Category Archives: Faith and culture

THE POWER OF THE TONGUE

In any conversation, engagement, and communication, the use of words is inevitable. We use words to express our ideas, emotions, and feelings. We use words to cause an action or reaction. We tell a story using words. Words have meaning, influence, and impact. More importantly, we communicate the gospel message using words.

Depending on how we use them, words can build up or tear down, incite, encourage or discourage. The tongue is small but has great power. Therefore, it is important to learn from God’s word how we can handle the power of the tongue.

Text: James 3:1-12

Warning and the Danger of Words (v.1-2):

  • James warns that not many should presume to be teachers. Why teachers? It is because teachers use words as tools just as a carpenter uses a hammer…
  • But is this a danger exclusive to teachers? In verse 2, the danger is to ALL; “We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.” All of us, in one way or another, use words, and so the danger is real.

The Power of the Tongue (v. 4-12). The Tongue has:

I. Power to Direct (v.3-4)– James gives us two examples of a bit and rudder.

  • When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, it makes it possible to turn the whole animal.
  • Although large and driven by strong winds, a ship is steered by a rudder wherever the pilot wants to go.
  • The bit and rudder are small but provide direction to the horse and ship. They offer direction and control.
  • We can direct people’s lives on the right path with seasoned words.
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  • II. Power to Destroy (v.5-8) – Two examples are given here- fire and animal (v. 5-8).
  • The tongue is like the small spark that sets a great forest on fire- It should not be underestimated, just like a small crack in a ship.

Words have the capacity to destroy families, fellowships, and communities, and bring splits and divisions. A small slander can cause big harm to a fellowship.

The tongue is a fire. You know that fire is good when it is under control; it can warm people, give light, and cook food. But when it is out of control, it can create massive destruction. It can burn, consume and destroy what we value.

Like a drug, it is something good that within it has the capacity to be poisonous. It can corrupt the whole person and set the whole course of his life on fire…

Our words can start fires and destroy what took ages to build and can also quench fires.

So how can you control/put into check this fire?

  • Like all kinds of animals and birds, the tongue needs to be tamed. And it is good to know that it can be tamed. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

III. Power to Bring Life or Death (v.9-12)

The tongue has the power to pronounce curses or blessings. Out of the same mouth can come blessing or curse. The tongue is powerful, right?

A positive or negative word said to a person may have a life-long impact.

Solomon said, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Prov. 18:21).

The Challenge Today: In churches, fellowship groups, families, communities, and nations, many people have not learned to control their tongues. They do not even understand the impact/power of their words.

So how can we control our tongues and rightly channel the tongue’s power?I. Determine Who is in Control

  • Who is at the steering wheel of your life? Is Jesus enthroned in your heart? If he is not enthroned in your heart, then he is not enthroned in your speech.
  • Since it is difficult to perfectly tame the tongue, we need help from God.
  • When Jesus Christ is the Master of the heart, He is the Lord of the lips too.
  • Always guard your heart (Prov. 4:23), knowing that Satan can also use our tongues.
  • David prayed, “Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips. Let me not be drawn to what is evil…” (Ps. 141:3-4a).
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  • II. Choose How to Use your Tongue
  • Will you use your tongue to bless or curse? The choice is yours.
  • We can choose to use our tongues to slander, swear falsely, gossip, curse, blaspheme, boast, destroy, tear down, or discourage.
  • But at the same time, we can choose to use our tongues to praise God, exalt Jesus, encourage, and build up.
  • Guard what enters into your heart- the “garbage in, garbage out” principle is also biblical. “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matt. 12:34).
  • In the final analysis, you cannot be both a fresh and salty spring. You only can become one. You cannot be a fig tree and bear olives, or be a grapevine and produce figs. We recognize spring by its water and tree by its fruit.
  • A double-tongued person is a poisoned tongue (praising God at one time and hurling unprintables to the brother/sister. Choose to bless with your tongue.

