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One unusual way to get blessings from God

© Schulter Etyang 4 min read

There are only two ways through which we receive blessings from God. The one way is to deserve the blessings, and the other is to not deserve (undeserved) the blessings.

  1. Deserved way
  2. Undeserved way

The deserved way

So, how do we try to deserve blessings from God? 

Non-Christians try to earn their blessings from God through good works or living good moral lives. They work hard. They are honest individuals. They pay their taxes. They love their spouses and kids. They participate in community projects that uplift the poor, orphan, widow, prisoner and immigrant. They are good citizens. They obey the laws of the land. They are good people.

Christians try to earn their blessings from God also by being good or in their case being spiritual. They fast and pray. They give their tithes. They go to Church. They love God with all their heart, soul, strength and mind, and love their neighbours as themselves. They participate in community projects that uplift the poor, orphan, widow, prisoner and immigrant. They attend Christian conferences and events. They read books of Christian authors. They read the Bible throughout the year. They serve at the local Church. They are humble and kind. They are spiritual people.

See how both groups seek to get a blessing from God? They seek to deserve the blessings from God. 

The problem with this approach is this, inevitably, frustration, anger and bitterness set in when it seems God is not responding to our good deeds – God is not keeping his end of the bargain.

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What happens when you offer your own “sacrifices” at the beginning of the year?

5 min read

The answer to the question posed in the post’s title is—God shuts the heavens over you. God will not move on your behalf.

Let me unpack this

Israel was in decline. They had rebelled against Yahweh, his statutes and his prophets. Time and time again Yahweh sent prophets to warn them of impending doom but instead, they raised the middle finger to their God. Things got worse for them. They were struck with famines and droughts. They lost wars against enemies. They died from sickness and diseases. Yet despite their rebellion, God loved them, and when they turned to him he immediately turned their misfortunes into blessings. He healed them. He blessed them. He provided for them. He protected them.

But as human nature loves to coil back to its default mode of sinning, they turned their backs against Yahweh time and time again.

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Gird your New Year’s resolutions​ with grace

3 min read

We cannot do without New Year’s resolutions. That’s the truth. Goal setting is as old as creation itself. After God created human beings, he set goals for them — be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, subdue and have dominion. (Genesis 1:28) Adam Alter in his book Irresistible, writes, goals … are a biological imperative rather than a luxury or choice (Pg. 107) We are intrinsically goal-oriented beings. 

Jenny and I make resolutions every New Year. We usually sit and write what we want to do in the coming year. We set goals and plans for the year ahead. We set goals as it concerns our health, spirituality, finances, friendships, in-laws, home, vacations, studies, career, ministry etc.

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Unto us a child is born

2 min read

Every Christmas for the past seven years, these words cross my mind and when they do, I pause for a moment and just wonder.

These are the words

God’s answer to everything that terrorized us was not an army or king but a child.

I guess I may have listened to these words in a sermon or read them in a book. I will not take credit for such impressive words. These words have lent meaning to Christmas time, for me. Ever since the gospel of grace powered itself into my heart, my appreciation for Christian celebrations came full circle. 

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At Christmas, God became one of us

Estimated Reading Time: 3 min, 25 sec

I don’t know how this got started but for some years now, whenever Christmas time comes around, this song, One of Us, written by Eric Bazilian, and originally released by Joan Osborne, unconsciously taps itself into play. It’s as if my memory bank set this song to auto-play whenever it’s Christmas. And it plays on repeat throughout. I wake up in the morning and the first thing I hear is the chorus of the song. 

Here’s the chorus of the song

What if God was one of us?

Just a slob like one of us 

Just a stranger on the bus 

Trying to make his way home?

Songwriters: Eric Bazilian / Eric M. Bazilian

One of Us lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc

When I first listened to this song, I thought it was sacrilegious. My view of God was of a being in heaven with all power and majesty. A God too pure to be equated to us. A God too lofty to be reduced down to human terms. And yet this song tagged at what we all know is true. We all know, whether we acknowledge it or not, that there is a higher being – a more powerful being. We all know we are not alone in this world, and we all wonder whether this being knows and understands us.

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My experience​ at the TEDx Johannesburg 2018

Estimated Reading Time: 4 min, 32 sec

On November 30th, 2018, I attended my first ever TEDx talk in Johannesburg. It had been a desire of mine for many years to attend the famed conference. When I got the opportunity, I took it.

