Exert Yourself

As we run our race, it is important to cultivate the art of exerting ourselves. No one will prosper greatly who does not exert himself in his profession. This statement is especially true of Christians. We must exert ourselves in studying the word of God, every man for himself, and in continuous prayers, every man for himself. To be lazy is to hope we can get by on a few nuggets of truth here and there or a word of prayer from this fellow and that fellow. The promise of the New Testament is that every man will know God for himself (Jer. 31:34, Heb. 8:11). The premise of our call as believers is that every Christian will be a good soldier of Jesus Christ (2 Tim. 2:3).

The challenge to spend time in God’s word and in prayers is not only for the clergy. All of us have a duty to grow our spirits and renew our minds with the Word. Do not be a lazy Christian. Read the Bible. Read it every day. Check things you have heard from others for yourself in the Bible – do not take anyone’s word for it. And be sure to spend time praying, every day.

Acceptable Service

Our service to God is from the spirit, the inner man. The value of our service and sacrifice is not in the time we spend, or the strength we expend, but in the surrender of our hearts to God as we serve. We cannot serve God without total surrender of our person to God – for then our service would be unacceptable to Him. The strength for acceptable spiritual service comes from the One we serve, and that strength is only released into our weakness and inadequacy.

The point of what I am saying is this: we cannot take pride in our service to God (and humanity, by extension) because God is the giver of all grace and every good thing. Our service must begin from a point of admission of our insufficiency and inability, even if we seem sufficient and capable. It is crucial to acknowledge the supremacy, ownership, and authorship of God in all we are, and all we have. It is only from that point of acknowledging our emptiness without Christ that we can truly offer acceptable service and sacrifices to our God and Father.

Purpose Talk

My purpose in life is pretty straightforward, and one way to put it is this: to represent God as accurately as possible to my generation. In that regard, I am on a journey of faith, and a work in progress.

I say “journey of faith”, because representing God to my generation is a continuous task on a day-to-day basis. I may get it right one day, and get it wrong the next, but I continually strive by the working of Christ in me to get it right every day, every moment. The element of faith in that journey implies that I cannot trust in my power or ability to achieve this task. Rather, I have to depend continuously on the power of Christ at work in me to always get it right.

I say “work in progress”, because my ability to represent God accurately improves as I continue day after day, to spend time reading God’s word and talk to Him in prayer. If I stay true to that course, I will become better at making decisions that reflect the true nature of Christ within me. I will also become better at telling the difference between the things that matter to God, and the things that do not, what pleases Him, and what does not.

I started out on this journey when I received the life of God into my heart by accepting Jesus as my Saviour and Lord. And it will be a continuous journey of faith and work in progress till I return to my Maker.

Selah

What do you see?

WHAT DO YOU SEE?

Lift up your eyes now and look from the place where you are northward and southward, and eastward and westward. For all the land which you see I will give to you, and to your seed forever. (Gen 13:14b-15, KJV)

What do you see? It is an interesting fact to note that God often asked men what they saw before he revealed his mind to them. In Abraham’s case, he told him categorically that he would give to him all the land which he saw. Whatever he did not see, he could not possess. In speaking to Jeremiah, Amos and Zechariah, we see God ask them what they saw before he gave the prophetic word to them. What you cannot see, you can not possess.

Of course, we are not just referring to physical sight here, but to pictures painted in the mind of a person concerning his desire or destination which guides that person to its realisation. It is also useful to note that we are speaking here of visions that are born of God. It is God who gives vision to his people and any vision not born of God cannot find help in God. God asked Abraham to lift up his eyes, which means he wanted to show him something. He wanted to give him vision. God is the author of visions.

We should also note that God asked Abraham to look from the place where he was. That meant he had a limitation as to how much he could see. But God knew that. We all like big dreams, and we serve a big God too. However, we usually have to work out God’s plan for our lives stage by stage, a little at a time. You may not be able to see far into the future today, but work at creating as much of your future as you can see right now. God expands our vision with time.

