COMPASSION, THE ESSENTIAL INGREDIENT NEEDED FOR THE HOUR

In a recent conversation with a co-worker, I was taken aback to know that he thought of himself as being emotional in his orientation. A very down-to-earth, practical person, I have always thought of him as one who was full of of rich emotions rather than being an emotional person, a vast difference between the two. He was pleasantly surprised and so, as a counsellor, I went on to explain about empathy and sympathy.

Empathy and sympathy are words that many use interchangeably, since they are near cousins, but truly differ vastly from one another. In every field and aspect related to human care, such as the medical field or allied professions, empathy is touted over sympathy as being the needed emotion. Why is this so?

Sympathy is the feeling of pity or sorrow for someone else. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. So, empathy is a much deeper feeling than sympathy, as it connects you with the other person.

Sympathy is to understand what the other person is feeling while Empathy is to feel what they are feeling. Sympathy is Expressed for the other person, whereas Empathy is Shared with the other person.

Sympathy is more subjective and often causes one to become emotionally blinded, patronising, creating a divide between you and the other person – that you are lucky, you have come past the problem, but they are unlucky and still struggling.

Empathy, on the other hand, is the ability to detect another’s emotions and deal with them in a beneficial manner while being able to recognize and regulate your own emotions. Empathy occurs in the here and now, shown by immersing yourself in another person’s world, without making yourself into them – you retain your sense of self and know that you yourself are actually outside of the problem. Empathy is objective because it views information through logical criteria rather than personal opinion. 

Social psychologist and bestselling author Brené Brown says, Empathy drives connection and sympathy drives disconnection.” 

The Bible in Hebrews 4:15 notes that we have a High Priest Who can empathize with our weaknesses and is therefore, able to make intercession for us. Jesus is able to advocate for us before the throne of grace just because He truly knows what we are going through and even though He Himself is perfect and pure, He is not critical but understanding.

Sympathy will make us consider and commiserate with others, feel pity for them in their situation, but that is all we will do. Empathy, on the other hand, will enlarge our understanding to know what they are going through and drive us to atleast pray for them. Empathy is at the root of intercession since it enables us to really put ourselves in the other’s shoes and sense their predicament without getting lost in our own emotions about it. We are able to uphold them in their infirmity because of our ability to identify with them without getting entangled in our opinion or our judgement about the situation they are facing. Empathy will make us excusers and reconcilers, rather than accusers and destroyers of our own like the devil!

Now the Scriptures do not stop with declaring that the Lord empathizes and identifies with us in our weaknesses (for He Himself was made like us Heb 2:17-18), but also proclaims that the Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion (Ps 116:5 NIV).

Compassion, builds upon empathy and is one of the main motivators of altruism. With empathy, I share your emotions; with compassion I not only share your emotions, but also elevate them into an universal and transcending experience. Compassion, or “suffering alongside” someone, is being more engaged than simple empathy, and is associated with an active desire to alleviate the suffering of its object.

Sympathy is a feeling of sadness or pity felt for another person. Empathy is a one-on-one connection because of a deep understanding that comes from sharing an emotional experience. Compassion is the willingness to relieve the suffering of another and compassion is a broader sense of care for the world at large. Mark of compassion is the move to action!

The Gospel writers highlight Jesus being moved with compassion and always doing something to alleviate the suffering or need – feeding the multitude, healing the sick, opening blind eyes, making the lame to walk, raising widow’s dead son and sharing the good news.

Apostle Paul writes to the churches urging them to, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience (Col 3:12 NIV). Compassion is to not stop with feeling or understanding, but going beyond to do something to relieve the suffering.

I think my friend whom I spoke about, is not just emotional as he thinks, but truly compassionate, for I have seen him go out of his way to care for others, making him excel and stand out in his line of work. This inclination enables him to bring a new dimension to the highly competitive field of sales, for he operates with genuine concern rather than just an eye to profit and loss, even though that his sphere of responsibility. Compassion helps him go the extra mile in his daily routine, bringing a care that brands him as a follower of Christ and disciple of His teaching.

In this covid period, compassion and empathy, rather than just sympathy and pity, will enable us to be doers rather than bystanders or commentators!

*Pic courtesy google images, umsplash and shutterstock

*Information sources: https://compassionit.com/2017/08/27/empathy-sympathy-and-compassion-whats-the-difference/ https://keydifferences.com/difference-between-sympathy-and-empathy.html https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/should_we_train_doctors_for_empathy https://www.6seconds.org/2021/01/20/empathy-vs-sympathy-what-the-difference/ https://www.themedicportal.com/blog/whats-the-difference-between-sympathy-and-empathy/

WOMEN, FIGHT TO BE UNIQUE; NOT TO IMITATE!

One of the aspects of women liberation and emancipation seems to be to show that women are like men. In the name of freedom, women are focusing on imitating men rather than on recovering their uniqueness and specialness.

To be human is to be set apart and different from all other forms of life, for human beings have been created as the highest order of life, second only to God. For a human being to imitate an animal to be a vegetable is both unthinkable and ludicrous. We can masquerade as one which is ok for fun or even a play, but to imitate or strive to be one is ridiculous

For a woman to fight to be like a man or to imitate one in order to establish equality or even supremacy borders on lunacy. Being a woman is being different, set apart as being a dissimilar species, acknowledging and avowing with divergence rather than with congruity. A woman is unique and distinctive, just as a man is in his own way, each able to contribute uniquely. Each is special and individual, and therefore, impossible to imitate or copy.

A forgery of an invaluable artwork or an exquisite ornament is undesirable when it is possible to have or possess the original. An imitation has not the honor or respect as the authentic and genuine. A replica does not carry the validity of the bonafide and true. An imitation is just that – a counterfeit – not the same as the real.

