THE METHODIST CHURCH IN ZIMBABWE
COVENANT MONTH BOOKLET 2022
THEME: WAITING UPON THE LORD
(ISAIAH 40 vs 31)
Click or tap on the day number of your choice to jump down the page to the notes for that day:
If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, now may Israel say; If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, when men rose up against us, then they had swallowed us up quick, when their wrath was kindled against us: Then the waters had overwhelmed us, the stream had gone over our soul. (Psalm 124 v1-4)
Brethren, God gave us another opportunity to see 2022 after a difficult year, where a lot of hearts were broken due to Covid-19 pandemic which hit hard on us. Despite the challenges we encountered it did not stop us from worshiping God though a new way of worshiping was introduced. In all the challenges we faced Job said ―Can anyone teach knowledge to God since he judges even the highest? (Job 21 vs 22). All we can do is to trust in him.
Brothers and sisters, God is ahead of all our challenges, he is ahead of 2022. During the wedding at Cana Jesus was there first before the shortage of wine. Whatever you face, it can surprise you but it cannot surprise God. The world at large needs healing and the church needs healing. A lot of heart break, betrayals, disappointments and immorality knocked on our door steps during Covid-19 and a lot of youths lost their identity; some ventured into abuse of drugs, theft, some early marriages were seen, it left a lot of parents depressed. All we are to do is to gather together to pray for our church as the only person who can bring healing is God himself, because even ministers and preachers were not spared from these challenges. No matter how hard the challenges are, the word of God says ―Be still and know that l am God (Psalm 46 vs 10). We need to be still and trust God in trying times. 2022 has come. Let us approach the year without fear or hesitation because greater is he that is in us than in the world. The four lepers had been staying outside the city for a long time when the city was captured by the Syrians but it came a time when they said ‘if we stay outside the city we will die of famine. If we go in the city we will be killed.’ What is amusing is that they decided not to stay outside but rather to go forward.
The four men did not let their current condition determine their tomorrow or the next step to take. They said let‘s go there. The same with you, a lot happened but whatever it is, let‘s go forward. A lot of theories and research had been said about the pandemic but let it not scare you, all we need is to plan and God permitting we will overcome (2 Kings 7 v3-20). The theme is saying, waiting upon the Lord, it requires one to have strong faith. Waiting is easy when everything is going your way but if it’s opposite, you feel like it will take eternity to happen, but all you need is patience and to trust in the Lord. The verse says those who wait upon the Lord will be given new strength and what it means is there are times when the strength will go away but it will be renewed. In 2022 a lot is going to happen and: God‘s blessings, trials / tests, disappointments and betrayals, but all you need is to carry the right attitude and to put all your faith and trust in the Lord.
Revd B. Chinhara
DAY 1 TOPIC: WHAT IS A COVENANT?
READING: JEREMIAH 31v 31-34.
In the month of January each year, every member of the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe (MCZ) gets an opportunity to start a new journey with God, the same God who spoke with the prophet Jeremiah when the Israelites and the house of Judah had broken their covenant with God after being released from Egypt. People have a tendency of forgetting what God did for them when they were in problems, and that breaks the relationship with Him. However, He is always a merciful God who accepts back his people and makes new covenant with them in spite of their sinful nature. He always gives people who come back to Him another chance, so let us all return to God
A covenant is a chosen relationship or partnership in which two parties make binding promises to each other and work together to reach a common goal. For example, in a marriage, a husband and wife choose to enter into a relationship binding themselves to one another in lifelong faithfulness and devotion. They then work as partners to reach a common goal, like building a home or raising children together. That‘s a covenant.
In the Bible there are such covenants as:
Personal covenants between two individuals (David and Jonathan in 1 Samuel 23 )
Political covenants between two kings or nations (King Solomon and King Hiram in 1 Kings 5)
Legal covenants with a nation (like the laws about freeing Hebrew slaves), and so forth.
There are two types of covenants conditional and unconditional. In “Conditional” covenants, God makes certain promises and expects certain behaviours from people in return. In “Unconditional” covenants, God just fulfils his promises through his divine power. All major covenants in the Bible fall under one of these two categories and a few of these shall be looked at in the next chapter.
A covenant with God creates a father-child relationship which will sustain them throughout the year and beyond. It is God‘s initiative to have a covenant with people who then need to take advantage and draw close to Him. God wants to change his people‘s hearts. He promises to put his covenant in our hearts so that we will not sway from it. If it is in the heart, it will lead you along the path of God and it will remind you when you sway from it. God therefore promises to give people the ability and the tools to stand against the wiles of the devil. It is when we activate that authority through the covenant with God that we are able to rise against the evil manipulations which the devil sets in our paths.
PRAYER:―Creator of heavens and earth, we thank you for your kindness and mercy as you always give us an opportunity to start afresh. We plead for the forgiveness of our sins dear Lord, and wish to make a new covenant with you. We surrender to your will and ask that you write your covenant in our hearts so that we will walk according to your will.
DAY 2: FIVE COVENANTS IN THE BIBLE
READINGS: JOSHUA 24 v 14-15
The tradition of renewing covenants with God at the beginning of each year comes from John Wesley himself. He recognized that men have a tendency to become very comfortable in their religious lives, such as attendance at Sunday worship, and membership to class meetings and church organisations etc.) Thus, from time to time, they need to examine their personal relationship with God and recommit themselves to serve God in whatever way He has planned for them. The beginning of a New Year is a very appropriate time to do this. Below are five examples of covenants found in the Bible, but there are many more:
The Adamic Covenant: An unconditional covenant found in Genesis 3 v16-19, in which God tells Adam the kind of hardships he can expect in life because of his sin.
The Noahic Covenant: An unconditional found in Genesis 9 v1-18 that God made with Noah and his sons after the flood waters receded and everyone left the Ark. God caused a rainbow to appear in the sky on that day and used it to make the promise that he would never again use a worldwide flood to destroy the earth and its inhabitants.
The Abrahamic Covenant: An unconditional covenant found in Genesis 12 v1-4;13 v14-17; 15 v1-7 and 17 v1-8, in which God promises to make Abraham the father of many different nations, and that he would prosper and be blessed.
The Mosaic Covenant: A conditional covenant found in Exodus 20 v1 – 31 v18 that God made with Moses, which contains the commandments that God gave to the Israelites.
The Davidic Covenant: Found in 2 Samuel 7 v4-16 and 1 Chronicles 17 v3-15, this is God’s unconditional promise to David that he would have an eternal dynasty, centring on three major components of an everlasting throne, an everlasting King (Jeremiah 32 v21) and an everlasting kingdom (Daniel 7 v14).
There were also covenants with Ezra, Nehemiah and others, but in all of these cases the people eventually forgot the importance of their covenant relationship with God and began to copy the ways of other nations. Furthermore, we must desist from concentrating on the outward show of commitment to God. We must aim to live according to the will of God whether in public or in private. It is God whom we ought to please in all we do and therefore religious rituals are not enough to please him, hence the promise of God to write the covenant in our hearts. It is a change of heart which will determine a true change of outward behaviour
REFLECTION: How do the commandments and promises in the five covenants above apply to our lives and to the church today?
