All posts by Chief Editor

Christ-follower, Pastor, Theologian, Educator, and Researcher.

13 Ways You Can Improve Your Children’s Ministry During the Covid-19 Season

PhotoCredts: UnSplash

According to the recently released poll by ShahidiHub Africa, “The top three groups that have not been given adequate and specific attention through the ongoing online or offline programs are:  Children (0-11Years)- (64.57%); Elderly (70+ years)- (61.07%), and, Teenage Group (12-19 Years)- (30.77%).” It is sad that children’s ministry tops the list, yet this group represents the future of the church. Together with the elderly group, children are seen as the most vulnerable during this Covid-19 pandemic period.

Below are some suggestions on how we can reach out to this important group in the body of Christ.

Creative Ways of Reaching Out, with the Gospel, to Children During Covid-19 Period

  1. Parents/guardians sensitization. In adult online sermons, remind the parents to of their God-given shepherding role to their children (Deut. 6:4-9).
  2. Conduct online interviews with professionals that help parents know how best to minister to their children in their homes.
  3. Create online children classes- Children are not small adults, they are children. We cannot rely on adult sermons for them. If a church has gone online with adult sermons, I believe it has capacity to do the same for the children.
  4. Create platforms to share ideas with parents on how to teach their children and be ready to answer their questions e.g. webinars where Children Pastors and teachers interact with parents.
  5. Developing online daily devotions (audio and/or soft copies) that are sent out to parents for printing or for children to watch.
  6. Parental participation – sing and watch the lessons with children, just as teacher does in a class setting. In discipleship a discipler walks with the disciple. Leaving the children to play the online lessons by themselves is not good enough if we want disciples out of our children during this season.
  7. Church partnerships – Pastors and church leaders in churches that are not technologically endowed should not shy away from asking for help from their neighboring churches. There should be a willingness to share God-given resources like the Early Church did in Acts 2. Our intention should be to reach out to the children with the gospel and not building empires. It is a time to share.
  8. Use other churches’ online content to evangelize children. Churches with online programs should allow other people to use the lessons for their children.
  9. Praying and checking on children and their families on phone by Children Pastors and teachers just as Paul would write letters to churches.
  10.  Children are relational, from time to time conduct zoom/Skype fellowships for them.
  11. Children love songs, encourage parents and guardians to teach children songs with messages of hope in Christ, memorize verses and give small gifts for motivation.
  12. Role modelling- Children emulate their parents and older people. If we follow Christ in our talk and actions through this season so shall they.
  13. There are numerous children radio and TV programs that edify children spiritually. Church leaders and pastors should research and vet them to recommend for their congregants.

GUEST CONTRIBUTOR

Caroline Gitimu Kiragu

Children Pastor,

PCEA Loresho Parish.

Caroline holds a Master of Divinity in Theological Studies from Africa International University, a Bachelor of Education (Science) and is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). She also holds a diploma in Holistic Nurturing of Children.

Caroline Gitimu Kiragu

In discipleship a discipler walks with the disciple. Leaving the children to play the online lessons by themselves is not good enough if we want disciples out of our children during this season.

“Children are not small adults, they are children. We cannot rely on adult sermons for them. If a church has gone online with adult sermons, I believe it has capacity to do the same for the children.”

Also from the Guest Author, Read Importance of Investing in Children’s Ministry During the Covid-19 Period

Importance of Investing in Children’s Ministry During the Covid-19 Period

According to the recently released poll by ShahidiHub Africa on, “The State of the Church in Kenya During the Covid-19 Pandemic,”

“The top three groups that have not been given adequate and specific attention through the ongoing online or offline programs are Children (0-11Years)- (64.57%); Elderly (70+ years)- (61.07%), and, Teenage Group (12-19 Years)- (30.77%).”

It is sad that the Children’s ministry tops the list, yet this group represents the future of the church.

Spiritual formation is of great essence for every believer, including children. But how can the church of Christ be spiritually formed to transform the world amid crisis, suffering, evil, and uncertainties? To be even more specific, how can the church sustain children’s spiritual formation in such times and not neglect it as it is often the case even during ‘normal’ times.

Bill Hybels, a renowned leader’s trainer said “The local church is the hope of the world” The church, which is the community of believers, has a big role to play in the restoration and transformation of children who will in turn transform the world now and in the future. The family unit plays a key role in promoting this local church function.

In Genesis 18:19, God gives the reason why he had chosen Abraham; “…so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord may bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.” We later see this same principle repeated in Deut. 6. The primary responsibility of discipling children lies with their parents & guardians; “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down, and when you get up…” (Deut. 6:6-7). 

It is within our home environment – the smallest church unit! As such, this responsibility is not to be delegated to other platforms no matter how wonderful they may be, these are there to assist and guide us in what we are called to do – to disciple our children.

It is time to go back to the basics, to strengthen the family altar, and the church will grow despite the shake ups of not meeting together. He has promised!

