WORD FOR THE DAY

The real meaning of Christmas

As we celebrate this Christmas, it is important to reflect on why Christmas is One of the most misunderstood seasons. Over the years, there has been some terrible misconceptions surrounding the true meaning of the season. To many it all about money, commercialism and greed. It's mostly about what song is on the top of the charts or which designer clothing has taken the fashion industry by storm. To Others, it as a time for parties, meals and get-togethers. Many children know Christmas only as a time for Santa, Rudolph The Red-nosed Reindeer and other equally foolish fairy tales. As a result, some children have no idea what the true meaning of what Christmas is all about

But the true Spirit of Christmas is one of giving. The exchange of Christmas gifts been one of the longest standing traditions, and when we think of Christmas, the first thing that comes to mind is Christmas gifts. Over the year however, this tradition has become commercialised and exploited. But the true gift of Christmas was The Angel's announcement when he proclaimed there was born that day "A saviour in Bethlehem the city of David, who was Christ the Lord"(Luke 2:11) When those shepherds heard the words of the angel, they were told that a Saviour was coming into the world. This child who was born in Bethlehem was no ordinary baby, a fact proven by the angelic announcements prior to His birth, Luke 1:26-33; Matt. 1:20-23.

Whenever we buy a gift for someone, we always have the beneficiary in mind. We desire to buy for them what we think they really need and would appreciate. When God looked at fallen humanity, the best gift he could give that was desperately needed was a saviour. John 3:16 tells that he so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever would believe in him should never perish but have eternal life.

No one however wants just to receive and not give back something in return. And because Christmas is a time of giving gifts, and God has given us his best gift, what are you going to give back to him? What do you give to one who owns everything? Most of us want to surprise people with our gifts, but what can surprise God? You only can give what you have, so let's take stock and ask ourselves, what do we really have? I suggest to you only two things- your life, which is wrapped up in your time.and this is your best gift to God.

Elected Exiles

1 Peter 1:1-2 “ Peter, an apostle (a special messenger) of Jesus Christ, [writing] to the elect exiles of the dispersion scattered (sowed) abroad in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 Who were chosen and foreknown by God the Father and consecrated (sanctified, made holy) by the Spirit to be obedient to Jesus Christ (the Messiah) and to be sprinkled with [His] blood: May grace (spiritual blessing) and peace be given you in increasing abundance [that spiritual peace to be [a]realized in and through Christ, [b]freedom from fears, agitating passions, and moral conflicts].”
The elect of God’s chosen people dispersed abroad was the technical term for the diaspora Jews, scattered outside of their homeland. Sometimes, their disobedience led to their forceful deportation, and at other times they would have gone of their own volition, to work and prosper in those foreign lands. But now the real diaspora are no longer the Jews, but the Christian church scattered all over the world. The amplified bible uses an interesting word-sown, to describe the overriding providence in the dispersion of his people. Like a farmer who scatters his seed on soil and anticipates a harvest, Christians scattered all over are a seed of the Kingdom of God, ready to light the world with God’s glory.
As a Christian you are not only elected before the foundation of time, but are exiles of eternity. In his prayer for the disciples, Jesus intimated that “they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world” (John 17:16). This was not a call to shun and withdraw from the world, but a perception that though we are in the world, we are not also of it. Wherever a Jew was exiled, though he would settle prosper and adapt to the ways of that particular nation. In foreign nations, his synagogues were always so built that whenever the worshipper entered, he was facing Jerusalem. No matter how useful a citizen of his adopted country the Jew was, his greatest loyalty remained Jerusalem.
For the Christian, the focus should always be eternity and never this world. Though in this world, the Christian should always see all things in light of eternity. This is what the writer of Hebrews was implying when he wrote of the sojourns of Abraham the father of faith “ [Prompted] by faith he dwelt as a temporary resident in the land which was designated in the promise [of God, though he was like a stranger] in a strange country, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs with him of the same promise.10 For he was [waiting expectantly and confidently] looking forward to the city which has fixed and firm foundations, whose Architect and Builder is God.” (Hebrews 11:9-10) it is this view that defines the importance a Christian attaches to anything and dictates his decisions and conduct.
Such a sojourner was called a Paroikos in ancient Greek. A Paroikos was a man who lived in a foreign land but his thoughts were ever home. Such sojourning was called Parokia, from which the word Parish is derived. The odyssey of the diaspora can never be fully appreciated by anyone who has not experienced the cultural loss and shock a foreigner experiences in foreign lands. Attempting to face each day with courage, they have deep longings for the familiar and secure, now existing as an imagination. There is a famous saying attributes to Jesus’ unwritten words; “that the world is a bridge, and the wise man will pass over it but will not build on it” every Christian must remember that even as they are part of their native nations, and participate in nation building as responsible citizens, their citizenship is a heavenly one, and all the comforts of this world are just but a passing cloud.

Elected Exiles

1 Peter 1:1-2 “ Peter, an apostle (a special messenger) of Jesus Christ, [writing] to the elect exiles of the dispersion scattered (sowed) abroad in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 Who were chosen and foreknown by God the Father and consecrated (sanctified, made holy) by the Spirit to be obedient to Jesus Christ (the Messiah) and to be sprinkled with [His] blood: May grace (spiritual blessing) and peace be given you in increasing abundance [that spiritual peace to be [a]realized in and through Christ, [b]freedom from fears, agitating passions, and moral conflicts].”
The elect of God’s chosen people dispersed abroad was the technical term for the diaspora Jews, scattered outside of their homeland. Sometimes, their disobedience led to their forceful deportation, and at other times they would have gone of their own volition, to work and prosper in those foreign lands. But now the real diaspora are no longer the Jews, but the Christian church scattered all over the world. The amplified bible uses an interesting word-sown, to describe the overriding providence in the dispersion of his people. Like a farmer who scatters his seed on soil and anticipates a harvest, Christians scattered all over are a seed of the Kingdom of God, ready to light the world with God’s glory.
As a Christian you are not only elected before the foundation of time, but are exiles of eternity. In his prayer for the disciples, Jesus intimated that “they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world” (John 17:16). This was not a call to shun and withdraw from the world, but a perception that though we are in the world, we are not also of it. Wherever a Jew was exiled, though he would settle prosper and adapt to the ways of that particular nation. In foreign nations, his synagogues were always so built that whenever the worshipper entered, he was facing Jerusalem. No matter how useful a citizen of his adopted country the Jew was, his greatest loyalty remained Jerusalem.
For the Christian, the focus should always be eternity and never this world. Though in this world, the Christian should always see all things in light of eternity. This is what the writer of Hebrews was implying when he wrote of the sojourns of Abraham the father of faith “ [Prompted] by faith he dwelt as a temporary resident in the land which was designated in the promise [of God, though he was like a stranger] in a strange country, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs with him of the same promise.10 For he was [waiting expectantly and confidently] looking forward to the city which has fixed and firm foundations, whose Architect and Builder is God.” (Hebrews 11:9-10) it is this view that defines the importance a Christian attaches to anything and dictates his decisions and conduct.
Such a sojourner was called a Paroikos in ancient Greek. A Paroikos was a man who lived in a foreign land but his thoughts were ever home. Such sojourning was called Parokia, from which the word Parish is derived. The odyssey of the diaspora can never be fully appreciated by anyone who has not experienced the cultural loss and shock a foreigner experiences in foreign lands. Attempting to face each day with courage, they have deep longings for the familiar and secure, now existing as an imagination. There is a famous saying attributes to Jesus’ unwritten words; “that the world is a bridge, and the wise man will pass over it but will not build on it” every Christian must remember that even as they are part of their native nations, and participate in nation building as responsible citizens, their citizenship is a heavenly one, and all the comforts of this world are just but a passing cloud.

