Where Will You Look for Help?

Psalm 121:1-8

A song for pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem.

I look up to the mountains—
does my help come from there?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth!

He will not let you stumble;
the one who watches over you will not slumber.
Indeed, he who watches over Israel
never slumbers or sleeps.

The Lord himself watches over you!
The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade.
The sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon at night.

The Lord keeps you from all harm
and watches over your life.
The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.

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Tonight i was reading a couple of things on the internet when i was led to this particular Psalm. I immediately decided to have it as my next to memorize this week. It left me in awe of Jehovah God. I find encouragement in this psalm. I will literally hold this psalm to my face and proclaim it over my every situation henceforth (i would advise anyone to do the same).

If you’re going through a hard time, this is certainly a psalm you can turn to. It reflects on the source of your help and how God is there for you in your trials.

The psalmist starts out by asking (and answering) where his help comes from. His help–your help, my help–doesn’t come from men, resources, or things accessed in this world. God can certainly work through such means but when we are up against it, God is your help. We wage battles not against flesh but against principalities in the spiritual world. Certainly, the spiritual battle waging around us can manifest in the physical world but we need to know today that God is in control of both worlds and He alone has the power to bring victory into your situation!

Once the psalmist establishes where his help comes from–and now that we can be confident in the same–he points out how God shows up for His people…….banange this got me leaping for joy……

  1. God is always alert.
  2. God always protects me.
  3. God is always with me.

If you’re going through a difficult season, tap into this psalm and lean on God! Blessings!

 

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Follow Your Heart?

 

Follow your heart!

How many times have we heard this? From romantic movies to motivational speakers, they’re all telling us to follow our hearts.

It seems like everywhere you look, someone is urging you to “follow your heart”. Film, TV, music, literature—you name it. “Go with your gut.” “Trust your intuition.” “Do what’s right for you.” “Pursue your dreams.” “Believe in yourself.” It all amounts to pretty much the same thing: “Follow your heart.” Anyone who faces an important decision can’t possibly go wrong, it seems, if only they’d just follow their heart.

But is this really good advice? More importantly, is it biblical?

Absolutely not.

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I’m sure some people offer this advice because they just don’t know what else to say and they figure you can never go wrong with such a platitude. But it’s deeper than that. Seen within the bigger picture, the unrelenting advice to “follow your heart” is part of our culture’s overarching perception of ‘the good life’: figure out what will make you happy, and pursue that. And whatever you do, don’t let anything or anyone (such as promises you’ve made, financial obligations, stuffy old institutions, your own anatomy, religious books, or logic) deter you.

Sociologist Robert Bellah calls this worldview ‘expressive individualism’, while Charles Taylor has coined the term ‘The age of authenticity’. In the age of authenticity, exercising absolute freedom to choose whatever you want (as long as it doesn’t impinge on someone else’s absolute freedom to choose whatever they want) is an authentic life. Choice, “irrespective of what it is a choice between”, becomes the supreme value. The extent to which you live this way—that is, the extent to which you “follow your heart”—is the extent to which you’ll live a good life. 

It’s a compelling and powerful vision for life. It’s the cultural air we breathe—always assumed, sometimes made explicit. And it’s beautifully captured in those three little words. Follow your heart.

The only downside is that it’s utterly terrible advice in every way.

The Bible’s verdict on the human heart is…..not flattering at all. For example, “the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) “The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.” (Gen 6:5) “The hearts of the children of man are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead.” (Ecclesiastes 9:3)

Here’s how Jesus put it: “It is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” (Mark 7:20-23)

Following your heart will get you nowhere. Thankfully, Jesus offers us a better way. Jesus shows us how to lead our hearts.

In the middle of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warns his followers about the dangers of pursuing earthly treasures and neglecting heavenly treasures: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (Matt 6:19-20)

So there’s the command: lay up treasure in heaven, not on earth. But look closely at what Jesus says in the very next verse, and at how he connects this with the preceding instruction: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (v. 21)

Do you see what Jesus does? He does NOT give a command based around following our hearts. He does the opposite. He gives a command based around leading our hearts. ‘Here is where your heart needs to go—so take active steps to get your heart there. But don’t sit back and wait for your heart to tell you what to do. Take charge of your heart. Lead your heart.’

