WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE A TRUE DISCIPLE OF JESUS CHRIST- Part 2

way

(Continuation from the previous blog)- So far we have seen that true disciples of Jesus are learners, they are submissive to Christ (and to authorities), and are bearing fruit. Being a disciple of Jesus also means:

  1. Loving God and his people

By sending the disciples out to preach, Jesus was giving them opportunity to share God’s love to people. The calling the disciples received was also a calling to herald the love of God. When Jesus saw the crowd he had compassion over them, they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he told His disciples that the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few and that the disciples should ask the Lord of the harvest to sent out workers into his harvest field. He then sends them out to preach the gospel.

Jesus had taught them what love is. A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another– Jn13:34-35.

Jesus taught his disciples what love is. The service of a disciple of Jesus was to be characterized by love. It is because of love and compassion that he told them to go and heal people of their sicknesses, casting out demons, raising the death, and cleansing the lepers. When a disciple leads he does not lord over others but serves like a servant. He serves by leading and leads by serving.

Small actions of love make a great difference.

  1. It means imitating Christ- the Master

Disciples are known for the imitation of their teachers. The call of every disciple of Jesus is also a call to follow after the Master- Jesus Christ. The calling of disciples by Jesus as recorded in Mark was twofold, he appointed the twelve that they  might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons-Mk 3:14-12. The time they spent with Jesus was a life-changing moment. It is in this close relationship that he revealed to them the secret things of God. Jesus modeled that disciples are servants.

The goal of being a disciple is to become like the teacher. A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher- Lk 6:40. John writes in his epistle, whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did- 1 Jn 2:6. To know the Father is to walk as Jesus did. Paul urged believers in Ephesus to imitate Christ, Eph 5:1. Paul said of himself: I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me– Gal 2:20.

The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch, outside Jerusalem. People saw Christ in them- Acts 11:26. As we behold on Christ, the author and perfector of our faith, we become transformed inward out and become like Him. In the words of John the Baptist, He must become greater, I must become less-Jn 3:30

  1. Counting the cost- Many people want to be associated with Christianity but are not ready to consider the cost. Following Christ comes with a cost. It means following one master and forsaking other masters. It means living in oppposition to world values. It involves carrying your own cross. This is not easy. One has to be ready to surrender all and laying down all at the feet of Jesus. The disciples of Jesus who were later referred to as apostles suffered persecution rejection, and suffering in obedience to the will of their Master. One must be ready to suffer, Mat 10:34-37; Lk 14:25-27. It is a life of denial.
  2. It means proclaiming the imminence of the kingdom of God-

The disciples of Jesus were told to go out and proclaim that the kingdom of God is near. It is not like the kingdom of this world. This kingdom was inaugurated during the incarnation of Jesus and at the Pentecost when the church was founded. The church is not the kingdom but a witness to the kingdom. The casting of demons, healing ministry of Jesus revealed that the kingdom of God has come. This kingdom has come in part and awaits final revelation during parousia (second coming of Jesus). It is a kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy. It is a kingdom of power and glory. The disciples of Jesus proclaim the coming and the nearness of this kingdom. The church serves a central role. The ‘delay’ of the full manifestation of this kingdom means an opportunity for sinners to repent.

True disciples of Christ will seek first the kingdom of God and its righteousness. They make disciples of all nations.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE A TRUE DISCIPLE OF JESUS CHRIST- Part 1

way

It is important for us today to recapture what it means to be a disciple of Jesus because we live in a world where many people identify themselves as Christians yet they live a different life. The central question is who exactly is a disciple of Jesus? What does the Bible teach about becoming/being a disciple of Christ? What does it mean to follow Jesus?

For your knowledge, the Bible uses the word “disciple” 282 times, “believers” 26 times and “Christians” only 3 times. The number the word “disciple” is repeated shows us that there is more to learn on what it means to be a disciple. In the Great commission, Matt 28:19-20, Jesus commissions his followers to go into all the world and make disciples.

