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.

SOCIAL MEDIA

In the currently charged political atmosphere, many have turned to social media to patronize their preferred candidates and openly flout messages from their perceived opponents. I choose to remain non partisan because I believe there is something far more wonderful than political rhetoric. I got into it some time back and want to maintain it.

I got interested in communicating through the internet in the year 2000 but it took me quite a while before I could open an account on social media. I felt the email address was all I needed to facilitate communication with my friends abroad. I found what fellow young people were doing on facebook to be frivolous. I did not understand that technology can also be used for good.

My knowledge and enthusiasm in the word of God grew all the time and I felt the urge to share it not only with close friends but also with whoever would care to listen. One of my friends told me that I would make many more friends on social media. This piece of advice moved me to open a facebook account and I actually found lots of followers both in and out of the country. Some of them were not even Christians and would often post derogatory messages and pictures but I discovered that it was a great opportunity to share the gospel.

I had been taught in church that the Good News is not something to keep quiet about. I therefore found facebook, to begin with, to be the best platform for sharing the Word with others. I realized that just like the world uses social media to impress its strange teachings on others, I too had to compete with it to gain the attention of fellow youth. I understood that our God is the God of this digital age and He uses technology to further His kingdom. There was no need to be afraid of it.

In sharing the word, I have discovered that the use of pictures that portray the context of a text speaks loudly and clearly to the readers than mere words. I get more followers and likes on social media when I share pictures such as the attached ones above.

As I share these pictures, many respond by sharing more photos about what they do as believers either in Children’s Homes or in the church. I have also attracted serious believers in Christ from other countries and have access to good Christian materials from which I acquire information that enables me to lead bible study. My friends on social media now realize that if we have to keep communicating, then we must be exchanging messages that will build us up spiritually and counter the destructive messages that some fancy on social media. In so doing, we are actively involved in the vineyard of the Lord without being part of the ordained ministers.

HANDLING TROUBLE

We all go through trouble in life. People respond differently to it. There are Christians who hold the view that insufficient faith causes the troubles whilst others think that our sins are the cause of the troubles. How then should we look at afflictions in a believer’s life?

The proper attitude should not be one of resentment, as if they ought not to happen to us; still less with embarrassment, as if they are some slur on our Christian spirituality. Trouble, Paul explains in 2 Corinthians 1:1-11, is a part of our normal Christian experience, binding God’s people together in mutual dependence and concern, generating ministries of encouragement and consolation among us. It is how God links us with the very experience of Jesus Himself. We have the huge privilege as the people of the Messiah to participate in His tribulations that bring in His kingdom. And (perhaps most encouraging of all) troubles in a Christian’s life have a purpose for the life of the people of God generally, a purpose in our lives individually, and a purpose that will even enrich the life of heaven through multiplying the prayer and the gratitude which surround the throne of God. That is why James is right when he says, “Count it all joy when you fall into various trials (James 1:2).

The apostle Paul wants us to realize that leadership did not elevate him into some kind of elite, where weakness and failure are unknown. Being an apostle led Paul into greater depths of self doubt, greater and more humiliating awareness of his own inadequacy than he would ever have believed possible.

LET’S CELEBRATE

We are currently witnessing political shenanigans at every turn of the newswires and it appears like we have become so mesmerized by the innuendoes that we think that’s  all there is to know. We are almost forgetting what makes life real.

It is Easter and we had better learn what it’s all about. The essence of Easter is the celebration Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead!

He is not here: for He is risen, as He said.  Matthew 28:6

Why is the resurrection of Jesus Christ so important? It is the basis upon which all hope rests for those who trust in Jesus Christ. This is the absolute truth that everyone needs to believe to be certain of forgiveness of sin and eternal life:
But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: and if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ: whom He raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: and if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. I Corinthians 15:13-19
Throughout all of time, God promised His people that He would send a Redeemer. Job, a man who lived more than two thousand years before the birth of Jesus Christ said:
For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth. Job 19:25
Jesus Christ did appear in the latter days as Redeemer and Saviour of His people when He was born to Mary in Bethlehem. He came to prove to everyone, especially those who trust in Him, that He paid for our sins.

God Himself, the Creator of all things (Colossians 1:16), came to earth as a man to show that He laid down His life and was resurrected. Our safety is found in believing and acting upon this message.

ENCOURAGEMENT

I attended baptism class with a friend who later dropped out of high school due to lack of fees. His uncle offered to take him for vocational training but he refused and joined a group of unruly youth in the village. The group was known for throwing stones at moving vehicles and mugging other unsuspecting teenagers.

Joseph had been quite humble while we attended Sunday school and had shown great enthusiasm for church matters. He sung in the children’s choir and was good at reciting scripture texts such as Psalm 23. When I learnt of his wayward behaviour, I knelt down and prayed that God would strength me to face him at his parents place and talk to him. I took a few hours one weekend and went to see him. Joseph had truly changed. He was not the quiet and gentle boy I sung and worshipped with in Sunday school. He appeared disinterested in spiritual issues.

