If our lives were to be described in themes, I would love mine to be described with this: Enduring saint! The journey of faith is one weary journey, perhaps a weary one until we reach the golden shore where we shall behold our Savior’s face, and hear his majestic voice tell us, “Welcome home beloved, good and faithful servant.” One of the images that have stuck in my mind as I contemplate this journey is that of Mr. Bunyan’s work on the pilgrim’s progress. When Christian enters the interpreter’s house and is shown different rooms, he comes to one where he sees “a place where was a fire burning against a wall, and one standing by it, always casting much water upon it, to quench it; yet did the fire burn higher and hotter.” Christian is astonished that though there is water being cast to the fire, it does not get extinguished but burns all the more. Begging some explanation, the Interpreter takes Christian to the backside of the wall where Christian sees “a man with a vessel of oil in his hand, of which He did also continually cast, but secretly, into the fire.” The reason why the fire kept burning even though much water was being cast on it on one side was that, on the other side, there was one steadily, but surely casting oil into the fire, and thus, it kept burning higher and hotter. The interpretation of this image is that the fire represents the work of grace that has begun in our hearts, and the one casting water is the Devil who wants to extinguish this work. Christ is the one pouring oil, the oil of grace to “maintain the work already begun in the heart; by the means of which, notwithstanding what the devil can do, the souls of his people prove gracious still.” Bunyan emphasizes the point that Christ does this secretly. How so?
This is a brilliant image friend! It speaks of our endurance. We persevere because our Lord preserves us by the oil of his grace! It is Christ who maintains the work of grace in us that he has begun. We can be certain and fully assured of our salvation (Phil 1:6).
The Psalmist gives us an image with similar truth of our preservation. In Psalms 1 he speaks of a tree that is planted by the streams of water. This tree yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither (v.3). The Prophet Jeremiah uses the same image in 17:8, describing the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD, such one is “like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” What compels me the most in these images is the fact that the tree’s leaves “does not wither.” The Psalmist speaks of its bearing fruit in its season, which does not contradict Jeremiah, that “it does not cease to bear fruit”, indeed, in its season. There are seasons when there is no fruit being produced by the tree, but throughout the seasons its leaf “does not wither,” and “remains green.”
This dear friend speaks of our endurance. We persevere because our Lord preserves us. Christ is the living water from whom we draw life, even life everlasting. We are the tree and he is the stream, whose water sustains and maintains the leaves ever-green, and in due season we bear fruit! How is this so?
Friends, we cannot neglect the various means of grace that the Lord has provided for us! Drawing from the Psalmist, we are called to, as frequent and often as possible, delight in, and meditate on the law of the LORD. This in other words is what Luke said of the saints in Acts 2:42, that they “devoted themselves to the apostle’s teachings…” Luke continues a list of things that characterized the saints, they were also devoted to the fellowship and the breaking of bread and the prayers. These friends are the means of grace that the Lord has provided for our nourishment and our preservation. Is it not interesting that in the moment of participation we do not often feel or experience the efficacy of these means, perhaps that is why we are often prone to neglecting them? The author of Hebrews (10:23-25) is keen to exhort us “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
This is How
Unknown to us, Christ uses these means to grow us in grace. Even when we do not immediately feel the work of grace within us, even when the fruit is not in the moment tangible, Our Lord is mysteriously working through the means of grace to grow us in grace. We are easily awed by immediate results, yet our Lord masterfully works over the long haul to make us sage saints! Perhaps not sages in our own eyes but in his eyes, that is, conformed to his image! O Saint, do not despise the reading of Scripture, even when it feels like climbing a hill, keep plodding! O saint, do not despise the fellowship with fellow saints! Attend the Lord’s table and keep with repentance as it were. Keep with prayers, even when your heart is not at it, for indeed these are the means through which our Lord works his grace in us. He sanctifies them to his own ends. Apart from Christ, they have no efficacy, they cannot accomplish anything in the soul of a man, but in Christ, they accomplish the work of grace –conforming us into the image of Christ, until we attain full perfection when he comes.
We persevere because Christ preserves us. Christ has provided us means for our perseverance and we should employ these means. He sees to it that we do, for he is the one who called us to himself and keeps us in himself, and indeed, there is much grace in him to keep us on the straight and narrow. Because of this grace, we are preserved and we persevere. What a mystery!
Grace and peace.
Have you ever heard someone say that God helps those who help themselves? Is this statement true? Let’s break it down a bit more. If God helps those who help themselves, then it means that only those who help themselves are helped by God. In other words, God does not help those who do not help themselves. Even simpler, not unless one helps him/herself, God will not help them. Therefore, God’s help is dependent on whether man helps himself or not. This is absurd. If God’s help is dependent on man helping himself who could ever get God’s help? More fundamentally, who is greater? Man, or God? This statement assumes man to be greater than God, for the help is dependent not on God but on man. It fundamentally robs God his glory, and falsely attributes man with capabilities that are not true of man. God is creator, and man is creature. God does not need our help to help us. In fact, man is the one who needs God’s help to help him/herself. Therefore, the statement that God helps those who help themselves is a fundamentally false statement.
The nature and necessity of help
The nature of help is that the one who is being helped is aware of his/her deficiency. Help necessitates need. If there were no need, there would be no need for help. This is the primary reason why it would be absurd to think or even say that God needs our help to help us. The need for help also acknowledges that there is someone or something outside of us that is sufficient and able to help us. Depending on our need, we look for the appropriate source of help. God’s people know that only God is the ultimate source of help, for God is never deficient in anything. He is all sufficient. God is never needy, he is self-existent, self-sustaining, self-sufficient. Contrary to God, man is ever needy and insufficient. Our existence is not only derived from God, but also sustained by God. We are always in need of help, and God delights to help those who know they cannot help themselves, and thus need his help.
We need help! Reason will have us acknowledge the need for help. Right from infancy, we all have needed assistance and sustenance from outside ourselves. Try and imagine a toddler looking up at the mother saying “I do not need you!” This kind of necessity is what makes God fundamentally different from us. We can never attribute help on God. If God needed our help then he would be dependent on us, and this is furthest from the truth.
The Idolatry of man
In today’s society, many people are working hard to be self-dependent to the extent of excluding themselves from dependence on God. Perhaps this is why the statement above is frequently thrown around. The fall has affected us to the core. The significance of the fall was that man would be independent of the rule of God. The nature and significance of the fall was that man would “be like God.” The problem with this is that it is an impossibility. We can only image God as he created us to, but we can never be God. Unfortunately, our fallenness will never allow us to see this, and that is why many men have continued in the fool’s errand of trying to attain self-dependence.
The promise and fulfillment of help
Man’s need for help was not as a result of the fall. Rather, it is imprinted on his creatureliness. The fall blurred the innate sense of need, and even more, blinded man from God’s ever-present help. The characteristic of the people of God in the Old Testament and in the New Testament is their constant awareness of their need of help from God and the constant experience of the help of God. When Jesus was on earth with his first disciples, he promised them a helper. He had to go away, so that the helper may come (John 16:7). Just as the Old Testament people of God experienced the help of God (Psalm 46:1; 33:20; 28:7; 79:9; 118:7; 121:2; 124:8; 146:5), so the new Testament people of God experience the help of God in and through the Holy Spirit. The triune self-existent, self-dependent, all-sufficient God is committed to helping his people. This is great cause for joy and comfort for the people of God! Paul exclaims “Who is sufficient for these things? …Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God.” The author of Hebrews reminds us of the glorious accomplishment of Christ’s sacrificial death and triumphant resurrection. Because of his accomplishment of redemption, he has become our great high priest through whom we can now with confidence “draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16).
We rob God of his glory when we attribute help to him, it is we who need help, and it is God who helps us. Through Christ, we have access to God’s throne of grace where we find help in time of need. God delights to help his people, “Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God.” (Psalm 146:5).
Waiting can be the hardest thing to do, especially if we are uncertain about the outcome. It would be easier if there was a guaranteed outcome, or a promise from God to hold on to. But often it seems like God is silent when we are waiting. I do not know about you, but I have no idea whether he will ever answer my prayer mostly, so it feels like am just there waiting in the dark, with questions like; “how long, o Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day?” o Lord, how long? (Psalm 13:1-3). But even through all the doubt, we can always be encouraged by how long Abraham waited and eventually got his answer.
When God says No
When we read Romans 4:20-21, that no unbelief made Abraham waver concerning the promise of God, that he was fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised, we can admire Abraham’s Faith, but it can be frustrating to wait because we think he had a direct promise from God and that is why he was content to wait. But while he waited, he sometimes doubted God’s protection and tried to fulfill the promise on his own through Hagar. Why? Maybe he thought God had forgotten about the promise and that God needed his help “maybe”. Here, I guess, most of us can relate to Abraham’s struggle with impatience. We often try to help God fulfill his plans, the plans we want him to have for us, and think we deserve. When we read Abraham’s story in the Bible, we learn that, while he was waiting, God was working on teaching him patience, molding his character, and also building their friendship. It was in those seemingly many wasted years that God transformed him and Abraham knew him more, he was ready for the biggest test of his faith when he was asked to sacrifice his promised son Isaac. Abraham was not clinging to his own understanding of the fulfillment of God’s promise. The promise could have been fulfilled in any way God chose, even raising Isaac from the dead if he wanted to (Hebrews 11:19). So, his ultimate faith lay in God’s trustworthiness.
The Precious Answer
Abraham’s wait strengthened his faith, taught him God’s ways, showed him God’s faithfulness, and he knew that God will provide everything he needed. Perhaps, as we wait on God’s answer to our prayers, he is working to forge our faith, to deepen our relationship, to make us attentive to his voice, to help us trust in him more, to transform us into the likeness of Jesus Christ and prepare us for ministry. God knows what we need, we do not. He has seen the future, we have not. He will give us what is best for us when it is best for us. Waiting is the most precious answer because it draws us closer to God rather than clinging to the outcome.
It’s September! What an unusual year this has been. We all are perhaps longing for a time when things will resume back to “normalcy,” or perhaps as some have remarked, we are getting used to the “new normal.” Regardless of where you are at, we all can appreciate that our world has been turned upside down. There has been anxiety, uncertainty, fear, and even confusion. How can we as believers respond to the changing circumstances around us? What hope do we have? Is there a constancy to help us remain sober and firm through uncertainties? COVID has disrupted our lives in an unavoidable significant way. But it has not changed who God is, neither has it changed his plans, purposes and promises for us as believers.
God’s promises and faithfulness
We need to understand that COVID cannot thwart the purposes and promises of God. His plans and purposes are good, and He is faithful to fulfil all of His promises. We are prone to COVID, and that means, you and I might get it and die, and our loved ones too, or in the Lord’s mercy survive through it. This does not change who God is. He remains faithful and good in all things and at all times. This truth and reality help us overcome our uncertainties, confusions, insecurities and fears. Our circumstances might vary, but God remains constant. Here is a promise Christian, God is your Shepherd, even though you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, He is with you (Psa. 23.). This is the time to hold fast to the promises of God and to help one another hold fast to these promises. God has also promised us victory over death. Death is only a shadow, its substance has been consumed by the finished work of Christ in his death and resurrection, and we have an unwavering hope in Christ. The promises of God are fully realized in Christ Jesus.
Where is your hope, Christian? Are you more paralyzed by the fear and uncertainties of COVID or are you trusting and resting in the unchanging promises of God? Not only has God saved us from our sinful state and the penalty of sin, but He has also saved us to future glory. We have the hope of glory in and with Christ Jesus. This hope is the anchor of our soul (Heb. 6:19). Writing to suffering saints, Peter reminds them of the future glory that though they may suffer now, they will share in the glories of Christ. We have the same hope, and we have the same end (1 Pet. 5:1, 4, 10).
In our trials, here is our hope, God is doing something in us. Paul reminds us that our light momentary afflictions are preparing us for an eternal weight of glory (2 Cor. 4:17). The reality of COVID and its effects in this world, in our lives, and in the lives of those whom we love is not a waste, but it is all working towards the eternal purposes of God. This is a great source of hope. For us as Christians, nothing can separate us from the love of God, not even COVID. Nothing can disapprove what God has justified, and we are justified by God through Christ. God is committed to the preservation of our faith. Our perseverance is dependent on the unchanging character of God and the finished work of Christ on the cross.
Our call as believers, therefore, is to grow in grace as we hold fast to the promises of God and help our brothers and sisters do the same. This is the time to hold fast and apply the gospel intentionally. We have no other hope other than that which the gospel offers. Though we hope COVID to end, it might be here with us for a while. Our surviving will not be apart from the unchanging promises of God in the gospel. Our ministry and service to one another need to be gospel-centered. Even as the author of Hebrews reminds us, the day is drawing near, therefore, “let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another…” (Heb. 10:24-25).
Dear saint, we can overcome our fears, anxieties, and uncertainties when we hold fast to the unchanging promises of God in our salvation in Christ Jesus. We can also help others overcome their fears, anxieties, and uncertainties, by pointing them to the unchanging promises of God in our salvation in Christ Jesus. Amen.
Grace and peace.
Before I dive in, to share what I have found to be one of the greatest joys. Allow me share a story.
I was in class one morning and one of the members at our church called and asked if I could help her unlock the Sunday school classroom door (I keep a set of keys), I agreed. She came through and picked me up. Long story short we started talking. I call her Aunt Belinda, very sweet lady, always smiling and just an all-round nice person. I asked her what she thinks about homeschooling. Her being a teacher; she gave me both the positive and the negative. She explained everything like a mother would to a son. Not only that, she also gave me words of encouragement “whatever you do not be afraid, you’ll do a great job”. She gave me a testimony of how it was difficult for her as well and said “trust God, it’s easier said, but when it comes to trusting him, man is it hard!”. It was a great moment of discipleship that the lord prepared. Her forgetting her keys home, and me carrying mine just in case, was all God’s design. I really needed the advice she gave me that morning.
