WE PRAY AMISS

16Jul

WE PRAY AMISS

Introduction

This message is not for the faint-hearted. This message is not for those who are comfortable with the status quo in Nigeria. This message is not for those who choose to act like the ostrich and bury their heads as Nigeria falls into increasing insecurity. This message is for those who are tired of simply complaining. This message is for those who realize that there is a spiritual battle going on in Nigeria. This message is for those who recognize the power of the God they serve and the power in the name of Jesus.

We recently had a half-day retreat where the priest explained the power in the name of Jesus. We all assembled to focus on one thing – to pray for our dear country during these turbulent times. We all know the story of David and Goliath in Genesis 17:45-50 and admire the young lad who proclaimed – “You have come against me with sword, spear and javelin, but I come against you with Yahweh…” David was not afraid to come against the giant because he understood the power in the name of his God. Well, what about us? Do we really KNOW the name of Jesus and do we use it as we pray for Nigeria. Surely, when we do, all things shall bow and it does not matter if the person uttering it is holy or not. God honors the name of Jesus and there is simply power in uttering the name as stated in Philippians 2:10 that “at the name of Jesus all knees should bend…and all tongues proclaim that Christ Jesus is the Lord.”

God-Fearing Leaders

We were reminded that nothing is impossible with God when we pray well as Matthew 7:7 has assured us that we would receive whatsoever we ask. However, we came to understand that we should be careful what we pray for as most Christians today were praying for God-fearing leaders. He distinguished what God-fearing meant to a Muslim and what it meant to a Christian. This was done by affirming that there is only one God as the Abrahamic tradition tells us. Whether we be Christian or Muslim or Jewish, we believe in One Almighty and Powerful God who created all things.

As a God-fearing Muslim leader, he would build mosques and conquer for Allah by making others subservient. To be a God-fearing Muslim would mean that one could empty the national treasury to sponsor fellow Muslims to go on a pilgrimage to Mecca. A God-fearing Muslim leader would be well within his rights to agree with a non-Muslim with the understanding that such agreement would not be binding. To be a God-fearing Muslim meant that one was duty-bound to promote fellow Muslims and appoint them in strategic positions to rule with you. Indeed, we should be careful what we pray for and not pray amiss because to pray for God-fearing leaders would only aggravate the current situation if these leaders are Muslim.

On the other hand, a God-fearing Christian would display the behaviours listed in Psalm 1. A God-fearing Christian leader would isolate himself from sinners and immoral acts and delight himself in reading God’s word instead. A God-fearing Christian leader would fear God in his heart and not close his eyes when others are mercilessly being killed because a Christian is meant to forgive and bear wrongs patiently. Indeed, forbearance or long-suffering is a fruit of the Holy Spirit for Christians.

Conversion

The priest explained that as a Christian, we must emulate Christ and Christ forgave those who tortured Him and cruelly condemned Him to a shameful and excruciating death in Luke 23:34. As 2Peter 3:9 reminds us that God “does not want anyone to perish, but that all may come to conversion,” we are also reminded to pray for the conversion of those leaders allowing the atrocities in our land through their active participation or passive stance. 1Timothy 2:4 sums up the heart of God – “he wants all to be saved and come to the knowledge of truth.”

This is where Christians again pray amiss. Christians do not realize that the blessing upon Ishmael is from the same God who gave His blessing to Isaac as seen in Genesis 17:20“As for Ishmael I heard you. I will bless him and make him fruitful and I will multiply his race...” This God who blessed Ishmael and Isaac is one and the same and deserves all our worship but the difference is in the manner of worship.

Our Muslim leaders do not realize that Jesus changed the game, raised the standard of worship and redeemed us all. Romans 10:2-4 sums up the difference – “they are zealous for God but this is not the way… For Christ is the aim of the law.” We were made to understand that what Saul of Tarsus was doing before his conversion and what the Muslim leaders are doing come from the same zeal they have for God. They are both God-fearing but do not realize that their path is wrong. Romans 10:13 stresses that “Truly all who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.”

As Christians whose hearts bleed for Nigeria, we must pray for our leaders, both Christian and Muslim alike, to have the Road to Damascus experience of Saul who encountered the Truth personified in Jesus in Acts 9:5 when Saul asked “Who are you, Lord?” Our leaders must personally encounter Jesus to experience true conversion and this should be our constant prayer. Our intensity of prayers will transform them into Paul who was uncontrollable for Jesus and they shall proclaim Jesus Christ with the same passion they used to condemn Christians and Christianity. Indeed, they will become disoriented and anxious to proclaim Jesus to the world even to their own detriment, as warned in Acts 9:16 – “I myself will show him how much he will have to suffer for my name.”