Why is it then as singular beings, the best of the best, we seek to be a copy when we already truly are special since we are unalike! The stimulating and invigorating aspect of this earth is its variety and variability. As human beings, man and woman are both distinct and distinguished. To imitate one another is to lose identity and identification. Together they make a wholesome one, unparalleled in complementarity as well as in complexity. To make one as another will cause uniformity because of conformity rather than solidarity through integration.

As women, we do need to claim and demand what is ours by right – equal consideration, equal parity, equal acceptance, equal honor, equal treatment etc. However, we do not need to surrender our uniqueness to gain all of this. It will take away our contrast and make us common.

I, for one, won’t bow down to that pressure, but forever to be who I was created to be – special, quirky and individual!

The women of past who rose up against injustice accorded to their own, from Alice Paul and Maud Wood Park to Malala Yousafazi and Kamla Bhasin, all did without comprising their feminity. To champion the cause of women and women’s rights doesn’t mean we have become masculine or like men.

We need to stand for who we are and what ought to be ours!

To have to be like a man in order to gain for a woman is antiprogressive and antipersonnel.

To surender in order to win is anticlimactic.

Women, on Women’s Day, celebrate your originality and strive to be unique while seeking to be equal!

*Pics courtesy in splash.com, shutterstock and google images

MAKING YOUR MARK

One of my favorite poems is the one entitled Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley:

I am struck by the irony of the picture his words create – the pompous declaration of the king in the past contrasted with the reality visible in the present; the pathos of the empty vastness and the poignancy of the observation Nothing beside remains; the endless sands marking with finality the futility of perceived grandiosity and assumed greatness, while preserving the true nature of mankind mocking the tyrant in a subtle lasting way!

No other writing well portrays the fickleness of trying to leave a mark. No evidence better describes the vanity of doing something to inspire envy in the hearts of people fortunate enough to view a glory. No amount of power or wealth seems to be able to leave an impact on history inspite of efforts. No way to extend remembrance of existence in time and space even when possessing impressive grandeur.

We all do want to leave our mark in this world, in one way or another. People endow grants and prizes, carve their names and faces on rock and stone, work with tree and wood or paint and brush to create impression. We want to not only be remembered, but also make a dent on the fabric of this life to show our presence. How do we ensure that we do not end up like Ozymandias, with no trace of even in the very monuments he created in order to preserve his place in time.

What we strive to accomplish with the help of ambition, greed and selfishness are all swept away by the passage of time, worn out by the winds of change that are inevitable. What we pay attention to, give preference for, run after, slog for and pour ourselves out for, all become meaningless or redundant in the long run. What we value and pursue, giving our whole being to attaining, soon passes away into oblivion and forgetfulness. Rightly did King Solomon the Wise at the pinnacle of his glory declare: Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.

If this is all there is to life, what then is the use of work, toil, labor, striving and forbearance? Don’t we all want to be held in memory, remembered and not forgotten? How can we ensure perpetuity of existence and linger long in the minds of others? What is it that will help us etch our brand firmly on life and people?

As people, we are the best of creation, made to be eternal and everlasting. We have been given the unique trait to transcend from humanness and evanescence to godlikeness and permanence. There is an innate need within us to set in concrete terms that we were once alive and well. What is it therefore that helps us leave a fingerprint or footprint in time and space that cannot be erased or eroded away, giving expression to a need that throbs within us?

Life in general and all living things in particular get perpetuated by the proliferation and multiplication of their kind. The Creator has bestowed the ability to procreate within the body of every living kind, be it plant, animal or human. Each species on earth embodies a seed, which when planted in the right ground, brings forth fruit after its kind. Thus do all living things leave behind a generation that preserves its kind and type on earth.

Reproduction is the greatest blessing endowed on all living beings on earth, ensuring their kind has existential continuity!

Monuments may decay and die; Memories fade and flee;
Moths and insects erode and destroy;
Thieves steal and vandalize;
But a generation cannot be erased,
Nor a people totally annihilated.

That’s the mark we can create or help establish.
That’s the impression we can leave behind.

A progeny that will replicate and remember us;
A posterity that will carry on our name;
A people who will be living miniatures of ourselves,
Establishing and marking our past in their making of the present,
And impacting the future through their own

King Ozymandias would have done well to leave behind a host of people or his own sons and daughters to continue the good work he had done in his lifetime.

That is, if he had done good at all!

*Pics courtesy google images

LETTER TO A LEADER

DEAR ESTHER
Congratulations on the appointment, the honour and dignity conferred on you. You were recruited in the right place at the right time and now you have been given the right authority. It gladdens my heart to see the position you have been raised to, by the mercy and grace of God. You have asked me questions regarding your station and in the light of where you are right now, I will try to answer your pertinent queries to the best of my ability, based both on my experience and expertise in the field, trusting in the wisdom and ways of God, as a forerunner!

CALL
The first thing to know, realise and understand, is that you have been called to such a place and position, not by any man but by God Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth. Thus, you must always be aware that you are accountable to Him and must one day stand before His Majesty to give count to Him. Without this clear call from God and assurance from His Spirit, you can never function as a leader over His people. They are His people and He has the right to ordain whom He wants as shepherd over His inheritance, even when socio-cultural norms may dictate otherwise. This is the bedrock of your function, the stable grounding of your service and the impetus for every decision you will take. Remember that No one from the east or the west or from the desert can exalt themselves. It is God who judges: He brings one down; he exalts another (Ps 75:6–7). This is your strength and the hope that will anchor your being to your post, in spite of whatever opposition and vagaries of opinion that may confront you. Like a soldier who doesn’t move until he is commanded to do so, discharge the duties of your position well.  This call on your life then is what will make you stand tall on that firm foundation, often needing to encourage yourself, like David in his moment of crisis when all turned against him, for The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it (1 Thess 5:23–24).

