kept being stiff-necked and stubborn and still wouldn’t capitulate. I get the feeling God was not just setting up the Egyptians for a major confrontation, but the rest of humanity for a supernatural revelation of their state and need for His deliverance. You have to remember that the Israelites had been slaves for 400 years as foretold to their forefather Abraham, and the time for deliverance had come.

In Exodus 7:1, the LORD tells Moses “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron will be your prophet.” If you know your Egyptian history well, Pharaoh was god as far as the Egyptians were concerned so God had to empower Moses so as to make him a suitable ambassador of the Kingdom! All these years they had served Pharaoh and his ‘gods’ and now the Lord was about to deliver them. He would deliver them from this cruel and enslaving kingdom so that they would be able to serve Him, the God who created them, loved them and had promised their forefather Abraham that they would live and prosper in a promised land.

We often come into this season, some calling it Easter, others Resurrection Sunday, others Pesach (at least in Swahili we call it Pasaka, which sounds closer to the Hebrew!). Since our childhood, many of us, especially in East Africa, looked at it as a time for eating special meals like chicken, roast meat and rice pilau (pilaf). It also was synonymous with getting new outfits which we would show off at Sunday easter service and so on. We regarded it as some celebration day that delivered us from those tight worn out shoes and clothes we had outgrown! What we never realized is the eternal significance of this powerful weekend as far as our deliverance from sin and its enslaving consequences. Sadly, even till today, many of us confess Christ, live lives fearful of God and mostly obedient to His word but still serve in ‘Egypt’! We still are slaves to sin, sicknesses, poverty, unforgiveness and fear, to name a few bondages that enslave us.

If you have time read and take note of certain things that happen in the Exodus. I will name a few:

1. The Israelites were freed from slavery, where they labored and others gained from their labour.
2. The Israelites stopped serving the Egyptian gods.
3. The Israelites left without lifting a finger in uprising and in fact their captors begged them to leave.
4. The Israelites even got silver, gold and other precious things given to them to get them on their way
5. When the Lord struck down the Egyptians, those who had the blood applied on their homes were spared.

These are but a few of the unmerited benefits they got from the Passover! What a mighty God we serve! Going back to Exodus 12:2, we find God declaring that that month was to be the first month for the Israelites. Here we see the Passover also being made an event to overturn seasons and in fact usher in a new calendar, a new beginning. So it seems that Pesach becomes symbolic with ushering in a new beginning: people being delivered to serve (worship) the Lord. By the way the Hebrew word used for worship is the same one used for serving (abad pronounced aw-bad). In fact the King James Bible uses ‘serve’ while the NIV uses ‘worship’. In fact the word means to ‘work’ and can also mean to enslave, keep in bondage, use, compel to do (Strongs 05647).

This shows me that worship is not just a song or a Sunday service, but acts of obedience that show God’s power and love enabled by His Holy Spirit. Adam was created to serve (worship) God by taking charge and care of God’s creation. By sinning, he put man in a position that required deliverance from slavery to sin. In verse 12 of Exodus 12, the Bible says: ‘On that night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn-both men and animals-and I will bring judgement on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD…” He adds in verse 14:”This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD-a lasting ordinance. Three times in that chapter the words ‘lasting ordinance’ are repeated. Now fast forward to resurrection week, when Jesus is handed over to be crucified. Notice any similarities?

You and I today are redeemed by the blood of the Lamb (1 Cor 5:7,8: Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast-as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth.) Revelations 5:9 tells of how the Lamb was worthy because He was slain and with His blood purchased men for God ‘from every tribe and language and people and nation’ and has ‘made them to be a kingdom (rulers with dominion and authority!) and priests (mediators between God and mankind) to SERVE..’ God and they “will reign on the earth”. Notice it doesn’t say they will reign in heaven!

Now we can clearly see the passover work of the cross in a new light. Here we have God using the Exodus as a way of foretelling the future act of a Messiah who comes to restore us, not just from slavery in ‘Egypt’ but also to reign and serve our God in this manner. Let’s fast forward to our state of being today. Are we living as rulers or the ruled? Are we really worshipping God in spirit and in truth? Have we understood that worshipping God and serving Him go hand in hand? Perhaps we need to rethink our understanding of the work of the crucifixion and the power of the blood of the Lamb. Remember that He also said that if He did not leave He could not send us the Helper (The Holy Spirit). Use this time and season when there are open heavens to call upon Him so that He can set us completely free from the Egyptians that are within and without us. Him whom the Son sets free is free indeed. As you meditate on the power of the Passover, the Lord will give you a fresh new thirst and hunger for His righteousness so that you will be filled with power from on High to serve Him in spirit and in truth.

Be blessed! Be free! Be-lieve! (repost of archived article)

The Measure of True Worship

Of late I must admit that I have been pondering over the importance of worship in my spiritual life. As I look back on my own personal encounters with God and His Presence, I begin to see a common thread that marks those encounters where I truly experienced His tangible presence and where that was accompanied by tangible occurences including healings and demonstrations of the power of God. Having already looked at worship before here are some reminders.

