Category Archives: Manna for Today

Singular Focus in Life

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Life presents us an opportunity to pursue many things; but what is that one overarching thing that defines all that we pursue?

This attitude, of pursuing one thing over others, is explicit in the lives of prominent figures in the Bible. They had one chief and principal thing that they pursued wholeheartedly. This helped focus their attention, and energies to a productive end. Briefly, let’s look at biblical examples in which we see prominent figures who had singular focus/desire in life and ministry.

  1. Joshua: 15 “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (Josh. 24:15).

In a generation that was experiencing a growing apostasy, Joshua desired to serve the Lord despite the strong opposition around him.

2. David: “One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple” (Ps. 27:4).

David, desired, above all, to seek the Lord…and to experience the beauty and the tender care under God’s wings. His desire was a life-long desire; he will follow it through till the end of his life. Also, he commmitedly seeks what he has asked of the Lord. Did he fulfill this desire at the end of his life? A resounding yes, Acts 13:36 records that after David had served God’s purpose in his generation he rested with his forefathers.

3. Solomon: (when given the opportunity by God to ask whatever thing he needed): “So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?” (1 Kings 3:9).

This man asked God to give him wisdom (a wise and discerning heart to be able to administer justice). In response, God gave him wisdom but also in addition gave him all the other things he did not  ask for like wealth, and long life. Solomon’s priorities at least at this early stage of his life were focused. He asked God for ONE thing.

4. Agur son of Jakeh: 7 “Two things I ask of you, O Lord; do not refuse me before I die: 8 Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.  9 Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God (Prov. 30:7-9).

This little known man of the Bible asked of God two things. His focused desires reveal that he longed for contentment, truthfulness, and  honoring of God.

5. Jesus: 34 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work (John 4:34).

Our Lord, talked of accomplishing the will of God as his “food” (a daily necessity)

Also, Jesus instructed, 33 “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matt. 6:33-34).

We know Jesus accomplished his singular focus, when at the cross he said, “it is finished”.

6. The merchant in the parable of Jesus: 45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it” (Matt. 13:45-46).

Why this the merchant in the parable sell EVERYTHING just to buy ONE thing? It is because the ONE thing he had found was of GREATER value than EVERYTHING he had.

7. Martha (the one thing that is needed): 41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42).

One thing is needed, and that is what Martha chose; something that cannot be taken away from her! For Martha, it was to be with Jesus, to seat under the counsel of Jesus.

8. Paul: “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead (Phil. 3:10-11).

Paul’s desired to “know Christ”; to know how wide, and long and high and deep is the love of Christ. Paul achieved his purpose because at the end of his life he was able to confidently declare, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith…” (2 Tim 4:7).

These desires consumed the lives of these key characters in the Bible. Notably, they desired what ultimately brings true joy and contentment. These men desired what counts eternally. Why is it important to have a singular desire/focus: we end up seeking what we desire, “one thing I have desired; that I will seek after”;  singular focus in life leads to simplification of life; it focuses our energies and pursuits; when we have our desires defined it is easy to turn them into prayers. Life is a process of simplification…

Read Satan’s thesis statement and Jesus’ Offer

Read- One more night with the frogs

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Living in Anticipation of the Lord’s Return

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The doctrine of eschatology (end times) is broadly taught in the Bible. Central to this teaching is the return of Jesus Christ for his church. Believers are not ignorant of the things that will happen in the future because the Bible talks of signs, promises, and warnings concerning the return of Jesus Christ. Through the Bible, God’s eternal plan into the future has been revealed. Jesus not only gave us the promise to return but he also gave us the signs that will precede his return and the warnings that we should beware of.

Promises:

  • Jesus promised to come back soon (Acts 1:11; 1 Thess. 4:16; Rev. 1:7; Rev. 22:20).
  • He went to prepare a place for believers (Jn. 14:3). A place where evil and suffering will be no more. A city where there shall be no more Satan, death, tears, pain, and imperfections; for the former order of things will have passed and the new come. In this city, believers will be in the very presence of God.
  • These promises give believers/church a solid hope.
  • During his second coming the righteous will be vindicated and the wicked condemned.

Do you BELIEVE in these promises?

Signs that will precede Christ’s return:

  • Preaching of the gospel to all nations (Mk. 13:10; Matt. 24:14).
  • Great tribulation (Mk. 13:7-8, 19-20).
  • False prophets performing signs and wonders (Mk. 13:22),
  • Signs in the heavens (Mk. 13:24-25).
  • The coming of the man of sin/antichrist and the rebellion (Rev. 13; 1 Jn. 2:18).
  • The salvation of Israel in the future (Rom. 11:12; Rom. 11:25-26).