The passages (Matt 10:1-7; Lk 10:1-12) we have read details the call to be disciples of Jesus. We become disciples of Jesus by responding positively to his call. Jesus called his disciples and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. He then sent them out into the world as apostles, (the purpose of their preparation) to preach.

It was a common phenomenon in the 1st century for a spiritual leader to have disciples. John the Baptist also had disciples. Matt 9:14. Pharisees had their own disciples, Matt 22:16. Jesus had many disciples other than the twelve disciples, Matt 10:1; Lk 22:11. Many of his followers were Jews, Jn 6:66; Lk 6:17. Some of Jesus’ disciples followed him secretly, Jn 19:38. Some were true and some were false dsiciples.

What Does it mean to become a disciple of Jesus?

  1. It means being a learner– The word “disciple” is from the Greek word “mathetes” meaning a “learner” or “student”. It is one who follows another person’s teaching.

Jesus’ disciples were called to a new and different life. In fact the life principles they were taught were upside down and a paradox of what they knew. The way up is down (humility); the first shall be last; to be filled we must empty ourselves; to live we must first die; to find we must first lose; and we gain not by adding more but by letting go. This needed learning.

The disciples of Jesus were fishermen, but they were called to be fishers of men. That also needed learning. No wonder they are sent for an internship in the Luke’s passage.

Therefore a true disciple of Jesus needs to embrace learning as a lifelong activity. Disciples of Jesus never arrive; instead they are in constant process of learning and becoming.

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

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

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

The good news for disciples is that we have an invitation from Jesus to learn from him; Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light, Matt 11:28-30.

The problem with the know-it-all believers is that they are not teachable. Such people do not listen, even when warned of an impending danger. They can’t be corrected. The book of proverbs calls them fools. You warn them of a ditch ahead of them they will downplay it as a small pothole!

Therefore disciples of Jesus are learners all the time. If you are not growing then you have expired and if you are expired then you are not of use to the kingdom of God. If you have stopped learning you have stopped marveling at the greatness of God.

  1. It means being submissive to Christ (and to authorities)-

The disciples of Jesus found a new Master when they responded to his call. The Roman Empire had many lords and Caesar was one. Submission to Christ means following him no matter what. It means subjecting our will to his will. It means realigning our plans/mission to God’s plans.

Submission means obedience; and obedience to 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; 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– 1 Jn 2:4-5. Christ wants the life of his disciples to be totally submitted to him in obedience to his word.

When a Christian says “I am born again and Christ is my Lord” he actually says two things. He is saved (in reference to the past activity of justification) and secondly, Christ is Lord (in the sense that he presently rules over my life). The point I want to make is that many Christians were saved but presently they do not have Christ as Lord over their lives. The lordship of Christ is something we choose every other moment; we choose to submit to Him or to follow our own will. Disciples of Christ live a life of submission to Christ. T

Submission also involves submission to the authorities instituted by the Lord-either at home, workplace, government, or in the church. Peter, a disciple of Jesus, later exhorted the church to be submissive: Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right-1 Pet 13-14.

In submission to the will of the Father, the disciples obeyed the Great Commission and preached the gospel from Jerusalem, to all Judea, all Samaria and to the ends of the earth.

  1. It means bearing fruit

After teaching them and showing them miraculous signs, Jesus sends out the disciples to share the gospel and heal people. Fruit here may represent new converts, or even fruit of the Holy Spirit. Whichever way you take, the point is clear, true disciples of Jesus bear fruit. They are like the tree planted by the river which yield its fruit in and out of season.

Jesus taught that: This is to my Father’s glory that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples Jn 15:8. What do you call people who claim to be Christians yet they are unproductive? I don’t know, what I know is that they are not disciples.

Beware of unfruitful Christian life. Unfruitful believers are like a clouds without rains, a well without water…a tree without fruit. We live in a world that we are very cautious about judging others; but the truth is that you will know the disciples by their fruit. Fruitfulness is a sign of true disciples.