The dictionary definition:

worship |ˈwər sh əp|
noun
the feeling or expression of reverence and adoration for a deity : the worship of God | ancestor worship.
• the acts or rites that make up a formal expression of reverence for a deity; a religious ceremony or ceremonies : the church was opened for public worship.
• adoration or devotion comparable to religious homage, shown toward a person or principle : Krushchev threw the worship of Stalin overboard.
• archaic honor given to someone in recognition of their merit.
• [as title ] ( His/Your Worship) chiefly Brit. used in addressing or referring to an important or high-ranking person, esp. a magistrate or mayor : we were soon joined by His Worship the Mayor.
verb ( -shiped , -shiping ; also -shipped, -shipping) [ trans. ]
show reverence and adoration for (a deity); honor with religious rites : the Maya built jungle pyramids to worship their gods.
• treat (someone or something) with the reverence and adoration appropriate to a deity : she adores her sons and they worship her.
• [ intrans. ] take part in a religious ceremony : he went to the cathedral because he chose to worship in a spiritually inspiring building.
DERIVATIVES
worshiper (also worshipper) noun
ORIGIN Old English weorthscipe [worthiness, acknowledgment of worth] (see worth , -ship ).

The important meaning taken from this definition is the acknowledgement and hence display of adoring reverence, and this can also be applied to a feeling of adoration or reverence.

In the book of John, Chapter 4 from verses 21 to 24, Jesus tells a Samaritan woman that the time has come for worshipping the Father in the Spirit and in truth. He essentially tears down a religious ordinance by declaring that God the Father will neither be worshipped as they had thought, on a mountain or in a holy city, but that they will do this ‘in the Spirit and in truth’. Sadly many are still tied down to paying reverence and homage to a place, temple or person representing a diety. In John 16:13 Jesus says: “”But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.”” In all fairness it is good practice to acknowledge the value of those who have shown us the truth and continue to be a positive influence in our lives. The problem begins when we begin to assign undue worth to those people or things that we hold dear. This becomes a form of worship and many of us do this, sometimes unconsciously. In Deuteronomy 5:8,9 Moses reads out the commandment from God in which He decrees that they should not make any image in the form of ANYTHING in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below and should not bow down or worship them.

This brings into dispute several ceremonial practices but I really cannot see any ambiguity in the commandment that leaves a loophole for the use of images, icons or rituals in the worship of God the Father. The essence of true worship then can only be in the experience of an adoring and reverential relationship with and assignment of worth to our father. As jesus explains to the Samaritan woman, God the Father is actively seeking these kinds of worshippers!

This then brings me back to my own personal experiences and that which I found to be the common denominator in all of the times I truly ‘experienced’ His presence. Please be mindful that while experiences can be similar, our Father does not neccessarily give each one of us the same exact experiences or feelings when we come into fellowship with Him. This would be, in my opinion, very unlike Him and would belittle His creative nature. In the vastness of His nature, we cannot apply some kind of formula to our experiences with Him, just as we all experience our natural parents in different manners. As an example, some people break down into tears upon experiencing God’s presence, others become silent, others laugh, others begin to proclaim His goodness and praise. This is very much in line with the Apostle Paul’s account of the different gifts of the Holy Spirit and how he gives these out (I Cor 12:11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.) Considering that our worship of God must include the Holy Spirit, then we cannot discount the possibility of each one of us experiencing worship in a different way. The end result is essentially the same: a heightened awareness of the nature and presence of our Father and an increase in our assignment of value to our relationship with Him. In the same chapter (ICor. 12), in verse 3 Paul says ‘ Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “”Jesus be cursed,”” and no one can say, “”Jesus is Lord,”” except by the Holy Spirit.’ We can see here that Jesus is called ‘Lord’ and hence assigned value, or worth.

What I found to be common in my experiences was that I was that the more profound ones usually were not of my own making or planning but seemed to come out of a desire to lose my self awareness and worth and to focus on Him. Often I would just have this deep desire to fellowship with Him and the Holy Spirit complied. I must say that I have never had an encounter replicated, but as a child knows his father, I have always known when He was there. Each one of us will therefore have our own experience but some truths will emerge from our encounters.

1. No one encounters our Father and remains the same.
2. Each one of our encounters strengthens our relationship with Him.
3. Each encounter serves His ultimate purpose and bears fruit.
4. None of these encounters leaves us feeling condemned, but we become more determined to love and please Him.
5. Each encounter gives us a clearer revelation of His love and His nature.

Does true worship result in us immediately becoming perfect? I don’t think so, but it keeps us in a place where the Father can speak to us, admonish us, encourage us and transform us. The more we worship Him, the more we get to know Him and the more we get to know Him, the more we worship Him.

This has been my personal experience and I cannot say that I have exhausted all there is to experience or know about worship. Be aware that only the Holy Spirit can enable us to experience true worship and he will not contradict the word of God, so a good start towards true worship is to study the word of God diligently. The next step is to be consistent in our time that we spend seeking God’s face. Many great men of God who acheived great things for Him with the demonstration of His power were known to spend a lot of time in His presence on a daily basis. In Moses’ case he would come back from the mountain with his face glowing! Finally whenever you get the opportunity for corporate worship, be careful not to assign undue value to the songs, the style, the worship leader or even the venue. Let all things fade away, as in the song written by Matt Redman, The Heart of Worship. It’s all about Him, after all.

Be blessed! Believe! Be a worshipper!