Jesus knows exactly where our hearts need to be (set on the things on heaven, not on the things of earth), and he gives us a method for getting our hearts right. Invest in the things of heaven and eternity, make that your priority and your focus, and your heart will follow. Lead your heart where it needs to go.

The advice to “follow your heart” is built on a worldview that trusts each individual to know what will make them happy and what will be in their own best interests. But that trust is misplaced. A sick, mad, evil heart is an untrustworthy guide in the search for a good life.

But thank God that he’s given us a better way. The biblical way is to forget about following our hearts. Instead, we should lead our hearts where they need to go. We should set our hearts where they need to be.

Set your heart on things above. Lead your heart.

What Do You See?!

She was very hopeful of this. She saw it getting even better than the past ones. It was definitely going awesome. Awesome lasted just a few weeks. What came after that was tears, regret, sadness, bitterness…..even a mini-vacation! It was another failed relationship…oh boy!

I had witnessed the glow, joy, gladness, even relief since the young (read: a lil’ older) man had showed himself into this girl’s world. I could tell she had landed flat for the seemingly charming dude. But, alas, things seem to be nearing the very end.

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I received a call from her today and learnt that the present is not as different (from the near past) as we had anticipated. “What is going on? Why is it continuing to happen even in this that seemed lovelier than the rest i had been in? Where do i go from here? Will i be able to love again?” She seemed to ask. 

My mind immediately went in playback and reflection mode.

“When life hands you a relationship lemon, does it leave a sour taste in your mouth, or does it become the clichéd lemonade?” I wondered.

Let’s be honest. Dating is hard. Relationships are hard. Life often hands us a lot of lemons. Despite this, we still keep searching for love. Why? Because we also know that there is such reward in finding that amazing relationship. We get connection, companionship, a lover, a best friend. It is no surprise that we keep looking, even bearing past wounds.

But what do you do when the lemons of dating are making you lose hope?

I remember saying out a few things (in response) after listening in. I kept hearing the words Gratitude and Focus.

Who is your focus in life? Who is your source in life? What do you see in bigger picture view?

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I brought in the aspect of God and how the view is not blurry at all with God at the centre of it all; even our relationships. When we place our expectations on these people (we like like or even love) be it financial, emotional, and the like, they are bound to fail even face flat! These people just like any other human being will not meet your needs 100%, consistently. So, when things do not turn out the way we had anticipated may we realize that there is a lot more in store for us and that our world is not crumbling. May we then have our focus on God and God alone.

The following is noteworthy:

  1. We’re not alone.
  2. God is with us.
  3. He loves us.
  4. We’re eternally secure.
  5. He walks with us.
  6. He will bring us through.
  7. He will turn this experience into something profitable in our lives.

Pain, trouble, and disappointment are draining, but trusting God, focusing on Him, and thanking Him revitalize us. It’s His presence within that renews us in every way so we can keep going.

Faith is like a Muscle

Faith is like a muscle – if it is not used, it will atrophy. That is something i was reminded of the whole of last week.

Some of us spend time every day exercising certain muscles that we want to develop (not me on most days of the week…haha!). You say, “I haven’t run for a week, and I feel the difference.” Similarly, if a week goes by without exercising faith, you will notice the difference. The longer you go without using faith, the greater the danger that you will forget how to use faith altogether.

If you have ever broken a leg and been unable to use it for a time, you will know that you need to work hard to rebuild the muscle that has been weakened by prolonged inactivity. The physiotherapist will work with you to rebuild what has been lost through lack of use.

So, faith is like a muscle and needs to be exercised.

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Faith is the gift of God. It is not of ourselves; we receive it from him. It is the special work of the Holy Spirit to open our eyes to who Jesus is and to show us our need of him and to create within us the capacity to trust him. He gives you a new heart, the gift of faith.

But Jesus’ question in Luke 8:25 makes it clear that you can have this gift of faith and never use it. “Where is your faith?” he asks the disciples, after a storm blew up as they were rowing across the lake. Jesus had been asleep in the back of the boat, and the disciples panicked! But Jesus awakens, calms the storm, and then asks, “Where is your faith?” In other words, “Why aren’t you exercising the faith I have gifted to you?”