Warnings:

  • Although Jesus promised to return, he did not indicate the time of his coming. Well, is this problematic? Jesus warned that the day will come like a thief, he will come at an hour you do not expect him (Matt. 24:44; 2 Pet. 3:10). Since he did not state the exact time, is it logical to say that he has delayed? And also, if he said he would come in two or a hundred year’s time, imagine what we would be doing in the meantime.
  • Also the Bible warns of the coming judgment- the day of the Lord will bring vindication to the righteous and condemnation to the wicked. In the day of the Lord, people will be held accountable for their actions and words.

Because of Jesus’ promise, revelations, and forewarnings, WE HAVE HOPE– specifically, the hope that Christ will soon return: the blessed hope- the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13).

This hope is not a passive hope. It is a hope that should accomplish something in us. This hope should transform the way we live, think, work, handle relationships, and circumstances.

2 Peter 3:11-15 reminds us that that we ought to be doing something in anticipation of the Lord’s return. The knowledge of these promises and warnings should presently shape our lives.

How should we live NOW in light of this hope of the second coming of Jesus?

  1. Live a Holy life– Longing for Christ’s glorious appearance should cause us to be holy.

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3 Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure (1Jn. 3:2-3).

The promise that Jesus will return should cause us to desire to be holy; in other words, to be like Christ. This hope should produce the fruit of righteousness in us. This blessed hope should make our lives free from any entanglement of sin.

This hope brings alongside the manifestation of God’s grace to all men. It teaches us “to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we await for the blessed hope- the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ (Titus 2:12-13).

Notably, this hope should change our actions and attitudes in a way that reflects a holy character.

The more we are unholy the more we will be unprepared for his coming.

The fact that Christ will return anytime should make us purify ourselves from sin, grudges, unforgiveness, and to be presentable before God as holy and blameless.

  1. Live as Strangers in this World

Living with an eternal perspective means living in this world as strangers, pilgrims, and sojourners.

Jesus revealed to us our true identity. We are God’s children, and citizens of heaven but temporarily in a foreign land (Phil. 3:20). As God’s children and ambassadors we are in the world but not of the world. Eternal perspective will remind us not love the world or follow its patterns.

We explicitly see this eternal perspective in the lives of Israel’s patriarchs. We are told, Abraham and the other patriarchs, because of eternal perspective, lived “like a stranger in a foreign country”. They lived in tents (temporary dwelling). Why? For these patriarchs were “looking forward to the city whose foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Heb. 11:10).

Life in this world, to a believer, should be lived as an exile. Eternal perspective should make us not to hold the things of this world dearly to our hearts. The world and the things therein are passing. Human life in this world is brief and fleeting. We are aliens in a foreign land. For international students here today, the KPP’s, Alien Cards, and Passports we carry around remind us of our temporary nature of our residence. Believers in Christ are equally strangers in this world.

As strangers in a foreign land we are called to manifest kingdom values. Life in this foreign land, as foreign people should cause us to pray and long for the full manifestation of his kingdom.

  1. Be Patient

Living as aliens in a strange world comes with challenges. Faithful living of our hope brings rejection, persecution, and sorrow. Expectedly, our hope demands that we swim upstream; that is, living in a way that stands in opposition to the values that a fallen world upholds.

When we face such opposition, we should remember the world of Paul. “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2Cor. 4:16-18).

Are you tempted to be impatient in you walk with God?  Factually, the challenges we face are: “light and momentary” and achieves for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. The glories of heaven far outweigh our temporary challenges. We, therefore, should be patient in tribulations.

In our patience, we should also continually express our longing for the Lord’s return: “our Lord, Come!” (Maranatha) 1 Cor. 16:22); “Amen, come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20).

  1. Walk not by Sight but by Faith

Expectation of Christ’s return should cause us to live by faith. The ancients were commended not based on what they were or what they possessed but for their faith in God. We know that without faith it is impossible to please God.

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2Cor. 4:18).

We should keep our hope by fixing our eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen. As a matter of fact, not all reality is seen. If you only live for what is seen then you are acutely limited in your perspective.

Living in light of eternity involves keeping in step with the Spirit; living under the guidance of the Spirit.

Eternal perspective should enable us to store our riches in heaven rather than on earth (Matt. 6:20).

It takes faith to live as a foreigner in the world.

  1. Serve the Lord with Passion

Eternal perspective should lead us to SERVE God diligently, and with excellence; for we know our service and faithfulness will be rewarded. Such a perspective will make us serve without grumbling or seek praises from men. This eternal perspective certainly changes our perspectives on money, people, career, and work.

The hope of Christ’s return gives us the wisdom to know that we should work while it is still daytime for night is coming when there will be no opportunity to work. It teaches to maximize on every opportunity to do good to all people. If you truly have this hope it will make you invest your time in what counts eternally.

