September 26, 2021 by Kgalalelo
This month is special to me as it symbolises the point when I decided to recommit myself to the teachings of the Bible and put away other material and books I had. I read broadly and sometimes as a person you get carried away and are caught in what everyone is saying instead of what the Bible says directly. We all have access to the Word of God but committing to reading and studying the Bible everyday is tricky sometimes and we tend to take shortcuts.
A pastor once said that he knew another who never read anything from the Bible but read a book from one of the stalwarts of the word of faith every Sunday on the pulpit. He was attempting to teach congregants about faith and for him, it was easy to just read from someone else’s book on faith. We can learn from others, but the Bible is our source of inspiration because it is the Word of God and He can teach us first-hand.
They say that it is darkest before dawn and I definitely experienced that recently. I had been excited that I was devoted to hearing and speaking the Word, Romans 10:17 says, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” and I was really doing well ever since the day I started in September of last year.
I downloaded audio sermons on the internet and saved them on my phone to listen throughout the day. So, when I woke up in the morning, I would grab my phone, go to audio- play, search for a sermon, walk to the bathroom with the phone on my hand, listen to the Word while brushing my teeth and bathing and then when I got out of the bath, I would put on my earphones and continue to listen while dressing up so that I wouldn’t disturb my husband while he was still sleeping.
When finished in the bedroom I would continue to listen while in the kitchen making breakfast and would pray in between anytime while eating or making a cup of coffee. I mean, it was amazing and exciting. I started so well and was progressing fine from that spring last year through to the summer, then autumn and then winter. The problem started last month, right at the end of winter which was ushering spring again and I was running towards the finishing line from where I started. My intention was to finish up a year using this routine and then continue in the second year and so on, but I took my eyes away from Jesus.
Hebrews 12:2 says that Jesus is “the author and the finisher of our faith” and I had so much faith until I started to look down instead of up and saw my challenges. It doesn’t mean that I was problem free all through the year, I did encounter trials here and there, but I was peaceful and trusting God and troubles did not seem to exist.
When the devil can get you to lose focus on Jesus, he keeps you busy concentrating on the things that he knows will upset you. He is the master of distress, anger, bitterness, unreasonable expectations on others, resentment, rage and all negative feelings. Galatians 5:19-21 says that when you are in that zone then you are operating from the flesh and not from the Spirit and you are producing acts of the flesh instead of fruits of the Spirit.
I was bearing fruit and connected very well to the vine. Jesus says I am the vine, and you are the branches (John 15). When you are connected to the vine, that is, to Him, He feeds you; you get sustenance from His roots but as soon as you disconnect, you are near dying. This is how I felt. I was suffering and there was this heaviness in my spirit, and it was difficult to shake it off.
I was not waking up with the Word anymore, eating it, reading it, listening to it, breathing it and smelling it anymore. I was bothered by my circumstances and was going through a hard time. I started getting hold of any other book again and material devoid of my primary focus. I went on YouTube and watched videos about any other thing except what I had initially intended.
I felt like a deer panting for water. Psalm 42:1-2 says, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God”. My heart was empty, and it was such a challenging period for me. The last time I felt like that was a very long time ago, perhaps in my twenties when I was still trying to find myself and was always dissatisfied. I felt like I was losing my mind but knew deep inside that I cannot afford to feel that way for prolonged periods. If you do, you spiral further down, and the devil takes advantage of that. He likes it when we are hard-pressed. John 10:10 says that he comes “to steal, kill and destroy”. He first steals the Word from you, then he attempts kill and destroy you. He is determined and if we let him, we are in trouble.
2 Corinthians 4: 8-9 says, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed”. Paul says further in verse 10, “We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body”. When we carry Jesus with us and remember Him, we also remember to give Him the load. Jesus says in Matthew 11:29, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Realise that you have derailed and really observe yourself constantly. This is what I did, and I recorded what I was doing daily, the things I was watching, my activities and just kept track of myself. I became conscious of the fact that the anniversary of my commitment was fast approaching and with it came this upheaval from inside. I wondered in that time what had been Adam’s emotional state when he rebelled. Rebellion is resistance, you push against the tide and are no longer aligned to the Source of life. When you take another route except the one carved for you by God, you get lost in the quagmire.
