Mini-stars or Ministers?

Lights, camera action. I look around and what I see is an insatiable appetite for notoreity. Reality TV abounds because people are searching for that big break, when their names would go up in lights so that the world can see them and adore them and sing their praises. Sadly, this is not just a worldly phenomenon but something that has crept into the church: celebrity ministers who want the choicest seats, best parking spots, special brand of water, lily white towels to wipe off the sweat generated from throwing themselves into fits of the ecstatic, while dishing out 5% scripture and 95% self-aggrandizement and people who give their service for the purpose of being noticed.

But this phenomenon is not new. Jesus contended with same among the scribes and Pharisees. In Mark 12 Jesus’ denunciation of the conduct of the teachers of the Law brings to an end Mark’s recording of His public ministry and indicates His final break with the Jewish religious authorities, who were the celebrities of the day.

“38 In His teaching He was saying: “Beware of the scribes who like to walk around in long robes, and like respectful greetings in the market places,39 and chief seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets,” (Mark 12:39-39 – NASB).

Jesus kept warning people to watch out for those teachers of the Law who sought praise from men and abused their privileges. Many believed that by virtue of their position, they deserved to be noticed and adequately rewarded. Everyone had to know that they were great men of God. But this went against Jesus’ often teaching (in the Gospels) about greatness. That greatness was not about titles and positions and material acquisitions. Rather, it flowed out of a genuine devotion to God that was demonstrated in willing service to others. Here are the characteristics of those (celebrity) teachers of the Law, who became mini-stars instead of ministers:
  (a) Liked to dress and go around in long flowing linen robes with fringes often worn by priests, law teachers and Levites so that people will know who they are;  (b) Those teachers of the Law loved to be recognized and greeted in the market places with formal titles like Rabbi, master, father by the common people who respected them highly. They want you to recognize their power and place of privilege. It is no longer about the mission and the message but it becomes about the man; (c) They liked to have the most important seats in the synagogue, those reserved for dignitaries, situated in front of the chest containing the sacred scrolls of scripture and facing the whole congregation; (d) They love to have the places of honour at the banquets and special events at which they get to sit next to the hosts and receive preferential treatment. It is no longer considering the next person or regarding others more highly than ourselves (Phil 2:1-3).

We, today, must judge our own motive and ask ourselves, do I serve to be noticed or do I serve out of love for God and gratitude for what He has done?

When It Does Not Make Sense

This series is intended to deepen our faith; that is, to take our faith beyond seeking “things” and to trusting God because of who He is. For many, their faith is in their faith and not in the character of God. A faith that is firmly rested in God is immovable when things do not make sense to us. Please contemplate these reflections:

DAY 1

Genesis 50:20: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

Joseph spoke those profound words to his brothers at their reunion. They had sold him into slavery after holding him in a pit. Joseph experienced rejection and abandonment from his on kin and then in his new home, he experienced being lied upon and subsequent imprisonment. And after he had done good for those whose dreams he interpreted, he was forgotten. Oh what suffering!! Oh what pain!! But God had purpose in all of it. Joseph’s suffering and pain was his path to purpose – saving an entire nation and his own family.

Often, we do not understand why we go through the things we do. We get angry, anxious, frustrated or despondent. We ask God why. But God has purpose for our suffering. All those things we think are meant for evil, God intends for our good and He will get glory out of it. He will bring us out on the other side victorious. Be patient in tribulation. Do not despise suffering. Wait on God. Look for His purpose while you wait for your “breakthrough” to come. Suffering is part of THE PROCESS!!! #TrustGOD #EndureSufferingAsGoodSoldiers

DAY 2
(2 Corinthians 1:3&4): “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God”.

Have you ever asked the question, “why me, Lord?” Many of us have asked the question at some point, especially when we find ourselves in trouble. That question makes, at least, two presuppositions: 1. You should not be having troubles 2. Since you are experiencing trouble, God must have a purpose for it. While the first supposition is false, the second is True. God is in control and He has a purpose for every experience in our lives. God uses those unpleasant circumstances in our lives to demonstrate Himself as comforter in our lives and to use us to strengthen and comfort others. I consider that a privilege and honour.

Recently, I spoke in church about WORRY. Many of the illustrations came from the situations I’ve been through. Many persons came afterwards to say how much they were encouraged to trust God. It amazed me that God can use my suffering to encourage others.

The next time we have a troubling experience, instead of despairing, remember that God has a purpose for your suffering – He is making your life a blessing to others.

DAY 3

“Consider it pure Joy, my brothers nd sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let patience finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4)

Amidst the height of persecution of Jewish believers scattered among pagan peoples, comes this surprising exhortation from James that trials should be faced, by the believer, with an attitude of joy and not be seen as a punishment or inconvenience. While, we are not being joyous for trials, we are certainly being encouraged to be joyous IN trials. The believer can face trials with joy because of the benefits that come out of those trials. Trials, when approached with the right attitude (joy) produces endurance. True faith is proven by our ability to withstand testing. James says “because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” The word “know” actually means that we know through experience… The many times that God has taken us through similar trials. Those are the experiences we use to remind ourselves of the benefits of trials.

And when we allow perseverance to finish its work – when we allow God to take us through the “PROCESS”, we become mature and spiritually fulfilled and lacking nothing (we will be all that God wants us to be).

