Margaret Ellis

Margaret Ellis

The Marriage Widget – Part II

Sunday, 07 August 2016 22:27

For those of you who had the opportunity to read the first part of this series, you will agree that this one is long overdue. In the last article, I shared that the purpose of marriage is designed first to fulfill God’s mandate in our lives. Marriage was the first institution that God established in the earth and not only did he speak it into existence he also facilitated the process. According to the bible, God created man (Adam) and then woman (Eve) out of his ribs for the sole purpose of being his wife and helpmate. Once God brought the two together, it was established that “man will leave his father and mother and cling to his wife and the two of them shall become one flesh”. Before the purpose of the union was defined though, the vision for the two of them already existed. In the first scripture in the bible – Genesis 1, it is written that God created all the earth and everything in it (plants of all sorts, birds in the air, fishes in the sea, animals of all breed) and set man over this prestigious office to be the general overseer of his estate. He spoke a decree over man to be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and govern it. Besides speaking his vision for man, God also defined the purpose for which marriage should exist between a man and woman (to cling together and become one). Since we have a mandate to build our homes and build a lasting marriage which glorifies God, we have to invest in learning and teaching each other how to balance life and marriage to fulfill God’s mandate.

My husband and I believe that marriage as an institution demands for learning and acquisition of new knowledge and in some instances, just friendly reminders of the things we already know. If you’re like us, you would agree that it is challenging at times to give our marriages the attention it deserves because life demands for so much from us and we feel pulled in different directions. For these reasons, we welcome the acquiring and sharing of pertinent information to keep ourselves knowledgeable. Today, I want to share some tips my husband and I have learned and utilize to maintain balance in our relationship.

1. Eat together – you may agree that our society in general is moving away from the valuable tradition of togetherness. Most of us have missed the mark on the knowledge that relationships can be mended, hurts healed, forgiveness taking place when we gather together around the table to partake in a meal that was prepared with so much love. You can even take this a step further by engaging the family members in the preparation, cooking and setting up of the table. There’s power in working together and breathing an environment of love and support in the home. Besides, time spent in the kitchen and dining area can be used to carry on deep and meaningful conversations.

2. Understand each other’s needs and wants- keep in mind that a man has a great need to be honored while a woman has a greater need to be respected. I find that even though a man may not demand for it, he thrives on being appreciated and valued. For most women, their desire is to feel secure, feel heard and understood and these happen to be characteristics of “respect”. Remember, it is on always the big things that matter, rather; a sincere “thank you”, “I appreciate you”, “I apologize, I’m sorry”, “I love you” and the list goes on, could very well be the miracle that your spouse is desperately longing for.

3. Be submissive to each other – There seems to exist a misconception about submissiveness in our society and for this reason, it is worth mentioning that submission in its right context does not constitute to weakness but rather; it means that one has reached a certain level of maturity to be able to exercise “meekness” which simply means ‘strength under control’. Besides, submission to one another in marriage is a biblical principal; “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God” Ephesians 5:21 (KJV).

4. Agree on matters – It has been established that a husband and wife are considered “one flesh” and for this reason, they must support each other even in decision making. A successful marriage requires both parties to understand each other’s drives, motives, fears and insecurities for pushing forward or backwards on a particular issue. Agreeing on matters also requires in-depth conversations sometimes and a lot of flexibility.

5. Communicate, communicate, communicate – keeping an open line of communication in a relationship can be challenging at times because it requires bring all issues, concerns, challenges and needs/wants to the table. Embracing the culture of honest and open communication in a marriage can mitigate the possibility of dealing with internal struggles which in some cases could lead to isolation, withdrawal, mental distractions, emotional distance etc which all have a negative effect in the relationship.

I want to leave you with the words of wisdom I learned from the webinar I attended a few months ago. The facilitator shared that: marriage goes through three phases: “Ecstasy” (excitement, honeymoon), “Fantasy” (perfection, cuteness), and then “Reality” (when what was once cute and okay now becomes unacceptable). He explained it further by adding that marriage has the “engagement ring” (Ecstasy), “marriage ring” (Fantasy) and “suffer ring” (reality). My parting word is to encourage you that it does not matter what season you find yourself in, God is with you every step of the way. Just do your part and leave the rest to him.

The Marriage Widget – Part 1

Monday, 06 June 2016 20:25

When I was growing up in The Gambia, I was always fascinated by married women. I watched the women cook, clean, take care of the family, look all put together most of the time so I thought they lived perfect lives. Now, how could I even think that when I saw those same women being reprimanded, corrected in public, attacked by in-laws, and humiliated many a time? When I look back now, I understand why I was blindfolded. Even though challenges existed in marriages, most of the women were able to hold on to the anchor. I did not witness a lot of separations in those days so I would not have been able to understand the weight of distress some of these women were carrying.

Fast forward a few decades, I see a change in our society. Even though Marriage is the first institution that God established on this earth, it has somewhat lost its weight and value over time. Our society’s elders, religious leaders, friends, family etc are no longer playing the active roles in mediating to help couples overcome their challenges. Somewhere along the journey, marriage has lost the attention that society and especially religious leaders had given to it. This is not just a Gambian issue, it is a world issue but Africa suffers the most from it because for the most part, we do not confront such issues with the kind of aggression needed.

