Verse for the week

Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High, and call on me in the day of trouble. I will deliver you and you will honor me. Psalms 50: 14-15.

I love this verse from Psalms 50. It reminds me not to complicate my relationship with God. So often we get into performance based relationship with God where we want to show Him how good we are and how much we’ve done. The Israelites had gotten into a sort of performance based sacrificing but God says in verse 9: I have no need of a bull from your stall. Do I eat the flesh of bulls?

In one of Jesus’ encounters, someone once asked Him, Teacher, what should we do that we may do the works of God? And Jesus answer was simple: Believe on the one whom He sent. God does not demand so much from us. He simply wants us to be thankful, fulfill our vows to Him, which I translate as being people of integrity who do what we say, and finally, in the day of trouble, call on Him. Simple formula.

Growing through difficulty

One thing we have to realize is that God is not going to deliver us from every difficulty. He is not going to keep us from every challenge. If He did, we would never grow. The Scripture says, “Our faith is tried in the fire of affliction.” When you’re in a tough time, that’s an opportunity for your faith to shine. Anybody can get negative and bitter, blame God, or lose their passion. That’s easy.

But if you want to pass the test, if you want God to take you to a new level, you cannot be a weakling. You have to be a warrior. Dig your heels in and say as the apostle Paul, “I can handle it. I’m ready for it. I’m equal to it. I know God is still on the throne. He is fighting my battles, and on the other side of this difficulty is a new level of my destiny!”

Credit: Joel Osteen

God’s goodness running after me

I’ve had this song on replay lately and it includes the lyrics that your goodness is running after me and at some point I was tempted to feel like, well, that’s not true in my life though. Then I attended a bible study that reminded me of the caveat on this statement, which is that you have to keep God first in your life.

God is a good God of blessings but He is also a jealous God and a loving God. He doesn’t want to just load us with blessings that unfortunately then become a stumbling block for us to where our hearts are now set on the blessing rather than Him.

Jesus cautions us in the parable of the sower that pursuit of worldly cares and wealth can become thorns that choke the fruit of God’s word in our life. This is why we have to go through difficult times in our life every now and then. It builds up our character and refocuses us on what’s important.

The life we live on this earth is so fleeting. David in Psalms 39:6 says Surely everyone goes around like a mere phantom. In vain they rush about, heaping up wealth without knowing whose it will finally be.

I get worried especially in this age of voluntary yet compulsory vaccination where people are literally getting fired for refusing the jab, and I know I’m wading into a hornet’s nest here. People are giving up their good health for some temporary gain which is their job or some travel or some such thing.

The bible warns us not to rely on man but God. Isaiah 31 warns the Israelites who were relying on Egypt to win a war that it would be no help to them and that in the end those who help will stumble, those who are helped will fall; all will perish together. (Isaiah 31:3)

So we have, unfortunately, people taking the vaccine for their job then they still get fired because they get so sick that they can’t do the work. I read a sad story of an athlete who took the jab to go for the Olympics but once they arrived there, she tested positive for covid and so still could not participate.

My brothers and sisters, keep God first in your life and He will come through for you. Then you will see His goodness running after you.

You can’t win a person

That’s all folks! Lol!

But seriously, this is the fundamental lesson I have learnt so far in 2021. And I have learnt it by following the misadventures of one Clare Crawley. And who is Clare? Well, for those of you who don’t know, Clare was the bachelorette on the last season of the American bachelorette show, who did not finish her season because she fell head over heels for one contestant, Dale Moss, who is one super good looking guy if I do say so myself.

So in the words of Chris Harrison, the longtime host of the show, she ‘blew up’ the bachelorette’s carefully programmed formula, and left after about 3 or 4 weeks with her beau. Well, guess what? They have now broken up amid some scandal over whether did Dale cheat on Clare or not? I’ve always been suspicious of very good looking guys.

What has also been blown up or made very clear to me, is that the basic premise of this show where you supposedly ‘win’ yourself a husband or wife or true love or whatever, is flawed at it’s very root. Love can only be given under conditions of freedom. All the rules and close monitoring and games played by producers to give us viewers an entertaining show, cannot produce love, let alone any type of healthy relationship.

I much prefer another show of the same genre on Netflix, Love is Blind. The premise of this show is that the contestants can only talk to each other through a wall until they mutually make a decision that they feel a connection, at which point they must get engaged in order to meet face to face. I like the whole talking through a wall until a connection is made, but of course the producers had to put in a twist where the couple must get engaged, which is purely for entertainment purposes. I do not think it helps the couple at all.

However, in the first season of the Love is Blind show, they successfully hooked up about six couples. Two went ahead to get married and are still married to this day, two couples are still dating, and two of the couples broke up. I’ve not done the math but one season of Love is Blind compared to maybe 30 seasons of the Bachelor and Bachelorette. Love is Blind definitely has the better formula and better success rate.

So that’s all folks! You can win a billion dollars but you cannot win a person. I hope you’re all having a better 2021 than Clare.