LEARNING TO BE GRATEFUL: 9 Excuses of the Lepers

The story of the ten lepers in Luke 17:11-19, who were healed of leprosy by Jesus, is a story that has profound teaching on thanksgiving. Ten were miraculously healed but only one (not two… not three…) returned to give thanks. One can easily criticize the behavior of the nine without looking at how sometimes we similarly react. Yes, in a similar manner. You see, each of the nine lepers must have had a plausible excuse of its own kind, or an explanation for not going back to give thanks.

Here are nine possible excuses that they might have given:

  1. It is Jesus’ business to heal so why bother myself thanking him– ‘In fact he delayed, he should have even come earlier!’, they must have said. The garden of ingratitude is watered by pride. Underneath this excuse lies pride. A heart full of pride cannot bow down in humble appreciation  to a shown favor/grace, for a proud heart says ‘I deserve it all”. No wonder the one who went back to express his thankful heart s was a foreigner, a Samaritan; the Jews felt they deserved it all.
  2. I will go later and convey my thanksPerhaps one of the healed lepers thought of giving thanks but later. One might have thought of first updating his friends, family, and acquaintances about the healing and later on give thanks. Procrastination in expressing gratitude shows that our priorities are attached on other (wrong) things.
  3. One of us has already gone to say thanks and he represents our views anywayOne of the healed lepers might have used the one thankful leper as a scapegoat. The truth is: no one can clearly express your thankful heart other than yourself. The lepers had a lot in common in their day-day struggles but each healing was a unique story.
  4. God already knows that my heart is grateful The fact is: unexpressed gratitude is ingratitude.
  5. What matters is that we are healed. –This attitude attaches no value or priority to the act of thanksgiving. It only makes one minimize the work of God and the former situation in which we were in. Their healing was important but also they should have made thanksgiving the main thing.
  6. Mine was only a disease, unlike the blind and lame– Some of the healed lepers might have been tempted to compare their miracle with “others” who were worse than “us”. Comparison will only lead us to complaining and not to giving thanks.
  7. Is it really true that we are healed? Let’s give it time– At the heart of this excuse lies unbelief; doubting the work of God. A doubting heart does not give glory to God but ascribes the work of God to prevailing circumstances. Doubters will always doubt irrespective of available facts and evidence.
  8. Ooh I forgot it!– One or some of the healed lepers might have simply forgot to go back to Jesus and express thanks. It sounds a serious joke to be said of someone who had just been healed of a deadly disease. But the truth is that there are some people who simply do not have the word “thanks” in their vocabulary. Waiting for that word to come out of their mouths is like waiting for the sun to rise from west.
  9. What difference will it make?- Thanks is something we give, not take. The word is precisely “thanks-giving”. A heart that is full of ingratitude is a heart that is always at the receiving end. But a grateful heart is always at the giving end. Why is it that few people (perhaps a tenth) have a thankful spirit? It is because many people are only comfortable receiving than giving.

“Thanks is something we give, not take. The word is precisely “thanks-giving”. A heart that is full of ingratitude is a heart that is always at the receiving end. But a grateful heart is always at the giving end.”

Cultivate a thankful heart, a heart that gives glory to God for what He does.

give thanks to the Lord

7 Reasons Jesus did not allow stoning of the adulterous woman

The story of Jesus in John 8:2-12 is one of the remarkable stories recorded in the gospels.  It is not just a story that turns out to be good news to the adulterous woman, but also a story that greatly teaches us who Jesus really is. Jesus in this story does not affirm the sin (that the woman committed) but delivers the sinner. By bringing her to Jesus, the teachers of the law and the Pharisees were unknowingly bringing a sinner to the right person.