With my own experience through pre-marital counseling and my personal voyage in marriage, I have come to accept that marriage is a two-fold journey. Additionally, with our involvement in marriage coaching now, my husband and I have had the opportunity to interact with several pre-marital and married couples and the coaching is heavily centered on two topics; the PURPOSE and BENEFIT of getting married however, this blog will only focus on one topic – identifying the purpose. Because purpose goes hand in hand with vision, that too will be outlined. I am a firm believer that God had a lot to do with what I witnessed growing up (marriages working) however; he also used vessels (people in the society) to share knowledge and wisdom that was beneficial to the sustenance of marriages. I pray that you will find the information useful and worthy of adding to your tool kit.

The purpose of marriage is designed first to fulfill God’s mandate in our lives. Marriage was the first institution that God established on earth and not only did he speak it into existence he also facilitated the process. According to the bible, God first created man (Adam) but felt that it was not good for him to be alone. God decided to create the woman (another human being who is just right for him). He created her out of his ribs for the sole purpose of being his wife and helpmate. Once God brought the two together, it was established that “man will leave his father and mother and cling to his wife and the two of them shall become one flesh”. Before the purpose of the union was defined though, the vision for the two of them already existed. In the first scripture in the bible – Genesis 1, it is written that God created the earth and everything in it (plants of all sorts, birds in the air, fishes in the sea, animals of all breed) but realized he needed human beings to manage his empire. So we're told that in Genesis 1:27-28; 2:7-15 & 21-23, God created man and set him over this prestigious office to be the general overseer reporting directly to the creator. He spoke a decree over man to be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and govern it. Thus, God’s vision and purpose for which he brought man and woman into existence was clearly identified even before marriage existed. Once they were formed and given a reason to exist (vision) to take care of everything created under the heavens, then he defined the purpose for which marriage should exist between a man and woman (to cling together and become one flesh).

Now that we have laid the foundation with the ultimate plan of God, we can get into our personal list of the purpose of marriage. First, I believe that anyone who considers marriage (God’s way) goes about it with the desire to connect with another person of the opposite sex for the purpose of spending the rest of their lives in holy matrimony. This commitment includes sharing destiny, plans and goals with each other. I want to add a side note here that since this union eradicates the possibility of walking a solo journey, it is important that both parties clearly define their personal vision, purpose, plans, goals and expectations and ensure these are communicated to eliminate the possibility of imbalance and disappointment in the relationship after the wedding ceremony is over.

The other day, I was a participant in a marriage webinar and the speaker shared a couple of nuggets which will buttress my point. He stated that marriage goes through three phases: “Ecstasy” (excitement, infatuation), “Fantasy” (perfection, cuteness), and then “Reality” (when what was once cute and okay now becomes unacceptable). He explained it further by adding that marriage has the “engagement ring” (Ecstasy), “marriage ring” (Fantasy) and “suffer ring” (reality). Thus, it is imperative that before we set on this journey, the vision (known expectations, values, morals, dreams, plans, and goals etc) are clearly defined, communicated, and accepted by both parties.

Besides just laying out a long list of items you expect to get from the relationship or from your spouse, it is important that both parties have sought the face of God and his direction for their lives. One cannot clearly state a vision or identify a purpose for ones marriage if he or she does not understand the plan that God has for his or her life. It is in understanding the journey that one party is called to take in life that he or she can invite the other to join or support him or her. I would like to emphasize that just because you love each other and decide to get married does not usually mean that your goals and plans are going to be identical when you come together. God created each of us uniquely with a specific purpose and for a specific cause on earth. We are called individually to fulfill an assignment over our lives however; when we yield our lives to him, he can show us ways to leverage each other and merge all our plans together. It is even possible that one spouse may be called to walk a purpose that the other spouse does not feel led to embark on however; through union in the hearts, commitment to each other and to the marriage vows, mutual support and prayer, God can reveal his plan to you with specific direction on how you can combine your individual ideas to create a good recipe for your marriage.

Another key reason for marriage to exist should be motivated by the desire to fulfill God’s mandate upon your life (living a legacy). When he created man in the beginning, God had a desire for human beings to have dominion and power. In other words, God’s original plan was for man to leave his imprints on the earth. With this vision in mind, we cannot build a marriage on a temporary plan. The marriage covenant needs to be entered into with the end in mind. I understand that sometimes the pressure with which we come into the relationship puts a barrier on laying out a good purpose and vision for the union. I remember the pressure that society attempted to put on me when I was single. I remember some of the remarks I endured when they thought the clock was ticking for me. A cousin of mine once said to me: “the beauty of a woman is proven in marriage. Everything you are working to accomplish (high level of education, career etc) is meaningless if you cannot find a man to claim you as his wife”. Those words pierced deep within my soul and I have to admit that if a man showed up that day with a proposal, I may have accepted without much thought and planning. But it does not have to be that way. God knows his plan for every person’s life and as long as you are living your life in alignment with his word and in reverence of him, he will finish what he started in your life in his right season. Until you hear from me again, I urge you (whether you are married or single) to seek God for his direction, plan, purpose and vision for your life and be ready to present that plan to your spouse when the opportunity presents itself.