CHARACTER
Leadership is not a position of authority and power, but an endowment of responsibility and trust. Nobody can assume or presume to be one, unless it is a grace and a gift, given and bestowed by God. Scripture notes there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God (Rom 13:1–2). Therefore, leadership over the flock entrusted to you is not positional but functional; an opportunity to do the best you can for those entrusted to you with the resources available to you. It is a call to serve others for their benefit using your power to benefit and bless others, not you or your own. Leadership over His people is a matter of service to God and man, not for self-promotion or domination over others or for your own ambitions. Therefore, it is a matter of maturity, holiness, wisdom and power as evidenced by the fact that His leaders instruct their apprentices to set those of impeccable character and integrity in positions of overseeing. Being young, you need to not only let anyone not default you in anything, but also be an example of love, faith and purity for all to follow. In addition, because I was an older woman, I had to pay attention to being serious, dependable and trustworthy. So you are better off than me!

CONDUCT
It is very important for you to maintain good conduct for it is the exhibition of your unseen character. So be careful to be groomed inwardly, adorned with the attitude and mind of Christ, paying attention to how you behave before others, for many will be watching you to see if you will fall or fail. Learning to be humble, without selfish ambition and vain conceit must be core of your growth, besides praying, reading the word, tithing, etc. Your inner beauty must enhance and augment your outer trim and swathe, so that your bejeweled appearance is haloed by an inner radiance that attracts with its own charisma. You must not stoop to petty jealousies or quarrels or gossip, but hold your post with poise; be willing to listen and receive input from your team, lead any discussion without being argumentative or aggressive or manipulative and willing worker to those in authority over you. If you were an older woman, you would have the additional task, as I had and have, of teaching younger women how to be homebodies minding their business and not busybodies in others’ affairs!


CULTURE
It is very important for you to breed and foster the right culture, for culture is nothing but a way of life and a way of doing things. Plant and incubate a culture of oneness, camaraderie, goodwill, cooperation and helpfulness, not competition or conspiracy. Do not lower the standards ordained in order to gain favour or please someone or curry favour with those above you, but be willing and ready to state the truth without compromise. Maintain your stance with decency and dignity, not looking down or ill-treating those placed under you, while at the same time able to apologise when you are wrong or when you make a mistake. Don’t claim others’ work as your own or take credit for their solutions, but always seek to promote your team and advertise their contributions. Give reward and credit where it is due and do not elevate yourself or your status by climbing on another’s shoulders, for promotion comes from God. Take care to walk in the fear of God, not man, so that all you do will pass the fiery flames of His testing. When this is your way of life, your team and those below you will follow suit, and thus civilized attitude and behaviour will spread as ripples in a pond or yeast in dough!

CROWN
Now I have come to what should be the core of your being, the context of your authority, the content of your position and the crown of your person. It has been my sorrow to watch gifted women, born to be leaders and called to be overseers, lose it all because of lacking this Kohinoor diamond of womanhood and queenliness—submission. According to that Chinese saint and stalwart Watchman Nee, submission is not so much an aspect of conduct as much it is a facet of the attitude of the heart, and many women confuse subservient obedience with submission. The former is born of fear of aggression and abuse, while the latter is a willing choice done in the fear of God and trust in Him!

A woman must learn submission if she is a leader who walks and works with authority. The demeanour of a woman leader’s heart is more important than the deportment of her manner and manners. Many well camouflage the raging of their heart and storminess in their mind by an outward show of quietness and calmness, without understanding the outcome of their wrong attitude. God, who sees in secret and who is privy to all secrets of our being, for our substance is not hidden to Him, judges us by our attitudes rather than by our behaviour. I have watched many an apparently soft-spoken woman dig her feet in stubborn sullenness, quietly refusing to comply with instructions of the authority over them. Authority is the umbrella of protection and preservation that God has placed over us and the woman who knows how to walk in it will thrive and flourish with aplomb in her role as a leader. Refusing to walk under it or rejecting its dictates will cause a women become a puppet and a toy of the devil, tossed here and there by him, be overtaken by deception and end up losing the very call that was meant to make them a blessing and a boon to many.


Beware Esther, and never rebel against those placed over you as your boss, even when he or she may not be accurate. God you trust will help you and uphold your integrity, fighting on your behalf and defending you before all by a favour.

I think I have given you enough to think through, wrestle with, long for and pray about for a long time.

May you be a shining star in the beauty of His firmament, guiding many with your pure radiance and shedding your light in a dark and perverse world!

With blessings,
Deborah

*This article was published in the Christian Trends magazine Oct 2019 issue! (https://ctrendsmag.com/author/sabina-immanuel/)

(https://ctrendsmag.com/author/sabina-immanuel/)

*Pics courtesy unsplash.com, shutterstock.com and google images

WHY INTERCESSION AND PRAYER!

When I hear about people being in grave illness, especially cancer or other sicknesses for which there seem to be no cure, I feel helpless and hapless.

When I receive requests to pray for people who are wasting away with specific maladies, I often feel clueless and powerless, especially when there seems to be no change.

I wonder, what is the use of praying when you know there is no remedy for such dire diseases. I am puzzled by what is accomplished when I am called to intercede and petition for any one as it is obvious there is no cure yet for such ailment nor too much history of healing, compared to the numbers affected!

I wonder why I should pray and what is the use of my intercession!

When I faced a similar situation with a family member being hospitalized for a sickness, I was swamped with a feeling of despair and inadequacy to deal with it. In a state of numbness, I informed my family members and then sat back overwhelmed by the many thoughts of changes that would be needed in the event of such a sickness. I couldn’t pray, couldn’t comprehend what to pray for, why I should do so and how to go about doing it.

That’s when my dad, a true man of God and faith, wrote to me, first encouraging me by reminding me of a past incident when God healed his mother, my paternal grandmother, in answer to prayer. Then he sent me a quotation from Job 33 and therein I found my comfort and the answer to all my questions.