The body of Christ
If we were to take a survey among young Christian couples, both with children and without, and ask them how they plan to raise their kids or what the end goal of their marriage is. Quite a number of the answers will be vague. Of course, some may sound godly, but deep seated, are all these selfish desires for our children and spouses. The times we are in have made us into people who are too informed for our own good, that we have resorted to neglecting the basic need for every believer; submitting to a local church and serving one another. That biblical aspect of older men teaching the younger men and older women pouring into the younger women. Oh, how easy but yet difficult it is. Young Christian couples do life in secret but claim church membership. The current trend or temptation is to get parenting advice from YouTube channels and blogs. These things are not bad in and of themselves, but they are supplementary. Our parents (bible believing) and the church was and is God’s plan for such activity. This goes to single men and women too. We look to the world, when the body of Christ is rich with generations that have seen the times change, they have seen cultures stray from practices that carried good intentions, to being corrupt. Those, brothers, sisters, those older members, are our guide to life. They know the patterns. God designed his body in that special way (different age groups, cultural backgrounds and different Ethnicities). You will be a failure in your spiritual walk if you try to walk alone.
What do we do with this? The temptation would be to go through the motions, but I charge you to genuinely submit and serve within the context of your local church. Take this picture of a beautiful Sunday morning. You walk through the church doors; an older lady sees you and your wife (maybe your child as well). She smiles and gathers strength to get up and come to you. You meet half way and she embraces you both with warm hugs and takes your baby from you. She Kiss the baby. But wait she notices there is something wrong with the young one, and she asks “have you guys been sufficiently breast feeding this little guy? ” She then proceeds to share her experience gained from years of parenting. Brethren that is the beauty and joy of the body of Christ. The world calls it old fashion. But I urge you to embrace it and guard it jealously. To the older believer, do not end your advice at “your generation is spoilt and corrupt”. I would ask that you lead us with a spirit of gentleness. The apostle Paul says this in Ephesians 6:4 “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.” Older men be intentional. Show younger men what it means to be a man (biblical manhood) and a loving Husband/father, take us under your wings and impact us. Older women, teach the younger women modesty and what biblical womanhood looks like, invite them in your homes, show them how you do your devotions, how you handle chores, take them along with you, when going grocery shopping. Model that for them, so they or rather so that we know that a Christian family is not fan and games but submission and commitment.
Lastly to all the churches that practice life on life discipleship, continue loving one another, do not lose heart, be patient with the younger generations in your churches. Mold them to carry on the right practice of advocating for church membership and honoring God and his church. In doing so you are not only protecting them, but you are obeying God and preparing the next generation of believers. (proverbs 22:6).
Grace and Peace.
An Exhortation to Rightly Interpret Scripture
I once listened to an exposition done on the True Vine, as taught in John 15:1-6, by different two preachers. What was intriguing is how their interpretation of the same verse grew apart, with one’s exposition thriving hermeneutically with truth, consistency, and conviction, while the other preacher unjustly “murdered” the living portion whole-heartedly. I’m not under the impression that two different sermons cannot be generated from the same portion of scripture. However, this does not in any way give a leakage for misinterpretation of scriptures. So the question that hit me hard was how possible could it be that presumably under the influence of the same Spirit, one servant was found faithful yet the other rode fast in the dangerous and deadly highway of scripture misinterpretation.
First, we need to know, and even so believe that God does not err [Deut. 32:4]. This simply declares his word infallible, inerrant, and perfect. He is the definition of perfection, and this imprint is reflected in the scriptures with consistency from Genesis to Revelation. Thus, man is the problem since he is flawed in every aspect. Being a sinner just as depicted in his nature makes man capable of tarnishing God’s good gifts, and misusing them for his selfish gain.
Secondly, God calls us to faithfulness in what we proclaim as his word. We are to preach the word [2 Tim 4:2]. This is the kind of faithfulness in interpretation that keeps Jesus Christ at the centre of it all, and man as the offender who desperately needs God’s love, mercies, and saving. Apart from calling us to his standard of faithfulness, he graciously enables us to be faithful when dealing with the scriptures through the Holy Spirit. How conviction comes to our hearts in studying scriptures is primarily the work of the Holy Spirit.
Besides, the work of the Holy Spirit in interpretation calls for us to study scriptures. Studying scriptures is a discipline that calls for sacrifice, patience, and hours of reading, word for word. Looking intently into the perfect law was Ezra’s lifestyle [Ezra 7:10]. He set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, then do it, and then teach its statutes in Israel. The tension between one portion of scripture and another might arise as we seek to draw meaning from them. To those who seek to know the truth, they will wrestle to establish the truth with meekness. It is vital to investigate the context of the text, and what the author means. The cultural gap also has to be bridged.
Unfortunately, those who rush to equate tension as equal to contradiction lose the opportunity to learn of how God with consistency tells his story in the scriptures. For others, their experience informs the text, while others read one verse and ‘run’ away to force its meaning to fit in every situation. There is also a habit among others to wait for God to verbally speak concerning what the text means. The resulting damage could be heresy, or adding to or subtracting the scriptures. Therefore, we ought to handle God’s holy word with much caution during interpretation.
On the other hand, slackness prevents many believers from pouring their hearts out to a daily study of scriptures. It is so sad to see many who claim to be believers engage with scriptures only during sermons. False teachers thrive to take hostage of their listeners with seducing teachings when the listeners are not conversant with their foundational understanding of scriptures. They know not what the gospel is, and building on a false and diluted message gives no life. There also lies the fact that in this latter day’s people will not endure sound doctrine, hence accumulate teachers for themselves who suit their passions [2 Tim. 4:3]. Be warned, oh believer, for the end to this is the outpour of God’s wrath.
In conclusion, Paul gives these instructions to his protégé;
“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which can make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”[ESV]
Paul points out to Timothy how the scriptures brought him (Timothy) unto salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. He also points out the inspiration of all scripture by the power of the Holy Spirit, both the Old and the New Testament. The work of the scripture in building up such a man in God’s vineyard as Timothy is comprehensive in all aspects, that he may be complete and equipped for every good work. Even for us as believers, the word of God not only equips us towards ministry but also living in righteousness as long as God grants us life on earth.
Let us, therefore, partake of the word of God with much responsibility, with hearts delighted to know his precepts yet again with fear and trembling. We ought to uphold the word of God with the whole of our being. Everyone is called to be faithful in interpreting the scriptures, regardless of how learned one might be. This standard of faithfulness is for all.
EVERY SECRET SACRIFICE IS SEEN BY GOD
Growing up, my parents would constantly remind us to say Thank You. The two seemingly simple words that play an important role in how we value and judge our relationships, but as we grow older we are less inclined to demand a thank you as our acts, sacrifice and service grow. Instead, we just expect other people saying it to us, and when they don’t we feel less appreciated and disrespected. We easily start questioning how strong our relationships are, and then run to conclusions to justify our feelings. But with an appreciation, we feel secure and valued.
Is there Selfishness Behind or beneath our Service?
Here is a scenario, you and a friend go for shopping then you remember your friend mentioned last week that he/she was low on money. Then you decide to pay for both your things and theirs. Upon getting home it hits you that he/she did not say “Thank you,” questions like; is she taking advantage of me? Did she not see that I just paid for her groceries? Come to mind. Then it hits you again that your motivation for paying for those things was not totally sincere, because if you wanted to help of which you did, then why are you unsettled? That is because there was something else you were waiting to hear, and that is to be appreciated.
The Approval to Seek
Appreciation is a good thing, there is a reason why it is seen as good manners, actually Jesus himself taught his disciples to appreciate the sacrificial giving of the poor widow (mark 12:41-44). As we grow in good deeds, we must grow in our enjoyment of the Lord’s appreciation more than anyone else’s. Before we were saved, we worked to receive constant appreciation from man, but now we should learn to seek the satisfaction that comes from knowing God (John 5:44). All our good deeds stem from the righteousness of God working from within by his grace, which abounds in more grace. Our lives should be spent responding to his love and mercy, and not seeking for a response from others. We must remember to ask ourselves this; “am I now seeking the approval of man, or that of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10).
Our God calls us for much more than we can ever imagine, and his gift is one which none of us deserve or can earn; SALVATION. As we grow in our knowledge of the Lord and his greatness, and of his love, so should our own sense of entitlement diminish. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8-9). Stuart Townend, in his fine song says “why should I gain from his rewards? I cannot find an answer, but this I know with all my heart, His wounds have paid my ransom”
Seeking a greater pleasure
Being appreciated is not bad for our souls, but it can sometimes be dangerous. We can end up forgetting that, even in our greatest works, still “we are unworthy servants; we only have done what was our duty” (Luke 17:10). We should seek to do acts in silence and without a show, though it may be difficult. Jesus went as far as telling us not let our left hand know what our right hand is doing (Matthew 6:3). As Christians, we do not need to tell people we want to donate something to them, just do it. We are not missing anything without man’s praise. In fact, Jesus tells us that man’s praise is short-lived and shallow, but God himself will reward the things done in secret (Matthew 6:2&4).
Therefore, as we seek to grow in God’s spirit and seek a heart after his, we can train our hearts not to expect the “Thank you” because; our true reward is being stored up in heaven.
In the good providence of God, July 13th, 2018, I married my beautiful bride Dorcas. It’s been two years and a few months with some good lessons I’d love to share. One of the elders at my church asked me about a week to our wedding, what I looked forward to in marriage. I gave it some thought; I felt the rush to say sex! Well, I definitely looked forward to it, but I soon realized that might not be ultimate; it isn’t. I also felt the rush to say the fun of just being with the one I love, well, fun it is, but not always. Marriage gets really hard at times. It’s just like life! After thinking through some time, I said, “I look forward to dying to self on a daily basis so that I can sacrificially serve and love my wife.” You’d expect that from a guy who’s been feeding on almost every sermon on biblical manhood and womanhood, right? Right. But even this is not ultimate.
The truth is, I haven’t always been dying to self on a daily basis so that I can sacrificially serve and love my wife. In fact, one of the things that have been super clear is how selfish and self-centered I have been with my time, my desires, my wants, my money, my, my, my. Did you just see that? All about me! There are times I come home having spent money on self, and the heat inside my heart is evidence of just how selfish I am in my spending, I come in trying to justify myself. In one of the sermons on biblical manhood, Paul Washer says, I’ll paraphrase; you are not ready for marriage if you are not ready to be confronted with your selfishness. In other words, one of the reasons why many put off marriage is because they are primarily selfish. Here’s the interesting thing, the very thing I looked forward to, is the very thing I am failing in. So what?
Marriage is for faith
Hebrews 11:6 gives us a context of what faith is, “And without faith, it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” – Hebrews 11:6 (ESV). Simply put faith is believing that God exists and that He rewards those who diligently seek Him. You see, my failures are meant to show me how insufficient I am, and are meant to lead me to God, by whose grace I am enabled to sacrificially serve and love my wife. Without God and His grace, the very thing that I am called to in marriage, as I am too in the Christian life is impossible. Without God, the marriage fails! I fail. Marriage has helped me see my need for God and of God. I need God at every point and in everything! If I do not have God as my ultimate, I will look for approval and satisfaction in people and things, which really is, at the heart of all selfishness. Only when my heart rests in God, can I then, serve and love my wife as I have been called to. It takes faith to rest in God.
Marriage is for the gospel
Resting in God is resting in the gospel. What do we do with our failures? We simply run to Christ who paid for all of them. I’m a mess, no doubt. I’m a work in progress, praise the Lord! I’m not perfect, Amen! I need the gospel at every point and in everything. How often do I need to be reminded that Christ died for my sin? He bore all of God’s wrath that was reserved for me because of my sin? That I am clothed with the righteousness of Christ, therefore, I stand justified! That Christ continues to intercede for me before the throne of God above! He is my strong and perfect plea, the great high priest whose name is love, who, ever lives and pleads for me? That I, who is a sinner, a wretched sinner, I’m reconciled to the God who is holy? Praise God for the gospel! Yet, the gospel is not just about pardon for sin! I am not only saved by the gospel, but I am also being saved through the gospel, and will finally be saved because of the gospel. In other words, I have been justified, I am being sanctified, and I will be glorified. To put that in other words, I have been saved from the penalty of sin, I am being saved from the power of sin, and will finally be saved from the presence of sin. Pardon for sin is our justification, but we are also being sanctified and will be glorified. Therefore, marriage plays a huge role in my sanctification and that of my wife. Both of us are a mess, and marriage does well to reveal how messed up we are. Not only do I need the gospel, but my wife also needs it as well. The gospel is also for sanctification. In our sanctification, we are being conformed more and more into the image of Christ, it is through sanctification, that I am able to sacrificially serve and love on my wife. And for this, I need the gospel. Without this understanding, I would be very judgmental and insecure. My wife, just as I am, is a work in progress. She is being sanctified as I am. She needs the gospel just as much as I need the gospel. Marriage brings us to the gospel, by showing us our daily need of it.
Marriage is for the glory of God
Marriage works because God makes it work! And He gets the glory. Just as in our justification, God is glorified, and in our glorification, He will be glorified, so is He in our sanctification. God made us for Himself, and when we live our lives in absolute reliance on Him, He gets the glory. He gets the glory by working for us to the end that He becomes ultimate in our lives –He is ultimate. When God is done with our sanctification, we will look exactly like Christ! That is glorious and is for the glory of God. He delights to conform us into the image of Christ. It is one of the reasons Christ died on the cross and rose on the third day. In the life of the Christian, nothing is a waste. It all works for our good and the glory of God, including marriage. The glory of God has a lot of implications in my life as a husband and for my wife. It is primarily what ought to motivate us to be what God has called us to be as husband and wife. If I will sacrificially serve and love my wife, it should be motivated by a desire to glorify God. It is the reason for which God created me, the reason for which I exist. Marriage exists for the glory of God. The glory of God is ultimate! Therefore, every part of our marriage, including our failures, is for the glory of God. I can continue resting in God, knowing that He works all things for my good, the bad, the ugly, the good…He works all for my good, and His glory, which is, our being conformed into the image of Christ.
In conclusion, my wife mentioned that she can’t wait to spend eternity with this brother –me. Well, neither can I. I look forward. I realize God has primarily entrusted me with the task of preparing my wife to meet her maker. How much grace do I need for that! Everything I do, say and think counts for eternity. Pray for me, and for many others like me, who are working alongside God to raise a godly family. That our faith would be strengthened, that our holding fast to the gospel would be evident, that our resolve to live for the glory of God would be a reality.
Grace and peace be with you.
Article by Tracy Ndlovu
Imagine waking up one beautiful morning to some very wonderful news like” your test came out positive, you are pregnant” best news, right? Three or four months down that journey, it is no more. And that dark dark cloud comes in! You will most definitely have so many questions like” why would God give us this precious gift and then shocks us with loss? And for some, it may lead to depression or even suicidal thoughts. Mother’s day can be tough for women who have just experienced a miscarriage or more. Maybe this day brings back memories of a precious life lost. Would you still believe God loves you? Well, he does, and no he has not abandoned you.