Each member should prepare themselves to make a covenant with God, trusting in his promises and relying on his grace.
DAY 3: THE NEW AND EVERLASTING COVENANT
READINGS: JEREMIAH 31v31–40; EZEKIEL 37 v26, HEBREWS 8 v6.
The new covenant is one that is mentioned many times throughout the Old Testament but mainly in Jeremiah 31 v31-40. This is an unconditional covenant that was established between God and all men who chose a new life of obedience to a new source of eternal salvation (Hebrews 5 v9).
The fullness of the gospel is called the new and everlasting covenant. It includes the covenants made at baptism, during the sacrament, in the temple, and at any other time. It is called everlasting because it is ordained by an everlasting God and will never be changed. He gave this same covenant to Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and other prophets, but the Lord calls it new because each time the gospel is restored after being taken from the earth, it is new to the people who receive it (see Jeremiah 31 v31–34; Ezekiel 37 v26).
When people accept the new and everlasting covenant, they agree to repent, be baptized, receive the Holy Spirit and follow and obey Christ to the end of their lives. God promises that all who keep the covenants will be raised on high in His kingdom. This promise is hard for people to understand, but the commandments God gives benefit them and, if they remain faithful, they are promised a share of the blessings and of heaven and earth.
We are a part of the new covenant which was set up by the blood of Jesus. A covenant which comes through the repentance of sin. We are expected to renew our commitment to God and claim the peace of God for ourselves. This means that even when the world out there is raging and volatile, we will obtain internal peace from God which allows us to persevere in an evil world as we hang on to the safety which God promises us.
REFLECTION: What do we promise to do when we accept the gospel? What blessings does the Heavenly Father give us as we keep the promises of the new covenant?
DAY 4: THE LORD’S COVENANT PEOPLE
READING:1 PETER 2 v9–10
From the beginning, the Lord has made covenants with His children on earth. When His people make covenants (or promises) with Him, they know what He expects of them and what blessings they may expect from Him. The people who covenant with the Lord and with whom the Lord makes covenants are known as the Lord‘s covenant people. Members of the Church are part of the Lord‘s covenant people. We must then go a step further from being a church member, to becoming a part of the spiritual church which is the body of Jesus Christ, and also be the sons and daughters of the kingdom of God..
For example: when people join the Church, they covenant with God when they promise to do certain things and adhere to certain rules, They make these promises to God because the church is there to usher people into the will of God, and they are bound by those promises. At the end of the journey of life, our hope goes beyond being afforded an honourable burial by church members, an eternal place in heaven and rest for our souls.
A covenant is made with the Saviour at baptism when people agree to take His name upon themselves.
The Lord made covenants with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (see Galatians 3 v26–29 and if people are obedient, they inherit the blessings of that covenant as they receive help and guidance from the Holy Spirit.
People covenant with the Lord as they partake of the sacrament and promise to remember Him and to obey His commandments.
However, it should be clear to all Christians that, along with the blessings they receive as the Lord‘s covenant people, they also have great responsibilities. The Lord promised Abraham that through his descendants the gospel would be taken to all the earth, and this responsibility belongs to the Lord‘s Church and His covenant people.
We are the holy priesthood of God, the heavenly church, which is the body of Christ, when we live according to his will and follow his commandments. It is through obedience to the will of God that we remain in a covenant with God.
REFLECTION: Think about the covenants you have made with God and the blessings He has promised you for keeping these covenants.
DAY 5: THE NECESSITY OF KEEPING THE COVENANT
READINGS: GENESIS 17 v14; HEBREWS 6 v4-8; HEBREWS 10 v26-31.
When two or more people enter into a contract and sign some sort of agreement, it becomes necessary and important for each one of them to keep their part of the agreement as the only way the desired results can be achieved. Likewise, when men enter into a covenant with God, it is their responsibility to strive to keep their part. This is necessary because it is the only way humanity can be saved, and also because it glorifies God, which is the chief end of the covenant.
Man needs to keep in mind that a covenant is a relationship of fellowship between God and man, and they have a part in the covenant, just as God also has a part. In an earthly relationship such as in a marriage, both partners, husband and wife, must do their duty, with the former loving his wife and caring for her, and the latter submitting to her husband and helping him. Parents have to rear their children in love, and the children should in turn honour their parents.
There are scripture texts that warn people against the sin of breaking the covenant. Genesis 17 v14 threatens that the uncircumcised man-child ―shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant. See also Hebrews 6 v4-8 and Hebrews 10v26-31.
God keeps his end of the covenant when we keep our end. The protection of God upon his people and the fulfilment of his promises to us rests upon our keeping our end. God is a jealous God and his main requirement is that we worship only him. We must keep ourselves away from foreign gods and continue to honour only God in everything we do. He will in turn fulfil his promises to us. If there are promises which are not being fulfilled in our lives, we ought to examine ourselves because God himself does not make mistakes, he remains true to his word. It is us who often divert from his will. We must therefore examine ourselves and seek restoration to a place of divine covenant with God.
DAY 6: HOW TO KEEP THE COVENANT
It has been explained earlier on that a covenant is between more than one people. Each person therefore has an obligation to keep their part of the bargain. Today we are exploring what comprises keeping the covenant, the characteristics that apply to every aspect of one‘s life: worship, marriage, family, citizenship, and work.
The first thing to do in keeping the covenant is obeying God‘s commandments, as was stated by the prophet Samuel in the Old Testament: ―Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams (1 Samuel 15 v22). A church or an individual can ignore God‘s commandments for several reasons, some of which could be:
for a better worship of God (―progressive worship where miracles abound, as is rampant in this day and age where the gospel of prosperity is misleading many),
for a service of God that is more acceptable to contemporary society (drunkenness or same sex marriages)
For unbiblical love practices (permission of unbiblical divorce and remarriage).
Secondly, one who keeps the covenant should love God:
God as the heavenly Father,
God as husband in Jesus Christ
God as the redeemer from sin and death,
God as a dear friend.
In order to love someone, one needs to know them well and one can only know God well through the study of the Word, attendance at sermons, and the reading of solid theological books and magazines.
The third way of covenant keeping is drawing near to God, as Hebrews 10 v22 exhorts: ―Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith. It is a troubled marriage in which the wife keeps her distance from her husband. People draw near to God in prayer and by seeking Him where He is to be found: in the true church; in the preaching of the gospel; in the sacraments, particularly the sacrament of the Holy Communion.
Fourth, man must keep the covenant unconditionally, just as God does on His part. To do this means following the road Christ traversed on this earth, and it is all about loss of things loved, sacrifice, self-denial, suffering, and even death, implying the ―cross (Mark 8:34). And the cross implies persevering in both convenient and easy times and in times when keeping the covenant sails against the wind.
Fifth, the covenant should be kept through generations. What was true in the Old Testament: ―… between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations (Genesis 17 v7) is also true in the New Testament: ―the promise is unto you and to your children (Acts 2 v39). The believer whose marriage is blessed with children should present them for baptism in a true church, teach them the truth, nurture them in love and discipline them.
