LISTEN TO THE VOICE OF GOD

I spend much of my free time on social media. There are quite a lot of messages I come across as I click through my accounts. Some of them are dirty. I have blocked and reported a number of them to the authority and am glad the response has always been positive.

I have registered on a few sites that generate godly messages and I receive devotions on a regular basis. These are always uplifting, spiritually and also socially, as I get to interact and share the gospel with a lot of other people in the network. It is through social media that I have been able to reach many people with the message of Christ. My relationship with Christ is very clear on all my social media accounts.

I feel empowered to tell others about the love of God through the latest technology because I believe I have a positive message to share with everyone following me. I set up a blog (www.wagabi12.wordpress.com) to share the good news of Christ with others and know many are blessed through the spiritual gems I post.

In the house, radio and television are mostly tuned into Christian broadcasts where I learn about what is going on in the world. I see the need to pray for Christians being persecuted in the Middle East and ask God to comfort them and also open ways for them to find stability wherever they go.

My decision to stick with the Christian media ensures that I do not give in to the many social and political noises around. Therefore, I can stand in the gap and pray for peace in my country and the world at large.

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TAKING RESPONSIBILITY

Any adult who has children in his or her care must be responsible for them. If we are in charge of a child in place of its parents, responsibility for the safety of the child and for its behaviour lies squarely on our shoulders. We all need to take our share of responsibility regardless of whether we are in charge of fewer or many children.

Responsibility varies according to one’s position. A team leader, for instance, carries a great measure of responsibility than a member of the team. The biblical principle is: “… for unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more” (Luke 12:48).

The easiest way to understand our responsibility is to see it as fulfilling what is expected of us, whether by parents, church leaders, team leaders or other members of the team. To avoid feeling isolated from the rest of the church, it is important to have other people covering for us and they should be ones interested both in what we are doing and in our spiritual welfare. The writer of Ecclesiastes informs us that two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work (Ecclesiastes 4:9). It is always good to work alongside another person.

As soon as someone else does become involved in our work, liaison is needed. It is our responsibility to encourage communication amongst ourselves. Working as a team brings undoubted benefits. It also highlights the fact that certain requirements are necessary if we are going to function well. We should try and draw the team together and discuss what the rest of the members require of us.

What often comes up in such discussions is the need to love and be loved. Love and encouragement are fundamental. We need to remember that we are whole people. We cannot teach the children if we are not right with each other (Matthew 5:23, 24). We need to encourage one another and build each other up (1Thessalonians 5:11). In this respect, we are our brother’s keeper as we work together.

ARE YOU RICH OR POOR?

Oppression and fraud, misfortune, laziness and neglect are the main causes of poverty.  Some of these things can be broken through the political will to reduce suffering among the populace. If governments can establish laws and statutes that prohibit and punish injustice, the poor will be free from exploitation and fraud. Equitable distribution of resources too will ensure they do not go hungry all the time.

However, it is worth noting that poverty cannot be solved just by addressing injustice and misfortune. Christians should reach out to those in poverty by distributing their own financial resources and supporting ministries working in the area of poverty alleviation. Such an outreach provides churches with a mechanism to meet the physical needs of the poor as well as a context to meet their spiritual needs.

Christians should also use their gifts and abilities to help those caught in the web of poverty. Doctors can provide health care. Educators can provide literacy and remedial reading programmes. Business people can impart job skills. This kind of social involvement can also provide opportunities for evangelism. Social action and evangelism often work hand in hand. When we meet people’s needs, we often open up opportunities to reach them for Christ.

Christians, therefore, must recognize the freedom that comes with simplicity. A simple lifestyle can free us from the dangers of being owned by material possessions. It can also free us for a deeper spiritual life. While simplicity is not an end in itself, it can be a means to a spiritual life of service.

To live simply means, among other things, to eat sensibly and eat less. This includes not only good nutrition, but occasional times of prayer and fasting. Use the time saved for prayer and meditation on God’s word. Use the money saved for world hunger and relief.