October 27, 2018, I woke up early to go and attend an Annual General Meeting as I was interning with Young Men Christian Association (YMCA) and was on duty that day. It was like a very normal day for us, everything was okay. Then “boom “my husband and I rushed to the hospital only to be told you just had a miscarriage, I remember my knees became weak after hearing that our 3 months pregnancy is gone. It was a bad experience but, it was like God was shaping, equipping and teaching us to trust him, and much more than that, that life can change in an instant. Long story short, we thank God that there was help and encouragement from older believers in our local church who obeyed the command the Apostle Paul gave to Titus (Titus 2:3-5). They have been through similar if not worst experiences than ours. Some couples are going through the same situation alone because they do not have anyone to give them comforting encouragement or just be there. Instead, they receive responses like” you will have another baby” which is sometimes hurtful.
Consider (Romans 8:28), God never says every situation is good, but he causes it to work together for good. He can use such situations all to His glory. It can be pain, death, or other afflictions to draw us closer to him. Hopefully from that, get healed and serve him faithfully. There may be a woman in your life affected by the death of their baby in the womb. As Christians, we must know how to bear that burden with them.
Firstly, we can pray for the couple; some people might say ‘that’s cliché’ but hey never underestimate the power of prayer, as we are reminded in (James 5:16)” the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” We should let the couple know that we are lifting them up to the Lord in prayer. Our God is glorified and exalted as we have the opportunity to point those hurting to the healing hope of Jesus who is our hope.
Secondly, we can be present; it may be difficult to try and think of what to say to comfort the couple, but sometimes, the best thing would be to just show up and listen.
Lastly, we can point them to the good news of the gospel. Death and brokenness are not what God desires for us. He hated the impact death and sin would bring to his creation so much that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him, death and brokenness will not be the final word, (John 3:16).
It is encouraging that the ‘how’s’ listed above were all demonstrated to us during that period, especially the fact that some of our church elders went out of their way to help us by even coming to the clinic to pray with us. Our suffering can be a gift to others which may be an invitation for others to share their pain or simply stand with them, in their brokenness.
Furthermore, while some women go on and have healthy pregnancies, some have recurrent miscarriages or even infertility, or a mixture of the two. We can be of encouragement to them by praying with them, being there for them to listen and cry with, and constantly pointing them to the gospel. It is very easy to believe the lie that we are not good enough, our African context makes it harder with all the pressure from family and friends when we find ourselves in such situations, yet we should be reminded that God is sovereignly good and faithful and that he is working all things for our good –the barrenness, the miscarriage, the stillbirth, and even early death, he is working it all for our good and for his glory. We may not immediately see how, or know-how, but he is. And we need to trust in that because he has promised so. William Cowper’s hymn, God Moves in a Mysterious way puts it best,
“Don’t judge the Lord with feeble sense,
but trust him for his grace,
behind a frowning providence,
he hides a smiling face.”
This is perhaps one of the reasons why we need a healthy community of believers who hold fast to the gospel. So that we can be reminded of our Savior Jesus Christ when circumstances burry us in the pain and misery of loss. Jesus entered our pain and he stepped in and took our burden upon himself, (1 peter2:24). He is our Savior and the great High Priest who sympathizes with us, even in our weakness and pain, for he went through it all, except for sin. We have a chance to follow in his footsteps.
Article by Euphresian Akinyi
INSIDE A DEPRESSED, SUICIDAL MIND
Imagine being somewhere dark, scared, and alone, unable to escape. You cry out for help but your voice gets muffled up and no one can hear you. A door opens and light comes in. This is your chance to escape. You head towards the light but it is a never-ending journey. No matter how much you try to reach the light, your efforts seem fruitless. You fight to get to the light; sweating and panting. You really want out. But Alas! You can’t get to the light.
This is the constant battle that a depressed mind seems to fight. It is a silent fight; with none to help. No one can see, no one can understand. No one can imagine how hard it is to fight a battle with yourself, within yourself. A battle that leaves you battered and bruised. A battle you fight in silence. Indeed, you become your own worst enemy.
But what if there is a way out? A way that offers to take away the pain, the hurt, the fear, and the battle? A way that not only entices but has you completely sold out? Can you guess what way that is?
D-E-A-T-H. That sure way is death. Yes, you heard me right! Death by any and all means available. Once the idea of death is on the table, somehow everything else around you somehow start to support that idea. Looking around you, you become so convinced that with you out of the picture, everyone else’s life will be much better and happier. That would be one less problem to worry about. Each passing day then becomes a constant battle to die. People’s words and actions push you further towards the edge; until finally, you start to think of a thousand ways to die and you start trying them out one by one!!!!!!!
When people hear about the suicide attempts, they ask, “What is wrong with you? “What were you thinking?”, “You have everything going well for you, why would you want to give that up?”, You are so young, what could possibly be troubling you? “Well, you are too late. So much has happened. I have been fighting all alone and am tired. This is the last thing I can do to at least win, just this once, just this once I don’t want to lose.
Let this fragile mind seek to give you a little peek inside of it. First of all, yes I am young and yes I have things others don’t. I may even seem lucky to you. But I am not. Those things you think I have, have lost their meaning. I am constantly put in a position where I have to pretend that I am ok when I am not. I have to fake a smile when am hurting, I have to be social when am feeling mentally exhausted and lethargic. I have to act like all is well. It is so tiring. So yes, death feels like liberation from all that!!!!!
Secondly, I am fighting against myself constantly. It is me against my thoughts, most of which I have no clue how to combat. I think until I can’t think anymore. I search for reasons to live but none is convincing enough. You do not see the battle inside my mind, so you cannot even fathom what it’s like. This is exhausting. So yes, death looks like an outing for me!!!
But what to do? Can I be helped?
I need someone to share this burden. It is just too much to bear alone. I need someone to allow me time and space and freedom to talk, express my innermost thoughts, the dark and grim suicidal thoughts. I need someone to listen without judgment, prejudices, or presuppositions. It may seem a lot to process or grasp but just listen. You may not understand any of it but just listen. You lending your ear will help me a whole lot.
Talking about suicidal thoughts is a way to combat them. It is like opening up your mind to someone else and giving them a tour of what is happening inside. Presence can be a life-saving act you do for someone with suicidal thoughts. It is the best gift for a wounded mind. It offers comfort and an assurance that you matter. Be present, cry with them. Be present, stay silent. Be present, offer them a shoulder to lean on, and maybe cry on. Spend time with them. Do things that will take the mind off itself. These small acts may not remove the pain and sorrow and loss, but they give a fighting chance to stay alive.
But the best gift of them all is the Gospel. The gospel takes the mind off itself and focuses it on the one who ultimately matters more than life itself; God. The gospel gives hope, brings healing, offers comfort, and gives life; life everlasting. It can transform a depressed suicidal mind into a mind made for worship. It springs up to life, faith, joy, contentment, and hope in God alone. The battle may be long, but there is victory for those in Christ Jesus. Amen.
Article by Enok Lenkai
Uncertainties are spoken of in times of trials. This year has been graced with unpredictable troubles, as many had not seen the COVID 19 virus spreading beyond China. The response to the effects of the pandemic has been as a result of panic, fear, pain, and suffering to mankind. Talk of loss of loved ones, the economic crunch, loss of sources of livelihoods, etc. As of now, different state governments have set laws and guidelines to be followed by its citizens in a bid to contain the spread of the virus. However, for believers in Jesus Christ, our Biblical view on such matters forms the basis of our response to such unbearable times.
The world is broken as an effect of sin (Rom 5:12). Nothing makes this world a better place than the advancement of the gospel. Man is reconciled back to God the Father on the account of Jesus Christ (Col 1:19-20). We then rest assured of a relationship with our maker that extends from this moment to eternity. Any other advancement in man-made fields is good but doesn’t hold much ground for a long time since problems keep evolving.
So, where is God when all these bad things, including diseases, are cast down on earth? He is where he is, seated on the throne most high, and shaken by nothing whatsoever. The Bible speaks of Job as a man who was blameless, upright, God-fearing and he turned away from evil (Job 1:1). Satan tested him to the core of his being. His children died, he suffered from physical ailments, majority of his servants killed, and his wealth perished either in the face of natural calamities or by the hands of ungodly men. Job received this news one after the other, “While he was yet speaking, there came another and said,…”.
In such cases, man’s natural response would be anger, rage, or a thirst for vengeance. But, as we look further, Job was broken, thus fell to the ground, worshipped and said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” (Job 1:21, ESV). How would this be his response apart from acknowledging God’s sovereign will for him? John Piper writes, “He (God) is sovereign over the whole world and everything that happens in it. He is never helpless, never frustrated, never at a loss. And in Christ, God’s awesome, sovereign providence is the place we feel most reverent, most secure, most free.”
When trials seem so much for us to bear, we resolve into questioning God as to why he would allow evil in our lives. We are prone to count on our good deeds as a token of leverage, wanting God to use it bail us out of difficult times (Job 34:5). As people called by God, our response to suffering in times of trial ought to reflect that he still God over all. Nothing passes unless ordained by him. God’s rhetorical questions in the Job 38:1-41 are what we all cannot answer pertaining his sovereignty over all things. “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.” (Job 38:4, ESV).
Our response during trials
As believers in Jesus Christ, we should first acknowledge that just as Christ suffered, so we will suffer (Phil.1:29). The Lord promised sufferings to his disciples and us also on the account of the gospel. Suffering comes both in the form of persecution for believing in him and also the hurdles that life presents in our daily living.
Secondly, our sufferings are meaningful. James writes to the believing Jews to count it all joy when facing trials because the testing of their faith produces steadfastness (James 1:2-4). To develop steadfastness calls for utter dependence in God. Trials keep us dependent on God, as a helpless toddler clings on its mother for all things. We learn to trust in him who ordained our yesterday and who will do so tomorrow. God grants us strength for this day and hope for the days to come. As days progress, we do find unfathomable joy and peace by trusting in him.
We also ought to lament with portions of scripture that take our deep need for strength and endurance in times of trials to God alone. We find this in books such as Job, the Psalm and Lamentation. Praying with laments gives a solid scriptural way of confining our confession of sins, weaknesses, and trials to God.
More so, our faith should all along be rooted in God for salvation. Not only does God take us through the sufferings of this world to triumphant glory, but also restores and strengthens us in this journey (1 Peter 5:10).
Horatio Spafford wrote at his dreadful moment, ” When peace like a river attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll, whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to know, it is well, it is well with my soul.” I hope and pray that God’s peace that surpasses all human understanding may guide our minds and hearts in Christ Jesus at all times. Amen.
Article by Emmanuel Njoroge
A few books leave an eternal impression in our hearts, one of those books for me is Homeward Bound, Building an attractive Christ-Centered family on eternal principles, by Edward A. Hartman. He wrote the book within the context of his own experience of loosing his wife. He does not write abstractly; he writes from a heart that has felt the pain while at the same time transformed by God through such a pain. In the introduction part of his book, he repeats a particular statement twice: “sometimes the glory of God is displayed most attractively and commended most persuasively through the death of one in a Christ-centered marriage or family.” Is this true? How can it be true? Perhaps what made reading this book a life-transforming experience for me was the fact that Hartman brought me face to face with my greatest unspoken fear: Death.
The Reality of Death
The thought of death is scary. A few days ago, I was walking to church, and on my way, I thought, what if I die today? What will happen to my wife? What about my daughter? I would love to see her grow up into a mature young lady who loves the Lord and is sold-out to the mission of God. I would love to continue watching my wife grow strong in the faith, to be a part of the process of her sanctification, just as much as she is in my sanctification. Yet the reality is that I might actually die any time. My wife might actually die anytime. My daughter might actually die anytime. That time is not known by anyone but God. Death is the last thing most of us want to think about, yet it is here with us. In the recent months, I know of some who have lost their loved ones –a wife and mother, a husband and father, a father and grandfather, a young brother, a young sister. The times we are living in, especially with Covid-19, death is just a breath away for many. Every single day deaths are being recorded in thousands. Not that people don’t normally die, but Covid has uniquely drawn the whole world to the reality of death.
Death reminds us that we will not be here forever. In Hartman’s words,
“no matter how comfortable or content I am, this world, and all that it offers, is not my permanent home…this life is transitional, meaning it is where I now joyfully and gratefully reside, yet with an ever-present expectation of being prepared for that final day when I am welcomed to my new home in heaven.”
If death is inevitable, then those who are wise live by preparing themselves to die well. Not only do they prepare themselves to die well, but they also seek to prepare those whom God brings their way to die well. This is a reality that Hartman helped me appreciate and live in light of.
Four Duties necessary in preparing to die well
Musing on Ecclesiastes 7:1-14, where the author says that ‘the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth’ and musing on William Perkins work, Hartman points out four suggested duties in preparing to die well.
Learn to meditate on death in the time of life.
It is naïve to think that I am immune to death. It is foolish to think that I cannot lose a loved one. Death is inevitable. The Psalmist in Ps. 39:4 asks God to “make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am.” Moses in Psalm 90:12 similarly asks, “so teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” The believer realizes that this life is temporal and looks at life with a “long view” that goes all the way into eternity.
Make absolutely certain that eternal life is yours.
Often when evangelizing I love asking the question if you died today are you certain that you will be with God for all eternity? Or will you be damned to hell for all eternity? Why or why not? “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” John 17:3. To have eternal life is to know God in a saving way through Jesus Christ. It is to know that God is holy and you are a sinner, but that Christ died to pay for all of your sins, and therefore, you are now reconciled into a relationship with a holy God. Having been reconciled you are now seeking to live a life that is conforming to God’s revealed will in his Word, in other words, you are leading a life of obedience. Having eternal life is to be saved by grace alone, through faith alone, not of works, in Christ alone unto good works (Ephesians 2:8,10).
Deal radically with sin –both past and present.
The saying goes, “be killing sin or sin will be killing you.” Paul in Romans 8:13 says, “If you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit, you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.” It is clear enough that the Christian life is one that is characterized by putting to death the misdeeds of the body. Paul echoes the same in Colossians 3:5, “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to the sinful nature.”
Learn to die daily while we are living.
This is the call of discipleship, Luke 9:23, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Taking up our cross daily is in other words dying daily, that is, “A dying to our constant insistence upon our own rights. A dying to our unwillingness to suffer for the gospel. A dying to our unwillingness to be inconvenienced or made to feel uncomfortable because of the demands of the cross.”