It is highly likely that upon resumption of normal church gatherings after the Covid-19 curve flattens, a number of parents will still be hesitant to take their children to church for a period of time thus the need to think of creative ways of ministering to the children during this season and beyond. There is a need for church leaders and ministers to:

  1. Realize the great need for systematic teaching of the word of God to children.
  2. Find out approaches and methods of teaching children in the new normal.
  3. See how we can improve the existing delivery of the gospel to the children.

The importance of ministering to children during this period is underscored by the fact that children have questions about God cannot be overlooked. The home is the place and environment where children should hear the word of God being taught and modelled.

It is highly likely that upon resumption of normal church gatherings, after the Covid-19 curve flattens, a number of parents will still be hesitant to take their children to church for a period of time thus the need to think of creative ways of ministering to the children during this season and beyond.

Also, an article by the same author, 13 Creative Ways of Improving Your Children’s Ministry During the Covid-19 Pandemic Season.

GUEST CONTRIBUTOR:

Caroline Gitimu Kiragu
Children Pastor,
PCEA Loresho Parish.
Caroline holds a Master of Divinity in Theological Studies from Africa International University, a Bachelor of Education (Science) and is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). She also holds a diploma in Holistic Nurturing of Children.

Caroline Gitimu Kiragu

SHAHIDIHUB RESEARCH POLL RELEASE: The State of the Church in Kenya during the COVID-19 Pandemic

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As ShahidiHub Research & Consulting, we are glad to release to you the poll results summary, which was also shared on 24th June 2020 to the respondents, and to Media outlets in Kenya. We are glad that we were able to feature voices of 429 pastors/Church Leaders from over 33 Counties in Kenya and from 161 Church Denominations in Kenya. The survey results release (“The State of Church in Kenya During the Covid-19 Pandemic) comes about 100 days after the closure of places of worship as a containment measure against the spread of Covid-19.

We hope that the results will continue to enrich the conversations on doing ministry during these unusual moments and on the best way forward for the church in Kenya.

The Round One of the survey is now complete, soon we will launch the Round Two of the Survey. 

If you would like to write something based on the polls or want to share your experience on the Church and Covid-19, you are welcome to submit a 500-word article for consideration by our editorial team. We will be glad to feature your article (as a Guest Contributor) on this platform.

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ShahidiHub Research Team.

It is Not Yet Madaraka for Kenya: ‘Let My People Go…’

Kenyan flag

Fifty-seven years ago, Kenyans first celebrated their hard-won independence from British rule. Certainly, this never came easy. It came at a great price. Many freedom fighters lost their lives, their all; and some lived to tell of the tortured, imprisonments, and injustices inflicted against them and their families. Madaraka Day is a time to pause and remember their exemplary sacrifices, their fighting spirit for a free and united Kenya, and their heroic courage. It happens that many of them never made to our history books.

The dawn of an independent Kenya must have been an ecstatic experience. Kenyans, at the time of independence, must have been thrilled to realize that the oppressive colonial rule had finally come to an end. They cried tears of joy in disbelieve; knowing that the new dawn was coming with future possibilities and promise. Indeed, it was a sundown for the colonial rule, but a sunrise for indigenous rule.

The optimism and aspirations of the generations of Kenyans at independence were articulated in the national anthem. The pioneering Kenyans at independence anticipated a nation that would be characterized by blessings and plenty. They envisioned a nation that upholds the ideals of justice, peace, unity, and liberty. They idealized these values as the foundation of a prosperous Kenya. They recognized that realization of this dream will take concerted efforts, each Kenyan involved. Presumably, each time they sang and prayed the words of the national anthem they challenged themselves to arise and build the envisioned Kenya as one people. They envisioned a brighter future against the backdrop of illiteracy, widespread poverty, and a small economy.

From the national anthem, the generation of Kenya at independence KNEW the meaning of the colors of the Kenyan flag. They knew what we have forgotten. They knew what they formerly fought for. They knew what the new Kenya should look like. They knew what they should expect from the Kenyan-ruled governments. They simply had a vision and a clear knowledge of the path for their future.

From the national anthem, the generation of Kenya at independence KNEW the meaning of the colors of the Kenyan flag. They knew what we have forgotten. They knew what they formerly fought for. They knew what the new Kenya should look like. They knew what they should expect from the Kenyan-ruled governments. They simply had a vision and a clear knowledge of the path for their future.

The Great Let Down

Sadly, the joy of independence was short-lived as people realized that the new African leaders were no different from the colonizers. As a result, the people felt a sense of betrayal; their hopes were crushed. The enemy was no longer “them.” Rather, the new, hard-to-deal-with enemy became one of “us.” After the white colonizers exited, the black colonizers took over and continued the colonization. The people who were entrusted leadership position became less and less interested in furthering the vision of the ‘Kenyan kingdom;’ instead, they became passionate in establishing and flourishing their own kingdoms of self, power, and wealth. During the ensuing years, politics of vengeance, deception, hatred, and exclusion became a new norm. Apparently, this has continued, even into our times, to characterize the political landscape in Kenya. Greed, injustices, corruption, violence, and tribalism became normalized in land allotment and distribution, occupation of public offices, distribution of public resources, and so forth. As a result, the divide between the poor and the rich has continued to increase.

