The Gentle Gardener

Today’s post is from a sermon delivered at my home church and published here with permission from Nairobi Chapel South.

A little backstory- last year I was going through a really hard time, battling condemnation. It was so severe that on some days I thought I would lose my mind. Like a skilled storyteller, Satan weaved in numerous colorful lies to keep the onslaught going. These lies altered my perception of God as a good father. Reading the bible became arduous because I was afraid of meeting with an angry unamused God who was never pleased with any of His children. Instead of freedom, certain scriptures brought me condemnation!

I believe that God was dealing with many erroneous theological foundations in my life. As He rooted out fears, He sent believers who were committed to teaching the truth of His word in a way that set me free. Some of the blogs I wrote were a reflection of what God was teaching me.

One particular blog, In His garden, was written from what I perceived to be God’s training in my life at the time. Listening to this sermon which is from the same passage, {John 15:1-8} illuminated the scripture further, bringing deeper understanding to me. I am glad to share this with you today.

When we read this passage of scripture, three problems present themselves.

1) The problem of translation

“He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” {John 15:1-3}

This passage often comes off as harsh because we may struggle to see the evidence of fruit in our lives. In a sense, we have viewed God as a farmer instead of a gardener. And there is a big difference in the two- the farmer produces crop solely for profit or subsistence, while the gardener does it simply for the joy and beauty of the plant.

There is an alternative understanding of this passage that bears some consideration. James Montgomery Boice {among others} believes that the ancient Greek verb airo, more accurately translates to lifts up as opposed to cuts off.

As was common in the ancient practice of tending vineyards, the viticulturist made sure to lift the crop off the ground that it might get more sun and bear more fruit. In the same way, the Father lifts up unproductive vines off the ground. His desire is not to cut you off, but to lift you up, to give you every opportunity to bear fruit.

On the other hand, the reality is that because God is a good gardener, He will allow situations to come your way with the ultimate goal of making you more Christ-like. Therefore, be a student of the process and learn. The quicker you learn the quicker the pruning.

2) The problem of interpretation

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” {John 15:5}

We have interpreted this passage of scripture to mean that bearing fruit is fully dependent on us. I have never seen a branch struggling to bear fruit.

Here are a few truths to consider:

  • You bear fruit not by your own power or strength, but by remaining in Christ.
  • There is nothing you can do, other than remain.
  • He decides what fruit you bear.

As you remain in him, then you do what he designed you to do.

3) The problem of recognition

“This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” {John 15:8}

We may forget why Christ wants us to bear fruit. It is not so that we can be famous, become recognized or even get followers, no, it is for His glory and our joy that we bear fruit.

If I pray for you and you get healed, I did nothing, God healed you. I was just a vessel, and a vessel cannot take the honor for its content. The sword does not get the glory of the battle, but the warrior does. In the same way, when people see you full of love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, God is pleased- He is glorified, and that is what He desires for you.

 

Continue to remain hidden in Christ in His garden. Allow the gentle gardener to lift you off the ground, clean you and then recognize that it is He who deserves all the glory when you are a beautiful plant.

 

 

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Lost in translation: 3 ways to know that God is speaking.

LOST IN TRANSLATIONIn a recent worship practice, our worship pastor was sharing what she felt was on God’s heart for the season. As we continued to listen in, one of the members of the team asked a very important question: “How do you know that God is speaking to you?”

God speaks to His children. It is not a matter of if, but a matter of when. As is the joy of any good father, He longs to share His heart with those who will take the time to listen in {John 10:27}. The bible shows us different ways through which God caught the attention of His people: through his word {Acts 8:26-38} signs and wonders {Exodus 3:1-4}, dreams and visions {Acts 9:10-12}, a still small voice {1st Kings 19:11-12}, through His people {Acts 21:10-14}.

The style of communication may vary, but certain principles remain.

1) God will never contradict His word

The first and foremost place we should go to when we think we have heard from God, is back to the scriptures.

Many of God’s commands are explicit, some, not so much. For example, when the bible exhorts us: “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you” {Matthew 5:44} this is an explicit command and God’s will for His children. Conversely, others are more implicit, requiring the believer to search the scriptures for the heart of God in a matter.

Once I read a post on social media that claimed that the use of Reggae music in worship is abhorrent to God. In fact, the writer of the post stated that God had spoken to them and that His wrath was imminent for all those who used this kind of music in their worship.

