Thursday, 17 October 2013

WHAT'S YOUR MESSAGE?



And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified”(1 Corinthians 2:1-2).


If Paul is to walk amongst us today, I believe he will cringe and ask “what are you people talking about, What has happened to the gospel?” It seems the Corinthian church to whom Paul wrote his letters was no different a society than what we have today.



One of the things that characterized the city of Corinth was the varied nature of its society. Its position as an important sea port on one of the busiest routes in the Mediterranean ensured this. In the streets of Corinth, military men from Rome, mystics from the east and Jews from Palestine continually rubbed shoulders with the philosophers of Greece. When Paul had preached the good news about Jesus in this city, it was a cross-section of this cosmopolitan society that responded and formed the Christian church in Corinth. Not surprisingly, men and women from such different spiritual and intellectual backgrounds brought with them into the church some very different concepts and ideas.1

The Corinthian church was situated in a very complex cosmopolitan society characterised by immorality and the abundance of human philoshophies; what the Apostles called old wives’ fables(1 Timothy 4:7), Jewish Fables(Titus 1:14) and cunningly devised fables( 1 Peter 1:16). So simply put; the Corinthian church was struggling with the infiltration of human wisdom. Philosophy, psychology, secular principles that have no scriptural bearings etc were all craving for attention and spewing deadly venom in an attempt to silence, discredit and adultrate the gospel of Christ. So it was based on such vicious attack on the gospel that needed clarification which necessitated 1 Corinthians 2.

Make time to read 1 Corinthians 2, a solid discourse differentiating the wisdom of God and the wisdom of the world. Paul wrote to pinpoint what was important. He wrote to ensure that their faith would be built in God, not human philosophies: “That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.”(1 Corinthians 2:5).

What is your faith built on? I personally believe as Christians, we have to start re-examining closely our beliefs; whether we have not diluted it with human wisdom. Is it the gospel of Christ, or its the gospel of the “latest trend”? As much as knowledge is good and desirable, when the world‘s way of doing things is wholly imported into the church without any system of filtration, then we are in trouble.
 1: John Drane, Introducing the New Testament, (Lion Publishing, 1986) Page 315

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

ONCE A WHILE


Once a while its good as a Christian to pause, take stock and assess our lives.

1. Am I TRULY a Christian( assurance of salvation: have I confessed and received Christ as my Lord and Saviour) 
2. Am I growing in my faith? 
3. Am I living to please God: Living sacrifice? 
4. Am I a good example to others in the Christian faith: If I don't even say it, will people identify me as a Christian?
5. Am I walking in God's will: pleasing God or pleasing myself?
6. Are there areas in my life that needs attention, improvement, adjustment, repentance etc.?
7. Am I sharing my faith?
8. Is it Faith alone or I am working my way to heaven
9. Am I ready? Rapture or death?

NINE DAY WONDER


Matthew 13
20: “But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and ANON WITH JOY RECEIVEITH IT; 21: Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.23: But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.“

“The message was good. The message was brillant --- straight on point. The speaker didn't mince with words at all and the environment was electrifying“ These words are typical and can be heard on the lips of many after hearing an inspiring or thought provoking message. But attempt to ask: “what exactly did the speaker say?“ and many of us will be caught flat footed---Nine Day Wonder.

A word, an exhortation, or an inspiring message I believe can be handled on three levels to prevent a Nine Day Wonder result.

1: RECEIVE THE WORD
Common to all the hearers in the scriptures above is the fact that they received the word --- they heard the word, they listened to it, they accepted it as the word, they probably might have also taken notes and read all scriptural references.

2: RETAIN THE WORD
Moving away from receiving the word, the difference begins to show. One hearer was shallow with a shallow commitment --- had no root system in their lives to retain or hold unto the message. The other hearer heard the word and had a root system--- understood the word---their commitment was deep.

3: REPRODUCE THE WORD
This is the ultimate --- the word must be lived. What the word says must be implemented Action must back inspiration. The word must yield results.

“But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.“ (James 1:22).

HOPE IN THE MIDST OF GLOOM


It is of the LORD's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.(Lamentations 3:22-23).

Lamentations, as the name of the book suggests, is a book that paints a gloomy and seemingly terrible picture of the destruction of Jerusalem. The name Lamentations is also the Hebrew equivalent “Eikhah“ which translates in English as “How?“. Its quite strange to find such comforting words in a scripture that has gloom as its storyline. Lamentations 3 itself sounds too sad and hopeless: very horrible. See:
Lamentations 3
1:I AM the man that hath seen affliction by the rod of his wrath.2: He hath led me, and brought me into darkness, but not into light.3:Surely against me is he turned; he turneth his hand against me all the day.4: My flesh and my skin hath he made old; he hath broken my bones.5: He hath builded against me, and compassed me with gall and travail.6:He hath set me in dark places, as they that be dead of old. 7:He hath hedged me about, that I cannot get out: he hath made my chain heavy. 8: Also when I cry and shout, he shutteth out my prayer.