As Kenyans Mark Fifty-Seven years of Independence

Fifty-seven years later, admittedly, the post-independent Kenya has made some strides in different sectors of economy. However, Kenya largely continues to struggle to remain true to her dream. The fight against theft of public resources is not yet won; the politics of betrayal, deception and exclusion continues unchallenged. So, where is the problem?

Approximately 3000 years ago, the biblical Moses was called to deliver the people of Israel from the then oppressive Egyptian regimes. The nature of his liberation was all-encompassing; his liberation call “Let my people Go” was spiritual, social, economic, and political. He was to liberate the people to be free to worship, free to rule themselves, free to work to build their own economy, and free to be a people with a distinct identity, purpose and destiny. Moses, as a skilled architect, laid a moral foundation as the pillar for the social, economic and political prosperity of the nation. The moral compass, founded on the God-given Law, became the constitution and basis of reference for leaders occupying any public office. It became the basis of social justice. Moses’ successor Joshua, as a faithful leader and steward, transitioned the nation to their Promised land and fairly allotted the Promised land to the people. As a faithful leader, he never (ab)used the leadership position to amass wealth. Rather, he used it as a trust, and tool for service. In my opinion, one of the main problems that Kenya has faced since independence, can be identified as failed leadership. The elected leaders have always failed to be faithful to the trust given to them. The type of the leaders “we” elect make it hard for Kenya to realize her dream.

Fifty-seven years later after official independence, the truth remains that the Kenyan people, like citizens in many other African states, still need to be liberated from the bondage of heavy taxation, hopelessness, violence, police brutality, tyrannical leadership, plunder of public resources and from the suffering of the people. Other than doing our part in the building of the nation, we can only HOPE that someday God will raise a Moses and a Joshua for our country, to deliver the people and to bring them into a land of abundance; a land where justice, unity, and peace are celebrated.

church and covid-19 survey in kenya: INvitation to pastors and church leaders

Dear Minister of the Gospel and Church Leaders,

We would like to kindly let you know that ShahidiHub Africa is conducting an interdenominational survey that targets pastors and church leaders in Kenya. The survey, that runs from 23rd May-19th June 2020, is titled, “The State of the Church in Kenya During the Covid-19 Pandemic.” This survey seeks to find out how churches (through the leadership of pastors and church leaders) adjusted and continue to cope up with this unfolding pandemic situation, and how the future might look like for many churches. It is expected that the findings of this poll will enable pastors, church leaders and parachurch organizations to lead better amidst the pandemic, understand the current state of the church, and to foster an inter-denominational exchange of information and experience. Theologians might also find the findings useful in their engagement with ecclesial issues.

ShahidiHub Africa kindly invites you to participate in this poll; and, if possible, involve other pastors and church leaders within your network by sharing the link below. Once the survey is concluded, we shall share the data and detailed reports with priority given to those who participated.

The short online survey only takes about 7-10 minutes.

Here is the link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/CHURCHnCovidinKenya

We appreciate your valuable feedback.

The Kind of People Who Inherit God’s Promises 

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PhotoCredit: Supercoloring

Joshua 14:6-15

God has laid out an inheritance before his people but not all will possess that possession. Many are called but few are chosen. What kind of people eventually qualify for God’s inheritance/blessings? This topic will be briefly handled within the context of ancient Israel inheriting the Promised Land; specifically looking at the life of Caleb. It is only Caleb and Joshua who left Egypt and transitioned to the Promised Land, the rest of his generation perished in the wilderness and a new generation had come up. What kinds of people “eat the best of the land” (Isa 1:19). What kind of people do we ought to be, for us to inherit God’s promises?

The kind of people who inherit the blessings of God /people to put on the watch list:

People who Firmly Trust the Word of God (v6)- Caleb remembers the word that the Lord spoke through his servant Moses forty years earlier. For all these years, Caleb hid God’s word in his heart, waiting for its revelation, like Simon patiently waiting for the consolation of Israel (Lk. 2:25).

In his short speech, he repeatedly refers to the word that the Lord spoke. God’s promise for his life was never weakened by age or delay. Caleb longed for its fulfillment. He lived with hope for the great day of fulfillment of the word spoken by the Lord. They that hope/ trust upon the Lord shall have their strength renewed. Caleb treasured God’s word for over 40 years; it God’s word that made him stand out in his generation.

