A New Testament Perspective on Giving

Money is often an uncomfortable topic to talk about in the church. Immediately, people begin to think filthy lucre because of the unfortunate rise of prosperity gospel teachings and ministers who try to trick persons out of their money for personal gain. Yet, the New Testament speaks about giving more than any other topic. Giving is the way of God. His love towards us was demonstrated in His giving of His special Son. Love for each other is expressed in our giving. As a body, we were challenged on our commitment to giving from 2 Corinthians 9:1-10. We learned that giving begins at the level of our attitude. It must be:
1. Willing
2. Generous
3. Cheerful
4. Planned
5. Sustained

Day 1

Good morning, family. Let us reflect together:

“I have shown you all things, how that so labouring you ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He said, it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

Paul sought to teach by example how other believers ought to act towards those in need (the weak). This teaching of Jesus, passed on by Oral traditions. The admonition to “Remember” suggests that this saying had been prominent in the Apostles’ teaching but it also indicates the importance for believers to be consistent in their response to giving.

Those who give are blessed, not because of the rewards they will receive for giving or becauae they are in a superior position but because there is a pure and godlike Joy in giving. The foundation on which this saying rests is that giving is the result of LOVE and SELF-SACRIFICE.

Where the heart is full of deep, real love, and that love expresses itself by the cheerful act of giving, there is a sense of blessedness. The highest joy and noblest use of our possessions is found in blessing others.

 

 

Day 2

Good morning, Family. As we continue our reflection, we answer THE question, “Why should I give?”

Merely “throwing ” your money in an offering plate out of compulsion or grudgingly is NOT giving in God’s eyes. The type of giving that pleases God is willing and cheerful and generous.

*1.We must give because we have received from God*, having considered that *”all generous giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from THE Father of lights, With whom there is no variation or THE slighest hint of change”* (James 1:17).

*2 We must give because it glorifies God*: God’s glory is THE overaching concern of every believer. *”Through the evidence of this service they will glorify God because of your OBEDIENCE to your confession in THE Gospel of Christ and THE generosity of your sharing With them and With everyone”* (2Cor. 9:13). Our heart must be concerned With the things of God, for where our heart. is, there our treasures will be.

Like every other spiritual discipline, giving is an important aspect if we are to walk worthy of our calling and to be used by God for His glory! Do you truly want to be used by God, or will you turn away in sorrow like the rich young ruler in Matthew 19: 16-22?

 

Day 3

Good morning, family. Let us deeply consider the following: “One the first day of the week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping With your income, *saving it up*, so that when I come no collections will have to be made” (1Cor. 16:2. NIV).
“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7 NIV).

We sometimes struggle with the question of how much to give. Giving, in the first place is an act of Faith in God to supply your needs.

Paul is consistent in his writing to Corinth that giving is a matter of the heart and must pre-planned & systematic. Each of the verses indicate that giving requires advance planning and must not be done on impulse or under pressure to do so. In response to God’s grace, each household should determine the amount/percentage God wants them to give each month (not the legalistic 10%. ) and then follow through on this. We should not wait for the offering plate to be passing down the aisle and the think, “Oh, let me drop something in.”

So, how do you arrive at a percentage/amount?? *PRAY* about it!!! If you hear God says 10% that is perhaps you or the voice of tradition screaming in your head. God can be leading to give more so be open to hear as you consider how he has blessed you and you trust Him to meet your other needs.

 

Day 4

Good morning, family.
With all the bills that we have to pay and all the responsibilities that creep up on us how do I still give? In 2 Cor. 8:2-3, we learn that sometimes, giving is sacrificial. The church was giving *”beyond their ability”* or giving having need themselves but trusting God to supply their needs.

But perhaps the question of concern we must have is, “do I just take up my money and give everyone who asks?” It is not right to deprive your family of necessities to give to others (1Timothy 5:8) but we dp have a duty to the poor and to the work of the ministry, as scripture teaches.
We are to help meet the physical needs of food, shelter, clothes, etc. of others, first to those who belong to the household of faith (Galatians 6:10) and then help others who may have genuine need; like that indigent woman or man in your community. That is why as a church, we have a love basket that we ask week after week that members carry s non perishable item so that we supply those in need.