What Hinders Prayers

  1. When Ask Wrongly: (James 4:3) We must be careful not to ask wrongly such as in our prayers for God to give us God-fearing leaders. A more appropriate prayer would be for God to give us leaders who have a relationship with Jesus
  2. When Lack Knowledge: (Hosea 4:3) This happens when we fail to realize that God has already given us what we asked for such as in giving us God-fearing leaders.
  3. When Lack Faith/ Courage (Gen 19:2) We must be focused and not end up like Lot’s wife who doubted and looked back. We were encouraged to give testimonies to strengthen our faith and have prayer partners. James 1:5-7 says “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord”
  4. When Have Sin This sin may be a result of unforgiveness over the ones who have made Nigeria unbearable or if you have been a victim of prejudices or attacks. He urged us to use the sacrament of reconciliation to purge our sins at any given opportunity.
  5. Having Own Personal Needs. We have all experienced the distractions which follow from seeking to address our own needs in the grand scheme of things. We were told to eject unforgiveness from our hearts and other personal needs which weigh us down. After all, does it not say in 1Peter 5:7 that we should “Place all your worries on him since he takes care of you.”

Conclusion

The retreat ended on a very optimistic note, as we had obtained a new direction to pray for Nigeria. The prayers for spiritual warfare would be replaced with a passionate please for conversion.

Heavenly Father, Let Jesus be enthroned in the hearts of all our leaders so that we may fulfill our God-given purpose for this land. In Jesus name. We pray. Amen.

05May

HEARING GOD’S VOICE – (Day 2)

INTRODUCTION

I remember sometime last year we had a 3 week seminar on worship and hearing the voice of God. It was interesting to note that there was more turnout at the seminar on hearing God’s voice. Why is that? Well, it seems to me that there is this innate desire to reconnect to God. Isaiah 43 says that God has called us by our name so we know that God has a voice and who wouldn’t want to hear the voice of their Creator?

The facilitator started out by stating that “hearing God’s voice is His heart.” I thought that there was a grammatical error at first in this statement until it hit me like a ton of bricks. Indeed, if you hear God’s voice, this means that you are connected to His heart. Little me, connected to God’s heart -isn’t that amazing!? No wonder God says in Ezekiel 36:26 “I shall give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you.” This new heart is the heart of God and we connect to the heart of God when we too are given His heart and when His Spirit dwells within us. It is an automatic spiritual magnetism of like to like. It does not follow the science of opposites attract where like objects repel each other. When you hear God’s voice, you are becoming one with him and mirroring His heart. In essence, you have the same heart.

She continued that in John 10:27, Jesus said that His sheep hear His voice. and stressed that hearing God’s voice is a must in today’s world and in order to receive supernaturally. She stated that Jesus operated in this necessity to hear God. Just like a disciple, Jesus did not say anything he did not hear from the Father as seen in John 12:49 “For I have not spoken on my own authority; the Father who sent me has instructed me in what to say and how to speak.”

NATURAL AND SPIRIT WORLD

Since God is spirit, the facilitator stated that we needed to distinguish between the natural and spirit world but pointed out that although these two realms are distinct, they co-exist here on earth. In order to operate in the natural world, we use our 5 senses and to operate in the spiritual world, we too must use our 5 spiritual senses. She stressed that knowing how to live in the spirit world involves hearing God’s voice and it was crucial to activate the 5 spiritual senses of spiritual hearing, sight, speech, touch and taste. It is no wonder that Psalms 34:9 exclaims “Taste and see that the Lord is good!”We can only do this with our spiritual taste buds.

The facilitator continued by pointing out that hearing God’s voice involves walking with Jesus since John 10:27 says that my sheep follow me. Thus, to follow is to actively walk with Jesus in the spirit and it necessitates hearing God’s voice in obedience. This is where things get tricky. I sometimes wonder what is worse – not hearing God’s voice at all or hearing God’s voice but not obeying it. As a disciple, we are not only called to hear God’s voice, but also to carry out what we hear as God speaks to us in several ways.