III. Resolve to Control Your Tongue

  • It is possible that you make a resolve to speak about what is truthful-in love is and in a way that builds up.
  • Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Col. 4:6).
  • Resolve to reason before you talk. Learn to control what you say.
  • Revolving to speak words of life. Fill your heart and mind with the word of God.
  • (Realize that I’m not saying you zip up your mouth or speak less).
  1. Develop Your Fellowship with God
  • When we have fellowship with God, we will definitely talk about what is true.
  • Continually Learn to practice what we preach, say, sing.
  • As you submit and surrender to God, He will fill your mouth with eternal words.
  • Spiritual maturity requires a tamed tongue.

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Gaining by Losing

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In the first part of Philippians chapter 3 (3:1-11), Paul’s recounts his former and present life. Before his encounter with Christ, Paul based his confidence in the “flesh.” But after his experience with the risen Lord, his life totally changed! He put his confidence in God. In this church, false teachers from the Jewish background had spread false ideas with potential to cause conflicts and divisions. They boasted on external aspects of identity rather than looking at their newfound identity and calling in Christ. Today, believers in Christ should be changed by this transformative message of the gospel. We should be ready to lose in order to gain.

  1. Paul’s Former Basis for Confidence in the Flesh
  • Circumcised on the Eight day– The false teachers (referred to as ‘dogs’) emphasized on the need of the Jewish rite of circumcision beside believing in Christ. Circumcision practice was usually celebrated among the Jewish people as a sign of God’s covenant with Abraham (Gen 17:14). To the Jewish people, it was a mark of identity and belonging. Paul claims he can validly boast because he was circumcised in exact compliance with the law (Gen 17:12; Lev. 12:3; Lk 1:59). Gentiles were “uncircumcised”
  • Of the people of Israel– Paul descended from the patriarch Jacob; and as an average Jew, he could trace his family lineage all the way to Abraham. He was a true member of God’s covenant people. He was not a Samaritan, proselyte, God-fearer or pagan…
  • From the tribe of Benjamin– We know that Benjamin was the most favorite son of Jacob. Significantly, it was one of the remnant tribes that remained with Judah (also godly) and when the other ten tribes seceded (1 Kings 12:21).
  • Hebrew of Hebrews– An expression expressing the superlative degree. Although born in a pagan country, Tarsus, his parents were Hebrews and so he was a true Jew with no ‘mixed blood’.
  • Pharisee, regarding the law– the Pharisees were the strictest sect within Judaism, with legalistic interpretation of the law of Moses (Acts 23:6-9; 26:5). Paul was a well-trained Pharisee.
  • Zealous Jew– Due to his devotion and zeal to safeguard the law and Judaism, Paul persecuted the church of Jesus Christ.
  • In the eyes of the law– Legally, faultless and righteous. Paul’s former righteousness was obtained by observation of the law. He could pride over other the legal standing because in the eyes of the law he was by far better than any other Jews and Gentiles.

From what we have looked at, Paul had a strong basis to boast or to glory in his Jewish-related privileges. He could boast of his cultural identity (ethnicity), what he has done (merits) and what he has not done (to break the law). These are the things (confidence in the flesh) that the false teachers, Judaizers, promoted and boasted about. They boasted about

This may look distant to us, but the point is real. In most cases, are tempted to take rely/pride in our tribes (as regrouping points), connections, wealth, jobs, experience, politicians, families, birth/inherited privileges, education, etc. These are good things but can become ‘idols’ when we use them as yardsticks of everything. Going by these distinctions will not help the body of Christ; these looks at the outside and not the inside. It focuses on standards set by men and not by God.

  1. But Something Radical Happened…

Saul encountered Christ Jesus. In his Damascus road experience, he realized that he had all along been blind without knowing. He realized he had been attaching value on wrong things. He realized that he had been basing his life on a wrong foundation- “flesh.” He realized that his zeal was devoid of knowledge. He realized that he was so lost that he direly needed a bearing for a true salvation. he realized that he was wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.

When his eyes were opened, he realized that truth and life are not abstract concepts but a person.

And so, he had to scale down from the ladder that leaned on the “flesh” in order to climb up the right ladder that leans on “God.”

Entirely, his encounter with Jesus Christ transformed his mind, world view, and heart. The life of the new Paul was never the same again.

