How do we set goals for Spiritual progress?

Tags

, , ,

spiritualprogressAs I notice the dates on my notebook/journal change from ‘2015 2016′ to ‘2016’, I realize that yet another year has started rolling.

Like all progressive people do, I think it a good thing to set goals for this year so that I have something to work towards , lest the days just roll by and December comes with little to show for the 365 days.

Those oriented towards strategic planning tell us that goals have to be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely) for them to be helpful.

My dilemma however is one; I have spiritual progress in mind as my goal, but how do I measure that? What are the parameters that can help me determine whether I am making progress in my relationship with God or not?

In this dilemma, there are thoughts that we can meditate on to help us out:

1. What it is not.

“23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.” (Col 2.)

“23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. ” (Matt 23)

““Listen and understand. 11 What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.””(Mat 15:10b,11)

For many years , I did all I knew to do that to my understanding constituted God’s requirement for spiritual progress: I tithed faithfully (10% of my gross salary); I attended church meetings anytime they were called; I tried to be as nice as I could to all I interacted with; etc. It never seemed to be enough. There was a constant sense of feeling like I needed to do more.

In this current consideration of what constitutes parameters that measure spiritual progress, I have concluded that the things we do or not do are not the ones that make us but rather they are a fruit of who we are within. That is helpful in giving us a hint on where our focus ought to be, within, and not without. When the within is in order, the fruit will consequently be good.

We do not focus on the fruit, but rather the plant that produces the fruit.

2. The starting point.

“..You must be born again.”(John 3:7)

“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.” (John 4:23)

Jesus speaking to Nicodemus, a teacher of the law, on the way of progress in the kingdom of God, told him that before anything else, he must be born again. This is a good self check for all of us before we put a lot of energy and effort to making progress in a journey we may not even have started.

Speaking to the woman at the well, Jesus again told the woman that God is seeking for those that worship Him in Spirit and Truth.

This in our current meditation points to the fact that our relationship with God is spiritual. We have to be first alive to Him (by way of spiritual birth) before we can talk about making progress. This is by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ as the way God the Father has provided for the restoration of that relationship that was broken between God and man at the fall in the garden of Eden.

The question then each of us has to honestly answer to is, “Am I born again, made a child of God through faith in Jesus Christ who is the way, the truth , and the life?” Another equally important question is, “Do I live by that Life or not? Gal 2:20

The answer to these questions is very important in determining the way of progress.

No amount of tilling land, manuring it, and watering it will produce fruit until there is a seed planted on the ground, or for a branch whose connection to the tree is already severed until it is reconnected.

3. Spiritual Parameter (s)

But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”(Luke 10:42)

Having established that we need to be first and foremost alive to God to be able to consider our relationship with Him, we go on to consider what the parameters that constitute spiritual progress are.

5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith, goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1)

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. (Gal 5:)

The list of these good things that a progressive person would desire and possibly work towards may look at first like qualities one can acquire on their own efforts.

On a keener consideration however, one realizes that they are fruits , in a sense the results of a growing Life within that expresses itself outwardly through these various forms.

4.The measure of progress, Christ.

2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.(1Cor 2:)

Natural analogies are limited in illustrating spiritual realities, but I will attempt with an illustration using a mango tree. It is mango season right now in Kenya and I am looking at a mango tree as I write this.

What comes to mind are three things that can indicate the growth of the mango tree; stature, health, and fruitfulness. All these are as a result of increase in the mango life in the tree. This increase comes from the nourishment in the soil, watering, and photosynthesis through the leaves.

“I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.” (1Cor 3:6)

When I consider myself as one of those branches on the tree, having been joined to the Vine, Christ, I realize how my role has been reduced into one thing, abiding in Him. Unfortunately for me, unlike the branch, I can of my own will disconnect from the branch.

My conclusions are that for the mango tree to bear more fruit, the branch has to remain on the tree, and the mango life has to increase. Similarly for the christian, it is the life of Christ that has to increase in us for us to make spiritual progress in our relationship with Him, and for this to happen, I have to remain in Him.

