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You ask but do not receive… – James 4:3 NKJV
Pastor Jerry Sittser writes: ‘What would happen if all our prayers were answered? I thought about my early years when I was ready to conquer the world, with or without Christ.
The group I led grew, I was riding a wave of success, everything I touched turned to gold. Eventually the ministry levelled off and lost momentum. Thank God it did… I’d become insufferably proud, a self-appointed expert.
What would’ve happened if my prayers had been answered, our group had continued to grow and our programme had continued to receive recognition?’
James says, ‘You ask but do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives.’ There are certain prayers God won’t answer for your own good.
Sittser continues: ‘Your cause may be right, but you may still be wrong; manifesting pride, gloating in victory, punishing wrongdoers with excessive severity and excusing sin.
The great hazard for people on a crusade is… they become blind to their own faults. They fight for civil rights but treat… janitors like second-class citizens.
They uphold standards of biblical sexuality, but show little grace towards their spouse.
Unanswered prayer is God’s gift… it protects us from ourselves. If all our prayers were answered we’d abuse the power… use prayer to change the world to our liking, and it would become hell on earth.
Like spoiled children with too many toys and too much money, we’d grab for more. We’d pray for victory at the expense of others… intoxicated by power… we’d hurt people and exalt ourselves. Isaiah said, ‘The Lord longs to be gracious to you… therefore He waits… ‘ (Isaiah 30:18 NAS).
Unanswered prayer protects… breaks… deepens… and transforms. Past unanswered prayers which left us hurt and disillusioned, act like a refiner’s fire to prepare us for future answers.’
Now, that is truly beautiful, Kaliba.
Yes, the Savior is indeed always waiting on the Throne of Grace to grant his children’s needs and wishes.
God’s Way, Or Yours
He gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul. – Psalm 106:15 NKJV
When you insist on wanting something that God in His wisdom is withholding, sometimes He steps back and says, ‘Okay, have it your way.’ After God brought His people through the Red Sea and delivered them from the hand of Pharaoh, we read, ‘They believed His words; they sang His praise’ (Psalm 106:12 NKJV).
That sounds good. But notice what happened next, for it happens to us: ‘They soon forgot His works; they did not wait for His counsel, but lusted exceedingly in the wilderness and tested God in the desert. And He gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul’ (vs.13-15). Wanting our own way can lead to spiritual emptiness.
When God called Moses to deliver His people from Egypt, Moses decided to do it his own way. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew slave, but instead of consulting God he took matters into his own hands.
The Bible says, ‘He looked this way and that way, and when he saw no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand’ (Exodus 2:12 NKJV). Obviously Moses was more concerned with the opinions of people than how God felt about it. So God had to teach Moses that his orders came from Him.
After Moses dug a hole and tried to hide the work of his flesh, God allowed it to be exposed. He showed Moses that by doing things his own way he couldn’t keep a single soldier buried in the sand. Whereas, by doing things God’s way, a whole army could be buried in the depths of the Red Sea. So today, make up your mind to do it God’s way.
SoulFood Bible Readings: Jer 45-48, Luke 6:37-49, Ps 109:16-31, Pr 15:23-26
Katonda is a spirit. Ne Lubaale naye spirit. Kiri eri buli omu okwesalirawo spirit ki janagoberera the spirit Katonda, oba the spirit lubaale oba e jembe Nambaga. The decision is yours, no matter whether you live in Buganda or in India or anywhere in the world. But here are some guidelines from the spirit Katonda. These guidelines apply to you and me:
Deuteronomy 30:15-20 reads:
15 See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. 16 For I command you today to love the LORD your God (the spirit Katonda), to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.
17 But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them (e.g. e Jembe Nambaga oba the spirit Lubaale), 18 I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.
19 This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live 20 and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Turning Stumbling Blocks Into Stepping Stones (1)
We are more than conquerors… – Romans 8:37 NKJV
How would you describe somebody who was an accomplished pianist at ten, a professional organist at eleven, had compositions published at thirteen, and was a member of the royal court musical staff at fourteen? Privileged? Born with a silver spoon in his mouth? Hardly!