DAY 7: WAITING UPON THE LORD
READINGS: ISAIAH 40 v30-31; PSALMS 130 v5-6.
The MCZ theme for 2021 was “Our Help Comes from God” (Psalm 121), and the 2022 one is “Waiting upon the Lord” (Isaiah 40 v30-31). To wait upon the Lord means to depend upon Him, to trust Him, to look unto Him. ―We depend on the LORD alone to save us. Only God can help us, protecting us like a shield…… I am counting on the LORD; yes, I am counting on him. I have put my hope in His word. I long for the Lord more than sentries long for the dawn, yes, more than sentries long for the dawn (Psalm 130 v5-6).
There are many situations that discourage and threaten the performance of the people of God. The Isaiah scripture is a direct address to the Israelite community that had complained that God had neglected them. The prophet addresses them with the message of hope that those who patiently waited upon the Lord would be given strength to ride on, with the powerless and the weak being given the strength.
God will never forsake His chosen people during tribulation and turmoil. The pandemic (Covid-19) between 2020-2021 has wreaked global havoc to humanity and the Christian community has not been spared. Besides the Covid-19 pandemic, in Zimbabwe, people are faced with a lot of other pandemics like cyclones, moral and ethical degradation, economic and political challenges, to mention but a few. It is a period where people ask questions like, ―where is God at such a time as this? Yes, people may be powerless and without hope anymore, but God watches over them and will continue to be with them and to renew their strength. So there is need for all who faithfully wait upon Him for the renewal of their fainting strength to continue hanging on to God for their deliverance. I again implore you to continue seeking the face of the Lord. As you wait on the Lord, surrender yourself to Him and strive to live according to His will.
REFLECTION: As Christians enter the New Year, they need to make a critical reflection on the areas that made them grow weary in the previous year, and find time to plan in the New Year. Some Christians wait upon the Lord but at the same time seek help from other sources.
Prayer:―Living and loving God, we are growing weary and faint. We pray for the renewal of our strength through our Lord Jesus Christ. Also help us to trust in you in all circumstances.
DAY 8: PATIENCE IN WAITING UPON THE LORD
READINGS: PSALM 40 V 1-41; ISAIAH 49 V 23; PSALMS 37 V 1-7;
―I waited patiently for the LORD; and He inclined to me, and heard my cry. He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, cut of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my steps. He has put a new song in my mouth — praise to our God; many will see it and fear, and will trust in the LORD. Blessed is that man who makes the LORD his trust, and does not respect the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies. (Psalm 40:1-4).
Waiting upon the Lord is one of the fundamental principles established and taught in the Bible, a principle that every child of God must understand and live by if he/she is going to walk effectively with God. Many know this principle but think they can circumvent it and do things in their own way without seeking counsel from God. They are in a hurry to have their heart‘s desires fulfilled and view waiting upon the Lord as a waste of time. Sometimes they are deceived by the progress that those who are not waiting upon the Lord appear to be making, unaware that this is only a deceptive advancement. True everything such people do appears to be successful. Their dreams appear to be fulfilled always. Yes indeed their lives appear to be flowing smoothly, but the fact is that, more often than not, in God‘s eyes, they are just moving round in circles and not getting anywhere.
Proverbs 3:5-8 says, ―Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and depart from evil. It will be health to your flesh and strength to your bones.
The Scripture teaches us that those who believe in God and have accepted His lordship over their lives should exercise patience and wait upon Him as this has great benefits. As Christians, they may face many challenges and encounter a number of set-backs in life. They need to remember that patience pays and that all life is in the hands of the Lord, the Lord who has promised to put a new song in their mouth, a song of both Victory and praise. Waiting upon the Lord enables them to renew their strength and empower them to soar to greater heights like eagles that will run without tiring. They will then be able to work for the Lord tirelessly, and at the end, reap the rich rewards waiting for them in the Kingdom.
Waiting upon the Lord includes confirming the promises of God and reminding him as well about what he promised. It is important to remain positive and not to allow the spirit of heaviness to take away your joy or your hope in the fulfilment of the promises. The devil is cunning and will seek to steal your joy and to make you see only negative things. Seek to remain positive and to glorify the Lord through your circumstances as you wait for God to fulfil his promises to you.
a) What are the temptations of focusing on those who appear to be excelling in life yet they do not know Christ?
b) How should we help each other to remain steadfast in hope in the midst of challenges
PRAYER: Lord help me to wait patiently for your counsel in all I do. We pray for the rekindling of our dying gifts for the betterment of ourselves and the Church.
DAY 9: THE DILIGENCE CALLED FOR IN WAITING UPON THE LORD
READING: MATTHEW 25 V14-30.
The parable of talents teaches us about active waiting and the reward of being faithful. The servants were given talents to utilize as they waited for the return of their master. Those who were faithful and worked diligently were richly rewarded in the end, while those who remained idle and were passive got nothing. Passive waiting is like waiting for a bus at a bus station. One does nothing, and cannot do anything to quicken the arrival of the bus other than expectantly watching the road and listening to the sound of its approach. Passive waiting means practically doing nothing but expecting the clock‘s second hand to keep on ticking, and it will indeed tick on. Unfortunately, the flood of fortune will unfortunately be missed by all those who are not prepared to sweat. Right now, most of the world is paralyzed as humanity remains hunkered in their homes waiting for the corona virus plague to loosen its grip. Little do they know that a lot of people have dared the devil and made significant strides in their lives? The period of lockdown has seen the rise of many indigenous entrepreneurs who have taken advantage of the situation. Likewise, a call is made to all Christians to be diligent as they play their roles in the Lord‘s vineyard. This will also be in direct response to the covenant made with Adam after he fell by the wayside because of sin: Genesis 3 verse 19, In the sweat of thy face shalt thy eat bread till thou return unto the ground…….
We must continue to work to bring others to Christ. We must continue to ensure that the mission of God is accomplished. Let us continue in prayer and in works of faith. Let us lend a hand to those in need and let us be active in the vineyard of the Lord. We cannot accomplish anything if we sit idly while time passes by. The devil uses idle minds. Fill your mind with the word of God and let your hands be active to bring the word to others wherever they may be. The online age has come, you can now reach anyone anywhere and through different platforms, we must ensure that others know Christ.
DAY 10: WAITING IN HOPE!