  • People who have Personal Convictions (v7)- Caleb and Joshua had a solid conviction based on God’s word. Caleb speaks of his conviction in this verse. Conviction is a firm believe/strong persuasion; it is the feeling of being sure that what you believe or say is true. Caleb had a strong conviction on God’s promises. He is like Joseph (Gen. 39:9), and Daniel (Dan. 3:17,18), Paul (2 Tim. 1:12) in the Bible. You can only overcome the world, peer pressure and temptations by developing conviction based on the word of God. We need people who believe that they can be patient and get rewarded in the end; people who believe they can build wealth through hard work, and not gambling.
  • People who Wholeheartedly Follow God (v8)- Caleb was committed and consistent. When the ten spies brought reports that “made the hearts of the people melt with fear,” Caleb and Joshua chose to give an encouraging report based on the word of God.
  • Caleb wholly followed God. When the assembly of God’s people feared to walk according to God’s plan, Caleb stood firm. He followed God despite opposition. He endured threats, insults, and prejudices. In fact, he was almost stoned by the people (Num 14:10). It is possible to follow God but not wholeheartedly. King Amaziah did what was right in the eyes of the Lord but not wholeheartedly, 2 Chronicles 25:2.

What does to “wholly follow God” mean?

  • Submissive to the will of the Lord. He kept his heart pure.
  • Resting upon the word of God as clear and authoritative in matters of belief and practice.
  • Laying hold of the promises of God as certain.

Caleb followed God with determination. Clearly, that was not easy; especially when the people were complaining against their leaders and the people turning to idolatry in Mt. Sinai.

As a result of wholeheartedly following God, he was rewarded. Hebron, therefore, became an inheritance for Caleb. God rewards his faithful followers and honors those who honor him. He rewards obedience.

People who are courageous and strong- (v10-15)

In verse 2, Caleb demands to be given the inheritance according to the promise. He claims still able to dislodge the Anakites in their large and fortified cities. He is still able to task. He does not request the conquered regions, but a piece of the fight will be alright with him. He requested not the easy deal but the harder one! Today, we need people who know and have the courage to claim their possessions.

Be courageous to hold on to your convictions. Be courageous to swim upstream in the contemporary world. Be courageous to stand by the truth even when you are the minority.

Caleb was a man of courage. It is him who led the opposition against the ten (bad news) reporters. When the people of Israel wanted to pack and go back to Egypt, Caleb and Joshua had a rough time reminding them of God’s promises. Courage is not being insensitive/unaware of pending dangers. It is not the absence of fear, rather a deliberate strength and determination to move forward no matter what.

Caleb braved himself out when others proved to be traitors. This courage sprang from the faith he had in God. God wants Joshua to be strong and courageous to be able to lead the people into the Promised Land, Joshua 1:6. Joshua’s strength and courage came from meditating on the word of God, believing its promises, and obeying its precepts. This was the counsel Moses had given to all the people (Deut.11:1-9).

It is never enough to have convictions in life; it should be coupled with courage.

We need the courage to confess Christ in every place we go, and in every situation we find ourselves. Doing God’s will requires courage.

Courage has been summed up in the following words: “I must obey God’’

Our greatest enemy today is cowardice, life’s battle needs courageous people. Always be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. The kingdom of God as we know shall be taken over by the violent; it is for those who take it by force.

In Conclusion, Ephesians 1, we are instructed that we have an inheritance in God; ensure you are positioned to inherit this promise. The first inheritance is salvation.

WHEN THE LORD BLESSSES YOU

In Deuteronomy 7:1-14; 8, the nation of Israel was on the verge of entering the promised land after many years of wandering. God, through Moses, gave them some instructions as they planned to settle in the land. But before giving these admonitions, the Lord reminded them about their past journey. God had severally rescued them from their enemies, delivered them miraculously, taught them, nurtured them through their challenges, and miraculously provided for their needs. As a result, they were now a people destined for an inheritance. God’s past dealings with them gave them some obligations as people. This is a timeless truth.

Therefore, when the Lord blesses you, remember to:

  1. Maintain your Identity in Him (7:2-8)- The people of ancient Israel were to set themselves apart as a special people to God. They had to jealously safeguard their (special) covenant relationship with God. Here, to be set apart means to be holy and blameless.

They were reminded that they were the chosen ones of God on the face of the earth. What a privileged position and favor! They were God’s treasured possession, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, called to declare God’s praises among the nations.

Also, they were reminded that God’s choice over them was not meritorious. Rather, it was a gracious act. There was nothing special to them that could attract God to them. In fact, they were not numerous than other people (people power), also, they were the fewest of all the people (insignificant). But God only exercised his love toward them because he was fulfilling the promise made with their patriarch, Abraham.

However, setting themselves apart was not going to come easy; they were to take radical steps against sin to remain holy to their God. For their safety, they were not to intermarry with those with opposing belief system (not to be yoke with unbelievers/friendship with the world is enmity with God), they were also required to break down their altars. Simply, they were not to adopt a lifestyle that was alien to their cultural, ethical, and spiritual foundations.