The conclusion for me therefore becomes that the single parameter (so to say) that measure spiritual progress in us is increase of stature of Christ.

…so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Eph 4)

The gifts each of us in the family of God has been given are to be applied towards this end, building the stature of Christ in one another

Let us therefore beloved encourage one another in reckoning ourselves dead to the old man that pulls us back to the dos and don’t s , and reckon ourselves alive in Christ by the new man, the inner man of the heart.

The Spirit give us understanding and willingness to abide in Him, Christ in who alone is the Father well pleased, and hence the only measure of true spiritual progress.

Together in Him,
Patrick

Why do you love the one you love?

Tags

, ,

Love2

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”(Jn 13:34)

Sometimes towards the end of last year, my wife, Virginia and I were invited, together with some others to a Couples’ seminar. We were first unsure whether to attend, having not been to one for a couple of years, but we finally decided to give it a try. We are glad we did as new mutually beneficial relationships have been formed, but that is a story for another day.

What I have in mind as the subject of this post is something that came out in one of the sessions. We were each asked what we love about our spouses, and how it has helped keep our marriage together. Fortunately, I was not the first one to respond, because that would have been disastrous. I have found out that in such forums, people tend to pick a queue from the people who answer first to formulate responses that seem to be expected, and I was not sure what was expected.

When my turn came, I said several things among them that Virginia is God fearing, patient and caring. On her part, she said quite a number, some of which were surprising, but suffice it to say that all who spoke painted positive images of their spouses.

Thinking since the meeting on my own, I’ve felt that something did not settle very well with all those reasons for loving each other, and wondered what it is. It is just lately that I’ve thought what the reason for unease could be:

“ 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing[a] her by the washing with water through the word, (Eph 5)”

As a spouse, I think it is okay to love ones partner because of the qualities they have that are likable, but as a follower of Christ, though one may start there, one ought not to stay there. The Christian, like the Lord loves not on the basis of what the subject of the love offers, but rather on the basis of the love they have in their hearts. In a sense it is a responsive love toward God, and a proactive love towards others – offer to others what we have received from Him.

“19 We love because he first loved us. (1John 4)”

“the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.…(Rom 5:5)”

Blessed be God who gives us capacity to love one another.

Together in Him who is Love.
Patrick

Embracing the cross and why we need to pray for one another:

Tags

, , , , ,

cross

“..Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.…

” (Mark 8:34)

It is A W Tozer in one of his writings who advising believers on the way of spiritual progress said, “..Be hard on yourself and easy on others – carry your own cross and never lay one on the back of another..”. This I have tried to take seriously since I read it.

In the last one year or so, there are words I’ve been hearing repeatedly in my heart, “Listen and trust”. At first, it never was anything more than thoughts to ponder on and then move on to the next thing, but when they kept on coming again and again, I decided to take them seriously. It is then that I thought that perhaps they had some specific significance to my life in relation to what the Lord is working on in me. The more I thought about the words, the more I started linking them to some character weaknesses in me and I concluded that they could just be my cross for the season.

In my zeal to share my opinion or perspective in certain matters of faith, I’ve found myself sometimes not listening to what others are saying and hence the need for crucifixion of that aspect of my self. It may be a small thing to others who do not have a weakness in this area, but trust me when I say, “it is hard to listen to another while you are burning inside to tell your side of the story”.

As I have exercised myself in carrying this cross, I have been thoroughly humbled and blessed at the same time while hearing the voice of our Lord not only as He speaks from inside of me, but also through others He dwells in, and His creation all around us. On the one hand, for me to hear significantly, I have to listen, and on the other hand, trust the voice of the Shepherd that I hear.

In the spirit of Tozer’s words referenced above, I am not sharing this as a general word for everyone, but rather to encourage you to embrace your own cross in whatever form it takes.