On a light note, I thought to myself, “Poor Jamaicans, have no chance at getting into heaven” and then quickly remembered that every tribe and nation, people and language will stand before the lamb and worship Him {Revelation 9:9-10}. God created every tribe and culture, and even in our brokenness, He invites us to worship Him with the unique expressions that He has given to us.

2) At the heart of God is redemption

Nahum chapter three opens with these words “Woe to the city of blood, full of lies, full of plunder, never without victims! This vivid description was true of the city of Nineveh. Historically, it is said that the rulers of Assyria were so evil, given to many forms of wickedness: covering the walls of the cities with the skins of dissidents, decapitating rebels and building pillars from their heads, gouging out eyes, amputating limbs, burning thousands of people at a go and indulging in witchcraft {https://enduringword.com/commentary/nahum-3/}

In Jonah’s account, God sends him to give a warning message to the people there {Jonah 1:1-2}. Jonah initially resisted, finally obeyed, but became bitter at the Lord’s compassion for the people of Nineveh. God had this to say about Jonah’s reaction:

“…But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?” {Jonah 4: 1-11}

Despite this city’s wickedness, God gave them 40 days to turn from their evil ways {Jonah 3: 4} or their city would be overturned. Notice that I highlight one seemingly unimportant detail {and many cattle as well}. Everything in the bible is relevant no matter how small. God was concerned about the welfare of this city, its people and animals too. When God sends a warning for repentance, He gives us a chance to repent. In Him, there is always a way out if we respond in humility and obedience.

3) God will confirm His word in the body of believers

A good place to test if what you are hearing is from God is in the company of mature believers. Paul when speaking to the church in Corinth says this, “Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said” {1st Corinthians 14:29} In weighing carefully, these are a few questions we can ask: Is what I am hearing consistent with the scriptures?, Is my interpretation given to bias?, Is it aligning with the revealed nature and character of God in the scriptures?, Is there a sense of peace and agreement in the hearers? Is it building up or tearing the body of Christ apart?

Humility causes us to submit to correction and new perspectives that we may have missed. It is important to note that no one Christian holds a monopoly of truth. This means that from the greatest to the least, there ought to be an attitude of learning in the church. If I assume that I have a direct line to God and that every word that comes from my mouth is pure and unadulterated then I have missed the mark completely!

So, the next time you hear a word from the Lord no matter the source, ask yourself these three questions: does it align to God’s word, is there a sense of redemption, and can other mature believers vouch for it?

3 things to do while waiting on God

A clock with the words "in the meantime" 3 things you can do while waiting on GodI recently watched a video of a street singer in Asia who was privileged to sing alongside a renowned musician who happened to be strolling the streets right before a major concert tour in that city. This was clearly a case of being in the right place at the right time. After doing the cover to a famous 80’s song, the well-known musician asked this emerging artist if he would be willing to sing at his concert- giving him a 20-25 minute set.

His kind gesture warmed my heart and brought to my mind wise counsel a music mentor recently offered me: “Don’t forget that your gift will open doors for you and you need to be ready when that happens.” In other words, do not be found unprepared when opportunity comes knocking.

Unfortunately, when we are working hard and putting in many hours into our craft, without much gain, the above statement can sound like a cliché. With a dream in your heart and no way of realizing the vision God has given you, feelings of despondency may arise. However, I believe that the one who says, “I know the plans I have for you,” {Jeremiah 29:11} is intentional and desires to bring all the good things that He has promised you to pass. But what should we do in the meantime?

1) Sharpen your axe

I imagine that the street musician experienced rejection, but he continued to present his art where everyone could hear him. I imagine that he had to prepare a repertoire of songs prior to his street performances. I also imagine that he had to work on his guitar and voice. He could not afford to just show up.

In the same way, whatever field of work that you have been assigned to needs your time and commitment, sharpening that skill. As you continue to faithfully sharpen your axe, God will establish the work of your hands {Psalm 90:17, Hebrews 6:10}. This is a constant reminder: when God calls you, it is your responsibility to show up strong and ready, having done all you can “…to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed…” {2nd Timothy 2:15}

2) Ask the Master Planner

Time and again, the bible provides examples of ordinary people who waited on God for a specific course of action. The list is endless: Joshua {Joshua 6:2-5} David {1st Chronicles 14:14-16}, Moses {Numbers 20:1-8}, the disciples {Luke 24:49} and on and on. Each time, God was faithful to them and gave them a strategy to win if they obeyed.