But we are also are expected to give to the work of the ministry (Galatians 6:6; 1 Timothy 5:17-18). After you’ve taken care of family, this is next in line on your list of priority. However, be careful of the ministry you give to. Any ministry that is worth its salt will be ensuring that the needy in its midst are taken Care of.
The next time you are called upon to give consider these things.

 

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?

What Did You Do With The Talent: A Lesson In Stewardship

Matthew 25:14-30 is an excellent narrative about stewardship. The cast includes 3 servants, one of whom was slothful, lazy and ungrateful, and their master. Every story calls for you to pay attention to detail – making comparisons and contrasts; listening to tone and mood; examining characters; understanding context etc. In this particular story, there is, for me two striking characters: the master and the slothful servant (the one who received one talent). A talent was silver (money) which weighed between 58 to 80 pounds, so the master was entrusting his servants with quite considerable money. This was the kind of money you would entrust to a trusted relative or friend, not a servant.

The other two servants were faithful but there was one who wasn’t, that is, the one who received 1 talent or 80lbs of silver. Here is something about that servant that angered the master. He was selfish. Selfishness is the biggest hindrance to proper stewardship. One cannot be a good steward and seek self-interest at the same time. That third servant had reasoned that the master might not be returning. So, he kept the money. If the master returned, he could simply return the money without loss from a bad investment (verse 25) but if not he gets to keep it for himself. He did not want to deposit it in the bank because he would have to record it as belonging to the master and could not keep it if the master did not return (verse 27). His reasoning exposed his heart of selfishness and a lack of faith in his master in his master. He proved to be a worthless servant because of this. He perhaps was even comparing what the others got to what he got instead of being grateful that the master place confidence in him in the first place to have given him so much money as a servant/slave.
The master on the other hand demonstrates that he is a fair judge. Those who did not think about themselves and how they could profit off him, were rewarded for their selflessness. And the one who was selfish was not only not rewarded but he was stripped.

The lesson for us today is to serve without seeking our own interest. To serve gladly and willingly. To serve God, not out of compulsion but from a heart of gratitude for what He has entrusted you with.

God Will Make You Sing

TEXT: 1 Samuel 1:1-16

SUBJECT: Hannah’s prayer and vow before God

First Samuel is a continuation of the story in the book of Judges. The story of 1 Samuel begins late in the tumultuous time of the judges when Eli is judge and priest and Israel is being oppressed by the Philistines.  The book opens with a woman’s anguish. Her story highlights the truth that God is bigger than any problem that we may encounter. We must, therefore only trust Him.  Don’t give up hope. God is listening. Remember that there is purpose in everything God allows in your life.

The name Hannah means “grace” (or favour). One would expect that with a name like that, Hannah would have been experiencing the blessings of peace, provision and progeny. But it was not so for Hannah. Her life was marked by reproach and misery. Her husband had a second wife named Peninnah, which in the Hebrew means “pearl” or “jewel”. The irony is that Peninnah’s behaviour towards Hannah did not display the beauty of her own name.

Hannah could not bear children for her husband. This would be extremely hard on women in those days for to have your womb closed was taken as an indication that she was cursed by God. For Hannah, she not only had to deal with the reality of not being able to have children but she was provoked constantly by Peninnah to the point where she would not eat.

However, I invite you to look at Hannah’s attitude in the midst of her pain. Like Job, she did not charge God with wrong (Job 1:22). Instead, she recognized His sovereignty – that He was the One who opens and closes the womb – and began praying to Him to open hers. In offering her prayer, Hannah was acknowledging God’s control over all her life’s circumstances. We must recognize that there is absolutely nothing that comes upon us that God does not know about. He sees all. He feels all that we are going through (Hebrews 4:15) and He is working out them all out for our good (Romans 8:28). Yes, our situations may seem desolate and we may not see a way out but God is in control. He has purpose for whatever it is that you are going through and He will not waste your pain (Romans 8:18).