Chosen Generation

1 Peter 1:1 "Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to God's Chosen People, who are scattered as exiles throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia."The Apostle writes this epistle to encourage God's chosen people, an Old Testament concept of the children of Israel as God's special people. Once, this privilege had belonged o them, but they had rejected the purposes of God and this privilege ow belongs to the Church.

Christians are chosen by God for a special purpose, and it is a great privilege to be specially so. The Greek word chosen here may be used to describe a specially chosen fruit, vessels chosen for their outstanding use or a special unit of troops chosen specifically for their proficiency in handling delicate matters.

The challenge and responsibility here is that we are chosen for a special assignment, and God always chooses someone for service. We are to serve God's purpose, and this is where Israel failed ( Luke 20:9-16). Ours is to see to it that such a tragedy does not happen in our lives.

Shalom

Favour is Looking For You

TODAY’S SCRIPTURE
“Surely, LORD, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield.”
(Psalm 5:12, NIV)
God wants to bring you to a place of abundance! A land filled with favor, opportunity, good health and great relationships. You may not be there yet, but don’t worry. Your blessing is on the way. David said in Psalm 31, “God has blessings stored up for those that love the Lord.” There are businesses stored up for you that God wants to release. There is promotion stored up that has your name on it. Good health, provision, relationships — because you love the Lord, God is going to bring you into what He has already prepared. When you honor God, when you’re faithful to Him, that’s how you walk in His blessings. You don’t have to look for them; favor is going to find you! Good breaks are going to find you!Today, be ready to receive what He has for you. Position yourself for blessing by walking in His ways. Meditate on the Word of God, sing songs of praise. Thank Him for what He is doing because favor is looking for you!

He is Not Limited by Your Limitations

TODAY’S SCRIPTURE
“Is anything too hard for the LORD? ...”
(Genesis 18:14, NIV)If you could see what God has stored up for you, the people you’re going to meet, the places you’re going to go, the good breaks that are going to find you, you would be amazed. It’s going to be the surpassing greatness of God’s favor. But too often, we make excuses. We come up with reasons why this is not going to happen for us. “Well, that sounds good, but I don’t have the training, the talent, the connections.” Or, “I come from the wrong family. I’m the wrong nationality. I’m too short. I’ll never come into my garden.”No, God is not limited by your circumstances, your family or who is against you. When God breathed His life into you, He put a blessing on you that overrides anything that comes against you! The blessings God has stored up for you cannot be stopped by people, bad breaks or injustice. God has the final say. Be encouraged today because God is taking you to a place of blessing. Don’t focus on your circumstances; focus on your God because He is not limited by your limitations!

Just be godly

The is a principle that is true for all seasons: actions speak much louder than words. The best sermon is preached, not by words, but deeds. This is a very critical moment in Israel's history. Saul is dead, Abner, one of Saul's generals, is murdered soon after covenanting with David to unite the Kingdom into one. The culprit is non other than David's army commander, Joab.Now in the eyes of many, this was a set up, and there was no way David was not involved. In today's world of politics, the situation needed top notch spin, otherwise, tribal chaos loomed.But David did not spin, he just acted godly. He called for a national day of fasting in honor of the fallen hero, and would not break the fast in his solidarity, no matter the persuasion. This was what the people took note of- his solidarity and genuineness of the matter. He did not utter a word in his defense, nor engage a press spinner. This was what the people took not of, and concluded he was not liable for Abner's death.Wouldn't that be a great lesson for anyone with any form of power today? That what the people you lead are looking for is the real you, at your most human and genuine state, uncamouflaged by titles and hype?

Who has access to your Treasure

2 Samuel 3:6 - Now it was so, while there was war between the house of Saul and the house of David, that Abner was strengthening his hold on the house of Saul.The intrigues of power and succession wars are such that some fight while others take advantage of the wrangles to position themselves for a take over. King Saul is dead at this point, the sons are stuck in an unending war with David over the throne. The war only ends when Abner decides to defect to David's side.There is an interesting principle here. Your worst defeat is usually not inflicted by the person without more than the one within. Abner had all along been strengthening himself and consolidating his position in Saul's Kingdom and unbeknown to Saul's sons, he would be the final nail on the head of Saul's throne.It is those very close and intimate to you, who know your very weaknesses and secrets, who usually do you the greatest harm. Be watchful therefore of who you allow to your heart.Shalom

Whats your view of Yourself

Numbers 13:33 - There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.”It is not what we see or hear that defeats us, it is how we see ourselves in light of any challenge. The victory or defeat is always in the mindset. Twelve spies saw the giants, ten thought of themselves as grasshoppers, and two saw God in the midst of the giants. Only the two made it to the land of promise- the difference was the mind.Shalom

What is the Purpose of your Question

Matthew 16:13,21 - "When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? .......From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day."Great leaders ask great questions. They are acutely aware of three things:
i) Their purpose
ii) The essence of time
iii) The significance of timingJesus does not ask this question haphazardly, or in the moment of light conversation. This was not a statistical question, in an attempt to collect data to determine how popular he was or how many followers he had impacted or gathered so far( Today, we call that hits or visits to your site)Soon after they answer his question, You notice he now changes his teachings to the message of the cross. It was time to move on to the next phase in his assignment, but he could not move on to the cross until they understood his person.The success of every assignment is gauged by three questions;i) Has it fulfilled the vision
ii) Was it accomplished within the time set?
iii) Did every phase achieve its purpose?Make your questions matter!Shalom

Leaders are Just Human

James 5:17 - "Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. "The office of any leader, be it a president, prime minister, a religious leader or even a monarch, deserves utmost respect for what it represents. a president's office, for instance, symbolizes power and authority. But the office and the office bearer are two different entities, and sometimes the shortcomings of the office bearer make us lose respect of the office.It's very easy for us to read the Bible and believe that the great leaders whose stories we read were somehow beyond life’s normal trials, temptations, and failures. We want to see these giants of the faith as superhuman, but they were not. Their gifts were greater than they were. And they were asked to do things beyond their own capacity. They were in many ways ordinary men and women, but they served an extraordinary God!Elijah, even with his greatest exploits, was still human. He got discouraged, he ran away in fear and even whined to God that he felt abandoned. Yet his accomplishments were astonishing. Top leaders will tell you they are some of the loneliest people alive, why? The higher you go, the fewer people you have at the top. Yet, even at the top, they still get excited by your word of encouragement.So when you to to work, just take some time to appreciate your boss. They're human, and they need it. And when they fail, don't condemn them, because they're not superhuman, you just expected them to be.Shalom

Rejoicing in the moment

Psalm 118:24 - "This is the day the LORD has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it."A lot of people struggle with what I call "destinationitis"- This is a condition that causes a person to always search for happiness somewhere in the future. Even when there is cause to give thanks, they postpone it to a future day when they get all of it together, then supposedly, they can have one joyful everlasting moment.With them its always- When I graduate, when I meet my soulmate, when I pay off the mortgage, when I get the promotion, when I retire…then I’ll be happy! The prime symptom of destinationitis disease is discontentment. Those infected by it postpone joy until some distant occasion that may never even transpire.Notice the Psalmist speaks of "This is the day"- thats enough reason to be glad, because some never make it to that day. And rejoicing is not for the future, it is today- it is in the moment. and it is the "Day that the Lord has made"- which means it ain't even my day! Most of us forget this basic simple truth, that each day is a gift, and to be given an extra day is a blessing! Therefore "I will rejoice" - its a conscious decision, made at the level of our will. It's not necessarily how we feel, but a decision we make to do it.Robert J. Hastings offers apt advice on making the most of today. “Sooner or later we must realize there is no [ideal destination], no one place to arrive at once and for all. The true joy of life outdistances us. So stop pacing the aisles and counting the miles. Instead, climb more mountains, eat more ice cream, go barefoot more often, swim more rivers, watch more sunsets, laugh more, and cry less. Life must be lived as we go along. ‘Relish the moment’ is a good motto.”Shalom