I had the opportunity to pray with him and his parents and went on to talk with him more about prayer and reading of the Bible. I told him that our God is able to give peace and direction in the many difficulties we face in life. I also encouraged him not to lose the chance he had been offered for vocational training. He would acquire necessary skills that would enable him earn a living even if he had not made it through high school. I also told him not to neglect prayer because that is what gives us the strength to follow what the Bible teaches us.

Joseph wondered whether the church would welcome him back but I told him that all of us in church are sinners. Our hope is only in Christ. We believe that He forgave all our sins – past, present and future. That is what enables us to move on in our spiritual lives. We have learnt to confess our sins and faults and trust in His mercy.

BASIS OF LOVE FOR NEIGHBOUR

A superficial look at the idea of loving oneself gives the impression of self-centredness or some humanistic teaching that is contrary to the bible. Is it really so?

A careful look at the bible, however,  reveals that we were all created in the image of  God for the purpose of loving and worshipping Him (Genesis1:27). We are not worthless creatures to wallow in self-pity. When we recognise this fact we start being thankful and appreciating the person who God made in us. It is not being egocentric or highminded.

A misunderstanding of loving oneself is likely to result into self rejection. This will manifest itself through unhappiness with the person God made us to be. Whenever we are unhappy from within, we can hardly be gentle or even kind when dealing with others. Our relationship with them will most likely be distorted and so we will have no basis for loving them.

Unforgiveness too will be evident in our lives when we fail to understand the need to love ourselves. We will hold on to embarrassing things that we have repented of, contrary to the biblical advice to pursue peace with everyone around us and refuse to give in to bitterness that is likely to spoil our relationships ( Hebrews 12:15). The bible does teach total depravity of mankind before God but this doesn’t mean we should consider ourselves failures. If we do then we will continue pushing to reach irrational goals in order to feel good about ourselves.

We should recognise that in spite our fallen state we are still fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14) and learn from King David to appreciate and thank God for what He gave us – the ability to worship Him.

POSSESSIVE GOD?

In the next forty days of Lent, I want you to reflect with me on God’s character of Jealousy. God is supreme and sovereign over all. He is also merciful and loving as can be seen through His daily provisions, forgiveness and the wonderful salvation we experience in Christ.  His great love demands that we live in total obedience, submission and devotion to Him.

God’s jealous is not egocentric like mine. It is actually the natural and necessary by product of His complete sovereignty and infinite holiness. The kind of jealous I express is often guided by selfishness. I tend to be resentful when others around me seem to enjoy the fruits of their hard work such as living in a nice house which they have built and dress in brand new clothes. This attitude spoils my relationship with my neighbours and makes me sad and lonely. I am constantly praying that God helps me to overcome it.

When I came to faith in Christ, I recognized the great work He had done in my life and was deeply devoted to prayer, reading the word of God whenever I was free and serving in church. Gradually I drifted to sports and my interest in the things of God waned. I found the word of God boring and serving in church a waste of time. My testimony for Christ was watered down and I began engaging in unnecessary jokes which offended many. My prayer life became weak and I found no strength to share the word of God with most of my friends. Some of them went to the extent of poking fun at me and saying, “You were once saved. What has happened to you that makes you loose your temper so fast and retort at others who are simply joking?”

That question was like a nudge on my rib and made me discover that I was loosing touch with God. I had offended Him in failing to recognize who He is and was now beginning to adore sports. He consequently proved to me that I could not go down that path and be safe. I had to get on my knees and plead with Him for mercy. I confessed idolatry and started taking my Quiet Time seriously. During my devotions, I realized that our God is truly set apart and wants me to worship and serve Him alone. My waywardness can only bring trouble and there is none I can turn to for comfort and security.

KNOWING JESUS

A lot of people have different views about who Jesus Christ is. Hindus believe He is one of the many gods they believe in. Muslims hold that he is a mere prophet and perhaps not great than Mohammed. Moralists believe he is a great teacher and philosopher and atheists think he is an imaginary figure who probably never existed. All these views can be quite confusing and I too dabbled in them in my childhood. However I had a unique curiosity about the Bible.

My doubts about who Jesus Christ is were removed when I realized that I was a sinner and all the effort I had made to lead a decent life was in vain. I desired to be upright and kind but was still troubled by anxiety, jealousy and resentment towards others. I recited all the prayers I had been taught in Sunday school but still lacked inner peace. I stayed in that state for some time then I heard one of our church members testifying that he had been delivered from greed, lust and envy through trusting in Jesus Christ. At first, I thought he was only joking but later, I realized that he had been totally transformed. He had become gentle and kind. He was also generous and gave to the needs of others.

Through his testimony, I realized that Jesus is real. He can change people’s lives completely and make them useful in and out of the church. His power is beyond our understanding and we cannot stop him from doing what He wants. As I continued reading the Bible I discovered that Jesus Christ is eternal God because all things were made by Him. Everything that exists was brought into being by Him through His spoken word.

I too became convinced that He can change my life and give me the peace that I so desperately needed. I pleaded with Him for mercy and recognized that He is able to sustain me and make my life more meaningful. I now know that Jesus Christ is the only Saviour who can forgive all our sins and strengthen us to live morally acceptable lives that reflect His mercy and goodness. True peace and security are found through trusting in Him alone as Lord and Saviour.