When we are not cultivating the fruits of the Spirit then we are doing something else and whatever thing we are doing quickly takes us off the track with the intention of trapping us, keeping us in a constant state of peacelessness. Beware of the snares of the devil and dwell in the secret place of the Most High God, find refuge in Him for the Bible says “Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence” (Psalm 91:3). Rethink your original intention and follow through, it is never too late, God will help you. Psalm 37:24 says about the righteous person “though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand”.
“Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither--
whatever they do prospers” (Psalm 1:1-3).
Footnote: Scriptures taken from the The Holy Bible, New King James Version, 1982: Nashville, TN, Thomas Nelson, Inc. & The ESV Global Study Bible®, ESV® Bible, Copyright © 2012 by Crossway. All rights reserved & The Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™ (2004). Holy Bible: New Living Translation. Wheaton, Ill: Tyndale House Publishers. The Holy Bible, Berean Study Bible, BSB Copyright ©2016, 2018 by Bible Hub Used by Permission. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2016 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. http://netbible.com All rights reserved. The Living Bible copyright © 1971 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
September 19, 2021 by Kgalalelo
I went to visit a doctor yesterday for a routine checkup and as I was sitting at the reception area waiting, my mind took me back to the exact same day last year, the 18th September 2020 and what I had been doing on that day. It was on a Friday; I had a day’s leave from work and decided to declutter my bookshelf in the house and the one in the garage. I remember the day vividly because I wrote it in my journal as an important date when I got rid of some of the spiritual books and material, I no longer needed to begin a new chapter on my spiritual journey. It was a huge milestone to me.
I believed that these books no longer served me as I didn’t read them anymore and were taking space in bookshelves. The subjects addressed in these books included tales about how soul descend to earth before birth and how they continue to journey life after life. I had acquired these books (both hard copies and audio) over the years, and some downloaded from the internet.
I didn’t want to donate the books nor give them to anyone close to me in case I caused people to stumble. It had been my path to spiritual discovery, and I believed that everyone should find their own. I have read about spirituality broadly from the east to the west trying to make sense of the world around me and life in general and that was my elaborate path. At university I majored in political studies because philosophy was part of the subjects taught in that course and I was very much interested in Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle to mention a few. I was fascinated by their view of the world and even though sometimes philosophy was difficult to grasp, there were parts that were uncomplicated which resonated with me.
I have always been a curious person, perhaps that’s why I chose a B.A Communication degree, Journalism was a huge part of this study. Journalist under normal circumstances are curious people, they go out there to look for stories and report them. They investigate, observe, ask questions, look around, find out and that’s basically the type of person I have been all these years. I have always had a hunger to learn and so would spend time reading.
When I was living at home with my parents after graduating from university (I had been living with my relatives for four years and sometimes with friends on campus in between), I spent most of my time in the house without friends and not missing that part of life in any way. I would spend hours reading in my bedroom. I had books like ‘The miracle of seed faith’ by Oral Roberts and ‘The power of positive thinking’ by Norman Vincent Peale. I found these books in my father’s garage and I still don’t know whom they belonged to. I have the two old, copies to this day. I have been reading ever since, getting motivated, and working on a positive mindset.
So, my spiritual journey began then, in my early twenties and because of the twists and turns of life and the hunger to know more I began to read broadly, to find answers and some books were not necessarily Christian. So, my consciousness expanded over the years until such time I decided to refocus and met Jesus. Even though I have been born again for years, I just kept my old books in the shelves until last year when I decided to clear them out.
One thing though that I have always wondered about was whether what I have learnt so far was in fact contained in the Bible or taught in Christianity. Sometimes when you are on the journey of self-discovery, you come across many people, with different experiences and as you travel, and advance, spirituality can be anything. You begin to hunger for more and meet different people who teaches you different things. I wanted to consolidate all this knowledge into one and really see if I can find everything in the Bible or Christianity.
I am still on that very journey and it is wonderful, sometimes frustrating because life doesn’t go as planned at times. It has been a full year of trying to gather everything together under one umbrella and I have managed to get some of the understanding. For instance, I have learnt quite a lot about the law of attraction, which was part of my curriculum over the years, and I could never get any satisfaction or got the subject addressed in many sermons I have listened to.
Lately, I’ve been led to search more and found pastors who really understand this concept including teaching about the laws of prosperity from a biblical point of view. I have been listening to them day and night and found resonance with what I have learned in my spiritual journey. I have also been led to stories on YouTube of people who have had near-death experiences (NDEs), another subject that has been of interest to me over the years. I didn’t think that this was part of the Christian discussion as well because I had never heard any pastor talk about it and people in the church who have experienced it. I mean, I have visited many churches in my life. It is one of the subjects that I put away, in case it was false, but knowing myself, if I am determined to learn about something, I look for evidence.