On the other hand, lack of eternal perspective makes us to live life centered on “here and now”. Such a perspective blinds us to the realities of tomorrow.

Significantly, living in light of eternity will make us WIN SOULS for Christ. Also, this hope will make us realign our purposes with God’s purposes.

  1. Be Watchful

Sometimes when we think about Christ’s return the question that comes straight to our minds is “when?” I.e. when will Christ return? But every time Jesus was asked this question, he redirected it because the question misses the point. The main point/question is: how can I live now in light of Christ’s promise to return? (Ref. Acts 1:6-8).

Knowing that Christ will return in an unknown hour should cause us to live watchfully and prayerfully.

Be on guard! Be alert! (Matt 24:42-44; Mk. 13:32-36; 25:1-13).

Watch your way of life, your testimony, and your doctrine. Watch against false teachers/preachers.

“Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back — whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. 36 If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. 37 What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!'” (Mark 13:35-37).

Finally…

Has the hope of Christ’s return transformed the way you live your life here on earth?

Interestingly, it is said that what we think about heaven determines what we think about the present. C.S. Lewis once said, “it is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this one.”

So, when Christ returns will you be ready? Will our garment be clean? Will you wish that certain priorities in your life had changed? I want to close by saying, you have the opportunity now to live in light of the hope that Christ will return.

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Is Christ’s Blood Thicker than Water?

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We live in a world that is deeply divided. A world that is divided along tribal, social, cultural, economic, religious, denominational, and political lines. And as a matter of fact, there are many things that divide than unite us. The church on the other hand is neither spared in this mix; for its membership constitutes people from all these backgrounds. What is the hope of unity in such diversity?

In Ephesians 2:11-22, Paul’s audience faced a similar situation when background differences between Gentile and Jewish believers threatened their unity of faith in the body of Christ. Differences, prejudices, conflicts, biases, and divisions were a deep reality among them. With these existential problems, one might rightly ask, ‘What then did the cross or blood of Christ achieve?’

Ephesians letter is without doubt one of Paul’s most elegant letters. It was written to: strengthen believers in the faith by reminding them of their position in Christ, highlight what the death of Christ achieved for believers, and, to show the purpose of the church (Ch.1-3).  The second section of the epistle (Ch. 4-6) deals with ethical implications from the preceding teachings. In the immediate context, Paul discusses spiritual blessings in Christ (Ch.1) and the fact that believers have been made alive in Christ (first part of chapter 2).

In chapter 2:11-22 Paul presents the power of the cross as the hope of unity and reconciliation.

In a divided world, God is on a mission to bring peace where there is enmity; love where there’s hatred; and, unity where there’s division. He is on a mission to both reconcile humanity to Himself, and humanity to each other.

He has done this by:

  1. Giving us a new identity (vv.11-13)- Believers in Christ are given a new and higher identity- that of a sons/daughters in God’s family. This identity does not depend on external distinctions based on what God has done in us.

In verse 11-13, Apostle Paul reminds the Gentile believers who they were formerly (before they came to Christ). Jews and Gentiles had deeply formed biases and prejudices against each other: Gentiles were referred to as “uncircumcised” by “the circumcision” group (Jews). Jews boasted of circumcision not as some African men do (as a sign to mark transition from childhood to adulthood) but as a key sign of God’s covenanted people. This pride highlighted their special status before God in a way that the Gentiles were not.

It is worth noting here that the imperative “remember” is the only imperative in chapter 1-3. Paul wanted his listeners to be continually aware of the change that has been brought about by their union with Christ. This act of remembrance will further cause them to be thankful for what God has done.

And so formerly, the Gentiles were (verse 12):

  • Separated from Christ– They worshiped idols and had no knowledge of Christ.
  • Excluded from the citizenship in Israel– Israel was God’s nation in a way that was not true of any Gentile nation.
  • Foreigners to the covenants of the promise– God did not make any covenants with any Gentile nation but only with the Jews. Interestingly, many of the Pharisees would pray daily, “O God, I give thanks that I am a Jew, not a Gentile.”
  • Without hope– It is said that great hopelessness covered the ancient world. Philosophies were empty, traditions were disappearing, and religions were powerless to help men face either life or death. They literally had no hope to hold on to (1 Thess. 4:13).
  • Without God in the world– Although they had many gods as Paul noted in Athens (Acts 17:16-23), they in their pagan religiosity did not know the true God, YHWH.

But all these changed! They were no longer what they used to be. This is introduced by the contrast “but” in verse 13. They were “far away” but have been brought “near” through “the blood of Christ”. This is what makes all the difference! Now, because of the new identity, the blood of Christ is thicker than water (than former external identities/distinctions). They now belong to a spiritual family.