PRACTICAL EXPRESSION OF LOVE

Love is an action not just an emotion. We should be able to love those who are unlovable, whether or not we feel like it. Genuine love is usually without a selfish agenda. It seeks what is good for the beloved. Deplorably, much of what we call love is selfish. Calvin said, “It’s difficult to express how ingenious almost all men are in counterfeiting a love which they do not really possess.” Consider how much romantic love is oriented to fulfilling one’s personal needs such as sex and security, rather than the needs of the other.

In the absence of love, we want to outdo other people in the sense that we win and they lose. We want to defeat them, to win the prize, to snatch away the promotion. We want to win, in part, so that we can feel better about ourselves and partly, to have people admire us. At its core, much ambition-behaviour is an attempt to win approval so that we might feel valued and loved. But ambition-behaviour drives wedges between people. The person who wins the prize often does so at the cost of the admiration that she’d like to win. The winner must often settle for second prize which is to be feared as opposed to being loved.

As believers in Christ, we need to focus on facilitating the other person’s victory. We can do this in a variety of ways: remembering birthdays, saying thanks, telling other people that they did a good job, encouraging them to understand that they have important gifts, helping them to get the job done, making it possible for them to further their education, listening to their needs, participating in an activity that they enjoy.

True love never gets even. We all have a propensity to hold grudges. We always feel that if we treat others according to the way they have treated us, we are only giving them justice. We can justify this so easily, “I am teaching them a lesson. I’m only showing them how I feel.” But any time you argue that way you have forgotten that many times you have injured others without getting caught yourself. But God hasn’t forgotten.

When we resist the urge to revenge, and instead leave it to God Himself, then we will always get the strength to act positively and in so doing, we’ll have won the battle. If there is a conflict going on, we’ll win if we respond with doing good instead of evil.

MERE STEWARDS

God owns everything because He created everything: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1) King David wrote, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof; the world and they that dwell therein. For He hath founded it upon seas, and established it upon the floods” (Psalm 24:1, 2). God put Adam, the first man, in the Garden of Eden to tend it and allowed him to eat of anything except from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Like Adam and Eve we were also created and given food by God. We have been given a place to live by God. We belong to Him along with everything we think is ours. It is all God’s stuff.

Eden was a great garden residence that God gave to Adam and Eve. The Garden even had gold and other valuables (Genesis 2:10-12). But anything they had must not have been theirs really. We know that because when they sinned, they were driven from the Garden and didn’t take anything with them (Genesis 3:24). They lived in God’s Garden and enjoyed God’s food gifts and everything else, but it was all God’s. Because of sin, they lost access to it all.

If we have ever lost our jobs, gone bankrupt, watched our portfolio shrink, had something repossessed, or ever been forced to downsize or sell off, we should have learned that everything belongs to God. He creates wealth and anything else He gives us to use, but none of it is our possession really. If it can be taken away, it is not ours.

If we don’t learn it by life experiences, there is something we should learn from every funeral. We don’t own anything because we don’t take it with us. Solomon, the wisest man ever, said, “As he came forth of his mother’s womb, naked shall he return to go as he came, and shall take nothing of his labour, which he may carry away in his hand” (Ecclesiastes 5:15). The apostle Paul concurred, “For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we carry nothing out” (1Timothy 6:7). God didn’t mince His words about how temporary material things are. We only have them for a little while.

SALVATION FOR EVERYONE?

A Universalist believes that a good and loving God cannot condemn anyone to hell. There is some good even in the worst of people. God will take that into account, so that no one will be condemned. The Universalist underestimates both the awful sinfulness of the human heart and the absolute holiness of God.

We are deluding ourselves if we say we are without sin (1 John 1:8). People often quote John 3:16 in saying God loves the world, but the same verse says only those who believe in Jesus have eternal life. All have fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). We all at some point have engaged in adultery, fornication, witchcraft, heresies, drunkenness, revelling and other sins (Galatians 5:19 – 21). The punishment for it all is hell.

The Bible is clear that hell does exist. Jesus describes weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 13:49, 50) and an unquenchable fire (Mark 9:43). He also says the unsaved will be condemned (John 3:18, 36).

Universalism cannot stand careful scrutiny of the Bible. Christ did not die so everyone will go to heaven no matter what but rather to give everyone the opportunity to go to heaven. Jesus opened the door to heaven but only the elect will walk through it.