READING: JOHN 5 v1-8
In Jesus‘ day, paralytics were left to beg in the street, and this was their only way of survival. A story is told of a paralytic who had lain besides the pool for a good 38 years, in the hope that one day some ―Good Samaritan would come along, have mercy on him and help him get into the pool before anyone else. As he lay there, the only earthly possessions he had were the clothes he wore and the mat on which he lay, as he watched the world pass by. Indeed the world seemed to pass by over the years without even taking a glance in his direction, not until the redeemer and Saviour of mankind came by. Jesus came, stopped by, looked at the pitiful state of the man, had pity on him and asked him to ―Get up, pick up your mat and Go home (John 5 v8). To the paralytic, this command must have sounded like some sick joke, but he obeyed all the same. That became the turning point in his life as he put away the mat that had been part of him for all the long years, and stood upright on his own two feet. He looked up and started to live a new life, with his eyes set on Jesus, as Jehoshaphat said in his prayer in 2 Chronicles 20:12):: ―Our eyes are set upon you. The same was said by David in Psalms 25:15: ―My eyes are ever on the LORD, for only he will release my feet from the snare. It is time that the MCZ as a church fixes its hope in the Lord, in the certainty that He never fails those who lay their hope in Him. It is Him alone who can heal the paralysis that hampers, not only individual members but the church as a whole, from fulfilling their God given responsibilities. It is only a word from Him and the paralysis will disappear without having to visit some witchdoctor, seer, miracle worker or self-proclaimed prophet.
REFLECTION: Today is Day 10. Some people are winding up their 10 days of prayer and fasting. Reflect on the dangers of putting hope in people or in things created, like the paralytic hoped that someone would come to his rescue. Nothing happened and for a good 38 years, no one cared to give him the required assistance.
PRAYER: ―Lord, help me shift my focus of hope from earthly things to you.
DAY 11: WAITING AND GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY.
READING: ECCLESIASTES 7 V 13-14 Sovereign refers to the power above or superior to all others, Supreme in power, rank or authority. How can Christians call God sovereign in their present situation where they are exposed to COVID-19, joblessness/ job loss, sickness and other predicaments of life? In spite of this, whatever situation one is facing right now could be a trial of endurance and change. Little do people know that God is working through their problems to get to the targeted goal?
God makes His children walk through fire because it‘s the only way to refine them and prepare them to live according to God‘s plan for their life. Here‘s what the wise king says in Ecclesiastes 7:13–14:
―Consider the work of God: who can make straight what he has made crooked? In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him.
We ought to remember that God does not change simply because our circumstances are dire. He remains God and does not change. It is our circumstances and even our views which change. Numbers 23:19 says that God is not like us human beings and will never change. Sometimes therefore we may view God according to our situations when we must see him as he is despite our circumstances.
REFLECTION: Let each one reflect and seek God‘s purpose with him/her in the face of the above mentioned challenges of joblessness, job losses, sicknesses, deaths, etc.
PRAYER: My Sovereign God, help me to trust that you are in control, even when things are not well for me. Help me to see you as unchanging despite my circumstances because you do not change.
DAY 12: WATCHING AND WAITING
READINGS: MATTHEW 25 v13; PSALMS 130 v5-6
Waiting for something is one thing that has two sides to it. For example, there is a lot of excitement when a bride is waiting for the groom to arrive for the wedding ceremony to take place. However, if the groom should delay for one reason or the other, the excitement will then turn to apprehension. Many thoughts will start running through the bride‘s mind, including the thought of being dumped at this last lap of a relationship.
The Bible often refers to Christ as the groom and the church, whose building blocks are Christians, as His bride. Life‘s journey is all about waiting for the return of Christ when he comes back to judge the world and the Bible has a lot to say about how to do the waiting.
The Bible teaches us to watch for Christ‘s return (Mark 13:33). Many Christians are waiting for His return, but they are not really mindful of the warnings of what is to come, given in various Bible verses (as in 2 Timothy 3: 1-5). The proper way for one to watch for His return is to keep oneself prepared, being obedient to what the Scriptures say and not being deceived by false teachings. There is the danger that one may simply wait for that day without doing as Christ instructed but being involved with worldly things. Watch out ―for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming. (Matthew 25:13)
During waiting, one must take on the active role of a watchman, as declared by the Psalmist: “I wait for Yahweh; I wait and put my hope in His word. I wait for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning – more than watchmen for the morning” (Ps. 130:5-6). In biblical times, watchmen vigilantly guarded the cities, watched for enemies who might attack at night, were alert when called upon, they sprang into action
For Jesus, the word ‘watch‘ was always used together with ‘pray‘ (Mark 13:33, Matthew 26:41). Prayer presupposes dependence on God and trust in his power. It also entails alertness. Therefore, as Christians, we are called to be watchful and prayerful, as we wait upon the Lord.
Being watchful and prayerful therefore indicates that danger lurks in the darkness and we ought to have the foresight to see danger approaching and to know the best way to deal with it. When one is watchful, he or she is able to remain calm because it is in preparedness that we gain confidence that we can face anything that comes our way. Watchfulness and prayerfulness therefore incorporates a level of not only alertness but preparedness to face what comes from the table of the enemy. We watch in anticipation of every possible tactic that may be used by the devil and we are prepared to stand against it, having the right weapons to defend ourselves.
REFLECTION: Even though there may be darkness in our lives, we trust that God is in control, and he will bring us a new beginning (dawn).
PRAYER:―Lord, help me to be watchful and prayerful.
DAY 13: AND WHEN YOUR FAITH IS TESTED.
GENESIS 22 v1-19; HEBREWS 11 v1-6; JAMES 1 v3
Christian life is a journey of faith, full of temptations and challenges. It is about accepting and believing the promises of God. However, sometimes people‘s faith and hope are tested by circumstances to such an extent that they feel they cannot go on with life. As they are tested, two possibilities can happen to their faith: either it grows stronger or wanes to extinction and dies.
The Bible is full of stories of people who have been tried and tested but they overcame and kept their faith till the end. Today‘s text narrates how Abraham, having been without a child for a long time, is tested to sacrifice Isaac, his one and only child whom he had obtained in old age. Without thinking twice or questioning God, Abraham was determined to do as commanded. He prepared to embark on the journey to give Isaac as sacrifice to God.
A closer look at the story brings some interesting points to note.
Regardless of the fact that Isaac was his only son, Abraham trusted God and believed in Him for his past, present and future.
Secondly, he chose to listen to the voice of God and was ready to offer Isaac as a sacrifice, knowing very well that he was all he had.
Because of this immeasurable degree of faith, God provided the sacrificial lamb and Isaac was saved!
Christians need to believe in God for the past, present and future. Abraham knew that he had no power over his own life and chose to walk in the path God directed, with the result that he got more than he could ever have bargained for. He got the life of his son back, the one through whom God would fulfil His promise to him of being the father of nations. The same is true to our lives. When we feel we are being tested and stretched beyond endurance that is when God comes in with unexpected blessings in response to our unwavering faith. God is a covenant-keeping God and will always stand by His promises to the faithful.
God requires that we give him the place of honour above all our possessions. When we are tested, we must hold on to God and be prepared to give up all else for him. Thus with each test, God wants to see our commitment and surrender to him.
REFLECTION: Do you have the hope that God change your life for the better and that good times are ahead of the faithful? Take time to ask God to renew your faith and hope in Him.
PRAYER:―We come before your throne of grace our Father seeking for the renewal of our faith and hope as we begin this year. Amen.
DAY 14: THERE IS POWER IN PRAYER!
READINGS: EPHESIANS 3 v16-20; ACTS 16 v16-25.