Take time to rejoice

Psalm 103:1-2 "Bless the LORD, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits"The surest index of your spiritual and emotional well-being is the degree of gratitude in your life. But Where does gratitude come from, and how can we grow in gratefulness?There's an old song that exhorts us to "Count your blessings one by one, and you will be amazed at what God has done"Grateful people linger over life’s blessings.The English word “thank” shares the same root as “think.” Thankfulness is intimately connected to thoughtfulness. We can’t be grateful without being mindful of the many benefits we enjoy in life and conscious of the rich blessings we have been given.Grateful people take time to rejoice, which literally means to experience repeated joy through the remembrance of the grace and goodness one has received. Ungrateful people, on the other hand, are always in a permanently foul attitude and mood, because soon as they're blessed, they've root ten the blessing and are looking towards the next one!Would it be true to say the reason for this is they are constantly comparing themselves with others, as though life is a path of constant competition?Shalom

Society's worst enemy

Romans 1:32 - "Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them."C.S Lewis, in mere Christianity, remarked that the greatest evil we can do is to call what is evil good and what is good evil. It does not matter whether this calling is shrouded in the form of relativism, diversity theory, the will to power or individual rights. The effect is the same.We now call, using sophisticated names, what is evil, good. We make laws to justify this reversal of good and evil, and we penalize those who uphold their position that evil is evil, no matter how much we color it with legal jargon s.The greatest enemy of society is the enabler who justifies and makes evil possible by their own disordered souls.
Shalom

The church's worst enemy

Acts 4:1 - The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. "Somewhere in the 1930's, during the Spanish war, and facing other issues in Germany and Italy, Pius XI asked this very question "Who are the Churches' most dangerous enemies? His answer was as follows:The Church's worst persecutors have been her own unfaithful Bishops, Priests and religious. Opposition outside is terrible; it gives us many martyrs. But the church's worst enemy is her own traitors"
Shalom

Share the prescription

Romans 1:16 - "I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile."One of the greatest tragedies in life is to have a problem and not know what the problem is. In particular, it is very traumatic to be sick and not know exactly what the problem is. Test after test is run, but the doctors do not seem to know what the problem is. The frustration is that unless you know the problem, you cannot start the treatment!Friends, the world is sick, and not in a physical sense, but spiritually. And the simple reason is the original sin of Adam. Listening and watching the news, reading the newspapers quickly tells you know something is critically won. Reading the papers yesterday, and a former US president was congratulating a CEO of a world wide organization for publicly announcing he was gay. The world is out of balance friends. I've never heard anyone congratulated for being straight!There are many more symptoms everywhere. Divorce is rampant, teenage pregnancy figures are shocking, immorality has not only obsessed our society but even the church. But the good news is this- there is a cure, which is the old news. It is, as Paul says, the power of God unto salvation. It ha the power to change and transform us from sin and self.Our hearts go out to the thousands of families hit by the Ebola epidemic. its an epidemic with gigantic destructive potential, and a vaccine or medical solution would help tremendously. But the sheer helplessness to such a devastating scourge can be overwhelmingly frustrating. so also is the scourge of sin. If you have experienced this healing touch, please make haste and share the healing dose with a neighbor. it might just be the lat thing to snatch them from imminent eternal destruction.
Shalom

Put your house in order

John 4:16 "Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.”Jesus' short conversation stirs a desire in the woman at the well to have the living water, even though she's thinking of natural water. But before she can partake of this living water, Jesus now leads her to confront some personal life issues.The body of Christ today has a serious misconception that it can partake of the divine without confronting the issues of righteousness. Unfortunately divorce is rampant in the body of christ, immorality is a common feature and a runaway unaccountable clergy has all but wrecked havoc to the body- and yes, the bride without a blemish that christ is coming back for. Yes the grace of God provided o a leeway to receive the living water, but her life had to be sorted out.Be not deceived, we reap what we sow, and God does not play favorites. Remember, blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God(Matthew 5:8)
Shalom

His will be done

John 4:13-15 "Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” 15 The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.”When Jesus spoke of water that quenches once for all, the Samaritan woman thinks he's talking of natural water. But Jesus was in fact speaking of spiritual water, who's source was him. The woman, in the course f her conversation with Jesus had developed an interest of spiritual things, but wanted them to make natural sense.How often have you looked up to God for your own natural interests? When we bring our petitions before God, is it as I would have it or his will be done? If there was one thing this woman would have wanted changed in her life, it was the chore of fetching water. She was not a very popular woman, hence the reason she came at midday, when everyone else was away. You see, she had issues, and she would have loved to use God to sort her relational issues once or all.When others antagonize us and we pray ill will for them, are we praying our will or God's will? On the cross, though he had the ability to summon legions of angels to annihilate his persecutors, Jesus prayed that the may be Forgiven for they knew not what thy were doing! May his will be done in our lives.
Shalom

Greatness in the small things

John 4:10 "Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”Jesus' conversation with the Samaritan woman had greater implications than just plain water to quench thirst. You see in Jesus' day, to ask someone for water also implied you wanting to be their friend for the day. So the Samaritan woman's response in verse 9 that Jews and Samaritans had no dealings had this implication in mind- that in asking for water, Jesus wanted to be a friend.Then Jesus introduces an even greater dimension. That had she discerned who it was who asked to be her friend for the day, she would have asked, and he would have given her living water, implying, lasting friendship. She may have been lonely at midday because she was avoiding the other women, but here is a man who was offering what she desperately needed but was denied. Is it not amazing how easily we can miss God's best or us because of personal and historical prejudices? She was stuck at his race and nationality, but he was the best friend she could have ever asked for. He understood her failures, frustrations and weaknesses, yet was not judgemental.God has a way of packaging his best gifts in simple wrappings, and if our focus is merely on the packaging, we will forever miss out on the precious gift. Israel was to be delivered by Moses, a man who stuttered and had no army but a rod. A coward in the name of Gideon delivered them from the hand of the Midianites(judges 6), Elijah was to be fed and sustained by a broke and despairing widow in a famine(1Kings 17) and the whole world was to be saved by a baby born in a manger. The package did not match the miracle, but God gains the glory.Despise not the small beginnings.
shalom