Holiness does not come easy; it involves constant, deliberate, and decisive moves against apostasy, sin, and wickedness.

Today, has the Lord God done so much to/for you (or blessed you) that you wonder how to thank Him? maintain your identity by living a godly life. Offer your body as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God- as your spiritual act of worship (Rom 12:1-2). Thank Him by living a godly life. It is what pleases him. When you live a holy life in thankfulness for what God has done, you glorify Him (Matt. 5:16). In other words, you cannot thank God if you are deliberately living in sin

  1. Seek to Know the Lord- (7:9-10)
  • Increase in the knowledge of God– Seek to know what he cherishes, his will, what pleases him, and what makes him angry. Seek him, his kingdom, and His righteousness (Matt. 6:33). We often want to increase in knowledge of our professions, that is good, but we need to extend the same spirit in seeking God’s knowledge.

In this knowledge, realize that the Lord is your God is faithful (hesed), keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments. Seek him as your greatest treasure (Matt. 13:43-45); make him your all in all; and, involve him in your life.

  • Do not forget the Lord (8:2)- It is interesting that we remember what we want to forget and forget what we should remember. The people of ancient Israel were instructed to remember the Lord and what he done in the past.

How can one FORGET the Lord and what the Lord has done in the past? Well, this is a common temptation to all of us. When the Lord blesses us, it is very easy to end up focusing on the blessings than the source/One blessing us.

Moses noted that the people will unsurprisingly forget the past miracles through the vast dreadful desert, thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions, military victories, the water out of the rock, and the manna in the desert. Sadly, this is one of the problems of the human heart: forgetting God.

When we forget the Lord and his workings in our lives, we give room for our hearts to be occupied by pride (8:14). We soon allow other gods and idols to take a center stage of our lives.

Pride (the spirit of independence) is something that crawls in silently and grows gradually without our realization; Moses warned that if they do not guard their hearts, they might end up saying, “’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…” (8:16-18). Therefore, for us today, it is paramount to stay humble and understand that everything we have has been received, because of God’s graciousness.

  • Love Him, serve Him, and fear Him– (6:5,13) “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”

It is not enough that we are consecrated to the Lord and that we know him, we need to love him and serve him wholeheartedly with all that we are and have.

In Exodus 10:26, Moses adamantly told Pharaoh that the people will have to leave Egypt with their possessions because they will need it in their worship of God; “Our livestock too must go with us; not a hoof is to be left behind. We have to use some of them in worshipping the Lord our God…” We need to present not just ourselves to the Lord but also our possessions. God needs our possessions. We should serve the Lord with our wealth, don’t waste it on worthless things.

Giving is one of the ways we can serve the Lord and promote his kingdom; giving generously is one way of declaring that everything we have has been received and we are only stewards of God’s resources. A grateful heart gives; and by giving you make what you have received a tool for service rather than an idol of worship.

III. Follow the word of God (7:11-26)- God had revealed his word to Israel; and this was to be the basis for their belief and living. Torah contained God’s expectation, and God’s past dealings with them in regard to salvation. They were to read it, interpret it, and apply it. It contained guidance for their living, food for their nourishment, warnings for their good and promises for their success.

Obedience to God’s word ensured their continued blessings. Also, obedience to the word of God demonstrates our commitment to God; Jesus said, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching” (Jn. 14:23).

This is what happens when you observe the word of God and revere him: God will keep his commandment of love with you, he will love you, he will bless you and increase you, he will bless your families, bless your jobs/crops of your field and herds of your flock. He will lift you up above others, he will keep you free from diseases, he will ensure that no one will stand against you, he will give you victory, and accomplish the impossible for you (7:17-24).

Walking in God’s ways radicality in regard to sin. Walking in obedience to God and his word means taking deliberate actions against falling into the snare of idolatry, destroying any form of idolatry, not to coveting the treasures of the wicked (7:16).

It is foolish and evil when some people use God or his name (as a bridge) for their ends; and quickly abandon him when they have secured their desired end.

IV. Praise/Bless him (8:10-)– When the Lord blesses you and have eaten and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, when your property increases, and when your money multiplies, remember to praise the Lord.

Praising/blessing the Lord involves declaring him as the source of the power of your success.

In Psalm 116:12, the psalmist communes with his own heart on how to respond to God’s grace and providence. He writes, “How can I repay the Lord for all his goodness to me?

First, the Psalmist says that he will call upon the name of the Lord. He will declare God’s name and deeds among his people. Having tasted of the goodness of the Lord the Psalmist will invite others to come to the living waters where they can eat and drink without money and without cost (Isa. 55:1-2). He will make the world know that the source of his help, joy, peace and salvation. He will let the world know that in Jesus there is a healer, provider, sanctifier, deliverer, redeemer, savior, hope and eternal life. He will lift up the name of the Lord, he will decrease as he increases (Jn. 3:30).

