Category Archives: Sermons

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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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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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When we go Through Hard Times   

 

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…When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…” (Isa. 43:1-3). 

We live in a world full of evil, evil persons, demons and Satan. That’s enough to bring us trouble/hard times. And so the question is not “if” we will go through hard times but “when”; for hard times will certainly come. The dark moment could be financial, loss of a job, relationship, health, family, political instability, e.t.c.

Sometimes dark moments in our lives can cause us to question God’s power, goodness/love, understanding, and presence. But we need the right responses/attitudes to be able to discern purpose of God’s working through our pain or challenges. Therefore,

How should we respond when we go through hard times?

  1. Remember God is with us even in our hard times– During hard times we often ask, “where is God? Does he know what I am going through? and if so, Does he care?” The Bible assures us of God’s enduring presence even in times of difficulty. He does not abandon us. He does not allow Satan have a field day on us. He is Jehovah Shammah-the Lord who is present; He is Emmanuel- God with us.

He has promised, “never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Heb 13:5). Therefore trust in his power to deliver you. Prayers are not platforms to give God ‘breaking news’ or updates concerning our sorrowful condition but an opportunity to show our utter dependence on Him no matter what.

Read here the things God cannot do

2. Learn to see God at work

God is at work every time, everywhere and in different ways. The problem is that sometimes we are like Elijah, expecting God to work in preconceived pattern. Indeed, God is a God of surprises; he surprised Elijah by revealing his presence in ways Elijah did not expect. A great and powerful wind passed but the Lord was not in it, it was followed by earthquake, and fire-but the Lord was not in them all. Instead he revealed his presence in a gentle whisper (1Kings 19:11-12).

Open your eyes wide to behold God’s wondrous working. In your dark time, He may in his providence sent people, friends, or community of believers to make your journey bearable; or to give you encouragement and motivation needed to take you through your dark moment. He may also perform a miracle that can turn around your dark moment; and praise the Lord when that happens. In other times God, in his providence can say “my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9); and gives you sufficient grace to go through a hard time.

In either way, God is actively at work in your dark moments. You should be able to discern God’s working and be encouraged and thank him that He is not in a lalaland (slumber land) but actively at work in your situation.

  1. Be able to trust the Word of God– :

We must cling to God’s word when we go through hard times. The nature of your situation, or the length, and intensity of your dark moments cannot eclipse God’s promise. The Word of God is powerful, alive, and active. Instead of thinking of your problems over and over again, seek to meditate upon God’s Word over and over.

Remember the Lord is not slow in keeping his promise as some understand slowness (2 Pet. 3:9), there is a reason and purpose why God, a good Shepherd would allow you to go through a dark valley. He will keep his promise to protect, sustain, provide, rescue, restore, heal, bless, uplift, and open doors. In your hard moments, learn to treasure God’s word and cling unto it (Refer Ps. 119).

3. Expect God to turn your situation for your own good-

God has promised in his word to turn evil intended against us for our own good.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his promise” (Rom. 8:28). It says that in ALL things God works for good. He is able to bring beauty out of ash. He is able to deliver you. Keep your hope alive each day because your morning is dawning. Do not look up to people to save you or rely on your knowledge, experience or connections. Instead, surrender it all to God who is all-powerful.

As a matter of fact he turned the evil that was intended against Joseph for his good and for the salvation of many. The brothers of Joseph sold him because of their hatred and envy but God used this evil as raw materials for Joseph’s success and salvation of many people. Retrospectively, Joseph confessed to his brothers,  “You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good” Gen 50:20).

Never underestimate God’s power to change your situation in a turn-around manner. He is the same God who creates out of nothing. He is the One who calls into being what is not. God used the cross- in what people saw as defeat, weakness and shame- to bring about victory and salvation to many (Acts 3:12-26). God is achieving something powerful through your current situation. Keep the focus; for God can work out his purposes irrespective of men’s machinations.

But this requires patience and perseverance to wait upon the Lord. And waiting is not easy; only courageous people wait.

5. Every experience you go through matters to your destiny

Hard times sometimes presents us breaking or making moments. Some situations you face can be key defining moment for your life. It can be God’s credibility test for your promotion. He never takes you through a valley devoid of purpose. Therefore approach your dark moment with an attitude of seeking to understand what God is teaching you.

You pain is valid, never waste it.

The former experience of Moses in Pharaoh’s household and in the wilderness was formative for his destiny as a leader of the Israel nation. The wanderings of David in the desert and hideouts from King Saul shaped his character in preparation for his kingship. The multiple predicaments of Joseph helped him develop and understand the Egyptian culture before becoming their prime minister. He learned to take commands before he was elevated to a position of issuing edicts/commands. Every dark moment you go through counts for your destiny. Your experiences is building you up into something God is preparing your for/to be. Be patient and cooperate with God.