10 WAYS GOD SPEAKS

  1. Via circumstances: This is one which is most obvious and people often attribute it to the devil where there is an element of discomfort involved. Such discomfort can be seen in the fate of Jonah in Jonah 1:4 where “Yahweh stirred up a storm wind on the sea.”
  2. Via wise counsel: If in doubt on whom to ask for advice, I often play safe and rely on Scripture especially since my bible tells me that God is Wisdom. In the Catholic bible, there are the Books of Wisdom and of Sirach which I have found to truly complement the Books of Proverbs and of Ecclesiastes which are only found in the non-Catholic bibles.
  3. Via Peace: The Facilitator explained that when God speaks, there is a sense of peace which settles upon your heart which is distinct from that of the world which is normally associated with a peace brought about from the absence of conflict. However, this peace which God brings is that seen in Paul’s prayer in Colossians 3:15 when he says “May the peace of Christ overflow in your hearts.” She explained that this peace often comes when you are to take a crucial decision and God confirms that decision made.
  4. Via People/Prophets: This medium of God speaking is perhaps the most manipulated by men. How many people claimed that God spoke through them during the buildup to the Nigerian elections like he did to Nathan in 2Samuel 12 when he was sent to King David to condemn him over his sin concerning Bathsheba. I often find myself being led to rely on the other ways God speaks because of the tendency to abuse this way and to test every spirit as advised 1John 4:1-4.
  5. Via Dreams and Visions: This is a familiar mode seen in the Old and New Testament as mentioned in Joel 2:28 and as witnessed by Paul in Acts 1:9. The facilitator pointed out an aspect of those who have this gift to hear from God nowadays which I also found strange. She asked why most of the people who claim to hear from God via this medium, mostly have omens. They hardly see good things in their dreams or visions but mostly things to be avoided or people to warn. Perhaps it is due to us living in perilous times but even then, God does reveal good things to us via dreams and visions, doesn’t he?
  6. Via Thoughts and Impressions: A while back, I was made to understand that I should stop saying “something told me” or “my mind told me” or “I felt like.” I should give honor to God’s voice which is speaking to me. It was strange at first saying “God told me this” or “God told me that” and I would get strange looks when I would say it at times but the truth is indeed that God speaks through our thoughts and impressions and the more we seek Him and tune into His wavelength, the more he speaks through our thoughts and forms our impressions.
  7. Via Nature: This is an aspect that is easy to understand especially if you have experienced the breath-taking nature of the mountains or the serenity of the waters. God’s greatness can be unmistakably felt in nature if we are to soak it all in as done by the Psalmists and the nature loving Saint Francis. When we truly reflect upon the fact that God created all things, we cannot but help feel a sense of awe and reverence which is owed to the God of All Creation.
  8. Via the Supernatural: Since God is spirit, it only makes sense that he would speak to us through the supernatural such as through the burning bush to Moses in Exodus 3:1-4 and with Gideon concerning the fleece and the dew. Perhaps the most striking example of this to me is in Numbers 22:28 when God speaks makes a donkey speak to Balaam and then opens his eyes to see the angel. I mean the donkey actually spoke – I have no idea how I would react to such.
  9. Via Scripture: This way of communication by God is the most reliable one for me for the simple reason that God does not contradict His Word so if some communication is not certain for me, I dig into the Holy Bible for clarity or confirmation. Then there is the aspect of guidance it gives through rhema where the verses of Scripture come alive for you and it is God speaking directly at you – utterly amazing! The more we read Scripture, the more we assert what is said in John 6:63 that His Word “is Spirit and Life” and in Jeremiah 23:29 that His Word is like “fire, like the hammer that shatters a rock” and in Hebrews 4:12 that His Word “is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword.
  10. Via a Still Small Voice/ Whisper: For those who naturally have an introvert nature, it may be easier to connect to God in this way. This means of communication is what moves me to wake up at dawn or stay up at night to talk and listen to God. It is what moves people to take retreats to the monastery or to remote places where they can simply be silent and drown out all the noise and distraction. There was a reason that God spoke to Elijah in a whisper in 1Kings 19:13 and I believe that it His preferred way of communicating. For those who have never attended an adoration service in a Catholic church, I strongly recommend it – the silence is deafening and then you hear His voice which breaks through, beckoning to your spirit.

The facilitator outlined these 10 ways and emphasized that God is always speaking but it is up to us to learn how to listen. The question is whether we are willing and ready to listen. She pointed out that being in love with Jesus comes from hearing and not simply obeying the rules laid down. Obedience comes from hearing and God is particular about obedience as seen in the fate of Saul in 1Samuel 15:22 where it was stated that “obedience is better than sacrifice” and in Jeremiah 7:13 where God complains that “You have done all this and have not listened when I repeatedly warned you; neither have you answered when I called you.”

She stressed that the more you hear God’s voice, the more you know it is His voice and your faith increases as Romans 10:17 testifies that “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ.” It is this faith which makes you certain and the Word tangible and denies anyone from taking what you have heard away from you since you heard it directly.

HOW DO YOU LISTEN TO GOD / TRAFFIC LIGHTS

The speaker explained that as John 4:24 says “God is Spirit” and so the key to listening to God is via the connection with our own spirit. The knowledge also that God is love according to 1John 4:8, means that when God speaks, He will not contradict love which is who He is.

She pointed out that we must enter into a deepness of knowing God like Abraham who knew it was God’s voice instructing him to sacrifice his son. Indeed, when we hear, we must obey immediately and this is where it gets difficult. She stressed that our conscience is not a voice of God although God can speak to the conscience. She stated that God is never complicated and speaks simply and that success means doing the things that you hear from God. She urged us to be good stewards of God’s word and to obey God’s voice personally first and be steadfast and active since like a football player, all eyes are on you, those of your team mates and your opponents.

God signals his communication to us in 3 ways and she likened our reaction to the way God communicates to our reaction to traffic lights. Red signifies God telling us to stop doing something that is not good such as sin. God tells us to stop since we are made for good and doing such bad things would only hurt us. God knows that we will not have joy in our hearts if we do not do His Will and he shows us the red light to prevent our downfall.

God also uses the green light which can be likened to us feeling at peace and lighthearted when we align with God’s will and obey. The green light prompts us to action as we find ourselves saying “I have to, I have to, I have to” just like that footballer who has to take that ball (word) and score a goal (proclaim God’s word). She pointed out that those who do God’s will have a pleasant aura about them, look young and are fulfilled.