Here’s a simple truth: if the Lord tarries, you and I will die. At one point or another, our loved ones will die. It is inevitable, but we can prepare ourselves and our loved ones to die well. To die well is to die in Christ, it is to die having the hope of eternal life which is the hope of glory in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. Death is only gain for those who are in Christ. Let us then be committed to ensuring that those whom the Lord brings our way –family and friend, know and trust Christ Jesus who is Lord and Savior. Let us pray for our loved ones, preach the gospel to them, that they truly come to a saving knowledge of Christ, so that when they die, they die well in Christ!
Article written by Tracy Ndlovu
Is Lobola a gift or price? Is it Biblical?
It finds its origin in Zulu and Xhosa languages. Unique to southern Africa and refers to an old age custom where a man pays the family of his soon-to-be-wife for her hand in marriage. Other countries have similar customs where they use different words to describe the practice for example, (mahandi in Sesotho and enjuugano in Uganda).
It is sometimes translated as bride price and a solemn practice that might end up being a source of scandal if not properly respected. Lobola is determined extremely formally done by serious counsel from relatives particularly the men and the parties involved. These negotiations do not allow the bride to be present and she completely has no voice in this process. The practice goes back centuries, the way it is practiced today has little resemblance to its original purpose or function in African society, (Scheidler, 2014).
What does the bible say about Lobola?
As with many issues that concern us these days, we do not have any specific instruction or directive from the Bible about it. However, we do have some verses that might shed light on this subject. We obviously know that there was no such practice involved in the very first marriage between Adam and Eve, (Gen 2:18-24).
The first reference is when Abraham was seeking a wife for his son, (Gen 24). In this story, we find that there is no mention of bride-price, only gifts, also notice that the gifts were given after the agreement. Because the nature of gifts is that it is determined by the giver and not the receiver. Abraham’s servant determined what to give, while Lobola is determined by the receiver which we do not see taking place in Rebecca’s case, but we do see in today’s Lobola.
The second reference is when Jacob worked for 7 years to marry Rachel, (Gen 29). Here, Jacob too determined how many years to work as a gift for Rachel, Laban never determined the years.
What does this mean?
Based on the two stories, it seems the culture in the bible was more gifts of appreciation for allowing the marriage to take place, rather than a price.
It is neither specifically forbidden nor, is it promoted in the bible. However, in modern times it is more of a price than a gift and it is being abused. Most people would argue saying, “we have to charge more because we spent a lot of money raising our child’, but do you not think the man’s parents or guardians also spent a lot of money raising him? It’s sad because some of these engaged couples with the men unable to pay the given huge price end up delaying the wedding and fall into sexual sin before marriage with intention that when they have a child together then the charge will reduce because he will just have to pay for the damage and get the woman and child, which sometimes does not work out for them.
It should be practiced as a ceremonial token rather than a deliberating sum of money that sets the newlyweds up for failure. It should rather be used to benefit the couple getting married to help them set up their new household as it was originally intended. In our African society, it would be difficult for a young person to try and challenge or adjust parental authorities in such issues. Parents have the greater power to change or even redeem this practice, and maybe begin new traditions that are honorable before God and man.
This article is not intended to condemn my Christian brothers and sisters who have already been married through Lobola being paid, instead, it is to encourage couples to remember the difficulties they may have gone through and help other Christians to avoid marriage practices that are not commanded by the Lord.
Article by Emmanuel Njoroge
I have struggled for a long while in being consistent with my private time of prayer. I have often found myself praying more in group contexts and enjoying such prayer times than the private times. Corporate prayer is such a means of grace for the Christian, but I have often felt like a hypocrite after participating in them. At times I wish I would enjoy my private prayer time like I do the corporate prayer time. I wish I could pray with fervor as I often do in corporate prayer. It has been a puzzle and a wrestle to make sense of the imbalance. Perhaps the joy of using 1st plural personal pronouns, which sounds and feels less selfish. “We come to you,” We ask O Lord,” “help us,” I find myself easily transitioning into such phrasing in my private prayers. Similar to the Lord’s prayer, “Our Father…. give us… forgive us… lead us…etc. I have been accustomed to a pluralistic phraseology in my prayers that personal prayers seem uncomfortable and unsustainable. Yet when I look at the Psalms, the Psalmist is very personal in his prayers. And not until recently have I started praying the Psalms in my private time, and it has been an enriching experience. A brief look at the historical context, central message, theological significance, and Christocentric nature of the Psalms will help see how fit the Psalms are in aiding out private prayer life.
Historical Context of the Psalms
The Psalms are a collection of writings written by different authors. Though most of the Psalms are attributed to David as their author, there are a significant number of them that are authored by others, e.g. Sons of Korah (42-49), etc. The Psalms were not all written at the same time like other books of the Bible. Some of the Psalms seem to have been written as early as the times of Moses (Psalm 90), whereas others like the Songs of Ascent date the post-exilic times (Psalm 126). In the Old Testament times, the Psalms were often used by the Israelites in their worship of God. They would be sung as hymns since most of them were written as hymns with a variety of expressions and with certain experiences that resonated with God’s people as they journeyed their pilgrimage. This is one of the reasons why the Psalms are so relevant even for us today, in them we find experiences of the Christian life, and words to use to express our feelings and emotions in different seasons –of distress, uncertainty, joy etc.
Central Message of the Psalms
The central message of the book is the perseverance of God’s people who are preserved by God. This comes from the constant repetition of phrases like “the Lord is my refuge,” or “the Lord is my rock and my fortress.” Such phrases reveal a rock-solid hope that enables the perseverance of the people of God. The covenant language repeated again and again in describing and expressing the love of God and the love for God also offers insight into God’s preservation and to our perseverance. Psalm 23 captures perfectly the central message of the book. It is about God’s loving covenant relationship with his people –in which God has promised to preserve them, and because of this, his people persevere to the very end.
Theological Significance of the Psalms
The book of Psalms offers us a perspective on the Covenantal love and relationship between God and his people. There are a few elements that reflect this in the Psalms, for example when the Psalmist recounts in past history, the steadfast love of God, it is often in the context of his redemptive work and based on the covenant he made with their forefather –Abraham (Psalm 78). Another example would be on the meditation on the law of God (Psalm 19, Psalm 119). This offers insight to not only what the law is, but also how God’s people are to view it in the covenant relationship with their God. The songs of Ascent (Psalm 120-139) offer us insight into the place of God and how the people of God long to be in God’s presence. They long to reach Zion, God’s place, God’s city. This also shows us how God’s people think and respond to God in covenant love. This is quite significant considering that the Psalms would have covered the entire history of Old Testament saints. There was the constant threat of Idol worship from pagan nations, and the Psalms offer us perspective in the midst of the life of the people of God who were constantly tempted to worship other gods apart from Yahweh.
Christocentric Nature of the Psalms
The Psalms points us to and reminds us of Christ again and again. In Psalms 2, we are pointed to Christ’s reign –He is the Son who reigns over all kings. In Psalm 22, Christ is the forsaken one –His last cry on the cross. Time and again the Psalmist talks about the rock, who else but Christ is the rock (1 Corinthians 10:4). What about the Shepherd in Psalm 23? Christ is the good shepherd. The covenantal language used in the Psalms –Abrahamic and Davidic, finds its fulfillment in Christ’s person and work. The promises that the Psalmist is fond of mussing over are fulfilled in and by Christ. Christ holds all of the Psalms together; he is the heart-beat and life in the Psalms. He is David’s Lord in Psalm 110, He truly and fully is the anointed one spoken of in the Psalms, he is the Christ!
I have found so much wealth in the Psalms as I read a Psalm a day and pray through. I have been encouraged by find similar experiences with saints of old and find personal and practical ways to express myself in prayer. I have also drawn much encouragement to see how God is committed to preserving his people, which gives me great hope for my perseverance. There’s nothing like praying with unwavering assurance! The covenantal language makes tangible my relationship with God. I have found a wealth of expressions that help me better grasp who God is to me. God is my rock and my fortress, my refuge and Lord, my Shephard and King, my Father and Savior. The Psalms have given me confidence in relating to God. Much more have I been drawn to Christ. The Psalms have provided me with gospel musings.
I am writing this article on the 3rd of August and today’s reading was from Psalm 33. I was particularly encouraged by verse 18-19, “Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine.” I was reminded of Christ’s complete work of redemption and how he has defeated death. Though I might die physically, I will still be as alive as alive can ever be in Christ. My soul is delivered from eternal death in Christ. Thank God for the Psalms and how handy they are in aiding our private prayer life.
Article by Chopo Mwanza
“An important mark of a healthy church is a pervasive concern for church growth as growth is prescribed in the Bible. That means growing members, not just numbers. Some today think that a person can be a “baby Christian” for a whole lifetime. Growth is treated as an optional extra for zealous disciples. But growth is a sign of life. If a tree is alive, it grows. If an animal is alive, it grows. Being alive means growing, and growing means increasing and advancing, at least until death intercedes” 
Many believers would agree with the statement above. We all desire growth in our churches; the difference lies in our approach to growth. Many of us default to a variety of programs to manufacture growth. However, the Bible teaches discipleship. Biblical discipleship means growing in the likeness of Christ and encouraging and helping others to do the same. Biblical discipleship in short is relational. The old cliché is correct—it really is “life touching life”. So if biblical growth comes through biblical discipleship, why do we avoid developing discipleship relationships?
Biblical discipleship is time consuming
Training someone requires time, especially if your own life has to be an example to them. This is particularly hard in an extremely busy society and a self-centered one for that matter. It is even harder in a program-driven church where meaningful relationships are not as important. Fellowship is reduced to a program or a service. We are content with meeting each other on Sundays and claiming we love each other when in reality we never share our lives, we never challenge each other to grow, we never keep each other intentionally accountable and consequently, we never spur one another towards love and good works. Biblical discipleship requires time.
Biblical discipleship makes you vulnerable
As we spend time with each other, our lives are soon opened up to other Christians, and they get to know the real us. They see us in our weak moments; they see us respond to pressure; they will know that we are not as perfect as we portray when we put on our best behavior at the church programs and meetings. Committing to invest your life in others and spend time with them is committing to be vulnerable and transparent. It is committing to truly live out the command in James to confess your sins to one another. Biblical discipleship makes you vulnerable.
Biblical discipleship requires energy
Relationships are tiring, and they can be messy. Relationships also require effort to begin and maintain. It is far much easier to organize and run programs than it is to maintain a discipleship relationship. It is even costly at times. As you invest your time and open your life to people, you find yourself exerting lots of energy, and it can be emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually draining. No wonder we would rather build fences around our lives and protect ourselves from messy, exhausting and yet richly rewarding relationships.
Biblical discipleship ensures you do not necessary receive the praise
Just like the majority of ministry, biblical discipleship is done in the background. It is away from the eyes of the world and all that is seen is growth in others. And unless the person (or worse yourself) waxes eloquent about the impact you have had in their life, the world will never know. People who thrive on praise and acknowledgment struggle with the idea that they should invest in the life of someone and see them grow so that the Lord gets the glory. Biblical discipleship removes the focus on us and puts it where it should be, namely the glory of God!
You will notice that there is one common thread in all four reasons presented here, namely, self-centeredness. We do not want to invest time in others because we are self-centered; we do not want to be vulnerable to others because we have built a false image of ourselves; we do not want to exert our energies because we live for ourselves, and we definitely do not want to involve ourselves in matters where we do not receive praise and recognition. Dear Christian, we cannot ignore the task of discipleship; we have been equipped for the very purpose of building others up in the most holy faith.
 Leeman Jonathan. Growing one another. Crossway Wheaton, Illinois: 2012.
The call to missions in the church in Africa
My aim in writing this article is to encourage the church in Africa at large to get involved with missions among unreached people groups. We are accustomed to the work of frontier missions as primarily not ours. It is for our western brothers and sisters. It is normal to see our brothers and sisters from the west leaving behind their kin to go to a hard place for the sake of the gospel. We praise the Lord for the modern pioneering work of missions our western brothers and sisters have been able to accomplish. God indeed has worked immensely through their efforts to take the gospel far and beyond their boundaries. My aim is not to compare the church in Africa to the church in the west, neither is my aim to guilt-trip the church in Africa towards missions. Neither I’m I ignorant of the efforts in the African Church towards missions –both local and global. I hope though to contribute in a little way towards more conversations about frontier missions within the Church in Africa. It is the work of the church, whether in Africa, Asia, or the West to take the gospel to the ends of the earth.
God’s People, God’s Place
The church consists of the people of God, gathered in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. From the beginning, God has had a people for Himself, and His purpose for them is that they would love Him in response to His love for them. We see this clearly in Genesis 1 & 2, God not only creates a place, but He also creates a people to dwell in His place. He provides for them all they need and most importantly provides them His very own presence. God dwells with them. He loves them deeply by giving Himself to them. In Genesis 3 the fall occurs, and the most important part of man’s existence, primarily his relationship with God is interfered by sin. Not only is man kicked out from the place of God, but his relationship with God is also strained and ruined. But the story doesn’t end there! It only begins! The rest of the Bible is an unfolding of God’s purposes and plan of recreating and reconciling a people for Himself, drawing them to Himself so that they could have fellowship with God. God is about redeeming a people who will love Him in response to His great love, which is demonstrated in Him redeeming them. In fact, the Bible ends with a picture of multitudes of peoples in the presence of God doing what they were created to do —worship the one who is worthy of all worship (Revelation 7:9-10). The primary message of the story of the nation of Israel in the Old Testament is God’s redemptive plan. God will redeem a people, who will be His people, whose heartbeat will be the glory of God, beating to the love of God, for all eternity. The New Testament fully realizes this plan in the person and work of Christ.