I searched for Christians on the internet who have experienced this or have heard of it and found many including pastors who are talking about their experiences from church to church. They describe the wonders of heaven and how they have met Jesus and have seen the marks of His wounds on the hands. It has been an adventure for me to listen and confirms that what I have been learning all these years is not really insane or false. Maybe some.
People have real experiences and not only non-Christians but a lot of Christians as well. Others even attest to being afraid of talking about their experiences for fear of being crucified or being accused of blasphemy. They only needed someone to affirm and validate that what they experienced was real, thats all.
I have never had an NDE, however, have been a keen reader who wants to understand all of life. I’m fascinated by the supernatural and realise that there is so much we don’t know. We are limited and sometimes don’t believe that some of the things exist. Those who don’t believe often block those who do or cast doubt or even fear.
I came across ordinary men and women who simply explained that they had visitations to heaven without really having an NDE. They either had visions or the Lord showed them in dreams or in a trance like state. They have started ministries as a result to remind people of the beauty of what awaits them in heaven. I have wondered for a while whether it was possible to visit heaven without falling ill or being in a horrific accident since most NDE stories I’ve heard are of people who’ve experienced either of the two and realise that it is possible for the Lord to simply give you the tour of heaven while fully well. I don’t believe that the body has to be in shock or coma to experience the wonder of the supernatural, the angelic beings, Jesus or the throne of God.
Jesus is able to show us around the block, the panoramic views, beautiful golden and pearly streets and mansions right here and now. In John 14:2 He says, “In My Father's house there are many mansions. And if not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” He has already prepared a place for you and me, many NDE survivors have attested to that. Those who lived to tell the tale were blown away with their own mansions and everything they saw in heaven. There is so much that is out there, that we do not know about.
There are many things that are not explicitly explained in the Bible or perhaps, not yet revealed or even if they are, most of us cannot fully grasp them. We tend to focus on certain things or subjects and not the others. Sometimes we struggle with unbelief or are influenced by our own socialisation and experiences which keeps things hidden from our sight. We should also forgive our teachers, who perhaps don’t have full knowledge themselves, they are only humans and each person has been given a measure of knowledge just like we have all been given a measure of faith.
People have described how they have met Jesus including atheists and people of other faiths. It makes me think about the mercy of God. Psalm 136:1 says, “His mercy endures forever”. I have read this scripture many times but missed the last word, ‘forever’. This means that beyond the grave there is mercy, and we can’t prescribe to God who should receive mercy. It is for all of us and for as long as we have God and there is life, on this earth or beyond, mercy will always be available. It lives everywhere. It is who God is. He is love; therefore, he is merciful. Lamentations 3:22-23 says, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness”.
In Ephesians 3:18-19, Paul says “and I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. If God loves us so much and His mercies endures forever, this is so deep and could mean that there is no punishment or judgement. I am careful though not to rubber stamp this because I am still learning. There is so much to learn and to grasp and the best way is to discover for yourself lest you say you have been misinformed. While we have mercy, there might still be people who choose another way, the road to hell despite this free gift. When you ask God to forgive you, He surely does and when you ask for His help, He will surely help you. He is no respector of persons (Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favouritism. Acts 10:34).
Going back to near-death experiences, what others revealed is incredible, the kids that are growing and playing in heaven though they died in infancy or were aborted or still born; our loved ones who have died who never age; meeting angels and apostles and the cream of the crop, Jesus Himself. I know about never aging in heaven because I have been shown in dreams my mother and grandparents who have passed, and they all looked young and vibrant.
I have wondered for a very long time whether there are commonalities in religions as well and realise that there are elements of truth in pockets. We might be interpreting certain things differently. God is huge and the Bible says in “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”— the things God has prepared for those who love him” (1Corinthians 2:9).
We expect God to carry a clipboard and a pen to mark what is right and what is wrong. We make each other wrong most of the time without listening to each other, we judge and condemn even within the same faith. I believe that Jesus is gentle when He corrects but it is up to us whether we want to believe in Him or not. In John 14:6 Jesus says, I am the way, the truth, and the life.
My journey continues, as I discover even more of what has always been there and with Jesus on my side and the gentleness of the Holy Spirit, I’m putting the pieces of the puzzle together.
Kgalalelo Saane Mphephuka
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