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Friday, August 14, 2015

Guard your heart

Yes, I know it looks like the same topic covered in my last post ‘Set your heart’, but I promise you it’s not. There’s a big difference. Big difference! If the Lord didn’t show me this, I wouldn’t have really thought about it much myself. So please bear with me, sis. Bear with me! I believe God will help you see also.

In my last post I had shared how I was assailed by a litany of bad news over a very short period, right? Well, one of the things I didn’t mention was that I had received a text announcing the obituary of someone and thereafter inviting me to his funeral. The name rang no immediate bells and so I honestly didn’t give it much thought. I am constantly getting notifications of births, deaths, weddings, christenings and the like from complete strangers. I don’t understand it, but I have reasoned that many people simply use the ‘send to all’ messaging functions on their phones so as to be sure they don’t leave out notifying someone who might otherwise later be offended. The challenge though is that those random people whose numbers might have been stored after a chance or one-off meeting, or who the person might have had dealings with forever-ago, are then also recipients of these bulk sms notices. I’m used to this so I didn’t give it a second thought.

A few days later however, I suddenly remembered that I do have two friends – albeit business related, who have the same surname as was indicated in the message. Much as I couldn’t imagine anything would be amiss with any of them, I called one up. No, she hadn’t lost anyone. ‘Whew!’ I thought and then tried the other lady. She didn’t respond and I purposed to repeat my call the next day. In my busyness though, I completely forgot. A couple of days later, I was composing a message to broadcast via whatsapp and as I selected contacts, I came to her name. The first few words on her status made me stop cold. I couldn’t read it. I was too scared to think what the rest of it would be. I shut off my phone. Cowardly, I admit… but I wasn’t ready for what the reality might be. Not again… not in so short a time. No!

The next day I needed to drop my daughter off at her friend’s place. As I drove into the estate, I saw an obituary pasted by the gate. It took everything in me to drive up to a point where I could pull off the road safely. I wasn’t strong enough so I asked my daughter to please check my whatsapp contacts for her name, and then read her status to me in full. You can’t hide from reality, and clearly I was going to have to face this one. As my daughter read the message, hot tears poured down my face. Another first son… 27 years old…dead in his prime! How? Why? I don’t know how I made the drive home. But I did! God helping me, I did! When I spoke to her, it was all the more so confusing. The young man went to bed in perfect health. He was found gasping for breath the next morning… and no, he wasn’t asthmatic…. He never made it to the hospital. It made no sense! When my first son walked into my room to say welcome, it took everything in me not to hang on to him so tight as to make him wonder. I know he is sensitive like that! Also, I had determined not to fear! I was not going to fear.

If that wasn’t enough sis, just yesterday a sister of mine told me that the co-pilot of an helicopter that crashed into the lagoon a couple of days back, was the only son of a friend. She was beside herself! Another first son? This time an only son….26 years old? How does a mother deal with the death of any child? How does a mother deal with the death of an only daughter, or an only son?
Sis, what I said to my sister is what I believe God wants me to share with you today. In my last post, we talked about the Scripture that enjoins us “Set your heart to see with your eyes and hear with your ears all that I say to you….: Ezekiel 44 v 5 (AMP); but today my message to you is that you must not only set your heart, but you must also guard it. I will explain.

As I sat and cried in my car after hearing my daughter’s voice confirm what I really already knew, I was honest enough to myself to admit that fear was trying to lay a grip on my heart. I knew I had a choice to give in, or to rise up in faith. I made a deliberate choice to work my faith, to push back at my fear, and to trust that God has got my back...no matter what. I went into praise mode. I spent time in worship. I remembered something one of the ministers at ROTH 2015 conference had said. A widow herself, she was talking about how the enemy tries to come and use your grief to steal your focus on God, to twist your perspectives. She said God had said to her, ‘Be careful how you mourn. How you mourn would either draw people away from me or draw them towards me’. At one point she said, ‘Even if you lost a child, be careful how you mourn. Even the devil knows you don’t need that child to get into heaven’. Hard word, sis! Hard! But she is so right! Ultimately, even in our pain, we cannot allow ourselves get into the place where we sin against God with our mouths, with our hearts; where we abandon Him, abandon our faith. You see, the child that has gone will be with God in heaven…. And we who are left behind must guard our hearts in spite of the pain, so that we can stay anchored firmly in Christ and ensure we make it to heaven ourselves. Hmm! Hard truth! But truth nonetheless!