Like in biblical times, I believe that God desires to share with us the plans on His heart- for our lives and the world around us. What strategy is God giving you that will propel you to success and ultimately draw people into the Kingdom of God? It could be a business idea that solves a major problem, a song that causes others to run to Him, or a book, or a play…whatever it is, trust that when you ask the Master Planner, He will answer you!

3) Do not compare

Life is already difficult enough without us having to compare ourselves to others. The assignments that God has for us are so unique that no two people can do the exact same thing. If we believe that deeply, we are set free from trying to be like another human being.

To give an example from music, every instrument in the orchestra has a different timbre or sound. If the violins marched out of a concert hall because they did not sound like the cello, which instrument could possibly replace the high registers the violins reach? But together, all the instruments play an important role of bringing out the sound intended by a composer.

In the same way, God is orchestrating a wonderful masterpiece, but He is asking you to be you. Comparison will only lead to discouragement and the death of your dream and God’s purpose in your life.

 

Ultimately, “the race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.” {Ecclesiastes 9:11}. Recognize that promotion comes from God; resist the urge to lift yourself. Continue to faithfully sharpen your axe, seek the master planner and renounce comparison.

Songwriting with excellence: An interview with George Dulo

 

PrintCalled to worship is a segment on my blog that highlights the lives and ministries of worship leaders who are making an impact in Kenya, Africa and beyond. The idea is to interact with worship leaders whose faith and stories inspire us to be better ministers. Here is my interview with George Omolo Dulo on songwriting with excellence.

called to worship banner pic

At first glance, George Dulo, worship minister at Nairobi Chapel-Ongata Rongai, comes off as a soft spoken man, but a few minutes with him betrays his deep love for God, community and excellence in song writing. George has written songs like Wewe watosha and Mwanzo na Mwisho, songs that are currently being used in corporate worship and are in fact, anthems in many churches in Nairobi. Here is my interview with him.

Nita: How long have you been leading worship?

From high school…that’s close to over twenty years. Before that I used to be part of small groups at church and part of a choir.

Nita: How did your music journey begin?

I gave my life to Christ in 1991 but I wasn’t singing then. I actually started off preaching, but in high school, I started singing. I was part of the drama club and I would be asked to take part in musicals and things like those. I started off by singing in the background as other people acted and went on to acting and singing at the same time. There are things I learned like projection, my weaknesses and how a dump room can affect your voice.

Later, after high school, I joined a group called the Nakuru Praise Team and started singing with them. After that I came to campus. I joined friends of mine who were musicians and started singing. There was a student fellowship that used to happen on Thursday’s and after the fellowship we would stay on and just randomly do songs…whatever songs came to mind. I used to write lyrics before when I was in high school, but I never knew that I would take this up and start singing songs I had written.

Nita: Is music your full-time job?

No, it is not a full-time job. It’s something that I have also struggled with. For a long time I looked at music as something I wasn’t supposed to do. I was born in Mombasa and where I lived there were music bands whose members used to live in the same neighborhood as myself. There was a group called Safari sounds and Them Mushrooms. We would play with some of these people’s kids.

I used to perceive musicians as carefree, wearing dreadlocks and saw myself as easily drifting off and didn’t want to adopt a different personality because I am a musician. I don’t know if my family would live with me if I became like that. I have an album but it took me long because I was struggling with “Am I supposed to be going into music full-time or not?” What I do now is I’m an emergency nurse, that’s my specialty. I also teach- we offer national higher diplomas for students in the school of nursing at Kenyatta National Hospital.

Nita: Some of your songs are being sung in corporate worship, tell us more about this.

After high school, I met with some friends of mine and started writing some of these lyrics. When I was joining campus I felt like there was a period I went through and some of the songs I wrote then are finding their way into mainstream church music. When I was part of Salt (Serving a Living Transformer) we used to write music with some friends of mine. We would share some of the songs we had written with Nairobi Chapel for their recordings.

Being at the Chapel I felt like there was a place for me to express my gift in community, but also to people who would appreciate the way I was doing music. Some of that music was released then, but it seems to be getting to churches, I would say over ten to fifteen years later. I never thought my songs would go as far as they have. It was never at the back of my mind.

Nita: What has your reaction been to this kind of reception?

I get lost more in the worship and then you have friends who tell you “that’s your song!”…but then you think “Is that really my song?” Because I have come to appreciate the place of sharing the music in community.

Nita: What’s the inspiration behind your music?

Scripture, experiences and being around good musicians.