God’s end for the cross:

3 Not only so, but we[c] also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.(Rom 5)

In whatever form the cross comes to our lives, it is never easy for it means death and death is painful. It takes a revelation of God’s way of dealing with us to appreciate that the cross, whether in form of life circumstances, or an express instruction from God that looks impossible to us, is always for the good. God has pleasure in giving us the kingdom (Luke 12:32), but has also designed the way into the kingdom as through the cross. The cross will crucify everything that is not of Christ and allow the enjoyment of the Kingdom to that which cannot be shaken, Christ.

This perspective allows us to see what God’s goal in allowing the dealings of the cross in us, “the decrease of us, so that Christ may increase.” This for sure is for our good even though it does not seem or feel like that when we are going through it.

Corporate concern:

Sometimes when going through a very hard situation or circumstances, one may feel very alone, but it’d help for each of us to keep perspective of the unifying nature of Christ’s work in preparing His bride:

“15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;(Eph 2)

Each member of the body of Christ is important, so much so that the examples we have of men and women of faith (Heb 11:39,40) could not be completed without us who come later. It will take each member growing to maturity to fit in their place for a full functioning of the body in full stature (Eph 4), an objective that even the gates of hell will not prevail against.

While it may not be possible for each saint to be informed about the circumstances of all other saints, I’ve found the Holy Spirit faithful in bringing to our hearts different members of the body at different times, and I am learning not to take any of these nudgings lightly.

When the Lord brings another saint to your heart, it is always a good thing to pray for that person. While saying that, the question arises as to what or how one would pray for when they are not aware of the situation the saint is in? One brother that God has connected me with has always wondered on this and his conclusion has been, “I pray not that the cross be taken away, but rather a sufficient supply of grace be made for God’s end to be furthered through the situation.”

“Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”James 5:16

Let’s pray for one another,
Patrick

“Not by Experience”; Wisdom from Experience.

Tags

, , , ,

20151110_132701Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord “ (Zech 4:6)

Sometime last month, I had the privilege of meeting with a man I have known since my teenage, an opportunity I’ve not had for over twenty years. He is popularly referred to as ‘muhunjia’, my vernacular name for preacher. This is a man I knew for proclaiming the gospel in the highways and byways. I remember him for proclaiming Jesus in our village fearlessly in spite of being despised and looked down upon by the more established mainstream churches in the day.

During our conversation, there was lots of catching up in which I did most of the listening. Among the many things we shared, one has particularly stuck with me and it was, “Even with my many years of preaching, I cannot just wake up and go preach, I have to hear the word of the Lord not just for the day but on a moment by moment basis.” Wow, now that sounded like,

“..the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does…” (John 5:19)

“..Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God…” (Matt 4:4)

What a freeing way to live? May we all – the sheep of His pasture hear and follow the voice of the Shepherd, and that alone.

Love in Him,
Patrick

Deconstruction And Reconstruction

deconstruction and reconstructionFor no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. ” (1Cor 3:11)

The building of the temple of the Holy spirit, which we (the church) are, has to start with the foundation like all other buildings.

The scriptures are clear that this foundation for the the church which is Jesus Christ is already laid. That to me means that any form of work even if it goes by the name of Christ, that is not on the foundation of Jesus Christ is no church at all. Having said that, subsequent courses of the building can be built wrongly even when the foundation is right, so Paul gives an admonition,

….let each one take heed how he builds on it. ….” (1 cor 3:10 KJV).

When we get born again, Our lives are on a clear foundation entirely on the revelation of Jesus Christ. Thereafter we are prone to build differently depending on the discipling environment we grow up in. Again like the foundation, the building can only be right if it is built using the same material with the foundation, a growing revelation of Christ Jesus, and not just knowledge about Him. Any other material will not stand.

but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven.27 And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.” (Heb 12)

There is more than one thing that compromises the building material for our lives in Christ, but in a general sense, it is mixture of what is of the Spirit and that which is of the flesh. There are two major culprits I have observed;

1. Culture

But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God” (1Cor 11:16)

Reading church history over the ages , one will not take too long to notice how some missionaries would mix the gospel with their own cultures. Closer home, as missionaries brought the gospel to Africa, to whom we are forever grateful, they also brought it together with their own cultures.