Covenant month is a period of making petitions unto God. Prayer is a way to return to God for the renewal of our relationship with God and man. Prayer is the weapon of every Christian to fight the devil as reiterated by Paul in Ephesians 6v10ff. Ephesians 3v16-20 is Apostle Paul‘s prayer to Christians in Ephesus in order for them to be strengthened in their inner being. Therefore, prayer strengthens our souls and is the way we communicate with our heavenly father.
Paul and Silas in the book of Acts engaged themselves in prayer while in jail and God responded to their prayers. Your situation must not stop you from connecting with God in prayer. If Paul and Silas could connect with God from jail, you can also connect with God from anywhere and in any situation.
We need to have time to pray in our lives. Only prayer warriors can be at watch against the devil. Have time to critically reflect on your relationship with God and constantly ask God in prayer to forgive you. God is always ready to forgive our sins and that helps us to start a new journey of faith. However, every one of us should develop a prayerful habit as that renews our faith and souls before God.
REFLECTION: Take time to pray for yourself, those around you and the Church at large.
PRAYER:―Father, we thank you for giving us an opportunity to communicate with you in prayer. We ask you, dear Lord, to accept our prayers and renew our strengths and souls.
DAY 15: UTILISING GOD-GIVEN GIFTS
READING: 2 TIMOTHY 1v 6
Every human being is born with a gift in her or his hands and that means people are all gifted differently. They have diverse gifts which, if used in the Church as expected, there would not be a shortage of harvesters in the vineyard and the work of God would not suffer. The challenge many people have is that they either do not know their gifts, or they just do not care to unveil them. Sometimes this happens because people in the Church have a tendency of degrading other people‘s gifts, thereby casting fear in the timid, some of whom may develop the inferiority complex. Thus, the gifts of the introverts will not be manifest and will remain unidentified and dormant.
As we begin the year 2022, let us all rekindle our gifts for the betterment of ourselves and the Church at large. If a singer, worship God in singing; if gifted in leadership, accept leadership positions to improve yourself and the Church. Rekindle your gift in order for the Church to benefit from you, remembering that no gift is superior/inferior to the other. Paul‘s letter to Timothy is a prayer reminding him of the need to fan the flame, utilizing his God given gift. Therefore every member of the church also needs to flame their gifts and work while it is day, for night is coming.
We also have the power to inspire in others a need to fulfil their mandate by rising up and taking part in our own mandate. When others see the good work we are doing, they will also want to stand up and be counted in doing God‘s work. Positive behaviour is infectious and will help activate the gifts in others. We also have the mandate to pray for others so that they realize the gifts which are dormant in them so that they may be activated.
a) Take time to thank God for the gift/s he has given you. Take a closer look whether your gift is still alive or it is dying and find a way of improving through prayer.
PRAYER:―We thank you Father the gifts you bestowed on each and everyone and for those who have yet to realize their gifts, may you bring knowledge and wisdom to them.
DAY 16: HE WILL GUIDE THOSE WHO WAIT UPON HIM!
READING: ISAIAH 58v11.
One interesting thing in life is to know that God provides and guides your path. If one is guided by God, he/she cannot be lost because God always directs in the right path. People whose minds and thoughts are guided by God will have peace and their needs will be satisfied. The prophet Isaiah uses an analogy of the guidance of God with the springs of water that those whose ways are guided by God are like the springs of water that will never run dry. Fellow Christians, let us allow ourselves to be guided by God who is the Source and Provider of everything we want and need. The previous two years (2020-2021) were not good years at all as we lost our beloved ones and friends, but God guided us through despite those challenges.
In times of hardships, God is our source of solace and peace. Our 2021 theme said, ‗Our help comes from God‘. This is continuously expressed in the word of God. God‘s assistance in our lives is not limited but is for all time. He promises to be with us all the time.
Challenges are part of the earthly world, but those who believe and trust in God will be guided through thick and thin. Allow God to guide your and your family and you will experience the joy of the Lord. The reason why some Circuits do not move and grow is that leaders and Church members spent time quarrelling, fighting each other and majoring on the minor. Decisions are made without the involvement and guidance of God. Let us stop fighting each other. Let us stop demeaning each other and allow God to lead and guide us.
REFLECTION: Who is guiding your ways, your family, your Church and leadership? If we have been walking without the guidance of God, let us return to him and ask him to guide us in order for us to achieve our goals and mandate as a Church.
PRAYER: ―Living and loving God, it is our prayer you guide us in everything we do for our own ways will lead us astray.
DAY 17: A TIME FOR THE RENEWAL OF HEARTS
READINGS: EZEKIEL 37 v1-14; ROMANS 12 v2; TITUS 3v5.
We are all sinners and we fall short of the glory of God, as Paul reiterates in Romans 3 v23. We sin before God in diverse ways. Against this background, people need to return to God for the renewal of their hearts, as He is able to restore broken, unfaithful and sinful hearts.
Ezekiel is given a vision of the dry bones, which relate to Israel‘s despair and God‘s response. Israel was dead before God because of her sins, but God responded in a mighty way and restored her heart back to life. The restoration of a heart is the act of God and God alone, and this is clear in the word of Paul to Titus. A person is not saved because of his/ her righteousness, but because of His mercy. Many circumstances in life can break one‘s heart and affect their relationship with God.
Broken hearts lead to dryness and as a result, emptiness before God. However, God can restore the dead back to life. What is needed is for one to return to him and plead guilty for the renewal of one‘s heart. As Christians should not conform to the things of this world because they belong to the Kingdom of God. Let us therefore, transform for the renewal of our minds and hearts.
We have to make a conscious effort to keep our minds and our hearts away from the corrupt world. Mental renewal is daily effort where we work to feed our minds with things that glorify God and to shun things that taint us. Our good treatment of others is a part of spreading the peace of God therefore we must express our love to all mankind and urge them to be renewed as well.
REFLECTION: Make an evaluation of your mind and heart to see whether you are still alive or dead. If dead, ask God for the renewal for a fresh start.
PRAYER: ―God we pray and ask for the renewal of our minds and hearts. Renew our hearts so that we may not conform to the patterns of this world.
DAY 18: IN HIS FOOTSTEPS
READING: PROVERBS 3 v5
When the Bible speaks of waiting, it‘s an entirely different waiting from what we do after registering a name to be allocated a house by the Local Council. One goes back home and can do nothing about it but to wait for a call from the Authorities when their opportunity arises. Biblical waiting is a spiritual discipline that people should seek to practice in their lives. One should not fear to venture out and explore new avenues, as long as they know they have asked the Lord to go ahead and they follow in His footsteps.
It‘s natural for human beings to want to be individualists, to have the freedom and independence to do whatever they want when, where, and how they want to do it. But the truth is that all humanity is dependent upon God for even their next heartbeat. As Job rightly confessed, it is the Lord who gives and takes away (Job 1 v21, and as the Apostle Paul expressed in Romans 11 v36: ―from God are all things.
Trusting in God means that we allow him to be the Lord over us and to guide our every step. It is important to surrender to God everything that we are because He is superior in his ways and has our best interests at heart. When we place God in the seat of honour, we allow him to take control of our lives. We must therefore strive to shun our pride and the self and let God take control if we want to continue to have a good relationship with him.
―Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. Proverbs 3 v5
REFLECTION: Is it always easy to see God being in control and at work when we are in the midst of catastrophes?
DAY 19: GOD’S TIMING IS THE BEST!
READING: HABAKKUK 2 v1-3
In the Old Testament book of Habakkuk, the prophet asserts that God‘s timing is the best in the believer‘s life and perception. Our own timing as a people cannot change God‘s timing.
“I will stand at my guard post and station myself on the lookout tower. I will watch to see what He will say to me and what I should reply about my complaint. The LORD answered me: Write down this vision; clearly inscribe it on tablets so one may easily read it. For the vision is yet for the appointed time; it testifies about the end and will not lie. Though it delays, wait for it, since it will certainly come and not be late” (Habakkuk 2: 1-3).
While the whole world is battling the COVID-19 pandemic, it seems no one has the answers to this pandemic. Vaccination is just a measure which is meant to minimize risk of Covid-19 symptoms and is not a permanent solution to the problem. The solution lies with God. The solution to your life challenges also lies in God‘s right time.
It is important that we continue to speak the promises of God. The word says that we must make the vision plain. What is it that you want to achieve? Is it in line with the will of God? When you have established your vision, do not let it die, continue to speak into your vision until it is realized. Our God waits to fulfil his word and He will not change. As we wait for the fulfilment of our visions, we must watch for it and take stock to keep our vision alive.
During these times, we wait patiently on the Lord. We know that deep down He is working – while it may be underneath, hidden deep in our character. In due time, God will reveal everything He’s grown in us. Those who wait will never be put to shame. We will never be disappointed.
a) Does God sometimes delay things?
b) God‘s time is the best. When is God‘s time?
PRAYER:―Lord, help me to understand time. Help me to have a vision which is aligned to your will.
DAY 20: DEPENDING ON THE LORD
READINGS: 2 CHRONICLES 14 v11-12; PSALM 18 v2.
Depending on God means understanding that we cannot live and survive on our own. Therefore, our lives are in the hands of the Lord who is the Creator and Maker of humanity. In the book of 2 Chronicles 14, Asa called to the Lord his God and said ―Lord, there is no one beside you to help in the battle between the powerful and those who have no strength, so help us, O Lord our God. With that prayer, the Lord God routed the Ethiopians before Asa and before Judah and the Ethiopians fled away. In the same vein, if we rely and depend on God, all our wars and challenges will come to pass as God will fight for us. If we try to fight on our own, we will definitely be defeated for these wars are strong and powerful. Always include God in your battles and the assurance of victory is certain.
In agreement with the author of 2 Chronicles, David says: ―The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in which I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. Our challenges are not the same with Asa and David as we are in different times and contexts, but the reality is that we are overwhelmed by so many socio-political, economic as well as moral decadence among other challenges and against this background, we need to trust and depend on God who is able to fight for us.
REFLECTION: Are there times we feel like we want to help God in fighting our battles? Discuss.
PRAYER:―Heavenly Father, we come to you knowing that our wars can be defeated by you our Father.
DAY 21: LET’S STRIVE TO KEEP HIS WORD!
READINGS JOSHUA 1v8; 2 TIMOTHY 3 v6.
Adherence to the Word of God is one of the Christian principles that will help us build a strong relationship with God thus eventually leading us to inheriting the Kingdom of Heaven through God who sustains us both physically and spiritually. Christianity exists because of this Word and Christians cannot survive without this word, for them it‘s their life.
Joshua argues to the Israelites that, ―the book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. Meditating upon the word will help us to comprehend what God requires from us and also answer some of the questions we might be having in the face of challenges and difficult circumstances.
John Wesley and the ‘Holy Club‘ were nicknamed ‘Bible Moths‘ because the Word of God was always on their mouths and that sustained their Christian journey and ministry. To Timothy, Paul is very clear that the Word of God was written through inspiration for rebuking, teaching, training and correcting. We therefore, need to adopt the same principle and culture of reading the Word of God and do what the Word says. Remember we are a covenant people if that covenant is to live there is need for us to bind it by his word.
a) Why is it that in most cases it is difficult to read the Bible, but easy to read other secular books?
b) What can we do to cultivate the culture of reading the Bible?
PRAYER:―We thank you God for your word that keeps us close to you. Help us to adhere to your word for our spiritual nourishment.
DAY 22: A COVENANT FAMILY STRIVES FOR JUSTICE
READING: HABAKKUK 1 v1-4
The MCZ believes that it has a social responsibility of facilitating for justice in accomplishing its mission. Our reading begins, ―How long, O Lord, must I call for help? This is a lament, a desperate cry for help in the midst of great trouble. Habakkuk‘s words are a complaint; he has major issues to take up with God. I suppose we do as well.
Habakkuk was attentive to what was going on around him. He sees violence, injustice and wrongdoing everywhere and he prayed but it appeared the situation was not changing. To him the law appears to be helpless and not working; It seems the wrongdoers have gotten an upper hand.
The outlook of things shows that God‘s justice and orderliness is gone and humanity is perverted in all walks of life. The use of false scales, charging of exorbitant prices, suppression of the poor and inequality before the law, with the lock downs the situation has worsened. It is in such a time as this that we are expected to uphold justice as we wait for the Lord.
God in Ecclesiastes 8: 11-13 says that justice will come to pass and good will prevail over evil. Darkness cannot win against good and God will reward the faithful. We therefore must not lose hope because God does not sway from his word.
REFLECTION: Reflect on how we can eradicate some acts of injustices in our families, church, community and nation at large.
PRAYER: ―My Lord, help me to be an agent of your justice all the time.
DAY 23: TIME FOR SELF INTROSPECTION!
READING: 1 CORINTHIANS 11 v28-34
Covenant month is an important period in the Christian life where we reflect on our relationship with God. We also reflect on our relationship with fellow Christians. Many of us spend time evaluating others instead of self-introspecting. The Church at Corinth had the same challenge hence numerous divisions among them. Many a times we as Christians focus more on the minor and yet forget the major which is self-introspection. Christian life is more on constantly checking on our relationship with God as Paul is emphasizing in the given scripture especially before partaking of the body and the blood of Christ.
It is important to amend our broken relationship with God as well as with fellow Christians. For if we confess our sins God is so merciful that he can forgive and cleanse us again.
Self introspection is therefore about focusing on yourself and doing away with focus on other people‘s lives or mistakes. God teaches us not to judge others as we ourselves are not fit to judge but God is the just judge. We therefore need to avoid being negative about other people but to seek forgiveness ourselves from what we have done. We must desist from seeing the speck in our brother‘s eye when we have a log in our own eye.
REFLECTION: Take time to isolate yourself from others and have time to examine and ask God to forgive you where you think and see falling short. Pray for the renewal of your heart.
PRAYER:―We thank you heavenly Father for giving us your Son Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins. Give us, dear Lord, the spirit of examining ourselves before partaking on the table of grace.
DAY 24: CONFESSION TIME!
READINGS: DANIEL 9 v5; ROMANS 3 v23-24.