In the Old Testament, we see the God who plans to save, in the New Testament we see that plan fully revealed, accomplished, and applied. The primary way in which God will have a people for Himself will be through their salvation! This salvation is revealed in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
God’s Plan Accomplished and Applied
The Book of Matthew not only begins with a genealogy of Jesus, which attests to the fulfillment of God’s eternal plan for the salvation of mankind, but it also gives us the purpose for which Jesus came. The angel of the Lord talking to Joseph concerning Mary says, “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21 (ESV); “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).” – Matthew 1:23 (ESV). Matthew helps us with two things. First, Jesus was coming to save His people from their sins, and secondly, He would reconcile or restore the broken relationship between God and man, He was God in the flesh –God condescended in the person of Christ, a perfect mediator between man and God, being fully man and fully God. The heart of the gospel message is the person and work of Christ! The gospel is a person, it is Christ in whom salvation and reconciliation with our triune God is accomplished. God took on flesh and dwelt amongst those He came to save. Here we find the heart for missions! God is the pioneer! He came, He dwelt amongst His people, and accomplished our salvation. In Christ, therefore, the church takes the cue for missions. Jesus embodies the true people of God. After His death and resurrection, as He ascends into heaven, with all authority in heaven and on earth put under Him, He instructs His own to be about His mission –going out into the world and making disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that He has commanded. He promises them His presence, that He will be with them till the end. (Matthew 28:18-20)
God’s Mission Advanced
Here’s my argument, missions is a work that is birthed from, and motivated by a deep love that comes from understanding the grace of God as revealed in the gospel. In the person and work of Christ, God demonstrates for us a great love with which He has loved His people, and in response to this love, His people consequently are all about God’s mission. If we are not captured by the grace of God in Christ Jesus, there is no way we will give ourselves away to the cause of taking the gospel to the ends of the world. If we do not see how God has demonstrated His love progressively in the Scriptures, and see the culmination of His love in the person and work of Jesus Christ, it will be impossible for us to respond appropriately to this love. God has graciously and lovingly worked out our salvation! The church is made up of a people who have known this great salvation, who have experienced this deep love, who continue to abound within the abounding grace of God in Christ Jesus. The church also knows for certain that God is not yet done saving His people. In Matthew 24:14, Jesus reassures His disciples that the end shall not come until the gospel of the kingdom has been proclaimed as a witness to all the earth. Until Christ returns, the gospel must be proclaimed to the ends of the earth.
Because of this then, my plea is for us as a church, especially in Africa, to awaken to the task of taking the gospel to the ends of the earth. May God help us!
You can purchase a digital copy of Kerussomen, A Journal of Theology for the African Church produced by Central Africa Baptist University. The theme of this issue is: The Triune God of the Christian Faith and is our largest volume to date at 189 pages.
Click this link and make a minimum suggested donation of $5
We will send you your PDF copy of the Journal. Please note that your donation allows us to print a hard copy for distribution in Africa.
Any questions please email Kerussomen at email@example.com.
Article by Sakimpa Enock
Most of our neighbourhoods are marked with several buildings of worship that presumably act as watchtowers and pins for mapping our location over phone calls. You’ll hear one respondent informing the other, “Niko hapa karibu na church” [Swahili for ‘I’m standing next to the church’], which by the way is not off the Holy Book. To many persons, it’s the place to be on a sunny Sunday morning because that is how it’s meant to be. It somehow appears as an entitlement to hang out in church every Sunday, from one generation to the next. So pick your spot (the church you’d love to go to), and let’s roll!!!
Therefore, I’m prompted to wonder whether we hold to the meaning and purpose of the church. I mean, most of us find ourselves every first day of the week, amongst a common gathering that tends to profess a common belief in one Being. We were dedicated as kids just like Jesus, enrolled to the Sunday school class when of-age, we graduated to the junior youth then to the senior youth then….it goes on and on. It became a culture embedded in our minds, an expectation to be met as years advanced. Ultimately, we were churched, weren’t we?
But let’s see if our understanding of the church meets the intentions of the Apostles and the believers in Acts. Remember, if there is a place that owes the accurate description of a church, it must be the origin of the church as found in the scriptures.
After the day of Pentecost, the followers and believers in Jesus Christ began to meet in rooms, with a devotion towards the apostles teachings, fellowship, breaking of bread and the prayers (Acts 2:42). They were characterized by a common faith, unity as members of the body of Christ and sharing what they had to cater to the necessities of the needy amongst them. In the 11th chapter of Acts, Luke informs us that it was in Antioch where the disciples were first called Christians (Acts 11: 26b)
As persecution during this period increased, believers became scattered as far as Cyprus, Phoenicia and Antioch (Acts 11:19). This was indeed God’s providence for the gospel to be preached to such and more places.
In the present times, people all over the world, though not everywhere, have heard of the gospel. This has been in obedience to Christ and in love for the lost to come to the saving power of Jesus Christ. Praise God that most of our parents got saved!! As a result, most of them have put effort into bringing us up in the ways of the Lord.
Years have gone by, and each week commences with our pastors labouring in the vineyard, preaching the same gospel that was delivered to us as received, by which we are to stand, being saved and holding fast (1 Cor. 15:1). This does not end here precisely since the preacher calls those who have not yet believed in the risen saviour to repentance. At least for my church, I can bear witness to this as the order of the day each time we fellowship together.
However, the fact that most of us have been brought up within the church culture has caused our minds to assume that we are on the right side of the journey of salvation. We have been absorbed into this detrimental assumption, with our eyes blinded to our sinful nature that beckons for God’s wrath, by assuming the call to repentance and trusting in Jesus Christ for salvation. Let me state this plainly as it can be, you are NOT and will NEVER be a Christian just because your family has been taking you to church. By no means, no!!
There is nothing wrong with your attendance of fellowships and services. But everything is wrong with your hardened heart not receiving and responding to the gospel of Jesus Christ in contriteness, repentance and believing in him who bore the wrath of God. He pursues and woes us to a saving relationship with the Father, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
You see, the Jews and their teachers of the law could not put up with our Savior and the Apostles preaching the gospel. To them, ceremonious events such as going to the synagogue, appearing in fancy feasts, or sitting at the council meetings appeared to be of more value. The Pharisees were judgmental of how people appeared on the outside, whilst themselves were like a cup cleansed on the outside but full of greed and wickedness in their hearts (Luke 11: 39). Jesus Christ warned them so many times of their sins, but, most of his warnings seemed to spark more hate for our Lord (Matthew 23: 25-35). Jesus Christ annihilated their line of thought. He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” [John 14:6]
The Jews thought that they were entitled to the gospel, as we would carelessly be prompted to think of ourselves as Christians by being ‘churched’. Paul, in Romans 11, swings the sledgehammer at the internally manifested pandemic of the heart amongst the Jews. First, as a continuation from the 10th chapter, he affirms that God had not rejected them. However, he calls them to see that what they were seeking to obtain by works was obtained among them by the elect through grace alone (Romans 11:6-7). And as an extension of God’s grace, the gentiles have received salvation to make them jealous, that they make seek God’s salvation in contrition of their spirits (Rom 11:11-12).
Beloved, we cannot afford to throw guesses at whether we are truly saved, or we are just riding in a fallacy of depending on the salvation of our parents, friends or family roots as our own. There is a safer place to build our houses, only on Jesus Christ the solid rock. Confess of your sins, repent and trust in him for cleansing. Sure, he will deliver.
Article by Emmanuel Njoroge
One of the things that I have appreciated from reading Mahaney’s book on Humility is the truth that I am not humble! It was and is encouraging to know that I am not alone on this journey. In his words, he says, “I’m a proud man pursuing humility by the grace of God.” At the heart of his book is the promise of God, that God gives grace to the humble (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5). If God has made this promise, why would we not give ourselves to pursuing humility? Not only has God promised us grace in response to our humility, but he has also given us the grace to pursue humility. His grace is ours both in the means of getting grace–pursuing humility, and the end of humility –more grace. It’s double grace indeed!
With the promise of grace for the humble, Mahaney argues that humility is our greatest friend, whereas pride is our greatest enemy. In Isaiah 66:2, God says, “This is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.” What great motivation and comfort to know that “Humility draws the gaze of our Sovereign God!” Mahaney says, “Humility is honestly assessing ourselves in light of God’s holiness and our sinfulness.” This, he says is “the twin reality that all genuine humility is rooted in God’s holiness and our sinfulness.” I have been challenged to assess myself in light of the call to humility. Am I increasingly seeing myself through the lenses of the holiness of God and my sinfulness? This will lead me to the cross again and again, for only at the cross are my sins dealt with decisively, and God’s wrath towards my sin done away with exhaustively. How can I boast or be proud of anything in me really?
Pride, our greatest enemy, Mahaney says, “is when sinful human beings aspire to the status and position of God and refuse to acknowledge their dependence upon Him…” The essence of pride is, man “contending for supremacy with God, and lifting up our hearts against Him.” God hates pride! In fact, the Scriptures say that God opposes the proud! (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5). I have oftentimes underestimated the potency of pride in my own heart and life. The gravity of pride manifesting in my heart and life is being opposed by God! There’s no doubt who’s loosing, and no doubt who’ll get it rough. I will. God is opposed to pride and opposes the proud. Such a reminder only makes me more zealous to pursue humility like never before.
Mahaney winsomely points us to Christ who not only modeled humility but also died for us, so that, we who are proud sinners could become humble saints after his likeness. How in the world could James and John who wanted the best spot in glory be the very same who were martyred for the sake of Christ? How could they come from aspiring “greatness” in worldly terms, to pursuing greatness as Jesus defined “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all” (Mark 10:43-44). Here’s what Mahaney observes, “James and John were ransomed by the Savior’s death and forgiven of their pride and all their sins. And they would be transformed as well, from self-confident men into humble servants who would live to serve others with the gospel for the glory of God.” The person and work of Christ is potent to transform proud sinners and make them humble saints who selflessly serve others for God’s glory alone! This is good news for me and for you!
How then do we increasingly cultivate our greatest friend humility? Mahaney offers a number of things but I will highlight a few of them that have really impacted me. First is to “reflect on the wonder of the cross of Christ.” Quoting from John Stott he says, “The cross never flatters us. Far from offering us flattery, the cross undermines our self-righteousness, and we can stand before it only with a bowed head and a broken spirit.” At the cross, we are not only confronted with how sinful we are but also of how holy God is! Not only that, but we are also pointed to the love of God which melts our hardened and prideful hearts to softened and humble hearts. Secondly, studying the incommunicable attributes of God, those attributes that distinguish God from us. To know God in his distinct being from us reveals to us our utter dependence on Him. We need Him, He does not need us! Isn’t that humility? To know that we are insufficient in and of ourselves and that we desperately need the all-sufficient God! Perhaps on that caught me off-guard was “laugh often, and laugh at yourself.” He quotes “Laughter is a divine gift to the human who is humble. A proud man cannot laugh because he must watch his dignity; he cannot give himself over to the rocking and rolling of his belly. But a poor and happy man laughs heartily because he gives no serious attention to his ego.” Oh, how I pray to be a man who laughs heartily!
Two more highlights; to see the evidence of God’s grace at work in others is a way to cultivate humility. God is always working in the life of fellow saints (Phil 2:12-13). I am often too critical of others and quick to point out their flaws. Mahaney notes that “only those who are humble can constantly identify evidence of grace in others who need adjustment. It’s something the proud and the self-righteous are incapable of.” Lastly, inviting and pursuing correction cultivates humility. We always have a “Cream cheese moment,” that is to say, there’s always a flaw that we cannot see that others can see in us. Indeed, “sin is subtle, sin is deceitful, and sin blinds you. And you need feedback from others in order to understand your heart.” Here are a few questions he suggests in inviting and pursuing correction: “Do I confess my sin consistently? Do I confess specific instances of sin and not just general categories or general references to sin? Do others find it easy to correct me? Do others know the areas of temptation in my life at present? Do they know the most pronounced patterns of sin in my life at present?
I have tremendously benefitted from C.J Mahaney’s book on humility and would encourage you to read it. I am not any humbler reading it, but most definitely helped in my pursuit of humility! The promise is sure: God gives grace to the humble.
In this week’s episode of Insaka, Philip Hunt continues with the series on fatherhood. Pastor Simon Banda & Pastor Henry Mukonda feature on the show as guests. Listen as they have an interesting conversation.
This past week I found myself studying the first chapter of Mark for some work I was asked to do. Mark is action packed and moves at a fast pace, as is seen from the reoccurrence of the word “immediately.” In a space of 40 verses, John the forerunner is introduced, Christ has arrived, been baptized, was tempted in the wilderness, and began his ministry, preaching, healing and casting out demons and choosing the first disciples. In the midst of this activity I was tempted to skim over verse 35: “… he departed and went out to a desolate place and there he prayed”. At a time when his fame was spreading, and he was experiencing success in what was becoming a busy and demanding ministry, Jesus prayed. That struck me! It struck me because when I am busy I neglect prayer. In my thinking, spending quality time in prayer when I am pressed for time is not the best use of my time. Such reasoning is dangerous and detrimental to my spiritual growth and ministry. Busyness and prayerlessness are a dangerous combination whose symptoms are seen in our attitude, work and relationships.
When we pray, we are surrendering to the will of God and humbling ourselves to wait on the Lord, knowing it is in Him that we live, move and have our being. Only a heart communing with God in prayer will have that spirit of surrender and patience. A busy and prayerless heart, relies on its own strength and power to get things done and make things work. Consequently, such a soul gets drained, weary and frustrated. The result is you go around snapping at everyone in your path: your children and spouse at home, your coworkers, the weather, fellow road users, church mates, etc.
As a result of being self-reliant while lacking self-sufficiency we become experts at worry. Even when we hear and read the comforting words of Scripture, to cast our cares upon the Lord for he cares for us, we in truth do not believe them. We pray, but in essence we are still confident in our own abilities and carry burdens the Lord did not intend for us to carry. The buzz word today is “stress”, we have used it so much that it has become a fancy term; the biblical term for stress is anxiety! Being griped by fear because of the uncertainty of a situation. As a result we end up grumpy, restless and irritable.
Busyness means activities, programs and events. It is easy for one to be prayerless and still host a successful program or event. It is a mystery of ministry that one can be relatively successful while not walking or depending on the Lord, at least from the onset. Such a situation is fertile ground for pride. A person who prays earnestly and consistently has no basis to be proud because in prayer he declares his poverty and reliance on God. Not so for a prayerless individual; he relies on his experience, gifts and planning and any ounce of success soon gets to his head. As a result, such a person ends up becoming the center of ministry and ungrateful.
There is a childlike joy that comes from fearing God and submitting to him and his will. This joy is a result of being satisfied with your relationship with God and being found in his presence and finding that in his presence there is fullness of joy, and at his right hand there are pleasures evermore. It comes from a soul that proclaims with David “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my flesh faints for you as in a dry and weary land” (Ps. 63). Prayerless Christians and ministers are devoid of joy because in their pride they have become self-reliant, which then makes them impatient, anxious and joyless.