The amber or yellow light is perhaps the most sensitive one for me, as it can indicate a variety of things. It could be God telling you to wait or to get ready or even to slow down depending on the circumstances and we really need to invoke God’s Spirit in order to determine what exactly God is saying to us.

CONCLUSION

She ended the session by stressing that we do not have the capacity to hear God except by His Spirit and that we must activate our hearts to hear Him. She cautioned that God’s voice is not chaotic nor threatening and stated that God will most likely speak to you according to your personality, be it the way you talk and understand things. When I think about all the voices which exist in our world, I am so grateful that my Creator has deigned me worthy to hear His own voice. Considering that He only means good for all of us and longs to reconnect to us, we must all make a concerted effort to tune into God’s frequency and walk with Him in Spirit, for when we do so, we shall experience that peace which surpasses all understanding.

30Apr

KNOWING THE GOD WE WORSHIP – Day 1

INTRODUCTION

So I belong to a parish called the Catholic Church of Divine Mercy in Lekki, Lagos and we are always being told how fortunate we are in the parish regarding the programs organized for our spiritual growth. I know that our parish is always busy with one thing or another but after today’s seminar, I truly feel blessed to be part of this parish. We are to embark on a 30-day workshop on Discipleship Training and we started with what I would call Catholicism 101 – knowing God.

The facilitator started off by stressing that Christians do not have the same God as those who follow Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism or Islam. We worship One Triune God while they worship more than one God which may include carvings of stone and metal as well as animals. While, in the case of Islam, they clearly deny the existence of the 3 persons of the same God.

He then explained that we are made to know God and to relate with Him. This reminds me of the image I keep on getting whenever I think of God in the Garden of Eden, when God would come down to fellowship with Adam and Eve. He stressed that although we are familiar with this need for intimacy and to know God, we must transcend from this head knowledge to an experiential knowledge of God. He summed this up by saying that the longest journey to make is from the mind to the heart while the highest mountain on earth is the mountain of ignorance.

HOW MUCH DO I REALLY KNOW GOD

The facilitator made this simple point – that we can only worship God based on our knowledge of Him. So, honestly – how much do you really know God? I remember telling someone that if you think you know someone, get married to them and then you will realize that you haven’t even started. This isn’t quite the same with God. James 4:8 assures us that if we draw close to God, He will draw close to us, as this is His ultimate longing. Can you imagine how amazing it is that the almighty God would want to draw close to use mere beings?

Reference was made to Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who knew their God. It was this knowledge of God which made them ready to die for Him and suffer persecution. He then posed a very personal question of whether we would have such courage if under persecution. The sad reality is that a few hours away in Northern Nigeria, people are facing such persecution daily. What would we do in their situation when faced with death? Would we deny our God? I recently watched a movie on Peter where the Roman emperor Nero had offered to spare Peter from being crucified if he denied being a Christian. Instead, Peter asked that he be crucified upside down, having found himself unworthy to die as Jesus had died. So what is that thing which pushes people to sacrifice their being? It is that they know their God and inspite of their impending persecution, they hold firm.

He continued by revealing that the main way to know God is by reading the Bible. He pointed out that people can deceive us, as seen in the rise of religious cults where their leaders pose as prophets of God or even God Himself. This shelving of the reverence of God reminds me of the reparation which we are called to do for such sacrilege. If we really knew who God is, we would not wait to be told how to know Him because we would take the initiative and rush to know more and more about him, as we continue to be students of the Word.

NATURE OF GOD

The facilitator stressed that we must know who God is. Not know about him, but know him personally and as we journey in this knowledge, we would come to know so many aspects of His nature. She listed the following attributes of God:

  1. God is unchangeable: This aspect of God always brings comfort to me – to know that God is faithful and will always be true to His Word.
  2. God is Spirit : It is this very nature that allows us to connect to God with the same Spirit which he breathed into us. We are spiritual beings and we are from the Supreme Spirit – God Himself.
  3. God is eternal: This is a fact which I cannot wrap my head around and is captured in our prayer “Glory be to the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit As it was in the beginning, it is and ever shall be world without end. Amen.” To not have a beginning or an end and to have been in existence in the past, be in the present and be forevermore is surreal.
  4. God is omnipresent: This presence of God is one which David treasured in Psalm 51:11 where he prays that God’s presence should not be taken from Him. There is an awesome feeling you get when you tap into the presence of God which is all present and we must be grateful to Him for allowing us to access Him wherever we find ourselves.
  5. God is omniscient / all-knowing: God is Wisdom so it follows that He is all-knowing. He knows how things will end up and in His loving nature, He gives us the free will to cooperate with Him.
  6. God is the Creator: Even science falls short in its inability to explain who made the atoms which brought about the universe. Genesis 1:1 answers this existential crisis by revealing that nobody created God – “In the beginning, God created the heaven and earth.” Simple!
  7. God is personal: This is where we must get to in our journey to discipleship and knowledge of God. Since God is personal, He longs for us to enter into a relationship with Him. God has emotions and God longs to connect to us on a personal level.