When things look hopeless

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.”
(Habakkuk 3:17-18, NIV)

The prophet Habakkuk knew what to do when things seemed completely hopeless. When he wrote this verse, his world was literally falling apart. He had nothing. Things seemed destitute. So what did Habakkuk do? He rejoiced and praised the Lord in spite of everything. He knew that God was bigger than His problems, and He already had a way to get Him out of those circumstances. Habakkuk was looking beyond His problems to what God could do in His life.

Let’s follow Habakkuk’s example. When something bad happens to you, thank God — not because you’re suffering, but because you know He has the answer. When things look hopeless, praise Him because He will bring hope to your circumstances.

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All in God’s timing

The world is a fast, go-go place where people want things “my way, in my time, and for my life.” Many people think that the world will give them what they are trying to get and it’s up to them to take what they want. But that’s simply not true. Yes, you are called to action and you must go out there and live life, but God has blessings for you that He wants you to be patient and wait on.

You can plan your whole life all the way to the end but the Bible says that the Lord determines your steps, not you. Give yourself over to Him and be patient and wait upon the Lord and His blessings.

Credit: Joel Osteen

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God’s not fair

I recently listened to a podcast where a woman was talking about how she works with at risk youth and how these are youth who grew up with disadvantaged backgrounds like poverty, broken homes and the like. And it got me thinking how unfortunate that those who started off badly through no fault of their own now have a lesser chance of doing well in life and it then becomes a vicious cycle.

Then I realized that I had fallen into a trap we all fall into of listening to conventional wisdom from the world and swallowing it hook, line and sinker. The bible tell us that the race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong but time and chance happen to them all. That means even if you came from a so called disadvantaged back ground, God has an opportunity waiting for you to help you catch up and overtake all those who came from so called advantaged backgrounds.

It reminds me of a story I heard of a young man who attended a school where he was tested and for some reason they said he tested below average and therefore put him in a special class and gave him some kind of label, like slow or something. And so he would say to himself, “Well ‘m slow. The experts said so, so it must be so.” So he never did well in school. At some point his family moved to a new area and he had to change schools and here when they tested him he tested at genius level and they could not understand why he did not do well in class. On hearing that he was now a genius can you guess what happened? Yes, he started doing very well in school, made it to college and his whole life trajectory was changed.

I know a lady who was getting up to 40 years old and was still single and starting to give up that she would ever meet someone and get married. Her friends at that time said to her that she had a better chance of being struck by lightning than meeting someone and she should just go ahead and get a baby on her own before it was too late. But she thought about it and decided to rely on God and whatever happens happens. At the age of 41 she was ‘struck by lightning’ in the words of her friends and she met her husband and even though she had to go through fertility treatments, she got two beautiful children and is happily married.

So be careful whenever you hear facts and conventional wisdom being thrown around that want to put you down and make you give up. Instead, rely on God who is not fair. He will tilt the scales in your favor and catapult you forward into your blessing.

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Remain

In life we all have ups and downs. There are seasons that are more difficult than others, seasons of testing, trials and temptation where our character is being developed and our faith in God is being strengthened. Sometimes it can feel like you’re taking two steps forward and three steps back. If we’re not careful we start to feel like life is always going to be this way. Even in the strong seasons you’ll start looking for things to go wrong.

God doesn’t want us to be living life like a roller coaster. He wants to bring us to place of stability where we remain strong in Him. Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. If you abide in me you will bear much fruit and your fruit will remain.” The word remain means to be fixed, immovable, not affected by circumstances.

If you’ll just keep abiding in Him, just keep meditating on His word, He’ll bring you through, He’ll make you strong. He’ll keep you stable and you’ll keep moving forward into the life of blessing He has prepared for you.

Credit: Joel Osteen

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Through the wilderness by the Spirit

In our Christian life we must pass through dry seasons, seasons of testing, where we pass through difficulties. You know that if Jesus went through a wilderness season, you are not going to escape one. It is ordained. Note that the bible tells us Jesus was driven into the wilderness by the Spirit. (Mark 1:12) Yes, driven by the Spirit. So stop trying to figure out what you did wrong to be going through a dry season. Stop repenting, blaming people and other such stuff. It is ordained. It is necessary to mature your character, to prove that your reliance is on God and not on anything else. It is so important for you and important to God that you realize that He is able, He is faithful. He is the one who will do it in your life and not anyone else.

 Matthew 6:33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

To rely on yourself or fellow humans is pure folly. See what God has to say about relying on people:

Isaiah 2:22 Stop trusting in mere humans who have but a breath in their nostrils.  Why hold them in esteem?

Isaiah 8:19 When someone tells you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living?

While you are undergoing this wilderness period, you will go through trials where you need water to drink because in the wilderness after all there is no water. And there will be people who will come along and offer you this water (job, contract, money, child, relationship, love, respect, whatever thing you desire) but procured through questionable means, and your spirit will be troubled. You will know that this is not of God and you should not accept it. But you are so thirsty! Do you die of thirst or drink this water available here and now, though you do not know of its origins and whether or not it will kill you? Or perhaps you have to enter into certain agreements in order to obtain it. Jesus while in the wilderness was offered everything He desired by the devil with a simple proviso: that He should worship the devil.