I know it is difficult for us to see how we can face trials with Joy. It seems difficult to accomplish. James says if we find it difficult to understand how this can be accomplished, assistance is readily available from a giving God (If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God… James 1:5).

Let us endeavour to face every test with a new attitude. #JoyfulInTrial #PrayerfullyEndure #LetPerseverancFinishItsWork

DAY 4

1 Peter 1: 3-7… In this passage, Peter encourages the believers to give praise to God for the new birth they’ve received, the living hope they have of an imperishable future inheritance, that they are shielded by God’s power and he encourages them to praise God through “suffering grief and all kinds of trials.”

Often, when we repeat the refrain, “God is good”, it is because things are going good. But when things are not going as well, we forget that His goodness remains – for it is not dependent on our circumstances. We still have new birth, we still have a living hope, there is still an imperishable inheritance reserved for us. But we forget that when we are experiencing suffering or grief.

Peter reminds the believers who were exiles in various cities that they ought to praise God and rejoice, despite their suffering because suffering has two major results:
1. It refines and purifies one’s faith,much like how gold is refined when it goes through the fire and the dross (impurity) is removed

2. It proves the reality and genuiness of our faith. The power of our convictions about God is never truly demonstrated in the “good” times. When we are able to endure suffering and trials of ALL kinds and still not doubt or sway or question God’s goodness, then we have proved that our faith is genuine – that it is not in the things we have or our comfort but in God.
Genuine faith (which is demonstrated in the midst of suffering) is not just of value to the believer (Peter said it is more valuable than gold) but it will also bring #Praise, #Glory and #Honour to God. In other words. Our attitude in the midst of suffering demonstrates our real conviction and convinces others of the truth of our LIVING HOPE!

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ for new birth, a living hope, an imperishable future inheritance reserved for me. And though, now, for a little while, I may suffer grief in all kinds of trials, yet I rejoice because of ALL that he’s done and because He is making my faith pure and genuine, so that He can get glory out of my life. Have YOUR way, Lord!

DAY 5

“I consider that our present sufferings are far ourweighed by the glory that will be revealed in (as well as to and through) us.” Romans 8:18

We are called to endure suffering. It is a part of our Christian walk. Paul reminded his readers that sharing in Christ’s future glory required sharing in his sufferings in this life. He shares with them that this future glory upon which the believer waits in (guaranteed) hope, is so GREAT that present sufferings are insignificant in comparison. Also, this glory is forever, while suffering is temporary. This should help us to endure suffering as we consider that it won’t last.

One of my favourite hymns reverberates as I write:

“Oft times the days seem long, our trials hard to bear. We’re tempted to complain; to murmur and despair. But Christ will soon appear to catch his bride away. All tears forever over in God’s eternal day… It will be worth it all when we see Jesus! Life’s trials will seem so small when we see Christ. One glimpse of His dear face, all sorrow will erase. So bravely run the race till we see Christ.”

It (our suffering) is worth it all. Paul knew what that meant. He demonstrated the hope he had in this future glory by rejoicing in the midst of suffering and persecution. Do you consider that Christ is worth you (and I) suffering this light affliction in this life? The next time you come up on hard time, what will be your attitude?

#think aboutfutureglory #ItWillBeWorthItAll #EndureSuffering #BravelyRunTheRace

Do Not Worry: Why I must not Worry

22 Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. 24 Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! 25 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life[a]? 26 Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? 27 “Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendorwas dressed like one of these. 28 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! 29 And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. 30 For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. (Luke 12:22-31).

 

 

 Jesus had just finished talking to His disciples about a rich young ruler who was planning to store up treasures in barns that he would build and about the folly of such undertaking of a man who had been so preoccupied with material things that he neglected his own own. It is in the context of such preoccupation with this temporal world: what we can accumulate, how well we fair that Jesus told his disciples NOT to worry.

 We tend to become anxious when things do not go our way. We worry about what we would wear, where we would live, how we would eat. But Jesus instructs that we should not be worried about those things. Is it that He is unconcerned about our well-being? Quite the contrary. Jesus understands that we have needs but He is also aware that worry is a sign of misplaced priorities. In verse 23, Jesus indicated that life is more than food and the body is more than what we will wear. He is pointing to a deeper concern that we must have. But not only is worry a sign of misplaced priorities, worry is senseless! It changes nothing about our circumstance, other than make us sick and sad and despondent. Do we add to our lives by worrying? Has worrying ever made things better? It is folly to worry about the things we have no control over. And, if God does not fix it, then He has some purpose in letting things be the way they are. Why stress over it? Why not seek to unearth the life lesson that God is teaching. Certainly, life is more than those temporal things we tend to worry about.

Worry is also indicative of our lack of trust in God, our doubts. Faith is often easy when things are going well. But when the rubber meets the road; when our backs are against the wall and things are not going the way we want them to, we throw our hands up in desperation and begin to wonder where has God disappeared to. He has gone nowhere!!! He’s right there. All we have to learn to do is trust Him. Trust that He knows what is best for us. Trust that even if He does not change our circumstance that he can sustain us through whatever the life experience that is causing us not to rest in Him. If we say we believe that he sustains the birds and the grass of the fields, why cant we trust Him to sustain us even in difficult times?