Nita: Any advice for emerging songwriter’s?

Be wrapped around God, wrapped around his word and a community of believer’s who are rooted in the word.

Nita: What’s the name of your album, how much is it and where can one get it?

Good Ground, and I sell it at my church for 500 KES.

What are you listening to?

Joyous celebration, Tye Tribbett, classical music…

What are you reading?

The grace of giving by Oliver Kisaka Simiyu

 

Listen here to some of George Dulo’s music.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Careless Whispers: 3 Ways to Avoid Gossip

The words: Careless whispers: 3 ways to avoid gossip

Last year, in a blog titled the 5 stages of a worship team, I talked a little about my experience leading a team. The group started well with a promising trajectory, but closed out prematurely in the storming stage. Unfortunately, slander was a major factor in the demise of the group.

We all have endured the painful sting of gossip and we too have maligned others. As I have reflected on the effects gossip has on individuals and groups, whether we are the perpetrators or recipients, the outcome is the same; slander destroys both the hearer and the slanderer alike.

The bible is clear about what kind of talk should be avoided “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” {Ephesians 4:29}

But what should we do the next time someone is disgruntled about a team member and wants to air their frustration to you?

1) Validate

Years back, I watched a TED Talk by one of Africa’s most celebrated writers- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Her talk was on the danger of a single story. While I may not agree with everything she stands for, I loved one of the quotes from this particular talk:

“…Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity.”

The bible also has great wisdom concerning a one sided story “The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him” {Proverbs 18:17}

You have probably been in a situation where someone told you something from their point of view, but upon listening to the other party, found out that what the first person had to say was not entirely true. This is the danger of a single story. However, we ought to validate accusations brought against other individuals. One way to do this is to ask. Ask the aggrieved individual questions that would shed light on the matter. If you can, request to talk to the other party so as to have the full story.

2) Mediate

The work of the cross is the greatest display of reconciliation. Following Christ’s example, we ought to look for ways to bring unity into areas of division in our teams and relationships. Matthew 18:15 gives us solid advice on how to quell slander. “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.”  There are circumstances in which someone may seek out your help in resolving a matter with another team member. You as the mediator have the sole responsibility of keeping the issue confidential so as to avoid gossip. Just between the aggrieved parties, find a way to bring peace into that situation.

3) Deviate

Years back, I attended a school that was facing major financial and administrative issues. Balls were dropped, causing many students to be unhappy. One such unhappy student approached me with these issues, and within no time, I who loved this school, was embittered and had joined a group of complainers. We would stand around in circles at break discussing how terrible the school was, instead of escalating the issue to relevant people who could address the problems.

In that moment, Proverbs 18:8 described me: “The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man’s inmost parts.” Not only did I choose to let gossip embitter me, I allowed it to steal the joy and love I once felt being a part of this community.

In retrospect, I should have referred this student to someone in a position of authority who could handle the valid issues brought up.

 

I believe that every worship team should have systems to allow the members to air their grievances respectfully. I also encourage every leader to foster openness in their team. Let us reject the temptation to accuse and slander others, especially when we have been hurt. We are all on a journey of sanctification, one that includes our speech. Therefore let us validate, mediate and deviate. I would like to hear from you. Has slander ever affected your team, and how did you navigate through it?

 

 

 

3 Pitfalls to avoid in Stewardship

An image with the words "Stewardship and three pitfalls to avoid"

As I have been thinking about what my first post of the year will be, stewardship has been at the fore. To put this in context, a couple of weeks back, I was having a conversation with a close friend. I had asked him a question in the lines of: Does God want all believers to be rich? The answer he gave me was so simple, yet so mind blowing. He told me, “I believe God wants us to be good stewards.”

He went on to explain how God has given all believers resources in different measure and that how we choose to steward these things gives us more room and opportunity to receive more. For example, if God blesses me with a certain amount and I choose to be diligent in saving and investing and not spending it all, little by little this resource grows and multiplies. And if God can trust me with that little amount, surely he can trust me with much more.

However, today’s post is not about stewarding finances, but about the gifts and talents God has placed in every worship leader, and how we can avoid certain pitfalls as we minister so as to steward the gifts, no matter how big or small, in purity and integrity.

The dictionary meaning of the word steward varies, depending on the context, but at the core, is the idea that as a steward, what you are stewarding does not belong to you. This same thought can be seen in the biblical sense of stewardship. We find many references where God calls us, puts treasure in our hands and “demands” that we give a proper account of its use {Matthew 24:45-51, 25:14-30, Genesis 2:15}

In light of this, here are a few issues that we may face as we try to steward God’s gifts in our lives.