You see, the wilderness experience and building of character is not only about listening for and doing the will of God, but also about knowing what is not the voice of God, what are not the ways of God. Psalms 1 describes to us the virtues of a righteous man. It does not start with what he does, but what he does not do. He walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, does not stand in the path of sinners or sit in the seat of the scornful. (NKJV)

I am not hesitant to call myself a mature Christian now as I used to be, because I have in the last few years been going through what I can only call trial by fire, to the point I now understand what Job meant when he asked God to just avert His eyes from him for a while. Like enough already.

So being a mature Christian, I can say I have seen people in the church who do, or seem to do, all that a good Christian is supposed to do. They go to church faithfully, maybe even attend a bible study, give their money where it’s needed, etc. But at the same time when you deal with them, you come to realize they operate in very worldly and manipulative ways in their lives, trying to ensure they get where they need to, in their relationships, businesses, careers, etc. So they appear to walk in the right ways, but at the same time fail to walk not in the paths that they shouldn’t. Because if you don’t look out for yourself in this big bad world then who will, right? Going through the wilderness will really expose your life values, whether you rely on God or not.

I love this verse from Jeremiah that I feel sums up our ultimate aim in life as told by God Himself. That our ultimate aim is to get to know God. Not to obtain wealth, or even wisdom, as desirable as that may be. But to be able to say, I know God. I know His ways. This is Him here, and this here is not Him.

Jeremiah 9: 23,24 Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, Let not the mighty man glory in his might, Nor let the rich man glory in his riches; But let him who glories glory in this. That he understands and knows Me, That I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight,” says the Lord.

Jesus said that His sheep know Him and they hear His voice and another they will not follow. When you get to this point, then your life becomes simple and you can receive all the blessings that God has for you.

The wilderness also has another role in your life which is to humble you. After you have gone through difficult experiences and you had no option but to wait on God to fix these things in your life, then you know that you are not the one responsible for success in your life. Only God is. So that you may not get to the point where you say to yourself that “My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.” (Deuteronomy 8:17) God says this several times to the Israelites after they have passed through the wilderness and are about to get into the promised land.

Deuteronomy 8: 2,3 And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.

Isn’t it interesting that the verse that Jesus quoted while undergoing His test in the wilderness (man shall not live by bread alone) was from God’s words to the Israelites in the wilderness? The lesson is the same for the Israelites as it was for Jesus as it is for us. So do not be discouraged when going through a wilderness season. God, being the good Father that He is, is building up your character, teaching you to rely on Him, to look to Him and only Him. The tests are for your good, to do you good in the end. He is faithful and will come through for you.

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Corporations should be about more than just making money

I was intrigued to see this article in The Atlantic talking about how a group of CEOs have changed their mind about what the purpose of a corporation is. Previously it was taken to be strictly to maximize profits for shareholders but they have now broadened this scope to recognize that there are other stakeholders who ought not to be ignored including employees, customers, suppliers and citizens at large.

The only reason I noticed this article is because I remember being in college and having to do a course in principles and practices of management and I just could not seem to get the principles into my head. I failed the unit twice and finally the only way I passed was by paying for intensive revision classes and just cramming that information into my brain.

Some of that information, I clearly remember, included this theory on how a company’s main aim is to maximize shareholders returns. At that time being a young student who had never owned a single share in a company, this idea was completely abstract to me and did not make any sense. I would have thought at that time that the aim of say the milk company was to get some good, wholesome milk to me and the car company to get a nice looking, safe car to me.

So when I saw this article I almost felt validated that probably the reason I couldn’t understand the theories is because they were a bit off, as this group of CEOs has now recognized. There’s a lot of stuff going on in the corporate world that has led to this change of mind. For example, the companies that are now being sued in various states in the US as having contributed to the opioid crisis. They maximized their shareholders profits but at what cost? Many lost and destroyed lives and families. There are also companies like Amazon that have been under fire for underpaying their workers and having a hostile work environment.

The responsibility of companies to the environment is now widely recognized and measures have been put in place to keep track of things like carbon emissions. Here in Kenya we have recently had companies being shut down for discharging toxic waste into the Nairobi river following an expose report. I recognized one of the names of the companies as they sell a popular brand of milk that I normally buy, and now I’m rethinking the milk brand that I buy.

Another practice that has become common recently is the practice for companies with excess funds to buy back their shares from the open market, known as a stock buy back, which I just do not understand. I would think a company with excess funds would be reinvesting in their capacity, expanding to new markets or maybe pay their employees a bonus.

I am reading a book right now that advances the idea that no dividends should be paid out to shareholders when suppliers are still owed money. Otherwise you find companies failing and filing bankruptcy and suppliers lose out, but this same company has been paying dividends all through out. The buying back of shares by the way is usually tied to senior management remuneration which is often tied to the share price. Buying back of shares tends to drive up the share price so the CEOs get a healthy pay package, but isn’t this a pretty short sighted practice?

This group of CEOs is right in recognizing that the responsibility of a company lies beyond simply making profits to the exclusion of everything else. Socially responsible companies lead to healthier societies.