The facilitator explained that the more you get to know God, the more you discover that God knows you more. She stated that we must go beyond what we know and realize that God is beyond a description. This inability to fully describe God was brought home to us when we watched a brief clip called the Cosmic Eye which I urge you all to google to ponder upon. It shows just how insignificant we are in the scheme of things and yet God loves us with an unfathomable love. David understood the awesomeness of God in Psalm 8:4-8 where he said “what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor; the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

CONCLUSION

The speaker ended by repeating that our appreciation of who God is, is necessary if we are to be disciples of God. Do we really understand the words when we sing “I have a very big God o; He is always by my side?” She mentioned that if we truly internalize the words, then we would see it as an utmost privilege to be God’s disciple. We must not let this opportunity pass us by. Who is God to you? See you at Day 2.

15Apr

Spiritual Surgery

INTRODUCTION

As we enter the most Holy Week of the liturgical year, this seems to be the most appropriate time to share my thoughts on the words I heard one morning.

Surgery. Spiritual surgery. I had just finished listening to a song which I have attached herein. Shortly after, I heard these 2 words – “spiritual surgery” and I was perplexed because I was far from being a doctor. In short, I cannot stand the sight of blood as those close to me can testify. It was when I settled down to ponder upon these two words that I understood that it was a message I had to share. What I will be sharing today will be revolving around this anchor passage:

1 John 1:9If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

So what exactly IS spiritual surgery? We know that spiritual means relating to or affecting the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things. So, that is simple but what is surgery and what does it entail?

DEFINITION OF SURGERY

I came across this definition of surgery which was expository – A treatment
of injuries / disorders of the body by incision OR by manipulation
especially with instruments. As I delved deeper into what surgery meant, I discovered that its definition could be be broken down into 5 parts:

  1. A treatment: this entailed care given and was thus a positive action
  2. of injuries / disorders of the body: these disorders could be likened to our vices or the sins we commit which injure our bodies such as the 7 deadly sins
  3. by incision:  – this entailed a sharp cut and rupture which leads to bleeding. It would involve a deep cleansing and uprooting and the image of a double-edged sword immediately came to mind
  4. OR by manipulation: manipulation of the body would involve the change of a behavior or perception or action through indirect, deceptive, or underhanded tactics and so this surgery could be deceptive
  5. especially with instruments: the use of scalpels and other surgical instruments came to mind and I was reminded again of the double-edged sword of the Holy Spirit. These instruments could also involve the use of people as agents to perform the surgery.

So I had an idea what surgery meant but who was to conduct this spiritual surgery? God Himself. And what did this surgery involve? I was to find out that it depended on the type of surgery one was undergoing – was it a minor surgery or a major surgery?

TYPES OF SURGERY

MINOR SURGERY

I recall some years back, I had developed a small pimple on my wrist which had darkened and had become hard and a doctor had told me that I needed to have surgery. I was aghast and told him that all was indeed well with me. However, he told me that it would be a minor procedure and it was more or less like cosmetic surgery. I agreed.

This minor surgery involves little or no risk to the life of the patient since it is normally an operation on the superficial structures of the body. It may also be a manipulative procedure that does not involve a serious risk. I realized that this type of surgery is not what we as Christians should seek to undergo. It leads to us being lukewarm and being spewed out of God’s mouth as Revelations 3:16 tells us. Indeed, God does not touch you small -He overhauls your world and totally transforms you in the encounter.

We need to be careful of such minor surgery which is cosmetic. It is not deep and often involves that manipulation which we find in the definition of surgery. This manipulative behavior involves all three factors: fear, obligation and guilt and its healing effect and treatment are short-lived at its best. Although some may say that guilt is the voice of God and is a good sign to cleanse oneself and that obligation leads to obedience, God does not instill fear within you. If you undergo treatment out of fear of the consequences of your injuries or disorders, it would be short-lived because we are to go beyond the letter of the law for healing and undergo surgery out of love.

When I was sharing this at fellowship, I was guided to consider that some people may start out undergoing minor surgery which would graduate to major surgery. This is true. However, as Christians our focus should be for God to conduct major surgery upon us.

MAJOR SURGERY

Major surgery is the treatment and cleansing for which we must all strive. It involves a risk to the life of the patient and the invasion of a body cavity where organs are removed or normal anatomy is altered. It involves a risk to our life because we no longer have our former lives. As Saint Paul says in Philippians 3:8 “For His sake, I have let everything fall away…” This spiritual surgery is different from major surgery as we know it because major spiritual surgery goes beyond a major risk to life – it requires death itself! The old life of sin must die to give rise to a healthy being, as seen in John 12:24Truly I say to you, unless the grain of wheat falls to the earth and DIES, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.”

This surgery is performed to repair damage or arrest disease in a living body. It is to be a permanent cure and to restore what was lost. Spiritually, this means that we are made into a new creature, as we are restored into the glory lost in the Garden of Eden – total communion with God. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says “…the one who is in Christ is a NEW creature…a new world has come.”