1) Fear and comparison

When it comes to music, I get asked a lot, how one can overcome the overwhelming fear that what you have is just not as good as the musician next to you. Creatives tend to compare their talents to others’ as opposed to celebrating what is inside them. And to be honest, that feeling can cripple you and hold you back from being all that God has called you to be or it can drive you to prove a point. However way it goes, both of these reactions are problematic. Granted, there will be better skilled musicians than you, but just like the parable of the talents, the quality of the gift is unique to you and the resolve of the giver to use you is sure {Matthew 25:14-15}.

2) Competition and Superstardom

The heartbeat of the many blogs I write is unity in the body of Christ {1st Corinthians 12:12-31}. I believe strongly that God uses us powerfully when we are committed to submit under godly men and women who can teach us, correct us and call out the wonderful gifts He has placed in us. Although God calls us to run our own unique and individual race, we are also called to a bigger race, one of taking the gospel to the very ends of the world with the help of others.

Using an analogy, what God has called us to do is like a picture puzzle; every time we align ourselves to the image in the puzzle, the body of Christ presents a beautiful picture of love and commitment to the One who has called us.

As you continue sharpening your skill, opportunities will open up, fame may come and the money too. It is at this point that you remind yourself to lay low in the presence of Jesus and to resist the temptation for stardom and competition.

3) Overconfidence and Under-preparation

It is natural to become confident about something you have been doing repeatedly. You know your strengths and limitations and are able to manipulate these so as to minister effectively- and that’s ok.

However, pride can creep in subtly tempting you to self-reliance. Self-reliance says that you can do it without God, that you are gifted enough to carry a service by yourself, that you don’t need anyone or that your vocalists are just “backing you up” as opposed to ministering beside you. Where once you sought God about His heart for those you minister to, you may find yourself rushing through, just to complete the task at hand. Where you used to sharpen your skill, laxity may have crept in making you an ineffective steward.

The greatest example of confidence has been modeled to us by Jesus. “…I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does” {John 5:19}. If Jesus was fully reliant and obedient to the Father, putting his confidence in God alone, how much more should you and I commit to a life like that?

As we reflect on the gifts God has given us and these three major pitfalls, how do you fare? When all our actions and motivations are based on a view of eternity, knowing that what we do here on earth is critical in the next life, we ultimately become better stewards. Commit today to serve God with His agenda in mind, with His vision in your heart and His kingdom as your priority.

5 things you need to know about Christian blogging

StrangersHi guys, so this is the last post of the year. I am grateful for each and every one of you and I really do pray for you.

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” {Ephesians 3:16-19}

For this post, I did a little reflecting on some lessons I have learned along the way in blogging. If you or someone you know wants to get into Christian blogging, here are a few thoughts you may consider.

5-things-you-need-to-know_1Christian blogging can be a great way to teach, inspire, correct and transform. Unfortunately, I have read one too many blogs that bring judgement and accusations against individuals and the body of Christ in general. One of the greatest lessons I have learned this year is how precious and loved the body of believers is to Christ. He loves us both personally and communally.

When we slander another individual or denomination, we are literally slandering ourselves. If we undermine the work of another church, we have undermined our own work. But if we pray for and exhort and support another part of the body of Christ, we are essentially building up our own.

Is there a place for correction and rebuke? Certainly, and the bible speaks about its importance {2nd Timothy 4:2-3}. But what does godly correction look like? This kind of correction causes us to look to Jesus Christ. It causes even the one correcting to view their own life in the light of the cross and see themselves as redeemed, not perfect, having a sinful nature yet constantly being sanctified. When we look at ourselves through this lens we are basically saying, “Lord Jesus, help me to be the kind of believer who will not look on as my fellow brother is messing up, yet will approach their failings from a humble position of love and redemption, knowing that I too struggle with sin.”

So, before you write that angry and vindictive blog, ask yourself, “Is this honoring the body of Christ?” “How is this blog bringing people closer to God?”

Ultimately, it is better to shelve a blog than to destroy the faith of others.

5-things-you-need-to-know_2Looking at scripture and my own life journey, I have come to appreciate the fact that God is a God of process, seasons and timings. Between the time God gives you a dream and the time it takes to realize that dream it will require patience. Time is important as it clarifies vision and ideally strengthens character. After waiting on a promise for so long, there tends to be a mellow approach to life and people.

