Thursday, 29 November 2012

Victory In Worship (II)

Hope you have read Victory In Worship (I)? You need the background to put this in the right perspective.

What is the symbol of man's disobedience? What is the symbol of man's rejection? What is the symbol of man's rebellion? Where did God keep these articles? What did God cover them with?

But, the same God that saved all these articles signifying that humans did not fulfill their part of the covenant (agreement) in a sealed box with a cover on which sat two cherubim, signifying the angels that stood guard at the Garden of Eden after humans were driven out; a place where a consecrated and cleansed priest can only enter once a year, tore the veil and made the place open. But, the condition remains; we can only approach His throne of grace boldly as required in Hebrews 4:16 if we come with a pure heart devoid of unforgiveness.

Why are our prayers not so effective? Why are we still waiting for that miracle instead of being a miracle worker?  Are we disobeying God’s law? Are we rejecting God’s provision? Are we rebelling against His authority or choice of a leader? The Bible says obedience is better than sacrifice and rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft (1st Samuel 15:22-23). So do you think God will listen to those who reject Him, bring Him offerings in place of obeying Him and compound the issue by practicing witchcraft? The authority God intended was God's authority and direct care so He gave His law, just 10 and later reduced it to 2, He provided sustenance through daily manna and when man decided they wanted a physical leader, He chose a leader but man wanted to DIY (Do It Yourself).

No, I am not rejecting your provision but God I want a BMW not the Honda you have blessed me with. I need my own car, not my fiancee chauffeuring me to work. Are we rebelling against his leadership? God why this man, why not the other one that is so intelligent and handsome? God, why this ugly woman, why not that one that is so pretty? But God, that guy's mother is so unlovable, I bet you understand why I can’t obey that law about love your neighbor as yourself. God if only you give me a wife/husband, I would love! But Gd, how long do I after wait for a child! 

Have you worshipped Him for keeping you alive? Have you worshipped Him for seeing you through education, service year, travel abroad...? Have you worshipped Him for protecting you from natural and man-made disasters? You asked for a car but he decided to bless you with a friend who can drive you to work, yet instead of worship you murmur like the Israelites forgetting that he never promised to dance to your whims and caprices only to make daily provision; which is what he taught us in the Lord's Prayer (Matthew 6). Your friends are still praying the prayer of divine marital connection yet instead of worshipping God for yours you bother Him daily about why this must have been a wrong choice. If you made the choice, shouldn't you worship Him reverently and ask for mercy? If He made the choice, don't you believe He will work His purpose out? (Romans 8:24)

Are we disobeying, rejecting and rebelling and yet want Him to help us? We can only enter into His fellowship and key into His divine purpose, if we worship Him in spirit and in truth. And the only way to truly worship is by obeying His law, accepting His provision and complying with His authority.

In Exodus 3:21-22 God blessed the Israelites; as He continues to bless us today. And in Exodus 25:1-2 God gave a specific command to Moses. God clearly indicated that offerings for the Tabernacle should only be brought willingly. It is still the same today. Are you giving your worship willingly or grudgingly? If it is not willingly, God does not recognise it. We murmur about how His blessing is inadequate and take a pitiable size to him irreverently. If you gave someone blood to save his/her life and to say thank you the person sends you a useless gift through his/her house help, how will you feel? 

He is not a helpless God; he can help himself! That is why Uzzah died; he was an uncleansed, unconsecrated vessel that was not authorised to touch the ark. The Levites were not given an inheritance because God wanted them to focus on worship (Joshua 13:14); only the Levites were consecrated and authorised to bring worship into the Holy of Holies where the Ark of Covenant resided.

Who knew Obed’Edom. He was not a man of means but he was a Levite of the family of the Korhites. He was consecrated for worship. When David, a king became afraid after Uzzah was struck dead, he decided to put the Ark in Obed’Edom’s house. He must have thought, since this man is unknown, no one will miss him if God decide to strike him dead too. But guess what, because Obed’Edom was consecrated and humbly worshipped God, he reaped the manifold blessings of God dwelling in his house. Remember that the Ark signified God’s presence. God dwelt with Him, He gave God due worship and he was greatly blessed (2 Samuel 6:11).