God does not really send people to hell. The only ones there are those who have rejected His salvation, choosing to suppress the truth He made plain to them. God made people in His image, after His likeness, with the power to say No and to reject the universal revelation of Himself. Subsequently, sinners have no one to blame but themselves if they are damned.

In order to understand what love is, we should look at what Christ did at the Cross. He suffered and died for the ungodly. Jesus died for mean people, really. A God who will suffer and die for the mean ones is not mean. In fact such a God totally loves; to be condemned by a God of perfect love shows how damnable our sin truly is.

OUR RIGHTEOUS JUDGE

Justice – A human judge is usually limited when it comes to knowing the truth and ascertaining the true facts of any case. He must depend upon the testimony of men, many of whom will lie even under oath. People may fail to tell the truth, but this is not a problem with God. The true facts of every case are naked and open before Him. He needs no witnesses and no jury because He has personally witnessed every crime and sin that has ever been committed. The entire universe is God’s inheritance and so He is bound to decide righteously in every circumstance: “That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: … shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25).

Unrepentance – All who lead unthankful lives must be reminded that the judgement of God will be according to their real character. Every time we sin flagrantly, there is contempt of the kindness of God. Genuine turning away from sin requires that we hate former sinfulness and have our minds inclined to do whatever is good.

Damnation – People should never assume that ignorance, even owing to the negligence of preachers, will be an excuse to save them from divine punishment. In the OT, God commanded death for many violations of His law and warned that it could be a consequence of any consistent sin (Joshua 1: 16-18). As believers we appeal to God by our duty with our enemies, but God is the one who takes vengeance. God cannot appeal to anyone. God’s future action is placed in the hope of the Christian. God’s action on the day of judgement in which the Christian hopes will involve the revelation of His wrath: “For the work of a man shall He render unto Him, and cause every man to find according to his ways” (Job 34:11).

Goodness – God is by nature tender-hearted. His mercy and kindness follow all who trust Him (Psalm 145:1-7). It is natural to worship God for His benevolence. His justice does not demand that He punishes us for our sins immediately. God’s kindness leads Him to forbear and be patient with us.

Eternal Life – Whereas those who do not obey the gospel await destruction (2 Thessalonians 1:9), the righteous look forward to eternal life. Hell is the most appalling reality we can imagine. No horror of suffering in history can be compared to what Apostle John calls “lake of fire” (Revelation 19:20) and where Jesus said, “Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:48). To go through life distrusting and disobeying the infinite God, is an infinite sin and will be punished with eternal torment.

PATIENCE PAYS HANDSOMELY

Our perspective on waiting is perhaps one of the strongest ways our society is out of stride with biblical world view. Waiting was not easy even for our forefathers, but they were more at peace with it, and more ready to see its goodness and potential.

Waiting on the Lord is a regular refrain in the life of faith. It is an expression of the healthy heart’s desire: “Yea in the way of thy judgements, O Lord, have we waited for thee; the desire of our soul is to thy name, and to the remembrance of thee” (Isaiah 26:8). And it is the echo of the unparalleled power and grace of God: “For since the beginning of the world men have not heard , nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what He hath prepared for him that waiteth for Him” (Isaiah 64:4).

Patience is the companion of humility and the enemy of pride: “The patient in spirit is better than the proud in heart” (Ecclesiastes 7:8). When the apostle Paul tells us to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17), the word he uses was also used of repeated military assaults. The army would attack and then withdraw and regroup. Then they would attack again and again until they achieved victory. That is how we are to pray. While we should be in a spirit of  communion with God at all times, there should be a number of times everyday when we stop and bring our specific requests, burdens and even praises to God in prayer. Sometimes, especially in times of great need, we ought to set aside longer times to devote ourselves to prayer. But whatever else we do, at all times we ought to pray.

Prayer is not an optional activity for the more committed. It is a necessity for every believer because it acknowledges our total dependence on God. Failure to pray is arrogance, because I’m really saying, “Thanks, God, but I can handle this by myself.” But the truth is I can’t handle anything by myself apart from God’s grace and power. We are greatly mistaken when we feel so familiar with our mundane tasks and think that we can manage on our own. We should never forget that we depend on God for protection and ability to do our jobs competently.

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!

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.”