O Lord I can be so busy and caught up in the activities of life that I neglect to pray. Cause me to realize that I was created to live in dependency. May what was said of Charles Simeon be true of me: “Never did I see such consistency, and reality of devotion, such warmth of piety, such zeal, and love… he devoted the first four hours of the day to private prayer and the devotional study of the Scriptures…”
He told me there was a wolf in the building but I couldn’t see it. Now that my eyes have been opened I saw the beast.
I went into that 500 million dollar building every week and wondered how a wolf could be found in such a place; projectors beaming to walls, flat screen TV’s everywhere, loud contemporary gospel music, a ten member choir dressed in blue and one vocalist leading them. It was amazing. I told myself this was the place to be. This only comes second to the best of Cinemas. I wondered where the wolf sat because everyone should be able to notice the flesh tearing animal but alas everyone was in an emotional state, others screaming on top of their voices while others fell to the ground. “Could the wolf be the one causing this?” I thought to myself.
Every time after the service I walked home with a mind full of thoughts. What did my beloved friend Steve mean when he said there is a wolf in that place? I sat on my bed and read through the verse he gave to me. It read, “Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inward are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruit…” (Matt 7:15). I sat back and reasoned to myself. I flipped through other pages of Scripture to see if there was any other passage that talked about such kind of prophets. Instead I found one which talked about the good shepherd. It said that the good Shepherd goes before his sheep and the sheep follow him because they know his voice (John 10:4). This got me really confused. On one hand there are wolves in sheep’s clothing and on the other there is a shepherd whom the sheep follow. The former actually says you will know them by their fruit. I wondered what fruit this was.
One day when journalist Banda read the news I was perplexed as he mentioned that a certain bishop who was accused of defiling 9 girls had committed suicide. Not too long ago I read in another place that a certain Pastor had commanded his congregation to feed on grass. As if not enough I saw another Pastor telling his congregation not to take any medication whenever they fell sick. My heart sunk. “Surely, the world is coming to an end,” I thought.
“Oh, now I see.” It finally clicked in my mind. I couldn’t help but weep. I finally realized what Steve meant when he said there was a wolf in our Church. It was the man who stood to preach God’s word and called himself “man of God.” His life was exactly what I saw from the three Pastors I read about in the media. The Scriptures then all connected together. The false prophets pretend to be God’s shepherd when in actual sense they are not. That is why Jesus calls them wolves. However, the true Shepherds are those who will preach and teach the Bible and lead people to the Chief Shepherd, Jesus Christ. Their lives are a pattern you would want to imitate. They lead people to Christ by the way they preach and the way they live the gospel. Many who listen to the false teachers and continue to follow them are most likely not Christ’s sheep because if they were, they would hear the voice of the stranger and run away from him. At the same time, they would hear the voice of Jesus as he spoke through his under-shepherds and would follow him. Are you following a wolf or the chief shepherd? Beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing.
In this week’s episode of Insaka, Philip Hunt continues with the series on fatherhood. He welcomes Pastor Simon Banda & Pastor Henry Mukonda as his guests. Listen as they have an interesting conversation.
Article by Chopo Mwanza
I started school, and the course’s main focus is expository preaching in the context of the local church. The beauty about the course is that you get to sit under the teaching of different men with vast experience in preaching and pastoral ministry, but they also hold differing theological positions within evangelical Christianity. All this makes for a rich experience for the students and many unforgettable lessons that left me doing quite a bit of self-retrospection. Here a few that I have been mulling over.
Study hard without data dumping
Someone once said, “A preacher who goes into the pulpit without preparation is a fool. A preacher who goes into the pulpit relying on his preparation is a bigger fool.” The apostle Paul admonishes his son Timothy to labor to the point of exhaustion in his study of God’s Word, so that he may handle it accurately. Study is a non-negotiable for the preacher! That said, preaching should not be reduced to data dumping. The pulpit is not the place for the preacher to bring out all his study tools and expose his knowledge (or lack thereof). The work of a preacher in preaching, after diligent study, is to deliver the truths of Scripture simply and logically. Throwing theological jargon and going on pointless mumblings are the preacher’s real temptation in sermon delivery.
Clarity, Clarity and more Clarity
The basic goal of communication is to deliver your message to the recipients in a manner that is simple and clear for them to understand. Preachers are no different in their task of preaching. Clarity is an essential part of a sermon. Therefore, the message must be conveyed in a language and with concepts the audience can understand. Another aspect of communicating with clarity is that there is a logical flow to the sermon. One reason preachers lack clarity is the problem of preaching to an imagined audience, instead of preaching to the audience in front of you. The gospel message is an important, urgent matter that we cannot afford to lack clarity in our preaching.
Preach doctrine while applying it to the people
There are preachers who claim they do not preach doctrine; they simply preach the Bible. While their intentions are admirable, their logic is self-contradictory. To preach the Bible is to teach doctrine; it is in this light that Paul urges Timothy to teach what is in keeping with sound doctrine. Biblical preaching will shape a congregation doctrinally. However, preaching doctrine does not mean lack of application. In fact biblical doctrine affects life style. And biblical preaching tells both the “what” and the “so what”. The first questions gives you truth (doctrine), and the second question gives you the implications of the truth in your life (application).
Work on your holiness
This was the most convicting of the lessons. God uses instruments that honor and please him in their lives. The most important work a preacher can do is focus on being holy and fighting sin in his life. That means commitment to the study of God’s Word, prayer and meaningful fellowship with the brethren. This holiness will then be seen in relationships, attitude towards others and ministry. A holy minister is not preoccupied with his reputation or success but on being faithful in the task his master has called him to. As a result, such a minister is not worried about the empty spaces in the pew but instead focuses on the ones that are filled up.
Soak your preaching in prayer
After all has been said and done, preaching is not about the mechanics, study and styles though all those are important. A man might have all those nailed down and still not bear fruit in his preaching because his is not enabled by the Holy Spirit. It is for this reason that preaching must be soaked in prayer if it is to be effective. Unless the Lord works in the hearts of men, the preacher becomes a mere orator. Prayer is an act of dependence of the work and power of God in changing lives, including your own as a preacher.
As a I pondered on these and many other lessons, I could not help but reflect on the words of Walter Kaiser when he says:
“Regardless of what new directives and emphases are periodically offered, that which is needed above everything else to make the church more viable, authentic and effective, is a new declaration of the scriptures with a new purpose, passion and power.”
 Walter C. Kaiser. Towards an Exegetical Theology. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1981, (p. 242.)
This article was written by Chopo Mwanza. You can find more of his articles at Deeper Reflections
The people of God have always faced opposition both internally and externally. Christ assured the disciples that challenges of all sorts will follow them because of their decision to follow Him. And throughout her history, the church of Christ has faced and fought battles of all kinds, and that is the status quo today. Though there is nothing new under the sun, dynamics change from time to time, and it is therefore a healthy practice to take stock of the dangers that are with us now and those that are on the horizon. I am not a prophet neither am I a son of one, but I see four (among many) challenges that the church in Zambia should be prepared to face.
A love for the world in the church
The first challenge is an internal one. Believers have always battled with the love of the world, however I sense a different kind of worldliness within the church that seems to be creeping in at an alarming rate. The worldliness I am talking about has come as a result of what may be termed “a revolt against the traditional positions of mainline Christianity.” Some of these positions are regulations that the church has espoused and talked about (strongly) that are not necessarily the teachings of Scripture but the convictions and preferences of men (issues like music, drinking, tattoos, worship styles, etc.). So as most believers (particularly the younger believers) have become enlightened about what Scripture actually teaches, they have reacted by choosing to be the opposite of mainline Christianity and the end result has been a daring worldliness. The church has to begin to have honest conversations about some of these issues and be willing to admit what the Bible actually teaches without conceding the fight against sin. The moment the church becomes worldly is the moment it loses its testimony and witness to the world.
Charismatic teachings and practices
When an average Zambian hears the term pastor, they often think of charismatic preachers: self-exaltation, fancy (often colorful) dressing, dream explainer, tongue speaking, motivational speaker, miracle worker, demon slayer and lover of money. Gone are the days when pastors are merely viewed as teachers and preachers of the Word of God. The charismatic movement is a cancer in our country, and its teachings and practices must be aggressively exposed and uprooted before they eat up the entire church! These practices include: deliverance services, altar calls, the viewing of pastors as mediators between God and man, hierarchy of offices not taught or practiced in the Bible, the making of pastor’s wives into assistant pastors, Christ-less gospel and sermons, worship services designed to entertain, unity that ignores and compromises the truth of Scripture etc. What makes the charismatic movement appealing in Africa is that it resonates with our African worldview. This is a challenge that should not be faced head on. If there was ever a need for faithful preachers of the Word of God, now is the time.
A rise in atheistic thinking
While there not many atheists in our country compared to other countries, the number is rising. Atheistic thinking is more common than we care to admit. The number of people that deny the existence of God either in word or deed is alarming. Popular motivational speaking for instance is largely based on evolutional thinking. Man is no longer a created being who is totally sinful, but someone who is inherently good who just happens to be in the wrong place with the wrong people. Another result of atheistic thinking has been the battle of the races and sexes. White supremacy and male supremacy has led to a reaction where you have blacks and females pushing for their own supremacy. Atheistic thinking is becoming very popular among young adult college students because it is viewed as progressive and intelligent. The church of Jesus Christ cannot avoid to mess the gospel and its implications on believers.
A denial of the sufficiency of Scripture
Most people believe the Bible is the Word of God, and it is good and helpful for your spiritual wellbeing. However, not many people believe the Scriptures are sufficient for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). As a result, the truths of Scripture are constantly under attack especially in the recent times when the Bible is generally viewed as out of date. It is therefore not uncommon to find people who are committed to church and do not apply or even think about what the Scripture says about an issue. This is often reflected in marriage, family, births, funerals, education, entertainment, work and business and our involvement in politics. For most people the Bible is for Bible studies and preaching sermons and not for “actual” life. The church cannot afford to be wishy washy about this issue. Now is the time for preachers to raise their voices in proclaiming thus says the Lord!
These and many other challenges will batter the church from all angles. And the temptation to succumb will be great, and sadly many will fall along the way. However, now is the time for the church to take its stand and not waver from upholding the truths of Scripture; now is the time for courageous preachers who will preach the Word with boldness and clarity. Now is the time for Christian homes to unapologetically be biblical. Dear friends, against unnumbered foes, let courage rise with danger.
In this week’s episode of Insaka, Philip Hunt and Sandala Mwanje start a new series on fatherhood. They welcome Pastor Simon Banda as their guest. Listen as they have an interesting conversation.
We have heard so much about the subject of demons and casting out demons in this 21st century. But how exactly is the casting out of demons done? Is there such a thing as someone being demon-possessed? Should Christians cast out demons from those who are demons possessed? Let’s see if we can see what Scripture says on these matters. I must mention that this is a very diverse topic and may have differing views. Nonetheless, we must all strive to do what Scripture says.
First of all, it is always good to define our terms. What are demons? Demons are fallen angels. They are spiritual beings. They are also referred to as evil or unclean spirits (Matt 12:43-45. Acts19:12). These spiritual beings can speak. They are also very powerful spiritual beings. They possess a level of power which human beings do not have. Remember the story of the person who was demons possessed would be tied with chains and he would snap them like tiny ropes? Yes, they are very powerful beings. Demons are also very intelligent. They possess a high level of knowledge. Some of the verses like Mark 1:23; Acts 19:15 and Mark 5:2-7) can help us see what I am trying to say.
The second item we need to take note of is that demons can possess and torment people. They can posses (indwell) unbelievers. They cannot possess believers. They cannot possess believers because the believers are indwelt by the Holy Spirit and Light and darkness cannot mix (2 Corinthians 6:14-15).
However, believers can be tormented. By this, I mean God can permit that they inflict pain on the believer especially where there is unrepentant sin. An example is where Paul asks the Corinthian Church to surrender one of the members to Satan for the destruction of the flesh (1 Corinthians 5:5). Another good example is when the Bible tells us that Saul was tormented by an evil spirit (1 Samuel 16:4; 18:10). Sometimes God permits it to happen for his own sovereign purposes. A good example is that of Job. So always remember that there is a difference between demon possession and being tormented by demons.
Can Christians cast out demons from a demon-possessed person? Yes, they can although I would like to qualify the statement. Casting out of demons has come to be known as a person telling evil spirits to leave someone. But it’s not just a matter to uttering words. It is Spiritual work. It is God working through the believer to help the person who is demon-possessed. So it is not you as an individual and by your own strength commanding a demon to be cast out. Remember what we said about the strength of demons? They are very powerful and human strength cannot compete with them.
Well then, how is the casting out of demons done? Situations may differ but whatever the case there must be sharing the gospel to the possessed person. This is very important. It is only when Christ has indwelt the unbeliever that they are safe otherwise it is a case of Matthew 12:43-45 where the demons leave and come back and find the house swept and bring with him others eviler than him. Casting out of demons is finding a way of sharing the gospel with the demon-possessed person. When Christ takes possession, he becomes Lord of one’s body and there is no room for demons to linger around that person. Casting out demons is presenting Christ to the demon-possessed person because only the power of God is able to make demons leave.
An Editorial on the Expansion of God’s Church in Madagascar
by Tim Cantrell with Faly Ravoahangy & Haja Ralambomanana
When most people today hear the word “Madagascar,” they think of the movie, not the country. They might even think of King Julian, the lemur, not King Jesus and what he is doing on a real island, the fourth largest island in the world, with over 23 million souls. Over the past five years, our church has had the great privilege of an annual mission trip there. Through having Malagasy members and interns in our church for many years, God has given us a love for this island and its people; we have learned much. To that end, let me share with you a few encouragements of what Christ is doing through his church in Madagascar, as well as a few ways you can pray for this vast island.