Worshipping God is serious business, which we cannot afford to treat with levity. Seeing what the Israelites had to do, can we say that we are worshipping God the way we should? Do we prefer the previous mode of worship? Would we like to be the priest who has to go in annual bearign the sins of everyone, yet not knowing whether his worship will be accepted or not; if not accepted, he dies, if accepted, he returns.

It is not only sin that can separate us from God; levity in the way we worship Him can also separate us and ruin our relationship with God. Jesus preached about unforgiveness and referred to it as a bondage, which separates us from God. It affects our prayers. It is self-inflicted suffering. It breaks our fellowship with God and hinders our worship. Knowing this, God instructed us to forgive, Matthew 6:15. We must continue to ask God to help us forgive and even pray for those who hurt us like Jesus did on the cross. When we forgive, we are displaying the fruits of the spirit spelled out in Galatians 5:22-23.

How can we be victorious in worship?
By presenting ourselves as a living sacrifice in honor of the price Jesus paid (Ephesians 5:2, Romans 12:1-2). Only someone who truly loves God and His creation can worship sincerely. Worship must be devoid of rejection, disobedience and rebellion. Worship cannot include anything that leads to unforgiveness.

Benefits of worship or obedience are laid down in Deuteronomy 28 and so are curses. Your prayer for a spouse must be preceded by worship; make worship your lifestyle and trust that God is able to do more that you can imagine (Ephesians 3:20). But if you are saying, I do not even know this God and will like to be saved or I will like to rededicate my life to the true worship of God, then take a step of faith and say this prayer:

 Dear God, I come to you in the name of Jesus Christ. I acknowledge that I am a sinner, and I am sorry for my sins and the life that I have lived; I need your forgiveness. I believe that your only begotten Son Jesus Christ shed His precious blood on the cross at Calvary and died for my sins, and I am now willing to repent from my sin. You said in Romans 10:9 that if we confess the Lord our God and believe in our hearts that God raised Jesus from the dead, we shall be saved. Right now I confess Jesus Christ as the Lord of my soul. With my heart, I believe that God raised Jesus from the dead.  I accept Jesus Christ as my own personal Saviour. Thank you Jesus for your unlimited grace which has saved me from my sins. I thank you Jesus that your grace has led me to repentance. Lord Jesus transform my life so that I may bring glory and honour to you. Thank you Jesus for dying for me and giving me eternal life.

Please spend a moment in worship of the I AM; The Ancient of Days, The One who is, who was and who will forever be. I particularly love the song, "I bow my knee before your throne..".

If you have been saying I have truly worshipped God in the past and served in any Bible believing church or ministry but I haven’t reaped the benefits or others (or you) are asking, “Where is your (my) God”, please fall on your knees reverently and begin to worship God. Pray against every act of unforgiveness (directly or indirectly) that may have impeded your worship. Remember, because God did not forgive, worship was not direct, God related with man ruthlessly (Uzzah died) and blessing was impeded until God forgave and accepted worship through Jesus Christ who gave an acceptable sacrifice. Please pray.

You may pray or consider asking your pastor to pray with you; let him/her know that you have laboured and desire to continue to worship and serve but the veil blocking your worship and blessings must be thorn for you to directly access God’s mercies. If you decide to pray on your own, the prayer of consecration below can guide you:

Lord even as I have in obedience responded to Your Word, consecrate me Lord for your worship, help me to truly forgive so I can worship you in spirit and in truth. Lord, let your tenderness melt my bitterness and your lovingness uproot my unworthiness. As I worship in your presence, let there be healing, let there be deliverance, let the Holy Spirit’s gentle touch flow through me, inhabit my praises and bless my worship as individuals and as a member of your church. Help me to obey your commandments, accept your provision and comply with your authority. In Jesus Christ name I pray.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Victory In Worship (I)

My husband and I developed this sermon for his ministration at the RCCG The King's Court Parish on 18.11.12. I have edited it to speak to the needs of mature singles. I have no doubt that God will minister to you through this revealing study.

