Category Archives: Faith and culture

A Disciple Submits to the Lordship of Christ

submission

In a context where many people easily identify themselves as Christians; it is essential to recapture what it really means to be a disciple of Jesus.

FYI, the Bible uses the word “disciple” 282 times, “believers” 26 times, and “Christians” only 3 times. The numerous repetitions of the word should cause us to dig deeper into its meaning.

Read here on the disciple of Jesus as a learner. 

It is worth noting here that in the first century, it was common phenomenon for spiritual leaders to have disciples. John the Baptist had disciples (Matt. 9:14); and also Pharisees had disciples (Matt. 22:16). Jesus himself had many disciples other than the renown twelve (Matt. 10:1; (Lk. 22:11). To be a true disciple of Jesus is to submit to his authority and lordship.

A Disciples of Jesus Submits to his Lordship –

In the first century Roman world, the emperor was regarded as kurios (lord). Kingdoms, new lands, and peoples were conquered and subjugated to the lordship of the Roman emperor. As a matter of fact sacrifices were offered in honor of the emperor, the embodiment of the Graeco-Roman gods.

But Jesus taught his disciples concerning a new kingdom, the kingdom of God. In that kingdom he is the Kurios (the Lord over all things). Following him involves acknowledging his lordship over the lordship of Emperor Caesar. Unconfusedly, this was not supposed to bring a threat to the state. Their submission to the authority of Christ was a superior allegiance because it was a loyalty to the Lord of Lords, the Lord and Creator of the universe.

Briefly, what does submission mean?

  1. Submission to Christ means hearing and responding to the call of God– It involves answering the call and invitation to salvation that is by grace through faith. It means acceptance of God’s gift of salvation in order to receive eternal life in Christ Jesus.
  2. Submission means constantly yielding to the authority of Christ– Coming to Christ in repentance and faith is a step to a Christian life. But that is not all; we need to have a daily walk with God whereby we yield to his leading. This process involves putting to death the old self and putting on a new self. It involves a process of total transformation of our minds, emotions, affections, and hearts.
  3. Submission means subjecting our will to his will– It involves praying “your kingdom come and your will be done.” It means subjecting our will to his will; and realigning our plans/vision/mission to God’s agenda. Jesus modeled submission by doing the will of God the Father who had sent him.
  4. Submission means obeying the words of Christ– Jesus instructed, “if you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (Jn. 8:31-32).
  5. Submission means letting the word of God transform us-The man who says “I know him” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him (1Jn. 2:4-5).

Disciples of Jesus always live a life of submission to the lordship of Christ.

Read here on Attitude of rebellion Vs Attitude of Submission. 

obey

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THE LEADER AS SERVANT

Serve

There is voluminous literature out there on leadership. Some of the leadership principles and values propagated in these books are Bible-based while others are research based. It is also worth noting that some of these values and principles on each side of the divide have points of convergence and points of divergence (this is for another day).

But the Bible provides rich metaphors that depict the nature of spiritual leadership that is to be exercised in and by the church. Believers in Christ are to embody these biblical values as foundational values for their actions, reactions, and convictions. In this short write-up let’s focus on one leadership motif presented in the Bible: servant.

Leader as Servant

A leader is a servant.

The servant motif traces way back to the OT whereby priests, prophets and kings were seen as servants of God. Like the nation of Israel, they were God’s vessels in which he accomplished his divine purposes on earth.

In the New Testament Jesus referred himself as God’s servant. He came to serve, and to save the lost. He exemplified service by washing the feet of his disciples; performing a typical work of a slave (Lk. 22:27; Jn. 13:4-11). He served the poor, the sick, the despised, and embraced the social outcasts of the society.

A leader who is a servant goes right to where people are. It models leadership from below. Jesus exemplified humility, obedience, and servanthood through his incarnation “but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness “-the kenosis concept (Phil. 2:7-8).

Servanthood is an attitude of the heart. It takes humility, a selfless spirit and a transformed heart for a leader to be a servant. This attitude was in Christ. Therefore, Jesus becomes our example. He redefines what greatness is (Mk. 9:35).

Those who lead should lead by serving. They should not by serving their own interest but the interests of the people they oversee. Those who fail to meet this threshold should never be considered leaders.

Read here for an example of servant leadership.

Read here for another Bible metaphor on leadership.

servant 2

HEROES AND HEROISM

What are heroes remembered for?