Like building any other brand, blogging requires your time and resources. It is involving and demands that you interrogate life and your topic thoroughly before publishing so as to maintain credibility.

There are days when traffic on your site will be massive, and there are down days- when you will get only a couple of reads. For those who put extra time into their writing this can be very discouraging. The need for your work to be affirmed and validated can override the simple fact that God has called you to a ministry of one. Cliché as it may sound, could it be that God has called you, for now, to reach out to just one person who is in desperate need to hear that their Heavenly Father loves them?

As you continue to grow, God will entrust you with more readers. With time, your writing will improve too. So don’t be discouraged if only a few people read…keep doing what God has called you to.

5-things-you-need-to-know_3Prayer has been the backbone of my blog this year. As I write and publish each blog, I pray for those who will read the material. I ask God to bring healing and deliverance, to come through for those who will come across the blog. I do not know who will read the posts, but God does. I do not know where they are, but God does.

When I pray I am allowing God to work through my blog. Only He can bring salvation to my readers. There have been many times this year that God has used my seemingly weak or not well thought out posts to inspire many. On the other hand, there are times I have written what I thought to be a powerful post that brought little engagement, leading me to believe that when I am weak, then He is strong.

5-things-you-need-to-know_4Being consistent does not imply writing till you drop. It is important to carve time out to rest. Most importantly, do not neglect your significant relationships. Good success is one that does not pull you away from your loved ones. Yes, be consistent, but take time out to rest and have fun.

5-things-you-need-to-know_5Every blogger has “writing blind spots”. And it’s ok. Endeavor to grow your writing by taking professional courses if need be. Read, read, read. The more you research, the better your work becomes. Subscribe to other blogs of like interest and see what you can borrow as well.

When the enemy comes in: A guide to Christian spiritual warfare

 

Waves soaring and the words: when the enemy comes in- a guide to spiritual warfareLike any other year, this one has had its fair share of ups and downs. By God’s grace, I have been able to dream more and have experienced the reward of hard work…you can read about this here.

As we come to the end of the year however, I have felt more lethargic and the fight to finish well has been tough. Although it is normal to be tired, I believe that we can sometimes be bombarded from all sides with the temptation to quit or ran so as to abort what God has commissioned us to do.

With all the victories of this year, there have been days of dark doubt and questioning. This year saw two loved ones battle cancer, a dear friend miscarry, and long drawn battles against evil in many forms. Nevertheless, we are called to fight the good fight of faith and in so doing, extinguish every evil plan of Satan.

But how do we do this when everything around us is screaming discouragement and fear? Today I want to share with you a couple of tools that have helped me to engage in Christian spiritual warfare.

1) Words

We oftentimes downplay the power of our words. Every day, we have a choice to become co-creators with God. We can choose to say things that bring injurious results to ourselves and our loved ones or we can like God, breathe life into impossible situations. Our words carry power and the bible is clear as to the sort of arsenal our tongues hold {Proverbs 18:21}.

Waves soaring with the words: we have a choice to become co-creators with God. We can choose to say things that bring injurious results to ourselves and our loved ones or we can like God, breathe life into impossible situations.But what words are effective in times of spiritual battle?

Scripture is a mighty tool that dismantles the work of evil, therefore it goes without saying that the discipline of memorizing scripture is crucial if we are to be victorious. Memorizing and declaring scripture are synonymous with the Christian walk. The bible in Revelation 12:11 sums this up; we can overcome evil, and the key is in our tongues.

One practice I have found very helpful over the years is writing key verses on sticky notes and placing these in strategic places in my home. As I go about my day, I read them aloud declaring the purposes of God in my life.

In addition, there are specific words of prophecy that have been spoken over your life. After testing the validity of these words against scripture and the witness of Christian community {1st John 4:1, 1st Corinthians 14:29} begin to use these words against the onslaught of evil.

Once, a dear friend had successive dreams in which he was dying. He quickly perceived that this was an attack on his life and began to pray using words of prophecy that God had spoken over his life years back.

2) Community

One of the greatest lessons I have learned this year is how precious and loved the body of believers is to Christ. He loves us both personally and communally. In Christ, there are no denominations, race, gender or class…there is just one body {Galatians 3:28, Colossians 1:18, Ephesians 2:14}

Waves soaring with the words: He loves us both personally and communally. In Christ, there are no denominations, race, gender or class…there is just one bodyAs Christians, we cannot do life alone. We need the support, prayers and encouragement from the Christian community. If we choose to isolate ourselves, we become targets and are easily taken down. The power that unified Christians have is so sacred that it even touches the heart of God {Psalm 133}.