Finally, it is necessary to remember that God told Abraham that he would give him and his generation all the land which he saw. And he did give it to them. I am persuaded he will do the same for you – he will give you as a possession all that which he has shown you. It does not matter how long it takes. Just remember that whatever God does lasts forever. So what he will give you will last till generations after you – just as it was in Abraham’s case. The only question here is ‘What do you see?’

References: Jer. 1:11-13, 24:3, Amos 7:8, 8:2, Zech. 4:2, 5:2

Living as a believer

LIVING AS A BELIEVER

Nevertheless, each of you should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to you, just as God has called you. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches. (1 Cor. 7:17, TNIV)

Nevertheless, each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches. (1 Cor. 7:17, NIV)

1 Corinthians 7:8-24.

The Scripture passage above provides deep insight into the mind of God and the manner in which he deals with his saints, in times past and in the present times. Here, the Apostle was speaking on the all-important issue of marriage relationships and lays down certain guidelines. He relayed both the direct instructions he had from the Lord and his own judgments as one called of God, in cases where there were no direct instructions from the Lord. Then, he concludes by saying that each person should live as a believer in whatever situation they were called by God. This is the verse which has become a deep source of instruction to us today. He goes further on to explain by saying that the circumcised should remain circumcised and the uncircumcised should remain uncircumcised. Slaves and freemen alike were to serve God in the situation they found themselves. Neither religious nor social status mattered in the sight of him with whom we have to do. We must not forget either, that this statement was initially made in respect of marital status. So whether married to an unbeliever who is willing to stay or divorced from one that is not willing to stay (or even remarried afterwards), live as a believer.

What does it mean to live as a believer? It means firstly, that you give priority to the word of God as the ultimate authority in all matters in your life. The scriptures have been given for our guidance, comfort, instruction, correction, warning, reproof and training in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16). All of Scripture was inspired by God and is therefore the all-time letter of God to his saints. This we must note in a world full of philosophies, false knowledge and deception, so that we can avoid the spirit of error. The next mark of living as a believer is prayer. God’s word is full of instructions and admonitions to us believers to pray. Prayer is the means through which we access God’s power to effect changes around us. This is how we establish God’s kingdom in heaven here on earth; by intercessions and supplications with thanksgiving to God regularly. Another mark of one who lives as a believer is personal fellowship with the Holy Spirit of God who has been given to guide and instruct us after the Lord Jesus ascended to heaven.  You must yield your heart to the Holy Spirit and be led by Him through the word (Rom. 8:16). The last mark of one who lives as a believer we shall examine is the art of fellowship with fellow believers. This, the scriptures warn us not to neglect (Heb. 10:25). Corporate fellowship affords us the opportunity to be comforted and encouraged by others in our times of weaknesses and trials, and to contribute to the lives of other believers in diverse ways.

So what is the point in all this? The point is the priority of God as it concerns our lives. His priority is that we live as a believer, whatever our situation, status or condition in life. His primary concern is that we manifest the life that Jesus came to impart to us through his life, death, resurrection and ascension to heaven; that we bear the fruits of the Spirit which is what the husbandman seeks (Jam.5:7) and that we fully access and utilize the heavenly resources at our disposal in doing this (Eph.1:3). Live as a believer. That is the ultimate objective of God. And it is important to note that this objective is not without the hand of God in mind, because the Scripture says ‘…in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to you…’ So God himself assigns us to certain situations to bring out the flavor of the Christian life in that situation. After all, he wants to make known his manifold wisdom to the powers and principalities in the heavenly places (Eph.3:10). By this, the scripture means that God is revealing his many-sided, multi-dimensional wisdom to the world by bringing believers to victory regardless of their external status or situation. And this he is doing, in a world where your welfare would ordinarily depend on your status and condition. Indeed, he is a wise God!