Adapt to win all

John 4:9 "Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans."Jesus' final commission to his disciples was to "Go Ye into all the world, making disciples and baptizing them in the name of the father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey" (Matthew 26:16-18)Three simple truths emerge from this commission;
I) To make disciples, you have to go out where they are. They simply don't want to come, some because of the mistaken notion that they have to do something before they comeii) The command was to all nations and nationalities. Now this is interesting, but it attests to two facts. First, the power of God to touch human beings is not limited to certain groups of people. God can touch anyone. Secondly, when our outreach only aims to target certain groups, then we either lack faith in The Lord of the commission or our motive for the commission is an exercise entirely for recruiting church members!I once met a young man in my hometown who was zealously issuing church invitation tracks on the streets. But I also quickly observed that he was only targeting a particular ethnic grouping but ignoring others. On seeing me, he came beaming with a bright smile and proceeded to invite me to his church service with the track.Curious to understand this new strategy, I asked him why he was not extending his invitation to all, but indeed was targeting a particular ethnic group. He explained that he was only targeting those who were most likely to show up in church and wasn't really interested in the ones who really didn't believe!iii) obeying the commission will mean overcoming personal prejudices and sometimes embracing new outreach approaches. Two things in Jesus' conversation broke the law. Firstly, he spoke to a Samaritan, something Jews never did. Secondly, as a Rabbi, he was not supposed to speak or look at a woman, and guess what, here was Jesus sitting down engaging the woman in a chat!Winning the world folks demands of us to stretch our hearts, shed off our prejudices and be ready to do the unthinkable. It was the Apostle Paul who said to the Jew he became one to win some, and to the Greek he became one to win some.ShalomWhere do i beginJohn 4:7 "A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.”One challenge that disciples encounter is where to begin when sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. Do you begin with creation, patriarchal history, the gospels or eschatology?Jesus gives us a simple blue print in his encounter with the Samaritan woman. Unchurched, theologically inept and morally questionable, Jesus converses with this woman, and the ensuing discussion brings her to a deeper revelation of God.The opening statement- give me water! Nothing deep and theological is there? She was there for water, he was thirsty, and that was the logical point to strike a conversation. It's as simple as that. The common points on interest will suffice.Shalom

He is lord of all

John 4: 3-4 "He left Judea and departed again to Galilee. 4 But He needed to go through Samaria."

The historical tension between the Jews and Samaritans in Jesus' day was so grievous that they could not see eye to eye. In 722B.C, the Assyrians, then the super power, had invaded the northern kingdom(ten tribes of Israel) and taken them into exile.

As a colonization policy, they had then taken some people from their country and brought them to Samaria, the capital of the northern kingdom. The intermarriage between those who were left in the northern kingdom and the Assyrians produced a cross breed of people who became known as the Samaritans.

The Jews regarded the Samaritans as inferior, by virtue of their relationship to the Assyrians, who were idol worshipers. The rift was so intense that a Jew traveling from Judea to Galilee old not pass through Samaria, but instead took the longer root around Samaria.

But Jesus needed to go through Samaria(v4)What a good God we serve! He was not influenced by years of prejudice and hostility, but was Lord of all. He loved those who felt they were more righteous and spiritual, but he also equally loved those who were considered unpolitical and unrighteousness. And what's more, he was about to transform the life of a Samaritan woman who would later become an evangelist to the whole of Samaria.

No one in Israel saw an evangelist in Samaria, a despised country, but God. He knows what others do not know, sees potentials where others dismiss, and prejudice does not distract him from reaching out o all. Friend, no matter what everyone's opinion is, it is only God's opinion that is most important, and never let others Devine you potential, because they do no know what God knows about you.

Shalom

Being content with yourself

John 3:27 "John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven. 28 You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent before Him."

It seems like the hardest thing to admit, because of the competitive world we live in, but there will always be somebody greater than you. The disciples of John have just come to him, alarmed at the rate Jesus' ministry was growing. They'd just baptized him the other day, but my goodness, everyone, even some from their ministry, were now following Jesus.

More trickier was the fact that John was also a revered prophet, and even Herod was afraid of him. When he spoke, the nation and its leaders listened. Having been used so mightily by God and even baptizing Jesus, he would have decided to set himself high on a pedestal, or try to discredit the Ministry of Jesus as an untested and untried one.

But John recognizes one very important thing- not the concern of his disciples or what Jesus was accomplishing, but who he was! He knew he was not the Christ, and when the Christ came, he wasn't bitter about him, neither was he interested in taking the glory concerning his arrival. He just simply knew his place in Christ's coming- a forerunner.

In a word, friends, he had a right frame of reference. He wasn't intimidated by the success of others, but was content in who he was and what God had used him to accomplish, and therefore had no desire to try and impress anyone.

Shalom

What's God's word about it

Joshua 3:3-4 - "and they commanded the people, saying, “When you see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, and the priests, the Levites, bearing it, then you shall set out from your place and go after it. Yet there shall be a space between you and it, about two thousand cubits by measure. Do not come near it, that you may know the way by which you must go, for you have not passed this way before.”

One evident intrinsic craving we have as humans is to be in control of everything. We want to plan our day, week, year or lifetime in detail. We meticulously plan our daily schedules, sometimes even committing ourselves to future days even before they come. We collect data of sorts, and out of it compute probabilities to predict the future, pass judgements, decisions and government policies on such computations and statistics, albeit without certainties.
That is why we cannot rely on man made policies, determinations and decisions as the surest measure of our tomorrow, for truth be told, no one but God has certainties concerning tomorrow. Statistics fail, scientific advances soon become obsolete and what was true and relevant yesterday may not be so today.

With the reality of a completely new life fast approaching for Israel, God gives ,them a clear instruction for the path they are about to step into. Firstly, they had never been that way before, so they have no point of reference concerning their future. It was impertinent therefore that they wait for the priests to lead the way, bearing the Ark of the covenant which represented God's presence amongst his people. In a word, God was to lead them every step of the way.

How many times do we make rush decisions out of desperation and then live to regret or try to pray God into our situation when it's gone pear shaped? How many life changing decisions such as marriage, mortgages, huge investments have we made flippantly and they went sour on us, and now we blame everyone for our predicament? When at the crossroads and about to make a decision towards a path you've never been before, remember to seek God's confirmation first.

Shalom

Can you stand others being blessed?

John 3:26 "And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified—behold, He is baptizing, and all are coming to Him!”

The disciples of John had given themselves wholly to following John the baptist. they discerned that he was a prophet from God, perhaps even the Messiah. They had been in Ministry much longer than Jesus; In fact, It was John, their leader who had baptized him, yet he was rapidly expanding in fame and favor while their ministry seemed in their eyes to be plateauing. Perhaps even some of their followers were now deserting him and had joined Jesus' Ministry.

Stung by this turn of events, they come to John the Baptist, seeking an answer to all this. Maybe, their silent query was why this new prophet had to be allowed to take centre stage in spiritual matters, in the process waning their influence. Maybe, like most today, it was time to devise new marketing strategies, in an attempt o persuade the now defected masses.

But you see friends, this is where we get it all mixed up. The kingdom of God does not compete with each other, but complements each other. The world competes for customers, because the driving motive is maximizing profits for the individual. In God's Kingdom, the souls were purchased at a price by Christ, and ultimately they belong to him and not to individuals. In this Kingdom, there is only one Kingdom being promoted, that of our Lord Jesus Christ, and so it does not matter who has a bigger or better Church, Christ is the owner of all.

The disciple John once came to Jesus, to report one guy they had met on the way, who was driving out demons in the name of Jesus, yet he was not one of them. Jesus forbade them from stopping the man, instead setting the record straight concerning this unhealthy competition in the Kingdom. he says to them, "Whoever is not against us is for us" (mark 9:38-40)

So, celebrate your fellow brothers and sisters when you see God blessing them. When the church next door experiences growth, do not sulk and blame everyone around you, celebrate what God is doing amongst them. When God graces you with gifted people, do not look down on others and think God is not with them, for God does not follow gifts,the gifts follow him, to glorify his name. Whether small or big, many or few, he works in all of them for his own glory.

Shalom

God's free Gift

John 3:4 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”

Nicodemus, like most of us, is at a loss when it comes to comprehending the mystery of the new birth. The conflict lies in the fact that the new birth is a spiritual reality but old Nick is stuck in the point of understanding everything from a physical reality.