I read there that ‘God disciplines people with pain on their sickbeds, with ceaseless aching in their bones. They lose their appetite for even the most delicious food. Their flesh wastes away, and their bones stick out. They are at death’s door; the angels of death wait for them.‘ According this passage, God does this in order to ‘rescue them from the grave so they may enjoy the light of life.’ This about people who are going through the dealings of God.

What about those of us who are observers and bystanders, as well as loved ones and family members? What are we to do? Stand shocked or throw words of judgment and criticism against them, pointing our fingers at their misdemeanor? Not at all! Then what can we do? The answer to this is given in the same chapter.

Yet if there is an angel at their side, a messenger, one out of a thousand, sent to tell them how to be upright, and he is gracious to that person and says to God, ‘Spare them from going down to the pit; I have found a ransom for them – let their flesh be renewed like a child’s; let them be restored as in the days of their youth – then that person can pray to God and find favor with him, they will see God’s face and shout for joy; he will restore them to full well-being. And they will go to others and say, ‘I have sinned, I have perverted what is right, but I did not get what I deserved. God has delivered me from going down to the pit, and I shall live to enjoy the light of life.’

I see that all we can do is to stand in the gap and intercede for the person who is suffering. We have to be gracious towards the one who is in trouble and be an angel or a messenger of mercy to present their cause before God. We need to uphold the ransom paid for them on the cross by His Son Jesus and ask God to spare them. We need to be advocates of their case before God and petition for their restoration.

What is the effect of such a stance on the one who is suffering? The ones going through the dealing of the Lord are given special ability to pray in the midst of their trouble and find favor with God. They are given grace to ask for pardon and they will also find mercy in His sight. They will turn back and turn towards God, like the sunflower faces the sun! They will then turn witnesses of His benevolence and beneficence, rather be remain rebels of it! That is why intercession is important, because it enables them to turn to their Maker.

The impact of intercession and petition on behalf of a delinquent moves the already compassionate heart of God, making it possible for Him to extend His mercy rather than judgment. God is both the God of justice and God of mercy, keeping both these parts of His nature in perfect balance. Yet, according to James 2:13, mercy always triumphs over judgment, a fact illustrated and stated by Portia in the Merchant of Venice.

We see this same sentiment echoed by Paul in his second epistle to the Corinthians when he writes that the prayer of many delivered his team and team from

God’s heart towards us is the heart of a Father and a mother, seeking to exhibit mercy rather than execute judgement, for He loves us dearly. Rare is the parent who, even in the height of anger, will not yield to persuasion by someone else who will petition on behalf of the erring child they are forced to discipline. A parent yearns over their child even when they have to punish and nothing makes them stay their hand as a grandparent, uncle, aunt, brother, sister or friend pleading on behalf of their own guilty child. They love the one who steps into the gap to rest the hand of harsh retribution.

So, also God, as the eternal lover of His creation, seeks for someone to stand up in defense of the one who is facing the rod of correction that His majestic justice requires of Him. When such a messenger is found or is present, God will gladly stay His hand of justice in favor of extending His Hand of mercy. If, in addition a ransom is also found, God gladly restores and rejoices in life rather than in execution. God cannot hold back His judgements, but He can be persuaded to deal favorably when an advocate of mercy is found.

That is why God loves intercessors and prayer warriors who stand in the gap and plead for His mercy on His humanity rather than those who demand reteibution.

God seeks to be merciful more than being harsh or judgemental. His Name that was proclaimed before Moses is “The Lord , the Lord , the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”Exo 34:6‭-‬7. When His very name and nature are compassion, how can He not respond to interceding petitions and prayers!

To my question of why intercession and of what use it is when all seems hopeless, I found that intercession and prayer birth repentance and rejuvenation in the one who is suffering and makes way for God to be merciful and restoring towards His people rather than judgmental.

The call is to be intercessors rather than accusers.

What will we choose to do?

*It would help you to read my previous post on DOES GOD SPEAK https://sabinatagoreimmanuel.com/2020/12/30/does-god-speak/

*Pics courtesy unsplash.com and google images.

THE GOLDEN THREAD

I remember my father, a police officer, while in service,mentioning a time when action taken by his department proved wrong due to misinformation. Those directly involved were to face very serious discipline that would destroy their career and put a black mark on their confidential report. The then police chief stepped up and took responsibility for the action, deflecting the punishment away from his men and bearing the ignominy. As their leader, he took on the penalty to be visited in his team and silently paid the price to shield his men. He willingly bore the pressure and stigma of failure and punishment, causing his men to admire, respect and be commited to him all the time he was in service. My father taught us that loyalty is the true hallmark of a great leader of caliber.

Loyalty is the quality of being loyal and the strong feeling of support and allegiance. It is staying steadfast, not vacillating with opportunity, opinion or opposition. It is standing by and sticking your team whatever the circumstance and irrespective the cost. Loyalty bestows integrity and causes you not to be like the foam or froth that doesn’t stick to anything but is quickly blown away. Loyalty is the one attribute most prized and appreciated by kings. Disloyalty earns distrust and rejection from authority.

Loyalty is priceless commodity in and with a leader for it is invaluable for team building and team progress. One traitor to the team is enough to sow distrust and dissension, destroying camaraderie and bonhomie in the team. The members of the team will end up working against each other rather than of co-working and it will all be only a matter of survival instead of attaining a common goal. Infighting, backbiting and stone-throwing will become the norm poisoning team dynamics and life will be hell for all. Oneness and unity can never be achieved in such a group as members will act counter to one another, rather than for the welfare of one and all.