Every believer must take this truth to heart and learn to live by it. Often, we as human beings desire changes in our status or situation in life. God is not against this. He loves for our condition to improve and our status to get better. The Apostle says that if slaves can get their freedom, they should (verse 21). So this reflects the mind of God to us. But he also emphasizes, more importantly, that we should not be troubled if we cannot change our status, because we belong to God, and so we should reckon things the way God reckons them. The slave is the Lord’s free man. The freeborn is the Lord’s slave. The poor is rich in the Lord. The rich should know that his riches are fading and only the word of the Lord will last. Everyone should reckon themselves, not by their natural heritage, but by their spiritual heritage in Christ Jesus our Lord. We therefore do not need to become desperate about changing our status to the extent of contradicting the word of the Lord, because we know that God in his wisdom is able to make all things work for our good and for his glory. Our own priority is simply to live as a believer in whatever circumstances we find ourselves. By so doing, we will be fulfilling the will of him who has called us to his own glory and virtue and to manifest his manifold wisdom to the powers and principalities in the heavenly places. Hallelujah!

October 8, 2011

Mental Block

I stare in vain at my screen. Today makes it exactly a week that I have been trying to write. It feels as if I’ve got something trapped deep within me, trying to find expression. But I cannot find words to articulate it. My computer screen glows white, waiting for the command to start generating characters. All the letters of the alphabet stare at me from the keyboard, creating a kind of collaborative mockery. And the computer lights blink on, signaling their readiness…

I feel despondent as I sit there, trying to figure out what exactly it is that would give me relief. Like a computer system that has hung, trying without success to make sense of all the information bombarding it, I struggle without end to return to balance – that state of calm and satisfaction that has so eluded me. But all my trials end in nothing.  “This is not my normal self,” I reason, but then normalcy is fast becoming a strange word in the light of my most recent experiences.

I try to think of something beautiful to write about, a kind of utopian reality that would bring me that feeling of having had a breakthrough. But nothing lends itself to my assistance – not even my spongy memory can evoke any beautiful experience to write about. I consider calling this experience a “mental block”. That would be a good name for it. Yes! As if an invisible hand were detaining a torrent of ideas trying to surge through my mind. If only I could get that hand off my mind…

I think of my past. I consider myself to have been relatively fortunate in life, with an early successful start that boosted my confidence and gave me the guts to tackle every challenge thinking I would win. That winning attitude kept me till I started learning the realities of life – the stark truth about the inadequacy of every man that dwells on the surface of this planet, and the possibility of failure every time anyone called ‘human being’ tries a thing. I learnt about success before failure…

The future waits to be explored. And it carries with it the mystery and secrets of the challenges that will yet confront every human who reaches it. The future holds within it promises and threats, assurances and uncertainties, hope and despair. But all these remain unknown to all except one who holds time in his hands – the power that be, or so I have come to believe. Nevertheless, our part is to hope, and believe we will fare well in that future, the details of which we know not…

A multitude of ideas suddenly barrage my mind. But I am none the better for it. From philosophy to politics, I have a billion things to write about. But topics don’t provide a way of escape for me. I still need substance. And several topics do not seem interesting enough to venture into. They are just attractive white tombs. On examination, they are full of rotten flesh and dry bones, the likes of which causes a man nightmares – nothing that prospers human existence, just plain old theories…

I’ll have to stop now. Life is waiting to be lived. And the direction in which I’m headed is yielding nothing yet. The frustration of trying again and again to produce meaningful material through repeatedly unsuccessful efforts is getting at me. I’ll have to get something someday. Luck has to be on my side. Maybe tomorrow, I’ll find something meaningful and worthwhile to tinker with, and maybe tinkering will lead to some serious effort at producing substantial literary stuff. Just maybe.