Have you had this encounter with Jesus?

 III. What Did this Transformative Encounter Lead to?

Paul now considered what was formerly profit a LOSS. He literally began a journey of losing. Christianity is a journey of losing and gaining. He started detaching value from what is worthless and putting value on what is praiseworthy and eternal. He now wanted to glory/boast in Christ.

What was formerly an advantage was now a loss, for the sake of Christ (v.7, 8). He realized that the very things that led him by the nose like a bull were the very things that hindered him from coming to the true faith in Christ. Now they are a loss. He now considers them all a “rubbish” (refuse, what is thrown away as worthless, chaff, refuse of a table, or of slaughtered animals, and then filthy of any kind), he no longer depends on them. He no longer esteems rites (circumcision), ethnicity, or birth privileges. Instead, he now has an identity defined by his relationship with Christ.

In Philippi, the slave girl lost her demonic gift, reputation, and power to predict the future and to earn money out of it. The disciples gave up everything- houses, brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, fields for Christ’s sake (Matt.19:29). For our behalf, Jesus gave up- his riches (2 Cor. 8:9), glory, joys of heaven to be a ‘man of sorrows’, immunity from temptation so as to be tempted, etc. (Phil 2:6-11). Many have lost friends, names, property, social exclusion, and abandonment.

Are there some things that you have lost as a result of your union with Christ?  Can you be able to say:

I no longer live the life I used to live; sing the songs I used to sing; eat the food I used to eat; drinks what I used to drink. I am able to truly say: I no longer talk the way I used to talk; go to places I used to go; think the way I used to think; or do what I used to do…. Have we suffered loss/renounced/given up some behaviors, attitudes, shameful ways (2 Cor. 4:2), patterns of the past (2 Cor. 5:17)?

We always sing, ‘count your blessings’; perhaps it is also good to think of ‘counting our loses’

Paul lost all things, but he gained much more than he lost.

What is it that has happened since Christ come into your heart? Are there loses? Have you lost attachment to the ways of the world or people of the world? The problem we have today is that we have many Christians who are unwilling to lose attachment to the (things of the) world. What is it that was formerly dear that you’ve now considered to be rubbish, FOR THE SAKE OF CHRIST.

IV. Things That Paul Wanted to gain (V. 8-11):

By losing “all” Paul did not want to remain empty. Rather, he wanted to be filled by God with worthy, valuable and eternal things. He wanted to receive what is true bread (Isa 55:1-2). He wanted his thirsty to be quenched once and for all (Jn 4:14).

So, what did he seek in exchange? Paul sought:

  • To gain Christ– Christ was the treasure that apostle Paul sought. Christ is the all in all. Secondly, Paul wanted to be found in him-united with Christ.
  • The righteousness of Christ (v.9; cf. Rom 3:21, 23,25) – Paul did not want self-righteousness but a form of righteousness that comes through faith in Christ.
  • The knowledge of Christ (v8)- Paul confesses “I want to know Christ.” Although he had walked with Chrsit for about three decades, Paul still desired a continual intimate/personal relationship with God. To know God is to: know Jesus Christ, walk as Jesus did, and to obey his commands. He wanted to know of his love that surpasses all understanding (Eph 3:19).
  • The power of his resurrection– Paul wanted to continue to know the power that raised Christ from the dead-the power that is now at work in us, the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8; Rom. 1:16; Col. 3:1). This is the same power that quickened us when we were death in our transgressions and sins; the power that brought us to salvation, sustaining us, the power that will present us before God.
  • The fellowship of Christ-(v.10-11)- The fellowship of sharing in his suffering. Similar experience to the baptism experience. Paul desired to suffer like and with Christ so that hw will be overjoyed when is glory is revealed (1 Pet 4:13; Col 1:24). He had a proper perspective of the present pain versus the future gain.
  • Becoming like him in his death- United with Christ in his death- 3:21. Baptism figure. Crucified with Christ… (Gal. 2:20; Phil. 1:29-30).
  • Attain the resurrection from the deathPaul believed that the death would be raised (Acts 24:15; 26:6-8; Phil. 3:21) that he will attain this resurrection. He hopes for that glorious resurrection of those who died in the Lord.