Hannah understood that her only hope was in God and so she looked to Him in prayer and mourning. Yes, you may have to cry sometimes. There is no promise that things will always be easy but there is an assurance that God will deliver you out of the storms and afflictions of your life (Psalm 34:19). He will come through for you so go through it. Don’t give up! Hold on! God is on your side. His promise towards you should remind you that whatever the challenge that has entered your life did not come to break you but to establish you and move you towards your purpose. In Jeremiah 29:11, He says, “ I know the plans I have for you… plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Hallelujah! His intentions towards you are good. They are not to harm you in any way. You will not break under the pressure. You will not suffer in vain. You will not live in despair. He will give you hope and a future.  Hope sounds like expectation. It sounds like there is a silver lining – a light at the end of the tunnel. Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning Psalm 30:5). Are you at the darkest moment in your life? Then rejoice because your morning is nigh.

It was night time for Hannah. Her agony was recognized by those around her. While Peninnah jeered and ridiculed her, her husband was there as a support. You see, despite those who may not understand your situation – the Peninnahs in your life – God will always place someone in your life who will support you. Not only will He send you support but His precious Holy Spirit will be your help in time of weakness (Romans 8:26).

When faced with life’s challenges, many make the decision to walk away from God and throw in the towel. Not Hannah. In the midst of such profound testing, she kept following after God. Year after year she kept going up to the house of the Lord for worship, even though it meant travelling with another woman who was provoking her (verse 7). Hannah’s Prayer is a thoughtful and intense one:

“O Lord Almighty” – She recognized the sovereignty and omnipotence of God. He is God Almighty. If He could not fix her situation, nobody else could.  He is mighty to save and strong to deliver (Zeph 3:17).

“Look upon upon your servant’s misery and remember me.” – Part of walking with God is putting your request before Him. Never be afraid to cry out to God and ask Him to intervene in your situation. It is not a sign of weakness but a sign of trust.

“I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life” –  Hannah was specific in her request. She wanted a man child – a son – and she will give back that son to the Lord. Hannah’s vow was not meaningless bargaining with God. No! It was a mighty expression of faith. She knows that God can open her womb and if he does, she is willing to respond to His grace (the meaning of her name) by giving back that son to Him.

In pouring out her heart before God, He heard her and He opened up her womb and she conceived and bore her husband a child (1 Samuel 1:19-20). Her morning had come. Her time of rejoicing had arrived and her pain had ended. Hannah was no longer a reproach of object of scorn for being barren. God had turned things around. He had turned her mourning into dancing and had given her beauty for ashes. God raised Hannah’s son, Samuel, to be a prolific prophet and not one of his words fell to the ground (1 Samuel 3:19).

Hannah’s song of Joy in chapter 2 showed us that her joy in God transcended her own desire to keep her son to her side but to release him in God’s hand. It was that kind of surrender that made Samuel great but more importantly that contributed to Hannah being one of the redoubtable women of faith in scripture.

God will make you sing again. He will make you laugh again. Your brokenness was not meant to destroy you. Hannah sings in the end:

My heart exults in the Lord;
my strength is exalted in the Lord.
My mouth derides my enemies,
because I rejoice in your salvation.

There is none holy like the Lord;
there is none besides you;
there is no rock like our God.

PERSEVERING IN FAITH: GLEANINGS FROM SERMON BY PASTOR BARRY HALL, JR.

We (Ekklesia Bible Fellowship) recently celebrated our fourth (4th) anniversary as a local assembly in Jamaica. Ours, have been a journey of F.A.I. T. H (Fantastic Adventures In Trusting Him). Our journey has not always been easy though. As a new church plant, we have had our teething pains – moments when we questioned ourselves and worried about what was going to happen next. Yet, we persevered because we know the God we serve is bigger than any of our circumstance and the vision that He had given us, He is able to make pro-vision for.

On the occasion marking our fourth anniversary, under the theme: “Persevering in Faith: Impacting the Future”, our senior pastor, Barry Hall Jr., challenged a filled to capacity hall to persevere and finish well.