It is the blood of Christ that made the Gentiles citizens partakers of the covenants of the promise. It is through the blood of Christ that those who had no God encountered God and those without hope found hope. To Paul, this was worth remembering.

In a nation plagued by divisions, tribalism, and strong political inclinations along tribal lines, how can we apply this understanding?

Undeniably, our tribes give us our foundational identities as Kamba’s, Kalenjins, Luo’s Kikuyu’s etc. On the other hand our union with Christ supplies us with a new identity as sons/daughters of God. How do you handle these two identities? Do they conflict each other?

To be specific, How do you identify yourself? Are you a Luo/Kalenjin/Kamba/Kikuyu Christian or are you a Christian Kalenjin/Kamba/Kikuyu? If the first be the case then water is still thicker than Christ’s blood.

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If the second is the case then, Christ’s blood has become thicker than water.

The new identity that Christ gives is a higher and brings unity across tribal distinctions. Obviously, Jesus does not obliterate our former identities but provides a higher and superior identity. When we came to Christ for salvation, he made us a new creation. He gave us a new and transformed identity that gives us new lenses of seeing and engaging the ‘other’. With this transformed view, we are able to see more than a tribe/political affiliation in a person. It makes us see God’s image in THEM. It makes us see external identities not as primary but as secondary. It makes it easy for one to bless, love, talk to, pray, and to vote for a candidate from another tribe…

The solution to our tribal politics as Christians is not in refraining ourselves from discussing politics but in rising up beyond tribal categories by living out our new identity in Christ that sees all people through God’s lenses.

  1. Making Christ our peace (vv.14-15a)- Our oneness as God’s people has been made possible by Jesus Christ, our peace. Through him, walls of hostilities fall; or must fall. Also, as our model, Jesus unites us to God and to one another.

In Christ, the vocabulary of circumcised and uncircumcised ceases. It is now possible for “THEM” to be “US” because of Christ “OUR” peace.

 In order to bring this unity Christ was able to:

A. Make the two one– Practically, how can two become one? Mathematically it can only happen by subtraction; but in Christ two can become one without subtraction. In God’s economy, two can become one through the Person of Christ. The separation between Gentiles and God and between Gentiles and Jews required peace. And Jesus Christ became that peace- the one who makes us one with God, and with one another. Inviting and involving Christ among warring parties will definitely offer a lifeline of peace and hope.

Unity is an important component in our families, relationships, churches and by extension the nation. As individuals and corporately as a church, we have a solution to the challenges Kenya and Africa is facing. The church is not part of the problem but part of the solution because of the message and mission of reconciliation that Christ has entrusted the church to bring to the world (2 Cor. 5:16-21). Therefore be a peacemaker and an ambassador of reconciliation within your social networks.

B.  Destroy the barrier/the dividing wall of hostility– Christ was able to do this through his body when he died on the cross for all people.

The “wall” here can refer to the partition that hindered Gentiles from going to the holy place in the temple. It could also be referring to the curtain in the temple that separated the holy place from the holy of hollies. Either way, the dividing wall has been broken.

By implication, there is literally nothing that can once again separate believers from all backgrounds based on race, culture or whichever background. All in Christ have been made one. In addition, Christ abolished the law with its commandments and regulations. As a result, believers are now not under the law but under grace. Barriers divide and hinder unity; they create unhealthy distinctions of “us” versus “them” therefore they must be destroyed.

What barriers of hostilities have we possibly erected as individual believers or as a church? Jesus is the wall-crusher and chain breaker of such obstacles! Demolishing of barriers that separate is necessary for peace to prevail in our relationships.

In your relationships, what are some of the issues that create disunity and strife that God is calling you today to work on?

He reconciles us with the purpose of:

  1. Forming a New Community (vv. 15b-17)- Reconciliation through the cross, is for the purpose of creating one man/one people/one body- the church. The church is the place where unity and diversity is both experienced and celebrated! The church is the convergent point of peoples from all backgrounds, tribes, languages, nations.

Reconciliation was achieved through the cross- where the hostilities, hatred and enmity were nailed. Therefore the cross of Christ is a unique sign of reconciliation.

What comes to your mind when you see the cross? Is it a sign of shame, failure, defeat or a sign victory and power? Apostle Paul wrote to the church of Corinth, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (1 Cor. 1:18). The cross is the power of God. It is the hope that churches and warring communities can be reconciled.

Today, God’s reconciling power is at work in the church and through believers. God’s purpose of forming a new community/church is not in futility because Apostle John in his vision observed, “After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no-one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb…” (Rev 7:9).

  1. Providing Access for all to the Father (vv. 18-22) – Through Christ, humanity is granted access to the Father by one Spirit. Former enemies are now considered sons/daughters in God’s household.