When we undergo this major surgery, we SURRENDER all to the Master Surgeon – God. As is customary with major surgery, the one who is being operated upon is under anesthetics and is completely submissive and at the mercy of the surgeon. This is how we are to be just like the clay is in the hands of the potter as Jeremiah 18: shows- “People of Israel, can I not do with you what this potter does? As clay in the potter’s hand so are you in my hands.”

SURGICAL EXTRACTION OF 7 DEADLY SINS

Upon considering what the injuries or the disorders of the body would be, I was led to the vices and to ask God this lent to extract any of the seven deadly sins rearing its head in my life, I found out that I was in need of major surgery indeed.

  1. PRIDE OR SELF ABSORPTION: We all know that Lucifer’s downfall was pride and that as Proverbs 16:18 says,” pride goes before every destruction, an arrogant spirit before every fall.” However, how often do we cloak our pride by renaming it as being confident or by blaming it on a difference in our social status? I came across a prayer last year which I find difficult to pray each time, called the Litany of Humility. Now, if you think that you are not proud, examine yourself again and please try praying that prayer. I would love to hear feedback on how you fared.

2. AVARICE OR GREED: When I shared this vice, I found out that most of us did not know we had this vice since we live in a consumer society which constantly encourages us to amass things we want and not necessarily need. As we pray in the “Our Father,” we are to focus on DAILY bread and be grateful for what we have. Do you realize in Joshua 5:12, that as soon as the Israelites got to a place where food was available, the manna stopped? God is not a a god of excess.

3. LUST OR SEXUAL LONGING: This is a vice which is blatant in our society and for which all of us at one point or another have had to ask God to cleanse us. 1 Corinthians 6:18-19 tells us to flee from sexual immorality and we must do our own part not to entice others, lest we may be worse off than those who respond to the longing.

4. ENVY OR RESENTMENT. This vice tells God that you are not appreciative of the blessings with which he has already blessed you and can grow into something much worse if not uprooted. Was it not envy in Genesis 4:4 which led Cain to kill his brother Abel? Was it not envy which led the Pharisees to plot Jesus’ death as revealed by Pilate in Matthew 27:18 – “…for he knew that Jesus had been handed over to him out of envy.

5 .APPETITE OR GLUTTONY: When discussing this vice with others, I realized that while most Christians might escape from the sin of greed, they might not from gluttony. This is because gluttony is hidden under the cloak of self-entitlement – “I can have as much as I want because it is mine.” However, just because you are not taking from someone out of greed, the fact that you are abusing or not sharing what God has given you is in itself a sin. You are a glutton. This includes you not sharing your time with another, the talent or gift God has given you or your possessions. It was a scary realization indeed.

6. ANGER OR WRATH: This is an obvious vice and is often described as rot from within because it leads to hatred and vengeance. Some people blame their outrage on others or their environment but deep down they know that it is something for which they are responsible and which they must uproot. Some even rename their anger by calling it zeal but this is not the anger which must be uprooted in spiritual surgery, since this is the type of anger against sin. Nor are we referring to the anger which we may be allowed to express as seen in Psalm 4:5 when it says”Be angry but don’t offend.” The anger which is a vice is that which St Augustine says “easily falls into hatred towards the person” as he considers that “hatred is nothing else than persevering anger – “Odium est ira diuturno tempore perseverans.” This is supported in Ecclesiasticus 30:26 and in Job 5:2 which says that “anger indeed killeth the foolish and envy slayeth the little one”

7. SLOTH OR LAZINESS: This is considered a sin because God calls all of us to use our gifts to serve others as seen in 1Peter 4:10 “Serve one another with the gifts each of you received” and he calls us to be fruitful. The question isn’t really whether we are lazy but how lazy are we, considering what God has invested in us. Take for instance, what you do on a Sunday. Due to the hectic week, I know I look forward to sleeping all day on Sunday and lazing around catching up on “me time.” After all, God rested on the 7th day, right? However, have you forgotten that Sunday is a day to be dedicated to God? What do you do that makes Sunday distinctly dedicated to God? The whole point is not only to refrain from things that would distract you from keeping Sunday holy, but also to do things that would actively make it holy. How do you do that?

HEALING AFTER SURGERY

As I pondered upon these two types of surgery, I started to wonder what would happen after the surgery was done. There is normally a recuperation time for those who undergo major surgery so what would happen after such spiritual surgery. How would one heal? Instantly? Indeed, when God performs the surgery, there is instant healing but the challenge is how do you maintain this healthy state of your soul and this restoration of communion? The guide to this can be found in the 7 instructions normally given to the patients who undergo major surgery.

  1. FOLLOW YOUR DOCTOR’S INSTRUCTIONS: This seems like an obvious instruction. If you want to get well, follow your doctor’s instruction, right? So why don’t we do the same when it comes to God who not only means everything that is good and more for us, but who knows what it takes to make every part of our being work at its best. He has given us instructions to follow in Exodus 20 – the 10 commandments and yet somehow we try to use our own logic to give ourselves our own set of instructions.