Sis, as I worshipped, the Holy Spirit reminded me of something. He reminded me that as I approached my 42nd birthday some years back, something happened. My birth month is March. On the 2nd of January that year, a friend died. She was the mother of my daughter’s best friend. It took the wind out of my sails. Between that date and a couple of weeks to my birthday, three other people I knew died. Each of them was 42 years old. And the enemy began to say to me that I would die on or before my birthday. And he didn’t make it threatening. Oh no! he was quite…almost compassionate sounding, and very persistent. he told me that I had had a good run anyway, that my children would never forget me, that I had put enough in them to make them successful in life, but it was time to go and go  I must, yada yada yada. It was a slow calculating chipping away at my heart. And it was almost working… but God!

Yes sis, ‘But God’ is the greatest of miracles, and the best of places…that of divine interventions. It resolves a multitude of things. But God… in His infinite love and mercy spoke and said to me very simply ‘You know my voice Audrey and the voice of another, you will not heed. You will not die until I choose to call you’. I began to laugh then. I laughed myself into worship, and then I worshiped my way into laughter. It was an awesome experience sis. I realized I had made the choice to stand on the faith in my heart, and not the ‘fate’ the enemy wanted my eyes to ‘see’. I counseled myself and I allowed the Holy Spirit minister to me. My life is in His hands. He alone knows my times and seasons and the number of my days. In this place, I set up guard around my heart, and I literally would talk to the enemy and laugh at him. I reminded the devil that several 42 year olds' across the world died every day and the fact that I happened to know four of them did not add up to me dying also. I boldly declared that I would only die when the Lord called me back to Him – just as the Lord assured me; and I said to myself that given that no man knows the day appointed to him to die, I would live my every day to the fullest and for the glory of God…not in fear. Certainly not in fear! And I won that battle sis, I did!

As the Holy Spirit brought this to my remembrance this time around, I set up guard again around my heart, and this is something we must do time and again, sis. I am convinced the power of the Holy Spirit that flowed in my heart made it too hot for the enemy to handle and he let go completely. After my sister shared with me that she’d been so frightened that she had immediately called her own son who is close in age to the co-pilot that just died, I shared this testimony with her. I counseled that we must guard our hearts so that the enemy does not set up camp and fear take root. Because you see, once fear takes root, we are paralyzed and we are easy prey. Once fear has taken root, it is really hard to set your heart to see or hear God, and in no time at all, even the word that is within you will gradually become of no effect as your faith fails completely.

So sis, today I simply want to tell you that beyond setting your heart on the things of God, you must guard that which you have attained, so that the enemy does not steal your peace and derail your destiny. Setting your heart on God is the ‘easier’ part of the journey. Guarding your heart requires you to be battle-ready… it requires serious contending against all the wiles and fiery darts the enemy will throw at you. Guarding your heart is you continually adopting a determined ‘the violent take it by force’ stance! It is a determination to stand firmly on the things you have set your heart on; to stand firmly on the word that backs those things with power; and most importantly to stand firmly …no matter what, in the God that is that Word and Power!

Do you see it sis? I pray the Lord will give you clarity in Jesus name. If there are many painful or negative occurrences around you that have been opening the door for fear to slowly tighten its demonic grip around your heart; I pray that something in what I have said here will minister life and freedom back to you sis. Trust that God has got your back. Trust Him sis! Trusting God is critical to guarding your heart. Give no room to the devil and he will flee from you. he will!  This is God’s word, and I am standing firmly on it because I have seen it to be true in my life.

Sis, I pray the Holy Spirit will help you as He has helped me. This life? We shall live it only for His glory sis! Only for His glory! Whatever God brings our way, whatever He allows to pass, He will also give us grace and strength to carry. Knowing this, we should rest in His omnipotence, sis. Fear never solved anything anyway. But keeping our eyes on Jesus, setting our hearts to see and hear Him alone, and then guarding our hearts with all diligence….this seems to me like what Heaven expects of us, sis. And this sounds to me like a truly restful and peaceful life. He is with us, even unto the end of the age. And He is the Mighty Warrior, the Lord of Hosts. He fights with us and for us sis, so we are not in this alone. As you purpose to continually guard your heart, remember also that He Who said He is a wall of fire around us, is also the glory in the midst of us. It is so well with you sis, even as it is so well with me.  

Be blessed sis…. For you surely are!