Observing the Christian landscape in Kenya, you will not fail to tell where the missionaries that took the gospel to specific parts were from. Where Italians took the gospel, the predominant ‘Christian’ names will be Italian; where the British missionaries went, English names will be the common ‘Christian’ names. In more recent times, the West African influence is equally noticed in the places they have taken the gospel.

2. Tradition

Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition,” (Mark 7:3)

Where I grew up, the predominant church denomination was the Anglican church. As I grew up and became aware of existence of other denominations, I somehow felt like those other ones were inferior to the denomination of my parents.

I soon observed while in boarding high school that people from different parts of the country had different denominational orientation and those in one denomination tended to come from specific parts. We were each feeling superior or better informed in our little denominational molds.

Again like culture, this is attributable to which denomination predominantly took the gospel to the specific part of the country. It is like the scramble for Africa was not only on governmental lines, but also cultural and denominational (read church traditions).

Deconstruction:

When we want to go further with the Lord, or when He wants to take us further into Himself (which He always longs to do Luke 12:32), we will find ourselves being frustrated when we do not allow for deconstruction.

No man also seweth a piece of new cloth on an old garment: else the new piece that filled it up taketh away from the old, and the rent is made worse. And no man putteth new wine into old bottles: else the new wine doth burst the bottles, and the wine is spilled, and the bottles will be marred: but new wine must be put into new bottles.” (Mak 2:21-22)

…Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; …”2Cor 10:4-5

Resisting the process of deconstruction is like trying to build the 3rd course while the 2nd course is compromised. For guaranteed stability, the 2nd course need to be brought down and redone with the pure material before the 3rd can be made with the assurance for standing.

Reconstruction

…upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.….” (Matt 16:18)

When the owner of a house builds the house, He does so with ultimate care using the best of material. The very presence of compromise in the building of the church is evidence that man has put his hand in a work that is not his. “What shall man do then?”, One may ask. Surrender himself utterly into the hands of the Potter for the modelling into the right shape and for the laying into the right place on the building.

…The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?.…”(Matt 21:42).

“…For in him we live, and move, and have our being;….
.” (Acts 17:28)

Beloved, let us surrender to Him, for in Him alone are we secure.

Love in Him,
Patrick

The root cause vs the symptoms:

Tags

, , , , , ,

rootsandleaves
…. but the root of the righteous bears fruit.”(Prv 12:12)

Some two days ago, there was a fight in my house that resulted into a scream and a cry. The two boys in the house will one moment be enjoying play together and the next be on each other’s neck trying to sort a disagreement.

This time round, they had just gone to their bedroom to sleep and the younger one had bitten the older one, who reacted with a punch back. When I went to the room, I demanded they go to sleep immediately and sort the issue the following day.

Discussing the issue the following day, the conversation went something like this;

Me, “What happened?”
Son, “He bit me.”
Me, “why did he bite you?”
Son, “because I was on his bed.”
Me, “had he asked you to leave his bed?”
Son, “Yes”
Me, “what did you do?”
Son, “Nothing.”
Me, “So why did he bite you?”
Son, “because I was on his bed.”….

For sometime in our back and forth conversation, the boy did not see his part in causing the fight. Suffice it to say that the conversation continued with both of them interrogating the genesis of the scuffle and how it would have been sorted differently with less acrimony.

Thinking about this incidence was an addition to my meditation lately on the way we humans deal with our issues. There is what manifests as the issue, which I call symptoms and there is the cause of the manifestation, which I call the root.

Health Issues

Visiting a friend earlier this month, I found a physician in his house who was administering some physical therapy to a member of the family. He (the physician) was very passionate about his work and he got to explain the therapy under the field called reflexology.