Confession and repentance is not an event but a process and Christians ought to confess and repent throughout the year. However, January is a critical month where everyone should critically reflect on their past Christian journey and make a confession. God is always prepared to accept and begin a new journey with each individual.
Daniel makes a confession prayer accepting that he and the people around him sinned before God. Christians need to make the same prayer as Paul did, admitting that everyone including him had sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Many Christians do not take the importance of confession seriously because of pride and considering oneself as holy. Everyone is a sinner, hence the need to confess, repent and ask God for forgiveness. One can only wait upon the Lord if they have a good relationship with him.
Brethren, here is an opportunity to flash back and see how we have travelled with God to this day. Ask God to give us a new opportunity to revive our covenant hence our relationship with him. It takes a courageous Christian to confess and repent. Let us therefore gather the courage and confess!
REFLECTION: Have you ever had time to introspect and confess your sins before God? If ‘Yes‘, praise His name and if not, then start now. Confess and repent and start a new journey with God.
PRAYER:―It is true Lord that we all have sinned against you. Accept us as we come to confess and repent before your throne of grace.
DAY 25: LET’S CRY FOR FORGIVENESS
READINGS: EPHESIANS 4 v31-32; COLOSSIANS 3 v13.
In the above two letters, Paul is conscious of the anger and malicious acts among the Church members. The two texts are intertwined as they address the same matter. Indeed conflicts and misunderstandings are common among people all because we come from different backgrounds and we also have different views and interests.
What is important is to know the best ways of resolving these conflicts so that we eventually have sound relationships following an understanding, appreciation and forgiving of one another. As we have been forgiven by God through Jesus Christ so we need to forgive one another. Forgiveness allows people to refresh and start on a new page; it boosts peoples‘ confidence and morale and, as a result, they live in harmony and peace with each other. We are humans therefore not perfect but all the same we need one another Let us not allow conflicts and misunderstandings to separate us.
In Psalms 51 David demonstrated what we need to do in the face of sin. David cried to God for forgiveness – For David:
Sin had made him dirty and he wanted to be clean.
Guilt had made him sick and he wanted to be well.
Disobedience had made him lonely and he wanted to be reconciled.
Rebellion had made him fearful and he wanted to be pardoned.
The words used to describe David here are a pointer to show us how we should approach God when we have sinned. We need to genuinely seek his forgiveness because sin separates us from our Holy God (Isaiah 59 v2).
a) How do you describe your relationship with God?
b) Are you able to resolve issues amicably and forgive others as we were forgiven?
PRAYER:―We thank God for the forgiveness of our sins through Christ. We pray that you enable us to forgive one another.
DAY 26: STRIVING FOR SPIRITUAL RENEWAL
READING: PHILIPPIANS 4 v13; GALATIANS 5 v7
Have you ever started a project and found it very difficult to finish? It often happens that people begin with zeal and then abandon all efforts on the way more often because of challenges encountered. Likewise as Christians we often find our spiritual lives on a downward trajectory, slowing down, stalling out in the face of some discouragement from within and opposition from without making it so easy to give up.
Helplessness becomes especially obvious during times of calamity. It is in God alone where we find the strength to tread life‘s troubled waters. In the Psalms, there is a repository of prayers to God, many of them asking Him for help when life seems to be going through a rough patch. There are also verses where the Psalmist realizes that he had strayed from the ways of God and needs to have a renewed heart so as to go back to the old ways. For example:
Psalm 51 v 10 – 12: Create in me a pure heart O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
119 v 25 – 48: My soul cleaves to the dust; revive me according to your word.
―The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.
Christians do not suffer from a lack of anything because they have Christ as their Good Shepherd. Even when supermarkets run out of household essentials and the hospitals run out of beds or medical supplies, children of God can rest secure in Christ for their most essential needs, as long as they are prepared to continue having a right relationship with the Creator, a relationship that can only come as a result of spiritual renewal and strength.
REFLECTION: Think very carefully about how you‘re living. Why? You‘re working so hard to be happy, why do efforts fall flat? Is it because you‘re busying with the wrong things, looking for happiness in the wrong place.
PRAYER:―O Lord, help me renew my strength in you.
DAY 27: LEST WE FORGET!
READING: DEUTERONOMY 8 v11-18
It is a tendency of humanity to forget what God has done for them when everything is going well with them. When things turn the other way round and the going gets tough, everyone, including the non-Christians, begin to call on God. This text chosen today is usually referred to during harvest time, but it has been brought at the beginning of the year in order for people to reflect on what God has done for them to this day, and be thankful. Take time to check on the countless blessings you received from God and be able to thank God with that.
The author of the text seems to predict or foresee the Israelites forgetting their God who delivered them from Egypt. The Israelites had many challenges in the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land. God provided water and food (manna) to sustain them on their way so that when they got to Canaan, tilled the land, gathered food and their herds and flocks grew large….they would not forget their God. In the same manner, when people get blessed and have everything they want they should not forget that they are who they are because of the grace of God.
Moses, one of the most prominent heroes of faith, speaks to the people of Israel mainly about three issues within Deuteronomy.
In his first teaching, Moses recounts the forty years of wandering in the wilderness, the miracles through which God provided His people and the revelation of His Laws.
In his second teaching, Moses reminds the Israelites of the need to hear God‘s voice and obey His mandates.
In his third teaching, Moses offers the assurance that even when Israel fails, their sincere repentance will restore their relationship with God.
Just like the Israelites, every one of us must remember the Lord Jesus and His mercy when He heard their cry and forgave their sins, lest they forget the beauty of their Salvation: remembering that they were saved from the bondage of sin that made them hostages to their past.
Man must remember from what they were delivered—lest they forget the power of their deliverance.
Men must remember what God has done on their behalf lest they forget His goodness, mercy and unconditional love.
Above all, men must remember the miracle of their redemption—lest they forget what Christ‘s death purchased for them!
Just meditate on the numerous things bestowed upon you through the love and sacrifice of Jesus. Look back at your life‘s journey and recount your blessings – naming them one by one. How often do you forget His loving kindness and falter in your march to follow His footsteps? What are you going to do about it?
PRAYER:―We thank you dear Lord for who we are today. Yes, we have many challenges around us, but we are thankful for your grace and providence. Teach us NEVER TO FORGET YOUR SACRIFICE FOR OUR REDEMPTION.
DAY 28: YOU ARE YOUR BROTHER’S KEEPER!
READING: GENESIS 4 v9; ACTS 2 v37-42
In the book of Genesis, there is a well-known story in which God questions Cain after he had murdered his brother Abel, and he answers, ―I don‘t know. Am I my brother‘s keeper? (Genesis 4 v9) But that question from the God who knows all is not a question seeking an answer; it is a question seeking confession. Cain‘s response to God has also come into our way, not only of speaking but in our actions as well. People just seem to have stopped caring enough about another person or to take an active interest in what is going on with them.
Are you your brother‘s keeper? It is a timely question. So, what is the answer? For we now live in strange times. More and more people just want to go through life and not make any waves. ―I just want to keep my head down and not make eye contact. I don‘t want to get involved!