Saturday, August 1, 2015

Set your heart

Oh, but time sure flies doesn’t it! I can hardly believe it’s been a month since my last post. I can tell you that I take comfort in hearing everyone else around me asking where the month of July went – not to mention how quickly 2015 itself is going by. Before I get into sharing what is on my heart today, I would like to ask you to do something for me please. Could you read the book of Colossians? Yes sis, the entire book. Its only 4 chapters long, but if you would allow God use it to minister to you, there is so much ‘meat’ to this short book of the Bible. You will find so much comfort and validation in Colossians. When God asked me to read it this morning, I pushed back a bit, telling Him that I had studied it a little earlier this year. But God always knows best doesn’t He? In response to His insistence, I read the entire book again and I can tell you that the things He ministered afresh to me so blessed me that I have purposed to read Colossians from start to finish on the first day of every new month, God helping me. I pray that as you purpose to meditate on this portion of Scripture, that God will reveal Himself afresh to you, and that He will reveal ‘You’ to you in a new and deeper way, in Jesus name, Amen.

I stumbled across Ezekiel 44 v 5 today. I say stumbled because with certainty I can say that I have read this scripture before several times as part of my study of the book of Ezekiel. Why it hit me the way it did today was subsequently made clear and this is what I want to share with you. Ezekiel 44 v 5 (AMP) reads “Set your heart to see with your eyes and hear with your ears all that I say to you….:

The words ‘Set your heart’ kept reverberating in my spirit. I thought about the human anatomy and what the biological linkages were between the heart, the eyes and the ears. I am not a doctor so I can’t readily say I see what that connection is, save for the intricate nerves and sensors that connect every part of our body to the brain. From an absolute layman perspective – devoid of any need for scientific research lol, I can tell you that the heart has no eyes and neither does it have ears. So when God’s Word is saying to set your heart to see with your eyes and hear with your ears what He is speaking, the biological and the physical have no place in gaining the right understanding. Not really!

I realized that this Scripture is connected to Proverbs 4 v 23 which tells us to “Guard our hearts with all diligence for out of it are the issues of life”. Simply put therefore, what we see and what we hear are conditioned by the state of our hearts. And sis, God is very particular about the state of our hearts. You know this right? He more than anyone else understands that once our hearts are wrongly positioned, we are compromised spiritually and all our perspectives will be out of alignment with the workings of His Holy Spirit.

It has been a trying few days for me. I was informed a couple of days ago that one of my former staff, a wonderful young man who served so diligently with us for several years, dropped dead as he went to brush his teeth that morning. Later that same day, one of my most valued staff came to inform me that he would be relocating to another country and as such would be putting in his resignation in a couple of months. I had said to him that much as I appreciated the constraints which led to his decision to relocate, I really didn’t need to hear the news that day as I was already weighed down with sadness over the death of my staff. What did I know sis? The avalanche was just beginning to unfurl.

Just yesterday I found myself at the funeral service of the first son of parents’ who was brutally murdered a few days ago by a young man he opened his home to in an act of simple love and kindness. The grief was almost too much for me, and I couldn’t help but wonder how his parents and siblings were able to go through watching his lifeless body being laid to rest. It was such a senseless death – viewed with the physical eyes of understanding and the things the physical ears heard from the time the news of his death broke. It helped for me to focus on the fact that God was not unaware this would happen and that He had His own purpose even in what appeared senseless to us, but it was really hard to let go of the heaviness in my heart.

This morning started for me with a call from a friend whose daughter’s marriage was crumbling. It was an intense and frustrating series of conversations that I had this morning with both mother and daughter. When the calls were all done, all I could do was sit quietly on my couch in silence, trying to get some rest back into my seriously disquieted spirit. My phone rang again though and this time it was a dear friend calling to inform me that a relative had died. She didn’t have children for the first twenty years of her marriage, and then they were blessed with twin boys. What manifested as a brief episode of pain which she went to hospital to check on turned out to be cancer. In no time, she was whisked into a surgery which she then didn’t survive. Later this same morning, I found out that another friend had lost her first son and the apple of her eye. I was still trying to deal with the reality of this when about an hour later, my husband called to inform me that we had lost the mother of my sister-in-law… the same sister-in-law who herself died early last year leaving four young children – including a new born baby behind.

Sis, can I tell you that I was so shattered by the onslaught of bad news that I could barely make the drive back home. Oh, but it was almost too much for me. Almost too much… but God reminded me ‘Set your heart, Audrey’. I realized quickly that unless I set my heart to see God in the middle of all this, I would only see pain/bad/evil and I would only hear the negative and despondent noises the world makes in this space. Unless I set my heart, I would give in to negativity and to doubt, and ultimately to fear. I wouldn’t be able to ‘see’ God and I certainly wouldn’t be able to ‘hear’ God. And sis, you and I know by now that unless we are fully connected to God and allow Him minister to us always, we cannot make it through the vicissitudes of this life, right?

