BEST WAY FORWARD

At a time when we are experiencing uncertainty on the political arena in many parts of the world, I can’t help sharing with you the captivating words of John White:

“In good times, it is easy to assume that our own will or even our innate decency is responsible for keeping us good. In actuality, laws and social structures are the boundaries that keep most of us out of trouble most of the time. When these structures break down, the beast emerges. That is one reason dictatorships tend to be evil. The rulers themselves may be exceptionally evil, but the lack of LEGAL RESTRAINTS makes the evil in them freer to ripen.

“Where legal restraints weaken or are thrown off by dictatorship, evil arrogantly prowls the streets. And, at such times, citizens live in fear. Without the restraint of law, evil can grow without limit, culminating in murder and the ultimate destruction of society. It is therefore important that our belief in individual freedom therefore must be tempered by a clear realization of the evil within us.

“Of course the rawer aspects of evil are contained by the law, evil is not totally hidden. It emerges in more civilized forms: vicious gossip; professional manipulation; everybody does it forms of cheating. All these give evidence of the beast within us. So do apathy in the face of suffering, indifference to need, the unwillingness to get involved in meeting needs; snobbishness, petty lusts, endemic selfishness, little lies and minor insults – all the jockeying we commonly do to keep ourselves on top and others underneath do their part to keep the beast alive. Then in times of crisis, it emerges in all its terrifying power.

“Evil almost seems to be more alive, even though in reality evil brings death. Villains have more sparkle than the saints. We relish them and envy their freedom to do the outrageous things they do. They challenge our sense of manhood or womanhood. This is mainly because evil is inherent in us. It awakens the lust in us and draws us to it. It awakens a lust in us that cannot be satisfied.” (John White, Changing on the Inside, 1991).

Since that is human nature, the best way forward, therefore, is to acknowledge the words of the prophet Jeremiah, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings” (Jeremiah 17:9, 10). Plead with God for mercy and be safe!

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STRENGTH IN PAIN

Many people think that Christians praise God out of convenience but lately, I met friends who proved to me that we can and should praise the Lord Jesus even amid struggles.

Philip and Rebecca met at university, where Philip was studying engineering and Rebecca medicine. During their first year of study, through different circumstances, they became Christians. They both realized that they had a problem of wrong within themselves, and their most pressing need was to respond to God’s love for sinners, expressed through the death of Jesus Christ on the Cross. Becoming Christians made a huge difference to them, as they experienced God’s forgiveness in their lives. They began to read the Bible and see its relevance to their lives. Not long after graduation, they were married and set up home.

They had four children within five years. Hannah was first, followed closely by Amy, Josh and finally Daniel. At first things seemed as normal as they could be with young children in the home, but when Amy was about three, Philip and Rebecca began to realize that her development was different from that of her older sister Hannah. She appeared to be hyperactive, had continual ear problems and never slept through the night.

Amy eventually started nursery school and then moved on into reception class at primary school. She was always affectionate and very popular with pupils and teachers alike. It was during this year, however, that her problems became more noticeable and she started to fall further behind her peers at school. She could barely put a few words together, would only scribble and did not concentrate on the tasks she was given to do.

During the weeks that followed life continued relatively normally, but gradually Rebecca started to believe that there was something seriously wrong. And so began the roller coaster emotions as the family faced the fact that Amy would not have a normal life. As a Christian Rebecca believed that God was in control, but the pain was still real.

“Through it all there was something else, which supported us and kept us going. We were acutely aware of the presence of God in a very real way,” says Philip. “While at university we had both come to trust in Christ for forgiveness of sin. Since then He had made a real difference in our lives as we tried, with His help, to walk with Him and live for Him. Now, in the midst of difficult times, we had a great sense of His strengthening and upholding hand upon our lives. Although we couldn’t understand why this should happen to us, we found that we were able to trust God fully. We are confident that God does not make mistakes and that although things can be difficult, He is with us in all the difficulties.”