Ludwig van Beethoven was a black-haired, swarthy-complexioned, pockmarked boy who endured taunts and name calling in his hometown along the Rhine River, an area of mostly blond, fair-skinned children.
His alcoholic father decided that Ludwig would support him, so he made him a slave to the keyboard. Looking back, Beethoven couldn’t recall a single moment of childhood happiness. His life was comprised of work, tears, beatings and angry tirades.
In his twenties he encountered another more insidious enemy deafness. When he could no longer play publicly he put all his energies into composing. His years of deafness were his most prolific.
Although at the time his works weren’t well received, he influenced many of the great composers like Brahms, Wagner and Schubert. Nearing death and recognising that the world had never fully understood or appreciated him and his music, he said with a smile, ‘I shall hear in heaven.’
When life knocks you down don’t stay down, bounce back! Everybody stumbles or gets knocked off their feet from time to time; the winners are just the ones who keep getting back up!
That’s what Paul meant when he said, ‘In all these things we are more than conquerors.’ If you pray and look hard enough, you’ll find the seed of good in every adversity (Genesis 50:20). The difference between winners and losers, is their ability to turn stumbling blocks into stepping stones.
SoulFood Bible Readings: Jer 7-9, Luke 3:11-20, Ps 64, Pr 14:25-28
Turning Stumbling Blocks Into Stepping Stones (2)
None of these things move me… – Acts 20:24
We don’t hear much about Abraham Lincoln’s defeats because his victories were so notable. But for much of his life the odds were against him. His mother died when he was nine.
In 1832 he lost an election to the Illinois State Legislature.
In 1849 he was rejected as Commissioner of the General Land Office.
He lost Senate races in 1855 and 1858, and in between failed to win a vice-presidential nomination. However, his most painful losses were the deaths of his four-year-old and twelve-year-old sons.
Born in the backwoods of Kentucky, Lincoln had only a few months of ‘blab school’ – one without books where students repeated the teacher’s words. He taught himself mathematics, read the classics and worked on his writing and speaking skills using the Bible as his model.
His philosophy was, ‘I’ll study and prepare, and when the time comes I’ll be ready.’ He told a friend, ‘Bear in mind, your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other one thing.’ His Gettysburg Address is one of the most notable speeches in history. During the darkest days of the Civil War he said, ‘I do the very best I know how… and I mean to keep on doing it to the end.’
Paul didn’t say, ‘None of these things hurt me,’ he said, ‘None of these things move me.’ Big difference! Paul refused to let life’s problems derail him. He understood that what happens in you is more important than what happens to you. He also understood that when you look to Jesus as your role model and draw strength from Him each day, He’ll give you all that’s needed to overcome in life.
SoulFood Bible Readings: Jer 10-13, Luke 3:21-37, Ps 95, Pr 14:29-33
You are right Mulongo. It is “ONE STEP AT A TIME”. I can see things falling in their right places for Buganda. It is a matter of time, one step at a time.
Okalyadda kadda dda,
ejjobyo liddira mu nvi.
Buli kyokola leero, manya nti jebujja ojja kukifunamu oba okukyekokkola.
One Step At A Time
Blessed are those who have learned to… walk in the light of your presence… – Psalm 89:15 NIV
In ancient European monasteries monks walked dark corridors with candles on the toes of their shoes, giving them just enough light to see the next step. That’s how God leads us.
Educator Verdell Davis’s faith was challenged when a plane crash killed her husband of thirty years. Facing a mountain of letters, insurance forms and bills, she spread them on the table and threw a sheet over them. ‘Out of sight, out of mind,’ she thought.
She writes: ‘I knew the monster under the sheet was going to attack me if I didn’t attack it first. I sat down and cried tears of anger… frustration… loneliness.
Eventually I raised my head and said, ‘Okay, Lord. I’m a fairly bright girl. I’m going to open one envelope. If I can make sense of what’s inside I’ll open another. If not, I’m putting this sheet back… and going back to bed.’… Even that bit of levity was a little extra light for that particular step.
Back then I wanted to already know how to take care of all the details… feel confident about the monumental daily decisions I had to make… have some clue that the steps in front of me were surmountable.
I wanted the path flooded with light… yet, it was with small flickers of candle glow that God gently reminded me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’ (2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV).