The treatment does not involve any prescription of medicine and only deals with ensuring proper circulation of blood through some kind of massage on the feet. He went ahead to tell me that he can treat any ailment apart from those caused by accidents like fractures using reflexology.

He said that this is because the root of all body ailments is related with flow of blood in the different parts of the body as blood carries both nourishment and defense to those parts. I won’t belabor my point too much for my medic language is limited as you may have already realized, but he said with proof that most of the times, when we get sick, we treat the symptom and not the root.

In my friend’s case, the one being treated had been experiencing headaches and recurrent flu that had significantly gone down since the treatment commenced. Some of the health issues we experience could be dealt with by a basic adjustment of lifestyle.

Poverty

“11 The poor you will always have with you,[a] but you will not always have me.”
(Matt 26)

In my attempt to understand the issue of material lack which is perennial in the continent I call home, I was introduced to a very sobering book, “When helping hurts”.

The book highlights the possible reasons that even though there is a lot of resources from the rich to the poor, the problem seems not to end, but instead in some instances ends up hurting both the giver and the receiver.

One core reason highlighted that I resonated with was that in almost all cases, lack of material resources is not the problem, but rather a manifestation of a root issue.

The root of the problem is identified as broken relationships for both the receiver and the giver, where relationships are defined at four levels, 1. Relationship with God, 2. Relationship with self, 3. Relationship with others, 4. Relationship with the rest of creation.

It made sense thinking that God has given us the ministry of reconciliation, restoring relationships through which God’s purposes are accomplished.”….as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.” (2Cor 5:20)

The root of all problems

Afterward, Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” (John 5:14)

“And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth.2 And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?3 Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.” (John 9)

For the longest time I can remember, I have wondered why Jesus more than once told a person he had ministered to, to stop sinning on one part, while on another would answer to the negative to the question of whether some ailment was as a result of sin. These two may seem contradictory, but I do think that the root of all human suffering is unrighteousness (read sin).

The Remedy

12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:…14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.15 But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.(Rom 5)

In that one man, Christ Jesus, we have the root of all our ailments sorted. He is the All in all.

Love,
Patrick

The Narrow Path, a strand in the tapestry.

Tags

,

Tapestry

Tapestry

“13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matt 7).

Considering these two ways described by Jesus above, I have always thought of the wideness or narrowness in terms of size and related ability to accommodate few or many people. Lately however, I have thought of another perspective of looking at narrowness vs wideness and that is in terms of specificity and generality.

Narrowness by reason of specificity:

When one considers specificity as a way of understanding this narrowness, that is the point at which the path of following Jesus departs from Christianity as a religion. The narrowness / specificity of each of our lives can be understood in two ways:

On the one hand, no two human beings of all those born will have the exact same life experience while on the other hand, there is no other way provided by God , the Father to make Himself known to mankind apart from by His only begotten son, Jesus Christ . Combining these two aspects of specificity, the path becomes really narrow, in a sense tailor made for each individual.

“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (Jn 14:6)

“Before I created you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I set you apart; I made you a prophet to the nations.” (Jer 1:5).

The challenge for each of us is to find that narrow path tailor made for each of us, which is first narrowed by the fact that it is in Christ alone, and then the fact that the Father leads each of us very specifically through the unique relationship of Parent-child. Once the first aspect is taken care of, we will become aware that there were works prepared for each of us to do before the foundations of the world. That is the place of ultimate fulfillment, where every member of the body fitly joined together in the body supplies their part.

My encouragement to everyone who reads this is to consider that their path is narrow because no one else can walk their path to the letter. There is a cost to depart from the camp and follow your Lord outside the camp, but it is worth every bit.

I sign off with some words from a commentator in the movie, “Do You Believe?”

“I am not sure any of us gets to see the whole picture, God’s eye view so to say.” It’s like we are little children sitting on the floor, gazing up at back side of the tapestry that is being woven. To our eyes it sometimes looks ugly, the colors are jumbled and none of it makes much sense , but one day, we will no longer be sitting on the floor, we will come around to the other side and the genius of God‘s handy work will become clear. At the center of it all we’ll see the cross…

But in that immense tapestry , we will also see the single unique thread only one of its kind and color that our life has added to the piece, the one thread without which the whole would somehow be incomplete. Personally, I can’t wait to see the master piece”

The Lord grant us eyes to see and ears to hear.