Both Jews and Gentiles now have access to God through Jesus Christ, by one Spirit. This access comes as a result of the destruction of the former walls of hostility.

The Gentiles are no longer foreigners and aliens but are fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household.

In the OT the only division in the temple was between priests and laity (1 Kings 8:41-43), but by Paul’s day architectural barriers had been introduced for non-Jews and for women. Paul claims that these barriers are destroyed in God’s spiritual temple.

The role of Jesus in the access is vital. God’s people now are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises up to become a holy temple/dwelling place in which God lives by his Spirit.

The power of the cross to bring reconciliation in our relationships is available to every believer. The message that transforms and brings together individuals, families, churches and society is available to every believer in Christ. Therefore, be reconcilers after Christ in a world full of divisions, separation, and conflicts.

Today, as we generously give toward AICMD mission work and ministries, we are reminded that our new identity and unity as believers in Christ should cause us to bring the transforming message of reconciliation to the entire world. For God is making a people for himself from every nation, people and language.

God is calling us to cross frontiers and break barriers in order to bring blessings to the end of the earth. Why support mission work to THEM? It should be because through OUR gift Spirit’s call will enable THEM become US.

I will finish where I started: Is Christ’s blood thicker than water? (Kiswahili: Je Damu ya Yesu ni Nzito Kuliko Maji? Je Uhusiano wa kiKristo ni muhimu kuliko wa kibinadamu?). Is our relationship and identity through the blood of Christ deeper and trustworthy compared to our human and external identities? It should be so; because our new birth is more important and higher than our natural birth.

Christ’s blood is and should always be thicker and deeper than water. #Baraka

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Also read our former helpless and hopeless state and what God did to provide a divine solution.

THE LORD GOD IS MY EVERYTHING- Psalm 23

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Psalm 23 is a praise song of David to Yahweh over His unfailing love and kindness. In this short Psalm, David (the sheep) relates Yahweh’s (the Shepherd) character to his responses.  The psalmist bases his confidence and responses to his situations on the unchanging character of God.  Have a look:

Verse 1, 2:He makes me lie down in green pastures,” for He is JEHOVAH-ROHI (Jn. 6:39). He is not afraid because God will protect. Jehovah Rohi is His name.

Verse 1: I shall not be in want,” because God is JEHOVAH-JIREH (Gen. 22:14); He will therefore provide.

Verse 2:  “He leads me beside quiet waters,” for He is JEHOVAH-SHALOM (Judges 6:24). The Lord our peace.

Verse 3:He restores my soul” for He is JEHOVAH-ROPHECHA (Ex. 15:26). The Lord who heals us from our diseases.

Verse 3: He guides me “in the paths of righteousness” because He is JEHOVAH-TZIDKENU (Jer. 23:6). He is Himself my righteousness, and I am righteous in Him (Jer. 33:16).

Verse 4: Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death… “for you are with me,” for He is JEHOVAH-SHAMMAH (Ezk. 48:35). The Lord is there.

Verse 5:  “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies,” for He is JEHOVAH_NISSI (Exo. 17:15). He is my banner of victory. He will fight for me, as I feast.

Verse 5:  “You anointed my head with oil,” because He is JEHOVVAH-MEKADDESCHEM (Ex. 31:13). The Lord who sanctifies me (who makes me holy).

Lastly, because of the above attributes of God, the psalmist, in confidence, writes,

Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (verse 6).

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Nature of God’s Call and Promises

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The Bible records several instances of God calling people to different tasks. For example, God called Moses to deliver Israelites to the promised land; he called Nehemiah to rebuild broken walls and lives in the postexhilic Israel. In the New Testament, Jesus called his disciples to be with him and to empower them for ministry.

In Genesis 12 God initiates a new thing for humanity after the self-exalting episode of humanity in Genesis 11. He calls Abraham to be an agent of blessing to the nations.

In verse 1-3 two imperatives are given by God to Abraham, each with a promise:

  • Leave your country… go to the land…
  • Be a blessing, (you will be a blessing), v2.

God promises Abraham three things if he would respond by obedience:

  • A great nation
  • Blessing – a channel of blessing to the families of the earth.
  • Great name

These three would enable him to be a blessing.

Verse 4-9 records Abraham’s obedience. How did he obey?

  • He left (v4)- Any leaving is not easy. Abraham had to leave his country, his people, and his father’s household but he was told nothing about the land in which he must go. This required faith.
  • He was a blessing (v5-9)- This isn’t easy because naturally we are selfish. Abraham’s call was unique, it was a call: beyond oneself, one’s horizons, one’s people’s and nation to be a blessing to other nations. Undoubtedly, to be a blessing demands a change of heart.