History is filled with people that are deemed to be heroes/heroines. But do all of them meet the threshold of heroism? What is it that really characterizes lives of true heroes?

In the Bible, the Book of Hebrews 11 records heroes of faith; people who stood out for what they believed in. Their qualities and accomplishments outlived them; and their lives became celebrated beyond their lifetimes.

What characterizes the lives of heroes?

1. Heroes are men and women known for their faith– They are people who walk not by what is seen but unseen. They believe. They believe in people’s potential beyond the present. They do not have the word “impossible” in their vocabulary. Besides, they are able to provide leadership that takes people from known to unknown.

2. Heroes have a Source of inspiration– Heroes derive their inspiration beyond themselves. Many find sustainable strength and encouragement not from people or what they get but from God and His word. God is their partner.

3. Heroes live for a purpose greater than themselves– True heroes are selfless. They have learned to conquer the self. They lay down their lives for the sake of many. They forfeit their prerogatives and rights to be able to look at the welfare of many. They are givers, not takers.

Their sphere of their influence is beyond their nuclear family, extended family, tribe, country, race, socio-economic or political distinctions. They see God’s image in all people. That is why they are celebrated by people from various walks of life.

4. Have eternal perspective of things– One jewel that all heroes have is hope. They look forward to something better. To them, the best is yet to come. They have a vision of this life and the life to come. Their hope cannot be eclipsed by temporary circumstances. In addition, they do not enjoy the present at the expense of tomorrow; their lives are shaped by the vision of what is to come.

5. Heroes stand for truth and justice– Truth is always something unpopular and in most cases suppressed. But heroes are always on the side of truth. They preach the truth and courageously advocate/defend the truth without seeking people’s approval. Besides, they fearlessly challenge established structures that are founded on falsehood. As a result many heroes aren’t honored or celebrated in their lifetimes.

6. Heroes are men and women of conviction– They are people who passionately live for a particular cause. They have a singular affection for a certain cause or need; and that is where they focus their energies on. They redefine and set new norms and standards.. Their consuming passion is often met with stiff resistance and hostility. And so sometimes they are killed because of what they adamantly stand for or dream. Often, they are defined not by the number of years they live but by the difference they made (in the lives of people) within the (few) years they live.

7. Heroes are men and women of integrity– They are figures of great repute in their societies. They do what they say and say what they do.

8. Like stars, heroes shine brighter in darkness– Heroes stand out from among the majority. Where there is hatred they demonstrate love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.

9. They are future-oriented– They are not consumed with past narratives of failure, disappointments, and grudges. They have a big windscreen/windshield and a small rear view mirror. They shape the future in a new and greater way.

10. Heroes are ordinary human beings– Heroes are not superhuman, they are people like you and me; but they choose to rise above the occasion. They refuse to settle on mediocrity and average. They choose to be part of a solution than to be part of a problem. They do small things in a big and different way.

Be a hero.

WHAT THE LIFE OF MOTHER TERESA REMINDS THE CHURCH IN AFRICA

mother Teresa

Mother Teresa of Calcutta has been canonized, formally declared a saint, by the Roman Catholic Church on 4th September 19 years after her death. Mother Teresa (1910-1997) founded the Missionaries of Charity,  that requires its members to subscribe to four vows: chastity, poverty, obedience, and to give “wholehearted free services to the poorest of the poor”. The award winning figure, a Catholic nun, has been hailed by many for what she stood for and for the impact she made in the lives of many poor people in India.

In my opinion, the life and work of Mother Teresa (MT) has a lot to remind the Body of Christ today.