Occupying Your Kingdom Seat

Monday, 21 March 2016 18:08

Reader, maybe what I am going through is what some would call ‘mid-life crises’ but I call it revelation knowledge from the Holy Spirit. I have been seeking God’s direction (purpose) for my life and his response has been overwhelming. I cannot help myself, I have embraced the mandate to “live a purpose driven life”. Maybe you are one of the people who strongly believe that there is a seat (purpose) for everyone in the world (God’s empire and kingdom). If so, I am completely in agreement with you. I believe that we are created in God’s image and he packaged each and every one of us with every ingredient we need to meet the needs of his people in his kingdom. We are called to fulfill our responsibility in our society, community, nation, our families, our relationships and any entity which exists for the sole purpose of spreading the name of God and his gospel namely: Ministry, Church (the house of God)”.

God knows the purpose he wants us to serve in the world however; he waits on us to make a decision to live that purpose. Our seat in the corporate arena, business world, ministry, and society as a whole is polished and positioned waiting for us to occupy it. Now that we have made it clear that everyone has a position to serve in the Kingdom or house of God, let’s address five basic principles for occupying the seat:

1. Every seat has a price tag – In the book of Luke 9:57-62, the bible says that Jesus taught about the cost of serving him. A man approached him and made a request to follow him. Jesus said to him, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Another man told Jesus that he wanted to follow him but first needed to take care of his obligation to bury his dead father. Jesus had a shocking response for him; “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet another man made a commitment to follow him but wanted to first bid his family farewell. Jesus gave yet another unprecedented response: “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” (NIV). What Jesus was teaching simply is that occupying your seat can be very costly. It may require a shift in perception and belief systems, values etc. Some things such as: mindset, personal obligations, cultural doctrine, and focusing on self will have to be left behind. Once you step into your seat, your focus will no longer be what you prioritize as important but what is important to the Lord.

2. The seat requires sacrifice – Again, Jesus had a conversation with another person who asked him a question about inheriting eternal life. When Jesus told him about the Ten Commandments, he replied “I know them and have kept them since I was a little boy…… “You still lack one thing (Jesus said). Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Jesus’ response must have devastated the man because he became sad. Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Luke 18:22-23 (NIV). Now reader, I don’t want you to take a sigh of relief and try to convince yourself that this scripture is not applicable to you. Do not tell me you are not rich so this is irrelevant. Wealth here can be symbolic of everything we hold dear and precious. What Jesus was saying to this man is simply; lay it all down. In verse 24, Jesus said “Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God”. This statement simply means that if we are adorned with all the things that only pleases the flesh namely: pride, status, praise, and selfishness etc, we become too fat and too big to fit in our kingdom seat.

3. Selflessness - A good example of this characteristic is Solomon. In 2 Chronicles 1:6-10, the scriptures talks about an encounter that Solomon had with God. He had offered sacrifice which moved God to appear to him that night. When God asked him what he wanted, his response touched the heart of God. Solomon did not ask for riches, his enemy’s life or nothing for himself. Instead, he asked for wisdom to rule the people of God with diligence. Because of his unselfish heart, God gave him everything he did not ask for. Solomon was blessed by God tremendously not only because he offered sacrifice but because he was willing to put the needs of others in the kingdom above his needs. God’s response to Solomon is a reminder to us that he (God) delights in those who understand that he raises them for the sole purpose of meeting needs through service and being a blessing to others.

4. Investment in the lives of others – This is seen in Matthew 25:14-28 – The Parable of the Talents. Jesus shared the parable about a master who gave talents of gold to three servants to manage for him while he traveled. When the master came back to take inventory of the talents, he found out that the servant who received one talent had buried it so it didn’t yield any profit. The other two servants who received two and five talents both invested and brought profit. The master was happy with the ones who invested and he told them in verse 23 “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness! To the servant who had buried what was given to him, the master commanded in verse 28: “So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. For whoever has will be given more and they will have abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them……”. The message Jesus intended to share with his audience was very clear; what we do with the talents and gifts God has given to us will determine the size of our seat in his kingdom. In verse 27, the master confronted the servant for his failure to invest in order to yield interest. What I learned from this challenges me to sow my gifts and talents in the lives of others because it is in giving, that one will receive.

5. Walking in humility – A good model of humility is Jesus who was very intentional in his actions. In John 13, Jesus washed his apostle’s feet. Jesus was a leader who delighted in ‘walking the talk’ instead of giving orders. When he was done washing their feet, he challenged the Apostles to continue the legacy. In verse 13-15, Jesus said to them: “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example to follow”. Another example of humility was revealed when Jesus stood before Pontius Pilate. Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus responded, “You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.” John 18:37 (NIV). Jesus understood that he was not representing himself. He knew his assignment and accepted his position with humility. He understood that his purpose on this earth was bigger than his self-image or reputation. Thus occupying your kingdom seat requires willingness to give up worldly identity and status. Our assignment may require that we eat with Zacchaeus(unbelievers, sinners, those who have fallen, those who are different etc) because we are called to bring the gospel of truth to them so they can turn from their canal ways.

Reader, God has called us on purpose and he needs our brokenness and weaknesses to 'set an example' in the world. The Apostle Paul made this clear to us in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 "Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong". (NLT). He boasts in his weakness not because he enjoys being in that state but because he understood that in was in those moments of weakness that he experienced the strength of Christ. There is something about our brokenness that gets God attention and we can see this in another character in scripture - David. When he sinned against God, he knew that offering sacrifice was not his pass to obtaining mercy from God but rather his brokenness before his creator. He said in Psalms 51:16-17 "You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering. The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God". (NLT). David’s willingness to take responsibility for his actions instead of choosing to justify his sin moved the hand of God to extend mercy to him.