WORSHIP JEHOVAH

We were created to worship something greater than ourselves; we absolutely need to worship the One on the throne. All creation was created by the Creator to worship and glorify God as can be proven by the following texts:

Psalm 19:1– The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.

Genesis 1:31 – And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.   And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.                                                                                            1 Corinthians 10:31 – Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.

We are supposed to worship God not because He is insecure or self-centred. He actually does not need our worship. We are the ones in need of His presence. When we truly worship God, we are fulfilled and satisfied. Joy is the result. If we have nothing to worship or live for, our lives wither away. When we do not praise and worship God, we invariably seek pitiful and pathetic counterfeits such as envy, gluttony, greed, lust, pride, sloth and wrath.

When we realize the worth of God, we give Him anything, everything. We give up everything. We relinquish control of our life to Him. We allow Him to be Lord, and to be in charge of everything. Nothing else matters but Him. We need to be struck by the Lord in His splendour: “Thus saith the Lord, the heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? And where is the place of my rest? For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the Lord: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word” (Isaiah 66:1, 2).

MY PROVIDER

In Genesis 22, Abraham felt called to sacrifice Isaac, but God stopped him. God did not want a human sacrifice and after this incident, the Jews were never again tempted to sacrifice their sons and daughters.

God wants our hearts in the same way He wanted Abraham’s. We have nothing in our hands to give God that He did not give us in the first place. But we are His children, and He covets our love. Just as we covet the moment that a child snuggles against us or kisses us on the cheek, so God covets those moments when we come offering Him our time, money, affection and adoration as evidence of our love. All that we have are as trinkets to God, but those trinkets become precious to Him as they show Him our love. God needs our hearts.

The main reason why God provides for our needs is the great glory of His name! “Hallowed be thy name,” is the first petition in the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-11), and it governs all the other requests. God was glorified on mount Moriah because Abraham and Isaac did the will of the Lord and glorified Jesus Christ.

It is for us to say, as we lie passive in His hands, O Lord, come to my aid!” God does not consult our short-sighted wisdom in what He does. The clouds do not consult the earth as to when they shall visit its fruits and flowers – its cornfields and forests, with their watery treasures. The pining plant does not dictate to the cloud reservoirs as to when they shall unseal their hidden stores. These give a kindly and needful supply in due season and the earth has never yet had to complain of them as miserly distributors of their creator’s bounty.

So it is with the soul. He who makes the clouds His chariot – who opens and shuts at will the windows of heaven – locking and unlocking the springs of the great deep, says to His people, “Trust me; I’ll give you all needed present blessings.

GOD IS HERE

As Solomon dedicated the temple, in 2 Chronicles 6, he realized that this tremendous accomplishment of great beauty was far too insignificant and small to house the Creator of the universe. But, God chose to dwell with mortals. That is what the life of our Lord Jesus is about (John 1:11-18). God is awesome and beyond description, far too holy to be expected to associate with flawed human beings. As God, however, He has chosen to love us and come and live with us so we can return to Him and share in His glory.

The greatness of our God is beyond pantheism which states that God is equal to anything and everything. All things that exist are part of one reality – God. There is no distinction between God and His creation. This is not the biblical idea of God. The god of pantheism is impersonal while the God of scripture is the Personal Creator. According to scripture, God created the universe. It had no existence before He created it (Genesis 1:1-3). Therefore the universe is not part of His nature. He existed before there was a universe. Pantheism confuses the creature with the Creator. It makes everything god and misses the God of everything.

As Jesus was setting about to call His disciples, He came across Philip and asked him to follow along. Philip then went to find Nathaniel. Now, when Philip found Nathaniel he was sitting under a tree. Philip convinces Nathaniel to come meet Jesus. As Nathaniel approaches, Jesus greets him as an Israelite who was not at all deceitful. Apparently Nathaniel prided himself on his honesty. He asked Jesus how He knew him. Jesus tells Nathaniel that He saw him under the tree before Philip asked him to come. There must have been a long distance from where Jesus was to that tree because it impressed Nathaniel that Jesus had seen him.