A disloyal leader will not be able to promote fearless transparency and openness, but only stealth and self-preservation. It is erroneous to think that to divide is to conquer, for a better way would be to inspire to follow and seek to work with goodwill. A wise leader will model the spirit of loyalty, not just to himself, but to one another and to the team as a whole. Loyalty is the golden cord that will bind a team together, fusing diverse people into a unified whole.

No wonder the armed forces and all uniformed personnel are inculcated and inoculated with loyalty, for otherwise those entrusted with guarding the nation and normal life would end up selling it!

No other person embodied and showcased loyalty as much as Jesus Christ, the hero of the gospels and the savior of humanity. Whenever the Pharisees and Sadducees or anyone else nitpicked on his disciples, he defended them (Matt 9:14). He Himself would rebuke and correct His disciples, but would often protect them before others. The Bible, from cover to cover, demonstrates God’s faithfulness and commitment to His people, even when they chose to abandon Him. Psalms extol His faithfulness as being constant for generations and reaching to the heavens.

We as His people, the ones He chose, must imitate and display this character of His on which we so much depend. This is what distinguishes us as His own, set apart as those who follow Him.

We must exhibit loyalty as our core value and structure, proving that we His disciples.

Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. (I Cor 4:2).

Do we value loyalty that inspires commitment or are we this who rule by fear and division, be it at home or in work?

Loyalty shouldn’t be a program to earn brownie points, but a hallmark of true character and persuasion of real leadership!

The example and picture of loyalty shouldn’t be a dog, but a human being, someone who is actually higher than an animal!

Betrayal breeds Judases and renegades, while loyalty births Christlikeness and patriots.

Choose what or who you would be!

*Pics courtesy google images and unsplash.com

STRONGHOLDS, THE WAY TO OVERCOME THEM

In the Bible, when Israel entered Canaan land, the first city they won a victory over was Jericho. The second one they went against was Ai but were defeated because of sin in the camp. Once Joshua and the people had repented of it and had cleansed themselves, God enabled them to overcome Ai.

God gave them a battle plan to overcome it by setting an ambush. Joshua killed all its inhabitants and its king, taking only the plunder and livestock for themselves, then set fire to the city, leaving it in ruins, just as God instructed them to. You can read an account of this incident in chapter 7 and 8 of the book of Joshua.

Ai was not just another town to overcome, but a place of defeat and shame for Israel because they disobeyed God. It was, therefore, imperative for Joshua and Israel to drastically deal with it, destroying it completely to strike fear in the hearts of all the inhabitants of Canaan who were watching these events. We read in chapter 9 that this did strike so much fear in the hearts of the kings around that they ganged up together to fight against Israel and in the battle that followed, were soundly defeated.

Apostle Paul in his letter to the church at Ephesus warns them to put on the whole armour of God since our fight is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers of darkness in heavenly places. Our enemies today are not physical, but those that war against the soul and hold us captive by influencing our thoughts, emotions and behaviour.

In his second letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle in ch 10 tells the church that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal (not physical), but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds.

Strongholds are imaginations and high thoughts that exalt themselves against the knowledge of God, resulting in unbelief and birthing rebellion against His rulership and authority in our lives.

The way Joshua dealt with the stronghold of Ai gives us clues and pointers as to how to deal with strongholds today.

Strongholds come when we allow wrong patterns of thought, feeling and behaviour to crystallize in our lives. Strongholds begin when we allow Satan, self and sin to gain a toehold in us. From being a toehold it progresses to a foothold, a threshold, an anchor-hold (rooted in you), becomes a household (part of you), then a stranglehold (doesn’t let go) and finally a stronghold (holds you captive).

Strongholds develop over some time and can be acquired by genetic transfer, genealogical download, from our wrong thought processes, from rebellious orientations and stubborn natures. If we have to truly be set free and enjoy the fullness of the abundant life Jesus promised, we must deal with strongholds and destroy them.

How do you destroy strongholds and overcome deep-seated bondages? You destroy them by a truth encounter and a Spirit encounter.

Truth encounter is when you are confronted by the Word of God and you allow it to work in your heart and life. In John 8 we read of Jesus declaring that we will know the truth and the truth will set us free and in John 17:17 that His word is truth. Heb 4:12 tells us that the word of God is living and active and sharper than any double-edged sword, piercing even to the point of dividing soul from spirit, and joints from marrow; it can judge the desires and thoughts of the heart. Since strongholds are found in the inner being of thoughts and intents, only the Word of God can penetrate deep enough to destroy them.

However, truth encounter can set us free from strongholds, if and only if we are humble enough to accept and acknowledge the diagnosis of sin and wrongdoing that the Word brings to us, irrespective of who brings it and no matter how it comes. When our hearts are tender and pliable, we will hear and accept the truth even from a child or a donkey (Balaam) or by hearing a cock crow (Peter)!

Acceptance of the truth about ourselves will lead us to humble ourselves and repent. Once we repent, we are in the light as He is in the light and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin, making us whole. Strongholds need the truth of the Word of God to be demolished and destroyed!

Spirit encounter happens when the power of God is present to heal and deliver us from all bondages. That is why we need the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the infilling of the Spirit, nor just once, but constantly in our lives. The Bible says that where the Spirit of God is there is liberty because the veil over the mind is then removed by His presence and there are openness and sensitivity to His word (II Cor 3). Hence, being filled with and being full of the Spirit and power is a mandatory need for being set free from strongholds.

If the Spirit of God is to deliver and set us free, we need to allow Him to heal our inner wounds and hurts. People may have wronged us, done evil against us or even robbed us of our opportunities and prosperity. We need to forgive each and everyone unconditionally, just as Christ has forgiven us, irrespective of what they may have done. Harbouring bitterness, malice and unforgiveness are key factors in developing strongholds in our lives.


