Monthly Archives: August 2015

Possessing the Land – part 1:

Who will get There?

And the little ones that you said would be taken captive, your children who do not
yet know good from bad – they will enter the land. I will give it to them and they
will take possession of it. (Deut 1:39)

And indeed they entered the land – those who were still children and youth when the
nation of Israel was liberated and freed from the bondage of Egypt. The Bible records
a census that was conducted just before they entered the land, and shows that none
of those who 20 years and above who left Egypt reached the other side except Joshua
and Caleb. Those older folk who did not make it suffered the great judgment of God
against whom they rebelled; ten of the twelve spies came back with a discouraging
report and caused almost everyone to turn back to Egypt! And God punished by
lengthening their journey until they were all dead, and a new generation brought
forth.

Joshua was leading this new generation when God told him, ‘I will give you every
place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses.’ (Josh 1:3) Joshua was greatly
encouraged and his strength renewed, and what follows is a series of victories and
conquests. And indeed they entered the land. So, the question of ‘who will get there’
that some could have asked at the beginning of the journey from Egypt is now
answered – the children, the youth and the new generation. Yet the question still
lingers for us today who are in a greater Exodus and looking forward to ultimate
deliverance and freedom from the ‘Egypt’ of this corrupt world to enter the Promised
Land of heaven. It is clear that the journey of the children of Israel from Egypt to
Canaan represents in good part our life today – our journey from earth to heaven.
Who will get There?

Children and youth were the channels of God’s forgiving grace for the nation of
Israel; He would have wiped them away as he told Moses, but after the prophet’s
intercession, God looked at children and youth as worthy recipients of His gracious
forgiveness and channels of extending the same to a nation that would now survive
extinction. Thinking about the rebellion again God in our days – expressed in the
rampant moral decadence as well as the worship of material possessions and power,
which is idolatry; well, there surely is a remnant of believers who are still strong and
holding onto God’s gracious promises and shunning all evil, but it could be that we
have many lessons to learn from our little children – that they are potential channels
of God’s Greater Grace. In the next part, we’ll explore Jesus’ related assertions, like
‘… unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.’
God bless you

Enduring Legacy:

Reaching our Generation for Christ

Now when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation,
he fell asleep; … But the one whom God raised from the dead
did not see decay (Acts 13:36-37).

Stephen R. Covey in his book ‘First Things First’ expressed that people have a need ‘to live, to love, to learn, and to leave a legacy’ – and that forms the purpose of life. Laban Jumba explores the meaning of an enduring legacy in his book ‘If I could live to be 900!’ Jumba takes on the men of Genesis 5 who lived more than 900 years and wonders why their lives were described with such brevity; the oldest was Methuselah (v.25-27) and his 969 years of life are summarized in only three verses! On the other hand, Noah’s life is covered in four chapters – and here Jumba suggests that the secret of such a strong Legacy was in the fear of God and in what God counted as achievements. What in your life will God credit you for?

The Bible personalities whose many achievements God counted are repeatedly mentioned later even long after they finished their earthly life; that is evidence of their enduring
legacies. In Paul’s sermon to Jews at Antioch in Pisidia, in their synagogue, David occupies a large part and he is described as one that ‘served God’s purpose in his own generation’; that was the heart of his legacy. This sermon is given as a specimen of what these apostles usually preached to the Jews, and the method they took with them. It doesn’t matter whether someone built hanging gardens in Babylon or great pyramids in Egypt or a Tower reaching the heavens – an enduring legacy in God’s kingdom had different criteria. It doesn’t even matter what poor background you had or what prejudices you suffered in your early life – David was such a forgotten shepherd boy! The criterion was and still is the extent to which one serves God’s purpose.

In such men that had enduring legacy, the Jews took pride and spiritual comfort, hoping that the merits of their ancestors would qualify them for an eternal inheritance. But not so – the merits are not just transferable, and Paul was quick to show that it was not ancestry but rather serving God’s purpose that earned the heroes their places. The one who served most perfectly wa Jesus Christ himself, and his legacy should not be compared to those of mere mortals, but it cuts through generations upon generations – the most enduring.
Jesus was such a servant of God that He would not let him remain in the grave to see
decay – and hence the proof that Jesus is the Messiah, the Saviour. Consider actions that will earn merits for you in the kingdom of God; and in greater and sweeter reality, being
connected with Jesus Christ enters believers into the joyful and fruitful life without end – the heavenly enduring legacy to the glory of God the Father.
God bless you all.

