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Wednesday, 13 May 2015

What The Statistics Won't Say; You Must Be Born Again

Ghana’s 2010 population census recorded 71.2%1 of the population as Christians (Pentecostals/Charismatic 28.3%, Protestant 18.4%, Catholic 13.1%, other 11.4%)
Of the world's total population 32%was recorded for Christianity. Impressive!

However, I believe if these findings are subjected strictly to what qualifies a person to be called a Christian, the percentage will plummet.

Some respondents may be occasional church goers. They show up only for weddings, funerals and other christian activities including Christmas and Easter, yet, they consider themselves Christians. Others show up only on the Eve of New Years. They also responded "Christian".Others will use their social status to consider themselves Christians. Probably they might have chaired or sat on a number of church committees.

A moral life can also be appealed to. The most dangerous and deceptive of all of them is to be born into a Christian home. Like me, your Father might even be a minister of the gospel. But, the truth is that, we cannot inherit our parents faith. We must all come to a personal profession and possession of faith.

Regardless of one's social status, moral fineness and Christian upbringing, we are all sinners fallen short of God's glory and must be Born Again to have access to eternal life:
Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus  by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.”Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:1-3).
Nicodemus occupied a high position among the Jews. He was “a ruler of the Jews”. Yet he came seeking for truth. If his prominence was enough to save him, he wouldn’t have sacrificed his night―moment of rest from the day’s activity― to seek Jesus.

Another potentially deceptive claim to Christian faith which can cloud true conversion is “the signs and wonders" movement. Many troop to churches seeking one solution or the other, but not Him who is able to save them. When the bread, instead of the giver of the bread becomes the focus, faith becomes superficial:

Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man. (John 2:23-25).

If you are a part of the 71.2% or 32%, you must be there because you are Born Again. Any other reason, apart from the new birth is a delusion.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Faith In Uncertainty.

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.(Hebrews 11:8)

If Abraham were a member of today's church, he will score a straight F in "Steps To Successful Living". "...he went out, not knowing where he was going" That's absurd! If subjected to today's success principles; Abraham's action will fail abysmally as a success strategy. Here are a few ones Abraham was acting contrary to: "Be Specific, know what you want and Go for it". "If you don't know where you're going, any road will lead you there". "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail".

Abraham---by worldly standards-- was jeopardising his future. He was undertaking a journey with no destination in mind. He set out holding on to only a promise of God. He was specific about nothing. He planned nothing. He set out only by faith in God and His promises.

"By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God."(vs 9-10).

Abraham journeyed with only a promise of God with no detailed road map; but only faith and Obedience to Him who called.

Don't misunderstand me. I am not proposing a life that says "Que Sera, Sera" (Whatever Will Be, Will Be). That is not faith! That is fatal determinism and the Bible doesn't teach that. The Bible calls believers to be diligent, hard working and make wise choices based on sound judgement from His word; explicitly or implicitly. We are called to put our trust in God and obey His word; "By Faith Abraham obeyed...."

Just like Abraham, God calls believers to a life of faith and obedience without giving us the details. This naturally presents us with uncertainty.  However, in such moments of uncertainty, all we can do is continue to believe God, hold on to His word in obedience.

Can you for a second attempt to read into the minds of some who went ahead of us in the faith? Try hard! Get into Joseph's mind while he was languishing in jail with his dream still fresh on his mind. What was going on in his mind? Uncertainty! How about Moses? He was forty years when he fled Egypt. By the time God appeared to him, he was eighty years. What was going on in his mind during those moments of God's silence? Uncertainty! David has been anointed King of Israel, yet he lived in the wilderness and in caves as a vagabond. What has happened to the promise of God?

What do you do when God seem silent in your situation, things are getting out of hands, pressure is mounting and you are clueless, "not knowing where you are going?

What do you do?

By Faith, "look to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith" and obey His revealed will in His word. Leave the unknown to Him: "He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it." (1Thessalonians 5:24). 

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Now Is The Time

Each moment of the day is a gift from God that deserves care, for by any measure, our time is short and the work is great. Minutes and hours wisely used translate into an abundant life—J. Oswald Sanders1

The axiom "Procastination is the thief of time" holds true in relation to the quote aforementioned.There is a time for everything, Solomon reminds us in Ecclesiastes 1:1-9.
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;  A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;  A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
Truth is that, no one grows younger and time doesn't halt to wait for us "to do what has to be done today tomorrow". Time ticks away. As the days go by, each of us is moving towards the day natural strength will fail. We only have borrowed time in this life. No matter how long we live, one day we will have to depart; it’s inevitable because “…it is appointed unto men once to die….”(Hebrews 9: 27).