To live a life free of strongholds, we need to:

Walk in the light as He is the light, being sensitive and responsive to His word
Renew our minds and calibrate it to the principles and precepts in the Word of God
Avoid nurturing hard feelings and wrong emotions, but allowing inner healing to happen
Forgive, let go of hurts and all kinds of negativity
Work in the habit of reconciliation, restitution and restoration, always taking care to be led by and yielded to the Holy Spirit
Grow in the knowledge of the Lord and the power of His might to deliver as well as protect us from all else
Be strong and convinced about God’s love, certain that He is always for you, never against you!

It is very important for us to be aware, identify and confront strongholds, taking care to see that they are utterly dismantled. Just as Joshua completely ruined Ai, even so, we must root out every last bit of stronghold and ensure we have removed any vestige or remnant of it. The reason for this is that if there is a root left behind, it will be easy for the stronghold to rise again to rule the roost. A vulnerability and weakness remains embedded and hidden in, giving a handle for the enemy to use it to enslave.

Every disciple and believer of Christ can themselves identify and destroy strongholds when they are yielded to the Spirit of God and sensitive to the Word of God. When you are encountering or being confronted or convicted by both, just bow down and accept humbly. Allow the Word of God to wash you and the Spirit of God to empower you with His healing anointing.

Both encounters can come to you through various circumstances and people. If you reject the message because of the messenger, you are the one who will lose out. Happy is the one who is open and sensitive to take correction and admonition even from a child, for God can use even the least to bring deliverance!

If you find certain strongholds too much for you to handle, request the help of godly strong mentors and leaders who are older and wiser than you. Don’t hesitate to open up to them, but live and walk in accountability to them, always. Do not seek help from peers, but seek out the help of mature and understanding elder men and women who themselves are walking in Spirit and in truth.

Be part of a small group and grow in relationship with the people of God. There is much protection from the forces of darkness and deliverance from inward bondages when you are actively part of a community of faith.

Do not give place nor a foothold to the devil, Eph 4:27

Strongholds are dangerous to cultivate, foster and maintain for they give room for the devil to have a place in our lives. Root them out asap, even though letting go is hard. It will be harder when you allow a stronghold take root in you, for then you are building an arsenal for the enemy to use against you!

Imitate Christ Who boldly but surely declared that the prince of this world had no hold over Him (John 14:30)!

*Pics courtesy Google Images

HAVE YOU EVER CAMPED AT GILGAL?

In the Bible, when Israel crossed over into Canaan, after the parting of the waters of Jordan, the first place they camp is at Gilgal. At Gilgal, God asks Joshua to do something significant – circumcise all the men since they hadn’t done it during the forty years of their desert wandering. God then pronounces over them a declaration viz. that He has rolled away the reproach of Egypt from them that day. The name Gilgal means the place where reproach was removed.

Circumcision was given by the Lord to the patriarch Abraham and his generations as physical evidence and sign of His covenant with them. All male members of Israel had to bear this in their flesh as a mark of their commitment to follow Him and obey His laws as partners of the covenant. Circumcising, the removing of the foreskin, was the outward symbolic act of an inward relationship with God, to be His people and live according to His precepts.

For Israel, Gilgal event was significant as it:
Reconnected them to their heritage and their history carved out by Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Renewed their allegiance to God in the moment of setting foot on the land promised so long ago to their forefather Abraham.
Reinstated them as a people and a nation rather than just a rabble who came out of nowhere.
Restored them to their own land from which they had been forced to migrate four hundred plus years before due to widespread famine.
Removed from them the stain of being a pack of escaped or freed slaves and establishing them as an ethnic groups with their own culture.
Reinstalled them with a sense of identity so as to live with the dignity and decorum that befits those who belong the God on High.

Circumcision is not easy experience for grown-up men since it involves a stripping away, an onslaught of pain and a time of weakness induced in the body. In fact, we see in Josh 5 that they had to rest for 3 days till they healed from it. It was after this only did they go up to battle against the first city, Jericho.

Why was it important for the people to go through this important rite before the battle? Wouldn’t it have made sense to do such things after they had conquered the whole land and really settled in peace once for all?

It was important to do this before even the first fight because they had to be strong in who they were and what were their roots. The kings of the land feared them, but unless the men of war had their identity in place, they wouldn’t be able to do what they had to do. Their identity was wrapped up in their relationship with God. They had to have no lingering thought of their past slavery. They needed to hold their heads up high, not just as a free people, but as a people who belonged to the God of all the earth. They had to have it branded in them that they were those whom He had claimed as His own by a strong hand and an outstretched arm !

Jericho was not the only city they had to face, but it was the first one they had to overcome. This was just the beginning of battles, which would continue on for a long time until they possessed the whole land. Jericho was also a walled city, a strong fortress and a defenced city. It was the gateway of Canaan and so conquering it would be key to ensuring victory through all the land.

Therefore, not only did they have to be strengthened in their identity, but they also had to be totally convinced about and in the power of their God. They had to stand tall based on their standing with God and draw their power from a relationship with Him. They had to be strong not in themselves but in the power and might of Him Who carried them on wings of eagles to their promised land!

They had to be reminded that without Him they were nothing, but with Him they would be victorious. Where their fathers ran away in fear, they had to be bold and strong in God and His might. They had to be reminded strongly of their ties with Him and the promise He gave that He would fight their battles. He was their backup, their strength and shield!

If they didn’t have this overview and orientation, they wouldn’t be able to do all that He commanded them to do. The battle strategy in Jericho would have baffled anyone if they didn’t have the vision of God and a connection with Him. They had to be rooted, grounded and established in their realization of Who their God was and who they were in Him!

That’s why Gilgal, where they were stripped of the old stain on them and branded by His mark, was of utmost necessity, an important milestone and the first event in the life of the nation of Israel.

What does Gilgal have to do with us today? What does it signify and mean for us today?