  1. Ministry of the church to the poor– Mother Teresa’s life is a reminder of the biblical mandate that the church has toward the poor. Not only to the poor but also to refugees, sick, strangers, migrants, orphans and widows. To all those that are vulnerable to any form of suffering and exploitation. In her we see, true love at work. She sacrificially served “the poorest of the poor”. Her legacy of service to the people of Calcutta remains exceptional. Ministry to the poor is a worthy cause for the church today; the early church practiced it (Acts 6). The apostles, both to the Jews and Gentiles, put special emphasis on the plight of the poor as they preached the gospel: …They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews. All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do– Gal 2:9b-10.
  2. Incarnational Ministry– MT was totally sold out to the work among the poor. Her model takes after Jesus’ incarnation model of “coming down” to where people are. It is not easy to effect change when we stay aloof from people’s realities. With compassion, she literally went down to the people and suffered with them. She left her comfort and all her prerogatives to live and serve among the poor. Teresa was not a mother but became a mother to many.
  3. Leadership from below– I must say that we live in a world that strongly believes that for one to bring change (in the society) you have to be at the top. And so many people struggle to “be leaders” so that they can use their positions to right wrongs and straighten the crooked. But like Jesus, Mother Teresa’s life shows that the opposite is true, possible, and effective! You can lead from the bottom. Mother Teresa led by serving and served by leading.
  4. Simplicity– Trapped by materialistic culture around you? Mother Teresa’s life story is a down-to-earth life and lifestyle. Her life revolved around sharing and giving. She gave her life to selflessly serve God’s people. I wonder what Mother Teresa would say about the prosperity “gospel” that has become so prevalent today. But I guess, like Apostle Paul, she would perhaps say it is “no gospel at all”.
  5. Fervent spirituality– Her zeal and perseverance to serve “the poor of the poorest” was certainly informed by her intimate relationship with God. She must have learned her incarnational approach and what it means to surrender from Jesus. Her devotion to God and commitment to God’s people shows that the gospel is livable. Mother Teresa’s life is a good example of what a life surrendered to the hands of Jesus is able to achieve. Fervent spirituality will definitely lead to action.

Below, I leave you with some quotes attributed to Mother Teresa.

We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop. Mother Teresa

Words which do not give the light of Christ increase the darkness. Mother Teresa

Let us always meet each other with smile, for the smile is the beginning of love. Mother Teresa

If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one. Mother Teresa

People are often unreasonable, illogical and self centered;
Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God;
It was never between you and them anyway

Mother Teresa

SATAN’S THESIS STATEMENT, JESUS’ OFFER

offer

We live in a world that is both physical and spiritual; material and immaterial. It is good to be always aware of this reality. As disciples of Jesus, we need to know the “flaming arrows” of the devil but more importantly what our Master has accomplished for us. Jesus is constantly on a mission of saving and giving life to many; but Satan on the other is engaged on a mission that is disastrously against all that has been established by God.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” ( John 10:10).

Satan’s thesis statement from the beginning is simple, focused, and clear: to steal, kill, and destroy. And so, practically, what are some of the things (that God gave/wanted us to enjoy) that we have been robbed of by the devil?

He has robbed many individuals their God-given: joy, peace, health, hope, integrity, humility, patience, intimacy with God etc. Families are also not spared; the thief has robbed many families of their: love, faithfulness, values, and unity. He robs our nations of: security, unity, sexuality, freedom, lives, culture, love for others, resources/prosperity, justice, truth and many others. He is a real thief!

Surprisingly, it does not stop with stealing. He also kills. He kills people’s potential, dreams, lives, and hopes. He has done this through lies; that is, planting in people’s minds and perceptions a false belief about oneself, others, and God. The thief doesn’t even stop there; he destroys what he has stolen and killed! As a matter of fact, he has destroyed precious lives of many young people with the allure to drug abuse and slavery to immorality in the name of freedom. He has destroyed others with pessimism. So sad. But that’s exactly what the devil has been up to. He is indeed an enemy.

But the most encouraging promise is found in the second part of the verse. Jesus makes an offer, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full”. If that does not bless you, I don’t know what else does. Jesus is your true friend, life-giver, and redeemer. He has come, not to subtract or rob the little you have but to give you life and life in abundance. Satan takes but Jesus gives. He has come to restore what has been stolen and to lift you even to a higher ground. He has come not just to restore what had been stolen but to lift you up to a level of abundance. He will do it a hundred fold. What a good news!

The Bible declares that Jesus, the one you believe in or you should believe in, has entered into the strong man’s house (Satan’s realm) and came with spoils of victory. “… How can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can rob his house” Matt. 12:29. Jesus was able to bind the “strong man” on the cross. It is at the cross of Jesus that we find victory. We are able to achieve this victory and redemption by believing in Jesus, the One who is all-powerful to seize and tie up the “strong man” and to restore all that is due us.

Because of Jesus, don’t let the enemy rob you (again). Refuse to be robbed. No more robbing. It is a time of restoration. The thief might have stolen from you for a long time holding you hostage,  but come to Jesus, the redeemer and restorer of your life and soul. He will give you a gift, eternal life.