Jesus Christ is 100% human, which means that the physical part of Jesus, the body, was restricted here on earth. But He is also 100% God, which means He is unrestricted spirit. When Jesus attends a meeting it is as an active participant with those who are there. He is listening to their prayers, and acting on them. Jesus hears the praise given to God and soaks it in. He touches hearts, minds and lives as the people worship in His name. An immense God could have part of Himself present, but an omniscient God has all of Himself consciously present at each and every meeting all over the earth.

USING WORDS WISELY

My friends at school used to wonder why I dozed off in front of movies like Spiderman which they loved most but remained alert for long hours when reading such books as, What’s So Amazing About Grace by Philip Yancey, Runner by Thomas Perry and Watching the Dark by Peter Robinson. The excitement I get from reading a book far outweighs any other form of entertainment. Whenever I pick up a newspaper, I’m quickly drawn to the word puzzle section where I try to solve the cross words. I don’t always get everything right but I enjoy what I do.

The humour in Pastor Stuart Briscoe’s writings further encourages me not only to read but also to write stories that I feel can be helpful to others. I love stories that build people up and help us see our need to depend upon God for guidance throughout life. I have also read stories in which bad things happen to people but I tend to interpret them in the light of the word of God. I discover that if only the characters in the story had faith in Christ, they would not aid and abet evil.

I now enjoy writing for Christian magazines such as Devozine and blogging, and I believe the message of hope and security in the Lord Jesus that I share reaches many across the world. The written word has the ability to not only transform people’s lives but also to preserve memories and values that prove beneficial to many through the years. I find it easier to refer to the written word than other forms of art. I realize that good words spoken or written will keep ringing in people’s minds as they go about their usual activities. I have also discovered that sharing the written word is more cost effective as compared to film, for instance.

Currently, I reach people quickly through social media like twitter by sharing summarized truth in just a few characters. Many can now be made aware of health and social issues around them through text messages and be able to prevent negative outcome that could have arisen through delayed information.

LOVING LIFE

 

Life is a blessing from God. We naturally want to live longer and dread extinction of life. We should, however, be prepared to resign it when God commands.

Have you ever given a serious thought to the reason for desiring to live in this world? Well, there are various reasons. First, it is a gift from God and we instinctively shrink back from death, as one of the greatest evils, we tremble at the thought of annihilation. Secondly, we need to see the works of God and survey the wonders of His hand on earth. The world if full of wonders that express the goodness of God and the longer we live, the deeper our study of nature will go. Thirdly, it is an opportunity to prepare ourselves for eternity. A long life enables us to bring the subject of eternity to severe test and determine whether or not we will inherit it. Fourthly, it gives us an opportunity to do well to others and bring them the gospel. In the next world, we shall not be permitted to pray for our impenitent loved ones. This can only be done in the present world.

We should, therefore, constantly pray that if it be God’s will, we may not be cut down in the midst of our lives. We need to lead upright and pious lives and keep seeking the good of all people. Avoid leading others astray either politically or religiously through false teaching as is the manner of some today.

CHANGING FROM INSIDE

Change is vital for growth but naturally we all resist change and give a lot of excuses for doing so. We tend to feel it won’t work or that whatever change has been proposed is already in place. Sometimes we claim it has been tried without success.

Other times we think it is not practical and might not just solve the problems we have. We feel it is too risky and might antagonize our friends and acquaintances. This resistance is present in all aspects of our lives – business, family, relationships and even in the spiritual realm.

As believers in Christ, we have been called to witness. It is the best way to bring about change in the world. Our Lord Jesus decreed it, “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you and ye shall be witnesses unto me in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” – (Acts 1:8).

We will find it much easier to be a witness if our spiritual renewal is progressing. Once we stop changing, we really stop living. We cannot be effective carriers of any message unless we are actively carrying out the principles embodied in the message ourselves. If we fail to carry the message to others, then we will lose ground in our process of growth.