Today, I want to challenge you seek God for direction. You may already be giving your time and talents to build the kingdom of God, you may already be walking in your calling and purpose but I still urge you to go back to God and ask him to show you whether you are occupying the seat he has prepared for you. I am encouraging you to get out of your comfort zone and make a decision to move with God in the present and future not just in the past. God may have revealed to you your purpose in months or years past but can you hear what he is saying to you presently? Be mindful about focusing so much on the past because it can lead you to miss out on what God is saying to you in the here and now.

God is a living God, always moving, not stagnant. God speaks to his children in the past, present and future. God spoke your purpose from creation but he uses different routes to bring his spoken word to pass. The journey to a purposeful life has stop signs, detours, yellow lights straights highways and exits. God’s spoken word over your life is to get to a destination but you always need to communicate with him to speak direction over the journey as you go through the different paths. Challenges come with occupying your seat but be encouraged by Jesus’s example. He accepted ridicule, accusation, betrayal, and pain in meekness so he could occupy his seat at the right hand of the father. Occupying our seat in the kingdom of God would require us to walk in humility and brokenness because God wants us in that place of vulnerability so he can use it to take us to a place of greatness in his glory.

Who’s got your Ear?

Friday, 26 February 2016 04:28

Reader, you would agree with me that life is a journey which requires us to make many decisions. As the world around us changes constantly, we are forced in positions to decide whether to turn to the left or to the right, this way or that and whether to take the path mostly travelled by or the one that is less popular. Since decisions are a part of our journey in life, we cannot fail to consider that the decisions that we make can have great consequences (good and bad) for us and others in our lives. For this reason, we must truly examine our motive for seeking advice from others and most importantly, the advisor we choose to give our ear to. I strongly encourage you to seek advice from others because it is evident that God speaks to us in many ways including using others to convey messages to us. Additionally, it is evident that when we seek wise counsel, it helps us to increase in knowledge and wisdom.

Seeking to gain wisdom and knowledge is critical to anyone’s success especially since we are faced with important decisions to make daily. However; scripture teaches that God wants us to seek his knowledge and wisdom which empowers us to give and apply counsel well. In James 1:5, the bible says: “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking” (NLT). When we go before God to ask for his direction, it presents an opportunity for us to strengthen our relationship with him and learn to submit to his will for our lives. Now reader, I have to remind you that the scripture above does not discourage one from seeking counsel from another person. God created man in ‘his image’ and continues to empower those who seek him diligently with his spirit which nurtures the ability to do all things in wisdom and knowledge not of the flesh but of the spirit. God uses vessels (you and I) to guide ourselves and others into making decisions so whether you are seeking counsel from others or giving counsel to others, you have to ask God for direction and guidance in the process.

You would agree with me that God created us for a specific purpose and specific cause but we would not be able to fulfill His plans for our lives in the absence of good counsel. I would urge you to surround yourself with many advisors, just make sure they are godly, knowledgeable, packaged with wisdom and above all God fearing men and women. The book of Proverbs in the bible presents many scriptures that associate success in life to the quality of counsel one receives and whether or not one uses discernment in applying the knowledge acquired through counsel. I am a firm believer in surrounding oneself with others who are experienced, God fearing, knowledgeable and mature to support one through the journey to destiny. I know that God is our source however we can draw strength from others he strategically places in our path to journey with us to the place of destiny.

I want to share some tips with you to help you in your search for the right counselor, advisor, mentor and confidante. I make it a point to study the character and lifestyle of the people I consider counselors. The uncompromising characteristic that I look for is the counselor’s faith in God, his Word, his commandments, his truth and the list goes on. Here are some additional things to consider when deciding to give your ear to someone you consider a counselor, mentor, advisor and/or confidante. The person must be/have:

Matured – have experience in dealing with life’s challenges not with their own wisdom. They must be able to prove that they have allowed the test of time and life to build their faith God.

Integrity – must be able to conduct themselves respectfully when faced with challenges. He/she must be able to endure the storms of life without losing ground in their walk with God. He/she should also be able model personal responsibility and accountability.

Honest – would not compromise the truth for comfort but rather accept responsibility for their action and speaking truth in love. He/she strives to give me godly counsel that will get me out of ignorance.

Knowledgeable – willing to seek the knowledge of the word of God and apply it in daily living. He/she will trust in the revelation knowledge of God and not in his/her own intelligence or society’s doctrine.

Wisdom – operate in the spirit of Wisdom of God and not that of the world. He/she must be able to seek the knowledge of God and apply it in daily living through his/her relationships with others.

Understanding – able to understand and accept our differences in reasoning, thought process and interpretation of content. He/she cannot lean on his/her own understanding or knowledge gained from society’s doctrine but God’s own.

Discerning – be able to depend on the leading of the Holy Spirit of God to guide his/her advice and not depend on emotions. I can count on him/her to pray and intercede for me while leaning on the Spirit to give him/her the words of wisdom to share with me.