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Concluding Thoughts:

Jesus as the single greatest treasure that is worth everything (Matt. 13:44-45)

If you have not lost anything then you have not gained anything.

Paul gained far more than he lost.

If you have not detached yourself from the world then you have not learned the secret of attachment to Christ.

“He is no fool to give what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” Jim Elliot

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Successful Living

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How can we live meaningful lives in a world that is diametrically opposed to the kingdom values we uphold? Paul in his letter to Ephesians 5:15—20, helps us to practically address this question:

  • Be careful how you live (v.15)– By being wise, watchful, discerning/cautious to avoid danger. Watch your belief and conduct. Christians should be wise people. If you don’t have wisdom ask the wise, read God’s word, and ask God to give you wisdom. Be wise to avoid being carried by the winds.
  • Making the most of every opportunity (V.16)– Make use of time and opportunities to be a blessing, to touch lives, to participate in big things, to serve God, to improve your present situation….

Why? Life is short; and the days are evil (present times are full of temptations, evil people).

  • Understand the Lord’s will (V.17)– God created us for a special purpose; but we need to discover/seek to understand that purpose for our OWN lives. It is the will of God that you should be sober, holy, and steadfast. Perpetually, seek to know what pleases God.
  • Be filled with the Holy Spirit (V.18)– Have the God-influence over your life, by allowing God’s Spirit to indwell and transform you.
  • Be joyful and be thankful (V.19-20)– Encourage one another. Speaking to each other and praising God with music.

Be thankful to God for all things or all persons- including your family, situations… Acknowledge God, the one who has graciously gifted you with unmerited favors.

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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A Disciple Submits to the Lordship of Christ

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

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

Read here on the disciple of Jesus as a learner. 

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

A Disciples of Jesus Submits to his Lordship –

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

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

Briefly, what does submission mean?

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

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

Read here on Attitude of rebellion Vs Attitude of Submission. 

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THE LEADER AS SERVANT

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

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

Leader as Servant

A leader is a servant.

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

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

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

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

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

Read here for an example of servant leadership.

Read here for another Bible metaphor on leadership.

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HEROES AND HEROISM

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What are heroes remembered for?

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

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

What characterizes the lives of heroes?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be a hero.

WHAT THE LIFE OF MOTHER TERESA REMINDS THE CHURCH IN AFRICA

mother Teresa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mother Teresa

I’VE COME TO GIVE YOU LIFE…

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We live in a world that is both physical and spiritual; material and immaterial. It is good to always be 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 grand goal from the beginning is simple, focused, and clear: to steal, kill, and destroy. It is to TAKE away that which God has graciously give us. And so, practically, what are some of the things (that God has given us) that the devil constantly seeks to rob from us?

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.

Jesus has not only come to Give us life in abundance but also to restore what has been stolen from you. Additionally, 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 has come 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.

In his divine power, Jesus was able to bind the “strong man” on the cross. It is at the cross of Jesus that we find victory and ultimate restoration. 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, even eternal life.

 

5 Biblical Principles on Work

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A significant fraction of our lives is spent working or at the workplace.  A typical 8-5 routine is simply a third of a day. And so this is important to learn from God’s word 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. Humanity 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 Genesis 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/vocations 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 Proverbs 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 the energy and enthusiasm 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 manifests its spiritual problem through laziness in spiritual aspects like reading 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 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 profit/wealth (Prov. 14:23; 10:4). We need prosperity 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 meaning. Those who work as unto the Lord are not bothered by the presence or absence of their supervisors.

You see, the career/profession/vocation you currently hold, whether in the corporate world or a 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, 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.

God wants you to declare his excellence in that specific area you are involved in.  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; so don’t think God’s purposes are not embedded in that significant fraction of your life.

Serve as unto the Lord; people may 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, 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), and 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, to 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 of the fall of humankind, 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 beginnings. ‘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 standard of excellence and integrity. Let your light shine before men so 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 an 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. At 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!

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