 

5 Biblical Principles on Work

hapa

A significant fraction of our lives is spent working or at workplace.  A typical 8-5 routine is simply a third of a day. And so this is important to learn from God’s word on how we can maximize this sizeable portion of our time that is spent working. We need to continually seek to know how to integrate faith and work. We need to glorify God in all things-including work.

The creation story in Genesis 1-2, presents God as Creator and Worker. For six days, he created the earth and all that is in it. He fashioned and creatively brought meaning out of formlessness, emptiness, and darkness. He brought beauty out of nothing. Creation reveals the wisdom, power, and creativity of God.

After he had created, he blessed all that he had done.

More important was the position and role of man in the entire created order. Man as God’s creation, bearing His image, was mandated to take care and name the creation: “to work it and take care of it” (Gen. 2:15). He was to give names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field (Gen. 2:20). This was quite some work! God also created a suitable helper for man. And so from the beginning work has an intrinsic value. It is a blessing. Work is a gift from God.

However the fall of man in Genesis 3, brought about curses on work. Man was now to “sweat” in order to meet his daily needs.  The reality of “painful toil” started to set in, right from the sad experience of Gen 3.

But all is not lost.

We can still experience meaningfulness in work especially in light of the redeeming work of Christ. In our modern society, we direly need a biblical understanding of work not only to challenge the false notions of work but to lead us into working meaningfully in the areas and professions/careers/vocation God has placed us in.

faith-work

Here are five biblical principles that can help us today on how to glorify God in work: 

  1. Embrace hard work as a means to prosperity

The Bible not only highlights the value of hard work but also emphasizes the need to shun laziness. The book of Proverbs has a lot of references to a sluggard/lazy person. Let’s first sample some verses from the OT wisdom literature on laziness.

The lazy will end up in poverty (Prov. 10:4); lazy people are lazy to eat even their own food (Prov. 26:15). They are married to their beds (Prov. 26:13-14)- “The lazy man won’t go out and work. There might be a lion outside!” he says. He sticks to his bed like a door to its hinges.” (see also: Prov.  6:9-11; 22:23).

The desires of a sluggard will go unfulfilled; but a hard worker will get everything he wants (Prov. 13:4).

Corruption is (thus) a form of laziness.  It is reaping from where you did not sow and acquiring what is not rightfully yours. It is sad that a recent survey among Kenyan youth showed that majority of youth have no problem amassing wealth through tax evasion and corruption deals as long as they do not get prosecuted. This is a sad story. My generation should embrace hard work as a means to prosperity.

A sluggard is a liability to his/her employer Prov. 10:26. Such people have immense power to sink your organization in a day. A sluggard is useless and expensive to anyone who must employ him. They omit/neglect their duties. They overburden others in work.

Lazy people hate the dawning of a Monday; they wish every day is a Friday afternoon and a weekend. They consistently offer excuses. They lack energy and enthusiasm that is needed to get a job done. Needless to say, the idea of work is troublesome to them.

Laziness is a serious disease. It is more than idle hands and mind. It is also a heart/spiritual problem. A lazy person has a heart that is only comfortable receiving than giving or blessing.  Such a heart manifest its spiritual problem through laziness on spiritual aspects like reading of God’s word and prayer.

Therefore a sluggard needs a conversion of heart. A heart trained in priorities, passion, and godly perspective on work. He must take a decisive action to work (2 Thess. 3:7-11).

On the other hand, hard work should be celebrated. And hard working people should be celebrated.

Hard work or diligence brings prosperity. It brings a profit/wealth (Prov. 14:23; 10:4). We need prosperity that is derived from hard work. The riches may not come quickly but it comes with God’s blessings and peace.

Godly people must embrace hard work as a means to prosperity.

2.Work as unto the Lord

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. The attitude with which we approach work matters a lot (Col. 3:23-24).

There is a world of difference when you wake up each morning knowing you are working for the Lord not for men (or for promotion or recognition, overtime, or other allowances). Doing what you do for and with God gives your life and toil a meaning. Those who work as unto the Lord are not bothered by the presence or absence of their supervisors.

Your see, the career/profession/vocation you currently hold, whether in the corporate world or in Christian organization, is not a coincidence or chance. You may have perceived it before as a means of purely earning money; but you know what? as we grow in Christ our perspectives should change- including on work. We should see what we do as a calling. We should see it as a blessing; as a gift from God to serve His purposes. And so, God commissions you each morning to go and serve him in whatever you are doing. In that manner, you will be rewarded for your service to God.