Love!
Patrick

The cross is to our gain..

Tags

, , , ,

crossI have been greatly concerned at the state of Christianity in my country, Kenya. This has largely been as a result of observing the level of Christian religious evidences on the one hand in comparison to the level of impact in society on the other. Having said that, I am not ignorant of a company of the quiet faithfuls that walk the journey of faith hidden away from the public space.

Just to paint a picture of what I mean, out of every 10 people in Kenya, 8 (from unconfirmed statistics) will answer to the question of their religion as ‘Christian’. In the neighborhood where I stay, if I was to choose a church to join, I would be spoilt for choice – there are over ten within a five kilometer radius. Where impact is concerned, I have in mind crime and other forms of wickedness reported (and unreported) both in public and private life, every day you hear all forms of reports through mass media and private conversations.

It is A W Tozer who said,“The complacency of Christians is the scandal of Christianity.” I believe he said this considering what power God has made available to the believer to live a life that changes him/her and his world for God. It is the same power that brought forth Jesus from the grave. There have been times past when even being a minority, a group of Christians were a force to reckon with like it was said of the first century believers, that they had “…turned the world upside down(Acts 17:6)”. The question then becomes, why with all this power available is there so much complacency leading to the devil having a field day even in the lives of believers?

The question is further made more important when one considers that there is no generation with better access to Christian instruction than our own. We have the Christian message even to our living room, and mobile devices. We are told that a wise person learns from instruction, but a fool will not listen and hence face the consequences.

In my thinking, there could be one of two explanations (of course there could be more), either we are dull of hearing hence we are not heeding the instruction, or the instruction is not wholesome or both. One area where I have thought instruction is sometimes not given in full is where the cross is concerned. There is always a tendency to emphasize the benefits side of following Jesus and less on the cost.

In answer to the question on what one ought to do to inherit the kingdom of God, Jesus told the young man, “sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.”(Mark 10:24). Peter among those who were already disciples commented, “We have left everything to follow you!(v28)”, to which Jesus responded, “Truly I tell you, no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life..” I think this guarantees that what you give up to follow Christ is not actually lost, but in its place you get so much more in comparison.

Jesus calling us to follow Him makes reference to two crosses; the one He carried and the one the follower is to carry. The cross of Jesus Christ has seen with finality to our acceptance before God and our inheritance in Christ. Our cross on the other hand sees to our release from selfish ambition to apprehend the inheritance which is already secured for us in Christ. In this regard the cross we are each to bear even though it may be painful, is worth it considering that what we get when we let go our selfish ambition and desires is of much more value. The cross is hence to be embraced instead of being avoided. For the young ruler in Mark 10, I believe part of the cross he was to bear was letting go off his hard earned wealth. His refusal to bear his cross trampled on Jesus’ love as He knew what he had traded for temporal things. May it not be our portion that we shall miss an inheritance of immense worth by not bearing our cross.

Dear saint, there is treasure waiting for you on the other side of the cross and that is the only ground of victory over evil and wickedness. On the other side of the cross, overcoming evil is child’s play because that is where the power of resurrection has put the enemy under our feet. The Lord give us the Spirit of wisdom and understanding.

Love,
Patrick

Eternity now:

Tags

, ,

clock photo 010“11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet[a] no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.(Eccl 3:11)”

The president of the United States of America is currently in Nairobi having arrived last night for a two day visit. It is quite a memorable event not only the fact that we are having the first visit from a sitting president of such a powerful nation, but also the fact that the president has some roots in Kenya through his father.