In accomplishing His agenda in our world today, God puts different callings, passions, and visions in us. He calls us so that he can prepare us for what he wants us to accomplish with Him in bringing blessings to many. And so he takes us on a journey that every step/experience counts.  He takes us into a process of becoming….

When God call us to a difficult assignments three things are needed (for the going to happen):

  • Faith God calls us to walk by faith and not by sight. Walking by faith involves walking through unfamiliar paths with confidence on the One who has called us. There is no promise that things will be easy after a call; but God promises his sustenance and presence. In the journey God will teach you to take faith steps. In such cases, be open for God to guide you and renovate your heart. God wants us to ultimately trust him. Also, faith is necessary to be able to believe in God’s promises. Later in Hebrews 11, Abraham is reckoned as a hero of faith.
  • Obedience– God requires that we fully obey him no matter what. At some point in life you have to choose which voice to yield to: either God’s voice or voices of men. Abraham obeyed.
  • Patience– Fulfillment of God’s promises may take time, we need to patiently wait. God does not promise a miracle in every obstacle you face on your way; but he promises his grace is sufficient. He does not promise that people will not discourage you or that Satan will not tempt you to despair and quit; but he promises to strengthen you as you hope in him. Therefore be patient in every circumstance and keep focus on God who is able accomplish what he has started in you.                  Who knows perhaps through your faith, obedience, and patience many people/families of the earth will be blessed!
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The Role of Holy Spirit in the Spiritual Formation of a believer-  

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Spiritual formation is, “the ongoing process of the triune God transforming the believers and character toward the life and character of Jesus Christ- accomplished by the ministry of the Spirit in the context of biblical community” (Pettit, Foundations of Spiritual Formation, 24).

Spiritual formation process is a synergy of the divine initiative and our human response (Phil 2:12-13; 1 Thess. 5:23). It involves developing right relationship of love with God (vertical relationship) and with fellow men (horizontal relationship).

God is actively involved in bringing a sinner to Christ and consequently in the spiritual formation (sanctification process) of the infant Christian as s/he progresses to maturity in Christ.

The role of the third Person of the Trinity (Holy Spirit) in the spiritual growth of a believer is paramount.

Here are ways in which the Holy Spirit is involved in the Spiritual formation in the life of a believer:  

  1. He convicts the world of sin, righteousness and judgment. He brings sinners to salvation. So he is involved in the conversion/turning to God experience.
  2. He indwells believers to bring an inward-out change.
  3. He illuminates God’s truth/mysteries (Jn. 14:26) for understanding.
  4. He is the power that enables believers to bear witness (Jn. 15:26; Acts 1:8; Rom 8:26).
  5. He intercedes for believers (high priest role) in accordance with God’s will (Rom. 8:26-27).
  6. He distributes gifts to believers as he wills for the edification of the church (1 Cor. 12:11). The church is not only the people of God, and the body of Christ, but also the temple of the Holy Spirit.
  7. He is deeply grieved by sin in the lives of Christians (Eph. 4:30).
  8. The Spirit applies redemption to us (Jn. 14:26; 16:7).
  9. The Holy Spirit gives us regeneration or new spiritual life (Jn. 3:5-8). He is the “giver of life”; all living creatures are recipients of the life-giving principle of the Spirit of God.
  10. He sanctifies us (Rom. 8:13; 15:16; 1 Pet. 1:2). He is the source of holiness.
  11. He empowers believers for service (Acts 1:8; 1 Cor. 12:7-11).
  12. He produces in us the fruit of Holy Spirit (Gal 5:22-23); that are signs of sanctification.
  13. He provides spiritual guidance to believers in the ways they should go (Acts 15:28).

Read here for other ways God guides believers.

Also, Hindrances to hearing God’s guidance.

Questions to ponder:

  • Spiritual formation process is a synergy of the divine initiative and our human response (Phil 2:12-13). What are some of the steps we can deliberately take to achieve spiritual maturity. What is the believer’s role in spiritual formation?
  • Do believers in Christ make deliberate efforts to grow spiritually?
  • Formation is the primary task of the church. Do you think the church is faithfully discharging this mandate?

Heroes of Faith- Gideon

 

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The book of Judges records Israel’s continuous apostasy (state of ungodliness) and struggles to obey and follow God’s ways.

In this period, the nation of Israel repeatedly went through a four-step cycle:  Rebellion/Sin-Retribution/Servitude- Repentance/Sorrow and then Restoration/Salvation. In the first stage of the cycle Israelites forsook God, sinned and followed Baal. In the second stage, God punished them for their sin (by sending enemies, drought, diseases). Then in the next step they suffered greatly; and when they cried to God in repentance, God listened and answer them by sending a judge/deliverer to bring them salvation and restore them to prosperity path. The appointment of Gideon, as a judge to Israel, was a response to Israel’s repentance after a prolonged impoverishment and suffering in the hands of their Midianite enemies.