Jesus did not allow her to be stoned simply because in Him there is:

  1. Life- The adulterous woman (we don’t have her real name) had already received her death sentence from her accusers: people and the religious leaders. Perhaps they pondered, “why should she live?” contrastingly, Jesus’ perspective was, “why should she die?” Jesus had come for the very purpose to seek and save that which was lost and to give his life as a ransom for many, (Mk 10:45). Jesus also declares, I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. He is the fountain of life and any sinner who turns to Him in faith is never turned away but given eternal life.
  2. Love- The woman in this story suffered rejection and hate. She was brought early in the morning and before everyone to shame her before stoning her. But Jesus does the unexpected. He accepts her.  He embraces her. This does not mean that he affirmed her sin but in accepting her to come to him he clearly displayed God’s unconditional love. We see this love clearer when we look at the cross. God is love, (1 Jn 4:8). A very familiar verse summarizes it all, For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life, (Jn 3:16).
  3. Forgiveness-All we know about the woman in this story is that she was an adulterer. She was a sinner. Like any other sinner, she deserved death. The wages of sin is death. The people and the religious leaders would justify themselves from Scripture (Lev 20:10, Deut 22:22). But Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (Jn 1:29) took her sin upon himself.

When Jesus forgives he does it completely: he removes them as far as the east is from the west (Ps103:12); he casts them behind his back (Isa 38:17); he casts them into the depths of the sea Mic 7:19; he forgives all our trespasses Col 2:13, and he remembers them no more Heb 10:17. Amazing! He never leaves the woman the same point he found her, he forgives her and gives her a new beginning. Jesus said, It is not healthy who need a doctor but the sick, (Matt 9:12).

  1. Justification– In Jesus there is declaration of righteousness. This righteousness is not based on works but purely on the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, (Heb 5:10). It is received by those who put their faith in Jesus Christ, the atoning sacrifice for our sins. The woman had no righteousness of her own but Jesus’ righteousness was imputed on her. This is precisely what grace is.

The ultimate Judge took away her guilt and declared her righteous.  Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death, Rom 8:1-2. We also know that God did not send his Son to the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him Jn 3:17.  Who else can condemn those who the Righteous Judge of all has declared as righteous?

  1. Freedom– It is only in Jesus that sinners are set free. In this case, it is the freedom to not sin again. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees had a water-tight case against this particular woman until they brought it to Jesus who dismantled it. It is worth noting that Jesus eventually lets her go by telling her, “Go now and leave your life of sin” v11. The newfound freedom is a freedom not to further indulge sin but to serve the living Savior who had freed her.

In the words of Apostle Paul she was told, “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your boy to him as instruments of righteousness” Rom 6:11-13.

  1. Reconciliation- Sin separates us from a holy God. In no other way is the wall of hostility between us and God bridged apart from the only one Mediator between men and God- Jesus Christ. Through the death of Jesus Christ, we are once again reconciled to God, Rom 5:11,12; 2 Cor 5:18,19.

The adulterous woman had broken the law of God, in fact caught in the act, and by status an enemy of God, but Jesus actions toward her demonstrates that God has made a way that sinners can find hope. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation, Col 1:22.

  1. Redemption and deliverance– The penalty for sin is death and Jesus’ audience, together with the adulterous woman, must have understood this fact from the Law of Moses. But when they presented her to Jesus, they unknowingly presented her to the One who ultimately pays the penalty of sin once and for all. Jesus’ death on the cross was substitutionary. His death satisfied the wrath and justice of God. He died on our behalf that those who live might live for him.

Therefore the adulterous woman, and any other sinner like you and me, can live because of the redemption through the shed blood of Jesus. The biblical authors testified, In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace Eph 1:7; Col 1:13-14. She, like any other sinner who comes to Jesus, was delivered from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light.

In the same story in verse 12 Jesus further instructs, I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.

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

trumpet

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

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

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

Text: Psalms 137 (NIV)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

solfa.png

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

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

Christ is greater than a witchdoctor

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

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

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

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

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

Faith Hope and Love

faith hope love

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

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

Faith

We all have faith either on a person or a thing. But again we desperately need faith that is firm and that is put on an object that is trustworthy. Biblically, faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see (Heb. 11:1). We first need trust in God to be able to unlock the mystery of life. Secondly we need to constantly believe the promises of God. Faith in God is not blind but founded upon the promises of God. Faith that is put on people or things cannot stand the test of time. It is only God and his promises that are trustworthy.