The emergency of Covid-19 and the resultant lockdowns have left many families divested socially, economically and psychologically. The church has also found herself engulfed with new roles as well as responsibilities, and its members cannot afford to ignore the effects of this pandemic. The early church described in the book of Acts understood the need to care; hence people shared whatever they had. In the process, the family spirit of love and trust was cultivated, resulting in the church continuously growing both in spirit and in numbers, the seed of growth having been sown through acts of caring and sharing.
These days‘ people are seemingly becoming more and more selfish and even family relations are no longer that strong. It is painful to watch families breaking apart, children being abused and the youths straying to dirty dealings for survival. This is the right time for the church of God to call on its members to be ―’their brothers‘ keepers’ to care for each other, to value relations and guard against behaviours which are a threat to the youths as well as their future. At a time when the church is threatened with reduced membership, which implies less support for its mission, Christians are called upon to continue caring and protecting each other from becoming victims of the effects of the challenges that are currently ravaging society.
Christianity is about fellowship and fellowship is about caring for one another in all times. When fellow brethren are happy, we celebrate with them, when they cry, we cry with them. We must therefore carry each other‘s burden and be in unity.
Are you prepared to be your brother‘s keeper? How are you going to fulfil that role?
How can the church protect its youths and children from being victims of the socio-economic and psychological challenges/ effects facing society today?
PRAYER:―Our Lord and Saviour, we thank you for enlightening us that we should care, share and protect each other, including those whom you have called to be our shepherds. We thank you God for their tireless work amongst us.
DAY 29: LET LOVE REIGN!
READINGS: 1 CORINTHIANS 13 v1-13; 1 JOHN 4 v20.
Christian life is anchored on love. The history of salvation is based on the love of God to humanity. The gospel according to John is clear on this fact that God loved the world by sacrificing his beloved son Jesus Christ to die for us. The love of God is not conditional as reflected in John 3: 16 For God so LOVED the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. Men are to love God first, and then love others as God has loved them. God gave His Church a great blessing in Christ. He gave humanity salvation and also LIBERTY. So men were freed from sin and the law so that they could serve a higher Law, the Law of the Spirit, which is Love.
Christ gave Himself for mankind so that none would perish. Children of God need to take care not to cause their weaker brothers in Christ to perish. They must love one another in the same selfless manner in which Jesus gave up his whole life for us, the manner in which God the Father was ready to let go of his one and only Son to be the sacrificial lamb for man‘s redemption. Christians who wait upon the Lord love God, and loving God is not possible without loving one another. This love should start in one‘s home, loving one‘s wife/ husband, sibling, extended family member, neighbour – the list goes on.
Everyone needs to be loved, Love boosts fellowship, morale, confidence and trust within a group of people and this is what is expected of Christians. Man cannot claim to love God if he does not love fellow human beings, regardless of who they are, what they have, their origin, colour or creed, their social status and so forth. The love that is rooted in God embraces all: young and old, educated and not, rich and poor, black and white, gentile or Christian. This is the kind of love that all Christians are expected to exhibit in all their dealings with all people, thereby fulfilling what Jesus commanded those He saved, to first and foremost LOVE: John 13:34: A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
If we belong to Jesus, and want to go through life waiting upon the Lord, then we are to continue in Christ‘s Love.
REFLECTION: What does loving others compel us to do?
PRAYER: ―Dear God help us to love one another as you have loved us unconditionally.
DAY 30: HE IS GOD –WE ARE ONLY WATCHMEN!
READING: EXODUS 14 v13; PSALMS 46 v10 2 CHRONICLES 10 v15, EZEKIEL 33 v7.
From bible narrations we learn that watchmen vigilantly guarded the cities, watched for enemies who might attack at night, were alert when called upon, they sprang into action. They were also responsible for sounding their horns to warn the people of impending invasions. Once people heard the blast of the watchman’s trumpet, the responsibility fell on them to heed the warning and either escape the attack or prepare for battle. But if a watchman saw an oncoming attack and did not warn the people, their blood would fall on his hands.
In this era, all Christians are called upon to teach believers about the great responsibility they have to reach the lost with the gospel so that every man, woman, boy and girl can have an opportunity to be saved through faith in Jesus.
When the children of Israel were cornered by the army of Pharaoh, they panicked, but they were told to wait, so that they would see the deliverance of the Lord. Had they attempted to fight on their own, or to cross the sea by themselves, they could have perished in numbers.
From what is given above it is clear that the duty of watchmen is to demonstrate to everyone else the importance of faith in God as well as prayer as one of the greatest ways to share Christ’s love and to help each other to overcome the devil‘s attacks. In Psalm 95 v8 it is stated as people pray together to the Father, their hearts will become softened so that they are able to hear God’s voice over and above the battle cries of Satan. In their role as watchmen, they will also know when and how to sound the horn of warning so as to help others realize God’s guidance, compassion and mercy.
It is the duty of watchmen to make people understand that challenges are meant to strengthen us than to destroy us; in the midst of it all God will be in control.
REFLECTION: Discuss how you think we can play the role of a watchman today.
PRAYER:―Almighty God, help us to depend on you as faithful watchmen, even when faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges.
DAY 31: EMMANUEL – HE IS GOD WITH US!
READING: PSALMS 23 v1-6
Just over 2,000 years ago, Emmanuel changed the world when God became flesh. Jesus Christ, our Emmanuel, provided hope that sin and death were defeated forever and mankind would have no reason to fear them anymore, or to endure any pain from them. God gave humanity His only child, named Emmanuel, which literally means, ―With us is God, or ―God with us. He created mankind to have a relationship with Him but they rebelled against Him. Though He remained with them, man‘s sin broke the relationship and separated them from Him, and this drove God to action. Through a baby, Emmanuel, He drew them close despite their sin, showing a love for the world that could never be imagined.
In truth, God is omnipresent, which means He is everywhere all the time and is always among men. Speaking of God, the ancient psalmist David wrote,
―Where can I go from Your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there Your hand will guide me, Your right hand will hold me fast (Psalm 139 v7-10 NIV).
And in Jeremiah 23 v23-24, God said,
―’Am I only a God nearby,‘ declares the Lord, ‘and not a God far away? Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them?‘ declares the Lord. ‘Do not I fill heaven and earth?‘ declares the Lord. (NIV).
God is invisible God. Life seasons change and sometimes people find themselves in gross darkness as a church and society; they get trapped in pandemics like the current Covid-19, among other social and economic challenges. At such times, it becomes very difficult for a Christian to believe in the power and the presence of God, that He watches His people all the time through the joys and sorrows of life. As David says, though I walk in the valley of the shadow of death I fear no evil for he is with me. When all has collapsed and all hope is lost, Christians, as children of God, need to understand that God‘s presence and power is not limited, and so be able to stand firm in the assurance of the presence and power of their omnipresent Emmanuel, God with us.
REFLECTION: How can we be assured of the presence of God in our lives? Why do we sometimes feel as if we are alone in our Christian journey?
PRAYER: Each one should pray that God helps them to be faithful to the covenant made in 2022.