In the midst of such gloom, the author of Lamentations still found the strength to pen the words in vs 22 and 23. Let this be your attitude; Things might not always go the way we expect them. In fact, life presents everyone with a fair share of troubles, pain, hurts and disappointments. No exceptions: and I am confident about that, “No exceptions“. But in the midst of it all, we have a God whose “compassion fail not.“ So “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.“ (James 1:1-4).

Sunday, 6 October 2013

BE YOU: THERE'S NO NEED TO PROVE A POINT

  • ...If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. (Matthew 4:3).

Amazing piece of scripture. Is it really the case that the devil was not aware he was dealing with the Son of God? What on earth was he trying to get Jesus to prove Himself as the Son of God? The devil has not changed his schemes. He used the same scheme of “identity proving“ to floor Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:5: “For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.“

A second look at the scripture above reveals the scheming nature of the devil. See the identity thing at play again: “...ye shall be as gods...“ This is incredible. These folks have already been created in the image of God--- they carry the image of God; they were as gods! In fact, they were in charge on earth carrying a God mandate: “I have said,.Ye are gods...“ (Psalms 82:6).In 1 Chronicles 21:1, the devil showed up with the same identity trick scheme. “And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel“. This census I believe was for David to know his military strength and how strong a kingdom he has built---an avenue for pride and trust in what he has built and achieved as a King.

Never attempt to prove a point of who you are; rather “...be clothed with humility... (1 Peter 5:5). Just be you. Get what needs to be done, done.

RIGTHEOUSNESS

  • ... righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. (Romans 14:17).
Rightheousness in very simple terms is having a right standing with God. It is a state of justification, where we are declared not guilty of our sins under the laws of God. This state of justification only comes through faith in Christ Jesus. (Romans 1:16-17). 

For the Christian, rigtheousness is more than morality --- it is more than ‘dos and don'ts“ --- its the cleansing power of the blood of Jesus (Ephesians 1:17; 2:13). Our best efforts to be rigtheous without faith will produce what Isaiah calls “filthy“ rags (Isaiah 64:6). Does that excuse our behaviour and sins then? Obviously, no, that will be irresponsibility and abuse of the grace of God. “...Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?God forbid...“ (Romans 6:1-2).

I believe you might have already encountered the struggles and dissappointments of trying in your own strength to be rigtheous in your Christian walk. You try to read your bible more. You fast more. You meditate more. You pray more. In fact, it seems the more you try to be good, the more you keep falling flat on your face.

Does this sound familair? I guess it does. If you have been trying in your own strength to be rigtheouse; your trying will only produce constant failure until you change your focus from yourself and look up to Jesus for grace and strength. Hear the testimony of one of the greatest Apostles of human history, Apostle Paul.

Romans 7
19:For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. 24: O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
25: I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.

KEEP THE RIGHT PERSPECTIVE

KEEP THE RIGHT PERSPECTIVE.

  • Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.“ (Hebrews 12:2).

Life can be tough. In fact life is tough and I believe nobody will argue that---its a fact of life.

  • Although affliction cometh not forth of the dust, neither doth trouble spring out of the ground; Yet man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward (Job 5:6-7).
....man is born unto trouble: There are challenges, failures, disappointments, heartbreaks, rejections and many more other issues that makes life itself complicated. But despite these challenges our perspective---how we look at life will determine how we will live our lives.

1. FOCUS ON JESUS

 
“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith...“ :When we keep our focus on Jesus, when we begin to see things in His perspective, our lives becomes meaningful and purposeful. He sustains us in the storms . The storms of life will definitely come, but there will be strength to carry on.

“Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.“ (Matthew 7:24-25).

2. FOCUS ON THE BIG PICTURE 

 
Look at Hebrews 12:2 again. Because of the joy of reconciling humanity to God the father---the big picture---Jesus endured everything from His trial to crucifixion. The joy of His assignment, the joy of fulfilling the Father's will kept Him strong even in the face of great adversity. “Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour.“(John 12) Distractions abound in life, but keeping our eyes on the will of God for our lives---the big picture --- should motivate us against all odds. Don't stop, keep moving on.

  • Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. (Psalms 23:4).

GUARANTEED PROMISES

  • Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you (John 14:1-2).

1: ANCHOR YOUR HOPES IN GOD'S WORD

The Scripture above is one of Jesus‘ conversations with His disciples before He was crucified. We can describe it as a “death bed conversation“ --- last words. I strongly believe Jesus had this conversation because He detected worry and fear in the hearts of His disciples. They have walked with Him, experienced a ministry filled with miracles, power and words of hope.