2. KEEP YOUR FOLLOW-UP APPOINTMENTS:He has also given us the Holy Bible to guide us as Joshua 1:8 shows – “Constantly read the book of this law and meditate on it day and night…so shall your plans be fulfilled and you shall succeed in everything.” We are to fan into flame the gift of this new life post surgery given to us by God as urged by Paul in 2Timothy 1:6 and we are not to foresake our fellowship together as warned in Hebrews 10:25“Do not abandon the assemblies.

This need to be in fellowship with one another is one which I have found to be ignored by many Christians. Once we have undergone spiritual surgery and been transformed, we lose focus on our healing process and listen to that voice which assures us that we can maintain this new healthy life on our own and all we need do is read the bible and attend the mandatory Sunday mass. We forget that “iron sharpeneth iron” and there is something about COMMUNAL worship which strengthens the individual and leads to revelations and growth.

3. PREVENT INFECTION:We are vulnerable when we have had major surgery due to the loss of blood and low immunity and complications may arise. The worst thing that can happen is for us to have an infection and this is similar to what happens to us if we do not keep focused on our post surgery health. Jesus warns of this in Matthew 12:43-45 when he describes what happens when an evil spirit goes out of a person – “Off it goes again to bring back with itself, this time, seven spirits, more evil than itself. They move in and settle there; so that this person is, finally, in a worse state at the end, that he was at the beginning.”

To maintain spiritual healthiness, we must avoid contamination first from within as said in Mark 7:15-18 “…It is what comes from within that makes a person unclean.” We are also to avoid CULTURAL CONTAMINATION by the world by renewing our mind and not being conformed as advised by Paul in Romans 12:2 and by “keeping oneself from the world’s corruption” as advised in James 2:27 and 2Corinthians 6:17 -“Come out from their midst and separate from them.”

4 .INSPECT YOUR INCISION: Inspecting your incision can be painful. It can even require you to remove a plaster which I always find uncomfortable. The thought of having to remove a plaster often makes me not want to put it on because of this discomfort which I would feel. However, inspection is necessary just like examination of conscience is necessary.

I remember when I was younger and my mom would urge me to examine my conscience before I went to bed. I would see it as a tedious task and would sleep off thinking of the day’s activities. Now, I know better. This Catholic tradition is priceless especially when you consider that each time you close your eyes, you might not awake. It is by the grace of God that you see another day and the least you can do is to check the status of your spiritual health post surgery.

This tradition is encouraged in the Catechism of the Catholic Church in CCC16, CCC1776 and CCC2368. Moreover, its scriptural roots are evident in the advice given by St Paul in Galatians 6:4 -“Let each of you examine his own conduct” and in 2Corinthians 12:5 “Examine yourselves: are you acting according to your faith? Test yourselves. Can you assert that Christ Jesus is in you?”

5. DRINK AND EAT PROPERLY: This is perhaps the most welcoming instruction given to heal after surgery, especially for those who love food and drink. It makes sense and we normally take the instruction well without much fuss but notice that we are to eat PROPERLY and not just simply add calories. As Christians we know that God always seeks a way to restore us as seen in Jeremiah 31:17 – ” ‘I will restore you to health and heal your wounds’ says Yahweh” and as echoed in 3 John 1-2 “may everything go well with you and may you enjoy health of body and soul.”.

So the fact that God wants our well-being is settled but we must do our own part and ensure that we eat and drink the right things and do so in the right way which is summarized in 1 Corinthians 10:31 – “Then, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it for the glory of God.” If we are to heal after surgery, we must regulate what we ingest and if at all we are to drink, let us be drunk in the spirit as advised in Ephesians 5:18. We are to feast at the banquet of God in Holy Communion as we eat the body of Christ and drink the blood of Christ as explained in John 6:55-56 – “My flesh is really food and my blood is truly drink.” Personally, I have found this guide to healing after surgery to be a lifesaver and one which is indispensable to maintaining spiritual health.

6. KNOW WHEN TO GO TO ER: To know when you need to go to the emergency room after you are recovering from major surgery can be tricky. It involves constant alertness as stressed by Jesus in Luke 21:34 “Be on your guard” and in Mark 13:33 – “Be alert and watch..” 1Peter 5:8 also urges us to “be sober and alert” and in Colossians 4:2, we are told to be “steadfast in prayer and even spend the night praying and giving thanks.”

Going to the ER can also be likened to inspecting your incision. The sacrament of reconciliation may be likened to an emergency room into which you must go to ensure that your soul is still healthy after the major surgery. We are advised to flee from temptation in 2 Timothy 2:22 and as Joseph did over Pontiphar’s wife in Genesis 39:12-13. When we go to confession, we are responding to the advice given to us not to despair in Psalm 27:14 and in 2 Corinthians 4:8 which encourages us – “Trials of every sort come to us but we are not discouraged.” The confessional is our emergency room and we must know when to go to it in order for us to maintain the healing after the surgery.