We who have been washed and cleansed by the blood of Jesus, delivered out of the kingdom of darkness and set free from the bondage to Satan, have to come to Gilgal, not just once, but often in our lives to be circumcised. Both the Old and New Testaments instruct us that we need to circumcise our hearts.

The book of Deuteronomy gives us the answer as to why we need to circumcise our hearts: Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live. Deut 30:6.

You need to time and again have Gilgal in your life so as to fulfill the first commandment – to be able to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

You need to come to Gilgal often so that you have a heart of flesh and not of stone, so that God can write His laws on your heart and mind according to the new covenant (Heb 8).

Apostle Paul declares that by baptism a circumcision done not by hands has put off the self ruled by flesh from us. In Col 2:11‭-‬12, he writes When you came to Christ, you were “circumcised,” but not by a physical procedure. Christ performed a spiritual circumcision—the cutting away of your sinful nature. For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead. NLT

This initial circumcision cuts off the umbilical cord of our connection with the Adamic heritage of sin we have acquired as mankind, cleaving away the source of our sin from us and reattaching us to the original source of our existence, God. However, this initial cutting off is just thr beginning and needs to be followed up by a constant shutting off from sin and continued connection with our Creator, if we have to be His offspring in reality.

Circumcision involves peeling back the foreskin and even so our hearts need to be divested of the hardness that constantly sets in due to unbelief, resistance, rebellion and sin. Only a heart if flesh would enable us to walk constantly in obedience to Him and His commandments.

Gilgal is inevitable and important, both for transformation and conquest of this world for God.

Strongholds cannot be conquered without first stopping at Gilgal. Gilgal has to come before Jericho can be vanquished!

Have you camped at Gilgal? Have you known a stripping away of stiffness and hardness? Have you known the pain of putting away the flesh?

Gilgal is needed if the reproach and guilt of your past is still dogging you. Gilgal must be part of your life if you still haven’t been clothed with your new identity in Christ.

Camping at Gilgal is often needed in order to remind us of who we are in Christ and God!

Have you had Gilgal in your life?

*Pics courtesy: Google images

STATELESSNESS, THE DEFAULT STATE & STATUS OF CHRISTIANS?

A couple of days ago my daughter, who is a professor of law, had shared with us her recent lecture topic: Reduction of Statelessness in South Asia. It set me thinking about the issue of statelessness and its implications.

The international legal definition of a stateless person is “a person who is not considered as a national by any State under the operation of its law”. In simple terms, this means that a stateless person does not have a nationality of any country.

A stateless person is someone who, under national laws, does not enjoy citizenship – the legal bond between a government and an individual – in any country. In simple terms, a stateless person doesn’t have a belonginess or a sense of being part of a people. They do not belong anywhere and nobody has a care over or for them, by legal right or otherwise.

Being part of a community bestows identity as well as a sense of well-being because of the awareness of being part of a bigger whole. When some event happens, let’s say a disaster, then there is solace in knowing that we are not alone. There is comfort in knowing that we are all sailing in the same boat and others are working to help us.

This is why refugees so desperately seek to have citizenship status, so that they can become part and parcel of a country. They look for the care and concern that comes from being part of a nation. They seek the covering that comes from being part of a people. They yearn for the fellowship and friendship that comes from belonging to a community. They want a life that is solid and established instead of living on the margin of it.

Citizenship confers identity and recognition as people who have rights and legal standing. They are no longer nameless or lumped together as refugees, but exist in a sovereign state where they can carve out a life for themselves. Citizenship gives them security and settlement so that they are no longer aliens or wanderers.

In the Bible, Israel was birthed as a nation when they were delivered from bondage out of Eygpt and received God’s laws at Sinai. They became an acknowledged and accepted sovereign state only when they settled down and were established in a land. They were constituted as a nation and acquired an identity as a people only when they were rooted in a place and belonged to it.

Ancient India was made up of a number of disjointed states and kingdoms, becoming a united nation only after independence. A common flag, a code of conduct and a declaration provided statehood. Being a nation or state brings unity and imparts a sense of belonging and identity as a community.

Being part of a community and to savor the privileges of belonging is an essential need of the human psyche. Human beings need companionship, to belong and be together with others. One of the tenets and traits of the postmodern era is the need to be part of a group. That’s why, more than ever before, people are willing to adopt all sorts of behaviour or habits just to be ‘part of the crowd.’

In Eph 2:19-20 we read that: Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In I Cor we read that we have all been baptized to become one body, one people and one community.

The scriptures is clear that all who believe and call on the name of Jesus have been amalgamated into one new humanity, beyond the trappings and confining of caste, creed, color etc. As believers, we have an identity as the people of God living on this earth as the representatives and witnesses of heaven, bonding to live life together as His family and His household. The Apostle Paul prayed for the Ephesian church that the eyes of their heart may be enlightened so as to grasp the riches of His glorious inheritance in His people.

However, many who are born again and baptized in Christ live as aliens, full of an orphan spirit. They move around without no sense of identity since they lack community comprehension. They have no consciousness of the fellowship that comes with being a disciple of Christ. They wander around as refugees, feeling alienated and left out in this world.

The reason for this is two-fold: Either they are ignorant of the fact because they have not been taught of what they inherited in Christ; or they have rejected the fellowship of the saints since it involves responsibility and accountability . The former can be realigned and restored by proper teaching, but the latter are to be pitied since they have no understanding of the riches that identification with a community of faith brings.

Every one who is born of God must live as the beloved Sons and Daughters of the Most High. They need to have an understanding of the family they are part of and the entitlement that comes with bearing His Name.

Unfortunately, many are yet to grasp that they are citizens of the Kingdom of God, the apple of His eye and the people of His love. They are yet to recognise and realize their rights in Christ, the freedom that is their birthright and the authority that is theirs in Christ. They live as orphans, outcasts and ostracized, not as those who are the hope of the whole world.