Of course this is the dilemma that faces many people who acknowledge God but want to have their way to him. As humans, we have this inner need to be in control of everything, and we get quite uncomfortable with any idea we do not understand or are not in control of. So we try good works, philanthropy and any other thing that we can use as an expression of good.

But God is the author of salvation, and it is his free gift to all mankind, not obtained by good works, position or possessions, but by grace. We cannot purchase it, it is already paid for, and we cannot work hard or it. The work was finished at Calvary. We just receive it by faith. It's your free gift today, why not receive it from God?

Shalom

Why you must be born again

John 3:3 "Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Like Nicodemus, most people have the intrinsic understanding of the existence of God and the neckcloth of humanity to reconcile with the maker. He has keenly observed and concluded that Jesus was sent of and was possibly God, yet he could not yet precisely figure it out.

So he came to Jesus by night, and in the best way he knew how to, he tried to use some spiritual jargon. Jesus lays it out straight to him- the only way o access the kingdom of God is to be born again, not of the flesh, but Spirit. Many people try to be religious, attend church service or engage in philanthropic acts. All these things are good, but they are not the way. The new birth s the only way.

John 3:1-2 "There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”

The story of Jesus' meeting with Nicodemus is a depiction of the radical transformation that Jesus brought and expected of any true disciple. You cannot have jesus in your life and remain the same.

Nicodemus, a member of the Sanhedrin, a learned and pious teacher, unashamedly comes to Jesus because learned as he was, he noticed an extra ordinary authority that Jesus carried, incomparable to that of the Pharisees.

But he comes to Jesus by night! Why by night? Some will argue he undoubtedly was an extremely busy man, and the only time he old find was night time. But I am of a different persuasion. Old Nick recognized Jesus as a teacher from God, and he was anxious to know more about him. However, he wa also anxious to avoid giving the impression that he had the intention of becoming a committed disciple.

He wanted to be part of the new jesus movement, the power and the glory, while still keeping the traditions of the Pharisees, no matter how dead they appeared. It's fascinating how many people acknowledge and want to follow Jesus, but still want o keep their secret lifestyles, religion, tradition and many other things.

One word describes them- Christians by the fence! Don't want to be involved in the weekly spiritual disciplines such as prayer and bible study or any sacrifice or service towards their faith. Others will do all, I will just show up, after all, all I want is o make it to heaven!

Overcoming conformity

Daniel 1: 5 And the king appointed for them a daily provision of the king’s delicacies and of the wine which he drank, and three years of training for them, so that at the end of that time they might serve before the king.

The third thing the system of Babylon was to introduce to them was a different diet. From a physical point, they were being introduced to delicacies that appealed to physical appetites. Remember, these were people who observed strict dietary laws, top amongst which they never served was pork. Now we do not know whether pork was on the menu or not, but whether it was or not, they were supposed to be served with these delicacies anyway.

You see, the issue of avoiding certain types of food is not just on health grounds, but also for purposes of disciplining and controlling ourselves. For instance, the bible says "Be not drunk with wine, but be filled with the Spirit"(Ephesians 5:18), the issue here with wine is once intoxicated by wine, we are no longer in control of ourselves either at a cognitive or physical level.

What then would be the effect of this sudden change of diet? Firstly, strict dietary rules would be overlooked. In effect, their discipline on diet was being tested, and at a physical level, we know what happens when your diet discipline is lost. Secondly, think of the wine they may have been introduced to, not forgetting they were but young lads. Nothing loses a young inexperienced person in matters of wine than being suddenly thrust into the wild and uninhibited ways of its pleasures.

From a spiritual application, food in the bible is a picture of the word. Jesus said man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God- in other words, the word will sustain what bread may not be able to. Think with me for a moment, the system of the world is slowly but resolutely dismantling anything which embraces the Word of God. No longer is the word of God viewed as the final and absolute authority, but relativism and new age philosophies are gradually emerging

Society in an attempt to rid itself of God is reinterpreting truth, and dismantling the boundaries of absolutes. But these has only led to further confusion, and today, many are proclaiming they are confused even of their sexuality, all of which are the net effects of attempting to change truth.

A wise man once said that before you remove a boundary, you must always pose hard and ask yourself why it was put there in the first place! Conversely, before we indulge on a diet served by a "Babylonian" system, we must always pose hard and ask ourselves why the restrictions were imposed in he first place.

Shalom

Daniel 1: 4 "young men in whom there was no blemish, but good-looking, gifted in all wisdom, possessing knowledge and quick to understand, who had ability to serve in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the language and literature of the Chaldeans."

The first thing the King of Babylon aimed at changing of the young Hebrew boys was their language and literature. These two are the earliest steps towards our cognitive development as human beings. Mothers train their little ones what later becomes known as mother tongue. As our parents read those bed time stories to us and sent us to school, we learnt and obtained information about the world around us.

Language and literature have a great impact on society and culture. Words are vitally important, and the bible says Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.(proverbs 18:21) out of words, a culture is born, a way of life is passed, which may either be life or death. When you stay around people who curse a lot, even if it was unacceptable to you, it soon becomes a normal thing. the next thing is you know is you are cursing like the rest. What has happened? Words have influenced your habits.

Literature is the art of expressing our thoughts, beliefs, ideas and persuasions in writing, and through literature our minds are shaped. Remember literature is man's work, with an objective of influencing you towards a certain view point. There was a time in history when television sets and newspapers carried only descent material. The media was considerate as to what was acceptable or not, right across the table.

Jesus spoke thus to the Pharisees "Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say.You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies."(John 8:42-43)

Notice Jesus speaks of two kinds of languages, that of God and of the devil. This world has been pervaded by a language that is not of God, and unfortunately, a lot of people have adopted and perfected that language in their lifestyle. Young children are growing in a world of vulgar language. Young boys and girls can be heard swearing and curing t each other, imitating their television heroes. Explicit images of nakedness and Violence are all over our newspapers and television sets, and it is becoming our culture today. I was speaking to some of our youth about this issues and guess what, they feel its a way of life and we would get over and on with it.

This, friends, is where the enemy of our souls would like us to be. Speaking his language and reading his mind- all filth.

Shalom

Daniel 1:3 Then the king instructed Ashpenaz, the master of his eunuchs, to bring some of the children of Israel and some of the king’s descendants and some of the nobles, 4 young men in whom there was no blemish, but good-looking, gifted in all wisdom, possessing knowledge and quick to understand, who had ability to serve in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the language and literature of the Chaldeans

Notice four qualities of the young people that the King wanted to be brought to Babylon for indoctrination;

i) without blemish
ii) Good looking
iii) gifted in wisdom
iv) possessing knowledge and understanding

When you consider all these qualities, you soon realize that the systems of this world employ the same tactic to propagate their agenda. In the multi billion cosmetics industry for instance, the advertisements campaigns are done by mostly handsome and beautiful young men and women with lovely skin texture without blemish. The catch is for the viewer to capture that image and form an illusion that they can become like what they see.

The entertainment industry likewise goes for youthfulness and looks. For instance someone may be a gifted singer, but it is not the voice that sells, its the image. And that image must conform to the worldly way of thinking, and young talented musicians quickly learn that sexuality and lewdness sells faster in this world. Furthermore, the message in the songs glorifies sin.

Some of the most brilliant minds on this planet have been used to propagate the worst forms of evil. Take Hitler's persuasion or example. A great mind, gifted in oratory skills, but was at the forefront of exterminating millions of people on the basis of race.

May our focus always remain on The Lord

Shalom

Overcoming conformity

Daniel 1:3 -4 "Then the king instructed Ashpenaz, the master of his eunuchs, to bring some of the children of Israel and some of the king’s descendants and some of the nobles, 4 young men in whom there was no blemish, but good-looking, gifted in all wisdom, possessing knowledge and quick to understand, who had ability to serve in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the language and literature of the Chaldeans."