Believers really should not worry because worry is ungodly!It denies God’s power. Verse 30 tells us explicitly it is the pagan world who worries about the temporal things as food and clothes etc. As believers, we understand God’s power and willingness to supply ALL our needs according to His riches in Glory. Our challenge is that we hate to have to wait on God or we do not appreciate the value of struggle. It goes against a theology that we have adopted that suggests to us that suffering is a sign of weak faith. We believe that the believer must experience lack or have troubles and so when that lack becomes evident we start to worry or become anxious. But when we are being tried, it is not time to become frustrated and surrender to worry. Instead we must joyfully celebrate that God is working in us to mature our faith (James 1:2-4). We are only becoming better, through our trials.

I am learning that in the moments where I can do nothing about my circumstance and I am tempted to worry that I should instead rejoice for the opportunity that God is presenting me to make me better. Abraham Had such an opportunity at Mount Moriah. He learned to trust God rather than worry about what will be the fate of his son. Moses, too, had that opportunity. He had to learn to trust God to fill his mouth than worry about what he would say before the Pharaoh. Paul had that opportunity. He could have worried about being in chains and suffering for the sake of the Gospel or Trust that God had a grander plan. He could have been cripple with worry. He rejoiced, not because he had shaken off His chains but because but because he got his priorities straight. He knew that despite his chains, his name was written in the book of life (Philippians 4:2-4).

Are you using life experiences as moments of worry or moments for thanksgiving and rejoice?

 

The Danger of a Single Story: The Case of The Woman at the Well (Part 2)

…As we continue to examine and transform our judgements of others – the danger of monolithic narratives, we take a closer look at the woman at the well – a woman maligned and scorned. Her reputation had been sullied by many a preacher. The sermons that I have heard about this woman shed no light on this woman at the well, except framed her as a woman who was not “well”. And without taking the time to know her (as Jesus did), I accepted that single story I had heard about her and approached her (in John 4) with all those preconceived ideas. I could not sit with her and engage her and get to understand her because I already “knew” her story and was blinded to anything else I may discover about this woman…But she triumphed. Her voice resounded above the noise for a chance to tell her own story – to write her own script – to interrupt the narrative that re-presents her as a loose, ignorant, insecure infidel.

You see, she was no ordinary woman. She was not insecure neither was she afraid to have a conversation with a man – a Jewish man. Perhaps by now, she had come to understand that she needed to be strong enough to stand for herself because the men in her life previously, had all abandoned her. She begins a conversation with Jesus about “WORSHIP” & “RELATIONSHIP”….

9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.[a])

12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?

19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

 

In the conversation with Jesus, the woman, who had been assigned no real identity except that she was Samaritan and consequently, less than a Jew, reveals a few things about herself:

  1. She confronts Jesus about the prejudice that exists amongst Jews, against Samaritans and amongst men, against women. “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” She asked, incredulously. She brings to the surface, the ethnic and familial tensions that existed between Jews & Gentiles – distant cousins who were worshipping the same God, yet couldn’t get along. She was no simpleton. She could situate the tension and began to interrogate Jesus’ motives. Of-course, Jesus demonstrated his difference . The affirms that which sets him apart in the response he gave (but I digress… this post is focusing on the woman).
  2. She asserts her equality, as a Samaritan, with the Jews by Tracing her lineage back to Jacob/Israel. Implicit in her question to Jesus’ offering of living water is also the statement of their heritage (“Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”). “What then makes me inferior?” Being a descendant of Jacob, she would have also known Jacob/Israel’s God – a reality that runs counter to the narrative than we have heard of her in sermons. But she has never been presented as such.
  3. Thirdly, this woman exposes something in her conversation with Jesus that we so often miss: (Authentic) Relationship as worship/ Worship as (authentic) Relationship. Often, we look at worship as simply an exercise in giving homage and adoration to God. How often do we consider the conflicts that exists among us in our faith communities; the walls of differentiation that we have erected to appear superior, while others are made to feel excluded? Is that part of our reflection as we seek to worship and bring honour to God? “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” Even as we worship, how do we deal with those conflicts caused by perceptions of each other, forms, days and place of worship? “What is important in worshipping?” She wanted to know. Revealing the heart of a “True Worshipper”; not a harlot as some would have supposed; not a woman whose preoccupation was about pilfering somebody’s husband. NO! She wanted to understand what worship would please The Almighty God.

Now, according to John 4:4, Jesus had to go through Samaria. Not out of necessity but out of providence. There he would encounter a woman whose heart was towards worship. Who had been carrying the burden of a broken relationship between distant cousins (Jews & Samaritans). Who needed to hear the affirmation that despite all the other things (albeit misinterpreted) that were going on in her life; that despite failed dreams and aspirations; a sullied reputation, that she was and is a WORTHY worshipper!

So often we use sound-bites of people’s lives to define them. We make judgements of others without even getting to know them beyond the rumours and we keep those walls of differentiation up. How are we expected to have a fruitful worship community when relationships are deformed by the monolithic narratives we choose to hold of others? How do we encourage and provoke each other to grow and worship in spirit and in truth if we continue to compromise our relationships by holding on to parts of people’s stories, while refusing to unearth the rest that is beautiful and full of potential?

In the wake of the reconciliation of such relationship (between Jewish Jesus and that Samaritan woman, whose name I wish I knew), the woman left to tell other Samaritans to come and be reconciled with their Jewish cousin.. “Come see a man” . There may be no true worship without first building authentic relationships. I learned this from the woman at the well because I dared to see beyond a single story.