  1. Every dark moment of your life has an expiry date

The hard times we go through in this life aren’t permanent. It isn’t going to last for life. They are momentary. Joy comes in the morning. David asserted, “even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death. I will fear no evil for you are with me” (Ps. 23:4). Mark the word through. The ‘valley of the shadow of death’ is not your destination; you only pass through it. Victory is awaiting you on the other side. Keeping on hoping to see light at the end of the tunnel; God’s help is near. God is at work. God isn’t going to allow evil to prevail for long. In meantime, like the experience of Jesus at the cross, it may seem that evil prevails, but God’s decisive action and vindication ensues. God’s appointed time is coming. When he comes; he will vindicate you and wipe all your tears away.

  1. Your response during dark moment matters-

A dark moment is a time of decision. It is a time to choose between submitting to God’s authority or your own ways to maneuver the situation. Some people choose to respond with doubt, anger, others with fear, blame, and others with trust. You need to have the right attitude; the right framework of mind and heart to be able to benefit and learn from what God is teaching you. Choose to trust in him.

Read here on the attitude of faith

Read here on the attitude of submission

Read here on attitude of gratitude

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ONE MORE NIGHT WITH THE FROGS

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God’s command to Pharaoh during the Exodus was crystal-clear, “Let my people go, so that they may worship me”. But this was met with stiff opposition and resistance from the Egyptian ruler. As a result, God through a series of plagues ensured that His agenda prevails and his people are liberated from oppression to a life of worship and freedom in God.

Plague after plague, Pharaoh was still unyielding and would not let the people go.

The second plague that Moses unleashed was that of frogs. The whole country was plagued with frogs. Disgusting ah! Frogs filled everywhere and all over the place- in bedrooms, kitchen etc and everywhere in the land. And remember they would not kill them because Egyptians regarded frogs as having divine power/gods.

Pharaoh’s magicians did their best to get rid of the frogs but instead of averting the disaster they made it even worse. As a final resort, Pharaoh summoned Moses and his brother Aaron to pray to their God to take away the frogs. Definitely, Pharaoh wasn’t interested in the God of the Hebrews but only in His power and help to clear up the mess!

Moses and Aaron appeared before Pharaoh. But Moses said, “I leave to you the honor of setting the time for me to pray and your officials and your people that you and your houses may be rid of the frogs, except for those that remain in the Nile”-Exodus 8:10.

The question that Moses raised was, “when?”

Tomorrow,” pharaoh said. (Exodus 8:10a)

This was a crazy and unexpected answer, right? Why did he prefer to spend one more night with frogs? Anyway, Moses replied, “It will be as you say, so that you may know there is no one like the Lord our God” Exodus 8:10b.

Why did Pharaoh opt for a future date/time? This is a question I want us to look at briefly. You will note that Pharaoh’s problem was deeper than procrastination. It was a heart-problem; something that we all as Christians should beware of by diligently guarding our hearts.

Why was Pharaoh comfortable to spend one more night with the frogs?

He had a heart that did not delight in yielding to God’s voice Pharaoh had no bent or inclination toward God’s word or voice. He treated God’s messengers with contempt. He was only interested in building his kingdom through slavery. As a result the word of the Lord, through Moses and Aaron, fell in deaf hears. You can call this expression stubbornness or other names but in essence it is pride and disobedience. Pharaoh would simply not obey God or humble himself. But God knew when and where to strike.

He had a hard heart– Severally, it is recorded that Pharaoh hardened his heart (Ex. 8:15,32;9:7,34-35;13:15). In response, God also hardened Pharaoh’s heart (Ex. 4:21; 7:3; 9:12; 10:1,20,27; 11:10; 14:4,8,17). His heart was a hard nut to crack; but not with God. For God says, “Is not my word like fire,” declares the Lord, “and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?” (Jeremiah 23:29)

What hardens one’s heart? For sure, sin does. The habit of sinning and suppressing truth makes ones heart to be hard and insensitive to God and his word. It deadens one’s conscience. A sinful and hard heart is blind to God’s doing and promptings. Pharaoh’s hard heart readily embraced suffering through the plagues than to obey God.

He had an unbelieving heart- Pharaoh simply trusted his own power and the power of magic. He only wanted to hear about God when there was a problem. Perhaps “tomorrow” was still convenient for him because he would have more time to explore other alternative solutions through magic and sorcery.

More importantly for us today, how can we guard our hearts, the wellspring of life (Prov. 4:23), with due diligence?