The historical background of this passage is around the time Babylon captured and destroyed Jerusalem and its temple, taking away the people into exile. We must see the Old Testament picture here is one of the children of God taken captive by an enemy(type of the world) and subjugated under their system.

The King of Babylon sends for a specific type of people to be taken from Israel, ho would b brought to Babylon to serve the system. The qualities of these people were;

i) Young people- Why young people? Firstly, because they are usually the majority in most nations, so to capture young people would be to get hold of the majority.

ii) Youth is the future of any nation, and to control the minds of the young is to control the future of a nation.

iii) Youth represents innocence, and with an innocent mind become the easiest targets of indoctrination.

iv) With youth comes strength and health, and to gain such a constituency in any area is a big bonus. For example, when mortgage loans are assessed, age is a determining factor and so also is life insurance policies.

With these reasons in mind, is is easy to understand why Satan and his cohorts would want to take control of the younger generation. When society wants to throw God out of school and social life, then the next best doctrine for our children is man made, and of course whoever or whatever your doctrine becomes your basis of belief and source for decision making.

May the words of the Psalmist be our shield, that "thy word O lord is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." (Psalm 119:105)

Shalom

Consistency

Daniel 3:16-18 "Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. 18 But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”

These three Hebrew boys exemplify the true definition of consistency. In matters of their God, they were unpromising, even at the risk of losing their lives. Too many Christians today have a faith only on Sunday, but come Monday and they are someone else. They curse at work, they engage in corruption and all manner of ills as everyone else, but they lifetime up "Holy hands" on Sunday, and the depth of their worship even moves them to tears.

Consistency folks, is not behaving the same way all the time but behaving the same way under similar circumstances. So, no matter where you go, the testimony of your faith in God must always be reflected in your life.

Shalom

Dysfunction in families

The term dysfunction in respect to families is not an endearing one, and often times, people shy away from associating themselves with it or admitting that there may be some form dysfunction within our present day families, as we pursue the idea of a perfect and happy family where we shall all live happily ever after.

The reality of the matter however is that dysfunction is a factor of the sinfulness resulting from the fall of man and subsequent separation from God’s presence. There is no denying that the powers that be are really trying hard to eradicate God in every area of society, and in particular, the name of Jesus. In so doing however, we are eliminating the very standard upon which we can measure truth, and replacing it with man made truths which only serve to make us feel good about ourselves rather than making us good in God’s sight.

The term dysfunction is a composition of the prefix dys and the word function. The prefix Dys means;

i) Diseased/abnormal/faulty

ii) Difficult/painful/impaired

iii) Unfavorable/bad

The word function can be defined as the activity, purpose, use or the action of operating or work in a proper manner. To dysfunction therefore means to operate, use or act in a diseased, abnormal, faulty, difficult, impaired and unfavorable manner. To dysfunction is not to stop functioning, but rather to function out of the intended original purpose often object. When someone walks with a limp, though they are walking, they do so below the intended pattern. They are hindered in that action, they are limited, but they are still walking, albeit very slowly.

A dysfunctioning family is one which is operating outside of the parameters of the defined standard of what a family should be. Here’s the crux of the issue- who defines what a family should be? Liberals, bent on having their own way in almost anything in their life, will argue that the ideal family is your own definition, and you are within your rights to call it whatever you want. The problem with this position is that within that liberality is an element of political correctness, manipulation and hypocrisy if you like. If we all are to let anyone decide what the definition is, why do we then at some point interfere and decide this or that is descent or indecent?

The truth of the matter is the powers that be only want to run away from God’s standard of definition of family, make an allowance for what they would want the definition to be for their own purposes, but at the same time control others not to go beyond their own definition-in short, they play God, but don’t want God to be God! Who is the best standard of evaluation? There is no better suited than the architect or visionary of an idea. In the case of families, the architect and visionary is God, and his is the only standard that stands the test, and anything out of those parameters is dysfunctional.

Far from the idyllic families that were portrayed on radio and television fifty years ago, families that are depicted in media nowadays are more realistic, in the sense that they often exhibit characteristics of dysfunction. While the term "dysfunctional family" is thrown around somewhat carelessly nowadays, there are certain hallmark characteristics of dysfunctional families that are common. Does a family that has one of these characteristics automatically qualify as "dysfunctional"? Of course, it depends on the severity of the problem and the way in which it cascades to cause other problems.

I would like to take the liberty of bringing forth some characteristics of dysfunctional families over the next few days from a biblical perspective.

Characteristic 1: families within marriage confines- Genesis 2:15-25

The first family in the bible begins with the marriage of the first man in the bible, Adam and his wife, Eve. From this union come children, Cain and Abel, and later Seth. The moment Adam and Eve became husband and wife, they became a complete family, and that family was blessed with children. I want to make two observations here;

i) Firstly, the bible is categorical about the marriage parties; they are male and female. That is the biblical standard, and Christianity that does not adhere to this principle stands questionable, irrespective of rank, position and influence within the Christian fraternity. Every child deserves a father and a mother, and these two parents, male and female, are different physically, have different temperaments and they bring different contributions to the nurturing and care of the children. The role of a father and mother, for example, were different in the bible, but none the less important to the child.

To understand this scenario, we got to know that dysfunction does not begin when trouble kicks within a family set-up. The punches, the screaming, the abuses and indulgencies of all sorts are just the resultant manifestation of troubled souls. I believe dysfunction begins when we cannot get the right and truthful answers to guide us rightly, those silent moments when we have more questions than answers, and they slowly will up to rebellion and a reaction of some sort in an attempt to get ourselves an outlet. How do you explain, for example, to a young school going child, why other children have daddies and mummies but they don’t have either? They may not be able to confront with the questions directly, but what torment do they go through in their own silent nights with unanswered questions?

I believe it would be selfish of the liberal thinker to deny a child the right to have a mother and a father, in an attempt to satisfy our rights of choice as to whom we get married to. If the law is going to be sensitive on the rights of individuals, should not the same law at least also protect the rights of those children, or do they not have rights of choice as human beings?

ii) Secondly, children are the offspring of the union between a husband (male) and a wife (female), they are not the family, but the result of the union of the husband and wife. A couple without children is still a family, and children do not necessarily define a family.

iii) The biblical framework of family assumes monogamy- one man, one wife. Anything out of this definition is a recipe for dysfunction as we shall see in the subsequent chapters.

To be continued

Shalom – the peace of God

Isaiah 26:3

Isaiah 26:3 says “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you”

Nothing is as important in this world and in our lives as peace, yet so elusive. Friendships are broken down, families torn apart and nations rise against each other everyday. The extent of hatred and suspicion among neighbors is unbelievable; no wonder nations invest billions to shore up their armoury, just in case! But why is peace so elusive, despite noble attempts by peace keeping bodies to maintain peace in the world? In spite of advancement technologically and better standards of living, why are so many people not living in peace?

God’s peace is the remedy, unfortunately, the world has decided to go it alone, without God- no wonder, that perfect peace has proved to be so elusive. How does the peace of God differ from man’s peace, and why is it so perfect?

God’s peace is the result of his inward harmony- no contradictions or inner conflicts. God is perfectly complete and comprehensive, in total agreement within himself in respect of all ideas, plans, intents and purposes. Judgement never conflicts with feeling, his will never struggles against his desire, his justice never antagonized by his mercy, and the expression of his love is never made hard by his law. His will is his purpose, his thought, his word and an embodiment of his nature. Never can he will, plan, purpose and desire anything out of his nature! Every line tends to the focus of divine purpose; every power combines to execute the divine thought.