A Church Birthed in Prayer and Suffering
When William Carey went to India in 1793, he wrote this while sailing past Madagascar: “I hope . . . that the multitudes of heathen in the world may hear the glorious words of truth. Africa is but a little way from England; Madagascar but a little way farther. . .. A large field opens on every side, and millions of perishing heathens, tormented in this life by idolatry, superstition, and ignorance, and exposed to eternal miseries in the world to come, are pleading.” That plea was heard by an older Bible school teacher in Wales, who had a great burden for Madagascar, and began praying and challenging his students to go there. Two young Welshmen soon took up the challenge and in 1818 arrived in Madagascar with the gospel. But only one of them, David Jones, survived—after losing his wife, family, and coworkers all to malaria. Yet by 1835, Jones and his team had finished translating the entire Bible, just before an outbreak of fierce persecution and expulsion of missionaries (the Malagasy Bible was the first African Bible translation of the modern missionary era). An evil queen believed Christianity was a threat to her kingdom and to their animistic ways. If believers would not renounce their faith, they were hurled to their death from high cliffs in the capital city (where martyr monuments still stand today). Yet the Malagasy church now had God’s Word, so portions of Scripture were hidden and smuggled by believers from village to village. They stood firm during these fiery trials until religious freedom returned thirty years later (see Triumph in Death, by F. Graeme Smith, a moving story).
A Church Withstanding Liberalism & Pragmatism
Nearly 200 years later, the original missionary church plants have gone liberal mostly, plus there is a large Roman Catholic presence (due especially to French colonization from 1896 to 1960). Yet one group of churches that has remained conservative is the FFBBM (Malagasy acronym for “Association of Biblical Baptist Churches in Madagascar”). They began when another Welsh missionary, Brinley Evans, came in the 1930’s and established a faithful, Bible-teaching church in Antanarivo, the capital city.
Today, that original church is still going strong, and is only on their third pastor in 80 years! They have planted many churches and led a movement that now has over 100 churches across the island. They were originally called “Bible Mission” churches, but then in the 1960s the government required that they identify with a major denomination. So they chose Baptist. Yet the older leaders still today will remind you, “We are biblical first, then Baptist.” Their churches have been largely elder-led, Calvinistic, and non-charismatic. Visiting these churches is like stepping into a time warp; it’s like these Baptists have missed the entire twentieth century! They have had the biblical discernment to resist the pragmatic church growth trends that are so rife in Western churches. I recently interviewed the current president of the FFBBM, Pastor Willy, and here were some of his insights: “We are very cautious when baptizing teens, because they must be ready for fully active church membership. All candidates must first take a nine-month course; then they will be examined by some elders and deacons, or sometimes before the whole congregation. Only after membership would we invite them to the Lord’s Table.” Willy then notes, “This lengthy process has made us unpopular with some missionaries who want more results to report to donors. But we know the Malagasy people and the great cost for them to leave animism and the old ways to follow Christ, so we cannot rush it. We want quality over numbers.” I asked if their churches practice church discipline. He said, “Yes, because it’s biblical, Matthew 18, 1 Corinthians 5. We have no choice; we must keep the church pure, and we must restore those who stray and bring them back.” He also said, “The youth will not change our music; we do choir for all ages, we sing songs for the whole church. It must not sound like the world; we will not move our bodies like the world.” I have seen firsthand how their churches love to sing God’s praise together joyfully and beautifully – they are a very musical people. What an encouragement and confirmation to visit churches in a very different context, yet holding the same biblical convictions. Not that these Baptists don’t face plenty of their own challenges, but clearly some good biblical foundations have been laid.
A Church Growing Deeper and Wider
Many of these Baptist pastors are eager to learn more about expository preaching, which has been the main purpose of our visits. One hundred pastors from across the island travel far (some taking two–three days) to attend our training, as they sit for long hours and days on wooden chairs or benches, craving biblical knowledge. Many have little or no theological education. Pray for the Lord to raise up much more training for these pastors, so that they can impart truth to the next generation and have well-fed, thriving churches that exalt Christ. Pray also for more Bible study tools to be translated into Malagasy and for good French books to be supplied to church leaders. Pray also for them as they seek to plant churches in some of the least reached and remote parts of the island. Due to decades of corrupt leaders, the country is extremely poor, with little infrastructure and few roads. Though the gospel came to their island nearly 200 years ago, there are still thousands of villages that have yet to hear the name of Christ. If you visit some villages and ask, “Who is Jesus Christ?” they will answer, “He doesn’t live here. Maybe try the next village over.” Tourism books rave about this fascinating country, about all its exotic plants and animal species. Yet it also makes me think of the Lord’s rebuke to Jonah for caring more about a plant than about lost people with eternal souls, for whom Christ died (Jonah 4:10–11). Please join me in rejoicing at how God’s Word is at work in Madagascar, and also in praying for the spread of his Word in that needy place.
Tim Cantrell is Pastor-Teacher at Antioch Bible Church, Johannesburg,
South Africa where he has been serving since 1998.
 Editor’s Note: this report was originally posted on the IX Marks blog and
can be found at https://9marks.org/article/how-christ-is-building-his-church-
in-madagascar/. Used with permission.
There can be no denying that distortions of the gospel have crept into many churches throughout Africa, chief amongst them being the prosperity gospel. But before effectively dealing with the issue of the prosperity gospel, we must ask why so many in African churches allowed this false gospel to slip in unchallenged. Where were the gate-keepers, the whistle blowers? And even now, why is there such deafening silence from so many of the now-indigenized African churches? The problem of the prosperity gospel today, as much as anything, roots in an ecclesiological problem from yesterday. Generally speaking, it appears as though the gospel efforts of years past in Africa did not come with any mechanisms by which professing Christians could protect and preserve the gospel from these constant threats of distortion. For instance, little attention has been given to carefully understanding the doctrine of conversion and what it means for meaningful church membership or church discipline. Likewise, missionaries and pastors have not asked what the gospel has to do with church government, the responsibility of every member for guarding against false teachers, or the need for a plurality of elders. Instead, the gospel is taken for granted and the African church suffers. It remains in desperate need of missionaries and churches who both understand the problems and are equipped with better and more biblical solutions.
Where are All the Christians?
Missionaries who labor in reached parts of Africa are today faced with a society that has been inoculated against the gospel. Cities are filled with people who have been baptized and acknowledged as members of churches from one denomination or another, thus affirming their status as Christians, even though many live lives that show no fruit of the Spirit’s work or evidence of a life of repentance and faith in Christ. For example, 80 percent of my fellow Kenyans would identify themselves as Christians, yet many go to church irregularly, if at all. They do not need the gospel and church, or so they think, because they are already “Christians.” Others who might frequent church more than this former group attend churches where the gospel is not articulated clearly. Though they are fervent in their religion, a great part of this group would struggle to articulate the gospel even in its most basic form. True gospel ministries established decades ago have in many cases grown into theologically weak churches that have given in to teaching variations of the prosperity gospel. It’s no wonder false gospels are wreaking havoc in Africa with little to no resistance. When churches are filled with those who do not know the gospel and are in many cases living lives unworthy of the gospel, then they cannot protect themselves from distortions in both gospel doctrine and gospel living, let alone raise an alarm among their community about the counterfeits that are masquerading as truth. We know God remains faithful, and he has indeed scattered his own in these places. It is our constant prayer and hope that he will raise up many more of that breed so that they one day would define the church landscape of Africa, that the prosperity gospel might die here. But today, the problem persists. So how can we do missions in a way that will protect the gospel for the present generation and for the generations to come?
Is Theological Education Enough?
A great deal of missionary effort is at present being focused on theological education. In many cases the pastors in the cities do not have any form of theological training. Generally speaking, previous missionary efforts did not place an emphasis on equipping the pastors who were left “in charge.” This absence of enduring discipleship has resulted in increasingly shallow theology, leaving many local churches susceptible to whatever error its society was infected with at present. As a response, theological institutions are being established across the continent. Conferences and seminars abound as we play catch-up after realizing that past missionary efforts, though helpful in bringing many to the Lord, proved unreliable in preserving the gospel for the next generation. This is a good work, and it is an urgent work. Yet despite the renewed efforts to train pastors, our continent still lacks enough qualified men to do the training as well as sufficient resources to finish the task.
A Blind Spot Remains
That said, a blind spot still plagues these commendable missionary efforts. Most efforts in church planting and pastoral training lack an emphasis on the local church. Systematic theology and other branches of Christian doctrine are greatly emphasized, as they should be, but ecclesiology remains unfortunately assumed and, as a result, misunderstood. This is a sad reality primarily because these assumed local churches are God’s primary plan for how the gospel will be displayed and preserved for the coming generations—not seminaries, not conferences, not theological training centers. In an ecclesiologically heavy letter to Timothy, Paul wrote, “I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth” (1 Tim 3:14–15). How a church conducts its life together has everything to do with how they preserve the truth. The present generation in Africa would have been served well by churches that had been just as willing to excommunicate them as they were to baptize them. Having a city filled with people who claim to be followers of Christ but are living lives unworthy of the gospel distorts the truth of the gospel for both this generation and the next. God does not desire to preserve truth through theologically accurate books. He wants lives that reflect that truth by living it out together in local churches.
We Need Faithful Churches
If we teach churches today that the buck stops with them and that they are not mere bystanders in the mission but gate-keepers of the gospel, then maybe they might fire the next pastor who starts preaching heresy. If we teach churches that conversion is more than saying a prayer and if we stopped asking people to walk down the aisle or raise their hands to receive Jesus, we might have smaller churches captivated by the awe-inspiring grace of God rather than the eloquent, misguided pastor in a shiny suit. We might have churches that will guard the gospel more fervently for the glory of their God. The plagues of the prosperity gospel and false converts are not at the heart of the problem for the African church. They are mere symptoms of a more fundamental problem. God wants the local church to be built up so that it can withstand different winds of error. It might be prosperity gospel today and Gnosticism tomorrow. Focusing more missionary efforts on building healthy churches will help protect the gospel for our generation and for the one yet to come.
Pastoring Versus Governing
While motivating me to join the undergraduate theological training, a pastor-friend of mine said, “The pastorate is better than any career in life. It is better to be a pastor than even to be a president.” His reasoning was convincing enough then. He cited the fact that the pastor commits himself to the eternal rather than to the temporal well-being of his followers. I agreed with him. Pridefully, I was excited to hear that I was going to college to pursue a higher calling than the presidency. That I could be greater than an Obama was alluring, but as I grew in the grace and knowledge of Christ, the prospect of being greater than a president started to lose its appeal. While I was in college, another pastor-friend gave me an opportunity to teach a Bible study series about the Holy Spirit and the spiritual gifts that He gives to believers. In my study of 1 Corinthians 12 (and related passages), I learned things that started to better shape my thoughts on the comparison between the pastor’s and the governor’s offices. How can one compare the taste of a chocolate bar to that of a chicken steak? They are both good in different ways. I would be hard-pressed to say which was better. Christiano Ronaldo once used a similar argument during an interview in which he was asked to assess how he compared to Lionel Messi’s soccer genius. Said Ronaldo, “It is like comparing a Ferrari to [a] Porsche. They are both really good.” Had the Real Madrid star been humble, he would not have added, “but I am a little bit better than him.” With this latter addition, Ronaldo messed his publicity stunt. We might argue that chicken has a slight edge over chocolate since the former is unprocessed. However, such an argument would be fallacious. It does not really answer the question; it simply shifts the discussion. Whether or not the chicken is unprocessed does not tell us whether or not it tastes better. Messi’s, arguably, more natural talent does not say whether or not he is a better footballer than Ronaldo. Maybe, as Ronaldo says, they are just Porsche and Ferrari. As many pro-Ronaldo opinions may exist as anti-Ronaldo ones. At least, since, after I prepared and taught the Bible lessons on spiritual gifts, I do not think that the pastoral vocation is better than the presidential one. I think the pastoral vocation is better for my pastor-friends since God has called them to it. The presidency is better than the pastorate for someone who is called to be a president. The man whom God has called to be a pastor sins if he tries to be a president instead. In like manner, the person whom God has called to be a president sins if he attempts to become a pastor instead. In other words, it all depends. It depends on what God has called one to. Whatever God has called you to be is not just better than any other profession, for you, it is the best profession in the world. It is exactly what God created you to be.
Two Birds, One Stone
The tomato vendor, the doctor, the good neighbor, and the lawyer, each has a responsibility to worship God through the specific opportunities that God provides. One time I was headed home from work. It was so late that the PSVs that I depended on were scarce. I saw a man walking towards home, and I thought to make friends with him so as to walk home together for more safety since our city is full of Nairobbery. I managed to make friends with him, and I invited him to church after a brief chat to make his acquaintance. I killed two birds with one stone. I walked home a lot more confidently than if I had been alone, and I was able to seize the strange opportunity that God provided to do the work of His ministry. Two birds, one stone. The question is, does it take a pastor to share the gospel thus? The tomato vendor, the doctor, the lawyer, or just the good neighbor could do exactly what I did. That too is ministry. I would argue that God has called each one of us, no matter our profession, to minister the gospel. Even if one’s profession is as ordinary as that of a tomato vendor, God has called us all to be worshippers who participate in the making of other worshippers. Christian, whatever else God has called you to, he has definitely called you to the ministry of proclamation of the gospel. Christians can think of ways to kill the two birds of financial and eternal security with the one stone that is their career. For instance, a doctor by profession ought to keep in mind that he/she has been called to participate in the Great Physician’s mission of restoring sinners to Himself. The housewife is called to be a good neighbor by showing her neighbors that the eternal fountain of living water is to be found only in Christ (cf. John 4, especially verse 39). So, if the gospel-proclamation ministry is every Christian’s responsibility, then the pastorate is no better than the presidency as long as they both maximize whatever opportunities God brings their way to do the Father’s business.
But you may argue, the pastor does gospel ministry more often, and I agree that his role may grant him more opportunities to share the gospel. Remember, however, that Christ (the Judge of our works) looked at the widow who had less money to give to the temple and said that her pennies were more than the paper bills of those who had even more paper bills to spare. She had given her all, God saw that. Christ looked at the percentage of her giving rather than the weightage. Will He not judge those with fewer opportunities for the evangelization of the world but who maximize such opportunities by the same standard with which he judged that widow? Surely, He will. Furthermore, the pastor’s primary role is not necessarily directly evangelistic, even though some pastors may be evangelists (cf. 2 Tim 4:5). A governing text behind the thoughts in this editorial is Eph 4:4–7; 11–16. Those graciously gifted to be leaders among Christ’s flock are so gifted to equip the saints for the work of ministry (verse 12). It is the saints, and not just the leaders who do the work of the ministry. (Note that the leaders are also included in the term “saints.”) To think that the pastoral vocation is better than any other vocation is ignorant at best, and arrogant at worst. The arrogance may be masked if you compare it to a prestigious office like the president’s, but can you imagine a pastor who asserts that his office is higher than that of the tomato vendor? Does such a pastor not sound eerily like the Pharisee in Luke 18:9–14? Such reasoning does not work for the unity of the body of Christ, but for the glorifying of one member of Christ’s body over the rest (cf. 1 Cor 12:4–31). All spiritual gifts are equal, and none is more equal than others. In agreement with Piper, “I pray that God will open our eyes today so that we can see that all of us believers, each with his peculiar gift, are part of a cosmic mission given to the church by the Creator… your God-given ability to dispense grace and strengthen faith, may seem small, but as a part of God’s eternal revelation of his glory it takes on stupendous proportions.”