The Psalmist said, ‘Blessed are those who have learned to… walk in the light of your presence’ (Psalm 89:15 NIV).
I only needed light for one envelope, one conversation, one decision, and one step at a time.’ So do you!
SoulFood Bible Readings: Hosea 11-14, Luke 2:34-40, Ps 21, Pr 14:17-20
How To Move The Mountain
Say unto this mountain, be thou removed… – Mark 11:23
How can you move the mountain in your life? By:
1) Using God’s Word:
In the wilderness satan tempted Jesus in three ways:
a) put your temporal needs ahead of your spiritual ones: ‘Turn these stones into bread’
b) use your power for the wrong reasons: ‘Throw yourself down from the pinnacle of the temple’
c) take the easy way, not the cross: ‘The world is yours, just submit to me.’
Each time Jesus overcame satan by saying, ‘It is written’ (Matthew 4:1-11). Your most powerful weapon is God’s Word – learn to use it!
2) Being persistent:
Jeremiah said that God’s Word is ‘… like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces’ (Jeremiah 23:29 NKJV). Ever wonder how a hammer can hit a rock ninety-nine times, but on the one-hundredth blow it shatters?
That’s because all the previous blows kept weakening it. Live in God’s Word; keep speaking it over your situation and it will work.
The story is told of a pastor who asked his congregation, ‘How many of you are willing to forgive your enemies?’ Everybody was except one old guy. ‘Why not?’ the pastor asked. He replied, ‘Because I have none; I’ve outlived them all!’
After speaking about mountain-moving faith and prayer that bring results, Jesus said, ‘Whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses’ (Mark 11:25 NKJV).
Your mountain can’t be moved or your prayers answered if you’re harbouring un-forgiveness. So ask yourself, ‘Is it worth it?’ Whether you think the offender deserves forgiveness or not, for your own sake, forgive it and let it go.
SoulFood Bible Readings: Hosea 1-5, Luke 2:8-20, Ps 8, Pr 14:9-
Learning To Stand
And having done all… stand. – Ephesians 6:13 NKJV
Don’t allow the conflict-free seasons of your life to lull you into a false sense of security: ‘Be vigilant… the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour’ (1Peter 5:8 NKJV).
What should we do when the Devil comes along? ‘And having done all… stand.’ Indeed, ‘… God is able to make [you] stand’ (Romans 14:4 NKJV), not in your own strength, but the strength of Jesus Christ.
By yourself you’re an easy target, but in the strength of the Lord you can stand and not give in. So today when satan shows up with his temptations, announce that you’re going to stand in Christ. Let him know you’re going to stand until the shaking stops, until the wave of loneliness passes, until your marriage is restored, until you come out of debt, until the struggle is over, until the tempter loses his power to trap or topple you. When you do the standing – God does the strengthening!
Paul said, ‘I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me’ (Philippians 4:13). Note the word ‘strengtheneth’. He won’t just strengthen you once, He’ll do it again and again.
He’ll strengthen you every time you face a difficult challenge, every time a memory comes back to torment you, every time you’re reminded of your imperfect past, every time you face a difficult situation. Drawing from God the strength you need to stand up to the enemy will take effort. It will take your praise, your prayer, your getting into His Word with an intensity you never had before. But the truth is – you can stand if you want to!
SoulFood Bible Readings: Rev 5-9, Mark 14:53-65, Ps 48, Pr 13:2-3
Coming Clean With God
When I kept silent about my sin… Your hand was heavy upon me… – Psalm 32:3-4 NAS
A therapist who graduated 34 years earlier called the University of Oregon and admitted she’d cheated on a final exam. Instead of revoking her degree the University asked her to write an article on integrity.
A woman who completed a walk around the world confessed she travelled part-way in a support truck. ‘I shouldn’t be remembered as the first woman to walk round the world when I cheated,’ she said. How many of us would even have admitted our deception?
The Psalmist said, ‘When I kept silent about my sin… Your hand was heavy upon me.’