God’s peace flows from the understanding of his aboveness. He is above all things, physical and non physical, principalities and powers. He is all knowing, all seeing and omnipresent, and nothing catches him by surprise. Before a crisis, he has already seen it and made provision for it- in him is never a sense of panic! Just as a teacher is above a pupil in that he knows the answers to the exams which make a student spend sleepless nights, or a doctor who diagnoses the cause of disease in a human body in an operating theatre, and prescribes the right medication for the healing of such sickness, so God is above and knows all before it has even happened.

In mark’s gospel the fourth chapter, and reading from verse 36, a fierce storm confronts Jesus and his disciples in the middle of the sea. Buffeted by the violent storms, the disciples rush to Jesus, surprised that he could sleep at a moment when their lives were at stake. Their statement “Don’t you care that we perish” is a perfect fear fuelled reaction to human beings confronted by life threatening situations- they want to know there is someone who cares, someone who can come to their rescue- just someone who can do something to alleviate their clear and present danger!

Jesus does two things;

i) He rebukes the wind and the wind obeys- (v39). Notice his rebuke; “Peace, be still”. Storms destabilise our peace, change our focus from the source of our help to the cause of the problem!

ii) He rebukes the disciples lack of faith –(v40)

But it is their consternation of the whole episode that reveals the source of God’s peace; “and they said to one another, who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” there is lies the source of God’s peace! He is above everything, even the storms, for he created the very storms and knows their raging source and pattern- nothing gets God by surprise!

God’s peace is the result of his perfectness in righteousness and love. He is perfect in his own standards, and every one of his actions, intents, plans and purposes is perfectly righteous and loving. He is not guilty; never haunted by some unrighteous deed in the past which he hopes no one will find out - No! God is perfectly righteous. It is, as they say, the guilty, who are always afraid, and they walk in life trying to hide from the shadows of their sin.

And God has promised in his word that he will give his peace to anyone who is in need of it god gives those who trust him his son’s peace. It is one thing to admire the peace of God, but a completely different thing to experience it. And the peace of God is not an abstract experience; it is in the person of his son Jesus Christ. Ask of him today, and he will grant you his peace- the Shalom peace

shalom

The Pitfall of self sufficiency

2 Samuel 24:1-17/ Psalm 20:7

No other King or person in the bible clearly illustrates their recognition of God as a refuge and strong tower than David. His personal life was a catalogue of hardships through persecution by enemies, yet in all his trials, the Lord was with him and delivered him from all his enemies.

In psalms 37:25, David says “I was young and now i am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken, nor their children begging bread”- he had personally observed it in his life, lived to experience the ever present help of the Lord, and here testified it for the sake of anyone who felt alone! In Psalm 24, David again paints a marvelous picture of God as his shepherd, who guides him in the best possible paths.

Yet in this chapter, David does something that is contrary to his testimonies- God allows Satan to lead him to take a census of Israel. But honestly, what’s wrong with taking a census? After all, David is a fighting man, and soldiers have to be aware of the strength of their army! Why would God allow a plague to punish them for doing this?

But the census was precisely the mistake, and perhaps this question would be put to rest with an understanding of God’s command pertaining to taking a census. In Exodus 30:12, God had said “When you take a census of the Israelites to count them, each one must pay the Lord a ransom for his life at the time he is counted. Then no plague will come on them when you number them”

Therefore, the instructions concerning the taking of a census were not adhered to in the first instance. The principle of Exodus 30:12 speaks of God's ownership of His people. In the thinking of these ancient cultures, a man only had the right to count or number what belonged to him. Israel didn’t belong to David; Israel belonged to God. It was up to the Lord to command a counting, and if David counted he should only do it at God's command and receiving ransom money to "atone" for the counting.

Why then did David feel it was necessary to take a census, knowing that it was forbidden in the law? Would this illustrate the human tendency to forget the instructions of God when we become successful? Now that David was a successful man, he began to feel as though the victories Israel had experienced were because of human strength and wisdom, and so began to put his trust in his soldiers.

Because of his presumption, many in Israel that day lost their lives to the plague, most of whom were innocent and loyal people. Pride is a dangerous cancer in our lives, which causes many innocent people suffer for no fault of theirs. It is because of pride amongst national leaders that many innocent people suffer, just because they cannot agree to work together, hence, decisions meant to alleviate people’s sufferings are put on hold until the principles in leadership agree.

In all our success today, may we not forget that it is by the grace of God that we have reached where we are today, and that in every victory, whether personal or national, all the glory should be to the Lord.

Everyone’s got a story

1 chronicles 27:1-15

Abraham Lincoln lacked connections, charisma, good looks, and formal education, and yet became one of the greatest presidents in United States history. Famously born in a one-room cabin to uneducated farmer parents, Abraham Lincoln’s rise to the Presidency has long been the stuff of legend. Lincoln was almost entirely self-educated; he received only 18 months of formal schooling. He offset this disadvantage by voraciously consuming any book he could get his hands on. At age 22, Lincoln packed his meagre belongings in a canoe and paddled out on his own. He taught himself the law and became a successful attorney and state legislator in Illinois. Losing his senatorial campaign in 1858 to Stephen Douglas did not deter him from his goals; he persevered against this very same opponent to win the presidency. The rest, of course, is history. Lincoln went on to guide America through her darkest and stormiest hour. (http://www.artofmanliness.com)

To the casual reader, the book of Chronicles appears irrelevant and inapplicable to our day. It is a list of names and their various designations in the kingdom of Israel, with isolated accounts of exploits that break the monotony of long lists of names. The truth however is that in the list of those names is an untold story of great men of the day.

1 chronicles 27 gives us an account of the divisions of David’s army, a demonstration of the military might that had made him renowned and revered all over the land of Canaan. Noticeable in this exercise was the structural organization all round the year, with divisions of twenty four thousand army men each month. Each of these divisions was headed by one of the mighty men of David, who are listed in 1 Chronicles 11:10-47. As the kingdom prospered and became established, so did these mighty men. But who were these mighty men of David? Where did they come from?

1 Samuel 22:1-2 gives us a glimpse of their background; “David therefore departed thence, and escaped to the cave Adullam: and when his brethren and all his father’s house heard [it], they went down thither to him. And every one [that was] in distress, and every one that [was] in debt, and every one [that was] discontented, gathered themselves unto him; and he became a captain over them: and there were with him about four hundred men.”

They started off as the most miserable lot. I call them the “3 D” band- men in distress, in debt and discontented with their lives and where they were. They started out as the lowest of the lowest, rejects and outcasts of society. While as everyone else seemed to be swimming in the stream of hope, they felt hopeless.

See it would have been easy to see them in positions of leadership and envy them, ridicule them, criticize and even hate them like all haters do. But these guys had risen progressively through sheer hard work. Their life wasn’t always as rosy as it seemed! There was a time they were up to their necks in debt, perhaps pursued by unscrupulous loan sharks and credit agencies. Some may have even contemplated giving up or in extreme cases, suicide because of frustrations of life.

Out of the discontentment of their lives, they had followed David, a man after God’s own heart. It’s not like David was in a position materially to get them out of their predicaments, but they none the less put their faith in him that God would turn their situations around. What they had with David may not have been material or temporal, but they knew he was a man of God and was anointed by God. It is easy to judge someone from their outlook and think they’re not blessed just because they don’t display the trappings of wealth, but we easily forget the internal wealth hidden inside the person.