Change and repentance are partners and repentance is a way of life. The repentance that God desires is not just contrition over particular sins; it is also a daily attitude, a perspective. It is the process by which we see ourselves, day by day, as we really are: sinful, needy, dependent people. It is the process by which we see God as He is: Awesome, Majestic, and Holy. This radically alters our perspective that we begin to see the world through God’s eyes, not our own. Repentance, therefore, is the ultimate surrender of the self.

OUT OF COMFORT

I believe I have been called by God to serve Him. The Lord promises to guide and protect me but somehow I look at the cost of serving and feel like backing off. He tells me in His word to detach my self from the many things I have acquired and serve Him. I find this difficult to do.

I realized that to serve the Lord, I have to stop leaning on the side of the comforts that come with faith in Christ and just allow Him to use me in whatever situation He wants. I have also discovered that there are times when He calls me to serve Him in very unfamiliar circumstances that require lots of courage which can only be provided by Him alone.

When I got involved in youth leadership of the church a few years ago, my main focus in terms of social responsibility was environmental conservation. I observed that many people had cut down trees for charcoal and no one seemed to heed the local authority’s call to plant more trees. I mobilized the group and we planted several trees around the church and even in our own homes.

Lately, we have been hit with economic hardship due to the failure of crops to fetch good market prices that can enable people to live decently. This has driven a number of teenagers from their homes to start fending for themselves. Many look for menial jobs in farms where they can make a few coins for their survival. School is no longer priority and hopelessness is spread all over their faces. I am currently involved with the youth in church to ensure that the trend does not get out of hand. Even though I cannot promise every young person decent living, I support the group by conducting sessions in which they learn to say “No to Child Labor.” I encourage them to stay in school and acquire knowledge rather than spoil their lives by going to the farms to make quick money that is not beneficial to them in the long run.

Generally, we teach young people not to drink or smoke but we realize that many experiment with cigarettes in their teenage years. Our advice as a youth group is that they learn to share their concerns with stable youth and teachers in order to find help and stay away from smoking or doing others drugs. We encourage those who have recovered from drugs to tell those who are yet to start never to do it and those in the habit, that it can be overcome and one can lead a normal life together with non smokers.

LIVING IN THE FLESH?

The Lord our God commands us to abstain from fleshly lusts, i.e., the cravings that are categorized by our depravity, yet we know that these lusts cannot be regulated by authority. Whatever is happening inside the heart must be dealt with internally.

Most of the passions of the flesh, such as sexual deviance, are universal. There is an army of terrorists that keeps fighting in our souls and this fight is never fair. It doesn’t come from outside but inside of our souls. For some people it looks like the desire to be recognized, for others it looks like having my own way – I’ll do what is necessary to secure my own way. For some it is the feeling of approval, for others it is the desire to excel to the point where there is no consuming. We are all in this. This does not only apply to those who have problems with recreational drugs, alcohol or drunkenness. The raging war goes on in everyone’s soul.

Nations have wars to do two things: kill people and destroy property. And the passions which wage against our souls are doing the same thing as well. They are aimed at killing us. These passions intend to enslave us so much that at the slightest provocation they will come in and dominate every situation. The passions deepen the spirit of disobedience against God. Our appropriate response therefore should be to pull ourselves back away from these lusts. We should not give in to the battle.

Matthew Henry puts it quite right in his commentary: “The grand mischief that sin does to men is that it wars against the soul. It destroys the moral liberty of the soul. It weakens and debilitates the soul by impairing its faculties. It robs the soul of its comfort and peace. It debases and destroys the dignity of the soul and it hinders its present prosperity and plunges the soul into everlasting misery.”

We should therefore learn that we are not to embrace the standard and customs of the world in which we live in temporarily, because the standards and customs of the kingdom of heaven where we are destined are far superior and thus able to satisfy our souls.