Waves soaring with the text: The power that unified Christians have is so sacred that it even touches the heart of GodOver the course of my life, God has allowed me to connect with wonderful Christians. He has used these people to bring great transformation, through their prayers, insight, love and simple faith. As I look back over the hardest seasons of my life, I am grateful that I surrounded myself with a community of people who wanted to see me succeed and did everything in their power to bring it to pass. You may not be a social person, but you can still enjoy deep and meaningful Christian relationships that will greatly assist you in times of trouble.

3) Worship

In a previous post, I write on the benefits of prophetic worship in spiritual warfare.

Prophetic worship can be described as when the intentions, desires and purposes of our Heavenly Father are revealed through song, in order to build the body of Christ {1st Corinthians 12:7}. Read more here.

Admittedly, there are so many weapons God has given us to fight the good fight of faith. These are just a few. Are there any other tools you can think of or have even used when engaging in spiritual warfare? I would like to hear from you.

P.S No matter how hard the fight gets, our focus should be on Jesus Christ alone. Sometimes we can be tempted to magnify all the ways Satan is trying to destroy us, but that should not be our focus. Remember that he is already defeated, therefore worship and magnify Jesus and His victory over your life.

Making disciples of all nations- An interview with Lamar Minne

PrintCalled to worship is a segment on my blog that highlights the lives and ministries of worship leaders who are making an impact in Kenya, Africa and beyond. The idea is to interact with worship leaders whose faith and stories inspire us to be better ministers. Here is my interview with Lamar Minne on making disciples of all nations.

called to worship banner picAs far as visions go, Lamar’s is straight from the heart of Jesus: Creating discipling cultures for worship teams where spiritual gifts are called out and used for ministry. Lamar is in the internship and leadership development program at Nairobi Chapel where she oversees the worship teams.

Nita: When did your ministry begin?

I come from a family of two siblings and have parents that really love God. I was brought up in a very Christian setting. My mum has been a worship leader for the longest time and is even considered a worship pastor back at our home church. She has been serving for more than twenty five years in the worship ministry. My dad is an elder in the church, back home in Deliverance Church, Uganda and he plays the drums. I grew up around that kind of worship setting. My schedule was school during the week and then worship practice with my mum. They realized that I had picked up a love for singing from the time I was little. One of the first gifts I remember receiving was a karaoke machine. That’s how I got introduced to worship as a ministry. I remember telling my mum that I really want to join the worship team. She told me that when I turned twelve and completed Sunday school, then I could join the team. The first opportunity I got, I joined the team and I’ve been in worship ministry ever since.

Nita: Who was your greatest influence?

I think my mum tops it. Also, a group that served in a worship team called Heart of David. They really allowed me to pour out my gift. When we would have concerts I was probably the youngest of these people and they would allow me to lead songs, lead a dance group. One of the members Enoch Ikiriza, came up to me and said, “I think you can really write and record music and so we are going to start recording music for you.” He set that vision…that it is possible and we went to studio and started recording. Unfortunately, that was around the time that I came to Nairobi to college so that dream at that season kind of died, but just the fact that someone so talented and knowledgeable would believe in me and want to explore this gift really pulled that out.

Nita: What challenges have you encountered in worship ministry?

The biggest challenge for me is probably remembering what worship is actually about. Constantly being in the space where it’s not about me or even the team I am serving with and it’s not about how good or not good we sound, because there’s a flip side where you worry so much about the lack of excellence in the team. I remind myself that God wants to meet His people and He wants to use me as an instrument. He wants to use the spiritual gifts He has put in me to minister to His people and that has nothing really to do with me. It has everything to do with Him and His power and what He wants to do.

That has been a real challenge for me. Probably because worship is the one thing people have told me I have done well. It started defining me and so when I’m ministering being able to turn my mind off and saying even if no one came up to me and told me I did a good job today, I’d be able to say “God, this is your thing and I will do it according to how you want me to do it and it has nothing to do with me as a person because my identity is in you and not in my gift.

called to worship banner picNita: Any encouragement for those getting into song leading?