Even if you live to be 100, your strength will not be the same: "But if a man live many years, and rejoice in them all; yet let him remember the days of darkness; for they shall be many" (Ecclesiastes 11: 8)

You cannot do tomorrow, the things you have to do today. If you have any dreams on your heart, time is not on your side. Get to work now that you are young and have strength. Worship your creator in your days of strength, "the night cometh, when no man can work" (John 9:4).

I pray God grants us the grace and strength to be diligent in our allotted time on earth. For we are like grass. Today we are, tomorrow, we wither away.

Notes:
1: J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership, (Chicago, Illinois: Moody Publishers, 1967)

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Hope For A Heavy Heart

The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him.(Lamentations 3:24).
On what beliefs is your hopes built on? Beliefs - trust, faith, hope - have consequences. They shape our worldview and determines how we respond to life and its twists and turns. If your faith is not grounded on a solid foundation, the storms of life will leave you disillusioned. The words “The LORD is my portion...”, paints the picture of a life built on a firm foundation: it simply means "The LORD is sufficient for me". The writer of Lamentations--Jeremiah--seem to be saying, "regardless of my predicaments; God is sufficient". The words of Philip echoes: “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.”(John 14:8).

Lamentations 3:24 are words of hope appearing in the center of a quagmire. Jerusalem lies in ruins, its inhabitants have been taken into captivity as a result of its rebellion against God. It was God Himself who was chastising and disciplining His children. The city has become a Ghost town: (Lamentations 1:1-5).

It is this gloom Jeremiah was mourning and lamenting over coupled with his own personal grief:
I am the man who has seen affliction under the rod of his wrath; he has driven and brought me into darkness without any light; surely against me he turns his hand again and again the whole day long. He has made my flesh and my skin waste away; he has broken my bones; he has besieged and enveloped me with bitterness and tribulation; he has made me dwell in darkness like the dead of long ago. He has walled me about so that I cannot escape; he has made my chains heavy; though I call and cry for help, he shuts out my prayer (3:1-5).
Poignant! However, in the dark nights of his soul, Jeremiah still found the strength to pen down words of hope. Words that have become the favourite of many. Jeremiah reminisces on the faithfulness of God in his intense moment of heaviness of heart and that brought hope to his heart:

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. "The LORD is my portion,”(vs 21-24a).
Hear David also:
Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee." (Psalms 73:25). 
It isn't a surprise then that David got the tag a man after God's own heart. His desire; the longings of his heart was towards God. Is your desire towards the Lord that intense?

"The LORD is my portion forever" says Jeremiah and David. Can you also, especially in the face of adversity, confess The LORD is my portion forever? If you are a believer, you should. Whatever engulfs your soul; God has promised never to leave us or forsake us.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Where Are You Going; Heaven or Hell?

Where are you going? ”Our destination is the place where we are going. In theology it refers to one of two places; either we are going to heaven or we are going to hell. In either case, we cannot cancel the trip. God gives us but two final options. One or the other is our final destination.1
 When I was growing up, the phrase "Born Again" could be heard on the lips of every zealous young man/woman who had become associated with the charismatic movement. In evangelistic meetings, "Are you Born Again" is the most likely question you will hear. The likely question from proselytising friends was "Are You Born Again?". The expression was ubiquitous. Today, the story is different. The gospel--the preaching of the cross and of eternal life--has vanished into oblivion. In its stead, we have psychology, self-esteem, self-improvement, and prosperity masquerading as gospel on many  pulpits--big and small. Much of the content of our preaching lacks power to convict of sin.


Where are you going? Heaven or Hell? A friend describes it as "a sensitive subject".  Society today will not have anything to do with the idea of heaven or he'll. Did you read hell spelt as he'll? That's an autocorrection I allowed unedited. My smartphone doesn't recognise hell. I have to keep correcting it, anytime I typed it. To be sure what was going on, I typed some words(swear words) and in every instance I type a swear word, my phone autocorrects it. I realised my phone has been programmed to pick hell  as a swear word or so I thought. I think our society doesn't take hell serious. To us it is only a swear word, not a place where God wil punish sinners in eternity. Eternity; either eternal life or damnation cannot be glossed over, though a "sensitive" subject as described by my friend.

Where are you going? Heaven or Hell?  Let me rephrase the question because you might have been growing weary of it. Are you Born Again? In John 3:3, Jesus gave us the--sine qua non---prerequisite of entering the Kingdom of God:"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God."
The necessity for being Born Again as a condition to enter God's kingdom---eternal life---can be seen from the use of the literal device of repitition: "Truly, Truly...". I believe Jesus meant to drive home clearly a non-negotiable: "You must be Born Again"

The starting point for all of us is to acknowledge we are sinners separated from God by sin brought upon the whole human race by the fall and disobedience of Adam. All, without Christ, are spiritually dead; a consequence of Adam's disobedience. So we all carry in our bloodline Original sin.(Romans 3:11-12, 23, 5:12).