The call, and faith of Gideon is an encouragement today as we seek to be used of God.

Read here for what heroes are known for. 

Gleanings from the Calling and Mission of Gideon:

  1. God in His wisdom chooses to use weak vessels to display His strength

When we read of Gideon in Hebrews 11 we are tempted to think that Gideon began as a hero of faith. This is untrue. When God called Gideon he was a man full of weaknesses and inadequacies. He was not a superhero but a very ordinary man. He struggled to believe that God could use him and his background to accomplish his purposes.

But Lord,” Gideon asked, “how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!” (Judges 6:15).

According to Gideon, God’s calling was beyond his ability; in fact, in his self-assessment he claims not to have influence over his family, leave alone mobilizing the entire tribe.

God often chooses the “weak of this world” to accomplish great things for his glory (1 Cor. 1:26-29). Gideon was a man who frequently needed signs and assurances from God in order to be firm. But God saw potential in him and called him a man of valor/mighty warrior (Jdg.6:12).

He chose Gideon and gave him His promise- “The Lord said to him, ‘I will be with you. And you will destroy the Midianites as if you were fighting against one man” (Jdg. 6:16).

He chose Gideon and empowered him with His Spirit (Jdg. 6:34). Through this Gideon was helped to overcome his fears and wavering faith. God’s Spirit worked on him and changed him to bring about the needed courage and faith.

This is an encouragement for us not to despise our small beginnings because through it  what God is able to achieve something bigger and greater.

Your inadequacies cannot limit God from using you for his noble purposes. An ungodly life is the only hindrance that can make God’s power and life not flow through us.

What are those things that make you feel inadequate? Could it be age (as it was to Jeremiah), eloquence (Moses)… Remember He is God who makes his power manifest in weakness (2 Cor. 12:10). Trust in his power.

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  1. God does not need numbers to accomplish his purposes, (Jdgs 8:1-10)-

In the fight against Midianites and its coalitions, Gideon marshaled his troops and they numbered 32,000 in total against a total of 135,000 Midianite soldiers (Jdg. 8:10). You don’t need to be a military expert to know that there was a colossal problem here. Humanly speaking warfare, like politics, is a game of numbers and so Gideon needed to up his game. But instead of increasing the numbers God told Gideon to downsize it!

The first elimination method employed was that all that tremble with fear should go back home. A total of 22,000 men left. Certainly, the journey is not for the fainthearted.

Mosaic Law offered military exemptions for several classes of people- including those who had just build a home, who had just planted a vineyard and have not enjoyed its fruit, those engaged to be married, and the fainthearted (Deut. 20:5-8).

Only ten thousand recruits remained. But in God’s terms they were still many.

In the second round of elimination, they were taken down to the river. And Gideon was to separate those who lapped the water with their tongues and those who knelt down to drink. Three hundred men lapped water with their hands. All the rest got down on their knees to drink.

The Lord approved the 300 men that lapped the water with their hands to be enlisted for the battle. The rest were summarily dismissed to return home. Thinning of his army needed faith and courage.

It was now 300 vs. 135,000men. The numbers were not adding up. Gideon might have feared and so needed some encouragement. The Lord told him to visit the enemies’ camp secretly at night. There he found people conversing about a dream that the interpretation was to the effect that the Lord had handed over Midian to Gideon. This bolstered his strength and caused him to worship God (Jdg. 7:15).

In a quick and decisive victory, the 300 men routed Israel’s enemies because God fought for them. The Lord confused and caused Israel’s enemies to turn against each other with their swords.

So what?

Gideon’s story shows that God is not limited by numbers. God can wage his battles and win. Moses had assured the Jews that if they obey the Lord, one soldier could chase a thousand or two soldiers would “put ten thousand to flight” (Deut. 32:30). In this regard, all that Gideon needed was 27 soldiers to defeat the whole Midianite army of 135,000 men, but God gave him 300.

In history, God has always worked with few people to accomplish great things… Therefore it is not about what you have or don’t have but about what God can do with the small you have or even don’t have.

For us, it is possible to deceptively think that when I have more of this and that I will be able to be an effective/successful servant or make a greater impact for God-we think, when I have a six-figure bank statement, good communication skills, another degree, or more experience. Gideon did not need additional army because when we are in God’s side we certainly win. God’s presence is what we need.

Again, to be able to accomplish God’s mission God’s way some downsizing is necessary. What are the things (in your life) that you need to downsize today?

Our faith in God wavers when we start comparing God with our circumstance/resources we have (it often looks intimidating: 300 vs 135,000). Rather, we need to believe. Mathematically speaking things may not add up in your case but wait on God to solve the equation for you. Gideon learned that one with God is majority. Gideon believed and that is why he is listed among the heroes of faith. He believed in God who can turn impossibilities to possibilities.