God made humans to fellowship with Him. It was because of this that God made us in His own image. Man’s existence is solely to worship God. In the Israelite’s camp The Tabernacle was in the center of the camp, which means, worship of God was central to every day life.

Is it the solemn songs we sing in a service or the process of being closer to God? There is none that does not make adequate preparation for an outing they deem very important; how would you prepare if the outing is with President Obama or if Queen Elizabeth is coming to your home for dinner? 

The Dictionary of Biblical Imagery says, “Worship is first and foremost a verb, an action” (p.970). This is revealing because so many equate worship with either a place (usually a building) or a feeling. The underlying concept of worship in Scripture is that of service and homage consisting of both an attitude of deep respect and adoration to the one revered. Worship includes and involves highly regarding and then serving the one revered.
God commanded us to worship Him as a way to give Him reverence for creating us in His image and saving us from the enemies. Before going into the 10 Commandments in Exodus 20, God said something a lot of us may have forgotten, “I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage”. Then God went on to say, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me”. Luke 4:8 say, “And Jesus answered and said unto him, Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” Exodus 34:14 say, “For you shall worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God. Isaiah 42:8 say, I am the Lord: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images. When God created humans, He put in our hearts a desire for worship, which explains why humans are always seeking God through religion. Religion is man, seeking God but Christianity is God seeking man; searching us out so we can worship Him.

Now how do we worship God and what should worship entail?
People worship God in different ways; while soem do so publicly, others do so privately. Since worship includes the activity and feeling of profound love, devotion and admiration, many things can be included as part of worship (kneel, bow, postrate, gift, music, repentance, keeping the holy days) the underlying factor must be love and reverence. John 15:1-7 talks about the true vine. We can only worship God through Jesus Christ because God (the Father, Son and Holy Ghost) is a Spirit and they that must worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24).

Before Moses, worship had very little structure but in the days of Moses, worship became very specific and detailed in structure as God specified when worship (or sacrifices) were to be made, what, how, where and by who. Let's look at the historical perspective from when the first place of worship was built. The Tabernacle was 150 ft. by 75 ft. There was the outer court and the inner court. The inner court consists of the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies, which was separated by a thick veil. The priest could only enter the Holy of Holies once a year and that was on the Day of Atonement, which the Jews celebrate as Yom Kippur. The Holy of Holies contained the Ark of the Covenant with a cover on which sat the cherubim, which is referred to as the Mercy Seat. But inside the Ark of Covenant, there were three articles namely Manna, Aaron’s Rod that budded and Tablets of the Law.

The specific details of how The Tabernacle (Exodus 25) was to be built was given by God and followed to the letter, this shows how serious the act of worship was taken by the Israelites. The Ark of the Covenant was made of acacia wood overlaid within and without with pure gold. The Tablets of the Law were commandments handed down by Moses (Exodus 20), the pot of manna was God’s provision to the Israelites in the wilderness (Exodus 16) and the staff or rod of Aaron that budded was a symbol of God’s selection of a leader (Numbers 17).  These three articles were preserved in the ark throughout Israel’s history as an unpleasant symbol of man’s sins and shortcomings, a reminder of how they disobeyed God’s law, rejected God’s provision and rebelled against God’s authority. It pointed to man as a helpless sinner. But the Mercy Seat, which covered these things in the Ark, was a pointer to the fact that God will have mercy when we approach him rightly and reverently.