In that specific area you are involved in, God wants you to declare his excellencies.  Undoubtedly, your specific area of work is also your battlefield. It is where you face tough choices, trials and temptations (to look this way and that way-Exo. 2:12).  It is where you learn how to love people as you encounter complex situations and hard-to-deal-with people. It is a God-given opportunity for you to grow and be transformed into Christ’s likeness; to pursue righteousness godliness, faith, peace, love, endurance, gentleness (1 Tim 6:11).

As I mentioned earlier, working consumes more than a third of our lifetime; and so, don’t think God’s purposes are not embedded in that significant fraction of your life.

Serve as unto the Lord; people may be not see your sacrifices (they often do not see/reward), but know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord who sees.

Eph 6:7-8- Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, 8 because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free.

  1. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might– Eccl. 7:10.

Do the work that the Lord has blessed you with wholeheartedly. Love the Lord your God with all your heart (passion), with all your soul (emotions), with all your mind (intelligence), with all your strength (energies).

God wants us to serve him wholeheartedly.

I know I’m writing from a context where unemployment among young people is so prevalent. Idleness is a choice. My call to many young people is, at least, get something constructive to do and do it with all your heart and strength. You have always been told to think outside the box; why don’t you try thinking without the box.

The trap we always fall into, perhaps a result from the fall of man, is despising some kinds of jobs. We in turn transfer the same attitude to people doing the same jobs. Certainly, this leads and promotes the unending narrative of ‘there are no jobs’.  (Swahili speakers are familiar with the expression-Kazi ni kazi). Remember, whatever your hand finds to do, do it will all your might.

Young people need to be advised to start small and not to despise their small beginning. ‘Starting small’ in this case means considering a volunteer position, or beginning a small business, etc. Delight in what you do.

Create something.  In any given opportunity, set a high a high standard of excellence and integrity. Let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Magnify Christ in your work.

  1. Take a rest after work

After creating, God rested (ceased to work) on the 7th Day. He also created Sabbath for rest and made other provisions for rest in the Law. Therefore rest must be important component to consider. Our bodies need rest after work. Laziness is resting before you get tired.

Resting gives you time with yourself, family and with God.

A time of rest can also be a good source of energy, direction and inspiration in what we do.

We should not succumb to the obsession of wealth at the expense of our bodies or our relationships.

True wealth and prosperity is a gift from God; You may say to yourself, ‘My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me,’ But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth (Deut. 8:17-8; see also 1 Chron. 29:12).

  1. We work so that we may have something to share with those in need- Eph 4:28

In the above passage, Paul exhorts the brother who has been stealing to steal no longer. Stealing or corruption is not God’s way of creating wealth or meeting personal needs. Paul instructs that he must work so that he may have something to share with those in need.

God blesses us not only to meet our needs but more importantly to be a blessing to other people.

Jesus gave. On the cross he sacrificially gave his life as a ransom for many.

God blesses us with the expectation of making us vessels of blessing to the world. We should therefore be rich in good works.

In any challenging areas of your work, remember to involve God because he is at work in you and through you even now!

work

Leadership Motifs from the Bible

There is voluminous literature out there on leadership. Some of the leadership principles and values propagated in these books are Bible-based while others are research based. It is also worth noting that some of these values and principles on each side of the divide have points of convergence and points of divergence (this is for another day).

But the Bible provides rich metaphors that depict the nature of spiritual leadership that is to be exercised in and by the church. Believers in Christ are to embody these biblical values as foundational values for their actions, reactions, and convictions. In this short write-up let’s focus on two leadership motifs presented in the Bible: shepherd and servant.

#1 Shepherd

A leader is a shepherd. And as a shepherd, he has a flock under his care.

But more importantly, it should be noted that this is a communicable attribute from the divine. The shepherd motif presented in the Bible is derived from the character of God.

In the Bible God is revealed as the good Shepherd who leads, feeds, disciplines, and protects his flock (Ps. 23; 100:3; Isa. 10:1-11). Specifically, the sheep in Psalms 23 admits that his Shepherd: satisfies him-makes him lie down in green pastures and quiet waters, restores his soul, guides him, protects, comforts and disciplines him.