July 4, 2012

On Seeing and Entering the Kingdom

So Nicodemus comes to see Jesus by night, to affirm Jesus’ ministry and declare his faith in Jesus as a God-sent teacher. Perhaps he came to hear in detail about Jesus’ teachings so he could determine for himself what to believe. I cannot tell. But I know he did come, and that he got no further on his mission than to approve of Jesus, based on the signs he saw. Jesus’ reply to him steered the rest of the discussion, in which Nicodemus’ speech was reduced to questions and his ignorance of spiritual things was clearly revealed by Jesus, who knew all things. Yet Nicodemus was a religious leader among his people. Thank God he was humble enough to come asking so he could hear the truth. And because of that, we now know those things which were spoken by the Lord Jesus in response to his inquisition.

Jesus’ first two statements revolved around his purpose for coming into the world – the kingdom of God. I call them “The Two Rules of Kingdom Exception

“Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God”

“Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God”

While Nicodemus ponders on the meaning of the first statement, Jesus quickly releases another one, that perhaps confuses him the more. The man is wondering, ‘How will a man be born the second time?’ But Jesus states the second rule instead of answering Nicodemus’ question. And then he goes on to explain more about what he is saying. I would like to look briefly at these two rules and their significance to us in this present age, as the world is coming to a close, as proven by the fulfillment of historical predictions by Jesus himself.

So, what is the kingdom of God? It is that realm (or location) over which God reigns as a king. In that realm, the word of God is law and his will is supreme, above all others. Is it a physical location? No, because God is not a physical being. He is a Spirit. Therefore his kingdom is spiritual. For example, heaven, where God dwells, is part of the kingdom of God. And like the ancient kings we read of in history, God wants to extend his kingdom from heaven to the earth. That was his original plan in sending Adam to be his ambassador on earth. But Adam failed, and sold out the kingdom to Satan through disobedience to God. But Jesus, through his obedience to God, has come to re-establish that plan on the earth.

However, to even be able to ‘see’ the kingdom of God, one has to be ‘born again’. What does it mean to ‘see’ the kingdom? It means to know, become aware and conscious of the lifestyle, standard and manner of operation of the kingdom as well as the power and authority that its citizens possess. In other words, to ‘see’ the kingdom means to know kingdom rights and privileges as well as kingdom code of conduct. What does it mean to be born again? It means to be born a second time! Yes! But this time, not to be born by a woman, but to be born by the Spirit (to be born anew inside). Just think of birth as a transition from one realm of existence to another, and being born again becomes easier to imagine. The human spirit (the real man) is transferred from one realm to another. Hence, the man has just been ‘born’ into this new realm. So naturally, like Nicodemus, my thinking is, ‘how can this be possible?’

To be born again is a concept that cannot be easily explained naturally, but can be compared to certain natural phenomena, such as birth. But to experience it is much simpler than to understand it. Since it is not natural, it cannot be felt either, but can be proven through experience. However, it is not subject to the scientific method of proving things. It is an experience that is obained by faith but which manifests in the natural. The evidence of the transformation that takes place inside is manifested outside, so that people will eventually know that such a person has been ‘born again’.

Now to the second rule: what does it mean to ‘enter’ into the kingdom of God? To ‘enter’ the kingdom means to gain access into the kingdom, to be accepted into or become a part of the kingdom. The implication is that one is recognised as a citizen of the kingdom due to his way of living, kingdom power and authority demonstrated, kingdom rights and privileges received as well as kingdom responsibilities discharged, especially as compared to one who does not belong to the kingdom. What does it mean to be born of water and the Spirit? I explained that to be born again is to be born of the Spirit, into a new spiritual realm, other than the one in which one previously existed. But this experience, from the first rule, is only sufficient to make one ‘see’ the kingdom. To ‘enter’ the kingdom, one has to be born of water and the Spirit.

Water, in this context, signifies cleansing, which is a critical use of water in the time of Jesus (especially in religious rites of worship). And the manner of cleansing implied here is not outward (external), but inward (internal). Hence, the tool for cleansing here, is not physical water, but spiritual water, which refers to the word of God. The Bible severally alludes to the word of God as having a cleansing effect. So it is not possible to enter the kingdom except one is born anew (by the Spirit of God) and cleansed inwardly (by the word of God). The implication of this is that those who are born of the Spirit, but are not cleansed by the word will se the kingdom but will be unable to enter into it. They will neither be qualified (due to uncleanness) nor enabled (due to weakness) to access the kingdom of God.