The Danger of a Single Story: The Case of The Woman at the Well Part 1

Negerian author and storyteller, Chimamanda Adichie, in her now famed, TEDtalks lecture, warns of the danger of a single story. She speaks of how she found and validated her authentic cultural voice – a voice so often drowned out by dominant culture – by those who are powerful and who control the vehicles that get stories told.

Today, I want to echo the warnings of Adichie through the narrative of the “Woman at the Well.” This is an all-to-familiar story. You might have heard many sermons about this woman. A woman assumed to have been morally bankrupt. A woman mocked and scorned and in need of redemption.

John chapter 4 recounts the encounter between this woman (who had no name – no identity but being called a Samaritan) and Jesus:

Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John— although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee. Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.[a]10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” 11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?” 13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” 16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

17 “I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” 19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” 21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” 25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” 26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.” 27 Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?”

There are a few assumptions we make of this woman with no name:

  1. She was a morally loose woman
  2. She was an unbeliever
  3. She was ignorant

We have formed our opinions of this woman without even getting to know and understand her. Perhaps the many sermons that we have heard about her, have prevented us from seeing who she really is (from the passage itself). Perhaps, we have assigned judgment because she was Samaritan. Perhaps we have carried to the passage the prejudice of some Jews against Samaritans (being considered dogs). But does the passage itself assume that this woman was loose? Yes, Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband…” But what does that mean? Was Jesus confronting the woman about immorality or was he reaching out to her in a very intimate way that others have failed to get to know her.

Presumably, she was a loner. The time she came to fetch water was way pass the time the other women would have come. It was midday and the sun would be scotching. The other women would have come by 6:00 a.m. She knew at 12 noon, she’d be there alone – so she thought. But Jesus had need to go through Samaria. He met her there and sought to know her and introduce her to the world beyond the single story. Who really is this no name woman who has been through SIX (6) men?… I can hear the tongues beginning to wag. I can almost hear the opinions we form, as we sit in our bible studies, about this woman who has been through FIVE divorces. But before we got there, did we stop to understand this woman’s context outside of the Judeo-focal lenses through which we view her (a Samaritan)? As a woman in her time, she did not have the autonomy to divorce her husbands. It was the men who held the power to divorce by simply saying, “I divorce you! I divorce you!” But why? Why would they want to divorce her? Was she unable to give them children? The passage never mentioned if she had children. This would be an important bit of information that John would omit. What did Jesus mean when He told her that the man she is living with now is not even her own? Did he leave her too? Have we ever taken the time to sit and ask sister girlfriend at the well what were her hopes and aspirations and expectations of each relationship she entered? Or… are we busy going about our business only to return (like the disciples) and find this woman (in conversation with Jesus) about whom we have assumed many things (often all bad) and thinking that, that is who she really is?

In part two we will take a deeper look at this woman as we further explore the danger of a single story. I hope the next time we are tempted to believe something negative about someone that we pause to try to understand more about that person in an effort to build authentic relationships.

You may view Chimamanda Adichie’s video below

Mi Kyaahn Kibba mi Mout’ (I Can’t Stay Silent): Reflections on Evangelism

DAY 1: “CREATION IS TELLING”

Psalm 19:1-4, says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Their voice goes out into all the earth,their words to the ends of the world”

While, creation does not tell who God is: His character and attributes; His plans and purposes, it reveals that there is an intelligent designer who is responsible for the magnificence and the Splendour of creation. With no words and no voice; no access to social media and modern technology, creation TELLS daily, to all the world, of God’s glory. “They have no speech, they use no words;no sound is heard from them.Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” Is this not awesome?

Yet, sometimes, we with voice to communicate the unsearchable richness and vastness of God’s amazing grace and love, silence our voices. We may not be able to literally go into all the world but technology and social media have brought the world to our finger tips. We have families, relatives, neighbours and friends whom we can tell of God’s glory (His goodness and favour. Would you tell them or will you keep silent? Are mountains and valleys and rocks and streams and bird and sticks going to tell of Him while we hold our peace? Creation is telling of Him… WILL YOU?

Even as we look to go out to evangelise, let us remember that, that too is part of telling…

Lord, help that we would not be intimidated or fearful to tell of your excellent greatness. Help us not shirk or retreat… not to cower or be silenced…not to pretend or deny your existence. Help us to be bold and to join with all of creation in TELLING…

 
DAY 2 “BEAUTIFUL FEET
Today, I want to talk about beautiful feet. Do you have beautiful feet?

Isaiah 52:7 says, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!”

I have never been know to have impeccably pedicured feet. In fact, I don’t think much about my feet. But for me, that is not so important. These feet are temporal. I only have them for this life. But apparently my feet seem to be important to God. He seems to be interested in me having beautiful feet. However, for God, beautiful feet are not feet that have seen an aesthetician. They’re not feet that are free of bunions but they are feet that bring Good News.

The Bible refers to The Gospel as Good News. God considers those who bring the Gospel; who “who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!”, as having beautiful feet. As believers, the commission that He left with his disciples to make disciples as they go about their daily lives still holds for us, today. We have become so caught up in our own affairs and with the cares of this life that we sometimes forget that we are sent… As we go about our lives, let us think about our feet. Are they beautiful? This Saturday, at 6:00 a.m, as a church we’ll be taking Good News to Emanacipation Park. It is an excellent opportunity to make your feet beautiful. Do you have beautiful feet?