Hebrew 3: 12-13 warns, “See, to it brothers, that none of you has a sinful heart that turns from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”

Be constantly connected to the true Vine (Jn. 15), and with fellow brethren/church for encouragement and counsel. Guard your heart every “Today“.  See to it that sin does not set in and find a permanent lodging in your heart. Do it daily. For, God desires a broken/repentant heart, a teachable spirit, and a heart that obeys his voice.

Read here for hindrances to hearing/yielding to God’s guidance. 

SATAN’S THESIS STATEMENT, JESUS’ OFFER

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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.

 

CHRISTIAN LIFE AS A RACE

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When Apostle Paul likened Christian life to a race, he was certainly drawing his metaphoric language from the ancient Greek Olympic games that started way back in 776BC. Traditionally, the Olympic games took place after every four years; but in a major city like Corinth, where Paul’s audience lived, major games were hosted after every two years. This analogy therefore served well to illustrate profound biblical truths in familiar terms. I hope it also does today.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. 27 No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize (1 Cor. 9:24-27).

How does this athletic metaphor enrich our understanding of Christian life?  

  1. There is a course marked out for every Christian to run–                                            www.hdnicewallpapers.com                                                  You see, God’s call to salvation does not invite us to a life of inactivity. Rather, we are called to run a race that is marked out for us. Simply, there is a race that you must run. Christian life is not like boarding a matatu with a ticket at hand and waiting to arrive at your destination. No, hapana. It demands focus on what is marked out before you; the race has to be run irrespective of distractions, discouragements, obstructions, and interference that the enemy might place on your path.
  2. Run in such a way as to get the prize– In a race there are false runners (pacesetters), who unsustainably begin the race so fast that within a very short period of time they bow out. Likewise, there those who snail their way through for the purpose of just earning a participation certificate. Paul exhorted his audience to run the race not just for the purpose of participation, but more importantly to WIN the prize. Winning the prize is important. It is glorious! The prize rewards all the toils, self sacrifice, and cumulative efforts spend during the preparation. Genuinely, a christian should not just run the race for the purpose of getting to heaven; but to win the prize that is kept in store for the faithfuls in that glorious day.

Elsewhere, Paul says, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14). Run the race marked out for you with a goal, and a purpose. A focus fixed on a particular goal helps one overcome distractions from within and without. We are to fix our eyes on Jesus the author and perfector of our faith (Heb. 12: 2). In the words of apostle Paul he committedly presses on, “to take hold of that which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (Phil. 3:12).

  1. Any true athlete goes into strict training– This can’t be exaggerated. Any successful athlete knows that to produce record-shattering results, time has to be invested in preparations. This is the tough part of the Olympics. It demands discipline, self-denial, sacrifice, patience, long suffering, forfeiting your privileges, and determination. How does Paul accomplish this?
    1. He focuses on the Crown– It sounds repetitive here but the fact is, it is easy to lose focus in preparation unless we keep in mind the bigger picture of winning the glorious reward. In Paul’s day, athletes competed to win a crown/wreath of olive leaf which, of course, withers within a very short period of time. Perhaps the winner could also have enjoyed other favors and incentives like monetary allocations, honors, recognition, and relieve from taxation. But as Christians we run the race marked out for us in order to receive a crown that lasts forever. In this case, the focus on the crown/prize makes him give up what is good now and settle for the best that lies ahead. Like a boxer, Paul is not without aim, he is not beating the air because of his deliberate end-goal.
    2. He beats his body–                                                                                                           athlete 2                     You can’t win a race with an overweight. The plus-size weight has to be worked on. Otherwise winning will remain a dream. We must pay the price of hard work if we want to win. We must master our bodies, desires, and affections. Part of the weight we have to shed off to stay “fit” includes “everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles” Heb. 12:11.
  2. Beware of disqualification

Here Paul is clearly not talking of salvation; because every believer, through repentance and faith in Christ, is enlisted to the race. Disqualification or specifically “disapproval” can be construed in relation to the prize. It is disqualification for the prize not the race. The aspect of disqualification is serious because then the strict training in preparation and the running becomes in vain. Therefore the rules (God’s terms) must apply (2 Tim. 2:5). Paul was conscious of this reality.

I pray that when we finish running our race of life we shall say like Jesus, “it is finished” or like Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race” 2 Tim. 4:7.