Humble – able to walk with a spirit of brokenness and total submission to the will of God for his/her life. This person must be a model of obedience to me and be willing to follow the leading of God even if it is not popular. He/she should also be quick to acknowledge wrong-doing and be bold to take responsibility for their action.

Finally, I want to leave you with a nugget of wisdom that can serve as a guide in deciding how to apply the counsel that you receive from others. The first thing to consider is to pray about the counsel and test it against the word of God which means that you have to know scripture’s definition of good counsel. Secondly, you may want to weigh the counsel against God’s principles. Keep in mind that you cannot successfully evaluate the counsel received without truly examining the source (Counselor). It is your responsibility to choose your counselors wisely but since God knows exactly what you need, always pray ask for his guidance in pointing you to the right person. I challenge you to reflect on some applied counsel(s) that have led to the path of regret in your life and examine the source(s) of those words. We are living in treacherous times so now more than ever, we have to be spiritually alert and apply the wisdom of God in all things. I want to leave you with the scripture in Proverbs 3:5-6 which reads: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight”. (NIV)

Examine Your Counselors

Thursday, 25 February 2016 04:34

“Where there is no [wise, intelligent] guidance, the people fall [and go off course like a ship without a helm], But in the abundance of [wise and godly] counselors there is victory”. Proverbs 11:14 (AMP).

The phrase “with age comes wisdom” is getting more practical for me as the years go by. In the last couple of years, I find myself reflecting a lot on counsel that I have received in the past and how some of them that were not inspired by the wisdom of God led to the path of regret in some areas of my life. I have to admit that I have received many a counsel that have made a difference in my life and somewhat ushered me into destiny which is the reason I would not completely discourage anyone from seeking counsel however; the message here is a plea to examine the source of our counsel. I have decided to return to the word of scripture and seek to understand God’s perspective of seeking and applying counsel.

Seeking to gain wisdom and knowledge is critical to anyone’s success especially since we are faced with important decisions to make daily. However; scripture teaches that God wants us to seek his knowledge and wisdom which empowers us to give and apply counsel well. In James 1:5, the bible says: “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking”. (NLT). When we go before God to ask for his direction, it presents an opportunity for us to strengthen our relationship with him and learn to submit to his will for our lives. Now reader, I have to remind you that the scripture above does not discourage one from seeking counsel from another person. God created man in ‘his image’ and continues to empower those who seek him diligently with his spirit which nurtures the ability to do all things in wisdom and knowledge not of the flesh but of the spirit. God uses vessels (you and I) to guide ourselves and others into making decisions so whether you are seeking counsel from others or giving counsel to others, you have to ask God for direction and guidance in the process.

In the book of Esther 3:1-14 there is a perfect illustration of ungodly counsel being given and applied. Haman who was promoted as the most powerful official in King Xerxes’s empire has a negative encounter with Mordecai who was one of the guards at the palace. Following his promotion, he was informed that Modecai was not following the King’s command to bow down to him in respect and obeisance. Driven by his rage of Modecai’s disrespect to him, he decided to that he was not only going to destroy him alone but all of Jews (his kinfolk) along with him. Without mentioning Modecai’s name, he asked for approval from the King to destroy the Jews which was instantly granted to him. As the story continues in Esther 5:9-14, the bible says that Haman took the matter home and decided to seek counsel from his wife and friends regarding Modecai. Without even seeking God’s wisdom or weighing the consequences, they advised him to “set up a sharpened pole that stands seventy-five feet tall” and hang Modecai on it in the morning before the banquet at the palace. Since he was under the influence of pride, arrogance and anger, Haman carried out the counsel without any further consideration. At the end of the day, the bible says in Esther 6 & 7 that through the intervention of Esther (the new Queen and cousin of Modecai), the tables were turned. Haman ended up being hung on the same tower he had built for Modecai and all the Jews were saved from the evil he had planned for them.

I am not sure how closely you can relate to the story of Haman but the morale of the story is very clear. When we seek counsel from ungodly and unknowledgeable source, it is likely that its application would lead to the path of regret. You would agree with me that life is a journey which requires us to make many decisions. As the world around us changes constantly, we are forced in positions to decide whether to turn to the left or to the right, this way or that and whether to take the path mostly traveled or the one that is unpopular. Decisions that we make (good or bad) can have great consequences (good and bad) for us and others in our lives therefore; we must examine the path we take to arrive at it. When we are faced with a decision to ask for counsel (invite someone else in our lives or the situation), we must first examine our motive for seeking counsel and most importantly, the person (source) of the counsel. I strongly encourage you to seek advice from others because it is true that God speaks to us in many ways including using others to convey messages to us. I stated earlier that God gives us wisdom and since I am on the subject of God using vessels to speak to us, I would also mention that when we seek wise counsel, it helps us to increase in knowledge and wisdom.