Mission: Suicidal Risks

“And if I perish, I perish.”
On the third day Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the palace, in front of the king’s hall. (Esther 4:16, 5:1)

Preaching the Gospel can be a risky mission: think about the evangelists that were eaten by lions, others died at sea, and Bishop James Hannington met his death at the orders of King Mwanga even before almost making it to the royal court. These were people with full conviction about an important mission. This trait was lacking in Esther, but when she had fully repented and embraced the mission to save her people, it was worth taking a suicidal risk – even more risky than travelling through dangerous forests with ravenous fauna to convert a savage king in ancient Afrika.

For the security of the king, it was enacted that no one should be admitted into his presence; Esther’s ordinary wisdom had reminded her that entering the king’s presence without invitation was as good as calling death upon oneself, and this was law (4:11). Even then, Mordecai made an inconsiderate appeal pushing Esther as if he wished her dead – to intervene before the king without invitation! And when Esther remembered the place of divine intervention through passionate prayer, she picked up the courage for the mission that would require a suicidal risk, expressed in her own words ‘if I perish I perish’. How do you accomplish such a mission – how do you take such a risk?

The third day: Esther’s timing was on the third day of prayer and fasting. When you have been before the Lord long enough, you have both courage and power to face any difficulty. Temptations to panic and attack the problem before prayer are common; even more common could be interventions after prayer but before adequate prayer. To wait for the third day is to ready oneself enough in the presence of the King of kings, and then all other kings you approach – no matter what laws they have enacted – you will be sure to find favour.

The royal robes: Esther’s dress code in royal robes depicted a readiness to meet the king as if she was on appointment. This was expression of faith – death is staring her in the face, but her faith tells her she will meet and converse with the king. This faith, without any doubts, could only come from the deep spiritual preparation.

Dare take the risk. The inner court where Esther stood was the very one she talked about as out of bounds. On the third day, the Lord God Almighty steps into the affairs of earthly kingdoms to prosper His will; He is willing to use you if you will dare take the risk. Remember however, it could turn out dangerous; is only safe it on the third day – when you have fully prepared before the Lord God Almighty.

God bless you all.

Mission Unknown?

“For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise
from another place, … And who knows but that you have come to your royal position
for such a time as this?”” (Esther 4:14)

Awareness has powerful effects – it can save you or kill you. While visiting one
National Park recently, we were involved in conversations about the wild. It is said
that when you see a lion, you can survive being eaten if you stay calm; the lion will
not attack. This is similar to the advice given when one meets a strange dog – you
are advised not to run away or act aggressively, or else it will attack. But how can you
really stay calm in the face of a lion? Only a little child unaware of the danger can stay
calm; even a dangerous venomous snake can pass a sleeping child in the compound
without attacking because there is neither fear nor aggression against it. The child is
thus saved by his ignorance or unawareness. But not so when the lion is hungry!

Queen Esther was probably as calm and unaware as that sleeping child while ‘there
was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting, weeping and wailing’ because of
the looming xenophobic annihilation edict sponsored and propagated by Haman
(Est4:3-8). Esther was basking in the luxuries of the palace completely unaware of the
advancing ‘lion’. When the lion is hungry, it doesn’t matter whether you run or stay
calm, it just needs some food and any meat in the surrounding will do. The lion will
devour even the ignorant; and this was Mordecai’s counsel to Esther – that she too
would not survive!

There was an urgent mission; Mordecai could see it, but to Esther it was a mission
unknown until she received the stern reprimand, ‘you have come to your royal position
for such a time as this’. She then realized that she had to go against the odds
of dignity, youthful immaturity and laws of an earthly king, in order to obey the Heavenly
King whose chosen people were in danger and needed deliverance. Esther
stepped into the deep waters and joined in fasting and prayer, and the Lord brought
a victory that saved the entire nation.