From this account, we learn three ways to exercise faith.

Faith Factors in the Ability of God

The disciples had already seen remarkable demonstrations of the power of Jesus Christ. They had seen his power over disease, demons, and death. The problem was that, although they knew the power of God, they were unable to make a connection between the ability of God and the situation they are facing. They looked at the situation in purely secular terms.

Where do you need to factor in the ability of God? Is it loneliness? Spiritual blindness of a member of your family? A health issue? Marriage ? The battle of living an authentic Christian life? The fear of being different?

The problem is that you evaluate the problem in purely secular terms. But have you factored in the ability of God?

The living God is the God of the impossible situation. With God all things are possible. Faith factors in the ability of God. Where is your faith?

Faith Submits to the Sovereignty of God

As soon as we talk about the ability of God, we face some serious questions.

We rejoice in stories of God’s miraculous intervention in people’s lives to bring salvation, deliverance, and healing. We know that God is able to do these things. Our question is why, if he has the ability, doesn’t he always do it?

Faith factors in the ability of God, but it does more than that. It also submits to the sovereignty of God. And if you factor in the ability of God without submitting to the sovereignty of God, you will soon find yourself in all kinds of confusion.

God has never promised a storm free life. Whose idea was it to go to the other side of the lake?  “One day Jesus said to the disciples, “Let’s go over to the other side of the lake’” (Luke 8:22).

Following Jesus’ command led them right into a storm! Lol! It will sometimes be like that. There are many situations where life would be easier if it was not for Jesus. Christ never promised fair weather sailing, only that we would arrive at the destination.

Some people have got into great difficulty  over the whole matter of prayer for healing. They imagine that somehow we have to persuade ourselves that healing will take place. That is the difference between biblical faith and the psychology of positive thinking. Some Christians have gotten these two things completely confused.

Positive thinking is all about mind over matter. The power comes from inside me. I make the change.

Biblical faith is about the power of God over matter. The power comes from God. God makes the change.

That is why biblical faith must submit to the sovereignty of God because no power in the world is going to make God do what he does not want to do! Assuredly!!

Biblical faith factors in the ability of God, for whom all things are possible, but at the same time submits to the sovereignty of God, who does whatever he pleases, and there is a place in his plan for storms as well as still waters.

Faith Trusts Intentionally in the Goodness of God

Faith is not something that works automatically hence the word “intentionally.”

A lot of people have the idea that faith is like a thermostat, that it works automatically. We feel that if we have faith, then when some great crisis comes, our faith should click in automatically.

Now you only need to look at this story to realize that this is a complete fallacy. If faith worked on automatic, then it would have clicked in when the storm blew up on the lake, and the disciples would never have been in difficulty.

But when Jesus asks them, “Where is your faith?” his question makes it very clear that faith works on manual. You have to put it into operation. When that happens, the world will begin to wonder what makes you different.

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What is the prescription for the person whose doubts arise from not exercising faith? There is only one answer to this condition, and that is the spiritual discipline of service.

Some of us have been splashing around in the shallows of faith for too long, and more than anything else you need a man or woman-sized challenge that is going to stretch you beyond your limits, push you outside your comfort zone, and give you something in which you need to trust God like you never did before!

Christ asks, “Where is your faith?” If your answer is, “Not being exercised,” then it is time for you to ask the question, “Lord what do you want me to do?”

Christ calls us out of our depth. He invites us to launch out into the deep. The storm may be raging, but if you are where Christ has called you to be, and you are doing what he called you to do, he will bring you through it by faith.

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Is it well?

Have you ever heard of a man by the name of Horatio Spafford? Probably not. He lived back in 1828-1888. He lived in Chicago, and was a successful businessman.

In 1871, there was the Great Chicago Fire…one of the greatest disasters of their time. Many people lost all their possessions. Worse, Horatio Spafford’s son had died of scarlet fever at the age of 4 just prior to the Chicago Fire.