Romans 10:15 And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

DAY 3: No Mountain Will Tell it For Me”

“When Israel came out of Egypt, Jacob from a people of foreign tongue, Judah became God’s sanctuary, Israel his dominion. The sea looked and fled, the Jordan turned back; the mountains leaped like rams, the hills like lambs. Why was it, sea, that you fled? Why, Jordan, did you turn back? Why, mountains, did you leap like rams, you hills, like lambs? Tremble, ea

rth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob, who turned the rock into a pool, the hard rock into springs of water.” (Psalm 114)

The psalm recounts God’s mighty acts in delivering Israel from Egypt. The psalmist remembers what God did and says, “Tremble, earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob, who turned the rock into a pool, the hard rock into springs of water.” The instruction to the earth to tremble in the presence of the Lord, really speaks to mankind to do so. For if nature can recognise the might of God, man certainly can.

Sometimes, we underestimate the power of our testimony. We often forget where God has taken us from. David recalled what God did for Israel and he tells it to us in the psalm. Israel would have certainly told of what God did because by the time they got to Jericho, Rahab had heard of how God delivered and she hide Israel’s spied (acting in faith) because she heard of Israel’s God. Similarly, when you share with others about what your God has done, you might be pointing them toward a faith journey with your God.

Since this week, we have been focusing on telling – telling others about our God. And even as we prepare to go on outreach at Emancipation Park on Saturday, I want to encourage us on sharing and telling others of our EXCELLENT God. Make the act of telling a lifestyle and not merely an event. Tell it beyond Saturday; tell it every chance you get. think on these things

1.What has God done for you in the past?
2.Have you ever told anyone about it?
3.Are you going to let nature tell of His greatness in your stead?
4.Would you like for others to hear and know of who God means to you and what He’s done?

 
DAY 4: NOW, GO TELL IT
 
Over the last week, we have been reflecting on our duty/our service/our roles as heralds – ones called to tell of the goodness of God and of His Christ. The days, the heavens tell and even the mountains are encouraged to tremble before his greatness. Today, we reflect on Matthew 28:19-20. Our versions may read, “Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations…”
 
 For many of us reading this, our call to teach the nations may appear to be an event – an activity for which we must take pause from our busy lives to engage. But Jesus’ intention was not for service of evangelism and discipleship to become a chore. In fact, because of the participle that begins verse 19, the verse should actually begin, “As you are going…” Yes, we are expected to teach and tell as we go… As we go to our jobs and to recreation or spend time with our families, our lives and our testimonies should teach others about the God we serve. It is a lifestyle. In Deuteronomy 6:4-9, the instruction is given to Israel to teach the truth about God at every opportunity: as they sit and go out and go to bed and walk around with it being visible so that all to see. It was not an exhortation to become fanatics but to allow the teaching and telling of God to become part of who they were. Is it part of our daily lives today?
Do our lives and our words teach others about our God? The next time we open our mouths, let us consider how much about God does it teach. Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Let our lives and our words teach others about you. Amen
 

ABIDING FAITH: Stories of Tragedy & Triumph Behind the Hymns

It is difficult not to despair in the face of adversity. We are humans and sometimes we do forget – we forget the abiding hope that resides in a deep faith in One who is able to do “exceedingly abundant and above all we can ask or even imagine” and the strength that we have when we throw ourselves, in faith, on Him, who is ABLE! So many who have gone before us found the peace that resided in a firm faith in God and they shared in poems and verse that, have today, become some of our most loved hymns. Perhaps they resonate with us because they were borne out of a faith journey that was often punctuated with various trials as we do, today.

1.Hymn: All Hail The Power Of Jesus’ Name

The author of this hymn, Edward Perronet (1726 – 1792), would probably have fallen into obscurity had it not been for this story that relates to his hymn: Reverend E. P. Scott was a missionary, living in India during the 1800s. One day Rev. Scott met a native Indian tribesman in traditional costume. After earnest inquiry he discovered that the native was from a ferocious mountain tribe which rarely came to the city. Feeling the need to visit the tribe to share the gospel, Rev. Scott after much prayer set out with a few meager provisions and his violin. After travelling for two days, Rev. Scott suddenly found himself surrounded by a party of warriors from the very tribe he sought with their spears pointed to his heart. Fearing that this was the end for him, he pulled out his violin and began to play. Closing his eyes tightly he sang ‘All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name’ in their native language. When he came to the stanza ‘Let ev’ry kindred, ev’ry tribe…’ he cautiously opened his eyes. He was astonished to see that the spears had been withdrawn and several of the warriors were in tears! For the next two and a half years Rev. Scott lived with this tribe teaching them the way of salvation. When poor health forced him to take a leave of absence, the natives followed him nearly 40 miles, entreating him to return to them soon. This he did, spending the last days of his life with the people whose hearts had been opened by ‘All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name’.

 All hail the power of Jesus’ name!
Let angels prostrate fall;
bring forth the royal diadem,
and crown Him Lord of all. B

ring forth the royal diadem,

and crown Him Lord of all.

Let us bless the Lord and worship Him in whose Name dwells the power to change lives! He has changed our lives and caused us to live for Him!!