Jesus referred himself as the good shepherd (Jn. 10:11,14). He showed through his incarnate life that a good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. A good shepherd does not abandon the sheep and run away when he sees a wolf coming. He protects. He does not allow the flock to be scattered. He gathers and embraces. A good shepherd knows his sheep and his sheep knows him. He always leads from the front. He has good interest of the sheep in his heart.

By implication, those who serve on behalf of God, at any leadership position, are also referred to as shepherds (Jer. 23:1-4; Ezek. 34:2-10). They are supposed to shepherd after God; to shepherd in the likeness of God. Shepherds should not be preoccupied with taking care of their own (self) interests but the interests of the flock. Good shepherds strengthen the weak, heal the sick, bind the broken, bring back the straying sheep, seek the lost, and rule gently.

Jesus commissioned Peter, and by extension the other disciples and believers today, to feed his flock (Jn. 21:15-19). But it is a commission with a reward. Apostle Peter later wrote that when the Chief Shepherd appears, He shall reward those who have taken good care of his flock with unfading crown of glory (1 Pet. 5:2-4).  A good shepherd like Jesus leads, directs, nurtures, heals, and guards even sacrificing his life if need be for the sheep.

And so any leadership position should be seen as an opportunity to shepherd God’s people; “not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock (1 Pet. 5:3).

#2 Servant

A leader is a servant.

The servant motif traces way back to the OT whereby priests, prophets and kings were seen as servants of God. Like the nation of Israel, they were God’s vessels in which he accomplished  his divine purposes on earth.

In the New Testament Jesus referred himself as God’s servant. He came to serve, and to save the lost. He exemplified service by washing the feet of his disciples; performing a typical work of a slave (Lk. 22:27; Jn. 13:4-11).

Jesus exemplified humility, obedience, and servanthood through his incarnation “but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness “-the kenosis concept (Phil. 2:7-8).

Servanthood is an attitude of the heart. It takes humility, a selfless spirit and a transformed heart for one to be a servant. This attitude was in Christ. Therefore, Jesus becomes our example. He redefines what greatness is (Mk. 9:35).

Therefore those who lead should lead by serving as Jesus did.

Remember that leaders after God’s own heart are shepherds and servants.

 

How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?

trumpet

In the contemporary society Christians are faced with the genuine question of how to  live their lives and values in the marketplace, a place where the same values are challenged.

This was a similar concern to the exiles from the nation of Israel (after 586BC) when the temple was destroyed, the city of Jerusalem ruined and they had been taken away from the Promised Land to the land of Babylon.

While in a pagan country of Babylon, the people of God found it difficult to practice their faith because their identity which had been intertwined with the temple, Promised Land and the city of Jerusalem was now lost. In tears they remembered Zion and how their enemies rejoiced over their downfall.

Text: Psalms 137 (NIV)

1By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. 2 There on the poplars we hung our harps, 3 for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” 4 How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land? 5 If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget [its skill]. 6 May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not consider Jerusalem my highest joy. 7 Remember, O Lord, what the Edomites did on the day Jerusalem fell.”Tear it down,” they cried, “tear it down to its foundations!” 8 O Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy is he who repays you for what you have done to us 9 he who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.

Like the exiles, Christians today live in a world that is similarly an exile (Jn. 15:17; 17:14). This world is a strange land. Strange in the sense that our faith is questioned, our values ridiculed, and our way of life labeled absurd. But while in this world how can we sing the Lord’s song/how can we declare the Excellencies of God. Here are some few possible ways.

We can declare God’s Excellencies (in a strange land) with our:

  1. Skills, gifts and profession (V. 5) – God has gifted us with different skill, talents, professions, and gifts. He expects us to use it for the glorification of his name. The exiles, through their musical skill in singing and playing musical instruments, had an awesome opportunity to witness God’s goodness to their captors. But they “hung their harps” on the poplars.

Every believer has been blessed with talents and spiritual gift(s), to both edify the church and declare God’s praises among the nations. Gladly, these gifts, talents, profession and abilities puts us in diverse and unique contexts that we can turn into opportunities of displaying the excellencies of God in how we do things. Remember your profession is your pulpit and your place of work is your battlefield.

We can make our gifts, talents and careers tools for service and not idols of worship or means of selfish gains. For God has made it possible that what we do can also be done for the magnification of his name, (Col. 3:17).