It was around that time that Mr. Spafford decided to make a new start, and to move his family overseas. He arranged to sell what was left of his property, and he bought tickets for himself, his wife, and his four daughters on a ship to take them to Europe. From there, they would move to Jerusalem.

Right before the ship was to set sail, Spafford found out that one of the sales of his property had fallen through. So he sent his wife and his daughters on ahead, while he went back to take care of the sale of his property. He would take the next ship and join them in Europe.

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A few days later, Horatio Spafford received a telegram. It was signed by his wife. And there were only two words on it. “Saved alone”.

The ship that Horatio Spafford’s family was on was struck by another ship. It sank quickly. Spafford’s wife made it. But his four little girls did not. They lost their lives when the ship went down.

Spafford soon sailed across the Atlantic to join his grieving wife in Europe. While he was halfway across the Atlantic, the captain called him to the bridge. He pointed out the exact location that his daughters lost their lives, as they sailed past it.

It was then that Spafford wrote the words to a poem.

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way.
When sorrows, like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot,
Thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well with my soul.

There is one thing that is certain about life, and that is life is uncertain. Sometimes you make plans for your life, and the plans go up in flames. One minute you might be surrounded by your loved ones. The next moment you may be all alone. Sometimes things happen that in a million years you can never explain.

It’s easy to say that you have faith in God when things are good. But when things go bad, which they invariably will from time to time, during those moments can you say…whatever my lot, it is well with my soul?

The question is…how could a man who lost his son, lost his business, lost his four daughters…possible say that things were well with his soul?

People in the world look everywhere for peace. Banks and insurance companies say that having money, that’s what brings you peace and security. If you go to a supermarket, you’ll see them sell aromatherapy candles and shampoo and soap that are supposed to bring peace to you. Some say that listening to light music can bring peace to you. Or seeing therapists. Or doing meditation and yoga.

But this is all peace as the world gives. These things might bring some temporary relaxation, but they don’t bring peace to the soul.

True peace only comes from one source.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

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In life, sometimes things can get chaotic.

Sometimes you will feel alone. Sometimes you will feel afraid. In this world we will have trouble. That’s guaranteed.

But the remarkable thing is, when you really know Christ, you have the blessed assurance that you’re never really alone. And because of this you never need to be afraid. Because as chaotic as life gets, He has things under control. He will not leave you alone. He’s already done all He can, by taking your sins away–not because we deserve it, but because of His love. And nothing can separate you from that love.

———————————————————————————

1.

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Chorus
It is well with my soul,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

2.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

3.
My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

4.
For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

5.
But, Lord, ‘tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh trump of the angel! Oh voice of the Lord!
Blessèd hope, blessèd rest of my soul!

6.
And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

What’s in a name? Plenty

Very often the first piece of information we have about a person is their name. It’s often the first thing you learn about someone. The names we receive at birth have more sway over us.

Your name is the main thing people ask for when they meet you. It’s the most important means by which someone can identify and refer to you.

First, it’s important to understand the value of your name. I can confidently say that most, if not all, names have significance. My name comes from Banyankole/Runyankore and it means God is GOOD (Murungi) and He is the GIVER (Nuwatuha). I take pride in having such a strong name and grateful that it was chosen for me.

A few days ago I got a SafeBoda to take me to an evening of worship at a church in my neighborhood. I was in shock when the name popped up on my screen. I waited for him and we started our trip to what turned out to be a beautiful evening (Thank you Kobwengye 😜 and team). I felt led to ask very particular questions. I asked him how he ended up getting that name and the circumstances, whether or not he was happy with that name, to what extent he has thought about this whole naming thing. We had such a deep conversation where we both have thoughts regarding the power in a name and the power of the tongue. That has been my best Safeboda ride ever!

Names are important. They have power. They define us.

“A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.”- Proverbs 22:1

Why would you name your child a name that doesn’t esteem them or make them proud as they grow on? When naming you are actually declaring. You are making declaration of what you believe, see and hope for.