2. Hymn: It Is Well With My Soul:

Horatio Spafford (1828-1888) was a wealthy Chicago lawyer with a thriving legal practice, a beautiful home, a wife, four daughters & a son. He was also a devout Christian & faithful student of the Scriptures.  His circle of friends included Dwight L. Moody, Ira Sankey and various other well-known Christians of the day. At the very height of his financial and professional success, Horatio and his wife Anna suffered the tragic loss of their young son. Shortly thereafter on October 8, 1871, the Great Chicago Fire destroyed almost every real estate investment that Spafford had.

In 1873, due to the fact that the deal fell through on the sale of his property, Spafford scheduled a boat trip to Europe in order to give his wife and daughters a much needed vacation. Spafford sent his wife and daughters ahead of him on a luxury steamer named the S.S. Ville du Havre. While in the middle of the Atlantic, the ship was rammed by a British iron sailing ship, the S.S. Lockhearn. In just 12 minutes the steamer sank; 226 people lost their lives.

Being kept afloat by a piece of debris, an unconscious Anna was one of the passengers that were rescued. Spafford lost his four daughters while he remained in Chicago to take care of some unexpected last minute business. Spafford was planning to join his family in Europe where he expected to meet up with D. L. Moody and Ira Sankey on one of their evangelistic crusades. While wrapping up his affairs, Spafford received a horrible telegram from his wife stating: “Saved alone.” With a heavy heart, Spafford boarded a ship that would take him to his grieving Anna in England. Spafford stood hour after hour on the deck of the ship grieving over the loss of his precious daughters. When the ship passed the approximate place where they had drowned, Spafford received sustaining comfort from God that enabled him to write the words of this hymn: ‘When sorrows like sea billows roll … It is well, it is well with my soul.’



When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,

When sorrows like sea billows roll;

Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,

It is well, it is well with my soul.



As we reflect on this story and hymn, in spite of what we may have to face, let us say with Horatio Spafford “It is well, it is well with my soul!” “…Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, It is well with my soul.”~ Many of us have crossed over many difficult times in our lives and we question how we got over. He (God) was there with us just like He was with Spafford. “Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, let this blessed assurance control. That Christ has regarded my helpless estate…”

3. Hymn: All The Way My Saviour Leads Me.

This great hymn was written by Fanny Crosby (1820–1915). When Fanny was 6 wks old, she caught a slight cold & had inflamed eyes. The family physician was away. Another country doctor was called in to treat her. He prescribed hot mustard poultices to be applied to her eyes, which destroyed her sight completely! It was later learned that the man was not even qualified to practice medicine. Fanny never felt any resentment against him, but believed it was permitted by the Lord to fulfill His plan for her life. This is what she said to her mother one day: “Mother, if I had a choice, I would still choose to remain blind … for when I die; the first face I will ever see will be the face of my blessed Saviour.”

Fanny’s spiritual development came from her grandmother who cared for her while her mother worked as a maid. Her father died when she was 12 months old of an illness. A landlady, Mrs. Hawley, helped Fanny memorize the Bible. Often she learned 5 chapters a week!  She entered the New York City Institution for the Blind around 1835, completed training, and taught there from 1847 to 1858. In 1858 she married a musician, Alexander Van Alstyne, who was also blind. Under her own name, as well as under a curious assortment of initials and pen names, she wrote over two thousand hymns, including: “I Am Thine, O Lord”; “Praise Him, Praise Him”; “Sweet Hour of Prayer”; “Blessed Assurance”; “Safe In The Arms Of Jesus “; “To God Be the Glory”. 

“All The Way My Saviour Leads Me” was written in 1874. Fanny needed five dollars one day and she just knelt down and told the Lord about it. Soon after a stranger knocked at her door as he just wanted to meet her. As he left, he pressed a five dollar bill into her hand. “I have no way of accounting for this” she said, “except to believe that God put it into the heart of this good man to bring the money”. “My first thought was that it is so wonderful the way the Lord leads me, and I immediately wrote the poem”.

All the way my Savior leads me;
What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His tender mercy,
Who through life has been my Guide?
Heav’nly peace, divinest comfort,
Here by faith in Him to dwell!
For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well;
For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well.

What comforting words to start the day with! May the Lord guide and bless you as you let Him lead you through this day and always.

4. Hymn: O Love That Will Not Let Me Go

George Matheson (1842 – 1906) was born in Glasgow, Scotland, with only partial sight. By the time he was college age, he was totally blind but graduated with honors from the University of Scotland. Earlier, Matheson had been engaged until his fiancé learned that he was going blind and there was nothing the doctors could do. She told him that she could not “go through life with a blind man” and broke of the engagement. He went blind while studying for the ministry and his sister was the one who then took him under her wing and became his eyes. She learned Latin, Greek and Hebrew in order to help him study. He had been a brilliant student and some say that if he hadn’t gone blind he could have been the leader of the Church of Scotland in his day.