Second, the psalmist will fulfill his vows to God. Perhaps in his dark moments, he had made a vow to the Lord; and since the Lord had acted in his goodness, he will fulfill his vows.

As a person, you may have made a vow when you were sick, desperate, unemployed, in distress, or needed a sort of deliverance, breakthrough or promotion. Then the unbelievable happened through God’s intervention. You got healed, you got a job/promotion, or your business started picking up; or simply put, you became delivered from your ‘enemies’ and fears. The best thing to do is to remember to fulfill the verbal commitments you made to the Lord. The Lord commands, “When a man makes a vow to the Lord or takes an oath to obligate himself by a pledge, he must not break his word but must do everything he said” (Num. 30:2).

Concluding Thoughts: When the Lord blesses us, let us: Set ourselves apart for the Lord and his purposes; Seek to know the Lord; Follow the word of God; Praise Him.

God Our Refuge

refuge God

When in distress, where do you run to?

When Israel finally conquered the promised land, God commanded Joshua to set aside six cities of refuge (Joshua 20). These cities were to be set strategically in the promised Land.

What was the purpose of these cities?

The cities were to be safe havens to those who unintentionally find themselves in trouble. For instance, anyone who killed a person accidentally/unintentionally fled to any of these places for protection from the avenger of blood. By running into these cities, the offender received a lifeline. In these cities, a victim was granted asylum until the trial of his case was held in the presence of the community. In short, a city of refuge was a place of safety in times of danger.

Over time, theologically, the idea of finding refuge in geographical places was replaced by the idea of finding refuge in the Person of God. A shift from a PLACE to a PERSON!

In 2 Samuel 22:1-4, David proclaimed, THE LORD IS MY REFUGE. He referred to God as his rock, fortress, stronghold and shield. The idea of a place being a refuge place began to remotely disappear in their theology, and the idea of God as refuge took a center stage.

Now, instead of a geographical location, the Lord is a stronghold to the oppressed, poor, and those who are in trouble (Ps. 9:9; Isa 25:3).

Bible mentions some benefits that come from having God as our refuge. Those who take refuge in God (even today) receive:

Blessings– Those who take refuge in him are blessed, are filled with joy and gladness (Ps. 2:12; 5:12). Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him (Ps. 34:8).

Protection– They that run to Him receive protection (Ps. 5:11). The Lord is a shield to those who shelter under his wings (2 Sam. 22:31; Ps. 18:30). Those who trust in God are kept safe (Ps. 16:1-2). The Lord guards them; “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge” (Ps. 91:4).

Deliverance– Those who shelter in the Almighty receive deliverance from enemies and from the traps of enemies. The Lord delivers his own from the wicked. He is the strong tower against our enemies (Ps. 61:3-4), therefore worthy to be trusted at all times. David confessed, “O Lord my God, I take refuge in you, save me and deliver me from all who pursue me” (Ps. 7:1ff; 11:1; 31:4). Also, David expressed his confidence in God, the trustworthy deliverer; for those who trust in God as their refuge are also rescued from shame (Ps. 25:20) and are redeemed (Ps. 34:22). If we want to receive honor instead of shame, then we need to hide under His wings.

Love and Goodness of the Lord– Those who take refuge in God are shown the wonder of God’s great love (Ps. 17:7-9) and enjoy the goodness of God (Ps. 31:19-20).

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Where do you seek your refuge today? Is it in places, people, family, beauty, knowledge, material things, relationships? Ultimately, these options disappoint. Realize that even people who have sought refuge places in schools and in church buildings, in the past, were disappointed when those ‘safe’ places were razed.

If God is your refuge, you will not fear (Ps. 46). You will not be moved.

The safest place to be in the times of storm is to be under the shadow of His wings. The Lord is the strong shelter from the wind, a shade from the heat of the day, a refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain.

Like the Psalmist, the Lord is and has been our refuge, we tell him what concerns us and he delivers us. Also, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble,” (Ps 46:1); “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1).

Jesus Christ is the refuge’ to those who run to him; even the vilest sinner who runs to him finds life. He is a safe refuge we can run to from the sinful world and turbulence of life.

Life has eventualities, just as the Mosaic law anticipated and made some legal provisions. But more importantly, we need to have a PERSON we can run into and be safe. The Lord is that sure refuge; not places or human beings.

Today, make the sovereign Lord your refuge. The psalmist exhorts us to choose God as our refuge for it is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man or in princes (Ps. 118:8). What does this mean to you?

A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it” (Prov. 22:3).

Over time, theologically, the idea of finding refuge in geographical places was replaced by the idea of finding refuge in the Person of God. A shift from a PLACE to a PERSON!

LIFE ON A SLIPPERY SLOPE

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Life presents us with tough situations that make us question our foundational beliefs; especially on God’s character. Asaph, one of the singers in the OT temple, wrestled to relate what he believed (about God) with what he observed in life. In his struggle, he challenged the notion that God always blesses the righteous and punishes the wicked. He could not piece it together why the ungodly seem to prosper and why the godly to suffer. His reflections on God’s goodness to his people at the backdrop of the prosperity of the wicked are penned down in Psalm 73, for us today.