What is the significance of all this to us?. As this age approaches a close, God is actualising the plan to fill the heavens and the earth with his kingdom, and destroy whatever contradicts his kingdom in all of heaven and earth. To cross to God’s side and escape his judgment, one must become a part of his kingdom. And belonging to His kingdom attracts other present-day benefits that outweighs the cost. Jesus’ death and resurrection opened the door for all men to be born-again. The power that raised him from the dead is available for anyone who desires to be born-again, only on one condition: you must repent and believe. Anyone who repents from his sins, believes in Jesus and accepts him as Saviour and Lord with confession in his mouth is born-again. Very simple!

Man is at once spirit, soul and body. His spirit must be born again and his soul must be renewed by the word of God in order for him to be able to belong to and enjoy the benefits of God’s kingdom. Then his spirit and soul will be in agreement with God and his body will have no option but to be conformed to the kingdom. Thus, the man is delivered from destruction and translated into salvation, in this world and in the world to come! Amen.

Manna (or Manner) Lessons

So the children of Israel started murmuring against Moses again. This time it wasn’t the Red Sea that hemmed them in, with Pharaoh on the other side. Neither was it thirst that parched their throats, with the bitter waters of Marah staring at them. It was hunger that inspired their cries. Sounds legitimate, huh? But instead of believing and asking God for what they needed, they chose to murmur and complain, comparing their ‘predicament’ to the former abundance of ‘flesh and bread’ in Egypt. God heard their cries, and promised to give them quails (flesh) in the evening and manna (bread) in the morning, with a view to testing them in the process. So he sent word to them through Moses, saying that he would give them food, to prove who he was to them. But there was an instruction: they were not to gather more than a certain amount per person, neither were they to gather more than they needed for a day, except on the sixth day. On the sixth day, they would get enough for two days so that they need not go out for food on the Sabbath day, the day of rest.

And the food came as was promised. In the evening, there were quails, and in the morning there was manna, just as the morning dew disappeared from the ground. The dew seemed to have hidden the manna from view. Perhaps they had descended together from the heavens. The people went out and gathered the manna. They could grind it or crush it, cook it or bake it. It tasted like wafers made with honey. It was indeed, bread from heaven! And as soon as the sun waxed hot, the remnant on the ground melted away and disappeared. However, some of the people disregarded the instruction of Moses not to leave any of the manna they gathered till the following morning. What they left till the day after began to breed worms and stink. What they gathered on the sixth day though, did not stink when they left it till the Sabbath day, for God did not send manna on the day of rest. But some people still went out to look for manna on the Sabbath day, and God became angry with them.

So what are the lessons? One: the Israelites, like many of us, failed to remember and keep a record of the good deeds of God in their lives. As a result, they started complaining, even lamenting, when hunger came knocking. Perhaps they just refused to remember. Whatever the case, they acted as if it wasn’t God who delivered them from Egypt or drowned Pharaoh in the Red Sea. They would have just asked Him – he would have done it. Two: in God’s kingdom, no matter the abundant supply of material provision available, you must learn to take what you need, not what you want. Anything outside of this simple rule is covetousness. Often times, we want God to give us what we want, re-defining our wants as needs in the process, to conform to the standards of the world. We must learn to be content with the simple provisions of God from day to day. God could even give you more than you need to test your heart and see what you would do. Don’t fail the test, take what you need! Three: God’s provision is regulated by God’s instruction and will remain intact and available for us as long as we are in the boundary of obedience. Once we disobey, however, God’s own provision can begin to breed maggots and even stink! God’s provision is preserved by God for us as long as we obey his commandment. Beyond obedience, we have no guarantees from Him. I could go on and on, but you had better check up Exodus chapter sixteen to read up the whole story and let the Holy Spirit speak to you from the abundance of heavenly treasures!