If  we are spiritually dead(Ephesians 2:1)in sin and separated from God, the only way to be reconciled to Him is to pay and appease Him for His wrath. But by ourselves, we cannot make up and pay for our sins. So God the Father placed our sins upon Jesus as an atonement to save  His people from sin and reconcile us to God through faith. “For God so loved the world, [that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). "...he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."(2 Corinthians 5:21).

Now, the only way to be reconciled to God is to come to saving faith. We cannot save ourselves(Ephesians 2:8). The only hope for us is  God effecting a regenerating work in our hearts by His Spirit. To be Born Again therefore is a work of God and we have to cry out for mercy to be given a heart that believes (Ezekiel 36:25-27).

Would you acknowledge your need of a Saviour? Come just as you are. Forsake your sins. Repent and turn to the Saviour of your soul."But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.(John 1:12-13).

Notes:

1:R. C. Sproul, Chosen By God (1986 Tyndale House Publishers)

Saturday, 2 May 2015

No Pit Beyond The Reach Of Grace

And when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him” (Acts 22:20).
This is Paul; recounting his former deeds. You admire Paul right? Before he became Paul, he was Saul: a murderer and hated believers with all zeal. He had blood on his hands.

Today, if you are looking for the equivalent of Saul--prior to the road to Damascus encounter, look at the most gruesome terrorist group around: Saul could be a leader of any one of them. His brutality becomes clearer when we ponder the response of the believers when they heard of Saul's conversion. They didn't believe it:
But all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests?(Acts 9:21).
When Jesus appeared to one of the believers then--Ananias---concerning Saul, he was courageous enough to doubt Jesus' instructions:
Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem: And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name. (Acts 9:13-14).
Paul, by human reasoning, doesn't belong in the fold of God's people. He unleashed terror on God's people  yet he was a chosen vessel of the Lord. Jesus told Ananias: "... he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel:" (Acts 9:15).

Saul was unstoppable, full of hatred for the believers of his day. But when he encountered the Lord Jesus on his way to Damascus; his life was changed.   Though a murderer and persecutor  of the church, grace transformed him.
And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do."(Acts 9:3-6).
Saul the terrorist "trembling and astonished"...the rest of his life he became a disciple of the Lord and what a gift he was to the body of Christ. Though a persecutor, nonetheless, He became a product of grace. He encountered the grace of God and was transformed. Total Grace. Hear him speak:
by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me."(1 Corinthians 15:20).
God's grace pardons. Irrespective of your history. Pardon and forgiveness of sins are available through the atoning sacrifice of Christ: "...he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."(2 Corinthians 5:21).

God's arms are outstrecthed. Come just as you are: "...To day if ye will hear his voice, Harden not your hearts..." (Hebrews 3:7-8)

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
---John Newton

Known By God

But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God...(Galatians 4:9).
I suspect (this is speculation) when Paul wrote the first line, "But now that you have come to know God...", He paused, shook his head and said "bad theology". Then he continued " or rather to be known by God"

The truth is that, we cannot know God, unless God first enables us to know Him: "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him." (John 6:44). This truth is consistent with other portions of Scripture.

In Romans 3:11-12, Paul wrote: "no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” John also said "In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." "We love because he first loved us." (1 John 4:10; 19).

Throughout human history, it is God who comes seeking after His own. When Adam blew it, it was God who came seeking for him in the cool of the day. It was God who called Abraham from a pagan home to bless him and make him Father of many nations. While Jacob fled from Esau, it was God who pursued him. When Moses fled Egypt, with all hopes lost, it was God who pursued him. When David was dying under the weight of his adultery with Bathseba and murder of Uriah, it was God who pursued him. When Jonah run  away from the presence of God, it was God who pursued him.

When Jesus met the samaritan woman, it is clear, that it was Jesus who pursued her to give her life:
And he had to pass through Samaria. So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour. A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.”(John 4:4-7).
Note the first line: "And he had to pass through Samaria" That route, it is believed Jews avoided, because they will have nothing to do with Samaritans. The verse 9 of the narrative explains this best. "The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?”(For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)

"Jews have no dealings with Samaritans". But not this Jew. He was on a mission. He was pursuing a soul. A soul seeking for fulfilment in wrong places. "Give me a drink". He initiated a conversation. If He hadn't, probably this woman would have avoided Him. It is indeed God who always comes to seek us out. He told Jeremiah, "I have loved you with an everlasting love".

When Peter went back fishing, abandoning his call, it was God who pursued him, brought him back and restored him into fellowship. When Paul was causing havoc to the church, it was God who stopped him in His tracks: God pursued him.

God said about us also;

 “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’” “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’" (Romans 9:25-26).

We must never come to the point where we pride in knowing God. In all of this, it is "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)