God created us for a specific purpose and specific cause but we would not be able to fulfill His plans for our lives in the absence of good counsel. I would urge you to surround yourself with many advisors, just make sure they are godly, knowledgeable, full of wisdom and above all God fearing men and women. The book of Proverbs presents many scriptures that associate success in life to the quality of counsel one receives and whether or not one uses discernment in applying the knowledge acquired through counsel. I believe in surrounding myself with others who are experienced, God fearing, knowledgeable and mature to support me through my journey to destiny. I know who my source is but I draw strength from others he strategically places in my path to journey with me to the place of destiny. I strongly believe in the scripture in Ecclesiastes 4:12 which states: “A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken” (NLT)

I want to share some tips with you to help you in your search for the right counselor, advisor, mentor and confidante. I make it a point to study the character and lifestyle of the people I consider counselors, mentors, advisors and confidantes. The uncompromising characteristics that I look for are centered on the person’s faith in God, his scripture, his commandments, his truth and the list goes on. Here are some things to consider when searching for a counselor, mentor, advisor, mentor and confidante. The person must be/have:

• Matured – have experience in dealing with life’s challenges not in their own wisdom but applying true faith in God.

• Integrity - allows the word of God to take precedence in his/her life and does not bow down to the whims of society or desires of the flesh. • Honest – would not compromise the truth for comfort but rather accept responsibility for their action and submit to the correction/conviction of the Holy Spirit.

• Knowledgeable – willing to seek the knowledge of the word of God and apply it in daily living. He/she will trust in the revelation knowledge of God and not in his/her own intelligence.

• Wisdom – operate in the Wisdom of God and not that of the world. He/she must be able to seek the knowledge and apply it in daily life. Additionally, I would ensure that they are seeking the wisdom of God through prayer for the situations that I seek counsel about.

• Understanding – able to depend on the wisdom and guidance from God and not lean on his/her own understanding or knowledge gained from society’s doctrine.

• Discerning – be able to depend on the leading of the Holy Spirit to guide his/her decisions and not depend on emotions. I can count on him/her to pray/intercede for me while leaning on the Spirit through studying of the word of God.

• Humble – able to walk with a spirit of brokenness and total submission to the will of God for his/her life. This person must be a true model of walking in the obedience of God in all areas of his/her life.

Finally, I cannot forget to mention that the effectiveness of the counsel received largely dependent on its method of application. I want to leave you with a couple of nuggets to consider when applying counsel received. The first thing to consider is to pray about the counsel and test it against the word of God which means that you have to know scripture’s definition of good counsel. Secondly, you may want to weigh the counsel.

“Where there is no [wise, intelligent] guidance, the people fall [and go off course like a ship without a helm], But in the abundance of [wise and godly] counselors there is victory”. Proverbs 11:14 (AMP).

Dealing with Emptiness!

Saturday, 13 February 2016 21:18

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV).

It just did not make sense what I was feeling inside of me in that season. I had a stable job – earning sufficient income, I was thriving in my education, I had friends and family, I was traveling & socializing. When I examined myself externally, I could not figure out what was responsible for the way I was feeling on the inside. In my opinion, I was living the dream even with the presence of some day-to-day challenges that life presented.

I knew that I was dealing with my share of disappointment from some people around me and still had some residue of emotions from a long-term relationship that ended without closure. I knew that I was going through a difficult time emotionally but nothing I was dealing with at the time warranted the darkness I was feeling inside of me. I found myself often needing to gasp for air to avoid choking and at times, managing my emotions was almost impossible – I resorted to crying.

I experienced anxiety; I felt afraid sometimes and worried a lot. I could not stay happy and always craving for something exciting to help me escape from the cave I was in. After battling with this for a little while, my symptoms began to worsen. I was not just feeling desperate and distracted but I started feeling a lack of purpose in life. I started loosing my desire to engage in fun activities. Most of the time, I looked for opportunities to be alone so I could cry to comfort myself.

My symptoms led me to the path of self-diagnosis. I was convinced that I was suffering from depression. Wait!. Did I just mention depression?. How did I even arrive at that? A girl born and raised in Africa; in a society where most of us are taught that whatever happens to us in life is God’s will for us?. How in the world could I blame my ailment to depression and not first consider if God had anything to do with it?

Anyway, to prove that I was not insane, I visited the doctor hoping he could confirm my assumption. I would admit that I was more confused when I left the presence of the doctor than before I went in to see him. He spent some time talking to me about the symptoms that I was feeling but the more I tried to express myself; the more puzzled his countenance got. After few attempts to make sense of what I was describing, he simply said “Ms. Badjan, I will prescribe some anxiety medication for you to help you sleep better and manage the episodes however; I would like for you to return for a follow up if the symptoms persist or worsen”. I think my visage and body language somewhat sent a signal to him that I was not satisfied with his conclusion. So he felt a need to add: “to tell you honestly, I really cannot put my finger on what is going on with you today based on your description. With that said, my recommendation for today is to try a couple of medications and regroup three weeks from now if needed to discuss next steps”. I left his office very dissatisfied and disappointed. I knew I was suffering from depression, how can he not recognize it as a trained professional? It is interesting as I look back today that I was more frustrated with the doctor than with myself.

In the midst of that tumult and chaos, a friend of mine whom I met at work decided to talk with me about “giving my life to God” so I could receive salvation. The first thought that occurred to me was definitely that she needed to visit my doctor because she was not making any sense at all. I was already a Christian and she knew it. I was born and raised in the Church and very regular in my attendance. I had shared with her my level of commitment to the different groups in the Church. I prayed religiously and knew that I believed in God. “So what was she talking about?”, I asked myself over and again. I felt insulted, I felt that I was being judged by someone who thought she had arrived and was “righteous”. Her invitation to salvation was very offensive to me so needless to say, I made the decision to keep my distance and never entertain the conversation around God, religion and faith.