Epilogue: Affirmation of God’s Character (v. 1-2)

Asaph begins by affirming God’s character, “Surely, God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.” The God he worshipped was good. Historically, He had been good to the nation of Israel. (Realize that, even with his questions, he had a good theology; that God’s goodness is with those who are committed to him). Though, seemingly, he struggled to see the goodness of this God (manifested at the national life of Israel), at an individual level.

The paradox of Life as Asaph perceived (v. 2-3)

Apart from knowing that the Lord is good to his people, Asaph struggled in his heart to reconcile this fact with his observations concerning the prosperity of the wicked and the suffering of the godly. As he considered this mismatch, he not only increased in DOUBT but also developed in his heart ENVY of the shalom/prosperity of the arrogant. Sure enough, as he trod this path, he admits that he nearly lost his foothold.

Ways and Prosperity of the Ungodly Considered (v. 4-12)

He observed that the ungodly have no struggles. Their bodies are healthy and strong. Asaph thought to himself, who does not want such a life? In his skewed observation, he noted that the ungodly are free from common human burdens; they are not plagued by human ills. Like today, such people, even when they fall sick, their ill-gotten wealth assures them of stable insurance covers that would guarantee them better medical packages abroad. To Asaph, it looked like these people have it all. He could only envy them.

He also notes that these people are full of pride and violence. They use violence to acquire it what they want; and surely, they get it. Courts of law would not scare them. They are the types who switch jobs and get promotions anytime they want because of their evil maneuvers.

Their hearts and minds are totally corrupt. They have no limits of evil in their imaginations; they speak arrogantly and threaten oppression. But still, Asaph observed, everything seemed to work well for them!

They are popular, (they have the likes and following!) and everyone talks about them; and would want to stick around them.

They even mock God. In their iniquities, they say “’How would God know?’ Does the Most High know anything?’” (v. 11). Unlike Asaph, these people care less about knowing God or pleasing him. Yet, everything seemed is perfectly well with them!

These people don’t have church, Bible, or prayer and fasting in their vocabularies. They mock the very idea of prayer, God, and the Bible, and care less about God’s existence. Yet, again, they sound okay!

These wicked people are always free of care, and they go on amassing wealth, committing atrocities and injustices, taking everything under their own names. Yet, they go free.

These people seem to be enjoying everything about life, and having the best time of their lives; they are people who need not be concerned with tax compliance, they corrupt their way and hire the best lawyers to argue their cases, and bribe their way out in courts of law; they inflate tender figures, manipulate/cook accounts; they do evil and get away with it. They are a phone call away from a multimillion tender deal, money that will take you many years to get. They seem to have much fun and generally enjoy life.

So, why keep the rules when those who bend them always get ahead?

At least, in these verses, you can feel the struggles that Asaph went through. It certainly makes one sick.

How could God in his goodness allow these wicked people prosper and permit the righteous to suffer?

Certainly, Asaph may not have approved every detail of their prideful behavior but “it worked for them!”; they were prosperous in everyone’s eyes. And who does not want to be prosperous?

What then has been the value of my Godliness (v. 13-15)

Then the psalmist pondered about the value of his salvation. “Surely, in vain I have kept my heart pure and washed my hands in innocence.” He questioned the value of his godliness at the backdrop of the prosperity of the ungodly. Yes, as a godly man, Asaph had suffered many afflictions (Ps. 34:19); but in his envy, admittedly, he’d also become blind to the fact that even the ungodly undergo through many afflictions.

Asaph felt he had cleansed himself in vain. In his puzzle, the Lord seemed to prosper the wicked and punish the righteous.

Today, like Asaph, we are tempted to ask, ‘how has my salvation helped me when those who are not saved seem to be doing so well in every area of life?’

Have I maintained a clean heart in vain?

Asaph is sure that if he had spoken out his heart-deliberations he would have betrayed God’s people who looked up to him. Nevertheless, he kept these questions alive within him.

These things continued to trouble and confuse him deeply. Has it all been in vain?

Today, similarly, a pastor can ask himself, ‘is it in vain that I have faithfully preached yet the panda mbegu preachers are making a kill each Sunday?’ A businessman can ask, ‘is it in vain that I have conducted my business in an ethical way and as a result downsizing my staff, yet my unethical neighbor who relies on many things including witchcraft keeps on expanding? A young person might be thinking, is it in vain that I have kept my purity yet those who care less about purity or God are ‘moving on well’? These are weighty issues.

One thing is for sure, it can never be in vain.