Statelessness is real in His Church and among His people. Many a person in His Body walks around with the wounds of being aliens and castaways. Being aware of the need for a community of faith is core to living a purposeful life on earth. Being identified with a local family of God will purge the sense of lostness and abandonment in these times. Being committed and dedicated to the Body of Christ, the church of the Living God is of utmost importance in all seasons and turns of life.

Many people of God die, as Sir Walter Scott says (in his poem Breathes there a Man with soul so dead), Unwept, unhonour’d, and unsung, because they are stateless ie, not part of a local community of faith or the church of the Lord, sometimes by ignorance but often by choice!

*Pics courtesy google images

THE PARENT LEADERSHIP PARADIGM

https://youtu.be/n59ljFfdSQc

The often rehearsed concept and statement that we hear today, not just in Christian circles, but also in corporate sectors, is the term servant leadership. This has gained acceptance in contrast to and as opposed to professional leadership. I term all other previous leadership styles, viz. traditional, charismatic and bureaucratic, as professional leadership.

Traditional leadership is where power is given to the leader based on traditions of the past and their power was tied to their past leaders. The traditional leadership style is based on the belief that power is bestowed on the leader, in keeping with the traditions of the past. 

Charismatic leadership is basically the method of encouraging particular behaviours in others by way of eloquent communication, persuasion and force of personality. Charismatic leaders motivate followers to get things done or improve the way certain things are done. 

Bureaucratic leadership is one whereby employees are made to follow specific rules and lines of authority created by the superiors. These leaders function based on official regulations fixed by higher authorities within the organization. The bureaucratic leadership pattern focuses on the administrative needs an organization has and is used mostly in the public sector, which relies heavily on consistency and adherence to rules and regulations to get whatever results they seek.

In contrast, the servant leader’s goal is to serve rather than just focusing on the thriving of their company or organizations. Servant leaders have turned the traditional power leadership model upside down, putting the people, or employees in a business context, at the very top and the leader at the bottom. Armed with the attitude to serve the employees above them, servant leaders focus on ‘empowering and uplifting those who work for them rather than  commanding, showing humility instead of brandishing authority, and always looking to enhance the development of their staff members in ways that unlock potential, creativity and sense of purpose.’  

Even though the Servant Leadership concept and practice are much superior to professional leadership motifs, I believe that there is yet another leadership way which is higher and nobler. This leadership type, modelled, championed and showcased in the Bible, can be named or termed as parent leadership. 

The main focus of parent leadership is nurture rather than just achieving outcomes, attaining goals or reaching targets. It is about shaping and moulding the individual, considering them as inheritors of the leader’s character, culture, ethics, especially in work. 

Marks of parent leadership

  1. A parent leader focuses on the person in addition to overseeing the completion of the task and achieving of the desired outcome. He or she considers grooming of the individual as being of paramount importance as much as the completion of the job on hand.
  2. A parent leader measures his or her output or success by the transformation of the person, rather than just by the output gained in the successful completion of the job or project entrusted to them.
  3. A parent leader finds motivation, energy and fulfilment in the outcome of the person, ie., how the people entrusted to them shape up. They pour their enthusiasm into identifying and learning about the individual and what motivates them and then use these inputs to form the individual. 
  4. A parent leader has the uncanny ability to see below the surface and identify potential as well as weaknesses that are inherent in their trainees. Their focus will be to fortify and make room for their strengths while helping them to overcome weaknesses and flaws that will hinder the progress of the individual.
  5. A parent leader understands that changing the person, though it needs more effort and time, will ultimately result in better project results and more successful task outcomes.
  6. A parent leader takes responsibility for the individual and is empathetic, both to the dreams and failures of their team members. He or she does not throw their people under the bus, but stands up for them and pleads their cause.
  7. A parent leader considers those under him or her as disciples, protegees and inheritors, rather than as just employees or co-workers or team members.
  8. A parent leader is secure in who they are and hence do not find it hard to rejoice in the successes of their people. In fact, they feel thrilled when those under them do overtake them, for they know the part they played in that growth.
  9. A parent leader always gives his or her blessing to those who branch out from under their care. They willingly allow them to move on for they know how far they can impact. They understand that for the person to stay behind would stunt growth and therefore, release their personnel to fly high.
  10. A parent leader is never fearful of damaging his or her reputation by exercising strict discipline or strong measures. Their goal is to do so for the benefit of the person and hence are unafraid to exercise the rod, when and where it is required.

Parent leadership combines all of the other leadership styles, but adds a distinct and unique ingredient to it that spices up and flavours their craft – the art of care and nurture. 

Parent leadership is considering those given under you as your progeny and therefore, learning to rejoice in their growth and prosperity.

Parent leadership involves self-sacrifice and humility. It is to understand your own limits and limitations, comprehend the part you have to play and be willing to step back, into obscurity if needed, in order for your apprentices to move forward.

True Biblical leadership is parent leadership, especially in the church. It is no wonder leaders in the church need to have proven their mettle at home. It is in nurturing their families and taking responsibility for their growth and progress, leaders learn the art of parenting well. It is then they become eligible to lead and exercise authority in the bigger family, the church!

To the professional or traditional leader, his management is a post, a position and a vocation. 

To the servant leader, his administration is not a vocation or a style. It is a calling, stewardship and an influence! 

However, to the parent leader, his persuasion is a commitment and a sacred trust. To him or her, getting the work done is not enough; seeing their charge blossom and flower means much more. To them to see their ‘kid’ transform is reward enough.

Is it hard to believe such leaders exist? Is it a myth to expect parent leadership?

Maybe so, but I believe such leaders do exist. Many a teacher or instructor fully functions as a parent leader.

A parent leader is a rare find.

Blessed are if you find one or are under one!

*Pic courtesy google images