Hebrews 12:1-2

1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

The context of the letter to the Hebrews is one where the Jewish Christians were facing intense persecution for having “abandoned’ Judaism and believing on the Gospel of Jesus. Many found themselves abandoned by their families, homeless and destitute and the temptation was to return to the comforts and privileges that Judaism afforded them. It is against this backdrop that the entire book of Hebrews is written – to help them to realize the superiority of (their faith in) Jesus and why this new covenant in Him was better than the former.

In chapter 11, the writer to the Hebrews spends the time outlining many stalwarts of the faith; some who held on to the promise, many who were sawn in two, martyred in coliseums – all dying, holding on to the promise. They never gave up. They kept running. They kept striving. They are the ones who make up the cloud of witnesses spoken of in verse one of chapter twelve.

Paul likens this faith walk as a race and he says as we prepare ourselves to run this race we must:

  1. Throw off everything that hinders and the sins that so easily entangle us. If we look at athletes running in a race, as they make their way to the tracks, they are in full track suits. But as they prepare to out under starters’ orders, they remove those suits, removing that which will hold them back and slow them down. Sin slows down the walk of the believer. The sad thing is that many believers find reasons to explain away their sin. “Oh, it is a struggle”, “The devil, made me do it.” The truth is, we sin because we want to. We have developed an appetite for it. But through Christ, we have been set free from sin’s power and penalty. We must now choose to walk in this liberty that we now have by fully submitting ourselves to God’s Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18) and walking in obedience to His Word. God has already given us the ability to walk in righteousness (2 Peter 1:3).
  2. Run this race with patience: sticking with the writer’s analogy of athletics. An athlete puts his body through rigorous training in order to compete and finish well. It is often, a painful experience. Interestingly, the Greek word used for race, ‘agon’, is the word from which we get ‘agony’. This walk of faith will sometimes be arduous but we cannot give up. That is why we must run it with patience. Those who are now witnesses, who are not simply spectators but persons who ran before us, ran right up to the end under real persecution but they never gave up. We must never give up either. It will be hard but keep running.
  3. Keep your eyes on Jesus as you run: Don’t be distracted by whatever is happening around you. Keep your eyes on Jesus. And when you consider what He, Himself, endured just for you and considered a joy to have endured such, it should motivate you to keep running. A cross was before Him but for Him it did not merely represent shame and torture. It represented purpose.

The advent of the prosperity and name-it-and claim it teachings have distracted believers from the understanding the value of suffering and the need for believers to endure it. Athletes endure whatever pain they must to win a reward that will fade. But we run and endure for one of far great value. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:17 “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” So run the race that is set before. Run and finish well. Persevere in faith.

How Do I get to know God: Tracing God Through His Word

DAY 1

Good morning Family lets reflect on :  Knowledge of God from 2 Peter1:2

“Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord.”

Renowned African American  educator, Burghardt DuBois was convinced that he could change the plight of black Americans if the truth of their condition was known, so he made careful scientific investigations and  presented his thesis. But several years after his presentation nothing happened. Remorsefully he came to the conclusion that ‘the availability of truth does not mean it will be appropriated’.

The church, today, spends much of its time claiming  all manner of things from  God as if we are entitled and  should have them.   Peter’s desire was that grace -God’s activity towards man to enable him; and peace – shalom- completeness, wholeness, prosperity, blessings and victory; be multiplied! But this was not wishful thinking as Peter instructed them how it could be accomplished which is by the knowledge of God.The  Greek word for knowledge has the preposition attached which means ‘towards’, ‘in the direction of’. So a knowledge that is always moving in the direction of that which it seeks to know. As our  knowlege of God and Jesus Christ increases  grace and peace  are multiplied to us. The better we know Them the more we experience grace and peace. The only way  we can gain this knowledge is by a  careful and purposeful study of God’s word .  So  lets us forget the  naming and  claiming and  start studying the word of God and appropriating it to our lives.

DAY 2

Good morning Family, today we reflect on the purpose of  having a knowledge of God.