‘Set you heart, Audrey’…. I did sis, and I have. By the power of the Holy Spirit, I will also be able to do this daily despite the magnitude and constancy of issues that life may throw at me. I have set my heart on the fact that God is good, even where situations and things don’t appear good. I have set my heart on the fact that God works all things out for our good, and that even where I don’t understand or even where it doesn’t seem like it, I know with all certainty that this word is true. My tears, my fears, my insecurities, my anxieties… they do not invalidate the word of God. So I set my heart on the fact that while my flesh may waver, my spirit is sure and rests fully in the goodness of my God in all things and through all things.

I set my heart on the fact that God has shown me His goodness in more ways than I can readily count or recall. I set my heart on the things He has spoken to me that He will do in me, with me, for me and through me. I set my heart on the things He has blessed me to see and to hear through the eyes and ears of the spirit. I set my heart on the truth of the fact that death is a part of life. Indeed we are all born to die, and no one can tell who goes when or why. I set my heart on the confidence that death has no hold over me because I am in Christ, and death is gain for all who are in Christ, painful as the physical loss may be on this side of eternity. I set my heart on God Who asked me to cast my cares upon Him because He does care for me. I set my heart on the God Who loves me with an everlasting love, a love that I cannot begin to comprehend the magnitude of no matter how I try.

Sis, I set my heart on God….and all I see is that He is on the throne and that by His grace I am one of His own. I set my heart on Him and the ears of my spirit only hear ‘Rest in Me, daughter. I am with you always’. I set my heart on God and all is well… no matter what!

I don’t know what your struggles are, sis. Praise God if you have none. If you are in a place though where it seems you are being buffeted by storms on all sides, set your heart aright sis, so that your eyes will see only God and your ears will hear only God. Looking at the physical can be scary and disheartening and focusing on the things your physical ears hear can downright drown you. So take your eyes off all that, sis. Set your heart to God and allow Him minister to you peace, assurance, grace, rest….and there is no better place to be than in the rest of God sis. No better place!

The Lord has surely helped me today and in this season, sis. He will always help. He is the one that says ‘I hear you. I always hear you. And I will answer you’. Trust Him with your heart this season and every day sis. He will help you, as surely as He is helping me.

Be blessed sis….. for you surely are!

About Me

Entrepreneur, Mentor, Wife, Mother, Sister, Friend. A firm believer in God. Walking in faith everyday that by His grace, I will achieve harmony in all areas of my life, and make measurable impact in the lives of other women of the world

WORD FOR THE WEEK

LUKE 1:

34“-How can this be, Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” 35The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the Holy One to be born will be called the Son of God

JEREMIAH 2:

5 Before I formed you in the womb I knew [and] approved of you [as My chosen instrument], and before you were born I separated and set you apart, consecrating you; [and] I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.

6 Then said I, Ah, Lord God! Behold, I cannot speak, for I am only a youth. 7 But the Lord said to me, Say not, I am only a youth; for you shall go to all to whom I shall send you, and whatever I command you, you shall speak.

8 Be not afraid of them [their faces], for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord. 9 Then the Lord put forth His hand and touched my mouth. And the Lord said to me, Behold, I have put My words in your mouth. 10 See, I have this day appointed you to the oversight of the nations and of the kingdoms to root out and pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.

1st CORINTHIANS 1:

25 [This is] because the foolish thing [that has its source in] God is wiser than men, and the weak thing [that springs] from God is stronger than men. 26 For [simply] consider your own call, brethren; not many [of you were considered to be] wise according to human estimates and standards, not many influential and powerful, not many of high and noble birth. 27 [No] for God selected (deliberately chose) what in the world is foolish to put the wise to shame, and what the world calls weak to put the strong to shame. 28 And God also selected (deliberately chose) what in the world is lowborn and insignificant and branded and treated with contempt, even the things that are nothing, that He might depose and bring to nothing the things that are,

Colossians 1:

28 Him we preach and proclaim, warning and admonishing everyone and instructing everyone in all wisdom (comprehensive insight into the ways and purposes of God), that we may present every person mature (full-grown, fully initiated, complete, and perfect) in Christ (the Anointed One).

29 For this I labor [[z]unto weariness], striving with all the superhuman energy which He so mightily enkindles and works within me.