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.

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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.”

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.