They have left everything to follow Jesus and suddenly He started talking about His death. Fear is now setting in. Their heart is getting troubled. But one phrase stands out in Jesus‘ statement which needs much emphasis: “If it were not so I would have told you“. The statement reveals the nature of Jesus. He speaks truth. His words are a guarantee. They are a ‘surety‘. In words of simplicity, let me say Jesus doesn't lie: If He can't do it, He won't promise it. His promises are grounded in His unchanging words and nature .

  • Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us“ (Hebrews 6:17-18).

As you go through life, let your hopes, aspirations, dreams and visions be grounded in the word of God. Whatever promises of God you have, hold on in faith, He will accomplish them. His promises are guaranteed.


2: JESUS' SECOND COMING IS ASSURED

The second coming of Jesus: Is it a myth or an event waiting to happen? Fanatical or fables? What to believe is really an individual decision with an individual consequence, however, His second coming is clear from the Scriptures above: “...I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also“. Now that is a guaranteed promise: “I will come again, and receive you unto myself“. The Apostle Paul captured this in another interesting way: “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable“ (1 Corinthians 15:19). Our hope as Christians is not earthly. If all we hope for is all what we see here, then there's a big problem with the basis of our faith.

Beyond this material world; beyond our hope for a better life here, it will be good to remind ourselves once in a while that “this is not all there's to life“. We are on a pilgrimage. We look forward to a blessed hope. We anticipate and earnastly wait for the soon coming of the King of Kings: The Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour and Redeemer. We wait on a guaranteed promise: “I will come again“

“Beloved, now are we the [Children] of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.“ (1 John 3:2)

PRICELESS GRACE

  • For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Grace---God‘s unmerited favour: That is what brought us into the Kingdom. That is what will sustain us in the Kingdom. When life is done with on earth, its grace through faith that will give us access to eternal life.

Our relationship with God is based on grace. Our Salvation is grace. The life we have is grace.

It's humbling to look at life from the perspective of God's grace---“it is the gift of God: Not of works lest any man should boast“ --- It is a free gift. We did nothing to merit it. We contributed nothing towards it. It is God who took the first step to reconcile sinful humanity unto Himself :“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us“ (Romans 5:8).

While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 


Christ didn't wait for us to first put our lives together. He didn't wait for us to adjust our lives from bad to good. While we were still wallowing in sin, whilse we will have nothing to do with God; He extended His grace and mercy towards humankind through the sacrifice of Christ. He took our place. He died to appease the Father's wrath and punishment for sin. (Isaiah 53). That reminds me of the song: “He paid the debt he didn't owe / I owed the debt I couldn't pay / I needed someone to wash my sins away“ Grace is available if you will reach out. Mercy is available. You don't have to carry all that weight of sin and guilt. Lay it down at Jesus‘ feet.

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28).

COME JUST AS YOU ARE

  •  For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence.“ (1 Corinthians 1:26-29).

I have been in the corporate world for sometime now and its evident; corporate success is about hiring the best candidate --- the most qualified. The rule is: show us what new thing you will bring on board and we will hire you.

On the flip side of the corporate world however, there's a massive recruitment that goes on in life that overlooks qualifications. I am talking about God's recruitment. On God‘s team, qualification, experience, technical know how and competence does not matter. God takes unqualified people and qualifies them for an assignment. John Piper said, “When it comes to being a candidate for grace, your background has nothing to do with God’s choice“

Many of the people God works through are not the obvious choices of society. Why? So that “no flesh will glory in His presence“. Its simple: He shares
His glory with no man/woman. You want to be on God‘s team? COME JUST AS YOU ARE.

THE CHURCH

  • And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together...“ (Hebrews 10:24-25).
  • ...I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18).

The word Church is from the Greek word “Ecclesia“ meaning “called out ones“. It denotes a gathering or assembly of “called out ones“: “Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:“ (Colossians 1:13).

The Church is not a mere religious organisation, it is not just an ultra modern plush edifice. The Church is a gathering of people who have been purchased by the blood of Jesus from sin and translated from the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of light. When you join a church therefore, you have not signed up to a social club or welfare association. You have joined a group of believers where together we serve the King of Kings, Jesus Christ, the soon coming King; who is the head of the Church: “...Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body“ (Ephesians 5:23).

Belonging to the Church therefore is a big privilege bestowed on us by God. We are members of His family. We watch over each other and corporately build each other up. Separate yourself from the Church as a believer and you will become prey to the enemy. Don't ignore the power of the brethren. Keep fellowship and love one another.

Word of caution: you can sit in a Church and not necessarily be a part of God‘s family. To be a part of God‘s family you have to allow Jesus to be Lord over your life: “But as many as received him, to them gave he [rights] to become the [children] of God, even to them that believe on his name:“ (John 1:12).