I would admit that this friend had wisdom!. She evaluated my reaction and decided that she would refrain from the invitation but continue to show love, listen patiently to my griping, and serve as a voice of reasoning when I got irrational about circumstances.  Then, she started sharing some familiar bible stories but explained them in a way that I was able to relate to them. I gradually went from a position of resistance to her Christian philosophy to longing for those learning moments. I started craving for more and because of my curious nature, I started to read the same stories she shared with me on my own. Then I began to gravitate towards an idea that occurred to me. I decided that since the stories helped me to manage my episodes better, I would just spend time reading for comfort.

One day, I was awakened from sleep at an odd hour of the night. At first I panicked that maybe I was going to have those feelings of fear, loneliness or anxiety again. I was surprised this time; this was a moment for self-exploration and deep meditation. In my reflection, I thought: “maybe I am not depressed after all. Maybe I am just longing for something I am missing. Maybe my friend is right. Yes I am a Christian but I don’t have a personal relationship with God. Maybe I need to consider her proposal. Maybe I should give it a try”. Needless to say, when I arrived to work the next morning, I shared my decision to consider her proposal. A few days later, we went to a Church service together and that was the beginning of a turn around for me. I watched others in the congregation in amazement and processed every word that was being uttered. At the end of the service, when the altar call was made, I hesitantly walked to the front to accept the invitation to salvation.

The step I had taken to respond to the voice of God that was calling me ushered me into a new phase in my life’s journey. With time spent reading the word, listening to messages of preaching of the word of God, praying and attending bible classes, I began to gain more in-depth understanding of my Christian faith. The vague thoughts of emptiness I felt started to dissipate. My decision to give my life to God and surrender to His will led me to a place of security.   I began to experience the scripture found in the book of Hebrews which states: For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires”. Hebrews 4:12 (NLT).

Several years into this journey of faith, I now understand that what I was feeling was spiritual emptiness. I have come to realize that emptiness is not an easy emotion to describe especially if it has anything to do with God’s absence in one’s life.  Even though I would admit that depression does exist and needs to be treated medically; my case was different. I was not suffering from depression rather I was going through ‘repression’. I am just grateful that God prevented the doctor from pronouncing a condition over my life and even more grateful that I had not taken any of the medication prescribed. Looking back at the past through the windows of my heart, I can see that I had adopted and accepted the weight of the world which prevented me from receiving the grace that God had in store for me. Yes, I was a regular Church goer and a devout Christian in my opinion yet, I lacked a personal relationship and trust in God. I was living my life according to the world’s standard which pushed me out of alignment so I could not experience the peace of God and the fruitfulness that comes with living in obedience.

Today, I understand the difference between happiness (an emotion) and Joy (an experience). Entrusting my life to God does not mean that I am free from trouble rather; it just means that I have weapons (the word of God, prayer, faith) to fight what comes against me. I feel like life is a constant battle however; it is comforting to know that I am not walking alone. And yes, I do not know what tomorrow holds for me, but I know who holds my tomorrow. It is so comforting to know that when we surrender to God, we are assured love and protection.  His grace, which is sufficient for us, allows us to smile in the midst of the storm. God has you in the palm of His hand. We should just let go of our desire to be in control, He is in control.

You would agree with me that we are all created for something and God’s desire for us is to see us flourish and walk in purpose. I do not know what season you are in, but I know that God is in the midst of the season. I invite you to take a deeper walk with God. I want to leave you with an empowering scripture to help facilitative your transition into a place of solace. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight”. Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV).

Connecting to the Heavenly Signal

Saturday, 13 February 2016 21:16

“Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him”. John 9:31 (NKJV).

For a while, I always understood “worshiper of God” in this scripture as a believer in God but when I started reading the different versions of the same scripture, it helped me to understand “worshiper” in its correct context. I believe that I got a clearer understanding of what worshiping God means when I read the same scripture in the MSG version which states: “It’s well known that God isn’t at the beck and call of sinners, but listens carefully to anyone who lives in reverence and does his will”.

After careful meditation on this scripture coupled with all the other teachings I have been blessed to receive about the subject of worship, I came to an understanding that worship is not something we do when we are in a good mood, want to thank God for the good things happening in our lives or just when we feel like it, but rather, it is something we are supposed to do as children of God to show our “honor & respect” to our father and creator.

While worship is an act of honor to God, I have also come to understand that worship in general is a pathway to ‘connecting us to the signal’ of God. Even though I know that worship has several purposes and principles some of which I am yet to discover, I believe that it brings us to a place of relationship with God – a place where we experience his physical touch in our lives. In the same token, I absolutely understand that your view may be different from mine but I humbly invite you to journey with me in my discovery of three natural perks that we experience when we become ‘worshipers’ of our God. First, our worship brings restoration - return of lost blessings, strength, protection, glory, hope and the list goes on. Secondly, it moves the hand of God to bring solutions to problems we are faced with so we can move into a season of empowerment, peace, rejuvenation, connection and the list goes on. Thirdly, it causes us to walk in the wisdom of God which ushers in revelation – exposure of the enemy, conspiracies, attacks, spiritual embargoes and the list goes on. To buttress my point of view, I want to share just three scriptures that I have been studying very closely in this season.