It is natural and easy to doubt. But God calls us to live by faith not by sight (2 Cor. 5:17) for that pleases him. Note that the heroes and heroines (in Heb 11) are commended for their trust in God. Faith enables us walk closely with God. It helps us overcome our fears. Having an active faith in God makes it easy to obey, persevere, foresee, and live a life worthy of God.

Therefore we should be able to wake up into each new morning telling God “I believe you are….. and you can….”

Hope

Each one of us also needs hope. We also live in a world that is in dire need of hope. Like faith, hope can also be put on a something or a someone. When it is directed toward things (money, experience, education, family…) or a human being it will ultimately disappoint because these things are temporary. But hope that is put in God is solid and cannot fail.

Hope in God is able to transform us. When we put our hope in Jesus, we are gradually changed inwardly through the work of the Holy Spirit. We then experience transformation in our affections, emotions, minds, attitudes, and approach to life.

Again, hope is able to make us rejoice in any circumstance for hope in God does not depend on happenings. When we have such expectation we are able to say like Habbakuk, Though the fig-tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Saviour. The Sovereign Lord is my strength… (Habb. 3:17-19) Hope in God rejoices on the fact that God is at work even now. It is sure of the fulfillment of the things that faith beholds.

One can easily spot people with this kind of hope; they are full of joy, full of life, thankful, bold, and have an eternal perspective of things. It does not mean that their problems are all solved or that all of their prayers are answered. But they are aware that everything is secure in God’s hands and that God’s hands is on everything. They not only anticipate good out of present circumstances but also have hope of glory.

In a world full of suffering, trial, temptations, and evil; it is tough to maintain hope and easy to lose it. But it is good news to hear that God gives hope, he promised the exiles: “For I know the plans I have for you’, declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jer. 29:11). He gives it freely!

Love

In a morally corrupt Corinth, love had lost meaning; in such a context apostle Paul defined what true love is. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails (1 Cor. 13:4-8). Again, God is love (1 Jn. 4:8). We see this modeled in Jesus. Therefore true love involves learning from the example of Christ.

True love is not an abstract ideal but a real action to be expressed-loving God and his people. Like the way Jesus showed us, it involves giving sacrificially, Jn 3:16. What about the unlovable ones? Just love them! Life always presents us opportunities around us (of people who feel rejected, abandoned etc) to perfect our love. There is always a room to love and not to hate. And by doing so, we evidence our faith. The Body of Christ and individual believers today can make greater impact in the world by choosing to love. Love alone makes tears roll, tears of joy and tears of repentance. It is the weapon that the apostles used to conquer the mighty Roman empire.

It is faith that made the Thessalonians to turn from idols to true God; it is hope in Jesus that inspired their patience; it is love that prompted them to serve living and true God, (1Thess. 1:2-3).

In your journey of faith never let these three (faith, hope, and love) leave you!

Does Jesus care about poaching of wildlife?

ivory

The current situation and the rate at which wildlife is poached in Kenya and other African countries is quite disturbing. The situation is accelerated, day by day, by consistent silence and inaction. Every week ivory is seized by authorities, and poachers arrested; but the problem is not solved.

It is now a fact that the last male species of white rhino in the world is in Kenya. This one instance proves several cases of extinction of animal species. Today, Kenya burned the biggest ever stockpile of ivory of 6,000 illegally killed elephants- 105 tonnes of elephant ivory and 1.5 tonnes of rhino horns. This leads to the question does Jesus care about poaching of wildlife or ivory trade? The answer is a resounding Yes, he does care. Take a look.

The Bible, from Genesis to Revelation is very clear on matters of creation. God created all things good-whether plant or animals. God’s creation originally reflected what he wanted. There is a godly purpose and intrinsic quality in wanting animals to be animals. They reflect the greatness, goodness, wisdom and they declare the glory of God.

The problem of poaching not only demonstrates the reality of the fall of man but is also a failure to be God’s stewards over his creation. It is clearly an expression of self-centeredness and disobedience of man before God.