In today’s Insaka program Pst. Jammie Smith continues to discuss what missions is and how God works in us and through us to fulfill His mission. What is missions? Who is a missionary? What are the three end results of biblical missions? Does missions begin at home and what does that look like? Jammie Smith helps find answers to these questions from the Scriptures! Listening and be encouraged.
If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land (2 Chronicles 7:14).
This verse has been frequently quoted recently in church services, interdenominational prayer meetings, and all kinds of programs on television and radio. The general message of such campaigns has been a call to pray to God so that he would heal and restore the social, political, and economic situation in our country. But what if that is a misinterpretation and misuse of the passage? As with every passage of Scripture it is important to have an accurate understanding of what it says and means in its own context before trying to apply the passage to our own lives.
The Context of the Passage
The backdrop of this verse is a historic event in the history of the nation of Israel: the completion and dedication of the temple. In 2 Chronicles 7 Solomon leads the nation in worshiping, praying, and consecrating themselves to God at the opening of their new place of worship. The Lord answers and accepts the temple and sacrifices given, and assures Solomon and Israel that He is a faithful covenant-keeping God. But He also gives them a stern warning: if His people do not honor God and do His will, God’s judgment will be upon them. The verse before shows us this because it describes the punishment God intends to bring upon Israel if they depart from His covenant. But he does not leave them only with the threat of punishment. He also holds out the promise of restoration if they will acknowledge their error and return to the covenant. It is in this context that the words in our verse are said.
The verse then begins with “if” so what follows is a list of conditions to be met before Israel can claim the promise. The wonderful promises of forgiveness and healing of the land are dependent on the fulfillment of the four conditions that are also clearly spelled out in the verse. What are the conditions?
A Call to God’s Children
This condition is marked by the phrases, “my people” and “called by my name.” This is a specific address to God’s children, and more specifically it was addressed to the nation of Israel. Since this verse was a promise to a specific nation, we must limit the promise to them only. However, we can seek to draw from the promise principles about the character of God and his expectations for his people. God is reminding his children that His arms are always open, but He will not receive them if they come to him in a proud state. Furthermore, concerning the prayers of those who are not born again, the Word of God says, “But to the wicked God says: What right have you to recite my statutes or take my covenant on your lips” (Psalm 50:16). And elsewhere, “If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination” (Proverbs 28:9). So, this call is a family matter. God is addressing His children. This is the right place to start; only those who have submitted to God are His children.
“Humble themselves.” Humility is a disposition that acknowledges the Godhood of God. This is the heart that acknowledges that God’s throne is the ultimate throne in heaven and on earth. A proud heart thinks and says what Pharaoh said to Moses, “Who is the Lord that I should obey his voice?” (Exodus 5:2). But a humble person is one who believes in his heart that without God he can do absolutely nothing! Therefore, in this verse, God was calling his people to come to a place where
they realized that God is God!
Relentless Dependence upon God in Prayer
“Pray and seek my face.” Prayer is communion with God. In prayer, we talk to God as friend to friend or as a child to his father. To seek his face is to say that God is better than life. It is to desire him above anything or anyone and acknowledge that He is Father, provider, sustainer, and we are His children. This is vastly different from many prayers that want the gift more than the Giver. Would you be content if God himself were the answer to your prayer? All other blessings, both temporal and eternal, spring from this relationship. Do you desire God?
The next important but often neglected condition is, “turn from their wicked ways.” In essence, this is repentance and it has to do with forsaking sinful, wicked, evil ways that rob God of his glory. In repentance they were to turn from their wicked ways and turn to God. Repentance always involves a change of direction. A repentant heart is marked by a new Godward direction. When we claim that we have repented, the challenge is to produce fruit in keeping with our repentance. And we know that left to ourselves, we cannot turn from our wicked ways unless the Lord works in us and unless we are brought to a point where we acknowledge our spiritual bankruptcy.
Now we come back to the promise, remembering that strictly speaking it is only for Israel as a nation. Observe that it is only when they fulfilled the conditions that the blessings, they so desired would follow. If they strayed, they would be judged, but if they would then humble themselves, pray and seek him, and turn from their wicked ways, then (1) God would hear (2) God would forgive, and (3) God would heal his people’s land. Yes, even their land could be healed on account of His children. The principle that we can draw from this is that the children of God can be a blessing to the world. As they humble themselves before God and obey and submit to him, they become salt and light to the world. They act as a preserving agent, but also serve as a reason for some of the temporal blessings that the world enjoys. However, reducing these promises to mean if we pray, then the kwacha will be transformed and gain against the dollar, or that load shedding will cease, is to miss the whole point altogether. This passage and many others reveal to us that God is concerned with people obeying His word and doing His will so that He may receive the glory, just as Solomon and Israel worshiped Him aright and brought glory to his name. Oh, that we too may turn to God in humble, prayerful submission, seek His will, repent of our sins, and follow His Word! May our cry today be: “Teach us Lord full obedience, holy reverence, true humility. Test our thoughts and our attitudes, in the radiance of your purity. Cause our faith to rise, cause our eyes to see your majestic love and authority… Speak, O lord till your church is built and the earth is filled with your glory.” 
 Words taken from the song “Speak O Lord,” by Keith and Kristen Getty.
For those of us living in Africa, it would seem irrelevant to talk about post-modernity. This is a word that you barely hear anyone use even in very serious conversations. But just because the term is absent does not mean that the reality of it is not present. Moreover, there is not much that is written on the subject of post-modernity in Africa, but a quick look at wider books on this topic will prove that the definition of post-modernity is as varied as the authors themselves. However, there is consensus across the board on its reality and that is why theologians and historians bother with this term.
A diachronic approach might be of help as a beginning. The word “postmodernity” is made of two other words: post and modern. At the very basic level, this means that postmodernity came after modernity or the age of modernity. The period of modernity was clearly marked with absolutes, right or wrong, unshakeable, or unquestionable foundations about truth and life. The antithesis to modernity is now postmodernity. This was a speedy reaction against the mentioned tenets of modernity. The primary discontinuity that exists between these two periods in history is in the area of what is called epistemology, or the way we can know or gain knowledge. According to the period of thought known as modernity, there were established foundations that were the basis upon which we gained knowledge. For example, the belief in a divine universal God was almost an unquestioned tenet. Killing, cheating, or stealing were viewed across the board as evil not only to be shunned against but also punished. Even when theism was questioned there were enough intellectual structures in place to help one arrive at a theistic conclusion. But when postmodernity arrived these very foundations were not only questioned but replaced. Therefore, the absolutist modernist convictions were no longer self- evident.
So, according to postmodernism, how we arrive at the truth is no longer dependent upon agreed tenets, but on the individual. D.A. Carson asserts that “post-moderns, no less than moderns, begin with the finite ‘I,’ but the inferences they draw are quite different. Each ‘I’ is different from every other ‘I,’ so the point of view expressed is bound to be different…. After all, each individual ‘I’ is a member of a defined culture with a particular set of assumptions, values, structures of thought, linguistic usages, and the like. Each group, culture, or identifiable unit of people will invariably look at things a little differently from the way people in other cultures look at things.”
Therefore, postmodernism produces several things. Firstly, truth invariably becomes relative. So that whatever you think is true is only true because of where you grew up, what your culture thought was important, and so forth. One cannot dare to be objective or dogmatic about anything, and if you dare to be then that is just relative to you.
Secondly, you cannot question or critique anyone. Any such attempt and you will be labeled as intolerant, narrow-minded or bigoted.
Thirdly, since everyone has a valid truth, we must accept each view. Inclusivity is hailed as a big virtue.
Lastly, when it comes to matters of religion you should treat them as private lest you offend your neighbor who might have a valid religious belief, though different than yours.
I hope you have already seen that this kind of postmodernism is rife among us. I hope your Biblical grid is already helping you to see the errors in postmodernism. Brethren, I hope you have started to shun any view or model in today’s society that seems to suggest that you are the source of truth, that there are no absolutes, or that truth is relative to an individual, culture or community. Yes, we are finite and sinful beings, and thus not able to know everything perfectly. But it will be even worse if we heed or embrace the so-called “only alternative” offered by postmodernism. That is relativism. The omnipotent gracious God has promised that He is able to open the eyes of our understanding that we may see wondrous things from His Word (Psalm 119:18). The Triune God has revealed Himself in the Scriptures and has promised us that we shall “know the truth and the truth shall set [us] free” (John 8:31–32). Isn’t this such a great comfort! That though we are sinful and blind the Lord gave up His Son as the light of the world that whoever believes in Him shall have eternal life. In a wicked world that is in limbo, tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine, we have a God who we can approach to direct our hearts to be anchored? We look to Christ as revealed in the Bible. He is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). He is the only name under heaven given among men by which they can be saved (Acts 4:12). God’s word is the truth: dependable, divine, sufficient, a sanctifier, food for the soul, and a life-giver. In a world that says that every religion has something to contribute the Scriptures warn us that he who does not abide in the teaching of Christ does not have God (2 John 9).
We have a message to proclaim to a confused and perishing world. A world that is trusting in the arm of flesh, the arm of intellect, the arm of self-image, the arm of independence. We can confidently point them to, “Thus says the Lord!” Let’s point them to the Word of Life. Let’s expound the breathed-out Word of God which is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16, 17).
 D.A. Carson, Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2005), 95.
This is the frequent question that God continues to pose to the human race, “Adam, where are you?” Since the fall of our first parents, God has been asking Man to realize that he has left his original position in creation. He has left his position of true happiness and peace (Gen. 1:31). When God created man, he was to find his fullness in God. Man was to walk each day closer to his creator and find satisfaction in the fact of giving glory to God (Gen. 2:15–17). But when he was tempted with the possibility of being his own god, he took it and left the fold of peace and happiness (Gen. 3:1–6). Man moved out of the embrace of God. But God in his loving grace came searching for man saying, “Where are you?” It was not that he did not know where Adam and Eve were, but he was questioning their spiritual state. How they had fallen from grace. In the same way, he searches for us today. Through confrontation with the gospel, he is calling us, helping us to see the way to true happiness. After the fall, man learned the true reality of his choice the hard way. When Adam and Eve made that choice, they realized their folly. They went hiding from God because of their guilt. That guilt made them run even when no one was chasing them. How many of us run away from God because our conscience condemns us! We are so overwhelmed with guilt that we run from God. We feel he is too righteous and we are not worthy. And it is true he is righteous, but he is also gracious.
Since the fall of our first parents, God has been asking Man to realize that he has left his original position in creation…
Look at the reaction of Peter. Christ had done something good for him, something that he had labored for the whole night without achieving, but instead of saying thank you, the guilt in his heart condemned him. “But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.’ For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men” (Lk. 5:8–10). The Lord Jesus is showing in Peter’s life that he came to take the guilt away. If he can do it for Peter, he is able to do it for you. Do not let the guilt deprive you of the happiness that comes only from God. At the fall guilt crept in instead of freedom. In place of peace, guilt has come and it is a heavy burden that weighs us down and we cannot handle it. But listen to the invitation of the Lord: “All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:27–29).
In place of peace, guilt has come and it is a heavy burden that weighs us down and we cannot handle it
We also see that because of their choice they went hiding out of shame (because they were naked). We look at how we have fallen, the many errors we have made and we feel ashamed. We think, “Who would believe us, with all this baggage of sin and failures.” We always look for ways to cover up our shame. Sometimes these covers could be attendance to church services or doing charitable deeds for others. But look at Adam and Eve’s miserable attempt to cover their shame. We cannot hide from God, he sees everywhere: “And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Heb. 4:13; cf. Ps. 139:1–2). Furthermore, we see that they went hiding because they were afraid. Sin brings fear to us. We often choose the way of sin to find or express our freedom but instead of freedom, it makes us fearful. We fear the outcome of our choice. We are afraid of what people will think of us and also what will happen to us. We can all relate to the experience of Adam and Eve and say, “Yes, this is how I feel and I am always looking to point my finger at someone else” (cf. Gen. 3:10–13). What is the reason for this?
We often choose the way of sin to find or express our freedom but instead of freedom, it makes us fearful. We fear the outcome of our choice
This is what sin does to us. We are guilty, ashamed, and afraid. Hence, we have become aliens to true happiness. But God is calling, “Adam, where are you?” because the solution to the mess we have caused is nowhere else but only in God. It is God who comes to the rescue of Adam and Eve. He comes to deal with their guilt, shame, and fear. He confronts them with the truth. Have you eaten from the tree that I told you not to? He pronounces the consequences of their actions but he also provides a solution for them. He did not tell them it is nothing, he tells them what it is. It is sin and it has consequences. It is the same for us today. Our choices are sinful and they have consequences, but God is not just talking about the consequences of our sins. He is also coming to our aid even today “And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them” (Gen. 3:21). When you look at the efforts of Adam and Eve to cover themselves, you see how insufficient they were because leaves would dry and they could not cover them properly. But God takes the life of another, an animal, to pay for the sins of Adam and Eve and to cover their shame, their fear, and their guilt.
Our choices are sinful and they have consequences, but God is not just talking about the consequences of our sins. He is also coming to our aid even today…
In like manner, God has provided a covering for us through his beloved Son Jesus Christ. “For our sake, he made him be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). God is calling out to you in this fallen world where you are. He is not calling because he does not know where you are. He knows, but he is calling so that you realize your sins have alienated you from him. The fall has alienated you from true happiness because true happiness is only achieved when one is closer to God. He wants to extend his grace to you. He wants to cover the shame of your sin. He wants you to experience his full atonement for the penalty you should have suffered because of sin. He wants you to experience the freedom from fear like John the apostle has written: “So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment because as he is so also are, we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us” (1 Jn. 4:16– 19).
God is calling, “Where are you?” Because in his love he has provided the means of restoring you back to him (Jn. 3:16). That reconciliation to God, our happiness, and our peace is only through faith. “Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart, one believes and is justified, and with the mouth, one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, ‘Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.’ For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him.
For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom. 10:9–13).