July 18, 2012

The Coming Wrath

The wrath of God is soon to be revealed. God, in an act of justice and righteousness, will unleash his wrath upon the nations of the earth for the evil and wickedness that has filled the surface of the earth. Just as in the days of Noah when God destroyed all the earth with water, God will once again destroy not only the earth, but the visible heavens (the skies and the clouds) as well. This time however, he will use fire. He will punish all those who have opposed or rejected him, as well as those who have promoted injustice and wickedness on the earth, either by doing them, or by rewarding those who do them. He will exact revenge on every cheat, punish every liar and condemn every immoral and perverse person to the punishment of eternal fire. No form of sin, no matter how little, will escape the watchful eyes of the Just Judge of the earth. He will prove himself to be righteous by doing this.

Every wicked action, ungodly speech or impure thought (or motive) will be punished by the Father of lights, in whose sight nothing is hidden. The blood of every righteous man slain will be demanded, and due punishment will given to everyone who has done one form of evil or the other. In the day of His wrath, God will not spare or have mercy. It will be a day of great trouble and grave judgment as the wicked will roll in the fires of God’s wrath, pleading mercy and finding none. He will abase the proud and expose their shame, having removed their source of pride and afflicted them with pain. Even the formerly righteous who compromised and went into sin will not be left out. They too will share in the suffering of those who were wicked all through their lives.

All extreme, moderate and minimal forms of unrighteousness and evil among men will be punished accordingly. Every vile person will receive his due reward from God for all his works. Flatterers, gossips and malicious speakers will have their tongue suffer the punishment of eternal pain. Every form of pleasure gained by sin will be rewarded with a much greater degree of pain by God himself, who will judge the nations of the earth. And every one who rejected the Son of God will be punished for rejecting the Ultimate Sacrifice for their sins, and will pay for all those sins by themselves. The indulgent, the homosexuals, the adulterers and fornicators as well as murderers will all have their place in the flaming fire that never ceases and never consumes, so that their pain will be eternal.

Knowing well that all have sinned and no man is worthy to escape the judgment, God in his mercy has provided Jesus, his Son, to die as a punishment for the sins of all men, so that whoever trusts and puts their hope in him will not perish but will have eternal life. Jesus took that punishment for your sins if you will believe in him. But if you do not, you will take the punishment for your own sins and explain to God why you came short of His standard. Remember that God will not overlook little sins. Little and great sins alike will be punished in His presence. The slightest stain will deter anyone from entering the kingdom of heaven. The blood of Jesus however, is sufficient to cover even the greatest sins, if only you will believe. That blood will keep us from the destruction that comes in the day of God’s judgment.

Today, God’s call to us all in this wicked and errant generation is to repent of all our sins and to return to his tender mercies and loving kindness. If we will trust in the blood of His Son and live by the words he commanded, if we will accept Him as our Saviour and allow Him to be our Lord, if we will obey Him and keep walking in His love, then we will escape the wrath of God on the last day and live with Him forever in the new heavens and the new earth which he will create. God’s love for us is so great, and it is a shield to us from His judgment. So let us embrace His love and avoid His terrible judgment, which is coming soon.

I have not written on this theme because it is my favourite in the Bible, or because I fancy these ideas. I have written because the judgment of God is emphasised all through the Scriptures, and this generation is neglecting the fear of God and embracing the pleasures of sin and unrighteousness unreservedly, thereby inviting the wrath of God, which will soon be poured out heavily. I have written this, not only because of those who have embraced one form of sin or another and who need to repent, but also because of those whose love and passion for God are waxing cold because of the abundance of sin, which makes it appear as if the judgment of God is merely a thematic discourse, and not a scary reality. I pray our hearts will clearly apprehend the reality of God’s coming wrath, and of his present love revealed in Jesus Christ, who rescues us from the coming wrath. Amen.