2Peter1:3 tells us “seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything  pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us”

How can finite man come to knowledge of an infinite God? Zophar long ago asked, “Can you by searching find out the  deep things of  God?” (Job 11:7) It was not left up to man to discover the  things concerning God but He revealed them in His word. And in knowing the word we find authority (power ) to live godly .

Chuck Swindoll listed the following six reasons why it is important to pursue knowledge of the Scriptures:

  1. Knowledge gives substance to faith.
  2. Knowledge stabilizes us during times of testing.
  3. Knowledge enables us to handle the Word of God accurately.
  4. Knowledge equips us to detect and confront error.
  5. Knowledge makes us confident and consistent in our walk with God.
  6. Knowledge filters out our fears and superstitions.

Godly living is not dependent on the binding of  spirits or invocation of supernatural power but on complete obedience to the revelation of the knowledge of God’s word.   Knowledge of God  produces godliness in us. Let us seek to gain knowledge of God through the study of His word.

DAY 3

Good morning Family,  today’s  encouragement  ‘Be faithful to grow in the knowledge of God.

As Peter concludes his epistle on false teachers that had infiltrated the Church the  charge is   “Therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 3:17-18

We live in an age where scant regard is given to the discovery of the truth of scripture. Worst even there is complete disregard both of the hearers and the preachers of the impending judgment given by Peter for those who would perverse the word. The Apostle  implores the church to be watchful and resist those who twist the word leading people astray. Peter says excuses will not stand if you  fail because he has given a warning  about  these persons and  of the consequences   to those who lead and also  follow.  He commands  against complacency and  exhorts his readers to grow in the knowledge of Jesus Christ.

If we are not rooted and grounded in the knowledge of God and Jesus Christ  which comes from a purposeful  study and application  of scripture    it will be easy to be swept off our feet and  loose our spiritual balance by the false teachings which swamp our culture. Lets remain faithful to growing in the knowledge of God.

DAY 4

Good morning, Family.

That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him:  The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of His calling, and  the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,

Ephesians 1:17-18 KJV

Paul is praying that God would give believers a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the true knowledge of Him. What becomes clear is that to know these important truths requires God to reveal them. In Eph 4.18 he describes our previous state as , ” darkened in  understanding, excluded from the life of God because of ignorance “. Sin blinds the minds of unbelievers rendering them incapable of first, understanding the truth of the gospel and second the truths of God. It necessitates God to open blinded eyes to believe in Jesus as Saviour (2 Cor. 4:4,6). Our finite minds have to be enlightened by the Spirit of God to understand the deeper truths of His word.

This prayer of Paul includes an intellectual grasp of the Scriptures. We cannot obey what we do not understand. It engages our emotions to desire relationship. This brings us  into a greater submission to His will and conformity with His purpose . When we know  His plans, (the hope of His calling and glory of His inheritance  we become strengthened in the inner-man and will live victoriously as believers .

Psalm 19:7 reminds us that the Law (Word) of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul. The testimony of the Lord is sure, making the “simple” wise. The Word of God makes us wise and formidable against false teaching.

DAY 5

Good morning Family. Paul’s prayer for the believers in Ephesians 3:18-19 “may be able to comprehend…what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.

These verses express the heart of Paul  for his fellow believers to understand the fullness,  vastness and completeness of  Christ’s  love . The Apostle  prays  because only by Divine intervention can our finite minds comprehend the great love that Christ’s gives. Such love  surpasses human  knowledge.

John McAuthur does a good contrast; human love lasts until it is offended. Christ love lasts despite every offense. Human  love is  for what it can get. Christ love is  for what it can give.

Paul knows that when the child of God grasps the magnitude of this truth it will  result in deep gratitude, manifested  in a life  yielded to the will and purpose of Christ born out of a deep sense of obligation. The book of Romans describe it as a living sacrifice which is our reasonable response to His love demonstrated through  His mercies and grace. Being filled with all the  fullness of God that is  being under God’s complete control and emptied of self.

These are critical elements for victorious Christian life.

Paul’s prayer, then, is that we live victorious Christian lives  fitting of our calling.

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

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.

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
 

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.