David didn’t look the part, didn’t have all that, but he was the man God had chosen. And yes, he was going through a difficult season of his life, where he had to remain focused and faithful to his calling in spite of lack of resources. And what’s more, those who put their faith in him were distressed, indebted and discontented, and God wanted him to shepherd them faithfully. The test for David was to focus on God, remember his supply was from God and not from people, and remain faithful in the wilderness seasons of his life. Time has a way of proving God right in his appointments, and his wilderness experiences would soon be over. Yet, the season of wilderness was profitable for David’s shaping.

So, how did the mighty men get there? Two qualities distinguish these mighty men from the rest of the crowd;

i) Faithfulness

It doesn’t require: Money, connections, education, intelligence

It just requires faithfulness to the King (Jesus). These guys stayed with David through thick and thin. When others left, these guys stayed.

Jesus said in Luke 16:10-12 “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. If therefore, ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true [riches]? And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man’s, who shall give you that which is your own?”

ii) Men of action

They had proven themselves. They were heroes, examples to the other men. They were men who led others into battle. The Israeli concept of an army commander is not one who sits in an office behind the lines and looks at maps; he’s the one leading the charge. As a result, these men had been promoted to positions of prominence.

Misplaced confidence

2 Kings 14:7-8

“He was the one who defeated ten thousand Edomites in the valley of Salt and captured Sela in battle, calling it Joktheel(blessed of the Lord), the name it has to this day. Then Amaziah sent messengers to Jehoahash son of Jehoahaz, the son of Jehu, king of Israel, with the challenge: come and meet me face to face”

It is interesting to note from these two verses the deceptiveness of the human heart. The key phrase here is “he was the one who defeated ten thousand Edomites”. That was quite a victory and one worth giving the glory to God for. But this victory seemed to have given Amaziah a false sense of himself- all over a sudden, he felt invisible, untouchable and unbeatable. And in the folly of this misplaced self belief, he engaged the self destruct gear.

He put forth a challenge to the king of Israel, who had an army far more advanced than his, to meet him in a face to face combat- a war he needed not to start up, for Israel was not trying to attack them. It is this decision that brought his own down fall, in spite of earlier warnings by his opponent.

What was it that drove Napoleon in his quest to conquer Europe or Hitler’s invasion of England and the rest of Europe? What was it that triggered the quest to invade Kuwait by Saddam Hussein before his final demise? Hypothesize as we may, it all boils down to an inflated sense of self importance and misinformed sense of our own strengths against anyone else.

If not well guarded, it only takes a single victory for our hearts to engage in an egoistic overdrive. Repeatedly, the word of God says God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble. As the English put it, pride comes before a fall! It is misplaced overconfidence that has led to the downfall of many a mighty men and women in positions of power and influence, and it beholves us to walk in light of the truthful word of God – to humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord, that he may lift us up.

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Verse for the day: Psalm 20:7: Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of the Lord our God.

A man of divided loyalties divides his kingdom

1 Kings 11:1-13/ Matthew 26:41

Though King Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived, accomplished much in his lifetime and astounded many all over the world with his achievements, what ultimately brought about his downfall from grace was an enemy within him- divided loyalties.

1 Kings 11:4 clearly gives us the state of the ageing Solomon, once a beacon of hope in Israel; “As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of his father David had been,”

A tragic ending to a great man and great potential- O, how the great and mighty are felled over small things!

Three lessons can be gleaned from this sad ending:

First, it teaches the destructive effect of yielding to sensual indulgence. Solomon’s unbridled and monstrous polygamy sapped his manhood and his principle, darkened his clear spirit, blinded his keen eye, and turned a youth of noble aspiration and a manhood of noble accomplishment into an old age without dignity, reverence, or calm.

All his wisdom was worth little if it could not keep him master of himself. A young man who lets his passions run away with him is less to be condemned than an old sensualist. God meant that reason should govern impulses and desires, and that conscience should govern all and be governed by His will.

Second, it warns us that until the very end of life, a fall is possible. This ship went down when the voyage was nearly over. In sight of port it struck, and that not for want of beacons. A pathetic warning lies in that phrase, ‘when Solomon was old’! After so many years of high aims, so many temptations overcome, with such habits of wisdom and kingly nobility, after such prayers and visions, he fell; and, if a great one as Solomon fell, who can be sure of standing?

We may have spent lengthy periods of life in holy thoughts and service, but this cannot secure us against the possibility of disastrous fall. Only one thing does,—Holding out our hands to Jehovah, that we should be safe! When a man of Solomon’s reputation for wisdom and honour shames the record of his life by a great splash of mud on the white page, near its end, he seldom returns. An old apostate is usually finally an apostate.

Third, this is a stern warning against marriages in which there is not unity in the deepest things, and a common faith. ‘When you run in double harness, take a good look at the other horse.’ If a young Christian man or woman enters on such a union with one who is not a Christian, it is a great deal more probable that, in the end, there will be two unbelievers than that there will be two Christians. Amos 3:3 asks the all important question “Can two walk together unless they agree?”
There is no sadder sight than an old man whose youthful enthusiasm for goodness and belief in the super-Excellency of wisdom have withered, leaving him a hard worldly being or a gross sensualist. Better the early days, when he was obscure and poor, and believed in wisdom and in the God of wisdom, than the late ones, when worldly success has spoiled him!

In the end, his divided loyalties, pursuing after God and other foreign idols, could not hold his kingdom together, after all, his heart was not one! No sooner had the dust settled after his rested with his fathers’ than his son scattered what had taken years and sacrifice to bring together. O, how, as one wise one said, easy it is to bring down than to build!

The old proverb still holds out in wisdom – trust the lord and not in your own understanding. in all your ways acknowledge him, and he sure will make your paths straight (proverbs 3:5)

It’s Time to take a stand

1 Kings 18:21

“Elijah went before the people and said, how long will you waiver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him”

The question is not unfamiliar to our lives today, for in the deepest of our hearts, it is a question whispered to our hearts every day, and one we dare not admit to hearing in the midst of people. Israel, in spite of what Jehovah had done for them, had slowly drifted into worshipping Baal, one of the gods of the Canaanites. Their allegiance to Yahweh was lip, for in truth, their hearts were with Baal. Why did so many people waiver between two choices? Some may not have been too sure, but many knew the Lord was God, but enjoyed the sinful pleasures and other benefits that came with following Ahab in his idolatrous worship.

They wanted the benefits of being associated with Jehovah, and the idea of being recognized as the chosen and a peculiar people appealed to them, but just externally. They did however not want the lifestyle of righteousness and the demands of serving God in purity to bear too much on them. A little bit of this and a little bit of that Christianity! They did not mind an external religion, as long as it was not interfering with their internal condition. The Apostle Paul describes this state as “having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof!” (2 Timothy 3:5) in today’s world, we could associate this with being a Sunday Christian, talking in tongues and walking in “spiritual heights” on a Sunday, but walking worldly from Monday through Saturday!

Notice in v21b “But the people said nothing”

Every time the challenge to take a stand is thrown at people who waiver from taking a stand, their immediate response is to keep quite! These people knew the truth, but they were unwilling to make a move from where they were and embrace a change, so their hearts could not be stirred by the truth. Jesus, speaking to the Apostle John about the state of the church of Laodicea in revelation describes this as the state of being “neither cold nor hot- lukewarm” (Revelation 3:15-16)- a state where no one can really pick for sure whether we stand for God or not- always non committal on certain matters but just there to be seen, not counted.

Elijah speaks to Israel concerning this state of their hearts, and this question speaks to us today. If we were to examine ourselves, would we comfortably say we sure we stand for God? If not, it’s time to take our stand.