George Matheson lived with his beloved sister while he turned to the pastoral ministry. He was blessed by the Lord with the responsibility of St. Bernard’s Parish Church in Edinburgh, Scotland, where he regularly preached to over 1500 people each week. But he was only able to do this because of the continued care of his sister. Finally though, the time came for her to get married. Who would care for him now, a blind man? Not only that, but his sister’s marriage brought fresh reminder of his own heartbreak, over his fiancé’s refusal to “go through life with a blind man.” “O Love That Will Not Let Me Go” was written on the evening of Matheson’s sister’s marriage. His whole family had gone to the wedding and had left him alone at home. “I was alone in the manse, the night of my sister’s marriage. Something happened to me which is known only to myself and which caused me the most severe mental suffering. The hymn was the fruit of that suffering. It was the quickest bit of work I ever did in my life. The whole work was completed in five minutes.”(June 6, 1882). What was the “severe mental suffering” that caused Matheson to write words that express such a longing for deep love? He did not tell. However, as we read the hymn, we see him express that the only love that lasts a lifetime is Gods’ perfect love.

O Love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.

5. Hymn: What A Friend We Have In Jesus

Irish born Joseph M. Scriven (1819-1896) was 25 years old, in love and to be married. The day before his wedding his fiancée died in a tragic drowning accident. Heartbroken, Joseph sailed from his homeland to start a new life in Canada. While in Canada working as a teacher, he fell in love again and became engaged to Eliza Roche, a rela

tive of one of his students. Once again, Joseph’s hopes and dreams were shattered when Eliza contracted tuberculosis and died before the wedding could take place.Although one can only imagine the turmoil within this young man, history tells us that his faith in God sustained him. Soon after Eliza’s death Joseph joined the Plymouth Brethren and began preaching for a Baptist church. From that time on Scriven developed a totally different life pattern. He took the Sermon on the Mount by Jesus literally, giving to him who asked and not turning away from him that would borrow. He never married, but spent the remainder of his life giving all his time, money and even the clothes off his own back to help the less fortunate and to spread the love and compassion of Jesus wherever he went. He was especially known for carrying a bucksaw and cutting firewood for people in need.

Around the same time that Eliza died, Joseph received word from Ireland that his mother was ill. He could not afford to return to Ireland to be with her, so he wrote a letter of comfort and enclosed one of his many poems entitled “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.”

Many years later a friend was sitting with Joseph, as he was very ill. During this visit, the friend was very impressed when he ran across Scriven’s poems. As a result of this visit, almost 30 years after his letter of comfort to his mother, Joseph’s poems were published in a book called Hymns and Other Verses. Soon thereafter, noted musician Charles C. Converse (1834-1918) put music to one of those poems: “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.”

What a friend we have in Jesus,
all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
all because we do not carry
everything to God in prayer.
What more is there to say, indeed what a friend we have in Jesus! Let us start the day by carrying everything that burdens our hearts to Him in prayer. May His Peace rule our hearts.

Becoming Like Christ For The Sake of Others

HUMILITY

 

The word of God, in Philippians 2:5, encourages us to “Have this attitude (mind) in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus.” NASB. This week, we will explore the attitude/mind of Christ which we are to imitate. Our first reflection on the attitude of Christ which should characterize the Christian life is  humility. Christ demonstrated the ultimate act of humility as seen in Philippians 2:6-7. First He did not think being God was something to be grasped at (vs.6) But emptied Himself taking the form of a servant (vs.7).

Jesus also taught and modeled humility during his earthly ministry “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28). On the night before death he washed the feet of his disciples; not only modeling humility but teaching them that this was the required attitude they needed to have, ‘but whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant (vs.26).

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The world demands a different standard from people: where there is much hype, pride and boasting in self because of personal achievements, earthly possessions and positions. To borrow a line of a popular song which exemplifies this  “oh Lord it’s hard to be humble when you are perfect in every way”. Once we have achieved, we sometimes consider it beneath us to perform certain tasks and we rather to be served instead of serving. Consequently, ministers become mini-stars. The apostle Paul boasted about one thing only: that of knowing Christ (Phil. 3: 8). He could have boasted about his Hebrew heritage, his religious status, his obedience to the law, his extensive learning, but for him all those things were rubbish so that he might become like Christ. What was important was to know Christ, the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His suffering. Which do we relate to? Do we have the attitude/mind of Christ demonstrating humility.

Prayer: Father, as we reflect today on the attitude/mind of Christ, help us to be obedient to Your word and move beyond all that is causing us to be puffed up with pride and to adopt an attitude of humility, being mindful that  all our earthly resources and status are short-lived and only what we do in service for You will have eternal value.

 

OBEDIENCE 

Philippians  tells us that He (Jesus )was  obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (2:8b). Christ lived a life of complete obedience  When he was 12 years old, He told His mother; ‘I must be about my Father’s business’ (Luke 2:41.) In John 5:30 Jesus responded to the Jewish leaders “I seek not to please myself but him who sent me”. In John 4:34, He said, “My  meat is to do the will of him who sent me”. The call to us as Christians is no different. In the book of Luke, Jesus outlined the requirement for discipleship: “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple (14:27).” We must be prepared to be obedient to the will and purpose of God even to the point of suffering and death.  Daily, do we declare I must be about my Fathers business; or I seek not to please myself but my Heavenly Father?

Prayer: Father we thank You for entrusting us with Your ministry of reconciliation. Help us to be totally obedient in running  the race that is set before us in Jesus name we pray.

 

 

FORGIVENESS

“Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing” Luke 23:34. Those were the  words of Jesus Christ as he hung on the cross to face death to pay the penalty for our sins. Forgiveness is not always an easy task; especially when we are hurting and we want to hold to unforgiveness. “Of course I was offended!”  But forgiveness is a command and we do so out of obedience, not counting the number of times we exercise forgiveness, even if it is towards a repeat offender.