  1. Lips– The exiles had a good opportunity to declare with their mouths the goodness and the glory of YHWH. Metaphorically, in the strange, my tongue should not “cling to the roof of my mouth” (v6). We declare what we uphold as noble, praiseworthy and lovely. Our identity as children of God comes with a responsibility to make Him known to the nations. Therefore having tasted of the goodness of the Lord, we ought invite others to come to the living waters where they can eat and drink without money and without cost (Isa. 55:1-2).

We definitely have a story to tell. The story of God’s unconditional love upon us; stories of how our lives have been changed by the gospel. We certainly have a story of God’s goodness ,upon our lives, written by God’s ink of faithfulness. We should not commit the sin of silence. Jeremiah confessed that God’s word in him burned like fire, (Jer. 20:9) that he couldn’t remain silent. Like David we need to constantly pray to God and say, “O, Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise” (Ps. 51:15).

  1. Singing– I understand many of us, including me, are not gifted singers. But God calls each creature to sing praises to Him. There is something about singing that connects to every heart. Israel’s captors enjoyed the songs of Zion and so they demanded, “sing us one of the songs of Zion”.

Although the songs of Zion were meant to be sang to the Lord Almighty alone (and not men) and in Jerusalem, the exiles should have seized the opportunity to let their tormentors hear the theology/teachings of their songs. From time to time God will put a new song in your mouth, don’t hesitate to sing it out for the world know!

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  1. Lives– We have an opportunity to make our lives a testament/demonstration that God is alive and actively involved in human story. The four young men in Daniel 1, who were part of the exiles, were determined to declare the faithfulness of God in how they live in a foreign land. Nebuchadnezzar could not even alter their life-values.                                                                                                                                     What is the hope of humanity, that is blinded by Satan, if they cannot see God in us?Living for God wherever we are or wherever we go has been made possible by the indwelling power of Holy Spirit in us.

Our day-day lives present us with tremendous opportunities to demonstrate that God’s values are livable.

Christ is greater than a witchdoctor

“We provide solution to family disputes, businesses experiencing perennial loses, debts, we help attract customers, manipulate court decisions, win elections, sort out infertility issues (to both men and women, protect marriages, we grant assurance to win an interview, we bring back former lovers …”.  These are not my words but promises from witchdoctors in African societies. I regularly see their small posters detailing a summary of what they do, their contacts and where they come from. I have not known the connection between what they do and where they come from, but it seems every ‘able’ witchdoctor wants to be associated with Tanzania, Kitui and Pwani.

Witchdoctors would promise to literally fix anything. No witchdoctor admits a failure, weakness, or inability. Ironically the quality of life they live is deplorable; it is irreconcilable to the powers they profess to have for many of them live in abject poverty. Sometimes I think: if they can fix the problems they claim why don’t they first start fixing their own? But since I see many of their posters in many towns, it seems their business is booming. This is a critical issue in an African context. For a person who believes in Jesus in such a context or formerly from such cultural context how can one wholly trust in Jesus alone as the One who is able and above every circumstance we go through.

First the very key issue here that has to be established is the concept of God. We believe in God (as revealed through Jesus Christ) who overrules all. He rules the heavens and rules the affairs of the nations (Ps 22:28; 103:19, Dan 4:34-35, Col 1:17). He is all-powerful and all-knowing. His power cannot and can never ever be compared to all a witchdoctor claims to do. God’s power overrules all with no comparison. At the same time he is God who is with us. He not only knows what we need but he also cares. And therefore we have no reason to worry (Ex 3:7; Matt 6:26-33; 10:29-31).

Secondly is the believers trust in God and His written word. This is important because we only take our burdens to the one we trust. Apostle Paul writes: And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”  Phil 4:19. God in his providence is able to meet literally all your needs and not just your spiritual needs. And we should put our whole trust in Him. He may not do it the way others promise to do, but His actions toward us, as his children, are motivated by his love for us. Therefore every aspect of a Christian should be totally surrendered to God who is over all things that happen not only in heaven, on earth but also in our small worlds/personal lives.

Thirdly, witchcraft is part of the powers that Jesus Christ has defeated. We are not unaware of the evil one and his schemes (2 Cor 2:11); its evil powers and those who use these powers to manipulate and use falsehood for their selfish gains. They are part of the principalities, authorities and spiritual forces of this dark world which we should wage war against. Like the way the author of Hebrews would put it- Jesus is superior to all. The promises of men to control human affairs are empty. Jesus’ power, care, loves and supremacy in all things and in what we go through is incomparable to what the evil world promise.