God saw that man was hopelessly needy and decided to offer himself through the blood of Jesus Christ. God graciously extended mercy to man and changed the mode of worship from indirect through a priest to directly. These three items that served as a sore reminder of man’s shortcomings took on a different meaning since God as man sacrificed himself to redeem us from our sins (Leviticus 17:11). When Jesus said it is finished on the cross, the veil separating the Holy of Holies from the rest of The Tabernacle split into two symbolizing the fact that we could now approach God directly since he paid the price with his own life Matthew 27:51. His blood replaced the sacrificial offering of lambs in The Tabernacle and the priest did not need to approach the Holy of Holies once in a year to atone for everyone’s sin, Jesus did that.

What are the impediments to worshipping God? The impediments to worship are the things that negatively impact the answering of our prayers. And we can look back at the content of the Ark of Covenant for answers:

Disobedience against God’s law which the 10 Commandment signifies
Rejection of God’s provision which Manna signifies and
Rebellion against God’s leadership which Aaron’s budded staff signifies

Now let’s look at it this way; if your child disobey you or your partner reject what you have provided or your subordinate rebel against your authority what will you make an inner vow to do? You will resolve not to forgive! God did not forgive or forget man’s sin of disobedience, rejection and rebellion hence keeping the symbols of disobedience, rejection and rebellion in the Ark of Covenant. What is the symbol of disobedience (10 Commandments)? What is the symbol of rejection (Manna)? What is the symbol of rebellion (Aaron’s rod that budded)?

Please continue to the second part of this in-depth sermon.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Love Across the Ocean

Many have asked me whether love across the ocean is possible and my answer is yes. Like every other relationship, it takes work but it is doable. Following a concern by one of our members, I have written this to aid those who are in or considering signing up for love across borders.

While growing up, I used to tell my sibling, “Ma wa so fun mi pe, ‘oko mi wa ni ilu oyinbo’.” “Don’t come and tell me, ‘my husband is abroad’.”. But not only did one of them end up telling me that, I ended up saying that as well. Before mine happened, I helped my sister walk prayerfully through hers. The tips I shared with her, made it easier for me to navigate my long distance relationship.

I was introduced to the man that turned out to be my husband in November or December 2011. He signed up for friendship in January. By the time we saw for the first time in April, he knew he wanted to see me again. So we saw again in May by which time he proposed and we entered into the courtship phase. By November we walked down the aisle. I visited him thereafter.

I knew that mere visits will not solidify the union but someone had to be willing to pay the price. It ended up being me.  Shortly after the visit, I relocated to join him.

So what should you consider if you are in a long distance relationship?

  1. You must establish that you want to work at it. But at what? Usually you meet the person involved by chance; you may have the love bulb on in your mind and the other person has the like torch on. So you must find out more about each other establish that you both are willing to work on the friendship. Every relationship takes hard work, communication, patience, sacrifice, thoughtfulness, understanding, tolerance, commitment, focus and dedication regardless of proximity.

  1. Define the parameters of the relationship. Is this friendship (based on convenience), dating (based on declaration), going-out (based on interest), courtship (based on commitment), engagement (based on giving and accepting of ring) etc.? Also is this closed or open relationship. It is open when each of you is okay with seeing other people. It is closed when it is exclusive to you and the person. Once you define the relationship, you’ll save yourself a lot of headaches and heartaches. I recollect that my friend kept talking to me and though we were introduced for the possibility of marriage he never even asked me into a relationship so one day I asked, “I’m considering not picking your calls anymore because you are beginning to demand that I be there but I want to give you the benefit of doubt, so what exactly do you want from me?” Yes, I was that direct and to make it stick I said it in Yoruba. Guess what? The best way to define is to ask DIRECTLY. Either way, yes or no, the response will set you free; to leave, linger or love.
  1. Once you’ve established that you want to work at it and you both understand and accept the parameters, you need to maintain contact via phone calls, emails, e-cards, flowers, cards, online chat etc. Communication is essential and helps you to remain connected and know more about one another especially when it is done at different times. Early morning calls let you see how grumpy this person can get especially if the call interrupts sleep. Late night calls lets you see if the person goes to bed early or would be willing to speak with you even when tired. The calls do not have to be long but should carry a note of “I care”. Write letters! There’s something about receiving letters in the mail from a loved one, it says more that electronic mails can. And you can schedule this to be sent on same days so you read genuinely what the person has to say to you, not just a response to your own mail.