Jesus’s response to Peter’s question was “…seventy times seven”. Matt 18: 21-22. This means always, and not seven times as Peter alluded to in the same  discourse. Colossians 3:13 instructs us to “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you have a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you”.                                    Is there anyone you need to forgive? Choosing to forgive sets us free from anger and bitterness to enjoy peace, love and joy in/of the Lord. Let us choose today to be obedient to the word of God and be of the same mind/attitude as Christ and exercise forgiveness.

Prayer: Father, You have been merciful and have forgiven us unconditionally. Help us not to hold on to resentment and bitterness but to forgive as we have been forgiven; in Jesus name we pray. Amen.

THE VICTORIOUS CHRISTIAN LIFE

WE NEED THE WORD (Psalm 119:105). “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” ……. Life presents, at times, so many situations, where we don’t know where to turn; what to do; which decision to take. Sometimes we feel lost and the path is not always lit. Or it may be that our values collide with our reality and we are presented with an ethical dilemma. What then do we do?

The Word of God is clear about what we must do. It sheds light on the way we must take and the steps we must make. It is our compass. In a world where the lines between right and wrong are constantly being blurred and values are being contested, we need more than ever before a moral compass. Peter echoes the sentiments of the psalmist in 2 Peter 1:19 “And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”…… So what do you do when you ‘don’t know what to do?’ RELY ON THE WORD! It will direct your path.

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Moreover, How many times, in your own journey with God, have you kept messing up after you vowed that it would never happen again? Let me guess. Many, right? We are prone to taking bad decisions and making wrong choices and sometimes turning over a new leaf can be difficult. As, believers, this tendency to do wrong often impacts negatively upon our Christian witness (to/in the world). But how do we overcome? How do we begin to make the RIGHT choices and get the victory in our lives? Psalm 119:9 tells us we can keep our way pure (or have victory over those wrong choices) by “taking heed” to the WORD of God/Obeying His WORD.

Wow! For many years, I struggled in my walk with God; praying and fasting for ‘deliverance’ until I realized that all I needed to do was OBEY God’s word; TAKE HEED to His instructions about how I must live and the choices I must make. It is His WORD that I must let guide my decisions. I am a lot more victorious today, over my struggles.WE NEED HIS (ANCIENT) WORD that ever true; changing me & changing you… Would you rely on His WORD today?

PRAY WITH POWER: CULTIVATING THE RIGHT ATTITUDE OF PRAYER

HERE IS A SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE SHARED ON SUNDAY, OCTOBER 7, IN OUR MORNING SERVICE ON “THE KIND OF PRAYER THAT GOD PAYS ATTENTION TO.”

Matthew 6:5-13. (THE PATTERN PRAYER, OFTEN CALLED, “THE LORD’S PRAYER”)

Matthew takes us on quite a profound journey. He record Jesus’ prayer, which serves to change our whole perspective on prayer.of Jesus’ sermon on the mount. But before Jesus engaged the content of the prayer His major

point was that prayer that will be effective really begins with a RIGHT it had ATTITUDE; it is an inner posture.

We are first defeated in prayer efforts if our attitude is wrong. More than the content of the prayer, the pattern prayer instructs us on the Attitude we should have as we approach God:

1. UNDERSTANDING/ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF WHO GOD IS (Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name). He is Father and He is in a class by Himself (hallowed). This means that He can be trusted. When we know this we are better able to approach Him with a heart that completely trusts.

2. SURRENDER (Thy kingdom come; thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven). God’s kingdom is his rule – His rightful claim to our lives and our complete relinquishing of our desires for his will. A life that is unwilling and unprepared to accept God’s rule and  claim to it is a life that is also unprepared for God to be made manifest in it. Surrendering says to God, I am ready for you to manifest yourself in my and in my situation and when God does, we SEE it because it was NOT our will we were anticipating but God’s.

3. TOTAL TRUST (Give us this day our daily bread). A heart that trusts God with even the mundane things. Daily reliance on Him. Israel was tested this way in the wilderness with manna that they were to gather daily (to demonstrate trust that God will provide for tomorrow) and they failed miserably. We must be totally reliant upon him as we approach; not planning how in our own might we can solve our own issues.

4. ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF WHO I AM: (And forgive us our trespasses). In approaching God in prayer, we must be honest with ourselves before God; willing to acknowledge our faults and to turn from them. So often humble ourselves; we pray; we seek His face but we never quite get to turning around (2 Chronicles 7:14). God requires truth from us; in our inward parts. Honesty IS the best policy even with God.

5. WILLINGNESS TO RELEASE OTHERS (BURDENS) (As we forgive those who trespass against us). If we are going to stand boldly and honest before God in prayer, we have to be willing to release persons that we do not forgive. If we regard iniquity in our hearts (our prayer will be hindered) the Lord will not hear us. Moreover, we often walk around with burdens asking God for strength to carry them when God has offered us the facility of casting ALL of those upon Him.

CULTIVATING THE RIGHT ATTITUDE AS WE APPROACH PRAYER IS THE FIRST AND MOST CRUCIAL STEP TO PRAYER THAT IS IMPACTFUL. DO YOU HAVE THE RIGHT ATTITUDE IN PRAYER?