But for now, there is a race to be run, there is preparations to be made, there is a prize to be won!

crown

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

ALL OVER THE WORLD THE GOSPEL IS BEARING FRUIT AND GROWING

apple fruit

The evil schemes and plans of the enemy, the god of this world, has been constantly working to permanently thwart, oppose, destroy, counterfeit, distract, and to hinder the gospel. But with no success. The gospel continues to grow and bear fruit in different soil, all over the world. The gates of Hades has not succeeded to overcome the gospel. That is, the message of the life, the dead, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The gospel has been and is even today transforming lives across social, racial, economic, political and cultural backgrounds. Apostle Paul in his ministry noted that this gospel was finding home everywhere it was preached. Along the road it found a good soil in the heart of the Ethiopian eunuch; in Philippi, it found a home in the life of Lydia (a rich dealer of purple cloth), and in the jailer. In Berea it found a place in the hearts of many Jews and many prominent Greek men and women. In Athens a few men believed, while in Ephesus many believed. The gospel was establishing roots and fruits among both the Gentiles and the Jews. From Jerusalem to the ends of the earth, Paul could confidently attest that the gospel was bearing fruit and growing (Col. 1:6b).

God’s story of the power of the gospel is not yet done. It is still ongoing. Sometimes our physical eyes and our environment can deceive us; because they cannot give us the complete story. But the fact is, all over the world many people are finding hope and rest in Jesus. In Him, many are experiencing the divine love that has warmed their hearts and transformed their lives. All over the world- From Albania to Zimbabwe; from the Global South to the Global North, from the towns and villages of Africa to the biggest cities of America and Europe, the gospel is bearing fruit. All over the world, God is using his people to reach out to the lost.

The kingdom of this world and all those who preach a “different gospel- which is really no gospel at all” are being defeated. Darkness is disappearing and God’s light is taking over. The word of God is multiplying and many people are committing their lives to Christ (na bado!). Even in contexts where persecutions, afflictions, and tribulations are rampant, the word of God is growing each day. And all those who believe in this gospel in all ages, the church, are part of a big family- God’s oikos; moving and triumphing toward new Jerusalem.

Therefore, to all those laboring in God’s vineyard, keep on the good work of service and witnessing. It is not in vain. Scatter the seeds of the gospel in and out of season, it will sprout, He will make it grow and bear much fruit.

CULTIVATING A TEACHABLE SPIRIT

teachable 2

God in his word has given us a mandate to go out and teach and make disciples of all nations. But at the same time he also wants us to be learners in the process of teaching and following him. In that, he desires that we have a teachable mind, receptive spirit, and obedient heart.

Deuteronomy 32:1-9 is a song that Moses taught the Israelites to be a witness against them when they stop listening to God. God deliberately journeyed his people to the Promised Land for forty years on what was normally an eleven day or so distance so as to teach them lessons on God, faith, humility, identity, and obedience. He taught and corrected them. Similarly, a life of a believer in Christ is a lifelong learning experience.

In this short-write up I want to focus on how to cultivate a teachable spirit/heart/attitude. But to cultivate a teachable spirit, we first have to acknowledge the fact that God is a teacher. He delights in showing us the way we should go.

Read here to see ways in which He teaches us or makes His ways known to us.

He uses His word, circumstances, godly people, and His indwelling presence in us to teach and lead us in his ways.

And so there is no excuse if we fail to listen Him. God is always guiding and teaching his people. But the challenge to all of us is having a teachable spirit or a receptive heart.

In Mark 4:1-23, Jesus taught his disciples about four kinds of people/ hearts. The four soils represent four different ways people respond to God’s message. In the parable, a farmer (God) went out to sow his seed (word); and the seeds it fell in four different grounds (hearts)- pathways, rocky surface, thorny ground, good soil). Let’s have a look at each of these four grounds.

sprouting
credits: Eco concept

Those that fell along the path– Some seed fell along the path and the birds came and ate it up.  Interpretation: Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan, like birds, come and takes away the word that was sown in them.

Those seed that fell on rocky places- It sprang up quickly because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched and they withered because they had no deep root. Interpretation: they hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. Like people who only want miracles and blessings, when trouble come or persecution comes they quickly fall away.

The Seed that fell among thorns– The seed grew up in good soil but chocked by the thorns, so that they did not bear grain. Interpretation: Such people hear the word but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. Remember, God cuts off unfruitful branches and throws them into fire, (Jn. 15:2,6).

The seed that fell on good soil– The seed came up, grew and produced a crop, multiplying thirty, sixty, or even hundred times. Interpretation: Such people hear the word, accept it, produced a crop-thirty, sixty or even hundred times what was sown. The seed doesn’t return empty (Isa. 55:11).

bear fruit

From this parable, a teachable spirit/receptive heart: hears the word, accepts the word, and produces fruit.