  1. Once you’ve worked through 1-3, you need to start doing things together. In addition to phone calls and emails, plan a regular online meeting using Any Meeting, Skype, Face Time etc. This will afford you the opportunity to see each other. Decide on a programme or movie to watch simultaneously or at different times and discuss same. You can discuss a magazine or current affairs issues etc. Plan visits e.g. either of you can visit monthly or every 3 months (depending on distance) or you can meet at a mid-way location. You may consider setting up reminders and working on the tickets and where to go or what to do on such visits. Among other things, you may study the Bible and pray together during online meetings or visits. Silly as it sounds, you can even cook together! Share recipe, buy ingredients, cook together and of course share pictures. Remember to leave your partner with something special; something that reminds him/her of you – hanky, face towel,  chain, locket, bracelet, scarf, picture etc. Other things you can do together include singing or karaoke, photo-book creation, taking compatibility tests, downloading same ring tone, do pillow talk, grow something together (e.g. plant bean seed in a pot and remind each other to water it…), exercise using vcd or cd, create and upload materials to a jointly owned blog.

  1. Share your individuality. Though long distance helps you to maintain who you are, it is important to share some of those things. So you called and she’s just getting out of the bathroom, you may ask, “So what kind of mirror/soap/sponge do you use?” “Would you share your towel with me or you prefer we use different towels?” You’d be surprised what you’d learn from such conversation. My husband kept buying the toothpaste he liked; I kept using it with him until I blurted out. That was when I found out that his toothpaste was medically recommended. I explained to him that I preferred another brand and he said, “What’s stopping you from getting it!” I switched and we killed every attempt of mere toothpaste coming between us.

  1. Trust is a big one when you are miles apart but it is easier to build trust when 1 and 2 is established. If neither of you is sure of 1 and 2, you may take the other person as a friend and not work on building trust or questioning things that make you doubt the other person. For instance you call at 10PM and she says, sorry I can’t talk to you now. The first thing that comes to your mind is, “I bet someone is there with her/him”. But he may just have had an argument with a sibling and not want to talk; she may be shopping (oh yes, outside Nigeria folks may decide to shop for provisions/groceries at midnight). You would have to build trust and talk about loyalty and faithfulness. One of the ways to do this may be to establish that you can call or visit each other anytime. If you are thousands of miles apart PLEASE ensure you have enough resources (money for hotel, ticket etc.), as you may be disappointed. I once visited my ex; what an awry surprise it turned out to be when I arrived to see that my pictures had been removed from his room and our album hidden away from sight!  Thank God I had money for my return trip; I was too upset to take from him even if he offered. But if you have a conference in the same state or city, you may visit unannounced, that helps you see your partner as he/she is. Be sure not to inject unnecessary jealousy into the root of your relationship. Be careful not to turn up your query mode each time he or she talks about visiting a friend or having a drink with a colleague. It is important to note that your friend or partner would have a social life outside or you and so should you just establish borders to ensure you can remain true to one another. When you choose to ask questions, be careful not to interrogate or nag. I recollect my husband-to-be telling me he would be staying with a lady while attending a church conference in another state. I didn’t find out who the lady is until months after our wedding. But looking back, being unnecessarily jealous when he could have chosen not to tell me about it makes no sense. The mature way I handled it then, led him to open up later that she was actually introduced to him but since she wasn’t interested in dating, they became friends. The lady today has become a mutual friend. Lack of trust will pull down not only the walls but destroy the very foundation of your relationship.
  1. Encourage and motivate one another.  So he has failed ICAN three times and does not want to attempt it again. You can encourage him by offering to pay half of the cost, send him resources, set your alarm so that if his alarm does not wake him at the time he plans to read, yours can with a message that says, “I believe you can make it”. So she’s overweight; without trying to control or make her feel you don’t love her in that size, you can challenge her to let go of some food and exercise e.g. “Let’s do a veggie or fruit weekend”. When done in love, this can help grow your relationship. When the person calls to say, do you know I missed my appointment, tat’s not the time to say, “But why did you go late!” It’s the time to pull him into an embrace, give her a hug; since you can’t do that physically, let your soothing words say it. You can talk about how not to miss the next appointment later.