Stay in the presence of God because your gift will only take you so far. What happens with a lot of worship leaders is that they are running on their gift more than they are running on the presence of God. But you get to a point where it doesn’t matter how talented you are, you will feel the emptiness. You will minister and you will know that it’s a lie. As much as you harness your gift, do even more spending time in the presence of God and just learning from God what worship is.

called to worship banner picNita: You recently held an event at Kijiji Café, what was the vision behind it?

I went through a season where I was very discouraged about being a worship minister where I became self-conscious about my gift so I stopped singing for a very long time. My life was school and then once in a while I’d do worship, but that dream of producing my own music and writing songs had been put on the shelves. I was going to do my International Business degree and lead worship once in a while.

Through the process of joining Nairobi Chapel and meeting other musicians and God stirring up that dream again, I got to that place where I realized I did want to go to worship school and this is something I wanted to pursue full time. There was nothing in me that would have said I want to do a gig with my own music and invite other musicians to sing, but I realized I needed to raise money for school and put myself out there so that people can see that this is something I am doing seriously.

Nita: How can people support your vision?

One of the biggest ways is to contribute to my going to school. I am in the process of enrolling into Victory Bible College, Tulsa- Oklahoma to study worship. I started a go fund me page which is available and I invite anyone to contribute on that platform, through M-Pesa or Nairobi Chapel. Another way is for people to come alongside me and support me in my music journey…the opportunity to minister at different gigs so that people know who I am, not only as the worship leader at Nairobi Chapel, but Lamar who has a ministry she wants to share with the world.

Nita: What is on your playlist now?

Ntokozo Mbambo, Khaya Mthethwa, Tasha Cobbs…

Nita: What books are you reading?

The power of praise and worship- Myles Munroe, How to succeed at being yourself- Joyce Meyer

Indelible: God has not forgotten you!

 

The word indelible etched in rock. Underneath the word indelible are the words: God has not forgotten you.

While writing last week’s post, I did a little reading into the life of Joseph. I have read this story countless times and have identified with it on so many levels, been inspired by his courage to dream, forgive and follow after God despite hardship. On re-reading this story, I was drawn to the account of Joseph interpreting Pharaoh’s dream {Genesis 41}. Joseph was by now familiar with prison life having been in and out of jail. He was also accustomed to being overlooked while others were restored {Genesis 40:14, 23}

But on this particular day, Pharaoh summoned Joseph because of a troubling dream. Joseph did what he was gifted at and interpreted the dream like he had many other times before. What struck me though was how Joseph suggested that Pharaoh appoint a wise and discerning man to overlook the famine situation {Genesis 41:33}. Basically, Joseph was saying “even though it is not me Pharaoh, go ahead and appoint a man who will get the job done!”

I do not know the state of Joseph’s mind and heart at this point because the bible is silent on it, but if I were to guess, I would say that Joseph had probably given up on ever finding freedom again. He remembered his father and little brother Benjamin with nostalgia and these were about the only memories that kept him warm at night in the cold Egyptian cells. Joseph was stuck!

However, this chance meeting with the king of Egypt transformed Joseph’s life instantaneously and eternally. Joseph, a non-Egyptian was now the vizier of Egypt.

After years of slavery, imprisonment, demotion, and false accusation, Joseph was finally free to live out the dream God had placed in his heart years back. It had come at a cost, but God was finally ready to use him. Could it be that in those cells, God had taught him to forgive his brothers, to carry purpose with honor and not to mistreat his subjects?

For whatever reason it took so many years for his dream to become a reality, Joseph was definitely a changed man. In this story, the true test of transformation is a picture of grace, of Joseph cutting his brothers loose from an offense that would well have cost him his life.

Sometimes the journey that God allows us to take can be similar to Joseph’s. Even with a dream in our hearts and a sure confirmation that God is in our situations, we may find ourselves stuck, imprisoned, demoted, and forgotten.

You may be feeling like you have been dragged into the sea, swallowed and spat out by a large whale and washed out to shore? You may be asking God if He is done with you because you just do not see a way out. You have waited in prayer, fasted, and done all that you know to do, yet nothing!

Once in a long season of waiting, I was sleeping and saw the word “indelible” in a dream. It was clear to me that God was speaking. Indelible means “not able to be forgotten or removed.”

The truth is, dear beloved, there is absolutely nothing that can separate you from His love. He has etched your name in the palm of His hand, therefore your life is ever before Him.

Just like Joseph, you could be a prisoner in a cell, hopeless and forgotten, but in one moment, your life could change forever.

Be encouraged. You are indelible. You are not forgotten. You matter to God!