The TEDx is a meeting where great minds share their ideas on a specific theme. This year’s theme was Decoding Greatness. The theme was centered on Nelson Mandela and others like him. As you know, Nelson Mandela is an international icon who amongst others brought an end to apartheid. 18 speakers from diverse fields shared their own ideas on greatness using Nelson Mandela’s life as a prop. It was exciting, inspiring, and enlightening.

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Into the throne of grace

Estimated Reading Time: 2 min, 42 sec

Let us, therefore, come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Hebrews 4:16 (NKJV)

Jenny and I use Hebrews 4:16 often when we pray together. Most mornings before we leave the house we ask the Lord for grace. Just ten minutes of prayer and Holy Communion does it for us, and Hebrews 4:16 will undoubtedly be used in our prayers. Aren’t we spiritual people? Lol. Roll your eyes.

A gospel purist would argue that New Covenant Christians are already (present tense) at the throne of grace, that we are seated with Jesus in heavenly places, that we are at the right hand of the Father, and Hebrews was written to Jews who needed instruction on the contrasts between the Old and New Covenant. I concede. 

I had a look at the Greek word for to and saw something interesting. The Greek word for to is eis, which means to or into. To or into are prepositions and in the Bible are often used interchangeably. I then replaced “to” (come to) with “into” (come into) and the scripture took on a different meaning.

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Tasha Cobbs Leonard – You know my name ft. Jimi Cravity

I’d like to share this song with you. 

In this song, you see the gospel, our response, and how our outlook on life changes too.

  • Gospel – You know my name… And you know my name…
  • Our Response – So now, I pour out My heart to You…
  • OutlookNo fire can burn meNo battle can turn meNo mountain can stop me…

God in Christ Jesus lavishes us his grace and then we respond by giving ourselves to him. When this is reversed, grace goes missing. 

Here’s the lyrics to the song

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Three things Jesus gives to hurried and hungry people

Estimated Reading Time: 4 min, 49 sec

But the multitudes saw them departing, and many knew Him and ran there on foot from all the cities. 

Mark 6:33-34 (NKJV)

A picture is formed in our minds. A picture that modern people are certainly conversant with. We are ever running. You and I are running from or running towards something. We are ever in continuous motion. Always in a dash, going here and there. We run from our own failures, guilt, condemnation, enemies, voices in our heads, the police, the landlord, the bank, etc. We run to the next deal, property, career position, conference, investment opportunity, network, contract, tenders, party, etc. Like Satan, we go to and from the earth, and from walking back and forth on it (Job 1:7 NKJV)

And most pointedly, we run because we seek for something spiritual. We may not be conscious or able to articulate what we are seeking for, but because we are spiritual beings first, our running back and forth is a search for something that will satisfy our deepest spiritual need. 

The rest of this text reveals the three things Jesus offers us. 

  • Moved with compassion for them

And Jesus, when He came out, saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion for them because they were like sheep not having a shepherd. 

The Greek word used for compassion is splagchnizomai, which means to have the bowels yearn. Its root word is splagxnon, which means gut-level compassion”(visceral feelings); the capacity to feel deep emotions. This is heart-wrenching, stomach-churning deep emotions that Jesus feels for us.

Have you ever been around a family member who is in a coma or bedridden? The pains you have concerning that individual is a blend of deep compassion and powerlessness.  This is what Jesus feels for us who are hurried and hungry. Jesus is moved with deep compassion for us. 

Jesus sees us as sheep without a shepherd

Not without a leader, visionary, motivational speaker, Instagram influencer, entrepreneur, celebrity, etc but sheep without a shepherd. 

A shepherd? You’d assume that we need a leader, someone who can direct us – someone who could focus our attention on a big vision – someone who could communicate and inspire us – someone who could post a vlog on Facebook live or Instagram TV giving us advice, tips, how to’s. 

Jesus is counterintuitive. We need a shepherd. A shepherd takes care of the sheep. He feeds, baths, shaves, protects, treats with medicine, guides, comforts, leads, and rescues the sheep. He does everything for the sheep. All the sheep have to do is receive from the shepherd.