In God’s design, at no time should man attempt to eliminate other creation. Rather, humanity should respect the existence of every creation, preserve it and make it flourish. Creation mandate requires man to be a steward not an exploiter. For he is not at the center of all things, God is. Humanity is part of God’s creation, and knowing its rightful role and place in the entire creation is important in allowing other creatures (like elephants and rhino’s) have their rightful place.

Despite the fall of man, creation is hopeful through the reconciling work of Christ on the cross. Christ promises to restore all things at the very end of age. He cares for all creation. All things include every single creation. God’s creation, like humanity, is hopeful and therefore looking forward to that promised glorious future. Christian eschatology is not only about human salvation but also includes the redemption of the entire creation.

Humanity shares a lot with other creation. They live in the same “home”, the earth, with the rest of God creation. But man as the only creation in the image and likeness of God, is given mandate to accountably rule over the rest of God’s creation. Therefore mankind, in the Bible, is not justified in destroying wildlife.

Today, the massive loss of elephants and rhinos can be attributed to negative human action. The problem of poaching can be narrowed down to human greed. The insatiable greed to “quick riches” through ivory trade is quickly terminating our wildlife. It is selfish of humanity to put priority on self-centered interests and gains over stewardship of God’s creation. The fact that some animal species are facing extinction tells us that they are not enough in number for our greed.

The worth and value of elephants and rhino’s among other animals is not depended on man but God. Their existence should not be dependent on what value they are to man.

For every Christian, participating in conservation of wildlife is a worthy cause, for it is related to the purposes of God. There is some amount of righteousness and justice that comes with becoming faithful to God’s mandate of taking care of his creation. Advocating for elephants ‘rights’ and other wildlife is worth our time attention, money and support. It is an exercise of stewardship over God’s creation.

It is fine to be motivated by the gains we earn from tourism in order to promote conservation of wildlife; it is also good to do it for posterity but it is even greater if we do it because it is the right and godly thing to do. If Jesus cares, which is the case, his followers should. This involves joining hands with other relevant bodies and policy makers in ensuring that the future of wildlife is safeguarded.

Each one of us has power in our hands to do something or to influence for the threat is real. When we participate in protecting wildlife God is glorified!

What God has promised and what he has not promised in his word

Last Friday, the Supreme Court in US ruled that same-sex couples can now marry in all the 50 states. Quite alarming, but the trend and debates in the recent years vividly pointed to the ruling. Of great concern is the rippling effect to other nations of the world because often what is cooked in the West is also served in other parts of the world. Generally it is not an easy time for the church.

But while the world deteriorates into darkness in its values, believers also find an opportunity to shine brighter and brighter for Jesus in such a context. It was in the context of pagan Greco-Roman culture that the early church treasured the words of Jesus and boldly proclaimed the gospel. Knowing what God promises and does not promise is of importance for our spirituality and ministry. Here are some highlights on what God has promised:

  1. God never promised us the absence of strange and confusing times but promised his enduring presence; I am with you always, to the very end of age, Matt 28:20
  2. God has not called us citizens of this world but called us aliens and His ambassadors; we are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us 2 Cor. 5:20
  3. God never said that he is making the world a better place but promised that he’s gone to prepare us a place; And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am Jn 14:3
  4. God never promised that things around us will not grow from bad to worse but promises to make all things new; I am making everything new! Rev 21:5
  5. He never promised us power to legislate morality or overturn Court rulings but promised us the power to be witnesses; But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses…Acts 1:8
  6. He never guaranteed a world devoid of trouble but spoke comfort saying, “Take heart! I have overcome the world.” Jn 16:33
  7. God never promised a Christendom in this world but promised a kingdom of people called unto himself, the church; But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light, 1 Pet 2:9
  8. God did not promise the comfort of religious freedom but warned of hate, persecutions even death. If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own Jn 15:18

Irrespective of what happens in our world, God is at work; and in him all things hold together Col 1: 17.

Promoting God's Kingdom in Africa through Research, News Perspectives, and Publication