Confessing your sins:
a) lets you experience God’s forgiveness: He already knows about them anyway, but He won’t forgive you while you’re busy making excuses and blame-shifting. John says, ‘… If we confess… he will forgive our sins… ‘ (1 John 1:9 NCV). The first move is up to you
b) restores your emotional and physical energy: Nothing’s more draining than denial and nothing’s more invigorating than a clean slate. David said, ‘… My strength… failed because of my iniquity… ‘ (Psalm 31:10 NAS). Reflecting on his affair with Bathsheba, he said, ‘When I kept silent… my vitality was drained… I acknowledged my sin… and You forgave the guilt… ‘ (Psalm 32:3-5 NAS)
c) allows you to move on: Confession allows you to hit the ‘reset’ button and start again. It’s also important to draw a line between the past and the future in case you’re tempted to repeat your behaviour.
d) lets you grow: Thomas Edison said failure taught him over a thousand ways not to make a light bulb! Making your mistakes work for you instead of against you, starts with confessing them to God and accepting His forgiveness.
SoulFood Bible Readings: Rev 1-4, Mark 14:43-52, Ps 1, Pr 13:1
You have a point, Kaliba. We must listen to God’s voice when talking to us.
What Are You Called To Do? (1 of 3)
You are the salt of the earth… – Matthew 5:13 NIV
Sometimes what a person contributes doesn’t get noticed until they’re no longer around to do it. The story’s told of the husband who came home from work to find his house in a complete mess. The baby was crying, there were dishes piled up in the sink and dirty laundry on the floor. The TV was blaring, beds weren’t made, carpets weren’t vacuumed and dinner wasn’t ready.
When he demanded to know what was up, his wife said, ‘You know how you always ask what I’ve been doing all day? Well, today I didn’t do it.’
The Bible says, ‘… Each one should retain the place in life… to which God has called him… ‘ (1Corinthians 7:17 NIV). This doesn’t mean that we should not aspire to greater things. It just means that if we can’t start here where we are, we can’t start at all.
One day Jesus healed a demon-possessed man who’d spent years separated from his family. After being set free, the man wanted to travel with Jesus. But Jesus said, ‘… No, go back home and tell them what the Lord has done for you… ‘ (Luke 8:39).
In other words, start where you are, use what you’ve got, and do what you can. The Bible says: ‘You are the salt of the earth.’ Salt doesn’t exist for its own pleasure. It must be poured into something bigger than itself; only then does it fulfil its purpose.
But be careful, don’t be ego-driven. The quest for significance can be misleading. You can’t do it by yourself for yourself, you must do it with God and for His purposes; then God will bless you!
SoulFood Bible Readings: 1 Kings 1-2, Mark 11:27-33, Ps 128, Pr 12:10-11
What Are You Called To Do? (2 of 3)
You are the salt of the earth… – Matthew 5:13 NIV
When God called Moses, one of the questions He asked him was, ‘What is that in your hand?’ (Exodus 4:2 NIV). Moses held his shepherd’s staff. It represented his livelihood; it’s what he was good at. It represented his income; his flock was his wealth and his family’s security. God asked him to be willing to lay it down.
God still asks, ‘What is that in your hand?’ What has been given to you? Your gifts, your money, your temperament, your experience, your relationships, your mind, your education.
God has given you what Dr Martin Seligman calls ‘signature strengths.’ Seligman found that human abilities fall into certain categories. He defined them as:
a) wisdom and knowledge (which includes abilities like curiosity, love of learning, sound judgement, and social intelligence)
b) courage (perseverance and integrity)
c) humanity (with capacities for kindness and the expression of mercy) d) justice (the ability to bring about fairness and leadership)
e) temperance (qualities like self control, prudence, humility) f) transcendence (the appreciation of beauty, the expression of gratitude, the ability of hope, the capacity for joy).
We all have the capacity for each of these strengths, but a few resonate more deeply in you; they are your ‘signature strengths.’ Identify these, and you begin to understand your calling.
Sometimes we think God couldn’t or wouldn’t use us because of our weaknesses. No, the opposite is true. No one can speak to those who grieve, better than those who’ve suffered loss.
Chuck Colson was the chief White House lawyer, until Watergate. But it wasn’t until he was a convict that he was prepared to begin prison fellowship. Today, if you let him, God will use you.