It is painful for modern people to admit this. We prefer contributing to our own happiness and accept no responsibility for our own missteps. We prefer doing everything for ourselves because as we all know, God helps those who help themselves.

Jesus offers us more than tips and advice. Jesus the great shepherd takes care of us. He feeds, baths, heals, protects, comforts, leads and rescue us. 

  • He began to teach them many things

Matthew gives us a clearer picture of what Jesus taught and preached.

 Jesus travelled through all the towns and villages of that area, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. 

Matthew 9:35 (NLT)

Hurried people need to listen to the good news about the kingdom. Again, this is so counterintuitive. The world says, “Do more, run faster, acquire, invest, buy, plan ahead, save, think on your feet, no pain, no gain, grit your teeth, clench your fist, fight, move from good to great, leverage your relationships etc.” Basically, the world says do, do and do more.

Jesus announces to us, “Rest. Take it easy. Relax. I can give you more with less effort on your part. I will do the providing, leading, guiding, rescuing, saving, healing, feeding, and everything you need and much more. Just sit back and receive from me!” This is the good news of the kingdom.

Anything else other than the good news of who Jesus is, and what he has accomplished for us will drive us to the edge. What the gospel does is slow us down, take our foot off the gas pedal, take the wheel of our lives, and drive us to our destination. All we need to “do” is sit back and relish the scenery.

The good news of the kingdom is what Jesus gives to us. The good news that whatever we are looking for – running to and fro – is found in Jesus and what he has done for us. We need to sit back and receive. Simply put!

  • Food

And when He had taken the five loaves and the two fish, He looked up to heaven, blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to His disciples to set before them; and the two fish He divided among them all. So they all ate and were filled.

Mark 6:41-42 (NKJV)

Because we are always in a rush, one of the things we forget to do is eat. And when we eat, because we are so hungry, we devour whatever is in front of us. It is no surprise that junk food is our regular diet. It is cheap and accessible. 

Let’s turn this inward. Because we are racing back and forth, we become spiritually, emotionally, financially and relationally hungry. We then resort to junk food. Quick rich quick schemes, fraud, harmful relationships, drug and sexual addictions, outlandish spiritual beliefs, dieting programs, are forms of junk food that we indulge in because we are in a hurry.

Jesus provides us with real food, and so much food to eat as much as we need with leftovers. In other words, Jesus over exceeds our expectations. His offer is not just to satisfy our hungry stomachs but to gratify our greatest aspirations and desires. But here’s more good news. The meal Jesus gives is himself. In John 6:55, Jesus says he is the real food and the real drink. 

He is much more than five loaves and two fishes. Who Jesus is and what he did for us is our food. With Jesus, we get all we need to satisfy our greatest aspirations and desires. In him is all we need and will ever need for this life.

If I were you, I’d take Jesus’ offer.

You and I know very well the world does not have space and time for us. When we are hurrying and hungry, the world tells us to do more. The world will never ever have compassion on us.  It is the fittest, smartest, quickest, and sharpest that make it. The world has no time for sissies. The world has no good news for us. Actually, bad news sells. And when we are hungry, the world tells us, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” You are on your own. 

Not with Jesus. Jesus has compassion on us. He is our shepherd. By his spirit he teaches us and lastly, he feeds us himself – true food and true drink with leftovers. He always over exceeds our expectations. 

That’s what grace looks like

Grace starts small

© November 28, 2018 Schulter Etyang

There is an insatiable demand in life and for those of us in Christian ministry to do big things for God. The “big God, big dream” mantra is so alluring that everything less is deemed ungodly. This view has produced Charismatic Christians who refuse or are unwilling to start small. They will not sell themselves short. They might quote this scripture, “Do not despise these small beginnings,” (Zechariah 4:10 NLT) but it is just that, a quote. How they lead their lives tells a different narrative.

I know of Charismatic Christians who will not pursue an opportunity they assume is insignificant for them. When you listen to their hopes and dreams, wow, you will want to crawl under your bed and hide. Their prayers are grandiose. The terminology employed to lay out the vision for their lives is preposterous.

How is this varied from the world‘s way of doing things? The world, yes, does big things. Beyonce’s concerts, the Danube Island Festival, the IPO listing has to attract big money for the venture to kick off. Beyoncé is not just singing to a few people. No. Her concerts must be huge.

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