On the other hand, the unreceptive heart/ unteachable spirit, the word is planted, it may look like it is making progress, but it produces no fruit.

It is true that many relationships/ marriages have disintegrated because of unteachable(unwillingness to learn) spouses, many children are not in good terms with their parents because they can’t stand to be rebuked, many employees have lost their jobs because they reject learning. The challenge is real to us. What soil are you? Do you personally have a teachable spirit before God? A spirit that hears God’s word, accept it, and yields to it.

So how can we develop a teachable spirit/ obedient heart?

Ways we can cultivate/develop a teachable spirit/heart?

  1. Ask God to give you a heart that is teachableask God the giver of all good things. What is the hope of a thorny or rocky ground? Can it be made a good soil? Humanly speaking, No. But it is possible with God. He can burn the thorns and break the rock into pieces and turn it into good soil! He says, “Is not my word like fire,” declares the Lord, “and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?” (Jer. 23:29).

There may be certain areas of our lives we think it is impossible for change to occur! Don’t lose hope! God is able. Pray to him. He will listen; and give you a changed heart. He promises, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws” (Ezek. 36:26-27).

The reason Pharaoh adamantly refused to let go the Israelites was because of hardness of heart. Out of his stubborn mind and stony heart he preferred to stay one more night with the frogs (Ex. 8:9-10). You see, hardness of heart is something that creeps in gradually; what we see as ‘small sins’ graduate making us grieve the Holy Spirit and be blind to God’s leading and soon or later our conscience becomes dead. Thankfully, the finger of God is able to break such kind of a heart and make it obedient to Christ.

David prayed a profound prayer, “create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” Psalm 51:10. Also in several verses in Psalm 119, he also prayed, “teach me”- your way, your laws/decrees/precepts, to follow your will, you wisdom, your knowledge. So when you pray, ask God to give you a heart that hears his word, accepts it, and is transformed by it. Ask God to teach you his ways, his will, his statutes. Ask God to become your teacher. It is only God who can change our hearts and incline it to his ways.

  1. Be a true Disciple of JesusThe word disciple means a learner, or a follower. The Bible uses the word “disciple” 282 times, “believers” 26 times and “Christians” only 3 times. The number the word “disciple” is repeated in the NT shows us that there is more to learn on what it means to be a disciple.

A true disciple of Jesus is someone who has heard God’s call to message of salvation, accepted it, and has been transformed by message.

On the contrary, the know-it-all believers are unteachable, full of themselves, they do not accept correction or listen; even when warned of an impending danger. They are fools (Prov. 12:1).

Learners have a teachable spirit, have room for correction, have a childlike heart (Matt. 18:2-4), they have inquisitive minds and learners 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. And so if you are not growing then you have expired and if you are expired then you have outlived your usefulness in the kingdom of God. If you have stopped learning you have stopped marveling at the greatness of God.

  1. Let the word of God planted in you transform you– Many of us have had numerous opportunities to hear the word of God. We should allow this word should change us. It should produce fruit in us. Jesus instructed, This is to my Father’s glory that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples Jn 15:8. But in order to bear fruit however we must have a teachable attitude/spirit.

You see, the Holy Spirit works in your life as a believer in Christ to transform you into Christlikeness. He renews us inward out. He works to produce the fruit of Holy Spirit. And as this fruit (of love, joy, peace, faithfulness, kindness, self-control) gets manifested our minds and hearts are renewed to receive the word even more. And as we come nearer to Him we see him as he is and we see things as they are. And as the word of God takes root in our hearts our attitudes change.

But have you ever wondered why many people remain the same even after many years of salvation? It is because the word that is planted does not find a receptive heart. Immediately it is sowed, the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth and desires for other things come in and choke the word making it unfruitful, Mk 4:19.

Conclusion

Finally, when we want to know something today we quickly go to a dictionary or Google. But I urge you to let God be you teacher. Let him be the One that guides/informs you in the way you should go. If we hope to grow and mature in faith, we need to have a teachable mind, receptive spirit, and obedient heart. A heart that listens to the word of God, keeps it, and produces fruit.

Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near (Rev. 1:3).

Faith Hope and Love

faith hope love

Elkanah Cheboi

There are some crucial essentials in life that God wants all his children to know so as to live a life full of life. That is, a life that is fulfilling while delighting in God.

While addressing issues on spiritual gifts in the Body of Christ at Corinth, Apostle Paul mentions three important things that should remain in the life of a believer. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Cor 13:13. These three are what the church and individual believers should be known for. Let’s have a look at each one of them.

Faith

We all have faith either on a person or a thing. But again we desperately need faith that is firm and that is put on an object that is trustworthy. Biblically, faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we…

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