  1. A lot of men even Christian men believe that women are gold diggers. Even if she is, remember you invited her to dig in your land! A lot of women do not necessary want to dig for gold but they need assurance that your land is fertile, fruitful and productive. So it is essential to give assurance. This goes both ways. So he knows you hate to cook and all the time you tell him about your visit to Tantalizers. He may never ask but if he has never heard you talk about cooking or seen you cook then he’s wondering, “I’ll never eat in with this one!” So you need to assure him that your lifestyle is because you really prefer not to eat alone and once you are together, he can be assured of hot sizzling meals. So you are a kindergarten teacher and all the time you giggle about how amazing the children are; you need to assure her that that is not your final bus stop. Assure her that there is a better future and you’d work to find it with her.

  1. Focus n self-development. Since you have a lot of time on your hands, work on developing yourself because your partner may become clingy when you finally get together especially if he/she has to give up comfort zone to join you. So this si the time to sign up for certificate programmes, weekend courses, career development seminars, retreats etc. Also this will help to limit the loneliness, as you’d be around people that you need not have a relationship with to glean from. If our partner is always talking about setting up the table for dinner, it may just be time to work on table etiquette. If she’s always attending business functions, learn about what to where and business etiquettes. If he is literary inclined there’s no harm in picking up books by his favourite authors.

  1. Set boundaries and goals. Though absence is said to make the heart grow fonder it can also open the heart to other opportunities so set boundaries and goals. Your boundaries can range from no provocative clothing, no sex (with each other and of course that means with others), no calls from friends after 9PM, (most people who would like to drag you into a love relationship would try to do late pillow talk or phone sex!) to no visitors of the opposite gender in your home alone; so if Anthony (a co-worker) were to visit Tola (your girlfriend) at home and you have a no opposite gender rule, Tola would ensure that a female friend is around during the visit. Some of you will say but I trust myself; my response to you is to ask many men or women who ended up putting someone in the family way, their answer is usually “I don’t know how it happened!” Another rule may be step out of the car to chat when an opposite gender friend gives you a ride. Another rule? In one year we should start planning our wedding; this gives both of you something to work towards, it assured either of you this is not a forever friendship. Boundaries can save life and goals can keep dreams alive especially in God-centred relationships. Avoid making your partner unnecessarily jealous

Note that all the challenges of a relationship is heightened and aggravated by long distance and this makes it more challenging. For instance, when communicating face to face, you are able to clarify statements, read non-verbal cues and nuances to know if your explanation is accepted but in distant communication, what you say plays host to how it is interpreted so how you say what you say matters.  

The challenge of long distance relationship stems from being in love with someone you cannot explore the senses with – see, feel, touch, smell, hear but technology and development can help to bridge some of the gaps .e. You can see and hear the person via phone and webcam; this gives you an opportunity to feel the person’s heartbeat and share your thoughts. You can send gifts physically or virtually – actual gifts, gift cards, phone credit, flowers even cake in and out of season.

Most people believe that long distance relationships don’t work or won’t work but if you married someone who had to relocate suddenly, I bet divorce will not be the first option. You’d do everything to make it work without becoming a nervous wreck, especially if you cannot immediate pack up and join him/her. Surviving long distance relationship is not up to family, friends, counsellors or even pastors, it’s up to the two love birds and they can determine and work at making it work. But remember real love is not for sissies; it takes courage and will.

Feel free to share your view, ask questions, post scenarios etc. Together we can build happy marriages.