SoulFood Bible Readings: 1 Kings 3-5, Mark 12:1-12, Ps 101, Pr 12:12-13
What Are You Called To Do? (3 of 3)
You are the salt of the earth… – Matthew 5:13 NIV
1) Your calling is often connected to what troubles you deeply. For Moses it was the oppression of his people. So God used that, and called Moses to lead his people to freedom.
For William Wilberforce it was slavery. He devoted his entire life to seeing it eradicated in England, which it finally was shortly before his death.
For Dr Martin Luther King, Jr, it was the injustice of a society that enslaved and oppressed African-Americans. So he dreamed and he preached and he marched and he organised and he boycotted, and the Civil Rights Movement was galvanised.
If you want to discover your calling, begin praying about what troubles you deeply. Usually we try to avoid unpleasantness, but if you have a sense that your calling involves helping the poor, spend time around those in poverty. Allow your heart to be moved, carry within you the conviction that things must change, and keep praying, ‘Lord, make me a change agent.’
2) Your calling means God believes in you. When Jesus called His disciples they didn’t look like winners. Generally, in their day if someone was going to be the follower of a rabbi it happened much earlier. Plus, rabbis didn’t recruit, they took applications. But not Jesus. He picked a doctor, a tax collector and fishermen and said, ‘I believe in you. What I know I will teach you.’
He promised, ‘… He who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also… ‘ (John 14:12 NKJV). No wonder they left their nets! Jesus empowered His followers to go out to live as He lived. Today, that’s what He is calling you to do.
SoulFood Bible Readings: 1 Kings 6-7, Mark 12:13-27, Ps 108, Pr 12:14
Listen To God (2)
Fear not, for I am with you… – Isaiah 41:10 NKJV
To be successful in anything God calls you to do, you must be sensitive to the Holy Spirit within you and learn to recognise when He speaks to you through the Scriptures.
When the pressure is on and you’re tempted to move too quickly you’ll hear His voice saying: ‘… You shall not go out with haste… for the Lord will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear guard’ (Isaiah 52:12 NKJV).
God’s got you covered; front and back. How good is that? When you’re about to make a wrong turn or a bad decision He will remind you, ‘In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps’ (Proverbs 16:9 NIV).
When you don’t have the ways and means to get the job done His voice will whisper: ‘The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought, and strengthen your bones; you will be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail’ (Isaiah 58:11 NKJV).
You have an unfailing supply. When you run out of answers and don’t know what to do He will reassure you: ‘I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you’ (Psalm 32:8 NIV). When the load becomes too heavy to carry you’ll hear His voice saying, ‘Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall’ (Psalms 55:22 NIV).
Hearing God’s voice may mean you have to sacrifice lesser things and tune out other voices, but you must do it. Nothing, absolutely nothing, is more important than learning to recognise God’s voice when He speaks to you.
SoulFood Bible Readings: Titus 1-3, Mark 10:13-22, Ps 88: 9b-18, Pr 11:27-29
Listen To God (1)
Your ears will hear a voice… saying, ‘This is the way… ‘ – Isaiah 30:21 NIV
Any time you step out in faith and try something, a voice within you will whisper, ‘You must be out of your mind. You’re not capable of this. Those little accomplishments you had before were pure luck; you just happened to be in the right place at the right time. Now you’re in over your head.’
That voice will waken you in the middle of the night, sick to your stomach. You can hear it in every boardroom, living room and pavement. It’s the voice of fear, and it doesn’t play fair. It pulls the file on your past failures and preys on your deepest insecurities.
But there’s another voice; God’s! It says: ‘Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand’ (Isaiah 41:10 NKJV).
Attuning your ears to God’s voice doesn’t mean your problems are automatically solved or that the other voice just fades away. No, it’s more like having an intimate conversation with a close friend in a noisy, crowded place. There may be other voices around you but you don’t hear them because you’re so focused on what your friend is saying.
That’s how it is with God’s voice. Whether He speaks to you through the Scriptures, through a friend, or through your life’s circumstances, He’s always communicating with the heart that seeks Him.
His promise to you is, ‘Your ears will hear a voice… saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”‘ One word from God, just one, can change your entire outlook. So today, take time to listen to God’s voice.
SoulFood Bible Readings: Jonah 1-4, Mark 10:1-12, Ps 88:1-9a, Pr 11:24-26