The excitement in the general populace is understandable and that is reflected in the mass media as well. The journalist of one daily paper described the moment between the president getting off the plane and leaving the airport in his official car as below:

“History, in those seven minutes was frozen in time. And when memory will fail the witnesses, the media archives will remind the coming generations of when Kenya’s son came home with the instruments of office as the leader of the world’s only superpower firmly in his hands. “
Read more at: http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/article/2000170321/excitement-as-obama-lands-at-jkia-in-historic-homecoming”

What struck me in that description is the first sentence, “History ,…frozen in time”. This made me think of the desire inherent in all of us, humans to grasp or hold on to the most exciting moments of our lives, hoping that it would never end. I believe this is a God given characteristic and it is achievable, only not in the realm of time because, time in its very nature has a beginning and an end.

I do not wish to be very philosophical, but would just say that the real experience of being born of God allows us to enter the realm of eternity now, where the presence of God which is the highest experience man can get to is accessible. I believe that is why scripture would say, “…And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:(Eph 2:6)” The heavenly places are outside the limits of time and space.

This is a developing thought and it has been helped greatly by a brother who writes more about it here.

Love,
Patrick

Help from in between the lines…

Tags

, , ,

Lets-write-something-writing-4545938-1024-76850 But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished! (Luke 12)

Have you, dear reader been hard pressed from every direction till you are asking, “what is this all about?”? You pray and ask God to reduce the heat and instead of becoming less it seems to increase? That is the place I have found myself in the last couple of months. This last week, I found some encouragement from some two different bloggers I follow, not in the words they wrote, but rather in what they communicated about their lives in the posts.

1. Pray for Me.

The first blogger is a dear saint who teaches through his site in a very Christ centered way. I have benefited immensely from what he writes there, but in this particular case, he was asking that his site followers pray for him and went ahead to share what he was going through. The first thing that went through my mind when I read that request was how real and authentic this brother was. It felt like I could relate with what he was going through and he could relate to what I he was going through. He had over 100 attempts at tackling his mountain and it had not budged. Wow, I thought that mine were many, but I was not sure I had reached that number!!

2. I have a minor depression

The second blogger is also another wonderful brother who has an obvious gift in encouraging the brethren in this journey of faith. His post this time came in the form of confession admitting that he has a form of depression which at first felt strange. It is only after I read through the post and the comments of other readers that I realized the issue is more prevalent among believers than I thought. I personally have not experienced depression, but then that also is not verifiable since I have not gone for a test like the brother had done. Who knows, maybe some of the emotional downs I have experienced could have been depression? I think how this post encouraged me was in seeing such a gifted brother admit his human weaknesses, something we see less and less in the superstar culture which has infiltrated the Christian community.

“ 8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2Cor 12)

In addition to these two cases I highlight above, I have been reminded of the great apostle to the gentiles, Paul, formerly Saul. He shares of how he had a thorn in the flesh, something that he desired so much that it be taken away from Him and he so much pleaded with God that it be removed but it wasn’t. Instead, the LORD answered him by making him know that His grace is sufficient. I can witness that there is a tendency to deepen our dependency on God in times of extreme difficulty; I think it is as we reach our end that we know God’s dealings with us. The assurance is however there, that regardless of the circumstances, God’s end view is always for our good, for , “..all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Rom 8:28)

“…resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.” (1Peter 5:9)

In this era of internet, we have opportunities to interact with other brethren from corners of the world we may never get opportunity to step on physically. This is of tremendous advantage in the fact that we can share with each other what God is revealing in and through us, but we have to be careful not to share knowledge apart from experience. I have come to appreciate more and more that the life in the message of Christ is enjoyed experientially.

Whatever your current circumstance dear sister/brother, may the fact that your brethren are in the same boat be of encouragement to you and ultimately the fact that our Father,

“…can be trusted not to allow you to be tempted beyond what you can bear. On the contrary, along with the temptation he will also provide the way out, so that you will be able to endure.” (1Cor 10:13.)

Before I sign off, I should mention that the brother in the first instance later thanked his readers as he started getting answers to the prayers.

Love,

Patrick