Even today and in many different forms, the devil prowls around like a roaring lion
looking for someone to devour. There is mission to save God’s beloved people from
the hungry lion. To many potential actors, it is a mission unknown! The purpose of
this message is to call upon you to ‘be alert and of sober mind’ (1Pet 5:8) and to arise
and play your part in the mission. Is it prayer, financial support, going out to preach
door to door? Or is it just discussing the message at home to better your relationship
with God and model a great example for your children… do you part. Just like Esther
went an extra mile in prayer and preparation and God answered extra-ordinarily to
save His people, you too will see the victory of the Lord before your very eyes.

God bless you all.

Lonely. Worship. Repentance. Mission.

“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”” (Isaiah 6:8)

Lonely. It seems we need some loneliness to be able to see further than our usual extents. Yes, it takes a retreat by yourself to access some insights that you just cannot catch in the noise of your comfort. The date of Isaiah’s vision in the sixth Chapter is not simply when King Uzziah died, but more so when there was the loneliness of losing a great king in Israel. The people and things in which you take confidence or rest are not permanent. When your comfort zones are shaken and you feel lonely or unstable, even there you can seek and meet the Lord.

Worship. Many have ‘seen the Lord’, but they report different things just like the blind
people that went to see an elephant… some see a big hand, others a big eye, others a big ear, and so on… But Isaiah saw a glorious sight and could not help but realize such
captivating worship of the only one worthy of glory, praise and honour. This is the ultimate of ‘seeing the Lord’. Don’t wait for the congregational time; take moments to read psalms aloud, sing hymns and spiritual songs; describe in your words the glory and goodness of the Lord and join the heavenly beings in worship. It is a great thing to minister to the Lord in this way.

Repentance. As we talk about preparing for mission, the example of Isaiah in looking to himself and realizing the need for personal cleansing before launching out into the mission field is important. Who ignores their unworthiness when the glory of the Lord is shining all around? This is a great opportunity for each one of us to slow down and turn to God for
forgiveness and re-direction. The tools God uses to do this may be uncomfortable – hot coals taken with tongs! But the end is freedom – ‘your guilt is taken away’. This is now a state ready for service.

Mission. Then you can respond to the good question, ‘Whom shall I send?’ Elijah was
worried he was the only one left; Jesus exclaimed the labourers were few; now the voice is
announcing to a world of people the need for a messenger, one that will go and proclaim the Word to a people so hungry and needy. As we pray to the Father to send more labourere, consider your own response. In that year, only one answer was recorded – and that was from Isaiah. To respond like Isaiah did, you ought to walk the path he walked and go through the stages without despising or dodging any: Lonely. Worship. Repentance.
Mission.

God bless you all

Preparing for Mission

”I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant… I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” (1Kings 19:10)

Mission has been well defined as “something that one feels he must do because it is his duty” and in our context that something is preaching the gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ. This is the mission that brings the lost back into the fold of the Great Shepherd – preaching the gospel of salvation. At one time Jesus announced to his disciples something that is still true today: “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” There are many people around us who need to be shown the way of salvation, to be given a Word that
encourages. Even some potential workers need encouragement; they sometimes sink into the valley of isolophobia (the fear of being alone) the same way Elijah suffered. At this time he made such a desperate and dangerous prayer which the Lord was not ready to answer or even listen to.

The Apostle Peter calls upon every believer to always be prepared to boldly confess their faith in Jesus Christ who is the source and reason for the hope we have (1Pet 3:15). This preparation begins ‘in your hearts’: You make a decision to follow Christ first, and day by day you grow in honoring Him as holy, and in turn He builds in you strength and courage to bring out what is in your heart through your lips as well as actions, in both easy and tough times. Are you ready to preach? Are you prepared to give that answer?

At the deppest of Elijah’s discouragement, God sent an Angel who told him, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” Just as the source of physical strength is physical food, God has food that can revitalize you into Kingdom business – that is the bread of life – the Word of God. As for those disciples, Jesus did not just given them a problem
statement; he also told them what to do about it: “Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Luke 10:2). This is another resource action – Prayer.

You influence many people – whether at home or at work, your friends or your fellowship, those you know and those you don’t know. Give yourself to God and His mission, and fulfill your call. Martin Smith calls upon the Church is this great song:

Rise up Church with broken wings; Shout to the North and the South;
Fill this place with songs again. Sing to the East and the West,
Of our God who reigns on high Jesus is Saviour to all
By His grace again we’ll fly. Lord of heaven and earth.

God bless you as you give yourself to His work!