Whenever God call us to task that we think is beyond us, we must be careful to look to God and not on ourselves. God does not need numbers because nothing is impossible with God. God asked Abraham, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (Gen. 18:14); “for nothing shall be impossible with God,” (Lk. 1:37). Job discovered that God could do everything (Job 42:2); Jeremiah admitted that there’s nothing too hard for God (Jer. 32:17). Jesus told his disciples “with God all things are possible” (Matt.19:26).

  1. God wants us to give Him glory in all things-

God pointed out to Gideon that he had too many men for God to deliver Midian into his hands. God downsized Gideon’s army so that through what is achieved, God is glorified. Not one would boastfully say, ‘my strength/hand/skill/connection/weapon saved me’. But that they would exclaim, ‘the Lord has done it!’

God handed over them victory without much struggle. The Israel’s force only blew horns, broke jars, and shouted causing the enemy to kill each other in their confusion. Through reduction of Gideon’s army, God’s role in the victory became clear with only 300 men.

The war was won not because they had a great military leader, powerful arsenal, or numerical strength but because- God was with Gideon, the Holy Spirit’s empowered him, and the fact that Gideon obeyed God’s word.

God ensures that the situation nears impossibility so that when He acts his power is manifest and consequently he receives all the glory.

Our lives, families, relationships, jobs, education should glorify God alone. In every endeavor we should acknowledge His power and Spirit’s enablement (Zech. 4:6).

Indeed as David admitted, “No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his strength” (Ps. 33:16). Victory and glory belongs to God.

Victories that are won because of faith bring glory to God because nobody can explain how they happen.

A Disciple Submits to the Lordship of Christ

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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. 

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A Disciple is a Learner

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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.

It is worth noting that in the first century, it was common phenomenon for a spiritual leader to have disciples. John the Baptist had disciples (Matt. 9:14); and Pharisees had disciples (Matt. 22:16). Jesus himself had many disciples other than the renown twelve (Matt. 10:1; (Lk. 22:11).

In the Great commission (Matt. 28:19-20), Jesus charges his followers to go into all the world and make disciples.

So what does it mean to be a disciple?

A disciple is a learner-

The word “disciple” is from the Greek word “mathetes” meaning a “learner,” or “student.”

Jesus called his disciples to a new and different life. The new life called for a paradigm shift in their thinking, affections, actions, reactions, worldview and perspectives.

Disciples were taught life principles that were upside down from the conventional wisdom of the day. They were taught humility in a world that esteemed pride; in order to be first they were taught to be last. To be filled they must first empty themselves of human sufficiency; to live they must first die to self; to find they must be willing to lose; and in order to gain they must first let it go. Certainly, this needed quite some learning.

The disciples of Jesus were fishermen by profession, but they were called to be fishers of men. Their calling was more than a transfer of fishing skills; it needed learning.

Therefore a true disciple of Jesus needs to embrace learning as a lifelong activity.

Disciples of Jesus never arrive; instead they are in constant process of learning and becoming.

Disciples of Jesus learn to love unconditionally, they learn to forgive without taking inventory, they learn to discern the will of God; they are students of the word of God. They learn how to live out their newfound life in Christ. They learn how they can please their Master.

Disciples also learn from valley of life and mountaintop experiences of life. They learn from successes and failures. They will say, ‘when I went through that circumstance…. God taught me this and that…” Also, they learn from both young and old.

Learners have a teachable spirit, they have inquisitive minds and have a receptive heart for God’s word. It is because of learning attitude that the disciples implored on their Master, “Lord, teach us to pray” Lk 11:1. Learners are always growing and transforming.

Jesus extends an invitation to every person to come and learn from him, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light, Matt 11:28-30.

The problem with the know-it-all believers is that they have no room for learning or a teachable heart. Such people do not listen, even when warned of an impending danger. They can’t stand to be corrected. The book of proverbs calls them fools. I

Therefore disciples of Jesus are in a constant process of learning and growing. If you are not growing in learning then you are not a true disciple of Jesus. Learn from his word, from life experiences he takes you through, and from young and old.

Remember, if you have stopped learning you have stopped marveling God’s greatness.

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THE LEADER AS SHEPHERD

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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 the shepherd leadership motif as presented in the Bible.

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Leader as 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. Instead, 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/followers at 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.

Leadership is a noble thing. Jesus commissioned Peter, and by extension the other disciples and believers today, to feed his flock (Jn. 21:15-19); with an ultimate promise of a reward. Apostle Peter later wrote that when the Chief Shepherd appears he shall reward, with unfading crown of glory, all those who have taken good care of his flock  (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).

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