7. GET MOVING: This advice from the surgeon is easier said than done. Imagine the pain being felt after the anesthetics have worn off and being told to get back in your groove or the discomfort in getting used to using a limb or part of your body which has been restored. Whatever it may be, we are told to get moving. This is also true after spiritual surgery. We are warned not to be lukewarm as in Revelations 3:16 , but fruitful and spiritually active as captured by St Paul who kept on pressing on in Philippians 4:12. As a Christian we are to grow in the spirit and avoid the fate of the branches which are cut off as seen in John 15:1-2 for not being fruitful.

God tells us to move on and wipes the slate clean as said in Isaiah 43:19 – “But do not dwell on the past or remember the things of old. Look I am doing a new thing: now it springs forth.” Paul stresses this in 2 Corinthians 5:17 when he says that “the old things have passed away; a new world has come.” and in Philippians 3:16 – “Meanwhile, let us go forward from the point we have each attained.” To overcome the injuries of the past in our post surgery state is often difficult since we still remember, but we must cling to the assurance of God that as the Master Surgeon, He has made all things new and has set the path clear for your permanent healing in Him. I once saw a message which read that the next time Satan reminds you of your past, you should remind him of his future – eternal damnation.

SO WHAT DO I DO?

After thinking about what it takes to undergo spiritual surgery, what must be uprooted from me and how to heal after this extraction, I came up with practical steps on what I must do during this lent and beyond:

  1. Attend daily mass
  2. Do personal bible study
  3. Pray the rosary
  4. Conduct a daily examination of conscience
  5. Daily contemplate a bible verse/ passage
  6. Pray and work towards a virtue each day (to tackle each of the 7 deadly vices)

CONCLUSION

Psalm 95:7 spoke to me when I was preparing this message – “O that today, you would listen to my voice, harden not your hearts” and I thought of the layers of an onion. Have you noticed that the outermost layers may be so hard but it gets more and more tender, the closer you get to the inner layers? This tendering of the layers (and heart) is what God does to us. As we undergo spiritual surgery, He peels away the scales which are represented by sin and vices. God is the Great Physician and His surgery is always successful if we let God have His way with us.

So the real question is this – Will you allow God to use his scalpel and surgical instrument on you? Will you go under His anesthesia?

When we sin, we must go again to the Great Physician. The wonderful thing is that it is never too late if we admit our need to be healed as Joel 2:12 reminds us -“Yet even now, return to me with your whole heart…” This is the time to do so. This is the time to undergo this spiritual surgery and let God transform you and heal you in more ways than you can possibly imagine.

17Sep

Hearing the Voice of God – Day 1

INTRODUCTION

So, the day finally came. I noticed that the hall was more full than the seminars on worship and I grinned as I identified with the hunger which led more people to attend this seminar series.  Who did not want to hear the voice of God?  How I wish that they had attended the previous seminars, however, as the speakers had gradually led us into how a worship lifestyle was a prerequisite to hear God’s voice.  Without true worship, voices could indeed be heard, but whose voices would those be?

 

GOD IS ALWAYS TALKING

The speaker started by explaining that God is spirit and that we too are spirit and pointed out that God always speaks but that there exists so much noise which distracts us from tuning into His frequency.  He mentioned Psalm 46:11 which tells us to “be still”; something which is a constant battle if you live and work in this megacity called Lagos.

He then referred to John 10:3-6 where Jesus says “the gatekeeper opens the gate…the sheep hear his voice as he calls his own sheep,” which suggest that the gatekeeper, who is God, speaks.  The sheep which is us, can hear God speak and as a result of this, the sheep follow Him.  Imagine yourself now, being in a pasture as a sheep grazing, when you hear a voice call you.  As a sheep, what do you do?  You follow this familiar voice. Why?  Because it is almost as if you can touch this voice due to its familiarity and tangibility. John 1:14  refers to the Word becoming flesh and dwelling amongst us which suggests that the Word is a tangible thing and not simply an arrangement of airwaves.

This constant state of God talking is stressed again in the way God makes known things to us as seen in Job 33:14 where it says “God gives a warning but does not repeat it a second time.” In Amos 3:7, it is noted that “Yahweh does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants, the prophets” so here again we see that God speaks, as God also seeks to warn us and guide us in our affairs.

In the call of Isaiah in Isaiah 6:8, we see again that God speaks when Isaiah observed “Then I heard the voice of the Lord, ‘Whom shall I send’?”  As the speaker continued, I couldn’t help but get a bit impatient. Yes, we all knew that God speaks, but most of us at the seminars were either seeking to know whether God speaks to them and if he does, how would we be sure it was really Him?

Then  I stopped and wondered – perhaps, I was jumping to conclusions.  Who said that all people believed that God speaks. Some people actually don’t believe and that is why the speaker was referring to several passages in the bible to evidence the fact that God speaks. Indeed, I still find it hard to believe that some people still hold on to the belief that God does not speak or that even if He did,  it was something that happened in ages past but which no longer happens.

My prayer for them is that God have mercy upon them and reveal Himself to them personally so as to erase all doubt as to the authenticity of His spoken words. In Jesus name, we pray. Amen.

 

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