We (Safeboda guy-turned-buddy and I) then went ahead to talk about how a name can affect not just the individual but the whole generation to come through him or her. We have a saying in our language that goes, “eiziina ribi rijumisa mukama waryo,” literally meaning “a bad name leads to an undermining or abuse of the owner.” We ended the ride when he was telling me he is in the process of changing his name. Up to-date he said he does not know why (of all names) his grandfather had to give him that very one. I wish him well as he follows his heart to fix what he sees as lacking. As for me and my house, we shall name great names and continue to #SpeakLife where’er we go. 😊😊😊

Questions for reflection

1. To what extent, do you think, a person’s name is an essential aspect in their sense of individual identity?

2. What does your birth name mean to you? Why? What other names do you carry around? If they are freeing, how can you use them to encourage others?

3. Is it appropriate to change our names? In what ways? For what reasons?

Be the man, Shawn, God’s man!

Dear Shawn,

Congratulations on reaching an important milestone in your life. You are 15! YOU ARE 15!!! That must  be a really long ride so far but just to encourage you; there are many more coming your way. You ain’t seen nothing yet young sir! Better years lie ahead of you.

I got to know about your day from your Mama and i thought i should write lovingly to you.

It is a great honor and privilege to be able to write this letter to you. I’m blessed to be have met and interacted with you. Shawn, you are becoming a man and that is a journey you can neither take lightly nor stupidly! Whether you like it or not, you are in the process of establishing your reputation. Welcome to manhood. What kind of man will you be? That’s something you choose every day. Anyone can have a “moment” when they seem to others to have good character only to have the next decision remove that good will. Consistency over time is the only way to reveal your true character to others. You are building who you are every day.

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As a young man your age, I had a poor understanding of how the choices I made would impact my future. It is as true today as it ever was – what you choose today will affect tomorrow. If you tune your ear carefully to the important things of life, you will have a growing sense that the substance of life is little more than a combination of two things: the choices you make each day and, your response to events, both positive and negative and the circumstances in your life that you didn’t cause. I’ll never forget an old poster of iconic film actor John Wayne, hanging on the wall of some office I had walked through many years ago. The caption below his photograph is what really stuck in my mind: Life’s Tough . . . but, It’s Tougher if You’re Stupid. Which is to say, if you make a habit of wrong choices, you are in for a tough life. The choices you make today are making your future.

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You have a winsome way about you, Shawn (from the little i know about you). You can get along with just about anybody. That is a real gift. And, you are a real gift – a truly worthy person  While you, as a Christian young man, are commanded by Christ to be kind to people, there are many who are not worthy of your friendship – not worthy of your trust. The Bible makes it clear that, “Bad company corrupts good morals.” 1 Corinthians 5:33. You will be known by the company you keep. People will make a judgment about the quality of your mettle (your worth as a person) by the quality of those you have chosen to count among your friends. Test those with whom you would spend time by this standard: Are they the kind of people who will challenge me to be a better person? Will these guys challenge me to be more like Christ? Be polite to everyone but give your friendship only to those of sound character. Those of poor character, while needing your guidance, are not worthy of your friendship.

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Sooner or later, life deals everyone a tough hand. When this happens, you have a choice to make: Fold or press ahead knowing that “All things work together for good, to them that love God…” Romans 8:28. Many fall into the trap of thinking that their circumstances are so much worse than anyone else’s. This isn’t true. You can always find someone who has it worse. Some people focus on the problem until they are completely consumed and destroyed by it. This is not what a man does. A man braces and steps into the wind of adversity, knowing that God has declared in the Bible that He will always, be with him. Hebrews 13:5. Adversity is going to come – that I can guarantee you – but in one sense, it doesn’t matter. How you respond to it is what matters. Embrace your trials and purpose in your heart to honor God through them, regardless of what happens, and He will honor you for your faithfulness, in His way.

There are many things I could share with you but these are a few that will touch almost every area of your life. I pray that you will fulfill the purposes for which God created you. If you do, you will have found the best this life has to offer and an eternity that begins with the smile of God.

Against all odds, be the man, Shawn, God’s man! Stand to be counted young sir…..

With much love and hope for your bright future,

Moses Murungi.

PS: Psalm 112:1-3 Praise the Lord! Blessed are those who fear the Lord, who find great delight in his commands. Their children will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed. Wealth and riches are in their houses, and their righteousness endures forever.