Take a close look at Asaph’s mistakes:

  • He defined success, greatness, life, fun, pleasure, and prosperity through the eyes of the world/men.
  • His human perspective made him see things in terms of HERE and NOW. If God is good, why do I lack this and that now?
  • Envy and covetous (against the law of God: Ps. 37:1; Prov. 3:31). In this case, wanting the right things at the wrong time, in a wrong manner, and in the wrong amount.

This led him to:

  • Question God’s goodness.
  • Feel discouraged, embittered, and depressed.
  • Waver in his confidence in God.

Asaph’s Paradigm Shift: (v. 17-22)

The psalmist went out to the sanctuary to worship, hear the word of the Lord, and commune with the Lord.

The solution to our problems lies not in complaining but in communing with God.

When he entered the holy place of God (the presence of God), something happened! Verse 17 marks the turning point of this psalm. Behold! His eyes were opened! Asaph received a revelation!

He received God’s perspective of reality. He received new lenses (God-view lenses). He started to see things from God’s perspective; In this new perspective, he received a deeper revelation concerning the ungodly and the godly. Let have a look at each.

The Ungodly

As he embraced the God-perspective, he got to understand the FINAL DESTINY of the ungodly (v17). He started to realize that God has placed them on a slippery ground where they eventually stumble and fall. In due time, they will surely be cast down to ruin.

In his justice, God will arise and give them what they deserve. The end of the ungodly isn’t desirable at all; for they are on a pathway to destruction. The wicked are like a dream when one awakes; they are like fantasies (a dream), counterfeits of reality.

At this, point Asaph realized that his initial conclusion was wrong. His spirit was embittered/grieved noting that he had been senseless and ignorant before God (v. 21-22). His human perspective had led him along the same slippery path. He now started to overcome his doubts by considering the destiny of the wicked. The final destiny of the wicked is definitely miserable and NO ONE would not want to go that direction or walk along that path.

The Godly (v.23-26)

In this new God-perspective, the psalmist realized his glorious destiny. But he also acknowledged God’s help in the present time.

He acknowledged that:

  • God has been with him always (v.23)– God’s right hand, has always sustained and upheld him and supplied his needs. The ungodly look all good, but they do not have God’s presence. To him, God has been his portion (Lam. 3:23-24). In the words of Psalm 103, Asaph realized that in fact, he should be grateful for God’s blessings upon his life: God had forgiven him his sins, healed him, crowned him with love and compassion, satisfied his desires with good things, and redeemed his life from the pit. Simply, God has been good to him.
  • God has been his guide/counsel (v.24)– He had walked in God’s counsel. God had made known his ways to him. And he hasn’t allowed his feet to slip. He realized God guides his own through the puzzles and turbulence of life. He realized that he is standing because God had planted his feet upon a rock, to keep him from sliding.
  • Finally, God will receive him in/with glory (v. 24)- The godly will finally receive honor and glory.

The psalmist realized that he was indeed blessed. In fact, the ungodly should envy him, not vice versa. He affirmed that God was his only possession and desire in heaven and or on earth. The wicked people prosper materially but only the spiritual possessions of the righteous will last.

He recognized that the one who is truly prosperous or blessed is the one who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers but the one whose delight is in the law of the Lord (Ps. 1:1-2)

He came to a realization that those who trust in God have their feet on a firm foundation and have a glorious ending. But the wicked and those who envy them are on a slippery ground and they will soon stumble, fall, and will be destroyed.

Epilogue (v. 27-28)

Asaph concludes that those who are far from God and are unfaithful will perish. But those who are NEAR to Him find joy and safety.

Although he had slipped in his confidence in God (v2), he was now reassured that God was keeping him secure and had planned a good ending for him. God was his refuge, and shelter from danger.

Nearness to God always helps believers maintain a balanced perspective on material things and on the wicked

Concluding Thoughts

Envying the prosperity of the wicked is a common temptation even for us today. This becomes more real when we look at the world around us using human or world perspectives. It only leads us to despair and faithlessness. Asaph could agree that what he saw in the lives of the ‘prosperous’ ungodly was not the real thing; it was a sham, fantasies, and things transient (1Jn. 2:17).

We need not take pleasure in the fact that sinners seem to be prosperous. We need not admire the ungodly, for they are on a slippery slope.

The prosperity of the ungodly should not be envied but despised. Their prosperity is short and uncertain; their destruction is sure and sudden. Soon, they shall be no more.

God intends to bless us (give us shallom/all-round wellness/prosperity) but he gives us success, wealth and prosperity that is true and enduring; therefore, we need to begin seeing fun success, prosperity, wealth and fame through God’s eyes.

God-perspective brought Asaph to where he began; that the Lord is good to his people. He now came to the conclusion that the Lord is not just good to the nation of Israel but also to individual lives of his people.

Such a transformed attitude, today, will lead us to behold God’s goodness to those who are pure in heart even when we see the ‘prosperity’ of the wicked.

The God-perspective he received helped him understand the puzzles and regain his spiritual balance, draw near to God, and to declare God’s works.