The story of David in 2 Samuel 12 revealed that when David’s son whom was birth by Bathsheba (the former wife of Uriah the Gittite whom David plotted to be killed) died, David went into the house and worshipped the Lord. He had fasted, prayed and cried while the child was sick but once he died, he decided to worship God in such a moment of distraught. Just like David’s advisors, I was baffled too when I reflected on his action but my opinion does not matter. The man we are speaking about (David) is a true worshipper and knows exactly how to tap into God’s signal. Sure enough, David’s attitude of gratitude to worship in the most challenging time when he had all reason to blame God for the death of his son touched the heart of God. Soon after, God blessed him with another son – Solomon whose God-given name (Jedidiah) meant “beloved of the Lord”. As the story of Solomon unfolded later in scripture, we learn that this son of David (who came partly as a result of David’s reverence to God) became one (if not the) wisest and wealthiest man in in his era. You can agree with me that God giving Solomon and all the blessings that were tied to his name was a total restoration of what David had lost in that season.

Then comes another significant episode in the book of 2 Chronicles 20 in which King Jehoshaphat was faced with the Ammonites, Moabites and some of the Meunites who came together to wage war against him and his people (the Israelites). When they received news that the enemies were advancing towards them, the Israelites from every town gathered together to seek help from the Lord. Jehoshaphat led them in the prayer and the manner in which he prayed, moved God to release His spirit to come upon one of the men in the assembly who spoke as the Lord commanded. The word that came reassured them that God had promised that He will fight the enemies on their behalf. The Israelites were commanded by God to go out to the battle, take their positions, stand firm and see the deliverance of the Lord. After such declaration of victory, the Israelites led by Jehoshaphat bowed their faces to the ground and worshipped the Lord continuously even in singing and praising with very loud voices.

On the day of battle Jehoshaphat came and reminded them to have faith in God and to connect them to the signal of their deliverer, he appointed men to ‘worship’ the Lord in singing and praising – giving thanks to the Lord. When the worship reached its peak, the Lord was moved to set ambushes against the enemies and they were defeated. The power of God was so strong upon the enemies that they turned against themselves fighting each other until none of them remained standing – they were all dead. After all was said and done, Jehoshaphat and his people returned to Jerusalem and went straight to the temple to continue to worship the Lord. God’s response to their worship (destruction of the enemies) caused fear to fall upon all the surrounding Kingdoms. They were all intimidated by the Israelites which meant that none of them even dared to wage war against God’s chosen people. Their worship connected them to God’s signal which in turn caused them to experience peace in their realm because everyone around them could see the hand of God was upon them.

Finally, I want to examine the story of the wise men in the book of Mathew 2 which states that when Jesus birth was announced by the wise men that came from the east to Herod with the title ‘King of the Jews’ attached to his name, Herod the King got troubled and all of Jerusalem with him. Herod in his effort to locate Jesus so he could destroy him called all the priests and scribes together to obtain information about the whereabouts of Jesus. Once he was informed that Jesus was in Bethlehem of Judea, he secretly called the wise men and gave them instructions to report back to him when they locate Jesus so he could also go and “worship” him. The wise men did find Jesus and when they came before the little baby in the manger, they immediately fell down and worshiped him. They took their worship of the savior further by presenting him with gifts of the most valuable kind: gold, frankincense and myrrh. When they fell asleep that night, God appeared to them in a dream warned them not to go back to Herod. Thus, their worship did not only move God to reveal Herod’s secret to them but also increased their wisdom to make a decision to go back to their country a different way – completely avoiding the path of Herod.

Now in the event you are wondering why I choose to the subject of worship over any other topic, it is because the season we are in calls for the reminder to connect with God. It is not a coincidence that the season we are in is supposed to be that of rejoicing, thankfulness, counting of blessings, experiencing abundance, making future plans and the list goes on also happens to be the season when depression, feelings of loneliness and life-destructive activities set in. We have to recognize that man’s enemy (Satan) does not have the ability to create anything rather; the enemy replicates what is already existing, what is meant for good gets manipulated to turn it to evil.

Since we know the plans of the enemy, now more than ever, we need to recognize the power that we carry as beings created in God’s own image. We have to remember the scripture which states that “Death and life are in the power of the tongue………….” Proverbs 18:21 (KJV). We have to be careful to choose to speak life over every situation and most especially, over our emotions, thoughts and relationships in this season.

This is the season to use our weapon of worship against the enemy because believe it or not, our worship confuses the enemy and weakens his plans. Our attitude of gratitude expressed through worship opens up our spirit being to connect with God in the spirit realm. Our worship can cause us to see our trials and tests as opportunities for personal and spiritual growth.

Apostle John’s vision of the throne of God in Revelation 4:8-11 confirms that worship is an all day and every day activity in heaven. The angels he saw in the vision sang of God’s holiness, power and might without ever ceasing. Even the elders fall down before God in his glory continuously uttering “…for you have created all things, and for your pleasure they are and were created”. We belong to God and since worship is his “pleasure” as seen by Apostle John, we should all worship him continually to connect to his signal in the heavenly realm.

I urge you to ignite your worship especially in this season. If you have survived another year above all odds, then you have victory over the enemy. Despite the truth that you may have been in the spiritual battlefield all year round, you are still on the winning side. It does not matter what is going on in your life, worship unlocks the opportunity to connect to our power source – let us worship the Lord!